Space-bear storm troopers, star pirates, femme fatale cyborgs, and lost princes and princesses add up to fun for genre...

THE BURNING SON

From the Burning Son series , Vol. 1

Rendered fugitives after religious fanatics bent on conquest attack their planet, a brother and sister join a motley band of interstellar smugglers in this sci-fi series opener.

In the spacegoing future, Earth’s empire (aka the Terran Confederation) competes against two principal races, the amphibious and psychic Dru and the foxlike engineering geniuses the Muscat. Mutual suspicion and rivalry have prevented these three mighty forces from forging an effective, united front against the new bad guys on the scene: the bullying Erethizon, descriptively nicknamed “Porcu-bears,” hairy near barbarians (barbearians?) who are driven by a jihadlike religious crusade to seize control over every world they can get their claws on. Nonallied, independent planets are the easiest pickings, and an Erethizon fleet blitzkriegs the human settlement of Yale. The act makes refugees out of two citizens who would have been prize hostages for the invaders: navigator Mark Martin and his medic sister, Sophia, both military-trained progeny of a popular Yale senator. In desperation, the siblings bunk aboard the Leonard Fox, a tricked-out freighter that is really a pirate vessel (more of a smuggler ship, actually), making shadowy cargo runs for a galactic crime kingpin under the businesslike command of Capt. Jennifer Houston. Equality between the sexes, for the most part, is a sidelight of the universe Leatherman (Marque of the Son, 2017) builds. The newcomers integrate with the diverse crew even as continual harassment by dogged Erethizon pursuers strongly suggests there is something onboard the Leo that the conquerors desperately want—and that there may be a traitor in the crew helping them. The author begins a multivolume space-opera saga in breezy, rousing fashion. The novel is an enjoyable setup, lean in prose, pithy in dialogue (“We rely on blockade runners like Captain Houston over there. They charge us like a bathroom call girl, but we gotta pay to dance”), and generous with action and motley characters delineated in sparse, broad strokes. (Even if protagonist Mark, through whose eyes the first-person narrative unfolds, could have used a bit more color.) Readers who want fuller details of the history, technology, cultures, and intrigues (particularly the late-appearing “bear zombies”) skillfully dreamed up by Leatherman will be strongly lured into charting a warp-speed course for the sequels.

Space-bear storm troopers, star pirates, femme fatale cyborgs, and lost princes and princesses add up to fun for genre readers in search of diversion.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9983002-1-4

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Fivefold Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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