Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum by Gregory Funaro – A Review

A Copy of this Novel was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The blurb, as always: “When Grubb, an orphan and runaway chimney sweep, entered the wondrous world of the Odditorium, his life changed forever. Apprenticed to the mechanical marvel’s strange proprietor, Alistair Grim, Grubb unfortunately must settle into his new position on the lam, as the whole of London is convinced that Alistair Grim is a villain bent on mass destruction. Grim, however, has come up with a plan to expose the real villain: Prince Nightshade, a wicked necromancer who wants the Odditorium’s power source for himself.

With the evil prince hot on their trail, Grim, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium’s crew embark on a perilous adventure to find the legendary sword Excalibur: the only weapon capable of penetrating Nightshade’s magical suit of armor. As expected, their quest turns out to be anything but ordinary. Not only can the Odditorium fly, but it can also swim! And so the crew battens down the hatches and sets off on an underwater voyage to the otherworldly realm of Avalon, home to Excalibur. Along the way, they must battle a banshee assassin, sea monsters, and a witch who seeks revenge on Alistair Grim for stealing her magical objects.

But that’s not all. Unbeknownst to Grubb and the others, their fate has been written in an ancient Avalonian prophecy—a prophecy that holds the key to a destiny not even Alistair Grim could have possibly imagined.”

So before I really get into anything here, be aware of this: This is a sequel. To a book I personally have not read. And unfortunately, this book reads as a sequel.  Go read the first one if you are even remotely interested.

Because honestly, here is very little time spent on character development or interpersonal relationships, because its obviously been built up in the previous book.  Everything in this book was setup in the first.  EVERYTHING.

My biggest issue here was the fact that I was unaware it was a sequel. The blurb kinda hints at it, but doesn’t really make it clear. However, within a few pages it becomes very clear very quickly that things occurred in a book prior to this, major things, and these things are never really explained or gone over in any detail for those of us who are coming in mid-series.

Now, I don’t mind this generally. Plenty of book do this, but the issue here is that there are also a ton of books and even long running series that do not do this, and are actually able to be read in really any order, as each book is a self contained story.

The Dresden Files are a good example of this.

But my personal favorite example is The Elenium Series, by David Eddings.

I actually received the 3rd book of that series as a gift when I was a kid and did not know it was book 3. I read it, loved it, found it there were 2 other books, and went and read them in order.

And I missed NOTHING.

Every major event from the first two was referenced perfectly in book 3.

Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum really does not do that. The author clearly assumes you have read the first book and just goes forward with the plot.

And truthfully, the plot is not that great if you have no vested interest in the characters. And if you have not read the first book, you won’t have that connection. And thus everything falls apart. Which is exactly what happened to me.

On a technical level, the writing is good. But I found myself rather bored with the whole thing. I didn’t click with any characters, and really did not see any reason to care. Nothing was bad, but nothing was really fascinating.

I am curious as to why the author felt he had to make up a word to replace Artifacts. Cause these folk refer to Artifacts…as Odditoria. And going on an Aquaticum refers the an underwater adventure.

Because WHIMSY!

I give this a 3/5. I would suggest checking out the first book before even touching this one, otherwise you will miss a whole lot.

And truthfully I most likely won’t bother with the first one simply because this one failed to interest me on its own.

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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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The Builders by Daniel Polansky – A Review

A Copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The Blurb: “A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.

The last job didn’t end well.

Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain’s company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.”

So I admit, freely, that the blurb explains almost nothing. But it gives you a solid idea none the less. This sounded like a story of betrayal, revolution, and vengeance. And you know what? It delivers on all these fronts.

Firstly, I ended up grabbing this book because of the cover. It showed animals, and I have a thing for animals acting like people in fiction. I love the Redwall series, for example, and movies like The Secret of Nimh, Watership Down, and the Wind in the Willows. Basically, even as an adult, I love these sort of books.

And honestly, I figured this would not be that dark. I was WRONG.

This is NOT for kids. If Redwall is for kids, this is for those who grew up on Redwall but want something more….gritty. This is the story of The Captain. That is the only name he is given. He is a mouse, who is described as having a “face of stone”. He is grizzled, violent, grim, smokes cigars, and wields a pair of pistols. He is known for being highly intelligent as well.

He is aided by the rat Reconquista, the owl Elf, the stoat Bonsior (and never call him anything BUT a Stoat, or a Frenchman), the opossum Boducia, the salamander Cinnabar, the mole Gertrude, and the badger Barley. And each of these characters has their own wit and charm. Cinnabar, for example, is nicknamed the Dragon and is known as a master gunfighter, faster then anyone else. Boducia is a sniper and camouflage expert. Bonsior is an assassin and thief. And so on.

Each is introduced in a flashback, but its a flashback about the Captain going back to recruit them for “one last job”. This story takes place after another story, but as far as I can tell that other story does not exist in written form, its simply referenced here. And the writing does a solid job of referencing things while keeping everything current.

This book is brutal with its action scenes. At one point, in order to recruit Barley for example, the Captain sends a pair of rats into his store to try to kill him. Barley goes berserk, basically turns the rats into paste, and then nearly kills the Captain. Everything is graphic and bloody and would make GRR Martin proud.

The world is also interesting. The story takes place in “The Garden” which is not really defined, geographically. However, there are references to real world places like France and the like. It makes me wonder just were this story takes place. In our world? In a world like ours? It got me thinking, and that is always a good thing.

The writing just oozes character, and its hard to really discuss this book without gushing over it. I saw no grammar problems or spelling errors, and the pacing was just spot on. At times, in fact, I forgot I was reading about animals. Each character had personality, especially the villains, and by the end of it I wanted more. There was no cliffhanger ending however, and everything was resolved by the end.

Overall I give this a solid 4/5. If you want a gritty but humorous story with a great setting, fun characters, and solid action, give the Builders a look. Bonsior would be most happy if you did, and trust me, you want to make him happy.

The Paladin Caper by Patrick Weekes – A Review

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an Honest Review

Alright, before I even get to the blurb I need to warn you. This review will HAVE SPOILERS for the first two books, The Palace Job and The Prophecy Con, in it. And some minor ones for the Paladin Caper. I have to do this because I need to explain why I am going to give it the rating I intend to give it. If all you want to know is if I recommend this book, then the answer is no, and its going to get a 2/5. If you want to know the WHY then read on. The cut will come after the blurb.

The Book Blurb: “A thief’s good deeds are never done.

Loch and her crew are determined to stop the ancients from returning to reclaim the world they once ruled, but a kidnapped friend throws their plans awry. When a desperate rescue turns into a shocking reunion, the ancients return and seize power. Determined to stop them, Loch and the crew look for a way to close the gate to the ancients’ world, but this time, they find themselves up against an enemy that has insinuated itself into the highest ranks of the Republic. Cruel, cunning, and connected, the ancients target the crew’s families and histories, threatening to tear friendships apart.

If that weren’t bad enough, Loch must deal with her treacherous assassin sister, her turncoat ancient friend, and a daemon who has sworn to hunt her to the ends of the earth. In order to save the Republic and pull off her largest con ever, Loch will need her friends…and maybe her enemies too.”

Continue reading “The Paladin Caper by Patrick Weekes – A Review”

The Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes – A Review

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an Honest Review

The Blurb: “Book Two in the Rogues of the Republic series.

Who would have thought a book of naughty poems by elves could mean the difference between war and peace? But if stealing the precious volume will keep the Republic and the Empire from tearing out each other’s throats, rogue soldier Isafesira de Lochenville – “Loch” to friends and foes alike – is willing to do the dishonest honors. With her motley crew of magic-makers, law-breakers, and a talking warhammer, she’ll match wits and weapons with dutiful dwarves, mercenary knights, golems, daemons, an arrogant elf, and a sorcerous princess.

But getting their hands on the prize – while keeping their heads attached to their necks – means Loch and company must battle their way from a booby-trapped museum to a monster-infested library, and from a temple full of furious monks to a speeding train besieged by assassins. And for what? Are a few pages of bawdy verse worth waging war over? Or does something far more sinister lurk between the lines?

From Patrick Weekes, one of the minds behind the critically acclaimed Mass Effect video game series, “The Prophecy Con” continues the action-packed fantasy adventure that kicked off in “The Palace Job.”

Alrighty, this is going to be rough for me. You see, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was, honestly, more of what made “The Palace Job” fun and an enjoyable read. Right up until the ending.

But I will come back to that. This book takes place a bit after The Palace Job, with Loch and her crew having gone their seperate ways and Loch being assigned as a guard for a diplomatic mission to the Empire, due to the events at the end of the first book. Things go off the rails pretty damn fast, and it comes to light that the Empire demands that the Republic give them the Elf Poem Book from the Palace Job. Which they do not have anymore.

So it becomes almost like a race to see if the Empire can catch Loch before she can get the book. But other things are afoot as well, and as the book progresses it turns out more and more that this is not about the Elf Book but rather something much more.

It is a fun and enjoyable read to be sure. Lots of action, wit, humor, and all the crew makes a comeback at some point. There are two major issues however with the book. One concerns the Epilogue/Post Script, and the other is one of perspective.

You see, this is most assuredly the second book in a series. Everything is written and introduced in a way that very clearly shows a history between everyone. Early on for example the unicorn Ululenia is questioned as to where Dairy is. Unless you have read the first book you will have zero idea who Dairy is nor why its funny that she gets mad about him being mentioned. None. There is no real context presented. In fact, Dairy himself doesn’t appear till about the halfway point in a pretty damn solid twist. The whole book has instances where this occurs, meaning that if you have not read the first book a lot of the humor and references will be lost.

The second issue comes in the Epilogue, and then a hidden “Post Scripts” bit. You see, after the events of the book, we get an Epilogue, which shows the results of everything that took place. During the epilogue a major event occurs that shakes things up. I mean MAJOR.

After the Epilogue in the EBook I was reading came the Authors Thank You, and most people I know would close the book out at this point as its clearly the end.

But nope, there is a Post Scripts bit. A literal “After Credits” scene in the book. And the only reason I caught it is I have this wierd obsession with making every book be at 100% completion, so I tend to just flip through the Thank You and whatever else is at the back.

So imagine my surprise when I hit this Post Script bit…which then erases the major shakeup that occured in the Epilogue! I about facepalmed.

And the funniest thing is that I started reading Book 3, the Paladin Caper, right after I finished. And Chapter 1 of that is written in a way that assumes you did NOT read the Post Script scene.

Overall, its a decent read, and while it is a self contained story, if you came into this series with this book first you would most likely not enjoy it as much as say I would, simply because you would not get many of the references.

I rate this a 3.5/5. This is because its a 4 if you have read the Palace Job, and 3 if you have not.

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Why I Review

Another interesting question I got at work while in the breakroom was why I write reviews.

I was sitting there, reading another book, and one of my coworkers commented that I have been reading a lot lately.  As far as anyone at work really knows, I am the video games guy.  And to a point that’s true.  I am THE video games person at work.  We have a few others who play but not at the same rate or with the same passion as me.

Apparently that’s becoming the same with reading.  So I told them, point blank, that I had started reading more in order to both see what I had missed in the past years in the way of sci-fi and fantasy, and in order to start sharing my thoughts with others via reviews.

So then I was asked if I got paid to review.  I said no.

Do I have a lot of people reading my reviews?  At this time, I said not really.

Then why do it?  They asked me.

I told them, honestly, two reasons.  Reason one was that I enjoy sharing my opinions about the things I read and see, and experience.  Its why I did restaurant reviews long ago.  Its why I dabbled in game reviews.  But I find that book reviews seem to come easier for me.  I am unsure why.  But I like to share my thoughts on books and how I feel about them, in an effort to maybe expose people to things they might have missed.

The second reason I said, and it was a more selfish reason, was to get more books.  They asked how that worked and I explained the concept of ARCs and NetGalley and they nodded, but still didn’t get it.  I explained that by asking for early copies of books I could read them earlier then others, but the cost was to review the book honestly.

Then they asked again “But you don’t get paid huh.”

No, I answered.

Apparently doing something for free was not something they understood.  I can understand that.  Its an odd thing to do something that takes so much time sometimes and not get any compensation.

But I do get compensation.  I get to share with others what I enjoy, and sometimes I get free stuff.  That’s enough payment for me.

Marked by Sue Tingey – A Review

A Copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an Honest Review

THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS HERE YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

The Book Blurb: “In a world filled with charlatans, Lucinda “Lucky” de Salle’s psychic ability has always made her an outcast, even as it has also made her a sought-after (if reluctant) investigator of paranormal phenomena. With no remaining family and very few friends, she has only one “person” she can rely on–Kayla, the ghost girl who has been her constant companion since she was born.

When Lucky is called in to investigate a spectral disturbance at the all-girls school she attended as a child, she isn’t surprised. She herself had had a terrifying confrontation with the troubled spirits of two girls who died in the attic room. But when Lucky goes up to the attic, she discovers that the vicious little girls are the least of the problem–a demon has been released into this world, a creature of such malevolence that even the spirits of the two girls are afraid. When the demon demands that Kayla be handed over to him, Lucky realizes that this case will be like no other she has ever experienced.

For one thing, it seems that her chatty, snarky spirit companion is not what she has always seemed to be… “

This is going to be the first and hopefully only time I do this. This is a book I DID NOT FINISH, prior to writing this review. And part of the reason is the above blurb, which is from Netgalley itself. I made it through half the book before I just about threw my phone (its an EBook) away from me in a combination of horror, surprise, and rage.

You see, that blurb makes the book seem like a supernatural mystery story. Its not. Its Paranormal Romance with an almost fanfiction level main character. You ever hear jokes about people who Roleplay online, who have those “Half demon Half Dragon MC with a Tortured Past who has no idea about their heritage and just wants to be loved!” kind of things?

Well! Lucinda does not start out that way, seemingly. But rather, ends up BECOMING that way. Also the stuff that the Netgalley / Amazon blurb mentions take place in the first chapter of the book. And yes, this is the blurb used on Amazon page. Thats right.

Here come the spoilers. Under the little cut right here.

Continue reading “Marked by Sue Tingey – A Review”