Saturday, September 16, 2017

ActivAmerica | Meagan Cass

*Image and book received via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary (From Publisher):

Drawing from fairy tales, ghost stories, and science-fiction, the stories in ActivAmerica explore how we confront (and exert) power and re-imagine ourselves through sports and athletic activities. A group of girls starts an illicit hockey league in a conservative suburb. A recently separated woman must run a mile a day in order to maintain her new corporate health insurance. Children impacted by environmental disaster create a “mutant soccer team.” Two sisters are visited by an Olympic gymnast who demands increasingly dangerous moves from them. Sports allow the characters to form communities on soccer fields and hidden lakes, in overgrown backyards and across Ping-Pong tables. Throughout the collection, however, athletic risk also comes with unexpected, often unsettling results.

Let me start by saying, each of these stories were good. They were well written, interesting and I can see why they were included. There were a few stories where I sincerely hope the authors are continuing to practice their writing and honing their skills."Night Games" was an interesting story of learning to take control and learning your limits. "ActivAmerica" showed how getting even just one thing going right in your life can help the rest.

The problem I have with this book is that, after a while, the stories all kinda start sounding the same. Don't get me wrong, they're all different stories, clearly. Stories are told from different perspectives, have different main characters, take place in different dimensions. But the vast majority of the stories had a lot of common themes that were not part of the description. So many of the stories had parents divorced or on the brink of it. Families that would smile and pretend nothing was wrong. An alcoholic mother. A cheating spouse. A parent who genuinely tries to connect with their child and fails. Daughters becoming their mothers despite all attempts otherwise. Hawthorne, NY. I know, you'd think with this many different themes there'd be enough diversity of stories, but when so many of them have one or more of these elements, it gets kinda boring.

This is one of those situations where the contents are genuinely good, but you have to read something in between the stories. This gives each one the opportunity to be fresh and new to you so it can be the great story that it is. If you try to read it all at once, it'll get boring, depressing or both. And I'm not saying I need all stories to have happy endings. I'm just saying, in this anthology, with this many different voices and styles, I was able to predict just about every short story's progression.

So, I'm gonna give this book 3 hoots, but also warn you to read with caution.



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Shadow Ops: Control Point | Myke Cole


Lieutenant Oscar Britton has just had his magical ability awaken. Unfortunately his magic is in a prohibited school meaning he is going to be sentenced to death. Naturally, he runs. After he is caught, however, he learns that he will not be put to death, provided he follows the rules and doesn't try to run again. Instead he's been recruited to a secret base in the home of magic, called The Source. Here he must learn to control his magic while trying to figure out just whose side he's on.


I've been a fan of Military Sci-Fi for a while now so I figured I'd give Military Fantasy a try. This, maybe wasn't the best book for the transition.

The world this takes place in is amazing. It's very easy to get into the swing of things, figure out the way things are, etc. Even the magical world of The Source was very well thought out and intriguing. The indigenous people, nicknamed Goblins, have entire histories and mannerisms that I would love to learn more about. The clear and blatant racism that the Goblins have to deal with daily was heart-wrenching.

Then there was the classism between those who agreed to use their magic to serve their country and the Selfers, people who refused to take the oath. Selfers were treated like dangerous criminals even after they'd learned to control their magic. They were not allowed to go home, by all accounts they were dead. Their only choice was to either be treated like a prisoner and watch propaganda videos or take the oath to serve those who had put them into this situation because of reasons beyond their control. No one can control if or when their magic will manifest, nor in what way it will manifest. But, if you show signs of magic, you're drafted, one way or another.

And these situations provide wonderful ethical debates about freedom and treatment of prisoners of wars and more!

The problem I have with this book is the characters. I repeatedly called Britton an idiot. And yes, he did most of his stupid things for good reasons (he didn't want to die, he didn't want his friend to die) but I still felt like he deserved every hit he took. And he takes a lot of hits. At the end of the book a lot of people are dead because of him. Whether they were the good guys or not, that doesn't justify their deaths, nor how they died. He, himself, points out a few times what his biggest flaw is, his pride. If he could've learned to just shut up once in a while, he might have been an okay main character.

The other characters in this book are rather one dimensional, their motivations defining who they are and what they do. Even the bad guys, on every side, are very straight forward. Almost comically so. Britton's motivations keep flip-flopping so it made it even more difficult to like him. Therese and Marty were the only characters that I actually care about what happened to them.

In the end, though, I have to give this book 3 hoots. At no point did I feel like I needed to stop reading it and, when all was said and done, I have to say I am tempted to buy the next book. It has a different main character and the author had more experience under his belt when he wrote it. If it goes on sale, I'll buy it. In the meantime, this first book of the series gets 3 hoots!



Saturday, September 2, 2017

Future War | Robert H. Latiff

*Image and book provided by NetGalley for an honest review.


Retired U.S. Air Force major general Robert H. Latiff has written this book to inform the public about current, pending and future technologies used in war. He has also written a plea to the American public to pay attention to these technologies, their uses and users and to debate the possible consequences.


The first part of this book showed me just how close we are to the military Sci-Fi books I love becoming a lot less Sci-Fi. This both thrilled and terrified me. In the Sci-Fi books, the technologies are already common place and the errors minimized. We're still in the testing phases and the full ramifications are not yet thought through. 

The technologies that we are looking at are amazing developments, if they can be perfected. We've seen videos of amputees controlling robot actions with their mind. There are news stories about technological advances allowing for faster healing. We're even getting closer to being able to delete bad memories. These technologies are amazing. But they're not always good. What are the psychological side effects of knowing that a lost limb can be regrown or replaced? If you don't remember the bad things, even horrors, that you've done, are you still responsible for them? 

There are even questions to consider about robots being brought into war zones. We've already seen in real life how algorithms do not always go as we think they will, as we plan they will. Artificial intelligence is still in rough stages. Being able to beat humans at games is one thing. Being able to make the right call on the battlefield is another. And what about the soldiers who serve alongside these robots? How will it affect their behavior? Their calls?

This book does a wonderful job of presenting the technology, presenting the questions that need to be asked, and giving the common citizen a good place to start their own research and education on the topic. Latiff laments the chasm that's been steadily forming between US Troops and US citizens and pleads for citizens to educate themselves and start closing that gap. After reading this book, I have expanded my daily news topics and will be looking up a number of the books he lists in his notes. 

If you have any interest in the future of technology, the current or future state of warfare, how to support our troops more effectively, this is the book for you. If you have any interest in joining the US Armed Forces, you will want to read this book as well. I highly encourage any and all US citizens to pick this up and learn more about what is involved when politicians talk about sending out our troops.