Regarding Books and Things

Unbiased book reviews

As Wings Unfurl, by Arthur Doweyko — September 16, 2016

As Wings Unfurl, by Arthur Doweyko

wings-bannerFrom the Back: Applegate Bogdanski returns from Vietnam with a missing leg, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. A fair trade, he thinks, for a coward, whose only remaining passion is to dull his grief with morphine. He stumbles through each day working at an obscure Newark, New Jersey bookstore, looking forward to nothing and hoping it would arrive soon. Enter Angela, who claims to be his guardian angel. Neither one is an angel, but together, they uncover a conspiracy which threatens to undo humankind itself.

Cover: as-wings-unfurl-800-cover-reveal-and-promotionalThe cover is well-designed and modern, which is essential for a science-fiction novel, a genre dominated by amateur covers, writing, and mass-market paperbacks. It catches the eye immediately. The text used for the title and author’s name is typical of science-fiction novels: futuristic, and slightly robotic. The illustration on the cover is done extremely well, capturing the idea of “angels”, along with the main character, Applegate Bogdanski.

Score: 5/5

Content: The writing is decent. I’m not going to say it’s the best writing in the world, because it isn’t. The writing itself is above average for a novel in this genre. I have a feeling that the author had a thesaurus handy when he wrote this novel, and his decision to use more difficult language to understand pays off (for the most part). There were a couple places in the novel where the phrasing was too difficult to understand, meaning I had to skip entire paragraphs. The plot was, again, decent. For a genre as vast as sci-fi, it is difficult to find something that hasn’t been done before, and it takes a creative mind to come up with something unique. Arthur Doweyko delivers. Those who are accustomed to science-fiction will enjoy this novel for it’s refreshing plot. People who are trying to get into the genre, however, may be turned off by the plot’s complicated nature. Overall, however, this novel was an enjoyable read, but not suited for new sci-fi readers.

Score: 4/5

Characters: Applegate Bogdanski is not a common name. According to HowManyOfMe, there are only 1,617 people in America named Applegate, 717 with the last name Bogdanski, and 1 person named Applegate Bogdanski. In a novel, you want a name that isn’t too common, but isn’t too uncommon.  This name is far too uncommon to be believable, and every time I saw the main character referred to as “Apple”, I had to laugh. Other than the name, the main character is believable. His struggles after returning from Vietnam with a morphine addiction seem all to true to many stories of veterans.

Score: 4/5

Final Score: 13/15 (B+)

If you want to read this book, you can purchase it here.

Disclaimer: I received this book, for free, from SAGE Blog Tours, in exchange for an honest review.

 

As Wings Unfurl Cover Reveal — September 13, 2016

As Wings Unfurl Cover Reveal

wings banner.pngThis is something new! I have started with virtual book tours, where I take part in a virtual “tour” of reviews, cover reveals, and interviews on predetermined dates. This is the first one I will be taking part in, and it is for a book that looks great: As Wings Unfurl, by Arthur M. Doweyko.

as-wings-unfurl-800-cover-reveal-and-promotional

From the Back: Applegate Bogdanski returns from Vietnam with a missing leg, a Purple Heart, and an addiction to morphine. He stumbles through each day, looking forward to nothing and hoping it will arrive soon. When he attempts to thwart a crime, he is knocked unconscious and wakes up to discover that people are once again calling him a hero, though he feels undeserving of the praise.

Apple returns to work and meets Angela, a mysterious woman who claims to be his guardian. Immediately, he feels a connection to her, which morphs into an attraction. But he soon discovers that Angela is much more than she seems.

Apple and Angela are swept up in a conspiracy that stretches through time and space. Together, they must fight to save everything they hold dear from an alien race bent on destroying humanity.

 

Stay tuned for my review of As Wings Unfurl, on September 16th!

The Dog, Ray, by Linda Coggin — September 6, 2016

The Dog, Ray, by Linda Coggin

From the Back: Daisy, age twelve, has died a swift death in a car accident. She finds herself in the afterworld, which resembles nothing more tha  just a job center. Her soul is being returned to Earth, but not as a human – she’s returning as a dog. A dog who is determined to get back to her parents and to get back home.

the dog ray

Cover: (Sorry for the blurry pic, it was the highest resolution I could find.) The cover is pretty simplistic, when it comes down to it. The outline of a girl shows Daisy before, and the dog shows her after. There are only a couple colors used throughout, and it gives the book a calming, simple feel. I liked the way that the “O” in “Dog” circled the dog’s head. My only issue is that, on my copy of the book, and other copies I have seen, the cover is slighly blurry, almost like somebody made the cover a little too small, and had to blow it up slightly.

Score: 4/5

 

Content: While this book is considered a YA novel, the writing was much more suited to a middle-school novel: not terrible, but not great. Many of the plot points seemed to not have an explanation outside of advancing the plot, leaving a few glaring plot holes. Besides this, one of the most interesting plot points, and one that was key to the ending, was the idea that we are reincarnated and slowly lose memories of our normal lives. And yet, despite its importance, it was only lightly brushed up upon a couple times before the ending. And when it comes to the ending, I can not describe in words how unfufilling the ending was. NOTICE: SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED WITH CAUTION! The book ended with Daisy losing all of her memories over the span of one page, and becoming just a dog. Here’s an excerpt: “And then there’s a noise like crashing, crumpling metal, and everywhere are diamonds catching the light. Diamonds in my hair and in my face and I’m flying now. Weightless. Nothing. Dark, empty nothing.” This continues for a few lines, before Daisy just forgets everything thats happened to her, and the book ends. The last line? “Happy. Happy. Happy. My Pip. Here.” And thats it! After 193 pages of character progression, it’s wiped away with a single line! SPOILERS OVER! CONTINE HERE!

Score: 2/5

 

Characters: Despite its genre being YA, the characters, again, were typical of a middle-school novel. The main character ruins many chances that she has to reunite with her family by not noticing that she can’t talk anymore. After multiple months time, you would think that a dog with the mind of a 12-year-old girl would realize that she can’t speak English, and yet, she continues to attempt to speak, with only a “woof” coming out. Another character, the father of Pip, when he realizes that his son that he never knew is there at his resturant, doesn’t react realistically. He calls his wife, and instead of saying: “Hey honey, I just found my long-lost son from before we were married”, he calls her and says “Hey honey, I won’t be back tonight. Something extraordinary has happened”. Then he HANGS UP and doesn’t return his wifes calls for the whole night! That isn’t how any sane human would handle this conversation!

Score: 2/5

Final Score: 8/15 (D)

My next review will be of Don’t You Tust Me?, by Patrice Kindl.

 

 

 

 

Cloud And Wallfish, by Anne Nesbet — August 30, 2016

Cloud And Wallfish, by Anne Nesbet

Disclaimer: I recieved this ARC for free through the Teens Top Ten review program. The following is an unbiased review. I will never accept payment for a review.

From The Back: Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn’t really Noah and he didn’t really just turn eleven in March. And he can’t even ask them why – not because of his astonishing stutter, but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number One: They will always be listening.) As Noah – now “Jonah Brown” – and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening – and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the aprents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs? In an intricately plotted novel full of smoke, secrets, and lies, Anne Nesbet cracks history wide open and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world that’s impossible to understand.cloud-and-wallfish

Cover: The cover is placed on a red background. Red is a color primarly associated with communism and socialism, as it originally represented the blood of the workers who died fighting capitalism. This works well because it helps you, subconciously, have an idea of what the book may be about, before you read any description. The color yellow, used in the title, is associated with childhood, which belays the idea that it is a novel about children. The illustrations are simple: a cloud, and a whale. Both of these will eventually come into play in the story. And finally, there is a partial map of Berlin, fading into the background. This will also be important in the story. Overall, this is an eyecatching color that does a good job of relaying key information about the story.

Score: 5/5

Content: The story opens in 1989, with a (11 year old?) boy being swept away by his parents to East Berlin. The explanation his parents give him is so that his mother can finish her doctoral dissertation on speech therapy. But if that is the case, why does he have to change his name? His birthday? And why is he not allowed to ask questions? Noah, trapped in his own head due to his Astonishing Stutter, becomes lonely, with only one friend there: Cloud-Claudia. But when her parents are killed in a car accident, Noah  Jonah begins to question everything. And that is where the story shines. The writing throughout shines, but when Noah starts investigating the death of Cloud-Claudia’s parents, Anne Nesbet does an amazing job of capturing the mind of an unusual (11 year old?) boy, and captures exactly how someone ripped out of everything they know might think.

Every chapter concludes with a “Secret File”, providing either background on world events at the time of the chapter, or things that Noah Keller learns after the book ends. These provide a great incentive to keep reading. While I was reading, there were a few times when I felt like taking a break,but got to a secret file and just had to keep going.

Score: 5/5

 

Characters: Throughout all of Noah’s life, he has been forced to deal with assumptions, mainly about his intelligence level, due to his Astonishing Stutter. Rather than become a mute, as many might do, he chooses to continue talking, and he just “kept opening his mouth and plowing on.” Ms. Nesbet chooses to not include the stutter in the text of the book like many other authors would, but to simply write what he means to say. Through this, we can see that Noah is incredibly smart, with an organized mind.
The support characters are just as well-crafted. Cloud-Claudia is an imaginative young girl, who, after the death(?) of her parents, becomes obsessed with the idea of Changelings and the Land of the Changelings.
And, of course, Noah’s parents. They begin as simply Mom and Dad, but soon grow into something much more mysterious.

Score: 5/5

Final Score: 15/15 (A)

If you want to preorder this book, you can do so here. It will be released on September 20, 2016.

My next review will be of The Dog Ray, by Linda Coggin.

For This Life Only, by Stacey Kade — August 23, 2016

For This Life Only, by Stacey Kade

Disclaimer: I recieved this book for free through the Teens Top Ten review program. It is an unbiased review. I will never accept money for a review.

From the Back:

3125711
Stacey Kade

A young man struggles to move forward after the death of his twin brother in this gripping, coming-of-age tale about loss, redemption, love, and the moment you begin to see the world differently.

Three minutes.

Jacob Palmer died for three life-changing minutes.

And when he wakes up, nothing is the same. Elijah, his twin brother, is dead, and his family is broken. Jace’s planned future is crushed, along with his pitching arm. Everyone keeps telling him that Eli is in a better place, but Jace isn’t so sure. Because in those three minutes, there was nothing.

Overwhelmed by guilt and doubt, Jace struggles to adjust to this new version of the world, one without his brother, one without the certainties he once relied on. And then Thera comes into his life.

She’s the last girl he should be turning to for help.

But she’s also the first person to truly see him.

Cover: front-cover-011416-for-this-life-only-250x375The cover of this book caught my eye. It has been a while since I have seen a book using this many shades of blue, and I am grateful for the color choices for multiple reasons, the first being that blue is my favorite color. Besides the selfish reasons, the color choice worked well in my opinion because blue is often used to symbolize faith, truth, and heaven. All three of those are common themes in this book. The font choice for the cover was also a wise choice, showing the carefree style of writing that Stacey Kade uses.

Score: 5/5

 

Content: When I saw the newest novel from Stacey Kade among the ARCs (Advance Review Copies) on the shelves, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had just finished reading her Project Paper Doll series, and I wasn’t very impressed with the quality of the writing or the story the trilogy told. But I was taken aback by the shift in quality. This book was easily one hundred times better than anything else she has written. The writing was taken care-freely, and much of the dialogue felt natural, unlike her previous series, where dialogue felt forced.

In this novel, Jace and Eli are twins, raised in a conservative religious household. Jace is the more destructive twin, who drinks and stays out past curfew, while Eli becomes active in the church and gets perfect grades. But when Jace’s drinking indirectly leads to Eli’s death, his relationships, with friends and family alike, begin to fall apart, even as a new one rises from the ashes.

Perhaps the reason for the writing having improved since the last books I read by her is the way this novel is more personal than the others she has written. She was raised within a religious household, and went through many of the same struggles Jace goes through in this novel. She was able to draw on her personal experiences to capture the perfect image of someone struggling with faith.

With all of the praise I have been giving this novel, you’re probably thinking that it is just too good to be true. And sadly, it is. There was a disappointing ending that did not show the way things ended up working out, and we never find out the answers to many questions raised. Unfortunately, Stacey Kades novel ultimately left me slightly disappointed.

Score: 3/5

 

Characters: Stacey Kade handled all the characters well. She painted Jace and Eli as the perfect example of many siblings in the world: ones who are not much alike, and almost never get along, but would not be able to survive without each other. After Eli’s death is when the writing truly shines. She painted many different expressions of grief ranging from ignoring the death and continuing life (as in the case of Jace’s pastor father), to a complete mental breakdown culminating in running from church.

However, much of the conflict in the book came from Jace’s friends disagreeing with his girlfriend, Thera. There is one scene in particular that seemed incredibly forced. I won’t give away the details, but will tell you that it takes place in a drive-in restaurant, with a disagreement about Thera. Besides that one scene, though, the characters did seem incredibly realistic.

Score: 4/5

Final Score: 12/15 (B-)

If this review has you hyped for the release of the book, you can order it here. It will be released on August 30th of 2016.

 

Scythe, by Neal Shusterman — August 16, 2016

Scythe, by Neal Shusterman

Disclaimer: I received this book for free through the Teens Top Ten program. This is an unbiased review. I will never accept payment for a review.

From the Back: Two teens are forced to murder—maybe each other—in the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowascythe-9781442472426_lgn are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.

Cover: I know that they say to never judge a book by it’s cover, but sometimes you can make assumptions on the quality of the book based solely on the cover. This is one of those books. Typically you can expect a great cover from Simon and Schuster, and this cover is no exception. The first thing you notice is the person wearing a robe, and the black scythe in the middle. The only issue I have with the cover is the decision to make the scythe black. In the books, they go out of their way to explain that a Scythe should be their embodiment of light, and yet, the scythe on the cover is black.

Score: 4.5/5

 

Content: “We must, by law, keep a record of all the innocents we kill.” Thus opens Scythe, the first book in The Future Perfect series by Neal Shusterman. I was a huge fan of the Unwind dystology and of Challenger Deep, and knew to expect great things from this book. I just didn’t know how great it would be. While there were some logistical issues with the setup of the world, I missed it during my first read because I was so engrossed in the world. The book is a change from other YA novels, because it depicts, not a dystopia, but an almost-perfect utopia. The organization that is the Scythedom is the only aspect of this universe that makes it almost-perfect. They are the ones tasked with killing gleaning people at random, in order to stop overpopulation. Shusterman deals with the ethically problems posed by this with the touch of a master writer, and is able to show how morals make us human. And when it comes to the plot, Neal Shusterman delivers. Never before have I read a book that had such plot twists. Every time that I thought I knew what would happen next, it proved me wrong.

Score: 5/5

 

Characters: Shusterman has a history of creating believable and realistic characters. (Read Challenger Deep to see what I’m talking about.) Both the main characters, Citra and Rowan, are realistic and face the prospect of being a Scythe with the expected horror. At first, I thought that Rowan would be the most likeable character, however, I had that idea changed again and again, with a different character in the lead each time. Now, I don’t normally show too much emotion when I read. In fact, the last book I remember crying while I read was The Fault in Our Stars, several years ago. But this book made me stop. It made me think. And while it didn’t make me cry, it came close to it. The last book I read that had the characters show pure, unadulterated emotion was Challenger Deep, also by Neal Shusterman. This author is capable of some of the most beautiful writing of the modern age.

Score: 5/5

 

Final Score: 14.5/15 (A)

 

If you want to buy this book, you can pre-order it here. It will be released on November 11, 2016.

My next review will be of For This Life Only, by Stacey Kade.

 

 

 

 

In The Beginning, an Anthology — August 12, 2016

In The Beginning, an Anthology

Disclaimer: I received this book for free as part of LibraryThing’s Advance Readers Program. This is an unbiased review.

Cover: This book is not released yet, and the cover has not yet been revealed.

Score: N/A

 

Content: The book contained 8 short stories, each of which retold a biblical tale. Each story was written by a different author, and as such, the quality of the story varied from tale to tale. Overall, each story was unique and well-written. Some stories, however, particularly the first, overused adjectives to the point where I felt I was in a Stephanie Meyer novel. For the most part, however, each story was enjoyable. The environments varied from tale to tale, from a post-apocalyptic world to Second Eden. Each world varied in realism, the most realistic being The Deluge, a retelling of the classic tale of Noah’s Ark. The least realistic setting was The Demon Was Me, which featured the League of Witch Assassins in a post-apocalyptic world.

Score: 4/5

 

Characters: It’s hard to gauge characters on originality when most of the characters are based off of preexisting ones. However, each story contains a new interpretation of at least one character. The first story featured Habakkuk, the servant of the prophet Daniel, and provided an interesting interpretation of Daniel’s mindset. The next story, Babylon, featured a cast of immortal and divine beings, and had a hilarious interpretation of the state of Heaven and the creatures who inhabit it. The most original story was Deluge, which told the story of Noah’s Ark from an atheist’s perspective. Overall, each character was incredibly original and some were thought-provoking.

Score: 5/5

 

Final Score: A-

 

If you want to buy this book, keep an eye out on http://www.month9books.com/. The book will be released on Oct. 25, 2016.

 

Polly, by Stephen Goldin — July 11, 2016

Polly, by Stephen Goldin

Disclaimer: I received this free review copy from the author, as part of the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program. There was no payment, and I will never accept payment for a good review. The following is an honest and unbiased review.

From the Back: Herodotus Shapiro has had an unbelievably bad week. His wife left him. The IRS is after him for thousands of dollars. His home/bookstore burned down. On his way to take refuge at his brother’s place, he got a speeding ticket. And now his car has broken down in the middle of the desert in front of a large mansion. What more can go wrong? But now his world takes a turn for the weird. The mansion has a snowman on the front lawn–in the desert, in July. The house, which is bigger on the inside than on the outside, is owned by Polly, the most preternaturally beautiful young woman he’s ever met. Polly is an acrobat, a gourmet chef, a psychologist, an international financial consultant, a physicist, and a woman of who-knows how many other incredible talents. She has an unbelievable library, an art collection of all the world’s great masterpieces, and a print of a previously unknown Marx Brothers film. Her toilet paper is actually silk. And she seems to have some mysterious plans for him ….

Polly

Cover: The cover of Polly caught my eye, but unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. It looks like something I could have thrown together in word, and keep in mind that I am by no means a graphic designer. The text is simple, with the author’s name on the bottom of the cover and the name of the book to the side. The typography looks like standard Microsoft Office WordArt, which is disappointing. The image on the cover looks like a slightly warped stock image, but the Awesome Indies Approved seal in the upper right convinced me that the book was worth a shot.

Rating: 2/5
Content: While the cover didn’t give me high hopes for the book, the content was high quality. Stephen Goldin manages to make fun of everything, from country music to the IRS. The book itself is classified as a “Humorous Satire”, according to Amazon, and that description is accurate. The plot is whimsical, and at times makes no sense, however, that is common among books in this genre. The author uses humor and interesting conversations with “Polly”, the titular character, to reveal his views on religion. The way he presents his views is clever enough that no matter how I present them here, they will not come across as effectively as the author shows them, so I will let you discover his views for yourself.

Rating: 5/5

 

Characters: Polly is filled with original characters. From the protagonist,  Herodotus Shapiro, to the titular character Polly, every character is unique. I was impressed with the realism of the main character, even while surrounded by otherworldly, even supernatural, people and situations. He reacts to events in his life the way anyone would, and that adds to the realism of the character. I especially enjoyed the character’s names for their… weirdness, for lack of a better term. Example: Herodotus.

Rating: 5/5

 

Overall: 12/15

Letter Grade: B

If you want to purchase this book, you can do so here.

Stay tuned for my next review, of The Blue Ridge Project.

Disruption, by Chuck Barrett — June 30, 2016

Disruption, by Chuck Barrett

I’m back with a review, and a lot earlier than I thought I would be. I have a new format for reviews debuting. This book is titled Disruption, and was written by Chuck Barrett.  

 

From the Back: There are two types of people: those who have been hacked and know it, and those who have been hacked and don’t know it. Former Naval Intelligence Officer turned secret operative Jake Pendleton finds himself in a pulse-pounding race to stop a cyber-terrorist from releasing a string of the most heinous cyber-crimes the world has ever seen. Crimes that could render the world’s advanced technology useless. Jake teams with his partner, Francesca Catanzaro, to track down their only lead, a white-hat hacker in Italy known only as The Jew. A man who might hold the key to stop a group of black-hat hackers from causing worldwide chaos—tag named Disruption. After a search of the hacker’s flat in Rome turns up empty, Jake and Francesca follow the clues—a trail of dead bodies that leads them across Europe. Along the way, Jake discovers a possible link between recent hacks and a Malaysian airliner that mysteriously disappeared. In the final adrenaline-charged moments before Disruption, Jake and Francesca find themselves in a high-voltage race to stop these cyber terrorists from unleashing destruction against their sworn mortal enemy.

Cover: When it comes to the mystery and suspense genre, actually, when it comes to the mass-market paperback subset of publishing in general, the covers start to blend together. You’ll notice that, after a while, all of John Grisham’s novels will start to blend together. The same is true for other big names, such as Dan Brown or James Patterson. You need something to differentiate your book from the rest, and the cover of Disruption was designed expertly. The very first thing you notice is the author’s name, followed by the title. The rest of the cover is centered in between the two, and is able to convey the main plot points while still catching the eye. The continent Europe is where much of the novel is set. The use of  binary (0s and 1s) lets you know it will be a cyber-espionage story, and the use of the color red signifies an impending crisis. This is definitely one of the more well-designed covers in the genre. 

Rating: 5/5 
Content: The plot of the book took me by surprise with its constant referencing current events, although I’m used to fantasy and YA novels set in entirely fake towns, countries, and earths. It was refreshing, then, to see things that I knew referenced in a work of fiction. (Real-world events such as North Korea hacking Sony, ISIS, and multiple other plot points that are thinly-veiled copies of events such as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared). 

There were multiple points in the book itself where it seemed like the author was simply trying to meet a page count. That can be forgiven, however, by the quality of the filler. For example, there is a multi-page chase scene that served only as filler, but was still quality writing, even if it did not advance the plot. 

And on the topic of plot, what a plot. I have started reading cyber-warfare thrillers recently, and this book has made me wonder what took me so long. The book’s plot is quick, with twists and cliffhangers every couple chapters (There are 68 chapters). Chuck Barrett kept me on my toes the entire time. Even in the last few pages, there were multiple plot twists, requiring me to pay close attention.

Rating: 5/5
Characters: The characters created by Chuck Barrett are unique, and each has their own, different motivations. The book shifts to follow a separate character every few chapters, and eventually, the many protagonists and antagonists will blend. By the end of the book I was unable to remember if the hacker The Jew and the hacker named Boris were the same person or not. The book could have definitely benefited from having fewer repeating characters. 

Rating: 4/5
Overall Rating: 14/15

Letter Grade: A
If you want to buy the book, you can buy it from Amazon here.
My next review will be of Polly, by Stephen Goldin
Disclaimer: I received this book for free through NetGalley. I was not paid for this review, and will never accept payment for a review. This is an honest and unbiased review.

I’m Back — June 27, 2016

I’m Back

Hey all,

I’m back. I have a new site theme, and am also now focusing only on reviews. It’s been a while since I last posted, but I will be posting regularly from now on, at least once a week, with a different book review each time.

Expect the first review in the first week of August. I will be out for most of July, but will be starting again as soon as July ends.

 

Thanks for continuing to follow me while I was inactive.