Posts Tagged ‘review’

Library Book Sale Finds: The Pandora Directive by Aaron Conners

Sometimes you find the weirdest things, amirite, squiders?

The Pandora Directive has a note that it’s a Tex Murphy novel, which meant nothing to me until, about halfway through, I happened to accidentally glance at the author bio at the end of the book.

But, anyway:

Title: The Pandora Directive
Author: Aaron Conners
Genre: Science fiction noir
Publication Year: 1995

Pros: Cool mash-up of traditional noir with some science fiction elements
Cons: A little too puzzle game-y near the end

On the surface, this is a fun scifi noir book (though I’m not sure if the main character, Tex Murphy, is from the 1940s and time traveled to the 2040s at some point, or if he just has a lot of nostalgia going on). It takes place in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco where people are out at night and sleep during the day to avoid the dangerous radiation levels.

But! It turns out that it’s the novelization of an adventure game. And The Pandora Directive is actually the fourth game in said adventure game series.

I love adventure games. I especially love ’90s-era adventure games (Monkey Island is my favorite series and, with the exception of the TellTales’ Tales of Monkey Island, I’ve played all the games multiple times. Tales is good too, I just keep getting distracted by life.), but somehow I missed this series completely.

I mean, I would have picked it up if I’d heard of it. Probably why I picked up the book. It’s noir, it’s scifi, there’s rumors of Roswell–what’s not to love?

According to Wikipedia, the Tex Murphy game series has had an interesting history. The first game is apparently a mashup of genres, though the other five games are fully in the adventure genre. And there was apparently a short film, and a radio show during the hiatus in game producing (there’s 16 years between the fifth and sixth games), two more game novelizations (of the 3rd and 5th games), and two non-novelization novels.

Huh.

As for the book itself, I really enjoyed it. It’s mostly noir, with just occasional trappings to remind you that you’re in the future and not the past. There’s the radiation thing so the characters are mostly active at night. Tex has a flying car, essentially. All the calls are video calls.

The Internet still works like the ’90s, which is when the book was written, but it makes me laugh. Always a danger when reading scifi written in the past. No one can predict everything right.

The characters are good, as is Tex’s voice. It hits the feeling of ’40s noir without including a lot of the more offensive bits. And in general the plot is good too. No real complaints, honestly, except that near the end, it starts to show its adventure game roots a little too much.

(If you’ve ever played an adventure game, you know they involve a lot of puzzle solving. And if you’ve never played an adventure game…they involve a lot of problem solving.)

There’s a lot of puzzle solving at the end. It felt like reading an adventure game. I don’t know if it would have bothered me as much as it did if I hadn’t known I was reading a novelization.

All in all, an enjoyable read. I’d recommend it if you like noir, Roswell mythology, the Tex Murphy games, or just need a fun read.

Have you read this, squiders? Played the games? Are they worth trying to hunt down?

2019 Reading in Review

It’s that time, squiders! Every year, I round up the books I read the year before and run statistics, because I am a nerd and I like them.

(As always, if you’d read something really great recently that you think I’d like, please let me know!)

I read 55 books this year, which may be the most ever (since I started tracking in…2010? 2009?), mostly because I read 10 books in December. (Most of which were Christmas mysteries.) It turns out that when you have no computer access you find other ways to use your time.

Onward!

Books Read in 2019: 55
Change from 2018: +5

Of those*:
17 were Mystery
13 were Fantasy
5 were Science Fiction
4 were General Literature
4 were Nonfiction
4 were Romance
3 were Children’s
1 was an Anthology
1 was Horror
1 was a Play
1 was Science Fantasy
1 was Young Adult

*Some genre consolidation was done here. YA or MG titles went into the general genre. All subgenres of fantasy or romance, for example, also went into the general genre.

I listened to a single audiobook again this year (It was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner while I was trapped in the car with my children) but the format still isn’t working for me.

New genre(s)**: romance, children’s, anthology, play, young adult
Genres I read last year that I did not read this year: short story collections, dystopian, satire
**This means I didn’t read them last year, not that I’ve never read them.

Genres that went up: mystery, fantasy
Genres that went down: science fiction, nonfiction, horror

I read a ton of mysteries this year, goodness.

18 were my books
37 were library books

(This is backwards from normal, and also a bit of a problem, I say as I look around and all the books in my house I have yet to read.)

46 were physical books
8 were ebooks
1 was an audiobook

Average rating: 3.54/5

Top rated:
Howl’s Moving Castle (4.5 – children’s fantasy)
Once Upon a River
(4.3 – general literature)
Gemina
(4 – science fiction)
I am Princess X
(4 – young adult)
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh
(4 – children’s)

Howl’s and Winnie the Pooh are re-reads, of course, except this time I was reading them to someone, which changes things a lot, actually.

Honorable mentions of 3.9: Dark Shores (YA fantasy), Wyrd Sisters (fantasy), Witch Week (children’s fantasy)

Most recent publication year: 2019
Oldest publication year: 1904
Average publication year: 2002
Books older than 1900: 0
Books newer than (and including) 2014: 29

A lot of newer books again, so good job me!

And, for future reference, the first book I read for the year was Another Saturday Night and I Ain’t Got No Body (2012 – mystery/romance – 2/5), and the last I read was Aunt Dimity and the Heart of Gold (2019 – mystery – 3.5/5).

How did your reading go in 2019, squiders? Plans for 2020?

My reading plans continue to be 50 books a year (or a few more), but I’d like to read one library book sale book a month, and one writing and/or nonfiction book a month, to get through my stashes.

Review: In Search of a Witch’s Soul

Good morning, squiders! Today’s I’ve got an urban fantasy noir story for you.


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Urban Fantasy Noir
Publisher: Ink & Magick
Date Published: March 5, 2019

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Human, private detective Anna Caill isn’t keen on the prohibition of magic enacted by the 18th Amendment, but she won’t deny it’s good for business. The coppers couldn’t care less about the witches’ problems, giving her any number of clients to choose from.

When mysterious witch Jesse Hunt saunters into her office, he and his case will test her limits. While a killer stalks the magical underworld, Anna is hired to find Jesse’s friend, the high priest of an ancient coven.

As her case unravels, Anna is forced to confront her addiction to a dark spell in this urban fantasy noir.


About the Author

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D. writes stories she wants to read. Her love of the worlds of fiction led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.

When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, crafting, watching anime, Korean television, Bollywood, or old movies. She may also be getting her geek on while planning her next steampunk cosplay with friends.

She lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John) and cat (Yin).


Contact Links



Purchase Links



Review

There’s a lot to like here. I love the world, which is a mixture of historical and urban fantasy. The story takes place in an alternate prohibition time period, where witches (which are tangibly different from humans) are known about and, if not fully accepted into society, somewhat integrated.

The noir elements are well done also, and I didn’t see the twist at the end coming at all (though it is properly foreshadowed–I just fell for the misdirection), so kudos on that. It’s a quick read, and the story moves along well.

Really my biggest issue was Anna, our main character. She’s a great private detective and her voice is fine, but man, does she have a major blind spot a mile high. I know noir main characters need to be flawed, and it is standard to have said flaw be related to their relationships, but it was obvious from the first flashback that she was operating under incorrect assumptions, and there’s no growth in said flaw throughout the book (and, indeed, it gets worse). I liked her well enough otherwise, but this was a major issue for me, and I don’t know if I would read another book following her unless I knew there was some sort of resolution in this area.

Bottom line: great, unique world with fun worldbuilding, fast read. Some characterization issues for me, but that’s completely arbitrary and another reader might not be bothered. I’d recommend picking it up if you like urban fantasy or noir with different-than-the-norm elements.

2018 Books in Review

So, if you’ve been around for a while, squiders, you know it’s time for me to do my nerdy reading stats for the year before. This year I barely eked out my 50 books on the last day, whoops.

Books Read in 2018: 50
Change from 2017: -1

Of those*:
11 were Science Fiction
10 were Mystery
8 were Fantasy
7 were Nonfiction
4 were General Literature
3 were Short Story Collections
2 were Horror
2 were Dystopian
2 were Science Fantasy
1 was Satire

*Some genre consolidation was done here. YA or MG titles went into the general genre. All subgenres of fantasy or romance, for example, also went into the general genre.

Also, I listened to an audiobook this year (It was Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller) which was an interesting experience, but not one I think I’m going to do a lot of unless I’m doing way more driving than I am currently.

New genre(s)**: dystopian, satire
Genres I read last year that I did not read this year: essay collection, magical realism, romance
**This means I didn’t read them last year, not that I’ve never read them.

Wow, no romance whatsoever? Weird.

Genres that went up: science fiction, nonfiction, mystery
Genres that went down: fantasy, mystery

32 were my books
17 were library books
1 book was borrowed from friends/family

35 were physical books
14 were ebooks
1 was an audiobook

More of my own books this year. That’s probably a good thing.

Average rating: 3.48/5

Top rated:
Harpist in the Wind (4.5 – fantasy)
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (4.5 – mystery)
The Mousetrap (4.2 – mystery)

Oh, hey, not sure a fantasy book has been top in a while! A lot of 3.9s as well (Ready Player One, First-Person Singularities, The Sparrow, The Selection, Version Control, The Wanderer, Audrey, Wait!). I generally liked what I read this year.

Most recent publication year: 2018
Oldest publication year: 1904
Average publication year: 1999
Books older than 1900: 0
Books newer than (and including) 2013: 26

A lot of newer books again, so good job me!

And, as it might be interesting to look back on in the future, the first book I read for the year was Ready Player One (2011 – science fiction – 3.9/5), and the last I read was All Systems Red (2017 – science fiction – 3.8/5).

Read anything good in 2018, squiders?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

I don’t think I’ve done one of these all year. Whoops.

(For those who are new, I acquired a ton of books at a few library book sales a few years back, and occasionally I will read one. I like library book sales because I think you’re more likely to buy books you wouldn’t otherwise, so it’s a good place to find a new favorite author–or a book so ridiculous you have to share it with everyone you know.)

I love Agatha Christie so I tend to pick up everything by her that I find. (Because her stories are often republished under different titles, or shorts are moved around, this sometimes means I end up with the same stories multiple times.)

I suspect I bought this one because I’ve always wanted to see The Mousetrap, which is a play Agatha Christie wrote that’s been running continuously in London since 1952. It has a twist ending, which the audience is asked not to reveal (it’s probably somewhere on the Internet, because we can’t have nice things).

At the request of the author, the short story that the play is based on has not been published since the play opened. Luckily for me, this book is from 1949.

(Though, to be honest, we don’t seem to be sticking to that anymore. A simple Google search turns up a bunch of editions.)

(Of course, now I can never see the play because I know the twist. Or at least, I won’t be surprised. It is a VERY nice twist.)

The book itself is a short story collection (the original title being Three Blind Mice and Other Stories), with “Three Blind Mice/The Mousetrap” taking up about a third of the book. There are also four Miss Marple stories, three Poirot stories, and one featuring a Mr. Harley Quin, whom I’ve never heard of before, but am tickled by the name.

Title: The Mousetrap
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery/short story collection
Publication Year: 1949

Pros: Everything
Cons: 
Not longer

(Varying dates for the individual stories, of course.)

I don’t have a lot to say about the individual stories–don’t want to give away anything–but it is a good mix, with some nonstandard twists that were very interesting. Miss Marple is my favorite, so I was glad to get so many stories about her (and they were all new to me, yay!) and am also fairly fond of Poirot, so it was all good.

I really enjoyed this collection. I would definitely recommend it, though, of course, who knows if other editions will have the same stories (aside from the first one, of course). Also, if you guys know any modern authors who write in a similar style to Agatha Christie, please tell me.

Have a lovely weekend, squiders! My show opens tomorrow, so I’m a bit in panic mode. It should be fine–it’s in good shape, I know my bits–but it’s a bit mentally taxing.

Review: Electric Gardens by M. Black

Happy Tuesday, squiders. Today, for your reading pleasure, I have Electric Gardens, the first book in a dystopian YA series, by M. Black.

Robotics Dystopian
Date Published: March 15, 2018
Publisher: Eloquen Enraptures Publishing
In our future, robots known as Tins keep us protected from the floods, fires and diseases of the outside in what are called Compounds. But when the Tins become more our masters than protectors, humans rebel. Lexi019 is turning eighteen, and will then be sent into what Tins call the Electric Gardens. Since no one ever returns from the Electric Gardens, Lexi019 is desperate to escape. With her best friend Kyle53 and his sister, the three of them find an unlikely friendship that helps them escape. But not everything is what it seems in this Robotic Dystopia, and soon Lexi019 will be faced with hard decisions she never anticipated. Join Lexi019 and Kyle53 in this four part Robotic Dystopia set in a future that could one day be our own.

 

About the Author:

M.Black graduated from UCF and packed her bags for Asia. After living in Thailand for close to seven years and visiting near by countries, her travels have influenced her point of view. Passionate about the Earth, nature, wildlife, robots and future technology, M.Black brings you a new line of books called ENTER TOMORROW!

( Website )
Buy the Book: ( Amazon )
Excerpt:

EVERYTHING OUTSIDE IS PITCH black. Night always is. All I hear is the deafening sound of a hard clank, like metal scraping, with every step the creature takes, followed by a pounding into the ground. Red eyes like the sun and shaped like an overgrown Siamese cat named Lotus1; but it’s not a cat. It doesn’t even have fur. It’s another Tin, just like all the other metal monsters in here, designed to keep us in submission, and compliant. At twelve feet long and four feet wide, its paws and claws are something to be reckoned with—if we disobey. None of the ‘human’ Tins have skin; they are all just hard metal, and none have a gender either. If they did have faux skin, they couldn’t fool anyone anyway, because their blood-colored eyes do not hold the human story.

My eyes track the feline’s movements as it passes by me under the shards of moonlight. Its metal neck turns in a creak to glance at me. It’s nine in the evening, just after the last rustic-horn blow. Same time, every night. The feline will crawl one-hundred yards east from my window, and then it will turn around at the Compound wall, and retrace its steps until it passes me again to walk another one-hundred yards west past me. It—and others like it—guard the Compound. I’ve watched this feline Tin pass by me for twelve years; I was put in here when I was five. The Tins do that—keep us behind thick glass—so we see just enough to keep us scared of the dark, of the feline Tins, to tell us they have power over us, to tell us there is no way out of here. My right palm presses on the hard glass that separates me from the metal beast, leaving moist fingerprints and a window squeak. It’s always colder inside than outside; it’s the temperature controlled rooms.

My body lies over a cot—number seventeen. My head coddles the rice-filled pillow in a poor attempt at sleep, but at least I’ve hollowed out a space for my head. It’s weird, having my cot number the same as my age. It’s completely coincidental, and when I’m eighteen the cot will still be number seventeen, but I will no longer be here. I’ll be reassigned, and someone else will take this room—the room I’ve lived in for twelve years. Everything changes when you turn eighteen in the Compound.

Review:

I give this one a 3.5 out of 5. It’s a pretty quick read, without any noticeable slow spots, and does a good job of building up a dystopian world where humans screwed themselves and machines took over. Lexi is a complex character who reads believably as a 17-year-old.

The good: The world, especially the set-up of the Compound and the Tins, the characters (varied and easy to differentiate), the flow of the story,

The bad: Each character has a name + number combo, which can be confusing, especially since every now and then the numbers change for some characters (probably not on purpose). There’s a lot of repetition in Lexi’s thoughts, which bogs it down a little in the middle.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the story and the world that was created and would recommend it if you’re into our own creations turning against us (or are they? duh duh duuuuuh).

Come back on Thursday for the start of Writing Around Life. See you then!

Review: The Duchess Quest by C.K. Brooke

Good morning, Squiders! Today I’m hosting a review tour for the revised edition of The Duchess Quest by C.K. Brooke. It’s the first book in the Jordinia fantasy series.

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YA Romantic Fantasy 

 

Date Published:
First Edition: October 2014
Second Edition: TBR 2017
Publisher: 48fourteen
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ALL-NEW REVISED 2017 SECOND EDITION
Love is destined to find her…

Dainy doesn’t know that she is the lost duchess of Jordinia, or that her uncle has organized a contest to seek her, offering her marriage hand as the reward!

Though at odds, three clashing rivals – a noble giant, a forester, and a thief – voyage together by woodland, plains, and sea to recover the lost royal, notwithstanding assassins and spies at their tail. Soon, Dainy is swept into a comically complex romantic triangle as her suitors compete to capture her heart.

Charmingly romantic and bursting with action, startling twists, and vivid characters, fans of Anastasia and The Princess Bride will adore this original yet timeless tale of swashbuckling adventure and unlikely love.
A SHELF UNBOUND TOP 100 NOTABLE INDIE BOOK OF 2015
 

5 STARS FROM READERS’ FAVORITE BOOK REVIEWS & AWARDS CONTEST

Review

I really should stop reading these books like an editor, but it’s really hard. When I’m in editor mode is when I’m at my analytical, which is useful for helping clients make their books better, but less helpful when I should be reading for enjoyment.

Anyway, I’m giving this 3.25 out of 5. It fails a bit as a romance. It’s supposed to be set up as a love triangle (as mentioned above in the blurb) but it doesn’t function as one, since one side of the triangle is obviously never a real option. Dainy never gives him more than a second thought, so the story is lacking the tension that the supposed triangle would set up. Additionally, while the love interest is of the “rogue turned straight for love” archetype, he’s a little too despicable for the first half of the book, which made it hard to root for the romance because I was still hoping Dainy would come to her senses far longer than was intended, I’m sure.

The fantasy aspects work fine, and the different countries/locations read as believable. Many of the side characters are strong. I was especially fond of Selu and Bos. The book has a ton of viewpoint characters, some of which kill the tension in places (such as one point near the end in a betrayer’s viewpoint before the actual betrayal), but in general works well. Some of the plot twists are a bit predictable, but not distractingly so. (Also, the ones that you can predict distract from some other, more unexpected ones, so that’s well done.)

If you like romantic fantasy and are apparently more forgiving than I am about reformed rogues, you might like this book. There’s also a preview of the next book in the series at the end, which looks like it picks up pretty much from where this one ends.

About the Author

C.K. Brooke is an Amazon best-selling author of over a dozen romantic fantasy adventure novels and novellas for 48fourteen, Limitless Publishing, and Elphame Press. Her debut novel, The Duchess Quest, was selected as a Shelf Unbound Notable Indie Book of 2015 and received five stars from Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews & Awards Contest. Her fantasy novel, The Wrong Prince, is a 2017 Global EBook Award Nominee and her pirate romance, Capturing the Captain, is a 2017 RONE Award Nominee. She lives in Washington, Michigan with her husband and young son. Visit CKBrooke.com and subscribe for a FREE eBook!

Contact Links: ( Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | YouTube | Goodreads )

 
Purchase Links
 *FREE on Kindle Unlimited*

Giveaway: Free eBook of The Last Empress: A Jordinia Prequel Novella to anyone who joins the V.I.P. Readers Club at: ckbrooke.com/vipclub

 

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