Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Discord, by Katy Haye

Beth forgot her past. What if there’s nothing to remember? Beth has spent six months at the remote Steptoe House in the English countryside and still can’t remember a single thing from before her car accident. The doctors say that’s normal. They say traumatic brain injuries heal at their own pace and insist the music therapy they prescribe to their patients is the key to recovery. But something is off at Steptoe House and Beth can feel it. There’s a wrongness there — a discord between what is and what should be. Strange voices echo down the halls at night and shifting shadows beckon. And Beth doesn’t dare tell anyone she’s been talking to ghosts. So, when new patient Toby arrives, she’s relieved to find a friend she can trust, a confidant to share her ghosts with. Plus, he’s really cute. Together, they will tackle the mystery of Steptoe House and uncover more than either of them ever bargained for.

I saw Discord, by Katy Haye on Netgalley, and I decided to give it a try. I’ve read some really interesting sci-fi lately with protagonists with memory loss and/or brain damage. It’s interesting to see how different authors handle this serious issue in society – even in future societies. I don’t know if this is because I’m finally graduating this May with a mental health undergraduate degree, or if I’m just a weirdo.

Not to worry, Discord is an easy read for many age groups. The story just doesn’t make sense for about the first two-thirds of the book. Not in a way that I couldn’t follow the narrative, but in a way that the narrative just confounded me. Elements that I read were just a little bit off, and my expectations were constantly challenged. It was as if I were an anthropologist that had all these ideas of how a story should be, and then I got to experience the story, and many of my ideas didn’t quite match up. I was close, but not exact.

Any way, enough rambling. Discord is an odd story. I totally dug it, and some of my complaints about teen angst and relationships are likely due to the very small suite of characters. One you read the reveal, and the oddities make sense, Discord is a cool sci-fi foray, and for 99-cents, you should pick it up for a read. I’d read the sequel, Dissent, when it comes out in just over a week. I’d rate Discord four stars for a rather interesting method of storytelling.

Katy Haye spends as much time as possible in either her own or someone else’s imaginary worlds. She has a fearsome green tea habit, a partiality for dark chocolate brazils and a fascination with the science of storytelling. When not lost in a good book, Katy may be found on her allotment growing veg and keeping hens in order to maximise her chances of survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar catastrophe (you never know!).

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Unknown Horizons, by CJ Birch

The moment Lieutenant Alison Ash steps aboard the Persephone, she knows her life will never be the same. She will never again watch the sun rise over the asteroid belt, never again see Earth from a handheld telescope, and never again see her family. In less than three weeks, the ship will dock at the Posterus and begin the most important journey humankind has ever undertaken. More important than discovering fire, creating language, or even abandoning Earth to live confined in biospheres among the asteroid belt over 100 years ago. What Ash doesn’t expect is that by keeping her recent memory loss a secret she is jeopardizing not only the Persephone’s mission but humankind’s launch of the first ever generational ship. Nor does she anticipate her attraction to Captain Jordan Kellow, but both will change her life forever.

When I saw Unknown Horizons on NetGalley, I figured I’d give it a go. When you start a book with the ending, it has to be epic to pull it off. Unknown Horizons didn’t manage to pull that off. It’s still a fun read, but the ending left me scratching my head. The protagonist wasn’t likeable at all, but I think that was done by the author intentionally. Upon further reflection, many of the characters were unlikable. But, it somehow seemed to work as a story. There’s plenty of conflict to move the story along, and the science fiction tropes are fun. Unknown Horizons is a fast read, and I’d like to check out the sequel. I saw that it’s on Wattpad, but I’m an e-reader kind of guy, so I’ll wait until it’s available in that format.

I waffled between 3.5 stars and 4 stars for Unknown Horizons. The narrative is definitely different, almost fractured. In the end, I’m rating it 3.5 stars. Perhaps after reading the second story, I’ll revise my star rating up. CJ Birch is a talented debut sci-fi author, and I’ll be checking out more of her stuff as it becomes available.

CJ Birch has a number of degrees, certificates, and diplomas from various establishments (some more reputable than others), all of which have nothing to do with what she does for a living. After spending a few years ruling out jobs, she finally settled into video editing for a company in Toronto, which is essentially an excuse to get paid for watching movies all day. Of all the jobs CJ Birch has had, the 45 minutes she spent bartending is probably the most memorable (for reasons that don’t include nominations for employee of the month). A lover of words, coffee (the really strong kind that seeps from your pores announcing, by smell alone, your obsession) and sarcasm. She doesn’t have any pets, but she does have a rather vicious Ficus that has a habit of shedding all over the hardwood, usually right before company comes.

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The Piper’s Price, by Audrey Greenhouse

Peter is plotting his retaliation against the latest bombing. Neverland needs an army, and Peter Pan is certain children will join him once they know what is at stake. The lost boys and girls are planning an invasion in suburbia to recruit, but in order to deliver their message, they will need the help of an old and dangerous associate—the infamous Pied Piper. Hunting him down will require a spy in in the real world, and Gwen soon finds herself in charge of locating the Piper and cutting an uncertain deal with him. She isn’t sure if Peter trusts her that much, or if he’s just trying to keep her away from him in Neverland. Are they friends, or just allies? But Peter might not even matter now that she’s nearly home and meeting with Jay again. The Piper isn’t the only one hiding from the adults’ war on magic though, and when Gwen goes back to reality, she’ll have to confront one of Peter’s oldest friends… and one of his earliest enemies.

The Potter-esque trope of the fanciful children at odds with the stuffy adults is alive and well with the sequel.

The Good: The writing was crisp and suspenseful. There aren’t any questionable situations or swearing, so this is acceptable for all reading ages and levels. I expected to enjoy The Piper’s Price since I enjoyed The Neverland Wars and I was not disappointed. The oddities in the writing that I mentioned were gone in the sequel.

The Bad: Pan is still emo. Why is it that the adults want to destroy Neverland? There is a bit of talk of needing magic, but overall, the needs and desires of the adults are pretty one-dimensional. The Pied Piper, who I expected to read more about, seemed to be woefully underwhelming, especially since he had the power to turn the tide of the war.

The Beautiful: I’m still not a fan of Peter Pan as a fairy tale, but I am a fan of Audrey Greathouse. I had a lot of fun reading The Piper’s Price. If you like fairy tale retellings, then you’ll like both books by Audrey Greathouse.

The Final Word: Just like The Neverland Wars, The Piper’s Price is a suspenseful read appropriate for all ages. As far as a star rating is concerned, I think The Piper’s Price is a slightly better story, and it deserves a solid four stars.

audrey-greathouse

Audrey Greathouse is a Seattle-based author of science-fiction and fantasy. Raised in the suburbs, she became a writer after being introduced to NaNoWriMo during her sophmore year of high school. Since then, she has drafted more than a dozen books, 100 sonnets, and 800 other poems, and a handful of short stories and one-act plays. After dropping out of her university and beginning training as a circus performer on the aerial silks, she returned to school to study at Southern New Hampshire University College of Online and Continuing Education to earn her B.A. in English Language and Literature, with a minor in Computer Information Technologies. Audrey Greathouse is a die-hard punk cabaret fan, and pianist of fourteen years. She’s usually somewhere along the west coast, and she is always writing.

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A Second Chance at Life, by Kassandra Lynn

Lady Elaina had everything—wealth, title, and irresistible beauty—until her jealous half-sister ruined her reputation and forced her into a disgraceful marriage. She died amidst the flames, murdered and betrayed by her husband and half-sister. As the flames roared, the loss of her unborn child created a thirst for revenge. A magical amulet sent her two years back in time. She has another chance to make things right for herself and her family, yet what began as a plot to undermine her half-sister’s machinations quickly evolved into a political conspiracy that will rock the entire empire and make Elaina realize she might not have traveled back in time alone.

I’m always a sucker for time travel stories. From the zany Bill Murray in Groundhog Day to adventures through time like Timeless, I love me some time travel. So, when I saw A Second Chance at Life on NetGalley, I was all in. It was categorized as romance and science fiction, but the romance elements are pretty light. There was a little bit of violence and some sex, but nothing more than a PG-13 movie. The story had strong mystery elements, and it was definitely full of action and adventure, including a twist near the end that I did not see coming.

I read the entire book on a 6-hour road trip. I enjoyed the aspect that even with foreknowledge, Elaina still managed to find herself in compromising situations. I was hooked from the first chapter, and devoured the story as it unfolded. I relished in Elaina’s strength, but shuddered at her bumbling over and over again.

Although the time period and location are not known, the vibe I got from the story placed the characters in a pre-Victorian patriarchal society, so there was a lot of sexism in the story. I’d imagine that more than one reader would find this off-putting, but unfortunately, most of the sexism and androcentrism portrayed in the story is not too far from the truth even in the year 2017.

I enjoyed the story, and look forward to reading more installments by Kassandra Lynn. A four-star read worthy of your time. Kindle Unlimited readers can get it for free.

Kassandra Lynn is the author of Book of Immortals series and Demon Kingdom Fairy Tales series. Her favorite genres are fantasy and romance. She especially enjoys reading and writing about unique concepts, unpredictable plots, and protagonists who aren’t the typical protagonists.

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http://www.kassandralynn.com/


Shiplord, by Felix R. Savage

As the alien vessel once known as the MOAD turns its deadly sights towards Earth, the survivors of the first human mission to Europa face their greatest trial yet. Stranded, and under constant attack, acting commander Jack Kildare is determined to return the Spirit of Destiny safely to Earth. But when his desperate warnings go unheeded at home, Jack is forced to confront the reality that he and his crew will have no place to return to if the alien ship arrives at Earth unchallenged. Forgotten, alone and left to die without any assistance from Earth, Jack and his surviving crewmates have no choice. Embarking on a life-or-death pursuit of the alien behemoth that now has Earth in its crosshairs, they find help in the oddest of places… a group of dissident aliens brought on board the Spirit of Destiny. Unfortunately for the crew, the alien passengers dangerously overload the ship’s life-support capacity, and Jack must fight off challenges to his authority from the very people he’s trying to save. With the heavily burdened Spirit of Destiny launched into a perilous homewards trajectory, the chase is on. Can Jack and his ragtag crew manage to beat the impossible odds of catching up to the alien planet-killer? Or will his ship and crew’s survival be imperiled by his generous decision to help the refugees? The future of humanity depends on the Spirit of Destiny … if it can reach Earth in time … and if there’s anyone left alive on board when it gets there.

Of the three books thus far in the quartet, I feel Shiplord is a step in the wrong direction. It felt as if the story was written, and it was too short, so a bunch of odd sex scenes were shoehorned in. There’s some great action in Shiplord, and you pretty much have to read it to keep up with the story, but I just didn’t care for it.

That’s not to say that the rest of the writing isn’t excellent – it is. Like books one and two, there is a lot of cool hard science fiction that’s no too in-your-face. No one will nerd out or anything. Whereas in Freefall and Lifeboat, there is a constant political undercurrent that interests me specifically, in Shiplord, the politicking seems to not follow the established canon from books one and two. The characterization established in books one and two seems to fall apart where Hannah was concerned. She seemed to be acting contrary to how I’d expect her to act. Finally, you all know I’m not a fan of cliffhangers, and Shiplord is the cliffhanger-y of them all.

If I had to sum up what I don’t like about Shiplord in a single word, that word would have to be “rushed.” Now of course, Felix R. Savage’s “worst” book in this series is still better than a lot of science fiction out there. And despite my quibbles with book three, I’d still recommend the entire series to any sci-fi fan, especially since the books are all in Kindle Unlimited.

I’m awarding Shiplord only four stars, and I cannot wait to read Killshot when it’s “published soon.”

felix-r-savage

You might say Felix R. Savage has a long history associated with rebellion. He was born in the 1970s, a decade of American youth rebelling against the safe culture of their parents. He is married to a wonderful woman and they have a beautiful daughter. Together the three of them live in Tokyo serving their cat overlord and benevolent protector. Felix writes Science Fiction and Fantasy while not translating, delighting in his family, or catering to the whims of the family’s cat. He never stops watching out for any sign the lizard people have found him.

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Lifeboat, by Felix R. Savage

After two years aboard the Spirit of Destiny, tensions among the elite international crew are at breaking point. Despite the obvious need to stay professional and united, as they approach the mysterious alien spaceship orbiting Europa, pilot Jack Kildare is acutely aware that not all the members of the crew may wish the best for the mission. There may be a saboteur on board, and he knows of at least one spy: the astrophysicist Skyler Taft. An attack from long-range alien weaponry cripples the Spirit of Destiny, forcing Jack to disobey orders to save the ship. Now he has to face the fact that the broken crew is the least of his worries. With the risky maneuver that saved the ship putting him dead center of the commander’s crosshairs, and the crew attempting to hold together the tattered remnants of their unity to investigate the alien spaceship, Jack finds himself selected for the most dangerous mission of all… descending to Europa’s surface to find out what lurks under the ice. As the voyage of discovery unravels into a desperate battle for survival, Jack races the clock to decode the secrets behind the alien intrusion. Will he find the truth in time to save the crew? Or will the thin threads of companionship snap under the strain of Skyler Taft gunning for his knowledge… or his blood?

Book one, Freefall, focused on the trials and tribulations of Kildare and the crew of the Spirit of Destiny on their way to Europa. I liked the political intrigue and the “real world” ramifications to such a discovery. Lifeboat is all spacefaring adventure. I might even say that Lifeboat is a more likable story than Freefall for a majority of sci-fi readers. Personally, I found the intrigue from Freefall made Lifeboat so satisfying.

I’d still classify this series as “hard” sci-fi, but it’s hard in a way that it addresses things that most “soft” sci-fi doesn’t namely, hygiene, and other little details that obviously had a lot of research performed to get the nuances right. The crew of misfits is so perfect, it reminds me so much of the interactions between the cast in Firefly.

I rated Freefall five stars, and I’m happy to say that Lifeboat is even better. Since I can’t rate it above five stars, I’ll have to settle for only five stars for Lifeboat too.

felix-r-savage

You might say Felix R. Savage has a long history associated with rebellion. He was born in the 1970s, a decade of American youth rebelling against the safe culture of their parents. He is married to a wonderful woman and they have a beautiful daughter. Together the three of them live in Tokyo serving their cat overlord and benevolent protector. Felix writes Science Fiction and Fantasy while not translating, delighting in his family, or catering to the whims of the family’s cat. He never stops watching out for any sign the lizard people have found him.

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http://felixrsavage.com/
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Freefall, by Felix R. Savage

Despite NASA budget cuts threatening to put a sharp end to his career as an astronaut, British-born space shuttle pilot Jack Kildare knows without a doubt that his life will never be the same. Photographs snapped from the International Space Station reveal an alien spaceship in orbit around Europa, opening a terrifying new chapter in human history, and Jack finds himself in the center of a gigantic international effort to respond to the alien threat. But when he is dismissed from NASA over a trumped-up security gaffe, Jack and his close friend Oliver Meeks combine their skills in an attempt to generate an innovative new development: a spaceship drive based on their observations of the alien craft’s technology. With the unknown threat driving international competition and the entire planet’s spaceflight resources thrown into the fray, the focus of attention turns toward one single goal… a ship capable of traveling to Jupiter to confront the alien menace… the Spirit of Destiny. Amid unknown entities pushing to destroy the project from the inside out, and enemies baying for blood, Jack finds himself submerged in a world of secrets, sabotage attempts and cold-blooded murder. Can Jack decode the secrets surrounding the arrival of the alien spaceship in our solar system? Or will his dreams of the ultimate space adventure be taken into the ashes with the Spirit of Destiny?

I read the entire Interstellar Railroad series by Felix Savage already, so I was expecting a bit of irreverence with my hard science fiction when I started reading the Earth’s Last Gambit series. There wasn’t nearly as much cheekiness, but Freefall did have its own humor. I was a little disappointed in the cliffhanger ending, but, the sublime writing more than made up for it.

Freefall has everything I’ve come to expect in a great space opera – Intrigue, political maneuvering, religiosity, tech, grizzled space bums who just want their last chance to walk on the moon, clandestine sabotage, and so much more.

As with any novel, the characters motivations and dimension are supremely important. Moreso in a long-form space novel quartet. We science fiction fans have grown up on Star Trek and Star Wars. We were cheated with Firefly and Space: Above and Beyond. I could easily see Earth’s Last Gambit picked up as an ongoing series – one season per book.

Freefall is easily five stars, and you’re daft if you like sci-fi and don’t get it.

felix-r-savage

You might say Felix R. Savage has a long history associated with rebellion. He was born in the 1970s, a decade of American youth rebelling against the safe culture of their parents. He is married to a wonderful woman and they have a beautiful daughter. Together the three of them live in Tokyo serving their cat overlord and benevolent protector. Felix writes Science Fiction and Fantasy while not translating, delighting in his family, or catering to the whims of the family’s cat. He never stops watching out for any sign the lizard people have found him.

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Goodreads
http://felixrsavage.com/
Twitter