Review: The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

About the book, The Serpent of Venice

The Serpent of Venice

• Hardcover: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (April 22, 2014)

Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy from the Queen of Britain: the rascal-Fool Pocket.

This trio of cunning plotters—the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago—have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio’s beautiful daughter, Portia.

But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn’t even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he’s got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve.

Greed, revenge, deception, lust, and a giant (but lovable) sea monster combine to create another hilarious and bawdy tale from modern comic genius, Christopher Moore.

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About the author, Christopher MooreChristopher Moore

Christopher Moore is the author of twelve previous novels: Practical Demonkeeping, Coyote Blue, Bloodsucking Fiends, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Lamb, Fluke, The Stupidest Angel, A Dirty Job, You Suck, Fool , and Bite Me.

He lives in San Francisco, California.

Connect with Christopher

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of Christopher Moore’s books forever. In fact, when I grow up, as a writer, I want to be Christopher Moore (albeit, a version of him with breasts and technicolor hair) so when I was offered the chance to read an ARC of his latest novel, The Serpent of Venice I told the publicist I’d give one of my dogs for the opportunity. Fortunately, that wasn’t actually necessary, and the ARC arrived shortly after, only to sit on my table, mocking me, until my TBR stack was caught up.

It was worth the wait.

This book combines Moore’s take on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice with his usual comic view of the world, and adds in elements of other literary classics as well (care to try the Amontillado, anyone?). It’s also a sequel to his previous novel Fool, which, I confess, I have not read.

The characters are a blend of the familiar Shakespeare figures and Moore’s own creativity, and while the story has a slightly slow beginning, it ends up being a rollicking roller-coaster gondola ride through the streets and waterways of Venice, with enough real moments balanced by laugh-out-loud preposterous situations to keep everything flowing well but still ensure the reader is capable of drawing breath.

While knowledge of Shakespeare (and Poe…) isn’t essential to the enjoyment of The Serpent of Venice familiarity with the original play certainly didn’t hurt. Similarly, while I didn’t feel like I’d missed much by not having read Fool, I’m sure it would have increased my understanding of some of the nuances in the novel.

Goes well with A plate of spaghetti with marinara sauce and a glass of red wine.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click here.

Review: To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, by Andra Watkins

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About the book, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis

To Live Forever

Publication Date: March 1, 2014
World Hermit Press
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

Is remembrance immortality? Nobody wants to be forgotten, least of all the famous.

Meriwether Lewis lived a memorable life. He and William Clark were the first white men to reach the Pacific in their failed attempt to discover a Northwest Passage. Much celebrated upon their return, Lewis was appointed governor of the vast Upper Louisiana Territory and began preparing his eagerly-anticipated journals for publication. But his re-entry into society proved as challenging as his journey. Battling financial and psychological demons and faced with mounting pressure from Washington, Lewis set out on a pivotal trip to the nation’s capital in September 1809. His mission: to publish his journals and salvage his political career. He never made it. He died in a roadside inn on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee from one gunshot to the head and another to the abdomen.

Was it suicide or murder? His mysterious death tainted his legacy and his fame quickly faded. Merry’s own memory of his death is fuzzy at best. All he knows is he’s fallen into Nowhere, where his only shot at redemption lies in the fate of rescuing another. An ill-suited “guardian angel,” Merry comes to in the same New Orleans bar after twelve straight failures. Now, with one drink and a two-dollar bill he is sent on his last assignment, his final shot at escape from the purgatory in which he’s been dwelling for almost 200 years. Merry still believes he can reverse his forgotten fortunes.

Nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney is the daughter of French Quarter madam and a Dixieland bass player. When her mother wins custody in a bitter divorce, Emmaline carves out her childhood among the ladies of Bourbon Street. Bounced between innocence and immorality, she struggles to find her safe haven, even while her mother makes her open her dress and serve tea to grown men.

It isn’t until Emmaline finds the strange cards hidden in her mother’s desk that she realizes why these men are visiting: her mother has offered to sell her to the highest bidder. To escape a life of prostitution, she slips away during a police raid on her mother’s bordello, desperate to find her father in Nashville.

Merry’s fateful two-dollar bill leads him to Emmaline as she is being chased by the winner of her mother’s sick card game: The Judge. A dangerous Nowhere Man convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his long dead wife, Judge Wilkinson is determined to possess her, to tease out his wife’s spirit and marry her when she is ready. That Emmaline is now guarded by Meriwether Lewis, his bitter rival in life, further stokes his obsessive rage.

To elude the Judge, Em and Merry navigate the Mississippi River to Natchez. They set off on an adventure along the storied Natchez Trace, where they meet Cajun bird watchers, Elvis-crooning Siamese twins, War of 1812 re-enactors, Spanish wild boar hunters and ancient mound dwellers. Are these people their allies? Or pawns of the perverted, powerful Judge?
After a bloody confrontation with the Judge at Lewis’s grave, Merry and Em limp into Nashville and discover her father at the Parthenon. Just as Merry wrestles with the specter of success in his mission to deliver Em, The Judge intercedes with renewed determination to win Emmaline, waging a final battle for her soul. Merry vanquishes the Judge and earns his redemption. As his spirit fuses with the body of Em’s living father, Merry discovers that immortality lives within the salvation of another, not the remembrance of the multitude.

Read an excerpt, or buy the whole book

Excerpt | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the author, Andra Watkins (in her own words)

Andra Watkins

Hey. I’m Andra Watkins. I’m a native of Tennessee, but I’m lucky to call Charleston, South Carolina, home for 23 years. I’m the author of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, coming March 1, 2014. It’s a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809.

I like:
hiking
eating (A lot; Italian food is my favorite.)
traveling (I never met a destination I didn’t like.)
reading (My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.)
coffee (the caffeinated version) and COFFEE (sex)
performing (theater, singing, public speaking, playing piano)
time with my friends
Sirius XM Chill
yoga (No, I can’t stand on my head.)
writing in bed
candlelight

I don’t like:
getting up in the morning
cilantro (It is the devil weed.)
surprises (For me or for anyone else.)
house cleaning
cooking

Connect with Andra

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest

Add To Live Forever to GoodReads

As part of the launch of this book, Andra Watkins actually walked the Natchez Trace, the first living person to do so since the end of the age of steam. Check out her Youtube Channel for more information about that, as well as her answers to reader questions.


My Thoughts

Like most of us, my knowledge of Meriwether Lewis is limited to the part of my American History class that discussed the Lewis & Clark trail. It’s a trail I’ve never followed, except for the segments of it that are traced by I-29 as you leave South Dakota and enter Iowa (going South). More than once, heading home from a trip to SoDak, my husband and I have stopped near the marker commemorating that journey to grab a soda, use the restroom (there’s a great independent gas station/cafe), and feed ducks.

Still, that semi-regular ritual is probably more than most people have as a connection to Mr. Lewis, and it was enough to make me really want to read Andra Watkin’s novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis.

Watkins, herself, describes the novel as a mishmash of genres and it really is. While most of it takes place in the 1970s’, as the previously-deceased Lewis escorts a small child from a dangerous life in New Orleans to the care of her musician-father in Nashville, we also see echoes of Lewis’s “real” life, in flashbacks and memories, including his original journey along the Natchez Trace.

It’s a cleverly woven story, combining threads of history with those of paranormal suspense, and enhancing them with characters who seem completely plausible, despite the fact that there is no way they could actually exist.

It also looks at the concept of immortality, and what that is. Does it mean literally living forever, or is it more important to be remembered for who you were and what you did?

You can read it just for pleasure, and you wouldn’t miss anything – it’s a great story, and the little girl at the center of it is written especially well – at times older than her nine years, and at times much younger – the way little girls and boys tend to be. You can also read it for the author’s insights into what it it means ‘to live forever.’

Goes well with Fresh-caught grilled catfish, hush puppies, and hand-squeezed lemonade (or any craft-brewed IPA)

Review: The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend, by Annabelle Costa

About the book, The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend

The Time Traveler's Boyfriend

Print Length: 250 pages

Publisher: Dev Love Press (February 2, 2014)

Claudia’s geeky boyfriend Adam has just invented a time machine.

No, really—he has. She doesn’t believe it either until Adam provides her with definitive proof that he does, in fact, have a functioning time travel device sitting in the living room of his Manhattan brownstone.

But instead of getting ready to accept the Nobel Prize, Adam has very different plans for his groundbreaking invention. He wants Claudia to use the machine to travel back in time and stop the accident that landed him in a wheelchair over a decade ago, and prevent the trajectory of events that he believes ruined his life.

When Claudia reluctantly agrees to become the first human time traveler, she knows she’s making a big gamble. If she succeeds, she could have the happy ending with commitment-phobic Adam that she’s always dreamed of. But if she fails, it could mean the end of the universe as she knows it.

Read the first chapter, then buy a copy of your own

First Chapter | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Add to Goodreads


About the Author, Annabelle Costa

Annabelle Costa

Annabelle Costa is a teacher who writes in her free time. She enjoys the wounded hero genre, involving male love interests with physical disabilities, who don’t follow the typical Hollywood perception of sexy.


My Thoughts

I don’t read a lot of “formula” romances (though I’ll cop to having had a serious Silhouette Desire addiction when I was a teenager – seriously, those things were like crack), but I’ve read enough of them to recognize that The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend is a slightly more contemporary version of a classic format. Despite that, however, or maybe even because of it, it’s an excellent read, full of fun and flirtatiousness, and the fact that it is from a publishing house that focuses on love stories featuring characters with disabilities gives it a lot more depth than it would otherwise have had.

While I found Claudia’s story to be a bit predictable, I still enjoyed taking her journey with her – a journey from slightly confused girlfriend who really wants a permanent commitment, to what is, eventually, a healthier, more mature version of herself. She’s likeable and relate-able, which is exactly what romance heroines should be.

Then there’s Adam. Geeky. Smart. Affectionate. Dead-sexy. And he happens to be in a wheelchair. What made this book more than ‘just’ a romance novel was how deftly the author, Annabelle Costa, handled Adam’s disability. She made it one facet of his character, but not necessarily a defining facet, and even used it to give him a super-sexy advantage that he would not have otherwise had. For a minute or two, I wanted to date Adam.

I liked the use of time-travel, something that is definitely not a typical romance trope. As I said, I found the plot twist a bit predictable, but it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the story.

If you want a fun, fast, read with great characters and a couple of really hot love scenes, you should definitely check out The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend.

Goes well with Pad Thai and iced Thai tea.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, or the complete list of tour stops, click here.

Review: Outside In, by Doug Cooper

About the book, Outside In

Outside In

Hardcover: 253 pages

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press (August 13, 2013)

From Memorial Day until the student workers and tourists leave in the fall, the island community of Put-In-Bay, Ohio, thrives on alcohol, drugs, sexual experimentation, and any other means of forgetting responsibilities. To Brad Shepherd–recently forced out of his job as a junior high math teacher after the overdose death of a student–it’s exactly the kind of place he’s looking for.

Allured by the comfort and acceptance of the hedonistic atmosphere, Brad trades his academic responsibilities and sense of obligation for a bouncer’s flashlight and a pursuit of the endless summer. With Cinch Stevens, his new best friend and local drug dealer, at his side, Brad becomes lost in a haze of excess and instant gratification filled with romantic conquests, late-night excursions to special island hideaways, and a growing drug habit. Not even the hope from a blossoming relationship with Astrid, a bold and radiant Norwegian waitress, nor the mentoring from a mysterious mandolin player named Caldwell is enough to pull him out of his downward spiral. But as Labor Day approaches, the grim reality of his empty quest consumes him. With nowhere left to run or hide, Brad must accept that identity cannot be found or fabricated, but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.

A look at one man’s belated coming of age that’s equally funny, earnest, romantic, and lamenting, Doug Cooper’s debut novel explores the modern search for responsibility and identity, showing through the eyes of Brad Shepherd how sometimes, we can only come to understand who we truly are by becoming the person we’re not.

Buy a copy of your own, and start reading:

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About the author, Doug Cooper

Doug Cooper

Doug Cooper has traveled to more than twenty countries on five continents and has held jobs in service, teaching, and business. He now lives and writes in Las Vegas. Outside In is his first novel.

Connect with Doug:
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My Thoughts

I’ve said before that first person novels tend to be tricky. Many try them, most fail. Doug Cooper, however, makes writing in first person seem effortless, and as a result, when I read Outside In, which, by the way, I LOVED, I felt like I really was seeing things unfold through the eyes of a real person.

For me, even if I’m enjoying a plot or really like a character, it’s the details that make a story really sing, so scenes like the trip on the ferry, and later, the first glimpse we get of the Round House, really gave me a sense of place, but also made everything else seem vivid.

As someone who is on the far side of 40, I always find it interesting when authors recognize that “coming of age” stories aren’t limited to people who are 18-21 years old, but can happen when you’re 25, 35, or even in your sixties. Doug Cooper’s main character is a teacher who is about to finish grad school, but that doesn’t make this any less a coming-of-age tale.

With nuance and a great sense of both language and place, Doug Cooper kept my attention from wandering for the entire length of Outside In (a line about humid air feeling ‘like jelly on my skin’ really struck me) and at the end, I was sad to bid goodbye to Brad and Haley and the rest of the “cast.”

If you’re not certain that this book is for you, let me assure you: IT IS.

Goes well with A really good burger with crinkle-cut fries, and a cold beer, preferably from a joint that caters to summer tourists.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, or the complete list of tour stops, click here.

Review: Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

About the book, Up at Butternut Lake

Up at Butternut Lake

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 8, 2014)

In the tradition of Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs, Mary McNear introduces readers to the town of Butternut Lake and to the unforgettable people who call it home.

It’s summer, and after ten years away, Allie Beckett has returned to her family’s cabin beside tranquil Butternut Lake, where as a teenager she spent so many carefree days. She’s promised her five-year-old son, Wyatt, they will be happy there. She’s promised herself this is the place to begin again after her husband’s death in Afghanistan. The cabin holds so many wonderful memories, but from the moment she crosses its threshold Allie is seized with doubts. Has she done the right thing uprooting her little boy from the only home he’s ever known?

Allie and her son are embraced by the townsfolk, and her reunions with old acquaintances—her friend Jax, now a young mother of three with one more on the way, and Caroline, the owner of the local coffee shop—are joyous ones. And then there are newcomers like Walker Ford, who mostly keeps to himself—until he takes a shine to Wyatt . . . and to Allie.

Everyone knows that moving forward is never easy, and as the long, lazy days of summer take hold, Allie must learn to unlock the hidden longings of her heart, and to accept that in order to face the future she must also confront—and understand—what has come before.

Buy a copy of your own:

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About the author, Mary McNear

Mary McNear

Mary McNear lives in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a high-strung, minuscule white dog named Macaroon. She writes her novels in a local doughnut shop, where she sips Diet Pepsi, observes the hubbub of neighborhood life, and tries to resist the constant temptation of freshly made doughnuts. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the northern Midwest.

Connect with Mary on Facebook.


My Thoughts

It’s the little details that make or break a book for me. On the surface, Up at Butternut Lake may seem like just another contemporary romance. It’s got the cute small town setting, the strong women who are going through personal struggles (two of them, actually, Allie, and Jax) and the newcomer who still has ties from out of town. But that’s just the surface, and it would be a mistake to write this book off just because it includes a few common tropes.

Instead, look at the details: in the early pages Allie’s young son Wyatt spins on a diner stool. We don’t have a lot of classic diners left in the USA, but trust me, there isn’t a kid alive who could resist the urge to spin on one of those. (I know this from experience because my family owned just such a diner on the Jersey Shore, and we kids used to spin on the blue vinyl stools til we were nauseous.)

Then there’s Allie herself. She’s at the lake in part because it’s a personal haven for her, full of good memories, but also because, having lost her husband, she wants to be in a place where she can rebuild trust in herself, without the often-stifling offers of help. She isn’t a misanthrope; she just needs to find her footing.

These are the sorts of details, details of plot, setting, and character, that Mary McNear has given us in Up at Butternut Lake, and this is why it’s not ‘just a romance’ but a story about strong women, and the people whom they love.

Goes well with Sweet tea and strawberry-rhubarb pie.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, or to read the entire list of tour stops, click here.

Review: The Here and Now, by Ann Brashares


The Here and Now (Hardcover)

By (author): Ann Brashares

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.
 
This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 
 
Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking--and a must-read novel of the year.

"This gripping story is set in a world unlike any other and inhabited by beautifully imagined characters that stay with you long after the last page. As always, Brashares expertly captures the wonder of love’s enduring power.” – Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars
List Price: $18.99 USD
New From: $4.43 USD In Stock
Used from: $7.63 USD In Stock
Release date April 8, 2014.

My Thoughts

I was offered the opportunity to read The Here and Now by Ann Brashares, via NetGalley, and I was happy to take them up on the offer.

I didn’t read the books Brashares is best known for – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and it’s sequels – until just a few years ago. (I maintain that some of the most provocative contemporary literature, especially if you want strong female characters, is written for the YA/NA market. She’s the perfect example of this.) Nevertheless, I love her work, because she always writes girls and young women who are three-dimensional.

The Here and Now is no exception to that. Protagonist Prenna is someone I think many girls and young women could identify with. Certainly she reminded me of me at that age – when I was always the new kid (though I never had to move from a different time).

Likewise, Ethan, the local boy with the talent for perception, reminds me of many of the smarter, geekier boys I went to school with. If I were seventeen, I’d want to date him. Or at least go on an adventure or two with him.

The story itself is sort of a contemporary spin on Romeo and Juliet with a science fiction setup. Most of the action takes place – as the name of the novel suggests – in the here and now, but it forces us to look at our culture pretty closely, while still being incredibly entertaining.

My one complaint about this novel is that it felt like part one of a trilogy…the story is resolved by the end, but the resolution is a bit unsatisfying, and more than a little open-ended.

Goes well with a hot dog and crinkle-cut french fries from a stand on a New Jersey boardwalk.

Review: Driving Lessons, by Zoe Fishman

About the book, Driving Lessons

Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman

• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 8, 2014)

Sometimes life’s most fulfilling journeys begin without a map.

An executive at a New York cosmetics firm, Sarah has had her fill of the interminable hustle of the big city. When her husband, Josh, is offered a new job in suburban Virginia, it feels like the perfect chance to shift gears.

While Josh quickly adapts to their new life, Sarah discovers that having time on her hands is a mixed blessing. Without her everyday urban struggles, who is she? And how can she explain to Josh, who assumes they are on the same page, her ambivalence about starting a family?

It doesn’t help that the idea of getting behind the wheel—an absolute necessity of her new life—makes it hard for Sarah to breathe. It’s been almost twenty years since she’s driven, and just the thought of merging is enough to make her teeth chatter with anxiety. When she signs up for lessons, she begins to feel a bit more like her old self again, but she’s still unsure of where she wants to go.

Then a crisis involving her best friend lands Sarah back in New York—a trip to the past filled with unexpected truths about herself, her dear friend, and her seemingly perfect sister-in-law . . . and an astonishing surprise that will help her see the way ahead.

Read and discuss Driving Lessons

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About the author, Zoe Fishman

Zoe Fishman

Zoe Fishman is the author of Balancing Acts and Saving Ruth. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son.

Connect with Zoe

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

In many ways, Sarah reminds me of me when I first left the San Francisco Bay area of California and moved to South Dakota, where I married my husband. My big move happened at the very dawn of our marriage, but after returning to California three years later, we moved to Texas during our tenth year of marriage, and I faced many of the same issues Sarah did: redefining my career, learning to live in a place where public transportation simply does not exist, and learning to fit into a culture that was vastly different from what I was accustomed to.

It’s for this reason that I identified with Sarah so much, even feeling a bit of envy when she realized she was pregnant (we have dogs, but no human children). She read like a real person to me, one I’d have loved to meet for coffee or sushi some afternoon.

All of the other characters were well-drawn as well. I particularly enjoyed Ray the driving instructor, and Sarah’s sweet husband, Josh. While the latter was not on very many pages, he reminded me very strongly of my own sweet, gentle, incredibly patient husband.

As to the novel itself, it is a shining example of what contemporary women’s fiction can be: laughter through tears, humor that comes from life, and characters who aren’t all either twenty-somethings in stilettos or older married women who hate their lives. In fact, reading this book felt like visiting a small town for a few days – you’re welcomed like family, but no one makes you feel bad when it’s time to leave.

I haven’t read any of Zoe Fishman’s other work, but if Driving Lessons is anything to judge by, I’m sure I’d love everything she writes.

Goes well withBBQ brisket, potato salad, and iced sweet tea.


TLC Book Tours

This post is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, or the complete list of tour stops, click here.

Mini-Review: Star Trek: The Fall, by multiple authors

About the Series: Star Trek: The Fall

  1. Revelation and Dust, by David R. George, III

    The Fall: Revelation and Dust

    WELCOME TO THE NEW DEEP SPACE 9

    After the destruction of the original space station by a rogue faction of the Typhon Pact, Miles O’Brien and Nog have led the Starfleet Corps of Engineers in designing and constructing a larger, more advanced starbase in the Bajoran system. Now, as familiar faces such as Benjamin Sisko, Kasidy Yates, Ezri Dax, Odo, and Quark arrive at the new station, Captain Ro Laren will host various heads of state at an impressive dedication ceremony. The dignitaries include not only the leaders of allies—such as Klingon Chancellor Martok, Ferengi Grand Nagus Rom, the Cardassian castellan, and the Bajoran first minister—but also those of rival powers, such as the Romulan praetor and the Gorn imperator. But as Ro’s crew prepares to open DS9 to the entire Bajor Sector and beyond, disaster looms. A faction has already set in action a shocking plan that, if successful, will shake the Alpha and Beta Quadrants to the core.

    And what of Kira Nerys, lost aboard a runabout when the Bajoran wormhole collapsed? In the two years that have passed during construction of the new Deep Space 9, there have been no indica­tions that the Celestial Temple, the Prophets, or Kira have sur­vived. But since Ben Sisko once learned that the wormhole aliens exist nonlinearly in time, what does that mean with respect to their fate, or that of the wormhole . . . or of Kira herself?

  2. The Crimson Shadow, by Una McCormack

    The Fall: The Crimson Shadow

    Cardassia Prime is home to a prideful people who, for centuries, forged alliances with those they believed would strengthen them and their place in the Alpha Quadrant, and expanded their empire at great cost to other worlds. For generations, dissenting voices were silenced by either fear or an early grave. When their wartime ally, the Dominion, suddenly turned on them, seeking to transform Cardassia into a tomb for every last member of their race, their old adversary—the United Federation of Planets— put an end to the carnage, and even now works to help rebuild Cardassia Prime.

    To celebrate this alliance, the Castellan of the Cardassian Union is to welcome the Federation president to Cardassia Prime. As a symbol of this deepening friendship, the U.S.S. Enterprise-E is tasked to carry the Cardassian ambassador to the Federation back home. For his part, Ambassador Elim Garak is working with Captain Jean-Luc Picard to oversee the diplomatic reception that will commemorate the last of Starfleet’s personnel finally leaving the homeworld. However, there are malevolent forces at work, who even now strive to “restore Cardassia to its proper place and glory,” and are willing to do anything to achieve their goal….

  3. A Ceremony of Losses, by David Mack

    The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses

    THE NEEDS OF THE MANY

    Despite heroic efforts by Thirishar ch’Thane, the Andorian species is headed for extinction. Its slow march toward oblivion has reached a tipping point, one from which there will be no hope of return.

    THE NEEDS OF THE FEW

    With countless lives at stake, the leaders of Andor, the Federation, and the Typhon Pact all scheme to twist the crisis to their political gain—at any price.

    THE NEEDS OF THE ONE

    Unwilling to be a mere bystander to tragedy, Doctor Julian Bashir risks everything to find a cure for the Andorians. But his courage will come at a terrible cost: his career, his freedom . . . and maybe his life.

  4. The Poisoned Chalice, by James Swallow

    The Fall: The Poisoned Chalice

    One simple act, and the troubles of the United Federation of Planets have grown darker overnight. The mystery behind the heinous terrorist attack that has rocked the Federation to its core grows ever deeper, and William Riker finds himself beset by rumors and half-truths as the U.S.S. Titan is ordered back to Earth on emergency orders from the admiralty. Soon, Riker finds himself drawn into a game of political intrigue, bearing witness to members of Starfleet being detained—including people he considered friends—pending an investigation at the highest levels. And while Riker tries to navigate the corridors of power, Titan’s tactical officer, Tuvok, is given a series of clandestine orders that lead him into a gray world of secrets, lies, and deniable operations. Who can be trusted when the law falls silent and justice becomes a quest for revenge? For the crew of the U.S.S. Titan, the search for answers will become a battle for every ideal the Federation stands for. . . .

  5. Peaceable Kingdoms, by Dayton Ward

    The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms

    Following the resolution of the fertility crisis that nearly caused their extinction, the Andorian people now stand ready to rejoin the United Federation of Planets. The return of one of its founding member worlds is viewed by many as the first hopeful step beyond the uncertainty and tragedy that have overshadowed recent events in the Alpha Quadrant. But as the Federation looks to the future and the special election to name President Bacco’s permanent successor, time is running out to apprehend those responsible for the respected leader’s brutal assassination. Even as elements of the Typhon Pact are implicated for the murder, Admiral William Riker holds key knowledge of the true assassins— a revelation that could threaten the fragile Federation-Cardassian alliance.

    Questions and concerns also continue to swell around Bacco’s interim successor, Ishan Anjar, who uses the recent bloodshed to further a belligerent, hawkish political agenda against the Typhon Pact. With the election looming, Riker dispatches his closest friend, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, in a desperate attempt to uncover the truth. But as Picard and the Enterprise crew pursue the few remaining clues, Riker must act on growing suspicions that someone within Ishan’s inner circle has been in league with the assassins from the very beginning . . . .

My Thoughts

This is a mini-series that spans the Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine tie-in novel series. The bulk of the series takes place in the 2380s – years after Star Trek: Nemesis, years before Star Trek Online‘s resurrection of Data (or, for that matter, his alternate resurrection in the tie-in novels). It’s after the Dominion War, after and during the Typhon Pact series, and is comprised of five novels, each by a different author:

  1. Revelation and Dust, by David R. George, III
  2. The Crimson Shadow, by Una McCormack
  3. A Ceremony of Losses, by David Mack
  4. The Poisoned Chalice, by James Swallow
  5. Peaceable Kingdoms, by Dayton Ward

What I love about contemporary Star Trek novels is that they expand the scope of the Federation to include much more than just Starfleet. We get to see how the different worlds of the Federation exist as compared to Earth, get a glimpse at the politics behind it all, get to meet characters who aren’t zipping around the galaxy in nifty starships all the time.

But, we also get to see how the lives of our favorite, familiar faces have changed. We see Picard as a husband and father. We see Worf as the first officer of the Enterprise, and in this mini-series, we see Will Riker being promoted to Admiral, and get to spend some time with Captain Ezri Dax. We see Bashir (and Pulaski) flouting security orders for the greater good, and we see Garak as a politician.

I said it, years ago, when I read Keith DeCandido’s Articles of the Federation: I would totally watch a series that was a sort of “West Wing in the Future” mixed with the more typical Trek stories, even if the episodes were half & half (think Law & Order). These books are the next best thing.

Because they’re all one story, told in five volumes, it’s difficult to separate plot elements. The president of the Federation is assassinated just as the Federation is beginning to pull out of Cardassia. The Andorians are suffering a health crisis on a genetic level, and the new Bajoran president pro tempore has his own, somewhat mysterious, agenda.

This series is political intrigue at it’s finest dressed in Starfleet colors, and it’s thoroughly engaging and entertaining.

Buy the books from Amazon:

Revelation and Dust | The Crimson Shadow | A Ceremony of Losses | The Poisoned Chalice | Peaceable Kingdoms

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Dark Mirror, by Diane Duane



One hundred years ago, four crewmembers of the U.S.S EnterpriseTM crossed the dimensional barrier and found a mirror image of their own universe, populated by nightmare duplicates of their shipmates. Barely able to escape with their lives, they returned, thankful that the accident which had brought them there could not be duplicated, or so they thought.
But now the scientists of that empire have found a doorway into our universe. Their plan is to destroy from within, to replace a Federation Starships with one of their own. Their victims are the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, who now find themselves engaged in combat against the most savage enemies they have ever encountered, themselves.
Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only


My Thoughts

Thanks to the Amazon class action suit about ebook price fixing, and a lovely $60 payout, I’m catching up on many, many Star Trek novels that I missed during the years when I wasn’t reading them for whatever reason.

One such acquisition was the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Dark Mirror, by Diane Duane. It’s TNG’s chance to experience the “mirror universe” we got to see on-screen in both TOS and DS9, and, as I expected it to be, it was well written, with a few moments that really delighted me.

One was the introduction of the dolphin, Hwiii, a hyperstring researcher who ‘swims’ through the ship in a sort of water skin. Another was when Data, meeting Hwiii, tilts his head for a moment and then ‘speaks dolphin,’ because, of course he does.

I liked that Geordi and Deanna were the initial away team to the mirror Enterprise, and that they both got to use the knowledge they gleaned both from study and experience. Some of my favorite episodes were when Troi actually got to be a psychologist, and in this novel, she uses that training as much as she uses her innate empathetic abilities.

Similarly, Geordi’s incredible depth of knowledge is highlighted in this book, as he works, sometimes with colleagues, and sometimes alone, to figure out a way to save, not just the ship, but the universe itself.

I’m not sure when this was originally written but it felt like early TNG-fic. Data is very ‘sciency’ but doesn’t have as much depth as he does in later novels – even in later pre-emotion-chip ones. It’s obviously before the contemporary push for continuity within the novels, but it’s still an entertaining read.

Trek fiction is my crack. This was a delightful fix.

Goes well with Sashimi and tempura and Kirin beer.

Review: Black Chalk, by Christopher J. Yates

About the book Black Chalk

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Random House UK; First Edition edition (April 1, 2014)

One game. Six students. Five survivors.

It was only ever meant to be a game.

A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results.

Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round.

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About the author, Christopher J. Yates

Christopher J. Yates

Christopher J. Yates studied law at Wadham College, Oxford from 1990-93 and initially pursued a career in law before he began working in puzzles, representing the UK at the World Puzzle Championships. Since then he has worked as a freelance journalist, sub-editor and puzzles editor/compiler. In 2007 he moved to New York City with his wife, and currently lives in the East Village.

For more information on Christopher, please visit his website, christopherjyates.com.

Click here to read the first two chapters of Black Chalk


My Thoughts

Wonderfully constructed, wonderfully plotted, and completely gripping – that’s my description of Black Chalk. We’re dropped into the narrative with a visit to the apartment of someone who has physical mnemonics for every part of his life, and left to wonder what caused this obsessive hermit behavior.

All too soon, we spiral into the rest of the story, one that spans 14 years, includes six people, and is completely entangled in a psychological game that began when they were freshmen (freshers) in college and continues to influence their adult lives.

With twists and turns that are the textual equivalent of the best roller coaster rides this book’s only flaw is that at some point, it had to end.

Goes well with A bento box and Japanese beer.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops for Black Chalk, click here.