Tanya Huff did an excellent job bringing the world of military sci fi to life in this first novel of the Confederation series. Whip smart dialogue, believable aliens, an interesting mission/world and a very well balanced view of both the foibles and strengths of a military organization are the strengths of this story.
Staff Sergeant Torrin Kerr is assigned to assist bringing a new world into the Confederation fold. On what should be a routine assignment, hell breaks loose and she finds her company enmeshed in a lot more than bargained for in the new world. It'll take her wits and ability to lead her small company (including her commanding officer) in smart directions in order to survive.
I really liked that Kerr was street smart and in the middle rank of her company - she has superiors and she has underlings - and needs to handle both. As well, she has a company full of aliens and each has unique needs - so she constantly has to rethink her strategies for both the greater good and also individual motivational factors.
The first half of the book is very quiet - but by the end there is a lot of action. That first half is really important since it sets up Kerr's confidence and also gives us a chance to get to know each of the alien species. There are several characters and this could have been a very confusing book without. The book uses several POVs but the emphasis is on Kerr.
This is one of those books where Audible narration really shines. The narrator did an excellent job of giving a unique voice to each of the aliens yet also a distinct voice to Kerr that was very welcome. It really elevated the book for me.
Out Of The Black is an exuberant, action-packed, and wildly fun conclusion to the Odyssey One series. Although not all our questions were answered and the door was left open to continue a new series in the same world, we get a very definite conclusion as the Odyssey One crashes into Earth.
Story: Weston survives the destruction of the Odyssey One as it crashes into New York City in a last bid attempt to take out as many enemy as possible. The planet is under full assault by a massive Drasin force - from Beijing to Dallas, Cities fall to infestation and millions are dying. Weston picks up local heroes and tries to hold the City from complete destruction. But if help doesn't come, Earth will be razed. And the Priminae are very unlikely to join the battle.
Listening to this Audible reading was like watching a Bruckheimer film - over the top macho swagger, non stop action, yet in a really fun way. Sure, Weston is raised to godlike proportions - now he's a military genius, assault specialist, hidden secret agent who saved the confederation, directly linked to Mother Earth Gaia, and more. As well, his former 'covert team' is reassembled and they read like a cliche of every movie character in the past from femme fatale to James Bond. And if I make a lot of movie references in this review, it's because this book is just so cinematic. Tarantino without the blood and guts.
The entire plot of the book is the battle for Earth, told from many perspectives. There is very little Priminae here - it's all about NYPD, marines, Texas Rangers, Chinese generals, and more. There are definitely a lot of archtypes to go around.
In all, a very fun, almost silly, but ultimately enjoyable final volume in the Odyssey One series.
Stormdancer had two great things going for it: alternative universe Japan and steampunk. And if you had never been introduced to either of those worlds, then you likely would have been fascinated by the 'wealth' (read: truckload) of info dumping done to describe them. But as a long time Otaku and steampunk aficionado, I'm not impressed by the mythology or worldbuilding any more - I know it already. I want a great story first, not tell and never show. But it was all tell and I was bored to tears by this simplistic plot.
Plot: selfish jerk of a Shogun wants to show he's powerful and orders his chief beastmaster to go capture a griffin. Beastmaster and daughter (main character, Yukiko) set out on what is a hopeless task but they run into one. Griffin escapes, Yukiko uses her 'demon' powers to communicate and placate beast, they return to main City, and set out to kill evil emperor Shogun.
Right off the bat, the pace was slow, with lots of descriptions and info dumps, and the characters were very flat. There was so much loving descriptions going on about the world that it was almost annoying to have characters in that pretty place. I loved the entire concept of Lotus plants powering a steampunk type of world. And there were some great chances to really interject horror elements into the plots - demons and sacrifices and ritual deaths. But the author never stayed with the story and kind of meandered through the plot so he could show off his knowledge. This was a book that felt 600 pages long - I kept stopping and it was nearly impossible to want to return to the drudgery of endless mythology descriptions, Japanese history descriptions, societal ranking descriptions, blah blah. Especially since I was so well aware of it already anyway.
I know many will rail against how the author has portrayed Japan; but hey, it is an alternate universe. I don't mind the way he set it up at all and was fascinated by the things that were NOT authentic Japanese history. But the characters really need to live and breathe in that world and no one in the story did that. Everyone talked the same, acted the same, in very simplistic manners. There really was no subtlety or subterfuge, complexities or nuances. And that's where the story really started to drag with me. If the speaker wasn't named, it could have been ANY character that was speaking, male or female. The Achilles heel of this book was the lack of action and pace.
I listened to the Audible version and the author did a decent job, though there were some irritating tics in there. But she made it easy to differentiate between the different characters, giving them much more personality than the writer did.
The School of Good and Evil is an interesting book - what is essentially a riff on fairytales ends up being a straight adventure story lacking any of the morals upon which it is based; as such, it ends without making a point and contradicting itself and the characters throughout. Less demanding readers will read it as a simple tween romp and enjoy it as such. But more demanding readers may be frustrated by the lack of point of view by the author.
Story: Agatha and Sophie live in an isolated village in the middle of a forest. Every year, the 'headmaster' of the School for Good and Evil comes and takes two children in the night to be students in his school. Sophie eagerly wants to go: she's sure she'll be a fairy tale princess. Down to Earth Agatha, however, finds the whole thing pathetic. When both girls are taken to the school, Sophie ends up in the school for evil (to be a witch) and Agatha lands in the school for princesses. With both girls sure they are in the wrong place, how will they survive their schoolmates long enough to get back to their village?
Most of the book is a fish-out-of-water story of each girl dealing with the horrors of their situation: beautiful Sophie with the farting/warted/dowdy evils and grounded Agatha dealing with the vain and superficial princesses. There should be a lot to mine here and a lot to be said about not falling into the cliches of either group. But somehow nothing is really said - is Sophie evil in her heart? Is Agatha really purely good despite her frogs and antisocial behavior? Are the princesses, with the callous and selfishness, really good? And are the evils really born that way or made so through cruel treatment? The answer ends up muddled in each of those situations as the story mostly concerns Agatha trying to get home and Sophie stymieing her. Even a point that neither is wholly good or wholly evil fails to materialize in this muddled plot.
In listening to this Audible version (in which the narrator did an excellent job), I kept feeling like there was going to be something deeper than the shallow story on top. The story really lacked nuance, depth, and especially a POV by the author to make this really work for me.
Although only alluded to in the book, this is actually a dystopian acting as a fantasy. It's strength is fairly grounded main character who doesn't rush off constantly so she can be saved by mysterious bad guy. But it's weakness is that there really is nothing new here and the writing lacks sophistication enough to really draw me in. I never invested in the story or the characters and honestly was a bit bored throughout. It started to play out more like a bodice ripper romance than a fantasy.
Selia owns a tavern and can take care of herself - good with both blade and her brain. When she rescues a man she soon discovers is one of the reviled Svistra, she will embark on a quest that will pit her against both her people and the Svistra. At its heart, though, is her growing love of the Svistra warrior she rescued.
This dystopian world is not too terrible: clealry the Svistra are genetic mutations meant to enhance their physical abilities. This put them at odds with the normal humans, who mistrust them and continually break treaties. Author Thomas has a lot of fun with the world, imagining all kinds of mutations from whatever caused the world to revert back to medieval trappings.
But as the story progressed, I really began to lose interest. There was nothing really new added to the dystopian or fantasy genre (though I appreciate the author didn't have to spell out that this was a dystopian and not a fantasy). I honestly had read this type of plot often in historical romances, especially Scottish, and at this stage in my reading, I really want something different and more unique.
The writing is decent and I was able to follow the story well. I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did a decent job.
This is the type of book that is great for those who want a romance. Perhaps less so for those who want a fantasy or dystopian.
Born at Midnight is an unapologetically young teen oriented book that tackles issues of teen pregnancy, drugs, bullying, parent issues, and more within an urban fantasy setting. Rating this from the perspective of a teen, it's definitely a 5. But more mature readers/adults may find the messages overly heavy and the teens a bit too, well, teen. Kudos to the author for giving us authentic, confused, and realistic teens that aren't overly mature.
The story follows Kylie, a teen who, after being at a party that goes wrong, becomes guilty by association of being a druggie. Her parents are divorcing, things are falling apart fast, and now she finds herself at some dorky Summer camp. But it's not just ordinary summer camp; rather, she finds out quickly that it is a camp for kids with paranormal abilities. And she may just be paranormal herself. But not everyone is happy the camp exists, that paranormals comingle with normies, and they will work hard to destroy the camp for good.
The teens in the book feel very real. I appreciated that Kylie's parents weren't good or bad, but were dealing with their own demons and issues. As well, most of the paranormal kids were going through the same issues as normal teens - boyfriends/girlfriends, social issues, fitting in, etc. As such, the characters feel authentic and react in predictable ways. This could have been a story about the paranormal aspects but it really isn't. It's about being a teen.
I'm going to rate this a solid 4. Admittedly, as an adult, I never got into the story or the teens. But I also respect that if I had read this as a teen, I would have absolutely loved it.
I listened to the audible version of this and the narrator did an excellent job.
Terms of Enlistment is by no means a perfect book but it was one I enjoyed immensely: a non blustery military sci fi that isn't in love with its tech, its military, or right wing politics. Rather, we have an everyman navigating the military as a way out of a dead end life on welfare, who won't suddenly end up captaining a ship or becoming an insta-leader. As well, I appreciated that we didn't have a gender-specific army but instead had capable roles for male and female characters. I read the second book in the series, Lines of Departure, first and liked it enough to buy this first book.
Story: Andrew Grayson joins the military as a way out of an untenable life in the welfare system of the North American government. He will go through training school and then end up tackling the problematic situation of the deteriorating social structure on Earth. But what is happening on Earth is only one problem in a universe that is about to expand rapidly - and the military is suddenly going to become very needed.
What I liked about the books is that we have a very ordinary guy. Although he sounds far too educated to have come from a welfare system in which he didn't get higher education (there are no colloquialisms, slang, dialects, etc.) I actually preferred that simple talk for a simple man. Both this first book and the second book start slowly but really pick up steam by midway through. And then, when the action kicks in, Kloos really knows how to escalate it - his characters don't have bad days, they have *really* bad days.
This is the type of story that isn't about kick butt marines, balls out action, or being macho. It's about being lucky to survive, a feeling of futility but also hope, and living in a world on the brink of falling apart on many levels.
I listened to the audible version of this and enjoyed the narration.
Dualed is the type of book that created an ambivalence in me; on the one hand, there are quite a few items in there that bucks YA dystopian trends (she's an assassin, for example, and by definition, NOT a unique snowflake). But on the other hand, yet again we have a 'too good to be real/never gets upset' and 'ignore best advice and do your own thing' syndromes. What keeps this at a firm 3 stars for me is that a lot of the middle feels like filler to flesh out a basic premise.
Story: West lives in a post apocalyptic society where each person is created with an exact duplicate. The society prides itself on defense preparedness and a competition in the teen years means that every 'partial' will eventually have to kill their duplicate in order to become complete and join society. West has lost most of her family to partial kills or from collateral damage of someone else's kill. Alone, she chooses to become a Striker, an assassin for hire to take out other people's duplicates. She hopes this training will prepare her to face her own trial/assignment; which comes sooner than she would have hoped.
Honestly, after the premise of the story is revealed, I expected a long drawn cat and mouse where our main character would have to outwit her opponent. Instead, West spends most of the book avoiding having to meet up with her duplicate and being saved by her love interest, Chord. This was problematic since the problem of her duplicate was far more interesting than her becoming a Striker/assassin. Indeed, the author failed to show any 'training' she received as a result of being a Striker (she was thrown out into assignment immediately) and perhaps the only thing she learned was that hesitation is deadly. But really, the experience of killing a 'hit' was different than killing your duplicate/alt since you can blend as a Striker but everyone knows when you are in the middle of your assignment to kill your alt.
I had expected we would get a lot of morally-hesitant kills (e.g., killing bad people or people who 'deserved' it) and was pleasantly surprised the author refused to take the easy route. But with West's own alt, I felt it would have been better to make her a more sympathetic (or even better) character than alt. That would have put a lot more ambiguity and better message about the dystopian society. Instead, if West kills her alt, she can say she was the worthy one - and the dystopian society's policies become sound and sanctioned.
In the end, the conflicting messages (dystopian killing society is right), daring plot devices (she kills innocents!), and lack of logic (if you do something to get training in weapons/killing, then GET the training already) make this a solid 3 stars.
Note: I listened to the Audible version of this story and the narrator did an excellent job.
The Lost Sun is a book that defies so many YA conventions: unapologetically violent, a very low key romance, and for once, a story that is not about an entitled unique snowflake girl. As well, the world building is unique, the voice dark yet grounded, and the main character flawed but with unique strengths. At heart, this is a road trip with a decided conclusion at the end despite being the first in a series.
In the United States of Asgard, Viking gods walk the Earth and magic, trolls, and mythos are very much a part of the landscape. Soren is the son of a berserker - one who went mad and killed innocents before being put down. His father was legendary for his valor and strength; now for his fall from grace. In that shadow, Soren wishes freedom from the berserker ability within him. When he meets Astrid, a seer, he will join her on a quest to find the lost sun Baldur the Beautiful; Baldur did not rise with the sunrise and the people are worried. But there is far more at stake than one lost god and Soren, along with Astrid, will come into contact with several of the Gods as they are caught up in Asgardian machinations.
The premise of having a modern America under Viking influence rather than European is quite distinct and well realized here. From the new names of cars, to unique soft drinks, to the way society reacts and acts; they are all logical conclusions to the Asgardian influence. The book is layered and nuanced but would ultimately fail if we didn't invest in the main characters. Fortunately, Gratton does an excellent job of giving us realistic and grounded individuals despite the supernatural elements in the story.
There was such a plausibility and authenticity to the characters and setting that we invested in the world and wanted to see if they would reach their goals at the end. There were a few twists, some were obvious, but overall the story followed a satisfying arc and the author neither overwrote nor overplayed the mysteries.
In all, a great read and I eagerly await the second in the series. Note: I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did an excellent job.
I had wondered in what direction the story would go after what seemed like an arc-ending plot in the previous book, Guardian (finding the Dancers and then bringing them to Earth). But in this book 4 of the Beyond the Frontier saga, author Campbell continues to impress and somehow manages to completely up the ante. But it isn't all new storyline: reoccurring themes such as the mystery of the 'dancing lights' in hyperspace, as well as newer plot developments of the secretly constructed new fleet are brought up here again and more tantalizing hints given. It makes for great space opera: overall story arcs across the entire series, smaller story arcs across subseries, and then several book-only arcs all weave together superbly.
Story: Geary is vacationing on Earth with Desjani, dealing with the homeworld's endless bureaucracy and paperwork. When two of the Dauntless' officers are kidnapped, Geary tracks them down to a world wiped clean by a man-made virus and then strictly quarantined. Meanwhile, he will also be sent on a seemingly insignificant errand to deal with Syndicate refugees. He's going to find that the Syndicate isn't quite done with him yet. And as for the Dancers - they are leaving tantalizing hints that something is very wrong in the universe. And at its heart, the Alliance itself.
All the usual battle scenes are here - with a surprising and inventive new battle at the end. There is also a lot of soul searching as Geary begins to realize he might just be guided by the Living Stars after all. Themes such as his reliance and growth from Rione and Desjani are given new light when he is separated from the Dauntless and instead accompanies Duellos on a seemingly futile mission. And an old menace from the very first book makes a reappearance to cause mayhem.
I have to hand it to Campbell for creating yet a new, highly significant, and very dangerous enemy by the end of this book. He will, literally, have to completely change everything he does/knows about warfare if he hopes to survive. And, of course, his reliance on his officers is now especially important.
The one thing you can count on with Campbell's books are the many Chekhov's Guns throughout most of the early parts of each book. I was greatly surprised this time and didn't spot any of them until the reveals at the end. Some are subtle, some are obvious, but all show the thought that goes into the writing of each of these series.
The question is: in this 10th book in the overall series, are the plots/books still fresh and do we still have all the great space opera action, human characters, and unique plots? And the answer is an unequivocal yes. I eagerly await the next book - and until then will continue to follow the Midway-set Lost Stars series as well (which had an appearance in this book).
Note: I chose the Audible version of this story and it continues with the same narrator as all the previous books.
This second book in the Man of War Trilogy manages to not fall into a sophomore slump and continues in the tradition of the first book. The characters are still smug, overexplain every situation, and do a lot of speeches. Despite my frustration with the egregious use of telling and not showing, there is something endearing about the series that will keep me reading to the third volume.
Story: The Cumberland crew continue their work in space, but this time earning new alien alliances while at the same time escalating the war with the Krag. Just as the doctor pulled off at the end of book one with the glass art, so does Robichaux pull off at the end of this book with, of all things, a Krag battleship.
What I like about the series is the diversity: of religions, ethnicities, viewpoints. We have a wide range of characters from different places on Earth (even non existent ones, as done with the Romanovs and Latin). As well, the story does have many characters and they are decently fleshed out and idiosyncratic.
What frustrates me (though these are likely style choices of the author and therefore not something changeable) are the constant speeches, excessive dialogue (every person always asks another to fully explain any point like a teacher to a student, regardless of who they are), and that there's just too much knowledge on hand. Our captain knows physics, obscure military history, observational information on alien species, as well as perfect psychology with his staff. It beggers belief, to be honest, that everyone knows everything all the time, off the top of their head, at the right moment, and will explain it in finite detail. It can quickly veer into Marty Stu territory.
If you've read the first book and enjoyed it, you'll definitely enjoy the second. I was on the fence about reading the second but an Amazon Kindle deal/Audible deal swayed me. I did roll my eyes several times at all the pompous and smugness - but that was also exacerbated by the Audible narration, which had a very good narrator but his way of trailing off sentences as if bored ended up feeling a bit like William Shatner in Star Trek. It was so overly emoted that it overemphasized the excessive unnatural wordiness of the dialogue.
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