Book Review: Duplicate Effort (Retrieval Artist #7)

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Duplicate Effort (Retrieval Artist #7) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch


Retrieval Artist Miles Flint has a mission: take down the law firm of Wagner, Stuart, and Xendor. He enlists the aides of old friends and old enemies. But as the mission gets underway, one member of his team dies horribly.

Flint can no longer take on the entire universe. He violated the rules of his Retrieval Artist mentor and now has a lot to lose. But he can’t reverse the events he set in motion—and the crisis he caused might destroy everything—and everyone—he loves.

International bestselling writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch has won two Hugo awards, a World Fantasy Award, and three Asimov’s Readers Choice Awards. IO9 called her six (so far) bestselling, award-winning Retrieval Artist novels, inspired by this novella, one of the top ten science fiction detective series ever.



First off, “Duplicate Effort”, which has more than one meaning in the story.

This is the first of the fifteen-book “Retrieval Artist” series I read and it is the 7th of the series and works well as a stand-alone, though I believe it would work better if read in order. The author does provide good insight to the other books like a universe building on itself.

Second, I love the initial premise. What is a cop to do with a self-cleaning crime scene? How do you save the evidence before it is destroyed?

Each layer of the book get more and more interesting. I’m not going to go any further so I don’t give any of the mysteries away. 

Book Review: A Sword Into Darkness

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A Sword Into Darkness by Thomas A. Mays



Aerospace tycoon Gordon Elliot Lee cannot stand idly by while a mysterious alien presence from Delta Pavonis bears down upon mankind’s only home. Shut out from NASA and military support, Gordon is forced to go it alone, to sow the seeds for an entirely new sort of planetary defense: a space-based naval force.

Joined by Nathan Kelley — a bloodied naval warrior, scarred by his own actions in the waters off North Korea — and Kris Munoz — an avant garde scientific genius with more ideas than sense — these three will scour the very edges of fringe science and engineering to attempt development of Earth’s first space navy in time to oppose the Deltan invasion.

Beset by ridicule, government obstruction, industrial espionage, and their own personal demons, it will take a miracle just to get off the ground. But the challenges on Earth are nothing compared to what awaits them in space. Against an unknown alien enemy with vastly superior technology, a handful of human scientists and warriors must become the sword that holds the darkness at bay.




Excellent Military Sci-Fi trip to the near future. This stuff feels like we may actually be able to do it, and the reason for the need of creating the first interplanetary warship is equally urgent as we realize just how many worlds upon worlds there are in the heavens.

Not everyone out there is going to be friendly, not everyone who drops by will want a cup-of-tea and biscuit, not everyone in the big black is on the side of life. The question raise by this story is what do we do when we see someone coming to visit? Do we roll out the red carpet or bar the door? Do we assume the best or plan for the worst?

And what do you do if you are the first one to see it and no one believes you? How do you make them believe before it is too late? Should you even try? Can loners save humanity or will you need a planetary navy? (The answer to the final question is yes.)

A mixture of tech, politics, and humans being human drive this story, in the tradition of David Weber.

Book Review: The Witches Walk (Haven Harbor #1)

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The Witches Walk (Haven Harbor #1) by Jeanne Adams


Welcome to Haven Harbor, Massachusetts!

In 1691, a group of renegade witches fled Salem in the dark of night, escaping the desperate evil that spawned the Witch Trials. They struck out to form their own town, with their own rules. Three hundred years later, their descendants celebrate by retracing those steps, but this year, a new evil stalks the Witches Walk…

It’s Time for The Witches Walk!

She’s got a plan. Burned out, beaten down, and on the brink of a career implosion, event management dynamo Mari Beecham bypasses the contract of a lifetime to take a job in a community known for its strange, spooky happenings. She doesn’t buy into the story line about the witches founding the town, but it’s great publicity. Bottom line? If she can make the annual Witches Walk a top destination event, she’ll save her career and, maybe, find some balance. She’ll do it, too, if “First Son of Haven Harbor” Peregrine Hestworth will stop interfering. 

He’s in her way. As Town Council chair, Pere is serious about the safety and welfare of his people. He doesn’t want to like Mari. Even if he didn’t suspect his meddlesome mother of weaving a matchmaking spell, he still would have voted against hiring the petite whirlwind with a spine of steel. His visions of fire and death moving to Haven Harbor along with Mari are too deadly to ignore. 

As trouble brews and the event stalls, the attraction between Mari and Pere bubbles like a cauldron. When a woman is attacked, and another disappears, Pere knows his unreliable foresight has hit the mark this time. An old evil is rising, with a new vendetta, and if they can’t work together, the devastation Pere foresees will take his town, along with the woman he’s coming to love. 



A fun read and worth four and a half stars, just a breath shy of perfect for the genre, a paranormal romance thriller/murder-mystery mix. The book starts off slow, but builds to its lightning-packed conclusion, giving you time to get to know the town and people. 

This very appropriate first book for a promising series introduces several potential singles you get to like and look forward to seeing in future books finding their true loves. (I really want Jake and Dan to get HEAs, and Jeff and Lydia too when I think about it.) Two more books of the series are already out when I read this in August 2017 – but only as physical books and I soooo want to read them right now. Kindle has spoiled me. Oh, and the potential romances aren’t the only thing I want to follow forward – whether a certain witch finds herself an apprentice, seeing what the background big-bad has planned for its next attack, and, of course, exploring the really cool magick of the Haven Harbor Witches.

The first half of the book is about relationships being developed – welcoming a new person into town, power plays, family dynamics, and planning events. The second part is where the romance and the thriller action goes from the smoldering-tinder-gently-fed-hoping-a-spark-will-catch level to out-of-control bonfires. Ms. Adams somehow keeps both bonfires roaring without one consuming the other.

A good read and I think the next in the series, now the world has been established, will be even better.

Time to Read: About seven hours.

Writing Exercise: Review of Book Reviews

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Review of my book reviews.

I average over 100 book read a year for the last few years, since I made a requirement to do a book review every time I read a book I’ve actually been able to keep track through my Goodreads count. I passed the magic 100 books in November 2017, which is when I am writing this post in preparation for tax season during my NaNoWritMo craziness.

I’m going to be way less than previous years (182 in 2015 and 128 in 2016). Each year I get a little less because I (1) don’t count books I edit and (2) don’t count books I slush read. As my editing and slush reading increases, the pleasure reading decreases.

With the magic 100 book level, I thought I would see if I raved or depraved too much. As an editor and author myself, I sometimes feel like I need to take it easy on other writers at which point I pull myself up by the shorts and remind me I am writing the book reviews to become a better editor and writer. If I don’t be honest about what I read, I can’t learn from it.

The review levels between Goodreads and Amazon allow me to give higher marks on Amazon reviews.

one star Goodreads “I did not like” / Amazon “I hate”
two star Goodreads “It was ok” / Amazon “I did not like”
three star Goodreads “I liked” / Amazon “It’s okay”
four star Goodreads “I really liked”/Amazon “I liked”
Five star Goodreads “It was amazing”/Amazon “I loved”

If you notice, a four on Amazon is equal to a three on Goodreads. So if someone gets a four star on Goodreads, I usually give them a five on Amazon because of the difference in the grading scale. This helps soothe my writer’s heart, supporting friends and co-workers. The write-up portion of the review is cut and pasted between the two review sites, therefore same review shows up on both, just star level are different. Oh, and Goodreads allows spoilers to be hid but Amazon does not – I sometimes need to work around that.

The Goodread scale for me is as follows:

One Star – Total fail, should not exist. Hated it, usually unable to finish. (One or more of these reasons.)
Two Star – Serious structural problems to the story. A “trunk” story where the author is learning how to write, but should have never been published in its present form. Did not like book. Able to finish reading the book, but frequently thought about quitting.

(Stars One and Two often inspire Editing Rants and Writing Exercises.)

Three Star – Readable. Some flaws. Bland. Nothing stands out. Liked book.
Four Star – Good book. Solid. Really liked it.
Five Star – Loved story – which I have discovered means incredible worldbuilding is involved.

(Stars Four and Five often end up in Author Spotlights and Book Review posts the following year.)

How did my 2017 reading split up?

Five Star – 11
Four Star – 42
Three Star – 28
Two Star – 12
One Star – 7

The disbursement may seem top-heavy, but remember many of these books are edited by publishing companies and many self-published people use editors as well which will reduce the pure clunkers. People want to publish books to make money, therefore most books overall will be better than mediocre.

I think the split between stars is a good disbursement. I’m not afraid to call a spade a spade.

WRITING EXERCISE: Go to your recently finished reading pile and pull out three books. Write a review for each of them figuring out what you liked about them and what you didn’t and post them to an appropriate review site. Of the three books, which book stood out the most and for what particular reason. What book received the lowest score and why? Looking at your present work-in-progress, can you apply any of the lessons you learned from these review-critiques to your own story?


The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (published by Tor) – 5 Stars – Why I loved it the most: Worldbuilding. New thing learned: working with a multiple person POV allows unlikable as well as likable main characters, adding interest to the story.

Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler (published by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy) – 4 Stars – Nothing stood out.

Villains Rule by M.K. Gibson (published by Amber Cove Publishing) – 2 Stars – This humorous satire is exactly what I expect from humorous satire. Unfortunately going for the easy joke can be very misogynistic (The Pop Culture Detective Agency covers this well in “The Adorkable Misogyny of the Big Bang Theory”.) New thing learned: This story is very Meta about breaking down the Fantasy tropes and helped me be aware of a few.

Taking the thing I learned: I write likable characters. Maybe I should try for some unlikable ones. All three of these books have at least one of the point of view characters be a unrepentant villain. Something to think about.

If you would like to see all my book reviews on Goodreads, you can follow the book review links above and follow me there.

Book Review: Wool

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Wool by Hugh Howey


Thousands of them have lived underground. They’ve lived there so long, there are only legends about people living anywhere else. Such a life requires rules. Strict rules. There are things that must not be discussed. Like going outside. Never mention you might like going outside.

Or you’ll get what you wish for.



This one is a little weird to write up. Originally published as a short story of only 50 pages, the story was so popular Mr. Howey was encouraged to write a followup, and then another, until he wrote a total of five books in a series (over 500 pages available as a single omnibus as well as sold separately). And that series did so well he added another trilogy. And that did so well he is allowing others to write in his Silo world. So do I rate the story as a short story or the first of a series? Because as a short story it is thought-provoking and as a series introduction, the world-building has huge holes unacceptable for the long-form.

Mr. Howey writes some pretty good short stories that make you think. A number of his stories available on Amazon show his like for this format. “Wool”, as a short story, follows a man mourning his wife and dealing with a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is locked in a buried multistory building with only a few windows to the outside world, which slowly get covered in grime. The story covers both the present day and the history leading to his wife’s death. Wool removes the grime and allows clear-seeing to how the world really is. “Wool” is a solid short story worthy of a good anthology or collection.

As the first of a series, “Wool” lacks a lot. The survival just doesn’t seem possible. To start, how does the central staircase survive? Diamond treads wear off in just a couple of decades, not the 200 plus years they have been inside and using this as a major thoroughfare. Yes, no weather – still humans produce a lot of water naturally. Moisture and rust and use would have killed this in the first 50 years. Second, where does the wool come from – or any of the cleaning products. A carbon suit? Argon? The digital screen? So much is just not possible. I don’t know if he resolved these issues in later books. Again, his original book was not aimed at being anything but a short story and short story worlds do not need to make complete sense. They need to get a reaction – and this story definitely achieves that.

But not enough, for me at least, to continue in this depressing post-apocalyptic world. I agree with the main character who says the children books with green and blue just speak to a person. You know those are the correct colors. I don’t want to read about a people locked in a buried tower without sunlight or hope. Although it would be interesting to see how they survive. How it changes what it means to be human.

Picked up while free on Kindle; using typical marketing model – first of a five book series, with the first book free.