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
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
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
Dystopian Fantasy Science Fiction

The Waste Lands by Stephen King (Book Thoughts)

After all, there are other worlds than these and that fucking train rolls through all of them

-Jake Chambers

The Gunslinger was weird wild west and a chase across world and time.

The Drawing of the Three was alternate reality, gangs of New York, and some psychological thriller.

In The Waste Lands... King took on a dystopian, post apocalyptic type storyline here.

The craziest thing I’m finding in this series is how different each book is, while they’re also linked together in continuity. I think King is finally realizing that this is going to be a long, epic story, and he got the characters supposedly about halfway to the Dark Tower here in book three.

What I really want to say is that I am living and dying for the full color illustrations in this book 😍

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Waste Lands
  • Series: The Dark Tower, #3
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: originally Grant, 1991
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ the best book so far, it has a lot of great elements but got excessively vulgar at times

Here’s the synopsis:

Several months have passed, and Roland’s two new tet-mates have become proficient gunslingers. Eddie Dean has given up heroin, and Odetta’s two selves have joined, becoming the stronger and more balanced personality of Susannah Dean. But while battling The Pusher in 1977 New York, Roland altered Ka by saving the life of Jake Chambers, a boy who—in Roland’s where and when—has already died. Now Roland and Jake exist in different worlds, but they are joined by the same madness: the paradox of double memories. Roland, Susannah, and Eddie must draw Jake into Mid-World then follow the Path of the Beam all the way to the Dark Tower. But nothing is easy in Mid-World. Along the way our tet stumbles into the ruined city of Lud, and are caught between the warring gangs of the Pubes and the Grays. The only way out of Lud is to wake Blaine the Mono, an insane train that has a passion for riddling, and for suicidal journeys.

There you have it; riddling and suicidal journeys, more or less the plot of the entire book! I should add that I read the revised edition, released in ’05, but unlike The Gunslinger I have no idea what was revised. The original hardcover had full color illustrations.

Anyway – the best parts of this book were the journey finally getting underway, and the characters coming out of their shells and into their roles.

Beating heroin was child’s play compared to beating your childhood

Eddie is going to be a force of nature going forward I think! Susannah is also much more stable now and both are settling into their gunslinger roles.

I like Jake too, and Oy, the fuzzy little doglike wild animal companion that showed up, was a highlight of the entire book. Bring in a loyal animal companion and books get so much better.

Roland, Roland, Roland. Roland finally got to play Gunslinger too in all it’s historic roles, like moderator, diplomat, teacher, and we saw the extent of it through Susannah’s eyes as she realized the many non firearm related things he was capable of.  Roland – if I daresay – gets to play father now as well, he seems to have adopted Jake (and Oy too).

Blaine … Blaine the suicidal train. King loves to take innocent children’s things and make them absolutely terrible.  Here he twists our (also absolutely terrible) Charlie the Choo-Choo.

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So the characters are bad ass, the journey is started, and King took on a true dystopia post apocalyptic vibe for the last part of the book.  I wasn’t so much into the Lud part except for Blaine. There was also an extra crass Susannah vs the demon part prior to that, and I think we are going to see a very… Unhuman spawn at some point now.

Do ye want to put away your iron, or shall we all toddle off to hell on the same handcart?”

King did nail the “the characters get trapped by a psycho in the remains of a large city” part of the post apocalyptic journey trope.

The cliffhanger was something else too, I thought King’s apology for it in the afterward was hilarious.

Roland Vs Blaine, aka my favorite part:

I cannot call you a sucker of cocks, for instance, because you have no mouth and no cock. I cannot say you are viler than the vilest beggar who ever crawled the gutters of the lowest street in creation, because even such a creature is better than you; you have no knees on which to crawl, and would not fall upon them even if you did, for you have no conception of such a human flaw as mercy. I cannot even say you fucked your mother, because you had none. 

Long story short – KILL IF YOU WILL BUT COMMAND ME NOT! YOU FORGOT THE FACES OF THOSE WHO MADE YOU!

Roland kicked so much ass I just wanted to applaud him at the end.

Overall… I didn’t love certain parts of this one but by far it’s the best written of the books so far.

A note on the audio: narrated by Frank Muller, from Simon & Schuster audio in 2015. Approximately 18 hours. I listened to the back half of the book and loved it for sure


My Thoughts So Far:

The Gunslinger

The Drawing of the Three 

Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Fiction Science Fiction

Aftermath by LeVar Burton

I think I can speak for my entire generation saying that we all love LeVar Burton. From Trekkies to Reading Rainbow and even now with LeVar Reads, the man has been a literary and sci-fi presence longer than I’ve been alive 

Last year, Burton recorded and narrated Aftermath on audio for the first time. He added a politically charged Forward/Author’s Note on the state of America and the commentary that truth is often “stranger than fiction”. His debut novel published back in 1997 and it’s a little ironic how accurate he was in predicting how 2019 would look.

That said, I’m agreeing with the GoodReads rating that lives around 3.37/5 for the book. It was a solid debut but his political commentary shut me off before the book even started. I find that blatant political statements shut me off these days when I’m turning to fiction for escapism, although he raises many good points. Aftermath has many cool and interesting parts, it struggled in places too, and as always Burton is an amazing narrator. 


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Aftermath
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: LeVar Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Aspect, January 1997
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of speculative fiction, light scifi, post holocaust/apocalypse type reads

Audio: approx 10 hours, narrated by the author, from Hachette Audio, 2921

Here’s the synopsis:

The acclaimed actor’s shockingly prescient novel of speculative fiction “presents a near-future United States torn apart by civil war and deep racial strife” (Tampa Bay Times). For the first time ever, available as an audiobook read by the author.

America today is teetering on the edge of the alarming vision presented in LeVar Burton’s debut novel, written more than two decades ago…. 

In 2012, the first African American president is assassinated by a White extremist – just four days after he is elected. The horrific tragedy leads to riots, financial collapse, and ultimately, a full-on civil war. In its aftermath, millions are left homeless as famine and disease spread throughout the country.

But from Chicago, a mysterious voice cries out….

To Leon Crane, a former NASA scientist now struggling to survive on the streets, the pleas he hears remind him of the wife he could not save – and offer him a chance at redemption.

To Jacob Fire Cloud, a revered Lakota medicine man, the voice is a sign that the White Buffalo Woman has returned to unite all the races in peace and prosperity.

And to little Amy Ladue, the cries are those of her mother, who disappeared during the devastating St. Louis earthquake – and who must still be alive.

These three strangers will be drawn together to rescue someone they have never met, a woman who holds the key to a new future for humanity – one remarkably brimming with hope.

I do think it’s interesting that they a new synopsis for the audio, which is the one I included. So yeah, you can tell that there’s quite a bit going on in the book. There’s a timeline at first that introduces how events came to be, and America is in the *Aftermath*

But then there’s also a completely separate plot line where a scientist is captured and the book turns more post-apocalyptic as the other characters are traveling to rescue her. I feel like he had two separate ideas and try to impose the scientific invention for curing disease storyline into a separate speculative fiction background

It mostly works too.  The storyline itself was fast paced but felt a lot longer than 288 pages.

Burton’s writing is where it really fell flat for me, and it was hard to gauge exactly how devastated America and the world was.  There are tent cities and extreme poverty and rationed electricity in some areas, but then Disney World is still open? There are high tech scientific inventions coming out of a supposedly broke and corrupt world where the banks are shut down but people are still rich? If you don’t think too hard it’s a good read but I was trying to parcel out exactly how devastated the world really was. He also made a good point of saying how the farms vs the rich vs those already in poverty would handle the changes …. I just had a hard time with the Disney World and other incongruous things.  Disney would take an entire city’s electricity ration!

Another thing with the writing – and he did this frequently – would be to say something like “there were two choices, right or left.  The right side was blocked, which meant she had to turn left.” Not a direct quote but it drove me nuts when he over explained simple choices and events like that. 

I did like the historical events created for the book though, the timeline made sense.

Moving towards the end of the book, Burton changed gears and took on some real post apocalyptic type elements of horror, which fit but vastly changed the tone of the book.  He also likened a grain silo to a giant p*nis which stuck out like a … I don’t know, a giant p*nis from the rest of his descriptive language.

To end on a positive note – the characters were pretty standard but all pretty likeable, I wanted them all to succeed. They rotated chapters in different points of view and Burton kept each narrative voice distinct and age appropriate.  I liked Jacob the most, the old Sioux was surprisingly both the comic relief and springboard for the epilogue and story going forward.

Overall – definitely I have mixed feelings on this one. I would recommend more for fans of speculative fiction than Sci-Fi readers.  My biggest takeaway is that for being written in 1997 – Burton had a hell of a vision of the future. 

p.s. look at the old original cover 🤣 I love it
Categories
Science Fiction

Daros by Dave Dobson (Book Review)

When I jumped into the book tour for Daros last month to interview Dave Dobson, I knew I wouldn’t have time to read the book beforehand.  I did want to read it though.  I finally finished after weeks of putting it off at the 55% ish point and just telling myself “come on, you can finish this book!”

There are many well executed parts that kept me vaguely interested.  Overall though this book just did not flow well for me.  It was hard to focus, I couldn’t see the imagery, and it felt like it took far too long to explain itself in one point of view.  I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying the book though since it has overwhelmingly positive feedback from many trusted Sci Fi reviewers

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Daros
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Dave Dobson
  • Publisher & Release: Self published, May 2021
  • Length: 415 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐✨   I would say try if you like the genre and synopsis

Here’s the synopsis:

High above Daros, sixteen-year-old Brecca Vereen prepares to unload a cargo of trade goods aboard her father’s ship, the Envy’s Price. Nellen Vereen shows her a mysterious artifact bound for a contact below, one that will earn them a lot of credits, and one that they definitely won’t be declaring to customs.

Materializing out of nowhere, alien invaders fire upon all ships, destroy the jump gate, and knock out communications. The Envy’s Price is crippled, and as her father tries to guide it down from orbit, Brecca rescues the illicit artifact and jettisons in a life pod to an uncertain fate below.

On the flagship of the invading fleet, Navigator Frim tries to persist within the cruel autocracy of the Zeelin Hegemony, under constant threat of death, but wishing for something better. And then she notices a whisper of radiation above Daros – the trail of a cloaked Vonar ship. What are they doing in the midst of all this? And will the captain kill her just for revealing this disagreeable news?

I don’t know if it was my mood or what reading this but I just never got fully engaged with Daros.  It was an SPSFC semifinalist with overwhelmingly positive feedback so I am willing to chalk it up to my mood and possibly the format – I read ePUB on the ReadEra reader and it can be hard to interact with this at times.

OK let’s start with the positive – In itself, the plot is a good idea.  There’s an alien invasion and humans are caught in the crossfire.  The issue is that we don’t know why they are invading or what artifact on the surface is being protected for quite a while.  There’s plenty of action interspersed throughout the book too but after an exciting beginning and interesting ending, I found a lot of the middle dragging.

Character wise, I liked our main character Brecca.  She’s funny, resourceful, and took the events in stride better than most teenagers would.  Frim’s storyline, according to the author, was written into the plot later and I think it shows.  The chapters come in alternating points of view and it was hard to tell what was happening in Frim’s at first.  I don’t think we got enough Zeelin backstory to make me care about her even once her goals and that of the fleet became apparent.

The first contact elements to me were the best thing that Dobson did in this book.  It was funny, entertaining, and realistic that the human and Zeelin would be eyeing each other trying to figure out what, for example, each facial feature was for.  The comparison of oral openings was my favorite part of the entire novel – and what the heck are THOSE slits for? Exactly. He only dropped it once when the Zeelin magically learned what the human body parts were called for a minute, then they snapped back into character.

As with any space opera, you’d better believe there is also a snarky ship’s AI.  I liked the Lyra and Brecca dynamic. The banter and reasoning back and forth was excellent.  Every AI has a “thing” and I liked Dobson’s concept of reasoning through the ethical codes and such.  As much as I liked Lyra – this is where my readers groan – SJW commentary always shuts me off, which is ironic as a SciFi fan, but I’m not here to be lectured about things like gender, and the ship got a little high-horsed about it

That said, I did ok with some of the imagery but Dobson’s descriptive language didn’t give me a great idea of what certain things like ships and characters looked like.  I pictured the Zeelin as upright walking crocodiles without the long noses, for example.

I don’t have any real complaints about the book but it just dragged overall for me despite having many great elements. I have also been reading a TON of sci-fi recently and maybe I need a break.  All the space opera elements are there AND you get plenty of entertainment as you go.  Also make sure to read the chapter titles, they are entirely punny

Thanks to Escapist Tours and the author for providing me an ecopy to read!

Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction

The Song Unsung by Steven J. Morris (Book Tour & ARC Review)

This is truly a month full of endings! I toured with T.A. Bruno for the end of his Song of Kamaria series, Mary Beesley wrapped up the Draco Sang trilogy, and The Song Unsung is the fourth and final book in Steven J. Morris’ Guardian League series.

As always I have to thank By the Book VBP and the author for having me on the tour for this entire series.  It’s been a ride and I’m glad to join in the final book tour!

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Song Unsung 
  • Series: Guardian League #4
  • Author: Steven J Morris 
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 07/01/23
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for SFF fans and gamers, computer nerds, anyone looking for something different

Here’s the synopsis:

Where do you hide when monsters threaten humanity?
You don’t!
Ride along as Red teams up with the Angel of Death to take the fight to the Infected.
Scan, using his Gift to see magical threads, fights to save the once fame-hungry dwarf, Harry. Grundle, the fearsome troll Warlord, safeguards Smith, along with a cadre of elf and dwarf Healers. And Elliah tries desperately to lead the elves from the prison where her ex trapped them.
With their companions benched, Red and Galad must forge ahead… the fate of humans and elves, intertwined by the selfish actions of the High Lord, depends upon stopping the Infected. But even with the help of the rescued elves, how can they Teleport to a world overrun by their monstrous foes?
New allies, along with ancient ones, aid them on their journey. The key lies in goblin song, lost to the small company of reptilian refugees who escaped to Earth, but not forgotten by the elves. The Song holds the gift of life and the foreknowledge of death. When the tale of the goblins unravels, will humans and elves unravel with it?
Immerse yourself in the fantasy worlds of The Guardian League, and fight your way back to the beginning of the end.

It’s always hard to talk about the fourth book in a series without giving away spoilers, so I will do my best not to.

I think my favorite thing about book 4 is that Morris actually managed to condense the points of view and make almost everyone’s voice distinctive. I’ve been griping through all three books that I can’t keep the characters apart but between Cora, Red, and Scan as the main viewpoints, I had no trouble distinguishing their narrative voices.

The goblins are everything with their banter and popcorn too🤣, but I also have to give honorable mention to Red bantering with the easily amused giant bugs 🤣

That said, I think Cora was my favorite point of view to read.  We finally found out where and how everything started, which also tied directly into Red’s chapters.  This created a sense of continuity that I wasn’t feeling in prior books and I was able to sit down and read this whole thing in about three sittings!

The Song Unsung is not as action packed as the prior three and gets dense into the magic theory, but still tied the first book in terms of enjoyment and readability for me now with the storylines condensed.

PLUS GRUNDLE BABIES, WE HAVE GRUNDLE BABIES!

I am not exactly sure what happened at the tail end of the book but it seems that Morris has more stories to tell, and I’ll be here for them!

Overall I think this book had a LOT of strings to tie up and ground to cover, it’s not perfect but he pulled it off in terms of both giving the history we needed and wrapping up a TON of storylines.  A satisfying ending for sure.

I definitely recommend the series for anyone who enjoys fast paced mashup type novels.  These contain everything from scifi to fantasy to thriller and mild horror elements, plus all the subgenres, and part of the fun is never knowing what will come next. Thanks again to Steven Morris and By the Book for having me along for the story!

Categories
Science Fiction

Book Tour & Giveaway: At the Threshold of the Universe by T.A. Bruno

Thank you endlessly to T.A. Bruno for the beautiful hardcover of At the Threshold of the Universe! Do ya all see the 4th quote down🤪

I’m so glad that Escapist Tours picked up the tour for the end of the trilogy.  I’m a huge fan of the series and it came to a whopping conclusion. Bruno not only wrapped up the storylines but created this amazingly intense backstory for the events leading up to the start of the first novel and eventual fall of the solar system.  There is a proper balance of nostalgia and forward motion to tie everything together and bring The Song of Kamaria to an epic conclusion!

You can find the giveaway and other info below.  I also linked to the Sunday Brunch Series feature that we did before if anyone wants to further “meet the author”!

Cover

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: At the Threshold of the Universe
  • Series: The Son of Kamaria, #3
  • Author: T.A. Bruno
  • Publisher & Release: Self Published, May 2022
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨yes 100% recommend to SFF readers or anyone looking for an adventure

Here’s the Synopsis:

ALL SONGS END.

War ravages Kamaria as an old enemy resurfaces from the depths of the ocean. Offering no support in the coming battles, the Auk’nai isolate themselves in their tightly guarded Nest. Outgunned and outmatched, humanity once again trembles on the edge of obliteration.

The Castus family is torn apart. Denton fights on the front lines, hoping to free Cade from a nightmarish foe. Meanwhile, Eliana and Nella set out on a path that will change everything they understand about the Sirens. The Song will end, but who will remain to hear its final verse?

I didn’t think he would take it easy on the characters but was not ready for how perfectly devastating this book would be.  The depth of suffering in the final battle for humanity … Was actually probably appropriate, I wouldn’t have loved the book if he had done anything less.

I liked how I pretty much spent the entire book chewing my nails for the characters. Extinction was a very plausible conclusion as things got bleaker and bleaker for the remaining humans – and I didn’t let my figurative breath out until it was over.

That said – you guys already know that these scenes play out like a movie.  Everything is laid out for the imagination and the authors experience in cinema and visual storytelling is apparent as war rages between moments of quiet in Kamaria’s magical settings.  It reads like scifi on a fantasy planet and it works here.

The backstory was my favorite part.  Cade is able to learn the history of the Undriel through the eyes of the leader and generals and now we finally know how the machines began and why they pushed humanity out of the solar system. There are some curve balls to keep it interesting and at no point does he drop the general feeling and tone of the rest of the book.

Nella separately learns the history of the Sirens and I’ll admit that this part went a bit over my head with the timelines and tasks. It had its moments though and hey, now we know. 

We also get many memorable quotes as things go to hell for Denton and the Marines.  Combs said this in one of the last quiet moments of the story and it merits repeating:

I had that pegged as one of the flagship passages of the book and it was an accurate guess!

Many characters in the series are memorable in both life and death.  In war some deaths are heroic and others are utterly pointless. I did like how that was reflected, as well as how the memories are carried forward.

In all honestly I did dock half a star for … This is painful but the editing wasn’t quite there in this one.  The first two books were nearly flawlessly edited and this one is just not up to par. It’s a personal preference and typos throw me out of immersion like nothing else, although the rest of the books presentation is stellar

The section and chapter artwork is another extra touch that makes this feel like a classic scifi read.

Overall …. I mean this is one of my favorite independently published series out there and I think he did the conclusion full justice.  It’s action packed, cinematic, in the feels, epic in scope, and you just want to shield the entire human race from any further harm.  I think giving Talulo the last word of the Song and Cade the epilogue was a good touch too, we can’t forget how much the Auk’nai also lost. 

100% no hesitation to recommend this series to anyone! Thank you again to Escapist Book Tours and the author for having me on the tour!


Alright now that I’ve hopefully gotten everyone interested in the series (p.s. In The Orbit of Sirens is an SPSFC finalist)!  Here is the giveaway:

At the Threshold of the Universe giveaway

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/79e197ac30/ enter here, open now and ends 6/22!

Book Links:

Amazon Series Page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09B4YVKGT
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60484283-at-the-threshold-of-the-universe

Meet the author!

T. A. Bruno grew up in a suburb south of Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is the proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife.

Author Website: TABruno.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/TABrunoAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TABrunoAuthor

There’s also the Sunday Brunch Series interview to check out for more info! https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/08/22/sunday-brunch-author-interview-series-featuring-t-a-bruno/

Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker (Book & Audio Thoughts)

I haven’t read a dystopian in a while and found one that I don’t see talked about a whole lot.  The End of the World Running Club hits all the right points for a dystopian but fell short over all for me and I’m blaming it on 1) the audio and 2) the ending.

When I read these types of books, the primary questions in my mind are “Ok, how far will these characters go to survive, and what keeps them going? What flavor does the ending leave for both humanity and our remaining characters?”

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The End of the World Running Club
  • Series: ” ” #1
  • Author: Adrian J. Walker
  • Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Landmark, September 3017
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ more for those who want to sample the genre

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Asteroids are striking Earth, the end of the world is near, and Edgar Hill is on the wrong side of the country.

Over five hundred miles of devastated wastelands stretch between him and his family, and every second counts. His only option is to run―or risk losing everything he loves. He’ll have to be ingenious and push himself to the very limit if he wants to see them again. Can he reach them in the race against time, or will the end of the world defeat him?

A dystopian page-turner about the endurance of the human body and spirit―perfect for lovers of apocalyptic science fiction, running books, and anyone who knows that true strength comes from love.

As I said it hits all the points of a good dystopian. There’s a cataclysmic event, despair, survival, hope and hopelessness, the exploration of human nature, an incredible journey, etc. Everything the book should have.  There are helpful friends and harmful scum along the way, complete with all the obstacles you’d expect in a cross country run through a landscape devastated by asteroids.  It also takes place in the UK which is not something that I see so frequently in these types of novels.

That said, I had mixed feelings about where the book ended, and I think a lot of my overall negative feelings are influenced by the fact that the audiobook narrator’s voice got so annoying that I had to close it down and buy the ebook.

I really liked the beginning because Ed, the narrator, started at the end of the story with the description of three graves that he was thinking of digging up to prove his sanity.  Or had he already lost it? He talked about beliefs and it set the book up for the potential to be a mirage.  The whole beginning was absolutely wonderful as the asteroids occurred and then the family was trapped in the cellar. I felt like it went slowly downhill once Ed & Co started the journey.

At the end, again focusing on the graves, Edgar made a big point of bringing into question whether or not the events he told actually happened, versus what he believed. So… I don’t really know what to believe happened at the end and I wasn’t in the mood for that much literary ambiguity in a now open ending. I do think these books need open endings but not necessarily a riddle.

Anyway, I got truly annoyed with the book about the time that Jenny Rae came in. Whether or not my annoyance should give the author more points, I’m not sure. I tend to be super picky with dystopian and this one had a lot of really good elements, and some overdone ones. Like a large, borderline schizophrenic woman that wreaks havoc and is the last person in the world that should be in charge of anything, but would definitely come out on top in the apocalypse.  This is an archetypal dystopian character and I kind of just feel like somebody would have shot her before she came to any kind of power. That whole section was hard, (but heck yeah go Mr Angelbeck!)

Ed’s character arc from inviting the end of the world to running across a continent for his family was lovely.  He’s a morally gray character – as is everyone in a dystopian – and I liked who he became. Harvey, Bryce and Grimes were good characters too but we didn’t get too much of a good look at them. The book took an appropriately deep dive into humanity in general as well as what keeps us going in the dark. Running not so much although there were a few long distance insights and I am in awe that the untrained people ran so far.

I would recommend this one to people wanting to try a dystopian, but probably not hardcore fans of the genre. My favorite one to recommend (after The Road) is A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World. As far as this one, I would read a book version and stay away from the audio. I just did not like the narrator’s voice because he always sounded so happy, regardless of what was going on, and there was an awful lot of loud yelling. The guy also could absolutely not do female voices and eventually I shut it off and bought the ebook, which was a better experience.

Categories
Science Fiction Thrillers Young Adult

Exo by Fonda Lee (Book Thoughts)

I’ve been on a sci-fi binge recently and have absolutely no regrets about picking up Exo by Fonda Lee. Everyone talks about The Green Bone Saga books but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Exo on Bookstagram or Twitter, so here we are.

YA scifi is totally hit or miss and I only have good things to say about Exo. Content and theme wise I’m all about this one both as a sci-fi and YA book! (If you see Categories – I also gave this one credit as a thriller because it’s more action than ideology based, although there’s plenty of both).

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Exo
  • Series: Exo #1 (Duology)
  • Author: Fonda Lee
  • Publisher & Release: Scholastic Press, January 2017
  • Length: 384
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for Sci-fi thriller and YA fans

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one…

Excellent synopsis, ok here we go. So Earth is now a few generations post invasion and governed by an alien race. Humans are part of the government and enjoy many rights, they have been given advanced alien technology in including these fused Exocels, protection from other alien races, and many other benefits

There’s a faction of humans that didn’t benefit so much though and have turned into a terrorist organization called Sapience. Donovan’s security patrols are primarily concerned with rooting these terrorists out, although *most* are smalltime offenders.

Long story short, things go badly and Donovan gets thrown into the world of Sapience.  He has literal and figurative bombshells thrown at him and learns both sides of the war.  He sees the face of “evil” and ultimately faces legitimate moral conflicts involving family, loyalty, the alien races, and the big picture of Earth’s survival.

The ideas of nature vs nurture and natural vs unnatural are huge themes in this book. The main character has significant life changing events that allows him to see both sides of the story and I think this is great for YA readers.  Both of Donovan’s parents had terrible choices to make and also made terrible choices, and isn’t it eventually the child’s burden to sort this out and make their own choices? Yes, and Lee NAILS this 

There’s also first contact from the perspective of the leader of the alien race. This is an interesting choice and not done so frequently.  He comes to survey Earth and has never seen humans before, even though the aliens on Earth have grown up with humans and protect/care for them. The leader is like “ew, the hell are these little squishy things and why do they have Exos? Do we need to save these things?”

Another thing I appreciate is the LANGUAGE! World appropriate slang that is based off the Zhree (alien) language is a great touch.  Tell me again why SFF books need modern day swearing, especially in YA … they don’t!

Lastly a note on the characters – I liked Donovan and Jet too.  Jet is a saint and Donovan is lucky to have him as a best friend.  I do think the little romance could have been cut out but it was clean and gave the characters incentive to bridge the gap between their politics.

Overall: fast moving plot, plotting, frequent action, great characters, micro and macro threats, family… This is a really solid Young Adult book and I think some adults may enjoy it as well.