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So, this was meant to go up yesterday, unfortunately I was dead and did not manage to be up for much longer than it took to drink some tea. On happier notes, I do have the review. This one’s thanks to the nice folks at First Second here’s Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869. Enjoy!

Castle in the Stars The Space Race of 1869 cover

In search of the fifth element, aether, Claire Dulac flew to the very edge of the stratosphere. She promised her son and her husband that she would return.  But she never did, her hot air balloon disappeared leaving no trace of her behind. A year passed. Her husband, Archibald, was certain she was lost forever, going on with his life as an engineer as best he could. Her son though, Seraphin is certain that there’s still hope. A letter summoning them to Bavaria offers hope, someone’s found her logbook, a king who wants to fly. But with hope comes danger, someone else in the castle is after the secret of aether powered flight.

I’m not a hundred percent sure of how I feel about Alex Alice’s Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869. It is beautifully illustrated and the story has a lot of potential, but then that potential feels a bit mishandled in a lot of spots. It really needed to be slowed down and expanded on to let things feel less rushed.

That’s actually my big issue with the story. There’s a lot of ground to cover here and not enough space for it to be covered in. We get the introduction, Claire takes off on her fateful voyage, Seraphim hasn’t moved past it and is obsessed with aether a year later, then the letter arrives. We get introduced to the main plot and the other two young characters, Hans and Sophie, and the villain. But then the villain’s plot is revealed and we sort of zip from that to the climax of the story and the lead in for the next book.

I feel like that’s definitely to the book’s detriment. The story was interesting and I would have liked to have seen more of pretty well everything from it. This applies especially to the intrigue plot and the parts with Seraphin and the other kids regarding the aether ship. I liked the characters and would have liked to see more of them, but they’re left as mostly sketches instead of being fully realized.

Again though, I feel like the hands down best part of the book is the art. It’s got a soft almost watercolor feel to it. What’s interesting to me is that the art can be either very emotive or super cartoony without either feeling out of place. This is fantastic and not something I’m entirely used to, but I like it and would like to see more art like this in the future.

So, I’m left a bit cool on the actual plot of the story but like the ideas and really like the art. This leaves me in an interesting place where I’m interested in knowing what happens in the next book, but if I miss it then I wouldn’t be too terribly bothered. I want to know the rest, but I’m also a bit concerned that it would feel rushed again. That’s leading me to give this one a three out of five. The story is alright, the ideas are interesting, the art is good, but Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 needs a little more.

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House Keeping 12/6/17

I missed my review last week. That wasn’t fun, but work happened and I wound up having to use my off days for chores and such. The fun of adulting.

So, review will be up tomorrow. That shouldn’t be a problem, I know I said that last week too though.

I did a little digging. The Ghostbusters comic hasn’t dropped yet, there were delays due to hurricanes. So it will either be out the 27th of this month or late next month. Either way I’m happy to have an idea when to expect it. Related to that, the entire five issue arc is currently scheduled to be collected in a trade paperback. Hopefully that means that more Answer the Call comics can be expected.

There’s also a couple new things with Too Much Monday. They’re running a special right now where if you sign up for a three month subscription they will send you a mug to go with your tea. A six month subscription will net you two mugs and, in addition to that, you’ll be able to get an extra $20 off with the code TMMSpecial20Off. Or you can always use the code Tympest to get 10% off your first box. December’s box is guaranteed by Christmas if you order by the 5th.

That should be it. I know I’m losing ground on my reviews again, but I’ll figure something out. If you enjoy what I’m doing here you can buy me a ko-fi or, better yet, leave a comment. Enjoy all!

House Keeping 11/29/17

So, things are going to be a little shaky for the next little bit. The holiday rush just hit at work and my hours jumped pretty seriously. I’ve gone from being off four days of the week to two, which puts me in a better situation financially but is going to leave me with not much time to accomplish things here. Things are going to putter on as best they can, but schedule slip may get worse than usual.

On to other things. I haven’t been able to get a hold of my copy of Ghostbusters: Answer the Call issue two yet. There was an incident, the box it was in got dropped, and I’m going to see if I can’t find a copy sometime this week. Failing that, the shop has it on re-order and I should be able to get a hold of it sometime soon.

The review may go live on Thursday again. I’ve got it partly written but keep circling around with what I’m saying. Not a big fan of when I do that

Beyond that, I’m working on some of the ideas I had from the Nanoshock review. So, that’s something I’m excited for. I’ve managed to beat my old high word count on NaNoWriMo, a whole 1500 words, out of 50,000. It’s improvement!

That’s about all. If you like what I’m doing here you can buy me a coffee or leave a comment.

Nanoshock

I’m back! This one’s given me a lot to chew on and I’m hoping to work on that in the near future. Courtesy of the awesome folks at Angry Robot, this is Nanoshock. Enjoy!

Nanoshock cover

Riko’s got no clue what she did wrong or what happened to her six months ago. She’s got no clue if she actually sold out Nanji like everyone says she did. Worse, that’s killed her cred and her reputation. With leads colder than diamond steel and nowhere to turn she’s going to have to break every rule she knows to get to the bottom of this. Riko’s in a tight spot. People are after her. Feel sorry for them.

K. C. Alexander’s Nanoshock is the follow up to Necrotech, a violent profane thrill ride of a book that I enjoyed quite a bit. Does it stand up to the previous book? Yes, very much yes. Nanoshock, being a second book, doesn’t have to take its time in the beginning to set up its world. This is very much to its benefit because it lets the story hit the ground running and flow a lot more naturally.

There’s this great sort of interplay of characters in this one. Riko’s not quite back with her old team, but some of them will work with her for Indigo’s sake. A new character, Muerte, plays off of Riko and the other Saints super well. She’s brightly cheerful, nearly playful, which helps lighten up the feel of the book. Indigo is still pretty dour, but we get to see this great dance of trust and distrust and friendship between him and Riko. Even Riko’s pet detective gets built into a more dynamic character. The character work here is awesome. While there are moments where Riko’s actions are impulsive to the point of actively hurting her chances at getting anywhere, those still kind of work. Riko isn’t really working at a hundred percent and has a habit of acting in a very shoot first, let someone else do the thinking way.

I am leaving Malik Reed out of the awesome character work. He isn’t poorly written, though I’m much less inclined to give him slack on his mistakes. He’s still very much my least favorite part of the story. This is a character who is set up as very in control of his world and his situation. He expects perfection from his people and obedience, both of which are things that he should have known better than to expect from Riko. He also seems to make a point of trying to keep Riko out of the loop while she’s working for him. That leads to what can feel like forced conflict between the two. Plus, I got tired of reading about how attractive he is.

Repetition is something of a mixed bag here. More often than not, it works really well to emphasize what’s going on with Riko’s emotions. She’s angry and scared and running on fumes. So a repetition of themes and phrases works really well to keep her human and to keep her actions in context. It can also get clunky though. Certain phrases get used that feel just a little too long for what’s going on. Referring to every “Tom, Dick, and Blow” works well in the context of keeping an eye out for trouble in a club, but less so in the middle of an active fight.

The action scenes were really well done, tense and drawn out where they needed to be and then fast and hard when that fit. The tense scenes contain chunks of character work. That play of feelings and expectations really works to feed into the situation without feeling over done. The scenes that are fast are razor sharp and hit like a punch to the gut. They feel dangerous, not just for side characters but also to Riko herself.

Nanoshock is violent and profane and super fun and I want more.  There’s a lot of stuff here that usually bothers me in books, but it works. Things are seeded very well and pay off in a way that’s super satisfying. Nanoshock gets a five out of five from me. If you can find it and Necrotech, read them.

So, I’m behind in a major way.

I’m having a serious hard time writing my review for Nanoshock. Every time I try I keep spinning out into talking about something semi-related but not actually a review of the book itself. There’s so much with it that I want to talk about and so much that I could say with this book in relations to other books I’ve reviewed in the last year. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve had a hard time writing a review because of how much I enjoyed a book. It’s exciting and I’m not entirely sure what to do with it. I actually want to write a whole lot more than just my review after having read Nanoshock, so that’s something for me to chew on a bit more.

That aside, we are headed into the holidays, so I’m a bit worried about getting more behind than I already am. Still working on that not being a problem, but working on something isn’t the finished thing. Which is, of course, something I’ve been struggling with quite a bit lately.

So, yeah, that’s it for now. I should have that review for you all this week. Should.

As always, comment if you have ideas or reactions and enjoy.

Guest Post: Lesley L. Smith

Hey all, not a lot to say here, but I’ve been looking forward to this. Enjoy!

Lesley L. Smith writes about her new science fiction novel Conservation of Luck:

 

I find being a writer is a long, and sometimes surprising, journey. When you start out on the path, you never know where you might end up. This is true for a career as a whole and for individual books. You also never know what you’ll learn along the way. Hey, this is also true for life! 🙂

 

In recent years, I’ve been fascinated by the mysteries and ideas associated with quantum physics and have drawn on them for inspiration.

 

My last novel, A Jack By Any Other Name, included a Faster-Than-Light drive that enabled Jack’s spaceship to travel across the universe in the blink of an eye. It was based on the spooky action-at-a-distance that Albert Einstein complained about when he discussed quantum physics. For fun, in Jack’s adventure some of these high improbabilities leak out of the spaceship and give him a sort of luck super power. As you can imagine this led to some interesting situations. It was so fun I thought it would be neat to explore this idea as the main premise of a book.

 

My new novel Conservation of Luck addresses the whole intriguing concept of luck. What exactly is luck? Is it chance? Fate? Some kind of force? Or is what we consider luck just coincidences? What if it could be transferred? What if it had to be conserved? It’s all very fascinating. I love addressing big-picture mysteries in a novel.

Once I decided on the premise, I had to decide on the main character. Who would have the most on the line in a book about luck? It was obvious: someone with a gambling problem. Imagine how difficult it would be to avoid gambling if you knew you would win…

 

When I read, I enjoy getting lost in the adventure. So, I try to write novels that are entertaining and engaging, with sympathetic characters in challenging situations. I like humor. I like romance. I like (spoiler alert) happy endings. So, I put all of that in my books.

Recently, I went to a workshop on author branding and we had to go through a bunch of exercises. My brand ended up being ‘Science Fiction with Heart.’ If you get a chance to check out Conservation of Luck, does that brand fit?

(Photo by  Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

Author Bio:

Lesley L. Smith has collected a plethora of degrees including a Ph.D. in Physics and a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. She has published seven science fiction novels including The Quantum Cop, A Jack By Any Other Name, and her latest, Conservation of Luck. Her short science fiction has been published in several venues including Analog Science Fiction and Fact. She is an active member of the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is also a founder and editor of the speculative fiction ezine Electric Spec.

She has had a variety of scientific jobs including investigating quarks, dark matter, extrasolar planets, clouds, atmospheric chemistry and global warming. She has worked for a variety of research institutions including the University of Kansas, Argonne National Laboratory, the Department of Energy, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NASA, and the University of Colorado.

 

conservationofluck_cover

 

Short Book Blurb: Conservation of Luck

 

For every good fortune, there’s an equal and opposite misfortune.

As a brilliant young computer scientist working on her master’s degree, Ella Hote doesn’t believe in luck. But when bizarre accidents, insane coincidences, and weird encounters with improbably handsome strangers start to happen all around her, even hardheaded Ella has to change her mind.

She comes to realize she’s inadvertently created a luck generating computer that can make even the longest of long shots pay off.

Unfortunately, for every stroke of good luck, someone else pays the price in bad luck.

Ultimately, when lives are on the line, how far will she go?

 

Website link: http://www.lesleylsmith.com

Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/author/lesleylsmith

House Keeping 11/14/17

As has become usual, I’m running a bit late this week. I do want to have my review up sometime tomorrow, probably tomorrow night but still. Realistically, it might wind up going up on Thursday.

This week’s book is one I’ve been looking forward to for close to a year, so that’s awesome. It’s the second in K. C. Alexander’s SINless series, Nanoshock.

I’ve also got a guest post going live on Friday courtesy of Lesley L. Smith, author of Conservation of Luck.

Immediate stuff aside, I also want to do something other than that one unboxing video with my you tube channel. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have much cross posting with that over here because the standard free WordPress account doesn’t support video. It’s a think to think on and probably won’t come up until past the new year. But I do want to do something with that just because jumping into a new medium kind of excites me.

I’m also still trying to work out the logistics of doing the Bargain Bin Comics reviews. It isn’t so much a problem of finding bargain or clearance priced comics as that most of them are either later volumes or just all from the same place. Again, this is a thing I’ll probably try some time after the new year, since that’ll give me a little more time to figure out where I’m going with this.

That’s about all I have for now. Maybe something about my glorious six hundred words of NaNoWriMo writing. But that’s a thing for later.

If you enjoy what I’m doing here, buy me a coffee or leave a comment.

I am so late posting this. So late. Like, I was planning on having this up Wednesday and then work was so much more tiring than usual in the lead up to the store renovation.  This one is courtesy of the author, Michael Okon, this is Monsterland. Enjoy!

Monsterland cover

With zombies, werewolves, and vampires Monsterland promises to be the scariest place on Earth. It might also be the perfect place for Wyatt Baldwin and his friends to finally solve their debate about which is the best monster. Even better, they’ll get a chance to see it all on opening night, with full VIP invites after Wyatt shared a burger with the owner of the park, Vincent Konrad. A park full of monsters, what could possibly go wrong?

Monsterland by Michael Okon reads very much like a first book. There are a lot of good ideas and the frame work is solid but then there are bits that move too quickly. It has some interesting characters and others that don’t quite make it. So, some things work some don’t. That’s every book, and I should clarify, so let’s clarify.

The story for Monsterland is kind of ambitious. We’re started with the werewolves and shown that they didn’t join Monsterland on their own, then we get introduced to our protagonist and the world. It stars a pattern in the story, there’s a monster chapter and then a protagonist chapter. That works really well for me to a point. There’s a weird jump from the monsters as sort of victims of the part and planning to escape to the monsters as monster antagonists. That happens without a lot of build up and feels pretty disjointed. Something similar happens with Wyatt and his friends, they go from super excited about going to the park to thinking it was a bad idea and questioning if it was actually a good thing. Similarly again, we get Vincent jumping from being presented as a force for good to throwing out massive bad guy signals. I would have liked much more build up on all of these things. A slow burn and build and then reveal it. As it stands, while the end isn’t a twist or anything, it also isn’t super satisfying and could have benefited from just a touch more work.

The characters similarly could have benefited from more work. As it stands, they’re more or less sketches of characters rather than being fully realized. Wyatt is interested in zombies and Jade, the cute girl from school, he’s super about Victor Konrad’s plan to save the world with this theme park. His friend Melvin is super into werewolves and messes up his turns of phrase. The other friend is always addressed by his full name and is super smart, he’s afraid of the girl who’s into him. Then there’s background characters, I would have liked a fair deal more with them. It feels like Mr. Okom had a few ideas of what he wanted to work with characters wise, but wasn’t a hundred percent on how he wanted to implement them in the story proper.

I’ve said a fair amount about this needing a touch more work. Thing is, the book is average as it stands, but it has a lot of solid ideas. I liked the one friend’s love interest, Keisha, she had some really interesting moments and I would have really liked to see her do more. Vincent as the villain could have been really good if he was a little more subtle, he just gets a little too cartoony at the end for my taste. The monsters revolting could be built up a little more, show the vampires trying to get in contact with the werewolves. It would have been a fair number of little things, but it could have taken the book from average to good.

That’s pretty well where I’m left with Monsterland, it isn’t bad and it was enjoyable, but it is fairly average. I would read Michael Okon’s next book, and think he’s going to keep improving as a writer. That said, I’m giving Monsterland a three out of five.

Guest Post: Michael Okon

Hey all, I’ve got a guest post for you today. I’ve got a review for this author’s book coming up Wednesday, so that should be fun. Any way, from the very cool Michael Okon here’s a bit about monsters and books. Enjoy!

My All-Time Favorite Monster

 

My all-time favorite monster is…is…is I actually have no idea. Choosing a favorite monster is like choosing children, you simply can’t do it.  When the spark of my book Monsterland came to me, I called my brother immediately and told him, “I’m going to write a story about a theme park with zombies.” He replied with a quick, “No.” He said, “You have to tell a story about a theme park with werewolves, vampires, AND zombies.” I started writing that night.

 

What I learned about writing books, specifically about monsters, is not limiting yourself to one type of monster to scare the audience. Werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Having the three most globally recognized monsters in the world, all on display at a massive theme park. What could possibly go wrong?

 

How would the story had turned out if I would have chosen one monster? I honestly don’t know. What would happen if Led Zeppelin only released one song on an album? The results probably would have been disastrous.

 

As of now, Monsterland 2 is scheduled for a May 26, 2018 release. I have three, actually four monsters in that one, with other monsters being alluded too.  As for Monsterland 3 which I just started, there are three monsters named just in the first three chapters alone. What happens after that? Well, there are going to be more. Many more monsters in this interesting universe I’m creating.

 

But…if I had to choose one monster, just one superior monster to terrorize us lowly citizens, I would choose The Invisible Man.  I’m incorporating The Invisible Man in an upcoming Monsterland novel. I say this because watching the original classic with Claude Rains…well…I was terrified.  A zombie? Just shoot it. A vampire? Shine a light. A werewolf? They come out once a month and will fall with one little measly silver bullet.

 

But The Invisible Man is scary. A madman you cannot see. I’ve seen every classic horror movie, Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Blob, but nothing stayed with me like The Invisible Man.  I guess that falls in line with ghosts, but again, a ghost can’t touch you? Right? Only the invisible man can. I believe when a monster cannot be seen, well, that’s the scariest type of monster I can think. It’s a primal thing, a monster always lurking and watching, and you have absolutely no idea. 

 

Well, Jaws is really scary too. And Pennywise the clown is too. And Leatherface from…oh, nevermind. I can’t choose a favorite.

Head Games

I’m cutting it a little close to the wire here. I’d driven to visit my folks and spent a fair amount of time on the road today. It was fun and my car is once again fully functional, plus I got to see their new kitten. So, a win all around. This book is a bit of an odd one for me, it’s not my usual genre at all, but it was worth giving a shot. Thanks to the nice folks at First Second, this is Head Games. Enjoy!

Head Games cover

Novelist Hector Lassiter thought his adventure days were behind him. At least, he thought that until an old acquaintance lures him into one last run. He’s found Pancho Villa’s skull and a buyer, he just needs someone to get it to them. Money in the bank, easy as easy can be. At least until others get wind of the skull. Feds, frat boys, and soldiers of fortune are on Hector’s tail and the only folks he can count on are himself, a poet, and a woman hard as nails and twice as beautiful.

So, the Head Games graphic novel is an adaptation of Craig McDonald’s debut novel of the same title. It’s content is more than a little bit of a surprise, given that I’m used to more kid friendly graphic novels from this publisher. That threw me for a bit of a loop. The book very much not my usual thing. The lead character is very much a man losing his place in the world and becoming more aware of it day by day. This might be his last big adventure and he knows it. He knows that the world is changing without him and that he can’t, or won’t, keep up.

That’s actually part of the problem with the book. The protagonist, Hector Lassiter, spends so much time looking back to his glory days early on in the story that, while I’m interested in those stories, I don’t really care what’s going on in the actual plot. The action is tied too much to Lassiter’s past and his adventures in his youth. That’s where most of the characters who are after the skull come from, they’re people he knew from his army days or folks who have been hired by those people. I would have liked for there to have been more characters who weren’t connected to him or, failing that, if the protagonist had been Bud, the poet side character. I could have also done without the second and third parts included, combined they’re about half the size of part one and they don’t really add much to the story proper.

This is the part where I admit that my problems with the book are probably more due to the nature of it being a graphic novel adaptation of a novel rather than an original comic. Some connective tissue and character details were probably cut to make it flow better. For what it is, the writing is pretty solid even as it’s not exactly my thing.

The art fits really well with the plot. It’s blocked out with a lot of heavy shadows and sparse color. The character design is also solid, the characters are distinct and the backgrounds are detailed without distracting from what’s going on.

At the end of the day, Head Games isn’t really my kind of story. There isn’t much of anything wrong with the writing, and very little that couldn’t be attributed to it being an adaptation. It’s a first book as well, so others in the series could easily have less of the looking backward. I would probably be willing to read one of them. So, given that, I give it a three out of five.