Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review:Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue (The Bern Saga Book 1)by Hugh Howey

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue (The Bern Saga Book 1)by Hugh Howey

It takes a fairly riveting book to keep me up past bedtime. That Molly Fyde did so is not that hard to understand when looking at the whole. Everyone loves those stories where the female protagonist is strong willed well balanced and determined. I think in this case the strong willed is the only thing that stands out in the opening scenes.

The story starts with Molly on a flight as navigator to Cole Mendonca on a mission for the (space) Navy. The first interesting phase of this story is a revelation of the possibility the crew is out so long on duty that members are allowed to sleep at the helm. Molly- an orphan- is having a dream about her parents leaving her. Cole wakes her up to have her check out some readings from their system update logs. Molly tries to shrug it off but Cole, who seems to be a paranoid conspiracy type, thinks something is up.

Now, some background: Molly is one of few if any female's who have registered with the navy to train at the academy to be a pilot and her skill are up there with the rest but for some reason this world took a huge backward step and is not very gender friendly in the military. So, Molly is navigating when she should be piloting.(At least that's the impression Molly gives us.)

While they discuss the discrepancy they also discover that the enemy force they are going up against is far greater than they expect. Molly shows her strength by issuing recommendation for their assault that turn out to be quite sound. No one takes her serious so only her team begin that maneuver. But, someone has sabotaged their armament and nothing will deploy properly. All of this reinforces Cole's misgivings over the update.

At the onset of the battle Cole is out and unable to help her and she has to take control; while the rest of her team is taken out. The other flights out there will be overwhelmed so Molly begins to do what she does best. Thinking outside the box. Knowing that what she's doing is suicide the reader get to see the side of Molly Fyde that might result in her own undoing. In a brave act she avoids the enemy long enough to turn their own weapons upon them causing some damage, though it in no way will save the rest.

She somehow survives this and you will have to read to find out.

The important thing here is that whatever sabotage happened to her ship- has not been recorded so everything she did makes her look like an incompetent loose cannon and forces her to be relieved of duty. Her uncle-an admiral-who has supported her through all of this can do nothing to help.

Molly opts to go to normal school to finish her education, which looks as though she's admitting complete defeat.

So we have Molly Fyde the strong willed not so balanced -out of the box loose cannon- who all of a sudden seems less than determined. Perhaps it's that she realizes she can't fight the system, maybe it's because she doesn't want to.

Though she has a severe failing in lack of determination. Molly in some ways reminds me of Honor Harrington, David Weber's character. Then in other ways she reminds me of Ky Vatta, Elizabeth Moons character in the Vatta's War.

In fact a lot of the beginning is like the Vatta stories.

Molly seems to be missing the drive that makes those other characters and it's difficult to determine, in this story, whether that's considered a critical weakness. It certainly might be a contributing factor towards her getting into so much trouble.

When her uncle, the admiral, comes to her with the revelation that her father's ship, which was lost, has been located she jumps at the chance to volunteer to pilot it back. Her uncle attempts to dissuade her but not much. At this point as a reader I was already a bit suspicious of this. Next her old friend and secret love Cole is enlisted to help. Add to that the whole affair becomes shrouded in mystery when they have to do all of the trip to the ship in secrecy. Cole is already suspicious and when the contact they are to meet in this backwater pirate planet is acting strangely and things begin to unravel the paranoia sinks its teeth in hard.

The ships name is Parsona -as is Molly's mother's name. It's her heirloom and in order for her to claim it she's going to have to think way out of the box and she and Cole will become fugitives running from the Navy that sent them there.

This book is one misadventure after another and the only thing the reader can be sure of is that each time the crew of Parsona go into a situation they think is going to be fine- it's not.

Pretty soon Molly picks up the most unlikely crew of dangerous misfits for her ship. All things considered the most passive yet dangerous is Molly who is in charge most of the time. The only thing standing between her and fate is the dangerous allies she's collecting.

Quickly we discover nothing that Molly trusts can truly be trusted and it all has something to do with the ship Parsona. Will Molly be able to stay alive to get all the answers?

You will have to read to find out.

Not everything is answered, but the ending is quite satisfactory for the beginning of a series.

Anyone who loves those tactical space novels of Elizabeth Moon and David Weber should love Molly Fyde. Lovers of Science Fiction and Fantasy should love the story.

There are several different worlds built here in this story and in many such novels, usually by the third world built it gets old. Hugh Howey does a fair job of keeping them all interesting. Each world story seems to add up to the motivation for each of the alien crew of Molly's ship. We'll have to see how well he keeps up with himself in the future novels.

Your Usual Sci-Fi Military Heroine who's been slightly Mollyfyde.

J.L. Dobias

Friday, February 20, 2015

Review:Hindsight by A.A. Bell

Hindsight by A.A. Bell

I read Diamond Eyes- the first of the trilogy of this story and fell in love with Mira and all her quirky ways. So naturally its inevitable that I read Hindsight.

The intensity of this novel just blew me away. Granted I'm not one to read a whole lot of suspense thrillers. I've enjoyed such greats as Six Days of the Condor by James Grady. Shimbumi by Trevanian and many but not all of Ludlum's Jason Bourne novels.

I'm not a great fan of novels that use violence as a sort of jar mechanism to pull people out of their comfort zone although it's really difficult to write good thrillers without that element. What I appreciate is the artist who paints the characters successfully around that element.

You could say that this series is Science Fiction but I think that's a very small portion of the mix of genre's we have here. Mira's story reads almost like paranormal romance although the science is well woven into the story to give it less of the mystical feel. Her story is also one intense ride into suspense and mystery.

Now after admitting that I'm not the expert on suspense and thrillers I have to say that A.A. Bell does a magnificent job of using the violence in the story to weave in the hints for the various motivations of many of the characters. For Mira everyone is suspect in their motives and allegiances and I felt that even in the grisly elements portrayed that there were insights that logically lead up to each successive revelation as the story built to its climax.

Taking up from Diamond Eyes Mira Chambers is still institutionalized at Serenity and living with the memories that keep reminding her of her part in Ben's (Bennet Chiron) suffering. Ben is recuperating and attempting to gain freedom for Mira by becoming her guardian. The catch is that his past life and prison time make that nearly impossible. Through some tenuous arraignment Ben seems to achieve that with the help of the institutions matron Madonna Sanchez.

The story opens with a murder one that Mira comes across while jogging- one that she can't easily share with anyone because it happened days ago because Mira sees things that are in the past because of her Diamond Eyes that are sensitive to slow light.

I must confess that when I picked up Diamond Eyes I was thinking oh great a suspense thriller mystery with a blind sleuth that can see into the past. She has a side-kick Ben who has saved her from the institute and now works with her to solve cases.

That's not what I got- but I'm not disappointed; I really do love these books the way they are.

Mira is about to be thrust back into the world of intrigue this time dredging up Ben's past and the reason he went to prison. She's going to have to undergo the changes that will occur while she detoxes from the chemicals that the institute has used to control her; and, she has to deal with her feeling for Ben and her fear that she will cause him harm again. She'll also have to deal with her nemesis Colonel Kitching who wants to have her Diamond Eyes and the ever invasive General Garland who also would like to use Mira's talent and her eyes. Not to mention her-Moriarty like rival- the elderly Fredarick 'Leopard' who can hear voices from the future and is also a client at Serenity who is in love with Madonna Sanchez and views Mira's existence as a threat to Madonna. Fredarick is also related to Colonel Kitching.

This doesn't even cover having to deal with Ben's overbearing mother Mel and a few ex-girlfriends. Then add in an over protective lance corporal Lockman who seems to be anything from a bodyguard to a black ops both frightening and somehow appealing to Mira and you have an extra blend to an already troubled romance.

Mira herself is an intriguing character who has spent over 10 years in an institution and has to deal with assimilating a lot of technical advances while she herself is a biological wonder that sometimes surpasses all of that development.

There are many gems of narrative that come out of this and her perception of her talent.

[quote]`I was thinking about time,' she confessed, `... about how pointless it is trying to fight it or change to suit it, because we're already caught up in it, like a tide, and we're just the fish. Close your eyes and you might even feel it, the breeze traveling through time like a current, taking our scents and memories with it.'[/quote]

Bell, A A (2011-06-01). Hindsight (Kindle Locations 1714-1717). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

And a lot of humor such as the time Mel fixes Ben and Mira a romantic dinner that seems a bit over spiced.

[quote]At least she still had fond memories of the meal before she'd taken her first bite; so romantic on the beachside patio.[/quote]

Bell, A A (2011-06-01). Hindsight (Kindle Locations 2397-2398). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

This story has several onion like layers to the plot. There are all sorts of twists and turns that once it gets going roll the story down a long and almost endless hill of action, suspense and gore that makes this 'not for the faint of heart'; though I was surprised that it never left that bad taste that always begs the question "why is that even there?"

Everything is well placed and timed in this story and even if the reader doesn't feel they need a score card to keep track of all the threads; its a marvel to watch A.A. Bell unfold all of them.

I recommend this to any fans of suspense and mystery -most Science fiction lovers should find something to take away and even Para normal Romance lovers will find a spot for Mira and her Diamond Eyes.

Definitely read Diamond Eyes before Hindsight if you haven't because after you do you'll have to buy the rest of the trilogy to finish the rest of Mira's story. Each book gets better.

The next book is Leopard Dreaming and I've already put it in my kindle.

J.L. Dobias

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review::Grey Enigmas by Gareth Lewis

Grey EnigmasGrey Enigmas by Gareth Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Grey Enigmas by Gareth Lewis

This is a cute little novella with rather unique idea in a strange cyberpunk like novel that (like many novels I've recently read) seems to take a page from these game MMORPG's with the mind-scape and the Actors. There's one of the MMORPG's I'm thinking of that specifically calls them Actors instead of Avatars.

I think this might be an extension of a longer work called the Grey Engines. In this story we have the futuristic society that is full of zombie like workers who allow their actors to take over the daily grind while they live in some idealistic world that exist in some sort of connected mind-scape.

Of course this story revolves around the people who spend less time in the mind-scape and more time in the real world. In the real world there is less crime and more control but occasionally things happen and when they can't solve the crime they look to people like Alex whom they have sentenced to live in a special section of mind-scape to met out their time for their crime.

Everyone has two personalities their own and their Actor-the personality who keeps an eye on them and when they do something wrong the actor will turn them in and this is what happened to Alex. But Alex is an investigator, one of the best, and they need him to solve a murder before more happen. Someone had committed a murder and their actor has not turned them in which means something is seriously wrong with the system.

So Alex is brought out of storage to solve the crime while being hamstrung in so many ways that he can hardly do the job. But that's not all: because there is something else going on that's going to greatly affect Alex because the members of the sheriff brain trust that pulled his body out of cold storage are not telling him all the truth.

Alex has no regard for their laws or rules, so he's going to get to the bottom of things if it kills him.

This is a great read for fans of SFF (a bit on the soft-side) There were some few moments when the style of writing confused me enough I had to step back a page to see where we were but those were minor distractions and the over all pace of the story was handled quite well.

J.L. Dobias



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Review::Grey Engines by Gareth Lewis

Grey EnginesGrey Engines by Gareth Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Grey Engines by Gareth Lewis

I originally read this on Scrib'd but opted to buy it for my Kindle so I could make notes and do highlighting which are impossible to do in Scrib'd also it's impossible to do a simple dictionary lookup because of the nature of the Scrib'd files. All of these features need to be constructed and built into Scrib'd to accomodate their encryption or it makes it difficult for someone to go back and find things of interest not to mention the seach engine doesn't work at all .

This story is a great story for anyone who loves those MMORPG's and wondered what it might be like to be connected to everyone in a virtual world. The virtual world is not quite fully built yet but the Avatars are here with the people who can wander away from thier physical bodies and into an electronic environment. These are the survivors of the psychic attack by some form of psyonic bomb. Those left with telepathic abilities and a need to cope with their new world and to diligently watch for the impending invasion from the race responsible for sending the bomb.

In a highly structured society the invasion is going to shoehorn itself into their lives at the same time that many begin to question the leaders over the issue of who is in charge. While preparing for attack some day soon the leaders have kept a few secrets from thie poeple and when the invasion force arrive some of the secrets might be the only means of survival if they can get them out of hiding in time.

It's rather difficult to tell as this story starts just who the story is about. There are probably four or more groups of people this centers on but the one that strikes me as the most potable for the main plot is Sarah and her interaction with Thomas who proves to be one of the many secrets that have been shuffled off to the side. Thomas is by far the most interestingly developed characters but the problem with Thomas is that his whole character development revolves around the way he speaks and that turns out to be a fiction he created thus making him the most unreliable character you could have in a novel.

That leaves us with Sarah who is probably the most believable character in the bunch. From there there is her boyfriend Daniel who seems to be present to develop most of the real action scenes. I was a bit disappointed that we saw less of Sarah because I was certain that the part of the story that her life covers seems to contain the most consistent plot elements and introduces us to the ghost minds and the fact that Thomas is carrying a dark secret around with him. Not to mention that Thomas and Sarah are pivotal in the final resolution.

That much said: there are still a number of annoying things Gareth Lewis's choice of style in writing. There are a consistent number of sentence whose structure can only be best discribed as having the same flaws that passive sentences have. The sentences become cumbersome and difficult to read many times-not to mention the weird nature of almost double negatives.

In two instances we have this mouthful that says

Svetlana's idea may not be without some merit."
Lewis, Gareth (2013-11-11). Grey Engines (Kindle Location 1461). . Kindle Edition.

"Your idea may not be without merit."
Lewis, Gareth (2013-11-11). Grey Engines (Kindle Location 1766). . Kindle Edition.
:which I think might mean the same as (might have some merit) but i'm not sure. And this is used at least twice.
Had the surrounding text supported some other negative aspects in list or such then I might be tempted to see the rhythmic nature of saying it this way.

And then there is this mouth full.

He felt a sigh in his mind, but Akili's consciousness stayed with him as he detached from his body, travelling to where the others towards prepared to intercept the vessel.

Lewis, Gareth (2013-11-11). Grey Engines (Kindle Locations 1191-1192). . Kindle Edition.

There are at least a dozen more like this that made me stop and think and I'm pretty sure each time I was able to unfold them properly.

All of that aside the story itself is very good and well told beyond those speed-bumps. Though I do have a problem with the plot because on the surface it seems to be Man against Alien : the alien's have used a weapon meant to wipe out mankind before they arrive to steal resources from a now dead planet(assumed dead). So you would think the alien invasion and the conflict and the outcome would encompass the plot, but I was torn because there is a sub-plot with the administrators of Earth in the new society and how there decisions impact certain characters including Thomas and Sarah and the internal conflict Sarah eventually has to deal with along with the guilt Thomas has to deal with while trying to force Sarah to face some realities. And this does not even cover all of Thomas's secrets. And the subplot seemed to hold more weight than the surface plot.

Really you will have to read this to decide for yourself.

Once more this is great SFF for those who like the science just a bit soft boiled.

J.L. Dobias



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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review::Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence #3)Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

I saw an ad and some comments about Max Gladstone and this book and decided to read the sample. The sample intrigued me and drew me into Max's strange world of magic quickly enough that I knew I'd be picking this one up for my library. The writing style is so unique and compelling I overlooked the fact that I felt like I was being dropped into the middle of a world I knew nothing about and expected to flounder around in. So before purchasing this book I took note that he had two others in the same world and decided I might do well to purchase those also and read them in order. This turned out to be quite fortuitous, but not in the way I had hoped. I love the writing and the whole idea of Max Gladstone's world of magic with its complexity, but it sometimes can be a rather difficult read because the world building is the type that sort of trickles in slowly as the characters in the world reluctantly reveal the world's story to the reader.

Full Fathom Five can stand alone as a novel as can both Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise. Each novel takes place in a different city in a world where magic is used as currency and the flow of magic can deplete or replenish an individual depending on which end of the flow they are. The novels take place in a time after a great war against the gods and now we have people trying to prove they can exist without the gods. Though the gods seemed oppressive and in need of being deposed, it becomes clear early that those who deposed them might be just another evil and somewhere within all of that are the flawed but heroic characters who are trying to honorably mark out their existence within the new system. The players in the first two books seem to be separate groups and only in the third book does the reader see some crossover of characters from the first two, with mostly the name of cities and deposed gods being a factor to previously tie the books together.

The magic and the rules of magic in the world are always quite clear but the world itself can often seem enigmatic in many ways, but as I read this I began to get a sense of why. It seemed for me that the world itself was a world that was being built within the characters. The very way that the magic linked the people with each other and with their existence and the notion that for many of the people the magic is drawn from each other and then from the stars.

In a world where man has waged war against gods and put down many there are still cities that make use of their gods as it is in Three Parts Dead the city of Alt Coulumb is still powered mostly by the fire of the Lord of Flame, Kos until the day Kos is murdered and Tara Abernathy, a new intern of the Craft firm of Kelethras, Albrecht and Ao, is sent to investigate. This is a world where those with the greatest power, the Deathless Kings rule, and that power the craft exacts a price and though they live long they wither away to a skeletal existence. Many of those would strive to be like the gods and be rid of the old gods while some search for a mutual existence and firms like Kelethras Albrecht and Ao can resurrect a god under certain conditions; though the god will never be quite the same.

There are still priests who used to sacrifice to the gods and in Two Serpents Rise Caleb is the son of one such priest; Caleb works for Red King Consolidated, his job is to help keep the gods and their demons under control, which puts him at odds with his father. Caleb recalls too many of those sacrificed by his father to ever want to go back to that. But someone is trying to subvert things in Dresediel Lex; and Caleb must find out if it's his priestly father or some other subversive faction before it's too late.

In Kavekana of Full Fathom Five they make idols for their clients. Not the usual kind but those that can store the soul magic of their clients and act almost like a stock market for magic. But the idols can die if their magic is extended too thin and when a friends project is targeted for termination[the Idol is dying] Kai makes one desperate attempt to help her friend and the Idol; out of the belief that the Idol shouldn't be dying. The attempt goes poorly and Kai is injured badly and her career with the company is in danger. But in that brief moment of contact with the Idol when she nearly lost her life she saw something that will shake up her life more than the loss of her career. Along with the indigent Izza, who still worships gods, Kai is about to uncover something sinister about the Idols and supposedly dead Gods.

Max Gladstones protagonists in all of these stories are strong willed, honor bound and in many ways strangely flawed. The richness of each of these characters brings the reader closer to the world in which they live. But it takes a lot of attention to the details and descriptions to grasp that world and it's not always clear that the protagonists are doing the right thing though they are always doing it with the strong conviction and, even when they shy away from being martyrs, they end up positioning themselves to make a sacrifice because of their own strong sense of honor.

This is epic fantasy but in many ways for me it read as a literary epic that focuses on character more than setting and though some might find that to be a deficiency I love the character driven novels above all else so if a reader loves those stories about well crafted strong characters they will love this series of books and if they appreciate good prose they will drink these down or sip them slowly to their own tastes.

J.L. Dobias



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Monday, February 16, 2015

Review::Saves Nine by Les Lynam

. . . Saves Nine. . . Saves Nine by Les Lynam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Saves Nine by Les Lynam

I had an opportunity to read this as a sort of review copy quite a while ago. It obviously has undergone a few changes since then and it somehow became even longer than it was the first time. Since it's a time travel novel; sometimes being longer can be a horribly bad thing. I'm happy to say that that's not the case with this. This read to me the second time just a well as the first and in many ways felt as though I were reading it for the first time.

What I mean when I say that a long time travel novel can be bad; is that it can become recursive to an ad-nausea degree. You know: that bit where you have the character or characters live the same scene over and over until you feel like you are in some horrible remake of groundhog day. That doesn't happen here; though there is some overlap it usually breezes past quickly, because there's way too much other stuff going on to waste space[and time].

An odd thing I took from this novel is that I felt the main character Sean seemed almost a bit weak at time[which can be a good thing because character's need flaws]. This was not a showstopper weak, but there are times when as a reader I felt I would like to slap him up the side of the head for his actions and even his inaction. Of course, to his credit sometimes his inaction was a result of the programming of the enigmatic time traveler; claiming to be related to him.

The story starts out as an almost simple teen tale in high school with the usual angst. Some of this is the lame part of our character Sean as he tries to deal[not very well] with first someone obsessively stalking him and then his own obsession. But most of this is the setup for an early twist in the story and in a small way the prologue almost spoils some of it. Things get just a bit scary before they get really strange. And then when there is an excursion further into the past things are quite fun for bit.

In reading this twice I still found that it was well into the book that we meet the character I felt was the strongest in the whole story. This could just be me, so you really should read this book to see how you feel about it. At about this same time the book takes a more serious tone as we start to add up a few of the consequences of traveling through time and interacting with people[some who have been dead a few years or more in the time traveler's own time]. Les Lynam even threw a few thoughts and wrinkles that I don't recall seeing in this type of novel.

This is a long novel and happily I can say that in reading it through I never felt that there were any places where things could or should have been cut so the writing justifies the length[which is always a great thing]. When we weren't coming up with new ideas we were going through the process of developing the characters and moving the story forward. In fact; near the end and in the last few chapters I almost felt a sense of being rushed, which may have been exaggerated for me; because my favorite character was being developed a bit more and I hope that in the next installment of this series we see that happening at a different pace.

This is an outstanding debut novel from an author who cares enough to make the best attempt at delivering the cleanest clearest copy to the reader. This will make a great addition to the library of and Young Adult and those who love SFF just as well. A very thoughtful and thought provoking read.

J.L. Dobias



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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Review::Bane of Souls by Thaddeus White

Bane of SoulsBane of Souls by Thaddeus White

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Bane of Souls by Thaddeus White

A friend suggest this read because I've been doing indie authors and they thought this one might do the trick. I'm glad they did. This was an entertaining read that is well written in the grammatical sense.

This is one of those books that almost lost me at the beginning. It opens with Francis who is being trussed up to drown in the River Axe by Wilf who is one of many corrupt Watchmen in the city of Highford.They are both despicable characters in their own way and in truth are very much alike. But this night Francis will meet a disembodied spirit who befriends him and can't help him and a magistri -mage who can and does help him. We do find that Francis has a tiny speck of loyalty in him that prevents him from revealing who left him out there to drown. He also has an almost unlikely girl friend named Sarah. The disembodied spirit named Samuel manages to assist Francis in obtaining a better life than his begging has given him and a better chance with Sarah. His intersection with the mage Julia brings him in contact with the other mage and possibly with the Main Character Horst. This is Horst's story, I think, but there are so many to chose from.

The other main character is the setting. This is possibly overwrought as far as description of what it looks like, but as long as the descriptions are there seems to be very little that brought me into the taste,smell, and feel of the story. Even Horst, who by default becomes the main character when you reach the end, is distanced by his desire to be somewhere else all the time. And there are so many characters that take the focus it is often difficult to keep up with and sort through them through the cover of all the description. If you love books that describe the setting down to tiny detail you should love this book.

There were few if any characters that peaked my interest or garnered sympathy. The most interesting character is Thaddeus who is basically an orbital character who floats out there intersecting with the other main characters periodically and even garnering the limelight now an then. Thaddeus is a thief in a world of thieves who is the only one who really seems to be comfortable with who he is and makes no pretense with special title or anything like that as do the rest of the community of thieves. He's the only character that rings true to himself all the time and he probably deserves his own book.

Being limited in my scope of reading in this genre I couldn't help get a certain feeling as though this were a slightly more mature Harry Potter type novel. I think it might have been the disembodied spirits and the notion of the great evil being one of those and needing to find the perfect vessel to bring him closer to this world and to greater power.

What I found missing was a good solid plot to grab onto. Oh, I'm sure it's there and I'll figure it out as I write all this. We have at least a handful of stories. The story of Horst the Kuhrisch who's last wish would be-to become a mage. The story of Francis the begger and Sarah and Francis' brief rise in society. We have the story of the Mage community a tight community devoutly protecting the city and other cities throughout the land. We have Thaddeus the head of the underworld so to speak and his fight to retain his power. And we have the officials of the city and their miriad of stories. And we have the evil spirit. These are all definitely part of the world building and are interesting; again, if world building is the readers interest. What they don't all do is come together clearly all the time, so there are things that don't seem to move, I can't say plot , the story and they don't even always move each other along, but just occasionally contribute a bit here and there.

There is so much going on and so much description that in a way, for me, it was hard to keep up and keep things straight. I had to go backwards a few times to figure out if I zoned out or if the story just japed into a different direction. (A couple of times it really was me zoning out.)

This is one of those stories that a lot of people die in- and the very ending had a predictable element to it. The Plot might be best described as good vs evil though in this case, with few if any redeeming characters, it might be grey vs black and the victory of the many over the one evil. And with as many times as that victory seems to occur it, is uncertain there has been a victory.

There could be more books coming though this seems to leave the stories in a fair place.

This is a great book for the SFF fans especially those who like the descriptive world building of a world of magic and evil spirits.


J.L. Dobias



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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review::Emergence by Nick M. Lloyd

EmergenceEmergence by Nick M. Lloyd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Every once in a while there is a book that just grabs my attention and keeps it. I hadn't quite expected that from Nick Lloyd's Emergence. It seems to be written in the style of a procedural suspense thriller. This tends to create the air of Hard Science Fiction and thankfully not the difficult kind of hard. Well, maybe some difficult if you try to include the many worlds interpretation. I almost thought it would slip away from me when I was forced to focus heavily on the alien race. The world of Jack and Louise was becoming so entertaining that I didn't really want to take a break to examine the Gadium in the ship above Earth and certainly not the ones far off in space at other worlds.

There are a number of ways to handle alien races in a Science Fiction novel. One of those ways is to try to make everyday life and dialogue sound like us. Sometimes that choice can make the story a bit less than palatable. In Emergence it helped a lot, because there's a lot to get to know about these aliens before the climax of the story. What brings them here; and why they have come all this way only to watch. Much of this gets answered and even more questions the reader hasn't thought to ask. The procedural nature of the story is not limited to the Earth half of the story and the reader should be ready to learn a lot about the procedural nature of the aliens who watch.

But, to be honest, what I liked about Emergence is the characters. I had resolved that I was going to be concentrating on the colorful characters of all the Earth Humans. The animosity between Jack and Louise drive the story. Louise might not have begun her investigation, but for the conflict she'd been having with Jack. The dynamic duo of Jeff and Mike as college professors and the main researchers within the story are a good foil for Louise's hard nosed investigative reporting. But that was quickly derailed by the scenes depicting the initial discomfort between the aliens Aytch and Justio, which expands as the reader finds there are dissenters in the most perfect ranks of the great race.

At one point I was almost ready to let the story guide me into the look and feel of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But this never got to the level of silliness of Douglas Adam's work. This seems to stay in the more serious vein perhaps like X-files. One would think that since the aliens are mostly there to watch that it would be pretty boring. For the most part the reader is initially led to believe it is pretty sedate; but soon, with the potential for internal strife, things begin to get interesting.

It takes a while for the reader to come to grips with the rules that the Gadium must abide by while observing the Emergence. It's those rules that set the stage for most of the story's conflicts. It's those rules and the Gadium belief that they are doing the right thing that lead to some pretty strange occurrences. Eventually everyone will be in a race against time to complete missions that all seem to be at odds with each other.

It's easy to start picking sides but it becomes confusing when the reader has to take into consideration that one or the other of the Gadium factions has to dominate and when that happens then the conflict becomes between them and the humans and neither of the former two are a good choice for that ultimate conflict and the humans are being set up to mostly lose in any situation.

When it gets to the final solutions the readers is left satisfied; but the final judgment will be that there will likely be more to this story.

This is well written well paced Procedural Science Fiction that waxes Hard most of the time though the seeming theoretical nature of Many Worlds Interpretation will stretch some readers suspension of disbelief.

You need to read this to see what I mean and you shouldn't be disappointed.

J.L. Dobias



View all my reviews

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review:Time Change Book One: The Jump by Alex Myers

Time Change Book One: The Jump by Alex Myers

I loved this book. Not only was it entertaining it was educational. There are a lot of historical characters here that I might never have met without this book. It's amazing how many inventors there are that are not household names.

On the other hand there a quite a few household names in the book also. I usually call this name-dropping because an author often does not do much related with that character that seems to be totally in character when they map out stories like this. This is not that kind of story- these characters show up for a reason. This book starts out like a historical novel and then sort of morphs itself-understandably-into a sort of steam punk with just a bit less steam in it.

Instead of being an alternate universe which developed differently this is more like a time travel universe with the same potential as ours where the main character- familiar with today's technology- attempts to bring his new-old world up to date.

This has a great storyline with a great main character. Jack Riggs-maybe later we might consider him the Jack of all trades- has a vast amount of knowledge that he seems mostly to be wasting. Jack is a womanizer. He hasn't found the woman he loves- ie; one he respects long enough to actually be in a serious relationship with. This is what gets Jack into trouble and it's something he'll find himself working on in spite of himself.

Jack is teaching- which means he is using some of that knowledge. and he is presently toying with a relationship with Ashley who seems to be quite intelligent and driven and possibly a bit anal- at least from Jacks point of view. Jack has also been toying at work. He must be teaching seniors because the girl he's been cheating with, Shalah is possibly eighteen-making her somewhat legal. But, let's face it; Jack! what are you thinking. Jack has all sorts of good reasons for what he's been thinking of doing and all sorts of denial that he did that much. It seems that Shalah has thrown herself at him. This is natural since Jack is just one of those guys that women throw themselves at.

The trouble this leads to is everything beyond expected when Jack is being questioned at the police station for possible terrorism. Shalah shows up with a bomb at school-one which her terrorist boyfriend made- based on knowledge that Jack was freely tossing around. This leads to a disclosure of a relationship with Shalah that seems to be trumped up by pictures Shalah had taken after breaking into Jacks apartment. Jack naturally calls Ashley to pick him up where she proceeds to break up with him in a high speed drive away from the police station and into the center of a super storm. This is when things get really strange.

At the moment when Jack might be seeing his life flash before him. Surprise Ashley loses control of the care and the slide into an eventual accident. At the moment of Impact the super storm lightning strikes and some great vortex like force takes Jack back to the 1850's and some time just prior to the civil war.

Now I'll stop for my quibble with this book. There is a side story that figures heavily in this novel and probably makes more sense in the next novel. It shows up as a preface or prologue or such called Before. I won't say much about it because it confused me mostly and I'm not sure it's necessary. But, I didn't write this novel and I don't intend on rewriting it so it's there and it stands. I have the same feeling about the last chapter which is a chapter and could have been the epilogue. Either way I don't think they added to the story and could have been inserted somewhere in the second book if they are necessary, which I think they are and it might be that the author doesn't want to make it look like he thought of this at the last minute and inserted it into the second story. So, bottom line is the objection is just me- it probably is a good thing the two sections are there. There are more breadcrumbs related to them inside the story.

Anyway, Jack becomes a great facilitator of inventors. He needs to eventually create most of the things he thinks he needs to stop the civil war from happening. I'm not going to name drop all the inventors involved. I think the best way to read this is to have a paper handy and write names down and later check their credentials on line. You'll be surprised at what information is there and how well the characters fit into the world that Jack is building.

There's an evil group of southerners who are copying peoples patented technologies who will notice Jack and realize they need to get him on their team- not realizing that Jack is never going to be on their side. This creates the conflict. And, the woman of his dreams, Dreams Jack never knew he had, creates the pathway towards rehabilitating the womanizer. But, not before he takes an initial sampling of what's available in the past.

This is a great novel for anyone who loves historical romances and it's coming real close to the strange technology anachronism of all good Steam-punk novels. It has time travel and even some strange-mysterious group(possibly time travelers). So any one who loves Science Fiction or Speculative Fiction and those other aspects should love this novel.

I'm definitely reading the next few to get the rest of the story.

J.L. Dobias


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review::Day One (Sol War 1) by John Jay Forsberg

Day One (Sol War 1) by John Jay Forsberg

I'm giving this 5 stars because its played well even though there are some potential road bumps. And because I'm giving it 5 stars I'm going to be a bit brutal about those bumps.

First and foremost I loved this book and I loved it a lot more than I expected. I am a fan of many of the movies and shows that contain the War in Space themes but not so much the ones that are heavy on the battle engagements. My focus always falls on the characters and how they develop within the context of the story. Damn the torpedoes; I want to know about the people.

This book starts with Day One: H-HOUR and its a good lead in with some mystery and intrigue and the beginning of war. Only problem is of course that everyone dies. Well that usually isn't a game changer since there's the rest of the story.

The quibble I have with this book is it takes the next third of the book to get to the rest of the story and there are a lot of people who after reading a hundred pages or less are going to say 'what the heck.' Yell 'Abandon ship.' and throw another log on the fire.

I'm glad i resisted all those urges. And John redeems himself well enough to let that all pass. I just think that there's a whole bunch of people who will get a bit upset. Here's why. There's this whole bunch of Poli-Sci fiction going here that reads almost like a stale history analysis of what led up to this one moment we saw in passing from above(What I said up there.), all lumped together.

Really there are some things in that history that the reader needs to know and though I don't usually agree with the notion of skimming or scanning a fiction book I think it's appropriate here because the reader really needs to get past page 100 to get to the rest of the story or their missing a really well told well paced action packed thriller.(Don't really skim or you might miss something important.)

Honestly, John needs to make cliff notes for Part1 for the reader who wants to read the action and character development. (I'm sure somewhere along the line he thought that's what part 1 is but seriously.) I have to be careful here because in this instance the author knows where I work.

Honestly though, I couldn't put this down once things really started to happen. As history showed us the colonies in space have very good reasons to rebel and now they have the support of a former Admiral Dermot Coughlan. Dermot has many motivations for helping the colonists but his deepest I wasn't sure about. It could be the senseless death of his son but he also seems to have some vision of the value of the strength of the colonies and that's somewhere locked in that Poli-Sci section that needs this shown in the cliff notes.

Nolan Shaw, the charismatic leader of the rebels is a dangerous and possibly overreaching man who is clearly leading his people beyond his own abilities and that is going to have to play out in future stories. He's building some bad karma.

Navy Admiral of the Fleet, Terry Hutchins is an old friend of Dermot Coughlan and is the counter-point to him on the other side in this war. His daughter Rear Admiral Evelyn Hutchins is the one who will have to face off with Coughlan and I want to say I'm in love with this character. She does everything right within her abilities and sometimes beyond and she is unswerving in the face of death.

I've no idea how well Evelyn will come out of all of this but look out Honor Harrington you have staunch competition.

Paulo Mantega is the investigator tracing after the infamous Somachai and trying to prevent the catastrophe that will set things off. He has a lot of guilt and a self imposed mission.

John Hanson is living with the knowledge of what his brother Michael has done and knowing he had a part in it all.

I'm definitely looking for the next book in this series.

And when you get a chance John shoot me those cliff notes.

J.L. Dobias

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review:The Foretelling by Jessica Acosta


The Foretelling by Jessica Acosta

I acquired this e-book free from amazon and I can emphatically say that it was a delightful surprised wrapped in the fresh voice of a new talent.

Let me first warn that this book is best enjoyed on a kindle or in a kindle for PC app and not quite so friendly in the Chrome-book app that they have for it. I was test driving the chrome at the time and endured the jagged right margin with no indents and no spaces between paragraphs and there was often some confusion about where paragraphs ended. I checked later on my other two appliances and found it to be an affectation of the poorly written kindle program for the chrome. Let me also say that this should in no way reflect poorly on the author- in fact- it says a lot that I couldn't put this book down even with those problems on the chrome.

This is a sort of coming of age story. Jamie and her brother Brandon have recently left home and are trying to find their nitch in life. Brandon has his band and his band buddies, Jamie is not so fortunate as she only has the band by association. She's well organized but not yet focused on what she wants to do. So she helps out where she can with all the guys in the band and she is falling for one of them. Kyle is someone that she and her brother have known for a long time and she's becoming certain that she'd be comfortable with more than that as long as it doesn't mess with current friendships.

This story is a lot more than that though.

It's a story of changes and coming to understand ones own potential. It's a story of love, heart break, betrayal and growth. It's also a story of strange creatures and mystery.

It starts out a bit slow, but that won't put you off. It's a slowly peculating mystery where Jessica keeps the reader wondering just what's happening.

Brandon and Jamie start the story on a camping trip in the desert that goes just a bit awry when they wander into a deep cave where they both are injured and attacked by an unseen and deadly creature. Strange things begin to happen to them and it's only at about one third the way into the story that we discover a bit of what is going on. Trust me you won't want to put it down at least until you find out what that is.

Then when you do, you'll have to finish it because things get really interesting.

One of the amazing things about The Foretelling is how well the characters are portrayed. Not only did I easily identify with Jamie and Brandon and immediately feel a connection, but even some of the less likeable characters are still endearing enough to care about.

The story is a well woven and nicely paced tale that takes you from beginning to end and leaves you wanting to pick up the next book as soon as possible to find out what is going to happen.

Anyone who likes Anne McCaffery's Dragon stories will love this tale. I love mostly science fiction but the explanation and detail along with great narrative style were enough to keep me happy throughout.

I really can't express how much I love the world you're building here Jessica.

J.L. Dobias

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Review:Diamond Eyes By A A Bell

Diamond Eyes By A A Bell

I honestly didn't know what to expect from this novel. I had made it to the author's web page and looked at the covers, which were intriguing. I really did not read the blurbs. I was, in fact, taking a break from another tedious novel that I felt lacked some bit of style to keep me interested. So I decided to go ahead and try the bit of sample the author is offering. It's about one hundred pages. I usually don't put a lot of stock in the cover or the blurb, but prefer to read at least ten or more pages when possible. And I will say this-about Diamond Eyes- read those pages and then try to act like you're not interested in reading the rest of the book.

I was immediately drawn into the book by the engaging narrative. This is not one of the usual action packed, heart pumping, seat of your pants hooks. This is more a carefully crafted lure that is placed gently and casually entices the reader into the world of Mira Chambers and her heart rending story.

Ben-recently released from prison for something he had nothing to do with- thought that he'd just been through the worst he could ever see and was looking forward to getting back into the life he had to so abruptly leave behind. He's just taken a job with Serenity-better known as Libica Isle Benevolent Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Not the best assignment but he's now an ex-con. He'll be working with youths and young adults, but is primarily here to help with Mira's case. If he thought he had it bad he's about to discover a whole new meaning of bad. Not the way that the story initially misleads the reader, though. He's about to see how much of a hell that Mira has had to confront and slowly he begins to realize that it may all be even more of an injustice than his own incarceration.

Mira is blind- that's the least of her problems. She's not much hindered by her blindness and she is in no way to be considered helpless. Her real problem is that because her hold on reality seems so tenuous and her nature is to strike out at everyone, she is kept mollified through heavy medication. She has no friends in the staff and the one friend she has among the patients has recently sewn here eye lid shut.

There's a lot of mystery just in this first bit of getting acquainted with these characters. And sometimes this reads like a paranormal story and for some it might not get to the action as quick as they desire. This is a suspense thriller that build slowly one brick at a time and it kept me interested all the way through. There may have been some predictable elements in the narrative but I think that helped the pacing of the story if anything.

There are often novels, which I've read, that resonate with me in such a way that they really touch me and this novel had several moments. There were times when the struggles and decisions of Mira seemed so real that I could cheer when it appears that Ben has somehow connected and goes way above and beyond to help her. In the same token when Ben suffers for both his past and those decisions to help that put him a odds with the system I found myself sympathizing and trying to figure out how things were ever going to work out for him.

It seem for every breakthrough in Mira's condition they run into another setback for which either one of them might be responsible and until the two researchers come into the story there seems to be little hope in a total understanding of what is going on. But, with the possibility of answers for both Mira and Ben there comes a new set of risks and dangers that begin to make everything else they have experienced so far look like a walk in the park.

I'm not sure how anyone could put this book down after starting. I want the answers to the burning questions about Mira's condition.

There were several times that I had to look up some of the stuff mentioned in Diamond Eyes and I'd say the A.A. Bell did the research necessary to bring as much realism into this novel as possible.

If you like psychological thrillers, a bit of the paranormal, and some weird time travel like stuff you'll love this book. All this, and it could very well be considered a literary masterpiece. It's well told, clear and understandable as the author builds- each step of the way- the explanation of what the Diamond Eyes mean to Mira.(To say nothing of the Poet Trees.)

Well Woven Psychological Suspense Mystery Thriller

J.L. Dobias

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review::Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K Host.


Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K Host.

I purchased this book after reading a sample of Andrea K Host's -And all the Stars-. I had already put the three books in my wish list prior to that. But after reading that sample I had a feeling I should just buy the whole and totally unrelated trilogy. I read through them in three days.

People have told me that writing in first person is hard to do. They have given various reasons why it does not work and sometimes those reasons are conflicted. Some even suggest that it's this decades fad to write in first person. Because this is written as a diary it's naturally in first person. Andrea nails first person right on the head, and right out of the box.

Cass is such an engaging character in Stray that she sucks you right into her story at the beginning. There is not doubt of Andrea's world building abilities and her strong characterization. But what really got me in this story is in the chapter February when Cass's birthday arrives. And I'm not giving anything away, other than to honestly say I was so into Cass by then that I nearly cried. It's not often a book does that.

And then there was Lab Rat One. And by now this series is peopled with a couple of handfuls of characters that you would think you'd need a score card but there are more to come and Cass has a way of making sure we don't lose track of who is who. Or maybe I should say that Andrea does.

It doesn't take long before Andrea does it to me again. Even though Cass sometimes begins to sound a bit whinny I just get so into her whole dilemma that I can't help but feel what she must be feeling.

So by Caszandra the third installment, you would think I was steeled and ready to handle it. But, Andrea through Cass has a way of now drawing you into her life and the extended family of people around her.

This series of books is one powerhouse. Well told tightly packed. Emotionally charged.

But what really got me was how it all touched me. I would need more stars if I gave a star for every time I was greatly affected by this story.

J.L. Dobias

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

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.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review::The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster

The Human BlendThe Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The Human Blend (Tipping Point Trilogy) by Alan Dean Foster

I don't have much in my collection from Alan Dean Foster and that's all pretty ancient. So I thought I'd try this one out and see how his writing has improved. The premise is pretty good and the first chapter kept my interest; but then something happened and it might be related somehow to the fact that the author has quite a few film adaptations to his credit.

The story starts out with two melds, Jimney and Whispr, as they roll another meld for his parts, or at least his advanced hand. Jimney is employing a device that stops the man’s melded heart and his intent seems to include knowledge that this will kill the victim. Later Whispr makes a statement that either sounds like he didn't know all of that or he's trying to downplay what really went down. The bottom line is that the man has a piece of interesting tech woven into his clothing and they sign their own death warrants, when they take that. They are soon to be pursued by the police and two other shadowy agencies.

Elsewhere Dr. Ingrid Seastrom discovers a rather interesting added bit of tech in a meld done through some of the cheaper meld markets. The tech seems to be some sort of impossible metal that is quantum-ly entangled and over a period of time vanishes leaving her with no evidence. We later discover that Dr. Seastrom may have some hazy edge to her practice that borders on illicit; though possibly she has twisted moral reasoning behind what she does. This is not well defined and almost comes as a surprise although as a reader I was certain that the goal was to ultimately mix Dr. Seastrom with Whispr.

The next part of the novel is the cinematic influenced dance with death and destiny that brings Whispr through one desperate situation after another until he reaches the doorstep of the Dr Seastrom. In his wake are a number of victims who are mostly killed by way of brief association with Whispr. This part has the same feel as the movie Into the Night with Jeff Goldblum and Michele Pfeiffer. This made each meeting of Whispr with a new contact quite predictable in that the reader knows someone will soon show up and his contact would be permanently silenced. Many times the climactic scene was right while Whispr was there making the escape more thrilling. Oddly something happens, inexplicably, with the meeting with Dr. Seastrum and it takes much longer for the brute squad to catch up. By that time they have enough warning that the two have escaped.

There is a bit of haziness about why Ingrid ends up finally on the run with Whispr; though there could have been any number of fair reasons it seems mostly an almost clinical yet obsessive interest in the new technology and what it might potentially mean to her patients (yet even that is unclear). Murder and mayhem now follow at a slight bit slower pace; the possible excuse for that being that the two together make a better team against those in pursuit. In fact, it seems that that isn't so; as the reader will see that that is more of a self delusion; while coming up close on the end.

This is a serial so while the end is somewhat complete for this story the reader is left with a sense there is a lot more to come and we'll have to check those out to find the rest of the story.

This is a fair offering in the SSF department and has element familiar to steampunk (In the augmented human quantity and the sense of a dystopic future). Though I have this sense that this novel could be compacted by removing some of the excess cinematic specials, there is something to saying that it would then deprive the reader of some of the basic journey to get to the point.

J.L. Dobias




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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review::Garden of Iden (A Novel of the Company) by Kage Baker

In the Garden of Iden (The Company, #1)In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Garden of Iden (A Novel of the Company) by Kage Baker

I had not previously heard of Kage Baker and was just a bit skeptical about this book but I have read Connie Willis's To say nothing of the dog and after reading the sample of this book decided it was worth the try. I'm delighted that I did because not only does she have the fresh humor that Connie Willis demonstrates, she also has a depth of character and story that are quite compelling.

My first warning to anyone starting to read this is that it might be misleading to think that this is a futuristic time travel novel. The bulk of this novel reads more like a period piece with the incidental that time travel and future technology and immortality are integral in the event that stirs the main character into the story. Also it's a clever device that Kage Baker uses to enable her characters to think along anachronistic lines that actually make sense when you consider the whole.

To explain-in the future they develop technology to extend life-but are in a hurry to test it without having to wait the length of time it would take to verify first that it appears to work second that there are minimal side effects and third that it actually does work. But then they create time travel and have a host of common people to chose from on which to test this and if it works they just look them up in the present and test them for side effects and such. Presumably after much testing our main character, Mendoza, has the latest greatest with least amount of side effects.

Now a number of rules apply here that make the story interesting. They can't change the past-even if they try- so they don't try. They can go to the past and return to the present but can't go to the future- which means those they make immortal in the past have to stay in the past, but that's key to what they want to do anyway. So the premise is that if they find and alter people who have no visible impact on history it won't alter time and no one will know about it because those people were just common folk and there are just so many of those around that it makes no difference.--Sure there might be a hole in this somewhere in real causality but we can overlook that for now--.

These past participants are then isolated and trained to preform special tasks for the Company that will result in saving things for the Company to use in the future such as works of art that history never noted or perhaps were mysteriously lost and herbs and plants that had gone extinct and perhaps even some animals that had gone extinct. They would have to be isolated somewhere where they wouldn't be discovered until around the dawn of time travel so to speak. Mendoza is a botanist by training so is intent of getting specific things from the Garden of Iden.

These inductees are pumped full of nanites and drugs that make them immortal and it becomes questionable whether they are any longer human and their isolation makes them weary of and in many cases fearful of the apes known as man. They also have knowledge of history that extends well into the time time travel began so they have all sorts of influence from movies tapes and books that they would otherwise not know about. This leads to some interesting thoughts from Mendoza that seem anachronistic when the reader forgets that she learned all of the history and culture and literature that would give her this knowledge. So even though this takes place in mid 16th century she makes reference to things like Shakespeare and Don Quixote and more. Which means they have to be particularly careful when they are around the normal human animals.

What this story is really about is Mendoza's coming to terms with the notion that even though she is immortal she may still be human and it takes an unlikely romance with one of the human animals to bring this to her attention. Still throughout she constantly tries to deny that she might still be human. The reader on the other hand can have no doubts as they see her so easily fall sway to normal human pitfalls and prattles. Basically she's smitten and love sick. Of course since she is brought up to be areligious it makes perfect sense that she fall for a devout Protestant during a time of turmoil in England when the Catholic church and the Inquisition are going to be, for a short time persecuting Protestants and heathens. It's a tragedy in the making.

Mendoza is torn between duty to the Company and her job and her love for Nicholas and she vacillates between desire to run off with him and the knowledge that since she is immortal any such relationship would end badly. There is one particular incident when she is dancing with her beloved Nicholas that she is almost resolved to go with him when somehow her own conversation inadvertently leads to Nicholas having a logical conclusion that removes the possibility for them to run off together. Later there is a suggestion that part of the training imparted on Mendoza is full of subliminal triggers that prevent her from abandoning her work with the Company but Kage Baker's writing is so tight that even so, as a reader, I felt that it might have just been some human part of Mendoza that managed to crash things now and then.

Another clever piece of writing in the story is that we never quite cross any pivotal moments that make the history books, creating a sort of leeway for guiding the story where it needs to go.

This is a great story for people who like historical fiction and for SFF fans who are interested in immortal beings and time travel; even though it is mostly a sort of comedy tragedy about a romance between a radical Protestant and a Cyborg Atheist set in 16th century England. A great start to a series and fantastic debut novel.

J.L. Dobias



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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review::Beautiful Zurt by Jes Simon

Beautiful ZurtBeautiful Zurt by Jes Simon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Beautiful Zurt by Jes Simon

This novella is interesting; but rather frustrating. It has the earmarks of something that could have been quite good; but falls backwards, because of the general premise behind it all. I like this as a short entertaining piece of light Sci-Fi and would love to give it high marks; but there is a struggle with that. The story itself is easily discerned to be one of a re-creation of a game experience put into context of a story. It has a sort of nostalgic flare to it; but inwardly the nostalgia seems to stifle the piece. It is not easy to explain but I'll give it a try.

The first puzzle that comes and then unravels itself is the immediate strangeness of the nomenclature for the tools and other oddities found in the world. This is the first clue that this is mostly about a game (one that might exist). The player Renya Zaffor has arrived on the planet after her ship attained orbit; and was somehow trapped leaving her few options from which she somehow determines transporting down is the best option. From there she is stuck. She was drawn here by a friend, The Baron, who seems absent; leaving her as the sole occupant of the world. The Baron has left some notes pertaining to the Tools that are lying around everywhere--tools that may be assembled in various ways to make different levels of tools--none of which have much if any explanation from the Baron as to their use. The names are weird and probably not names created by the Baron; though we don't know much about him, so that assumption might be taking license with the feeling that this is a game.

Much of the first part of the book Renya is wandering around assembling tools and finding even some tools not yet in the Baron's notes while she makes her own notes; possibly for the next unfortunate who might be trapped here. Sometimes blasé about things Renya is a bit concerned about what might happen when her food supplies run short. Eventually she discovers that one common room she's been using will give her access to the language of whoever created the tools. When a new arrival appears she is able to help them learn much more quickly all that is needed only to have them zapped into some sort of creature construct.

The map of the world easily begins to read like one of those MMORPG's of today and as it turns out this, though textual rather than graphics, might be one of the earliest of multiplayer games. Knowing in advance that that is what this is might be more helpful than a spoiler so I won't count this as a spoiler. Though this mirrors the game it is real--at least to Renya and the four others involved in the story.

There is a plot of sorts in all of this, which involves mostly finding the Baron and getting off the planet. Though we learn a bit about the Baron's past we don't really get to know Renya enough to know if her actions and attitude are reasonable to the circumstances under which she finds herself. As a reader I found that, at best, I had to rely on the notion that the Baron must have expected something of this nature from her; since he lured her to be trapped with him.

This novella is an interesting story that might be more suited to those interested in MMORPG's and enjoy Sci-Fi. It's a quick light read and does contain an evenly paced story. It might be most valuable to those who have some nostalgic connection to the original game it was derived from, since it maintains the games naming conventions and some of the general map of the world.

Overall, for me, this was a good framework for a story; but it could have been fleshed out more.

J.L. Dobias



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Friday, January 30, 2015

Review:Date Night on Union Station by E.M. Foner

Date Night on Union Station (EarthCent Ambassador Book 1)Date Night on Union Station by E. M. Foner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Date Night on Union Station by E.M. Foner

Humor is subjective and I always have to keep that in mind when I read something that is billed as good comic science fiction. Maybe I'm thick and just have a problem seeing the humor. When I think of good humor in diplomacy and science fiction I always settle back into images of Keith Laumer's Retief series of books. Well move over Retief because Kelly Frank has just hit the space ways.

I really expected this to turn into a comic romance in a great hurry because the first thing we find out is that Kelly's co-workers have decided to get her a subscription to the stations dating service. But before we let things digress too much we have to stipulate that this is Union Space Station and it's owned and operated by the Stryx who have sponsored the humans in the attempt to uplift them into space. And Kelly has been installed as the acting consul or acting Ambassador for Earth. She has one major problem with most of the alien races trying to understand why she 'acting' out the part. The station has a Stryx intelligence named Gryph who controls the station and a part of that, which interfaces with Kelly, calls itself Libby although the various persona of the station like to remain separated in a sort of anonymous way.

Kelly of course is single and the agency that does the matchmaking (secretly run by Libby) is at best a dysfunctional analogue to Jane Austin's Emma. Every date for Kelly seems to double as a work assignment with little hope that she'll ever meet anyone who she might actually enjoy being with. But not to worry because her coworker Donna has two pre-teen daughters who will call her Aunt Kelly and will surely help one way or another. The girls do manage at least to make some money out of selling flowers to many of the people using the dating services.

Kelly is finding her pre paid dating service is costing her more than it's worth and would be interfering with her whole job as ambassador if it weren't for the fact that it seems to slowly be working her around to investigation into a major problem that Earth has at the moment. Being that Earth is such a primitive planet it has to rely on the trade of such quaint wares as kitchen utensils such as cork screws and can openers; but recent knockoffs produced by aliens have started to cut into profits and the poor quality is giving their trade a bad name. The Stryx rules have no prohibition to these alien counterfeiting practices so Kelly has to find a more elegant solution beyond just finding and identifying the culprits.

This is a really fun and intelligent read with the whole mess actually making a certain twisted sense as it all plays out; and Kelly's eventual solution might leave her homeless and penniless, but there is light at the end of the corridor.

As it is this is less romance and less science fiction and a great bit of tongue in cheek type humor while watching Kelly have to deal with aliens who seem to think...well, in some alien manner.

Great casual read to fill a night with elements that should satisfy the average Sci-Fi lover and some of the SFF lovers and maybe even a few of the less stringent SF lovers.

For good entertainment I recommend this and any other of Kelly's adventures. Have a fun read.

J.L. Dobias



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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review::Indigo Heartfire by Jo Marryat

Indigo Heartfire (A Heartfire Novel Book 1)Indigo Heartfire by Jo Marryat

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Indigo Heartfire by Jo Marryat

This is another to go on my love/hate list. I'm giving it high marks just so I'll feel good about telling all the things I hate along with the things I love. This is first a love story that has a fantasy element. I was hoping for a fantasy story that had a love element but six of one half a dozen of the other. It's well written; but well written doesn't always get the reader past style decisions. Of course Romance in not my usual first pick so there might be some elements of style that I'm not in tune with. Still overall I enjoyed the story and the characters. It just took a while to warm up to them.

This novel started out a bit slow for me and it became a sea of trope types quickly. I think perhaps it feels like a means of throwing the reader off trail a bit by insisting that the point of view draw all his impressions of the people he meets into his own set of recognizable tropes. Of course Robert Kirk himself is a trope of sorts. He is a man who is still grieving and has been grieving for over five years; but has decided to rejoin society and at least give the appearance of trying to move on. In the beginning he starts introducing us to various new acquaintances as french underwear, taxi thief, and harridan with a handbag. Don't worry though soon we'll get some names. As it is Robert is an osteopath and he's elected to join a holistic health practice that's filled with some quirky practitioners; through his eyes. Robert is still fraught with thoughts of his departed wife Elaine and is for the most part indifferent to relationships; though from his description of the women he meets it's apparent that he's not dead yet. The first ten percent or 27 pages of the novel are getting us acquainted with the people he'll work with and himself; but it seems that since it's through rather cynical eyes that the real introductions come much latter as some of his impressions unravel a bit to give the reader the real picture. Perhaps it those flip flop characterizations that help obscure important details.

The fantasy part of the novel hits at around 40 pages into the story when they all get together as a group and meditate; while in Roberts head we see him imagine a place on the beach with a tiny fairy that looks, in his description, like Lindsay Lohan. All of this is supposed to be in response to the guidance of the one in charge of the meditation, but as we see it from Roberts point of view he seems to imagine it before she tells everyone to imagine it. It's not difficult for the reader to see that something strange is up. The novel itself did not start taking off for me until about 70 pages into the story when Robert finally accepts that Annabelle the fairy is real. Really though to be fair this book quite good and I think a reader needs to make their own judgement. Again for me from there and for around half the book it does quite well; sometimes reminding me of the old Topper ghost stories by Thorne Smith. I could almost feature Constance Bennett as Annabelle rather than Lindsay Lohan. Like those novels and the movies this novel is filled with many light moments of humor and serendipitous circumstances. There are some serious moments and even some moments that brought tears to my eyes.

Eventually I got past Robert the snarky people-label-er and into the real tragic Robert that lay behind all of that wall of animosity that he puts between him and everything outside. It turns out that he's quite a complex and noble soul, which takes us back into the dark side of what dragged me out of the novel for a moment and that's the last quarter of the novel. The novel's ending is at about three quarters of the way through when the reader is placed on the doorstep of near future which requires some detailed explaining; and then there is a quarter devoted to explaining how things got to that place. What I'm unsure of, even scanning back through the second time, is whether I should have been able to guess those things. The clues unfold in the last quarter and they are almost like the summation at the end of a mystery where the detective unravels the mystery to the other characters. Usually those work best when the reader has mostly unraveled it just moments before the detective. Somehow the hidden clues all remained hidden-at least to me. I'm glad I forged ahead into the summation.

I was almost tempted to believe it was just me not quite catching these hints; but then I kept asking 'why' the one quarter explanation at the end; if it should be obvious. It left me thinking that the main character Robert was deliberately obfuscating a few things along the way to throw us off and perhaps does too good a job. The saving grace is that the last quarter manages to hold itself up by delivering a few more tear worthy moments even though we already know the outcome at the time. So when you read this (please do) if you do figure this out by the three quarter mark I recommend you go over the summation because it's just as well written as the rest even if I'm not fond of the style choice at this point.

This is a great read for those who like Romance and light fantasy that is written quite well and sometimes overly clever with a caution that there might be some colloquialisms that will make some people stumble a bit and even be a devilish bit difficult to track down the meaning. Good humorous fun read for all. A top notch debut novel.

Truly this is one of those books that is about the journey just as much as the destination. And it turns out that this might be more a story about Annabelle than anything else since the next installment seems to take up the story from here and into her next project.

J.L. Dobias



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