Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Angles of Attack by Marko Kloos (Book Thoughts)

I’ve been flying through the Frontlines series on a mix of page and audio this summer.  I think each book is getting better as the characters mature and humanity’s situation gets more dire.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Angles of Attack
  • Series: Frontlines #3
  • Author: Marko Kloos
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, April 2015
  • Length: 338 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ Yes if you’ve liked the series so far keep going!
  • Audio: ~10 hours, Luke Daniels knocks out another one via Brilliance Audio

Here’s the synopsis:

The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system’s edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.

Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time, the struggle for humanity’s future can only end in either victory or annihilation.

One quick thing I noticed on the audio is that a lot of the spoken words don’t quite match the text – I think the narrator got a version that was one round off from final edits.  Kind of cool to see what changed thought.

Anyway, what I like most about these books is how any given side character could get their own little spotlight of bad assery. Dmitry went from a side note to bad ass real quick, as did Philbrick and Renner! I was surprised to see Philbrick, a character that previously was just a guy guarding a door, leading the prison break mission with no hesitation. I can’t get over how many characters end up having small but integral roles!

Colonel Campbell’s backbone is only getting stronger (😭), and I respected him a lot for being very Picard-ian and able to determine navigation heading, propulsion, etc, so we’ll. Also Fallon got to lead again at the end, and we finally get to see Halley in battle!

The plot and action has no slouch either.  First they have to get home, deal with a bureaucratic  welcome fitting a bunch of mutineers, dodge all the Lankies, and go to war in the last quarter.

Like what the aaaaactual f*ck is going on at the civilian station anyway? Who is evacuating where? Is Dmitry convinced he’s going to be gunned down for giving away military secrets so he gave Grayson his drop badge wings?

There’s just so much going on, and the story is streamlined so that the action just races without ever feeling sidetracked.

We are still in first person (yuck but I don’t hate it) and entirely from Grayson’s point of view. I’ve come to fully respect him as an officer, soldier, and person. It’s interesting to follow his military career and after this ending, I’m curious where he will go next

Speaking of the ending – now we know who/what happened in book 1 at Detroit😳

Whether you want planetary destroyer ships, intergalactic war, internal politics, explosions, action, great characters, or all of the above – I can’t recommend this series enough.


Instead of a few favorite quotes, here is a short excerpt that I hope will convince you all to pick this series up:

“What we have done—what we are doing right now—is flat-out mutiny. We have resisted arrest, fought military police officers, engaged in a gun battle with civilian police, and we have stolen this ship out of the dock against orders. We have engaged another fleet unit in self-defense and damaged them, probably killed a few of their crew. If another fleet ship catches us here in the solar system, we will probably end up directly in the high-risk ward at Leavenworth if they don’t blow us out of space instantly. This is not a legal gray area like our refusal to follow orders above New Svalbard. They ordered this ship’s command staff relieved, and Indy to join the defense of Earth. We not only disobeyed those orders; we resisted with force of arms. “But I chose this course of action because we have a task force and thirty thousand people waiting for our return


The series so far:

The series so far:

  1. Terms of Enlistment
  2. Lines of Departure
  3. Angles of Attack
Categories
Fantasy

The Warrior by Stephen Aryan (Book Review)

A big huge amazing thank you to Angry Robot Books for my finished copies of the Quest for Heroes duology! The Warrior is now out in the world and here are my thoughts on it!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Warrior
  • Series: Quest For Heroes #2
  • Author: Stephen Aryan
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 08/09/22
  • Length: 419 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ yes if you liked book one!

Here’s the synopsis:

The story of Kell Kressia continues in Book II of the gripping fantasy duology. Kell, two time saviour of the Five Kingdoms, is now the King of Algany. He has fame, power, respect, and has never been more miserable…

Bound, by duty and responsibility, Kell is King only in name. Trapped in a loveless marriage, he leaves affairs of state to his wife, Sigrid. When his old friend, Willow, turns up asking him to go on a journey to her homeland he can’t wait to leave.

The Malice, a malevolent poison that alters everything it infects, runs rampant across Willow’s homeland. Desperate to find a cure her cousin, Ravvi, is willing to try a dark ritual which could damn her people forever. Journeying to a distant land, Kell and his companions must stop Ravvi before it’s too late.While Kell is away Reverend Mother Britak’s plans come to a head. Queen Sigrid must find a way to protect her family and her nation, but against such a ruthless opponent, something has to give

The first thing that I love about the book, besides the cover, is the synopsis! Not much more recall is needed.

I’m going to *duck behind the couch* and say that I liked The Coward a lot more than The Warrior. It was nice to see Kell off on another heroic quest, even if none of the humans understood it, and he must have come to terms with a lot of his anxiety and PTSD because it isn’t nearly as severe here. That speaks for the level of resolution provided in the prior book

Character wise, I liked Sigrid the most as she dealt with the crazy old Reverend Mother and the fate of Algany. I wanted more from the Queen and appreciated her arc the most.  Kell and Willow make a good pair although I still wanted more from their friendship, should it be called that.

Where Aryan kind of lost me was in his shift from low fantasy in The Coward to the more magical elements of The Warrior. I got to ask him about it in the Q & A on the SFF Oasis discord and understood what he was saying about wanting to change things up, but it was too strange for me to introduce so much newness into book 2.

Odd’s … Thing … What the heck was it? I was interested in learning and unsatisfied with the resolution to the point that I didn’t care about… What happened. I would have loved at least an update on the two other questers from book one but their story was done. As a result of these things I just didn’t feel for or care about Odd or Yarra at all, so a lot of the book with drawn out scenes featuring these two felt harder to get through.

That said, the setting was well done in places.  I did love the visuals of the Alfár housing, especially the multicolored windows and descriptions of their culture and dwellings.

The ending went from near catastrophe to more or less resolved, real quick, which was OK from a wrap up standpoint but The Warrior wasn’t nearly as light as The Coward to support the quick resolution.

One thing that was really missing was the POV of the new Reverend Mother – even one chapter would have sufficed but I felt like Britak was such a huge presence, then a hole appeared and the plot kept going without filling that leadership role!

I just ended up with a lot of mixed feelings and questions, like about Odd. And did the Vahli saga survive since the Medina saga was the one mentioned by the historian at the end? It also felt a little bare without the chapter lead excerpts than book one had.  I guess that chapter of Kell’s history closed but I missed the little tidbits.
(And this has nothing to do with my rating but those spine sizes, those spine sizes, those spine sizes, who did this)!!

Overall: if you read and enjoyed book one, I would recommend reading book two. I have seen interestingly mixed reviews on which book people prefer so I would definitely say try them both!

Thank you again to AR for my copies, all opinions are my own 


My review for The Coward 

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Literary Fiction Romance

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Book Thoughts)

In an effort to broaden my reading horizons and shore up some of my literary gaps, I started reading a few classics every year.

For my summer session of classic torture, I was surprised to find that The Scarlet Letter was not really that challenging to read. It is fairly short and the language isn’t terribly insufferable either (My last classic was Notre Dame de Paris ((The Hunchback of Notre Dame)) and … Whew, no thanks).

So let’s talk about my reaction to the book, if I think it has relevance today, and I’ll treat you to my teen-speak synopsis of the book.

Originally published in 1850, here’s the Signet Classics synopsis:

This tragic novel of sin and redemption is Hawthorne’s masterpiece of American fiction.

An ardent young woman, her cowardly lover, and her aging vengeful husband—these are the central characters in this stark drama of the conflict between passion and convention in the harsh world of seventeenth-century Boston. Tremendously moving and rich in psychological insight, this dramatic depiction of the struggle between mind and heart illuminates Hawthorne’s concern with our Puritan past and its influence on American life.

Broadly – I enjoyed the read.  It’s not hard to know what’s happening, and minus a bit of minute descriptive language mostly in the first novella about the Custom House, it was pretty readable.

His author intro is everything: Oh you’re offended by my sketch? I think it’s fine, it’s not like I burned the place down!! I bet Hawthorne had a big personality.

Relevance: I think it has relevance as a cautionary tale today in a world where teen moms get “famous” on TV and you can’t even scroll Bookstagram without seeing books with x rated content advertised. I would definitely put this in a home school curriculum to talk about Puritanism, early settlements, guilt, adultery, having children out of wedlock, stigmas and identity, I mean there’s a lot of discussion content here that I imagine parents would rather handle.

Here’s my teen speak synopsis:

Part 1: So Mr. Hawthorne was in the hot seat for blasting his employer after being fired, and said HaHaHaHA I’m gonna publish this anyway because it’s not offensive so enjoy! Sticks and stones!

Part 2: The Scarlet Letter. Ok so this lady living in Puritan Salem/Boston finds this brown eyed pastor waxing poetic, and even though she’s married, they get their shenanigans on. What the heck did she think would happen when she had a baby? This wasn’t 2020 where Jerry Springer lets your baby daddy and your husband fight it out on live TV, your @$$ is going to be hung by the neck!

That didn’t happen because Hawthorne had to write a book longer than 5 pages, so the two men have to kill each other with psychological warfare instead. A good lesson about carrying around a guilty conscience.

Long story short – actions have consequenes

A few random thoughts:

  • I thought it was funny that even the beggars were shunning charity from Hester. These days everyone grabs all the free stuff regardless of who is handing it out
  • A character mentioned transmuting alchemy to gold, which is something I usually see in fantasy books or nonfiction moreso than historical fiction
  • The book takes place 50 years before the Salem Witch Trials and Hawthorne brought in some real historical figures as characters.  Bellingham was the real governor, as was Hibbins who mentioned witchcraft throughout the book and was hanged in real life shortly after it took place. I didn’t know how many women were hung before the actual frenzy took place

Overall thoughts: I didn’t feel bad for Hester at all. She wasn’t forced into marriage and knew the laws of the time. Dimmesdale probably took advantage of his authority position and that isn’t an excuse for either of them since she clearly knows how to say NO to men in power based off the rest of the book.  I know 2020 is whack but choices, actions, they all have consequences and I’ll never support adultery.  That’s why I think this is a good cautionary tale to lay against idiocracy like “Teen Mom”

This is a quicker, easier to pick apart classic and I definitely think it held up over the years.

Soooo what classic should I read in the fall?

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (Book & Audio Thoughts)

The Frontlines series continues on with more military sci-fi goodness. I liked Terms of Enlistment quite a bit and enjoyed Lines of Departure even more. The book started out full speed and once again just never let up. I’m such a sucker for these action packed books!

Bringing into the sequel more ethical conflicts and increasing the level of bad-assery, so far I would definitely recommend this series for anyone interested.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Lines of Departure
  • Series: Frontlines #2
  • Author: Marko Kloos
  • Publisher & Release: 47North, January 2014
  • Length: 329 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for anyone interested in the series!

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the Solar System…

Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is North American Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go.

After surviving a disastrous space-borne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony—and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun.

In this sequel to the bestselling Terms of Enlistment, a weary soldier must fight to prevent the downfall of his species…or bear witness to humanity’s last, fleeting breaths.

Five years have passed since Andrew and Halley survived the wreck of the Versailles and humanity met the Lankies. Both are now at least staff sergeants and Andrew has become a combat controller! I like seeing his career develop. Things are heating up in the Lanky war while also going to hell on Earth.  With tension off the charts and humanity incapable of pointing it’s guns in the same direction…

I watch the red icons on the plot. They’re steadily advancing toward the town. Each of those icons represents thirty or more troops, people I’ve shared a mess hall with, men and women who wear the same flag we do. The universe is falling apart around us, and we still have nothing smarter to do than to try and kill each other.

Yeah, wow, if the North American Commonwealth wasn’t so busy fighting itself they could do some great things.  This is a huge theme in Lines of Departure as a dissenting chunk of the military is shipped off to a moon of ice and left there with the transportation nodes closed.

When ordered to attack and seize civilian assets, Grayson and Fallon say “f*ck you kindly” and stage a mutiny.  I love everything about this storyline SO MUCH

I am also SO glad that Fallon wasn’t a one and done character. I just love her. Same with colonel Campbell, I’m glad he came back and was developed into a character with the only personality in the fleet on par with Fallon’s craziness! His speech about the nukes was impressive. I kind of hope he hooks up with Fallon at one point because they would be unstoppable 😍

With the aliens attacking as far as Mars in our own solar system and the military too busy fighting itself, unlikely alliances form with SRA refugees. The mutinous (read heroic) soldiers are going to find one way or another to get home.

(I loved the lead scientist on the planet too because science and physics should save the day in sci-fi)

The main characters grew some more depth here too. I loved the chapter where Grayson went home and took his mom to Vermont.  She deserved every second of that trip. Halley is going to have a big book three I hope since she didn’t see much fighting action in this one 😉 overall I just have a ton of respect for the main characters at this point

My only gripe was that I don’t think the passage of time was well represented on the Fomalhaut moon.  It seemed like only weeks had gone by when there was enough time for the solar system to be overcome as far as Mars, it seemed like it had to have been months gone by.

Overall, this was an action-packed and exciting second installment with hecking awesome characters too. I feel like I just want to binge read this series. It’s addictive!

As a quick note on the audio: once again I think Luke Daniels was phenomenal.  I love his pilot voices but he makes everyone sound so real and bad ass. About 9 hours from Brilliance Audio, I would definitely recommend either reading or listening


The series so far:

  1. Terms of Enlistment
  2. Lines of Departure
Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Romance Young Adult

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Evelyn Skye (ARC Review)

Thank you to Wednesday Books for the early digital copy of Three Kisses, One Midnight by *all those authors* lol!  I haven’t read anything by Skye or Menon but I love Chokshi as a YA author and was happy to grab a copy of this.

This is a young feeling YA with witchy & folklore elements, that hit me like a Halloween version of Cinderella.  Three friends are attending the town’s annual masquerade gala and are intent on finding true love prior to midnight.  It was a little silly but magical and cute overall, and I think that younger YA readers will enjoy the book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Three Kisses, One Midnight: A Novel
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Evelyn Skye
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 08/30/22
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐✨  for younger teen readers

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads: 

New York Times bestselling authors Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon craft a spellbinding novel about discovering the magic of true love on one fateful, magical night in Three Kisses, One Midnight.

The town of Moon Ridge was founded 400 years ago and everyone born and raised there knows the legend of the young woman who perished at the stroke of twelve that very same night, losing the life she was set to embark on with her dearest love. Every century since, one day a year, the Lady of Moon Ridge descends from the stars to walk among the townsfolk, conjuring an aura upon those willing to follow their hearts’ desires.

“To summon joy and love in another’s soul
For a connection that makes two people whole
For laughter and a smile that one can never miss
Sealed before midnight with a truehearted kiss.”

This year at Moon Ridge High, a group of friends known as The Coven will weave art, science, and magic during a masquerade ball unlike any other. Onny, True, and Ash believe everything is in alignment to bring them the affection, acceptance, and healing that can only come from romance—with a little help from Onny’s grandmother’s love potion.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. And as midnight approaches, The Coven learn that it will take more than a spell to recognize those who offer their love and to embrace all the magic that follows

The synopsis sounded a little not-my-style but I’ll read anything that Roshani Chokshi writes.  The first friend, Onny, has an insanely rich family and her parents host the Moon Ridge founding day gala every year.  Since it’s the 400th anniversary they are sparing no expense and creating the most magical, amazing celebration ever.

There was a good overall mood and setting, I would totally go to that masquerade.

I think the best part was also the most jarring part – Chokshi’s prose.  The other authors wrote the dialogue and stories, and then her lyrical and magic descriptions were tagged into paragraphs.   Text, Text, text, “and it was like *insert block of Chokshi prose*”.

I think they should have melded it together a little better somehow but it really did flow well overall.

Split into three sections, a section for each friend, we get to see how each teen embraces both the literal and figurative magic of the night.  I was surprised to enjoy the third story the most – True had an amazing personality and I feel like the authors gave us a rough idea of her at first, so I got to overcome my first impression of her as she also had her own struggles.  I liked her story the most too.

Each teen had a little adventure and I think True had the best one.  Each character was good though, I didn’t particularly dislike any character or segment.  Ash’s was slowest but interesting, Onny was insufferable and had to learn to look under the surface of people, and I already talked about True!

There are good youth friendly themes of being yourself, honoring family, accepting yourself and others, and others.

Overall, I’m pretty excited that these authors got together.  I do think some of the content isn’t quite as cute as they intended it to be, which is why I went with my neutral rating.  I do appreciate that they kept the main characters to kissing only. The characters tend to talk and text like 12 year olds and they are intended to be 17+! Like I said, I would recommend for the younger YA spectrum and also have no trouble giving this to a strong middle grader.

Thanks again to Wednesday Books for my advanced copy, all opinions are my own.

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade

The Faceless Ones by Derek Landy (Audio & Book Thoughts)

I am going to keep the next Derek Landy reviews a little more vague since I try really hard not to put spoiler content here.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Faceless Ones
  • Series: Skulduggery Pleasant, #3
  • Author: Derek Landy
  • Publisher & Release: HarperCollins, April 2009
  • Length: 432 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ if you even remotely liked the first two books yes:

Audio: 7hours, 47 min from HarperCollins.  Narrated by Rupert Degas! I’m loving the audio experience.

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

The third bone-breaking, belly-busting adventure in the series that puts the “funny” back in, um, funny series. That didn’t really work, did it?

If you’ve read the previous Skulduggery books then you know what the Faceless Ones are — and if you know what the Faceless Ones are, then you can probably take a wild guess that things in this book are going to get AWFULLY sticky for our skeletal hero and his young sidekick. If you haven’t read the previous Skulduggery books then what are you doing reading this? Go and read them right now, so that you know what all that stuff in the previous paragraph was about. Done? Good. So now you’re on tenterhooks too, desperately awaiting the answers to all your questions, and instead you’re going to have to wait to read the book. Sorry about that.

So I am now three books into my Skulduggery Pleasant audio binge and have no regrets. I think Landy finally hit his stride here in book three because The Faceless Ones is far, far better than the first two! Another action packed story with better writing, nonstop action, mature villains, and an engaging storyline with more depth now.

I think the humor got good reception in book one so he ended up overdoing it in book two. Here he finally hit a good balance. There was a great mix of humor and serious content, with an overall darker tone.

Similar to other middle grade / young reader series like HP, Landy is getting into tougher subject matter as his protagonist gets older. Valkyrie is (I think) 14 now. I like watching series grow up with their characters and I hope Landy continues this trend.

Continuing with the ever present theme of moral grayness, there’s a clear line between the good and bad guys in this one. The bad guys got more serious though and even the good guys are willing to get dirty.  There’s no happy ending, some significant character deaths, and the Dr is truly laying into Skulduggery for putting Valkyrie in danger.  At the end of the day she is literally just a child and I like that Landy isn’t letting Skulduggery off the hook so easily as a morally gray character wreaking havoc on a child’s life.

Throughout the book we get hints of dark times to come, concluding with a surprisingly bleak ending.

The only thing missing? I wish Landy would do more with Ireland as the setting! Why not engage the middle grade audience with Irish things! The book could take place in Chicago or Berlin or Vancouver for all we know except he keeps mentioning Dublin, and it seems like a terrible waste.

Overall this is by far my favorite of the series so far.  It stays age appropriate. Great audio too with Rupert Degas still narrating; he said he stays for the first four books so that’s exciting.  Definitely recommend for Middle-grade/YA


Here are a few favorite quotes!

“You don’t treat me like a child”

He smiled. “Of course I do, but you seem to have this ridiculous notion that being treated like a child means to be treated with less respect than an adult


I’m sophisticated, charming, suave and debonair, Professor. But I have never claimed to be civilized.


I will heal your wounds,” he said, “but I will not facilitate your battles.


My series reviews so far: 

  1. Skulduggery Pleasant
  2. Playing With Fire
  3. The Faceless Ones
Categories
Fiction Mysteries Suspense

The Comfort of Distance by Ryburn Dobbs (Book Thoughts)

I was invited to read The Comfort of Distance by Ryburn Dobbs and am leaving a voluntary review. My devices struggle with the PDF format so I ended up finding the book on Kindle Unlimited and read the edition provided there. **See disclaimer at the end**

This book spans a few genres. It is more about forensic anthropology and detective work than it is a police procedural, with some mystery and suspense elements too.  The characters alluded to but didn’t say “Bones”. Check this one out if you like Bones, with a socially awkward and overly introspective anthropologist that reminded me a lot of Detective Monk in many ways.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Comfort of Distance
  • Series: The Sebastien Grey Novels – #1
  • Author: Ryburn Dobbs
  • Publisher & Release: Dandiprat Press, October, 2020
  • Length: 276 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of the genre

Here’s the summary from Am*zon:

Someone, or some thing, is leaving bodies in the Black Hills.

Forensic science meets literary fiction in this captivating police procedural. Deep in the forests of the Black Hills, human remains are being discovered – one bit at a time. Rumors of a rogue man-eating mountain lion are spreading through the county and panic is starting to swell. Sgt. Hank LeGris of the Custer County Sheriff’s Office is feeling the pressure; he needs to find out who the dead are, and how they got that way. Hank suspects that the bodies are the result of a more sinister predator. But in order to solve the mystery, he will have to reach back into his own dysfunctional family history and pull in the only person who can get to the bottom of these strange cases – his estranged and disordered brother, the brilliant forensic anthropologist Dr. Sebastien Grey.

When Sebastien arrives in the Black Hills, he takes his brother, and Detective Tiffany Reese, on a whirlwind tour of forensic thinking and deductive reasoning, not only solving the mystery of the human remains, but the murder of a local thug as well. In the process, Sebastien himself is forever transformed by his own success and by the charm and kindness of the lovely Detective Reese: “One day I hope you give yourself permission to be different, Sebastien. You’ll be happier.”

The Comfort of Distance is equal parts forensic mystery, police procedure and character study, with dashes of comedy and romance thrown in. Readers will be cheering at the end and ready for more

The prologue and initial scenes definitely had me interested in The Comfort of Distance.  Someone is brutalized and left for dead, and shortly after we meet the main cast of characters.

When the book introduced Sebastien Grey as a disordered person in therapy, I honestly rolled my eyes because so many detective novels take that route to show them getting their career back on track. Thankfully Dobbs took a different route and simply used that introduction to, well, introduce the character and his quirks.

The book quickly redeemed itself with interesting detective work, good characters, and multiple plotlines to keep things fresh and moving forward.

Grey turned into an interesting character that it is easy to root for.  I feel like he snapped right out of a lot of his problems (taking prescriptions inappropriately, etc) pretty quickly while on the case, which showed that his brain maybe just needed a little occupation than it was getting in California? I’m not sure what to make of Dr Grey’s character arc but he definitely ended up in a good place and I was happy for him.

I’m kind of wondering if Sebastien wasn’t slightly based off the fashion designer by the same name.

The other characters are likeable too, with good dialogue and banter and teamwork.  There is some family drama between the brothers which I hope gets more exposure in future novels.  One character had a lot of antipathy towards Sebastien at first that seemed to magically resolve, and I needed more background into the whole family conflict.

Also there were a ton of names and different storylines thrown out in the first few chapters.  Most of them came together well by the end but I thought there were a few loose ends too.  My last gripe is that the KU version did have a few – as in probably fewer than one per chapter – editorial issues, which did not detract too much.

The setting was well described in terms of weather, terrain, local mood and atmosphere, but I had a hard time pinning down the mood of the entire book.  I had Monk in my mind and read the book through a lighter, slightly more humorous lens than a serious detective novel or police procedural. That said, I think the book shined the most when Sebastien was doing his forensic magic.  It was interesting and showed that he really does have a great mind in there.

I haven’t gotten to do a OneReadingNurse medical disclaimer© in a while, but I would like to point out that Buspar \ buspirone and similarly Wellbutrin \ buproprion are long acting medications and have absolutely no indication or supportive data for as needed use. Please use these medications as prescribed by a physician.

Anyway, overall, I didn’t LOVE this book but definitely want to read the next one to see how Sebastien fares moving forward! I would recommend this for fans of forensic and detective novels like the Temperance Brennan and Eve Duncan series!


**Disclaimer: I do not normally take review requests for books that are available on KU. My normal policy for KU available books is, if interested, to mark them as want-to-read and then check it out IF/WHEN time allows. I missed this and it happens

Categories
Fantasy

The Coward by Stephen Aryan (Book Review)

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for hooking me up with a finished copy of The Coward by Stephen Aryan! The sequel, The Warrior, comes out August 9th and I’m excited to jump on the hype train for this duology before it ends!

That said, The Coward is a fast paced book with lower fantasy elements, good characters, decent world building, intricate plot, and a blessedly readable font size!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Coward
  • Series: Quest for Heroes #1
  • Author: Stephen Aryan
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, June 2021
  • Length: 432 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of epic quests told with a lighter hand

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Who will take up the mantle and slay the evil in the Frozen North, saving all from death and destruction? Not Kell Kressia, he’s done his part…

Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of wizened fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice receded and the Five Kingdoms were safe.

Ten years have passed Kell lives a quiet farmer’s life, while stories about his heroism are told in every tavern across the length and breadth of the land. But now a new terror has arisen in the north. Beyond the frozen circle, north of the Frostrunner clans, something has taken up residence in the Lich’s abandoned castle. And the ice is beginning to creep south once more.

For the second time, Kell is called upon to take up his famous sword, Slayer, and battle the forces of darkness. But he has a terrible secret that nobody knows. He’s not a hero – he was just lucky. Everyone puts their faith in Kell the Legend, but he’s a coward who has no intention of risking his life for anyone…

Oh Kell, aren’t you just a bucket of joy.  Let’s talk about him first. I appreciated the anxiety/PTSD element of the character and how the author showed that Kell wasn’t ok after his first trip to the North.  Many books throw heroes into quests and horrible situations without ever following up on the aftermath – so it was interesting to see that as a main plot point.  Despite ten years to rest and recover, the experience haunts Kell.  Would anyone ever want to be faced with that again? I enjoyed his redemption arc!

I liked the other characters too. Everyone in Kell’s party more or less volunteered for the mission. Each had their own mental and physical barriers to overcome and I enjoyed meeting the questing crew.  It might have been nice to go a little deeper into each character, although I predict that only one of them is going to end up in the next book.  The group worked and fought together well though, and there was enjoyable dialogue. Banter, not so much. 

One thing I noticed was that the characters tended to pair off to talk and even to fight, more than interacting as a group, and I would have liked to see a little more of that bigger group aspect.

The overall pace was fairly quick. Aryan didn’t spend a lot of time bogging us down with details.  The political plotting, religion, and lore were well described within reverend mother Britak’s chapters and that added a lot of depth to the world.  I liked her chapters, she was a crafty old bat! The old folks were pretty ruthless in this book,  between Britak and the old king that sent Kell on the quest – those two should have gotten right along. 

The book had fairly good worldbuilding too.  The religious lore ties into the plotline in more ways than one.  There’s also weather, terrain, food, local customs, and descriptions of buildings among other things that add to the setting. 

While parts of the book stayed pretty light, there was quite a bit of violence and darkness thrown in too.  The fact that Aryan skirted along without spending too much time on any one topic kept it from becoming too heavy.

 Where he really lost me was with his consistency at times – for example – in one chapter, a character’s leg becomes mangled.  Shortly after the character was up and running along full speed.  There is no way the characters could have accomplished so much with their injuries over such a short period of time.  I’m also a reader who reads out loud in my head as I go so that typos really throw me out of my reading rhythm.  For a third printing there were still a *lot*.  It’s not a huge issue overall but tended to throw me out of immersion.   Lastly, that slang! Some slang was like old English (Arse, cock, etc), although right at the start he was rife with the modern (fuck, shit) words.  

I won’t lie that the book got off to a rough start for me but did, very quickly, redeem itself.

Ending on a good note – once the book gets going, it really gets going.  I liked the battle scenes and emotional toll that kept the quest rolling forward.  There was one source of magic in the book – and without spoilers, let’s say that I enjoyed everything associated with the Lich’s castle.  I also hope to see more of the Alfár in the next book since they seem to be the “magical” race.

Overall – I enjoyed this book as an epic quest fantasy that isn’t as dense as others in the genre.  I would definitely recommend for fans of books with lower fantasy elements who aren’t counting on a super involved world build and magic system.  I think Kell become a real hero by the end of this book and I can’t wait to see how he handles the storm coming in the next installment.

Thanks again to AR for my finished copy, I hope to have a review for The Warrior coming in the next week!

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos (Book Thoughts)

I have been on a pretty heavy sci-fi kick this summer and needed an audiobook!  Cue a Kindle Unlimited with free audio search and I got lucky with Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos!  A soldier himself, Kloos delivers a fast paced and action packed military sci-fi adventure.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how many on discord read and enjoyed this series! I had never heard of this author but George RR Martin plugged the series soooo

Let’s get into it

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Terms of Enlistment
  • Series: Frontlines #1
  • Author: Marko Kloos
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, May 2013
  • Length: 334 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for a solid, addictive read that was enjoyable but didn’t do anything new

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

“There is nobody who does [military SF] better than Marko Kloos. His Frontlines series is a worthy successor to such classics as Starship TroopersThe Forever War, and We All Died at Breakaway Station.” ―George R. R. Martin

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements: You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world . . . or you can join the service.

With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price . . . and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

The debut novel from Marko Kloos, Terms of Enlistment is an addition to the great military sci-fi tradition of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and John Scalzi.


Mostly taking place on a futuristic and overpopulated Earth, we meet Andrew Grayson and follow his enlistment into the army, eventual transfer into the Navy in space, encounter a lot of danger and explosions and army shenanigans, then finally end on first contact with a hostile alien race.

The pace never lets up in between those events either; it was hard to stop reading!

While Kloos doesn’t do anything new or particularly special, this is a fast paced, utterly action packed book with all the military humor and happenings. I like reading military sci-fi and fantasy when it is written by soldiers. Kloos delivered something that felt like realistic enlistment complete with bureaucratic nightmares, while embracing all sorts of futuristic technology and interstellar travel.

The action was good too.  There plenty of danger and destruction, rocket launchers, warzone action, death and more.

I hate to admit I miss the stupid ass stories my exes used to tell, so I am drawn to the military stories (especially sci-fi) since I’m just so used to that language. Maybe that mixed with growing up on Star Trek and classic scifi draws me to these books but I will read them all day.

Character wise, I like what I saw of Grayson and Halley and the others.  No one comes to military sci-fi for the characters but there are a whole cast of side characters and people we meet along the way that add a lot of personality and banter to the book. Sgt Fallon was amazing 🤣

I usually hate first person point of view but here, it’s ok.  It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t get to five stars but still, I didn’t hate it.

“At ease,” Sergeant Fallon says. “Jesus, don’t those instructors over at the depot remove the corn cobs before they send you off into real life?”

“I don’t remember having been issued any sort of vegetables, Staff Sergeant,” I reply, and Sergeant Fallon chuckles.

“A smart-ass. As if we didn’t have enough of those already. I think you’ll fit in just fine.”

From boot camp to destruction of a colonized world, Terms of Enlistment never let up on the action. I can’t wait to follow more of Grayson and Halley’s adventures. I listened to the second half on audio and liked it too, either format comes recommended!

**Narrated by Luke Daniels, from Brilliance Audio, the audiobook is about 9.5 hours long.  I liked his clear enunciations and many different voices.  Daniels added a lot to the banter, personality of the characters, and book in general**

Overall, I recommend for fans of the genre!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal

Playing With Fire by Derek Landy (Audio & Book Thoughts)

Whewww I am getting burned out on writing reviews this month, thankfully I’m almost caught up!

As a “fun for all ages” middle grade read I like the Skulduggery Pleasant series quite a bit. Playing With Fire is a fast paced, snarky sequel that I jumped into right after finishing the first book.

Let’s get into it!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Playing With Fire
  • Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #2
  • Author: Derek Landy
  • Publisher & Release: HarperCollins, May 2008
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of the first book! *Not a standalone*

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Skulduggery and Valkyrie are facing a new enemy: Baron Vengeous, who is determined to bring back the terrifying Faceless Ones and is crafting an army of evil to help him. Added to that, Vengeous is about to enlist a new ally (if he can raise it from the dead): the horrible Grotesquery, a very unlikable monster of legend.

Once Vengeous is on the loose, dead bodies and vampires start showing up all over Ireland. Now pretty much everybody is out to kill Valkyrie, and the daring detective duo faces its biggest challenge yet.

But what if the greatest threat to Valkyrie is just a little closer to home?

I have to admit the book became a bit repetitive after reading the first two back to back.  The audio was once again entertaining – and Rupert Degas said hi on Instagram so that was cool – but again, the music is also getting slightly less fun after hearing it so many times in short succession.

I want to keep reading but I’m going to space the next book or two out a bit.

Not to say it’s bad though. Playing With Fire had more one liners and banter and wit, plus we got a little more motivation from the individual “good guy” characters.  I liked seeing a little more of what keeps Skulduggery going, and how Valkyrie is regretting her time spent away from home too.

There were quite a few bad guys and henchmen in this one. I  couldn’t keep their names, abilities, affiliations straight, and that’s totally on me.  It didn’t detract too much and I loved the Billy Ray jokes.

The evil also felt a lot more cartoonish in this one, even for a middle-grade series. I did like the continuing theme of good vs bad vs gray zone though as the team navigated shifting alliances.

Overall: age appropriate, action packed, funny, and seriously grim at times. I can see these books being fun for all ages. There are a few gory horror elements but a strong middle grader would have no problem with these books.

I stuck with the audio as my Libby only has that available. Rupert Degas continues to delight and I’d definitely recommend that route if it is available.


Lastly, here are a few favorite quotes:

If you don’t see me in five minutes, then I’ve probably died a very brave and heroic death. Oh and don’t touch the radio–I’ve got it tuned right where I want it and I don’t want you messing that up.


‘Only a heathen would bring a gun to a sword fight
‘And only a moron would bring a sword to a gunfight’


Bravery, after all, isn’t the absence of fear. Bravery is the acknowledgement and the conquering of fear

My Reviews of the series so far:

  1. Skulduggery Pleasant
  2. Playing With Fire