Friday, March 28, 2014

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

In an earlier post for The Raven Boys, I mentioned that my wife and I got to meet Maggie Stiefvater at a book signing. She is a really funny and approachable person, and that makes me want to read her books even more. I finished The Raven Boys and thought is was pretty good, but due to a sudden reveal at the end I really wanted to move on to this book. I liked this book more than Raven Boys. This book seems like it was written for guys. Assassins, street racing, nightmares, and drug induced dream therapy was something I could easily see in any Jason Statham movie.

This book revolves around the hunt for a welsh king that Gansey is borderline obsessed with finding. The bulk of this story revolves around Ronan who is tormented by nightmares and has the ability to pull objects from his dreams. While all of this is going on, the Ley Lines that were awakened in the previous book are unleashing a power the boys just can't understand.

I have read a lot of reviews, and many are fangirl gushing, and others bash the writing style, but I have to say that I enjoyed her writing more in this book than the last. In Raven Boys I felt my mind wandering away from the story, but with this one she had more humor and intrigue that held my attention better. I still had my moments where my mind wandered a bit during some of the down times, but for the most part I was focused on the story. I also liked the characters so much better in this book. Raven boys, to me, seems like it's only purpose was to set up Dream Thieves.

The story was very well written and held my attention for the most part. I was also pleased with the end until she threw in that little hook for the next book. Now I have to keep going so I can figure out just what is coming next. She did that in the Raven Boys, so why am I surprised that there was a hook at the end of this one? I am going to give this 4 out of 5 stars. Not often do I think a sequel is better than the first book, but I definitely liked this book more.

As one parting note, I have to mention Maggie Stiefvater's car one more time. I finally understand the reason for the knife blade on the side of it. I know I posted this picture in The Raven Boys post, but I'm going to share this again because this car played a big part in this book. I also think it was really cool that she let fans paint her car, and she still drives it around.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Green Arrow Vol 4: The Kill Machine by Jeff Lemire

I have always liked Green Arrow. He isn't one of my favorite superheroes, but I always had respect for the character. He is very much like Batman when it came to having billions of dollars and cool gadgets, but Oliver Queen always seemed like the opposite of Batman. Queen seemed to love the party scenes and being every bit the playboy billionaire, but Bruce kept it as low key as possible. Still, I really like the story line that Kevin Smith wrote, and I enjoyed the Green Arrow/Green Lantern Story line as well. When the CW put out Arrow last year I was excited to see a live action version of this character. I really like the show even with all of the changes they have made to the mythos of the character. When I was able to grab this book for an honest review I jumped at the chance. 

I guess I was expecting more from this book than I got. I wasn't a big fan of this story, and the artwork was even worse. DC has had a lot of amazing artists work on their heroes, but I was not a fan of Andrea Sorrentino's work on this book. There was a lot of detail missing and things were overly shadowed to make up for the lack of detail. The people in this book seemed to be the biggest issue I had with the artwork. They just didn't look right to me. I'm not sure how to explain it, but when you read as many comics as I do, you tend to have a specific idea of how you want a story to be drawn. Sorrentino just didn't capture the feel of this book. The only bit of art work I did enjoy was the variant cover done by John Caldwell, and that was just because it made me laugh.  

The plot line of this book seemed like it was still origin story in a way. There was a lot of flashing back to Oliver's father and the island that Oliver was trapped on. I would have thought that all of this would have been wrapped up by volume 4, but I guess they want to drag this one out a bit longer. Oh, and if you are expecting a resolution to this story line with Komodo and the three dragons then think again. This is going to be at least a two book story. You will get to see what happens with the villain Vertigo, but his whole role in this book seemed so small. There was even an issues dedicated mostly to Vertigo's backstory just to make him seem more important, or more human, I'm actually not sure what they were going for with that other than filler.

I didn't hate this, but I wasn't a fan of it either. I will give it 2 stars because it doesn't deserve a 1 star review. I could tell about halfway through that I didn't care for the book because it took me forever to get through. I am so grateful for the opportunity to review this, but first and foremost I have to be honest. I just didn't care for this book. I'm glad I read it, but I won't be rushing to read Vol 5 when it comes out.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Turning by Francine Prose

I didn’t know what to expect from this book, nor did I really have high aspirations for this book right from the start. This had a really cool cover, and I think it was a Goodreads recommends based off of something on one of my shelves. I have had this sitting in my to-read list for a while now, and I was in need of a book fast, and this was all the library had available that I wanted to read. I really liked this book, and I’m so glad I read it.
As I said, the cover was really what drew me in, and the summary sounded like this couldn’t be all bad. The book is written as a series of letters. Jack is spending his summer on an isolated island in a very creepy house with a housekeeper and two children whom he is tasked with entertaining. He is writing his girlfriend and dad, and this is how we get the story. I listened to this in audio book and loved it. Each letter is read by a different voice actor so you really get the feeling like you are sitting with these characters as they write. It also gives the inflection the author tries to convey with each letter because these actors don’t just monotonously read these.
As Jack learns more and more about the house and the people who have come and gone, things begin to happen. Things that might be explainable if you really tried hard enough, but most are just odd. I wish I could elaborate a little more, but I don’t want to ruin a thing if you decide to read this for yourself. The plot is very well written and held my attention really well. I couldn’t wait to read what was going to happen next. I will admit that this is pretty predictable, but I got so wrapped up in this that towards the end I actually got chills. This isn’t horror or even over the top creepy, but there were moments that just made goose bumps pop up on my skin and chills run up my spine.  I think it was part excitement and part creepiness.
I really enjoyed this book, and I am so glad I finally got around to reading it. It might not have been the greatest book, but the fact that I didn’t have high expectations,and that this followed a disappointing read, might have helped contribute to my enjoyment. One thing I will say, and I’m not sure the author necessarily meant for this to raise questions, but I kept thinking beyond the story once this ended. When I finished the book my mind started to go thinking about all the facts and events . I came to my own hypothetical conclusion and really wonder if I’m right. Guess we will never know, unless the author decides to write another book to fill in gaps my own mind created, I don’t see that happening. Still a sign of a good book is that you keep thinking about it even after it ends. I liked this book and easily give this a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Allegiant By Veronica Roth

I’m done!!!! I am finally finished with this series, and I can say without a doubt I am not impressed. It seems that people either love or hate this series, and I would lean away from love. I didn’t hate this series, but for me, my ratings of these books  just keep dropping. I liked Divergent and gave it 4 stars, but the only reason I rated it so high was the ending of that book was pretty good. The rest of the book was just boring. I read Insurgent, and that one I gave 3 stars because all it seemed to be was filler. Just something to keep fans hooked until book three. I usually save my ratings for the end but I’m just going to say it. This book only gets 2 stars from me.
There were quite a few things that irked me about this book, but I can’t talk about them all, or I might spoil an ending or something, so I will do my best to make sense without ruining any thin plot lines. The biggest thing with this book and the series was the constant “I love you. I hate you.” between Tris and Tobias. I’m so sick of the over dramatic romantic relationship between these two characters. I kept hoping one of them would just disappear. It’s one of those relationship (at least I thought) that is not healthy, but neither can see that they are miserable. We the reader can see this fact, but that is because we are not blinded by puppy love. Again this could just be me.
Since the list of what I don’t like about this book could go on awhile, here is what I liked about this. I liked after two and a half books finding out exactly what Divergent really is. The reveal was really anti-climactic, and I think even Tris said “Is that all”. I liked learning more about Tris’s mother and who Edith Prior was. I also liked learning more about the experiments that were how the factions started.  
One final note on this book, and I will do my best to not spoil anything. I was really disappointed with the ending. By the time I got there I really didn’t care what happened. Finally about three quarters through the book the story started to build. It reached a peak of sorts, and that was it. The rest of the book was explanation and then two years later.  I felt really disappointed and thought to myself “Why did I keep reading this series after the second book”? Plus there is an event that completely failed to elicit an emotional response from me. I know the author had to be going for shock, sadness, or anger, and honestly I just didn’t care what happened.
I am usually not this negative and still give a book 2 stars. The only reason I gave it two stars was for those things I liked that at least gave me closure on some issues. Other than that I am glad I’m done, and I can put this behind me.  I liked Hunger Games, and I am usually a fan of the Dystopian stories, but this whole series fell flat for me.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Veronica Mars the Movie

“A long time ago, we used to be friends but I, haven’t thought of you lately at all.” That opening song has brought back so many memories, and I must ask that you please forgive me. I am about to really let my inner nerd out on this post. I remember when Veronica Mars first started. I wasn’t a big fan at first, but there was something about that sarcastic teen detective that grew on me. My wife and I watched the first season, but because we worked so much in the evenings we missed most of season 2, no DVRs back then. Season 2 came out to DVD and I bought it right away. We happened to have the weekend off, and we watched the whole season. Big fans from the start, we were crushed when the show got canceled.
There was talk of a spinoff show with Veronica as an FBI agent, and I think there was a trailer, but nothing ever came of it. Then I read an article on a while back that said there was a Kickstarter campaign to get a Veronica Mars movie made.  I really had mixed emotions about this. I was so excited to see all the old characters back, but it has been seven years since it was canceled, and I was afraid it just wouldn't be the same. The more I read about this movie and then watching the trailer I got goose bumps.

I have to thank the people at Apple and Warner Brothers. Because of them I was able to preorder this and watch it at home the day it was released in theaters. When I saw this browsing iTunes I didn't think. I just bought it. I can’t tell you how excited we were to be able to watch it on our Apple TV from the comfort of our new couch, in our comfy sleep wear for less than what it would have cost to see it in theaters. I didn't have to spend gas money to get to and from the theater. The movie was less than what two tickets to the movies is these days, and we had our own food. On top of that I had the ability to pause if I had to run to the bathroom. When we go to the movies I always get the large combo because of the free popcorn and soda refills, and it never fails, a big scene begins, and I just can’t hold it any longer, and I have to rush off to the restroom missing what happens next.
Watching this brought back those old memories of watching the show with my wife when it aired snuggled up on the couch. We loved this movie!!! The movie premise is not surprisingly like the first season. Yet again Logan Echolls, Veronica’s ex-boyfriend, is being accused of murdering his girlfriend. Veronica is all grown up and has escaped the pull of her home town. Living in New York, she has set aside her PI days and is trying to work for a very big prestigious law firm. She has a promising future ahead of her until she gets that call from Logan desperately begging for help. Of course she drops everything to rush home to try and solve the mystery around her old classmates.
This was a great movie for any fan of the show. It was so much fun to see every one of the characters from the show. There were a lot of actors that we didn't even remember being in the show until we looked them up on IMDB. This was such a wonderful trip down memory lane that I already can’t wait to watch this movie again. Thankfully I own it. If you were ever a fan of this show I will encourage you to go see this movie. 

I've decided I really should rate movies like I do books so for this movie, the more I think about it the more I love the trip down memory lane. I am going to give this 4.5 out of 5 stars. There were a few slower spots which kept this from getting a full 5, but I did love this movie. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Monkey Me #2: Monkey Me and the Pet show by Timothy Roland

I love reading to my son. I don't get to do this very often but I love this time that he and I get to spend together. Awhile back I was fortunate enough to get approved for the first in this series by Schoolastic through NetGalley. My son and I loved it and when I saw this was available for approval I threw my name in. Again I was privileged to have the opportunity to read this for an honest review by Schoolastic through NetGalley. 

Oh what trouble our little Clyde got into in this book. Clyde is tired of getting hassled by The class bully, Ross and her cranky dog. So Clyde gets the bright idea to try and beat them in the local pet show. He is going to have his sister enter him as Monkey Me. Of course there are risks to being out in front of judges as a monkey not knowing when he will turn back to a boy, but Clyde is ready to show off his stuff. While participating in the pet show Clyde begins to see that there is more going on then poodles on parade.

My son and I really got a kick out of this book and there was plenty of laughing and giggling, and not all of that was from me. I asked my son which part was his favorite and he said it was when the animals surrounded the ... I don't want to spoil the surprise, but it was towards the end. He also loves the comic strip interludes. In these books, whenever Clyde turns into a Monkey the book is written like a comic book. Of course the comic strip is loaded with the goofy silly stuff, and I like to make sound effects to really emphasize the action. These parts are my sons favorite

This is a great series for youg kids, it has just the right amount of silliness and story to make this a very enjoyable read for all. I really liked this book, but I do feel the first book had a better story. I will give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I can't wait to see what trouble Clyde gets himself into in book 3.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I have not read much by Neil Gaiman, but he has been an author who has always intrigued me. I saw the movie Coraline and have the book still to read, and I have always been interested in his comic series Sandman. The first book of his I ever read was The Graveyard Book. I entered to win it in a Goodreads Giveaway right before it first came out, and when I didn't win I thought it was interesting enough to read anyway. It took me awhile to get into that one but I really liked it.

I went through the same thing with this book. I entered to win this book and then the audio book but didn't win either. I was still really interested in reading this, so I put my name on the reserve list at the library. Finally I got around to reading this book, and I am so glad I did. This book was weird, and at first the biggest collection of random thoughts, but it was engaging, entertaining, and it held my constant attention. This is a book for adults, and I get that. I have read a few reviews that people liked the book but felt it was more suited to YA. I think this can be, but for me it was all about remembering a simpler yet more frightening time. As an adult I tend to forget the magic and wonder that is being a child. This book may have been written in a style that is more fitting a younger reader, but I felt it was meant for us as adults to remember our own imaginations.

I connected with this book in a sense that I felt I could have been our narrator. I was a lonely kid who would rather play in my own Batcave or lab than be out with neighborhood kids. I tended to have my own little world, and I was very happy to be the only one in it. I don't regret being a loner at all. It is part of who I am, and this is a strong characteristic of our main character. He is an adult who is reflecting back on being a seven year old boy trapped in a world around him he just couldn't explain. Neil Gaiman wrote this book in a narrative almost biographical style that made me have to keep telling myself, "This is fiction, nothing like this happens in the real world". I liked suspending reality a bit while I read this. I liked being amazed by the events unfolding around me.

This was a really good book, and I am so glad I read it. Eventually I will make it through more of Gaiman's writing. I would love to talk more about this book, but I'm not sure if I can do that without ruining some of the things that happen throughout this story. If my review has peaked your interest even a little I would encourage you to read this. I think it is worth it, and I am really glad I found the time to work this in. I am going to give this 4 out of 5 stars. There were a few things I would have liked a little more explanation about which might have bumped this to all 5 stars. Still a great book though.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Lately I have been trying to be more open to YA books. I really liked the Hunger Games series, and my wife is a big fan of the genre. We really enjoy talking about books together, so I want to know why she likes them so much. She reads some of the books I like, and I read some of hers when she thinks it is a story I might like. This was a book she thought I would enjoy, so I added it to my to-read list a long time ago. When the second book in this series, The Dream Thieves, was released, we saw that Maggie Stiefvater was going to be signing the book at our local library. My wife wanted to go, and I am always up for a book signing. 

Maggie Stiefvater was hilarious! She was so energetic and fun to listen to. We really had a great time. She was also really nice and let us get a picture with her. She kept talking about this car she bought. She uses it in her books and after a book release party let her fans take spray paint and have at it. The graffiti is really cool and those that painted it did a great job. As we were leaving I spotted it in the parking lot, so I snapped a picture with my iPhone and figured it would be a great addition to this post when I got around to reading the Raven Boys. 

On to the review. I wasn't as big of a fan of this book as my wife was. Don't get me wrong. I did like this book, but for me it seemed to take forever to get going. My wife kept assuring me that this is setting up the series, and it gets better towards the end, but I kept asking her if I missed anything. I was listening to this book on audio while at work, so I was afraid I was tuning it out unconsciously and missing good stuff. I wasn't missing anything. This book was just really setting up the characters. A little over half way through it started to build to the end. YA isn't my thing, but I know so many people who read these that I am willing to try it from time to time and give it a shot. 

Here is what I did like about the book. I really like her writing style. I have read books that are written in a dull monotone way. It can really make things drag in a book and cause even the more interesting parts to seem less than thrilling. I have also read other YA books that read like they were meant for 6 year olds. It is just the subject matter that makes it not suitable to follow Goodnight Moon. This was not the case with her writing. I was able to follow along very well without feeling lectured or talked down to. Even though I felt it was a little slow, it still held my attention. I will admit that I tend to miss things here and there listening to an audio book because my attention wanders, but that didn't happen very often with this one. 

Just when I thought I would be ok with just reading this book because it was pretty good, Maggie Stiefvater hooked me. The very end she has this little character interaction that grabbed me. Right away I thought, "Well now I have to read the next book". Yes we do have the second book, and I will be reading it some time in the near future. I have a lot on my to-read plate so it may have to wait a bit, but I will be reading more from her. I also want to read The Scorpio Races. Any book that has man eating horses is going to peak my interest.

Overall I am going to have to give this 3 out of 5 stars. I liked it, but it wasn't all I expected. Even the ending for me wasn't incredible. I do have a lot of respect for her writing and her as well. After getting to meet her, I am much more willing to keep reading her stuff. Now that the characters are established I am looking forward to seeing where she takes them in the next book in the Raven Cycle series.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This marks my 100th Post on my blog, and I can't be more proud to post my first Sherlock Holmes review here. I have written many reviews on the Conan Doyle Holmes books as well as many Pastiches on Goodreads and Amazon, but this will be the first here. If I couldn't post a review on a book by Jeffery Deaver or Stephen King for my 100th post, I am so glad that it will be a Sherlock Holmes review. I can't believe I have written 100 posts. It seems like just yesterday I was starting my blog and begging for followers. I might not have as many followers as other bloggers and even less of those followers I think actually read my posts, but for those that have remained loyal, I thank you. It is always nice to get comments on my posts because then I know they have actually been read and enjoyed.

I have been a huge fan of the detective since I was a child but seemed to get more into the character and stories about a year before the new BBC Sherlock debut. I have always loved Holmes's attention to detail, and it seemed the more I read the more modern day stories I found that seemed to be inspired by Doyle's work. Think about Batman, also refered to as the "World's Greatest Detective". He uses his intelect and a plethora of expensive gadets, but I have always wondered if Bob Kane was thinking of Sherlock Holmes when he started to create Batman. The USA Network show Psych also has a character who uses his keen deduction skills to solve crimes. Yes the character in Pysch is comedic and snarky, but I have also wondered if his character was inspired by Holmes. The last character I will mention, who I know is inspired by Holmes, is Lincoln Rhyme from Jeffery Deaver's novels. I have emailed Mr. Deaver in the past, and once I just asked him if he was inspired by Holme's. Deaver said he was, and he enjoyed Doyle's stories as well.

I am slowly making my way through all of Doyle's Holmes books, and I only have two left after this one. With stories like The Hound of the Baskervilles and a Study in Scarlet, I had high hopes for this one. I began reading this with excitement, and my mind geared up for whatever Doyle could throw at me. I have figured out the endings of quite a few of his stories and thought I had this one all locked up half way through part one. Boy was I wrong. Doyle has not really had these big plot twists in his stories that I had read previously. There is always a big reveal but nothing that makes me doubt the facts presented. I was blown away with the ending of both part one and two.

This book is divided. Part one really only pertains to Holmes and Watson. The second part is more a story of explination. I can't say much about part two becuase it will ruin the first. The book opens with a strange letter being brought to Holmes's attention saying that there is great peril approaching. Could this be the work of Moriarty himself? Could it be a trap set for Holmes??? Then a case is dropped in Holmes and Watson's laps. Throughout the book we are presented with facts as if Doyle wants us to figure out the ending, but he is pointing you one direction till the very end. Then the rug is pulled out from under us readers, and all of the clues we had end up having a double meaning. I was impressed, and in the short moments I had to read this I couldn't put it down.

I have decided that any fan of Sherlock Holmes needs to read this book. Doyle hasn't surprised me like this or proven me more wrong than he did in this book. I wasn't just surprised once, but Doyle did it twice. Both parts had endings that I hadn't expected, but then once I knew I began to rethink the clues and couldn't believe I missed it. For this reason and a few others I give this a 5 out of 5 stars. This has made my favorites list.