Book Review – Dark Sky (Keiko #2) by Mike Brooks

Hello Blogland!

Welcome to the long overdue review of the second Keiko book, Dark Sky. If you haven’t read my review of the first book, Dark Run, now is the time to pop on over and check it out.

Dark Sky
Spoilers below!

You know what they say about the second creative endeavor, the supposed sophomore slump. I would say that Brooks was not affected by that particular expectation. I found Dark Sky to be just as good, if not better than the first book, which is a rare treat indeed.  I think that the book really benefited from the character introductions and development from the first book, so that there was no awkward reacquainting when I opened this book. I immediately felt at home with Ichabod and company, despite the many months between reading the first and second book.

So, what are Ichabod and his crew up to?

Why, gambling their hard earned money away on the Red Star planet New Samara, that’s what! While Apirana and Kuai heal from the damage they took at the end of the first book, Ichabod plays the high stakes games, and does well enough for himself to draw the eye of the casino’s owner. Or at least, that’s what he thinks.

New Samara
This is Monaco, but New Samara is the Monaco of space, so…

But, really, how many purple-haired Mexicans with a bionic eye do you think there are? Even in this imaginative take on the future. Safe to say, Ichabod stands out.

So, this casino big-wig who reeks of the Russian mafia has selected Ichabod for a little job. Because of course the captain can’t just gamble and drink in peace. It sounds easy enough, and the payout’s good, but what he really wants is a quick, easy job to instill some confidence in his crew again. the morale and trust of the Keiko’s crew really took a beating in Dark Run. Apirana and Kuai got shot, Ichabod was revealed to be Gabriel Drake, a pirate notorious for spacing his entire crew in order to escape the authorities, and Micah, the eastern European merc, died.

That’s a lot of hits in one book. Ichabod hopes that this little job, just some light intelligence smuggling, will restore his crew’s faith in him.

Yeah… about that. He really should know by now that nothing is ever simple for him.

So, he gathers the crew and they fly to the nearby mining planet Uragan. It’s a grim world, with the entire populace living in various levels under the surface in order to avoid the planet’s giant dust storms. Foreigners aren’t a common sight, but citizens with missing limbs replaced with metal are. Even in the future, mining is a hazardous profession.

The plan is to get on the planet, get the information, and get back to New Samara before a massive hurricane shuts down all travel from the planet. They’ve got two days. Tick. Tock.

But, when the informant plans to double-cross the casino head, Ichabod agrees to take the man and his husband away from Uragan. It’s more cash! He still gets the intel for the original job, and the added pay for smuggling the informant off the planet. Win-win!

Ichabod, Jia, and Kuai go to the local bar for celebratory drinks while Jenna, Apriana, and Rourke stay at the hotel to prep for their departure the next morning. The crew, for once, is separated. So of course that’s when the revolution starts.

Uragan

Rebels take to the streets, attacking the unprepared Politsiya. Ichabod just wants to get back to the hotel, to regroup, but anyone out on the street is a target for the police. Rourke just wants to obey the official communications commanding that all citizens stay indoors, but the hotel owner kicks them out, because he wasn’t supposed to accept foreigners anyway.

Long story short, Ichabod, in an effort to keep himself and the Chang twins alive, sides with the Politsiya, ingratiating himself with the police chief Alim Muradov. Meanwhile, Rourke finds herself helping the resistance in order to get her half of the crew through the locked down level, up to the docks, and back to the Jonah (their shuttle).

This book follows both sides of the crew as they fight and struggle to get back to their shuttle so they can get off the planet before the storm hits.

The majority of the book bounces between the two separated groups of the crew. Jenna and Apirana discuss the growing tension between them as they realize they both have feelings for the other (I squealed a lot during these super awkward conversations; I live for this kind of crap), and the Chang twins get a lot more time on screen, which was nice because they weren’t very prevalent in the first book. We also get more details on Jenna and Rourke’s pasts, which is always a good thing, since the whole crew is unlikely to speak about it given the Keiko’s one rule: don’t ask questions about the past.

But, what I really enjoyed is how Ichabod brought Alim Muradov onto the crew. Brooks developed his character well, making him someone I liked very much. I didn’t want to say goodbye to him, and since there was a gap in the crew ever since Micah died, I didn’t have to!

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

I’m looking forward to how Muradov assimilates to life on a smuggling ship after devoting his life to military and public service. should make for some nice tension in the next book, Dark Deeds.

Dark Deeds

My plan is to get caught up on my book reviews this week, so keep a weather eye out for more posts!

 

BZ

 

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Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 3

Hi Blogland,

Sorry for my absence last week. I contracted the flu that’s going around so badly this year. My husband was ill first, and then I succumbed to it a week later. I spent the majority of the week on the couch watching nature documentaries and napping. Not remotely productive, but I’m hale and healthy now, so it worked out.

So obviously, I didn’t have any goals last week, but I never discussed the previous week’s either. So, what did I want to accomplish in week three?

Goals?

  • Publish Dark Sky book review
  • finish my last giveaway fic
  • Finish chapter 31 and post chapter 30 of Sanctified
  • Finish listening to Shockaholic
  • Send Lifelike and The Season to my friend Matt

How did I do?

Not great, but not awful either. I didn’t write that book review, which is a shame. I hate writing reviews too long after I’ve finished the book. It’s hard to remember everything. But, I did finish my giveaway fic, as well as my fanfic chapter. I posted it to some positive feedback from the readers, so that’s always nice. I have yet to finish listening to Shockaholic, but I’m making some serious progress this week already. I didn’t incorporate any feedback from Madhu yet. She felt pretty unsure of her comments, and felt a bit out of her depth, so I decided to hold off on reading her comments until I hear back from Matt. I did send my stories to Matt, but he’s yet to get back to me on them. Hopefully that doesn’t mean he hates them :/

Weekly Word Count: 4,488

What about this week?

  • Publish two book reviews
  • Start Sanctified chapter 32
  • Finish Shockaholic
  • Edit Lifelike and The Season
  • Edit chapter 1 of The Steel Armada

I lot of editing. Blegh. I hate editing my own work. I LOVE editing other people’s work, but my own is a special sort of hell. But, Madhu is working on some rewrites of her novel, and she’s eager to get back to sharing work, so I need to have something to share. Editing is the only way I’ll have that. Which was the goal of having someone to share with, at least to me. Sharing my work with someone I don’t really know, but see on a weekly basis will help keep me accountable while valuing their feedback. I just have to get my butt in gear.

 

I’ve got the Dark Sky review written and cued up, it’ll publish tomorrow morning. So, I can either write a review on Turn Coat or hurry up and finish Iron Gold this week. Yeah, right. Turn Coat it is. Iron Gold

February is my month to really start focusing on my editing. Tentative goal is a chapter a week at least, but if Madhu and I keep with tradition and send each other 20 pages, that’s closer to two. If I do two chapters a week, I’ll be done in just about 10 weeks. So we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, that’s where we stand going into week five. A little behind schedule thanks to the flu, but feeling healthy and ready to get back on track.

Wish me luck, Blogland!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 2

Hello Blogland and welcome to the weekly summary!

What were the goals?

  • publish 1 book review
  • finish Singull fic (tumblr give away)
  • hit 1,500 words on Sanctified chapter 31
  • finish listening to Shockaholic
  • edit The Seasons and Lifelike, send to Madhu for work-shopping

 

How’d I do?

Where are my trumpets? I absolutely killed it this week, and I am feeling damn good about it! I published the book review for The Children of Men, and finished and posted the giveaway fic for my tumblr. I just barely eeked out the 1500 words on Sanctified, and I edited The Seasons and Lifelike and sent them to my writer friend for her feedback. I also got in some bonus words on a Sci-Fi short story I shouldn’t technically be working on right now. I wrote it by hand on a whim, and then typed it up to get a feel for it. I’ve shelved it for now to focus on the tasks at hand.

The only thing I didn’t do was finish listening to Shockaholic, but I’m still calling it a win because I finished listening to Turn Coat instead, which is a longer book. Migraine silver lining; when you can’t sleep because of the pain, at least James Marsters’ voice is soothing.

Weekly Word Count: 5,074

Dresden Turn Coat

So, now what?

  • Publish Dark Sky book review
  • Finish Nyxara fic (tumblr giveaway)
  • Finish Sanctified chapter 31, post chapter 30
  • Finish Shockaholic
  • Incorporate feedback on Lifelike and The Seasons, send to Matt for further insight

 

I’m feeling pretty good going into this week, gotta say. It feels nice to get everything done that I planned to. So, while my smile’s still wide, I’m calling it a night.

See you all soon with a book review!

 

BZ

 

 

Book Review – The Children of Men by P.D. James

Hey Blogland!

Today I’ve got a quick book review for you.  So buckle up!

The Children of Men book
How creepy is this cover?

You might have heard of P.D. James, famous for her extremely popular Adam Dalgliesh mystery series. I’ve never read anything from her before, but The Children of Men has been on my To Be Read (TBR) list for years. Why?

Because of the 2006 film adaptation, directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starring Clive Owen. I remember seeing it in theaters with my mother as a impressionable sixteen year old and just being completely blown away by it.

Cuaron’s interpretation was a bleak, dystopian world in which women were no longer able to conceive. Humanity fell apart in the face of its looming death as no children were born for over 20 years. Until Clive Owen’s character, Theo Falon, is tasked with escorting a young woman out of the harsh, Dictator-ruled UK. Why?

Well, because she’s pregnant.

The film was very war torn and grizzly. Military police are terrifying, refugees are shown in their total desperation as resources are kept from them in favor of UK nationals. People die horrible deaths, and the previously uninvolved, apathetic Theo finds purpose for the first time in his life.

The children of men alternate
Alternate film adaptation cover

It’s the ultimate hope in the face of adversity film. I couldn’t get enough of it. The story enraptured me, and played in loops in my imagination for weeks after I saw it (Side Note: my mother hated it). So, when I learned that it was based on a book, well, I knew I had to read it.

Fast forward twelve years and I finally found time, and a copy of the audiobook. I decided to finally give it a shot.

Um… Oops.

Turns out, P.D. James’ dystopian novel is so far removed from Cuaron’s riveting film that I consistently fell asleep during its narration. Theo is there, as is his Dictator cousin Xan Lyppiatt. But, Julian was never Theo’ wife, and she’s the one that’s pregnant. There is no character of Kee, no young girl being swept away from everything she’d ever known.

Instead, there’ s a group of five dissenters who plan to overthrow Xan due to a number of political concerns. Julian is the wife of their leader, and as the book continues, it’s revealed that she’s pregnant, but not with her husband’s child.

Which actually brings me to my biggest issue with book. The novel is told in two narrative styles, the first being first person as Theo writes in his diary. The second is a typical third person limited. Regardless, Theo’s opinions and viewpoints on women are made clear as he discusses his tiresome ex-wife, his lack of feeling for his mother, and his descriptions of the women he encounters throughout the book. Almost all of his depictions of women focus on their physical appearance and how dissatisfying he finds them.

But, Theo finds pretty much everything dissatisfying.

The Children of men explosion
Yeah, Theo’s diary never mentioned bombings!

Another interesting difference between the film and the novel is that in Cuaron’s film women are the infertile ones, while in the book it is men who have gone sterile. I’d like to think that it’s this global condemnation of men’s virility that fosters Theo’s dislike of women, that P.D. James played a long game in bringing about the conversation of the perceptions of masculinity’s role in the wielding of power.

But, by the end of the book, I’m not convinced. I’m more inclined to think that Mrs. James may have actually thought critically of women herself.

The narrative rambles, taking rests in places that don’t appear to really matter in any capacity other than to world-build. Which, isn’t really necessary. It’s 2021 in Oxford, UK. I know that the book was written in the 90s, but even then, you don’t need considerable setting description to bring it to life for the reader. It’s a near future UK setting. Cool. Got it.

Oh. We’re talking about the country again? Yep. Uh-huh. Ayup. That’s a copse of trees, you got it.

Now, I know that British storytelling traditions are different than American ones. Words aren’t/weren’t at such a premium, there’s typically much more description and contemplation of those descriptions by the narrator. But I feel that James sacrificed potential action and narrative interest in favor of long-winded musings of a 50 year old white male who doesn’t really have any skin in this game.

Oh, wait! Except he does. Because, obviously, he falls in love with Julian and his overflowing adoration compels him to remain by her side through it all. He’s literally spent a total of maybe three hours in this woman’s presence, but he’s risking everything to keep her safe until her baby is born.

Ok. Sure.

Anyway, the cuckold husband leaves them to report their whereabouts to Xan, so Theo, the midwife, and Julian make a run for it. The midwife is murdered by Xan, but he’s too late to witness the birth.

Full disclosure: These last ten minutes of the book were by far the best.

So, Xan and his cousin Theo face off, pistols drawn. Theo is ready to die to protect Julian and the child. But, the baby cries, distracting Xan with a sound no one has heard in over 20 years, and Theo takes the chance to kill him. Shocked, he takes the ring from Xan’s hand, basically crowning himself as Britain’s new leader. Then he returns to Julian’s side, only to reveal what I already knew.

Theo never had purpose. He never felt truly passionate about anything. He was never a full member of the five dissenters, he didn’t care about their causes. He only cared about Julian and her child. And as he returns to her, and she sees the ring, she realizes what has happened. When she asks what he’s going to do, he basically alludes that he’s going to do basically nothing different than Xan would have done. Except that they’ll be together and she will never want for anything ever again.

Which was never what Julian cared about. She had been an actual revolutionary, wanting more for the people of Britain.

So, I guess, in the end, men are proven to be redundant and incapable of change? I don’t know. I think I came to this book prepared to analyze and pick it apart looking for the meaning and the social commentary that was so abundant in Cuaron’s film. I can’t really say whether it’s there or not. I want it to be, but if it is, it’s as unorganized and unclear as the rest of the narrative.

The children of men Kee

Cuaron has admitted in interviews that, once he heard the original premise of The Children of Men, that humanity had become infertile and that society crumbled as a consequence, he absolutely refused to read the source material. He kept a couple character names, but switched their roles around, and really let the premise and the current political and social climate stew in his mind to create the film.

I am so thankful for that. This couldn’t be further from the novel. It’s the one case where I would absolutely say that the film is 100% better than book. I never say that.

It should be noted that P.D. James did enjoy and approve of Cuaron’s adaptation.

This book received my lowest rating on Goodreads. I’d suggest you just watch the film and call it good. Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Stars.

Luckily, my other reads in 2018 so far have been quite lovely. Keep an eye out for forthcoming reviews!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 1

Hi Blogland!

Welcome to the first edition of Goals Summary for 2018. I really liked these posts in 2017, even if I wasn’t super consistent with them. Hopefully I can do better this year.

What did I set out to accomplish last week?

  • Publish 1 blog post
  • Start writing Sanctified chapter 31
  • Review/start The Steel Armada editsDark SkyFinish reading Dark Sky by Mike Brooks
  • Finish listening to The Children of Men by P.D. James

How’d I do?

I published one post last week, my traditional Blog Remodel post and year in review post. That was an easy goal to reach, thank goodness.  I wrote just under 300 words for Sanctified, which isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing. I did not even look at The Steel Armada, I’ll get into why a bit later. I finished reading Dark Sky, as well as The Children of Men AND Wishful Drinking. So, lots of reading/listening done last week! Check out the What I’m Reading page for an updated list, or follow me on Goodreads for updates in real time.

I also decided that I’ll be tracking my word count in these posts. Only fiction (fanfic or original) counts toward my weekly word count, blog posts do not.

Weekly Word Count: 1,600

What’s on the docket for this week?

  • publish 1 book review
  • finish Singull fic (tumblr give away)
  • hit 1,500 words on Sanctified chapter 31
  • finish listening to Shockaholic
  • edit The Seasons and Lifelike, send to Madhu for work-shopping

Notice that The Steel Armada isn’t on here. I want to work on these short stories a little bit and take my time organizing and prepping The Steel Armada. I also have two give away fics that I need to finish, so either next week or the week after I’ll be ready to crack open The Steel Armada and start wading through it. Basically, I don’t want to have lingering projects that might distract me from working on the rewrites, because I know myself, and just about anything will be more enticing than drafting this book.

All right, I think that’s everything that I wanted to talk about today. I’ll post the review for The Children of Men either tomorrow or Thursday. As always, thanks for reading this far!

 

BZ

New Year’s New Look!

Every year, on or around January 1st, I overhaul the blog. I’m not sure if it serves any other purpose besides catching my interest in my site and giving me a fresh breath of air after 365 days of something else.

So, here’s the new look, I hope you all like it. I was a little sad to see the last look go, because it was my favorite so far in the past 4 years of blogging. But, I have high hopes for this one. It’s even more streamlined than last year’s (weird), and I like the headers with social media links at the top.

Yeah. It feels good, man.

All right, here’s the gross part about New Year’s posts. I have to talk about my ambitions for 2017 and how I did in accomplishing them. Spoiler alert, 2017 was not a good year for me.

Last year I said I wanted to:

  • edit The Steel Armada into draft #3
  • submit The Portrait of Sterling Madison to The Audient Void
  • finish From the Quorum rough draft
  • edit Cards into draft #2
  • publish 104 blog posts, roughly 2 per week
  • read 60 books

How did I do? Well, I did make some progress on The Steel Armada, especially in the last half of the year. I’m about halfway through editing the second draft, but the realization that it needs pretty extensive rewrites has me a bit disheartened.

I didn’t submit The Portrait of Sterling Madison this year. If you don’t recall, this is a horror short story that has haunted me for the better part of seven years. I wanted to do a lot with this small piece, and every attempt just proved that my writing chops weren’t where they needed to be to make it work. But, I did finally hammer out the best draft of it yet, quite unexpectedly, as I’d shelved it yet again. I’m confident I’ll find a home for it in 2018!

I did not finish From the Quorum. In fact, I got about halfway, because it’s the largest story I’ve ever undertaken. I outlined the whole book through to the end back in April, and we’re looking at about 100k word manuscript. It’s currently at 51k, so literally halfway there. I saw that projected word count and panicked, and haven’t worked on it since then.

I made a deal with myself: I cannot edit Cards until The Steel Armada is complete. Since I didn’t make the headway with edits like I planned, I did not even look at Cards this year. However, I did some minimal edits on my Cards short story Since the Fire, in the hopes that I can find it a home in 2018.

I published 42 post last year… Ugh. No where close to my goal. Not even all that close to half of my goal. That’s rough buddy. Sorry for neglecting you all this year.

I managed to squeak in 62 books this year, according to Goodreads, and man that feels good. I needed a win.

I read 14,072 pages across 62 booksImg bookstack 72

What the heck did I do in 2017?

I wrote. A lot. In 2017 I wrote two original short stories and four chapters for From the Quorum. The short stories are both Horror pieces, The Seasons is an all new piece that I’m really proud of, and Lifelike is the newest incarnation of The Portrait of Sterling Madison. Honestly, it’s different enough, and written in such a whirlwind of inspiration that I don’t even consider it a rewrite; it really is an all new story. These projects total 17,321 words.

But, I did my most damage working on Fanfiction. I know, I know. You roll your eyes, you immediately see me differently because you know that I write fanfiction. Trust me, I did my fair share of eye-rolling and berating because of it. But, there are a lot of benefits to being a content creator in an active fandom, and I will probably write a whole separate post to talk about my experiences as such. Finally, months later, I regret nothing.

So, I wrote 264,850 words of Fanfic in 2017. Yep. Go ahead, read it again. 264,850 words across multiple longfics (basically multi-chapter serials), oneshots (read: short stories), and drabbles (aka flash fiction).

I wrote more this year than I ever have before, in more styles and genres than I ever thought possible, because of fanfic. I have no regrets. I also won National Novel Writing Month for the very first time because of fanfic. I proved to myself that I absolutely can write long form, can produce content quickly and of a pretty high quality on a deadline. When I needed it most, Fanfic gave me an ego boost. I am proud of my output and my content, and am feeling buoyed into the new year.

But, I did have some other projects this last year.
Audient Void issue 4

I continue to provide “Editorial Assistance” for The Audient Void. I’ve stepped up my duties to weeding through the fiction slush-pile as well as offering line edits when necessary. So, if you submit fiction to us in 2018, there’s a 50-50 chance I’ll be the one who decides whether your story gets considered for publication. MUAHAHAHA!

Ahem.

We released two issues in 2017 and have just finished selecting pieces for the first issue of 2018. So, there was that. Also, I spent a few months swapping fiction with an acquaintance and work-shopping her Middle-Grade Adventure novel. It was an eye-opening experience that really challenged me to leave my comfort zone and learn more about publishing. I also helped her fine tune her query letter, which is really good practice for me when it comes time to write my own.

I also took on some personal projects. I stopped biting my nails, for realsies this time! It’s been months, and I love it. I still keep them short, because typing with nails is nigh impossible, but I’ve accumulated more polish colors and indulge in giving myself manicures now, so that’s nice. I did a 30 day yoga challenge, and signed up for another one that starts tomorrow! I love bringing stretching and movement back into my life (former dancer, here) and it’s really grounded me over the last month. Today we were invited to set an intention for the month, a word or phrase that would guide our practice through to the end. But, I’m going one step further. I’m setting my intention for the year.

FOCUS.

2017 was a wild ramble that saw me dart from project to project, taking on things that were fun and interesting, at the expense of my more serious ambitions. I want to bring focus back into my life. I want to set clear, attainable goals, so that I can set myself up for success. So…

What the heck am I doing in 2018?

  • I am finishing The Steel Armada. Whatever that means, and how ever long that takes. I wrote this book in 2013, it’s time to stamp it done and move on with my writing life.
  • I am finishing my committed longfic series. There are a couple chapters left in this installment, and then a planned sequel. Then it is done. Chickity-check, move on.
  • I am submitting at least two short stories for publication this year, only to SFWA Logomagazines that pay their authors. I’m done sticking ‘feathers in my cap’. I don’t need feathers. I need payouts. I need proof positive that my content is worth buying, I need credentials to pad my query letters and my efforts to join Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) within the next two years.
  • I am giving myself permission to write things for fun. Drabbles and tumblr prompts keep me limber and energized. I love writing them, I love engaging with a fan base. I will not feel guilty for that.
  • I am reading 65 books, per the Goodreads reading challenge.
  • I am publishing 52 blog posts, preferably once a week, no matter what.
  • I am committing to my yoga practice, about 20-30 minutes/day

If time allows, I would like to…

  • make considerable progress (30k words) on From the Quorum
  • Read through and begin edits on Cards
  • write a new Sci-Fi short story
  • maybe begin querying process for The Steel Armada, if I like how it turns out

 

Whew. All right. That’s a pretty big “to-do” list for 2018. Whoops. But, if I’m being honest, these are the goals that mean the most to me. These are the projects I want to work on, and the only way I can do that is if I make the time.

What about you? What will you make time for in 2018? What will be your focus?

As always, thanks for stopping by Blogland, I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and look forward to sharing 2018 with you.

 

Best,

BZ

Where’d the Year Go?

Oh hai, Blogland!

So, somehow, this year has passed me by. I’ve got things to talk about and plans to share, and maybe a last book review for the year. I want to tally up my word count for the year, talk about the projects I worked on, and go over the goals I set last year versus where I ended.

Ya know, typical end of the year BS.

I’d also like to set some knew goals and really buckle up in 2018. I have high hopes for that, and I’ll tell you why in the forthcoming Round-Up post.

Plus, the New Year is always my time to redesign the blog! This is something I’ve done every year since I started this blog back in 2011, and I don’t plan on killing the tradition now.

Anyway, I am still here. I still have plans. Stay tuned.

Much Love,

 

BZ