Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Title: The Delta Anomaly
Author: Rick Barba
The Book Depository
“The Delta Anomaly” by Rick Barba was the first novel released in the Starfleet Academy series of novels which are set in the JJ Abrams’ alternative version of Star Trek. However, it actually takes place after the events that occurred in the 2nd novel to be released which was entitled “The Edge” and therefore I read that book first.
The main plotline is based around the investigation of a rather strange serial killer who seems able to kill people without leaving a single mark on the bodies. Kirk, McCoy and Uhura get dragged into the investigation when one of Uhura’s friends is attacked and Kirk manages to step in an save her. Of course, before long the cadet’s themselves are at risk when the killer appears to make a move on them.
In addition, the book also delves into some of activities and tests that the cadets are undertaking as well as taking an interesting look at the growing relationship between Uhura and Spock. If you think this all sounds a little bit busy for such a short book, I can confirm that you would be right. Barba has crammed a lot into the book which results in a breakneck pace with actions and thrills aplenty. However, I did find that this attempt to include a lot in the book meant that at times both the details were lacking and it could feel a little bit rushed.
I am happy to say that the main characters did feel correct compared to how they have been portrayed recently on the screen. What I really liked though was seeing how beneath Kirk’s youthful and rebellious exterior lies a good man with the potential to be a great leader. This was visible in the other characters as well to an extent, but it was Kirk whose potential you could really see.
One thing I would like to note is that whilst this book is set after “The Edge” there isn’t any particular advantage in reading that book first as the stories are pretty much self-contained so don’t worry if you read this one first. However, there are a few inconsistencies I noticed when reading this book that may have occurred due to the books being written out of order. For example, in “The Delta Anomaly” there is a Doctor present at the Academy as an instructor who I believe would have been thrown out following certain events that occurred during “The Edge”. There are few other little niggles like this that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel but were noticeable.
Overall, this was a solidly enjoyable Star Trek novel that shoul appeal to any teens out there who enjoyed the JJ Abrams movie. It could be a little bit light on details and rushed at times, but the fast pace and thrill packed storyline should more than appeal to the books intended audience.
Saturday, 23 February 2013
Title: The Adventures of Benjamin Skyhammer
Author: Nicole Sheldrake
I will admit straight away that “The Adventures of Benjamin Skyhammer” by Nicole Sheldrake wasn’t a book I initially though I would want to read. The simple reason is that even though it had a rather colourful cover, the title itself didn’t really hook me in and it took the author’s description of the story to get me reading the novel. Now I have completed it, I can say that I am glad I did agree to read it as I found it to be a light and fun adventure story set in a fantasy world I found to be quite unique.
As the title implies the plot of the story is based around the escapades a young man known as Benjamin Skyhammer. Benjamin is not a regular person as he is unable to use magic and in his world that makes him a very rare individual. However as magic only functions within a limited area, he spends his time roaming the countryside going to where most magic users won’t go attempting to locate various relics and artefacts that he can sell to the highest bidder Things soon change go him however when he is accused of attempting to stop a process that would allow magic to be used anywhere on the planet. Before long he is on the run trying to find the real perpetrator and unlock a conspiracy that may threaten the use of magic everywhere.
Whilst I have to admit that the heart of the story isn’t that original, there was actually quite a range of complex strands within the plot that kept me entertained even if it could feel a little bit convoluted at times. It was rather impressive how Sheldrake managed to actually keep the story making sense when you consider all the various different elements that were introduced as it progressed. In addition, the twists and turns throughout the novel kept me guessing right up until the surprise ending and the pace of the novel was just right to ensure that the adventure progressed at a good rate and yet also took time out to reveal some aspects of the world itself and Benjamin’s backstory.
One element of the book that really impressed me was in regards to how the magical system functioned. The manner in which magic was limited to being usable only within a certain proximity to the king was something I had never seen before. It was quite an interesting way in which to limit the immense power that people could possess and I enjoyed how it sometimes enabled the tables to be turned in regards to who had the upper hand depending on where an event might be taking place. In addition, the various races on the planet were all very different in how they actually utilised magic. For example, whilst humanity used a slate made from a mixture of blood and glass to form a picture of what they wished to occur, there was another race whose magic seemed to be based completely around the ability to control other creatures. Overall, it was a very complex and original magical system that really intrigued me.
The characters themselves were well developed but whilst I loved Benjamin’s partner named Higgins who was a fun and enjoyable character to follow, Benjamin himself was difficult to like at times. There were many points in the novel where he comes across as being self-centred and obsessed with finding a specific relic to the point that he will commit any crime to get it. The fact that he also seems to whinge throughout the novel doesn’t help either and this all just meant that I found it hard to really sympathise with him.
Overall, I found this novel to be a fun adventure story that explores a complex and rather original magical world. The fact that the main character was at times quite unlikeable does spoil the enjoyment a little bit, but there are moments of redemption and the interplay between him and Higgins was entertaining. Basically, if you are a fan of fantasy looking for something fun and different to read then I am more than happy to recommend this book.
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Title: Isadora DayStar
Author: P.I. Barrington
“Isadora Daystar” by P.I. Barrington is a rather dark and bleak Science Fiction novel that feels surprisingly different from a lot of the books in this genre that I have previous read. There are no great heroes, space battles or alien invasions here; it felt like a complex story of redemption that was set in a Science Fiction environment.
The plot itself follows the title character herself, Isadora Daystar who seems to screw up everything she attempts in both her personal and professional life. This is compounded by a drug addiction that has caused her to make some rather terrible choices over the years. However, when she takes on an assassination mission she unknowingly begins a journey that forces her to finally face her own demons or lose everything, including her own life.
I have to be honest and say that there were times that I struggled to get through the rather bleak and depressing life I was witnessing as I turned the pages. This isn’t because the book was badly written or un-interesting; it was because Barrington has done such a good job at portraying a broken and at times incredibly unlikeable character that seems to just be ghosting through a drug addicted life. Luckily I did stick with it and by the end of the novel I realised that she did feel real to me and there was some level of connection. I could appreciate the disaster that her life had become and understand her remorse and feelings of guilt as she struggled on.
The story is also quite action packed and fast paced which should keep most people entertained once they get over the darker aspects of the story. However, the real driving force is Isadora herself alongside her history and the various interactions with the other characters. In particular her interactions with a youngster named Iphedeiah soon enable the reader to finally accept Isadora as a form of anti-hero.
The only issue I did have is that the final revelations in the novel seemed a little bit forced and unbelievable which was a shame considering how good a job Barrington has done in creating a believably flawed Isadora. I won’t go into it in any depth as it would spoil the story, but I particularly couldn’t accept how easily some of the characters were willing to just accept various things. I suppose the problem is that Barrington wanted to at least create some sort of decent ending for Isadora which wasn’t going to be easy to do considering the rather depressing life we had seen before. It didn’t ruin the story for me but it did rather weaken what had been a well-crafted and clever plot.
Overall, this is an interesting novel that looks at redemption and guilt but it really isn’t for the faint hearted as you get to witness some rather grim and unhappy scenes. The ending itself was a bit of a let-down to me and did probably spoil some of the clever narrative that had previously been driving the tale. Despite the ending, I still found the book to be entertaining enough and if you can face the bleak and depressing life that Isadora endures there is a well written story of redemption that most people should enjoy on some level.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
Title: The Edge
Author: Rudy Josephs
The Book Depository
“The Edge” by Rudy Josephs is actually the first Star Trek novel I have read that is set in Star Trek’s “Abramaverse”. As this is a Starfleet Academy book it is targeted at the Young Adult audience just like the earlier Academy novels that were set in the Prime universe. However, I do feel that this book was of a higher standard than the Prime Universe series of novels. I suspect that this is because YA novels have come on quite a way in recent years and there is a huge variety in terms of content to the point that the quality of both plot and style needs to be at a level that people are willing to actually pick up a book out of the large selection available.
The story itself follows the first few months of Kirk, McCoy & Uhura’s time at the Academy which doesn’t start off to well when a fellow cadet is found dead in his dorm room. Before long, other Cadet’s begin to show strange symptoms and it becomes clear that someone has been offering gene therapy and micro surgery to give cadet’s an extra edge during their time at the Academy. Whilst Star Fleet conducts its own investigation with the assistance of Commander Spock, Kirk and McCoy get dragged in themselves as they attempt to ensure that no one else suffers or turns up dead.
As I said earlier, I actually found this book to be of a higher standard that the other YA Star Trek novels I have read. The plot itself has a decent level of complexity and intrigue that will ensure most people are entertained even if it still isn’t as deep as an experience adult reader would have preferred. An interesting element of this novel is that it was actually quite slow paced, which was quite surprising to me when I compared it to the action packed fast paced movie that it is based around. Personally, I wasn’t bothered to much by this though as Josephs used the slower pace to actually explore the characters and the way they interact with each other and the academy life itself.
In regards to the characters, I found that I could easily envisage them as being the same to those I saw on the movie screen. Uhura is the best example of this as she comes across strongly like the Zoe Saldana version rather than Nichelle Nichols’s take on the character. For a big fan of Star Trek I really appreciated being able to read the book and feel like I was specifically reading about the alternate Universe.
One minor comment I do have with the book is in regards to my own knowledge of Star Trek canon. In a lot of the other books and TV episodes I have seen, people from Earth tend to show a real fear and hatred of genetic engineering due to events that occurred in the past such as the Eugenics Wars. However, in this book I felt that many people were very nonchalant and glib about the gene therapy that was going on. This isn’t a major issue and it probably won’t matter to someone who isn’t a big fan of Star Trek but it insured that the book felt a little bit wrong to me.
Overall, this was an enjoyable Star Trek YA novel that does a good job in capturing the feeling of the characters people witnessed in the “Abramaverse” version of Star Trek. The plot itself is a little slow paced at times but there should be enough there to keep most fans entertained.
Friday, 15 February 2013
Title: Almost Home
Author: Frank Marcopolos
Genre: General Fiction
I started reading “Almost Home” by Frank Marcopolos under the assumption that it would be a very sports centric novel and was therefore surprised to find out that it was actually much more than this. The plot has several twists and turns and explores the overall drama of college life with particular attention being paid to the more seedy aspects.
The novel follows the conflict between two protagonists, Barry Budiski and Enzo Prinziatta which occurs from the moment they meet at a Halloween Frat party. Things get worse at the part when a stripper appears to die from a drug overdose and Enzo is thrown out by a few of Barry’s fraternity brothers. Barry, who is president of the Frat house soon realises that he should try and keep his potential enemies closer and therefore joins the same baseball team as Enzo and even invites him to be a honourary fraternity brother. Before long the two of them are more or less working together but there is still a level of conflict that continues to bubble along beneath the surface, enhanced by the involvement of two women named Jenny & Shannon.
I found the book to be cleverly written, fast paced and interesting in the way it explored multiple elements of University life, from the wild parties to life in the dorms. I also appreciated how Marcopolos gives the readers a narrative that alternates between the viewpoints of both Barry and Enzo. This alternating viewpoint ensured that I could attempt to understand the way in which the characters were acting to the point that at times I couldn’t actually decide if I actually liked or disliked them. There really was no good or bad guys in the story, these were meant to be characters with both negative and positive aspects which I enjoyed seeing.
However, I did have some issues with the characters and that was in regards to their maturity. I will admit it was 10 years since I was at University myself and it was based in the UK but I don’t remember myself or my friends acting in such an immature manner. Maybe I am misremembering it as being much more highbrow that it really was or perhaps my friends and I were not the norm but either way it ensured that I struggled to really relate with the characters as much as I wanted to.
Overall, this was an interesting book and I enjoyed seeing characters in both a positive and negative light even if I did feel that they were a little bit immature for University students. Personally, I suspect this book will appeal to people in their mid-teens as that is the age group of people I think who would really relate with the characters and perhaps therefore gain more from reading it.
Monday, 11 February 2013
Two years ago today, I started this blog because I felt like sharing my thoughts on the growing collection of books I was reading thanks to my newly acquired Kindle. I am still at it now and am only 3 more followers away from hitting 100 which I never could have imagined when I first started out on this journey.
Anyway, I should probably try and summarise some of what occurred over the last year so I will start with the biggest piece of news that occurred in regards to the blog and that is the fact that I decided to re-name it. I can’t remember if I ever explained the reason for the name change so I will do so now. Basically I found out there was another older blog out there with the same name as mine and I just didn’t like that. Don’t get me wrong, my blog isn’t big or well-known but I still want to make sure if people are looking for it they can at least find it. The new title I hope also tried to fit into the fact that whilst I favour Science-Fiction and Fantasy I do still try and read a good variety of genres.
In regards to book reading and blogging, then I can easily say that this has been a busy year for me, mainly because I entered far too many book reading challenges. It actually got the point that I almost threw in the towel on my entire blog as I began to get annoyed trying to meet umpteen different challenge requirements. I still can’t believe that I let myself feel stress about the entire thing but I made it through and have learnt my lesson as I have only entered one challenge for 2013 which is The Eclectic Reader Challenge.
My year of reading however has still been enjoyable as I have read some really magical books. In fact I have tried to highlight some of the books I liked the most out of those I have read and reviewed since my last blogoversary below:
Favourite Indie Published Book
Foundation For The Lost by Scott Rhine
This wonderfully clever and well written urban fantasy really was a highlight of the last year. The characters were interesting, the writing was engaging and this novel is a superb example of what can happen when an Indie author gets it right.
Favourite Science-Fiction Book
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
When I initially wrote my review on this book I had highlighted that I couldn’t actually think about anything negative to say about it. I have to be honest and say I still can’t as it was funny, entertaining and had an interesting and clever plot that highlighted some of the serious consequences of time travel but also had me laughing out loud.
Favourite Star Trek Book
Final Frontier by Diane Carey
This Star Trek novel took an interesting and enjoyable look at Captain Kirk's father. There was action, intrigue and fun aplenty, but more importantly it was just plain entertaining and could easily have worked as a standalone Science Fiction novel.
Favourite Fantasy Book
Watership Down by Richard Adams
This book made the list mainly because I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel. I picked it up for a challenge unsure about how good a book about rabbits could really be but I found it to be fun, engaging and full of entertaining adventures. I finished the book with a big smile on my face and happy that I had finally gotten around to reading this classic.
Favourite Non Speculative Fiction Book
King of Paine by Larry Kahn
I have to admit that I didn’t read many non speculative fiction books over the last year due to the requirements of the various challenges I took part in. However, this book was one that I do remember well. At its heart it was an enjoyable thriller, but its complex and interesting plotline alongside some engaging characters ensured that I was hooked from start to finish.
Now this doesn’t mean that any of the other books were any less enjoyable or entertaining but those books above really grabbed me and had me thinking about them for a long time after finishing them.
One final thing I wanted to share in this post is the interesting screenshot below of Goodreads highlights the number of books I have read over the last few years. This amused me as I think it becomes pretty obvious at what time it was I got my kindle and started book blogging.
As you can also see, I just missed reaching my personal target of reading 100 books in 2012 so I guess we now need to see if 2013 will be the year that I finally break through the 100 book barrier.
In summary, I just have to say a thank you to the all the authors who wrote a book I read over the last year as their vision and ideas have kept me both entertained and in love with the magic of literature. In addition, thank you to the people who read and comment on this blog, I just hope that some of you find something useful in amongst all my mutterings.
Posted by David King at 09:30
Saturday, 9 February 2013
Title: Xannu - The Healing (The Southern Lands Book 2)
Author: Paul Dorset
“Xannu – The Healing” is the 2nd novel in the Southern Land Saga and it follows directly on from the events that occurred in “Xannu – The Prophecy” which I previously reviewed here. This review therefore will contain some spoilers about “Xannu – The Prophecy” and I would therefore advise people to read my review of the first novel and then decide if they wish to give the series a try.
As said above, this novel picks up directly after the events of the first novel with the cast of characters remaining pretty much unchanged. In our own world, Terry is suffering guilt due to his friend Joe seemingly vanishing into an epic fantasy styled world known as the Southern Lands. He also is trying to survive the other regular aspects of being a young teenager as he tries to understand his feelings for Susan who has begun to take a much more active role in his life. In the Southern Lands themselves however the of Tern, Joe, Maria, Matthius and Selene are splitting up in an attempt to heal certain members of the group who have become ill. Tern, Matthius and Selene must travel to The Unforgiving, a desolate place where it is hoped that Matthius’ battle injuries can be treated. Meanwhile Joe and Maria must travel to the island of Tane where it is hoped that the Sorceresses may be able to help Joe so that he can return home.
Once again Dorset had created a rather fast paced and entertaining fantasy novel that was fundamentally entertaining. I think the best elements of the novel were in regards to the sections which were set in our own world. I loved getting to see how Terry really begins to grow into a teenager with all the relevant levels of emotional change and associated struggles. His fledgling relationship with Susan is at times quite amusing and I enjoyed following his struggles to understand his feelings whilst Susan herself seemed to know exactly what she wanted. In addition, it was really interesting getting to discover that several other people in Terry’s life have had experience of the Southern Lands and it really piqued by curiosity about why and how this was happening.
The fantasy sections of the novel however were probably missing a little bit of the excitement and thrills that I witnessed in the previous novel. It was still enjoyable to follow what was going on but these sections of the novel did suffer the most from middle book syndrome as it felt like the author was trying to set up the events of future novels. The characters however continued to be both believable and easy to emphasize with which ensured that I never wanted to skip sections even with rather limited overall progression in the fantasy elements of the story.
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable follow up novel that offers up a huge amount of promise for future books in the series. Whilst the overall story progression in the Southern Lands specifically was limited, I felt that this was more than made up for by the development we see in the characters in our own world. Personally, I am looking forward to picking up the 3rd book in the series so I can see where the story is going next.
Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Title: Cadet Kirk
Author: Diane Carey
"Cadet Kirk" by Diane Cary is the 3rd and final book in the 1996 Star Trek Starfleet Academy series of novels that charted the earlier escapades of Kirk, Spock and McCoy in the prime Trek Universe. The plot is based around a shuttle flight in which Kirk had been expecting to fly the famous scientist, Richard Daystrom to another planet. However, due to a change in plans he is left transporting two rather unknown young officers named Spock & McCoy. During their journey, they are caught in a tractor beam and pulled down into a small outpost by pirates who had been hoping to capture Daystrom. So Kirk, Spock and McCoy must work together so that they can escape the pirates and ensure that Daystrom doesn’t fall into the same trap.
As seems to be the norm with this series of young adult Trek lit, the plot is very basic with little in the way complications or surprises. The beginning of the book was also rather slow which did make we wonder how easily a young reader would stick with it. However, once you get past the initial section of the book the pace picks up and there are some fun and entertaining action scenes. By the end of the book I found that I had rather enjoyed the overall experience even if it all was a little bit predictable. My enjoyment was probably helped by the story being told from McCoy’s point of view as I do like getting to witness his rather bleak and sarcastic views.
The real positive in the novel though was in getting to watch Kirk, Spock and McCoy gradually grow to respect each other. Initially, they were very formal and unsure of each other, but by the end they were working together as a team that showed the first hints of what they would become in the future.
One aspect that had me a little unsure about the novel was the way in which McCoy and Kirk didn’t appear to know each other initially as this was at odds with what occurred in the previous book, “Aftershock”. It is explained later on in the story that they just didn’t recognise each other but based on what had previously happened, I was surprised that McCoy at least didn’t remember Kirk much more easily. It felt to me that Carey wanted her book to be based around Kirk not knowing either Spock or McCoy and she just through in the failure to remember each other as a way to ensure the books in the series would still technically be linked to each other.
Overall, I was a little bit split in regards to this book as whilst I enjoyed the fact that this book was more action orientated compared to the other books in the series, I also felt that the start was rather slow and I didn’t like the cheap feeling plot point regarding McCoy and Kirk not remembering each other. In the end this is really just an average novel, but if you are interested in trying to read a little bit more about how these three starfleet officers met then you will probably get some enjoyment out of it.
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Title: A Life of Death - The Golden Bulls
Author: Weston Kincade
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
“A Life of Death: The Golden Bulls” is the sequel to Weston Kincade’s previous novel “A Life of Death” which I have previously reviewed here. As this is a sequel, I do need to warn people that this review is likely to contain minor spoilers in regards to what occurred in the previous novels. Therefore I would advise anyone new to the series that they should read my review of the first book and then decide if they want to give it a try which I strongly recommend.
The story follows Alex Drummond, the teenager from the first novel that has now grown into a man and works as a detective in his home town of Tranquil Heights. His investigative abilities are assisted by the various paranormal visions that occur when he touches various objects. However, there has been one serial killer who commits a ritualistic murder every year who has managed to elude him. Now though, he is closing in on the murderer and hopes that he can finally catch them and end the killings for good.
I need to start by saying that I loved the previous novel and when I found out about this sequel I was desperate to get my hands on it. Now that I have finished reading it, I am happy to say that it was another thoroughly enjoyable, well-paced book that had me hooked from start to finish. I don’t think it had a strong an emotional impact as the first novel but the overall mystery and the attempts by Alex to investigate were more than enough to keep me entertained. The writing was also clear, concise and without any major errors which could have interrupted the flow of the novel.
One aspect that I specifically enjoyed was the way in which the book delved into various side topics such as Egyptology and forensic pathology. The elements of the story dealing with these issues were both interesting and highly entertaining. At times I almost found myself wishing to see more of the visions that Alex had in regards to the ancient Egyptians than in following the present day murder investigation. I found that these side topics ensured that the story didn’t just get bogged down in a standard detective plot and enabled the reader to learn a little bit more about Alex’s paranormal abilities.
The only negative aspect I had is an issue that I find in many detective based stories such as this and it is in regards to the killer. It was far too obvious who they were, I basically think that Kincade gave away far too many obvious hints during their introduction. It all but ensured the reader would realise who the murderer was which of course does lesson the ability of the mystery elements to keep you hooked.
In summary, this was another enjoyable and entertaining read from Kincade which will certainly appeal to anyone who read and like “A Life of Death”. The continuation of Alex’s story was a pleasant experience and it was nice to see how he had grown and accepted his abilities over the year. To be honest, as is normal with sequels I do recommend that people try out the first book before reading this, especially as I feel it was emotionally much more powerful. However, if you decide to just to pick this book up without reading the first novel then you can be happy in the knowledge that there it is an enjoyable enough story in its own right.