Tag: science fiction

Book Review:  Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, by Meg Long

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves
Author:   Meg Long
Genre:   YA, scifi
Rating:  4.0 out of 5.0

After angering a local gangster, seventeen-year-old Sena Korhosen must flee with her prize fighting wolf, Iska, in tow. A team of scientists offer to pay her way off her frozen planet on one condition: she gets them to the finish line of the planet’s infamous sled race. Though Sena always swore she’d never race after it claimed both her mothers’ lives, it’s now her only option.

But the tundra is a treacherous place, and as the race unfolds and their lives are threatened at every turn, Sena starts to question her own abilities. She must discover whether she’s strong enough to survive the wild – whether she and Iska together are strong enough to get them all out alive.

It’s been a while since I’ve read any scifi, and I enjoyed this foray back into it. It’s not hardcore scifi, but the cultures and peoples of the planet make for a fascinating setting—a planet run by gangsters and a hidden society who are against the corporate-driven greed that infuse the planet—with plenty of room for interesting diversions. The writing was solid, and I enjoyed the buildup to the race itself, but I feel like there were a few issues left unresolved by the ending. This is a solid debut, though, and I’d be interested in reading more from this author.

Meg Long wanted to be a spy when she grew up. Instead she became a writer. Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Kindred, by Alechia Dow

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Kindred
Author:   Alechia Dow
Genre:   Sci-Fi, YA
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…

 Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

 Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

 Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

That was just a fun read! I liked Joy, and even Felix grew on me, although he was a bit self-absorbed at first. This felt kind of like a spoofy sci-fi movie, but not totally cheesy. I enjoyed the read, especially after Joy and Felix crash-landed on Earth. Realistic and believable, no, but fun and relatable, yes, so I’d recommend this if you’re looking for a light way to spend a few hours.

Alechia Dow was born is Massachusetts but now lives in Germany. The Kindred is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Starcrossed, by Katie Jane Gallagher

Image belongs to the author.

Title:   Starcrossed
Author Katie Jane Gallagher
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

It’s all very well to make out with an alien prince. A few kisses should be harmless—right?

 Yet that alien prince is the only male present on the spaceship that serves as Corinne Kaminski’s gilded prison. Faced with a thorny status quo, Corinne begrudgingly keeps plotting her escape, despite her growing feelings for Del.

 Complicating matters even more is the sudden, grand entrance of Del’s sisters onto the ship. The two cunning princesses would be most unhappy to learn that their brother, heir to the throne of Ailopt, has his eye on a human girl from Montana—and that said human girl returns his affection.

 Then a chance at freedom becomes tantalizingly close, just when things are heating up behind closed doors. Corinne will have to decide what’s more important: returning home for good or taking a chance on cosmic love?

This was another entertaining read. The two sisters, or at least one of them, were definitely mean girls. I’m always interested in how an author portrays aliens:  will they be humans in a different form, or will their mindset and personalities truly be alien? I found these aliens to be humans in a different form, but that didn’t make this read any less interesting. I’m looking forward to where the author takes this series next.

Katie Jane Gallagher was born in Illinois. Starcrossed is her newest novel, the second book in the Beauty and Her Alien series.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Unearthly, by Katie Jane Gallagher

Image belongs to the author.

Title:   Unearthly
Author Katie Jane Gallagher
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Once upon a time, an alien prince craving solitude docked his spaceship above the snowy Montana mountains.

 Unbeknownst to him, a small-town beauty searched for her missing father in the lonely winter woods…

 When Corinne Kaminski volunteers to take her father’s place on the alien’s sprawling, desolate ship, she regards it as a death sentence. But just as the alien promised, no harm befalls her in her strange new home, where the walls talk, a dense hothouse flourishes, and sim rooms transport the user to any place imaginable.

 The ship’s only other occupant, Del, is shocking to look at. Beastly, some might say. But Corinne finds herself unable to look away. 

Yet a gilded cage is still a cage, and Corinne longs for freedom. Her instincts might be pushing her toward friendship with Del—and something more than friendship, perhaps—but at what cost?

This was a quick, fun read. To me, things escalated between Corinne and Del too quickly, but I’ve never been abducted by aliens, so what do I know? Her psychological warfare tactics—blasting AC/DC—made me laugh. I enjoyed the descriptions of her Montana home, and I look forward to reading more about these characters.

Katie Jane Gallagher was born in Illinois. Unearthly is the first book in the Beauty and Her Alien series.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Rabbits, by Terry Miles

Image belongs to Random House/Del Rey.

It’s an average work day. You’ve been wrapped up in a task, and you check the clock when you come up for air–4:44 pm. You go to check your email, and 44 unread messages have built up. With a shock, you realize it is April 4th–4/4. And when you get in your car to drive home, your odometer reads 44,444. Coincidence? Or have you just seen the edge of a rabbit hole?

Rabbits is a mysterious alternate reality game so vast it uses our global reality as its canvas. Since the game first started in 1959, ten iterations have appeared and nine winners have been declared. Their identities are unknown. So is their reward, which is whispered to be NSA or CIA recruitment, vast wealth, immortality, or perhaps even the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe itself. But the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes. Players have died in the past–and the body count is rising.

And now the eleventh round is about to begin. Enter K–a Rabbits obsessive who has been trying to find a way into the game for years. That path opens when K is approached by billionaire Alan Scarpio, the alleged winner of the sixth iteration. Scarpio says that something has gone wrong with the game and that K needs to fix it before Eleven starts or the whole world will pay the price.

Five days later, Scarpio is declared missing. Two weeks after that, K blows the deadline and Eleven begins. And suddenly, the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

I’m not sure what to say about this book. It was kind of like watching Alice in Wonderland—the Johnny Depp version. I never had any idea what was actually going on, but I was completely fascinated. The patterns and logic leaps involved in the game were a bit mind-boggling, but again, fascinating (in a now-I-feel-dumb sort of way). I wouldn’t say this is a well-rounded novel, but it’s definitely entertaining.

Terry Miles was born in Saskatchewan. Rabbit is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Defending the Galaxy, by Maria V. Snyder

Image belongs to the author.

Title: Defending the Galaxy
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: YA, sci-fi
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Junior Officer Ara Lawrence here, reporting for duty. Again. It’s situation critical for the security team and everyone in the base – including my parents – with a new attack from the looters imminent, a possible galaxy-wide crime conspiracy and an unstoppable alien threat. But this all pales in the face of my mind-blowing discovery about the Q-net. Of course, no one believes me. I’m not sure I believe me. It could just be a stress-induced delusion. That’s what my parents seem to believe…

Their concern for me is hampering my ability to do my job. I know they love me, but with the Q-net in my corner, I’m the only one who can help the security team beat the shadowy aliens from the pits we discovered. We’re holding them at bay, for now, but the entire Milky Way Galaxy is in danger of being overrun.

With battles on too many fronts, it’s looking dire. But one thing I’ve learned is when people I love are in jeopardy, I’ll never give up trying to save them. Not until my dying breath. Which could very well be today…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Sentinels of the Galaxy series! Maria V. Snyder’s writing is fantastic, as always, and this universe is nicely done and intriguing. I’d never considered the effects faster-than-light travel would have on families and friendships, so that was an intriguing detail.

Ara is a lot of fun to read—smart, determined, and with enough snark to make me laugh. She trying to save the universe here, but she’s also concerned with typical teenage things like her boyfriend and what’s going on with him. Lots of action, high stakes, and characters I care about made this a riveting read!

Maria V. Snyder is a bestselling author. Defending the Galaxy is the final book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Knight in Paper Armor, by Nicholas Conley

Image belongs to author/publisher.

Title: Knight in Paper Armor
Author:  Nicholas Conley   
Genre: Fiction, science fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

I have to say, the setting for Knight in Paper Armor was very disturbing (near-future, urban dystopia), not just because of how it was, but because it seems so easily possible from where we are now. One company dominating and oppressing the world—yep, I could see that—poverty, loss of rights and freedoms, the use of violence and murder to control people and keep them below the poverty level…Sad and depressing, but believable.

Billy was such a sympathetic character:  branded as different and raised by a greedy corporation in a lab, his family murdered in front of him, the victim of experiments and used for a weapon. All Billy wants is to have a “normal” life and help people. All Natalia wants is to help her family and to right the wrongs she sees around her every single day. Both these characters are strong and vividly drawn but have their flaws as well.

The author does an excellent job painting an admittedly dark picture, but he also showcases the glimmers of light and hope that can be found even in the dark of times.

Nicholas Conley lives in New Hampshire. Knight in Paper Armor is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Last Human, by Zack Jordan

the last human
Image belongs to Del Rey.

Title:  The Last Human
AuthorZack Jordan
Genre:  sci-fi
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Sara is a human—the most terrifying creature in the entire galaxy. She’s the last human—and only her mother—a terrifying alien predator know she’s human. If any of their neighbors on Watchtower Station found out what Sara was, her mother would have to eviscerate them. Again.

Sara has accepted that she’ll never know why humans were considered too dangerous to let live. Then she runs into a bounty hunter, a rebellious spacesuit, and a cute fluffball with an IQ in the thousands, and her life shatters around her. Now Sara finds herself playing a deadly game with two vast intelligences in an effort to find out the truth—and learn if she really is the last human.

I have to give props to the author for making Sara’s adoptive mother—the fearsome Widow with mandibles and bladed appendages—likable and sympathetic. Like Ron Weasley, I am terrified of spiders, so making a giant murderous one likable is an accomplishment.

There was a little bit of the absurd Douglas Adams feel to this at times and the rebellious spacesuit was my favorite character. Sara was a mostly sympathetic character, but I didn’t really care for the others, especially the Network or the Observer. I’m hit or miss on sci-fi, and this one came down almost in the midst, with a more distant feel to it than I prefer. The question that haunted me through the whole book is:  how does Sara—a member of the most feared and supposedly extinct species in the galaxy—hide the fact that she is a human from everyone she encounters, when they all have neural implants and scanners?

Zack Jordan lives in Chicago. The Last Human is his new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Vanished Birds, by Simon Jimenez

THE VANISHED BIRDS
Image belongs to Random House/Del Rey.

Title:  The Vanished Birds
AuthorSimon Jimenez
Genre:  Sci-fi, literary fiction
Rating:  3 out of 5

Nia Imani spends her time traveling through the stars and time—where mere months pass for her, for everyone she knows, decades and lifetimes pass—so apart from her crew, she has no other relationships. The job is her life. Until a mysterious naked boy crashes on an agricultural planet and his care is given to Nia.

The boy doesn’t talk. Instead, he spends his time playing an old flute and following Nia around the ship. They become a family of two and Nia finally has someone to care about besides herself. But the boy might possess powers only rumored before—making him a target for the greedy and powerful, and Nia will do whatever she can to keep him safe.

While the writing in The Vanished Birds is wonderful, I was not a fan of the story. I didn’t care about any of the characters. I’m not sure what the first 15% of the story had to do with anything. I felt sorry for the boy, but there were so many references to things in the past that might have made me connect with him or the other characters but remained only references, leaving me frustrated and annoyed. In short, the author has skills, but I don’t feel like this was a good choice for me.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Chasing the Shadows, by Maria V. Snyder

chasing the shadows
Image courtesy of the author.

Title:  Chasing the Shadows
Author:    Maria V. Snyder
Genre:  YA, sci-fi
Rating:  5 out of 5

Lyra Daniels is dead. To be fair, she was only dead for sixty-six seconds, but now she has a new name (Ara), a new job—and the rest of the world has to continue to believe she’s dead, so murdering looter Jarren won’t know she’s still alive and out to get him. Because he’s blocked their planet from communicating with the rest of the galaxy, and now everyone thinks they’re dead, which is what going dark like that usually means.

A spaceship is coming to check it out, but it will be almost two years before they arrive. And Jarren isn’t the only threat Ara and her team face:  they still have a deadly alien race to contend with and figuring out what exactly the Terra Cotta Warriors do—along with how they got there and why—is also at the top of the list.

It’s all in a day’s work for Ara. Good thing she got crazy good at worming through the Q-net after she died. Because that may be the biggest mystery—and the most important to figure out—of all.

Just like Navigating the Stars, I was hooked from the first of this. Ara grows up a lot in this book—dying will do that to you—as she starts to look beyond herself and her own wants. And everything isn’t easy for her. The rest of the security team doesn’t always listen to her or respect her opinions, which is hard to swallow for someone used to doing what she wants and asking forgiveness after. The growths of all her relationships was well-done and compelling. And I love the mystery of the Terra Cotta Warriors!

Maria V. Snyder is a bestselling author. Chasing the Shadows, the second book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series, is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)