Category Archives: Fantasy

Review: Staked by Kevin Hearne

3 Stars

Disclaimer: This is the most recent book in a series of books collectively called the Iron Druid Chronicles.  Staked is the 8th book in the series.  I would highly recommend that you not read this book unless you have read the previous novels or you will be very lost.

Having read all of the previous books and waiting patiently and anxiously for each new book to come out so that I can catch up with my favorite Druid and his hound.  This is the first time I’ve been disappointed.  Which I guess is a pretty good thing seeing that this is 8 books into the series.  I wanted to like it more because I absolutely love the characters, but this book just fell flat in so many ways and so many areas, that I just couldn’t be any kinder than 3 stars.

This story picks up where Shattered left off.  Atticus is waging war on the vampires who have been trying to obliterate him for the last two thousand years.  Granuaile is recovering from her battle with Loki and trying to find a way to not only get rid of his mark, but also find a way to cloak herself from divination.  Atticus’ mentor, Owen, is still coming to grips with life in the modern age and living with the Flagstaff and Tempe werewolf packs and contemplating starting a new grove where he can train new druids.

The story switches between each of their perspectives, which brings a richness to the story that you would’t otherwise have if it was narrated completely from Atticus’ point of view.  But it can also lead to a very complicated story where there are so many different threads going on that it doesn’t all come together very well.  I was really confused and disappointed by this several times.  The only arc that came to any conclusion was the vampire war that Atticus and his allies have waged.  But even that was fairly anti-climatic and the ending was pretty much meh.

I was very disappointed with the journeys that both Granuaile and Owen took.  Especially when there were so many things that were brought into their narratives and then never fleshed out.  Granuaile is sent on a mission by the witches to get a horse away from Loki, but then what?  Owen finds out that Fand has broken out and they find out where she is hiding, but then what?  There’s a quick battle between the Norse and the dark elves, but to what end?  There were so many loose ends and story lines that went absolutely nowhere.  I don’t mind a cliffhanger or teasers for the next book.  But this was a bit much.

I still had a blast and equally enjoyable, as expected, was the master of the scene steal, Oberon.  I want an Irish Wolfhound of my own and I wan to name him Oberon and I want him to beg me for bacon and sausages and make me tell him stories when it’s bath time.  I wish Oberon could have his own book.  That would be amazing.  He steals every scene he’s ever in and his girlfriend, Orlaith, steals just as many as he does.  When they’re together, it’s awesome.

If you’ve already read the previous books, you’re going to read this one.  I just didn’t find it as enjoyable as the previous seven.  It was still good and I still love the characters.  Just didn’t live up to my own high expectations.

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Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

4 Stars

My boss has been pestering me to read this book for nearly a year now.  I think every time he’s seen me with my Kindle or with a book, his immediate question was, “Have you read Ready Player One yet?!”  I finally caved in and pushed my TBR pile aside and made time for his recommendation.  Being a geek and a book lover too, I figured he wouldn’t steer me wrong…and I was right.

A lot of people have described this book as nostalgia porn.  Yep.  It is.  Especially for those of us who grew up in the 80’s.  You don’t have to be a geek, gamer or a child of the 80’s to enjoy the book, but it does help.  Without at least a little bit of geek knowledge, you might get a little bit lost during the beginning.  There is a LOT of reference to old games, movies, TV shows, music and other cultural phenomenon that made the 80’s such a kick-ass decade.

The book takes place in 2044 and reality sucks.  The economy went into the toilet due to an energy crisis, public schools are closing down, no one can find a job and life is just generally horrible.  But there’s still OASIS.  The virtual utopia that the world’s population plugs into to escape their sad and depressing lives.  The economy in OASIS is more stable than any real-world economy and even the virtual schools perform better than their real-world counterparts.  This is the world that Wade Watts lives.  He attends school inside OASIS and he feels more alive when he’s plugged into this virtual world than he ever has.  He’s spent the last several years trying to solve the ultimate puzzle, to win the fortune of the late creator of OASIS and control of his universe.

The creator was a recluse video game genius with an obsession with all things 80’s and in his will, he decided to leave his fortune to the winner of the ultimate treasure hunt.  Somewhere in his vast universe he’s hidden three keys.  To find these keys, you have to solve his riddles.  And of course you have to stay alive while trying.  With a prize this big, people are willing to lie, cheat, steal and kill to get ahead.  This is what Wade has to deal with when he stumbles upon the first clue that leads him to the first key.  Suddenly his life is in danger and he will have to confront the real world, the one he’s spent his entire life escaping.

It took me awhile to get into the book, but once I got in, I was hooked.  I had a blast living through some of the funnest moments of my own life through the eyes of Wade and his friends.  It brought back a ton of memories and I was laughing by the time I finished the book.  Definitely an awesome read for anyone who has a little bit of geek in them.

 

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Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

4 1/2 Stars

This book landed on one of my recommendation lists, and I decided to give it a shot.  The plot sounded interesting and I’m a sucker for a good fantasy novel.  I can definitely say I wasn’t disappointed and this is one series I’m looking forward continuing.  Despite its title, The Final Empire is the first book in the Mistborn series.

For a thousand years the world has been ruled by the God-like Lord Ruler.  His dominance has kept the population separated by class.  The noblemen are the ruling class, high in their keeps.  The skaa make up pretty much everyone else.  They are the ones who work the barren land, the mines, the shops.  They are treated worse than animals.  Beaten at a whim.  Killed when they no longer serve a purpose.  They are conditioned from birth that they are lesser beings, they were made to serve.  Rebellions come and go, but no one has been able to throw off the chains and rise up against the Lord Ruler and his Ministry.  But somehow hope survives.

Hope is what brings our heroes together.  They are very unlikely heroes too, they are thieves.  Thieves with a secret.  They have as their leader the Survivor of Hathsin.  Kelsier was once imprisoned by the Lord Ruler deep in the mines of Hathsin, made to crawl daily to harvest the precious metal beneath the craggy ground.  But he escaped and found his former crew and presented them with a nearly impossible job.  Overthrow the Final Empire and dethrone the Lord Ruler and make themselves incredibly rich in the process.  What begins as a heist becomes so much more as they are tested at every turn, always on the bring of being discovered by the Steel Inquisitors where a grisly death will follow soon after.

The true hero of the story is a young thief named Vin.  She was abandoned by the only family she remembers, her brother.  He taught her to never trust anyone.  Everyone always betrays you.  For sixteen years she has lived those words.  Always keeping to the shadows, never trusting, never believing.  She had to rely on herself and this burgeoning power that she’s only beginning to understand.  She seems to have the power to make people do what she wants, but can only do it for a little bit at a time.  During a job for her crew, she comes to the attention of Kelsier and his crew because of her abilities.  She soon finds that she has more power than she ever believed possible.  She is a Mistborn.  A half-breed from the union of a skaa and nobleman.  She has the power of Allomancy, the power to use metals to do amazing feats.  And while there are others who are able to use metals themselves, most can only use one metal.  But Vin is able to use them all and her natural ability sets her above nearly everyone else.

Can this crew of thieves with a conscience really make a difference?  Can they change a thousand years of fear and oppression?  Can you put this book down once you get into it?

I really did enjoy this book.  It did take a bit for me to get into it because the author really just jumps into it and doesn’t start with backstory or being overly descriptive.  You just get thrown right into the story and are left to wonder what are skaa?  Why is the sun red?  Why are there mists that come at night that no one will wander out into?   But you are swept along as the story picks up pace nearly immediately and you are tossed and turned along the way.  There are twists that you don’t expect and outcomes that are surprising.  The characters are strong, interesting and amazing to get to know throughout the book.

If you are a fan of a good fantasy novel with a good plot and amazing characters, pick this one up, you will not be disappointed.

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Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

4 Stars

This is the third book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series.  Definitely start with the first two books, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City before even thinking about picking up Library of Souls.  You can’t read this book as a stand alone novel.  And I highly recommend that you read all three.  While highly enjoyable, I couldn’t rate this as a 5 star book no matter how much I liked the series, there were just some things that didn’t sit well with me.

Library of Souls picks up almost exactly where Hollow City leaves off.  You are once again with Jacob Portman and Emma Bloom, peculiar children on a mission to save their friends and all of pecuilardom from not only the monsters who have been preying on them, but on the person who has been behind all of these evil machinations.  Along with Addison, a dog with a nose for sniffing out peculiar children, they will travel from the present day to the Victorian era slums of Devil’s Acre to save their friends and their very existence.

Once again, the story is engrossing and there is action at every turn.  You think you know who your friends and who your enemies are only to have the tables turned on you more than once.  Jacob and Emma rely on themselves more often than not and you watch as Jacob comes into his own peculiar abilities as well as growing in confidence throughout the journey.  The story is also told around old photographs and without the photographs, I don’t think any of the books in the series would have quite the same impact.

There were a few things that just didn’t jive for me this time around.  The start of the story seemed to take quite awhile to get itself established again and this was surprising considering that it picked up right where the previous novel left off.  It seemed to take a very long time to get to the climax and there were several beginnings of stories and backstories that were never fleshed out and explained and this hurt the story in ways because as the climax came closer, they became more important but since they weren’t well explained, it led to some confusion.  And the ending…no.  The ending actually took away from the story.  While it did make me happy on some levels, it was so abrupt and left so many questions, I just couldn’t like how it ended.

Maybe that means that the peculiar children aren’t quite done yet?

I know that this series gets tagged a lot as a YA novel, but I definitely don’t think that it is purely for the YA audience.  There are definitely adult themes and some of the action is quite graphic and would not really be appropriate for many young readers.  But I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good story, interesting characters and a little bit of fantasy in their lives.

 

 

 

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Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

3 Stars

I was conflicted when it came time to review this book.  I’ve been a fan of Jim Butcher’s writing for awhile, so I was fairly excited to see that not only was he coming out with a new novel, but it was a departure from his Dresden Files series.  I’m not terribly familiar with the Steampunk genre, so this was going to be something very new for me and I was excited to get my hands on it.

He doesn’t waste any time getting you immersed into the story.  There really is no preamble and no buildup.  There is no backstory to any of the characters or even the world that we are inhabiting.  For a first in a series book, this is a little surprising and I think that it was one of the reasons I personally couldn’t give a higher rating.  You’re left foundering a bit to try and understand the story and understand who the characters are and what drives them.  You’re left to infer much and try to draw your own conclusions.  What is a warriorborn?  What are the Spires?  Why is the Surface such a horrible place?  Why are Spire Albion and Spire Aurora fighting?  Who is the Enemy?  And those were just the really important ones.

The plot suffers a bit too.  Why is the leader of Albion sending an untested group of children on a secret mission?  And really, what is the mission?  It’s never truly explained even after Captain Grimm comes back.  And the mission is never even explained to those involved.  Everyone was on a need to know basis truly to the detriment of themselves and their own safety.  Without knowing what the true danger was, they walked blindly from one disaster to another.  I can understand why Captain Grimm would undertake the mission, he was being bribed.  After the near destruction of his airship, Predator, he was offered the necessary repairs to make his airship whole again.  With no strings attached.  Who wouldn’t play babysitter to a bunch of kids being sent on a super secret mission?

The characters didn’t suffer, thankfully.  Even with the lack of backstory, each character had their own voice and you could easily get a picture of each one of them and this is what truly led the story.  The characters and their interactions.  I think my favorite character will have to be Rowl, but I’m also a fan of cats and his snarky attitude fit perfectly with how I think my cats would talk to me if I could understand them like his Littlemouse can.  While a lot of readers didn’t’ really care for the cats, I thought that they added a bit of fun to the book.

The battle scenes were well done, very intense and even though you were pretty sure that the main characters were going to make it out of this book alive, you were never entirely sure.  There are two battles that still stand out in my mind and they weren’t even the climatic airship battles at the end of the book.  They involved spider-like monsters and cats saving the day.  Who doesn’t like it when the cat saves the day?  It was a lot of fun and the action was very fast paced and kept you on the edge of your seat.

The story flowed very well and very quickly.  This is probably one of the longest books that I’ve read by Jim Butcher and he managed to make it feel like a much shorter book.  If you’re in the mood for some fun battle scenes, talking cats and a world where magic and steam-powered airships rule the skies, pick this one up.  This will not be a book for everyone and for anyone who needs to have more backstory and more explanation as to the WHY factor, you may want to steer clear.  I’ll be giving the next book in the series a chance and I hope that he’ll build in more of the WHY factor.  The Aeronaut’s Windlass didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it was still a good book overall.

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Review: The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

4 Stars

This is another re-read for me.  I’m a bit OCD as I’ve mentioned and I cannot read a new book in a series if I haven’t read the previous books.  In most cases, the series is still fresh in mind because I’d read it more recently.  Unfortunately this is not the case in the Vampire Chronicles.  I read them years ago and didn’t stay caught up.  So now that there are newer books, I wanted to go back and read the entire series again!

The Vampire Lestat brings us to the 1980’s when Lestat decides to once again join the world after going to ground.  He comes back to a world that is much changed than the one he turned away from decades before.  He is drawn to a rock band that had taken up residence near him and as he sets out to become their lead singer, he comes across the book, Interview with the Vampire where he once again hears the words of his creation, Louis.  He is fascinated at the tale that Louis has concocted, but he wants to set the record straight.  He wants us, dear readers, to know who the real Lestat is.  He’s not really this evil creature that Louis depicted, he’s so much more.

The author takes us across the world and across the centuries to not only meet Lestat as a mortal but also to meet the original vampires, Those Who Must Be Kept.

We meet Lestat de Lioncourt.  The youngest son of an aging, blind and broke French aristocrat.  He is constantly questioning, never settling for the rote answers given to him by his elders and his peers.  He is one of those inquisitive beings that actually wants to know why the sky is blue.  He is a born skeptic who becomes absolutely irresistible to his maker, Magnus.  Lestat is able to expand on the reasons why he never gave more information to his fledglings.  In the beginning, he had none!  He did not lie when he stated that he wasn’t given a choice, that he wasn’t taught any of the ways and the rules…at least he didn’t have them right away.

The secondary characters also receive this same treatment.  We are given the history of Armand and the one who made him, Marius.  The history behind the Theatre des Vampyres is explained.  Even Louis becomes something more than a whining brat.  You see the world through Lestat’s eyes and what an interesting world it is.  Many of the questions that arose during the first novel, told by Louis’ point of view, are answered here.  The history of the vampire race is fleshed out and we are given the tales as they have not only been handed down from one generation to the next, but also from the being that has been keeping watch over the makers of the vampire race, Those Who Must Be Kept.

We travel from rural France to Paris, the City of Lights but also a city of darkness.  The stinking crypts of les Innocents where a coven of Children of Darkness still keep to the old ways, the worship of Satan and the old rules.  Their beautiful and terrifying leader, Armand.  A battle of wills and of ideals that leads Lestat away from his beloved France and out into the world.  Crisscrossing the continent until he lands in Egypt.  In Egypt he learns that his dearest friend has gone into madness and taken his own immortal life, his aristocratic family has all suffered under the hands of the Revolutionaries and all are gone save his father.  His despair becomes overwhelming and he goes into the earth until he is finally sought out by Marius, the maker of Armand, who he has been searching for ever since he left Paris.

From Marius he learns the history of his new race, the history that has been handed down to him over the centuries.  We learn of how he was made in Roman occupied Gaul over a thousand years before.  He learns why Those Who Must Be Kept are shrouded in secret and mystery.  Why the stories must remain myths.  Why the rules must be kept.  But Lestat was never one who could follow the rules…

I would recommend this to anyone who was a fan of the first book in the series but I would also recommend this to anyone who is interested in this genre.  It’s a different voice than those that have gone before and definitely different from those who came after.

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Review: Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice

4 Stars

This is actually a re-read for me.  I first read this book more than 20 years ago in preparation to the movie coming out.  There’s a new(er) book out now and since it’s been so long since I last read anything in the series, I’m going back and reading them all again!  I had nearly forgotten how great this book actually is…

I think that Anne Rice is probably one of the reasons that we have such a love affair with all things vampire.  You can’t help but fall in love with these damned souls.  Louis, the narrator of this story, is a vampire who never seemed to lose his mortal conscience.  He struggles to accept this “dark gift” that he’s been given.  He still feels too much, empathizes too much with the mortal life that he left behind and the lives of those he still cares for.  He was a plantation owner who had given up on life after the death of his brother and has become distanced from his mother and sister.  He is alone in the world and has stopped caring whether he lives or dies, in many ways he’s just waiting for death to come for him.

In walks Lestat, beautiful and mesmerizing.  He is both commanding and demanding.  He finds Louis when he is at his most low, his most desperate and makes him an offer that he simply can’t refuse.  He offers Louis his dark gift and Louis becomes his companion in immortality.  But from the beginning you feel the tension between them.  Lestat only cares about himself and he wanted Louis for what Louis could do for him.  He wanted money, a home, security.  He wanted to be able to be in luxury and safe to hunt and hide.  Louis wants to know everything, wants to feel everything, his empathy is still intact.  He wants to know about those who came before him, who made them what they are?  He’s full of questions and continually pesters Lestat for answers.  Answers that Lestat either cannot or will not give him.  Just as Louis is ready to leave Lestat to find those answers, Lestat has other ideas.  Claudia comes into being, the monster that never should have been.  The link that holds Louis and keeps him with his maker, the father of lies.  For now.

The story covers about 200 years of Louis’ life both before and after he was given his immortal gift.  You are taken from New Orleans to Germany to Paris and back again.  You join Louis on his quest to find his answers.  Along the way you begin to have a better understanding of who Louis, Lestat and Claudia are and what drives them, what makes them unique in their immortal world.  Which one of them has the stamina for immortality?  Could you face every day for hundreds of years and watch the world change while you stay the same?  Are you evil?  What is evil and what is good?  This quest for answers is what drives Louis and shapes him into the immortal that he becomes and ultimately shapes his relationships with those around him.

The author delves into some pretty heavy topics that really make you do a lot of thinking and considering and even some examining of your own conscience.  You find yourself being empathetic to these creatures, against your better judgment.  You find yourself being mesmerized by their beauty, their coldness.  But even in their beauty, you can see their danger.  But you are still drawn to them, like a moth to a flame.  It doesn’t matter that they are predators.  It doesn’t matter that you are nothing more than food to them.  Who can sit by and listen to Louis’ story and not want to become his companion for the next few centuries?

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