Extinction Reversed (Robot Geneticists #1) by J.S. Morin

A.I. didn’t destroy humanity. It didn’t save us, either.

Charlie7 is the progenitor of a mechanical race he built from the ashes of a dead world—Earth. He is a robot of leisure and idle political meddling—a retirement well-earned. Or he was, until a human girl named Eve was dropped in his lap.

Far from a failed genetics experiment, Eve is brilliant, curious, and heartbreakingly naïve about her species’ history. But Eve’s creator wants her back and has a gruesome fate planned for her. There is only one robot qualified to protect her. For the first time in a thousand years, Charlie7 has a human race to protect.

The result of 1,000 years of genetic engineering, terraforming, and painstaking toxic cleanup has resulted in the ultimate achievement of the Post-Invasion Age: a healthy human.

Her name is Eve14.

Don’t ask about the 13 Eves before her.

Humanity as we know it is no more and the robots have taken over. But the robots are not quite as unfeeling as one would think. Before the end of everything, twenty-seven of the most brilliant minds were scanned as part of a project known as Project Transhuman. Every robot that now exists is made up of an amalgam of those human minds. Everything those humans knew and thought and felt are a part of the robots – all of their jealousies, their ambitions, their hopes and dreams. All were saved and used to create a whole new world.

Extinction Reversed is a unique take on the whole ‘robots taking over after the end of the world’ trope. At one point in time it was a popular story idea and was explored in numerous different ways before eventually falling out of public consumption. J.S. Morin has brought it back in a way with his six part series titled Robot Geneticists with Extinction Reversed being the first in the series.

The characters that Morin has created for the series are an interesting bunch. The robots are all based on the same twenty-seven individuals; depending on what kind of a person is needed, pieces of three minds mixed together using a process that is never quite fully explained. This creates an individual who is both unique but also has a known quotient about them. They are human in that they have feelings and emotions yet they are in metallic bodies.

The few humans that we meet on the other hand are quite diverse. Eve, the main female character, is more like a robot than the robots she encounters. Born and raised in a lab, at 16 years old she is experiencing everything for the first time. The robot who created her made her perfect in every way and raised her in a very sterile environment. Having never been exposed to anything such as movies or books or art, she is almost akin to a living, breathing, computer.

On the other side of the human coin is Plato. The main male character, he too was created by a robot in a lab somewhere. He, however, is the complete opposite of Eve. He is temperamental, gets angry quickly, and while he is quite smart he often rushes in to situations head first. He is far from perfect and only when it is revealed that while physically he is an adult male, his mind is of a 12 year old boy, does some of his actions make sense.

Overall, I liked reading Extinction Reversed. It was interesting watching the dichotomy between robots and humans play out. Especially as it was the robots who were acting out the most. The writing can be a bit awkward at times and while the first half of the book was a little slow, it definitely picked up in the second half. I especially liked the short story at the end that revealed exactly how humanity met its end and the robots came to be.

Readers who enjoy stories based around robots taking over will likely also enjoy Extinction Reversed. Personally, I’ve already added the rest of the series to my To Be Read list and will slowly but surely be making my way through them.

Provided for Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Undead Client by M.J. Downing

Sherlock Holmes has only been deceased a month when Dr. John Watson, still grieving, recounts his final case with Holmes.  A terrifying mystery, it sends Watson and Holmes into the dark reaches of London’s back alleys – and the human soul. 

It begins when Anne Prescott, a lovely Scottish nurse, begs Sherlock Holmes and Watson to help her find her fiancé and her sister, who have gone missing in the teeming streets of London. Immediately, Watson feels an attraction to her that shocks him. Newly married to Mary, and deeply in love with her, he struggles to put Anne out of his mind.

As Watson and Holmes dig into the slums and sewers of London looking for Anne’s fiancé and sister, they uncover a deadly web of bloody murders, horrific medical experiments, and even voodoo ritual that threatens not only London, but the entire British empire, and beyond.

Watson must call on his unique combination of expertise in the medical sciences, as well as his military training to stop this killer before London —and Anne — are lost to the killer’s bloody plan.

But time is short and the mystery ever more complex. How can he manage his feelings for Anne? What about his loyalty to Mary? He can’t have both.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley. Thank you!

If it hasn’t occurred to my readers by now, I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I have read all of the original Conan Doyle tales countless times and continue to enjoy them. I am also one who is more than happy to read other author’s stories starring my favorite detective. And while yes, I will admit, that it is often hit or miss with the books, I still enjoy it.

Unfortunately my dearest readers, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Undead Client is one of those that is a miss.

A great majority of readers are familiar with fan-fiction, and with that they are generally familiar with the term “Mary-Sue”. The term refers to a female character who is absolutely perfect in every way. She is incredibly smart and exceptionally beautiful, whatever task she attempts to do she is almost immediately proficient. And in almost every case she meets a tragic end.

The character of Anne Prescott is, in my mind, such a character. She comes to Holmes and Watson seeking their help in finding her missing fiance as well as her missing sister. At first, her interactions with Holmes and Watson are fairly standard – she is trying to help them find her loved ones after all. Soon though characterization goes a bit sideways and both Holmes and Watson become almost caricatures.

About halfway through Holmes expresses a wish to be more like Anne Prescott with her strength of character. I thought this was completely out of character for him as he had never wanted to be anyone else but himself. Also, about two-thirds of the way through, Anne seduces Watson and causes him to cheat on Mary. Again, this is quite out of character as in canon Watson professed how much he cared for Mary several times.

Aside from the mis-characterization, the writing itself is often over melodramatic to the point where it almost becomes purple. I understand that Downing was trying to capture the particular writing style of Conan Doyle’s Watson but like most everything else, I found it profoundly lacking.

If this book was about original characters fighting zombies in Victorian England, I would be more inclined to give it a better rating. However, because this is book is centered on the well known characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, I must rate it accordingly and advice my readers to skip it entirely.

Provided for Review: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Welcome to Harrow Lake...
Someone’s expecting you.

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her . . .

This book was provided for review by NetGalley and The Write Reads. Thank you!

When The Write Reads approached me on Twitter to join the book tour for Harrow Lake, I immediately accepted. As someone who grew up in the 80’s, horror films are as much a part of my growing up as anything else. And while yes, I did have my share of nightmares from them, I also came to appreciate them as the works of art that some of them are.

Harrow Lake is a story that centers around horror films and the hold they can create. It focuses on Lola Nox, 17 year old daughter of horror film director Nolan Nox. Having grown up around her father’s films, Lola believes that nothing can frighten her. Those beliefs are put to the test when Lola is sent – rather unwillingly – to her maternal grandmother’s home in Harrow Lake.

Harrow Lake reminds me very much of the older tv series The Twilight Zone. Any one who remembers the original show will recall that the stories they told were built on the premise of suspense and barely hinted at ideas. Where the shadows lurking in a dark corner could be a hideous monster or could simply be a pile of clothes. Where not everything is as it seems and looks are definitely deceiving.

Like some horror movies, the action in Harrow Lake is a bit choppy. Scenes jump from one to the next with almost no indication. It can be a little disconcerting at times. Also, the main character of Lola can be irritating. This can be explained by not only her age but also by her unique upbringing. Any one raised immersed in the horror genre from a young age is likely to be more than a bit jaded as well.

This is the first novel by Kat Ellis that I’ve had the opportunity to read and review. I enjoyed her style of storytelling and have already looked in to what others books she has written.

Readers who enjoy a good suspenseful story will likely enjoy Harrow Lake. It is the perfect creepy read for a dark night. I recommend it and hope others enjoy it as I did.

Provided for Review: If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

Kyuri is a heartbreakingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a “room salon,” an exclusive bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake with a client may come to threaten her livelihood.

Her roomate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the super-wealthy heir to one of Korea’s biggest companies.

Down the hall in their apartment building lives Ara, a hair stylist for whom two preoccupations sustain her: obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that is commonplace.

And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to get pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise and educate in the cutthroat economy.

Together, their stories tell a gripping tale that’s seemingly unfamiliar, yet unmistakably universal in the way that their tentative friendships may have to be their saving grace.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley. Thank you!

It is my opinion that the purpose of a book – whether fiction or non-fiction – is to introduce the reader to new ideas. To take them out of the familiar and in to the unfamiliar. To introduce new people and hopefully have them stay with the reader far after the book has been finished.

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha is an excellent example of this. In it we are taken to Seoul Korea and surrounding suburbs. We are introduced to several young women who live in the same apartment building. Through them we step foot in to a society that is as familiar as it is unique. And through them hopefully understand that despite the differences in language, the desire for a better life is universal.

While the four young women who are the main characters live in the same building and close to one another, their stories are separate. Yes, they are all acquaintances and interact with each other throughout the story, but each woman is her own person. And while there is an underlying thread that connects them, each young woman approaches it in their own way.

I absolutely loved each of the female characters in If I Had Your Face. They are all so relatable in one way or another – because honestly, who hasn’t fantasized about meeting their favorite artist and falling instantly in love? Cha’s writing makes each one of them so believable and it is easy to imagine them sitting around and gossiping over food and drinks.

Whether you are a fan of k-pop, Korean dramas, or not, I honestly believe most readers will enjoy If I Had Your Face. I found it to be a fascinating look at a slice of the world that is so familiar and yet so different than our own.

No Man Can Tame (The Dark-Elves of Nightbloom #1) by Miranda Honfleur

After a failed courtship in an ally kingdom, twenty-one-year-old Princess Alessandra returns home to a land torn apart by mutual hatred between the humans and the dark-elves. The “Beast Princess,” as Aless is known by courtiers, confidently sets her mind to ways of making peace, but her father has already decided for her: she is to marry one of the mysterious and monstrous dark-elves to forge a treaty, and go on a Royal Progress across the kingdom to flaunt their harmonious union. While she intends to preserve the peace, the Beast Princess has plans of her own.

Prince Veron has been raised knowing his life is not his own, but to be bargained away by his mother, the queen of Nozva Rozkveta, to strengthen the dark-elf queendom. When his mother tells him he is to marry a self-absorbed, vile human, he is determined to do his duty regardless of his personal feelings. After arriving at the human capital, he finds the “Beast Princess” rebellious and untamed—and not to be trusted.

Aless and Veron face opposition at every turn, with humans and dark-elves alike opposing the union violently, as well as their own feelings of dissonance toward each other. Can two people from cultures that despise one another fall in love? Can a marriage between them bond two opposing worlds together, or will it tear them apart for good?

The idea behind an arranged marriage to secure peace between two families/countries is one that is not just based in reality but has been used in fiction numerous times. Often times the two individuals who are having to get married come to some kind of agreement. In romance novels the two usually fall in love and live happily ever after. And usually the reader is drawn in to their story and is rooting for them by the end.

I came across No Man Can Tame in an ad on Facebook. There was a small snippet of the book as well as the description above. I was intrigued, especially by the words “Beast Princess”. Would this story be a kind of reversal of Beauty and the Beast? Just what about Aless makes her so beastly?

In the blurb above, Aless is described as “self-centered” and sadly these two words could not be more accurate. She is so completely self absorbed in building a library like her mother wanted that she makes plans to run away after marrying Veron. It doesn’t occur to her that in doing so she would shatter the peace treaty her father and Veron’s mother have agreed to. It doesn’t occur to her that her actions would doom his people to starvation and ruin. All she sees are the things that she wants.

Veron, at least tries. He is not perfect either, but he at least has an understanding of the consequences. He is flexible and willing to change some to make a better impression on the humans. Something Aless has difficulty doing.

The world and backstory of No Man Can Tame is sadly lacking. Very little time is spent on describing events that happened either to certain characters or to certain whole races. Brief mention is made that the Dark Elves and other mythical creates fell in to a kind of sleep for over 2000 years. What caused the sleep? What caused them to wake up?

The same can be said for Aless’ nickname of “Beast Princess”. What garnered this nickname? Again, brief mention is made of her being forced to wear a brace of some kind, but it’s almost treated like a throwaway line. Considering so many know of this nickname, what happened?

As much as I was looking forward to reading No Man Can Tame when I first heard about it, when it came to the actual book I was sadly disappointed. There is so much potential and it could have easily been something excellent. I honestly cannot recommend this one my dear readers; skip it and move on.

Provided for Review: A Different Time by Michael K. Hill

While searching through a pile of old VHS videos, comic book collector Keith Nolan comes across one with a hand written label. With only the number “3” on it, Keith has no idea what is on the tape in his hand.

When he plays the tape he sees Lindsey Hale. Enamored, Keith talks to his television screen. And somehow, despite the tape being from 1989, Lindsey answers back.

This book was provided for review by the author. Thank you!

A Different Time by Michael K. Hill is one of those books that I could easily see being made in to a movie. Either for the big screen a la The Lake House or in to a Hallmark movie; either way I think it would translate to that format quite well.

Switching between the two characters, Lindsey and Keith, we are introduced to them separately and follow the sequence of events that leads one person to make the video tape and the other to find it.

The love story in A Different Time is very sweet. Keith falls hard for Lindsey and she in turn falls hard for him.

Because of the vast time difference between when Lindsey makes her tapes and Keith sees them, there is really only one way for their story to end. Still, when we learn what happens it comes as a shock just as it does for Keith. Knowing how it will end does not make it any easier.

And for any reader, once you reach the end of the book and know what happens with Lindsey and Keith – I advise them to go back and re-read the beginning. And smile.

Many thanks to Michael for contacting me and asking me to read his book. I sincerely enjoyed it and can easily recommend it for any one who enjoys a bittersweet romance.

Provided for Review: The Die of Death (The Great Devil War II) by Kenneth B. Andersen

Philip’s adventures as the Devil’s apprentice have changed him—in a good way. Although he misses his friends in Hell, he has made new friends in life.

But when the future of the underworld is threatened once again, Philip’s help is needed. Death’s Die has been stolen and immortality is spreading across the globe.

Philip throws himself into the search—and discovers a horrible truth about his own life along the way.

This book was provided for review by the author and The Write Reads. Thank you!

The Die of Death by Kenneth B. Andersen is the second book in his very popular The Great Devil War series. Picking up roughly six month after the events of the first book in the series – The Devil’s Apprentice – we are once again reunited with the main character Philip.

Much has changed for Philip since his time in Hell. No longer the ‘goody two shoes’ that he was in the first book, he has made new friends from old enemies. He still remembers his old friends from Hell though and after a terrible storm one night, he is reunited with them on an all too familiar staircase.

As in the first book, the majority of the story takes place in Hell. And again, as with the first book, Andersen has out done himself in bringing the place to “life”. His descriptions of the places Philip and Sabine visit make it quite easy to picture. The addition of the lands of Purgatory and of Death’s domain also serve to expand this particular universe.

While the actual setting of The Die of Death is wonderfully rounded out further in this second book, it is the changes that the actual characters go through that truly help move the story along. Mortimer – aka Death – is better rounded out and as the book goes on we truly see the kind of person he is. And we come to realize, just as Philip does, that death is a part of life and is not something to be feared.

Sometimes, the second book of a series is not as strong as the first. This is simply not true with The Die of Death. It easily holds its own and is as enjoyable as the first book. I loved reading it and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

The Watchmaker's Daughter (Glass and Steele #1) by C.J. Archer

India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who’ll accept her – an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch that rejuvenates him when he’s ill.

Matthew Glass must find a particular watchmaker, but he won’t tell India why any old one won’t do. Nor will he tell her what he does back home, and how he can afford to stay in a house in one of London’s best streets. So when she reads about an American outlaw known as the Dark Rider arriving in England, she suspects Mr. Glass is the fugitive. When danger comes to their door, she’s certain of it. But if she notifies the authorities, she’ll find herself unemployed and homeless again – and she will have betrayed the man who saved her life.

The Watchmaker’s Daughter is the first book in C.J. Archer’s Glass and Steele series. Like most first books in a series, it’s primary purpose is to introduce the readers to the characters of the series as well as give them a feeling for the universe they live in. For Glass and Steele, on the surface the characters reside in Victorian era London. But further reading shows that there is more beneath the surface.

Like in her other books, Archer has done a good job in creating a universe that is both familiar and new. As this particular series is to be set in Victorian England, not as much time is spent world building as Victorian England is already a fairly well known time period. What was disappointing though was that while there is supposedly magic in this universe, it is hardly mentioned.

Another thing I found disappointing was how little time was spent on some of the characters. More than enough time is spent on Mr. Glass and Miss Steele; not surprising since these two are the main characters of the series. But as far as the rest of Glass’ crew – these individuals that are his close friends and that he supposedly trusts with his life? Very little is given on them aside from physical descriptions and barely a hint towards any kind of back story. It is my hope that in future books this is rectified and these incredibly interesting characters are given more page time.

For the first book in a series, The Watchmaker’s Daughter does pretty well. It offers enough story to stand alone while hinting at possible future plots. The main characters are interesting without being too cliched and the slow burn romance between them is a nice treat. At current count there are over 10 books in the series and I’ll slowly but surely be making my way through them.

Provided for Review: Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey

In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity.

Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence.

With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony. 

This book was provided for review by the author. Thank you!

In 2153 cancer is cured, and every disease known to man follows shortly thereafter. This allows the human population to skyrocket even though the cost is unknowingly high. When scientists find an earth like planet, it is deemed as humanity’s savior and those who are sent to the distant planet are tasked with bringing about a new age.

Our Dried Voices poses an interesting look in to the idea of ‘What happens next?’. What happens when a virtual paradise is established on a faraway planet? What happens when every need is met and the struggle to survive is taken away? What happens when we no longer have to think for ourselves?

The answers are both frightening and enlightening. With nothing to worry about the people of Pearl live a carefree life. They are perpetually children, never having to worry about a thing. As everything is completely automated, their largest decision is which of the meal halls will they go to that day. It is both a utopia and a dystopia.

I found Our Dried Voices to be a very interesting read. There are parallels with our own society in that every day more and more of our lives are becoming automated. To have an individual thought, to not ‘go with the flow’, is seen as strange.

There is very little dialogue save towards the end; something that adds to the otherness of the book. Most of the story happens in action, in thoughts and deeds. At times I found things teetering close to purple prose in terms of description. Yet again that also adds to the strange planet and unique lands the colonists reside in.

For readers who wonder “What if…?” or would be interested in seeing what could happen when the idea of a utopia is taken to the extreme, Our Dried Voices should be added to their reading list. If nothing else, it gives a frightening look in to a future that could possibly occur.

Provided for Review: Five Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Maurice Barkley (Edited by David Taylor)

Five new short stories for fans of Sherlock Holmes!

1 – Children are disappearing mysteriously from the streets of London. The only clue is a strange old woman who is seen shortly before the children disappear. Who is she and what does she have to do with the missing kids?

2 – Two sisters and their half brother beseech Holmes to help them with a riddle their father left behind. Will Holmes agree when he realizes what the adult children are truly after?

3 – A train disappears in to seemingly thin air between one village and the next. Just as strangely as it disappeared, it reappeared three years later. How could something so strange happen?

4 – Mycroft Holmes seeks the aid of his younger brother in a unique case. Top level politicians are being blackmailed by someone who has photographs of high level secret contracts. In a room with no windows and only one door, just how did this person get these photos?

5 – An abandoned moving cart and horses is found on the London docks. Beside it lies a man dead, his chest crushed by some unknown force. With no clues pointing to who the man was or what was in the cart, how is Holmes expected to solve this one?

This book was provided for review by The Write Reads and by the author. Thank you!

I have said it once and I will say it again, I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. So when I am offered the opportunity to read new stories featuring the great detective, I eagerly agree.

5 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Maurice Barkley is one such collection. Originally published separately, this is the first time the stories have been combined in one compendium.

Personally, I greatly enjoyed reading these stories. Barkley has done a very good job in capturing the ‘voice’ of the original tales. His writing is very much like Conan Doyle’s as is his portrayal of both Watson and Holmes. This is especially true in the second story – The Legacy of Doctor Carus – where Barkley not only shows Holmes’ serious side but also his more mischievous side, something that is not often seen even in the original tales.

As these are all short stories, every one is a quick and delightful read. It would be quite easy to finish the whole book in an afternoon though I do recommend the reader take it slowly and see if they can figure out whodunnit before Holmes and Watson can.

For fans of the great detective (like myself) I urge them to give these stories a try.