Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bobby Ether and the Academy [Book Review]

"A Dark Secret. A Touch of Magic. An Epic Adventure."

Genre - Fantasy/Young Adult
Year Published - 2013
Length - 4,650 [Kindle App] pages
               *Read on my Note 2 phone
Written by R. Scott Boyer

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
"There is no such thing as magic."
That's what the mysterious stranger, named Cassandra, tells Bobby after helping him narrowly escape from the small army of secret agents who surrounded his house.

What follows is an amazing adventure - from indoor forests to vast archives, from a labyrinth of jade mines to the dark recesses of a bear's lair.

Along the way, Bobby will learn that, while there may be no such thing as magic, there is powerful energy - and he has the ability to control it.

Join Bobby and his best friend Jinx as they avoid school bullies, a suspected assassin, and meta-human henchmen alike as they unravel the many mysteries of the Academy - the ancient and enigmatic monastery in Tibet where kids with extraordinary potential are sent to study.
But is the Academy truly what it claims to be?

Review:
This is the first book of a planned series, so I have gone ahead and given this book a 5 Skull rating, as I have faith that the books will only continue to get better.

While this book is an entertaining read, I felt that it is predominantly setting the stage for what is yet to come.

I am sure that there will be the inevitable comparisons to 'Harry Potter'  (an orphaned child whisked away to a mysterious school of "gifted children"...) however, this book completely sets itself apart from those books - in a good way!
It has more of a 'Star Wars'  "Force" feel to it (you will understand once you meet the Tibetan monk, Jong, who is full of "Yoda-like" wisdom)

The author does an excellent job of creating characters that you both love (the character of Jinx reminds me of the character of Zack - from the television show 'Bones' - at an early age) as well as characters that you despise.

Boyer also does a great job of keeping the mystery - you are never too sure of who you can or cannot trust.

The only downside to the book is its abrupt ending...
Let's just say that I am looking forward to the next book in the series, 'Bobby Ether and the Temple of Eternity' .

Until then,

Jason

Friday, January 10, 2014

We Will Destroy Your Planet (An Alien's Guide To Conquering The Earth) [Book Review]

"People of earth! Your time in possession of this planet is nearly at an end. . ."

Genre - Science (Fiction?)
Year Published - 2013
Length - 234 (print) pages
Written by David McIntee

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
For over a hundred years, aliens have been trying to take over the Earth, but every time they have failed, often in the most unlikely ways. Well, no more!
We Will Destroy Your Planet offers our future alien overlords all of the information necessary to bring humanity to its knees.

Planning for an interstellar, or even intergalactic, conquest is a complex affair, that even races which have mastered faster than light travel might find difficult. This book offers practical, 'how-to' advice on a variety of topics including logistics, environmental factors, and of course human weaknesses.
It also goes into the big question of 'why' you want to destroy or enslave the Earth, as this is crucial in determining which strategy and tactics to employ. Once that has been determined, the book follows a step-by-step approach to annihilating human resistance, suggesting the best and worst weapons, and giving guidelines on just how much destruction is optimal. With this book in hand, there is little doubt that humans are now in their last generation as masters of the Earth.

Review:
When I came across this book, I immediately put it onto my must-read list. (better to be prepared for an invasion, ahead of time, is the way that I see it!)
I suggest that you check this book out, at your local bookstore, and at least read the Contents and one-page Introduction.
(Once you have purchased your own copy, I would study up on the "Once Conquered - Defending the Earth from other Invaders" section...)

I will tell you, up-front, that this book is not "light-reading". It is pretty heavy and tedious, at times. On the flip side of that, it is extremely informative - chock full of vast knowledge and mind-boggling facts. (In fact, it is probably one of the most researched books that I have read, which is understandable, since this book is all about teaching the Invaders!)

With that said, there are plenty of "pop-culture references" interspersed throughout the book. If you are a sci-fi fan, you will enjoy key points taken from classic books (Heinlen, Lovecraft), comics, movies (Star Wars, The Thing, War of the Worlds), television shows (Doctor Who, Star Trek, X-Files), and video games.

Now that I have finished this book, I feel much more prepared to meet our future alien overlords.

Jason

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013: Year In Review

I am posting this a little earlier than usual, this year, in case any of you have yet to complete your Christmas shopping. . .
(any of the below would make an enjoyable gift, in my opinion, for a loved one)

The Top Ten Novels that I read this year:
(in alphabetical order - * denotes that the book was published this year)

1. * Black Feathers (the Black Dawn -
       Volume One) by Joseph D'Lacey
2. Choke Hold by Christa Faust (Note:
     this book is a sequel to #6, below)
3. * The Companions by R. A. Salvatore
4. Dead Stop by D. Nathan Hilliard
5. '14' by Peter Clines
6. Money Shot by Christa Faust
7. * 'NOS4A2' by Joe Hill
8. * Spiderstalk by D. Nathan Hilliard
9. * The Third Kingdom by Terry Goodkind
10. ** The Troop by Nick Cutter
(Note: #10 will officially be released, next year/month. I have included it, as I read an advanced review copy back in August - see review!)

So, which novel receives the acclaimed "Best Novel of the Year"?
This is an extremely tough choice this year! I am going to have to say #4 - Dead Stop as this novel has remained in my head since the beginning of the year!
I must also state that #8 - Spiderstalk (same author!) was the "most original" story that I read this year.

My Top Ten Favorite Films released this year:
(in alphabetical order)

1. Bullet to the Head
2. The Conjuring
3. Dark Skies
4. Fast & Furious 6
5. The Last Stand
6. Man of Steel
7. Man of Tai Chi
8. Monsters University
9. Olympus Has Fallen
10. Through the Never

Note: This year, I made the decision to wait until theatrical releases hit my local "second-run theatre" - thus saving myself a lot of money - which, in turn, allowed me to build my own Blacksmith Forge...
So, any movies released in the last month or two (cough; cough - 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug') may not be on this list, simply because I haven't seen them yet.

Best Film of the Year? #2 - The Conjuring

Since this post could possibly be used as a potential gift list, here are a few more of my "favorites" this year:

My Favorite Albums released this year:
(in alphabetical order, by artist, not title)

1. Jeremy Camp - Reckless
2. Newsted - Heavy Metal Music
3. Skillet - RISE
4. Stryper - No More Hell to Pay

Best Album of the year? Skillet's 'Rise'!

My Favorite (New) Television Shows released this year:
(in alphabetical order)

1. Bates Motel
2. Orphan Black
3. The Following

Note: I also dropped Cable this year, back in July, so any new shows released since then, I haven't seen yet...

Best New Show of the year?
'Orphan Black'

My Favorite [Android] Apps that I Downloaded this year:
(in alphabetical order)

1. Angry Birds Go!
2. Angry Birds: Star Wars 2
3. Doodle Army
4. Draw a Stickman: Epic
5. Sleepwalker's Journey
6. Vector
7. V for Vampire

Note: If I recall correctly, each of the above apps are/were Free (on Android)

My Most Played App this year:
Most likely 'Sleepwalker's Journey' though 'Vector' was probably a close second!

Well, there you have my year-in-review.
Just keep in mind, if I haven't reviewed it here, on my blog, chances are there is most likely some sort of write-up on my Google+ Profile
[google.com/+JasonBerry]

Thank you for taking the time to read this post - hopefully it helped you.

May you have a Blessed Christmas and an extremely Happy New Year!

Jason

Monday, November 25, 2013

Spiderstalk [Book Review]

Genre - Action/Horror/Sci-Fi/Suspense
(Sub-Genre - Giant Spiders!)
Year Published - 2013
Length - 468 (print) pgs.
Written by D. Nathan Hilliard

Rating: 5+ Skulls

Plot Summary:
Life hasn't been kind to Adam Sellars lately...

In the past year he has broken up with his fiancee, barely survived a terrible car wreck, and had his brother's family vanish while he lay unconscious in the hospital. Since then he has been a crippled shell going through the motions of life with nothing but the search for his brother to keep him going.

But Adam is about to discover that things can still take a turn for the worse.

Much worse.

His quest for his lost brother has brushed up against a very dark corner of the world and something has come out of that darkness with an unholy vengeance.
He can't fight it, he can't hide from it, and not even the police can protect him as his world descends into chaos.

His only hope lies in a mysterious pair of strangers who have appeared out of nowhere with an offer of aid. But they have their own agenda, and his survival may not be their top priority. Now Adam must keep his wits about him and learn to believe in himself again as events send him on a collision course with a monster more horrific than he ever dreamed possible.

Review:
If you regularly keep track of my blog posts/reviews, then the name D. Nathan Hilliard may sound familiar to you.
Back in January, I reviewed his novel 'Dead Stop'. I stated then (and still stand by it!)  that 'Dead Stop' is the Best Zombie Novel that I have ever read!
At that time, Hilliard also received one of my 5+ Skull Ratings (which basically means above & beyond; exceptional!)
As you can see, above, Hilliard has accomplished this feat once again!
(now the conundrum lies in deciding which book is his best...)

When I discovered that 'Spiderstalk' had to do with giant spiders, I was giddy with anticipation; as anything small, becoming giant, is right up my alley! However, I am going to tell you right now that the spiders that Hilliard has created are not your typical "cheesy" B-Budget Sci-Fi kind of spiders. Hilliard makes them absolutely terrifying! All you have to do is just read the Prologue, and you will see what I am talking about. But don't stop there!
There is so much more to this book than just giant spiders!

Hilliard has created an epic masterpiece with this novel, dealing with secret societies, Native American folklore, a centuries long tribal war, etc, and he just happens to add some spiders (ranging anywhere from two feet to forty plus feet!) in the mix.

Hilliard is one of those authors that draws you completely into the world that he has created, and once you have entered it is difficult to leave, let me yell you!
(My wife jokingly says that I am not going to be allowed to read Hilliard's next book, as I get so enraptured in his stories.)

I really don't want to say too much more about this book, other than the fact that this book will make an excellent gift for a reader in your life, and not just for horror fans! Anyone who enjoys a quick escape from reality will enjoy reading this novel!

Jason

P. S. Thank you, Mr. Hilliard, for the Epilogue. A most excellent way to end a perfect story!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Google+ Profile

I know that I have posted my profile link here, in the past, however G+ now allows easier to remember (custom) web links, so if you want to follow me in "real time" here is the link to my G+ page:
google.com/+JasonBerry
(here you will find brief posts relating to movies, books, music, etc)

I will still post lengthier reviews here, however this blog has become more for "requested reviews", whereas I post more "personal interests" on G+...

Jason

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Companions [Book Review]

Genre - Fantasy
Year Published - 2013
(Published by Wizards of the Coast)
Length - 5,342 [digital] pages *Read on my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Kindle App.
Written by R. A. Salvatore

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
'The Companions' moves Salvatore's signature hero, Drizzt, into a new era of the Forgotten Realms.

As Drizzt's fate hangs in the balance, he reflects on the lives of the trusted allies who stood by his side throughout his early life - the friends now known as the Companions of the Hall.

Meanwhile, the first stirrings of the Sundering begin. . .

Review:
First, and foremost, I have to say that this book is a must-read for any fan of Salvatore's Drizzt Do'Urden series.

I have been reading Salvatore's "Drizzt" books for 25 years now (hard to believe!) and they are just as entertaining now, as they were back then - this particular book especially so!

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with who/what I am talking about, Drizzt Do'Urden is a Dark (Drow) Elf from Menzoberranzan, in the land of the Forgotten Realms.
[Start with the 'Icewind Dale' trilogy, then continue with the 'Dark Elf' trilogy, then the 'Legacy of the Drow' and 'Paths of Darkness' series, and then move into the 'Hunter's Blade' trilogy... this will catch you up.]

'The Companions' is Book One of the 'Sundering' series - six books written by six different authors, creating a major story event within the Forgotten Realms!

I will admit that I was completely confused at the beginning of this book. (the book is now available, however I read an Advanced Review Copy and am unsure if any of it changed - if not, stick through the prologue - you will understand, soon enough, what is transpiring)

This book reunites the "Companions of the Hall" - Bruenor Battlehammer, past King of Mithral Hall and Champion of Icewind Dale (and my favorite dwarf character!) - Wulfgar the Barbarian - the Halfling, Regis - and fair Catti-brie...

The catch - these characters are in a kind of Purgatory where they are being given a choice - to be "reborn" or to go ahead and enter each of their respective "Homelands".
Why, you ask, are they being offered the choice of being reborn? Well, it seems that their dear friend, Drizzt, is going to find himself in quite a predicament, in 21 years time, and they are being offered the opportunity to be reborn (as someone new) and meet again, 21 years later, to help their friend in his time of need.

I am not going to say who chooses what, but I will say that those who choose rebirth keep their past knowledge - all of their prior memories intact - making this a far better decision than just writing an "origin story", and Salvatore keeps your interest high by writing back-and-forth chapters, alternating between each of the characters.

I am looking forward to the next chapter in the Drizzt Saga!

Jason

Friday, October 4, 2013

Shadowlands [Book Review]

Genre - "Psychological" Horror
Year Published - 2013
Length - 263 [digital] pages *Read on my Nook
Written by Alan S. Kessler

Rating: 2 Skulls

Plot Summary:
*Shadowlands is the story of a young boy, innocent and malevolent, who endures abuse by creating a world of shadows where he can escape beatings and the dead.

It is a journey across a unique, internal landscape where there is no border land between sanity and madness; only a compelling blending of the two into a power strong enough to summon love and exact revenge.

The main character is not someone the reader will easily forget. He is a ghost, rising from the story's shattering final pages, who asks that before judging evil we first live with those who made it and taste, as he did, what they put into their witches brew.

Review:
*The above plot summary is directly from Barnes & Noble - I wrote it, verbatim, as it explains, better than I, what exactly this book is about. (and with much greater fanfare than I would have bestowed)

If you recall, I reviewed Kessler's debut novel [A Satan Carol] back in February.
That review received 2 Skulls as well...

While I think that this book is an improvement over his debut, there is just something about Kessler's writing style that just doesn't click with me.
I'm not exactly sure just what it is.
I think he is just a bit too allegorical for my taste. I equate it as if Hemingway decided to write a horror novel - take that as you will.
Also, I just feel that there isn't enough true character development.

I almost rated this one 3 Skulls, but it all goes back to if I can put a book down or not, and this is one of those books that I just had to put effort into reading.

Do not let my rating deter you though.
If the above summary peaks your interest, by all means, give it a shot!
Perhaps it is just me, and I am completely missing something.

If any of you out there in "Blogger-land" decide to read this book, please let me know YOUR thoughts on it!

Jason