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The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount Char - Scott Hawkins The Library at Mount Char is a bizarre read. At times dark, others humorous, but at all times the narrative moves forward, compelling the reader to read *just one more chapter.* During the read of this book, I was often left confused by what the heck was going on. Most of the confusing bits were cleared up by the end, and of course a very amusing epilogue. I suppose I would categorize this story as horror or perhaps urban fantasy, but a genre or two can’t easily define it.

While reading, I was confronted by the similar tone and feel of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Although Gaiman focused on a clash between several gods, The Library at Mount Char takes a serendipitous route to tell a story that… well… no spoilers, you’ll just have to read it. If you liked American Gods, you’ll likely appreciate this book.

There is quite a bit of violence, including rape in this story, but the type and nature of the violence is nothing more than one would see watching programs that don’t air on network TV. The violence is sometimes cringe-worthy, but it never felt gratuitous, and seemed to move the story forward.

My understanding is that there are no plans on a sequel, but the story ends in such a way that if the author did decide to write another, the groundwork is already there. This book seems more than four stars, but not quite enough to push it into the five-star territory.

Freedom's Child

Freedom's Child - Jax Miller I enjoyed Freedom’s Child, by Jax Miller. It’s refreshing to read a strong female protagonist who is flawed. So often male characters are allowed to have glaring personality defects, but not women. They’re so often portrayed as the hapless girl that the story happens to, not them taking control of the story. The smoking, boozing, cussing Freedom Oliver is horribly flawed, but we can empathize with her foibles. Many of us have even known someone who she reminds us of.

Jax Miller’s writing style has been compared to a graphic novel, and I’d say that’s not far off. The writing is easy to follow and to figure out what’s going on. The three main subplots and three more minor ones feel like they belong, and weren’t just shoehorned in to pad the book. The writing is terse, and to the brutal point. There’s not as much swearing as say Chuck Wendig in his Miriam Black series, but I see many parallels between both the protagonist and writing style. The subtle snark and real-world storytelling in Freedom’s Child is very compelling.

If you like Wendig’s Miriam Black series, you’ll like Freedom’s Child and vice-versa. Jax Miller has crafted a captivating story, easily worthy of four stars and an instant read. Make sure you read it when it comes out on June 2nd.

The Clouded Sky

The Clouded Sky - Megan Crewe The Clouded Sky was still a fun read, but as many sequels do, didn’t quite meet my expectations. While Earth & Sky was a very straightforward story, The Clouded Sky had this odd love triangle that was more of a dyad with some angst tossed in. Also, the plot of The Clouded Sky was much more convoluted, although there was a great reveal that surprised me in the end.

If you really enjoyed Earth & Sky, then you should also enjoy The Clouded Sky. The two items above prevent The Clouded Sky from rising to four-star territory, but I personally am looking forward to the third book, as it’s been my experience that when book 2 wanes, book three usually matches or tops book 1.

Earth & Sky

Earth & Sky - Megan Crewe Earth & Sky was a fun, easy read. This young adult story is standard fare for the genre, although I enjoyed the characters visiting historical locations. Many time travel stories feel like a heavy-handed history lesson, but not Earth & Sky. The travel concept and how the author dealt with paradoxical time travelers worked and as with many YA stories, didn’t require a lot of high-level thinking.

Earth & Sky is worthy of four stars for a fun YA sci-fi time traveler romp. YA fans will no doubt enjoy this read.

From a Distant Star

From a Distant Star - Karen McQuestion I read the first half of this book in a single night. It is really easy to digest, which is to be expected for a book geared towards the YA audience. There were no themes or ideas that required me to strain my brain, and the story was very linear. While mostly told from Emma’s point of view, another character’s POV was used a few times. This POV switch wasn’t confusing, but I felt it unnecessary. The information could’ve been easily conveyed via dialogue without switching POV.

The sheer amount of teenage angst almost turned me off from the book. More than one antagonist was a cardboard cutout, and I didn’t really care about Emma for the first half of the book. I’m glad I finished reading it, because it was a cute romp through YA. My rating after reading the first half wavered between two and three stars, and after finishing it, it was a solid three stars. The things I criticized prevented it from wandering into four-star territory.

Omni

Omni - Andrea Murray I’ve studied social stratification at university. I‘ve always been fascinated by myths and religion. And I firmly believe the old saying that all stories have been told and are only being retold in new and interesting ways. I read Omni in its entirety on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The entire thing was a pleasant read and there were no glaring issues with editing, formatting or story. Although the characters did border on clichéd, I genuinely cared about both Harmony and Pierce and looked forward to the antagonists receiving their comeuppance.

The story did have an unsatisfying ending, but this is to be expected in a planned duology. Although as a stand-alone story, Omni had a defined storyline that did reach a conclusion, albeit not a “traditional” one. Since I myself have been known to write and ending or two in unexpected ways, I enjoy it when other authors do it too.

I look forward to the conclusion to the Omni duology from Andrea Murray. Anyone who likes a quick romp through a dystopian future that is easy to read should read this story. My review may seem critical, but I liked the story a lot, and would likely read Andrea’s other trilogy.

Writers of the Future Volume 31

Writers of the Future Volume 31 - L. Ron Hubbard As always, WOTF, volume 31 is full of excellent stories. I wanted to highlight my three favorite stories in no particular order:

The God Whisperer, by Daniel J Davis reminds me of the best parts of American Gods, by Neil Gaiman: The absurd humor of a God living in modern times and interacting with us mere mortals.

Rough Draft, by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta speaks to me directly as a writer. The authors seemed to cram all the insecurities about writing into a concise short story. I wonder if current debut blockbusters like Andy Weir feel the same way as the story’s character, Mitchell Coren.

Half Past, by Samantha Murray is an amazing short. The premise is fun, and the life lesson at the end of this story, whether intentional or not, is a powerful one. Out of all the stories I’ve read thus far, this one seemed to resonate the most.

Volume 31 does contain the following non-fiction pieces:
Art, by L. Ron Hubbard Fiction Without Paper, by Orson Scott Card The Illustrators of the Future, by Bob Eggleton On the Direction of Art, by Bob Eggleton

I know these thoughts by some of the big names in Science Fiction have there place, and many people will find these interesting, I guess I just prefer my fiction and non-fiction to be separated. Perhaps if these four were an appendix or something, it wouldn’t have annoyed me as much. I’m still awarding this collection four stars, partly because of the three stories I highlighted, but also because all the stories really are fabulous.

The Murder of Adam and Eve

The Murder of Adam and Eve - William Dietrich This book was engaging, and I had to carve out extra reading time in my regular routine so I could finish it ahead of schedule. I had a little concern, because some reviewers painted a picture of this book being some sort of “Environmentalist Agenda.” I found this laughable; it wasn’t an agenda, but a plot point, and a novel one at that.

I could possibly read into the overarching themes of totalitarianism of the Xu, but instead I simply read an entertaining page-turner. I read a considerable amount of words every week and write as well, so not many story twists work. The twist at the end of this story was both unanticipated and welcome. I love it when an author can trick me.

The story flowed smoothly, and I can only recall a single line in the story that I had to reread because it was unclear. The characters were very believable and I enjoyed this story immensely. I highly recommend this story to not only sci-fi and fantasy readers, but also those interested in the potential origins of religion. While this isn’t a story specifically focused on religion, I see themes that relate to my own studies of religion and psychology.

Five out of five starts is my rating, and I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen to me to read it.

Return To Earth

Return To Earth - Dennis Calloway “Return to Earth,” by Dennis Calloway was a fun read. Foreshadowing in early chapters made certain plot points obvious, but the author still managed a surprise or two. I was able to suspend disbelief all the way until the last pages, where unfortunately, I had to shout out a “Aw, come on!”

The story is well written, and with the exception of one specific chapter that needed an extra proof read, I was fully engrossed in the story. Like a lot of Sci-Fi, this story is plausible, but not probable, especially since the ultimate goal of the band of survivors was to reach Europa instead of Mars, left me scratching my head. In one or two places in the beginning, the non-linear storytelling was confusing, but a quick re-read got me back on track.

Finally, and this could just be a pet peeve of mine as a professional writer, but the third person limited perspective did seem to shift abruptly from one character to another in the middle of a scene without a clear indication that the character perspective was changing and required a reread to make sure I knew what character was the focus. It’s hard to exemplify this issue, and most readers wouldn’t have as much issue with it.

I’d recommend this story to sci-fi fans as well as action/adventure fans. When Mr. Calloway has another book out, I’d be eager to read it. Because of differing star ratings, I’ll give it 4 stars on Goodreads for “really liked it.”

The Plagiarist

The Plagiarist - Hugh Howey This story reminded me very much of the movie, "The Thirteenth Floor." I wasn't suprised by the ending, but I still enjoyed the way Hugh spun it.

The Lost Continent

The Lost Continent - Edgar Rice Burroughs, Frank Frazetta For a 100-year-old story, it has held up remarkedly. Parts of the story are very predictable, and the ending seemed abrupt, but it was a great read. I would pit this story against any modern sci-fi or dystopian story, and expect it would rank pretty well. I enjoyed Beyond Thirty aka The Lost Continent.

2312

2312 - Kim Stanley Robinson You can safely ignore any of the "lists" or "extracts" chapters.

Mockingbird

Mockingbird - Chuck Wendig I enjoyed Blackbirds, and was expecting a similar read. Not the case with Mockingbird. Chuck kicked it up a notch and I rode the word-coaster through twists, turns and sudden stops. I'm looking forward to reading The Cormorant, and hope its execution is as awesome as Mockingbird.

Valiant the Dead

Valiant the Dead - J.W. Goble This allegory is a fascinating read. Although the author recommends it for ages 14 – 18, those older will find in it nuances that speak to their faith. I did find the character names a little difficult to follow, but that is to be expected in a story such as this. As a story of wasted life and redemption, this is a great read, but adding the subtle flavors of faith, this is a powerful read. I look forward to future works by Mr. Goble, and recommend this story to all readers, Christian and otherwise.

The Migraine Mafia

The Migraine Mafia - Maia Sepp Maia tells the story of a woman dealing with a chronic illness and the perception of the world towards that illness. From an understanding husband to a "blame the victim" sister-in-law, Viive experiences a varying array of emotions, interactions and obstacles to overcome. Viive is likable and we want her to persevere in the face of adversity. The story ending left me wanting, but overall it was an enjoyable read. I'm awarding three stars for "I liked it!"

Common Sense (Lupa Schwartz Mysteries, #2)

Common Sense (Lupa Schwartz Mysteries, #2) - J. David Core I'm not a fan of detective stories. I am a fan of the Holmesian methodology, and like TV shows like The Mentalist and Psyche. I hadn't read the first Lupa Schwartz story, so I was playing catch up for the first few chapters. The story is engaging and with many detective stories, after the villain is revealed, all the pieces clicked into place. I liked the story, so I gave it three stars. Anyone who likes the TV shows I mentioned will like the irreverence and subtle snark that is Lupa Schwartz.