Lt. Ben Pollard thinks he's traded the perils of the Belt for security as an Earth-based computer jockey for United Defence Command. Then he's forced to perform a mission of mercy - and lands on an isolated, intrigue-riddled space station. He's been named next-of-kin to a man he never wanted to even see again: Paul Dekker, a young pilot who attracts crises like dead flesh draws flies. The centerpiece of a top-secret war project, Dekker has just lost his entire crew in a mysterious freak accident and lost his mind to amnesia from an attempted suicide. Or attempted murder. Suddenly two more faces from Dekker and Pollard's past are shanghaied to Sol II: their occasional lovers, renegade pilots Meg Kady and Sal Aboujib. Together they had once smashed the criminal cover-ups of a mining cartel. Now, they're all caught in a shadowy, deadly maze of power-mongering rivalries between UDC and Fleet Strategic Operations, the Senate and Peace Lobby, and the corporate lords of both Earth and Mars.
Thus far, as I have been reading Cherryh’s Company Wars books, they have overlapped slightly (mentions of Pell and its inhabitants occur in pretty much every book, for example). But this is the first time that I would call a book a sequel. Hellburner seems to me very much to be a sequel to Heavy Time, as we follow the further association between Paul Dekker and Ben Pollard.
If you have ever felt manipulated at work, you will feel great sympathy for Paul & Ben. They are frenemies, both trying to find their way in the universe. Ben thinks that he has finally landed a cushy spot for himself on Earth, far from the wars ongoing in space. This is a big achievement for a boy who grew up in the asteroid belt and who had never seen the ocean! He really doesn’t understand Earthers (OMG, they think that they have the right to air and water, how misguided are they?) but to find a peaceful work environment, he is willing to try.
Paul Dekker is Ben’s mirror image, a kid who grew up on and around Sol and who escaped an uncertain and unpromising future in Earth orbit by going to the asteroid belt. In the process, he has made himself some powerful enemies and has undergone a lot of mental disturbance. Still, he has awesome piloting skills and he’s a valuable commodity if his enemies can be dealt with.
Ben had hoped to never, ever see Dekker again. He is on the cusp of getting his ideal job when he is called away as Dekker’s “next of kin,” when Dekker is experiencing mental problems again, having been left to die in a flight simulator. Ben considers simply beating Dek to death and returning to Earth.
Instead, they are rejoined by their partners in crime from Heavy Time, Meg Kady and Sal Aboujib, and they set out to conquer the new experimental ship, the Hellburner, that no one else has been able to run successfully. Can Dekker hang onto his sanity long enough to do this? Can Ben rein in his temper? Can Meg and Sal make the cut?
As a person struggling with a new computer system at work, one which no one seems to want to provide training for, I have great sympathy for this team.
Book number 299 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.
11/19/18: Completed Tasks 1, 2, and 4. Will probably skip Task 3. Still pending on Book Task.
Find some redeeming quality in the book you liked least this year and post about it.
-- COMPLETED 11/19/2018 --
I create a list of books each year, ranking them from most liked and least liked, a lot of times based on star rating. There have been years where the ranking of the book on my list doesn't necessarily match the star rating as compared to other books on the list.
This year, the list has been fairly straight forward, for whatever reason--probably because I've stuck more with a star rating system wherein the book gets stars more based on whether I liked it or not, rather than factoring in whether or not the book actually deserved a specific star rating, regardless of my like for it.
Anyway, at the bottom of the list right now is a novella by Courtney Milan, This Wicked Gift. When I saw Milan's name at the bottom, I was thinking, "How on earth did she end up at the very bottom of my book rankings list?" But it only took a few milliseconds to recall that it was really because of the premise of the romance that made the book all sorts of wrong for me.
Yes, apparently even a beloved author can really cross that line. Here's a link to my combined series review with This Wicked Gift at the end of the post: Series Review: Carhart
And so, moving on to the one redeeming quality of this book: It was written by Courtney Milan and in spite of the terrible romantic premise, it was actually written well.
I don't know why this quality makes it any better, because if anything it should make it worse, considering all the thought-provoking subjects she brings up in her other historical romances. Knowing that she's aware and brings to surface women's issues in her historicals makes it confusing as to why she wrote This Wicked Gift the way she did. I still can't wrap my mind around it, unless I just misunderstood the story altogether.
But I DO really like Milan, and I know she can write very well. Any other author, I probably would have already dropped, but because it's Milan, I'm willing to overlook this novella as a random fluke on her part. This was one of her earlier works after all.
Tell us: What are the tropes (up to 5) that you are not willing to live with in any book (i.e., which are absolutely beyond your capacity for tolerance) and which make that book an automatic DNF for you? (Insta-love? Love triangles? First person present narrative voice? Talking animals? The dog dies? What else?)
-- COMPLETED 11/19/2018 --
I have a surprisingly high tolerance when it comes to books considering how impatient I usually am. I think it might be my stubborn, unwillingness to drop a book if I've already invested a lot of time into it. And when I say a lot of time, I usually mean more than 20% of the book, which is usually at about the time I decide whether or not I'm liking it--a quite useless percentage since by then, I'm holding out a naive hope that the book will get better.
So I'm just going to list the tropes or plot devices in a book that really, really will skew the book's star rating towards the negative. And since I'm hugely a romance reader, most of these will be romance tropes I dislike.
1. Woman has to choose between her career and an established lifestyle versus romance, love, and family. I'm sort of stealing this one from Obsidian Blue, because it is definitely a trope in a lot of stories, movies, and television series that rankles. It's also a real life issue, too, but we won't get into that. I hate how it's implied that women have to choose between one or the other, and can't have both, when no one ever questions whether or not a man can handle a career and romance. But in a lot of books I usually steer clear of, there's always this issue disguised behind a woman's life journey and revelations.
To quote OB's comment, "because they imply she’ll die alone and unloved if she doesn’t decide to give it all up for the guy she just met."
2. Love Triangles. I can't stand love triangles. Rarely they are handled well. And having been exposed to many love triangles (as well as other many pointed love polygons) in YA (and K-drama), I quickly got tired of the genre. I feel like they often serve no purpose either. If anyone can prove me wrong, give it a go.
3. Perfect People--the Mary Sues, Gary Stus, and Speshul Snowflakes of fiction. Because in real life, nobody is perfect, so I don't expect them to be perfect in fiction either. No one is loved by everyone. Even the sweetest person you know has his or her flaws that drive you crazy. Because we are all human and humans are prone to make mistakes. So when an author deliberately makes his or her main character a special snowflake, or a Mr. Perfect, or a Ms. Perfect, I can get pretty frustrated. I find myself rolling my eyes whenever a special character walks into the room and the atmosphere suddenly changes to ethereal glows and serene stillness and everyone is suddenly all happy and so on, so forth. Or when the perfect character finally makes a mistake, but it still ends up being a good thing without negative repercussions.
4. TSTL Characters. Most commonly in romances, the female is typically the TSTL, but let it be known that men can come across as TSTL as well--I've read my share of those. It's just easier to assign TSTL to women because society has taught us that there are some things that it's stupid for a woman to do, even if a man could do the exact same thing and simply be labeled "brave" or "a hero" for doing. I don't like these double standards, so I often assign TSTL based on circumstances.
For instance, if a person needs protection in terms of a bodyguard or a security firm, whether that person is a man or a woman, if said person neglects or ignores the professional skills and advice of the professional security expert assigned to protect said person, then that person is stepping into TSTL territory. Most irredeemable is when that person ends up getting, not only him or herself hurt, but puts others' lives in danger because of those stupid actions.
Again, this does not matter if you're a man or a woman. If you knowingly put your life in danger when you are aware there are other choices, but you're too stubborn to acknowledge said other choices, you've walked into TSTL territory.
5. Double Standards. Following on the tails of my 'TSTL' trope above, I had also mentioned double standards, with a brief example. When a woman rushes into a dangerous scene unarmed, or neglects professional security to prove how strong she is, she is labeled TSTL--rightly so. But when a man does the same exact thing, it's written off as the instincts of a man, and people will call him "brave" or "crazy hero" or some other such more positive context of names. It's not fair, because men can bleed and die just as women can.
In a certain instance of books I've read, the men will also usually play caveman and refuse to let a woman walk into a dangerous situation, even though the woman is the armed law enforcement officer who has been trained for these situations, and he is not. She could have the situation planned to the last detail with her team of other law enforcement officers, and people will still think she's putting herself into danger for no reason. But when you flip the situation around, no one ever questions a man's somehow superhuman ability to not die in the line of fire when put in the same situation.
Or, for a more common double standard, a woman is usually considered a trollop or a slut if she has multiple sex partners... or even when she just has multiple, platonic guy friends. But if a man sleeps around, he's usually cheered on by other men, and is said to just be "playing the field" or other such bullshit. Or there have been instances where a woman is considered dirty, or unfit for marriage if she's not a virgin, but no such damning traits are placed on a man, even if he's slept with half the city.
The above example also seems to work vice-versa as well, since I've also come into instances where it's okay for a woman to have a guy friend who is platonic, but gets all tied in knots when her boyfriend or significant other even talks to another woman. It's a really sad human trait, apparently, for both sexes to play the double standard cards.
In real life, I have a friend who bristles when people make fun of her penchant for jeans, hoodie, and all things John Deere; but in contrast, she doesn't keep from expressing her complete believe that men should never wear pinks or reds or any soft pastel colors, or carry any kind of bag, because "men shouldn't do that." le sigh...
I read a lot of Romantic Suspense, so a lot of these tropes have to do with dangerous situations and romances. But these situations obviously can take place in any number of books, against both sexes, or even based on circumstance between people of different social standing or ethnicity. In some cases this is a trope that is handled well, and awareness is brought about, but in other cases, it just lingers in the background and no one ever even points out that this, indeed a double standard.
On a separate note, I've got a nice review of a Jill Shalvis book wherein there's a bit of a Double Standard trope that bugged the crap out of me so, so much: Once in a Million by Jill Shalvis. If anyone is interested that is.
Okay... I got a little long-winded there. Apologies for that.
The International Day for Tolerance is a holiday declared by an international organization (UNESCO). Create a charter (humorous, serious, whatever strikes your fancy) for an international organization of readers.
-- SKIP --
I don't feel creative enough to create a charter of any kind, so this one will most likely be a pass.
UNESCO is based in Paris. Paris is known for its pastries and its breads: Either find a baker that specializes in pastries and bring home an assortment for your family, or make your own pastries using real butter and share a photo with us.
-- COMPLETED 11/19/2018 --
I thought about going to the bakery, but realized that I DID have a photo of some of my favorite pastries: French Macaroons.
My BFF and I went out for some sweets at the beginning of the month, and I took some pictures of my spoils, mainly because aside from reading books, I love food and taking pictures of food and drink that look especially pretty.
I got myself a nice combination of a dozen French Macaroons along with my Mayan Hot Chocolate. And yes, I DID bring them home to my family... even if I ended up eating the majority of them, but it's the thought that counts, right?
Technically, Cocoa Dolce is more of an artisan chocolatier and coffee lounge than a bakery. However, their menu boasts a lot of baked goods (with lots of chocolate!), alongside their gourmet coffees and artisan chocolates.
I could always use another trip to the bakery in town though, so if this doesn't really count as completion of the task, I can update it another time with a more task appropriate activity.
Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone. (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.
-- SEARCHING --
ABOUT THE BOOK
Murder in the Forbidden City by Amanda Roberts
Series Qing Dynasty Mysteries Book 1
Genre Adult Historical Suspense
Publisher Red Empress Publishing
Publication Date July 11, 2017
Series on Amazon https://amzn.to/2Dximoi
When one of the Empress’s ladies-in-waiting is killed in the Forbidden City, she orders Inspector Gong to find the killer. Unfortunately, as a man, he is forbidden from entering the Inner Court. How is he supposed to solve a murder when he cannot visit the scene of the crime or talk to the women in the victim’s life? He won’t be able to solve this crime alone.
The widowed Lady Li is devastated when she finds out about the murder of her sister-in-law, who was serving as the Empress’s lady-in-waiting. She is determined to discover who killed her, even if it means assisting the rude and obnoxious Inspector Gong and going undercover in the Forbidden City.
Together, will Lady Li and Inspector Gong be able to find the murderer before he – or she – strikes again?
Readers who enjoy historical mysteries by authors such as Victoria Thompson, Deanna Raybourn, and Anne Perry are sure to love this exciting start to a new series by Amanda Roberts.
MURDER IN THE FORBIDDEN CITY, the first book in the Qing Dynasty Mysteries series by Amanda Roberts. Available on Kindle & Kindle Unlimited. Get your copy today! ONLY $0.99 FOR A LIMITED TIME!
Series on Amazon https://amzn.to/2Dximoi
AMANDA ROBERTS is a writer and editor who has been living in China since 2010. Amanda has an MA in English from the University of Central Missouri. She has been published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies around the world and she regularly contributes to numerous blogs. Amanda can be found all over the Internet, but her home is TwoAmericansinChina.com.
Website & Newsletter http://www.twoamericansinchina.com/
THANKS FOR VISITING & HAVE A MAGICAL THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY!