Monday, April 24, 2017

Alexander Outland: Space Pirate by G.J. Koch

Great news for readers who love laugh out loud, irreverent, satirical, space opera! Gini Koch's 2012 Alexander Outland: Space Pirate is being brought out in mass market paper back by Skyhorse Publishing in June.

You may remember how enthused I was about her debut novel, Touched by an Alien, which may have been my favorite read of of 2010. Somehow I missed Alexander Outland when it was first published in 2012 but I'm glad I found it now. It has elements of my favorite SF book series ever (Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga) and favorite tv series ever (Firefly).

Alexander Outland, captain of the Sixty-Nine,  may well be a distant relative of James T. Kirk and Malcolm Reynolds as demonstrated by way with women. However, Slinkie, his weapons chief is strong, independent, and definitely has his number. Also on board are a distinctly different engineer, a Sexbot AI co-pilot named Audrey, and a deposed governor. On what should have been a routine trip to pick up and deliver a shipment of magma between planets, the Sixty-Nine is caught in the web of a pirate armada. But, Alexander being the best space pilot in the galaxy, escapes to land on a strictly regimented  planet that has been totally cut off by the pirate armada. Koch is not afraid of throwing her characters into deep shit as evidenced by a hair raising trek through the planetary sewer system. 

It is to be hoped that there will be many more hilarious forays into the clever universe concocted here. In the very best of ways, it reminds me of some of the humorous science fiction from the 70s and 80s.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Seventh Sun by Kent Lester

The Seventh Sun
Kent  Lester

Tor/Forge ISBN: 9780765382221

A geologist doing research in Honduras finds something major in a mining core sample that may win him a Nobel Prize. Dan Clifford, a scientist specializing in "black swan" events, generally unpredictable catastrophic disasters such as earth quakes or tidal waves, decides to stop off at his company's computer plant in Honduras on his way to a scuba vacations and unknowingly sets a series of events that could take down his company. When diving he discovers the body of that geologist. Rachel Sullivan, a daredevil scientist returns from a frigid near death experience and teams up with Dan as he figures out what is going on and races time to prevent a domino effect leading to the next global extinction event.

You won't want to stop reading until the last page is turned. It has somewhat the same feel and appeal as Jurassic Park by Crichton or Preston's Hot Zone with the combination of science and suspense. A terrific debut novel.

Run the Risk by Allison Van Diepen

Nineteen-year-old Grace is trying to keep her fifteen year-old brother Alex on track and out of a gang while working nights in a movie theater and volunteering days at a childcare center. She's also taking classes to bring her grades up high enough to get into the early childhood education certification program because her last semester of high school had tanked after her mom died and her father spent all his time working as a trucker to (sometimes) pay the bills. Mateo had been her first love when she was fifteen but when he joined a gang she had broken up with him. Now, he has just started working security at the theater and claims to be done with gangs. The tension ratchets up when Alex finds himself in deep gang-related trouble with his only hope being Grace and Mateo.

Highly recommended for readers of Simone Elkeles and those who like edgy teen romances with danger and suspense.

Monday, April 10, 2017

No One but You by Brenda Novak

A brave heroine and a wounded bad-boy hero may find healing in a small town if they aren't killed first. Sadie needs more work or better paying work to be free of her controlling and dangerous ex so she can protect her young son. Dawson may have been acquitted by a jury but the folks of Silver Springs still see him as guilty in the gruesome murders of his adoptive parents. He needs to get the farm going again and clean up the mess made when vandals trashed the house while he was in jail and on trial so he can bring his developmentally disabled sister home from the institution she has been in since his arrest. Sadie applies for the job which puts her bullying ex-husband, a town cop, into high gear and increasingly dangerous harassment.

Appealing characters, gripping suspense, and believable romance make this a great reading choice.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Bound by Their Secret Passion by Diane Gaston

Lorene Summerfield lost all hope of love and children when she sacrificed herself to a loveless marriage to a crotchety old count so her siblings would be able to make decent marriages. With her two sisters and half-brother happily married, her only joy in life is spending time with them so when her elderly husband forbids her to see them on Christmas she defies him and walks to the neighboring estate, her childhood home to spend the day with them. Returning home, escorted by Dell, the Earl of Penford, who inherited the family home, they are accosted by Lorene's husband and accused of having an affair. When Lorene's husband attempts to strike Dell with his cane, Dell grabs it just as the old lord grabs his own head as in terrible pain, falls down the steps, and dies. Finally the inquest is over, the count buried, and the will read. Lorene had hoped for a modest settlement, having bargained away her dower rights in return of promises of dowries for her sisters but is astonished to realize her late husband left her quite wealthy. After a year of mourning she goes to London to sell her inherited townhouse and both her scandalous mother who had deserted her as a child and Dell come back into her life. This delightful regency era romance is the fourth book in the Scandalous Summerfields series.

Harlequin 978-0-373-29925-6

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Death by Any Other Name by Tessa Arlen

Returning from holiday, Mrs. Jackson is beseeched by a former cook from a Hyde Castle, a nearby manor owned by the merchant millionaire Haldanes to take up her case. She was dismissed without references when a house guest at the manor died after eating her kedgeree and she was blamed for serving fish that had spoiled. She is positive the man was poisoned. Mrs. Jackson takes the story to Lady Montfort, who decides to investigate. Mrs. Jekyll, the prominent rose expert, happens to be visiting at the time so when Lady Montfort secures an invitation to a rose symposium by Mrs. Haldane, the three women go to spend a few days at Hyde Castle. As news from the continent heralds the beginning of World War I, Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson sort through the contentious group of rose-loving friends to determine if a murder by poisoning had actually occurred and if so, who did it. Fans of Downton Abbey and readers who enjoy authentic, rich historical detail will enjoy this look into Edwardian England on the brink of war.

This is the third mystery featuring Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson but it stands well on its own. Well worth reading if you like cozy mysteries and being immersed the the manners and mores of a different time.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lotus and Thorn by Sara Wilson Etienne

On a world called Gabriel, the descendants of the human colonists live two vastly different lives. The Citizens, small, brown people scavenge the ruins of a destroyed city for ancient artifacts while facing frequent outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever epidemics. The Citizens trade the artifacts for food from the larger, stronger, and healthier, but diverse Curadores who wear isolation suits when leaving their high tech dome. Leica,  an outcast from the Citizens, becomes a concubine in the Dome after meeting a Edison, a Curadore, when she finds a radio that seems to be getting a transmission from Earth while in exile in the desert.

I loved the Hispanic and Korean bits incorporated into the background of the characters. The world building made me think of books such as Dune by Frank Herbert, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

It has great teen appeal with lots to think about but adults will enjoy it as well. The science fiction aspects make sense (even though not necessarily at first). The genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, technology, and nanotechnology, are integral to the story. The interpersonal relationships, kickass shero, echoes of a fairy tale, social and religious commentary, and political machinations combine to make this a great read.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

In a contemporary country where perfection is paramount, a court of three judges in the Guild decides if people are Flawed and imparts judgement that can result in imprisonment or branding. Giving assistance to anyone judged to be Flawed is considered a major Flaw. When well-liked, attractive, good student, Celestine North, the daughter of a model and a journalist sees a Flawed old man on the bus about to collapse she helps him into a vacant seat for for the Flawless. She is arrested and in a political maelstrom determined to be Flawed starting up an uprising. 

           Celestine is a wonderful character who while always trying to be perfect still discovers there is more to life. The dystopian society is horrifying, reminiscent of Salem during the witch trials. I'm looking forward to seeing more from Ahern in the future.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Georgiana is sent off to boarding school when her latest science experiment, an attempt to make invisible ink to help in the fight against Napoleon, goes awry, burning down her father's stable. Arriving at Miss Stranje's boarding school she finds a torture chamber, which her father hopes will serve to change Georgiana's ways, and a ballroom where several young ladies are tied to chairs. She discovers hidden chambers and passages including one she falls out of and into the arms of Lord Sebastian Wyatt. With threats of assassinations, reinstatement of Napoleon as emperor, and an even bigger war, Georgie's invisible ink formula is needed for covert communications.

Smart girls, brave young men, evil spies, and the manners and mores of Regency England combine to make this a delight. It is a great read for those who love YA novels and romantic adventure
stories set in the Regency era. I loved that Baldwin included an author's note delineating where her historical fiction diverged from the actual historical record.

I read this because I picked up an arc of Refuge for Masterminds and discovered it was the third in the series. Unfortunately my box of treasures shipped home from ALA has never arrived : (    

Published by Tor Teen 2015

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Flying by Carrie Jones

Cheerleader vs. Aliens. Mara is small, ethnic looking, and the flyer for her cheerleading team. She has two best friends, Seppie who is also a cheerleader and Lyle the gorgeous, athletic, nerd next door. When Mara sees her crush seemingly being kidnapped at a game she rushes into the locker room to save him and discovers he is actually an acid spewing alien! Meanwhile both her parents go missing and she and Lyle have to run for their lives.

This is a fun read with great action. Readalikes are Gini Koch's Aliens series and the movie Men in Black.

Published by Tor Teen

Friday, February 10, 2017

The One-Eyed Judge by Michael Ponsor

Judge Posner's second novel featuring western Massachusetts  federal judge David Norcross delves into the trial of an Amherst professor, Sidney Cranmer, who is charged with obtaining and possessing child pornography. Cranmer's scholarly passion is Charles Dodgson, who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland using the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll and was rumored to be a pedophile. Claire Lindemann, Norcross's love interest and a colleague of Cranmer is sure he has been wrongly accused and she works with the professors student intern whose own love life may have a bearing on the case. While the case drags on, David's life is complicated by a family tragedy that brings his two young nieces into his household. 

The great appeal in Posner's legal thrillers is not action but rather the examination of law and how it is administered. His sympathetic characters are thoughtful and examine ethics as well as law but the miscreants are not nearly as well developed. All in all this is an entertaining and thought provoking read.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Fantasy lovers and dog lovers of all ages will enjoy Nix's clever new fairy tale. In a world of tiny kingdoms, it is not easy growing up with a stepstepfather who is an evil sorcerer planning to wrest the kingdom away from the heir. Anya, the younger, and more practical of the two princesses, has always listened to the wisdom of the royal dogs so when she promises to save her sister's suitor who has just been transformed into a frog by their evil stepstepfather, she goes to them for help. When she rescues the wrong frog prince using the last of the transmogrification lip balm she sets out on a quest to acquire the ingredients to make more, accompanied by Ardent, a young dog. Along the way she meets others who have been victims of transformation spells, good thieves, witches, seven dwarves, wizards, sorcerers, and several different Geralds the Herald. Through a danger filled series of adventures she realizes that it is up to her to restore the rule of law expressed All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs.

This delightful tale would be a great read aloud for middle grade and middle school audiences. It has the feel of a classic bringing to mind Harry Crewe from Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and Princesses Cimorene from Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

This amazing first installment of an enthralling space opera begins at the end of an empire but before most people across the Interdependency have any idea their civilization is facing collapse. Even though faster than light travel proves impossible there is something called The Flow, a way of sliding into an alternate reality current that sweeps intergalactic ships from place to place in a matter of months. Cardenia, the illegitimate daughter of the emperox is crowned when her father dies. A Flow physicist living on End, the furthest part of the empire, as a royal auditor, keeps his scientific discovery that something is amiss with the Flow on the down low as he researches it. A ship heading to End faces a mutiny. On End, a merchant prince conspires with a rebellion while his brother and sister back at the Hub connive for a political alliance.

This rich, complex, totally addictive tale is a beautiful balance of romance, politics, social stratification, religion, and commerce. It has the feel of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac

"Being good at what you do is the closest thing to freedom a woman can find."

With a Washington D.C. setting and a passionate quest for the truth, Kovac's debut novel brings David Baldacci's early books to mind. Virginia Knightly, a broadcast news producer, and real journalist, is determined to find out what happened to a  young lawyer working for one of top legal firms in the capital, who walked out of a restaurant after quarreling with her husband and disappeared. Virginia has a memory for images and knows she's seen the missing woman before. Her investigation leads her into conflict with politicians, the police, and even her own news team.

Smart, strong, well drawn women characters add an extra dimension to this page-turning thriller, looking at the greed and power of the politically connected through a feminist lens.

Find it at your book store in March. Published by Atria 9781501141690

Friday, January 27, 2017

Little Brother by Doctorow, Cory

With all the talk today about 1984, I thought this was a timely book to talk about.

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” -Benjamin Franklin.

Marcus Yallow and three of his friends skip out of school to participate in a game I don’t understand but that sounds so much like fun I tried googling it. In a horrible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time they witness the  San Francisco Bay Bridge being blown up, perhaps by terrorists. When the quartet tries to go to ground in a BART station the press of the crowd proves deadly and his friend Darryl is stabbed. Up on the street, trying to flag down help to get Darryl to a hospital, they are picked up as suspected terrorists by the Department of Homeland Security and taken to a secret prison where Marcus is tortured and interrogated. Days later he is allowed to go home but threatened with retribution if he is to reveal that he had been imprisoned and tortured. An accomplished hacker, he figures out a way to fight back. Full of heart and terrifyingly real, Doctorow’s first novel written specifically for teens is sure to be discussed and applauded by both teen and adult readers who realize the significance of the dystopian world that is evolving before us.  It features interesting and scary parallels to Orwell’s 1984.