Reporting from Mount TBR

Another year, another reading challenge! This year, I’ve decided once again to tackle my massive backlog of To Be Read titles. The two bookshelves housing my TBR pile have begun sneaking books onto the floor, and the piles from the floor have migrated to my dresser, nightstand, and desk. The approximate number of unread books in the house is close to 400—which is only about half the number of unread titles lurking in my digital libraries.

My plan is simple. Every month, I will sort the books in my digital libraries to the earliest date and send one to my e-reader. Then read it. Or make an attempt to. If I like it, I’ll mention it here, on my blog. If I don’t like it, I’ll delete it. Same goes for the physical books. I’ll pick one from the shelf and read it. If I like it, I’ll blog about it. If I don’t like it, I’ll tuck it into the library donation box.

Continue reading “Reporting from Mount TBR”

Interview: Vikki Romano

Today I’m featuring my friend, Vikki Romano. In December, Vikki published her first science fiction novel, Edge of Darkness. I’ve read it and I loved it! It’s an action-packed story with a touch of romance, lots of cool tech, shootouts and a survival bunker full of neat toys (read: weapons).

You can read my full review on Goodreads.

Intrigued by Vikki’s vision and the world she created, I had a few questions for her about where the story came from, about the characters, and where she plans to take us next.

Where did you get the idea for this novel and series? What was the story you wanted to tell?

The feel for this story started long ago, when I was working as a tech consultant in NYC in the 90s.  I was and still am obsessed with tech and where their development is going.  People often ask how I categorize this story and I say “it’s Johnny Mnemonic meets Jason Bourne”.  I’ve always loved the idea of Johnny Mnemonic, of just the premise of having tech be a living part of you.  In Gibson’s story, though, the augment was just a piece of hardware.  I wanted it to be more sentient, something that would pose a risk to the bearer.  And then I thought, wow, what would that be like, to have a piece of hardware inside me that decided to go rogue.  That thought alone actually made me realize how powerful this story could be.  And that’s the story I wanted to tell.  Like the tagline reads, how do you destroy the monster without becoming one yourself?  Fear propagates anger.  Anger propagates heinous action.  From there it just snowballed.

Did you plan the romance between Calder and Sierra at the beginning, or did sparks begin to fly between them as your wrote?

No I didn’t really.  I had written romance for ten years before this, under a different pseudonym, and I really wanted to stay far away from it as a key part of the story.  They were going to just be partners.  I knew two things intrinsically; I wanted the MC to be a male and I wanted the secondary MC to be a kickasss female.  Not for kickass’s sake, but because I was tired of writing women who needed men to save them or their lives.  I also knew that I wanted this to be true to life.  I didn’t have to worry about HAE now, and that was all kinds of freeing.  Thing is, I’m a pantser and my characters tell me what they want to do.  If Calder wanted to shoot her in the head in chapter one, I would have let him.  The romance just happened.  And that’s true to life.

Who is Gage? Is he going to have a larger role in the next book?

Gage is my Damien Scott.  In fact, I saw him as Sullivan Stapleton in my head, which is probably where the Strike Back feel came from. I loved the bromance and banter from that series and it definitely flavored my story quite a bit.  I’ve always been more of a dialogue writer and it worked well here.  Gage will definitely have a larger role in book two.  More than you know.  I mean, Calder’s in space now, so Gage’s top dog back on earth.  You will learn more about him as a character and what brought him to the team.  He has his own secrets that will make or break him and those around him.

(I knew introducing Vikki to Strike Back was a good thing.)

What about Jordan Radcliffe? What was his story?

Jordan just happened.  I knew how I wanted Calder’s time in the military played out, but initially, I had actually written it that GenMed was the one who hacked him.  It didn’t seem thrilling or suspenseful enough for me.  It was too easy.  I wanted there to be more of an underhanded reason for it to happen and Jordan and his crusade just came to me.  He will remain a background support player for the time being, but he will have his day in book three.  I promise.

I’d like to see Sierra turn the tables on these guys. Plan and execute a rescue (because Calder would be such an entertaining hostage, lol). Any plans for that?

Book Two has Sierra written all over it.  This is definitely her time to shine.  And yes, Calder would be a great hostage, he’s so patient LOL.  I can’t even imagine what the scenario would be like.  They are both so stubborn and have strong opinions of their own, which is why their clashes are so tasty.  Like putting two pitbulls in a biscuit shop.  It’s just fun and the ideas are endless.  I can’t confirm or deny that she will rescue him, but rest assured, your appetite for badassery will be satisfied.

What’s next?

Book Two – Breaking Point, like I said above, will center around Sierra.  Where book one told Calder’s story, this one will be all her.  You will learn about her past and why she is where she is today.  And where book one dealt with Calder trying to come to terms with his augment, book two will definitely show the opposite.  If you recall, Sierra has a phobia about biotech.  The psychology of her now having an augment is chilling.  Would be like being severely arachnophobic and then having a spider lay eggs in your brain.  It makes your skin crawl in so many ways and for so many reasons.  Having to discover what this will do to her psychologically will be both terrifying and fulfilling.  And without Calder being around to guide her, well, it’s anyone’s guess what she’ll do… to herself or those around her.

12313642_10206962767960182_7246473297389707233_nEdge of Darkness (Alpha Core Trilogy #1)

In 2065, corporate sponsored governments jockey for supremacy in the biotechnical arena. Bullets and missiles take a back seat to cyber-enhanced soldiers and pulse weapons. In this extreme environment, only the most hardened body and mind can survive.

Calder McKenna was a failed experiment in the military’s push for power. Now a special agent for the metro task force, he lives day by day trying to forget the ones that were lost… the ones that he could have saved.

When technology and humanity collide, Calder is forced to make desperate decisions, but how do you destroy the monster without becoming one yourself?

Amazon | B&N

Where to find Vikki:

Website | Twitter


Review: The Martian

91c4ZDFCn1L._SL1500_The Martian’ by Andy Weir is one of the most thrilling and absorbing novels I have ever read. Mark Watney is the seventeenth man to set foot on Mars, an order determined months before the Ares 3 Mars Descent Vehicle (MDV) touches the ground. The easy-going botanist/engineer is happy with his slot. He’s on Mars, isn’t he? Living an astronaut’s dream. Unfortunately, the dream lasts longer than the scheduled sixty days.

A dust storm scrubs the mission early. All six crew suit up and make for the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). High winds kick up debris and Mark is almost impaled by a detached antenna and knocked out of line. The antenna hits and disables his bio-monitor and pierces his suit. The last read-outs the rest of the crew get hint that he might be alive, but that his suit pressure lost pressure. An attempt is made to find him, but with high winds tilting the MAV, the mission commander has to make the call or risk five more lives. The MAV leaves without him.

Mark doesn’t die. In fact, in a bizarre set of circumstances that might only happen in Mars’ lack of atmosphere, blood from his wound seals the breach in his suit. He lives, only to be stranded alone on Mars. So begins his journey of survival, which will include a series of firsts for the seventeenth man. He has myriad problems to solve: food is foremost, then a plan to survive long enough to be rescued.

The unique atmosphere of Mars plays an important role in many of his plans and I enjoyed learning the differences between what we take for granted and what Mark must invent. It’s that, his inventiveness, that keeps this novel rolling. His upbeat personality, which understandably squeaks close to the edge of madness from time to time, renders the science readable or even personable. Despite his intelligence, he makes mistakes, though, plenty of them. Some were humorous, many were not.

At no point, during the course of the novel, did I take it for granted that Mark would live through his ordeal, which is why I kept reading and reading until the end. I finished the book in a single day. I had to know how it all turned out for my new favourite astronaut.

The Martian’ was originally self-published. His success gained the attention of readers, publishers and film studios. He cut a deal with Random House and sold the film rights. Not bad! This edition has two new covers. US edition pictured above, UK edition right.

With all the science and math, the novel could have been dry. I didn’t find it so, I found it all fascinating. If I didn’t understand something, I took it for granted that Mark did. His life depended on it, after all. Not mine. The scientific exploration is broken up with plenty of adventure and commentary and a good portion of the book is devoted to NASAs efforts to help him from Earth. It’s the humour that really made this story work for me, though. For all the thrills, there are plenty of laughs. There are also more than a few poignant moments. How can there not be? Mark Watney ends up racking up a lot of firsts during his sojourn on Mars.

Written for SFCrowsnest.