Tag Archives: book reviews

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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http://www.claracoulson.com/
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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/


What Man Defies, by Clara Coulson

Three weeks after his disastrous showdown with Abarta, Vincent Whelan is well on his way to recovering from the fight and putting the whole nightmare behind him. But when a standard stretch recovery job comes to an end with an angry ghost slinging heavy objects, Vince discovers a thread he left hanging has frayed beyond repair. For almost two months, random people in Kinsale have been mysteriously vanishing. Now their shades, damaged by terrible deaths, have begun to plague the city. Vince, spurred by the growing list of victims, goes on the hunt for the person or creature responsible for the kidnappings. Only to get more than he bargained for when one of his own friends gets snatched before his very eyes. In a race against time, Vince puts together a ragtag team to venture into the Otherworld and rescue the remaining victims before they all succumb to a horrible fate. But the path to victory is fraught with peril, and the mastermind at the end of the road may just be unbeatable. A vault protecting a powerful relic. Merciless enemies at every turn. And countless lives at risk. All Vince wanted was a little peace and quiet. Now he’s got the fate of the world resting in his hands. Again.

I always know that I’m in for a treat when I get a new Clara Coulson book. Urban Fantasy protagonists just have the worst luck, and Vince is no different. Unlike other Urban Fantasy books, Coulson actually explains why Vince seems to be a magnet for strange happenings. This allows for more world-building and history without being a giant information dump.

As with the first book, the characters are believable – they behave in ways that I’d expect the denizens of this post-apocalyptic world to behave. The villainous faction and their leader seem plausible rather than being evil for the sake of being evil. Events and interactions hint that there are bigger machinations afoot, and Vince and the rest of the humans may not have much time left.

I’m definitely in for the next book in the series, and What Man Defies is another solid read from Coulson. Five stars!

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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http://www.claracoulson.com/
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Never Enough Time, by RTW Lipkin

What if your entire life passed by in just seven days? 16-year-old Delaney Archer’s mother is always complaining that there’s never enough time to get anything done. Delaney, on the other hand, always waits until the last moment to do everything. Nevertheless, she’s the top student in her class. She’s even about to graduate as valedictorian . . .Until one morning, when she wakes up in a strange place. Suddenly, she finds herself in graduate school. Seven years of her life have disappeared without a trace since she went to bed last night . . . but how? It takes a while for Delaney to get used to things. But it’s not all bad, right? After all, she can drink alcohol now, and she’s almost finished school . . . Then she wakes up the next day . . . and another seven years have passed. Every day is another brand-new adventure for Delaney as she struggles to adjust. But no matter what she tries, she just can’t seem to break the cycle. Now she just has to figure out what’s happening . . . before time runs out . . .

Time travel- check. Confused protagonist- check. Available on NetGalley- check. I finished reading this almost two months ago, and I can’t seem to remember the ending. I remember that as a supposedly smart protagonist, Delaney is pretty dumb, willing to accept ludicrous scenarios to explain her time jumping. Every singe character is annoying, with Sara being the worst of them all. The selfishness and hedonism is rife throughout. Really, Sara and the boyfriend are wretches of humanity, and for someone so smart, Delaney should’ve cut them loose long ago – especially since she didn’t even know them! Many reviews complain about the swears, but apparently, those reviewers have never encountered a teen in the wild- which Delaney was supposed to be, albeit in an adult body.

Overall, the book wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t very good either. There were a lot of issues, with flashes of brilliance. The fact that I can’t remember the ending so soon after finishing the book makes me think that it wasn’t that great. Never Enough Time truly is a middle of the road book. I’d award it just to the positive side of middle of the road with 3.5 stars. I saw that the author wrote another sci-fi novel, Prediction, so I think I’ll check that out at a later date.

R. T. W. Lipkin lives in New York with her husband and three cats. Her genre-defying novels occur at the intersection of science fiction and fantasy, with mystery, romance, and adventure threaded throughout.

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http://rtwlipkin.com/


Buying Time, by E. M. Brown

In January 2017, something very strange happens to screenwriter Ed Richie. He wakes up one morning to find that he has been shunted back in time nine months and is now inhabiting the body of his younger self… Worse is to come: the following day he jumps three years, to 2013, with all his memories of the intervening years intact. What is happening to him? Is he going mad? And where will his involuntary time-travel end? Meanwhile, in 2030, journalist Ella Croft is investigating the life of screenwriter and celebrated novelist Ed Richie, who mysteriously vanished in 2025. She interviews friends, acquaintances, and old lovers – and what she discovers will change not only Ed Richie’s life, but her own… Buying Time is a time-travel novel like no other. No man is rich enough to buy back his past – unless that man is Ed Richie…

Any time I see a time travel story on NetGalley, I’m ready and willing. It includes an aging novelist? Yep, I can totally relate. I liked the shifting between Ed’s romp through time, and 2030 Ella, and her fight for LGBT rights. Oh, and she’s also trying to track down Ed, and solve the mystery of his disappearance. Often when reading an A-B story, one of the branches is boring. Not the case with Buying Time. Brown fills in interesting back-story with the Ella “B” line.

Ed Richie isn’t a very likable character, but that’s not a bad thing, since his time-traveling situation rings true. The theme of the story is one of sadness and regret. Who among us hasn’t remembered that thing that they did, and wished they could go back and make a different choice?

Overall, this was a good sci-fi read, and I’ll definitely check out other works by Brown. Four stars.

Eric Brown was born in Haworth, West Yorkshire, in 1960, and has lived in Australia, India and Greece. He began writing in 1975, influenced by Agatha Christie and the science fiction writer Robert Silverberg. Since then he has written over forty-five books and published over a hundred and twenty short stories, selling his first story in 1986 and his first novel in 1992. He has written a dozen books for children; young adult titles as well as books for reluctant readers. He has been nominated for the British Science Fiction Award five times, winning it twice for his short stories in 2000 and 2002.

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http://www.ericbrown.co.uk/


What Fate Portends, by Clara Coulson

Seven years ago, the exposure of the paranormal led to the tumultuous downfall of human society. Now, the legions of the fae rule the broken world, and humanity has nothing left but a handful of protected cities and a heaping helping of regret. Enter Vincent Whelan. Half fae and former cop, he’s become the best-known stretch scavenger in Kinsale, North Carolina, braving the “stretches” outside his city to recover precious items lost in the collapse. He makes good money. Lives the good life. Has a good future in store. As long as he can ignore his traumatic memories of the past. But when a new job with an odd twist blows onto his doorstep, Vince finds himself unwittingly drawn into a vast conspiracy lurking underneath Kinsale’s thin veneer of civilization. Old friends suddenly return to haunt him. New enemies appear at every turn. And Vince fears he isn’t prepared to confront either one. But if he doesn’t put his detective hat back on and solve this case on a tight deadline, then what’s left of the city he calls home might just crumble to dust.

I already knew that Clara Coulson is a solid writer, but switching from a beloved series (City of Crows) to a new one is always risky. You’re always comparing the new series to the old one. I’m relieved that Coulson’s writing prowess continues in this new series, and the flavor is different enough from City of Crows, that it doesn’t feel rebranded.

The world building is fun, and we’re thrust into the action right away. That action sets the tone for the rest of the story, and we immediately like the protagonist. But Vince has secrets. Secrets that can get him killed, and throw the world into chaos. Protagonists just have the worst luck, right?

As usual, the characters are compelling, suffering from foibles, and they overcome these foibles to show us their hidden strength. It’s easy to identify with Vince as he struggles to live in his society. This is trueurban fantasy, whereas City of Crows is hiddenurban fantasy. The supernatural creatures live along side humans.

Another great read from Clara Coulson, and I look forward to reading more in this series. Although I received an advance reader copy from the author, the editing and formatting is suburb. Five stars, and a must read for fans of urban fantasy.

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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http://www.claracoulson.com/
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Space Carrier Avalon, by Glynn Stewart

Avalon was the flagship of the Castle Federation in the last war, now twenty years past. The first of the deep space carriers, no other warship in the fleet holds as many honors or has recorded as many kills. No other warship in the fleet is as old. Accepting the inevitable, the Federation Space Navy has decided to refit her and send her on a tour of the frontier, showing the flag to their allies and enemies as a reminder of her glory – and then decommission her for good. But Avalon has been a backwater posting for ten years – and has problems a mere refit can’t fix. The systems along her planned tour have been seeing pirates for the first time in decades, and there are rumblings of Commonwealth scouting ships all along the border. It may be Avalon’s final tour – but it looks to be anything but quiet!

This review is going to seem critical, so I want to start by saying that I enjoyed the read. The new cover drew me in when I saw it on netgalley. If it had the cover featured on Goodreads, I would not have requested it. I still was reluctant to read it because there are a few negative reviews that left me wondering. There is even a plot point in the beginning of the book that had it been written differently, I would’ve stopped reading. It made me angry – but in a good way. I’ve always felt that fiction should make us feel something. Space Carrier Avalon is an engrossing read.

The book is not without issues though. My biggest complaint is the character’s continuous use of another character’s full name and rank. Rank is usually truncated in the military. I can sometimes overlook it if the story is about a paramilitary organization, but the Castle Federation series is straight military sci-fi. No one would’ve ever called me “Mechanical Gas Turbine Systems Technician Second Class Petty Officer Mark Gardner-” they would’ve called me “GSM2 Gardner,” “Petty Officer Gardner,” or simply “Gardner.” (Even subordinates.)

Which brings me to another peeve about this story. Most of the commissioned & enlisted crew would’ve called each other by their last names. In this novel, first and last names are used interchangeably, and I spent the first quarter of the book just trying to figure out who everyone was. This resulted in a lot of flipping back to see who was who. When I was on active duty, I spent almost all my time with another turbine tech- duty rotations, visits to the galley, etc. I didn’t even know his first name for two or three months.

I get that this is supposed to be hard sci-fi, and some people love all the little technical details, (I imagine people playing Warhammer 40k with their tape measures, and other accouterments) but there was way too much technical information for me taste. I really didn’t need to know warhead yields, the percentage and implementation of mass manipulators, or even the progression of shipbuilding in the world. Maguffins are perfectly fine in futuristic sci-fi; especially with faster than light travel. It just seemed like the author spent an inordinate amount of time explaining tech that seemed to slow down the story.

Of course I experienced the opposite of this when it came to the origin of the Castle Federation and the disposition of Earth. It wasn’t until the last quarter of the book that I realized that Earth and the Terran Commonwealth were the antagonists, and the Castle Federation were descendants of humanity trying to live the Libertarian dream of being left alone with the overzealous Terrans trying to unify the universe under their banner. Some creepy Manifest Destiny stuff.

Overall, I liked Space Carrier Avalon. I especially liked the concept of the protagonists effectively being aliens, and Earth being the “bad guys.” Not everyone would agree with my quibbles about the story, and that’s cool. Fandom is a varied and splendiferous thing. Kudos to the author for the Star Trek references – they made me smile. I’d give this story four stars, and a warning of a sexual assault as a plot point in the beginning of the story in case someone would be triggered by that. I’ll definitely read the next in the series if it wanders my way.

Glynn Stewart is the author of Starship’s Mage, a bestselling science fiction and fantasy series where faster-than-light travel is possible–but only because of magic. His other works include science fiction series Duchy of Terra, Castle Federation and Vigilante, as well as the urban fantasy series ONSET and Changeling Blood. Writing managed to liberate Glynn from a bleak future as an accountant. With his personality and hope for a high-tech future intact, he lives in Kitchener, Ontario with his wife, their cats, and an unstoppable writing habit.

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