Categories
Fantasy

Obsidian (ARC Review) by Sarah J Daley

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the free early digital copy of Obsidian by Sarah J Daley! All opinions are my own!

This is an adult (18+) fantasy novel set on a vaguely Italian feeling island; it is rich in world building and magic.  I read it fairly quickly and even though it can read as a standalone I definitely hope a second book is on the way

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Obsidian
  • Series: N/A?
  • Author: Sarah J Daley
  • Publisher & Release:  Angry Robot, 01/25/22
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of adult sword & sorcery fantasy

Here is the synopsis:

Shade Nox is the only witch in a land of wizards – a fiend, a rogue, a wanted criminal.

Defying those who think her an abomination, Shade wears her tattoos openly and carries obsidian blades at her hips. For years, she has protected the outcast clans who wander the blighted Wastes, but the land is growing more unstable and her blades are no longer enough.

To save her people, Shade vows to raise a Veil of protection – a feat not accomplished in over a hundred years. But the magical Veils are said to belong to the Brotherhood church; if she succeeds in raising one, it will expose their lies. They swear to see her obliterated first.

Treading a dangerous path where allies can be as deceitful as enemies, and where demons lurk in the shadows, Shade chases a vision which could lead to her people’s salvation… or her own destruction.

There is definitely a lot to unpack with this book and for my current purposes I am assuming it’s a standalone

Let’s talk about the world building first:  if this is a standalone I think it had a perfect amount of world building.  Daley went pretty deep into the history of  Malavita.  She told us what we need to know about the war between the native peoples, the history of magic use, and how certain rituals were learned and eventually corrupted.  I really appreciated this storyline.

On a micro level she also did a great job describing the mood of various areas, the culture in different small groups, food and drink, weather and architecture.

I liked that small things were included like a character’s ambivalence toward cats, because they were susceptible to the blighted magic.

What I wanted more of: the Brotherhood’s history and how the religion developed widely enough that the four faces, the hidden, and the wild are consistent across the island.

As part of the setting and atmosphere, I did feel like the tone for each area was set with lush descriptions, temperature, sights and smells, and these things were consistent.  My favorite area was the glass fields.

For all of that, the book maintains a fast pace with plenty of action too.

Character wise: The main character is Shade Nox, a blood magic user who wields obsidian blades. She reminded me a lot of Mia Corvere because she takes crap from no one and is terrified of horses.  She is able to touch a hidden element of magic.  Apparently it is not normal in this world for women to be magic users or have the tattoos so Shade was an anomaly, ostracized, and wanted for various crimes.  She was bad ass and super powerful but also vulnerable, and had a tendency to fall in love with and/or seduce like … everyone she is in intimate proximity with.

This created a weird dynamic at the end of the book and all felt very unnecessary, but it’s adult fantasy and properly advertised as such, so characters can do what they want.   

The other main character is Raiden, who was stuck somewhere between duty and having a good heart and I liked him a lot.  He definitely had some innate unnatural ability but it was never explored, just hinted at, so I definitely needed more of that and docked a star for it.  That said, that’s where I wonder if there will be a sequel.

The other characters are numerous but each contributes something meaningful.  Many have interesting stories, abilities, and snark for days.

The magic system: there’s an interesting back story for the magic.  Veils are used to protect cities from the wild and corrupted magic of the wastes, and obviously there are corrupt people too, almost like a magical mafia of priests and mages that tax and tithe the people into poverty

The blood wizards (and witch) use blades of different gemstones and materials to designate how powerful they are. Tattoo magic is also incorporated as they serve as healing wards after the mage has performed blood magic. I definitely think the magic was the book’s strongest element – it tended to be over the top at times but who doesn’t love a grandiose display of elemental magic?

I feel like I did a lot of summary so here are my thoughts: The magic, characters, history, and world building all tie together and make this an enjoyable read. These story elements combine for a consistent feel where I can understand the character’s motivations and root for them within the world. It moved along quickly.  I like the theme of women defying social boundaries (tattoos, clothing choices, etc), and love that ink is making it’s way into fantasy more now.

One totally random stylistic thing that I absolutely loved was that Daley used a pretty wide range of vocab words like ‘hummocky’ and ‘cerestory’, so I was able to learn something while reading!

Overall I definitely recommend this one for fans of adult fantasy with big magic and big personality!

Lastly: the author is doing a Sunday Brunch interview which should feature at the end of the month!

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal

Forging A Nightmare (Book Review) by Patricia A Jackson

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the finished copy of Forging a Nightmare, and for the opportunity to interview the author for the book’s tour! All thoughts are my own

This is my book review post though and I want to focus on the book itself, although the interview can be found at https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/11/28/4884/ for those interested!!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Forging a Nightmare
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Patricia A. Jackson
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, November 2021
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of horse centric and urban fantasy, those interested in supporting BiPoc authors!

Here is the synopsis: 

FBI agent Michael Childs is tasked with tracking down a serial killer with an obsession for victims born with twelve fingers and toes. But he discovers something much more startling about himself…

The only link between a series of grisly murders in New York City is that the victims were all born with twelve fingers and twelve toes. These people are known in occult circles as the Nephilim, a forsaken people, descendants of fallen angels.

After a break in the case leads to supposedly killed-in-action Marine sniper Anaba Raines, Michael finds the soldier alive and well, but shockingly no longer human. Michael then discovers that he is also a Nephilim, and next on the killer’s list.

Everything Michael once thought of as myth and magic starts to blur the lines of his reality, forcing him to accept a new fate to save the innocent, or die trying.

There is a lot to unpack in this book! Let’s start with the lore and world building.  Jackson begins in modern day Earth, where a body is found desecrated by symbols and the FBI is called in to investigate.  From there she spins a story of angels both risen and fallen, biblical lore, tieing in other mythology, that takes the reader on a literal horseback ride from Hell to Heaven and everywhere in between.

I felt like I missed some of the significance of the lore since it had a very academic feel to it at times but I did truly enjoy the journey.  The four horsemen of the apocalypse’s story was brought to life and they were definitely my favorite characters as well.

You want snark, strong women, diverse casts, a little romance and a little heartbreak, and more snark to boot, these are good characters for you.  I think I liked Wyrmwood the most, also it was cool to meet the other angels of lore.

Let’s talk about the horses – Anaba is a marine, and from what I can tell human souls are taken and tortured, forged to become Nightmares.  These demonic mounts will do anything for their riders and had a quite interesting storyline too.  I think I might have been sobbing when Anaba rode a character to heaven, then turned around and ran back to hell.  I liked the Marine character too, it translated well into tbe role she played.  There was a lot of other horse centric material too that I enjoyed, including Michael (the main character) as a jouster.

There are a few things worth mentioning though about why I docked a star.  It was hard to tell how much time was passing as events unfolded.  There were so many major battles, life and death scrapes, and I lost track of how many times Michael died or nearly died. It lessened the punch and for a book that felt like it spanned years… I think it was a few weeks, max.  It took a bit to get the story rolling too and was pretty disjointed at first, although it definitely smoothed out.

I should talk a little more about the magic and other characters too! I liked the abilities of the horsemen and their nightmares.  The book was also seriously funny at times, like when Michael tamed the Leviathan and named it Harvey.  Tiamat, Loki, Lilith, and others make appearances too.  Additionally, the author isn’t afraid to make you cry!  I think my favorite part, other than the lore and horses, was the wide emotional range of the book.

Pardon my jumbled thoughts but as I said, a lot to unpack.  I hope you guys will check out the book if it sounds up your alley!  All Angry Robot books can be purchased directly from their website now too!

Categories
Adventure Fantasy

Spidertouch (Book Tour & Review) by Alex Thomson

I am happy to be joining in the Angry Robot book tour for Spidertouch by Alex Thomson!  This is a fantasy novel, where there isn’t magic but a non human race.  It’s one of those cool genre-bending books that encompasses suspense, subterfuge, adventure, some military and siege tactics, and other things.  As in – I would recommend it to people who don’t necessarily read fantasy.

This book is a linguistics lover’s dream, with plenty of action, trickery, and world building to keep it interesting.

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Spidertouch
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Alex Thomson
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 12/14/21
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes for anyone interested!

Here is the blurb:

Enslaved by a mute-race of cruel dictators, Razvan learns their touch-language and works as a translator in order to survive. But war is on the horizon and his quiet life is about to get noisy…

When he was a boy, Razvan trained as a translator for the hated Keda, the mute enslavers of his city, Val Kedic. They are a cruel race who are quick to anger. They keep a tight hold on the citizens of Val Kedic by forcing their children to be sent to work in the dangerous mines of the city from the age of eleven until eighteen. By learning fingerspeak – the Keda’s touch language – Razvan was able to avoid such a punishment for himself and live a life outside the harsh climate of the slums. But the same could not be said for his son…

Now a man, Razvan has etched out a quiet life for himself as an interpreter for the Keda court. He does not enjoy his work, but keeps his head down to protect his son, held hostage in the Keda’s mines. The Keda reward any parental misdemeanors with extra lashings for their children. Now the city is under siege by a new army who are perhaps even more cruel than their current enslavers. At the same time, a mysterious rebellion force has reached out to Razvan with a plan to utilize the incoming attack to defeat the Keda once and for all. Razvan must decide which side to fight on, who can be trusted, and what truly deserves to be saved.

41 year old Razvan is a translator for the Keda, an alien-ish race that took over the city hundreds of years ago and keeps the humans in subjugation by keeping the children as slaves. The problem is that the Keda only speak through a finger tapping type of touch language, so a handful of humans must act as translators.

When the city is sieged by a war ready people, it’s up to Razvan and the translators to decide if it’s a good time for civil war. I liked the theme of “What do people fight and risk themselves for?”  Money, children, power?  I liked the military and siege tactics too, nothing like hurling plague-ridden corpses over the city wall.

I loved the slightly older, less than heroic main character.  Razvan was not a leader, adventurer, or known hero – but a fisherman’s son turned translator.  The first half of the book was mostly his quiet observations on society, language, and the struggles of the populace.  Little bits of mettle kept showing through, more and more, until he finally stepped up when needed and did what he had to against the Keda.  I think they called it “linguistic subterfuge” and it was interesting, plus he wasn’t beyond a little bit of murder.  At the end of the day though Razvan was tripping over corpses rather than slaying them, aka not heroic, but he was very likeable 🤣

The language nuances were interesting, it made one think about how touch and translation are perceived. For a book that took place in one city there was a perfect level of micro world building.  The markets, the slums, food and drink, the increasing level of desperation as people starved….

The siege had a lot of good scenes too, for a generally quieter novel, Thomson turned up the heat at times.

The social structure was well thought out too, with three branches of Keda and a hierarchy among the humans as well.  The thing that drove me crazy, and I docked a star for it, was that since the Keda didn’t apparently have genders, the author used an “x” instead of the he or she, so it looked like “xe” or “xer” etc, and he used them all interchangeably.  That was the confusing part, in one sentence he would refer to one Keda by multiple different pronouns and seeing as it’s one of the real life new language phenomena that I just can’t wrap my head around yet, it was hard for me to follow in the book.  I just kept thinking “did he switch Keda or is this the same one?”

Anyway, all in all, I definitely recommend this one for just about anyone interested.  I thought the open ending was a nice touch and it had a hopeful tone and aspect

About the preorder offer – Good news! The new Angry Robot website is up and you can preorder or buy books directly now! You can use the code onereadingnurse to save 25% on a preorder of Spidertouch, so get on that! I believe the code is good until December 4th

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Patricia A. Jackson!

Thanks for tuning in to the Sunday Brunch Series! For episode 16, I am beyond honored to feature Patricia A. Jackson of Angry Robot books!

Her debut novel Forging A Nightmare came out on November 23rd, and it is an amazing mix of urban fantasy, biblical mythology, and horse-crazy that only a true horse lover could write.

Forging- book tour

I am thrilled to join the book tour with this interview!  Read on to learn about the publishing journey, her tips for BiPoc authors, authentic voices, and so much more.  If you follow the link at the bottom and check out the author website – there is, if you can find it, a Star Wars costume on horse back 😂 also her book trailer had me cracking up so definitely check it out if you have time.

Let me get out of her way – here she is!


🖤Welcome to the SBS! Can you tell us an interesting thing about yourself that isn’t in the author bio?

🎤I’m an otaku! I love Japanese anime, but I’m very particular about the series i binge. Among my favorites are Psycho Pass, Kaze No Stigma, and Demon Slayer. I facilitate the Anime Club at the school where I teach.

🖤I’m so floored since you are one of the first traditionally published authors on the interview series, can you chat a bit about your publishing journey?

🎤I wrote my first little novel after seeing Star Wars in 1977. I was eight years old. I continued writing to appease an overactive imagination that was not satisfied with just reading about other worlds. In 1993, I met the editor of The Star Wars Adventure Journal. That opened the door for me to write stories in the universe that gave birth to my inspiration. Thanks to a dare from a student, I discovered Wattpad and entered the first ever Online Novella Contest. My 20,000 word entry – Feast or Famine – won second place. That novella would eventually become Forging a Nightmare.

My agent Sara Megibow (KT Literary) rejected the novel, but said her door was always open to me. I wasn’t ready to give up on the novel, so I kept working on finding it a home. It was rejected eighty-eight times. A year later, I went to a class on how to write effective query letters with Sara. Like the other folks, I emailed my query to her for a tune -up, but I didn’t bother attaching the manuscript. She contacted me about it and asked to see it. Sara made some suggestions in the first chapter. I complied, thinking her advice would surely help me land the next agent. I had no idea, she would be that agent. During a phone call, she made the offer to represent me. You know that Michelangelo painting The Creation of Adam—yeah, that’s how I felt and how I still feel. She’s amazing!

🖤 What advice do you have for other bipoc and under represented voices that may want to write a book or tell a story?

🎤Be true to your identity before embarking on this journey. Define yourself and do not let the taint of society define you because any fallacies will bleed into your story and readers will sense it. Do not be worried when people outside of your culture cannot fathom why your characters do not react the way people in other cultures do. You don’t have to spend your time or word count explaining that to someone who can never truly understand your struggle. Look at those things that have been illicitly claimed and appropriated and have no fear in taking it back and remaking it in your image.

🖤 Did you have prior interest in old testament stories and Christian mythology ((I questioned my word choice here)) and old languages, or did the research came with the novel? 

🎤I think the term mythology is perfectly fine because that’s what it is: myth. No different than the Greek, Roman, or Egyptian renditions. People often confuse faith and religion. Faith is one’s belief in something greater than themselves, which may not necessarily be a god. Religion is how you practice that faith. I have always been interested in religion and the connection to faith. I grew up with a father, who was a mason, and a mother, who was Baptist, while attending Catholic schools. I am keenly interested in the religions of other people from witchcraft to druids, including the ancient Aztecs, Greeks, and Romans because I am fascinated by the vast cultural and practical differences.

🖤Can you tell us about your own night-mares?   I have two red mares and you really nailed the mare behavior in the novel 😂

🎤I have had a love affair with Thoroughbreds since I was a kid, particularly the ones off the track. I enjoyed rescuing them from the racing life and give them a second careers as fox hunters, show hunters, and dressage horses. One of my Nightmares is named Indy. He’s actually a great-grandson of Secretariat. He is the winningest horse I have ever owned with many championship ribbons to his credit. And that’s saying a lot because he is rather opinionated.

As I have gotten older, my knees are deteriorating. I actually need replacements. So I decide to try a Warmblood. Maya is a Canadian Warmblood and she is what you call a stick and kick ride. Moving too fast consumes too many calories. Her favorite speeds are slow and stop—which is perfect. I bought her because she didn’t act at all like a mare! She is so rock solid! No mood swings. No opinions. (Unless the poor thing is suffering ulcers-whole different world then.) But I think looking forward, I’m going back to geldings.

🖤Other than Kristen Britain and Maggie Stiefvater, I guess Mindee Arnett too but she didn’t emphasize the horses in her books as much, and Tamora Pierce, I haven’t seen a lot  of horse-crazy authors in SFF! Do you have any that you love and recommend?

🎤When it comes to current fare in the SFF genre, I don’t think anyone handles it as well as Susan Dexter. She has done the best job in bringing a horse into character and bringing out the character in a horse in her Warhorse of Esdragon series. I have always wanted a horse character to feature as prominently as any other primary or secondary character, so when I could not find that, I wrote one. My favorite novel is True Knight.

🖤What would you tell one of your high school students who wanted to read your book??

🎤I’m actually quite lucky because the very first beta readers for FORGING A NIGHTMARE were high school kids. I developed the novel in a mind-mapping assignment for my first Creative Writing class. Kids have been a part of the journey every turn of the page. I told them to look for the things I’m always looking for In their work: pacing, character development, and holes, places where the muse went off the track.

🖤Since the holidays are coming, which do you think is your main character’s favorite holiday?

🎤It might seem anti-climatic, but when Michael Childs is not working his day job, he plays the role of a knight in shining armor and jousts. So his favorite holiday would be Halloween.

🖤Are you a fan of brunch? Any favorites?

🎤I am a fan of BREAKFAST at ANY time! My favorite is scrambled eggs with white toast, sausage patties and grits with a side order of home fries (no onion) and orange juice.

🖤Here is the easy rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  favorite author? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? 

🎤Fave author: Kristin Britain

Recommended Book: True Knight by Susan Dexter

Favorite Literary Character: I’m gong to be a complete and utter fangirl when I say Tolkien’s Aragorn, which is why I love ranger characters in Dungeons and Dragons

🖤Thank you so much again for taking the time to interview! If you want to add anything else please do so here!!

🎤I  was recently involved in a dispute over banning books in the district where I work. Thanks to a few brave young women, the Panther Anti-Racist Union and their protests, the ban was temporarily lifted. These were beautiful books (many children’s books) by and about BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people. Literature, like history, is not always for the faint of heart. But what offends one, may uplift another, thus no one has the right to decide what belongs in a library and what should be burned. Banning books is never a good idea. I’d like to add that diversity and representation matter. We need more books, more stories, where people can see themselves in the struggle as the heroes, champions, vagabond anti-heroes, and not just in the ensemble cast or as sidekicks. 

🖤


You can find more info, author and purchase links on the link tree! 

https://linktr.ee/ByBirthright

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction

Twenty Five to Life (ARC review) by R.W.W. Greene

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for having me on the book tour for Twenty Five to Life by R.W.W. Greene!

This book is a futuristic “what-if”- what will happen when sea levels rise and pollution is unbreathable? How will the governments manage the end of the world crisis? The book starts at an end of the world party as colony spaceships are deserting the Earth, and everyone left is going to have to fend for themselves.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Twenty Five to Life
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: RWW Greene
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 8/24/21
  • Length: 279 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for Scifi, dystopian fans!

Here is the book blurb:

Life goes on for the billions left behind after the humanity-saving colony mission to Proxima Centauri leaves Earth orbit … but what’s the point?

Julie Riley is two years too young to get out from under her mother’s thumb, and what does it matter? She’s over-educated, under-employed, and kept mostly numb by her pharma emplant. Her best friend, who she’s mostly been interacting with via virtual reality for the past decade, is part of the colony mission to Proxima Centauri. Plus, the world is coming to an end. So, there’s that.

When Julie’s mother decides it’s time to let go of the family home in a failing suburb and move to the city to be closer to work and her new beau, Julie decides to take matters into her own hands. She runs, illegally, hoping to find and hide with the Volksgeist, a loose-knit culture of tramps, hoboes, senior citizens, artists, and never-do-wells who have elected to ride out the end of the world in their campers and converted vans, constantly on the move over the back roads of America

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It’s hard to pinpoint this book, but I think it’s really about living out your days as best as you can, keeping hope in the worst situations, and finding “the point”.

Most of the population has moved into these tiny cube apartments in towers in the big cities, where the government can offer housing, food, and keep everyone happy aka addicted to pharma emplants and living in Virtual Reality.  While this is life for most of the world, a few citizens live out their lives roaming America’s roads and seeing the sights in caravans.   That certainly sounds better than living as an avatar with no purpose, and no sense of how to interact with anyone anymore!

Julie isn’t quite legal age but she decides to risk running away to join these drifters rather than live out the days till the end of the world in a box.  I really liked Julie and the lady that kind of adopts her on the road, called Ranger. The roads are dangerous and filled with caravans, gangs, and tons of other dangers including disease and weather phenomenon. I like that these people would rather be free than submit to VR, and most have become survivalists.

There are themes of looking out for your neighbor, taking care of the Earth before it is too late, addiction, friendship, sickness and loss, hope and generally making the most of one’s life. It’s almost a plausible future too, who’s to say what would happen if the population has to converge mostly on one continent? Yikes!

The book is funny at times with great banter and plenty of girl power, I gave this one a strong four stars!

Please do check out the other tour hosts as well!

Categories
Adventure Dystopian Fantasy

Flame Riders (ARC) by Sean Grigsby

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the early digital copy of Flame Riders by Sean Grigsby! This is a fast paced military fantasy, that is book 3 in a series but can be read as a standalone.  All opinions are my own!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Flame Riders
  • Series: Smoke Eaters, #3 
  • Author: Sean Grigsby
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 06/22/21
  • Length: 320 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 for fans of military fantasy and action stories

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The third and final instalment in Sean’s rip-roaring ‘firefighters meet dragons’ fantasy series

In the final instalment of the Smoke Eaters series, the New United States Army has taken over and America has devolved into a full-on dragon apocalypse. Smoke eaters are banned and have gone into hiding to avoid being held prisoner by the soldiers.

Guiellermo Contreras is a private in the NUSA, and when he’s accused of potentially being a smoke eater upon pain of death, he escapes and sets out to find the heroes who disappeared years before. But what he discovers is that the NUSA has been working on something unthinkable, and it’s going to take more than a few smoke eaters to stop them.

First off I just want to say that I may increase my initial rating once I’ve read the first two books!

Additionally the cover art is absolutely stunning for all three books.

This is a fast paced novel that occurs after some kind of apocalypse brought on by dragons, and apparently a Phoenix had something to do with it as well.

There is a ton of action and many fun fighting scenes where sci-fi and fantasy cross paths for hi tech battles of smoke eaters vs dragons.  I would have liked more info on the experiments being done and technology used by the two forces.

I liked the team of characters and banter quite a bit. Brannigan and Happy were my two favorites, although I couldn’t really get behind Guillermo (the main character). He had a good start and end but lost me in the middle after he kept freezing up and putting his teammates in danger. Brannigan was absolutely hilarious and I kind of definitely want to go back and read his book.

One thing that Grigsby did well was create a lingo and sense of team for the smoke eaters, using terms like “scaly” to refer to a dragon and there is a definite sense of cohesion within the crew.

There was some pretty coarse language as well but not too much more than I’d expect in a military based book.

My main thing was that while the book definitely could work as a standalone, there is no background to know why there are dragons everywhere, how they got there, or who the heck all the returning characters are.  I would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a hi tech fantastical military adventure, but would probably recommend reading the trilogy to meet the full cast of  heroes first.

tforces.thank you again to Angry Robot for the early read!!

Categories
Science Fiction

The Alien Stars: and Other Novellas (ARC) by Tim Pratt

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the early digital copy of The Alien Stars: And Other Novellas! This is AR’s first novella collection, and seeing as I had recently read and enjoyed Doors of Sleep by the same author, I was definitely interested!

Pratt’s Axiom trilogy wrapped up in 2019 and there were a few side characters that he wanted to spend a little more time with, so these novellas (also readable as standalones) are a re entry into that world.

Bookish Facts:

  • Title: The Alien Stars
  • Series: Axiom (can read as standalone)
  • Author: Tim Pratt
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 4/27/21
  • Length: 237 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for sci-fi fans!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

In this collection of previously unpublished novellas, Hugo Award-winner Tim Pratt returns to the acclaimed sci-fi universe of his Axiom trilogy.

Each of these three stories takes fans and new readers alike deeper into the rich world of the Axiom than ever before, revisiting the crewmembers of the White Raven as they strike out on new and enthralling adventures.

Delilah Mears joins the crew of the Golden Spider, as its cyborg captain Ashok leads them deep into space to investigate a mysterious cosmic anomaly, leading to an encounter with a truly unusual band of space pirates; AI (and Trans-Neptunian Alliance President) Shall receives a strange summons from a past version of himself to help defeat an existential threat to the entire universe; And intrepid alien truth-teller Lantern journeys home to confront the monsters of her past, and the deepest secrets of her heart (or the closest thing she has in her circulatory system to a heart).

I always find it really hard to talk about novellas, but I enjoyed reading these.  It is definitely not necessary to read the Axiom trilogy, although I wonder if it will provide series spoilers (who lives, who dies, who marries who, etc) to those who decide to read the books. I added them to my TBR; it’s hard not to be drawn into the world of these characters with their dynamic personalities, taste for adventure, and snarky banter.

Each novella has a clear starting point, action filled middle, and clear ending.  A good novella contains an entire story in fewer pages and Pratt definitely did that.

The AI ethics and societal implications were my favorite part. Ashok and Shall are both really interesting characters and explore my favorite sci-fi topic, Robots/AI autonomy! I didn’t like the third story as much as the others because it’s heavily character based, and I just don’t know the characters well enough to care about their background together.  

The space pirates and rebel clone in the first two novellas were great reads though, and the final novella did have some wonderfully clueless aliens going for it.

Totally recommend for fans of sci-fi, banter for days, and short fiction!


About Tim Pratt: (from Amazon)

photo: Tim Pratt from timpratt.org. He may or may not have a beard now 😂

Tim Pratt was born in Goldsboro, NC, and grew up in various places in the American South. He relocated to Northern California in 2001. His fiction has won a Hugo Award, and he’s been a finalist for Sturgeon, Stoker, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, World Fantasy, Scribe, and Nebula Awards, among others. His other books include three short story collections; a volume of poems; contemporary fantasy novels The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl and Briarpatch; gonzo historical The Constantine Affliction under the name T. Aaron Payton; fantasy roleplaying game tie-ins; and, as T.A. Pratt, eight books (and counting) about sorcerer Marla Mason. He occasionally edits anthologies, including the Rags and Bones anthology co-edited with Melissa Marr. He works as a senior editor for Locus magazine, and lives in Berkeley, CA, with his wife Heather and their son River.

Categories
Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

Book Tour & Review: Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books (Caroline, Gemma, and Sam are good eggs!) for having me on the book tour for Composite Creatures, an exciting new book that releases on 04/13/21!  This is a low-key science fiction novel that is also a meditation on the future of healthcare ethics, growing up, growing older, and prioritizing what matters most

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

How close would you hold those you love, when the end comes?

In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur Ratare learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.

But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it – or her – close.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Composite Creatures
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Caroline Hardaker
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 04/13/21
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨  Yes for the patient readers

The Plot & Story: I honestly believe that the less you know going in about this book, the better.  Health in the UK is going drastically downhill in the future as the air itself causes cancer, the animals are all extinct, healthy life expectancy is pathetic… and the NHS is handing the reins over to a private company.   Enter an elitist group called Easton Grove, that promises health and happiness to those who can afford it, and pass all the tests.  

What exactly is this little bundle that Easton Grove offer?

Hardaker makes us wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait……and wait for it.  Most of the reveal happens towards the end of the book so I definitely recommend this one for the patient readers.  In the meantime we get a lovely meditation on life, losing one’s parents, falling out from our old friends, and co-existing with our chosen company.  This one takes a good hard look at life’s hardships.  The question becomes – is it worth holding out so long for the answers?  It took until the very last page but I think so.

The characters: I also think that the less you know about the characters, the better.   Norah and Arthur seem like a good pair, except it again takes a very long time for the book to reveal how they got together.  I liked Norah a lot and really, really hated Arthur until almost the end.  I think Hardaker did that on purpose though, she waited until page 400 out of 400 to make me forgive him, in that she also showed Norah as a “Composite Creature”

What does that even mean? Well – read it to find out

The World: Think of a slightly futuristic, overly polluted London with toxic soil, a sky with no birds, and a generally gray atmosphere.  The book creates gorgeous reminisces of the past through artwork and Norah’s memories of her mother.  I will give Hardaker endless Kudoes for the imagery in the book.  Hardaker is a published poet and I think that shows in her debut novel quite a bit.

Miscellaneous: One other cool thing I noticed is that RJ Barker (you know I always rave about The Bone Ships) blurbed the book, so that’s awesome.

The only thing that I really didn’t like was that Hardaker made us wait, for EVERYTHING.  She would mention a name, or a conflict, or a story, and give us absolutely no background until much later in the book.  Luke and Aubrey were good examples of this – I spent half of the book feeling like I missed something, but eventually I realized that we would eventually learn what’s going on.  I didn’t feel like these smaller reveals were necessarily worth waiting for though, which is where I docked the 1.5 stars.  I would have liked an occasional “bone” from the author.

Overall: Definitely recommend for fans of twisty, meditative books, mysteries, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and strong character builds.  


Meet the Author:

Author and poet Caroline Hardaker in her workspace. Caroline has published several books, including Bone Ovation.

Instagram: @angryrobotbooks – @caroluna_writes_stuff

Twitter: @angryrobotbooks | @carolinehwrites

More Information can be found about the author on her website:

https://carolinehardakerwrites.com/about-caroline-hardaker/


There is also plenty of book tour left, so make sure to check out the following hosts on Instagram or on their blogs! Thank you again to Angry Robot for letting me participate and feature the book!

graphic: list of book tour, blog hosts
Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

ARC Review: Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the digital advanced copy of Doors of Sleep in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!  If you are a fan of multiverse adventures and creative characters, check this out!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Doors of Sleep
  • Series: Journals of Zaxony Delatree, #1
  • Author: Tim Pratt
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot Books, 1/12/21
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for sci-fi, multiverse fans!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

What would you do if you woke up and found yourself in a parallel universe under an alien sky? This is the question Zax Delatree must answer every time he closes his eyes.

Every time Zax Delatree falls asleep, he travels to a new reality. He has no control over his destination and never knows what he will see when he opens his eyes. Sometimes he wakes up in technological utopias, and other times in the bombed-out ruins of collapsed civilizations. All he has to live by are his wits and the small aides he has picked up along the way – technological advantages from techno-utopias, sedatives to escape dangerous worlds, and stimulants to extend his stay in pleasant ones.

Thankfully, Zax isn’t always alone. He can take people with him, if they’re unconscious in his arms when he falls asleep. But someone unwelcome is on his tail, and they are after something that Zax cannot spare – the blood running through his veins, the power to travel through worlds…

Wow, what a wild ride! I can only imagine how Zax feels since I was getting dizzy just travelling with him!  I think the book’s biggest strength is just the sheer number of creative ideas on the pages – I coined a term for it, like “word salad” but it’s “universe salad.”  One page might spit out six wildly different universes if Zax is travelling quickly.  Pratt’s well of ideas seems to be endless.

There are many pop culture nods that I enjoyed spotting too, like an Emerald City universe with a yellow brick road and all.  One thing the book accomplishes is making me feel soooo small, the possibility of endless universes and endless galaxies, planets, and he is only seeing a small portion…

nothing mattered against the span of the infinite, so if you wanted to care about anything at all, you had to care about the small things. There was nothing in the multiverse but small things

So Zaxony is travelling alone and it was hard for me to latch onto the story before he found a travelling companion, that is a super interesting plant/human hybrid.  They become great friends and Minna is able to perform many scientific tasks to make Zax’s life easier.  They also eventually pick up an analytic war crystal named Vicki who I think is the best character 😂

In the worst-case scenario, an insane chip of diamond was unlikely to cause harm to others at least, and, best case, perhaps I’d finally get some answers

– Zaxony, on Vicki

Once the antagonist shows up in truth and the book turns into a pursuit, giving Zax and company a purpose, I finally latched onto the story.  This happened maybe halfway through and is why I only gave Doors of Sleep 3.5 stars, I felt aimless before that point.  The Lector is a brilliant terrorist with the aim of conquering all the worlds, creating a moving empire, and it’s going to take mote than weapons and traps to stop him…. A really brilliant bad guy who is only limited by his inability to comprehend the true grandness of the multiverse.

I wondered why he didn’t just kill them, but then remembered: the dead do not suffer

–Zaxony, on the Lector

Did I mention that the Lector is more than a little bit brutal? How in the world are they going to take him and his army down?  I should mention Zax too as a character – he is thoughtful, a general good Samaritan with strong principles about helping people, but he is also flawed and sooo lonely before he meets Minna. I loved that they ended up just being partners and not pursuing anything romantic too.

Overall: clever but brief world building, strong friendships and interesting characters, many philosophies, and a twisty OMG ending, made me enjoy this book quite a bit.  I am definitely 100% on board for the next book and hope you guys will check this one out!  Just released on January 12th so grab your copy now!

Categories
Science Fiction

ARC Review: The Rush’s Edge by Ginger Smith

Heyy space opera fans, how’s it going?  Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the eARC of this fast-paced sci-fi / space adventure in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Rush’s Edge
  • Series: N/A?
  • Author: Ginger Smith
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, November 2020
  • Length: 328 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for fans of the genre! Maybe new sci -fi readers too

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

With the help of his commanding officer, a genetically engineered ex-soldier fights back against the government that created him and others like him to be expendable slaves…

Halvor Cullen, a genetically-engineered and technology implanted ex-soldier, doesn’t see himself as a hero. After getting out of the service, all he’s interested in is chasing the adrenaline rush his body was designed to crave. Hal knows he won’t live long anyway; vat soldiers like him are designed to die early or will be burnt out from relentlessly seeking the rush. His best friend and former CO, Tyce, is determined not to let that happen and distracts him by work salvaging crashed ships in the Edge.

Then Hal’s ship gets a new crewmember – a hacker-turned-tecker named Vivi. As they become friends, Hal wonders if he’s got a chance with a natural-born like her. Then on a job, the crew finds a sphere that downloads an alien presence into their ship…

Multiple clashes with the military force Hal and his crew to choose sides. The battle they fight will determine the fate of vats and natural-borns throughout the galaxy. Will they join the movement against the Coalition? What has invaded their ship’s computer? And can there be a real future for a vat with an expiration date?

 There are a lot of things that I really liked about The Rush’s Edge, so let’s start there.  I love science fiction that touches on ethics related to robotics, genetics, and AI – I guess I can thank Mr Asimov for that one.   Hal is a Vanguard Assault Trooper, one of thousands genetically enhanced and modified to serve as cannon fodder for the ACAS (government).

As the description states, what future can these troops have?  Should they fight back?  The book takes a long look at the prejudices and ethical issues surrounding the soldiers and that was my favorite element.

The action is steady as well, the book was certainly never boring.  From scrapping to mission to heart pounding escape or combat scenes, even the character and relationship building parts kept the story moving forward.

The characters were really good too,  Hal and the other soldiers deal with PTSD and finding their place in the world after their service.  Are they allowed to want a future? Can they fall in love? Can they command their own ship or fight in their own war? These are questions that Hal navigates through with help from his crew.  Tyce, the captain, seems like such a caring person too, as does Beryl the ship’s medic.  Vivi is just great too, a natural born that represents the naivety of most of the general population about their government and military.  She is strong and smart and perfect for Hal and the crew.

I also love when AI’s have personalities.  A friendly AI/alien is more rare in books than malicious ones so that was a fun plot twist…but no spoilers.

The downside was that at the end, I felt like the book would be a great introduction to a series. All the characters are introduced/found and the crew kind of chooses each other as a family, but it ends in a very open way. I also didnt think that any of the major plot points were cleared up at all, so either it’s all open to interpretation or there will be more books. In that manner I docked two stars, only because it seemed like all the right space opera elements were tossed in without any element of connectivity or closure towards the end goal. The book 100% accomplished forming a crew, and if there ends up being another book I will 100% bump this straight to a 5 star rating.

Would recommend for space opera fans and maybe those just getting into sci-fi, as there is a lot going on in the book rather than hardcore space and technology action.

Thanks for reading along with me! Do you like scifi/space operas?