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Review: Captain Marvel – Liberation Run by Tess Sharpe (Titan Books)

Hey everyone, I’m back with a review of one of Titan’s Marvel Universe novels, focusing on Captain Marvel herself. 🙂

I’ve been a comic fan since grade school, and although my first love has always been DC comics, I’m a Marvel fan, too (shocker – it’s possible and okay to be a fan of both!). My first ‘meeting’ with Carol was in the pages of Civil War 2, in which she led the side opposing Tony Stark’s stance on a provocative and dangerous Inhuman threat. So, I haven’t followed her career from the beginning, though I do like her current uniform and hairstyle more than her previous looks. Carol struck me as a strong, determined, self-confident person, willing to stand by her convictions and to fight for what she perceives as ‘right’. In fact, in Civil War 2, she surpassed Steve Rogers, in my opinion. But I didn’t know or understand Carol and her motivations, even though I could see the value in them.

I was hoping that Liberation Run would also serve as an introduction to the character for readers who weren’t familiar with her (like me), and in that, Liberation Run disappointed me. Carol is the carol I met in Civil War -as strong, determined and principled as I expected- but this book was written for readers who have a long-standing reader-character relationship with Carol. There are mentions here and there of how she received her powers and events that moulded her motivations, but readers (such as me) who are meeting Carol for the first time might feel (as I do) that they have read an entire novel starring her without having been able to get to know her. In terms of giving Carol / Captain Marvel a well-rounded introduction to new readers / prospective fans, the novel disappoints.

And unfortunately, it also disappoints in terms of setting. 😦

There is a definite difference in the aspects of storytelling which are obvious and important when comparing comics to novels, which is as it should be. If i think back to John Byrne’s depictions of Krypton, I remember how different and exciting the landscape and architecture was, how Byrne showed us that we were on Krypton – on a different planet. But where the majority of Liberation Run takes place (a different planet, among an alien species) has human-centric buildings and landscapes, English is spoken by everyone, the clothing styles are human (evening dresses, for example), the alien species looks relatively human (yes, there is an expected anthropomorphism in comics, but you can tell just by looking at him that Thanos isn’t a human being, for example), and the technology, when compared to what would conceivably exist on Earth at the same time, is the same (except for a cool spaceship). What we have is an alien species living on a different planet being and acting and looking like humans with human technology – which begs the question: why did the majority of the novel take place on a different planet?

Now, another thing which gets to me a bit is when characters with superpowers show inconsistent power-levels – such as in the CW shows, Supergirl and The Flash. Sometimes Supergirl can pick up something massive and other times she struggles with something vastly smaller; sometimes The Flash reaches a location in split-seconds and sometimes it takes 5 or more seconds, when there’s no apparent reason -such as increased distance / fatigue- for such inconsistencies. And there was one glaring inconsistency in Liberation Run, with something Carol did early in the book and then seemingly couldn’t do later on – catching a spaceship, and then having no choice but to let the spaceship crash. I might be nitpicking, but inconsistencies are glaring – if Captain America can’t take a punch from an average Skrull but can stand against a punch from Thanos, there’s a problem.

My review is not all doom and gloom, though. 🙂

The Inhuman character who shares the spotlight with Carol, Rhi, is a good example of how to handle character growth and to keep a character’s arc interesting and engaging. The other Inhumans we meet manage to populate the narrative memorably and don’t just function as mouths for extra dialogue and padding. The plot, while a bit held back by the unfortunate setting, was fast-paced there were cool set-piece battles, with well-handled tension.

So, as an introduction for those who don’t know Carol Danvers’ backstory, and for those seeking a fleshed-out, well thought-out setting, the novel unfortunately falls short. But looked at as a quick, fun romp for a group of superheroes as they go about righting a terrible wrong, ‘Liberation Run‘ does its job well. 🙂

I’ll have to give it a 6/10.

You can order your copies from Amazon here, and check out the rest of Titan’s Marvel Universe novels here. Tess Sharpe has written much more than ‘Liberation Run’ so do visit her website to see the rest of her work. The next Marvel novel from Titan I’ll be reading and reviewing is Thanos: Death Sentence by Stuart Moore.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

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Posted by on April 12, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Review: Adrift by Rob Boffard

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂 I’m back with a review of Rob Boffard’s excellent ‘Adrift’!

In the far reaches of space, a tour group embarks on what will be the trip of a lifetime – in more ways than one . . .

At Sigma Station, a remote mining facility and luxury hotel in deep space, a group of tourists boards a small vessel to take in the stunning views of the Horsehead Nebula.

But while they’re out there, a mysterious ship with devastating advanced technology attacks the station. Their pilot’s quick thinking means that the tourists escape with their lives – but as the dust settles, they realise they may be the only survivors . . .

Adrift in outer space on a vastly under-equipped ship, they’ve got no experience, no weapons, no contact with civilisation. They are way out of their depth, and if they can’t figure out how to work together, they’re never getting home alive.

Because the ship that destroyed the station is still out there. And it’s looking for them…

First off, that cover sets the reader up brilliantly for what they can expect, so congrats to massive kudos to Charlotte Stroomer, the cover designer. Secondly, what a read! Rob’s work first came to my attention years ago when I received a printed MS copy from his South African distributors, and I’m ashamed to admit that I just never got around to reading Tracer. After reading ‘Adrift‘, I’ll be reading the entire ‘Outer Earth Trilogy‘ (the omnibus edition), as soon as I can. This is definitely a case of “don’t delay, read the damned books!”.

Adrift‘ takes place in a possible future where humanity had found and learned how to use wormholes to travel to many different solar systems, but the expansion hasn’t gone well – and not because of aliens. I won’t give the reason for the background conflict away (the first scene of the first chapter gives the reader a great introduction to this conflict, and the rest of the book adds more detail), but the conflict itself is central to the plot, and in surprising ways.

The plot, detailing how a group of disparate tourists, a representative of the tour company, and the pilot of their vessel are thrown into a survival nightmare- is expertly paced and unputdownable. Every chapter ends with a sneaky hook to lead you into the next and the chapters cycle between specific characters, which gives the reader a broad and yet intimate look into the kinds of people and personalities who will take them through the book. And let me tell you – there are massive surprises and turnarounds; many times I had to lower the book and exclaim to the wall across from me, “What the fuck?!” – in an admiring and jealousy-laden tone. These events serve the plot and deepen it – they’re not just there to make things more exciting, and everything ties together as the pieces of the mystery the characters are embroiled in fall into place.

What Rob manages to do with this novel is present the reader with a kickass premise, stand-out characters, brilliantly conceived and handled action set-pieces, and a multilayered mystery which ends with massively cool bang. He’s also managed to end the story as well as leave the universe he’s created open for more exploration. SciFi Magazine called this: “A TERRIFICALLY CINEMATIC ROLLER-COASTER” SciFi Magazine, and Gareth Powell said that Adrift is ‘an edge-of-the-seat epic of survival and adventure in deep space‘; I agree wholeheartedly with both assessments. Absolutely kickass novel!

9/10

To order your copies of ‘Adrift‘, head over to Amazon, and add the book to your Goodreads shelf here. Also, don’t forget to have a gander at Rob’s site.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Review: The Rain Never Came by Lachlan Walter (Odyssey Books)

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂

Lachlan has been waiting a long while for this review, so let’s get into it, shall we?

This novel is categorized as falling into the Dystopian genre, and I’m happy to report that it features none of the teenage angst which that genre is known for. This is a lyrical, thoughtful, often brutal, honest and surprisingly moving novel which doesn’t comfortably fall into any specific genre, though I do understand the Dystopian classification, since the tale takes place in a world which is slowly dying due to climate change.

In this dying Australia, rain is even more scarce than good people and good intentions – there are those who struggle daily to hold to the kinds of lives they led before the climate calamity settled in to stay, even though there are very necessary changes to their routines and their way of life; but they remain good, conscientious people, who continue to look out for each other. And there are those who either live on the fringes, scavenging, and other who seek to control what they feel they must control – because who else will?

The main character is one of the ‘good guys’, despite what he’s been through and experienced. He spends most of his time at the local, barely-standing pub, and is part of small, hard-working community. Life isn’t easy, but folks get on with it. There’s a stoicism to these people which compliments the world around them – they have become a product of their surroundings and have learned the best ways to survive and enjoy their lives, as and when they can.

Lachlan spends a bit of time ushering us into this more-than-usually arid Australian outback, showing us the place the varied cast of characters call home and revealing their relationships to each other. A vague sense of distant danger swirls around every conversation, and when the MC, Bill, is convinced to help out his friend, Tobe, the story builds to a new pace, and the sense of distant danger gives way to a constant sizzle of dread. Bill and Tobe aren’t entirely sure what to be scared of. But it’s revealed in increments as the landscape, the heat and dust, the ever-present thirst the characters struggle with and the fate they’re moving towards spiral closer together.

This is the kind of novel that doesn’t need awesome battles, flashy tech or detailed science to make it sing – it’s a brooding read, the kind of book that lulls the reader while quietly building strength toward an abrupt -yet fitting- end. ‘The Rain Never Came‘ also showcases Lachlan’s storyteller’s talent, and he’s definitely a writer who should be on your radar.

8 / 10

To order your copies of ‘The Rain Never Came‘, click here to head over to the publisher’s site, and here for Amazon. You can also add the book to your Goodreads shelf, and do check out Lachlan’s website.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Review: The Heir to the North – Malessar’s Curse Book 1 by Steven Poore (Grimbold Books)

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂

I’ve owed Steven this review for a long while now, so let’s get into it, shall we?

“Caenthell will stay buried, and the North will not rise again until I freely offer my sword to a true descendant of the High Kings—or until one takes it from my dying hands!”

With this curse, the Warlock Malessar destroyed Caenthell. The bloodline of the High Kings disappeared and the kingdom faded into dark legend until even stories of the deed lost their power. But now there is an Heir to the North.

Cassia hopes to make her reputation as a storyteller by witnessing a hardened soldier and a heroic princeling defeat Malessar and his foul curse. But neither of her companions are exactly as they appear, and the truth lies deep within stories that have been buried for centuries.

As Cassia learns secrets both soldier and warlock have kept hidden since the fall of Caenthell, she discovers she can no longer merely bear witness. Cassia must become part of the story; she must choose a side and join the battle.

The North will rise again.

Let’s kick off with the novel’s opening – not only does it set the stage for various plot threads, but it leads the reader into the cool world building Steven has done, too. It also plays with our expectations – which then make the climax of the book even more powerful and effective.

We’re then introduced to the main cast – Cassia, forced to support and follow her story-teller father around; a capable and coldly handsome soldier; and a stoic warlock, protecting not only a legacy but some incredible secrets, too. Cassia starts off as a strong character -self-assured and aware of her strengths, weaknesses and the challenges her relationship with her father brings to her life- and becomes stronger, even as her world and her knowledge of it continues to change and broaden. The soldier and the warlock play important roles in helping her to grow, even as they also embody different aspects of Cassia herself – as their relationships with each other grow, they affect each other in different ways, too. Since they’re the core of the book, this works very well in setting up an important emotional aspect of the book’s climax.

There are all sorts of other characters in the book – soldiers, merchants, even scholars, which add nicely to the narrative by leading the reader into different aspects of the world Steven continues to reveal with each chapter. The characters and the world feel alive and vital, and there’s none of the ‘I think I know where this is headed’ – the smallest bits of information are important to the plot, and there’s no filler.

In terms of action and magic, Steven has a way of making the scenes urgent and spectacular, and I’d love to see what he does with a huge thousands-against-thousands battle.

I enjoyed every damned page, folks. Steven has written a book that not only entertains and is an excellent example of its genre, but which is also thoughtful and leads the reader into questions and discussions which need to be asked and had. It has all the hallmarks I’ve come to expect and enjoy in Fantasy and also reaches deeper and further, and that’s why I wouldn’t mind a huge saga in this world and with these characters. Goes without saying that I’m looking forward to the next book and will get stuck in as soon as I can. 🙂

A richly deserved 9 / 10 – highly recommended!

You can order the book from Amazon at the following link, and do check out Steven’s wordpress blog, as well as his publisher’s website.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Review: Vengeance – A Darkhurst Novel by Gail Z Martin

Hey everyone, I hope your Friday is treating you well!

I’ve owed Gail this review for a while, as she knows, so… Finally. 🙂

Vengeance‘ is the second novel following the adventures of the Valmonde brothers, their allies and enemies, and is the sequel to ‘Scourge‘ (reviewed here). Here’s the blurb for ‘Vengeance‘:

Brothers. Outlaws. Saviours.

Rigan and Corran Valmonde are not heroes. They are undertakers, lawbreakers, and monster hunters. Without them, the town of Ravenwood is finished.

But the more successful Rigan and Corran become at destroying the creatures, the more a greater evil is revealed – one larger and more monstrous than they ever could imagine…

In the first novel, Gail introduced the reader to a city plagued by monster-attacks, ruled by bickering guilds and aloof princes, in which simply surviving is a fine balancing act. This novel takes us out of Ravenwood and further reveals the greater world, other cities, and new characters, so the novel and the story feels more expansive – but not at the expensive of that which drives the plot: the characters. Gail expands the world-building considerably, taking us into the countryside and showing us how those living outside of the cities live and survive while dealing with threats both human and inhuman, and into a strange, creepy realm which is decidedly not human-friendly. This world’s magic, how that magic works, the cost of using it and the effects it has are also expanded with more details and information, as are the mythologies, legends and cultures of the world and its people. The backdrop all of this creates makes the ‘stage’ the characters play their parts on feel real and vibrant, and again, not at the cost of the characters.

Gail delves deeper into everyone, showing more sides to their personalities, into what drives them, and into what they are constantly fighting, their fears and worries and those small things that shake their belief in not only their self-appointed mission but themselves, too. Even the ‘bad guys’ are scared and increasingly reckless – helped in no small part by events they themselves set in motion. What this all does for the book is that there’s a great balance of action, world-building, intrigue, introspection, and plenty of character growth.

And Gail also succeeds in ramping up the problems the protagonists face, and the lengths to which the antagonists will go to achieve their goals – this keeps the pace ticking faster and faster, until the memorable climax shifts the conflicts into a new, dangerous and epic direction. It’s obvious that the town-focus of book one will become a wider-world focus in book three, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the manure hits the fan. 🙂

Giving this a strong 9/10 – if inventive and pacey Fantasy with stand-out characters and high-stakes is your thing, Vengeance (and Scourge) will be, too. 🙂

If all goes well, I’ll be posting excerpts from the book in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, head on over to Gail’s site for more info about Vengeance and her continuously growing body of work, and don’t forget to the add the book to your Goodreads shelf. 🙂

You can order the book online at the following venues: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million and Chapters-Indigo.

Until next time, Monday, probably,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Review: Silent Running – Book 3 of The Hope Island Chronicles by PJ Strebor

I’ve always enjoyed PJ Strebor’s Military SF, and have come to regard Nathan Telford as one of my favourite characters – I’m glad to report that Silent Running did absolutely nothing to detract from any of that, and took the Hope Island Chronicles to new heights.

In this third book in the series, Nathan is older, wiser, and ready to make all new kinds of mistakes. Which is important – characters need to be fallible, and PJ handles his characters with an expert touch, allowing not only past events and decisions to impact his characters in new and unforseen ways, but by also allowing his characters to learn and react as they push forward, while always keeping how they would have reacted in mind. Kind of like life, PJ’s characters are messy and not always balanced, get emotional, lose perspective… It’s been an education to read how PJ has handled Nathan’s character-growth, specifically, and I have to take my hat off to him.

Now, if you’ve read the first two books in the series (and the fourth, which I haven’t yet), you’ll know Nathan’s backstory – what happened to him and his family when he was very young, the adversities he had to deal with as he grew up, and the challenges he had to surmount when he entered ‘society’ and began to forge a career and path for himself. If you haven’t, here’s a quick run-down:

Nathan’s family’s ship was attacked, basically hijacked, and almost everyone was killed or died. The attackers belonged to an empire-building, fanatical and fascist group, and as such, Nathan grew to really, really dislike them and everything they represent. Nathan had to survive on his own for years, and developed an interesting ability as a kind of survival mechanism – which stood him in good stead once he entered the navy and began forging the beginning of his legend – unknowingly, of course.

In this third novel, Nathan and his crew are targeted by a singularly determined and vicious enemy – our hero is forced to go deep behind enemy lines, facing not only threats and danger from those hunting him, but also from those trying to prove themselves on his own side. PJ handles a novel-full of tension well, keeping the pace up, sprinkling humour and tragedy here and there to spice things up, and still manages to share info regarding the universe he’s built for Nathan to play in and the mechanics of this universe’s technology without bogging down the narrative with info-dumps or spells of dry, rote reading.

PJ has become one of those authors whose work I’ll immediately shift to the top of the pile, because his track record is great and he knows how to spin an action-packed, pacey, character-driven yarn. Highly recommended!

I’m giving this a well-deserved 9/10 – be sure to start reading Nathan’s adventures if you haven’t yet (Amazon page here) and don’t forget to add PJ’s books to your must-be-read Goodreads shelf.

Until Friday,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2019 in Reviews

 

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Reviews Coming Up

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well and that Friday is treating you awesomely. 🙂

As promised, here’s a quick look at the reviews I’ll be posting over the next couple of weeks – books in genres ranging from Middle Grade to Thrillers to Military SF to Epic Fantasy, as well as a couple of audiobooks.

Coming on Monday, PJ Strebor’s third novel in the Hope Island Chronicles series, starring Nathan Telford: “Silent Running”. Really enjoyed this one, so shift it (and the previous books) onto your radar.

Also coming up, Steven Poore’s excellent ‘Heir to the North’ – we are enjoying a literary age in which independently or self-published work is just as good as traditionally published, and the opening novel in Steven’s “Malessar’s Curse” is a prime example.

“The Rain Never Came” is one of the novels that has stayed with me – it’s cautionary, leans toward the tragic, and is slightly experimental.

“The Killing Lessons” is one of the best, most terrifying and nail-biting (even though I don’t bite my nails) Thrillers I’ve ever read (and listened to). Blew me away.

“Two Spells” by Mark Morrison was a cool read, despite a couple of (in my opinion) missteps, and I did enjoy it. 🙂

“The Red Wolf Conspiracy” was brilliant. I’m kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to read it. Absolutely loved it.

Gail Z Martin is building an excellent series around two brothers and their unusual gifts – I really enjoyed “Scourge”, and “Vengeance” was an excellent sequel.

So, those are the reviews you can expect over the next couple of weeks – I’ll probably not post them in the order I’ve shown them here, and there may be more reviews slipping in. See you back here on Monday. 🙂

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2019 in Reviews

 

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