Book Review: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

book cover of Hard Magic
Click here for the Amazon page.

Overall Rating: 5 stars (Loved It!)

This book blew me away.

In a world that suddenly got magic in the mid-1800s, we follow a group of magical heroes led by General Pershing against the Immortal Emperor Tokugawa. We follow Jake Sullivan, and ex-convict and a “Heavy” who can spike gravity. There’s also Faye, a teleporting country bumpkin girl who seeks to avenge her grandfather. Some people sport super strength, telekinesis, healing, or the ability to influence others’ minds… the list of powers goes on.

If MHI was an homage to B monster movies, this might have begun as an homage to those 30s and 40s noir films, with the smart-mouth Private Eye in his black fedora. Seriously, I read Monster Hunter International and liked it, but this book was on a whole other level. Correia’s writing style has become more smooth and complex. In addition, the wide cast of characters were all very deep and convincing.

This is where I believe artists live to contradict themselves. I’ve met Larry, and Correia spouts long and hard about being a “Pulp Writer”, claiming that his books will win no award for literary quality. He may be right about that, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t DESERVE an award. Somewhere along the line, focused entirely on entertaining people, Larry Correia touched my soul.

I read the audio version, and I started looking for excuses to do chores around the house so I could keep listening. I went for walks, runs, washed dishes, cleaned floors that were already sparkling, cooked meals for a week ahead of time, and unpacked boxes that had hitherto been condemned to the closet. I found myself laughing, choking up, and getting adrenaline pumped along with the book.

And yet what other book can make you cry, at the same time as having a teleporting ninja-fight aboard a flying dirigible? Probably something else by Larry Correia.

I’m calling your bluff, Correia, on being merely a “pulp writer”. Literary critics can go to hell. This is the kind of thing I read for.

Content

Age: Marketed to Adults

Language: Yep, expect a few SOBs and F-bombs.

Violence: I did mention this is a book by Larry Correia, right?

Sex: Mentioned, but not written.

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

cover of the graveyard book by neil gaiman
Click here for the Amazon link

Overall Rating: 5 stars (Loved It!)

Hands down, one of the very best books I’ve read… not just this year, but ever! The Graveyard Book is gripping from the first moment, and sends chills down your spine. At the same time, it is written in such a way that it should be read aloud, and shared by the entire family.

The Graveyard Book begins with a baby, who narrowly escapes the man who murdered his entire family. The baby is taken in by the Owens – a pair of ghosts who had never been able to have a child of their own.

The problem with writing a review about a book THIS good is that you feel wholly inadequate to really describe it. It’s hard to put words to how great the entire experience of this book is. So instead, I’ll include a personal experience with the book.

I was reading the Audible version, read by Neil himself (coincidentally, @neilhimself is his Twitter handle if you’d like to follow him). I had three wisdom teeth taken out, and the dentist allowed me to listen to my Ipod during the surgery. So, hopped up on Nitrus Oxide, Neil Gaiman became like my father figure – reading softly to me as they pounded on my jaw with a tiny jack-hammer. It was incredibly calming, although I’ll admit I had to rewind and listen to those parts again… I wasn’t paying too much attention to the story. Just Neil’s voice. =)

So pick up this one. If you only pick up one of my recommendations, this should be it. It’ll thrill you, chill you, make you laugh, and cause your eyes to sting. Well done, Neil.

Content

Age: Marketed to Children and Young Adults

Language: No.

Violence: Yes, but not at all graphic.

Sex: No.

Book Review: Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

cover of servant of a dark god by john brown
Click here for the Amazon page

Overall Rating: 4 stars (Really Liked It!)

I’m coming to the party kind of late on this one. Servant of a Dark God made its debut two years ago. The sequel, Curse of a Dark God, is in the works.

I met John Brown at LTUE when he did a presentation titled “How do Get and Develop Killer Story Ideas”. It was, to this date, one of the most helpful writing presentations I’ve seen. But back to his BOOK:

Servant of a Dark God is an Epic Fantasy, with quite a few Dark-Fantasy elements. It follows several character viewpoints, my favorite of which is Hunger; a kind of anti-hero composed of dirt, roots and multiple souls. Talen is the most frequent viewpoint; a young man raised with prejudice against Sleth (unofficial magic users), who begins to find out that his family has a long history of… Slething? Slethnessmanship?

The book is a fantastic read, and moves along quickly. There is never a moment in the book where something isn’t moving, or something isn’t at risk. Some of the familiar Epic Fantasy tropes are there, such as the young protagonist with undiscovered power. They provide an easy way to root yourself into the book, so you can hold tight when John twists them on their head.

I love a good Epic Fantasy once in a while, and John Brown delivers. Fantastic debut!

Content

Age: Marketed to Adults

Language: Nope.

Violence: Yes.

Sex: Mentioned. A conversation between two teenage boys. (Come on, we know teenage boys…)

Book Review: Going Postal and Making Money by Terry Pratchett

cover of going postal by terry pratchett
Click here for the Amazon page

Overall Rating: 4 Stars (Really Liked It!)

These two books, starting with Going Postal (Discworld #33), are now my all-time favorites when it comes to books that make you laugh. Terry Pratchett is high satire at its best, writing Moist Vol Lipwig as he scrambles his way into restoring the Ankh-Morpork Post Office to glory.

Although the book takes place in Pratchett’s Discworld, no previous knowledge about the setting is needed. I enjoyed the Colour of Magic (Discworld #1) when I read it, but Pratchett is a stinky old cheese – he gets better with age.

Going Postal starts with Moist’s hanging, which leads inevitably to a secret meeting with the City’s Patrician, Vetinari. After some talk about the role of angels, Vetinari offers Moist a new start. A second chance from his previous life as a con man – take over running the city Post Office.

cover of making money by terry pratchett
Click here for the Amazon page

Making Money picks up where Going Postal left off. Moist has successfully restored the Post Office, and is growing bored; resorting to petty thefts and tiny cons. When Vetinari makes him another “offer” to let him take over the city mint, Moist refuses on principle, wanting to avoid another fiasco. Soon enough, however, the decision is out of his hands as he is thrown into a position at the City Bank.

These books are especially great if you’re looking for a pick-me-up after something long or depressing. No one can make me laugh out loud like Pratchett.

Content

Age: Marketed to Adults.

Language: Don’t remember any.

Violence: Not really.

Sex: Mentioned.

Book Reviews: The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Overall Rating: 4 stars (Really Liked It!)

Anyone who is interested in the Wheel of Time has probably done their own research on Brandon Sanderson, but let me wrap up some of the facts here; Brandon didn’t ask for this. He is a die-hard of the books, and grew up reading them like you and I. He was already published, starting a promising career of his own, when the opportunity to finish the books was offered by Robert Jordan’s wife, Harriet McDougal.

Brandon has a very meek and humble outlook regarding his role in finishing the series. Don’t let this fool you, though; he is the very best man for the job besides Jordan himself. Firstly, he’s die-hard fan, he is able to tackle this with the love and dedication only a fan could bring. He will make sure to do justice to the characters we are already so attached to. Secondly, Brandon is a fantastic writer of Epic Fantasy in his own right. So far he’s brought us Elantris, the Mistborn Trilogy, Warbreaker, and the first book in a 10-part series called The Way of Kings. (Outside the Epic Fantasy realm, he’s also written a funny Middle-Grade series called Alcatraz.)

cover for The Gathering Storm
Click here for the Amazon page

Now, back to the Wheel of Time Review. Brandon has Jordan’s notes, a great head for writing, and a desire to get it all right, but one of the things I like best about his take on the Wheel of Time is that he doesn’t try to imitate Robert Jordan. When you pick up the books, you can tell that the bard has changed, but the tale is the same. The world and characters have the same feel. You aren’t getting some guy trying to be Robert Jordan. You’re getting the Wheel of Time.

If you read the Knife of Dreams, you might get that sense that we’re finally in Act 3 – the part of the story where everything ramps up further toward the climax. Both books are, in a word, fantastic. It’s really exciting to see the story building toward its end.

The Gathering Storm focuses mostly on Rand in his struggle for sanity and to unite the world for the Last Battle, and Egwene as Amyrlin and captive of the White Tower. It’s SO hard to discuss the rest of the book without spoiling, but I’ll say that Egwene’s story is riveting, and the conclusion is VERY satisfying.

cover for Towers of Midnight
Click here for the Amazon page

Towers of Midnight continues with Rand and Egwene but spreads more often into the viewpoints of Perrin, Mat, and Elayne. There are a smattering of chapters from other viewpoints, such as Nynaeve, Avhienda, and Elayne’s brothers. Gawyn came as a surprisingly likeable character for me; I was never sure exactly how to see him before, but his youthful ignorance is somewhat endearing.

Rand’s story, in particular, was incredibly touching; I listened to the story while scanning the Utah desert for fossils and I’m not afraid to admit that during parts of this, I had to hide from my coworkers on the other sides of large hills as I wept openly. Okay, now maybe I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but I tell you – it’s THAT good.

Content

Age: Marketed to Adults

Language: Nope, unless you count world-appropriate expressions such as “Light!” or “Blood and Bloody Ashes!”

Violence: Yes.

Sex: Mentioned. Nothing really sticks out to me beyond that.

Book Reviews: Knife of Dreams and New Spring by Robert Jordan

cover for A Knife of Dreams
Click here for the Amazon page

Overall Rating: 4 stars (Really Liked It!)

I read 5 Wheel of Time Books this year because I wanted to catch up with the series, now that Sanderson is working on the last installment. As I’ve posted before, I had a hard time continuing with Robert Jordan books. It felt like he was slowing things down too much. I’ve come to view the Wheel of Time as something different, though. A feast, instead of a fast-food meal.

I will review the Sanderson books separately, but I’ve actually heard some people say that Sanderson does a better job than Robert Jordan. I disagree. While that may sound like a great way to endorse the young writer who picked up the Wheel of Time after Jordan’s passing, I think it does Jordan a great disservice. Brandon Sanderson is one of my very favorite authors; I see him as something of a personal writing mentor, and I highly respect him as a person, but this isn’t his series. It’s Jordan’s. And these are the last two books Jordan was able to give us before his passing; you don’t want to miss them.

cover of New Spring
Click here for the Amazon page

Knife of Dreams will contain a more satisfying end than the previous books. A lot of plot lines we’ve been following for the past few books are satisfied. Without giving outright spoilers, I’ll say that you will find this book giving much more satisfying conclusions concerning Mat and Tuon and Perrin’s quest against the Shaido. The book also deals heavily with Egwene’s struggle against Elaida, and Rand’s general struggle against the shadow, and himself. It obviously doesn’t bring an end to the series itself, but it does end a few arcs that have been going on for awhile. Unlike the two books before it, Knife of Dreams was nearly impossible for me to put down (in Ipod form since I was using the Audible version) – there is a lot going on in this book.

That being said; if you DO want something with a more episodic finish, you’ll love “A New Spring”. It follows Moraine in her journey from little spoiled girl to fully-fledged Aes Sedai. It also follows Lan, giving us some valuable back story on where he came from, and how he came to meet Moiraine  and become her warder. It’s entertaining, action-packed, and does a wonderful job of reminding you what got you hooked when you first picked up “The Eye of the World”. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to see these characters, who are hardened by the time we meet them in Book One, as younger and more vulnerable versions of themselves.

Content

Age: Marketed to Adults

Language: Nope, unless you count world-appropriate expressions such as “Light!” or “Blood and Bloody Ashes!”

Violence: Yes.

Sex: Mentioned. Nothing really sticks out to me beyond that.

Book Review: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

cover of Monster Hunter International
Click here for the Amazon page.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars (Liked It!)

Monster Hunter International is, as Brandon Sanderson said, “An Ode to how fun it is to shoot things in the face.” Owen is a large man, a gun-nut, and an accountant. The book begins when he ends up shoving his werewolf boss out the window. Yes, it’s that kind of book.

It takes both fantasy and ‘B’-movie tropes and turns them on their head. If you’re a gun nut, you’ll have plenty of gun porn to keep you occupied. If you’re not a gun nut (like me), the story is plenty entertaining to keep you going. I’d highly recommend this book to any reluctant readers who you think might be into Zombie-killers, shooting games, or gun enhancements; It doesn’t read like a book that has as many pages as it does. (Off the top of my head, I believe it was getting close to 700.)

One of the high points for me was the way Larry included Tolkien-esque elves, with a twist that will have you rolling on the floor. That Larry is a silly son-of-a-gun.

I’m cheating a bit, writing this review a few months after having read the book. This was his debut novel, and is definitely worth picking up; but the best part is, Correia gets better as he goes. If you enjoy this book, I guarantee his next ones get even better. Give it a go, it’s available in paperback everywhere.

Content

Age: Marketed to Adults

Language: Yes, strong language.

Violence: Most definitely.

Sex: Mentioned, not written.