Saturday, January 16, 2016

REVIEW: Holding Fire

Title: Holding Fire
Editor: Scott Hughes
Genre: Anthology
Price: $4.99 (ebook) / $12.99 (paperback)
Publisher: Createspace
ISBN: 978-1508859284
Available via: OnlineBookClub
Reviewed by: Psyche Skinner
Holding Fire edited by Scott Hughes is an anthology of ten stories with the theme of the destructive effects of holding onto anger or rage. I have to admit that my first reaction to the theme, intriguing as it is, is that it sounds like a bit of a downer. Stories of nasty instant karma, no matter how clever, might be a little too depressing to be good entertainment.

What I was overlooking was that the stories are pretty evenly divided between the main character being the person cursed with destructive rage, being their victim, or being a third party to the events of the story. And in some cases the person being consumed by their anger is ultimately saved. So there is considerable variety in the stories inn themes of characters, genre, and outcomes—although murder is the instigating even or outcome (or both) in nine of the ten stories. Most of the stories were contemporary dramas, often bordering on melodramas.

They had a lot of high stakes and emotional energy and generally a plot that held together. However most of them also had a lingering amateur quality where the balance between character angst and plot plausibility was a little shaky. Villains were often cartoonishly evil, with the evil stepmother trope getting more than one un-ironic outing, along with the alcohol abusive parents, and cute high school boyfriend/girlfriend savior. One of the stories (“Life is a Great Teacher” by John Mallon also suffered from questionable editing with multiple speakers being mashed together into the same paragraph).

I think people nearer high school age might enjoy these stories more, as young adult themes like bullying, first love, difficult families, and choosing the kind of person you want to be (when you grow up) occur in a number of stories. From my rather-more-middle-aged perspective the story “Dog Eat Dog” (by Joy Meehan) about and vindictive executive getting \ her just deserts from an underling is more resonant. I also appreciated he characterization of the failed writer in “Ghostwriter” by Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill. I would give this anthology 6/10 for being an entertaining read but not providing any stories I am likely to want to revisit or ponder over.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

REVIEW: Jupiter Justice

Title: Jupiter Justice
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Price: $2.99 (ebook) / $11.74 (paperback)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
ISBN: 978-1516972548
Point of Sale: Amazon  
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Full disclosure – I am a member of the author’s writing group and read partial drafts of Jupiter Justice before it came out.  Having said that, I paid full price for my copy and really enjoyed reading it.  It’s a great near-future romp.

Set in a plausible mid-future Solar System, Jupiter Justice is the story of Rico Schroeder.  Thanks to fusion power, the Solar System is open for business, but fusion power is slow – or at least slower than humans would like.  Rico is part of one international team working on his generation’s X-Prize, developing a working anti-matter space drive.  It’s a very high-stakes endeavor, not just for the prize money but for political and economic control of the Solar System.

The stakes are high enough that people are getting killed over the competition.  Rico has to make an abrupt transition from his test-pilot job back to his previous profession – cop – and figure out who done it.  That’s if Rico can stay alive long enough, as his investigation puts him immediately in the murderer’s cross-hairs.

Don writes in a brisk and clear style, and he’s done a lot of research getting his facts right.  There’s a bit of romance thrown in, as Rico rekindles an old flame, and plenty of action.  I found the story well-written and enjoyable.  I think you will too.


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Indie Writers Support Website

Cold Coffee CafĂ© Press has been sharing the information that The Indie Writers Support Website ( webmaster 'Judd Miller', allegedly has the legal name of Korede Abayomi.

Abayomi and is reported to be subject of a current arrest warrant. He is also the owner of highly questionable publisher ParaDon Books.

As such any authors who have shared credit card information with The Indie Writers Support Website may wish to take precautions, and possibly rethink maintaining author pages on this site.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

REVIEW: Void Contract

Title: Void Contract: Gigaparsec Book 1      
Author: Scott Rhine  
Genre: space opera
Price: $2.99 (ebook) $8.99 (trade paperback)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Servces
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Void Contract is the story of Max Culp, human medic and assassin.  In the fairly far future, humanity has developed faster-than-light ships, made contact with various alien races and in true human fashion fought a war with one race.  Humanity won that war, although the alien race defeated in said war still exists.  Oh, and there’s an over-race, the Magi, running around, who bestow technology on other races as they see fit.

In this very interesting world, Max, a !Kung tribesman descended from a group resettled from a dying Earth, is trying to make a living.  Max does so by killing sentient beings.  In the first chapter, he’s doing so to repay a debt to the aliens who protected his people.  Then, via a circuitous set of events, Max finds himself responsible for a “Goat” (Satyr-like alien) named Reuben, and forced to kill people to save Rueben.  This is where things get interesting.

Frankly, I like these kind of books.  Who wouldn’t want to travel the stars, cracking wise with various alien races?  Personally, even if they are shooting at me (and I’m highly allergic to bullets) I’d be glad to sign up.  Having said that, I’m a sucker for these kind of stories.  It’s hard to do them wrong.

Fortunately, Scott Rhine understands what makes this fun, and he delivers.  There’s the right amount of war-weariness, wise-cracking and do-or-die in his story.  There’s also a nice refreshing bit of sex, and not one but two mysterious aliens of difference species.  This is space opera, not science fiction, so the science is of the “I push this and X happens” variety, but in this genre that’s frequently considered a feature, not a bug.  Overall, a nice romp through a world that I’d like to visit, warts and all.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

REVIEW: An Heir to Thorns and Steel

Title: An  Heir to Thorns and Steel
Author: MCA Hogarth
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $2.99 (ebook)
ISBN 978-0989263146
Point of Sale: Amazon 
Reviewed by: Psyche

MCA Hogarth has a refreshingly idiosyncratic take on fantasy and this book is no exception. Morgan Locke is a university student in a fantasy realm that feels broadly Victorian but with radical difference in areas like the role of religion and the degree to which magic and mythological races turn out to be real.

Locke has suffered a debilitating  lifelong illness that is getting even worse.  Some bizarre guests arrive to spin a wild tale that he is a prince from a distant land.  This leads the hapless Locke through a serious of adventures where he acquires both allies and enemies and the stakes get very high indeed.

While this is the first part of a trilogy and I enjoyed it, I feel strangely unmotivated to read the later parts.  If you are embarking on a Hogarth book for the first time my recommendation would be to start with the more nuanced Mindhealers sci fi series or the almost-a-classic-already Spots the Space Marine.