All posts by Elena Linville

I am a Russian-Swiss-American citizen of the world. I have traveled all over the globe then hopped over the big Atlantic pond and moved to North Carolina, USA, where I lived for eight years. But staying in one place for too long is not in my nature, so when the wanderlust called again, I packed my meager belongings and my cat continued my great migration all the say from NC to Texas. So here I am not in DFW area with my cat who strongly believes she is a dog and the Queen and Ruler of the house. I have an 8 to 5 job as an field force training specialist and the rest of the time I write stories “for fun and pleasure,” though most of the time it feels like pulling teeth or bleeding on the page. I have two novels, Of Broken Things and The Choices We Make, which are both in the fully finished first draft stage. I’m currently editing Of Broken Things and letting Choices sit in a desk drawer for a few months. I’m also editing my novella Mists of the Crosswords which is almost ready for beta readers. Looking for a few betas btw who are not afraid to give honest feedback. I have an idea for a serial of short stories called the Eye of the Norns Cicle. The first short story had been published in an anthology, the second story is written down but needs editing, and I’m outlining the next three stories. I think I have enough ideas for 2 seasons of 6 stories each. I also love reading sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia, urban fantasy and post -apocalyptic books. I have been known to pick up a romance or two from time to time, but NEVER in the contemporary or historical genres. I don’t read YA, children books or nonfiction.

Why I decided to Concentrate on editing during this NaNoWriMo

Typing furiously throughout the month of November.

Why am I doing this, you’re asking? Isn’t NaNoWriMo for pounding out the first draft of a story and not worrying about editing it until later? 

Well, because I have been there and done that, and I have several finished first drafts of several stories to prove it. They have been gathering dust in my desk drawers for a few years  while I chase the new shiny story during the next NaNo and completely ignore them. I really don’t need to add to that pile… yet. I KNOW how to put words on a page. I KNOW how to power through the self doubt and the lack of motivation, and to just get to the finishing line, no matter how bad you think your end product is. I have won several NaNos and have always worked through December afterwards to finish my manuscripts, so I think I’m pretty good with first drafts.

It is time to take my writing journey to the next step – it is time to take that smoking pile of dung that some of those first drafts are and try to wrestle an actual story out of them. 

So for this NaNo I decided to tackle the very first novel I wrote back in 2013 during my very first NaNo and do a complete revision and rewrite. Since I had lost the digital copy (as I had mentioned in this post), I basically had to start from zero words and type everything back up while doing my changes and corrections. It was hard and grueling work, and my brain done fried a few times during that process, but I’m happy to announce that I did it! I typed everything up and beat that sucker into a better shape then it was in as a first draft! The novel now stands at 110k words. 

There are still some scenes I am not entirely happy about, but most plot points have been fleshed out and all the plot holes (that I am aware of) have been fixed. Next step in the process would be to go scene by scene and decide what drives the plot, what adds to the story background, and what serves no purpose and needs to be integrated into different scenes or cut out entirely. After that, the more tedious revision process starts – fixing grammar, editing for readability, making sure my names and character descriptions are consistent throughout the manuscript. 

I have never done anything like that before, so I admit that I am daunted by the enormity of the task ahead of me. However,  I had a chance to purchase a powerful tool to help me with this endeavor. As a NaNo winner, I had a discount on Pro Writing Aid. From the demos I have seen, this is an invaluable editing tool, especially for a non-English speaker like me. I am very excited to put it through its paces during the month of December and report my findings and observations.

I think my biggest fear when editing and revisions are concerned is the sheer enormity of the task ahead. Like how do I whip this monster of a manuscript into shape? And just thinking about that makes we want to give up before I even started. For example, I have been procrastinating and writing this post instead of tacking two scenes in chapter 1 to decide if I want to toss one of them or combine the two together and rewrite. 

So my plan for now is to eat the elephant in small bites. Today, I will tackle those two scenes. Tomorrow, I will run my first Pro Writing Aid report and work on fixing those problems. It might take me more than a day to go through each report and that’s okay. However, since I need a deadline or I will procrastinate forever, I am setting myself a goal of having all the edits I can complete on my own done by January 31st 2021.

Hopefully, I will get that accomplished. And as a motivational reward, if I accomplish some of my mini goals along the way, I will work on an accompanying short story that explains how Aiden got his artificial lung and patches of artificial skin all over his face.

Black Stone Heart (The Obsidian Path 1) by Michael R. Fletcher

Stars: 5 out of 5

I don’t usually like grim dark as a genre, because most books are too grim and too dark for me (and yes, the pun is totally intended). What I mean is that most authors dish out gore and violence for the sake of it instead of integrating it into the plot. So after the gazillionth gruesome murder or ignoble rape, I as a reader become unsensitized to it. Plus, if horrible things (including death) can happen to any of the characters, you get less attached to them, so when bad things happen, you just shrug and move on. 

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Yes, it’s dark. Yes, it’s violent. But both of those things are integral to the story and the worldbuilding, not just written for shock value. So while I was squeamish in some parts of the book, and didn’t agree with a lot of the decisions the protagonist made, those were never out of character.

Now let’s talk about the two aspects that make or break a book for me: the worldbuilding and the characters.

The worldbuilding here is wonderful! You can feel the weight of history in the description of the cities and villages the protagonist is traveling through. We know that thousands of years ago, there was a vast and powerful empire that was ruled by the Demon Emperor. The empire was prosperous, but that prosperity came at the price of countless sacrificed souls that were fed to the demons who built and operated the cities, maintained the roads and made sure the vast imperial machine functioned properly. 

We don’t know what happened, but there was a horrible war that scarred the face of the earth and overthrew that demon empire, leaving empty cities that were still perfectly preserved and maintained by bound demons, but stepping into them meant death for simple mortals, because the wizards, who emerged victorious from this war, had eliminated all demonologists. Nobody was left to talk to demons.

It the world better or worse after the war? That would be for the reader to decide. Sure, no more innocent souls are sacrificed to the demons, but what’s left of humanity now lives in the equivalent of our Dark Ages. Poverty, disease, huge disparity in living conditions between the wizards and nobles and the rest of the populace. And this society is stagnant. The wizards are happy to keep the status quo. There had been no progress, no innovation, no effort to improve the living conditions in a thousand years since the Demon Empire fell. So you bet you this place is violent and dark.

Now let’s consider our protagonist. He is a blank slate at the beginning of the book. He literally emerges from the ground with no memories of who he was. But his willingness to kill and commit violence is there from the start. I would say that he doesn’t even bat an eyelash at his first 2 murders. He has some questions about his third one, the young boy, but it’s more in the vein of Was the old me really someone who could kill so easily, than in the vein of OMG what did I just do? I could have incapacitated and bound him. I didn’t have to kill him. 

The more we learn about Khraen’s past, the more we realize that he isn’t much better than the Demon Emperor he used to be, no matter if he keeps telling himself that he will be a better person. He is just as selfish, prone to anger, and ready to commit the worst of atrocities then justify them afterwards. I had to murder that woman because my undead girlfriend needed body part. And since she was already dead anyway, why not collect her soul to feed to a demon later? That sort of things. 

And the further in the story we go, the worst Khraen gets. No matter what justifications he invents in his mind for the horrible things he does, he is slowly become the same monster he sees in his shattered memories. Only the Demon Emperor committed his atrocities to  serve his god and to preserve and empire, the new Khraen just wants revenge on all the wizards who, in his eyes, betrayed him and took what’s his. Neither justification is valid, in my point of view.

Yet despite the violence and the increasingly unlikable protagonist, this book grabs you and keeps you hooked. I want to know what happened to the old Demon Emperor to make all of his allies turn against him. I want to know who shattered his obsidian heart. I want to know which necromancer has Henka’s heart or if she lied about it. I want to know what happens next, so I will definitely be buying the next book in the series.

Happy 8 Year Anniversary to the Tower of Winds!

A celebration is in order!

Time sure flies… Who would have thought when I started this blog in October 2013 as I prepared for my very first NaNoWriMo that I would still be plugging along 8 years later? 

Sure, there have been ups and downs, periods where the posts on this blog had reduced to merely a trickle, but I never truly abandoned it. Even I took a five year hiatus from writing altogether due to some personal issues as well as moving across half the country on my own, I still managed to post a book review on here now and then. 

As I look back at my archives, I am amazed to see that I have written close to 300 posts here over the years. Once again, who would have thought? I know some prolific bloggers would have reached closer to 1000 posts in eight years, but I don’t count myself amongst one of those. 

This blog had started as a way for me to document my journey as an aspiring writer. Heck, at first it was just here to hold me accountable during my first NaNoWriMo project, and once I had won the NaNo (to my utter surprise and amazement), it had been a way of pushing myself to actually finish the first draft of that manuscript. It is rather ironic that I am participating in NaNo again eight years later as a NaNo Rebel – instead of writing a brand new story during November, I am doing an extensive edit of that same manuscript I won my first NaNo with. 

The blog had evolved over the years, as I stepped away from writing for a bit and concentrated on feeding my voracious reading habit. A lot of those almost 300 posts are book reviews. I like having a non-censored medium for sharing my thoughts on books I loved, liked, or hated.

And who knows, the blog might evolve again in the future. I might loose interest in writing (might happen for a bit, but I always come back to it), or in reading (now that’s an impossibility), but I will definitely find something else to blog about. 

But for now, happy 8 year anniversary, my Tower of Winds. Here’s to many more years of creating silly content together!

Papa Lucy and the Boneman by Jason Fischer

 Stars: 3.5 out of 5

That was a very unusual book. I struggle to even put it in a category. Scifi? Fantasy? Post Apocalypse? Grim dark? A little bit of both with a bunch of other stuff mixed in?

I admit that I struggled with rating this book because there are certain aspects of it that I absolutely loved, and others that I was less than thrilled about. I had to make a compromise and settle on 3.5 stars.

Let’s talk about the thing I absolutely loved – the worldbuilding. This is a gritty and unforgiving world that wasn’t created for the human race. In fact, we learn pretty early on that humans came to this world as refugees from their own dimension that was facing immediate destruction. So even though the air is mostly breathable, the water potable, and the soil can grow imported crops, most of the native plant and wildlife can kill you in dozens of imaginative albeit rather painful ways. Not to mention that what livestock and crops the refugees brought with them have slowly been dying out or mutating beyond recognition through the centuries since their arrival.

This is a harsh world and you get a distinct feeling that the human race isn’t welcome there. If fact, it’s on borrowed time. Even without failing crops and livestock dying out, less and less people are born each year. Cities that were full of people and hope for a new future when they just arrived in this world now stand abandoned. Roads and highways are crumbling because if lack of use, and great feats of architecture that had once made life easier (like aqueducts and sewerage channels) are now broken and forgotten…

This general decay and desolation is very reminiscent of some of the darker works by Glen Cook, like the Black Company series, or the Dark Tower cycle by Stephen King. There is a sense of wrongness about the land, like the world had “moved on” and left the humans behind, to slowly die out. And of course, humans being humans, they find new and imaginative ways to abuse and kill each other. Did I mention this book is dark? Very, unforgivably dark.

This is where I will need to mention the part that I didn’t like, and that’s the characters. They are all absolutely depictable horrible excuses for human beings, especially those who fancy themselves gods instead. There isn’t a single one of them that has anything that even resembles a moral compass, and the atrocities they commit seemingly in passing were so bad at times that I found myself rooting for the natives. 

For me, it is rather hard to like a book when I just want to kill all of the protagonists to either put them out of their misery or to prevent them from committing any more atrocities. And in the case of the Boneman, who seems the least horrible of them all, his sin is the one of inaction. He sees the horrors his brother is committing. He saw all the horrors he committed in the past…  yet he follows him nevertheless. Like  fateful hound devoid of free will. Don’t’ know about you, but to me that’s a character that’s extremely annoying to read about.

I understand that the author’s idea was to show that his characters deserve the fates they will be getting and that the horrible actions they committed are counterbalanced by the harshness of their environment… Kinda like they deserve the prison they ended up with because they are all so horrible. 

I can appreciate that idea, but I don’t like it. Maybe because my tolerance for pain and suffering and people behaving like absolute Neanderthals has significantly lowered during these 2 pandemic years. I want to have at least one protagonist I can root for. I am not interested in following a bunch of villains and settle for the less villainous of them surviving in the end. 

But other readers might find this book right up their alley. So I would say give it a try, to discover an unusual world if nothing else.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BAckups and the importance thereof

Ideal backup system… that I didn’t have.

With NaNoWriMo coming up on us once more, I thought of doing something different this time around. Instead of starting a brand new manuscript, I would dust off the very first story I wrote for my very first NaNoWriMo and try to edit at least 50k words. 

My reasoning for that was two-fold. First of all, I had been so busy at work since August that I didn’t have time to even think about a story to write, yet alone plan it out. I am a pantserish planner, which means that I need to work on the backstories of my main characters and have at least some of the worldbuilding figured out before I start writing. I usually also do a loose outline of where I want my story to go, though most of the time the plan doesn’t survive the encounter with the enemy. Most of the time, I am lucky of my beginning and my ending stay the same. The rest of the story usually meanders through paths I hadn’t even imagined when I initially planned it out.

Nevertheless, I need to have at least some structure before I start writing. I tried to go complete pantser during NaNoWriMo 2020 because I had been just as busy at work in the previous months and couldn’t plan anything, but that didn’t turn out so well. Oh, I still managed to pound out 50k words and won NaNo, but the story is a complete mess that will need a serious rewrite to wrangle it into some semblance of shape. Oh, and I discovered only about 90k in what the story actually was about, so…

Plus I had at least 4 different first drafts just lying in my desk drawers gathering dust. If I ever want to publish at least one of them, I need to learn not only how to finish a first draft, but also how to edit it well enough to transform it into a final draft. So I decided to dust off my partially edited first draft Of Broken Things and give it another go, especially since, from what I remembered, it didn’t particularly suck.

I powered up my computer, went into the folder in which I keep all of my stories… and almost had a heart attack. Of Broken Things wasn’t there. ALL my other stories are there in neat little folders, EXCEPT for this one. 

Queue nervous breakdown.

I went to my drop box where I usually save all of my Scrivener backups and same thing – I have everything apart from Of Broken Things. 

With shaking hands and a developing nervous tick, I did a search of my Gmail inbox… I got bits and pieces that I had emailed back and forth with one of my beta readers, but not the full manuscript.

After about an hour of frantic searching on all electronic mediums where I usually save or backup my work, I was forced to admit that I didn’t have a digital copy of this book anywhere. It’s like the gods of internet and computers decided to erase it out of existence. I don’t know how that happened. I mean, I have ALL of my other manuscripts I wrote, including some half-baked short stories that I toyed with and abandoned. I don’t remember deleting Of Broken Things, and why would I even do that? It was my first ever novel and I actually rather like it…

Anyway, that’s when the realization dawned that the ONLY copy of my first novel that I have is the printed version full of annotation that I had stated editing 4 years ago then put in a desk drawer when I moved to Texas. I am glad that at least that survived the transition, even if the digital copy didn’t. 

Yup, that’s exactly how it this manuscript looks like… all 342 printed and heavily annotated pages of it.

Which, rather ironically, makes it rather perfect for NaNoWriMo this year, because not only do I have to decipher my own edits on a printed copy, but I also have to retype everything back into Scrivener. So I will be getting my 50k words one way or the other and hopefully a better flowing story by the end of this adventure.

However the biggest lesson I learned from this little adventure is – always backup your files. And don’t just back them up in one place, have several copies on different mediums. That way if something happens to one, you can always get it back from a different storage. Oh, and while you do that, do check on your work from time to time to make sure you have the most recent versions of all your files. And when you clean up your backups, make sure you don’t delete anything important by mistake. 

And with that, I want to wish everyone who is participating in this crazy adventure a productive NaNoWriMo. Good luck, let your imaginations fly and your pens follow!

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (Murderbot diaries 6)

 Stars: 4 out of 5

I am always excited about a new Murderbot novella or novel (though we only have one of those in the series so far, book 5, and what an excellent book that was!) because Murderbot is my favorite misanthropic paranoid SecUnit with a prickly personality and a heart of gold. It is hilarious to hear it tell itself how he doesn’t like people and how they annoy it, and how they make its life difficult… while doing everything in its power to protect those same people. 

It’s also very telling that he cares deeply for those who it considers his friends (like the members of the expedition who first discovered that it is a person, not just a piece of equipment), but he also can’t help but get invested in the wellbeing of complete strangers. This is abundantly clear in this story especially, when it discovers that there is human trafficking of sorts going on through the station and that a batch of refugees had gone missing. You would think that it would just shrug and leave the case to Station Security, since it doesn’t have anything to do with protecting his employer, but you would be wrong. SecUnit can’t help himself – though it would never admit it even to itself, it cares about what happens to people, especially if it sees something that goes against its moral compass. 

I also like how it starts to grudgingly admire the society on on this station, even though it keeps calling it too naïve and unrealistic. Despite that, I’m pretty sure that SecUnit would do everything in its power to protect the station, if needed.

It’s also rather sad to see that SecUnit automatically assumes the worst in people he isn’t familiar with, especially when it comes to their attitude to it. And it is notoriously bad at reading people’s emotions, thus misinterpreting their reactions half the time. Seriously, I think most of the station has a grudging respect for it now, even if it doesn’t realize that. Certainly, by the end of this book, most members of Station Security treat it with respect and even a certain comradery.

This is definitely a must read, especially if you love Murderbot like I do and enjoy following its sarcastic inner monologue. I would suggest that you read this book before you pick up book 5, even though this is listed as book 6. The reason for this is that chronologically speaking, the events in this book happen a couple months after the end of book 4, while Murderbot was still settling into the life on the station, so its attitude towards certain people is different than in book 5. If you are unaware of that, reading this book after book 5 might be rather confusing, as in “I thought they were already grudging allies, so why is it reacting like this person is an enemy” confusing. Besides, I think some of the events from this book are mentioned in passing in book 5 (like the episode with the corporate assassins).

Anyway, go pick up this story and spend a pleasant evening with everybody’s favorite sarcastic, drama-binging SecUnit.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The CAse of the Dragon-Bone Engine by Galadriel Coffeen

Stars: 4 out of 5

This was a very interesting and “light” read. And by light I don’t mean a dumbed down storyline, but the fact that this story was surprisingly devoid of angst and dark themes that seem to permeate most of modern books. Oh we have a few murders here and a rather gruesome accident, but despite that the story is refreshingly devoid of extra angst.

I must admit that I am intrigued by the world the author introduced. It’s slightly steampunky/Victorian maybe? And what glimpses we get of the worldbuilding only raise more questions. What are these dragon hives? Why are they only found on this mysterious continent? Speaking of that continent, how far North is it located that the sun barely rises for half a year? And if it’s that far North, why isn’t the weather colder than described? I understand that this is the first book in a new series, so I think the author did a good job giving us a glimpse into the world without huge infodumps, but dang, I want more answers! Which is one reason why I will most certainly pick up the next book in the series when it comes out.

I also really liked our protagonist. Unlike some typical female heroines in urban fantasy, she is refreshingly mature and no-nonsense. She has a brain and she doesn’t hesitate to use it. She is educated and she has manners. If anything, she seems way more mature than her age, but I am not complaining.

I also liked that we don’t really have a romantic line woven into the story per se. Yes, she likes her partner, and he seems to like her, but we are spared the teenage hormones and angst that are so common to these types of books. Again, really refreshing. These two people are good partners who trust and respect each other first and foremost. The romance feels an organic development of the relationship they had built before then. I certainly am looking forward to see how it will evolve in future books.

The author also did a great job setting up the stage for the next books. While the main mystery of this book is resolved in the end, and the reader has the satisfaction of discovering who sabotaged the dragon-bone engine and why, bigger mysteries are just hinted at. Honestly, I really want to know who would have wanted to kill our protagonist’s father and why. Did it have anything to do with his research into the origins of magic? And if so, what did he discover that had him killed?

Anyway, I am definitely putting this series and this author on my To Be Watched list.

PS: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

This book had so much promise! The premise was intriguing, and the book started strong with Vern on the run and not much explanation of what had happened but with a growing sense of urgency that even the reader could feel.

The book was good for the first half at least, while we followed Vern as she learned to live in the woods and tried to raiser her children by herself.

Unfortunately, by the second half of the book, the novelty of the story ran out, and I discovered a couple things that started gradually dampening my enjoyment of the book until they ruined it completely. I’m sad to say that I finished this as a hate read. I was so close to the end that I had to finish it just to say that I did.

First of all, the story just keeps circling the drain for most of the book. Vern knows that the answers to what’s happening to her are back in Cainland, but she never actually does anything to find them. She knows that the woods are not safe anymore for her little family, but her answer is to go back to civilization nilly willy and follow a dream. No recon beforehand, no explanation or basic training for her children before she subjects them to such a traumatic change. It’s a wonder she even got to her destination at all. The way they were dressed and the way they acted, she should have been picked up by cops almost immediately.

I think my biggest problem is Vern herself. I have never seen a more selfish and pig-headed protagonist in my life! It was okay in the beginning because she was young and on the run, overwhelmed by circumstances. Problem is, she never changes. She doesn’t grow up. She doesn’t evolve and mature. She stays the same bull-headed and selfish teenager throughout the book. She is stubborn, and prideful, and rebellious just for the sake of being rebellious, or that’s what it seems at times. She is the kind of person who would stick her arm in the fire and let it burn just because somebody told her not to do that. That’s just incredibly stupid.

She abandons her babies for nights at end alone… in the woods… in a makeshift shelter open to elements. She hurts the only person who had information about Cainland and what was happening to her, instead of listening and trying to get information out of her first. She pouts and shouts, instead of admitting that she can’t read, even though learning to read would help her find the answers she wants.

And the most infuriating part is, despite all those shortcomings and acts of tremendous idiocy, she always escapes scoot free. There are no dramatic consequences to her actions.

She leaves two newborns in the woods all night? Sure, they are all nice and safe in the morning. No animals found them and hurt them. They didn’t get cold or hungry and started crying. In fact, how the heck did they survive for 8 years in the woods and never once got sick with anything?

Vern literally walked them into a mall, dressed them in new clothes, grabbed essential… and just walked out? And the tags on the clothes didn’t’ set off the alarms? The security in the mall didn’t catch her? Right…

The further we venture into the story and out of the woods, the more implausible this lack of consequences gets. To the point that I didn’t even care for any of this anymore. Whatever Vern did, she would get out of it looking better than ever, with an “upgrade” to her supernatural abilities. If the protagonist has a “Mary Sue shield” around her, what’s the point reading her story?

The ending is even more underwhelming because it reads like the final boss level of a video game – Vern gets her maximum upgrades and goes to fight the bad guys who don’t stand a chance. Only it’s all kind of pointless at that point, pun intended.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend this. There are better and more impactful stories out there that don’t need deux ex machina elements to keep the protagonist from dying because of her own stupidity.

PS: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Stars: 5 out of 5

I have never read The Martian (though I have watched the movie, of course), so this book was my first encounter with Andy Weir. I must admit that I am in love. Who knew that science stuff could be so fun to read about?

This is also one of the best first contact stories I have ever read, and I am not talking about astrophages here. But saying anything else on that subject will spoil one of the best aspects of the book, which I absolutely don’t want to do. So let’s talk a little about other good aspects of this book instead.

The second best aspect of this book is the mystery. We wake up with our protagonist at the beginning of the book, and we are just as clueless as he is about where he is and what is happening. And we experience the sense of dread and wonder and excitement of discovery along with the narrator. We experience the dawning horror of his situation as well, when he discovers that his teammates are dead and that the fate of all humanity now rests with him.

I love our protagonist. He can come across as a goof sometimes, but I like the fact that he just doesn’t give up. He was the backup guy, the expert on astrophage, sure, but not very versed in spaceship navigation or technology. He had two other astronauts to rely on for that… only they didn’t survive the trip to their destination. A lot of people would just give up by then, go into a severe depression or decide to end it all here and now, especially once they remember that this mission was a suicide trip anyway.

Not our protagonist though. Even with more holes in his memories than a block of Swiss cheese, even realizing that he can’t rely on anyone but himself, he still decides to continue with the mission and to do everything in his power to find a solution to Earth’s astrophage problem.

I also like his unyielding optimism. The fact that he can take pleasure out of such small things and a tasty breakfast burrito after days of liquid meals, or enjoy a small discovery when a memory comes back or an experiment yields results. That sheer joy of discovery and curiosity about the world around him is something that a lot of us lack in our day and age. This is also something that helps him come to the first contact situation with an open mind and curiosity instead of fear in his heart.

I cannot speak about all the science in this book, since that has never been my strong suite. It might be accurate or it might not, but I don’t particularly care. It was simple enough to understand and it force me to suspend my disbelief too much. Honestly, that’s better than a lot of science fiction books out there.

I liked the fact that it was interesting, that the story moved at a steady pace but still gave us time to get to know the characters and get to truly care about what happened to them. Oh and the ending was very satisfying, at least in my opinion. So a solid 5 stars for this one.

PS: I received an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Master of Djin by P. Djeli Clark (Dead Djin Universe 1)

Stars: 3 out of 5

I really love this author’s short stories. I’ve read everything he published and each one of the stories was a solid 5 out 5 stars. So I was really looking forward to diving into this full length novel set in the same world as the Haunting of Tram Car 015.

Unfortunately, my high expectations were met with a disappointment. This has all the ingredients that made his short stories great… but the mixture isn’t quite setting right.

I think one of the reasons is that there isn’t enough plot here for a novel, so the author is putting a lot of filler to add to the word count. As a result, the narrative moves at a very sedate pace and feels rather disjointed. I caught myself wondering several times why the the author chose to stay with some minutia details for as long as he did.

When the narrative actually moves the story along, it’s all tight writing and nail-biting action. Unfortunately the “padding” kills that momentum every time. I constantly felt like the story was hitting the break every time it was starting to get good.

My other problem with this book was that I didn’t particularly care for the protagonist. Fatma spends most of the book worrying more about if her tie matches her outfit or what her lover is doing than doing actual detective work. As a result, she comes across as an irresponsible airhead, not a decorated investigator.

And speaking of detective work, Fatma is particularly bad at it in this book. To the point I started wondering exactly how she got her position. Did she get hired as the token female into an all male world? I’m sure that’s not the view the author intended to convey, but Fatma’s seeming ineptitude and worry about her wardrobe above anything else doesn’t make her seem like a capable character. Heck, all the major clues that move the story along are basically handed to her by other characters!

I think the author realized that his protagonist wasn’t doing much detecting, so he decided to give her a new partner. Who is also a female. Fresh out of the academy. Very eager to learn and to jump into action.

This could have been such a wonderful idea to explore – to have those two women used to being tough in a man’s world butt heads, learn how to cooperate, and slowly gel into a cohesive team. And in the beginning it really seemed like that would be the road the author would take… until it wasn’t.

The problem here is that he made the new recruit too perfect. She is skilled in martial arts, she is smart and reads several languages, she never looses her cool even in dreadful situations, and she knows and uncle/cousin/brother-in-law, etc. in any and all departments of Egyptian life. She is basically a glorified Mary Sue.

So we have a wishy washy protagonist paired with a Mary Sue and a story that draaaaaags over pages and pages… and the result is a big disappointment. I think I’ll still with this author’s shorter work for now.

PS: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.