Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dauntless by Jack Campbell

Title: Dauntless
Author: Jack Campbell
Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet # 1
Mass Market Paperback, 304 Pages
Publication: June 27, 2006 by Ace

Source: Personal Library


The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century--and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is a man who's emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized, beyond belief...

Captain John "Black Jack" Geary's legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic "last stand" in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns from survival hibernation and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.

Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance's one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic "Black Jack" legend...
Jack Campbell is synonymous with Science Fiction,whom is most notable for his military sci-fi novels. I’ve heard about Campbell over the years with my foray into Science Fiction but never really got around to reading his novels. Until a co-worker recommended Campbell’s Black Jack series for the best and most accurate space battles; thus resulted in me picking up Dauntless, the first book in The Lost Fleet series. The story is centered around John “Black Jack” Geary waking up a century later from stasis and finding himself revered as a heroic legend and in the midst of a long, drawn out war between the Alliance and the Syndics. A war he thought he prevented. Geary is now thrust to the forefront to help Dauntless and fleet navigate through hostile territory, hoping to make their way home back to the Alliance.

I’ve never been one for military science fiction but I found myself enthralled by the fleet operations. From the intricate and detailed space battle, practice simulations, war time tactics, battle laws dealing with the enemy and prisoners, to the overall internal and external chain of command. The only thing I knew of space battle can be reference to Star Wars. And the space battle in Dauntless is the total opposite. It’s not high octane or fast. Instead, everything is counted in light minutes…hours with significant lag time between every volley shot and received.  The author was an ex-Navy Officer and it clearly shows he knows exactly what he's writing about. What ended up being more fascinating was the character of Geary. He’s been floating through space for a 100 years, only to wake up to find how drastic time has changed. He was a somewhat newbie, not unlike the ones he ends up commanding now. Yet everyone sees him as this wartime god. Every solider in the fleet has learned about Geary from a young age and everything anyone has ever done in the Alliance was in hope of living up to his standard. An apparently high bar he never meant to set. I liked seeing Geary grapple with his new current reality, as he does his best to get everyone home and somehow live up to these new expectations of himself without bolstering it even more.

I enjoyed Dauntless and thought it was a great starter in what looks like to be a long but eventful trip back to the Alliance. The novel hints at more obstacles to overcome and new lifeforms waiting to be discovered. I’m looking forward to continuing with this series and see what Campbell has in store for the Dauntless and Co. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

That Night by Amy Giles

Title: That Night
Author: Amy Giles
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 320 Pages
Publication: October 23, 2018 by HarperTeen

Source: I received an arc review copy from the publisher
 in exchange for a honest review.


The year since a mass shooting shook their Queens neighborhood has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar and deeply personal ways.

As Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother, and Lucas takes up boxing under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, their paths converge. They slowly become friends and then something more, learning to heal and move forward together. But what does it mean to love after an unspeakable tragedy?
I didn’t know what to expect when I started That Night. All I knew was the two main protagonist were both dealing with grief and a tragedy; and eventually, along the way they would some how help each other through it. The synopsis was very good at shrouding everything in mystery. Which was why I was surprised that this book involved a mass shooting. Everyone has seen the unfortunate increase in mass shooting all over the world. It’s nothing new as it become so prevalent in the news. And like the news, there seems to be more and more books on the matter. But what makes That Night different, what makes it stand out is that Giles never really talked about what happened, hence it always being referred to as “that night”. After the lights and camera coverage goes down, readers get an in depth look behind the scenes at the aftermath of these type of tragedies. We see what the survivors “walking wounded”, witnesses, families, and communities go through. We normally see how a life is suddenly ended and how events led up to the tragedy but what people forget or not see is there’s actually a ripple effect that can transcend months and years and its the ripple effect that Giles explores in That Night.

The novel alternates between our two main protagonist, Jess and Lucas. At the start of the novel they’re strangers. The only connection between the two are: they go to the same high school, they both lost their brother a year ago and are trying to deal with their grief and guilt of being the surviving sibling. I thought Giles did a great job at exploring the issue of grief and loss. She paints a vividly realistic picture and shows how everyone deals with sadness and pain in their own way. Or in some cases, they don’t deal with it at all. Take Jess, ever since her brother died, she’s left to take care of herself because her mother is a shell of her former self and her BFF is in rehab in another state. Versus Lucas who is smothered by both of his parents, afraid to let him out of their sight. To cope and find meaning in life and the reason for living; Jess ends up getting a job at Enzo’s Hardware to help her mom with the bills and Lucas picks up boxing as an outlet.

That Night isn’t a novel about a mass shooting or romantic relationship between two teens. It’s a novel about learning to move on from grief. It shows that those affected by tragedies shouldn’t blame themselves for things out of their control and to never be afraid to talk about it or seek help. And most important of all, not to let such tragedies define who we are. I really enjoyed That Night. Giles writes as if it were a first hand account because I truly felt like I was right there alongside the characters as they processed their grief and learn what it really means to feel alive/included again. That Night is a relevant and well-written novel for our time. It should be read by both adult and teens. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

Title: The Lying Woods
Author: Ashley Elston
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 336 Pages
Publication: November 13th 2018 by Disney-Hyperion

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher
 in exchange for a honest review.


Owen Foster has never wanted for anything. Then his mother shows up at his elite New Orleans boarding school cradling a bombshell: his privileged life has been funded by stolen money. After using the family business, the single largest employer in his small Louisiana town, to embezzle millions and drain the employees' retirement accounts, Owen's father vanished without a trace, leaving Owen and his mother to deal with the fallout.

Owen returns to Lake Cane to finish his senior year, where people he can barely remember despise him for his father's crimes. It's bad enough dealing with muttered insults and glares, but when Owen and his mother receive increasingly frightening threats from someone out for revenge, he knows he must get to the bottom of what really happened at Louisiana Frac--and the cryptic note his father sent him at his boarding school days before disappearing.

Owen's only refuge is the sprawling, isolated pecan orchard he works at after school, owned by a man named Gus who has his own secrets--and in some ways seems to know Owen better than he knows himself. As Owen uncovers a terrible injustice that looms over the same Preacher Woods he's claimed as his own, he must face a shocking truth about his own past--and write a better future.

It is only just beginning.
Elston is a new-to-me author. Elston has a pretty big and dedicated following, so I’m surprised this is my first time hearing about her. Although, it should be noted that I read mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy than Contemporary. But I am a fan of mysteries, which is how I came to read The Lying Woods. I am a sucker for mysteries, especially ones centered around family, small towns and anything taking place in the south. And it so happens that The Lying Woods consisted of all three.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I started The Lying Woods. Perhaps a decent Young Adult at best. Instead I was captivated from beginning to end as Elston expertly weaves a story between the present and the past. The Lying Woods is narrated by two teens; Owen, in present day Louisiana and Noah, Louisiana 1999. The story goes back and forth, building up the history and mystery of all the characters and small town of Lake Cane. At first, I honestly didn’t see the correlation between the two narrators. Not until I got 1/3 into the novel and realized it’s the story of how Owen’s parents met and the significance of The Pecan Farm, its owner Gus and how the summer of 1999 changed the course of everyone’ lives.

I’ve read many Young Adult novels all unitizing the same concepts that make-up The Lying Woods, but none have done it as well as Elston. I also loved that the story took place in the south, it was the perfect backdrop giving readers an intimate and eerie mysterious vibe. Although there is absolutely nothing supernatural going on, in case you’re wondering. I really felt connected to each and every character. They all contributed to the story in one way or another, with no role too big or small.

I thought I had the story figured out but when the two dual narration started to converge and revelations came to light; I was shocked at the twist and turn of events. The ending was unexpected. And I loved it! Many times authors would build up the mystery and suspense, only to have an anticlimactic ending where the story fizzled out. The ending in The Lying Woods was a great surprise and a satisfying conclusion to an overall captivating story/mystery. I highly recommend The Lying Woods to everyone, adults and teens alike. I very much enjoyed it; It was a refreshing break from my fair share of Sci-fi Fantasy novels.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

Title: Priest of Bones
Author: Peter McLean
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Series: War for The Rose Throne #1

Paperback, 352 Pages
Publication: October 2, 2018 by Ace

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher
 in exchange for a honest review.


It's a dangerous thing, to choose the lesser of two evils.

The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety finally heads home with Lieutenant Bloody Anne at his side. When he arrives in the Stink, Tomas finds that his empire of crime has been stolen from him while at war. With his gang of Pious Men, Tomas will do whatever it takes to reclaim his businesses. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, and is forced to work in secret for the sinister Queen's Men, everything gets more complicated.

When loyalties stretch to the breaking point and violence only leads to violence, when people have run out of food, and hope, and places to hide, do not be surprised if they have also run out of mercy. As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the backstreet taverns and gambling dens of Tomas's old life it becomes clear; the war is not over.

It is only just beginning.

Priest of Bones is the first book in the grimdark, War for the Rose Throne series. The series is pitched as The Godfather meets Peaky Blinders, a movie and show I’ve yet to see. I know, the horror! However, I have seen Gangs of New York and Priest of Bones is very similar to that but with a sprinkle of magic. The story is centered around Crime Lord, Solider and Priest Tomas Piety as he returns home to Ellinburg from a 3-year war only to find all his owned establishments commandeered. Which of course is unacceptable. With his weeping women and merry band of miscreants, Piety cuts his way to the reclamation of his businesses. Except all is not well in Ellinburg, a foreigner is looking to shake things up and it’s up to Piety and the Pious Men to stop the infamous Bloodhands.

I didn’t know what to really expect when I began Priest of Bone but the synopsis sounded good enough that I picked it up. I was hooked within the first page. Chapter one opens up with Piety and his crew back in Ellinburg in a tavern commemorating their win over pints of liquor. The scene is set up nicely and right off the bat introduces Piety, so we could see exactly what type of man he was and give us a feel of the tone of the novel. Which I can say is dark, bloody and violent.

The writing and dialogue took awhile to get used to; I initially thought it was very choppy and inconsistent. But it eventually grew on me and I took it as a plus that it didn’t make me withdraw from the story. Priest of Bones was said to be a Historic Fantasy but there was very little fantasy. There were mentions of Magicians and Cunnings (similar to Magicians who can wield special abilities but not as skilled or refined) but the details and background regarding them was vague and not fully developed. The world building itself was decent but a bit too simplistic for my liking. There are many gangs in Ellinburg but the Pious Men and the Gutcutters were the two most prominent ones. And there was the Skanians, outsiders who want to take over Ellinburg and the Queen’s Men mercenaries and spies working for the crown. That pretty much sums up the major players in the novel. I also thought the plot was standard but the characters more than made up for it.

Overall Priest of Bones is a solid series opener that promises a lot more action and violence to come. While I enjoyed the book, I should warn that this book isn’t for the faint of heart. Priest of Bones is extremely violent and graphic dealing with a lot of sensitive and triggering subjects such as PTSD (Battle Shock), Sexual abuse/rape, and Gender/Sexual Orientation. With that said, I’d recommend Priest of Bones to those who enjoys a period piece with undertones of magic.