Review: Wild Seed (Patternnist #1) by Octavia E. Butler

I devoured this novel on a travel day, starting in Baltimore and ending in Indianapolis. I enjoyed many separate elements of this book, from the two very different main characters and their interactions to the historical and scientific elements. Doro and Anyanwu are fantastic foils to each other. While their interactions were sometimes uncomfortable, great storytelling is not always easy.

Doro is a fascinating antagonist, and I was intrigued by his manipulation of people. Overall, it’s interesting to read about genetics in a world where genetics has not yet been “invented.” There is a method to his madness, even if any modern institutional review board would have a proper fit.

Anyanwu barely begins to fill the void that exists in science fiction. We need more women of color heroes, especially ones who are strengthened by family ties and not limited by their sexuality. She and Doro are excellent foils, and neither character ever comes out on top in their interactions.

I love reading about any type of immortality and how age affects characters. We see Doro and Anyanwu in three different historical time periods during the course of this book, where individual’s roles are stratified in society by their race and gender. I look forward to continuing this series, to see where these two characters and Doro’s epic genetic program leads.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Strange Dogs (The Expanse #6.5) by James S.A. Corey

This novella is a beautiful vignette about early life on Laconia. It doesn’t answer many greater questions about the ecosystem of this world due to the limited point-of-view of the main character. But it answers quieter questions about how Duerte came to power and how he imposed his views on the burgeoning society.

On the surface, Laconia appears to be a much “better” place to live than Ilus/New Terra (a terrible, terrible planet), but it has its own share of unique and dangerous differences. This is the first extra story set in the world of The Expanse to make me incredibly excited to the next main installment of the series.

An excellent read for fans of the book series, though it doesn’t have much relevance to the time line in the television show yet.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Wolfromance (Reluctant Necromancer #3) by Kaye Draper

I understand that authors are always warned not to “info-dump” to their readers, that they should include the information the reader needs to know naturally through the story. But there’s a downside to that, when so many things are going on that everyone EXCEPT the main character knows about. At some point, someone needs to sit Esper down and just give her a crash course in the greater magical world instead of constantly bemoaning that she should have learned all of this stuff growing up.

Overall, this book suffers from general “middle book” syndrome. Stuff gets interesting but no one gets any answers. A more minor quibble is that a werewolf is introduced to the greater cast of characters, but there’s no romance with her.

Luckily, a newer character to the series is Jet the familiar. He absolutely steals the show, and I’m excited to see where the story goes with him in the mix.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Enlightened (Enlightenment #3) by Joanna Chambers

The finale to this trilogy does an excellent job of concluding plot threads from previous books on multiple levels. David and Murdo have grown as people and grown closer together, but some roadblocks (internal and external) still stand in the way of their happily every after. When both of them must travel to London, they confront these issues head-on in a way that was both unexpected and completely satisfying.

The overall message of this book is finding love and acceptance outside of borders proscribed by society. This applies to a few different relationships in the book, and the sacrifices characters must make to achieve their goals (even when those goals are not what society says they should be).

But through it all, David and Murdo realize their true goals involve each other. They open up to each other in ways that would never have been possible in the first book of this trilogy, and I’m happy these two characters joined together to find their happiness against so many odds.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: The Vital Abyss (The Expanse #5.5) by James S.A. Corey

This novella in the midst of the epic saga of The Expanse fills in some interesting blanks. It explains the missing years of a relevant character’s life and how he eventually ends up where Our Heroes encounter him again. It also shows the evolution of the character and his history on Earth, accomplishing some interesting world-building about life on “Basic” that contrasts with what we learn in “The Churn.”

However, it does absolutely nothing to humanize this character. And that’s okay. We’re probably never meant to sympathize with him, not knowing about his actions in the main series installments. As usual, the writing makes this a worthwhile read for any fans of the Expanse.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

January Wrap-Up & February Goals

This year is off to an EXCELLENT start, if I do say so myself. I got lots of reading done. I got lots of editing done. I played a lot of video games. And I’m thrilled with my health progress. I know I said I wasn’t travelling anywhere, but I managed to sneak away to the beach and have a lovely 2 days with excellent friends. Not much other news to report, so let’s jump in!

January Wrap-Up

  • The final Steel Victory rewrite is completed, copy-edited, and submitted to my editor. This new edition of the text will also include a bonus short story (how Victory and Mikelos first met!) AND a brief history of the city of Limani. I can’t wait to share all of these goodies this summer!
  • Beta-reading progress report: SO. CLOSE.
  • As promised, there are new goodies over at the Worldbuilding section of my website! (Links below.)

February Goals

  1. It’s time to jump back into book 6, Steel Justice! This month, I’ll be focusing on revisions based on the feedback I received from my fabulous beta readers.
  2. Review two super-secret projects! (Sometimes, I get to read books by my favorite authors before publication. I love this part of my job.)
  3. A new indie bookstore in Baltimore, Carpe Librum, is hosting me for an author brunch! I hope you’re able to stop by if you’re local to the Baltimore area. Details here.
  4. Attend my first con of 2020: Farpoint, also in the Baltimore area! Will I see you there?
  5. Two more updates to pages over at the Worldbuilding section!

In Case You Missed It

Book Reviews

On the Website

Around the Internet

If this hasn’t been stuck in your head for the past month, obviously you haven’t watched the best new fantasy show available.

Review: All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

This novella has won ALL OF THE AWARDS, which makes it difficult to review. There’s not much I can add to the discourse about it that hasn’t already been said, and it doesn’t need the advertising help. But it was a wonderfully fun read, so if you’re one of the five science-fiction fans after me who hasn’t started on this series, you should probably rectify that immediately. You won’t regret it.

This is a fun locked room (planet) sort of mystery, and the POV character (self-named Murderbot) is just as adorable/hilarious/murderous as everyone raves. The pacing works well for novella-length story, and I was never bored with any facet of the adventure.

The technology and world-building of this universe are never totally fleshed out, but it’s appropriate to what Murderbot knows and accepts about its life. I also especially enjoyed the novelty of a POV character without a specified gender, which adds a subtle nuance to the writing.

As usual, my greatest praise for a book is whether I get the sequel. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the further adventures of Murderbot.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Gods of Risk (The Expanse #2.1) by James S.A. Corey

This novella brings us back to the series roots of interstellar events occurring as a backdrop to regular people’s normal lives. But this normal person is the gifted sixteen-year-old nephew of Bobbie Draper, so how normal is he? Certainly normal enough for some health doses of adolescent angst while he gets mixed up in the seedy side of life on Mars.

This story is about David, but its also about Bobbie on Mars during her short “retirement.” It’s about the Draper family as a whole, and Martian society, and another planet teetering on the brink of the unknown as events in the greater system continue to spin out of control.

Enjoyable for fans for the series, but not necessary to the greater story line. I might be the wrong gender and the wrong age for this story to truly speak to me, but Corey’s writing never fails to delight anyway.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Deosil (Whyborne & Griffin #11) by Jordan L. Hawk

This series closes out in a maelstrom (pun intended) of heroism, madness, horror, love, triumph, and just a few tentacles. Everything comes full-circle (pun also intended) as Whyborne and Griffin join with new and old allies to defend their home of Widdershins from the extra-dimensional Masters who have returned to reclaim what is theirs.

Because the final book of a series should encapsulate the best of everything that has come before, often the review becomes a review of the collection as a whole. I unreservedly give top marks to both Deosil and the full series of 11 novels. I quipped in an earlier review that this Lovecraftian-inspired saga would have Lovecraft himself rolling in his grave for it’s portrayal of characters the original author would have despised, for everything from their gender, to their race, to who they chose to love. For most of all, these books embrace love the way ol’ H.P. only summoned fear.

Overall, this is a series I will be recommending to readers for years to come. Fans of fantasy, horror, historical, and romantic fiction will find a home in these pages, because we should all be so lucky to be collected by Widdershins.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Vampromance (Reluctant Necromancer #2) by Kaye Draper

I don’t get to binge-read this series like I did Draper’s previous reverse harem epic, but I’m enjoying it all the same. Esper is an intriguing character, and I appreciate the set-up of her being lost from her family line as a way for the audience to learn about the greater magical world through her eyes. However, the way she continues to belittle her appearance is aggravating, and I hope she gains some self-confidence soon.

I was initially worried that Esper’s relationship with Toma would replicate that between Gesa and Oisin, but all four characters are so different that it hasn’t happened. The vampire who blazes into Esper’s life breaks a lot of genre tropes as well, so I’m excited to see where all the relationships lead.

The greater meta-plot is full of all the mystery and action I could want. I laughed off the “cowboy vampire hunters” in the novella description, but it’s actually accurate and not played for laughs. This installment features a complete arc of action while also slipping in plenty of hints for future developments. I’ve already pre-ordered the next book.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.