Review: Dragon Teeth

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This was almost my Searider Falcon

I was super excited to come across Dragon Teeth in a bookstore while I was setting up for my own book signing. As a teen I read any Crichton that I could get my hands on, starting with Jurassic Park and Andromeda Strain. For my fellow SF fans, I felt an awful lot like Admiral Adama from Battlestar Galactica as he finally completed Searider Falcon, a book he read often and never allowed himself to finish until Roslin (his love interest) asked him to. Adama never read further than a certain spot because he “didn’t want the adventure to end.” So many feels as I read.

The story is solid Crichton. Some spots are less polished, which seems likely to be the a reason that he hadn’t yet sent it to publishers… it did feel like a second to last draft in some respects, but it’s still worth a read and it makes it almost more endearing than less so, given the post-humous publication. I felt much the same as with Tolkien’s Song of Kullervo (though Dragon Teeth is much more completed than Song of Kullervo was and I can see why Tolkien seemed to have abandoned the work).

Some have speculated that this book is either a money-grab by Crichton’s family or that the book was mostly ghostwritten and has garnered some negative reviews. It’s no Sphere or Jurassic Park, but it certainly has the language and feel that Michael Crichton writes with… some of those criticisms may come from the first 30% of the story which is decidedly less polished and less important to the narrative which reads simpler. (I wonder if this was an earlier draft than we’ll ever guess and editors did all the polish work to keep us from knowing that this was his first phase for the story which would’ve been later layered with greater subplot—it is certainly shorter than any of MC’s previous dinosaur stories, but he has written with this linear plot style before [I’m thinking Andromeda Strain.] That feeling does come out with how hurried the trickery comes and goes between Wyatt Earp, Johnson, and Emily as they try to get beyond the post-Deadwood encounter with Professor Marsh.) As far as a money grab, I don’t even care. As a fan, if I knew that there was a nearly finished manuscript being held from the fandom because it wasn’t finished, I’d be upset.

If you haven’t gotten your hands on this one yet, get down to the library and reserve a copy… or better yet, click here and pick up a copy in print or ebook. And I barely even mentioned it—but it’s got Wyatt Earp in it! How cool is that. Dinosaurs and Indians.

 

A second look at the Ultimate Ending (review)

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Last week I got to a book on my reading list, Enigma at the Greensboro Zoo. It’s a Choose Your Own Ending book from Ultimate Endings. I did not survive… but I was inspired. (It’s partly behind the series of CYOA blogs this week at Inside the Inkwell.) All the feels and nostalgia were present in the book.

I did like this title a little less than the one that I read last time. That might’ve been due to the theme, I’m definitely a SF/F reader above all other genres and the “weird” elements didn’t seem very quick in coming on this title (the Enigma part of the story—experiments on the animals under “Project Fusion”.) Also. I pepper sprayed a penguin…not my finest moment.

The action did seem a little more drawn out than other that I’ve read and it took a few more pages than I would’ve liked on the initial run up and between choices. Maybe I was just feeling a little ADD when I read it, but I enjoyed the book nonetheless. I admit, I cheated, too. I did skim the book after coming to a few endings and found the Ultimate Ending. I had to know what was happening in this freaky zoo.

If you like CYOAs as a kid, like I did, check out their website and find a title that intrigues you! I love the format and design of the UE books, where some endings are bad, some are good, and only one is the Ultimate.
http://ultimateendingbooks.com/

Review: My Golden Bridge Adventure

51VrFvbTdQL._SY346_So the noir cover with red lettering made me think of the MCU’s Black Widow right away (who is something of a sexualized character) and the third word of the official description is “school girl”… I expressed concerns to the UK author Maisie Brown that My Golden Bridge Adventure’s title uses a slur for a three person sex act and I wondered what kind of book I was being asked to review. She assured me it wasn’t like that and explained a little more about the golden bridge which isn’t nearly as nefarious a thing as some crude American comedies have made it out to be.

The book is written in a kind of “steam of consciousness” approach, which means first person POV. If you follow my reviews, you know it’s not my favorite, but the voicing is done with such candor and wit that it stays enjoyable and there are many amusing little things. (In this parallel dimension setup teenagers still read Seventeen and had Myspace). There is the occasional passive narration as the inner voice monologues. A part of the book I enjoyed was the language which might’ve only been possible in the author’s particular POV—some of the word selections were simply perfect and articulate but without danger of being written in the purple-prose that too many authors think impresses others while getting in the way of the actual story (I had to quit reading one recently because of just that—this story was succinct and colorful—here’s a great example, “I grabbed Russell Crowe and all I could breathe was a fusty body odour.” The language can be as intricate as it is enjoyable.)

Over all it had a kind of YA feel and continually reminded me of one of my favorite Dr. Who episodes (for a variety of reasons including the setting, language, time-travel, monsters, and plot [see the Father’s Day episode]) from the first season of the new Whoverse. This story has the same sort of character-driven introspection as that episode—if that’s the sort of story you are into (a potpourri mix of adventure, action, and sci-fi) then I highly recommend it.

The author gave me a free copy of the book in exchange for a review. You can check it out here.

Review: Edge of the Future

edgeThere is much to love in Andria Stone’s Edge of the Future. I was excited when she asked for me a review since books somewhere on the “hard sci-fi” spectrum have been pretty light in my request/query pile lately and it’s one of my favorite genres and there is much that she really does well.

First off, the cover is great—too many indie authors skimp here and either fail horribly and opt for a CC0 piece of free art with just a distant planet or something similar… or else they fail to capture the scope of their sci-fi story which, as a genre, has many niches. Edge of the Future jumps around our solar system with space travel, mechanical bio suits, nanobots, gun toting cyborgs, etc.  and so the cover really does it justice, letting us know that Earth (or Terra, in her future universe) is not the only setting for this story.

The characters are great and there’s a great chemistry between Mark and Axel—I even laughed out loud at the conversation these two guys had after waking in the hospital following an “accident” where one is shot in a… sensitive area. Stone really captures the essence of how guys relate to each other.

I also appreciated how things like racial diversity weren’t lost to humanity even though the world is pretty cohesive (along with populations on the moon/Luna and Mars,) and the diversity didn’t feel forced or cliché. The book had a feel very similar to the human interactions of Mark Cooper’s Merkiaari Wars series, which I enjoyed very much.

It’s a little less heavy than The Expanse, but takes place in a world with a similar feel, sans the injection of dour noir mystery and instead focusing on the adventure and plot (like the Star Trek movies have done). If you liked The Expanse, you will like this book.

I did get a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Check out Edge of the Future by clicking here!

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I recently read through Pamela Jane’s An Incredible Talent for Existing. Not my type of book, but something grabbed me when she approached me for a review, and then that led to another thing, etc. Life is like that, and ironically so is this book. (That initial thing was that my son used to have one of her children’s books and I recalled the cover when I looked her up.)

Much of the book is interlaced with what inspires and motivates her. Frank Baum’s Oz seems to weave through most of Jane’s life as she describes her life with an effortless narration that sounds so much like my own inner voice that I had to laugh at some of her tongue in cheek gaffes that were so relatable and also so vivid that I might have actually been there. I suspect that most readers will feel the same and that it’s a byproduct of talented writing.

The writing is excellent in form and function and I’d recommend it especially for people who like memoirs or autobiographies as it reads as something of an autobiography of an everyman (or everywoman) from the 1960s and beyond.

I write this just coming off a meeting with a half dozen fiction writers who ran a panel discussion on inspiration. That might be why Jane’s affection for Oz seemed so prominent to me; we all have things that inspire us, lead us, and guide us to a better world (one of our own making, for fiction authors). Pamela Jane’s book really demonstrates what inspiration and hope in a better tomorrow looks like as lived out in her own life—all the blemishes, blunders, and self doubt included.
(I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review)

You can check it out by clicking here.

 

Review: Descendants

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Rae Else’s Descendants was a quality read and I found it intriguing and engaging. It has a Percy Jackson kind of flair (which I noticed especially in the buildup of the main character,) but this world views the gifting of powers as more of a type of curse than a gift (kind of like how Marvel Comics has happy super-powered people like Spiderman but then it’s also got all of the X titles with its signature mutant characters… As much as I love Spidey, I’m more of an X-men fan than any other title, so I may have been genetically predispositioned to like this book.) Within the first few chapters there’s a great scene that drives home the severity of the situation (El is talking to her grandmother who also had a “gift/power” but chose instead to lose her eyes rather than live with it.

Characterization is great and writing is tight. Honestly, one of the things that made me want to review this ARC (it’s not quite out yet) was the cover. It all just seemed right—and when an author has everything coming together like this it’s a book that’s sure to do well. (and it promises to have more future releases by its subtitle: Book one in the Arete Series).

As far as genre goes, this title is urban fantasy which has an ever present and growing demand (think fantastic elements also present, but perhaps hidden from most, within the real world ya silly muggle.) It really does have a Percy Jackson twist, but with a more Twilight tone.

You will have to wait until April 12 to get a copy (but should be able to preorder). I received a prerelease ARC for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. You can get your own copy on Amazon.

Review: Who Knew-Lessons from my First 40 Years

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Who Knew is one of those books that intrigued me at concept and kept all its promises. Christine Andola has strong and tight writing and I found it engaging as she mixes anecdotal (and mostly personal) stories in an engaging way to transmit life wisdom. As I read I had a vision of Barney and Ted from How I Met Your Mother… at one point they reach a level of drunkenness where they get super wise but are still very funny—that was my perception. Deep wisdom with humor.

I don’ know how old the author is (at least in her forties), but I can corroborate many of her experiences and takeaways as she communicates these great truths, (like “Not everybody wants to be your friend” and “bonding and bondage sound similar for good reasons.”)

Late in the book she mentions a bit of disdain for self-help style books. This book isn’t one of those. It’s more like a “how not to suck at life” advice manual from someone who ‘s already been there and done that.” It was also an easy read and kind of perfect to leave in a bag and read segments on a commute, etc. I’d recommend this one, even though I’m not a big reader of nonfiction for entertainment purposes.  (I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review).

Click here to check out the book on Amazon.

Review: Adam

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Adam takes place in a not-too distant world full of androids, FTL travel, and teenage bullies. Adam is unlike the other boys and the story is one of self-discovery as he travels beyond the orphanage he’s grown up within only to discover that there is a power within that is not common to mankind.

I did feel like Adam was pretty mopey at times. But I suppose I would be too if I grew up in an orphanage and accidentally killed people more often than I wanted (even if they maybe have it coming.) The artificially intelligent androids were perhaps the best part, in my opinion. They were decidedly less asmovian and perhaps a more humanized version of ST:TNG’s Lt. Data (not necessarily in appearance, but in the way they think and “feel”… it was nuanced well.)

Some of the existing reviews indicate it is an adult fiction book but it has a distinctly YA feel to the voicing and it felt one part A.I. and one part Ender’s Game.

You can go check it out by clicking here.

Review: Eye of an Outlaw–Nefairyous #2

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Most of what I observed in the first installment of the Nefairyous Saga remains true of the second. OF course, this time around I went into the book with a mindset to embrace the 2nd person POV and look at it like I was in a mystery or a video game (thinking the old Myst series where the goal was to try and figure out the mystery through experience.) Some of the writing does flirt more with the third person POV in aspects (sometimes it seems like there is no limit to the knowledge we get as the reader. If I’d change anything in the series it’d be that–but it does help keep these stories as relatively short and perfect for the casual reader–kind of like choose your own adventure books.)

Detective Lincoln (from the first book) is absent. I was fine with that. I really did think the author did a better job of worldbuilding and keeping the immediacy of the books events, well, immediate. There is some backstory, for sure, but less so than we saw with the Wishbone killer in book 1 and it helps keep the reader in the element, so the writing style certainly improves between the books. The setting is also improved–partly just in language and names which have a distinct foreignness to them (in the first book I struggled to stay in the setting as some things seemed too familiar at times.)

I am glad to see multiple installments of something labled as a “saga” or series. Those of you who follow my reviews on my blog or via my author/reviewer profiles know that I’m irked whenever I see a novel proudly listed as “Book 1 in the exciting new series you never heard of and which will never see a second installment!” Make sure that you visit the Author’s homepage and send him some love and beg for a new story if this sort of 2nd person POV immersive storytelling is your cup of tea.

Review: Welcome to Lily Port

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The first thing that I noticed on page one is that there is dialogue EVERYWHERE. In fact, it drives the entirety of the story. When it does break out of dialogue mode the POV suddenly reveals a kind of universal narration to help show the reader what he or she is seeing. Anyone who’s read my reviews know my disdain for use of POV beyond 3rd person. Then I realized that this blended 2nd person viewpoint comes from the author’s background as a software designer (it actually hit me because I was thinking of how much the story’s writing style reminded me of an old text-based video game.) I read the author’s bio before I started the book (I know—I’m kind of a freak like that, I guess.) That helped reconcile my POV qualms and enjoy the story.

Without giving away any parts of the story, it opens in short order on a grisly scene and the apparent emergence of serial killer. It all takes on a very “Skinsaw Murders” kind of feel (in case you’re familiar with the classic Pathfinder module from Rise of the Runelords) but it’s not a fantastical setting. The story is more of a mystery and has a Choose Your Own Adventure feel, except that you don’t make any choices—although you still feel involved in the mystery because of the POV which makes the reader feel as if he or she is there (although I got a kind of Ebeneezer Scrooge vibe, like I was just an observer trying to figure out if Lincoln will ever catch his nemesis, the murderer known as Wishbone.

You can check it out on Smashwords.