Author Archives: Mark Gardner

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior.

Survivor, by Brett Battles

From best-selling novelist Brett Battles comes the conclusion of the Rewinder Trilogy. Denny Younger. Historian. Time Traveler. Prisoner. There is nothing Denny wants more than to repair the damage former rewinder Lidia has done to history. Her manipulations have thrown the timeline he knows into chaos, and now he’s locked away in an unfamiliar world, without the device that would allow him to fix what has been destroyed. Will Denny be able to bring back the life he knew and the people he loves, or will he be trapped in this violent timeline forever? Only time will tell.

Destroyer picks up right where Rewinder leaves off. I had predicted the crux of the story at the end of Rewinder, but the author still I read Rewinder and Destroyer back in 2015, and recently subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. I saw that Survivor was available for free, so I jumped on it. Remember me being a sucker for time travel stories? Alternate history too? Dystopian? Okay, just making sure we’re all on the same page. Anyway, I liked the first two books, so it made sense to finish the series.

This third book was pretty tedious. The time travel, by necessity, was absent in this story. It does happen, but, well, it’s kind of boring. The dystopian British Empire from Rewinder was interesting, and all the time travelling in Destroyer was also interesting. This ‘wrecked’ timeline in Survivor is pretty wicked. Not ‘wicked,” as in ‘wicked-cool,’ but ‘wicked’ as in ‘holy crap, can this place get any more depressing?’

Now, I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but is there ever a case where we don’t think that the protagonist is going to survive the story? We have to slog through near-death experiences, knowing full well that Denny will survive. Battles didn’t even trick us with Denny dying, and an alternate Denny replacing him. That, at least, would’ve been interesting.

And where the heck are his sister and girlfriend during the events of Survivor? That was one of the awesomest (I know it’s not a word, shut it) parts of the first two books, was comparing the British colonies to our world. The girlfriend (I can’t remember her name since she was barely in Survivor) was a much-needed contrast to the dystopian world Denny came from. She made us happy to be in our world, because it could’ve turned out so much worse.

To me, the best part of alternate history or speculative history is the divergence from our reality. I like witnessing important events in history from a modern perspective, and imagining the ways that reality could be different with the slightest change. Unfortunately, with Survivor, the dystopian world is just too much baggage. The reader is stuck like Denny, which could’ve been intentional, but I suspect that’s not the case.

I’ve been overly critical of all three books, and while Rewinder was a five-star read; Destroyer was a four-star read, I’m afraid that Survivor slips further down the scale. It’s a three-star read. Don’t forget, in my rating system three stars is still average. I’d still recommend the entire series, especially since they’re free on Kindle Unlimited. If there were a fourth book that dealt with the aftermath of Survivor, I’d totally read it, but I don’t think that’s to be the case.

Brett was born and raised in southern California. His parents, avid readers, instilled the love of books in him early on, and there were many days his mom would kick him out of the house in the afternoon just so he would get a little sunshine. He is the USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels. Though he still makes California his home, he has traveled extensively to destinations which play parts in his current and upcoming novels. He has three very cool kids—Ronan, Fiona, and Keira—who are all quickly becoming adults, which both excites and unnerves him. As for his neurotic, paranoid, cute Australian Shepherd Maggie, that’s more of a…developing relationship.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://brettbattles.com
Twitter

Advertisements

Destroyer, by Brett Battles

With the whole of human history altered, Denny Younger may be the last rewinder in existence–and the last person on earth with a chaser unit capable of time travel. While caring for his ailing sister, Denny must discover a way to recharge his device before he’s left with no defense against a past that wants him dead. Before long, Denny notices a mysterious stranger following him–keeping tabs on Denny, his family, and his friends. Is Denny just paranoid? Or maybe he isn’t alone in this new reality after all… When his chaser is stolen and his girlfriend is kidnapped, Denny risks everything to get both of them back. Launched into a high-stakes chase that spans continents and millennia, Denny’s responsibility to save our future isn’t over yet. It will take all of his cunning to stop a threat capable of steering the fate of the human race into disaster.

Destroyer picks up right where Rewinder leaves off. I had predicted the crux of the story at the end of Rewinder, but the author still managed a surprise or two. Destroyer has the same amount of history, and seems to jump into the action right away. The story was easy to follow, and a few of the reveals were predictable.

Two things bother me about Destroyer: The time-traveling Denny seems reluctant to do what he knows he must, and that ends up making entire portions of the book an epic listing of frustration. Without spoiling anything, the book should’ve ended about a third of the way through, the rest of the book was frustrating exposition. I know the author had to get us into the chase, but the tipping point just made me angry.

The second thing I dislike about this book is that it ends on the lamest of lame cliffhangers. While the nemesis from book one has been vanquished, many plots have been left dangling. If I’d purchased this book, instead of reading it through Net Galley, I’d have been pretty upset, maybe even to the point of asking for a refund.

Because of the predictability, it did take me longer to read Destroyer than it did Rewinder. It’s still a great read, but I’d probably recommend fans of Rewinder wait until book three is out to read Destroyer. I’d give Destroyer an actual star rating of 3.5, and if the ending didn’t make me so mad, it would’ve easily been a 4-star read. Definitely not as good as Rewinder, but still worth a read.

Brett was born and raised in southern California. His parents, avid readers, instilled the love of books in him early on, and there were many days his mom would kick him out of the house in the afternoon just so he would get a little sunshine. He is the USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels. Though he still makes California his home, he has traveled extensively to destinations which play parts in his current and upcoming novels. He has three very cool kids—Ronan, Fiona, and Keira—who are all quickly becoming adults, which both excites and unnerves him. As for his neurotic, paranoid, cute Australian Shepherd Maggie, that’s more of a…developing relationship.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://brettbattles.com
Twitter


Rewinder, by Brett Battles

You will never read Denny Younger’s name in any history book, will never know what he’s done. But even if you did, you’d never believe it. The world as you know it wouldn’t be the same without him. Denny was born into one of the lowest rungs of society, but his bleak fortunes abruptly change when the mysterious Upjohn Institute recruits him to be a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories. The job at first sounds like it involves researching old books and records, but Denny soon learns it’s far from it. A Rewinder’s job is to observe history. In person. Embracing his new duties with enthusiasm, Denny witnesses things he could never even imagine before. But as exciting as the adventures into the past are, there are dangers, too. For even the smallest error can have consequences. Life-altering consequences. Time, after all, is merely a reference point.

**This will be the shortest of three reviews for the Rewinder series, by Brett Battles. These were written in 2015, but I never posted them to the blog.**

I’m a sucker for alternate history. I love time travel. I totally dig dystopian. This sci-fi novel has it all. One of the best things about this story is that the author didn’t spend chapters world building and giving the history. Instead, we learn about the world that Denny lives in as that world happens to him. It builds up suspense, and allows the reader to enjoy the plot as it unfolds.

I’m writing this review after reading both books, and I successfully predicted the lynchpin in the second book. This book is an easy five stars, and I’m glad I saw it on NetGalley. I knocked out the book in two days, which is a testament to my liking it.

Brett was born and raised in southern California. His parents, avid readers, instilled the love of books in him early on, and there were many days his mom would kick him out of the house in the afternoon just so he would get a little sunshine. He is the USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels. Though he still makes California his home, he has traveled extensively to destinations which play parts in his current and upcoming novels. He has three very cool kids—Ronan, Fiona, and Keira—who are all quickly becoming adults, which both excites and unnerves him. As for his neurotic, paranoid, cute Australian Shepherd Maggie, that’s more of a…developing relationship.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://brettbattles.com
Twitter


Ghost Star, by Roger Eschbacher

When his father and crewmates are attacked and killed by a ruthless alien commander, young Galen Bray becomes the new captain of the GHOST STAR, a notorious smuggling vessel. Barely escaping capture, Galen sets out to rescue the only other survivor of the vicious attack, his sister Trem. Along the way, he discovers a mysterious people thought wiped out long ago, his family’s surprising origins, and a destiny he never imagined…

 

So, Ghost Star, yeah… I really enjoyed this book. It’s tough to nail down why exactly. The story isn’t original in any way. The villain is so clichéd – let’s kill all the people different from us because they might give us cooties and I’m just a really scary individual. Every single part of the story has been done before. Some have done it worse, and some have done it better.

I know, I know, it sounds like I’m bagging on Eschbacher’s first book in the Ghost Star Adventures trilogy, and I am, kind of, but I really liked Ghost Star. It’s a short read – three or four hours. Makes sense since it was a Kindle Scout entry. Probably just above 50k words. Nothing pulls you out of the story, and there are no complex political or socioeconomical themes that you need to understand: The bad guy wants to kill Galen Bray, and exterminate his people. Bray wants to save his sister and their people from the megalomaniacal villain. We cheer for Bray, and jeer the villain.

I think that the best thing about Ghost Star is that it’s an utterly simple story with a straightforward telling that doesn’t require a lot of deep thinking. In today’s politically charged climate, we’re inundated with hate and malice, and have to wade through levels of crap to find the truth. It’s nice to just get lost in the narrative. And Eschbacher does a great job leading the reader from point A to B to C, etc. The ending is satisfying, and sets up more adventures, more books in the trilogy. I love it.

Roger Eschbacher writes in a varied spectrum of genres and even has a children’s book. This has no bearing on this story, but as a multi-genre author, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one that hasn’t figured it all out. Anyway, Ghost Star is an easy read. It’s a four-star read. I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. Since he’s a Kindle Scout winner, and published by Kindle Press, I expect Ghost Star to be included in Kindle Unlimited when it comes out in a month. Get it. Read it. Preorder it if you want. However you get it, turn you brain off for a few hours and enjoy this popcorn sci-fi romp.

Roger Eschbacher is a writer/actor who lives and works in Los Angeles, California. In addition to writing YA fantasy and sci-fi adventure novels, he’s also written children’s picture books and is a professional television animation writer. He loves hearing from readers and personally responds to every message.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.rogereschbacher.com
Twitter


Writing, Contracts, and the New Year

2017 has been a whirlwind year for me in the writing world. The blog updates have been a pendulum swing from posting every day to posting nothing for weeks. I’ve done a few appearances here and there – mostly radio interviews and small book-related events. I had such a great time at the 2017 Phoenix Comicon, where I got to hang out with fellow authors, many of them writing books, comics, and games that I play or read. While hanging out with the wonderful people at Bard’s Tower, I met someone who is making a game based on The War of the Worlds, and he was using, among others, mine and John’s War of the Worlds: Retaliation. I participated in some charity events, and helped raise money for getting books into kid’s hands. I even had an interesting encounter with Dick Van Dyke. I met my long-time writer hero, Harry Turtledove via Twitter, and we chat from time to time. Harry has even agreed to blurb War of the Worlds: Firestorm when it comes out in 2018. Severed Press picked up the distribution rights to Retaliation, and Firestorm back in March. I was nominated for Best Historical Fiction Novel at the eFestival of Words, and even got a vote for a Hugo award consideration. I didn’t win at eFestival, and if I’d gotten a Hugo nomination, you’d’ve known about it because the post here would’ve had exclamation points and all caps and stuff. I even got around to finally finishing my undergraduate degree in Human Behavior, and my certificate in Community Development and Sustainability. So, already, 2017 has been a great year for me.

I wrote Score of Silence about two-and-a-half years ago. The sequel, Lady by the Window, I finished up the first draft eighteen months ago. Score of Silence has had so many people in the writing community help in one way or another; I’ll have a three-page acknowledgements section. The failed Kickstarter campaign was a bummer (but not really, since the acceptance rate is less than 5%), but I’ve never been shy to self-publish if I couldn’t license the rights to a manuscript. Many publishers passed on John and my War of the Worlds sequel before Severed Press picked it up. I’ve had a few rejections for Score of Silence, but I wanted to be persistent – especially since I couldn’t let down all the awesome people who helped make it happen. Well, I started talking to Amber Cove back in October, and am pleased to say that we’ve reached an accord for a two-book contract. Obviously, Score of Silence and Lady by the Window are those two books. With the contracts signed, and the advance cashed, I can let you all know about it. There’s going to me a minor rewrite of Score of Silence, and then after a proper edit and proofread, the book will be published – probably in the first quarter of 2018. Lady by the Window is still super rough, and it’ll need rewrites and revisions, and a date with a developmental editor. A release in early 2019 is totally doable. I have ideas for at least two more Tupper Jones novels, but that’s a bit down the road.

John and I are still plugging away at War of the Worlds: Firestorm. We both haven’t written anything in November. Me, because November is full of birthdays and other family stuff; and for John, because he was working on getting his latest non-fiction sports book out the door. We may have the first draft hammered out by the end of the year, but with Christmas and other holiday events, it’ll probably be the end of January before we type, “THE END.” After a revision or two (my chapters are weak compared to John’s), we’ll send it in to Severed Press. About three or four months after that, we could see it hit the shelves summer 2018. John and I have ideas for a third book, but with each of having individual commitments, and very busy schedules, I don’t think we’ll work on a project like that unless a publisher offers a substantial advance. You never know. Maybe after the first book is turned into a movie, there might be enough interest for a third book.

Continue reading


Executed, by RR Haywood

The team of heroes extracted from their timelines to stop the impending apocalypse didn’t think they needed a leader. But they’ve got one anyway. With their mission in tatters, Miri has been called in to steady the ship. And to focus them on their assignment: preventing the end of the world. The problem is, the world doesn’t know it’s in danger. With governments pursuing them relentlessly, attempting to steal the time-travel device to use for their own ends, the heroes are on the run—fighting for survival in a world they’re supposed to save. Meanwhile, Miri has motives of her own. And when the existence of a second device is discovered, the team’s mission and their lives are in mortal danger…

Who doesn’t like a time-travel science fiction book? Did I start this review the same as I did for Extracted? Yep, I sure did. Whereas Extracted spent too much time on Ben Ryder’s mental breakdown, Executed spent way too much time on this epic gun battle. The character stereotypes continue from the first book. Miri is frustrating, and I suspect that that’s the point.

I’m not sure how the developmental process was with this second book, but it seemed like they decided to just wipe the slate clean and insert the characters from book one into a new story. Many of the dynamics were rewritten, and a new character other than Miri is introduced, and she is ssllooww!! I figured it out early in the book. The other characters figured it out in the middle of the book. Why the heck doesn’t the new character figure it out until the last chapters? (Intentionally vague because, spoilers!)

The excruciatingly long chapter structure is gone from the first book. All my complaints and praises from the first book carry over to the second. I do think that Executed is a better story than extracted. I wholeheartedly look forward to reading the final book in the series. Like Extracted, I’d rate Executed just shy of four stars because it’s better than 3.5, but not quite a four-star read. They’re both available on Kindle Unlimited, so give ‘em a shot.

rr-haywood-about350

RR Haywood was born in Birmingham, England but has spent most of his life living on the beautiful south coast. He has had a passion for reading for as long as he can remember. One of his favourite genres is Post-Apocalyptic fiction and he has worked his way through every book he could find. Some were great and some not so great and what he wanted was a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day detailed exploration of what would happen. This desire to explore the world after such an event gave birth to The Undead, which is now the UK’s bestselling zombie horror series, compared to The Walking Dead and many other great works. This underground smash-hit series draws readers from all walks of life with compelling characters, incredible descriptions and breath taking action sequences that have had readers gripping their kindles, laughing out loud and crying real tears.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.rrhaywood.com/
Twitter


Wraith Hunter, by Clara Coulson

It’s been four months since the devastating battle on Primrose Avenue, and DSI still has its hands full. The local ICM chapter is now unstable, no leader to corral its members. The werewolves are moving in strange ways, like they’re keeping secrets. And there’s a traitor inside DSI, waiting to strike again. Cal Kinsey and his team, now back on the job, are desperately searching for the answers they need to restore balance in the supernatural community. But so far, they’ve had little success. Then, to make matters exponentially worse, a major Aurora convention center collapses without warning, killing dozens and injuring hundreds more. With all signs pointing to a supernatural terrorist attack, Cal and his team are thrust back into the danger zone once again. And this time, they’re playing for keeps. Because according to the riddle-filled letter that arrives on DSI’s doorstep, addressed to one Captain Nicholas Riker … the destruction of Aurora is only just beginning.

I read Soul Breaker back in 2015, and both Shade Chaser & Wraith Hunter in November 2017. As with Clara Coulson’s work under a different nom de plume, I have enjoyed every book that Ms. Coulson has written.

The Erica/Cal intensity I had hoped for at the end of Shade Chaser didn’t materialize in Wraith Hunter. Instead, well, no spoilers… Let’s just say that something happens between Erica and Cal. I’ll also tease that something happens between Erica and Cooper. And of course, between Cal and Cooper. How’s that for a teaser?

I’ve lived in Michigan, and have experienced wintertime at its worst. Coulson does an excellent job recreating the woodsy winter wonderland that is suburban Michigan, and I can easily see Aurora as a stand in for Lansing (I lived in Eaton Rapids, a suburb of Lansing.) I remember spending time in the endless woods behind my grandparent’s farm in Charlotte, Mi. Coulson does an excellent job recreating both the urban sprawl and the rural living in the City of Crows series.

The stakes are getting higher as the repercussions from the events in the previous novels keeps building. It’s like a high-octane race, but each driver forges his or her own path. They crisscross and with plenty of near misses to keep the reader guessing who’ll win, and in some cases, who to cheer for.

I look forward to reading book four, out in less than two weeks. I’m excited to see the results of Erica/Cal/Cooper, and hope that Team Riker finally gets the break they so deserve. All three books are available on Kindle Unlimited, and like books two and one, Wraith Hunter is a solid four stars. This one is the best one yet, and can’t wait to read Doom Sayer when it releases on December 10th.

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites. In the publishing sphere, Clara is currently occupied with the City of Crows urban fantasy series, and its companion series, Lark Nation.

Amazon
Goodreads
https://claracoulson.com
Twitter