Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Extremes (Retrieval Artist #2) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

5 stars for Extremes (Retrieval Artist book 2) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Following the wrap up of book 1 The Disappeared, I make a quick grab for the next book in line to find out what the author has in store for readers thereafter. Upon completion of book 2 Extremes, I am extremely happy to say that not only does the story not disappoint, it far exceeds my expectations.

True to her name, the author continues to dazzle me with her excellent world building. The pictures she paints with her words are so vivid and stirring that I feel as if I am one on the Moon itself, watching the events unfold slowly but surely through the eyes of the characters stationed both Inside the artificially maintained dome of Armstrong and Outside of it where every calculated movement requires dexterity to survive the no atmosphere environment. Most dazzling of all, is the way the writer blows life into each of her characters such that they come alive and leap out of the pages one by one. Of all the characters, the two that strike me the most and leave the deepest impression are Miles Flint and Noelle DeRicci.

Miles Flint
Having bought over the business from - a retired Retrieval Artist - Paloma, Miles Flint, an ex-police detective, is now ready to join the ranks of this esoteric group in the art of Retrieving; finding the Disappeared, people who go missing on purpose either to avoid prosecution or death by any one of the fifty alien cultures. So far, Flint is my favourite character and I have a feeling he will rightly remain so for the rest of the series. Not only is he smart, he is amazingly street-smart. He possesses the kind of charm which when mixed with the air of confidence he projects, brings across the assurance that all will be well eventually.

Noelle DeRicci
Her appearance – the way she carries herself – brings to my mind the Chinese proverb "the older the ginger, the hotter the spice". The author has created a resilient character out of DeRicci. She is tough, has a keen sense of vigilance about her and most certainly takes ownership of a logical and analytical mind which converts her observations to admirable deductions. It is very interesting and even amusing at times to see how DeRicci as the older ginger of the two (with new partner Leif van der Ketting) reinforces her spiciness to get her point across and get things moving the way she wants. In contrast, her much younger partner pales in comparison in all manners of handling investigation; he seems to be the epitome of the mistakes rookie detectives tend to make.

To summarize, Book 2 of the Retrieval Artist series moves on with the backdrop where alliances and interstellar commerce between humans and aliens are the reasons the human world is turning upside down. With the belief that it is possible to defend human beings against the aliens, the race to discover the limits of human potential continues on. This time the chase is set in Armstrong, the Moon's main port city where the Moon Marathon, a marathon believed to be for the cream of the crop, or at least the best of those who feel the need to prove their worth, is being held. However, the race to proof that the sky’s the limit slowly turns into a nightmare when the people realise that the real race is but one against time.

Extremes is a masterpiece of a science-fiction fantasy novel; one of the best I have read so far. The story is absolutely captivating with an intensity to match that once I start reading, it is almost next to impossible to tear my eyes away from the story. Only when I reach the last page do I let out a breath which I am not even aware of holding. Thumbs up all the way to the Moon and back.

Publisher: WMG Publishing, Inc.
Publication date: 21 Mar 2011


A Retrieval Artist dies of a virus, yet his colleague, Miles Flint, believes the death is not an accident. Police detective Noelle DeRicci knows that the death of a young woman in the Moon’s prestigious Extreme Marathon is not an accident. It soon becomes clear that both deaths are connected. Flint and DeRicci find themselves in their own race, one against time and a certain kind of madness that could threaten everything they know and love.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: The Disappeared (Retrieval Artist #1) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

4.5 stars for The Disappeared (Retrieval Artist book 1) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

It is hard to come by a science fiction fantasy novel which I am able to enjoy immensely. So you can imagine how pleased I am to have picked this book and the first of a series at that out of my ever growing list of to-be-read. It is with great pleasure as I write my review to share.

Written in third person narration, The Disappeared kicks off in bits and pieces in a world with no obvious linkage to the co-existence of humans and aliens. Fortunately, I do not have to wait for long as the pieces of puzzle fall into place pronto and by the end of chapter 4, about one fifth into the story, I am able to see the dots connecting the overall plot in my mind's eye.

As cryptic as the book title goes, the story tells of the price the humans are paying for interstellar commerce. Trade agreements with aliens across the known worlds have led to some people living on borrowed time, that is until the ghosts of their past resurface to haunt them all over again. These people soon learn that when an ugly past catches up with its owner, be it of one's own makings or otherwise, there is pretty much no choice to be had let alone to choose from.

Set in Armstrong Dome, one of the colonies on Moon, two detectives are hard at work dealing with the various alien cultures that exist in their part of the universe. Miles Flint, newly promoted to detective from space cop, together with his partner, Noelle DeRicci, are dragged into a mystery surrounding space yachts of the same make, model and year arriving on Armstrong Dome with no identification. This enigmatic case is but the tip of the iceberg that leads to a series of investigation that require both detectives to deal with the subtleties of interstellar law and the vast differences between races and cultures, of which at the end of the day, shake the very foundation of their beliefs in the laws they have sworn to uphold.

Smooth flowing and well written, the author pulls off an increasingly intense narrative by weaving skilfully the subplots which not only integrate well into the main plot but are easy to read and understand. Rich is the imagination as the writer introduces not one, not two but three (with a hint of more to come) very different groups of aliens with their unique code of ethics. We have the Disty from Mars, the Rev from Revina/Revnata and the Wygnin from Korsve. I find it relatively easy to relate to the cases these extraterrestrials bring forth against the humans as the ignorance and/or innocence of the parties on the receiving end tug at my heartstrings.

Last but not least, I think Retrieval Artist is a brilliant name for this science fiction series. This is, after all, a story about the art of disappearing without a trace. And where there are disappearance services available, there are bound to be equivalent services rendered of the exact opposite nature.

Publisher: WMG Publishing, Inc.
Publication date: 6 Feb 2011


The Disappeared is Flint’s very first adventure, the story that turns him from a police detective in the Armstrong Dome on the Moon into a Retrieval Artist.

In a universe where humans and aliens have formed a loose government called the Earth Alliance, treaties guarantee that humans are subject to alien laws when on alien soil. But alien laws often make no sense, and the punishments vary from loss of life to loss of a first-born child.

Now three cases have collided: a stolen spaceyacht filled with dead bodies, two kidnapped human children, and a human woman on the run, trying to Disappear to avoid alien prosecution. Flint must enforce the law—giving the children to aliens, solving the murders, and arresting the woman for trying to save her own life. But how is a man supposed to enforce laws that are unjust? How can he sacrifice innocents to a system he’s not sure he believes in? How can Miles Flint do the right thing in a universe where the right thing is very, very wrong?

*Blurb from author's website*

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Review: To the Nines (Stephanie Plum #9) by Janet Evanovich

5 stars for To the Nines (Stephanie Plum book 9) by Janet Evanovich.

Ever since my inter-back-to-back reading of science fiction series, Sirantha Jax and Dock Five Universe, some 2.5 years ago which leads to unnecessary confusion, I try to spread out reading different series of the same genre. This method though simple, does provide reprieve to my brain cells in that it helps to reduce the overloading effect of reading very similar types of stories at one go. Speaking of which, the Plum series make for a good spacing and for the past month or so, I find myself turning it into a fulcrum of sorts, returning ever so often to Stephanie and her story in-between my other readings.

The overall setup in this instalment is one which I have been waiting and hoping for, ever since.. I cannot even remember when. I think I may turn into a giraffe if I am made to wait any longer to see the pairing up of Ranger and Stephanie. Yes, this book sees the duo in action together, finally. Actually to be precise, Ranger is the one who takes up the job offered by Vinnie to find the missing man and Stephanie is conveniently assigned to assist him in the search. But who cares? I am content so long as they work together and get more dialogue going alongside the heightened sexual innuendo.

As much as Stephanie is teamed up with Ranger, she does still go about performing her job by herself with occasional help from partner-in-crime, Lula; except this time, Connie, the office manager, is added to the equation as well. Together, they work hard to apprehend the FTA by contributing to the best of their abilities and unknowingly leave a trail of laughter in their wake. I adore the author's light-hearted and zesty writing style which makes reading the trio in action a real delight.

On top of the above, I also relish the reappearance of Joe Morelli's grandma Bella and her so-called visions. Equally amusing is the way she threatens to place the Italian voodoo, the Eye, on anyone who dares to invoke her wrath.

All things considered, I think most of all, I love the way the author cleverly crafts the strange but seamless dynamics that exists between Morelli, Ranger and Stephanie. When the situation calls for it, these two men willingly put aside all hostility and work as a team to protect the apple of their eye. Yet at the same time, untold rivalry exists between these two alphas as if Stephanie is a mate waiting to be claimed.

Red roses. White carnations. Knockout bodyguards. These pretty much form the framework for Stephanie Plum book 9, To the Nines, a book not to be missed.

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication date: 14 Jun 2004

*** Favourite quote ***

I checked my phone messages. Three in all. The first was from Joe. "Hey, cupcake." That was it. That was the whole message. The second was from Ranger. "Yo." Ranger made Joe look like a chatterbox. The third was a hang-up.

~ To the Nines
Janet Evanovich


Stephanie Plum has a fugitive to find or her whole bonds office is in jeopardy. The trail for the missing FTA leads from the New Jersey Turnpike, to the Las Vegas strip, to a group of killers who are giving new meaning the word “hunter…”

Stephanie could use some backup on this case, but her incredibly hot mentor, Ranger, has been “asked” to never come back to Vegas. And when it comes to her cop boyfriend, Joe Morelli, sometimes it’s better to let what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas.

*Blurb from author's website*

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Review: Hellfire (Theirs Not to Reason Why #3) by Jean Johnson

2 stars for Hellfire (Theirs Not to Reason Why book 3) by Jean Johnson.

Having been transferred to Branch Special Forces, Ia is promoted to Ship's Captain, and now takes command of the Harasser-Class battleship TUPSF Hellfire.

Much as I like to know what best laid plans Ia has in mind to save Planet Earth from going into war with the alien Saliks, I cannot help but call it a day after struggling through 30% of the book, skipping chunks thereafter and jumping right to the last page.

Not only is the story dry and very slow going in this book 3 of the Theirs Not series, it lacks the alluring factor of strategically placed surprise tactics pulled off by a psi protagonist and the adrenaline rush of battle engagements found in the previous 2 books.

Strictly speaking, I should categorise this review under DNF but I think it deserves at least a 2 stars for what is worth my time. However, now I am no longer certain if I should, or want to continue any further with this series.

Publisher: Ace
Publication date: 30 Jul 2013

*** Favourite Quote ***

Straw soldiers who, under her guidance, could be spun into threads of pure gold for the tapestry she needed to weave.

~ Hellfire
Jean Johnson


As captain, Ia must now assemble a crew that can rise to the ultimate challenge of saving the galaxy. The hardest part will be getting them to believe her, to trust in her prophecies. If they don’t, her own crew will end up being the biggest obstacle in her race against time.

The Salik are breaking through the Blockade, plunging the known galaxy into war. Ia cannot stop it this time, nor does she want to. This is the terrible price she has seen all along—that some must pay with their lives so that others might live. Now only time itself can prove whether each member of her crew is merely a soldier or truly one of Ia’s Damned.

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: An Officer's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why #2) by Jean Johnson

3.5 stars for An Officer's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why book 2) by Jean Johnson.

I am glad to have finally finished reading An Officer's Duty, a whopping 448 pages of a book. It feels as if I have been reading this book for weeks on end though it has only been less than ten days since I pick it up. Besides the high wordcount, I guess I am partially responsible for taking longer than my usual time to read a book. Because I am back to playing this fun, highly addictive, action-strategy adventure game, Plant vs. Zombies. And it's edition 2. That said, it is not easy to decide on which, Game or Read, to spend my precious little free time on, not without feeling guilty, somehow or other, for ditching one of them, no matter how temporarily.

Though the pace of this book 2 is slower in comparison to book 1 A Soldier's Duty, on the whole, I have an enjoyable time reading this science fiction fantasy novel, one where the protagonist is gifted with many special talents: telepathy, xenopathy, biokinesis, electrokinesis, pyrokinesis, telekinesis, battlecognition, postcognition and precognition.

Leaving Sanctuary a civilian but returning five years later as Lieutenant second class in the Space Force Marine Corps, the story kicks off with Ia, now 21 years old, on leave to visit her family.

From a quarter to slightly more than half the book, we see Ia transfers her service contract from the Branch Marine Corps to the Branch Navy of the Terran United Planets Space Force and enters the academy for leadership training as an SF-Navy officer. There, Ia meets the bane of her precognitive skills; the one person whose mere existence can possibly undo everything she has been working so hard to save.

Having covered the grounds of family and leadership training for officers-to-be, the rest of the book is dedicated to Ia's service in the blockade patrol combat position aboard starship TUPSF Audie-Murphy.

With the mission to stop the galaxy from extragalactic invasion and destruction centuries from the present, Ia works hard to set up a path of dominos with each to be knocked down at the right time and right place. It is imperative that Ia manipulates all possible scenarios to her advantage, even right down to making sure the correct people are born at the right time, right place and the wrong people are guarded against carefully, such that the outcome is for the greater good of all mankind.

Once again, I like to stress that this series falls under the genre of science fiction fantasy, and a military one at that. If you are out looking for a science fiction romance fantasy, be prepared to be disappointed. Drop the expectation for romance and you will be in for a treat.

Last but not least, I find that this book can be read and enjoyed without having access to the first book. But of course, I will still recommend to start from book 1, A Soldier's Duty in order not to miss out the earlier interesting portion of the series.

Publisher: Ace
Publication date: 31 Jul 2012


Promoted in the field for courage and leadership under fire, Ia is now poised to become an officer in the Space Force Navy—once she undertakes her Academy training. But on a trip back home to Sanctuary, she finds the heavyworld colony being torn apart by religious conflict. Now Ia must prepare her family and followers to secure the galaxy’s survival. Her plan is to command a Blockade Patrol ship. Her goal, to save as many lives as she can. But at the Academy, she discovers an unexpected challenge: the one man who could disrupt those plans. The man whose future she cannot foresee...

*Blurb from Goodreads*

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