Around the Dark Dial by J.D. Sanderson

Take a trip around the dark dial with eleven original and thought-provoking short stories that invoke the wonder and mystery of old-time radio dramas. Forget all that you know about modern sci-fi. In Around the Dark Dial, it’s all about the unexpected. (taken from Goodreads)

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

This is a short story collection unlike any other I’ve read. Evoking a sense of the mysterious, each story had an underlying tension that kept me fascinated. Short story collections can be hit or miss for me; this was a definite hit.

Each story provided a unique take on the sci-fi genre. While there were stories featuring common sci-fi features, they were uniquely done in ways that felt fresh and new. There were what seemed to be hidden connections between some of the stories, more common themes than anything else. I enjoyed the thrill I got from seeing how one might be connected to another. Even the way the stories were ordered added to my enjoyment of the collection.

I particularly liked The Simulant for its take on AI. The humanity that author J.D. Sanderson gave to his Simulant was actually very thought-provoking. The ending gave off a sense of paranoia, much like a good thriller can. In fact, Sanderson knows just when to end a tale, leaving plenty of room for the reader to think and wonder, without suddenly dropping the plot. I don’t like books that stop abruptly, but I also am not a huge fan of things being overexplained. Sanderson tread the fine line between the two with skill.

My absolute favorite of the stories, though, was Caller Four. This one revolved around a radio show that covered the topic of alien abductions. The late-night scene, combined with the question of whether the alien encounter was really happening, made for an engrossing read. I loved how the ending brought the story full-circle. This one will definitely stick with me.

If you’re a fan of creative fiction, or if you enjoyed The Twilight Zone, Around the Dark Dial will be right up your alley. I highly suggest giving this one a go!

You can find Around the Dark Dial on bookshop.org (among other places). If you order through my link I’ll get a small kickback. More importantly, you’ll be supporting local bookstores.

Come Take Me: A Celestial Satire by Ethan Herberman

The time is now (almost), and some Americans have decided that Canada is not quite far enough from their roiling homeland. For them there is ComeTakeMe.com, a website where people advertise to get taken by aliens.

Will anyone succeed? How about Marshall M. Shmishkiss, a starry-eyed optimist determined to become his world’s most eligible abductee? Marshall trains his body. He trains his mind. He tries to prepare for every challenge that might await a lone human on a ship of galactic explorers. And soon he will face a choice.

Either make one final, Faustian attempt at leaving his planet . . .

Or get used to down-to-earth drudgery and the end of his dreams. (taken from Netgalley)

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

Marshall M. Shmishkiss is a man determined to leave it all behind. He doesn’t want to move to a new place or quit his job–he really wants to leave it all behind. He trains in an attempt to be taken by aliens. He submits videos of his training to a website called ComeTakeMe, where they are viewed by the company that oversees the website.

The employees of this company call him the “Shmish” and they get great pleasure out of laughing and mocking the videos. Honestly, it was really cruel, despite the oddness of Marshall’s videos. You would think that would immediately endear me to Marshall, but I did not like him much. I don’t necessarily think it’s the character that I didn’t like, just that I was unable to click with the writing.

When I read a book that is so other, I need to have some sort of thread that connects me to the story, or at least brings me along for the ride. In Come Take Me, I was often confused. Things felt a little…blurry, for lack of a better word. I feel like the book was a little disorganized, especially at the beginning.

While the story idea was a clever one, I ultimately felt a little “meh” about this book. I think that says more about me than the book itself. I just didn’t click. It happens sometimes. I wish the author the best with Come Take Me , but I can’t say I would recommend it.

The Audacity 2: Time Warp by Laura Loup

May’s career as an interstellar rocket racer is just ramping up. She’s got a stunning ship, her best friend Xan for a co-pilot, and a rocket-full of winnings.

But obscenely good luck can’t last forever, and May has been racing in a stolen ship. When Xan’s arrested by a tea-sipping, goddess-possessed pink robot for a crime he can’t bring himself to explain without baking analogies, May’s career is over.

With the help of an adventure biologist and her freshly un-dead girlfriend, May and Xan must find a way to change the past before the goddess of Chaos squashes everything May loves.

Fun, fast-paced, and surprisingly emotional, The Audacity: Sphere of Time is a Douglas Adams-esque celebration of weirdness in space.

For fans of… Futurama, Guardians of the Galaxy, Good Omens, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (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.

As suggested in the title (the number ‘2’ should give it away), this is a sequel. You can find my review for the first book in the series, The Audacity linked below the review.

This is the book we need this year. 2020 has been…well, let’s move on to talking about the book, shall we? Brilliant and hilarious from page one, this was a fabulous continuation of the first book.

I was a little worried about whether The Audacity 2: Time Warp (which I am going to call just “Time Warp” from here on out) could live up to the first book. I shouldn’t have been concerned at all. The antics are just as funny, May is still a disaster magnet, and Xan is still…Xan.

This book would be funny with the oddity of the plot alone. Add in Laura Loup’s quippy, snarktastic writing, though, and this becomes a laugh a minute. There was never a dull moment, either in plot or prose.

May and Xan have the most wonderful friendship! I loved reading about them. There was something utterly genuine about their relationship which balanced out the utterly bizarre happenings in the book quite well. The entire cast of characters was fun, of course, but May and Xan’s relationship really shone.

Time Warp had a lot of heart and even more comedy. If you need a giggle-slash-aww, this series is for you.



Review for The Audacity: https://wittyandsarcasticbookclub.home.blog/2019/11/30/the-audacity-by-laura-loup/

Crossing in Time by DL Orton- The Write Reads Blog Tour

Crossing in TimeThe past isn’t over, it’s an opening. The future isn’t hidden, it’s a trap.
If she ever wants to see him again, she’ll have to take the risk…

Publishers Weekly Starred Review: “Funny, Romantic & Harrowing!”

When offered a one-way trip to the past, Iz sacrifices everything for a chance to change her dystopian future—and see her murdered lover one last time.After a perilous journey through a black hole, she wakes up on a tropical beach, buck naked and mortally wounded—but twenty years younger! With only hours to live, she must convince an enraptured but skeptical twenty-something guy to fix their future relationship and thereby save the planet (no one is quite sure why.)But it’s easier said than done, as success means losing him to a brainy, smart-mouthed bombshell (her younger self), and that’s a heartbreaker, save the world or not.

Across the infinite expanse of space and time, love endures…(Unfortunately, it’s not going to be enough.) Taken from Amazon

 

13506103 THE BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, D. L. ORTON, lives in the Rocky Mountains where she and her husband are raising three boys, a golden retriever, two Siberian cats, and an extremely long-lived Triops. In her spare time, she’s building a time machine so that someone can go back and do the laundry.

 

Parasites by Matthew Samuels

Image result for parasites by matthew samuels
At the end of the universe, the very fabric of reality is beginning to contract, winding up to the Big Crunch. Alone and isolated on the planet Lyra, humans evolved late on a resource-poor world. Doomed to die out as food and minerals dwindle, a scientist makes a chance discovery allowing people and vehicles to travel through ‘thinnings’ – patches of space linking universes.Kael and Alessia are explorers charting where the thinnings go and more importantly, bringing back valuable resources to Lyra, trying desperately to extend the lifespan of their home world. Alessia’s father, Ben, set out two years ago to uncover another species’ reference to a ‘solution’ to the big crunch problem – but never returned. A chance discovery leads Kael and Alessia to a clue, prompting another expedition to see if they can avoid the mistakes of the past and help to unravel the mystery.Kael, Alessia and their gruff bodyguard Basteel retrace Ben’s steps, seeking closure for Alessia, a solution for Lyra and together begin a voyage through wild, weird and wonderful planets. (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.

When it comes to sci-fi writing, I’m pretty picky. It’s very easy for me to lose interest, or just give up because I get confused by the “sciencey stuff” (don’t mind me, I’m just over here making up new phrases). There was never any danger of that with Parasites, however. It was a unique book and kept me entertained from beginning to end.

I think the biggest strength the author displayed in this book was the world (worlds) building. It was excellent. He managed to somehow make things utterly alien, while keeping it believable and with enough of a grounding in reality that it made sense. I was never bored by overly-complicated scientific mumbo-jumbo: even the explanations were easy to understand, without speaking down to the reader.

All of the characters were enjoyable, although Basteel (the bodyguard/father figure) was by far my favorite. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I can’t stand overly dramatic love stories, and this book didn’t have any. It was fabulous. The relationships were important, but they were never over the top, or melodramatic. The interactions between the characters was based more on friendship and respect, than on the gushy stuff (ha!).

Matthew Samuels wrote with confidence and skill. Parasites is an excellent addition to the science fiction genre, and one I suggest picking up.

 

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go: Books with Incredible Settings

One of the many things I love about reading is a book’s ability to take the reader somewhere new, different, or completely imagined. I’ve been to so many amazing places, and I haven’t had to sit on a plane with strangers for hours on end. I win!

Here are a few books that have stood out to me, in terms of settings.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: When I think of creative settings, I picture the Night Circus. Those black and white tents, with magic inside waiting to be discovered. The gorgeous clock. The midnight dinners. One of the things I love about Erin Morgenstern is her ability to evoke not just sight and sound, but smell and taste. It’s magical. She casts the same spell with her second novel, The Starless Sea.

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: I think one of the reasons this odd little book has stood the test of time is the unapologetic weirdness of both the characters and the setting. I recently read this book to my children. My toddler loved it. My oldest thought it was “too weird”. That’s okay, I love him anyway (Ha ha!).

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Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman: I really love the Inn of the Last Home, and the town of Solace in general. It’s such a cool idea, and it’s done so very well. It’s such a homey place. I’d love to visit the Inn of the Last Home and eat some of Otik’s spiced potatoes. Yum!

Mass Market Paperback Dragons of Autumn Twilight Book

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Of course this series made the list. Rowling’s Wizarding World is so well-conceived that it’s very easy to picture. Oddly enough, it’s the Burrow that really stands out to me in terms of setting, though.

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The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold: I’m still in the middle of this book, but Sunder City is so well described that I had to include it in this post. A fantasy-slum town, it’s easily seen in my mind’s eye.

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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: The enemy’s gate is down. Also, everything is so well-conceived and described that I never felt lost or disconnected from Ender’s world when reading this book, despite that being a slight issue I run into with sci-fi books.

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I’m a sucker for books with beautifully described settings. What about you? What books come to mind when you think of a good setting?

Paris Adrift by E.J Swift

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Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now… well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas.

She’s linked to a hole in time and chosen by fate to prevent a terrible war. Tumbling through Paris’ turbulent past and future, Hallie changes the world—and falls in love.

But with every trip, she loses a little of herself, and every change she makes ripples through time, until the future she’s trying to save suddenly looks nothing like what she hoped for… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on February 4th.

What first interested me in this book was its comparison to Midnight in Paris, a movie that I love. I can’t say I see much of a resemblance, aside from the obvious (they both involve Paris), but I’m grateful for that blurb because otherwise this book might have passed me by.

Hallie is our main character, a woman who feels out of place in her own skin. She’s decided to travel to Paris, more to run away from something than to run toward anything. There, she gets a job at a bar and joins an eclectic group of friends. She finds a sense of family, a boyfriend, and-oh yeah- a time anomaly in a taproom. Soon, Hallie is traveling through both the past and future, making changes. Whether she’s fixing things, or causing irreparable damage remains to be seen.

On the surface, my description probably makes this book sound like a lighthearted romp. It isn’t at all. It explores the idea of small changes having big impacts, discusses problems in our present, and touches on themes of self-acceptance and change. It does all that in a fast-moving, unique way. I loved it.

There were several things that set this book apart from other time-traveling books. There wasn’t nonstop action, the futuristic gadgetry wasn’t everywhere, and a good chunk of time spent was actually traveling to the past as opposed to the future. I tend to shy away from books involving time travel because it’s hard for me to handle the problems that tend to arise when writing about that subject. This book handles those stumbling blocks with aplomb.

I liked the bohemian feel of the group of friends, how they were all dissatisfied with how the world works and desperately wanted to affect change, but were unsure how to start. I think many people can relate to that (and no, I’m not going to start a religious or political argument, I promise). I actually think the conversations Hallie had with her friends were some of the most interesting parts of the book. You know a writer is talented when the musings and dialogue are just as interesting as any action scene, if not more so.

While there was a climax of events, what I most enjoyed was how things got there. The ending, while good, almost didn’t matter because the meat of the story was so well done. I definitely recommend reading this one.

Always Gray in Winter by Mark J. Engels

9781945247194: Always Gray in Winter
      A distant daughter. A peculiar device. A family lineage full of secrets. When werecat Pawlina Katczynski finally resurfaces, her location previously unknown to anyone close to her, the reunion is short of welcomed. Instead, she finds herself thrust tooth and nail—tooth and claw—into a feud between opposing werecat clans as her family and their enemies reignite a battle that has raged for years. Always Gray in Winter invites the reader to join the feud and see if blood is truly thicker than water… (taken from Amazon)

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

Unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me. I don’t often read militaristic books, which could have a lot to do with it, but I spent a good chunk of the book feeling confused. The story was told from many different points of view: Hana, Mawro, Pawly, and Lenny to name a few. I struggled to keep track of what was happening to each of them.

I found the idea of feud between two clans interesting, and would have liked to know more about the origin of the feud. While it was a cool jumping-off point, I felt that it could have been explored more.

As I said above, I don’t often read military books. Many of the things that are probably completely understandable completely threw me. I had to reread a few sections to make sure I hadn’t missed something. There was also a flashback that confused me. I struggled to figure out where the flashback began and ended, if that makes sense.

I did like the idea of werecats being the subject of the book. I’m a big fan of creativity in books, and I must say that this was a very creative concept. However, I’m wondering if it would work better as a graphic novel, or maybe even an anime-style cartoon. Seeing it unfold, as opposed to trying to keep track of the many characters, might clear up some of my confusion.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Maybe I need to read it again? Let me know your thoughts!

Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth- ARC Review

Image result for fortuna by kristyn merbeth
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

Image result for the audacity by laura loup
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.