SciFi Book Review: Bot Wars

bot wars

Bot Wars by JV Kade

Twelve-year-old Trout St. Kroix has been searching for his missing father for the last two years, after his dad disappeared while fighting in the Bot Wars. The Bot Wars began after robots became so advanced that they revolted and demanded more workers’ rights, causing the government to declare all robots terrorists and ban them from the Districts. Trout never questioned anything the government told him–even when his own nanny bot was banished–until a vid he posts about his missing dad goes viral and new information pops up. At first Trout is wrenched his dad might be alive, but when his brother disappears, Trout learns nothing is what it seems . . . not even his own father.

Trout is a good kid who wants to get his father back more than anything. His older brother has become a father figure in his absence. But just as soon as Trout hears that his father is still alive, his brother is taken. And Trout has to run.

First in a new series, this science fiction adventure for middle readers is a fun read for all ages. It reminded me of the film version of I, Robot but with a teen as the hero of the story. Fast-paced and full of suspense, intrigue, and lots of humor – Bot Wars is an engaging story best read in one sitting. The characters are heart-warming; and the story is sweet and exciting. I can’t wait for the next.

The Thousand Names Blog Tour: Launching The Shadow Campaigns

The Thousand Names Blog Tour: Launching The Shadow Campaigns

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The Butcher’s Bill: Kill Your Darlings by Django Wexler

The phrase “In writing, you must kill your darlings” comes to us from William Faulkner, and like any pithy aphorism it has often been misused and misinterpreted. It doesn’t literally refer to killing your characters. Rather, ‘darlings’ means bits of prose, pieces that you’re particularly happy with or proud of.

It’s often passed on as writing advice, but (to my mind, at least) it’s not so much advice as a warning. Every writer has pieces of the story that they love: a clever exchange of dialogue, an apt simile, a telling detail. We’re not being advised to eliminate these things—why would we?—but reminded that they are ‘good’ only in service to the story as a whole.

When the time comes for editing, sometimes they have to go. There is always the temptation to twist the story to save them, to rewrite another dialogue so you can use that bon mot, or divert the heroine to Australia so she can experience that beautiful sunrise you spent so much time on. Faulkner (and generations of writing teachers since) tells us that sometimes you have to let go, to consign your favorite phrases to the trash in the confidence that, when the time comes, you’ll come up with some more.

The original draft of The Thousand Names we submitted to the publishers was about 15% longer than the final version. My editors (I’m in the unusual and excellent position of having two great editors who work together, one from the US and one from the UK) agreed that the book’s pacing could be improved by slimming it down, and offered some hints on what could go.

One of the things we agreed to take out was a series of dream sequences, in which Winter remembers her life back in the Vordanai orphanage known as the Prison and her meetings with the girl whose face haunts her dreams. I liked these sequences a lot, but with an outsider perspective I could see they didn’t fit—they were completely different, tonally, from the rest of the book, and occupied a lot of pages without moving the plot forward. (Plus, as my editor pointed out, dreams don’t usually work like a movie reel of convenient flashbacks!) Getting rid of them was painful, but it was the right thing to do. Kill your darlings.


But in this wonderful new age of the internet, sometimes they can come back to life! The following is a scene from the “cutting room floor” of The Thousand Names, taking place when Winter was a young teenager, several years before the events of the book. Enjoy!


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SciFi Book Review: Star Wars: Crucible

Star Wars Crucible

Star Wars: Crucible by Troy Denning

When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.

Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.

Forty-five years have passed since the events in A New Hope. Han and Leia run into trouble when meeting up with Lando Calrissian. And the old gang is back together when Luke decides to lend a hand. I only read the occasional Star Wars novel, so I haven’t kept up with the events leading up to this installment. But thankfully, I didn’t feel lost at all. There were plenty of mentions of past events when applicable. Not a long rundown, but brief mentions here and there – enough to get caught up in their lives.

Crucible is a well-paced adventure with plenty of action, mystery, suspense, and intrigue. There is a large cast of characters, so the character glossary at the front of the book was used several times. There wasn’t a lot of character development for the familiar ones, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the new characters. The pace picks up for an exciting finish, though it got a bit muddled at the very end with some of the strange happenings with The Force at the end that I didn’t quite get. This was a fun and exciting installment in well-loved universe. Star Wars fans will certainly want to check this one out.

Book Giveaway: The Initiate Brother Duology

Courtesy of Daw, I have a copy of The Initiate Brother Duology by Sean Russell for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends July 26. I’ll draw a name on July 27, and notify winners via email.


Good luck!

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SciFi Book Review: Vortex

Vortex by SJ Kincaid

The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom and his friends are midlevel cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom’s loyalties are again put to the test.

Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.

Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is—or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything—and everyone—that matters to him?

Tom starts his second year in training in his usual fashion – with arrogance, clumsiness, and alienating every sponsor. Meanwhile, his relationship with Medusa is put to the test when Tom is asked to deliver a virus during their next communication.

This sequel may be even better than the first. There were several surprises along the way that I didn’t see coming. This trilogy blends gaming, science fiction, politics, and intrigue. Fast-paced and full of adventure, suspense, mystery, and humor – Vortex is an exciting read for all ages.

Fantasy Book Review: Cold Copper

Cold Copper by Devon Monk

Bounty hunter and lycanthrope Cedar Hunt vowed to track down all seven pieces of the Holder—a strange device capable of deadly destruction. And, accompanied by witch Mae Lindson and the capricious Madder brothers, he sets out to do just that. But the crew is forced to take refuge in the frontier town of Des Moines, Iowa, when a glacial storm stops them in their tracks. The town, under mayor Killian Vosbrough, is ruled with an iron fist—and plagued by the steely Strange, creatures that pour through the streets like the unshuttered wind.

But Cedar soon learns that Vosbrough is mining cold copper for the cataclysmic generators he’s manufacturing deep beneath Des Moines, bringing the search for the Holder to a halt. Chipping through ice, snow, and bone-chilling bewitchment to expose a dangerous plot, Cedar must stop Vosbrough and his scheme to rule the land and sky….

Cedar Hunt and his fellow travelers reach Des Moines and stay with a kind minister. Unfortunately for the Madder brothers, who owe the minister a debt. The minister wants them to find the town’s missing children. Of course the numerous missing children are only a part of the strange happenings in town. Once again, Cedar and his friends face the Strange and those wishing to use the power to their own advantage.

This is the third novel in the Age of Steam series. The team has a fun rapport that adds a bit of humor. Cold Copper is fast-paced action and adventure. With plenty of suspense, mystery, and a bit of romance – this steampunk series never disappoints. Events build up to an exciting conclusion. Though the travelers are still searching for the missing Holder and must now deal with the consequences of their decisions in Des Moines. I certainly look forward to the next in this thrilling and distinctive series.

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