Book Review: Last Star Burning

Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster

Synopsis:
Sev is branded with the mark of a criminal—a star burned into her hand. That’s the penalty for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire nation.

Now her mother’s body is displayed above Traitor’s Arch, kept in a paralyzed half sleep by the same plague that destroyed the rest of the world. And as further punishment, Sev is forced to do hard labor to prove that she’s more valuable alive than dead.

When the government blames Sev for a horrific bombing, she must escape the city or face the chopping block. Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on.

But in a hostile world, trust is a luxury. Even when Sev’s life and the lives of everyone she loves may hang in the balance.

Review:
Sev is an outcast and living like a criminal, even though it was her mother who was the traitor. When she’s blamed for a bombing, Sev is rescued by a boy named Howl; and the two flee to the land outside the city walls, completely foreign to her.

Last Star Burning is a YA dystopia, set in a land where a plague has spread, creating fear and control of the population. Sev is a relateable and likable girl who has been told lies her entire life, and can’t really trust anyone she meets. And there’s a good reason. Sure, some of the main mysteries of the plot are pretty predictable, but there are still plenty of shocking twists along the way. It’s a well-paced, exciting and dramatic story that builds momentum throughout. This captivating debut will leave readers eager for the next in the series.

SciFi Book Review: Chain of Command

Chain of Command by Frank Chadwick

Synopsis:
Lieutenant Sam Bitka, U.S. Naval Reserve, is getting used to civilian life when he is called back to active duty. Tensions between Earth and the alien Varoki are on the rise, and Sam is assiged as tactical officer aboard the deep space destroyer USS Puebla. Dispatched to the distant world of K’tok to protect human colonists, he wants nothing more than to serve out his active duty time and get back to his civilian life.

But when the Varoki launch a crippling surprise attack against the Earth coalition fleet, Sam finds himself suddenly in command of the USS Puebla, a job he is far from certain he can discharge successfully. What’s more, mounting evidence points to a much larger and more sinister alien plan.

Now, Sam must deal with faltering leadership in the human task force and an alien enemy who always seems one step ahead of them. Time for Sam to step up and rise to the challenge of command.

Review:
Chain of Command is a solid, military scifi novel. There is an impressive number of engaging, believable characters. Though the story is told mostly from Sam’s point of view and occasionally alternating to the Varoki.

Chadwick is a prolific author, but this is a standalone novel that I had no trouble jumping into. Packed with exciting space battles and political intrigue – this was a fun, well-paced story. Events build to a thrilling ending with plenty of surprises along the way.

Days of the Dead Blog Tour: Gail Z. Martin Guest Post

Swords & Shotguns: Epic and Urban Fantasy
By Gail Z. Martin

What’s the difference between epic fantasy and urban fantasy?

Generally speaking, epic fantasy happened long ago, often in a medieval time period, with swords and castles. The stakes are big, often the fate of a kingdom or dynasty at risk. Urban fantasy usually means books set in present-day or at least Twentieth or Twenty-First Century, where it’s our world but with magic and the supernatural.

I think the lines are blurrier than that. I could envision a story in a medieval setting that deals with supernatural goings-on within a city that saves the world but never has the epic Lord of the Rings-style big battles. And I’ve written stories set in a modern city where the fate of the world hangs in the balance because of paranormal problems.

I write epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk. (And as far as I’m concerned, Steampunk is often Victorian urban fantasy with cool gadgets.) So while the sub-genre categories are handy on Amazon and to tell booksellers where to shelve novels, they matter less to me as an author, because I come up with the story first, and then figure out which bucket it best fits.

Epic fantasy is fun because I get to put my degree in medieval history to use and research fun things like trebuchets and garderobes, and what kind of explosives were available in the 1400s. Oh, and I’m gaining the ability to swear with words no one’s bandied around since before Shakespeare.

Urban fantasy means I can use pop culture references and modern slang, and I have to research the history of the cities in which I base stories, because people live there and can catch me if I’m wrong about something. I look up stuff on guns and modern explosives and probably have a file at the FBI for questionable internet searches.

I think the hardest thing about writing in both epic and urban fantasy is switching mindsets. My urban fantasy characters have largely experienced the same world I live in, with some paranormal twists. But the epic fantasy characters are going to see the world differently because of how people back then understood science, medicine, rank and class. They’ll pay no attention to things like abysmal sanitation or take for granted the pecking order of a hereditary nobility, but fail to understand disease transmission or infection. Not only is the wording different, the world view is different. This is important, because if you don’t write about characters who are products of their times, then you’ve just got modern people dressed up in costumes.

So the trick with urban fantasy is to make people believe that there are ghosts in Charleston, SC, vampires in Central Park, or fae riding motorcycles through West Virginia. You’ve got to get readers to suspend what they know about the world and make room for magic and the supernatural, which suddenly makes the familiar into new territory.

And the difficulty with epic fantasy is creating characters who are true to their world and the limitations of the knowledge and cultural failings of their time and make them sympathetic and relatable to modern readers. To be realistic, they’re going to have some of the biases and blinders common to their era, and that becomes a growth opportunity for them to overcome. They’re going to view the world through scientific fallacies and since-disproven theories. Yet for the reader, those assumptions and the actions that follow have to make sense and not get in the way of the story. They may be progressive or enlightened in some ways, and very much a product of their times in other ways.

Believe it or not, this is the fun stuff for an author. People in the past had incredibly clever ways of dealing with the world around them in lieu of the technology we take for granted, and ferreting those details out makes the world come alive. Likewise, when I can find a bit of history or a detail about a modern city that supports the case I’m building for a supernatural threat, I celebrate, because the plot then becomes even more tangled up with the setting.

I’ve written three epic fantasy series so far, including the new Darkhurst series (Scourge) and the upcoming Assassins of Landria series. I’ve also written or co-written two urban fantasy series (Deadly Curiosities, Spells Salt & Steel) with three more new series forthcoming. There’s lots of territory left to explore!

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/2017/10/25/its-my-days-of-the-dead-blog-a-palooza/

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight 2017, back for more with new authors and fantastic new posts! 130+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

Rafflecopter giveaway—enter for a chance to win a copy of Spells, Salt and Steel! http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/9751c0426/?

An excerpt from our new Spells, Salt, and Steel: A New Templars Novel— http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/short-stories-and-more/spells-salt-steel/spells-salt-steel/excerpt-spells-salt-steel/

And an excerpt from my friend Jean Marie Ward’s ‘Fixed’ from The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity: http://jeanmarieward.com/books/excerpt-fixed/

About the Author:
Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. Vengeance: A Darkhurst novel, is the second in a new epic fantasy series for Solaris (coming April, 2018). Her Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC has a new novel, Vendetta, and a new collection, Trifles and Folly. Spells, Salt, and Steel is the first in another new urban fantasy series set in upstate Pennsylvania.

Other work includes the Chronicles Of The Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms series, the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, and Iron & Blood (co-authored with Larry N. Martin)

Find her at www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin.

Box Review: Marvel Collector Corps – October 2017 – Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel Collector Corps

This is the April 2017 box from Collector Corps, and the theme was Thor: Ragnarok.

The Marvel Collector Corps offers these boxes starting at $25 plus s/h.

Marvel Collector Corps

Each box comes with an exclusive pin. No badge this time, but there was a set of Thor playing cards.

Marvel Collector Corps

And a card detailing the contents of the box with a look at early concepts.

Marvel Collector Corps

Thor Magnets – These are cute character magnets.

Marvel Collector Corps

Hulk Beanie – This is a really cool looking beanie. My nephew will love it.

Thor Character Fidget Spinner – I would’ve been fine never owning a spinner, but I have to admit that all the character faces on front and back are fun.

Marvel Collector Corps

EXCLUSIVE Loki Funko POP! – I have another version of Loki with the head piece, but this one has him holding two blue daggers.

Marvel Collector Corps

EXCLUSIVE Thor Funko POP! – This is a really cool variant from the film – straight from the arena scene! There was a floating piece (in the bottom right corner) that I’m still not sure where it came from or if it was just a mistake. It looks like a small blue gun with a gold handle. I have a message off to customer service to see what it is.

Summary:
I was a little nervous seeing that the box was much smaller this month. However, it was just packed full. And any month with a double Funko POP is awesome. But I do miss the comic. Not so much the patch, as I have enough of those now to last a lifetime.

The next theme will be… Hulk!

Book Spotlight: Star Trek The Next Generation: The Art of Juan Ortiz

Star Trek The Next Generation: The Art of Juan Ortiz

I had seen some of the fantastic Original series poster artwork from Juan Ortiz, so I had to check out the Next Gen collection. There are 178 posters – one for each episode. And the seasons are separated like chapters.

The book starts out with a nice interview with the artist that talk about his choices with this new collection.

Art of Juan Ortiz

I’ve included some of my favorites here.

Art of Juan Ortiz Art of Juan Ortiz Art of Juan Ortiz Art of Juan Ortiz

Some are pretty simplistic, while others are much more stylized and colorful. There is a wide range of styles and techniques.

Art of Juan Ortiz Art of Juan Ortiz

This is an impressive collection that Next Gen fans will enjoy as a collector item or coffee table book.

Art of Juan Ortiz

Graphic Novel Review: Wonder Woman ’77 Meets The Bionic Woman

Wonder Woman 77 Meets The Bionic Woman

Synopsis:
Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman, the most beloved female icons of 1970s television, come together for globe-trotting action against their worst enemies! Diana Prince and Jaime Sommers team up to fight a rogue cabal bent on wreaking havoc and stealing deadly weapons. Can CASTRA be stopped before their real targets are revealed and lives are lost? And what three familiar villains threaten the unbeatable combination of bracelets and bionics?

Review:
Two of my favorite super heroes from the 70s make a fantastic team-up in this graphic novel. These 3 strong female leads show true girl power as they battle mysterious fembots and a mysterious foe.

Fans of both shows will get to see several familiar faces. And their adventures even take them to Paradise Island. My favorite aspect of these stories is the incredible artwork. Diana and Jaime look just like Lynda Carter and Lindsay Wagner. And the secondary characters are easy to distinguish as well. The story is well-paced with plenty of action and intrigue. I will definitely be reading the rest of these homages to 70s series.

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