Writing prompt

You get a chance to time travel. If you accept, you have a 90% chance of arriving where you intended, a 90% chance of arriving with your clothes and money, and a 90% chance of arriving with your memory.

You accept. You wake up 100 years before you intended, naked, with no memory of how you got there. What now?

You Call This a Joke?!

35653858Title: The Luckless (The Second Age of Retha, Volume 1)

Author: AM Sohma

When Kit starts her new submersion video game at the VR arcade, she’s surprised to find herself not in the science fiction world she expected, but back in the fantasy themed world of Retha. It seems her cousin, who works for the company, decided to play a little joke on her by sticking her in the wrong game with a joke character – a elf dancer with virtually no attack skills and precious little defense either. To make it even harder, he sort of branded her as an outlaw.

But the joke turned serious when the game system malfunctions and Kit, along with hundred of other players, are all trapped inside the game. The only way out is to win, and Kit’s chances are pretty much negligible unless she is able to team up with some stronger characters.

If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I have a weakness for this genre, lit-RPG fantasy. Ready Player One by Ernie Cline is one of my all-time favorite books. I also loved Omnioptia Dawn by Diane Duane and Awaken Online by Travis Bagwell. So this one was right up my alley. I loved the idea of Kit being stuck with this frivolous character when she’s fighting for her life. It made the stakes that much higher.

This book is written by KM Shea, under a new pseudonym for her sci-fi books. Like her fairy tale books, this is clean for sex and language – in fact, conventional swearing is not possible in the game, with a funny story there – but there’s not much romance in this one yet. There’s a few hints, but nothing at all so far, which is fine too. I give this one 4/5 stars.

A Little Time Travel

us-galveston1900-vin_480x360
Galveston, Texas 1900

Title: September Sky

Author: John A. Heldt

Setting: Modern San Francisco and Galveston, Texas 1900

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

If you had the chance to go back in time, would you do it? I know I would do it, as long as I could come back to the present day. Would I bring my kids? I mean, they’re adults, but still, I don’t know that I’m comfortable with them taking the same risks I would take myself.

Chuck Townsend and his son Justin get a chance to travel back in time to 1900. Both are at loose ends, looking for new experiences, and what could be more exciting than visiting the past? How about catching a murderer, falling in love, and getting caught in a hurricane? Sounds like this book would be really exciting.

But for some reason, I found it rather boring. There was so much dialogue about so many trivial things. Then the author skipped back and forth between POV so often than I never connected to any of the characters.

I want to end on a positive note, so I will say that I was impressed by the amount of research that the author did into the Galveston hurricane. It was truly a horrible catastrophe, and I think the author really captured what it must have been like.

Thanks for the chance to read this one. I know that the reviews have been pretty positive, so maybe I’ll try something else by this author later.

 

Review: Invinciman

Title: Invinciman

Author: Ricky Leone

Note: This review was requested by the author, but the opinions expressed are my own.

Setting: near future Canada

Format: ebook

Engineer Ray Martin has this one friend. You know the kind, the one that gets you into trouble, but then gets you back out again? Except that this friends gets him into the kind of trouble that’s going to get him killed; and he may not get him out of trouble ever again.

Ray and Daniel are both engineering students when they meet. Their skills complement each other, and they wind up teaming up to get their projects done. Only trouble is that Ray want to graduate and get the job and Daniel? Well, Ray can’t tell what he wants.

His friendship with Daniel, if that’s what it is, is told in flashback. The story actually opens with Ray being shot in the head and left for dead. And that’s really where I had trouble with the book. The story, and the complicated relationship between the two guys, was really interesting. They want to make robots – excuse me, a “super advanced artificial intelligence robot,” which will fight in an arena like Robot Wars on TV today. Except bigger and badder and more awesome. I absolutely can’t argue with that. It’s the terrorist angle which had me scratching my head. I was excited for the rivalry and the robot fights. And while I knew this was a superhero book, it never felt like the two halves of the story worked together as well as they should have. By the time I got to the ending, I was quite confused.

I’m not sure who I would recommend this one for. I see that it got good recommendations from most other readers, so it might just be me being picky. I would be willing to give this author another try though. I’d like to see some female characters and more diversity too. Thanks for the chance to read this one.

 

Stand Alone Sunday: Mars One

Title: Mars One

Author: Jonathan Maberry

Themes: Space, love, terrorism, family, engineering, friends/teamworks

Setting: Near future Wisconsin then space

I really liked Mayberry’s zombie series, the Rot & Ruin series with teen Benny Imura. When I heard he had a new book out, a science fiction one  which was getting great reviews, I couldn’t wait to read it, and then the library had a copy just sitting there with the new books. It was meant for me.

Tristan is a typical high school guy. He has a best friend, he’s kind of a nerd, he’s crazy about his girlfriend Izzy. But maybe he’s not entirely typical. He’s a brainiac, has an entire assembly dedicated to him plus a reality TV show, he has terrorists trying to kill him, he has two bodyguards who go everywhere with him, and oh yeah, he’s going to Mars. His whole family is going. His dad is a botanist and Tristan and his mom are both mechanical engineers.

His family was accepted a couple of years ago, but time is running out and they’re finally ready to leave earth. Now he has to say goodbye to his girlfriend Izzy, then say goodbye again for the cameras, and make his way to mission control. It’s time to leave for Mars.

I really liked this book, so much that I finished it in a day. I keep saying I’m done with YA, but books like this are the reason I read it. It takes all the same issues that an adult book would have but condenses them down to the essentials so that what’s left is the central story, no political subplots, no sex (usually), no gloomy angles, just the story. And it’s a good story.

My family has actually discussed this–would you go to Mars, knowing that for now at least, it’s a one way trip? Knowing that you’d never see your family again, that life would be completely unpredictable and that you’d die on an alien planet? Knowing that you’d be doing something no one else in the history of life has ever done? We’re divided. I wouldn’t do it, but I have one kid who absolutely would. (That one is also the hugest Star Trek fan, which is no coincidence, I think.)

Reading this book would make you think about what choices you would make and why. It’s a fast read and a compelling one. I’m giving it an easy 4.3 stars and I recommend it for anyone who likes space or well-written YA.

Book blurb

This is going to be shorter than a regular review, but I wanted to mention a book I read recently by Adre Norton called Wraiths of Time. Written in the 1970s it features a Black female archeologist as the main character. She is an expert on ancient Africa who gets sucked back in time. I love seeing a POC as a protagonist, and a female at that. Plus it was written by a woman.

Unfortunately, the story is a mess. Aliens are involved, there’s no exposition, and the other characters are flat. But if you want to read it as proof that women can and should to sci fi, go for it.

Stand Alone Sunday #2 – Passage

Title: Passage

Author: Connie Willis

Genre: Science fiction/speculative fiction

This one is on my TBR list for this year, in a stack of books in my bedroom. Here’s what it says about it on Amazon:

“One of those rare, unforgettable novels that are as chilling as they are insightful, as thought-provoking as they are terrifying, award-winning author Connie Willis’s Passage is an astonishing blend of relentless suspense and cutting-edge science unlike anything you’ve ever read before.

It is the electrifying story of a psychologist who has devoted her life to tracking death. But when she volunteers for a research project that simulates the near-death experience, she will either solve life’s greatest mystery — or fall victim to its greatest terror.

At Mercy General Hospital, Dr. Joanna Lander will soon be paged — not to save a life, but to interview a patient just back from the dead. A psychologist specializing in near-death experiences, Joanna has spent two years recording the experiences of those who have been declared clinically dead and lived to tell about it.

It’s research on the fringes of ordinary science, but Joanna is about to get a boost from an unexpected quarter. A new doctor has arrived at Mercy General, one with the power to give Joanna the chance to get as close to death as anyone can.

A brilliant young neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright has come up with a way to manufacture the near-death experience using a psychoactive drug. Dr. Wright is convinced that the NDE is a survival mechanism and that if only doctors understood how it worked, they could someday delay the dying process, or maybe even reverse it. He can use the expertise of a psychologist of Joanna Lander’s standing to lend credibility to his study.

But he soon needs Joanna for more than just her reputation. When his key volunteer suddenly drops out of the study, Joanna finds herself offering to become Richard’s next subject. After all, who better than she, a trained psychologist, to document the experience?

Her first NDE is as fascinating as she imagined it would be — so astounding that she knows she must go back, if only to find out why this place is so hauntingly familiar. But each time Joanna goes under, her sense of dread begins to grow, because part of her already knows why the experience is so familiar, and why she has every reason to be afraid….

And just when you think you know where she is going, Willis throws in the biggest surprise of all — a shattering scenario that will keep you feverishly reading until the final climactic page is turned.”

Sorry, that was kind of long, but doesn’t it sound good? I love Connie Willis’s books. This one is not rated as high as some of her other books, but I’m excited to read it anyway. Even when I don’t LOVE her books, I find them interesting reads. She has such a unique way of looking at the world, and every books is different from each other. So I really don’t know what to expect from this one, but it should be fun!

Cover – 1, Story – 0

Emerson sees ghosts. Or something. That would be enough for any average teen to freak out a bit, but she’s also dealing with the death of both parents in a car accident. She’s been away at boarding school, but her scholarship funding ran out and now she’s back home, facing her demons. Not literal demons, unfortunately; that would have been cool. Her brother keeps trying to fix her, get rid of her visions. Medication helped, but she quit taking it. So now he’s called in the latest expert, a guy named Michael who works for a clinic or something called The Hourglass.

Michael is a hottie. And he sees the ghosts too. Turns out they’re not ghosts, they are shadows from the past. I can’t tell you much more without spoiling the plot, but let me say it becomes a lot like X-Men, but not as good. There was a love triangle like Twilight. Apparently that’s required for teen fiction now. And the whole series ends with a lot of unanswered questions, stuff about what the bad guy is really after, and something about saving the world, and something about it reminded me of Harry Potter.

I guess that was part of my trouble. It just struck me as derivative. I also didn’t like Michael, the love interest, at all. He seemed too secretive and too perfect otherwise. Every girl who sees him, and I’m not exaggerating, immediately starts drooling. I guess he’s so hot Emerson didn’t stop to think about the way he treats her like a kid and won’t tell her anything. Hm, it really DOES sound like Twilight.

Like I said, it’s the first book in a planned series, but I won’t be reading more. I wouldn’t have picked up this one either, except it’s for  book club, so I needed to read it. Looks like two duds in a row for book club. This one is not recommended. I hesitated between 2.5 stars and 3, so I split the difference and have it 2.75.

*This is an encore review, repeated here for new readers.*

Book Review: Steelheart

I’ve been on a Brandon Sanderson binge lately. I got this bundle through Humble Bundle lately, and part of the proceeds go to charity. But then I didn’t have enough storage on my Kindle for all my lovely new books, so I’ve been frantically reading them all day today. I’m not called Speedy Reader for nothing! I got through several short stories today alone. But I also have a review on Steelheart.

Title: Steelheart, Book 1 of Reckoners series

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Superhero sci-fi, near future

Found it: Favorite author

Format: Physical book

Synopsis: “Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.”

David is this nerdy guy who wants to take down the Epics – the Superheroes. But I have to say that the character he reminds of the most is Spiderman. See, David/Spidey has secret knowledge/spider senses and that gives him an edge over the city bad guys. The twist here is that the bad guys are the Supers, and David is just a nerdy guy. Instead of spider senses, he has detailed dossiers of information on every Epic known, their strengths, their allies, their habits, their weaknesses. And despite what you might think, they all have a weakness.

David hasn’t shared his information with anyone, because the cops are all working for the Epics. Average people are just trying to keep their heads down and not attract attention. The only ones willing to stand up to the Epics is the Reckoners. So David’s job is to join them and then convince them to go after the biggest target of all – Steelheart.

I really liked this series. It’s written for teens, but it’s a very complex world. I followed it up with the short story Mitosis, which is 1.5 in the series, between this one and Firefight. I loved the worldbuilding in here. Sanderson is great at that, always, he just really thinks the world through before he writes anything. I’m anxious to see what happens next. So anxious, in fact, that I went back on my promise to stay out of the library until I read some of my own books and got the next book in the series. If you like superhero stuff or dystopian books, I’d definitely recommend this one.