thistlechaser: (Cat with book: Toy)
Wolfbreed by S. A. Swann
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Some backstory is important, before I get to the book's actual story: For some reason, the publisher wouldn't take only this book -- they wanted the author to write at least one more in the series. So the author wrote Wolf's Cross. Not knowing that, by mistake I read Wolf's Cross first (my review of it here), and liked it a whole lot.

However, turns out I was nearly unique in liking it. Most reviewers loved this book, Wolfbreed, and hated Wolf's Cross. The author himself said that Wolfbreed was the best book he ever wrote...

All that being said, sadly I didn't like Wolfbreed very much at all. I'm also kind of surprised at the comment from the author about it being his best work (and embarrassed for him) as there were some major issues/errors in the book. Like in the beginning: Middle of winter, 13th or so century Poland (Middle Ages Europe), a very poor character is surprised by something and falls into a creek. He then climbs out and holds a long conversation with someone. Is he not wet? He didn't even have a coat, just a cloak... which he takes off and gives to the other person to keep them warm. Was the cloak not wet? How is he outside, at least partially if not fully soaked through, in winter, and not be cold? It's like the author forgot what just happened in the scene...

That was a minor thing though. The larger plot had issues for me as well. The story, set 100 years before Wolf's Cross, was about how the church found ten werewolf children (a litter of a mother werewolf they killed), and decided that werewolves were animals and thus could be trained and used as weapons. Doesn't that sound like an outstanding story idea? Like it would be dark and make you question stuff?

For me, it just seemed so... shallow? Not dark? I suspect that if I had never read any fanfic, thus my idea of "dark" was set only by published books, maybe I'd agree that this was a great book. However, I've seen this kind of storyline done so often, and so much better, in fanfics.

Wolfbreed wasn't awful. I did (with effort near the end) make it to the 50% point of it, thus can count it in my total for the year. Unlike other books I stop at the halfway point of, I felt no guilt this time and no curiosity as to what I might miss in the rest of the book. It wasn't bad at all, it just wasn't good enough for me to spend my limited reading time finishing.

The Cageless Zoo by Thomas K. Carpenter
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Jurassic Park knockoff. A family goes to "galaxy's only Cageless Zoo" (caps by the author), and of course something goes wrong and the animals attack the guests.

While it's only a novella, I still only reached the 3% point of it before giving up. It could have been a fun idea (I knew going in it would be a Jurassic Park clone), but the writing was flat and boring.

It's free on Amazon zone (link above) if you want to give it a try for yourself.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: hugging book)
Wolf's Cross by S. A. Swann
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I was surprised to see that Amazon lists this book as a romance book. (Though, now that I can see the cover...) There's no way in the world I would have considered this romance as I read it. Yes, there's a relationship in it, and yes there's a love triangle, but that's only part of the plot.

Set in 14th century Poland (Middle Ages Europe), the story followed three POVs:

The first was a werewolf. As a very young boy, his whole village and family (all werewolves) were violently killed by werewolf hunters, and with nothing else left, he dedicated his life to revenge against humans.

The second was a young man, an initiate to an order of monks. The order worked for the church, tracking and killing "demons" (werewolves). They were the ones who murdered the werewolf boy's family/village.

The third was a young woman with a secret. (BET YOU CAN'T GUESS WHAT THAT SECRET IS.)

I really enjoyed the plot. The werewolf's reason for killing humans was completely believable, and yet sad because he was fueling the whole 'werewolves are demons and so we're right to kill them all' thing. The young woman's secret made complete sense. All the characters behaved believably and realistically.

And I mentioned a love triangle, which would usually be a bad sign for a book? In this case, it completely worked. I actually liked it! I spent most of the book trying to figure out how in the world it could resolve. A young woman with a SECRET, in love with both a werewolf and a werewolf hunter.

The only downside to the book was how that love triangle (and the book's whole ending) was settled. For some reason, the werewolf went from a reasonable, believable character to an OH HO HO YOU'RE MINE SO NOW I SHALL RAPE YOU BECAUSE IT'S MY RIGHT BECAUSE YOU'RE MINE character. He went from loving her and wanting to show her the world to OH YAY NOW I SHALL RAPE YOU. Though I have to say, this is the first time I've ever read a wolf/human woman (attempted) rape scene before... (Scanning Goodreads reviews, they seem to agree with me that that ending made no sense and was generally disliked.)

Anyway, ending aside, I really, really liked this book. Some of the names were insane, but mostly they were kept for minor characters. Rycerz Telek Rydz herbu Bojcza. Wojewoda Boleslaw. The names included a character I've never encountered before, a lower case L with a slash though it. Hm, Google tells me it's a Polish character. Ł or ł. The three main characters had more "normal" names (the werewolf was Darien, the woman Maria, and the young monk Josef), so it was really perfect: The main characters were easy to follow, no distraction with wild names, but all other characters having more period/Polish names kept the feeling of the world realistic.

I was more than halfway through the book when I discovered this was actually the second book in the series. That being said, it 100% worked as a stand-alone book. (Though one funny bit, I read a part and said to myself "That's a great plot hook! I bet it's foreshadowing for the next book!" but it was actually something from the previous book.)

Reading now: Wolfbreed, the first book in this series. Also, the book with perhaps the worst opening line ever:

In the darkest woods in Burzenland, south of the Carpathian Mountains, a knight of the Order of the hospital of St. Mary of the Germans in Jerusalam, Brother Semyon von Kassek, ran as if he were in pursuit of the devil himself.

Just typing that makes me go 'Sheesh!'. Cutting all of the middle of that sentence would make it such a tighter, better opening line:

In the darkest woods in Burzenland, Brother Semyon von Kassek ran as if he were in pursuit of the devil himself.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 2)
Starting tomorrow, my company is going to block access to all personal email sites and any site that you can upload things to. It's going to kill me to lose access to my gmail account during the day, but I really worry what other sites will be blocked. You can upload things to LJ and Tumblr, for example...

I guess I'll see tomorrow how much I vanish offline. :(


I'm on a quest to read the oldest books in my To Read pile. Instead of just picking one to read, I decided to keep picking from the six oldest books (the last page of the Kindle book list) until I reach one that I'll read the whole way through.

The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Years ago, on my cruise to Alaska, there was a book club. Excited about the whole 'education at sea' aspect of the trip, as soon as I saw what those classes were (all about how to mix drinks, what drinks to try, how to throw great parties... so educational /sarcasm), my disappointment in the whole trip started. Then I got sick, then I was endlessly bored out of my mind (stuck on the ship for days at a time, no TV or Internet, little to do but drink), and I was in the middle of reading a different book so hadn't had time to read this one... Anyway, I never went to the book club. Also, as this was a book I would never have picked on my own, it sank and sank through my To Read pile.

I finally gave it a try. It read like a Master and Commander fanfic/knockoff. It wasn't badly written, but the main character was too perfect and the whole story just didn't hook me. I gave up 20% or so into it.

I usually try very hard to give a fair review, but in this case, every time I saw the book on my Kindle, I frowned and remembered how bad my cruise had been. So take my thoughts on this one with a grain of salt.

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

When I realized the Ex in this title was for zombies, I almost gave up on this book without giving it a chance. I'm really so completely and totally over zombies. It wasn't until a couple chapters into the book that I realized what the Ex meant, so I figured maybe they wouldn't be a big part of the story and so the book might work for me.

The plot followed a small group of survivors living on a Hollywood movie lot. What a fun idea! So they had a New York street, movie sets from various movies, mock-ups of Paris, etc. Plus, being a movie studio, the lot had good security, so that made sense.

The survivors had a couple superheroes in their numbers. (Though the zombies did as well.)

Story-wise, things were pretty typical (at least as far as I read), just the day-to-day survival of the group.

I thought I might finish this one, but I reached 20% or so and it hadn't hooked me, so I ended up abandoning it. Nothing at all wrong with it, and it had some fun ideas (and not too many zombies at all), but I just wasn't enjoying it.

Currently reading: Wolf's Cross which I'm enjoying a hell of a lot...and sadly only yesterday realized it's book two of the series. Oh well, I'll read the first one next.
thistlechaser: (tree)
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

The story in Spin started out interesting: One day the stars vanish. One second they're there, bright in the sky, the next they're gone. What happened to them? What else does it impact (since the sun is a star as well)? How did it happen?

The writing started out really good: The author kept adding scenes from later in the story, to let the reader know that Something Big was happening down the road. That kept me really interested in the story... for a while.

But oh my god, this felt like the longest book ever. At the 10% point, I felt like I should have hit the end of it. At the 30% book, I felt like I had read at least a trilogy's worth. I boggle that Amazon lists this book as only 366 pages. It feels longer than the longest Game of Thrones book. And that's not a good thing.

Unfortunately the scifi of this story was mostly just background stuff. The story's focus was on the relationships. And, in my opinion, the relationships in this book sucked. The story opened with one boy (the son of a maid), friends with twins (the kids of a very rich family his mother worked for). The maid's boy (the story's boring, boring main character) was in love with the female twin. She didn't love him back.

Over the years, literally years, the main character loved that girl. Even after eight years without so much as a phone call, he still loved her. An Amazon reviewer compared him to Forrest Gump pining after his Jen-nay, and I had to laugh -- that's exactly how it felt.

I reached the 40% point of this book before giving up, but it felt like I read a whole series of books. If the author had focused on the scifi aspects of this story, I would probably have loved it, but instead it felt like the scifi elements were just window dressing for the relationship story. No thanks.
thistlechaser: (Dinosaur: green derp)
Love Volume 4: The Dinosaur by Frederic Brremaud
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Book received free for review from Diamond Book Distributors.

I've been waiting for the next graphic novel in the Love series to come out. I've enjoyed all of them so far -- they've all had such beautiful artwork. (For example, see my Love: The Fox and Love: The Lion for some samples from the previous books.)

In each of these graphic novels, the stories are told only through the artwork; other than a brief (couple sentence) forward, there's no text at all.

While the artwork was really nice in Dinosaur, I wish the pictures had been a lot more colorful. Like the other dinosaur graphic novel I reviewed last year, everything in this one was shades of grey and brown -- modern day reptiles can be colorful, why can't dinosaurs be? Or at least the plants and trees/ground around them?

Four sample images from the book back here behind the cut. )

Unlike the first three books, the final third (or more?) of this one was taken up by drawings of individual dinosaurs: A page for this kind, a page for this other kind, a couple pages for the T-Rex. That was nice to see, though I would have enjoyed a second story more.

All in all, I was quite happy to 'read' Love: The Dinosaur! I can't wait to see what Love 5 will be about.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: On stack)
Warscapia by Garrett Boggs
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Written in first person, the main character sounded like an overexcited five year old. "I did this! Then I did that! And I punched him! Then I rolled out of the way! THEN I GOT INTO THE GUILD YAY!"

The story was set inside "Warscapia" -- a video game. Why the book claimed it was set in a video game and not just some generic fantasy world is beyond me... or perhaps beyond the point I read to. I gave up very, very fast on this one, at the 4% mark. Just a typical bad self-published book.

Tandem (Many-Worlds Trilogy Book 1) by Anna Jarzab
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

From the Amazon description:
To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she'll be trapped in another girl's life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love—one who knows her secret, and one who believes she's someone she's not.

That sounds exciting and interesting, no? The book felt more like a bait-and-switch. I read to the 11% point, and in that time, the whole entire story was about a girl, a plain "nerdy" girl, who high school's hottest guy falls in love with for no apparent reason. It's perfectly possible that the story changed later (I suspect the hot guy was about to kidnap her off to that other world), but 11% of a book with two teenagers talking, going to the prom together, all that high school stuff... Blah. No thank you. Besides, clearly a love triangle was coming, so I probably did the right thing by bailing out on the story when I did.

The Erth Dragons: Wearle Book 1 by Chris D'Lacey
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Erth Dragons had an interesting story idea: Dragons are able to fly/travel/whatever between planets. A small group of them comes to Earth and is lost, so a larger group comes to find out what happened to them.

The writing killed the story for me. For some reason, the dragons call the planet Erth. They made "i:mages" of themselves, a "wyng" is a group of dragons, a class of dragons is named "De:allus". And nearly as bad, every dragon in existence had a name that starts with the letter G, so the whole book was G-someone does this, and G-someone responds by doing that, and G-someone looks on and comments this... It made it especially hard to keep track of who the characters were, since there were a dozen of so dragons and only two had any kind of personality/character development.

I gave up at the 14% mark.

Currently reading: Spin, which was a free ebook from the publisher last month. [ profile] isiscolo enjoyed it, so I thought I'd check it out next.
thistlechaser: (Cat with book: Toy)
Insert Coin to Continue by John David Anderson
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

So often I go into a book completely blind. My To Read pile is about 170 books high, so by the time I get to a book, usually I've long since forgotten anything about it. And as they're ebooks, I can't even see much of the covers. That usually leads to surprises, and generally happy ones.

Insert Coin to Continue started with a giant happy surprise. As I read through the front matter, I got to the listing of 'other books by the author' and was overjoyed to see that John David Anderson was the author of one of my favorite books of last year: The Dungeoneers (my review of it).

Unfortunately, right from the first page, this story really didn't work for me. The main character seemed bland, and his 'voice' was hard to tell apart from his best friend's. Plus the plot just didn't work at all for me, I didn't believe it: In it a boy found a secret level of a video game which somehow changed all of reality. He woke up the next morning and his legs were paralyzed, and he was seeing a coin slot with 'insert coin to continue' above it. He had a coin on his nightstand, stuck it in this floating coin slot, and suddenly his legs worked. As he went through his day, stuff like that happened. He looked in the mirror and saw his clothing had stats and names (like Shoes of Average Traveling Speed, +1 resistance to fire). No one else noticed these differences, yet all of reality was changed by it (teachers turned into other things, but no one else in the classroom saw it but the main character).

That seems like such a fun idea, doesn't it? But for some reason it just all fell so flat for me.

I'm not the target audience for this book, so my faults with it are probably personal to me. (This was a middle grade novel, which is one step younger than a YA novel.)

I thought I could at least get to the 50% point before giving up, but when I hit the 30% mark I had completely lost interest in it, so sadly I moved on to something else.

It's such a disappointment when you're sure you'll like a book but it just doesn't work out.
thistlechaser: (tree)
Gilded Cage by Vic James
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Book received free for review from Random House Publishing Group.

This might have been the best book I read all year.

Set in an alternate universe England, a very small part of the population has magical powers (called Skill in the story). Unsurprisingly, they're the ruling class. Surprisingly, the nonmagical people have to spend ten years of their lives as slaves to the people with Skill. It can be any ten years you want, from age 18 on. Some people do it right away (and then spend the rest of their lives bitter and likely broken), others wait until what is probably their final ten years of life.

The slaves live in awful conditions, doing backbreaking work all day, six days a week.

The story follows two families, one with Skill and one without, and how the two intersect. Personal relationships between the two groups were explored, as well as much larger society-wide issues.

The author did everything, everything right in this book. The writing, both technical and storycrafting, were perfect. What little romance in the book was completely believable and realistic.

As I neared the end of the story (staying up well passed my bedtime to finish it), I was worried how the book would end. There was way, way too much story left for how much of the book was left, so I was worried Gilded Cage would do what too many other trilogies/series do: End on a cliffhanger. But it did not! While it was clear there was more story to come (so much more), this book had an actual ending! You rock my world, Vic James. More authors need to follow your lead.

I strongly recommend this book, unless you don't enjoy dark stories.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: hugging book)
War Stories: New Military Science Fiction by Karin Lowachee and others

Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Usually when I read an anthology, I keep track of all the stories within it, then do a mini-review on each one. For some reason I didn't do that this time, but I wish I had.

While every story in this book wasn't a winner for me, the majority of them were. Of the maybe 20 stories, I didn't finish three of them. Maybe three more I finished but they didn't work for me.

Each story revolved around the theme of war, though few of them were directly about battles. Most of the stories were about relationships, which was a positive to me.

Sadly, the story I bought the whole book for (Karin Lowachee's Enemy State) was probably the worst one to me. She's the author who wrote one of the best books I've ever read (Warchild), but I'm starting to think that book was the exception. I haven't liked much of anything else she's written. The whole story was a stream-of-consciousness, first person narrative -- a person speaking to someone else who had gone off to war. That someone else wasn't there to hear it, respond to it, or react to it, so the first person was just speaking into nothingness. It just fell really flat for me, no connection to it at all. Sadly boring.

But man, there were some good stories in this book, too. Wardogs was especially interesting, about relationships and bonds. The last story, War 3.0, should have been a novel and I actually went "ARG!" out loud when it ended. There were a bunch of stories I wished had been longer.

Suits was good enough that I searched for and bought other books by the author (James L. Sutter). It was just so well written -- it did what I always say authors should do: Trust the reader. It dropped small hints here and there, slowly filling out the world setting and what was happening, without ever hitting us over the head with it. In it a tech (clone, so not considered a person), learns what the work he's doing is being used for -- he learns what war really is. Sutter writes for RPG games, and most of his work seems to be male/male stories, so I suspect his books should work for me.

All in all, even with the 'miss' stories, I recommend this book!

Note: The Amazon page is messed up. Apparently there's another book by this name, and the reviewed are mixed between the two books, and the Editorial Reviews section is for the other book.

Currently reading: Gilded Cage. I've been second-guessing myself about accepting it for review (I don't much like the responsibility that comes with that anymore), but it turns out that so far it's really good, so I made the right choice in accepting it. Set on a world where some people with magic, all the people without magic must act as slaves to the magic class for a period of ten years out of their life...
thistlechaser: (tree)
Hidden Universe Travel Guides: The Complete Marvel Cosmos by Marc Sumerak
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Book received free for review from Insight Editions.

What a fun book this is! As the title implies, it's set up just like a tour book, just for the whole universe.

For each place, there's all the expected information you'd see in a tour book, set up exactly the same way. Overview of the area, What to Wear, Sights and Activities, Lodging, Etiquette, a "Did you know?" section, Tips for a Fun Trip, Do's and Don'ts, etc. That would be interesting enough, but this book belonged to the Guardians of the Galaxy crew, and they all made notes all over it. Each of them has a perfectly distinct handwriting, so it's easy to tell who wrote each note.

While the art is fun, it's the text that really makes the book. Unfortunately there was a request to not to quote any of it, since it's still subject to change, so I'll share a few images from it instead. Click behind the cut to see it.

Three pieces of art back here. )

As this was a graphic novel, it doesn't count towards my book total for the year.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: Litterbox)
Secret of the Wolves by
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

The second book in the "...of the Wolves" series, but I hadn't realized that and read it first by mistake. I was pretty quick to realize what was going on (the first part of the book was a massive info dump, I figured had to be explaining the first book). I didn't think I owned the first book, so I tried continuing on with this one. 'Starting in the middle of the series' issues aside, neither the writing nor the story worked for me, so gave up about 10% in.

The plot was unclear. Something about how gods had wanted to have wolves work with humans, and the wolves agreed, then someone (wolves or man) broke that promise. Thousands of years in the future, we arrive at current time (in the book, alternate universe) and wolves are just starting to be willing to work with humans again, though some wolves are against that.

Promise of the Wolves by
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Then it turned out I did actually own the first book in the series, so I tried reading that. Why would a first book start with an info dump? I slogged through that, but found the same issues with story and writing, so gave up on this one as well.

Beneath a Winter Moon by
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I'm starting to listen to signs that I shouldn't read a book. This one had a very long, very poorly written author's forward. It ended with "Note: This book has been edited by the author, only." I gave it a couple pages into the story to see if it would be as poorly edited as I suspected. It was. I deleted it.

Werewolf story, but I can't say more about it beyond that.

Currently reading: War Stories: New Military Science Fiction. Usually I wouldn't be very interested in war stories, but Karin Lowachee (author of the Warchild book I loved so much) has a story in this, so I bought it.

I'm two stories in, and I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would. So far it's more about people than wars. Her story is the second to last one, so I have a ways to go before getting to it.
thistlechaser: (Pirates for Obama)
Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

How in the world did this book get on my Kindle? I can only guess it was one of those monthly free books that publishers or Amazon give away.

It's 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between.

I do not want to read about Nazis. I especially don't want to read about Nazi characters who buy children and drill into their skulls (complete with description of the smell of burning bone and the children screaming). I have no interest in the supernatural or in demons. Seriously, why was this book on my Kindle?

I got about 8% in, which is really more chance than I should have given it, before giving up on it.

The Cat Kin by Nick Green
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I couldn't decide if this was a bad book or just a really strange book. In it all humans have a spark of cat soul within their own souls. For most people it's just a tiny spark, but some people have more. By complete random (unbelievable) chance, a woman with a cat soul finds a bunch of kids with lots of cat in their souls and trains them to become cats.

I could kind of go along with the story that far, but then it got into things like "catras" (instead of chakras) and cat-ing other new age stuff. Plus the "cat kin" (kids) did completely unreasonable things (even for cat-kid things). I reached the 50% of the book, thus counting it for the year, before giving up on it.

Duncton Wood by William Horwood
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

There was almost nothing bad about this one, but it didn't hook me either. It was like Watership Down with moles instead of rabbits. It kept using 'mole' in annoying ways though (like "Has anymole seen him?"), and that was the final straw to me giving up on the book.

I had really wanted to like this one, as I had heard it got really dark (murder, rape, etc... by moles!) but I have way too many books to read to stick with one that's not working for me.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: sickening)
I love all of you, my friends list people, but I'm getting seriously, seriously tired of LJ. I changed to S2, which means I lost my simple, clear, easy to read S1 style. And yet I still can't use the S2 features. I did open a support ticket, and I got a reply overnight (under 24 hours, impressive), but it didn't fix my issue.

I'm just tired of fighting with LJ all the time. It doesn't help that I finally made a Tumblr account, so I get an easy stream of effortless crack there. (, but it's only FFXIV/MMO stuff, so.)


Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I started out loving this book. In it a woman was swept up in a storm, and landed in a different world. A world sort of like ours, but with big differences (magic, land masses were very different, the world was mostly ocean, and yet the languages were very much like Earth languages).

The first quarter of the book, when she was learning about the world and its people, was outstanding. I loved it. Then it became a murder mystery, and her genius brother (literally a genius) showed up in the world, and my interest went through the floor. I reached the 42% point but gave up on it.

We Were Wilder by Rebecca K. O'Connor
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

The author usually writes nonfiction animal books, and that very much showed. There were two threads in this story, one about the main character's past, one about her in the current time. I quickly lost interest in the plotline about the past, and skimmed those sections, but enjoyed the current time one.

The story was set in a world where the vast majority of people were killed by a virus, a virus seemingly created by "re-wilding" America. Wild animals from all around the world were brought to this country and were set free on large plots of land. So America had elephants, lions, jaguars, cheetah, hyenas, giant turtles, basically any wild animal. This seemed to create the new virus that ended up killing off most people in their 20s or 30s (and some strains of it killed people much much younger).

There was a lot of logic you had to not question, but the story was interesting enough that this was a rare case where I was able to overlook plot holes. The main character was a young woman who needed to travel across the country on foot to reach the CDC and hopefully find a cure for the plague. She met and eventually befriended (or was befriended by) a wild dog, and near the end of the story she found a cheetah cub as well and raised her.

Unfortunately some of the plot/logic issues were harder to overlook. The story started 160 years after that virus killed off everyone. 160 years of not that many people around. Yet the girl named her cheetah Laura Croft and the dog McClane (after the main character of Die Hard). Even if the story's world hadn't been hit with the virus, I have a hard time believing those characters would be well known 160 years from now.

Anyway, even with its many issues, I really did enjoy reading about the girl and all the animals, wild and tame. The author clearly knew, loved, and respected the subject, and it came through in her writing.
thistlechaser: (tree)
A Captive in Rome by Kathy Lee
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Sometimes there are signs I should give up on a book before I start it. Things like this book being originally published by Scripture Union, this edition of it by The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. If I had checked the Amazon page, I would have found even more reason not to even give it a try:

Kathy Lee is one of Scripture Union's best-selling authors. Over the years, she has sold over 60,000 fiction books, helping children and young people learn about living God's way through fiction stories. Kathy has an amazing writing talent and is able to integrate Christian teaching convincingly into exciting, captivating storylines. Once people have read one of Kathy's books, they won't be able to wait to read the next one!

Still, I gave it a fair shot. For a book following a boy as he loses his family to war and is taken as a slave by the enemy, it was mind bogglingly boring. Nothing bad really happened to him as a slave. He had to work, but never really had to work much and was never hit or anything.

At one point he escapes, and is bitten by a dog. Some people of a super secret underground religion (Christianity) find him, and tell him about God. Just hearing about God makes the pain of the bite go away! I really should have stopped reading at that point, but I was hoping this would become 'so bad it was good' so kept going. Alas it stayed only boring and annoying, never got to the point of amusing. As the 50% point of the book neared, the religious stuff got more and more heavy handed, and eventually I gave up on it.

The Boy Who Drew Cats and Other Japanese Fairy Tales by Lafcadio Hearn and Francis A. Davis
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I read two of the stories in this book, getting to nearly the 50% point. There was nothing at all wrong with them, they were mildly interesting, but 'mildly interesting' isn't enough to keep me reading.

The first one I read was about how fairies punish lazy/messy people. That description makes the story sound a lot more exciting than it was. Basically they will mildly tease you (like dance around you) to shame you if you make a mess on the floor.

I also read the titular The Boy Who Drew Cats story, which was indeed about a boy who drew cats. One day he went to sleep and his cats came alive and killed a goblin. Of course the reader saw nothing of this, because the boy was asleep. We were just told that happened when he woke up...

Wild Blue: The Story of a Mustang Appaloosa by Annie Wedekind
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Unfortunately this was a children's book, not even YA. I'm sure kids might like the writing style. It tended to be very excited! Things happened! Look at all these things happening! Things! You can tell it's exciting just by the writing! It just didn't work for me. I didn't give it much of a chance at all abandoning it at the 4% point. I just couldn't put up with the writing style.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: hugging book)
First off: YAY 50! I made it to my goal for the year, with lots of time to spare! And what a good book for #50, too!

Gamescape: Overworld by Emma Trevayne
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Set on a just-barely-future Earth, where the problems have progressed further in the direction they're already headed (the air is a lot more polluted, the ozone layer mostly gone so the sun is more dangerous, etc), a company created a VR game. It's an escape from all the problems that people have, so "everyone" plays it, from teens to adults. (There's a minimum age, 12 I think it was, before you could play. But everyone over that spends much to most of their free time in the game.) It's the most popular thing on the planet, in part because you can earn "real life" rewards from it -- non-game item rewards.

And what prizes those are! The rewards are basically cyborg upgrades, everything from a mechanical finger to eyes that can function as cameras to engineered replacement organs. That last prize is the important one to our teenage main character, because he was born with a bad heart and is dying.

Luckily he's very good at the game, and on track to win the prize he needs...if he lives that long. Then he's tapped on the shoulder by the gamemakers to enter a special beta version of a better version of the game, one with even greater prizes, and thus an even higher chance of him living.

What made this book especially interesting were the "cutscenes" -- very short chapters about the gamemakers. Twice in the course of this book I questioned the author's decisions. The first time was during one of these cutscenes. She described the gamemakers as "basically psychopaths" and I rolled my eyes and got frowny at that. Where's the sense in that? Why would psychopaths make a game for the whole world to enjoy? But not only was that explained, the cutscenes/reasons behind the game were the best element of the whole story. They kept me guessing until the end, and I loved the twist about it!

The second time I second-guessed the author was near the end of the book. The main character and his two teenage friends successfully hacked into the computer system of the biggest company on the planet. The kids had never once hacked before. I'm SO glad I didn't stop reading at that point, because like the first example of me doubting the author, this was fully and completely explained in a 100% believable way.

It's so rare to find an author I can trust. I've read so many books where the characters do utterly unbelievable things, it's wonderful that everything in this book made sense and was realistic.

This was one of those rare times when I went offline earlier than usual at night, just so I'd have more reading time before I had to sleep.

I can't wait to find more books by her to read!
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: hugging book)
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a Harry Potter fanfic that's longer than all of the HP books put together. My rule for including fanfics in my 50 book/year goal was that I had to read it completely (where books read to the 50% point count) and it has to be longer than multiple books.

I've read and reviewed this book a couple times now, you can see my other reviews here and here. I love that fic so much, I'm ready to start it from the beginning again.


The Iron Ship by K. M. McKinley
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

A very, very, very slow moving story set on an alien? fantasy? planet. The descriptions of the world itself were interesting, but nothing else hooked me, and I gave up on this one fast.


So apparently this new kind of book I like (people trapped in a videogame/MMO) is actually a genre. LitRPG. Handy that it has a label, since that will make it easier to find more books of the type. There's even a reddit sub for it!
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: On stack)
Centurion and Emperador by Rob Schneider (Author), Patricia Schneider (Author), Francisco Herrera (Artist)
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Book received free for review from Diamond Book Distributors.

I went into this book thinking it was a graphic novel, so I was surprised to find it was a preschool book. I had originally accepted it because the art looked really Disney-ish, and it turns out that's accurate since Francisco Herrera is a Disney artist. Even more specifically, the cover's style felt very The Road to El Dorado-ish, so I made grabby hands at a copy.

I think it's the way the horses were drawn that gave it the El Dorado feel:

Anyway, it was a cute book, though of course I wasn't the target audience. If you have preschool kids, especially ones that like animals, they'd likely enjoy the book.

The Blind Dragon by Peter Fane
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I feel bad that I abandoned this book. I really, REALLY liked the interactions with the dragon, but they were too few and far between. I got about 20% in, and it was more about politics between two nations, and a completely unbelievable bad guy. Add on to that that so many of the names were annoying (like the nation named Dregon... they raise dragons), I just had enough. If it had been all about the girl and her dragon, I would have happily read on.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: sickening)
The Hunt by Megan Shepherd
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This book had potential. After my surprising enjoyment of the first book, the summary of the second prompted me to pick it up. It didn't take long before I started wishing I hadn't.

It's really the main character who ruined most of the book, the author/unbelievable events killed off the rest of my enjoyment.

The first book opened with a teenage girl, Cora, riding in a car driven by her brother. Snowy road, mountain pass... Chapter two started with her waking up somewhere else. A grasslands. Walk an hour in one direction, she found the ocean. Turn around and walk in the other direction, she found a snowy mountain. Other direction, desert. Etc. She (and I) assumed that she was dead, that she had died on that snowy road.

Then she meets another kid, a boy. Love Interes-- I mean Lucky. Lucky is the most boring, bland, unint--*yawn* The two of them explore, find a small handful of other teenagers. Then an alien shows up. Eight feet tall, black eyes, skin made of what looks like metal, and "beautiful". He tells them that sorry, but Earth was destroyed. His race are caretakers of "lesser" species and he's set this small group up here. They've made it the most Earth-like as possible, will feed them three times a day, and they can earn toys/games/candy by doing puzzles. He outright tells them the puzzles are there to challenge them, to give them something to do, so they won't get bored.

While the Earth being destroyed is bad, isn't that the best possible outcome a person could hope for?

Nope. Cora is a bitch endlessly. She's the worst teenager you could imagine. The alien caretaker, Cassian, loved Cora as well, setting up the most interesting of love triangles.

In book two we learn how much Cassian is really doing for the humans: There's a very small part of his race who think humans should be an equal species, not a lesser one, and they're working against their own people to make that happen. Cassian is one of the leaders of that movement. He tells her outright all of his plans. He lays out for her how he is going to get humans elevated. He tells her exactly what he needs her to do, what will happen each step of the way, and why things are important. And yet this idiot teenager decides that he is the enemy. Yes, he did lie to her once when he first met her, but he explained to her why he did it and why he had to do it.

I swear to god, I hated Cora so much. While white-bread bland, Lucky was a good kid, and loves her. Cassian is a great adult, an interesting alien, and for lord knows what reason, loved the brat as well.

On top of me frowning endlessly each time Cora showed up (a problem, as she's the main character), this book had unbelievable thing after unbelievable thing starting to happen, and eventually it got to be too much. I stopped reading at the 62% point.

I am slightly curious about how part of the trilogy will end. I know that Cora will succeed in the tests Cassian is helping her with and save humanity/elevate them to an equal species, but I am curious as to how the love triangle will resolve.

I suspect Cora will end up with Lucky, Cassian losing his life to help save the humans. But it could go the other way... So what do you think, readers? Which way will the author conclude the love triangle in the as yet unpublished third book?

[Poll #2055195]

Unfortunately, as I won't be reading the third book, I'll likely never know for sure.
thistlechaser: (Cat with book: Toy)
Shadows of a Superhero by Christopher D Schmitz
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Wow. My first Smashwords book that didn't suck! I've read so many books from there, and none of them rose above 'awful'. While Shadows of a Superhero wasn't great, it wasn't bad either, which makes it a winner!

It felt like it was a story set within some book series, but I guess it's just generic superhero-y enough to make it seem that way. It was surprisingly well edited for a self-published book, with only a small handful of errors, and most of them minor. The biggest one was a sentence with a missing word.

The plot was about a collection of sidekicks. Their hero was hurt badly and knocked out of commission, so they had to take over and try to fight the big bad guy themselves. A fun idea! The biggest downside for me was probably intentional though -- it was just so generically superheroish, I felt like I had seen these characters dozens of times before. The sidekicks were one big, strong, perfect fighter, highly skilled guy, one fellow in a wheelchair (the techie, of course), and a super-speed woman.

I'm afraid I lost interest in the story near the end and skimmed the last few pages. The characters never hooked me (see also: The whole generic superhero roles thing), and so it was hard to care about the whole thing.

Though Shadows of a Superhero didn't work for me, it might work well for someone else. It wasn't perfect, but it did rise above its origins story.

Reading next: The Hunt, the second book in the The Caged series that I started before this one.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: space2)
The Cage by Megan Shepherd
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I should have hated this book. It did all the worst things a YA book could do... and yet the author pulled it off. Not only did I not hate it, I actually enjoyed almost all of it.

At first, I had a serious case of deja vu. I was certain I had read this book before, but it turned out it was just one with a similar plot. Back in 2013, I read and reviewed a god awful book called The Zoo. Review 1: The worst book in the history of bad books and Review 2: I deserve a reward or punishment for finishing this book.... In both The Zoo and The Cage, aliens steal teenagers from earth, put them into a human zoo, and told them they have a month or less to get pregnant.

In addition to the near-fatal flaw of being like The Zoo, The Cage had a number of other issues. A love triangle. A seriously annoying female main character.

However, other than the main character being annoying, the author made everything work. Aliens stealing teenagers from Earth? She made it make perfect sense. Aliens wanting the teenagers to get pregnant? Ugh, but yes, she made it make sense. The love triangle? She not only made it make sense, but I liked it! That never happens. Plus the book had a great twist. And I LOVED the aliens!

With rare exception, the characters were realistic and believable. The exception to that was a change I suspect was made since this was a YA book. In some third world country, a beautiful girl was hired by a "modeling agency" to move to some other country and become a model. In the real world, that would have lead to sexual slavery, but in the book, the girl actually was a model. Starved and beaten and abused, but no mention of sex at all, just photo shoots.

While the second book in this series is already out, I don't think I'm going to pick it up. Usually I would, since I enjoyed the first one, but I feel like I'm playing with fire -- nothing in this story should have worked, and so I'm worried the second book would lose whatever made this "shouldn't work" situation work... which is silly. It's the author who made this work, and I should trust her through a second book... and I am curious as to where the story will go, so... sigh. Maybe I'll pick it up.

Edit: Oh wow, the summary of the second book sounds really good! Okay, getting it for sure.


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