Thursday, April 30, 2020

Dreams may be overrated, but 'Enemy of the Gods' is not

Title: Enemy of the Gods
Author: C. Hofsetz
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 376 

What Goodreads has to say:

Unbeknownst to most humans, there is a place where our consciousness drifts when we sleep. An ancient alien race of self-proclaimed “gods” calls this realm Pangea. For millennia, they needed no intervention from us. Until now.

Oblivious to the world of dreams, neuroengineer Zeon is busy being in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But when Pangea’s deceitful “gods” contact Zeon, he has no choice but to dive headfirst into their war—a war complicated by a band of human rebels led by the last person he’d ever expect.

If the war is lost, it’ll be the downfall of Pangea—and without a world to dream in, the entire human race will die with it.

What I have to say:

Um, a sequel to the absolutely riveting, mind-bending, all-around amazing debut novel Challenges of the Gods? Does this sound like something that will automatically get a five-star rating from me? The answer is yes.

OK, let me qualify that: no book "automatically" gets a five-star rating on here. But when I heard the long-awaited sequel to Challenges of the Gods was ready to hit bookshelves (or my Kindle, I guess), I was pretty sure I'd love it, just as I'd loved the first one.

And I was not wrong.

Everything I loved about Challenges of the Gods is back: an interplanetary struggle, apocalyptic battles in a manufactured dream-sphere, last-second surprises, and of course, a wry, sarcastic narrator who's both powerful and vulnerable.

From the first chapter, I was glad to be back in the competent hands of master storyteller C. Hofsetz. He knows what he's doing, people. Well, OK, I'm not sure any of us writers exactly know what we're doing, but those of us who are successful do a really good job making it look like we know what we're doing, and Hofsetz is amazing at this. 

The story starts in an intriguing place: our hero is stuck in a sophisticated if isolated prison and several missiles are heading straight for him. Yet in this high-stakes moment, the storytelling is so great that while I'm dying to know the outcome, I'm also laughing at Zeon's witty asides, self-deprecating humor, and really smart robo-cat named Harry. (Ask me later.)

That blend of humor and high-stakes intensity sets the tone perfectly for this story. I've heard it said that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sometimes errs on the side of humor at the expense of story. And while whether or not I agree with that is also a topic for another time, let's just say Enemy of the Gods walks a fine line between humor and plot--and the thing is, it never loses its balance.

(Look, you knew it was only a matter of time before I mentioned Hitchhiker's Guide, right? I mean, am I wearing my Zaphod Beeblebrox for President shirt as I type this? You decide....)

On top of that, our author has done in this book what some might consider self-sabotage: telling a story that contains multiple parallel worlds. This means some characters have not one, but two or more dopplegangers from different worlds--and they are all stuck in the same dream-sphere, battling each other. 

But hands together for Hofsetz, who presents this in a way that is not only not confusing, but very entertaining and surprisingly easy to follow. I absolutely loved a certain scene where two parallel characters (John and Jonathan) are absolutely thrilled to meet each other and immediately become best friends for life, while Zeon is left shaking his head. 

Speaking of characters, they are also great. Clearly, I'm biased in favor of Zeon, main character and narrator, as I absolutely love his narratorial voice, but there are strong characters all around. Jane, Zeon's love interest, is awesome, and Primavera--a little girl with crazy supernatural abilities--is fantastic. 

Words cannot express how fun, funny, and awesome this book is, but I might as well end this here because I don't know how much longer I can just gush about this story before my readers start to roll their eyes and tell me to move on.


Until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Musings in Hades - JB Dennis' "Heir to the Underworld"

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Title: Heir to the Underworld
Series: New God of Olympus (book one)
Author: JB Dennis
Publisher: Kristi King-Morgan
Published: January 2020

Goodreads BlurbFourteen young mortals find themselves the unexpected heirs to the powers of the ancient Greek gods. Benjamin Darke, the new god of the dead, soon discovers that being a god isn’t as easy as one might expect.

My Thoughts: First off I would like to congratulate Dennis on their excellent portrayal of the major Greek gods and goddesses, minor Greek gods and goddesses, complete underworld, and basically everything else pertaining to Greek mythology. I can only imagine the plethora of hours of research that went into that. 

While it may seem like Greek myths have been redone hundreds of time, and that there are many "Percy Jackson" spin-offs, this is not one of them. Somehow Dennis took the myths and characters of legend and created something new. The story is exciting and engaging.

Fourteen+ main characters is a lot to keep track of, and there were a few times I got lost. Thankfully the new gods have many of the same personality traits as their mentors, so after a few sentences you can usually figure out who's talking. So I'm gonna list those new gods and what I thought of each one. Starting with the new king of the gods, Andrew.

Andrew St. Cloud is taking over for Zeus. He's a leader, jock, and  generally good guy, which is why it's a bit strange that he's replacing Zeus. Or maybe it's not. Zeus often overlooks his bad qualities, maybe when you take them away you get Andrew. We didn't get to see much of Andrew because he was very busy with sports.

Ashley Queen is Hera's replacement and a total snob. Also stuck up. Also apparently super powerful and secretive. She's seems like a good Queen. 

Samuel Poole is Poseidon's heir and super awesome. He's by far one the the friendliest and kindest of the group. 

Benjamin Darke is heir to Hades and the Underworld. He's quiet, but courageous and saves everyone's butts multiple times. Ben was, of course, my favorite character, this book is mostly about him, so that makes sense. I loved how well he jived with Hades and Persephone. 

Sara Gardener is taking over for Demeter. I honestly got Sophia and Sara mixed up a lot. I did think the scene with Sara's father was very touching.

Ana Maria Sabio is Athena's replacement and she's ready for it. Inquisitive to a fault, Ana Maria is not someone to be taken lightly.

John Strong is Ares' heir and he sucks. He's mean, rude, homophobic, and a jerk. Which, also sums up Ares. (maybe minus the homophobia)

Sophia Hunt is replacing Artemis, she's boss, loud, and not afraid to speak her mind.

Mathew Golden is taking Apollo's place, and no title could fit him better. He's fabulous, kind, dazzling, and gay. I mean, that's Apollo, right?

Renée Hart is almost as lovely as her mentor Aphrodite. Renée is of course beautiful, and charming, but also generous.

Lance Smith is heir to Hephaestus. He shoots fire from his hands a few times, otherwise I kind of lost him in the crowd.

Gavin Swift is replacing Hermes, but where the god is mischievous, confident and cunning, Gavin is more quiet, shy, and unsure of himself. He also demonstrates selflessness and care.

Vincent Hops, heir to Dionysus seems to live only on alcohol. Seriously, how does this boy not have liver damage? He's also generous, almost to a point of carelessness.

And, last but not least - Irene Adler, replacement for Hestia. Irene was by far the most mysterious. She disappears at odd hours and then lies about where she's been. I assume we'll learn more about her in another book.

SO, there you have it, the New Gods of Olympus. How they all managed to share a house and not blow everything up is a mystery to me.

My last few thoughts I wanted to dedicate to Hades and Persephone. I LOVED their fight scenes in the Underworld. I loved how their magic complemented each other and gave them strength. I also really loved Hades true form. Basically I just loved the entire jail break and throw-down with Medea. It was riveting.

This was a solid first book in seems to be a promising series. I look forward the the further exploits of the new gods of Olympus.

Rating: 3/5 trees

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Anna's a Super Genius - Nadeau's Death By Midnight

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Title: Death by Midnight
Series: The Secret Life of Anna Goode
Author: Nicole Nadeau
Published: November 2019

Goodreads Blurb: Anna Goode is a teenaged-genius with a secret—her homemade inventions that she only shares with her best friend, Jake. But when a shadowy figure kidnaps Anna’s parents, she is forced to help him carry out his mysterious plan. With her inventions and Jake by her side, Anna must use her gifted mind to save not only her parents, but countless others. And she better hurry. Because the clock is ticking.

My Thoughts: Guys, this book is awesome. The story is gripping with enough twists and turns to keep the reader satisfied, and to keep the plot racing. Also, super timely. Hats off to Nadeau who wrote a book about a super virus just a month before Covid-19 broke out across the world. Made me wonder if some saboteur is behind the whole thing. (Zoom, I'm looking at you.(JK. unless . . .)). ANyWaY, maybe the reason I enjoyed this book so much was because I share a name with the protagonist, and I do have a good friend named Jake (well, Jacob, but still). It was quite easy to drop into Anna's world and run along side her. 

The plot of Death by Midnight is well thought-out, and the writing is good. The complications and risks the CIA must deal with by getting involved is very real. As is the fact that large organizations often ignore individuals in crisis so that they can save the majority. And that's good, but it doesn't make it any less horrible. In order to save the USA from a supervirus, the CIA is willing to sacrifice Anna's parents - 2 lives or millions of lives? The answer seems simple. Except when those two people are your entire world. To Anna, the world won't matter if her parents are gone, which is why they're very lucky she's a genius. Nadeau makes it very clear that the whole situation would have been much different without Anna. Sure Anna and Jake wouldn't have been there to steal the vials for Komarov, but I'm certain he could've easily blackmailed someone else to do it. We'll assume the vials would still be obtained, and the device built, but there is no other outcome where the victims live, and the virus is not released. Anna is the only variable that could make that outcome occur. But man, was it down to the second!

I was a big fan of Anna's and Jake's friendship, and how they worked together and depended on each other. It was refreshing to have a hero actually need support. I also liked how easily Anna could be manipulated, because that's how real humans are! Most people would do anything to spare their loved ones harm. Humans tend to protect their own people, not complete strangers, so it was nice that Nadeau recognized this and reflected it in Anna.

I would definitely recommend this book to readers who like espionage, strong female characters, and grounded fiction. I look forward to book 2!

Rating: 4/5 trees

Thursday, April 2, 2020

D&D Meets the Real World - RJ Parker's "Requiem, Changing TImes"

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Title: Requiem, Changing Times
Author: R J Parker
Publisher: Olympia Publishers
Published: September 2019

Goodreads Summary: Clint and Corbin are having a weird day. Best friends for life, things are getting a little strange around their town, and at school. When they're followed by a strange man looking for Clint and later attacked by an imp, it makes sense to retreat to the safety of home. But when strangers from another world, Banks and O'Neil, arrive with their medley of allies, things get even weirder. Why are they here? What do they want? And what is The Requiem that everyone keeps talking about? As Clint and his friends and family are drawn deeper into a thrilling adventure, only one thing is for sure. They may not be getting out alive. And class with Mrs Christenson will seem like a walk in the park after this.

My Thoughts: Okay, let's dive in. This book is non-stop action from start to finish. Any time things start to slow down, a dwarf crashes through a window, everyone gets shot by arrows, or a troll crashes the Halloween Dance. Each battle scene is well thought out, very akin to a D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) combat encounter. In fact, this book draws very heavily (like super super heavily) from D&D. Not only does Parker borrow races, and creatures, he even uses the same classes as D&D - druid and paladin stand out the most. Don't get me wrong, I love D&D. I've participated in multiple campaigns, and am currently playing a gnome grandma (code name: Gwam-Gwam) who happens to be a druid. The game can get crazy, ridiculous, and terrifying, and it's fun, but when being adapted to a written story it would need heavy editing and some re-writing to be successful. Requiem, Changing Times does not do this. 

The plethora of typos, grammar mistakes, general formatting errors, and rough writing made me wonder if this book had even been edited. In fact, I believe that a good editor would make this book much more palatable. The story is interesting, and most of the characters are fairly well developed, but the "first-draft"iness of the book ruins what could be awesome plot points. For example, I really liked the characters Tamara, Kayla, Banks and Nix, but their characteristics seemed to fluctuate greatly from chapter to chapter. I know Tamara goes through a total personality change, so I'll let that one slide. Characters may face horrible trials that change them as a person, but they still have a base personality that needs to stay consistent for their responses to stimuli to make sense. 

The characters in this book don't seem to have that base line consistency. I realize half of them are teenagers, but their personalities were a jumble of contradictions that didn't work together. I would say especially Corbin. That kid not only annoyed the heck out of me, but really wasn't that great of a friend. Clint keeps stating how great of a friend Corbin is, but I never saw it. The boy sabotages Clint at every turn, and is plain rude the rest of the time. Maybe that's just how teenage boys are, I don't know because I was never one. However, I do know something about teenage girls, and Parker's portrayal of them was ridiculous. Almost all the high school interactions felt like something from a TV show. Yes, there's bullying and weirdness and hormones, but no one is so absolutely ridiculous and vain as Amber. No one takes selfies right after almost being blown-up. I could go on about how stereotypical everyone was, but I'll spare you.  

In the end the story itself isn't bad, but the execution is. This book has enough material and crazy plot points to be something really unique and wonderful, if it just had some decent editing and rewriting. 

Rating:  1/5 trees