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Preview: Sporadic Book Reviews

Sporadic Reviews

Reviews. Infrequently.

Updated: 2018-03-11T05:12:30.761-07:00


GoodReads Reading Challenge


Check out My Year In Books on Goodreads!

And I more than completed my reading goal! (and I'm not finished yet!)

2017 Reading Challenge has completed his goal of reading 50 books in 2017!

I'm in a Mind Meld at SFSignal


Though I'm crazy behind on my reviews, I was recently invited to participate in a Mind Meld post over at SF Signal. They asked several reviewers, publicists, and authors about the changing relationship between authors, reviewers, and publishers.

You can read it now at


Book Review: Dark Disciple (Star Wars)


(image) Dark Disciple: Star Wars by Christie Golden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dark Disciple is, I think, probably the best Star Wars novel I have read. It may also be worst Star Wars novel I have ever read, darn it.

First, let's just get this out of the way: if Obi-Wan ever says he has an idea, or might know someone for a part in a plan, you say NO! And get away quickly. Kenobi's plans never end well.

The story has some predictable elements, but they're executed well and in a Star Wars way that makes sense. It's also fun getting there, and also heart wrenching.

Not to spoil too much: I expected someone to die within these pages. I understand why the choice was for that character within the story, throughout the whole of Star Wars - I still didn't want it to happen.

If you are a fan of Star Wars, especially The Clone Wars series, you must read Dark Disciple!

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HOLY CRAP! Star Wars The Force Awakens Trailer!



SO GOOD!! I am so excited for December 18th!

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Book Review: Leviathan


(image) Leviathan by Jack Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. What a ride.

Black Jack Geary has certainly taken the First Fleet into battles where the odds seem insurmountable, but he's Black Jack and has always managed to scrape through. Now he's facing the dark ships, and their AIs are designed to act and react like he would!

I really enjoy the Lost Fleet novels. There's plenty of action and down-time as well, but when the combat starts I can't put it down. There's plenty of character within these stories as well, and when we lose one it hurts; when we lose ships-full, it's incomprehensible.

Many surprises lead Geary to the dark fleet's home base where he hopes he can destroy their repair and replenishment facilities since he can't outright destroy the fleet the itself without significant losses to his own fleet. Old friends and new return to help out where they can.

An emotional ending brings the book to a close, though the First Fleet sails on.

Leviathan is great read!

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I received my review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.


Book Review: Lords of the Sith


(image) Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Darth Vader? Scary awesome when he was younger.

I need more Star Wars fiction like this that features Vader in his prime: piloting the heck out of his starfighter, using the Force to do crazy things without thought of failure, plowing through enemies with his lightsaber; you know, still doing the things Anakin Skywalker was doing during the Clone Wars, but blatantly evil.

I really enjoyed the introspection Vader had in his quiet moments, the seeming omniscience Palpatine showed of Vader's thoughts, and Vader's responses to his master questioning and testing him. There need to be more Vader/Palpatine stories!

Also? Palpatine unleashed! He and Vader become stranded together on a planet, and as they make their way to civilization they encounter wildlife and terrorists (freedom fighters) that are trying to kill them. Since they're pretty much alone, Sheev can use the Force without witnesses. I'm just glad it wasn't Jedi facing them when he and Vader both ignited their lightsabers. The lords of the Sith tore through the jungles and caves (and citizens) of Ryloth with a controlled fury.

Darth Sidious expertly manipulated the fledgling rebellion on Ryloth to his own ends, as always. And the sad Imperial presence there suffered as well under an inattentive Moff and a traitorous second-in-command. I really didn't care much about the Imperial characters beyond the Darths, though they served their parts well in the story. There are rumors Moff Mors may be a recurring character. If so, she had better stop being lazy and start serving her Emperor!

It would have been nice to get to meet a young Hera, the daughter of the leader of the rebels on Ryloth. She's mentioned briefly, but we know she becomes the leader of a rebel cell years later in the Star Wars cartoon Rebels.

Many characters die within these pages, and the Emperor achieves his goal; but an ember still remains for the rebellion.

Great space combat, awesome Vader scenes, and the Emperor being cunning. What's not to love?

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I received my review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.


My first ComicCon!


I got to go to ComicCon! Emerald City ComicCon is the first comic convention I've attended, and I loved it. I've lived in the Seattle area since for almost 2 years, but I missed ECCC last year because I had to work. I made sure to put in for some time off this year so I could take my family. I've attended other conventions before: PAX Prime a few times, and PAX East once, and GenCon once.

I attended a couple of panels the first day, wandered the show floor checking out various vendors and artists, and went to an authors booth where several authors were signing autographs. I'm not an autograph collector, but Greg Bear was there and he wrote two of my favorite novels. I've held on to SFBC copies of those novels for a couple of decades or more, and figured if I was going to get anything autographed, those should be it. I also had Myke Cole autograph one of his novels that I had bought my son last year for his birthday.

I attended a panel featuring the prolific voice-over actor Steve Blum talking about his career, and a panel featuring the two authors I mentioned above as well as a few other authors talking about where they get their ideas.

(image) My family came home heavy-laden with many purchases. My wife had her pic taken with The Women of Whedon! She also bought a cool puzzle book, and some jewelry. My oldest daughter, dressed as Shego from the Kim Possible cartoon, bought much artwork for herself and friends. My son bought a piece of Arrow artwork, and three books. My youngest daughter chose not to go with use, but I bought her a piece of Once Upon a Time art. I bought myself a Jayne hat, and a couple pieces of art.

Huge crowds, long lines, expensive everything, traffic congestion getting there..

It was a blast!


The Awesomeness that is the March 2015 LootCrate!


My son helped me open up the latest LootCrate to find the goodies within!

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I probably should have ordered two...

I wonder how many people will have their Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lanyard badge thingy on at Emerald City Comic-Con next Friday? I will!


Book Review: Old Earth


(image) Old Earth by Gary Grossman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fascinating yet frustrating book. Old Earth drew me in with a story of an archaeology dig in Montana that stumbles upon ...something. There's also an ancient conspiracy trying to cover up that discovery - anytime and anywhere it's discovered.

The story weaves between the modern day discovery, a similar discovery in the 1600's and the outcome of that, and the efforts of the third party to prevent the discovery from becoming public.

To talk any more about plot would probably give away too much. The blurb does nice a job summarizing without spoiling.

The main characters are Quinn McCauley, a university archaeology professor probably about to lose any future funding for digs, and Katrina Alpert, a peer sent to evaluate him, as well as their group of students and a couple of travel magazine publishers.

This was a page-turner for me. I love books set in caves with mysterious discoveries and maybe some conspiracy thrown in. Ultimately, explanation of the discovery wasn't enough for me at the end though. It was too easily covered up, and perhaps not enough of a physical discovery. Again, to say more would be spoilery.

Apart from that little nitpick, the rest of the book was thoroughly enjoyable.

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Book Review: The Void


(image) The Void by Timothy S. Johnston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't realize The Void was the 3rd book in a series when I picked it up. Didn't affect my reading at all. It's a standalone, following Kyle Tanner the murder investigator and his girlfriend from the previous two stories further into their lives, wrapping up the series for those two characters.

Kind of a murder mystery in space. Shades of And Then There Were None, with characters being picked off but not being sure who's doing the picking. It starts out rather gory. So much so that I almost put it down during the first chapter. I don't like descriptive gore.

The gore stopped after that. It was used to set up the character of the Reaper and how horribly he treated his victims, which had great impact at the end of the book.

I reviewed a book where I described the mystery within as frustrating because it wasn't huge enough at the end and too easily covered up. This book felt frustrating because Tanner was frustrated by everyone around impeding him from doing his job and trying to get him into trouble for doing his job. Equipment problems, not having the correct gear when he needed it, trying to figure out who to trust in a new situation - as a reader, it was easy to empathize with that.

The Void was a good science fiction murder mystery. And it made a good wrap up to a series. Enough so that I'm intrigued enough to think about finding the first two books in the series.

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Book Review: Heir to the Jedi


(image) Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Heir to the Jedi, by Kevin Hearne, is the third Star Wars book in the "rebooted" expanded universe; where everything going forward now is approved by a story group and will all be official stories.

Heir is set shortly after the original Star Wars movie and is told in first-person from Luke's point of view. I normally don't enjoy first-person POV stories, but this one didn't bother me. I found Luke to be much better at putting his thoughts to paper than trying to express himself verbally to his uncle.

Luke and R2 are given a mission, with a few side missions, and along the way he learns a little bit about himself and a little bit more about using the Force.

If you want to get to know Luke Skywalker when he was fresh from destroying the Death Star, give Heir to the Jedi a read.

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Book Review: Homefront


(image) Homefront by Scott James Magner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating premise, emotional ride, and kind of a twist ending potentially setting up a sequel, Homefront is quite a ride.

We start off the book being introduced to a cast of unusual characters from the Colonies on some kind of mission they don't expect to succeed. These characters appear to have a caste system, and are each of a variety of post-human. Shortly, we're introduced to regular humans as well and their space defense force. From there, the body count rises, and new relationships and families are formed.

I can't really describe more without giving too much away, even though I may have already. Even the blurb from the book itself is intentionally vague.

Homefront brings space battles, ship-board combat, ground combat, plenty of character building and world building, relationships developing and ending, emotions flying all over the place, and plenty of character deaths.

Good stuff!

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Star Wars: Tarkin


Tarkin by James LucenoMy rating: 3 of 5 starsTarkin is the second novel in the new Star Wars unified canon. The novel tells a story featuring Wilhuff Tarkin, shortly before he's promoted from Moff to Grand Moff. It also tells a coming-of-age story for a younger Tarkin back on his home planet, depicting the events that shapes him into the man we know from the film and the cartoons. There were two casts of characters set during the main story: Tarkin, Vader, and the Imperials; and a group of rebels that steal Tarkin's personal ship and set about attacking Imperial installations. I would have liked to have spent more time getting to know the rebels, and maybe see them turn up in previous or later stories (we might, I don't know). Vader's characterization... interests me. More on the that after I tell what I thought of the book. One little tidbit I found interesting that Luceno tells us in the narrative: Tarkin suspects and all but knows outright that Darth Vader used to be Anakin Skywalker. I was excited to read Tarkin. The promotional material said Luceno was giving Tarkin the "Plagueis" treatment - the book he wrote about Palpatine's rise to power. I found Plagueis a fascinating read. Tarkin kept me entertained. It was enjoyable, but for the new canon books, New Dawn was better. I found myself wishing to spend more time with the rebels on Tarkin's ship, and with the Emperor on Coruscant (I wish he'd get rid of Mas Ameeda though, that overgrown horned smurf is just a Bib Fortuna wannna-be). If you're a fan of the original Star Wars movie (Episode IV: A New Hope), Tarkin gives some insight and backstory into one of the main villains. If you're a Star Wars fan in-general, you will pick up Tarkin and happily devour it. It's a good Star Wars book and, so far, the first two novels in the new Star Wars canon are much better than the much of the later Legends novels. Now, back to Darth Vader's portrayal within the pages of Tarkin. I think Vader must be a difficult persona to put into prose in-general, not just in this book; he's had several different portrayals on-screen that all must agree. There was the Vader in the original Star Wars that was practically screaming at his troopers to tear Leia's ship apart to find the plans, and almost demurred to Tarkin (which is a topic that kind of comes up in this book); there's the Vader from Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi which was quiet, foreboding, and almost terrifying, and an old man that seemed barely able to fight; then there was Anakin from the prequels, a whiny, bratty, Jedi with an overpowerful sense of entitlement and attachment; and finally there was Anakin from the Clone Wars cartoon, a hero, sometimes quiet sometimes bratty, powerful in the Force with an underlying tension, emotional and caring; and finally Darth Vader from Episode III, which was just Anakin from the previous movie turned completely to the Dark Side. How can an author successfully write a character that combines that combines all those differing characterizations. What we see on screen is just a few minutes out of a day, a few days out of a lifetime, for that character. From little Annie's "Yippee!" to Old Vader rasping "tell your sister you were right," we've seen the highlights of Vader's life, with many missing segments. I can't put my finger on it, but Vader's portrayal felt slightly off. I'm not sure what I expected though. Maybe it's because we don't know him yet in this time period. We don't know how he's handled adapting to his new life, his new master, his new job description, his lack of friends and family. We haven't yet had a book about his new life in this era. The more I think about it, the more I see that maybe his characterization was a combination of all thos[...]

Book Review: Star Wars A New Dawn


(image) A New Dawn: Star Wars by John Jackson Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A refreshing change from previous Star Wars novels, Star Wars: A New Dawn has launched the new Star Wars universe that will include the new novels, the new and existing movies, the new cartoons and The Clone Wars cartoon, some new fiction from Star Wars insider, new comics, and anything else coming out henceforth. It essentially excommunicates almost all previous fiction to the realm of Legend.

A New Dawn does not rely on the bloated universe that existed in all that legendary material before, and while the author had written in that sandbox, this new novel - this new world is fresher. It's still Star Wars. It still expects you, as a fan, to know know what certain races, ships, weapons, and armor look like, it doesn't bother to describe them in much or any detail. The story itself is clearly meant as a setup for the new Rebels cartoon coming out in October 2015 and serves to introduce two of the main characters to each other before the show starts. It's a standalone story though, no need to have any knowledge, or interest, of the Rebels show.

The two main characters are a former Jedi student now grown into adulthood and hiding in the bottle between shifts at a mining operation, and a Twilek pilot looking for civil unrest she can potentially exploit at some point in the future to undermine the Empire. A strong cast of secondary characters also have interesting stories that all intertwine with the main cast and each other. Really, it's more of an ensemble cast that shares the spotlight than focusing mostly on the two mains, though the Jedi Kanan is pretty much the primary character.

If you're a Star Wars fan: read this and get ready for Rebels. If you're looking to jump in to the world of Star Wars novels, this is a good place to start - though I'd suggest you'd have at least seen Star Wars Episode III to share a frame of reference with Kanan's character.

Disclosure: I received an eARC of this novel for review from the publisher through Netgalley.

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Book Review: Robogenesis


(image) Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world is in ruins following the events of Robopocalypse. Archos-18 was defeated, or was it? Other mega AIs scramble to life as well. The Freeborn, humans, and a strange intermingling of man and machine all try to find their place in this new world they thing free of the looming threat of the AI supercomputer. They soon discover they're wrong, and again the fight is on to survive.

Robogenesis picks up pretty well right after the events of Robopocalypse. Though at first we're with some new characters in Russia. We're reintroduced to characters from the first book as they're thinking the war is over and can start moving on with life. Things don't go well though, and the characters slowly realize the war never really ended, and eventually everyone is reunited, and some new characters are brought in as well on both sides.

I absolutely loved Robopocalypse. I was excited to read Robogenesis and see where the story went. This books feels like a middle book in a trilogy, especially the way it ended.

There was very little happiness for the characters in the book. I can only think of two events that were really happy. And I happen to like some happy in my books, even post-apoc end-of-world war stories need some happy in them in my opinion.

I think my favorite character this time around might be Houdini. Loyal and faithful Houdini. A close second would be Nine Oh Two, is almost more human than the human characters, and definitely more human than the other freeborn.

Overall, it's a good book. I don't think it's as good as the first one, but if there's a third book in the series I'll definitely keep reading!

I received an eARC of Robogenesis through Netgalley.

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Anthology Review: Far Orbit


(image) Far Orbit: Speculative Space Adventures by Bascomb James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Far Orbit is a wonderful collection of short science fiction stories.

A few of the standout stories to me were:

Open For Business, by Sam Kepfield, is a tale of (practically current day) entrepreneurs starting up an asteroid mining company, and the fall out from doing so.

Composition in Death Minor, by Kevin Jewell, where a cellist assassin has to make a choice.

Spaceman Barbecue, by Peter Wood, is a Twilight Zone-esque throwback with a happy ending.

A Game of Hold'em, by Wendy Sparrow, is an Old West tale set on a colony world.

And I think my favorite was Bear Essentials, by Julie Frost, about a small trading vessel run by a grumpy man and his adult daughter, along with their small crew. This tale has them transporting a live bear from one world to another, along with an unusual passenger, and discovering something amazing along the way. I definitely want to read more stories about this crew (especially if that bear comes back).

Need a quick fix of good old-fashioned science fiction? Far Orbit is it!

An eARC of Far Orbit was provided to me by the publisher for review (thanks!).

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Book Review: Starship Grifters


(image) Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What did I just read? And why did I like it so much?

Starship Grifters is a crazy story about a gambling, alcoholic, con-artist and his robot assistant that accidentally become owners of a planet that put them deep in debt and smack-dab in the center of a conflict between the current galactic empire and the rebels who want to overthrow it.

There are character names like Rex Nihilo and General Issimo, the Malarchy Empire, and the prison planet Gulagatraz. There are borrowed quotes from The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and Star Wars, as well as plenty of other similarities and ... parodies. If Ex Nihilo means out of nothing, then does Rex Nihilo mean king of nothing? There were probably other names that had plays on words that I didn't catch.

Taken piecemeal, that would make this book seem quite silly and derivative. However, on the whole it all works. I got caught up in the story, and the absolute wonder of how Rex Nihilo spins his yarns to con people, and the witty, snarky banter between him and his robot assistant Sasha.

If Douglas Adams and Mel Brooks wrote Star Wars as an episode of Leverage, and JJ Abrams and Michael Bay directed and produced it for the SyFy channel, you might end up with something close to Starship Grifters.

And that twist at the end... just another crazy whiskey tango foxtrot moment in a book full of fun moments.

Starship Grifters was provided to me by the author for review. Thanks!

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