Dark Fantasy Story Bundle

Storybundle has a new bundle of ebooks up in the dark fantasy genre, available for the next 22 days: dark fantasy bundle. 11 books this time, and they look interesting enough that I grabbed them. (When the hell am I supposed to find time to read them? I don’t know!)

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Review: “An Ancient Peace,” Tanya Huff

Pros: Still the usual amazing world-building and characters
Cons: Definitely read the Confederation novels first!
Rating: 5 out of 5

In Tanya Huff’s An Ancient Peace, the first book in her Peacekeeper trilogy, she returns to her Confederation world. This is wonderful military SF in which we follow the career of Torin Kerr, a space marine with a reputation for getting things done. Although this is a separate trilogy about Torin’s life after leaving the military, I highly recommend reading the Confederation novels first. Partly because they’re just that worthwhile, and partly because you’ll need the world-building background! No matter how good a job this book does reminding you of the basics, it’s still an incredibly complex and detailed world with galaxy-spanning wars, alien races galore, and amazing conspiracies. This book will throw you if you don’t have that background.

I’ve been busy with going back to school, and was foolish enough to take some hyper-accelerated summer courses (bio in one month! Gah!). This means I literally had no time to read for pleasure over the month of June, so, no reviews here. Finding I had time to read a novel was eclipsed only by the wonderful discovery that Tanya Huff had put out some Torin Kerr novels I hadn’t heard about before! I knew I was in for a good ride, which is a must when you have time to read precisely one book before jumping back into the grind.

Torin and her friends (her lover Craig, who was a salvage operator, an ally or two, and some of the marines that served under her) have become civilians after discovering that the big, important war they’d been serving in was based on one huge lie. They’re working for the Justice Department as a strike team, picking up criminals such as pirates in situations that might become too hot for the (traditionally alien) wardens. Even though they’re no longer in the military, the Corps Intelligence Service brings them in for a highly sensitive operation. H’san grave goods are being sold, and the only way the items could have been found is if the graverobbers had discovered the highly secret location of the H’san’s original planet. Why so secret? Well, because that planet was rendered uninhabitable when the H’san were in their warring days, and the weapons are believed to still be there! If one of the more violent Younger Races get their hands on the weapons–or are even known to be trying to find them–the Elder Races will have all the excuse they need to quarantine the Younger Races on their home planets, a measure that’s already been proposed.

We follow the story along on two threads. We see the grave robbers as they try to decode the location of the weapons while trying not to get killed by the H’san’s rather inventive traps. Then we follow Torin and her allies as they try to catch up to the bad guys and stop them. There’s some wonderful material detailing more about some of the Middle and Elder races, and we get to see a lot more about the (often-entertaining) sex-hungry Taykan and how their vulnerability to touch (or the lack thereof) isn’t always just fun and games. Torin and her friends also have to figure out how they’re supposed to reconcile their desire to uphold the law with the fact that they’re being asked to act as judge, jury, and executioner to these graverobbers–and whether the possibility of interstellar war merits the change in MO. The characters are wonderful as always, and there’s a ton of action, snarkiness, and wonderful SF goodness. I recommend all of Tanya Huff’s books on general principle, but I can say from experience that An Ancient Peace is well worth your time!

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Military SF Story Bundle

I’m fond of military SF (In particular Tanya Huff’s Confederation series), so I jumped on this military SF ebook bundle. Now I just need to find time to read it…

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Holy Handgrenades

When I signed up for an accelerated, one-month summer Bio class, somehow I didn’t realize just how little free time I’d have. Especially since I’m taking an online class at the same time. So, yeah. So far, no time for reading books for pleasure. Hopefully next month?

Posted in News & Musings

Review: “Space Carrier Avalon,” Glynn Stewart

Pros: Good space combat scenes
Cons: Starts slow
Rating: 3 out of 5

Glynn Stewart’s Space Carrier Avalon (Castle Federation) (Volume 1) follows Kyle Roberts, a war hero and pilot who’s been put in charge of the Avalon, a famous old ship on its way to being decommissioned. Obviously, the ship’s last flight won’t be nearly as uneventful as he expects. First he has to clean up the ship–it’s been used as a place to get rid of problem people (everything from rapists to drug runners). There’s also a piracy problem brewing on their route.

I really prefer a book that has a strong story arc right out of the gate. Space Carrier Avalon just didn’t grab me until well into the book. Also, while it’s nice to see women in strong roles, it would also be nice if their curves and sexual habits weren’t constantly on display (or at least, also tell me how handsome and virile the guys are so it’s even). For that matter, the characters as a whole could use more depth; they all felt a little thin.

All that said, the fight scenes were great. Stewart seems to have a handle on how to display fighter and ship combat, which aren’t easy things to get right! He’s also not afraid to have death and destruction rain down on his characters, so there’s something to lose. My guess is that the next book in the series would probably be better, since by nature it would start out with a story arc in place.

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SFWA Story Bundle

Want a bunch of science fiction ebooks, cheap? SFWA has a story bundle available until May 24. You sort of set your own price, although the price threshold determines how many books you get. I got the whole thing! (As though I need any more books to read…)

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It feels strange

I’ve been doing book reviews online since 1998, since before blogs and book tours and the like. It feels so strange to not be writing book reviews. Hopefully I’ll find a balance in which I can do a book or two every week or so just to keep my toes wet.

Posted in News & Musings, Reviews

Just so you know…

The reviews will become an occasional thing and I will only very rarely take items for review for at least a while. I’m going back to school and am already deep in books that are not nearly so much fun to read.

Posted in News & Musings, Reviews

Review: “The New Neighbors,” Simon Lelic

Pros: Interesting mystery
Cons: Structurally odd
Rating: 4 out of 5

Simon Lelic’s The New Neighbors largely takes the form of a manuscript written alternately by Sydney and Jack, a couple who recently bought an old house stuffed with creepy junk. After a neighbor dies they want to get their experiences down on paper (or at least Jack thinks it’ll help) so that the reader can best understand the strange incidents that have befallen them. Is it a ghost story? Is it a murder mystery? You’ll have to read to find out.

The back-and-forth between Jack and Syd rings true. In some ways it makes the situation between them worse as they get some of their harshest and hardest feelings down on paper between them. They’re having to hash things out in a tone neither has dealt with before. And as the narrative involves events that can be hard to prove at best, particularly once the police get involved, believing in each other has never been so tricky.

The families involved in this tale–Jack’s and Syd’s, as well as neighbor Elsie’s–are outrageously nasty, but also believably so. (If you’ve dealt with manipulative and abusive people in real life you’ll probably find some of the family members’ behaviors disturbingly familiar; consider this your warning if you aren’t up to reading about abuse.) Things spiral downward for the couple (Jack loses his job; Syd returns to drug use) and for Elsie as well, whose father puts her in the hospital. It’s depressingly hard to read about if you aren’t ready for it, but it rings true.

The structure was a bit odd. Sometimes one of the two people will have more than one section in a row, so you really have to pay attention to which name begins a chapter and not just rely on alternating chapters. The two character voices need a little more differentiation in my opinion. There’s also some confusion once we jump into and through the present events and thus the whole thing isn’t really being told the same way any more. The good part is that there’s a really nice wind-up like you want in a traditional mystery toward the end. There are plenty of hints and clues and ways for you to figure things out (or not) depending on what you pick up on.

Ultimately I enjoyed this novel and would try more by Peter Lelic.

NOTE: Free book provided by publisher for review

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Review: “The Beloveds,” Maureen Lindley

Pros: Weird, shifting tale
Cons: Weird, shifting tale
Rating: 4 out of 5

Maureen Lindley’s The Beloveds focuses on Elizabeth, who feels mightily aggrieved. As far as she’s concerned her life has always gone wrong. Her younger sister Gloria appropriated both her date Henry (eventually marrying him!) and her bff Alice. Their mother left the family home to Gloria even though Elizabeth is the one who loves the place. She has wars with her neighbors, starts experimenting with poisons, and engages in frankly psychopathic behavior. It’s interesting how many books lately are concentrating on the psychos instead of their victims. It’s an odd change, and one I would have preferred to remain a rare niche rather than become a trend. I prefer main characters who are at least a little sympathetic, and it’s hard to find that in characters like Elizabeth. Lindley tries to make her understandable in some small ways, but for me it wasn’t enough.

There were too many spots where I’d try to imagine what’s coming next in the story and all I’d come up with was “Elizabeth will find yet another way to be a psycho.” It would have been nice to see a bit more coherent plotting than that. That said, without giving anything away I will say I liked the way the tale ended. I thought it was clever and interesting and hinted at more interesting things to come than most of the rest of the story did before it. Okay, so that last bit is also a bit of a minus. It seems like some of the same things that make the book good are also the things that make it not sit entirely well with me.

Still, I do love tales where someone’s devious nature results in plenty of thrilling twists and turns, so I did enjoy reading The Beloveds. Whether you’re likely to enjoy it depends on how sympathetic you want your main character to be.

NOTE: Book provided by publisher for review

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