Tag Archives: #LGBT

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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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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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.

nicole-field

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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Conspiracy of Ravens, by Lila Bowen

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Nettie Lonesome made a leap — not knowing what she’d become. But now the destiny of the Shadow is calling. A powerful alchemist is leaving a trail of dead across the prairie. And the Shadow must face the ultimate challenge: side with her friends and the badge on her chest or take off alone on the dangerous mission pulling her inexorably toward the fight of her life. When it comes to monsters and men, the world isn’t black and white. What good are two wings and a gun when your enemy can command a conspiracy of ravens?

Excellent continuation of the life and times of “The Shadow.”

Book one concluded with a scene that allowed the reader to come up with his or her own conclusion. I suspect that many came up with the same conclusion, and book two picks up an indeterminate time afterward.

We get more stubborn Nettie, now Rhett. Many characters return from book one. What does The Shadow do after her fight with the Cannibal Owl? Why she takes on another big baddie, of course! All while dealing with issues like sexism, racism, and gender identity.

Book two was slower than book one, and for some reason that I can’t quite place, the ending felt lacking. Delilah Dawson is an excellent writer, and I have yet to read anything of hers that I flat out didn’t like. I look forward to reading books three and four, presumably out in 2017 and 2018. Conspiracy of Ravens is easily a 4.5-star read.

Delilah S. Dawson writes dark, edgy books for teens and fantasy with a wicked edge for adults. The Blud series is available now and includes WICKED AS SHE WANTS, winner of the RT Book Reviews Steampunk Book of the Year and May Seal of Excellence for 2013. SERVANTS OF THE STORM debuts August 2014, and Kirkus called the Southern Gothic Horror YA “an engaging page-turner” and “a standout, atmospheric horror tale.” April 2015 will see the launch of HIT, a YA pre-dystopia about teen assassins in a bank-owned America.

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The Shock of Survival, by Nicole Field

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In the wake of the final battle against The Oppressor, Benedict, Ophelia and Dylan face their magical community in triumph. But that triumph rapidly loses its shine as they realise the war is not so easily left behind. Returning to, and relearning, the lives they had before proves to be more difficult than even they had anticipated.

I enjoyed The Shock of Survival. When I saw it on NetGalley, I noticed that it was from LT3, and have read a few works from this publisher in the past. Everything I’ve read thus far from LT3 have been solid stories.

The premise of the book is simple enough: Three heroes try to return to their lives after defeating The Oppressor. I’ve often wondered this about stories I’ve enjoyed. The aftermath of their heroic deeds has to change them. I mean, after you defeat the villain, aliens or evil robot with murderous AI, what do you do?

The Shock of Survival has an almost Harry Potter vibe to it with those that can wield magic, and those that cannot. After doing the great deed, our heroes have to quell yet another, albeit not earth-shattering, crisis.

The story reveals many aspects of the fight against The Oppressor, but doesn’t dwell on The Oppressor, or why so many wizards died trying to defeat him. I think if the author had revealed any more information, I might have been disappointed. We get a few glimpses of character development told in flashbacks. The relationships between the trio before and after the battle with The Oppressor are well done.

Definitely an interesting read, and I would recommend this to those that like the Harry Potter universe. Four stars!

nicole-field

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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A few Questions for April Daniels

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I reviewed April Daniels upcoming #LGBT superhero novel on Tuesday, and I asked her to follow up with a little Q&A…

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I went to college. I wanted to make video games, but the part of gaming that I really was interested in was the story, and after looking at some game company websites for game writer job postings, it seemed like the easiest way to do that kind of work was to get published as an author a few times. At the time, getting a novel published seemed like it would be no sweat, just a matter of a year or two. This is not the case.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I really wouldn’t know. I write how I write, and try not to think too much about signature styles or anything. Style is something that happens naturally for most, and while you can develop it with intention, that’s an advanced level skill that I’m only now beginning to come to grips with.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I still play a lot of video games, but I’m getting old, so while I used to be able to play twitch-shooters, I’m now mostly into support classes on Overwatch and grognardy strategy games.

What does your family think of your writing?
Mom’s pretty stoked.

Describe your protagonist, Danny.
Plucky. She’s got miles and miles of pluck.

How long did it take you to write Dreadnought?
About six weeks to rough it out in late 2013. After that, there have been a total of several months work of intensive work, spaced out in fits and starts as I worked on other projects and battled various intrusions from real life and my day job.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Dreadnought?
I don’t really learn things while writing books. Researching, sure, but once I start writing it’s because I know where I’m going.

Danny’s experiences touch on larger issues, such as the nature of choice, the ramifications of how society sees us, and the pursuit of revenge. What’s your take on some of these issues?
My answer to this will go on sale January 24th on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

What was your grand plan when you first set out to write this novel?
To write the book I wish I’d had when I was 15. There wasn’t anything at that time that showed trans people in a good light. Hell there wasn’t even anything that told stories from our perspectives.

What other fiction influences your work?
I’ve been reading sci-fi and fantasy my whole life. Superhero fiction is great because it’s basically both at once. It’s hard to pick out specific features I took from other work for that reason, though believe it or not, The Black Company by Glenn Cook is probably the strongest influence.
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Dreadnought, by April Daniels

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Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, she was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But then her second-hand superpowers transformed her body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl. It should be the happiest time of her life, but between her father’s dangerous obsession with curing her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and the classmate who is secretly a masked vigilante, Danny’s first weeks living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer, a cyborg named Utopia, still haunts the streets of New Port City. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

I’m gonna talk about Dreadnought, by April Daniels. When I requested it on Netgalley, I only read the first line of the description: “Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of the world’s greatest superhero.” Heck yeah! A superhero novel. I’ve also written a superhero novel and I wondered how April would handle writing a story that is usually the domain of comics and movies.

I started reading Dreadnought one Friday evening and read until I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. After a few scant hours of sleep, I just had to finish reading it. Dreadnought is an epic superhero novel. What’s that? You got to the second line in the description and it gave you pause? That’s understandable. What kind of superhero tale has a transgender hero?

I’m here to tell you that because Danny Tozer is transgender, Dreadnought is a five-star read. Don’t get me wrong, it’d still be a great story, but the depth of emotion contained within the pages of Dreadnought… You’ll chuckle. You’ll hold your breath. Your heart will break when you read the tribulations of Danny Tozer. You’ll root for Danny Tozer because this action packed taut tale will have you turning pages, hungry for more words.

If you like superheroes (who doesn’t with both Marvel and DC raking in the big bucks these last few years,) or you like sci-fi, you will absolutely love Dreadnought. I’ll read the second book, Sovereign when it’s available from Diversion Books this summer (hopefully before.) Read Dreadnought. Go on, pre-order it. You won’t be sorry.

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April Daniels graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in literature, and then promptly lost her job during the 2008 stock crash and recession. After she recovered from homelessness, she completed her first manuscript by scribbling a few sentences at a time between calls while working in the customer support department for a well-known video game console. She has a number of hobbies, most of which are boring and predictable. As nostalgia for the 1990s comes into its full bloom, she has become ever more convinced that she was born two or three years too late and missed all the good stuff the first time around. Early in her writing practice, April set her narrative defaults to “lots of lesbians” and never looked back.

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