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Review of Red Rain by Aubrey Hansen

Government regulations said they had no choice. 17-year-old Philadelphia must stay on Earth in the care of complete strangers while her father is sent against his will to Mars. When a benevolent official allows her to accompany her father, Philadelphia knows she must keep her head down or be sent back to Earth. But when a search for her deceased brother’s Bible leads her into a hallway that isn’t supposed to exist, Philadelphia is faced with a question she doesn’t want to answer – the choice between returning to Earth or destroying it.

Within the first chapter I was impressed by the pace. During the second chapter I realized there was no way I was going to put it down soon, despite that fact the dishes were waiting. And had been waiting. I think I may have honestly told myself, “I’ll just start this new book late at night and then I’ll get to the dishes.”

Quit laughing.

I put it down half-way through only because I’m attempting to break a habit of staying up past 10 o’clock, and it was 11. I finished the rest the next morning, made a gushing note about it on GoodReads, then went to those dishes.

Pacing contributes heavily to an un-put-downable factor, but pace alone does not keep me stuck within a book’s pages. I must feel with the characters, be there inside their heads. Aubrey’s ability to make even minor characters feel rounded and real. I was fully invested in the main character and her goals and problems.

And the story! I feel like giving much beyond the blurb will be a spoiler, but I found it unique and interesting. While some twists I predicted, many more I did not.

Currently, Red Rain is only the third self-published work I think was worth the read. (I’m noticing a pattern of self-pubbed novellas being of better quality than self-published novels.) Niche genre, niche length, well-edited. I didn’t notice a single grammar or spelling error, when I normally catch a neat handful in the most well-edited self-published works. (Aubrey, I know you’re reading this. How’d you do that?) As a unique trait, every couple chapters there are very beautiful illustrations of a character.

4/5 Stars

Purchase on Amazon

Book Review of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races is currently ON SALE ON AMAZON. Click picture.

I received an ARC copy of The Scorpio Races a couple weeks ago. I am ever so glad I got my hands on this book.

Some race to win. Others race to survive.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Some riders live.

Others die.

Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He loves the sky and the island and his horse. Horses and racing are his job. Sean races to win.

Puck Connolly is different. She joins the races as a desperate move to keep her older brother on the island a little bit longer. Puck races to survive.

The premise grabbed me, and the story didn’t let go. This is a tale of courage and carnivorous water horses. The island of Thisby is a salty place like the sea. Here, and only here, do the bloodthirsty Capall Uisce come to shore. They’re the menace of the island, claiming lives both from sheep and loved ones, but if you capture one and train it you have a mount of liquid lightening. The November sea stirs a Capall Uisce’s blood more than any other month. In November they are the most dangerous, the fastest. So in November the Scorpio Races are held.

Sean and Puck live separate lives. Sean is quiet and serious. If he has any doubts he keeps them to himself. His one love and fear is Corr, his water horse – except Corr is owned by the island’s breeding tycoon and Sean’s employer.

Puck is a stubborn orphan managing with her two brothers, the older of whom is tired of the island. She joins the races in a wild attempt to keep him around long enough to change his mind. She is the first girl to join, and will use her regular island pony instead of the much more capable Capall Uisce, partly for principal – the Capall Uisce killed her parents, – and partly because money leaves her no other choice.

Do I need to explain how these two characters’ interaction is marvelous?

Sean and Puck meet each other with mutual admiration and wariness and forge and unlikely friendship. The stakes rise, and they both find the things they hold dearest depending on the race, but only one of them can win. Right up until the last few pages I was unsure of how Maggie Stiefvater could take her story to a satisfying conclusion, but she did.

The Scorpio Races is the only book I’ve read that I could call “slow and gripping.” The pace is slow, with only a few tense actions scenes scattered about until the climax. Even they seemed slow. But the story and scenes are gripping, literally; I have a tendency to shift my weight around and grip the sides of the book when I am excited. Part of this are the skillful POV switches between Puch and Sean.

Maggie Stiefvater’s eye-opening description and phrases also pulled me into the pages. Her craft is flawless, and a beautiful model as well as an exciting read. The one thing that could have made The Scorpio Races more perfect would have been the use of past tense instead of present. I’m one of those people who finds present tense distracting. But in all, The Scorpio Races earned itself a place on my favorites shelf. I’m going to step out on a limb perhaps shakier than my twitter branch and say I see The Scorpio Races enduring time and becoming a classic.

Recommended for ages 15 and up for mild gore/violence and language. 5/5 Stars

It is the first day of November, and so, today, someone will die.

Book Review of The Superlative Stream by Kerry Nietz

Last month I posted a book Review of Kerry Nietz’s A Star Curiously Singing, and mentioned The Superlative Stream was on my wishlist.  If you looked closely at the photo in this post, you might notice I have checked off a book from that list.

I was nervous about The Superlative Stream. I desperately hoped it would live up to the high bar its sequel set and was afraid it wouldn’t. I needn’t have worried.

SandFly, with his female companion HardCandy, have traveled to Betelgeuse in search of the source to the Superlative Stream that changed the way they thought and challenged everything they ever knew. When they arrive, they discover something the original crew did not: a planet. Inhabited. After their ship mysteriously goes off-line, SandFly and HardCandy are welcomed by the highly-advanced people of the planet. HardCandy thinks this is a meeting the scriptures predicted. SandFly is not so sure, and is more concerned about their original reason for traveling to Betelgeuse. Are these people the source of the Superlative Stream? And even if they are, can they be trusted?

A Star Curiously Singing captured me through its unique style and world. In The Superlative Stream the style is there and the world..! The world triples. We are introduced to the Beetles (or Jinn, depending on who you ask). They have their own strange world, their own society, their own philosophy, their own surroundings. We are also shown HardCandy’s past. Her life may have been on Earth, but she had a completely different life from SandFly, whose world we saw in the previous book.

We learn of HardCandy’s history in ‘flashbacks’ scattered throughout the book, like a separate, parallel story. Normally I dislike so many ‘flashbacks,’ especially when they are not directly affecting the plot. To my surprise, I found myself looking forward to the next glimpse of HardCandy’s old life. Many questions left by A Star Curiously Singing about the characters are resolved (although I’m still waiting to learn more about the ‘sweet spot’ HardCandy found that contained a less-censored stream). I still feel like Nietz wrote or at least outlined HardCandy’s story independent of The Superlative Stream, and wonder what HardCandy’s story would have been like had it been given its own book.

I get edgy when the weirdness of sci-fi is mixed with theology, and I was worried when the reviews of The Superlative Stream seemed to show aliens. I can’t stand people trying to reconcile aliens with the Bible. Call it a pet peeve. Even in general it really takes a good story for me not to scoff at supernatural in sci-fi. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I wasn’t let down in this area either. It’s weird, but sci-fi is supposed to be weird.

In the end we are thrown ‘back’ into the conflict on Earth, which now encompasses both the physical and spiritual world. It’s hard to know how to classify The Superlative Stream as a sequel. Usually, you can easily say that either the books in a series are standalones with an over-reaching arc, or are one big story broken into parts. The DarkTrench Saga is feels like both (so far), which is interesting. And different. But fun.

The Superlative Stream is another must-not-put-down by Kerry Nietz. I’m usually a cheapskate when it comes to buying niceties such as books, but when the next in the DarkTrench Saga comes out, I won’t wait for it to go on sale to buy it. 5/5 stars.

Book Review of A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

Two weeks ago I was blessed enough to win a drawing for A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz. I ate it in two days. Now I will offer my review of this powerful book.

A Star Curiously Singing was published byMarcher Lord Press and is the first in the DarkTrench Saga. In a future mandated by Sharia law, machines are managed by debuggers, who in turn are owned by masters. Debuggers are chosen at a young age for their lot in life, and have no escape from their master’s controls. In this world is SandFly, a debugger who is going to learn that everything he has been told is a lie.

SandFly is abruptly updated to a level 13, called to a space station, cut off from ground communications, and ordered to fix a bot. But this isn’t just any bot. It was aboard the maiden flight of the DarkTrench, an experimental FTL ship. The problem? The bot tore itself apart while in deep space. What caused this? Is it a threat to humans? But most importantly, what is really going on in this space station?

The one thing that stood out to me after reading A Star Curiously Singing was the uniqueness. Kerry Nietz has weaved an incredible world, the premise of which few people are willing to use, and scatted it with refreshing details that automatically capture you on page one. As the you continue, you are grasped by an equally refreshing and unique story line.

Nietz’s style is informal, littered with sentence fragments and references to the reader. The latter is perhaps unusual today, but it is handled well and consequently has the refreshing feel that runs everywhere in this book. Sandfly calls you a freehead and reminds you of how different his lot and world is. As for the sentence fragments, at first my ‘grammar-Nazi’ mind found them annoying. Eventually the fragments fell in place as a compliment to the world.

Unfortunately, in this intriguing world the characters at times feel flat. SandFly wrestles with what he has been told about the world, God, and himself, and walks a very believable journey, but I did not feel as attached to him as I could be. However, this did not diminish my enjoyment or recommendation of the book.

The conclusion sits a bit odd theologically, but since A Star Curiously Singing is the first in the series, I’m not worried. The next in the DarkTrench Saga, The Superlative Stream, is on my wish list. A Star Curiously Singing left me with a longing for more of this strange new world and a curiosity for the singing star (I suspect the latter of which was the goal). Kerry Nietz has sufficiently stolen my attention with his debut novel. 5/5 stars.

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