Thursday, November 22, 2012

Review: Xterra Series by Ivis Bo Davis

Xterra Conspiracy - Book #1

Synopsis: A scientist discovers that the Earth’s magnetic core is deteriorating and with it, the ability to sustain life. Nations unite to form a single world order under control of the U.N. They come up with a solution, to construct six massive spaceships, a kilometer and a half wide and over a thousand meters tall, fill them with the best and the brightest humanity has to offer and send them into the stars, in hopes of finding a new home for a small portion of humanity.
In an effort to avoiding exporting war to space it was decided the ships would not be equipped with any weapons and no military personal or their families would be allowed to be on them. Todd, a highly intelligent billionaire, who was troubled by dreams of the ship being destroyed because of it lack of weapons, decides that in the interests of humanity he must sneak some on-board in an effort to save the ship. Todd is helped by his best friend Randy.
In the Swiss Alps, a young girl tragically dies in an accident. As her best friend, Angela (who happens to look almost identical to her dead friend) weeps over her body. Angela’s father General Worthington quickly devises a plan for the girls to switch identities, thus allowing his daughter to leave the dying planet.
A secret group that is really controlling the world begins to suspect Todd and will stop at nothing to prevent him from succeeding. But why are they so ruthless? So begins the XTerra Conspiracy.

Review: This book is very highly detailed. The descriptions go on at length and just about every part of the book has these high details. For the most part this is a good thing, as it makes it easy to visualise what is happening and to follow the story. Occasionally it goes on for too long and I found myself wishing it would move on with the story instead of giving me such a lengthy description. One early example of this is that an SS officer reads a report about Todd, we are given the full report (about 5 ½ pages) it probably would have been nicer if we were given a summary by the person reading the report. The details were also too long when characters are recapping events. One example of this is Todd is telling his friend Randy some events that have happened to him; the problem is that as the reader we have only just read about them but we are still given a fairly detailed summary of them.
Finally some of the characters engaged in what I call Star Trek explanations, they will say things (usually scientific explanations) that are solely for the benefit of the reader and in no way a realistic thing a person would say (usually they are telling the person something that they should already know)

The science used in the book is believable and the author obviously has a good scientific mind and has done research prior to writing. I really appreciated that, although it probably should be said that a reader probably needs at least some scientific knowledge to fully enjoy this book. The science fiction tech was pretty high as well and a knowledge and enjoyment of this sort of thing really helps. I liked the fact the author included a list of websites and books for those of us interested in reading more about the technical aspects on which the series is based.

There were a few scientific things I wished were explained, such as why can’t the humans live on Mars? Also (at least according to Todd’s dream) it’s possible to the ship to go so fast that it’s not able to see a massive asteroid belt in time to avoid it, this seems to be unlikely due to how dangerous it would be.
Although it happened later on, it seemed odd that there weren’t any protests that only a select group of highly intelligent people were allowed onto the ships. I was glad that a deeper explanation of why there were no weapons onboard was given, as that while a nice idea it just seemed too risky not arming humanities last hope.

The story is really good, I loved seeing how Todd’s plan came together and reading about the secret governments plans to stop him. It was very nice reading about very early stages of true space flight, something rarely tackled in sci-fi. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the series to see what happens to the ships and what they encounter on their journey.

The characters are very good, Todd reminded me some what of Artemis Fowl, he is very intelligent and does a good job of planning ahead and avoiding the law, while often being underestimated by adults. I really enjoyed the dynamic between him and Randy; it was both enjoyable and realistic.
The rest of the cast all are interesting with great personalities, Sandra Koenig the SS agent heading the investigating was a particular highlight. As well as most of the main cast being excellent characters, most minor characters have strong and interesting personalities even if they only appear for a few pages.

There were a few spelling and grammatical errors, not enough to detract from the book but enough to be noticeable.

Finally I love the cover art on this book, it’s beautiful!

Overall I REALLY enjoyed this book; the characters and story are awesome. For the most part I appreciated the author’s high use of science, technology and the highly detailed descriptions, although occasionally I felt they dragged on a little too much and I wanted it to get back to the story. I will be defiantly reading the rest of this series.

Thank you to Ivis Bo Davis for sending me this awesome book, and a big thank you for signing it as well.

rated: 4 

Review: In full disclosure I won the first book in this series in a Goodreads Giveaway.

Xterra Escape - Book #2

Synopsis: Todd and his friends are now in space aboard their shuttles after managing to out run the SS. The Ark is almost complete and close to launch. All is not well however, the group discovers that the Bank has secretly created a base on Jupiter and is building war ships, with orders to pursue the Ark to ensure it stays under their control, if they are unable to do so the warship will destroy the unarmed Ark. Troubles on Earth are escalating and it’s only a matter of time until Iraq launches it’s newly acquired nuke, but what will it’s target be?
Will our heroes and the humans on the Ark be able to escape the Bank, SS, Earth and all its troubles?

Review: In full disclosure I won the first book in this series in a Goodreads Giveaway.

WOW this book is amazing, it was even better than the first book (which was also amazing). I loved just about everything about it. It is easily five stars, in fact I was only about a third of the way through the book and already knew that it was going to get five stars. It’s a shame its publishing date fell just outside of the deadline date for the 2012 Goodreads Choice Award or I would have been nominating it for that.

The book starts off with some nice reminders of what happened in the first book, enough to remind the reader if it has been a while since they read it, but not so much that it takes up too much time. It is also told in a natural conversational way making it easier to read.

Once again there is plenty of science and technology used in this book. The author clearly knows what he is writing about and has done plenty of research to make the science-fiction in his book believable. A good understanding of both real world science and science-fiction will greatly help a reader understand and appreciate this series but it’s probably not essential since the author does a great job of explaining things. I like how the author includes the sources for his book.
I especially enjoyed how the author explains how the spaceships deal with rapid acceleration and how artificial gravity is created.

The level of detail in the descriptions is again of a high level, it is easy to follow what is happening and to visualise all of what is happening in the story. I felt the author done a better job of not overdoing it in this book compared to book one, as there was only really one time that it felt like it went on for too long (when the characters are telling Todd on what he missed out on while unconscious, events that as a reader we have only just read about.)

There is an especially well written, major event that occurs about a third of the way through this book. In was so wonderful I didn’t miss the fact the main characters weren’t even involved in it or the fact that it went on for a long time describing events in high detail.

The Christian religious elements and theology are much stronger in this book; I liked that the characters pray throughout the book, and the discussion about God towards the end of the story. I would say Christian readers will enjoy this book, but the religious elements aren’t so strong that non-Christians can’t enjoy it too unless they are strongly non-Christian.

The characters are amazing and extremely well written. They have strong and distinct personalities. The dynamics between the main characters is entertaining, enjoyable and believable.

As well as the human characters, the two computer personalities are fantastic and highly amusing. They are so lifelike and human you can almost forget that they are computers.

I like the fact the characters act on the information that they have, they don’t instinctively know stuff or guess what everyone is doing based on little information.

There were a couple of very minor problems I had with this book. Firstly why did our heroes decide to send a human scout party to investigate the base around Jupiter, it didn’t have a real-life purpose as far as I could tell and was really only to set up the sequences that followed it. As these were some great sequences it can be forgiven. As part of that, why is the “Shark” almost totally unmanned and undefended?
The other problem contains a MAJOR spoiler do NOT read unless you have already read this book.
It’s a pet peeve of mine when authors bring back supposedly dead characters, so I wasn’t very happy how Brad Worthington came back after we thought he was dead. I do like his character, but when authors trick us like this it seems a bit of a cop out, it also hurts later dramatic tension since we know the characters can be saved from death.

This is a fantastic series and a wonderful book easily worthy of five stars. The story is excellent, the characters strong and believable with wonderful interactions and dynamics. The level of detail in the description is at a high level without over doing it, and the science and technology is believable and great to read about.

rated: 5+Loved
rated: 5+Loved

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (1)

**Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga of Tynga's Reviews that spotlights the books we receive each week**

Have you ever "accidentally" ended up with more books than you'll read in a year? or more? Well, I've had one of those months. ;-) Not that I'm complaining.
A few weeks ago, Richi and I went to the local Trading Books store and I found an armful a really great, used books to bring home. Then had a seasonal discount coupon so we ordered another dozen or so books (some I've been waiting months to show up on my available wishlist).

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge (Iron Codex #1)
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1)
Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver (
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez ( **I'd been waiting months for this particular version to show up!
Alice I have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor - The Looking Glass Wars #2)

From the local Trading Books store:
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Cemetary Girl by David Bell
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
FableHaven by Brandon Mull (book one)
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Around the same time, after a several month dry-spell, I won a few ARC/giveaway's from Goodreads first reads. First I won book #5 in a series I'd only read the first book of. So I promptly purchased books 2 and 3 - Currently reading book #2.

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley - Flavia De Luce #2 (
A Red Herring with Mustard by Alan Bradley - Flavia De Luce #3 (
**note that the matching bookmark shown was IN the purple book (I Love when bookmarks or other random markers are still in a used book or comes with a book)
((also I still need to buy the 4th book in this series - it's in my shopping cart at Amazon))
Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley - Flavia De Luce #5 (Goodreads first read win) 

Capital Girls by Ella Monroe (Goodreads first read win)
Secrets and Lies by Ella Monroe  (included with the Capital Girls)

Glimmers by Barbara Brooke (Goodreads first read win) book is signed by the author - she also included a home made bookmark, business cards and kind thankyou note :)

Also, over the last two weeks I've won books, gift cards and swag from blog hops, flash contests on Facebook and random being in the right place at the right time. yay me :).

signed Bookmark for Keystone by Misty Provencher (won from blog hop)

That Time of the Month by Emily Shaffer (won from blog hop)

Book Tote and signed bookmarks for The Light Tamer Trilogy by Devyn Dawson (FB Flash Contest)

Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes (FB Flash Contest - shown with a matching bookmark I won earlier in the year)  This book has been on Richi's 'to-read' list for the longest time, so I was really thrilled to have won this book for him :-) yay!

City of Women by David R. Gillham (RAOK from Goodreads friend)
The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

I also downloaded ebooks for the Nook and Kindle cloud

Project Ele by Rebecca Gober
Flutter by Melissa Andrea
Cornerstone by Misty Provencher
Tortured by Caragh M. O'Brien (a bridge story between Birthmarked and Prized)
Marked by Kim Richardson (Soul Guardians Book 1)
Grizelda by Margaret Taylor
The Ivy by Lauren Kunze with Rina Onur

Kindle Cloud Freebies:
Brightest Kind of Darkness by P.T. Michelle
GPS with Benefits by Vanessa Morgan
Grace Doll by Jennifer Laurens
The Earth Painter by Melissa Turner Lee (book one of the Painter Series)
The Light Tamer by Devyn Dawson (book one in the Light Tamer Trilogy)

So ... as you can see, I have been richly blessed in books this last month. Lots to be Thankful for and Loads of really awesome books that'll keep me busy for the next few months, at least  :D

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Fall of the Altairan Empire

The Fall of the Altairan Empire. Book One: Book Two: Priestess of the Eggstone

In full disclosure I won the second book in this series in a Goodreads giveaway.

Nexus Point

Synopsis: Dace crashlands on a primitive planet.It is strictly off-limits to unauthorized personal and a non-ininterference policy is enforced. The natives believe she is a demon from the sky and attempt to kill her, at least some of the undercover agents on the planet are smuggling drugs off the planet and will kill Dace to keep her quiet. Her only hope is convincing a Patrol agent that she really is innocent and that she can help him catch the real criminals.

Review: The story itself is good, it is not a typical sci-fi story but it’s not totally original either. You can see the influences from traditional sci-fi shows such as Star Wars and Star Trek.

The language is fairly simple, that’s not to say it is bad, just not elegant or elaborate and we are only told the bare facts and not any additional information. While it makes the book less stimulating it also makes it a quick and easy read.

There were a few times where the story would jump forward in time suddenly, this could be a little confusing and also made me feel like I had missed out on something. SPOILER: The most prominent of these was a time Dace is captured while she was sleeping at the Inn with Tayvis, Dace simply goes to sleep, then wakes up imprisoned. END OF SPOILER

Dace was an okay main character, my main problem was that she spends most of the book being carried and pushed around (both literally and figuratively) by all the other characters in the book. She will get picked up by one group, who are either mean or nice to her, then something will happen (typically an attack), Dace will then use the opportunity to escape (if the group was mean to her) or gets separated (if they were friendly), she will wander around lost for a while, then she will get found by another group and the whole sequence starts over again, and this goes on for about two-thirds of the book.

Another problem was that she was almost useless; she doesn’t do much to help herself or her friends. It’s not until about half way through the book that she actually does something useful, then it is only to play a minor part of helping her and Tayvis escape, she then goes back to being useless. I find it hard to fully support a character like this.
Once we get to about two-thirds of the way through she starts to be stronger and she starts to do things. While it is great to see her much stronger and more interesting, unfortunately it does happen quite suddenly making it unbelievable. I did like the character she became.

She has a smart mouth on her throughout the whole book, and it was enjoyable reading some of the things she would say or think.

On two occasions the bad guys leave Dace tied up in an “inescapable” trap and leave her there completely unguarded (there is also a third occasion that she is tied up, and there are guards but they are not very well placed). All of this felt rather cheesey like the old Batman TV show where the villain would leave the hero in a trap and leave him alone to escape.

There were a few plot holes or places where characters would do something that was unbelievable, while not enough to break the story it was annoying. SPOILERS When Tayvis thought Dace had betrayed him, why would he stay at the Inn? If the academy gives well rounded training that could prepare the students for anything, why is Dace so useless for much of the book? Worst of all why would someone who accidently crash onto a quarantine planet face prison time, but someone who takes over leadership during a violent coup not face charges if they are successful? While not strictly a plot hole I did think people shifted their alliances too easily and suddenly. It was also a little convient that the Patrol had no way to contact reinforcement before Dace rescued Tayvis, then after she did he had easy access to communications after they escaped.

The final battle was a little confusing as there were a lot of names of characters that came in and out quickly and it made it hard to remember who was who, this is partly brought on by the fact there was several bad guys, most of whom have similar personalities.

I did enjoy the final part of the book where we find out what happens after the last dramatic part of the story; it was a perfect balance of tidying up the story and bringing the conclusion, while setting up the future of the series without dragging on for too long.

Despite having some problems, the story was still enjoyable.

Book Two: The Priestess of the Eggstone

Synopsis: Dace is finding trouble again, or perhaps more accurately it is finding her. She is now a transport pilot for Beliff Inc. With the opportunity of owning the ship at the end of her contract her dream of being an independent pilot is once again alive.
Dace hires Jerimon to be her co-pilot he seems better than her last one, but when they get boarded by Sessimoniss, eight foot tall lizard aliens who are demanding the return of their God in the form of an Eggstone it turns out that he is trouble after all.
Dace's problems don't end there, it turns out the company she works for is a front for the Targon Crime Syndicate and Dace has been transporting illegal weapons for them.
Their various activities soon bring them to the attention of the Patrol and our heroes are on the run from the law as well.
Dace and Jerimon are now on the run from Targon, the Patrol and the Sessimoniss in a desperate attempt to trace the Eggstone before one of the groups catch up with them.
Meanwhile Tayvis is trying to track down Dace, he still has feelings for her, but he is under orders to convince her to join the Patrol on a mission that will return her to her dreaded homeworld.

Review: I thought the writing was a lot stronger than the first book. There was much more detail included. Not only the depth of detail but how often we are giving the details. This makes the story much easier to follow and easier to visualize the world.

One small detail was lacking, and that was recapping of who characters were. A couple of people were introduced early in the book, not talked about for most of the book, when they turn up near the end of the story, I found it hard to remember who they were. It took me a couple of pages to remember who Luagin was, and I still have no idea where Leon was in the story.

There were less unwritten jumps in this book compared to the first one, when the story jumps forward in time we are given a short summary of what happens. This made the story easier to follow and didn’t leave me feeling like I missed something.

There weren’t any big plot holes in this book, and just a couple of hard to believe plot points SPOILER Dace simply being able to walk away from the Sessimoniss during the ceremony seemed unlikely. END OF SPOILER

One thing I really liked was just how dirty and grungy the world is. The characters are regularly in the engine room, getting covered in grease, scrapping their knuckles, hair covered in filth and getting bruises over their body. This makes the world see real, it reminded me of shows like Battlestar Galatica and Star Wars.

It was great seeing the various worlds in the book and they were all diverse and interesting. The Sessimoniss world was particularly interesting.

The story was a bit too romancey for me. It was also fairly clichéd; she has a fluttering heart over the men, thinks about what it would be like to kiss them, she also internalizes things rather than talk about them and plays the “guess why I am annoyed with you” game with the men.

There was a bit more humour in this book. It worked nicely adding something but without over doing it or making bad jokes.

Dace is a stronger character in this book, similar to how she ended in book one. She doesn’t get pushed around and stands up for herself. She still has a smart mouth on her. Although I thought she spent too much time thinking about kissing the guys and her emotions about them.

There were a few secondary characters and this time they stuck with Dace for most of the book. This allowed the reader to learn their personality and get to get attached to them. Jerimon was an interesting character to begin with and the dynamics between him and Dace was entertaining, although he lost something once he fell in love with her. Jasyn was an excellent character and provided a great sister role for Dace. Lady Rina was a fun character as well, a real firecracker of an old lady. One of my favourite characters was the Eggstone itself, the way it talked seemed so alien.

There were several nods to the first book, such as the fact Dace now has a fear of fire or not having boots. It would probably be a good idea to read the first book before this one as it would be easier to follow the story although it probably isn’t essential.

The cover for this book is much better and more appropriate for the genre.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, the story and characters are excellent, the writing style is much stronger than the first book. It was a little bit too romancey for my tastes. I am really looking forward to the next book.