Found Girl— review and commentary

For me, the works of Pauline Baird Jones are hit and miss. My favorite of her stories is the first one I read (The Key, also known as Project Enterprise, Book 1). I’ve read several other of her novels, and her style is generally a blend of snappy dialogue, kick-butt heroines, romantic suspense, and sufficient action to keep the reader entertained.

My most recent read is billed as Book 6 in the Project Enterprise series. The main character is Arian Teraz, a young woman whose place in the universe is destined to be an arranged marriage a tilling some farmland on a rather primitive planet. Right before she must marry, a mysterious ship lands in front of her and invites her to take a chance on another life. As the ship leaves her home planet, they are attacked, and somehow she steers the ship through a wormhole. On the other side of that is a pilot named Cooper. This is where fans of Project Enterprise novels will see how this story fits into the series.

Found Girl contains the snappy dialogue, action, and Jones’ trademark blend of science fiction and fantasy elements. I read an eBook version, which is $4.99 at this writing.

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Adding to the List

That’s the “to be read”list, of course. As I’ve been going through this blog and updating some links, killing off a few out of date posts, and generally trying to do some cyber housekeeping, I’ve run across some sequels that I want to read.

First up, Evergreen, which had some rights to the story of Honor Harrington, David Weber’s amazing space opera, has closed up shop, but there is a second comic book version of the story available. Here’s the cover (and a link to buy if you are so inclined.) While I’m not much of a graphic novel fan, I love Honor Harrington stories, especially those toward the beginning of the saga, which these comics depict.


 

And, the also amazing, but not so famous, Kennedy Hudner has added to his space opera, as Alarm of War is up to Volume III, entitled Desperate Measures. I’ve enjoyed the other books in the series, so I am looking forward to this one. Again, here’s some cover art with a link.

Alarm of War— The Other Side of Fear

A while back, I wrote a positive review of Kennedy Hudner’s Alarm of War. Perhaps its greatest downside was that it clearly was intended to have a sequel. For a few months, I checked Amazon, hoping that Hudner had released the second part, but after a while, I quit looking. Then, as I reviewed my “keeper” files, I saw Alarm of War and looked again. Low and behold, Alarm of War, Book II: The Other Side of Fear was published in 2014. Finally, I had the sequel, but alas, it’s really part II of a trilogy. So, I am back to waiting.

However, it would be remiss to not review the second book. So, here’s a true confession: I went back and re-read the Alarm of War because it had been so long that I was certain I needed a refresher. Good plan, as I enjoyed it almost as much the second time. Once I had swiped the last page, I jumped right into The Other Side of Fear, and it wowed me from the opening scene.

While there are some stereotypical situations and characters, there is plenty of depth to Hudner’s ensemble of main characters, who met as they went through basic training during the first novel. My favorite is Emily Tuttle, a former history teacher with a brilliant grasp of military strategy. Other main characters include Grant Skiffington, the favored son of an admiral; Hiram Brill, a geeky guy who instinctively puts together intelligence into workable prophecies; and Marine sergeant Maria Sanchez, who is super gung ho, but reads books and likes to hang out with the nerd, Hiram. These characters all had intertwining adventures in the first book and book two immediately picks up the action.

Rather than write a bunch of spoilers, I will say this: Mr. Hudner’s series reminds me quite a lot of the early works of David Weber, the creator of the great Honor Harrington series. But, by using the ensemble, rather than centering on one character, Hudner is able to bring in various aspects of his universe, but keep the reader’s interest. At times, Weber spends more time explaining his villains than his heroine, and that has always bothered me. As a huge fan of military sci fi in general, and Honor Harrington in particular, it is hard to say this, but, “Move over, Mr. Weber.” Kennedy Hudner is writing some seriously kick-butt military sci-fi. Really.

As of this writing, the first book is a bargain at 99¢, and The Other Side of Fear is $3.99. My gosh, so much entertainment for less than the price of a movie ticket!

Infinity Lost— a quick review

I’m in the midst of a semester of teaching writing, and I generally read and write less when faced with lots of student papers. However, I did spend a couple of evenings with Infinity Lost by S Harrison. The main character is Finn, the only child of a reclusive industrial tycoon. Finn is an innocent, but as the story unfolds, she is not just a teenage girl. Certainly, science fiction is a favorite genre, and this entry by a new-to-me author is quite interesting.

There are some neat concepts in this story. At times, it was a bit confusing, but mostly, the author does a very good job of describing interesting technology. there is quite a bit of suspense, too. Actually, I began thinking that this novel reads well, but it might be a better screen play than a novel. It is the first entry in a trilogy, and I suppose there might be a film in the making.

Honor Among Thieves— a Star Wars novel

Honor Among Thieves coverThus far, my favorite Star Wars novel is Steve Perry’s Shadows of the Empire, which takes place between the film The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. Familiar characters from the film are necessary, but Shadows also introduces the memorable Dash Rendar, and by fleshing out what happened between Han Solo’s freezing in carbonite and Luke and Leia’s rescue, Perry’s novel seems quite organic.

There have been quite a few Star Wars based novels published since Shadows, but with the upcoming new Star Wars movie, it is natural that a new story, with the original characters, come to market, along with a zillion tee shirts. So, we have James S. A. Corey’s Honor Among Thieves, which takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, as Han continues to try to raise money to pay Jabba the Hutt, and Leia is involved in leading the rebellion, which is not just a war, but a fund raiser. Someone has to pay for all those X-wings. Anyway, a valuable spy sent a message indicating that she needs to be recalled, and Han needs the money, so he’s off to make contact, pick up Scarlet Hark, and pocket another reward. Nothing in their universe (a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) is simple, however, and Han’s little errand gets complicated really quickly.

(spoiler alert)

One of the best ways to create suspense is to raise the stakes, and they are quite high in this novel. No, there is not a Death Star (twice is one too many IMHO) but a device that kills hyperspace travel is high stakes indeed, and Han, Leia, and Luke end up converging in an effort to wrest control of the hyperspace dampener from the Empire.

To be honest, I didn’t like Honor Among Thieves as much as I did Shadows of the Empire, but I did like it. Readers who want to revisit a young farm boy Luke, the pivotal Princess Leia, and the roguish Han Solo should pick up or download a copy of Honor Among Thieves. Before you know it, you’ll be right back in the groove, wondering when Darth Vader will swoop back into the action. This is a great way to get in the mood for the new film.

Return to Dakistee and Retreat and Adapt by Thomas DePrima

Recently, I decided to catch up with the further adventures of Jenetta Carver (and her clones Christie and Eliza) by reading books 8 and 9 in the Galaxy Unknown series by DePrima. Book 8, Return to Dakistee, did not sound too entertaining in the blurb, but I have enjoyed the series so I decided to forge on, and I am glad I did. Like many series, the further along it goes, the more important it is to have read the previous books, and that is true of Return to Dakistee. The main character in this entry is not Jenetta Carver, who is off doing admiral things, but her clone, Christie, who is a mere Lt. Commander. In a way, this book is more interesting because a more junior officer has to please the officers over her as well as lead the ones below her in the hierarchy. And the ending is a bit of a shock.

In Book 9, Retreat and Adapt, the main character is again Jenetta Carver, who has been almost boringly successful in her leadership of Space Command forces. However, a new threat has taken out two of the “invincible” ships that Space Command relies upon, and Jenetta’s orders to the remaining forces are to avoid engaging the enemy, but keep tabs on them. While the Space Command forces are in retreat, it is up to Jenetta to come up with a plan, and she does. Will it work? Or will this new threat take over the known galaxy. That’s the suspense of this yarn, and I won’t ruin it for potential readers, but I will say that DePrima does a good job of looking back at history for his plotline.

My appreciation for indie authors is no secret, but I have seldom followed a series through nine books. Okay, I did read David Weber’s Honor Harrington series beyond that point, and I have read that many entries in the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold. But those are written by great writers! Thomas DePrima isn’t in the same league. However, I have really enjoyed these tales by DePrima. Fans of space opera should certainly hop over to Amazon and check out the series.

The Gift Horse is still available as an eBook

gifthorse-frontcoverMy debut novel was written over the course of several years; I have laughingly called it “my stress relief book” because when I had a bad day at work, I would stay up late at night and make sure my main character, Angie, had a worse day! Anyway, while I don’t view it as my best work, I have a strong affection for this twisted tale of misguided affection.

Here’s the “blurb” from the back cover:

If Angela Donalson – a young woman, orphaned, living in poverty, with brains and ambition – were granted three wishes, she would want wealth, an education, and a family.

Marc Avery has always had everything he ever wanted. Now he wants a girl for his pleasure, a girl no one will miss.

When, in a bizarre twist of fate, Angie is abducted and held at Avery’s remote Tennessee estate, she initially tries to thwart her captors. Unable to gain her freedom, Angie finds herself trading her morals to meet the challenges presented to her each day. As she comes to know the man behind her abduction, and comes to recognize that he can provide her with more than she ever dreamed possible, Angie faces dilemmas which will determine not only how she lives, but if she lives at all.

Combining a dynamic plot, remarkable characters, and a setting in the deep South, Pamela J. Dodd takes her readers for a wild ride on The Gift Horse.

After I did some minor edits to the original published version of Trinity on Tylos, which is now exclusively an Amazon Kindle title, I decided to do the same thing with my debut novel, The Gift Horse. Before I put it out to pasture, I really would like to do some web 2.0 marketing for it. However, the nice folks at Booklocker suggested that I pull the print version but leave the eBook alone. Since The Gift Horse is available on multiple eBook platforms (pdf, Nook, as well as Kindle) folks who want it should not have any trouble purchasing it. Of course, the few print copies that are still around (I have a few in a box somewhere) are all that will be printed. So, if you own one of the print copies, it might be worth something some day.

Until then, the original tale is available for $2.99, which is less than the price of a deluxe hamburger.

Terms of Enlistment

Cover art of Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

Space Opera!

Okay, I’ve never “served” as military folks put it, but I really enjoy reading about the exploits of those who have done so. Perhaps due to watching the exploits of astronauts with military titles in my youth, I still believe that the military will play some role when (or if) mankind actually goes into space and establishes colonies on other worlds. In my own Trinity on Tylos my main character, Major Venice Dylenski, has a military background, but I viewed her as a bit like “Captain” Miles Standish might be viewed in American history. He’s a military guy who is there for security, and my character is the security chief, because someone ought to be in charge of that when landing on uncivilized planets.

In Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos, the military is far more than security; it is the force that keeps the homeworld (earth) and colonies safe. Andrew Grayson is the main character; he grew up in a welfare section of Boston. Desperate to leave the vicious cycle of generations on public assistance, he joins the military. Okay, that is hardly a new plot line, but as Kloos paints his picture of Grayson’s world, readers can easily believe this dystopian view of the “North American Commonwealth.” As a new NAC recruit, Grayson is under quite a lot of pressure. Failure in any area, from taking orders to passing tests, will cause him to “wash out” and go right back to eating welfare rations and watching his folks succuomb to treatable illnesses. Thus, there is an additional layer of suspense added to the usual risk/reward of enlistment. Once our hero gets through basic, he can expect a five-year hitch, then go back home with cash, and education, and a fresh start.

(spoiler alert)

However, once Grayson gets through basic, instead of being posted to a naval (spacegoing) vessel, he is placed into the TA (territorial army) and tasked with policing the very sorts of places that he sought to leave. However, as the yarn rolls along at its brisk pace, Grayson faces domestic enemies with courage and is able to use his heroism under fire to wangle a transfer to the space navy. Once there, he hopes to be set for his five year enlistment, but an alien species invades, and he has many more opportunities to be heroic, and less and less to return home to, as the government pours all of its resources into saving the colonies, leaving the homeworld to become barely habitable.

While it doesn’t break much new ground, Terms of Enlistment does an excellent job of entertaining the reader. The  main characters are more than stereotypes, and the world building is quite good. I’ve already re-upped for the second novel in the series (Lanes of Departure) and am enjoying it, too.

Terms of Enlistment is a bit like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, but with less of Heinlein’s political agenda. Fans of space opera and/or military fiction would be wise to check out this well-written novel. Oh, and it is rather long, so for $3.99 it really is a bargain, too.

Black Hole Bounty— a review

Black Hole Bounty coverRecently, I read Sienna Bronwyn’s Black Hole Bounty, which was a little more erotic than the romances that I normally read, but this one was quite good. The heroine, Jerusa, is different (an albino of Central American origin) who wears a nose ring and is scared of heights. Actually, she’s scared of lots of things…but that’s what a big part of what makes her an interesting heroine. She’s already married and has a daughter, and that’s atypical as well. The plot is not as far from the norm (for science fiction romance) as are the characters, so I’ll call it character driven fiction. It’s also rather funny, because the POV character is, well, quite a character. Still, this story is an action/adventure, and Jerusa never runs out of beings who make her afraid. Often, she has every reason to be scared silly.

As some of the reviewers stated, the worst thing about this story is that it is first in a series and the other entries are not yet available. Some authors are great at writing a series where each story can stand alone, but lots of writers are not bothering with that these days, and that’s annoying, but again, not unusual.

If Ms. Bronwyn can get part two of this series out before I forget all about the story, then I will be happy to purchase it. So, dear author, get busy.

How to write a bad book review

DIYYep, that title was carefully phrased to have dual meanings. I’ve been a book reviewer and an author. Sometimes, as a book reviewer, I just didn’t like a book. That’s tough. Sometimes, as an author, readers don’t like what I have written, and that is tougher, because a one star review can cause book sales to plummet. Well, unless the reviewer is an obvious nut-case, and in that instance…it still hurts.

First, let’s deal with how to review a book that isn’t just want the reviewer/reader wanted. If writing for a site or magazine, the best thing is for the reviewer to just pass on it. Let’s face it, not everyone likes every book. Really. I’ve read classics and wondered, how the heck did this book even get published, much less remain after its fellows all ended up in the landfill? So, it really is best to pass it to another reviewer who might be more amenable to the book. But, if it is absolutely necessary to review it, begin with what isn’t wrong with it. Surely there is something— good prose, interesting setting, an absence of poor spelling and/or grammar. Find something good. Then, state the objection(s) clearly, and then explain the obvious— that others might not agree. If five stars are available, then rate accordingly, and there really should be more than one star clicked. Because whatever the reviewer found that was good probably warrants a second or even a third star.

A really, really bad book is going to be rife with problems— spelling, grammar, formatting; or lackluster characters, a plot that moves more slowly than molasses on a cold winter’s day; or even inconsistencies (such as a character with blue eyes in chapter 1 and brown ones in chapter 8). In such cases there is no need for the reviewer to get emotional and resort to “I”, “me”, or “my” because the author burdens the work with too much evidence that the book is indeed bad. There, and only there, might those one and two star reviews be warranted.

If the book is an eBook, and the reader purchased it from Amazon, there is a return feature. Did you know that? I didn’t, until recently. Anyway, the other day I returned a highly rated sci-fi novel. I did not write a bad review, because I wasn’t about to waste enough time to read it and then review it. Those who slog all the way through a Kindle title only to write a one star review must have intense masochistic tendencies.

Finally, I’ll deal with the second interpretation of my title. Sometimes readers do write really bad reviews. Readers (hopefully not reviewers) who write bad reviews seem to have a tantrum while sitting at the keyboard. The most prominent word in the review is probably a first person pronoun, such as “I” or “my” or “me” because such reviews are not written for other readers, but to express the emotions of the reviewer. In short, bad reviews begin with a lack of objectivity. Then the bad reviewer indulges in emotion, from boredom to revulsion, but the writer of the bad review seldom mentions any positive(s) in the book. Finally, writers of bad reviews usually need a reason for the hissy fit, so the review ends with a warning, guised as altruism to save potential buyers from a book that took months (or even years) to write and costs less than a Quarter Pounder with cheese.

Do it yourself book reviews are just as much a part of modern life as kids who commit suicide because they can’t handle what their mean peers write about them online. Authors just have to be tough.