I read mostly science fiction and romance, and often a combination of the two.
Oh my feels! I fell in love with this series when I came across In The Devil's Nebula on NetGalley. I've since snatched up all the books published so far in this series. So far, I have yet to read one I didn't love.
On A Rogue Planet had several of my favorite elements packed into the story of Xander and Malin. Cyborgs, robots, crazy mad scientist, archaeology, planetary civil war, tough but lovable and believable characters, and a fun adventure story. And the feels - Oh, the feels!
Xander, a cyborg, has had most of his emotions filtered out by his implants so that he can perform his duties as a CenSec security agent. Watching him develop through the story as those emotions begin to reappear was a great part of this space-adventure/romance story, and it was well done. Malin's been hurt before, and her vulnerable strength throughout the book made her a character you can relate to. All the side characters, including the Phoenix brothers, just added icing to the cake, as well as the introduction of three new Phoenix cousins who work out on the edge of charted space. Future books? Stars, I hope so!
The romance was hot; perhaps a bit heavy for my tastes, with more than a few intimacy scenes scattered throughout, including one or two that were done right in the middle of the action. I like sexiness in my books, but I have trouble believing two people fighting for their lives would have sex right in the middle of the fight.
The story itself is well crafted, with twists and turns and great adventure. A wild ride, for sure, that kept me reading into the late hours of the night. I had a horrible time putting the book down, and I'm already craving the start of the next book.
Spark Rising is a post-apocalyptic Earth, dystopian tale with a few unique elements that made for a great story. Well written, well edited and all around an enjoyable read, the book has many aspects that made me love it. I think this book would be a good read for any fan of science fiction, dystopian, post-apocalyptic or science fiction romance stories, so it has a wide range of appeal. There were only a few, mostly minor, issues that I ran into which kept me, personally, from reaching the coveted 'OMG More!' moment.
In a quick run-down, this story is set in a futuristic south-west America, in which the world has been destroyed by an element called Dust. The Dust, however, is also now a vital part of human existence as the human race tries to rebuild itself in several relocation zones. Controlled by people called Sparks, the Dust is used the way we use fossil fuels today - to create combustion and generate electricity. It the main source of power remaining (I think steam-power was also mentioned), and so the Sparks have become tools to those in control of the city.
I think this is where I ran into my only real issue with the science fiction within the book. The Dust impedes and allows combustion to occur, and it also is responsible for the lack of fossil fuels like oil in the future-America. But, no explanation or mention is given to what happened to non-fossil fuels. Why aren't people using wind, solar, or hydro-electric dams? Also, the Dust is advanced tech from a future Earth. I have a hard time believing we'd still be so reliant on fossil fuels at that time. Is there some sort of electrostatic interference created by the Dust that interferes with wind or solar power? If yes, I missed it in the book.
That aside, the concept of the Dust and the Sparks was interesting. They seemed to have formed a symbiotic relationship in several ways, and it led to the power struggle between those in control of the Sparks, the citizens who needed electricity, and the Sparks themselves who were growing tired of being treated more and more like living tools. Enter Lena - a female spark of rare power / connection to the Dust - , and the Spark Agent sent to capture her, Alex Reyes. This is where the story begins, and it begins with a good bit of character interaction and action, the reader quickly learning what kind of no-nonsense, strong female protag they've found in Lena.
I loved Lena's character. She has a sharp tongue, isn't afraid to get her hands dirty or admit that she enjoys a good romp. She's no shrinking violet and isn't about to put up with any of Agent Reyes' crap. Alex Reyes is a hard-lined, emotionally compartmentalized man, raised in a Spark school and with little experience or understanding about family, love or putting anything ahead of the cause; at least not until Lena's Dust slowly gets under his skin.
There are many other great characters in this book, each with life, agendas and substance. At times, it did feel like the story of Lena and Reyes got a little side-tracked, making this more of a science fiction dystopian with a side of romance possibilities than a full-genre science fiction romance. That was another issue - the romance felt secondary to the story of the Sparks and their struggles, Lena and her struggles, and Reyes and his responsibilities. It all felt rather heavy.
That was my final issue - the weight of the book. I think there was a bit too much introspection, (some of it repetitive) and over-description. It made for a heavy read, which had me skimming a few times because my eyes were craving dialogue and interaction between Lena and Reyes. Despite this issue, though, I couldn't put the darn thing down! I had a couple late nights reading this book because, despite the few hiccups, the story and characters pull you into their world and you want to stay.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher with a request for honest feedback.
This a collection of science fiction stories by various authors. While I prefer to read short-story collections that have some sort of joining themes, the variety of science fiction and the quality of the stories makes up for this. There is a bit of something for everyone here - including time-travel, exploration, horror, romance, artificial intelligence and speculative science.
Not all the stories were a hit with me, but none of them were complete misses, either. My two favorite stories were probably the first story, 'Real', and another called 'The Silent Dead'. Even the stories I didn't particularly care for were well written, and I simply didn't care for them because they aren't a story type I like. 'The Wedding', for example, is horror more than science fiction to me, but it was well done regardless.
A few of the stories did feel clipped at the end, even for short-stories. Some felt unresolved. One of the hardest aspects about writing short fiction is the ending - leaving the reader appeased and not making the story feel like it's been abruptly cut off.
Overall, this is a recommended read for science fiction fans.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher with a request for honest feedback.
While the first Orbs book was about survival, the theme running through Orbs II: Stranded is 'desperation'. The odds are stacked high against the human race and the survivors at Cheyenne Mountain. In fact, one has to question if the human race has any hope of survival at all. The 'Organics' aliens continue to rob Earth of all its water and kill any living thing they can find. Their numbers seem endless, while the number of humans remaining alive continues to dwindle. In the face of such odds against survival, many characters are led to desperate acts and last-resort choices.
The book picks up where the first one left off, with Sophie and her team at the Cheyenne Mountain biosphere, trying to survive and trying to understand exactly what the aliens are. New teams and perspectives are added into the mix, including a lone survivor from another biosphere and an undersea vessel that seems to be the last remaining bastion for the U.S. government and its armed forces. Stories weave in and out, peppered with both personal and alien conflicts.
There is a great deal of military-style action mixed with scientific ingenuity, for those who like sci-fi adventures. There's also a bit of horror, with these aliens seeming to act without conscious or remorse. There is a touch of romance, which offers hope and a reprieve from all the violence, and there is some mystery involving Sophie and her continued dreams about the aliens. It is a well-rounded science fiction thriller, and I am very much looking forward to book 3.
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy by the publisher in request for honest feedback
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher with request for honest feedback.
Overall, I liked this book. The story and themes were enjoyable. The worldbuilding was well done and unique. It felt familiar enough to be graspable, yet alien in a way that makes for good futuristic science fiction. The issues came down to style and author voice, both of which kept me from loving it.
I loved the science fiction side of the story - the space station, 'outside' missions and the way the station was described. I enjoyed the unique culture of the space station, the way relationships were handled (chain marriages, polyamorous relationships, pair bonding, etc). Although the species was never discussed, though I assumed highly futuristic human, they had cultures that were unique from today's human societies.
The relationship / romance side of the story was also enjoyable. I liked how they began, the tension between social and work relationships, what happened to Flint and how it was eventually resolved. There were several interesting side characters as well. Gamble left some things to be desired and came across as a robot emotionally at times, but I can respect that as part of his character.
The story style and author voice is where the story stumbled. As a reader, I felt like I was being 'told' everything. I was 'told' who the characters were, I was 'told' how they acted, I was 'told' what they were doing and why. I was 'told how they felt. It made the book stiff, formal and almost clinical.
The point is that I wasn't 'shown' anything. The characters were not allowed to speak for themselves or show me who they were through their thoughts, actions and words. The 'tell' vs 'show' author style can be hard to balance and nail down sometimes. I think with some revision, this story and its characters could be given more life and make for a more enjoyable read.
It was a dark and stormy night….
Actually, it was a category-five hurricane named Wu Tamika Felipe (yes, WTF) baring down on a futuristic New Orleans. Oh, and I should probably mention that New Orleans was a floating city, although the majority of the novel takes place in the old, ‘dirt-side’ New Orleans instead of the new floating city. This is a series, so I hope that the next book spends more time exploring the floating city.
That’s not to say that the dirt-side atmosphere wasn’t just as interesting. The author paints an easy to visualize picture of the old, abandoned city – falling into ruin, flooding as nature took back over and the few stubborn folk who refuse to leave. The hurricane adds to the atmosphere-building, which is a bit heavy-handed at times. We are reminded again and again how hot Louisiana can get and how windy a cat-five hurricane is. I think that, along with the pacing, kept me from reaching the OMG MORE level.
The book starts off in the POV of ‘Joe’ (whose real name is impossible to pronounce). I loved starting off the read in the head of the alien and hearing his take on everything. We are also introduced to Lurch, the nanite AI who resides inside Joe’s body. Their banter and Lurch’s commentary was some of the best bits in the book.
Joe’s partner, Violet, has her own POV chapters / sections in the book, and she was just as enjoyable to read. Often times, you end up liking one of the POV’s and not so much the other. I liked both main characters.
Although this was labeled science fiction romance, I think it was more science fiction with a romantic element. The romance was way in the back of the bus after the dead body, the investigation, Joe’s secret mission and, oh yeah, the huge hurricane. Although I wish there had been more romance (and I can see this being a complaint from romance-sided readers), it didn’t really bother me or take away from the book. It was still a good science fiction story, so I was satisfied.
This can also be considered a ‘clean’ or ‘sweet’ romance, as the highest level of heat achieved was a kiss and some smoldering glances.
What did bother me was the pacing. The book is a short read at 140 pages (according to Amazon), but it felt like it took forever to get through in spots. It almost felt like it was a novella storyline that had been fluffed by atmosphere. For example, at one point, it took them something like ten pages to go up some stairs and across a catwalk. I found myself skimming to get to the interactions and relationship building between Violet and Joe, or to dialogue, or to find out what happens.
Although I didn’t reach the OMG MORE level, I will be checking out the future books in the series, and I highly recommend them to any science fiction cop / crime investigation fans.
I was provided a copy by the publisher with the request for honest feedback.
You may note how I am emphasizing the word “classic” when calling this book a Utopian. We’ve almost forgotten what the difference is between Utopian and Dystopian in science fiction, and the recent inundation of dystopian books hasn’t helped. Many of them are actually utopian, but have been improperly categorized because dystopian is the hot buzz-word the same way paranormal was five years ago, and magical fantasy was five years before that.
Classic utopianism in science fiction has roots with George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Margret Atwood. They set the stage with a perfectly constructed society that functions in a state of utopia, then the book (through story and characters) slowly peels back the pristine paint to show the gritty truth and layers of hidden wallpaper underneath. I love classic Utopian. It’s my favorite genre. I wasn’t aware that’s what Irradiance was when I started, but I was in for a most lovely surprise.
The blurb for Irradiance reads like it might be utopian, but I’ve been disappointed so often recently by the blurb being better than the book, or ending up with yet another ‘teenage love-triangle dystopian’ blech. I went in with a deep breath, a bit of hope and simply expecting some science fiction. Right off the bat, I was reminded of Atwood. Then, a chapter later- hints of Huxley. A few chapters later, and there... there was the Orwell.
I smiled. I exhaled. I read on in bliss.
Bringing up my three favorite authors in the genre is not my way of saying the author, Bruns, was trying to mimic them – far from it. He has a strong voice all his own; but it’s impossible to write in this genre with out shadows and ghosts of those classical writers following your words – if you do it well. And, Bruns did it very well. I am now a Bruns reader for life.
The opening was a bit confusing. It’s one of those openings that makes more sense in the next chapter than it does as it is taking place. I can see how a few readers may set the book down, but I encourage you to read on into chapter 3 before deciding.
The book does have the expected hallmarks of a classical utopian – the overseer, the community, the breeding program, the secret society and the awakening of the character’s understanding that Utopia comes with a price. This can make it a touch predictable, but interwoven into this are some unique ideas that keep it unpredictable enough to be enjoyable.
I recommend this book for anyone who loves classic utopian sci-fi.
I was provided a copy by the publisher with the request for honest feedback.
Banned Books Week is September 21-27 2014
Do yourself a favor and read some banned books this month. They were banned for controversial (aka dumb) reasons, or because the books themselves present controversial topics that require readers to - gasp - think while reading.
Evolution is book 2 in the Hyperscape series, and it's another great, fun science fiction adventure story. It begins a few months after where book 1 leaves off, with Nick Bannon now Admiral of the fleet as they battle the bio-mechanical Mok'tu. Arya is now the recognized Asirian queen. At first I was worried she would be relegated to the side because of this, but Arya isn't one to allow herself to become a inactive character. My favorite character, Karg, has a strong storyline in this book, and Sirok is in it as well.
With the original 'cast' assembled, Swan leads readers on a wild, entertaining and action-packed ride as Nick struggles to bring an end to the Mok'tu, fulfill the roll of a prophecy he doesn't believe in, keep the fleet together and keep Arya out of too much trouble. There's a side-story with Karg and his past I loved learning about, though some of the exposition with Karg and Trol was a bit long. Added to this are a few unexpected twists as Hypserscape ventures into the realms of multi-verse sci-fi.
Suitable for science fiction adventure fans of all ages, there is a lot of action in this book - almost too much, and that's where it lost a star with me. I felt the action and adventure overshadowed the story and character development at times. The "out of pot and into the fire" pacing, from one crazy action scene to the next, left me a little breathless at times and confused in others. A younger audience, or those who love high-adventure, will enjoy this aspect more than I did.
It was still a highly enjoyable read for me, and I am very much looking forward to book 3!
*Disclaimer - I received a copy from the author in request for honest feedback
I greatly enjoyed the setting for this story. The planet Zulaire and its people resembled modern India in several aspects, including dress, religion, mannerisms and caste system. The caste system, and the mythology/history surrounding it, was a neat part of the story, and also acted as the center of conflict which moved the story events forward. The world building was exceptional and was the main reason I enjoyed reading the book.
Zulaire finds itself caught up in a caste-system rebellion, but there are a few twists to the normal reasons for an uprising. I won't go into this, because these twists are part of what made the story enjoyable for me. In the middle of the conflict is the main character, Andi, who works for a trading company. She loves Zulaire, even though she is treated as an outsider by most, and finds herself smack-dab in the middle of the war-zone when conflict breaks out. Tom, a member of the elite special forces, is sent to pick her up before the conflict breaks out, but things don't go according to plan.
Andi, as a character, is strong and well-rounded. Tom is a bit alpha, but as a soldier, he has his reasons. He also has a tragic story and his own personal hang-ups which add to both the story and the building relationship between him and Andi. Although I never got a good feel for their relationship or any warm-fuzzies, I could understand how the trying circumstances and their personalities would bring them together.
There is a lot going on in this novel. Andi finds herself in one dangerous situation after another, with only a few lulls for her, and the reader, to catch a breath. This hurry-up and heavy-action pacing left me a little wanting in the character / relationship development department, but I can certainly say there wasn't a single dull moment.
The story is told via Andi's point of view throughout the entire novel. The only problem I had with Andi's POV was her constant talking to herself. I don't mind internal dialogue (usually noted by a tense shift and italics), but Andi internally commented on everything in just about every paragraph. Most of the time, it felt like unnecessary side commentary or used to point out the obvious to the reader. I found it a bit tiresome and it took me out of the story. This was my main reason for giving four stars instead of five.
All in all, this is a recommended read with exceptional world building, an adventurous story and good science fiction.
I was provided a copy by the author with the request for honest feedback.
Blerg. Two DNFs today. *crosses fingers for next book* Life's too short and my TBR list too long to finish bleh books.
This book starts off with a promising premise and set-up, and a great well-rounded character in Beth. I loved the idea of the camp and Ali's music. I was looking forward to Ali and Beth finding each other and Beth's character growth as she learned to trust and love again after a bad break up.
I was a bit let down by the lack of camp in the book. I thought there would be more interaction with the camp kids and camp activities - instead they were just background... way in the background, and only for the first 25% of the book. Afterward, the story follows Beth and Ali's relationship as Ali is on tour. The hardships of a long-distance relationship can be great to explore. Unfortunately, I found myself falling asleep at the tour-bus wheel.
Despite the name - Jolt - I didn't feel anything energized, lustful or intense about the book, the story or the characters. After 40%, I found myself skimming and trying to find interesting points of character development, conflict or progress. I am not sure if it was the writing style, but the dialogue and story dragged and dragged everything else down with it.
Beth was a great character to begin with, and I loved her internal conversations with Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. I thought that was great and really made her character unique. Ali remained a bit 2-D throughout the novel, and I actually had a better hold on the side character Val. The other characters were simply story-props.
It's a nice story with a good leading character, but it just fell flat for me and didn't have that jolt I was hoping for.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve read one book previously by Anna Hackett – The Time Thief, and I remember enjoying it. I haven’t read the first book in The Phoenix Adventures series, but after reading In The Devil’s Nebula, I’ll be back-tracking and reading it (At Star’s End) while I impatiently wait for book 3 to be published. It was that good. I loved it.
Although I do recommend reading book series in order, I didn’t find myself lost or confused by starting with book 2. In The Devil’s Nebula is a wonderfully written space adventure full of treasure hunts, history, excellent world building, fun characters, assassin fighters and intriguing mystery. Oh, and there’s also a great romance! These are all the things I love to read in Science Fiction Romance, and that’s why it’s earned the 5-OHMYGAWDMOAR-Stars rating.
I admit, going into this book, part of the plot made me go … meeeeh really? They’re treasure hunting for the gun that killed Abraham Lincoln? In Space? In a star system far-far away? Whaaaaat?
Hold on – wait. It’s explained in the book in a neat way, as is all the treasure the Phoenix Brothers hunt for – the remaining pieces of Human history. It turns out to be a nifty part of Hackett’s writing. She mixes old Earth references and history with a Human society far-flung into the future; Human history becoming the ancient artifacts of the future and what other alien civilizations go all Indiana Jones over.
This hooked me early on. I enjoyed the treasure hunting aspect more than I thought I would. Added onto this is a story that involves a heartbreaking tragedy of Zayn and the mystery surrounding a guild assassin who looks like a girl he used to know. This mystery will keep you guessing, and there are many twists and turns that didn’t go where I thought they would go, which made it a good read. I like not being right. I like it when an author surprises me.
The romance between Zayn and Ria also has a few good twists in it that made it interesting and believable. Ria does feel an odd attraction to Zayn, but it’s part of the mystery surrounding why she looks so much like the girl he knew. They have good chemistry together, as well as a few good stumbles. Zayn is a lovable guy and Ria kicks much butt. I loved her character.
The side cast is filled with many great characters that make me want to go back and read book 1 and look forward to book 3. I want to know more about their story, and I want another treasure-hunt adventure because In The Devil’s Nebula was so much fun to read. This book is recommended for anyone who enjoys space adventures, treasure hunts, mystery and a good romance.
I was provided a copy by the publisher with the request for honest feedback.
Overall, I liked the book. I didn't love it or 'really' like it, though. It has a decent mystery aspect, but much of this becomes as repetitive as the internal struggles of both Finn and Dare. There are points where the mystery and investigations overwhelm the character story, then it switches and it's the character stories getting in the way of the mystery. At times, it felt as if the novel couldn't make up it's mind on if it wanted to be a detective story or a character novel.
There are several interesting characters that helped carry me to the last page of the book; not so much the mystery or the back-stories between Finn and Dare. Finn is a complex, surprising and well-written character. Dare, for most of the book, proceeded to get on every last one of my nerves. I couldn't like him, no matter how hard I tried. I actually liked and appreciated Bill's complex nature more than the meatstick douche that Dare continually came off as.
Then, at forty-five-ish percent, the book takes an extremely unexpected twist. I didn't mind the twist at all, but I can see some readers having an issue with it. The blurb for the book in no way alludes to the fact that their is some heavy-handed BDSM Dom/sub play. I was expecting a romance between Finn and Dare, but I wasn't prepared for what actually happened. Reader be warned - if BDSM and control-play isn't your cup of tea, then this book probably won't be your cuppa either. The power-play was well done / pretty on-point for the realities of certain power-play relationships. My 3-star rating has nothing to do with this unexpected inclusion.
Something that was a problem for me was the awkward head-jumping. Head jumping / point of view shifts are perfectly fine when they are done well. Unfortunately, in this novel they were confusing most of the time. There were also odd tense shifts. Most of the book is third-person, but there are places where it suddenly shift to first person without italics or any other 'character thought' indication. This may be something that is fixed in the final editing stages, as I am reviewing an advanced copy.
There were also some issues with over-detailing, too much introspective and, perhaps, too many side-characters. It was a lot to keep track of at certain points, and I would have preferred a more streamlined focus on Finn and Dare. I did finish the book, and wanting to know all the town's secrets was a bigger pull than the Finn / Dare element. I think I would recommend this more for mystery readers who don't mind some BDSM and m/m relationships more than I would the typical m/m romance reader.
I received an review copy in request for honest feedback
This sci-fi noir reads like a movie script – which was both a good and a bad thing. The book is written in the odd, seldom used present-3rd person, which makes it sound like a director on set giving direction to both the camera man, the effects crew and the actors. It leads to a whole lot of telling and very little showing. What ‘showing’ there was, however, was excellent.
This book has diamonds in it. Gold nuggets of literary magic. It’s a shame they are hidden under a somewhat large pile of debris.
I refrained from saying ‘a large pile of rubbish’, because this book isn’t rubbish. That would be much too harsh a word. It has the makings of something grand, but somewhere along the way it got lost. It is, at its heart, a literary science fiction noir. Unfortunately, it felt as if the author was trying too hard to fit more pieces into the puzzle than were needed to create a magnificent picture.
There is a lot of back and forth. Between characters. Between memory and present. Between literary style and blatant stage-direction writing. Step by step, the characters are told what to do through the odd 3rd-person present, and every little detail is mentioned. This creates a well-built world for the imagination, yes, but it was all simply too much. Then, when the characters themselves proceed to give detailed accounts of previous events through memory, I had a hard time staying awake.
There is good mystery here. Good intrigue and some unique ideas. Many of the brush strokes are beautifully penned to paper, and it was the search for this mystery and those occasional moments of brilliant writing that kept me reading. I would recommend this for readers who enjoy sci-fi noir or literary science fiction.
I received a copy in request for an honest critique
This book was a close-to five-star read for me, but I never had that character-connection or emotional moment I crave when reading. The strongest points of this book are the characters and the atmosphere. It's set in a pre-railroad Wyoming territory, in a small town connecting several mining outposts. The details were rich without being overwhelming, and I could easily picture the old west town and its populace.
The author was also able to capture the struggles of a deaf person in the old west; the misconceptions made by others and Elijah's own experiences. I loved the way Elijah's character expressed himself and they way he heard, or didn't hear, the world around him. Harlan's character was also strong - an atypical character who you won't necessarily like or hate. He's good at standing on the edge and pulling your thoughts about his character in several directions at the same time. The last main character, Grady, is a sweet cattle-rustler, breaking the law and stealing from others, but you can sympathize with his family reasons for doing so.
There were several points in the book that almost plucked my emotions. I say 'almost', because it never quite happened. I never quite had a heart-stopping moment, a warm-smile moment, or the moment of character connection I seek within a novel. I also feel like the book needed more time introducing Elijah and his character before he jumped into that first scene with Harlan. It all felt too fast. I'd barely gotten to know Elijah before being led into that.
Beyond that, Sweetwater is a great character novel with a good story supporting it and wonderfully written historical atmosphere. This is a recommended read, but be warned - it does include rough sexual encounters right off the bat.
I was given a copy for review and honest feedback.