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
audiobooks Fantasy Young Adult

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen (Book Thoughts)

My last read of June was Ashlords by Scott Reintgen! The book was pegged as Scorpio Races meets Red Rising; there are strong Hunger Games vibes too. It was one of the books that I got through ShelfLoveCrate and meant to read as soon as it came out, because hello PHOENIX HORSES, but I was afraid the book wouldn’t live up to the synopsis and be a letdown!

Thankfully that didn’t happen.

My cover is the alternate dust jacket from shelf love crate, this is the originally released cover

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Ashlords
  • Series: Ashlords #1
  • Author: Scott Reintgen
  • Publisher & Release: Crown Books for Young Readers, January 2020
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of the books listed above!

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders–skilled at alchemy–who must compete at The Races–the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they’ve raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That’s all legal and encouraged.

In this year’s Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest–a champion’s daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary’s son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?

For a Young Adult book – I loved Ashlords. What more could I want than phoenix horses controlled through alchemy, danger, betrayals, strategy, war, gods, and a race where anything except murder goes.

I almost gave it 5 stars just because it’s so damn refreshing to not have a terrible YA romance involved. Reintgen left romance out and I can only hope that he also left it out of book 2. Hello and thank you authors not every damn book needs romance forced into it.

The only reason I’m not giving it five stars is because the world building was a little confusing at first. We did get the necessary history throughout the book but it first it was a little hard to grasp which faction was which and what their goals are. I also would have like to know what the actual differences were between the Ashlords, longhands, and dividians, whether there were physical differences or what.

I would have loved a deeper dive into the horses themselves and the alchemy parts too.  The Phoenix horses were cool and I liked the horse crazy vibe that Imelda gave off, but some more lore and physiology would be cool. Like if they rebirth every day, how do the riders form lasting bonds? I love the idea though

The races lasted long enough to be satisfying and each character got ample page time to make tough decisions and strategize.  A lot of these books with races or competitions tend to under represent the event itself and I didn’t think that was the case here.

Most of the gods and some of their atrocities were revealed here too – I’m pretty excited to see how that develops in the next book. Reintgen took on a lot here to set up religious and economical power struggles between the factions.  The flavor of rebellion reminded me of Red Rising for sure

Character wise- the book is told through three rotating points of view. I liked all of them well enough. Pippa surprised me as the most dynamic character, she seemed high horsed at first and was narrating herself in second person like she saw her life through a television camera. Adrian was funny, badass, and set in his ways already. He seemed to be a product of his upbringing. Imelda was so naive, she outdanced a lowly country lord and then thought she could take on the rebellion 🤣thankfully she figured out quickly enough that she was in over her head. She kept her head on fairly straight when people started dying in the early skirmishes, so… We will see how she holds up. I would have liked to see her do more in the race though.

Overall, this was a plot and action-heavy book and it moved along fairly quickly. I liked it for those reasons but I would have liked a little bit more world building overall. I definitely adore the fact that there was no real romance. I’m pretty excited for book two which I plan to read either this month or next!

A quick note on the audiobook – I did read about half of the hardcover before switching to audio when my hold came in. Each point of view gets its own voice and I think that they all did a great job.   The audio is about 10 hours long from Recorded Books, narrated by Rebecca Soler, Andrew Eiden, Lauren Fortgang, and Neil Hellegers

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King (Book Thoughts)

Continuing my The Dark Tower series read, The Drawing of the Three is even weirder than The Gunslinger! I imagine the conversation when planning this book went something like –

King: I want to write about the gangs of NY and schizophrenics

Tabitha: yeah well you started with a weird horror fantasy western

King: I’ll incorporate interdimensional travel into the story, it’ll be fine

Tabitha: impossible

King: hold my beer

Ha .. ha… Ha… Actually …. KA

Ka?

“Kaka,” Eddie said, and laughed. “Come on Roland. Let’s take a hike”

Alright alright most joking aside, let’s talk a bit about this wonderfully weird book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Drawing of the Three
  • Series: The Dark Tower #2
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: 1987, I read the Signet edition
  • Length: 463 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for those who can stomach the typical King level of vulgarity 

Here’s the Synopsis:

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland, the last gunslinger, encounters three mysterious doorways on the beach. Each one enters into the life of a different person living in contemporary New York.

Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean and the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism.

Ah gosh it’s hard to review these kinds of books because I know I’m not adding anything to the Canon, so I just talk about my experience.

The Gunslinger was weird and wild and this book utterly surpassed it in that regard. Roland has parlayed with the man in black, apparently for 10 years, so this installment picks up afterward on the beach with a pile of bones and the remnants of a tarot reading

I still think King just tossed a bunch of random ass ideas together to create Roland’s ka-tet.  Gangs, sure why not.  A crazy schizophrenic lady, sure why not.  Gotta get a serial killer in there too… and the funny thing is that at the end of the day, it worked

The Odette/Detta character annoyed me senseless, probably because of how accurately King portrayed schizophrenia/multiple personality disorder.  Props, props, I just found her to be way too vulgar and had me thinking about excessively vulgar patients I’ve dealt with, and yeah, no thanks. Her back story is great though.

 I loved Eddie, and I’m glad he arrived first in the text. He’s like a lost boy with a rough family history and bad decisions.  The whole storyline with Balazar and the drugs was pretty entertaining, then you toss in the Eddie & Roland dynamic and you get wonderful madness   Roland trying to make sense of NYC was equally amazing, I think King nailed the entire WTF of the experience and created a fully wild novel

Seeing as how Roland had no freaking idea what was going on in the modern world, he took it in incredible stride. Definitely my favorite part was how he kept misinterpreting the words and having to think on his feet

The journey from the terror of the beginning to the camaraderie at the end was a wild one.

What does the lobstrosity say? Well – you should listen to the audio to find out.  I listened to a few hours.  Frank Muller took over this narration (through Simon & Schuster audio) and the whole thing is about 13 hours if you go that route. 

Screenshot_20220630-183150

There are lobstrosity tshirts… That’s all 

The Dark Tower Series reviews:

1 – The Gunslinger 

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
Fantasy Young Adult

Human Hearts by Mary Beesley (Book Review)

Thank you endlessly to Monster Ivy Publishing for my finished paperback of Human Hearts! I have gushed about this series from the start and am not about to slow down because it’s over now 😅

I posted about this book a few times when I first received and started reading.  It is a super fast read.  I think I blanked and never posted my final thoughts because in my head it was already here! That said, I’ll keep this as spoiler free as I can but it is book three!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Human Hearts
  • Series: Draco Sang, #3
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, June 6, 2022
  • Length: 296 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

A terrible battle rages between the humans and the Draco Sang, half human half beasts…

And the fate of mankind lies in the hands of three.

Jade. The emotionless killer. She’s trained to find the weakest in the human army and slaughter them. But witnessing love and loyalty has her hesitating to wield her blood-stained sword.

Ferth. The son of a mighty Draco Sang chief. He’s tired of fighting and wishes to find a place where he can finally lay down his sword. But there are enemies to face, slaves to free, and a father to battle.

Suza. A protector of liberty. She’ll give her life to defend humanity. But when she loses her heart to a Draco Sang, she must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice for love.

Here are the reviews for Dragon Blood and Wolf Pack – books 1 and 2 in the series.

The first thing I noticed about the conclusion is that it’s shorter than the prior two books! Usually the end of a series is the longest and most drawn out, but Beesley has already set her characters and world and is out to finish her story.

Not to say that there isn’t plenty of characterization in this installment. Ferth, Jade, and Suza are our three points of view and share fairly equal page time.  Ferth is on his quest to slay Nogard, Suza is fighting for love and family and Jade…. Well, Jade has a beast and empire to conquer. I loved her pages the most.

The big themes in Human Hearts are claiming family, freedom, and finding your honor.   It stayed fairly clean with no language, and only insinuated closed door coupling between wolves, that was in general a hilarious scene.  The wolf banter has been *everything* and it continues with no mercy here.

So there’s plenty of adventure and war, heart and heartbreak, and Beesley sets a characteristically breakneck pace that made it hard to not read the book in one sitting.

I would say an easy five stars if I thought Human Hearts held up to Wolf Pack.  It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly lacked but a lot of issues seemed easily resolved and I wish she had taken a little more page time to explore things like Jade’s hewan, Tobin and Jade, what Imanna ended up doing, even the Nogard sequence seemed easy.  I was hoping for some kind of epic dragon battle I think, I mean he was the root of everything. Beesley ruined my heart in the first two books and I didn’t feel it here.

That said, it’s still a great read and series. The characters had each been through more than enough already and the conclusion was satisfactory.  I absolutely 100% recommend this series to any fans of YA fantasy, sweet romance, and clean reads.  I can’t wait to see what the author does next!

Categories
audiobooks Suspense Thrillers

The Priest’s Graveyard by Ted Dekker (audio/book review)

I officially no longer have rhyme or reason when picking my next audiobook 😂 

I found The Priest’s Graveyard through a Search for books narrated by Rebecca Soler, who is probably my favorite female narrator.  I have a few books by Dekker but not this one.  I do usually love vigilante thrillers too and Dekker has an absolutely fascinating upbringing and tendency to write on the spiritual side, so, let’s see how this one worked out for me

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Priest’s Graveyard
  • Series: Danny Hansen #1
  • Author: Ted Dekker
  • Publisher & Release: Center Street, 2011
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ if you like psychological and vigilante thrillers that stay fairly clean

On the audio: about 10.5 hours from Hachette audio, narrated by Rebecca Soler and Henry Leyva 

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

Two abandoned souls are on the hunt for one powerful man. Soon, their paths will cross and lead to one twisted fate.

Danny Hansen is a Bosnian immigrant who came to America with hopes of escaping haunted memories of a tragic war that took his mother’s life. Now he’s a priest incensed by the powerful among us who manipulate the law for their own gain, uncaring of the shattered lives they leave behind. It is his duty to show them the error of their ways, even if he must put them in the grave.

Renee Gilmore is the frail and helpless victim of one such powerful man. Having escaped his clutches, she now lives only to satisfy justice by destroying him, regardless of whom she must become in that pursuit.

But when Danny and Renee’s paths become inexorably entangled things go very, very badly and neither of them may make it out of this hunt alive.

So this is a pretty character based thriller, let’s start there. I liked Danny and what he was doing, I liked the brutal backstory of how he got from Bosnia to California and became the man he is today, both priest and calculated killer.  I also liked how Henry Leyva narrated him with the thick but understandable accent 

I even liked Renee at first. She seemed like someone who had made some bad choices and was able to rebound from them. The two characters seemed like a decent team, and of course Rebecca Soler can do no wrong and she was Renee’s voice.

Pause the thought on the characters –

Action wise, this is definitely a suspense novel at times and thriller at others.  Although the book was not exceptionally exciting, it had its moments of action and reckoning that kept me interested through out.

My favorite part was all moral debating that Danny did on how he justifies being a monster.  It was interesting too to see the symbols in names and other small spiritual elements that Dekker out into the story.  He doesn’t preach at all but there’s a small undercurrent of spirituality that would be concurrent with Danny as a priest.

So… How did this go from five stars to three stars? It got predictable. If I can predict something, it’s super predictable.  That isn’t the main issue though.

Towards the end, Dekker completely lost me on the “romantic” element. I’m just absolutely not believing that Danny would fall for an addlepated and traumatized drug addict (in recovery) who is frankly batshit crazy, unless Danny is batshit crazy too. Renee became annoying as hell, jeopardized their missions, put them both in danger, and was just bluntly an idiot.  Danny’s flawed judgement is about as bad as hers is if he wants to “love” her, and Renee literally just falls in with whatever man is in front of her. As soon as Dekker started portraying that idiot (with a long history of bad life decisions) as some kind of precious flower, he lost me.

The Priest’s Graveyard has a good premise, good action, good vigilante debates, and good audio, but it felt short overall for me mostly because of the improbable relationship that formed, even if the premise was an interesting psychological element.

A lot of people really liked this book and I would definitely recommend trying it if you like vigilante books.

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Paranormal

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (My Experience)

Go then, there are other worlds than these

Now that I’ve read a few Stephen King books I am aware of a couple of things. He has gone through some significant and very different life stages, and depending on which stage he was in when he wrote a book, it’s going to be a very different reading experience.  His thoughts on this book began in college …..

The Dark Tower series gets a vast amount of praise from readers across all genres and I figured it was about time I check it out.  Number one, The Gunslinger, is short and felt rocky at times, which can be explained by the fact that it was originally 5 short stories!

There are ideas, there are flashbacks, there’s action in the present day, and there’s certainly a lot of room for King to move forward. My main impression is that I don’t think he knew it was going to turn into a giant epic series when he first wrote The Gunslinger. After doing some research I found that after the other books were written King went back and did some serious revising to the first to make it more consistent with the other books, and this is the version I have.  It’s interesting though because you can see where the five stories are and while each has its own individual flavor, they mostly fit well when pieced together to create Roland’s adventures.

And there you have it from Wikipedia. So what are my impressions of the book? I had no idea if I was reading fantasy or dystopia or what.  They should have left the Whelan cover to make it clear at first! You’ve got lowkey demons, a sharpshooter, a talking raven, throwbacks to something like Arthurian times in a castle court, with guns, and an overarching Old West feel.

It’s bizarre and brilliant and I’m keenly interested. I have so many questions about how the world’s fit together, how Jake ended up in this wasteland, how 10 years can pass in a moment, and so many other things! 

If nothing else King has me hooked lined and sunk as far as continuing to read on because I want all the answers. 

I don’t know where this thought fits into the rest of my thoughts but there’s this whole over current of weird hormones and sexy situations haha I think King had some issues to work through at some point, as also indicated by the Bill Hodges trilogy and “honeyboy”🤣

It’s also no secret that Roland is considered a hugely iconic character, so let me look at him quickly.  He’s obviously a badass sharp shooter on one level, but when he talks about his past he seems ancient. How did he get from a beautiful green world of castles and courts to a dystopian desert chasing the Man in Black?  His interactions with Jake Chambers shows that he has never heard of our Earth, even though his world mirrors Earth in many ways.  Roland isn’t fearless, he has deep feelings where the boy is concerned, but he’s also quite singleminded in purpose at this point in the series. 

And if that spiel on time and size at the end doesn’t blow your mind, nothing will 😂

One penultimate note is that Michael Whelan did the original cover! That makes it a legitimate fantasy as far as I’m concerned

Screenshot_20220621-100659

And the last note – it was recommended to me to try the audiobooks because the narrator adds a lot of fantastic personality to the text and I couldn’t agree more.  Most of my King reading has been on audio because of Will Patton narrating quite a few books, but George Guidall   is absolutely phenomenal as well.  Would highly recommend to fans of thrillers and fantasy.

Here’s the Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Gunslinger
  • Series: The Dark Tower, #1
  • Author: Stephen King, narrated by George Guidall
  • Release: Originally 1982, there are so many versions this is confusing to me now
  • Length: approx 7 hours audio, around 280 on page
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ heck yeah to thriller and fantasy, weird western fans

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations, Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.

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.