BOOK BLITZ: Bobby Robot by Michael Hilton

Young Adult Science Fiction
Release Date: 3-20-20
Publisher: INtense Publications LLC
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Sixteen-year-old Bobby is the only human on a robot-inhabited planet. Aided by LINC, his cybernetic haywire task assistant, he must prove to the bots that the human race is worth restarting bypassing his Programming, the training he receives to think and act in perfect precision—and without emotion. Failure will force him to upload his mind into the Tether, a robotic host, stripping him of his humanity and terminating his species’ last chance for survival. As he repeatedly falls short of the bots’ rigorous standards, he begins to question if the human race is even worth reviving. But when a beautiful girl named Jen crash-lands on his planet, she makes him question everything the bots have told him, including what it means to be human.
About the Author
Michael Hilton is a time traveler from the future who’s come back to warn us of the impending literary apocalypse. An avid reader of Young Adult science fiction and fantasy, he writes to stave off the coming wasteland of soulless fiction. One day his Wikipedia page will describe his warnings as “mildly prophetic” and “wildly exaggerated.” He lives in Irving, Texas, working as a chiropractor by day, a vigilante by night, and a writer all of the time.
Michael Hilton is a nerd. Like, a big one. Using a right brain filled with stories of adventure, mystery, and romance and a left brain stocked with experience in the fields of biology, neurology, and engineering, he writes science fiction and fantasy worlds worth geeking out over. When he’s imagining battles in a far-off galaxy, he’s usually treating patients as a chiropractor, working out, writing music, or watching too much TV. He currently lives on Earth but is thinking about moving soon.
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Catch-Up Quick Takes: The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues by Ellen Raskin; Bloody Acquisitions (Audiobook) by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne; Dark Harvest Magic (Audiobook) by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon

The point of these quick takes posts is to catch up on my “To Write About” stack—emphasizing pithiness, not thoroughness.

The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

by Ellen Raskin
Paperback, 170 pg.
Puffin Books, 1975
Read: January 7-8, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

I’ve never claimed to have an exhaustive knowledge of Ellen Raskin novels, yet I was surprised to find a passing reference to this one last fall. So I grabbed it up and jumped into it with relish. It’s been since I was in MG that I’ve read other works by her that aren’t The Westing Game, so I can’t say for certain if this is her usual kind of thing or not (I think this is closer to her norm than Westing, though). There’s an over-reliance on funny names (frequently some sort of wordplay involving food) and outlandish eccentricities as a source of humor, but that’s a minor thing.

This is really 3-4 short stories linked together with an overarching narrative to make a novel—which actually works pretty well. The pair have a few smaller mysteries to solve while a bigger one builds. This reads like a collaboration of Donald J. Sobol and Daniel M. Pinkwater—which absolutely would’ve been up my alley when I was the right age, and is still amusing enough right now for me to enjoy the quick read.

Is it my favorite thing ever? No. But it’s a clever read that’s entertaining enough.

This is a little more mature than usual for MG books (especially given its publish date, I’d think), but it’s not mature enough for YA. Not that it matters, that’s just me trying to categorize it. I think it’s probably appropriate for MG readers, though (there’s one scene that might push it over the edge, but…I’d risk it).

(the official blurb)
3-4 paragraphs
3.5 Stars

Bloody Acquisitions

Bloody Acquisitions

by Drew Hayes, Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)
Series: Fred, The Vampire Accountant, #3
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 52 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2016
Read: January 31-February 4, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
I continue to enjoy these lighter UF books about the world’s dullest Vampire and his supernatural friends. Of course, the joke is that he’s not really that boring at all, Fred just thinks of himself that way.

The core of this novel is Fred dealing with a group of vampires coming to town to set up shop. The big question is: can they share the city with him? Typically, the answer is no, and he’ll either have to join with them or leave. The last thing that Fred wants to do is to leave his home and business==he’ll just have to figure out a way.

I think this works better as a novel than the previous two installments and is overall just a touch more entertaining. I’m not sure that I have much else to say—these are fun reads/listens.

3 Stars

Dark Harvest Magic

Dark Harvest Magic

by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon (Narrator)
Series: Ella Grey, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 32 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2017
Read: February 22-25, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
I have even less to say about this one. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the previous one, maybe because just about all of it felt like Faith was setting things up for the next book or two in the series more than telling a story now. This does mean that the next book or two should be really good, because I liked most of what she was setting up.

Aside from that, Dark Harvest Magic really feels a lot like it could be the next several chapters in Stone Cold Magic. Which means that pretty much everything I said about it applies here. An entertaining read/listen, I still like the characters and really want to see where Faith is taking this all, even if I wasn’t gaga over this sequel.

3 Stars
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from any of them, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Top 5 Saturday: Books Inspired by Mythology


The Top 5 Saturday weekly meme was created by Amanda at Devouring Books.

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic—these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post (This one!)
  • Tag 5 people (I probably won’t do this bit, play along if you want)

This week’s topic is: Books inspired by Mythology. Which you’d think would be super-easy—and it was fairly easy—but coming up with a fifth took a little more work than I expected.


Bad Blood
by
Lucienne Diver

An Urban Fantasy featuring a strong, snarky, female PI who doesn’t believe the family legend that she’s descended from Pan and Medusa. But when Apollo himself shows up to hire her, she starts to come around . . . I admit I don’t remember a lot of this (I read it 7 years ago), but it was one of the first I thought of when I decided to do this list and I do keep asking myself why I never got around to reading the rest of the series.


American Gods
by
Neil Gaiman

Honestly, not my favorite Gaiman (maybe on a second read that’d change). But man, there are passages in this book that are pure magic. Epic in scope, but filled with fantastic characters, and Gaiman’s prose, you can absolutely understand why it’s beloved and so widely-read.


The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
by
Douglas Adams

Unless I read something I cannot recall, this was the first book I read that made use of mythological characters in a contemporary setting. I absolutely loved the idea and wondered why more people didn’t do that. Clearly, they do (just see the rest of this post and the others posting on this theme today), but at the ripe old age of 15, it was revolutionary to me. Odin, Thor, Loki and a few other Norse dignitaries are flitting about London and the area, inflicting damage, killing innocents, and driving nursing home staff crazy. Throw in Dirk Gently and Adams at his best and you have a killer read.


Hunted
by
Kevin Hearne

Members of five (I think) pantheons show up in this book—in what’s probably Hearne’s finest use of them all. A good story for Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile (Oberon has his best dramatic moment, as I recall) aside from that, but a great way of blending the various pantheons into the Iron Druid’s world. One of my Top 2 in the series.


The Lightning Thief
by
Rick Riordan

How can you have a list like this and not include this book (or one of the legion it spawned)? The book that started a craze and gave Riordan the ability to quit teaching. This set the template for all of Riordan’s myth-inspired books (be it Greek, Roman, Egyptian or Norse mythology) and is just fun (unlike some of the latter books which got a bit preachy and tedious). It’s not quite Potter-level of fame/influence, but it’s the closest we have in the States, a nice collection of kids, a creative way of brining myths to the 21st Century, and a rollicking good time.

Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn, Nicole Goux: A Fun & Compelling Refreshed Origin Story

Shadow of the Batgirl

Shadow of the Batgirl

by Sarah Kuhn, Nicole Goux

Paperback, 193 pg.
DC Comics, 2020

Read: February 18, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

Cassandra Cain has intrigued me for quite a while now, but as I’ve limited my comic reading (for financial and time considerations), I haven’t read nearly enough about her to satisfy my curiosity.

Enter Sarah Kuhn and her YA graphic novel to take care of that. It was a brilliant idea to have Kuhn write this—as she explains herself in the introduction, Cain is exactly the kind of super-hero that Kuhn writes.

This retelling of Cain’s origin story from the moment she decides to leave the life of crime she’d been born into and trained for (not that she knew that’s what she’d been doing), through her meeting Barbara Gordon and (a new character for this telling) Jackie, and into her first steps as Batgirl.

Jackie is an elderly Asian Aunt figure who provides emotional security for Cassandra while Barbara is helping with intellectual stimulation (there’s also a boy she meets at the library, but Jackie and Barbara are the foci).

I really enjoyed watching Cain make connections with people, learning how to redefine herself—it’s an atypical origin story and exactly the kind of thing we need to see more of.

Goux’s art wasn’t the style I expected—I expected something darker, more angular, with a lot of shadows. Instead, we get something almost playful and joyful, while not detracting from the serious story. Goux’s art fits Kuhn’s voice (both here and in other works) perfectly and won me over right away.

This was a fun read, establishing Cain as a person and as a hero while telling a compelling story. I recommend this and would eagerly read any follow-ups that might come along (like the upcoming The Oracle Code.)


3 Stars

2020 Library Love Challenge
This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

My Favorite Crime/Mystery/Detective/Thriller Fiction of 2019

Once I settled on dividing this chunk of my reading out for its own list, I knew instantly half of the books that’d make it before I even looked at my reading log. After my first cut (which was pretty hard), I had 20+ candidates for the other 5 spots. Whittling those down was difficult, but I’m pretty comfortable with this list. That doesn’t mean the other 90 or so books I read in this family of genres were bad—most were really good and worth the time (sure, a handful should be missed, but let’s forget about them). But these are the crème de la crème.

Not all of these were published in 2019—but my first exposure to them was. As always, I don’t count re-reads, or almost no one could stand up to Stout, early Parker, etc. and my year-end lists would get old fast.

I should say that I was a little worn out by the time I composed a lot of this and ended up borrowing heavily from my original posts. Hope you don’t mind reruns.
(in alphabetical order by author)

Deep Dirty TruthDeep Dirty Truth

by Steph Broadribb

My original post
Lori is kidnapped by the same Mob that wants her dead, giving her basically two choices—do a job for them or else they’re coming for JT and Dakota. Nothing about this book went the way I expected (beginning with the premise), it was all better than that. I had a hard time writing anything about this book that I hadn’t said about the first two in the series. Broadribb’s series about this tough, gritty bounty hunter (who is not close to perfect, but she’s persistent, which is easier to believe) started off strong and remains so.

4 Stars

ThirteenThirteen

by Steve Cavanagh

My original post
One of the best serial killer antagonists I can remember reading. A breakneck pace. An intricately plotted novel. An already beloved protagonist. Genuine surprises, shocking twists, and a couple of outstanding reveals make this fourth Eddie Flynn novel a must-read (even if you haven’t read any previous installments).

5 Stars

Black SummerBlack Summer

by M. W. Craven

My original post
It’s hard to avoid hyperbole in a Best-Of post like this, it’s harder still when talking about this book. But I just did some math, and Black Summer is in the top 1% of everything I read last year—the writing, the plot, the pacing, the tension, the protagonists, the villain(s), the supporting characters are as close to perfect as you’re going to find. The first note I made about this book was, I’m “glad Craven gave us all of zero pages to get comfy before getting all morbid and creepifying.” It’s pretty relentless from there—right up until the last interview, which might elicit a chuckle or two from a reader enjoying watching a brilliant criminal get outsmarted. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and it’s so much fun to read.

5 Stars

An Accidental DeathAn Accidental Death

by Peter Grainger, Gildart Jackson (Narrator)

My original post
Grainger’s DC Smith couldn’t be more different than Craven’s DS Poe if he tried, and these two books feel so different that it seems strange to talk about them at the same time. What’s the same? How easily they get the reader invested in their protagonists. How easily they get you plunged into their world and caring about what they care about. Grainger has a nice, subtle style (with even subtler humor) that made this novel sheer pleasure to read (well, listen to, in this case).

4 Stars

Dead InsideDead Inside

by Noelle Holten

My original post
When I was about halfway through this novel, I wrote, “While I’m loving every second of this book, I’m having a hard time shaking the bleak outlook on life and humanity that seems to be part and parcel of this novel…Seriously, read a few pages of this book and see if you’re not willing to replace humanity as the apex predator with something careful and considerate—like rabid pit bulls or crack-smoking hyenas.” This is not an easy read thanks to the characters and circumstances, later I wrote, “This isn’t the cops dealing with a larger-than-life genius serial killer—rather, it’s the everyday reality for too many. Just this time tinged with a spree killer making a grim circumstance worse for some. It’s a gripping read, a clever whodunit, with characters that might be those you meet every day. As an experience, it’s at once satisfying and disturbing—a great combination for a reader. You won’t read much this year that stacks up against Dead Inside and you’ll join me in eagerly awaiting what’s coming next from Holten.” I can’t put it better than that.

5 Stars

Deception CoveDeception Cove

by Owen Laukkanen

My original post
I heard someone describe this as Laukkanen writing fan-fic about his dog Lucy. Which is funny, and pretty much true. From the setup to the execution and all points in between, Deception Cove delivers the goods. Anyone who read just one of his Stevens and Windermere books knows that Laukkanen can write a compelling thriller with great characters. In these pages, he shows that in spades—you take a couple of characters that could easily be cardboard cutouts and instead makes them three-dimensional people with depth, flaws, and a relatability—and throw them into a great thriller. What more could anyone want? A wonderful dog. Guess what? He’s got one of those, too. Leaving the reader wanting little more than a sequel.

4 Stars

HackedHacked

by Duncan MacMaster

My original post
Duncan MacMaster is a new (for me) go-to author if I need someone to break me out of a gloomy mood because of books like this. Clever, well-plotted, and filled with more laughs than some “Humor” books I read this year. It also features what’s probably the best secondary character from 2019. Take out the humor (for the sake of argument here, don’t you dare do that really) and this is still a smartly-plotted and well-executed mystery novel. Adding in the humor makes this a must-read.

4 1/2 Stars

The ChainThe Chain

by Adrian McKinty

My original post
There was enough hype around this that I can see where some of my blogger acquaintances were let down with the reality. But McKinty’s breakout novel absolutely worked for me. The tension is dialed up to 11, the pacing is relentless, the stakes are high enough that the reader should make sure their blood pressure prescriptions are filled. The Chain is as compelling and engrossing as you could want. It’s a near-perfect thriller that doesn’t let up. Winslow calls it “Jaws for parents.” He’s right—I can’t imagine there’s not a parent alive who can read this without worrying about their kids, and reconsidering how closely to track their movements and activities.

4 1/2 Stars

Black MossBlack Moss

by David Nolan

My original post
This is one of those books that the adjective “atmospheric” was invented for. There’s an atmosphere, a mood, an undercurrent running through this book. Hopelessness surrounds the so many of these characters. Wretched also works to describe the feeling. You really don’t notice the time you spend in this book, it swallows your attention whole and you keep reading, practically impervious to distractions. Yes, you feel the harsh and desolate atmosphere, but not in a way that puts you off the book. The mystery part of this book is just what you want—it’s complex, it’ll keep you guessing and there are enough red herrings to trip up most readers. As far as the final reveal goes, it’s fantastic—I didn’t see the whole thing until just a couple of pages before Nolan gave it to us. But afterward you’re only left with the feeling of, “well, of course—what else could it have been?” And then you read the motivation behind the killing—and I don’t remember reading anything that left me as frozen as this did in years. There’s evil and then there’s this. This is a stark, desolate book (in mood, not quality) that easily could’ve been borrowed (or stolen) straight from the news. Nolan’s first novel delivers everything it promises and more.

5 Stars

The Power of the Dog The CartelThe Power of the Dog / The Cartel

by Don Winslow

My original post about The Power of the Dog, The Cartel should be up soon.
There’s simply no way I can talk about one of these without the other, so I won’t. This is a fantastic story about a DEA Agent’s obsessive drive to take down one of the most powerful, deadly and successful Mexican Drug Cartels around, as well as a devastating indictment of the U.S.’s War on Drugs. Despite the scope and intricacy of the plot, these are not difficult reads. Despite the horrors depicted, they’re not overwhelming. In fact, there are moments of happiness and some pretty clever lines. Which is not to say there’s a light-hand, or that he ever treats this as anything but life-and-death seriousness. They’re not easy, breezy reads— but they’re very approachable. I don’t know if there’s a moment that reads as fiction, either—if this was revealed to be non-fiction, I would believe it without difficulty. I will not say that he transcends his genre to be “Literature,” or that he elevates his work or anything—but I can say that Winslow demonstrates the inanity of pushing Crime Fiction into some shadowy corner as not worthy of the attention of “serious” readers.

5 Stars

Books that almost made the list (links to my original posts): Flight of the Fox by Gray Basnight, Who Killed the Fonz? by James Boice, Killer Thriller by Lee Goldberg, Going Dark/Going Rogue by Niel Lancaster (can’t pick between the two), You Die Next by Stephanie Marland, The Killing State by Judith O’Reilly, Dead is Beautiful by Jo Perry, Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin, Paper Son by S. J. Rozan, and How To Kill Friends And Implicate People by Jay Stringer.

Leo & The Lightning Dragons by Gill White, Gilli B: An Adorable Book about a Very Brave Knight

Leo & The Lightning Dragons

Leo & The Lightning Dragons

by Gill White, Gilli B (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 36 pg.
Fledgling Press, 2019

Read: December 17, 2019


Leo is a very brave knight battling a different kind of dragon—his foes attack him from the inside where he cannot hide from them. He has a lot of people willing to help him, and several do their best, but this is a fight that Leo has to do on his own—so he musters up the courage and the confidence to get the job done with their support.

Gilli B is absolutely the right illustrator for this book! Her style brought it to life—I love her depiction of Lightning Dragons, I doubt that’s the approach many artists would’ve taken with them. Her chimerical pictures capture the spirit of the book beyond those, too. Delightful work.

If you’ve read anything about this book, you know how hard it would be to saying anything that’s not positive about the book. But I’m going to—it’s too short. I’m not looking for much, but we need a little more—just a couple of pages. There wouldn’t even need to be much text, some illustrations might do the trick. Leo’s got a tough battle to fight, and it’s over a bit too quickly, which makes it seem too easy. And there’s no way that Leo’s Lightning Dragons (fictional or not) are easily vanquished. How White can accomplish that without running afoul of the book’s overwhelming positivity, I’m not sure. I just think the subject deserves it.

Do the pluses outweigh my criticism? Oh yes. It’s a great book and I’m so glad I read it. The rhymes are cute, the story is very positive, great illustrations and the imagery of the Lightning Dragon fighting inside Leo is a great way to get the idea of epilepsy across to a picture book reader. A good story that should provide a springboard for a discussion with children about this condition and how hard it has to be for people to deal with. This is definitely one to pick up for your young reader.



My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Love Books Group

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Leo & The Lightning Dragons by Gill White, Gilli B

Today, I’m very happy to welcome the Book Tour for Gill White’s Leo & The Lightning Dragons. We’ll kick it off with this spotlight post and then I’ll be giving my take on the book here in a bit. But like I said, let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?


(that banner is too small to read all the names, etc. Click here for the full sized version.)

Book Details:

Book Title: Leo & The Lightning Dragons by Gill White, Gilli B (Illustrator)
Publisher: Fledgling Press
Release date: January 30, 2019
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Length: 36 pages

Book Blurb:

Everybody in the kingdom is supporting the brave knight Leo in his battle against his fearsome dragons. They try lots of different things to help him defeat them but eventually Leo realises that the most important thing to do is to believe in himself. This beautifully illustrated book with a poignant and uplifting rhyming story encourages children to persevere and find strength in the face of adversity, even when it seems that nothing is working. Written by Gill White for her son Leo who suffers from Ohtahara Syndrome, an extremely rare form of epilepsy, and beautifully illustrated by Fife artist Gilli B, this story has been positively received by parents of children with complex needs, by care workers and medical staff and by parents of healthy young children who love the book simply as an adventure story. All royalties from the sale of this book will go to CHAS (Children’s Hospices across Scotland).

About the Book:

Gill White wrote this book for her son Leo, who was born with Ohtahara Syndrome, an extremely rare form of epilepsy. Fifty percent of children diagnosed with Ohtahara Syndrome do not live past their second birthday. Leo is now three and still battling in the face of adversity.

Gill wrote the story before Leo’s first birthday. It was a difficult time and Leo was having huge numbers of seizures every day. Feeling that Leo deserved a happier story, one in which his strength and bravery was rewarded, Gill wrote one for him.

She approached Gilli B, a Fife based artist, after seeing her artwork online and loving her whimsical and quirky style. Although she was only originally commissioned to do a few illustrations, she actually loved the story so much she asked to illustrate the whole thing and Leo got his own ’book’ for his birthday!

The following year, Gill had packed his book for a visit to the CHAS Hospice Rachel House and came back one day to find that the nursing staff had read it and written the most amazing comments inside.

Bolstered by their enthusiasm, Gill approached Edinburgh author Peter Burnett for some advice on how to get the book published. He took the book to Clare Cain at Fledgling Press, who fortunately loved the book. Fledgling Press do not normally publish children’s books but made an exception in this case, to help raise awareness of Ohtahara Syndrome and CHAS – Children’s Hospices Across Scotland.

About the Story:

Drawing from the family’s experiences, Gill created this little kingdom of people who are all trying to help Leo fight the lightning dragons using their various skills. Eventually, strengthened by their support, love and encouragement, Leo is able to realise that the most important thing to do is to believe in himself.

This beautifully illustrated book with a poignant and uplifting rhyming story encourages children to persevere and find strength in the face of adversity, even when it seems that nothing is working.

Through the story of Leo and his ‘invisible’ dragons, we can teach children that we don’t always know what battles someone is fighting and it is important to be kind because even the bravest knights need a little help sometimes.

Leo & The Lightning Dragons’ Social Media:
I’m very tempted to copy all of the content from the book’s website to this post, but I’ll limit myself to borrowing the above—there is so much great content there, you’ve gotta check it out. While you’re at it, try these, too:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram



My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Love Books Group