Category Archives: Classic science fiction

Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading List for 2018

Happy 2018 to everyone. Yes, it’s hard to believe we have a new year starting again, and although there was plenty of tumult around me, this past year was a good one.

I’m currently working on the third book in my Terran Trilogy called The Weight of Gravity. This trilogy is part of the overall Alysian Universe series, but from a completely different prospective. It makes the tenth book I’ve written, along with other shorter works in anthologies. Kristine Rusch talks about author burnout, and I’m battling a bit of it myself. Maybe the new year will energize me.

When I set out to pick ten books for the upcoming year for my blogs, I noticed that my kindle library was bursting with books gathered from various ad sites that I promised myself I would get around to reading. So, that’s where I will draw from for some of my selections. I’m worried that ebooks are getting cheaper and cheaper, many are offered for free, and personal libraries are filling up so buyers don’t need to purchase quite as much to satisfy their reading needs. A lot are free. As a reader, I like it when I don’t have to spend tons of money on books, but as an author, I wonder where the trend is going, and will I be able to keep up my income? Are we reading more or spending less? Or both? Or does it even out?

This year, I had my highest month ever, and lowest, in royalty income. Several authors mentioned a similar situation of lower royalties, blaming it on the distraction of the election and following political commotion. Since my lowest month was January, I’m buying into the theory. Luckily, the summer months brought a welcome increase in sales with August my best month ever. A number of authors have commented on this seasonality of book buying, and I’m thinking to research this further in another blog.

In my December blog, I always select five books to add to my reading list for the year. This time, I wanted to consider a mix of stories with time travel and space opera foremost but also include a bit of fantasy. I wanted to suggest both traditional and self-published novels. Last year, I discovered a few new authors who wrote in a series, and I decided I should continue their works. Along that line, the Expanse Series is coming back to television, so I picked the newest release, Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey. I’ve read the earlier novels and blogged on several of them, so check it out if you want to know more. If you haven’t read the books, the television version can be confusing, but I love the special effects, even though I disagree with the choice of actors who play the characters.

The second book on my to-read list for 2018 is Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards. Yes, I know that I selected this last year and don’t know why I didn’t read it. I loved the first book, Dome City Blues and this will bring in an urban cyberpunk genre that will be a fun contrast to my other choices.

My next choice is Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn. This fantasy just appeared to be a fun book to read. Any book that starts out saying, “Sneaking out of the palace may not have been one of Aniri’s best ideas” has me hooked. As third daughter, Aniri is under no pressure to marry and hopes to wed her fencing instructor lover. Then, she gets a marriage proposal from a barbarian prince in the north who has his own secrets and… Not science fiction, but it sounded too good to pass up.

Time travel is a favorite of mine, so when I saw Crossing in Time advertised, I stuck that in my kindle library. The blurb asked, “If someone took everything you live for, how far would you go to get it back?” Turns out, the main character would go far into the past to change events in order to get back a loved one, and that idea intrigued me.

Finally for now, the fifth selection comes from a popular author that I never got around to reading until a year or two ago. Andre Norton has become a favorite of mine, and I have been eyeing her Time Traders sitting in my kindle library. Time to read it.

There you have my first five. In January, I’ll add five more. As you know, other books may be selected as I see fit. Sometimes, publishing schedules change, or other ideas take precedent, so this is not cast in stone, but only serves as a guide. I offer suggestions and comments for books I think readers will like, but I’m not a professional reviewer and don’t take review requests any more. However, I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for years and love to share this passion with fellow enthusiasts.

This time around, I noticed that a deciding factor was the blurb. Cover and blurb are so important in a reader’s selection process. So, authors, put extra effort into those two elements to help sell your stories.

Here they are to start:

Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards
Crossing in Time by D. L. Horton
Time Traders by Andre Norton
Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey

Also, for the new year, I would like to recommend you check out Kristine Rusch’s blog on the state of publishing. Not only does she live in Oregon like I do, but she is in the traditional publishing arena along with being a strong advocate of self publishing, having self-published many books herself. She has written several series in several genres under various pen names and is thoughtful and knowledgeable about the total spectrum of publishing, both Indie and traditional.

Here’s the link:
http://kriswrites.com/2017/12/27/business-musings-the-year-in-review-overview/

With 2017 ending, and 2018 about to begin, I wish a bright future for everyone… and happy reading.

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Counting Spaceship Colonists

IMG_9518Writing science fiction often takes you off into the weeds of future speculation. When I took on the Terran Series and started writing A World Too Far, I had to figure out how many people and ships would be traveling. I also had to state a reason for the mission.

I didn’t want the reason to be that the Earth was annihilated or destroyed. I hope that as time goes on we do things better and more efficiently. Stephen Hawking says that we need to expand out from Earth in order to survive long term. The “Not Everyone in the Same Basket” theory. I think we have enough people like Elon Musk that we don’t need a catastrophic event to push people out into space. So I made the reason for the expedition the fear that humans need to diversify to other planets in order to survive…and the plain old human drive of seeking adventure and new worlds.

Okay, how many then? Two names kept cropping up. One was John More who said 160 was enough. Local Portland University anthropologist Cameron Smith said 14,000 to 40,000.

space-station-485590_640

Wikipedia:

Estimates of the minimum reasonable population for a generation ship vary. Anthropologist John Moore has estimated that, even in the absence of cryonics or sperm banks, a population capacity of 160 people would allow normal family life (with the average
individual having ten potential marriage partners) throughout a 200-year space journey, with little loss of genetic diversity; social engineering can reduce this estimate to 80 people.[6] In 2013 anthropologist Cameron Smith reviewed existing literature and created a new computer model to estimate a minimum reasonable population in the tens of thousands. Smith’s numbers were much larger than previous estimates such as Moore’s, in part because Smith takes the risk of accidents and disease into consideration, and assumes at least one severe population catastrophe over the course of a 150-year journey.[7]

Cameron Smith in Acta Astronautica
April–May 2014, Vol.97:16–29, doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.12.013

Estimation of a genetically viable population for multigenerational interstellar voyaging: Review and data for project Hyperion

I find that previously proposed such populations, on the order of a few hundred individuals, are significantly too low to consider based on current understanding of vertebrate (including human) genetics and population dynamics. Population genetics theory, calculations and computer modeling determine that a properly screened and age- and sex-structured total founding population (Nc) of anywhere from roughly 14,000 to 44,000 people would be sufficient to survive such journeys in good health. A safe and well-considered Nc figure is 40,000, an Interstellar Migrant Population (IMP) composed of an Effective Population [Ne] of 23,400 reproductive males and females, the rest being pre- or post-reproductive individuals. This number would maintain good health over five generations despite (a) increased inbreeding resulting from a relatively small human population, (b) depressed genetic diversity due to the founder effect, (c) demographic change through time and (d) expectation of at least one severe population catastrophe over the 5-generation voyage.

That’s quite a range.
What to do?

I started with sixty ships with two hundred per ship that worked the ship and two hundred in cryo. But then as the ships approached the designated planet, a population campaign increased the live colonists to five hundred per ship, give or take. That put us in the range of thirty thousand along the lines of Cameron Smith’s estimate.

Besides, I liked Babylon Five, the TV series, and wanted several ships on the journey for diversity and interest.

When the target planet was found toxic, forty ships decided not to land and jumped away. Of course, problems started happening immediately and the population underwent a severe reduction.

I needed a more manageable number of characters. I was trying to read The Dark Between the Stars by Alan Dean Foster and too many main characters overwhelm a reader. I got overwhelmed and didn’t finish the book.

As ships sought ways to increase the population, space found ways to destroy ships.

Now as I’m writing the next stage that deals with survival on a space station and alien planet, numbers again play an important role. Only so many can fit on station, and those stranded on the orbiting ships create a nice tension to those on planet that don’t want a horde of aliens invading their home and try to keep them on the station or ships.

Readers often don’t realize how much science fiction authors need to balance science plausibility with attention-keeping fictional plots and often wander off into the weeds of research.

Or maybe they do. Maybe they require it.

fortunes-pawnThis week I read Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach as it is a Powell’s science fiction readers group selection. I really enjoyed it…so much so that I’m now reading the sequel Honor’s Knight.

It’s even better.

Devi Morris is a super gung-ho mercenary from the military planet Paradox where the king reigns supreme. The universe is full of inhabited planets and ships travel all over via jump technology.

However, there is an unknown dangerous threat lurking at the edges of the universe.

Devi’s favorite possessions are her battle armor, which she has named Lady Gray, and her weapons. (Also named). She polishes them and talks about them a lot. Being a merc, she has few friends. Being aggressive and battle smart… she has few friends.

In order to accelerate her career, she has taken a job in a beaten up trading ship called The Glorious Fool. The ship has a dangerous reputation but it’s rumored to be a fast track to the rank of Devastator, the name of the king ‘s elite guards, a rank Devi aspires to.honors-knight

On board, an interesting assortment of aliens form the crew. The navigator is a cranky aeon, a birdlike species; her doctor is from a race of crablike insects that are enemies of most humans, and the cook, Rupert, well, he’s incredibly handsome and nothing like he seems.

Nothing.

Actually, nothing is as it appears and soon Devi is wrapped up in secrets that are world heavens-queenshattering with the real possibility of not surviving her tour.

But she’s a stubborn, resourceful, and surprisingly capable mercenary who soon finds herself with a few deadly secrets of her own.

Fast page-turning action with a passionate love story makes this one of my favorites, and one I recommend.

Happy Halloween!pumpkin

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Science Fiction Specials

IMG_0174A one day special…today!

To kick off my new book A World Too Far, I have partnered with Free Kindle Books and Tips to offer a special discount to celebrate the new release.

This starts a new Trilogy that remains in the Alysian Universe, but presents a whole different viewpoint and characters. Offered on Amazon or through FBKT, grab this .99 deal because it’s going away tomorrow.

http://smarturl.it/awtf or http://amzn.to/2cgqU6O

I don’t usually go into writing on my blog, but Thomas Weaver of North of Andover gave a good explanation of an irritating grammar point–the em dash. Here it is if you’ve been wondering.

https://northofandover.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/sometimes-he-tries-to-explain-how-to-use-the-em-dash/

Are you a Firefly fan? If you think I’m talking about flickering flying insects, you couldn’t be more mistaken.

I’m talking about the kickass series of odd job spacers who fly around the stars from episode to episode running from the government and it’s secret operation and trying to pick up various dangerous jobs in order to survive.

And starring hunky Nathan Fillion. Oh, so now you know what I’m talking about.

Well…

dark-runIf you like that style of science fiction, then, Dark Run by Mike Brooks may just be your cup of kauf.

The Keiko’s crew are smugglers, tarnished soldiers of fortune, ex-pirates, and con artists who want their past to stay secret. It’s the code of the ship to not dig up a fellow crew member’s past. But the past has away of coming back and biting you, so Captain Icabod Drift is abducted and blackmailed into taking a job by an old corrupt employer who has revenge on his mind and wants to use the Keiko to deliver it. For a cool hundred thousand up front and another after delivery, Captain Drift and crew must deliver three crates to an exact location at an exact time.

Scrambling to make the deadline, several obstacles force the ship into various fraught situations. Their female Chinese pilot flies the ship through impossible maneuvers and the huge Maori named Apirana serves as bodyguard and protectorate. Drift and first mate, Tamara Rourke, form a special bond. (romance here) Crew member Micah has his own secrets and a past he’d rather hide. And the pilot ‘s brother Kuai lurks in the engine room muttering at his sister’s recklessness and trying to protect her.

But as events unfold and the deadly, mysterious cargo is discovered, hidden past identities begin to unravel and surprising identities are revealed. The most shocking is the true identity of their once trusted Captain. As the revelations unfold, the crew must decide if they want to remain together and continue with the close fellowship they have experienced over the past several years or split for new horizons, now knowing the truth of fellow crew members.dark-sky

But each feels betrayed by what happens and revenge becomes a strong glue that keeps them together as they seek out to destroy the powerful employer who set Drift and his crew up in the first place.

Definitely a fun ride with all the elements of an action adventure science fiction story in place and ready to be enjoyed.

Flicker on firefly.

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Science Fiction Marketing and Cyberpunk

IMG_9503Someone’s Clone just hit number #1 in Kindle’s free Books on Genetic Engineering and number #1 on Kindle’s free books on Time Travel. Wahoo! AANNDD…The day is not over, either. #28 in paid Kindle Science fiction. Exciting stuff.

But like my days as a stockbroker, sales change hour by hour, and today’s heady success is tomorrow’s tough struggle. Market on Indie authors.

However, today I’m thrilled. (A brief humble bow ensues)

Why the spike in downloads? I enrolled Someone’s clone in KDP Select for July 5 through July 9. It is one of my favorite books in the series and can be read as a stand alone. But since it is positioned at the end of the current series, it was languishing in sales as readers were picking up the earlier books. I figured anyone reading it for free, might become interested in the rest of the series. (which is happening) This is a limited time offer for this book, and will not often be repeated.

I’m also hoping that readers will like it and write a good review. (hint, hint)

I don’t know how other books get so many reviews. Some have big publishers behind them, and others become popular and get on lists that help sales. If a book is good, it deserves good reviews. I have no problem with that. I have not gotten involved in review swaps or traveled all over for book signings, but friends and family have often supported my books…honestly. Others in the family, not so much. “I don’t read science fiction.”

Now with Amazon’s new policy on reviews, it will be interesting to see if reviews change at all or continue along the the same path. I understand why Amazon is cracking down on reviews. Fake reviews and paid reviews have gotten out of hand so that the customer no longer trusts them. Amazon is all about protecting the customer, so they have stepped up to the plate and cracked down. I just think the process will be harder for the unknown Indie author who likes to write and is not such a strong marketer to get the reviews he or she needs.

As a friend of mine says often, “We’ll see.” Peripheral

This week I am reading Cyberpunk. Normally, I like William Gibson, but I am finding his new book, The Peripheral, a struggle. So I switched over to Charles Stross’s Halting State. Both deal with virtual reality and events inside an internet game. Gibson is harder to piece together what is happening because of his constant point of view shifts. In both cases, nerd-tech language is used lavishly and often there’s an inside joke or innuendo. Also characters are not delineated clearly in Gibson’s book. I had to reread an entire chapter trying to find a name to pin to the person talking in the chapter and still couldn’t figure out who it was.

Finally, I read the summary which enlightened me to the fact that one of the main characters, Wilf Netherton, lives seventy-five years in the future. The story begins in an apocalyptic near future where jobs are scarce and money is tight. Flynne Fisher earns what she can by assembling product at a 3-d print shop. Her brother, Burton, tries to live on money from the Veterans Association since he is disabled, and often takes on online gaming jobs to augment his tight income.

Burton persuades his sister, Flynne, to take over a few observation shifts in a game for him, promising her that the game isn’t a shooter. Still, the crime she witnesses there is plenty bad.

Wilf is a high-powered publicist in a world seventy-five years in the future where reaching into the past is considered no more than a hobby. He is working online secretly as security in some on line games. Both Flynne and Wilf will soon meet and realize the impact each other’s world will have on the other.Neuromancer

Okay. Confusing in parts for me so far. But, I love most of Gibson’s other books, so I’m soldiering on. His Neuromancer is the book that began the whole Cyberpunk sub genre and won a Hugo.

51wHalting State0l9FLDeL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Charles Stross is a Hugo winner also, so I picked up his book Halting State on a recommendation. Be aware that Rule of 34 is the second in this series.

Now in Stross’s Halting States, a crime also takes place inside an online game. Susan Smith of the Edinburgh police is called in on an unusual robbery where orcs and a dragon rob a bank inside the virtual reality land of Avalon Four. The company that owns the game, Hayek Associates, is a dot.com start up that just floated onto the New York Stock Exchange and whiffs of impropriety could crash the stock, affecting a number of powerful investors and worldwide financial empires.Rule 34

This one was easier to follow, and not because of my stock broker background. Each chapter is titled with the name of the character in which point of view it is written. However, Stross uses second person which is a bit disconcerting, but is what the gaming world uses in their instructions. Stross also uses a lot of gaming technology and inside tech-nerd slang and information.  So far the story is edgy enough to be interesting, but I’m like investigator Smith, who wonders what is all the big fuss about? The more she investigates, the more complex and bigger the case becomes. Looks like a worldwide conspiracy is using Hayek Associates to funnel money around.

Sell your Bitcoins before it’s too late.

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A Discovered Science Fiction Favorite

photo

The hardest part of being an Indie author is the marketing. For May I tried The Fussy Librarian for $16.

And you get what you pay for.

Five hundred free orders (KDP select) so far, which is a far cry from the 4500 free orders of a year ago at this same time through Sweetfreebooks.

In addition, last year, readers immediately started buying the other books in the series, and I sold through June, also, at a record rate. Not yet so far.

There may be certain readers who comb the sites looking for bargains, and they already have my book by now. I also know The Fussy Librarian is still in the building stages, maybe the reason they were not as effective. Ah well, this marketing endeavor is an experiment for me to see what works and what doesn’t.

So, I have checked this off for me, but It may work better for you.

Look at this interesting report comparing various author earnings. It makes me feel that I’m doing the right things. http://authorearnings.com/report/the-50k-report/

Forerunner FactorIn the last several blogs, I have talked about current authors, known and unknown. This week I read an old classic that I never got around to reading in my early days. I enjoyed her. Andre Norton has extensive works on the Forerunners, The Witch World and Solar Queen series to name a few better known ones. The book I read is called The Forerunner Factor. It contains two of her previous works.

 The story tells of Simsa, a Barrows orphan who scrounges underground in a Labyrinth of caves , living with an elderly eccentric woman who collects old “treasures” found in various nook and crannies of her world. Found as a babe in an old Forerunner’s ruin, Simsa’s odd appearance of ebony black skin and silver curly hair set her apart from all others on her world so that she slinks about at night with her head covered so as to escape notice.Time Traders Norton

When her mentor and protector dies, Simsa is just a young woman, and she gathers the old woman’s artifacts together, hoping to sell a few in order to survive. Through a series of incidents, she is thrown in with a star traveler named Thorn, who arrives on her world searching for any information or remnants of a long lost civilization known as the Forerunners. Needless to say, Simsa’s strange sculpture she tries to sell and her odd appearance captures his attention and the attention of the current Overlord who also is interested in old artifacts and strange tech.

Also, Thorn’s brother went missing while searching for Forerunner artifacts on Simsa’s world, and Thorn is determined to discover what happened to him. Along with Simsa, is her pet Zorsal named Zass who she can mind-link and is trained to her commands. Zass is an alien bird-like creature, utterly loyal and very useful.Gates to Witch World

Together the three scrabble ahead of the Overlord’s hunters who follow them, and eventually they stumble into a lost ruin deep in the Hard Hills that changes their lives forever.

This is a story of a scramble for survival and a hunt for treasure. At times, it goes on a little overmuch, but the premise kept me interested. There are two parts to this bundle, and the second part is similar in that Simsa tries to escape from captors and lands on a barren, but dangerous, planet, once touched by the Forerunners. Thorn comes after her, and again the two try to survive in a dangerous alien world that harbors ancient secrets.

For over a half century, Andre Norton has written a huge number of enjoyable stories, achieving the Grand Master Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction. She now resides in Murfessboro, Tennessee, still writing.

Norton has an easy to read style and intriguing story lines. I don’t know how I missed her stories, but you shouldn’t.

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Comets and Book Clubs

IMG_9503We are landing on a comet tonight! This is a momentous event. After ten years of chasing, using gravity assist, the Philae Lander, a robotic spacecraft, will catch up to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or 67P, and anchor itself there for hopefully a year long ride.

The Rosetta project, led by the European Space Agency with contributions from NASA and others, will be studying this comet in order to better understand the composition of comets, thought to bring water to primitive Earth, and possibly life itself. Eventually it will be within 180 million km of the sun and expelling water and gases because of intense heat.New Image of Comet ISON

Find more at: CNN.com: Rosetta Landing or www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta

This is the ESA’s official website, where you can find the latest news, images and animations on the spacecraft and its lander .

touching-crystal-thumb-1Why does this intrigue me? My sixth novel, Touching Crystal deals with the impact of a comet against Alysia’s moon, Thanos, and the resulting consequences to my world of Alysia.

Science will now explain what was once mystical, a harbinger or omen for humans. Although it took ten years to get close enough to land, the idea that we can interface with a moving comet offers hope that we may be able to divert any future threats to Earth from this type of cosmic threat.

Although, we certainly didn’t see the meteor that crashed into Russia last year and took us by surprise. We were too busy staring at a passing asteroid.

NeuromancerI am currently reading Snow Crash, as it is a selection of my Powell’s Book Club and we meet tonight. It is a Hugo winner classic from 1992 and is very different. Think William Gibson and his Hugo winning book, Neuromancer, which created the sub genre of Cyber-punk in the early 1990s and you have an idea of the story.Snow Crash

The Powell’s book club is a rowdy group of fifteen to twenty-five or so science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts who have been meeting for over ten years at the world famous bookstore of Powell’s in Beaverton. They are awesomely intelligent about science fiction and not shy about offering opinions.

Makes for lively discussions, so I need to be prepared.

Abyss Beyond DreamsI also plan on reading The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter Hamilton, and will report on that new offering in the next week or two.

someones_clone_front-cover_v2_finalBut first, I have my proof for Someone’s Clone in my hot hands and expect a November 20 publication date. Until then, I’ll be working feverishly to put the final touches on it and conquer the format and download monster.

Check out Amazon for this exciting new adventure, one of my best to date. A murder, a mystery, time travel, romance, aliens…this one has it all…so stay tuned.

 

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Military Science Fiction and Time Travel Shows

IMG_0165Time travel. Seems to be an “in” thing lately. Why do I say that? Because I’m currently enjoying the series Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I was impressed with the job the producers did of translating from book to television. My first book Caught in Time has a very similar flavor, and revolves around a beautiful woman who is sent back to a more barbaric past and has to learn how to survive. In my case, Rowyna struggles on an Earth colony planet in an English style setting. So, it’s right on trend. Outlander

Also, the new series Forever about an immortal who is a medical examiner is a pleasant surprise. Not quite as good as Sherlock, the main character teams up with a female cop, but has the same sharp mind when it comes to solving crimes. And there’s the added twist that if he’s killed, he comes back again. And he does, more than once, naked and wet.

1076x560(9)If you’ve cut the cord, but are a Netflix fan, Continuum is a great time travel series to check out. After watching the first episode, I did some binge viewing. This series is also about a female cop, but one from the far future that is thrown back into our current present along with a band of terrorists determined to change that future. Some neat special effects and switching from present to far future make it interesting.

So there’s a few science fiction shows I wanted to call to your attention.

One of my more popular blogs was on military science fiction. I read Robert Buettner’s Orphan’s Series and liked it, so when I saw he had a new Orphan’s Legacy Series, I quickly checked it out. Overkill is the first in this series with Undercurrents the second and Balance Point the next. Actually, it was the 2014 announcement in Amazon of Balance Point that tipped me to the series, but I read Undercurrents because it was available.

UndercurrentsJazen Parker has left the military and runs a most-of- the-times quiet bar. That is, until the King of the Spooks, Howard Hibble, tempts him back into duty by offering Jazen a way to find out more about his mysterious father and rescue a captured past lover. Curiosity this time might kill the officer as Jazen parachutes into a politically interdicted planet in order to save the kickass spy he still loves and uncover a secret operation on a supposedly low tech planet. He’s running out of time with little resources. An eleven year old girl and a ragtag band of rebels led by a beautiful young duchess join with him to rescue his not forgotten love and uncover a secret operation that could threatens the peace of five hundred planets.

Robert Buettner throws in a lot of goodies. From a high altitude parachute dive to a wild ride on rapids, he keeps the action coming. Balance PointThrow in a captured and tortured beautiful spy who he still loves, and you’ve got a mixture of romance, danger and military espionage. I particularly liked the wisecracking young girl who kept Jazen off balance, and who knew far more of death and war than an eleven year old should.

OrphanageBuettner keeps his chapters short, so I kept reading just one more chapter before quitting…and then maybe another…and another. His style is clear and easy to understand. It isn’t necessary to read his previous books, but you just might want to.

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