Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth- ARC Review

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Fortuna launches a new space opera trilogy that will hook you from the first crash landing.
Scorpia Kaiser has always stood in Corvus’s shadow until the day her older brother abandons their family to participate in a profitless war. However, becoming the heir to her mother’s smuggling operation is not an easy transition for the always rebellious, usually reckless, and occasionally drunk pilot of the Fortuna, an aging cargo ship and the only home Scorpia has ever known.

But when a deal turns deadly and Corvus returns from the war, Scorpia’s plans to take over the family business are interrupted, and the Kaiser siblings are forced to make a choice: take responsibility for their family’s involvement in a devastating massacre or lay low and hope it blows over.
Too bad Scorpia was never any good at staying out of a fight. (taken from Amazon)

               Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Oh dear. I wanted to like this book, I really did. I’m a big fan of smuggling in stories in general, and especially in space (blame the incredible show Firefly). Unfortunately, this book was a giant resounding “meh” from me.

I can’t pinpoint anything really wrong with the book, it just didn’t keep my attention. The characters weren’t all that engaging, and Scorpia annoyed me. She was immature to the point of obnoxiousness. Corvus was okay, but not all that fantastic a character either.

If I don’t enjoy the characters in a book, the writing itself needs to be incredible to keep me invested. The writing was fine, but nothing to write home about. This is my first book by this author and, honestly, I can’t say I’m going to go out of my way to read any others she’s written.

I’ll say that this is just a case of the book not fitting the reader. It happens. I hope other readers find it more interesting than I did. I gave up 60% in.

The Audacity by Laura Loup

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Rocket racing can be deadly, but working in food service is worse.

May’s humdrum life is flung into hyperdrive when she’s abducted, but not all aliens are out to probe her. She’s inadvertently rescued by Xan, an “I Love Lucy” obsessed alien with the orangest rocket ship in the universe.

But you still have to eat in space, and rocket racing is a quick, if life-threatening, way to make a living.

Finally, May has a career she loves and a friend to share her winnings with. Until a Chaos goddess possessing Xan’s ex decides to start a cult on Earth and threatens to turn the planet into her den of destruction. The Audacity is the only ship fast enough to stop her, but May’s no hero. She doesn’t even particularly like Earth.

Are we screwed? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for giving me this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available now.

With a tagline like “Where rocket ships run on coffee and dumb luck,” how could I not fall in love with this book? Poor May works (slaves?) at a convenience store- until she is beamed up into a spaceship, launching her on an intergalactic adventure.

This book was absolutely bonkers, in the best way. I loved the witty humor, especially when the narration would include the reader briefly. When Xan’s ship was described as something from the BBC, I laughed out loud. I’m a big fan of tongue-in-cheek humor, and this book had it in abundance.

Xan, by the way, is hands-down the best alien ever created. There’s something endearing about him. His I Love Lucy obsession, and his oddball taste, made him a blast to read.  May reminded me of Dante from the movie Clerks (“I wasn’t even supposed to be here today”), which made me laugh.

This book is light-years ahead of many others, in terms of comedy. The prose is quippy without being over-the-top, the characters are fun and different. It’s funny without trying too hard to be, if that makes sense.

Basically, this book is a blast to read, and I highly recommend it. If you want a good belly-laugh, this book is for you.

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander

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Have you ever read a fairy tale about three raptors? Yeah, me neither. I must say, I was missing out. This short story was fantastic.

This is the story of three raptors, an intelligent princess, and an incredibly stupid prince. One day, the prince stumbles across a raptor. The rest of the village knows to avoid these beasts, since they don’t much fancy being eaten. The prince seems to think he’s come across a horse, and decides to ride it back to his castle. The raptor, hoping to gather more information about the fearless man, goes along with it. That ends up being a mistake, as the prince soon holds the raptor captive. This story continues from there.

While decidedly odd, this short story was also a ton of fun. It was well-written, full of humor and heart (and a wee bit of viscera). As with most fairy tales, it ends with a “happily ever after.” The question is: who gets the happy ending?

I loved the way the raptors thought, and the princess was awesome. Yes, this is a weird concept, but I recommend you give it a go. It is very short; it only took me fifteen minutes or so to finish it. You can easily read it in that amount of time but, if you’re like me, you’ll read it more than once.

Frozen Secrets by Myles Christensen

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He has trouble following the rules on Earth. But this trip to Jupiter’s moon could kill his curiosity for good…

Thirteen-year-old Max Parker is a grounded Earthling with the soul of a space explorer. So when he learns his family is relocating to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, he readily agrees to stay out of mischief. But his promise is soon forgotten, and his snooping lands him on a shuttle doomed for a fiery disintegration.

Convinced someone sabotaged the craft to cover up the theft he witnessed, he digs into the incident. Why was this robbery worth attempted murder? Dodging a series of deadly accidents, he follows the clues to an abandoned outpost and discovers a secret that could blow the lid off a moon-wide conspiracy…

Can Max solve the mystery before his interplanetary escapade gets him killed? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available in January.

Funny story: I couldn’t find this book one afternoon. I looked in all the usual places that I “lose” things, but I still couldn’t find it. Guess where it was? In the hands of my sixth grader, who was very interested in reading it. That’s a pretty high recommendation for the book just right there. I have a feeling he’ll be curled up with it soon.

This book follows Max and his best friend Jonathan. They’ve just moved with their families to Europa, as part of a colonization. The two best buds manage to get themselves into trouble on a pretty regular basis, but their usual hijinks give way to the possibility of real trouble when they notice that things seem a little off. What did they stumble on? More importantly: will they survive?

Max was a fun character to read about. Trouble follows him, but he’s not a bad kid. He was actually really sweet. Both he and Jonathan were very believable and- I’m sure- easy for middle-graders to relate to. Their relationship was a joy to read.

This book is full of action, very rarely pausing to explain things. This is perfect for someone like my son, who is able to glean any background information that is included among other things that are happening, and prefers his stories to be action-packed. There’s never a dull moment.

Frozen Secrets is the beginning of what I think will be a highly enjoyable series. If you’ve got a middle-grade/YA reader who likes sci-fi, this is not one to miss. Keep this book in mind if you’re looking for something fun to give as a gift.

Genesis: Vision of the New World (Terra Nova Book 2) by D. Ellis Overttun

A light streaking across the predawn sky, an explosion and an impending menace from above, seemingly unrelated events but connected to space time distortions predicted by an obscure scientific paper over 250 years ago. That same paper has predicted an end to the universe.

Has the unthinkable become a reality?

The ruling class Celesti see the danger as real and imminent since planet Arkos could become compromised in as little as 1,000 years. To them, that is one lifetime. That same timeframe is ten lifetimes to the servile class Gendu. To them, the threat does not even exist.

There are those within the Celesti who see the Gendu as a more immediate threat. Their solution is to genetically engineer a more pliant servant class and leave Arkos for an unknown planet. Is that even possible?

But will it even matter? The leaders of the Celesti, the Transcended, know a terrible secret: The Celesti are dying.

Against this backdrop of extinction lies the politics of power. A new leader has just assumed her role as the head of the Gendu Houses. However, she is an outsider. Will she be accepted or will she be cast out as an interloper?

Also, the leader of the most powerful religious organization on the planet is missing and presumed dead. It is the opportunity of a lifetime for anyone bold enough to seize the moment. Who will fill this void? Someone with a hunger for influence and privilege? Or someone with a calling for higher purpose?

Finally, there is a prophecy from the “Codices of Taru” which foretells of a time of darkness when the “head will be cleaved from the body” that will announce the coming of the “Deceiver”. Ancient superstition or a vision of the future? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

This book, while still a “thinking book” (don’t read this while you’re surrounded by yelling kids; it will make zero sense), moves more quickly than the first in the series. It’s incredibly smart and complex.

I liked the way the story expands, now that the plot has been established. It continues to expand on the themes of politics, and relationships. I was particularly fascinated by the relationships between the different classes.

I’m trying very hard not to give anything away. Suffice it to say, this is a series worth reading. It will challenge, as well as entertain you. I recommend this series to fans of sci-fi, as well as people who like books that make them think.

Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by Ganesh Nair – A Buddy Read

Thank you to Ganesh Nair for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. All guffaws are my own.

When Ganesh Nair emailed me, he assured me that Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire was witty, sarcastic, AND a book. He was correct on all counts. He did, however, fail to mention the choking hazard from laughing too hard. I could have died. I feel like there’s a law suit in there somewhere.

I’m so excited to be doing my first buddy read post with Beth from Before We Go. We had a blast talking about this brilliant book! I’m pretty sure Mr. Nair must have recorded conversations between Beth, myself, and our respective spouses before writing his book. I know my hubby has mentioned adding a door to a cubicle on at least three occasions.

This book follows Duckett, your run of the mill average Joe, who works his butt off with very little to show for it, although some of that is due to his roommate, Stephanie Dyer. Stephanie is the sort to enjoy the fruits of everyone else’s labor- she does add a certain something, though. I’m thinking the certain something is trouble.

Duckett finds himself fielding cases for the detective agency he runs with Dyer. The problem is, they don’t run a detective agency. Things quickly go sideways, and they find themselves hopping through multiple universes, trying to solve a mystery, or- in Duckett’s case- get back to the status quo.

As Beth mentions in her post, we’ve both had a Stephanie in our lives. We also found ourselves trading stories about our horrible first apartments. If you replace Duckett’s missing apartment brick with a front door that would randomly trap me inside, you’ve got my first apartment.

Quippy, and completely bonkers, this book was an epic mash-up between comedy-noir and the weirdest sci-fi you’ll ever read . I loved every wacky moment of it. I only have one complaint: the sequel isn’t out yet.

Check out Beth’s fantastic review here.

The Necromancer’s Prison by Alec Whitesell

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She wanted to find her place in the universe. She never imagined it might not be on Earth.

When Emily Murphy over slept the morning of her college entrance exam, she thought missing her test was the worst thing that could happen. She never expected she would wind up lost halfway across the galaxy, battling aliens with laser guns and mages hurling lightning.

Like most seventeen year olds, Emily’s main concern had been navigating the perils of high school, not surviving shootouts and sorcery. That changed when her school was attacked and a student was kidnapped. While everyone else smartly fled from danger, she recklessly ran toward it mounting an impossible rescue that would lead her on a journey unlike anything she could have imagined.

Dropped into a strange world teeming with merciless criminals and ruthless aristocrats, surrounded by violence and betrayal, Emily must untangle a web of intrigue and deceit to solve the mystery behind the abduction, save her classmate, and discover the destiny which awaits her.

It is either that, or die trying… (taken from Amazon)

 Thank you to the author and publisher for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This was a great read! The characters were extremely well written. Emily, while not my favorite character, was brave and had a strong moral compass. That she rushed into danger to save someone made her immediately likable. She had a tough exterior that masked a lot of emotion and made her very interesting.

She was joined by another classmate, Mason, who was my favorite character. That guy was just trying so hard. He was way out of his depth but didn’t let that stop him. It was also great to see a nice guy in a book, instead of the usual “bad boy with a heart of gold” cliche.

There was a small moment that I kind of loved: the humans are asking one of the residents of the planet they’re on about the “aliens”. The character they’re speaking to point out that technically the humans are the aliens on that planet. I don’t know why, but that little back-and-forth really stood out to me.

The entire book was incredibly creative, one of the most unique sci-fi books I’ve read in quite a while. The fact that the main characters are human was perfect: there was just enough familiarity to give the reader a strong jumping off point to everything new and extremely different.

I definitely recommend picking this book up.

The Betrayal of Ka (The Transprophetics Book 1) by Shea Oliver

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As the spaceship secretly lands on Earth, Ka’s mission is clear: find and kill Transprophetics. His shipmates think of him as a killer. On his home planet of Koranth, he is considered a murderer. Haunted in his dreams by the boy whose life he stole, Ka struggles to define who he really is.

A girl in a temple in Thailand. A boy kidnapped in Mexico. Both can do the impossible. Both can move objects with their minds. These two Transprophetics pose grave risks to the Donovackia Corporation as it plans its invasion of Earth.

With a blade in his hand, Ka’s decision to kill, or not, will reverberate across the galaxy. (taken from Amazon)

                        Thank you to the author for providing me with this book, in exchange for an honest review.

This is a tough one for me to review, since I did not finish it. There was quite a bit of sexual assault in this book, which I try desperately to avoid. It ended up being too much for me, so I had to set this one down. Be aware: this book is gritty, disturbing, and very, very harsh.

It is also well written. While I can’t speak to how the story came together or ended, I can tell you that Shea Oliver created a fully realized universe. He paid special attention to details that I’ve found are normally glossed over.

Of the characters I’d met up to my stopping point, not one of them was likable. There was a lot of political maneuvering and stepping on of toes. In some ways this felt like a sci-fi Game of Thrones-type of book. If you can handle the harshness in those books, then this book might very well be for you.

This book has recently relaunched and the sequel releases in September.

Dominion (The Coldfire Trilogy 0.5) and The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman

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I love The Coldfire Trilogy so, so much. I recommend it constantly. It’s one of those amazing trilogies that seems to be sadly underrated. Imagine my surprise, then, to learn that there’s a short prequel that I hadn’t read. That needed to be remedied right away!

This book follows Gerald Tarrant as he heads to the forest for the first time, the center of extreme power. His story also interweaves with that of Faith, a holy knight who had set out to destroy an unholy creature.

If I’d written this post right after I finished the book, it would have been a rave. But I had time to think first and my opinion has shifted slightly. I still think it’s a well-written book, but… with stipulations.

While I thought this book was great, it won’t do much for those who haven’t read The Coldfire Trilogy already. It’s very short and means much more if you already have an understanding of the world and storyline. If you’ve read the trilogy, you’ll be thrilled to read more about Tarrant and to get a glimpse of his arrival at the forest. If you haven’t read it, you’ll probably read it, shrug, and move on.  So, that being said, let me tell you why you should read the entire Coldfire Trilogy.

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Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold. The colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength. 

Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people—Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer—are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy. (taken from Amazon)

I’ve never read a series like this. It’s incredibly unique, and the effort the author went through to develop every little bit of the world is breathtaking.  I love the idea of a natural power (fae, in this world) , manifesting people’s thoughts and fears into physical form. Add to that some amazing characters (my favorite is Tarrant, but the priest is pretty darn interesting as well), and a complex plot, and this book series had me hooked. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve read it multiple times.

Another wonderful thing about the series is that as it goes on, each character evolves. They don’t just stay in stasis. Goals have to change, and disappointments have to be weathered.  As the series continues, the price of living in a world with unchecked wild power becomes more evident.

I’m a big fan of the gothic feel that permeates the book. It’s understated, but the darker atmosphere highlights the dangers the characters face and does so much to explain the harsh environment without dragging the reader through a bunch of boring exposition.

I really don’t want to say too much and give anything away, but if you enjoy sci-fi of any kind (this one borders between sci-fi and fantasy, oddly enough), read this series.