Book Review – Dark Deeds (Keiko #3) by Mike Brooks

Ahoy Blogland!

My favorite not-quite space pirates are back with a whole new adventure in Dark Deeds! Please take a moment to check out my reviews of the first two books, Dark Run and Dark Sky.

Last we saw them, Ichabod Drift and the crew of the Keiko had just barely escaped the storm and civil unrest of the Red Star planet Urugan. You’d think they’d shoot for a bit of peace after all of that. And you’d be right. But since when do any of Ichabod Drift’s wishes come true?

Dark Deeds

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

Dark Deeds is another action-packed book that’s just as fun and amusing as its predecessors. The only reason this book received a 4-star rating is because the action didn’t quite compare with that in Dark Sky, and because some shit went down that makes me sad. I’m sticking to my new view on spoilers and keeping it vague, but… This book hardly ends on a happy note.

The book opens with a peek into the past, and yet another bar fight for Ichabod. By now, it’s tradition for Ichabod to act as the punching bag for someone in the opening pages, and it’s one I thoroughly enjoy. But, the humorous opening doesn’t last long.

Ichabod and Rourke have been kidnapped by Sergei Orlov, the mob boss from Dark Sky. You might recall that that  job didn’t go as planned, and Orlov doesn’t suffer failure. He takes Rourke hostage and gives Ichabod an ultimatum: two months to get together 500,000 Stars (the Red Star government’s currency) or Rourke dies a slow and painful death.

Ichabod agrees to the terms, but he knows that even on his best day the chances of pulling together that kind of money are slim-to-none. If he has any hope of saving Rourke, he’ll have to take even greater risks.

Brooks continues to surprise me with his hilarious dialogue and his ability to create characters that are simultaneously endearing and utterly infuriating. I’m looking at you, Chang twins. I also enjoyed watching Muradov settle into his new role on the crew, and witnessing the awkward, developing relationship between Jenna and Apirana.

Basically, I love everyone and the fact that I get to read stories of all of them on these wild adventures makes me incredibly happy! Until things happen that are decidedly not happy…

keiko seriesI’m unsure at the moment if there will be more Keiko books. I’ve searched the web for any hint, and so far there are no whispers of forthcoming installments that I could find. I really hope it’s just being kept on the down low, because I really like these books. And, I can’t imagine that the series would end where it did.

Please, madre de Dios, don’t let Dark Deeds be the last one! I’m addicted!

I just finished reading Semiosis and will have the review up sometime this weekend. Otherwise I will be editing and writing, trying to get all the goals for this week into the black.

Until later,

 

BZ

 

The Recap – February 2018

Hello Everyone,

I can’t believe February is over already! I think I feel this way each year, because it’s difficult for me to understand how missing a couple days of the month makes such a big difference. Two or three days should not make February feel like a blip on the radar of the year.

But, it does, and it makes working toward my goals that much more frantic.

What were the goals?

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
  • Keep Reading

How’d I do?

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
    • Yes! I worked really hard to get two chapters edited on Tuesday and Wednesday, which means I finished 4 chapters in February and one in January. I’m feeling good about it.
  • Finish Sanctified
    • Nope. But, I’m close. Only a chapter and half left.
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
    • Yes? I’m not sure. I did another edit of it last night. I switched the POV from third to first person and added a much needed tweak to the ending, but I’m not sure if it’s ready for submission just yet. I like it, it’s headed in the right direction, but it needs fine tuning. I’m still calling this a win.
  • Keep reading
    • Yep! I read something like seven books in February, boosting my Reading Challenge and giving me plenty of fodder for book reviews.

Total February Word Count: 6,623

Any icing on the cake?

  • I published 10 blog posts in February
    • 3 weekly summaries, 5 book reviews, 1 monthly recap, and 1 craft discussion
  • Applied for a scholarship to the Oregon Writers Colony 2018 Annual Conference
    • I’m trying not to think too much about this, because I’m nervous and excited, but it’s constantly in the back of my mind. They’ll announce award recipients sometime in mid-March. Prepare yourselves for that post when it comes.Audient Void issue 4
  • The Audient Void #5
    • I’ve taken on more duties with AV, helping the graphic designer look through the proofs before he finalizes and prints. This is always exciting, because it means another issue is about to drop!
  • Sharing revisions of The Steel Armada
    • As of 2/26, Madhu and I are back to swapping pages for feedback. She’s working on something new, while I’m sending her the reworks of my novel, per her feedback from our previous swap.

March Goals

  • Edit five chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Submit The Seasons
  • Continue prepping Lifelike for submission
  • Keep reading!

Thoughts

I’ve got a lot of them. They’re bouncing around my brain and keeping my anxiety up. Mainly, I’m anxious about submitting The Seasons. I haven’t submitted a piece of short fiction for publication since… 2014? And I’ve never submitted a piece of genre fiction.

Caladria logo
RIP, Caladria

Okay, yes, there was that stint with Caladria where I wrote a handful of Fantasy short stories and they were published. But that was more like a volunteer effort. They asked for writers to pump out content, and though I got some great experience writing on a deadline and feedback from editors, those stories are no longer available for purchase. They just sit in my “Caladria” file folder, collecting virtual dust.

So, this feels much more real and scary. I like The Seasons a lot. I think it’s strong. I think it’s ready. But, I just don’t know if it’s pro status. And that’s the real issue. I’m only submitting to professional markets. I want paid for my work. I don’t want resume padding and feathers in my cap. I want monetary proof that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

And so, I’m terrified.

I’m also anxious because I really want to go to this writing conference in April, and I’ll find out in a couple of weeks if I’ll be able to attend or not. I know the time will fly by, but until I know for certain whether I’ll be going or not, I’m on eggshells.

Lifelike is coming along nicely. I did some quality reworking on it last night. I actually let my husband read it, which is something I almost never do. He’s not a big reader, so his feedback isn’t critical or experienced, but he’s smart and can give a good sense of what works and what doesn’t in a story. At least, from a reader’s point of view. I’ve also sent the story back to my friend Matt, who read a previous version of it, to see what he thinks of the rework. I’m going to let it stew for the next few days and come back to it next week and see what it needs.

Other than that, I’m just reading and editing. The Steel Armada is coming along well enough. It’s a big job, and there’s some major changes that take a considerable amount of time and rewriting. Characters are getting cut/absorbed into other characters, everyone is getting fleshed out more. Backstories and motivations are becoming clearer, to me and to the reader. And holy-moly there’s so much world building! I’m worried about pacing a little, but I figure that’ll get sorted in the next draft. Right now I just need to get everything out on the page and really nail down what’s happening and why. I can clean up the mess later.

The good news is that I’m editing about 2 chapters a week. If I keep the pace up, I’ll have this draft of The Steel Armada done by June. And that is some exciting shit. If that does happen, I’ll let it sit for a month or so, and really focus on writing. I’ll either return to writing From the Quorum, or write a new short story, depends on how I feel in June.Oathbringer

As for reading, I’m doing well. I’m currently two books ahead of my target, and I’ve got four more in the pipeline. Hopefully I can keep up the pace and pad that Goodreads Reading Challenge before I finally crack open Oathbringer. 1,233 pages is no joke, and it’s going to take considerable time to get through it all. I don’t want to fall behind because of it, so I’m reading smaller titles and graphic novels for the time being.

So, that’s my thoughts/feelings/concerns etc., etc.,  about March. There’s a lot going on, but so far my efforts to piecemeal everything out into Monthly and Weekly goals is working. I’m getting shit done. And that’s really all that matters.

I’m off to work on Sanctified. I’ll be back over the weekend to share my review of The Stone Sky, so make sure you stay tuned!

 

BZ

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

 

Goals Summary wk. 6

Well, Blogland, can you believe it? We’re six weeks into the year already! I hope everyone is working hard and achieving all the things they wanted to this year!

I’m waiting for the coffee to finish brewing. It smells great, and I can tell it’s just about time I grabbed a cup. I’m hoping sitting today and taking it easy will help a persistent ache in my lower back, but we’ll see.

So, goals. What did I want to do last week?

  • Write the Interlude for From the Quorum
    • This was planned as a short, 1k word snippet. Turned out to be a full blown chapter, wrapping up at 3,508 words.
  • Read both William Ritter novels
    • Success, with each of their reviews posted. Here, and here.
  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yeah, blew this one out of the water. Published 4 posts this past week. Not normal, but damn nice.
  • Read, plan, and start The Steel Armada edits
    • YES! I’m still reading through, and am currently on chapter 9. But, there aren’t any big plots gaps like last time, it seems I’ve fixed those. I found some areas that are weaker and fixed those, or added some small notes. But right now, things are looking pretty good!

So, that means…. I am in the black this Monday! All goals were achieved. All that red marker was erased and replaced with black. That feels really good.

What also feels good is a multiple tweet long conversation with Mike Brooks, the author of the Keiko series, thanking me for my review (you can read it here) and then discussing books we’re looking forward to this year.

mike-brooks-tweet
How did he find me?!

Talk about a great morning! And now I’m on my second cup of coffee. The sun’s out, the dog did some sunbathing, and suddenly I am all smiles despite the back pain.

So, what’s the plan for this week?

  • Write chapter 13 of From the Quorum
  • Finish Arcanum Unbounded
  • Publish two blog posts
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits

I’m not 100% sure that chapter 13 will get finished this week. It could. Thursday could be very productive. I don’t know. But, right now it feels like a tall order.

I only have a few more stories in Arcanum Unbounded until that’s done. I’ve read a majority of them already, so I’m skipping around and reading the content that’s new to me. That includes the notes from Brandon at the end of each story, and the notes from the character Khriss at the introduction of each world. There’s a bit of new content, and it’s been a joy getting some more illumination on the Cosmere.

I’ve been consistent with my post publishing, and I doubt this week will see a change in that.

As for edits, I’m feeling really good about my progress there still. I sent the manuscript to a couple more friends to get some more varied feedback, and I think I have an email from my best friend who did a very detailed read and review. So, I have some new and forthcoming feedback to help me along.

My plan for now is to finish my read through, and then go back and flesh things out chapter by chapter, and address any concerns brought up by Beta readers. For the first time this project seems doable, and not so terrifying.

We’ll see how long that lasts!

I’ll see you later this week Blogland!

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Dark Run by Mike Brooks

All right, all right. I lied. But it wasn’t on purpose! All that upbeat energy transformed into restless homeowner real quick, and I spent the rest of yesterday measuring and planning out furniture and accessories.

But, I’m here and focused today.

So, Dark Run is the first in the Keiko series. Though the premise is familiar (I’m looking at you Firefly), who doesn’t want to read about space pirates?!dark-run

The Keiko is a private freighter (which looks like a cube), owned and operated by Captain Ichabod Drift. The first thing that stood out to me was that Captain Drift is Hispanic. He often slips into Spanish when under stress, and I understand just enough to find it hilarious. The second thing is that, despite bravado and confidence, he fucks up a bit. He reminded me of Locke Lamora if he were a futuristic space punk.

That’s probably why I loved him so much.

Accompanying Drift on his ship is a small crew of ex-cons and smugglers. Attracted to the jobs, the crew stay on because of the first rule of the Keiko: no questions about the past. Whoever you were before doesn’t matter, as long as you’re on the Keiko and performing your duties, you have a home.

Tamara Rourke has been with Drift the longest, just over eight years. Described as a tiny, dark skinned woman with a boyish figure, she’s easily underestimated. Which is unfortunate for anyone on the opposite end of her rifle. She’s a hard woman, with little sense of humor, and no expression of emotions. But Drift considers her his closest friend. It happens when you’ve saved each others’ asses for over eight years.

Next longest crew mate is Apirana Wahawaha, a hulking giant of a Maori. He used to be a member of the top Maori gang back on Earth, and it landed him in prison for… seven years or something. When he got out, he landed a job with Drift and never looked back. But his ritual tattoos often cause him trouble thanks to their association with the gang, which is the direct rival of the Yakuza. Anyway, he’s supposed to be intimidating and all that, but he’s a teddy bear (with a temper) underneath. And the whole time I just pictured this guy:

mauimoana
Thanks a lot Disney…

After that, it’s the Chang siblings. Drift helped Kuai, the Keiko’s engineer, break his sister out of jail, and now Jia pilots the Keiko. Now, I don’t know any Chinese, and the twins often break out in bitter arguments. Drift’s Mandarin is far from passable, but he offers interpretations as often as he can. And it’s also hilarious. Also, Jia has a bad case of Top Gun, and she thinks she’s the shit when it comes to being a helmsman. She gets the crew almost killed about a dozen times just in this book, but she also saves them all at least that many times. She’s incredibly insubordinate, but always gets Drift’s orders done along the way. And Kuai is just grumpy and passive aggressive.

And then there’s  the Dutch mercenary, Micah van Schaken. A former soldier for the Europan Commonwealth, Micah abandoned his post due to moral differences in order to pursue a life of a hired gun. He reminded me of Zaeed from Mass Effect 2, to the point where that’s exactly how I pictured him. Grizzled and grumpy, Micah is happiest when he’s shooting things and getting paid. Drift likes him because Micah’s loyalty lies with the money, so he can count on the man to do as expected.

The newest recruit is Jenna McIlroy, a young woman with incredible skill in technology. She’s what’s known as a slicer. She can hack ship systems and security protocols to fabricate licensing and ship documents, effectively getting the Keiko in and out of potentially hostile areas with no issue. But, she’s young and untried, and Drift has taken an almost fatherly view of her. I laughed pretty hard at a line where he acknowledges that he must be getting old because he doesn’t want to sleep with Jenna, and instead wants to protect her.

This is the merry band of misfits that call the Keiko home. And they’re a huge part of what makes this book work. The other part is the plot and pacing.

dark-run-uk-cover
Original UK Cover

Drift’s past has caught up with him, and a former employer has called upon him for one last job. But, it’s not a request. He blackmails Drift into a dark run. The Keiko and crew will take cargo to Old Earth, drop it off at a specific time and location, and then vanish. They must be unseen and above all they must not open the cargo.

Every instinct Drift has tells him it’s a bad job. Leave it and get as far away from Nicolas Kelsier as possible. But, there’s no escaping the man and his hired assassin. The Laughing Man is a space-wide terror, a veritable bogeyman. And during Drift’s meeting with Kelsier, the assassin has his sights on the Captain.

Side note: the fact that the villain is referred to as Kelsier really messed with me. There’s one Kelsier in my life, and though the Mistborn is a little insane, he’s not a villain. I struggled throughout the book not to picture my beloved, crazy Kelsier every time Nicholas Kelsier was mentioned. It was pretty frustrating.

So, in order to preserve his life and avoid his past, Drift accepts the job. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t go as planned. In order to stave off imminent death from Kelsier and his entourage, the crew of the Keiko take the fight to him.

But not before secrets and pasts are exposed.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not mind-blowing. It doesn’t play with morals and themes. It’s pure fun. Time well spent with characters who immediately feel like old friends, in a world that is at once familiar and alien.

The world building was a really nice touch to the book. Earth governments fractured as colonization spread through the system, leaving four main powers. The United States of North America, The Europan Commonwealth, The Red Star Confederacy, and The Federation of African States are the remaining powers in the galaxy, Drift is a friend of none of them, and the political tensions and power struggles have direct influence on the characters and the world(s) they live in.

The pacing is unforgiving and the stakes are always high, which means this book flies by. Yes, there are a lot of clichés, and yes Mike Brooks’ prose is straightforward and fairly simplistic. But, if you’re just looking for some fun reading, something to entertain and make you laugh, then this should do the trick. I plan on coming back for the sequels, that’s for sure. Because there’s no reason not to read a book this fun.

dark-sky
Keiko #2, still awaiting US release

Stay tuned this weekend for the Jackaby book review!

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ