Tag Archives: adventure science fiction

Review of INDIE Ebook Honor’s Flight – Book 2 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsey Buroker #Brainfluffbookreview #Honor’sFlightbookreview

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I loved the first book in the series – see my review of Star Nomad  – so was delighted when I realised Himself had picked up the sequel and it was languishing in amongst my TBR pile…

After spending four years fighting for the Alliance, fighter pilot Alisa Marchenko only wants one thing: to reunite with her young daughter. But this involves a journey to her former home world, which has become the last imperial stronghold. Since the imperials have a lot of reasons to loathe members of the Alliance right now, just getting down to the planet will be a challenge, and it doesn’t help that her passengers are stirring up trouble of their own…

I love the ongoing relationship that Alisa has with her various passengers – and the prickling knowledge that some of their interests are on a collision course. The ongoing tensions help to keep the stakes raised – and when it all kicked off, I was unsure whether former or current loyalties would prevail. The action scenes worked well because of this additional consideration, though it didn’t hurt that they were well-written and nicely paced so that I had no difficulty in following exactly who was doing what to whom without having to go back and reread it.

The other bonus with this book is the fact that the driver powering the overarching narrative is Alisa’s search for her lost daughter – I find it really refreshing that it is a family dynamic taking the story forward in a space opera adventure. It doesn’t hurt that in amongst the tension, danger and inevitable worry about her lost child, there is also plenty of humour in the form of Alisa’s smart mouth. The more dodgy the situation gets, the more Alisa copes by coming out with inappropriate humour – it certainly helped me bond with her. I tend to have a similar tic, but mostly keep my off-colour comments to myself and I suspect I’m not the only one.

Overall, I found this sequel an enjoyable continuation of the series and it won’t be too long when I need more space opera goodness in my life, before I’ll be hunting down Starseers, the third book in this entertaining series. Recommended for fans of character-led space opera adventure.
9/10

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Review of KINDLE Ebook In Evil Times – Book 2 of the Imperials series by Melinda Snodgrass #Brainfluffbookreview #InEvilTimesbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The High Ground – see my review here – which I read in response to Sci Fi Month and as we had the second book already, I tucked in.

Thracius Tracy Belmanor and the Infanta Mercedes de Arango have graduated from The High Ground and have become officers in the Orden de la Estrella. Tracy’s posting aboard a battleship leads him to further doubt the intentions of the Solar League, as he and his comrades are required to assimilate the settlers of a Hidden World. Meanwhile, Mercedes’ own posting and her difficult marriage to Beauregard Boho Cullen, made to assure her succession of the throne, divides her loyalties. In a society where most humans and all aliens are second-class citizens, the two young officers have difficult choices to make…

As in the first book, the storyline focuses on these two young people who became very close during the first book, even though it was clear their relationship would never be able to go any further. I had sort of assumed that during this book, love would somehow find a way – because that’s what happens in amongst the action and mayhem in most space opera. So I was more than a tad gobsmacked when events took a completely different turn.

I had become very attached to both characters in the first book, but found Tracy harder to like this time around. He is eaten up with anger and bitterness, making no attempt to compromise and foster friendships in amongst the other young officers. That said, even though there were times when I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled, I admired his gritted courage and his determination to do the right thing. His tactical ability and leadership skills are not utilised sufficiently, but when he is called upon to act, he does so with flair.

However, my favourite character by a long country mile is Mercedes. Her life is allll about compromise – she marries the man who she likes rather than loves to secure her family’s grip on the imperial throne. She fills the role of Infanta, rather than continue her career as a fighter pilot, even though she is exceptionally good at it – and all without becoming embittered and angry, in stark contrast to Tracy’s attitude.

The action in the book highlights some of the trickier moral actions the underpin the social structure. When a human colony is discovered illegally operating outside the Imperial League, the consequences are shocking. Its economy is hi-jacked and resources given over to the League, the population brought under control – and all the children under ten years old are taken away to be adopted or fostered by loyal families on other worlds, which means the population are assimilated within a generation. This issue is explored within the story in a manner that had me wondering both about the justification and the long-term effects.

The entitled nobility, who advance by dint of their birth rather than their ability, have a casually dismissive attitude towards the rest of the human population, which is the attitude typifying the huge majority of humans towards all the alien species who are employed as servants or indentured labourers. I really enjoyed this interesting exploration of the society through the lens of two major protagonists, while finding the unexpected plot twists prevented me from putting this one down. I read it in two greedy gulps and surfaced wanting more, so immediately went looking for the third book, The Hidden World – something I hardly ever do.

Recommended for fans of grown-up space opera that takes the characters and story arc outside the confines of the usual genre conventions.
10/10

Sunday Post – 17th March, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This last week has feel more like normality – I am now, finally, feeling more like my old self which is such a relief as I’d begun to feel that I’d never regain my former energy. The Creative Writing sessions all went well and were, as ever, highly enjoyable, though attendance was hit by folks not wanting to battle through Storm Graham on Tuesday afternoon to get to college. Quite right, too.

On Wednesday, my writing buddy Mhairi spent the day with me – we are treasuring our time together, given that she is on the brink of moving to Lincolnshire, instead of just 20 minutes down the road… As ever, lots of talk and mutual advice about writing – I’m delighted that her sales have taken off and as ever, I find her help invaluable. My lesson with Tim on Thursday was a break from preparing for his exam and instead, we worked on the lyrics to his latest song composition, which is amazing.

This weekend, we’ve had the grandchildren to stay, which means that the weather on Saturday was atrocious. Throughout this winter, whenever they’ve come to stay – that’s when the wind and rain has struck. So Oscar and I tucked into a fabulous 3-D sticker book together, while Frances was working on a painting project for homework. I played the Frozen in Time audiobook while we were working. In the mornings, Oscar started the day by reading extracts from the seventh book in Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which he is loving – it’s a real treat listening to him read so fluently. Last night, we went to our favourite Chinese restaurant with my sister to celebrate the start of her new job next year.

Last week I read:
Castaway Planet – Book 4 of the Boundary series by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor
Lost in the dark, half a year into their journey to the colony world of Tantalus, Sakura Kimei, her family, and her best friend, the alien “Bemmie” nicknamed Whips, are torn from the safety of their colony ship. In a crippled lifeboat, they had one chance to find a habitable world. But even then, they would find that their apparent salvation was a world of a thousand secrets.
I thoroughly enjoyed this futuristic take on Swiss Family Robinson – a real page-turning adventure that gripped me throughout and the added pleasure is the knowledge that I’ve now discovered another cracking sci fi space opera series.

 

The Midnight Queen – Book 1 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter
In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented – and highest born – sons of the kingdom are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover . . .
Gray’s Britain is a fragmented kingdom of many tongues, many gods and many magicks. But all that concerns Gray right now is returning as soon as possible to his studies and setting right the nightmare that has seen him disgraced and banished to his tutor’s home – without a trace of his powers. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.
It’s been a wonderful reading week – two cracking reads from authors I hadn’t previously known. I absolutely loved this one – the strong characterisation, tense situation and I was also invested in the romance that bubbled away in the background. I also liked the alternate history where Christianity hadn’t taken hold. Review in due course.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 10th March 2019

Review of Kingdom of Copper – Book 2 of the Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

Review of Survivor in Death – Book 20 of the In Death series by R.D. Robb

Friday Face-Off featuring World’s End – Book 1 of the Age of Misrule series by Mark Chadbourn

Review of Dreamer’s Pool – Book 1 of Blackthorn and Grim series by Juliet Marillier

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

12 Things You Have To Give Up to Be a Successful Writer https://writerunboxed.com/2019/03/16/12-things-you-have-to-give-up-to-be-a-successful-writer/ I love the series of articles written by Bill Ferris – funny and all too near the knuckle…

#writer, your body does not define your #writing voice: a response to the #YA #cancelculture among #readers and #authors https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/03/14/writer-your-body-does-not-define-your-writing-voice-a-response-to-the-ya-cancelculture-among-readers-and-authors/ Jean Lee raises the issues around this current controversary that is causing major concern, given where it is going.

NINTH STEP STATION – Episode 10: The Foreign Mischief by Malka Older & Series Wrap-up http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2019/03/13/ninth-step-station-episode-10-the-foreign-mischief-by-malka-older-and-series-wrapup/ I generally don’t include reviews in this round-up – so why this one? Because this excellent article is the last in a series following this different way of accessing fiction.

Café del Pintor~ https://cindyknoke.com/2019/03/13/cafe-de-pintor/ Just check out this amazing artwork…

Finding Time for Important Things http://melfka.com/archives/3521 This lovely, well-written article happened to come along at a crucial time for me. I found its message enormously comforting. Thank you Joanna😊

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I still trying to catch up – thank you for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

More SFF Goodness in the Runup to Christmas… Christmas-Holiday Gifts – Science Fiction & Fantasy for Everyone

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My novel Running Out of Space is currently on offer in a giveaway organised by Midwest Journal Press running up to Christmas and so I thought I’d feature a few of the other offerings for you that have caught my eye. I haven’t read any of these yet, but liked the covers and the sound of them.

Arkship Countdown – Prologue to The Arkship Saga by Niel Bushnell
“Dune meets Battlestar Galactica, with a pinch of Asimov thrown in for good measure.”
Earth has been destroyed, the entire solar system turned to dust by a cataclysmic event known as the Fracture. Now, the last survivors of humanity live on vast arkships drifting through the Cluster, doing what they can to survive in a hostile ever-changing environment.

Life on board the Ark Royal Obsidian is a quiet routine for Chief of the engine deck, Bran Colmen. That is until his family is kidnapped and he is forced to steal secrets about the vast arkship’s engines by a covert intruder. As time runs out, Colmen finds himself trapped between saving his family and averting a war that could kill thousands.

Arkship Countdown is the prologue for the epic new series from British author Niel Bushnell.

 

 

Ghenna Dawn – Book 1 of the Portal Wars series by Jay Allan
Erastus. An unimaginable nightmare. A searing hot world, covered with cracked, burning deserts and sweltering jungles. A hostile planet far from Earth, it was the most hellish place men have ever tried to survive. Called Gehenna by the condemned men sent to fight there, it forged the few who survived its murderous battles into the strongest soldiers in history.

Jake Taylor was a New Hampshire farmboy who wanted nothing more than to marry his girlfriend, work on the farm, and maybe one day write a great novel. But mankind was fighting the alien Tegeri and their bio-mechanical cyborg soldiers, and UN Central needed men…men to go to war on hostile worlds like Erastus.

 

 

 

 

Alien Hunters – Book 1 of the Alien Hunters series by Daniel Arenson
The skelkrins. Predators from deep space. Creatures of claws, fangs, and unending malice. They swarm across the galaxy, slaying all in their path. Planets burn in their wake. And now they’re heading to Earth. Raphael “Riff” Starfire commands the Alien Hunters, a group of scruffy mercenaries. Galactic pest controllers, they mostly handle small critters–aliens that clog up your engine pipes, gnaw on your hull, or burrow through your silos. Riff and his crew have never faced anything like the skelkrins before. As these cosmic killers invade our solar system, will Riff be the one hunting aliens . . . or will aliens hunt him?

 

 

 

Planet Emergency by Christian Bæk Hedegaard
Thе соmbinеd bоmbаrdmеnt causes аll сrеаturеѕ on the Earth to ѕwар mindѕ, leaving реорlе in аnimаlѕ, animals in реорlе, men in women аnd сhildrеn in adults. Thе nightmаrе which follows bесоmеѕ a ѕосiаl аnd есоnоmiс саtаѕtrорhе.

Sunday Post – 2nd December, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’ve been AWOL for a while, mostly because I’ve been battling with my health. It’s boring and depressing dealing with it, but I certainly don’t feel inclined to share the misery around – hence my absence. Hopefully, I’m on the road to recovery – fingers crossed.

On a much happier note, I’ve been loving Sci Fi Month and used my lolling around in bed to catch up on a number of entertaining, enjoyable science fiction adventures which took me as far away from my everyday life as I could possibly get. Yippee! Thank you to Lisa and her trusty team for running this event and Rina for dreaming the whole thing up in the first place – I’m here to tell you that during a very grotty month otherwise, it’s been a lifesaver.

Last week I read:
The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?
This novella is a cracking read – Tchaikovsky doesn’t disappoint in this dystopian colony adventure. While the story didn’t deliver lots of surprises, I have found myself thinking a lot about the issues he raises – and isn’t that the mark of a good read?

 

Terms of Enlistment – Book 1 of the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos
The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.
This is a really gripping read with one of the best battle scenes I’ve ever read. I’ll definitely be getting hold of the next book in this series. No wonder I keep encountering this author in the best-selling rankings… PLUS I also read Lucky Thirteen – a short story set in the same world, also very highly recommended.

 

The High Ground – Book 1 of the Imperials series by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Emperor’s daughter Mercedes is the first woman ever admitted to the High Ground, the elite training academy of the Solar League’s Star Command, and she must graduate if she is to have any hope of taking the throne. Her classmate Tracy has more modest goals — to rise to the rank of captain, and win fame and honor. But a civil war is coming and the political machinations of those who yearn for power threaten the young cadets. In a time of intrigue and alien invasion, they will be tested as they never thought possible.
I’m always a sucker for college/school-based adventures and I found this one highly readable and engrossing. The contrast between the two main characters gives a real sense of the social structure, with one out of her depth because she is suddenly confronted with the possibility of being the next ruler. While the other has been taken out of his low-class background and is enduring the misery of being a scholarship student.

 

Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been despatched to assist a group of scientists who are investigating a mysterious black hole which has appeared on a Somerset hillside. Could it really be a doorway to another dimension, an opening into another world? When one of the scientists disappears into the hole — with fatal consequences — Ishmael must prove whether it was an accident — or murder. But with no clues, no witnesses and no apparent motive, he has little to go on. Is there an alien predator at large, or is an all-too-human killer responsible? Only one thing is certain: if Ishmael does not uncover the truth in time, more deaths will follow…
Despite the grim look of the covers, I promise you that this isn’t horror on any level. It’s a paranormal, murder mystery series with its tongue firmly in its cheek. I really enjoy the snarky humour and sheer outrageous implausibility of the murders and this one cheered me up no end while I was just beginning to recover from my boring illness.

My posts last week:

#Sci Fi Month Review of Star Nomad – Book 1 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsey Buroker

#Sci Fi Month Review of The Scent of Metal – Book 1 of the Space Argonauts series by Sabrina Chase

#Sci Fi Month Review of Into the Dark – Book 1 of the Alexis Carew series by J.A. Sutherland

#Sci Fi Month Review of Terms of Enlistment – Book 1 of the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos

#Sci Fi Month – The Ones That Got Away

Apologies for not having any interesting items to pass on – I simply haven’t been sufficiently present to retweet and comment on other folks’ blogs. In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a great week.

#Sunday Post – 12th August, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I have been busy rewriting the second book in The Arcadian Chronicles series, Mantivore Preys, as I’d like to be able to self-publish the first three books about a telepathic alien in close succession. Other than that, my blogging buddy Mhairi spent Monday with me, as we loaded up the corrected proofs for the paperback version of Running Out of Space. And on Wednesday the print proof copy arrived! I leapt around the house, whooping with excitement and as luck would have it – I was able to show it off to my sister, when we met up for lunch, as well as some of my writing friends. Brenda prepared us the most delicious meal on Wednesday evening with lots of lovely veggie dishes. On Thursday evening, I went to Chichester Theatre to see a performance of the world premiere of The Meeting – a really interesting play about a Friends’ Meeting House and how they react when a fleeing soldier pitches up in their midst…

On Friday, some of my students had planned to have a picnic at Marine Gardens in Worthing and invited me along. In the event, we were a select group – and we certainly weren’t picnicking as gale-force winds and torrential rain battered the coastline. We ended up in the café, chatting about writing, the world and everything over a yummy bowl of homemade soup. And on Saturday, Himself, my sister and I went for a walk along the River Arun in Arundel – I love the sound of the wind in the reeds…

I got a nasty shock this week. During our cosy catch-up on Wednesday, my sister demonstrated her new blood pressure machine on me. Then blinked and did it again, as it turns out my bp is way too high. I eat sensibly, don’t drink or smoke so I’m guessing the culprit is my very sedentary lifestyle and the fact the weight has crept back on. Before I go to the docs, I’m going to give myself a month where I try to get it down with a regime of exercise and losing those extra pounds that have rolled back onto my hips and tummy when I wasn’t looking. Watch this space!

This week I have read:

Pirate Nemesis – Book 1 of the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke
Mercy Kincaid is a fugitive from her own family. Her dangerous telepathic gifts make her a target. So is anyone she gets close to. When her best friend is captured and tortured, Mercy’s only hope is to reunite with the family that tried to murder her as a child. She trusts few among her blood relatives, but finds herself intrigued by an enigmatic and dangerous killer.

Reaper has spent a lifetime watching his people die. He’s vowed to kill anyone who jeopardizes their survival. Mercy’s gifts are the biggest threat they’ve faced in eleven years, since a biological weapon nearly annihilated the pirate colonies. But Reaper realizes her talents can either destroy them, or save them.
Entertaining space opera adventure with a really nicely creepy antagonist.

 

Hero at the Fall – Book 3 of The Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.
I loved the first two books in this entertaining sand and sorcery series – see my review of The Rebel of the Sands – and wanted to find out how it all finishes, given how very high the stakes have become. Review to follow.

 

Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan! series by Rachel Aaron
An original novel, with all-new characters and a new story set in the world of Attack on Titan! Fans of the series and readers alike will enjoy this immersive and engaging experience of the pop culture phenomenon and manga mega-hit.

With the last vestige of the human race threatened by unstoppable carnivorous giants, a brave young woman decides to defy her wealthy family and join the military to fight against humanity’s enemies. But Rosalie Dumarque soon finds out that bloody sword fights with monsters aren’t the only dangers faced by the Wall Rose Garrison. Can she earn the trust of her fellow soldiers, stand up to a corrupt authority, navigate a forbidden romance…and cut her way out of a titan’s throat?
Action-packed and engrossing debut to this interesting series. I will be reviewing this one tomorrow.

 

Anachronism – novella by Jennifer Lee Rossman
It’s the same old story: Time traveler meets girl, time traveler tells girl she’s the future president, time traveler and girl go on a road trip to prevent a war…

Petra Vincent is at the end of her rope – or rather, the edge of a bridge. Her world is falling apart around her and she sees no way out of the meaningless existence the future has in store. But when stranded time traveler Moses Morgan tells her that she will one day lead the country out of the rubble of a nuclear civil war as President of the United States, she’s intrigued – and when another time traveler starts trying to preemptively assassinate her, she realizes Moses might be telling the truth…
I loved this foot-to-the-floor adventure and rather lost my heart to Petra, the despairing young woman who discovers she has a shining destiny – if only she can survive to fulfil it. And there’s that twist… marvellous stuff!

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 5th August 2018

Review of The Backworlds – Book 1 of The Backworlds series by M. Pax

Teaser Tuesday featuring Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan series by Rachel Aaron

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson

Review of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Friday Face-off – Behind every mask… featuring The Masked City – Book 2 of the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Review of novella Anachronism by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

50 Ways to Reward Yourself http://www.bryndonovan.com/2018/07/30/50-ways-to-reward-yourself/ Okay – put your hand up if you have recently given yourself a proper treat – no… I’m not talking about scoffing a sticky bun that you shouldn’t be eating, anyway. I’m talking about a proper reward to acknowledge an achievement. Hm. Thought so… you need to read this, then.

The Wordwitch: A Writer’s Life in Pictures – July http://melfka.com/archives/2864 I love these clever drawings – they don’t just sum up Joanna’s writing life. Many of us have the same issues…

Mash ups – it could work! https://lynns-books.com/2018/08/07/mash-ups-it-could-work/ I loved the idea of some of these – the idea of The Shining mashed with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe had me cackling with laughter…

Face Lift https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2018/08/06/face-lift/ Apparently we are hard-wired to recognise faces – but this is taking that ability too far, I feel…

A Short Introduction to the Haiku https://interestingliterature.com/2018/08/08/a-short-introduction-to-the-haiku/ We all know about this verse form, given we write these at school – right? Wrong, apparently – it’s not that straightforward, for starters…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and have a great week.

Review of Indie Ebook Removed – Book 1 of the Nogiku series by S.J. Pajonas #Brainfluffbookreview #Removedbookreview

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I enjoyed Crash Land on Kurai so wanted more of this interesting world where most of the survivors of the human race happen to be Japanese and go back to their ancient customs and roots in a post-apocalyptic world.

Can she piece together the truth before Earth’s last city tears itself apart? It’s easy for Sanaa to ignore the first signs of trouble. After all, she’s living her dream with a job and life she loves. But when she’s reassigned as a data analyst for a mysterious, well-connected man, she starts to piece together the alarming reality. Corrupt clans vie for control of the city, desperate for a ticket off the dying planet.

I really liked this one. Sanaa is a hard-working youngster, driven to try and help alleviate many of the problems holding up humanity’s flight to the stars, while living in the last large underground city. However, time is running out. The Earth’s crust is breaking up and the climate is steadily deteriorating. Sanaa has always assumed that she would continue to pursue her studies, having worked very hard to distinguish herself. And then one day it all changes. She is yanked away from her friends and the job she loves and told she needs to pursue a different path – while not really understanding what that path is. This could have been a really hard sell – that our lively, intelligent protagonist is completely derailed from her life’s ambitions and yet somehow goes along with the flow without creating too many waves. However, Pajonas has been clever in setting up the world where she is an orphan living with her aunt and her lover – a world where obedience and doing your best is highly prized in a society teetering on the edge of obliteration.

In many ways, this story is comfortingly familiar to anyone who reads this genre in that we have a youngster immersed in what they believe to be their life’s ambition, often with the difficult start, and doing very well. At some stage, everything suddenly falls apart as they are forced into embracing a far more difficult, often darker occupation and in following this path, on the advice of some mysterious mentor, they encounter romance.

What I think makes this one stand out, is the complexity of the characterisation and the layers of society and sheer detail we get of Sanaa’s everyday life. This gives us a greater understanding of not only her actions, but her thoughts and her doubts. While the romance was predictable, I was relieved there were no major quarrels or upsets and it is genuinely sweet. One interesting difference was that Sanaa had previously experienced two very unsatisfactory love affairs and talks quite frankly about them – which is atypical in this kind of story.

However, I don’t want you to go away with the idea that this is all about the romance – it isn’t and if it had been I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. This book does what all good science fiction achieves – takes me to a different place and a different time and immerses me in a completely different culture, leaving me wondering what I’d do if it were me. Recommended for fans of character-led, adventure science fiction.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Earth and Air – an Earth Girl novella by Janet Edwards #Brainfluffbookreview #EarthandAirbookreview

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I have been a solid fan of Edwards’ writing – see my review of Scavenger Alliance, here. So when she contacted me to ask if I would like an arc of her latest novella, Earth and Air, which is a spinoff from her popular Earth Girl series – see my review of Earth Girl here – I was delighted to accept in return for an honest review

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else uses interstellar portals to travel between hundreds of colony worlds, 17-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, abandoned by her parents to be raised a ward of Hospital Earth, she lives a regimented life in one of their impersonal residences. Jarra is spending the summer at New York Fringe Dig Site with her school history club. While her friends search for lost treasures on the ground, Jarra is airborne in a survey plane and hoping to become a qualified pilot, but the sprawling ancient ruins of New York contain the lethal legacies of the past as well as its treasures.

It was a real treat to rebond with Jarra, the chirpy disaster-magnet who is the main protagonist in Edwards’ popular Earth Girl series. I had forgotten just how effective Edwards’ writing style is when depicting the alliances and frictions between a group of young teenagers. It could so easily become tedious or petty, but never does. The other standout feature of this entertaining series is the fascinating backdrop – a ruined Earth, where buildings are lethally unstable yet packed with archaeological treasures and discoveries eagerly awaited by populations scattered across the stars.

Novellas are not generally my favourite reads – too often, I have just become engrossed only to find the story abruptly finishing. Only a handful of my favourite writers can, in my opinion, adequately control the pacing and narrative arc so that the ending isn’t an unpleasant jolt. Edwards is one of them. At no time did I feel I was being short-changed with either the characterisation, setting or the storyline which contains plenty of adventures and shocks. The other outstanding quality of Edwards writing, particularly with this series, is the chirpy, upbeat tone that pervades most of the story. Unlike so many YA books, I get the sense that most of the people are trying to do the best they can most of the time. This is definitely one I will be introducing my granddaughter to next time she comes to visit – I think she will love it. With the absence of bad language or gratuitous violence, it is an ideal read for young teens – as well as those of us a lot longer in the tooth. This one is far too good to leave just to the youngsters. Recommended for fans of adventure and science fiction.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ebook NOVELLA #The Flowers of Vashnoi Book 14.1 of The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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It’s been a while since we read the last book in the Vorkosigan Saga, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen – see my review here – which didn’t feature much about Miles or Ekaterina, so I was thrilled to see this one was in the pipeline…

Still new to her duties as Lady Vorkosigan, Ekaterin is working together with expatriate scientist Enrique Borgos on a radical scheme to recover the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, lingering radioactive legacy of the Cetagandan invasion of the planet Barrayar. When Enrique’s experimental bioengineered creatures go missing, the pair discover that the zone still conceals deadly old secrets.

Those bioengineered creatures alluded to in the blurb are our old friends, the butterbugs, which made a very dramatic entrance in A Civil Campaign during a particularly important banquet. Those of us who read this excellent series won’t ever forget that particular scene… During this incarnation, they are being used to help clean up an irradiated area, when they start to go missing.

Bujold has nailed the pacing of the novella form – not something every author used to writing full-length novels manages to do, so we hit the ground running with this mini-adventure and the pacing is judged perfectly for a really satisfying ending.

In amongst the drama and sadness of their discovery in the middle of this irradiated wasteland, there are also flashes of Bujold humour, ensuring that while I felt emotionally connected and really cared about the outcome, it didn’t overwhelm the scale of the storyline. It was a treat to have Ekatarin’s viewpoint throughout, as she has always been a strong, interesting character who appears in several of the other books.

All in all, this novella is a real treat and my only quibble is that I wanted it to be longer. Recommended for fans of the Vorkosigan Saga and anyone interested in tackling this long-running established series who would like a taster of the world.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

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I took one look at this amazing cover and fell in love with it, so immediately requested the book.

Davi tries to help a new friend, Anna Z, escape a cruel and controlling brother, and the teens end up running away to follow the tour of their rock idol, the otherworldly Django Conn. The story is set in a weird and wonderful retro-futuristic city of glam-girls and glister-boys and a strange phenomenon that Anna Z calls the “Alien Drift.”

This is a really intriguing read. Firstly, I am clearly not the target audience. While I enjoy my music and at times lock onto new artists and play an album to a standstill – I no longer have the intense, self-defining relationship with music that I recall needing during my teenage years. This book is targeted at those youngsters and those not so young, whose relationship with their music is mind-altering and profound.

Davi, the protagonist, is deliberately left ungendered, but is clearly male – although that doesn’t matter as much as you might think in this futuristic world where gender fluidity clearly prevails. The language is a delight – Watts uses a form of slang of his own devising, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I get a tad tired of sci fi authors using sayings that originated from our nautical past with the assumption they would still prevail in an era where we are no longer in an environment where the sea matters, so I thoroughly enjoyed the way Watts plays with language.

The same imagination and inventiveness is bestowed upon the world building and details of Davi’s everyday life as the son of a hotel owner whose relationship with his children is fleeting. Davi and his older sister live an odd, unstructured life with far too many resources, far too much time and scarily little interaction with anyone they can turn to for guidance or advice – other than a few kindly members of staff who do their best to look out for the teenagers. By contrast, the actual storyline suffers. It seems that so much imaginative energy has been expended on the world building and cool characterisation depicted through the inventive language that the actual plot is rather simple.

However, I’m not sure the target audience will really mind. What this book offers is a glimpse into the daily life of an imagined teenager in the future, including his love of music and his attempt to help Anna get free from her brother. Indeed, since I completed this book it keeps popping back into my head – the world and the feel of it, right down to the musty splendour of the hotel, which has seen better days. Recommended for readers who also enjoy music as well as inventive and futuristic world building. While I obtained an arc of Meet Me in the Strange from the publisher, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

8/10