Book Review: Heir of Arcadia by Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins @DebAdams_Writer @Kim_Writes

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Title: Heir of Arcadia
Authors: Deborah Adams & Kimberley Perkins
Publisher: Rocket City Publishing
Publication Date: July 24, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Adventure

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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Heir of Arcadia
Deborah Adams & Kimberley Perkins
Rocket City Publishing, July 2020
ISBN 978-1-7325071-8-0
Hardcover

From the authors—

Can Collins and Quinn call a truce long enough to survive?

Quinn’s hectic job as a special agent keeps her busy, but never busy enough to tamp out her inconvenient attraction to CEO billionaire Julian Collins. He is usually the biggest pain in her side, but he can also be recklessly charming. When Collins asks her to open a secret investigation into his company, she worries that extra time alone with him might test her resolve to stay away.

Julian Collins always dreamed of being on Arcadia, a fictional world from his favorite video game. But lately, he’s been seeing things from the game in real life. He feels like he’s losing his mind, and now is not the time to go crazy. His company is going to be split into a dozen pieces if he can’t discover the secrets hidden in the Special Projects division.

After three years of quasi-friendship, Collins and Quinn have honed arguing into a true art form. As far as he’s concerned, she’s off-limits, but also quick-witted and sexy as hell. She’s the perfect person for the job.

As Quinn and Collins delve deeper into their investigation, secrets will lead them to things no one on earth can explain. Will they discover that searing hot kisses can be even more fun than well-placed insults when a whole new universe is spread before them?

Julian Collins is a man with two jobs, essentially, one as the very young CEO of the company he took over when his dad died a few years earlier and the other as guardian of his little sister, nine-year-old Serah. This young man has been through much more turmoil than most people ever see but he’s doing the best he can in both roles even though he’d much rather be playing a video game, Arcadian Fortress. After having left the running of the company up to others for too long, he’s now attempting to save it from being split up and he has suspicions about what might really be going on. Meanwhile, he’s having hallucinations, apparently seeing things in real life from the game.

Collins needs an investigator’s help and he trusts one person for that, Quinn Lehi. In her view, Collins is a highpowered playboy but, my word, the man was hard to ignore and he was Serah’s brother so she had to put up with him for the sake of the child they both adored. When Collins asks for her help, she agrees to investigate the Special Projects division of the company…and the adventure begins.

You might think a story focused on the inner workings of a giant corporation would be pretty boring but, in the hands of these two very creative authors, boring is not the word to describe this fast action adventure with vivid, charming and not-so-charming characters and a plot full of twisty turns. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

About the Authors

DEBORAH ADAMS and KIMBERLEY PERKINS are authors of the Award-Winning Waypoint series. They are friends and coworkers sharing a love of coffee, literature, and teenagers saving the world. Both live in Huntsville, Alabama, working by day for a contractor supporting the Department of Defense, and by night writing spectacular adventures. For more information about Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins go to www.adamsperkins.com.

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

Signed copy of Heir of Arcadia + $25 Amazon gift card

Enter here.

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Book Review: Hero by Belinda Crawford

Audiobook Blog Tour: Hero by Belinda Crawford

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Author: Belinda Crawford

Narrator: Jean Mahoney

Length: 7 hours 16 minutes

Series: The Hero Rebellion, Book 1

Publisher: Hendrix & Faust Publishers

Released: July 16, 2019

Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction

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Harry Potter meets The Golden Compass in an action-packed sci-fi
about a ballsy teen and a centuries-old plan to change the world.

Centuries ago, humans colonised Jørn, a lonely planet on the far side
of the galaxy. Arriving in five great colony ships, they quickly settled
the surface only to discover, after a few short years, that the planet
was killing them. The culprit, a native spore, carried on
every wind to every corner of the globe.

Genetic engineering, blending DNA from Earth and Jørn species,
saved their crops and livestock, but for humans there was no cure.
Instead they took to the skies, turning their colony ships into
cities that floated above the spore’s reach.

Hero Regan is special, and not in a way she likes. She hears voices,
voices in her head that other people can’t. Surrounded by butlers,
bodyguards and tutors, insulated from the outside world, her only
solace is Fink, a six-hundred-kilogram, genetically engineered
ruc-pard. They share lives, thoughts, triple-chocolate
marshmallow ice-cream and the burning desire for freedom.

Their chance comes when Hero is allowed to attend school in Cumulus City.
Here, along with making unexpected friends, Hero discovers she is an
unwitting part of a master plan set into motion by the first colonists, a plan
she must either help or foil if she’s ever to attain the freedom she craves.

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Physics makes Belinda’s brain hurt, while quadratics cause her eyes to cross and any mention of probability equations will have her running for the door. Nonetheless, she loves watching documentaries about the natural world, biology, space, history and technology.

She’s also a sucker for a fast horse, a faster computer and superhero movies. When she’s not doing the horse, computer or superhero thing, Belinda writes science fiction (emphasis on the fiction), where she loves to write about butt-kicking girls who blow stuff up.

The Hero Rebellion was her first sci-fi series, and she’s currently hard at work on next, with occasional detours back to Hero which she shares with her mailing list as free short stories.

You can keep in touch with Belinda, or just pick her brains about sci-fi via her newsletter, Facebook or by sending her an email (she loves email).

WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramPinterest

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Narrator Bio

Jean is an Australian audio book narrator and published author. She likes nothing better than being secluded in her cabin in the woods, as far from the city as she can get, writing and recording. In her spare time, she loves exploring the Victorian high country on her horse.

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Hero is one of those books that I can’t quite make up my mind about. Granted, it has a lot of the elements I want in science fiction—intriguing setting, interesting characters, imaginative extras, a bit of mystery, et al—but, as much as I enjoyed the idea, I never quite connected with Hero or the other human players. On the other hand, I’m madly in love with Fink, a sort of kitty (officially a ruc-pard) who’s a genetic modification and the best friend a girl could have.

One thing I thought was interesting was the treatment of Hero’s particular power as a mental illness, especially when she resists taking her meds. We all know someone or have heard of someone who has to cope with such a condition in real life and Hero’s label prompted me to think of those true sufferers but also those eccentrics/geniuses/savants that people often think are mentally flawed.

As for the narration, Ms. Mahoney is good and she performs in distinctive voices. I did have to rewind more than a time or two because her tone would drop off but that could just as easily have been my own hearing being faulty. Regardless of that and any other story-related quibbles I may have, this is an entertaining read.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour
with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by
Belinda Crawford. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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Top 10 List

Belinda Crawford’s 10 favourite books with butt-kicking heroines

Strength comes in all shapes and sizes, and kicking butt doesn’t
always mean throwing a punch. Here are 10 of my favourite
books with girls who kick butt in different ways.

  • Dragonsong (Anne McCaffery)

Disfigured girl runs away, befriends mini dragons and attains her
dream against the odds. I like Menolly because she doesn’t give
up on being who she is, even when it seems like
everything she ever wanted is out of reach.

  • Queen & Commander (Janine Southard)

Girl cheats on test and sneakily acquires a spaceship to help out
her friends. The title alone is enough to get
Queen & Commander
on the list, but the main character, Rihannon, tops it off by being
a crazy smart girl willing to do anything to help her friends.

  • Earth Girl (Janet Edwards)

In a future where portals can take you anywhere in the galaxy, Jarra
is stuck on Earth.
Earth Girl kinda sticks its tongue out at the classic
sci-fi adventure by not actually going to space, which I really like.
I also really like Jarra, who sets out to completely obliterate the myth
that her inability to leave Earth (because of an immune
deficiency) makes her disabled and stupid.

  • Diving into the Wreck (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)

A space archeologist finds an ancient spaceship. I love the creepiness
of this book and the sense of wonder and danger as Boss (the heroine)
explores the ship. It’s just really cool. And Boss rocks.

  • Touch of Frost (Jennifer Estep)

I love the Mythos Academy series. Imagine Harry Potter with a dash of
Percy Jackson and add a geeky, not-very-athletic girl with a talking sword
and you get
Touch of Frost. It’s a bit like candy for the brain, lots of fun
to read and it keeps you coming back for more. I actually advise getting
the entire series out at once, so you can consume one book after the other.

  • Heist Society (Ally Carter)

Oceans Eleven with teens. I mean, I shouldn’t really need to say any more
than that, right? But just in case I do, Kat’s a teenage con artist trying to
go straight, until she gets dragged back in to save her dad from a mobster.
It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, it’s got a cute boy and I wish I were as cool as Kat.

  • Akarnae (Lynette Noni)

This is another brain candy series. It’s heaps of fun, and you’ll stay up
a
way too late trying to read just. One. More. Chapter. You’ll be happy
you did though. It’s got elves, cute boys (whose butts Alex, the main
character, eventually kicks), magic that’s not really magic,
and magic doors. Lots and lots of magic doors.

  • Bloodlines (Rachelle Mead)

Bloodlines is the first in a Vampire Academy spin-off series and OMG,
I love Sydney (the main character). She’s smart, capable and
sensible,
which makes her sound really boring but she’s not, mostly because
everyone around her is kinda crazy. What I really love about Sydney
though, is how she responds when what she’s been brought up to
believe is challenged, and how she changes because of that.

  • By the Sword (Mercedes Lackey)

There’s a lot of blood, battles and sneaking around behind enemy lines in this
book, and the heroine kicks her fair share of butt, but there’s nothing
special about Kero, at least not a first. What I love about this book is how
hard Kero works at making a life for herself, and how she faces adversity, and
there is lots of adversity. Also, there are magic horses. Magic. Horses. ’Nuff said.

  • Alanna: The First Adventure (Tamora Pierce)

No list of butt-kicking girls can be complete without Alanna the Lioness.
If you haven’t read this book yet, you’re missing out.
Alanna is a fantasy
novel about a girl who pretends to be a boy so that she can become a
knight (because girls aren’t allowed to be knights). It’s awesome. If you
pick it up and think it’s a little young for you (it is a middle grade book), try
the Beka Cooper series. It’s just as good but aimed at an older readers.

And that’s my list! What would you put on yours?

 

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Jul. 7th:

Viviana MacKade

Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author

Jul. 8th:

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

My Creatively Random Life

Jul. 9th:

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Jul. 10th:

Buried Under Books

Jul. 11th:

Jazzy Book Reviews

Jul. 12th:

Locks, Hooks and Books

Jul. 13th:

The Bookslayer

The Book Addict’s Reviews

Book Review: Toxic by Lydia Kang

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Title: Toxic
Author: Lydia Kang
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication date: November 6, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

Indiebound // Entangled Pubishing

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Toxic
Lydia Kang
Entangled Teen, November 2018
ISBN 978-1-64063-424-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Cyclo, the first and largest biological ship of its kind, is dying. A small crew of mercenaries have handed over the rights to their life to document the death of the ship, but the abandoned ship is anything but abandoned—one girl has been left behind.

Hana has known nothing but the isolation of a single room and the secret that has kept her there for seventeen years. When she meets Fennec, the boy assigned to watch her, she realizes that there is a world she has yet to experience but she is doomed to never meet.

When crew members begin mysteriously dying, Hana and Fenn realize that they are racing against the death of the ship to find a way to survive—unless someone kills them even before Hana’s truly had a chance to live.

I couldn’t help thinking of Kass Morgan’s The 100 when I first saw the description of this book. That’s not a bad thing as I’m a big fan of both the book series and the TV adaptation although they bear only a moderate resemblance to each other, as you might expect. At any rate, thinking of that series definitely made me want to try this and I’m very glad it did.

Imagine spending the entire nearly 17 years of your life secreted away in a 10-foot wide room from everyone except your mother on board a bioship in outer space . Logistically, that’s not as impossible as it might seem because we’re not talking about what we envision as a space vessel today; Cyclo is three kilometers wide so there’s plenty of room for hiding. Hana spends 48 to 72 hours at a time in a sleeping state so, when she wakes up one day to discover that it’s been a week since she last saw her scientist mother, she’s naturally upset and full of questions. Cyclo, usually quite willing to converse in her own way, offers no explanation other than, “Your mother is not here” and is clearly reluctant to open the door for Hana but she finally does so. Very quickly, panic begins to set in as Hana realizes Cyclo is not verbalizing as she usually does…and there are no people anywhere on board the ship. What Cyclo tells her then is the most frightening thing Hana can imagine, that her mother has abandoned her.

When Hana sees the light of a ship in the distance, approaching Cyclo, she’s sure her mother is coming back but, in fact, the ship is bringing a small crew on a suicide mission to gather data from the dying ship. The moment Hana and Fenn spot each other, not precisely a friendly meeting, everything changes for both of them.

Ms. Kang has done a wonderful job with her setting, particularly in making Cyclo seem so very real and truly vivid with her emotional colors and her ability to use her ectoplasm in so many ways. In fact, I’d have to say that Cyclo is a character just as central to the story as are Kana and Fenn. I also like that Hana is of Korean descent and that the mercenaries are all quite diverse, too. Hana’s rampant insecurities and Fenn’s roguish personality mesh well together and the author makes them, and their story, exciting and compelling. When all is said and done, this book is high on my list of favorite books read in 2018.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

About the Author

Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction. Her poetry and non-fiction have been published in JAMA, The Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Journal of General Internal Medicine, and Great Weather for Media. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband and three children.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Teeny Reviews: The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey, Home By Nightfall by Charles Finch, Powerless by Tim Washburn, The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson, and Merry Mary by Ashley Farley

The Sister PactThe Sister Pact
Stacie Ramey
Sourcebooks Fire, November 2015
ISBN 978-1-4926-2097-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Who holds your secrets?

Allie is devastated when her sister commits suicide-and it’s not just because she misses her. Allie feels betrayed. The two made a pact that they’d always be together, in life and in death, but Leah broke her promise and Allie needs to know why.

Her parents hover. Her friends try to support her. And Nick, sweet Nick, keeps calling and flirting. Their sympathy only intensifies her grief.

But the more she clings to Leah, the more secrets surface. Allie’s not sure which is more distressing: discovering the truth behind her sister’s death or facing her new reality without her.

I never had a sister and my brother and I were too far apart in age to be close when we were growing up—although that changed later in life—but I think losing a sibling through suicide must be so devastating it’s nearly impossible to recover. What an inordinate amount of pain and confusion the survivor must feel, especially as a teen! Ms. Ramey writes this story with an incredible empathy and understanding that brings it to life for teen readers but also for those of us well past those years.

A major side effect of any death is the discovery of the things you didn’t know about that person’s life and that’s the essence of Allie’s journey through all the pain and betrayal and the questions that go with any death but especially a suicide. Her trauma leads her down some dubious paths and I found myself both sad and appalled as I watched her struggle with truths she might not have wished to learn.

I’ve dealt with, and still am dealing with, a lot of grief this year and The Sister Pact has made it all just a tiny bit easier even though my “events” haven’t been due to suicide. Thank you, Ms. Ramey 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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Home By NightfallHome By Nightfall
A Charles Lenox Mystery #9
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, November 2015
ISBN 978-1-250-07041-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s London in 1876, and the whole city is abuzz with the enigmatic disappearance of a famous foreign pianist. Lenox has an eye on the matter – as a partner in a now-thriving detective agency, he’s a natural choice to investigate. Just when he’s tempted to turn his focus to it entirely, however, his grieving brother asks him to come down to Sussex, and Lenox leaves the metropolis behind for the quieter country life of his boyhood. Or so he thinks. In fact, something strange is afoot in Markethouse: small thefts, books, blankets, animals, and more alarmingly a break-in at the house of a local insurance agent. As he and his brother investigate this small accumulation of mysteries, Lenox realizes that something very strange and serious indeed may be happening, more than just local mischief. Soon, he’s racing to solve two cases at once, one in London and one in the country, before either turns deadly.

The private detective I’ve come to know and love so well is back and in fine fettle as he balances his life between the occasionally seedy world of criminal activity and the aristocratic society he and his wife, Lady Jane, are part of. In this latest adventure, Charles Lenox is pulled in two directions, intrigued by the case of a missing celebrity but also needing to help his recently widowed brother in his grief and get to the bottom of a series of odd events in his childhood home.

Charles Finch is one of a handful of authors who, quite simply, never let me down and that holds true here. Lenox is a man who believes he can make a difference in people’s lives and he has great compassion in addition to intelligence and a perceptive mind. That’s the core of a truly good detective, don’t you think?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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PowerlessPowerless
Tim Washburn
Pinnacle, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-7860-3653-0
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

Nothing Can Prepare You. . .

It strikes without warning. A massive geomagnetic solar storm that destroys every power grid in the northern hemisphere. North America is without lights, electricity, phones, and navigation systems. In one week, the human race is flung back to the Dark Ages.

Nothing Can Save You. . .

In Boulder, Colorado, weather technicians watch in horror as civilization collapses around them. Planes are falling out of the skies. Cars are dead. Pandemonium and terror grip the Northern Hemisphere. As nuclear reactors across North America face inevitable meltdowns, the U.S. President remains powerless in a heavily guarded White House. From London to Boston to Anchorage, there is no food, no water, no hope. It’s every man for himself. . .and it will only get worse.

Survival Is Everything.

Only one man–army veteran Zeke Marshall–is prepared to handle a nightmare like this. But when he tries to reunite with his family in Dallas–across a lawless terrain as deadly as any battlefield–he discovers there are worse things in life than war. And there are terrible and unthinkable things he’ll have to do to survive. . .

I really do wish this hadn’t been written in present tense because it was an annoying distraction, not an enhancement to a story premise that I usually look forward to. I enjoyed this, in spite of the choice of tense, and in spite of the hyperbole in the book’s description (only one man is prepared to handle a nightmare like this? seriously?). Zeke is a character I came to respect and like very much and the depiction of the devastation is evocative and realistic.

I’m not a particular fan of the Department of Homeland Security but I can’t help but wonder…has any author presented them in a positive light? In Powerless, as in every other thriller I’ve read that features them, incompetence and obstructionism seem to be their strong suits and, to be honest, I’m tired of it. With all their failings, I just don’t believe that this agency is so completely wrong.

All in all, while I felt this was rather simplistic in spots, lessening the tension too much, I do recommend Powerless to anyone who appreciates a good disaster novel.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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The Ark 2The Ark
Children of a Dead Earth #1
Patrick S. Tomlinson
Angry Robot, November 2015
ISBN 978-0857664846
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

Humankind has escaped a dying Earth and set out to find a new home among the stars aboard an immense generation spaceship, affectionately named the Ark. Bryan Benson is the Ark’s greatest living sports hero, enjoying retirement working as a detective in Avalon, his home module. The hours are good, the work is easy, and the perks can’t be beat.

But when a crew member goes missing, Benson is thrust into the centre of an ever-expanding web of deception, secrets, and violence that overturns everything he knows about living on the Ark and threatens everyone aboard. As the last remnants of humanity hurtle towards their salvation, Benson finds himself in a desperate race to unravel the conspiracy before a madman turns mankind’s home into its tomb.

Oh my goodness, I SO enjoyed this book! It’s got so many of the elements I look for in a good crossgenre—a nifty mystery with the ultimate locked room (can’t get any more locked room than a spaceship racing towards humanity’s hope of a new home), a man who loves his job as a detective (largely because it’s really, really easy), a dark scenario and yet some light humor and a potential end to our species. What more could a girl want?

These people have been floating around out there for something like 200 years and Mr. Tomlinson does an excellent job creating a believable but also intriguing setting which really is a character in itself. Benson is a likeable man and his detecting skills are on high alert now that he has a murder to work with. Can he solve the crime before his fellow travelers meet an untimely end? Well, yes, we know he’ll have at least some success because there’s a second book coming but his detecting is entertaining all the way.

The second book in this duology, Trident’s Forge, will be out in April 2016 and I can barely stand to wait. Time needs to move faster 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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Merry MaryMerry Mary
Ashley Farley
Leisure Time Books, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-9861672-3-2
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A young woman longing for a child stumbles upon a Christmas miracle. Investigative journalist Scottie Darden is photographing the homeless for her Lost Souls series when she makes a discovery that could change her life forever. Under a makeshift tent in subzero temperatures in a downtown city park, she finds a woman’s dead body with her infant child. Without her cell phone to call for help, Scottie makes the split-second decision to take the baby home. Her initial instinct is to provide the baby with food and shelter until her family can be located. But as her fondness for the baby grows, she finds herself facing a life on the run or worse—prison time for abduction. Curl up with Merry Mary this holiday season. A heartwarming story of the powerful connection between a caring soul and an innocent child in need.

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Farley‘s work for quite a while now but, for the first time, I have to say this one doesn’t work for me. I won’t go into a lot of detail because I think Merry Mary will appeal to others; suffice it to say I didn’t like Scottie and that’s pretty important when it comes to connecting with a story. Scottie seems to be unusually clueless and her behavior is senseless, particularly when she decides to take the baby home with her for some very thin reasons. There are also some noticeable plot holes.

At any rate, I think this is just a misstep for me personally and it certainly won’t put me off Ms. Farley‘s future books. In fact, the author is working on a full-length novel featuring Scottie and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better and, perhaps, understand her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

Book Review: Willful Child by Steven Erikson and The White Ghost by James R. Benn

Willful ChildWillful Child
Steven Erikson
Tor, November 2014
ISBN 978-0-7653-7489-9
Hardcover

Star Trek meets Futurama in this sci fi send up by Steven Erickson, author of the Malagan Book of the Fallen series. Terran Space Fleet Captain Hadrian Alan Sawback, commander of the Engage class starship Willful Child, is on a routine shake down cruise in search of smugglers. His new crew includes Chief of Security, Adjutant Lorrin Tighe; Chief Medical Officer, a Belkri called Printlip, with six arms and three legs; the beautiful and dark-skinned First Commander Halley Sin-Dour; square jawed and buff Communications Lieutenant Jimmy Eden; Chief Engineer Buck DeFrank; Combat Specialist Galk, a Varekan; and clueless Lieutenant Jocelyn Sticks, who gushes, “Like, it’s all very exciting.” Upon reviewing his crew, Captain Sawbuck “wondered if selecting certain bridge officers on the basis of their file photos was perhaps somewhat careless.”

It’s all good fun when the Willful Child embarks on a journey into Unknown Space, where the original mission is abandoned when the Captain encounters oversexed extraterrestrials, a time machine, and an artificial intelligence with gender issues. Can Captain Sawbuck, the spray tanned leader with the killer smile, save the Affiliation of Civilized Planets from an alien invasion?

Star Trek fans will appreciate the many sly references to the original series, but any science fiction readers who enjoy a large helping of humor, like Robert Asprin’s books, will find much to like about Willful Child.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2015.

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The White GhostThe White Ghost
A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery #10
James R. Benn
Soho Crime, September 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61695-511-3
Hardcover

The Billy Boyle World War II mystery series presents the reader with a double whammy:  A thoroughly researched story about the period combined with an excellent crime tale.  Until this novel, the series has concentrated on the European Theater of Operations where Billy, a Boston detective in civilian life, serves on the staff of General Eisenhower’s Supreme Command, tracing the progress of the war from North Africa through Sicily, Italy and, finally, the Normandy invasion.  For a change of pace, this novel takes Billy and his sidekick, Kaz, to the South Pacific.

The impetus for this sudden development is at the behest of Joe Kennedy, who pulls strings to have Billy investigate a murder in the Solomon Islands.  The reason for Billy’s selection derives from the fact that the body was discovered by Jack Kennedy, who was recovering after the loss of PT 109.  The Boyles and the Kennedys had a history back in Boston and the theory was that if Billy exonerated Jack as the perpetrator it would not be questioned, and if he accused the future President of murder it would be the result of a grudge.

The novel develops into more than a historical recounting or a mystery with a detailed look at the war operations in the Solomons, which were occupied by both U.S. and Japanese forces, on land, sea and in the air.  And a rousing finish with Billy and Kaz in the middle of a firefight between marines and Japanese infantry.  All the novels in the series are equally enjoyable, and The White Ghost is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, July 2015.

Book Review: Avalon by Mindee Arnett

AvalonAvalon
Mindee Arnett
Balzer + Bray, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-223559-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth—and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they’re damn good at it. Jeth doesn’t care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents’ ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he’ll go to get the freedom he’s wanted for so long.

Today’s teens must have a somewhat jaundiced view of science fiction since nearly all of the offerings in this genre in the last few years have been of the post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian subgenre. There’s nothing wrong with that—I’m a huge fan and hope it won’t dwindle away anytime soon—but it does mean that they’re not often exposed to the good oldfashioned outer space and aliens type. When I heard that Mindee Arnett (whose work i already admire) was coming out with a space opera, I was delighted.

To be honest, I don’t think this was as strong as it could have been. It struck me as a cobbling together of Artemis Fowl, Firefly/Serenity and even a little of Oliver Twist and the similarities distracted me a bit from the core story in Avalon. Please understand, I do NOT mean to imply any sort of wrongdoing on the author’s part, not at all. It’s just that I think it’s hard to come up with this kind of science fiction that will appeal to teens and, when someone does, comparisons to earlier tales such as those I mentioned are almost inevitable.

I would like to have seen more of the story take place on a planet or two to get these kids off the spaceships and I believe that would have helped round them out a bit. Still, I liked them although there were times Jeth bored me nearly to tears. Other than that, Jeth reminded me of a young Han Solo, more than willing to bend the law to get what he wants but we soon discover he might just have a streak of honor, not to mention a little concern for others besides his sister and crew.

My other concern is with pacing. I had to struggle to get through some parts that dragged including some of what I can only call educational lectures but, then, the second half of the book was filled with the boisterous action and adventure that makes for a good space opera. Ms. Arnett has a sequel planned and I’d be willing to bet these pacing issues will ease up; certainly, I’m more than willing to give it a try  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2014.

About the Author

Mindee Arnett is the author of one other book for teens,
The Nightmare Affair. She lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her
husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number
of cats. Her dream home, though, is aboard a spaceship.

Author Links:

Website  //  Twitter  //  Facebook  //  Tumblr  //  Goodreads

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Avalon Quote Graphic

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With pulse-pounding action, a captivating mystery, and even a
bit of romance, Avalon is the perfect read for hard-core
sci-fi fans and non–sci-fi fans alike.

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Amazon     iTunes

Indiebound     Books-A-Million     Google Play

Book Review: Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cryoburn
Lois McMaster Bujold

Baen Books, November 2010
ISBN 9781439133941
Hardcover

“Within the last few months,” [Miles went on,] “as the flagship facility we saw in Wing’s vid was nearing completion, WhiteChrys began collecting contracts on future customers. Not unnaturally, they targeted Solstice upper-class elderly women’s clubs. At the same time, another sales team made some limited strategic stock offerings to certain wealthy and influential Komarrans, to give the local powers-that-be a stake in the future success of their operations. I expect the two sales teams didn’t compare hit lists, nor realize that some wealthy old ladies are retired Komarran traders who can read a balance sheet to a gnat’s eyebrow.

“And one of those little old ladies looked at the two proposals before her and said, ‘This smells, but I don’t see how,’ so she took it to her beloved great-niece, who said, ‘You’re right, Auntie, this smells, but I don’t see how,’ who took the problem in turn to her devoted husband, better known as Emperor Gregor Vorbarra. Who handed it to his loyal Imperial Auditor, saying, and I quote here, ‘Here, Miles, you’re better at diving into the privy and coming up with the gold ring than anyone I know. Have a go.’ And I said, ‘Thank you, Sire,’ and took ship for Kibou-daini.”

Cryoburn, the latest installment in Lois McMaster Bujold’s brilliant Vorkosigan saga, has Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan investigating possible shady dealings in the cryonics industry on Kibou-daini, a world heretofore unexplored in the series. The story, which opens with a drugged and hallucinating Miles wandering through a warren of underground cryocombs – a storage facility holding thousands of cryonically frozen bodies – after escaping a botched kidnapping attempt, unfolds through the eyes of three narrators: Miles, his bodyguard Roic, and Jin Sato, a young Kibou boy with a personal stake in cryonics.

When I heard that Bujold was working on a new Vorkosigan novel, it was like Christmas and birthday rolled into one. It’s been a long dry spell for Vorkosigan fans; the previous installment, Diplomatic Immunity, came out in 2002, with the short story “Winterfair Gifts” in 2004. Cryoburn was thus, for me, easily the most eagerly-anticipated book of the year.

It doesn’t disappoint (not that I ever had any doubts). As is the case with several of the later installments in the Vorkosigan series, Cryoburn is essentially a mystery novel, with Miles playing the part of the intrepid detective. In some ways it’s like Komarr, in which unraveling one mystery only leads to another, more complex one – I suspect it’s not by chance that the cryocorps’ efforts to establish a foothold on Komarr are what lands the case in Miles’ lap in the first place. Pursuing a tip from Barrayar’s Komarran-born empress, Miles travels to Kibou-daini purportedly to attend a conference on cryonics. Because adventure is drawn to Miles like a moth to a flame, it’s not long before he’s the recipient of an intriguing bribe and then nearly kidnapped by the New Hope Legacy Liberators, a grassroots organization hoping to break the stranglehold the cryocorps have on Kibou society. Throw in the cover-up of botched cryo-preservations, a growing underclass forced to resort to black-market cryonics, the silencing of dissenting voices, and an extremely far-sighted attempt to conquer Komarr, and stir.

One of the aspects I enjoy most about the Vorkosigan series is the way Bujold explores advances in science that have potentially real impact on the way we live our lives – in fact, much of the science in the Vorkosigan novels deals with the nature of life itself. Uterine replicators are probably the advanced tech fans of the series are most familiar with, particularly their critical role in Miles’ early life and their effect on Barrayaran society. Bujold has also used the series to explore end-of-life issues, first in Mirror Dance with clone-brain transplants on Jackson’s Whole and Miles’ traumatic encounter with cryo-preservation, and in Cryoburn she returns to that theme, even bringing back Raven Durona (a minor character in Mirror Dance) to provide an update on the Durona Group’s life-extension research in addition to his expertise as a cryo-revival surgeon.

With Bujold, fortunately, scientific advances are not ends in themselves, but rather tools for an examination of humanity and relationships – in the case of Cryoburn, the possibility of extending life beyond current limitations or putting death on the back burner sets the stage for a couple of very poignant conversations between Miles and his clone-twin Mark about their aging father.

(It occurred to me while reading Cryoburn that it kind of tweaks the zombie trope that’s so popular these days. I don’t know if that was deliberate on Bujold’s part, but it still made me chuckle.)

As any Vorkosigan devotee knows, however, it’s not the plot that matters so much – except perhaps as it impinges directly on Barrayar – but rather the lives of the characters inhabiting the Vorkosiverse. While Cryoburn does not allow for many familiar faces to make an appearance, their presence is nonetheless felt. Bujold knows how much we care about people like Ivan and Mark and Ekaterin, and so she goes to the trouble to update us on events of the past seven years, since those in Diplomatic Immunity.

We learn, for example, that Miles and Ekaterin now have four children, and that Miles’ nickname for his eldest daughter is “Hellion” (yes, I laughed – out loud); that Gregor and Laisa have several children of their own; that Roic is courting Armsman Pym’s daughter (I’d just like to say that I called this one while reading Diplomatic Immunity; I couldn’t help thinking that those long months spent on Miles and Ekaterin’s honeymoon trip to Earth, with a side trip to the Betan Orb, might have been conducive to sparking a little romance between their respective attendants); that Ekaterin’s garden design business is doing well and that she’s in charge of terraforming projects in Vorkosigan’s District. We also learn of the final days of the brave and beautiful Taura and that – a detail that made me cry – Roic was able to be with her at the end. Mark and Kareen make an appearance (memorably, of course), and while we don’t learn the fate of the infamous bug-butter business from A Civil Campaign, it is clear that Mark is a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Alas, there’s little mention of Ivan, his mother, or Simon Illyan, but reports coming out from Bujold’s West Coast book tour indicate there’s a new book on the horizon, and that it will be Ivan-centric.

And then, finally, there is the revelation at the end of the book. Rather than spoil anyone, I’ll say only that those were probably the most dreaded and anticipated three words in the entire series, and the fact that they still came as a bombshell attests to Bujold’s extraordinary skill in creating a universe and characters I care so deeply about.

Reviewed by Laura Taylor, November 2010.

Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a copy of
Cryoburn.  This is the first printing, which includes the
highly-prized CD, and was provided by the publisher,
Baen Books, through Simon and Schuster, Inc.

Oops.  It has been pointed out to me that I failed to give a deadline for the drawing so let’s say you’ve got till the evening of November 24th.  That’s next Wednesday, folks.