Monday, July 16, 2018

James Review -- The Day After Gettysburg

This week I decided to review The Day After Gettysburg, began by Robert Conroy and finished by J.R Dunn after Conroy’s death. 

It is an alternate history novel where Union General George Meade is prodded by his government into immediately pursuing the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of Gettysburg. This leads to Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordering a counterattack that devastates the Union army, increasing the Union causalities suffered in the campaign by approximately sixty percent. After this, the Confederate army settles into occupying much of Pennsylvania.

The book contains several major plotlines. One focuses on Union Major Steve Thorne who gains command of what’s left of his regiment after its prior commander, Colonel Josiah Baird, is maimed. This plot focuses both on Thorne’s efforts on the battlefield and his growing relationship with Colonel Baird’s daughter Cassandra.

Another follows Cassandra Baird through her struggles as she works to educate former slaves who have escaped to Union-controlled territory. In addition to the threats posed by the nearby armies, she finds herself facing racist Union civilians and deserters fleeing from the armies.

A third plotline follows Cassandra’s ex-fiancé Richard Dean who had deserted from the Union Army and turned completely against the Union cause. He eventually meets with John Wilkes Booth and joins Booth’s efforts against the Union and President Abraham Lincoln.

Also, there is a plotline following Confederate Sergeant Jonah Blandon. He serves in the army when it suits him and deserts when it doesn’t or when he fears punishment for his crimes, including execution of surrendered enemy soldiers and, eventually, rape and murder of civilians. The latter incident rouses the wrath of Pennsylvanian civilians against the Confederate occupiers and leaves Blandon’s band fleeing from both armies as well as vengeful civilians.

There are also several scenes showing the leadership of both governments and the two primary armies that the novel focuses on at work, with General Grant eventually taking command of the Union forces, and launching a plan aimed at destroying the Army of Northern Virginia.

I give this book 7 out of 10. While I find the cast of characters very interesting and enjoy many of the scenes in the story, I find a number of flaws in it. While things like the horrible conditions in prison camps on both sides are mentioned, they are never actually shown. Ditto for atrocities and crimes committed by Union soldiers or deserters against civilian targets. While such actions committed by Union troops or deserters are mentioned in passing, the only intentional targeting of non-combatants you see in the story are committed by Blandon’s band, or racist civilians acting against the escaped slaves Cassandra Baird is educating and Cassandra herself.

Also, I don’t think the impact of the book’s opening battle is strong enough. Historically, the Army of the Potomac took slightly less than twenty-five percent causalities in the Gettysburg campaign. In this book, that amount increases to nearly forty percent. While it is true that the vast majority of the additional causalities were captured, even if they were all exchanged, I don’t feel that the increase in Confederate strength was properly accounted for in the course of the story. I also feel that the effects the strategy, utilized by Grant in the book, would have had on the western fronts, and the impact these changes would have made on the course of the war, were largely ignored or at least badly underestimated.




Sunday, July 8, 2018

Destroyermen: Devil’s Due review

This week I decided to review Destroyermen: Devil’s Due by Taylor Anderson. 

The story has multiple plots within it, The primary plot focuses on the Grand Alliance’s efforts to defeat expatriate Japanese General Hisashi Kurokawa who has recently seized a number of high-ranking Alliance prisoners,including the pregnant wife of Alliance military Commander in Chief Matthew Reddy. However, Kurokawa has also gained control of the League of Tripoli battleship Savoie which badly outclasses anything in the Alliance fleet. And to make a bad situation even worse, aerial reconnaissance missions soon reveal that Kurokawa has obtained a number of League fighter craft which equal or outclass the few P-40 Warhawks still possessed by the Alliance. With time becoming critical, the USS Walker launches a desperate gambit along with much of the Alliance navy to defeat the Savoie, while a small commando unit launches an attempt to rescue Kurokawa’s prisoners…

One of the subplots follows a Grand Alliance army pursuing a defeated Holy Dominion force. But the allied army soon finds unpleasant surprises after the commander of the Dominion force is replace by an unknown and far more dangerous commander. Another follows the Alliance sailing frigate USS Donaghey on its continuing mission of exploration as well as battles against both Holy Dominion and League of Tripoli warships.

I give this book 9.5 out of 10. I love the variety of battle scenes in the story. Also, I like the characters in the various plots, and I found the sequences where characters are thinking to themselves fascinating, especially the later ones from Kurokawa’s viewpoint. And there’s just enough humor to keep the story from being too dark for my tastes. Really, the only thing I wish could have changed is expanding some of the scenes and adding a few more scenes in the Donaghey plotline.



Monday, July 2, 2018

Proofread Excelsior

I have established my new company Proofread Excelsior LLC. Check out my promo video and then visit me at www.proofreadexcelsior.com.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

James Review -- Marvel: Civil War Review

This week I decided to review Marvel: Civil War by Stuart Moore. 

The story opens with the New Warriors, a small team of low-grade superheroes, attacking a safe house used by a group of minor villains in Stamford, Connecticut. The battle goes horribly awry, killing many civilians including a large number of children who were in a nearby school. In response to this incident, the United States government passes a law that requires everyone with superpowers to register and provide information on topics such as their real names, abilities, and weaknesses.

A faction of superheroes led by Iron Man see this as a necessary act to regain the trust of the public, but other heroes refuse to register, with many forming a resistance movement led by Captain America. At first, the conflict is fairly low-key, but when the resistance responds to an apparent disaster at a chemical plant, they walk into an ambush. After a clone of Thor is unleashed by the pro-registration forces, resistance member Goliath is killed and the Invisible Woman defects in response.
After the battle many other heroes in both factions begin to question the morality of their actions and switch sides, with the pro-registration faction deploying a number of supervillains fitted with implanted control chips. As their situation grows more desperate, the resistance begins reaching out to allies in other countries, including nations led by fellow superheroes while also preparing a strike aimed at liberating their captured comrades…

I give this book 7 out of 10. I do like the battle scenes and the internal conflicts of some characters. Also, the setting is in a slightly different timeline than the comic Civil War, bringing changes that I believe were caused by post-Civil War events in the comic timeline; this is a very nice touch. However, I see a number of flaws in the Registration Act that make it incredibly dangerous, and these flaws are for the most part never brought up in the story, with one of the worst only being briefly thought about by a character while pondering what to do in response to the law. Also, to me at least, it seems like the pro-registration members are too eager to fight their former colleagues. You don’t see the mission briefing, but I see no signs that anyone protested or questioned the morality of using a staged disaster to lure the resistance into launching a rescue mission so they could be ambushed. Even after the battle, you see reactions to Goliath’s death, and some the morality of cloning Thor, but none about the ethics, or lack thereof, in using a fake distress signal to bait a trap.




Saturday, June 16, 2018

James Review -- Alien: The Cold Forge

This week I decided to review Alien: The Cold Forge by Alex White. 

Dorian Sudler, an expert at finding personnel that are costing the Weyland-Yutanti Corporation more money than needed, and firing the personnel, is sent to station RB-232, also known as the Cold Forge. The cold Forge is a remote space station where three of the corporation’s most highly classified and dangerous weapon research and development projects take place. One of these is Glitter Edifice, headed by Doctor Blue Marsalis. The project is intended to find a way to use genetics to control the Xenomorphs, whom Marsalis has nicknamed Snatchers because she feels "Xenomorph" is too imprecise. Marsalis, however, has a secret side-project she is running. She is bedridden due to a devastating genetic illness that is killing her, but she has discovered a very short-lived genetic material created when a host is injected with a Xenomorph egg, and she hopes that if she can recover an active sample of this material, she can use it to develop a treatment for genetic disorders like the one she is suffering from.

But Marsalis’s primary ally at Wayland-Yutanti has been arrested for embezzlement and, soon after Sudler reaches the station, Project Silversmile, a highly adaptive neural net computer virus, breaks loose. To prevent the destruction of the Xenomorph samples, Marsalis is forced to take the Marcus android body she can pilot via neural link to prevent their destruction, with the android body sustaining massive damage in the process.

Soon, one of Marsalis’s accomplices, who was injured during an accident linked to her side project, reveals what Marsalis has been up to. This leads to Sudler ordering her restricted to quarters, but soon the saboteur responsible for unleashing Silversmile strikes again, and this time the virus unleashes the Xenomorphs from their cages. Sudler, who has decided the Xenomorphs are the ultimate lifeform, sets out to arrange the extermination of the station’s crew. This leaves Marsalis struggling to use her android body to stop Sudler, while desperately trying to evade the Xenomorphs long enough to escape the station using her human body, which is unable to walk.

I give this book 7 out of 10. There were a few too many times where things that I felt didn’t make sense happened seemingly just because that was what was required to move the story in the direction the author wanted. And I thought Sudler was a horrible villain character who was given little or no apparent motivation beyond the urge to see others suffer and some weird bond he felt with the Xenomorphs. But I liked most of the other characters that received development in the story, and the new details about how the Xenomorphs work were interesting. However, I also found the mystery of the true identity of the saboteur wasn’t handled well and that the identity was too obvious. As soon as things started going wrong, I had a suspect in mind but was hoping for some twist to prove me wrong or something that would make me suspect someone else, to no avail.



Sunday, June 10, 2018

James Review -- Star Trek: Prometheus: The Root of All Rage

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Prometheus: The Root of All Rage by Bernd Perpiles and Christian Humberg. 

The story begins immediately after the previous book. Soon after discovering that the members of the Purifying Flame, the Renao extremist movement responsible for devastating attacks on both the Federation and Klingon Empire, are being mentally controlled by an unknown force, the escape of an extremist carrier is found to be due to it possessing a newly developed type of faster-than-light engine which is supposed to still be in testing.  

As the USS Prometheus and the IKS Bortas push deeper into the Lembatta Cluster, which the Renao call home, hostility towards them increases along with internal tensions among the ship crews and between the two vessels These tensions almost lead to the two craft engaging in battle after the destruction of another Klingon colony leads to the Bortas receiving orders to attack the Renao world the ships are visiting. The order is rescinded, but a strict time limit is put on the investigation before the Klingons launch a full invasion of the cluster. 


A trail leads to a log buoy from the USS Valiant, a Starfleet vessel that vanished while exploring the cluster during the 23rd century. This buoy reveals new clues and, with time running out, the crews of the Bortas and the Prometheus race to tie together the fate of the Valiant, the legendary lost Renao homeworld Iad, and the events that led to the ancient Renao being transported from their homeworld, to discover the true power behind the Purifying Flame.

I give this book 8 out of 10. I like the story overall and the characters. The investigation plot and the buildup of tensions on the ship was interesting. And I like it when stories tie into episodes from one of the TV series and the older books, but if authors are going to do so, they need to make sure the details are correct, either by re-reading the books or having someone else double check the parts referred to in their work, and that clearly wasn’t done here which knocks my score down hard.



Thursday, June 7, 2018

Nook Update

Where Gods Dare (Divine Protector #4) is now available on Nook. You may be wondering, "Why are you releasing them out of order?" Well, it all has to do with Kindle Select. I have to wait for my books' enrollment in that program to run out, and they all run out at different dates and not in the same order. As each book's enrollment period ends, I'll be adding the individual books to Nook.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/where-gods-dare-mr-scott-kinkade/1126003941?ean=9781544267401

Monday, June 4, 2018

James Review -- 1635: The Wars for the Rhine

This week I decided to review 1635: The Wars for the Rhine by Anette Pedersen. 

The story begins with Charolette von Zweibriichen preparing to leave her home, officially to seek aid for her husband, who has left to fight against forces allied with the United States of Europe. In reality, she is worried that if her husband and his heir die in battle, her unborn child will become heir to her husband’s lands, making them targets. 

A report arrives that her husband is dead but a report contradicting it arrives before she flees. The report and contradiction before she leaves cycle repeats multiple times until finally a report of her husband’s death arrives that isn’t contradicted.

She gets away but soon finds herself a prisoner of Archbishop Ferdinand, an ally to her husband who now wishes to use her child to gain control over the area her husband ruled. After her child is born she escapes, along with her baby, and enlists in the militia of Bonn, a city in the path of an offensive by allies of the USE. After she meets Melchior von Hatzfeldt, the general commanding the city’s defenses, they hatch a desperate plan to prevent the attack, a plan that may have massive implications for the region…

Meanwhile, Prince-Bishop Franz von Hatzfeldt is trying to decide how best to adapt to the new laws of the land where he leads the local Catholic church, which has fallen to the USE’s allied forces. While on a journey to Bamberg, the Prince Bishop finds himself combating the schemes of Father Arnoldi, who has been using his authority and forgery to claim lands and wealth, as well as kill those in his way. Eventually, this leads the Prince Bishop and his cousin Wolf into a battle to rescue two young women who are about to be executed by Arnoldi’s allies who had captured the women by mistake while trying to carry out Arnoldi’s order to capture and kill a different pair of women.

I give the book 9 out of 10. It has a variety of interesting characters and different forms of battles and conflicts in the various areas visited in the book. Rather. I should say the protagonist characters and their allies are interesting. The main weakness I found in the story is that none of the characters, whom I feel are the primary antagonists, had much in the way of personality. They were pretty much cruel and evil for the sake of greed and thus had no real redeeming qualities. I half expected them to start twirling mustaches when they appeared. While this doesn’t ruin the story for me I generally prefer villains to have some goal motivation beyond greed and lust for power.



Thursday, May 31, 2018

Aragami Paperback Now Available

Pretty self-explanatory, but yeah. Aragami is now available in paperback. Snag your copy today!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1985892774/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1527824522&sr=1-2

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Cool Kickstarter Project -- Steamboat Billy

Do you like Cuphead? Pokemon? Zelda? Well, then, have I got the game for you. It is Steamboat Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan.

The story is that every once every  millennia a leviathan rises up from the ocean and steals the world's colors. It's up to you as a very Cuphead-looking character to explore the land and seas, recruit monsters to help you, and rebuild Star Harbor to bring back the colors.

This game appeals to me because it has Cuphead's art style but it's not a brutally hard run-and-gun affair. Its Pokemon and Zelda aspects make it more in line with what I like to play. 

The game is currently in development by ManaVoid Entertainment. It's a little over halfway to its goal. You can find much more information on the Kickstarter page. I'm a backer at the Captain level at I hope you'll consider supporting this game as well.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1106152318/steamboat-billy-the-curse-of-the-leviathan?ref=user_menu

Saturday, May 26, 2018

James Review -- Freehold: Angeleyes

This week I decided to review Freehold: Angeleyes by Michael Z. Williamson. 

When the story begins Angie Kaneshiro is a veteran of the military forces of the Freehold of Grainne who now works as a temporary crewman on various freighters working her way across human space. But eventually the United Nations declares war and invades Freehold. Kaneshiro makes her way home only to be forced to escape a badly-damaged station, rescuing a young child in the process.
Eventually Kaneshiro encounters the Jack Churchill, a Freehold cruiser, in neutral territory. She reenlists and the vessel soon finds itself in battle against a pair of UN ships after returning to the Grainne system. Kaneshiro realizes that her knowledge of various stations throughout space could be invaluable to Freehold intelligence, but after her CO refuses to allow her to leave because her variety of skills makes her a valuable crew member, Kaneshiro has to go AWOL to reach her destination.

After doing so, she is attached to a team of Blazers, elite Freehold commandos, operating from a requisitioned freighter. The team moves through space gathering intelligence, sabotaging UN facilities, and aiding others in such efforts. But after the unit is betrayed Kaneshiro is captured and tortured for information by UN forces.

The team rescues her and continues its struggle, destroying one UN warship and capturing another, along with being forced to shift to another freighter. But with the UN dragnet closing in, the team is left desperately seeking a way to remain alive, free, and operational long enough to participate in the war’s final operations…

I give this book 8.5 out of 10. While the opening makes it clear that Kaneshiro survives and anyone who reads the series knows the outcome of the war due to this being the third book telling the story of the conflict from different perspectives, the possible fates of the other team members provide a great deal of tension. Also, I like the characters a lot, though there are a couple that I wish we could have learned more about. And there are a wide variety of crises faced by Kaneshiro both before and after she rejoins the military. However having a single point-of-view character is also a weakness in my opinion because there were several points, especially late in the story, where I wished I could see what was happening away from Kaneshiro.  




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