Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review::Priceless (Rylee Adamson book 1)by Shannon Mayer

Priceless (Rylee Adamson, #1)Priceless by Shannon Mayer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Priceless (A Rylee Adamson Novel Book 1)by Shannon Mayer

This is yet another Para-normal with vampires and werewolves and witches and other magic things. And once again I'm thriving on my love of character development. Not being a die-hard fan of all things Para-normal I have to rely on my meager observation of the genre. It seems that the rules for the various creatures are sliding in nature depending on each author’s Point of View. So the most important feature seems to be keeping an eye on the internal consistency of both the rules and the characters within the rules. Still as I've said before; for me it's about character development and Rylee is definitely a complex character.

Rylee was an adopted child and traumatically lost her 'sister' under mysterious circumstances that left her as a suspect both because of her feelings of guilt and her own naiveté at that time. She has since been dogged by Agent O'Shea who seems mostly upset that he could find no conclusive evidence against her. She has since become a Tracker who locates missing children and sometimes returns them safely to their parents. This has only fueled O'Shea’s suspicions.

When the most recent case takes on the familiarity of her sister's disappearance there is a strong reason for her to become suspicious and she might be a bit thrown off her game. There is also a slight recurring thread in that many of her usual contacts that assist her are for some reason or another dropping the ball. Thankfully it's all woven into the character development and that helps it move more smoothly along.

As it is; because her friends are falling down on the job her worst nightmare, O'Shea, may turn out to be her best chance in wrapping this case up before another child dies.

The writing is pretty solid and the pacing is well done; plus there is the strangest werewolf and weirdest relationship with that werewolf that I've seen in a while. Keep in mind this is not my usual genre.

I'm not sure that I saw much change or growth in Rylee; but having her roll out at the beginning as a kick-ass feminine hero might have lofted her a bit high making the changes less noticeable.

This is great SFF with emphasis on fantasy and para-normal with almost 'Buffy-like' female lead and similar cast with its own twist in plot with the missing children theme. At just the right size and pace to carry the incautious reader into the night and possibly into daybreak.

J.L. Dobias

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review::Grounded (The Grounded book 1)by G.P. Ching

Grounded (The Grounded Trilogy, #1)Grounded by G.P. Ching

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Grounded (The Grounded Trilogy book 1)by G.P. Ching

This is a sort of Para-normal dystopic series of books that caught my eye and has some interesting notions and a somewhat unique look into a community that might be able to avoid the evil that grows out of efforts to create a ecological green world while masking a more insidious plot to control everything. I really enjoyed reading the novel and I think that goes back to my preferring character driven stories over the Simon Pure Science stories that have too much possibility of forgetting about characters or creating characters that are walking clichés of Sci-Fi. No such clichés here these are pretty complex characters.

The story starts with a power breakdown on the grid and a fireman who happens across an abandoned infant and the mysterious man who seems to be a walking lightning storm.

Seventeen year later we find Lydia on an Amish farm doing chores and going about her usual life of simplicity in an area that has been abandoned to the supposed radioactive waste from a nuclear meltdown. The implication that their community should all have died from the radiation has kept their home a relative secret from the world that still struggles with energy accessibility. Her friend Jeremiah is trying to talk her into doing the Rumspringa with him; mostly so he can more freely court her. This is important because later she questions how serious he is about her when this should have been a strong indicator.

When her father Frank is stricken with a possible stroke they have to decide to let it play out as is or send him to the city to undergo treatment. The decision to send him off begins the series of events that eventually lead to Lydia reluctantly agreeing to Rumspringa so she can be closer to her father at the hospital.

It does not take long into this story for us to see that it is more than a simple life that has made the Amish community the perfect place for Lydia. Lydia has powers that might be elemental in nature and she hasn't been trained to use them so she's a walking disaster set off by exposure to electricity.

If there is one quibble I have with this novel; it would be that when her powers blossom they take on a familiar feel to them. It's been a while since I read the Firestarter novel so most of my feelings about this come from the movie. But I think it is fair to say that as her powers grow and her confusion turns more to anger the display is very much like the hotter points in the Firestarter movie. There is that balance or loss of balance between the overwhelming power and control that leave her exhausted and sometimes uncontrollable.

One redeeming quality is that where Firestarter relies on her parents training to control herself; Lydia is relying on her belief system to help guide her and that brings the character into focus just a bit better or differently.

This is another reasonable SFF for fans who aren't pernickety about the science and even better for the dystopia world fans. I will definitely be looking to finish out the trilogy.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review::The Core (Equilibrium book 1)by Kate Thomas

The Core (Equilibrium, #1)The Core by Kate Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Core (Equilibrium Book 1 )by Kate Thomas

I’ve read a few paranormal genre novels so that parts not totally new but the romance part is not my first choice and I leave that to the person across the room from me. Occasionally we do cross paths and I have to admit that this one caught my eye first so I will be recommending this to the romance lover.

The story starts simple enough with Elle and her twin Jacob spying on her boss whom she has recently witnessed possibly cleaning blood out of his office. Elle has worked for David for two year now and though she does accounting for him and is well paid she has no idea what he does. So when he catches her spy on him and ends up waiting for her at her house she realizes she's putting her well paid job to risk. And predictably it's easy to see that she is interested in him as more than just her boss even if she doesn't know it yet.

So when he decides to take her on his next business trip to the west coast she's surprise. But later she's flabbergasted by being invited into his world for an eye opening look at what he does. And as this mystery unfolds she falls deeper under his charming spell. And that's about as far as I'll go with that so we don't spoil things.

What makes this story unique for me (remember there might be some aspects of this story that don't fall into my usual genre) is that what the story is really about arrives a bit later when we find out about the Core and the Equilibrium which I'll leave for the next readers to uncover for themselves. I’ll just say that how things were manipulated and why, add to the intriguing element that drove the magic in the story.

There is a certain fantastic magical nature to the story and the fact that it doesn't really quite end isn't even the least bit troubling. Or at least it wasn't for me.

Even though this is not an action packed thriller this book is well paced and kept me right into it from the beginning while wondering how it was that David seemed to be able to almost read Elle's mind at times; and watching her sleuth around to find answers to things that she could have just ask David about, is rather entertaining. Even so there are elements of the story that rise above the seeming and somewhat misleading silliness; because there is an element of seriousness to the plot.

A little bit aside from my usual SFF; but the paranormal and magic bit, though requiring some suspension of disbelief, fit in quite well with all the great prose around it.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Review::Earthrise (Her Instruments Book 1)by M.C.A. Hogarth

Earthrise (Her Instruments, #1)Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Earthrise(Her Instruments book 1)by M.C.A. Hogarth

I've read a few of M.C.A. Hogarth's shorts and her Spots the Space Marine and I've come to enjoy her as having a unique perspective from which to view her far future. Earthrise is no exception; though the character development is quite exceptional. I’ve definitely put her on my to-read list. But this might not be the fare for everyone; though I’d recommend that you try at least one of her novels and this would be a good one to start with.

This novel takes place in the universe of the Alliance and the Pelted. The Pelted seem to be some sort of designer sentient species that are [well] furry in nature. They each have their own subculture and that helps define how their personal moral characteristics might appear and when you add in the standard elements of good bad and in between [black, white and shades of grey] you have some rather complex characters.

In this story we have the captain, Theresa [Reese] Eddings,of TMS Earthrise who is a simple dark human female who was raised on Mars in a culture that at one time lost all its male population and used other means to proliferate and a subculture of that, which now exists, excludes men: while designing all offspring to be women. Her family is in that subgroup and she's the rebellious one who is not sure she wants to live that life. Of course she instead is a space merchant who reads a lot of romance fiction and has managed to keep to herself when it comes to personal relationships. That might all change since she started taking on crew: all from out of the Pelted races.

TMS Earthrise has a number of interesting crew.

Kis’eh’t, is a centauroid type of the Glaseahn and seems to have feathers and wings along with four legs and two arms. Information about them can be found at a couple web sites.

Next we have Bryer, a Phoenix; a giant birdlike creature with metallic plumage. And the twins Irine and Sascha are of the felinoid Harat-Shar who wear as few clothing as they can get by with. And then there is the more subdued but equally as strange Flitzbe named Allacazam [ a furball] that might be similar to Tribbles [out of Star Trek]; with an ability to be telepathic plus to emote in color: on its outer fur.

We join the story as Reese, who has been long indebted to a mysterious patron who long ago funded her continuation in her mercantile endeavors, finding out that her patron wants to collect on that debt. They want her to retrieve Hirianthial Sarel Jisiensire, an Eldrich, who has been arrested on a planet that might have some affiliations with slave trade. And as thing work out it seems that her patron is the Queen of the Eldrich and her assignment might be of noble birth. Eldriches are somewhat xenophobic and don't get around much and as a result there are plenty of strange myths surrounding their alleged magical nature.

Predictably this all follows a rather trope-ic path from a rescue to possibly acquiring a new crew member who actually does have some pretty strange abilities; but is mostly a pain because some piratical slavers want the Eldrich; and Reese wants to get rid of it [him]. Since her debt to the Queen forbids her from letting the pirate slavers have him back [well] we can see where it is all going.

What made this a great read for me was the character development and the interaction as a team that sometimes seems quite dysfunctional. So although in some ways there are parts that seem predictable; it's how the characters get to the end that makes this a story worth reading.

This is a well written story in a universe full of possibilities that have definite rules that stand to get in the path of the heroes and sometimes help the unsavory elements.

This is great SFF for the fan who isn't focused on the more mundane part of science [Simon Pure] and of course the few furry fans out there. Although as furry stories go this one has quite exceptional with thoughtful development as to how these beings all fit together in this universe.

With such a myriad of creatures in space; were bound to see some fur fly.

J.L. Dobias

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Circa 1975 Portrait by M. Rowley

About 40 some years ago I was managing a restaurant across from Lansing Community College. I had been working my way through college and had just gotten my Associates degree and had the better part of my life ahead of me. A gentleman had sat for quite some time next to a window that faced part of the main campus and looked to be studiously writing something on a note pad. Before he left he came up to the main counter where I was at the time and he put it down and I was amazed that he could do a portrait of me while I was darting around the restaurant. I complimented him on such fine work in such a short time and he pushed it toward me and said he'd done it for me and he left. I don't really think I ever saw him again after that.

Just recently I pulled out an old album and found this. Made me wonder if M. Rowley might be still around and then I started wondering what he did with the rest of his life.

J.L. Dobias

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Review::True Calling by Siobhan Davis

True Calling (True Calling #1)True Calling by Siobhan Davis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

True Calling by Siobhan Davis

This novel has some good qualities; and I am glad I didn't just totally overlook it. There's a fairly good plot that gets wrapped up with a romance that’s integral to understanding the dystopic nature of the novel. But there are frustrations abounding throughout; not so much with the science, but with nomenclature for the orbital objects and the lack of explanation about them to help the reader understand what it is that lies within the farthest extent of the Low Earth Orbit definition. The author unfortunately refers to the construct as a planet and then goes on to explain that the characters are exploring other planets to the west in the same manner one might explain exploring neighboring continents. Trying to wrap your head around the notion would be quite distracting so I had to give these planets my own bit of spin so I could enjoy the rest of the story.

This story is more about the politics and the power and control of the masses than it is a story about the science. Some disaster has nearly decimated Earth and those who survive take advantage by creating their own ideal governing body. They have grand plans to use the previously designed and constructed 'Planet' Novo to house the future of mankind, for which they hand pick what they feel is the cream-of-the-crop to undergo specialized preparations to be fitted with special devices (Vita) that can monitor their health and a whole lot more. Along with that, selective memories have been wiped with the explanation that that will give them the cleanest possible start to their new utopia. This is an interesting take on how a utopia slides easily to dystopic confusion as the power hungry take advantage of the technology used to supposedly keep everyone healthy and happy. The story itself is marred a bit by language that caused this reader to try to picture an entire planet being within Low Earth Orbit; although that alone might account for some of the disaster that occurred on Earth.

What they live in seems more like those cities in flight from the James Blish’s novels. A massive platform city, with 15 sections. And that’s the image I had to put there in order to push through to the good stuff. Even if it was a spheroid platform with artificial gravity I would have a hard time if it became moon size let alone planet size. Then again when they started exploring other worlds I wasn't sure if that would be real worlds or whether there might be more platforms such as Novo. But for the story we don't need to obsess over how they work because we aren't given that information; it's just unfortunate that the reference to them as being planets begs for some explanation.

The romance could almost be a put-off for the reader, except that it is integral to the plot; and even some of the character action that might seem a bit off, are most easily understood within the context of the intended conflict rather than the superficial one. This is more a story about the slow progression of oppression of the citizens of Novo as they try to follow the directives of their self proclaimed saviors who brought them off Earth to live in this small paradise. As the narrative unfolds, certain things become apparent. It begins with the selective nature of the program as to who is allowed on Novo and the fact that many people get left on the dying Earth. Then there are the implants used to help keep the citizens happy and healthy; even if that involves drugging them to submission. This all evolves into the Calling, which is a time when those of a certain age will undergo mandatory marriage and mandatory pregnancy to populate the rest of the paradise while ignoring the fact that there are still people on the Earth who could be brought up. It's easy to see how this is becoming a repressed society with totalitarian leanings.

The author treats this in a rather light manner, which is fine since the prevailing government is, in fact, treating it that way when they decide to run the whole thing like some sort of reality show. And although the initial struggles seem to be those of the main characters vying to get the one they truly love, while the system seems to be stacked against them; there are larger issues that float around deep below this surface and sometimes float to the top.

For Ariana, who doesn't want to think about marriage or children, this is an inconvenience to her plans for her future; and the circus that evolves from the start to the climax of the matchmaking program, do not afford the reader a flattering view of her character. But there is some depth beneath it all; and that involves some strange dreams that might be memories of things that may have been wiped from her mind by the leaders of the program. When Ariana rebels and other parts of her life are shattered she begins to uncover something more sinister than the overt attempts to set feminism back by hundreds of year.

There’s a possibility that Novo is a proving ground for the technology that will be used elsewhere.

This is the beginning of a series of some sort; so not all of the questions brought into the story will be answered definitively. Often character personal conflicts overshadow the main conflict; making it a bit of a puzzle sometimes to key into all the indicators. Overall the story acquits itself once the threads are drawn tightly, near the end; and the reader can see where things are headed. The reality show distraction has played-out; perhaps the next book can concentrate on the more sinister side of conflict.

I’ll definitely be looking into the next book to see where it all is heading.

The pacing seems a bit off at the beginning because of the focus on the dysfunctional government repopulation program and the second half begins to create a momentum of more exciting moments.

I would recommend this to the SFF fans that like romance and are not too keen on Simon pure science, because the suspension of disbelief gets to be a struggle in the beginning and could distract from the story. Once I got past that and could see the real conflict hanging under the surface, I found it to be written well and reasonably enjoyable.

J.L. Dobias

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric

The Tesla Legacy (Joe Tesla, #2)In the Science Fiction Thriller Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric

Give me liberty or give me death wasn't Travis Lucia Hamilton-McQueen's foremost declaration. She'd returned from near death and wasn't keen on revisiting; she just wanted her life back.

When Travis gets a second chance, she goes all the way. A new life; a new body; and even some new memories. The memories come with extra baggage that she would rather have left behind, if she could have; unfortunately at the time of arrival she was in a coma. Regardless; they're the only memories she had; no matter how insane they made her sound to the staff of the Medical Space Station Perl.

A soulless clone with limited freedom and an amnesiac ward of Greater Terran Galactic Properties, with a possible Dissociative fugue identity, Travis was produced from a family line of murderers; convicts; and terrorist. To be fair, she's the one being accused of being a terrorist. At least she's fitting into the family. She has no memories of herself to confirm or deny the evidence, but if medical tests are to be trusted; she's the Granddaughter of Dane Hamilton and daughter of Travis Hamilton. And if that's true then what's ultimately crazier than her strange memories, is the person belonging to those memories.

The explanation lies with the League Jump Guild, people in charge of the technology that drives Starships through deep space. Travis would rather not deal with the LJG for a number of good reasons including the fact that they suspect she's used Black Tech or stolen Jump Technology to illegally jump through space. Worse yet, she did so without the protection of a space ship or space suit, which exposed her to a number of theorized conditions that would account for her present fugue like state of identity confusion. The LJG would say a person would be quite mad to do as she's done, with little chance of surviving. Being alive could seem like a blessing, if she overlooks the expected eventual outcome of such a capricious act: a severe irreversible psychotic episode.

When Travis and a nurse are attacked; two staff members die under suspicious circumstances; and an LJG General, with an agenda, comes calling on her; she checks herself out of the facility and bolts. Using her father's knowledge she attempts to hide out on a space station in the middle of nowhere with few practical places to conceal herself and begins to wonder if this all might be the beginning of her psychosis. While fearful of becoming unhinged and dangerous, she must avoid the people trying to kill her and find a way off the station so everyone will be safe. But Travis brought something back with her from JumpSpace that wants her to remain on the station: to complete a task or finish driving her completely over the edge.


J.L. Dobias

Monday, June 1, 2015

Review::The Tesla Legacy by Rebecca Cantrell

The Tesla Legacy (Joe Tesla, #2)The Tesla Legacy (Joe Tesla, #2)The Tesla Legacy by Rebecca Cantrell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Tesla Legacy (Joe Tesla Series 2) by Rebecca Cantrell

I picked this one up on a recommendation, through twitter. It's part of a series; but it stands well alone. There are references that make you want to read the first book, but that's alright. Oddly it's difficult to mention some things about this story without running a risk of spoiling some of the previous story, but to confirm that; I have to first read that one. So this is the warning this might contain some spoilers; or not.

This is a sort of suspense mystery that starts out introducing a character that in some ways seems similarly challenged as Nero Wolf was in this genre. Where Nero Wolf had a mobility problem by being somewhat overweight and usually solved murders from his home; Joe Tesla has his own problems that limit the scope of his mobility. Being extremely agoraphobic he lives in a house in an underground cave in New York. His home is connected to the underground caverns for the steam and subway that exists under New York. His fear is something that might be the result of chemical poisoning and some possibility that someone deliberately poisoned him; though the answer to that puzzle doesn't exist in this story. Joe tries to stick mostly to the underground and mostly what is local to the house that he rents from the family of the lead engineer of the station and tracks of New York underground. This house and the keys for many doors throughout the tunnel allow Joe access to a large perimeter of the playing field. Joe must stay underground because his reaction to the open and to sunlight would make a vampire shiver in sympathetic terror.

This novel has a large cast of well defined characters. And while as such it could be overwhelming, the overall handling of the narrative is quite crisp and clear. In an age when first person writing is becoming predominant in some genre, it's refreshing not only to see third person writing; but to see it crafted so well. Characters get their separate chapter allowing each character to be fully developed and to inform the reader of things that begin to make this less of a mystery of who done it than a suspense of when will the characters reveal themselves or each other and who will pay a price at the climax of that event. And though there is the risk that some of the threads created therein will not be fully realized there is a gestalt of a main story that takes us from a time before Joe's birth to the excitement of the ending in his time.

Joe, having his own problems, is helped around with a companion dog named Edison; he has an ex-girlfriend Celeste who suffers ALS and could die any day. Being a rich software designer, in his crippled state he still consults with Pellucid, the company he created. He tried to be selective when he sold Pellucid to ensure no one abuse the software, but he fears that the NSA are taking advantage of his facial recognition software to keep tabs on everyone and he has trouble reconciling himself between doing what he feels is right and bringing the company down and destroying his constant source of income. Vivian Torres works as Joe’s security and often the person doing his legwork similar to Nero Wolf's Archie Goodwin. Vivian is ex-military, a climbing enthusiast and has a well sculpted body; she's not to be messed with. She also seems to work though Tesla's lawyer, Mr. Rossi, which is important because between her, the lawyer, and Dirk, a part time helper who is a police officer, they constitute something I've seen a lot of in Robert Heinlein's writing. This is the knowledgeable group or couple who help the protagonist, for less than understandable reasons, and keep them out of trouble when possible. And lastly in the mix of the good we have Tatiana, Joe Tesla's mother.

On the evil or not so nice end, we have Ash who is Alan Wright who leads a double life as the creator of a company that helps the environment while staying in the lead with commerce; and as Ash he is the creator of a hacker entity called Spooky, which has some rather shady membership and borders on the potential to become radicalized. Two of his most involved contacts as Ash are known to him as Geezer and Quantum and together the three make an alliance of distrust that hatch a plan to steal the Tesla Oscillator from Joe; though Joe doesn't yet know that he has such a thing. When the target becomes Joe Tesla it molds the story perfectly by keeping it well within the confines where Joe's disability has kept him. The diverse directions of each of the villains in the story add more depth to a somewhat already cluttered plot.

When Joe finally realizes what he had and lost and the threat that it presents, it's a mad dash to try to find and stop an evil he has yet to unmask. In this particular story it's not so much the final outcome as it is the road we take to get there. And there is no lack of excitement on the way.

This is a great SFF novel that works as suspense thriller and has some elements that could almost qualify it with the steam-punk category. Well worth the read; and for some of us it might be a one sit read.

J.L. Dobias

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