Unstoppable Arsenal by Jeffery H. Haskell: Well, that escalated quickly . . .

Unstoppable ArsenalUnstoppable Arsenal

by Jeffery H. Haskell
Series: Full Metal Superhero, #2

Paperback, 286 pg.
2017

Read: January 28, 2019


This book is just pure entertainment — it’s not trying to be anything else. You’ve got a super-genius whose inventions and investments have made her super-rich (to fund further inventions, primarily) who has used this genius to turn herself into an Iron Man-like superhero. She’s pretty much done all this to enable her to find her parents — which she did at the end of the last book. She starts this book by going to retrieve them from their imprisonment.

But they’re not prisoners — they’re content, happy, hard-workers in a lab with utterly no memory of a daughter. Kate, Amelia’s friend and telepath determines their minds have been altered and the only one who can restore their memories is the one who altered them. Launching Amelia’s next big quest.

She soon discovers that there are a lot of powerful telepaths who are unaccounted for and maybe the conspiracy she’s been theorizing about isn’t a bunch of evil masterminds undermining the super-heroes of the US. Maybe, there’s some mind control shaping the questionable decisions.

As if all this isn’t enough, Amelia meets an actual, no fooling, mythological figure who forces her to realize there’s more than just science afoot in the world, and she’s told that literally the future of the human race depends on choices she’s making.

All this is told in the same fast, dynamic and engaging voice and style that characterized this first book. Haskell can tell a story in a way that seems effortless, which is too easy to overlook and take for granted. I put this down and had to fight the impulse to grab the next installment right away and not stop until I’d run out of books in this universe to read.

Oh, and there’s a killer last line, and I’m excited about what that development is going to bring.

I don’t have a lot to say really — this is just a fun series. Period. Great super-hero action, with just enough depth to satisfy, without going so far that it slows things down. I don’t know what Haskell’s long-term plans are, but I could read another half-dozen of these books, easily.

—–

3.5 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

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The Disasters by M. K. England: Some Fun YA Popcorn SF

The DisastersThe Disasters

by M. K. England


Hardcover, 352 pg.
HarperTeen, 2018

Read: January 29 – 30, 2019

           We sit in silence while al-Rihla, the jewel of the colonies, gradually takes over more and more of the viewport. It looks exactly like it did on the pages of my textbooks, only so much more. I let my eyes linger for a moment, taking in green continents outlined in rich red sand and huge, intensely blue oceans that glitter below. I know we’re in a life-or-death situation, but it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the view. I can see why all the antiexploration crap went away once a few humans actually got out here. Who could look at all this and not want it? It’s bizarre–I’ve only seen Earth from space once, and I was busy trying not to die at the time. Now I’m looking down on a completely different planet, in person, in space, while flying a ship I stole.

I’m actually here. This is all I’ve ever wanted, though I didn’t get it in the way I wanted.

And in a few painfully long minutes, I’ll find out whether I get to live to see the other seven colony worlds one day, or if I get to die in a dramatic crash and kill all my new friends instead.

Fantastic.

Nax Hall is a would-be pilot, would-be space colonizer, and would-be anything but a failure in the eyes of his family. Sadly, after a day at the Ellis Station Academy (the only way to achieve two of those goals, and his best shot at the third), he’s been cut from the program. He’s not the only one — three others have been, too. As they wait for the shuttle to take them back to Earth, a terrorist group of some kind attacks the Academy. With a little luck, the expelled students escape in the shuttle that was destined to take them to Earth.

But they quickly realize that space fighters won’t allow the ship to land on Earth where they can alert the authorities about what happened at the Academy — so they have to hyperjump (or whatever it’s called in this world — I already took the book back to the library and can’t check) to colonial space. They quickly learn that the terrorists have used their escape as a means to frame them for the atrocities committed at the Academy and they now are on the run from the same authorities they were hoping to help them.

Thankfully, between the four of them, they have an almost perfect crew — a pilot, a diplomat, a medic and a technician/copilot. They soon find themselves aligned with a computer expert with ties to black-market entities that can help them spread the word about what happened at the Academy and what it might mean for the future of Earth’s space colonies. These five plucky teens are all that stands between humanity and widespread destruction.

England has a gift for action scenes — they were energetic, dynamic and enough to sink your teeth into. Nax’s flying, in general or in combat, was the highlight of the book for me. I could’ve used a little more of it, even though that would have been gratuitous. I’m not above gratuity in the right place. There’s a strong sense of fun in the narrative — despite being up against impossible odds, these kids are living their dream (just not in the way they wanted, as Nax put it in the quotation above). There’s a good deal of bonhomie between the makeshift crew, which builds gradually over the book to the point where they’re a tight bunch of friends at the end. This sense of fun is grounded by the dangers they face and the costs they’re paying, just enough to keep this from being a romp.

The characters aren’t that complex, although England makes a couple of attempts at it. Their backstories are interesting, to the degree that she explores them (which isn’t much). We get enough of Nax’s crewmates’ backstories to explain their presence on the ship, but not much more. We get plenty about Nax in bits and pieces — which is good enough, he’s the star of the show (and should be). The bad guys aren’t much more than stock villains, mostly a faceless group or two conspiring to do evil things. That’s fine with me, this isn’t the kind of book that promises complex opponents with compelling reasons for their activities, mustache-twirlers with lots of henchmen are good enough.

Here’s my major complaint with the book — the politics. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that politics shouldn’t enter into fiction. Particularly Science Fiction. I’d prefer to see more of it — at least more diversity in political views, too much of the politics in SF is so culturally homogeneous one could easily believe no other opinions existed. But before I get gong on that line, let me get back to The Disasters. The politics and societal struggles of the late 22nd Century are apparently identical to those of 2018. Now, I’m not suggesting that Earth’s culture should have worked everything out and the struggles of today will be a distant memory — but they should’ve changed somewhat. The way these problems are seen, expressed and argued about should be different. England just comes across lazy in her approach to these ideas. It’d be like someone writing about Irish cops in 2019 Boston the same way people wrote about them in 1850.

Thankfully, while it flavors much of the book, the characters don’t spend that much time actively discussing it, so it’s easy to forget about. What you’re left with is popcorn fun. A bunch of underdog kids, rejects from society (while really being exceptional), find themselves in a place to save the world (more than 8 of them, technically). There’s some good action — again, the flight scenes are great — a couple of chuckles, and a solid ending. It’s a couple of hours of escapist entertainment when it’s at its best (which is pretty often).

—–

3 Stars
2019 Library Love Challenge

Pub Day Repost: Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen: A Dad. A Daughter. And Time Travel. (Kleenex may be required)

When I really love a book and don’t know how to express it, I tend to ramble. Case in point:

Here and Now and ThenHere and Now and Then

by Mike Chen

eARC, 336 pg.
Mira Books, 2019

Read: January 15 – 16, 2019

You can have fun with a son
But you gotta be a father to a girl

That’s Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, not Mike Chen — but the spirit of the book is in that second line, so I’m going to use it. I found myself singing those lines a lot while thinking about the book. If you’re a father to a daughter, you will love this book. I don’t think it’s necessary to appreciate the book — non-parents, mothers, people with sons should still be able to see how good it is and to empathize with the characters. But I can’t imagine any Father of a Daughter won’t see themselves (and Daddy’s Little Princess) in these pages.

In the past, I’ve said something about not really liking non-Doctor Who Time Travel stories. I’m starting to think it’s because I haven’t been reading the right kind of Time Travel stories. In the last year (give or take), I’ve read and loved four Time Travel novels — All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor, Paradox Bound by Peter Clines, and now Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen. In all of them, the tropes of Time Travel are honored — while played with a little bit — but are really just excuses to tell very real emotional stories about some pretty great characters. Which is what Who does best, too, now that I think about it. So maybe for me, Time Travel has to be a means to an end, not the end itself.

Maybe I should leave the introspection for another time, and just get on with talking about the book, eh? My point was supposed to be that, like Matsai, Taylor and Clines, Mike Chen has surprised and excited me beyond expectations and hopes.

The day I started (and fell in love with) this book, I tried to explain it briefly to someone. I did so in a way that was clearly reductionistic (because, that’s what you do in a couple of sentences), spot on, and yet horribly inaccurate — all at the same time. Here’s what I said: It’s a gender-flipped Outlander, except the protagonist goes to the future instead of the past, and they use science-y stuff to the Time Travel instead of magic-y stuff.

Kin (pronounced /ˈkēn/) is, or was — or will be — a Secret Agent for the Temporal Corruption Bureau in 2142. He came back to 1996 to prevent a Twenty-Second Century criminal from altering the timeline for their own profit — and did so. But things went wrong in carrying out the mission and he was unable to be returned to his time. So he got stuck in 1996 for a bit. For him, it was 18 years. For the TCB it was a couple of weeks. For Kin, he had to give up hope of rescue, get a job — and then he fell in love, got married and had a kid. He has a nice life — he’s a success in IT for a video game company, he’s a pretty decent amateur chef and is working on trying out for a reality show for home chefs, his wife is great, and his daughter is, too. Miranda’s fourteen, a soccer star, wicked smart, a SF nerd and loves her parents.

Then his partner Markus shows up to bring him back to their time — Kin’s largely forgotten his former, er, past, er…other life and has really become a resident of 2014 (this is explained in science-y wibbly wobbly, timey wimey terms that actually make sense in context), so Markus has to take him by force. Once he’s back to his future, Kin starts remembering his life — his job, his hobbies, his utter ineptitude in the kitchen — and his fiancé (Markus’ sister). But it doesn’t come back to him immediately, and he has to work at it.

One thing he can’t do, is let go of his Twenty-First Century life, and he schemes for ways to remain a part of Miranda’s life. For awhile, this works — but only for a while. The instant it starts, every reader knows that Kin won’t be able to fly under the radar forever and he gets found out. It turns out that what he’s doing risks the future — but the only fix the TCB has in mind will mean Miranda’s death. While Kin can understand their decision, there’s no way he can let that happen to his daughter.

I don’t think I’ve said (much) more than the publisher’s blurb — but I can’t say much more without spoiling. And trust me, Chen’s version is much better than mine would be.

Kin is a great character — he’s thoughtful, skilled, smart — and human. He makes a lot of mistakes, his judgement is shaky (not just when it comes to Miranda, either) — but he tries to do the right thing. His loved ones — in all eras — are people you can believe are in his life and you can see why he cares for them, and you do too — because of Kin. That’s all I’m going to say about the other characters because I can’t talk about any of them without ruining something.

The world of 2142 is just about perfect — it’s different than 2014, but there are straight lines connecting it all. It’s the little changes that make it right — often Kin’s perspective allows us to see it. Like the offhand way he mentions to someone that temperatures are 5 degrees lower in 2014. Or the way he reacts to a recreation of 21st Century fast food. There are things about Mars that are just tossed off in conversation without explanation that clearly mean humans are doing something on the surface of the planet. Don’t ask me what — Chen doesn’t say. It even took me seeing him use the phrase a couple of times before I realized what it meant. But once I did, I got very excited about how he pulled it off. There are many subtle details like these that really make this a believable read.

The story and the writing are imaginative and playful — you will smile a lot while reading this. But the instant that Markus shows up and says it’s time to go, you just know that your heart is going to get broken in these pages. And you will be right. Thankfully, Chen will give you almost as many reasons to be happy — some small, some big. It’d have been very easy to make this maudlin or depressing. He could’ve also make this a playful romp. Chen instead walks the tightrope between the extremes in a performance worthy of Philippe Petit. The pages fly by, I really couldn’t believe how quickly I read this — part of it was because I just had to find out what happened to Kin, Miranda and the rest — but part of it was Chen’s writing. Despite hitting you with all that he hits you with, it’s very (and at times, deceptively) easy to read.

(this next paragraph could get a bit spoiler-y. But not really, just in vague sentiments, no particulars…Still, skip if you want)
This worked for me on just about every level and on just about every front — it checked all of my boxes and did just about every superlative thing I can think of. But the ending — I loved the ending, don’t get me wrong — just felt a little too easy. Things worked a little too well. Which the fanboy in me loves, but . . . I dunno, the book was filled with twists and struggles and challenges and the in the last three or four chapters everything was a little too easily overcome — and even the challenges melted away. And yes, I cheered, but I wanted Kin and everyone to have to work a little harder for my cheers. So, I’m docking this 1/2 star. (which is easy to do because on Goodreads/Amazon/NetGalley I have to round up, because they won’t accept half-stars, so the ratings average still gets to stay high).

Heart, soul, laughs, and heartbreak — I don’t know what else you want out of a time travel story. Or any story, really. Characters you can like (even when they do things you don’t like), characters you want to know better, characters you want to hang out with after the story (or during it, just not during the major plot point times), and a great plotline. This book is about as good as it gets. Grab your copy now while I start eagerly anticipating Chen’s next book.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from HARLEQUIN – MIRA via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this. These are my own honest — and hopefully not convoluted — thoughts and opinions.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen: A Dad. A Daughter. And Time Travel. (Kleenex may be required)

When I really love a book and don’t know how to express it, I tend to ramble. Case in point:

Here and Now and ThenHere and Now and Then

by Mike Chen



eARC, 336 pg.
Mira Books, 2019

Read: January 15 – 16, 2019

You can have fun with a son
But you gotta be a father to a girl

That’s Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, not Mike Chen — but the spirit of the book is in that second line, so I’m going to use it. I found myself singing those lines a lot while thinking about the book. If you’re a father to a daughter, you will love this book. I don’t think it’s necessary to appreciate the book — non-parents, mothers, people with sons should still be able to see how good it is and to empathize with the characters. But I can’t imagine any Father of a Daughter won’t see themselves (and Daddy’s Little Princess) in these pages.

In the past, I’ve said something about not really liking non-Doctor Who Time Travel stories. I’m starting to think it’s because I haven’t been reading the right kind of Time Travel stories. In the last year (give or take), I’ve read and loved four Time Travel novels — All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor, Paradox Bound by Peter Clines, and now Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen. In all of them, the tropes of Time Travel are honored — while played with a little bit — but are really just excuses to tell very real emotional stories about some pretty great characters. Which is what Who does best, too, now that I think about it. So maybe for me, Time Travel has to be a means to an end, not the end itself.

Maybe I should leave the introspection for another time, and just get on with talking about the book, eh? My point was supposed to be that, like Matsai, Taylor and Clines, Mike Chen has surprised and excited me beyond expectations and hopes.

The day I started (and fell in love with) this book, I tried to explain it briefly to someone. I did so in a way that was clearly reductionistic (because, that’s what you do in a couple of sentences), spot on, and yet horribly inaccurate — all at the same time. Here’s what I said: It’s a gender-flipped Outlander, except the protagonist goes to the future instead of the past, and they use science-y stuff to the Time Travel instead of magic-y stuff.

Kin (pronounced /ˈkēn/) is, or was — or will be — a Secret Agent for the Temporal Corruption Bureau in 2142. He came back to 1996 to prevent a Twenty-Second Century criminal from altering the timeline for their own profit — and did so. But things went wrong in carrying out the mission and he was unable to be returned to his time. So he got stuck in 1996 for a bit. For him, it was 18 years. For the TCB it was a couple of weeks. For Kin, he had to give up hope of rescue, get a job — and then he fell in love, got married and had a kid. He has a nice life — he’s a success in IT for a video game company, he’s a pretty decent amateur chef and is working on trying out for a reality show for home chefs, his wife is great, and his daughter is, too. Miranda’s fourteen, a soccer star, wicked smart, a SF nerd and loves her parents.

Then his partner Markus shows up to bring him back to their time — Kin’s largely forgotten his former, er, past, er…other life and has really become a resident of 2014 (this is explained in science-y wibbly wobbly, timey wimey terms that actually make sense in context), so Markus has to take him by force. Once he’s back to his future, Kin starts remembering his life — his job, his hobbies, his utter ineptitude in the kitchen — and his fiancé (Markus’ sister). But it doesn’t come back to him immediately, and he has to work at it.

One thing he can’t do, is let go of his Twenty-First Century life, and he schemes for ways to remain a part of Miranda’s life. For awhile, this works — but only for a while. The instant it starts, every reader knows that Kin won’t be able to fly under the radar forever and he gets found out. It turns out that what he’s doing risks the future — but the only fix the TCB has in mind will mean Miranda’s death. While Kin can understand their decision, there’s no way he can let that happen to his daughter.

I don’t think I’ve said (much) more than the publisher’s blurb — but I can’t say much more without spoiling. And trust me, Chen’s version is much better than mine would be.

Kin is a great character — he’s thoughtful, skilled, smart — and human. He makes a lot of mistakes, his judgement is shaky (not just when it comes to Miranda, either) — but he tries to do the right thing. His loved ones — in all eras — are people you can believe are in his life and you can see why he cares for them, and you do too — because of Kin. That’s all I’m going to say about the other characters because I can’t talk about any of them without ruining something.

The world of 2142 is just about perfect — it’s different than 2014, but there are straight lines connecting it all. It’s the little changes that make it right — often Kin’s perspective allows us to see it. Like the offhand way he mentions to someone that temperatures are 5 degrees lower in 2014. Or the way he reacts to a recreation of 21st Century fast food. There are things about Mars that are just tossed off in conversation without explanation that clearly mean humans are doing something on the surface of the planet. Don’t ask me what — Chen doesn’t say. It even took me seeing him use the phrase a couple of times before I realized what it meant. But once I did, I got very excited about how he pulled it off. There are many subtle details like these that really make this a believable read.

The story and the writing are imaginative and playful — you will smile a lot while reading this. But the instant that Markus shows up and says it’s time to go, you just know that your heart is going to get broken in these pages. And you will be right. Thankfully, Chen will give you almost as many reasons to be happy — some small, some big. It’d have been very easy to make this maudlin or depressing. He could’ve also make this a playful romp. Chen instead walks the tightrope between the extremes in a performance worthy of Philippe Petit. The pages fly by, I really couldn’t believe how quickly I read this — part of it was because I just had to find out what happened to Kin, Miranda and the rest — but part of it was Chen’s writing. Despite hitting you with all that he hits you with, it’s very (and at times, deceptively) easy to read.

(this next paragraph could get a bit spoiler-y. But not really, just in vague sentiments, no particulars…Still, skip if you want)
This worked for me on just about every level and on just about every front — it checked all of my boxes and did just about every superlative thing I can think of. But the ending — I loved the ending, don’t get me wrong — just felt a little too easy. Things worked a little too well. Which the fanboy in me loves, but . . . I dunno, the book was filled with twists and struggles and challenges and the in the last three or four chapters everything was a little too easily overcome — and even the challenges melted away. And yes, I cheered, but I wanted Kin and everyone to have to work a little harder for my cheers. So, I’m docking this 1/2 star. (which is easy to do because on Goodreads/Amazon/NetGalley I have to round up, because they won’t accept half-stars, so the ratings average still gets to stay high).

Heart, soul, laughs, and heartbreak — I don’t know what else you want out of a time travel story. Or any story, really. Characters you can like (even when they do things you don’t like), characters you want to know better, characters you want to hang out with after the story (or during it, just not during the major plot point times), and a great plotline. This book is about as good as it gets. Grab your copy now while I start eagerly anticipating Chen’s next book.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from HARLEQUIN – MIRA via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this. These are my own honest — and hopefully not convoluted — thoughts and opinions.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition by Russ Colchamiro: A Very Strange SF Romp

Finders Keepers: The Definitive EditionFinders Keepers: The Definitive Edition

by Russ Colchamiro
Series: Finders Keepers, #1

Kindle Edition, 310 pg.
Crazy 8 Press, 2018

Read: January 4 – 7, 2019


This is a very strange ride. That might be the most important thing to take away from my experience with this book. Strange is good, strange is unique, strange is the kind of thing you can only read here (well, you can read strange SF in other places, too, but they won’t be this kind of strange).

That doesn’t tell you a lot, though, does it? This is the story of two twenty-something guys (one from the US, one from New Zealand) backpacking their way around Europe. It’s the story of a young woman, an artist trying to escape from something, and her life-changing interactions with those two guys. It’s also the story of a young couple, trying to better their station in life, who might have taken on a job they shouldn’t have — and their tragic blunder in the middle of carrying out that job which just might ruin their lives. There’s also the woman whose ambition and slip-of-judgement that has led to her fall into disrepute and her loyal assistant as they try to stage a comeback. Oh, yeah, and there’s Ira and Howard — a dolphin and a whale — who are basically the sea mammal answer to Cheech and Chong.

Jason’s waiting tables at a small restaurant, putting off getting a teaching job, because he’s just not ready to take that step, when one of his customers inspires him to head to Europe for a while. This was a huge mistake — he’s unprepared for anything, the fact that he’s not robbed blind by the first slightly crooked person he meets in any country is a wonder. He eventually runs into Theo Barnes, who’s only a moderately better traveler. He’s on a quest — the exact nature of which I’ll leave to you — but Ira and Howard gave him some pretty specific directions. Primarily, these two do what backpacking twenty-something males do: the drink a lot, they chase girls, the drink some more, they get lost in Europe, and drink to excess.

I’m going to pass on explaining how the others I mentioned get into the story — there’s a lot of complicated explanation — that makes perfect sense in Colchamiro’s narration, but wouldn’t quite work in my summary. But most of the other people in the book aren’t human — they’re a different form of life who are responsible, in one way or another, for the construction of Galaxies, Star Systems and Planets — most notably, they’re all involved in the creation of our solar system. And all of them have done something horribly wrong (inadvertently or otherwise) and all are in the middle of crazy, elaborate plans to regain their status. Colchamiro tells us about their falls and their various efforts to fix things while we watch Jason and Theo binge drink their way around Europe.

I’m honestly not sure if that paragraph made much sense — I bet if you’ve read the book, it does.

What surprised me about the book wasn’t the strange antics these pairs got into — but that Colchamiro works a lot of heart and some pretty serious emotional arcs into the zaniness. He does so in a way that doesn’t seem forced, it doesn’t seem like he’s taking a break from the outrageous actions to have a heartfelt moment, or anything — but he seamlessly merges personal growth, insight or complex emotions into the same scenes as a talking dolphin or biker gang interrupting a son introducing his girlfriend to his mother.

There was a time back in the 90’s or so where it seemed that not a week could go by without someone on a sit-com ask the clarifying question: “Did you mean funny ‘ha ha,’ for funny ‘peculiar/strange/odd’?” I thought of that frequently while reading this book — and once I abandoned the idea of this book being “funny ‘ha-ha,'” and instead embraced the strange, the absurd, the idiosyncratic peculiarity of Finders Keepers, I enjoyed it a lot more. I’m not saying that there aren’t funny moments, and it’s definitely not a serious work — it’s a fun, goofy, and strange SF adventure, which we need more of. I just don’t think I laughed or chuckled all that much.

That said, do I encourage you to read it? Oh yeah. Am I curious about what the next two installments of this trilogy might bring? Oh yeah. And I fully intend on finding out as soon as I can. I wager if you spend some time with this particular batch of oddballs you’ll be as curious as I am — yet pleased that you spent this much time with them. It’s a great mix of heart, oddball characters, youthful indiscretions, and wisdom that time and suffering can only bring — all in one goofy adventure.

—–

3.5 Stars

My thanks to iREAD Book Tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided, including a copy of the novel.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition by Russ Colchamiro

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the very strange Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition by Russ Colchamiro. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be posting a Q&A with the author (he came back for another round — the third author to do so!) and then I’ll be giving my take on the novel. Sounds like plenty of material to get to — let’s jump in. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

Book Details:

Book Title: Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition by Russ Colchamiro
Publisher: Crazy 8 Press
Release date: October 17, 2018
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 310 pages
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (A few f-bombs, and mild sex scenes + some casual drinking/pot smoking)

Book Blurb:

In the spirit of The Good Place, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, author Russ Colchamiro has gone back to the future to deliver his wildest, funniest novel yet–the updated Sci-Fi/Fantasy tale Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition.

When a jar containing the Universe’s DNA falls from Eternity, bumbling backpackers Jason and Theo find their loyalties–and sanity!–put to the test. Unaware that a motley crew from another realm is chasing them across the globe to retrieve that radioactive vessel, these intrepid new friends are forced to contend with passion, responsibility, and their own mortality–and the fate of the Solar System, which hangs in the balance.

Traversing Europe, New Zealand, and the backbone of Eternity, Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition ultimately asks one simple question: Is the life you’re living the life you actually want . . . or does the Universe have more to offer than you can possibly imagine?

Book Trailer

About Russ Colchamiro:

Russ ColchamiroRuss Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space opera, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself.

Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, and Brave New Girls. Russ is repped by The Zack Company.

Russ Colchamiro’s Social Media:

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Purchase Links for Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition:

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble
Playster ~ Kobo ~ 24symbols
Add to Goodreads

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My thanks to iREAD Book Tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

My Favorite Non-Crime Fiction of 2018

When I was trying to come up with a Top 10 this year, I ran into a small problem (at least for me). With 44 percent of my fiction, Crime/Thriller/Mystery novels so dominated the candidates, it’s like I read nothing else. So, I decided to split them into 2 lists — one for Crime Fiction and one for Everything Else. Not the catchiest title, I grant you, but you get what you pay for.

I do think I read some books that were technically superior than some of these — but they didn’t entertain me, or grab me emotionally the way these did. And I kinda feel bad about leaving them off. But only kind of. These are my favorites, the things that have stuck with me in a way others haven’t — not the best things I read (but there’s a good deal of overlap, too). I know I read books that are worse, too — I don’t feel bad about leaving them off.

Anyway…I say this every year, but . . . Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1. Also, none of these are re-reads, I can’t have everyone losing to my re-reading books that I’ve loved for 2 decades.

Enough blather…on to the list.

(in alphabetical order by author)

Lies SleepingLies Sleeping

by Ben Aaronovitch

My original post
I’ve read all the comics (at least collected in paperback), listened to all the audiobooks, read the books at least once . . . I’m a Rivers of London/Peter Grant fan. Period. Which means two things — 1. I’m in the bag already for this series and 2. When I say that this is the best of the bunch, I know what I’m talking about. Aaronovitch writes fantastic Urban Fantasy and this is his best yet. The series has been building to this for a while, and I honestly don’t know what to expect next. Great fight/action scenes, some genuine laughs, some solid emotional moments . . . this has it all. Everything you’ve come to expect and more.

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5 Stars

The Fairies of SadievilleThe Fairies of Sadieville

by Alex Bledsoe

My original post
I was very excited about this book when Bledsoe announced it was the last Tufa novel. Then I never wanted it to come out — I didn’t want to say goodbye to this wonderful world he’d created. But if I have to — this is how the series should’ve gone out. It’s the best installment since the first novel — we get almost every question we had about the Tufa answered (including ones you didn’t realize you had), along with a great story. It’s just special and I’m glad I got to read this magical series.

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5 Stars

Dragon RoadDragon Road

by Joseph Brassey

I haven’t been able to get a post written about this –I’m not sure why. It’s superior in almost every way to the wonderful Skyfarer — the idea behind the caravan, the scope of the ship and it’s culture are more than you might think anyone has done before. A fantasy novel about wizards and warriors (and warrior wizards) in a SF setting. I had a blast reading this and I think you will, too.

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4 1/2 Stars

Kill the Farm BoyKill the Farm Boy

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

My original post
Probably the best comedic/parody/satire fantasy since Peter David’s Sir Apropos of Nothing. The characters are fun, well-developed and pretty strange. This is a great fantasy story, it’s a great bunch of laughs, but there’s real humans and real human reactions — it’s not all laughs but enough of it is that you won’t have to work hard to thoroughly enjoy the book.

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4 Stars

Kings of the WyldKings of the Wyld

by Nicholas Eames
Like Dragon Road, I’ve been trying to write a post about this book for months. An epic story about brotherhood, about family, about heroism, about integrity — but at its core, it’s a story about Clay Cooper. Clay’s a good man trying to stay one. He worked really hard to get to where he is, but he has to e back on the road to help his friends’ daughter. It’s a fantastic concept and set up, with an even better follow-through by Eames. Possibly the best book I read last year — and I don’t say that lightly.

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5 Stars

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's FaultAll Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault

by James Alan Gardner

My original post
A Superhero story, a SF story, an Urban Fantasy, a story about friendship and destiny told with just enough of a light touch to fool yourself into this being a comedy. From the great title, all the way through to the end this book delivers.

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4 Stars

Smoke EatersSmoke Eaters

by Sean Grigsby

My original post
I started my original post about the book like this: Really, the case for you (or anyone) reading this book is simply and convincingly made in 13 words:

Firefighters vs. Dragons in an Urban Fantasy novel set in a futuristic dystopia.

That could’ve been my entire post, and it’s all I’m going to say now.

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4 1/2 Stars

Dark QueenDark Queen

by Faith Hunter

My original post
This could have been the series finale and I’d have been satisfied. I’m thrilled that it’s not. Hunter’s been building to this for a few books now — and it absolutely pays off the work she’s been doing. Better yet, there’s something else she’s been building toward that doesn’t get the attention it needed — and it’s devastating. The series will be different from here on out. Hunter’s as good as the genre has, and this book demonstrates it.

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5 Stars

Jimbo YojimboJimbo Yojimbo

by David W. Barbee

My original post
I don’t have words for this. I really don’t know how to say anything about this book — especially not in a paragraph. Click on the original post and know that even then I fail to do the book justice. It’s strange, gross, funny, exciting and thrilling.

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4 Stars

Beneath the Sugar SkyBeneath the Sugar Sky

by Seanan McGuire

My original post
As much as I appreciate McGuire’s Toby Daye, Indexing and InCryptid series, her Wayward Children books are possibly the best things she’d done. This allows us to spend time with characters I didn’t think we’d see again and the family — and world — of my favorite character in the series. It’s like McGuire wrote this one specifically for me. But it’s okay for you to read it, too. I’m generous like that.

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5 Stars