Review: Dark Side of the Moon by Ahmad Taylor

Dark Side of the Moon
Ahmad Taylor

Product Description (from Amazon.com):
Are You Afraid of the Dark? Take the Suspense-filled, Action-packed journey to the Dark Side of the Moon. When former government agent Derrick Thomas awakens to find his family missing and in harm’s way, he must do battle against a clandestine organization intent on keeping him from discovering the truth about a global cover-up and the whereabouts of his family. Government agent Derrick Thomas awakes from a disturbing dream to find a message from his father asking for help. As he sets out to lend his assistance he quickly discovers that not only can he not find his father, but that a clandestine government agency is out to derail his search before it can begin. After the murders of two of his father’s colleagues and the further disappearances of his mother and sister, Derrick is thrust into a fight for his own life and a struggle to uncover details of a secret government experiment which his family may be part of. Will he be able to save them and uncover the truth before he becomes the next victim of an organization bent on keeping him silent?

My Thoughts:
When Ahmad Taylor contacted me about his book, I was immediately interested. After all, I love science fiction, and I’m a space junkie. In fact, just before reading it, I’d finished yet another re-watch of the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon.

Dark Side of the Moon is everything it’s title implies. Good science fiction mixed with gripping suspense and really believable action sequences. I loved the futuristic touches that showed us how much this was not present day – specifying glucose, for example, instead of merely candy.

If some of the dialogue had unusual phrasing (it didn’t quite flow the way normal speech should in a few passages), it didn’t adversely affect the story at all, and I loved the characters, especially protagonist Derrick.

Taylor is a talented storyteller, and the world he created for Dark Side of the Moon felt plausible and even highly possible.

If you like science fiction, you simply MUST read this book.

Goes well with Junior Mints and Popcorn.

Review: Solid by Shelley Workinger

Solid
by Shelley Workinger

Product Description/Synopsis (from Amazon.com):
Clio Kaid may be 17 and just beginning the last summer before her senior year, but her life is anything but typical.

She’s just discovered she was genetically altered before birth and is now headed to a top-secret Army campus to explore the surprising results of
the experiment.

Follow Clio and the other teens as they develop fantastic super-abilities, forge new friendships, find love, and uncover a conspiracy along the way.

My Thoughts:

I love science-fiction, and I love YA novels, so when I received an email from author Shelley Workinger asking if I’d be willing to work Solid (book one of the Solid trilogy) into my summer reading schedule, I said I’d love to. I hadn’t anticipated, at the time, that it would take me nearly a month to get around to reading it. I finally finished Solid on Sunday night, and my only disappointment is that it was only the first book of three. By the time this post goes live, I’ll have already purchased book two from Amazon, and set an alert to let me know when book three is available.

As to book one, however, I found Solid to be engaging and interesting, with teen characters who reminded me a bit of my own teen experience (though we didn’t have ipods or laptops to worry about.)

Clio Kaid, the lead character is delightfully snarky, but realistically awkward. I like that. I like that she’s not perfect, that she makes social gaffes and even that she regretted her choice of spaghetti on her first day on campus because of the potential for making a mess in front of a cute boy. As someone who cannot EVER wear white when going out for pasta or sushi, I totally related to that concern.

Author Workinger kept a good pace going in her story, bringing in new characters when necessary, but never glutting the plot with too many new names to learn. While the choice of lead antagonist was a little predictable, it would probably be less so to younger readers, and it served the need of the story: setting up the continuation of the series.

Bottom line: while Solid is very much the first book in a trilogy, it is also satisfying in its own right, and I look forward to seeing more from these characters, and this author.

Goes well with a plate of spaghetti, as long as you’re not wearing white.

Review: Wizards at War

Wizards at War
by Diane Duane

Product Description (from Booklist):
The youthful wizards Kit and Nita preceded the trainees of Hogwarts by more than a decade, and they are still clobbering the forces of Death in the name of the Powers That Be. In this eighth volume of Duane’s Young Wizards adventures, the Lone One has corrupted the basic structure of reality, causing the universe to expand and all wizards past “latency”–in other words, grown-ups–to lose their abilities, leaving it to the kids to prevent cataclysm. The novel is overlong and densely crammed with bewildering jargon, but the basic plot strands are compelling, particularly one set among a hive society reminiscent of Orson Scott Card’s buggers. Even early series fans who have since outgrown Duane’s particular brand of pseudoscientific mysticism may be attracted by the cameo appearances of previous books’ characters and references to past story lines. The full-cast-reunion aspect prevents this from standing alone, but keep the overall series in mind for Harry Potter buffs whose interests are broad enough to allow them to easily move between Rowling’s genteel, mock-Eton fantasy and traditional sf.

My Thoughts:
I hadn’t read any of Diane Duane’s Young Wizards novels in years, and then, while cleaning up for Christmas, I found book seven, which a friend had given me months before. I read it, then had to re-read books 1-6, and then re-read book seven. Then, while my husband was away, I ordered books eight and nine.

The thing I love about Duane’s series is that while it’s technically a young adult series, or even meant for kids younger than middle school, it’s deep enough to appeal to adults as well. (I find, actually, that much of what is considered YA today is more interesting and provocative than the literature marketed as contemporary fiction or literary fiction for adults).

Kit and Nita, along with Nita’s sister Dairene, and some wizardly foreign (very foreign – not-of-this-earth) exchange students have grown up somewhat, and the stories now take place in a “now” that’s post-9/11, even though the timeline remains consistent within itself. (That’s confusing, I know, but basically it means that even if time outside the books has jumped years, the book that was written in 1988 is still a month before the book written in 1990, or whatever, but both are in whatever was “now” at the time of writing), so it’s nice to see them using current technology at home.

This book, however, with the expanding blackness, the adult wizards losing sight of their magic, etc., seems very much a post-modern fairy-tale, and the darkness in the book-world, while exaggerated, seems to fit perfectly with the tensions going on in reality. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Duane had worked in an “Occupy the Crossroads” plotline, except this was written a few years ago.

Even so, the stories continue to be gripping. Dairene’s maturation as a person is interesting to watch, and there are hints of changes to the dynamic between Kit and Nita.

Dog-lovers will appreciate both the sensitivity with which a certain character’s story is ended, and the humor that comes in an old joke.

Goes well with: macaroni and cheese. Trust me on this – it’s a book that requires comfort food.

Tales from the Captain’s Table

edited by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Easing back into the SEO world of cpm and cpa, and various other acronyms, after ten days of beachy bliss was difficult, so I did what every avid reader does: I bought some comfort books. One of these was a Star Trek book: Tales from the Captain’s Table. It’s a collection of short stories from various ship captains in the Trek-verse – Picard, Riker, Demora Sulu, and others, and they’re tied together by the fact that they’re all told in the Captain’s Table, a special bar with entrances from many worlds, where only ship captains are welcome.

Cap, the bartender, is glimpsed in small interludes, and the bar itself reforms to the specifications of whatever a given patron expects. I like storytelling, and I like the concept of the neighborhood cafe / bar / pub, so this book appeals to me on many levels.

While I don’t always like short stories, in this format, they’re the logical choice.

After reading this book, I felt much more at home inside my head.

Stormqueen, and others

Darkover: First Contact (Darkover Omnibus)

Marion Zimmer Bradley

After a break during which I read some more modern novels, I went back to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, and read all the books that had been missing from my own collection, largely thanks to the folks at Half Price Books.

I’m not going to list every title, but I am going to mention that my favorite of the second batch of books was Stormqueen, though I’m certain this had to do with the weather outside the apartment matching the weather in the book.

Small things like that influence me far too greatly.

Still, it’s a great series, especially if you really want to immerse yourself in another world.

Traitor’s Sun (and others)

Traitor's Sun: A Novel of Darkover (Darkover)

Marion Zimmer Bradley

During the months of August and September, I was under a self-imposed book-buying moratorium, while we packed the house, and moved from California to Texas. However, I was still engaged in retro-reading, and, because I hadn’t read the series in a long time, I indulged in re-reading the entire Darkover series, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Darkover is one of my favorite fictional worlds, partly because there are so many novels in the series, and partly because the culture is believable. Rather than listing every novel in an independent entry, I offer the list (in series order, not publication order) of the novels I read before arriving in Texas.

Darkover Landfall
Hawkmistress
Two to Conquer
The Shattered Chain
Thendara House
Rediscovery
The Spell Sword
The Forbidden Tower
Star of Danger
Winds of Darkover
Heritage of Hastur
Sharra’s Exile
Exile’s Song
The Shadow Matrix
Traitor’s Sun