A Second Chance at Love, by Kassandra Lynn

True love doesn’t exist. Forever belongs in a storybook. Empress Ursila Ufran ran away with Royal Healer Draven for love. What she found was regret and heartbreak. Draven had approached her with an agenda, her father had committed treason, and everyone in House of Ufran had been beheaded. When a magical amulet gives her a second chance at life, she has to avoid her mistakes and prevent her family’s downfall before it’s too late.
 

I enjoyed A Second Chance at Life, so it was a no-brainer to read A Second Chance at Love. I wondered how the author would keep the story fresh, without it just being a rehash of the first book. I’m happy to say that this was accomplished by great storytelling, and as the description on Amazon says, you can read either book first.

An unlikable protagonist is often a cause for alarm in a story, but Ms. Lynn pulls it off nicely. A spoiled Empress is betrayed by who she thinks is the love of her life only to wake before the events of her death. She has a chance to correct everything. And she’s a spoiled brat, just like Elaina from the previous story. But it seems to work. By the end I was rooting for Ursila, and was glad to have read the book.

Like the previous book, the time period is not specified, but this one feels like ancient Asia. The writing flowed smoothly – more so than the last book. The characters are interesting, and none of them feel like clichés.

In the end, A Second Chance at Love is a fun love story, and like its predecessor, is a four-star read. Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read this one for free.

Kassandra Lynn is the author of Book of Immortals series and Demon Kingdom Fairy Tales series. Her favorite genres are fantasy and romance. She especially enjoys reading and writing about unique concepts, unpredictable plots, and protagonists who aren’t the typical protagonists.

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Artemis, by Andy Weir

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

There’s a lot of grief out there for Weir’s sophomore novel. The problem is that The Martian was such a great book; it’s just not possible for another book to live up to expectations. Especially a book that had so many issues while being written. Had Artemis not been over hyped, then it would’ve just been a quirky sci-fi novel about a moon heist.

Artemis is a fun read, and like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, I cringed when Jazz did her thing. I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief that someone who was supposed to be so street-smart ended up being such an idiot. I can grok that perceptions can color our lives, but Jazz seemed to be doing dumb things just to advance the story. Jazz reacted to the story instead of weaving it. She had no agency.

I found it interesting that in this near-future tale some social groups have achieved equity in society, others have not. We have gender and sexual equality. We have religious equality. We have cookie-cutter Mafioso. Yeah, I understand that we need a protagonist to counter the antagonist. The problem is that such strides to be inclusive were soured by yet more stereotypical caricatures of other peoples and groups. Many of the characters were generalizations of cultural norms, and even some main characters lacked depth.

I’d have to say that the best thing about Artemis is rich back-story and world building. I was more fascinated by the history of humans and their quest for the moon, and some of the tidbits of lunar lore, than if Jazz and her misfit gaggle could pull it off. The tribalism described in Artemis reminded me of the Silo Saga, by Hugh Howey. In Weir’s vision of humanity’s future, we trade nationalism for a caste system. People are divided up by their jobs in an almost Randian meritocracy.

Which brings me to the issue of how to rate Artemis. Despite my list of things that made me groan or cringe, it’s still a great popcorn scifi novel. I could easily see Artemis turned into a limited-run series on Amazon or Netflix. The book isn’t five-star go out and get it right away, but it’s undeserving of some of the ire early reviewers are putting out there. I have no doubt that Artemis will average 4+ stars based solely on the hype and the fact that so many people just adored Mark Watney and The Martian. And I think that that may be a major issue with Artemis – Weir tried writing the combination that made The Martian so great, but missed the mark. When comparing Artemis to The Martian, the new book falls flat. Considering Artemis on its own, it’s a pretty good popcorn scifi with some issues. In the end, I’d give Artemis three and a half stars, and for the purposes of non-fractional star ratings, I’d bump that up to four, but I sure as shit wouldn’t spend $14 on an ebook.

Andy-Weir

Andy Weir was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.

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Asian Spec Fiction Sale

Hey, everyone! I’m participating in an Asian speculative fiction promotion this weekend. There are over thirty asian books available for only 99 cents, including my own wuxia novel, Champion Standing. JC Kang put the promotion together, and you can check out the other 99 cent stories here: http://jckang.info/index.php/promo/ Be sure to support all these wonderful authors. There are Asian fiction works for all tastes, so make with the clickity click.


Paradox Bound, by Peter Clines

Eli’s willing to admit it: he’s a little obsessed with the mysterious woman he met years ago. Okay, maybe a lot obsessed. But come on, how often do you meet someone who’s driving a hundred-year-old car, clad in Revolutionary-War era clothes, wielding an oddly modified flintlock rifle—someone who pauses just long enough to reveal strange things about you and your world before disappearing in a cloud of gunfire and a squeal of tires? So when the traveler finally reappears in his life, Eli is determined that this time he’s not going to let her go without getting some answers. But his determination soon leads him into a strange, dangerous world and a chase not just across the country but through a hundred years of history—with nothing less than America’s past, present, and future at stake.

I read Paradox Bound in its entirety on a lazy Sunday. I expected to enjoy it since I enjoyed The Fold. Crown was kind enough to send me a hardcover, and it now lives on my shelf next to the aforementioned The Fold. Whereas The Fold seemed to derail from about 50% – 75%, Paradox Bound is brilliantly executed all the way through. I’m not just saying that to be nice. As a writer who also has time travel fiction under my belt, I was pleasantly surprised by a few twists that I did not see coming. If an author can trick me, then they definitely know their writing chops. And the teasers! Oh my, they are wonderful. Just when the antagonists started to become tiresome, Clines switched gears and made me care again. The ending is well thought out, and the fictionalization of real-world people is something I thoroughly enjoy in fiction with a historical slant. Paradox Bound is a five-star read, and I’m glad I had a Sunday to dedicate to reading it.

Peter-Clines

Peter Clines grew up in the Stephen King fallout zone of Maine and–inspired by comic books, Star Wars, and Saturday morning cartoons–started writing at the age of eight with his first epic novel, Lizard Men From The Center of The Earth(unreleased). He is the writer of countless film articles, several short stories, The Junkie Quatrain, the rarely-read The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe, the poorly-named website Writer on Writing , and an as-yet-undiscovered Dead Sea Scroll. He currently lives and writes somewhere in southern California.

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War of the Worlds Updates

One of you wonderful internet denizens emailed to ask for permission to use the cover art designed for the non-English editions of Retaliation in a wikipedia article. I’m cool with that for wikipedia, reviews, interviews, etc. As long as you don’t try to pass off my covers as your own, I’m cool with any of my released covers to be on Wikipedia, etc. In fact, here are some unreleased Retaliation covers for y’all to drool over:

The Afrikaans project (above) was cancelled, and this may or may not be the final cover for the chinese version (below):

I’m hoping to sign the contract soon for a French version, but time will tell.

After talking to some industry professionals, I’ve decided to only actively pursue language contracts for Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, & Italian. Don’t worry if you read in a language not on that list, if someone comes along and offers a contract on another language, I’ll definitely consider it. (I mean, is “no” even in my vocabulary?)

(You wikipedia guys and gals can use this draft version of Firestorm for your article.)

Those of you who are close to John and I know that the biggest delaying factor for War of the Worlds: Firestorm is me. People tell me that I’m a prolific writer, but John can outwrite me 4-to-1. (Autocorrect kept changing that to “outwit.” Maybe my computer knows more than I do…) I emailed the latest vomit draft of my last chapter to John over the weekend, and I’m like 90% certain he’ll respond with three of his own chapters, sticking me with the onus to move the project forward. We’re more than 2/3 finished with the rough draft. It’s gonna be tight to get that done before the end of October, but it’s totally possible. Nonetheless, we’re golden for a presentable draft in November.

Personally, I’d like to see Firestorm release at the same time John and I get a nomination for a Hugo or Nebula, but I think I recall an adage with wishes and horses and beggars and stuff. I ran into Alan Dean Foster at Prescott Comic Con, and he basically dashed my hopes of a Nebula nomination. (He was the president of the Nebula selection committee for a thousand years or something.) Mike Stackpole went poo-poo on my dreams of a Hugo while we were at Phoenix Comicon together. They weren’t being dicks or anything, they just wanted to make sure I had my head on straight and could manage my expectations. I’m still gonna hold on tight to my dream, and maybe something will pop out if I squeeze hard enough.

It’s getting late here in the Copper State, so I’ll head to bed, and post a book review in the morning.


Mourning the Trilogy by Adan Ramie (plus a FREE e-book!)

Women and Words

Happy Sunday! Today we’re joined by author Adan Ramie. She recently released the third book in her Deviant Behaviors trilogy, Eager Observer. To celebrate, she’s giving away an e-book copy to one lucky reader. Drop a comment in the space below and we’ll draw the winner on Friday, October 6.

Good luck!


Letting go is the hardest part of a writer’s life.

This month marked a turning point in my career. After six years, my suspense trilogy, Deviant Behaviors, has come to an end, and I’m faced with a huge loss. Not only do I have to say goodbye to something I spent countless hours on, I have to say goodbye to all the characters who became like family to me.

Characters Become Friends

Once upon a time, I was a naive short story writer with aspirations to become a novelist and a strange, disjointed story idea brewing…

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Solstice, by Jane Redd

There are four ways to get banished from the last surviving city on earth: 1. Cut out your emotion tracker, 2. Join a religious cult, 3. Create a rebellion against the Legislature, 4. Fall in love. Jezebel James does all four. Jez is on the fast track to becoming a brilliant scientist, with one goal–save her city from total extinction. But the more Jez learns about the price of a fresh beginning, the more she realizes that carrying out the plan will lead to few survivors, and among the dead will be those she cares about the most.

It has been said that all stories are just derivative of about five plots. It’s also been said that every story has already been told, and what makes new works of fiction special is the author’s unique way of telling the same old story. The problem arises when the author just tells another rehash of the same old story. It’s not to say that writing to genre is a bad thing, it’s just not refreshing.

Solstice follows a common trope in young adult storytelling: A young person, controlled by parents/state/ability must save the world/city/universe by overcoming his or her contemporaries and several obstacles that prove to the young adult, his or her contemporaries, and the parents/state/ability that he or she truly is the only one that can save the world/city/universe.

Believe me, I get it. Many young adults see the world in black and white, and often feel the pressure from peer groups, and stifled by their parents/school/job. It’s fun to escape into a world where young adults have a say in their own destiny, and that they can absolutely save the world.

We stopped teaching our children that they can do anything, and instead we teach them that they are equal to their peers. We teach them that everyone deserves a chance, and then being really good at something is somehow a detriment. (Except sports, of course.) So it’s no wonder that young adult fiction shows what initially appear to be ordinary young characters achieving great things. It’s a classic empowerment story.

And who doesn’t want to feel empowered? Unfortunately, Solstice is a rehash of the young adult genre. Sure it’s got a dystopian world controlled by a totalitarian government, and there is a clear division of wealth. There’s class warfare, albeit on a small scale. It’s standard fare for a young adult story. There isn’t excessive violence or sex. There’s no cussing. There’s a cliffhanger to get you reading the next book.

I think I’d call Solstice “popcorn dystopian.” It’d make a decent movie. Young actors and actresses would likely make this story akin to Maze Runner or The Fifth Wave. Sometimes you just want to turn your brain off, and follow a narrative. It doesn’t matter that early in the book, you can tell who the villain is, and who the hero is. The pratfalls are easy to spot, and the outcomes are predictable. But I don’t always want to spend my reading time thinking deep thoughts.

Solstice is that book. Not a lot of thinking – just follow the story to its conclusion. This review may seem overly critical, but Solstice is well written – no typos or clunky sentences. The plot was easy to follow, and there were no plot holes or otherwise weirdness. The characters are believable within the narrative. It was just predictable. I saw that the sequel, Lake Town, is already available. I’d read it. I’ll award Solstice three and a half stars. If you want a quick dystopian YA read without a lot of executive-level thinking, then this book’s for you.

Writing under Jane Redd, Heather B. Moore is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than a dozen historical novels set in ancient Arabia and Mesoamerica. She attended the Cairo American College in Egypt and the Anglican International School in Jerusalem and received her Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University. She writes historical thrillers under the pen name H.B. Moore, and romance and women’s fiction under the name Heather B. Moore. It can be confusing, so her kids just call her Mom.

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