Review: Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising Book #3)

Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising, #3)Islands of Rage & Hope by John Ringo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

YES! Finally we get to a real Ringo ringer! This one was perfectly balanced in terms of action, character development, and that patented Ringo ‘Holy crap, how did you think of that! That’s so friggin’ cool’ factor. I got several ‘Hell, Yeah!’ fist pump moments in this one, and one hell of an ending!

The plot takes you from the Atlantic crossing from the Canary Islands to Gitmo. Then you have lots of different scenarios encountered during the clearance of the Windward Isles as they search for the ingredients to make vaccine for the sub sailors that are still trapped in self-imposed quarantine. The last two ‘missions’ are pretty awesome, but I won’t spoil those.

The main characters grow a lot in this one, and the Smith girls are still hyper-capable, but not as in-your-face Mary Sue as the last book. You get to meet some other folks that I found quite interesting, but I won’t spoil that for you. Hey, you even get to meet some royalty in this one!

Even the logistics portions of the book seemed to be more interesting and less info-dumpy that the last book. Probably because it’s interspersed with more action. And, thankfully, the mil-speak was much better explained in this one. I actually learned quite a bit.

I highly recommend this book, and it alone make the series worth diving into. I give it five stars and call it an Hoorah! Read.

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Review: To Sail a Darkling Sea (Black Tide Rising Book #2)

To Sail a Darkling Sea (Black Tide Rising, #2)To Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 2 of the Black Tide Rising series is the continuation of the exploits of the Wolf Squadron, a rag-tag flotilla of ships and survivors of the zombie apocalypse. John Smith and his daughters Sophia (age 15) and Faith (age 13) continue to save as many people as possible at sea while pushing forward with plans to save humanity by reclaiming the land. First, they have to perfect their techniques for moving the fleet and clearing some beachheads.

The plot of this sequel is basically the continuing story of trying to get your ducks in a row… and the ducks are drunk. The hinted at objective from book 1, reclaim Guantanamo Bay and start manufacturing a cure, is postponed due to weather (hurricane season) and is only launched on the last pages. The rest of the story is about the re-establishment of military discipline & organization, and supply lines. It’s a book about logistics. It’s interesting, but it is also NOT much of an action adventure book. Sure, there are a few zombie encounters which keep the pacing decent, but the focus is heavily on military maneuvers, the reasons for following orders, and a lot of inside jokes that you almost have to BE military to understand. I am not, so they fell on deaf ears.

I also find that the Sophia & Faith characters are annoyingly Mary Sue. It’s difficult to suspend my disbelief at times, especially when they all start talking the same. The stilted replies of “Point” (meaning ‘You have a point.’) and “Works” (meaning ‘That works.’) from different characters is standing out so much that I cringe when I see it.

I like the series. I like the premise. I even like the logistics discussions. I just hope the third book is better with more action. I give this book three stars and call it a Mediocre Read.

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2017 Year In Books (& Writing)

My 2017 book-reading summary seems a bit anemic at first glance. Only 7300 pages?!? Only 24 full length novels? Compared to 2, 3 & 4 years ago, this is less than half of my usual. Here’s the thing though…. I also PUBLISHED a novel. The read-through count during editing was at least four times. And I also wrote lots of stuff (still unpublished, but coming soon). And I read tons of stuff on the Internet in the name of research.

Before I get to the reading/reviews summary, let me tell you what I managed to WRITE.

Novels Published: 1 – eConscience Beta
Stories Accepted to be Published: 2 (19,300 words)
Short Stories Submitted: 3 (24,500 words)
Novellas Written: 1 (49,500 words)
Stories Outlined or Started: 3 (6,200 words)
Blog Posts: 31: (18,660 words)

Grand Total: 118,000 words <—that’s a novel’s worth folks!

Yeah, like I said… busy. Anyway, back to the books I READ.

I found some really good books this past year. It’s probably the best quality reading year I’ve had in quite some time. 15 books at 4 to 5 stars out of 31 is (mathing….) >48% above average. That’s really good!

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

Total books read for the year: 24 (+5 Comics & 2 Short Stories)

Total pages read for the year: 7,392

Book ratings: 8 – 5 stars, 7 – 4 stars, 15 – 3 stars, 1 – 2 stars, 1 – 1 star

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 2018!


Showcase of some of my favorites from 2017 are below…

Five Star Books

eConscience Beta by J. D. Beckwith

My Book

Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli

My Review

In Times Like These by Nathan Van Coops

My Review

The Chronothon: A Time Travel Adventure by Nathan Van Coops

My Review

Resurrection (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes #3) by Ryk Brown

My Review

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

My Review

To Build A Fire by Jack London

My Review

Four Star Books

A Place Outside The Wild (Z-Day #1) by Daniel Humphreys

My Review

A Place Called Hope (Z-Day #2) by Daniel Humphreys

My Review

Rebellion (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes #4) by Ryk Brown

My Review

Fall of the Core: Netcast 02 (The Frontiers Saga: Fall of the Core #3) by Ryk Brown

My Review

Tech World (Undying Mercenaries #3) by B.V. Larson

My Review

Machine World (Undying Mercenaries #4) by B.V. Larson

My Review

Tanager’s Fledglings (Tanager #1) by Cedar Sanderson

My Review

 

Review: Monster of the Apocalypse

Monster of the Apocalypse (Monster of the Apocalypse Saga)Monster of the Apocalypse by C. Henry Martens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book in a giveaway from the author a few years ago. The delay in finally getting around to reading it was partly because I’ve gone digital, and I only had the paperback. The relative short length of it and the tail end of 2017 rolling up with my reading goals still incomplete prompted me to pick it up. Finishing in on New Year’s Eve is quite the testament to procrastination.

I have given the book three stars, even though on a grouchier day I might have gone with only two. The uptick is because the story was told well, and the conclusion was very satisfying. It isn’t often you find an ending like this one in an apocalyptic tale. The author writes quite vividly, and you are never at a loss for immersion into the surroundings of the world. It can make for some tedium at times, especially when describing things that are only encountered in passing… but then again, so can life.

The tale itself is centered around a brother and sister duo trying to make it in the post-apocalyptic world 20 years after the vast majority of the population has been wiped out by plague. There are few people left, and fewer that are decent human beings. The detritus of a technological society is left behind for them to sift through as it slowly turns to dust. What once was plentiful is now becoming scarce, and scavenging nomads are beginning to realize that eventually, it will all be gone. A chance encounter with another wanderer brings information that few know about the fall of civilization and the true Monster of the Apocalypse. Despite some very hokey conspiracy theory stuff about why society had gotten so bad before the plagues, I still found the general premise of this scenario plausible.

I do have to put down the negatives I see in the book to explain why it was almost a two star. I see some writing foibles that I, myself, had pointed out to me in my own work. The two most obvious are the sudden shifts in point of view, and the lack of transition of topics. There were many times in the book where I was jarred completely out of the story by the sudden shift from one head to the next, or even to an omniscient view that told me something as fact, rather than showing me how it developed. A couple time, I even got lost and had to re-read sections to determine which thoughts went with which character. There was also a tendency to write short clipped sentences, and to jump from one idea to a completely unrelated one in the next paragraph without any trail out or lead in whatsoever. It’s almost like a mental non-sequitur that leaves you asking ‘woah, where did that come from?’ The last gripe I have is character behavior. I enjoyed the tale, even though some of the characters were a little too silly in the mistakes they made. I can buy clueless teenager, but if you say they aren’t in once sentence and then make them act that way in the next, I get irked. Consistency in character traits are important to me.

So, to sum up, I probably should give only two stars, but the good plot, the decent descriptiveness, and the more than satisfying ending pulled it out of the ditch at the end. I give it three stars and call it Decent Apocalyptic Read.

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Review: RIME

RIME (Kindle Single)RIME by Tim Lebbon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is a science fiction adaptation (loose) of the poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1897). If you have never read that poem, or can’t remember it if you have, then I recommend you go back and re-read it before you read this story.

I recommend you read it regardless, because it is one of the best poems I know. Grab it for Free on Amazon.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

There is a lot to unpack in this short tale. I found it likable, but with some negatives.

The favorable attitude I have toward the story is derived from what it attempted to achieve. The unfavorable attitude comes from some of the ideas posited in the ‘universe’ where it takes place.

The writing style is decent, if slightly overly dramatic. I give that a hand wave because it was trying to bring out the emotion of the poem it was modeled after. I did find myself speed reading (which for me means skipping over ‘fluffy words’) through parts of it because of this.

The Main Character (no name given, MC for short) is a member of the crew on the generation ship, Cradle. It is controlled by an A.I. of the same name. The A.I. is directly connected to minds of its ‘crew’ from shortly after their births. It is several generations since they left a dying Earth to save humanity by escorting a few million sleeping humans to another star. The crew is generational, while the passengers are Earthborn.

The story itself is the MC telling what happened to the ship and why he is the sole survivor and responsible for their deaths. This is great tie-in to the Poem, as the Ancient Mariner was also a lone survivor of a ships crew whose deaths he was responsible for causing.

I think the author did a great job of steering a story set in space and the far future in parallel to the Poem. I admire and compliment the creativity that was used. I can definitely recommend reading this one (after re-reading TRotAM). I give this 3 stars can call it a Worthwhile Read.

Now, there are some issues I have with the overall universe, which I will detail below. They are spoiler filled, however, so do not read further until you read the story itself.

Go read the story, then come back and tell me in the comments section if you agree with my assessments below. As of today (11/24/17), it is Free with Amazon Prime

==========SPOILERS AHEAD!!! READ THE STORY FIRST===========

YOU

HAVE

BEEN

WARNED!

The problem I have with this generation ship is that several thousand individuals are required to maintain the ship, but instead of rotating the crew who volunteered for the mission, they utilized a breeding community who’s descendants are born and die on board, and are forced into the roles of crew. That they blithely accept this after several generations is a flawed assumption to me. They are basically slaves to the sleeping passengers and the A.I. I think some of them would have revolted by now.

The sudden blaming of the MC for all that transpires seems unjust. In the Poem, the Ancient Mariner commits an act of malice with no reason, which results in his being blamed for events that transpire after. In Rime, the MC commits an act that, while perhaps rash, was also a result of fear at being separated from contact with Cradle and all other crew – which had never happened in his whole life – and also had been ushered into a cannon emplacement on the ship that was designed to be used in defense. The A.I. of Cradle was really at fault for this situation more so than the MC, IMHO.

Ultimately, Rime of the Ancient Mariner is interpreted as a comment on appreciating the beauty of God’s creation and prayer. This story, was more of a cautionary tale about overreacting in a violent way that could result in a tragic misunderstanding & hostility between humanity and alien beings. While I can see the difficulty in projecting the encouragement of prayer in the context of space based sci-fi, the non-violence message (in the face of a threat) seemed a bit off-putting to me. That resulted in the loss of a star in my review.

Still, this is one of the better stories I’ve read in a while, and I do recommend it.

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Review: For the Triumph of Evil

For the Triumph of Evil (The Frontiers Saga - Part 2: Rogue Castes, #6)For the Triumph of Evil by Ryk Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Despite the low rating, I still like this series. The problem with all long running series is that you always end up with some episodes that are not at the top. This is one of them for the Frontiers Saga.

The story, although well told in Ryk Brown’s usual fashion, was completely predictable. The action only happens at the last moment, and it has been all but telegraphed, with the expected outcome, since the start of the book.

The continuation of the overall story arc is only minimal, with brief appearances by the various bit characters just to let you know that they are up to something that will pay off eventually.

The main issue I had with this one was the fact that Nathan, et al, committed so much energy, and risk to achieve a very minimal goal. It was hyped as significant, but I just don’t buy it. Perhaps my disbelieve was not sufficiently suspended, but that’s how I felt reading the book.

Overall, the book is worth reading to keep up with the series, but it was sub-par for the series as a whole. I look forward to the next episode in hopes that it will be more in line with the high quality I’ve come to expect with this series.

Overall, I can only give this book 2 stars and call it a Passable Read.

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Review: A Place Called Hope

A Place Called Hope (Z-Day, #2)A Place Called Hope by Daniel Humphreys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Apocalypse starts today! Z-Day is OCTOBER 18th, 2017.

The 2nd installment of Daniel Humphreys’ Z-Day series, A Place Called Hope, is even better than than book 1! Why stop when you’re on a roll, right?

I had the privilege of being a Beta Reader for this novel (yes, that means I got it for free, but I wold have bought it anyway, even if I hadn’t). Now you can read it too!

In fact, as of right now (10/18/17), you can grab Book 1: A Place Outside the Wild, and Book 2: A Place Called Hope, on Amazon for only $0.99 each! Go get them!

The pacing of this book is amazing. It starts with the obligatory opening ass-kicking scene, of course. Next, you get the beginning of a flashback tale that begins about six months after Z-Day from the perspective of a different survivor, Sandy. He has a very unique tale, and his journey is one of metamorphosis. It is much closer to a Walking Dead, in-the-thick-of-it survival tale. It is interspersed with the main story line which is now revolving around Pete Matthews, and his friend Charley (whose special nature makes him indispensable) who tags along as they join up with the remnants of the military forces of the U.S. that are trying to reclaim America for humanity.

The new characters you get to meet in this book, mostly military personnel, are ones you will find it hard to forget. Their heroic actions and their front-line humor will also stick in your mind.

A Place Called Hope is still a zombie apocalypse novel, but it is also a military science fiction novel. In fact, it is blended so well, that I found it un-put-downable. There is also the main underlying mystery of how the plague started, and what’s going on with the zombies NOW, that make it part intrigue as well. It’s a great book, and it will leave you wanting more!

I give it 4 stars and call it a Give Me More Read!

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Review: A Place Outside The Wild

A Place Outside The WildA Place Outside The Wild by Daniel Humphreys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Place Outside The Wild is not a typical dystopian novel despite its setting – eight years post zombie apocalypse – which I think makes it a unique read in the genre. The characters are fully fleshed (no pun intended), as is the world. There are twists to the plot that grabbed me by the collar and shook the crap out of me. The biggest flaw was the slow build up to said twists. It was never boring (good suspense), but it is very light on action (after the opening grab) up to almost the 70% mark. I like the work very much, and plan to read the next in the series.

The story is centered on a small enclave of survivors who have managed to ‘wait out’ the zombie life-spans (or so they believe) and scratch out a steadily improving life post Z-day. They have their internal struggles: politics, psychological and social issues, that are all consequences of the apocalypse. The society described in this book is totally believable and will suck you into itself.

The overall plot arc of the zombies and their origins is also a major deviation from most of the stories I’ve seen. You are given hints throughout, some of which I admit I questioned as odd at first, until the final shoe drops. When it does, it’s a Bozo the Clown sized sum-bitch that will leave you gaping at the ramifications!

Now for the ‘critical’ part of my review, which I almost hate to give because I know the difficulties in writing… but I started these reviews to remind myself about my feeling on the books I read, so… here it is. I have two things that keep me from giving the book the fifth star on Goodreads. They are related to pacing and conflict resolution.

Firstly, the drawback to having many small side arcs in the novel is that while they do help build tension and give the overall world more detail, they are also a bit dull to hold onto all the way to the end. All the side arcs fed the climax. If they had been a bit more self-contained I think they would have helped the pacing, giving it more of an ebb-and-flow of action and resolution.

Secondly, the resolutions in the end felt a bit dues-ex-machina in nature. The climax of the overall plot was exciting, but the side arc resolutions were a bit of a let-down, especially when I had already felt them to be a bit slow in the first place.

I can’t explain this well without spoilers, so let me smooth out the criticisms here for anyone reading this review… these are only slight negatives. The book is still getting FOUR STARS!

If you like being immersed in a world and surprised by new concepts to an already expansive genre, then this book is one you need to read. It puts a twist to the zombie origin story that has so much potential it will stagger you. It also doesn’t drag you to the depths of despair, but shows the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable odds. Read the book. I give it four stars and call it a Great Read!

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Review: Vox Machina: Origins #1

Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1

by Matthew Colville (Writer)Matthew Mercer (Writer)Olivia Samson (Artist)Chris Northrop (Colorist)Travis Ames (Colorist)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first installment of the Vox Machina Origins Arc comic is a spot-on rendering of the characters of Vax, Vex & Keyleth in both art, dialogue, and action. The only negative is that the story is so short! I want more!!!!!!!!

Get your copy from Comixology.

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Review: The Frontier Saga: Fall of the Core: Netcast: 02

Resurrection
The Frontiers Saga: Fall of the Core: Netcast 02 by Ryk Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

This is a short/novella length read, so the blog review will be short as well.

The third installment of the Netcast shorts (which are a prequel series of The Frontiers Saga by Ryk Brown) still pulls you right back into the tale. Intrigue abounds as reporter Hanna Bohl goes back to the field to bring you all the news of the end of the world as she knows it!

The conclusion will leave you wanting more… As usual!

I give it 4 stars and call it a Gimme More! Read.

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