Review: An Apprentice to Elves by Elizabeth Bear

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Publisher: Tor

Publishing Date: October 2015

ISBN: 9780765324719

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.0/5

Publisher Description: The warrior culture of Iskryne forbids many things to women—and most especially it forbids them bonding to one of the giant telepathic trelwolves. But as her father was no ordinary boy, Alfgyfa is no ordinary girl. Her father has long planned to send his daughter to Tin, a matriarch among the elves who live nearby, to be both apprentice and ambassador, and now she is of age to go.

Review: Say “Alfgyfa” 20 times. Roll it around in your mind-mouth. Now do it over 500 times. One of the joys of reading is the seamless ease at which we can move through the chapters without contorting our minds to make sense of contrived and overly ornate names and places. In this novel you may have a hard time with the elaborate naming convention. 

This novel was really good. Where the novel excels is in the world building. The evolving life and culture of a myriad of beings draws you into an intricate world. The Aettrynalf stone shapers was an inventive interlude and somehow proximal to where Alfie grew up. The Rhean threat and the subsequent buildup was well patterned to an evolving story line.  Additionally the writing is superb and the characters evolve to suit the story line.

“So why you no give 5 stars!” The novel gets a bit mired in the social structures of the various cultures and the war is not rendered in enough detail to be believable. 

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Review: Paladin by Sally Slater

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Publisher: Perfect Analogy

Publishing Date: may 2015

ISBN: 9780989463324

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.4/5

Publisher Description: Brash, cocky, and unbeatable with a sword (well, almost), Sam of Haywood is the most promising Paladin trainee in the kingdom of Thule… and knows it. The only problem is that Sam is really Lady Samantha, daughter of the seventeenth Duke of Haywood, and if her father has his way, she’ll be marrying a Paladin, not becoming one.

Review: Since I am late to the party on this one, I will say that the reviews are all over the place and most of them are contradictory. I think that’s a good thing. It means the author is polishing her skill set and touching off various reactions to her work.

For kind of a YA themed novel, I liked it. Yeah some of the characters lacked depth, there’s an annoying demon-love thang, a ridiculous premise that no one in a martial training camp can tell that Sam is a woman, most of the fight scenes don’t make logical sense, Tristan all of a sudden has the hots for her when he finds out she isn’t a boy, the idea that a 16 year old girl can best people that are bigger and faster and as equally skilled is a joke. 

I liked that Sam was all spit and vinegar and could wield a sword while being conflicted. This novel sets up for high adventure with the demon boy and duchess of Haywood crossing the high seas. There are some unresolved instances about her mother that I am curious about as well.  

 

 

 

Review: The Fifth Dimension by Martin Vopenka

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Publisher: Barbican

Publishing Date: August 2015

ISBN: 9781909954090

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.8/5

Publisher Description: Your business is dead. It seems like a deal – leave your family behind in Prague for a year, isolate yourself in a research station in the Andes, and come home with a fortune. With a treatise on black holes for company, Jakob settles in at altitude. The air is thin. Strangers pass by on dangerous pilgrimage while his young wife and kids take life in his mind. In mountain starkness, the big questions take shape – like what happens to love inside a black hole? 

Review: **Some kind of spoilers that trip along the edge of reveal so proceed aware.**

Alone on a mountain top, Martin is either focused on spiritual revelations or creating scenarios where his wife is having sex with him or other men. The corporation that hired him to sit on top of an Andes mountain like a hermit mystic has a manipulative degenerate operative (Denis) whose sexual advances erode the straightness right out of Martin. They eventually have weird gay sex after Denis jacks off in his refrigerator. So what does this have to do with the story line and plot? Absolutely nothing. Why is he being paid to be on a mountain top in the Andes? Who knows.

As Martin comes to grip with being alone (sort of) his understanding of the fabric of our universe and the spiritual element expands to encompass his own personal gestalt. These experiences take him into unexpected places of both the internal and external kind.

This was an unusual read. The writing was very good and the characters well developed. The scenes are rendered to the point where you feel that you are standing there with dumbass on a mountain top. The story line is easy to follow yet gets inserted with these weird instances that seem more like a vehicle for the author to purge his own personal demons/desires. The “spiritual” philosophy created by Martin as the fifth dimension (not the soul/R&B group) is funky but also seems to reflect the authors own personal philosophy as there are pages and pages of dialogue devoted to it.

For the minimal and austere storyline, I was ok. It lost a star due to the ending. 

 

Review: Man Made Murder by Z. Rider

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Publisher: Darkride

Publishing Date: October 2015

ISBN: 9781942234036

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.0/5

Publisher Description: When guitarist Dean Thibodeaux tries to score weed the night before his band goes on tour, the deal ends in a brutal attack he wasn’t supposed to survive. Stiff, bloody, sore—but alive—he boards the bus with his band, determined to keep the one thing that’s important in his life on track. Carl Delacroix failed his sister. And in the dead of night, with a gun in his waistband and nothing left to lose, he fails her again: his hesitation lets her killer get away. Short on sleep, short on cash, and determined not to make a trifecta out of his failure, he takes off after her attacker. And finds himself following a tour bus.

Review: At a risk of getting staked through the heart by Rider fans everywhere, I found this novel boring as Fug. The story line and plot is a lengthy and drawn out mélange of “Carl in self-recrimination/revenge mode and biting biker vampires chasing an emo guitarist”. Fug. Page after page of the same stuff from scene to scene.  The real downer about this novel is that just when the movement kicks into high gear it suddenly stops, and the heavy loading of internal dialogue begins.

While the writing was very good, technically, the characters muddled around in a very limited world and failed to capture any sympathy due to their development relying on the reveal of their internal monologues. The ending is a movie cliché that makes room for the next novel in the series.

Read this on a bus headed to Scranton while sitting next to an old man that smells of old tobacco and Brylcreem.

 

 

 

Review: Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson

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Publisher: Rebellion

Publishing Date: November 2015

ISBN: 9781781083987

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.5/5

Publisher Description: In a fractured Europe, new nations are springing up everywhere, some literally overnight. For an intelligence officer like Jim it’s a nightmare. Every week or so a friendly power spawns a new and unknown national entity which may or may not be friendly to England’s interests. It’s hard to keep on top of it all.  But things are about to get worse for Jim. A stabbing on a London bus pitches him into a world where his intelligence service is preparing for war with another universe, and a man has appeared who may hold the key to unlocking Europe’s most jealously guarded secret… 

Review: Pocket universes, evil cabals, dynamic characters and espionage round out this fascinating novel by Dave Hutchinson.

This style of writing takes some getting used to. The story line just starts without any preamble or explanation of the world or events that have transpired leading up to the present condition.  It is really inventive, although not a new concept. This novel was not without some story line and plot frustration due to this style of writing. This occurred in the sewer tunnels when a new set of characters were introduced and the story line abruptly ended. There was no gradual reveal. In this case, Rupert is somehow inserted as a spy into some opposing organization?? and Eleanor is introduced and abruptly terminated. We never know who she is and whom she represents. Her colleague??, Leo, gets a pass when Rupert shoots her.

There are bits and pieces within each scene throughout the novel that you hope will get sorted at some point. But it doesn’t. I can follow the most complex of SciFi novels to the jumbled ramblings of E. Lustbader, and I could neither manufacture a story line to fill in the gaps nor was there any cumulative resolution. Towards the end, the story kind of rambles off into the distance and what would have been a solid 4 star rating dropped to 3. 5.

Still, this was an enjoyable read with epic world building that is somehow housed within contemporary Europe.

 

 

 

Review: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

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Publisher: Hyperion/Disney

Publishing Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9781484707845

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 1.0/5

Publisher Description: Long ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were ripped open, and it’s taken centuries to bring back civilization in the wake. Now, the luckiest Cits live in enclosed communities,behind walls that keep them safe from the hideous monsters fighting to break through. Others are not so lucky. To Joyeaux Charmand, who has been a Hunter in her tight-knit mountain community since she was a child, every Cit without magic deserves her protection from dangerous Othersiders. Then she is called to Apex City, where the best Hunters are kept to protect the most important people. 

Review: Wow, this was really, really bad. If you can wade through the pages and pages of info-dumping it gets worse as it soon becomes evident that Joyeaux (you can call her Joy) is super speshul.  As Joy begins her new life as a Hunter in Apex city it becomes quickly apparent that not only is she super gifted but has no idea that she is hot looking and super centered with wisdom-y stuff. She quickly gets into insta-love with a Psimon and handles a big bully multiple times while pulling every ones shjt out of the deus ex machina fire.

Joy is constantly tired, hungry and innocent. She helps everyone and constantly parallels her current situation to her life in the mountains (more info dumping) where the super secret monks train hunters. She is always shocked how great people think she is and how she manages to kill beasts that no one has ever faced nor would they want to. She eventually becomes an Elite Hunter (of fugging course) and all the magical beasts want to join her pack cause she is so cool and good and innocent and talented and brave and understanding and courageous and hot and …….arrrghhhh!!

Fug this book.

 

 

 

Review: Earth and Sky (Earth and Sky series 1,2,3) by Megan Crewe

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Publisher: Razorbill

Publishing Date: October 2014

ISBN: 9780670068128, 9781503946576, 9781477829127

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 1.8/5

Publisher Description: Seventeen-year-old Skylar has been haunted for as long as she can remember by fleeting yet powerful sensations that something is horribly wrong. But despite the panic attacks tormenting her, nothing ever happens, and Sky’s beginning to think she’s crazy. Then she meets a mysterious, otherworldly boy named Win and discovers the shocking truth her premonitions have tapped into: our world no longer belongs to us.

Review: This review will cover all three books in the series: Earth and Sky, The Clouded Sky and a Sky Unbroken. Lots of spoilers here so read at your own risk you big babies.

In Earth and Sky, Skylar (get it?) is an angst ridden teen with OCD who stumbles into an alien conspiracy. This conspiracy didn’t make any sense. Why would aliens, that are human, envelop the Earth in a time field and go back and forth through our history? Well anyway, Skylar and blue eyed- jagged haired alien Win, go traipsing through time to find a weapon (which also makes no sense) constantly being harangued by evil Enforcers. They never stay long enough for the novel to become interesting by interacting with history. The minute they land back in time they are scrambling to find pieces of a weapon. The novel is mainly centered on Skylar as she talks to herself about her needs and wants. Besides the really boring story line, the writing relied on phrasing to expedite the scenes. Murmur, murmuring and murmurs were used 21 times. Flicked, flick, flicking, flicker and flickers was used 45 times. Fug.

In the Clouded Sky, Skylar is invited to join the rebels to dismantle or destroy the time apparatus. Skylar is even more myopic and self-centered than usual but still very SPESHUL. The usual phrasing follows the first novels recipe: Murmurs x 30 and flicks (38). The story line gets even more boring so a love triangle is added along with the cliché’ gay couple that most authors are adding to seem relevant. So here’s some more story line nonsense. The rebel leader whom coordinated the whole thing turns them all in while another someone in their midst is a traitor. There is no logical sense to this storyline. Then they blow up Earth because it was a mess that needed cleaning up. Huh? Then why waste all the time and resources to build and utilize an Earth time bubble?

In the Sky Unbroken, Skylar and her friends and family are placed in a viewing area to stumble about and ask a lot of unnecessary questions. Jule (the traitor) has abducted her family after getting some Sky-nookie and Win and his jagged black hair is back in the game as Sky’s number one penis. Murmur is also back to bludgeon your face 36 times along with flick (42). Sky is still speshul and they win at something and land on a new planet to colonize. Yay!

Was it all bad? No. This had so much potential to have the story line and character development grow with a movement that was never there. What happened to residing in history for awhile and tie that into the story line of the hidden weapon pieces. Make Earth a focal point of an alien (that are humans) takeover whom want a place to live by stealing events in time to change the future…or some shjt. Instead, they hang out in boring ships and space stations and yap about each other. It becomes trite while insisting upon itself to carry the novel to its conclusion.

Read these novels while getting bot-fly larvae dug out of your shoulder in Bolivia.