Saturday, May 26, 2018

Villains Rule | M. K. Gibson


Summary:

Jackson Blackwell has worked long and hard to become famed Shadow Master, villain of villains. He is the most villainous of all not because he is cruel and crushes peasants under his boot. Rather he travels through dimensions, profiting off of other villains. He's made quite the name and career for himself. So when he is betrayed and left with minimal power in a fantasy realm, it catches him a bit off guard. Now he must (shudder) gather the heroes of the realm and get his power back.

Review:

I had so much fun reading this book. I cannot tell you the number of times I almost laughed out loud. More than that, though, because Jackson is a top tier villain, he is incredibly intelligent and intriguing to read of. We are fortunate to get to read the book from his perspective and, I have to say, he makes for a great narrator. Especially in his more human moments. That being said, he is still a villain who knows the angles to play for the most profit for himself. Several of his actions I wouldn't have agreed with, but he has no scruples about using them himself. After all, a true great villain knows how to abuse the rules to their fullest extent.

Another benefit of reading all of this from Jackson's perspective is, when he never sees something coming, neither do we. This book genuinely kept me surprised and intrigued. Because Jackson is such an intelligent character he picked up on a lot of stuff other characters wouldn't. This led me to not question his assumptions the more I read. So when he was caught off guard it was genuine and exciting. 

The rest of the cast of characters is delightfully well rounded. Jackson finds heroes who have their own "sins" from their pasts. Except for Carina. Her only "crime" was being a female half-breed in a group of elite, and elitist, male warriors. Everyone else Jackson is able to discern some sin or bad deed. He actually spoke out against the entire Elven race as the xenophobic, technophobic, stifling creatures they are. Then again, there are characters like Lydia that don't bother to hide who they are. I never would've thought she'd be into using knives for bondage play.

Also, fair warning for any fantasy fans who read this, be prepared to have the genre made fun of. A lot. Several of Jackson's comments revolve around the wish for air condition or even basic indoor plumbing. 

Really my only complaint about this book is the number of grammatical errors. I counted seven, though I know that doesn't cover all of them. And this may not seem like a lot, but when you read something like "I felt bone piece my heart" it's gonna throw you out of the book a bit.

That being said, I still loved this book. I'm actually planning on listening to the audio sample and, if I like it, buying that to listen to at work. I rarely buy audio-books, so that should tell you something about how much I enjoyed this story. I happily give 4.5 hoots and encourage you to pick up a copy!

               Hoot!Hoot!

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                   Hoo

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Catching Stardust | Natalie Starkey | Mini-Review

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

Review:

Starkey takes us on a complete tour of all things comet and asteroid. From their chemical makeup and physical appearance to their probable roles in our past and future. There are chapters dedicated to the mining of asteroids, protecting Earth from asteroids, and missions from space stations around the world landing on comets and collecting their dust for study. I now know so much more about comets and asteroids than I did. I even got a bit of a chemistry and geology refresher. It was definitely written at a level for casual readers and I greatly appreciate that. This is definitely a good book for any amateur astronomer or anyone wondering why comets and asteroids are so important. 3.5 hoots!

                    Hoot!

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                     Hoo

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Apocalypse Nyx | Kameron Hurley

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

Summary:

Nyx, the main character, is a former belle-dame, elite of the elites in war. After she got kicked out she turned to mercenary work, alcohol and sex. Her team learns quickly that she will sacrifice any and all of them to get the job done. Naturally, this doesn't lead to a happy life. Then again, in a world ravaged by war where all men and women are required at the front, only the super rich First Families can expect a happy life.

Review:

I had no idea, going into this book, that I was going to be reading a collection of short stories from an already established series. That being said, you don't need to have read the other books to enjoy this one.  

This is an incredibly interesting world. Because all native men are required to be on the front for several years while the women are only required there for two years, it makes sense that the majority of the characters are strong women. When there are men, more often than not they're foreigners not required to sign up for the draft. There is bug-based magic and technology which, honestly, makes sense given how many bugs there seem to be. And the logic of the world feels very consistent. 

Nyx is an incredibly kick-ass character, better at shooting than talking her way out, which is one of my favorite kind of protagonists. It's not that she has a heart of ice, rather she has a very calloused heart after all that she's had to see and endure. Her sniper, Anneke, is more of a wild kind of crazy, complete with a drug problem. Her magician, Rhys, is a Chenjan man who only puts up with Nyx because Chenjans don't have many options, but he maintains his religious devotions. Her tech, Taite, is a scrawny Ras Tiegan teenager. Her shifter, Khos, is a rather large Mhorian who is just about desperate for work. Together, they make for an entertaining team to read about.

Fair warning, this ain't a book for the faint of heart. It's a world where there is constant war, frequent sirens warning of bombardments, and bodies regrowing limbs just to be sent back to the front. And the way those limbs are regrown are somewhat stomach upsetting. This book has plenty of fun moments, but it is has a lot of darker ones. That last chapter ended on a heart-wrenching note. 

That being said, I'm still gonna look into the other books of the series. 4 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Iron Hearted Violet | Kelly Barnhill | Mini-Review


Summary:

Princes Violet is an only child, and not a pretty one at that. Rather she is incredibly intelligent and strong-willed and, as a result, well loved by her family and her people. Unfortunately there is an evil in the castle that plans on using her to get free by using the stories she loves so much against her. When her father leaves her and her mother behind to capture the last known dragon, everything goes downhill quickly and Princess Violet listens to the darkness' advice.

Review:

This is a middle-grade book that I picked up from a used-book store. It's definitely a book that I wish I'd had when I was younger. It's got plenty of tropes in it, yes, but I still found it quite enjoyable. I loved the fact that the evil talked to people through mirrors and played on their vanity and insecurities. I enjoyed the fact that the gods themselves admitted that they weren't perfect. Most importantly, though, I loved the fact that when Violet gets turned into what she considers the physical embodiment of "a true princess" she realizes how physically impossible it is to do anything! Floor length hair is incredibly heavy. Tiny feet make it difficult to balance. Dainty figures get tired out easily. The book continuously affirms that a true princess doesn't have to be beautiful of figure, but beautiful of heart and I commend it for that. Like I said, I wish I'd had this when I was a kid. 4 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Old Man's War | Jon Scalzi


Summary:

John Perry is 75 years old, a widower with only an okay relationship with his only son, when he decides to join the Colonial Defense Force and fight to protect Earth's colonies from alien races. CDF is only interested in people his age, people with decades of experience in life. By the time he gets to boot camp, his entire world view has changed. Now he fights every day to save his life and the lives of his squad mates.

Review:

This book definitely wasn't what I expected. I was told I'd have a lot of laughs, and I did, but I didn't think I'd have so many other powerful emotions. This book didn't just make me laugh, it scared me, it mad me sad, it made me think, it made me wonder. This book was an experience that I was glad to have.

Because our main character is 75 when the book starts, we don't have to put up with a painfully naive, idiotic character. Don't get me wrong, he is naive when it comes to the alien menace he's going to go up against, but he's not naive enough to think of himself as invulnerable, unlike some of the other new soldiers. I did love the fact that all the new soldiers went completely nuts when they got their new bodies, but only one person was dumb enough to think they could fly. That's the kind of common sense that I like in my characters.

As well as Perry's sense of common decency. There were some diplomatic missions where he could've gone against orders and made a scene, but he knew it wouldn't be in everyone's best interests to do so. As much fun as it is to read characters who speak their minds, it's so much better when they have the wisdom to know when to keep their mouths shut. He didn't do so well with his first conscious encounter with the Ghost Brigades, but that was actually story essential.

And Perry isn't the only good character to read, either. Every member of Perry's initial group were so ingratiating that, at the reports of some of their deaths, I was genuinely saddened. It makes sense that not everyone would make it through, this is an interstellar war. But they were written so well and with so much gravitas that each loss was really felt. I was invested in the well-being of almost every character (the former politician, not so much).

Some of the scenes were kinda gruesome, but this is war. Fortunately there were only one or two scenes that went into full, gross detail. Those were usually scenes meant to instill fear in the new cadets or to let the reader know the extent of Perry's injuries. But it's these scenes that make the lighter moments all the lighter, more jovial moments more important and impactful. 

I can definitely see why this book has gotten so many accolades. They are truly well deserved and I will be picking up the next book. 4.5 hoots!

               Hoot!Hoot!

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                   Hoo

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Discovery of the Saiph | P. P. Corcoran


Summary:

In the near future humans develop the technology to "fold" space in such a way that they can travel multiple light years in mere seconds. In exploring their first new solar system, humans discover several buildings that house ancient lexicons, full of information. These were left behind by a race identified as The Saiph. Using this information humans begin reshaping their technology, discovering new solar systems and finding potential allies and definite enemies.

Review:

I picked this book up because I love military sci-fi and Corcoran incorporates his own experience in the military with his books. 

That being said, I had to take a break from this book about half way through. I realized I wasn't enjoying it when they were having their first battle against the Others (enemy alien race) and I was bored. I took a long break from reading it, came back to it and then finished it. For me it didn't really pick up until the alliances with other species came into play. When it was just humans versus others, I didn't really care. It wasn't until we teamed up with other friendly races that I actually started caring. 

Part of the problem, for me, is the lack of character depth. I'm not saying the characters were one dimensional, I'm saying that we don't get to know the characters well enough to really care about them. A lot of times it felt like just saying someone's name and occupation was supposed to be enough to make me care about them. Other times it felt like there were so many names, ranks and occupations that it was hard to keep characters straight. 

Once the other races came into play, though, I was fully engaged. I'm not fully sure I know why other than that it felt like it was no longer just "us versus them". It finally felt like there were actually other worlds to learn about, other cultures to learn from, and more. 

I really appreciated Corcoran's sense of humor that came into play at good moments. I loved the contrasting ideas about "appropriate greetings" between the cultures. I really liked that economics and population were factors. There were plenty of technical aspects of expansion, exploration and war that were addressed that made it feel more real. My only problem is a lack of connection to the characters.

Overall, I can really only give this book a 2.5. I had to make myself finish it and it didn't pick up until late. I doubt I'll pick up any more books in this series.

                Hoot!Hoot!
                     Hoo


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake | Recipe Review


Hello everyone! It's been a while since I've done a recipe review. I was specifically asked by @p_j_foster for the recipe so here it is. It's actually a combination of two different recipes. The chocolate crust was from part of an AllRecipes.com recipe while the filling was from the Philadelphia Cheesecake website.

Crust:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
1/3 C white sugar
1/3 C cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/3 C butter (melted)

Instructions:

Mix ingredients together and press into the bottom and sides of the pan.

Comments:

This crust was actually pretty similar to a regular cheesecake crust, it just also has cocoa powder. The only other non-graham cracker crust I'd ever made was based on crushed Oreo cookies and it only turned out so-so. As a result, I was worried about how this one would taste. 



Filling:

Ingredients:

16 oz cream cheese
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 C chocolate chips (divided)

Instructions:

Mix together the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Next mix in the eggs. Once the mix is fully blended, stir in 1/2 C of the chocolate chips. 

Pour the filling onto the crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 C of chocolate chips on top.

Bake at 350° for 40 minutes.
After it's cooled for a bit, refrigerate for 3 hours.

Comments:

I ended up having to bake this for about 10-15 minutes longer than the recipe called for. I'm not sure if it's because I used a spring-form pan while the original recipe called for a pie dish (pre-made crust). As a result, I kinda had to watch for it to get more solid in the middle. That being said, baking for 50 minutes probably would be a safe bet.


Taste Test:

Fluxx and I had similar opinions. Because I frequently use cream cheese in my frosting recipes, I thought the cheesecake tasted like chocolate frosting. Fluxx thought it tasted more like candy than cheesecake because of the chocolate chips. We both agree that it's not bad, but is at it's best when accompanied by a strong drink (i.e. coffee). I know Fluxx must have really liked it because, when there were leftovers on Monday he asked me to pack him a BIG slice to take to work. 

Overall, I think I'm gonna keep this recipe.