Review: Shadowspawn by Andrew J. Offutt

Publisher: Venture

Publishing Date: 1987

ISBN: 9780441760398

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.3/5

Publishers Description: Mignureal is the daughter of the first person to show Hanse kindness in his harsh upbringing. He was once a lonely and ostracized orphan who was denied food by all those around him save her mother.

Review: This was an oldy but a goody. A sort of whimsical tale about two people traveling from their homeland, across a desert and all the perilous conditions they fall into. There is really no discussion in the review section of Goodreads, mostly that this is a spinoff of Thieves World. 

Mignureal really sucked as a character. Just not believable with all her “Darling this” and “Darling that” and “Oh my, I must run into my man’s hunky arms and cry blubbery tears over his near death battle with ruffians…boo hoo, look at my boobs”. Fug. She wears ten layered skirts IN THE DESERT cause she is a gypsy seer, but that’s ok because she is the most beautiful VIRGIN woman on the planet. And why don’t they travel at night?

Hanse stole the show, as he should. He mentally converses about the idiocy of his traveling companion but is wise enough to keep those thoughts to himself lest he miss out on the booty, Mignue. He is mysterious and honorable while holding to a certain thieving standard.

The world building is pretty good and the story line, entertaining . Just don’t take it too seriously.

Review: Grond The Raven High by Yuri Hamaganov

Publisher: Yuri Hamaganov

Publishing Date: February 2017

ISBN: 9783452740812

Genre: SciFi / YA

Rating: 3.7/5

Publishers Description: In the year 2086, Earth is exhausted. The seas have been emptied, the bedrock and soil stripped of their resources, and the superheated atmosphere churns with terrible storms. Those who can afford to do so live in the limbo of virtual reality, and the billions who suffer in poverty have no work, no clean water, and no security from the chaos.

Review: Olga is super smart, super hot, super athletic and soon to be super rich. She is so fine that she nearly blew my mind (hey Mickey) and all this at the age of 10. An advanced human trained from an early age to run a manufacturing plant in Earth orbit, Olga is everything that you want to be but couldn’t because you suck comparatively. At the ripe old age of 10, Olga has the body of a young 20-something as they grow em fast in space.

So why do I like this novel so much? Refreshing SciFi, like a spring breeze blowing across your body while drinking in the scents of life. Yeah, like that. And dammit, I liked Olga. She was made speshul but those were just circumstances out of her control and behaves accordingly.  She has no feeling for her birth family but loves the cyborg that raised her in space.

I had a good time reading this and wouldn’t hesitate to catch the next in series. Because you just can’t end a novel like that.

Review: Among The Fallen by N.S. Dolkart

Publisher: Angry Robot

Publishing Date:

ISBN: 9780857665713

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.4/5

Publishers Description: In wake of the battle of Silent Hall, the city of Ardis is reeling, its leaders frightened and disorganized. The remaining oracle of the god Ravennis has resurfaced there and is spreading a new gospel – one in which Ravennis is the new Lord of the Underworld. Narky is swept up in the promotion of his religion, even while the prevailing church of Magor tries to put down its upstart rivals. 

Review: Narky, Bandu and the gang are back in a more “settled” version of Silent Hall. Our traveling companions have mostly split due to various causal events and personal choices. As they find their way through a world influenced by the Gods, they are once again thrust into a series of pivotal events. 

This was another great read in the series, although it lacked the punch of the first due to the loss of the social dynamic of a tightly knit group. I guess that is the evolution of growing up as everyone must part ways at some point. The chapters with Bandu, Phaedra and Hunter were always the most entertaining due to the quests and inherent confrontations. And why is Psander never adequately described if at all?

I really like this writer, despite having politically diametric views. He doesn’t bog down the story line with saturated dialogue or unnecessary phrasing. The movement is not only constant but appropriate to the character(s) being developed. His world is immersive and easy to visualize. I am constantly surprised how a new author can bring a creative world into the light of the written word and unfold a competent and entertaining novel. Really astounding, as it reads like an accomplished author that has been writing for many years. GET THIS!

Review: Hell’s Butcher by Chris Barili

Publisher: Stealth

Publishing Date: March 2017

ISBN: 9780998616803

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.0/5

Publishers Description: Hell’s Marshal Frank Butcher and his ragtag posse are back, this time wreaking havoc on the civilized east coast. Sent to bring back John Wilkes Booth and his gang before they can kill the current US President, 

Review: A novella that never stops or slows down. This compressed format, while enjoyable, limits the ability to make an in-depth subjective and discerning review. What Hell’s Butcher IS, is a lot of fun in a short period of time.


Review: A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

Publisher: St. Martins

Publishing Date: June 2017

ISBN: 9780312372941

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.0/5

Publishers Description: To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcnéas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. He is Grimnir, and he is the last of his kind—the last in a long line of monsters who have plagued humanity since the Elder Days.

Review: I am ready for the sycophantic backlash that will soon follow this review. Loins girded and hassock tight as I ply the lanes of verbiage. Nice cover art though.

So…..what is with all the 5 star reviews and none of a lesser? I read that the world building was “Epic!”, “Setting is historically accurate”, “Intricate plot” and “A blending of deep myths and ancient tales”. Fact, myth or folklore? To me this was a fantasy novel drawing on mythos and a surmised historical interaction between people that may or may not have existed in reality or interacted at all.

The characters were the main failing of this novel, which is just about the entirety of it. They just never seemed to grow along with the movement. Take Grimnir for instance. 1,000 year old skraeling killer dude that wends his way through the novel expounding his perspectives as if reading from a LARPing minstrels script. “Faugghh! You piece of Danish Filth will tremble to the marrow as my blood encrusted black clawed-fingers tear out your bleating hymn singing hearts that I roast on fires that sprang from Yggdrasil”. Every time Grimnir (One of Odin’s names) talks, he orates in high-handed heathen fashion, and oh does it wear painfully thin after awhile. Etain also fails to animate the story line as she is constantly dismissing the reality that surrounds her or too quickly forgiving transgressions like murder and torture. 

The name skraeling (as associated with Grimnir as an ancient evil warrior race), was in reality what the 13th century norse named the Greenland Inuits and 11th century North American natives.  While the novel is creative in that it borrows heavily from myth and wraps that myth into history, I found myself flipping through a lot of pages where the dialogue drowned the story line in static exchanges. In the end, the plot was predicated on revenge which is not intricate but rather an easy way to create a salable novel. 



Review: Time Weaver by Jacinta Maree

Publisher: Ragnarok

Publishing Date: February 2017

ISBN: 9781941987872

Genre: Steam

Rating: 3.5/5

Publishers Description:  have a clock for a heart…and the man who put it there tried to take it out. Time Collectors are modern day genies capable of exchanging wishes for time. Elizabeth Wicker lives within a steampunk world riddled with the supernatural. Among the stories of witches, Bacts, and other monsters, Time Collectors remain as the greatest hushed secret among the noble families. They are temptation’s greatest tools. A contract with a Time Collector is a guaranteed death sentence, and for some the price isn’t worth the prize. But when Elizabeth is struck down by a fatal heart attack, she finds herself trapped beneath a Time Collector’s blade. With no time left to offer, she makes a desperate sacrifice for a second chance at life. If there’s only one truth, it is a Time Collector will always come back to collect.

Review: How come the cover girls’ hair is not white?  Anyway, hottie-white-haired Beth Wicker is on the run from men who want to bang her, kill her, kidnap and rape her. She faints and cries a lot but has a tough mien and a heart of gold, um, errr…….iron? While the man she loves kills everyone that is important in her life, like family, she still pines for him.  Not only that, but the man that killed her mother has a chub for her. Wait, what? Yeah, I am confused as well. Why this has to be rendered vile with unsupported emotions is beyondo.

If you begin to deconstruct this novel you are going to have a bad time. Like how Beth was a lowly floor scrubber made to be sold to the elite and raped etc. etc. BUT, she is really a noble herself and is saved from a life of destitution by her famous Father of the House Wicker. Yawn. Or how every interesting and viable character is killed off without regard.

So what’s good about it. World building and scene construction are epic. Supporting characters, and I mean all of them, are developed seamlessly with the movement. The writing is exceptional and takes some interesting and creative turns. The story line never follows a patterned model, but instead decides to go in various directions that ultimately strengthens the novel. I had a really late night reading this as I could not put it down. In the end, Beth was made palatable only by the entirety of the novels brilliance. A good start to this story might have been Elizabeth’s early demise and the rise of Catherine. Oh well.


Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Publisher: Random House

Publishing Date: April 2017

ISBN: 9781101886724

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.0/5

Publishers Description: As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer now than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Review: I really want to like this series as the writing is really good. It is that dam interview format that rears its head, again, in this robotic installment of a future Earth.

Much like Sleeping Giants, this novel was steeped in heavy dialogue with a sometimes rapid fire exchange without embellishment. This style made for easier reading rather than trudging through the “He said/She mumbled/said softly” phrasing expediters. In the end, I am again ambivalent about this series, yet I have high hopes that the author will connect with the populace in a more visceral way.

Review: Chipped by David Olansky

Publisher: Booklogix

Publishing Date: February 2017

ISBN: 9781610057417

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.6/5

Publishers Description: What if there were a way to become faster, stronger, smarter, better? To achieve every task you’ve ever set your mind to? What if you could finally reach your ideal weight, master any language, or kick that one bad habit that’s been standing in your way—all at the cost of a chip in your brain. With the advent of a revolutionary neurosurgical procedure, the Chipped Program represents all the potential that humanity can achieve—for better and for worse.

Review: If I was a publisher seeking to rebrand this concept, I would first call it “The Burgeoning”. Except it never reaches fruition but rather languishes in an oratory state of incompletion. This compounded narrative that discusses and explains every nuance of chip technology wears on the reader because it is constant and subsumes the entirety of the novel. There are instances where you can breath free of the cloying narrative and endless dialogue but those moments are fleeting.

The opening chapters hook you because the social commentary has some funny moments. The humor soon seems forced and is lacking in brevity. There is a distinct and glaring absence of movement that leaves every character flatter than a roadside squirrel. Because of this, emotional outbursts and over-the-top personalities are used as development vehicles.

While the writing is good and thought provoking, it just wasn’t for me. I would have rated this work really low (1 star), but to be fair I think there is a larger audience that will enjoy it.

Review: The Clock Work Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

Publisher: Doubleday

Publishing Date: August 2017

ISBN: 9780385541787

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.9/5

Publishers Description: In the rugged landscape of eastern Oregon, a young scientist named June uncovers an exquisite artifact—a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll whose existence seems to validate her obsession with a harrowing story she was told by her grandfather many years earlier. The mechanical doll, June believes, is proof of a living race of automatons that walk undetected among us to this day. Ingeniously hidden inside the ancient doll is a lost message, addressed to the court of Peter the Great, czar of Russia.

Review: Ah June, where is thy sting? Much of this novel is a kind of see-saw through time; World War 1, the era of Catherine the Great, 3,000 B.C. China and on to the present.  Very interesting historical fiction with animated robots infused into the story line. Then onto the present and, well June. You just can’t connect with June for a variety of reasons. She lacks depth in that she never develops outside of her persona as a doll fixer/post-doc something/curious childhood to adult…thing. She is like a blank canvas that was never filled. She rants and says “Fuck” a few times and curls into fetal positions in tense situations but can kill a robot with superhuman strength. Although there is a ton of movement in this novel, June just seems to be along for the ride.

Peter and his world of anima-infused ancient robots was really interesting. Coupled with a great story line, constant movement and Peter’s ability to grow (albeit slowly) with said movement, made for a great read. His life leading up to the present was riveting in that the story told within pinnacle moments of history held you captivated. His constant internal struggle implementing the “Word” drives this novels world building. In a way, he is much like  Frankenstein. While June could have been built better and not just as some piece of fluff expediting the scenes, the rest of the players are riveting as they abide through time recounting their lives.

Review: The Longest Con by Bill Patterson

Publisher: Argus

Publishing Date: February 2017

ISBN:  4470990979501

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.0/5

Publishers Description: Aphrodite Station, circling Venus, crosses behind the Sun every year and a half or so. Only then could the longest of con jobs be executed. In 2144, a young group of buncos who call themselves ‘Coffey’s Conners’ are out to show their con-artist parents that they are mature enough to form their own crew. But the game the parents have in mind, ‘The Wire’, has not been pulled off in at least a century. With Aphrodite Station on the far side of the Sun, Coffey’s Conners are beyond help, beyond hope if things go wrong. If they get caught, the consequences are no further than the nearest airlock. 

Review: This was a really short novel er, novella? As a consequence the story line was compressed and the movement, a constant. With these novellas the characters usually get the short stick in terms of development. Emotive responses and character flaws are usually over the top and hardly believable. In this case the characters are interesting and highly plausible. This would have been a great novel if drawn out to a grand conclusion with many disparate spokes in the grifting wheel. Would have also better developed the characters that were interesting.

I never give a really good novella a higher rating than 3 due to the compressed format. I still would like to see this author’s expanded universe should he sit down long enough to write a NOVEL.