Book Review: “The Trilisk AI” by Michael McCloskey

The Trilisk AITitle: The Trilisk AI
Author: Michael McCloskey
Publisher: Squidlord LLC
Publication Date: November 15, 2013
Length: 260 pages

Obtained: The author gifted me a copy after I had read his first book and enjoyed the experience.

The Plot: Immediately following the events of The Trilisk Ruins, Telisa, Magnus and Shiny are working to sell the artifacts they scavenged during their harrowing experience in the vast and confusing Trilisk ruins. However, due to the nature of their activity they fear reprisal from the government if their location and/or identities are ever discovered.

In comes Shiny with a new idea, one that will require the trio to travel back to his homeworld and scavenge an ancient artifact hidden deep underground in his old home. The only problem? The Bel Klaven, the species at war with Shiny’s species. The Bel Klaven have automated defense systems set up on Shiny’s homeworld that will detect his special kind of technology, so he must help Telisa and Magnus using technology limited by the knowledge of humanity.

Soon enough Telisa and Magnus are making their way through Shiny’s old home, trying to stay alive and trying to find the artifact he needs to rebuild his species. What they don’t know is that they are being tracked by Telisa’s father who has a team of his own and he wants to find her and discover exactly what she’s been up to with the smuggling ring she’s helping.

The Commentary: The Trilisk AI does itself a really big favor by jumping into the action right after the events of The Trilisk Ruins. So many times I read a trilogy or series where the author jumps forward in time between the books, and sometimes it works great, but with these books, McCloskey did the right thing by just continuing from where he left off in the first one. Because these books are not exceptionally long it helps the story to feel more cohesive even after having taken a sizable break between reading The Trilisk Ruins and then The Trilisk AI. I didn’t feel lost even for a moment when I picked this book up, instead I fell right back into the story I remembered from before.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Michael McCloskey is not breaking any unexpected barriers with these books, but that’s the best thing about them, he doesn’t need to be breaking molds or presenting something overtly unique. He’s got a wonderfully unique perspective in Shiny and the characters of Telisa and Magnus are well-written, even if they are somewhat stereotypical of the genre on the whole. The thing with these books is that McCloskey is succeeding rather well in telling an engaging story that is paced so well even if you are in a stretch of the book that isn’t as interesting to you personally you don’t want to put it down.

I like to think of The Trilisk AI as a “pick it up and finish it” book. It’s one where you know what you are going to get, a fun tale with no fuss, and you want to read it from start to finish all in one sitting, so you save it for a time when you can do just that. The author also gifted me with copies of a few other of his books from other series and I’m keeping them in my back pocket for just such occasions in the future. A relaxed afternoon where I want to pass the time, or a long road trip where I need a distraction from the scenery sliding past.

The relationship triangle of Shiny, Telisa, and Magnus takes a few interesting turns in The Trilisk AI as the three of them are still feeling each other out a little bit, trying to know exactly what Shiny is up to and trying to determine if his intent is in line with that of Telisa and Magnus as well. I liked this hesitancy on the part of all three characters because it added a little more mystery to the events going on because I had to keep in the back of my mind that one of the three might change things up at the drop of a hat.

Telisa and her father, who shows up in some portions of the book, have a few moments that got me wondering a little more about her past. I want to know if there is something more interesting that’s going to come forward as I read through the next three books or not. Magnus on the other hand is my faithful standby with this book and the previous one. I feel like I know where he stands at all times and that helps keep the story grounded rather well.

Left Me Wanting… More of Shiny. I know that the main driving characters in the book are supposed to be Telisa and Magnus, but I’m fascinated by the few scenes I got to read that were from Shiny’s point of view. McCloskey has done a really good job making Shiny seem unique in his thought processes and actions, and as a result I really want more time inside of his head. Perhaps one of the following books will indulge me a little bit.

Worth It? Yes, I think so. I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Trilisk Ruins, and saw little reason not to see where the author wanted to take the story next. I like these books because they aren’t the size of a brick and they are well-paced for reading over the course of an evening or a lazy Sunday afternoon. I have three more books to go in the series and I’ve already bought copies.

The Book:   Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads

Looking Back at August 2014

I knew going into August that it was going to be a very busy month outside of reading and blogging, so I have to say I’m rather proud of myself for still getting seven books read at the same time I was starting a new job with not nearly as much downtime during the day and moving into a new house. I really wish I could have gotten all ten books on my list for the month finished, but it just wasn’t meant to be I think. Without the new job and the move I probably would have pulled it off, but it is what it is and I’ll spread those three books into the remaining four months of the year.

Here are the things I read during August:

My favorite book of the month was Lock In, followed closely by The Circuit: Executor Rising. I also felt like Hounded was a really interesting book and I’m interested in continuing that series at some point in the future. I really feel like Lock In is doing something new and interesting with the genre while at the same time calling attention to some compelling social commentary that often goes unnoticed in the background of everything else society thinks to talk about. The Circuit: Executor Rising hearkens very closely to my love of The Expanse series, and so it hit me in just the right spot at the beginning of the month.

Anthem’s Fall was decent, but still a bit rough round the edges and a little too reliant on some typical cliches and plot tropes. I will likely read the sequel because I think the author has some potential and he gave a few glimpses into an interesting world he didn’t quite reveal with the first book. The Trilisk AI is the sequel to a book I read earlier this year and I also found it to be engaging and fun, if not anything overly unique. There is a special place in my heart for books that tell a fun tale without getting too fancy about things from time to time. I bought the remaining three books in the series to keep on hand for when I want something light and fun over an afternoon or lazy evening.

Blood Moon and Black Moon were the real curveballs for me this month. I was asked by the publisher to review Black Moon for it’s impending release in a couple of weeks, which meant I needed to read Blood Moon first so I wouldn’t be lost in the story by starting with the second book. These books fit into a relatively new genre space known as “new adult” and they definitely sit on the fringes of my reading habits. However, Teri Harman does a few interesting things with them and her characters are all very grounded and real, so I think I’ll probably read the final volume in the trilogy when it comes out.

At the moment I’ve completed 61 books out of my 100 book goal. I’m still behind pace by about six books, give or take, which means in order to hit the mark I’m really going to need to buckle down and make up some ground. I may even need to see if I can convince my wife to let me take a Saturday or two and shut myself off from the world to push my way through two or three shorter books all in one day and make up some ground accordingly. If I don’t make it all the way to 100 I still think I’ll easily beat last year’s mark of 84 books read, which is impressive in its own right.

Looking forward to September, I’ve got some good books on deck. One of the highlights is the first new book in the official Star Wars canon reboot, Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. I’m also excited to read Sarah J. Maas’ newest installment to the Throne of Glass series, Heir of Fire. There are a total of 9 books on my list for September, and now that I’m settled into the new job and the move is complete my hopes are high I can get all 9 finished and maybe sneak in an extra.

Blog Tour and Book Review: “Black Moon” by Teri Harman

Black Moon Tour BannerTitle: Black Moon
Author: Teri Harman
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Length: 416 pages

Obtained: The publisher provided me with an advance copy for review.

The Plot: Following the events of Blood Moon the characters of Willa and Simon are spending a lot of their free time training as hard as possible to pass the first test to becoming a True Witch. The Covenant they have joined have taken up residence in Twelve Acres so that they can all be close together as Willa and Simon continue realizing their full potential.

The trouble is that Simon is plagued by nightmares and other secrets he either doesn’t know the truth about or that he doesn’t want to share with Willa. On the other hand, Willa has been delving deeper and deeper into the mystery that is Simon and his multiple schools of magic when other witches are only gifted with a single school. The answers she uncovers are startling and reveal that Simon may have a destiny much more grand than anyone in the Covenant had dared to imagine in the short time they have all been together.

Meanwhile, Archard, the Dark witch from Blood Moon is not as dead as everyone had hoped and he’s delving into some twisted, dark, and intensely powerful magic from the old teachings of Bartholomew the Dark, the last Dark witch to successfully form a Dark Covenant, the same one that brought about what the common folk know as the Dark Ages.

The Commentary: After my reading of Blood Moon, the first book in The Moonlight Trilogy, I was on the fence about whether or not I really wanted to continue with the second book. These books are treading ground in the very new genre of “New Adult” and it sits far to the side of my usual reading habits. However, the publisher very kindly asked me to review the book and a longtime friend of mine happens to be the editor for these books as well. Thankfully, my friend was able to tell me my misgivings about Blood Moon were something that I would not have with Black Moon if I just sat down and got to reading.

As it turns out, he was completely right.

My biggest misgiving previously was feeling that the Light witches had no real sense of danger surrounding them. It felt like it was a forgone conclusion that they were going to win and none of them were going to come to any harm. In Black Moon all of that changes. The danger the Light Covenant faces is much more real and the consequences of their actions are not always immediately apparent. With that out of the way, the book really slid into place for me and I was able to get into the story much more thoroughly than before.

I was also very impressed with Black Moon’s treatment of the relationship between Simon and Willa. In the first book it was immediately established that they are soul mates, but relationships in real life are a lot more complicated than that even if you have found the person you want to be with for the rest of your life. Teri Harman does an amazing job making sure that Simon and Willa aren’t just love-struck, star-crossed lovers. They may only be around twenty years old, but they are mature enough to realize that they don’t actually know everything about each other; that they will actually have to sit down and talk about things instead of just taking each other’s actions for granted because they are in love.

Most authors aren’t willing to have their two characters have a big fight and let it simmer for a while. They all want an immediate makeup scene. Teri Harman is willing to let Simon and Willa be mad at each other. She’s willing to let them act like people do in real life where they get pissed off and have to leave the house for an hour or two to calm down before coming back and still being angry, but finally calm enough to talk about things. It’s a very fresh change of pace compared to most relationships in books.

There is a pretty big plot twist toward the end of Black Moon that I had figured out around the halfway point, but while I may have had the twist figured out, I absolutely did not have the person it was going to happen to figured out. That spun me for a loop and I have to give props to Teri Harman for taking me by surprise. I pride myself on my ability to pick up on foreshadowing and other similar things rather well, so pulling a fast one on me is always impressive.

Worth It? Yes. If you have read Blood Moon, the first book of the trilogy, you will certainly want to read this one because it continues the story in a very satisfying fashion. If you haven’t read the first book, you could probably still pick up Black Moon and not find yourself too lost because the author does a good job of keeping the reader up to speed. Black Moon is carving into new ground genre-wise, so it might be a little different from what the average YA reader is expecting, but that isn’t a bad thing, I promise.

Left Me Wanting… Just a little bit more action. The very fresh genre of “new adult” is something that sits on the fringes of my typical reading tastes, and I understand why Black Moon isn’t packed with action like my typical fare, but I felt the story lent itself to just a little bit more. Black Moon does have much more action than Blood Moon, and that made me happy, but it still fell just a tiny bit short of the perfect amount in my opinion.

The Book:   Amazon   |   Goodreads
The Author:   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Author’s Website

Want a chance at a free copy of Black Moon to read for yourself? Head on over to the Rafflecopter Giveaway the publisher is hosting and see if you can get lucky!

Book Review: “The Circuit: Executor Rising” by Rhett C. Bruno

Executor RisingOne of the most enjoyable things about having spent the last couple of years as a science fiction and fantasy book reviewer is that occasionally a new author will see a review I’ve written about a book intended for a similar audiences as their new effort. Sometimes those authors get in touch with me and offer a free copy of their new book in exchange for an honest review. Who am I to turn down free books after all?

The Circuit: Executor Rising found its way to my reading list because the author, Rhett C. Bruno, stumbled upon my review of James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes from a while back. This book fits into the same genre and intended audience that Leviathan Wakes goes after, so the author thought I might be interested in giving it a try.

There is a certain charm to science fiction novels that base themselves exclusively in our solar system instead of ranging into fictional galaxies and strange places that the reader knows nothing about before they pick up a book. Pretty much everyone knows where Saturn is located, or that there are well-known moons such as Titan or Enceladus. Readers already know about Earth’s moon and Mars as places that even in real life scientists have notions about colonizing. The fact that a reader can know where an author is referring to from the first mention of the place rather than needing a lot of extra world building to make things effective allows an author to keep their focus on the story. A small part of me thinks that all new science fiction authors should be forced to start in our solar system instead of inventing their own, but I’m not foolish enough to think that would ever actually happen.

The Circuit: Executor Rising keeps itself firmly rooted in our home system, dealing with a future where humanity has done what seems to be the inevitable and ruined our home planet. Earth is a shell of its former self, barren and unable to support life in any meaningful way. Instead humanity is exiled to the Kepler Circuit, a string of colonies and stations spread through the solar system linked by ever-moving transports known as Solar-Arks. The Tribune, a religious faction, has assumed control of most law enforcement and most of society in general, and as as a result exert their influence and control as widely and brutally as possible.

With a book like The Circuit: Executor Rising it can be very easy for the author to overwhelm a reader with far too many viewpoints as they try to set the stage for everything going on in their book’s universe. However, Bruno, like James S.A. Corey with Leviathan Wakes, has managed to keep the number of viewpoints in The Circuit: Executor Rising to a small few while still providing a rather expansive view of the book universe he is working in. As a reader jumping into a book by a debut author, or as a reader jumping into a new trilogy or series in general, I find that only having to keep three or four character viewpoints straight in my mind is so much easier than a dozen or two dozen. It makes for a tighter, more engaging first experience with the book.

An android by the name of ADIM was my favorite viewpoint by far. His artificial intelligence is very advanced, but he still has struggles comprehending some of the more basic feelings and situations that a normal human would find to be second nature. I enjoyed the character as I watched him grow bit by bit over the course of the book even though he had what seemed to be the least amount of screen time by a significant margin. My second favorite character is Sage, a Tribune Executor who has been sent to infiltrate a rebellious group, but is struggling with her own past decisions in service to the Tribune. I think there is a lot more coming from Sage, and perhaps even a lot more back story than I originally thought. It would be interesting to read a prequel type novella revolving exclusively around Sage and the very briefly mentioned relationship she had in the past with another main character’s son.

When it comes to how well The Circuit: Executor Rising compares to other science fiction, I think it stands up rather well. The opening chapter or two did feel a little bit disjointed to me, but by the time I was four or five chapters in I had a good grasp of where the story was taking me. There are a few patches that aren’t as polished as they could be, but they aren’t bad and I think with future installments the author will see those rough edges smooth themselves out on their own. The story was tightly paced, never leaving me feel like I was waiting for something to happen and the switches between viewpoints were well organized to let me connect with a character, but not get worn out by only seeing things through their eyes.

There are a lot of good things going on with The Circuit: Executor Rising. I think Rhett C. Bruno has found himself a wonderful story to tell and I’m looking forward to seeing what a second book has to offer at some point in the future. If you are a fan of The Expanse series, or anything remotely in the same vein, then The Circuit: Executor Rising is probably a book you should take a good, hard look at picking up sometime.

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads

Looking Back at July 2014

I’m still playing a little bit of catch-up with the blog as I wind down my time at my current job (today is my last day) and prepare for my new job (Monday is my first day), but at least this time the monthly recap is only about a week late instead of an entire month late. Progress is progress I suppose.

July as an interesting month of reading for me. I read an entire trilogy from start to finish without anything in between, read the final two books of another trilogy, read what I believe to be a standalone novel (but I’m not entirely sure), and started a new series by an author I’ve heard lots of great things about over the past few months. On top of all that, I got to enjoy the latest installment of The Expanse, which I had been waiting a long time to pick up.

In no particular order, here are the books I read in July:

My interest in the books by Alex J. Cavanaugh came from a conversation with an editor friend of mine who said he had read the first one and wanted to know what I thought. CassaStar is not particularly long, so I gave it a shot over a Saturday afternoon and it grabbed me enough I went ahead and read the other two over the remainder of the weekend. I liked what the author was doing with the books, although they are still a little rough around the edges. I could see his improvement though, so I’d give another endeavor of his a fair shot in the future.

Born of Hatred and With Silent Screams are the second and third books of The Hellequin Chronicles, and I had read the first book a few months ago. I found that first book to be rather engaging and there was something about the main character that just kept eating at the back of my mind, so I read these two books to try to find the answer I was looking for. It took a while, but about three-quarters of the way through Born of Hatred I got the answer, and then continued on with my enjoyment of the trilogy. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if Steve McHugh has any new material forthcoming.

The books by Myke Cole and Michael R. Underwood came from following my favorite authors on Twitter and seeing them talk about those two authors an awful lot, so I went out and got a couple of books to try. Shadow Ops: Control Point was much different from I was expecting and had me hooked from the first page. Shield and Crocus can best be described as “The Avengers you never knew you wanted to read about.”

And, of course, I absolutely loved Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey. It was recently announced that The Expanse has been extended into at least three more books in the coming years, one per summer (which is perfect), and I’m hoping it doesn’t start there. I hope I’m still reading new books in The Expanse series when I’m 50 years old.

As for August, I’m blatantly focusing on books closer to 300 pages more than anything else. I’m starting a new job, moving into a new home, and in general still making a lot of adjustments to my everyday life, so reading time is going to be at a premium. I think if I focus on the shorter books I have available to myself I can still finish eight or nine before the end of the month and keep my pace for the 100 books read this year goal.