Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review::Change of Seasons(Relics and Remnants)by Shiva Winters

Change of SeasonsChange of Seasons by Shiva Winters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Change of Seasons(The Relics and Remnants)by Shiva Winters

Shiva Winters is master of the long sentence, which is what I love so much about her prose. She is an artist pushing the limits of the craft and sometimes it becomes recognizable by the flaws that creep into the whole mix. Despite those few flaws I can not help reading everything she writes. This novel is a bit less than the two action series that she's done in that it has a more sedate feel to it. It's much the same as her Wandering Steps Across a Starry Sky. They both deal with some somewhat nomadic characters. WSAASS had Gypsies in space and Change of Seasons has its Gypsies in the rough wilderness world of the Relics and Remnants.

This novel has a lot of world building; but it is all carefully ensconced in a bit of an Adventure Romance[putting emphasis on Romance]. There is a bit of steam punk without the Steam and the Victorian feel. There are airships and there are mechanical devices that have been left from an ancient race that lived on this world prior to man's arrival. So its more of a clockwork-punk type of novel without the added feature of vampires and werewolves and fictional characters remade. Well there are some mechanical wolves of a sort and even some mechanical birds with AI's.

The focus of the plot for this story is less the dark drama of the the Salak'patan Series and the Forgotten Children Series[That's not to say it won't get there in the coming future.]; but right now in this first novel the focus is on introducing the Winters family and taking them through the gruesome trail of Romance along with a bit of light adventure. The youngest girls; Talia and Katia; steal the show for me. But the romances are around them, though they have their own special relationship. This is the story of Daniel and Serina and their family and the romance is all on their daughter Sana and a family friend Stephen. But it's also the story of the Ronin and the Winters family and the precarious life they have as being considered the cast-off bits of the empire.

As far as the adventure and intrigue; this time it's more akin to what we read in Dumas and the Three Musketters. There is a lot of court intrigue and even the society of the gypsy like Ronin has a complex structure. Stephen(an outsider) must wend his way into the Ronin so he might court the one he loves while Sana has traveled off to the empire on vacation only to discover that she is courted by a high noble while she knows that her family name will doom any such relationship.

The scope of the book is quite wide as Talia and Katia uncover and restore a multitude of Remnants of the others who used to live on their world. What they are doing will be dangerous and costly but will benefit both the Winters family and the Ronin of whom their mother is one. In this back drop we have such creatures as the mechanical wolves and the birds and floating wagons and replicator machines.

Once again there is no end to Shiva's imagination and the execution is a treat to explore though it has it's rough edges that border on some few errors and style choices that some will love and some will hate. Shiva writes these for her own enjoyment and publishes them with the hope that others will enjoy.

I hope that fans of SFF and Romance and Adventure novels will find as much to enjoy and love about these books as I do and I hope Shiva has a lot of time yet to write many more.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review::The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles 1)by Jamie Grey

The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles, #1)The Star Thief by Jamie Grey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles Book 1) by Jamie Grey

The Star Thief is well written. What I mean by that is that it doesn't present all of the problems with grammar that I've been finding lately in books like this.[Someone else did mention finding some problems but if there are that many there I must have been distracted.] I enjoyed reading it and have given it high marks for that and as usual that means I'll be a bit brutal about the things I had problems with.

The story is quite well paced with enough action to keep the reader's interest. Renna is a thief and seems to style herself a mercenary. We later get a better notion of her start in this life and I'd stay with thief. The Star Thief comes from her having stolen the Seralline Star Sapphire; a feat that apparently no one is supposed to know was her job; though many more people seem to know, than she would expect. The Sapphire is also a bit of a running joke in the story because she still has it and is wearing it and so far only one other person seems to realize that she's wearing it.[Either that or I was very unattentive while reading.]

Being a thief for hire; Renna is hired to pick up some high tech weapon component that has been stolen by the Evil Cordozas. While doing that job she finds human cargo and decides to liberate it setting off a great escape scene. This leads them into the hands of a group of what look like ninja like mercenaries and also to my first quibble. This turns out to be a special group of official or unofficial people meant to police space and they mean to recruit her. They are not very straight forward about their intent and in an attempt to escape Renna kills one of these soldiers.[Which is all fine because the stakes feel high and the threat real so it tracks well... until they recruit her.] When they recruit her I kept waiting for someone to complain that she'd killed (so and so[I don't recall if we are ever told who it was.]) and they won't work with someone who killed him. Instead it just seems to go away and we never hear much about it other than when the man who is hiring her sees the body and frowns and calls it his own miscalculation of her abilities.

It turns out that her saving the young boy from the human cargo container is an added bonus to her job and we will see much more about the boy as the story develops. The boy starts out looking like a plot MacGuffin but has a much larger part in the whole plot. There are some parts predictable at this point in the greater parts of the plot but for me that's not a problem.[Some people might be dissappointed.]

There are at least two places where there is graphic sexual content and so; I would rate this as an Older Young Adult. The Young Adults on the other end of the scale should probably not be reading this. There is something to say for it being a portion of the character development of Renna and there is even a backstory to support it, so in a most liberal sense it seems to be necessary. I can take or leave it and honestly the person across the room from me who reads mostly romance is often put off by this much of this type of description.[So be warned.]

This is a series so there is more to come. That said I was still really surprised with the turn at the end. Definitely worth checking the next novel.

This is a good Sci-Fi Thriller with a bit of dystopia in the mix so fans of both should check it out.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review::Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent

Seed Seeker (Seed, #3)Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seed Seeker by Pamela Sargent

Seed Seeker is Pamela Sargent's third book in the Seed Series.The first two set the tone for the series and this one follows through with the same tone capping off the series that is more character driven than innovative.

In the first book the Ship which is both a generation ship and sentient AI, has raised generations of humans with the goal to deliver them to their new home where she would seed the new world. She was doing so in the belief that she was completing the work of some of the finest minds Earth had to offer. Saving mankind by preparing the generations to survive on a potential new and wild world.[The sentience of the ship seems to be minimized throughout the series though the main thread of the moral dilemma is tied to its sentience.]

The story starts with a generation that has some conflicts amongst its members and as they come close to reaching their destination they discover that the ship has had a previous generation in suspension because the first world she stopped at was not suitable. The waking of that generation causes more conflict and sets the stage for strife in the near future when they are all dropped upon the new world. At the same time Ship discovers that the original group that set her on her mission may have been the missfits of Earth rather than the great minds she'd been programed to believe.

In the second book the colony of three disparate groups attempt to survive while ship goes on with her mission to create more generations and continue to seed the universe. The story begins with a few of the original colonist still arround, but centers on the next generation. A generation that might contain some who have some dramatic adaptations to the new world. This sets the stage for the division of those who are affected and those that are not. And the isolation of the ones who believe they are the future of pure man on the new world.

This third book takes up from there in the next generation and also at a time when the generation Ship has been having some doubts about her purpose and some regrets about leaving the first generations on the new planet. As the story opens there is a new light in the sky above the new world and this sets off a pilgrimage to the original settlement to find out if the light might be Ship. There are mixed feelings about the potential arrival of ship because those who have been changed by something on this new planet are fearful that the Ship may reject them as being less than adequate[less than human].

Once again Pamela Sargent creates some interesting and credible characters that come to life in a world of strife, conflict, and misunderstanding. And the leading question in the readers mind might be; how will ship react to this world of savages and how could they possibly fit into her programmed plan.

This is a great Generation Ship series that is both for Young Adults and SFF fans.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Review::The Master of Izindi by Dave Wallace

The Master of IzindiThe Master of Izindi by David Wallace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Master of Izindi by Dave Wallace

My attention was drawn to this by someone who recommended it[on several occasions]as a very good self-published novel. I avoided it for some time, but finally gave it a try and I did enjoy the overall story, but....

This is one more of those love hate novels in my library; and I debated on whether to do any sort of review, because I'm not sure if I can do much justice to the novel itself because of the choices Dave Wallace made in his style of writing. I did like the story and give it high marks for being entertaining; but I can't give it my highest marks, because of a number of obvious flaws in the version that I had available to me. In fact, because I am giving it high marks I once again feel obligated to point to some of the flaws that might annoy other readers more than they managed to put me off.

I tried starting this once and immediately saw that there would be a small problem for me. I love character driven stories that dig in close to the character to reveal their thoughts and motivations; and because this seems to be a third person omniscient point of view with a tendency to stay omniscient and distant, this did not give that particular feel to me. In fact, I was forced to go back and look at One Thousand Nights and a Night to try to determine if it might be that the author was trying to mimic the style of that book. [I'm still not sure even after looking; if he was trying to set that mood, it fell a bit flat; because this book is not suited to the format used in One Thousand Nights and A Night.]

What I mean by that is that One Thousand Nights and A Night is the story of Scheherazade telling stories in such a manner to make them interesting enough that she might waylay her death by keeping the king interested enough to allow her another day to continue the tale.[Each day she was preventing the king from marrying and then slaying another bride.(The king is a serial killer.)] The tale becomes a string of tales within tales[with sometimes even another nested tale] that are all done mostly in a dispassionate nonjudgmental manner with an often curious twist that Scheherazade might leave off at; for the next day. These were also tales that appear to be somewhat moral in nature while often using language and images that some cultures might find somewhat objectionable. The only transferable key within these tales is that it is mostly narrated from a third omnicient point of view. But it might be unfair to stop there; because we should look at the characters who often seems to be blown around by the winds of fate and sometimes striking upon the correct choice and the often heroic figure who might sometimes seem invincible.

But in a way I might be unfair trying to make a comparison, in that Dave Wallace may have just been trying to transfer some Arabian mythical creatures into a modern format. Even so with that in mind I find that one of my first difficulties was that the novel seems to be set into three basic tales that include the same character; but a character who seems to make such startling leaps within his character that it seems like its a story of three different characters. And yet it is all one tale with one character.

In the beginning, Zafir is described many times as a street urchin; and I'm sure somewhere in the defintion of that term he qualifies, but some parts not so much when we find out more about him. And that's part of the problem, which is that we don't know much about him throughout the entire novel. In this first part about the street urchin Zafir we know more about the woman who helps him, Alima, than we do Zafir. Alima is another problem, which is that she helps save him from the Emir's guard and takes him to the edge of the city and pretty much has to give up her way of life in the city because of all that and she ends up being discarded, so that the reader can be moved onto the next part of the story.[Although, I'm not sure how I'd have felt if she'd been killed.]

The next part of the novel Zafir is taken in by Master Storm where he becomes possibly some sort of novice trainee who manages to stumble into the right direction when they are in danger and in need of making decisions on the fly. In this instance the adventures that they encounter on their trek to Izindi do read a lot like the stories out of One Thousand Nights and A Night. Each time we seem to be witness to the strange growth of the novice Zafir with the potential to understanding his underlying 'wisdom' which he often just happens to stumble into.

Somewhere along the line we finally discover that Zafir has a family[I have yet to find the spot since my amazon for pc keeps crashing when I search.] including not only a father and mother, but a sister and brother. It is convenient that we discover this as it becomes an important part of his shifting motivation.

The third and final part is Zafir the Master. He has passed his tests he has proven himself and he has surpassed all his masters and on top of that it might be that he's the chosen one. This part might get a bit sticky for those people who don't care for Deus Ex Machina. For quite a few pages Zafir seems undefeatable and he strangly strings together a bunch of seemingly random, but serial, adventures that lead to his acquiring all the equipment he needs to accomplish his final task.

As it is all of those features in the story did not account for my dropping a point save for the choice to use an omniscient third that was so distant. Despite the cringeworthy notion of deviating from rules: I would have been happier had the author chosen to break the rules a bit and come closer to the main character. This reader would have loved to know how the character felt in each of the steps from the urchin to the master and his thoughts and feelings during the greater part of stress up to and within the climatic moments. And if we were to go with the notion of trying to catch the mood of One Thousand Nights and A Night then I could almost live with the treatment or maybe lack of treatment of the women especially the discarding of the character Alima whom I at some point was holding such hopes for.

Now we reach the part of caveats. I don't downgrade the stars for grammar, but I do feel when the errors reach a specific boundary it's important to mention. The copy I have of this novel contains, at a minimum, 50 gramatical problem. These range from spelling to incorrect words to punctuation and sentences that are confusing at best.
As one Example of the handful or more.
The scimitar rebounded from her neck with a clang and fell notched from the astonished noble’s grasp.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 4210-4211). . Kindle Edition.
[I think I understood this but it needs punctuation or the removal of notched because it's confusing]

There are several instances when you is used and should be your along with the switching out of then and than;of for on; so for do;road for rode; past for passed. And sometimes extra words just hanging at the front or end of a sentence[often duplication of words]. There were instances where a character named Samael was referred to as the Samael and though there might be some instances where such wording might become necessary; there was no clear indicator that there was any reason for that.

Somehow:: shows up at least 21 times
Suddenly:: shows up at least 40 times

I don't have an overall aversion to the use of these words but most of the time in this novel they were used to somehow suddenly avoid explaining things.

The application of comming close to stopping the narrative to address the reader with facts that none of the characters would know was likely permissible within the context of the omnicient narrator; yet it was still rather annoying and sometimes not all that necessary.

Years later, no man alive could have approached him thus unnoticed, but as it was, he simply did not hear them.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 865-866). . Kindle Edition

[Sometimes the information was important]

Zafir again failed to note the sidelong glance the Abbott gave him upon arriving in the Tower of Stars, and he missed the envy and hate that filled the man’s face.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Locations 5125-5126). . Kindle Edition.

There were too many instances of what I would call convenient application of knowledge[discovered by the reader in the moment of application].

“I recognize it from Izindi’s teachings.”

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Location 5160). . Kindle Edition.
Conversely there were moments when something was so distanced from the reference that I have yet to go back and find the reference.

As Zafir ran off, the Master of Fire stared after him, pondering the Abbott's words.

Wallace, Dave (2011-12-12). The Master of Izindi (Kindle Location 1290). . Kindle Edition.

I do believe that lovers of Arabian tales and mythologies in general should enjoy this book with a warning that some might find a few glitches a bit frustrating. If you are like me, though, you may be prompted into taking a fresh look at A Thousand Nights and A Night.

J.L. Dobias

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review:: Silvern (The Gilded Series Book Two)by Christina Farley

Silvern (Gilded #2)Silvern by Christina L. Farley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Silvern(The Gilded Series Book Two)By Christina Farley

I really enjoyed the novel Gilded and was looking forward to reading this novel. There was no disappointment in the anticipation. Silvern starts with a bang and ends powerful enough to ensure that you want to read the next book. I liked the notion of learning a bit about the mythology of a different culture and was entertained with the special treat of having something akin to the Korean version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are plenty of demons to slay but there is also a heart-wrenching conflict between Jae Hwa's apparent destiny and her wishes.

Jae Hwa just wants a normal life with her friends and family. And that's how the story starts with her trying to do normal things with her boyfriend and her best friend and when that turns into an assassins attempt at her life things start rolling and soon Michelle will learn more about the secret life of Jae Hwa than Jae wants her to know. It's bad enough that Marc knows because it seems that everyone she cares about is in danger and more than one agency wants her to remain active in the spirit world despite her own wishes.

This time it seems as though Jae is the only one taking things seriously and the result is that she has to constantly watch out for her friends and family as they seem almost to blindly walk into danger. Everyone seems to want her to help find the Tiger Orb because she seems to be the only one who might be able to retrieve it. More enticingly she learns that it might be what she needs to help her Aunt Komo who lies in a coma in the hospital. Of the immortals Palk wants to hide the Orb with the others that they have retrieved and Kud, the ruler of darkness, wants it to use to help him find all the Orbs so he can use them to have power over the World and the Spirit World.

Jae would just as soon leave it in the protection of the Dragons but that's not an option when Kud begins threatening those close to her. And this time it just seems that her friends are going to make lots of horribly bad decisions while inadvertently backing Jae into a corner.

The Orb can have a terrible effect on mortals and it would seem that Jae is on the precipice between mortal and immortal and once she has the Orb in her possession it could have a tremendous impact on her. She could risk losing her humanity. There's no doubt that despite all her efforts things are never going to be the same for her.

Christina Farley has a well paced action packed thriller full of interesting character and some mighty strange and deadly demons. I was floored by the ending and will definitely be waiting for the next book.

This is a great Young Adult novel that should make a good addition to anyone's Fantasy shelf. Lovers of folk lore and myth should soak this one up. If you haven't read Gilded please read that first and then this--you shouldn't be disappointed.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review::Farseed (The Seed Trilogy)by Pamela Sargent

FarseedFarseed by Pamela Sargent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Earthseed a while ago and almost started Farseed but it seemed almost a bit leaning toward the Lord of the Flies and I'm more into science fiction than the the whole psychology of survival of potentially degenerate societies. I finally picked it up to read and almost read it through at one sitting. This is definitely a book that you have to read carefully.

As a part of the trilogy it has its position and usually number two can tend to take a dip. This novel is not all that bad and I would have given it the highest marks if there hadn't been that whole section where the main character seems compelled or maybe forced to repeat herself numerous times while everyone should be packing up and moving on before someone gets killed.

The story itself is quite compelling in the sense that we have Nuy the daughter of Ho (from the first book) fighting against the will of her father in an almost naive manner at the beginning. This leads to the death of a stranger she's befriended with the hope of improving the lifestyle of her settlement. In the previous novel Ho had taken his people off away from the other settlers to see more of the new world and to get away from the other people they felt were so disagreeable. Since then some sort of virus has wiped out many of them and Ho blames it on the other settlers since the infection occured after he had sent people to trade with them. For ten years they have remained isolated from the others and have lived a hard life.

Ho is described as being near to madness half the time and it seems predictable that he won't be welcoming Nuy's new friend with open arms, but she has hopes that trade with the other settlers will make life easier for her and the other youths in their camp. When things go bad it leaves one of the three travelers dead and the other two are unable to return to their settlement.

The remainder of the book is the quest of the other settlers to find the missing three and the story of their own self imposed isolation from the new world itself as they try to live in their own little bubble of life that mirrors what they know of Earth. I'm not partial to the--we've blown everyone back to the stone-age type of books and this really is more a survivalist fiction to be honest; but elements of it tend to slide in the direction of civilization taking backward steps.

One redeeming feature of the book for me is that it's also a story of evolution within that framework of backward steps and this whole novel is a building block to get to the final book which I had recently obtained and that was the main reason to push to read this one. This is the story of Nuy mostly as she tries to survive and perhaps even make right the horrendous outcome of her mistake. I love character driven stories and Nuy is one complex character for a savage.

As usual Pamela Sargents characters are all well drawn and finely tuned and the conflicts are plenty and as I mentioned the real one quibble I have is that at the most exciting part we have the main character over dramatically explaining herself too many times and a corresponding breakdown in leadership that tends to muck around for a whole chapter and I could have done without that.

Otherwise this is a great addition to my library of everything Sargent. I would recommend this to Young Adults and lovers of SFF and of course anyone who has read the first book Earthseed.

J.L. Dobias

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Saves Nine by Les Lynam (SFF-Time Travel)

I read the ARC for this and it's been thoroughly polished since then; don't take my word for it[give it a test read.] . . . Saves Nine eBook: Les Lynam: Kindle Store