Review: Star Realms: Rescue Run

32980868[1]Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Jon Del Arroz brings life and depth to two of the main factions of the world of the Star Realms deck building card game. He creates a backstory for the corporation centered Trade Federation and the militaristic Star Empire that draws you immediately into the lives of the main characters. It is not your typical shoot-em-up or space battle Military Sci-Fi, but is instead focused on intrigue and espionage. The world building is excellent, and the characters’ depths grows considerably as the story progresses.

The ‘sciencey’ stuff is cool too! Ocular implants, advance Artificial Intelligence, body mods, multi-level mega-structures extending from planet to orbit. Cool stuffs!

There is a very distinct romance arc to the story as well. Unfortunately, this is the main reasons I can’t give the fourth star on Goodreads. I don’t mind romance being a secondary arc, but this one puts it too much in the forefront for me. I also can’t abide ‘love at first sight’, ‘teen angst’, and ‘it makes me stupid’ romance either. That’s not my genre, so having to deal with it here was a bit sigh-inducing. The characters aren’t teens either, which made it worse. YMMV though, so if you like that sort of thing, you can definitely get it here.

All in all, I give this one 3.5 stars and call it just a plain old Fun Read!

 

It should also be noted that this book is now one of the 2017 Dragon Award Nominees (Best Military Science Fiction).

The voting is open to anyone. If you’ve read any of the authors here, you should go register to vote and show your appreciation. You can even grab a nominee or two and read up before the end of the month if you haven’t read anyone on the list yet.

 

 

 

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Review: Balance

Balance by Ryk Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Balance is a decent continuation of The Frontiers Saga Rogue Castes, but it is what I would call a ‘filler novel’. Sure, parts of it were necessary because they build the story up and introduce some new characters.

Unfortunately, it’s a slow read for the most part. The ending is great, which is typical of these books; however, the plot suffered from a bit too much foreshadowing, and a lot of extraneous information was dumped in regarding the details of how to program some of the tech. The entire trip to Earth could have been done much easier and without all the boring details of the trip. All of that just served to make the book tedious and longer that it had to be. Honesty, I think it could have been compacted with whatever is coming next to make a much more exciting read out of it.

There are some new characters that are introduced, and some expanded, that I just do not care about yet. Maybe they will be important later, but right now they are boring to watch. On the other hand, some of the newest were boring to start with, but ended up being kind of cool at the end.

It’s hard to write hit after hit, and this series has had it’s share, so one that’s not a chart topper is not going to make me stop reading the it by any stretch. So, I will give this one a 3 star rating and call it an Average Read. I look forward to the next one in the series.

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Review: A State of Disobedience

This is an older review (pre-blog) that I’m posting here because the book is currently available for FREE on Amazon. Go get a copy!

A State of Disobedience
A State of Disobedience by Tom Kratman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The amount of Awesome in this book is incalculable! If you are liberal in any way, do not read this book! Seriously, you might have convulsions, so don’t do it! If you are a conservative, read it and behold the awesome!

This is not one of my usual Sci-Fi books, but I chose it because I had read Kratman’s collaborations with John Ringo (Posleen Universe) in the Military Sci-Fi vein. This one is not exactly a Mil Sci-Fi, but more a Political Sci-Fi with Miltary involvement. The story is about the next civil war, if you want to call it that, beginning in the state of Texas when the power mongering POTUS sends the FBI (and the new Surgeon General’s Riot Control Police) to stomp on some abortion protestors. Things go way wrong, way fast, and the resulting tragedy is more that the Governor can stand. The story then begins to illustrate how things have gotten to the point of insanity, how the scenario could play out, and how, just maybe, the federal government could be brought back under control.

I absolutely loved every minute of this read, and would love to see more like it. I give it 5 stars and the call it a Super Awesome Kick-Ass Read!

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Review: StoryHack Action Adventure, Issue 0

StoryHack Action Adventure, Issue 0
StoryHack Action Adventure, Issue 0 by Bryce Beattie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this intro issue up just to see what it might be about, and the quality of the works chosen. This lower rating on this review isn’t necessarily fair because it is based on a faulty expectation on my part, but since I do these on Goodreads mainly as a reminder to ME of what I liked/disliked about the book/magazine/story, I have to give it anyway.

My biggest problem with it was not really the writing itself, but the sub-genre choices. I can’t say that anything in it stood out as a really great story, but they were all interesting in one way or another. The theme of the magazine is ‘Action & Adventure’, but I found that it leaned a bit heavily toward fantasy (magic) and the supernatural. That’s not bad, but it was not what I was expecting to read in it. They all fit the larger envelope, yes, but I want some sci-fi too. Robots or aliens or time travel, or maybe even dinosaurs would have helped. Thriller/spy stuff would have been a boost, too. Unfortunately, it’s just not in here.

Below are my reviews for the stories themselves:

A Tiger in the Garden” by Alexandru Constantin (2 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A disgraced and exiled noble, stripped of his status, spends his days drinking and whoring in the exotic jungle colonies. When pressed to pay his debts he gets entangled in a deadly plot involving deceit, murder, and the dark magic of the deep jungle.

I didn’t care for this one much. It took an unexpected twist at the end that seemed sudden and basically changed the sub-genre from pirate adventure to paranormal.

The Monster Without” by Julie Frost (2.5 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A werewolf private eye with serious save-the-damsel issues is on the hunt for the killer of a teenage girl. When a woman hires him to protect her from her abusive boyfriend, the cases collide in a way that may cost him his sanity-if not his life.

Urban fantasy/supernatural/noir combo that seemed like something I’ve read or seen before. Not bad, but I don’t like the supernatural stuff.

Hal Turk and the Lost City of the Maya” by David Boop (3 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A Texan bounty hunter has chased a criminal through Mexico and into Guatemala. Can he survive when he and his quarry fall captive to a bloodthirsty, long-forgotten ancient civilization?

Entertaining, but the main is a bit of a Mary Sue.

King of Spades” by David J. West (3 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: What happens when the dead come back to haunt us? General Joab has to find a way to free his king from the rising specter of a long thought dead Goliath.

I was very interested in this story from the start, as I have not seen many alternate takes on Biblical history like this. Unfortunately, once the source of the trouble was revealed, I was back to the ‘I really don’t like paranormal so much’ point again. I would have probably been able to suspend that, but the ending fell flat for me. I don’t see historic David reacting that way, so I just ended up thinking…’meh’.

“Desert Hunt” by Jon Mollison (4 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: The first steps in Karl Barber’s hunt for the leaders of a human trafficking ring land him in the ancient city of Cairo. His investigation takes an unexpected turn when the fate of a single girl compels him to strike before he’s ready.

Good, but too short. I wanted more. This is the type of story I was expecting in the magazine.

The Chronicle of the Dark Nimbus” by Keith West (3 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A cursed prince, is living in exile with his squire until the curse can be broken. They have been sent by their royal sorcerer to protect a thaumaturgist from assassination.

This one was a good action story in the fantasy genre. It starts in the middle and ends in the middle of an overarching tale that you don’t get to know about though. It felt like a chapter in an adventure novel.

Menagerie” by Steve Dubois (1 star)

Summary from Goodreads: In the Victorian era, a teenage countess and her motley band encounter a plot to restore the Confederate States of America.

The League of Extrodinary Goofballs outsmarts them dumb ole Rebels that just don’t know when to pick their own stinkin’ cotton. This one is clichéd as hell. It has a few funny moments, but not enough to save it from the awful plot.

Daughter of Heaven” by Shannon Connor Winward (4.5 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A dealer of ancient artifacts flies to Mars to identify a particularly interesting piece. Can he survive when he triggers the fulfillment of a world-destroying prophecy?

Best story in the set just from sheer scope. Great imagery, and a very nice imagining of a universal scale calamity.

Dead Last” by Jay Barnson (3.5 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A junior-level agent for a modern-day magical cabal on embarks on his first field assignment. When a necromancer turns his contacts into gun-toting zombies, he must use every bit of his wits, talents, and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor to survive.

This is a better than average story due to some neat ‘tricks’ of the characters. Still, it is paranormal/magic kind of stuff which is not what I was wanting to read in this magazine.

So, maybe my expectations were off. Could it be that my mental taste buds were expecting savory and got sweet? Possibly. The stories were well written, just not my cup of tea. Unfortunately, the average comes out just under 3 stars. I’ll be generous and round up. Maybe the next issue will be better. I’d probably give it a shot. So, this one gets 3 stars and I call it a Variable Read.

If you want to give this one a try yourself, you can sign up for the newsletter and received a free copy at www.storyhack.com.

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Review: Tanager’s Fledglings

Tanager's Fledglings
Tanager’s Fledglings by Cedar Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This exciting coming of age tale among the stars really explores what it’s like to be an introvert that still needs people. Jem is a young man whose adopted patron has left him with a good education, a well founded route through the inhabited start systems in which to ply his trade, and a trading ship – the Scarlet Tanager – to do it in… if he can keep it.

The story is fun and engaging. You discover the star lanes, stations, and hazards of space travel as the main character experiences his first solo journey as a full-fledged ships captain… complete with dangers and decisions that he’s never had to make before. Despite a somewhat sedate pacing at first, with a good bit of youthful angst mixed in, you will definitely be pulled into the action as Jem is pulled into the happenings surrounding his various ports of call. From space mine rescues, to battling bureaucrats, to repelling boarders, when the other shoe drops, you soon find that Captain Jem, despite his self-doubts, is quite the man of action… ‘when needs must’. But he still has time for taking care of puppies!

There is also a very deep intrigue afoot in the galaxy, which reveals itself, along with a character from a prequel. I read the prequel first (which I liked very much), and after due consideration, I recommend that order. You could read it after without a problem, but I think my knowing something ahead of time made this book feel a bit more exciting as it was revealed to the characters. But, hey, YMMV. Discovering the history of one of the main characters after reading this might be right up someone’s alley!

Only two small complaints kept me from giving five stars here. First, in several places I saw a tendency to split phrases at points more indicative of verbal conversation. Unfortunately, they were not good, as I sometimes lost track of the subject, for reading through. (<– like that but maybe not quite so exaggerated). It threw me off my reading stride because I like to make sure I get the ‘tone’ of what I’m reading correct. When I fail, I have to go back and ‘try again’… and I hate do-overs! 🙂 Secondly, I did feel like the ending was somewhat abrupt. Not horribly so, but there is a lot of build up of the unknown outcome of Jem’s continued Captaincy after he completes his first trade circuit, but at the end it is given a quick-pass explanation which was I expecting to be more… IDK, just more. Then again, to paraphrase something I read in this novel… Since I’m not perfect, “I cannot be the bottleneck through which everything has to pass.” because “There’s another name for that.”
You should definitely judge for yourself, because the book is really good.

To conclude, the lead-up to a sequel is excellent, and I look forward to picking it up. I give this novel four starts and call it a Fully Fledged Adventurous Read!

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Review: Machine World

Machine World
Machine World by B.V. Larson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever known an intelligent person who routinely made stupid decisions because it seemed as if actually trying to think was painful to them? Meet James McGill, one of the smartest dumb-asses you’ll ever run across in science fiction. He’s just in the Earth Mercenary Corp because everyone has to have a job, and it might as well be this one. Despite the fact that he’s a voluntary soldier, he really hates taking orders that he finds to be stupid, which are most of them. That always gets him into trouble with almost every side of every situation he encounters… which of course means he up for promotion!

There are flaws in this book. I don’t care about them. It was fun to read, just like the others have been. There is just the right amount of intrigue mixed with ass-kickery to satisfy. The only slow parts (to me at least) were the agonizing self-manufactured woman troubles that McGill allows to happen.

The flaws that I chose to ignore are mostly the characters decision making processes. As soon as you think you know how McGill will react, nope… he does something else. He’s tends to be overly forgiving of some pretty hellish grievances from others, and he is lucky almost to a Mary-Sue fault.
The major flaw in this book which cost it the 5th star from me is the fact that two of the main antagonists were known to be in collusion by McGill at about 2/3 through the book, but at the very end it was stated that he only suspected it. This was an editorial mistake, but it was very glaring, because many of McGill’s decisions were based off that collusion being a fact, not a suspicion.

Still, I don’t want to just talk about the flaws. The action and world building were detailed without getting overly bogged down. The galactic, as well as human, political intrigue is still intense, and widening. The series is definitely going places, and intend to keep following it.

I give this book four stars and call it a Just Shut-Up and Enjoy The Ride Read.
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Review: The Whisperer in Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness
The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was in my daily search of the internet for meaningless things, many of which connect unerringly to even more meaningless things – that is to say additional meaningless things rather than things that have even less meaning (although that too is potentially an outcome) that I happened across this short tome of bush-beating horror. Having read previous Lovecraftian lore, and realizing that this should be a somewhat simple endeavor, being only slightly over sixteen thousand words, I began to read. The tale of creeptastical fantasy and lore ever so slowly unwound with the typical style.

Herewith is an example of said style.

The story of which you are about to read is a scary one in which horrendously putridienous things occur. You will no doubt find them difficult to believe. If I had not been witness to them myself, I would hardly believe them either, but I assure you they are completely true; although I no longer have any evidence of their veracity, and find myself on the verge of insanity from just trying to get started telling you this story in a very long and meandering sentence. But first, you must look at this bush. It may seem to be an ordinary bush, and quite possibly it is, but it might not be, so pay close attention while I beat around its edges to make sure. I assure you that by doing so, I will extend the anticipation and sense of impending doom to a level that makes the really bad scary thing seem that much more so in the end.

Boo.

End style sample:

And there you have it. Lovecraftian horror at it’s core.

Oh, the story was pretty good. The narrator was an idiot who couldn’t resist the lure of the fantastical and almost ended up in a bad way. It’s not that long, so if you like Lovecraft, go read it. It’s free.

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/t…

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Review: The Chronothon: A Time Travel Adventure

The Chronothon: A Time Travel Adventure
The Chronothon: A Time Travel Adventure by Nathan Van Coops

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is non-stop action adventure from start to finish. It’s a well written stand-alone sequel that grabs you and won’t let go. I’ve read lots of cool and interesting time-travel sci-fi books, but this is one of THE BEST action adventure based stories that I can remember. It honestly ranks right up there with Dinosaur Beach by Keith Laumer to me.

In this sequel, the author doesn’t spend a lot of time rehashing the tech, or the ‘how we got to this point in the story’. If you want that, go read the first book in the series before you read this one. It’s great too, so it won’t be a waste of your time. You can jump straight in to this one though without much of an info lag. There are only about four main characters that are transferred from book one that you need to know about: the protagonist, Ben Travers; Mym Quickly, his burgeoning love interest; her father, Dr. Harold Quickly – the inventor of time travel; and their friend Abe, the former watchmaker who now makes their chronometers. These are expanded upon, but all others are new introductions.

The story itself is about the still newbie time traveler, Ben, getting unwittingly caught up in the machinations of a Time Mobster that forces him to participate in the Chronothon… a time race. The action, one it gets rolling, does not stop. If you are an impatient reader, you will not even sigh once the race starts. The action is fast paced, dangerous, paradoxical, and often humorous.

If action adventure, intrigue and sci-fi are your thing, then you should definitely read this book. And go back and get the first one if you haven’t read it. I’m eagerly moving on to the third in the series. I give this book five stars and call it a Fantastic Read!

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Review: In Times Like These

In Times Like These
In Times Like These by Nathan Van Coops

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I really enjoyed this book! It’s a well thought out time travel concept. It has great characterization. The story is always on the move… sometimes so fast you have to pay very close attention to keep up! I loved it.

So, what would you do if you were accidentally zapped backward in time? 2009 to 1986 is definitely a culture shock experience for a group of four twenty-something Saint Petersburg, Florida residents who find themselves in exactly that situation. Luckily for them, time travel is actually a fairly common thing. Not so lucky for them, it’s also dangerous as hell! Especially when you have to learn things the hard way because of a serial killer who also tagged along for the time-ride!

The writing style of this novel did give me a bit of heartburn at first, being written in first person present tense. You wouldn’t think tense would matter in a time travel book, would you? It took me a while to shake that off and get into the story. Luckily, the story was engrossing enough for me to ‘get used to it’. The characters developed quickly, and I soon found myself truly concerned with their plight.

I can highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys time travel novels. It’s one of the better ones! I give it 5 stars and call it a Fantastic Read.

What’s really awesome is that it’s Book 1 of 3 (so far?).

If you would like to read it, as of the posting time of this blog post is is FREE on Amazon.

Now… On to the Sequel! The Chronothon

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Review: Tech World

Tech World
Tech World by B.V. Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series just gets better and better. Somehow, the main character continues to screw up so bad the he can’t help but be promoted in rank and influence to cover it up. He invariably gets involved in the most convoluted schemes. Whether it’s his big mouth, his lack of caution, his inability to control his libido, or just his innate sense of right and wrong, he always manages to find the worst possible circumstances to be in. But, with that same set of… skills?… he always manages to get out of them too. I’m starting to get a very Slippery Jim DeGriz or Retief vibe from the character of James Magill.

In this installment, Legion Varus is sent off to play guard duty on a space station orbiting a world full of greedy Tau just to get them out of the way while all the other Legions are folded into the Earth Hegemony. Unfortunately, an even more greedy Legion Germanica officer causes a full scale revolt to break out, with James Magill and Varus caught right in the middle. And to top it all off, a very powerful ship shows up as a looming threat on the edges of the Tau system.

This book was a definite page-turner for me. It was one of those I didn’t want to put down, and cost me a few hours of sleep because of that. It’s action packed, intrigue filled, and downright facepalm funny in places. I’m looking forward to the next installment of the Undying Mercenaries. I give this one 4 stars and call it an Awesome Read.

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