Sunday, March 30, 2014

Doctor Who Touched by an Angel Book Review


Doctor Who: Touched by an Angel

Monster Collection

Jonathan Morris

Random House UK - North America

Pub Date: Mar 11 2014

2/5 Stars


                I am a big fan of Doctor Who.  The shows, the books, toys, etc…  But I have to admit that there is a problem I’m noticing with the Doctor Who books that seems to be pretty consistent.  No one seems to write a descent Amy Pond or Rory.  Not even a very good Matt Smith if I’m being completely honest.  Matt Smith, as Doctor Who, kind of plays him as a bit of a nut.  A little too easily distracted etc…  But usually this comes out as the Doctor has just forgotten something or perhaps is just playing for time.  He is good at that last one.  In the books, however, where there could be an inner dialogue explaining what he is really doing during these periods.  There not only isn’t, but normally they try to just make him a scatter brained goof ball.  Amy and Rory aren’t much more than people to ask the Doctor stupid questions.  Which is pretty bad because while the Doctor’s companions have traditionally been there for that reason; or simply as someone the Doctor needs to save.  Most of the time with the new Doctors and especially with Matt Smith; his companions tend to be at least somewhat able to take care of themselves.  And will often even save the Doctor.  But in the books, this rarely if ever happens.

               The reason for my little tirade here, is that the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are barely a part of this book.  They are like very aggressive plot devices that need to move the story along.  They have NO character at all, they are just there to make sure the main plot which is about this guy Mark Whittaker; moves on.  This book could have been with ANY Doctor and ANY companions; it would have made no difference what so ever.  Just change the names and there you go.  The other horrible thing is that the Weeping Angels in this book, one of the greatest monsters in the whole world of Doctor Who; perhaps the history of the series.  Are also done VERY POORLY.  They aren’t described in enough detail or with enough ominous intent.  They are little more than an annoyance.  In the series they are far more than that.  While I’m sure there is a book somewhere with some guidelines about writing a Doctor Who novel and in it someone said that it isn’t a good idea to make the book completely and totally about the Doctor and his companions.  But it IS a good idea to make them necessary to the story, at least more than stand ins for a literary device.

            The main plot is somewhat interesting if not a pretty tired tropey time travel story.  Which is partly why the book needed to have far more characterization done with the Doctor, Amy, and Rory.  Also, having more to do with the Weeping Angels and putting our heroes in more danger from them would have helped as well.  I would not recommend this book to even the most devoted fan.  Mostly because, like I said it REALLY isn’t a Doctor Who story as much as it’s just a traditional Science Fiction story done poorly.


Sword and Laser Video Podcast with Brian McClellan

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Cleansing Book Review


Sam Kates

Smithcraft Press

Pub Date: Dec 22 2013

3/5 Stars


       The Cleansing certainly has an interesting take on the Apocalypse Novel.  The aliens want the Earth back.  Which is cool, but the book has a kind of meandering quality about it that takes over most of the book.  There often seems like a lack of focus here.  Some characters seem more important than others only to be replaced by those characters.  I especially wasn’t too fond of the VERY late explanation as to what was REALLY going on.  I feel like it might have made the earlier parts of the book more interesting.  But my biggest complaint about this book is the ending.  The book has it’s climax, I guess…  Then it just stops.  Book 1 of a series or not, I was a little put off by this.  The “main characters,” don’t seem to have accomplished much and while they have made a tiny step toward their goal.  The ending seemed more like a word count limit than an actual dramatic choice.  As much as I did like most of the Cleansing, I don’t think I’ll be looking for book 2.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fireblood Book Review


Whispers from Mirrowen (Book One)

Jeff Wheeler

Amazon Publishing

Pub Date: Feb 5 2013

3/5 Stars


             Fireblood is a strange book.  The prologue is excellent, right up until it ends.  The first 30-40% of the book is terrible.  Then the last 60% or so of the book is excellent.  I loved just about the entire 2nd half of the book.  With the exception of a truly horrific dialogue sequence near the end where each character has a little monologue that is SO unrealistic and COMPLETELY ridiculous that it was almost funny, almost…  Jeff Wheeler DOES create a good fantasy world that is interesting for the reader to explore.  He even manages to create some interesting characters.  The fact that the main antagonist might as well be a mustache twirling villain is probably the only other thing I was put off by, with Fireblood.  This book could have done with a really good editor.  Someone who could have not only perhaps pulled out all the garbage from the first 30-40% but also could have made some of the dialogue flow better and perhaps pumped some life into our villain.  If I was not reviewing this book for publication I would have never made it out of the first 30-40%.  Authors have to realize this, you HAVE to hook your reader in the beginning and not EXPECT them to trudge through to get to the “good parts.”  Your book should be virtually ALL GOOD PARTS.  Not just half of it.


The Guild of Assassin’s Cover Reveal!



Cover Art: Alejandro Colucci


       The sequel to Blades of the Old Empire.
Kara has achieved something that no Majat has ever managed – freedom from the Guild!
But the Black Diamond assassin Mai has been called back to face his punishment for sparing her life. Determined to join his fight or share his punishment, Kara finds herself falling for Mai.
But is their relationship – and the force that makes their union all-powerful – a tool to defeat the overpowering forces of the Kaddim armies, or a distraction sure to cause the downfall of the Majat?


  Coming August 2014


        Excited for this, can’t wait to see what happens…

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Here and Now Book Review

The Here and Now

Ann Brashares

Random House Children's

Pub Date: Apr 8 2014

2/5 Stars


         If I was going to send people back to the past from the future; I probably wouldn’t pick teenagers.  Not that I have anything against them as a whole or anything; but they lack some qualities that are key in circumstances like this.  They are often selfish, short sighted, and they tend to act before they think.  Now these things could certainly be said of any of us.  But teenagers on the whole seem to display these qualities more frequently than others.  This is why the premise of The Here and Now seems rather flawed.  Having teenagers go back in time and follow a strict set of rules or a whole group of people are going to be in big trouble.  Is kind of like entrusting that your cat won’t eat your pet mouse while you’re at work. It probably won’t happen, but when you get home and find the mouse to be vanished and the cat seemingly a little guilty when you examine the over tuned cage.  You can’t really blame the cat, you have to blame yourself.

       The actual the story of The Here and Now is a breezy romance that is filled with some very primetime television style drama.  Nothing really to see here.  And while the environmental disasters of the future are certainly interesting to hear being retold by the main character.  You start to wonder if the real stowaway in the Here and Now is actually a cautionary environmental protection tale for the younger readers in our audience.  It is a tad heavy handed and the way the book ends is very wistful considering all that has happened.  Also, much a like a prime time television show.  I certainly won’t pile on to the Here and Now.  If nothing else it’s heart is in the right place.  But considering the utter lack of real drama that most of the book builds; there is nothing it can do but fall flat in the end.


Wesley Chu and Sword and Laser Hangout AGAIN!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Shovel Ready Book Review


Shovel Ready

Adam Sternbergh

Crown (January 14, 2014)

4/5 Stars


          I have to point out right off the bat that I really loved Shovel Ready.  It was probably one of my favorite reads in weeks.  But there is some rather graphic content about 2/3 of the way through the book that kept me from giving it a 5/5 stars.  I used to read a horror novel a week when I was young so, graphic violence and even somewhat graphic sexual content really don’t bother me too much.  But when you start dealing with pregnant 18 year olds and their perverted fathers….  Well, I can’t get too far past that kind of stuff.  Sorry…  I have no doubt that the author knew it was disturbing and he was probably going for this.  But hearing about what happened earlier in the book was a little different than getting the blow by blow, later in the book.  I would have been fine with the former, the latter bothered me.

         Leaving all that behind, I found Shovel Ready to be an extremely good book with amazing dialogue and a really good story.   There were certainly some points where you felt like the author might have been searching for the next plot point or perhaps not taking something all the way because it was too ambitious.  But in the end, it works out to be a good story with some good work all the way around.  I really liked the way the author incorporated New York into his work almost like it was a foreign country or alien planet he was describing.   This is a future New York not the New York of today.  But the actual dates of the occurrences are never mentioned therefore considering the circumstances the whole thing becomes a very real, very plausible situation.

        While I did feel that some of Shovel Ready was a bit too over the top.  On the whole, I felt it was an excellent book with a unique voice.  Certainly something that science fiction fans should take a look at.  Just be mindful of what you are getting your self into.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Anthony St.Clair is on Sword and Laser!

Flesh and Blood Book Review



Flesh and Blood

Daniel Dersch

Amazon Publishing

Pub Date: Mar 4 2014

2/5 Stars


     Whoever said that all the stories have already been told was probably thinking about vampire fiction when he or she said it.  I don’t think that I have a read a single descent piece of vampire fiction in years.  Unfortunately, Flesh and Blood doesn’t change this.  One of the first things you’ll notice about Flesh and Blood is that the author finds the need to exhaustively explain things.  For instance, when the main antagonist is caught leaving a crime scene on security camera.   It’s because the New York Airports are have heavy surveillance and have cameras everywhere.  Alright, why is this important to the story?  The guy was seen, nuff said.  In this situation it also starts to hurt our suspension of disbelief because this guy is supposed to be a professional.  So neither the information nor the act really does anything for the story.  Worse, there are never any ramifications for this occurrence in particular anywhere in the rest of the book.  There are at least five instances of these over explanations throughout the beginning of the book.  Then a few sprinkled throughout the middle and the end.  It was incredibly annoying to read.  The end is telegraphed from a point near the climax but the telegraphing made very little sense and the author seemed unable or unwilling to even give a good explanation of the reasoning while the actions were happening.

     Finally, more damning than anything else: the ACTUAL withholding of information in a chapter to be given a two chapters later IS NOT suspense.  It reads very awkwardly and annoys the reader to the point where they don’t really care what happens next.  There are MUCH better ways of achieving the same ends and knowing how to use suspense and when to use it is what makes you a good or bad storyteller.  Guess which one this author is?  On the whole the story in Flesh and Blood isn’t too bad; but there are SO MANY THINGS pulling it down that I don’t even think the casual reader will find much enjoyment in it.  All the life may be sucked out of the vampire genre.  But don’t like this book be the one you choose to spend your eternity with.


   (I would just like to take a moment and notice that this book was translated by Gerald Chapple, who did SUCH a fine job with that translation that I only noticed that this book WAS translated AFTER completing it.   EXCELLENT WORK).



Monday, March 17, 2014

The Sentinel: The Sundering Book V Book Review

The Sentinel

By Troy Denning

Wizards of the Coast

Pub Date: Apr 1 2014

5/5 Stars


       As someone who has been a big fan of Wizards of the Coast and before that TSR fiction.  I have to say that I was more than a little thrilled to be reading another book by Troy Denning.  He is truly one of the best authors that Wizards has working for them.  This book is definitely a prime example of truth of that statement.  From the beginning there is no time to sit around and consider the world or what’s going on.  The beginning was fast paced, but never made you wonder what was going on for too long.  The changes in point of view were timely and interesting.  Also, he used Sune, Cyric, and Helm; as the gods focused on in this book.  Which are totally new to the Sundering series and a refreshing change from the norm.  The book was wonderful and I loved the characters.  I was very sad to see it end.  But the end was extremely well crafted by answering all of our questions and hoping there might be more down the road.  I was never bored with this book and it is so far my second favorite book in the series.  The Companions being my favorite.  Even if you have not been following the Sundering at all.  There is no need to start from the beginning, although that would be my advice.  You could easily start from here, this book tells you everything you need to know to enjoy the series and the book itself.  I would highly recommend anyone who loves the world of Faerun reading this book.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review


Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Holly Black

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

(September 3, 2013)

3/5 Stars


       Sometimes having a great idea just isn’t enough…  This book has an incredible premise, the idea that having vampires in a state of a disease similar to TB or smallpox; is awesome.  It is definitely a step above the norm.  But the story that is wrapped in this wonderful world is not as original.  In fact, it is a rehash of so many different tropes and cliches that if the reader is a true fan of vampire fiction they can check them off like a shopping list.  But what is worse, is that the major plot revolves around some of the old cliches in vampire fiction and horror fiction.  I applaud this book for being a standalone vampire story that is set in this unique world and I certainly loved the ending.  But the rest of the book is just so rote, that I could not get past it.  Tana is a wonderful main character, but I think the author could have taken her farther.  That is really the moral of this book.  A great idea that could have been taken so much further and to such greater effect.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Under Nameless Stars Book Review

Under Nameless Stars

Christian Schoon


Pub Date: Apr 1 2014

3/5 Stars


        I would first like to say that anyone who judges this book by it’s cover is in for a rude awakening.  I can’t imagine that anyone who had read the book could have created such a cover; but hey, I’m no artist.  Second, I would like to suggest both to the reader and to the publisher that this book belongs firmly in the Middle Grade Category.  Third, I would like to dissuade anyone older than 15 from reading this book.  The story is simplistic and very predictable.  The characters are two dimensional, and some of the attempts at science fiction border on simply the fantastic rather than anything approaching what could possibly happen.  I certainly don’t mind this sort of book from time to time.  But I think I may have literally aged out of it.  There was nothing new for me here and some of the plot twists that came out of no where just further served to make the rest of the book that much more predictable.  The foreshadowing was foretelling, unless you have never read a genre fiction book before and if you are a fan of Harry Potter you might just want to pass this one up altogether because you will find the story to simplistic for your tastes.

       I could probably do a fair bit of beating up on this book, but I won’t bother.  I’m not the intended audience and hopefully since the book is now in paperback; it will find it’s way to the Middle Grade shelves where it belongs.  There is nothing intrinsically bad about the book.  It’s just much too easy of a read for anyone looking for something in YA or adult genre fiction.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Blades of the Old Empire Book Review


Blades of the Old Empire

Anna Kashina


Pub Date: Jan 7 2014 

4/5 Stars


      Blades of the Old Empire is a really good fantasy novel with a really bad beginning.  I was immediately put off by the first chapter or so.  The characters were presented rapid fire during a fight scene and while this is typically a good way to start your novel; in this case it was very badly done.  I was found it difficult to care about what was going on because I didn’t know who any of the characters were and while the pseudo-Arabian Knights style is not actually present in the book; the first chapter does the book no favors in this respect. 

      The actual work is interesting and has some really incredible areas.  Mostly dealing with the Majat a sect of warriors who sell their swords through a guild to any who can pay their price.  The concept itself seems a bit ridiculous and I will be very interested to see how and if the author fleshes the whole concept out in later books.  But what I did like was her use of these characters and their personalities in the book.  The main two non-Majat characters Kyth(a prince) and Ellah(a lady in waiting?)  Were both pretty stereotypical.  The politics in the book were also pretty wrote and typical.  The Majat storyline that is interwoven throughout these very typical fantasy tropes is excellent and certainly worth reading the book for.  In fact, as the book progress most of the uninteresting, typical things fall mostly to the wayside and the main Majat story takes over.  Which is good…  But I really would have preferred the author not take so much time to get to their destination.

    While I didn’t love the book by any means, there was plenty of good to outweigh the boring and typical.  The reader just has to take the time to get there.  If you take the time, I’m sure you’ll like the book as much as I did.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Night of the Hunter Book Review

Night of the Hunter

R. A. Salvatore

Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast

Pub Date   Mar 11 2014

5/5 Stars


      Night of the Hunter is the beginning of a new series called the Companion Codex and just like all the other series that Wizards has done with R.A.Salvatore this one is seriously good.  There is plenty here, back to my favorite Underdark climes and the companionship of old friends.  This has got to be one of the best books of R.A.Salvatore’s I’ve read.  The return to all things Drizzt Do’Urden has been a wonderful journey.  The book is incredible and anyone who has ever read a book about the elusive dark elf should read this one.  This IS in fact the continuation of the story that was started quite a long while ago.  This is not a book for new readers or the unfamiliar with the whole backstory.  I would recommend anyone who is interested in this book to start at the very beginning.  There are tons of awesome anthologies out there to get going with the story.  I will say that every book that R.A. Salvatore writes these days seems to get better so, don’t miss an volume or you will be REALLY missing out!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth (Time Trips) Book Review


Doctor Who Salt of the Earth

Trudi Canavan

BBC Digital (March 6, 2014)

4/5 Stars


            As always, I love Time Trips.  I believe these are the next best things to having Doctor Who Episodes to watch.  The best thing about this book is that it’s with the third doctor; not the current one.  When the third doctor was on, I have to admit I wasn’t a big fan.  But reading this certainly made me nostalgic for those days.  Trudi Canavan, as expected, weaves an awesome story.  One that I read rapidly  and in sitting.  While I did really like the story, as usual it was a bit short to communicate the flavor of the generation.  But considering the price, I would say that this book is a must buy for any Doctor Who fan.

Author Spotlight Anne Leonard on Sword and Laser

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Burning Dark Book Review

The Burning Dark

Adam Christopher


Pub Date: Mar 25 2014

5/5 Stars


          The Burning Dark is an incredibly impressive book that begins a space opera series set in a universe where giant machine spiders are attacking and eating planets.  This is the backdrop for an incredibly well handled ghost story.  I have to admit that I was a little skeptically going into this book just based on hearing about the premise alone.  But after really only a few chapters, I was hooked.  The pacing of the story was excellent, the characters were all well developed and interesting.  The ending was incredibly good and rather unexpected.  I have to say this would make an incredible horror movie.  Anyone who likes space opera or even science fiction will really love this novel.  Probably one of the best books I’ve read this year so far.  Excellent!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mars, Inc. Book Review

Mars Inc.

Ben Bova

Baen Books

Pub Date: Dec 3 2013

2/5 Stars


           First and foremost I would like to admit that I don’t think I was the intended audience for this book.  That being said however, most of what there is not to like about Mars, Inc.  Has nothing to do with Hard Scifi at all.  In fact, this book could have easily been a mystery novel with the Mars Mission as it’s backdrop.  In fact, it is…  There is very little to nothing about actually going to Mars in this book.  Except perhaps what you would find in a 20 minute blurb on the Discovery Channel.  The majority of the book is about the trials and tribulations of Art Thrasher and his need to get humans to Mars.  But by the end of the book you are fully and completely sure you have been duped by a Scifi author into reading their first mystery novel.  Because there is no little science here that it could have been cut out completely and it wouldn’t have made any difference to the main plot of the story.

         For the majority of Mars Inc.  I was bored and for the rest I was waiting to see if some revelation around the corner would foster a cool Scifi story but it never did.  If this is Ben Bova’s bridge book to the mystery genre; good for him.  If not, it’s a terrible book.