Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction Mysteries Science Fiction

Audio/Book Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

In an effort to read more books that are already on my shelves this year, I finally picked up The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss! I read a short fairytale retellings collection of hers last year, and between that and the book featuring an Athena Club, (added bonus because I like things with my name in it), this seemed like a good pick right now!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s daughter
  • Series: The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #1
  • Author: Theodora Goss
  • Publisher & Release: Gallery / Saga Press, June 2017
  • Length: 417 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of mysteries and retellings!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

Audio:  I did listen to some of this on audio, and omg.  From Simon & Schuster audio, narrated by Kate Reading, she won an Audie in 2018 for best fantasy. Kate was just perfect. Every character has a unique voice, she speaks clearly and enunciates everything beautifully. I would absolutely 100% recommend this as an audiobook

The Story/Plot:  I think the synopsis tells you everything that you need to know about the plot!  This is a fantastically fast-paced book, starting with Mary Jekyll and gradually expanding to the full cast of characters as the women find each other. Along with each woman’s individual story, each of which were some of my favorite parts of the book, the crew is attempting to solve the Whitechapel murders.  These murders are re-written and worked in as part of the mad scientist plot!

The Characters: most of these characters are either completely new or Rewritten with their own personalities, but any fan of classic literature will hopefully appreciate them.  Characters worked from Jekyll & Hyde, Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dracula, Jane Eyre, and more are here, but it’s not necessary to know the original stories to read this at all.

The characters really are an interesting group, from poisonous Beatrice to super strong Justine to catwoman Catherine, and Hyde’s daughter is absolutely hilarious.   They refuse to be limited by being women in Victorian London.  Holmes and Watson take on new personalities too!

The Mystery:  no spoilers, but since I’ve never been a big Sherlock Holmes reader it was interesting to see how his murder investigation unfolded. The women were also running investigations and although the why shortly became apparent, the who and big picture- not so much. I just think it’s really cool how Goes pulled all of these characters into one coherent novel

Content: I got nothing for ya here.  Someone pees in holy water and they inspect a few dead bodies

Overall:  I can definitely recommend this one for fans of classical retellings and Mysteries!

Categories
Fiction Science Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I was so incredibly shocked and thrilled to receive an ARC box from Tor Books for The Echo Wife!! After a great giveaway on Instagram, I dug into the book and finally collected my thoughts on it!

One part science/medical fiction, one part domestic thriller, with some psychological and ethical thriller aspects too, I can safely recommend The Echo Wife for just about anyone!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Echo Wife
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sarah Gailey
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 2/16/21
  • Length: 253 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for pretty much anyone!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride, perfect for readers of Big Little Lies and enthusiasts of “Killing Eve” and “Westworld­”

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty…

810MVy3iDPL

This book truly has so many interesting aspects, including clones, ethics, life falling apart, and obviously murder. It had me in a Black Mirror style mind kerfuffle, especially at the end, and it was great.

The Echo Wife is what you get when a cheating husband steals research and clones his wife, then makes a life with the clone.  How far outside of regular scientific ethics did he go?  Do ethics even apply to clones?

Martine, the “new wife,” eventually snaps and murders the husband in self defense, at which point Evelyn has to get involved to protect her research and her own skin.

This is so much more than a sci-fi murder fest though. Evelyn’s research is mostly about making cloned body doubles for politicians and then she exterminating the specimens. While the clone conditioning process comes across as brutal, in theory it make sense to create realistic doubles. Martine forces Evelyn to take a deep look at cloning ethics and whether or not they might be people.

There is also a look back at Evelyn’s childhood where abuse or at least fear of it is implied, and a sobering look at how marriages fall apart.  Why were they so silent in her childhood home? How does love turn to hate? These parts read a bit slowly but it felt very real, eerie at times, and it was interesting to see how Evelyn’s behavior is influenced by her upbringing, and maybe why she can see “murder” from such a detached standpoint.

Is Evelyn turning into her mother or her father, or parts of both?  Which would even be worse? This is a shorter book and while slower moving at times, gave me many scientific “what ifs” to ponder. The end is just 😳 omg, straight out of Black Mirror.

The Echo Wife is definitely a book that I can recommend for a wide range of genre fans!  Actual science fiction, medical fiction, domestic thriller fans, even some general fiction and literary readers might enjoy the perusal of human nature found here.

Thank you so much again to Tor Books for my early copy!!! The book is out 2/16 so preorder now if it sounds up your alley!!

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
Science Fiction Thrillers

Novella Review: Dust & Lightning by Rebecca Crunden

Thank you so much to Rebecca Crunden for sending an epub copy of her sci-fi novella in exchange for an honest review!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dust & Lightning
  • Series: standalone
  • Author: Rebecca Crunden
  • Length: 124 pages
  • Publisher & Release: Self – February 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of scifi and action!

Here is the description from Amazon:

In the near future, humans have gone beyond simple space travel. By the year 4054, multiple solar systems are inhabited, and taking a spaceship is as commonplace as taking an aeroplane.

Unfortunately, not everything about the future is so advanced. The central planets, led by Earth, have risen high at the expense of cheap labour on distant worlds. Dissent is widespread and arrests are common. Sometimes prisoners are released; sometimes they disappear without a trace, sent to labour camps in other solar systems.

When Ames Emerys receives a letter telling him that his brother Callum has died en route to the remote planet of Kilnin, he takes the first ship he can off Earth, desperate for answers. But the secrets Ames uncovers prove far more dangerous than he could have imagined.

And trouble isn’t far behind.

I read this in one session because the action just never stopped and it was impossible to put down. It was believable action too, involving a lot of narrow escapes and cool powers, and I felt like it was well paced.

It’s only 117 pages but there is enough description to get a visual image of the important places and objects, as well as a good sense of setting.

In the brief span of knowing these characters I definitely felt like I knew Ames pretty well, and could at least appreciate Violet for her sense of daring and Callum for his strength. Ames is out to rescue his brother and discovers a whole can of worms (ha ha) involving the corruption of the Democratic Planetary Alliance.

I hope there is a part 2 to this because I really want to know the outcome of the rebellion!


Author and purchase links:

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51004978-dust-lightning
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Dust-Lightning-Rebecca-Crunden-ebook/dp/B084HKS69M/
Website: https://rebeccacrunden.com
Categories
Science Fiction

ARC Review: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Thank you so much to Tor Books via NetGalley for the e ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars
  • Series: currently a standalone in his new ‘Fractalverse’
  • Author: Christopher Paolini
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books – 9/15/20
  • Length: 880 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ For fans, yes

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds. Now she’s awakened a nightmare.

During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .

My first thoughts upon putting the book down were “can I come up now? Is it over?” Not necessarily in a bad way but this is an extremely long book to read on a Kindle. It’s a reviewers biggest nightmare to end up with a super long book that eats into the reading productivity of the month. Literally I wanted to finish this weeks ago before pub date but it wasn’t a quick read, it was impossible to skim for fear of missing anything, and then I had to collect my thoughts.

I think if people have time to get lost in this massive world that spans everything from xenobiology to history of lost alien races, from intergalactic war to peace, multiple settings and two full crews, and immense amounts of world building along the way… It’s a pretty solid space epic.

I might have enjoyed the book more spread out and developed as a trilogy, bringing the different crews and adventures and timelines into more separate stories. As it was, I felt yanked from one setting to another just as I was getting comfortable with the place and people involved in the prior one. It takes place over…. Somewhere between 2-4 years I think.

The world building and science involved is something amazing though, the years put into writing this are quite clear. I think I read 8 years he spent drafting and writing and re-writing. Sometimes the details and world building dragged the plot to a standstill, which explains the length in both time count and reading time for me.

The Wallfish crew were my favorite characters. Falconi and Trig and Sparrow and the ship’s pets were up my alley of dark humour at times. That is a crew that I would happily spend endless hours with. I never really connected with Kira herself, she never felt real and although I liked her well enough, I felt kind of blah about what happened to her.

I think Gregorovich, the ship mind, is widely a fan favorite and I 100% agree.

The crew is gathering in the mess hall, if you wish to partake, O Spiky Meatbag. – Gregorovich

Or when he calls the alien Be-tentacled friend, Queen of Thorns, or Sparrow Birdname! But then also Gregorovich:

I screamed, though I have no mouth to scream. I wept, though I have no eyes for tears. I crawled through space and time, a worm inching through a labyrinth built by the dreams of a mad god. This I learned, meatbag, this and nothing more: when air, food, and shelter are assured, only two things matter. Work and companionship. To be alone and without purpose is to be the living dead.”

Definitely some pretty well multifaceted characters, I think that crew together is one of the more shippable ones in adult literature that I’ve read.

I was totally ok with that ending too, bittersweet and I get along really well.

All in all: not bad but I think the book got lost in itself at times for being a standalone. At this point it is the starting point of a new universe, but apparently to be a standalone within that world so all that worldbuilding may make more sense later on.

Also: I think PigFinger should have been included in the dictionary at the end 🤣

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Leave a comment!

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!!!!

Categories
Science Fiction Thrillers

Book Review: The Price of Safety by Michael C. Bland

  • Title: The Price of Safety
  • Series: Yes – the first of a planned trilogy
  • Author: Michael C. Bland
  • Publisher & Release: World Castle Publishing – April, 2020
  • Length: 331 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡ Yes!

Thank you so much to Books Forward PR for my copy of The Price of Safety by Michael C. Bland.  I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own.

This is a sci-fi thriller and I can solidly recommend it to fans of either genre.  Also the book deserves a huge congrats for being an Indie Book Awards finalist in both genres as well!!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

By 2047, no crime in the U.S. goes unsolved. No wrongdoing goes unseen. When Dray Quintero learns his 19-year-old daughter Raven committed a heinous act, he covers it up to save her life. This pits him against the police he’s respected since he was a child and places him in the crosshairs of Kieran, a ruthless federal Agent. To survive, Dray must overcome the surveillance system he helped build and the technology implanted in the brains and eyes of the citizens.

Forced to turn to a domestic terrorist group to protect his family, Dray soon realizes the sheer level of control of his adversaries. Hunted and betrayed, with time running out, will Dray choose his family or the near-perfect society he helped create?

The government has us wired. Neural nets track our data and deceive our minds. There are cameras in our eyes, and crime is practically nonexistent. Or is it? The government is controlling every aspect of life and the engineer who helped create it all is now on the wrong side of the law. How can Dray escape the cameras and keep his family intact after a brutal crime sets them on the run?

The book has everything from futuristic medicine to technologically enhanced Agents to machine gun battles, and many harrowing escapes. The last half was so incredibly hard to put down as the action just never stopped.  It was almost a brain-overload at times as one huge wild scene after another played out.  I can’t wait for the second book!

I liked Dray and the girls too.  He is trying to keep his family together and there is a battle of wills between him and his teenaged daughters that will have parents smiling to themselves at times for sure.  I am not a parent but there is a lot of thought provoking content related to protecting one’s children, and the future of technology, social media, and medicine (yay!) in general.

I would 100% gladly recommend The Price of Safety to any fans of sci fi, thrillers, and even family adventures.  Between dark matter powered flying motorbikes and a mother’s torment over losing a ‘perfect’ life, there is truly something for everyone here.

 

About the author:

MICHAEL C. BLAND: Michael is a founding member and the secretary of BookPod: an invitation-only, online group of professional writers. He pens the monthly BookPod newsletter where he celebrates the success of their members, which include award-winning writers, filmmakers, journalists, and bestselling authors. One of Michael’s short stories, “Elizabeth,” won Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest 2015 Popular Fiction Awards contest. Three short stories he edited have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Another was adapted into an award-winning film. Michael also had three superhero-themed poems published in The Daily Palette. He currently lives in Denver with his wife Janelle and their dog Nobu. His novel, The Price of Safety, is the first in a planned trilogy. For more information about Michael’s life and work, visit www.mcbland.com

Categories
Middle Grade Paranormal Science Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

  • Title: Catalyst
  • Series: The Catalysts, #2 (reads as a standalone though!!)
  • Author: Tracy Richardson
  • Publisher & Release: Brown Books Publishing Group: June 2, 2020
  • Length: 248 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for younger readers

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my advanced copy of Catalyst by Tracy Richardson!  This is the second book in a series but reads as a standalone with no spoilers, so no worries there.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained – an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.

This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with.

Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.

This book contains a lot of really great messages for young readers, first and foremost the environmental consequences of our actions.  Marcie and her team are dealing with an energy company that wants to expand fracking in the area, and there is a great amount of info about that and other environmental disasters.

Marcie has an interesting character arc as well.  She knows there is something about the world that she can sense, but isn’t sure what it is.  With the help of Zeke and Lorraine, two grad students on the dig, Marcie and the other teens learn about the Universal Energy Field and the implications of the fourth, fifth, and dimensions beyond.  Leo is the other main character and provides the opposing point of view on fracking, as his father works for the energy industry.   Their relationship is interesting because it pretty accurately portrays how teens have trouble with opposing viewpoints, and how to talk around issues and make compromises. I really shipped them.

I’m also Greek and ran cross country and share a name with the alien space ship…so…yeah, there are those things too.  I liked Marcie a lot.  The book reminds me of The Celestine Prophecies, which I was obsessed with in high school, and I’m really glad that this generation of young readers gets a book like this too.

The book turns from fairly normal, to paranormal, to sci-fi Jesus in a spaceship REAL quick, and I loved it.  I thought the context of spiritual leaders made sense, since it would be pretty egocentric to assume that the gods and goddesses and religious leaders are only dedicated to one planet.  The sci-fi element is definitely a bit out there in left field but it worked for me.

The book is relatively short at 248 pages.  The pacing is pretty even and I’m sad that it took me so long to start because once I did, I read it in two sittings.  I was never bored at all. I would totally and fully recommend this for teen readers as an environmentally and self-conscious read that has some great examples of conflict resolution and interpersonal relationships within the team.

The paperback releases on September 22nd, while the Kindle version released on June 2nd.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Let me know!

Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Sisters of the Perilous Heart by Sandra L. Vasher

  • Title: Sisters of the Perilous Heart
  • Series: Mortal Inheritance #1
  • Author: Sandra L. Vasher
  • Length: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Mortal Ink Press, LLC
  • Release: May 5th, 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ likely

Thank you so much to Xpresso Book Tours via NetGalley for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!  Sisters of the Perilous Heart is a unique sci-fi / fantasy crossover novel that got delightfully deadly for the genre.  There is a tad bit of romance too, half of which is actually…cute.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

What would you do to save a sister?

As the last mortal kingdom of Kepler resists the Immortal Empire, its young queen faces a devastating attack. Queen Vivian is two minutes into her reign when an arrow pierces her heart and infects her with the Immortality Virus. But she has too much magic to become immortal and not enough to survive. She must find more magic fast, or she’ll die.

Meanwhile, another young mortal faces an uncertain future of her own. Carina is fleeing for her life, but her magic is a tracking beam for immortals. She must learn to harness and control it, or she’ll be captured and killed. Then she meets the queen of South Kepler.

Vivian needs Carina’s magic, and she can offer safe haven in exchange. But can Vivian trust this common girl? Carina isn’t on the kingdom’s registry of magicians. What if she’s a Northern rebel? A spy for the Immortal Empire? And will the truth be revealed in time to save them both?

Immortality is engineered by a virus strain in a future Earth.  Ships with Immortals are sent out to colonize other planets, and the events of the novel take place some 4000 years later.  Once we read through some boring-ish but important epidemiology stuff, this book became truly enjoyable. I will not say spoilers but the end of the book was BRAVE on the author’s part!

The world-building and history is extremely well done.  It comes in bits and pieces.  In the beginning things are a bit confusing, but by the end of the book the various Strains of Immortals and Mortals and mostly everything else makes sense.  The world itself is very well constructed with terrain, geography, architecture, food and dress that is very Earthlike at times.  We even get a glimpse into the Royal family, succession, and political maneuvering but the novel never felt info dumpy in the present-day chapters.  My favorite bit was to see the native citizens and some animals too.

The two main characters are both sweet and pretty relatable. Carina the girl from the brewery and Vivian, the Queen, poisoned two minutes into her rule. I liked these two, and the funny thing was that every single side character was a huge wildcard while the main characters stayed their courses.  The princes obviously have their own agendas, and who knows what’s going on with Carina’s travelling buddies.  A lot of character development was built around angst and hiding things, but teens in books rarely have open communication and that would make it too easy, right?  Poor Queen Vivian though I really liked her and everyone thinks she’s a monster because of her god-terrible mother.  I did like the dynamic between the trio of siblings – ha ha usually.  I repeat: pay attention to the side characters while reading!

The magic was pretty straightforward.  Certain Mortals in the Cardinal families have strong abilities in telekinesis and either heat or cold, while most people have some mild telekinetic skill.  They vary from the interpersonal threads similar to Truthwitch to moving objects, healing, sensing people’s where abouts, to being able to tear a building apart.

Quick note: once it got going the pacing is perfect.  I promise the plot and character twists toward the end are worth the reader’s time. Some is foreshadowed, some really isn’t.

Last but not least, the OneReadingNurse medical rant©! As a medical professional I am not sure how I feel about HIV+Flu mixing to cause the Immortality virus.  I feel like it would just … kill people.  I did like how much thought Vasher put into the etiology and epidemiology of the virus, but caution readers not to take it as advice on any specific modern day viruses.  I also think her magical healing makes sense – Danielle Jensen and Kristin Britain in the past have written similar magical healing elements – it takes ENERGY to heal! It would likely wipe out the healer, and I like how the energy transfer is acknowledged and realistic here!

Anyway! In summary: Miscommunication as a  plot device is not always a bad thing.  There is political intrigue, sibling banter, and a whole lot of ‘why murder me when you could have just asked’?  I liked the mix of modern, medical, and fantastic elements. I definitely recommend this book to both sci-fi and fantasy readers.  I rated 3.5 stars for the learning curve at the beginning and amount of time it took to clear up the different factions, and I didn’t like Carina’s group’s dynamic.  I definitely have 100% respect for the author for doing what she did at the end of the book 😉 and definitely need to read the next installment!