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More Books at the Fall Book Fair…

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Folks, as promised, I’m here to let you know about some more books at Viviana MacKade’s Fall Book Fair online event…all of them are e-books priced at ninety-nine cents, and all are interesting reads. (I’ve read all the promos and have read a few of the books, and may be picking up a whole bunch of others. They just look that good.)

Along with my own AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (which was featured today), my friend Kayelle Allen’s THE LAST VHALGENN was also featured. While I’ve often edited for Kayelle, this story predates me knowing her, much less editing for her — so I can tell you without any prejudice whatsoever that it’s a cracking good story.

3d-kl-com-tlvSee, Kayelle’s character Raik is a type of supremely loyal woman we rarely see in any stories these days. She’s not perfect, no, but she’s sexy as Hell, smart, funny in her way, loyal to a fault, and because she is a Vhalgenn — a type of super-courtesan for the highest nobles in the land, and completely unable to have children (so no bastards can be sired upon her, meaning most noble wives would probably not mind her as much as they’d mind other mistresses), she has a unique role to play.

And when she’s placed in an impossible position, what will she choose to do? (Because I want you to go to Viviana’s page, I am going to stop right there with my plot summary.)

When I read THE LAST VHALGENN a few years ago, I sat up and went, “Wow. That’s my type of woman!”

And it’s one reason why, when I had the opportunity to talk about one of my friend Jason Cordova’s books earlier this year, I also talked about one of Kayelle’s — because there’s something there that I’ve seen from both of them that I don’t get in a lot of other places. The military detailing is exceptional, and the characterization is so good, the characters almost jump off the page.  They are both Navy veterans, too, and I think that makes a big difference when it comes to authenticity. (The rest of us, who aren’t, have to work that much harder…but I digress.)

That’s why my hope was that folks who like Jason’s work but had never heard of Kayelle would go take a look at her books, most especially the two novels about Pietas (a man who you shouldn’t like, considering his violent and extremely difficult and sometimes distasteful attributes, but you can’t help but like anyway — and ultimately, come to admire). I saw a lot about BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origin of Pietas that I thought Jason’s readers, especially those who adored the three Wraithkin books, would appreciate…maybe down the line more folks will make those cross-connections, but at least I have it out there that if you like one of these writers and their military-themed work (and yes, THE LAST VHALGENN has a military element, too, as she’s not just a courtesan; she’s also a fully trained fighter and tactician and military strategist), you will probably like the other.

61i53zmytl-_uy250_In addition to Kayelle’s excellent work, my own AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is also featured today. It is a funny fantasy that Jason (in a quote given to me for promotional purposes) said was “quick and witty” and “straddles the line between absurdity and suspense.” (When he gave me that quote, I said, “Thank you!”) And Viviana MacKade saw that, made up a nifty little graphic with that quote, and credits Jason for it (as she should).

How did she know about this? Probably because she read the quotes I had for AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE either at my blog or at my Amazon page, and liked Jason’s the best…and as Jason’s own profile has risen in the last few years, it probably can’t hurt me any that she picked his quote. (I hope it helps. I’d like people to actually read what I’m writing, now and again. Gives me hope that they might want to see some sequels or prequels down the line, as I had a whole lot of ’em plotted out at one time.)

So, if you haven’t read AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE yet, please go take a look at it.

And of course keep an eye on Viviana MacKade’s book fair, as there’s still a few more days to go…lots of great e-books, all priced at just ninety-nine cents! (How can you go wrong?)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

September 6, 2018 at 12:40 am

Timing, and Jason Cordova’s DARKLING

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I read Jason Cordova’s hotly awaited new novel, DARKLING, over the course of three weeks. (Normally I would’ve devoured it in one sitting, but the fact that I had a crisis going on with a family member’s health made me put it to the side for a time.) It is absorbing, intelligent, fast-paced, dark, depressing, menacing, and in its way a damned good read — but the timing of my life and reading this book were not fully aligned.

Darkling

I submitted a review to Amazon, as per usual, but because I am much more scattered/distracted than usual, I didn’t make a copy of it before I left their page. (Edited to add: After waiting for nearly a full day, I gave up and reviewed the book at Goodreads.) Because of that, I can’t quote the review I’ve already written; all I can do is tell you to go read DARKLING, as it’s very good dark military SF with some absorbing political machinations. (Yes, you should read WRAITHKIN, the first book of Jason’s “Kin Wars” series, first. But you’ll easily understand DARKLING whether you do or not, providing you’ve read any military SF or dark SF at all.)

The rest of this blog is going to talk about aspects of the book that were tough for me to handle, due to the timing. If you don’t want your reading spoiled (though I will try to avoid the worst of spoilers), go do something else and return for the next blog, will you? (I won’t be offended. Promise.)

We have three brothers in DARKLING: Gabriel Espinoza, a Darkling soldier and second-class citizen dealing with dehumanizing treatment due to all soldiers of this type being recruited from the Imperfect class (meaning they could develop cancer, or have some other “genetic defect” that’s been rooted out by the galactic civilization they live in); Andrew Espinoza, a spy (a damned good one) who’s acted in many regards as a chameleon mole; Kevin Espinoza, a politician and born diplomat. Gabriel is a brooding hot mess from an emotional standpoint (it’s understandable, though; the love of his life is dead, he had to give up his daughter due to his line of work and because he didn’t want her tainted by the knowledge of his “imperfect” father, and he’s cut off from his family due to various considerations, even though his family wanted nothing of the sort. I can’t explain this fully because of spoilers, and also because much of it is explained at the very end of WRAITHKIN as I have written before, so I hope you can take this as read.) Andrew, as a chameleon mole, has other issues with trying to maintain his inner self, and also has been cut off from his family due to completely other concerns (again, his family certainly doesn’t want this, but with his job, there’s no other way). And finally, Kevin is a good guy, the only brother attuned to his emotions and fighting hard for the Imperfects as he views his society as closed-minded and hypocritical (and rightfully so). But he’s mostly there as a foil, to explain what the other two brothers should’ve been if not for the circumstances that led them to fight a war in their disparate ways…and that’s a conscious author’s decision that I can’t fault Jason for, as he needed that foil desperately due to the darkness of everything else.

Now, as to the circumstances of my life, and how it applies to how I saw DARKLING.

First, I was reading along, and enjoying the book immensely despite its darkness. (I knew what I was getting in for, as I read and enjoyed WRAITHKIN, and I really wanted to see what would happen next to the Espinoza clan.) Then, my family member’s health crisis arose, and suddenly the world stopped meaning much. I had to put DARKLING down, and deal with immediate realities; my blogs dried up for a bit (which I’ve already explained); I went to “work, sleep, go to hospital/rehab center” mode, rinse and repeat.

Finally, I was able to get back to DARKLING and realized two things; one, I hadn’t forgotten anything in the intervening time since I’d last been able to read and concentrate on anything. (This is the sign of a good writing and an absorbing read, that you don’t forget anything even in the midst of a crisis like this.) And two, the fact that these brothers are put through the emotional and physical wringer was all of a sudden more visceral, more immediate, than before, due to the circumstances of what was going on all around me.

See, writers are observers by nature. We have to be, or we can’t explain or show any of the stories we tell with any verisimilitude at all.

So, I was observing everything that happened around me, as per usual, whether I was picking up on that observation consciously or not. And all of that — all — hit me as I restarted my read of DARKLING. The injuries these men suffered were almost overpowering in their intensity, in this context, and it was difficult for me to keep reading despite the quality of the writing. (Jason keeps getting better and better, and tells a damned absorbing story, as I have said before.)

To my mind, DEVASTATOR is more my cup of tea (as I wrote here). I like Tori so much as a character, and her relationship with Dylan (the shy, almost innocent love she has for him) helps to enliven even the darkest of moments.

But DARKLING is quite good. Quite, quite good, in fact.

I just had a hard time reading it due to what’s been going on. So I tried to say that, without getting into personal details, in the review at Amazon (that still isn’t up as I type this, though if it does go up anytime soon I’ll add a link to the review so you can read it directly).

I do think Jason’s created a new genre, or at least fused a few, in DARKLING. I call this “grim-dark military SF.” (If you read it, you’ll understand why.) There is a palpable sense of menace in even its quieter moments; everyone is on edge, everyone is waiting for the next shoe to drop (or axe to fall, depending), and Gabriel in particular seems like a bomb waiting for a place to go off.

The writing is stellar, though, and if you know going in — as you should, providing you’ve read WRAITHKIN — that it’s going to be grim, you should be able to handle DARKLING just fine.

Just don’t read it before going to sleep if you have a weak stomach or are prone to nightmares. As this book will give you more than a few, else.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 13, 2018 at 9:59 am

Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR Is Out — And It Is Good…

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Folks, this is the review I just tried to post on Amazon for Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR, and couldn’t manage to get it there. (With my luck, though, it’ll post after I put this up here at my blog.)

Mind, I discussed DEVASTATOR, along with Kayelle Allen’s Bringer of Chaos series, last week here at the Elfyverse. So if you haven’t read that post yet, it might be nice to start there…ahem.

(Thus ends today’s try at self-promotion. I’d rather promote someone else anyway!)

So, without further ado, I figured I’d post it here, and I do hope you’ll go read Jason’s newest as soon as you can if you like YA, S/F, or any stories having to do with near-future virtual reality simulations. (Or if you just like Jason’s writing. I mean, really…what’s not to like?)

It’s great to see Tori back in action again in Jason Cordova’s newest novel, DEVASTATOR. She’s a tough customer, albeit a tough customer who’s only seventeen…she’s already had to fight her way out of an insane situation in her favorite virtual reality game known as The Warp in CORRUPTOR (book one of this series), and now been asked to re-enter The Warp to keep an eye on some anomalies no one can quite figure out.

See, things are happening in The Warp that make less sense than usual. For a fully programmed environment to do things that no one understands is just plain wrong; it’s even worse than the previous contretemps Tori defused in CORRUPTOR, as at least there once highly paid programmers were made aware of the issues, they were able to fix them. (What Tori had to do before was to defeat the bad guys wherever possible, evading the rest until she could be rescued and brought out of V/R.) And Tori is possibly the foremost expert on how The Warp actually acts, as opposed to how The Warp is supposed to act, so of course she’s asked to lend her expertise to the problem.

(Lending her expertise sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it’s code words for “murder and mayhem are about to break out here,” really…though I digress.)

Anyway, Tori gathers a bunch of others who are known to her as solid individuals (or at least solid players of The Warp) and all are made referees, more or less glorified Moderators. There’s a tourney going on that will cloak their actions, as the folks who make The Warp absolutely, positively do not want to cause trouble for themselves. And as no one can understand, much less explain, the anomalies that have been observed, discretion is of the essence…thus this subterfuge.

So, they go in there. They have a whole lot of problems. (No, I’m not going to tell you what they are. You need to read DEVASTATOR for yourself, preferably sooner rather than later.) And Tori, her boyfriend Dylan, and many others who’ve risked so much up until now will find their world spun on end, as there are a few plot twists here that I absolutely refuse to spoil.

Great things about DEVASTATOR include an age-appropriate romance (Tori’s a badass, but she’s a more or less innocent badass, which is a refreshing change), a lot of Kaiju-inspired fight scenes, an interesting V/R take on Ragnarok, and much, much more.

Tori’s a fun character, and I rooted for her the whole way. I can’t wait to read the next novel, OBLITERATOR — write quickly, Jason!

———- (Review ends here)

And then, I gave the novel five stars, said it was highly recommended, and tried to point out I’d received it as an ARC, downloaded it right away via KU and read it again, and will be making a point to buy it to put it in my permanent collection, too, down the line. (What else can I do to point out I enjoyed this book?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 11, 2018 at 7:11 am

Beating Sequel-itis…DEVASTATOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: FORGED IN FIRE

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How many times, as a reader, have you come across sequels that are better, deeper, and richer than the original novels?

You probably can count them on one hand, can’t you?

In fact, there’s a term for the second book in a series that’s rather derogatory, and much worse than what I called “sequel-itis” in my title above. (No, I’m not going to name it. This is a family blog, after all.) And there’s a reason for that. Most books in this position are halfway between the old story and whatever the culminating story is going to be in the next book.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve read two books, DEVASTATOR by Jason Cordova, and BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire by Kayelle Allen, that beat this problem. Both take their original characters (Tori and Pietas, respectively) and give them new and more difficult problems to solve that follow from the previous novel, but could possibly be read alone and still be understood. (You’d want to go back and read Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origins of Pietas anyway, though. They’re extremely good.)

It’s hard to come up with new and more challenging things for characters when they’ve been put through the wringer in the first book of a series. Tori, for example, was brutally raped while trapped in a virtual reality simulation of her favorite video game, and had to fight her own way out to survive, finding a truly good person to care for in young Dylan despite it all. (Is there more to that, plot-wise? Yes. But that’s all I’m giving you.) And Pietas literally was killed day after day after day before being marooned on a distant planet — being a genetically engineered immortal, he could not permanently die. And had to accept help from the most unlikely source imaginable, a human being marooned along with him called Six. And Six is so worried about what Pietas can still do, Six refuses to let Pietas know what Six’s real name actually is…but becomes friends with him anyway.

boc2-200

Both, in short, are bildungsromans. (Can you put an -s on the end of bildungroman? Well, I just did.) And both show characters in flux, searching for meaning even though their lives have come to crashing ruins around them. Jason tells his story one way; Kayelle tells it hers. But they both have a lot of good points that show how strong people can be when the chips are down, and how being reduced to your bare-bones essence and being forced to be vulnerable can be an asset as well as a festering liability.

And as good as Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s first book about Pietas were, their respective sequels are even better. Tori’s story gets twisted in new ways, as she’s forced to confront a brand-new evil that’s found a way to infest its tendrils into her favorite game despite the safeguards and upgrades put into place due to the last mess she was in. And while her boyfriend is still there to support her and remains a very good guy, he may not be able to help much as she does her best to defuse this evil and win through to another day. (In this case, I can’t give you much more than that, as Jason threw in a major plot-twist I didn’t see coming.) And Pietas is reunited with some of his old friends — and enemies — finding out that he and Six were not marooned alone. Having to deal with his father and mother, not to mention his obnoxious (slightly) younger sister, is not easy. But being reunited with his old lover, Joss, while forcing the other immortals to show Six courtesy (as they’re all into blaming the humans for their species being exiled and marooned), is incredibly tough. Pietas must build a new society out of basically nothing but his will and his wits, and he needs Six, Joss, and his sister’s help, while he needs his parents to stay out of the way. (There is another big issue for Pietas, but again, I don’t want to spoil it. So I’ll stop there.)

These stories both touched me in different ways. Mind, both main characters are survivors, and I admire that. Tori is a lot easier to relate to, being a teenager and a kind-hearted soul, than Pietas, an immortal whose word was once law (and will be again, knowing him, just you wait), but both are at heart strong, yet flawed characters who are dealing with coming-of-age issues and moral ambiguities that defy description sometimes, yet remain very real nonetheless.

Of the two stories, Jason’s has more foreshadowing, while Kayelle’s has more romance. Both have good dollops of science (different types, but still, science), great characterization, fine scene setting, interesting plots, and are stories you will not forget once you’ve read them.

Jason’s DEVASTATOR won’t be out until next week, but I urge you to get it as soon as it’s out. Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire is out now and is just $2.99 as an e-book, and again, I urge you to get it right now. (And yes, do read the previous books, CORRUPTOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origin of Pietas, too. You’ll enjoy them. And they’re all available on Kindle Unlimited, so what do you have to lose?)

Edited to add: Yes, I was Kayelle’s editor, and am happy she trusts me with her work. I’ve also been Jason’s friend for many years — not even sure how many at this point — and proofread CORRUPTOR back in its first iteration. I’m happy to stand behind what I’ve said, as these are wonderful books and I want you to read ’em — if you like SF&F, you owe it to yourselves to give these books a try. (Like, now.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Good News for a Friend…

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Sometimes, it’s fun to be an author. And to have friends.

(And an author with friends…priceless? But I digress…let’s get to the good stuff.)

I’m very happy to let you know that my friend, Jason Cordova, and his co-writer Eric S. Brown have sold their entire Kaiju Apocalypse trilogy to Takeshobo, a major Japanese publisher. They are both incredibly excited about this.

Plus, as Eric Brown said on Facebook, “Personally, I think it’s awesome that we sold KAIJU to the birthplace of kaiju.” (And he put four smiley faces after it. which gives you an idea of how jazzed he is about this.)

Jason’s comment on Facebook was this: “This is a big deal. We’re talking print run that makes people notice. This is huge for Eric and I, and we’ve been forced to sit on the news for months.”

So, I’m very pleased to let you know that Jason and Eric are expanding their world domination to Japan. (And I’m not even being sarcastic.)

But if you want to read their Kaiju series now, you should take a look at this following link to the three-book set of e-books from Amazon, and go get them for yourself:

So, there you have it! (Go forth and multiply, or something.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 27, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Jason Cordova’s “Wraithkin” — and Music?

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Folks, it seems to be my week for stories, so let me tell you another one.

Years ago — I’m not sure how many, now — my late husband Michael told me, “Barb, I swear, you think in music, not words.” It was Michael’s contention that every time I wrote something, I was automatically translating it from the music I heard in my head.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, mind. But it was a poetic conceit he enjoyed, and as such, I appreciated it.

For some reason, that came to mind when I recently read an advance reader copy of Jason Cordova’s WRAITHKIN. Something about this book reminds me of a musical suite, and as I’m both a musician and a writer, I thought I’d use that to my advantage to try to explain why I like this book so much.

As I’m having no luck today uploading the cover, here’s the blurb instead:

How far would a man go to protect those he loved? For Gabriel Espinoza, the answer was simple: to the ends of the universe.

When a failed genetic test ruins his life, Gabriel and his fiancée prepare to run to a world where the laws aren’t as strict. There they could remain, in peace, for the remainder of their days, their love unspoiled by the strict regime which controls the Dominion of Man.

But Fate is a cruel, fickle mistress.

Torn from the only woman he had ever loved, Gabriel is prepared to burn the galaxy to get her back.

How far would a man go to protect the empire he was sworn to uphold? For Andrew Espinoza, the answer was a bit more complicated.

Torn between family loyalty and his duty to his country, Andrew must infiltrate a rich and powerful clan to determine if they are plotting against the Dominion of Man, but while undercover he discovers something far darker and more dangerous is lurking in the shadows, and he is the only man who can stop it.

But Fate is a cruel, fickle mistress.

How far will Andrew go to ensure the success of his mission?

One brother must save himself; the other must save the universe. But can either survive long enough to achieve their goal?

Now, here are my musically-related thoughts:

To my mind, WRAITHKIN is like a symphony in four parts. First, we have a slower, quieter, more intense first movement, where all the major themes are laid out. We meet Gabe and Sophie, see their love for one another, see it dashed after Gabe fails a genetic test (technically, he’s supposed to be sterilized right away, but his family is wealthy and powerful and keeps that from happening), and then they attempt to run away.

But Sophie has to pretend to be angry, and leaves her world in feigned grief and despair, meaning she goes out to a lightly defended colony world all but undefended. And when Gabe finds out that world has been attacked, and Sophie is missing, he vows revenge.

Then we have the second movement, which is more about Gabe’s brother, Andrew. Andrew is a spy, pure and simple, or if you’d rather, he’s a chameleon/mole. He has been trained to do what he does, but because of that, he submerges himself in other people’s roles — or, as this is my blog, the music of other people’s thoughts. So while the second movement moves faster, and hints at much, it uses similar themes as the first, but reversed and in retrograde…as befits a symphony, where many things must come together to make a greater whole.

The third movement is about how Gabe meets up with a bunch of guys in his position — they all have failed genetic tests, so are considered expendables, the lowest of the low. But they all want to serve…something. Or at least blow up stuff. So there’s training involved, and a bunch of gadgetry to use, and all the military SF trappings that are required are there for the use…almost as if there’s a template for the third movement.

Still, there are touches of humor. Pathos. Genuine characterization. Friendship, all unlooked for, and camaraderie, too…proving, as if there was any doubt whatsoever, that new music can be reminiscent of older music, but still pack a walloping punch.

Then comes the fourth movement. Andrew and Gabe must somehow complete their joint missions. Will they manage to do this, or won’t they? And what will be the consequences either way?

This fourth movement ties up all the themes of the book nicely, and lays hints for books to come…kind of like how if you’ve heard one symphony by Haydn or Brahms or Mozart, you want to go hear another one if you’re smart. They all have things in common, sure, but they’re all a little different and they all have much to teach you, much for you to appreciate, and much to savor, time after time…

Anyway, I liked Jason’s book quite a bit, in case you couldn’t tell. I think it has a little bit of everything. Slam-bang action. Romance. Family. Friendship. A big canvas, with a dystopian government to be alternately fought and defended…Jason’s writing keeps getting better and better, and this is a story to immerse yourself in fully.

That’s why I compared it to music, and I hope you’ll understand why, once you read it.

(And do go read it, will you? If you like milSF, you will love this book. And even if you don’t, but like big novels full of life and vigor, you will still love this book…)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Two New Books from Friends to Share…

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Folks, it’s Saturday. Time turns to reading, at least for me…sometimes to book reviewing, too (though I’m way behind on that, I do intend to get back to it sooner or later).

Today, I have two great books to share with you, especially if you enjoy military science fiction/adventure stories.

ConfederatedStarSystems_medFirst, my friend Loren K. Jones’s second e-book from Twilight Times Books is out; it’s a short story collection called STORIES OF THE CONFEDERATED STAR SYSTEMS. I edited this book, and it’s a fun, fast read with a lot of great stories…right now, it’s only ninety-nine cents, too! (That won’t last long.) I grabbed my e-book copy right away, and hope you will, too.

Edited to add: If you want a copy from OmniLit, go here; if you want a copy from Barnes and Noble.com, go here. I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress…

“But Barb,” you protest. “I want to know what I’m getting into, before I buy this book, even for ninety-nine cents.”

Ah. Well, I have you covered…there is a free sample of Loren’s newest up right now at the Twilight Times Books website.

“So, who’s your other friend, Barb, that you’re ‘pimping’ today?”

Hmmm. I’d not use that word, quite…it’s more of an informative thing, really.

“Spit it out, Barb.”

OK, OK. My friends Jason Cordova and Chris Smith recently released KRAKEN MARE as an e-book. It’s about a disillusioned former Marine, who stumbles onto a mystery after taking a job on Titan’s moon. But it’s not a benign mystery; oh, no. (That would be too easy.) Instead, it’s a mystery that will “shock the foundations of the universe…something out of a nightmare,” as the book description says.

I don’t have a picture to add to this one…but I can tell you I’ve read several chapters already, and am enjoying it quite a bit. (No one does military SF/horror hybrids quite like Jason Cordova. And Chris Smith’s influence is felt in myriad ways…this book will not disappoint.)

Hope you enjoy them!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 16, 2016 at 11:29 am