Archive for December, 2017


House Keeping 12/22/17

Hey all, no review this week. I didn’t get the book finished so, that’s fun. I’ll have it up next week.

Nothing big is coming up until the new year. I’m going to take the time between then and now to try and get things prepared.

Happy holidays!

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Guest Post: Pete Likins

Hey all, not a ton to say here. I’ve been meaning to host another guest post and was lucky enough to be approached with the opportunity for this one. Enjoy!

After a long and fulfilling career in such serious jobs as spacecraft engineer, college professor, and university president, I found pure joy in writing the whimsical murder mystery ACADEMIC AFFAIRS:  A Poisoned Apple.

I had published other books previously:  three engineering textbooks, a family memoir and a literary novel, each book a satisfying achievement that required real intellectual labor, but ACADEMIC AFFAIRS was just fun to write.  I’m told that it’s also fun to read!

Most of the plot twists and many of the characters in ACADEMIC AFFAIRS came to me in my swimming pool.  If I didn’t let my mind pursue such fantasies, my morning hour in the pool would be mindless exercise.

In sharp contrast, every other publication began as a serious effort, each uniquely motivated.  Every book began as something else and somehow a real book emerged.

Although every book is a different experience for me, I have always enjoyed the act of writing.  Probably the underlying pleasure is reading, which has enriched my life since childhood. In the sixth grade I was taken under the wing of the school librarian, to whom I dedicated my first novel.  She guided me through the classics before high school brought sports and the girl I married sixty-two years ago.

As my academic interests turned to science and engineering my reading narrowed accordingly, as did my writing when Stanford and MIT led me to faculty life at UCLA, where teaching projects led to an undergraduate textbook, two advanced treatises on spacecraft dynamics and fifty technical papers.  As my faculty life evolved into roles as dean, provost and (twice) university president I simply had no time to luxuriate in the pleasures of creative writing.  My family memoir and two novels were written only after my retirement at age seventy.

The memoir began as a love letter to my wife of then fifty years, a journal of some fifty pages.  Only after the Obama election did we decide that our six adopted children, black, white and brown, had a story for the world to hear.  We called it A NEW AMERICAN FAMILY:  A Love Story.   The response was gratifying, as reflected in fifty opportunities to talk to interested assemblies or television audiences about the changes in American society that are so visible in our family.

In my mid-seventies, I began to wonder if, as an old spacecraft engineer, professor and academic administrator, I had the creative capacity required to write a serious novel.  I wanted to challenge myself in my retirement to do something different and difficult, with no assurance of success.  I worked hard to write COYOTE SPEAKS:  Cross Country Run, a novel that brought me great personal satisfaction.  I felt that I had done my best and would never write another novel.

Then, with no serious intentions, I found myself playing with characters and stories during my morning swim, as I confessed above.  I had no plans to write another novel, but this was just too much fun to stop.  I couldn’t resist the birth of ACADEMIC AFFAIRS:  A Poisoned Apple.

Academic_Affairs_Cover

Author Bio:

Perhaps an unlikely author of a whimsical murder mystery novel, Peter Likins is President Emeritus of the University of Arizona, former president of Lehigh University and, while at Columbia University, first dean of engineering and then provost or executive vice president for academic affairs (a title that led to the title of his most recent novel!) Now happily retired in Tucson, Arizona with his best friend and wife of more than sixty years, he has free time to write as his heart desires.

Peter Likins - Author photo

One Was Lost

So, this turned out better than I’d hoped. This was one I’d picked up because it sounded interesting and a co-worker had mentioned enjoying it. I figured, “thriller, cool” and ran with it. So this is One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards. Enjoy!

One Was Lost cover

Sera’s school requires its students to complete a Senior Life Experience Mission before they graduate. A big field trip that takes them some place new and away from their comfort zones. No problem, it’s a camping trip in the rain. Until it isn’t. Sera finds herself trapped with three other students and their very drugged teacher, a killer stalking the woods after them, and mysterious words lovingly written on their arms. The words are clues, maybe, maybe keys to their escape or a judgment. They’ll have to figure out what it all means if they want to survive.

Natalie D. Richards’ One Was Lost is a solid thriller in many ways. In many ways it also falls into standard teen novel pitfalls that damage the flow of the story. This leaves the book in a strange place writing wise, which is interesting for me. It has fantastic bones and a lot of ideas that I would love to see more of, but then tends to side track away from those ideas where it counts.

The biggest pull for a thriller is the characters. Who are they? How does the situation affect them and how they view each other? So, character is important. There is a fair amount of good character work here. Unfortunately that character work gets overshadowed by the romance fairly often. I got really tired of Sera’s whole circular deal with how attracted she is to Lucas and how she doesn’t want to become her mother. It took up a lot of page space compared to Emily and Jude, the other half of the group being hunted.

I wanted to see so much more of Emily and Jude. To find out more about what made them Damaged and Deceptive respectively, and see how they started working better with our lead pair. I feel like that and the killer threat should have been the core of the story. Here are these kids, they’ve each been labeled by the killer in the woods, why? What’s the game here? How is the killer making this work, leading them through the woods and sneaking around so much? More build on any or all of those would have been great and done a lot for the plot.

Because the plot is sort of scattered, the killer seems to both have a specific timeline for their plot and is totally willing to just let the kids do whatever. It almost feels a bit like a Joker plot, everything the kids do plays into the killer’s plans somehow, but there shouldn’t have been a way for everything to work without the killer getting caught. This leads to a point where the red herring makes a lot more sense throughout the book than the actual killer. And that feels like a missed mark in the writing, where I feel like removing the red herring and letting the killer be this dangerous unknown could have been fantastic, especially if we had gotten more about some of the scary stories told on one of the earlier nights. Have more work put into the foreshadowing for the big reveal.

That’s where I land with a lot of One Was Lost, more work would have made the book so much better. It has good bones, solid ideas, and the potential for good characters. Then there are also points where it seems determined not to live up to any of its potential, the romance is an example of this. It’s frustrating like that. I did like the book and I would read more of Richards’ stuff in the future, but I would probably see what other people said first. I’m giving One Was Lost a three out of five.

House Keeping: 12/15/17

So, I feel vaguely undead. It’s super fun, totally.

No review so far this week. With luck, I’ll have one finished for you all tomorrow night.

I have a plan for what I want to have a review of next week, just as a matter of it fits the season. Also, it’s one of my favorite books to read this time of year.

Much like the last couple reviews, the article kind of things I’m wanting to write are still in the works. I have a lot of things I need to sort through on those and not a ton of time for sorting. There’s a couple of things I’ve got blocked out at the moment, so that’s a start at least.

Today is the last day to get the December Too Much Monday box guaranteed by Christmas, if any of you were looking at doing that for gifts. It’s available through this link and, as always, the code Tympest will get you 10% off.

And, of course, if you like what I’m doing here, leave a comment below or you can buy me a ko-fi and help fuel my poor caffeine ravaged brain meats. Enjoy!

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.

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!