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?

Categories
Crime Fantasy Paranormal Science Fiction

Book Review: Night Terrors by Tim Waggoner

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the finished copy of Night Terrors in exchange for an honest review!  This is a perfect Halloween time book.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Night Terrors
  • Series: Shadow Watch, #1
  • Author: Tim Waggoner
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot Books – 2014, reissued October, 2020
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for Urban Fantasy fans!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

When you dream, you visit the Maelstrom. Dream long enough and hard enough, and your dreams can break through into the living world.

So can your nightmares.

And who’s there to catch the dreams and nightmares as they fall into reality?

Meet the Shadow Watch. Pray you never need them…

I am usually not an urban fantasy reader at all, but Night Terrors was an absolutely perfect #Spooktober read.  Certain humans are able to dream their nightmares into creation, and then become ideators.  No longer needing sleep, the humans and their dreams – called incubus/incubi) – tend to stay together in the real world.  With violent tastes at night time and a desire to live freely on Earth, an agency called the Shadow Watch has developed to keep the order in both Earth and Nod, the alternate realm.

This book kept me flying through the pages.  There isn’t much info dumping so you get to learn the world while experiencing the action.  Audra is a Shadow Watch agent and her partner is her incubus, a delightfully homicidal clown named Mr Jinx.  During the day these creations take on normal aspects, and Jinx turns into an art loving papa bear.  At night though he wreaks havoc on rogue Incubi with Audra and an arsenal of funny weapons.

Or they try anyway. They completely botch a case and end up going rogue to foil a plot against the two realms.  Jinx and Audra are both funny and interesting characters, so are the other host of humans and Incubi in the book.  A giant dog and pirate man, some terror being called The Darkness, and a living hearse are some of the other awesome characters.  The banter is about as amazing as you’d expect from this group.

Add in some psycho villains, sci fi level weapons, and a Circus Psychosis complete with a group of insane clowns, and you have Night Terrors.  It’s probably the most fun I’ve had reading a detective type novel since Men In Black, and oddly enough I was getting some Daughter of Smoke and Bone vibes, in the creation and alternate world aspects as well as ridiculous looking chimaera/Incubi.

I wish the end was a little less easily resolved, but I am 100% on board for book 2 to find out more.

Thank you again so much to Angry Robot Books for the review copy! As always, all opinions are my own 🖤

Categories
Dystopian Horror Literary Fiction Paranormal Science Fiction

Book Review: The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the finished copy of The Phlebotomist in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Quick facts:

  • Title: The Phlebotomist
  • Series: standalone
  • Author: Chris Panatier
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot – September 8th 2020
  • Length: 345 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

War brought the Harvest. Willa Mae Wallace is a reaper.

To support herself and her grandson Isaiah, Willa works for the blood contractor Patriot. Instituted to support the war effort, the mandatory draw (The Harvest) has led to a society segregated by blood type. Hoping to put an end to it all, Willa draws on her decades-old phlebotomy training to resurrect an obsolete collection technique, but instead uncovers an awful truth.

Patriot will do anything to protect its secret. On the run and with nowhere else to turn, Willa seeks an alliance with Lock, a notorious blood-hacker who cheats the Harvest to support the children orphaned by it. But they soon find themselves in the grasp of a new type of evil.

My dark sci-fi dystopian blood drawing nurse heart was all about this book. My patients not-so-lovingly call us night shift nurses “vampires” because we are always after blood at night, and I was immediately drawn to the synopsis where a mandatory blood harvest has created a segregated society based off of blood types.

Willa Mae is in her 60s and a fantastic older main character. Lock, the blood hacker, can’t be much younger, and for some reason reading about older women playing the heroes struck a chord with me. They are snarky and wholesome and so caring for their young charges. Both rely on their knowledge and use of older technologies in a highly automated big-brother type world to undermine Patriot and practice some old-school phlebotomy to (at least try) to save society.

I can’t talk about Patriot too much without spoilers but the company runs blood collection stations all over the country to fuel the need for blood transfusions after nuclear bombs struck in certain “gray areas.” The lies, murders, and political structure of Patriot.. let me just say that I couldn’t put this book down once I started.

100% not what I expected.

The side cast of characters was great too, there was so much hope in one area called “bad blood” where everyone that was undesirable for transfusions was sent. They grew gardens and repurposed factory stores. The book definitely was not always happy, there were some significant and bloody deaths which I 100% endorse in any good resistance based dystopian.

Lastly there is a bit of transfusion based science provided just for informational sakes and I thought that was great. We have to do so much checking and double checking of blood before transfusing and I think Panatier did a phenomenal job putting this all into layman’s terms for readers.

If you are even slightly into dystopias, sci fi, resistance based novels, even fantasy/paranormal readers could cross over and enjoy this, I totally recommend it.

Happy Book Birthday!!!!