Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Demon Rolmar by A.V. Griffin

Description:  Rolmar is a heartless, misanthropic demon who serves as one of the three overlords of Pentar, a planet in the Amenis dimension. When Rolmar’s brethren bestow upon him the illustrious task of destroying Earth, his growing curiosity of humans adds a momentary pause to his original plan. Still intent on annihilating Earth, Rolmar extends his stay in order to discover what makes humanity unique. 

However, when Adam, a quirky college student, crosses paths with the all-powerful demon, one fateful night will change his life forever. Haunted by nightmares of his mind-blowing encounter, Adam can’t return to his normal life. His only path to solace is attempting to convince the demon that Earth is worth saving. With the fate of the world on their shoulders, will Adam and his friends be able to convince Rolmar that they and all of mankind should be spared?

Review 4 of 5 Stars

I received a request from the author to read this story and I have to say that The Demon Rolmar by A.V. Griffin was such a fun read.  It was not at all what I expected from the description when I sat down to read it.

Now you may be thinking that me saying that means the description doesn't really give a good idea of the story and yet it does.  It does not, however, prepare you for a story that doesn't take itself too seriously and is great fun to read.  It was clever, fun, well executed and I really enjoyed watching the demon's character progress through the story.  The writing was tight and I didn't notice any of the copy editing errors you see in a lot of independent work.

I liked the care taken to show us the demon's home world Pentar as well as some of the nifty tricks employed by the Pentarians and took it into the realm of science fiction rather than just a fantasy story.  I don't want to give away too much, because some of what was so enjoyable are the unexpected mischievous things and I really don't want to spoil those.  I will say it made me chuckle on more than one occasion.

This isn't a very long story (I read it in an evening), but the characters were vivid, it was a good story overall and I really liked it.  I think the end wrapped up a little too neatly, but I wasn't necessarily disappointed in the ending either.  So there you have it.  If you enjoy a little science fiction with your fantasy and want a chance to chuckle a few times along the way this might be just the story for you.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Review & Author Q&A for Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti

Would you go to a planet that has never known war, hunger, or even a single murder? 

This daring new novel explores the difficulties of space travel, planetary colonization, and the loss of friends, family, and identity due to time dilation and the distance between stars.
Humans established a utopian colony on Kipos, an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sol twin. Unfortunately, the birth rate continues to plummet and without an influx of human DNA, Kipos has eleven generations before it reaches failure. With Earth over ninety light-years away, time is short.

On the over-crowded Earth, many see opportunity in Kipos's need. After medical, intelligence, and physiological testing, Abby and her younger siblings, Jin and Orchid, are offered transportation. Along with 750,000 other strong young immigrants, they leave the safety of their family with the expectation of good jobs and the opportunity for higher education.

While these second-generation colonists travel to the new planet in stasis, the Kiposi, terrified that Earthlings will taint their paradise, pass a series of indenture and adoption laws in order to assimilate the savages.

When Abby wakes up on Kipos, Jin cannot be found. Orchid is ripped from her arms as Abby is sold to a dull-eyed man with a sterilized wife. Indentured to breed, she is drugged and systematically coerced. To survive, Abby learns the differences in culture and language using the only thing that is truly hers on this new world: her analytical mind. Haunted by the agony of her loss, but determined to make a better life for herself, she joins a planetary survey team where she will discover yet another way of life.

Review 4 of 5 Stars

The difference between a good book and a mediocre or awful book is the amount of time that seems to be involved. A great book will fly by until you find yourself at the last page not wanting to read the last paragraph because it will be over. Last week I read one that I had to struggle to finish. Fortunately, a good book much like a cold beer on a hot summer day will find you at the end of it surprised that you are already done and that's how this book was. I will freely admit that Other Systems isn't a love it so much I'll read it over and over yearly book; however it is a good book that covers some disturbing subjects.

I received a request to read this book and participate in a blog tour for it, but to be clear I don’t receive any compensation for anything I write here. Since I found it to be a good read I'm going to give the lady her due and hook the links up on the right in my links list so you fine people can find it without too much trouble.

As far as I'm concerned what's listed in the official synopsis doesn't quite give the flavor of the book. In my opinion what the synopsis describes is the actual build up for where the story really begins, the background if you will.  For me the action part of the story really began at the last line of the synopsis where she joins the planetary survey team.

I have no idea at this point why the author chose to begin this story in quite the way she did, but maybe we'll find out. As part of the blog tour there will also be a Q&A section following the review when I publish it on July 6th as part of the tour, but I haven't done that part yet.  Today is June 19th and I'm writing while it is fresh. Today, having just finished the book I have no idea why she went the way she did with the story, but in the end I would have to say it worked out fine. It is not only a story about awakening to a similar yet divergent culture where it seems things have gone terribly wrong, but a coming of age story for Abby who becomes an explorer of both the universe and who she wants to be.  It's a story about how families are not only born, but made from the friends we collect and keep throughout the journey of life.

Some of the beginning is pretty dark. That it is dark didn't bother me at all. As it turned out to be partially a story about coming of age and acceptance that was done pretty well while out exploring alien landscapes and a different culture, in some ways I kind of think it is a shame that it's not a book I would be able to share with too young of an audience due to some of the subject matter. Nevertheless, it was a good read.  I truly enjoyed the story of Abby's rise out of servitude and adventurous explorations to strange new planets with the survey team. It flowed smoothly and the story kept my interest enough to leave me wondering about it when I wasn't reading. The characters had depth and were believable. If you're looking for a good story and have a bit of free time you might want to give it a try.


TJ:  I really enjoyed reading Other Systems. Thank you for agreeing to do a Q&A session to go along with the book review. I saw in your bio that prior to being an author you were an artist with tons of paintings who did some work on graphic novels and a comic book series.  What made you decide to go more to the printed format as opposed to graphic novels and comics?

Elizabeth:  I still do artwork and comics. I did the illustrations and cover design for Other Systems. The 4th episode in the comic book series Out for Souls&Cookies comes out in October of this year. (It’s going to be the Christmas Special, because every comic about demon dogs needs a Christmas Special.)  My next graphic novel Unintentional Colonists will be coming out in Spring 2015. It is another hard science fiction story dealing with emotional themes so fans of Other Systems probably will really like it.
The reason why Other Systems is a written novel versus a graphic novel is when the story hit me, I saw the vision of a written novel in my head.  As soon as I know a story, I know what it is going to be.

TJ:  The beginning of Other Systems is pretty dark and Abby has to deal with some pretty horrific things being done to her.  This is definitely not a young adult book, but in many ways this books seems to be a coming of age story for Abby.  What made you decide on the path you chose and does it concern you that at least some of the beginning of the book may not be appropriate for mid to late teens who might really relate to the story?

Elizabeth:  Kind of, but teenagers rarely care about adult themes and content. Parents do. In fact, my mom has complained about the adult content in Other Systems, specifically Cole and Harden’s swearing.
While there is a coming of age aspect to Abby’s story, that doesn’t (and in my opinion shouldn’t) automatically classify it as Young Adult. Plenty of New Adult Market and Adult Science Fiction Novels have coming of age plots and subplots. Abby’s story has “good” messages about education, self-actualization and safe sex, however the major themes were always about slavery, dehumanization based on fear, and finding freedom.

There are other reasons: Abby is a young protagonist, but she is surrounded by smart adults. There are no heroes in this series. There are just decisions by people who justify whatever they do for good or ill. I allowed the horrors of rape and slavery to be part of the story.

Other contributing “adult” factors are the unabashed scientific terminology, the length of the novel, pacing and finally the ensemble cast of humans just trying to get by.

TJ:  I was really interested in the artificial intelligence aspect of this story, but not much was brought to light overall.  Do you plan to explore that subject more in later stories?

Elizabeth:  Yes. In Book 2: The Light Side of the Moon, there is another AI character named Vasili. His character will further the overarching storyline for the all the AI characters over the course of the four planned books.  You will meet one more android named, Conner, in Book 3 and Rover comes back as well.

TJ:  I was fascinated by the explorations of the survey ship and the various things the crew found.  Are you planning more adventures for this crew?

Elizabeth:  Definitely. Though The Light Side of the Moon follows what happened to those who stayed behind on Earth. Book 3 (Still Untitled) will return to Kipos and the fleet. I don’t want to give too many hints, but Harden plans to try to create a stable Einstein-Rosen Bridge are moving forward.

TJ:  Is there anything specific that you would like to share with readers regarding your inspiration for writing Other Systems?

Elizabeth:  I knew I wanted to write a science fiction story that my smart friends were not just shaking their head at.  Something that moved beyond a disaster.
The concept for Other Systems really hit me when I was out walking the dogs. A young Earth woman goes to another planet for a job and realizes she has become a slave. That very night, I saw an article about young, uneducated girls from India’s rural areas traveling into cities with the expectation that they are going to get factory jobs only to end up working as sex slaves. Suddenly, I knew the how Abby got caught up in all of this.

I wrote the scene where Abby and Orchid get separated first, as it is the first pivot scene in the book. Though obviously it was edited for copy, it remained largely unchanged. I also wrote the scene in which Abby escapes the DePauls which went through major changes both in my own drafts and with the editors from 48Fourteen.

TJ:  Since this is your first published book can you share with us a little bit about your experience writing this book and any pitfalls you fell into?

Elizabeth:  I am a bit of a loose planner. If I know a pivot scene such as the ones I talked about above, I’ll write them first. Then I create a relaxed outline. I write a scene/chapter a day until the story is told. This process takes me about a month. Then I go back and rewrite it and make sure everything fits. One of the biggest surprises that came up during the drafting process is Mark who screamed, “I would never do this!” and changed his whole subplot which changed the whole course of the novel.
I wrote seven drafts before I started sending it out to publishers and agents. I got 16 rejections. After 48Fourteen agreed to publish, there were big and small changes during the editing process. The editor was concerned Abby has no love interest and yet is a sexual character. At 17-19, she does what almost everyone does at that age: she thinks about love and sex. In this aspect of the book, I refused to budge to “market expectations.” Was that a pitfall? I don’t know. I do know my gut told me to not bend on this point.

However, please don't think I am the type of author that refuses to listen. The editors also told me I needed to darken the beginning. So it didn't start as innocently. The last scene I wrote before publication was actually the first scene in the book. I originally just referred to Lucy’s suicide as the driving factor in Harden’s research. Now it sets the tone. Readers know the book will be dark. It will deal seriously with family and reproductive freedom before anyone every meets Abby.

As for other pitfalls, honestly I’m extremely proud of my first novel. I learned so much from the process that I don’t really look at any “failures” necessarily as bad. They were learning experiences. I do wish I had begun targeted marketing sooner. Though there are a few scenes that need to be tightened, I won't make the same mistake with The Light Side of the Moon. I'll be up to making new and better mistakes with my second novel :)

TJ:  Thank you for taking time out of your day to answer my questions and I look forward to seeing more of your work.

Elizabeth:  Thank you for having me.

See for more information about this author.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Starfall Knight by Ken Lim

Description:  Surrounded by cut-throats and slavers, Alessa knows there is more to existence than mere survival on the aerocks – landmasses that traverse the endless sky, powered by a volatile mineral. When the opportunity for a new life presents itself, there is nothing that will stop Alessa from having her way.

Devan seeks the respect of his peers, protectors of their homeland which is an aerock so large that it can haul along smaller lands. When Alessa’s aerock makes landfall, they bring more than commodities and supplies for trade. They bring memories of past mistakes.

They bring war.

Review 4 of 5 Stars

I received a request to review this book.  Lucky for me The Starfall Knight was a fun fantasy read, but if you're looking for elves and the like you'll need to look elsewhere.  It's not that kind of fantasy story.  Whether it be fortunate or unfortunate I immediately had a concept of what chained together aerocks would look like because I'm an online gamer and have climbed the chains between floating rocks that were connected together on more than one occasion.  So I moved on with the concept of floating landmasses as if it was as natural as breathing.  I have lived on islands before though and have to say I would prefer bigger landmasses especially if they were floating.  I'm sure my fear of heights (or more specifically falling) would have made elements of this world very uncomfortable for me if I'd had to live in it, but our characters were up to the challenges presented to them.

Devan and Alessa are the mains here and seemingly as opposite as can be.  Devan is a Centaran ranger who scouts around the connected aerocks, blames himself for a long ago tragedy and is out to prove his naysayers wrong.  Alessa is pretty much a pirate wench who, though tough, seems to be a step above her companions.  There were some good supporting characters as well and as a whole I have to say the characters were pretty well done evoking empathy and dislike.  The world building and descriptions were good as well.  There's plenty of adventure and action to be had throughout this tale and I enjoyed the trip.  It wasn't perfect, but I liked it. 

I enjoyed the cultural differences of the various aerocks and the intrigue as well as an entertaining fantasy element.  There's plenty of bloodthirsty bandits and brave defenders, along with some secrets to be revealed and the like.  The writing was good and I had no problem moving along through it at a good pace.  There were a few strange things, but I don't want to give away the story and part of explaining it would have to include doing so.  The only other thing is I really would have liked to have found out more about the actual study of the Starfall Knight and its accompanying items, but I always want to know more about the mystery.  Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read and I'd be willing to read something else by this author.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Xenophobia by Peter Cawdron

Description:  Xenophobia is set in Malawi, Africa, with US soldiers acting as peacekeepers to stop a civil war erupting. When an alien spacecraft arrives in orbit, America is thrown into turmoil and US troops are withdrawn from hotspots around the globe to provide support at home. Malawi descends into chaos. 

Xenophobia follows a band of US Rangers that stay behind to get doctors and patients from an outlying field hospital to safety. When hundreds of alien spacecraft begin flying overhead, the dynamics of war take on an entirely new dimension.

Review 5 of 5 Stars

This was a great first contact story, I really enjoyed it and it was accurately named. It was gritty, sweaty, realistic and moved at a good pace.  I mentioned in another review recently that I like a story that can be introspective without sacrificing excitement and action and was glad to see that this story had managed to do just that. I also like a story that requires you to think and I wasn't disappointed in that area either.  Xenophobia certainly delivered by investigating not only our fears of strange or alien things from outside our galaxy, but also how we fear and treat one another due to those same irrational fears of things and persons unknown though we may only be from different countries rather than different planets.

There are several characters in this book, but Bower, a doctor who stays behind to care for her patients that need to be transported, and Elvis (nickname, not a resurrection lol), one of a group of US soldiers that volunteers to stay behind to protect them, are the mains for most of the story and they were both interesting travel companions.  I thought the aliens were really cool and well thought out and I loved the journey as a whole. It was nice to get away from the Hollywood action movie clich├ęs about what first contact will be where the aliens are generally hell-bent on eating, killing or in some other way making us subservient. I also liked that the book looked at how we treat one another and what types of behavior might be expected given a first contact situation on Earth.

Peter Cawdron has a great perspective on the world and it definitely comes through in his stories like a fresh gust of air.  Each story I've read by Mr. Cawdron has been better than the last both technically and in overall storytelling. I'm just glad I got to take this trip through reading rather than stomping the road these characters traveled. Though that last part would have been pretty wonderful, but I dare not say too much. If you like a smart story that challenges you to look beyond what we see everyday then I think you would enjoy this one as much as I did.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Season of the Harvest (Harvest Trilogy, Book 1) by Michael R. Hicks

You Are What You Eat
At a genetics lab where a revolutionary strain of corn is being developed, FBI Special Agent Jack Dawson's best friend and fellow agent is brutally murdered, his body torn apart.
Jack is convinced that Naomi Perrault, a beautiful geneticist and suspected terrorist, is behind the murder. But when Jack is framed for setting off a bomb that devastates the FBI lab in Quantico, Naomi becomes Jack's only hope of survival.
Confronted by the terrifying truth of what the genetically engineered seeds stolen by his friend are truly for and who is really behind them, Jack joins Naomi in a desperate fight across half the globe to save humanity from extermination...

Review 4 of 5 Stars

Anyone who reads this blog knows that  I'm a Michael R. Hicks fan. I fell in love with the In Her Name series and have not only read, but re-read those books. So I came into this book with a love of the writer's work and great hopes. I did enjoy Season of the Harvest. It won't be a book that I re-read over and over, but as a writer I was intrigued through much of it and completely understand how you get from researching food allergies to alien story about GMOs.  It just happens.  Something grabs your attention, you start investigating and researching your topic and the next thing you know it is ever-present in your thoughts and the imagination machine starts turning.  

I too have done a lot of research into GMOs and I was curious how it would shake out in a sci-fi story, but there are a couple of reasons that I had not read this book earlier. The first of those is that I'm not a big conspiracy theory fan in fiction or in real life for that matter and that tends to influence my feelings about such stories. The second was that I loved the In Her Name series so much and didn't want to be disappointed if I couldn't make my way past the conspiracy theory element.
I know. There is that nasty conspiracy theory dislike rearing its ugly head again, but I did enjoy several things about this book.  The bad guys were truly formidable, truly fascinating structurally and I definitely wouldn't want to encounter them. There was plenty of action, the story moved along at a good pace and I was also interested in the gene manipulation to a point. Lastly, I loved the cats probably just because I love cats. On several occasions the cats and their warning behavior as well as the bad guys' feelings about the cats kept pulling up visions of the Mummy movies with Brendan Fraser.  However, I must say that Alexander (lucky little critter that he is) was one of my favorite things about this book and I was pulling for him. 

I enjoyed the book for the most part, but this was a 3.5 to 4 reading experience for me (I always round up when undecided). Some of it was really interesting, but the ending didn't quite do it for me as the president didn't seem realistic in what he was doing and the deals he wanted to make. I don't want to give too much detail as I try to avoid spoilers, but the ending just didn't ring true for me even in a fictional sense.  In fact, several of the characters just seemed a little off (perhaps overly dramatic) and the romance was too immediate for me when what it might have been in real life is the oh crap we might die, hey you're kind of cute thing. I liked Renee's character as well, but with regard to some of the others I hate it when characters know there are bad things going down, their equipment inconveniently won't work and they do something stupid on top of it.  It's kind of like in a horror movie after three people have died and they decide to walk in the dark through the forest down to the lake and you can almost hear the audience screaming at them to go back. There was some of that to this book and I just couldn't get past the end even though it wasn't necessarily rushed or anything like that. 

So there you have it from my view. If you like conspiracy theory stories, especially ones that have to do with aliens then this may be just your kind of book. I will continue to follow Mr. Hicks' writing because he has become one of my favorite new authors and I really enjoy his work. Even Robert Heinlein who was one of my all-time favorite writers had a story or two that didn't particularly interest me and that is how I feel here as the majority of what I didn't like about this book really comes from my own likes and dislikes along with some overly dramatic moments more so than the story itself. It was an interesting read and I enjoyed it, but I doubt that I'll be following this particular series given the reasons already explained (perhaps overly so) above.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Half Way Home by Hugh Howey

Description:  Five hundred of us were sent to colonize this planet. Only fifty or so survived. 

We woke up fifteen years too early, we had only half our training, and they expected us to not only survive ... they expected us to conquer this place. 

The problem is: it isn't safe here.

We aren't even safe from each other.

Review 4 of 5 Stars

I read the Wool series a while back, loved it and thought I'd try Half Way Home. I enjoy Hugh Howey's storytelling and I enjoyed this story. As the description says tons of people die and the story begins.  You could start a colony with worse conditions, but it might be a much shorter story. I found it to be a pretty good tale with some classic science fiction elements guaranteed to make things go awry thrown in. Good enough for a 3.5 to 4 stars, but since they don't make 3.5 star buttons when you post other places I settled on a 4 since it was really a pretty good read.

Porter, Tarsi and Kelvin are solid characters and things move along at a decent clip once it gets going. I enjoy a story that can be both introspective and still have enough action to keep it from getting boring and that was managed pretty well. The group that bands together to survive their misfortune and their adventures as they explore their new home, as well as the planet itself were all pretty interesting. This is also a story about human nature and how we relate to one another.

I don't want to give spoilers, but there were some things that seemed out of place towards the end. Though some of the elements were throughout the story where they weren't distracting and seemed natural, those same elements were brought more to the forefront at the end almost so much as to overshadow what seemed to be other important things going on in the story. It just felt a little like look at me I have a point to make when perhaps it could have been done more subtly. Of course, that's just my opinion, but as a reader I don't like to be preached at and some of the ending verged on that. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the story and would suggest that it's a pretty good read overall and satisfying colonization sci-fi.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Compostela Cube: Part One - The Book by Paul Cavilla

Description:  When they come into possession of a mysterious prehistoric cube, relic hunter Gabriel Parker, and the alluring artifact historian Natasha Rossi, find themselves inexplicably bound to a dark mythology dating back to the roots of civilization.

The 2012 doomsday prophecies have come and gone, but now, without warning, the feared revelations are coming true. Under the apocalyptic shadow of global war and rampant natural disasters, Gabriel and Natasha race to prevent an unspeakable horror from being unleashed onto the planet.

With nothing but a tattered journal to guide them, they travel from Italy to North Africa, and then set course for the mountains of Spain, where they must locate a lost labyrinth spoken of by the ancients. Within is said to reside the answer to the mystery of mysteries:The Meaning Of Life.

Hunting them is Christian Antov, heir to a secret organization poised to draw the world into a global fascist regime. He will stop at nothing to destroy Gabriel and Natasha, and the one artifact that stands in his way: The Compostela Cube.

Review 3 of 5 Stars

I received a request to review this book and some parts of it were really interesting though it took quite a while to really get into the part that I found interesting. Almost longer than I could take and about midpoint I had almost determined to give up on it for hopping around everywhere, but I persevered. I will also add for the sake of being fair that I most likely wouldn't have chosen this book to read on my own as it's really not my type of book, but there is a market for its like and that group might enjoy it more than I did. The writing wasn't bad, but there were spelling, formatting and grammatical errors throughout. I didn't keep a full list, but where instead of were more than once, random 1's at beginning of a few quotations and other word usage and typo stuff. It could use another read through and some corrections to fix it up.

As for the story, I was completely interested in the Compostela Cube's history and the trail of clues to get to it, use it, etc. I love tunnels and traps and I found that part pretty interesting. In fact it was the highlight of the book for me. Some of the other characters and their activities were a little over the top for me and I couldn't manage to get to the suspension of disbelief that I feel is required to truly enjoy a story for those portions of the book. For me, there were just too many things thrown together between the paranormal, conspiracy theories, weird medical experiments that I won't disclose more of due to it being a spoiler, portions that were pretty preachy and drawn out regarding politics, various religious beliefs and the like.

So given my enjoyment of the worked up archaeology of the cube and its history alongside of my inability to get into some of the more paranormal side as it was put forth, the romance that seemed kind of like high school and out-of-place at points, and finally how it ended with no answers (grumble, grumble) on a cliffhanger like a TV series I'm giving it 3. I found that I liked some of the of the supporting characters more than our hero and heroine, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that they were interesting characters. I won't dissuade you if this is your type of book. There were some interesting parts to it and you may enjoy it, but I don't think I'll be exploring this story further in the next installment that's promised at the end of the book.