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Outcast (Star Force Series Book 10)
Outcast (Star Force Series Book 10)
Price: $5.99

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice addition, but we've seen this guy before, right?, May 20, 2014
If you've enjoyed Larson's previous nine Star Force novels, then you should find a certain level of satisfaction with this latest installment. Outcast is a decent addition to the Star Force universe and handled well for series newcomer David VanDyke. While there are a few spots that could use trimming and I have several small gripes, the story moves at a decent pace and kept me mostly entertained.

I've never read any of VanDyke's works, but he does a great job handling the story, to the point where I am unable to tell who is writing. There are multiples uses of AU (astronomical unit), and to my best recollection, Larson has rarely, if ever, used this term. Other than that, the lines are blurred on the writing style, which is a big plus as it makes the reading experience very cohesive. Larson's prose in previous Star Force makes reading them a breeze, and Outcast is no exception.

My biggest gripe is that Cody is written as a virtual clone of his dad, Kyle. Everything about him screams Kyle Riggs and there's really no distinction between the two. Reactions, decisions, impulses, bravado, it's all just like his old man. The book spans several months and at no point did Cody exhibit anything different during the numerous lulls, obstacles, and struggles, both physical and emotional. Given the continuous, never-ending struggle of survival for the crew on Valiant and the ample opportunities to show a different character, it's hard to believe that future books will see Cody break out of the mold of Kyle Riggs.

Outcast takes place 20 years after The Dead Sun, so is Sergeant Major Kwon really still a bored, active marine who happens to be right in the thick of a science experiment gone wrong? There's Marvin, the source of much frustration (for the characters) and entertainment/intrigue (for us readers), who also happens to hitch a ride when Cody leaves Earth. Then there's the standard Riggs luck that Kyle has exhibited throughout the years going strong with Cody. We've seen this many times before, but now they're effectively stranded in space.

Each of these items accumulated to a read that started fun, then continued into something we've ultimately seen before, even with the new threat being vastly different than anything before it. Outcast is by no means a bad book, and not even close to the worst in the series, but I couldn't help but feel that we've gotten more of the same, with a few exceptions along the way. Two new races are discovered, a threat more devastating than the Macros is introduced and the book ends with a bit more intrigue. There's still plenty of potential for fun, and I'm still as eager as ever to see where it goes. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2014 6:34 AM PST


Release The Panic: Recalibrated
Release The Panic: Recalibrated
Offered by SONY Music Entertainment Downloads LLC.
Price: $6.99

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does the remix fix an underwhelming release? An honest review., April 29, 2014
Red's Release The Panic was a let down compared to their previous albums. Understandably, they wanted to try new things. Unfortunately, it did not resonate well. The style of music was different from what we've come to know and love, and opinions on each song is a mixed bag. Nearly every song is written by the three core members, and the lyrics are solid throughout, but the music itself is where RTP suffered. If We Only is generally considered the best track on the album, which is no surprise as it's virtually the only one that retains Red's unique complimentary blend of strings and effects. Enter Release The Panic: Recalibrated, a remix album attempting to appease us fans that wanted songs more like If We Only, where Red's distinct music and vocals are on full display.

Run And Escape - Going back to its roots, Red delivers the best track on this album. It's a great addition to their fantastic resume, so what else is there to say?

Release the Panic - This is, at best, my second favorite song from last year's RTP, so I felt any adjustments weren't necessary from the get go. It was heavy, didn't have strings, but it still rocked and I was happy. What we have is the same song from RTP with an added layer of strings for the sake of strings, which are too loud and unnecessary.

Damage - Like Release the Panic, it's the same track with an added layer of strings, and way too much at that. I like the original Damage, and this iteration is far too busy and conflicting when the strings are included. The strings do not sound like those in Run And Escape and like the title track, are too loud and unnecessary.

Hold Me Now - Another bright spot from the original RTP, this song is mostly unchanged with an added layer of strings, but this time, it actually works! The strings still don't sound like those in Run and Escape, but they blend naturally and don't stand out. Strings or no strings, I would go with either version.

So Far Away - A song with a great message, though I consider it an average one at best. Same goes with this newer version, though the strings add more depth and mostly compliment it. There are a few times where the strings were a bit too strong, as if vying to be heard over the rest of the music, but ultimately this is what the song should have been in the first place.

Glass House - Didn't really care for the original, and though the strings do mostly improve the song, I still don't care for it. The biggest turn off has always been the drum track, whereas the rest of the music did not stand out. Former Red drummer Joe Rickard has a great style on display in Until We Have Faces and RTP, making Glass House's drums uninspiring and disappointing.

As You Go - This track seems to have undergone the most changes of all Recalibrated songs, but I'm iffy on both versions of this song as there are things about both that I'm not a fan of.

Release The Panic: Recalibrated does not make up for its predecessor's underwhelming delivery. Realistically, Run and Escape may be the only track I will continuously play moving forward. While that is disappointing, the new track gives me hope that greater things are on the horizon for Red's next full album, even more so since they're going to work with Rob Graves, the producer for their first three albums. If RTP was a failed experiment, where does that leave RTP: Recalibrated? A decent rebuttal? A passable fix? A vindicating correction? I have to be honest here. I wouldn't call this release a failure, though I find it is close to one. Red is an amazing band, probably my absolute favorite, but even the best of the best have off days. Hold Me Now gets a boost and Run and Escape brings a breath of fresh air and hope, but that's not enough to carry the rest.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2014 7:24 PM PDT


Shazam! Vol. 1 (The New 52)
Shazam! Vol. 1 (The New 52)
by Geoff Johns
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.53
83 used & new from $9.22

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Oh, this is sweet." "Freddy was right. This is sweet.", January 10, 2014
Geoff Johns, how you entertain me so. I knew only a tiny bit about Shazam, but that doesn't matter. What we have here is Johns, and Gary Frank, delivering a fantastically fun, beautifully illustrated origin story of one of my new favorite characters. It has a rich story with loads of mythology that's just waiting to be explored further. The artwork is top notch and downright gorgeous at times. It's so good that you'd run out of wall space with the number of posters that this volume could produce. Fans of Geoff Johns or DC Comics are sure to enjoy this thoroughly entertaining volume. Seriously, read this. You will not be sorry.


We As Human
We As Human
Price: $8.99
55 used & new from $4.30

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great debut album that has me ready for more, June 25, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: We As Human (Audio CD)
I am a big fan and supporter of We As Human. I discovered them in early 2011 on Pandora and started searching them out, only to discover the only music readily available was their Burning Satellites EP, which is no longer available here or other stores (look it up on YouTube). I enjoyed everything I heard, and then they came out with We As Human EP, which I could not get enough of. Strong vocals, great rhythms, I believed that this was a band that needed more exposure and a chance to make a full length album*. Well, now they have it! When a band I like releases a new album, I usually approach it with some trepidation, because what if I don't like it? What if they go in a direction that just doesn't work? I discovered Red around the same time as We As Human and became immersed in their first three albums. Then Release The Panic came out. Truth be told, it was a bit of a let down as many of their songs deviated from what many of us grew to enjoy and love, and though I have grown to enjoy it for what it is, I still favor their previous works. So does We As Human's self titled debut match up to their two previous EP's? Mostly, and strongly.

The album leads off with their first previewed track, Strike Back, a lyrically simple, yet solidly strong song that I love to crank up and repeat. Next up is Dead Man, the band's third iteration of the song. Like the previous two versions, it does not disappoint and is still a fantastic song. I honestly do not know which one I like more because they all sound great. Bring To Life is where the album takes a small misstep, but it's not that bad of a song; it may grow on me over time. Let Me Drown definitely misses the mark and was my first disliked track. Zombie and We Fall Apart are both great songs that WAH can be proud of. Take the Bullets Away is a powerful song, but Lacey Sturm's contribution on the first verse is iffy. However, her vocals in the chorus are phenomenal. Taking Life is more of a mainstream track and sounds nothing like what I have come to know as WAH, making it my most disliked song on the album. Sever, one of my most beloved WAH songs, comes with a slightly different sound than on the EP. Once I reached the chorus, I realized that the strong, deep tone from the first version has been replaced with a slightly higher pitched version that takes away from an otherwise amazing song. I definitely prefer the EP version, but some may like the change. Last but not least is I Stand. This one is both a hit and a miss for me. While it is a great song, the original lyrics have changed from what many of us have come to know and sing. Gone are direct mentions of God and Jesus, and the dissing of evolution, instead we have mentions to the One, He and Your and no mention of evolution at all. I always felt the two evolution lines were silly to include, but replacing God and Jesus was a little disappointing.

That's my review and I'm sticking to it. As their first true debut album, this a great start and I am looking forward to more. While I did get a free copy for supporting their Kickstarter campaign, I am furthering my support by buying another copy to give to a friend. Rock on We As Human, I will continue to support your growth. Should you guys run another fundraiser, consider me ready to help.

Some additional info for anyone that cares. I got a chance to speak with Justin Cordle, the lead singer, while they were touring in Houston with Red. If the album sells enough, a deluxe edition will be released that contains (I believe) three more tracks, but I did not get a time frame on when that could happen. Deluxe editions are becoming a growing trend, much to my chagrin (booo, hisss, just release them all!). Concerning Dead Man, Cordle said that some of the guys liked the Burning Satellites EP version, while others enjoyed the We As Human EP version, so they decided to work on a third version that kind of meshed the two. For Sever, they could not use the EP version since it was recorded in a different studio, but he said it was pretty much the same song. What he failed to mentioned was the higher tone in the chorus, which I am no fan of. Cordle has strong vocals and the new version kind of takes away from it. At the concert, they played the EP versions of Dead Man and Sever, and used the original lyrics for I Stand.

* Side note: technically they released a full length album in 2006, titled Until We're Dead. It lacks the polish and quality of their more recent work and could go through the rewrite treatment that Dead Man has gone through. This album, We As Human, is their first major studio release.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2013 9:04 PM PDT


Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls (Batman Volume)
Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls (Batman Volume)
Price: $9.66

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great conclusion for the Court of Owls, March 26, 2013
The City of Owls is another fantastic volume for Batman fans. It continues right where Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52) left off, sucking you into a compelling story with artwork that fits greatly with the narrative. It is a fun ride that ends up feeling cut short by being resolved by issue #11. Issue #12 gives a proper introduction to Harper Row, the seemingly random character that saved Batman's life in issue #7. Given her level of involvement thus far, it's probably a safe bet that we will see more of her, not only popping up when convenient, but likely joining Batman in an Oracle-esque role, if not becoming a new Oracle. Like issue #12, the Annual issue is a stand alone issue, giving us an enjoyable story of Victor Fries, who has always been one of my favorite Batman villains.

So if this is such a great read, why four stars? In another review, Anarchy in the US nailed it when he likened the Talons to bullies. They get chatty and lose some of the allure and mystique that Court of Owls provided. Another squabble that I have concerns a certain revelation. Not the revelation itself, but the person behind it. If the Talons were chatty, then this person would talk your ear off. Another issue was abrupt change of pace between issues #11, #12 and the Annual. There's a case to be made with the inclusion of issue #12. Not only does it come after the conclusion to the Court of Owls arc, but it also provides clarity on Row's brief appearance in #7, so it ends up being a useful and beneficial tie-in. Personally, I read the Annual after I finished the rest of the novel, but not doing so will probably throw readers off if read in the order this novel provides.

Scott Snyder has done some engaging story telling with The City of Owls and it is another great collection that's sure to please. I have it at 4 stars, but it's a solid 4.5 rating. The Court of Owls are broken, but they are not gone, and I look forward to their inevitable return with glee.


Earth 2 Vol. 1: The Gathering (The New 52)
Earth 2 Vol. 1: The Gathering (The New 52)
by James Dale Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.81
82 used & new from $7.60

15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great artwork, so-so story, misleading cover art, March 21, 2013
If you were like me, you probably saw the cover and thought, "Sweet! A series about Earth 2's Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman!", while also neglecting to read the product's description. And if you had a similar thought, you were probably disappointed to have the trio around for only the first issue as the story focuses on other characters. Again, this is having neglected reading anything about the series. So who is this really about? Green Lantern (Alan Scott), The Flash (a young Jay Garrick), Hawkgirl and the Atom.

Our new heroes reluctantly come together to fight a life sucking force, Grundy, who seems to be the yang to Green Lantern's yin. You see, Scott has been chosen to be Earth's champion, Green Lantern, from the embodiment of the earth's energy, and because there is a new champion, Grundy must rise in the name of the Grey. Sounds iffy, right? I am relatively new to comic books, but I know Scott was not a true Green Lantern, as his ring was made of magic, not Will. This seems like a big departure, though it is not necessarily a bad thing. Before Grundy is awoken, Garrick inherits the Roman god Mercury's power of speed and shortly comes across Hawkgirl, who knew Garrick would be there at that moment. I know less about Garrick gaining powers than Scott, but the tie-in of Mercury with Garrick and in the first issue with Wonder Woman was a decent setup. Very little is revealed of the Atom, even less of Hawkgirl, and Mister Terrific makes a quick cameo appearance before being captured.

The artwork is great, the cover is terribly misleading, and the story leaves much to be desired. It was not bad, but it was not necessarily good either. I plan continue to read this series and hope it improves like the Red Lantern series has, but the disappointment of having none of the big players is somewhat off putting. The most intriguing part of this series is Sloan, so there may be hope yet.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 22, 2013 8:11 PM PDT


Red Lanterns Vol. 2: The Death of the Red Lanterns (The New 52)
Red Lanterns Vol. 2: The Death of the Red Lanterns (The New 52)
by Peter Milligan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.59
67 used & new from $8.10

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A step up from volume one, but still plenty of room for improvement, March 12, 2013
Red Lanterns Vol. 1: Blood and Rage was a painfully slow read that felt several issues too long, so I approached Red Lanters Vol. 2: Death of the Red Lanterns with some reservations. Death of the Red Lanterns improves the pacing of its character establishing predecessor, though it does sometimes get hindered by lengthy expositions or seemingly dumbed down dialog, and even more back and forth infighting. Bleez sees some character growth while the newest Red Lantern jumps in and out of the story and often fills the role of a situation player than an integral one. The artwork is definitely the strongest aspect of this volume and the napalm blood spraying attack is a nice upgrade, if you will, to a Red Lantern's arsenal. The Stormwatch #9 crossover, while seemingly unnecessary, does help readers like myself in becoming vaguely familiar with the Stormwatch group, as I had no idea who they were prior to this read. Though the two crossover issues do not provide anything more than fun action and a particularly humorous scene with Dex-Starr, it will likely have a bigger payoff in future issues with another possible crossover.

Though Death of the Red Lanterns is a step up from Blood and Rage, there is room for improvement. However, I think Peter Milligan is starting to find his groove with the Red Lanterns, and unlike how I felt after Blood and Rage, I am looking forward to more.


Green Lantern, Vol. 2: Revenge of the Black Hand (The New 52)
Green Lantern, Vol. 2: Revenge of the Black Hand (The New 52)
by Geoff Johns
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from $60.00

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hal Jordan will be the greatest, January 8, 2013
A year ago, I would have told you that Green Lantern was one of my least favorite superheroes. Green ring? Constructs? Meh. My how things have changed, and I have Geoff Johns to thank for that. I say with only slight hesitation that Green Lantern just might be my most favorite superhero, beating out my beloved Batman. Again, I have Geoff Johns to thank for that. Minor spoilers follow.

You know Hal just cannot not be a Green Lantern, even if it is a knock off made by Sinestro himself. As Sinestro starts to inform Hal on a glimpse of the prophesies he saw in the Book of the Black, both are captured by the Indigo tribe. Their capture eventually leads to many revelations and twists, such as the Indigo Tribe's origin, their true purpose, whether or not Sinestro can find redemption, and just how immorally inept, pompous and twisted the Guardians have become (was it possible for them to be worse?). The character focus provides great insight into both Hal and Sinestro, seeing their strained friendship, if you could call it that, find a more respectable level where they move beyond helping one another out of pure necessity to the point where Hal is coming to terms with whether or not there is any good left in Sinestro or the Guardians. Geoff Johns has proven to me that he knows where he is taking Green Lantern's story, and that he knew it would lead to this point since the earlier stages of his involvement. The brief look we get at The Third Army compels me to think that they are far more dangerous than the rising dead during The Blackest Night arc, as if that were even possible. We see another glimpse of prophecies from The Book of the Black, catapulting a new crossover story arc throughout the Green Lantern universe, which I am eagerly anticipating.

The Guardians have gone largely unchecked for billions of years, until recently, with the latest being Hal killing Krona in War of the Green Lanterns (thus leading to the loss of his own ring). Revenge of the Black Hand offers one final tease at the end of the annual that things in the universe are about to change dramatically. Read at your own discretion: The Guardians' final descent into madness begins. And their war over free will shall be forever remembered for those that die... and those that rise.

If you have enjoyed Johns' work thus far, this volume is sure to please. The artwork might be the weakest part of this volume, but it still looks great overall. There is plenty of action and character depth, even some humor mixed in, to make this yet another solid read. If you are new to the Green Lantern universe, do yourself a favor already and go read what Johns has built for most of the last decade. He has crafted one amazing tale that you would be foolish to overlook. Starting here or with volume one does yourself an injustice.


Tangled Ashes
Tangled Ashes
by Michèle Phoenix
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.03
79 used & new from $0.01

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A character driven story of internal struggles with no plot, November 5, 2012
This review is from: Tangled Ashes (Paperback)
I typically read Science Fiction and Fantasy novels, and occasionally Thrillers and Mysteries, so Tangled Ashes, being a Drama and Historical Fiction genre, was quite a change of pace. The premise sounded interesting, which is why I decided to give it a shot. While Michèle Phoenix has a great writing style that makes reading this novel a breeze, the book suffers from having virtually no plot while meandering through the castle's renovation for the majority of the novel as Becker and Jade provide enough drama to make things a little interesting.

Though Tangled Ashes' primary focus is Becker battling his demons and perhaps finding some kind of redemption, the more intriguing part is the supporting character Jojo, who provides the story's aimless wandering some genuine interest, though that element is not without its own problems. The book's sole mystery element had some quirky elements that boil down to learn it now, forget it later. Becker has a drinking problem and a foul temper, which is seen often throughout the novel, even after going through a few major ordeals that one would think perhaps he would have learned something. When it is all said and done, Becker leaves almost unchanged, practically blowing off whatever relationships he may have developed, producing an ending that felt uninspiring and incomplete.

Again, Tangled Ashes is well written and Phoenix's prose makes it easy on the reader to keep reading, even if the subject matter is not particularly engaging. There is no plot here and often I found myself wondering what this book was building towards, which ultimately was nowhere. It is character driven, which is probably its strongest asset, but not strong enough for one to really care about said characters. There is much drama between the characters, nearly all of it due to Becker's feisty attitude, but not so much drama or tension in circumstances, with the exception of two brief parts late in the story. The environment's were well described and vivid, though perhaps under utilized. Unfortunately I finished Tangled Ashes with a mixed to slightly negative impression. It was book not written for me, but really, I do not regret giving it a chance. I have read far worse books that were twice as long and twice as bad.

I received this book free of charge from Handlebar Marketing in exchange for my honest review.


Legion
Legion
by Brandon Sanderson
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from $56.45

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating idea that ended too soon, September 13, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Legion (Hardcover)
Infinity Blade: Awakening showcased Brandon Sanderson is his element, bringing an addicting story with a lot of potential, only to end just when the story got its hooks deep in you, leaving you wanting so much more. Legion, though different and not nearly as deep, is as entertaining, though not as fulfilling. Do not let that dissuade you, however. Legion provides plenty of entertainment.

The many hallucinations of Stephen Leeds provide a great variety of personalities that play well off each other and the protagonist. Sanderson continues to show his humor with an abundance of wit in how each hallucination behaves and interacts with each other and the real world. They are a treat to read and in typical Sanderson fashion, the plot is swift and engaging enough. Legion, though, is too short for my liking, which is why I did not give it five stars. Definitely a solid four, maybe four and a half.

Legion shares a similar trait to The Alloy of Law: both felt like incomplete stories, but Legion's even more so. I know it is a novella and they are supposed to be short, but that does not change how I felt when I finished both novels. It almost seems as if Sanderson did not want or did not have the time to finish the full story and instead provided a tantalizing, though mildly frustrating, cliffhanger. Ultimately it is a minor grievance, though I wish Sanderson spent a few more days finishing the story. Firstborn, also a great read, is slightly shorter yet more complete, and Infinity Blade: Awakening, around twice as long as Legion, had a fitting length. So why did Legion have to remain so open ended? I digress.

I am no less a Sanderson fan than before I read the story. Quite the contrary, I love seeing him venture into the science fiction genre and Legion only solidifies him further as my favorite author due to his consistent high quality of story telling. Legion is a solid read and if you have enjoyed Sanderon's previous works, I see no reason why you would not enjoy this. It is short, light, but through and through, very entertaining.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 14, 2013 11:06 AM PST


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