April Roundup & Ramblings

04April-white

 

Raw Data:

12 Books

4046 Pages

2.88 Average Star Rating (Ouch!)

 

The Bad:

The Last Town  1/2 Star book that I DNF’ddishonor1

 

Gods of the Mountain 1 1/2 Star novel where the author asked for a bad review .  He got it.  dishonor

 

 

 

The Good:

Assail  4 Stars and the longest book at just under 800 pages this month

Thank You, Jeeves  4 Stars and the humor is what upped this.

 

Graphic Novels & Manga

Finished up the Robinverse series of graphic novels I was reading with Under the Red Hood. This burned me out on graphic novels for a bit, so I don’t know when I’ll read another.

Oh My Goddess! plateaued as I was only able to read one volume this month. I just couldn’t bring myself to try a second. This does not bode well for the series as a whole. If I didn’t already own the whole dang thing, I’d definitely be tossing this for something more interesting.

 

Miscellaneous And Personal:

Survival Saturday was more comfort than survival this month. Breakfast Burritos bigger than my fist, yes please!

Surviving a Bad Book allowed the readers a quick glimpse into what helped turn Bookstooge into the battered and psychologically scarred creature of vengeance that he is today. Luckily for the world at large, he’s not a billionaire, so you should be safe.

The month started well with Resurrection Day, then quickly devolved with some twit being an Idiot on Twitter and ended up just being Plain Silly.

Most of the reason for the smaller numbers this month was that I was heavily invested, timewise that is, in the newest Magic the Gathering release entitled Dominaria. It sucked me in and I ended up creating a personalized Commander / EDH deck that is white and black and based on the Knight type. Just creating the Deck List and then Trimming it Down was quite the chore! I found out that I had some rewards from Amazon through our credit card, so I was able to get most of the more expensive cards all in one fell swoop instead of having to scrimp all year long.  I’m hoping this will allow me to play it by June, July at the latest.

On the blogside of personal things, I ended up doing some culling of people I used to follow but for one reason or another have fallen by the wayside.  I have tried to follow a couple of new people by using the WordPress Search for some of my favorite authors. I did follow 2 new people, but neither has updated in over 2 weeks. That doesn’t bode well. If any of you are just itching to suggest anyone, feel free. My main caveats are that they must post at least once a week, have very few YA reviews and finally, they must actually do reviews. When I was looking for book bloggers, I was amazed at how many bloggers participate more in some “Meme Theme” than in actually reviewing.  If someone doesn’t have a minimum 1 to 1 ratio for Reviews and Non-Review posts, I probably won’t follow them long term.  Ok, enough Grumpy Old Man’ing from me.

 

Cover Love:

Jackaby takes it this month. A YA book that didn’t make me throw up and I’ll be continuing the series. I’m as surprised as anyone about that!

cover

In the words of the immortal alien, Dick Solomon: “I’m Gorgeous!!!”

 

 

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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Gods of the Mountain (Cycle of Blades #1) ★☆☆☆½

godsofthemountain (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:
Gods of the Mountain
Series: Cycle of Blades #1
Author: Christopher Keene
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 307
Format: Digital Edition

 

Background Info:

The author of this indie book convinced me to review it with a rather humorous comment on my “Review Policy” page. Asking for a bad review, that I can handle. He seemed like a nice enough guy when we emailed, so I thought “Sure, why not take a chance.” And if you read the reviews over on GR, it DOES sound like a bunch of paid shills. And he has a BA in English Lit (I believe), so it couldn’t be THAT bad, right?

First hiccup was him emailing me a second version. This was supposedly released in 2017, so I was expecting a finished product. When an author keeps tweaking a book, well, that doesn’t bode well in my eyes.

Second hiccup was him letting me know, in Mid-April, that it was going into audio production and had I had a chance to “look it over” yet . I only got the book in the beginning of March and needed to work it into my rotation.

So, legal schmegal crap: The author gave me a copy of this book for an honest review and boy howdy, is that what he’s going to get. Remember, he ASKED for this.

 

Synopsis:

The Kingdom of Tyrania was conquered by the Kingdom of Aavaria because the Aavarians wanted control of the only supply of a special kind of wood that could be turned into swords that would suck the life out of anyone receiving even a small wound.

Faulk watched as his Commander died in a duel to the Aavarian General and as his homeland fell. Now, 3 years later, he’s a mercenary for hire, drowning his despair with drink. He meets up with a former fellow soldier who specialized in assassination. This Kessler shows Faulk some magic that only a specific tribe in the mountains are supposed to be able to use. This tribe, the Lunarians, are dedicated to pacifism. Kessler was taught by an exiled Lunarian and he begins passing on his knowledge.

3 Lunarians are sent to Tyrania to stop outsiders from using the symbol magic. This will involve taking one of the users before the Lunarian’s gods and those gods severing all connections which will stop that user and all users associated with the initial user.

Faulk goes with them to ostensibly learn more magic, as he’s unaware of the gods true purpose. He ends up being stripped by the gods and then someone reconnecting back to the magic using another form.

While this is happening to Faulk, the Lunarian Exile has set in motion a chain of events that leads to his ascension as Ruler of Tyrania. He makes one of the magic trees grow using all of the stolen life force from the magic blades.

The book ends with Faulk and his Lunarian girlfriend, along with her ex, heading out to explore Aavaria and the Lunarian Exile planning on worldwide conquest.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, the writing. In my recent “Quote” post, I posted just a tiny bit of the book. There were a handful of instances of like awkwardness that had me guessing just what the author meant. I’m not talking about story plots, but plain old grammar use. You can find Editors who will look for and show you how to fix those type of things. Sure, they cost money, but do you want your book to be good? I talked to someone I know, who also has a BA in English Lit, and she said the instances I showed her were what she experiences when reading chinese novels translated by highschool students.Dinged off a ½ star for those instances.

Second, the magic system. The way it was really introduced had me going “That’s a Brandon Sanderson Mistborn knockoff!” Pushing and pulling against magic swords and daggers to move objects or yourself? Vin!checkbox

Thankfully, it does go on to be a “little” more original, but the way it was introduced really wasn’t handled well. Problem is, later things get messy again when Faulk gets cut off from the magic but “magically” is able to reconnect using some other way. Terms are thrown around but it made no sense to me. This happened near the end of the book though so I was pretty much past caring if I had missed something. Ding. There goes another ½ star.

The characters. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be rooting for anyone, or just against the Aavarian overlords and then the Exiled Lunarian. Faulk was this uber-sceptic with the philosophy of a 2nd grader. The love interest, Yuweh, was this magical powerhouse but then would turn around and be this incredibly naive and simple “girl”. Purposeful or not, I didn’t like either of them. At the end, there is this semi-sex scene between them. Up to that point Keene had kept things clean. But they are at a pool bathing together and he describes their foreplay like an awkward 14 year old and then ends with something like “and they laid down and made love”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t WANT to read erotica, or even semi-graphic sex scenes. But it offends my completist sensibilities that you’d clumsily yet graphically describe their foreplay but not the actual act? Considering that nothing like this is described earlier, its obviously put in to titillate the reader. But the only people going to be titillated by such amateur descriptions are 14 year old boys. The rest of us are just going to roll our eyes. Ding, another ½ star.

There is a bunch of other stuff too, but really, isn’t that enough? I’m not getting paid as an Editor here.

So lets do the math, because nothing is sexier than a man in suspenders and a flannel shirt doing “math”.

3 Stars is my starting point.

Add 1 for getting me to read the book in the first place.

Subtract ½ for mucking around it with it AFTER it is already published.

Subtract ½ for acting like an anxious man whose wife is pregnant with their first child.

Subtract ½ for Awkwardness.

Subtract ½ for the magic system and Sandersonitis.

Subtract ½ for the terrible and just plain embarrassing foreplay scene.

The grand total should be…..* calculator noises *

0.5!!!! Oh wait, no. Hold on. Carry the five, divide the 2, add the 1/2’s. Dang this “new math”.

1.5 STARS FOR THE WIN!!! (Where is Vanna when you really need her?)

All kidding aside, this wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, not even close. But it was barely adequate with enough issues that I certainly won’t be reading any more by Keene. Between this and Algorithm of Power, I have also reaffirmed my decision about indies in general.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Seal Team 13 ★★☆☆☆

sealteam13 (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:
Seal Team 13
Series: ———-
Author: Evan Currie
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 337
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

10 years ago a Seal Team witnessed the destruction of a destroyerboat by tentacles. The 2 surviving SEALS were drummed out of the service and burned for their report. Monsters like that don’t exist.

Incidents like that have been increasing and Admiral Karson realizes that the United States Armed Forces aren’t getting the job done of finding out what is going on. He re-calls Harold “Hawk” Masterson, one of the surviving SEALS and has him assemble a team that can handle such incidents. When a town in Alaska suddenly goes off the radar and the police and national guard sent in to investigate disappear, Karson realizes it is time for his team to annointed by fire.

Masterson and crew, all survivors of various unexplained events, head in. With Alexander Norton, known simply as The Black in the supernatural community, Masterson wants to prove that his team can handle such threats and begin fighting back against the supernatural.

Lots of hints are dropped about The Veil, something that keeps an ignorant humanity protected from the worst of the supernatural. Apparently, if someone witnesses something, they can cross the veil and see things. Unfortunately, it also means that those “things” can now see them.

The town of Barrow, Alaska, has been taken over by a vampire and its inhabitants turned. Masterson must destroy the alpha vampire while battling off thousands of shambling zombie/vampire things. The Team wins, deals with the instigators of the whole thing and come to the attention of masters of the Supernatural.

Now the Armed Forces can fight back, with Seal Team 13.

 

My Thoughts:

This was originally supposed to be the start of a series, but considering that we’ve never seen another one I’m guessing Currie lost interest, or something. That is why I put that this is just a standalone.

I was expecting something along the lines of the Monster Hunter International series but with SEAL’s instead of a private organization. Things started out with a bang and I was rather excited. Sadly, it did not coalesce into the awesomeness I was hoping for.

Firstly, the whole Veil thing. It is sideways referenced so many times that I had the idea of what it was but no clear idea in actuality. It would appear to literally be a Veil of Ignorance. If you don’t know about the supernatural, they can’t affect you. But the attacks by supernatural beings seems to give lie to that. How does a Kraken take down a whole Destroyer if it supposedly can’t interact with those who don’t know or believe? Same with the whole town of Barrows who were all zombievampirized. The idea was cool but the execution was not thought out the best or at least, not explained very well.

Second, the sniping at Christianity and America. There is an instance where The Black holds up a cross and tells the main character that the cross is an ancient celtic symbol of the sun and the symbol of punishment for the worst scum by the romans and asks the main character which he thinks would be more effective against vampires. Then an instance of the a secondary character being from the Canadian Special Forces and Currie praises them and snipes at the SEALs. Neither of those instances are huge, but it was one more thing that rubbed me wrong.

Thirdly, plot related things. The Black knows about the vampire and knows that bullets can’t kill her. But does he tell the rest of the SEAL team or at least let them know that only his special knife might have a chance of killing her? Nope, he waits until they’re already attacking before he lets loose that info. There were several instances like this where a real SEAL team would have all the info possible before proceeding.

Finally, and least important but most noticable to me, was the continued references to Masterson as “Harold “Hawk” Masterson”. Ok, we get it. Use it at the beginning of the book, but in the last chapter? WE KNOW THAT ALREADY.

Overall, this came across as slapdash and mediocre at best. I like the idea, a lot, but the execution was poorly done and I doubt I’d try a book 2 even if Currie (who has improved tremendously through his career to date) wrote it now. I’d rather him focus on his Scourwind trilogy and finish that up.

★★☆☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Defiance (The Spiral Wars #4) ★★★☆½

defiance (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: Defiance
Series: The Spiral Wars #4
Author: Joel Shepherd
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 475
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Lisbeth Debogande is being held hostage by one Faction of the Parran. This Faction wants to force her brother Erik, star captain gone rogue with a drysine queen on his advance ship, to support them in their bid to become the primary Faction of all Parrans. Lisbeth makes the best of a bad situation and begins learning about the Parran and ends up as the liason between them and the humans on Eric’s ship.

Erik, meanwhile is dealing with a Drysine queen that has a datacore that it wants decoded. And that will lie to get what it wants. A secret moon base (thankfully no ewoks are included!) at the bottom of a gravity well is the only place where Styx, the queen, can decode the datacore they stole in the previous book. It is called Defiance, hence the name of this book.

At the same time the threat of the Deepynines (another machine intelligent race) increases as the Deepynine/Alo/Sard alliance is revealed in attacks on Parran ships and stations, wiping out all lifeforms.

Erik and Crew, along with various Parran military powers, lead the Deepynines to the moon to prevent further genocide of other planet bound Parrens. This gravity well gives the humans and parrans a chance to destroy the deepynines while Styx awakens the moon and its defenses. Huge battle, deepynines defeated, massive death toll among the humans and parrans, lots of secrets revealed which show that most of galactic history is a lie. The Drysines were allied with a LOT of biological races, against most of the other Machine races.

Styx, in the process of decoding the datacore, finds out where the Deepynines might have come from and its square in the middle of unknown territory held by biologicals so scary that they make the race that destroyed the Earth look like puppydogs.

 

My Thoughts:

Unfortunately, almost the exact same issues that I had with Kantovan Vault appear in this book as well. I read that back in August and 7 months later, it would have been REALLY nice to have a character list so when I needed a refresher on who was who I could have it at my finger tips. It isn’t needed for every single character to ever appear, but a list of all the major players, that would just be nice, especially since the ending of this book shows that this is turning into a possibly Never Ending Series kind of series.

My second issue is the author’s fascination with detail. I DON’T need pages of how the Parran political process works and all the cultural ramifications and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t badly written mind you, but my goodness, between that and all the descriptive padding, a good editor could have cut out 75 pages. These books need to get a bit leaner. Shepherd is bulking them up unnecessarily and the fast pace bogs right down to almost zero at times.

The things that I did like from the first book are still in place. When Shepherd does his action scenes, whether in space or on the ground, man, it grabs me by the throat and just chokes the living daylights out of me. The last 40% of this book was like that. It was just too bad it took that long to get there. Hence my complaining about the bloat.

I like the characters. Lisbeth is growing up, Erik is coming into his own, even if his ship is destroyed from under him by the end of the book. Other characters are growing or moving away. Trace Thakur took a major departure from the line I was expecting. She and Erik suddenly went all brother/sister feeling instead of the romance that I “thought” was developing. Skah, the little fuzzy alien teddybear child, is getting suckered in by Styx and I’m wondering how Shepherd is going to use that plot line. It better not end in Skah’s subversion to machine or something. Styx shows herself for the lying, genocidal machine bug she really is. Eveyrone is going on about how bad the deepynines are and how they NEED Styx even while acknowleding that Styx is actually a worse threat; she’s just contained. We’ll see how the revelations about the Drysine and biologicals change my outlook, but I’d still put a bullet through her braincase. Machine intelligences are bad, period.

I enjoyed this the same as Kantovan Vault but with the same faults, I can’t give it the same rating. Shepherd didn’t learn anything, so this book is getting knocked down half a star. I just hope the next book improves.

★★★☆½

bookstooge

 

 

Thraxas and the Oracle (Thraxas #10) ★★★☆☆

thraxasandtheoracle (Custom).jpgThis 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: Thraxas and the Oracle
Series: Thraxas #10
Author: Martin Scott
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 184
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The armies have come together and they all, under the leadership of Lisutaris, begin the march to Turai to take the fight to the orcs. Thraxas has been made head of Security and his number one job is to find Deeziz the Unseen before she wreaks havoc on the barely holding together armies. Add to that that Lisutaris must consult with an Oracle who has been banned and whose followers have been wiped out by the true church.

Thraxas is going to have a very hard time. Worst of all, there are no taverns and Lisutaris has told him to stop drinking.

The oracle proves right in all her accounts that do come to pass, Thraxas does find Deeziz (who escapes yet again) and the allied armies surprise an orcish one and completely route it. Now they can begin to head to Turai.

 

My Thoughts:

This was probably the weakest Thraxas story to date. In the middle of an army is not the place to have Thraxas being a gluttonous drunk. It just didn’t work for me this time. Thraxas is just hit or miss for me and I can’t figure out the why’s and wherefore’s of the formula regulating that. I guess it’s just a mystery! In terms of enjoyment, this was a bunt. I still connected with the ball, but it didn’t knock it out of the park for me.

If I were to recommend these books to anyone, I’d say to stop at book 8. Yes, there isn’t any resolution at the end of that book, but 2 books later there still isn’t any resolution. Also, considering that it has been 3 years since this book was published and there hasn’t been another, I’d say Scott has dropped the creative ball and is done as an author. These are not long books. If you are on fire, it doesn’t take 3 years to write a sub-200page book. It is only when struggling that that is the case.

Scott needs to write one more book where the armies take back the city of Turai, Thraxas marries Makri, becomes the proconsul of the newly renovated Turai and the whole gang (Lisutaris, Gurd, Tamrose, etc) all hang out at a brand new bar and shirk their duties. The End. Seriously.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

 

The Algorithm of Power ★☆☆☆☆

algorithmofpower (Custom).jpgThis 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 Algorithm of Power
Author: Pedro Barrento
Translator: Craig Patterson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 701
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

In 2061, the world decides to be run by a computer program instead of governments and to divide the world up into 100 regions where various ideologies, religions, philosophies and whatever can have their own little place without needing to elect anyone or be in contact with anyone who disagrees with them.

One storyline, in 2300, follows a young woman who leaves her region after her sister’s death and in the new region comes across a young man who has unfettered access to the network. She falls in love with another man and through machinations, ends up on a boat with both men heading for this Control Center.

The second storyline is about the rise of the Network and how the world we are introduced to in the beginning of the book came about.

 

My Thoughts:

Pig Ignorant Eurosnobbery.

North Korea, China, the US Army, they’re not all going to just sit back and let something like this happen. A lot of individuals wouldn’t just sit back and let this happen either.

And the passive energy field that separate the regions? Beyond handwavium, their application is completely ignored. That kind of tech would have gone into somebody’s military and then gone to the world’s militaries. World War III was much more likely of an outcome than what is shown.

Don’t even get me started on the lack of Religious intelligence here. This author obviously doesn’t understand ANY religion. I know that Christians wouldn’t accept being corraled into one little part of the planet. The whole point of Christianity isn’t to live with people you agree with, but to spread what you believe to others. You can’t do that, there is no point in being a Christian. Then the muslims and their jihads? You think they’re just going to lie down? Ahhh, the lack of understanding in this book was appalling.

I also didn’t like a single character.

The writing. I’ve got conflicting data here. Antao, in his review, states that this was originally in English. The kindle edition I got states:

Translation: Craig Patterson

So, was that translation of certain phrases in the book, translation from English to Portuguese or from Portuguese to English. Mr Barrento lives in Portugal, so I wouldn’t think he would need help translating his book to that language? I couldn’t find which language this was written in first, nor did I look that hard. Not worth it.

Either way, no matter, the writing was choppy, didn’t flow and kept me at arms length. I always felt narrated AT while reading this book and that was off putting.

I doubt I’ll ever come across another book by this author, but if I some how do, I certainly won’t be reading it.

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge

 

 

Destroyer (Expansion Wars #3) ★★★☆☆

destroyer (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: Destroyer
Series: Expansion Wars #3
Author: Joshua Dalzelle
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 336
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The mystery Spectre ship has been hitting secret Federation outposts that not even most of the Federation knows exists. When the Tsuyo Corp puts pressure on the Fed Congress to not respond, Admiral Wright and her superior Pitt, are both very suspicious. Jackson Wolfe is let off his leash and given direct orders to find and destroy the Spectre.

He saves the sentient AI computer and it comes up with the idea that the Warlord controlling the Spectre is trying to gain control of all the former Phage ships lying around. This would allow the Warlord to pretty much rule Darshik and Human space uncontested.

Wolfe ends up having to sacrifice the AI to take out the Warlord and his Spectre. Now that the Darshik threat is taken care of, the Feds can begin to concentrate on the Eastern Star Union.

 

My Thoughts:

This was just like all the previous Expansion Wars books. Thankfully, Dalzelle sidelines Celesta Wright and as a very small side character she is great. Dalzelle just can’t write more than one character at a time and Jackson Wolfe takes his attention. It’s an obvious weakness of Dalzelle’s and considering it is manifested in his Omega Force series as well, it’s just something I as a reader will have to put up with.

The story was kind of blasé to be honest. It felt like this whole “trilogy” really should have been one longer book. While the trilogy storyline was pretty good, the particulars of each book fell kind of flat. The Darshiks and the Uushins just weren’t very threatening and while the Warlord and the Spectre made a great villain, he wasn’t giving much time as a “character”. I think there would have been a lot more tension if the “mystery” of the Uushin and the Darshik had never been and the Warlord had taken centerstage. I mean, a brainship? That is just cool.

I know I complained a lot. I still enjoyed this, but it was more of an “it’s ok” enjoyment than a “Awesome, what a great book” enjoyment.

I do know that with the next Black Fleet related trilogy that Dalzelle writes, I’ll be passing on reading each book as they come out. I’ll just wait until the Reunification Wars trilogy is done and read them all in a row. I’m hoping that reading them closer in a row will allow for a better experience, kind of like what I had with the original Black Fleet

★★★☆☆

bookstooge