Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Spell Caster, by Clara Coulson

After discovering a startling secret about his own history, Cal’s been forced to split his time between honing new skills and healing old wounds. So when what appears to be a routine supernatural murder drags him out of the DSI office and onto the streets once again, Cal is initially overjoyed at the prospect of returning to some sense of “normal.” His hopes are dashed, however, when the seemingly simple crime suddenly morphs into a violent murder spree that leaves bloody bodies scattered across Aurora. With scant clues to the perpetrator’s motives and identity, Cal and his teammates find themselves in a race against time to stop a magic practitioner hellbent on killing anyone related to a man that everyone at DSI was hoping they’d be allowed to forget. But in the supernatural community, old wounds always reopen and old enemies always rear their heads again in the ugliest of ways. And while Cal now has more power at his disposal than ever before, the adversary pitted against him this time around may just be unstoppable.

I continue to enjoy Clara Coulson’s “City of Crows” series. After the events in Day Killer, Cal has to be careful. Revelations could mean the end of the line for Cal Kinsey. Zombies are just the start of Spell Caster. Cal reunites with an old friend, but in a world subject to Fae whim and politics, who can be trusted?

Can Cal stay out of the Emberverse for once? The Methuselah Group, The Black Knights, and the High Fae Court continue to be the bane of Cal’s existence. You start to feel sorry for the guy. When will Cal get a break?

Spell Casteris another action-packed tale with twisty turns and mysterious magician machinations. Just like the five books before it, Spell Casteris fast-paced with realistic characters with a diverse cast that lifts the veil to our own world. I look forward to Dawn Slayernext year. Five stars for Spell Caster.

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites. In the publishing sphere, Clara is currently occupied with the City of Crows urban fantasy series, and its companion series, Lark Nation.

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Wireless, by Greg Dragon

Waking up in a brothel with no recollection of previous events, Tricia, an android, is on a desperate quest to find her true creators. Trapped in the hands of gangsters and slavers, she’s done being abused and manipulated by the men of this world. But what she discovers after regaining her memory is more terrorizing than she ever realized. Now, it’s up to a robot with a conscience to carry out an impossible mission. Will Tricia prevail or is her fate already sealed?

Those that follow my haphazard book blog know that I like Greg Dragon. I find his writing to be excellent, and I’ll read anything that he puts out. I asked him for a review copy of Wireless, and he acquiesced.

I’m not sure if Wireless is the final book in the “Wired for Love” series, if so, it has been an exciting series to read. The ending is quite satisfying, and if I must bid the series farewell, it’ll be with a sense of completion. This series, plus Greg’s futuristic detective series, “The Synth Crisis,” offer an imaginative view of a possible future.

Not quite dystopian, not quite mystery, and not quite post-apocalyptic, the “Wired for Love” series blends all these elements, while focusing on human interactions, be they with synths or other humans. We cheer for Tricia when she succeeds, and cry when she fails. The series has something to say on the nature of being a person, discrimination, the dangers of an overreaching government, and the corruption of corporations and wealth.

As is the rest of the series, Wireless is must read, and like everything I’ve read by Greg Dragon, highly recommended.

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Greg Dragon has been a creative writer for several years, and has authored on topics of relationship, finance, physical fitness and more through different sources of media. In particular, his online magazine has been a source of much pragmatic information, which has been helpful to many. As a result, his work continues to grow with a large and loyal fan base.

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Black Chamber, by S. M. Stirling

1916. The Great War rages overseas, and the whole of Europe, Africa, and western Asia is falling to the Central Powers. To win a war that must be won, Teddy Roosevelt, once again the American president, turns to his top secret Black Chamber organization–and its cunning and deadly spy, Luz O’Malley Aróstegui. On a transatlantic airship voyage, Luz poses as an anti-American Mexican revolutionary to get close–very close–to a German agent code-named Imperial Sword. She’ll need every skill at her disposal to get him to trust her and lead her deep into enemy territory. In the mountains of Saxony, concealed from allied eyes, the German Reich’s plans for keeping the U.S. from entering the conflict are revealed: the deployment of a new diabolical weapon upon the shores of America…

I’ve always been a fan of speculative fiction. Behind Harry Turtledove, S. M. Stirling is my second favorite alternate history author. Black Chamber features a strong female protagonist in a World War I setting. Strong women in this era are fun to read, because although we know that these women had to exist in real life, there just aren’t a lot of stories about them.

S. M. Stirling is known for series without end, and I’ve already requested the next book in the Tales of the Black Chamber series on NetGalley. As I’ve come to expect with this author, the tale is full of adventure and there was obviously a lot of research for the telling of this gripping tale. Four starts, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one in 2019.

Stephen Michael Stirling is a French-born Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author. Stirling is probably best known for his Draka series of alternate history novels and the more recent time travel/alternate history Nantucket series and Emberverse series.

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http://www.smstirling.com/


Sugar Spells, by Lola Dodge

After her run-in with a jealous warlock, apprentice baker Anise Wise can’t wait to get back the kitchen where she belongs. But thanks to her brush with death, the land of the living isn’t all cupcakes and marshmallows. Anise’s magical mojo is way out of whack and her evolving powers are stirring up trouble. As the town buzzes with news that Anise can bake deathly spells, unsavory characters start lining up for a taste. They’ll stop at nothing for the chance to use Anise and her witchcraft to further their own plots. She plans to hole up researching magic recipes until the attention dies down, but then she discovers the horrifying terms of her bodyguard’s contract. Wynn has saved her life so many times, she can’t leave him trapped. But doing the right thing will mean risking death or worse—being cast out of her dream job.

I’ve yet to read something by Lola Dodge that I haven’t liked, and Sugar Spellsis no exception. Although, I wonder why the names of the first two books aren’t swapped. I think that the titles describe each book better. Anyway, Anise continues in the employ of her great aunt, Agatha, but things are amiss, and well, Anise might never be the same again…

Like Deadly Sweet,Sugar Spells contains strong female characters, while allowing vulnerability that male protagonists are regularly not allowed to show in fiction. I didn’t groan at the mistakes Anise made in this second book. Unlike some series protagonists, Anise actually learns from her mistakes, and doesn’t repeat them over and over again.

Like book one, I requested this one from NetGalley, and my thoughts from my review of book one continue in regard to sexism and misandry, and the overall socio-anthropological view of the characters within the pages.

It’ll come as no surprise that I enjoyed Sugar Spells, and like its predecessor, I read the story as fast as I could pour the words into my brain. Even though the title just reminds me of the older brother in The Goldbergs, I look forward to reading Wicked Tastyin first quarter 2019. Four stars for Sugar Spells, and you should totally read these books.

Lola-Dodge

Lola Dodge is nomadic and has lived in New Zealand, France, the Czech Republic, and Taiwan. Her current base is Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she spends her days eating excessive amounts of coconut and trying to avoid heat stroke. She grew up in Upstate NY (Salt potatoes! Apple cider donuts!), got a degree in English Lit and German at Stonehill College, and an MFA in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. She doesn’t like bacon, coffee, beer, the sun, or fireworks. Instead, give her tea, vodka drinks, air-conditioning, and anything sweet. She’s a proud part of the writing roster at Ink Monster publishing, where she collaborates on the Shadow Ravens and Alpha Girls series. Her other fiction is represented by Rebecca Strauss at DiFiore and Company Literary Agency. Some days she hates writing and some days she loves it, but she can’t imagine doing anything else (even though she works at the pace of a sloth on sleeping pills.)

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Plains of Exodus, by Robert J. Burnett

Mankind’s first contact with an extraterrestrial species didn’t exactly go well. The inadvertent destruction of the Earth saw a call go out to the vast and ancient empire for help. Despite the quick response to this plea for aid, the remnants of humanity find themselves refugees in an overcrowded galaxy and at the mercy of an empire whose existence predates mankind’s own existence. Unwanted and unwelcome, humanity languishes in a dozen massive colony ships around an energy poor star. As a young smuggler, Jonah Mctier is one of those fortunate few who has access to this millennial old realm, and it is he who after fleeing a triad of imperial cruisers, discovers the answer to mankind’s dilemma. In desperation Jonah finds refuge in a parsecs deep dust cloud where he discovers not only a habitable and empty planetary system but one of the most sought after resources in the Milky Way a spatial conduit. Except this is no ordinary conduit. Exploitation of this unique and unknown type of spatial gateway offers an alternative to the slow but inevitable descent into extinction for the children of Adam. Key to this bright future is the need to keep their phenomenal find a secret from the resource hungry empire who would take this discovery for themselves and themselves alone. To complicate matter, Jonah discovers that there is more than one of these gateways, and for humanity to be successful in their question mankind must hold and eventually destroy all of these rare portals.

I really liked Plains of Exodus, by Robert J. Burnett. It’s not without a quibble or two, but I just had to keep reading it all the way to the end. (It still took me three days to read – it’s long!) I guess I’ll start with what I didn’t like about the book. The author introduced a major female character by her physical attributes. Curves, boobs, hair – standard sci-fi stuff for twenty years ago. It was really only the introduction, and the character is pretty bad-ass, but the description was a turn off for me. The other quibble was that the book formatting was hella odd. The chapters seemed to have scene breaks that had their own numbers? Hopefully it was because I was reading a pre-release version from NetGalley.

Now, on to the good stuff. Plains of Exodusis a straight up popcorn sci-fi. No deep political machinations, no heavy-handed social or religious subtext. Just a group of humans versus an overpopulated universe after tragedy destroyed the Earth. The entire book is an exciting read, and this would make an excellent miniseries. (They did it with Altered Carbon, and The Expanse, so this totally could be one too.) I can’t wait for a sequel. You hear me, Robert? I want a sequel. Five stars, and a must read.

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What Gods Incite, by Clara Coulson

A month after the explosive end of his mission to the Divide, Vincent Whelan is spinning his wheels. He’s struggling to rebuild his business, frustrated at his position as Tom Tildrum’s “minion,” and uneasy about the dangers the near future will bring. So when a local spots a zombie prowling around one of Kinsale’s biggest factories, Vince takes extra precautions before he goes hunting for a necromancer in the dregs of his beleaguered city. Unfortunately for Vince, a straightforward case quickly morphs into a balancing act, when a familiar face pops in to drop a dangerous new quest on his head: Abarta has stolen a powerful tool from Manannán mac Lir, and to get it back, Vince will have to venture into the Otherworld yet again. With his allies split on two fronts, and threats rising on both sides, Vince finds himself facing the most perilous trial of his entire life: the battle to preserve his own humanity.

It really wasn’t until book three that I’m starting to like Vince. It’s not that I disliked him or anything in the first two books, but he was the reluctant hero before – almost a curmudgeon before his time. In What Gods Incite, he starts to become the hero we all knew that he’d be. More shenanigans ensue when Vince’s old friend, Rian, appears at just the right time to bail our hero out, and lend his skills to the fight against perennial villain Abarta. But as usual when fae magic is involved, not everyone is who they claim to be, so Vince, Rian, Odette and Saoirse need to watch each other’s back as they split into teams to confront multiple threats. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, and What Gods Inciteis another five star read.

Therin-Knite

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites.

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Relic, by Alan Dean Foster

Once Homo sapiens reigned supreme, spreading from star system to star system in an empire that encountered no alien life and thus knew no enemy . . . save itself. As had happened many times before, the basest, most primal human instincts rose up, only this time armed with the advanced scientific knowledge to create a genetically engineered smart virus that quickly wiped out humanity to the last man. That man is Ruslan, the sole known surviving human being in the universe. Rescued from the charnel house of his home planet by the Myssari—an intelligent alien race—Ruslan spends his days as something of a cross between a research subject and a zoo attraction. Though the Myssari are determined to resurrect the human race, using Ruslan’s genetic material, all he wants for himself and his species is oblivion. But then the Myssari make Ruslan an extraordinary offer: In exchange for his cooperation, they will do everything in their considerable power to find the lost home world of his species—an all-but-mythical place called Earth—and, perhaps, another living human. Thus begins an epic journey of adventure, danger, heartbreak, and hope, as Ruslan sets out in search of a place that may no longer exist—drawn by the slimmest yet most enduring hope.

At times predictable, and sometimes confounding, Alan Dean Foster is always a solid read. Alan is a known quantity with his writing, and Relic is just what you’d expect from him. Some authors, after decades of writing, will rest on their laurels, and churn out formulaic tomes to keep their existing audience coming back for more and more. Alan decides to write a story that while not exactly unique, does get the imagination going.

A dislikable protagonist is nothing new, and Ruslan certainly frustrates the reader with his antics, but there is a sad quality to the character that I can’t help but like. I can imagine what would be going through the mind of the last human ever, or how he would react to an extraterrestrial civilization that is so alien than we are.

That’s another interesting aspect of Relic: Anthropomorphism, or specifically a distinct lack of it. So many popular alien civilization stories are just bipeds with extra stuff added or taken away. It was a treat to read about a society not based on bipedalism, and more so how a biped would interact in an environment not designed for them.

I enjoyed Relic, as I knew I would. I continue to see Alan at cons, and he’s always an interesting visit. Relic is a solid four stars, and I’d love to read another book in the series, especially after the ending.

Bestselling science fiction writer Alan Dean Foster was born in New York City in 1946, but raised mainly in California. He received a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA in 1968, and a M.F.A. in 1969. Foster lives in Arizona with his wife, but he enjoys traveling because it gives him opportunities to meet new people and explore new places and cultures. This interest is carried over to his writing, but with a twist: the new places encountered in his books are likely to be on another planet, and the people may belong to an alien race.

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http://www.alandeanfoster.com/