Review: Born a Crime

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

Genre: Non-fiction, Memoire

Rating: 5 stars

This might just be the best non-fiction book I’ve ever read. I’m about the same age as Trevor Noah, but never knew anything about apartheid, growing up in Canada. It ended before I became aware of politics, and it must have been too recent to learn about in history classes. I had heard of Nelson Mandela, of course, but didn’t know much beyond his name.

This book gave me a real understanding of life, on the ground. Trevor’s experiences are harrowing, and it’s amazing he’s a) still with us, and b) a comedian. Given the difficulties he faced, it’s amazing to me that he maintained his sense of humour through it all… it’s all too easy to see how others who lived through those times did not fare so well.

The book bounces around a bit through time. It will feel like you’ve moved on, and then the next chapter goes back to revisit something important. And each time, you’ve learned something from a previous chapter that helps you understand something in the later ones. It’s amazing the way the story unfolds.

Having seen Trevor Noah on TV for a while now, it’s easy to hear his voice in my mind while I’m reading through it. You can feel the incredulity in his voice as he describes some of the situations he lived through.

I encourage everyone to check out this book.

Review: The Roundabout

The Roundabout, by Andy Goldman

Genre: Science fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

The last book in The Only City Left trilogy is out, and I snatched up a digital copy straight away! I’ve been following this series since it started, and couldn’t wait to dig in.

Allin, Tyena, and Tumble are back to try to save the Earth from the epic cliffhanger of the second book. With a fleet of warships in orbit, they have been given a week to turn in fugitives who have been hiding on Earth.

The Only City Left started out with just Allin’s point of view (POV), and The Fifth House added Tyena’s. This final installment adds Tumble. You might think three 1st person POV’s sounds like a lot, but each chapter clearly labelled whose head you were in, so there was no confusion. I was glad to see events through Tumble’s eyes, and I think knowing what all three of them were up to was good, since leaving out any one of them would have left a gaping hole in the reader’s understanding of events.

The pacing was excellent, as usual, with tons of action and intrigue. Nearly every scene ended with a cliffhanger, and I couldn’t wait to pick up my ereader for the ride to and from work to see what happened next. Usually I’ll alternate between reading and playing games on my phone, but ever since I started reading this one, it was all reading, all the time.

The only problem I had was that it was a long time since I read the first two books, so although I clearly remembered the main characters and major events, there were side characters I had no memory of. Even by the end of the book, I couldn’t place where they’d joined the story, and I think this will be a series that I’ll re-read. That’s rare for me, as I’m not a fast reader, but these books are worth it.

Goldman is definitely on my “must buy” list after finishing this series. I hope he comes back to these characters at some point!

If you’re looking for a new, complete series to read, I highly recommend this one.

Review: Parralax, by LJ Cohen

Parallax: Halcyone Space, book 4, by LJ Cohen

Genre: Space Opera

Rating: 5 stars

As soon as I started reading this, the fourth book in the Halcyone Space series, I felt like I’d come home. Even though the characters were still suffering from the events at the end of the third book, catching up with them again was effortless. I’m so impressed with Cohen’s ability to bring out books quickly, and maintain the high quality I’ve come to expect.

The galactic conspiracies grow by leaps and bounds. The protagonists have no idea who to trust, or the depth of deception that underlies everything they know. The build up to the final scenes is not fast paced, but not slow: deliberate. After every scene I would curse Cohen for switching to a different character, because I wanted to stay with who I was reading about, but then I would quickly be immersed in the new story line. There were too many twists and turns for me to be able to see where the story was going, and after finishing it, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book!

Review: More Cosplay Disasters

More Cosplay Disasters, by Damian Trasler

Genre: Do-it-yourself

Rating: 5 stars

If you read and enjoyed My Cosplay Disasters: The Step-By-Step guide to doing it wrong, I highly recommend the sequel! Trasler’s still at it, building helmets from whatever he has laying around in his workshop. He has the same relaxed, humourous hobbyist attitude, which makes the book a fast and easy read with pictures to help you see every step of the way.

In this book you’ll see him modifying existing pieces, following instructions, and going completely off the rails, winging it by sight alone. Reading this book left me feeling like there has to be another one in the future, because it’s the classic trilogy setup. The first one is light hearted and ends well. The second one leaves you in a pit of despair. Then the third one ends with everyone living happily ever after, overcoming all the terrible odds. I picture it with Trasler working away in his newly well-ventilated workshop, pondering over everything he’s learned over the course of three books – measure twice, cut once. Bondo isn’t scary and works better than wall filler. For the love of all that’s holy, measure! Read the plans when there are plans available – all the way through. And paint only highlights imperfections, it doesn’t cover them up.

And then he will have the most glorious helmet. One he feels he cannot ever beat in terms of craftsmanship, and readers will sit back with a happy sigh and think, “He did it!”

Not that I don’t think that every time he finishes a helmet. Trasler has skills that I can only dream about. But to see him reach what he believes is a wonderful success, instead of saying, “It’s good enough for my purposes.” That’d be grand to see! I know he’ll manage it one day.

But don’t worry, this book isn’t all disasters – the bit at the end is uplifting and fun. I’ve heard from 501st legion people that those helmets need ventilation, because they get bloody hot, so you’re not along Mr. Trasler.

Review: The Princess and the Apprentice

The Princess and the Apprentice (Queen of Darkness Book 1), by Roland Boykin

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5 stars

Aldan, a wizard’s apprentice, arrives at a castle just ahead of a mage’s army that has allied with demons. Given a tome of awesome power, he spirits the princess Odessa and her two guards out of the castle before the invading army can arrive. What follows is a fast paced adventure in a world that’s much darker than I expected. Perhaps I should have seen it coming, with a series titled “Queen of Darkness” but the budding romance gave the story a light sort of feeling that belied the dangers that plague the land.

From the very beginning, things don’t go the apprentice’s way. Although he receives great boons, he is always on the edge of losing everything. His knowledge and natural power are impressive, but so are those of his enemies. Boykin has his own take on goblins, and they aren’t to be taken lightly!

What’s more, the twist at the end surprised me a lot! It makes me wonder what is actually going on, and I can’t wait for the next installment!

Reviews: Arizona, and Broken Souls

Yes, today is a two-for-one deal! Both of these short stories by Roland Boykin were available through Kindle Unlimited (KU), which allows you to read as many titles as you want for a monthly subscription. I had a free month with my

Kindle Paperwhite, and finally got around to using it. While I think I got my $10’s worth and then some, I won’t be continuing on with the service because a) not all the books I want to read are available through KU, b) I get free books through BookBub from time to time, c) I like to beta read, which would eat into my limited reading time, d) I’m a slow reader so I don’t anticipate I’d get my money’s worth every month. In fact, I put a call out to Google Plus, seeking authors who had shorter works that I could access through KU, specifically so I could burn through as many short stories and novellas as possible before the subscription ran out. If I were to read full length novels, I wouldn’t get my money’s worth. However, if you’re a quicker reader than I am, you might find the service useful. The last several books I’ve reviewed I got through KU this month, so you could start there and be quite pleased! (Also, my own titles are all available through KU, if you please)

ARIZONA, by Roland Boykin

Genre: Fantasy romance

Rating: 4 stars

A cattle herder has a near-death experience and becomes infatuated with the ocean and one of its inhabitants in the process. Set in the USA, this story has a definite fantasy element to it. Perhaps because it’s a short story made up of several short snippets of time, the romance aspect is a bit abstract. The cattle herder’s love interest is so alien that it’s hard to comprehend her feelings, and their relationship is made up of such brief moments it’s difficult to put myself in the herder’s head-space, too. That said, the story was well written, and it got the gears in my head spinning, although I thought romances were supposed to get your heart pumping! Either way, I’m glad I read this one. I can appreciate the mashup of fantasy and western!

Broken Souls, by Roland Boykin

Genre: Romance

Rating: 5 stars

Crystal is a great grandmother who runs a bookstore. She raised her son on her own, after losing her lover to war. Now she’s on the brink of losing her shop as business has been too quiet. When she has a turn in her fortunes, it’s not just her shop that prospers, but life offers her another chance at love.

Unlike the first story which I found interesting on an intellectual level, this story pulled at my heart strings. The characterizations were excellent, the emotions and situations real. My wife doesn’t like reading on devices, but I’m sure this is a story she’d enjoy, so I’m going to let her use my Kindle to try it out. If you enjoy romance stories, I’d suggest giving this one a read.

Review: Hand of the Trickster

Hand of the Trickster, by Mike Reeves-McMillan

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

The protagonist, Now You Don’t, is a rogue dedicated to his god, the Trickster. He has magical powers that are limited in nature, but oh-so handy! Teaming up with a few other vagabonds, he leads heists against the temples of other gods. Wry wit and humour abound, the action is satisfying, pacing quick, and magic interesting in how limited it (usually) is. Although Scorpion breaks that feeling … but he’s interesting as a character because, although he’s a barbarian, he’s thoughtful and kind. In fact I liked all the characters in this story, and that’s a rare thing. Given that this is novella-length, it’s impressive how Reeves-McMillan got me to care about each of the members in the crew.

The plot is well put together with subtle pieces being put together along the way. It felt like reading a role playing game at points, like when one person in the group would see something, I’d think, “She passed her spot check.” If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I enjoy this sort of thing.

The gods and how they are described give a bit of a Greek feeling to the story. They’re paired and used to influence the world a great deal, although they lost some power somewhere in the past. It gives me a taste of what I’m doing to my own readers, eluding to an old war between the gods, but not going into great detail. I plan on writing about The Gods’ War one day. I wonder if Reeves-McMillan plans to do the same?

This is a rich world, and I look forward to reading more about it and the characters who dwell there!

Bonus: There are two short stories attached to the end, both of which were entertaining to read. I found Reeves-McMillan’s writing style to be easy to read and engaging across all three stories, so I have a feeling I’ll be working my way through the rest of his collection. I just hope I can keep the different worlds separate in my mind!

Review: My Cosplay Disasters, by Damian Trasler

My Cosplay Disasters: The Step-By-Step guide to doing it wrong, by Damian Trasler

Genre: Do-it-yourself cosplay design

Rating: 5-stars

Trasler gives some top notch insights into what not to do when building your own cosplay outfit. The focus is mainly on helmets (because it sounds like that’s the hardest part), and he takes the reader through the steps he took along the way. Parts are painful, others hilarious. His self-deprecating sense of humour had me laughing out loud on the bus a few times, something I dislike doing because I don’t like it when people look at me like I’m a weirdo on the bus. True or not.

Anyway, as someone who has recently had my own cosplay disaster (making my daughter’s Eliza outfit), I took heart that I’m not the only one fumbling around in the dark, and I have hope that I, too, will learn from my mistakes and get better along the way!

Review: They Were Dolphins

They Were Dolphins, by T. Pascal

Genre: Coming of age

Rating: 5 stars

The boy believes he’s a dolphin. Why? Well, this is one of those stories that I don’t want to say too much about, because it unfolds slowly before your eyes, showing you the boy’s life through a series of good, bad, naive, criminal, endearing, and tragic events. It’s a sort of meandering tale with all sorts of interesting things along the way. The protagonist grew on me over the course of the story, to the point that I wanted to reach through the ereader and give him a hug.

It’s almost bittersweet. More bitter than sweet. It’s almost a happy ending, but not really at all.

I leave this story wanting all the children of the world to be loved.

Review: Science Fiction Shorts

Science Fiction Shorts, by Damian Trasler

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 5 stars

This was a fun series of short stories. From the folly of a scientist who cannot see the benefits of his accidental research outcomes, to jumping timelines, psychological monsters, and a fun Calvin and Hobbes meets Batman and Robin style space adventure, this collection has a range of styles, with each of them being entertaining.

My favourite of the bunch was the third story, The Boglet. This collection is worth the price for that story alone, in my opinion. It’s rare that I laugh out loud while reading, but the ending was just too funny!