Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine where we readers salivate over the books we wish were on our bookshelves yesterday.
This week’s victim: Kangaroo Too by Curtis C. Chen, the sequel following the hilarious sci-fi thriller, Waypoint Kangaroo, to be published on June 20th, 2017.
If you haven’t read Waypoint, you need to stop reading this post and go read that, instead. Be prepare for sore abs, because the hilarity of Kangaroo and his misadventures is refreshing and pure fun.
I read a lot of long, fantasy epics. A lot of intricate worlds and plots. And there is plenty of humor, don’t get me wrong. I also love those books. But when reading Waypoint, the laughter was as constant as my turning pages and it was so easy to get invested in the whimsical, hilarious characters and situations they found themselves in.
I have the same expectations for Kangaroo Too.
Set in the same world as Waypoint Kangaroo, Curtis C. Chen’s Kangaroo Too is bursting with adrenaline and intrigue in this unique outer space adventure.
On the way home from his latest mission, secret agent Kangaroo’s spacecraft is wrecked by a rogue mining robot. The agency tracks the bot back to the Moon, where a retired asteroid miner―code named “Clementine” ―might have information about who’s behind the sabotage.
Clementine will only deal with Jessica Chu, Kangaroo’s personal physician and a former military doctor once deployed in the asteroid belt. Kangaroo accompanies Jessica as a courier, smuggling Clementine’s payment of solid gold in the pocket universe that only he can use.
What should be a simple infiltration is hindered by the nearly one million tourists celebrating the anniversary of the first Moon landing. And before Kangaroo and Jessica can make contact, Lunar authorities arrest Jessica for the murder of a local worker.
Jessica won’t explain why she met the victim in secret or erased security footage that could exonerate her. To make things worse, a sudden terror attack puts the whole Moon under lockdown. Now Kangaroo alone has to get Clementine to talk, clear Jessica’s name, and stop a crooked scheme which threatens to ruin approximately one million vacations.
But old secrets are buried on the Moon, and digging up the past will make Kangaroo’s future very complicated…
I mean, with a blurb like that, how could I not be stoked? Plus, the fact that it comes out during the summer is absolutely perfect, as that is my slow time during work (though, let’s be honest: even if work was at its busiest, I’d still be devouring this book within the first week of publication).
If you read my review over the first book in The Scorched Continent (which, can we just say how fantastic of a series name that is?), Steal the Sky, it comes to no surprise that I was really, really excited to read the next installment. Unfortunately, I’m in a financial situation where buying books isn’t a luxury I get to partake in. Thankfully, I have within my grasp the glorious power of a library card. As soon as I realized that Break the Chains was already published (which was actually realized in the middle of writing that review; seriously, it’s the section in all caps), I immediately went to my library’s catalog to request it.
I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment when none of Megan E. O’Keefe’s works were there.
I’m also sure that you can continue to imagine my sheer and utter elation when I got an email saying that Break the Chains was on hold for me, because the library had bought it.
I just started using this library as my main hub for my book addiction, so I just discovered that you can request up to three books a month to be bought by the library and added to their catalog. So I requested O’Keefe’s second novel, but honestly, I didn’t really expect anything to happen. That just seemed way too good of a deal to be true.
Yet it did happen (and very quickly after I put in the request, too!) and I’ve read it and got completely floored by it and now I’m anxiously awaiting the publication of book three. So shout out to LPL for making that experience happen. And I apologize formally for all of the book requests you’ll be getting from me every month (I’m not even kidding, I’ve already maxed out this month’s request availability…).
But now, the real reason we are all here: to rave about Break the Chains. Mostly, though, I’m going to freak about the last…eh, I’d wager ten pages.
Don’t get me wrong: the entire book was lovely and lived up to the expectations that the first one set. Slipping back into cahoots with Detan and Tibs felt like returning into the familiar, warm embrace of a loved one. Seriously. I just want to third wheel it with those two, because I’m sort of in love with them? Then, Ripka’s journey in the prison with New Chum had some of my favorite chapters in the book. The characters they met and the situations they got themselves in were intense and also slightly heartbreaking. It was hard to watch Ripka have to restrain her actual personality through a mask, making herself lesser, in my opinion. Once again, the dialogue was awesome, the details were everything I wished all books would include more of and I continue to be fascinated by the harsh setting and great worldbuilding.
So yeah, the entire book was really, really good.
But those last ten pages, y’all.
Ten is a rough estimate, as I had to return the book to its proper home at my kickass public library. But there I was, just reading my way innocently along (translation: actually home sick and feeling utterly miserable, Break the Chains being the only thing powerful enough to help me forget for a moment that I felt like death). And then suddenly, a certain character reappears. She has…done things. And then Detan…freaking Detan…
I couldn’t believe it. I actually got pissed. I’m no genius by any means, but usually, I can pick up a feel for a book’s momentum and not guess the ending, necessarily, but nine times out of ten, I’m not caught off-guard. I know where the book is headed. This ending? Completely caught off-guard. And not in a good way. Not at bloody all (which, actually, is a great thing, because O’Keefe masterfully manipulated my emotions and completely shredded my heart and, as a writer, I am so impressed; as the heartbroken reader, I’m anxiously awaiting for April 4th so I can read Inherit the Flame, with the full expectation that O’Keefe will FIX THIS. Because you can’t just ends things like this. You just can’t).
Obviously, you’re annoyed right now, because I have detailed you nothing about what actually ripped my soul to shreds. I’m not kidding–my chest physically hurt after I put the book down, floored (and I really don’t think the coughing my lungs out was the sole cause). But just as obviously, I can’t tell you what happens. It’d spoil everything. And this is not a series to be spoiled. It is a series to be read and enjoyed and then discussed with me, because none of my friends have read it yet and it’s driving me nuts having no one to talk to about this.
So what are you waiting for? Go. Invest your heart into fictional characters only to have it broken, which still hurts even though you know the pain is going to happen. Read. That’s what I meant. Go read O’Keefe’s The Scorched Continent.
**Copy of Waypoint Kangeroo by Curtis C. Chen given by Agent Sam Morgan of Jabberwocky Literary Agency in exchange for an honest review**
Anschutz Library, Main Command Center (more commonly known as Service Desk) 30 minutes after smiling at the last page
When I start reading a book, naturally, I carry it around with me everywhere: to work, to appointments, to eat, to avoid social interaction; you know, the usual. A lot of times, people don’t really notice the books that I carry around with me. They almost serve as an extra appendage that everyone who knows me just expects to have, hardly noticing that they change size and shape from week to week.
That was not the case with Waypoint Kangeroo.
At work, I probably had four or five people ask me about the book over the span of a few shifts. Sometimes they’d just mention the cover and how it “looked interesting.” Other times, they’d ask me what it was about or if it was any good. One of my employees even told me he’d heard of it before, seeing it on a list somewhere as one of the “must-read sci-fi books of the year” and asked if it lived up to expectations.
Ironically enough, I still hadn’t even started it at this point.
I tend to do that often, after finishing a book: pick out which book I want to read next and start carrying it with me everywhere, only to wait for the “perfect moment” to start it. It can be anywhere from a few hours to a few days before I finally realize that there is never a perfect moment to start a book and that I should just stop torturing myself and start reading it already, instead of letting all these opportunities pass me by.
But with Waypoint Kangeroo, I was purposefully waiting for not the perfect moment, but for anything that wasn’t a moment (have I confused you yet?). Because I’d done the same thing my coworkers were doing to me. Between the title and the simplistic yet intriguing cover art, the book had caught my attention before I was surprised with a copy in the mail. I’d read a blurb and was hooked. I was already excited for it and I already wanted to read the hell out of it, because I knew it was going to be good. A military spy with a unique power who keeps messing up and gets sent on vacation to Mars to avoid messing up big time, only to get involved in something so much bigger than anything he’d ever dealt with and now he’s trying to come up with how to solve it alone in space? Um, yes please. So why did I wait days to start reading it?
In attempt to avoid exactly what happened anyway.
I started it during my dinner break. There, I knew I would have an hour, most likely uninterrupted. I could get a good chunk read without being forced to put it back down–because that’s what I meant when I said I was waiting for anything that wasn’t a moment. I knew I was going to love this book (and I did). I knew once I started it, I wouldn’t want to put it down. I didn’t want to be forced to stop reading. Over dinner, I got roughly 75 pages read before work forced me away.
And then I waited days to pick it back up again, even though I really, really wanted to know what happened next.
When I did pick it back up, I’d just got home from work, it was 12:30 at night and I commanded myself, “1am, at the latest.” Naturally, I stopped, five-different-reading-positions later at page 260, close to 3:30am, only stopping because I had grown so tired, I was missing little details; details that I did not want to miss. This book was hilarious, it was captivating, it was intriguing, it kept me invested and damn well kept me interested. I didn’t want to miss anything from the last 50 pages, when everything was coming together. So I put the book down and went to sleep, as eager to finish it as I was dreading the same action, because that meant it was over–and I could have been content if this book was double its size.
That was three days ago, friends.
I finished the book 30 minutes ago.
And not for lack of trying, this time.
What I was trying to avoid by purposefully putting off reading the book until I had large blocks of uninterrupted time available to dive in was exactly what happened in trying to read the last 50 pages. I would get in five pages here, ten pages there, but always, blasted always something got in my way: people needing me at work (like I was getting paid to help them or something); poor time management and I’d have to leave to make it to whatever was up next on my plate; the eye doctor finally showed up; the sudden availability of a PS4 when I was home for Thanksgiving (okay, the last one could have been avoided, but still).
The best interruption was last night, at work, when security got in. They usually come 30 minutes before we close, to prep and whatnot. My employees and I had already gotten all of our closing stuff done, so that was 30 glorious minutes I could use to crank out this ending and learn how Kangeroo was going to pull this one off. By the time security arrived, my nose was buried. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and they asked how my break for Thanksgiving was and how my night was going. I told them, after exchanging Thanksgiving stories, as obvious as possible, that I was “really excited to finish this book,” as I “only had 30 pages left.” I didn’t think I could get more obvious than that, without being rude, in hinting that I really, really wanted to spend the remaining of my shift reading.
Guess what didn’t happen?
But this evening, friends–this evening, I finally, FINALLY finished Waypoint Kangeroo. It didn’t disappoint. Like I said above, I grinned at the last page, full on ear-to-ear split. I honestly was nervous, actually, as the pages kept ticking closer and closer to the end. I would look at how much I had left, triggering alarm bells in my head. “It can’t end yet. You still need to figure out X and Y and what about Z and DON’T FORGET THE NANOBOTS!!” Yet, wonderfully, all of my worries were for not. The ending was executed expertly and I feel content, but also eager for the second book.
(Do you hear that, Mr. Chen? Second book. It is needed. Preferably, yesterday.)
Kangeroo is a character that latches onto your heart and is really hard to let go, from the first page until the last. His antics, his hilarity, his emotions (that was probably my favorite aspect, honestly, that we got to see a wide spectrum of emotions from him that felt both honest and real), his talents and his inability to take a vacation were totally refreshing and definitely needed during such a heated and disappointing time in reality. I recommend checking this one out if combining military thriller and unlucky operatives with outer space sounds appealing to you (though trust me, if it that isn’t your usual cup of tea, you’ll still burn your tongue due from over excitement about this one). From the characters to the antics to the intrigue to the emotional attachment you develop, this one is a winner, hands down. Sign me up for the next vaca–er, mission.
PS: I have a few posts now on this blog and sometimes, new people stumble upon it (welcome!) without reading the introductory post, so you may be very confused as to why this review basically told you nothing about Waypoint Kangeroo and all about me reading it. That was actually the point, I promise. Check out the first post for further clarity. 🙂
**Copy of Necrotech by K.C. Alexander graciously sent in exchange for an honest review by agent Lisa Rodgers of Jabberwocky Literary Agency**
And honestly, I think the best summation of this book is simply this: holy shit. What a whirlwind of emotions this book takes you through. Though I didn’t empathize with Riko–and gladly didn’t, because I can’t imagine surviving the hell she went through in my own life, nor being as much of a hard-earned badass that she is–I sympathized with her the entire time. The blows she was dealt, no one should have to endure. I was frustrated when she was frustrated, just wanting to know what was going on–but memory loss has a bad habit of making that near impossible. And then as the situation continued to deteriorate to the point of where I had no idea how Riko was staying sane, let alone surviving and continuing to push forward, my sympathy skyrocketed. And then the book ended and I just stared at my hands, wondering why the sequel didn’t magically appear within them. Isn’t that how books work?
(Hint: that’s not how they work. Dammit.)
(Second hint: notice how purposefully vague I’m being about what Riko is actually dealing with and what she actually goes through? Yeah, I’m giving away nothing. Go read it for yourself. You won’t regret it.)
Since I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot or give away any truly juicy details, I will share the main aspect that of the book that I thought made it such an interesting read: Riko herself and her personality and how she juxtaposed to me. Which is to say, we are the exact opposite in practically every regard. Riko is a badass. I’m lame. Riko is sexually experienced and enjoys it. I’m a virgin and absolutely terrified to experience sex for the first time. Riko puts a sailor’s vulgarity to shame. I actually get slightly uncomfortable when a person’s vocabulary consists of using “fuck” as a noun, adjective and verb. Riko is dealing with the complete and totally ruining of the harsh life she’s built for herself within an even harsher world. I’m just a kid struggling to pay bills and chase writing dreams at the same time. Riko’s greatest strength is her toughness, her perseverance, her cold calculations. My biggest strength is my positivity. Riko is fit as hell. I’m will go to my grave attempting to run off all the second helping I eat. She has a metallic arm. I have a metallic screw that holds my elbow together.
We are both tatted, though, so there are similarities.
What I’m getting at, though, is usually, I enjoy a book so much because of how invested I get into the characters. And that investments stems from forming connections with those characters, usually through seeing pieces of myself within them. I don’t think I’ve ever read about a character like Riko, who was so totally and utterly different from me, yet still found myself drawn to her and invested in her story, in her life, even though I couldn’t connect with her in ways I usually hope to connect with characters. I still rooted for her, even though sometimes her mannerisms or choices made me uncomfortable or how negative her outlook could be made the positive soul in me feel both foolish and defensive. But the most amazing part that happened, after I closed the book and waited for the second book to suddenly appear, to no avail?
I still feel like I understood her.
And I think that is just really impressive.
Necrotech is a thrill ride. You got action, you got advanced tech, you got vibrant, fearless, reckless, intriguing characters (though I didn’t talk about him here, I really, really loved Indigo). Akin to Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series (one of my favorite series), this is a book you should be reading for both pure fun yet also so your emotions are pulled a little bit. Because it’s impossible not to both feel for Riko, yet at the same time, eagerly await whatever shit she has to go through next, if only so you can watch her kick ass one more time.
**I received a copy of Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja from Agent Sam Morgan in exchange for an honest review**
ANGELIC FECAL MATTER*, this book was awesome.
I first discovered this book was a thing when I saw it being advertised on Twitter by a few agents and writers I follow. I checked out the blurb and knew it was a book that I wanted to read. So when I got the book in the mail from Sam, as part of a care package of books to review, I was absolutely and totally stoked (as I hadn’t heard of most of the other books). Then, when I met the author Joe Zieja at WorldCon and he genuinely listened to me when I spoke with him for a few minutes about my own writing in-between panels, my respect went up even more (because how many authors do you meet in person who actually listen about your own projects and give you thoughtful responses?), which raised my excitement for this book even more. By the time I finally got around to picking up this and actually dived in, my expectations were higher than what I hold for most books and I knew I would be well impressed if it actually managed to match those expectations.
Spoiler: Mechanical Failure totally did.
It’s a science fiction comedy of errors that was refreshing and absolutely mental at the same time. The level of competent incompetence–I know, sounds crazy, but it was totally a thing–was an element I’ve never experienced in a book before and I had no idea how to tackle. In the end, I mostly just shook my head as Roger missed something obvious and laughed aloud at what resulted from the error.
I had the lovely coincidence to be reading this book whilst I decided to start replaying the Mass Effect video game series. Which, if you’re into video games, I think reading this while playing that is an absolute must, because the juxtaposition just levels up the natural hilarity within Mechanical Failure. If you’re familiar with the games, you’ll understand why. Mass Effect focuses on the life of Commander Shepard, first human Spectre, Commander in the Alliance and of the Normandy, and savior of not only the human race, but of all sentient beings in the galaxy. Her team is handpicked and highly trained. She is competent, charismatic, a mastermind killing machine and either respected or hated by the entire galaxy for her heroism, sacrifice and prowess.
Mechanical Failure features Sergeant R. Wilson Rogers.
Hint: he is nothing like Commander Shepard.
Rogers just wants to be a con man. He did his stint in the military and he is perfectly content to live out the rest of his days cheating pirates and ruining his liver, one Jasker 120 at a time. Of course, he doesn’t get what he wants and ends up serving back with the military. Except the military appears to be organized and mobilizing for war; a war that doesn’t exist. The longer Rogers stays aboard and serves on the Flagship, the more he realizes that what appears to be a functional military regime isn’t the case in the slightest. And it’s up to him to fix it while trying to uncover the actual threat that no one is prepared to fight, because they are too busy inaptly preparing for a war that isn’t happening.
The laughter that results, my friends, is real.
Of course, like any fantastic novel, the true gems are the characters and this cast is something special. My particular favorites included Deet, my favorite droid in the galaxy, for his attempts at humor, his odd humanity and his inability to scream EXPLETIVE. Hart for his poor cooking and spunk. Freakin’ Tunger, for reasons I cannot say, lest they spoil the book for you. Mailn, for additional reasons that I cannot say, due to additional spoils. Admiral Klein; again, shrouded in secrecy as to why, as to discourage spoilers (but I will give you a hint: it involves toast). And, of course, the Viking.
Holy Lord, did I freakin’ love the Viking.
I took my time reading Mechanical Failure because it was such a joy to read** and I often found myself reading it to escape from my current stresses in RL. Can’t afford paying my bills? Read about Rogers’ first meal back on the Flagship. Depression and anxiety taking some swings at me? Read about Rogers trying to function without gravity. Overwhelmed with stress and feeling like my life life is falling apart and I can’t keep up? Read about Rogers versus Barbor Bot.
This book is fantastic. It’s hilarious and the start of the Epic Failure trilogy, thankfully. I would not be content if this was a standalone. I couldn’t be more excited for when the next two books come out (hopefully sooner rather than later). But I’m particularly grateful for Mechanical Failure for being there for me to read and enjoy when my own life seemed impossible to deal with and reminding me that I can handle it, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Or at least it helping me put things in perspective.
At least I’m not stuck eating SEWR rats.
* If you have no idea what this is meant to mean, read Mechanical Failure and give Deet my fondest hello. You’ll understand. Or not, potentially. That’s the fun of it.
** It didn’t take me weeks to read because I often chose to play Mass Effect instead. No, that is definitely not the case….(thank goodness no droids are around me or they’d definitely be outputting CALL FUNCTION: EXPOSE LIES).