Shadows by Christi J. Whitney
Traitor by Nicole Conway
PRIORITIZATION. It’s DAMN hard. Seriously.
Work is easy. I got emails that flood my inbox that drive my priorities for the day. Then, I have the major projects I have dedicated myself too that fight for priority in my life. I have coworkers that come to my cube insisting that they are the highest priority. (Of course you are!). But, what about my personal life? Work always dominates because it pays the bills. I HAVE to manage my job well else there will be dire consequences and Mommy could lose her house.
Keep House – Priority Number one.
So, how do I get my personal priorities arranged so they are not forgotten and buried under the impending doom of lack of source of income?
Sometimes, I believe that having kids makes it a little easier to NOT be a workaholic. I guess I was a parentaholic. Constantly researching better ways to…
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Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno
Discolsure: If you don’t like Star Wars and aren’t familiar with its basic timeline, this review won’t matter to you. This is a book that you’d only be picking up if you’re already a fan of the greater Star Wars EU.
This book takes place an undetermined time after Revenge of the Sith, but while there are still Separatist forces in great enough number to cause problems for the Emperor (he hasn’t dissolved the Senate yet). The focus of the book, as the name suggests, is Moff Wilhuff Tarkin (learning characters first names–a joy of Star Wars EU). For those of you going ‘who the eff is Tarkin…what did he do again?’ let me refresh your memory with a picture:
The emperor is looking for ‘a commander with the will to be as merciless as he [the Emperor] is’, and in Tarkin, he’s found his man. The book starts off with Tarkin designing his signature uniform when his secret weapons base (negative guesses as to what secret weapon he’s building) is attacked. The attack involves a fake HoloNet transmission, which reminds Tarkin of the time he dealt with Count Dooku and his hacking of the HoloNet feeds.
The real joy in this book is learning about Tarkin’s childhood on his home Outer Rim planet of Eriadu; the Tarkins were one of the first settling families of the hostile planet, but grew wealthy after Eriadu became a major exporter of lommite. Tarkin grows up in a wealthy, patrician branch of the family, but he’s not spoiled or treated softly by his parents. His parents tell him that someday, he’ll have to go out to the Carrion Spike, and young Tarkin doesn’t know what this means, but he builds himself a special vest in hopes it’ll help him survive. One day, his uncle Jova, a hunter and frontiers man, comes to take Tarkin to the Carrion, which is a massive mesa/savannah on the vast expanse of Tarkin land on Eriadu. Years later, the final test is for Tarkin to climb and spend a night on top of The Carrion Spike, and the experience is so pivotal to him that he names his ship The Carrion Spike in its memory.
The main plot involves said ship (The Carrion Spike) being stolen by a group of rebel shipjackers; this book is clearly designed to tie into the new Rebels series, and I’m wondering if we won’t see a particular character from the shipjacking crew pop up later. The shipjackers are a sympathetic band of characters, and I found myself genuinely curious to see if they could outwit Tarkin and for how long. Tarkin is a Magnificent Bastard, and the more the shipjackers push him, the more of his cleverness he has to use to subdue them. That means that the real winner in all of this is you, the reader, because the plot becomes seriously fun.
There’s also a large section where we’re treated to a Dark Side buddy cop drama between Vadar and Tarkin, and don’t tell me that doesn’t want to make you read this book because then you’d be a liar. The Emperor, as he does, manipulates the situation because he needs Vadar and Tarkin to work together to make his fledgling Empire powerful and terrifying. While the Emperor is plumbing the depths of Sith power in his newly excavated Sith shrine, Tarkin and Vadar are tasked with figuring out who attacked Tarkin’s weapons base; it becomes clear during this part that there’s a mole in the Imperial forces, but that plot is for the end of the book as this is also when the shipjackers take Tarkin’s ship.
The strength of this novel is that it weaves the plot with Tarkin’s past on Eriadu. What Tarkin did to survive with his uncle, Jova, on the plains shaped him into the ruthless man he later became. He tells Jova that he carries his time on the Carrion with him wherever he goes; he never really left the Savannah. Tarkin is a social Darwinist, and there’s literally a chapter labeled ‘Red, In Tooth and Claw’. Tarkin believes that those who aren’t the predators are the prey; there are the rulers and those who must be subjugated. It’s not a pretty philosophy, but it’s genuine and explains why someone who wasn’t a Sith would sincerely work for the Empire. Maybe it’s because I just watched Ken Burns’s Roosevelt documentary, but Tarkin reminds me a lot of Teddy Roosevelt and the type of opinions on imperialism held by him and many well-to-do and wealthy men of the late 19th and early 20th century. (The documentary also mentions the red-in-tooth-and-claw line, too, which is what made me make the connection.) It’s valuable to note that the ideas behind Social Darwinism are racist and were used to justify many terrible crimes, and despite how fascinated we might be with someone like Tarkin–with his successes and his cunning–we’re ultimately reminded that it’s this philosophy that imperialism is built upon. Tarkin is akin to a Dark Side Walter White in that way; he does everything for himself, for his beliefs, and he likes upholding what he believes is the ultimate order of the universe.
- There is clearly a character who is being introduced in this novel for the Rebels series. Being that I liked the character, that might not be a bad thing.
- Lots of scenes between the Emperor, Vadar, and Tarkin. Get your fill, villain love-to-haters.
- My mind glazed over at any technical terms, but there aren’t so many that they get in the way of the story.
- The frontier aspect of the Carrion made me want to go back to the Badlands SO MUCH. I mean, between that the The Roosevelts, I seriously started to think how much time I would have to drive out there again this spring.
- The parts about Tarkin living on the Carrion were my favorite in the novel, for sure. Those of you who like a more Western feel to your Space Operas should like these parts, too.
Read if: You like your Star Wars villains. The book does reference The Clone Wars a lot, but I’m fine with this because Clone Wars is my favorite piece of Star Wars media. It’s a smart move for this story to cling so closely to it and the characterizations developed there. Tarkin’s life philosophy is well-done, too, and the hunt for the shipjackers is exciting.
Beware if: You don’t like the EU, I guess. I mean, if you’re reading this review, I’m assuming you do like the EU; if you’re chill with cheering for the empire a bit, or even in understanding their psychology, just read this.
Rating: 5. This is all for you, Star Wars villain fans. It’s a good read that delves into the workings of the Empire and it’s most famous Moff.
The Union by T.H. Hernandez
Today we have a cover reveal for T. H. Hernandez, and it has this V for Vendetta aesthetic that I like. Check it out—and make sure to read the excerpt, too.
Title: The Union
Author: T.H. Hernandez
Release Day: November 18, 2014
After global warming and a second civil war devastated the former United States, two different societies rose from the ashes – the Union, a towering high-tech utopia, hugging the perimeter of the continent, and the devastated, untamed midsection known as the Ruins.
Seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor has an easy, privileged life in the Union. What she doesn’t have is any idea what to do with the rest of her life. She only knows she wants to do something meaningful, to make a difference in the lives of others.
When she’s kidnapped and taken into the Ruins as a pawn in a dispute involving her boyfriend, Bryce, her ideal world is turned upside down. What she learns while in the Ruins shakes her faith in everything she’s ever known, from Bryce, to her family, and even the Union itself.
Now Evan must choose whether to stay with Cyrus, the sexy, resourceful survivor who believes she’s in the Ruins for a reason, or return to the only life she’s ever known. But when she stumbles upon a dangerous plot that threatens both worlds, her decision could tear her apart.
When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside my head, I live in San Diego, California, with one husband, three children, two cats, and one dog. In addition to my day job as a technical writer and editor, I write young adult fiction. I love the intensity of teen emotions and the way they’re still figuring out life.
When I’m not writing, you can find me with my nose in a book, hanging out with family and friends, hiking, or knitting. I’m obsessed with Facebook, young adult novels, bad lip reading videos, pumpkin spice lattes, microbrewed beers, and the San Diego Chargers.
Once the sun rises, I can make out trees in the distance. Real trees with leaves, which means there must be water nearby. I’m not sure Ruins water is safe to drink, but I do know I’ll die if I don’t drink something.
Even though I’ve been walking for hours, the trees don’t seem to be getting any closer. My legs have taken on a sponge-like quality and I stumble, but manage to stay upright. If I fall, I may never get up again.
I’m almost to the trees. They’re only a little farther now.
There’s no water here. How can there be trees without water?
Despair overtakes me and I drop down, pounding my fists on the barren ground. I stuff a soft green leaf in my mouth, seeking moisture, but my mouth is so dry, I gag on the pieces, tearing my throat like shards of broken glass.
My head spins as I lie on my back and struggle to form coherent thoughts. I take a deep breath and tell myself to think. Think is such a strange word. Think, think, think. It doesn’t even sound English.
Shaking my head to clear my mind, I try to pull myself together, remembering where I am and forcing myself to focus on my immediate situation. What do the Buddhists call it? Being mindful.
My brain works to form rational thoughts, but there’s nothing rational about this. I left home to find my place in the world, is this really where my search was supposed to lead me? It’s more like a cruel joke. If I was on a date with destiny, it just took a bizarre turn into a twisted ending I never saw coming.
God, if only I hadn’t gone to the park that night, none of this would’ve happened. I begin to cry. For my family and friends who will never know what happened to me, and for me. I’m not ready to die, I’m only 17.
I can’t help wondering if I would have spent so much time agonizing over my future if I’d known I’d be dead so soon. If I’d known, maybe I’d have done everything differently. Now I know my future. My life ends here. Alone. In the Ruins.
Fade (The Ragnarok Prophesies) By A.K. Morgen
A struggling young woman searching for meaning in her life, a tragic family event, a mysterious man…this story starts off with all the paranormal fantasy hallmarks. The main character Arionna reminded me of Elena from the first season of the Vampire Diaries when she was introduced; this is not a bad thing. Remember how you used to care about Elena? Back in the day when she had agency and choices? Me, too. If you liked that version of Elena, Arionna is the protagonist for you. Arionna cares a lot about her dad and friends. That said, Arionna falls into the trope of lost-little paranormal heroine once and a while; the bonus is she doesn’t need constant saving, so that’s a thing.
On her first day at school, Arionna meets Dace, a mysterious man with something dark inside him. It’s not love at first sight—more accurately lust at first sight. This is not a meet-cute; this isn’t going to be a sweet romance filled with sighing and love notes. These two want each other in a physical way. The romance element picks up quickly, so there’s no will-they-won’t-they time wasted. (Hint: they definitely will, but there are some trust issues in the way.)
The murder mystery mid-book was a pleasant surprise; it takes the story in a slightly different direction than I was expecting it to go in. The side characters (the triplets, Mandy, Ronan) didn’t annoy me, but the death of a character gives weight to their characters. There’s also a genuine question about why that particular character was murdered, and that event kicks of the major mythology plot of the book, which is a modern weaving of the Norse end-of-days.
The mythology about the Berserkers is interesting, and it’s fresh enough that it works, continuing to build and build until the climax. I wasn’t super crazy about Dace being an Alpha, but the saving grace of this book’s mythos is that it doesn’t dwell on anything too long for it to get annoying. Instead, more layers of myth are revealed. The story is set in a world where mythology kitchen sink exists; as an urban fantasy fan, bring it (love this trope). I was a bit disappointed at the mythology drop about Gage; I wish the reveal would’ve been, well, cooler. However, the author saves the best myth reveal for the end of the novel with Ronan.
A personal pet peeve did crop up in this story for me, which kept me from loving it. The characters comment on how weird or special they are. It’s not just with one or two characters, but every single character is ‘an unusual girl’ or ‘attracts weird things.’ That put me into auto-pilot through a chunk of this story. If the character is special, I should be able to tell that without every conversation being about how unique said character is. Dace is a Berserker; Arionna has a connection to the Berserkers that doesn’t become clear until later in the novel. However, the reveals themselves are satisfying. Both of these things didn’t need to be dressed up by having the characters waste time telling each other how different and unique they were.
- Parents hiring professional bartenders. That made me laugh out loud. Does that happen at small colleges in the US? As far as I know, that’s never been a thing.
- A large number of shout-outs in the naming of characters (Dace, Michealsons, Edwards, Jacobs…you get the idea).
Read if: it’s romance you want. This is the major focus of the book. Also, if you like NA (contemporary) reimaginings of mythology, this is a go, but it’s a darker reimagining and is definitely an NA book when Dace and Arionna’s relationship progresses. This book also has some twists in the mythology reveals that give the romance element a larger meaning.
Beware if: you don’t like the general set-up of paranormal books. My warning about characters goes double here, I think.
Rating: 3.5 – the beginning of the book is closer to a 3, but the mythology reveals elevates the later half to a 4.
God’s Play is out today! If you like urban fantasy with a wry sense of humor, check it out. I’ll post more about the book and inspirations for it as time goes on, but for now, here it is, in all it’s weird, dark glory.
Sixteen-year old Toby was trained by a family of hunters to kill shape-shifters—but he has a unique weapon in his arsenal. With a touch of his hand, Toby can lift the magical protection shape-shifters use to disguise themselves as human. It’s an unusual skill for a hunter, and he prefers to kill monsters the old-fashioned way: with a blade.
Because of his special skill, Toby suspects he may be a monster himself. His suspicions deepen when William, a jackal-headed shape-shifter, saves him from an ambush where Toby’s the only survivor. And Toby doubts William helped him for purely altruistic reasons. With his list of allies running thin, Toby must reconcile his hatred of shifters and the damning truth that one saved his life. It’ll take both of them to track down the monster who ordered the ambush.
And Toby needs his unlikely alley because he has a vicious enemy—the infamous Circe, who has a vendetta to settle against the hunters. Toby has to unravel the mystery of his dual nature. And he has to do it on the run—before Circe finds him and twists him to her own ends.