Tag Archives: book reviews

The Judas Cypher, by Greg Dragon

In a war between man and machine, he must find a way to protect them all… After a devastating war forced humans to rely on synths for survival, the two have learned to coexist peacefully. Until now… When detective Dhata Mays is called in to investigate a homicide, what he uncovers threatens the serenity of this futuristic society. The gruesome murder means only one thing: someone is ready to incite another war. Now, it’s up to Dhata to ensure that the truth stays hidden—to protect both sides of the battle. But can he be unbiased in a black and white world that forces him to take sides?

I have yet to read a book by Greg Dragon that I haven’t liked. From his space opera to his futuristic world of androids and self-drive cars, you can’t go wrong with Greg Dragon. I know that The Judas Cypher, Single Wired Female and Re-Wired aren’t all part of the same universe, they sure feel like they could be. I’m not sure if the author intended to write a story that parallels today’s societal trend of divisiveness, but it’s definitely there contained within a science fiction mystery. Rich versus poor. Immigrant versus native. Synthetic versus flesh and bone. Like today’s society, people have drawn a line in the sand, based on seemingly arbitrary characteristics and fear. And that’s one of the greatest things about Science Fiction: We can tackle complex social issues and we can leave our preconceived notions away since we don’t specifically identify with the characters. No preaching. No politicking. Just good sci-fi. The Judas Cypher is easily a five-star read.

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Greg Dragon has been a creative writer for several years, and has authored on topics of relationship, finance, physical fitness and more through different sources of media. In particular, his online magazine has been a source of much pragmatic information, which has been helpful to many. As a result, his work continues to grow with a large and loyal fan base.

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Mansions of Karma, by Ruth White

Twelve children tragically left alone to run the world – their world being a pristine Goldilocks planet far, far from Earth. Without guidance, without technology, without a blueprint, they grow into teens living by their wits, and wait for a promised starship to rescue them. Lily, the oldest in the group, cooks meals and performs other parental duties, thus becoming something of a mother figure to the younger ones. Their greatest comfort is a spiritual vision – the legendary Mansions of Karma – which appears in the sky periodically to remind them they are not alone, but forever a part of the great, universal life force. They also have a gift left to them by their parents – the memory of the disintegration of their home planet, Earth. Will they allow the same fate to befall this new Eden?

At its core, Mansions of Karma is a YA sci-fi story with slight elements of romance. It’s suitable for all ages, and there isn’t any strong peril to scare younger readers. The story is engaging so that you want to keep reading to see how it all pans out. There are a few necessary time jumps and they’re handled nicely.

The story is pretty straightforward: A colony on a distant planet suffers a catastrophic illness that kills all the adults. The titular eleven-year-old Lily is the oldest, and she has to keep the younger children and herself alive long enough for help to arrive … if it arrives at all.

The story has an ending that works. It’s not a cliffhanger, but a few plot points are left unanswered. I didn’t feel cheated with the ending, and I’m glad that there’s a sequel coming, although even without a sequel, this self-contained story can easily be read in a single evening. A four-star read. Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read it for free, and the 99-cent price is worth it.

Ruth White was born in the Appalachian hills of Virginia. She lived there until she graduated from high school and went away to college. Though she left the hills, they never left her. Ruth started writing at a very young age. She remembers trying to write stories before she was even able to put long sentences together. Eventually Ruth became a teacher and then a school librarian. Working in the public schools among adolescents fueled her desire to write. When not writing, Ruth likes to walk in the park with her golden retriever, listen to books on tape, and watch movies. Away from home, She likes to visit schools and talk to young people about books and writing. Her daughter usually travels with her, and they have a great time together.

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Coalescence, by Zen DiPietro

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Fallon’s back, and ready to settle things with Blackout once and for all. If she and her team can’t take control, the PAC will splinter and galactic war will decimate the populace. Can one little rebellion save an empire? Avian Unit–and their friends–are sure as hell going to try.

 

 

The Good: I knew that I’d like Coalescence since I enjoyed Fragments and Translucid. Fallon’s pansexual relationships with Raptor and Wren are an interesting look into fluid sexuality. The chapters in Coalescence were a bit on the longer side, but not nearly as bad as Translucid.

The Bad: Some of the villainous acts committed by Blackout against the PAC seemed rather counter-intuitive. Parts left me scratching my head. It seemed as if the villains were the villains just to push the story along. The fall of the PAC that would incite galactic war wasn’t fully explained, and I didn’t feel as if I cared about the completion of Avian Unit’s mission other than to stop the bad guys from doing bad things. I guess I just wasn’t invested in the galaxy.

The Beautiful: Like Fragments and Translucid, there was a lot of action with enough going on that I just had to keep reading. I found some of the ancillary characters rapidly becoming my favorites, including a certain lizard doctor.

The Final Word: If you’ve read books one and two, then you will not be disappointed with this third book. If you’d a fan of Firefly, Deep Space Nine or The Expanse, you’ll totally grok this series. With the short story, The Cost of Business being free, and all three parts of the trilogy free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, you simply cannot go wrong reading this series. Even the nine bucks is an easy sale. Get the series and read it. I look forward to more from Zen DiPietro in the future. Like the previous two stories, Coalescence is 4.5 stars.

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Zen DiPietro is a lifelong bookworm, writer, and a mom of two. Perhaps most importantly, a Browncoat Trekkie Whovian. Also red-haired, left-handed, and a vegetarian geek. Absolutely terrible at conforming. A recovering gamer, but we won’t talk about that. Particular loves include badass heroines, British accents, and the smell of Band-Aids. Being an introvert gets in her way sometimes, as she finds it hard to make idle chitchat or stay up past 9 p.m. On the other hand, it makes it easy for her to dive down the rabbit hole of her love for books, stories, movies and games.

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Curse of Stars, by Donna Compositor

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Sabi Perez is the last Diamond Crier, only she doesn’t know it. Not until a crazed ruler from another world comes to collect her priceless tears and won’t take no for an answer. Living in New York, Sabi’s seen some nasty things, but the lengths to which her captor will go to keep his crown are things found only in the darkest nightmares. Afraid and alone, Sabi finds solace in her cellmate, Anya, and Cabal, a fellow Crier who also has powers, a rare combination that buys his favor from the ruler. Only it’s a favor he doesn’t want. In a fit of rage, power erupts out of Sabi, the same power Cabal has, and a spark of hope ignites. Together they may have a chance at escape, something no other Crier has done. Except a ruler hellbent on draining them of every last diamond tear isn’t their only hurdle. If they escape they’ll be hunted to the ends of the earth, if they survive the trek to safety. If they stay the ruler will leech them dry. Sabi would rather die trying than lie down and die, even if that means running away into even more danger.

I saw Curse of Stars on Netgalley, and I was interested in Donna’s work. The story is a rather novel take on a standard YA trope: A young woman is something more than she had originally thought, and she’s thrust into a situation where her true hidden talents are revealed resulting in her impressing the first cold and now hot native who just wants her to reach her full potential and rid both worlds of a particular evil that scores of trained persons couldn’t defeat in all the years she was hidden in exile on Earth.

Following existing tropes is not necessarily a bad thing, and Donna’s story definitely has an interesting take. Sabi Perez cries diamonds. The bad guy wants her for her ability. But wait, she has hidden allies! The story is most definitely dark, even bleak. There’s lots of action, and what romance is in the story is minimal. Young Adult novels tend to be cheery or angsty, so it was nice to read a YA story that that didn’t shy away from difficult situations or ignore the negativity that the world Sabi ends up in is not a nice place. Donna doesn’t ignore the fact that people are sometimes selfish, and do things to hurt people to get what they want. The tense storytelling requires you to keep reading until the end.

Fans of YA will enjoy Curse of Stars. It’s pretty much standard fare as far as the genre is concerned. Fans of dark fiction, or even grimdark fantasy will also enjoy it. Personally, I’d rate it just shy of four stars. Hopefully I’ll see Donna at Phoenix Comicon this year, and I can say “hello.”

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Donna Compositor has been writing since she was in the single digits when she first realized she needed to do something about all the thoughts in her head. After a stint with bad poetry she finally found her way to novels, mainly of the young adult fantasy variety. When she’s not cranking out more stories she works a regular 9 to 5, reads anywhere from 2 to 3 books a week, drinks copious amounts of tea, eats way too much, and makes her own beauty products because her skin turns into a sentient hive if she uses anything else. This is mostly because she lives in the desert where the air siphons water clean out of her. She lives with a man named Steve and several quadrupeds: three cats named Renfield, Sam, and Dean; and a MinPin named Malfoy.

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More of Me, by Kathryn Evans

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Teva’s life seems normal: school, friends, boyfriend. But at home she hides an impossible secret. Eleven other Tevas. Because once a year, Teva separates into two, leaving a younger version of herself stuck at the same age, in the same house… watching the new Teva live the life that she’d been living. But as her seventeenth birthday rolls around, Teva is determined not to let it happen again. She’s going to fight for her future. Even if that means fighting herself.

 

I have a pretty regular reading schedule. I know how long it should take me to read a book based on page counts. When a book is engrossing, I end up breaking my reading rules and reading more. I almost finished Kathryn Evans’ More of Me in a single night. The book is compelling, and finding a chapter break that I could stop for the night was almost impossible.

The story deals with many issues and worries that teenagers have before “officially” becoming adults. Relationships, the future, past mistakes, and family secrets are already pretty tough for sixteen-year-old Teva, but toss in her “condition,” and you just have to keep flipping pages to find out what happens next.

What happens is a taut thriller with mystery elements wrapped up in a science fiction young adult novel. I was a bit skeptical with the premise, but it quickly captured me and wouldn’t let go. I’m glad I took a chance on this story when I saw it on NetGalley.

I wasn’t sure about Teva’s reality several times in the story. Like Paul Cleave’s Trust No One, I kept flip-flopping to what I thought was really going on. The author dropped enough clues and red herrings, which kept me engrossed throughout.

More of Me is definitely a five-star read, and when you start it, make sure you have time to read the whole thing. The kindle version doesn’t come out until June 13th, but the paperback can be had now for just over ten dollars including shipping.

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Following a degree in drama and a short career in theatre, Kathryn Evans quickly realised she was likely to starve unless she got a proper job. She didn’t get a proper job, she married a farmer and set up a strawberry farm. And now she’s writing books, will she never learn?

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The Last American Hero, by Nicole Field

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In the aftermath of the accident that revealed his identity, famous superhero Captain Hart has gone missing. His best friend Bruce waits anxiously for any sign of him, any clue as to where Leo Hart might have gone—even though he knows full well he’s not the only one looking, and that it might be best for Leo to stay gone. Then Leo returns, and Bruce starts to wonder whether it will be the good thing he expected it to be.

 

I saw The Last American Hero on NetGalley, and I liked Nicole Field’s The Shock of Survival, so I figured I’d check this one out. I wasn’t disappointed. More than one review has compared this story to April Daniel’s Dreadnought, and I’d go one step further and liken the two stories to being cousins. They both have trans protagonists. I’ve been trying to diversify my reading in the past year or so, and it’s so wonderful to read these touching stories that I may not have been exposed to otherwise.

The Last American Hero is just a good story. It provides us a small glimpse into the life of a trans person and allows us to empathize. We also see thoughts and opinions on the nature of being heroic, and how perception can deify or demonize those that are different. Most of all, though, we get a fun story about what happens after a superhero thwarts an alien invasion.

Like, The Shock of Survival, Nicole tells the story we all want to hear after the villain is vanquished. For every story that you’ve finished, and wondered, “what happens next?” Nicole starts at that point, and we see what we’ve often wondered. The Last American Hero is a fun, fast read, and easily 4+ stars. And just so Nicole knows, #TeamCap.

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Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with one of her partners, two cats, a whole lot of books and a bottomless cup of tea. Also likes tea, crochet and Gilmore Girls.

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Extracted, by RR Haywood

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In 2061, a young scientist invents a time machine to fix a tragedy in his past. But his good intentions turn catastrophic when an early test reveals something unexpected: the end of the world. A desperate plan is formed. Recruit three heroes, ordinary humans capable of extraordinary things, and change the future. Safa Patel is an elite police officer, on duty when Downing Street comes under terrorist attack. As armed men storm through the breach, she dispatches them all. ‘Mad’ Harry Madden is a legend of the Second World War. Not only did he complete an impossible mission—to plant charges on a heavily defended submarine base—but he also escaped with his life. Ben Ryder is just an insurance investigator. But as a young man he witnessed a gang assaulting a woman and her child. He went to their rescue, and killed all five. Can these three heroes, extracted from their timelines at the point of death, save the world?

Who doesn’t like a time-travel science fiction book? The trope of grabbing a person or thing just before they die has been has been done before (Freejack, Time Salvager), but it was still a fun read. One of the characters had a mental breakdown and it just lasted too long. It made the middle of the book slow down. The book doesn’t need to be 400 pages, and a little bit of judicious editing in the middle would tune up the story. The characters seemed to be a cliché of expectations… We have the femme fatale, the commando, and the average bloke with a mysterious past who can do just about anything.

As a science fiction fan, I can excuse a lot of tired tropes. I’ve read better sci-fi books in the past, and I’ve read worse ones. I’m sure I’ll read better and worse in the future. I look forward to reading the sequel, and I’d rate Extracted just shy of four stars because it’s better than 3.5, but not quite a four-star read.

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RR Haywood was born in Birmingham, England but has spent most of his life living on the beautiful south coast. He has had a passion for reading for as long as he can remember. One of his favourite genres is Post-Apocalyptic fiction and he has worked his way through every book he could find. Some were great and some not so great and what he wanted was a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day detailed exploration of what would happen. This desire to explore the world after such an event gave birth to The Undead, which is now the UK’s bestselling zombie horror series, compared to The Walking Dead and many other great works. This underground smash-hit series draws readers from all walks of life with compelling characters, incredible descriptions and breath taking action sequences that have had readers gripping their kindles, laughing out loud and crying real tears.

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