2018 Year In Review: Books & Writing & Dungeons & Dragons, Oh My!

Well, 2018 has certainly been a year, hasn’t it? Time to examine those accomplishments (or lack thereof) and decide what to do with the next 12 months (or not). As you can see, my motivation is at ebb tide at the moment of this missive, so maybe the act of looking back will help… let’s see…

I did manage to exceed my 2017 read count by a whole 176 pages! I was down two books though, with only 29. I do know that much reading that is not counted up includes tons of editing (re-reading), research for writing, and also research into Dungeons and Dragons rules and lore. I’m totally counting the Dungeon Masters Guide & Player’s Handbook for D&D 5th Edition this year! The D&D wiki is also a rabbit hole of infinite depth down which one should carefully tread, lest you be engulfed and never return! So, yeah, I’ll count all that as a win.

The writing has taken a backseat for a while, although I did publish my Horizon’s Unlimited Anthology. I wrote and expanded on several short stories and submitted those. One was over 22,000 words! I have not yet been able to settle into a mindset that will allow me to continue another novel. I also have picked up that new hobby that I mentioned before…

You see, early in the year… Feb/March? I decided to try my hand at being a Dungeon Master for D&D 5th Edition starter set campaign The Lost Mine of Phandelver. This RPG is supposed to be a fairly short introductory campaign to help new players and new DMs (Dungeon Masters) learn the ‘art’ of play D&D. I had played through that campaign myself as a player, so I was hoping it would prove to be an easy way to get started as the man behind the screen… Weeellll…

I have a tendency to embellish things when I think they are a bit on the boring side. My players also have this same characteristic trait. I quickly found that if I dangled a shiny side-story in front of them, they would instantly shoot off in that direction before I could comprehend what I had done to myself. This is how LMoP become a nearly year long campaign with a follow on Custom Campaign #2 to be run me in 2019.

Oh, and we’re maybe…sorta…kinda… going to try recording it an seeing if people on YouTube want to watch it. That means I now have to learn video recording & editing software, etc. I have already started this, and it will be time consuming. It is why the ‘plans’ that I mentioned back in November never really happened.

Anyway, that’s what’s up with my life and hobbies at the moment. But, let’s get back to the BOOKS!

I only had 4 books that (5 if you count my own, but I’m biased) made the 5 star cut this past year. 7 earned a 4 star ranking. There were some good comics/graphic novels in the mix as well, but I count them separately.

Here’s the breakdown for my reads & reviews this year.

Total books read for the year: 23 (+4 Comics/Graphic Novels + 2 RPG Source Books)

Total pages read for the year: 7,646

Book ratings: 5 – 5 stars, 7 – 4 stars, 11 – 3 stars, 2 – 2 stars, 1 – 1 star

Comic ratings: 1 – 5 star, 1 – 4 star, 2 – 3 stars

I would love to hear from any readers in the comments.

How many books did you read in last year? What were your favs?

Wishing you all Happy Reading for 2019!


Showcase of some of my favorites from 2018 are below…

Five Star Books

Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1
A Space Adventure Anthology
by J. D. BeckwithMy Book
Planetary: Mercury by Superversive Press (includes a short story by ME!)

My Review

A Place For War (Z-Day #3) by Daniel Humphreys

My Review

I Am Justice (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes #9) by Ryk Brown

My Review

Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising #3) by John Ringo

My Review

Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1, #2 & #3 by Matthew Colville & Matthew Mercer

No Written Review – Buy Here

Four Star Books

Planetary: Venus by Superversive Press (includes a short story by ME!)

My Review


Fade & Night’s Black Agents by Daniel Humphreys

My Review

Retaliation (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes #10) by Ryk Brown

My Review

Strands of Sorrow (Black Tide Rising #4) by John Ringo

My Review

CTRL ALT Revolt!
(Soda Pop Soldier 0.5)
by Nick ColeMy Review
Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1, #2 & #3 by Matthew Colville & Matthew Mercer

No Written Review – Buy Here

 

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Review: Freelancer (#1) by Jake Lingwall

Freelancer

Freelancer by Jake Lingwall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review is going to sound a bit critical (“surprise, surprise” says anyone who knows me and/or my reviews), but I don’t mean it be taken as a negative review. I like this book. It is a good read and I do recommend it for anyone with an appreciation of YA fiction or just fun reads. The critical part is for the character ‘as written’–which was very consistent– and a bit of the world concept.

Now, when I first started reading this I found myself being fairly critical of the writing style. It does not start out with polish and feels a bit choppy. It seems like it could be ‘first time author’ syndrome or maybe just YA style. There were also some fairly apparent editing issues that jumped out at me while in hyper-critical mode. Fortunately, I was able to push that aside (or got used to it – shrug) and continue with the book, which turned into a fairly decent read.

The plot begins in the not-so-distant future where single-day school weeks, auto-everythings, instant stuff-printers, and ubiquitous drones make the life of a teenager almost bearable. The setting is North Carolina during a time of political unrest that is about to erupt into full-fledged civil war between the coastal states and the Middle States of the U.S. The MC is a senior in high-school who just wants to finish the mandatory indoctrination called ‘school’ and continue with her clandestine preoccupation with designing and building new and wondrous technical marvels as a Freelance hacker savant. All this is a young person’s realm. I’m sure my teen-self would have loved this book very much and found nothing amiss. My much older cynical-self just chuckles at the naivete. It’s still a decent read because the characters are realistic (if naive and a bit Mary Sue… but that’s YA in a nutshell), and the plot/pacing continues to pull the reader forward into the tale.

The high moral stance of being neutral on a pending civil war in the U.S. was an odd choice. It’s a theme throughout, but only the incompetence of the antagonist & the graciousness of the ‘enemy’ allows it to exist and succeed. I think real world exigencies would not be so gentle. Still, I have to reiterate that the book is a good read and worth continuation of the series to find out what happens next. I plan to pick it up.

I give this one three stars and call it an entertaining read.

View all my reviews

Pick up a copy of Freelancer free on Amazon through K.U.


Check out my books over on Amazon.com! I currently have two published. Both are available on Kindle Unlimited, and on Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for free if you have Amazon Prime.

Peacekeeper Incorporated’s breakthrough nanotechnology could bring repeat offense crime to an end, freeing society from the need for criminal incarcerations. But first, they have to finish testing it. With funding on the line, and time to prove out the project getting short, the lead scientist must find a way speed things up. That’s unfortunate for his guinea pig, and anyone who would stand in his way.

Can the goal of ending most crime justify committing one… even a few? And what happens when you conflate altruism with egotism?

Find out in eConscience Beta, where two lab techs and an uncouth petty criminal must outwit a brilliant but sociopathic scientist who’ll stop at nothing to establish his legacy as the man who ended crime.


If Science Fiction Space Adventure is more your speed, then you should check out my anthology, Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1.

HORIZONS UNLIMITED

Matter conversion technology—Matt-Con—has broadened the scope of mankind’s existence. It has opened up the real possibility of viable colonies on other planets in our solar system, and even space itself. Anywhere matter can be captured or energy from the sun can be felt, the possibility of expanding human habitation exists.

In this volume:

Quicksilver

The space station Chariot of Helios—on its way to Mercury to become a power collection station for Earth’s growing need for energy to power matt-con tech—encounters a strange anomaly that threatens ship and crew.

Escaping Aurora

The sudden destruction of mankind’s first atmospheric terraforming platform leaves three unlucky exonauts struggling to survive in the skies of Venus aboard a cobbled-together airship. Meanwhile, the commander of the space station above battles obstacles that might keep her from rescuing her stranded husband and crew in time.

HAPPY READING!

Review: Planetary Anthology: Venus

It’s been a loooong time coming for this review. This will most likely be the last review of the year for the blog as well. I might be able to get one more in, but it’s doubtful. I’m way behind on all the things, including the prophesied ‘regular’ posts here. Oh well, I should know better than to make promises, even halfhearted ones.

Anyway, without further ado… adieu.. I do… do you? Here’s the review.

Planetary: VenusPlanetary: Venus by A.M. Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second anthology in the Planetary Series by Superversive.

Boilerplate disclaimer: Firstly, I have to state for the record that I am an author in this anthology. Secondly, I also state that the opinions expressed in this review are mine alone, and are mostly for my own remembrance of the stories. I do this with all anthologies I read (and books, too). My reviews of individual stories sometimes contain spoilers, so read them at your own risk if you have not yet read the book.

The theme of the anthology is love and the planet Venus. You get a mix of and co-mingling of those in all the stories. Some end on an emotional high, while others end on a poignant emotional low. They are a great mix of stories that are well written and showcase a mixture of styles, genres and authors. If you read it, you are bound to find at least one author you would like to read more from. I know I did.

Don’t read further if you are worried about spoilers. I try not to, but it is difficult with short stories. Plus, this is intended for me to remember with, and other interested parties to compare notes.

Just Look, I’ll Be There by A. M. Freeman

A very retro romance feeling story of young man who’s passions drive him to make his own way in the universe until he eventually realizes he’s left the true passion of the love of his life back home.

I will describe this one as quaint, well written, but not my taste in genre. It brings to my mind adjectives like ‘sappy’ and ‘gooey,’ so if you like that, then you will appreciate this short tale of love and heroism.

Morning And Evening Star by David Hallquist

A prosperous man tries to provide the greatest treasure to his new bride that he possibly can… a palace in the skies of Venus. What he fails to realize is that she wants him more than any treasure.

The story has a futuristic Great Gatsby feel to it. Fatalistic but determined (if I remember that book right… it’s what came to my mind at any rate). Again, not a genre I appreciate overmuch. The story is a short read that brings a lot of character development quickly. You know who these people are at the end which is quite an accomplishment in such a short form. Impressive storytelling.

Ninety Seconds by Bokerah Brumley

An adrenaline junky, who makes his living by showing his extreme sports activities, heads to Venus to film a space-dive from above the planet. There he finds something even more thrilling than anything he’s experienced before.

This one is hard to talk about without spoilers. It is a well-woven tale that pulled in the sci-fi fan in me with its fantastic futuristic descriptions of places high in the sky, then hooked me firmly in place with a gripping story of a young man who falls from a force more powerful than gravity. I don’t read romance as a general rule, but this story is amazing. It brought a sparkle of teary-eyed happiness to an old curmudgeon’s day! Read this one even if you skip everything else!

The Wrong Venus by Lou Antonelli

A master criminal is more well-known for his ability to escape from jail than for the crimes he committed to get there. It’s almost as if he is the luckiest person in the solar system… or knows something everyone else doesn’t.

Also hard to avoid spoiling, this tale takes an odd direction early on. It is quick, well written, and NOT about Venus. That’s all I’ll say. It’s great! Go read it!

Enemy Beloved by Monalisa Foster

The title kind of says it all for this story.
I want to discuss this one, but I can’t without spoiling the plot, so skip the next paragraph if you don’t want spoilers. If you do, highlight it to see the text.

<start spoiler text>On a Venus in the far past or far future, a young woman finds a survivor of a crashed spacecraft. She helps him to heal and only finds out the truth of his origin after she is enamored with him, and he with her. But their people are enemies, and his are determined to destroy hers, their former masters, just as they have throughout the galaxy. Her choice is impossible… her people… or her lover. </end spoiler text>

Now, anyone left of a Stepford Wife will probably at least go ‘hmmm’ at some of the scenes in this story… unless you read a lot of books with Fabio on the cover… in which case you might go ‘ooohh’ instead. It’s racy romance of a ‘man takes the woman’ variety that would make a #metoo-er clutch pearls and seek a safe-space. It’s also a really good story. It’s not my flavor, but it it’s well written and the emotions of the characters come through loud and clear! If you are a feminist, you probably didn’t make it this far into the book anyway, but if you plan to skim… skip it. If you like steamy romance, it should be right up your alley!

Texente Tela Veneris by Edward Willett

A husband and wife who probably should never have been together find a second chance at happiness on a remote Grecian island through the power of Venus the Weaver… but not how you might think.

A quick, fun, if predictable tale that blends modern society with ancient Greek legend. It has a Fantasy Island vibe to it to me. Nicely written.

The Happiest Place On Earth by Misha Burnett

Animatronic advances lead to sentient A.I.’s that survive the plague apocalypse. They have no purpose without people, though, until the last one shows up at their gates.

This story is both good and horrible. Good and horrible… is that a thing? This seems to be a pattern in stories written by Misha Burnett. It is a dark story of the future (reminded me of the little boy in A.I. sitting on the bottom of the ocean) in which robots made to bring joy and happiness, are left with purposelessness after societies fall. It is also very poignant at its end, which I won’t give away. I do recommend you read it. I found it cathartic.

Love Boat To Venus by Declan Finn

Something about mercenary ninjas giving marital (not martial.. although the two are often conflated) advice to another young couple of mercenary ninjas as they take out a team of assassins on a space ship. It was over before it started. I was confused. Didn’t like it enough to go back and figure it out. Different boats for different floaters and all that.

Venus Times Three by Margot St. Aubin

Two brothers from a family of lawyers head to Mars to settle the estate of a avariciously wealthy client and family friend; the stakes of which involved the ownership of Venus itself. Who will inherit? What is the ‘special nature’ of an unknown beauty who holds part of the will itself. Even murdering heirs seems to be on the table.

This on is a great mystery woven with detail. It seemed like the opening of a novel, but does have an ending. It was definitely caught up in it. I recommend it.

Avalon by Dawn Witzke

Prince Arthur and Merlin leave their home planet of Dora 5 and head to Venus to attend Avalon College. Merlin has hopes to become a person in his own right instead of just the sidekick of the Prince. Then he meets the Lady of the Lake… or the refugee in the aquarium on the Avalon Space Station.

A neat twist to the Arthurian Legend. A cute short tale that seems to be the opening of a larger tale… one I would not mind reading, actually.

The Rituals of Venus by Joshua M. Young

Both a sequel and a prequel to The Haunted Mines of Mercury, this tale is one of heroism, love, and faith. A man who happens to find a beautiful woman about to be sacrificed by cultists interferes. The resulting time trying to survive brings them to the point of love, but tragedy is not far behind.
I sincerely hope that Joshua Young finishes this series. It has a deeper meaning and is also a well written and exciting action adventure tale. Go read the first one in the Mercury Anthology if you haven’t already. You should probably read it first because even though this one could be a stand-alone story, the first one provides some context to things referenced here. A top notch tale!

First Cat In Space by Dana Bell

A boy and his cat share a harrowing adventure on a trip to Venus.
Super short, and awesome. And cats!

Venus Felix by W. J. Hayes

A detective for hire is caught in the middle of a setup to steal a sensitive message being delivered by a personal courier service. The courier is a woman who is much more than she seems… and so is the setup.

This one is a fun, fast-paced story of interplanetary intrigue and humor in old gumshoe pulp detective story style. I enjoyed it even if I was able to predict the plot.

The Rocket Raising by Frederic Himebaugh

An Amish space colony is called upon to send genetically compatible young men and women to another colony far away. Those selected must choose to answer the call if it is God’s will, leaving everyone and everything they know behind, or refuse and pass the burden on to another. One young woman must also abandon a hoped for betrothed in the process… but how can she choose?

A great tale with some insight into the Amish way of life and thinking. (Accurate? I don’t know.) I really enjoyed this one. It’s the second ‘Amish Sci-Fi’ tale I’ve read and been surprised by.

Star-Crossed by Julie Frost

A werewolf detective sets out on a mission to help a vampire avenge the death of her lover from a rival vampiric clan, but things get… complicated.

An intriguing story from an intriguing world where vampires, werewolves, and who knows what are a real thing that the world deals with on the day-to-day.

Honeymoon in Fairyland by L. Jagi Lamplighter

This tale from the Prospero’s Daughter universe (I think that’s right.) high-lights the issues with being married to an elf, especially one with power and influence. Despite promises, becoming involved in even the smallest of details of the Gods is often much more complex than mortals can handle… especially when you are on your honeymoon.

I find the stories in this series to be quite enjoyable. The one from the Mercury anthology was, to me, the best in the collection. This one is also quite entertaining.

Thirty-Seven Shades of Yellow by J.D. Beckwith <– Yep, this one is mine 🙂

You might not think anyone who keeps repeatedly stating that ‘romance is not my genre’ would actually write a romantic tale. Au contraire, mon frere… that French talk right there… I wrote an action story about planetary colonization with a love interest twist to it… because Venus. I hope you enjoy it!

The Fox’s Fire by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

The Fox Spirit, Ryoko, is lured to primitive America by Coyote, the Trickster God. There she sees a Native American man, and—as is the way with spirits—falls madly in love with him at first sight… just as Coyote hoped.

A nice folklore type tale. I was a bit confused at the start, having never heard of the fox spirit and its powers before. Once I caught on, the story unfolded in a way that kept me interested in the outcome. It is over-verbose at the start, but that fades into the background once the setting and plot is in full swing.

Smiley The Robot by Amy Sterling Casil

A woman of extended years has lived alone for a very long time. Her only company is a robot police officer, Smiley, who visits on Tuesdays.
This story is a tie for ‘Best In Book’ for me. It pulled my heartstrings and made me wish my grandmother was still around so that I could give her a big ole hug! Read it, and keep a tissue handy!

Stones In High Places by Jane Lebak

The long lived Venusians have grown complacent, letting robotics handle all their needs. So much so, that they can no longer innovate. When the twin planet to their own is threatened by a rogue planetoid, they are left with a hard choice.

This is a great conjecture story of ‘what might have happened’ in our planet’s past. It posits that even in alien cultures, the greatest love is self-sacrifice. It was a great ending to a great series of stories.

Now for a little self-plugging. Check out the books I’ve published!

If you like intrigue mixed with humor, get my technothriller, eConscience Beta on Amazon.

But, if Science Fiction Space Adventure is more your speed, then you should check out my anthology, Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1.

Happy Reading!