Thursday, 23 February 2017

Exotiqa - M. Black

A book should be a movie that plays in your mind as you read it and Exotiqa is a prime example of this. M. Black has created a futuristic world that is so detailed and so intricate that I found myself closing my eyes after reading a paragraph just so I could visualize all of the details I’ve just read about. The year is 2055 and the world is vastly different from what we know today. Flexbots, human looking and highly intelligent robots, are a part of the everyday lives of citizens and most homes have one of their own. It’s a situation much like the one portrayed on the TV show Humans. The majority of people are equipped with Slabs, technology that allows them to download programs and access the equivalent of our internet without any type of equipment. It’s all done with your brain. People can even text each other using the palms of their hands. The new craze is a program called Exotiqa but people who download it are starting to act strange and some Flexbots, sworn to never harm a human, are acting out across the country. Maci, one of the main characters, is an older model Flexbot who escapes termination and meets up with a human, Fione, who figures out that something is wrong and decides to stop it. It’s a detailed and, at times, complicated story but I didn’t want to miss a page of the book. I’ve always enjoyed M. Black’s work because her style of writing is both entertaining and thoughtful but never “fluffy” like a lot of young adult books are today. Rarely are they set in Canada so it is nice to be familiar with some of the aspects unique to this country. The characters are well thought out and very detailed, right down to the description of freckles on Fione’s face. They are complicated but enjoyable characters to discover and meet. The story is told from varying viewpoints, including Maci’s. The difference between the narration through the eyes of a human and that of a robot is really fun. It is distinct and well thought out how each being would feel and see things. The time and energy put into creating this world makes me wonder when M. Black has any time to do anything besides write. I’m not a fan of futuristic robot novels but I really enjoyed every page of Exotiqa. It’s also a bit scary because, let’s face it, these things could be a part of our future world.

Crimson Savior - Isabel Castruita

Crimson Savior is the first book in the Hell’s Guardian Chronicles written by Isabel Castruita. It’s the first in a new vampire series that carries a lot of the same characteristics as the Vampire Academy series written by Richelle Mead.
                Zyra is an eighteen year old who thinks she and her mother are a part of the Witness Protection Program due to the fact that they often have to move at a moment’s notice. However, when the next move ends up with Zyra attending the Ivashka Vampire Academy, she finds out that she belongs to a long line of Italian vampires called the Strigoi Benefici, a line that has sworn to protect the harmless breed of vampires called the Lugat from the evil vamps called the Varacolaci. Yes, it does get confusing but it’s all explained in the prologue and expanded on throughout the book. Zyra is also a Hell’s Guardian which makes her one very powerful and special young lady and puts her on the radar of Queen Velika Talsania. The queen wants to make slaves of the Lugat and will destroy anyone or anything that gets in her way. There is also a love triangle since what would a young adult novel be without one causing all kinds of teen angst. I had some questions about the validity of the love relationship between Zyra and her vampire boyfriend, such as how does she fall head over heels and know she wants to be with him forever after only knowing him for a couple of days? The speed by which a lot of things happen in the book was questionable as is the fact that the characters don’t ask for explanations of things. Zyra, for example, just seemed to accept that she is a vampire and would train to be a Hunter. She also graduated in an extraordinary amount of time.
                The characters are, for the most part, very enjoyable and are ones that I will enjoy reading about in future books. I’m sure they will continue to be developed throughout the series. Overall, I enjoyed the story and it has all of the ingredients of becoming a good series. It just needs to be polished up a bit and maybe some aspects made a bit more believable, such as the ones I mentioned above. The storyline may be fictional but the emotions and reactions should have some modicum of realism. There is a lot of potential in this book and therefore I look forward to reading the next in the series. I read the digital version of this book and it formatted very well. The cover is well done and eye-catching.

Monday, 20 February 2017

The Fat Man's Monologue - Aliza Galkin-Smith

                The Fat Man’s Monologue is the ultimate book for anyone who loves to read about food, have a good laugh, and indulge in a little food porn via the delicious recipes within the pages. It is the story of a very overweight man who just doesn’t give a care about exercise, eating right, or what anyone has to say about the matter. It is told entirely from his point of view and the book follows him as he writes about his foodie adventures in his popular blog and juggles his very active love life, a love life that would make most any man blush. He doesn’t have a lot of luck maintaining the relationships but he does seem to have a lot of them. For someone who is an acknowledged fat nerd, he sure does get a lot of women. Everything is written with a healthy dose of humour which makes this one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. The author is unapologetic about his weight and love of all things edible and he readily admits his flaws. It’s this ability to look at himself honestly, both the good and bad aspects, that makes him so very likeable. His relationships with various people are wonderfully explored throughout the book. A former student, Aviram, who is now a chef, becomes a very close friend and some of their discussions about food were my favourite parts of the book. The chemistry between him and Tanya, one of his love interests, oozes off the page and the dialogue between him and Tanya’s teenage daughter, Gali, is funny and truthful. The book travels throughout various places such as Israel, Italy and the U.K. The writing about the various foods native to these areas is so vivid that my mouth was literally watering. The recipes are wonderful and, because the author’s mother was a Polish Jewish woman, I was extra interested in her recipes and ways of preparing food because I can make them for my Polish husband. This is an extremely easy book to read because the writing flows along smoothly and the author had me cracking up the whole way through the book. There is one paragraph discussing “rope poop” that was so blunt that it couldn’t be anything else but funny.
                The front cover is different and unique but really didn’t draw my attention as much as the title did. I read this in a digital format and it worked very well on my ereader. This book will delight and amuse foodies all over.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Turtles and Ancient Secrets - Ronald Ritter and Sussan Evermore

                Turtles and Ancient Secrets is a historical fiction novel that tells about the love story of Augustus and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon, two adventurers many years apart in age but true soul mates. They travel the world on a variety of explorations, visiting different places and cultures. One of the adventures is a visit to Yucatan where they came upon a small pox epidemic. Augustus tries to give the inhabitants vaccinations but the Mayan people are terrified.  How he deals with this is one of the more interesting parts of the book. Augustus and Alice also witnessed the Massacre at Tizimin where they narrowly escaped death as well as living conditions that were less than comfortable, even for Victorian times.
                I picked this book to read because I thought it would involve more about spirits and séances because the book starts with a séance and a pirate ghost who tells Alice about her future. Unfortunately, although there is a tad bit of the supernatural element, the book is almost scattered in the story telling. By that I mean the writing didn’t really flow easily for me and I found it hard to keep track of what was going on. I can’t really put my finger on why I couldn’t get into the story but I just never really found that I could lose myself in the story. I always say that for me to love a book I need to be able to view it in my mind like a movie but with this book I found that almost impossible. The characters were not badly written but Augustus was blustery and unlikeable and I found him to be very arrogant. I also didn’t see the need for the modern aspect of the story with Lucy and the senior Alice. It would have worked well leaving that part out of it and just having Augustus and Alice’s tales. I liked the main idea of the story and loved reading the historical accounts of various things, such as sailing on the ocean liner and little details such as how they dressed, ate and travelled. I guess for me the style of writing is what took away from the book because the story itself was interesting.  
                I read this book on my ereader and it formatted very well. The cover, unfortunately, really didn’t draw my eye as it is rather bland.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Strong Reflection - Cate Mckoy

                Strong Reflections is the second book in the Dark Series Trilogy and is listed as a part of the romance/suspense genre. I haven’t read the first book but I liked the premise and found the cover quite eye-catching so I decided to take a chance. I’m not usually a fan of romance books but if it’s mixed with a healthy amount of mystery I can find enjoyment in the book. This particular book is about seventy-five percent romance and fifteen percent suspense so there were times that I found myself laughing at some of the cheesiness of the dialogue. Pet names such as “Babydoll” for a supposedly tough FBI agent and some of the wording that I won’t write here due to the explicitness of it provided me with some humour in places that I’m pretty sure weren’t supposed to be funny.  It is also quite sexually explicit which didn’t bother me and was, for the most part, quite well written but if that’s a problem for some readers they should give this book a pass. I would have liked to have read the first book in the series so that I could have had some back story to Ashley’s trauma and relationship connections to other characters. Ms. McKoy does a really good job of providing enough information without giving the whole first book away. I’m conflicted as to whether I find the characters of Ashley and Kyle believable. Maybe two people falling in love do act and speak with enough sugary sweetness that I felt nauseous but it seemed strange coming from seasoned federal agents. This is probably just me though. The characters are well fleshed out and multidimensional even if they are overly saccharine towards each other. I really enjoyed the suspense part of the book. There’s a great twist at the end that made me want to read the third and final book in the series. Overall, I’m left confused with myself because the romance was neither here nor there for me but I loved the style of writing and the mystery. I hope this author has written or will write a novel where suspense plays the main part. I will say that the erotic writing is very well done. I’ll be sure to look for the third book to add to my reading list. I read this on my ereader and it formatted well. The cover, as I’ve already said, is very attractive and is what initially drew me to the book.