Tag: science fiction

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.)

Book Review: Navigating the Stars, by Maria V. Snyder

navigating the stars
I do not own this image.

Title:  Navigating the Stars
AuthorMaria V. Snyder
Genre:  YA, sci-fi
Rating:   5 out of 5

Lyra Daniels just wants to stay in one place and finish school with her friends. But her parents, the leading experts on the Terra Cotta Warriors found on twenty-two planets, refused to leave her behind when they set off to study a new discovery—and the time dilation leaves decades between Lyra and her best friends.

Lyra spends her days worming into the Q-net, which made traveling the vast distances of space a reality. The only person on board the ship near her own age is a security officer who keeps poking his nose into her business and threatening to throw her in the brig.

But when the planet they just left goes silent, Lyra’s not the only thing capturing the attention of security—missing data files and looters—and soon Lyra realizes there’s far more going on that two parents trying to ruin her social life.

I love Maria V. Snyder’s books, and this one was no exception. The concept was fascinating, and the details were even more interesting. Lyra’s attitude made me laugh frequently, and her escapades kept me shaking my head, but I could not put this book down!

Maria V. Snyder was a meteorologist before she became an author. Navigating the Stars is the first book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series.

Blog Tour for The Last Hope, by Krista and Becca Ritchie

The Last Hope_Cover
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:   The Last Hope
Author:  Krista and Becca Ritchie
Genre:   YA, sci-fi
Rating:   4 out of 5

Franny, Court, and Mykal have been imprisoned for weeks on an enemy ship. Through their link, they feel everything the others are going through. As if being on the verge of death isn’t enough, they are also reeling from the knowledge that they are human. When a mysterious stranger shows up and offers them a way out, they are skeptical—but eager to survive. They agree to help but keep their link secret.

Stork won’t tell them much, just that there’s one way to save planet earth and the remnants of humanity. He offers tantalizing hints at the answers to all Franny’s questions, and she’s eager to find out the truth. But the truth behind their mission—to find a baby girl, the first of her kind, who can cloak and teleport planets—is far more than the linked trio can begin to comprehend.

So…I didn’t read The Raging Ones. (Not sure how I managed to end up reading the second book without reading the first, as that’s something I wouldn’t normally do.) I struggled a bit at the beginning, trying to catch up to the worldbuilding and what happened in the first book, but the story was compelling enough that I pushed through. The dynamics are interesting between the trio, and Stork is an excellent foil for the three of them. There’s lot of action and adventure here, making this a quick, exciting read.

Krista and Becca Ritchie are twins and bestselling authors. The Last Hope is their newest novel, the second book in The Raging Ones duology.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Recursion, by Blake Crouch

recursion
Image belongs to Crown Publishing.

 

Title:   Recursion
Author:   Blake Crouch
Genre:   Sci-Fi
Rating:   4.2 out of 5

NYC cop Barry Sutton lives every day with the death of his teenage daughter years before. One night, he tries to stop a woman from committing suicide, his first direct experience with False Memory Syndrome—a condition where victims have false memories of a life they never lived. While Barry is investigating, he stumbles into something he never imagined, something that turns what he thinks he knows into something ephemeral and ever-changing.

Helen is one of the most brilliant minds on the planet, fascinated with memory and how it shapes us and changes us. She has created a technology that can save memories, and allow us to experience them again, but she has no idea of the repercussions of doing so. Soon she and Barry are the only ones who know what’s going on through an ever-changing past and present that will always end in catastrophe—unless they manage to stop the destruction.

This novel turned everything on its head. I never knew what to expect from page to page, but I was enthralled by the journey. Or journeys, I should say. Crouch makes a complex concept believable and terrifying, as well as creating characters that I connected with, even in a world that is dark and scary.

Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. Recursion is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crown Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review The Queen’s Wing, by Jessica Thorne

the queen's wing
Image belongs to Bookouture.

Title:   The Queen’s Wing
Author:  Jessica Thorne
Genre:   YA, scifi
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

All Bel wants is to fly. She’d love to spend her days in freedom in her Wasp, preferably with her childhood friend and crush, Shae, but instead she spends her days being trained as a daughter of the aristocracy. Until a surprise attack by the Gravians, longtime enemies of her people, destroys the entire royal family, and Bel finds herself the daughter of the king—and a valuable royal commodity about to be married to the ruler of Anthaeus, a distant planet.

Soon Bel is on a ship headed to meet her future husband, with Shae at her side, as always. But now he’s no longer her friend, he’s the commander of her guards. An attempt to kill her is followed by a thwarted attempt to blow up the ship, and Bel meets her future husband, Conleith, in the furor.

She realizes everything is not okay on Anthaeus when she meets the Gravian representative there, and Con refuses to believe her about the danger the Gravians represent. Soon her worst fears are realized when the Gravians attack and destroy much of Anthaeus and its people, but Bel and Con aren’t ready to surrender yet—and they have a secret weapon on their side.

If I had realized this was a “space opera,” I probably would have skipped it. I enjoyed Bel’s character arc, but the entire plot line felt far too rushed, with very little transition or, sometimes, reason. Frankly, at times this felt like a B-rate scifi movie, although Bel and Con were both interesting characters.

Jessica Thorne lives and works in Ireland. The Queen’s Wing is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Tomb, by S.A. Bodeen

the tomb
Image belongs to Feiwel & Friends.

Title:   The Tomb
Author:   S.A. Bodeen
Genre:   YA, fantasy, sci-fi
Rating:   3 out of 5

Kiva grew up going to school, dreaming of being a doctor, and missing her best friend, Seth, the prince she hasn’t spoken to in three years. Life in ancient Alexandria was simple but good. Or so she thought.  Until she finally speaks to Seth again, and his first words are “Nothing is as it seems.”

Then Kiva finds out her world never existed at all. Instead, she’s been in a sleep chamber in deep space for years, and her world was all virtual reality. And Seth woke up three years ago and never told her the truth.

Now the two of them must find the part their spaceship needs if they are to survive, but there’s been no contact with the other ships harboring the remnants of humanity for years. They’re not sure where they’re going. They’re not sure how to find what they need. And they’ll need all their broken trust in each other if they’re to survive.

This book had an interesting premise, so I was excited to read it. However, within a few pages, most of my interest had faded. I’d love to read something actually set in ancient Alexandria, but I found things a bit anachronistic at first. Which makes sense, considering it was all virtual reality. I never grew to like Seth, and found him condescending and annoying, and Kiva was very naïve, so I didn’t trust anything she said or did. I felt like the story was still a little rough and wasn’t quite fully realized. The premise was promising, but the execution was less-than-stellar.

S.A. Bodeen grew up in Wisconsin, has lived in Africa, and now resides in the Midwest. The Tomb is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Feiwel & Friends in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch

the gone world
Image belongs to Putnam.

Shannon Moss is a secret agent in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. She’s part of a special unit that tracks crime though space—and time. Almost no one knows about her unit, so she can’t always explain her findings to people. Sometimes, she’s sent into the future to gather information about crimes in the present, but her departure from that future always ends that timeline, as she returns home.

In Pennsylvania 1997, Shannon is assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL’s family, and to find his missing daughter. She discovers the SEAL is from the missing spaceship, Libra, presumed lost in Deep Time. As she works, Shannon also discovers anomalies that give her more questions than answers, so she travels into possible futures to gather information.

There, Shannon realizes the case has far greater implications:  it’s not just the fate of the SEAL’s family that’s at risk, but the entire human race, as the case is inextricably linked to the Terminus, the end of humanity. Now Shannon must solve a murder case, a girl’s disappearance, and stop a plot destined to end the human race, in a case that shares eerie links with Shannon’s own past.

I’m still not sure what to think about this book. The concept of Deep Time was both baffling and understandable in the narrative—although the visuals did not always coalesce for me. (Those never-ending lines of trees and the crucifixions.) Shannon is a strong, capable woman, haunted by her past and her experiences in Deep Time, and she finds herself amid events that can shatter existence into pieces. Her visits to possible futures were strangely compelling, as the people she knows in the past become startlingly different people in these futures. This reminded me of the time I read Stephen King’s Desperation and Richard Bachman’s The Regulators back-to-back (Bachman was King’s pen name.)

Tom Sweterlitsch was born in Ohio, grew up in Iowa, and worked with the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped for twelve years. The Gone World is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Putnam in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Intraterrestrial, by Nicholas Conley

intraterrestrial.jpg
Image belongs to Nicholas Conley/Red Adept Publishing.

Thirteen-year-old Adam is shy, quiet, and a bit of a nerd. He loves looking at the stars through his telescope and building his own bike, while thinking about the mysteries of the universe, but doesn’t really feel like he belongs in his own life. The voice he keeps hearing in his head isn’t helping. When a run-in with a school bully lands him in trouble, it brings the conflict between his parents and himself into sharp focus.

The auto accident changes everything.

Adam ends up with a Traumatic Brain Injury, hovering on the edge of life and death. While his body is fighting to survive, Adam’s mind, his imagination, is in outer space, where he meets a group of aliens fighting against the Nothing that wants to destroy them—and Adam. Adam is the only one that can save them, but to do that, he must fight his way through the darkness that threatens to take away his future.

Intraterrestrial deals with some heavy topics: brain injury, bullying, and finding your place in the world when you’re different than everyone else. Adam is from India, and this makes him feel different from his adoptive parents and everyone else he knows. He struggles with this “differentness” in the first part of the book, as well as bullying and his response to being bullied.

After the accident, Intraterrestrial is both more complex and fantastical. What Adam experiences is imaginative and intriguing—is it really happening, or is his brain struggling to deal with the injury?—yet his reactions and observations sometimes border on childlike. He’s 13, so that makes sense for the character, but I’m undecided on if this novel is geared more towards a YA/middle grade audience, or an adult audience. The subject matter is older, but Adam himself is younger, so it could go either way. I enjoyed the novel very much. It is as creative as the author’s other works, and I look forward to reading more.

Nicholas Conley loves traveling the world and putting his experiences into words. Intraterrestrial is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Dark Intercept, by Julia Keller

the dark intercept
Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge

 

Violet Crowley is the sixteen-year-old daughter of the founder of New Earth, the safe home of people with the right to leave the sordid conditions of Earth behind. The Intercept keeps New Earth residents safe, and it monitors emotions and occasionally uses them to keep that safety intact. Julia has never known anything different, but when Danny, a cop and her long-time crush, is almost killed on Old Earth, Violet decides to investigate what he’s up to, and ends up finding out secrets she never imagined.

I enjoyed The Dark Intercept very much. The concept was unique and intriguing, and the book takes a hard look at what people are willing to put up with for their idea of safety. Technology is taken to the extreme in New Earth, and the idea is terrifying. Violet is pretty typical for a teenager, with her crush and her preconceived ideas of what’s really going on. She matures some in the book, but she still has a tendency to forgive all of Danny’s lies and actions, which is a bit annoying. The characters are rather one-dimensional, but I feel they will develop more as the series continues.

Julia Keller is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. The Dark Intercept is her new novel.

Galley provided by Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.