Review: In Her Name Empire by Michael Hicks


I have to admit, before I even get into this review, that I’m a fussy reader when it comes to genres. I like a very specific, narrow type of science fiction. I certainly read all types – Hamilton, Clarke, Heinlein, Baxter, etc. – and enjoy them, but there’s a type of scifi, I suppose what I call near-future military, that I really get into (as evidenced by the type of scifi I write). So I really dig David Weber, Tobias Buckell, Charles Sheffield, John Scalzi, et al. My problem is it’s difficult, in my opinion, to find such a specific type of scifi from a self-published author, or at least one that’s up to the standards of Weber and the others. That all changed when I picked up Michael Hicks’s In Her Name: Empire.

From chapter one, the introduction to the very young Reza Gard in a captivating scene where he loses his parents as they try to defend him, to subsequent chapters where he moves to an orphanage/near-slave labor planet, his capture by the invading aliens (a blue-skinned humanoid that may bring to mind Avatar, but these are much more…cold, yet fascinating), and Reza’s maturation with the aliens, Hicks grabbed a hold of my attention and never let go.

The characters are fully developed, the settings are beautifully described without going overboard, the creatures encountered, the battles fought, the technology, and finally even a dash of romance, are all told in clear, concise style that made me want to continue turning pages. And the best part? There are two more in the series, then Hicks goes back to before this story to add three more.

The spelling & grammar, formatting, punctuation, and sentence structure (I’ve got an OCD for these errors) are flawless – better than many traditionally published works. No really, flawless. Hats off to Mr. Hicks’s editor; some of the big publishers should look into hiring him/her. Those issues really stand out to me, pull me out of the story, but I found none.

All in all, one of the best science fiction (with a smidgen of fantasy) novels I’ve read in a long time – mainstream or self-published. And easily the best self-published scifi I’ve had the opportunity to lay my hands (and e-reader) on. Congrats, Mr. Hicks – you’ve got a winner, and a customer for the next five books in the series. You actually pushed David Weber’s 4th Safehold novel down my list.

Find In Her Name: Empire, here:

Amazon (Kindle only $.99) • Barnes & Noble (Nook) • Author’s Site (6 other books as well!)

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Book Review: A Line In The Ice by Jamie Craig

I dig a good, original science fiction story – not the typical spaceships full of aliens landing on Earth/only Will Smith can save us story. When I read the opening chapter of A Line In The Ice, it sounded utterly fascinating, so I jumped at the chance to read and review. I was not disappointed. I was a little…caught off guard with an aspect of the book, but I’ll explain that later.

It’s present-day, and a small group of military personnel, collected from several different countries, are the front line on a tiny battlefield in Antartica, where a rift has formed allowing creatures from another world to enter ours. Day by day, this team has to patrol and pick off these creatures before enough of them can gather to spread to the rest of the world.

The story itself is fascinating, and as we find out at the end the creatures not only aren’t what they seem, but may not be the true danger. But the more fascinating aspect of the story are the characters. The author (authors actually – it’s two writing as a collaborative work under a pseudonym) developed the people even better than the settings and technologies used, which sometimes can be hard to do (science fiction tends to focus somewhat more on those than the people, and can hurt a story). The main character Charlie (female) is tough yet tender, has flaws and needs, and is someone the reader can really relate to. Lysander, the male lead, is also well thought out and described, and even the supporting cast have distinct personalities that make it easy to tell who is speaking, acting, etc.

The book editing is flawless. This is one of my biggest pet peeves – I have sort of an OCD when it comes to typos, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and so on. When I read many self-published works, those errors, even small ones, pull me out of the story. (Actually even in some traditionally published, Big 6 works I see those – Dan Brown, I’m looking at you!) If they used an editor, he or she is top notch. If they didn’t, they themselves should be commended. It’s clean, well-written, and easy to understand, with no jarring errors. As a matter of fact, only two things caught my eye – a missing space after a period/before next sentence, and one word repetition (the word ‘spare’ twice in one sentence). I’m not being nit-picky, I’m just saying the book was so clean that that’s all I saw. Well done.

But now, the caught-off-guard part, and something that, if the authors are reading this, I must strongly suggest they state clearly in the book blurb/description. A Line In The Ice has several scenes of heavy erotica. Not “she placed her hand on his strong muscled chest”, but “she wrapped her lips around his…” type of erotica. I read some of the Amazon reviews prior to reading the book, and they mention ‘a dash of romance.’ Whoa, not quite – this is not romance, by any means. I think those reviewers may have been glossing over that in order to make a clean, innocuous review, but the fact that this erotica is in the book MUST be mentioned somewhere in the description. I read the first chapter and excerpts and almost gave the book to my 14 year old son, who is a voracious advanced reader and loves scifi. Wow, can you imagine those discussions afterwards? Come to find out the authors have a background in erotica and this is their first stab at science fiction. That’s all well and good, no problem at all, but it needs to be specified, an explicit warning, before someone buys the book.

And finally, just my personal opinion as a long-time science fiction reader and fan, and now writer. I don’t think that type of erotica belongs in this type of story. The novel itself was excellent and stands on its own; those scenes really pulled me out of the book, almost like someone else wrote them and put them in later. Yes, there is a love interest between the main characters, but it could have been done in a more ‘romance’ way. And only because of that would I knock the rating down a bit.

Excellent story, very well developed characters, different setting, believable technology, and a unique premise. I’d give it a 7 out of 10 – again my only ding is for the erotica (please change the book description to reflect this!)




Tour Notes:
Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official Line in the Ice blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
Learn more about this author duo by visiting their websiteblogFacebook or GoodReads pages or by connecting with them on Twitter.

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Review of Shattered Destiny by Shay Fabbro


The Mekans are arriving, the galaxy is about to face its greatest danger, and the Chosen are in trouble. So goes the second installment in the Portals of Destiny series from Shay Fabbro, Shattered Destiny.

Love this cover...

I thoroughly enjoyed Book 1, and was waiting not-so-patiently for Book 2, as I felt after reading Book 1 that so many characters were introduced, I never got to really know them. Fabbro does an excellent job in Book 2 of re-introducing and going much further into them. It was very enjoyable to see Brok and Feeror again, the Earth Chosen, and maybe my personal favorite, the clones (just love their matter-of-fact speak!)

In Shattered Destiny, the four separate planets’ Chosen are coming together to try to work as an integrated team, even family, to fight off the coming Mekan invasion, which as we learn in this book (not really a spoiler here) have already landed on Astra (in one of my favorite scenes in the book). Many trials and tribulations face them, including a local ‘civil war’, all of which challenge them to get through to make it to their ultimate goal – stopping the Mekans. And along the way, some of the Chosen may face their ultimate fate.

My only con about the story (and the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars) is there were a lot of traveling scenes; characters going from here to there, stopping to eat and camp, and to me (with a hidden, secret case of adult ADHD I’m sure) sometimes slowed the pace a bit. However, those same scenes gave the author more time to get into the characters, which at the end of the read made me understand them that much better.

I very much enjoyed Shattered Destiny, and with Fabbro’s introduction of the Mekans themselves, I’m very much looking forward to the finale in Book 3!

Find Shattered Destiny, only $2.99, here:

Amazon (Kindle) • Barnes & Noble (Nook) • Smashwords (multiple platforms)

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Proud Dad…

I don’t blog very often (and as a writer, I know…I know…), and never on personal matters, but this one was just too exciting for me to fit into a social media post.

Singing at Phils game

My 11 year old son Evan, after having tremendous success over the past year in his school’s choir (they won a Philly radio station contest, then performed at the Kimmel Center in Philly with Peter Nero, the state capitol in Trenton, and several other events), was asked by the Philadelphia Boys Choir to try out for their upcoming season.


That’s actually THE Philadelphia Boys Choir. The choir that has performed not only locally with celebrities, but worldwide. The choir that met Luciano Pavarotti, Julie Andrews, President Obama; the choir that traveled to Rome, China, Seville, Madrid, Berlin, and many other incredible locations.

Just to be asked to try out was an amazing honor. To have him be asked back for a second tryout, at their headquarters, was even more amazing. That was this morning. As of this afternoon, Evan was formally offered a position in the Boys Choir in their Cadet program (for younger singers) this year, and the full Choir next season.

Yeah, THE Philadelphia Boys Choir. Ho. Lee. Crap. I can’t even express in words how proud I am of him. I tried, but these few paragraphs don’t tell the whole story. Just…proud.

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