A Midsummer Night’s Dream ★★★★☆

amidsummernightsdream (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Series: ———-
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Comedy
Pages: 111
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Lysander and Hermia are in love. Hermia’s father however, wants her to marry Demetrius. Demetrius claims he’s in love with Hermia but had previously woo’d and declared his love to Helena. Helena is in love with Demetrius. Lysander and Hermia plan to run away from Athens and get married. Helena tells Demetrius (I’m not sure why) and all 4 meet in the woods at night.

During this time, the King and Queen of the fairies are having a tiff because of a little serving boy. Oberon, the king, gives his servant Puck some magic herbs to cause trouble for Titania, the Queen. Puck also uses this magic herb on Lysander and Demetrius and lots of problems ensure between the 4 humans.

At the same time, a group of workmen are practicing a play in the same woods for the Duke of Athen’s upcoming nuptials. Puck turns one of them into a creature with a donkey’s head and everyone runs away. Titania ends up falling in love with Bottom due to the magic herbs. Oberon tells Puck to fix everything, which he does and it is all sweetness and light between everyone.

The play is performed at the wedding and the Duke and Company have as much making fun of the play as they watching it. The players are rewarded and everyone is happy.

 

My Thoughts:

I read this back in highschool in the 90’s and have watched the movie, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, at least twice since 2000 so I’m relatively familiar with the story.

Finally, a “comedy” that I could laugh at. There is a reason this is one of Shakespeare’s more produced plays. There is something for everyone and for almost every kind of humor. Whether word plays or physical comedy or situational comedy, this has it all.

I don’t have much to say. I enjoyed this, am glad I really enjoyed something by Shakespeare and it has given me a shot in the arm to keep on reading. You’re never going to hear me quoting Shakespeare like Jeeves though.

★★★★☆

 

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Old Tin Sorrows (Garrett, PI #4) ★★★☆½

oldtinsorrows (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Old Tin Sorrows
Series: Garrett, PI #4
Author: Glen Cook
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 252
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Garrett is resting on his laurels. With enough money, why take on work and do more than you have to? Then his old army Sarge comes calling and Garrett makes the mistake of letting him in the door thinking it is a social visit. He is quickly disabused of that notion when his old Sarge hires him to find out who is trying to kill Sarge’s employer, a retired general.

Garrett is ostensibly hired to find out if any of the General’s staff are pilfering items and he is to use that as cover to find out who is slowly killing the General. Problem is, there is a very small pool of staff still around, as the General isn’t well liked. Those still around are there because in the General’s will he states that his estates will be divided half to his daughter and the rest divided up among the staff. Staff have been leaving for years though and Garrett suspects one of those who left has a grudge against the General.

Garrett also finds out the house is haunted by a ghost. A beautiful blond that no one seems to see or even know who she might be. Eventually Garrett rules out poison and calls in an exorcist for the General. But not before he has slept with the ghost (yeah, for real) AND the general’s daughter. Turns out the ghost was the General’s first wife who he had murdered and she’s been haunting him. The disappearing staff members though are a different matter. They haven’t been leaving, they’ve been murdered. By the daughter, who is a crazy psychopathic killer who wants to keep the failing estate all to herself.

Garrett reveals all, the ghost confronts her killer and crosses over and the daughter runs off a 4th story balcony while trying to kill Garrett. Garrett goes home and finds solace in the arms of the young woman he met in the previous book.

 

My Thoughts:

You know, from that synopsis, I would never read this book or this series. A womanizing, alcoholic private eye who is lazy? No thank you. However, Cook got his literary claws into me with his Black Company books and I have to say, I am glad.

Once again, I really enjoyed this book. While a bit drearier and less humorous than the previous 3, and my eyes definitely rolled when Garrett had a roll in the sack with a ghost and the general’s daughter, I just found myself WANTING to read more. I seriously considered just ignoring my own rules of rotation and reading the next Garrett book. Thankfully, I didn’t give in to temptation. I’m not Garrett after all. I didn’t really try to analyze the “why” of my enjoyment but now that this has happened for 4 books, I think during my read of the next book I’ll be taking a look at myself while reading to see if I can nail down just what I actually enjoy.

Part of my enjoyment springs from the fact that while these are part of a “series”, each book has been a standalone story. Something I can sink my teeth into for a day or two and then just let go. Also, these are not taxing books. I’m not desperately trying to keep track of a whole host of characters nor a slew of plot lines. While Cook likes to throw in some misdirection here and there, we as readers are still just moving in a straight line from Beginning to End. I really appreciate that.

★★★☆½

 

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Anti-Man ★★★☆☆

anti-man (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Anti-Man
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Horror – Thriller
Pages: 142
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Scientists have created Sam, an android made up of unique flesh and capable of great feats. The problem is, Sam saves lives and the Earth is over populated with 9billion people. Not only can Sam save lives, he reveals that he is virtually immortal and can give immortality to humanity. This puts him up for first place in the “quick, let’s destroy this monstrous creation” contest. A scientist takes pity on Sam and runs off with him. They evade the authorities and Sam reveals that he is evolving and needs a place to hide.

They hide at some rich man’s vacation home and the scientist leads the authorities away to give Sam the time needed to evolve. The scientist is caught and when released, something that looks exactly like Sam tries to kill him. Sam claims to be god in the “new” flesh and that the Sam that tried to kill the scientist is a rogue part of him. Together, they kill the bad Sam and the scientist is converted to the “new” flesh and begins going around converting everyone he meets to allow mankind to fulfill their destiny.

 

My Thoughts:

This is going to get a bit theological, as Koontz unabashedly goes down that path and I have to take some serious exception to what is written.

The short version, I enjoyed this even though it has all “10” plot points in every other Koontz book. Considering this was written in 1970, and you can see the exact same things in the Odd Thomas books from the 2000’s, Koontz seems to have hit upon a fanbase that doesn’t mind complete recycling of ideas. Maybe he’s writing for those once a year readers? There are psychological aspects of doubt and horror that I found extremely well done and I wish Koontz had stuck to those.

Now we get into the longer version.

I’ve known that Koontz styles himself a Christian and writes at least semi-Christian ideas directly into his books. As a lure, a talking point, a place to begin conversations with others, I don’t mind when I disagree with what he’s writing. However, in this book he crosses some lines (which I suspect he backed away from so as not to be controversial in later years, hence the more veiled way of writing about it) when he has his character talk about God. Sam claims he is god but just a higher order being that could only come into our world because of the new flesh the scientists discovered and clothed the android in. The scientist claims to be “some kind of christian” but categorically denies that any religion is actually correct because God is “too big” to be contained by just one belief. This bothered me so much because it means that God is not actually God, that Jesus is not God and that the Bible is not the Word of God. Those 3 things are foundational to Christianity and to deny any of them places one in grave danger of heresy and unbelief.

God is not a created or evolved Being. He has always been and He always will be. One of the ways He describes Himself to us is “I AM” connoting that He is the End All and Be All of Everything. It might sound nice to describe a god as a higher order being, but it mis-represents who God says He actually is. It undercuts the truth of what God has spoken about Himself.

Jesus was fully man and fully God. That means that while on earth He ate food, his flesh was like ours and he pooped, peed and farted just like me (and I’m guessing you 😉 ). He also claimed from the beginning of His ministry that He was God. What Koontz writes would deny that Jesus could EVEN BE God as His flesh couldn’t take it. While what Koontz writes might be metaphor, it came across much more as deistic evolution amped up.

Finally, the idea of God being “too big” for one religion directly contradicts what the Bible itself says. The Bible states it is the Word of God, a revealing of Himself to us. While the idea of All Religions Lead To god sounds very kumbai ya, that is fuzzy feeling, new age thinking and isn’t what the Bible states. Once again, it undercuts the very underpinnings of Christianity.

With things like this, I can see why my parents never let me read Koontz as a teen. As a mature man who believes in Christ and knows WHY, this doesn’t cause me any doubt. I just find it troubling, as anyone finding a dead ant baked into their birthday cake would find that troubling. This book won’t cause me to stop reading Koontz but it has really put a damper on my enthusiasm for his veiled references to Christian ideas.

★★★☆☆

 

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[Manga Monday] Epilogue (Shaman King #20) ★★★☆½

Epilogue (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Epilogue
Series: Shaman King #20
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 210
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Yoh convinces Anna to attend a public New Years Festival with him. Anna is overcome by all the emotions and ends up creating a Giant Demon, one that is intelligent. Matamune knew this was going to happen and prepared himself for the fight of a life. The demon tricks him though and kidnaps Anna to force her to create more spirits it can consume to become even bigger. Matamune has used up most of his power fighting the demon so it is up to Yoh to rescue Anna.

Matamune integrates with Yoh to give him enough power to overcome the demon. In doing so, he gives up all his power which sustained his physical body. Matamune is now a ghost. Anna realizes that there is more than just hate in the world, since Yoh is risking his life and Matamune is sacrificing his, for her. She takes back control of her power and Yoh is able to destroy the demon. Anna realizes she must learn to control her powers at all times and stops hating Yoh.

We jump forward in time back to the Shaman Fight. Yoh realizes he’s broken his promise to both Anna and Matamune but Anna reminds him that his real goal has always been to defeat Hao, even though he didn’t realize it. Becoming Shaman King was just a way to do that. Now Yoh must accomplish this goal on his own.

Lady Jeanne and the X-Laws are reviving Ren Tao but one of the X-Laws is planning on killing Ren again as soon as Ren show any aggression against them. Manta and Ryu are worried and head over to where the ceremony is taking place.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a good flashback storyline but it feels incredibly awkward to have it happen while Yoh is bowing out of the Shaman Fight. It’s a tossup I guess.

However, I totally saw the whole thing with the X-Laws coming. Lady Jeanne will keep the letter of the law but they want Ren dead so the X-Laws will become the hypocrites we know they are. I have to admit, it really bugs me that the manga-ka is focusing so much on how evil the X-Laws are. It comes across more as “Anyone who claims to want to follow the laws and enforce the laws is automatically a scumbag deep inside and if they had the power they’d just be tyrants”. It is almost like the manga-ka can’t figure out how to show how bad Hao is, so he’s using another team opposing Hao and saying “See, Hao is even worse than these guys”. The X-Laws should be paragons of Justice and circumventing their own rules on technicalities isn’t what Justice is about.

The intro by the manga-ka said there would be 2 more volumes in this “Epilogue” arc, so I’m guessing a lot of setup is going to happen for Yoh somehow opposing Hao outside of the Shaman Fight. But I could be completely wrong. When Yoh resigned from the Shaman Fight to save Ren, that just threw everything out the window as far as my expectations went.

Sometimes that is ok!

★★★☆½

 

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Twilight Herald (Twilight Reign #2) ★★★☆☆

twilightherald (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Twilight Herald
Series: Twilight Reign #2
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 564
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Some city is a convergence point. Fell powers are gathering, whether crystal skulls or beings of power. It is all being orchestrated by some non-god, non-demon entity who hates the gods and wants to show mankind how powerless the gods are. It does this by enspelling an entire city to go mad and to kill as many people as possible.

Lord Isaak is there to gather up a spare crystal skull, or two, if he can manage it. Various characters from the previous book are also there on different pretexts, but it all comes down to everyone being manipulated by this being.

Where Lord Isaak was supposed to be the Savior of Prophecy but isn’t due to him breaking the chains of Fate in the first book, a new white eye is claiming the title. The same white eye that killed Lord Baal, Isaak’s mentor.

All the main characters survive the city’s destruction but alliances aren’t as strong and it looks like the New Savior is a protege of this Entity, the Shadow.

 

My Thoughts:

Enjoyed this but still had some serious issues.

The style choice for paragraphs. In a chapter there might be several changes between characters or location and this change is only shown as a new paragraph. The problem is that it is exactly the same paragraph style as when you stay with one character and you have multiple paragraphs. It is very disconcerting to be reading along and then realize that you’ve changed character, time or place with NO warning. There are multiple ways to accomplish, most of them quite easy, so I’m guessing Lloyd didn’t read his own book after he wrote it.

My other main issue is how big, epic AND mysterious this is trying to be. A lot of things are thrown at the reader with no explanation and where this worked for me in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (due to excellent writing and just enough hints to keep you from falling on your face) here it feels like the author has just left crucial information out of the readers grasp. I was really struggling to figure out just what was going on. It doesn’t help that half the time I’m re-reading a paragraph or two to readjust my thinking about WHO I’m reading about now.

What I did enjoy about this book? Let me tell you.

A whole city going mad due to a malevolent spelled carved into the walls of a theatre and in the flesh of the playwright. Near the end Isaak ends up calling 5 aspects of Death to protect him and his allies and ends up having to face down several of the Aspects. The whole idea of a shadow entity working against EVERYONE for goals only it knows. A white eye that can kill legendary vampires and not blink twice about it.

This time attention is scattered around more and I wish things had focused more on Isaak. He’s definitely growing on me as a character and I’d like to see some real character growth, as he’s at the age where that happens quickly and shows quickly as well.

★★★☆☆

 

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Kellanved’s Reach (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3) ★★★★☆

kellanvedsreach (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Kellanved’s Reach
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 340
Format: Hardcover Edition

 

Synopsis:

Not much of a single plot running through this book. More like the many, diverse threads like you see at the beginning of a very large and complicated weaving process.

Kellanved finds the Throne of Bone and is allowed by the T’lan Imass to “rule” over them. Kellanved and Dancer meet the Crippled God for the first time and it doesn’t go well.

Surly continues to do all the hard work of creating an empire. She also successfully pulls of a coup on her brother, who ousted her in the first place. She is the de facto leader even while making Napan part of the “Malazan Empire”. Her discontent with Kellanved and his methods continue to grow.

The blind girl who can communicate with birds has her journey and she is called to the Northern Wastes to become some people’s shaman (the Jheck perhaps?)

We also follow 2 new characters who long to join the Crimson Guard. One is a mage and the other a battle mage that doesn’t know it. They do a lot of fighting and we get to see how the rift between K’azz and Skinner starts.

Finally, we follow a mercenary general who saves his troops despite their contract holder selling them out. He leads the opposing forces a merry chase and after killing a K’chain Ch’malle (or however it is spelled) is rescued by the Malazans and is introduced as Grey Mane.

 

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this with just a few caveats that kept it from being a 4 1/2star read or higher. First, the lack of a plot running through the book was distracting. The previous 2 books had their own little in book plots and this one should have too. Second, Kellanved finding and using the Throne of Bone was very underwhelming. It was rushed through to make room for everything else. Thirdly, too many various things were happening for such a short book. Finally, this felt “simple” in comparison to Esslemont’s Empire of Malaz series and almost childish in comparison to Erikson’s Book of the Fallen. Mind you, I didn’t want reams of empty philosophy but the dexterous storytelling I am used to from both authors just wasn’t there. This was like Glen Cook in one of his better Black Company books.

I realize that sounds like a lot, but while I complain a lot about Erikson and by extension Esslemont, I still expect some seriously well written stuff from them.

What I liked the best was how Esslemont shows just how humorous Kellanved really is, in a young/old way that just made me grin. The insecurity of youth coupled with youth’s propensity for brashness allied with an old man’s crotchedyness. It was perfect. Dancer very much played the Straight Man in this comedy duo and I could totally see them going up on stage during an Improv Night and doing horrible amateur comedy. And then killing the entire audience for not laughing loud enough!

While I felt there were too many threads being started here, I did really appreciate just how even a glimpse or two of a character was enough to fill in a ton of back story for them form the Fallen series. I knew Skinner, from the Crimson Guard was a real bastard but here we see how he got his name and how much he relished violence and why that would lead him into eventual conflict with K’azz.

Technically this is a prequel trilogy but I would not recommend reading this at all before the Book of the Fallen or Empire of Malaz series. Too much of the revelations in those series would be spoiled and half the fun would simply disappear. I do highly recommend this trilogy though if you made it through the entire set of series and came out alive.

★★★★☆

 

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[Manga Monday] Mt Osore le Voile (Shaman King #19) ★★★★☆

MtOsoreleVoile (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title:
Mt Osore le Voile
Series: Shaman King #19
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 210
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Yoh gives up the Shaman King fight to save Ren. The X-Laws begin to work on Ren to save his life and we begin a flashback sequence about Yoh and Anna.

Things start out with Yoh finding out the Asakura’s have found a bride for him and the introduction of Matamune, a clan spirit of a cat that had been serving the Asakura’s for a millennium. Yoh accidentally meets Anna outside an inn and she tells him to die. Quite the auspicious start. Then Yoh is attacked by a demon and once at the shrine, he is snubbed by Anna and told by Matamune that Anna bears a curse.

Turns out Anna creates demons whenever she goes outside and has no control over them. Yoh meets her at a souvenir shop and another demon appears. He grabs a sword to protect Anna and somehow she makes it disappear.

While this is going on Matamune and Yoh’s grandmother are talking and reveal Matamune was a former spirit ally of the original Hao and then turned on Hao in the previous Shaman Fight. This act of betrayal, while saving the world, has haunted Matamune and kept him from crossing over. It is revealed that Hao was an empath and that is why he turned bad. Anna is an empath who can read minds and without help from Matamune and the Asakura’s she’ll turn out as bad as Hao.

Yoh breaks the dam of ice around Anna’s heart with his heartfelt desire to be friends and they watch a music program ringing in the new year. The first steps along the path of their friendship have begun.

 

My Thoughts:

This had a lot of emotional content. Yoh placing the life of his friend Ren before his desire to become Shaman King, even before defeating Hao really showed us the readers what Yoh truly valued.

I was a little bit pissed off at the beginning when it went straight to flashback land, but the story of how Yoh and Anna met and how they became what they are today was very touching. Anna was a tragic heroine destined to be consumed by her own ability and while Matamune was brought on board to help train her, it took Yoh’s true compassion for her as a person to help her make the first step in breaking free. She couldn’t believe in herself until someone else showed her they believed in her.

Now that Yoh has given up in the Shaman Fight I am REALLY interested to see how Takei continues the storyline. I suspect shenanigans of some sort will be pulled to get Yoh back in or something. This is a fighting shonen manga after all so the battles can’t be over.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)