Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

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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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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The Man of Legends, by Kenneth C. Johnson

New York City, New Year’s weekend, 2001. Jillian Guthrie, a troubled young journalist, stumbles onto a tantalizing mystery: the same man, unaged, stands alongside Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Gandhi in three different photographs spanning eighty-five years of history. In another part of town, Will—an enigmatic thirty-three-year-old of immense charm, wit, and intelligence—looks forward to the new year with hope and trepidation. Haunted by his secret past and shadowed by a dangerous stranger, he finds himself the object of an intense manhunt spearheaded by an ambitious Vatican emissary and an elderly former UN envoy named Hanna. During the next forty-eight hours, a catastrophic event unites Will, Jillian, and Hanna—and puts them in the crosshairs of a centuries-old international conspiracy. Together, the three must unravel an ancient curse that stretches back two millennia and beyond, and face a primal evil that threatens their lives and thousands more.

It’s hard to talk about The Man of Legends, by Kenneth C. Johnson without spoiling it. I’ll do my best to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this wonderful tale, so bear with me. I’m already a sucker for time travel and the thought of the immortal person toiling in our world. I’ve written immortal characters myself, and I only hope that they are as believable as Kenneth Johnson makes his.

In short, The Man of Legends feels like a clever mashup between The Man From Earth, by Jerome Bixby, the television show Forever, and possibly Reincarnation Blues, by Michael Poore. (If you haven’t seen/read any of those three, go get them right now.)

I read to about 32% in one setting. The story was mesmerizing. I wanted to keep reading, but I knew that if I did, I wouldn’t stop until I had consumed every word that Kenneth C. Johnson had put between the covers. And it is a long book. 428 pages. Between 32% and 76%, the story languished while doing an eclectic mash-up of various flashbacks. I felt that these flashbacks could’ve been pared down to shorten the size of the time, but I’m sure I’m in the minority there. The flashbacks were richly detailed, and built, story by story, the history of the mysterious immortal.

I had wagered a guess at whom the immortal man was at around the 40% mark, and I was so close to being correct. The reveal at the 65% mark was tantalizingly satisfying, and never have I been so glad to guess something incorrectly. After the reveal, the story moves at such a break-neck pace, I knew that I would finish the story fourth night, damn the consequences.

Despite my grumblings about the muddy middle of the story and the longish length, The Man of Legends is a solid five stars. Fans of historical fiction, science fiction, and even those that like their thrillers to dabble in the supernatural and religious occult will enjoy this page-turner. I recommend you go out and get this book right now.

Creator of V, The Incredible Hulk, Alien Nation, The Bionic Woman and other Emmy Award Winning shows. Director of numerous TV movies and the feature films Short Circuit 2, and Steel. Winner of the prestigious Viewers for Quality Television Award, multiple Saturn Awards, The Sci-Fi Universe Life Achievement Award, plus nominations for Writers Guild and Mystery Writers of America Awards, among others.

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The Unsung Frame, by Greg Dragon

A war between humans and synthetics… In a futuristic Tampa Bay, skiptracer Dhata Mays and his sidekick, Lur Diaz, are on a job investigating a cheating lowlife. But after a deadly explosion and the woman who hired them disappears, nobody is safe. Suddenly, everyone is under suspicion, and the police are no longer there “to serve and to protect.” Now, it’s up to Dhata to take matters into his own hands and uncover a deep-rooted plot to escalate the tension between the humans and synths. He must stop the battle before it’s too late. But is the truth too big for a small-time skiptracer to handle alone?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Greg Dragon is an excellent writer. From urban crime novels, to space opera, to a futuristic society on the verge of a race war, to fantasy sword fighting, Greg Dragon writes all the things. Followers of mine on the blog know that I’ve read everything that’s even sci-fi adjacent that Greg has written. He is a talented author, and I’m enriched to read his stories. You can be to, just pick a few of them up. You won’t be disappointed.

The Unsung Frame is a clever play on words, that is revealed in the second half of the book. Dhata and Lurita are in the thick of things again, and this time they may have come up against a foe that they have no chance of defeating. The tensions between the synths and humes has ratcheted up several notches due to the events that transpired in The Judas Cypher. The lines are drawn, and the divisiveness is a page out of the modern day political climate.

The action is intense, but what I really like about The Unsung Frame is that Dhata is a “real” hume. Yeah, he’s got cybernetic implants, but he’s not indestructible like many protagonists. When you read The Unsung Frame, you wonder if Dhata and Lur have what it takes to survive the day. Anyone can write someone that’s bulletproof, but it takes a special kind of writer to make me worry about the protagonist.

The Unsung Frame, like the first book in the Synth Crisis series, is a must read. Action-packed from the beginning, with a splash of humanity throughout, The Unsung Frame has everything you could want from a near-future science fiction mystery. Five stars!

Greg-Dragon-2

Greg Dragon has been a creative writer for several years, and has authored on topics of relationship, finance, physical fitness and more through different sources of media. In particular, his online magazine has been a source of much pragmatic information, which has been helpful to many. As a result, his work continues to grow with a large and loyal fan base.

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Timeshaft, by Stewart Bint

By the twenty-seventh century, mankind has finally mastered time travel—but is also driving recklessly towards wiping itself out. The guerilla environmentalist group WorldSave, with its chief operative Ashday’s Child, uses the Timeshaft to correct mistakes of the past in an effort to extend the life of the planet. But the enigmatic Ashday’s Child has his own destiny to accomplish, and will do whatever it takes within a complicated web of paradoxes to do so. While his destiny—and very existence—is challenged from the beginning to the end of time, he must collect the key players through the ages to create the very Timeshaft itself. “Do our actions as time travellers change what would otherwise have happened, or is everything already laid down in a predetermined plan?” he asks. Critics say Stewart Bint’s Timeshaft is an expertly synchronized saga of time travel, the irresistible force of destiny, and the responsibility of mankind as rulers of the world.

One of the reasons that I’m a big fan of time travel stories is that each one has to take a hard look at free will, destiny, and predetermination. Timeshaft is no exception. These ideas are dealt a heavy hand in this story. “A” leads to “B,” leads to “C,” is common in linear storytelling, but Bint shoehorns in steps “G,” and “W” for good measure.

The stories and timelines weave on each other, and there is some confusion, as with most stories in this genre, but by the end of the story it all makes sense. Timeshaft is an interesting romp through time, and I’m eager to read more from Stewart Bint in the future. Easily a four-star read.

International novelist published by Dragon Moon Press. Journalist/magazine columnist. Active awareness campaigner for mental health and sepsis. Named on the 2016 list of “Inspirational Mental Health Advocates that are changing the world.” Previous roles include radio presenter, newsreader and phone-in host. Married to Sue, with two grown-up children, Chris and Charlotte, and a charismatic budgie called Alfie Lives in Leicestershire, UK. Usually goes barefoot.

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Canned questions with Aaron Frale

I read and reviewed Atmospheric Pressure, by Aaron Frale, and he consented to an interview. He writes sci-fi and a little bit of absurdist humor. Check out his stuff with the links below!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I wrote a story about skeletons chasing a dude in elementary school. My friends kept requesting the story at sleepovers.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I usually try to inject comedy in just about everything I write. I really appreciate it when Sci Fi and Fantasy writers don’t take themselves too seriously, and it shows up in the writing. Though there are some stories where the comedy doesn’t quite fit, so it depends on the story.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
That’s a good question. I’ve sacrificed a lot of my free time in order to write. However, I do like nerd games. Recently, I’ve been playing the X-Wing Miniatures game.

In one sentence, tell us all about Atmospheric Pressure.
A dystopian novel about greed, cronyism, and the dangers of climate change run amok.

What inspired you to write the book?
I worked in downtown Minneapolis, and it intrigued me that you could walk from one end of the downtown to the other without ever going outside. I thought to myself, “What if you could never leave the skyways?”

Is there a sequel on the horizon?
It’s at the editor right now.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the book. It took me over a year to write the sequel to Atmospheric Pressure. Whereas this other book took me a little over a month from conception to the stage where I’m at now with the sequel to Atmospheric Pressure. Sometimes, it clicks and my fingers can’t type fast enough. Other times, I have to let it stew for a while.

What have you learned about writing now that you have several stories out?
So many things! But here are few bullet points. 1. Do your research, 2. Pay for ads, 3. Pay for an editor, and 4. Writing is a long-term game. Very few have their first works become break away hits. Stephen King had a giant nail on his wall full of rejection. I’m lucky that I came from a theatre/film back ground, so I got to learn about character development, plot, dialogue and all those craft things before I even attempted my first novel. For me, the marketing and business end of writing has been a steep learning curve. Just focus on improving one aspect at a time.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do get emails and messages on social media. Probably the most were from Time Burrito. People love to show their appreciation when you can make them laugh. Most others are usually asking about sequels. I love hearing from them, because it keeps me going.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Atmospheric Pressure?
Yeah, I’d probably tone down social commentary and increase the pace of the book. I think there were some passages in there than went on to long focusing on the injustices of their society. I also think I’ve gotten more crisp with my sentence structure

Tell us about future writing projects.
Atmospheric Pressure 2 will be out later this year or early next year. I also got a YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi coming out. They are both with different editors right now. It depends on which one gets back to be first as to which one will come out first. If you want to be the first know, sign up for my mailing list at aaronfrale.com. I’ll give you some free short stories just for joining.

Aaron’s first novel is Playlist of the Ancient Dead. He also co-wrote a no-budget comedy flick called Hamlet the Vampire Slayer. The University of New Mexico gave him an MFA in Dramatic Writing. Screaming and playing guitar for the prog/metal band is one of his pastimes. He lives with his wife Felicia, two cats, and a small dog who thinks he’s a large dog.

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Atmospheric Pressure, by Aaron Frale

Olson lives in a city that has been sealed from the outside world. He’s an Eleven Year and close to citizenship. His life is upended when one of the few adults who cares about him commits suicide – or so it appears at first. While investigating, Olson meets a girl named Natalie snooping around his school. He soon learns that one of her friends died under similarly mysterious circumstances. Together, they start looking for answers, and end up discovering the city’s darkest secrets.

Atmospheric Pressure, by Aaron Frale, reminds me of the Silo series, by Hugh Howey. The storyline is reminiscent of The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell.

Dystopian fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction seems to resonate with readers in today’s political climate. Overreaching governments, class division, and a planet that will kill those pesky humans is all the rage. I love reading these stories.

One of the things that I appreciated about Atmospheric Pressure, was that the portrayal of youths match this type of closed society – age, responsibilities, and indoctrination. The story and dialog is believable, and many of the situations the protagonists encounter, I can imagine them happening in real life.

While the story is not original, (two youths from opposite social classes team up to defeat a totalitarian regime) It’s a great read, and I look forward to reading the sequel in 2017 or 2018. Atmospheric Pressure is a great dystopian read, and an easy four stars.

Aaron’s first novel is Playlist of the Ancient Dead. He also co-wrote a no-budget comedy flick called Hamlet the Vampire Slayer. The University of New Mexico gave him an MFA in Dramatic Writing. Screaming and playing guitar for the prog/metal band is one of his pastimes. He lives with his wife Felicia, two cats, and a small dog who thinks he’s a large dog.

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