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Currently Browsing: sci-fi/fantasy
Oct
18

Review: To Fall Among Vultures by Scott Warren

Review: To Fall Among Vultures by Scott Warren To Fall Among Vultures Author: Scott Warren Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: To Fall Among Vultures is a solid addition to the Union Earth Privateers series.  I found the writing to be equally as good as the first book, Vick’s Vultures, with the same exception that I noted before, that of repetition. (I read from an advance copy and it may be those few spots I took issue with are changed in final editing.)  Calling upon his own training as a pilot, Warren helps us to mentally visualize extensive battle scenes.  They feel authentic, if a little drawn out. The reader is definitely in the middle of the action as the point of view shifts through the perspectives of different participants in the fight. I wanted to see the movie the same way I wanted to see the campaigns in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Like Star Wars’ The Empire Strikes Back, there has to be that middle book which gives us very important information, but maybe doesn’t have the final ending we want.  Truthfully, after reading To Fall Among Vultures there’s such a surprise (I won’t spoil it for you) that I’m not even sure what I want from book three.  It brings up major questions that need major answers, but until I read this book, I didn’t know to ask them.  Readers of speculative science fiction like to speculate and when the author is a step or three ahead of the reader—well, it’s just fun. The strength of Vick’s Vultures was watching humans overcome incredible odds, take advantage of opportunity, and make noble sacrifices—things we like to pat ourselves on the back for as a people.  In To Fall Among Vultures, Warren explores our flaws.  Most significantly, as the story becomes more fantastic, it remains plausible where the flawed Earthlings we know are the heroes and the bad guys.  Warren handles it well and maintains my good opinion.  I’m looking forward to book three. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Humanity has spent decades carefully establishing a quiet foothold in an uncaring galaxy brimming with hostile powers. That all unraveled six months ago when Captain Victoria Marin and her crew of Vultures stumbled into the center of a conflict between two of the galaxy’s three apex civilizations. Eager to get off the intergalactic radar, the Vultures spent the last six months laying low, running routine salvage and recon missions for the...
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Sep
20

Review: Death Shall Come by Simon R. Green

Review: Death Shall Come by Simon R. Green Death Shall Come Author: Simon R. Green Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una discovered Death Shall Come by accident.  We thought we were picking up a new series by Simon Green (we love his Nightside and Secret Histories series).  It turned out to be the fourth book in the Ishmael Jones series.  It is awesome! Although you need not read the first three books, Gikany did and Una got through the first two.  You can easily jump into the series with Death Shall Come, but why would you?  This series has all of the wit, horror and sublime banter that we love in Green’s other books. The mysteries are gripping and not always what they appear. In this installment, Penny and Ishmael are summoned by Ishmael’s boss, the Colonel, to his father in-law’s estate to ensure the protection of the Colonel’s wife.  What befalls is a fascinating murder with a suspect that was quite the twist.  When you think you have this one figured out, trust us, you don’t. The overarching plot line of Ishmael’s background is intriguing. Although he is not human, Ishmael has no idea where he came from or who he really is.  It is compelling how he chooses to be human.  His interactions and mannerisms could give him away and yet, they just add to his odd character.  We enjoy how Penny both humanizes him is also Dr. Watson to his Sherlock. This is truly a fun series. Gikany and Una thoroughly enjoyed Death Shall Come.  This relatively new series is a wonderful balance of murder mystery and urban fantasy with a sci-fi twist. We loved Ishmael and Penny’s witty banter as they sleuth out the clues and find the culprit – hopefully before the body count gets too high.  If you enjoyed Green’s previous books or if you are looking for a classic mystery with a modern twist, this is the series for you!  We eagerly await the next mystery! Our Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Ishmael Jones is faced with a dead body and a missing mummy in this highly entertaining, genre-blending mystery.  Death shall come on swift wings to whoever desecrates this tomb …  Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been summoned to remote Cardavan House, home of the world’s largest private collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, for the unveiling of George Cardavan’s latest acquisition: a bone fide Egyptian mummy.  When a...
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Sep
6

Review: The Shift of the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Shift of the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy The Shift of the Tide Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una were anxiously awaiting Zynda’s story.  The Shift of the Tide is utterly compelling and may have replaced Andi’s (The Mark of the Tala) as our favorite book in this series. Zynda has always been a bit of an enigma character.  She is beautifully mysterious and you just know there is much more going on in her head than she lets on.  Zynda is an amazing shapeshifter — the pride of her people, and she is a relative to the previous Tala Queen, Salena. Regardless, Zynda has a secret mission to save her people. This mission will require her to sacrifice her life as she knows it – to give up everything.  Zynda is prepared to make that sacrifice – she has prepared herself for most of her life.  However, her focus and dedication take a severe hit when Marskal is assigned as her watcher. Marskal is a fascinating character.  We absolutely loved his charm, patience, and wit.  Though charged with protecting Zynda, he never underestimates her.  We loved the give and take that Marskal abides with Zynda.  As Zynda never noticed him prior, he was (or has) been a part of the series since the beginning.  We loved their banter and especially the time spent with Marskal’s family.  He is a truly remarkable and endearing character.  Zynda was not the only one falling for him. The journey that Marskal and Zynda embark on is more than physical – more than her mission.  Zynda’s journey is not only external but internal.  The closer she comes to her goal, the more torn up inside she becomes – the more she questions the sacrifice required.  We loved how these two conflicts wove together becoming almost a single conflict.  It was utterly gripping and pathos riddled full of heartwarming moments. Though this novel is transitional in the battle against the Deyrr, it was still gripping as other issues in the realm are explored.  We loved the journey of Zynda and the heart wrenchingly romantic tale between her and Marskal.  We continue to enjoy this world and eagerly look forward to the next story in it. Our Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: A QUICKSILVER HEART Released from the grip of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. As the borders open, new enemies emerge to...
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Aug
29

Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis Snowspelled Author: Stephanie Burgis Reviewer: Una Rating: A  What I’m Talking About: Snowspelled is a delightful and intriguing short introduction to a fascinating world.  The Harwood Spellbook series has hooked me, and I eagerly await the next story. Though only a novella, I was thoroughly captivated by Cassandra and the world she lives in.  Angland is an interesting twist on a historical England.  The rigid roles of men and women – the social rules – all beautifully contrasted with a stubborn and oddly magical woman, Cassandra.  In this world, men have and wield the magic while women are the political juggernauts.  However, it’s not only the politics of people they have to worry about, but those of the Fae as well. I enjoyed watching how Cassandra tries to balance the threat/promise to the Fae Lord, her conflicting emotions concerning her ex-fiance, Wrexham, and her own meddling family.  The characters were delightful, and I loved the contrast between feelings and decorum.  I really enjoyed the juxtapositions between male and female roles as compared to our own historic understanding. Snowspelled is a delightful and gripping introduction to the world of the Harwood Spellbook series.  I eagerly look forward to following more of Cassandra’s adventures as well as the romantic conflict with her and Wrexham.  If you like an alternate historical fantasy with mystery and adventure, studded with wit, you should pick this series up. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules… Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life. Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good. But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago. To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness. A witty and sparkling romantic fantasy novella that opens a brand-new series for adults...
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Aug
16

Review: The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith

Review: The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith The Happy Chip Author: Dennis Meredith Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I really liked The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith. The strength of this book is its premise.  You know how you search for something online and then every margin advertisement on every webpage that shows up is about that thing?  Online retailers track everything you buy, the wish lists you make, and the things you search on.  Meredith’s characters wisely quip, it’s like Amazon knows more about what I like than I do.  We already wear watches and wristbands to track our activity levels, heart rate, and sleep patterns.  It’s not even a stretch to imagine a nanotechnology, a biologically safe computer chip, branded as “the Happy Chip,” which can passively monitor all those things plus hormone levels, insulin, and any other chemical in the body.  With a phone app synced to the chip, you’d know immediately how you felt about a food, a person, or the movie you’re watching—you would know what you like.  What if you took all that data and merged it with other people’s results for the most accurate database of recommendations conceivable?  Unlike Yelp or TripAdvisor, it would be impossible to have a troll driving down results or artificially inflating them. Sounds great, right? Meredith successfully takes that thought and carries it out to a dramatic conclusion.  Anyone who likes a good conspiracy theory will enjoy this book.  It’s fast-paced and props to Meredith for giving his main female characters a brain.  They are not just window-dressing, but intelligent, active participants in the story. The book reads very much like an action movie, and frankly, I think it would be even better told in a visual format.  I could totally see someone like Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Lee Pace in the role of Brad Davis, the technical writer who’s hired to write the biography of the Happy Chip’s inventor. Of course, what he discovers is terrifying to think about. As technology continues to shrink and become more cost effective, I have no doubt that we will continue to see books like this being written the way artificial intelligence made for a slew of science fiction offerings in late 1970’s most famously with HAL in 2001 and into the 80’s. How many Terminator movies are there now?  The Matrix, AI, I Robot… we seem to love exploring our relationship with technology.  Meredith has just made it more personal. My only frustrations with...
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Jul
25

Review: A Kiss Before Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton

Review: A Kiss Before Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton A Kiss Before Doomsday Author: Laurence MacNaughton Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: A Kiss Before Doomsday is the same fun, campy energy that we found in the first book, It Happened One Doomsday.  The world that MacNaughton built in the first book, takes off now that we know the rules.  He takes his characters and runs with them, building on the story of the first book (definitely read these in order) and creating something bigger. I love that main character Dru continues to be genuine.  She really does want to help people, especially those she loves, and although she’s a crystal sorceress and hangs out with some very unusual people, she’s somehow entirely relatable. For as frail as she sometimes seems, especially in comparison to other characters, MacNaughton did a very good job of making her both vulnerable and strong—she both saves and gets rescued.  She and love interest Greyson balance each other well. I appreciated that making him strong did not require Dru to be weak nor did making Dru shine require that Greyson be less masculine. Although Dru and Greyson are clearly in love, the only romantic action in this read is a kiss at the end.  MacNaughton inserts a surprising, if unnecessary, scene that will at least make female readers chuckle. It was entertaining in the same way watching Carrie Bradshaw pack up her closet was on Sex in the City.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo3vHKimpi4 There is a sarcasm that I enjoyed, comedic in the same way Pirates of the Caribbean walks the line between conceivable and hokey, staying this side of believable.  Gore Verbinski should direct the movie.  It’s a world where lines make sense like, “She already ate half the box [of donuts].  Then she went out for smoothies. Said she’d burned too many calories in the cannonball fight.” Chapters are short and keep the action moving which makes for a relatively fast read despite the plot depth which is still present. I have to knock a few points down for one or two parts that may come off as predictable to regular sci/fi readers.  It makes the mental movie easy to visualize. There are no real secondary plots which keeps the focus tight.  Good read and I’m looking forward to the next one. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: When an undead motorcycle gang attacks Denver’s sorcerers, only one person can decipher the cryptic clues left behind—Dru Jasper, proprietor of...
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Apr
25

Review: Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson

Review: Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson Wanted and Wired Author: Vivien Jackson Reviewer: Una Rating: B  What I’m Talking About: Wanted and Wired is the first in a new sci-fi romance series, Tether. Though it had a bit of a clunky slow start, I liked this new world and what seems to be a fascinating new series. The Tether world is fascinating; futuristic with a bit of a wild-west/ post-apocalyptic vibe.  I enjoyed the racial issue of organic human versus altered (cyborg/enhanced) human.  Those that feel people who have enhanced their bodies are somehow less human. Though the technology of the nanos are not fully explained, the technological advances were fascinating, especially the artificial intelligence. I am eager to learn more about this intriguing world. The journey of Heron and Mari started off… confusing. As a sci-fi novel, I was surprised how dominant the sexual thoughts were – Heron and Mari’s hormones were in overdrive.  In the midst of a mission and then as they are started to be hunted, it seemed… odd, that they would have sex being a major though process.  It started to be a bit old as the balance between their plight (the action) and the romance (sexual thoughts/tension) was off. However, by the halfway point, I felt there was a better balance. Some of the tripping points for me could be settled in the typical first novel in a series issue – world-building, character building, not to mention the different story arcs.  However, they did smooth out, and I found the last half to be an enthralling read. Mari’s botched mission and subsequent running was a gripping tale. I enjoyed how the history between Mari and Heron helped to not only give credence to their trust but their romance.  As Heron’s past comes to light, I found the mythology of the world shine.  As they closed in on who was behind the nefarious plot, I was truly surprised at who was it was.  I look forward to seeing how this may be part of an over-arching plot. Wanted and Wired may have stumbled a bit at the beginning with some first novel issues, by the end the story was captivating and smooth.  I liked Heron and Mari’s overall journey and hope to see them in the next novel.  The world is what I found truly fascinating and I cannot wait to learn more about it.  If you enjoy a bit of a science-fiction twist in your romance, you may just...
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Apr
5

Review: The Lady and the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall

Review: The Lady and the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall The Lady and the Highlander Author: Lecia Cornwall Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The Lady and the Highlander is another great story in the Highland Fairy Tale series. This retelling of Snow White was inventive, creative and enthralling. I loved Laire and Iain’s story. It was unique and I enjoyed the obstacles and challenges to Laire and Iain’s romance. Iain is bound to Laire’s stepmother by a traumatic past. Laire is haunted by her own tragic past but determined to save her family. Between Iain’s duty and Laire’s stubborn courage, it seemed their future was impossible. However, as in all fairy tales, love finds a way (even if it includes a bit of nail biting). I loved how Ms. Cornwall wove the essence of Snow White into the story. It was perfectly balanced and though the elements were present in some form – the story was absolutely its own. It was gripping, heartfelt, and full of surprises. Even knowing the story of Snow White, I wasn’t sure how certain elements would come together. I delighted in how unique and yet familiar the story felt. I think my favorite Snow White inclusion was the “dwarfs”. The band of thieves that take Laire in was utterly creative and provided a fascinating element to the story. Overall, I loved this latest installment in the Highland Fairy Tale series. Laire and Iain’s journey was gripping, full of twists, and passion.  I eagerly look forward to the next story. If you enjoy a creative and gripping spin on a fairy tale, full of romance and suspense, then you definitely need to pick up this series. Though they can be read as a standalone, the series is richer if you start with the first book, Beauty and the Highland Beast. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Laire MacLeod’s father has married a mysterious widow who is a vain beauty that deals with potions and spells. Laire does not drink them with the rest of her family and is the only one who could see through her stepmother’s games. When Laire flees to find help from her Uncle the Lady’s huntsman follows her with orders to kill. Laire must survive in a dangerous new city and find the antidote to a poisonous potion before it is too late. Iain Lindsay is cursed. He is bound for seven years to be the hunter of a Lady who uses him to bring back...
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Mar
23

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Others Series Etched In Bone Author: Anne Bishop Narrator: Alexandra Harris Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: The Others #5 Source: Penguin Random House Audio Etched in Bone is the fifth and final book in the utterly amazing, wholly original The Others series by Anne Bishop. The story picks up just after the conclusion of powerful events of the previous book, and is the culmination of everything learned since Meg arrived in the Lakeside Courtyard way back in the first book. Etched in Bone deals with the limited transportation and food shortages created when the Elders culled many humans and took back human-controlled towns. The new living situation brings out a different kind of human “predator,” and the Elders must determine how much human they want to keep in the world. Having two Elders observe the Lakeside Courtyard places Simon in a precarious situation; he must allow a dangerous human (Officer Montgomery’s shady brother, Jimmy) to stay in near the Courtyard so the Elders can figure out what makes him a bad type of human (and therefore they will be able to destroy those humans that are a threat). Simon, along with the other Terra Indigine and some of the more astute humans like Burke and Monty, recognize that the fate of all humankind depends on what happens in Lakeside. This sets up a number of situations that endanger the lives and wellbeing of many of the Lakeside Courtyard residents, weaving a sense of urgency around the moments of everyday living. Like all the previous books in the series, readers (listeners) are privy to an unpleasant series of events that unfold over the course of Etched in Bone and witness how the Terra Indigine react. Although is it evident where the story is headed, it’s still gripping. This time around, I liked how well the Others and humans worked together, but I also like that the Lakeside residents are now able to recognize a human predator. The introduction of Monty’s mother, Twyla, adds a missing human/pack grandmother component. She is able to understand the ways of the the Others and put her own way of handling a situation into their framework. Her presence is calming, knowing that she is able to handle the craziness with a firm but caring hand. Additionally, Etched in Bone progresses the unique relationship between Simon and Meg. By now, it is evident to all, expect...
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Mar
8

Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop Etched In Bone Author: Anne Bishop Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: After surviving the recent devastation that was brought down on the city of Lakeside by oldest and deadliest of the terra indigene, Meg Corbyn, along with the other residents of the Courtyard, has been busy adapting to the new version of the world that remains. Compared to the rest of the continent of Thasia, they’ve been lucky. But, simultaneous visits from both an unwanted human and the Elders just might turn an already delicate balance into something deadly, and even “Namid’s teeth and claws” must learn that everyone has a price to pay eventually. Regardless of the themes that have been explored by The  Others stories, it has always revolved around the two main characters, Meg and Simon. Etched in Bone brings their mutual journey to a satisfying, if gratifyingly predictable, close. What began as an entertaining and antagonistic friendship has deepened into something far sweeter, and I’ve enjoyed the evolution a great deal. While there are many thoroughly fascinating characters in this series, I felt that the real standout in Etched in Bone is Captain Montgomery’s mother, Miss Twyla. Officially introduced in the previous book, Marked in Flesh, she is the Courtyard’s stern, loving “Grandmother”—and elder of the human pack—and everyone (most Others, included) rightly defers to her judgment. Like the shifters, she is able to make tough choices for the benefit of the whole Courtyard, regardless of the cost to herself. I think my favorite thing about her, however, is that she knows the difference between kindness and pity, and, by putting that conviction into practice, leaves no question about which will leave the recipient’s dignity intact. Part of the fun of these novels for me has always been the suspense that exists, despite having a main character with the “gift” of prophecy. Even with Meg’s ability to see the future, along with the multiple POVs the author uses throughout, I was still unable to do much more than wait for the bad things—which seemed to accumulate—to happen just as the other characters involved did. As a result, I found Etched in Bone especially difficult to put down during my initial reading. As has been the case with the other novels in the series, Etched in Bone is a lesson in consequences. Whether they are the result of random decisions, Meg’s prophecies, or the “irreproachable” will of the Elders, every choice made by...
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