Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review - Strike of the Sweepers by Tyler Whitesides

The stakes have never been higher, and you have never seen squeegees do this before! It is a wild and slightly unsanitary ride as Spencer, Daisy, and the rebels find themselves chased by Mr. Clean's new and terrifying breed of toxite--the Sweepers. Time is short. With the fabled Manualis Custodum in hand, Spencer must figure out how to summon the founding witches if they ever hope to mop up and save education.

Review by:  Scott

4 stars

Strike of the Sweepers is the fourth book in the Janitors series.  Spencer and Daisy and continuing their quest to take out the BEM and restore toxite protection to every school.  Since this book is so far into the series and there is a lot that happens in it, I can't really say much without potentially spoiling things.

This is another strong book in the series.  I have read the first three to my daughter (and wife) for bedtime and they really enjoyed them.  My wife was super excited when I showed her the email I got for the release of this one.  I had to read this book myself much faster than it gets covered for bedtime reading and I know that there will be a lot of surprises for them.

If you have already read and enjoyed the first three books in this series then this is a can't miss.  If you haven't ever checked them out and enjoy YA books, they are worth checking out for sure.

Copy of the book received for review purposes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Computer issues

My computer has kicked the big one so I'm currently without a means of updating regularly right now.  I will continue to check my review requests and write down reviews the old fashioned way so I can get them transferred to the blog when I'm back up and running.

Thank for the understanding.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Review - Balanced on the Blade's Edge by Lindsay Buroker

Colonel Ridge Zirkander isn’t the model of military professionalism—he has a tendency to say exactly what’s on his mind, and his record has enough demerits to wallpaper the hull of an airship—but as the best fighter pilot in the Iskandian army, he’s used to a little leniency from his superiors. Until he punches the wrong diplomat in the nose and finds himself issued new orders: take command of a remote prison mine in the inhospitable Ice Blades Mountains. Ridge has never been in charge of anything larger than a flier squadron—what’s he supposed to do with a frozen fortress full of murderers and rapists? Not to mention the strange woman who shows up right before he arrives…

Sardelle Terushan wakes from three hundred years in a mage stasis shelter, only to realize that she is the last of the Referatu, the sorcerers who once helped protect Iskandia from conquerors. Their subterranean mountain community was blown up in a treacherous sneak attack by soldiers who feared their power. Everyone Sardelle ever knew is dead, and the sentient soulblade she has been bonded to since her youth is buried in the core of the mountain. Further, what remains of her home has been infested by bloodthirsty miners commanded by the descendants of the very soldiers who destroyed her people.

Sardelle needs help to reach her soulblade—her only link to her past and her last friend in the world. Her only hope is to pretend she’s one of the prisoners while trying to gain the commander’s trust. But lying isn’t her specialty, especially when the world has changed so much in the intervening centuries, and if Colonel Zirkander figures out who she truly is, he’ll be duty-bound to sentence her to the only acceptable punishment for sorcerers: death.

Review by:  Scott

4 stars

Balanced on the Blade's Edge is described by Lindsay Buroker as a steampunk romance.  Normally this would immediately disqualify it from my reading list, but Lindsay has established herself as a fantastic author who is capable of writing romantic elements into a story that involves more than longing looks and pining dialogue (see Amaranthe and Sicarius in the Emperor's Edge series).

The romance level in this book is substantially more than in the Emperor's Edge, but that isn't really a surprised since it is being advertised as a romance not a fantasy adventure.  Luckily Lindsay still manages to write wonderful characters that can draw a reader into the world very quickly.

Colonel Ridge Zirkander is an amazing fighter pilot (the planes in this story sound pretty awesome) who is extremely impulsive.  His talent has been enough to get him promoted to a high level in the military despite his trouble making ways.  Sardelle Terushan is a sorceress who has been in stasis for 300 years.  Waking up and learning that her entire people have been obliterated and the only link that she has is her bonded sentient soulblade.

The soulblade is a brilliant bit of plot work.  The soul of a teenage sorceress who had a fatal disease and chose to put her soul into a sword to continue living, she maintains an amazing awareness of her surroundings.  The fact that this soulblade has been aware of everything going around for the last 300 years and is even able to see the contents of books in the library of the prison built on top of Sardelle's home allow her to blend into the new people with much less awkwardness than would normally be expected.

Ridge is an ideal character for Lindsay's writing style.  His personality of being a bit anti-authority, despite having a great deal of it himself, lends itself well to the type of witty humor that is often found in her books.  He and Sardelle work well as a team, thanks in part to the soulblade being able to help her out with some info that is especially valuable.  The difficulty for the two comes in two parts, first Sardelle has to pretend to be a new prisoner in order to explain her unexplained presence in a secret prison mine and second the fact that she is a sorceress surrounded by a people who regularly execute people who are suspected of having magic.

The story unfolds at a good pace, maintaining a fair amount of action due to air raids on the prison, while still allowing Ridge and Sardelle to work through their growing attraction for each other.  I read this book in about two days time, which says volumes.  If a book is built solely upon a troubled romance storyline it will take me weeks to forever to finish the story.  There were a few parts that I thought a bit much, but nothing that takes away from the fact that this is still an excellently written book.  If you have read any of Lindsay's other books and enjoyed them go ahead and pick this one up as well.  You won't regret it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review - Bentwhistle the Dragon in a Threat from the Past by Paul Cude

Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat from the Past is an adventure story children and adults alike will love, about the present day world in which dragons disguised as humans have infiltrated the human race at almost every level, to guide and protect them.

Three young dragons in their human guises become caught up in an evil plot to steal a precious commodity, vital to the dragon community. How will the reluctant hero and his friends fare against an enemy of his race from far in the past?

Fascinating insights into the dragon world are interspersed throughout the book. Ever wondered how dragons travel below ground at almost the speed of sound? Or how they use magical mantras to transform their giant bodies into convincing human shapes?

In an action packed adventure that features both human and dragon sports, you’ll get a dragon-like perspective on human social issues and insight into what to do if you meet a giant spider grinning at you when you’re wearing nothing but your smile!

You’d be flamin’ mad to miss it.

Review by: Scott

3.5 stars

I really enjoyed a lot of aspects of this book.  The thought of a hidden society of dragons secretly helping to guide the course of humanity is very interesting.  I found Peter to be a strong character and really enjoyed the roles of Tank and Richie as well, in fact Tank was probably my favorite of the three even though he wasn't as prominent.

I thought there were a couple of pacing issues to be found mainly with the in-depth explanation of the field hockey games.  This could totally be because I know nothing about the sport so those passages didn't really hold much interest for me.  I did enjoy the descriptions of the dragon's game, Laminium Ball.  It may be because it's so much cooler to imagine giant dragons involved in a full contact game sort of similar to handball.

Manson, the antagonist, was written well.  I really hated him and didn't like reading his parts, but I think in the case of this book that is a good thing.  He was just such an amazing jerk that I had trouble not skimming over his passages just to get back to the characters that I did enjoy.

Overall this was a pretty darn good book and I would be willing to take a look at the sequel.  The only real drawbacks were the detours the story took occasionally and the fact that this book is written using a lot of British English.  By that I mean that there is a lot of slang and conversation that the friends use that has words that I, as an American, just don't see used in everyday conversation and it pulled me from the story a bit trying to puzzle out some of the meanings.  I can't really knock the author for using the dialect of his home region though, and to be honest I don't have a lot of exposure to it.  I'm sure it could be picked up rather quickly.

Get a copy on Amazon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fireteam Zero Kickstarter

For those who have been following this blog for a while may recall my reviews of Bad Radio and Liar's Harvest by Michael Langlois, well he has recently started a Kickstarter campaign to get funding for a board game based on the world of his books called Fireteam Zero.  It reached it's funding goal on day one and has continued to grow with new and awesome add-ons being added regularly.  If you are a fan of tabletop gaming at all, check out the details and pick up a discounted copy of this game.

Sorry for the bland post, but I'm at work and can't really do much with images from this computer. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Review - The Avatar Battle - Cragbridge Hall, Volume 2 by Chad Morris

The adventure continues when Abby and Derick begin their second semester at Cragbridge Hall, the most prestigious secondary school in the world. But when Grandpa Cragbridge admits them to the Council of Keys—a secret group of people who have keys to travel back in time—strange things begin to happen. One by one, members are found unconscious and unable to wake, their keys stolen. Now Abby and Derick must scramble to figure out who is behind the attacks before they become the next victims, which would give their enemy the power to change the past forever.

Review by: Scott 

4 stars

The Avatar Battle is the second book in the Cragbridge Hall series by Chad Morris.  Muns is back with a new plan on how to get access to time travel for himself.  Derick, Abby, Rafa, and Carol will once again be vital in stopping him.

This was another very strong YA book by Chad Morris.  The kid characters are all extremely well done with each having an attribute that they excel with.  Carol definitely shines through as the family favorite in my house though.  I have read the first book and am halfway through this one as a bedtime story for my daughter and my wife seems to really enjoy Carol's personality.  She is a little bit flighty and can be a bit annoying, but she also has a great heart and can be hilarious at times.

In this book the story of Rafa is revealed a bit more.  He made several references to to the fact that Oscar Cragbridge did something for him in the past.  That is the reason he was so willing to help Derick and Abby when Oscar was kidnapped.  This story tells what exactly Oscar did for Rafa and why he is so intensely loyal.

One of the coolest things about this series is seeing all of the technology that is available to the students at Cragbridge Hall.  If a device that allows you to actually watch the past as it is happening isn't enough, there is a ton of new stuff the kids get to play with in this book.  Also as the name of this book implies that avatars once again play a huge role in the story.  I have recommended this series to pretty much everyone I know that has a child in the right age range, or that I know enjoys reading the middle school/YA genre.  The second book is another standout offering and I'm very eager to see what else is coming out of Cragbridge Hall.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review - Die Laughing by J.H. Sked

The gods are back in town. Well, one of them is - and he doesn't play nice.

Jane Rossa is trying to find out who - or what - killed her brother. Enter Billy, a nice guy with a few unusual talents, and very unusual friends.

Can a vampire, a ghost, and a shape-shifting house-cat stop a deranged god who thinks killing people and wearing their bodies is laugh-out-loud fun?

Maybe - with a little help from their friends. And a hell of a lot of luck.

5 stars

Die Laughing by J.H. Sked gives a more in depth look into the Blue Moon Detective Agency (introduced in Basement Blues).  When Mike calls Billy and is extremely freaked out, Billy takes notice.  Mike is a local psychic who actually has some real abilities.  He is also very experienced and doesn't tend to overreact to things.  While Billy is having a meeting with Mike and his client Jane, Mike passes out during the meeting and ends up pretty much in a coma at the hospital.  It turns out that Jane just wanted to contact her brother Corey, who had recently died.  The police said natural causes, but she didn't believe it at all.  He was young and healthy so there was no reason for him to just keel over dead.  While Billy checks out Corey's apartment to feel out any supernatural threats he is attacked by something and that brings Astrid (vampire) and Ruth (ghost) into the case with alacrity.

The rest of the story has an interesting twist with some old Norse gods that I haven't seen a lot of in my reading.  Janet writes the characters well and even though they are serious about stopping the threat and avenging the attacks on Mike and Billy, there is still a lot of humor to the writing.  I would highly recommend this series for fans of The Black Knight Chronicles by John Hartness as there is a bit of similarity in the feel of them.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy by Sandy Nathan review

Tomorrow morning at 7:35 AM, a nuclear holocaust will destroy the planet. Two people carry the keys to survival: Jeremy Edgarton, a 16-year-old, tech genius and revolutionary; and Eliana, the angelic, off-world traveler sent to Earth on a mission to prevent her planet's death.

Welcome to a future world only heartbeats from our own.

By the late 22nd century, the Great Recession of the early 2000s has lead to a worldwide police state. A ruined United States barely functions. Government control masks chaos, dissenters are sent to camps, and technology is outlawed. War rages while the authorities proclaim the Great Peace.

It's New York City on the eve of nuclear Armageddon.

Join Eliana & Jeremy as they begin a quest to save two doomed planets . . . and find each other.

Review by: Scott

4 stars

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy by Sandy Nathan is a unique story for certain. It starts out reading like a young adult novel featuring a stranger to the planet. The stranger is a young girl who is an amazing dancer, but doesn't really understand the way Earth works. When she is mistaken for a Russian ballerina and taken to a prestigious dance academy she meets several people that guide her through her visit.

The way the Earth works is very reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984 with television screens having cameras in them for the government to watch over you. The internet is pretty much illegal and only certain people are allowed to have access in order to tightly control information. At the academy the girl meets up with some people who are planning a way to get America back to what it used to be.

The book takes a look into what the future could be and adds a bit of sci-fi to it with a visitor from beyond. Sandy did an excellent job with this story although at times I felt it slowed down a little too much. That didn't happen often enough to really have a negative effect on the overall appeal of the book. This is another author whose work is worth looking into.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review - Crypto Squad by Eric S. Brown and Jason Brannon

As a boy, Marcus Tillman dreamed of being a sideshow barker, but never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined the kind of freak show he would work in one day. When the dead begin to rise from their graves and tear apart the very fabric of civilization, a special government-sponsored strike team known as the Crypto-Squad is created, and Tillman is put in charge. Comprised of beasts that are the stuff of rumor and legend, the Crypto-Squad’s mission is to eradicate a group of doomsday cultists who refer to themselves as The Unending. Refusing to accept defeat and determined to save those who are left alive, Tillman mobilizes this ragtag band of misfits, realizing that they are the world’s last remaining hope. Led by the Mothman, the Crypto-Squad is comprised of El Chupacabra, The Jersey Devil, Sasquatch from various tribes, Mongolian Death Worms, and more. As the legions of undead march across country, devouring what remains of America, the lives of millions rest in the hands of this dangerous group of rogue beasts. Eric S. Brown and Jason Brannon’s Crypto-Squad is a mix of monsters, covert operatives, cultists, and the undead. This is the zombie apocalypse as you’ve never experienced it before!

Review by: Scott

4 stars

Crypto-Squad by Eric S. Brown and Jason Brannon is a quick fun read.  Involving a host of mythological (to some) characters that form a secret government agency.  Mothman, Ness, The Jersey Devil, are just some of the creature characters to look forward to.

The agency is around to deal with things that are outside what most normal people can deal with.  This book deals with a group called the Unending.  These people are some super powerful necromancers who have unleashed a horde of zombies and have many more tricks up their sleeves.

This is a great book for people who like paranormal action and I'm looking forward to checking out some of the other books in the series.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review - There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack

A thousand years ago the Darkness came--a terrible time of violence, fear, and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with "temple magic" and by eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything.

A restless dreamer, Nathaniel has always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for something more but unwilling to challenge the unbending status quo. When his friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his "teaching"--the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds young men and women eternally to the Light--Nathaniel can barely recognize the broken and brooding young man the boy has become. And when the beautiful Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel knows he must somehow save her. But in the prisons of Temple City he discovers a terrible secret that launches the three of them on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in dire jeopardy. For a truth awaits them there that threatens the foundation of the Temple. But if they reveal that truth the words of the book of light might come to pass:

"If there comes among you a prophet saying 'Let us return to the darkness,' you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light."

Review by: Scott

4 stars

There Comes a Prophet by by David Litwack tells a dystopian story.  The world is controlled by the Temple of Light.  Ruling through fear and strict control of information and thought the Temple refuses to allow the people to know of the civilization that existed in the past.  When three young people from a small village shown the path to lost knowledge they jump on the chance to see if the Temple is really protecting or oppressing them.

This book is very plot and suspense driven.  The story does succeed in making you think and evaluate things in life.  There isn't a lot of action in terms of fights, it mostly takes place in the form of the chase.  Nathaniel, Orah, and Thomas must travel further than any of them have ever been all while avoiding the clerics and other agents of the Temple.  They must also manage to elude the strange Temple magic that we would just call technology.

The uses of the technology by the Temple to remain in a superior position the normal class of citizen was brilliantly done.  Almost everything they have is stuff that is pretty much taken for granted today, but in a world that resembles our society a few hundred years ago the ability to instantly communicate over long distances can be a very powerful tool.

I wasn't drawn into the book in a way that I couldn't put the book down, but at the same time I wasn't easily distracted when I was reading.  They book has a strong flow that is managed well by the chapter breaks, which is something I appreciate as I am often forced to read in short bursts.

The real shine of this book is the way that it ended.  It wasn't necessarily something that I had never seen before, but the execution of it was flawless.  The completion of the three main characters personal journeys was amazing and I was very happy with how everything was done.  Honestly it is hard to really say anything without giving away something and I prefer to be as spoiler free as possible.

If you are a person that enjoys dystopian novels this is definitely a good choice.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Review - Beyond Disbelief by Andrew Dzeguze

For 14 year old Brett Shelldon, the line between illusion and reality has always been clear. Illusions are the magic tricks he does with cards, rings and other props. Reality is a Mom who works all the time, a Dad who is too distracted to notice Brett, and his little sister Sarah, who he loves but whose mercurial temper can make living with her a real pain. Not to mention a speech impediment so bad Brett hates talking to anyone and does his magic act in silence. On the whole, Brett prefers illusion, where he can be in control for at least a few minutes.

When a skull faced man dressed all in black shows up at Brett’s show, though, any thought of control is lost. That is a minor shock compared to finding Brett’s mentor, Mr. Green, dead on the floor of his magic shop hours later, with the same stranger hovering over the corpse. Over the next week, Brett will confront betrayal, deceit, the disappearance of Sarah and a threat to his life. He’ll come face to face with a maniac named Jack White and his killer minion Speck, who wants to conquer the world, starting with Brett’s hometown of Portland.

Brett’s only weapons in this fight are his wits. But according to his new guide, the aptly named, enigmatic Mr. Black, those are all Brett needs. Brett’s control over illusions, which goes farther than he ever knew, can actually alter reality. In embracing this ability, Brett finds power, but also dangers he would never have considered a week before.

Beyond Disbelief by Andrew Dzeguze tell the story of Brett.  Brett is a young man who has trouble making friends.  He isn't a bad kid or anything, but he has a fairly wicked speech impediment that he is very self conscious of.  Luckily for him he is able to escape his own self doubt when he performs his magic routine.  There is a small club in Portland where kids can learn simple magic tricks from experienced stage magicians and Brett is a member.  With his dedication to his illusions he would easily be a star if he had a bit more charisma.  One day after a performance by his club he heads downtown to the magic shop that is his home away from home.  Mr. Green the stores proprietor and the president of the magic club was absent from the show and Brett is curious as to why.  Mr. Green is one of the two people that he actually considers a friend so when he gets to the shop and sees the door broken off the hinges he is extremely concerned.  He decides to go in anyway and sees his friend lying on the floor with a strange man who he noticed at the show standing over him.  The strange man introduces himself as Mr. Black and convinces Brett to leave the scene with him so they can both avoid trouble, as they drive away Mr. Black explains that Brett is a very special boy who may have the power to change to world around him.  In other words magic is real and Brett may have real skill.  The story unfolds following Brett as he learns more about his talent and tries to figure out who would hurt Mr. Green.

The was an enjoyable YA book that only had one major hiccup.  After the characters get introduced and Mr. Black drops Brett off to get his bike and go home there is some detail about how secluded Brett's house is.  I felt that this was a bit overdone.  I was left with a pretty good image of the unique area that Brett lived in, but I felt that there was a lot more information given than was really needed to express the point.  Other than that the  book was pretty darn good.  I felt bad for Brett being almost forced to be a quiet kid and when his parents are shown to be pretty absent in his life (his mother away for business a lot and his dad just pretty scatterbrained) he really has no one he can confide in.  His sister seems to be a pretty strange kid talking like a character from an old detective film more than a normal 8 year old girl.  She also has an amazing way of manipulating her father to get exactly what she wants and with his problems expressing himself Brett has limited ability to affect the outcome of any argument.

The system of magic used in the book is an interesting one.  It seems to revolve mainly around simply concentrating on an affect and having it take place.  There are various specialties of magic such as memory, emotional, loyalty, and physical manipulations to name some.  People also have varying levels of power, but the more people that believe in you the more powerful effects you can have.

The story is told focused entirely on Brett and a lot of his character development takes place inside his head.  When he does speak his impediment comes through making it clear why more dialogue isn't used.   I will say that as Brett develops his power his speech show subtle signs of improvement and it is explained that if he learns he can eventually make it go away altogether.  I really liked the point of view that the story takes place from as Brett is an interesting character and it's nice to see what he is thinking when all of the craziness is going on.  There are also a few spots of comedy that were well done with Brett struggling with becoming a man.

Overall I would say that this is a good book for ages 13+ especially if the person is interested in magic as there is a good amount of info on the tricks within.    The book also had a good ending where the story contained was solidly wrapped up, but the way into the next was presented to continue to attract interest.  I'm not a fan of cliff hanger endings so a good wrap-up always scores points with me.