Fiction Thrillers

Deadlock by James Byrne (ARC Review)

I was psyched when Minotaur Books reached out about the second Dez Limerick novel! Last summer, I wrote this about The Gatekeeper:

This is what I like in a summer read – nonstop action, banter, entertaining main characters, over the top fighting scenes, a few laughs thrown in, and a plot that is easy enough to follow without burning all the brain cells trying to keep up. Plausible, nah, but entertaining as heck – 100%.

I can’t agree with myself more and actually found Deadlock  to be an even better read. I liked the plot more and Dez is an extremely likeable character. This book was another wild ride and just everything I want in a summer thriller!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: Deadlock
  • Series: Dez Limerick #2
  • Author: James Byrne
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, 08/08/2023
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of thrillers and action books with quirkier character elements
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

In this sequel to the highly praised The Gatekeeper, Dez Limerick, one of the best new thriller heroes returns.

Desmond Aloysius Limerick (“Dez” to his friends and close personal enemies) is a man with a shadowy past, certain useful hard-won skills, and, if one digs deep enough, a reputation as a good man to have at your back. Now retired from his previous life, Dez is just a bloke with a winning smile, a bass guitar, and bullet wounds that paint a road map of past lives.

Jaleh Swann, a business journalist hot on the trail of an auditor who was mugged and killed, lands in the hospital just one day after her Portland apartment is ransacked. When Jaleh’s sister, Raziah, reaches out to an old friend for help, Dez has no choice but to answer. The Swann sisters have been pulled into a dizzying web of cover-ups and danger. At the center lies an insidious Oregon-based tech corporation, Clockjack, which has enough money and hired guns to silence just about anyone―including this rag-tag trio. Luckily, Dez’s speciality is not just to open doors, but keep them open―and protect those working to expose Clockjack’s secrets

My thoughts:

Most of what I think can be summarized by saying: this is everything I want in a summer thriller.  Some characters from book one make guest appearances and provide some continuity to the storyline, although these can totally be read as standalones.

Between the character stories and the action things are happening nonstop.  I flew through this book and even though it’s not out until August I had wanted to check it out asap!

The stakes are high and Dez is back with his bag of tricks. He starts out just trying to protect his friend and ends up stumbling into an international conspiracy that of course, he is in a unique position to stop. With some help from MI6 and the U.S. Marshalls.  Overall it was exciting and easy to follow: AKA a perfect summer read.

It has some darker elements too as we got some history of Dez and his soldiering days.  He’s funny with this happy go lucky persona, but Byrne didn’t let us forget that the guy tends to leave a wake of corpses behind and some are innocent.

Brits trying to make sense of America (and vice versa) was another fun element. I stopped trying to we understand them too. Plus all the American carbs ha ha it’s true. Like you know while reading that it is an American author but he’s spot on sometimes.


Totally recommend for fans of action books that don’t take themselves too seriously. I learned a lot looking up words and phrases as I went so I felt like I got something educational out of it too.

The surprising end sets the tone for book three – like what! I can’t wait until hopefully next year when it comes out. I have a feeling that I’ll be reading this series for as many books as Byrne writes

Thanks for checking out my early book review of Deadlock by James Byrne. I received a free digital copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and as always, all opinions are my own ♥️

audiobooks General Posts, Non Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: Audiobook Narrators!

I don’t usually do “Top Ten Tuesday”, whether because I don’t love the prompts or because I make lists whenever I want to, which is frequently! That said though I love audiobooks and LOVE the idea of featuring my favorite narrators!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. Will Patton

My first and foremost hands down favorite narrator ever is Will Patton.  I love his voice. It is equally capable of keeping me engaged or lulling me to sleep in the most sleepless mornings.  He narrates everything from The Raven Cycle to Stephen King books, some Bukowski collections, to authors that I’ve discovered now like Charles Frazier.  I’ll listen to anything he narrates.

2. Rebecca Soler

I discovered her through every Marissa Meyer book ever, but she does a ton more YA type fantasy like the Stephanie Garber books (Caraval and OUaBH), Seafire, Melissa Albert, and more.  She forays into other genres as well and is actually super nice in person too. She was at an event here in Rochester and just seems like a lovely person.

3. Scott Brick

It’s senseless to try to list what Scott Brick narrates – everything from sci-fi to fantasy to thrillers to … The list is just insane. The thing is that I’ve never disliked anything he’s done, whether it’s Michael Crichton or James Patterson or something like Asimov’s I, Robot. The list is just immensely diverse and he’s unflappable

4.  Grover Gardner

Gardner is probably the only one I can think of that narrates more books than Scott Brick.  He’s also unflappable. I listen to a lot of history books and discovered Gardner while listening to some of Shelby Foote’s Civil War books, but he also narrates some Stephen King and some fantasy books and he’s kind of amazing. I probably like him equally as much as Brick if not more

5. George Guidall

Starting and then picking up the reins again in The Dark Tower series is George Guidall. He also narrates a ton of fantasy and thrillers and again, everything in between. Super versatile narrator who does a lot of great accents.

6. Kathleen Gati

Mostly narrating women’s fiction, she also was an absolute stunner in Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy.  I look up books read by Gati when I’m looking for lovely accents and a lot of heart

7.  Khristine Hvam

I love her fantasy readings. I don’t honestly know how much I’d like Laini Taylor or Julie Kagawa, among others, if I didn’t love Hvam’s voice so much. She does lovely and dramatic accents that make the characters come right alive

8. Stephen Fry & Jim Dale

Fry or Dale? Dale or Fry? I am team Fry. Besides his absolutely iconic reading of the Harry Potter series, Fry narrates a lot of British children’s lit and Douglas Adams,’ books too. He’s hilarious. It’s a little hard to find his HP audiobooks in the US because we are a Jim Dale nation, but to me it’s worth searching for them. I’m adding Dale here too because even though his female voices tend to grate on me, his HP readings have brought me a lot of soothe when I’ve needed it

9. Simon Vance

Vance is another super heavy hitter in the audiobook industry and I do like him quite a bit, but he’s not one of my go-to without fail narrators.  I’ve listened to SO much of his worth though like Brent Weeks, George RR Martin, Frank Herbert, Naomi Novik, Anne Rice, Stieg Larsson. It’s hard to deny that Vance is an icon too

10.  Kate Rudd

Oh, oh no, sorry Kate, I totally forgot about her until the end. She is probably up above Stephen Fry honestly. Kate narrates most of the Jeff Wheeler books and I love her deep voice and capacity for emotion.  She also reads some Charlie Holmberg, Lisa Gardner, and many other books across multiple genres.

There’s my list! Who are your favorites?

My honorable mentions could go on forever heheh maybe I’ll do a part two

Fantasy Fiction Young Adult

Clash of Fate and Fury by Rachel Menard (ARC Review)

Thanks so much to Flux for letting me read this one early, and my apologies for the late review. I was in the three star range on Game of Strength and Storm but wanted to see how the duology ended – it did not disappoint.  Part of me honestly wishes that authors would cool it with the mythology mashups and keep the tellings more traditional, but Menard puts in a lot of good YA themes and companion pets and things that I like. This was actually a vast improvement from book one and overall I do recommend the series for YA readers

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: Clash of Fate and Fury
  • Series: Labors of Gen #2
  • Author: Rachel Menard
  • Publisher & Release: North Star Editions, March 2023
  • Length: 418 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐for YA fantasy & mythology fans and for anyone interested.
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon

Seventeen-year-old Gen may have rescued her beloved father from prison, but she hasn’t saved him yet. If she fails her end of a bargain with the Olympian Empresses, they will send him right back to his cell. To keep the Empresses happy, Gen must bring them the legendary golden apples of Hesperides and the monstrous Cerberus. But both are rumored to be in the neighboring Elysium Empire, which has a long history of war with Olympia. Making matters worse, Gen’s former enemy and newly designated heir to the isle of Arcadia Castor invites herself on the journey, hoping a golden apple could end Arcadia’s reliance on Illumium for storm vials. And Castor’s twin brother, Gen’s StormMaker boyfriend Pollux, has been pulling away from Gen due to troubles stemming from her mind magic. With Castor’s pirate-thief girlfriend and Pollux’s servant companion in tow, the unlikely team embarks on its voyage. But war is only an insult away in Elysium, and more than the Emperor has their eyes on Gen’s mission. The quest has caught the attention of one of Elysium’s Oracles, and trouble is sure to brew with Prophecy on the rise.

My thoughts:

So I know I wasn’t too keen on the first book but so much improved in this one that I quite enjoyed it as a YA fantasy loosely based in Greek mythology.  It felt more like a traditional story with harrowing straits, sirens, shipwrecks, fire breathing cranky dogs and more!

The characters grew and learned some hard life lessons and I think their arcs were brought through the story really well. Everyone had to realize that their fates weren’t written in stone and that they needed a team to succeed. Gen had to accept failure and help from her book one rival, Castor.  Castor had to accept the help of the team and realize that she’s not a one woman island. I actually liked her in this book.  Pollux (and everyone really) also had to accept himself and his powers.

Adikia was a nice addition to the cast but she didn’t get a point of view. There’s the f/f relationship for those who enjoy those aspects. Overall the steam was very light but the relationships themselves were wholesome and good for the characters at the end.

If y’all can’t love yourselves for who you are, how can you expect anyone else to? I think that’s the crutch here.  The other crutch is fate and prophecy, which resulted in “the big twist” that I didn’t see coming.

There’s also a ton of action compared to book one and it’s spaced out a little more evenly. I was never bored. Book one took me three weeks to finish, and this one only about four days.  I liked the trials and the teamwork and Menard also did a better job bringing overall setting and atmosphere into the book.

The themes of family were still there too, whether it was accepting and fighting for the one you have or finding one that suits you better. Or both.  It’s ok to want these things Castor, Pollux, Gen, you guys can do it! You’re made of more than your dreams!

Overall/ TLDR:

I was sketchy on book one but I totally recommend these for teens. The content is clean and there are good themes. 4 stars overall for the duology and for bringing the duology home with a vastly improved second novel

Thanks for checking out my book review of Clash of Fate and Fury by Rachel Menard! I received a free digital early copy via the publisher through  NetGalley, and as always, all opinions are my own ♥️

General Posts, Non Reviews

Shameful Saturday: Ten Indie Books I Keep Saying I’m Going to Read Yesterday

I swear I am plugging away at my “imminent TBR” list! Also, I live for lists now. I’ve stopped buying new books while I tackle my TBR pile for real, and to be accountable, here are ten of the indie books that I’ve been saying I’m going to read forever and just haven’t gotten there yet.

As indie April comes to a close this seems appropriate. I own all ten either in hard copy or on Kindle, and it’s going to happen sooner rather than later (I hope). There’s no excuse, sorry authors!

Will all apologies again to the authors, my goal is to read 2-3 of these a month for the summer!

1) Godfrey’s Crusade by Mark Howard

I’ve been interacting with the author on Twitter for a while now and have been absolutely dying to read these. They sound amazing and he’s got a lot of knowledge going into the books!


A crusade is called to aid the Kingdom of Azgald in the distant Nordslands, and the young idealistic knight, Godfrey, does not hesitate to volunteer. Yet Godfrey soon learns that the greatest threat to the expedition’s success is not the savage clans under High Warlord Alvir and the Great Witch of the North, Nera, or the orcs and cyclopes that fight beside the clans but the rivalries between the crusaders themselves. Can Godfrey interpret the vision granted to him by the gods and unite the crusaders with his holy blade? Will his love, Madeline, be able to keep her magical powers hidden from suspicious priests and opportunistic lords? Will they be able to stop Nera and Alvir from unleashing an ancient evil upon Azgald or will Godfrey and his friends all meet a bitter end in the frigid Nordslands?

2) The Fall is All There Is by C.M. Caplan

This is a newer addition to the list but C.M. Caplan is hilarious and there’s a cyborg horse on the cover. I don’t really need anything else but the book also has some incredible reviews so far!


You never want to ruin a really good dramatic exit. When you flee home on a cyborg horse the exact second you turn eighteen, you don’t really expect to go back to the place you fled from, you know? But sometimes your old life hits you from behind.

3) Brian, Created Intelligence by AJ Pagan

This book sounds like it contains everything I love in sci-fi, including artificial intelligence and ethical conundrums. I always just seem to have something else to read and it gets bypassed, but no more! It’s also on US Kindle sale right now as of 4/22 so go grab it


Within a four foot stainless steel cube, a bodiless brain is awake, thinking, computing, knowing. Brian was created by genetic engineer Dr. Ellie Parsons, and neuroscientist Tom Marshall, at biotechnology company Dipol Inc., in San Diego, CA. Ethical questions abound as they hide Brian’s true identity from him and the world around. To Brian, he’s merely artificial intelligence, tasked with creating even more intelligent systems. To Ellie and her company, he’s a means to an end, to create true artificial intelligence using his genius and the brain computer interface attached to his only true organ. All is as well as it can be until the day a psychotic agent of DARPA, Jonathan Volt, commandeers it for use in none other than militarization. Once Ellie neurally links herself to Brian, all bets are off to ensure his safety as his entire life is literally on the table.

4) Robocopter Ski Patrol by AC Cross

I’ve liked everything I’ve read by A.C. so far and he’s also hilarious. I started this and was having fun. I don’t honestly remember what happened. A.C. would probably tell you to go read Where Blood Runs Gold instead but I already have 🤷‍♀️


Join Adam, Miss Girl from Ipanema, and a cast of idiots and perverts as they seek to stop the balance of world power from changing before it’s too late.

Also, there’s a Robocopter. Not sure if you picked that up but…it’s kind of important.

5) I’m Sorry About Tommy by Andre Pretty

This author is really acutely aware of blind person problems and I consider him a treasure! I bought this novella immediately after loving a few of his tweets and now it’s been sitting in my TBR pile 🤦‍♀️


A cabin in the woods.

A northern town after the gold rush.

A dysfunctional family torn by the sins of the past. Follow James, a Metis boy coming of age, as he learns to navigate the violent, & unforgiving world around him.

Torn between Mother & Father.

Will a brother’s love be enough to save him?

Can he escape the static pulling him into the grey place inside his head… or is he already too far gone?

6) The Engineer by Darren Handshaw

I think it’s the length that keeps putting me off of this one but NO LONGER! I said I would read it and I’m going to darn it, plus it sounds great


When the Engineer, Actaeon, arrives at Pyramid in the heart of Redemption, nothing goes according to plan. Mysterious raiders pursue him relentlessly across the shattered remains of the ancient metropolis, and the leaders of his homeland pay no heed to his ambitious ideas. Meanwhile, deep beneath Pyramid, a deadly creature stirs. And, when Actaeon meets a skilled young Knight Arbiter with brilliant blue eyes, he starts down a path he could never have imagined.

7) One Man’s Trash by Ryan Southwick

Because my horse’s name is One Womans Trash, I latched onto this book by Ryan Southwick. He had contacted me about another book to review but I wanted this one and grabbed a copy when it released.  There’s a whole series of truck stop at the center of the galaxy books that can be read as standalones


Croft Winder grew up believing that love is blind.

It wasn’t until he took his fiancée on a little vacation to the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy, however, that he learned it can also be downright insane.

Will the wonders of the Truck Stop save their relationship or send it to the executioner’s block? Not even the ancient Delphians could have guessed.

A cozy science fiction romance adventure.

8) The World of Linaria series by L.L MacRae

These books get a ton of praise and I just haven’t had time to look into them too much. They’ve been on my radar though.


If you love dragons, airships, and sky pirates, you’ll love discovering THE WORLD OF LINARIA

9) Norylska Groans by Michael R. Fletcher & Clayton W. Snyder

Ever since Dr Mauro lent me his review for GrimDarkTober I’ve been thrilled by this book. It sounds perfect


Norylska Groans…

with the weight of her crimes. In a city where winter reigns amid the fires of industry and war, soot and snow conspire to conceal centuries of death and deception.

Norylska Groans…

and the weight of a leaden sky threatens to crush her people. Katyusha Leonova, desperate to restore her family name, takes a job with Norylska’s brutal police force. To support his family, Genndy Antonov finds bloody work with a local crime syndicate.

Norylska Groans…

with the weight of her dead. As bodies fall, the two discover a foul truth hidden beneath layers of deception and violence: Come the thaw, what was buried will be revealed.

10) Why Odin Drinks by Bjørn Larssen

This just sounds funny and amazing and I’ve been meaning to get to it since it came out! I also have Children 😅


Poor Odin only just started existing and already has a Universe to decorate, a smug Tree to ignore, and two competitive brothers who think they’d make better All-Fathers. His wife, who knows the future, won’t tell him a word because of his cheating, which he hasn’t even invented yet. Horrible things such as celery, mosquitoes, Loki’s dubious sense of humour, and people keep happening at him. The esteemed egg whisk and highly regarded feather duster? Not so much. There are only two sensible things Odin can do: 1) hang from the judgy Tree for nine days with a spear through his side and 2) drink from the Well of Wisdom, whose guardian, Sir Daddy Mímir, likes one-of-a-kind gifts. In his head, Odin’s idea seems wise…

Bonus) Duckett & Dyer by GM Nair

He literally offered to come on to Sunday Brunch and give an absolutely not sarcastic at all interview, and I don’t even know what’s wrong with me but I cannot get this book read despite wanting to quite badly 🤦‍♀️


Michael Duckett is fed up with his life. His job is a drag, and his roommate and best friend of fifteen years, Stephanie Dyer, is only making him more anxious with her lazy irresponsibility. Things continue to escalate when they face the threat of imminent eviction from their palatial 5th floor walk-up and find that someone has been plastering ads all over the city for their Detective Agency.

The only problem is: Michael and Stephanie don’t have one of those.

Despite their baffling levels of incompetence, Stephanie eagerly pursues this crazy scheme and drags Michael, kicking and screaming, into the fray. Stumbling upon a web of missing people curiously linked by a sexually audacious theoretical physicist and his experiments with the fabric of space-time, the two of them find that they are way out of their depth. But unless Michael and Stephanie can put their personal issues aside and patch up the hole they tore in the multi-verse, the concept of existence itself may, ironically, cease to exist.

So that’s my list, wish me luck! What are you trying to read that just keeps getting pushed back?

General Posts, Non Reviews

In Honor of Starship: Ten Books Where Something Suffers a “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly”

Everyone loves a good old fashioned explosion. At least I do. Especially when no one is hurt.  I was pretty bummed that Starship blew up, but at the same time it was nice to see them look at the positives and they’ll be trying again for sure.

Anyway, inspired by their quasi success story, here are a list of books where something spectacularly explodes or is otherwise destroyed. For fear of spoilers I won’t say anything specific but if you are like me and love epic destruction you might want to check out these books.

In no specific order, here we go:

1) Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman91a9F5i2yQL._AC_UF1000,1000_QL80_FMwebp_

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

What blows up: A ship 🥲

2) Nova by Samuel R Delany


Given that the suns of Draco stretch almost sixteen light years from end to end, it stands to reason that the cost of transportation is the most important factor of the 32nd century. And since Illyrion is the element most needed for space travel, Lorq von Ray is plenty willing to fly through the core of a recently imploded sun in order to obtain seven tons of it. The potential for profit is so great that Lorq has little difficulty cobbling together an alluring crew that includes a gypsy musician and a moon-obsessed scholar interested in the ancient art of writing a novel. What the crew doesn’t know, though, is that Lorq’s quest is actually fueled by a private revenge so consuming that he’ll stop at nothing to achieve it

What blows up: a supernova

3) The Trials of Ashmount by John Palladino


Cedain is destined to collapse.

Across a world rife with blood, betrayal, and brutality, five people wade through unexpected tragedies.

An egotistical student, a fleeing refugee, a nomadic warrior, a fallen noble, and a criminal in hiding navigate the sinister dealings of politicians, two sudden wars, and nefarious lies that surface at Ashmount-a university dedicated to teaching the five branches of magic

What blows up: at least one building 😆

4) The Star (A Short Story) by Arthur C. Clarke

So… I don’t have a summary for this but basically a priest is having a crisis of faith and the star of Bethlehem is a supernova.  It’s a very short (like 4-5 pages) and pretty moving short story

What blows up: a supernova 

5) The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang


A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

Thanks to Imyril for reminding of me of The Poppy War!

What blows up: ummm….. Everything 😅

6) Medusa’s Child by John J. Nance


– In which a sociopathic dead scientist arranged for nuke to be put on a plane, heading to Washington D.C. Something is bound to be blown up yeah? I enjoyed this book even if it was a little long

What blows up: A Thermonuclear Bomb

7) The Empyrean by Katherine Franklin

The Empyrean by Katherine Franklin

The Empyrean is the first book in the Galaxy of Exiles series, a science-fiction space opera about a galaxy under the pall of weaponised emotions. Immerse yourself in a detailed universe of heroes, villains and more. If you like page-turning futuristic action, you’ll love this

What blows up: at least one planet 

9) Wistful Ascending by JCM Berne


A superhero space opera for grownups.

For fans of Invincible and Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

If Thor and Harry Dresden combined in a transporter accident.

The il’Drach have conquered half a galaxy behind the civilization-ending Powers of their mixed-species children.

Half-human Rohan, exhausted by a decade fighting for their Empire, has paid a secret and terrible price for his freedom

What blows up: a ship 🥲

10) Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh


A thrillingly told queer space opera about the wreckage of war, the family you find, and who you must become when every choice is stripped from you, Some Desperate Glory is award-winning author Emily Tesh’s highly anticipated debut novel.

What Blows up: I am told – “lots of things”. I haven’t read this but A Literary Escape and Welsh Book Fairy both came to Twitter to recommend this upcoming debut novel for it’s explosions, so check it out if it sounds up your alley!

Anyway – reviews for most of these books can be found on the blog if anyone is interested! Thanks for having some book fun with me today!

Science Fiction Young Adult

SPSFC2 Semifinalist Review: Dim Stars by Brian P. Rubin

As the semifinalist round of the 2023 SPSFC comes to a close, here is another full review from me. If you haven’t been following along, I’m a member of team At Boundary’s Edge and have been posting my individual reviews and scores. These opinions are mine alone and don’t reflect those of the team nor anyone else in the competition. Anyway, let’s look at the book and then you can see my 5th review out of six to come before the end of April!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: Dim Stars
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Brian P. Rubin
  • Release: Self Published, 2020
  • Length: 353 pages
  • SPSFC Rating: 7.5/10
here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Kenzie Washington, fourteen-year-old girl genius, signs up for a two-week tour as a cadet on the spaceship of her idol, Captain Dash Drake. Too bad Dash, who once saved the galaxy from the evil Forgers, is a broke loser and much less than meets the eye. But when an intergalactic evil appears and launches an attack, Dash, Kenzie, and the ship’s crew escape, making them the next target. On the run and low on gas, Dash and Kenzie encounter cannibal space-pirates, catastrophic equipment failure, and a cyborg who’s kind of a jerk. Kenzie is determined to discover the bad guys’ secret plan. But for her to succeed, Dash needs to keep his brilliant, annoying cadet from getting killed …which is a lot harder than it sounds.

My thoughts:

Dim Stars: A Novel of Outer-Space Shenanigans is full of humor and, yes,  shenanigans. There’s an octopus first mate and a 14 year old super hacker genius girl who saves the day. A pasta obsessed commander. A captain who’s kind of an idiot. A snarky robot ship doctor. These are just some of the characters you’ll meet and together they make a mildly exasperating crew.

I think Dim Stars is totally appropriate for middle grade or younger teens. I mostly found it silly but there are good themes for teens.  What do you do when your hero isn’t actually that heroic? Believe in yourself. Make the best out of, and do your best in every situation.  Be brave. I would hand this off to a middle grader for sure.

Plot wise Dim Stars definitely wasn’t slow or boring.  There’s a plot to steal planets and wreak havoc in the galaxy. There’s a cranky not-heroic-at-all captain who’s heart grows about three sizes as he admits he has responsibility to the galaxy and his crew. 

And…an octopus. I already said that but come on, there’s an octopus crew member. I love when alien biology and different races comes into the plot.  There’s a hilarious exchange where one alien thinks the octopus is a human and says they all look alike 🤣

Anyway, I don’t have a ton to say about the book but again, I like it for the recommended age group. I think he hit all the boxes for YA and am coming in at 7.5 to indicate a fairly strong book.

Thanks for checking out my book review of Dim Stars by Brian P Rubin. I found my copy through Kindle Unlimited and as always, all opinions are my own 🚀 Stay tuned for one final SPSFC2 Semifinalist Review as we wrap up this month!


Sordaneon by L.L. Stephens (Book Review)

You guys might remember that I was on a book tour for Sordaneon a few weeks ago. LL Stephens did a great Sunday Brunch Series interview for that and I hope you’ll all check it out if you haven’t yet.  I took my time reading the book itself since it’s pretty dense and honestly took me a while to get into, and now I’m finally catching up on back reviews. Let’s take a look at the book and see my thoughts finally!

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Sordaneon
  • Series: The Triempery Revelations #1
  • Author: L.L. Stephens
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2021
  • Length: 538 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for epic fantasy fans
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Secrets sheathe swords.

A fallen world is littered with the corpses of broken god-machines, and a sheltered, angry youth is destined to re-awaken their power. But to embody a god, Dorilian Sordaneon must first learn to be human…

Dorilian is blood bound to the Rill, a quasi-living artifact that spans continents and empowers a privileged few to reap the riches of an entire civilization. Unfortunately, decades after seizing control of the remaining god-machines, those privileged few aren’t willing to give up their power—even if it means destroying the human bloodline to which the Rill is tethered.

My thoughts;

This is a big book with a lot to unpack, aka perfect if you like epic fantasy.  There’s politics and godlike abilities and character arcs that will provide something for every type of fantasy fan. My initial reaction was to be turned off by all the names and places and threads at first but my advice is to use the appendix in the back and be patient: the reward is worth it!


Two unlikeable princes are the major points of view. One on either side of a political conflict. Dorilian is the main character and while I did warm to him eventually, there’s a godlike quality to his race that makes him inaccessible. He’s got a great arc that ties into that of the King of the occupational force as the books set up for the rest of the series.

As someone who doesn’t like character driven stories, my favorite part was watching Dorilian learn to be human.  The opposing king is an older guy that miraculously steps in as a father figure and tries to change the course of conflict moving forward by teaching Dorilian about family, history, civility, and so much else.

How much of Dor’s world view is true and how much is manipulation from people trying to stay in power?  One would be surprised. The other POV is Stefan, the king’s grandson, who embodies the “other side” of the political spectrum.  More of a static character than I was expecting. I’m excited to see where the two boys take their countries in the next book.

The political plots are epic, brutal, and Stephens isn’t afraid to kill off a few characters. I love all the backstabbing, plotting, and paranoia threading the pages.

The magic is there on a big epic scale too. A lot of it is done through magical objects but I also think that Stephens is leaving a few things dormant until later books, like a powerful sorcerer and the attention of a god entity.  The magic is there but this is more of a political fantasy so far.  The other interesting thing is that Stephens I think had written later books in the series first, then went back to the start to tell Dorilian’s story first.  I’m most curious to see where this goes now that the story is set.


And what a story! Vaguely so it’s not spoilery, towards the end there is one of those huge, vastly huge, events that I love in fantasy.  There’s absolute slaughter. Total mayhem. Souls screaming as they die as a tower is cracking and raining destruction.  It’s really a wonderful reward for getting through the book and I’m just so excited to keep reading on.

The only part I didn’t like was again, something that I think will be important later on in the series because it’s too big to just toss into a book like it’s nothing.  There’s a big idea of the gods creating layers of the world so that humans can live in reality. Tying into this somehow is modern day Earth – I mean are we A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court or are we an epic fantasy? Bringing “reality” into this amazing fantasy setting seemed like a terrible idea, but I’m willing to see where it goes in future books.

Overall… Yeah, I like when fantasy is actually pretty epic.  Sordaneon has a lot of background but it also has a ton of action and heartfelt moments, and my pulse was pounding by the end.  A lovely mix of political, personal, epic fantasy. Check it out for sure and don’t forget to go read the author interview too!

Thanks for checking out my book review of Sordaneon by LL Stephens. I originally won the paperback in a giveaway and as always, all opinions are my own. Support indie!

Author Interviews & Guest Posts Dystopian Fiction

Guest Post: @SaarahNina on the power of three classic dystopian books today

Hi everyone! Today I’m turning the blog over to a reviewer who has some great thoughts on three popular dystopian classics and how they are still relevant in today’s society. I personally love these books and think she has some great points. This was originally hosted on Saarah’s site, which I’ll link to at the bottom. Go check out her socials after reading!

Classics have all the power and are all the rage even now

A word after a word after a word is power.’

Margaret Atwood.

For many readers, The Handmaid’s Tale (2010) and Margaret Atwood’s creation of Gilead remains a dystopian society they still think about. It terrifies, when one thinks about the world globally, how close we are to having such a society on a smaller scale.

I would say one of the only things preventing its birth is our awareness of our rights and of the freedoms afforded to us. But this book is valuable for more than being an extremely radical, futuristic, social commentary. Even without its realism and its poignant themes – even if it were out-of-touch – this book provokes thought and discussion. The persistent question of ‘What if?’ remains at the forefront.

Some aspects of the society Atwood creates, readers will naturally recognise; women regarded as the property of their fathers, or their husbands; women not accepted in the workforce; political conversations about birth-control, surrogacy, abortion (conversations we’re still having!). Atwood introduces these and takes them to the extreme: a woman’s only purpose is to breed. Christian fundamentalism overtakes the political system – a regime introduced that kills its dissenters. Love has no place in such a repressive state, there is no room for such luxuries.

This was a book steeped in truth, sinister (but disturbingly, possible) imaginings. The Handmaid’s Tale serves as a chilling wake-up call. It has the POWER to spark debate. The ‘Historical Notes’ at the end epitomise today’s indifference. We are sometimes too cautious to pass moral judgement on policies, regimes, and attitudes. We, instead, wait for figureheads to emerge for us to rally behind. We too often pause for direction and don’t allow space for our own heroics.

Then, there’s Fahrenheit 451 which can be described as quietly radical when all it really advocates is a more conscious existence. Ray Bradbury would not approve of technology’s strong grip on us: mindless scrolling, and that for some of us it replaces real life, social interactions. Censorship and the propagation of radical ideas entering into the mainstream and being forced into people’s consciousness – that would be for many people, a scary experience. In Fahrenheit 451, all books are burned by firemen who start the fires rather than take them out. Ideas aren’t wanted, and television has everyone’s attention.

“We’ll pass the books on to our children, by word of mouth, and let our children wait, in turn, on the other people. A lot will be lost that way, of course. But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them. It can’t last.”

[Fahrenheit 451]

The book is creative and imaginative. It has intense power in that it presents what could potentially be a real-world crisis. The simple idea that in the pursuit of not causing offence, or really any kind of feeling, we go too far in the other direction: indifference. The television and how it was described by Bradbury is something that is memorable and genius. And the suppression of ideas, taken to the extreme, would certainly make for a feared reality. Fahrenheit 451 is a brilliantly thought-provoking story, that can be a true force for progress when it comes to one’s personal use of technology. A lot of people are heavily immersed in tech, discussing it, innovating it, dedicating their time to it and, consequently, neglect their real worlds. Fahrenheit 451 forces the reader to self-reflect and to open oneself to feeling rather than emotionless numbness. Ignorance or defeat is not an option.

It’s on this last note that The Giver by Lois Lowry (1994) captures the reader’s imagination. Lowry creates a utopian world in which people shut off feelings and have their collective memories wiped. Everyone except a young boy, the elected Receiver of Memory. The Giver gives away his memories to the boy, memories of things which no longer exist. The good and the darker: devastating horrors and painful stories. Everyone else lives in blissful ignorance and conformity: they don’t store memories or open themselves to feelings. Their worlds have no colour, no sharpness and are devoid of pain and the guilt which comes from actions such as infant euthanasia; the people merely exist. The Receiver of Memory takes the moral responsibility and is the one who guides them based on all his knowledge. All the while he lives a solitary existence, he can’t speak of the memories because the people would not understand.

The power of the story is in how Lowry masterfully wrote a story that we can all understand: the young generation inherits their parents and grandparents’ memories and stories. They live with their parents and grandparents’ mistakes, failures and defeats. Historians, law makers, prosecutors and world leaders, each inherit a part of the world’s story, while the masses can live and forget.

Ultimately, these books are among those which spark discussion and seek to open our eyes. They demand attention, they ask that we change our ways. That we become revolutionaries when the time comes. From Margaret Atwood and Ray Bradbury’s dystopia and Lois Lowry’s creation of a seemingly perfect world, we can understand how powerful literature is.

Written by recognised book reviewer, Saarah Nisaa.

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Science Fiction

Nova by Samuel R. Delany (and what I miss about classic sci-fi )

I am having the hardest time writing about Nova. There’s so much packed into this little book.  You know what I really miss about classic sci-fi books compared to modern ones? The size! These authors could pack an entire world into 200 pages and leave a reader full of adventures and ideas.  Now I feel like books are just getting longer and longer for the same reward. Which do you prefer?

Anyway, let’s look at Nova‘s original book facts and I’ll try to keep it brief since I’m writing a review, not a scholarly article. We will also play a game of favorite cover edition

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Nova
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Samuel R. Delany
  • Release: 1968
  • Pages: 241
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for space opera & classic sci-fi fans
Here’s the blurb:

Given that the suns of Draco stretch almost sixteen light years from end to end, it stands to reason that the cost of transportation is the most important factor of the 32nd century. And since Illyrion is the element most needed for space travel, Lorq von Ray is plenty willing to fly through the core of a recently imploded sun in order to obtain seven tons of it. The potential for profit is so great that Lorq has little difficulty cobbling together an alluring crew that includes a gypsy musician and a moon-obsessed scholar interested in the ancient art of writing a novel. What the crew doesn’t know, though, is that Lorq’s quest is actually fueled by a private revenge so consuming that he’ll stop at nothing to achieve it. In the grandest manner of speculative fiction, Nova is a wise and witty classic that casts a fascinating new light on some of humanity’s oldest truths and enduring myths.

My thoughts:

Okay. Samuel R. Delany always interested me as an author and person.  He wrote everything from scifi to fantasy to pornography, won a ton of SF awards, taught and lived all over the place including here near Buffalo for a bit, and is black. He was only I think 25 when Nova was released and is frequently listed by others as an influencial author. Overall I just think his biography is fascinating and it’s about time I read more of his work.

Nova is a space opera at heart.  A crew of mismatched people from all over the known world’s form up to help a famous and slightly crazed captain complete his quest.  He ties in Grail and Tarot myths, class and race, economics, history, rivalry, art, found family, ship pets, and much more, packing an adventure into a fully formed world … In well under 300 pages.

Seeing things from Mouse’s point of view we get the story through the eyes of a poor gypsy type with no formal education. Katin is a middle class guy with education who is on the search for something to write a novel about. Lorq von Ray, the captain, is rich and privileged from one of the most prominent family lines in the galaxy and absolutely hell bent on outrunning his own rage.  All three offer different viewpoints on the events as the story rolls on so that we understand how things effect different classes in different parts of known worlds.

The book is pretty funny too.  Among the more serious aspects, two crew members have “waddling along, malevolent and happy” pets that the captain threatens to shoot out the airlock if ever trips over them🤣.  Katin self describes as “a bright guy with a lot to say and nothing to say it about”.  There will be laughs, I promise.

I don’t want to go too deeply into themes since I’m not writing a scholarly article but a few are pretty interesting.  The nova itself – sensory overload as a form of destruction – is a theme that runs throughout.  So is the affect of large scale economics and events on small pockets of individuals.  Language is used thematically to show class and solidarity, where Delany translates a Turkish or Greek syntax word for word to demonstrate when people are speaking it, and uses a normal English to show when they’re speaking the accepted or higher class lingo.

My favorite part was this long running feud between von Ray and Prince Red. It started long before their time and was rekindled because, well, Prince is a psychopath.  Lorq says this wonderful bit about outrunning his rage and taking everything his antagonist wants, regardless of the cost. Both men are off the wall with jealousy over Ruby (of course there’s a woman) and rival family operations (fuel, transportation, cybernetics).

Oh….yeah, and pretty much everyone is a cyborg that can plug into spaceships and other things.

I’m only scratching the surface here and I think you all can see how much is actually going on in this book. All while they’re flying in an insane quest towards a supernova.  If you’ve read it, let me know your thoughts!

P.S. I did sample the audiobook but I’ll be honest that Stefan Rudnicki isn’t my favorite narrator. He narrates a TON of classic sci-fi and it’s hard because I have to slow him way down, and when a book is this full of ideas I prefer to read it.  Anyway, thanks so much for checking out my book review and thoughts on Nova by Samuel R. Delany. This one came off my shelves and as always, all opinions are my own.

Alright, this book also has 5 billion different covers so I picked a few select random ones – which do you prefer?

Crime Fiction Suspense Thrillers

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs (Book Thoughts)

The weather is getting warmer which means I’m breaking out the old school police procedurals and forensic files types of books.  I’m also passing on these books once I read them so I’m targeting the beaten up old paperbacks.

I love Kathy Reichs because she’s essentially writing a fictionalized version of herself and she writes what she knows – bones and forensics.

I love how much she loves Montreal. I do wish she would back off on street names and locations because unless someone is familiar with the city (yay, I am) I think it could be a turn off.  For me, I love picturing where we are going and all the old buildings, touristy areas, china town, etc.  There are lots of fond memories in Montreal and I enjoy the setting.

Anyway, it’s hard to go wrong with Bones. I liked the show. I like Reichs’ writing style. It’s easy to digest and while her scientific explanations occasionally make my eyes glaze over, I enjoy learning a thing or two and seeing the team solve the case. Brennan tries hard not to get emotionally involved but she feels deeply for the injustices done to the girls and women in her case. She also has this ping pong style of thinking that I can relate to.

Monday Mourning, like all of the Brennan books, can 100% be read as a standalone but when you read them in order you get the full picture of Tempe’s life.  There’s a despicable series of crimes here to be solved that start with three skeletons in a pizza parlor’s basement and end with danger to everyone involved.  Brennan is on the case with the Montreal detectives and it’s a book that I can read for an hour or two before bed and enjoy trying to solve the case with them. 

This ending I didn’t see coming at all. The book is exciting and fairly fast paced and there’s plenty of personal things for Tempe to deal with too. I’m a fan of this series and hope to make the time to read more of them this summer!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: Monday Mourning
  • Series: Temperance Brennan #7 (reads as standalone)
  • Author: Kathy Reichs
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, 2004
  • Length: 383 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ For fans of the genre
Here’s the synopsis:

Internationally acclaimed forensic anthropologist and New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs explores the Stockholm syndrome—the psychology of a captive submitting to the ideology of a captor—in this mesmerizing new thriller.

Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist for both North Carolina and Quebec, has come from Charlotte to Montreal during the bleak days of December to testify as an expert witness at a murder trial.

She should be going over her notes, but instead she’s digging in the basement of a pizza parlor. Not fun. Freezing cold. Crawling rats. And now, the skeletonized remains of three young women. How did they get there? When did they die?

Homicide detective Luc Claudel, never Tempe’s greatest fan, believes the bones are historic. Not his case, not his concern. The pizza parlor owner found nineteenth-century buttons in the cellar with the skeletons. Claudel takes them as an indicator of the bones’ antiquity.

But something doesn’t make sense. Tempe examines the bones in her lab and establishes approximate age with Carbon-14. Further study of tooth enamel tells her where the women were born. If she’s right, Claudel has three recent murders on his hands. Definitely his case.

Detective Andrew Ryan, meanwhile, is acting mysteriously. What are those private phone calls he takes in the other room, and why does he suddenly disappear just when Tempe is beginning to hope he might be a permanent part of her life? Looks like more lonely nights for Tempe and Birdie, her cat.

As Tempe searches for answers in both her personal and professional lives, she finds herself drawn deep into a web of evil from which there may be no escape. Women have disappeared, never to return…Tempe may be next.

Thanks for checking out my book review of Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs. This one comes off of my own shelves and as always, all opinions are my own ♥️