Book Review: A Vision of Fire (by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin)

The reviews for this were optimistic and vague. Most seemed to center around the fact that the novel (the first of a series) is by Agent Scully. Taglines on the back proclaim, “Gillian Anderson is returning to the genre that made her a cultural icon.” -Entertainment Weekly, “This is basically the dream of nerds everywhere.” -Flavorwire. But is it? it’s cowritten by Jeff Rovin, he’s written 130 books of varying genres, fiction, non-fiction, TV shows. He frequently ghostwrites. Which makes me wonder how much of this was written by who. Not that it actually matters or not, a good book is a good book but if it is depending on a big name in Sci-fi to sell books and it’s that of an actress instead of an author… well, it seems like selling out.

Anyway, the characters are great. Caitlyn, Maanik, Ben, Jacob, Flora, Gaelle are well thought out and planned. No one appears just to stumble on clues for the MCs. Caitlyn is a professional woman with a well rounded life who embarks on this journey to find the cause of a traumatised child’s suffering and ends up finding ties to an ancient race. She travels the globe and starts a romance with a colleague without coming up Pollyanna-ish or forgetting she has a son, a family and other professional obligations. Which happens a ton in the fantasy genre (how is Sookie Stackhouse still employed?).

Book One of the Earthend Saga, as it also is called, starts out slow, the characterization works well, but we don’t get to the meat of what is happening until the last quarter of the book. The daughter of the ambassador to the United Nations witnesses an assassination attempt on her father and starts coming apart at the seams. Across the globe a boy spontaneously self-immolates. A political conflict in Kashmir threatens a world war. A woman watches her mother nearly drown in Haiti. And all these events are connected.

And Caitlyn comes to discover that the suffering is connected to events like this across time and space.

Suffering does not exist in a vacuum. We are all connected.

That is the main theme of the book, and it was enjoyable. But not astounding.

But if you think about it deeply, we are becoming more of a global society and we need to stop think of events in other countries as far away, about past tragedies as “long ago” or barbaric, we need to stop thinking of those suffering in war torn countries as “other”. We only have one planet here and no matter what, we are all connected and we are connected to events past and present and we have more in common than we may realize.

3/5 Stars

Book Review #30- Iron Night

Oh man. Since the first in this series was so good that i had to start a blog because of it my expectation for book 2 may have been higher than average, but it lived up in nearly every way. There is no way to replicate that feeling of something new and glorious, but ML Brennan skillfully avoids a slump while the nerdy and impoverished Fortitude Scott gets in over his head (again) in a supernatural plot that runs deeper than he could ever imagine (…again). Suzume Hollis, ‘co-main character’ and kitsune is still more kick ass than Fort. She has his back, consistently, even though she likes to give him a hard time. Parts are genuinely sweet, but don’t linger too long in the sap as they attempt to track down those responsible for the murder of Fort’s roommate. 

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They uncover a plot by elves to create less human purebloods and preserve the bloodlines through incest and magic. It’s incredibly messed up. To say the least. Fort meets a girl, and Brennan does the right thing here and makes Lilah the elf capable, caring and on their side. fort has every reason to fall for a girl with a peculiar upbringing -he himself was raised mostly in solitude under crazy freaky family rules (Fort’s still drinking his mother’s blood, consuming fluids from your mother in your 20s is hella bizarre). He can sympathize with a character who knows it’s wrong that she went to prom with her cousin, who is embroiled in her family’s crazy and criminal behavior against her will. She likens her upbringing to being raised in a cult. 

So the elves, growingly discontent with low birth rates and dwindling numbers and watered down powerless too-human children get crazy like the ancient royals and start breeding anyone that will make a viable elf child… no matter how young or closely related. If that wasn’t gross enough, the plot also involves a hyper-violent skinwalker and magical roofies.

Fort’s still trying to keep himself human, but he has to team up with his VERY vampiric sister, Prudence while his dashing brother is tending to his wife. Fort’s also terrified of Prudence. And with good reason. Torture is her cup of tea. She waffles between “antagonist” and “ally” as she herself becomes concerned that their family is weakening with this more human approach to raising Fort. The pure elves “Themselves” are willing to do ANYTHING to elevate their elite status.. and so is Prudence.

There’s more! Fort’s human father figure gets caught up in the mix and he has to make hard choices about where his allegiances lie. He still tries to make it to his shifts at a high end restaurant with an egomaniacal chef and he still buys his clothes at Ocean State Job Lot. Suzume still just about steals every page for me, although she wasn’t as focussed on as in the last book. Suzume is still all about playing pranks and showing Fort up, but she’s sweet when he needs her. She’s an awesome *friend* ..even if she might have set up book 3 with a strange new roommate for Fort. There’s a ton going on in just 305 pages. There were some interactions that made me crack up with laughter and ones that broke my heart. 

ML Brennan presents vampires as apex predators (which I think is awesome, because it shouldn’t be easy to make a vampire: there would be vampires everywhere. And if they say ‘immortality is a curse’ and that why they don’t turn anyone, I will hate that book) and in this one she makes a real monster out of the skinwalker (with it’s own powerset outside of those presented by Patricia Briggs or shown in TrueBlood) and concocts an intricate elf hierarchy system. It’s fabulously detailed. There’s also close relation between personalities and their species/customs. Lilah is meek from being sheltered by her family. These creepy things start out as the norm until she sees how deep it runs, but until Fort’s arrival calls attention, she would never have questioned. Fort is rebellious because he was at one point raised human, he is quite literally not like his family. Suzume is a frigging badass because she was raised in a matriarchal society by women who don’t take husbands and she needs to support herself in every way. It’s not just random traits. They were born and raised to be what they are. Personalities develop around experiences and there aren’t any shortcuts taken in the backstories.

This is really better than I could explain. 5 out of 5. Throw down you $8 and get pumped for book #3 out in November.

I would recommend this series for anyone who’s an urban fantasy fan, those looking to get beyond supernatural YA fare (it’s grown up, sans-smut) and.. well, anyone who daydreams about going on crazy adventures while they’re working their crap-job. Fort’s a good hero while still acknowledging that he’s in over his head, Suzume is a good friend without becoming an insta-love interest. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the characters progress.

Book Review- Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon #29

Do I have to read the whole book to say with certainty that this is the worst book I ever read?

Night play is a Dark Hunter novel. It’s about werewolf type creatures that are cursed. Half of the species has human hearts and half animal hearts. There are also Bears and Hawks and other shapeshifters. It doesn’t really matter, because aside from shitshows of manliness the whole umm… plot… is kind of in the back ground.

Yeah, so the main character, Vane, is mourning his brother who is in a coma and expected not to recover, they are being hunted by their father. His sister and mother are both dead for the same reasons. Sounds really… tragic? overly dramatic? angsty? Doesn’t matter. For the first half of the book you’ll almost never hear about it. Vane meets “Bride.” a woman working in a vintage shop and falls madly for her.

And we follow these two idiots around forever. I’m on page 141/371 and I don’t know how much more I can actually stand.

Here are SOME of the offending issues:

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Vane goes into her shop and asks her for a recommendation for a gift. She asks if its for his GF. He says “I could never be so lucky.” and she thinks he could get any girl, who would turn him down -and I quote- “On second thought, she hoped she never met a woman that attractive. If she did,she would be morally obligated to run her over with her car.” No you wouldn’t! No you would not be ‘obligated’ to cause her drastic physical harm! What the fuck is wrong with you?! How other women look is none of your damn business! Insecure freakshow.

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Vane, after creepily asking Bride if she worked in the store alone SMELLED that she got scared and thought “But then, (humans) were weak, especially their females.” This is the main character. Who I think I’m supposed to think is troubled but charming… BUT FUCK YOU.

He says his last name “Kattalakis” and she says, “That’s very different. You must have a hard time spelling it for people.” Why the fuck would he have a hard time spelling his own name, bubblehead?

Later, they get marked by a thing that says they are soulmates. Vane takes this a sign that he should stalk er… “protect” her and he changes into wolf form and spies on her having an annoying conversation with her friends about “who’s the fattest’ One; I hate that shit. Normalized chick behavior of talking about who’s fat and what freaky diet they are on. For some reason this is acceptable female bonding. And of course, two, Vane is pretending to be a canine and spying on her and sleeping inside her house under false pretenses!! NOT romantic. NOT sexy. NOT charming. Sick. 

Bride’s ex shows up to drop off her stuff. He’s an ass to her. Vane, in Wolf form, bites him. Taylor, the ex, says he will sue. Bride says she will say that Taylor threatened her and who will believe him? So now this uncomfortable, but NORMAL adult interaction has turned into a shit show of manliness. Which is bad enough, but then THEN to top it off, Bride says that she will make false allegations that he was intimidating and/or abusing her. So, let’s just make it look like women make flip decisions to file false abuse charges. Just lying hos when they don’t get their way, huh? Then Vane in human form shows back up and gives Taylor a black eye. After throwing tens of thousands of dollars around to get movers to take Bride’s things inside. Once again, our he-man hero doesn’t need words, he just needs physical violence and big paychecks. Also, why he has so much money makes no sense.

He does, at one point, ask for consent. Very rad. unfortunately this came directly after stalking and ‘one true love that i must protect’ BS, “I might toss you over my shoulder and ravish you again.” “Would you really?” “I would if you’d let me.”

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But a meager 4 pages later; “He’d never understood what had driven his father to attack his mother. Now he did Every part of him simmered for (Bride). It was feverish and raw and he wasn’t sure how to control it. I’m sorry.. abuse and rape are presented as something that happens when someone is “passionate”? I mean, what the fuck here? He’s just so attracted to her he might violate her! Fucking romantic, huh?

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I’m all set.

We have a MC who is a confirmed violent stalker who thinks rape is a normal way to show affection. Bride is a fickle, shallow, boring, low self esteem having Pollyanna. She spend pages upon pages focusing on her negative body image and shitty internal dialogue. We’re supposed to see that Vane thinks she is beautiful. But he’s a fucking creepy stalker. His word don’t mean shit in my book. Fuck it, in anyone’s book. Beauty starts from within. And a woman with no self confidence who only sees herself reflected through the eyes of a man, who hates other women because of their appearance, who cannot deal with normal grown up social interactions on any level? Nope. Not beautiful.

The characters names: Daimon, Kyrian, Acheron, Vane, Fang, Bride.

NO ONE HAS THESE AWFUL NAMES

How long must I tolerate this crap? Will I DNF or see how many glaring flaws I can add up? Tune in next time.

Book Review #28- Exodus Towers by Jason M Hough

The second book in the Dire Earth series picks up where the first left off. Skyler, Tania and other “traitors” are building their colony in Belem, Brazil. Skyler, now enjoying a role as a decisive man of action and Tania is the colony’s leader. As such, she spends a ton of time in orbit away from Skyler and doing important bureaucratic things like debating with Zane and Tim. Skyler and Tania fell in “insta-love” in the first book and now they’re dealing with the aftermath. They really didn’t know each other, and now the distance and differences in opinion drive a wedge between them. It’s very nuanced and well written in that aspect. Skyler, often off scavenging, researching and adventuring, isn’t there for Tania the way Tim and Zane are and the orbitals are egregiously out of touch with what’s happening on the ground. That all come to a head when the camp is taken by a gang/cult/bunch of freaks who are all immunes who refer to orbitals as spacemen and believe that immunes are meant to inherit the Earth. Extremists who believe that they are the chosen-ones.

Speaking of chosen-ones… back in Darwin, my girl Samantha Rinn (who *score* we did get more of in this book) starts off a captive of Blackfield’s. After an attempted escape she is sent on a mission by slumlord/Jacobite leader, Grillo. And then she’s set off on more mission as Grillo has her friend Kelly Adelaide under his thumb. He brings her out into the field when he needs an immune (she is the last known in Darwin) and she runs the scavenger crews, which she hates. The Jacobites believe the Darwin Elevator is Jacob’s Ladder and they start imposing Jacobite laws on the people, no drinking, a holy day, no using the lord’s name in vain… that sort of thing, and like any good religious cult, being armed to the teeth never conflicts with their belief system. Samantha helps Grillo because she gains her freedom and because, frankly she has nothing else to do. But Grillo turns out to have bigger goals than he initially let on.

There are some new characters, one of which is Ana. One of the few problems I had with this book was that I felt like Hough couldn’t decide what age Ana should be, he wanted her to be substantially younger than Skyler and immature/maladapted and she was, but I feel like the age waffled a bit. I read the ARC copy, so perhaps it came together in the final cut, anyway. Ana falls hard for Skyler and he tries to keep her at a distance, but with Tania in orbit and a rift between them… it gets complicated. Ana is impulsive, tough, spoiled and determined. A good teammate but she escapes the overused action-chick cliches.

And throughout love triangles, violent cults and espionage we still have the evolving sub-humans (zombie like survivors of the SUBS virus get tougher in strange ways), upcoming alien events, and beyond weird alien artifacts. My favorites include Sam being trapped in alien brambles and Skyler entering a dome that pays no mind to the rules of space and time.

There’s a ton going on and frankly, it was super awesome. The second book in a trilogy always bugs me. The first is always self contained and then the second ramps up but leaves so much lying around for the third. But I’m in. There’s a good amount of book here, as you can tell. It’s worth it.

The other thing that bugged me a ton: the rift between Skyler and Tania. Tania bartered with Gabriel that she would turn in Skyler (she didn’t mean it), and he heard her, he would have forgiven her but she lied about it because she felt guilty. But she had the nerve to tell him that he started combat with Gabriel, that he should have negotiated. These guys were rapists. Seriously: Skyler needed to kill every last one, no regrets. Period. And he never said “Tania, you don’t even know what is going on down here. Shut up.” 

Last review I cast Michael Weatherly to star as main protag Skyler Luiken, this time Samantha gets a face: 

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Alexa Vega from Machete Kills As much as I would love to throw future Captain Marvel Katee Sackhoff in a time machine and pick her, I’m going with this former Spy Kid to throw punches and throw down one-liners.

and the role of Tania goes to

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Noureen Dewulf from Pulse 2 and Pulse 3 (and frankly, a bunch of movies I haven’t seen) would be great as new leader Tania, the smart scientist, the good friend and stunning love interest.

I’d love to see Demi Lovato get a little wild as our Ana

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And Peruvian model/actress Angie Jibaja should certainly play someone.

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4 Stars for sure.

Book Review #27- The Darwin Elevator by Jason M Hough

This is the kind of book that would do well enough as a movie is directors had the good sense not to ruin it by giving the role to Tom Cruise (thankfully, he’d be too old for it) or Keanu Reeves (yeesh)…

THE PLOT (snagged from goodreads):

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.
 
Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity

I glanced at the goodreads reviews (for the record: I don’t especially care for goodreads, in general, no offense) some people didn’t like it because the characters weren’t “strong enough” which is fine…

And honestly I can relate. At first I was thinking, “dammit, Skyler, why are you so damn wishy washy?”

Skyler recently became captain, after the former captain of the Melville, Skadz, suddenly abandoned everyone. He’s not particularly good at it. He flew into Darwin with Skadz when humans started going apeshit and eating each other, which is where the rest of the crew got together: Samantha and Angus and Jake. So Skadz leaves and Skyler takes over because the Melville is his. He doesn’t know how to lead, he was a grunt in the Dutch Air Force and was happy not making the tough calls. The people of Darwin have small farms in orbit that supply food and some roof top gardens but they are horribly over populated and depend on scavenger crews ransacking the rest of the earth that is infested with subhumans. The wrong call could get his crew killed or lead to shortages of vital resources… Skyler is caving under the pressure.

“He didn’t want to be special. Or sought after. Truth be told he’d rather be back in the Netherlands, flying mundane patrols for the air force, living a good life. But that was a long time ago, in a different world.”

So, Skyler Luiken hasn’t really gotten over the world ending or his friend freaking out and leaving and doesn’t have the ambition or aptitude for leadership. That’s the point. I know all of you think you would get over your glaring personality flaws and be the Big Damn Hero if it ever came down to it. Reality Check: not everyone is built for it.

Skyler does step up over the course of the book, for the reason straight men do. No, no, not money, not “because it’s the right thing”, not fame, not for adventure, or excitement… for a beautiful woman.

There’s actually a really cute part where he goes to rescue her: not even sure if she’ll remember him, “Hey, it’s Skyler, from Hawaii?”

So if you want to smack him for not being able to make a decision: he will, don’t worry.

In the “women who don’t really need rescuing” category: For the “tough chicks” Kelly Adelaide and Samantha. For the “smart chicks”: Tania Sharma and Natalie.

The story doesn’t follow them around as much (for the record, more time spent with Kelly and Sam would have been optimal)

The world building is good. There’s enough for the general idea of how everything got this way and why every one is going so damn crazy.

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Just kidding, no it’s not. The problem is not really the aliens (or the zombies). It’s plain old human greed. Hidden plans, secret plots, power grabs, revenge, monopolies on resources, money, power, respect. Russel and Alex want to control orbit (where the money lives), tired of being dependent on lesser of two evils Neil Platz. Platz, for the record is hiding too many secrets to name, including the Mother Of All Secrets. And he gets mighty rich off his MOAS. Russel and Alex… and, you know, humanity are right to be resentful.

“The aura is everything.”

This book wraps up a major issue, but leaves the fate of some characters (and earth overall) up in the air. I’m very interested in starting book 2 to see what happens to everybody and how their discovery changes their world! There were also some things that never get fully explained that I hope do in the next book. Like why the “zombies” were changing.

And for the record, if this were made into a movie…. I would pick Michael WeatherlyImage

Even though he is both too old and too tall for it.

PS- It actually reminded me of Outlaw Star, and Gene Starwind who wants to go into space but is terrified. He’s a tough guy and a gunslinger and an all around rad dude, but nothing above and beyond. The first time he’s on a spaceship he passes out, he has to drink to keep his cool. But he ends up inheriting a ship and joining an intergalactic treasure hunt.

4 Data Cubes!

Book Review #26- The Undead Are A Joke: Part 1

The Undead are a Joke follows photographer and entertainment writer Zack as he leaves his old job in Maryland for a new gig in good ‘ol Worcester, Mass. At his going away party he has a chance encounter with Selina, who killed him 150 years ago and is coincidentally also heading to the Commonwealth. Oh, yeah… Zack’s a vampire. Upon arriving in Worcester, Zack goes in search of “food” and meets up with three hoodlums and four viscous vampires who tear off limbs as easy as tearing up a receipt from the packy. 

Will Zack be able to juggle his day job and being a vampire and still get his game developed before PAX East?

This is the first 2 chapters, you can buy this here.

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The book’s cover model is one of the deadly dames featured in the upcoming Looks That Kill Calendar

This serial is by Radio of Horror mastermind Dr. Chris, who has umm… interesting… spelling and punctuation techniques (you can’t spell, you need an editor). I’m looking forward to Zack’s continuing adventure and wondering what will happen when he meets up with Selina! I’m confused about why this takes place in 2020 and there’s an odd mixture of real and fake things. Also, “Now you may be wondering how does a vampire eat or sleep and other science facts. Just repeat to yourself it’s just a story and relax.” You just broke the 4th wall and refused to world build! I’m a world building stickler! But “Sasquatch Ate My Neighbors” is the most awesome name for a video game, or well… anything, really. Good introduction to the cast and setting. 

Fun fact: I wrote a story about a bar run by demons set in Worcester (at the Vernon). It’s somewhere. haha

Book Review #25- Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Oh man, this book was so good. It’s one of those series that every one recommends and I’m all “Yeah, yeah, I know the type.” Powerful girl working for magical law enforcement type establishment meets handsome and vicious shapeshifter dude and they both do and don’t hit it off and meanwhile a bunch of absurdly fucked up shit goes on and she tries to juggle her life as a badass with wanting a normal human life…

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Ummm…. the thing is, it’s actually really good. The world in which this takes place is in the future, but magic was unleashed so there’s no advances in technology that would make it seem futuristic, but it’s far enough in the future that all magical things are accepted as reality. Technology and magic alternate so everyone drives weird cars (like Kate’s Karmelion) or rides horses, because machines don’t work when the magic hits. Vampires are ugly and disgusting and have to be controlled by a navigator, Masters of the Dead. Shapeshifters are gross and horrible and drool and smell (and of course they are paranoid and territorial, blah blah woof woof). There are many unique elements. 

Kate Daniels has a magic sword, Slayer, that can cut through undead flesh like buttah, she goes out in search of her guardian’s killer and confronts all manner of weirdness with confidence. She’s not perfect, but she’s pretty awesome. She’s bored by ceremonial pretenses, doesn’t care about looking hot at the cost of being a bad ass (except she keeps her hair long, her concession to conventional beauty standards). She meets a handsome doctor on her quest and that goes as it usually does. Everyone thinks a crazy vampire controlling lady, Olathe, is responsible and that goes about the same as you’d expect. Everyone resumes business as usual thinking the big bad whatever is gone… But then stuff gets really crazy. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a zombie dragon. I mean, that’s just wonderful.

It’s slightly more high fantasy than most urban fantasy type stuff. I’m glad Kate doesn’t appear to be clinging to this “What would it be like to come home from a normal job and have my husband waiting for me and drink a cup of tea?” blah blah (you’d be bored, that’s why we’re all here reading books about YOUR life, Kate) because that’s boring as all hell. Ditch that crap and hang out with the Beast Lord.

I definitely recommend. I will be reading more of this series for sure!

5 bottles of Boone’s Farm

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PS I was going to count this as Team Vampire, but the a Zombie Dragon showed up. That’s both for the Vamps Vs Zombies challenge/bloghop! Oh snap!