Wednesday, March 31, 2021

2240: Return to Planet Earth by Daniela R. Morassutti

2240 Return to Planet Earth2240: Return to Planet Earth by Daniela R. Morassutti
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2240: RETURN TO PLANET EARTH proved to be a truly rousing action-adventure story set on a post-apocalyptic Earth!

A shipboard emergency forces Pilot Mia Bennet and three coworkers into an escape pod which is jettisoned away from their spaceship immediately before it explodes. The four passengers travel in cryosleep while the AI-monitored pod begins its journey to the Space Station orbiting Earth. But, the pod is drawn off course, and the sleeping astronauts don't arrive at their destination until almost 25 years later, shocked to find out that they've been written off as lost. However, Mia and her friends are not the only ones lost. It seems that during their time in cryosleep, the Earth experienced an apocalyptic event where invisible radiation of an unknown source decimated the human race. Devastated that their families and friends have all been killed, they descend to Earth's surface and their former base to find out what happened and if there are any survivors anywhere.

2240 RETURN TO PLANET EARTH proved to be a truly rousing action-adventure of a SciFi story set on a post-apocalyptic Earth. I quite enjoyed the plot featuring four Space Force astronauts who are rushed into cryosleep and ejected into deep space in an escape pod after an accident destroys their spaceship and kills the rest of their crew. When the pod is delayed for 25 years in its AI-monitored return to Earth's space station, the four sleeping survivors miss the apocalyptic event, which results in the elimination of most of humanity back on the home planet. That alone sold me on this book.

The main characters are all young, 20-somethings, and fairly new to their professions at the book's start. Successful completion of missions before the current action has advanced them to positions of authority and skill, presenting good role models for younger readers. And since the story unfolds from two points-of-view, Mia's and Blake's, there is both a male and female perspective to the storytelling, which is nice. The author has included a variety of characters who are confronted with big decisions to make and must then deal with the consequences of those decisions. Each character is revealed to have experienced tragedy in their lives with the loss of family members and friends during the invisible radiation event, which has wiped out 99.99% of the human population. The friends and coworkers display both personal flaws and strengths but stick together to help each other overcome adversity.

I enjoyed the combinations of settings for the action in the book. The story begins in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, goes to the Space Station, returns to Earth, and the emptiness of post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, a high-rise smart building, and the surprisingly fresh destination of Venezuela.

Yet, with all its good points, this book still needs a lot of work on language, grammar, and continuity. These three issues were numerous enough to inhibit the story's flow, and I had to constantly stop and re-read sentences to understand what the author was trying to say (i.e., missing words, the wrong words used, words used improperly, and typos.) Phrases were often repeated over and over again. Action described in one paragraph would be duplicated two paragraphs later. These things took away from what would have been a very good reading experience. However, all of the problems mentioned above are things that an editor could help resolve.

Without a lot of hardcore SciFi tech-talk and featuring a cadre of quite young protagonists, the target audience seems to lean toward YA, teen, and perhaps even upper middle-grades (once the grammar and language issues are corrected.) I urge the author to have this book looked over; I think the end result would be golden. Until that time, I recommend this book with reservations.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

See my original review on Reedsy Discovery!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Alina: A Song for the Telling by Malve von Hassell

Alina: A Song For the TellingAlina: A Song For the Telling by Malve von Hassell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alina: A Song for the Telling is a wonderfully told story set in the Christian court of Jerusalem during the Crusades.

During his lifetime, Alina and Milos de Florac’s father, Guy, had been far more interested in his family and music than estate management, and the holdings, as well as the retainers that depended on its success, had all suffered due to its neglect. And when his beloved wife, Beatriou, and eldest daughter, Maria, tragically succumbed to the sweating sickness, he sank into immovable despair, and things only got worse. Not long after, he was found drowned, a suspected suicide, and his brother, Garsanc, and his wife, Marci, arrived, determined to set things right and repair the damage to the family name.

The brother and sister felt increasingly stifled, trapped under their new guardianship. Milos was constantly in trouble for one scrape or another. He was young and undisciplined; their father had been lax with the boy’s education in estate management much as he had been. Nor were there the funds to send Milos as a page to the household of a knight where he could learn and trained as a squire before returning home to take up his duties when the time came.

Although bright and musically-talented like her father, Alina was not considered a great beauty, and lacking an attractive dowry, her prospects for an advantageous marriage were dim. She dreamed of becoming a trobairitz, a female troubadour, traveling the country, perhaps the world, playing her lute, and singing songs of her own devising. She became alarmed by the parade of unsuitable men her aunt keeps thrusting in her path, and the threat of the convent starts to look more desirable.

As the tension at home mounted, the siblings formed an escape plan: they would join one of the parties of knights, merchants, and pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land on the pretense of praying for their father’s endangered soul. Aunt Marci and Uncle Garsanc agree, glad to have the pair out of sight for a while as they continue to mend the damage to the estate all the years of neglect had wrought. Uncle Garsanc knows of a group preparing to depart soon and led by a reputable knight from right there in Provence, Baltazar de Aurignac. With money from Uncle Garsanc in their pockets and Alina’s lute carefully wrapped for the journey, the young brother and sister set off for Lyon to join their new companions and head off on the trip of a lifetime.

Author Malve von Hassell has written a wonderfully immersive tale set in 12th century France and Jerusalem. Set during the time of the Crusades, the long journey by horseback is interesting and exciting and so descriptive that I felt I was right there with Alina and Milos. The arrival in Jerusalem was full of sights and smells, dust and heat, color and antiquity. There are mystery and political intrigue galore that kept me turning the pages as I soaked up the atmosphere the author so skillfully and effortlessly crafted. ALINA is historical fiction, so real people and events are included in the story, and fact and fiction fit together flawlessly. It is amazing to me thinking about the massive amount of research this author did in completing this wonderful story. This realization only came to me later after putting the book down because I never felt like I was reading history; the story was so lively and entertaining.

I enjoyed that the book was told from Alina’s point of view, and the thoughts and feelings of the young teenager felt true and natural. I also liked that she’d learned how to behave properly from her mother and had enough self-discipline to control her emotions and reactions to how she was treated at the court in Jerusalem. I felt this enabled her in her role as an onlooker of the various political schemes and drama. Well-behaved and a proper lady, she was useful yet overlooked and dismissed at times, allowing her the freedom to move about without being missed.

I recommend ALINA: A SONG FOR THE TELLING for readers of historical fiction, especially those that would enjoy the 12th century setting of the Crusades, France, and the history of the Christian court in Jerusalem. The book is suitable for YA and adult readers, and I could see this as a read-aloud book for middle grades and younger and something the entire family would enjoy.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through France Book Tours.

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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Beneath the Waves (The Kira Hunter Novella, Book 1) by Nora Cabot

Beneath the Waves (Kira Hunter Novella Book 1)Beneath the Waves by Nora Cabot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a private investigator returns to her childhood home to make peace with her past, someone in town tries to prevent that from happening.

Kira Hunter was the sole survivor when the old boat that she and her classmates were holding their graduation party on overturned and sank in a sudden storm. She and her mother had fled the town to avoid the constant reminders immediately after and had never gone back until now, 20 years later. When an aunt left her the manor house just out of the town, Kira felt the time was right to return to Wayhill and face her memories and, perhaps, make some sense of what happened that tragic night when everyone, including her best friend, Zen, died. However, from the minute she hit town, she had the constant feeling that she was being watched, and then the notes started showing up.

The first note, left in plain sight on her bed at the manor when no one else was in the house, was a personal message written in Zen’s handwriting. Others followed and revealed details only Zen would know. Then there was the mysterious figure in black that she kept getting a glimpse of – was it just the handyman from next door? One thing was certain; someone didn’t like that she was back in town and meant to do something about it.

Beneath the Waves is the thrilling first book in a new series by author Nora Cabot. The main character, Akira ‘Kira’ Glory Hunter, a high school senior at the time of the accident, is now a grown woman with ten years’ experience as a private investigator under her belt. But with all the strange goings-on as she tries to get settled into her new home, her investigation into what happened at the graduation party gets sidelined. Kira returns home with a load of survivor’s guilt, and the shocking appearance of the messages, seeming to come from her deceased friend, really keep her off-balance for most of the story. However, when she finally shakes herself off and gets her mind set to find out who is doing this and why she settles down and acts like the successful investigator she is.

Supporting characters that added a lot to the story include Noah Price, the handyman from next door who is trying to escape his own past burdens. I enjoyed the interplay between the two and liked the resulting chemistry, slow-building and tantalizing. Although I didn’t care for Sheriff Matthews initially, he’s growing on me, and I liked how he seemed to appear to be more complex and competent as the book went on. Kira’s mother didn’t have a lot of ‘screen time,’ but what there was proved fun and, later, almost disastrous. I look forward to seeing more of all three of these characters in future ‘Kira’ books.

I thought the notes and insider messages were frightening, and the constant feeling that Kira was being watched, even in her own home, highly effective and sinister touches. The murder was as shocking as it was unexpected and really amped up the feeling of dread. There were clues to follow, and Kira unerringly starts with the most likely suspects to know what’s really going on in the small town. I thought the resolution was simple but made sense. The story leaves the reader with questions and unfinished business, which creates a “need to know what will happen next” and provides a good jumping-off point for the next book in the series.

I recommend BENEATH THE WAVES to readers that enjoy a mystery with a strong female protagonist, a PI mystery, and a story a bit darker than what a cozy would provide.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

Read my original review on Reedsy Discovery!

Saturday, March 06, 2021

The Gargoyle’s Secret (Stonehaven Mysteries, #1) by Linn Chapel

The Gargoyle’s Secret (Stonehaven Mysteries, Book 1)The Gargoyle’s Secret by Linn Chapel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Gargoyle’s Secret is a solid cozy mystery with a unique paranormal angle to it.

When her famed photojournalist father had to go into the hospital, Laurel Bachmann, a rising star who apprenticed at her father’s feet, steps in to fulfill his latest assignment to interview the renowned stonemason, Marc Chevalier, and photograph his historic estate, Stonehaven, a mystery-shrouded manor house perched on a rocky outcrop near Bar Harbour on the coast of Maine. She is informed immediately upon arrival that the piece she’s to do was encouraged by Marc’s mother, Serena, and he wants no part of it. But with her father’s imminent retirement on the line and his editor clamoring for a juicy human interest angle to the story, Laurel decides to tough it out with the secretive Mr. Chevalier, hoping to develop something suitable without indulging in rumors, gossip, or scandal, a practice she’s avoided her entire career. However, the manor and Marc’s family both have a mysterious past. Over 100 years ago, a visiting millionaire art collector had disappeared from Stonehaven, never to be seen again, and when Laurel stumbles across evidence that the man never left the island alive, her story and stay at the estate take a dark turn.

The Gargoyle’s Secret is the entertaining first book in a new paranormal, cozy mystery series, the Stonehaven Mysteries, by author Linn Chapel. The protagonist, Laurel Bachmann, is genuinely likable, smart, and a talented artist. She felt like a real person. Her foil, Marc Chevalier, is too handsome for Laurel’s own good. In addition, he’s mysterious and paranormally-talented besides being a successful stonemason with a burgeoning business restoring old and valuable pieces of sculpture and statuary. The mystery is pretty straightforward, a person unknown is digging around and searching for something at the manor, and with few people on the remote estate, suspects are limited. The reader can easily keep the players straight and try to figure out who the culprit is.

There is some confusion toward the end of Laurel’s stay as to continuity: in one chapter, we go from morning to afternoon, but then it’s morning still, and there’s seems to be one too many nights occurring in the timeline. I was also confused over what happened to the missing millionaire. I won’t say more because it would reveal too much for a potential reader. But overlooking these details, it was still a good, entertaining reading experience.

I recommend THE GARGOYLE’S SECRET to readers that enjoy a cozy mystery with a paranormal overlay. It is suitable for readers of all ages.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from BookSirens.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Opposable (The Halteres Chronicles, Book One) by Kirk E. Hammond

Opposable- Second Edition (The Halteres Chronicles #1)Opposable- Second Edition by Kirk E. Hammond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're down for a SciFi story that is totally and completely different, then Opposable is the book for you.

Renowned author of the popular SciFi novel, Halteres, Dr. Stanley Ivan Vanderbilt discovers that the inspiration for his bestseller did not come from within his imagination but was the result of thoughts (known as "Sparks") sent to him by an alien lifeform, the Arca Trochia, from the real-life planet of Halteres, over two billion light-years away. The Sparks with descriptions of the planet, its leaders, and people – good and bad, are the Arca Trochia's first foothold in the consciousness of humankind and spread additional thoughts in the receptive minds they found, resulting in the building of "Spires" (portals between Halteres and Earth). The Spires, once activated, would serve as a gateway to launch the invasion and conquest of Earth. Aided by his pet cyborg cats, Patton and Herbert, his best friend, Xeno – a mohawked connoisseur of illicit drugs, a sexy, kick-ass-and-I-don't-care-WHAT-your-name-is merc named Ashleigh, and one of the novel's characters-come-to-life, the fire-shooting fingertipped Sho, the heroes take off on a road trip across the southwestern US to stop the alien invasion.

The premise is bizarre. There is violence and gore. Adult situations and drug use. The first scene is positively crazy, and I kept asking myself, "What the heck is going on?!" And it is probably one of the most original, interesting, and entertaining books I've read this year. In fact, this book was perfect to close out this trainwreck known as 2020.

The prose is adrenaline-fueled until the drugs kick in. The dialogue is unrelentingly fresh and funny, and I laughed and squirmed at times, but I had to keep reading. This is a road trip tale on acid. I enjoyed so many of the characters, and I don't know if I can even pick my favorite: Dr. Vanderbilt/Pops/Father – the narrator is great. His best friend, Xeno, is delightful. Patton, the large cyborg cat with thumbs, is awesome. Ashleigh and Sho are total rock stars. I even loved the CAR!

But all fangirling aside, this is a fantasy of a road trip story with the end goal of saving the Earth from an alien invasion. It takes a little getting into because the reader is dumped smack into the middle of the action (there are at least ten years of prior story you're not immediately privy to). You're going to have questions, but part of the fun of the story is the answering of these questions as the story goes along. And you never know what's going to happen next! I think it is this author's writing style and use of language that really sells this story. I will be looking for more by him, and most definitely if, as I understand, this is the start of a series.

I recommend this to SciFi fans who like alien contact books and are willing to let the tale just flow around them and trust the author to get you successfully to the end and rewarded with a good story.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

Read my original review on Reedsy Discovery!