Embers of War

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Embers of War
Author: Gareth L. Powell
Publisher: Titan Books, Feb. 2018
Blurb: The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress.

But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can.

Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating and saving the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing ship, whatever the cost. In order to do this, he must reach out to the only person he considers a friend, even if he’s not sure she can be trusted. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be.

Quickly, what appears to be a straightforward rescue mission turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe, find themselves at the centre of a potential new conflict that could engulf not just mankind but the entire galaxy.

If she is to survive and save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight.

The Experience
(This ARC was given to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Happy Publication Day to Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell, if you’re reading this review on the 20th of February, 2018. If you aren’t, at least now you know the day it was published, so…hey, the more you know, right?

This book was such a different read for me, but I absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed it.

I have been slowly reading more and more science fiction, though I don’t think I’ve ever read something so in-depth and so mind-stretching (for me, personally) as Embers of War. I’m still wrapping my head around some of the finer details and grander concepts, but I think someone who loves science fiction or who is an avid reader within the genre will fly through this book like they are lacking oxygen and Embers of War is their own personal bubble of breathable air. It’s fast paced, it’s intricate and it’s complex.

My brain could use reading a few more books as challenging, enjoyable and rewarding as this one.

30748899

I think my favorite bit was how it was written. They was just a…I’m not even sure how to describe it, a higher quality of style, in the way it was written. There was an eloquence that I don’t always find in books, yet I found within these pages, that I appreciated and admired. I would have enjoyed the book for the writing alone (but lucky for me, the story was pretty fantastic, too).

I also was a huge fan of the multiple POVs it was told from (though I won’t like, at the beginning, I did get a bit lost as to who was who, though I quickly got that sorted) and how quickly you could fly through the chapters. Once again, I found myself reading a book in 100+ page increments, pushing past my bed time or rushing to return to work after my dinner break because I almost missed going back on time (again). I especially enjoyed that we got some POVs I wasn’t expecting (though I won’t tell you who, because I want you to be surprised, too). Her POV might even have been my favorite. I was also impressed by how distinct some of the voices sounded within their POVs, especially once I got everyone straight in my head.

Plus, those last 100 pages were pretty bomb and the last two chapters have me itching for the next book (because there is going to be another book, right?).

I’d say if you like science fiction, characters with dark pasts and demons that still haunt them, space battles, first person POV told through multi-POVs, shaky military alliances, tough choices and the sudden desire to worship the World Tree, this book will not disappoint you. Me, I’m really glad I stumbled upon this book, am thankful to Titan for providing an advanced review copy and stoked to continue reading more by this author!

Read on!

Advertisements

Time Shards

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Time Shards
Author: Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald
Publisher: Titan Books, Jan. 2018
Blurb: It’s called “the Event.” An unimaginable cataclysm in the 23rd century shatters 600 years of the Earth’s timeline into jumbled fragments. Our world is gone: instantly replaced by a new one made of shattered remnants of the past, present and future, all existing alongside one another in a nightmare patchwork of different time “shards”—some hundreds of miles long and others no more than a few feet across.

San Diego native Amber Richardson is stranded on a tiny fragment of 21st century Britain surrounded by a Pleistocene wilderness. She crosses paths with Cam, a young warrior of a tribe from Roman Brittania, and together they struggle to survive—only to be imprisoned by Cromwellian soldiers. One of their captives is a man who Amber calls Merlin, who may know more about what caused the Event. Together, they learn they must escape before the damage to the timeline is irreparable.

The Experience

So, before I gush about the book itself–and there is a lot of gushing to be had over Times Shards–I gotta talk about the neat way I got a copy. I stumbled upon a tweet from Titan Books, searching for US bloggers to receive copies of new releases from this year and write honest reviews over those books. I sent them an email and was surprised to be added to their list of bloggers, despite how small Erlebnisse still is. I received two books, based on my interests.

One of them was Time Shards by Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald.

So, here’s my honest review, in one sentence:

I didn’t even get halfway through this book before I started telling my friends they need to read it.

Now, here’s the gushing.

First of all, that premise. It’s one that makes your head hurt (in a good, challenging way) and makes you desperate to find out more, because you just want to know what’s happening, how it happened and what they are going to do to fix it. Then, you pair it with the way the book was written, through multiple POVs throughout multiple points in time, jumping back and forth between life before the Event and just after the Event occurred, creating the time shards everyone is stuck in.

I loved how we got a section featuring famous figures in history and what they were doing during the Event and how the Event completely shattered (heh) their world. I loved following the characters around as they struggled to piece together (and come to terms with) what happened and struggled to survive terrors from the past and the future, depending on where they themselves were from in the timeline.35082019

Throughout the entire book, I couldn’t stop thinking about how clever it was (in every sense a compliment). Most notably, I loved that Amber was at a Con and cosplaying before the Event and how her outfit had real world consequences after the fact. I also really enjoyed the attention to detail, especially the more gritty or uncomfortable ones. There were multiple times when I squirmed in my seat and a very distinct moment–when we learn the truth behind a character’s background–where I said, “No fucking shit,” as I was reading, literally bouncing up out of my seat in a mixture of horror and shock, before I continued.

Honestly, my only complaint?

The book ended.

Trust me, the way it was set up was absolutely necessary. Like I said, I loved getting all the flashes from different times and perspectives as the Event happened (particularly Neil Armstrong). I loved getting to know our main group of survivors and seeing things from their POV (also, Cam? Favorite character, absolutely hands down). Yet I felt like we were just getting into the true meat of the story, really figuring out what the Event actually was and what they were going to do to fix it, and then the story ended.

Killer last line, though.

And now, I’m left with a predicament I’m not entirely used to, considering Time Shards was published, eh, a week ago, yet I’ve already started searching for information when the sequel is coming out (hint: there is no information, because the book came out a week ago). Because I really don’t want to leave this world and the wonderful way it was written, the characters I became very much invested in and experiencing all the clever ways in which the Event shattered time and how everyone is responding to it. And to think, if I hadn’t stumbled upon Titan’s tweet and reached out to them, I might not have discovered the book that I read in 100+ page increments for the past few dinner breaks.

Best email I’ve ever sent.

Cheers.

Silverlock

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Silverlock
Author: John Myers Myers
Publisher: Ace Trade Paperbacks, 1949
Blurb: In this classic of fantasy fiction, John Myers transports readers to a world as limitless as the human imagination, where a shipwrecked American meets up with Robin Hood, Beowulf, Huck Finn, and countless others on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Experience

This might be the first negative review I’ve written on here. It’s definitely the first DNF (did not finish) book that I can remember in…well, a really freakin’ long time. And that’s really disappointing to me, because I was really excited about this book.

I can’t remember how I discovered it, but when I read it’s initial premise, I was really excited about it. It was a book I thought, potentially, could be considered a comparative title to the series I’m currently writing. Of course, I needed to read it to see if it worked as a comp, but I’ve never really been able to find any comparative titles, so I was really excited about the prospect. Even if it didn’t work (and it didn’t), the premise definitely seemed really interesting. I was excited to see all of these other, familiar stories interwoven and how the main character, who was unfamiliar with those worlds existing except in fiction, would respond.

But I only got halfway through before I put it down in exchange for an ARC.

Here were my issues with it.

One, I could not connect with the main character. Sure, in the forward, it mentioned how he starts off as an ass (okay, they wrote it much more poetically than that) before he grows on you, but he never did. I didn’t like his cocky attitude or how he always assumed he was better than everyone else, though I was impressed that he admitted it aloud, from time to time, and he was aware of his own shortcomings and embraced them. I’ve fallen in love with cocky characters before and connected with characters I have nothing in common with, but not with Shandon Silverlock. 104069

Secondly, I just wanted the book to…go somewhere. Shandon gets shipwrecked and then finds himself in the Commonwealth and you’d assume his main goal would be to return home. Instead, he simply pops between character and adventure, helping when he’s able, before moving onto the next group or problem. Perhaps if this was all moving towards something bigger or tied into a larger plot, I could get behind it. Like in The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. There are a lot of subplots going on, smaller heists and things that need to be accomplished alongside the main storyline. Yet I enjoyed going off of those side quests, if you will. They added, not subtracted, from the main quest. With Silverlock, I just got annoyed. I wanted to know what the main quest was, yet could never figure that out. Instead, these characters would just randomly show up while Shandon was adventuring, make an appearance and fulfill whatever joke or special appearance they were meant to, and then go along their way. It just irked me. Everything felt…random. Unfocused.

I also was a bit confused as to Shandon’s reaction. I was totally okay that he didn’t have the, “Holy shit, how did these characters come to life?!” reaction that was expected. But he didn’t even acknowledge that he was living in works of fiction made real, whether he believed it or not. He just had no opinion whatsoever, just accepting things as reality and moving forward with it. Which I guess is a response, but I didn’t really understand how that was his response. He was college educated, as he liked to point out. Surely he would have recognized some of them and that would have drawn out an emotional response?

I’ve read my fair share, but I know I missed a lot of the references. In some ways, I enjoyed hunting for the next reference or waiting to see what new character would make an appearance–and become stoked when I guessed the clues correctly before their identity was revealed, as I did with Beowulf and Don Quixote. Yet at the same time, I think I was frustrated just enough, wondering what the main conflict was, that I found the onslaught of references annoying, instead of pleasurable, like each discovery is in say, James A. Owen’s The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, for instance.

So…yeah. After some encouragement by my boyfriend (because I really don’t like to DNF a book), I put Silverlock down. Disappointed, definitely, but honestly? The book I’m currently reading is so good, I haven’t given the decision too much reflection.

Read on!

The Guns Above

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: The Guns Above 
Author: Robyn Bennis
Publisher: May, 2017, Tor
Blurb: The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupre can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.

She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?

The Experience 

So, I’m actually pissed at myself for this one, because I think I messed up my own experience with it.

This book intrigued me. I didn’t know too much about it, just sorta stumbled upon it on Twitter one day, but I was intrigued enough to add it to the list of books I wanted for Christmas and was lucky enough to get it. And I actually read it pretty soon after I got it, unlike a lot of other books on my To-Read list this year, which I’ve owned for years a while and haven’t gotten around to, yet. Yet as I was changing the status on Goodreads, I noticed some of the reviews at the bottom.

And they weren’t all exactly positive.

Usually, I don’t even look at reviews, let alone let my opinion be based off of them–especially because every book will have a range of reviews, naturally (which I know is ironic, because I write reviews myself and you’re probably asking, Well then, what’s the point of these reviews?, to which I’d respond in kind: I usually don’t read many books I don’t like ((not sure how that happens, but look at my reviews and you’ll see I just fall in love with the books I read, ninety percent of the time)) so my reviews, personally, are for two purposes: one, to gush about a book I just loved yet have no one else to rant talk about it with and two, help the author out a little bit, even if I have a pretty small audience here. I like to read reviews of books I’ve already read, in hopes of finding someone else to gush with. I usually don’t read them to ascertain if a book is my fancy or not. I’m weird, I know).

((Sorry about that tangent, there. Oops.))26123536

But, I caught myself reading some of these reviews and getting discouraged. For one reason or another, I just assumed this book was going to be awesome. It was a military fantasy with steampunk influences about a woman trying to make her place in a world where women are undervalued. How could it not be awesome?

Yet I think those reviews did taint my reading, because while I did enjoy the book, I didn’t like it as much as I imagined I would.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good book. The details were great, I could easily picture what was going on and I loved the battle-focus, even if I felt some of the battle scenes went on a bit longer than necessary. I think I had two main hang ups, that kept me from absolutely falling in love.

First, I was really irked by the treatment of women in the story. I get that is part of the culture and the world, but it was just…really hard to read about a world where women were looked at in such low regard in many ways. I don’t think that can really count against the book, but it did influence my opinion of it, so…take that as you will. Second, I would have liked to get to know Josette and Lord Bernat a little bit better. They were both very interesting characters and they contrasted wonderfully, but I didn’t always feel like I understood where they were coming from/their motivations and I wanted to be inside their heads a little bit more.

That said, it was still a good read and I’m looking forward to continuing the series (By Fires Above comes out this May). And this time, I’ll avoid looking at any reviews (regardless of whether they actually tainted my reading or if I would have had that opinion anyway).

Read on!

Nanoshock

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Nanoshock
Author: K.C Alexander
Publisher: Angry Robot, Nov. 2017
Blurb: As Riko works to rebuild her shattered cred, following the events of Necrotech, she’s stuck fighting off every jerk looking to raise their standing on the streets. But when a corp with some serious influence ups the stakes, Riko’s going to have to take the fight to them, put this nonsense down for good. Nothing is what it seems when corp politics are in play, and another necro blight right where her answers are buried might very well be the end of the life she didn’t know she’d borrowed.

The Experience
(This review hints at spoilers)

Friends, do I have some thoughts I need to get out about Nanoshock.

This review is coming a little late, considering I hammered out the last, eh, 200 pages or so within 24 hours, right before I was leaving for vacation, so it’s been a few weeks since I experienced all the feels this book caused. That doesn’t mean they’ve become any less potent, thinking about them now.

First, I need to call attention to one thing in particular.

That first line.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to know how to write a bloody brilliant first line that causes your readers to go around and show it to everyone in the near vicinity (and then more people later), just so they can be caught off-guard and as floored as you were when you first read it (okay, almost everyone; not showing my boss/parents that line…), then look no further than Nanoshock.

You wanna know what it is, don’t you?

Good. Go read it and find out.

33658170

But what I really want to talk about is that ending. Because I need to process, people. You see, I feel into the classic blunder. I got comfortable. This is after Riko fought so hard for redemption. This is after the major fight, the “boss battle,” if you will; the point in a video game where you’re warned that you won’t be able to complete any side missions if you push further, so your choice better be f-ing solid. Yeah, this is after that, in the bar. I think I was feeling slightly akin to what Riko felt; relief, comfort, acceptance, even if it wasn’t fully there yet. At home. I honestly thought the book would end there and I was totally content with that.

I was completely, totally and utterly blindsided by what happened next.

I won’t actually say what it was, because I don’t want to ruin this book for you, friends. But my jaw dropped and I stilled (I usually rock when I read) and I just set the book down in complete disbelief. As a writer, I was applauding, because of course this is what Alexander would do next. Of bloody course. But as a reader?

Fucking hell no.

How could you?

And honestly, there isn’t a better compliment than I can give than that.

Read on!

PS: Alexander, tell me: is there a book three? Please tell me there is.

Karen Memory

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Karen Memory
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Publisher: Tor, Feb. 2015
Blurb: “You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

The Experience

I started reading Karen Memory at this current juncture as research (you know, since I asked for this book for Christmas and got it…two years ago). Since I’m planning to start working on a steampunk novel of my own, I figured I probably should read a couple more (read: a lot more) in the genre, just to get a feel of how different authors write steampunk novels.

22238181

I was slightly surprised when Memory, to me, felt more like a western than steampunk, even with all the wonderful steampunk influences and mechanics that played a major role within the story. Yet I wasn’t disappointed by this. As I read, instead of looking at the book critically and noticing how steampunk played a role, I instead got lost within the story, to the point where I finished the book a few days after I started it and I couldn’t believe it was already over. And that was in large part thanks to the narrator of the book.

Karen Memory.

She had such a lively voice and way of speaking, if you know what I mean. It was a joy to not only get lost in the story, rooting for the women going up against Peter Bantle (who was just such an arse), but to hear all about it from Karen’s perspective. Her point of view and little reflections and tidbits were what made the book so enjoyable. It was one of those books I just seeped into, without thinking too much about it. It was a simple, enjoyable read and that’s always refreshing to find. And, I just learned, through searching Goodreads, that the sequel is meant to come out this year, in March! An added bonus and make no mistake.

Read on!

Age of Assassins

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Age of Assassins
Author: R.J. Barker
Publisher: Orbit Books, August 2017
Blurb: Girton Club-Foot, apprentice to the land’s best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But his latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince’s murder. 

In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies, Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire kingdom.

The Experience
(Warning: spoilers are hinted at towards the end of this review)

So, let me start off with a story about how this book came into my hands.

I discovered Barker through Twitter, because he followed/interacted with some authors that I adore (i.e., Melissa Caruso), so I started following him and his blog. One day, a new blog post from him came up on my WordPress feed and I gave it a read. It detailed a contest to win a copy of Age of Assassins, if you could guess how one copy he owned met it’s demise: by water, by coffee (I think this was one of the options?) or cat’s pee.

Because I’m an inept Luddite half of the time, I can’t find the tweet I sent in to enter, nor Barker’s response that I won (which, I saw a few days after he posted it, because I suck that much at social media; but also, *still squeeing*). I also don’t have a picture of the wonderfully signed first page, which included a drawing of the culprit that made it possible for me to get a gifted copy of this book, because I forgot to take a picture this morning.

(I really suck at technology, friends.)

Then, of course, when the book arrived in the mail, I had a stack from the library that I had to get through, especially since I’d already maxed out on renewals (…twice). So it took me a hot minute before I actually opened up the book and delved into the world of Girton Club-Foot, assassin who never really got to know what it was like to be a boy–and struggles to balance the two roles when he has an opportunity to play the boy while being required to be the assassin-in-hiding.

33296298Oh wow, what a journey that was.

I won’t lie: at first, I was a little wary. The writing style was…unlike anything I’d ever read before. I don’t think I can accurately describe it, but it was unique enough to catch me off-guard, if only for a few chapters. Once I got accumulated to such a strong and unique voice and realized how right it was for Girton’s character and personality, suddenly, every lunch break just wasn’t quite long enough.

Particularly the lunch break where I finished reading the book, where I might have stayed hunched in my cubicle for an extra, oh, I dunno, 30 minutes or so, to finish the novel? (Oops.) Because damn, that couldn’t wait until I got of work hours later. Not after what happened at the stables. Not after Girton learned the truth. Not after I learned what the gesture of exposing the neck meant. Not after that arrow hitting it’s mark. Not after the riders and their role.

Not after what we learned about Xus’s priest.

Nope. Reading that ending could not wait another bloody minute.

And now I’m back in my usual spot: yearning for the sequel.

*sigh*

It’s such a wonderfully tortuous place to be.

Read on!