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Tracing The Stars

I read mostly science fiction and romance, and often a combination of the two.

3 Good Post-Apoc stories

Journal of the Plague Year: An Omnibus of Post-Apocalyptic Tales - Malcolm Cross;C. B. Harvey

This is a book containing three separate stories by three different authors who use the same post-apocalyptic world as their backdrop. I went into this as a stand-alone, because I have not read any of the other books in this series or by these authors, and this book was my first introduction into the post-apocalyptic world of The Cull. Overall, the stories are great post-apocalyptic reads by themselves, but I rated each individually to get an overall four-star rating.


Story 1: Orbital Decay by Malcolm Cross - 4 Stars
This was a strong, well fleshed-out story full of suspense. I loved the unique perspective - a group of astronauts on board the Space Station, watching as the world below slowly falls into chaos because of a spreading pandemic. The characters in this story were interesting and well-written, and the story kept me on edge as things both on Earth and on the space station began to fall apart. There was an issue with over-detailing every little thing and every action of Alvin as he goes through the space station. I found myself skimming technical details and paragraph after paragraph of him just traveling through the corridors. The ending was good, though a bit unbelievable.


Story 2: Dead Kelly by C. B. Harvey - 5 Stars
I loved this story so hard! Kelly was such a dynamic character. You'll hate him, then like him, then hate to love him. He's not a nice guy - but he's real. As Australia falls apart to the plague, Kelly, an ex-gang leader who'd been hiding in the outback, becomes a sort of anti-hero. When the world goes mad, it takes a madman to pull society back together. And the ending... that twist... WOW.


Story 3: The Bloody Deluge by Adrian Tchaikovsky - 3 Stars
Unfortunately, I think Harvey's story raised my expectations as I went into Tchaikovsky's story, which fell flat for me. This story presents a somewhat typical post-apocalyptic theme - Religion vs Science, and the New World Order being built as a New Religion. The story was okay, but it dragged with some back and forth, and the main character felt a bit stiff. There is quite a bit of action which I found hard to follow.


Overall, this is a good collection, and I am now interested in reading anything else within The Cull universe.


*Tracing The Stars received a copy and a request for an honest review.

Source: http://www.tracingthestars.com/review-journal-plague-year-post-apoc-scifi

Good mature love story, but a bit slow

Worth the Fall - Claudia Connor

Worth The Fall is a mature, adult love story. Matt is a Navy SEAL who is having trouble leaving past ghosts behind. Abby is a pregnant mother of four with a tragic past and recently widowed from a loveless marriage. While the romance between Abby and Matt is believable, what I enjoyed most about this book were Matt's interactions with Abby's kids. There were several fun, beautiful moments.


The book, however, did seem to drag, on and on, repeating the same inner-dialogue struggles over and over again. Abby was afraid of trusting or depending on anyone to stay. Matt was dealing with a promise he made to a dead friend to stay in the SEALs. Both of these struggles are important to the character development, they were over-emphasized in a manner which made the story slump.


The romance between Matt and Abby was mature, well paced and believable. I'm not too keen on pregnancy romances, but I didn't mind it so much in this story. The kids were super-adorable, sweet to the point being almost overly so. Matt's parents and family had understandable reactions to his relationship with a pregnant woman.


I do feel that some of the side characters, like William, the two 'girlfriends' at the beginning, and Abby's deceased husband, were written specifically in a way which made them obviously detestable in order to give the reader more reason to root for Abby and Matt. Overall, though, I enjoyed the read and would recommend it to others who enjoy a more mature love-story.

Cheeky exploration of a 21 year old virgin's quest for self identity

V!RG!N - Radhika Sanghani

This is a recommended read for girls 17 and up. I'd actually like to recommend it for girls 13 and up, but due to some sexual content, I can't without people tossing pitchforks at me. This is a book I think all women, especially those considering becoming sexually active, should read. It deals with an under-discussed topic in a witty, entertaining way that has several poignant life lessons.


In the book, Ellie is a 21-year-old virgin. It explores the social stigma associated with virgins, the internal and self-labeled stigma Ellie and many girls feel, as well as many myths, truths, and realities surrounding relationships and sexual activity. Ellie's thoughts and misconceived notions on the subject drive the story forward and address many important issues with today's view on sexual activity. 


I found Ellie's lack of knowledge to be an important discussion. An only child whose parents didn't discuss the issues surrounding sex, she was left clueless and garnering most of her info from bad experiences, friends and the internet. One of her friends, Emma, serves as a strong juxtaposition who offers important pieces of advice for both Ellie and the reader.


The story also includes a blog that Ellie begins keeping, hoping to give other girls advice on things she learns - everything from relationship issues to getting her first Brazilian wax. These entries were both entertaining and somewhat informative. The books ends with yet another important lesson that I think many teen girls could take to heart.


The only real issue I had with the book was that it was based in the UK, so some of the lingo was lost on me. 

Note: I was given a copy of this book by the publisher with the request for honest feedback.

The Circuit: Executor Rising - Rhett C. Bruno

The Circuit, I believe, has a little bit of something for every science fiction reader. Although there are a few hiccups, mostly with over-description, I could find no true negatives while reading this book. It offers 'massive world building done right', an exploration of human nature, the development of artificial life, politics, social conflicts and a fully fleshed-out, believable future. The characters within The Circuit are unique and three dimensional, and most have no black or white lines drawn - offering instead a gray concept of justice and injustice that all depends on how you, the reader, relate to the characters and their motivations.


For the author’s ability to allow the reader choice when it comes to deciding who is right or wrong, although I dare say that is a highly blurred line in this book, I give The Circuit five stars.

At some point in the future, we humans finally decimate Earth enough so that it becomes inhabitable. Established colonies on Mars, asteroids, the Moon, Jupiter’s moon Titan and several other places within our solar system's reach vie for power and control, not only of the displaced citizens, but of the uninhabitable Earth. A new religion forms to replace the old ones, in which the hope is to return to the mother Earth and see her bountiful homeland restored. At the head of this new faith sits The NET (New Earth Tribunal), run by four Executors. At its opposition sits The Ceresians, rebels who lost the civil war in which The NET claimed ownership of the derelict Earth.


Thus sets the stage for a book full of history, a new set of cultures, political maneuvering, social inequalities, and everything you would expect from today’s human society spread out across the solar system and connected via the NET-controlled trade Circuit. Whomever controls The Circuit and its ships, controls the resources and the colonies. Ex-Tribune Cassius believes that needs to change.


Cassius is a complex character in a book full of complex characters. Is he a villain with personal vendettas, or is he the anti-hero with personal goals that have far-reaching consequences? Will his motivations lead to positive changes, chaos, or both? Adding to this is his relationship with ADIM, an android who he created and eventually calls son - a Creator giving life to a being and deeming it the future. This defines Cassius as a mad-genius; the kind of character I love because they tend to have you questioning everything about them and the universe in which they live.


ADIM himself is an interesting character that asks and seeks answers to what constitutes a living being, a human, a son. His purpose is to follow the will of his Creator without question, and he does this within the first pages of the book, opening with a violent sequence of events. When morals and choice are removed and the Creator's will becomes 'all', ADIM becomes a killer removed from the act of murder.


Sage, at least for me, represented an interesting mirror of ADIM. She is human and has choice or free will, but her free will is highly motivated or controlled by the NET’s dogma. While she does have choice, her choices are skewed by how the NET has become her 'Creator' & her 'all'.


Lastly, there is Talon - a representation of a familiar human archetype. He's a miner for the Ceresians, trying to make an honest living for his daughter while his body is being ravaged by the Blue Death, a side effect of mining Gravetonian.


All four of these lives are explored through p.o.v. chapters until they collide. I'm not a huge fan of books where the storyline/ and third-person p.o.v. jumps so heavily from chapter to chapter, but this was done well and I can’t fault the book for my own style preferences. There are some points in which over-description becomes a problem, but I am admittedly a dialogue reader. My little quirks aside, this book is highly recommended and I am looking forward to the next!

Well, that was awkward...

Beautiful Oblivion  - Jamie McGuire

That's how I feel after reading what's on the last page of this book. A whole lot of awkward.


As I mentioned in my earlier post, this new Maddox boys installment from Jamie McGuire isn't a bad book. I rather enjoyed parts of it. I just can't give it more than three stars for the following reasons.


One, much of it feels way too similar to Beautiful Disaster. It's less crazy-train (thank goodness) and more maturely written, but everything feels like deja'vu. If I hadn't already read Beautiful Disaster, I think I'd probably have enjoyed this book a bit more. Here are the ways I found it to be very similar:


  • Girl meets Maddox
  • Maddox falls head over heals (there is a slightly different twist to this, but won't give it away for spoiler/plot reasons)
  • Maddox comes on super strong
  • Girl has 'nice guy' boyfriend as a reason to keep Maddox at bay
  • Girl has a best friend/roommate who is in a crazy but loving relationship (only this time the guy isn't really good friends with Maddox, but they do know each other)
  • Girl and Maddox agree to be 'just friends', despite there being obvious mutual attraction
  • Maddox meets the family to save girl from dealing with crap family alone
  • Girl has deep secret she is afraid to reveal


Then there was the ending. The big huge reveal made so much in the book feel inconsistent... and quite awkward... It left me feeling unsettled instead warm-fuzzies like a HEA should give me.


Again, this is a good book, so I say give it a try, but for me it was three stars.
I received a copy thanks to a Klout perk and the above is my honest opinion. 

Am I in a Beautiful Disaster Time-Warp?

Beautiful Oblivion - Jamie McGuire

Jamie McGuire's new book in the Maddox series, Beautiful Oblivion, is more on the mature end than Beautiful Disaster, but it feels like a repeat of the same story. 


  • Girl meets Maddox
  • Maddox falls head over heals
  • Girl has 'nice guy' boyfriend as a reason to keep Maddox at bay
  • Girl has a best friend/roommate who is in a crazy but loving relationship (only this time the guy isn't really good friends with Maddox, but they do know each other)
  • Girl and Maddox agree to be 'just friends', despite there being obvious mutual attraction
  • Maddox meets the family to save girl from dealing with crap family alone


And that's as far as I've read so far... but this is feeling like a rehash of the same basic characters and story premise. 


It's not a bad book; not at all. There is a lot less crazy-train melodrama in it; I guess I was just hoping for something a bit more.... original? 

*book received as part of a Klout Perk (thanks Klout!)

A journey of self-rediscovery, m/m amnesia romance

The River Leith - Leta Blake

So close to five stars, but a few things held it back.


Firstly, this book is wonderfully written and is a recommended read. The struggles Leith deals with feel realistic and are heart-wrenching at times to read. This is also true for Zach. They are both affected by Leith's amnesia, but in drastically different ways. I thought the author did a splendid job with this core aspect of the book, handling both of their emotional turmoil and reactions in a believable way. Even Zach's trip-up is understandable and written in a way that makes you sympathize with him. This is also true when it comes to Leith's anger and outbursts.


Leith has lost 3 years of his life due to amnesia, but Zach has lost Leith completely. Leith doesn't remember him, and for all things that matter, it is as if the Leith that Zach knew and fell in love with has actually died. Their struggles as they try to get to know one another again were what I really enjoyed reading in this book. I also enjoyed how Zach's thoughts were captured in vlog entries.


There are also a few interesting side characters. Leith's brother, Arthur, and Leith's rehabilitation physiologist were anything but flat. They each acted in their own way as pivot-points for Leith's journey of rediscovering who he was, is and wants to become. 


A few things held this back from being a 5-star read. First, because of the vlog entries, I actually expected them to be used as a plot point later on. This, along a few other plot points, made the book too formulaic. It would have been more enjoyable and unique if the vlog hadn't become a plot device later on (emotional understanding), since it's been done numerous times before. 


There were also some awkward character-description/info dumps in the first chapter that were unnecessary and could have been mixed into the character building/experiences later on. The reader doesn't need to have a concrete visual of the character from the get-go. For example, Zach's lush lips were mentioned in the first few pages, from Leith's pov, but Leith was still considering himself straight at that point. Not a huge deal, but descriptions like that could have been left for later. 


Overall, these are minor issues that many readers will probably think I'm silly for bringing up. I recommend this read. It is a great journey of self-rediscovery, rebuilding a relationship, and trying to fit back into a life you don't remember living.


Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for honest feedback.

New Adult Melodrama Mystery

Dark Paradise - Angie Sandro

Based on the blurb, I went into this book expecting a creepy, mature, slightly dark murder mystery with perhaps some romance added in. Unfortunately, the book did not live up to this expectation.


The book itself is well written from a style and format point of view. It offers a captivating murder mystery tale in a small town that has been divided along bloodlines for centuries. Added into this is talk of hoodoo, paranormal activity, speaking with spirits and a strong female lead character.


The problems, for me, came down to the over-dramatic characters, reactions and the way everything quickly and neatly wrapped up at the end. The ending did surprise me, meaning I wasn't able to accurately 'guess who' until it was revealed, but the reveal felt like watching the end of a Scooby Doo episode when Old Man Parsons is unmasked. I think, perhaps, this might be my biggest issue with the book. I was expecting a mature read and got a New Adult melodrama-fest instead.


The characters in this book all seem to suffer from New Adult bi-polar disorder. Their emotions were up and down, constantly shifting on a dime. The reactions were unrealistic and took away from the eerie mystery feeling I think was intended for the book. This irked me throughout the read, because I wanted to feel that creepy vibe from all the paranormal stuff going on, but it was overshadowed by the teeny-drama going on in the Mystery Wagon.


I would recommend this book to New Adult readers who would enjoy a strong female lead, paranormal activity, a sub-plotted murder mystery and an angst-driven love triangle. I know that many readers will like it for those reasons, but if this had been made clear in the blurb, I wouldn't have read it. Just not my cuppa.


This reviewer was provided a copy in exchange for honest feedback.

Reblogged from SnoopyDoo's Book Reviews :


Questionable start, hot middle, heart-plucking end

And Then It Happened: An Unexpected Romance - Annie Green

This book was almost a DNF for me. Due to the massive size of my TBR pile, I'm no longer slogging through books that don't make me want to read them by the third chapter. This one almost lost me the moment the H, Adrian, sent the h, Jane, a vibrator. 


Seriously. The guy, her next door neighbor she despises but secretly crushes on, sends her a mail-order vibrator by the second chapter. It was a bit creepy, but then you start to get to know Adrian. It fit his personality, which is brash. He's also a manwhore, which isn't my favorite type of H in a romance. By then end of the book, however, I was glad I stuck with it and I liked the Adrian that was hidden under all the sex talk and shallow one-nighters.


There is a lot of sex talk in this book; almost to the point of it being more an erotica romance instead of a heated romance. The sex itself, however, isn't actually all that explicit, and much of it is fade to black / left to your imagination. Adrian gives you plenty to imagine, however, so you aren't left wanting for tension and heated moments. 


The h, Jane - I had a meh feeling towards here much of the time, but I liked how she stood her ground (mostly) with Adrian and didn't give into his crap. She was a bit floundery at points. There was some sense that she was exploring her sexuality, growing in her understandings of what she wanted and was willing to go after. She was just a tad too stubborn for the sake of plot in some places.


The plot of the book is all about Adrian and Jane's development of enemy to friends to friends with benefits to more... with no real sub plot or story, aside from Jane's art, Craig and Adrian's family. 


It was a good palate-cleanser, and it was only 1$, so I say give it a read, give it a few chapters to grow on you, and be prepared for lots and lots of sex talk.

Unique Post-Apoc like nothing else I have read

A Gazillion Little Bits - Claudia Brevis

A million little bits
waiting in the night
A billion little bits, a gazillion little bits
will make things right
forever saved, forever saved


Holy. Moo.
I have a feeling that this book is going to polarize readers, much like Ready Player One - they are either going to hate it or love it. Why? This book, much like Ready Player One, is unique in scope, style, subject and execution. It combines several aspects that may have many readers wondering what they just read while sending other readers into euphoric 'wow' moments.


I actually had several of both moments throughout the book, but even the 'wtf did I just read' moments had me going 'wow'.


This book has something many post-apocalyptic books lack; this book has layers. This first layer is that the world that ends is a futuristic Earth more advanced than our own, so the technology and society that is destroyed isn't wholly familiar. The second layer is the post-apocalyptic society of survivors, some generations after the collapse, which is completely foreign with its own dialect and customs. The third layer are the whispers. Some of the survivors are 'gifted' with visions and knowledge about the way the world was before the apocalypse. There is also a fourth layer in the form of a hidden, unknown advanced society, The Vault, beyond a wall that adds more mystery to what exactly is going on in the world and the true nature of the whispers.


I'm not going to go into much detail about the fourth layer because that's the journey you need to take as a reader. Saying much more about it would take away from the delicately threaded nuances Brevis uses to slowly unveil the mystery one piece at a time. I will say this: you will be confused in the beginning. You may even be confused halfway through and there is a good chance you won't be completely clear on everything by the end.


This kind of confusion would normally have me setting the book aside and moving on, but this confusion becomes part of the story and part of joy of reading the book. You are dumped into the world alongside these characters, understanding things from their perspectives instead of an omnipotent birds-eye, and unraveling the secrets as they do. If you are someone who likes to know and understand everything right away, this is not the book for you.


This takes us to the world building. There is no hand-holding. There is even lack of contextual referencing at times. There is a unique dialect and set of customs you have to acclimate your brain to, and this will probably take a few chapters. The first two chapters had me going 'wtf am I reading?', then my brain got used to the way they act, talk, express and the way the society functions. After that, it was immensely enjoyable, and you begin to feel deeply embedded with the people and their world.


The style may also leave some traditional apocalyptic readers grasping. It's not following one person, one family or even one group. There is no survivalist community, bunker or clear hero to root for. There isn't even a clear picture about what exactly befell the Earth. I think, if I had to compare it to something you might be familiar with, think of the people of the island in Cloud Atlas. The mystery about what happened is something you learn at the end, taking you back to the beginning with Sue Mey.


If you've read Game of Thrones, that's a good literary style comparison. Brevis doesn't drown you in details or kill off characters every five pages, but she does switch perspectives every chapter and sometimes with jumps forward in the timeline. This can, as with Martin's work, leave the reader feeling a little lost and the story a bit disjointed. I'm not a particular fan of this style myself, especially in Martin's work because he has a habit of either killing off people I like or ignoring my favorite characters for six chapters.


With Brevis, these POV jumps weren't as bad for my brain to go with, because I found them all interesting and worth reading. Many of the POV shifts are to tell the tale of those who have whispers (knowledge given to them via a means I'm not going to spoil) such as "she who knows medicine" or "the artist" or "he who knows math". These asides from the main group serve to explore the society, unravel certain threads connected to the mystery of The Vault, and learn about the whispers. They are also entertaining to read.


I enjoyed every page of this book. It engrossed my full attention, pulled me along and had me turning pages. I commend its unique nature and being something different from the rest in the genre. I look forward to seeing what this author writes in the future.

TracingTheStars.com was provided a review copy by the author. 

Decent NA Twisting Thriller

Fate Book - Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

This was the first book I've read by this author, but I understand she writes a good deal of paranormal. I think it shows. This isn't a paranormal read, but it has that hint of the paranormal that will keep you guessing and speculating. I liked that aspect of the book a great deal. I wasn't too keen on the main character, Dakota, but in her defense, she's 18, and I'm 32. I think the age gap made it hard for me to relate to her approach to things. Typical NA I read has the character closer to 20-22ish. 


Aside from that, this book has some great twists. Santiago comes off harsh in the beginning, and I nearly DNF because he wasn't the kind of guy I like in my romances (grunty control-freak alpha male) but, it gets explained later on. You'll be glad if you stick with the book to the end. 

Fast-pasted alien abduction mystery

Silent Intrusion Book 1 - Breaker - Adam Gillrie

This is a fast-paced science fiction mystery that includes alien abductions, mysterious technology, a small task force trying to figure it all out and an unlikely anti-hero.


I will point out briefly that my version of the book had some serious editing issues. I believe that a new edition (1.6 according to Amazon) has been released. Mine is marked as 1st edition. So, my score doesn't take into account editing. It does, however, take in to account style and characterization, both of which left me wanting.


First, the good - it's fast paced. Almost, too fast, but I know many readers enjoy break-neck paced books that leave little time for contemplation. My problem with this is that the fast-pace left little time for character development. I never got a good feel for the main character, Breaker. His side-kick, Garren, was actually a much more solidly fleshed-out character, while Breaker seemed to flounder a bit with inconsistency. One minute, he'd be smart, the next minute dumb, or a frightened guy one chapter then ready to bash in someone's head with a table leg the next. I did like Garren's wit and sarcasm, and it was a good match to Breaker's stiffness.


The style was a bit stiff, too, with more telling than showing going on, which made for a bit of a wooden read. It was also slightly confusing in places, jarring quickly from one scene to the next. Going from the prologue that was on an alien world, to the next chapter that was in the USA was confusing until it became understood that Mike (from the prologue) was an abducted human.


That aside, the mystery of the aliens, who they were, why they were abducting people and how it was all connected was interesting enough to keep my turning pages. I would recommend this book for science fiction abduction fans who would enjoy a bit of a buddy-cop relationship between Garren and Breaker.

Grim post-apoc tale

Not a Drop to Drink - Mindy McGinnis

It's a harsh tale about surviving during a water shortage, and the lengths people will go to in order to guard what they've got. The narrative is told through the experiences of Lynn, who was born after the water crisis began and was raised alone by her mother on a small farm overlooking a pond. They protect the pond fiercely, shooting anything and anyone who wanders too close.


Her mother has borderline mental-paranoia, which Lynn spends a good deal of the novel overcoming. The pacing in the beginning is slow and a bit boring, but it picks up about 1/3rd in. I didn't feel any real connection to Lynn as a character, but I liked Eli and Stebbs. The ending... Well, I think it fit the grim nature of the book, but it still came as a shocking and unwanted turn. 

A hilarious, heartfelt journey

Dale Dent's Diary - Woody Miller

The synopsis on Amazon and Goodreads for this book are both way off and horribly written; they tout the book as being the "gay Bridget Jones", which it isn't. The blurbs totally ignore what this book actually is - a hilarious, heartfelt journey of one man trying to figure out what he wants and why he keeps self-destructing.  I think the misrepresenting blurb has hurt the book and is drawing the wrong readers.


Mr. Miller, if you're reading this - please fix your blurb. Here's mine:

Dale Dent is a Latino-Jewish-Gay man; a mixed-up minority within a minority who's quickly edging towards thirty with lacking hope in finding Mr. Right. The problem? Dale can't seem to understand that what's wrong with all the men around him is himself. Through hilariously written diary excerpts, exploits and vivid characters, follow along on Dale's journey of self-discovery. You'll probably never look at tweezers or toilet-paper rolls the same way again.


Hilarious, but also heartwarming in places, this book isn't a typical 'meet some one and fall in love' romance. The book is about one man's journey through a plethora of relationships, laughs, love, heartache and mistakes as he tries to figure out why he can't seem to find the right guy. Dale's character does start off as a bit whiny and superficial, but these are his diary entries. If you stick with it, you begin to glean little hidden bits about who Dale really is.


The sucker-punch comes at about 50% in, where a very short but insightful diary entry beautifully describes the heartache Dale is really feeling below the surface-character often presented in the other diary entries. Coupled with the character Richard, this book offered a wonderfully funny yet emotional glimpse into Dale's life. While it does end a bit abruptly, that ending emphasizes that this book wasn't about the romance - it was about the journey, and it was a journey I had a wonderful time reading. 

Alienbutt and a Galactic War over Coffee

War of the Coffee Bean - Glenn Scrimshaw

Satirical science fiction that got lost in a 6-year-old's brain.


That was my thought the entire time I was reading this. From the names (Piestoff Alienbutt from planet Sloppystool that's right next to planet Hardstool who meets people like Wickede and Blackarachnid) to the nuclear farts that require butt-plugs be worn... Oy.


Okay, potty humor aside, I liked the book. If the book hadn't had all the obvious attempts in over the top satire, it probably would have been 4 stars, one star being lost due to poor editing. Great satire is satirical without being obviously satirical.


It was highly imaginative. A galactic war over coffee shortage - that's awesome. It was fun in several places, had good pacing, was unique and offered some laughs. I think it just perhaps wasn't my cup of coffee.