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Tag: "adventure"

Review: The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell

[ 5 ] March 27, 2015

empty throne book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

Is there a name for a narrator, seemingly reliable to the reader, yet not so predictable to his fellow characters? I have found his name to be Lord Uhtred, a Saxon nobleman, warrior, and a sometime conniver, but a plotter to the common good of Mercia. To say I liked Lord Uhtred, the senior, is an understatement. He is strong, reliable to the reader and those in his personal command, and he exhibits a dry witty dark humor. Such is the lead narrator of Bernard Cornwell’s latest novel in the Saxon Tales series, The Empty Throne.

In 911, King Æthelred of Mercia is declining in health. The king has no heir. A Witan (council) is called amongst the Saxon nobles to meet in Gleawecestre on Saint Cuthbert’s feast day to determine the fate of Mercia. Amongst those summoned to the Witan is Lord Uhtred, a known supporter of Æthelflaed, Lady of Mercia, the king’s estranged wife. Uhtred believes there is no nobleman who can lead and protect Mercia as Æthelflaed can. Uhtred is thought also to be declining in health as he suffered serious injuries in a recent battle. He is not seen as a threat when called south as a singular voice in support of Æthelflaed’s right to the throne.

The fate of Mercia does not only hang on a successor to the throne. Viking raiders are becoming bolder. They encroach from the north and seek to lay their claim on Mercian lands. Many noblemen and holy brethren are too wrapped up with finding a new king to give the northern threat much notice. Only Uhtred and Æthelflaed stand in the way of the Viking invasion.

The Empty Throne is the first book in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales series that I have read. It certainly will not be my last. I chose to read The Empty Throne because the history of Æthelflaed, Lady of Mercia, has intrigued me. That Cornwell wrote a novel around the reality and myth of Æthelflaed is not surprising; there is such rich ground for epic story making within her history. Cornwell’s novel is fiction based on some facts, yet it is not dry. Cornwell brings England a thousand years ago to life in all of its mucky, blood curdling, fantastic details. Moreover, Uhtred is a warrior worth cheering for especially when circumstances seem to sway out of his favor. The Empty Throne was an entertaining and engaging read.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Vostok by Steve Alten

[ 3 ] March 26, 2015

vostok book coverPlease join Steve Alten, author of Vostok, as he tours the blogosphere with iRead Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book below – open internationally

Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

Vostok is the second book featuring Zachary Wallace, and large parts of it takes place in Antarctica, below the frozen ice cap, in a liquid lake, Vostok.  Steve Alten appears to like the idea of ancient Miocene predators and other animals hiding in the dark places of the ocean. This isn’t the only series he has dealing with supposedly long extinct species and there is a little cross-over with the others.

I will say that Alten does a pretty poor job when it comes to real science and double checking facts used in the story. I really started taking notice when he converted -25C to -87F in a conversation and no one seemed to notice the huge error (-25C is -13F…).  The next big error was saying that high energy electromagnetic waves (ultraviolet – x-ray, etc.) have longer wavelengths than red and infrared. This is completely backwards and would only take a quick Google search to validate. Then there is a marine biologist grad student discussing evolution with our Dr. Zachary (another marine biologist) and claiming that it is much more likely that whales evolved from large fish like sharks instead of ‘bears like Darwin postulated’ based solely on the similarity of size. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I almost stopped reading the book.

Dr. Zachary Wallace is considered to be the ideal candidate to travel all the way to the other end of the earth to Antarctica, where he will be sent under two miles of ice to explore a lake that has been covered for eons. It is a trip of a lifetime. It is also incredibly dangerous and has a smaller chance of success than everyone realizes.

The first issue is the variety of life they find left over from the Miocene, much of it dangerous to their small three person submarine. When they are coming through the ice they miss their mark and land a long way from anywhere useful to get themselves back. After they arrive at an ‘island’ – one of their objectives on the mission – things start getting strange. Wallace has an encounter that changes his life forever.

This book had more holes in it than a Dan Brown plot, however, despite all the issues I had with the the biology and physics, Alten can still tell a good attention grabbing yarn. Even with its faults, I give this book 3.5 stars. Vostok will definitely be more enjoyable for someone who doesn’t care about the science. A little fact checking can go a long way!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided by Rebel Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

[ 4 ] March 24, 2015

golden son book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Golden Son takes place a few years after Red Rising, and Darrow has matured some more. He is at the end of his training, winning his last battle and then his life starts to unravel. The matriarch of the Bellona family holds a grudge like none other and she intends to have her revenge–she literally wants his heart on a platter.

Darrow has his first major set back and he doesn’t really know how to recover from it. On top of that his sponsor, Augustus, isn’t very forgiving of those who let him down. One of Darrow’s faults is his lack of politicking skills. This is a serious shortcoming when dealing with a race brought up on extreme Machiavellian tendencies. And Darrow often registers a back stabbing threat after the knife has plunged home.

What saves our hero more often than not is his friends. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know whether to embrace them or set them up to die with the rest of the gold leadership. It’s his internal vacillation that keeps his friends at arms length. They never really know what he’s thinking or feeling and this alienates them, often at very inopportune times. It is a lesson Darrow needs to learn over and over. Often a little too late. Everytime he seems to be about to complete an important goal, his ego seems to get in the way and ruin everything.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I gave it 4.5 stars. I gave Red Rising 5 stars, partly because it was fresh and exciting, but also because it was a complete book. The series could have ended there and it still would have been good. Golden Son ends on a cliffhanger and the last book will be needed to achieve some resolution. Pierce Brown also seems to be taking a few notes from George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb. No one is safe and they must all go through life crushing experiences.

This book, while still full of action, also had a lot of politicking and mind games, most of which our hero wasn’t really equipped to handle. Overall, good book and great series. Can’t wait for the last one!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Del Rey. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: No Fortunate Son by Brad Taylor

[ 0 ] February 27, 2015

no fortunate son book coverReviewed by A.D. Cole

In the seventh book in the bestselling Pike Logan series, Pike and Jennifer suddenly find themselves fired from the Taskforce, a super-secret organization that Pike has dedicated years of his life to. Kurt Hale, the man in charge of Taskforce operations, has just found out that his niece has gone missing. He can’t legally use government resources to find her, so he recruits Pike and Jennifer – now free agents – to do an off-the-books search and rescue.

In the meantime, several military relatives of high-ranking U.S. officials, including the Vice President’s son, have been kidnapped by an unknown terrorist organization. All of the government’s resources are being used to find these men and women, but it’s Pike, during his search for Kylie Hale, who stumbles onto the trail of the bad guys.

No Fortunate Son is an intricately plotted, high-action thriller, absolutely on par with Brad Taylor’s high quality of storytelling. This story was a little different from previous books in two ways. First, the villains weren’t quite as villainous as, for instance, the drug cartel in The Polaris Protocol, or the deadly female suicide bombers in The Widow’s Strike. The ticking clock is still there, so the action is still fast-paced and urgent. The villains were simply not as scary.

And second, Pike and Jennifer are usually working with their whole Taskforce team. But in this situation, the team is being used as a government resource while Pike and Jennifer are off freelancing on their own. This had a positive effect in that it showed a strengthening of Pike and Jennifer’s partnership. But I admit, I missed having Knuckles, Brett, and Retro around for the first half of the novel.

Still, I have no complaints. This was another action-packed thriller from probably the best current writer in the genre. If you’re new to political thrillers, I recommend Brad Taylor as a starting point. Who better to describe high-tech, high-octane military operations than a former Special Forces commander? Beyond that, these books stand out from the genre due to the very real, very relatable characters. Even Pike, who should be a larger-than-life superhero, is made approachable by Taylor’s down-to-earth writing style.

As a side note, I have to applaud these books for their feminism. Generally in these types of books, the female character is introduced in order to give the main character motivation, and usually she’s killed off within a couple of books. Jennifer has continued to evolve and is as much the main character in these stories as Pike is. She was put through the ringer in No Fortunate Son, shouldering more responsibility and risk than ever. I truly appreciate Mr. Taylor for breaking free of convention and giving us an awesome female lead character.

I recommend this book to readers of action and adventure novels. You don’t have to read this series in order, but it helps to get background on Pike’s motivation. Plus, they’ve all been amazing.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Line War by Neal Asher

[ 1 ] February 26, 2015

line war book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Line War is the fifth book (sixth if you count the prequel) in the Ian Cormac series which is set in the Polity universe. I’ve read Gridlinked – the first installment – and then I tried this one as an audiobook. I have to say that the gap between the first and the fifth book was too big for me to fully grasp the story. If you’re new to the series, I would not recommend starting with Line War. However, I think the series has merit and I have the prequel sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.

The Polity is a human based government that spans a large portion of the Galaxy. The AIs have fairly bloodlessly taken over and in general do a much better job than humans ever did. They appear to be a benevolent oligarchy for most of humanity–like shepherds guiding and protecting their simple charges from their own stupidity. But sometimes things aren’t always what they seem…

A new threat is emerging at the Polity and it stems from one of their own. A rogue AI left the Polity and brought back many volunteers, including some who aren’t quite with it. This AI integrated with some alien technology and renamed himself Erebus. The technology he used has been around for eons, slowly destroying each civilization it comes into contact with.

Now both humans and their rulers have an enemy. Erebus is attacking the Polity and the AIs don’t seem to be doing much to outguess him. As a matter of fact, they seem to be only reacting to his moves. This turns out to be a major problem that almost costs everyone in the Polity much more than they can imagine.

This book brought back quite a few of the ‘heros’ from the previous books and I recognized several from the one book I read previously. The rest I’m sure I’ll get to know as I catch up with the rest of the series. I would define this book as hard space opera, with a bit of James Bond thrown in for spice. If that sounds like your cup of tea, pick up the first book and start reading! Line War definitely has that action mixed with technology speak mixed with philosophy thing going on.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: A Portrait in Time by Charles J. Schneider

[ 3 ] February 20, 2015

portrait in time book coverReviewed by Jenna Arthur

If you love mystery, intrigue, history and out-there theories, you will love Charles J. Schneider’s A Portrait in Time. Set in Paris, the book opens with the grotesque scene of a mangled and crushed body  and a beautiful, naked, and mysterious young woman strewn about Paris’s most famous museum. Thrown through time, this beautiful young woman, Nicole, wakes up in the Musee d’Orsay naked, cold, scared and confused. Beside her is the mangled corpse of a man she does not remember. She realizes she’s neither in the same location nor in the same time she came from. Nicole suffers from amnesia; she only knows that she must hide away and figure out who she is and what events led up to her being left in a museum next to the grisly body of the strange man.

A glimpse of Nicole on a security camera starts this story off on its cross genre plot, using Nicole’s doppelganger – museum assistant director Suzanne Bruante – to frame a story that is both delightful and suspenseful. Ms. Bruante’s uncanny resemblance to Nicole makes her the prime suspect in the mystery man’s murder. She is forced to hide from the law while also utilizing past connections to find out who this mystery woman is and how the formless man came to be in the museum.

Can Suzanne find Nicole, find out her connection to the past and send her back to the right time? She must call on all of the ones she loves and has loved to answer these countless questions or face the police. But with Inspector Michele Crossier on the case, trailing behind, ready to apprehend her at any time, can Suzanne prove her theories and her innocence before the inspector catches up to her? Read this book to find out!

Though crossing genres is often unsuccessful, a twist ending and descriptive writing style make Charles Schneider’s A Portrait in Time a mind bending and attention getting novel from start to finish. If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes and other historical and detective novels you will find this a fun read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jenna lives in the bustling city of Pittsburgh, PA with her wife, her chihuahua Penny, her retriever Ella and her two beautiful cats. Along with her passion for reading and the literary world, she is also an artist, writer, environmental activist, creative coordinator and aspiring culinary genius. She believes there is nothing better to her then a good book, and lives one cover to the next.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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