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Book Reviews

Have to share a most excellent review…

I don’t often post these (but when I do, I prefer Dos…ah, never mind). Had to share a really complimentary review of the Gabriel trilogy I just saw on Amazon. Yes, it’s a bit of crowing, but I’ll take the heat. I’m flattered and humbled, and gosh darn it, proud of my editing. (A little shout out to Jennifer Gracen for her editing goddess skills…) And a very nice closing compliment to the quality of self-published work out there, because contrary to popular opinion, there’s a bunch.

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This series had me hooked from start to finish. This is one of my favorite SciFi series indie published or not. I should note that I was so into the first book after only 20% or so that I immediately purchased the other two without regret. Also, this review was written for the omnibus addition Gabriel’s Journey. It applies whether you buy the books separately or together in one volume.

I am no reviewer and hate spoilers, so I will just list the qualities that had me so riveted to this story all the way through.

1. The author clearly knows his craft. The quality of writing and inventiveness of the plot never wavered. Descriptions were clear without rambling endlessly and the action scenes put me right in the thick of it. In other words, suspension of disbelief and ease of visualization were, for me at least, effortless. I also really liked the characters but was grateful that I did not have to sit through endless character introspection and angst. Life provides enough of that as it is. Unexpected twists were also done well.

2. I found the science to be very interesting and believable (albeit fictional). I enjoyed it’s role in the story throughout the series. No Star Trek “science” here. From maneuvering a ship in space to advanced weaponry, I was never jarred out of the story with nonsensical pseudo science.

3. This is military science fiction and while I am not a soldier (was in the sixties however), I was impressed with the tactical descriptions of special ops warfare. The main characters are very competent soldiers indeed without being super heroes who are immortal, invincible and invulnerable all at once (as in so many other books). They make mistakes and pay for them like the rest of us.

4. Finally, the editing. In my large format copy of Dune (an all time favorite novel by Frank Herbert), I found over 15 errors. In the Gabriel Trilogy I found less than five (two of those debatable). Great editing for no matter the publishing method. Kudos to Steve Umstead who has not only provided us with an excellent series, but cares enough about his readers to get it right. Thank You!

A bit of proselytizing before I close this:

In the last decade or more I’ve noticed that professional publishing has gone down hill quite a bit. Typos, grammatical errors and spelling have suffered as the publishing houses race to greater profits at less cost. I bring this up because Indie publishers have taken a big hit (deservedly so in many cases) for editing errors while the publishing houses have been allowed to skate. I am a very big fan of Indie publishing and have been noticing a marked improvement as time has gone on. Both in quality of writing and quality of editing. While there is plenty of bad stuff in both publishing worlds, I believe Indie publishing is coming into it’s own. With the outright price gouging that the big publishers are resorting to and the lack of quality and availability of their work (try to find a complete SciFi or fantasy trilogy at B&N) it is my hope that Indie authors and E-books will become the new normal. I think the big publishers are shooting themselves in the foot with their mercenary practices. Time will tell.

Much appreciated, J. Kirwan. Much appreciated.

steve

 

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My first impressions of iOS 7…and please keep in mind I don’t do impressions.

ios-7-logoI don’t often do product reviews – never actually, since an ill-fated Nook review where I was testing out posting a WordPress video and found myself turning Nook pages on-camera to some nice laughs – but I figured I’d sit down and write up my initial thoughts on the all-new, latest-and-greatest thing since sliced bread: iOS 7.

I will preface this by saying I’m a huge Apple fan. Not a fanboi, per se; you won’t find me camping out in front of an Apple store, or making an unboxing video, or commenting online responding to vitriolic Apple-haters. No, just a fan of the technology, the synergies between software and hardware, the build quality, the resale values, and the innovation. Up to a point.

Apple has, in my opinion, been at the forefront of innovation. Say what you will about “Windows CE had that”, or “they stole that from Android”, or “Xerox invented the mouse”, or “my old Atrix had a fingerprint sensor”, or “I still use my Zune every day”, and so on. Apple puts things together well and makes them work, and in the process has created three brand new product categories where nothing but a mishmash existed before (iPod, iPhone, iPad). And the stuff just works. But now that I’ve seen the iPhone 5s/5c announcement, and have spent a half a day with iOS 7, I only have one word to describe Apple’s 2013:

Underwhelming.

And this is coming from an Apple fan. I’ve owned a Mac since 1986 (my portable computer in college was a Macintosh SE FDHD I dragged to the Student Center for projects.) I’ve owned every model of iPhone save the iPhone 3G (went right to the 3GS back then). And I actually require all of my employees to use Macs, or they won’t get any tech support from me (my home is Windows-free – and no, I’m not referring to glass).

After a 2012 that saw the iPhone 5 released (which I did get; I was eligible for an upgrade and wanted out of my 3.5″ screen) that was a very nice upgrade, notably for the size and build, 2013 left me…wanting. Incremental at best, the new iPhone 5s/c series really blew me away with how little changed. In an age of intense competition, Apple seems to be falling behind. The iPhone 5c was theoretically a low-cost model to break into emerging markets, but at $549 unlocked (only $100 less than the 5s) that’s not going to happen. And the iPhone 5s bumped the processor to an A7 with 64-bit architecture, which most software can’t even take full advantage of yet anyway. Same size, same screen, same in most areas. This is probably the first year in 5+ that I have zero desire to upgrade. I’ll wait for a 6, or whatever is next. Again, this is coming from a huge Apple fan. (Oh, and the other 2012 product launch? The iPad mini. Crazy successful in terms of sales, but a more expensive/lower resolution device that was a direct response to the Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and the like.)

But in any case, on to iOS 7. After rather impatiently waiting for Apple’s activation servers to allow me to activate it yesterday (2+ hours; what, didn’t Apple know they were releasing a major upgrade?), I got it up and running. First impression: visually stunning. Very clean, smooth, professional looking – much more so than the various skeuomorphic looks Scott Forrestal and his crew had been piecing together (why did one app have faux leather, one green felt, one grainy wood, one chrome?) But when Craig Federighi (man, has he come into his own now) called it “an exciting new beginning”, and others in Apple have said it’s the biggest improvement since the original iOS, I expected…more. More functionality, more features, more usefulness. More than just a facelift. But I’m not seeing it.

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Siri is still a novelty (though I admit, it’s nice to reply to a text while driving via voice). Notification Center still could use some work (I’d like to do something with those notifications, not just see them and have to launch the app). Camera filters? Don’t get me started on why I DON’T screw with my 8 megapixel photos I worked hard to get, overlaying BS frames and grainy looks. AirDrop looks like it’s on the right track for file sharing. But those are ancillary.

There are three (in my opinion and for my everyday use; YMMV) major functional changes in iOS 7 over iOS 6:

  1. Control Center: swipe up from the bottom of the screen to gain access to most used Settings, like wifi/Bluetooth/Do Not Disturb on/off, music player, brightness, and the flashlight (which has hundreds of flashlight app developers screaming bloody murder – and why are there so many flashlight apps in the first place?)
  2. Multitasking in “Card” format app switcher: double click the Home button to see a visual carousel of most recent apps and what their last state was versus just the app icon
  3. Automatic App Updates: the App Store now downloads updates in the background and presents a “recently updated” list when launched

So if these are uber-helpful, why do I still call this underwhelming? Simple: I’ve had all three on my Nexus 7 since late last year. Swiping down in Jelly Bean brings up Android’s version of the Control Center where I can turn wifi on and off – and by the way, also launch the wifi settings app so I can choose a different network, something Control Center doesn’t do. Google Play apps update when I’m not looking. And the app switcher is something I had taken for granted as necessary, so much so that I had installed a jailbroken app on my phone to get the same function.

I honestly expected a lot more from iOS 7, for all its hype. Again, it’s visually stunning and adds some nice (necessary) features, but I can’t shake the feeling it’s still playing catch up. There’s really nothing in it that I can’t also do from my Nexus tablet with a software that’s pushing a year old.

UPDATE: For some reason, Apple decided to remove the ability to delete a message in Mail by swiping from left to right, the “right swipe”, and now it’s left-swipe only. NO IDEA WHY, as right swipe now does nothing. After six years of deleting emails by swiping right, they removed that function, only to replace it with…nothing? Someone explain that logic to me…I’m annoyed.

Now all of that being said, iOS 7 is much smoother than Jelly Bean, and owning the respective companies’ flagship devices for a year and using them day in, day out, I can say that with confidence and experience. iOS just works, where Jelly Bean still has plenty of hiccups, pauses, timeouts, force quits, and so on. And Android is still missing some things iOS has had for a while (hello, badges). iOS is much easier to use with far fewer issues.

But I was expecting a big leap in functionality and features. I don’t think I got either…

steve

 

 

 

P.S. Wait, one other thing, and it’s the greatest improvement in iOS EVER: I can now put Newsstand in a folder. BE GONE!

 

 

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New review for the Gabriel trilogy – so well written I thought I’d repost here (and preen my feathers)

Yes, another post of self-flagellation (er, adulation…maybe congratulation?).  I just received a really well-written review for Gabriel’s Journey, and the author of the review (Justin Gifford, copy editor at HorribleNight.com) gave me permission to repost here. I appreciate the in-depth attention he gave each story, as well as (maybe even more so) the critiques. I’m always looking to learn…

Oh, and the bold text is my emphasis. I like emphasis. It helps the skimmers of the world figure out what I’m trying to…emphasize.

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Steve Umstead’s Evan Gabriel Triology (Gabriel’s Redemption, Gabriel’s Return and Gabriel’s Revenge) is a well-put-together series of military science fiction (with hints of hard sci-fi thrown in here and there) whose components stand up well on their own but are probably best consumed as the 3-book package.

The series starts off with a bang as we find the disgraced former Commander Gabriel of the North American Federation living a less-than-ideal life in the Caribbean on an Earth a couple of centuries in the future where interstellar travel is somewhat common and man has begun to colonize the stars. Dragged back in to work for the commander who ruined his career, Gabriel and his team take off on a three-book journey that sends him to the far ends of mankind’s reach and back home again.

The dialog in the book is well developed. It’s neither overly-wordy nor too terse and you do get some character development just from speech patterns. There is an appropriate amount of comic relief, without which the books would have had a much darker tone, particularly the third book, Gabriel’s Revenge. The pace of the books is fast enough that there’s not an overwhelming amount of turnover among Gabriel’s team, but reading the books in one clump like I did made all but the two or three most important supporting characters seem somewhat interchangeable; although new characters are introduced (and I dislike when an author takes too much time rehashing the previous book/s) there were several points that would have had much more emotional resonance had the characters involved been someone who resonated with me as a result of their dialog and interaction with other characters.

The settings and travel between them (a world thrown into a global ice-age by a meteorite, a jungle covered world, Mars, and an Earth that seems familiar but scarred as a backdrop) are very well described, although the explanation for the ice world struck me as much more acceptable than an entirely jungle-covered world – when the audience is inclined towards science and maybe astronomy, a world with one climate and biome seems a little slapdash. That said: the thought process that went into inventing the biome was detailed, painted a pretty good picture in my head and kind of made me want to go on a visit, so don’t read that criticism as overly harsh.

As the Gabriel Trilogy could be classified as “military sci fi,” there’s plenty of action, but it avoids the trope of many other action books that substitute explosions and exclamation points for meaningful plot development. The action in these books serves a purpose. It’s still exciting to read and the presence of neural interconnectivity between the squadmembers adds an interesting dynamic, particularly when it comes to mission planning & modification on the fly. Even the ship-to-ship combat (and other space-related ‘stuff’) is well put together; some thought went into physics, combat difference and ship design. The only critique I have regarding the otherwise excellently done ‘guns and stuff’ is that on several occasions, a projectile weapon is described as firing a projectile at an insanely high speed with no recoil. Much has been done to mitigate recoil throughout mankind’s experimentation with long-range weapons, but nothing, not even magnetic acceleration, is going to eliminate it entirely. In a less carefully-thought-out science fiction novel, I would have rolled my eyes and moved on, but when obvious care has been taken in a variety of other high-detail opportunities to the book’s benefit, it struck me as a departure from tech that “made sense” and swung the pendulum towards “tech as magic.”

Minor critiques aside, the Gabriel Trilogy was darn entertaining and I ripped through the whole thing over a 3 day period because I enjoyed it so much. In addition to being a ‘fun’ read, it takes some time explaining practical approaches to some of sci-fi’s harder questions (is there FTL travel? What about gravity? Laser guns? …)and the times it doesn’t don’t detract from the novels as a whole. One final note: I read a lot of titles on my Kindle/Tablet. I’m also a copy-editor. The proliferation of self-publishing has been a boon to me as a reader, but very few things will pull me out of my immersion in a book I’m enjoying faster than poorly edited / transferred to Kindle books. Gabriel’s Journey, Return & Revenge, thankfully, were almost, if not entirely bereft of these unfortunately common errors, so if you’re as bothered by poor editing as I am, you’re safe with Mr. Umstead’s books.

I’d give a recommendation for sci-fi / adventure / military genre fans to check out this trilogy without hesitation.

Much appreciated, Justin.

steve

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Book Review: Fighting Gravity by Leah Petersen

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REVIEW:

Science fiction, fantasy, romance, oh my! Fantastic read. Such a combination of genres, I’m not even sure where to start!

How about science fiction? Fighting Gravity is, in my opinion, much less sci than fi. Very little of the standard tech of scifi is present, and the same with interstellar travel and other worlds, except almost in passing (such as an unscheduled stop at a nebula to sightsee). Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a complaint, but as a lifelong scifi fan I do look for that ‘definition’ of traditional scifi (to paraphrase, if the science is taken out of the story it would collapse). Fighting Gravity has scifi elements, but is not necessarily scifi. The story could have easily taken place in Elizabethan England with horse-drawn carriages without missing a beat.

Which brings me to fantasy. Again several elements of fantasy, even high fantasy, are contained within Fighting Gravity. You have emperors and empires, children taken away from their homes for bigger and better things, other worlds and time frames, and so on. But again, no elves, no magic spells, no flying carpets.

Romance? Now we’re getting closer. Fighting Gravity is at its heart a romance between a royal and a commoner; a privileged one surrounded by wealth, opulence, and advisers, in love with an ‘unclass’ nobody. Now we’ve got the elements: forbidden, hidden love with the empire in the balance. But that’s still not Fighting Gravity as a whole.

So what is the story? To paraphrase James Carville, “it’s about the characters, stupid.” From page one, I was captivated by Jacob Dawes’ story and couldn’t stop turning the pages. I’m normally a reader looking for things blowing up and bullets flying, but the story was that good I didn’t miss them. Some have called the early parts of the story a little slow going, and I can see that, but it’s such a great look at a character developing, becoming who he is later in the story, that one doesn’t need cliffhangers and fire-breathing dragons.

Jacob Dawes is fascinating. I absolutely loved watching him grow up and mature, fall in love, get in trouble (no spoilers here) by continually running his unclass mouth in front of the privileged, and seeing his emotions run the full gamut. And the emperor is no less fascinating, as are the secondary characters (like Kirti, his childhood sweetheart he leaves behind).

The writing style is truly flawless and was a joy to read. I’m a HUGE stickler for the mechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure) and Fighting Gravity was one of the best I’ve seen from any author. The writing style itself made me continue on reading well into the night, and the inter-character dialogue was spot on.

Oh wait, did I forget something? Right…the emperor’s name is Peter. Yes, Jacob and Peter fall in love. In today’s day and age, this is such a hot button topic for many, but Leah Petersen has written such an incredible story around a gay romance that it’s immaterial. It could be Jacob and Petunia, or Jane and Peter – didn’t matter. It’s a testament to Petersen’s writing style and her story that a controversial subject is secondary and accepted as just part of the overall plot.

Very well done. Ms. Petersen, I’m looking forward to the next one. Especially because you hinted at some very intriguing possibilities at the end of this one.

Pick up Fighting Gravity for Kindle here.

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Book Review: The Prodigal’s Foole by RB Wood (relaunch of book)

My good friend R.B. Wood has relaunched his urban fantasy thriller The Prodigal’s Foole after getting his rights back from his former publisher, and he’s completely redone the cover to something that’s flat-out fantastic. I’m reposting my book review from a few months back, along with a high-res shot of the new cover.

Friends, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy for a measly $2.99 for Kindle (less than the “tall” latte I bought yesterday at Target – seriously, a book for less than that swill?) The story is even more flat-out fantastic than the new cover – one of my favorite reads of 2011. It’s currently available for Kindle and paperback (Mr. Wood chose the KDP Select route, but I won’t hold that against him…too much)

Don’t think about it. Just buy it. Or I’ll find you…

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ORIGINAL REVIEW: 

Demons and magic, shotguns and explosions.

That’s how I described The Prodigal’s Foole by R.B. Wood to my 11 year old son who asked me what the book was about. His attention span is short (what 11 year old’s isn’t?) so I had to summarize, and there’s so much more. Hence, a book review.

First of all, I have to say the opening of the book might very well be my favorite of any I’ve ever read:

“The old lady next to me in the window seat died somewhere over the Atlantic. I know because she told me.”

How’s that grab you? It certainly grabbed me, and never let me go.

This was my first real dip into urban fantasy, and I have to say I loved every minute of it. Wood weaves a complex story with excellent characters, believable magic (is that an oxymoron?), and humor into a hard-to-put-down novel. And when I found out that this was his first work, I was even more impressed. The writing style, the sentence structure, the plot consistency, the nice use of flashbacks, the editing, all are truly top notch.

Symon Bryson is a reluctant magic practitioner called back into action by old friends to combat a growing menace from Hell, and to help find a missing friend. He has to face not only this new danger, but his own dark past as well. The Catholic Church plays a large role in the story, and is not bashed (a la Dan Brown) nor praised (a la, uh, not sure…televangelists?), but portrayed in a modern, realistic way that fits well into the overall story.

The characters are fleshed out very nicely, and the team dynamic is excellent. And can I say Symon Bryson is one of my new favorite characters in any book? His wisecracking, inner emotions, and pop culture references kept me entertained throughout. Wood even pokes fun at some of the more ‘fantastic’ fantasies out there (one line I remember is when a character suddenly morphs into an animal, a person in the room says, “Where do her clothes go when she changes?”).

And here’s the bottom line. Like most readers (I think), I “see” the story as I read it, and in some cases they remind me of other stories or movies. And even though there are no vampires (thank goodness) in The Prodigal’s Foole, I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie Blade with Wesley Snipes. The characters, the modern setting, the demons, the weapons, the action, all mixed together like one of my favorite movies of all time – which meant I truly loved this book.

And the best part? It sets up very nicely for more stories in the series. I’m looking forward to more from Mr. Wood. The Prodigal’s Foole was definitely one of the best novels I’ve read this year…and he’s got me peeking into the Urban Fantasy genre now.

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Review: The Prodigal’s Foole by RB Wood

REVIEW: 

Demons and magic, shotguns and explosions.

That’s how I described The Prodigal’s Foole by R.B. Wood to my 11 year old son who asked me what the book was about. His attention span is short (what 11 year old’s isn’t?) so I had to summarize, and there’s so much more. Hence, a book review.

First of all, I have to say the opening of the book might very well be my favorite of any I’ve ever read:

“The old lady next to me in the window seat died somewhere over the Atlantic. I know because she told me.”

How’s that grab you? It certainly grabbed me, and never let me go.

This was my first real dip into urban fantasy, and I have to say I loved every minute of it. Wood weaves a complex story with excellent characters, believable magic (is that an oxymoron?), and humor into a hard-to-put-down novel. And when I found out that this was his first work, I was even more impressed. The writing style, the sentence structure, the plot consistency, the nice use of flashbacks, the editing, all are truly top notch.

Symon Bryson is a reluctant magic practitioner called back into action by old friends to combat a growing menace from Hell, and to help find a missing friend. He has to face not only this new danger, but his own dark past as well. The Catholic Church plays a large role in the story, and is not bashed (a la Dan Brown) nor praised (a la, uh, not sure…televangelists?), but portrayed in a modern, realistic way that fits well into the overall story.

The characters are fleshed out very nicely, and the team dynamic is excellent. And can I say Symon Bryson is one of my new favorite characters in any book? His wisecracking, inner emotions, and pop culture references kept me entertained throughout. Wood even pokes fun at some of the more ‘fantastic’ fantasies out there (one line I remember is when a character suddenly morphs into an animal, a person in the room says, “Where do her clothes go when she changes?”).

And here’s the bottom line. Like most readers (I think), I “see” the story as I read it, and in some cases they remind me of other stories or movies. And even though there are no vampires (thank goodness) in The Prodigal’s Foole, I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie Blade with Wesley Snipes. The characters, the modern setting, the demons, the weapons, the action, all mixed together like one of my favorite movies of all time – which meant I truly loved this book.

And the best part? It sets up very nicely for more stories in the series. I’m looking forward to more from Mr. Wood. The Prodigal’s Foole was definitely one of the best novels I’ve read this year…and he’s got me peeking into the Urban Fantasy genre now.

Find The Prodigal’s Foole here:

Amazon (Kindle) • Amazon (paperback)Smashwords (multi-formats)

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Book Review: Unspoken Stories by B.C. Young

REVIEW: 

Want to win a copy of the book? See the bottom of the post for details!

I’m not normally a short story reader; I prefer my time to be spent with full length, involved works, but the concept of Unspoken Stories (according to the author’s blog, named because without some friendly motivation and a new outlook on writing itself, he may never have written them) sounded fascinating. Five separate, unrelated, stories, all based in a different science fiction niche (some more scifi than others), all in one volume. I’m very glad I took the chance.

Unspoken Stories consists of Copy Bird, Going Home, Josie Dorri and the Coffee Ban, The Present, and Running to Keep Her. The author explained he wrote each one in a fairly short time frame; as such there are some minor editing issues, but nothing that would pull the reader from the story. One by one, my thoughts on each:

Copy Bird: A very unique present tense telling of a post-apocalyptic world. A man awakens in a burned out future society, thinking he’s alone, only to hear the call of a bird, speaking to him, pulling him along to an unknown destination. This was probably my favorite of the five. Great emotion and feelings of the protagonist, and a heartwarming ending.

Going Home: A young man has leave from military service against an alien invasion sweeping the human populated worlds, and takes time to visit his family and tries to keep his promise to them. This story started and ran slow for me, but when I completed it, my thoughts on it completely turned around. Looking at it as a whole, knowing the way it ends, made it an excellent tale.

Josie Dorri and the Coffee Ban: A different way of looking at the future Big Brother type society, one where cofee is banned, both for drinking and possessing. Easy to relate to, as well as easy to compare to some of today’s odd rules and regulations.

The Present:  A view on time travel from a personal perspective, and a twist on “what would you do if you could” with the added facet of how it affects others. Good flow, and relatively (no pun intended) easy to follow the timeline.

Running to Keep Her: A touching story about loss and what a man does to remember, and how that affects his life going forward.

Overall I enjoyed the volume. B. C. Young has a knack for storytelling and keeps the reader interested from start to finish. Even though each story was completely unrelated and stands on its own, they all have similarities and common threads that show Young can write. Looking forward to a few more short stories from him (never thought I’d say that…)

Unspoken Stories can be found for Kindle, Nook, and at Smashwords.

More information on the author can be found here:

Web Site/Blog: the-time-capsule.com
Facebook Author Page: facebook.com/authorbcyoung
WIN UNSPOKEN STORIES! Leave a comment below that lists the MISSPELLED WORD I typed above and I’ll choose one random correct guesser to receive an ebook copy of Unspoken Stories!
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Review: In Her Name Empire by Michael Hicks

REVIEW: 

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!)

 

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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

REVIEW: 

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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