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Book Review – Chasing the Dragon

Book 2 of Jason Anspach and Nick Cole’s series “Tyrus Rechs: Contracts and Terminations” is out, entitled “Chasing the Dragon“.

The Dragon was trained from his youth to operate as a lethal killing machine. He has tangled with crime lords, dangerous insurgents, even Nether Ops… and none of these forces has been able to bring the elusive warrior to heel.

Enter the notorious bounty hunter Tyrus Rechs.

Rechs takes on the job as a favor to an old Savage Wars buddy. Only Rechs isn’t out to kill the Dragon—his mission is to save the kid’s life.

Unless the Dragon kills Rechs first.

Chasing the Dragon picks up where Requiem for Medusa left off, with Tyrus Rechs doing what Tyrus Rechs does best:   Break things and kill people.  The story rarely stops to take a breath, and it’s a fun romp that brings us all of the fun and action we’ve come to expect from the Galaxy’s Edge universe.

Tyrus Rechs is a fascinating character.  He shares a lot with Heinlein’s Lazarus Long, although I can’t see Lazarus doing quite so much damage in an afternoon.  When the authors are done telling his tale as a bounty hunter, I hope they delve further into the stories of his long life.

If you’re looking for a page-turner that begs to be read again as soon as you get to the last page, you’ll enjoy Chasing the Dragon.

Review – Dragontamer’s Daughters

I recently dipped my toes in Young Adult fiction and gave Kenton Kilgore’s Dragontamer’s Daughters a read. I’m glad I did.

Two girls find a dragon like no other—and their lives will never be the same!

In an alternate Old West, Isabella and Alijandra live exiled with their parents in the high desert. Years before, the girls’ father caught, tamed, and trained dragons for the Emperor’s armies, but now he is an outlaw, blamed for the deaths of thousands.

Finding a small dragon gravely injured after a fight, the girls take her home and begin tending her back to health. Alijandra calls the dragon “Pearl,” after her round white eyes. As time goes on and Pearl begins to heal, the family learns more about her and the strange and terrifying abilities she possesses.

But time is running out for them, their family, and for Pearl herself. Soon, they will be forced to contend with the native people on whose lands they live. With the ambitious governor whose soldiers hunt the girls’ father. With a man who has no name but wields immense, eerie powers. With Pearl’s yearning to fulfill the journey that accidentally brought her to the girls. And with their own dreams and wishes for a life they once lived—and might live again.

If you were a fan of the “Little House” books as a child, you will enjoy this tale of family, hard work, and love.  Kilgore portrays a family living at the edge of impoverishment, but still loving and caring for one another during trying times.

Every character that gets more than a page worth of attention in this book grows as the story unfolds, which is a rare trick in fiction. The two main characters, sisters  Isabella and Alijandra, grow from one stage of life to the next as they work through the challenges life throws at them, including a magical dragon that needs their help.

Kilgore obviously knows the high desert setting very well, but he paints everything in vivid, detailed strokes that will fill the reader’s mind and enrich the story.

This isn’t an action story, but it is filled with tension until the final chapters, when everything erupts into a fast-paced race to the book’s conclusion. In between all that, there are many thought-provoking, touching scenes that will stay with you.

Review – So Little and So Light

Sarah Hoyt’s new collection of short stories, So Little and So Light, is packed with stories that will both entertain you and make you think.

From a parallel world where we have all the dreams of pulp writers, to a future where bioengineering kindles new hates and new heroes, to a different Tudor England, to the intricacies of time wars, this science fiction collection provides a glimpse of things undreamed… some from which we’ll gladly waken, and some we’d very much like to be true.

So Little and So Light contains stories from Mrs. Hoyt’s “USAIAN” universe, in which the USA is almost an ancient myth, but its spirit lives on in those who still believe, as well as stories about the far future and alternate histories.  Each one stands very well on its own, but most of them could definitely be followed up by either more short works or full length books.  I enjoyed all of them, but my favorites were “Lost” and the title work, “So Little and So Light”.

I normally burn through short story collections, but the writing in this one was so good that I took my time, even stopping after several of the stories to think about their plots and the questions they bring up.  Mrs. Hoyt is a master of drawing the characters and scenery in the reader’s mind without writing long overt descriptions, and I found myself getting lost in the worlds she creates in her stories.

If you’re a fan of alternate history, science fiction, or just good, fun stories, So Little and So Light will be a good fit for you.

Review – The American Civil War

If you’ve ever wanted to learn a bit about the American Civil War, this audiobook is a good place to start.

Between 1861 and 1865, the clash of the greatest armies the Western hemisphere had ever seen turned small towns, little-known streams, and obscure meadows in the American countryside into names we will always remember. In those great battles, those streams ran red with blood – and the United States was truly born.

If you’ve ever wanted to understand the Civil War, this series of 48 startlingly evocative lectures by a leading Civil War historian can serve as both an ideal single course or a solid starting point for further exploration – a richly detailed examination of how this great conflict affected every person in America. For you’ll gain not only a deep knowledge of what happened, but new insights into why.

You’ll learn how both sides’ armies were recruited, equipped, and trained, and about the hard lot of those they took prisoner. You’ll hear how soldiers on each of those sides dealt with the rigors of camp life, campaigns, and the terror of combat. And you’ll understand how slaves and their falling masters responded to the advancing war, as well as the desperate price paid by the families so many left behind.

Though this series of lectures goes far beyond a simple examination of battles and generals, it also offers detailed analyses of the strategic and tactical dimensions of the Civil War’s most important campaigns. At the same time, it never forgets that the conflict involved far more than pins on a map – and indeed claimed a greater cost in human lives than all other American wars combined.

Professor Gary Gallagher does an excellent job at giving a 10,000 foot survey of the Civil War.  He starts with the stresses on the nation that brought about the war, the events that led up to separation and war, the conduct of the campaigns and battles, and ends up with a brief discussion of the impact the war had on the United States for the fifty years or so after its conclusion.  Intermixed with all of this, he discusses the societies of the North and South, their comparative strengths and weaknesses, and the war’s impact on groups such as women, immigrants, and African-Americans.

While the political and cultural aspects of the war are still hotly debated, Professor Gallagher does an excellent job at giving an even-handed narrative.  Neither side was as heroic and virtuous as some would have us believe, but neither were they complete villains.

This is a great survey course that should direct you to more in-depth discussions of the various subjects that the Civil War entails.  Unfortunately, if Professor Gallagher dove as deeply as I would have liked in certain places, his course would have stretched for months instead of days.  Take The American Civil War as a good introduction for those who are just learning and a good refresher for those more familiar with the subject.

Review – Tide of Battle

Michael Z. Williamson’s latest collection of short stories, essays, and general fun, Tide of Battle,  is as fun and thought provoking as we’ve come to expect from his work.

Collected short fiction from multiple bestseller Michael Z. Williamson. After a brutal car crash, a disabled young man beats all odds to pursue his dream of crewing the first starship. Outnumbered and outgunned, a Freehold warship must use guile, expert maneuvering and sheer courage to survive a pursuing UN fleet. Meanwhile, other Freeholders resort to terrifying psyops to destroy their invaders’ morale. A family learns that their patriarch isn’t as crazy as they thought when a zombie uprising actually happens. A young girl must use her knowledge of elementals and spirit beings to protect a king who is unaware of the threats against him. In an alternate Bronze Age, the descendants of dinosaurs fight with sentient felinoids for territory and survival. Humans reduced to cowering in caves find a most unlikely weapon against their alien invaders.

With cutting satire on classic poetry and modern movies, a no-holds-barred lambast of several beloved firearms and their fan clubs, Williamson concludes with more of his Inappropriate Cocktail recipes, frequently both delicious and outrageously snarky, commemorating celebrities, events and cultural memes.

Tide of Battle comes in two parts. The first part contains stories written or co-written by Williamson.  My favorite was “The Digital Kid”, but if you’re a fan of his Freehold world, then you’ll like “Starhome”, “Hate in the Darkness”, and “Soft Casualty”.  The rest are a good collection of fiction written in other worlds and dealing with a myriad of situations.

In the book’s second part, Williamson proves, once again, that sacred cows make the best hamburgers.  He takes on gun people (both pro and anti), poetry, literature, and movies in a way that will both make you think and laugh.  Most interesting, to me, was his discussion on research for his book “A Long Time Until Now”. He finishes up with his signature cocktail recipes, which contain humor as dark and rich as good rum.

I enjoyed every word in Tide of Battle, and with the wide scope of the stories it contains, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something in it that you’ll enjoy, too.

Review – To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity

Recently, I finally finished a short story collection that deals with examples of what it means to be a man:  To Be Men:  Stories Celebrating Masculinity.

Tired of stories about men as bumbling idiots? Of fathers as incompetents? Of masculinity as “toxic”?
Tired of misandry?
Ready for some real masculine role models?
Stories about heroes and men who do the right thing? Stories about real men? The kind that provide for their families, love their wives and children, and make sacrifices. And save the world.
A collection of seventeen stories and two essays, To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity pays homage to men and masculinity.
Fun. Action-packed. Thought-provoking. Whatever your tastes, you will find enjoyment in these pages.
Each story embraces, in its own way, virtus—the concept of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth.
The sentient Colt 1911 destined for the smelter.
A courageous werewolf who embodies virtus no matter his form.
The wizard raising a family in the 21st century.
Sherlock Holmes’ newfound respect for women.
A future untamed frontier where “women and children first” proves itself a timeless maxim.
The hero who identifies as a M1A2 Abrams tank.
A Vietnam War sailor defending his gay crew mate, because when bullets are flying, only what you do matters.
The police chief in a noir-style world where Fae, dragons, and humans live, love, and break the law.
These stories will delight and entertain you.

To Be Men brings together some excellent writers to give us rich, well-told stories that describe the many facets of what it means to be a man in the classic sense.  My favorites were”Street Fox” by C. J. Brightley, “Compassion” by Jon Del Arroz, and “Man Made Hell” by Julie Frost.

This collection has modern fiction, science fiction, urban fantasy, and even a nod to Arthur Conan Doyle.  In other words, it’s a good bet that you’ll find something in there that you’ll like.

The authors do an excellent job of showing how their characters are classically masculine, meaning that they exhibit bravery, honor, trust, and compassion, without them becoming brutes.  Where they interact with other people, especially women, they show the respect that they wish to receive.

To Be Men is a book that I plan on giving to my son when he gets a bit older so he can learn from the stories.  It’s also a book I hope my daughter reads so that she can know what she should expect from the men in her life.

Review – The Pride of the Damned

The third and final book in Peter Grant’s Cochrane’s Company trilogy, The Pride of the Damned, is out.  If you enjoyed the first two books in the series, you’ll love the story’s climax:

The shadow war started as a simple contract to defend a system against asteroid thieves. The harder Andrew Cochrane and Hawkwood Security fought, the worse things became. Now they find themselves embroiled in an interstellar war with an entire mafia!

Worse yet, the proceedings are so profitable – not to mention bloody – that they’ve attracted the attention of some of the worst criminal organizations in the galaxy. If Hawkwood is to survive, it’ll need all the wits, cunning and ingenuity it can muster – and the unwavering courage and dedication of its people.

The galaxy’s not big enough for both sides. One or the other will go to the wall.

The universe is well and truly built and the characters are well developed by the time this book begins, so the story moves quickly to the events leading up to its finale.  The Pride of the Damned has a lot of space opera in it, with a touch of thriller and spy novel thrown in for flavor.

The author goes into good detail of how Cochrane continues to build his fleet and the family of friends and colleagues he’s put together.  The space battle scenes are well thought out and keep the reader turning the page.  The characters are believable and the way that Grant makes them move within the story is the mark of a master storyteller.

This is not a juvenile by any means, but I’d be comfortable suggesting this series to anyone who enjoys a carefully laid out arc that travels quite nicely across three books.  If you’re looking for something to binge read during the dog days of summer, Cochrane’s Company is it.

The Stones of Silence – Sets up the story and introduces us to most of the characters

An Airless Storm – Develops the characters and pits Cochrane and his crew against an intractable foe

The Pride of the Damned – Brings everything together to a thrilling conclusion.

Review – Shattered Under Midnight

Dorothy Grant’s new novel, Shattered Under Midnight, mixes action with romance, and is not the kind of book you want to start reading while you’re trying to fall asleep.

Raina escaped to Freeport with a tour booked under a stolen ID, and a plan to lose herself in the city. Instead, she found a city in revolt, and now both sides are after her to control the alien gifts engineered into her DNA.

Her only ally is an offworld investigator trying to get to the bottom of the explosive mix of on-planet and alien politics… but his secrets are even deadlier than her own.

From the back alleys of the souk to the depths of alien ruins, they’re now in a desperate fight to stop the revolution before everything is lost!

The action in Shattered Under Midnight starts in the first paragraph and keeps coming until the very end.  Raina is a gifted young woman who is running away from oppression and worse.  She meets up with Akrep, a dangerous man who may or may not be one of the good guys, and together they have to fight to protect new friends and ancient artifacts.  The book has romance, ancient aliens, and gunfights, so there’s something for everyone.

The pacing in the story is pretty good.  Mrs. Grant does a good job of convincing the reader to keep turning the pages without making you feel like you’re sprinting through the book.  At the end of the story, I wanted to know more about both principle characters, so I hope that this isn’t the end of their story.  There’s definitely more to tell, both before and after this particular novel.

Raina develops quite quickly in the short time span of the story.  Like I said, there’s more of her story to tell, so I hope Mrs. Grant can flesh both her and Akrep out in future works.

This is a quick read, and the way it’s told is appropriate for teenagers to senior citizens.  I whizzed through it in just a few hours.  Shattered Under Midnight is a perfect, light story for when you just want to climb inside a book for an evening.

Review – Requiem for Medusa

Jason Anspach and Nick Cole have come out with a new novel based on the Tyrus Rechs character from their best-selling Galaxy’s Edge series:  Requiem for Medusa.

The scum hiding deep inside the Reach out along galaxy’s edge thought they could kill her and not pay the price. For years these hardened killers have run roughshod over the lawless worlds where Republic justice is never as fast as the blaster in your hand and where double-crosses and death are a part of every deal. They thought this time would be no different.

They were wrong.

This time, the Guild sent the legendary bounty hunter Tyrus Rechs.

As the infamous Rechs pursues the men who murdered his colleague, he’s hell-bent on justice, heedless of the trail of destruction he leaves across ruined worlds and fantastic gambling meccas alike. Because for Rechs, this isn’t just another Guild contract… it’s personal.

Requiem for Medusa begins a new series in the Galaxy’s Edge universe, which is titled “Tyrus Rechs:  Contracts and Terminations”.  Anspach and Cole use the story to flesh out the bounty-hunter that we first met in Book 2 of Galaxy’s Edge, and as I’ve come to expect from the authors, it’s a fun, fast read from cover to cover.

The plot revolves around Rechs’ quest to find, fix, and eliminate the folks who betrayed and murdered someone close to him.  The writing moves quickly through a world that we’ve come to know, so there isn’t much need to stop the action to build it.  The story does, however, slow down to explore Rechs as a man.  Anspach and Cole deftly switch between careful character development and faster-than-a-speeding-bullet action.

This blend of MilSF and Space Opera grabs you and pulls you over the edge with it.  We get to know Rechs, and several details from earlier novels are fleshed out as the story progresses. This is, of course, mixed in with a generous dollop of gunfire and explosions.

I’d suggest reading at least the first few Galaxy’s Edge books before trying this one out, because certain plot details definitely make more sense if you know the rest of the story.  That being said, Requiem for Medusa will take you out to the edge and keep hold of you until you get to the last sentence.

 

Review – Galaxy’s Edge, Part II

Question:  How much do I enjoy the Galaxy’s Edge series by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole?

Answer:  Enough to spend an Audible credit to listen to the audiobooks, read by R.C. Bray, after I’ve read all of them already.

Legion Dark Ops calls upon Chhun, Wraith, and the survivors of Victory Company to form an elite Kill Team of legionnaires in the aftermath of the Battle of Kublar. Their mission is clear: find and eliminate those responsible for the Kublar disaster.

Standing between them and their objective are a maze of corrupt Republic officials, a spy on the verge of losing himself in deep cover, and the Zhee – a murderous species that will stop at nothing. But the biggest threat of all might be the truth they seek to uncover – a truth that could ignite a revolution. And engulf the galaxy in flames.

Fleets collide in this audiobook in a moment-by-moment account of tactics, heroism, sacrifice, and the start of the final war of the Republic. The stakes have never been higher – and it’s winner takes all.

Galaxy’s Edge, Part II, includes the third and fourth books in the series, ‘Kill Team‘ and ‘Attack of Shadows‘.  The first half of the audiobook deals with the aftermath of the Battle of Kublar, as Chhun and his team are drawn into the shadowy world of Dark Ops.  They soon find themselves embroiled in a race against time to stop a devestating attack.  The second half brings us back to Goth Sullus and his forces as they begin their war against the Galactic Republic.

As always, Bray does an outstanding job in voicing and pacing. He brings the tension and urgency needed for Kill Team, but then works magic as he hops from one scene to the next in the frenetic battle sequences in Attack of Shadows.

This is an excellent book to listen to while you’re on your morning commute.  I found myself lingering in the truck for several minutes so that I could get to the end of a chapter.

If you’re a fan of military science fiction that moves at the speed of light, you’ll enjoy Galaxy’s Edge, Part II.

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