Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl Book Review

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl

By David Barnett


Sept 10, 2013

2/5 Stars

       A Summary, for those in need of one, “Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire. Airships ply the skies and Queen Victoria presides over three-quarters of the known world—including the East Coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.

London might as well be a world away from Sandsend, a tiny village on the Yorkshire coast. Gideon Smith dreams of the adventure promised him by the lurid tales of Captain Lucian Trigger, the Hero of the Empire, told in Gideon’s favorite “penny dreadful.” When Gideon’s father is lost at sea in highly mysterious circumstances Gideon is convinced that supernatural forces are at work.  Deciding only Captain Lucian Trigger himself can aid him, Gideon sets off for London. On the way he rescues the mysterious mechanical girl Maria from a tumbledown house of shadows and iniquities. Together they make for London, where Gideon finally meets Captain Trigger.

But Trigger is little more than an aging fraud, providing cover for the covert activities of his lover, Dr. John Reed, a privateer and sometime agent of the British Crown. Looking for heroes but finding only frauds and crooks, it falls to Gideon to step up to the plate and attempt to save the day...but can a humble fisherman really become the true Hero of the Empire?

David Barnett's Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is a fantastical steampunk fable set against an alternate historical backdrop: the ultimate Victoriana/steampunk mash-up! “


            Let me say first that there is very little positive I can say about this book.  I gave the book 2/5 stars instead of 1/5 based solely on the last fourth of the book; which I found better than the entirety of the work.  This book has an incredibly slow, boring, plodding start that is saved only by the addition of Bram Stoker and Elizabeth Bathory.  Which is by far the craziest part of this steampunk novel.  I would have put the book down before I hit the first 50 pages if not for this seeming side-story.  When the book reaches around 70-75% to its completion it seems to come into it’s own with a League of Extraordinary men style.  Except only the women in this book are extraordinary.  The male characters in this work are stereotypes so through and through that they become insufferably boring.  The innocent hero, the old resourceful codger, the incredibly cynical reporter, the well intended but lay about homosexual, the traitorous pirate with a heart of gold.  It’s terrible…  The book, while trying to buck being predictable from the very start seems to really clamp down and become extraordinarily predictable.  Add to this a VERY unsatisfying ending to ensure a sequel and you have the hardest 354 pages I’ve tried to get through this entire year.  I don’t usually regret reading books, but I can honestly say that there were plenty of times that I regretted reading this one.  I really cannot recommend this book to anyone.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Any Other Name Book Review

Any Other Name

Emma Newman

Angry Robot (May 28, 2013)

5/5 Stars

   A book summary for those in need,  

“Cat has been forced into an arranged marriage with William - a situation that comes with far more strings than even she could have anticipated, especially when she learns of his family's intentions for them both.
Meanwhile, Max and the gargoyle investigate The Agency - a mysterious organisation that appears to play by its own rules - and none of them favourable to Society.
Over in Mundanus, Sam has discovered something very peculiar about his wife's employer - something that could herald a change for everyone in both sides of the Split Worlds”

       My expectations from the first book, Between Two Thorns; were completely blown away by Any Other Name.  I have rarely seen a better second book in a series or such improvement over the first.  Which was quite a good book in it’s own right.  Without the slow start of the first and some of the more general world building accomplished.  This book allowed the reader to enjoy the characters we were familiar with from the first book.  Really getting into some excellent scenes and story.  The pacing in this book was excellent.  I could predict when the author was going to change POV(Point of View, as in point of view character perspective) and approved of it every single time. I must admit I had some trepidation about the author matching her first book’s amazing sense of the world.  Especially moving everything to London.  But with so many returning characters and an excellent continuation to the plot of the first.  I was mesmerized for the entire read.  I was also a bit cross when the book ended.  Which is always a good sign of an excellent book.  As much as I’m STILL not a big fan of Regency.  Emma Newman can keep me reading well into the late night.  In fact, I was trying to finish the book so late last night, that I was all most too tired to get up for my early morning call to my job today.  So perhaps, you might want to clear yourself some time to read Any Other Name.  Just so you don’t lose your job, or miss an important event, if you do Lord Iris will be very cross with you.  Expecting of perfection in everything and all.  I’m sure he would be very impressed with Any Other Name, however, very impressed indeed.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Woken Gods Book Review

The Woken Gods

By Gwenda Bond


Strange Chemistry

Sept 3, 2013

3/5 Stars

         A Summary for people who need them but can’t find them,

      “Five years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke around the world.
This morning, Kyra Locke is late for school.
Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., home to the embassies of divine pantheons and the mysterious Society of the Sun. But when rebellious Kyra encounters two trickster gods on her way back from school, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn't what it seems. She escapes with the aid of Osborne "Oz" Spencer, an intriguing Society field operative, only to discover that her scholar father has disappeared with a dangerous relic. The Society needs it, and they don't care that she knows nothing about her father's secrets.
Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the suspect help of scary gods, her estranged oracle mother, and, of course, Oz--whose first allegiance is to the Society. She has no choice if she's going to recover the missing relic and save her father. And if she doesn't? Well, that may just mean the end of the world as she knows it”


        The Woken Gods is definitely a different take on the traditional fantasy teen novel.  However, I really had a hard time with some of the world building in this book.  Let me run down some of my issues.  One of which is that in the beginning of the book the author states that magic has thrown technology so out of whack that there is no point in students even studying physics anymore.  However, there are electric lights and they use them when it’s convenient to the plot and not use them when it isn’t.  They watch television news broadcasts when it’s convenient to the plot but cars don’t work in Washington D.C. because, as near as I can tell it isn’t convenient to the plot.  At one point Kyra and one of her friends watch VHS movies.  Why can’t they watch DVDs?  How much different is that?  The whole problem with technology not working makes me believe that the author wanted a certain vision or theme of the world but she wasn’t creative enough to have situations where that technology NEVER worked.  In the end, this is a very small nitpick and I’m sure some people out there are rolling their eyes.  But it really took me out of the book every time one of these things would happen.

       The magic system in the book also seems a little strange.  In beginning of the story we are told that relics need to be used by people with training.  The first ones are even shown to need special verbal commands in another language for them to work.  By the middle of the book this concept is completely gone and the story then seems to imply that you just need to get a hold of one these relics for it to work.  So the average archaeologist would be pretty powerful in this world, apparently.  But they are all held by these families that are members of this once secret society that is now in power instead of the government.  All of this seemed a little odd to me and the broad strokes that are taken with all kinds of things in the world make this seem rather unlikely or at least far more complex than the book makes out.  What’s worse is that because we see most of the book from the main character’s perspective none of this is explained at all.  Which might have managed to ground the world a little more than it did.  It’s fine to have a secret group like in Percy Jackson or Harry Potter it’s quite another to make that group not secret and the ruling the country/world.

       The other problems I had were centered around the main characters in the book.  As in many teen books, there is the main character and her friends.  Usually one or two boys and one girl.  This book is no different.  Except there are far more boys.  Anyway, while Kyra, the main character is pretty complex and has a descent background.  Some of her reasons for doing things aren’t explained very well even though the story is from her perspective.  Which left me wondering, other than the tradition of most teen books being in first person; why didn’t the author just write the whole thing in third person.

       I also wasn’t too thrilled with the switching to other characters for a chapter for a third person point of view of the events.  While this might have added a little color to the story.  What it really achieved, was pulling me out of the story’s flow and letting me know that now one of the other characters needed to be in charge.  These changes usually felt unnecessary.  They were also a wasted opportunity, because we rarely got the supporting characters motives or feelings from them.  Which meant that the reader was still left only with Kyra’s point of view on the events.  The problem with this is that about half way through the story when things really start heating up; most the action is from Kyra’s perspective and when other characters tell her she is wrong; the reader is left in the same boat as Kyra, confused.

      The main story in the book is pretty good and while the end seemed a little forced to me and perhaps the whole thing trailed off much too quickly after the climax; I have to say that  I enjoyed most of my time with the book.  As the first book in what I assume will be a series it is pretty good.  I would definitely like to read a book two if there is one.  I would also like to see some further explanation of the way the world actually works.  Which considering the next book practically cannot be set in D.C. that could be very interesting.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Happy Hour in Hell Book Review

Happy Hour in Hell

Tad Williams

PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW

DAW Hardcover

Sept 3, 2013

5/5 Stars 


              A summary for people who need one and can’t find one on their own:

               “I’ve been told to go to Hell more times than I can count. But this time I’m actually going.
My name’s Bobby Dollar, sometimes known as Doloriel, and of course, Hell isn’t a great place for someone like me—I’m an angel. They don’t like my kind down there, not even the slightly fallen variety. But they have my girlfriend, who happens to be a beautiful demon named Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands. Why does an angel have a demon girlfriend? Well, certainly not because it helps my career.
She’s being held hostage by one of the nastiest, most powerful demons in all of the netherworld—Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. He already hates me, and he’d like nothing better than to get his hands on me and rip my immortal soul right out of my borrowed but oh-so-mortal body.
But wait, it gets better! Not only do I have to sneak into Hell, make my way across thousands of miles of terror and suffering to reach Pan- demonium, capital of the fiery depths, but then I have to steal Caz right out from under Eligor’s burning eyes and smuggle her out again, past demon soldiers, hellhounds, and all the murderous creatures imprisoned there for eternity. And even if I somehow manage to escape Hell, I’m also being stalked by an undead psychopath named Smyler who’s been following me for weeks. Oh, and did I mention that he can’t be killed?
So if I somehow survive Hell, elude the Grand Duke and all his hideous minions and make it back to the real world, I’ll still be the most hunted soul in Creation. But at least I’ll have Caz. Gotta have something to look forward to, right?
So just pour me that damn drink, will you? I’ve got somewhere to go.”


      Ever since Tad Williams blew in to San Judas with old Bobby Dollar, things just haven’t been the same.  And that fellow readers is how we like it.  Happy Hour in Hell is the best book yet in what is becoming a fine little series for Tad Williams.  This time in Hell, which to my mind was handled absolutely perfectly by Mr. Williams.  In my experience Hell is done one of three ways: not at all(it’s just darkness), too seriously(Dante?), or too flippantly(Well it’s Hell, get over it!).  Tad Williams manages a fourth way, a kind of amalgamation of 2 and 3.  Which turns out to be just perfect.  The world building in Hell was SO GOOD in fact that I never wanted to leave.  It was so interesting, around every corner it seemed like Bobby met another interesting character.  The story is full of action, suspense, and mystery.  I have to hand it to Tad Williams that he made this episode of the Bobby Dollar series feel so good and so cohesive that the reader is never sitting around wondering what the threads of the mysteries lead to.  This I can’t say about Dirty Streets of Heaven, the first book in the series.  But I can say that Dirty Streets was a completely contained work.  I can’t say that about Happy Hour in Hell.  This book doesn’t assume you’ve read Dirty Streets of Heaven, but what it does assume is that your going to read the next book.  Which is fine, I just would have liked a little more intact of an ending.  This isn’t to say the end is a cliffhanger; the book just stops.  Which while I did mind this a bit, the rest of the book was so good.  That it completely made up for it.  I just hope the next book comes out soon.  Because I’m sure, like me, once you reach the end of Happy Hour in Hell you will be incredibly anxious to find out what happens next.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ocean at the End of the Lane Book Review

Ocean at the End of the Lane

By Neil Gaiman

William Morrow; First Edition edition

(June 18, 2013)

5/5 Stars

         I had not read really anything about Ocean at the End of the Lane before starting the book.  I do really like Neil Gaiman.  But often don’t think I judge him as highly or as mightily as some people in the critics or authorship professions do.  But I certainly have a fair amount of respect for what he has accomplished and his writing in general.  This is probably the greatest work of fiction I’ve ever read.  If I could have made this a 6/5 star review I would have.  Upon completing the book I immediately wanted to read it again.  Which for me, is a very rare thing indeed.  The only books I’ve ever read more than once are Lord of the Rings and Stephen King’s Dark Tower the Gunslinger.  The book reminded me not only of being a child but of the kinds of things that I used to believe and think about.  Stuff that now seems like something just out of reach.  I would give a copy of this book to everyone I know and I suggest everyone read it.  As a friend of mine used to say,”If you find something wrong with this, there is something wrong with you.”  And perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but it’s my blog so live with it.  Buy this book, read it, you’ll be happy you did.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

NOS4A2 Book Review


By Joe Hill

William Morrow; First Edition edition

(April 30, 2013)

5/5 Stars


For people who need summaries and can’t find them on their own,”

NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Exclusive to the print editions of NOS4A2 are more than 15 illustrations by award-winning Locke & Key artist Gabriel RodrĂ­guez.”



Let me say first that, this book is not original.  It is not some kind of revolution in horror book writing.  No, this book is a work of art and I love it because it does what it does SO WELL.  The build up is expert, the follow through precise, and the pay off(while it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to) was awesome.  This is a fine book and I’m sure Joe Hill’s dad is pretty freakin proud of him.  This is the best kind of horror fiction.  The easing back into a comfy chair kind.  Not very many writers are at all capable of this and even fewer can execute it like Joe Hill does in this book.  I enjoyed the entire book, all 689 pages which I read over the course of less than 2 days.  The book is a fast exciting read and anyone who is a Stephen King fan and hasn’t read this book is doing themselves a great disservice.  Meet all you folks on the other side of the bridge.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Shadow 1941: Hitler's Astrologer Book Review

The Shadow 1941: Hitler’s Astrologer

by Dennis O’Neil

Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

(September 17, 2013)

4/5 Stars

      This graphic novel has a story that has been lost to us for twenty years.  This is the Shadow 1941. At first blush some of the tropes and themes here might seem a little dated.  But the story reads and plays out like something from a modern summer action movie.  Any fan of the Shadow will really enjoy this book.  When looking for inspirations for movies like Indiana Jones.  Judging by the content in this work, you don’t have to look too much further than old comics.  The premise is a bit ridiculous.  That Hitler counts so much on Astrology that it tells him which battles to fight and when.  So if you controlled his astrologer you would control the course of the war.  But you don’t go to a book like this for it’s great storytelling.  You go for the cool old art and the fun ride that the story takes you on.  Unbelievable or not.  I really did enjoy my time with the Shadow 1941.  Not so much for what I usually come to Shadow comics for, which is awesome art.  But for a window into the way things used to be and how comic creators helped in the war effort.  Dynamite has done us all a great service by bringing this comic back to life.

Empire State Book Review

Empire State

Adam Christopher

Published January 5th 2012

Angry Robot

4/5 Stars

            Super Heroes, Alternate reality, airships, ironclads, and New York City.  If all those things seem disparate don’t worry Adam Christopher and Empire State will explain it all to you.  And he will do it with the voice of Christopher Marlow to boot.  Empire State is one of those rare treats that may fall into our collective laps as a culture every ten years or so.  Something wholly and all most completely original.  An idea that someone had to put a few things together in such a way to make it a completely new thing.  Sure there is alternate history out there, some super hero books, but this book spins it all into a new and different form.  All seen through the eyes of Rad, a private eye with so much trouble he can hardly handle it all.  The sense of discovery in the book is probably the greatest thing it has going for it.  A twisting mystery that begins simply enough but takes the reader on a journey they will not soon forget.  While the book may out stay its welcome in some places.  The overall package is a sure recommend to anyone who likes noir fiction or super hero stories.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Children of Fire Book Review

Children of Fire

Drew Karpyshyn

Random House Publishing Group - Del Rey Spectra

Del Rey

4/5 Stars 

        Children of Fire begins in the grand tradition of many of the oldest of the Fantasy Epics.  In fact, in the acknowledgements at the end of the book; the author refers to many such epics as his inspirations for writing this book.  The problem with this is that most of those epics were conceived and even published back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  Many people forget that even if they have fond memories of such works from their childhoods.  They don’t necessarily stand up to the modern works we have today in style or scope.  The first 150 pages of this book are wasted on the birth and youth of the main characters of this book.  And in my opinion, this is the most uninteresting way you could possibly begin a story.  I’m not saying that nothing happens.  BY FAR, this beginning is a a clear preamble laid naked at the feet of the reader.  Most readers will either get incredibly bored or just try to skip ahead, “to the good part.”

         I soldiered through this, mostly because I felt an obligation to give the book a chance; also, because I thought that at SOME POINT, the author would skip ahead in time and bring us to the story proper.  Which did happen on around the 150-170 page mark.  From there on the author takes us on an interesting journey with lots of action, magic, and intrigue.  Did we have to know the backstory of all these characters to care about them?  No…  Did we need some of the inner monologue of some of these main characters when their stories don’t even end in this volume.  I wouldn’t think so…

          The author is truly a master of world building.  The acknowledgements also say that it took him 20 years to create this world.  I will be very interested to see what further books and further stories spring from this detailed and well realized vision. 

        Once the reader gets through to about the middle of the book they are surly into the meat of a fine Fantasy Epic.  I would recommend this title to any fan of the genre.  I’m not sure what I would say about the first 150 pages.  Except, be assured it WILL; in fact, get a whole lot better.  With some clever editing on the part of the author or the editor this book would have easily achieved a 5 star rating.  Also, an actual, rather than an implied promise of a sequel may have also helped the book’s case.

       As it stands, I truly loved half the book; which is great.  Because there are many cases where I can’t even say that much.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

V-Wars Book Review


Jonathan Maberry

Open Road Integrated Media

IDW Publishing

2/5 Stars 

          Vampires Suck!  That is pretty much my impression having read V-Wars.  A compilation of connected short stories with one theme.  The authors include: Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, James A. Moore, Gregory Frost, John Everson, Keith R.A. DeCandido, and Scott Nicholson.  Some of these folks are real stars of horror fiction.  Particularly vampire fiction.  Just in my limited experience(I used to love vampire novels back in the day. You know before Twilight).  Nancy Holder and Yvonne Navarro particularly, are authors I remember enjoying.  But here, perhaps the concept has tied their hands.  The concept is that a viral outbreak has turned select people into vampires and werewolves.  This is, BY FAR, the most pedestrian and boring way of handling vampirism and this book; while it has an interesting structure.  That of a many layered short story collection that shares settings, characters, etc… Is in the end a virtual disaster.  Practically every story is one of being bitten or somehow “contracting” the virus.  Which makes these stories pretty much throw away, even with the best writing.  One story, that involves a vampire hunting biker gang, completely falls apart in the last story of it’s series.  Turning one of the most interesting stories in the book into “just another story” in the book.

          Vampires created via virus are pretty much reserved for fodder in books and movies.  They should stay there.  Vampires are fun because they are mysterious, sexual, eternal, and magical.  These vampires are about as magical as a lion.  And as interesting as one of the, now overdone, zombie infection movies are.  By the end of V-Wars I was completely and uttering bored.  No matter which story the book switched to, it just seemed like more of the same.  The concept of this book might have been interesting for one or two short stories.  But an entire book of them, just beat the concept to death.  And just like in the book, when you’re dead there is no coming back.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Darwin Elevator Book Review

Darwin Elevator

Jason M. Hough

Random House Publishing Group - Del Rey Spectra

3/5 Stars

     When starting Darwin Elevator I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  But the promise of science fiction involving space travel, high action, and even some mystery seemed pretty appealing.  The book begins by introducing the reader to a ravaged future earth.  Where an alien created space elevator has not only made one city, the last hope for humanity but also potentially the final resting place for it.  The main character Skylar is a typical action movie flawed hero with his ragtag group of space scavengers.  The book has heavy strokes of everything from Firefly to 28 Days later.  It began as a pretty descent book; but by the end I was just bored.  Until the VERY end, which seemed to hold out hope of even more promise in the next book.  While I certainly enjoyed some of my time with Darwin Elevator.  I would have been much happier had the book been much shorter.  Maybe around 200 pages rather than more than double that.  But again, there is always hope for the future.

Companions: Sundering Book 1 Book Review

The Companions

The Sundering, Book I

R. A. Salvatore

Wizards of the Coast

Pub Date: Aug 6 2013

5/5 Stars


       After reading the last R.A.Salvatore book, the Last Threshold.  It is unlikely any reader could have known what to expect from this book.  Once I embarked on this journey through this incredibly well weaved tale.  I never wanted to leave.  The book takes place in the years leading up to the end of the Last Threshold.  But this book is not Drizzt’s story we get that in the Last Threshold.  This is a story that has been completely hidden from readers up until now.  I would love to tell you more but I found that a good portion of the enjoyment of this book was that feeling of discovery I got from reading it without any spoilers.   As the tears ran down my cheeks in the closing chapters I simply wanted to stay with Drizzt Do’Urden in his world for as long as I possibly could.  But now that it’s over, I have to say that this is R.A.Salvatore’s greatest book to date. I could not have imagined a better book than the Last Threshold.  And here he has imagined it for me.  I loved this book more than I have any this year.  Not just because of what it was, but for what it means to the entire world of the Forgotten Realms and all the stories of Drizzt Do’Urden and friends from now on.  I cannot wait for what is to come…