Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D Hammons – A Review

A Copy of this book was provided to me by Netgalley in Exchange for an Honest Review!

As always lets start with the blurb: “After ten years of being told she can’t tell the difference between real life and a fairy tale, Alice finally stops believing in Wonderland. So when the White Rabbit shows up at her house, Alice thinks she’s going crazy.

Only when the White Rabbit kicks her down the rabbit hole does Alice realize that the magical land she visited as a child is real.

But all is not well in Wonderland.

The Ace of Spades has taken over Wonderland and is systematically dismantling all that makes it wonderful. Plain is replacing wondrous, logical is replacing magical, and reason is destroying madness. Alice decides she must help the Mad Hatter and all those fighting to keep Wonderland wonderful.

But how can she face such danger when she is just a girl?

Alice must journey across the stars to unite an army. She discovers that fairy tales are real in the magical world beyond the rabbit hole. But they are not the fairy tales she knows.

Fairy tales have dangers and adventures of their own, and Alice must overcome the trials of these old stories if she wants to unite the lands against Ace.

With the help of Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White and heroes old and new, Alice may have the strength to take back Wonderland.

I find myself torn with this one. On the one hand, I really honestly enjoyed myself with it, for the most part. The re-imagining of the various fairy tales were inspired and unique for one. The idea, for example, and Snow White is a booze runner was hilarious, and that she was having a feud with Red Riding Hood was just the right amount of insane.

The basic story here is that Alice in Wonderland really happened, and that Alice is not a girl from the Victorian era of England, but rather a girl from our time. Apparently, the “rabbit hole” that connects the dimension of Wonderland to ours is almost a wormhole, and echos of events that take place in Wonderland and its fairy tale neighbors escape to our world, and become the books we read. Because Wormholes don’t follow time and space laws, you end up with the story of Alice going to another reality and becoming a book written in the past, for example.

When Alice gets back home however, no one of course believes her in regards to her adventures, and they start drugging him with anti schizophrenia and ADHD medications. This was something I could understand, as today parents frequently heavily medicate their children.

Eventually Alice grows up, and around 17 years old sees the White Rabbit, who steals her meds, and drags her back into Wonderland, where all hell has broken loose…because Wonderland is changing.

From there Alice goes on a journey to find a way to save Wonderland. She meets a colorful cast of characters, deals with a few challenges, and then the one thing that pisses me off about the book occurs.

Romance happens. Suddenly, without warning, and without any logical reason I could see.

One of the first people Alice meets is Peter Pan, who tells her that she is a Fairy Tale to him as he remembers his book before he came to Neverland. She knows Peter Pan as a fairy tale.

She askes for his help and they team up after she helps him solve some issues. They act, for the majority of the book, as just a pair of friends. No real hints of romance or anything. Then suddenly after a major battle…Peter kisses her, and next thing you know the two are inseparable. I had to sit there and think for a minute pondering if I missed something.

I did not.

The ending in fact happens the way it does SOLELY because of the two of them being suddenly in love.

At least the ending did not sequel bait.

Overall I enjoyed the book but the ending honestly soured it for me. If the romance had made sense I would have been fine with it, but it did not. Not for me at least.

I rate this a 3/5 and suggest it to anyone who likes twisted fairy tales. Honestly, they are the best part. Alice is nice and all, but when you meet Pinocchio you will smile broadly, I promise.

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Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne – A Review

So I picked this little novella up due to the hilarious ads that a fellow blogger, Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha, writes for it. He is the author by the way. I mention this because unlike a large portion of my previous reviews, this was a purchase by me, and not given to me.

Not that would really change how I write about this. Lets start with the Blurb from Goodreads:

“In the far future, humanity has settled Echo, where it has endured over a thousand years of dark age. Corporations and government have merged, becoming the oppressive authority known as the Regime. Military and police have merged into the Department of Enforcement, their only mission to crush a huge rebel network known as the Dissidents. Over half the planet is covered by decaying cityscapes and the elite live high above; removed and remote from the populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in one man, a bitter and crippled former Enforcer named Atriya. But before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.”

Lets be honest here: This needs work. Not on the technical level no. The world building in this volume is fascinating, and the mythos are well done. Further, knowing that Kent was a former military man (I think Marines) lends the military bits some authenticity, as well as the philosophical bits about being a solider versus a warrior. The one action scene in the book is very well done as well.

There is a LOT of Philosophical bits too. More then I would care to have in a “sci fi dystopian action story” that is billed as having cybernetic ninjas. In fact, the only time a ninja is referenced is at the tail end of the story…when we hit my major issue with this novella.

Its not a story. Its pure setup. It ends in a blatant cliffhanger and the entire time in the novella is spent building up the main characters mental issues and his “approaching shatter”, a term they use to describe the moment when a Crew members world basically falls apart due to stress and they can’t take the pressure anymore.

What I got from reading this mostly was a sense that the author himself was trying to work through some issues he himself might have been having. Maybe things he had to do while in the service, or his own philosophical beliefs.

Its not bad, its actually really interesting.

But the fact that the “story” by itself goes nowhere pisses me off. I paid $3 for this, and I wanted a story. I got an ending that literally could have had an announcer at the end going “Join us Next Time as we find out what happens in the Warehouse Raid!”

Now, Kent is working on “Volume 2” which at the last post I saw of his was at something like 32k words.

My hope is that he gives those who already purchased Volume 1 a discount or even gives Volume 2 to us for free, because frankly I am not going to pay for another Volume with the possibility that there is no ending again. Also I suggest that once Volume 2 is created, that Kent takes both Volumes and combines them into a single story and takes Volume 1 off the market.

I give this a 3/5. The lack of ending absolutely kills it for me. Completely and irrevocably. And I am really tired of authors doing this.

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The Shootout Solution, Genrenauts Episode 1 by Michael R Underwood – A Review

A Copy of this Novella was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an Honest Review

First up, as always, we have the blurb: “Leah Tang just died on stage.
Not literally.
Not yet.

Leah’s stand-up career isn’t going well. But she understands the power of fiction, and when she’s offered employment with the mysterious Genrenauts Foundation, she soon discovers that literally dying on stage is a hazard of the job!

Her first job takes her to a Western world. When a cowboy tale slips off its rails, and the outlaws start to win, it’s up to Leah – and the Genrenauts team – to nudge the story back on track and prevent major ripples on Earth.

But the story’s hero isn’t interested in winning, and the safety of Earth hangs in the balance…”

So this caught my eye. I had heard whispers here and there about this concept, this idea. A series where the idea that all genres of fiction, from Romance to Fantasy to Historical Fiction were real, and that there were people who would police them.

This is the first in a series of Novella’s exploring a team whose job is to go into these places, and correct the Story.

The basic idea is that each of these worlds follow the general Genre conventions of their particular style. Western’s are categorized as being gritty, with clear Heroes and Villains. Fantasy has your wizards and dragons. Sci-Fi with its spaceships. Spy World would have non stop skullduggery. And each of these places affect Earth via Ripples. When a world gets out of balance, we get affect, generally in a negative way.

In this book, the Western world goes off the rails, with the Bad Guys actually defeating the Hero and making off with a ton of loot. Its up to the Genrenauts, and their new recruit Leah Tang to fix it.

While the book is short (it is a novella after all) I could not help but get sucked right into the concept. Everything is explained just enough to get me going. The characters are great and interesting, and they included both our main character who is an Asian Female (this is rare as hell) and even had a Transgender lady (male to female). It comes up briefly, and then just moves right on. Its well done, and fun.

And that’s the biggest draw here. The entire book is just FUN. Its not deep, or meaningful. You won’t find answers to your own self doubt or anything here. But you will find action, adventure, and just a generally fun time.

I honestly can’t wait for the next book in this series. I want to see where things go!

I rate this a solid 4/5. If the concept interests you I urge you to grab this up, read it, and become a fan like me. Also its like $3 for the Kindle edition, so no excuses folks! Bookworms really should give this a read!

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The Builders by Daniel Polansky – A Review

A Copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The Blurb: “A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.

The last job didn’t end well.

Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain’s company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.”

So I admit, freely, that the blurb explains almost nothing. But it gives you a solid idea none the less. This sounded like a story of betrayal, revolution, and vengeance. And you know what? It delivers on all these fronts.

Firstly, I ended up grabbing this book because of the cover. It showed animals, and I have a thing for animals acting like people in fiction. I love the Redwall series, for example, and movies like The Secret of Nimh, Watership Down, and the Wind in the Willows. Basically, even as an adult, I love these sort of books.

And honestly, I figured this would not be that dark. I was WRONG.

This is NOT for kids. If Redwall is for kids, this is for those who grew up on Redwall but want something more….gritty. This is the story of The Captain. That is the only name he is given. He is a mouse, who is described as having a “face of stone”. He is grizzled, violent, grim, smokes cigars, and wields a pair of pistols. He is known for being highly intelligent as well.

He is aided by the rat Reconquista, the owl Elf, the stoat Bonsior (and never call him anything BUT a Stoat, or a Frenchman), the opossum Boducia, the salamander Cinnabar, the mole Gertrude, and the badger Barley. And each of these characters has their own wit and charm. Cinnabar, for example, is nicknamed the Dragon and is known as a master gunfighter, faster then anyone else. Boducia is a sniper and camouflage expert. Bonsior is an assassin and thief. And so on.

Each is introduced in a flashback, but its a flashback about the Captain going back to recruit them for “one last job”. This story takes place after another story, but as far as I can tell that other story does not exist in written form, its simply referenced here. And the writing does a solid job of referencing things while keeping everything current.

This book is brutal with its action scenes. At one point, in order to recruit Barley for example, the Captain sends a pair of rats into his store to try to kill him. Barley goes berserk, basically turns the rats into paste, and then nearly kills the Captain. Everything is graphic and bloody and would make GRR Martin proud.

The world is also interesting. The story takes place in “The Garden” which is not really defined, geographically. However, there are references to real world places like France and the like. It makes me wonder just were this story takes place. In our world? In a world like ours? It got me thinking, and that is always a good thing.

The writing just oozes character, and its hard to really discuss this book without gushing over it. I saw no grammar problems or spelling errors, and the pacing was just spot on. At times, in fact, I forgot I was reading about animals. Each character had personality, especially the villains, and by the end of it I wanted more. There was no cliffhanger ending however, and everything was resolved by the end.

Overall I give this a solid 4/5. If you want a gritty but humorous story with a great setting, fun characters, and solid action, give the Builders a look. Bonsior would be most happy if you did, and trust me, you want to make him happy.

The Spirit Collectors by M. Amanuensis Sharkchild – A Review

A Copy of this Book was provided by the Author in exchange for an Honest Review

And an honest review he shall have. First lets do the book blurb: “What is the worth of your spirit?

In the world of Awya, where life is scattered across isles in a seemingly endless ocean of black liquid, the Isle of Winder is home to uymns whose primary trade is agriculture and flower cultivation. Here, an umyn boy by the name of Amory Demshen becomes obsessed with Tempertime Cemetery—a collection of portals powered by spirits that link the isles of Awya together, and a place forbidden to those without proper training and knowledge.

Amory disobeys the laws and his mother, sacrificing the qualities of youth and the virtues of his upbringing to pursue a selfish adventure connived by a hidden, sinister force. Unnerving truths and perilous consequences await as Amory—equipped with an authoritative jar, a chest of bewitching cards, and a flying stone slab—plunges into the darkness of the spirit collectors.

Will Amory learn the worth of a spirit in time to save his own?”

Let me begin by saying I did not finish this book. I made it to page 65 out of 200. That was it. And you are most likely asking yourself “Why?” The premise is interesting, and visually the book is a joy to look at. The author was nice enough to send me a hardcover copy of this book and what made me want to read it was the very lovely cover art and style of the book. Each chapter has a small image at the heading, which is very nice, and the inside covers hold some very nice landscapes showing the island world.

Check out my Unboxing Post when I got the book to see how visually stunning this book was.

Sadly, the cover is about the only thing I can really say was good about this book.

Now again, I hate to do things like this. I struggle with reviewing things negatively. However, at the same time, I feel its my duty to provide honest feedback and opinions when I am given something.

I cannot, under any circumstances, recommend this book to anyone. At all.

Let me start by saying that the one good thing outside of the actual artistry of the book is that the premise seems interesting and the world is unique. The concept that there are these islands, separated by a vast ocean with the only real method of travel being these gates inside of graveyards is very very interesting.

But that is it. Let me start with our protagonist, Amory. He is a little kid, most likely around 10-12 years old although its never clearly defined in the bits that I read. He acts like a little kid as well, which is fine. He is super curious, and seems to feel that the rules should not apply to him because, well, he knows better. Within the first 65 pages all we get is his life on the island. No real plot development or anything. Just following him around from day to day, and watching as later on he starts to become a brat. He has two! near death encounters in the graveyard with the portal. The first one he basically forgets about because of a guard who finds him. The second he falls unconscious from. After the second he gets put under watch to keep him out of the graveyard and away from the portal, and he basically just gets madder and madder. It makes him unlikeable. At least as an adult reading it. Bratty children are not someone I want to cheer for personally.

Next is the plot. We have a 200 page book. The writing needs to be tight and focused to tell a good story in so short a time. But its not here. After 65 pages, about a 3rd of the way into the book, and I STILL had not seen any plot development. None. I did get an entire chapter devoted to a flower festival in the village though, and about how much Amory and his mother don’t like it. Why did that need to be there? It served very little purpose beyond fluff and world building, but in a 200 page book you gotta be careful with how much time you spend on that.

Another thing that drove me nuts was the writing style. First, Sharkchild is one of those super descriptive authors. Amory himself was described very little. He came off as a generic little boy. His mother however got 2 full paragraphs devoted to detailing her physically and mentally. His cottage got a full paragraph just for the exterior. I don’t know how Amory really looks, but I can tell you his cottage is wooden, with trellis on the outside, and on that trellis are green vines, and on those vines are purple flowers. This was important for me to know.

In addition to the overly descriptive nature of Sharkchilds writing, is his use of words. I am going to give you three sentences from the book. These are from the chapter devoted to the flower festival and are purely descriptive.

“The landscape was a glimmering rainbow of translucent resplendence”

“There were hundreds of different flowers – all transistors of moonlight – dispersing the flow of warm, ashen beams between their foliage and their petals, emanating neon radiance.”

“The golden glow of the candle fires meshed with the youthful, dull light pouring through the partially exposed windows”

Now if you see nothing wrong with those sentences and actually like them, then please, give the Spirit Collectors a read. Because the entire 65 pages that I did manage to get through? Its peppered with that sort of writing. It drove me mad. I even asked several other adults I work with, intelligent people, how they felt about these sort of sentences, and generally the response I got was “The hell does resplendence mean?” I had to explain it basically means really pretty and bright.

And this writing style touches on my final issue: Who is this book for? The way the plot is written, and who the main character is, implies that this is a young adult or children’s novel. Its short length also attributes to that. But the word choices make it seem like its for a much older audience.

Overall I cannot in any way recommend this book. I am giving it a 1/5. Stay away from this book. Unless you want a showpiece on your shelf cause seriously, the art is amazing. But that is all this book is: Window Dressing. A Showpiece. All style, no substance.

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The Paladin Caper by Patrick Weekes – A Review

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an Honest Review

Alright, before I even get to the blurb I need to warn you. This review will HAVE SPOILERS for the first two books, The Palace Job and The Prophecy Con, in it. And some minor ones for the Paladin Caper. I have to do this because I need to explain why I am going to give it the rating I intend to give it. If all you want to know is if I recommend this book, then the answer is no, and its going to get a 2/5. If you want to know the WHY then read on. The cut will come after the blurb.

The Book Blurb: “A thief’s good deeds are never done.

Loch and her crew are determined to stop the ancients from returning to reclaim the world they once ruled, but a kidnapped friend throws their plans awry. When a desperate rescue turns into a shocking reunion, the ancients return and seize power. Determined to stop them, Loch and the crew look for a way to close the gate to the ancients’ world, but this time, they find themselves up against an enemy that has insinuated itself into the highest ranks of the Republic. Cruel, cunning, and connected, the ancients target the crew’s families and histories, threatening to tear friendships apart.

If that weren’t bad enough, Loch must deal with her treacherous assassin sister, her turncoat ancient friend, and a daemon who has sworn to hunt her to the ends of the earth. In order to save the Republic and pull off her largest con ever, Loch will need her friends…and maybe her enemies too.”

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The Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes – A Review

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an Honest Review

The Blurb: “Book Two in the Rogues of the Republic series.

Who would have thought a book of naughty poems by elves could mean the difference between war and peace? But if stealing the precious volume will keep the Republic and the Empire from tearing out each other’s throats, rogue soldier Isafesira de Lochenville – “Loch” to friends and foes alike – is willing to do the dishonest honors. With her motley crew of magic-makers, law-breakers, and a talking warhammer, she’ll match wits and weapons with dutiful dwarves, mercenary knights, golems, daemons, an arrogant elf, and a sorcerous princess.

But getting their hands on the prize – while keeping their heads attached to their necks – means Loch and company must battle their way from a booby-trapped museum to a monster-infested library, and from a temple full of furious monks to a speeding train besieged by assassins. And for what? Are a few pages of bawdy verse worth waging war over? Or does something far more sinister lurk between the lines?

From Patrick Weekes, one of the minds behind the critically acclaimed Mass Effect video game series, “The Prophecy Con” continues the action-packed fantasy adventure that kicked off in “The Palace Job.”

Alrighty, this is going to be rough for me. You see, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was, honestly, more of what made “The Palace Job” fun and an enjoyable read. Right up until the ending.

But I will come back to that. This book takes place a bit after The Palace Job, with Loch and her crew having gone their seperate ways and Loch being assigned as a guard for a diplomatic mission to the Empire, due to the events at the end of the first book. Things go off the rails pretty damn fast, and it comes to light that the Empire demands that the Republic give them the Elf Poem Book from the Palace Job. Which they do not have anymore.

So it becomes almost like a race to see if the Empire can catch Loch before she can get the book. But other things are afoot as well, and as the book progresses it turns out more and more that this is not about the Elf Book but rather something much more.

It is a fun and enjoyable read to be sure. Lots of action, wit, humor, and all the crew makes a comeback at some point. There are two major issues however with the book. One concerns the Epilogue/Post Script, and the other is one of perspective.

You see, this is most assuredly the second book in a series. Everything is written and introduced in a way that very clearly shows a history between everyone. Early on for example the unicorn Ululenia is questioned as to where Dairy is. Unless you have read the first book you will have zero idea who Dairy is nor why its funny that she gets mad about him being mentioned. None. There is no real context presented. In fact, Dairy himself doesn’t appear till about the halfway point in a pretty damn solid twist. The whole book has instances where this occurs, meaning that if you have not read the first book a lot of the humor and references will be lost.

The second issue comes in the Epilogue, and then a hidden “Post Scripts” bit. You see, after the events of the book, we get an Epilogue, which shows the results of everything that took place. During the epilogue a major event occurs that shakes things up. I mean MAJOR.

After the Epilogue in the EBook I was reading came the Authors Thank You, and most people I know would close the book out at this point as its clearly the end.

But nope, there is a Post Scripts bit. A literal “After Credits” scene in the book. And the only reason I caught it is I have this wierd obsession with making every book be at 100% completion, so I tend to just flip through the Thank You and whatever else is at the back.

So imagine my surprise when I hit this Post Script bit…which then erases the major shakeup that occured in the Epilogue! I about facepalmed.

And the funniest thing is that I started reading Book 3, the Paladin Caper, right after I finished. And Chapter 1 of that is written in a way that assumes you did NOT read the Post Script scene.

Overall, its a decent read, and while it is a self contained story, if you came into this series with this book first you would most likely not enjoy it as much as say I would, simply because you would not get many of the references.

I rate this a 3.5/5. This is because its a 4 if you have read the Palace Job, and 3 if you have not.

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