Saturday, October 14, 2017

Rubber Soldiers | Gary Neeleman and Rose Neeleman

*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

This book looks at the essential role Brazil played in World War II by providing the rubber that was needed for the war effort.

Review:

The first half of this book was riveting. I had no clue that Brazil was so essential to the war effort. I had no idea how many lives were lost getting that rubber to the United States. Heck, I didn't even know German U-Boats were active in the South Atlantic. It was very educational, and heart-wrenching, relaying the stories of the Rubber Soldiers and the conditions under which they worked. 

The second half of the book however, was almost nothing but the very bureaucracy filled letters that passed between the Brazilian and US governments. These letters are not good for general readers. They were written with politicians and, maybe, reporters in mind. I had to skim through several pages of technical and political lingo just to get to the authors' summaries that were significantly more effective at exposition than the letters. I get that the letters were needed, but they really dragged down the book for me, a non-historian. 

It really upsets me because this book has a very important and under-represented story to tell and point to make. And the first half of the book does that so very well! The problem comes when the authors rely on verbatim copies of the letters and telegraphs. My eyes glazed over quickly and I had to force myself to continue reading. I really feel like the authors were only including the letters to pad the page count. The letters may have been better off being included as an appendix with the authors writing up summaries in the main book. They are talented authors but these letters just kill the book for me.

If you're a history buff or have a very strong interest in the subject, you'll probably enjoy the entire book. If you're a casual reader, like me, whose curiosity was piqued, you'll probably only like the first half of the book. 2.5 hoots.

               Hoot!Hoot!

                    Hoo

Saturday, October 7, 2017

SonofaWitch! | Trysh Thompson

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

A collection of six humorous short stories about magic spells gone wrong.

Review:

This was a fun book! All six stories are great on their own and almost had me laughing out loud on the bus! At one point I actually had to set the book down just to get a hold of myself and my laughing. I think the phrase "it seemed like a good idea at the time" can summarize almost all of these stories' spells gone wrong.

While most of them involved a love spell gone wrong (after reading this I recommend never even trying a love spell) there is enough diversity of style and other elements to keep them from sounding the same. Let's face it, wishing for someone loyal and loving and accidentally turn your dog into a human is far different from accidentally ensnaring your crush's soul into a poppet doll. And exchanging one curse for another is very different from accidentally changing your own gender. Seriously, don't mess with love spells!

But all of the stories were so good! I have six new authors to start looking up. My top two favorites were "Good Spell Gone Bug" and "A Matter of Perspective". Both very different, but so much fun to read. I absolutely loved the part in every story where you realized that these witches, who are characteristically well versed in magic, are not always so perfect. If you liked Neville Longbottom because he wasn't the best at everything, I think you'll like this collection. There are a lot of underdogs.

In all, I give this book 4.5 hoots! It's full of good humor, good characters and downright good fun.

               Hoot!Hoot!

               Hoot!Hoot!
                     Hoo

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Which Card Suit Are You?


As many of you know, I'm married to a Gamer. Fluxxdog enjoys sharing aspects of Gamer culture. One of the things he shared with me is how play styles are, generally, organized into four categories, Hearts, Spades, Clubs and Diamonds. Admittedly no one only fits into one single category; neither Fluxxdog nor I do. 

After thinking about it for a while, I figured out how to transfer these play styles into reader styles. I've listed and explained them below. They're written in the order of what most to least reflects my own reading style.

(Fluxxdog here. For the record, these are generalizations used to easily coordinate various aspects of game design. Context matters and mileage will vary.)

1. Diamonds


I am a true diamond, not just in gaming but reading as well. In gaming, diamonds are the achievement hunters, the trophy winners, the show-offs and the braggarts. It's all about trophies and stats. 

In reading, this translates to readers who are very count oriented. They know how many books they've read and how many pages (yes, I have a spreadsheet). These are also the people who collect paraphernalia from different book events. Readers who collect author autographs/selfies. Readers who buy the boxed set on top of the individual copies of the books they've already read. Trophies and stats.

2. Hearts

I am secondarily a heart, again both in gaming and reading. In gaming, hearts are the community oriented players. They prefer playing with and enjoy helping others while creating a good atmosphere for all players, experienced or newbie. 

In reading, these are the readers who attend every book related community event they can. Whether it's simply going to a book club, joining in on a Read-A-Thon, or even going to conventions, expos, readings and author signings. These are the readers who enjoy talking about books and encouraging other readers when they're in a slump or during an event and they love to recommend good books to people.

3. Spades



I'm not as much of a spade as I once was or could be (but it's Fluxxdog's strong suit). In gaming, spades are the people who dig into the mechanics and lore of a game. They're the ones who figure out which armor combinations (regardless of looks) is the best for which boss. They figure out that the main character was secretly dead the whole time.

In reading, these are the readers who look into the mechanics of the world they're reading and the writing of the book they're reading. They understand what makes a world work and what doesn't. These are also the readers who will research the world, character names, etc. looking for even more meaning and depth. 

4. Clubs


This is the category I identify with the least. In gaming, clubs are the competitors. They thrive in a player vs. player environment. Whether they're looking for a challenging fight or asserting their strength over noobs, they enjoy the battle.

In reading, these are the readers who partake in debates over which book series was better or which character was the better choice. Team Edward vs. Team Jacob? Clubs. Divergent vs. Hunger Games? Clubs. And a lot of the time it will be just a friendly talk or debate about why you preferred this to that. I'm just not a very competitive person, at least not against other people (see Diamonds above).





So, those are my comparisons between the categories in gaming and reading. I know there's plenty of room for improvement in the gamer-to-reader translations. Let me know what you think and what order you'd choose for you!

(Fluxxdog here with one last note. Games try to appeal to all four suits, generally to varying degrees. I would think a good book does the same. Call me old fashioned, but I certainly think The Hobbit is one of those. What books can you think of that appeal to all?)
*Silelda's Note: I never could finish The Hobbit. Didn't appeal to me. ^_^

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Hidden Face | S. C. Flynn

*Book provided by the author for an honest review.

Summary:

Dayraven has been a prisoner in a foreign land for 15 years. The day of his return he is disappointed. His emperor is a feeble old man who is forgetting to set the empire up for the next passing of power. Every few centuries, Akhen, the sun god, takes the form of a human, revealing himself on their 30th birthday. The next "unmasking" is only 15 years away and there are those who would use the unmasked for their own purposes. Dayraven must join with Sunniva to solve the riddles and figure out who the next Face of Akhen will be before others do.

Review:

For such a short book, there sure is a lot of story in these pages. The PDF I received had the book spanning less than 200 pages (I'm not counting the snippet of the next book). Yet in that short amount of time, Flynn was able to write up an engaging, enjoyable book. The puzzles were an excellent way of building the world, the most culturally based ones being at the start of the book. The reader gets to learn about cultural icons and whatnot while Dayraven and Sunniva work out what they mean the puzzle context. 

The story doesn't leave a lot of time for character development so much as character establishment, which makes sense, it's the first installment. Every chapter is told from another character's perspective and include a lot of flashbacks relevant to the character and the situation. But throughout the book, we mostly get an establishing of character rather than character growth. Except for Twister, he gave me quite the twist! At first I thought he would be the Gollum of the story, but by the end of it I just wanted something, anything good to happen to the poor guy. I really appreciated getting his perspective of things.

Really my only complaint about this book is the love story between Dayraven and Sunniva. Then again, I've never been much of a fan of love stories, especially not when I'm reading an adventure and puzzle heavy book. I get why they get together and appreciate that even they recognize how quickly they're falling, but still, not my cup of tea. 

There were times when I wanted to compare the book to The Davinci Code, what with a secret kept safe by Guardians that were killed and only able to pass on the secret through a series of puzzles. But this book takes place in a very different world and has very different power dynamics. This is its own world.

I really had fun reading this book and am really looking forward to the next. If you're interested in a new adventure read, I recommend you pick up a copy (it'll be coming out November 25). 4 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

               Hoot!Hoot!



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Monsters Exist | Jesse Deadman & Theresa Braun

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

A collection of creepy and scary short stories about monsters of urban legends.

Review:

This was an incredibly creepy and scary book. I thought this was just going to be a book of stories similar to what you tell around the campfire. Turns out, a lot of the stories are a lot more gruesome. The book covers monsters I had forgotten to think about. Like the monster under the bed, the reason you don't feel safe sleeping with your hands or feet exposed. There were monsters I'd never heard about and takes on old monsters/legends that Id never thought of. The stories are very intense and and almost always very gruesome. If you're looking for a scary story or looking for a refresher on urban legend monsters, I recommend this collection. 3.5 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

               Hoot!Hoo

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Trials of Solomon Parker | Eric Scott Fischl

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

It's the early 1900's and Sol Parker is as deep in debt as the bottom of the mine he's working, and digging deeper. He just can't resist the dice. After a tragedy strikes the mine and he loses his only son, Sol ends up taking one more gamble when Marked Face offers him what he desires most, another chance.

Review:

This was quite the book. It took a little for me to get into it, and there were some parts that, squeamish me, had troubles with, but it was a good read. Fischl had his work cut out for him when he started changing up the timelines, but he was able to pull it off. At no point did I lose track of the story or the characters. I did have a little trouble getting into the world, but that's my own misconceptions about when the transition from wagons to trucks happened. 

I really felt for the characters in this book. Even when they were in their worst timeline, you knew that this was the magic of the different timeline. All it takes is for one thing to have changed in the past. I did appreciate that the characters kept meeting up, kept finding themselves in Butte. The author, in his notes, compared Sol to Job, but for the duration of this book, I see him as Sisyphus. At least three times we see Sol, aging as he climbs the mined out mountain, only to have to do it again. Trying a different route or a different starting point. Each time, he gets another chance to try to do things right.

Mixed in with Sol's stories are those of Billy (Sagiistoo), a Native American trying to come to terms with his abusive heritage and the abusive Christian school he went to, and the brothers Maatakssi and Siinatssi whose tragedies led to the downfall of The People. Keep in mind, Maatakssi and Siinatssi is not an actual Native legend, Fischl told it in the style of a Native legend, but felt it wasn't his place to tell a true one. The combination of these stories make for an engaging tale about human frailty and the quest for redemption, the need to make things right. 

The book isn't for everyone. There's a lot of abuse, death and cruelty. But there's also the good aspects of humanity. The camaraderie of the miners, standing up to the company so they can work in safer conditions. The love of a father for the child of his blood and the child he adopts. The sacrifices people will make to do the right thing. 

In case you can't tell, I really liked this book. I'm not usually one for historical fiction, but Fischl's books have shown to be worth making an exception. If you're okay with reading a darker book and are interested in trying the historical fiction genre, I highly recommend The Trials of Solomon Parker. 4 hoots!


               Hoot!Hoot!

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

ActivAmerica | Meagan Cass

*Image and book received via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary (From Publisher):

Drawing from fairy tales, ghost stories, and science-fiction, the stories in ActivAmerica explore how we confront (and exert) power and re-imagine ourselves through sports and athletic activities. A group of girls starts an illicit hockey league in a conservative suburb. A recently separated woman must run a mile a day in order to maintain her new corporate health insurance. Children impacted by environmental disaster create a “mutant soccer team.” Two sisters are visited by an Olympic gymnast who demands increasingly dangerous moves from them. Sports allow the characters to form communities on soccer fields and hidden lakes, in overgrown backyards and across Ping-Pong tables. Throughout the collection, however, athletic risk also comes with unexpected, often unsettling results.
Review:

Let me start by saying, each of these stories were good. They were well written, interesting and I can see why they were included. There were a few stories where I sincerely hope the authors are continuing to practice their writing and honing their skills."Night Games" was an interesting story of learning to take control and learning your limits. "ActivAmerica" showed how getting even just one thing going right in your life can help the rest.

The problem I have with this book is that, after a while, the stories all kinda start sounding the same. Don't get me wrong, they're all different stories, clearly. Stories are told from different perspectives, have different main characters, take place in different dimensions. But the vast majority of the stories had a lot of common themes that were not part of the description. So many of the stories had parents divorced or on the brink of it. Families that would smile and pretend nothing was wrong. An alcoholic mother. A cheating spouse. A parent who genuinely tries to connect with their child and fails. Daughters becoming their mothers despite all attempts otherwise. Hawthorne, NY. I know, you'd think with this many different themes there'd be enough diversity of stories, but when so many of them have one or more of these elements, it gets kinda boring.

This is one of those situations where the contents are genuinely good, but you have to read something in between the stories. This gives each one the opportunity to be fresh and new to you so it can be the great story that it is. If you try to read it all at once, it'll get boring, depressing or both. And I'm not saying I need all stories to have happy endings. I'm just saying, in this anthology, with this many different voices and styles, I was able to predict just about every short story's progression.

So, I'm gonna give this book 3 hoots, but also warn you to read with caution.

               Hoot!Hoot!

                  Hoot!