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Currently Browsing: sci-fi/fantasy
Mar
15

Review: Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer

Review: Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer Quantum Night Author: Robert J. Sawyer Reviewer: Nima Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Author Robert Sawyer takes us through a really interesting intellectual exercise in Quantum Night. While it is a fictional story with a beginning, middle, and end, I felt more like I was sitting in a college philosophy class playing “what if” with the professor. What if… you could identify psychopaths with the accuracy of fingerprints?  What if… you could change their mental wiring so that they’re 100% “cured?”  What if… you had to trade places with the psychopath to make that happen?  What if… your child did?  What if… you discovered you had committed felonious acts, but didn’t remember them?  Would you turn yourself in?  What if… what if… what if…  This is how the story unfolds itself, answering one question and moving forward by addressing the consequences philosophically until another choice is presented.  Sawyer moves through the work of multiple psychologists and physicists in the process.  Sawyer clearly did his research. Main character Jim Marchuk is a Canadian psychology professor who lives his life by the philosophy of utilitarianism, meaning he makes choices based on maximizing happiness for the greatest number of people, even if it requires sacrifice on his own part.  This alone makes him a controversial character because that utility translates into actions like giving a generous portion of his income to charity, but wanting his wife to get an abortion when they discovered their unborn son has Down syndrome and he would be a drain on too many public and private resources.  He relates to all the other characters that come and go from his life from this same perspective of utility and more than once I found myself arguing with his logic. At times he is sympathetic and at times he’s really not.  Sawyer is great at playing devil’s advocate through his characters. Religion, as one would expect, is lacking from the scientific discussion.  Marchuk describes the majority of humanity as soulless apes with a monkey see, monkey do reflex.  In one particularly arrogant passage, Marchuk says, “The role of God has gone unfilled for too long… it’s high time someone got the part.”  This is an especially troubling remark coming from a man who often puts himself in the position of making choices for others based on his own value system. There is a background romance that is weak at best.  Explicit sex would be out of place, but...
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Mar
7

Review: Trapped by Alison Aimes

Review: Trapped by Alison Aimes Trapped Author: Alison Aimes Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I’m going to put this right up front because Alison Aimes’ debut book Trapped actually came with a warning right up front.  I was puzzled by it. It doesn’t read like a trigger warning, instead, sounding more like a promotional blurb.  At the outset there is an unequal power structure between her two main characters and the sex that takes place within it.  That relationship changes over the course of the book, but if there was concern about criticism for it, don’t write it.  Don’t come up with a premise and then apologize for it. If she feels it needs a trigger warning, put it out there simply and don’t dance around it. Here’s the thing though, it would appear that Aimes set out to write an erotic romance set in space, but that’s not what she did.  She actually wrote a very good science fiction novel where, dare I say it, the sex was almost superfluous.  Not in its entirety, some would have been fine here and there to support the romantic elements, rather than use it to create them.  To me, it almost felt out place in what was otherwise a well written book with good world-building and sufficient conflict to support multiple sub-plots.  She probably could have dropped fifty-percent of the sex and expanded the epilogue.  At only 220 pages, there was lots of room for more description, more dialog, more stress, more relief and I would have happily come along for the ride. She successfully creates an alpha-male who comes off sympathetic, even scared, without losing any of his masculinity.  It was nice to have such a prominent character be so un-full of himself.  Convict 673 aka Caine completely lacked the cockiness of most alpha-males prominent in today’s romance literature.  His female counterpart, Cadet Annabella “Bella” West, is intelligent.  She makes choices for her survival, keeps her bargains, shows integrity, and doesn’t apologize for the consequences. She’s was a survivor even before she crashed into Caine’s life so her actions were consistent, even if they seemed extreme to her. I like these two characters and I like them together.  I just wish I had more of them and not just more of them in bed. One criticism was that in having her story thousands of years into the future, Aimes fell short in the cursing department.  She developed a system of travel, government,...
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Feb
4

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Claimed by Elle Kennedy

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Claimed by Elle Kennedy Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Claimed Author: Elle Kennedy Narrator: C S E Cooney Audio Speed: 1x and 1.25x Series: Outlaws #1 Genre: Futuristic Fantasy, Erotic Romance Source: Tantor media Forty years ago, the world went to war with itself, releasing bombs and destroying much of the planet. After the chaos, The Global Council took charge, creating mandatory communes, making everyone equal. Those who live outside the cities are outlaws, and are either assimilated or killed. Connor and his men are an outlaws, living day-to-day, enjoying what they can when they can. But Connor wants to find and destroy the head Global Council enforcer, Dominick, the man responsible for killing his family. Hudson escaped the city and Dominick to become an outlaw. When a group of bandits attack, she convinces Connor to give her protection. Although he says it will only be for one night, Hudson will do anything to convince him to let her stay longer. And using her sexuality to get into his bed is just one way she’ll convince Connor. I have very mixed feelings about Claimed. The futuristic world and concepts were interesting and engaging. I found that by the end, I wanted to know how the world will deal with the obvious problems within the World Council. But… I didn’t care much at all for the characters and their stories until the last quarter of the book. After listening through the end of Chapter 8 (49%), I had to stop the book, and I almost DNF’d it. The combination of the narrator’s soft-spoken, laid back voice for Connor and his asinine dialogue got to me. Connor is a strong, dominant man, and the voice selected just didn’t fit. Also, the entire plot for the first half revolved around constantly thinking about, having, or complaining that they aren’t having sex, and it was beyond annoying. I mean… they were on an important and dangerous mission, and Connor starts messing around with Hudson. It was ridiculous. Yet about Chapter 15 or so, the sex wasn’t as frequent, allowing the story to pick up and finally move forward. At this point, I actually began to care what was going on. The narration is a huge part of the problem I had with the story. I started listening to the book at 1x speed, but after the halfway point, I picked up the pace and listened at 1.25x speed. It didn’t help much. C S E Cooney’s...
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Jan
27

Review: Dead in the Water by Hailey Edwards

Review: Dead in the Water by Hailey Edwards Dead in the Water Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: You. Guys. I’m not kidding here. I actually growled when one of the kidlets interrupted me while I was reading Dead in the Water. This is Ms. Edwards’ Gemini series, a spin-off of the Black Dog series. Yes. You should probably read the Black Dog series before you read this one. Otherwise, if you go back, you’ll have read spoilers. Dead in the Water takes place after Old Dog, New Tricks, the fourth title in the Black Dog series. Not gonna lie. I adore Cam and the way she handles everything. Ev.Er.Y.Thing. I am looking forward to learning a TON about her in the Gemini series. As usual with Ms. Edwards’ books, there isn’t a lot I can talk about without giving away part of the plot. I did love the humor, though. “You don’t play fair.” He placed his hand at the small of my back and pressed. “Fair doesn’t taste like bacon.” I couldn’t argue with that logic.” Infused throughout the story, humor is what propelled me forward as a reader. Even during dark moments—and they were many—the major characters all seemed to have a sense of humor, even if was self-depreciating. Graeson, Harlow, and Dell provided support throughout the book. They were absolutely adorable, and I can’t wait to see more of them. Especially Graeson. *rawr* He’s a warg, and they’re wolf shifters. I affectionately call him Hottie McFurpants. I have theories about Cam & Graeson. Oh, yes. Lots of theories. Harlow was a bit of an enigma to me. I want to say she’s a support and a foil to Cam’s professional efforts, but that’s not exactly right. I really liked her as a character, and I want to see how her story turns out. Dell is also a warg, and it was interesting to see her interact with Cam: “The idea of a random stranger walking up to me one day and saying, ‘Hey, baby, you smell like forever. Let’s do it,’ isn’t all that appealing honestly.” I’m sure you can see why I liked her sass. Cam herself is riddled with a past that doesn’t become clear until well into the title. When we finally learn why she’s actually on all these cases for the Earthen Conclave, I’ll admit I had an emotional moment. While Cam is actually pretty independent and self-sufficient, she has strong familial connections. I...
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Jan
25

Review: Graveyard by William C. Dietz

Review: Graveyard by William C. Dietz Graveyard Author: William C. Dietz Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I’m a little sad to say that Graveyard is the final book in the Mutant Files trilogy.  The plight of Detective Lee stopping the Bonebreaker (before he captures her) reaches its climax and resolution along with a few other elements along the way.  I really enjoyed this final novel in the trilogy though I am going to be a bit sad to say goodbye to this world. *****Please note this is the final book in a trilogy and therefore would be spoilerish.  I recommend starting with the first book, Deadeye so you can truly enjoy the overall series.****** At the conclusion of the previous novel, Redzone, I was beginning to think this series might continue, even through the beginning of Graveyard I thought it was a possibility.  However with the overall story arc of the Bonebreaker being resolved, the trilogy concludes nicely.  Though action is a strong element in this trilogy, this final novel was jammed packed.  Graveyard starts sedately enough only to have war break out and Detective Lee getting pulled in to help defend LA.  I really enjoyed how each seemly separate plot line overlapped with others to create a deeply fascinating detective thriller.  The war between the norms and mutants, the Bonebreaker, the political drama of the Mayor, and (of course) Lee’s personal life are all well-paced and balanced through the course of the story.  The way each was resolved was gripping and came to logical conclusions.  This novel truly was a brilliant capstone to the series. As a sideline plot, I really enjoyed the personal growth of Lee.  Through this novel, we see the maturity she’s gained from the experiences we witnessed in the previous novels.  She is working smarter and harder, which pays off for her.  The self-discovery she had begun in the previous novel, Redzone, is completed in this novel.  I really enjoyed watching Lee realize happiness and strive to make it work.  The comradery between her and her fellow detectives and supervisors helped to illustrate how far she had come.  Though a loose cannon, she proves that she can be a maverick, but a valuable and dependable part of the team (when used effectively). If you enjoy some science fiction with your detective drama, especially one in a post-apocalyptic world, you really should pick up The Mutant Files.  This action packed, fascinating world will keep you on the edge of your seat...
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Jan
15

Review: Redzone by William C. Dietz

Review: Redzone by William C. Dietz Redzone Author: William C. Dietz Reviewer: Una Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Redzone is the second novel in the futuristic detective series: The Mutant Files.  Detective Lee’s quest to capture the Bonebreaker is further complicated along with a bit of tough self-discovery and her knack for making new enemies. I liked this sequel more so than the previous novel, Deadeye. Part of my increased enjoyment was that there were less points of view than the previous novel.  We were able to be in Lee’s head for longer periods, along with the Bonebreaker, with less side-point of views.  Though, the additional POVs were necessary and fascinating. However, maybe it was the nature of the digital ARC copy, but there were no clues as to when we changed POVs. One example was when I was in Lee’s head and the following paragraph transitioned to the Bonebreaker’s head, and it took me several paragraphs (and some confusion) to realize the viewpoint had changed. The overarching plot of Lee’s quest to find and apprehend (or end) the Bonebreaker continued to intensify.  It was enthralling and fascinating to watch how the investigation progresses.  There was an interesting twist that I didn’t expect in this novel.  This led us to learn more about the Bonebreaker and his mission. I liked how this was entwined with Lee’s self-discovery and the adventure that accompanied it.  Though it was a bit of a dead-end, I liked how it allowed Lee to grow and mature.  I also liked the side story of Lee and Lawrence. I really liked this latest installment of the Mutant Files.  Redzone was a great balance between action, drama, and suspense. If you enjoy a good detective novel, especially one set in a somewhat post-apocalyptic future, then you might want to pick up this series.  I eagerly look forward to Graveyard, the next novel in the series. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: The year is 2065, almost thirty years since a bioterrorist attack decimated the population. The world has been divided, and new nations have formed. Those mutated from exposure inhabit the red zones, while “norms” live in the green zones. In the nation of Pacifica, Los Angeles detective Cassandra Lee is in charge of investigating a disturbing case, tracking a cop killer dubbed the Bonebreaker. But strange new murders have occurred, falling outside the normal pattern and leaving Lee and her team wondering if the serial killer has become...
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Jan
13

Review: City of Light by Keri Arthur

Review: City of Light by Keri Arthur City of Light Author: Keri Arthur Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: C What I’m Talking About: City of Light kicks of a new, futuristic fantasy series from Keri Arthur. In this unique world, there was a five-year race war between humans and shifters over a hundred years ago. The weapons used by the shifters ripped open portals to another dimension, allowing all sorts of dangerous “Others,” such as wraiths and vampires, into the world, making it extremely dangerous to live outside the walled cities of light. The story is shared in first person POV of Tiger, the lone déchet who survived the devastating race war. Déchets were human-created beings with the combined DNA of humans, shifters, and vampires. She lives in an old, underground military bunker that manufactured déchets and was destroyed by shifters during the war. She lives an isolated life, out of necessity for she would be killed if discovered, with only the ghosts of the deceased déchets for companionship. But when Tiger helps rescue a young shifter named Penny from a vampire attack, she inadvertently becomes involved in a massive conspiracy that threatens the lives of children. Now she must decide who she can trust while trying to stop any more children from being taken. Being the first book in a fantasy series, I expected a fair amount of world-building. Luckily, the author effectively uses narration and intense action scenes to help shape her new world quickly. She clearly defined what was good and bad and who the key players were. However, after I hit the 40% mark of the book, I felt that the world-building began to dominate the tale, without the development of a clear and engaging story. I found the unique world fascinating, but in the end, I was underwhelmed and confused by the overall plot. As the main character, Tiger held her own throughout the story. She’s caring and kind, while equally fierce and strong. She protects those she claims as hers, which include the ghosts and children. I loved learning all of her different abilities and how she applied them to figure out what was going on. While I enjoyed Tiger and her fresh and almost juvenile view of the world, I didn’t connect with her sexuality. Programmed to be a spy, she used seduction as her means of infiltration. So when she found a lost lover and they engaged in extra curricular activities, I was actually turned off my her ability...
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Nov
10

Review: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Review: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews Sweep in Peace Author: Ilona Andrews Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The Innkeeper Chronicles is just one of those solid urban fantasy/science fiction series that I enjoy. Sweep in Peace was a nail-biting and intriguingly fascinating mystery/action/drama.  This series is on my reread list, and it should be on yours. Note: This story was originally released as a serial on the author’s website.  Once completed, it was taken down, edited and prepped for release.  I did read it as the serial and now as an ARC.  There may have been typographical type changes but, in my opinion, the overall story remained unchanged. This series centers on our main character, Dina, who is a down to earth and relatable person.  I respected her need to find her family, her determination to make her inn thrive, and her loyalty to not just her duty, but to those she considers hers.  She has a deep sense of right and wrong and it leads her to do risky things because it is the right thing to do — even when it hurts.   But she isn’t perfect, and it is those flaws that make her shine even brighter.  In this edition, we watch her struggle with trying to achieve the impossible – brokering peace on a planet that has three groups hell-bent on their own destruction (even if the price they will pay is too high). The world of the Innkeeper Chronicles continues to evolve, and I just love the mythology.  It is loosely woven, providing enough rigidity for a sturdy foundation, yet flexible enough to allow the world to expand.  I love that the authors are able to weave in characters from previous series. It’s great to revisit beloved characters and see how they are faring in the future.  For example, the cleverness of the arbitrator was fascinating, but if you know who he is from reading The Edge series, you will totally not be surprised and will thoroughly enjoy this inclusion. Another great aspect of the Innkeeper Chronicles is the supporting characters.  In this edition, we got to know Her Grace, Dina’s permanent resident of the inn, much better.  We learned more about the Merchants and the Holy Anocracy (the space vampires) as well as being introduced to new characters liked the Soul-Crushing Horde and Orro.  I especially loved Orro.  The different personalities add so much to the overall feel of the novel.  Though there is suspense, horror...
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Oct
24

Review: Heart Fire by Robin D. Owens

Review: Heart Fire by Robin D. Owens Heart Fire Author: Robin D. Owens Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Psst. I missed a Celta’s Heartmates book last year because my reading schedule was full. Well, before the next title releases, Heart Legacy, on November 3, 2015, I HAD to read Heart Fire. Because, one does not simply skip a book in a series. One of the things I love most about the Celta’s Heartmates series is that the main couple spend the bulk of the book kinda-sorta knowing they should be together, but battling their inner demons and working through stuff so they’re actually ABLE to be together in a stable, healthy, relationship. I also really like the Fams—‘familiars’ that are companions of the humanoids. They’re cats, predominantly. What’s not to like? I also geek out when couples from past books reappear. And they do. It’s probably just me, but it seemed like the beginning third of this title moved a little slow. It definitely took me awhile to get into the world of Celta again, and that’s really my only complaint about the book. Might have been the depth of description; having read the prior titles in the series, I’m familiar with a lot of what was described. HOWEVER… this negative for me is definitely a positive for Readers-at-Large. This title *could* be read individually, although the full experience of revisiting characters from the past won’t be fulfilling. Tiana is from a family that fell victim to religious persecution when she was a child. Now a priestess in a DIFFERENT religion, our leading lady stresses entirely too much over what people think of her. No. Really. She does. Tiana is dropped, by her superiors, into a timebomb—stemming from the destruction of her home, and the ensuing scandal. What’s pretty awesome about Tianna is watching her evolution as a person. We all ‘come from’ somewhere, and oftentimes that place defines at least a portion of our self-image. When we can’t reconcile events from our past, it takes a toll on our present, and definitely affects our future. Based on the details we get about Tiana, her self-image is closely tied to her perceived ranking in the social hierarchy. Watching events unfold made me reflect. Not too hard, though. Because, in general, I try not to care what others think (but we all know part of me does…), and I think as I get older, I actually care less. Antenn, adopted son of an influential family,...
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Oct
21

Review: Raging Sea by Terri Brisbin

Review: Raging Sea by Terri Brisbin Raging Sea Author: Terri Brisbin Reviewer: Una Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Even though I loved William in the first novel (and still do), I feel that Raging Sea is better than the previous novel, Rising Fire for several reasons. First, the connection and journey of Ran and Soren were stronger, more complex, and therefore a little more dramatic.  Second, the world-building is set so it was very easy to step into the world and be immersed in the plot, which was captivating.  And finally, the novel flowed really well. William is still my favorite hero in this series (and he does appear in Raging Sea).  I enjoyed the romantic and story of William and Brienne in Rising Fire.  However, Ran and Soren had a history that made their connection even stronger and more compelling.  Though the betrayal really bothered me at first, it is clear from the beginning that all may not be what it seems.  Theirs was truly an inner battle between right and wrong.  I loved how the truth was slowly revealed, though my heart wished it had come out sooner.  Their painful past, coupled with the intense attraction, was compelling, and I enjoyed how their journey was entwined with the overarching plot of keeping Chaela imprisoned.  Their awakening to their powers and the truth of their connection was different from the previous novel.  I loved how strong the connection between them was and the reason behind it.  It was great to see that both Ran and Soren were strong on their own, but even more formidable when allied. Ms. Brisbin keeps the tension of a chess match throughout the novel.  We experience the movement and the point of view of both sides as they try to gain the upper hand.  The antagonist is truly cunning and depraved.  He is truly a master manipulator, and I enjoyed watching him fall short (much to his surprise). Though the ending conflict was quick and a bit anticlimactic in a way, it fits with the overall chess match feel.  I am eager to see what happens in the next novel since the antagonist has lost the last two battles and Chaela is running out of portals to escape from.  Combine that with the losses our heroes endured and the regrouping they will need to do along with finding the next two bloodline warriors, and I can’t wait for the next book. I continue to enjoy this series, the...
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