Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Sci Fi/Fantasy Review: Discount Prices (Heroes for Hire #1) by C.S. Feldman

Discount Prices (Heroes for Hire #1)
by C.S. Feldman

Sure, everybody knows about the great heroes of legend. The ones people write songs about, the ones who lead the charge against the monsters that lay waste to cities or against an army of invaders that outnumber the good guys twenty to one—you know, the best heroes that money can buy. Trouble is, not everyone can afford their services.

Fortunately, the best heroes are not the only ones on the market.

Which is just what harried waitress Peg Brickner accidentally discovers after receiving an unusual—and, as it turns out, otherworldly—tip from a peculiar customer in the middle of one rotten dinner shift. Life on Earth is hard enough, but life in the magical world of Cantrial? Forget about it. Five minutes after being unsuspectingly yanked into it by an unscrupulous B-List talent scout for heroes, all Peg wants to do is get back home again before something in this crazy new world kills her or eats her with ketchup. Or both.

Trouble is, getting home may be a lot harder than leaving it was. Thanks to a bunch of greedy bureaucrats, Peg’s way home is about to be destroyed—unless she reluctantly joins a trio of magical misfits on a high-stakes heroes-for-hire mission in an attempt to recover stolen property before their rivals—or a roguishly charming thief—beat them to it.

She knew she should have called in sick today…

My Review:
They are literally heroes for hire, and when you meet the team, you understand why discount prices are necessary.

First off, I love the heroes. Every single one of the heroes has something seriously wrong with them. For example, the very best hero is a dog. That in itself is funny, but the author doesn't just leave it at the surface. This used to be a person, a real hero, and he's dealing with this every day, trying to be what he once was and trying to make something of the ridiculous team he's been given. That's one of the things I enjoyed, that these characters have depth, even when they are funny.

I'm not going into all of the characters, though, because meeting them in the book is preferred. I will say that the adventure they go on is rather exciting, especially through the eyes of the heroine, who is new to the whole adventuring thing and would rather be anywhere else doing anything else.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I'd recommend it to folks who enjoy fantasy and sci-fi. This one sort of blends the two, though it is heavier on the fantasy.

I purchased my copy of this book.

About the Author:

C. S. Feldman loves all things fantasy related and writes both novels and screenplays. Stop by and say hi on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCSFeldman or visit her at www.csfeldman.com.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Steampunk YA Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger

Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)
by Gail Carriger

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy--won't Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

My Review:

I simply adore this series and the world Gail Carrigan has created for us. Supernatural, steampunk romance with all the thrills of an action flick.

Sophronia is a delightful heroine, and her budding romance/friendship with Soap was a highlight for me. Then again, I also dug the competition. As for the theme and humor, delightful.

I highly recommend this series to folks who enjoy a bit of whimsy with their thrills.

I borrowed the audiobook from the library.

About the Author:

Photo by Vanessa Applegate
Gail Carriger writes comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance (and the sexy San Andreas Shifter series as G L Carriger). Her books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, and Supernatural Society series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in many languages and has over a dozen NYT bestsellers. She was once an archaeologist and is fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.

Join the Chirrup for sneak peeks & giveaways! http://gailcarriger.com/chirrup

More links:
Amazon Author Page
Twitter @gailcarriger

Saturday, November 17, 2018

ARC Fantasy Review: City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender

City of Broken Magic
by Mirah Bolender

Five hundred years ago, magi created a weapon they couldn’t control. An infestation that ate magic—and anything else it came into contact with. Enemies and allies were equally filling.

Only an elite team of non-magical humans, known as sweepers, can defuse and dispose of infestations before they spread. Most die before they finish training.

Laura, a new team member, has stayed alive longer than most. Now, she’s the last—and only—sweeper standing between the city and a massive infestation.

My Review:
This one caught my eye because I love stories with interesting magic systems. It didn’t disappoint.

I enjoyed Laura, the main character, who is rather all in with regard to her chosen profession. She’s been in awe of sweepers since childhood, even though her own town has been downplaying their need and importance for years. Despite this, she lands an apprenticeship with the rather moody and unpleasant Clae, the head sweeper, and earns her chops on the job. I kept looking for a romance to pop up. There were some hints in certain scenes where perhaps an interest was sparked, but the book ended up being all about the magic and the team of sweepers protecting the city from the infestations. It never went anywhere romantic, not really.

The battle scenes in this story are fantastic. The infestations are amorphous, flowing and solid, adaptable, voracious. Each encounter with them highlights just how horrifying they are. Hiding in plain sight in broken amulets. Biding their time until strong enough to feed, on everything. Even the small ones are daunting. There are just enough encounters to really give you a feel for how the sweepers and their gear work against them.

One thing I thought missed the mark were the pronunciation hints. The first was for Clae and the second was for Amicae. In the first case, Clae, the correct pronunciation was explained too late for it to stick for me, even though it wasn’t all that far into the book. I kept self-correcting after that point, and it was distracting. For the second, Amicae, a person’s technically correct pronunciation was called out, but it was revealed at the same time that none of the citizens of the city said it that way. That left me in a bind since I had been using the “correct” pronunciation to that point, and the citizens’ pronunciation wasn’t explained. At that point, it was too late to adjust, even had I figured out how Laura would have pronounced it.

Finally, the story seems to resolve in a way that might indicate future installments, which I think might be good, but I was left unsure whether this actually would be a first in a series or a straight up standalone. Still, the finale was absolutely gripping, heartbreaking, and eye-widening. It came to life for me. I had a little trouble sleeping that night, and that is a good thing. Fantastic.

Overall, I loved this book. I think fans of fantasy and magic will dig it. There are some glimmers of romantic interest, but they flutter away without a second thought.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Mirah Bolender graduated from college with majors in creative writing and art in May 2014. A lifelong traveler, she has traveled and studied overseas, most notably in Japan, and these experiences are reflected in her work. City of Broken Magic is her debut fantasy novel.

Intrigued? Pre-order your copy at Amazon!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sci Fi Thriller Review: Punishment (Detective Barnes #1) by Scott J. Holliday

Punishment (Detective Barnes #1)
by Scott J. Holliday

Do you want to know what it’s like to die, to kill, to really fear for your life? Then get hooked…

Detroit-based homicide detective John Barnes has seen it all—literally. Thanks to a technologically advanced machine, detectives have access to the memories of the living, the dying, and the recently dead. But extracting victims’ experiences firsthand and personally reliving everything up to the final, brutal moments of their lives—the sights, the sounds, the scents, the pain—is also the punishment reserved for the criminals themselves.

Barnes has had enough. Enough of the memories that aren’t his. Enough of the horror. Enough of the voices inside his head that were never meant to take root…until a masked serial killer known as Calavera strikes a little too close to home.

Now, with Calavera on the loose, Barnes is ready to reconnect, risking his life—and his sanity. Because in the mind of this serial killer, there is one secret even Barnes has yet to see…

My Review:
Science Fiction meets thriller in this thrilling book by Scott J. Holliday.

What I loved about this book was the blend of science fiction and contemporary thriller. It has the best of both, in my opinion. Detective Barnes struggles with his addiction to the technology that allows him to experience the final moments of a victim’s life, a technology that can be used for pleasant memories, but also for punishment.

I can tell you, this one isn’t easy to guess, which is tops in my book. The mystery is solid, the danger is visceral, and the connection between Detective Barnes, the victims, and even the killer are intimate and gut wrenching.

I very highly recommend this book to folks who are into thrillers but are looking for something a bit different.

I purchased my copy of this book.

About the Author:

Scott J. Holliday was born and raised in Detroit. In addition to a lifelong love of books and reading, he's pursued a range of curiosities and interests, including glassblowing, boxing, and much more. His two previous novels are Stonefly and Normal, the latter of which earned him recognition in INKUBATE.com's Literary Blockbuster Challenge. He loves to cook and create stories for his wife and two daughters.

Author Links:

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sci Fi Review: Earth Unaware (The First Formic War #1) by Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston

Earth Unaware (The First Formic War #1)
by Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston

The mining ship El Cavador is far out from Earth, in the deeps of the Kuiper Belt, beyond Pluto. Other mining ships, and the families that live on them, are few and far between this far out. So when El Cavador's telescopes pick up a fast-moving object coming in-system, it's hard to know what to make of it. It's massive and moving at a significant fraction of the speed of light.

El Cavador has other problems. Their systems are old and failing. The family is getting too big for the ship. There are claim-jumping corporate ships bringing Asteroid Belt tactics to the Kuiper Belt. Worrying about a distant object that might or might not be an alien ship seems not important.

They're wrong. It's the most important thing that has happened to the human race in a million years. The first Formic War is about to begin.

My Review:
I cannot tell you enough how much I enjoyed this book.

This story takes us back to the first contact with the buggers from Ender’s World. Starting off a bit slow in belt politics, it gets real interesting, real fast.

I do have to say, I went back to Ender’s Game after reading this trilogy. There is a bit of a disconnect between the history there and here: how the buggers are discovered, to be specific. So, my advice is to enjoy this for what it is. Yes, it’s different, but I feel that this trilogy stands well enough on its own, as do the Ender stories.

Overall, I highly recommend this book and the other two in the trilogy. I listened to the audiobooks, and the narrators nailed it.

I borrowed the audiobook from the library.

About Orson Scott Card:

Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.
Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker (beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and scripts.

Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs plays. He recently began a longterm position as a professor of writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.

Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.

Orson Scott Card Author Links:

About Aaron Johnston:

Aaron Johnston
Aaron Johnston is a New York Times bestselling author, comics writer, and film producer. He cowrote the novels Invasive Procedures, Earth Unaware, Earth Afire, Earth Awakens, and the other forthcoming Formic Wars novels with science-fiction legend Orson Scott Card.
He was also an associate producer on the movie Ender’s Game, wherein he makes a cameo appearance as an officer of the International Fleet. Blink and you’ll miss him.
Aaron’s comic credits include Ender in Exile, Speaker for the Dead, Formic Wars, League War, and Mazer in Prison, all for Marvel. His screenplay adaptations include Alvin Maker, Sarah: Woman of Genesis, The Multiple Man, Feed the Baby of Love, and others. His play Lifeloop, an adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s short story, was featured at Western Illinois University. A longtime stage improviser, Aaron is a former member of LA’s Improv Factory, Santa Clarita Improv, and the Garrens Comedy Troupe. He and his wife are the parents of four children.

Aaron Johnston Author Links: