Review: Death’s End By Cixin Liu (preview)

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Publisher: Tor

Publishing Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9781466853454

Genre: SciFi

Rating: DNF

Publishers Description: Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer from the early 21st century, awakens from hibernation in this new age. She brings with her knowledge of a long-forgotten program dating from the beginning of the Trisolar Crisis, and her very presence may upset the delicate balance between two worlds. Will humanity reach for the stars or die in its cradle?

Review: Am I missing something here? “Nebula award nominee, award winning, best selling, beloved, great acclaim, New York Times….Wall Street Journal……”  Did Buddha write this? Did the heavens open up and barf holy dribbles in the form of the written word of Cixin? Did Moses decend the mount, not with the commandments but with the book of Cixin Liu?

Well I think I got more than a preview/excerpt as this was one long boring mutha. So boring in fact, that I think I can patent the spastically conjoined words into a homeopathic remedy for insomnia. Before you go ape-shit on me for ridiculing your scifi savior, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, bang my head on a rock and wake up semi-dystopian confused. I have been reading GOOD science fiction since I was 6 years old (lets see, carry the one…minus 3, equals) so that’s about 47 years……give or take, um. Anywaaay, in short, this was really bad. Boring with a capital B. Dialogue got dialong. Really slow movement, if any, and characters flatter than a mashed cat. DID NOT FINISH.

Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

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Publisher: sourcebooks Fire

Publishing Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9781492620945

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/4

Publishers Description: Bruja magic runs in her blood, but a curse meant to banish it may cost Alex more than her power… Alex is a bruja and the most powerful witch in her family. But she’s hated magic ever since it made her father disappear into thin air. So while most girls celebrate their Quinceañera, Alex prepares for Death Day—the most important day in a bruja’s life, and her only opportunity to rid herself of magic.

Review:  I thought, “Oh, here comes the YA infatuation with the rippled abs on a douche’ with mesmerizing eyes and smells like a pine forest with hints of wood smoke..”. While there is some of that, including blushing and gurl crushing, it didn’t take over the story line and the characters were left to sort themselves out within the epic world building that is Los Lagos.

“So why you no give 5 stars!!”. Well Alex is really Speshul. She is so speshul in fact, that all her thoughts, motivations and inclinations are all about her. Not only is she narcissistic she is the second coming super witch with extra speshully powers that she just doesn’t want…wah! Besides the school bullying scenes that do not make any sense, the grammatical errors were constant throughout the novel and some chapters just ended abruptly, mid-sentence. Really poor editing. Also, the fight scenes were jumbled and lacked logical progression. 

In summary, the world building is fantastic. While Alex was a bit unbelievable and hopelessly myopic she was balanced with a good supporting cast that was developed well with the movement. The real downer is the plethora of grammatical errors. During the author’s afterword, she thanks her editor Gretchen Stelter for correcting “my terribly grammar…..” Too funny. You really can’t make this shjt up. 

Review: The Apothecary’s Curse by Barbara Barnett

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Publisher: Pyr

Publishing Date: October 2016

ISBN: 9781633882331

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.2

Publishers Description: This genre-bending historical fantasy mixes alchemy and genetics as a doctor and an apothecary try to prevent a pharmaceutical company from exploiting the book that made them immortal centuries ago.

Review: This was a pretty solid read with really good writing. The author’s ability to weave a concise storyline while jumping to and fro in time is laudable. “So why 3 stars?”. There was a bit too much casting back from the present to build the story line and subsequently this halted the movement. When the movement is halted we tend to get one dimensional characters, especially the supporting cast.  For instance, while Simon is integral to the story line I didn’t find myself rooting for him and this ambivalence carries through to other supporting cast mates. The characters, while not wholly flat are rendered in such a way that you don’t really care what happens to them.

 If you like Victorian era settings that center around a mysterious book owned by an immortal, get it.

Review: The Starriest Summer by Adelle Yeung

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Publisher: Indigo

Publishing Date: December 2015

ISBN: 9780692539880

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.4/5

Publishers Description: Fifteen-year-old Michelle saves the world on a daily basis…with her trusty video game controller, of course! Naturally, she jumps at the chance to play an experimental virtual reality game. The beautiful fantasy world of Starrs? Check. The power to mold matter? Check. No reset button? Wait, she didn’t sign up for this! Turns out Starrs is really real, and to make matters worse, Michelle’s interference awakens the Cycle of the Six Moons, a series of devastating trials that will devour the universe. 

Review: Cool cover art.

There are mixed reviews on this and most settle on average, 3 stars. This needed a strong editing hand to shake out the schizophrenia. Scenes jump and shift with no rhyme or reason coupled with halting flow that leaves you scratching your head.

So how does a 15 year old gurl, travel to another world and believe that she is in a virtual reality video game for most of it.? Well see, her genius brother made a machine in the garage with hair dryers and batteries and told her it was a VR game. Riiiiight. Well anyhoo, if you haven’t guessed by now Michelle is speshul. So speshul in fact that she is not a princess, or a lady, or a faerie lady princess but a GODDESS able to manipulate matter and get out of all kinds of desperately doomed situations. Neat Deus Ex vehicle, eh?

If you’re 13 years old, then get this book as Michelle is written like she’s 12.

Review: The Jekyll Revelation by Robert Masello

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Publisher: 47 North

Publishing Date:  November 2016

ISBN: 9781503951198

Genre: Fantasy

Rating 1.0/5 DNF

Publishers Description: While on routine patrol in the tinder-dry Topanga Canyon, environmental scientist Rafael Salazar expects to find animal poachers, not a dilapidated antique steamer trunk. Inside the peculiar case, he discovers a journal, written by the renowned Robert Louis Stevenson, which divulges ominous particulars about his creation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It also promises to reveal a terrible secret—the identity of Jack the Ripper.

Review: I stopped reading this pretty early on when the “deadly Cottonmouth snake” is found in Topanga Canyon, CA. They are only found in the SE United States. I would have stopped later anyway with the constant shifting points of view and lengthy backstory.

Review: Captain Sinbad by Graham Diamond

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Publisher: Venture Press

Publishing Date: August 2016 (1980)

ISBN: 9781419681813

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.4/5

Publishers Description: Nearly two centuries before Marco Polo’s travels to Cathay, there lived in the fabled city of Baghdad the famed rogue and adventurer Sinbad. 

Review:  Lord Flasheart: ” I like the hair” thrusts hips, ” It gives me something to hang onto”. “Oi Nursey, I like it firm and fruity, WOOF!”. “She’s got the tongue like an electric eel and likes the taste of a man’s tonsils”.  Like Black Adder’s Lord Flasheart, Sinbad is a roguish womanizer with a heart of gold.  Soon after losing his fiancé’ to the evil Sultan, he has sex with 5 women along the way and multiple offers to bed others. Although he enjoys himself with the most beautiful women his heart belongs to one. Nice recovery Batman. 

My self-loathing was at an all time high, as I found myself enjoying every second of buckles being swashed upon the desert sands while plying nubile bodies on the high seas. While every woman encountered is more beautiful than the last and each adventure exceeds believability, I was still firmly rooted in a broad, world-building tapestry. 

Sinbad was written to appeal to our sense of the unattainable while measuring out doses of thinly veiled desire. “Shagging on the high seas while fending off Amazon women pirates en route to the Pillars of Hercules? Fug yea!!” The movement is expertly coupled to the characterization and adding established characters on a grand quest mitigates the need to build them from the ground up. Very smart writing. 

Dig in, throw discernment out the door and have a little fun.

Review: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

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Publisher: 47 North

Publishing Date: October 2016

ISBN: 9781503939110

Genre: PostApoc

Rating: 3.4/4

Publishers Description: In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. 

Review: Wow, a couple of the reviews out there are pretty harsh on this on (I know, I should talk, right?).  One reviewer thought that the writer never passed remedial English in high school and that if written by a grade school student, it might receive better marks. Yikes. I didn’t think it was that bad.  I liked this novel. The story line was great as was the characterization. Even the bit players are built well in a limited amount of time.

<Spoiler Alert>

This novel was only slim on facts. Really, guns and bullets are almost impossible to find anywhere in your travels? Will most men in a post-apoc scenario turn to rape and enslave women so they can sell them to other rapists? Yeah, maybe. I can see where the author thinks that this is so, since there are virtually no women left. But wouldn’t women be prized (as they should be) rather than raped and abused? Does taking away their ability to produce live children diminish their value? Other questions brought to mind was the implausibility that almost every man turns into a drunken looter/rapist once the shackles of normative behavior are loosed. Since most everyone has died off, I doubt you would find roving packs of rapists or even the beginning of a barter system. For awhile, there really would be enough for all.

There was also some excessive backstory narrative that seemed to be rehashing what had already been said as well as the annoying journal entries. A real heavy dose of editing is needed to clean up the grammatical and spelling errors as well as the disjointed scene transitions and shifting points of view. Slim those down a bit and you have 4 easy stars.