The Old Curiosity Shop ★★★★☆

oldcuriosityshop (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: The Old Curiosity Shop
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 632
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Little Nell’s Grandfather runs a Curiosity Shop and everyone, including her older brother and a money lending dwarf, think he is rich as Croessus. Unfortunately, he’s also a secret gambler and ends up spending every penny they have on gaming, trying to win big so Nell can live in luxury for the rest of her life.

The help, a young man by the name of Kit, is dismissed, the brother plots to marry Nell to his friend because he is still convinced the Grandfather is rich (just miserly) and the dwarf causes trouble because of his evil nature.

Nell and Grandfather take to the road and meet various characters, some good, some bad and are saved from privation and death by working at a little church in some tiny town. The Grandfather’s younger brother returns from faraway parts, very well off and begins searching for his brother and Grand-niece.

The dwarf plots rot and ruin for everyone and Kit finds a kindly couple to work for and settles down pretty well. Everyone caroms off of each other and does the thing called life and at the end Nell dies, Kit marries happily, Nell’s brother is killed in France by bad company and the dwarf drowns and his poor wife finally marries happily.

 

My Thoughts:

This felt like Dickens used Nell as the white ball in a game of billiards. It is the focus of each player but what it does is defined by how it interacts with all the other billiards. Nobody cares about the white ball very much. In the same way Nell ‘s importance to this story was more how she drove interactions with the other characters.

I liked all the various stories. They were great Dickens’ stories but the ties that bound everything together felt a bit weak. I almost wished that there had been more of the Marchioness (another young girl who ends up marrying and helping reform another side character) and not so much Nell. Nell was not a strong person and as such didn’t have the personality to drive this story forward.

Don’t get me wrong, this was still a good, fun, interesting story. But it didn’t have quite that “pop” that I found in some of my other reads by Dickens. Could also be that coming after the Pickwick Papers didn’t do this any favors for me either.

Overall, I enjoyed this but didn’t find much to say about it and nothing made me sit up and go “Awesomesauce”. Definitely on the lower end of the Dickens Ladder.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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Clash at Mata Cemetery (Shaman King #7) ★★★☆½

clashatmatacemetery (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: Clash at Mata Cemetery
Series: Shaman King #7
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 192
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Yoh and Ren begin their fight and Ren comes out very strong. Yoh evades but eventually Ren gets serious and pulls out a second ghost that integrates with Bason. Yoh learns a couple of things as Ren rants and rants and the book ends with Ren about to unleash everything he has onto Yoh.

A couple of side vignettes break up the fight,thankfully. Ren’s older sister Jun is talking to their father and begs him to release Ren from the course of becoming Shaman King. The Tao’s have a history of violent bloodshed and it is killing Ren inside to particpate in such a family tradition. He is coming to hate all Life and should he become Shaman King, he plans on wiping out humanity in a global apocalypse.

 

My Thoughts:

We now fully move on to the Super Special Named Power Moves!!!! Oh my goodness. Eye rolling. Its fun as long as you read through it fast enough. One page spreads of physical manifestations of powering up don’t quite have the same affect on me as they might on a teenage boy.

The one thing I really did enjoy about this volume was the almost continual references to Ren’s pointy hair. During one of the powerup times I think Manta makes a comment like “Look! He’s gotten even pointy’er!” It was a good light moment. I missed having Ryu involved, as he really brings the comedy.

Since this fight ends right in the middle, I’m diving into volume 8 right away. Hopefully that review goes up this week too.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Technician (Polity #12) ★★★★☆

technician (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: The Technician
Series: Polity #12
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 512
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

We the readers are returned to the world of Masada, introduced in the Agent Cormac books. Now that the Polity has “been invited in”, things are changing. One of the few surviving Proctors from the old regime was attacked by a hooder but not killed. This Hooder, known as the Technician, left something in the proctors head and the Polity wants to know what. The proctor goes on a crazy trip for about 20 years where he just sits as an invalid on a prison island until an AI decides that it has had enough. Things are orchestrated to start a chain of events to give the proctor back his memories and for the Polity to find out what was in his head.

The gabbleducks, the native life of Masada, are shown to be the devolved descendants of the space faring race the Atheter that went extinct millions of years ago. They commited race extinction after being exposed to Jain tech and left behind a machine whose sole job was to prevent them from ever regaining sapience again.

Now that the Polity has an Atheter AI, the gabbleducks and some unknown something inside the proctors head, all on the same planet, this machine awakens. There is a climactic showdown between it and the Technician and some top of the line Polity vessels. The proctor transfers his memories (or, the last living Atheter’s) memories to a gabbleduck and the AI wakes up. The Atheter appear to be on the rise.

We are also introduced to Penny Royal, a black AI. It was split into 8 parts and the 8th was excised, as it contained the psychotic bits. However, the AI Amistad kept that 8th part for study and during all of this Penny Royal gets its hands on the 8th part. It apparently destroys it.

 

My Thoughts:

I somehow messed up and read this before reading The Gabble and Other Stories, which introduces how the Polity found the Atheter AI and does a bit of setup for this book. However, Asher does enough fill in for the reader that it isn’t strictly necessary to have read that book first. It just would have been nicer.

Ok, first. Asher is in fine form with his bashing of religion and returning to the world of Masada allows him free reign to setup strawmen that he not only knocks down, but pretty much uses a flamethrower on. I’ve stated it before, but Asher’s god is Scyenze and he’s as vitriolic and mocking as any old high priest you could think of. That was pretty much why this stayed at a 4star rating like the last time I read it. If it wasn’t for that, this would have been approaching 5star easily.

This was AWESOME. Splatterpunk space opera at its finest. The proctor gets his face eaten off by the Technician and then gets a prosthetic from the Polity medical team later. On his journey he CUTS HIS OWN FACE OFF AGAIN because he hates the Polity so much. I’m sorry, but how can you not love that?!?

The introduction of Penny Royal was good on this re-read. It is a side character and so when I read this the first time it didn’t even register when Asher ended up writing a whole trilogy about it. Now that I’ve read that trilogy, seeing its introduction is pretty cool.

The human side was done just as well. The proctor, with his mix of literary attendants both for and against, makes for a great survival story. Between the planet and the wildlife and the Tidy Squad (a group that hunts down the former regime) and then the Polity forces, you get a full range of interaction.

Asher does good work on single novels. I won’t call this a standalone because knowledge of the Polity and Masada is pretty vital to really understand it but I think someone “could” read this and figure out what they needed. I’m pretty pleased with this read through.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Antman & The Wasp (Movie)

antmanwaspAntman & the Wasp. Technically I know there is a hyphen between Ant and Man but since this is a movie review and what’s more, it is MY movie review, I don’t particularly care. It is much easier to remember and search for “Antman” than “Ant-Man”. I mean, with my thousands of movie reviews, I need to make things easier to find, right? 😉

 

Before watching this movie, you definitely need to have watched Antman. My history with Antman was a weird one.  When I heard that the MCU was putting out a movie about Antman, as a solo hero, I was right there in the frontlines scoffing as hard as anyone. Some guy in a suit who can shrink or enlarge himself? Come on, how corny was that? Plus, given the quality of writers in Hollywood these days, I figured it would be a very lame story.  However, when I ended up watching it, it became one of my favorite recent MCU movies. A heist movie with a wise-cracking lead. And Evangeline Lilly. I’ve been a huge fan of hers ever since her “Kate” days in Lost. So the original movie surprised me a lot with how much I ended up liking it.

It was a no-brainer for me to watch this sequel once it came out on bluray/digital.

First off, the characters.  Paul Rudd makes Scott Lang. Since I’m not a comic book fan, I’m not comparing anything, which always helps. Lang is a down on his luck, no matter what, kind of convict. I mean, he is under house arrest for years for helping out the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. So the movie starts out with him living at home, trying to start up a security company for the guys who helped him and to entertain his daughter. He really comes across as the luckless guy who really wants to do good but no matter what he does, it turns out bad for him. He’s not a fighter, not an aggressive in your face, Knight on a Noble Steed kind of guy.  A girl teaches him how to fight, for goodness sake in the first movie and in this one, he doesn’t do the fighting. That leads over to the Wasp.

Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne, aka the Wasp, is the fighter in this movie. Much like her alter-ego name implies, she is the one with the sting.  She is the one who does most of the fighting, whether against the Ghost or against the Hillbilly Boys and half the time she’s the one initiating the fighting. At the same time she’s working with her dad Hank Pym to build a machine to bring her mom back from the quantum zone. That is her goal and she is completely driven.

The other sub-characters didn’t jar anything for me. Michael Douglass, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, all big names that brought their skill to the story without overshadowing the main characters. Michael Pena as Luis, gives another excellent performance as the big mouth buddy of Scott Lang who just cannot keep his mouth shut. When the bad guys put him on the truth serum, man, that was one of the best parts for me. I am a fan of him talking while other characters act out the scene as if they were him. Since it wasn’t “new” like in the first movie, it wasn’t quite as funny but I still found myself smiling away.

The badguys were a bit of a letdown I have to admit.  The Hillbilly Gang moved the plot forward but I never felt like they were a serious threat. The Ghost was cool with her abilities but her obsession with killing Hope’s mom to steal her quantum energy bordered on monomania. She did provide a great foil for Hope in the fight scenes though.

The overall plot was the rescue of Hope’s mom and all the problems the heroes faced while doing it. Nothing earth-shattering or world ending. Sometimes I need the little battles to remember that people are people.

So the movie ended and I had enjoyed it tremendously. It was everything I wanted in an Antman movie. I watched the first mid-credits scene and can’t even remember what it was to be honest. Then came the final scene. It ties directly into the Infinity War but even so, I found it horrifying. It was bad enough with 3/4 of the team (Dr Pym, Hope, her mom and Scott Lang) suddenly disappearing into ash but the panning over the city and seeing nobody? It gave me shivers and honestly kind of ruined the mood.  That isn’t the tone of the Antman movies. It did guarantee though that I’ll be watching Infinity War at some point.

 

bookstooge (Custom)

A Rare Benedictine (Brother Cadfael #21) ★★★☆☆

rarebenedictine (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 Rare Benedictine
Series: Brother Cadfael #21
Author: Ellis Peters
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Medieval Mystery
Pages: 130
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

3 short stories. One about how Cadfael chose to become a monk and then 2 that were referenced in other books but never fleshed out.

 

My Thoughts:

Apparently, the previous book, Brother Cadfael’s Penance, was the “real” final book in the series. I kind of wish I had known that going in to this book so I wasn’t constantly looking for a series wrapup.

This was just a series of short stories about Cadfael. Beyond the first one where we find out just how Cadfael becomes a monk, the other stories felt extremely familiar, almost like re-treads. Nothing bad but nothing really good either. Decent reads is what I’d qualify it as.

I felt very “whatever” at the end of the book and am glad I’m done with Cadfael. Between this and the bomb that P.D. James turned out to be, I think I’m done with any sort of “mystery” genre or sub-genre for quite some time.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Chasm City (Revelation Space #2) ★★★★½

chasmcity (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: Chasm City
Series: Revelation Space #2
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 708
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis: Spoilers

Tanner Mirabel wakes up with his memories scrambled. All he really knows is that he has to track down and kill one Argent Reivich, the man who killed his boss and boss’s wife. Tanner is now on Chasm City, light years from Sky’s Edge and he is without allies, without money and without much information. Thankfully, his memory is slowly coming back.

Tanner gets involved in problems on Chasm City when he’s kidnapped and used for a Hunt. The rich immortals living on Chasm City are bored and the Hunt is one way they alleviate such boredom. Between some unexpected allies and his own military background, Tanner turns the tables and suddenly has some allies, some money and some serious firepower. Unfortunately, while his memory is returning, other memories are also returning, the memories of Sky Haussman, the founder of Sky’s Edge. Which is impossible as Sky was crucified and killed a LONG time ago. Maybe Tanner is just going insane.

Tanner tracks Reivich down to an asteroid where Reivich is undergoing a Deep Scan, one where he will destroy his body but upload his mind. During all of this more and more memories are returning and Tanner finds out that the real Tanner is hunting HIM. Tanner is Kahuella, a war criminal from Sky’s Edge. There is a showdown between the two Tanners and “our” Tanner wins when he releases an unknown ability, the ability to bite with envenomed fangs and kills the original Tanner. ALL of “our” Tanner’s memories come crashing back and he realizes he is Sky Haussman and that the dreams of Haussman he’s been having aren’t from a bio-plague but true memories.

Tanner chooses to remain as Tanner and start a security company on Chasm City and give the Hunt the set of rules we are familiar with from the previous book.

 

My Thoughts:

In-freaking-credible! I enjoyed this read so much that I’m not really sure what to focus on. The only downside I guess.

I didn’t give this 5stars because I’m not sure how this will hold up to a re-read. 75% of the tension was not knowing what was going on with Tanner and his memories and now that I know, I don’t know how that will affect future re-reads. And that is it.

This had everything I wanted in a good Science Fiction story. Aliens, sentient and otherwise, weapons of mass destruction and little weapons, a grand amount of fighting and death and carnage that really racks up the body count. It was very similar to a Polity novel but Alastair’s style is so different from Neal Asher that there is NO mistaking the difference or feeling that you’re retreading territory.

The Sky Haussman episodes felt very much like history lessons but there was enough intrigue going on that it didn’t come across as boring info dumps. I have to admit though, most of the time info dumps don’t bother me, except when they do. I still haven’t figured out what the difference is though.

Alastair handles the time differentials skillfully. This book pretty much takes place at the same time as Revelation Space and so we get ties to make that book slightly fuller and here we find out information to make a re-read of RS richer.

Tanner makes for a great character. He’s driven, has a great skill set, has a conscience and still isn’t above killing people who are gunning for him. Following him as he remembers things was great fun. The whole memory thing was wicked weird, as the very idea was unsettling. If the mind can be so easily mucked around with, nothing is then sacred. But then, most materialists believe that the mind is just a series of synapses and electrical responses that can be transposed onto another medium “once we know enough”.

Apparently this was a novella first before it was expanded to this full length novel. So check the length of the one you’re reading if you’re not sure. I read the full novel and am not sure I’d want to try this as a novella.

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Right Ho, Jeeves (The Jeeves Omnibus #2.1) ★★★☆½

righthojeeves (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: Right Ho, Jeeves
Series: The Jeeves Omnibus #2.1
Author: P.G. Wodehouse
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Humor
Pages: 212
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Bertie comes back from the Continent with his Aunt and Cousin and things fall apart. Bertie tries to wear a white suit coat and clashes with Jeeves. Jeeves lets him have his way and solve everything on his own. So, Bertie’s cousin is engaged but the couple fights and calls off the engagement. A friend of Bertie’s is in love with a girl but can’t work up the nerve to even talk to her. This girl is a friend of Bertie’s cousin and is staying with them. Bertie is called down to the countryside to assist in giving a speech at a local boys school and hand out prizes. He avoids this by sending the love struck friend down with the promise that it will help him court the girl he loves. Bertie goes down to help restore bliss between his cousin and her fiance. He also finds out that his Aunt needs a lot of money from his Uncle to fund her vanity magazine, money which he already gave her but she lost in gambling on the Continent. Throw in Anatole the French chef who is threatening to leave and you have a problem only Jeeves can fix.

But Jeeves isn’t fixing anything since Bertie WILL insist on wearing the white suit coat. Thus it falls to Bertie to solve everything. Of course, he just makes it 100 times worse. Thankfully, Jeeves relents and solves everything BUT at the cost of making everyone hate Bertie and “accidentally” leaving the iron on the white suit coat.

Hijinks, wrong engagements, one spectacular instance of public drunkenness and sundry other mishaps occur, affording the reader an escape from the humdrum of life for a couple of hours.

 

My Thoughts:

You know, I have mentioned this before, but it really stuck out, AGAIN. Whoever put these omnibus editions together is a complete jackass. I hate them in fact. It is almost like someone who never read the books and is not a reader at all in fact, looked at the books and just randomly pointed them out and decided which volume each book would go in. It is just frustrating as it is obvious it is lazy no good incompetence that made such decisions.

Overall, I still enjoyed this. This was another novel instead of a short story collection but so much is going on that it almost might as well be a short story collection. There were times I felt like I had already read this but given that Bertie references these escapades in other books, turns out I was just remembering the references. Another reason to kick the jackass who put these together.

I have to say, it is incredible how much Bertie can wreck things. What’s even more astounding is just how dense he is when Jeeves fixes everything at his expense. Bertie pretty thinks “Oh well, at least I’m not getting married now” and is happy enough. Egads.

I think one of these books every 6 to 8 weeks is working out well. Enough time for me to forget any lingering animosity and to simply remember the stupidly funny stuff. That’s good enough for me!

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)