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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The Shootout Solution, Genrenauts Episode 1 by Michael R Underwood – A Review

A Copy of this Novella was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an Honest Review

First up, as always, we have the blurb: “Leah Tang just died on stage.
Not literally.
Not yet.

Leah’s stand-up career isn’t going well. But she understands the power of fiction, and when she’s offered employment with the mysterious Genrenauts Foundation, she soon discovers that literally dying on stage is a hazard of the job!

Her first job takes her to a Western world. When a cowboy tale slips off its rails, and the outlaws start to win, it’s up to Leah – and the Genrenauts team – to nudge the story back on track and prevent major ripples on Earth.

But the story’s hero isn’t interested in winning, and the safety of Earth hangs in the balance…”

So this caught my eye. I had heard whispers here and there about this concept, this idea. A series where the idea that all genres of fiction, from Romance to Fantasy to Historical Fiction were real, and that there were people who would police them.

This is the first in a series of Novella’s exploring a team whose job is to go into these places, and correct the Story.

The basic idea is that each of these worlds follow the general Genre conventions of their particular style. Western’s are categorized as being gritty, with clear Heroes and Villains. Fantasy has your wizards and dragons. Sci-Fi with its spaceships. Spy World would have non stop skullduggery. And each of these places affect Earth via Ripples. When a world gets out of balance, we get affect, generally in a negative way.

In this book, the Western world goes off the rails, with the Bad Guys actually defeating the Hero and making off with a ton of loot. Its up to the Genrenauts, and their new recruit Leah Tang to fix it.

While the book is short (it is a novella after all) I could not help but get sucked right into the concept. Everything is explained just enough to get me going. The characters are great and interesting, and they included both our main character who is an Asian Female (this is rare as hell) and even had a Transgender lady (male to female). It comes up briefly, and then just moves right on. Its well done, and fun.

And that’s the biggest draw here. The entire book is just FUN. Its not deep, or meaningful. You won’t find answers to your own self doubt or anything here. But you will find action, adventure, and just a generally fun time.

I honestly can’t wait for the next book in this series. I want to see where things go!

I rate this a solid 4/5. If the concept interests you I urge you to grab this up, read it, and become a fan like me. Also its like $3 for the Kindle edition, so no excuses folks! Bookworms really should give this a read!

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November TBR

I figured I would start doing this. At this point, I am already 2 books in.


First I read Genrenauts and just finished that on Wednesday.


Next up, I am working on Alice Takes Back Wonderland!


After this one, I am going to be moving to Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum!


I also need to continue working on Writers of the Future Vol 31.


And I still have to read Monsterland.


And Shadows of Self.


And Railsea.


Steampunk!


Oh and Sky Ghosts.

Not sure I have enough….

RANT: The “Sexy” Character in Urban Fantasy

This is a blurb for a book I saw on Netgalley. I was interested…right up until I saw a specific line. Here is the blurb.

“When Maddie Kosloski’s career flatlines, she retreats to her wine-country hometown for solace and cheap rent. Railroaded into managing the local paranormal museum, she’s certain the rumors of its haunting are greatly exaggerated. But a new ghost may be on the loose. A fresh corpse in the museum embroils Maddie in murders past and present.

With her high school bully as one of the officers in charge, Maddie doubts justice will be served. When one of her best friends is arrested, she’s certain it won’t be.

Maddie grapples with ghost hunters, obsessed taxidermists, and the sexy motorcyclist next door as outside forces threaten. And as she juggles spectral shenanigans with the hunt for a killer, she discovers there truly is no place like home.”

The book is The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kristen Weiss.

Now, if based on the title you can’t figure out which line I am angry about its this one – “and the sexy motorcyclist next door”. This is my beef with Urban Fantasy.

Every time I look at a blurb now, I dread seeing that line. And almost every single urban fantasy author out there has it on the back of their book. WHY?! WHY does your book need that “sexy” character? Why do you feel the need to make sure to point that out on the blurb? WHY?! So many books do this now. Not just Urban Fantasy (but they seem to be the biggest culprit of it)

Its the fastest way to turn my interest down to zero. If you have to point out there is going to be a sexy character, then that tells me I am not going to enjoy this. Now if you removed the word sexy the blurb would still work. It would. But nope, we gotta make sure people know that there is gonna be this sexy motorcyclist. Could be a sexy librarian. Sexy ghost? SEXY WITCH! IT DOESNT MATTER THEY ALL HAVE THIS SEXY CHARACTER AND DAMNIT YOU WILL KNOW ABOUT IT RIGHT HERE AND NOW BEFORE YOU EVEN CRACK OPEN THE COVER!

GAH!

STOP IT! Bad AUTHOR! BAD! NO. 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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Frivolous Pursuits by DC Farmer – A Review

A Copy of this Book was given to me in exchange for an honest review, by Netgalley

So let me start, right here, by saying this. If you read nothing else about my review, if you want to go in with just my recommendation: Go read this book. If you have any interest in Urban Fantasy you need to read this.

Lets start of course, with the blurb:

“Darren Trott has a job, a feisty girlfriend (with plans) and a house with potential. Oh yes, he’s living the dream. It just isn’t the dream he applied for.

You see, Darren likes taking photos of plastic models in real world settings. He calls it art. His girlfriend Amanda calls it a frivolous pursuit. She wants him to give it all up and turn his garage studio into a nail bar. Trouble is, his ‘art’ won’t let him. Every time Darren takes a picture, something very peculiar happens. Something amazing, and weird, and genuinely out of this world.

Psychopathic relatives, aboriginal demons, warrior queens, and a Brownie called George (with claws, a pork-pie hat and an attitude bigger than a banker’s wage), all want a piece of Darren. But they’ll have to form an orderly queue because there’s the small matter of an impending apocalypse to sort out first…

DC Farmer cordially invites you to join him in exploring the next white-knuckle case report from the Hipposync archives, following on from the highly received, The 400Lb Gorilla.”

So that blurb does not do this story justice. First, and foremost, this book is exceedingly well written. It has a dry British styled humor throughout for one. Every word has its place and nothing is wasted.

Further, the story is just plain engrossing. I could not stop reading, and after a certain point I had to finish. I just had to. I needed to see where things went.

Next, I wanted to talk about the characters. Our protagonist, nay our hero, is Darren. A man in his late 20’s, he has a boring but easy job, an inheritance from his dead mother, a hot girlfriend, and very little motivation other then to take pictures of what basically amount to Dioramas. Kinda like this one here only less fantasy oriented and more realistic. He finds it almost zen like to get the perfect image with a combination of figures and sets that he has hand crafted.

Of course, his girlfriend Amanda does not like this at all, this Frivolous Pursuit, and does her level best to have him trash his stuff so she can turn the garage into a nail salon.

But that’s only part of the whole story. You see, when poor Darren was a child, at age 9…an event happened that caused him to basically have a breakdown. Doctors, psychiatrists, and constant bullying followed him along with a nickname.

This made him VERY human to me, and I could not help but feel empathy towards him. I was, growing up, very much like him, minus the strange supernatural event. I was the loner, the fat kid, the one bullied and made fun of. I retreated into books and video games, personally. He went into diorama making. Creating fictional stories and worlds in his head.

The rest of the cast consisted of Amanda the superficial celebrity obsessed girlfriend, Sanjay his stalwart and really only friend, and Amanda’s family the Crays. I won’t go into too much about any one of these other then the fact that Amanda is a prime example of the superficial celebrity obsessed culture we have, and Sanjay is a sheltered nerd who just wants to love what he loves, like Darren. Which is building a complete recreation of Mesopotamia just as an fyi.

What threw me off however are some of the tonal changes. Be aware that the story starts rather lighthearted and humorous…and then gets dark, and then depressing, and then violent, and then hopeful. My emotions, my feels, the roller-coaster they were on, just damn.

And the ending was perfect.

I give this a solid 4/5. If you have any interest in Urban Fantasy, you should check this book out in a heartbeat.

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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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