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Spoiler Free Summary:Victim with a Capital V by Scott Sigler is the thirteenth story in the Unfettered II Anthology. Lisa is a Victim. Yes, she was once a victim, but then she was trained to become something more, an avenger. She trained her whole life to prepare for the day she came face to face with the man who hurt her. That day has just arrived. What will she do? There are others nearby who are showing a bit too much interest in her as well. What will they do?
Character: I actually like Lisa. She’s not the driven killer most stories make characters like her out to be. In fact, that’s why this story is unique. Here she is faced with her “opportunity for vengeance,” and she doesn’t respond the way most books portray it. There’s a fine line between “weak” or “stereotyped” women and characters who simply have every right to be afraid or sad. I affirm that people may be over sensitive to women being emotional. In Caught, my book, Sal, a man, cries plenty. No one has ever said he was too weak. But Kaitlyn, a teenager, sheds one tear and some people declare her type cast. But, there is a point at which people need to evaluate a female character to see if they’re being too weak. I advise authors to listen carefully to their editors when this is mentioned. Don’t be over defensive, but don’t be quick to make changes either. Just listen carefully.
I think the author does a great job of letting a traumatic event actually be traumatic. This story has nice development. I’d read another story about Lisa if it were out there (time and TBR list permitting).
Exposition: This was probably a little heavy handed in my opinion. I really felt like the story was great. I didn’t need the additional context that was there, but that’s just me. There wasn’t so much exposition that I felt the story came to a screeching halt, but I definitely noticed it.
Worldbuilding: This was standard rouge’s tale. This might be early Earth history or it might be a different planet. I don’t know. Neither changes the plot very much. Now, if it was a different world or setting (and not just historical), I would have been happier with a bit more world building instead of the exposition I got. It’s possible that was the author’s goal, but it fell short.
Dialogue: This was good. It wasn’t the greatest dialogue I’ve ever read, but it might be the second best dialogue in the book (all respect to Dresden and crew). The characters had unique voices, and I appreciated that. The narrator may have helped in this regard, but the words and style were still unique.
Description: This probably could have had a bit more description. I can’t tell you what Lisa looks like, but I have a pretty solid memory of the other men around her. I’d assert that if I felt it needed more, it probably did because I never really want that much description in any story.
Overall: This is one of the better stories in the anthology. I’d definitely read more about Lisa, and I’d probably be willing to read more from the author (again, time and TBR permitting). It’s a great vengeance story with plenty of action and drama.
Spoiler Free Summary:Another Day, Another Dollar by Juleigh Howard-Hobson is the sixteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. During an alien version of a zombie apocalypse, one man finds a way to make a few bucks.
Character: I re-scanned the story a few times and didn’t even find a name. So he’s got a “House, M.D.” sort of jerk-face appeal to him, but other than establishing he hates people and likes money, there’s no real character development in this story.
Exposition: This story was told in first person, so that will always increase the amount of exposition, but I still feel there was a lot more exposition than necessary. I think if this were the first chapter in a story with character development, I’d love it. As a stand-alone story, it’s just a guy complaining about things while he kills alien zombies. Some people will love that. I’m just not one of them.
Worldbuilding: This story takes place on an alternate Earth. There isn’t much more to it that that. We get some details on how this world came to be, but even that was buried in the aforementioned exposition.
Dialogue: This is not applicable as it’s just an internal monologue.
Description: This is probably the best part of the story. Howard-Hobson’s description is very good. It’s detailed without being overwhelming. It’s strongest in describing the action and the aliens, but there is attention paid to all the senses, and that’s a positive.
Overall: So this was a decent zombie scene. If you like a bit of zombie-killing mayhem, you probably won’t regret picking it up. It feels a bit out of place in the anthology, but it’s a nice little character scene. It drags a bit here or there, but it wasn’t boring. I personally need a bit more from the character than I got (or more of something), but it was ok. I’d say this is sort of like a pop-corn movie for readers.
Spoiler Free Summary:Ambassador T by Quincy J. Allen is the seventh story in the Alien Days Anthology. An expedition to an alien planet thought devoid of life leads to the discovery of a telepathic insects. These insects evolve and befriend the expedition, but that friendship comes with an apocalyptic cost.
Character: Probably my main complaint with the anthology as a whole. The character in this story isn’t memorable for several reasons (one of which is a spoiler). The characters in most of these stories feel more like video cameras with names rather than people I’m learning about of whose heads I’m in. I can’t remember the character’s name, and (in my opinion) his name doesn’t matter much because he’s just a plot device. That doesn’t make this story bad, in fact, while still not in my top three, this story is one of the better ones (top five for sure) in the anthology. But it lacks greatness because it lacks true characterization.
Exposition: This is probably the strongest aspect of this story. It flows beautifully and let’s the plot build up to a perfect (if depressing) climax. It even has what I consider a bit of a, “Didn’t I tell you how this would end?” foreshadowing to it. It was impressive to see stories that tell a reader how things will end but still make that ending seem satisfying.
Worldbuilding: This was also a strength for Allen. This plot depends on careful research and detailed world building. It’s not world building in the sense of how many planets we see or how fleshed out one planet is. The detail is in the species mentioned above. Everything about this story is built on the knowledge of those creatures and how they evolve.
Dialogue: The dialogue here was understated in a lot of ways. It’s there, but it feels like it just sort of moves the plot. We don’t get a lot of characterization in it, nor do the characters’ voices shine. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t add to the character.
Description: Most science fiction folks would probably want more, especially your fans of Dune. I was plenty happy with what I got. It was just enough to activate my imagination, and it didn’t beat me down to make sure I got it.
Overall: This story’s beautifully tragic ending is a bit undercut by the lack of character. Tragedies rely on the reader’s love for the character, so if the character isn’t there, the payoff when the tragedy happens doesn’t really have the impact it’s supposed to. Where I could have been just wrecked at this ending, I felt more like, “Well that’s a bummer. OH! I get that part from the beginning now!” It is a good story. It is well written. I just think that I didn’t connect to the characters, so the story didn’t resonate with me.
Spoiler Free Summary:Where All Memories Are One by Leigh Saunders is the sixth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Y’reui is an insectoid queen (called Callibrini). Only we’re seeing her memories. Her hive has decided to protect a group of humans form an overwhelming force. How much of themselves are they willing to sacrifice to save their friends?
Character: So it was hard to connect to the character because we’re actually seeing from the memories of the character (for spolierific reasons). This is probably my one knock on the story. It was hard to connect to a character whose thoughts were so alien (honestly, I promise there was no pun intended) to my own point of view. The sympathy of this story is off the charts, and it’s a good counter to the limited ability the perspective character has in which to act. I actually took the same calculated risk with Sojourn in Captivity. When a character is in some way prevented from being proactive, you have to amp up the sympathy to keep the character interesting, and I can see how Saunders worked to achieve that same balance.
Exposition: It felt exposition-filled because of the point of view and the limited scope of the character (limited in capability not depth). The story had a few moments where it felt like things were slowing down, but in a story with this much range and with that small a word count, it’s not more exposition than necessary. Instead, there’s a bit more exposition than usual required. I think most fans of hard science fiction will be alright with it.
Worldbuilding: This is where the risk Saunders took paid off. What we lack in character, we gain in seeing a different world and culture in a very different way. If you read my blog regularly, you know I usually dislike stories that have tons of worldbuilding with little character. That’s not true in this story, which I hope conveys how highly I think of the crafting of this particular story. No, it’s not in my top three, but I very much enjoyed this story as a reader, and as an author, I really appreciated how much effort had to have gone into crafting the ambitious story while still providing that awesome perspective into such a unique setting.
Dialogue: If there was much dialogue, I don’t remember it. That means it wasn’t wooden or boring, but it also didn’t add to my appreciation of the story.
Description: This is another strength for Saunders. The descriptive phrases and well-placed adjectives really gave a vivid sense of place throughout a pretty emotionally powerful story. This tale activated my senses pretty consistently.
Overall: This was a memorable story. Yeah, I needed to scan for a moment to jog my memory, but once I did, I remembered liking this story. It had a very Rouge One feel to me, only in this story I had what I felt Rouge One lacked–A reason to believe it could work out. I don’t think this story is great in any setting at any time, but if you want an alien science-fiction drama that makes you think, give this story a try.
Spoiler Free Summary:Am I Alone by J.R. Handley and Corey D. Truax is the third story in the Alien Days Anthology. Alexis is a security guard in Area 51 until boredom and curiosity cause her to stop roving outside and move inside. What she finds inside will change her life forever.
Character: Alexis is an OK character. She’s proactive. I think my beef on her is that her proactivity is the only factor to her character that I find memorable. She does a few likable things, but as the sole character in this story (more or less), she doesn’t have any opportunity to demonstrate her character traits very much. As an Odera Chronicles short story, one can imagine we’ll see more of her in future books or anthologies, but we see more happen than we see her do things.
Exposition: This story flowed well. I felt like it had a good mix of events and backstory. The fact that there are so few characters contributes way more to the slower parts of the story than the exposition, but some will feel the story drag here and there. I just don’t think exposition is to blame.
Worldbuilding: As an origin story, this worked well. The story is a great teaser opening to a larger series of adventures. No, we don’t get a lot of world building, but we do get promises that invoke a desire to read in seek of fulfillment, which is the goal of a story like this in my opinion.
Dialogue: I have to give this an N/A. There are indeed a few spoken lines in this story, but there just isn’t enough dialogue to evaluate fairly.
Description: This was probably one of the stronger aspects of the story. It’s a very visceral, cerebral story. We experience a lot of events that aren’t necessarily character driven. That also contributes to the slower parts of the story, but the description gives it a life that a one-character story can’t bring to itself. Honestly, I think a single person story with very few interactions is a bold writing exercise. I felt that the authors knew that, and made sure to give readers detailed, sensory-evoking scenes to offset the limited character issues. I’m not personally a fan of description, but I can recognize the wisdom in the decision making process.
Overall: I’m still not positive where I would rank my top three stories in this anthology, but I can say with certainty that this is one of them. I would have loved it as a prologue to a space-fairing adventure story. It’s enough to make me curious, where if I had time or an Audible credit I didn’t know what to do with, I’d give her a chance. However, I’m not actively refreshing my Amazon and Audible accounts to see when this book comes out. It’s a solid story that at least promises better to come.
I just love it when reviews come in! So I’m happy to share this 4-star review for Stealing Freedom.
This (click the link)review was only a sentence, but it’s a moment the reviewer took to offer a rating and a few words, and those words were particularly encouraging because he took that moment to say he liked the end. He even went the extra mile and left the same review on Goodreads, which is just an amazing help.
If you’ve had a chance to read the story (or any of my work), I’d appreciate it if you also took a moment to drop a rating and/or review.
Spoiler Free Summary: Pull by Stephen Landry is the first book in the Deep Darkness saga. Sev, a user who can travel through time by going into the minds of people from the past or future (think Quantum Leap only he can’t change anything), is raised in a world where an alien race is seeking to eradicate humanity along with any species dumb enough to help the humans. The three ships that carry the bulk of humanity also cary it’s most dangerous enemy: humanity. As Sev learns more about his prophesied existence, he learns more about the origins of humanity’s last ships and society. If they find a planet on which to settle, will there be anything left worth saving?
Character: Sev is an interesting character. This book has sort of a Martial Arts quest feel to it where the character gets trained in the use of the time travel and combat (think Matrix). His sympathy shows in some areas. He’s compelling in his zealousness. He’s proactive and driven. His emotional journey is solid to as he continues to look for companionship even while he knows he’s already fawning over “the one who got away.” Sev is a plus for Landry.
Exposition: This was pretty solid as I remember. I did feel a bit info-dumped on at times, but, for the most part, the story’s pace seemed solid. He did a good job of mixing in the action with the exposition, but there was a lot of room for improvement.
Dialogue: There was still some exposition in there I didn’t need, and some of it seemed a bit forced and random. I think it was improved from Sleepers, the last book from him I reviewed. The only conversations I remember are the ones in which I got plot information, which is how I know it’s wasn’t very crisp or memorable.
Description: This is something Landry shows skill in and it is improved from the last book of his I read. He’s got a great eye for putting in nice details that bring the scene to mind. I’d be interested to see if Landry is working on TV or movie scripts. If his dialogue improved, he might have a lot going for him in that medium.
World Building: This is where Landry shines. His worlds and plots are just plain awesome. His creative ideas are fantastic. His outlining and plot points are fun. His visual style has a lot of potential, but the worlds he creates are his best assets. If this book were just edited more thoroughly, it’d be one of the best I’ve read this year; however, those issues really hurt the quality of the book overall.
Another Note on Proof Reading: As with the last book I read from Landry, I had to post a special segment discussing the proofreading of his book. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any improvement whatsoever in this book. It’s honestly sad to see such great ideas marred by such poor editing and proofreading. I honestly couldn’t help but start counting the number of errors per page, and I got into the teens on some pages. These issues just ripped my attention away from what is honestly a fantastic story.
Overall: This concept is really cool. This story has love, tragedy, fighting, and time travel. However, it was riddled with typos and homophones. The paragraphs were sometimes a full page long, which was pretty demanding on the eye. A good copy editor could make this ok book great.