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Pabkins "Pabkins" (Sacramento, CA)

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Traitor's Blade: The Greatcoats Book 1
Traitor's Blade: The Greatcoats Book 1
by Sebastien de Castell
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So do you want to learn the first rule of the sword - put the pointy end into the other man!, 23 Jun. 2014
Let’s start this off with a little Jedi mind trick hypnotic suggestions shall we?

Traitor’s Blade is the book you are looking for, you will read Traitor’s Blade. *waves book in front of your face*

Not convinced? Alright – then I’ll just lay it all out straight for you. This book had pretty much everything I could possibly want. I was hooked from page 3 for crying out loud. How you might ask? The humor, the swashbuckling, the humor WHILE swashbuckling. As if you needed a definition here’s one anyway.

"swash·buck·ler (swshbklr, swôsh-) n. 1. A flamboyant swordsman or adventurer."

Watch my feet now, see how I dance?

There was a constant flow from one scene to the next such that I never had a chance to get even remotely bored. If you’re an action oriented reader like I am this will tickle you pink. Don’t get me wrong there is still plenty of room that was given over to world building and character development and we even saw flashbacks into the past. The story is told from the perspective of Falcio Val Mond, the First Cantor of the Greatcoats (i.e. leader of the disbanded King’s magistrates that previously used to uphold the law throughout the kingdom). So when we get these flashbacks they are of his past, how he came to be a Greatcoat as well as his interactions with his now deceased king. I can freely admit that I fell more than a little bit in love with Falcio. Indeed I even told my husband one night while reading in bed and petting the gorgeous blood red cover “I think I’ve fallen in love with somebody else…and he has a longer sword than yours…and pointy-er too.” To which he promptly looked at me with a long suffering smirk and said “You’re so messed up.”

But the humor – let me share with you the scene by by page 3 had me completely roped in.

" ‘Let what go, pray tell?’ he said. ‘The fact that you promised me the life of a hero when you tricked me into joining the Greatcoats and instead I find myself impoverished, reviled and forced to take lowly bodyguard work for traveling merchants? Or is it the fact that we’re sitting here listening to our gracious benefactor – and I use the term loosely since he has yet to pay us a measly black copper – but that aside, we’re listening to him screw some woman for – what? The fifth time since supper? How does that fat slob even keep up? I mean–’ ​

‘Could be herbs,’ Kest interrupted, stretching his muscles out again with the casual grace of a dancer.


Kest nodded.

‘And what would the so-called “greatest swordsman in the world” know about herbs?’

‘An apothecary sold me a concoction a few years ago, supposed to keep your sword-arm strong even when you’re half-dead. I used it fighting off half a dozen assassins who we’re trying to kill a witness.’

‘And did it work?’ I asked.

Kest shrugged. ‘Couldn’t really tell. There were only six of them, after all, so it wasn’t much of a test. I did have a substantial erection the whole time though.’ "Pg 2 – 3

But you didn’t get just one of these amazing characters – oh no my sweets we get three of them. It reminded me somewhat of The Three Musketeers – which I have loved my whole life ever since I was a child and would prance around the house terrorizing the dog and my sisters with my antics wielding a long wooden spoon or an offending turkey baster – what I’m not ashamed! The way these three characters, Falcio, Kest and Brasti interacted will immediately reel you in. They just can’t seem to stop snarking at each other and it left me with a perpetual smirk on my face.

I’m sure I dreamed of adventure, sword fighting, magic wielding fantastical creatures even when I was in the womb. So not only did I get this amazing wry humor from this trio but there was a wealth of action, swordplay and intrigue, heart break and heroism. There wasn’t as much magic as I had originally anticipated but there was just enough to still lend an edge of the fantastical to it and I didn’t feel like it needed anything more than was there. While this is sword and sorcery fiction, it’s lighter on the sorcery and heavy on the sword. But even you die hard magic fans won’t mind even a bit. To put it mildly – *hums* this book was made for me and you!

I got this, let me tell you about this one time…

Throughout Traitor’s Blade I would see hilarious little bits thrown in that I’m sure might be part of any adventurer’s life but here they are given to us in a style and method fitting to the style of the book. These snippets detail just how crazy the lives of the Greatcoats can be. Each time I came across them, which were pretty frequent, they served to hook me deeper and deeper into the story and in love with this author’s storytelling method.

" The three of us invented ‘punch-pull-slap’ some time ago. One of the things you discover after you’ve been wounded enough times is that the body only really keeps track of one source of pain at a time. So, for example, if your tooth hurts and someone pokes you in the stomach, your body momentarily forgets about the tooth.

So the way this is supposed to work is like this: Brasti punches me in the face, Kest pulls the arrow out of my leg and then Brasti slaps me so hard my brain never has time to register the bolt and therefore I don’t scream at the top of my lungs.

I screamed at the top of my lungs." -pg 30

One second please – I sense a fangirl moment coming on! I feel like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music right now and literally want to sing at the top of my lungs, from a mountaintop, just how much I loved this book. Or wait picture me as a big opera singer shaking the rafters of a roof down upon the heads of the audience. Ok maybe I’m carrying on too much. I have a tendency to go overboard when I really enjoyed a book. Back to why it was so great…

Not only was it humorous but Traitor’s Blade was heart-wrenching. As I moved through it gobbling up pages like a crazed junkie on a total book high – all of a sudden the author showed me that he could not only be darkly funny but he could twist and wrench my heart and poke me with ouchie ouchie things beside.

But how did he DO that? Why did do that!? To taste the elixir of my tears!? He was pulling out all the stops. Excellent world building, evil nobility – I gotta give it to him he can write some nasty villains. The setting is a kingdom that has five years past lost their king. The only good king in over a hundred years who cared for his people down to the lowest serf. But the nobles would have none of that. I doubt there was one good noble depicted in this book. The depths of depravity that these people went to just curdles your stomach. I’m a firm believer in if it can be imagined it can happen. Which makes me cringe all the more. Don’t be scared though this acts as the perfect counter balance to the rest of the narrative.

So, then when my heart strings and the power of my righteous anger were done being toyed with, at any given time another marvelous thing would be thrown at me like assassins or fey horses or swordplay used to have conversation, or or or FISTICUFFS!! That’s right baby you haven’t seen fisticuffs til you’ve seen these fisticuffs. In fact I’d love to pepper this entire review to bursting with quotes so that you can’t help but be tempted to read it but then that might spoil your fun. And that wouldn’t be very nice of me. So to sum up…

Everything and the kitchen sink!

Swordfighting, archery (come on who doesn’t love a good bit of archery?) assassins, heroes in disgrace, humor, berserker mode, amazing world building, fey horses, hidden jewels (wink wink, nudge nudge), heart break, revenge, fisticuffs, arse kickery, snark, Saints with names like “Saint Zaghev-who-sings-for-tears and “Saint Caveil-whose-blade-cuts-water, the bloody-faced Saint of Swords” and so much more! Alright I’ll stop now…

So do you want to learn the first rule of the sword that Traitor’s Blade will teach you?

‘The first rule of the sword is -’

‘-put the pointy end into the other man.’ – pg 25

Earth Star
Earth Star
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Perception is 9 / 10ths of the law, 19 April 2014
This review is from: Earth Star (Kindle Edition)
There is definitely a strong theme of overcoming prejudice that runs through Earth Star more so than its predecessor Earth Girl. At almost every turn Jarra was not just battling her own insecurities but was faced with a universe full of people that for the most part probably view her and those living on Earth as apes.

I have allergies so I must not be human
A ridiculous statement yes, but no more ridiculous than the reality of prejudice itself. When you really stop to think about the reasons behind the prejudices some people have, they all boil down to some such silly nonsense. And for the color of skin, twang to a voice and lack of immunities people are reviled. Treated as less even though they are in every other way just as human and deserving of respect as the next person. Again and again Jarra is the object of prejudice and it was an unfortunate thing to see but necessary to the plot.

I wanna push you around, I wanna push you down
Yes, I sang that in my head as I typed it. If you don’t know the band Matchbox 20 then I can’t help you. I was glad to see that Jarra and Fian had a much more developed relationship in this book. Of course they’d have to now that they’ve been through so much together and are actually a couple. Their playful banter and how Fian literally likes being pushed around by Jarra was cute. I don’t know how other readers might take this but I adored their relationship. They are in that early phase of infatuation with each other and yet oddly enough they seem to know one another fairly well given the short amount of time that has actually passed. I found it refreshing to see how things between them have developed and I liked that Fian wasn’t such a secondary character anymore. I have to say Earth Star also had a touch of nostalgia in it for me. It was great the way Earth’s history, our not too far ago history infact, was woven into the story right along next to the fictional / futuristic history that the author created – all culminating in this fascinating far off future. The amazing things described made me wonder just how far off this future actually is. What with genetically created plants, recovered extinct animal species, medical regrowth tanks and teleporters. The wealth of nifty science fiction treats had me barely coming up for air between pages. Now mix in the sci-fi alien technology and it was a one sitting read.

Perception is 9 / 10ths of the law
Jarra has some really great things going for her as a character. She is curious and prone to getting into trouble, a victim of her own prejudices as well as those of others and hates talking about her feelings or anything even remotely emotional to a fault. She’s also really smart in her field of historical study, and did I mention she brings a whole new meaning to the word stubborn? Fian claims he is stubborn, but he doesn’t have anything on Jarra. hah! Anyways where am I going with this? So typically in young adult books you’ll get introduced to that YA main character that is going to be the ‘savior’ or ‘hero’ in the book. Did that happen here? Of course it did – however the author did it right because she gives realistic and justifiable reasons for why Jarra is put into these situations. There are valid points to why Jarra is specifically chosen for these opportunities and why she more than anyone else is the best person for the job. Because of the way it was done and how the circumstances were always explained the reader was not constantly being asked to suspend their disbelief. That to me was what helped me enjoy Earth Star more than many other YA books and makes it well worth reading.

*note about the hardcover edition – the font is a bit small. Those who like bigger fonts might want to grab the e-copy instead.

Be My Enemy (Everness Series Book 2)
Be My Enemy (Everness Series Book 2)
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the reality of alternates, 14 April 2014
Something deadly moves in the heart
High stakes adventure isn’t even half of what you’ll get in Be My Enemy, the sequel to Planesrunner. These characters and storyline continue to amaze me with how inventive they manage to be. Some of you might have seen it coming because yes, we are immediately introduced to an alter Everett at the start of this book. He will play a pivotal role in the fate of Everett’s future as well as possibly everyone in the known worlds. But something has twisted in his heart, he hasn’t lived the same life Everett has and while he might think like him, he most certainly isn’t acting or feeling like him.

Meanwhile fade to white
In a frozen wasteland world, time is running out and something lurks beneath the ice…Everett is still in possession of the Infundibulum but can he hold onto it?

Everett and the crew of the Everness are marooned on this frozen alternate version of Earth, with power running out and everything on the ship quickly freezing. Soon they are chased even here and must travel to where no one would dare follow – to the off-limits Earth1 (E1). When they arrive at their destination they are in for a surprise. This world is home to an almost unimaginable horror: Sentient nanotechnology that has made themselves the ruling force in that world, bent on consuming the whole of humanity.

Exploring the reality of alternates
In the first book the alternate Earths is given prime focus but in book two while we still have that focus we also see the possibilities of alternate individuals. Along with Everett’s alter we see two members of the order, the devious Charlotte and her alter Charles, who are members of The Order that’s been chasing the Everness. Not to mention Everett’s alter family members. It was such a neat way to explore how different circumstances and experiences could change the very nature of a person.

The relationship dynamics between the crew of the Everness please me in how well thought out and slowly building they are. There is a marvelous chemistry between Everett and Sen that feels so natural and real that that I can safely say they are currently one of my favorite young adult pairs that I have read in the last few years. Sen is snappy and Everett is the calm collected type. Together they make quite the team.

While this series features young adult characters to me it is by no means the typical young adult books. Where many other books are light and fluffy reads that you can breeze through without it asking much from you as a reader – the Everness books tempt you into deeper thought and reflection. Those other books are but a snack – but these, these are the meal.

The Spider Wars - The Burning Dark
The Spider Wars - The Burning Dark
by Adam Christopher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned!, 22 Mar. 2014
The furthest reaches of space, the vast and lonely unknown, a crackling radio airing the haunting last moments of someone's life. The Burning Dark sounds deliciously creeptastic doesn't it? Oh it was, darlings, it was! Plus this line on one of the first few pages pretty much sealed the deal for me.

In the dark she burned.

A Captain goes down with his ship!
We've all heard that phrase before I'm sure. To me it doesn't just mean dedication it means loyalty. And there is such a sense of that portrayed by these characters. I felt a deep connect with the main protagonist Cleveland. He's been given the shaft in more ways than I can count and yet he's still so resilient but also at moments vulnerable. The story makes good use of multiple POV's and flashbacks which added instead of took away. I can sometimes get snippy about those two things but here they were done very well. For those readers out there who are leery of science fiction but love ghost stories give this one a try because the story and the atmosphere will ooze beneath your skin. I can not adequately explain how the tone of this book made me want to curl up in low purple light, that's right I said purple, and read until my eyes crossed and I passed out against my will. But mostly the real winning point for me was Cleveland, he is a lead man worthy of attention and admiration. Having major faults which simply serve to make him real. Not to mention the supporting cast that I both sympathized with and wanted to gut punch! That is what I'm talking about! By the time I was finished reading I was so heartsick and extremely glad to be so.

"And, you know, there's something about her makes me feel...sad. But in a good way, somehow. I don't know. That doesn't make much sense."
Izanami tilted her head, her frown a thoughtful expression. "Melancholy can be good for the soul."

The ants go marching one by one hooorah, hoorah!
So you might read the description and think 'eh' another military sci-fi book. Don't! I tell you true when I say, I do not fancy military books at all! I think this might be because I spent 6 years in army. Yes, The Burning Dark has some great military focus and plot points but it did not at all feel overwhelming. I didn't feel like I had to have an interest in military type fiction to enjoy it. Heck I was more than a tad worried I wouldn't enjoy it because that normally isn't my thing. It was a story about perseverance, the human will to survive and above all, self sacrifice - these are things tied to our human culture!

And lets not forget the freaking space spider...mecha freaking space spiders! The stuff of nightmares folks...

"I don't think the Spiders have actual spiders wherever they're from, but they sure as hell built their whole space tech around them. You know those little spider egg sacs, those balls of web on a leaf that you flick and then they break and about a million of the s***s swarm out over everything? Just like that."

The Burning Dark brings all sorts of fantastic elements to the table, Japanese folklore, ghosts, vengeance, deep space travel, and a touch of government coverups! These things when combined made for a most excellent and unsettling story. One thankfully that readers can walk away from satisfied because while I think there will be more books written in this universe this book can most definitely be read as a standalone! It was a ghost story, one that makes me cautious of the sound of white noise and leaving the radio on. Oh yes and we all know hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned!

*quotes come from an advance reader version and may not be in the published edition*

The City's Son: The Skyscraper Throne Book 1
The City's Son: The Skyscraper Throne Book 1
by Tom Pollock
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Railwraiths, lightbulb militia, punishment priests, and scaffolding wolves!, 19 Mar. 2014
Railwraiths, lightbulb militia, punishment priests, and scaffolding wolves!

Tom Pollock did something marvelous with The City’s Son. He created a populace of people that inhabit a city and yet are made of the city itself! The story has a quick enough pace to have you sitting up and paying attention as the action flings you through the pages.

The details are rich and often disturbing. Pollock has a great descriptive writing style that wasn’t over the top for me. I could visualize the creatures and people of the city but wasn’t so bogged down by flowery details that often annoy me in the way some other authors write. In fact I loved how this was a YA book and yet it was still intense and gritty. Then unexpectedly I would be surprised by a random bit of poetry.

“…you might be the puzzle-piece of me, I’ve never seen.” 3% on the Kindle app

I also have to include this quote below because I found it so romantic in the quirkiest way. It made my heart bleed.

“Do I scare you witless enough to make you brave?” 92% on the Kindle app

The story of The City’s Son sucked me right in and the mystery of it all kept me there. I was immediately taken with Beth and her tough yet vulnerable personality. However, there was a small downside to having so much action – such that shortly after Beth and Filius met I felt like I didn’t get to know Filius as well as I should have. There were quite a few different POV’s that were present, which I always love if done well, and it certainly was!

Absolutely looking forward to the next book!

Planesrunner (Everness Series)
Planesrunner (Everness Series)
by Ian McDonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun to the Fun squared!, 19 Mar. 2014
Endless alternate worlds to our own, and young Everett holds the key to them all in PLANESRUNNER. Sounds like a dream come true…though its probably a touch bit of a nightmare for him. For us? A marvelous treat of adventure, science and balderdash!

Fun to the Fun squared!
If you’ve been aching to find that amazing young adult read that mixes science fiction with high adventure this is definitely the book you need to pick up. I’ve read a fair share of sci-fi YA books and this one is singularly unique. Why? Because of the science! I would describe Planesrunner as heavier on the science side than most other YA books I’ve read, and it manages to not be so heavy that it gets bogged down. Not that I know if any of the science is correct *grin* but it sure was fascinating to read. It was great in that it didn’t seem as if anything was dumbed down or glossed over, indeed this would probably be a techie kids uber dream.

The geek of the Earth are a tribe and they are mighty. – pg 67

Young Everett is a science genius and all of the details we are given support that. Even though that in itself might be hard to swallow, a young teen being such a quantum physics genius. But at every turn his personality and his actions meld so well that it couldn’t be any other way, this kid just makes sense. Yes, he’s a young teen with smarts beyond compare but he still makes from the hip decisions like that of the teen he is. Rash, spontaneous, and not always thinking ten steps ahead type of behavior, now that is teen to me. I loved how well all aspects about him worked together and made him all the more believable! Especially some of his basic common sense.

Rules for twenty-first-century living: never give the police your only photograph. – pg 21

Indeed, I adored how each of the characters were given such unique touches. So much so, that even the side characters had their own voice in my mind, and that my friends is hard to pull off.

We don’t always get what we wont, but sometimes what we get is better!
Everett is pulled into a high stakes situation, with father kidnapped, and him left with the key to the multiverse – he has to think fast and make an even faster plan of action. Even he thinks it’s somewhat ridiculous at best, or is it? Not only that, he has to find the means to execute his not very well thought out plans. Lucky for him Sen (a spunky young tarot card reading girl with a marvelous white afro) finds him instead, and tries to rob him no less! But what better way to start a friendship than a little attempted thievery? Not to mention Sen is the perfect counter balance to Everett. She is a sassy little firecracker with continual burst.

She could be bitingly cruel with deadly accuracy, but Everett wondered if her taunts and nasty little rhymes were thought out in advance, to be drawn like knives when she needed weapons, or if she was like a wasp that stings by reflex. – pg 238

Diversity is the spice of life!
One of the major things I loved about Planesrunner is the racial and cultural diversity we get to experience and the fact that the main character was of mixed race, or a non Caucasian race which we just don’t see enough of. The book is peppered with ethnic flavor, and I mean that literally cause this kid is one hell of a cook. Everett steps into a world completely different from his own, and yet sometimes so alike. He has his culture and world that he comes from and while he is slowly getting to know the crew of the Everness so too is he learning about their culture and class, the Airish. This has to be the best part of the book that it brings up issues of race as well as class and cultural prejudice. These things exist across different planes of existence. You can change the world but I suppose you can’t change human nature and that is one of the aspects that helped make this different version of our world all the more real. Oh yes and I can’t forget to mention that you are in for a treat with the amazing slang! If you don’t normally handle heavy slang well in your reading then be forewarned because Sen and some of the other dialogue is made up of it. Personally I loved it, but I loved it even more when I realized there was a darn glossary in the back! My recommendation to you – read the 3 page glossary first, or as you’re reading the book, so you get comfortable with the slang terms. I wish these kinds of glossaries were at the FRONT of novels so I know immediately they are there, sigh. Still an excellent move by the author to include this because I used it a lot until each word cemented itself into my brain.

Adventure isn’t adventure without an airship or two!
Another one of the best parts you might have guessed from the description. Airships! That’s right there be no airplanes here ye land lubbers, but airships. And things wouldn’t be complete without a battle in the skies! I have to give it to Ian McDonald he really knows how to leave a reader satisfied. Fancy weapons, different types of fuel and technology, crazy cool clothes and a sweet air ride that so so need to stow away on.

Planesrunner might just be the book you’ve been looking for, it definitely was for me and I can tell things are only going to get better! If all of this isn’t enough to tempt you, well then, maybe your sense of fun is broken.

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