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James A. Pappas Jr. "jaypappas" RSS Feed (Boston, MA United States)

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Owner's Share (Trader's Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper Book 6)
Owner's Share (Trader's Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper Book 6)
Price: $4.95

2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This entire series is laughably bad, Amazon rating system broken., March 15, 2014
I don't have much more to add to that title, this entire series has either a deluded fanbase or a paid review campaign behind it, because somehow the reviews keep giving the most boring space "opera" ever written multiple 5 star reviews. I recommend the reviewers to Amazon's Review Police Unit, if such a unit exists, and if it doesn't, I volunteer to be the tired 1-month-from-retirement, I'm-too-old-for-this-shiat half of a buddy cop drama about detectives pursuing review malfeasance online.

5 Star review givers: You all suck and/or are paid shills.

The series is set in space, but mainly in intergalactic trade ports that are written to seem like Legion hall bingo parlors, complete with battered folding tables. The characters are shallow and unbelievable, the author tells you what to feel without any ability to actually evoke emotion in the reader, and his descriptive passages would earn an 8th grade essay writer a "gentleman's C" from any English teacher in America (all of America, not just the tough graders).

Cannot disparage this series enough, utter waste of time and money.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 17, 2014 3:16 PM PDT

Wicked Bronze Ambition: A Garrett, P.I., Novel
Wicked Bronze Ambition: A Garrett, P.I., Novel
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $6.65

4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull and plodding., July 16, 2013
After forcing myself to finish this book, I simply lack the energy to critique it thoroughly, so I'll just say that whatever magic there was in the series that attracted me to it all those years ago is long gone. What remains is the author coasting on the goodwill of yesteryear and simply throwing the dozens of characters he's accreted over the years together and hoping something sticks. Nothing does.

Declaring this series DOA

Hazardous Goods (Arcane Transport Book 1)
Hazardous Goods (Arcane Transport Book 1)
Price: $4.99

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This everyman deliveryman doesn't deliver., May 22, 2013
So much for all the five star reviews, I don't know if I wandered into fanfic land or if those are friends of the author's, but this book is a solid 2 stars, and that's being generous.

The plot seems interesting enough: An urban fantasy that could be a mix of Friday the 13th (The 80's TV series) and the Jim Butcher novels, but the concept just falls flat on its face with prose that never lifts its head from banal description (she was hot, I sat under the overhang, I opened the package, etc...), a protagonist who never gels as a character, cartoonish and unconvincing enemies and a barely fleshed out family and co-workers. Oh and the plot goes absolutely nowhere as well: A package is stolen, some villians had a completely asinine reason for stealing it, the protagonist gets it back, after making some other random deliveries and forays into weaker side plots. The end.

Skip this one, skip the series.

Shades of Light: Book One of The Walker Chronicles
Shades of Light: Book One of The Walker Chronicles

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pedestrian novelization of a D&D game., February 8, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Fell for the 5-star reviews again, sigh.

As a first novel the book is far from bad, few errors and a plot that at least moves along at a brisk pace puts this author well ahead of the self-published pack, but I had to take issue with the following:

1) This work seems to be nearly a transcription of a tabletop D&D game, with all the usual spells and classes faithfully represented, you can practically hear the saving throws being rolled. As such, it feels like you've read this story a dozen times already, and if I wanted to take another spin in the TSR universe, I'd buy one of the official books, or better yet, start up my own game of D&D. -1 star.

2) A generic fantasy world that feels thrown together. For instance: Why does this society have both katanas and rapiers? Those weapons were invented by utterly different societies removed in time and space to deal with different combat situations, yet in this work both weapons appear (probably because they appear in D&D) and in different sides of a duel, which makes absolutely no sense, and the interaction of the two weapons are as unbelievable as their appearance (Rapiers parry katanas without issue, and vice versa). Lazy, poorly thought out world-building, -1 star.

3)The characters and dialogue are written well enough to finish the book, but by the end the reader recognizes how cookie-cutterish the characters are (Hero, sidekick, love interest #1, love interest #2, nemesis, mentor, etc) and how little growth has happened to any character by the end of the book. Our hero begins angry, lovelorn and confused, and without spoilering the plot, he ends up that way. In fact, pretty much every character ends up where he or she started, having accomplished just about nothing but to (barely) introduced the characters and the mcguffin, a Gem Of Anti-Magic, probably located on some treasure table in the DM's Guide. -1 star.

Will not be reading this author's work further, cannot recommend a purchase unless you are the biggest D&D fanboy around and you've run out of official pulp product to consume.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 9, 2013 3:55 AM PST

XCOM: Enemy Unknown [Online Game Code]
XCOM: Enemy Unknown [Online Game Code]
Price: $29.99

16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars X-Com makes the "Meh-list"., October 11, 2012
Like the NYTimes magazine list of weekly things that are just "meh", X-com doesn't notably fail or succeed, it just does a workaday job of updating the franchise and exercising some patent/trademark rights for some corporation. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't make it a bad game, it even flirts with the "" aspect that all the great 80's-90's turn based games are known for, it just doesn't break any new ground... at all.

A simpler X-Com for a simpler format (And a simpler audience?), it gets a fair number of things right and even fixes some problems with the original x-com titles, so kudos to the dev team for that. Here's a quick list of pros and cons, with no spoilers:

Classic X-Com, turn based game with enough of the bells and whistles to keep a veteran x-com player satisfied (not a FPS! thank goodness!)
Clean, simple UI for fast turns and more action
Destroyable battlefield, yay!
No more hour-long searches for the last alien hiding in a corner of the map
Great look and feel, map varieties are challenging and un-repetitive.

-Simplified *everything*;
-Squaddie characteristics no longer random (and there are only a couple now, will and aim), loses that RPG aspect, thrill of "rolling a 20" and getting a great recruit
-Lost position-choices for defense/aim: Kneel/Prone/Standing now reduced to just "hunker down" action on defense, no way to increase your aim.
-AP system gone, replaced by move/shoot (or just shoot) turns, which makes no sense: If any unit has enough time to move and then shoot, why can't my guys shoot and *then* move? Seriously that's a major mistake.

-Weight allotment (and the stat of STR) replaced by hard-coded slots for 4 items: Armor, weapon, sidearm, misc. Meh.
-Rush AI in effect, since there's no shoot-n-scoot (just scoot-n-shoot), but it does make for a faster turn. Meh.
-Research chain for many items is shorter, fewer upgrades to items and aircraft. Meh.
-Aliens in general are just less effective at everything: Psi, shooting and tactics.

In short, nothing about this game is really new or noteworthy, except its release date. So... meh.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 19, 2012 8:26 PM PDT

The Paths of the Dead: Book One of the Viscount of Adrilankha
The Paths of the Dead: Book One of the Viscount of Adrilankha
by Steven Brust
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.05
62 used & new from $0.57

2.0 out of 5 stars Dreadfully overwritten, tedious prose., August 21, 2012
I didn't like the writing style the author used in The Phoenix Guard, and I liked this latest edition even less. It makes no sense why every character in the author's world would be speaking the exact same stilted accent (leaving the narrative fiction aside, that this is a translated text by one author, once you are "in frame" you can relax the style to suit the work H.P. Lovecraft did this in almost every one of his major works without once writing a dull story), one that is more suited to prose than speech. Even mule drovers and bar wenches talk like highborn aristos, not a vulgarian among them. It not only strains credulity, but has the net effect of giving every single character the same "voice" on the page, such that everyone's dialogue is essentially, and confusingly, interchangeable, insofar as it is all made up of the same cliche "period" phrases. An example at random:

"As to that..."
"Very well, I accept that it is an intention. And yet--"
"Well? And yet?"
"And it seems to me as if we need a plan."
"Ah, a plan."
"Well, Tazendra, and do you have one?"
"Who, I?"
"Yes, you."

That was page 208 of the trade paperback, I opened it at random. Literally entire chapters of the book are composed of this mind-numbing example of what I can only assume is supposed to be a comedy of manners, with every character playing the same part: the vapid aristocrat. Even P.G. Wodehouse had Jeeves to play opposite Wooster, this book is sorely lacking an alternative point-of-view. And with every page comprised of more than half of these same stock dialogues, entire chapters will race by (as you quickly flip ahead) without any action or even any descriptive narrative. In a page or three I found myself across a continent, without even a sight, sound or smell described by the author! That's fairly hard to pull off and still keep a reader's interest engaged unless an author can supply some amazing dialogue; Alas, this author cannot.

Skip this work entirely, it is headache-inducing.

Fate's Edge (A Novel of the Edge)
Fate's Edge (A Novel of the Edge)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $5.99

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A sloppy, predictable romance novel. With gore., December 16, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
In short: Don't bother, skip the series if you manage to read this in time...

I picked up the whole "Edge" series based on the reviews, and by the time I got to this installment I was thoroughly bored with the whole affair. The novel started off well enough, with the machinations of a grifter family dragging one of their own back into the family business for one last heist... but then that intriguing premise is immediately discarded and we dizzyingly switch POV to another main character who has to deal with the fallout of that heist, one of several POV changes that do the work a disservice by breaking immersion and forcing the reader to accept their new outlook with barely a breath taken to describe what's going on. The novel just isn't long enough to do any of these interthreaded storylines justice, and we are left tapping our toes and checking our mental watches for the moment when these dispersed characters must coalesce for The Big Finish. Unfortunately the big finish is written like a CGI-FX-heavy movie scene, not a bit of tension or clever to be found in it (The Big Heist happens offstage early, and the next heist had zero thought behind it, making me wish that it too happened offstage so that at least I could pretend it was something like a real old-school con, and not the awful smash-and-grab it turned into). There was no real tension in the final fight since there was really no one present who the reader cared about that had a remote chance of dying, being all primary characters and Illona Andrews showing a distinct aversion to killing off main characters, a reason why all these series wind up, like soap operas, with an extra 2-3 main characters every episode until someone in the writing staff gets fed up and kills almost all of them off (I'm looking at you, Mr. I-Write-The-Gory-Bits, you are falling down on the job, sirrah).

There was no particular romantic tension either, since Mrs. I-Write-The-Sexy-Parts fell down on the job as well, and just went with Bolt-From-The-Blue love, that strikes both characters simultaneously (recall, you get to each of their POVs rather quickly, so no surprises there) and there is no particular reason for them *not* to get together: No attachments, no other love interests, both stupidly cute (I guess, I mean they aren't well described, we just get painfully personal descriptions of how wet/hard they get when they see each other, gah, such a cop-out) and both with that creepy sociopathic loving-but-I-slit-throats-too thing that has been so popular since vampire fiction came along and turned everyone's forebrains into sex-and-death mush.

Don't even ask me why the "kids" are in this novel, or why adults would pat their heads for being such homicidal lunatics at age 13 or whatever, the world-building doesn't fully explain why this society is so sociopathic when it has such easy access to modern liberal democratic philosophy, technology and magic that approximates and exceeds technology. These people act *worse* than Medicis and Borgias, but share a border with the US of A, and seem to personally espouse rather noble ideals... until suddenly they go psychopathic and the violence ratchets up to 11. It makes no sense, but is undoubtedly an artifact of two writers collaborating page-by-page (Although Niven and Pournelle did it seamlessly in their shared work, so I cannot wholly absolve the writers for this bi-polar mess).

Give this one a pass, and in fact if you are considering buying the whole series, I'd give it a pass as well, I'm calling it DOA with the 3rd installment.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 15, 2012 11:07 AM PST

Alterant (Belador)
Alterant (Belador)
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $6.40

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible series, overhyped authors., October 7, 2011
I have a slightly longer review of the first work, "Blood Trinity", I'll just drop this review in here as a "caveat emptor" for anyone who just wants a quick yes/no:

No. Do not buy.

These books are simplistic and cliched, badly written and cribbed from some mash-up of the Dresden novels, the Underworld films and any romance novel you care to name, and they do a poor job rehashing their source material, with not a single memorably-written line to be found in the entire work.

The people giving this series 5-star reviews are living in their very own urban fantasy, I suspect. Or they owe the authors money.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2011 5:13 PM PDT

Blood Trinity: Book 1 in the Belador Series
Blood Trinity: Book 1 in the Belador Series
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $6.36

2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 500 pages of cliches, empty chapters., October 7, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Once again, I am led astray by the genre "Urban Fantasy", and the dimness of reviewers who seem to share the sentience level of slime molds. How does anyone in their right mind give this dreck a 5-star review? Are these small publishing houses just paying people to 5-star these awful series, and how can I get in on that action?!?

What I consider urban fantasy: China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Michael Swanwick, etc. "American Gods", "King Rat", "Good Omens" or "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" would be my choices of exemplars of the genre, and would all rate 4-5 stars as genre books. This novel would rate negative two on that same scale.

What every 5-star reviewer here seems to consider urban fantasy: Any Jim Butcher novel with the cover stripped off, the names of characters/creatures changed and all the well-paced action sequences removed and replaced with vague allusions to fraught childhoods and deep psychic traumas.

The Jim Butcher Dresden files are some excellent pulp, I will admit, formulaic and familiar, like an Elmore Leonard novel they're perfect for what they are. Most of Butcher's novels would rate between a 3-4 for me as genre examples, with the later novels falling off as the thrill is replaced with formula and sequelitis sets in. But those works read like The Bard Himself when compared to Kenyon-Love's Blood Trinity, a book that begins with a flashback masquerading as an opener 'in medias res'. A really preposterous opener in which you are introduced to the "heroes" of a modern supernatural police squad (essentially) forming under extreme duress as they hang in darkness in a torture chamber while the villains can be heard approaching. Exciting, right? You would think so, except the bad guys come in the prison cell, inexplicably unshackle the good guys so that they can dutifully get their asses kicked by the instant superpower team-up ("I can shoot energy, psychic and blue lazers, how about you guys!??!", would be a not-incredibly-unkind recap of the big team-up speech).

Perhaps it was merely a work of juvenile fiction, and not intended for readers aged 12+, but if so, I would have appreciated a heads-up (And the rape references seem to indicate a darker, older target audience, so I tend to doubt that is the case).

Throw this one into the mulcher, in my opinion, and let's hear from some of these 5-star reviewers how they can put this book at the same level (since the quick-star only goes up to five) or higher than every Butcher, Cherie Priest, Steven Brust and Gaiman/Mieville work out there...

Magic to the Bone (Allie Beckstrom)
Magic to the Bone (Allie Beckstrom)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $5.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring to the bone., October 2, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I picked this book up as a beach read from a store with a single shelf of books, and man did I regret that purchase. There's an intriguing concept and characters here that unfortunately never live up to their promise; Pretty much all the best stuff that seems to be the foundation of this novel (Plucky female detective, magic-as-self-sacrifice, memory loss and its consequence, Portland as a backdrop) are simply discarded or given short shrift after the first few chapters. In the most glaring flaw, the author creates a rigorous and unyielding system of magic where practitioners suffer for their miracles, but then lets the main character off that plot hook by making her some glaring, inconsistent exception to the rules. Likewise, "Portland" is whittled down to dozens of pages of descriptions of rain, fog, cold, without any of the novelty or immediacy that, say, an Eskimo might have brought to the descriptions of weather. Instead, readers are treated to numbingly dull pages of the main character stumbling from bus stop to taxi cab to coffee shop as if it's the final trek up the side of Mt. Doom.

I don't think I've ever been so immediately repulsed by a main character as I was by this one: Incessant whining, passive aggressive behavior towards any and all in her life, and the inability to deal with public transit or the weather in a major urban center. It's as if Carrie Bradshaw from Sex In The City starred in a romantic fantasy novel where all she ever did was misanthropically biatch about men, crowds, the weather, her father and her love-life, all while simultaneously being an heiress to the Bill Gates of Portland, and yet somehow being nearly homeless and starving.

Thrown across room after a couple hundred pages of that nonsense, give this one a wide berth.

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