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Currently Browsing: sci-fi/fantasy
Nov
30

Review: Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines

Review: Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines Terminal Alliance Author: Jim C. Hines Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Terminal Alliance is a new hilariously witty science-fiction novel by Jim C. Hines.  We loved it! Mr. Hines has blended his characteristic humor, world building, and character development in a science fiction world.  The human race is actually endangered.  Humans destroyed themselves, but are being slowly saved from a devastating virus by an alien race, the Krakau.  The virus takes a thinking, reasoning, rational human being and turns them feral.  Humans have become id driven animals, reacting by instinct and fueled only by baser needs.  However, once rehabilitated by the Krakau into calm beings, humans are physically stronger than they once were and are almost invincible.  Most rehabilitated humans work in military professions for the Krakau. This novel focuses on Mops, the head janitor on the EMC spaceship Pufferfish.  During an operation to save another vessel from a Krakau enemy, the entire human crew, except Mops and her small team, revert to a feral state.  In the panic that ensues, all alien crewmembers, except Grom, are killed.  Command falls to Mops as the most senior member of the crew.  She must find a way to help her feral compatriots and uncover the cause of this mysterious virus. Yes, there is some bathroom humor, but it is tasteful and hilarious.  However, it is the perceptions of the aliens, the interactions between them and humans, as well as the “lost” cultural references that Mops and crew throw around that make this novel wonderful.  We loved how intricate the different alien races were, especially their cultures.  For example, Grom is an alien that is neither male nor female.  So the pronouns used in reference to all members of this species are always “they”.  However, there is another alien race that can change its gender, thus, when referring to them, you must change the gender of the pronoun every other sentence.  It isn’t as confusing as you think, but cleverly funny! The characters that create the core of Mops’ team are varied and wonderful.  Their names, their interactions, and the way their life is structured, are all fascinating, funny, and cleverly woven into the mythology.  One of our favorite characters is Puffy, the onboard ship’s computer assistant.  Puffy is the go to guy when you need to know how to steer the ship, use the tractor beam, or simple things like making a call.  It seems to...
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Nov
30

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Terminal Alliance Author:  Jim C. Hines Narrator: Rebecca Mitchell Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse Series #1 Genre: Science Fiction Source: Tantor Audio When a mysterious contagion turns most of the crew of the EMC Ship Pufferfish into feral zombies and kills the rest, Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is left in charge of the few survivors. As a lowly human, she doesn’t have much access to the ship, but when Mops realizes that Krakau command intends to euthanize the human crew rather than try to save them, she commandeers the ship with the help of her minimal crew. Soon Mops uncovers a danger so big, it threatens the entire Krakau alliance, and she is faced with the decision to surrender or discover the truth. Terminal Alliance is an entertaining space adventure with a spunky heroine who uses her brain and instinct when down and out. While there is much going on, the book focuses on Mops and her adventure. She is a great character: one of those underdogs who is destined for more. The David to the EMC’s Goliath. I love how Mops thinks things through and how loyal she is to her crew. She was born to be a great leader and through this series of unfortunate events, she’s coming into her own. I enjoyed sitting back and listening to Mops figure it all out, never second guessing her analysis. The side characters are equally fun and interesting. They each play their part and through Mops’s leadership, form a team and family. And though working as a team under stressful situations, each character grows and matures. Additionally, the story is filled with silly humor and fun pop culture references. I love the historic human names used like Sherlock Holmes, Marilyn Monroe, Carrie Fisher. The plot of Terminal Alliance itself is engaging. The story evolves as Mops and her crew learn bits and parts behind the bioweapon attack that put her in charge of the Pufferfish. There are many layers that need to be pulled back before Mops and the crew uncover the truth; the final goal and plot. This gradual reveal, complete with twists and turns, kept my interest and pulled me in throughout the entire story. Overall, the performance by Ms. Mitchell is solid and entertaining. She gives just enough variation between the different characters that I was able to know who was speaking just by...
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Nov
16

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas Author: John Scalzi Narrators: Wil Wheaton Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Standalone Genre: Science Fiction Source: purchased As a fan of the original Star Trek, all spin offs, and the movies, I was giddy with the very concept of Redshirts. Primarily following Ensign Andrew Dahl as he begins serving on the UU Capital Ship Intrepid, the story takes listeners on a wild journey that both mocks and glorifies the original TV show. From ridiculous situations that are solved with a mysterious “box” to an abnormally high death count of the newest recruits, the story follows Dahl as he tries to figure out why such ludicrous events keep happening on the Intrepid. With so many references to the original Star Trek, and the overall atmosphere of early science fiction shows, I do not recommend Redshirts to the casual listener. The book bases its entire story on being able to find the humor in some of the situations provided from the original show, and if you cannot understand that, the book may seem pointless. Additionally, the “science” of the story becomes quite involved and difficult to follow, especially if you have no interest in the concepts behind shows like Star Trek. In fact, the characters even joke how they are using the shotty world-building to benefit them. However, I am one of those types who find this all entertaining, so I enjoyed the adventure, laughing out loud at times. One thing that did disappoint me was that the larger picture was left so vague. I know it was written to be deliberately obtuse, but the engineer in me wanted more explanation. Also. The codas. I’m not sure why they were included. The last three sections of the book are told from three different points-of-view of off-ship characters. They don’t have any impact on Dahl and his timeline. However, it was interesting to see how they all connected. As for the narration, I was on the fence about Wil Wheaton. I mean, come on! It’s Wesley himself, bringing to life characters on a star ship. I love that aspect. And Mr. Wheaton does have an entertaining, engaging voice. However, he doesn’t perform the story as much as he reads it. He doesn’t really make much attempt to change voices for any of the characters. He adds some emotions, but I’ve heard better. And a huge issue with Mr....
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Nov
10

Review: Perfect Gravity by Vivien Jackson

Review: Perfect Gravity by Vivien Jackson Perfect Gravity Author: Vivien Jackson Reviewer: Una Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Perfect Gravity is the second book in the sci-fi romance series, Tether.  Overall, I liked this installment though it had a bumpy start. This book begins before the last book, Wanted and Wired, ended.  It was a little disorienting at first as I had thought it was picking up where the previous had ended.  We are given a glimpse of Angela and Kellen reuniting since their young love breakup years before.  We learn why Angela felt the need to help protect Mari and what happens to Angela after the conclusion of Wanted and Wired. Kellen is one of Heron Farad’s crew of outsiders that are working to try to make this crazy world better.  He first met Angela when they were young at a boarding-type school for highly gifted children.  It is there they fell in love.  However, though one may be incredibly intelligent progeny – nothing ever makes one intelligent in love.  Though I felt that the blame of the breakup was a bit smudged, something remained.  They still were deeply in love with each other – even after Angela married her high powered husband and became a Senator. After learning of the death of Angela’s husband, I really liked that no matter how much Kellen burned for Angela, he held himself back. Wanting to reacquaint himself with her as so many years had passed.  There was time where they obviously yearned, but also cautiously stepped around each other as they didn’t want to make a false step.  But once they are tied at the hip to protect Angela and save the world – the passion explodes.  Though Angela had suffered and come to regret ending things with Kellen, her love for him had never ceased.  But the differences in their lives pose one large complication to them being able to have a happy life together. This is science fiction that isn’t weighted down by the science, but framed and grounded in it.  I’m not always sure about the basis of the technology, but it makes sense to me.  The volatile nature of politics, shadowy conspiracies and a race to stop the end of civilization are gripping elements in Kellen and Angela’s journey. Though it was a bit of a bumpy flow, especially with a few huge twists (one that gave me a bit of whiplash), I still liked the overall story.  I enjoyed revisiting...
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Oct
27

Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald

Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald Blackwing Author: Ed McDonald Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Blackwing is an intriguing and engrossing new world.  Gikany and Una were captivated by this gritty and dark fantasy world, and are eager for the next novel in the Raven’s Mark series. In this bleak world people are trying to survive the magical repercussions from war with the Deep Kings.  However the war isn’t over.  The Deep Kings may have lost the last battle but they are intent on winning the war.  The only protection the people have is Nall’s Engine – a magical weapon developed by one of the Nameless, Nall.  The engine is what keeps the Deep Kings on their side of the Misery, a desolate no-man’s land full of magical fallout.  The Nameless are like gods – powerfully immortal magical beings who are mostly absent, except when they want something.  The only difference between them and the Deep Kings is that they tend to leave the mortals alone instead of turning them into mindless slaves.  Although being a servant of a Nameless is no picnic either. Ryhalt Galharrow is our hero, though he is not a pristine one.  He was once “cream,” slang for a nobleman.  But after a mistake and a duel, he restarted himself as Galharrow – a Blackwing bounty hunter.  Galharrow is a servant of Crowfoot, one of the Nameless.  He is bound to serve Crowfoot by finding and eradicating Deep King sympathizers and traitors.  While Galharrow is returning from a bounty hunt, Crowfoot manifests to command him to save a noblewoman from his past.  But as he reconnects to his young love, he learns about a conspiracy that could enslave and destroy the rest of the mortals. Galharrow believes he is not a good man.  Maybe he once was, but certainly not now.  Unwilling to give in or give up, he fights and works to be decent and drowns himself in alcohol to forget the times when he wasn’t.  The remembered time of his youth with Ezabeth is both his sweetest memory and greatest regret.  Although it takes time to find out the gist of what occurred, it is still heart wrenching to see them reunited only to know that it is too late.  Between unearthing the conspiracy and the rekindled but doomed love, it was difficult to stop reading. Gikany and Una found Blackwing to be utterly engrossing.  The author crafted the world, the language, and the...
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Oct
26

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: A Plague of Giants Author: Kevin Hearne Narrators: Luke Daniels and Xe Sands Audio Speed: 1.25x & 1.5x Series: Seven Kennings #1 Genre: Fantasy Source: Random House Audio A Plague of Giants is the first book in a new fantasy series from one of my favorite authors, Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid Chronicles). Set in a world where certain members of the population are blessed with Kennings – the ability to manipulate one of the four elements, plants, or animals – although no one has discovered the sixth Kenning (animal control) yet. The six nations of the known world coexist in a tenuous peace; however, that all changes the day that the mysterious Bone Giants attack several cities along the coast. Coming from an unknown land, these warriors dressed in bones, speaking an unknown language, cut down all that stand in their path. A Plague of Giants is the first part of an epic tale. Similar to the first book in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the book shares the journeys and battles of the land and its people, ending not at the conclusion, yet not on a cliffhanger, but rather, at a point of rest in between the parts of the whole. This story is shared in two ways within each chapter, both in present day and in flashbacks that cover the past year or so. First, the story is narrated in present day by Dervan, a scholar and historian, friend of the ruling king, and survivor of the Bone Giant attack. Willing to help his country as asked, he gets wrapped up in potential espionage and political maneuvering. From his point of view, readers are able to experience how the war has impacted the various classes of people. Additionally, he gives the story a personal connection – a way to internalize the massive events unfolding before our eyes. Dervan’s primary job by order of Pelenaut Röllend (king) is to accompany Fintan, the Raelech bard, each day and record the knowledge and the tales Fintan shares with the masses on Survivor Field. A Raelech bard has perfect memory recall and the ability to transform shape into the character who’s story he shares. The pelenaut believes Fintan to be a spy of the Triune Council, and wants the details of his day observed. This leads to the second method of storytelling, which is the bard’s recounting of the events of...
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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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