Wednesday, November 7, 2018

James Review -- The Gods of Sagittarius

This week I decided to review The Gods of Sagittarius by Eric Flint and Mike Resnick. 

The story begins with two main plotlines that eventually meet and join. One begins with security specialist Russell Tabor being assigned to guard absent genius Rupert Shenoy. Shenoy is one of humanity’s greatest minds able to develop revolutionary idea but in some moments but he is quite literally capable of forgetting where he lives over the course of a day as well. Shenoy wishes to journey to the planet Cthulhu in an attempt to research the Old Ones, incredibly ancient and powerful aliens that he believes once ruled much of the galaxy or universe.

However, the journey does not start smoothly. First, the party’s ship refuses to activate after being told that the group wants to travel to Cthulhu. Then Andrea Melander, one of Shenoy’s aides, is stricken by an unidentifiable medical condition. Eventually, the party manages to reach Cthulhu where they travel to the planet’s primary human habitation, a prison. There they review security footage of an incident where something invisible killed and ate three prisoners. After this, the party begins searching for more clues but Basil Stone, Shenoy’s only remaining assistant, is struck down by an unknown force, but Shenoy finds a clue that makes him believe that either the secrets to the magic of the Old Ones or the Old Ones themselves can be found on the planet Cornwallis IV otherwise known as Chuxthimazi.
There they make contact with the native inhabitants Paskapa who quickly live up to their name by chagrining exorbitant fees for anything. While there, Tabor gets into a fight with police while defending Shenoy whom the police were planning to calm via beating with clubs. He finds himself thrown in a cell with Jaemu, a murderer belonging to the Vitunpelay species, who claims to have information on the Old Ones. The two forge an alliance to escape prison then set out to find Shenoy. Jaemu reveals that there is something linked to the Old Ones in the highly militaristic Mank Empire.

The second plotline follows Occo, a shaman of the Nac Zhe Anglan and her familiar Bresk. The Nac Zhe Anglan include a number of religious creeds with the differences in beliefs usually tied to whether the Old Ones were good or evil and their fates during an ancient war with an evil force. Occo finds the home cloister of her creed destroyed, and after examining the site, she determines that the attackers were either using Old One weaponry or a close copy. She declares herself a Gadrax, a form of quasi-legal outlaw unrestrained by many of the restrictions imposed on all her people’s creeds, seeking vengeance. She gains permission from the Envacht Lu, the order responsible for punishing the story from being creeds that violate the Dessetrai Pact, laws designed to prevent surviving Old Ones, or survivors of their destroyers, from discovering Nac Zhe Anglan as well as defending the Nac Zhe Anglan from hostile species, as long as she provides progress reports on her quest when able to do so.
The first step of her plan is to seize the Warlock Variation Drive, an Old One artifact held in a well- guarded storehouse of such artifacts belonging to another cloister. She pretends to join a highly dangerous religious rite occurring nearby, deliberately wrecking her ship then crashing into the storehouse. Once inside, she finds the drive, an organism rather than a device. It displaces her into a number of increasingly dangerous predicaments before she somewhat masters its use. Eventually, her journey takes her to Cthulhu then to the Mank Empire.

After the parties join forces, they must still face the defenses of the Old One Depository, whatever is inside, and the Morganites, charlatans secretly the power behind the Mank Empire who have long sought beings to brave the depository for them.

I give this book 7 out of 10. It has some great world-building and interesting characters and situations, but there are also some parts that are very slow. Also, I wish the conclusion felt more like an ending instead of seeming like just an opening chapter to a bigger story. Finally, the story needs some battle sequences badly. There were lots of interesting puzzles faced by the characters, sure, but I feel like a good fight or two would have stopped the story from feeling so boring at times.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

James Review Enderverse: Children of the Fleet

This week I decided to review Enderverse: Children of the Fleet by Orson Scott Card. 

The story is set after the end of the Third Formic War. Dabeet Ochoa is a young genius who never knew his father. However, he is told by his mother that his father was an officer of the International Fleet. He sends every form of application he can to get into Fleet School, formerly Battle School, which now trains children to lead colonization missions and scouting expeditions rather than training them to command war fleets.

After the applications are sent, Ochoa finds himself being interviewed personally by Hyrum Graff, once head of Battle School and currently the Minister of Colonization. During the interview, Graff reveals that the woman who raised Ochoa is not actually his biological mother which leaves the young man reeling. And shortly after the interview, Ochoa is kidnapped by a group representing an unknown nation. The international peace caused by the Formic threat is fraying rapidly in the aftermath of their eradication, and Ochoa convinces the men holding him that the best way to fulfill their goal of getting the International Fleet to intervene to end fighting on Earth is to let him go so he can help them raid Fleet School.

His captors agree but make it clear they will retaliate against his foster mother if he fails to aid them. After arriving at Fleet School, Ochoa holds himself aloof from the other students, and many dislike him because almost all of the other students had space experience prior to Fleet School which they feel make him a liability since he does not. However, Ochoa soon discovers that pieces of the refurbished Battle Room walls can be removed. He begins working on making structures from these pieces, but the process takes too long to be useful during Battle Room exercises with just one person. Zhang He, another student, notices Ochoa’s actions and becomes intrigued, offering to help him. When this doesn’t cut construction time enough, Zhang sets out to recruit a small band of students. However, eventually Ochoa receives word that the attack is coming, and after revealing the truth to the rest of the construction band, they set out in a desperate attempt to stop the assault.

The book also includes sections containing IM style chats regarding events in the story and essays submitted as assignments in the school.
I give the book 8.5 out of 10. I liked a lot of the new characters and thought the essay sections helped readers know more about the mindsets of the students involved. Also, I liked a deeper look into the motivations of the attack on Fleet School and what happened on Earth after the alien threat was ended. However, I felt the "Ochoa’s father’s true identity" twist was a little too predictable and that the story really needed more action sequences. Finally, there were multiple points where the synopsis on the back of the book contained false information, and I really hate when books are published without such mistakes being found and fixed.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

James Review -- Vicky Peterwald: Dominator

This week I decided to review Vicky Peterwald: Dominator by Mike Shepherd. 

The story begins with the protagonist en route to her wedding, which goes well despite an assassination attempt during the journey. However, Vicky’s father fails to attend, and intelligence soon indicates that he has been left penniless by the manipulations of the Bowlingame family, which Vicky’s dead and wicked stepmother belonged to.

Vicky leads a fleet to Greenfield, the capital of the section of the empire officially ruled by her father but now ruled by the Bowlingames. Vicky knows instantly that the message explaining why her father is unavailable is a lie, because he is supposedly hunting bears in an area where the breed of bear in question no longer lives. She leads a team to her father’s incomplete palace to find that not only is the structure unfinished, but electrical service has been discontinued in the depths of a harsh winter. Emperor Peterwald isn’t there, but three cooks who are the last loyal members of his staff and whom Vicky considers to be her aunts are there. The cooks are rescued, then Vicky launches raids against the homes on the various high-ranking members of the Bowlingame family on the world. Emperor Peterwald is rescued, but he is on the verge of starvation due to the shortage, and low quality, of the food provided for him and his loyal staff members, and it is unknown if he will ever fully recover.

Soon after the fleet returns to Vicky’s territory, a fleet loyal to the Bowlingames raids a small world loyal to Vicky, and in response, Vicky’s forces begin a counteroffensive. Their first target is the world of Dresden. When they arrive, Vicky’s forces find the High Dresden space station seeded with an array of boobytraps. And even when the traps are bypassed, the Bowlingame forces reveal that much of the planet’s civilian population has been taken hostage and surrounded with a variety of explosives.

Using a storm system as cover, Vicky’s forces land a strike force including the Grand Duchess herself. However, they soon find a badly-damaged bridge which will allow only a small team to pass, a team that must include Vicky because her computer Maggie is the best hope of safely disarming the bombs around the hostages. And in the end, Vicky’s team finds themselves in a desperate battle against overwhelming odds with the fates of the hostages on the line…

Also, throughout the story, Vicky and her computer Maggie face a number of struggles tied to Maggie's growing self-awareness, including a tragedy when Maggie’s plan to intercept an enemy missile salvo destroys a number of friendly small craft.

I give this book 8 out of 10. It has a number of interesting planning sequences, and I like the issues Vicky and Maggie face regarding Maggie’s growing sentience a lot. The main problem I have is that space combat has always been one of the author’s strongest areas in my opinion, but there is almost no space combat in this book. The missile attack I mentioned above is pretty much it, and the author could have easily fit a few more small space battle scenes in without disrupting the book’s plot.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Author Interview -- Sarah Kuhn

Today I have the honor of interviewing one of my favorite authors. A while back I reviewed Sarah Kuhn's novel Heroine Complex (see here for my review) and got hooked on the Asian girl power F-bombs. With three books in the series and even more awesomeness on the way, Ms. Kuhn is definitely on a roll. Lucky for us, she had time to answer a few burning questions.

How would you describe your writing to a newb?

Superheroine-powered romance-fantasy that’s as fun and vibrant and candy-colored as Jason Chan’s beautiful covers for the HEROINE series. (That’s what I’m always trying to live up to, anyway.) Packed with feels of all kinds. Spotlighting women of color getting to have fun and adventure and happy endings.

Where did the idea for Heroine Complex come from?

I grew up on a steady diet of superhero comics and I particularly loved the X-Men, because they always spend an excessive amount of time talking about their feelings, even when—especially when!—the world needs saving. I always wondered, though, who was doing all the behind-the-scenes dirty work—taking costumes to the dry cleaners, updating the social media, cleaning up all the superpowered messes left behind. I thought it would be fun to write about the person who has to do all that, the beleaguered PA to superheroes. That’s how I found Evie Tanaka, superheroine PA extraordinaire, who stars in the first book. And then all her friends wanted their own stories, too.

Who are your female role models?

Way too many to list here, but my biggest role models are my girl gangs, all the wonderful women I’m close to. When everything else in the world seems terrible, being part of those communities has saved my life.

Heroine Complex is told from Evie's POV. Why did you change to Annie's POV for Heroine Worship?

In the first draft of the book, Aveda was more of a one-note diva — she was really awful to Evie, and one of my editor’s first notes was that she didn’t really understand why they were friends in the first place. I had to go back and really explore that question, and that’s how I got into the deeper nuances of their relationships — how Aveda had really always been there to save Evie and they’d developed this not-very-healthy codependent relationship they needed to fix. It made me really feel for Aveda, to realize that everything she was doing stemmed from her ultra perfectionist nature and her fear of failure and of being alone. She became real to me through that process, so of course that made me want to her explore her story. (Plus, I really wanted to show how she and Scott finally got together!)

Which of your characters do you identify with most?

I always identify the most with whoever I’m writing at the time. When I wrote Evie, I felt her need for control and the tentative unleashing of her allowing herself to really want things. With Aveda, I felt that perfectionist nature and fear of messing up deep in my bones. And with Bea, I felt her need for whimsy and excitement and the deep grief she was trying to run away from. I think I have to connect to each character that deeply in order to write them well.

Have you written anything you wish more people would notice?

I have written a few tweets that I feel were very underrated.

What can a hungry writer do to get exposure?

I don’t think there’s any magic answer to that — except just write. Finish something. Start the next thing. Try different things. In any creative industry, we feel like we have control over so little — but as long as you’re writing, you’re steering the ship. (This sentence sounded good when I started writing it, and now I’m like, what? What does that mean?? But see, I can write another sentence — I’m steering the ship!)

Which of the superpowers in your stories would you most want to have? Say, the super handy GPS power?

That would come in extremely handy in LA, but my original dream power was shooting fire out of my hands, so I still kind of want Evie’s. (Probably no one else wants me to have this power, though.)


Saturday, September 29, 2018

James Review -- Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover

This week I decided to review Spider-man: Hostile Takeover by David Liss. 

The story begins shortly after Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin, returns to New York claiming to have reformed into a benevolent philanthropist. While roaming the city, Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man, hears of a robbery at a Snake store and moves to intervene. He captures the thief, a young man named Andy. To convince Spider-man to let him go, Andy tells Parker of a supervillain active at a nearby construction site. Parker arrives at the site and defeats a handful of thugs but is ambushed by a new enemy able to match both his moves and his abilities.

Parker returns to Andy to find the would-be thief dead and is soon confronted by police lieutenant Yuri Watanabe who reveals that Andy had been murdered by a impostor Spider-Man, known to be an impostor due to slight errors in his costume. Watanabe also reveals that the construction site Spider-Man was ambushed at secretly belongs to Fisk, and Watanabe, who also wishes to bring Fisk down, forms a secret alliance with Parker.
Soon after this, the fake Spider-Man begins a series of actions designed to ruin Spider-Man’s reputation. And the conflict becomes more personal when one of these incidents leads to the death of Anika Adhikari, a young woman who had recently started working at the same research lab as Parker. Eventually, Parker and Watanabe realize that the fake Spider-man is just a diversion meant to distract Parker while Fisk makes his bid to become New York City’s Commissioner of Finance, a position that would let him cripple the city’s economy if angered or threatened, and the race to find a way to stop him is on.

Meanwhile, Maya Lopez, Fisk’s foster daughter who believes that Spider-Man had murdered her father years earlier, sets out to claim her vengeance. Her combat abilities, combined with years of studying Spider-Man make her just as dangerous as the impostor. And soon Parker is desperately struggling to find a way to convince her of his innocence before its too late…
I give this book 9.5 out of 10. It has a very interesting story and I enjoyed the battle sequences and the investigation plotline. However, there are a few areas that I felt needed more detail. Also, I question the necessity of killing Anika Adhikari. Sure, it gave Spider-man more motivation to hunt down the impostor, but I think he already had plenty of reason to go after him, and until she was killed, Adhikari had potential for interesting plotlines in future material.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

James Review -- Peacekeeper: A Peace Divided

This week I decided to review Peacekeeper: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff. 

When the story begins, former Confederation Gunnery Sargent Torin Korr is leading one of the Confederation Justice Department’s new strike teams, elite units formed to deal with the threat posed by armed criminals and former soldiers turning to crime in the aftermath of the war between the Confederation and the Primacy. During a raid on a group of arms dealers, however, Kerr’s team finds a pistol. Due to how easy they are to conceal, handguns are banned by the Confederation to the point of attempting to wipe all knowledge of how to create them from member civilizations. Investigating the weapon soon leads to a theory that one of the Confederation’s largest weapons manufacturers may be linked to a human supremacist group plotting to seize power from the Elder Races that lead the Confederation.

Meanwhile an archaeological team on planet 33X73, a restricted world, is studying a long-fallen civilization and finds plastic in a latrine despite this civilization apparently never having developed plastic. This leads to rumors that the plastic is in fact the corpse of one of the bioplastic beings responsible for the war between the Confederation and the Primacy, and soon a group of attackers arrives to force the archaeologists to find and hand over the rumored anti-plastic weapon even though no such weapon has been proven to exist.
Kerr’s strike team is sent to rescue the surviving scientists, but due to the presence of Primacy members among the hostile force, this mission becomes the first planned joint operation combining Confederation and Primacy forces. On top of the difficulties in merging soldiers from two distinct-- and recently opposing--forces into one, it is soon revealed that one of the Primacy team members has kin among the attackers. Matters become worse when one of the Primacy soldiers is captured, mistaken for another who the attackers believe can aid their mission. And during the desperate mission to free the prisoners the true secrets of 33X73 will be discovered…

I give this book 7 out of 10. I like the characters and the overall story, but there are many sections I wish had been covered in more detail, and I would have liked to learn more about the Primacy’s culture. Also, I feel the Confederation handgun ban and its apparent effectiveness are so absurdly unrealistic that it utterly cripples my ability to suspend disbelief. Even if all legal handguns were banned, as long as there is any gun manufacturing industry, it is far too easy to make the jump from other guns to handguns for such a ban to be even remotely effective, or worth the effort, to attempt to enforce in my opinion.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Game Called Revolution Free this Week

The first book in my first series is available for free on Kindle this week. Until 9/22, to be exact. Join Jeanne de Fleur and the knights of the Ordre as they fight to protect France from an evil conspiracy.

Monday, September 10, 2018

James Review -- Kris Longknife: Commanding

This week I decided to review Kris Longknife: Commanding by Mike Shepherd. 

The story begins with the execution of the rebel leaders captured at the end of the previous book. Kris Longknife then shifts her attention to the ongoing Iteeche civil war. Even as she struggles to recruit new ships for her fleet and training crews, she also works to find a way to minimize bloodshed in a culture where civil wars have led to the mass slaughter of civilians for thousands of years. She must also find ways to change many other traditions and attitudes that have stood for ten millennia.

After laying her plans, she launches an attack on Zargoth, the system that served as the staging area for the recent rebel attack on the Imperial capital. After easily securing space around the rebel world, she sends her aide and distant relative Megan Longknife to launch an operation against the bunkers used by the world’s leadership. After defeating the various security measures and eliminating the rebel leadership, efforts to secure the world and rebuild its infrastructure begin, but soon the efforts face sabotage from rebel loyalists that threaten to leave millions of Iteeche civilians without access to food supplies and basic services.
After Zargoth is secure, the combined Human/Imperial loyalist fleet moves on to their objective: an assault aimed as the first strike of a campaign against the rebellion’s major battlecruiser production centers. The offensive begins with an attack against the production center furthest from the imperial capital, but rather than finding the hoped-for lightly guarded system, Longknife’s fleet finds itself facing thousands of rebel warships…

I give this book 9 out of 10. The climatic battle was great. Also, I greatly enjoyed the deeper look into Iteeche culture and how it affected, aka hindered, their military as well as a peek into the mindset of some of the rebels. My main issue is that the look into the rebel point of view came too late. Basically, for the most part, you only see points of view for rebel characters in the final battle, and I feel adding some more into the Zargoth sequence would have been very interesting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Aragami now Available on Nook and Kobo

Pretty self-explanatory, but yeah. You can now get Aragami on Nook and Kobo, meaning the entire Divine Protector series is available on those platforms. Discover Serika's deadly agenda today!

Friday, August 31, 2018


I'm pleased to announce my Divine Protector books are now available on Kobo. This is big news because of Kobo and Wal-Mart's new alliance. These are the first four books in the series. I'm still working on getting Aragami onto more platforms; that should happen very soon.

Some of you may be wondering what happened to James and why he hasn't posted in a while. Well, his computer died, so he's been unable to do reviews. We're hoping to get a new laptop for him tomorrow, so hopefully he'll be back within a week or so.

In other pseudo-news, I'm debating whether to take my Infini Calendar books off KDP Select and put them onto other platforms. Leave a comment if you want to see that happen.

Also, my next novel, Return of the Nine, is coming along nicely and shaping up for an early 2019 release. This is all subject to change, however, so, you know.. disclaimers.

That's all for now. Keep on reading!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Author Interview -- S.T. Sanchez

Today I'm talking with S.T. Sanchez, author of The Portal Keeper and Sunwalker.

1.)   How would you describe your writing to a newb? 
I write in 3rd POV, but I am toying with the idea of doing a novel in 1st person. I love to write fantasy although I have an idea for a drama and an action adventure, but as much as I would love to jump into the project I have decided to finish the two series I currently have published first.

2.)   What inspired you to write The Portal Keeper?
I have a YA Vampire Trilogy entitled the Sunwalker Trilogy. I have always been fascinated with vampires. However my kids are still on the younger side, and the series is a little bit too intense for them.  My son wanted me to write a story with a dragon in it. I had been toying with the idea of writing a novel with a mystical portal and just jumped in from there.

3.)   Why do you think The Portal Keeper was so easy to write?
I think the instant feedback made this novel easier to write. On my other projects no one sees any of it until I have completed the first draft. But with The Portal Keeper my kids were too excited that I was writing something that they would be able to read. They became my instant beta readers. Constantly hounding me to finish the next chapter. This book became our bedtime story. Their anticipation and excitement was catching and pushed me to write more.

4.)  What's a place in Dallas I absolutely have to visit? I'll go first. You've got to hit up Sushi One at the Plaza of the Americas.
That’s a tough one. Dallas has so many amazing things to offer, especially when it comes to restaurants. Probably my favorite place to go is an Italian place in Allen, a suburb just north of Dallas. It has fantastic food, and I might be a little bias since I met my husband there.  If you ever go, you must order the Stuffed Mushrooms and Chicken Murphy. There is nothing better.

5.)   You have a BA of Arts in Spanish. I've never heard of that. What is it?  I have a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. My husband is from Mexico and I love the people, the culture and the food. So learning Spanish was always a must for me.

6.)   What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Keep writing. Have more than Mom and Dad read your books. Join writing groups and have someone who doesn’t know you read your works. Don’t get discouraged by bad feedback. Look at it and see if its valid and then make changes.  Don’t be afraid of rewrites.

7.)   What made you decide to start a blog?
Honestly, at first because that’s the advice new authors are given. It’s a way to attract new readers. Now I really enjoy getting to know other authors and finding new stories to read that I might not have found before.

8.)  How do you get feedback for your books? Do you have beta readers?
If you don’t have beta readers, I think that you are really putting yourself at a disadvantage. My betas are my salvation. Having several sets of eyes on a draft is crucial. They catch things I don’t see. Help me keep my work consistent and let me know when I am heading in the wrong direction. 

Beta readers can be hard to find. A lot of people have a hard time telling someone what’s wrong. It’s easier to just say everything was great. I only have a small handful of readers who will really dig in and find all my faults.  It can be a little tough to hear at times, some can be a little harsh, but I know my books are better because of them.

S. T. Sanchez - Author
The Portal Keeper

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hell is Everyone but You

My non-genre short story "Hell is Everyone but You" is now available for free on both Kindle and Nook. Everybody please download it to get its ranking up. Ciao!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Until We Break Now Available on Nook

I just added the third book in my Divine Protector series on Nook. With this, only Aragami still needs to be added, but it's only a matter of time. Enjoy!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Incident 27 Now Available on Nook

For you Nook lovers out there, I am proud to announce Incident 27 is now available on that platform. It's the second book in my Divine Protector series, so if you've finished God School, now you can move onto this one. Just head on over and claim your copy today.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

James Review -- Marvel: The Avengers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World

This week I decided to review Marvel: The Avengers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Dan Abnett. 

The story opens with the Avengers, scattered, facing several critical threats at once. In the U.S., Iron Man, eventually reinforced by Vision, faces off with Ultron who is on the verge of reaching a singularity event which will make the rogue AI all but unstoppable and, in desperation, Iron Man orders communications and power grids shut down to try and slow Ultron’s advance. When it seems that Ultron has been driven into hiding, Iron Man and Vision return to Shield’s helicarrier to find and trap their enemy once and for all and to move to assist their allies elsewhere. But they soon find themselves in a new battle as Ultron is, in fact, hiding in apparently dormant nanomachines that it uses to repair and seize control of the Iron Man suit used in the earlier battle.

In Berlin, Hydra attacks a company they had tricked into producing a aerosol dispersal device the company believed would be used for agricultural purposes. Captain America soon responds to the attack and discovers that Hydra actually intends to use the device to spread a fast-acting and highly lethal plague, planning to use the plague and its cure to force the world to surrender. Captain America is disturbed by how rushed, and unlike typical Hydra operations, the plot is but soon finds himself in a race to save Berlin from the plague.

Black Widow and Hawkeye set out to investigate strange readings in the Savage Lands. After their Quinjet is shot down, the pair manages to regroup and fight their way past a group of raptors to find an Advanced Idea Mechanics base where the renegade organization is working to unleash a nanomachine compound into the Earth’s water supply which will allow M.O.D.O.K. to control the minds of humanity.

Bruce Banner finds himself facing a plot by the High Evolutionary to use a modified version of the Gamma Ray Bomb Banner himself developed long ago--to his shame--as part of a plan that will kill most of the human race and leave the survivors as a docile race that will be easy to enslave. But when the High Evolutionary offers new insights into what caused Banner to become the Hulk, as well as a cure for the Hulk condition, Banner finds himself facing the greatest temptation of his life…

Also, a portion of Siberia has been sucked into another dimension along with Thor. Thor soon finds the Scarlet Witch, only to be attacked by his ally, then rescued by the real Scarlet Witch. The impostor is soon revealed to be Dormammu who has summoned the chunk of Earth to be the basis of a spell that will summon the entire world to his dimension, but the spell must be completed within a short time frame, so Scarlet Witch finds herself in a desperate magical contest to repel Dormammu’s attacks long enough to ruin his plot.

Eventually, it is discovered that this rash of plots to conquer the world has been unleashed because some unknown power has informed the villains and villainous organizations that if they don’t conquer the world by a certain time, the outside power will conquer the world instead. This leads to a desperate race to discover who or what is behind this threat as well as to prepare a defense against the coming assault.

I give this book 7.5 out of 10. I like most of the subplots but felt that some aren’t given as much attention as they deserved. The characters are interesting, but there are some Marvel characters that I feel either should have appeared in the book or at the very least had their absence explained, only to barely be mentioned if they are mentioned at all. Also, the climatic battle was far too short for my tastes. And, even worse, there wasn’t nearly enough tension in it in my opinion.

Monday, July 23, 2018

My New YouTube Channel

I've started a new YouTube channel just for videogames. It's called "Gauche Plays" and is sure to be awesome. Check it out at and view the first video below.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

James Review -- Gotham: City of Monsters

This week I decided to review Gotham: City of Monsters by Jason Starr. 

First, a short recap of where things stand in the beginning. Hugo Strange was working on creating a number of superhuman monsters, and many of them managed to escape when Strange’s nuclear last resort was disarmed, and the city has put dead-or-alive bounties on the heads of the escaped monsters. James Gorden killed the murdering mayor of Gotham but has been released from prison and become an anti-monster bounty hunter. Also, Alferd Pennyworth has taken Bruce Wayne to Switzerland because of the monsters running loose in Gotham City.

The story begins with a bank robbery, with Selina Kyle as part of the robber team, that turns bloody with the two monsters on the team lose control and an off-duty cop tries to intervene. James Gorden starts hunting a monster named Nip but soon discovers Nip has a lover named Tuck. He narrowly manages to defeat the couple. Eventually, the story reveals that bank manager Clarissa Morgan was forced to help in the robbery to save her life, and that of her boyfriend Eddy who owes fifty thousand dollars to loan sharks. Morgan meets Gorden, who begins to develop feelings for her, but she soon finds herself on the run when the mastermind controlling the monsters from the robbery unleashes them on their human accomplices, killing Eddy. And soon, Gorden finds himself in a desperate battle as an enemy believed to be dead returns and takes Morgan hostage…

There is also a subplot showing part of Pennyworth and Wayne’s trip to Switzerland. Pennyworth wants to keep his young charge there for safety, but the two soon find themselves fighting for their live when a man with a grudge against Pennyworth from before Pennyworth began working for the Wayne family finds them…

I give this book 8 out of 10. I liked the characterizations a lot but I feel there were places that could left have room for interesting stories in future novels if the author hadn’t ended these threads, and I don’t feel all of these threads ending benefitted the story. Also, the Switzerland plot was far too short for my taste. If it had been longer I think I would have enjoyed it much more, but as it is, the subplot just feels like padding. In my opinion, it had little or no connection to the Gotham City plot, and I don’t think we really needed to see what Pennyworth and Wayne were up to and that their activities could have been left to the mention of them having departed that was in the main story with no harm.

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

James Review -- Destroyermen: Devil’s Due

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

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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.