Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Review: The Chimera Vector by Nathan M. Farrugia

The Fifth Column: the world’s most powerful and secretive organization. They run our militaries. They run our governments. They run our terrorist cells.

Recruited as a child, Sophia is a deniable operative for the Fifth Column. Like all operatives, Sophia’s DNA has been altered to augment her senses and her mind is splintered into programmed subsets.

On a routine mission in Iran something goes catastrophically wrong. Bugs are beginning to appear in Sophia’s programming and the mission spins out of control.

High-speed chases, gun fights, helicopter battles, immortal psychopaths, super soldiers and mutant abilities are all in the mix in this edge-of-your-seat action-packed techno-thriller.


To be honest, I wasn't sure how I felt about this one until I finished it.

For military themed anything, I should have to work a bit to keep up with the tech, weapons and action scenes which I did in this book. It's not my forte and if I have a superior grasp of those aspects of the genre then it probably wasn't done well. In this case, I appreciated the tech/action aspects were well integrated in the story. Learned a lot, well done.

In terms of the characters, my favourites were Jay and Damien mostly due to their friendship. For me, that made them the most relatable of all and I cared the most about what happened to them and didn't like it when they were separated. I also liked Denton even though he's not supposed to be likeable. He seemed to have a conscience, as much as he could at least for what he is, when it came to Jay and Damien.

I also liked the whole concept of the book (super soldiers have a soft spot with me) and I felt the direct and blunt writing style definitely complemented the action scenes, which were non-stop.

All in all, continuing with the story. Hope to connect more with Sophia and keep up with Jay and Damien.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Review: Aurora: Centralis by Amanda Bridgeman

The beginning, and end, of everything ...
After the dramatic events of the past few missions, Captain Saul Harris and Corporal Carrie Welles have found themselves on a path they never expected to be on. Carrie, more vulnerable than she's ever been, is placed under immense pressure as she becomes the most valuable asset to the UNF. Meanwhile, Harris works with the Aurora crew to keep the UNF at bay and shield her from their nemesis, Sharley, who wants her now more than anything. As events unfold, Carrie comes face to face with the truth of her father's past, while Harris is forced to confront the truth of his ancestor's. The revelations leave them reeling in shock, but not as much as when the explosive truth behind UNFASP is finally revealed.
Harris and Carrie struggle with the difficult decisions they have to make, while the Aurora team endures their toughest challenge yet. Once again they come face to face with their enemies in a showdown that will rock them to their very core and change them all forever.
For the Aurora team, Centralis, is the beginning, and end, of everything …

You know *that* book where you can just let go because you know it will both melt your heart and jam it up in your throat? Those books where you have such feels you can't see the words on the page when the only thing that matters is to continue reading?

This is one of those books.

Aurora: Centralis is fourth in Amanda Bridgeman's amazing Sci-Fi series. I enjoy the series' near-Earth story including both Earth-based action and 'local' space action including Mars and the Moon. Placing things in familiar yet futuristic places makes this story feel close to home.

For me, Centralis kept me delightfully off balance. After reading all four in a few weeks, getting to know the characters from the previous books and keeping the plot fresh helped me dive right in to this one.

I really liked how Welles' and Harris' stories run together and through each other in a way that keeps the tension high. Even during breaks in the action I felt suspense biding its time. Harris and Welles both diverge and converge and many secondary characters stand out, bringing so much depth to the main storyline.

Welles continues to face everything but she's not infallible and when she stumbles, it's real and understandable. For Harris, exploring his own gifts, we get to see him expand as a person. His own self discovery doesn't take away from his role as captain and the leader I've grown to respect.
No spoilers from me. Just to say I haven't felt so wrung out at the end of a book as I have with this one in a very long time. For me, it's one of those series that will stand out as a game changer when I think about my reading experiences.

Just plain fantastic.
I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review and requested it because I couldn't wait! I'll still buy my own on March 26th.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Review: Aurora: Darwin by Amanda Bridgeman

A distress signal on the edge of inhabited space. A mission that is far outside normal parameters. Two very different people with one common goal - survival.

When a distress signal is received from a black-ops space station on the edge of inhabited space, Captain Saul Harris of the UNF Aurora is called in from leave to respond. But the mission is not what it seems. Female members of the United National Forces have not been allowed to travel into the outer zones before, but Harris is ordered to take three new female recruits.

For Corporal Carrie Welles, one of the Aurora's new recruits, her first mission into space seems like a dream come true. Determined to achieve the success of her father before her, and suddenly thrust into a terrifying mission, she must work with her new captain and the strained Aurora crew to make it home alive.

When the Aurora arrives at the station Harris and Welles soon find themselves caught up in a desperate fight for survival. Station Darwin is not what they expected. The lights are off. But somebody is home.

Aurora: Darwin is the first in a science fiction series by Amanda Bridgeman.

I feel like I've been a fan of this series since before I read it. Book 3 Aurora: Meridian was available on Netgalley so I bought the first two to get ready for the third but instead of reading them, I put them away, then bought Meridian, tucking it away as well. That was months ago. I didn't start them until a week ago since I was waiting for the 'right time' like waiting to enjoy good chocolate, coffee, bubble bath or a really fine pen. I didn't want to finish them and be in that place where I couldn't read them again for the first time.

So with book 4 out in a few of weeks I took the plunge and devoured all three in a matter of days.

Darwin juxtaposes its two main characters, Welles and Harris, in terms of rank and gender.

The biggest challenge for Welles is the simple fact she's a woman. Her presence and that of the other two women on the Aurora is treated as a joke by the existing crew, a fact that doesn't sit well with her. I was engaged and angry for Welles since I know full well what it can be like to have to work twice as hard for half the respect. 

Wait, did Ms. Bridgeman just knock me out of my 'sci-fi females are just as bullet proof as the men so don't even think about making me imagine myself as anything less' fiction comfort zone?

Yup, she sure did.

As a forty-something woman, I realized my escapism reading allowed me to avoid the realities of many women in service everywhere, even in the fictional future. That isn't to say I don't completely enjoy immersing myself in a story in which I can imagine myself as something I'm not (it's why I read fiction, after all.) But I suddenly found myself identifying with a female lead in a whole other way. She isn't super-tough, indistinguishable from the men except for the fact her 'plumbing' is indoors and their's is outdoors. Welles is a woman and she's strong; she's a strong woman. She's great.

She also makes decisions I can identify with, doesn't accept that her best isn't good enough and won't stand for dismissal or BS from anyone. To me, she's believable and real and the heart of the story.

Captain Saul Harris is the second heart but in a very different way. As the man in charge of the Aurora, he has to be. To me, he's also a strong lead even though I connected more with Welles. I appreciated how well he could be the commander each of his soldiers needed.

I also liked the rest of the crew, Doc in particular, as he weaves between Welles' perspective and Harris'.

Aurora: Darwin combines science fiction, adventure and action through the lenses of both the bottom ranks and top ranks of Aurora's crew. As the mysteries of Darwin Station reveal themselves, Ms. Bridgeman challenges the developing bond of the crew with mystery, violence and the dark side of the UNF. I loved this great start to the series.  

Review: Down by Ally Blue

Seven thousand meters below the ocean’s surface, the crew of the BathyTech 3 mineral mining facility has found something remarkable: a rock-like sphere of unknown material and origin.

For Mo Rees, the discovery calls to his inner explorer and adds color to his dull miner’s life. Even better than the promise of new knowledge is the unexpected connection he forges with Dr. Armin Savage-Hall, leader of the team brought down to study the thing.

For Armin, the object is the find of a lifetime. It could prove his controversial theories and secure his scientific reputation. And Mo is a fascinating bonus.

Then crew members start behaving strangely. Worse, they start to change: their eyes glow purple, their teeth sharpen. Then the violence begins, the brutal deaths. As BathyTech descends deeper into chaos, the surviving crew works desperately to find the cause of the horrors around them. What they uncover could annihilate the human race. And they can’t stop it.

Down is my first Ally Blue novel and I'm now a fan. I will definitely read more.

Down takes us deep, very deep, to a place where sunlight is no more than a memory and the ocean pressure will crush a person beyond recognition. For the men and women of BathyTech, however, much more waits.

I like Armin and Mo very much, particularly together. Theirs is a story of romance under pressure.

I also really liked that in addition to excellent suspense and tension pulling me through scenes, we also see so many things only by discovering the aftermath. I found this well done particularly since in many cases the unknown action is so much more scary than if the action had been laid out. We don't know who did it or how but it was bad and frightening.

The whole sense of being trapped deep below the surface added even more delicious scariness. The author is subtle about it, which I really enjoyed. The characters don't fear living underwater, they don't fear the ocean. They come to fear the people they live with, however, and for me setting the action underwater gave a whole other layer of creepy.

Definitely recommended to anyone who likes the feel of movies like Leviathan and Event Horizon.

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