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review 2016-03-31 02:32
A Dystopian Fantasy/SF hybrid that doesn't quite know what to do with itself
Heroes and Villains: Pawn in the Game - Tara R

I'm not really sure where to start with this, to tell you the truth. Tara R has put a lot of effort into this, there's clearly an ambitious story she's wanting to tell. Sadly, she's not the kind of writer (yet?) who can pull it off.


She has a hard enough time pulling off basic grammar, punctuation and vocabulary, much less a consistent voice and created culture. I'd given up on this thing by the end of chapter three, but was willing (and eager) for her to win me back -- it's been done before. It's been done in the last week, but this novel just isn't capable of it.


I'd try to describe the book a little, but I'm not sure I can -- it's a dystopian fantasy, a world full of despots using their subjects as cannon fodder. There's magic, to a degree, there's widespread suffering and abuse, there's an idealistic revolutionary or two -- but no golden age to hearken back to. Just an idea (with no observable origin) that the world could be better. But there's no one on this world that's ever seen a better world, so why they'd think there is one is beyond me.


That said, various people -- royalty and commoners both, have senses of humor, moments of joy and joking, and even non-royals get dressed in tuxedos (because what epic fantasy doesn't have guys in tuxes?). In fact, for a dytopian world, it frequently doesn't seem that bad -- except for the people talking about how horrible it is all the time. Again, there's no basis for them to think so given that this is the way the world has always worked.


The various governmental entities, secret societies, and would-be insurrections just don't make sense. Their operation isn't coherent (nor do they fit the setting), their goals are confusing -- and then you get the totally out of the blue and bizarre lecture on DNA and I just gave up. This is a barely educated society, and sure, our protagonist is founding secret schools all over the place, but it's a mighty big leap to go from an agrarian-based culture in a near-constant state of war with only underground schools to people casually discussing genetic manipulation.


Could I have tried harder to understand everything? Maybe -- but I was really searching for something to hold on to, I tried pretty hard. But other than curiosity, there was no reason to -- there's not a single character interesting enough to keep you going, to make you care whether they live, die, or are never mentioned again in any way by the author.

It is simply, and perhaps too bluntly, a disappointing mess.


I'm giving it two stars because I didn't actively hate it. Also, I do think that there's something buried deep down here that's worth looking at, and I really do think that in Tara R's mind, this all makes sense -- she's clearly put the time and thought into it. But she just did not get that to the page. If you're willing to put in the work, you might find the nuggets. But I wouldn't recommend spending your time on it, it's just not worth it.


<i><b>Disclaimer:</b> I was provided with a copy of this by the author in exchange for an honest review, she hopefully doesn't regret that exchange too much.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2016/03/30/heroes-and-villains-pawn-in-the-game-by-tara-r
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review 2015-04-20 02:56
The title says it all!
Suicide Squad Vol. 5 (The New 52) - Matt Kindt

I was so thrilled that my library has this. I had to wait a while before it came in, but by and large, it was worth the wait. This story is so twisty. The established 'norm' of the Suicide Squad is totally disrupted, and Amanda Waller is forced to call in the Squad to protect her from enemies within the prison. I think that if you didn't get the idea that these folks are not the good guys already, you will get a wakeup call in this volume. Yeah, they are all killers and criminals, and it's not a case of them being a little bit morally compromised, but instead it's how far over the line they really are.

I think this volume was the most creepy to me. Part of it is that sense of paranoia about not knowing who you can trust (yeah, if you're going to trust any of these people, including Waller), but also the fact that Waller is locked in the prison with lots of people who want her dead, and she's not in control of the situation anymore. And one of the few people in her corner is an extremely intelligent psychotic who's semi-obsessed with her.

Waller isn't a nice woman. She's very manipulative and opportunistic, but I kind of felt afraid for her. Yeah, I'm a soft touch.

I really hope this series continues! Can't wait to see what happens next.

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review 2014-12-19 19:12
Could have been a bit more super
Super Stories of Heroes & Villains - Paul Di Filippo,Mike Mignola,Rachel Pollack,Christopher Golden,Jonathan Lethem,George R.R. Martin,Kurt Busiek,Tananarive Due,Carrie Vaughn,Gene Wolfe,Jack Pendarvis,Kelly Link,Carol Emshwiller,George Singleton,Cory Doctorow,Kim Newman,Steven Barnes,A.M. D

A mixed bag of a book.


First, if fanfic is a turnoff for you, be warned there are two stories in here which are basically fanfic, one with the serial numbers filed off and one which relied on the serial numbers to make its point. Maybe it's weird of me, but if I want fanfic, I'll wander the internet. I expect more creativity from a book I paid for.


Now the stories themselves, some I loved, some I enjoyed and immediately forgot, and some had me flipping pages in an effort to get to the next tale. So I'm not going to go story by story and offer my thoughts, since that would take longer than I really want to spend on this one.


I really enjoyed the Hellboy story (which, being by Mignola, is NOT fanfic!) even though I wasn't really sure why it was a Hellboy story - it felt like you could have put any number of characters in his role and the story would not have appreciably changed. But the mood was great and I liked the ending.


Faces of Gemeni might have been my favorite part of the book. It felt just like reading a superhero comic, whereas so many prose superhero stories try to distinguish their style and divorce somewhat from that base. I really felt for the characters and would love more about them and their world.


Manna-Man was hilarious and really sweet at the same time, and The Biggest was a little more comical and a little tragic but still enjoyable.


The book ended strong, as Carrie Vaughn's "Just Cause" set a pace and dragged me happily along. The Rangergirl short made me want to read more of her exploits because I love the aesthetic of a western and this one captured it perfectly. The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children was weird, but weird in a good, quirky way and was the only one in the collection I reread. And Pinktastic and the End of the World was another strong entry that I just really enjoyed.


Overall, it might be worth checking out if you're really into superheroes, but I understand a lot of these stories have appeared in other collections previously, and there's not enough strong and unique here for me to urge you out to buy it.

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review 2014-10-08 05:29
Leave no time for self reflection
Suicide Squad, Vol. 4: Discipline and Punish - Ales Kot,Patrick Zircher

This felt different from the last books, but then the writer is different. Still loving this series. Still lots of craziness, and violence. Not too gratuitous, thankfully. Some thoughtful stories, one with Deadshot as a young man who is driven by revenge, and another with Harley Quinn reflecting on her life. Both come to realize that they need the Suicide Squad to give them balance. For Harley, it keeps her off the edge of chaos, and for Deadshot, it's a challenge that means more than getting paid.

I am indifferent toward Cheetah as a member. She adds nothing to the team. The Unknown Soldier comes off as a bit of a Waller toady. The addition of Commissioner Gordon's serial killer son is intriguing. He's developed a fixation on Miss Waller.

As usual, you don't get all the story or all the answers. It makes me eager to read the next volume.

My favorites are still Harley Quinn and Deadshot, both conflicted characters who leave you feeling sympathetic, but also kind of guilty that you like them so much.

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review 2014-07-25 19:54
A knight in very tarnished armor
The Robber Knight - Special Edition (The Robber Knight Saga) (Volume 1) - Robert Thier


Lady Ayla is threatened with either marriage to the powerful, conquering lord Margrave von Falkenstein or for her lands to be confiscated and her people killed in war. With her father ailing from a long-term degenerative condition, she has assumed command of his lands in his stead. She refuses the Margrave's offer of marriage, knowing that it will mean war, because she realizes giving into him is the wrong decision to make for herself and her people. On a trip through a nearby forest to notify her vassals of her need for men to protect Luntberg Castle and its villagers, she is robbed by the fearsome, dreaded, red-armor-wearing Robber Knight, who dares to take her money, property and her beloved horse, although he spares her life and doesn't harm a hair on her head. Lady Ayla vows to see him caught and hanged.

When Ayla and her steward find a sole-surviving, wounded man in a field of bloody, mutilated bodies, they bring him back to the castle. His name is Reuben, and he claims to be a merchant, but he is really the same Red Knight. If he reveals his identity, he will be hanged as a thief. And he is too weak to flee for his life from his wounds and a subsequent fever and infection. As he is nursed back to health by the beautiful Lady Ayla, his cynicism and overpowering self-interest gives way to love. Can Ayla keep her people safe from a deadly siege, and avoid falling for a man below her station who she believes is not telling her the whole truth about his identity?


The Robber Knight is an entertaining trip back in time to the medieval era. The narrative voice is lively, with subtle humor and vivid characterizations. Reuben is the perfect rogue character, a man who hasn't decided if he wants to take the trouble to be a better man again, until Lady Ayla shows him he is capable of it. Ayla is sweet and determined, a woman of her times. Beneath her ladylike exterior, she has the heart of a lion and a backbone of steel. The secondary characters, such as the old vassal but still capable knight and fighter, Sir Isenbard, are well-developed.

Mr. Thier clearly has a background in medieval history, and a talent for writing a story that is enlightening about the period, but in a very entertaining, readable fashion. The depiction of medieval castle warfare is lifelike and realistic without being overly graphic. The reader learns the ins and outs of protecting a castle against invaders alongside Lady Ayla, and her people, most of whom have lived in a time of peace and whose war skills are limited to non-existent. I cheered along with them as they survived numerous assaults due to the advice of the injured Reuben.

Readers who enjoy romance stories will appreciate the slow build of attraction and feelings between Ayla and Reuben. The author makes the most of their every moment together to show romantic tension and growing love between the characters.

The Robber Knight is a story that will appeal to readers who have interest in the medieval period. It's an edifying read, flows and keeps the reader's interest with engaging characters and a well-paced narrative. This reader recommends it, despite the fact that the cliffhanger ending pricks at one of the biggest pet peeves of mine.

Reviewed for The Hope Chest Reviews: http://www.thcreviews.com/cgi-bin/vts...

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