Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review::The Kingdom of Malinas by. E.J.Tett



The Kingdom of Malinas by. E.J.Tett

The Kingdom of Malinas is a remarkable book.
E.J.Tett's first effort at writing is by far one of the best first efforts I have read in quite some time.
She puts together all the elements of story with her own style and class that have not been matched by her peers.
She has tremendous characterizations, conflict, plot and theme nailed down.

This is a well thought out effort for a first book. And it says a lot that although I venture into the fantasy genre now and then my favorite is Science Fiction. This does give me an advantage and disadvantage in that I have little to compare it to.

The only reason I picked up this novel was because I'd been snooping around the SSFchronicle writers forum and noticed that several people there have published various works in various fashion from traditional to self and I have to say that I've up to this point been disappointed with the ones I have tried out.

I came in not expecting much after three other disappointments , one of those is a traditional published author. I'm happy to say that this one surprised me.

It starts out slow and I suppose that it could be argued that its a bit rough around the edges because it's a first effort and its self published. And I suppose that if I were coming from the place of being in a forum of writers I might tend to try to be hyper critical.

Fortunately I come from being a reader of fiction with a 50 plus year background and I have to say that I found the author's style of writing to be be fresh, entertaining, and quite tightly woven. She can only improve from there.

The story begins slowly with our main protagonist Sorrel who is a very strong female character- there are many of those in this story. Her father was a warrior and her brother is one and she wants to follow in their footsteps. Despite the families efforts she will if it kills her and as the tale unfolds it seems that fate is on her side. There is enough in the development of characters to keep me in the story. Her plot seems quite original though I admit that I lack enough exposure to this type of fantasy to truly judge.

And then:

It's at chapter 12 she grabs me- one quarter the way through the book. I found the hook that kept me reading this in one sitting. She feeds the line out carefully and then hooks you into the story so deep you can't get out until you are finished.

What's really great about this novel is that it's full of characters that can hook any reader. There are almost too may to chose from and yet she pulls it off and this is a first novel; as long as she keeps her present voice she can't go wrong.

J.L. Dobias

This was good the first time through now with all the edits it's great, so I'd still like to see more reviews.
Preferably from people who have read it. Trust me you'll like it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review::Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett

Kindling the Moon (Arcadia Bell, #1)Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Kindling the Moon:An Arcadia Bell Novel by Jenn Bennett

This was an interesting read and it did keep my interest all the way through. I will have to qualify that it is unfortunate that at this point in my reading it is rife with tropes; some of which are beginning to make me feel like they are becoming cliches.

Arcadia Bell, not her real name but that's okay, owns a bar that caters to demons. Though she is not a demon she has an aura that is like a demon. She does magic, which most demons eschew because it might be bad for them to do too much magic. So Arcadia is a magician. She's trying to lead a simple life but its a dual life and her real life parents who are supposed to be dead are wanted accused killers. Her real name is Selene and she is a Moonchild which is supposed to be a good thing; giving her great power. She hasn't seen that happen yet.

Arcadia(Selene)is being hidden and protected by her lodge but when her supposedly dead parents show up on the radar the Luxe, a lodge wants either her parents or her so they can extract vengeance upon them for the murders, all bets are off. This send Arcadia off into an adventure to find the proof that will clear her parents. Throughout all of this though she begins as a rather strong female character in the story she doesn't develop much beyond that, although her power does grow.

The main plot eventually becomes too predictable and it's such an overused trope; as a reader I kept hoping that Jenn Bennett had some massive twist coming up that would blind side me; but no that didn't happen. Either way for all of the importance those trope-ed events; I thought it should have greatly impacted the main character in a much more visible way.You will have to read the story to understand.

It is still a good solid Fantasy story with demons and magicians and bits of magic. Great for the Fantasy and Paranormal Romance lovers. A bit on the mature side for Young Adults.

J.L. Dobias



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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review::Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

Wicked as They Come (Blud, #1)Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

This novel is listed as a steam-punk-paranormal romance. And though I did get paranormal romance out of it and there was mention of dirigibles and even Victorian like dress and some clockwork mechanics I would hardly want to call it steam-punk. But I might be a little unfair here because I'm not sure how well defined the genre is. What I do take away from this novel is that it's a bit like crossing Dracula with Somewhere in time and throwing in a bit of Alice in wonderland with Dorthy of Oz and I suppose that that's how we come up with blood sucking bunny rabbits.

Letitia 'Tish' Paisley Everett is an interesting character. She wants to be her own woman and escapes the smothering relationships she's had with men. And she does come off as a strong independent character. She just seems to be a magnet for controlling men. As a home care nurse Tish has been able to stay close to her grandmother helping to care for her while she cares for her regular patients. As the story begins with Tish at one of her recently deceased patients house[They are all old and infirm and on their death beds or they wouldn't need her] whose family is selling off her belongings and Tish has stopped to browse to perhaps pick up something to remember her patient. She runs across an old locket inside a book. She manages to have a medical emergency that calls her away and she ends up not paying for the locket. And so begins the strange journey.

When Tish finally opens the locket she sees the small portrait of man and her hand is burned by a red fluid which may end up being magically enhance blood from Criminy Stain. This takes Tish through the proverbial rabbit hole into an new world and another universe. Having arrived in the new world naked proves to compound Tish's problems. Criminy is a bludman which is this worlds equivalent to a vampire without some of the usual quirks of vampire. And the world itself is full of other blood sucking creatures which account for the Victorian like dress as a means of keeping her fully covered from the gnashing needle sharp teeth. Criminy is there to greet her and he seems to think he owns her, which is the last thing that Tish wants to hear. But Criminy is patient and really seems willing to give her all the space she needs while he waits for her to come around.

As Tish acclimates she discovers she is a glancer--she sees peoples past and future--and fortunately Criminy runs a circus of a sort and she fits right in with a paying job. Tish also discovers that it's possible that people who are in coma's on her world might be here just the same as she is. She also discovers that when she sleeps on this world she wakes in her own and vice versa, which means there will be no rest for her. With all the wild animals in this world having turned to blud-creatures the world is full of mechanical animals.[The only safe animals.] And the real villains in the book are the normal people who are trying to destroy all Blud-creatures including the Blud-people.

Though Tish is fascinated with Criminy and the rest of his circus, she primarily wants to get back to where she can take care of her grandmother which means she needs to either find a way to stop coming to the new world or find some way to coexist in both world without driving her self mad. But there is more evil afoot in the land of Bludmen and Pinkies and when that interferes with Tish's plans she and Criminy embark on a quest.

And once again Delilah S. Dawson has found a way to thoroughly entertain her readers.

I would recommend this to all Fantasy Fans and this should fit nicely into anyone's collection of Steam-punk as we know it these days. Any Young Adult would have to be the mature type.It's a world of Vampires and Magic out of step with ours about a hundred years.

J.L. Dobias



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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review::Six Strings by Jen Sanya Williamson

Six StringsSix Strings by Jen Sanya Williamson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Six Strings by Jen Sanya Williamson

I've read plenty of books and recently I seem to be seeing a lot of time travel novels. So when someone in Goodreads suggested that this book was well written with believable characters and some jaw dropping twists; I had to give it a try.I first read the sample and of course ended up buying the e-book and finished reading it in one sitting. This novel was so awesome it kept me in the story right to the end.

Riley Witt is a time traveler but she doesn't know it yet. Her Grandmother,Mary, also is and it's her duty to pass this information to Riley to prepare her for the whole journey. The problem is that Mary has Alzheimer's and her memory loss, mood swings, and generally poor behavior are masking the truth. After experiencing severe episodes Mary has been moved into Riley's family home but her continued episodes are wearing on everyone and there is talk of institutionalizing her. The first part of the book deals with Riley's relationship with Mary and her attempts to ensure that Mary doesn't get put in a nursing home while Riley begins to suffer in her studies at school and her patience begins to run thin. Riley has her long time friend Nathan who has been somewhat helpful and in some ways without Nate she'd be in worse shape.

Riley loves music and she would like to study music in college. This means the reference to Invisible Man is likely to the Ralph Ellison book not the HG Wells. Riley's mother doesn't support her interest in music and she is constantly reminding Riley that she needs to go to college for practical skills for a good foundation in her future life. But what is really happening is that her mother has some secrets[unrelated to her grandmother's time travel secret] that have biased her against her daughter's pursuit of musical talent.

So now there are two secrets and just as a potential spoiler I'll mention that the Time Travel is a genetic thing that skips a generation and has been going on for quite some time. This means that Riley's mother does not have the gene and has a different secret:Riley has the gene. But the time travel aspect all sounds so fantastic that it makes her mothers secret, which is equally incredible in its own way, seem mild in comparison. Time is running out for Riley, even though she doesn't yet have a clue and even though eventually it might seem that time will appear to be at her beck-and-call.

Music, family, and love-at-first-sight are key elements in this story beyond the secrets. The secrets and the pain they cause help define the characters in the story, but the real heart of the story deals with music and how it influences Riley and eventually how that is tied to the time travel and how it takes her to a place that begins to answer some questions she has about the mysteries and brings her to a face to face encounter with an understanding of what love-at-first-sight looks like.

In its own way this novel is the strangest of time travel novels when it comes to history in that it's one of those that doesn't rely a lot on real history from what I could tell. A majority of the historical background seems to only need to be internally consistent within itself and even so there are a couple of paradoxes within it that show up: the first one being that since each traveler has to find the right note to musically open the time portal and future Riley has shown past Mary her's while in the past; then present Mary shows the note to present Riley so that Riley doesn't need to experiment to find the proper note.

So though this is a time travel novel and has a unique time traveling device the time travel part is about as important as the history, and this doesn't seem to be a historical novel. What it is is a well written character study of a young Riley Witt who is slowly discovering herself while at the same time uncovering the truths about her family. Riley Witt suffers from what I see as a common affliction of many youths and that's an inability to communicate with the people who could most easily answer her questions and though she often appears to be making subtle explorations in that direction it's difficult to say if she is breaking the ice or driving a wedge further between herself and the people most important to her. But Riley is still a teen and she still has to learn to assert herself, which is largely what this novel seem to be about.

Time travel may be her only way to get her answers before Mary declines to a place she will no longer be helpful; not to mention that it's not all that clear if time traveling is a choice or a given obligation to her life.

This is a great read for fans of dramatic romance and very light soft science fiction and time travel.

J.L. Dobias



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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review::The Golden Daemon by Tony Jones

The Golden DaemonThe Golden Daemon by Tony Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The Golden Daemon by Tony Jones

I will first make it clear that I'm not a fan of short stories that are sold as one offs and certainly not a fan of Amazon's 'no apparent base word-length limit' 99 cent [books]. Short stories belong in a magazine, anthology or possibly a book of the authors best containing ten or more tales. That much said this one is not bad as they go. Most I have seen in Amazon tend to end up being parts of a serial which is spread out into chunks of around 50 pages each which may be close to 17000 words. This one is only around 8500 words but it does come to an end and that's one thing it has in it's favor. It's complete.

A difficulty with short stories is that they are not well suited to introducing the reader to characters. So it's more about the story itself and that's where this one has me baffled. This reads almost like a story for grim faery tales or one thousand and one nights. But I was left at the end with a lack of clarity as to what the actual plot point of the story is.

The best that I could come up with is that everything comes with a price especially when pilfering ancient artifacts. And... That price does not necessarily have to be paid by the one seeking, if they bring along enough victims.

The main character, Jad, is actually one of the victims and just doesn't know it. Jad is at best a mercenary; a soldier of fortune. He seems rather lazy; laid-back and content to stay in his room unless he wants a spot of ale and he certainly doesn't want company. It's unclear how he gets involved in the first place because it's very borderline to being out of his character, but this is a short story so it might be that we've been shorted on some valuable insight. Still as we progress it seems less likely that it's lack of character development any more than it's just lack of character.

The reason I say this is because after he steps in to help the woman who's of a race he has been at war with and might even have said he hates; she pays him in gold asking him to meet her at the big city to get another equal amount of gold coin and then proceed from there on a job he will be paid for, and his first thought is that he doesn't need the rest of the coin because that small bit of gold will last him. It's only after his landlord boots him, because of his having helped the woman, that he goes to the big city and even then he is only mildly curious about the job and it's not until he gains the second bag of gold coin that he feels any obligation to help.

Truly not knowing what to expect they set out on their adventure, where they are to meet with a third party for the expedition. There is a gratuitous sex scene; I say this because it does not move the story forward and it doesn't seem to effect their relationship either way and frankly, knowing what we do about the man, it seems inexplicable; but it's there. There are some grammar and punctuation problems which I mention because as stories get shorter and shorter I find such errors a bit harder to pass up mentioning.

I was expecting possibly some sort of moral at the end, but if there is one there it went by me.

This would be a great addition to any group of shorts or anthology or maybe even part of a whole story, but it seems a bit off for such a brief piece and as a standalone it seems overpriced.

J.L. Dobias



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Monday, July 7, 2014

Review::The Mortal Instruments Series (5 books): City of Bones; City of Ashes; City of Glass; City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones; City of Ashes; City of Glass; City of Fallen Angels; City of Lost SoulsThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones; City of Ashes; City of Glass; City of Fallen Angels; City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Mortal Instruments Series (5 books): City of Bones; City of Ashes; City of Glass; City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

I found the Mortal Instruments to be a delightful surprise. I was expecting a sort of mix of Harry Potter with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I wasn't disappointed in that. What bonus I received, though; this has several elements that remind me of the Nine Princes of Amber by Roger Zelazny and even a bit of Philip Jose Farmer's Tier Series. What I mean by that is that we have a sort of parallel world living right over ours with families that seem to thrive on fealty and conflict; all driving the characters into epic battles.

Cassandra Clare doesn't waffle a bit and begins the high intrigue right at the beginning. Jase has been brought up as a Shadowhunter and Clary has lived as a normal in our normal world. Their father is possibly the most despised among the Shadowhunters and has been long presumed dead, but not everything is as it appears and Clary's mother Joselyn, who may be the only person alive who can sort this out for them, is in a self induced coma.

Clary Fray-Morgenstern and her close friend Simon are drawn into a deadly world they didn't know existed. A world that coexist with their world and includes Vampires; Warlocks; Werewolves and Faeries all who are controlled by the Shadowhunters who are the sons and daughters of Nephilim. Clary has Shadowhunter blood but has never been trained and Simon is a mere mortal. All of that is about to change when both their live are endangered when it's discovered that her presumed dead father has returned to make one more attempt to overthrow the governing body of the Shadowhunters.

I started with the five pack but after reading them all, for those who want to limit their reading I think that the first three books make one well rounded trilogy that ends satisfactorily but leaves a few threads undone. The next three round out the whole series and complete most of the incomplete threads and make for an epic story of love and betrayal and hunger for power. All the characters are well developed; each with their own strengths and weaknesses that they bring to the table. Many are truly their own worst enemies, but there are hardly any moments where the main characters get a chance to take an extra breath. I think I ended up doing a marathon read on the first three and resting before delving into the last two of this and then finally the sixth novel which comes separately.

This is a great series I think even for those in the Science Fiction Fantasy category. It might be a bit light for those who love the Pure Science Fiction but it is great in the Fantasy and it definitely is epic in length and depth. Cassandra Clare brings her own knowledge from living abroad into her work and weaves it nicely into the narrative. She has even managed to peak my interest in the Book of Enoch.

Though a reader might stop after the first three, I think it's difficult to resist the temptation to finish the next three. And for those who can't get enough of Cassandra Clare's world she has plenty of other stories within the world to offer.

One word of advice if you are reading these on your kindle you should buy them separately as it seems that Amazon and possibly the publisher have decided to punish the reader for buying them in a pack of 5 @ 37.99.
City of Bones 2.99
City of Ash 4.99
City of Glass 4.99
City of Fallen Angels 4.99
City of Lost Souls 4.99
total 22.95
add The City of Heavenly Fire @ 10.67 and you still don't reach 37.99. Maybe some day they might fix this.

J.L. Dobias




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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review::Trool's Rules by George Ian Stuart


Trool's Rules (The Trebian Trilogy)Trool's Rules by George Stuart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Trool's Rules by George Ian Stuart

This is one of those books that you can love and hate all at once. It uses a number of tropes and unfortunately the plot hinges upon a seriously flawed trope relating to sexual erotica elements that make this a mature read. I say that it's flawed because it is part of that trope that tries to make something special about sex and in this case augments the intellect of the aliens in the story. Think of My Stepmother is an Alien with the character Celest having to rediscover sex since her society has shunned such activities. In the same way the main character Si comes from an advanced society that shuns the messiness of sex and seems to also shun too much contact with others. The reason I call it flawed is because the whole premise of this novel relies on sex having some sort of generative or regenerative property that heightens the intellect of our Alien main character.

It just seems that this would be something that the majority who rule her world would know and sex would never have fallen into disfavor.

Thankfully the story itself devolves into more of a Dystopic novel bringing about the near destruction of all life on Earth. It's about half way through the novel that things get interesting as we follow the survivors trying to rebuild their lives and as we watch Si get drawn into helping them because of the consequences of her transgression into the world of sex. That's actually a plus to see that the consequences of sex are a driving factor in the plot.

Because there was a great difference between time on Earth and time on Si's home planet I had some issue with resolving how when and how quickly some things were taking place. Since a year on Si's planet was equal to many on Earth it becomes hazy trying to figure out what they mean when they suggest that the colonization fleet will arrive in 45 days. Aside from that; it seems that even though Si's people age more gracefully than Earth Humans they might have a similar gestation period.

This novel could have used a bit more editing, but the overall story was quite enjoyable though I have had a few qualms about the nature of some erotic parts. You will have to read this to figure that out. Though Si is not particularly the easiest character to sympathize with she is surrounded by humans who make her look much better than she really is.

This book and its cover are a good argument for not judging a book by its cover. If you don't read erotica then you might want to pass this one.

If you like different and quirky science fiction that comes off as much tongue and cheek as Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy this might be the entertainment for you.

J.L. Dobias



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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review::The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant: Book One of the V Trilogy by Joanna Wiebe

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant (V, #1)The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant: Book One of the V Trilogy by Joanna Wiebe

I had this book on my wish list for quite some time and it wasn't until I had a handful of paper-bounds that I wanted that I revisited it and found it at a bargain price for the hard copy. I already knew that this was going to be a bit away from my usual read, but I had read the sample and that had hooked me. Based on some other peoples responses I'd say read the sample first. The book itself is quite good despite the impression that it holds onto a number of tropes. Tropes are not really cliche's although I suppose some tired readers like to put them there.

This book is what you would get if you took and put the movies My Girl, Sixth Sense, and Ghost all together. Add a bit of the chatty nature of one Anne of Green Gables and that about sums it up. I liked all of the above so there is little doubt that this book entertained me. I've also probably given away too much just in putting all these together.

Anne has arrived at new school on a somewhat secluded island. This comes after she lost her mother, who might have committed suicide and though Anne's father is a mortician Anne is having trouble dealing with this death. But Anne has a somewhat stranger side; she admits to having kissed the corpse of a handsome, but dead, teen. And now Anne is not sure if this school, which seems to be exclusive in many ways, might in fact be more of a punishment than any thing else. She has no idea how her father can afford it and the arrangement of her life near the campus is getting stranger for everything she discovers as she goes to orientation.

The island the school is on is divided by a line where she's been told there is a strict rule that the locals don't cross over to the school and the students don't cross over to the locals. Of course that has to be the first rule for Anne to break. This has eventual tragic consequences but it is necessary to drive the plot of the story.

The school, Cania Christy, is really strange. Every student is competing to be Valedictorian of their class (year). Well almost everyone except for Pilot Stone who claims he's not trying for anything outstanding. Then there is Ben who is a mystery, but then his father is part of the faculty. Both boys take a shine to her, Pilot is friendly while Ben's air of mystery frustrates her more than anything else. All of the girls in a specific clic seem to be members of a familiar trope but Joanna Wiebe skillfully turns many of the tropes on end by the time she begins to reveal the true plot to the story.

Anne does not live on campus, another mystery, she lives with a woman named Gigi Malone. This puts Anne close to the edge of the limits or boundary and drives her into breaking the rules. The school also has a thing it calls PT which is a specific talent that the students declare that they are then graded upon how well they use the talent. The choices Anne has are puzzling and very disturbingly odd. She also gets Teddy, the person assigned to her to keep tabs of her and her progress on her PT. Teddy, it would seem, will also be spending time at the Malone house. Teddy is a rather annoying and sometimes lascivious young man.

The first half of the book builds the suspense of strange and eventually sinister things while Anne's prattling keeps the reader off guard enough to be distracted from adding too many things together .

Eventually when the gloves come off there are things we find out about Anne that begin to move the pieces all into place until the reader begins to wonder just where Joanna Wiebe is taking them in this ever darkening vision.

This is written somewhat toward the YA but I think that anyone interested in Fantasy, suspense and a bit of horror will find it entertaining unless they are easily annoyed by the mix of all the different tropes. I really think that it's necessary to read all the way to the end so that the reader can see what Joanna does with a few of those tropes to throw them on their ears.

I really enjoyed it and even though I now have to wait for the next book to come out, it was well worth the read for me.

J.L. Dobias



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Monday, June 30, 2014

Free Book:: Free E-book @ Smashwords Use The Code::

For free copies of the Cripple-Mode Ebooks use the following codes at Smashwords.

Cripple-Mode: Electric Touche Book Two Code:: VH48C

Cripple-Mode: Hot Electric Book One Code:: RW100

If you have time; a review or comment would be appreciated.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review::Fade to Black by Francis Knight

Fade to Black (Rojan Dizon, #1)Fade to Black by Francis Knight

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Fade to Black by Francis Knight


This is really a great debut novel. There is a lot to like about it and there is a bit even to detest. It's written in a stylish Noir that reminds me of the old black and white mysteries with the gumshoes. Sort of a Mystic Maltese Falcon. The main character is Rojan Dizon a pain Mage who really isn't all that fond of pain so he's tried not to do too much magic. There's more to it than that though because too much pain magic can lead to a very dark place that often is impossible for the Mage to find his way out of. Rojan has lived in a dark world in a black existence trying to avoid another darkness that makes everything around him seem pale in comparison. He uses his magic to locate people and that's how the reader is introduced to him when an unsavory client hires him to find and bring back his teen age daughter Lise who has run away. Lise has some tricks up her sleeve that have made his job particularly difficult and he's had to resort to a device manufactured by a dwarf colleague. The device amplifies his magic which mean he has to still endure pain but a bit less of it to get good result. Rojan is not a particularly likeable character but what he does in his interaction with Lise tells us that there is someone with just a bit more heart behind the veneer that covers him in the first part of the book.

As the story unfolds we begin to find the reason that Rojan lives on the edge using his magic illegally and defying the Ministry. There was a golden age when Pain Mages controlled things and were powerful. They were trained to properly use the magic. Then the Ministry stepped in and began to ban the use of pain magic. Things were controlled and operated using Synth, but Synth turned out to be a very bad thing and now they have something less powerful running things called Glow. And now they have a dark dystopic environment that is still poisoned by the Synth and there are too many mysteries behind what makes the Glow operate.

This dystopic world is similar in many way to the one in Thea von Harbou's Metropolis. And there are a number of other similarities to the two stories. Rojan has a family a brother though his mother has died from the effects of synth and his father has run off abandoning them. Rojan too has run; despite his promise to his mother that he would take care of his brother. And now his brother has contacted him because someone has killed his brother's wife and kidnapped their daughter. This novel is chock full of old tropes but this is the story of Rojan and his journey of self discovery that takes him to the depths of the world he would have preferred to forget.

The trail to his niece takes him to the lowest level of society where it still rains Synth and life is cheap and there is evidence that the Ministry is hip deep in whatever it is that is driving the social order in the lowest levels of society. In the depths of despair where even the errant ministry minions might find that life is cheap; they are still feared by those who would kill them because of what they represent even to the cut throats of the social order.

It is there that Rojan must confront his greatest fears and hope to find a balance in the power that he's been trying to avoid. Here he discovers love for an idea that is represented by a person who is nothing like that ideal, but masquerades as that person he is drawn to. When the time comes Rojan has to draw deep into himself to decide if he will do what is right or try to return to his comfort-zone where he's kept himself hidden.

This is an outstanding SFF that most Fantasy lovers should enjoy and some Science Fiction aficionados will appreciate.

It will definitely be worthwhile to see what Francis Knight follows this with.

J.L. Dobias



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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review::The Girl They Sold to the Moon by Chris Stevenson

The Girl They Sold to the MoonThe Girl They Sold to the Moon by Chris Stevenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Girl They Sold to the Moon by Chris Stevenson

I wanted the ARC to this book but they never got back to me; so I had to buy a copy and wait patiently for it to arrive in the mail, which was all well and good because I had other things to do anyway. Finding myself with an extra day, where I wanted to read something just a bit on the light side, I picked it up and read the boldfaced type all the way from the front right through to the finish. This book reminded me some of the old science fiction I read some thirty years ago. Some of the Robert Heinlein juvenile Science Fiction series. I enjoyed reading it and I want to give it high marks, but I'm going to be brutally honest about a few things.

Chris Stevenson has created a sort of sassy character in Tilly Breedlove who is sold into a sort of slavery in order to keep her father out of prison. Her mother has some few years earlier passed away and without her influence her father has fallen prey to all his vices and she has no delusions, going into this whole arrangement, that he will change his ways. In this dystopic future that sounds like a throwback to the times Charles Dickens wrote of; we have a society that allows parents to sell their children into some sort of work camp slavery while parents try to pay off their debts to stay out of prison through a loan which they must then pay off before their children can be released.

That whole arraignment lends itself toward some real potential for failure.

The Girl They Sold to the Moon bears some strong resemblance to the one other book I have read by this author: The War Gate. By this I mean that it has several threads running through it that make up a whole bunch of mini plots that revolve around the main plot that seems to be a soft science fiction light weight which is why I call this light reading. It is a good Young Adult novel and it almost seems like a twisted merging of Dickens' David Copperfield and Oliver Twist and Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars staged in the environment of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. But the whole thing diverges into it's own world because of that potential for the slave workers to become permanent property of the company when someone defaults on the loan.

Of The Girl They Sold to the Moon and The War Gate similarities there is that striking male character that is a magician. And both books delve into the world of entertainment while striking off in slightly divergent directions of Science Fiction in the one and Magic in the other. If I have any complaints at all it's that there sometime is a difficulty for me to zero in on which plot is the prime plot of the novel.

The most likely candidate is the dystopic society's inhumane treatment of these young family members who are traded off and sometimes left to pay their own way out of a system that seems to have the cards stacked against them. But I get confused about this very plot when the potential evil motives of the company are often glossed over too quickly in favor of the sub plot of the infighting between the chattel-ed entertainers vie-ing for the top position; a position that only serves to make the company richer through their success. Then there is the moon-crossed love story hindered by the presence of rules prohibiting the girls from fraternizing with anyone in any close manner on or off work. Along with all of this we have a thread about Tilly's desire to be in the very work she is now in and the frustration in the knowledge that her unexpected success is all going to someone else benefit until she gets released.

This is a great light read of soft SFF with some romance and a couple of good cat-fights.

J.L. Dobias



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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review::Blood Sacrifice (The Healers of Meligna, Book 3) by K.J. Colt

Blood SacrificeBlood Sacrifice by K.J. Colt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Blood Sacrifice (The Healers of Meligna, Book 3) by K.J. Colt

When it comes to fantasy I will admit that it's about third down on my list. I'm a lover of Science Fiction and Science Fantasy and then finally Fantasy. So it might say a lot that I'm finding K. J. Colt rising quickly up the ranks of my favorite authors. She has been enticing me with her voice for the first two volumes of this series and now I think I've settle into a place where I expect certain things from her as an author and she doesn't disappoint and it's encouraging to watch her grow in her writing.

Her main character Adenine is beginning to shape up to become a very complex character. In the earlier books she was young and seemed so naive at times. She was being thrust around by whatever fate the plans of others seemed to have in store for her. The reader slowly watches as she begins to assert herself and develop into something bordering onto rebellious, and that's with some very good reasons. Treated like property and as a slave to the Queens with the proviso that things will only go well for her if she tow the line as all the other healers and prostitute herself for the glory of men and her Queen.

In the third novel Adenine has resolved to save other young girls like herself from such a fate, but it would seem this time her largest battle will be against herself. Going behind the backs of her friends to do things alone she creates more trouble than good, which has begun to be a trademark failing she has developed. She has a long way to go to grow out of this and it's going to cost her more this time then it has in the past. She is afraid that what she does always ends up hurting others and she's having a great difficulty letting the past go while continuing to berate herself for what she has done.

Adenine is living in an era where she is expected to keep in line with her head down and do as she's told; and the harshness of the reality of that life has triggered her rebellious side. This time all the stops are pulled as she seemingly unwisely reacts poorly to all authority and even her King.

In many ways Adenine reminds me of Edmond Dante's of The Count of Monte Cristo when he sheds the life of Edmond Dante and becomes the Count and finds himself hardening his heart to enter into the darkness of the deed he must accomplish. He too had trouble letting the past go. And she does go deeply into some dark areas of her character with some moments of self deception and ultimately inner conflict. She attempts to make use of her ability to heal herself by inflicting herself with wounds and become inured to pain, so that she can teach herself to live with the pain with hopes of becoming invincible in battle. And in a way this seeming invincibility might be making her overly forward in her dealings with authority. Unlike Edmond Dante; Adenine keeps finding herself back in prison for her perceived misdeeds.

Adenine has learned a secret about healing that allows her to discard the old way of healing through sex; and she's getting ready to preform test to determine if others might have the same healing blood. If she can get past the narrow-mindedness of the leaders she might be able to teach them this before it is too late. But the clock is ticking because the Queens are getting ready to expand their territory and there are others such as the emperor of Bivinia who are ready to move to stop the Queens from expanding and committing themselves to their own territorial expansion. But Adenine is a healer and years of prejudice to healers are hard to drive past to get to the point where people of influence will allow her to help them.

There are a number of well crafted twists and turns in this novel that kept me on the edge of my seat and propelled me to finish this in one sitting.

This is great world building Fantasy for the lovers of Fantasy: with complex characters.
Adenine has her work cut out for her and sometimes she's her own worst enemy.

Looking forward to the next installment in this series and for those who haven't read any of the previous novels I recommend you get acquainted starting with the first novel. You won't be disappointed.

J.L. Dobias




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Monday, June 16, 2014

All You Need is Kill (Edge of Tomorrow) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

All You Need Is KillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


All You Need is Kill (Edge of Tomorrow)by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

I don't usually write reviews of films; so why should I start now? Let's forget that three other people wrote the screenplay for this little gem of a film. I enjoyed the film aside from having just a moment of confusion about the ending.(Hope that doesn't stand as a spoiler.) As soon as I got home I got onto Amazons site and downloaded the book. This turned out to be fortuitous because the book was every bit as good, if not better than the movie in many ways and it was, not so surprisingly, nothing like the movie. This works out well for both because if you have read the book you can still enjoy the movie as something quite different. And if you've seen the movie I would recommend that you read the book it came from. The ending is less of a head shaker but then you need to read it to find out what I mean by that.

So I've heard it said that this was like Groundhog Day mixed with Starship Troopers. And more reverently compared to Groundhog Day mixed with Independence Day. Since these Mimics reminded me a lot of the Matrix Sentinel I think we can toss some of that into it too. But that's the movie and I'm cutting quickly to the original novel from which the idea was taken.

In the book the Mimics are described as looking somewhat like frogs which comes nowhere close to what we see in the movie. Keiji(Cage) Kiriya is not a Major in the US Forces(as William Cage in the movie is) but instead a UDF Jacket Jockey-fresh and green as they come going into his first real battle. A short battle at that, and perhaps one of the longest short battles ever. His first meeting with the Full Metal Bitch (Mad Wargarita as the Japanese refer to her) is when she quiets him, after he's fatally hit, with some casual conversation; while she waits for him to die so she can take his battery. This is the introduction to the beginning of the loops. From Keiji's POV we get the grit of the war and perhaps some of the bitterness toward those in command sending out the Jackets to die.

The story itself begins much like the book The Good Soldier Svejk, by Jaroslav Hasek (which is a dark comedy on the horror of war and the incompetence of the Army.) The movie starts much the same, but for my tastes seems to be a bit more comedic ( and that might well be the reason to compare it to Starship Troopers), which may have diminished the characters that surround Keiji as he prepares each day to go to battle vowing to save as many of his comrades as he can. Rita Vrataski may be the closest character carried over from book to movie. Well the red hair might be a bit off or washed out in the movie. But I would have to agree with some that the movie portrayal somewhat diminishes the strong female character by placing her further back from the lens than is in the book. In the book the reader gets a whole chapter from her POV.

The book also contains an account of the use of a battle axe trademark of Rita and how Keiji quickly picks up on the value of such; enough to begin training with one as soon as possible. I particularly love the explanation of how the axe would be the weapon of choice for close battle.

In the book there is a far greater field from which to become acquainted with the characters. This and the many differences of book to movie make it a separate story in itself that stands well and above the film in so many ways I can not emphasize enough the importance of reading this story as a sort of measure of a much more powerful story.

For those who haven't seen the movie it is worth watching even for those who have read the book because in so many ways it is a completely different story being told.

For a movie that is quite outstanding on it's own; the book is far superior and well worth a read.

This is great SFF for the Military Minded Fan.

J.L. Dobias



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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Review::Earthseed by Pamela Sargent

EarthseedEarthseed by Pamela Sargent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Earthseed by Pamela Sargent

I came across this book while looking at a request someone had for a book they had once read. Someone may have mentioned these novels or I might have just stumbled upon them at the time. Either way I decided since I have read Pamela Sargent's Venus series and enjoyed her style of writing I would give these a try. I have to admit that the first 100 pages almost discouraged me. The books are being marked now as Teen fiction and they certainly read like Young Adult at least for the first half I have no idea what they were listed as back in 1983 first printing.

There is a point when the story finally takes off with some reasonable conflicts and interesting plot twists and it become a book that's hard to put down.

I was expecting a lot more from Pamela Sargent when this started out with Zoheret, a young teen living a sheltered life aboard Ship with her young friends and the struggles of the day were to the tune of; which girl her favorite boy was spending time with. This actually does define Zoheret from the beginning and there is a lot of time spent showing us how shallow she can be. Aboard ship everyone is somewhat healthy but for some reason some of the people born aboard have defects. They all seem to have been born through some sort of cloning or test tube type of process and the Ship acts as their single parent. Zoheret is Ships favorite and the other children aboard are pretty normal children some not so nice while making fun of the others.

The premise of this story is that they are aboard this ship heading for a planet they will colonize. It doesn't take much imagination to see that they are not nearly ready to do this and that something has to happen soon or they might never be ready. Several of the group seem aware of this and are asking Ship to let them go into a part of the ship that is like a massive garden that can sometimes be dangerous. They want to go in and have Ship shut down all the safety's so they can begin to learn how to survive.

At this point it begins to sound a lot like the Lord of the Flies when things start to go all wrong in what has been termed a competition. People get hurt but no one dies and the Ship seems blase about the whole thing and though sometimes Zoheret can have insightful thoughts she mostly is stuck in teen angst about finding a boyfriend.

About halfway through the book Pamela Sargent finally turns on the style I'm more used to from her and we begin to see some conflict. Something is not quite right with Ship and while Ship sends them out for more training in the wilderness region of the ship 'she' begins to act strangely even as the children begin their devolution to Lord of the Flies territory. The teens soon discover that they are not alone aboard Ship and that there is not just one other set of settlers here there are two and both could be very dangerous to them and even to the continued integrity of the ship.

And now what first sounded like a light version of Lord of the Flies, begins to start darkening until we have several moral questions being examined while the stakes get higher and people begin to die. The decisions the characters have to make become real and relevant and they become much more difficult for some of them. We finally begin to see Zoheret growing to a more reasonable level of maturity as she begins to realize she can't trust the one who has been her mother, protector and constant companion throughout her life and their journey.

Once again Pamela Sargent delivers her usual insightful and well crafted SFF that will capture most fans as long as they suffer through the first part of world building.

J.L. Dobias



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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review::Tarnished: The St. Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper

Tarnished (The St. Croix Chronicles, #1)Tarnished by Karina Cooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Tarnished: The St. Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper

I'm not one to twitter a lot but I got this suggestion from twitter and it looked like an interesting submission into the Steam-punk genre although as we see from the authors own self proclamation it is more Dark and Sexy Paranormal Romance and Historical Urban Fantasy. I was recently reading someone's blog in relation to Steam-punk being more Fantasy than Science Fiction because of the whole taking place in the past and being anachronistic in nature. And I would agree to an extent meaning that don't much like that they said that it was Fantasy Fiction, which just sort of ground me as being redundant since fiction is synonymous with fantasy and a number of other words relating to something that is not real.

Tarnished is definitely a book written for entertainment, but not for the faint of heart. This means both that it is both Dark and Sexy. So be prepared to get the blood pumping. What I enjoyed about this is the Dark because it extends evenly across the good and the bad. The main character Cherry St. Croix has a dark past. She's the daughter of a mad scientist whose parents died in a fire when she was a little girl. Though she stood to inherit she was shuttled off to an orphanage and then ends up working at a circus before her relatives catch up to her. By then she has been introduced to a number of seedy practices one of which is a Opium habit. Even now she uses it to get rid of her constant nightmares. But she's on a stipend until she reaches 21 so she finds herself doing the dirty work of a Collector to augment her fixed income so she can afford her habit.

Though Cherry doesn't sound like the best of characters she will surprise the reader as Karina Cooper makes her both believable and endearing in her struggles through the first half of the novel. There are many dark events ahead of Cherry and she will dig herself deeper into the darkness before she will see light. Rather than romance this book has some steamy sex but the context is rather dark so the bulk of the novel should be considered dark fantasy at best. It's quite well written with some well drawn and flawed characters with of course Cherry being the most Anachronistic thing in the the story; since her entire character defies the conventions of those times.

Still: this is a great story with a strong female protagonist who has quite a few demons under her belt for someone so young. A woman of the world who is still quite naive and will take a few knocks before she's willing to admit that. What is disappointing and what I would agree with others about is that the last portion of the book did not do Ms St. Croix any credit to her abilities. I could possibly chalk this one up to her heavy use of opium. Maybe in the next installment she will get smart and clean herself up.

I'm looking forward to the next installment as she continues her hunt for bounty as a collector.

Great Steam-Punk that's a bit on the darker side than even some of the other steam-punk I've read. Good for SFF fans who look toward the fantasy part.

J.L. Dobias



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Monday, June 2, 2014

Review::The Sixth Movement by Shiva Winters ( Forgotten Children, Book Two )

The Sixth MovementThe Sixth Movement by Shiva Winters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Sixth Movement by Shiva Winters

When Shiva Winters proclaims that she writes for entertainment she's not kidding. I've come to expect a number of things from her work and the highest on the list is the entertainment. This installment of Forgotten Children is no exception to the rules. There will be long sentences lots of world building and bunches of creative science along with somewhat realistic though rather super-humanly strong characters. If you're looking for strong female characters then look no further. Shiva(The character in the novel) and her adopted family have plenty to go around.

In the previous book we learned many of the dark secrets of Anslaw; and Shiva rediscovered herself and made her stand against an abuse that had gone on for too long. This resulted in her being interred at Anslaw and Aerisa. Free to live there, but not free to live among others except the other sixes. This has given her the time and opportunity to release more of her fellow 6's from their cryogenic containers and begin a slow process of integrating them. But now they need to further gain freedom by becoming less dependent on the government that is grudgingly taking care of their responsibilities to the soldiers they created.

One way Shiva and company can do this is to help track down the 5's who were sold off into the black market. But for Shiva; the only way to do this type of work, is on her terms. So the majority of the plot to this installment is the conflict between her with her family of 6's and the government. Some of those officials seem to earnestly want to help but many still want to use the 6's and gain some sort of return on their investment. Shiva will have to stand strong against any potential for abuse and she'll have to somehow learn to trust those who deserve the trust.

The reader is about to learn more about the abuse Shiva had to endure and the result; with some rather extensive explanations for some unknown passages under Anslaw. And as Shiva's intellect begins to kick in strong we see the building of the base from which the community of 6's will begin to gain their freedom. Yet each time Shiva needs to interface with the politicians and military it becomes a test of wills.

This installment includes some few strategic battles pitting 6's against 5's and those battles, for the most part, seem mostly one-sided, but since the real conflict here is between those who want to help and those who want to continue to abuse, it works out quite well as the plot goes and it creates a well paced Science Fiction Military Suspense Thriller.

As I mentioned the main players are beginning to look like super-humans with extra powers that give them the edge. But Shiva Winters does her usual excellent job of bring the human characteristics into each character with their flaws both major and minor and all displaying simple normal human traits. As with the previous novel there is a distinct Lesbian thread in the story but it does not overpower or dominate the story and is handled in a quite logical believable fashion.

As always with Shiva's writing I caution anyone who has a weakness when it come to grammar that there will be at least a few flaws in the fabric. Most are in the form of repeated words or missing words.

Like a good scotch whiskey Shiva Winter's prose can sometimes be an acquired taste so I recommend for the new reader to start with some of her earlier work. You will love it or hate it but if you read enough you should start craving it. I'm always happy to see when she releases one of her newer labels.

I had a chance to look at the ARC for her new steam-punk novel and, for those fans that love her current series already, it will be a great treat to add to your collection.

No pressure for you to get that one finished Shiva.

J.L. Dobias



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Friday, May 30, 2014

Review::Shadow of Freedom(Honor Harrington series #14) by David Weber (or #18- or Honorverse #5)

Shadow of Freedom (Honorverse, #5)Shadow of Freedom by David Weber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Shadow of Freedom(Honor Harrington series #14) by David Weber

This is the 14th installment (And by some indicators its book 18) on my list but in all truth this is not an Honor Harrington novel. This is a Vice Admiral Gold Peak Michelle Henke novel. And why not, it's about time she got her own novel.

The odd thing is the cover in amazon says A New Honor Harrington Novel and my copy says A New Honorverse Novel. I think mine is the mass market edition But I'm not sure and its a 6 by 9 paper back.

I enjoyed this book and 'David Weber' gives us a new side to the novels by starting out with some rebel forces on some Solarian Protectorates. There are a handful of new characters being introduced who are pretty interesting and some more political intrigue. Just when you though you had a handle of all the things going on in the Honorverse David throws another wrench in the works.

Manticore is being misrepresented as supporting the rebels and the people doing the job are so far delivering the goods, but will that remain the standard and what will happen to Manticore's credibility with these people when everything goes south.

One thing right away that I have a big quibble about is that chapter six in this book is verbatim the same chapter as chapter four of the previous book. Yes that ties things in nicely and even tells you that we are back in time a bit and all; but really: the same pages from one book dropped into the next.

The story with Anton Zilwiki and Victor Cachat and Yana and their escape from disaster has spanned the last three books so it's no surprise it shows up here. So now that we have established the time line of this story we should be mindful that this is the sixth chapter. And the one chapter before when Michelle shows up is a bit ambiguous toward identifying the timeline.

This book can actually stand alone which might reinforce the notion of recycling chapters. I think if someone wanted to jump into the series currently without reading all the rest this might be a great point to do that. Honor Harrington only has honorable mentions so it's pretty much a Gold Peak novel.

Michelle is coming into her own as a strategist and the hardware seems a quite a bit better than what Honor started with; a long time back. The one problem is that this makes the battles with the Manticoran Navy quite one sided most of the way through the book.

The style of writing in this book is quite different and somewhat subdued compared to the previous and if I were inclined to conspiracy theories I'd suggest that David might have only had part of a hand in the creation of this story.

Still with about half the number of pages that previous recent novels have had this is a good standout novel on it's own and I think I could grow to like Michelle Henke as much as I do Honor.

Great Procedural and military and political suspense SSF for the Usual Fans.

J.L. Dobias



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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review::Convergent Space by John-Paul Cleary

Convergent SpaceConvergent Space by John-Paul Cleary

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Convergent Space by John-Paul Cleary

I love a novel that entertains me and I don't mind having to suspend my disbelief long enough to do that. This novel delivers in that department and I would love to give it really high honors; but I do have some issues, so while I give it high marks I will feel compelled to air some of the issues. Basically I give it a 4 star and it could be a 5 star, but not with the way things are.

The novel starts with a great mystery. Earth has devolved to a planet of artifact hunters sort of the Indiana Jones of outer space. This creates for the reader a feeling that the Artifact hunters care more about the hunt then others lives. Enter into this Ronella Tintet who has had some doubts and has retired from being an Archeosoldier. After having been responsible for the loss of many lives she has retired to a place called Renick that belongs to Renaissance space and is governed by her friend Viggo. Rone is working at a post for the Earth Search Archeosoldiers, but is not actively doing much. She has a history we'll hear about later and a good reason for not wanting to be part of the search, but when a dying Archeosoldier shows up with some important leads to the Search to clear the Human's name in regards to the Great Wave that nearly destroyed many worlds and brought the Guild to an end; she has to once more take to space to follow the lead to its end.

This part is both a good plot and a bit contrived in the sense that it's a solid lead that the Search people should take seriously, but the reader gets the impression they want to press Rone into doing it because they can't spare anyone else. It might be that they mean to force her back into action, but it still seems a bit thin here and either it is a good lead or it isn't and 'the' Rone, that everyone gets to know in the development stage, is not really the person they want on something as important as this seems to be.

Also the race that Viggo belongs to seems to be a mystery. It could be he's human too; but it's not likely, though he must be humanoid because we never gets much description. There are a lot of alien races in the story and most seem humanoid, which I can live with though it seems a bit Star Trekish. The annoying thing is that they all talk like people who come out of some dialect in or around Great Britain.

Certain words almost become annoying; such as crikey and scupper. Scupper might have more than one meaning-I don't know- but it didn't fit in this context at least not while trying to unravel what the plot was calling for. The larger problems in grammar are the construction of sentences that seem a bit unwieldy and difficult to unravel the intended meaning.

The science is not hard science, but that's not a problem for me; except that the plot of the story is reliant upon a lot of the science so that makes it difficult for the reader to digest it all. What I mean by that is the scope of the Great Wave of destruction, as to a later explanation of the device that causes it, makes it difficult to grasp how it manages to do such widespread damage. The real plot of the story seems more centered on an older notion of opening the Pandora's box in this case the search seems to, at each step, open the box more and more until we reveal something that no one really wants. More than that though the Great Wave itself is a mystery that is just as much a Pandora's box. So this is really not a hard science story, which is a relief because the science is not all that well explained or examined. But it is unfortunate that it does dominate the story.

The story itself becomes a sort of quest for the key story, where each step leads to more information about the next step. First we have to catch an impossibly fast ship that might have the key in the form of a pictorial history, a Phlegar artifact; The Wits of Forlihn. Aboard the burn ship she gains a crew-member along with the Wits. And each step they seem to gain things like this-crew members and clues. At one point they run across an invasion force, which ends up being a plot device that looks like the cart before the horse. But a lot of the plot is driven this way, which gives the feel of Deus ex Machina that smacks of a DejaVu feeling. By that I mean that in this case the invasion fleet could have been a good reason for Rone to decide to start on the quest, but since she didn't know about it until later it becomes a reason to continue on the quest. Still even then it's not that clear cut to the reader for quite a while how important it is since Rone keeps trying to ignore it.

The characters in the story are not the strongest of characters. They all have some major flaws and that can be good in many ways. The problem I had with it is when it came time for the big decision it was very difficult to sort out from the development that they were ready to make the decision that they made. And this is a big Pandora box thing and it really is a determinant factory in the whole plot.

But a lot of this can be considered my own subjective opinion and a person really needs to read this to get a real understanding of what I'm saying here.

This is really science heavy and character light, where for my own preferences it would work out better the other way around. Not to mention that the Science is more simple than simon pure.

Great story for lovers of SFF light on the science and might work well for Young Adults though there are some questionable moral dilemma in the story that bear some scrutiny for the younger end of that scale.

J.L. Dobias



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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Review::The War Gate by Chris Stevenson

The War GateThe War Gate by Chris Stevenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The War Gate by Chris Stevenson

The War Gate is an enigma that begins to defy having a set genre. While it starts with a rather Paranormal almost Rosemary's Baby setup with some bit of mumbo jumbo about gates and the clear indication that Avalon Labrador might be getting a second chance by being reborn in the child she conceived without the act of sex and it move quickly into a Young Adult novel catching up with Avy the daughter as she graduates from school; has a birthday; and has her stepfather kick her out of house and home to get some job experience.

Avalon has been wrongly convicted of killing her husband and has been in prison for fourteen years. She is on death row when Father Janus Geminus visits supposedly to take her final confession. Through his agency she conceives a child and is saved temporarily from death-row to birth the child and then she passes away during childbirth with a hint of the notion she might be reborn. When Avy strikes out on her own due to her stepfathers insistence she will meet Janus Geminus who oddly seems to have not aged.

After Avy moves out she is compelled to learn more about her mother and she meets Sebastian, a magician who will give her a job as his assistant. This is where the book becomes a detective novel replete with all the transparency of a classic Noir mystery full of simile and metaphor to bring to mind the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Many of these phrases will borderline on cliche but for the most part they don't interfere with the intended tone of the story.

The reader and Avy discover more about the gates and Janus Geminus and we start to drift closely to Mythological time travel with teleportation within strange gates that exist within every door. Avy learns she is a gate-walker and she has the ability to use these gates. (likely because of how she was conceived and who her perceived father is.) There is direct correlation between Janus of the Roman myth and the Janus of this story which is made very clearly through the narrative.

A health portion of the novel is almost dark comedic mystery with a touch of romance until the WaxMan is introduced. It then becomes much darker and gritty and dangerous. This is when it dips heavily into the Paranormal and we learn more about Sebastian who seem to be a bit on the paranormal side of things. So we have a Paranormal Pseudo Noir mystery romance science fiction containing a bit of mythos and fable.

The plot is quite a bit convoluted at times and yet kept simplistic enough to follow with a few nice twists and turns that make it difficult to determine exactly where everything will end.

There was one point that I felt created a bit of inexplicable hole in the plot; that involved the grandparents of Avy. Since we find out early on that she looks a lot like her mother and she has been living with her uncle and aunt on her fathers side of the family.(The father that is not really her father.) There is an explanation given for her mothers mother having avoided seeing her, but none given that her 'fathers' parents have not seen her and this is important because at one point she is posing as someone else in front of both grandparents and no one recognizes her. And even though her grandmother on her mother's side had never seen her; just the fact that she looks a lot like her mother should have made that woman do a double take. There is no explanation about her uncles parents seeming to not know what Avy looks like.(Maybe they never visited.)

That aside everything is pretty tight throughout and the writing is great with good pacing though I was sometimes thrown off by the number of cliche like metaphors and similes that seemed mostly there to give the feel of an old classic mystery.

This story was definitely worth reading and I'll be looking forward to reading more especially Chris Stevenson's latest The Girl They Sold to the Moon as soon as the publisher decides to offer it in kindle format.

J.L. Dobias



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Friday, May 23, 2014

Review::Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One) by Jay Kristoff

Stormdancer (The Lotus War, #1)Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One) by Jay Kristoff

This book is marketed as Japanese Steam-Punk and that alone is intriguing. I have often heard people ask if there were other steam-punk novels than those centered on Great Britain and the European nations. This seems almost designed to fit that bill and for that reason it stood as part of the reason I waited before reading this. I always read the reviews along with a sampling of the beginning and I particularly pay attention to the bad reviews. Bad reviews range most generally between short and not very informative to a few sentences that leave me puzzled. This one for some reason garnered a few lengthy almost vindictive reviews and after reading those I decided to let it sit till I had a moment to read it with a more open mind. That moment came and I'm glad I waited because: although there are some rather suspect style decisions in the author's approach, there is a rather entertaining and thought provoking plot sandwiched between all the world building. I give Jay Kristoff high marks for that, but there were some puzzling things that I'd like to mention.

First of all this is not Japanese Steam-punk. At best it is Shima Imperium Steam-punk. It's an alternate reality and though(by the maps supplied) it manages to be central to what we consider Japan; it is an Imperium that seems to extend much farther than that and is the dominant Kingdom on this alternate planet. I for one do not have a problem with that setup and the anachronisms that appear throughout when trying to compare this to our world. In fact; even though I have not yet become an expert on Steam-punk, I believe one qualifier is that the story will contain some anachronisms. I will, though, make the observation that there are certain efforts by Jay Kristoff to legitimatize the Japanese setting through the use of certain words. Some of these are in the dialogue and do seem to become a bit annoying; though I found I was annoyed by different reasons than some readers. I felt like it was just a bad style choice.

What I mean by that is that the author chose to have the characters speaking English and my thought is that when that is done it might be prudent to avoid certain expressions like; it's only one word ; or it's two simple syllables. But personally that wasn't at all that annoying because the meaning comes through anyway. I'm looking more at other novels where the characters language is not English but they speak English. Usually if the author chooses to have them momentarily speak their language natively it is for entire phrases and sometimes they even append a translation. Sometimes they don't translate and I think they think it's just fun to make you look it up. Not that often have I seen single words singled out to consistently replace single common words and that's what happens here in the dialogue. The words Hai, Sama, and Aiya are placed in the dialogue almost as though they are a reminder for the writer that this characters are pseudo Japanese or worse yet that he thinks that the reader will forget that fact. For the record I got that notion in the first couple of pages and never needed any prompts to continue the illusion. I could not find any valid justification for not using the English equivalents to these words. That's just me though.

The next complaint I have is the decision to make the story drag until about 24% of the way through somewhere about 11 chapters and 78 pages the world building comes to a grinding halt and we finally see character development. Up until this point we have a very young Yukiko who acts well beyond her age but is being defined in a rather stiff manner and we only occasionally see flashbacks that explain possibly why she acts so mature. It is not until this 11th chapter that we get a closer look at her and her father and their relationship and how his drive to capture the Arashitora coupled with his strange sense of honor and loyalty to the Shogun can easily eclipse even his love and compassion for his daughter. And we see how despite her love and sense of honor and loyalty to her father she is still at best the rebellious teen who is trying to reconcile her own sense of values against those being imposed upon her while respectfully remaining a dutiful daughter. This coupled with the discovery that the Arashitora are still alive and they have an opportunity to capture it all conspire to put their relationship to task. Despite the intense action in the scene this is a highly emotionally charged scene that defines the entire book. I'm just amazed that there are a large number of people who make it this far.

From this point forward the last three quarters of the novel make this worth reading.

This is where the story began for me and when I go back I can find nothing in the previous ten chapters that are essential to driving the story. What little bit of world building that might be necessary and the back-story could have been fitted in anywhere inside what remains and there honestly is a whole lot of world building that seems to be trying to establish the Japanese connection that I found unnecessary to this story. Terms such as shakuhachi flute, yakuza, split-toed tabi socks, kimonos and an infinite array of others that seem mostly to be trying to create validation for a setting that is, at best, a caricature to that setting. The incessant nonstop world building in this case might be the reason some people have such fierce objection to the misuse of a few words. For me it was fortunate that I ignored the glossary at the end and mentally inserted my own best guess to the English word that should have been there: and moved on.

One of the strongest things I judge a novel on is whether it entertains me and this book did despite how long it took to get there. I do think it could have been better if the author could have stepped back and realized that he needed to create the alternate world he was writing about; as opposed to the flimsy caricature of a world he ended up with. Good world building is when the author builds a world that is consistent within itself and I think that this is that. I also think it's more difficult to see this because of having to look around the extra hand-waving with pseudo historic references that seem mostly unnecessary to driving the plot forward.

I would recommend this to SFF fans and lovers of Steam-punk with the caveat that the reader should not expect historic and cultural accuracy. And I give it high marks but could have given it the top rating if there had been some balance in the world building.

J.L. Dobias



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