Gene Doucette: The Spaceship Next Door

•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

27809654.jpgThe Spaceship Next Door
by Gene Doucette
narrated by Steve Carlson
(science fiction)

My initial thought about this book was that the pacing was slow in the beginning. However, by about 1/3 of the way in, I appreciated the pacing, and by half-way the pacing had gradually picked up while still maintaining the “deliberate” feel it had at the beginning. Something about the pace completely matched the story for me.

There are some spoilery things that may come up in reviews of this book. I won’t mention them here, but I do have the biggest one of them in my review on Goodreads behind a spoiler tag.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. The 16-year-old main character did often seem older than her years, but given the situation (it’s explained early on that she’s been taking care of her mom for a few years) and the fact that adults continually acknowledge the fact that she seems old for her age, it doesn’t make anything unbelievable. If you can believe the spaceship in the yard, you can believe Annie Collins.

The narration on this one was okay. It wasn’t my favorite narration, but once I got used to the voices it didn’t bother me. There wasn’t as much distinction between characters as I like, but again — I got used to it.

This is a stand-alone book, which is fine. It could be an interesting series as well, but I think that any additional books in this series would start to become unbelievable while this one remains within the realm of plausible. It works as a single book in a way it wouldn’t as a series.

Rating: 5 stars

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Sophie Kelly: Curiosity Thrilled the Cat

•September 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

downloadCuriosity Thrilled the Cat: Magical Cats #1
by Sophie Kelly
(cozy cat mystery)

This is a cute book. I liked that the cats lived up to the “magical” series tag. That was a nice change from the standard abnormally-smart-but-otherwise-normal cats which are usually written about in cozy cat mysteries. Also, these cats had one magical power each, and were able to use those two powers to help the heroine. It’s a nice change to have limited magic in a cozy, too.

The plot is pretty straight-forward. Kathleen, our heroine, is the librarian in a small town where she recently moved to get away from painful memories. She’s there to get the library renovated as she gets her life back in order, and she adopts two stray cats for company. Shenanigans ensue, there is a murder (which may or may not have happened at the library — you’ll find out, but the question about it keeps the detective coming to the library), the cats exhibit magic, and Kathleen’s friends are amusing.

I did not guess the whodunnit for this one, though there are clues pointing toward the general direction of the murder. I did pick up on a few “too obvious to be whodunnit” people, though that’s the extent of my crime solving skills on this one.

All told, this was an amusing book. The only thing that really bugged me about it was the start of an attempt to hook the heroine up with the detective toward the end of the book. It didn’t start early enough in the book to really bug me, but I suspect that it will be more prominent in future books, and might impact my enjoyment of them. (If they get together, I’ll probably be fine with it. It’s the “no really, he’s not my type, even though I obviously enjoy his company” nonsense that bugs me.)

Rating: 4 stars

Lazette Gifford: Beware the Wrath of Bunny Hopper

•August 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Beware the Wrath of Bunny Hopper
by Lazette Gifford
(fantasy, possible YA)

Wow. Just wow. This book was so much fun. Not a super deep read (though it does touch on some deeper themes, like sexism) but just a fun romp.

I’ll be honest, I picked this one up because of the title. “The Wrath of Bunny Hopper”? It just sounds silly enough to be a fun book. And it was.

The basic set-up (which neither Bunny nor the reader knows at the start of the book, but since you find out early on I’m not worried about spoilers) is that Bunny’s dad and brothers are part of an organization which fights monsters. Bunny is not part of this group, and has a heck of a time getting any information about it. And Bunny’s mother sits at her kitchen table, ignoring the world and painting miniatures.

The plot advances when Bunny is accidentally involved in one of the fights and tries to figure out more of what’s going on. She starts noticing more and more weird things, and eventually starts to get her answers.

This is a pretty fast read, but fun, and the characters are nicely developed. I don’t expect more from this world, and it honestly works well as a stand-alone novel. For a quick read, though, it’s a bunch of fun. (I keep using that word. But trust me, it really does mean what I think it does.) Should you pick this one up? Absolutely. It could be a great beach read, or plane read, or during lunch breaks read. Definitely worth the $3.99 Amazon has the Kindle book going for.

Rating: 5 stars

Drew Hayes: Going Rogue

•August 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

32681599Going Rogue: Spells, Swords, & Stealth #3
by Drew Hayes
narrated by Roger Wayne
(fantasy)

In this book, we get more detail on the company who is publishing the game modules which started the whole series. We also get to see more of not only the main characters (book 1’s NPCs) but also our two sets of secondary characters: Russell’s gaming group, and asshat gamers Mitch & Co. There are some fun new characters, too, and I have high hopes that we’ll get to see at least one of them in future books.

One thing that I find interesting about this series is how it deals with the characters’ quests to improve themselves, to be stronger or faster and do their jobs better. Book 2 in this series dealt with how Grumph, the half-orc mage, got additional training and improved his skills; this book does the same for Eric, the (human) rogue. I am also glad to see the party continuing to get better equipment, since this is somehow also a game and the players from our world (known in the other realm as Adventurers) would be leveling up and collecting loot and better equipment, too. The whole situation keeps the premise very solid and believable.

If you read book 1, you will know that there’s some weirdness at the end of the book where the game world and real world meet. Well, similar events happen in this one, but it’s more obvious and blatant than before. They don’t bother me, though, because the whole series premise was based on this concept. I only had one real continuity question about this book, and that was about whether an illusory wall would be as much trouble to get through from the back side as it was from the front, but it wasn’t really enough of an issue to worry about.

There are plenty of questions raised in this installment which aren’t answered in the book, but which must wait for at least one more book. The questions I’m most interested in relate to Timuscor and Gabrielle, though there are plenty of others. Fortunately, the book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.

The narration is also stellar, as always. I have listened to 2 different series narrated by Roger Wayne, and both are great to listen to. I’m sure these books would also be fun to read for yourself, but I enjoy the different voices Wayne gives the different characters.

This is certainly a book worth reading. If you like gaming, or the fantasy genre, do yourself a favor and pick up this series!

Rating: 5 stars

Kay Finch: Black Cat Crossing

•August 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Black Cat Crossing: Bad Luck Cat Mystery #1
by Kay Finch
(cozy cat mystery)

The black cat in question is named Hitchcock, and he was my favorite part of this book. It’s a murder mystery, and the MC’s aunt is the one who’s the main suspect for whodunnit. But you know what? I didn’t care about that part. I cared about the cat.

Okay, the basic premise: Sabrina is an aspiring mystery writer who moved away from the city to live in her aunt’s rental cottages and help run the business while working on her novel. While Sabrina is getting settled in there, lots of people complain about the “bad luck cat” — a feral black cat in town who supposedly is responsible for all sorts of silly problems. (Think witch hunt against the cat.) The aunt gets confronted by an unpleasant cousin, hits him, and then winds up as the main suspect when the cousin is found dead later that night. As a result, Sabrina tries to do everything at once: cottage maintenance, book writing, cat care, and finding the real killer.

Sad though it is for a mystery (even a cozy mystery), finding the killer was the part of the book which interested me the least. Actually, given the reveal, it seemed to be the part which interested the author the least, too. In hindsight I saw very few solid leads pointing to the real killer (read: none). The cat parts were fun. The writing parts were fun. The cottage maintenance parts were okay, and served a purpose for sleuthing time and character development. As far as the whodunnit, though, I didn’t like the aunt enough to care if she was innocent or not.

It was still a fun book, and worth a read if you’re looking for a cat mystery. Just make sure you’re at least partially interested in the cat part, because the mystery part didn’t do it for me. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

Rating: 4 stars

Connie Willis: Bellwether

•August 17, 2017 • 1 Comment

Bellwether
by Connie Willis
(science fiction)

This book fascinated me. It is science fiction of a form I have never read before: it is fiction about science. Everything in the book is completely “normal” — there is no need for suspension of disbelief. And yet, it was definitely science oriented instead of any of the other literature sub-genres. (It isn’t chick-lit, or a romance, or an adventure novel. It is science, and it is fiction.) Really neat way to go about it.

I’ve been meaning to read a Connie Willis book for some time now, and am glad I picked this one up. It was different from my normal reads in a very refreshing way, and I enjoyed reading about the characters — even the annoying ones. (We all know a Flip.) There was great development in even minor characters, and the story was really well crafted.

Plus: there are sheep. Bonus fiber content which any knitter should enjoy. Two thumbs up! (And this will NOT be my last Connie Willis book.)

Rating: 4 stars

Michael Atamanov: Videogame Plotline Tester

•August 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Videogame Plotline Tester: Dark Herbalist #1
by Michael Atamanov
(LitRPG, fantasy)

I picked this book up because I was curious about the LitRPG genre. According to other reviewers on Goodreads, this book is a good example of the LitRPG genre. Those reviewers rated this book highly.

I cannot.

This is NOT a well-written book. I can’t even blame that on the fact that it was originally written in Russian and then translated. That could have caused strange word choice or different cultural situations. (There’s a scene where the MC meets a lady who has just come out of the shower, and she ends up “accidentally” dropping her towel in front of him — a co-worker but otherwise complete stranger — and doesn’t seem to mind at all. Not something that’s believable in the US, but might be seen as okay elsewhere. That’s not the type of thing I’m complaining about.)

To give a fair look at this book, I’ll start with the things I enjoyed. The premise, for one. Essentially, a company is hiring gamers to play rare characters (race & class) in their MMORPG in order to prove to the customers that they don’t have to play the typical human fighter or elven bowman to enjoy the game. It’s indicated that there’s a YouTube-esque video stream associated with this game where players can show off their exploits, though details on that are hazy. This is a fun concept. And the game itself is written in such a way that I would want to play it, if a single-player version of it existed. (I don’t do MMO’s.)

The character set the MC is given to play also was interesting. He’s supposed to be a goblin herbalist. (Other testers are given things like dryad dancer, or naiad trader, or orc builder.) It’s a really great concept. I’d love to have an RPG where you have the option to try a non-combatant role instead of the traditional warrior or mage class. However (and here we get into the stuff that bugged me), the MC didn’t do the non-combatant stuff much at all. He’s an herbalist? Oh, well, we’ll have him collect plants in-between taming a wolf pack and making a dart gun and killing frogs. But when it comes time for a potion to be useful, we’ll assume he was able to craft a high-level potion that does exactly what he needs it to even though all he’s been able to do so far is make very minor healing potions.

Also, there was no real conflict in this book. The MC had every problem he faced solved either by coincidence, the aforementioned unbelievable potion-making ability, or someone else. An assassin (another player who enjoys PKs (player-kills, rather than taking out the monsters)) is after him? Oh, well, send a message out and let a bunch of other players handle him for you at no cost to you. You need to beat some challenges in the goblin village? Well, let your sister (who acts nowhere near the 14-years-old she’s supposed to be) do all the heavy-lifting while you pretend to do the work. You need money in real life? Well, look at that, you (accidentally) found bugs in the game, so we’re going to give you a bonus. Your NPC friends died? Well, we don’t want to lose their unique programming anyway, so we’ll resurrect them for you.

Anyway. I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that this book had a good premise, but very poor execution. If this is a “great example of LitRPG,” then consider it my first and last foray into that sub-genre.

Rating: 2 stars. Barely.