Tag Archive: review


One Was Lost

So, this turned out better than I’d hoped. This was one I’d picked up because it sounded interesting and a co-worker had mentioned enjoying it. I figured, “thriller, cool” and ran with it. So this is One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards. Enjoy!

One Was Lost cover

Sera’s school requires its students to complete a Senior Life Experience Mission before they graduate. A big field trip that takes them some place new and away from their comfort zones. No problem, it’s a camping trip in the rain. Until it isn’t. Sera finds herself trapped with three other students and their very drugged teacher, a killer stalking the woods after them, and mysterious words lovingly written on their arms. The words are clues, maybe, maybe keys to their escape or a judgment. They’ll have to figure out what it all means if they want to survive.

Natalie D. Richards’ One Was Lost is a solid thriller in many ways. In many ways it also falls into standard teen novel pitfalls that damage the flow of the story. This leaves the book in a strange place writing wise, which is interesting for me. It has fantastic bones and a lot of ideas that I would love to see more of, but then tends to side track away from those ideas where it counts.

The biggest pull for a thriller is the characters. Who are they? How does the situation affect them and how they view each other? So, character is important. There is a fair amount of good character work here. Unfortunately that character work gets overshadowed by the romance fairly often. I got really tired of Sera’s whole circular deal with how attracted she is to Lucas and how she doesn’t want to become her mother. It took up a lot of page space compared to Emily and Jude, the other half of the group being hunted.

I wanted to see so much more of Emily and Jude. To find out more about what made them Damaged and Deceptive respectively, and see how they started working better with our lead pair. I feel like that and the killer threat should have been the core of the story. Here are these kids, they’ve each been labeled by the killer in the woods, why? What’s the game here? How is the killer making this work, leading them through the woods and sneaking around so much? More build on any or all of those would have been great and done a lot for the plot.

Because the plot is sort of scattered, the killer seems to both have a specific timeline for their plot and is totally willing to just let the kids do whatever. It almost feels a bit like a Joker plot, everything the kids do plays into the killer’s plans somehow, but there shouldn’t have been a way for everything to work without the killer getting caught. This leads to a point where the red herring makes a lot more sense throughout the book than the actual killer. And that feels like a missed mark in the writing, where I feel like removing the red herring and letting the killer be this dangerous unknown could have been fantastic, especially if we had gotten more about some of the scary stories told on one of the earlier nights. Have more work put into the foreshadowing for the big reveal.

That’s where I land with a lot of One Was Lost, more work would have made the book so much better. It has good bones, solid ideas, and the potential for good characters. Then there are also points where it seems determined not to live up to any of its potential, the romance is an example of this. It’s frustrating like that. I did like the book and I would read more of Richards’ stuff in the future, but I would probably see what other people said first. I’m giving One Was Lost a three out of five.

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So, I’m late again. We didn’t have water for most of the day today, old pipes and all, so most of the day was spend out and about to avoid dealing with that. That aside, I’ve got a review for you all. It’s a fun little comic courtesy of First Second, here’s the first volume of Cucumber Quest. Enjoy!

Cucumber Quest The Doughnut Kingdom

The peaceful Doughnut Kingdom has been conquered by the wicked Queen Cordelia and her minions as part of her plot to resurrect the Nightmare Knight. If she succeeds then the world will be helpless before her. The world needs a hero, a legendary hero at that. Luckily(?) nerdy wizard in training Cucumber’s weird pushy dad has decided that his son will be just the legendary hero that the world needs. So, teamed up with his much more heroic younger sister, Cucumber’s stuck on an epic quest to stop a tyrant and save the day.

Gigi D.C.’s Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom, is an utterly cute comic that gets very tongue in cheek about standard fantasy conventions. Cucumber is told repeatedly that he has to be the legendary hero instead of his sister, because younger sisters are never the hero. The Oracle protector of Dreamside had to look through the window while Cucumber read a letter from his dad to know that he was the right guy. What I’m saying is that it’s great fun to read.

Cucumber Quest reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons in a lot of ways, not a specific one mind but that nostalgic concept. The art is, as previously mentioned, cute as well as being very emotive. Color gets used a lot for impact. I feel like that might be overdone in some places, but it’s also something that didn’t really bother me until I’d already read the comic several times, so there’s that.

The villains manage to walk the line between feeling like an actual threat with Queen Cordelia and being bumbling morons with the BLT Trio. That matches our reluctant hero and the Saturday morning cartoon feel. As does the younger sister character, Almond, the knight in training. She who totally wants to do this adventure thing and fight the villain and be the hero. Part of me wants to compare her to Scrappy Doo, dragging Cucumber along on his adventure because she wants to be there. But she’s more than that. While she does do some bone headed stuff, Almond is basically the driving force of the story because Cucumber wouldn’t do the quest if he was left to his own devices.

Really all I’m left with now is scoring it. Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom gets a five. It’s a quick read and a fun one and I very much look forward to volume two when it comes out.

The Killing Jar

Is this really what it looks like? I’ve posted a review after all this time and it’s not even a holiday. Speaking of, I know what I’m gonna do for Halloween. More on that in a bit, for now, enjoy!

The Earth is wrecked.  Staying outside without a respirator is certain death and most of humanity lives in domed cities while scientists on the moon colony search for an acceptable new home world. Unfortunately something keeps killing them.

The Killing Jar by R. S. McCoy is an interesting piece of apocalyptic sci-fi in part because most of its individual parts should be bog standard by now, but they are combined into something quite entertaining. That’s largely because of the characters but also because each subplot has a sense of weight to it, like it’s going somewhere big.

This is one of those books that was really hard for me to review, largely because most of the issues I have with it are things that could have been dropped without a ton of change to the book proper. A big example of this was the, essentially, caste system that this society runs on. It wasn’t much of a bother to me until later in the book as I was thinking back on things. There was also some relationship stuff that really irked me, I’ll get to that later though.

So, there’re three tiers of society, plus a garbage level for people who don’t fit their caste or run off for whatever reason. Scientists get a bunch of genetic modifications to be tall and smart, they get the best pay, and they’re generally the most respected, but they don’t get to fall in love and they don’t get art or music. Craftsmen don’t get the genetic modifications, don’t seem to get paid much, and do most of the work building and maintaining everything, but they seem to get more personal choices than scientists. Then there’s artists, they don’t really seem to have a place in this world. Artists legitimately seem to exist in the plot for the male lead to get angsty over having to give up music and so his best friend can abandon him and science for his boyfriend. That’s probably a writing oversight thing, the book doesn’t really go into any caste except the scientists.  But if the author was going to use this particular convention, complete with mandatory selection day when you come of age, I really wish she’d done more with it.

My second big thing, as mentioned, was some of the relationship stuff.  Most of the relationships are painfully surface level and, much like the social striation could have been cut pretty easily. There’s a couple of exceptions that I feel like were done pretty well, but they were the exception rather than the rule. It’s not like the ones that weren’t done well were a huge part of their respective plots, it’s just that I feel like they either could have been done a lot better or came out of left field.

Now, all that said, I really enjoyed the book for the most part. It had a few more side plots than I would have liked, but they felt like they were going places instead of just being there as filler. The characters didn’t communicate well, but half of them are teenaged and the other half have hidden agendas. I definitely appreciated how much each character was gone into, especially given the number of side plots going on. The ending leaves me, instead of disappointed, curious to see where everything goes from here and how it all ties together.

So, all that said, R.S. McCoy’s The Killing Jar gets a four out of five.

Batwoman #4

I’m slowly getting more used to trying to review comics, it’s still not the focus of the blog but I enjoy them and about half my daily views seem to be from people trying to find out when/if characters that I’ve talked about wanting to see in the DCnU will be showing up.  So, why not?

Issue four picks up almost immediately after issue three’s ending.  Bette Kane is back in the Flamebird costume ready to take down the scum of Gotham to prove herself to herself and probably her cousin.  Predictably, this does not go well and the reader is treated to  vibrantly colored scenes of Flamebird in a painfully one-sided fight interspersed with tasteful scenes of Kate and Maggie having comfort sex.  From there, Batwoman takes to the streets to track down the monster that’s been kidnapping Gotham’s children.  Meanwhile, Agent Chase tricks Bette into revealing her cousin’s name and, possibly, Batwoman’s identity.

Jumping right in, if Batwoman: Elegy hadn’t sold me on J.H. Willaims III’s art then this issue would have.  The Bette’s fight scene contrasts starkly with the clips of Kate and Maggie.  The bright colors of one really complemented the muted sketchy qualities of the other.  It makes what would have already been tender scenes all that much more so.  And the two page spread of Batwoman coming through that window where each scallop of her cape contains another panel was just awesome.

I find myself increasingly hoping that something really bad happens to Agent Chase.  On a logical level I know she’s just doing her job, but there’s a level of casual cruelty in the way she delt with Bette that just bothers me.  On the flipside, the more I read the more I like Maggie Sawyer.  She’s the beleaguered good cop here, the Commissioner Gordon to Kate’s Bat.  It makes me a bit less interested in seeing what happens when either she figures out that Kate’s Batwoman or Renee Montoya shows back up.

I’m impressed so far and I look quite forward to seeing what happens to wrap this arc up.

Hotwire

This is so late I cannot even.  Getting ready for the up-coming term has been kicking my butt so hard I’m amazed that I can still sit down.  The good news is that I’ve got a couple of books ready to review soon and I’ll be getting to do another giveaway later this month along with a guest post by the book’s author, the bad news is that I’ll still have to take the time to pack and unpack everything and get back into classes mode.  Things should be back to something like normal within the next few weeks.

On a peaceful night in western Nebraska a group of teenagers looking to film themselves getting high are attacked by a mysterious creature.  The attack leaves them apparently electrocuted with only mysterious scorch marks as evidence.  Maggie O’Dell has to make sense of differing accounts of the evening and her witnesses being killed off one by one.  Meanwhile in Washington, D.C. Benjamin Platt is called in on an outbreak of an unknown contagion at an elementary school.  What connection is there between the two cases?

Alex Kava does a really excellent job of balancing analytical science based story telling with jabs of high octane action and high emotion.  Hotwire, while a little slow at the start, builds on itself with connections between O’Dell and Platt’s cases resulting in a read that barrels towards its conclusion at a break neck pace.  We also get character development for Racine whose first name is Julia apparently, I’d forgotten that.  One of the really interesting things in Hotwire is seeing the differences in how characters view each other, this is shown especially well in Platt and Racine’s interactions throughout the book.

I’ve only got one problem with Hotwire and unfortunately it’s a big one.  The story telling is excellent, as good as anything Kava’s done before, but the plot leaves way too many dangling threads.  Characters who turn out to be really important to the plot don’t get the characterization to carry their importance and bits of dead end plot happened that could have easily been cut out without hurting the story in the least.  It didn’t hurt the story while I was reading it, but it did lead to a ton of fridge logic and a feeling that this was a bit less streamlined than some of Kava’s earlier books.

I’m giving Hotwire a solid four out of five.  This one’s worth re-reading later.