The Gnosis Machine by Theodore Koukouvitis

Summary

An ambitious professor bets his life on a bid to abolish uncertainty, but when an entropic alien stresses the Machine’s computing power to its absolute limit, he faces an impossible dilemma as everything begins crumbling around him.
A grizzled war veteran comes to the Machine to fade away. His hopes for a quiet retirement are shattered when his ship implodes, stranding everyone on the Machine, and he finds love at the edge of the half-finished artificial planetoid.
A homesick science graduate becomes the unlikely hero when he saves a man from predetermined suicide — but he must then master gravity in a desperate attempt to save a thousand more people, including three cyborg madammes of excellent pedigree.
A fifty-year-old widow in an ageless body tries to escape the horror of her husband’s death only to find his charred remains 40,000 light-years from where he died. As chaos erupts and more people attempt to kill themselves on the Machine, she becomes the reluctant leader of the desperate castaways as they all clash in the battle between entropy and determinism.
The Gnosis Machine is built to predict everything, but in the end, will it be able to foresee — and prevent — its own fate?
Characters

There are a myriad of characters in the book. Fair warning I did not like the Professor one wit. The man was such a Machiavellian to his core with ideals of grandeur and an arrogance that is similar to John Hammond in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park without the visionary feel. Thankfully he is one among many character, including the spontaneous and ambitious Douglas Morgan and budding scientist Jason. My favorite characters and interactions by far are those that involve Sunny (Douglas’s adoptive daughter) and the righteous Captain. I also very much liked Maribella. She had a backbone and a tragic story, but she had her head on right…can’t say that for all the other characters. And the spontaneous alien – I won’t say much there for fear I’ll give too much away on the shape shifting alien. There were a few times I was a little lost as to which point of view I was in, but it usually was when they were all together and it didn’t take long to straighten out.

Plot

After a rough start (It was difficult listening to the professor right at the beginning) this book quickly grabbed hold of me and I just had to know how it ended! I had to know what caused the explosion and how the author was going to resolve the conflict. I could see so many different paths stretching out from the single plot point. This is the primary reason I enjoyed this book so much – the way in which the author weaved the characters and plot together where you kept guessing what was going to come next!

Most disappointing part of the book was so much left unresolved. I wasn’t fully satisfied with how the author left things – even with the additional twist at the end. Which sort of explains the abruptness of the ending, but I’m not sure if it was satisfactory based on the content of the rest of the book. I’m afraid to say much more than humans will be humans and uncertainty and fear will drive even the best people to do terrible things. But with the destruction and chaos there is also progresses and beauty.

Overall

This book will challenge you and make you question every step of the way what is right and what is real. That is the true strength of the book. I expect this author will only grow with each book – I suspect this is not his first book either. I could see the effortless ability to weave in multiple points of view together in a clever way. Now if only he had just nailed an ending that made sense and wrapped everything up a little better.

This was very character driven with multiple characters taking front and center. Mostly it was easy to follow along and the writing was satisfactory, although at times excessively wordy. My biggest surprise was that this was a ‘hard’ sci-fi with lots of interesting angles and scientific information, but it was mixed in with simplistic language like variations on ‘looked.’ I started tracking it about 25% of the way through when two ‘looked’ showed up on a single page (on an smartphone sized screen) and by the end I had amassed over 60 of them. It was difficult to merry such simplistic language with such advanced scientific ideas, a world which was built in such a way that I felt it could actually happen.

Rating

4 Stars

This book was a real treat. Amusing, scientific, and with interesting characters submerged into a mind-bending plot.

This is a voluntary review.

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Diamond Marked (Tale of El’Anret #1-3) by Melody Klink

Summary

Inside a mortal girl lies the heart of the Queen of Diamonds, true ruler over El’Anret, the world of Faerie.

Inside a Half-Human, Half-Fae boy lives the soul of a Stag King, mysterious and powerful creature of legend, capable of transforming worlds… or destroying them.

And neither of them belong.

In a world of myths and monsters, it will take them both to usurp a renegade queen— one who stole the crown and made the whole of El’Anret bend to her will.

The Faerie world will never be the same.

DIAMOND MARKED: The Tale of El’Anret combines the stories of the Faerie and Mortal worlds into a single collection. Queen of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds, and King of Diamonds are included in their Author Preferred text editions.

Part 1: QUEEN OF DIAMONDS

I didn’t realize it at the time but this was like watching the first season of Once Upon A Time – terrible but necessary. And just like that first season I don’t know if I would have continued reading from this first ‘section,’ it was very YA and the writing was stilted and somewhat boring. At parts it was even over the top and full of YA tropes. Even though the first book wasn’t very good, it didn’t stay that way. I’m not going to give too much away but I am going to say that I appreciated the end of this. That it wasn’t ‘happily ever after’ and that there were consequences for their actions. I did not connect with Leigh or Gideon which may have been the biggest problem.

Not very good but if you can get through this, I promise the next two parts are worth it. – 2.5 stars

Part 2: JACK OF DIAMONDS

As disappointed as I was in the first book, that quickly faded once Jack comes into the works. It becomes more complicated as it sheds its overly YA skin and takes on a whole new form of awesomeness. Suddenly it is highly imaginative, the plot opens up and even gets a little dark. It was engaging and I found myself turning pages and staying up later than I should to find out what happens. The irritation with the young character in the first section is balanced out here and Jack is such a likable character. I was also really happy to see Leigh come into her own.

I absolutely love this one the best – even with the cliffhanger at the end. – 5 Stars

Part 3: KING OF DIAMONDS

A great conclusion to these short novellas. This book went much darker and showed some overall elements of society that go poorly. That evil wins when good people do nothing. The world also expanded and grew and the battle scenes at the end, though a little long, were awesome. I felt like I finally had a great picture of what the author was trying to portray. The writing also improved and had better flow. Though Leigh’s undying love I came to like Gideon.

It also had a very sweet after ending that was very satisfying. I’m not always happy about those, but in this instance it was wonderful. – 4 Stars

Overall:

If you are going to buy them, you might as well get this box set and read them all the way through. Where Leigh felt a little flat, Jack eventually balanced her out and she came into her own. The world building greatly improves from book to book, as does the writing.

Rating:

4 Stars

Overall I enjoyed this collection of stories. The further I went into the story the more I enjoyed them. If you like YA stories that have fairies – this is a worth while read.

I received this book for a free and voluntarily review.

The Murder of Manny Grimes by Angela Kay

Summary

When three young boys stumble into Lieutenant Jim DeLong’s life one night during a winter storm, they claim they’ve seen a dead body by the swing sets of the Columbia County Elementary School. After he investigates, DeLong sees no evidence, not even a body. But were the boys telling the truth?

With the help of his oldest friend and mentor, former Naval investigator Russ Calhoun, DeLong sets out to find whether Manny Grimes is alive or dead. The further away he gets to the bottom of the mystery, the closer he comes to realize that his own life is falling apart.

Delving deeper into the murder of Manny Grimes, Lieutenant DeLong begins to unravel, losing his sense of control, falling into old temptations he spent years to overcome. Will he be able to move past his own demons and untangle the web of lies before it’s too late?

Characters

This book is filled with deeply flawed characters. There are no white knights in this dark detective noir. Chock full of moral ambiguity on right and wrong, Lieutenant DeLong does one thing right – solving murders. Calhoun is just as flawed. A womanizer with questionable friendship choices, he at least wants to make everything right by solving murders and fixing past mistakes. These are complex characters.

Plot

I absolutely love to be surprised. In the beginning of this plot I thought the author was going to play it safe. I am happy to report that is not the case! This book edges on reality that anything can happen to anyone at anytime. I was well over halfway before I begin the suspect the killer, even though their motives became clear to me earlier on, I still wasn’t sure who the actual killer was. That is the hallmark of a good murder mystery!

This book also explores DeLong’s personal life. Although it enjoyed parts of it, some of it felt long and drawn out. I’d have to stop myself from skipping forward to the next part that involved the mystery aspect. I’m wondering if DeLong’s paranormal encounter will continue into the second book – I sure hope so!

Overall

Part of it reminded me of an old hardboiled detective movies/books brought into the modern age. The only difference being that DeLong is actually a detective. The writing could be stilted at times but also felt very hard detective story. There were some errors, but most of it was punctuation. The author did an excellent job of building suspense, but I felt that the ‘personal drama’ aspects sometimes distracted from the growing tension.

The setting was consistent and added another eerie aspect of being deep winter. The author played this up well. At the end of the day the plot and flawed characters won out. It almost felt like a movie you’d watch on Netflix on a cold winter day. I don’t see why this couldn’t also be read on a cold winter day as well!

Rating

4 stars

If you like complex murder mysteries with a touch of drama, this is perfect for you!

I received a copy in exchange of an honest review.

 

Fool Me Twice by Philippa Jane Keyworth

Summary

In the gaming hells of eighteenth century London, orphan Caro Worth is leading a double life. By day she plays a proper gentlewoman on the lookout for a wealthy husband. By night she plays the infamous Angelica, her fictional half-sister with a talent for cards and an ability to finance the life her respectable self has built. An introduction to a rich Marquis brings marriage and security within Caro’s grasp…until the arrival of the unpredictable and totally ineligible Mr. Tobias Felton.

Dismayed by Felton’s persistent appearances, shocking frankness, and enigmatic green eyes, Caro watches helplessly as he comes closer than anyone to guessing her secret, but when complete and utter ruin threatens, she finds that Felton’s suspicions just might become her salvation. As the walls she has built to protect herself crumble down around her, Caro learns that no matter how careful your plans, life and love have a habit of falling quite spectacularly out of control!

Characters

Caro is a feisty but desperate woman. She doesn’t want to abandon all home so instead she assumes the persona of another. Angelica has some freedoms that Caro does not – like speaking her mind. Tobias is a bloody mess. Being the youngest he hasn’t found anything worth while to invest his time or energy in so he just drifts. Rebecca is adorable – I loved her more than Caro most of the time.

Despite the fact that in the end and over all I like Caro, she could be down right wishy washy and irritating. Actually I didn’t like her very much for the second half of the book. Especially after her secret gets out. Instead of rising up – she had to be saved by the men around her. That was the most frustrating thing about this entire book. I thought it would be more about her saving herself but no. So fair warning there.

Plot

Caro’s double life as Angelica catches up with her. There wasn’t a lot of lead in to the bad guy being a bad guy but it was believable. Entitled and malicious. Surprisingly the romance is as important as the rest of the plot. I believe that even some men would enjoy this book due to its duel plot nature. The romantic aspect was really secondary for most of the book – only the last 25% really felt like a historical romance. Which was the worst part of the book in my opinion.

Overall

Absolutely gripping read. The writing flowed well and was at a fast paced tempo. It did a good job of sticking with the era and its colorful vernacular. At times the author overshadowed that something (mostly bad) was about to happen, which took me out of the book. There were a few POV shifts as well but also minimal. Not to mention that the grammatical errors were almost non-existent.

The characters were alright, Rebecca being my favorite and frankly Caro being my least favorite. At least the ‘bad guy’ (don’t want to give away who it is) is consistent – Caro isn’t throughout the book. She is all over the map. The only consistency is her inconsistency. The setting was well done, although more than once breaking the rules of proper society. Which may or may not be a good thing! The scenes between Caro and Tobias are very sweet though and by the end I went from not really liking to Tobias to loving him.

Rating

4 stars

The duel plot and fluid writing that is gripping and interesting is the reason for this rating. Fantastic read for any vacation!

I received a free copy in exchange of an honest review.

 

Edge of the Future by Andria Stone

Summary

“Edge of the Future” is a Sci-Fi action-packed, military scientific, suspense thriller, novel with a female villain, and the first part of a Trilogy. -One hundred-fifty years after the last war humanity has united to explore space with colonies on Luna and Mars. But the Europa Mission has just failed and 152 people died in space. No one knows why. -When military bioscientist, Captain Mark Warren’s hidden research installation is attacked, he meets armored assault Sergeant Axel Von Radach. They become entangled in a deadly fight to stop the theft of classified military secrets by a lethal female adversary. -Her plan to use enemy cyborgs posing as humans, plus unsuspecting high-ranking military personnel with neural implants altered to accept her commands, has every chance of succeeding. Unless…Captain Warren and Sergeant Von Radach get a chance to end her first.

Characters

Mark is a complex character. Some of his personality is a bit hypocritical but this likely due to the fact that he is at war with himself. Axel is much more straight forward. The soldier. He is cocky but has a reason to be. This book jumps characters, mostly Mark, Axel, and the ‘bad guy’ but it allows insight into the different characters and their motivation. I appreciated that despite the fact that Mark and Axel are more of the main characters there were two female counterparts that were also important.

Plot

This felt like an action thriller movie with a sci-fi twist then a sci-fi. There is a militaristic component as well. The plot will keep you on your toes for the length of it! The advances in science beyond what exists today but is possible from today is what makes this a sci-fi.

There were a few minor plot inconsistencies. Mostly in the finer details of the plot. A big one was Mark and money (contradicted itself a few times). There were a few more, they didn’t detract from the story too much.

Overall

The author does a good job of building the world seamlessly around the  main characters. All of the characters feel real and were really well done. The plot was interesting. The writing detailed, a little bit much at time, but that was appropriate considering the genre. There were very few errors.

Rating

4 stars

This is a solid 4 star book. Despite a few minor inconsistencies this is a highly enjoyable action-packed read. If you love action-packed thrillers and sci-fi then this is a must read!

I received a copy in exchange of the honest review.