Harvest Moon by J.D. Oliva (ARC Review)

I received an ARC of Harvest Moon from author J.D. Oliva and have voluntarily chosen to write this review.

In hindsight, this supernatural police procedural probably wasn’t going to be my cup of tea, but having received an unexpected ARC I decided to check it out.

The plot seemed to be a little confusing at first, over whether the murderer is a copycat, or a man previously believed to be dead. Despite the witness testimony that the supposed murderer had been shot in the head five years earlier, there appeared to be some debate around whether it was possible that he might have survived. No real detail was given to back up or explain why this doubt existed and had I not already seen the werewolf on the book’s cover, I’d have given up reading. However, I persevered and somehow made it all the way to the end of this crazy story.

The novel follows ex-cop Jackson Shane, an unhinged alcoholic, who has been brought out of retirement and asked to assist in a strange murder investigation, which has links to the serial killer he supposedly killed five years before.

The book was ok, but a little boring and confusing in places. The somewhat tedious language wasn’t helped by the countless spelling and grammar errors littered throughout the story – I counted at least 125 – so the book could definitely do with the heavy hand and red pen, of a good editor and proofreader.

I’m giving this 2 out of 5 stars because I made it all the way to the end, and while it wasn’t really to my liking it may be suitable for those who like their police procedurals. Anyone interested can pick up a copy of Harvest Moon from Amazon.co.uk here.

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Prison in the Sky by Angela J. Ford (ARC Review)

I received an ARC of Prison in the Sky by Angela J. Ford as I am subscribed to her e-newsletter, however I hadn’t yet familiarised myself with her earlier work, and this novel served as my introduction.

 

Although Prison in the Sky is classed as a stand-alone story it is linked to Angela’s Four Worlds series, and since I haven’t read those books I constantly felt like I was missing some really important information and backstory. The narrative begins at the end of an epic battle, which marks the conclusion of a major conflict. The main character, Marklus is traversing the battlefield and using his unique gift of healing to help wounded soldiers. There’s not much detail about the battle given within the book, or indeed where Marklus’s healing gift came from, was he born with it or was it bestowed upon him? So I struggled a little to follow what was going on and why, but maybe if I had read the Four Worlds series, this information would have been clearer.

The story continues with Marklus and fellow warrior, Crinte the Wise, as they travel to the city in the sky and are held there against their will. Once it gets going the story is quite enjoyable, but I found it difficult to relate to the two-dimensional main characters, due to the lack of prior context and missing details. I did however, enjoy learning about the Mermis, the inhabitants of the kingdom in the clouds, and the book did enough to keep me reading until the end.

 

I’m not really sure what to make of Angela’s Prison in the Sky, but I’m going to rate it at 3 out of 5 stars. This is because I understood the basic premise of the novel, and feel that it would be enjoyable for those already familiar with her Four Worlds fantasy series, and as a newbie the book did enough to convince me to check out more of her work. Unfortunately though, I don’t think it fully works as a stand-alone novel, as the reader is thrust into the middle of an unknown world that they don’t really understand.

 

One final thing to note is that I disagree with the decision to send out ARCs of a book that hasn’t yet been through a final thorough proofread. While it was noted that proofreading was in progress, I was rather dismayed at the high number of spelling issues contained within this ARC of Prison in the Sky. This repeatedly distracted me from the story, making it difficult to read, so I had trouble maintaining focus on an already confusing book. However, I hope that these errors will have been corrected by the time of the book’s official release.

 

Prison in the Sky releases today, May 24th, and those interested can pick up a copy from Amazon.co.uk here.

Brent Bolster Investigations: Book 3 – The Surrana Identity (ARC Review)

The Surrana Identity is the third book in the Brent Bolster series by author Michael Campling, and is dedicated to fans of Douglas Adams.

 

Book three continues the hilarious adventures of Private Detective Brent Bolster and his oddball associates: Vince Claybourne, Rawlgeeb – a green humanoid alien known as a Gloabon – and Algernon, their pet fish who lives in a diving helmet.

Those who’ve read the previous books in the series will already be familiar with Brent’s nemesis, Surrana, the sneaky Gloabon Assassin who has already made numerous attempts to kill him. In this story, Surrana has been held captive by the GIT (Gloabon Institute of Technology) and experimented upon. However, she manages to slip her confinement and escape her tormentors, fleeing from Earth and into space.

Frustrated with the situation, and despite their need for tact and diplomacy, the GIT reluctantly hire Brent to track down their former captive. Brent has reservations considering his complicated history with Surrana, but Vince soon changes his mind and convinces him to accept the job. However, what is intended to be a simple stealth mission, turns out to have a rather different agenda completely, and the gang find themselves in a tricky spot.

 

As with its predecessor, The Surrana Identity begins with a helpful glossary of characters which allows the reader to easily keep track of who-is-who, and where-is-where, which definitely eliminates confusion for those not familiar with the characters. I must admit that I’m a bit of a geek for things like glossaries and appendices and maps, so anything with additional details that makes life easier is definitely a win.

Aside from Brent, Vince, Rawlgeeb and Algy, a number of our favourite characters return for this novel, including: Dex, Zeb & Dr. Cooper. As far as the story goes, I found it incredibly funny and I chortled so often, that I had to take regular breaks just to recompose myself. The ridiculous banter between Brent and his cohorts is what makes this series so great, from fancy pencils to popular culture references and alien abductions.

We also have serious moments too though, where the Artificial Intelligences, Jason and Dee, get caught up in some existential angst and question both their orders and their chances of survival. As a person creeped out by the idea of AIs turning on humans, I definitely found this part interesting.

At 4 out of 5 stars, The Surrana Identity is my kind of humorous sci-fi story, and in my opinion they just get better with each new release. However I received a complimentary copy of the book directly from the author and my honest review is compelled to point out a few missing words and minor errors – slightly more so than I’d like to see.

 

Anyone interested in grabbing a copy of The Surrana Identity can get it from Amazon.co.uk here. I for one am eagerly awaiting book 4, keep them coming Michael.

 

See also:

Brent Bolster: Book 1 – Dial G for Gravity

Brent Bolster: Book 2 – Dead Men Don’t Disco

 

Uprising: 12 Dystopian Futures Boxset – Cheatc0de by Michael Campling (ARC Review)

The Uprising Box set is a collection of 12 full length novels by various writers, all with the theme of dystopian futures. I kindly received an ARC of this huge boxset from author Michael Campling, and am voluntarily choosing to review each of the individual books contained within its 2,381 pages.

Book 8 finally brings us to Michael Campling’s novel Cheatc0de, book one in his Downlode Trust series, and out of the twelve books in the Uprising box set, this is the one which I have been the most eager to read. This is because I am already familiar with most of Mikey’s other books, and was a huge fan of his LitRPG novel Prison Quest, which he co-wrote with Saffron Bryant. Cheatc0de sounds like it could be very similar, and his Downlode Trust novels are the only books of his that I haven’t yet read.

 

The story centres on Hank, a teenager who uses his total immersion Virtual Reality gaming hobby as an escape from an otherwise difficult home life, and his father, Mervin an ex-military man struggling with his past, and the responsibility of raising his son single-handed. After finishing school, Hank straps in to his favourite VR game, hoping for a fun distraction from life. Usually a solo player, he unexpectedly encounters a fellow gamer called Will, who lures him into joining an unsanctioned mission with the promise of lots of easy money.

While sceptical at first, Hank soon warms up to Will as he realises that the two of them really do perform better as a team. However, Will is reluctant to share his secrets, and Hank begins to harbour doubts about his friend’s motives. Unknown to Hank, Mervin joins the game eager to relive his days in the military, and places both his own life and Hank’s in danger. But will the rewards of the game outweigh the risks and consequences for Hank? Can he complete the mission? Will he survive?

 

While this is not technically LitRPG, not like Prison Quest, I rather enjoyed the story. It was fast paced and engaging, and being a non-gamer myself I found the story simple, fairly easy to follow and mostly entertaining. The virtual world appeared realistic and well thought out, and it has a relatively small cast of characters, which I found oddly refreshing.

While technically it is another good novel from Michael Campling, I can only rate this at 4 out of 5 stars as there were quite a number of errors, which is unusual for this author. Also, I struggled initially with Mervin’s chapters as they didn’t quite gel together with the main storyline at first, and it wasn’t until later when he joined the game that it all began to finally ‘click’ with me and make sense. My final issue is the neat and tidy conclusion, which I thought fell a little flat. I was expecting a bit more action or danger, more nervous tension, or just something to give it more of a realistic feel.

That being said, I will be continuing on to read the next book in the series, book 2 The Trust, and those interested can find the Uprising Boxset on Amazon.co.uk here, or you can buy Cheatc0de as a stand-alone here.

 

See also:

The Bottle Stopper – Angeline Trevena

 

The Kingsmen Chronicles: Book 3 – Goldenmark (ARC Review)

Due to some technical hitches I’m rather late with this ARC review, however better late than never.

 

The long awaited conclusion to the first trilogy in Jean Lowe Carlson’s Kingsmen Chronicles is called Goldenmark, and was actually released back in August 2018. It continues the story of Elohl den’Alrahel, the Alrashemni Kingsman turned Rennkavi, tattooed with the magical goldenmarks that designate him as leader and uniter of the kingdom, Alrou-Mendera. However, a false ruler has tricked his way into power, also bearing the sacred goldenmarks. Elohl must find a way to unite his people and beat Lhaurent den’Karthus in the war for the Menderian throne. Will he succeed or will Laurent annihilate his opposition?

 

Blackmark, book one of the Kingsmen Chronicles was actually the first novel that I reviewed here on the Sci-Fi Kingdom blog, way back over a year ago on October 2nd 2017. Check out the review of Blackmark here.

 

Goldenmark, as with its predecessors, Blackmark and Bloodmark, has an extremely well written, researched and painstakingly planned out story. The detail that goes into making this dark, epic, sword and sorcery fantasy series come to life is extraordinary, rivalling even George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, with its complex plot of war and treason.

At 4 out of 5 stars Goldenmark is a fitting conclusion to a great series. It binds this complex story together nicely, and has far less spelling errors/typos than the earlier novels. I especially love the keshar-cats and the warrior women that ride them into battle. However, I’m still mourning the loss of one of my favourite characters who doesn’t feature this far into the series, and I sometimes feel that the overly descriptive narrative draws out the story a little too long for my liking. These are all large books, mostly weighing in at over 700 pages, with Blackmark the slimmest volume at just over 500 pages.

I received a free copy of this novel direct from the author and have voluntarily chosen to write this review. I would recommend it to adult fans of epic sword and sorcery fantasy, such as A Game of Thrones, who like to get stuck into long, dark and gritty books. Pick up your copy of Goldenmark from Amazon.co.uk here.

 

See also:

The Kingsmen Chronicles: Book 1 – Blackmark

The Kingsmen Chronicles: Book 2 – Bloodmark

Uprising: 12 Dystopian Futures Boxset – The Bottle Stopper by Angeline Trevena (ARC Review)

The Uprising Box Set is a collection of 12 full length novels by various writers, all with the theme of dystopian futures. I kindly received an ARC of this huge box set from author Michael Campling, and am voluntarily choosing to review each of the individual books contained within its 2,381 pages.

 

Book 7 of the box set is called The Bottle Stopper, and is part one of The Paper Duchess series by Angeline Trevena. This dark dystopian fantasy follows the life of seventeen year-old Maeve who works in her Uncle’s apothecary shop.

Without a Mother to care for her, six year-old Maeve is taken in and raised by her Uncle Lou, a drunk prone to violence against women. Eleven years on, Maeve works in her Uncle’s shop bottling the Miracle Medicine that Lou sells to his customers. However, the medicine is actually foul water taken from the local river, and instead of curing people he’s really making them sick.

When her best-friend dies after a dose of Lou’s medicine, something deep inside Maeve snaps and as his violence towards her escalates and hidden secrets come to light, she begins to plot revenge and escape.

 

As mentioned earlier this is a rather dark, distressing tale which takes place in the slums and poorest regions of the fictional location of Falside. Society has regressed backwards to a point where women no longer have rights and are regularly abused and treated abominably. Even those in the richer areas don’t have it easy, being forced into marriages in a bid to correct the low birth rates of females which have skewed this society into a mostly male-dominated world.

In this unregulated low-class society, Lou falsely convinces his customers to buy river water masquerading as medicine, which makes me cringe in disgust. In fact, a lot of this book is difficult to read, not just the deplorable actions of this one man, but also due to the way it demeans women and the struggles that the poor face as they desperately seek an escape from the slums of Falside.

In this respect The Bottle Stopper is a very realistic story, intriguing enough to be enjoyable, but also rather distressing making it hard to choke down. What irritated me though, were the number of characters that were randomly introduced merely to provide information and little else of value. While the book isn’t all that long, it does sometimes feel a bit too drawn out. Once Maeve’s plan is put into action, it seems to take an awful long time for the story to reach a conclusion.

At 4 out of 5 stars I would definitely recommend this fairly well written book to those looking for a dark dystopian read, and who don’t mind reading about difficult issues such as excessive violence and abuse against women. Those interested can find the Uprising Boxset on Amazon.co.uk here, or buy The Bottle Stopper here.

 

See also:

The Sigma Surrogate – JT Lawrence

The Given – Colby R. Rice

Hedon – Jason Werbeloff

The Girl in the City – Philip Harris

The Watcher – A.J. Eversley

The Jacq of Spades – Patricia Loofbourrow

Cheatc0de – Michael Campling

Uprising: 12 Dystopian Futures Boxset – The Jacq of Spades (ARC Review)

The Uprising Boxset is a collection of 12 full length novels by various writers, all with the theme of dystopian futures. I kindly received an ARC of this huge boxset from author Michael Campling, and am voluntarily choosing to review each of the individual books contained within its 2,381 pages.

 

I have to admit that I struggled with book 6, The Jacq of Spades by Patricia Loofbourrow. I’m not a fan of steampunk novels and as a result I didn’t like this Victorian-inspired mystery noir. The story is set in 1899, in a domed city called Bridges which is split by four rivers, and containing an island at its centre. Four families are in control of this city; the Spadros, Diamonds, Harts and Clubbs.

The main character, Jacqueline is a poor woman from the slums who has married into one of the four major families, the Spadros family. In a bid to maintain some independence she secretly works as a private detective, and has been hired to investigate the case of a missing boy. Twelve year-old David Bryce has disappeared, and the only clue to his whereabouts is the picture of a red dog.

 

I neither enjoy detective noir nor steampunk stories, and this is no exception. To begin we are thrust into the centre of a world that we know little about, without any explanation or background. Prior events are drip-fed to us slowly in a confusing manner, via Jacqueline’s memories and dreams, which aren’t always linear in nature. While the major portions of background information regarding past events are separated from the main text, this isn’t always the case and the narrative sometimes jumps suddenly to and fro between current and previous events without warning, much to my irritation.

I also found it odd that the rich ladies were constantly referred to as ‘mum’ rather than the British term ‘ma’am’ which I would have expected, this was another aspect that I found confusing and which was never explained. Overall I found this book to be rather boring and baffling, always feeling like I was missing something important, something that would’ve clicked everything into place for the story to ultimately make sense. However, this never occurred.

I also feel that the mystery wasn’t really investigated properly, and not much of any real interest happens throughout the book, which meant that I didn’t really care what happened. It ended a little abruptly as well with too many aspects left unresolved, so at 1 out of 5 stars The Jacq of Spades has been the least enjoyable story from the Uprising Boxset so far.

However, those interested can find the Uprising Boxset on Amazon.co.uk here, or buy The Jacq of Spades itself here.

 

See also:

The Sigma Surrogate – JT Lawrence

The Given – Colby R. Rice

Hedon – Jason Werbeloff

The Girl in the City – Philip Harris

Watcher – A.J. Eversley

Cheatc0de – Michael Campling