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Dave Green's Read Alerts

My hobbies include just about anything, really...except reading, I hate reading! Kidding of course, reading is my favorite hobby! I love not only reading, but creative writing as well. I'm currently working on a novel about a group of paranormal social workers who try to help creatures like themselves cope with being different while also protecting humanity from the more malevolent beings. Other hobbies include music, yoga, comedy clubs, movies, and video games. I read from just about any genre, but my favorites are fantasy/urban fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and graphic novels (that's what us comic-book geeks call them to try to sound more sophisticated). In my secret identity, I work as an accountant for a nonprofit organization . I know...accounting and creative writing don't exactly go together...what can I say, I'm full of contradictions! My rating system: 5 STARS - I absolutely loved this book! I couldn't wait to finish it, yet I also never wanted it to end! 4 STARS - I liked this book an awful lot! It would have been perfect, except for some minor issue or issues that detracted from my overall enjoyment. 3 STARS - I liked this book, but found it somewhat flawed. Probably would not read again, but might still give the author and/or series a second chance. 2 STARS - Overall, a disappointing read for me. It had its moments, but sadly the bad outweighed the good. 1 STAR - I hate the part of my brain that convinced me to read this book!

Currently reading

Queen and Country: A Gentleman's Game
Greg Rucka

Heat Wave (Nikki Heat, #1)

Reblogged from Dave Green's Read Alerts:
Heat Wave (Nikki Heat, #1) - Richard Castle

Sorry, Castle, I love your television show, but Heat Wave is lukewarm at best :(

It's been said that the bigger they are, the harder they fall...so maybe that's why king of New York real estate Matthew Starr just took a plunge from a six-story balcony. And while plenty of people may have wanted Starr dead, since he himself wasn't one of them, the authorities know they have a homicide on their hands. So the NYPD does what they always do when they need to catch a murderer...they turn up the Heat! As detective Nikki Heat investigates Starr's murder, she finds herself being trailed by dangerous opponents, professional killers, and worst of all, annoying tag-along reporter Jameson Rook! Nikki Heat always gets her man...and no one is more happy to hear that than Jameson Rook!

Okay, let me just get something out of the way...this book, which is a media tie-in for the "Castle" television series, is advertised as being written by a fictional character...so it's not like I went into this expecting high art or anything! But I am a big fan of Castle, and while a lot of the success of that series is owed to its brilliant stars, Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion (who play, respectively, NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett and best-selling author Richard Castle), I've always enjoyed the writing on the show as well. The dialogue is often clever, the characters are all likeable in their own quirky ways, and the mysteries are fun to solve. So while I understood that I wasn't about to read the next "War and Peace" here, I was hoping to read something that was about as enjoyable as an average episode of the Castle television show. So imagine my disappointment when this book didn't even manage to live up to those expectations...

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After reading "Heat Wave", I'm not surprised bookstores don't seem to be in any danger of selling out all their copies...

At first glance, I thought I was in for a fun ride. The cover features a blurb from James Patterson (a frequent guest-star on the series) praising "Castle's" latest effort. The book is dedicated to "the extraordinary KB" and all of Castle's friends "at the 12th". The acknowledgements tear down the fourth wall when Castle includes some very familiar names (including Stana's & Nathan's), and the "About The Author" blurb features a rather amusing clue as to who the book's authors really were. Unfortunately, it didn't take long before I stopped grinning and started groaning instead. For one thing, the prose is beyond clumsy. The writers were clearly trying to mimic the hard-boiled writing style of Raymond Chandler and Michael Connelly, but the prose is often just dull in the best moments, and downright awful in the worst. Another glaring problem is the mystery itself. Anyone who has read more than ZERO mysteries will have no problem figuring out the solution long before Nikki Heat does. In fact, the only reason I ever wondered if I may have been mistaken is that the solution seemed so painfully obvious, I questioned if maybe the book would throw an unexpected twist at me towards the end. Sadly the ending held no surprises (and didn't come soon enough, for that matter).

Now, since it's alluded to that this book was really written by two of the TV show's head writers, I can give them some leeway in regards to the above complaints. After all, television writers aren't accustomed to telling a story through third-person narration, they mostly use dialogue and action to move things along. So while I expected that the prose might be lacking, I at least thought that I would have some fun with the characters themselves. Unfortunately, the writers came up short here too. I'll admit that I got a kick out of watching the main characters of the show pop up throughout the book. In addition to Beckett and Castle being channeled through Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook, Beckett's team of nerdy detective Ryan and cocky detective Esposito show up as Detectives Raley and Ochoa, while sassy medical examiner Lanie Parish is transformed into Lauren Parry. Unfortunately, none of the book characters have even a fraction of the charisma of their television counterparts. Raley and Ochoa display almost no personality, with most of their attempted jokes falling flat. And Jameson Rook is just downright annoying! While Castle is a bit too full of himself, his charm and sense of humor still make him the kind of guy you'd like to have a drink with. Rook, on the other hand, is the kind of guy you'd like to slip a mickey in his drink just to get him to shut up! He comes across as a self-absorbed egomaniac, and the only thing the writers get right with him is that his behavior makes it completely understandable why Nikki wouldn't want to have him around! The ladies fare a little better, with Parry offering some tender moments. And while Nikki isn't nearly as endearing as Kate Beckett, she at least manages to outshine the other characters (which is kind of like crediting the vampire episode of Gilligan's Island as being the most believable)!

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There may be a little Nikki Heat in Kate Beckett, but there isn't nearly enough Kate Beckett in Nikki Heat :(

That's not to say that the entire book is a failure. The action sequences are actually very well done, especially an exciting fight between Nikki and a brutal hit-man. And while the dialogue often lacks the zing of the TV show's, sometimes the characters do fire off a good one (like when Heat refers to an interrogation being conducted by her and Rook as them playing "Good Cop - No Cop"). And fans of the show will enjoy some of the winks to the audience. Castle's mother Martha has a hysterical cameo as Margaret Rook...it's too bad her appearance was so short, as she was the only one who really lived up to her television counterpart. And then there's Chapter Ten...hardcore fans of "Castle" already know what I'm talking about! On the television series, after "Heat Wave" is released, Beckett is soon shocked (but also somewhat intrigued) when she learns that there is a hot sex scene between Nikki and Jameson on Chapter 10. People who have heard Chapter Ten referenced on the show will have fun getting to see what all the fuss was about, and yes, we now can understand why Beckett was horrified, yet also flattered, when she read the scene for herself...

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DAVE'S FINAL JUDGMENT -

THE DEFENSE
- Occasionally the dialogue is clever
- Fans of the show will get a big kick out of Chapter 10
- At under 200 pages, it's a quick read

THE PROSECUTION
- Uninspired prose
- Main story is dull
- The solution to the mystery is way too obvious
- At under 200 pages, the book still manages to be too long

THE VERDICT
Little more than a lazy cash grab from the makers of "Castle". Die-hard fans of the show may find some enjoyment from this book, but even they would be better served by just watching the TV show instead.

Reblogged from Dave Green's Read Alerts:
Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1: Demon Star - Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Frazer Irving, Andres Guinaldo

Batman may be continuing his global war on crime, but villainess Talia is the true Demon Star of this exciting adventure!

Haunted by visions of a world in flames, Bruce Wayne has transformed Batman from a local hero into a global enterprise. Working to recruit Bat-men and Bat-women from all over the globe to protect their countries, Bruce believes he is on the right path to saving the world. But not everyone believes the world should be saved...some feel the people of the world should rise up to save themselves instead of waiting for some self-proclaimed "hero" to rescue them. Thus begins the Leviathan movement, spearheaded by Talia Al Ghul, longtime nemesis of Batman...as well as the mother of his son! With tentacles in every country, Leviathan promises a new world order...a world where everyone has the tools and weapons necessary to fight against their supposed oppressors, and no one ever needs to rely on some costumed vigilante to say the day. And to ensure her dream of a world without heroes, Talia plans to force Batman to make an impossible choice..."Whichever, you choose, the other dies! Decide, your city, or your son!"
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"Demon Star" picks up immediately where Batman Inc, Volume One left off. Now, usually when I review a book, I try to focus entirely on that book, but I have to break that rule this time, as I need to give some backstory to properly convey exactly why I enjoyed this book so much. Until fairly recently, I actually considered Talia to be a very uninteresting character. She was introduced back in the Batman comics of the 70s, and at first it seemed like Talia might be full of surprises. While at least 90% of Talia's first appearance relegated her to a damsel-in-distress role (a sexist stereotype that was all too common in comics at that time), she did give readers a nice shock at the very end. Holding a gun to her captor, Dr. Darrk (yes, his name really was Dr. Darrk, comics at that time were not only sexist, they were also pretty corny), Darrk sneered that Talia would never shoot him because she was "far too sweet". Instead of allowing Batman to rescue her for like the 50th time that issue, Talia responded by shooting Darrk in the face, and since killing him once wasn't enough for her, she also pushed him into the path of an oncoming train for good measure! It was a classic moment, as it revealed that Talia was not quite what she seemed...and it also revealed that when Talia wants someone dead, she really, really wants them dead!

Soon, we learned that Talia was the daughter of Ra's Al Ghul, a megalomaniac who believes the world is dangerously overpopulated and seeks to eliminate much of the world's population in order to "save" it. While she didn't always seem to share her father's twisted vision (or his total and complete insanity, for that matter), she still worked in his organization to further his cause. Yet, in one of the most forced cases of "insta-love" to ever make it onto the printed page, immediately after meeting Batman, she declared him to be her "beloved", leading to an internal conflict over whether she should side with her father or her lover. On the surface, this internal struggle had the potential to lead to a beautifully-crafted character. Unfortunately, for the next 20-some years, instead of focusing more on Talia herself, her role was completely defined by the two men in her life! Almost every single Talia story followed the same pattern...for the main bulk of the story, she would obey her father's orders without question, then at the last minute just as Batman was about to be defeated, she would betray her father to save her "beloved". In fact, Talia betrayed her father so many times, it almost bordered on self-parody when Ra's was finally betrayed by someone who WASN'T Talia, yet he just automatically assumed she must have done it...
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If Ra's is such a brilliant mastermind, how come he never once figured out to tell Talia the exact OPPOSITE of what his plan was...so when she inevitably betrayed him, Batman would be caught completely off-guard?!?

Talia's ongoing storyline finally took a massive upswing in the late 90s (yes, there were good comics in the 90s, you just had to search really, really hard to find them). It started when a writer named Greg Rucka basically asked the editors at DC, "What if we took the character of Talia, and made her, y'know...not suck?" Since it was something they hadn't tried before, the DC editors agreed. Beginning with the compelling Batman: Death and the Maidens, Talia's role in the DC universe changed. After severing her ties with her father, she took on a more independent role, eventually taking control of Lex Luthor's organization of LexCorp, as well as becoming one of the six major players in consolidating all the villains of the DC universe to form a society to oppose the heroes. Talia also became more formidable as well. Back in the 70s and 80s, while we kept hearing about how Talia was a skilled fighter and a master assassin, she almost never displayed those skills...other than the aforementioned Dr. Daark face-shooting incident. However, modern Talia was frequently seen overpowering her enemies with her strength and cunning!
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Yes, Talia is an expert in martial arts and also a master marksman, but in "The Dark Knight Rises", Christopher Nolan decided to showcase her truck-driving abilities instead...sometimes I think Mr. Nolan may be a tad over-rated!

All of which leads us to my review (admittedly...it took me a while to get here). The reason I loved "Demon Star" so much was because it features the continued evolution of Talia as a worthy nemesis of The Dark Knight! No longer following anyone else's orders, here Talia is seen leading a world-wide movement to further her own agenda. As a result, Talia is far more interesting than she has ever been before. Her motives are complex...while she still wants revenge against Batman for ultimately rejecting her advances, she does also embrace an ideology where she believes the poor should rebel against the rich. Her methods are often ruthless, which makes it all the more chilling to witness that she seems to truly believe the end justifies her means. And adding to Talia's character depth is the role of her own son in Batman's crusade. While Talia's ultimate goal is to kickstart a revolution, it's clear that she is also driven by the betrayal of her son. She wants to punish Batman for supposedly "indoctrinating" their son Damian into his cause, as well as punish Damian himself for turning his back on her. In that brilliant move, the mother-son relationship between Talia and Damian parallels her own father-daughter relationship with Ra's Al Ghul.

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TALIA - "Betraying your own parent to save Batman?!? Damian, where did you learn to do that?" DAMIAN - "You, alright! I learned it by watching you!"

Talia is more twisted and dangerous than ever before...and she's also never been more fascinating! Fun, exciting, and more streamlined than Grant Morrison's work usually is, "Demon Star" is a must-read for all Bat-fans!

Red Fox (Experiment in Terror, #2)

Reblogged from Dave Green's Read Alerts:
Red Fox (Experiment in Terror, #2) - Karina Halle

Much like the haunted town of Red Fox, this book is filled with chills, laughs, intrigue, and suspense!

Now that the events of Darkhouse have been aired, the Experiment In Terror web-series has become a smash hit! Well...maybe not quite a hit...but at least it hasn't been canceled...yet. Now Dex is taking Perry to the haunted Indian reservation of Red Fox to investigate the mysterious occurrences there. Animals have been seen behaving in bizarre ways. Rocks are being hurled by apparently invisible assailants. Cattle is being found horribly mutilated. But once Perry and Dex become wrapped up in the mystery, they soon realize they are in far more danger than ever before. This time they aren't facing a restless spirit causing minor disturbances...this time someone...or something wants them dead! As their terror grows (not to mention their feelings for each other), Perry and Dex reach an inescapable conclusion...if they can't figure out the solution to the horror story...they're going to BECOME the horror story!

Once again, I found myself loving Karina Halle's "Experiment In Terror" series. However, I noticed a change in the tone this time around. While the last book seemed to channel classic horror movies, the mystery-based aspects of this book reminded me more of Scooby-Doo, except much more awesome! But wait... considering my childhood was spent watching hundreds of Scooby-Doo episodes, can one book really out-doo (see what I did there...actually, please don't...that pun was awful, even for me) all of that?!? Well, let's find out, as I present to you...

SCOOBY-DOO VS. RED FOX - THE GRUDGE MATCH!!!


CATEGORY 1 - THE MEDDLING KIDS
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Notice the angle of the camera...either Dex is filming the world's shortest ghost, or else he just finds grass fascinating!

Scooby-Doo - Ah, yes, the Scooby gang has become outright iconic...although, in retrospect, I'm not really sure why! Let's face it, they're as one-dimensional as they come...Shaggy is cowardly, Velma is smart, Fred is strong, and Daphne is clumsy...and that pretty much sums up at least 30 years worth of character development! In later years, writers tried to make it seem like the gang had grown up by giving them adult jobs, like revealing that Velma went on to work for NASA...which just made it that much more bizarre when the villains still referred to them as meddling kids at the end! "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling adults...Velma, how do you even have time to investigate a ghost sighting, anyway, don't you have a satellite to build or something?!?"

Red Fox - While the story of the last book was certainly compelling, I felt it was Perry and Dex who made the book such an awesome read, and history has repeated itself. Once again, Perry and her self-deprecating humor managed to win my heart. With her insecurities, Perry can qualify as a flawed heroine, but those flaws only make her that much more endearing. Yes, she's hard on herself, but she never crosses the line over to sheer "whininess". Ditto for Dex, who has just enough confidence and attitude to be charming without being annoying. Plus, there is a little more character growth this time around, especially as Perry and Dex become more concerned for each other. Forget the scares, the sweet moments between "Team Derry" are Red Fox's finest moments!

WINNER - Red Fox

Not even a contest! Perry and Dex exhibit more personality in one page than the cast of Scooby-Doo ever did in all their episodes combined! Plus, Perry & Dex are far smarter than the Scooby gang ever was...after the last 200 ghosts they investigated turned out to be a guy in a mask, why did it never occur to the Scooby gang to just tackle the next ghost they encountered, instead of designing traps involving washing machines and surfboards (things they sometimes managed to find in deserted, 200-year-old castles, mind you)?!?

CATEGORY 2 - THE VILLAINS
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Above is the titular villain from the classic Scooby-Doo episode, "The Neon Phantom of the Roller Disco"...let's see...neon, roller disco...if only he were wearing a Black Sabbath shirt, then he'd truly embody everything that was awesome about the 70's!

Scooby-Doo - Okay, here is where Perry & Dex have some serious competition. Sure, the earliest SD episodes focused more on traditional villains like ghosts and witches, but as the years (and, I suspect, the drugs) went on, the writers kept trying to out-do each other in coming up with bizarre creatures! Soon we were treated to villains like the Ghost of the Gator Ghoul (how dead does something have to be to qualify as a ghost of a ghoul?), ghosts based on ice-cream flavors, and my personal favorite, the 10,000 Volt Ghost! Good luck trying to top all that, Ms. Halle!

Red Fox - While the first book gave us a more traditional ghost story, the creatures lurking in "Red Fox" are even creepier this time around! I don't want to spoil the surprise, so I'll just say that in this book, animals provide many scares throughout the story. Two sequences in particular involve a deer and a coyote behaving in a truly terrifying fashion.. The first book was more of a really compelling character study with some chills along the way, but in "Red Fox", Karina Halle firmly establishes herself as a brilliant horror writer!

WINNER - Scooby-Doo

This was a tough one, as I found the monsters in this book to be truly terrifying. but I'm afraid the 10,000 Volt Ghost gives Scooby the edge. What really makes the 10,000 Volt Ghost work is the reveal...he was supposedly the ghost of an electrical worker named Voltner, and when he was unmasked, the 10,000 Volt Ghost turned out to be...Voltner! So basically, this guy put himself in mortal danger by wearing a costume comprised of 10,000 volts of electricity just so he could frame himself for a crime! Sorry, Ms. Halle, but you have yet to give us anything THAT messed up!

CATEGORY 3 - THE MYSTERY
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"Ummm...why are we investigating some guy throwing a bedsheet over himself and calling himself a ghost anyway...shouldn't we be trying to figure out how our dog is able to FREAKIN' TALK?!?"

Scooby-Doo - You would think this would be an easy victory for Scooby-Doo, as the name almost became synonymous with mysteries...but let's look a little deeper. Yes, the show was in a mystery format...but how hard was it to really solve those mysteries? The plot always involved a criminal in a costume trying to scare someone away, the culprit almost always turned out to be the one suspect who was nicer to the gang than the really obvious suspect was, and the motive was almost always because the villain wanted to buy land cheap. One culprit even went so far as to build a freakin' 100-foot tall robotic snow beast to scare someone off their land...because that was somehow preferable to simply hiring a real estate agent! Apparently in the Scooby-Doo universe, real estate agents charge more than a Kardashian for an appearance...and work even less!

Red Fox - While I've found the characters to outshine the stories in both books now, the mystery of the strange events in the town of Red Fox is still quite compelling. The residents of the town are often bizarre enough to be interesting, and Halle does an impressive job establishing an atmosphere of fear and dread throughout the story. I did feel that the big reveal was a bit of a let-down, but that didn't make the journey getting there any less fun!

WINNER - Red Fox

My biggest problem...really, my ONLY problem with the Experiment In Terror series so far has been that both times, the ending fell a bit flat for me. Once the truth behind the bizarre phenomena of Red Fox was revealed, I found myself saying, "that's it?!?" Still, if I love the first 98% of a book and only find it lacking in the final 2%, that still qualifies as an amazing read! With spooky atmosphere, spine-tingling scares, and a fascinating cast of characters, Red Fox manages to build a far better mystery than Old Man Jenkins wearing a ghost suit ever could!


CATEGORY 4 - LEAST-ANNOYING MOST-ANNOYING CHARACTER
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Scooby-Doo - Poor Scrappy-Doo...the butt of at least 1,000,000 internet jokes (actually just the same internet joke retold 999,999 times)! But was Scrappy really THAT annoying?!? For one thing, he was brave...while Shaggy and Scooby were often willing to leave their friends at the mercy of monsters to save their own trembling skin, Scrappy was willing to fight the monsters head-on. Yeah, naming his "Scrappy-traps" after himself seemed a little self-serving, but at least he put himself in harm's way to capture the monster, as verses Fred who would always use Shaggy as the bait...despite the fact that Shaggy always seemed like he was one more scare away from a quadruple heart-attack. And Scrappy was unquestionably loyal, often singing the praises of his beloved Uncle Scooby. Come to think of it...Scrappy was actually quite admirable! The internet insists Scrappy "ruined" the show, but as hard as it is to believe, it seems something on the internet may have been...wrong!

Red Fox - Perry's parents...judgmental, rude, and utterly obnoxious. I have yet to see either of them have even one moment where they come across as likeable. Both of them seem to have an almost-psychotic need to belittle their daughter, constantly berating her with absolutely no consideration for her feelings. Forget the monster-sightings of Red Fox, the biggest mystery of this book is how two totally-screwed up people managed to produce someone as awesome as Perry!

WINNER - Scooby-Doo

Again, not even a contest! Scrappy may have been a bit over-zealous at times, but he has a looooooooong way to go before he ever becomes as hateful as Perry's cruel mother and father. Rumor has it moments after learning his father was Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker's only comforting thought was, "Could be worse, at least I didn't get stuck with Perry's parents!"


CATEGORY 5 - MAKE ME LAUGH
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Scooby-Doo - Two cartoon moments made 10-year-old Dave Green laugh harder than any others. The first was an episode of Fat Albert, when one of the Cosby kids fired off this zinger, "You're like a school on a field trip...NO CLASS!" The second was the "Space Kook" episode of Scooby-Doo, when Shaggy and Scooby were locked in a room by the Spooky Space Kook (the ghost of an alien, because, well, why the hell not), and realized the key was outside the window. In order to escape, they jumped out the window...and instead of simply running to safety right then, they then grabbed the key and jumped back INTO the locked room, so they could unlock the door to "escape"! When you're 10-years-old, that seems incredibly funny (who am I kidding, I'd still laugh at that today...)

Red Fox - While both books have had enough scary moments to qualify as horror, in both cases the laughs outnumbered the chills. Considering that both Perry and Dex have sarcasm and rapier wit down to an art-form, their dialogue is often funnier than that of just about any sitcom current being produced (except for Modern Family...that show's hilarious)!

WINNER - Red Fox

Yeah, I was able to come up with one really funny moment from Scooby-Doo, but that doesn't change the fact that 95% of jokes in Scooby-Doo all revolved around Shaggy's obvious eating disorder...why was I supposed to laugh at Shaggy eating dog biscuits, when it was obviously a cry for help?!? When I recommend the Experiment In Terror series, I'm usually praising the humor first and the horror second!

So there you have it, in a stunning upset, Red Fox beats out Scooby-Doo 3-2. Mr. Doo, you gave me some great childhood memories, but I'm afraid Perry and Dex are my favorite ghost-hunters from now on! Like the last book, Red Fox is highly recommended for anyone who likes compelling characters, funny dialogue, and intriguing mysteries!

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)

Reblogged from Dave Green's Read Alerts:
On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1) - David Weber

The first book of the Honor Harrington saga may be light on action, but there's still plenty of wonder and intrigue to be found On Basilisk Station!

When Honor Harrington became a Captain in the Royal Manticorian Navy, she never imagined her first assignment would turn out like this! A spoiled senior officer shifts the blame for her own failures onto Honor. As a result, Honor and her crew aboard the light cruiser Fearless have been banished to Basilisk Station, an unpopular dumping ground for screw-ups with no real future in the Royal Navy. As if having to contend with a crew that resents her and a local government that distrusts her wasn't bad enough, Honor soon begins to suspect that a far greater threat endangers everyone under her protection. Someone has been supplying the natives with mind-altering drugs and weapons in an attempt to inspire a revolt against the officers of Basilisk Station. And to make matters worse, an empire with far greater power and influence than the Royal Navy is rattling their sabers and looking to take over control of the station. Now Honor must prepare to stop a war armed with only one spaceship, a modestly-sized crew, and her brilliantly tactical mind. Honor's enemies may have her outnumbered, but they certainly don't have her outmatched!

I always try to avoid spoilers before reading a book...which sometimes works against me...like when I went into "Game of Thrones" thinking it would be a more innocent kind of fantasy like "Lord of the Rings"...as you can imagine, I was caught completely off-guard when I found out what Cersei's dirty little secret was!
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That said, even though I avoid spoilers, I usually have a pretty good idea of what the tone of a book is going to be. If I pick up a Dresden Files book, I know I'm getting an action-packed urban fantasy. If I delve into a Christopher Moore book, I'm ready for some bizarre, off-beat humor. But every once in a while, a book comes along that is not at all what I expected...something that recalls the great philosopher Mick Jagger when he said, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need"! Yes, "On Basilisk Station" was not at all what I expected it to be...and for the most part, I couldn't be happier about that!
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Since space operas often feature epic battles, I was all geared up for plenty of action. As it turns out, there's almost no action in this book until the final 25% (more on that later). However, even though I was initially disappointed when I realized Honor wasn't going to be whipping out a laser rifle anytime soon, I found myself more and more enthralled by the world David Weber has created in this series. Much of the first half of the book is dedicated to revealing how Honor and her crew fix everything that is broken on Basilisk Station, and it is truly fascinating to experience. Honor often develops intricate plans for many different situations, which gives the story much variety. Very few chapters are the same, as Honor's approach differs from case to case. Honor plays several roles throughout the story, including pilot, teacher, ambassador, and diplomat, and every one of them brings out a different side to her. As I got further and further into the story, I soon found that watching Honor develop her strategies and seeing how her crew carried them out was far more interesting than just seeing two opponents fire ray guns at each other!

Honor is by far the most prominently displayed character in the book, which means there is a lot riding on her shoulders. Fortunately, she is more than up to the task! Honor is a perfectly endearing heroine. She is tough, but never bullying. She is brilliantly analytical, as well as compassionate. She is charismatic but sometimes also insecure. Weber even avoids the trap have having Honor be too perfect, as she occasionally makes mistakes and lets her pride and emotions cloud her judgment. And while Honor may be the star of the book, her crew often helps her to shine. While I didn't find any other character nearly as engaging as Honor (except maybe for her adorable treecat, Nimitz), many of them had their own personalities and quirks that made them interesting, too. But what really helps make this a somewhat unique reading experience is that the reader often learns more about Honor by experiencing things vicariously through her shipmates. At first, the crew sees Honor as cold and aloof, and she often comes across that way. But Honor's distance is actually a calculated strategy to force her crew members to find their own solutions and become better at what they do. As the crew got to know the real Honor, so did I, and the way they warmed up to her mirrored my own experience while reading about her. At times I wasn't just reading the book, I was feeling it as well.

However, as good as this book is, it may not be for everyone. There were times when I felt Weber dedicated an excruciating amount of time explaining the science behind much of his world. I can easily see someone with a great passion for science giving this book 5 stars, but I had to knock one off, as there were too many parts where the scientific discussions just felt long-winded and plodding to me. Also, the lack of action throughout most of the book may be off-putting to some, although in fairness, Weber makes up for this in the last quarter of the novel, when the action is pretty much non-stop and climaxes into one of the most exciting sequences I've ever read!

I can't wait to delve further into the Honorverse! As for who I picture portraying the leading lady...let's see, we need an actress with experience playing someone who's strong and brilliant. Someone who's charming, but also has a thousand-yard stare that can intimidate anyone in her sights. Paging Stana Katic...
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"I reserve this glare for Richard Castle...and for anyone who ever mentions that I was in "The Spirit"!!!"

Reblogged from Dave Green's Read Alerts:
The Killing Moon - N.K. Jemisin

Beautiful, complex, and refreshingly original, The Killing Moon shines bright!

Ehiru-the dreamer- Ehiru is a Gatherer in the city-state of Gujaareh. He has devoted his life to serving the goddess Hananja. Upon taking a commission, he enters a person's dreams and gathers the dreamer's soul so that they will live in peace forever, even though their body dies in the process. Ehiru has never questioned his faith...until now! After a Gathering goes horribly wrong, Ehiru begins to doubt his own magical abilities. But when he finds evidence of a horrible creature stalking the streets of Gujaareh and stealing people's souls for its own amusement, Ehiru is forced to seek help from a person he cannot possibly trust...the corrupt woman he knows as Sunandi!

Sunandi-the voice- A Speaker for the city-state of Kisua, Sunandi neither possesses nor needs any magical abilities. Instead, a beautiful smile and a cunning mind are her greatest weapons. Investigating the death of her mentor, Sunandi travels to Gujaareh where she suspects a vast conspiracy is looming which could threaten her people. A true pragmatist, Sunandi is willing to do whatever it takes to prevent war between Kisua and Gujaareh...even if it means allying herself with a murderer like Ehiru!

"The Killing Moon" is not your average fantasy novel. In this land, there are no dragons or elves, no evil wizard or one ring to rule them all. Instead, Jemisin has created a rich and unique world, where all magic is fueled by the power of dreams, and even the most secondary of characters have multiple layers to them. Jemisin has even crafted her own mythology in this book...including one of the most fascinating and original legends for the sun and moon that I have ever seen. She doesn't so much describe the scenery, as she uses her words to paint the images directly into the reader's imagination. I was particularly impressed with the imagery she used during the dreaming sequences...not only does she come up with brilliantly original concepts, but her narrative manages to be both beautiful and terrifying...much like dreams themselves can be!

As impressive as Jemisin's world-building is, her character development is even better! What makes the story so compelling is that the two protagonists have completely different morals and points of view, yet both of them seem equally valid. On the surface, Ehiru could be considered a murderer. However, through his eyes, he is using his abilities to grant a person peace in their final moments and to ensure that their soul is preserved forever. Sunandi's willingness to use deception and seduction to control her enemies can be perceived as immoral, but she only does these things to ensure the safety of her people. The clash of ideals is balanced perfectly, where the two characters have severe philosophical differences, yet it never comes across as petty bickering. There is no clearly defined "right" and "wrong" mind set, each side is given equal weight.

While Ehiru and Sunandi were the two characters I enjoyed the most, I was also awed by how much depth the other characters were given as well. Ehiru's apprentice Nijiri (who Sunandi insists on sardonically referring to as "Little Killer") is given a tragic backstory that makes his devotion to Ehiru that much more engaging. Even the villain (whose identity shan't be revealed here) is masterfully fleshed out. This isn't some mustache-twirling Snidley Whiplash clone who's evil just for the sake of being evil, this novel's antagonist has a genuine belief that they are doing the right thing, and while the villain's mind is certainly clouded by madness, you can't help but feel some sympathy towards them once the true motive is revealed.

N.K. Jemisin's world-building abilities are right up there with J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. "The Killing Moon" is a magical, fantasy epic that will amaze even the most discerning of readers!
belle

The Last Command - Timothy Zahn Rather then ending the Thrawn Trilogy with a whimper, Timothy Zahn saves the best for The Last Command!

With Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine gone, the New Republic was supposed to usher in a golden age of peace. Instead, the galaxy finds itself being torn apart by the ravages of war again. Led by the brilliantly tactical mind of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the dreaded Imperial Empire has risen again, armed with a fleet of seemingly-indestructible starships that are being piloted by a limitless army of clones. Pulling the strings of the Empire's vast clone army is Dark Jedi C'Baoth, who is too far gone in his delusions to realize that he himself is also merely a puppet of Thrawn's. In a last ditch effort to end the war and defeat the Empire, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo lead a covert mission with the one person who knows enough about Thrawn's stolen technology to destroy it...Jedi warrior Mara Jade, who once served as the Emperor's most trusted assassin. But even if Luke manages to save the galaxy, he may never get to see the results of his work, since Mara Jade has vowed to fulfill the Emperor's last command and kill Luke Skywalker...

Like many people my age, I grew up loving Star Wars, but in more recent years, it became harder and harder to remember why. Let's face it, the prequels were, at best, disappointing, and when Lucas re-released the original Star Wars trilogy, it seem like without that childhood sense of wonder, the flaws of the original trilogy were far more glaring. Sure, the action was great and the one-liners were amusing, but when you really look at the original movies, the characters were mostly cliched, the overall story was pretty standard, and much of the dialogue that didn't make us laugh induced groaning instead. In fact, what better evidence is there that the much of the appeal of the original Star Wars trilogy was cosmetic than the fact that Boba Fett became such a fan-favorite character...despite the fact that he didn't really do much more than wear a cool-looking suit of armor...
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"Let the stormtroopers do all the work...I'm just going to stand around and look shiny!"

But Timothy Zahn's brilliant Thrawn Trilogy has reminded me why Star Wars still has a special place in my heart...it's FUN!!! Yes, even with its flaws, if the stories are done right, the good far outweighs the bad and the audience is taken on a roller-coaster of a thrill ride. But with the Thrawn Trilogy, Zahn has managed to up the ante a bit by giving us a story that's not only fun, but intelligent as well. And no character embodies the more cerebral nature of Zahn's Star Wars stories than lead villain Grand Admiral Thrawn himself. While Darth Vader was more inclined to simply choke the life out of someone who displeased him, Thrawn's tactics are far more methodical. I knew I was in for a different kind of Star Wars adventure right from Chapter 1, when Thrawn uses a strategically-placed cloaked ship to give the illusion that his own starfighter can somehow manage to shoot through his prey's shields, causing them to surrender because they believe he possesses a super-weapon that doesn't actually exist! All throughout the book, Thrawn machinates complex schemes that are fascinating to watch as they unfold...my favorite being the most creative usage of asteroids that I have ever seen!
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Speaking of asteroids, a game where you did nothing but shoot at rocks was considered one of the most exciting video games of the 80's...if you ever wondered why some people turned to cocaine for thrills during that decade, now you know! DISCLAIMER: The preceding statement was just a joke...don't do drugs, kids!

But Thrawn is just one of many things that works about this novel. In addition to Thrawn's master plan, multiple sub-plots introduced in the first two books are realized in a superb fashion. Princess Leia's pregnancy, smuggler Talon Karrde's efforts to rally his fellow rogues against the Empire, Thrawn's mysterious informant within the Republic, and of course, Mara's mission to kill Luke...Zahn was juggling a lot in the trilogy's final episode. Fortunately, rather than collapse under its own weight, the book weaves all the various plot-threads together, leading each to a more-than-satisfying conclusion. In addition, the minor problems I had with the last two books were resolved this time around. While the previous two books dragged at times, this one was paced beautifully, so much so that I never once found my interest waning. Classic characters like Han and Leia were handled better and no longer felt outshone by Zahn's original characters like Mara and Karrde. Even dark Jedi C'Baoth, who I found more annoying in the past, came across as a far more intimidating adversary this time around. Yes, if there was any flaw this time around, it was that the ending came a little too abruptly, but it was hard to get too upset about that, considering it was so artistically done!
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Above is another example of something artistically done! Forget that overrated Mona Lisa drawing...as far as I'm concerned, THIS is true artwork!!!

Exciting, intelligent, and most of all, FUN!!! "The Last Command" is the best book in an amazing 3-novel series. To anyone who ever enjoyed the Star Wars universe, this trilogy is a must read. And if, like myself, you ever found yourself wondering why you ever liked Star Wars so much in the first place, this trilogy will make you realize that your original love of Star Wars wasn't just the result of some Jedi mind-trick...
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Tourist Season - Carl Hiaasen I'll write a full review when I have the time, but for now, here's...

DAVE'S FINAL JUDGMENT -

THE DEFENSE
- Book is very funny and creative
- Lead villain is both fascinating and frightening, and his bizarre motives only make him that much more compelling
- Biting social satire is executed perfectly
- Hiaasen's unconventional story and writing style makes reading this one a unique experience

THE PROSECUTION
- The protagonists are not nearly as interesting as the villains
- The love story explored in the second half of the book feels forced and doesn't really deliver
- The book occasionally lags and could have been trimmed down

THE VERDICT
A brilliantly dark comedy that deserves to be more than just a cult classic. Even with its occasional lags, with so many funny and bizarre moments, the good far outweighs the bad!

The First Days (As the World Dies, #1)

The First Days (As the World Dies, #1) - Rhiannon Frater Full review to come when I have time to write it, but for now, here's...

DAVE'S FINAL JUDGMENT -

THE DEFENSE
- Some of the more shocking and brutal moments will please hard-core horror fans
- Author doesn't play it safe and takes many risks while telling her story
- The action almost never slows down
- The events remains interesting, even when the story really doesn't work, which brings us to...

THE PROSECUTION
- Frequent convenient plot devices may strain the reader's eyes by causing them to roll so much
- Lead character Jenny is very annoying
- Overall plot is rather simplistic, during which multiple questions are raised with very few of them being answered
- Did I mention Jenny was annoying?
- Some parts contradict others, giving the impression the author was making this up as she went along
- Seriously, why is Jenny even in this???

THE VERDICT
A passable (but just barely) horror story. Readers intrigued by the rarity of a zombie-survival story being told entirely from a woman's point of view will have some fun with this, even though the author never fully capitalizes on the concept.
Saga, Volume 2 - Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples Brian K Vaughan's epic Saga continues, as does the awesomeness from the first volume!

Lovers who each come from opposite sides of two warring worlds, Alana and Marko have become the symbol for a possible union between the planet Landfall and the moon of Wreath. However, since the governments of both Landfall and Wreath have no interest in making peace with each other, they have declared Alana & Marco to be a threat to their ways of life, and have each dispatched hunters to murder Alana & Marco before their story can inspire others to seek out a peaceful union as well. Not interested in being enslaved by the politics of their respective worlds, Alana & Marco continue to escape their pursuers so they can raise their daughter Hazel in peace. But now, they face threats internally as well as externally. In addition to the ruthless bounty hunter known as The Will, and the chillingly methodical soldier Prince Robot IV, Alana and Marco find themselves pursued by even more obsessed hunters...Marco's parents! Horrified that Marco has "betrayed" their people, the misguided couple have found their son and are determined to convince Marco to abandon his new family in order to honor his old one? In a universe ravaged by war, can the love between two people still survive?

Since I've pretty much read almost everything Brian K Vaughan has ever written, you'd think he would have run out of ways to astonish me by now, but no, once again Mr. Vaughan (aided by the eye-popping visuals provided by artist Fiona Staples) hasmanaged to blow me away! The intrigue starts right away with the arrival of Marco's parents. The previous edition of "Saga" focused more on how the battle between their people was impacting Marco and Alana, but now Vaughan adds even more gravitas to the horrors of war by showing not only how it affects individuals, but also how it can potentially destroy families as well. Marco's mother's hostility towards Alana paint a grim picture of how even the people closest to us can have their minds poisoned by prejudiced. And not content to simply use Marco's parents to tell ONE amazing story, Marco's father opens the door to an equally compelling subplot. Even more impressive is that while tackling such heavy themes, Vaughan still manages to inject enough levity to make the material as much fun as it is moving. Just as things start to feel a little too somber, someone (often Alana) will come up with an amusing remark that instantly lightens the mood...
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One thing that amazed me about Saga's first volume was how the supporting characters were just as interesting as Marco & Alana, and that hasn't changed this time around. The moral quandary that bounty hunter The Will found himself in previously is explored further, but this time he finds some unexpected help from Marco's bitter ex-fiance, Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn proves to be a perfect partner for The Will, as her intelligence and craftiness only enhances The Will's terrifying physical powers. Gwendolyn's former relationship with Marco adds a personal element to the duo's quest to capture the star-crossed lovers, and with her on board, The Will's journey proves to be every bit as mesmerizing as Marco & Alana's! In addition, some much needed laughs are provided by The Will's pet, a cat who's compelled to call out anyone who tells a lie...even when it's The Will himself!
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But out of all these great characters, my favorite still remains Izabel, the disembodied spirit of a dead teenage girl who now acts as a kind of "spiritual babysitter" for Alana and Marko's baby, Hazel. Izabel's perkiness and attitude reminds me of another brilliant Brian K Vaughan character, Molly from [b:Runaways, Vol. 1: Pride and Joy|7389|Runaways, Vol. 1 Pride and Joy|Brian K. Vaughan|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1264516899s/7389.jpg|10219456]. Despite her rather frightening appearance and her sad history, Izabel remains a ray of sunshine in an often bleak world, with her spirit (no pun intended) and good cheer making her a ghost who's far too lovable to be scary!
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Now, despite my enthusiasm for everything I've talked about above, I still haven't even mention my favorite part of Volume 2! That would be a self-contained chapter where another one of Alana & Marco's pursuers, Prince Robot IV, visits an author Alana admires in hopes that the writer may hold some clue as to where his fan may have fled to. On paper, this may sound like a rather dull pit-stop, as almost the entirety of the issue is dedicated to the Prince's conversation with author D Oswald Heist. However, their conversation proves to be one of the most compelling elements in this volume. The Prince and Heist engage in a rather weighty philosophical debate that covers many topics, including the value and true meaning of art, the importance of loyalty, fatherhood, and the price of war. While the Prince had displayed less personality than most of the other characters up until now, in this issue we learn much more about what truly drives him, and that knowledge transforms him into quite possibly the most dangerous threat yet to Alana and Marco! In addition, we learn more about the author whose work may or may not be indirectly responsible for Alana's willingness to break free from her own people...
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This is most certainly NOT Brian K Vaughan talking about "Saga"!

DAVE'S FINAL JUDGMENT -

THE DEFENSE
- Deep and enthralling story and world-building
- Main characters and secondary characters are equally captivating
- Extremely clever and often amusing dialogue
- Fascinating philosophical themes are explored
- Absolutely no filler or padding, Vaughan and Staples make every panel count

THE PROSECUTION
- Strong language and sexually explicit situations may turn off gentler readers
- Won't be nearly as satisfying unless you've read [b:Saga, Volume 1|15704307|Saga, Volume 1|Brian K. Vaughan|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1351259514s/15704307.jpg|19113524] first

THE VERDICT
Just as brilliant and exciting as the first volume, this edition further cements Saga's potential to be one of the greatest graphic novel stories of all time!

American Vampire, Vol. 2

American Vampire, Vol. 2 - Scott Snyder,  Rafael Albuquerque,  Mateus Santolouco I'll write a full review when I have the time, but for now, here's...

DAVE'S FINAL JUDGMENT -

THE DEFENSE
- Charismatic heroes (especially Pearl) and truly chilling villains (especially Hattie)
- The mystery of the murders at the Hoover Dam has many surprising twists and a brilliant conclusion
- The character depth and backstories add an emotional weight to an already captivating story
- Horrific artwork is a perfect complement to Vaughan's terrifying writing

THE PROSECUTION
- With so much violence and gore, this book is definitely NOT for the faint of heart!

THE VERDICT
Manages to live up to the impossibly high standards of the first volume. Volume Two of "American Vampire" continues to breathe new life into the vampire genre!

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) - Brandon Sanderson A masterpiece in every way, Mistborn - The Final Empire doesn't just rise to the top of the fantasy genre, it actually redefines it!

The history books of the Final Empire tell of a battle that took place over 1,000 years ago, when a prophesied hero defeated a threat known only as The Deepness and gained the powers of a god to be come the Lord Ruler. However, the people of The Final Empire know better! They know that the omnipotent Lord Ruler that now dominates them all is no hero or god, but rather an abomination who enslaves and brutalizes most of his subjects in order to ensure that no one could ever gain enough power to over throw him. After 1,000 years of defeats, most of the enslaved people known as the skaa have lost the will to rise up against or even resist their cruel dominator. But then again, most people are not Kelsier...

A thief and con artist, Kelsier believes he has finally found the proverbial crack in the Lord Ruler's seemingly indestructible suit of armor! And since the Lord Ruler has done everything he can to make the world one without heroes, Kelsier realizes that it will take a villain to save the people of the Final Empire. With a multi-layered plan and a gang of like-minded criminals, Kelsier is convinced he finally has the means to destroy the Lord Ruler and free the enslaved skaa. And possibly his greatest asset in this coming war will be his newest recruit, a teenaged girl named Vin. Vin believes she's just a common thief, but Kelsier learns that Vin is really a Mistborn, someone who can receive specific magical abilities from several different types of metals. Vin reluctantly joins Kelsier's cause, even though she suspects he may be a madman...and she may very well be right! After all, only a madman could believe he could possibly overthrow a god!

A gang of rogues embark on an impossible quest to defeat an unstoppable foe...
gowrong


When I give a book five stars, it's for one of two reasons. Most of those perfect-score books fall into the first category, in which I gave it five stars simply because I enjoyed it the entire time I read it. These books may still have flaws, and they may lack in some areas, but as long as the author can keep me entertained throughout, a book can still get a perfect score even if it's not actually perfect. But then there's the rarely achieved second category, which I call the game-changers. These are the books that not only entertain me, they astonish me! They are so good, that they rejuvenate my love of reading and reaffirm my faith that the best authors can weave an absolutely magical tale. I'm happy to report that The Final Empire is such a book, one that will stay with me forever!
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Almost immediately, I was sucked into Brandon Sanderson's unique world. Every chapter begins with a quote which gives some insight into past events. While some authors make the misstep of revealing the book's backstory via clumsy exposition, Sanderson makes a brilliant move, revealing some pieces of it gradually throughout the chapter introductions, while also revealing the more significant events in conversations between Kelsier's gang of con artists and their newest member Vin. The more Vin learns of the history of her world, the more devoted she becomes to Kelsier's mission. Using this writing method, the story feels much more cohesive and organic than if Sanderson had simply revealed most of the backstory in one chapter.

While the backstory is very compelling, the main story is even more so. While I've read other fantasy tales where the heroes want to save the world, I've rarely wanted to see a world saved as much as this one! The history of the skaa is absolutely heartbreaking, with some characters revealing the terrible atrocities that have been committed against them and their loved ones. Some of the skaas' tales of hardships and injustice are so sad, they will bring tears to the eyes of even the most stoic of readers. Another powerful theme explored throughout the story was the inequality between the skaa and the ruling noble class. When Vin infiltrates the world of the nobles as part of Kelsier's master plan, she is astounded to learn that they are not all as cruel as she would have imagined. Some of them are quite charming, and a few even do consider the well being of the skaa. Instead of simply adhering to a "nobles-bad, skaa-good" formula, Sanderson does inject some humanity into the noble side, which makes the hypocrisy of some of their actions that much more startling. Indeed, the "nobles-vs-skaa" conflict was one of the main reasons why I found that I wasn't just reading this book, I was absolutely feeling it!

Another strength of Sanderson's world-building is not just in his masterful way of telling the story, but also in it's originality! Let's face it, if you pick up a book off the fantasy shelf, there's at least a 90% chance that an elf, dragon, or wizard will show up (usually all three). But Sanderson's world is utterly different than everything I've read before! Instead of falling back on the ever-reliable fantasy tropes of dragons, the people of The Final Empire whisper terrifying tales about bizarre creatures known as Mistwraiths, and try to avoid the all-seeing glare of the Steel Inquisitors, grotesque royal enforcers with steel spikes for eyes. Even the overall story of the book is a departure from the usual fantasy quest. While most fantasy books feature the heroes searching for some magical item or going off to fight an enemy directly, Kelsier's plan is far more complex. The main "quest" of this book comes in the form of a giant con, one which seeks to reshape the entire political and economic structure of the Empire. By pursuing such a Machiavellian scheme, Kelsier doesn't need to rely on some magical weapon to save the day, he creates his own magic! And speaking of magic...

If there was any element of this book I had to say was the most original, it would definitely be the magic system. Here there are no wizards merely casting standard spells. Instead, the magic of the Mistborn is entirely dependant upon certain types of metals. Each of the metals gives the Mistborn a specific ability. For example, Mistborn can push against steel, so by anchoring themselves with steel coins on the ground, a Mistborn can push against the coin to fly up in the air! Other metals can give the user enhanced senses or the ability to manipulate emotions. This magic system leads to some truly amazing action sequences. Instead of "been-there-done-that" battles like swordfights and attackers approaching on horseback, here you may see a Mistborn magically pulling a helmet off of one attacker and pushing it into the second one, then flaring up the second man's anger so that he'll turn around and attack his own partner! In addition, Mistborn can only access these powers by ingesting metals for a finite number of uses, so this adds even more suspense to the battles. While the magic system can be a bit confusing at first, its complexity only adds to its appeal. Indeed, the originality of Mistborn's magic system is only exceeded by the magic present in Sanderson's storytelling abilities!
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Of course, all this wonderful storytelling could only achieve so much if the characters were dull, but fortunately Sanderson excels there too. Most of the secondary cast is comprised of various members of Kelsier's crew, each of whom has their own endearing personalities. From gruff Ham who often tries (albeit usually unsuccessfully) to engage in philosophical debates with his crewmates, to acerbic Breeze whose selfish and manipulative ways would have been annoying if only he weren't so amusing to listen too, the supporting cast is more fun than some other book's main characters! But the true stars of this show are Kelsier and Vin. Kelsier is pretty far-removed from the usual fantasy hero...he kills without mercy, he lies and cheats to get what he wants, and he seems to be more in love with himself than anyone else. Yet he is also witty and charismatic, and the more we learn of his tragic past, the more we come to love him despite his flaws (and there are many). In contrast, while Kelsier loves to be the in the spotlight, Vin is terrified by it. Plagued by insecurities and cynical of the world she spent so much time hiding from, Vin is more vulnerable than the usual fantasy heroine, but this just adds to her appeal. Even when she learns how to utilize her magical abilities, Vin always retains her humanity, so instead of watching her grow as a heroine, we watch her grow as a person instead! This perfect mix of a fascinating story and engaging characters makes this book a true modern-day classic!

DAVE'S FINAL JUDGMENT -

THE DEFENSE
- Refreshingly original world and magic system
- Captivating characters whose flaws only make them that much more interesting
- Backstory and main story are both incredibly compelling
- Darker themes like slavery and social inequality are explored in an emotional and effective way
- Unique and exciting fight sequences

THE PROSECUTION
- Magic system can get a little confusing at times
- Sets the bar impossibly high for any books you read after this!

THE VERDICT
Mistborn: The Final Empire is so good, not only will it steal the heart of any fantasy lover, it may very well convert new readers to the fantasy genre!
Behemoth - Scott Westerfeld, Keith Thompson Full review to come when I have time to write it, but for now, here's...

DAVE'S FINAL JUDGMENT -

THE DEFENSE
- The Clanker's steampunk monstrosities and the Darwinist's genetically-manufactured Beasties are incredibly imaginative
- Many fascinating characters, especially Deryn & Alek
- Story is very fast-paced and exciting
- Mythology of this alternate history is enthralling

THE PROSECUTION
- Ultra-convenient plot-twists can be hard to swallow at times
- Considering the great chemistry between Deryn & Alek, it would have been nice if they had spent more time together

THE VERDICT
While Behemoth doesn't quite surpass the amazing heights reached by its predecessor, this is still a wonderful second book in a must-read trilogy!

Exquisite (Exquisite, #1)

Exquisite (Exquisite, #1) - Ella Frank The lovely and amazing Lisa Jayne encouraged me to check this one out...that's all the convincing I need! ;)

On the Island

On the Island - Tracey Garvis-Graves Okay, this isn't really my usual genre, but after reading the posts of both Kris (a.k.a. KC) and Amy (a.k.a. Foxy Lady), this book sounds much too powerful to deprive myself of! Besides, since I have the utmost respect for the thoughts of KC & Foxy, I have no doubt that if they say this book is incredible, it will be incredible! :D

Heat Wave (Nikki Heat, #1)

Heat Wave (Nikki Heat, #1) - Richard Castle Sorry, Castle, I love your television show, but Heat Wave is lukewarm at best :(

It's been said that the bigger they are, the harder they fall...so maybe that's why king of New York real estate Matthew Starr just took a plunge from a six-story balcony. And while plenty of people may have wanted Starr dead, since he himself wasn't one of them, the authorities know they have a homicide on their hands. So the NYPD does what they always do when they need to catch a murderer...they turn up the Heat! As detective Nikki Heat investigates Starr's murder, she finds herself being trailed by dangerous opponents, professional killers, and worst of all, annoying tag-along reporter Jameson Rook! Nikki Heat always gets her man...and no one is more happy to hear that than Jameson Rook!

Okay, let me just get something out of the way...this book, which is a media tie-in for the "Castle" television series, is advertised as being written by a fictional character...so it's not like I went into this expecting high art or anything! But I am a big fan of Castle, and while a lot of the success of that series is owed to its brilliant stars, Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion (who play, respectively, NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett and best-selling author Richard Castle), I've always enjoyed the writing on the show as well. The dialogue is often clever, the characters are all likeable in their own quirky ways, and the mysteries are fun to solve. So while I understood that I wasn't about to read the next [b:War and Peace|656|War and Peace|Leo Tolstoy|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1366570580s/656.jpg|4912783] here, I was hoping to read something that was about as enjoyable as an average episode of the Castle television show. So imagine my disappointment when this book didn't even manage to live up to those expectations...

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After reading "Heat Wave", I'm not surprised bookstores don't seem to be in any danger of selling out all their copies...

At first glance, I thought I was in for a fun ride. The cover features a blurb from James Patterson (a frequent guest-star on the series) praising "Castle's" latest effort. The book is dedicated to "the extraordinary KB" and all of Castle's friends "at the 12th". The acknowledgements tear down the fourth wall when Castle includes some very familiar names (including Stana's & Nathan's), and the "About The Author" blurb features a rather amusing clue as to who the book's authors really were. Unfortunately, it didn't take long before I stopped grinning and started groaning instead. For one thing, the prose is beyond clumsy. The writers were clearly trying to mimic the hard-boiled writing style of Raymond Chandler and Michael Connelly, but the prose is often just dull in the best moments, and downright awful in the worst. Another glaring problem is the mystery itself. Anyone who has read more than ZERO mysteries will have no problem figuring out the solution long before Nikki Heat does. In fact, the only reason I ever wondered if I may have been mistaken is that the solution seemed so painfully obvious, I questioned if maybe the book would throw an unexpected twist at me towards the end. Sadly the ending held no surprises (and didn't come soon enough, for that matter).

Now, since it's alluded to that this book was really written by two of the TV show's head writers, I can give them some leeway in regards to the above complaints. After all, television writers aren't accustomed to telling a story through third-person narration, they mostly use dialogue and action to move things along. So while I expected that the prose might be lacking, I at least thought that I would have some fun with the characters themselves. Unfortunately, the writers came up short here too. I'll admit that I got a kick out of watching the main characters of the show pop up throughout the book. In addition to Beckett and Castle being channeled through Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook, Beckett's team of nerdy detective Ryan and cocky detective Esposito show up as Detectives Raley and Ochoa, while sassy medical examiner Lanie Parish is transformed into Lauren Parry. Unfortunately, none of the book characters have even a fraction of the charisma of their television counterparts. Raley and Ochoa display almost no personality, with most of their attempted jokes falling flat. And Jameson Rook is just downright annoying! While Castle is a bit too full of himself, his charm and sense of humor still make him the kind of guy you'd like to have a drink with. Rook, on the other hand, is the kind of guy you'd like to slip a mickey in his drink just to get him to shut up! He comes across as a self-absorbed egomaniac, and the only thing the writers get right with him is that his behavior makes it completely understandable why Nikki wouldn't want to have him around! The ladies fare a little better, with Parry offering some tender moments. And while Nikki isn't nearly as endearing as Kate Beckett, she at least manages to outshine the other characters (which is kind of like crediting the vampire episode of Gilligan's Island as being the most believable)!

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There may be a little Nikki Heat in Kate Beckett, but there isn't nearly enough Kate Beckett in Nikki Heat :(

That's not to say that the entire book is a failure. The action sequences are actually very well done, especially an exciting fight between Nikki and a brutal hit-man. And while the dialogue often lacks the zing of the TV show's, sometimes the characters do fire off a good one (like when Heat refers to an interrogation being conducted by her and Rook as them playing "Good Cop - No Cop"). And fans of the show will enjoy some of the winks to the audience. Castle's mother Martha has a hysterical cameo as Margaret Rook...it's too bad her appearance was so short, as she was the only one who really lived up to her television counterpart. And then there's Chapter Ten...hardcore fans of "Castle" already know what I'm talking about! On the television series, after "Heat Wave" is released, Beckett is soon shocked (but also somewhat intrigued) when she learns that there is a hot sex scene between Nikki and Jameson on Chapter 10. People who have heard Chapter Ten referenced on the show will have fun getting to see what all the fuss was about, and yes, we now can understand why Beckett was horrified, yet also flattered, when she read the scene for herself...

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DAVE'S FINAL JUDGMENT -

THE DEFENSE
- Occasionally the dialogue is clever
- Fans of the show will get a big kick out of Chapter 10
- At under 200 pages, it's a quick read

THE PROSECUTION
- Uninspired prose
- Main story is dull
- The solution to the mystery is way too obvious
- At under 200 pages, the book still manages to be too long

THE VERDICT
Little more than a lazy cash grab from the makers of "Castle". Die-hard fans of the show may find some enjoyment from this book, but even they would be better served by just watching the TV show instead.

Red Fox (Experiment in Terror, #2)

Red Fox (Experiment in Terror, #2) - Karina Halle Much like the haunted town of Red Fox, this book is filled with chills, laughs, intrigue, and suspense!

Now that the events of [b:Darkhouse|11729060|Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror, #1)|Karina Halle|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1334264332s/11729060.jpg|16286238] have been aired, the Experiment In Terror web-series has become a smash hit! Well...maybe not quite a hit...but at least it hasn't been canceled...yet. Now Dex is taking Perry to the haunted Indian reservation of Red Fox to investigate the mysterious occurrences there. Animals have been seen behaving in bizarre ways. Rocks are being hurled by apparently invisible assailants. Cattle is being found horribly mutilated. But once Perry and Dex become wrapped up in the mystery, they soon realize they are in far more danger than ever before. This time they aren't facing a restless spirit causing minor disturbances...this time someone...or something wants them dead! As their terror grows (not to mention their feelings for each other), Perry and Dex reach an inescapable conclusion...if they can't figure out the solution to the horror story...they're going to BECOME the horror story!

Once again, I found myself loving Karina Halle's "Experiment In Terror" series. However, I noticed a change in the tone this time around. While the last book seemed to channel classic horror movies, the mystery-based aspects of this book reminded me more of Scooby-Doo, except much more awesome! But wait... considering my childhood was spent watching hundreds of Scooby-Doo episodes, can one book really out-doo (see what I did there...actually, please don't...that pun was awful, even for me) all of that?!? Well, let's find out, as I present to you...

SCOOBY-DOO VS. RED FOX - THE GRUDGE MATCH!!!


CATEGORY 1 - THE MEDDLING KIDS
perry
Notice the angle of the camera...either Dex is filming the world's shortest ghost, or else he just finds grass fascinating!

Scooby-Doo - Ah, yes, the Scooby gang has become outright iconic...although, in retrospect, I'm not really sure why! Let's face it, they're as one-dimensional as they come...Shaggy is cowardly, Velma is smart, Fred is strong, and Daphne is clumsy...and that pretty much sums up at least 30 years worth of character development! In later years, writers tried to make it seem like the gang had grown up by giving them adult jobs, like revealing that Velma went on to work for NASA...which just made it that much more bizarre when the villains still referred to them as meddling kids at the end! "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling adults...Velma, how do you even have time to investigate a ghost sighting, anyway, don't you have a satellite to build or something?!?"

Red Fox - While the story of the last book was certainly compelling, I felt it was Perry and Dex who made the book such an awesome read, and history has repeated itself. Once again, Perry and her self-deprecating humor managed to win my heart. With her insecurities, Perry can qualify as a flawed heroine, but those flaws only make her that much more endearing. Yes, she's hard on herself, but she never crosses the line over to sheer "whininess". Ditto for Dex, who has just enough confidence and attitude to be charming without being annoying. Plus, there is a little more character growth this time around, especially as Perry and Dex become more concerned for each other. Forget the scares, the sweet moments between "Team Derry" are Red Fox's finest moments!

WINNER - Red Fox

Not even a contest! Perry and Dex exhibit more personality in one page than the cast of Scooby-Doo ever did in all their episodes combined! Plus, Perry & Dex are far smarter than the Scooby gang ever was...after the last 200 ghosts they investigated turned out to be a guy in a mask, why did it never occur to the Scooby gang to just tackle the next ghost they encountered, instead of designing traps involving washing machines and surfboards (things they sometimes managed to find in deserted, 200-year-old castles, mind you)?!?

CATEGORY 2 - THE VILLAINS
sdnp
Above is the titular villain from the classic Scooby-Doo episode, "The Neon Phantom of the Roller Disco"...let's see...neon, roller disco...if only he were wearing a Black Sabbath shirt, then he'd truly embody everything that was awesome about the 70's!

Scooby-Doo - Okay, here is where Perry & Dex have some serious competition. Sure, the earliest SD episodes focused more on traditional villains like ghosts and witches, but as the years (and, I suspect, the drugs) went on, the writers kept trying to out-do each other in coming up with bizarre creatures! Soon we were treated to villains like the Ghost of the Gator Ghoul (how dead does something have to be to qualify as a ghost of a ghoul?), ghosts based on ice-cream flavors, and my personal favorite, the 10,000 Volt Ghost! Good luck trying to top all that, Ms. Halle!

Red Fox - While the first book gave us a more traditional ghost story, the creatures lurking in "Red Fox" are even creepier this time around! I don't want to spoil the surprise, so I'll just say that in this book, animals provide many scares throughout the story. Two sequences in particular involve a deer and a coyote behaving in a truly terrifying fashion.. The first book was more of a really compelling character study with some chills along the way, but in "Red Fox", Karina Halle firmly establishes herself as a brilliant horror writer!

WINNER - Scooby-Doo

This was a tough one, as I found the monsters in this book to be truly terrifying. but I'm afraid the 10,000 Volt Ghost gives Scooby the edge. What really makes the 10,000 Volt Ghost work is the reveal...he was supposedly the ghost of an electrical worker named Voltner, and when he was unmasked, the 10,000 Volt Ghost turned out to be...Voltner! So basically, this guy put himself in mortal danger by wearing a costume comprised of 10,000 volts of electricity just so he could frame himself for a crime! Sorry, Ms. Halle, but you have yet to give us anything THAT messed up!

CATEGORY 3 - THE MYSTERY
sdgang
"Ummm...why are we investigating some guy throwing a bedsheet over himself and calling himself a ghost anyway...shouldn't we be trying to figure out how our dog is able to FREAKIN' TALK?!?"

Scooby-Doo - You would think this would be an easy victory for Scooby-Doo, as the name almost became synonymous with mysteries...but let's look a little deeper. Yes, the show was in a mystery format...but how hard was it to really solve those mysteries? The plot always involved a criminal in a costume trying to scare someone away, the culprit almost always turned out to be the one suspect who was nicer to the gang than the really obvious suspect was, and the motive was almost always because the villain wanted to buy land cheap. One culprit even went so far as to build a freakin' 100-foot tall robotic snow beast to scare someone off their land...because that was somehow preferable to simply hiring a real estate agent! Apparently in the Scooby-Doo universe, real estate agents charge more than a Kardashian for an appearance...and work even less!

Red Fox - While I've found the characters to outshine the stories in both books now, the mystery of the strange events in the town of Red Fox is still quite compelling. The residents of the town are often bizarre enough to be interesting, and Halle does an impressive job establishing an atmosphere of fear and dread throughout the story. I did feel that the big reveal was a bit of a let-down, but that didn't make the journey getting there any less fun!

WINNER - Red Fox

My biggest problem...really, my ONLY problem with the Experiment In Terror series so far has been that both times, the ending fell a bit flat for me. Once the truth behind the bizarre phenomena of Red Fox was revealed, I found myself saying, "that's it?!?" Still, if I love the first 98% of a book and only find it lacking in the final 2%, that still qualifies as an amazing read! With spooky atmosphere, spine-tingling scares, and a fascinating cast of characters, Red Fox manages to build a far better mystery than Old Man Jenkins wearing a ghost suit ever could!


CATEGORY 4 - LEAST-ANNOYING MOST-ANNOYING CHARACTER
scrappy

Scooby-Doo - Poor Scrappy-Doo...the butt of at least 1,000,000 internet jokes (actually just the same internet joke retold 999,999 times)! But was Scrappy really THAT annoying?!? For one thing, he was brave...while Shaggy and Scooby were often willing to leave their friends at the mercy of monsters to save their own trembling skin, Scrappy was willing to fight the monsters head-on. Yeah, naming his "Scrappy-traps" after himself seemed a little self-serving, but at least he put himself in harm's way to capture the monster, as verses Fred who would always use Shaggy as the bait...despite the fact that Shaggy always seemed like he was one more scare away from a quadruple heart-attack. And Scrappy was unquestionably loyal, often singing the praises of his beloved Uncle Scooby. Come to think of it...Scrappy was actually quite admirable! The internet insists Scrappy "ruined" the show, but as hard as it is to believe, it seems something on the internet may have been...wrong!

Red Fox - Perry's parents...judgmental, rude, and utterly obnoxious. I have yet to see either of them have even one moment where they come across as likeable. Both of them seem to have an almost-psychotic need to belittle their daughter, constantly berating her with absolutely no consideration for her feelings. Forget the monster-sightings of Red Fox, the biggest mystery of this book is how two totally-screwed up people managed to produce someone as awesome as Perry!

WINNER - Scooby-Doo

Again, not even a contest! Scrappy may have been a bit over-zealous at times, but he has a looooooooong way to go before he ever becomes as hateful as Perry's cruel mother and father. Rumor has it moments after learning his father was Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker's only comforting thought was, "Could be worse, at least I didn't get stuck with Perry's parents!"


CATEGORY 5 - MAKE ME LAUGH
sd-funny

Scooby-Doo - Two cartoon moments made 10-year-old Dave Green laugh harder than any others. The first was an episode of Fat Albert, when one of the Cosby kids fired off this zinger, "You're like a school on a field trip...NO CLASS!" The second was the "Space Kook" episode of Scooby-Doo, when Shaggy and Scooby were locked in a room by the Spooky Space Kook (the ghost of an alien, because, well, why the hell not), and realized the key was outside the window. In order to escape, they jumped out the window...and instead of simply running to safety right then, they then grabbed the key and jumped back INTO the locked room, so they could unlock the door to "escape"! When you're 10-years-old, that seems incredibly funny (who am I kidding, I'd still laugh at that today...)

Red Fox - While both books have had enough scary moments to qualify as horror, in both cases the laughs outnumbered the chills. Considering that both Perry and Dex have sarcasm and rapier wit down to an art-form, their dialogue is often funnier than that of just about any sitcom current being produced (except for Modern Family...that show's hilarious)!

WINNER - Red Fox

Yeah, I was able to come up with one really funny moment from Scooby-Doo, but that doesn't change the fact that 95% of jokes in Scooby-Doo all revolved around Shaggy's obvious eating disorder...why was I supposed to laugh at Shaggy eating dog biscuits, when it was obviously a cry for help?!? When I recommend the Experiment In Terror series, I'm usually praising the humor first and the horror second!

So there you have it, in a stunning upset, Red Fox beats out Scooby-Doo 3-2. Mr. Doo, you gave me some great childhood memories, but I'm afraid Perry and Dex are my favorite ghost-hunters from now on! Like the last book, Red Fox is highly recommended for anyone who likes compelling characters, funny dialogue, and intriguing mysteries!