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Currently Browsing: sci-fi/fantasy
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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Jan
31

Review: The Forests of Dru by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Forests of Dru by Jeffe Kennedy The Forests of Dru Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: B+ What We’re Talking About: The Forests of Dru continues the story of Oria and Lonen, who are now finally in Dru and facing new issues.  Overall Gikany and Una liked the story, although it is starting to have a serial short story feeling. Unlike the first book, which seemed like a complete novel, the subsequent books have felt more like novellas.  We could liken the format to a television series: the first episode is longer to set up the series and then the following episodes are shorter.  Each book ends in a cliffhanger. Although this series feels like a series of short stories, the story continues to flow and build.  Oria and Lonen are still learning about each other and how to work together.  We love the trust and love that continues to strengthen and encourage the development of their relationship.  Especially as it seems the coin has flipped – Lonen’s right to rule is being questioned and Oria is deeply distrusted by the Destrye.  Oria is able to experience what the Destrye has suffered at the hands of her people and what they must do to survive.  Although we are only given snippets of the continuing plot, the tension mounts as Oria searches for a source of sgath so she can eliminate the threat of the Trom and end the war between the Barans and the Destrye. Even though The Forests of Dru was short and the series is starting to feel like a series of novellas, we continue to like it.  The Sorcerous Moons is a captivating series.  We eagerly await the next installment. Our Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: An Enemy Land Once Princess Oria spun wicked daydreams from the legends of sorceresses kidnapped by the barbarian Destrye. Now, though she’s come willingly, she finds herself in a mirror of the old tales: the king’s foreign trophy of war, starved of magic, surrounded by snowy forest and hostile strangers. But this place has secrets, too—and Oria must learn them quickly if she is to survive. A Treacherous Court Instead of the refuge he sought, King Lonen finds his homeland desperate and angry, simmering with distrust of his wife. With open challenge to his rule, he knows he and Oria—the warrior wounded and weak, the sorceress wrung dry of power—must somehow make a display of might. And despite the desire...
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Jan
26

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Last Dragon Standing by G.A. Aiken

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Last Dragon Standing by G.A. Aiken Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Dragon Kin Series Book: Last Dragon Standing  Author: G.A. Aiken Narrator: Hollie Jackson Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Dragon Kin #4 Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance Source: Tantor Audio Beginning two years after the conclusion of the previous book, we learn that the dragon-human twins of Queen Annwyl and her mate Fearghus are in danger, and there is a possible coup to overthrow the Dragon Queen, Rhiannon the White. The Queen seeks assistance from her newest ally, Ragnar the Cunning, Dragonlord Chief of the Olgeirsson Horde, a Lightning Dragon. Of course, the Dragon Queen always has ulterior motives in her plans, and this time around, they involve getting Ragnar to “save” and return her youngest daughter, Keita the Viper, to her family. Last Dragon Standing narrates as an unfolding mystery with multiple subplots. The Dragon Queen is a master manipulator and strategist, and we follow Keita and Ragnar as they are forced to unravel the threads the Queen has knotted together. There are layers upon layers of subterfuge, making the plot utterly engrossing. However, the romance of Keita and Ragnar is more of a side story to the main plotlines, and if you want the same steamy, love stories found in the first three titles, you will be in for a disappointment. This story was more about both the human and Southland Dragon politics rather than a romance. And so much happens. We learn more about a pending war, as well as new enemies and allies. This book takes us into a new chapter in the lives of the characters, and with it comes a new maturity of sorts. It left me wanting for more – unfortunately, I don’t know when Tantor will be publishing more on audio! I loved learning more about Keita. She’s a complex dragoness, who is equal parts cunning spy and royal princess. She is BOTH roles – not “playing” one or the other. She’s a royal princess snob, but not because she’s stuck up. She honestly thinks she’s being nice or helpful. It’s not fake. She’s that, but also the dangerous spy and protector of the throne.  Ragnar of the Lightning Dragons is the only one who can see and appreciate both parts of Keita. While their relationship takes a LOT of time to develop, their interactions are always enjoyable. I loved watching Ragnar witness and come to realize who Keita truly is. And while Keita doesn’t change in...
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Jan
18

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden The Bear and the Nightingale Author: Katherine Arden Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The Brothers Grimm appropriated many of their classic fairytales from tales handed down all over the world.  Stories told to entertain, scare children into good behavior, and make us believe in magic.  Just maybe, with a little help from our fairy godmother, things might turn out alright. My favorite Russian fairytale growing up was the Twelve Dancing Princesses.  (It’s deceptive and a little morbid in retrospect, but there’s no accounting for logic or taste in a seven year old who wanted to stay up all night and dance.)  Maybe it was the extremely long and extremely harsh winters, but Russian fairytales are made up of extremes in color, fantasy, violence, and a pantheon of characters which have so much personality, in and of themselves, that they seem to wander in and out of each other’s stories.  The Bear and The Nightingale is an amalgamation of multiple tales and characters into one, cohesive story. Author Katherine Arden has clearly done a great deal of research to craft an original story which stays true to the Russian roots of each character. I read The Bear and The Nightingale next to the fire over a couple of cold, snowy days. Even if I had read it in the heat of August, I still would have felt the bitter winds and deep snow drifts that fueled the story’s action and motivated its characters.  Arden’s writing is expressive and languid.  That slow pace and focus on multiple characters at once will not appeal to every reader.  My largest criticism was the seemingly random use of multiple Russian words, including nicknaming and renaming of core characters. There is a glossary in the back, but if you stop and flip back and forth to look words up, it breaks the flow of the story. Most of the time I just took them contextually. You can’t have winter without Jack Frost and he is right at that beginning of the book as part of a story within a story.  The Russian version of Jack Frost “Morozko” is sadly no boyish, Chris Pine from Rise of the Guardians, but not as old as Robert Pine either—more like Michael Shanks.  (Sorry, I’ve been binge watching Saving Hope.) He’s written here as a mature character, but appealing.  We get the sense that because he’s timeless, he could appear as any age.  Even though we...
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Jan
4

Review: The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy The Edge of the Blade Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B What We’re Talking About: Since meeting Jepp in The Twelve Kingdoms series, Gikany and Una have been eager to experience her happily ever after.  After The Pages of the Mind, we were intrigued to see how Jepp would handle going from bodyguard and warrior, to spy and diplomat.  Overall we liked her story even though it was more of a cerebral than an emotional journey. Gikany and Una love this world, especially as the series has expanded to include other kingdoms and cultures.  Although we were given a glimpse of the Dasanarian culture in previous books, it is nothing like being immersed in it.  Considering the heavily male dominated culture, Jepp is completely and utterly the wrong choice for a diplomat.  Despite being an excessively skilled and talented scout and soldier, she is not subtle.  However, Ursula chose her for a reason (most likely guided by her Dasanarian consort, Harlan) and had quite possibly planned to use her as a backup if Daphne failed.  Jepp is a clever woman, and is able to complete her mission, even though it does not go as she anticipated.  As the novel closed, we were surprised by the turn of events are eager to see what happens next. We did have trouble connecting with Kral, Jepp’s lover.  He is most definitely a product of his upbringing and culture.  Although, if his brother Harlan could change, we had hope he could as well.  Even though Ms. Kennedy redeems him by the end, we never felt the emotional connection between Jepp and Kral.  Although the emotional connection wasn’t there for us, seeing the cultural differences and watching a man realize the glaring flaws of his culture was gripping.  Despite loving Jepp because she was so different from the women of his culture, Kral still seemed to (until the VERY end) want to place her into a slot of his world.  This is something that would have made Jepp utterly miserable. Although The Edge of the Blade started a tad slowly, it was a rocking roller coaster by the end.  The overall story, and the cultural and political storylines were gripping even if the emotional connection for the reader between Jepp and Kral was muted.  We continue to love this series and look forward to the next book. Our Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: A HAWK’S PLEDGE  “The Twelve Kingdoms...
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