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review 2017-05-21 15:19
Audio Book Review: The Feedback Loop
The Feedback Loop: (Book One) (Sci-Fi Se... The Feedback Loop: (Book One) (Sci-Fi Series) (Volume 1) - Harmon Cooper

*I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.

Quantum Hughes has been stuck in The Loop of a virtual game for nearly two years. Reliving the same day, over and over killing the assassins who come for him. Until one day he receives a message from Frances Euphoria claiming to have returned for him. Things change in the world, the way they interact with him and more.


Jeff is one of the amazing narrators I know I love listening to. He adds entertainment to the stories by voicing them all completely different. Each character has their own voice and personality. I love it! You can feel the moments in them, like when sarcastic along with humor and more. The different voices, for male and female, makes it tremendously easy to quickly differentiate the characters and get a feel for the story.

Sometimes the books of being stuck in a virtual game or video game are boring for me. I just feel as they are the same read written by a different person. This one, however, felt more alive to me. Quantum felt to be connected to his world he was stuck in. Even though it repeated he was use to a pattern and it became something he relied on. When it all changes, Quantum tries to slip back to what he knows best even though he doesn't want to be here any longer. This book was strong character wise.

The world in which Quantum lives has a 1950's feel with a dark dreariness to the places Quantum visits. There is danger with a higher tech feel as it's a virtual game setting he's stuck in that combines the elements. It's neat because we get small phrases from the time frame. Yet it's a fantasy setting as well with assassins.

What do you do to not get bored repeating the same day for nearly two years? Quantum tries changing up the weapon he kills the assassins coming after him with. This I found humorous at times. He does different things and goes different places, but you can only do so much after 544 days have passed.

I enjoyed the humor in some of Quantum's quick clips and comments. This was entertaining to listen to. I had a feel of a few different blends in this creation. Fantasy, 1950's, Matrix, and more. I enjoyed this story to the end and look forward to seeing Quantum get stronger and venture in the virtual world again to help more people.

I see there are many more books in this series and hope they will be narrated because I'd love to listen to them!

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review 2017-05-19 10:43
A difficult book to define that touches on interesting topics
The Transition - Luke Kennard

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collins UK, 4th Estate for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I freely decided to review.

Just as a matter of curiosity and before I wrote this review, I checked if this novel had made it into the shortlist of the Desmond Elliott Prize for Fiction (a prize for what they call ‘future literary luminaries’) but it hasn’t. I have one of the three books that have made it in my pile of books to read so I’ll try and catch up and keep you posted. But now, the review.

I must confess that sometimes my list of books to read gets so long that when I try to catch-up I realise a long time has passed between my acquiring a copy of the book and the time I get to read it. Although in some cases it’s fairly evident, in others I’m no longer sure why I chose a particular book and can’t remember anything about it, so I plunge into it with few expectations. This novel is one of those. The cover is fairly non-descript and the title at best could be described as intriguing (but abstract. In fact, being Spanish, the Transition makes me think of the process of political change from Franco’s dictatorship into a democracy) but it doesn’t give much of the game away. The novel is a bit like that too. I suspect whatever I think of it right now, I’ll be mulling over it for a long while.

Karl, the protagonist, is a young man with a good English degree that he uses to try and make a living on-line, writing fake reviews and term papers for students. His wife, Genevieve, is a primary school teacher. They live well beyond their means (in what appears to be, as the book progresses, a general state of affair for young couples of their generation and that is uncomfortably close to reality) and, eventually, he ends up accused of fraud. (He is not wrongly accused, although the circumstances are easy to understand). Instead of prison, he is offered a way out; he can join a scheme that promises a step up the property ladder, help to start some sort of business, and a six month’s stay, rent-free with mentors who will help in the process of rehabilitation. Although his wife has committed no crime, she also becomes a part of the project. The details are somewhat fuzzy and we soon realise they don’t add up(Karl is told that the Transition is a new pilot programme but he later discovers it has been going on for well over ten years, who is behind it remains unclear, he starts hearing rumours about possible books that explain the philosophy of the programme, and the mentors they are staying with, Jana and Stu, seem to have more than a few cards up their sleeves) and what seems at first helpful and benign, soon morphs into something mysterious, seemingly conspiratorial and with a sinister ring, at least inside of Karl’s head. He pushes the boundaries, gets into more and more trouble and things take a turn for the worse. Has Karl been right in his suspicions all along?

The novel is narrated in the third person restricted to Karl’s point of view. As a writer (even if his content would not win the Pulitzer Prize), he is articulate and we get information about the variety of online writing projects he engages in. He might write an essay about fairy tales one day, several five-star reviews about a chair and then another essay about ellipses in Henry James. (He moves from the sublime to the ridiculous, the same as the novel does, but eventually, it isn’t clear if there is any substantial difference between the two). His sense of morals seems restricted to loving his wife and trying to ensure she is well, as she has mental health problems and he protects her and looks after her, even when she does not want him to. Karl is clearly besotted with his wife, despite the difficulties in their relationship, and his was love at first sight. Although we only have his point of view as a guide, judging by other characters’ reaction to her, Genevieve is an attractive and engaging woman whom everybody feels drawn to and Karl is convinced he is extremely lucky (and perhaps unworthy) to be with her. Other than that relationship, Karl does not seem to have any meaningful ones. He mentions his father but not with particular affection and his relationship with his friend, the accountant who suggested he joins the scheme, seems based more on past shared experiences than on a real bond (as becomes evident later in the novel). There are instances of Karl not being truthful (he keeps information hidden from Genevieve, some we are aware of but some we aren’t) and he does not fit in most readers’ idea of a hero. He has devious morals, he sabotages himself, he is self-interested, and yes, he is flawed, but not ‘deeply’ flawed. Personally, I could not find much to like or truly dislike in him. He has moments of insight and shares some interesting reflections about life, but like with the novel, there is some unfinished quality about him. He will only go so far and no farther and he can act rashly one minute and be truly passive or passive-aggressive the next.

The action seems to take place in a future not far from our present. There is no world building and the social situation seems pretty similar to that of the UK today. Computer technology has not advanced in any noticeable way and the problem with affordable housing seems to be only marginally worse than the present one, although self-driven cars abound. There are descriptions of paintings, some buildings, clothes, interior design, and some characters but dependent on what might catch Karl’s attention. I have seen the book described as a dystopia, but it is not clear to me that the whole world order is affected by the Transition (perhaps they have some designs towards world domination, but it isn’t that clear), and it does not fit neatly into the category of science-fiction either. Karl acts as an amateur detective at times, and the novel has touches of the conspiracy theory behind it, but they don’t seem fully formed. I have also read some reviews saying it is humorous, and there are funny moments, especially if one considers the contrast between the worst of our suspicions and what actually happens, but it is not a comedy in the traditional sense; even calling it a dark comedy would be a bit of a stretch.  As a psychiatrist, I was particularly interested in the mental health angle and although it is not fully developed, it highlights some of the ongoing issues with such diagnoses, and it rings more true to me that some other angles of the story.

The author is better known as a poet, and the book is well-written although I wouldn’t say the language is particularly poetic or compelling. Like a post-modern puzzle, the book includes bits of the mentor’s book, diary extracts, documents, messages…  Ultimately, it does not leave everything to the reader’s imagination and struggles to impose a meaning that does not sit comfortably with it.

I have read some of the reviews and I agree that the book’s beginning is very promising but it does not deliver fully. In my opinion, it might be a matter of genre and also tone of voice (the light and comedic touches didn’t always seem congruous with the background atmosphere, although that could be read as a reflection of the narrator’s state of mind). The characters are not that easy to engage with (I found Karl understandable but not always emotionally relatable) either and the action and the story are not fully realised. The novel is ambitious and tries to do many things, some which seem to be in contradiction to each other, and that creates a tension that makes it crack at the seams.

On the other hand, the ideas behind the novel are interesting, the book is easy to read and the reflections and social comments are spot on, even if they are not resolved. I can’t see this book causing extreme reactions on its readers, but it would be a source of lively discussion in a book club. And I’m intrigued to see what the author will write about next.

 

 

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review 2017-05-18 10:28
creeping up but still no Gavin!
Shadow's Soul - Jami Gray
Independent reviewer for Archaeolibrarian. * A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and my comments here are my honest opinion. * Jumping straight in because the book does just that! This is book two in the Kyn Chronicles series. While it would help to have read book one, Shadows Edge, before this one, I don't think its absolutely necessary. It would, however, give you a better picture just how Raine fought against her feelings for Gavin. These books are not easy reads. They carry complicated plot lines, very long descriptive paragraphs and huge supporting casts that made ME slow my reading down. And I loved them for it! Because, let's face it, if I have to slow down to keep it can go either of two ways: I'll love it or hate it. And here it was very much the former! I skim read at the best of times, so you can imagine how long it took me to read this book, some 364 pages (according to Goodreads) Days it took, DAYS I TELL YA! Raine and Gavin's relationship continues to grow, develop, expand and get so much deeper than Raine ever expected. Gray best explains it when she describes their magic intertwined, threads of blue and silver so closely woven that to separate them might kill them both. Gavin continues to embrace the damage (for want of a better word) done by the scientist in book one, and Raine only begins to do so. Fighting the Soul Stealer takes a lot out of Raine, indeed me too, reading it, and it's Gavin who helps her get through it. Finding first Cheveyo and then Xander pushes them both past their limits. Xander's story, book three, is laid out, and you just know that she and Warrick are gonna butt heads! Creeping up in star rating a little but again, only Raine has her say! This one, absolutely, without a doubt, would have been a full five star read if Gavin had been given his voice. I needed to hear from him at keys points along the way: when he embraces his new skills and magic, when he really bonds with Raine on the most basic level, and when he thought her lost to the Soul Stealer. SO, because Gavin doesn't get a say ... 4.5 stars (but rounded UP for the blog/Goodreads/Amazon) **same worded review will appear elsewhere**

 

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review 2017-05-18 03:40
The Course of Honour by Avoliot
The Course of Honour - Avoliot The Course of Honour - Avoliot

[The Course of Honour is original m/m sci-fi romance posted on Archive of Our Own. Warning: one of the main characters was in an abusive relationship prior to the beginning of the book - mostly emotionally abusive, but a little physical.]

The Course of Honour stars Prince Kiem of the planet Iskat and Count Jainan of the planet Thea. Five years ago, the Theans sent Jainan to marry Iskat’s Prince Taam in order to secure an alliance. A month before the start of the book, Taam was killed in a flybug (personal aircraft) accident. Kiem learns to his horror that, according to the terms of the treaty, Jainan must remarry and he’s been chosen to be Jainan’s next partner. Jainan’s certainly attractive, but Kiem has never even spoken to him before. Plus, Kiem figures he’s probably still grieving. Not that he and Jainan have any say in the matter - the marriage is scheduled to happen tomorrow.

Right from the start, their marriage is complicated by assumptions and secrets. Jainan and Taam’s marriage wasn’t nearly as solid as they’d led everyone to believe, and Jainan is sure he’s in for more of the same from Kiem. Kiem, meanwhile, just wants to make things as easy as possible for Jainan.

I found out about this via a recommendation that said something to the effect of “it’s m/m sci-fi romance, good, and free.” Considering how many unread e-books I have, I probably shouldn’t have clicked through, but I’m glad I did. I sped through the whole thing in a couple days and would have downloaded more of the author’s works if any had been available.

Part of me feels like I shouldn’t have enjoyed this as much as I did. As I was reading, it felt like there was some kind of background checklist going. If Character A says this, then of course Character B will eventually respond like so. If Characters A and B are in X situation, then of course Y will happen. For example, the instant Kiem and Jainan were stranded in the snowy wilderness, I knew that one of them would end up having to keep the other warm with his body heat and that it would probably lead to sex. (I was right, but I was pleasantly surprised that the sex wasn’t explicit and didn't lead to a sudden sharp increase in sex scenes.)

The world-building was extremely light, even in terms of Iskat vs. Thean culture. And some details and events were a little difficult to believe and probably would have irked me more if I’d stopped and thought more about them. For instance, it took Kiem far longer than I thought it should have to figure out that Taam had been abusing Jainan. I would have thought that a prince, even one as good-natured as Kiem, would have learned at some point not to take everything everyone said and did at face value.

Jainan, too, took longer than I expected to realize that Kiem was nothing like Taam, although I gave him more leeway. His big argument with Kiem felt a bit forced, though, like it only blew up that badly because the story needed him and Kiem to be separated for a bit. And the entire “let’s save Jainan” part felt like it’d fall apart if I examined it too closely. Even a prince with a mother who was a general should have had to do more than smile and show off a video clip of someone’s kid to get that far into a building like that without trouble.

Considering all of that, why did I love this book? The best answer I’ve got is the characters. Kiem was almost aggressively cheerful and charismatic. He remembered everyone, liked almost everyone, and could be shoved into a roomful of strangers and end up making at least half a dozen friends by the time he'd made his way out again. I was worried, at first, that he’d be a useless drunken rogue, but he turned out to not be like that at all. He spent a lot of his time networking and drumming up support for various charities, but he tended to have so much fun that it didn’t always look like he was working.

Jainan was the opposite, completely locked down and tightly controlled. While his and Kiem’s tendency to misread each other was frustrating, it was also a lot of fun - I was really looking forward to seeing them finally get onto something like the same wavelength. In the meantime, it was nice seeing Jainan gradually come out of his shell a bit and rediscover the things he’d enjoyed doing before Taam had boxed him in.

Oh, and I should probably bring up Bel, Kiem’s aide. First, I was happy that this wasn’t one of those m/m romances devoid of female characters with speaking roles. Second, Bel was just a lot of fun. Kiem and Bel made me think of P.G. Wodehouse’s Wooster and Jeeves, a little, although Kiem wasn’t nearly as silly as Bertie Wooster. I’d love to read a story about Bel’s early days as Kiem’s aide. I only had a couple issues with Bel in this book, which mainly had to do with how easily she kept getting pushed to the sidelines so that Kiem and Jainan could get bogged down by their problems without her. I imagine that her general competence and sharp eyes were a problem for the author.

All in all, I enjoyed this immensely. It had its problems, but the characters and sweet romance made up for them.

Additional Comments:

There were a handful of typos, as well as a couple distracting author’s notes that probably should have been removed before the work was marked “completed.” The one that bugged me the most was at the beginning of Chapter 25. It said something about Chapter 26 being late. For a few horrifying moments I thought I’d downloaded a work that hadn’t been finished yet, and I was going to have to wait to get more of the story.

 

Rating Note:

 

Part of me feels like I should score this lower because of the various issues I mentioned, but...nah. I can't guarantee I'd rate it the same if I reread it a year from now, and I doubt I'd have rated it this high if I had paid for it, but this is the rating I think fits it best right now.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-05-18 00:40
A Creepy Worthy Read!
172 Hours on the Moon - Tara F. Chace,Johan Harstad

I only grabbed this book because I thought cover looked interesting. I didn’t put two and two together until I finished the book. Creepy and at the same time a good horror sci fi in the YA section.

 

To be fair, the pace of the book starts off a little slow at first. Think of it as a very slow introduction to the characters and establishing the setting, and where they’re going to be headed to on their space journey.

 

Then hell breaks loose when they’re on the moon

 

And wow, the pace picks up considerably and it instantly becomes a page turner. Now I understand there needs to be a mystery aspect to the novel - whether that’s necessary to establish the plot or not, that I’m not too sure. I welcomed it regardless because everything starting coming together and you find yourself racing through the novel to find out what’s going to happen next.

 

Considering this is a YA sci fi novel, you’re not going to come across anything astronomically complicated when it comes to the science aspect of it all. No physics lessons or rocket science (literally.) It’s not meant to be a complex read so it’s ideal when one doesn’t want to bother with NASA lingo.

 

Be prepared for a twist at the end. I was completely floored and it made the read incredibly enjoyable.

 

Greatly recommended and well worth the read. We need more like this in the YA section! (and if you do find one, please let me know! I’m open to reading more of this!)

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