Saturday, 27 September 2014

Indie Pick: The Helavite War by Theresa Snyder

Jake is a human mercenary looking for a quiet place to rest, when his Protect Dar-dolf attacks the last living Henu, Arr. Feeling responsible, Jake stays on to care for Arr, as the alien with deep blue cat eyes and unusual abilities recovers.

Jake, who is almost twice Arr's age, takes on the role of teacher, mentor, father, and lost brother for his new alien friend. He and Arr experience adventures dealing with the Hydra, a race of lizard-like creatures who kidnap members of other species to sell on the black market as slaves; battle the Narnon on Gligula where Tuldavian Swamp Lizards lay their traps just below the surface of the slime; endure the incredible cold of the Ice Planet; dodge the Drifits of Nulian; and meet several old friends, as well as making new ones. During these travels their appreciation of each others rare abilities leads to a deep and enduring bound which will only grow stronger throughout their lifetimes.

Ultimately, they must face their toughest foe, the Helavites, a species which has been preying on the weaker beings in the universe for generations. In the underground catacombs of these beetle-like creatures a mystery is solved and the grounds for the resurrection of an old world are laid.

At the beginning of month, I put a request out on my Facebook author page for an Indie book to feature on this blog for September. The only stipulations were it be Science Fiction or Fantasy, be Indie and the author provide the link. In the end my daughter picked one to read with me and I used to pick one for West Coast Book Reviews.

That's how I found Theresa Snyder and The Helavite War.

I liked the old-school video game look of the cover. I remember pushing quarters into arcade games with the same feel, picturing myself in space and doing good for the galaxy. To me, each sun on the blue background promises an adventure and I'm pleased I got exactly that.

The Helavite War is the first in a series of six young adult Sci-Fi novels, the Star Traveler Series, which starts with the destruction of the Henu at the hands of the Others. Arr, a child at the time, and his brother were the only survivors. When Arr's brother dies, he's left alone. The only surviving Henu.

That is, until Jake and his dar-dolf arrive looking for a little peace and quiet.

I loved how the relationship between Jake and Arr grows and takes shape. Both are honest, good men who each find something they need in the other. Both make mistakes, both learn and they become inseparable friends. It's an amazing buddy story like Buzz and Woody from Toy Story and Steve and Sarah in Jeffery M. Poole's The Prophecy. They are great companions first and foremost and I really felt the strain when they weren't together.

This book also has plenty of action. As a mercenary, Jake takes on jobs for pay from routing invaders to babysitting industrial operations and recovering kidnapping victims. Each little adventure they take builds on the whole and gives us hints of the Helavites, who take what they want from planets and destroy everything in their way. We get to see different planets and peoples to get a good feel for the galaxy Snyder builds.

If you're looking for some great space adventure, unique characters and to find out who loves the Raspberry Goo Chews more than anyone, strap in and take The Helavite War for a ride.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Review: Yours to Desire by Denise Rossetti

A man more potent than any drug.

It's 2202 and on board ES Siren, the brilliant Doctor Lily Kwan has worked in secret to develop an antidote for the aphrodisiac rape drug, sexmeth.

She'd be overjoyed if it wasn't for an embarrassing problem: the antidote has no effect on her extraordinary reaction to Connor Madison, the Siren's tough quartermaster. Scientifically, it should be impossible, but the man's a raging fever in her blood. If a single dark glance sets Lily on fire, a kiss might kill her dead – but what a way to go!

A former gang rat from the slums of a dying world, Con came up the hard way, so when geeky Doctor Kwan tops his hit list of possible drug runners, nothing's going to save her—not her family's money, nor her clever mind.

Not even the smile in her eyes.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

This is the third in the ES Siren series which also includes Yours to Uncover by Mel Teshco and Yours to Command by Shona Husk.

This one is a little different in that the hero, Connor Maddison, isn't a prisoner set to serve out his sentence doing hard labour on Solitaire, their destination. He's the quartermaster. He's also rough where the heroes in the first two seemed to be regular guys who were either coerced or chose to be prisoners.

This one turned into a very sweet love story and if anyone is wondering (since I've been clear how much I dislike Zane Andrews) I couldn't have imagined a better ending for him.

There is still six months to go before they reach Solitaire so I hope there are more to the series. I'll stay tuned...

Review: Timefall by James Kahn

It has been years since Joshua the Scribe, Lon the Vampire, Jasmine the Neuroman, and Beauty the Centaur journeyed to save their lost families from the strange Queen in the City With No Name. And as time went on, they were visited by ghosts of themselves, sometimes aiding in their quest and sometimes just a haunting presence. But were they really ghosts? Or were they simply incarnations of their own souls, visiting from another time to learn from them as well as to teach and to save their own world from the imminent destruction of the Timefall? In this climactic denouement to the dystopian future envisioned in World Enough, and Time and Time's Dark Laughter, the first two books in this trilogy, a new Joshua and friends fall through a complex weave of time tunnels, landing in the terrain of the first adventures. But to their dismay, they discover that the fates of both times are interdependent, and the new world's Joshua must enlist forces from the old to save the whole tipping universe from extinction.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

After requesting Timefall from Netgalley, I bought and read the first two in the series; World Enough, and Time and Time's Dark Laughter. With the exception of the last two pages which threw me into something unexpected, I thoroughly enjoyed both.

I wasn't disappointed with Timefall. It starts with the discovery of a very ancient skull and an expedition to learn more about its origins. Joshua and his friends find hidden civilizations and fight to prevent the end of everything by the end of time itself. Lots of action and so many themes from the first two books echo through this one.

I also enjoy Kahn's prose. As I found in Incarnate his pacing and choice of words lure you in so when the action comes, it feels like you've passed through something solid. Even in contemporary settings, there is a sense of the fantasy. I was concerned that since Timefall is set in the current day there would be a big sense of disconnect from the previous novels. For me, there wasn't. I loved the moments of recognition of characters and events echoed from the previous books.

I'm not certain of the science of time as presented in Timefall, it's not my specialty, but since the characters believed it and it was presented so simply and plausibly, I was able to follow.

Had I read this series when it was first printed, I would have been glad to pick it up as a re-read as I have with so many other great science fiction and fantasy series from my past, rediscovering it. The experience would have been very different for me then, than it is now. Joshua, Lon and Jasmine would be understood differently and for me they would have been different people then. Much like the Joshua, Lon and Jasmine in Timefall are fundamentally similar to their doppelgängers in World Enough, and Time and Time's Dark Laughter.

Thank you to Netgalley and Dover Publications for the opportunity to read this book.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Review: Yours to Command by Shona Husk

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

He would do anything to protect her, if only she'd let him. 

Corporal Sienna Jade wasn't given a choice about joining the mission to Unity. Seen as a troublemaker after reporting an assault by a senior officer, the army wanted her gone. Sienna resents the army for assigning her to Earth Ship Siren, and suspects the fleet's Unity mission will fail. But others would do anything to escape Earth ...

Alex Tariel knew his only chance to get a place on ES Siren was as a prisoner, so he stole water rations. As a former construction foreman, his skills make him a valuable prisoner on board, but still a prisoner unable to control his own life. Instead of keeping his head down, he gets involved in the fights set up for gambling privilege tokens, the only currency aboard ship among the prisoners. 

Getting patched up by Corporal Jade might be the best thing that's happened to Alex on the trip so far, but becoming her ship husband puts him between her and the lieutenant who tried to kill her for kicks on Earth. While Sienna tries to keep control of her feelings for Alex, Alex would do anything to protect her, if only she'd let him. 

As ES Siren faces its first crisis, a little trust and love goes a long way.

This is the second in the ES Siren Series which also includes Yours to Uncover by Mel Teshco and Yours to Desire by Denise Rossetti. All three authors, including Husk have a long list of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Romance to their credits.

I've also found their writing in this series felt very similar and I didn't get the sense I was introducing myself to three new authors. I'm very glad I met them and will read more from all three.

Since these are all novella's, in the first book the world building was sufficient for the length but in reading Yours to Commandthere was not only more time for the world to grow on me but for it to build. I liked experience life on the ship through other sets of eyes and also got a better sense of life back on Earth for the same reason.

My main irk with Yours to Uncover was Zane Andrews, the bad lieutenant and he is certainly present though he doesn't bother me as much as he did. He bothered me in the first book because he was well done, creepy and very deserving of my dislike. As an antagonist, he's second to none.

Andrews is back in this one, up to his usual and yes, please keep hating him =)

I recommend this series.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Review: Shatterwing by Donna Maree Hanson

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison's best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

This is a difficult review for me as I'm rather torn about this story and it's hard to say exactly why without dumping in a pile of spoilers but I will try.

Overall, for me this is a 3.5 star read meaning I rate it higher than "I like it" but some plot design choices kept me from saying "I loved it." That said, the author's website says the next instalment will be out as early as October so I hope all the loose ends will come together soon.

First, I'm a fan of dragons. All kinds; shifter dragons, pet dragons, smiling animated dragons and even the hungry, fire breathing, world dominating dragons in Shatterwing.

I liked the world Hanson built from the magic astronomy of the Skywatchers to the plain old down to earth gardening (I typed dragoning probably because of how dangerous it is growing grapes a hair's breadth away from a dragon colony. Then I had to correct it).

I also liked how magical learning is something that can be passed down and am intrigued by the folks who lived under the earth. So many unique components were put together in this story and caught my attention.

My challenge with Shatterwing lies in the fact that most of the story wasn't resolved. All the players are in place... and then the massive cliffhanger. I know if I wasn't enjoying the book so much, the cliffhanger wouldn't have had me yelp when I realized I was on the last page. I get it, I understand it, and wow, for a cliffhanger to sting me like that means I was into the book.

Did I mention the next instalment next month? I'll be there.

One point I would have loved to read more about in Shatterwing without waiting for Skywatcher is Salinda and Brill, setup in the teaser/blurb seem to disappear entirely half way through the book. I would have liked to see that part of the storyline carried a little further.

Overall, yes I liked Shatterwing and will move on to book 2.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review: Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Aliens have landed in New York. 

A deadly cloud of spores has already infected and killed the inhabitants of two worlds. Now that plague is heading for Earth, and threatens humans and aliens alike. Can either species be trusted to find the cure?

Geneticist Marianne Jenner is immersed in the desperate race to save humanity, yet her family is tearing itself apart. Siblings Elizabeth and Ryan are strident isolationists who agree only that an alien conspiracy is in play. Marianne’s youngest, Noah, is a loner addicted to a drug that constantly changes his identity. But between the four Jenners, the course of human history will be forever altered. 

Earth’s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent human extinction—and not everyone is willing to wait.

I really enjoyed this novel by Nancy Kress. Shortly after starting it, I found myself so taken with it that I looked to see if she had written anything else. I must have been living under a rock! She has so much more I want to read. *super happy reader*

Though a short novel, Yesterday's Kin immersed me. Mainly because the human reactions to the Deneb's arrival are all too plausible. I can all too easily see the paths of isolationism and mob mentality as reactions because there are so much of those things already. Existing solationism fuels xenophobia, particularly in the New Yorkers who live with the Deneb ship overhead. This theme also serves to divide Marianne's family as they come to terms with the Deneb's arrival and what it means for them and humanity.

I also very much liked Marianne, struggling so much balancing work and family. Although her children have grown into adult lives of their own and she has time to devote to (or hide in) her career she doesn't let go of the need to look after them.

I felt the novel could have been longer as there were some things I found abbreviated or touched on particularly with the Denebs. I wanted to understand them better. We only see them from the point of view of Marianne and her children.

I definitely recommend this book!