Category: sci-fi


Guest Post Hank Quense

Hey all, I’ve got a guest post for you today from Hank Quense, author of the Zaftan Troubles series of sci-fi/fantasy novels. Today, he’s provided us a totally non-fictional interview courtesy of Margaret Hammerhead and the Faux News Network. Enjoy!

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Faux News Network Interviews Author Hank Quense

 

My name is Marcia Hammerhead and I’m the literary reporter for FNN.  Once again, my boss insists that I interview a scribbler of fantasy and science fiction stories. My boss KNOWS that I prefer epic poetry and literary works and that I despise genre fiction.  But, here I am about to interview Hank Quense who has penned yet another novel despite the lack of success of his previous works and his apparent lack of talent.  Mr Quense, tell us what trash you are about to unleash on the unsuspecting reading public.

Hank Quense: Hi Martha. Thank you for the warm welcome.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha.

HQ: My new series, Zaftan Troubles, consists of seven ebooks and describes what happens when an alien explorer ship discovers Gundarland, a world populated by humans and fantasy creatures.  The zaftans are a vicious race who believe treachery and assassination are social skills.

MH: Good heavens!  You mixed science fiction and fantasy together?  Have you no shame?

HQ:  The two genres work well together.

MH: What’s the point of writing such a mishmash?  Are you indecisive to the point you can’t chose a single genre?

HQ: The point is entertainment and satire.  And the mixing of genres was a conscious decision, Margaret.

MH: Martha, not Margaret. Tell us about the characters?

HQ: In the first four books, the main characters are MacDrakin, a dwarf miner and Leslie Higginbottom, a constable.  The two have a budding relationship that is torn apart about the appearance of the aliens and their explorer robots.  The government orders Higginbottom to protect the robots while MacDrakin declares war against the robots and the aliens.

The next three books occur many years later when the Gundies (as they’re called) confront the zaftans in outer space.  The two main characters are Sam, an android with an organic brain and Klatze, a young zaftan naval officer who is determined to succeed using her ability rather than murder.

MH: What!  How can you write this nonsense?  Do you do drugs?  Booze? it is not possible to come up with this stuff without using some sort of stimulants.

HQ: Sorry, Marcia. I don’t do that stuff.  My stories come from unstimulated brain.

MH: This has to be some sort of anti-genius.  It should be declared illegal.  I suppose the novel uses the obsolete technique called plots?

HQ: It sure does.  The series has a number of plots and subplots.

MH: Did it ever occur to you to write stories about normal, human people, the kind of stories that comprise true literature.

HQ: Nope.  Sounds too boring.

MH: You said this series has seven ebooks in it.  I hope that’s the end of it.  I shudder to think that still another of your books will test our sanity.

HQ: Right now, Martha, Im working on books 8 through 10 for the Zaftan Troubles.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha. The very thought of you continuing this rubbish is giving me a headache.  I can’t stand any more of this genre trash.

HQ: Thanks for the great interview, Martha.  Good-bye.

MH: It’s Marcia.  Roll the wrap-up music.  I need a drink.  Where’s my bottle of merlot?

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Author bio: Hank Quense writes humorous and satiric scifi and fantasy stories. He also writes about fiction writing and self-publishing. He has published 18 books and 50 short stories along with a few dozen articles. He often lectures on fiction writing and publishing and has a series of guides covering the basics on each subject.
He and his wife, Pat, usually vacation in another galaxy or parallel universe. They also time travel occasionally when Hank is searching for new story ideas. To learn more, visit http://strangeworldspublishing.com/wp/.
Hank recently published Books 1 and 2 of his 7-part satirical fantasy series, the Zaftan Troubles, about an advanced alien species who steal resources from other worlds for profit. They’re available on Amazon:
Book 1: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F8352QC/  and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F883MW9  and the rest of the series is scheduled to publish later this year.
You can see the video trailer here: https://youtu.be/NHMJ_XRzrtI
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I had a hard time writing this one. It gets minorly spoilery, due in part to the official blurb itself . This one’s thanks to netGalley for providing me a copy for review. Here’s Sean Grigsby’s Daughters of Forgotten Light. Enjoy!

Daughters of Forgotten Light cover

Oubliette, prison city, population: forgotten. Unwanted. Worthless. The women society doesn’t want. It’s been Lena Horror’s home for the past ten years. A flimsy truce keeps everyone from killing each other. Keeps the gangs mostly in line. At least, until something unexpected arrives in the quarterly supply drop. Back on Earth, Senator Linda Dolfuse has been ordered to find an excuse to wipe the prisoners off of Oubliette to allow good, honest citizens of the United Continent of North America a chance at a better future away from the frozen Earth and its endless war. Seems like a smooth enough job until she sees something on the drone footage that shouldn’t be there, the baby she’d given up.

This is one of those books that I started reading ready to love it. The concept of a prison world ruled by motorcycle gangs where unwanted and misbehaving women are sent to be forgotten, that’s something that has a lot of potential. Unfortunately the writing just doesn’t stand up to the concept.  Similarly, the Earth side portions, where corrupt politicians live big while their constituents are often forced to sell their children to Oubliette or the massive unending war just to survive, could have been fascinating. That concept could have carried a book on its own if it had been done well. It just doesn’t. And then, of course, we have the mess with the baby.

The baby thing bothers me, in part because it could have been done so much better, but largely because it lands the book with a bunch of hardened prisoners who all want this helpless kid for what feels like no reason. Each gang is only allowed six members and, even with the treaty keeping outright murder from happening, none of them should be willing to give up one of those slots for something that’s such a handicap against the other two gangs. Of course this means that all three gang leaders want the kid, because reasons? I keep coming back to that. I don’t want to say that they all want the baby because women, but it feels an awful lot like that. The cannibals want her, the all black gang wants her, and Horror wants her. Horror wants the kid mind, not the Daughters as a whole. It also isn’t even like the baby was a secret test and the drone was sent to see how the prisoners would react to her, the drone came way later in the book and existed just long enough to force the two stories together.

The time line is super vague. Three months pass between our introductory supply drop and the one the drone shows up on. That’s three months for both Senator Dolfuse on Earth and the prisoners on Oubliette, with it being repeatedly mentioned that there is nothing to do on Oubliette except fighting or having sex. Three months where Horror and the Daughters of Forgotten Light seemingly do nothing except get their new member, Sarah, her motorcycle and her weapon. Then it’s like Horror remembers that the cannibals have that baby she wanted and she’d been itching to break the truce her mentor set up anyway, let’s go take the kid despite having not prepared for a fight at all.

The worst of this is, the three month gap was taken up with Senator Dolfuse’s adventures in ill defined guilt and getting the drone on the shipment. She’s probably the single character we spend the most time with, but she feels way less important than the others. The Earth bits would have probably served better as shorter segments that attempted less with the world building, as is, they just felt like they dragged on forever without showing anything for it. It could have been great to see Dolfuse checking in more actively with the Vice President, or having her interact with characters that are against shipping, showing her growing awareness and how she changes as a result. That could have been aces.

If we had seen any character development, that would have been great. Most of the women on Oubliette are terribly static, which isn’t helped by the vague timeline because there isn’t really anything for them to grow from. Horror we see being aggressive and murdery, but it feels empty because she’s just like that, either ready for violence or ignoring everything because baby. The new girl goes from being afraid of everything, including the other Daughters, to being jaded and nearly as violent as Horror in the space of something like three paragraphs. She gets what feels like way too much page space talking about how Oubliette has taught her not to trust anyone when we don’t see Oubliette teaching her not to trust. It doesn’t work, especially given that early on Sarah feels like she’s meant to be the reader’s view point into the workings of Oubliette, and we never really get that either.

Even leaving aside the character issues, the world building really isn’t there for me on this one either. There are so many things that feel like they need explanations that just get breezed by. Why are only men sent to the army? Why wasn’t an eye already being kept on Oubliette to make sure that they weren’t just dropping prisoners into an airless void? Why not provide something for the women on Oubliette to do with their lifetime of being stuck in the middle of nowhere? How can the UCNA afford to ship these women to space and fight this massive war, but then food is horribly scarce and the average citizen is in real trouble of needing to sell one of their kids to survive? It’s all very forced feeling, things need to happen so that the plot can exist, but they can’t be gone into deeply enough to feel solid because reasons. I really feels like the author was trying to fit two or three books worth of information and ideas into half a plot.

Daughters of Forgotten Light is a book that I really, really wanted to like. I was excited to start it despite the baby thing in the blurb. I mean, really, space motorcycle gangs and a plot from Earth to wipe them out, that falls right in my wheel house. It just didn’t have nearly enough substance to it, everything felt half done and under baked with a rush to the end that leaves neither a satisfying conclusion nor the possibility of a next time. There were a lot of cool ideas. But then they felt wasted when nothing came of them. I finished the book not caring if anything changed for the better, if anything changed at all. I feel like Sean Grigsby could be a really decent author with a couple more books under his belt and a better feel for character and flow. After this, I’m not likely to be there for it though. Daughters of Forgotten Light gets a one out of five.

Survive Blog Tour

Hey all, the house keeping post is going to be a bit postponed this week. Today, I’m happy to host my stop on the Survive blog tour and with it a guest post from the author, Stephen Llewelyn. He’s going to talk about one of his protagonists here, so I’ll give him the board. Enjoy!

Survive

Hi Lauren,

Thank you for your interest in my book.

Five things about Tim

There are three main protagonists in ‘Survive’, Captain James Douglas, Commander Jill Baines and Tim Norris.

I have chosen to write about Tim as he is a complete outsider; he is young, has no power or reputation but soon finds himself in a position of trust and importance well beyond his years.

Love of natural history and dinosaurs

Rather obvious this one. Tim and I share a wide-eyed wonder of how everything works, so from that perspective at least, I see some of myself in Tim.

Resilience

Starting at the beginning, Tim Norris is a sixteen year old school leaver. Orphaned at the age of two, he was fortunate enough to be adopted by a young couple, Drs Ted and Patricia Norris, both low earning scientists. Tim’s adoptive father was a metallurgist with a fascination for the history of life on Earth. He shared this passion closely with Tim for the next ten, fairly happy years. Unfortunately, Tim then lost the only father he had ever known to an industrial accident at the age of twelve. This heartbreaking disaster made the world a much darker and lonelier place for Tim and Patricia and because of it he becomes at once closer to his mother and more introverted. Eventually, Patricia, through hard work and dedication, wins a placement on the Mars Mission. Tim follows her career avidly, so that he can share fully in the life of the only person he has left. He encourages her to take the position, so that they can leave all the pain and overcrowding behind to be part of something vital and exciting. They leave Earth full of hope, but a terrorist attack directs their hopeful future into a terrifying past. During the journey back to Earth, Tim has a long heart to heart conversation with another teenager onboard named Rose. He explains how the loss of his parents and later, his adoptive father, have affected him. From this it is clear to see how and why someone so young could become pessimistic. However, Tim is not ruled by pessimism. Despite being poor and, it has to be said, unlucky with most of his parents, he knows he is blessed with his adoptive mum. Furthermore, it may well be a catastrophe which sends the USS New World back in time, but Tim wouldn’t have it any other way…

Intelligence and awkwardness

Tim has exceptional amounts of both, although new friends help him to slowly overcome the latter with varying levels of success. His brilliant mind becomes a resource aboard the New World as Tim spearheads a ‘Cretaceous Living’ educational programme to help people to adapt to their new reality. It is, of course, all too easy to build a protagonist who is brilliant at everything; Tim on the other hand, is not physically impressive or cool in any way. In fact, he is fairly hopeless in some respects, social awkwardness to name but one. Girls send him into a blushing panic and throughout the book he has to learn how to have friends because it’s all new to him. As for romance, I believe that any man who reads the appropriate passage within the book will be reminded of the first time he ever put his arm around a girl and, depending on how well it went, will either smile ruefully at the memory or put his head in a bucket! Tim’s lack of confidence is probably not helped by his new best friend, Woodsey; who has far too much. Aside from being accused of speaking like a textbook – textbooks being his only friends up to this point – Tim also has the misfortune of being spotted by Woodsey on both occasions where he realises that he likes a girl and just maybe one might like him too.

Courage

Tim’s poor start may have made him a little pessimistic and lacking in confidence but when it really matters he is most certainly no coward. Just speaking out in a room full of adults and very senior staff takes enormous courage for this young man. Tim had made a career out of being unnoticeable at school, and he finds it hard to push himself still. However, it just so happens that with the new reality the crew are thrown into, Tim’s knowledge and even opinions become very important to everyone. Although he feels and is very junior, when the ship is in peril just before the New World attempts to land on the old world, the very old world, Tim refuses to hide away from the action. He will not be separated from his mum, although who is looking after whom becomes a little blurry.

Humility

What has always been a hobby, albeit a passionate one, for Tim is now serious currency aboard the USS New World. As the only person with the slightest inkling about what the crew will face when/if they manage to land safely, Tim very quickly comes to the notice of the senior staff. Suddenly he is included in meetings and decision making processes beyond anything he could have dreamed of. Even his young contemporaries are genuinely interested in what he knows and keep up a constant barrage of questions, banter and playful insults. This new ‘rock stardom’ could easily turn a young lad’s head, but Tim has known so much loss in his young life that he remains grounded and enjoys his new standing with surprising humility and gratitude. However, he is a teenager and so with a little help from his new friends, he still manages to find trouble. For years it was just Tim and Patricia and they have a close and touching relationship; as with his adoptive father, she is the only mother he has ever known. This places her in an ideal position throughout the book to berate him for getting into trouble with Woodsey and to destroy his teenage world by attempting to proudly hold his hand when he tries to speak up in a meeting!

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Author Information

Originally from Dudley in the West Midlands, Stephen Llewelyn works in construction.  Years spent digging into the foundations of ancient buildings, steeped in a vivid sense of the past, inspired his research into palaeontology and, in turn, shaped his inventive science fiction trilogy.  Llewelyn lives with his wife and their four dogs in the mountains of Snowdonia, North Wales.  The cover design for Survive features a line drawing of a Giganotosaurus skull by Hannah Armstrong, a young artist who died in tragic circumstances; Llewelyn plans to donate a percentage of royalties from the sale of Survive to the charity, MIND, in Hannah’s memory.

Website: http://www.stephenllewelyn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.llewelyn.142

Fall Into Books 9/15

FIB-debut-author

So, this is one I kind of have to cheat on. There isn’t really a favorite book by a debut author I can think of just now, but I do have a debut novel that I’m really excited to read. It’s the relaunch of a series I grew up with so, even though I would usually avoid talking about stuff related to the original author due to her stance on fan fiction, I am super excited for this one and really want to see what her daughter is going to do with the books here and going forward.

Dragons Code

Check it out! New Dragon Riders of Pern novel coming out next month. This is the book that middle school me would have would have 404ed at the idea of getting to read early. Adult me is also more than ready to dig in.

This came out later than planned. This one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon cover

Bad Penny and the rest of the Implacable Machine are bored out of their minds. Going back to school after a break full of super villainy and fighting heroes both their own age and grown up will do that. So of course they jump at the chance to visit Jupiter and see things no human has before. No human except the ones who already live there. With a homemade space ship and the help of a giant spider the Implacable Machine will see everything from alien invaders to robot overlords and the colonies trapped between them. With any luck, they’ll be able to help the rebels and their new friend get their homes back and be on their way towards heroism.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon follows Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain pretty directly with the Implacable Machine trying to settle back into day to day school lives. It’s got a really strong start there, giving the reader a taste of how dull things are after Penny and company have gone toe to toe with some of the best of the best but then have to go back to being just kids. It gives the reader one of a number of good reasons why the team is so ready to take up Spider’s offer to see what lies beyond the asteroid belt first hand. But it also pulls back a little to anchor things back in the reality of the setting, which is good because the book goes way out there.

This one feels a lot slower than the previous book, largely due to the necessity of doing all the world building for the Puppeteers and the Jupiter colonies and, and, and. This is unfortunate because it slows the book down just enough that it makes it easy to put down. There are all these places being introduced and their rules and culture and it leads to things feeling a little flat. The Puppeteers are scary aliens that can take over people and force them to do whatever. One of the colonies is very steam punk flavored and people are constantly being told what to do by the automatons that functionally rule the place. It feels sketched out but not quite filled in.

There’s a similar problem with some of the characterization. The new friend character bounces between being totally cool with Penny’s powers and how they work and then freaked out about it and jealous over how her brothers and everyone else react to Penny’s power. It’s like a switch flips when Roberts felt the situation demanded it. It doesn’t tend to feel like it fits, like there should have been more build for it and more awareness on Penny’s part. The final boss of the novel has a similar issue, though I can’t really go into that without spoilers.

There are parts that are a ton of fun, especially early on before they reach the Jupiter colonies. The whole bit surrounding the Red Herring being built is a lot of fun. Plus the little bits of Penny and company in class and their classmates’ reactions to Penny’s power manifesting make for a couple of nice notes that what she’s got going on is out of the ordinary. I’m also interested in seeing how the workings of her power continue to develop, given the way Mourning Dove reacts to it and how much it seems to be capable of when given free reign. I’m really excited to see more of all that as the series continues.

As and over all thing, I enjoyed Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain more than Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. While both needed world building it flowed much better for me in the first book, likely due to being set in our world but with supers.  I would have liked to see more put into the new characters introduced, but I feel like at least a couple of them are going to show up again later, so it seems pretty reasonable that they would get more development then. Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon is nowhere near a bad book though and I am very much looking forward to reading the next one, so it gets a three out of five.

Late again. Sorry all, things have been sort of running in all directions and I feel like I can’t catch up. That aside, this is the first in a series that I’m going to be reviewing the entirety of thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here is Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents Im a Super Villan cover

Penelope Akk wants to be a hero like her parents. She knows her power will activate any day now and she’s more than ready to prove herself. When it hits like a lightning bolt of inspiration and leaves her with a new tool that is more than amazing, she’s on her way to greatness. At least, she thinks she is until a confrontation with a hero’s sidekick leaves her and her friends labeled villains. Turns out that no matter how much she wants to be a hero, Penny Akk is really good at being a super villain and her friends aren’t all too ready to talk her out of it. Might as well have fun while it lasts, right?

Richard Robert’s Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain is something of an odd duck of a novel. There’s this whole world built up with heroes and villains and powers. There were aliens that invaded awhile back, but no one’s seen them in forever. Then we have the protagonists sort of getting dropped into all of this. They’re all varying degrees of familiar with the world’s heroes and villains, Penny because of her parents and Clair and Ray due to being into the fandoms, but this is the first time they’re in the middle of it all. It’s odd but easy to go along with.

This book was a lot of fun in a way that I haven’t seen in a while. There’s this massive element of embraced silliness that comes with the whole super villain deal, largely because we’re seeing them as people interacting with, essentially, comrades rather than just antagonists. The little mistakes that Penny makes when telling the Machine to do certain things because she simply hadn’t thought of them are great. They’re a sort of growing pains for a villainous mastermind in training deal. The bits with Clair just goofing around in her bear suit or geeking out about various heroes and villains with Ray do a great job of keeping the tone light and fun.

The various villains that the team winds up rubbing shoulders with are likewise really entertaining. A special focus is given to the other mad scientists, who each have their own particular theme or type of tech that they specialize in, but it winds up being a bit like seeing all the members of this one club grouped up. They rib each other and joke around about their various inventions and how they work. There’s this fantastic character, Apparition, who I feel like I would read a book about on her own. Another character Lucyfar feels like she could also be a favorite of mine later on in the series. Plus, the villains take the protagonists seriously and treat them like they know what they’re doing. The heroes don’t, which feels a little weird all said.

There are a handful of places where it feels like the team winds up doing villainous things because the plot demands it rather than because it fits entirely with what’s going on with the characters. I also found myself wishing that more was done with Miss A, the sidekick who kicks off the Inscrutable Machine’s villainy, because she felt like she could have been such a fantastic antagonist for them. In addition to that, her whole plan to flush out the children of super villains that she’s convinced are at her school is terribly irresponsible and breaks with the idea of not making it personal that’s sort of threaded through a lot of the discussion of hero/villain dynamics. She’s pretty implicitly breaking the understood rules with that and I want to see something come of it.

That said, there’s time for something to come of it, and I’m interested in seeing what comes next. There’s a lot of promise to the world here and Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain gives really good bones for the series to come. It earns a four out of five and I’m going to be coming back to this series later on.

Guest Post: A.M.Bochnack

As mentioned earlier in the week, I’ve got a guest post for you all today from A. M. Bochnack. She’ll be talking about what lead her to writing Fortitude Rising. I rather enjoyed reading this and I hope you do as well. Enjoy!

The Lifeline of Writing

For me, writing is a vital lifeline. Without it, I would not survive. Without it, I would not exist. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a little girl. Long before I ever had a clue how to formulate a sentence or structure a book, I was imagining far off worlds and amazing characters that would show up at my doorstep any minute and save me from my reality.

By the time I hit middle school, I was writing poems and short stories. I wrote a new poem almost weekly, practicing my rhyming and letting my emotions lead me through each stanza. I made up new characters all the time and imagined where I would take them and what magical abilities they would possess.

And then something unspeakable happened. I listened to an adult. By this point, I was in high school and it was time to think about college. I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and, of course, I said an author. The same adult laughed at me and told me I had to reconsider. Aspiring authors were rarely successful, they said, and I would most likely starve for the rest of my life. I was devastated, and heart broken. Writing was all I ever thought about. I didn’t have anything else and I didn’t want to do anything else with my life.

Struggling for an answer to adulthood and college, my favorite teacher told me I excelled at science and encouraged me to pursue a career in science instead. So, I put away my pen and paper and headed down a new path.

For over twenty years I didn’t write a creative word. Nothing. Not a single story or poem. Instead I was a scientist and I told myself repeatedly that I did not have a creative bone in my body. Nope, it was all facts backed by data in my new life.

This held me over for a while. I was content working hard, making a name for myself in my field. I equally love science and the pursuit for knowledge. It was (or is, I should say) a great fit for me. But every time I finished reading a book, my days of dreaming up characters would seep to the surface of my mind and I would think about writing again. These characters nagged at me, forced me to think about them and create worlds for them to live in. I would make random notes to myself in the form of journal entries but that was the limit. I wasn’t creative, I couldn’t write. I was a scientist.

The more the characters nagged at me, the less content I was with my life and career. I tried to ignore them, but they were persistent. It took me several years before I finally decided to act on it. In early 2015, I bought a few books on how to structure a novel and my life began again. The thing is, nothing in life is easy. No career choice will result in an instant success. I didn’t wake up one day a successful scientist, I had to work at for over ten years before I achieved the level of success I was looking for. Some choices may take longer than others to achieve the same level of success as another, but success is always possible if you’re willing to do the work required.

I sometimes let myself wander down the dangerous path of what if’s. What if I never listened to that adult and I pursued writing instead of science? What if I had a degree in English literature instead of environmental sciences? What if… what if… what if… Would I have been a successful author a decade ago? These are dangerous questions that will never do me any good, so I must let it go.

The beautiful thing about life is, it’s never too late to try something new. As long as we’re breathing, we should be trying! I published my first novel, Fortitude Rising, earlier this year at the age of forty-three. Twenty years later than I planned on when I was a little girl. I could focus on the fact that it took me so long to do it, but I’m not. What’s important is that I finally allowed myself to be true to me and I did it!

If you too have been dreaming up characters and thinking you want to write a novel or short story, my advice to you is to stop thinking and start doing. I’m still a scientist, but I’m also a published author and it feels amazing! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And there’s a lot to be gained by following your dreams.

 

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Author Bio:

A.M. Bochnak is a dreamer. With her head in the clouds or her eyes turned to the stars, she spends countless hours imagining new adventures and far off worlds for which to travel. When she isn’t dreaming, she writes science fiction and fantasy with her focus on epic fantasies, apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. Fortitude Rising, a sci-fi dystopian fantasy, is her first published novel. She is an American author, born and raised in southern Ohio and now lives in Gainesville, Florida. www.ambochnak.com

 

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Debut Novel: Fortitude Rising, Volume One of the Magical Bond Series

Ebony Hunter has spent her entire life isolated on an island institution run by her father, Dr. Daniel Hunter. When Connor Vance and his group of outsiders are brought to the institution, they cause her to question everything her father has ever told her about the world. But who’s telling her the truth? Her father or the outsiders?

Just when she starts to open up to Connor Vance, he admits that he and his companions are on a mission to kill her and her life-long friends. Connor’s mission to kill her is halted when he realizes Ebony is a pawn, albeit a powerful pawn, in her father’s game. They must join forces and work together if they ever hope to escape the clutches of the true enemy, Dr. Hunter and Vivian Way, a political reformist.

To find the truth, and hopefully earn her freedom, Ebony must overcome her fears and embrace her magical powers. Her life depends on the trust of people she hardly knows as the battle for control of her powerful magic escalates between her and her father.

Through her journey of self-discovery, she finds friendship, love, and a strength she never knew she possessed. Everyone around her is taking sides in the struggle for power, and the lives of everyone she cares about are on the line as the tension rises in this sci-fi dystopian fantasy. Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DCF1XCP

Free Chocolate

Sorry about taking so long on this one. I had a lot to say but not a great way of saying any of it without spoiling the last third of the book badly. I feel like there’s a lot here that I want to flesh out elsewhere, since that would entail spoilers. In any case, this one’s courtesy of netGalley. Here’s Free Chocolate. Enjoy!

Free Chocolate cover

After the alien Krom made first contact Earth was left with one unique commodity, chocolate. Everyone in the galaxy adores the stuff and will do whatever it takes to get their hand equivalents on it. To protect itself Earth has closed its doors to the greater universe, no aliens allowed. In light of that and recent pirate attacks resulting in the accidental destruction of a civilian ship by and HGB pilot, culinary student Bodacious Benitez is summoned back to Earth to serve as the face of HGB, the Princess of Chocolate. Face of the company or not Bo has long disagreed with HGB’s methods and, with her Krom boyfriend’s help, is going to do everything she can to break HGB’s monopoly and bring chocolate to the universe.

I have a lot of thoughts on Amber Royer’s Free Chocolate. There was a lot of stuff that I feel like could have been fun and some stuff that I feel like needed more focus to work at all. More than anything, I feel like the book lacks focus. There are a number of places in Free Chocolate where it feels like Royer had three or four ideas for a book but not enough for any single one of them, so she kind of stitched them together. Things happen and don’t seem to have any consequences. There’s some stuff that gets talked about not at all, but then both Bo and the reader are expected to just roll with it. It feels disjointed.

A lot of this is down to how the book deals with its timeline. It takes ages for Bo to actually get into space and on the run from Tyson, the space cop, and then it seems like the action is constantly interrupted. There’s the corporate assassin who calls Bo repeatedly to remind her that there’s only so long until he has to hurt her family. There’s cooking for aliens while on the run and being terrified of said aliens. It slows things to a crawl and makes the book super easy to put down

There is also a linguistic thing that I feel slows Free Chocolate down as well, it also contributed to it being pretty easy to put down. There’s a number of alien languages mentioned as being spoken and a handful of words used when Bo doesn’t know them. It’s just sort of tagged and let go. But then Bo is a native Spanish speaker so, while I would expect some Spanish to be used, it’s done largely in a way that feels like the author is reminding the reader of that rather than as a natural part of how she talks. It’s this sort of immersion breaking thing that Bo never says but or head, it’s always pero or cabeza, or she’ll use a phrase and then immediately provide the translation. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that a lot of this happens in Bo’s internal monologue, so she winds up translating for an audience she shouldn’t be aware of. I feel like leaving the phrases without the extra translation could have worked well. Bo referring to Brill using various terms of endearment worked really well, I thought. It just sort of feels strange that we get more translating for the existent Earth language than the handful of alien languages.

All of that boils down to it being kind of hard to care about the characters and what’s happening to them. Bo is on the run from a massive corporation with an assassin threatening her family and a venomous space cop on her tail. She’s stuck surrounded by aliens that could easily eat her if she messes up while her boyfriend may have been playing her this whole time. All of that, with all the interruptions and characters dropping in and out in an attempt to keep the drama level high, and I really just could have cared less. Like, the pilot who’s accident kicked off the plot, he’s given this level of importance within Bo’s story that is usually saved for major side characters, love interests or best friends. But after she leaves Earth, he takes a background spot for the vast majority of the story. This is the guy she’s essentially willing to trade her life for, they knew each other for two or three days, tops. Brill, the alien boyfriend, swaps between being super loving and sketchy to no end. It’s like the story couldn’t make up its mind about if he was one of the antagonists, just using Bo to get a hold of the cacao beans, or if he legitimately cares about her and is doing something at least sort of heroic. That leaves the reader to decide about him right up until the end, but then there’s this attempt at explaining his behavior in context of Krom society, but he had not wanted to talk to Bo about Krom society so neither she nor the reader knows anything about it until then. It just doesn’t work for me. I’d have liked to have seen more of the space cop, especially the post Bo stowing away version of him, and Chestla, the cat girl TA, though. They were pretty entertaining.

The galley crew on the Zantite ship were also interesting and I found myself enjoying the cooking segments. Talking about cooking and food were the parts where Royer’s writing shines best. If this had been more of a science fiction cozy mystery thing and focused more on the food and cooking I think it could have worked better, those scenes are just that enjoyable.

That’s where I land on Free Chocolate I think. There are a lot of first novel issues here, largely in the character work and how scattered the overall plot can feel. There are the bones of something good here, but it exists in the small moments where Bo is allowed to be a chef and interact with other characters on that level. I could see Royer handling the grander scale, galactic conflict stuff after she’s written more fiction. That said, this is a book that I found incredibly easy to put down in favor of doing any number of other things. So, I’m giving Free Chocolate a two out of five with the note that, while I’m not likely to read the inevitable sequel, I might check out another one of Royer’s books later on in her writing career.

I’m later than I meant to be. After spending the first half of the week stressing out and not getting anything done I kind of crashed yesterday and got even more nothing done. I also hit PM instead of AM scheduling it, which it A+. But I’m back now, so it’s all good. This one is thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. This is Sarah Madsen’s Weaver’s Folly. Enjoy!

Weavers Folly cover

A run gone bad leaves elven thief Alyssa D’Yaragen, Lysistrata when she’s on a run, with a fantastic opportunity. All she has to do is work with the guy who made the last run go bad for her and steal some data from a company. A super high profile mega corporation , Americorp, whose security is guaranteed to give both of them more than a run for their money, but still. The pay and challenge are way too good to pass up. Complicating things somewhat her ex, Tristan, shows up begging forgiveness and offering a too good to be true opportunity for information gathering. More complicated even than a cheating ex are the sparks that fly when she meets gorgeous Seraphina Dubhan, feelings and all that. When she becomes the target of magical attacks any other concerns have to take a back seat to keeping her friends out of the cross fire and surviving. Surviving and, of course, getting the Americorp job done.

I initially found myself comparing Sarah Madsen’s Weaver’s Folly to a number of things, mostly Shadowrun. The whole protagonist is a highly specialized thief in a world with both magic and cyber punk style tech is what does it I think. Magic and technology not working together is also a similarity, but I feel like that is a sort of ground rule thing. You don’t want to give a character supercharged magic powers and a cybernetic body to keep them from getting worn out using them, so it’s a functional limiter in the world of the story.

I like that a lot actually. It separates the main character from a near necessary set of tools and forces her to rely on other characters, particularly Logan.  It also gives her an edge that most other characters simply can’t access while forcing her to keep it a secret. I feel like more weight could be given to the secrecy aspect later in the series, but it does make a degree of sense. I feel like this would go hand in hand with more focus being brought in on the elven aspect of the magic, or the elven aspect of Alyssa.

The characters interest me more than the magic though. There are a few places where the interactions are a bit stiff, but most of those feel like they’re meant to be a little awkward. I like most of the characters and enjoyed seeing Alyssa and Logan working together. I wanted to see more of Alyssa’s roommate and more of Seraphina, the mysterious woman Alyssa winds up crushing on. Alyssa herself has an interesting thing going on with regard to where she belongs between Arcadia and Atlanta. She has people she cares about in both places and both places are part of her. It was interesting to see her think on that some.

Weaver’s Folly feels like a first book in a couple of ways. This is largely due to some clunky exposition early on, a couple of things get explained in a block immediately upon being brought up rather than later where they would have flowed better. The bit with light elves, like Alyssa, and dark elves historically hating each other was a particularly jarring example. I would have liked to have seen more on that throughout, since it seems like it should be important in later books.

That kind of ties into my other issue, there’s this prophecy early on that comes back up a couple of times and it feels like it should tie really heavily into one of the antagonists. It feels like it should but the support for that connection isn’t there, just boom here’s an antagonist. This was really frustrating for me for a lot of reasons, but a lot of it boils down to looking back and seeing places where foreshadowing might have been attempted but wasn’t done well enough or consistently enough to add up to anything. It wound up feeling like it had been shoved in at the end to lead into the next book.

The thing at the end affected my reading of the book more than anything else. Stumbles are an expected thing in the first book in a series. But I flat don’t like it when the end of a book feels like the prologue to the next. That said, there’s enough that Madsen did well in Weaver’s Folly that I was already planning on reading the next one when it comes out. I liked her characters and would have liked to have seen more of them. The separation between cyber punk Atlanta and deeply magical Arcadia is fascinating to me. I’m curious about the specifics of how magic works here. The whole of the book leaves me wanting more and for that, Weaver’s Folly gets a four out of five.

This one was difficult. I try to avoid spoiling the books I review, but then this one had a basic enough plot that there wasn’t a ton to dig into. I had fun with it though. This is another one from First Second books, Mike Lawrence’s Star Scouts: The League of Lasers. Enjoy!

Star Scouts The League of Lasers cover

During a routine troop meeting Avani receives an invitation to join the Star Scouts’ elite secret society, the League of Lasers. It’s the chance of a life time and all she has to do to join them is survive a minor initiation challenge. It wouldn’t be a big deal if she was just trapped on a planet full of hostile frog aliens with no breathable air and dwindling supplies, but the worst possible thing had to happen and land her stranded with her worst enemy, Pam. How will she make it a full week?

I missed the first volume of Mike Lawrence’s Star Scouts, having read The League of Lasers I feel like that is something of an over site. This one does mostly stand alone though, so not having read the first one winds up being mostly a matter of not being familiar with characters instead of missing big chunks of plot or anything of that nature. Plus, I had a ton of fun with reading it anyway.

Let’s start from there. This was a really fun graphic novel that is, at its core, about teamwork and building friendships past misunderstandings. It does that by throwing the two leads in a situation that neither of them are individually able to deal with and letting the emergency situation force them to team up. This is one of those plots that crop of fairly regularly, but I’m a fan of it and enjoy reading it when I come across it. That aside, it’s also a really nifty adventure on an alien world.

The world itself is familiar with forests and mountains and bodies of water, familiar, but just different enough. The fauna is largely big and threatening, because there needs to be an outside threat for our protagonists to face, but they’re also notably alien. That’s actually a pretty big thing with the character design, the aliens look alien. Some of them have more human features or features like earth animals, but all of them have things that make them notably non-human. That’s something that I really enjoyed.

The story itself gives us Avani and Pam having to survive on a world with air one can’t breathe and dwindling supplies. The technologically developed native species is hostile to them, but largely out of fear. I do admit that the turnaround in Avani and Pam’s behavior towards each other feels a little fast, but that can easily be chalked up to the graphic novel being short. They have a number of scenes that sort of fast track them from enemies to teammates and, while quick, they do their job and the two working together is believable and fun. The side plot, with Avani’s Star Scouts troop similarly deals with characters being forced to work together and emphasizes the main plot well.

I am not the target audience for the Star Scouts books, which throws my opinion on this off a bit. The big thing with The League of Lasers is that I had fun with it. It’s a cute sci-fi adventure comic with nifty character designs and a fun story. I would review the next one given the chance. Likewise, if Lawrence ever wrote a sci-fi YA novel I would be tempted to check it out. So, I’m giving it a five out of five.