Book Review: Tethered by Pippa Jay

Cover by Danielle Fine

Book Review

Note: This novella contains triggering subjects: rape, murder, being drugged and helpless.

The time and place

The Inc-Su Refuge and the space station Seclusion, our far future or an alternate version thereof.

The suspension of disbelief

Some races have psychic powers. Space travel exists. Humanoid aliens exist and have different life spans. Technology is advanced: regeneration gel baths, practice combat drones, cybernetic implants, genetic experimentation.

The short summary

Tyree is from a race that can kill people with sex. Said race makes clone creches, and Tyree is asked to stand in for another member of her creche to complete a diplomatic agreement. Mirsee did not have Tyree’s assassin abilities and lived as a dignitary, marrying the human diplomat Zander D’joren. Tyree now must masquerade as Mirsee until the treaty is concluded. She develops romantic feelings for Zander, which add complications to her mission.

My squees

Tyree is quite complex. She has ideas about what is appropriate for her and others and starts the story something of a prideful bigot. Her skills have kept her in good standing, but she’s asocial and rude. Her emotions are turbulent and brutal, her attempts to handle them clumsy because Su aren’t supposed to have emotions and feeling is new to her. The nightmare scene is troubling to her as it was to me. She may be a trained assassin, but her vulnerability is touching. She doesn’t make a very good guard, but she’s not trained as one. Tyree grows to understand Zander and some other humans, and it broke my heart (in a good way) to watch her grow, hurt, and be hurt. I want to know how she will deal with the world after the story’s end, because her life changes so drastically.

Pippa Jay uses evocative language. It’s a cut above the usual and immersed me in the setting. Nature, smells, tactile impressions are sprinkled in so the reader feels along with Tyree, almost in her body. I felt ‘there’ with everyone. The environments and secondary characters are detailed and compelling in their mysteries. This is an important factor to me. I didn’t cry, but I felt longing, horror, fear, and tenderness during the course of the story. That’s what does it for me: getting punched in the emotions.

My grumbles

I questioned why a grieving Zander falls in love with Tyree so quickly. We don’t know the details, because although the story is third-person, it is all from Tyree’s perspective. Zander is not a complete cipher, but he can easily distinguish between his late wife and Tyree. So what does he find compelling about her?

The end felt a little premature. Events with a great deal of emotional impact happen and I can only guess at the fallout. My hope is that the story continues so I can spend more time with the protagonists, Visaya, and Pevanne. Perhaps even with or from Zander’s perspective? He’s got to be experiencing some upheaval too.

Read if you

  • Are in the mood for something dark and beautiful
  • Like tortured protagonists
  • Crave thorough immersion in books

Skip if you

  • Want a fluffy lighthearted read or romp
  • Don’t want to conflate sex and death
  • Have trigger concerns mentioned up top
  • Need to read both points of view in a romance

Disclosure and final thoughts

I won Keir by Ms. Jay in a raffle. As thanks for her generosity to the community, I bought and reviewed this story. I was not sure I would like the premise, but seeing the universe through Tyree’s eyes is a treat. I’d read any other stories set in this same world, or a continuation of this one.

Author site: www.pippajay.co.uk

Resources: Goodreads / Kobo / Barnes and Noble / Amazon / Smashwords

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Book Review: Lana’s Comet by Lyn Brittan

Book Review

The time and place

Saturn’s moon Titan, several hundred years after our present

The suspension of disbelief

Humanity has advanced to space travel within the solar system, and we’ve been able to terraform several planets and moons. Also, we created a race of engineered emotionless clones which didn’t work out so well.

The quick summary

Dr. Lana meets Cyprus, a surly but appealing OSA officer shortly before her training, and they agree to meet later for a date. Unfortunately, she’s a new recruit under his supervision, and he is brutal to his trainees. There go those fun plans. He’s mystified by Lana, as she’s an older than average recruit who’s an ex-Corp (Meash Corp) employee and a doctor with excellent credentials. She could be making a lot more money elsewhere. They get closer as he attempts to figure out her secrets and hijinks of several kinds ensue.

My squees

Lana and Cyprus make sparks fly. The opening scene establishes Cyprus as someone who needs an attitude adjustment. He’s grumpy, prejudiced, conceited, and did I mention grumpy? He believes in tough love and says some hilariously terrible things to people because he cares about them. Lana picks up on this and calls him on his bullshit. As for Lana, she’s always asking questions which get her in trouble. She covers up her fears with snark, and she doesn’t lose her cool in a crisis. Lana challenges Cyprus, which is good for him, and he rewards her trust, believing in her veracity and conviction.

There’s an interesting twist on racism in this book. Lana is dark-skinned, and mentions that it would have been a problem in Earth’s past. Cyprus is blonde and blue-eyed, but of noticeable clone heritage. She’s the person of color, but prejudices have shifted so that he is the one marginalized. He has a giant chip on his shoulder about his heritage and envies his brother, who he loves, for having it easier. His physical nature also comes with an invisible disability that he has not reconciled himself with. There’s another disability issue that comes up later that’s good food for thought. Props to Lyn for stirring up questions of diversity and how it relates to familial ties and dependency.

The secondary characters, Cyprus’ twin brother Vin and Lana’s roommate Michi, are vivid and I want to get to know them better. There are a few Interfering Brother scenes that I visualized and grinned at- Vin knows just how to troll Cyprus. Michi is loads of fun with new adult issues that relate to anyone whose family has pressured them with expectations.

The screwball ending circumstances. Extra secrets, space pirates, hacking, mistaken identities, and assumed sexualities boil over into everyone being nonplussed. I love scenes where everyone is frustrated and confused, but your mileage may vary. If you read carefully, the end won’t take you by surprise.

My grumbles

There are some purple words in a sex scene that distracted me. The word ‘manhood’ seems at odds with the rest of the terminology used- I read it twice in one page and had fits of giggles, booting my consciousness out of the story. The description of Lana (or her hips) as ‘fleshy’ also sounded unappealing. Thankfully, that’s not in the same scene.

I found the concept of engineered humans being without emotion quite farfetched.

The last quarter of the book unravels a bit and feels rushed, including the screwball ending. The pace picks up and left me a little punch-drunk- I had to reread it to get a better sense of it.

Read if you

  • Like stern Teutonic men who could explode at any moment
  • Believe big corporations are invariably up to no good
  • Are interested in possible futures of prejudice and how humans always manage to find a group to treat badly

Skip if you

  • Don’t like even brief mentions of injections
  • Have nightmares of your brother walking in on you while you’re occupied with a partner

Final thoughts and disclosure

I got a free copy of another story by Lyn Brittan in a raffle. As a token of my appreciation for the author’s generosity to the community, I bought and reviewed this book. I look forward to exploring othe OSA world. The prologue story, Solia’s Moon, is available for free on Amazon.

Author site: lynbrittan.com

Other resources: Goodreads / Amazon

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Book Review: Roark by Jacqueline Rhoades

Book Review

The place and time

United States of America, on Earth, in the near future. The area is called Sector Three.

The suspension of disbelief

Earth gets invaded by Not-Very-Near-Human aliens. Chaos and destruction ensue. Other Near-Human aliens (if I trust the cover art and description they are about as different as most early Star Trek aliens are from human) show up to fight them and are trying to live on earth with the humans. Most of the tech we know has been shut down or doesn’t work, but the aliens are higher tech than we are.

The quick summary

Mira, an ex-teacher, meets Roark, the new alien commander of the city, and they quite like each other and begin a courtship. Meanwhile Mira’s teenage brother is running with the wrong crowd and she’s caring for and supporting orphans she doesn’t have any legal rights to while someone is out there orphan-napping. Roark has problems of his own: he’s inherited a basket case of a command with lack of supplies and manpower, insubordinate officers, possible embezzlement, the list goes on. They are both carrying time-bomb secrets. How do they get together and stay together? I’ll let you read.

My squees

Our protagonist Mira. She’s everything I’d want in a BFF or big sister. She reminds me of several of my favorite teachers who if faced with danger would have protected us (the students) at any cost to themselves. She has vulnerabilities and flaws that resonated with me. Her missteps make sense. I like how she admits she is attracted to alpha males but that has not worked out well for her, so she tries prudence. Once she’s committed to you in whatever context, she has your back. She will fight for you, she will stand by you, and I cheered her on throughout the novel.

The other characters are well-drawn. At first I was a little worried by the preponderance of male aliens, but then we meet the delightful Dr. Ahnyis who I also want to be my friend. There’s also grumpy Sargeant Mohawk who is introduced as an antagonistic but everyone grows to count on, confusing Dr. Mason Mason, and earnest Petrark. I wanted to bash Mira’s brother’s head in, but I also wanted to do that to my younger brother when he was a teenager. Roark is a sincere fellow who can be quite overbearing but shuts up when Mira’s not done talking. He’s upset when he has reason to be but is willing to hear all the evidence on something before charging off and doing something reckless. As proven in a memorable game of Cards Against Humanity, active listening will always get you laid.

The romantic relationship proceeds in a realistic, relatable fashion. Roark figures out what he wants rather quickly, but his feelings deepen over time so it doesn’t just seem like infatuation. Mira approaches it more slowly and with caution: she’s intrigued, then attracted, then begins to care. She has concerns about the poor girl getting with the rich commander who wants to give her things and can control her fate, as it often creates power issues and friction, just like in resource-skewed relationships in our present. Her worries ring true, and she has to have some encouragement to get involved with Roark. Once they figure out that they both care, love follows quickly. No Great Misunderstandings. The love (and sex) scenes flowed with the rest of the story and paced it well.

My grumbles

There are some editing mistakes that kicked me out of the book and broke my reading trance. There’s a stray sentence fragment, one misspelled word that jumped out at me because it was during a moment of tension, and two paragraphs that had sentences that didn’t seem to follow each other. There is also the confusing part where Ahnyis tells Mira the friendly aliens are all dudes and Mira doesn’t say ‘uh but you identify as female’ like I did. This was explained later to Mira, but at the time I furrowed my brow. There’s also a remark in which Roark references his father having knowledge that I thought he didn’t due to the conversation before and after. Nothing that would change anything around it, but I grumble about getting jarred out of the story with a ‘wait what’.

The friendly aliens (the Godan) apart from slight anatomical differences don’t seem very alien and they catch on to human slang rather quickly. I wasn’t sure how believable I found that, and am still undecided. The middle of the book was tight and cohesive, but the end felt a little less together, more meandering with scenes that felt shortened. I would have liked scenes or some more time with the supporting cast to highlight how they’d changed and developed, as I had grown to care about them.

Read if you

  • like women who give as good as they get and can take a stand
  • sympathize with the plight of the oldest sister who has to be the rock of the family
  • are into Viking or Viking-type men
  • enjoy a large huggable cast of supporting characters

Skip if you

  • don’t want to read about aliens or conversely, only want Real Weirdie aliens with tentacles
  • hate reading about troublesome teenagers and why would sympathetic characters like them
  • avoid books with any swear words (there are military men under stress, and shellshocked humans under stress, guess what happens?)
  • think that there is excessive discrimination against moderate Hive Bug aliens already and cannot support perpetuation of this extreme prejudice

Final thoughts and disclosure

I won this book in a raffle, but it was on my to read/buy list anyway. I volunteered to do a review because I want to promote the interests of SFR and indie authors. I’ve never read Ms. Rhoades before, and this is her first entry into SFR with the Women of Earth series. I’ll reread this one on a rainy afternoon this winter sipping hot chocolate…or perhaps sooner. I enjoyed myself, I enjoyed the characters (Roark has won runner-up in an SFR poll), and I’m buying the next book when it comes out.

Author site: jacquelinerhoades.com

Other resources: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes and NobleKobo

 

 

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Book Review: Star Cruise – Marooned by Veronica Scott

Book Review

The place and time

Deep space and on the jungle resort type planet Dantaralon. I imagine it’s in the far future in our timeline, but it could be an alternate universe.

The suspension of disbelief

Interstellar travel exists! Humans and other races are in space, and some aliens are at war with humans.

Quick summary

Meg Antille is working on a cruise ship, and Simon “Red” Thomsill, recently retired soldier, has gotten a job aboard it to get to know her better. During a stopover on a nature preserve planet, things go ill. The ranger station is deserted, the big dangerous wild animals aren’t being kept away as they should, and then the ships take off without their passengers. Simon, Meg, and the other passengers get pursued through the jungle by pirates and have to find a way to get off-planet safely. During the journey, Meg and Red develop a mutual respect to go with their mutual attraction.

My squees

Meg and Red are reasonable likable people, and the obstacles to their involvement aren’t contrived. The planet comes alive with vivid infills of flora and fauna. Some of the bad guys get what’s coming to them. An early scene where Meg rescues the party from the baddies is a breath of fresh air.

There’s a cool subplot about some secret research on the planet that I wanted to know more about. It ties in with the fast-paced escape sequence at the end, but it begs for its own story. I also enjoyed learning a bit more about the universe with its alien races and the political situation surrounding the characters, so I’ll explore the rest of the universe with Scott’s other Sectors books.

My grumbles

For the first half of the book I’ve no idea what Red finds so compelling about Meg. It seemed rather radical of him to change his career so blatantly to cozy up to a lady who he saw once and has never given him the slightest encouragement. He doesn’t seem impulsive, so it felt at odds with his character. I learned more later, but sprinkling that information in might have sold me more on his joining the cruise crew.

The secondary characters feel somewhat shallow, especially Peter. I can’t remember anything about him other than his job and who he’s married to.

Read if you

  • Like Man vs. Nature conflict
  • Want to spend an afternoon on a jungle adventure
  • Love multi-talented soldiers with cool tattoos

Skip if you

  • Dislike named characters dying during a story
  • Often have nightmares about giant poisonous snakes
  • Think people should stop vilifying bug aliens already and cannot support this defamation of their compound eyes

I received a copy of this book in a raffle, but review it unsolicited. It’s a short read for a dollar. I like the bones of the story and think it could have gotten a little more flesh, or it could use a sequel where we get to know more than was hinted at about our protagonists’ backgrounds.

Author website: veronicascott.wordpress.com

Other resources: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes and Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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Consumptive habits and creation

Like many people, I look at a lot of websites and consume a great deal of content. On a typical day, I visit most of the following:

  • ESPN and ESPN FC (soccer) for headlines about baseball, soccer, tennis, and Olympic sports. Most days this doesn’t take too much time unless something like the Women’s World Cup is going on. Then I read every single article, even ones about Thailand games. I don’t know who any of those Thai ladies are but I find them inspiring.
  • The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, for sabermetric data and Yankees talk. Did you know that baseball has numbers that are statistically significant and that Nate Silver started his projections with baseball? I am terrible at ProbStat myself but love to see the science and methodology behind all these projections.
  • RPGamer for news on upcoming and current role-playing video games.
  • Shopping websites for clothing sales. This can take two minutes or longer if I’m being picky about new socks or pajamas.
  • The New York Times, which I’ve subscribed to for years and is still my major news curator. I’m told this makes me old-fashioned.
  • SPL Overdrive, the Seattle Public Library’s ebook-lending engine. How close am I to items I have on hold? What’s new this week?
  • Facebook if my brother, a community I follow, or a few close friends have posted something.
  • My feedbin. This is the biggest time suck of all. I have a ton of clothing blogs, Cliff Mass’s weather blog, many writers’ blogs on their books and on writing, and some blogs of personal friends.

That’s just the web content I consume. Add some video games, a ton of music, and plenty of books, and I feel like a giant ravening maw that I shove stuff into. So many wonderful things, so little time and energy, especially because I work full time as a computer programmer. The desire to consume wars with the desire to create. If I am not making things up, just consuming them, I am unsatisfied. I can make web applications, I can write words, I can try to write music, I can work on creating roleplaying games. Which one I do is a daily question. I’m on a writing fiction kick right now, with a little bit of roleplaying games.

Tan Tan Bo Puking, by Takashi Murakami

Tan Tan Bo, by Takashi Murakami (2001) is one way I try to explain my creative urge and process.

I’ve been trying to devote about an hour on weekdays to creation. Weekends are variable, because sometimes I’m not in town or am doing tons of social things. I’m still working on balancing creation and consumption and subcategories of both. Left unchecked, I binge on one or the other and end up feeling empty or uninspired. Perhaps someday I can expand the hours I can create things in.

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