Sunday, January 26, 2014

Aquaman, Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (Aquaman Vol. VII #3) by Geoff Johns, Paul Pelletier (Illustrations), Ivan Reis (Illustrations)

 Aquaman, Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (Aquaman Vol. VII #3) by Geoff Johns, Paul Pelletier (Illustrations), Ivan Reis (Illustrations)

Synopsis: Aquaman, who long ago lost contact with his people, must watch as armies emerge from the sea to attack the surface world. The Justice League answers the call to defend the shores from the invading Atlantean horde. But whose side is Aquaman on? With his brother Orm at the head of the undersea army, will Aquaman stand with his Earth-bound superteam? Or his own people? Find out in this exciting hardcover collecting AQUAMAN #0 and 14-16 and JUSTICE LEAGUE #15-17

This was the first comic book/sequential art book that I have read.

I thought the story was good. Even though it was vol. 3 in this series I never felt lost in the story without having read the rest of them.

The artwork was mixed in my opinion, some of it was really good other parts were pretty bad.

In this case Raj was wrong, Aquaman does not suck.

In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

 Rating ****

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sway of the Moon (The Sacred Oath Chronicles #1) by Nan Cederman

 Sway of the Moon (The Sacred Oath Chronicles #1) by Nan Cederman

Synopsis: "Tonight, a war between
the light and the darkness
has returned. Two warriors
clashed in the battle, which
has continued throughout the
ages. The dark one lies at
our feet, righteousness has
declared a victory" ~ Sahgi

In the year 9898HE (103BCE), tragic events compel a mystic civilization to isolate itself from outsiders. Isolation provides the serenity and freedom for the kin-people to expand innate abilities to an unearthly level. Isolation provides their dark, twisted heritage to fracture the three kindred bloodlines of the blended nation. Once again, the ancestral battle for supremacy reignites.
In the year 12020HE (2020CE), anthropologist Caeth Salkar begins to research her legacy.
Amazed by the detailed ancestral
chronicles, she decides to document their epic struggle to overcome the thirst of the dark ones.
Her research reveals 5 chosen Mystics. Each one swears a Sacred Oath to battle the dark, heinous power, which becomes stronger with each confrontation.

Review: My first big problem was with the characters. Apart from a few 'evil' characters who have fairly minor roles in the story, the entire cast of characters was way too nice. They are always saying nice things too each other, doing kind acts, having nice thoughts. It just made them all seem unrealistic and bland. Very occasionally one of the characters would get angry about something and say something unkind, but upon seeing the person upset they would immediately feel bad and apologize, and the upset person would normally also say sorry for overreacting, this is followed by more overly kind words to each other.

One of the worst example of this was when one of the characters sends his wife away after an attack. She didn't want to go, but he became angry and ordered her to leave. She is so traumatized by thinking about his words while she is traveling back, she goes into premature labor. She prays to the goddess of childbirth, who first saves the wife and child by stopping the labor, then attacks the husband (sort of). He realizes why he is being attacked and rushes to his wife, who by this time is at their home. They are both very sorry and ask forgiveness, then... they have sex! Seriously his wife just almost went into labor because she was upset with him so they solve it by having sex! What was he going to do poke the baby back in?

The evil characters were just as over the top as the good ones. The first one we meet was insane, pure evil, full of anger and acted irrationally. He had no redeeming qualities or reasons to justify what he was doing. All he needed was a mustache to twiddle and he would be a stereotypical old movie bad guy.

The second group of villains actually started with more promise, they had more diverse personalities and were interesting to read about. But after a while they begin to change, and were similar to the overly kind characters. They would be sweet, say nice things to each other, and their only real evilness was their intent to battle against the main group of characters. The change they went through was too quick and unbelievable, for example the leader of the group went from ripping out throats of those who challenged him in the slightest way, and abusing women, to wanting to do the right thing, showing kindness to his rivals and wishing to meet the approval of his 'beloved' in just a couple of chapters.

From the premise, I was excited to read about Caeth Salkar, a person from the future researching about the other characters and their history. This was an excellent idea and showed much promise. Unfortunately it was badly executed, they never had any real voice, we never learnt anything about them or their views on what they were researching. Most of the time they were just there to provide a narrative voice, explaining concepts or what happened over a period of time between chapters. In the end they became pointless and their role could have been written just as regular description.

The speech was too elegant for too much of the book, characters would often say things like "my soul dwells in darkness when you are not around." If someone said phrases like this occasionally it would be okay, but when it is used in most conversations it just becomes unbelievable, dull and loses it's value, because everyone says things like this all the time.

As well as the speech, the general writing was too long winded, had many repeating points and recaps on events that had just happened. The pacing, especially at the start was painfully slow.

Other than a couple of things, their wasn't any long term plot. A problem would arise, it would be dealt with by the characters, then once it had been fully resolved a new problem would occur. It was unbelievable and gave me less motive to want to keep reading since there was never really an issue up there for long enough for me to I want to keep reading to see how it would be resolved. Characters also tend to be able to solve problems too easily.

The point-of-view would also shift from one paragraph to the next with no clear indication of it doing so, which was sometimes confusing or at least disorientating.

The text in this book was left aligned, instead of the standard justify alignment. I found it to be a little distracting at times.

The story itself was fairly good, especially towards the end of the book. And the concept of having a character researching the history was a great one. The writing was too elegant and rich for long periods, it would have been better to have used a more natural way of speaking and describing for most of the book and only use the elegant style at certain, important points to make a more dramatic statement. It is certainly easier for an author to tone down their work at times, than to elevate it when they do not have this sophisticated writing style.
The characters need work, just because a person is on the good side, it doesn't mean they have to be completely nice all of the time.

In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Rating **


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sourcethief (Twinborn Trilogy #3) by J.S. Morin

 Sourcethief (Twinborn Trilogy #3) by J.S. Morin

Synopsis: War ravages Veydrus. Driven back by the magical might of the Kadrin Empire, the Megrenn Alliance is in a shambles.

The war spills into Tellurak. and Twinborn plots spanning the two worlds threaten the course of the war from all sides, including within the empire itself.

Desperate to find a way to counter the unstoppable power of an army led by a demon warlock, Jinzan Fehr seeks an ancient source of power.

Thus begins the Fourth Necromancer War ...

Review: The originality of the concept for this series, having characters live lives in two very different worlds, was what first struck me that this was going to be something very special. The author continues to impress me, not only did he go on with this idea but has developed it as well. The importance of passing information between worlds, having alliances that work on both sides and many other important ideas are all developed in this book.

The descriptions are again of the perfect length, there is enough detail to fully visualize the world, but they are not so lengthy that they take to you away from the story for too long.

The reminders of what has happened in the previous two books was almost always the right length, enough there to remind the reader of an event but not so long that you feel you are rereading the story again. The nature of Iridan’s death was about the only thing that I felt wasn’t detailed enough early on, although later in the story I was given enough to remember how it happened.

The characters are again enjoyable and their personalities continue to develop. I really liked how Brannis and Kyrus have blended together, both becoming stronger as a result. It was interesting to read about Kyrus’s doubts about whether he is doing the right thing and fear he will turn into another Rashan. The thoughts and feelings of all the characters are believable, interesting to read about, and come across clearly.

While it is now clear exactly who is good and who is evil, there is always enough good in evil characters, and evil in good characters to keep them realistic and more interesting. The evil characters often also see themselves as doing the right thing.

The relationships between the characters across both worlds are done well, along with the many plot points that are both in their own world and across both. For the most I was able to follow who was who, and what was going on, only a couple of times did I feel a little lost. Considering just how much is going on and how complex it all is, this was quite a feat.

We get to see even more of the world in this book, and like the characters it is varied and has real depth to it. It is really well done especially considering there are two worlds in this book.

The story is excellent, there are many plot points all being developed through the book, almost all of them are interesting and continue the overall story in some way.

The action sequences for the first three quarters of the book were rare. There was interesting things going on with the story, but I did think it could do with some more excitement at times. Also most of the early action scenes are very one sided and it was pretty obvious who was going to win (Rashan battling against unknown soldiers, Brannis and his friends fighting off some street thugs, and Jinzan with his staff attacking civilians and local militia). Since all of these main characters were so much more powerful than those they were fighting against, it took away from the tension and you never felt they were in any real danger. The battle scenes for the remainder of the book are fantastic, Avalanche really gets to live up to its name, and when the main characters finally get to face each other, the scenes are exciting, varied and you are never sure who is going to win.

Just like the previous two books this is a big one. It has a fairly small print and large page sizes so it is even longer than the 381 pages would suggest. It’s not a problem since so much happens and it is almost all interesting.

The author did an excellent job of tying up the loose ends, but left a few just loose enough that there could be more books in the series, but if there aren’t then you aren’t left feeling something has been missed out.

I have really enjoyed this series and it is easily my favorite read of 2013. It is one of those books where I found myself really hoping that the book and author will be successful in a big way. The story is so fantastic that the author truly deserves to have it be successful, the originality, story, characters, and quality of writing is so much superior to major fantasy novels out there I really want to see this series do well.

If I had to decide I would probably pick book two Aethersmith as my favorite in the series. Almost everything about this book was great, the story, the characters, the worlds, the descriptions, and the many plot points, it was just lacking a little action and fast pacing compared to the Aethersmith.

I am excited about the authors next project “The Mad Tinker Chronicles” which will pair up Tellurak with a completely new world, which seems to be more steampunky, in a new Twinborn series. I had been thinking for some time how cool it would be to have other worlds for the Twinborns to live in and I am glad to see this will be happening. And if it anywhere near as good as this series it is likely to be my favorite read in 2014.

A big thank you to the author for sending me a copy of this book.

In full disclosure I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ***** + ♥


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bastial Energy (The Rhythm of Rivalry #1) by B.T. Narro

 Bastial Energy (The Rhythm of Rivalry #1) by B.T. Narro

Synopsis: By using the energy of the land, some humans have found they can develop extraordinary abilities. At the age of seventeen, these warriors, magicians, chemists, and psychics are allowed the opportunity to train at the Academy, increasing their opportunity for a well-paying career. But there’s a catch. They must fight beside the Army if requested by their king. Most aren’t concerned by this, as the current treaty has prevented battle for nearly seventy years…but that’s about to change.

Of four roommates with interwoven stories, Cleve Polken takes focus as a hostile warrior who feels more comfortable in a duel than a conversation. Never getting past his parents’ death, Cleve has developed a crippling fear of psychics, for some may have the power to resurface the torment he buried within himself upon his parents’ passing. Cleve’s forced to face this fear head-on when he discovers that not only is one of his roommates a psychic, but that he has an overwhelming attraction to her, which he quickly attributes to a psychic spell, nothing more.

By the time an army of savage, reptilian men called Krepps become involved in the war, all hope of resolution without battle is shattered. In this powerful army, one born with the inability to smell doesn’t have the same feeding urges as his fellow Krepps and is outcast because of it. He finds himself with an unlikely ally in the middle of a crossroad, trying to find a way to reunite with his sister. Little does he know how much his choices will twist the fate of the war and alter the lives of the four human roommates forever.

Review: I have mixed feelings about this book, some parts were excellent but there were some disappointing things too. It’s one of those books I wish I could give a half star rating to because three seems too low, but four is too high.

Initially I didn’t like the main characters in the story. For most of the main characters, we are shown fairly negative traits such as recklessly putting another in danger to get what they wanted, uncaring of others and being anti-social, killing of an animal because it was a ‘failed’ experiment, and teenage drinking (although in their world you are considered an adult at fourteen). The only character who has shown to have positive traits was Zoke, who is a member of the race of antagonists in the story.

While it is generally a great idea to give the ‘good’ characters negative traits in a story, having most of the cast behave in this way at the start of the book didn’t work for me as it put me off them for quite a bit of the book. Fortunately as we get to see more of them, we get to see the good in them and I found myself supporting them, but this took longer than it should have due to how they started out.

I did think the start of the story was rushed and that some of the characters built up relationships too quickly, not necessarily romantic relationships, but ones where people were prepared to risk their lives or freedom, for someone they had only just met.

The thoughts and feelings of the characters were really well explained and detailed. I really felt I was in their head and could hear what they were thinking. As well as being well explained, they also seemed to have believable emotions behind them, such as self-doubt, attraction to others, fear, and worry whether they are being influenced by Psyches.

The rest of the descriptions were also well written and for the most part it was easy to follow what was happening and feel like you were in the world. Only a couple of times did I find myself having to reread a paragraph to understand what was happening.

Some of the time I did think that things were over-explained. This would often manifest when we are told something for the first time, I found the explanation went on for several paragraphs too long in an attempt to really make sure the reader ‘got it’. Other times the problem was when something was re-explained, the reminder could go on for quite a few paragraphs when only one or two would have done. Whenever this happened it broke up the flow of the story.

Conversely some things are either not explained enough or not until much later in the story. For example an important plot point is that bows are illegal, we are told in the first couple of pages that they are illegal and one of the main characters owns one, but we are not told why until later in the story. I found this frustrating as I felt this should have been explained much earlier.

Some of the conversations characters had were unnatural and seemed to only be there to explain a plot point or perform some world building. This often takes the form of one character telling something that realistically they should already know or was written in a way it felt the author was speaking to the reader rather than one character to another. This clunkiness pulled me out of the story and didn’t feel right.

One particularly bad example of these was when one of the main characters has been arrested and being brought before the king for a crime that could give life imprisonment. While being taken through the castle the guard is giving our character a guided tour and telling him about how various things worked. As well as being unnatural it took away the dramatic tension as it felt if the guard is telling him all these things, then our character can’t be in trouble.

There were some inconsistencies in the story, the worst examples were centered around the psyches whose abilities seemed to vary greatly, even within the same character. Sometimes they would be able to do something psychically with ease and other times they wouldn’t be able to do a similar action at all. This seemed to be plot driven rather than follow any believable pattern. These inconsistencies made it harder to find the story realistic in its own universe.

Some of the timelines also didn’t seem to fit and it seemed a lot more time passed for some characters compared to what happened with others.

The choice of sending our main characters (who are first years at the academy) on a dangerous and important mission didn’t seem right. The explanation given, that the rulers wanted to save all the older students and graduates for battle just didn’t seem right. Removing around five people from the army wouldn’t make a difference to a battle, but it could make a big difference to the outcome of such an important mission.

Due to some scenes of a sexual nature and some swearing the book is really only suitable for an adult audience (18+).

Overall I would rate this book 3 ½ stars. The story was good but let down by inconsistencies within it own rules, some over explaining, or things occurring that didn’t seem natural. The characters were good, despite my initial dislike of them.

In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Rating *** ½ 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Razor's Edge (Empire and Rebellion #1) by Martha Wells

 Razor's Edge (Empire and Rebellion #1) by Martha Wells
Synopsis: Times are desperate for the Rebel Alliance. Harassment by the Empire and a shortage of vital supplies are hindering completion of a new secret base on the ice planet Hoth. So when Mid Rim merchants offer much-needed materials for sale, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo lead an Alliance delegation to negotiate a deal.

But when treachery forces the rebel ship to flee into territory controlled by pirates, Leia makes a shocking discovery: the fierce marauders come from Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan, recently destroyed by the Death Star. These refugees have turned to pillaging and plundering to survive—and they are in debt to a pirate armada, which will gladly ransom the princess to the vengeful Empire . . . if they find out her true identity.

Struggling with intense feelings of guilt, loyalty, and betrayal, Leia is determined to help her wayward kinspeople, even as Imperial forces are closing in on her own crippled ship. Trapped between lethal cutthroats and brutal oppressors, Leia and Han, along with Luke, Chewbacca, and a battle-ready crew, must defy death—or embrace it—to keep the rebellion alive.

Review: This was a very traditional and familiar Star Wars story. While this was good in some ways, such as making it familiar and fitting to the Star Wars universe it also made it lacking in originality. Almost every plot point I had seen in one Star Wars story or another.

While it is set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, it does very little to connect the two movies, there are some references the Death Star and talk about plans for Echo Base but these instances are few and far between, and the story could have almost been set at any point in the Rebellion Era.

The cast of characters from the movies were portrayed well and were fitting for their personalities at this point in their journey. The story focuses mostly on Han and Leia and their underlying attraction and tension came across well. Leia is especially well written, she is strong on the surface but has self doubt, fears and guilt over what she has gone through. Chewie, Luke and Threepio also appeared a little in the story and their personalities were on target, Threepio provided some comical moments.

The main cast of good characters were a little to perfect however, they were always able to come up with plans that either worked perfectly or they could alter on the fly to succeed. They also were always able to correctly interpret events and what others were planning even it was unrealistic for them to do so due to a lack of information.

The rest of the cast of good characters was okay but nothing special, I would have liked to have seen more played with the Alderaanion pirates and what they had been up to.

The cast of evil characters was fairly weak and they never really felt like a threat. The danger from the pirate leader was undermined by constant reminders of how everyone working for her was unhappy and seemed ready to betray her as soon as the situation presented itself. The commander of the imperial vessel also never seemed dangerous, he had a fairly weak spacecraft, he wasn’t a particularly intelligent commander or tactician and didn’t have and powers that the characters would need to be scared of.

Overall this was an okay Star Wars story, but if you have read many before you will probably be very familiar with the plot and find it predictable. The characters from the movies were well portrayed but the rest of the cast I found lacking.

In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Rating: ***

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sufferstone (Dolvia Saga #1) by Stella Atrium

Sufferstone (Dolvia Saga #1) by Stella Atrium

Synopsis:On Dolvia the women of the savannah serve under the burka, but Kyle Le was denied that covering by tribal leaders. Only her gift of second sight and the mortgage on her father's land protects her and her three sisters. Kyle Le meets Brian Miller, a Softcheeks who teaches her about offworld politics and accumulating wealth while she teaches him the words of power from Mekucoo. Working alongside the warrior Cyrus, they labor against the mining enterprise that robs the savannah of it mineral wealth and leaves the tribes with only the scarred and suffering land. ... an intriguing tale. The struggle to overcome oppression, to preserve a way of life, to maintain compassion in a cold and hateful conflict, is always interesting and involving ... Atrium has a flair for creating and maintaining an atmosphere of mysticism and mystery ... she stays true to the situation, never slipping out of the frame she has set. -- Lisa DuMond, online reviewer of science fiction

Review: I was intrigued by the synopsis of this book, and I was excited to read about a different and somewhat primitive culture and the effects of a technological rich human race had on them. The culture and concept was different to your average science-fiction story and I had looked forward to reading about them, unfortunately I was disappointed with the book for a number of reasons.

Firstly there was a lot of culture and world building in this novel, while I do enjoy reading about cultures made up by authors, especially if they are rich as they are in this story. In this case the author took it too far, I felt the heavy emphasis on telling the reader about the world came at the expense to the plot, story and characters.

There is so much culture in the book that it made it hard to follow and with so many unusual concepts in the world I was lost at times. When ideas are revisited they are not usually re-explained making it hard to remember what something was about.

The story jumps around a lot in time, sometimes a short time occurs between one paragraph and the next and sometimes weeks or months have gone by with no real description on what has happened in that time. There were plenty of times where we are not told why something is happening just that it is. This made me feel disconnected to the characters and the story.

The physical descriptions are also lacking, and it was hard to visualize what people and things looked like in the book. There might be a little description when a character first appears but whenever they come back we are not retold what they look like so it was hard to put a face to a name.

There is a large cast of characters in this book. The big problem with this is that characters are referred to by different names depending on who is talking about them and in what context. While this is a nice idea, it did make it really hard to know who a certain character is and how they tie in with the story. There is a glossary at the end of the book which tells you something about each character, but it has its own problems. Firstly characters only appear under one of their names, so if you don’t know their other names you may not be able to find them without looking through the entire glossary to find them. Secondly the glossary contains spoilers, such as who a person will marry later in the book, the children they have and even if they die.

The characters themselves I found to be fairly dull, there was nothing about them that really drew me to them or excited me. The story is told from first person, but the characters rarely reveal their emotions or inner thoughts to the reader making them feel cold and distant.

The first person style writing had problems of its own. There are a few POV characters and the story is always told from first person perspective. The first three parts each follow a different character. When a new part starts we are not given any insight on who the new person is, where they are, and at what time-frame their story is compared to the rest of the story. This confusion could go on for a few chapters before I had all the answers. The forth part of the book was the most confusing in this, as it follows one character, sometimes it seemed like it was following other people but I was never really sure. It wasn’t helped by the weak character voice, making it hard to know who you were reading about.

There are very few action/exciting scenes in the book. Most of the time they are told by characters after they have happened and it loses all of the tension and excitement at that point.

Overall while it is clear the author spent a lot of time developing the culture of their world, it didn’t come across to me very well as the reader. The story suffered as a result of the heavy telling of the culture. The characters seemed dull to me and I had a hard time connecting with them.

In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Rating: **

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Magefable by Heimdall Thunderhammer

Synopsis: Durbin has always dreamed of becoming a swashbuckling adventurer like his legendary father. But unfortunately he's stuck in the secluded valley forest of Verdancia, far away from the sway and swagger of the sea. On one fateful evening a mouse named Clove and her spear hog companion Herod stumble into his village. They had escaped from the terrible lion Sinvicious who wants to stop Clove before she can gain the full power of a geomancer--a mage with the ability to control the elements. Fire, water, wind, lightning, all can be controlled by a geomancer. They can fly, turn themselves invisible, make their skin as solid as rock, shift the earth, and even control life... Although all Clove can do at this point is make weeds move.

The next morning when Durbin awakes he finds Clove and Herod gone. Unable to resist the call of adventure, he journeys out into the woods to find them, dragging along his reluctant friend Morro the hedge hog, who would rather be sitting at home eating scones and berries. On their way they meet other new friends such as Reverie, a wounded sparrow who can mesmerize animals with his singing, and Bailey, a courageous and boisterous young squirrel who is hunting for a dragon to tame. But as Durbin and Morro seek Clove and Herod, so does Krochek the Hunter--the most vile, savage rat ever to emerge from Sinvicious's kingdom. Along with his horde of bloodthirsty rodents he will tear the forest apart in his effort to find them.

Magefable is a beautifully illustrated fantasy adventure. It is the first book in an epic tale filled with magic, treasure, humor, and friendship, as well as many ferocious enemies and the dangerous elements of nature.

Review: I really enjoyed this book, it is aimed at a middle grade audience but even as an adult I really liked it.

There was a nice balance between action scenes and slower scenes, with time spent on showing the characters personalities and developing them. The action scenes did get a little repetitive as they were almost always battles between the good characters fighting against the rats or some other evil foe.

The descriptions were a good, they didn't go into great detail but were descriptive enough to give a good idea what they world looks like. They were short enough that the pacing was quick.

The characters were great and very suitable for the target audience. The main good characters were kind, funny and brave. While they are all have these traits they also each have their own quirks making each of the unique.

The artwork in the book was a cute touch. Nicely drawn, fairly simple pictures that go well with the story and writing style.

It should be said there were some violent scenes and death, while it doesn't go into any detail there were some parts, such as animals getting chopped in half, animals eating other animals or main characters dying, making this book unsuitable for young children.

There were some similarities between this book and the Redwall series, although there were plenty of differences to make this book worth reading even if you have read Redwall already.

In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I also got an adorable book mark, featuring artwork of Durbin and Morro and a cute little plastic leaf on it.

Rating ****