A Spark of White Fire – Sangu Mandanna

Spark of White FireFrom the publisher: “The first book in a scifi retelling of the Mahabrahata.  When Esmae wins a contest of skill, she sets off events that trigger an inevitable and unwinnable war that pits her against the family she would give anything to return to. 

In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back.

Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali.

It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart.”

This is a good political sci-fi romp with plenty of action, dialogue, with a variety of characters.  However, the characters needed more depth, more of a backstory to better explain their actions and to engage the reader.  Perhaps that would have made the first book a bit too long.  My favorite parts were the interaction of the characters with the gods.  There aren’t many twists and turns in the plot.   Then again, there may be something up with Max because he is far too good.  This first book in the planned series sets up the war that is to come, despite the efforts for peace.

eGalley review                                                        Publication date 9.4.18

Posted in science fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged

Mirage – Somaiya Daud

MirageFrom the publisher: “In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection . . . because one wrong move could lead to her death.”

There is nothing new here: conquered people, rebellion, cruel regime, body double, love triangle.  However, it was a fun read. The writing is well paced, the characters are clearly drawn yet complex.  Princess Maram softens a bit too quickly but does manage to snap back and that was appropriate to her character.  Odd though that fiancé, Idris, whose family was overthrown and conquered is not more closely watched when with her body double.  For Maram to show such naiveté might be due to her youth, but her advisers should know better.  I did enjoy the book and look forward to reading the sequel that should become more complex and with much higher stakes for all key players.

eGalley review                                                   Publication date 8.28.18

Posted in science fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged

Seafire -Natalie C. Parker

SeafireFrom the publisher: “After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, whose lives have been turned upside down by Aric and his men. The crew has one misson: stay alive, and take down Aric’s armed and armored fleet.

But when Caledonia’s best friend and second-in-command just barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether or not to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all…or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?”

Female seafaring captains seem to be the YA trend.  I’ve read quite a few in the past year. This is another book with life or death action steered by a strong female character leading her loyal crew.  This is a good one.  Fast paced, plenty of dialogue, mission to rescue captured brothers, and a question of loyalty.  Can Caledonia really trust the Bullet they have taken in?  Does it make sense for him to so readily turn on the ruthless fleet of Aric Athair?  The end sets things in place for the next book that I look forward to reading.

eGalley review                                               Publication date 8.28.18

Posted in adventure, dystopian, science fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

The Killing Room – Peter May

The Killing RoomWell, Margaret has done it again. She was in Chicago attending the funeral of her father, when called back to China to assist in the autopsies. After a short briefing, instead of being allowed to get some sleep, she is hustled to a welcome banquet. Of course, there is alcohol for toasts, and combined with the vodka she had at the bar earlier, Margaret is a bit outspoken. No, not just a bit. She manages to insult most of the dignitaries present. Dr. Margaret Campbell is an eminent forensic pathologist, quite skilled in her profession. Unfortunately, her people skills are lacking. Thus, her love affair with detective Li Yan has lots of rough patches. The setting for this novel is Shanghai, as Li has been called there to investigate the discovery of a mass burial containing eighteen dismembered female bodies. The descriptions of the city are beautiful, such a contrast with gray, dirty Beijing. The plot moves quickly, and the book is hard to put down. But BE PREPARED, the descriptions of autopsies are not for those with weak stomachs. This is the third book in the China Thrillers series written about seventeen years ago. It may be read as a stand alone, but having the background information from the first two makes this one more interesting. I have enjoyed the books, but they are early Peter May and lack the depth and beauty of the Lewis Trilogy. Still, it is interesting to see how his writing has matured.

eGalley review                                                                         Publication date 9.4.18

Posted in adult, mystery, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero – Christian Di Spigna

Founding MartryYou all know the story of Dr. Joseph Warren, don’t you? Surely you remember him. He was a close friend of Samuel Adams and he spearheaded the original group of insurgents in Boston. Shortly before the Battle of Bunker Hill he was made a Major General. He died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. His character was featured in a miniseries but I can’t recall learning of him during American History studies. This comprehensive biography tells the story of Dr. Warren, a man so important to the revolution that if he had lived, our capital might be named Warrenton. Joseph Warren was the eldest son of a gentleman farmer in Roxbury, two miles south of Boston. After he graduated from Harvard he apprenticed with Dr. James Lloyd, one of Boston’s most famous physicians. Soon he had a thriving practice and was on his way to becoming a very wealthy man. But when he became convinced that America should be free and independent he did everything he could to make it happen. He ran the rebels’ first spy ring, was at the center of almost every major conflict, and was a fine and moving orator. This is a very thoroughly researched book, well written and thoughtful, hard to put down. I hope that it will find many readers, for Dr. Warren deserves to be remembered.

eGalley review                                                   Publication date 8.14.18

Posted in adult, biography, Uncategorized | Tagged

The Raging Ones – Krista Ritchie and Becca Ritchie

The Raging OnesFrom the publisher: “In a freezing world, where everyone knows the day they will die, three teens break all odds. Franny Bluecastle, a tough city teen, dreams of dying in opulence, to see wealth she’s never known. Like the entire world, she believes it’s impossible to dodge a deathday. Until the day she does. Court Icecastle knows wealth. He also knows pain. Spending five years in Vorkter Prison, a fortress of ice and suffering, he dreams of life beyond the people that haunt him and the world that imprisoned him.
Mykal Kickfall fights for those he loves. The rugged Hinterlander shares a frustrating yet unbreakable connection with Court—which only grows more lawless and chaotic as their senses and emotions connect with Franny.
With the threat of people learning they’ve dodged their deathdays, they must flee their planet to survive. But to do so, all three will have to hide their shared bond as they vie for a highly sought after spot in the newest mission to space. Against thousands of people far smarter, who’ll live longer, and never fear death the way that they do.”

Earth has colonized three different planets.  Court, Franny, and Mykal live on a cold planet blanketed with lavender clouds, so thick the sun does not shine through and stars are not visible.  At birth, a prick with an instrument reads the child’s death date.  There are three categories: Babes – destined to die in childhood, Fast Trackers – die before 30, and Influentials – die after a very long life.  Court, Franny, and Mykal are all Fast Trackers but miraculously live past their death dates.  When this happens, they become linked with each other feeling emotions and sensations.  Court is the most driven and determined that they should have a better life.  Against all odds he intends to get them off planet by getting all three into the elite Stardust program as crew of the only space ship that has ever left the planet.

Very clever!  The authors have taken an interesting premise, advance knowledge of death date, and built a society around this.  Each character is well developed with a rich background yielding plenty of emotional depth.  The pacing is brisk, the characters are often duplicitous, and the plot is layered. The alternating voices of the three main characters move the story along without getting redundant in plot.  It’s all very well done leaving the reader wanting more.  I eagerly await the sequel.  Highly recommend

eGalley review                                                                   Publication date 8.14.18

Posted in dystopian, highly recommend, science fiction, Uncategorized

Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon

Three Things about ElsieEighty-four-year-old Florence was quite happy living in her own flat. But the council decided that she needed help coping and now she finds herself at Cherry Tree, an assisted living facility. Unfortunately, Florence, considered difficult, stubborn, far too independent, has been put on probation. If things don’t change, she will be sent to Greenbanks. But Florence is sure (well, almost sure) that the odd things that keep happening to her are the fault of a new resident who is out for revenge. He looks just like Ronnie Butler. Even Elsie says he looks just like Ronnie. The problem is, Ronnie drowned in 1953. This is a little mystery story and a big story about the struggles with the onset of dementia. And it is also a story about how all lives make a difference. Flo is a wonderful character, full of life, funny. And she is trying desperately to understand what’s happening to her. Her best friend Elsie helps her sort things out, always makes her feel better. It is a bittersweet, gentle story, told with love and compassion.

eGalley review                                                                         Publication date 8.7.18

Posted in adult, gentle reader, mystery, realistic fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged