Monthly Archives: November 2015

Review of Day of the Dragonking (The Last American Wizard #1), by Terry Irving

The Last American WizardDespite the off-putting cover, I picked up a copy of Terry Irving’s The Last American Wizard from Amazon.

Description from Goodreads:
Mystically powered terrorists unleash volatile magic on the world, turning Washington, D.C., into a politically charged fantasyland ripe for human sacrifice.

A trio of suicide attackers with magical abilities bring down a 747 by summoning a dragon to rip it from the sky, using the hundreds of lives lost as a sacrifice to initiate the Change. The country morphs into a new landscape of swords and sorcery. Now computers and other machines are coming to life, and regular people have started to turn into mythical creatures and forgotten deities, creating a chaotic world easily seized by whoever—or whatever—set this shift into motion. Hope appears in the nation’s capital where, along with transforming Democrats into potbellied elves, Republicans into cantankerous dwarves, and Tea Party members into trolls, the Change has granted struggling freelance journalist Steve Rowan the abilities of the Tarot Arcana’s Fool card, making him a powerful, yet unreliable, wizard. Realizing his potential, he is “hired” by the trivia-obsessed sentient computer Barnaby and coupled with the attractive, no-nonsense female Navy SEAL Ace Morningstar to uncover the puppet masters behind the plane crash. –Kirkus Reviews

Hmm, what to say about The Last American Wizard.  “Ho-hum” comes to mind. On the plus side, the book is funny and it is a page turner. I liked the characters and the writing was quite readable.

On the negative side, it wasn’t well fleshed out. There were a lot of arcana/tarot related info drops and some repetition (sometimes of the info drop information). But that information wasn’t fully utilized. And it didn’t always seem to obey its own rules. For example, all the divine or mythical creatures were supposed to have come into existence after the events at the beginning of the book, but characters who shouldn’t have existed before that have histories together and sometimes greet each-other as old friends. How does that work?

The comedy was over-played at times, especially around Ace. It approached eye-rolling territory more than once. But I had a serious problem with the fact that within hours of the inciting events, when people started turning into trolls and fairies and cards of the arcana everyone calmly went about their business, even incorporating their new abilities into their jobs, as if this was perfectly normal. There was no panic or anger or evidence of fear. There was NO BELIEVABLE EMOTION around this huge change at all actually.

My biggest critique however is the lack of ending. The major baddie isn’t stopped (or even identified). The minor baddie is only temporarily dispatched. No mystery is solved. No final solution is even discussed. The character just ran around for 300+ pages putting out whatever fire popped up and then basically said, “Let’s go for a beer and save the world tomorrow.” There was no peak to the plot, let alone a tapering off to an end. An event in the beginning sparked off a change and then the whole book coasted at one speed and elevation until it just stopped. This never ever makes me happy.

Review of Ivan (Her Russian Protector #1), by Roxie Rivera

IvanI actually have both a Kindle and paper copy of Ivan, by Roxie Rivera. The ecopy I grabbed free from Amazon, where it is still free. But I later won a signed paperback from KindleObsessed.

Description from Goodreads. 
Desperate to find her sister, Erin goes to the only man in Houston who can help her–Ivan Markovic. The intimidating, tattooed Russian operates one of the most elite mixed-martial arts training centers in the world but it’s his shadowy past and reputed connections with Houston’s underworld that interest her most. 

To find her sister, she’ll need the help of her big, scary Russian protector—but asking for help from a man like Ivan carries a steep price, one that might just include her heart.

Ok, let’s be honest here. I knew what I was getting into–a little erotic fluff. I didn’t expect much. But even so, I was disappointed. I really wish I had read this on my kindle so that I could search the word never to see how many times it popped up. Because that’s basically what this book is, a list of things Ivan did that Erin had never encountered. Never had a man looked at her like that. Never had a man made her feel so safe. Never had a man touched her like that. Never had a man been so enticing. Never had she had a man with such a big c*ck. Never had a man made her come so often (seriously, it’s inhuman how frequently and with so little effort she can climax).

Never, never, never and that’s before we even get into Ivan’s nevers. Never had he seen a a woman look so innocent. Never had he been so mysteriously attracted to someone. Never had he let his guard down. Never had he broken his own rules, never, never, never. And these two people are supposed to have known each-other for 8 hours.

The whole book is so oversimplified and ham-fisted I honestly think the author could have just listed the tropes and comparisons she was using and the story would have been just as discernible. Tattoos equal violence. Big equals manly. Small equals feminine. Big eyes equal innocence. Drug addiction equals whore. Even the attraction is instant and unexplained. Literally, “The instant we made contact an electric zing arced through me. What? Why?

Then, to top it all off (and this is a little spoilery), the author wimped out on Ivan’s past. She spent the whole book talking up how violent he must be, because he has so many tattoos (and yes, I get that tats in the Russian mob are supposed to be symbolic, but one would assume this was within reason), then it turns out he’s horribly ashamed of his non-murderous (and frankly not that bad) history with the mob, thereby invalidating all the buildup.

Lastly there was the sex. I mentioned Erin’s propensity to insta-orgasm. We’ll just leave that one alone. I’m afraid I just didn’t find the sex scenes in this book erotic. Nothing in what was done or the way anything was described appealed to me. It read like a Ikea kit directions sheet–insert this here, turn that there, etc. It all left me skimming (and that’s unfortunately not a euphemism of anything good).

Review of The Chorus Effect, by Russell Boyd

So, it’s Novemeber and I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo. I’m at just over 41,000 words right now. As you can imagine, that means I haven’t done a lot of reading lately. But I did manage one book, The Chorus Effect, by Russell Boyd. It was sent to me for review.

The Chorus Effect

Description from Goodreads:
Until recently, Chintz had been a relatively normal guy with a relatively normal cat. For example, neither he, nor his cat, had ever journeyed to a synthetic parallel universe. He had never encountered a teleporting baby or an emotionally mature computer. He could count on one hand the number of philosophical discussions he’d had with people holding multiple degrees in advanced physics. And thus far, his relationship with the voices in his head had been purely platonic.

Suddenly, Chintz finds himself working alongside a dysfunctional team of scientists and their astonishing creations, seeking answers to age-old questions — answers that could change our concept of humanity. Of course, that’s only if they can survive federal law enforcement, starvation, psychopathic figments of imagination, the hostile old man who lives across the street, and the end of the “known universe.”

Well, actually it’s the end of “a” universe, that “only some people know about.” But for Chintz, that may not be any better at all.

I suppose there will be an audience out there for this book. It’s trying very hard to be Douglas Adams-like and plenty of people (myself included) love Douglas Adams’ quirky humor. IMHO, this doesn’t quite make it though, as a Douglas Adam’s clone or on it’s own.

On a positive note, it’s well written and surprisingly well edited for a self-published book. There are some interesting, odd-ball characters and had the whole thing been a set up for Katie and Chintz’s last moment’s, I’d have called it a success. But it’s about 1/3 too long (if not more) for that to be the case.

If I had to condense this review to a few carefully chosen words, they would be presumptuous and self-indulgent. The author’s constant breaking of the fourth wall especially. As if the book wasn’t quite quirky enough the author/narrator had to stick his two cents in too. It was annoying and broke up the story.

It was this over the top quirkiness that eventually ruined the book for me. You have characters who speak in mixed up, nonsense for no apparent reason at all. You have POVs from the perspective of a cat. You have a narrative style dedicated to pointing out the absurd over the expected, which could have been great if not quite so over played. You have philosophy passed off as science and science of the hard-core hand waving variety. It was all too much for me.

And that is a shame; because Boyd’s descriptive ability is wonderful. I appreciated the distinct lack of alpha hero and the success of the socially anxious, nerd heroes. I liked that there was a strong female character (though I’m borderline on the fact that her sexuality caused such ruptions. I think the book skirted the cliché, but JUST BARELY). But there was just too much else crowding these good things out. In the end, I bored and just hoping to finish.