Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D Hammons – A Review

A Copy of this book was provided to me by Netgalley in Exchange for an Honest Review!

As always lets start with the blurb: “After ten years of being told she can’t tell the difference between real life and a fairy tale, Alice finally stops believing in Wonderland. So when the White Rabbit shows up at her house, Alice thinks she’s going crazy.

Only when the White Rabbit kicks her down the rabbit hole does Alice realize that the magical land she visited as a child is real.

But all is not well in Wonderland.

The Ace of Spades has taken over Wonderland and is systematically dismantling all that makes it wonderful. Plain is replacing wondrous, logical is replacing magical, and reason is destroying madness. Alice decides she must help the Mad Hatter and all those fighting to keep Wonderland wonderful.

But how can she face such danger when she is just a girl?

Alice must journey across the stars to unite an army. She discovers that fairy tales are real in the magical world beyond the rabbit hole. But they are not the fairy tales she knows.

Fairy tales have dangers and adventures of their own, and Alice must overcome the trials of these old stories if she wants to unite the lands against Ace.

With the help of Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White and heroes old and new, Alice may have the strength to take back Wonderland.

I find myself torn with this one. On the one hand, I really honestly enjoyed myself with it, for the most part. The re-imagining of the various fairy tales were inspired and unique for one. The idea, for example, and Snow White is a booze runner was hilarious, and that she was having a feud with Red Riding Hood was just the right amount of insane.

The basic story here is that Alice in Wonderland really happened, and that Alice is not a girl from the Victorian era of England, but rather a girl from our time. Apparently, the “rabbit hole” that connects the dimension of Wonderland to ours is almost a wormhole, and echos of events that take place in Wonderland and its fairy tale neighbors escape to our world, and become the books we read. Because Wormholes don’t follow time and space laws, you end up with the story of Alice going to another reality and becoming a book written in the past, for example.

When Alice gets back home however, no one of course believes her in regards to her adventures, and they start drugging him with anti schizophrenia and ADHD medications. This was something I could understand, as today parents frequently heavily medicate their children.

Eventually Alice grows up, and around 17 years old sees the White Rabbit, who steals her meds, and drags her back into Wonderland, where all hell has broken loose…because Wonderland is changing.

From there Alice goes on a journey to find a way to save Wonderland. She meets a colorful cast of characters, deals with a few challenges, and then the one thing that pisses me off about the book occurs.

Romance happens. Suddenly, without warning, and without any logical reason I could see.

One of the first people Alice meets is Peter Pan, who tells her that she is a Fairy Tale to him as he remembers his book before he came to Neverland. She knows Peter Pan as a fairy tale.

She askes for his help and they team up after she helps him solve some issues. They act, for the majority of the book, as just a pair of friends. No real hints of romance or anything. Then suddenly after a major battle…Peter kisses her, and next thing you know the two are inseparable. I had to sit there and think for a minute pondering if I missed something.

I did not.

The ending in fact happens the way it does SOLELY because of the two of them being suddenly in love.

At least the ending did not sequel bait.

Overall I enjoyed the book but the ending honestly soured it for me. If the romance had made sense I would have been fine with it, but it did not. Not for me at least.

I rate this a 3/5 and suggest it to anyone who likes twisted fairy tales. Honestly, they are the best part. Alice is nice and all, but when you meet Pinocchio you will smile broadly, I promise.

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EBooks vs Physical Books

Lets be honest here, a book is a book and a story is a story.  The format really doesn’t matter in the end.  An E-Book can take you on an adventure just as easily as a paperback or hardcover can, and in some cases cost less overall.

But why choose one over the other?  I am sure other folks have weighed in on this topic before.  I am not the first and certainly will not be the last to discuss this concept.  But I wanted to chime in and give my 3.5 cents on the matter.  Thats right, its totally more then 2 cents.  Its because I care.

So lets list out the pros and then the cons of the two formats, to begin the little discussion here.  There are few differences between the two formats so it will be a short list.

PROS of EBooks:

1 – Cost.  EBooks tend to be cheaper to purchase.  Amazon has thousands at 99 cents and many regular non indie titles run $4.99 or less.
2 – Portability.  EBooks are easier to take with you.  For example, I have an old Samsung Galaxy S3 that I no longer use.  It has 16GB of Space.  It is basically a portable EBook reader now.  And MP3 player
3 – Space.  16gb Of internal storage on my phone holds a LOT

PROS of Physical Editions:

1 – Style.  Nothing says awesome like a nice bookshelf full of books
2 – Feeling.  There is something about holding an actual book, its smell, its feel that just tells you “Its time for an adventure”.

CONS of EBooks:

1 – DRM.  Many EBooks use DRM.  While its highly unlikely it IS possible for a service to revoke your license for a book.  Remember, ANY digital download from a service that has DRM is more a rental then you owning it.
2 – Reader Cost and Usability.  EBook readers are not the cheapest things in the world, and in some cases are even unwieldy. Cell phones help but the screens are tiny

CONS of Physical Editions:

1 – Decay.  Books can and will eventually break down.  Glue wears out, covers get faded.
2 – Cost.  Paperbacks usually range around $8, but brand new hardcovers can easily hit $30.  Buying used can get around this but then you run into issues of decay and breakdown.
3 – SPACE.  Christ bookshelves take up floor space.

They are, in the end, similar.  So why the debate?  Why do people talk about one over the other?

I suppose part of it has to do with how we were raised.  I grew up prior to the digital age.  I am 33 now.  And while I have always been a bit of a techie, I grew up before cell phones could use the internet.  Back when going to the library to borrow books was a great time out.  Kids growing up now however have access to the net almost from the day they are born, with cell phones and tablets at their beck and call.

Technology is moving ahead.  Print is not dead, far from it.  Comics are still preferred in print form (unless designed for the web I prefer print comics when I do read them), and plenty of people young and old prefer to have something they can hold in their hand, a feeling of permanence to go along with it.  Personally I see an argument for both, and truly I would love to start seeing say Print Editions coming with codes for the EBook versions, for folks like me who want both options. That would be the best thing ever.

If you had asked me a year or so ago I would have told you that for everything but Game Rulebooks I would have gone with Ebooks every time.  I have always preferred my tabletop rpg books to be physical, easier to reference.  But now, I can see both sides.  Its nice to always have my little pocket ebook reader with me to read on the go, but when I am home its annoying to use and would prefer to read an actual book, if I can.

Which do you prefer?  Do you have a preference?

SoulServe by Robert S Wilson – A Review

I was given a copy of this book by the Author in Exchange for an Honest Review

The Book Blurb: “An emotional and suspenseful prequel to e-Thriller.com’s July 2013 Thriller of the Month, EXIT REALITY from the Ray Garret/Lifeline cyberpunk detective technothriller series!

Death is but a doorway… when SoulServe holds the key.

One by one, a group of scientists at Brizen Health are being murdered by… something. Doctors, subjects, and even janitors are reporting disturbances in Section 671, the Neuro-Technical Division. Ever since the death of Dr. Carl Broxson, the server room in Section 671 has maintained a negative 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Printers turn themselves on and print out terrifying cryptic messages. People have been seeing things in and out of the virtual world of the Lifeline. Including the apparition of their beloved colleague Dr. Broxson himself.

When local police realize the case leads directly into the deep digital canyon of the Lifeline, Antivii agent Ray Garret is called to the scene to get to the bottom of things before another brilliant mind can be taken. But when his wife, Rhonda, starts falling at random and begins to have seizures, the ghost in Brizen Health could be Ray’s only hope to save the love of his life.”

Alright, this review should be pretty short because this was a novella, and honestly there is not much to talk about. SoulServe is the prequel of another novel called Exit Reality. It deals with the character Ray Garret and his investigation into a series of murders happening at a place called Brizen Health.

I know that what I just said is up there in the blurb but that is because there is not much else to this story.

This is at best average for me. You see, Exit Reality came first, and I assume that there are better explanations as to the characters and world in that then in this, because frankly I know next to nothing about anything other then who the villain was and how the story played out. I know almost nothing about Ray other then the fact that he is something called an “Antivii Agent”. I have no idea what Antivii is though. I got the idea that the Lifeline is basically the net only visually. After 3 chapters I finally learned what HPDID was (seriously, if you are going to use an Acronym please tell me what it means as soon as it first appears!) and realized it was basically a jack in device for said Lifeline.

I know that Ray was married to Rhonda, and that she got sick.

But beyond that? I know next to nothing. I don’t know WHO these people are. Or what these things are. There was next to no world building done, and I can almost guess that it would be very difficult to do so in 100 pages. Further, early on plot points feel disjointed as the narrative seems to jump from event to event, almost like the bits in between are meaningless. Everything just felt rushed.

Now, thankfully it does have a solid ending, with everything about the case wrapped up. And the actual technical aspects of the writing such as format, spelling, and grammar usage are all spot on. But it felt, well, soulless. I did not care what happened to Rhonda because I knew nothing about her. How could I? My intro to her was her making dinner and falling down, then her going to a doctor, then her having a seizure. She is basically there to make Ray emotional.

Then there is a strange bit involving a woman trying to seduce Ray for some strange reason which I still don’t understand. That came out of left field honestly. Especially given the ending.

Truth be told I feel this would have been much better if it honestly had more world building and time spent getting me hooked on the characters. But things moved so quickly I could not really connect with anyone or anything here. It just felt so lifeless.

Overall I give this a 3/5. I am not a fan of this at all, its dead average for me, and I don’t think I would want to read Exit Reality at this point, as that actually was written BEFORE this one, and thus I am worried that the mistakes and missteps here are repeated there.

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Do you keep your EGalleys after your Review them?

So I have gotten a few books from NetGalley now. Several I enjoyed, and several I most assuredly did not. However, in every case, I find myself deleting the files from my reader rather then keep them. I know that some of them have expiration dates on them (but hell if I know when those dates are, my files never tell me) so that just speeds things up.

Now, the ones I have gotten from Authors I keep in my email for a rainy day, assuming again I like them. They feel more…special to me, I guess. I didn’t ask for them, but rather they asked me and that means a bit more to me.

How about you? Do you keep your EGalleys till they expire or no?

Kill the Dead, Sandman Slim Book 2 by Richard Kadrey – A Review

imageSo I snagged this up after reading the first book, Sandman Slim. I was fascinated by the idea of a book where the protagonist is such a, well, asshole. That’s the only way to really describe James Stark. A giant asshole who cares for no one but his dead girlfriend Alice and his obsession with revenge on the man who sent him to Hell.

This was basically more of the same from the first novel. Lots of action, wit, and violence. Lots of Stark being a combination asshole and badass. He teams up with a Porn Star to actually hunt down Drifters, aka Zombies or Zeds as the book calls em, while at the same time having to bodyguard Lucifer himself.

Its a wild ride from start to finish and a whole lot of fun.

I do have a few complaints. Mainly, with Slim himself. He comes off frequently as one note. He pretty much has only 2 settings: Rage and Snark. Thats it. Its fun, and enjoyable, but after 2 novels he shows very little actual growth. Here he does exhibit more human traits, such as caring for a few people around him. But again, his general outlook is “everything is shit and humans are shit”.

Do not read this if you want to have faith in humanity restored. This book is not pleasant in that regard, and frequently discuss sex, drugs, and violence against people in the very plainest of terms.

Overall its another popcorn book and more of the same of the first.  Again I would give this a 4/5 and suggest it to folks who enjoyed the first book and want more of the same.  For me, I may wait to read the later novels as I can only take so much grit at once.

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Sandman Slim Book 1 by Richard Kadrey – A Review

imageI grabbed this book up in an attempt to find something to fill the hole that the Dresden Files had left in my soul.

What I got was not more Dresden.

I instead got what can only be described as a Punk Rock Asshole Monster Hunter, with the name James “Sandman Slim” Stark. A man sent to Hell by his so called friends, he spends 11 years in the depths becoming the Monster who Kills Monsters. He manages to escape after killing his owner, and goes about planning vengeance on the man who sent him Downtown. Along the way he meets a cast of colorful characters who are all broken in their own way.  A personal favorite being Kasabian.  I won’t ruin the surprise that comes from dealing with this guy.

NOTHING deters him in his quest for vengeance. It doesn’t help that the man he hunts also apparently murdered the one girl Stark loved, which is what prompted him to escape Hell in the first place.

Stark comes off as a very violent, driven, and somewhat insane man who lives only to exact his revenge.

Along the way, he may just save the world. But hey, that’s just a side effect really.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, and the world that Stark inhabits.  You get a real good look at a darker grittier LA, from the perspective of someone who has clearly seem some shit.

I would call this a Popcorn book, aka a book that is a quick read, and nothing too earth shattering.  Just a fun enjoyable ride and I would rate this a 3.5/5.

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The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – A Review

Urban Fantasy.  Back when this genre was just getting started with the likes of the Dresden files, I avoided it like the plague.  Most of the books I had seen in the genre all talked about “the main character and their sexy sidekick”.  It still happens now in fact.  I have no idea why they do this.

But The Rook is different.

The Rook is the story of Myfanwy Thomas (Pronounced Miffany), a wonderful lady who wakes up a park with no memory of who she is, surrounded by dead bodies of men with rubber gloves on their hands.  From there she embarks on an adventure to discover who she is and why people apparently tried to murder her.

Eventually she discovers she is a Rook, an officer in a government organization called the Checquy, and that like every officer in that organization she has a special ability.  In her case, she can control a person’s central nervous system by touch.

The world of The Rook is fantastic, and while I personally am not a huge fan of Amnesia stories in general, this one pulls it off quite well.  It had turned out that the original Myfanwy prior to having her memory wiped was a meticulous planner as well as a bit of a doormat.  This plays into how the story is told, through a combination of letters from Old Myfanwy to the new one (who is much less a Doormat now), that assist in trying to navigate life in the Chequey while also tracking down the person who tried to kill her.

I have no real complaints with the book either.  As a first outing its fantastic, and I personally cannot wait for the sequel, Stiletto.

Oh and I must mention the humor.  Several times the book had me laughing wholeheartedly.  One quote I will always remember is “This Duck tells me nothing!”.  Another one is “You may want to rethink the cardigan.  The flowers on the pocket detract from your menace”.

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