Book Review: Starship Grifters by Rob Kroese

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Oh do I love me some Rob Kroese.  Whether he’s writing about renegade angels, physics or space, I absolutely adore his work.

If you have followed this blog, you have definitely seen his work mentioned on here.

His latest is a space adventure and it is just as fabulous as I anticipated.  Here is the synopsis:

A space-faring ne’er-do-well with more bravado than brains, Rex Nihilo plies the known universe in a tireless quest for his own personal gain. But when he fleeces a wealthy weapons dealer in a high-stakes poker game, he ends up winning a worthless planet…and owing an outstanding debt more vast than space itself!

The only way for Rex to escape a lifetime of torture on the prison world Gulagatraz is to score a big payday by pulling off his biggest scam. But getting mixed up in the struggle between the tyrannical Malarchian Empire and the plucky rebels of the Revolting Front—and trying to double-cross them both—may be his biggest mistake. Luckily for Rex, his frustrated but faithful robot sidekick has the cyber-smarts to deal with buxom bounty hunters, pudgy princesses, overbearing overlords, and interstellar evangelists…while still keeping Rex’s martini glass filled.

I love Rex.  I kind of wanted to hate him, but he’s just so…interesting.  Here is an apt description from his side-kick Sasha:

It’s more likely that he’s somehow developed a delicately counterbalanced syndrome of mental illnesses that have somehow conspired to keep him alive up until now.  

That can probably describe most of my family.  Anyway, Rex is a walking disaster.  And he gets himself into tangle after tangle.  The way that his mind works, always trying to see the next con, always trying to save himself, he is such a well-developed character.

I also appreciate how Mr. Kroese made a robot come alive.  Despite some of her programmed issues, like being unable to think independently, she is extremely well-developed and real.  She follows Rex throughout the galaxy, through hair-brained scheme after scheme and is most often his savior.  The plot twist at the end of the book cements this notion.

Ahh…the plot twist.  Very clever.  I didn’t see that one coming, and I read CONSTANTLY.  It was truly refreshing.  It wasn’t something that I ever expected and it was glorious.

In most of these types of books, I love reading about the things that the writers come up with.  It’s sci-fi, so it can be anything.  But with Mr. Kroese, he makes it laughable, hilarious even, as Rex explains:

DNA scrambling is the worst.  Last time I had an ear growing between my shoulder blades.  People acted like they didn’t notice it, but I could hear them talking behind my back.

And I have to mention the obvious references to the epic space tale for the ages.  That shall not be named for fear of litigation.  I have read Mr. Kroese’s “memoir” of sorts, The Force is Middling in this One, and it is pretty obvious that he has an obsession with a galaxy far, far away.  And of course it bleeds into this work:

“We’re just checking out a disturbance!” yelled Fingers.  “A disturbance?”  the voice called back.  “What kind of disturbance?” “With the floors!” hollered Fingers.  “Did you say there’s been some kind of disturbance in the floors?”

Sometimes the references made me roll my eyes, but they were hilarious.  And I’m sure that there are several references I missed.

Overall, a great read, very funny, very witty, I loved it.  Highly recommended as with all of Mr. Kroese’s work.

Book Review: Women’s Work by Kari Aguila

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This is a very interesting book.  It attracted my attention because of the dystopian spin to it.  Here is the synopsis:

“So, when most of the men were dead, women saw their chance to take over?” Kate searches her son’s eyes as he asks this. “Not take over,” she says. “Fix things.” It wasn’t hard to justify what the women had done since the end of the Last War. They rebuilt their bombed-out neighborhoods as best they could and worked to established peace and gender equality. But small groups of men roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far. When a bedraggled man shows up on Kate’s doorstep one night, will she risk everything to help him? Does he deserve her help? 

Women’s Work is set in a dystopic world in the Pacific Northwest, where women struggle to survive through sustenance farming, clever engineering, and a deeply rooted sisterhood. In this suspenseful thriller, Kate and her family are asked to let go of their anger and fear on a journey to forgiveness and understanding. It is a compelling story that challenges all of us to question traditional gender roles and to confront the fragility of love.

This story echoes a duo of books I have reviewed previously by Lance Erlick.  Women are in charge, they are trying to reshape society to be less violent, kinder, gentler.

Like that series, this book asks if women have gone too far.

I really enjoyed reading about HOW they survived.  In some books of this nature, the “how” is often glossed over.  Things are different, but they never explain it in detail.

We often forget how easy we have it in this society.  Flip a switch and get light, turn a knob and get water.  Communicate over thousands of miles with the press of a button.  Go to the grocery store and find thousands of foods from all over the world just sitting on shelves and in bins.  This book makes the reader think about all the work that goes into survival.

I liked the political connotations as well.  I look at the way women are treated around the world, and even in this country, and I wonder if we are going backwards.

In this book, set mid 21st century, women have taken over after most of the male population was decimated through war.  But they still retain some of the prejudices of the old world.  Apparently no matter how much things change, they still stay the same.

I loved reading about Kate’s relationships with her children and with the mystery man.  I loved reading how they both had to reevaluate their misconceptions of the opposite sex.  Learn how to trust again.  Truly a tender story.

Overall, a great read.  Very thought provoking, emotional.

Book Review: Forget Yourself by Redfern Jon Barrett

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This book was a little “out there” for me, but I gave it my best shot.

Here is the synopsis from amazon:

“It is important that you know: I love you.
Of course I have no idea who you are.
But I have no real idea who I am either, so it seems fair to me.”

Blondee lives in a world without memories: just four walls, fifty huts and a hundred forgotten people. She came in with the food rations. Mind and body naked, like everyone. Now she lives in a triangular hut at the edge of everything. They say she was a thief — she has long fingers — and she certainly has a reputation for taking multiple lovers. But haunted by the ghost of a fat man and dreaming of a stone woman, Blondee knows she can reshape the world — she just needs to get the world to listen…

I had no clue what I was in for.  I’m still not sure that I figured out the entire book.  But I do know that Mr. Barrett’s style is very unique.

The main character lives in a world without memories.  They just show up with the rations every few weeks.  They are named based on their appearance or personality.  Think “Tanned” “Frederick” (it was written on his shorts), “Fluff”.  They have no recollection of who they were, where they are and how they got there.

The original members of this place decided that this must be a punishment for something bad.  They begin to classify arriving people by what they think their transgression was.  The least, minor, moderate, severe.

This classification translates into a better standard of living.  Being part of a couple, regardless of sexual orientation, is also a ticket to a better life.  The “least” are deemed as committing a crime that hurt no one.  They are first to pick rations, first to use the “book” and have better homes.

The “book” is also fascinating as well.  They have a blank book and everyone writes things down that they “think” they remember from the outside world. Things like “people go to casinos, where they play games for money.  Alcohol is served.”  The book is sacred.

The main character, Blondee, has a hut.  Her lover just left her.  And she has never had a memory.

The reader experiences this world through her experiences.  Her interactions, her sensations.

I enjoyed learning about this place from her.  Mr. Barrett does an amazing job in transporting the reader directly to this wasteland and engages all senses.

I particularly enjoyed how Blondee “changed the world” after she found a magazine depicting life on the outside.  I often make fun of these publications, and it was extremely entertaining to read how Blondee began teaching the others about how life should be based on reading a bridal magazine.

I was confused, however, with the multiple views from different people toward the end of the book.  It was unclear who was speaking, if they were all the same person (like multiple personality) or if the entire world was all in Blondee’s head.

It fascinated me to read about how the world came about.  A bit of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”.  A bit of corporate greed.

I think that the book would be more clear, more powerful if the lives of the people they were before were introduced in the beginning and followed throughout.

This book definitely made me think.  More so than most of the other books I have read this past year.

I do want to make a note that there are some heavy sexual elements in this book.  Not appropriate for teenagers and those who are traditionalists.

Overall, an intriguing read.  Recommended to those who enjoy a bit of a challenge.

Book Review: About Time by Michael Murphey

abouttimepicWow, this book was not what I expected.  Again, one of my favorite genres, mash-up.  Part adventure, part romance, part philosophy and of course, sci-fi.  Very funny while being very philosophical at the same time.  Here is the synopsis: About Time  is the story of how the frontier of time travel was shaped by theoretical physics, lust  and the questionable ethics of attempting to manipulate the histories of entire universes for the profit and amusement of one small planet. Set initially in the year 2043, when fossil fuels have finally been replaced with hydrogen-based energy, a global consortium of governments and corporate conglomerates undertakes a massive and secret program to travel through time. Their goal, of course, is to manipulate the past or future for profit or military advantage, and the power and abundance of this new energy source ultimately makes travel into the past possible.  Efforts to explore this newest frontier are complicated, however, by the libidos and consciences of the people who are chosen to be the first Travelers through time. Further difficulties occur when the laws of physics place the time travelers in the past of parallel universes instead of our own. Rather than a pure flight of fancy, the novel is very much science based. The novel explores the conflict between pure science and the application of science for profit or political gain, and uses humor to lift the its science beyond a dry treatise and keep the reader engaged.  Because its science is plausible (for the most part) About Time  will appeal beyond the Scifi genre to readers of general fiction and adventure as well. Come meet the lushious Sheila Wilkerson, the dangerous Marta Hamilton, the bewildered Marshall Grissom, the confusing Naomi Hu, the reprobate Elvin Detwyler, the clueless Frank Altman, the blackguard Andrew Gormley, the devious Leonard Rose and a host of other characters who populate a secret facility buried beneath the Arizona desert. This book reminds me of 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  Apparently the past is obdurate.  Or at least whatever version of the past you happen to be projected into. First, let me say that this book is seriously funny.  I usually read at night while my husband (who wakes up at the crack of dawn) is sleeping next to me.  The first half of the book I was laughing so hard, I had to go into another room. There is a running penis joke that is just too much to mention here.  As well as a classic “who’s on first” gag.  And then there is the glimpse of what the future is like with regard to television shows:  “Little Hookers, Big World, a show about reformed midget prostitutes who are now part-time bounty hunters and custome motorcycle builders who scream at each other a lot.” The author even makes Einstein funny:  “With a physicist’s sense of poetry, Einstein called this phenomenon space-time.  (Come on, Albert.  Get a thesaurus! Space-Time? Why not Spime or Spam, or…or…Fred?  Anything?  Anything? Ah well..so much for a sense of romance and adventure among the physicists.)” This is not a dry read about physics and time travel.  Occasionally some parts did make my eyes cross, but the character development, plot development and humor kept my attention.  It is more adventure than sci fi with a twist of deception and typical political/corporate meddling. I truly enjoyed all 300+ pages.  Recommended for anyone that likes humor mixed in with their science and enjoys a good story.

Book Review: Rebels Divided by Lance Erlick

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This is a second part of a review for The Rebels series.  I published my review for “The Rebel Within” yesterday.  Here is the review of the second book “Rebels Divided”:

I loved this book as much as the first, despite some issues I had with the ending.  Here is the synopsis from amazon.com:

After the Second American Civil War, a nation divided. The Federal Union
controls most of the country enforcing harmony and an all-female society with
the help of EggFusion Fertilization and Female Mechanized Warriors based near
Knoxville. The male-dominated Appalachian Outland promotes rugged
individualism, but Thane Edwards has a monopoly of power, church, and the
economy. He enforces this with his Rangers, loosely modeled on the legendary
Texas Rangers. The governor of Tenn-tucky and the Outland warlord conclude a
secret deal that each believes will enhance their power.

Geo is a Daniel Boone type frontiersman who hungers to see more of the
world than the tiny impoverished Outland glen where he and his pa hide from
local Rangers. Geo fights Union mechs and Outland Rangers to protect friends,
neighbors, and refugees fleeing the Federal Union and Ranger brutality.

Annabelle is a tough yet fragile tomboy who
lost her parents at age three and was raised by Geo’s estranged Mom. Annabelle develops a
rebellious streak in her conformist society (Federal Union). She becomes a mech
warrior to see the forbidden Outland. When she refuses a politically arranged
marriage to the Outland warlord, he kidnaps her and her adopted sister.

Pursued by Union mechs and Outland Rangers,
Geo and Annabelle must come together to rescue her sister and gain justice for
his pa’s murder. While trying to survive, can they trust growing feelings for
each other despite being sworn enemies?

Again with the names!!  My high school boyfriend went by the nickname “Geo”.  And like the character in the book, he is very protective and loyal.  As I mentioned in the first post, my daughter is Annabelle.  Go figure.

This book takes place three years after the end of the first book.  Annabelle is a mech, an elite female warrior who is charged with protecting the border, rounding up boys and enforcing regulations.

This book also lends more insight into the “Second American Civil War”.  As with the first book, this absolutely fascinates me.  “When the Progressive Reunion seized power, men got suckered into supporting the Patriots; they saw no alternative.  After war broke out, they learned that entrepreneur Adrianne Picard secretly provided the Progressive Reunion with mech gear and drones.  The war ended quickly.  Radical Patriots clung to Appalachia and limited government”.

The way this is conveyed throughout the book is in a simple manner that is plausible in light of today’s political issues.  I live in the great state of Texas, which would probably be at the forefront of any “Patriot” party movement.

In this book, Mr. Erlick further examines the problems that usually plague any sort of “utopian” society.  In the Progressive Reunion stronghold, known as the Federal Union, Annabelle learns that the rules don’t apply to all.  She sees things in her capacity as a soldier that further questions the confines of her society “we’re all equal, except the elite.  She tried to remember where she had read that.  Some banned book her mom kept hidden?  Animal Farm maybe.”

Also in her capacity as a mech, Annabelle can help the unfortunate boys that are discovered living within the borders of the Federal Union.  She becomes part of the Underground Railroad that leads boys and men to safety in the Outland.  In this activity, she regularly meets with her adoptive mother’s banished husband.  And in a fateful turn of events, meets Geo, her adoptive brother that she has never met.

They both have to collaborate to survive as well as bring peace to their prospective homes.

Again, I love the character of Annabelle for many reasons.  Her humanity and her compassion only deepen in this book.  She also pieces together many parts of a complex puzzle and is able to avert disaster.

I also fell in love with the character of Geo.  He is strong, loyal, very intelligent and also works for what is right.  I loved reading about his conflicting feelings for Annabelle.

I also loved reading about the gadgets and techniques Geo and his father came up with while living in the Outland.  They have electricity.  They have saferooms.  They have homemade weapons and other ways to ensure their safety (for the most part).

The problem I have with the ending is that it essentially abruptly ends.  Also too many loose ends are tied up at once in a nice pretty package.  As much as I love happy endings, things just seemed a little too convenient by the end.

I would have liked an epilogue that sketches out Annabelle’s new life or a hint that everything is alright beyond the last pages of the book.

But overall, a very satisfying conclusion to the adventure Annabelle began in the first book.

Book Review: The Rebel Within by Lance Erlick

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Ahhh…another one of my favorite type of books.  A mash-up.  Part dystopian, part romance, part thriller, part scifi and part YA.  I absolutely loved this series.

The author emailed me about reviewing the book, and I am very thankful that he did.  Here is the synopsis from amazon.com:

After the Second American Civil War, the Federal Union pursues a world without men by rounding up the remaining males. A rebellious adopted teen girl must choose between becoming a security cog in the elite military unit that took her parents or being torn from her beloved sister and adoptive mom.

Annabelle is a tomboy who lost her parents at age three and developed a rebellious streak against her conformist society even while serving as a cop intern. She puts herself and her family at risk by helping a boy escape prison. Then, to protect her sister, she fights the amazon Dara. Arrested for disharmony, Annabelle chooses to endure training and qualification tests to enter the elite mech warrior program with Dara rather than re-socialization and exile.

Harassed by the police captain who hates her, the mech commander who demands too much, and the bully Dara, Annabelle struggles through rigorous training. At the same time she’s driven to search for her birth mother and help boys escape the federal roundup. Can Annabelle stand up to Dara, protect a boy she’s grown fond of, and avoid washing out of the mech program while remaining true to herself and protecting her family? The final test: a gladiatorial spectacle of hand-to-hand combat to the death with a male wrestler.

My daughter is named Annabelle (but it is spelled differently), so it was a little disconcerting to read “Annabelle” so often and not think of my munchkin.

But other than the adoption thing and living in a female dominated society, my child has a lot in common with her fictional counterpart.  Her rebellious nature for one, her looks for another.

I truly loved the character.  She is strong, intelligent.  She has a heart.  She knows that her society isn’t the utopia it is portrayed to be.  She has an unquenchable thirst for justice and determination to match.

I loved learning about this “utopia”. I live in the South, and I occasionally run into the misinformed ideals of macho males who think I should be in my kitchen barefoot and pregnant.  So reading about an all-female society was very interesting.

Reading about how this “utopia” came about was even more intruiging, “in the early decades of the 21st century, right-wing extremists tried to turn back the clock.  When they failed, they seceded, bringing the Second American Civil War.”

It ended with women in possession of most of the country, and men forced to live in the “Outlands”, i.e. Appalachia, Tex-SoCal, and in the Rockies.  They in turn live in a backwards society where women are usually chattel, and theocracy is the norm.

Well, that seems plausible.  Especially from my seat down here in Texas.  A state that regulates a woman’s body to “protect life” but promotes gun ownership and kills 300 people per year by lethal injection.  I also think that Texas has more churches per square mile than any other place in the country.  For example, within a mile of my house, there is 10 churches of varying denomination.  And that is not an exaggeration.

But I digress.  For as good as “the Union” seems, all “utopia” type societies always have a nasty underbelly.  This one treats males as third class citizens.  Any males that they do encounter are jailed (including children that are sent to “schools” that are fenced in like a prison) and are forced to wear a shock collar.

Annabelle starts helping boys escape.  And then a turn of events forces her into the military.

The gadgets and tactics used for training were fascinating.  I loved the idea of the simulators. However, like “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, reading about the training and about young teenage girls nearly killing each other was disturbing.

Even more “Hunger Games”-esque was the final test for those intending to serve in the mech forces:  a fight to the death in an arena against a male who is hopped up on steroids.  It is televised, along with a tournament among the mech recruit classes, and gambling is permitted on the participants.

I admire Annabelle’s hard work and grit in doing what she feels is right for her family, despite being totally against the organization she is training for.

I loved reading about her relationship with her adopted sister and mother.  The urge for Annabelle to protect Janine is palpable.

I was also sent the second book, Rebels Divided, by the author and jumped right in.  Look for the review for that book tomorrow.

Overall, this is a wonderful book with strong characters, strong statements on politics and life in the United States, with twists of love, empathy and compassion.

Favs for 2012

As of right now, I have read 125 books this year.  All kinds of books, across all genres.  Mainly ebooks.  Due to my financial situation during the last half of the year, most of the books were free via the kindle lending library or on smashwords.  I also review books posted on bookbloggers.net.

This year I started branching out of my usual reading patterns and started reading more horror, romance and erotica.  Thanks to the phenomenon of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, apparently most women have started on the “mommy porn” craze.  You can read my ideas on “Fifty” here and here.

And zombies!! I started watching “The Walking Dead” after the first season, yet I didn’t start reading zombie books until this year.  And now I’m hooked.

Here is a list of my favs (that I read) this year, in no particular order:

Crossfire trilogy by Sylvia Day– I love this romance/erotic series much more than “Fifty”, I outlined my reasons above.  I just feel that it is more realistic, better written, and takes in to account that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in some way during their lifetime.  This in mind, some of the BDSM presented in “Fifty” are huge triggers for survivors.  Can’t wait for the next book in May 2013.

Future Perfect by Tony Bayliss– My fav religous/political statement book.  Very intense and thought provoking. For another amazing read, try Past Continuous as well.

There Goes the Galaxy by Jen Thorson – Fun, hilarious, an epic journey through space.  Absolutely loved it.

Double Cross:  The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre – I am a huge fan of these books.  Yes, spy books are fun, but these are TRUE spy books outlining the missions and lives of real spies who helped to save the world.

Automaton by Cheryl Davies – futuristic sci-fi with a romantic twist.

Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins – what more can be said?

Faking It by Elisa Lorello – my first foray into a different kind of chik lit.

War Brides by Helen Bryan – I love historical fiction, this book was very emotional and provided a different perspective on WWII.

And I can’t pick a favorite zombie book…I loved all of the ones I read, check through my reviews.  I love the Zombie Bible series by Stant Litore, I finally read World War Z by Max Brooks and the Zombie Orgins Series by Kristen Middleton is funny and thrilling.

Any suggestions for 2013?  Any new genres I should explore?  What are your favs for this past year?

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