Posted in Adventure, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Kaitan Chronicles #1: Shadow Run

Shadow Run, by Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland, (March 2017, Delacorte Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780399552533

Recommended for readers 13+

Nev is the newest crew member aboard the starship Kaitan Heritage, a ship that “fishes” for Shadow, a volatile energy harvested from space. The crew is a ragtag collection of misfits, and their captain, a teenage female named Qole, is the youngest ever to pilot her own ship – she’s hard as nails because she has to be. She’s from a desolate world where Shadow poisoning killed her family, except for her brother, Arjan, a member of her crew. Nev has his own secrets: he’s a prince from a world that wants to examine how Shadow binds to organic material, ostensibly to make the galaxy a better place – and help their own interests, naturally. But Nev has to get close to Qole first, before he can reveal who he is and convince her to come back to his homeworld with him.

Nev isn’t the only one who knows about Qole and her ability to channel the Shadow inside her, though. A rival royal family is onto them, and they’re not nearly as concerned with the greater good as Nev is. As Nev tries to win Qole’s trust, and the trust of everyone aboard the Kaitan, he must navigate the rough and tumble spacefaring world and the world of privilege he’s grown up; he may also learn that not everything on his home world is what it seems to be, and his own family’s intentions may not be as honorable as his are.

Shadow Run is the first book in the science fiction series, Kaitan Chronicles. There is a lot of solid world-building here, but the first half of the book just didn’t catch me. Once the story hit its stride, though, it was a solid pulse-pounder, loaded with diplomatic intrigue, betrayal, and action. The characters are well thought out; revelations happen throughout the course of the book, so it’s worth sticking with it.

Shadow Run‘s been compared to both Firefly and Dune. I see more Firefly than Dune; the rivalry between the royal families is the only facet tying it to Dune. This is more space opera/western, like Firefly, with a diverse crew of characters that have much more going on than meets the eye. I liked the chemistry between Qole and Nev, and I liked the relationships that each of the supporting characters had to Qole. Their reactions to Nev were honest, visceral, and I appreciated that; no “magic friendships” or melodrama popped up here and I respect the writers for it. There’s gender fluidity that truly brings this novel into the 21st century and beyond, too. Stick with Shadow Run: you’ll be happy you did.

Posted in Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Riven Chronicles continue with The Fallen Prince

fallen princeThe Fallen Prince (Riven Chronicles #2), by Amalie Howard, (April 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1510701700

Recommended for ages 13+

The sequel to The Almost Girl starts out about a year after the first book ends. Caden has assumed the throne of Neospes, and Riven is  hunting for her father, to bring him to justice. But Caden’s new rule is threatened by Cale – the imposter prince – who’s joined forces with a deadly army. As Neospes tries to forge new alliances while fighting Cale’s forces, Riven finds herself called back to Neospes, where she needs to aid her people again – and this time, accept help from the very man she was hunting: her father.

The Fallen Prince is a good follow-up to The Almost Girl. I’ve enjoyed reading The Riven Chronicles, and feel sad that the series seems to be concluded. Maybe there will be more adventures down the line for Riven and Caden, but for now, The Fallen Prince provided more sci-fi action with a tough, smart heroine who experiences very human emotions for all her cyborg programming: she feels jealousy and pain at the realization that Caden may need to take a bride to seal an alliance; her rage toward her father demands an outlet, and she gets one, in a brutal and brilliant fight that leaves her companions very aware of who they’re dealing with. There are good supporting characters and a couple of nice plot twists that keep things moving and interesting. I’d also like to thank Amalie Howard for personally assuring that I’ll never look at a stretch of moss the same way ever again.

Great science fiction, just enough romance to keep the drama moving, and conflicted personal relationships everywhere you look. The Riven Chronicles is such a good sci-fi series, and you don’t need to be a teen to enjoy them – just love good writing.

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Science Fiction, Young Adult/New Adult

The Frankenstein tale gets a new jolt in Heartless

heartlessHeartless, by Leah Rhyne (May 2016, Polis Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781940610870

Recommended for ages 13+

After an argument with her boyfriend, college co-ed Jolene Hall storms out of his apartment and wakes up on a table in a creepy room, naked and covered in jagged wounds and stapled flesh. She tears herself loose and manages to get back to her dorm room, but she and her roommate, Lucy, notice pretty quickly that something is very, very wrong: Jolene is dead. Sort of. She has no heartbeat, and despite being able to walk and talk, she needs to be charged up in order to continue operating at a normal level. And she stinks. No offense. Jolene is determined to find out who did this to her, and what exactly she is now. The fact that college co-eds are disappearing right and left makes her pretty sure that what happened to her is part of a much bigger operation – but is her investigation going to put Lucy in danger?

This rejuvenated take on Frankenstein appealed to me, because I like the whole flipped fairy tale genre that’s emerged over the last few years. While Heartless certainly has its moments, overall, I wanted a little more. Jolene ends up being fairly skin deep (no pun intended) for a good portion of the book, and Eli, her boyfriend, is a complete jerk. There’s next to nothing likable about him, and Lucy is a little too happy-go-lucky, we’re-going-on-an-adventure about this whole situation. The villain(s) were a little too easy to spot, making the reveal somewhat anticlimactic. I would have loved more of Jolene’s introspective moments; those captured me and kept me moving through the story. The idea of a person embracing their fate and making his or her peace with it, while trying to save others from a similar fate, is a fascinating idea. Having to witness how other people process this fate, whether it’s a parent or a loved one, can be brutal and Ms. Rhyne captures some intense and deep feelings in those moments.

The book’s ending lets readers know there’s more of this tale to be told. I don’t do spoilers, so let’s just say that I’m interested in seeing where this goes, because I’ll be darned if I’ll let the story continue without me.

The book will work for readers who like a little drama in their horror; a little star-crossed romance in their chiller. iZombie and Warm Bodies fans will jump on this book, so make sure to booktalk it to those audiences if you’ve got them.

Leah Rhyne’s author website has more information about Heartless and her zombie series, Undead America.

Posted in Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA sci-fi must-read: The Almost Girl (The Riven Chronicles #1)

AlmostGirl_coverThe Almost Girl (The Riven Chronicles #1), by Amalie Howard (May 2016, Sky Pony Press), $9.99 ISBN: 978-1510701717

Recommended for ages 13+

Seventeen-year-old Riven isn’t your run of the mill high school student. She’s not even from our world; she’s a soldier from Neospes, a world in a parallel universe, devastated by war and catastrophe. It’s a world where children learn to kill as soon as they can walk, and Riven is one of the best. She’s a Legion General, sent to Earth by her best friend, the Prince Cale, to find his long-lost brother and bring him back to Neospes. After a long time searching, Riven’s found Cale and is getting ready to move him out when Vectors – the undead soldiers created by her father – attack, forcing Riven into an uneasy alliance with her sister Shea, who she’s been at odds with. Riven will discover family secrets and lies that have been hidden from her for most of her life as she and Shea work together to bring Cale back to Neospes – and Riven begins to doubt everything she thought she stood for.

The Almost Girl is a fast-paced, well-developed sci-fi adventure for teens. It’s got a bit of a Terminator 2 vibe, but it’s entirely its own story. Riven is a complex, thoughtful character at odds with what she’s been raised to believe versus what’s truth. She’s the cold-hearted soldier who runs far deeper than an ice-cold killer, and her journey through the book keeps the pages turning. Cale finds himself in the damsel in distress characterization, but he’s not completely helpless, so it makes for a solid, interesting story. There’s solid sci-fi elements: gadgetry, android-human hybrids, space travel using technology rather than vehicles; there’s also space-opera factors that bring the drama and thus, the story: betrayal, family secrets, several missions intertwined.

Give this to your teens that like a good sci-fi adventure with a touch of romance. The sequel, The Fallen Prince, is newly released, so keep an eye on this blog – I’ll be getting to it shortly!

Amalie Howard has a fantastic author webpage with updates, contests, and an event calendar with appearances.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Beyond the Red: Intergalactic politics and species war with a dash of romance

beyond the redBeyond the Red, by Ava Jae (March 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781634506441

Recommended for ages 16+

Kora is a reigning queen of an alien race that’s seen its share of violence: her parents were killed during a terrorist attack during her birthday; her people are locked in a race war with human settlers, known as red-bloods, that exist on her planet, and she’s been the target of assassination attempts. Her twin brother, Dima, holds a grudge against her – he and their deceased father felt Dima should have ascended the throne – not a woman – but birth order is destiny.

Eros is a half-blood soldier, raised by humans and yet, held at arm’s length because of his half-alien blood. His adopted parents and brother are killed during one of Kora’s army raids, and he’s taken prisoner, where Kora decides to make him her personal guard. She has some questions about his true identity, and decides he’d be a valuable asset to keep close to her.

Despite being wildly attracted to one another, they play it safe, knowing that Eros’ half-blood status could get him killed at any time, and would certainly be a death sentence for any children they’d have if they married. Kora accepts the proposal of a high-ranking diplomat, but an assassination attempt leaves her and Eros running for their lives. Now, they have to work together to save the human rebels and keep Eros’ secret on a much larger scale.

There’s a lot of storytelling and world-building in this debut from Ava Jae. The entire story provides the groundwork for a series, and the ending leaves no question about a sequel being in the picture. It just wasn’t my book, alas: it never hooked me. The story seemed to focus on a few points that were emphasized again and again: Eros’ physical attraction to Kora; Dima’s simmering rage toward Eros, his jealousy toward Kora; Kora’s vacillating on her attraction to Eros. We don’t know anything about the human encampment on this world, only that they seem to have been left there generations ago. I’m hoping more about the schism between the two races will emerge in future books, because that has potential for a huge story.

The novel is more young adult than teen for sensual content, violence, and mild language. Space opera fans and fantasy fans should give this one a look.

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen

Love and conflict: Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

9780762458400Inherit the Stars, by Tessa Elwood (Dec. 2015, Running Press), $9.95, ISBN: 9780762458400

Recommended for ages 13+

Three interplanetary systems ruled by three royal families: Fane, Westlet, and Galton. Each family wants something the other families have, be it fuel, food, or other resources. Wren, the eldest daughter of the House of Fane, is on life support after a tragic accident off-world; Asa, the youngest daughter, scrambling to keep Wren on life support, takes her middle sister’s place in marriage to the House of Westlet.

There is political and familial intrigue aplenty in this story, with a budding romance set against this sci-fi tale. I kept thinking of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which seems to have influenced the familial/political plotting and counter-plotting. While this is the first part in a new science fiction duology, readers are dropped into the story without much origin or background, and it took me a little bit to get my sea legs as I read and tried to work my way into the story. I hope to see some richer background information in the next book.

Inherit the Stars takes place in a feudal society, with the view that marriage is primarily an arrangement. The main characters’ parents vacillate between apathy and concern for their children, but more likely, concern for their own standing. Asa meets her husband, Eagle, at their arranged wedding, but sees something in him that appeals to her, and their love develops fairly quickly. For this first book, eldest sister Wren exists primarily to set Asa’s plot in motion, but I hope that we learn more about her in future stories.

Inherit the Stars is a good example of the conflicts that arise when politics invades families’ personal lives. It’s light science fiction for readers who want to dip a toe into the sci-fi pool, but want something heavier on relationships and lighter on spaceships. Collections that could use some lighter sci-fi should add this one to their shelves.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Blog Tour: Poet Anderson … Of Nightmares – and a Giveaway!

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Jonas Anderson is a teenager who’s had a recent run of hard luck. His parents are dead, recently killed in a plane crash, and his older brother, Alan, is in a coma after a car crash. Jonas is no ordinary teen, though – he’s also Poet Anderson, a Lucid Dreamer – someone who can walk around in dreams and interact with other dreamers – who’s on the run from REM, an evil being who lives in the Dreamscape. Poets like Jonas are special dreamers; they can guide lost dreamers who accidentally find themselves in the Dreamscape. And REM wants to use Jonas to gain entry into the Waking World, where he can spread his terror net even wider, controlling everyone’s dreams and trapping them in a world of nightmares.

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Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares is the first book in a new YA/New Adult series by musician Tom DeLonge, who you may remember from Blink 182, and New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young. Conceived of by DeLonge as a multimedia experience, there’s also a soundtrack, a comic book series, and an prequel animated film, Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker, which won Best Animation at the Toronto International Short Film Festival last year. And the animation is truly gorgeous, just take a look:

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares is kind of like The Matrix, but with dreams. We live in two separate realms, but a handful of people can move between the Dreamscape and the Waking World, fighting evil and protecting the rest of us regular dreamers here in the Waking World. Jonas, despite having a brutal run of it recently, deals with his grief, knuckles down to stay in school and hold down a job while learning more about his talents. Jarabec, a Dream Walker who becomes Jonas’ mentor in the Dreamscape, helps keep him safe while educating him and training him for battles to come. Jonas is a likable character who you want to root for; you want this poor kid to catch a break for once.

The characters surrounding Jonas are also vivid, coming off the page and taking up space in your imagination. Jarabec is a gritty, curmudgeonly mentor that you respect and ultimately love. The Dream Walkers – the foot soldiers in this battle – will both irritate and impress, like the antiheroes they kind of are. Night Terrors will make you think about all the crazy times you thought of the monsters in your closet or under your bed and wonder whether you were maybe just a little right after all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this first book, and was very happy with the way DeLonge and Young left a thread for the next book hanging there, dangling, waiting for readers to take the bait.

The first book is available right now, and for more information about the graphic novels, music, and full animated video, check out Tom DeLonge’s website, To the Stars Media. To join the book club community, find out about the director’s cut of the book with rich media content, visit the Eden Hotel Book Club.

Want your own copy of Poet Anderson? There’s a giveaway! Good luck!

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Just click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares, by Tom DeLonge and Suzanne Young
Hardcover, 368 pages, $17.99
ISBN: 978-1-943272-00-06
Publication Date: November 1, 2015
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

Posted in Science Fiction, Steampunk, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA Book Blitz: The Viper and The Urchin!

The Viper and the Urchin
by Celine Jeanjean
Release Date: July 27th 2015

Summary from Goodreads:

Being Damsport’s most elegant assassin is hard work. There’s tailoring to consider, devilish poisons to concoct, secret identities to maintain… But most importantly, Longinus has to keep his fear of blood hidden or his reputation will be ruined. So, when a scrawny urchin girl threatens to expose his phobia unless he teaches her swordsmanship, he has no choice but to comply.

It doesn’t take long for Rory to realise that her new trainer has more eccentricities than she has fleas. But she’ll put up with anything, no matter how frustrating, to become a swordswoman like her childhood hero.

What she’s not prepared for is a copycat assassin who seeks to replace Longinus, and who hires Rory’s old partner in crime to do away with her, as well. Rory and Longinus must set their differences aside and try to work together if they’re to stop the copycat. But darker forces than they realise are at play, and with time running out, the unlikely duo find themselves the last line of defence against a powerful enemy who seeks to bring Damsport to its knees.

Buy Links:

About the Author 

Celine Jeanjean is French, grew up in the UK and now lives in Hong Kong. That makes her a tad confused about where she is from. During her time in Asia she’s watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat, lost her shoes in Vietnam, and fallen off a bamboo raft in China. Celine writes stories that feature quirky characters and misfits, and her books are a mixture of steampunk, fantasy and humour.
Author Links:
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Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

An excerpt from The Temple of Doubt

I recently reviewed Anne Boles Levy’s sci-fi/fantasy YA novel, The Temple of Doubt. The book is about to hit shelves, and I’m able to bring you an excerpt… you know, to whet those appetites. Here you go:

temple of doubt

“Brown snakes as thick as a man’s arm slid from branches on either side of our punt and into the water, where they writhed across the murky surface. The boat paused to avoid them and then skirted the narrow, spiked waterwood roots that poke above the water line. A pole wedged between several roots the puntsman couldn’t see, and he twisted it free. 

I shared the narrow craft with Mami and S’ami and two guards to prod us along. It was a tight fit, and knees would knock at any unexpected turn of the craft. I wasn’t going to make good on my days-ago wish of throttling S’ami with my head scarf, but it did take effort not to wince whenever he looked my way. He was the only Azwan with us. The other Azwan and half the guards had remained behind in the expectation S’ami would die.

I’d forced myself to keep my head straight and not glance around, feverishly looking for Valeo. I hadn’t made up my mind whether I wanted him there nor not. I didn’t want anyone I knew, even slightly, to be out in the wilds with us. But I also didn’t want to die alone here without a single ally among the hulking Temple Guards. Who else besides Valeo would care even a little whether Mami and I made it back?”

You can buy The Temple of Doubt on August 4th. Check out the Sky Pony website to order your copy; while you’re at it, follow them on social media. They’ve got some great books coming out!

Posted in Science Fiction, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Edge of Forever – a murder mystery travels through time

edge of foreverThe Edge of Forever, by Melissa Hurst (2015, Sky Horse) $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-63220-424-0

Recommended for ages 12+

In 2146, a group of teens takes a school trip back in time to observe a crucial point in history. Bridger, a 17 year-old boy in the class, sees his father in the crowd – but his father’s dead. Before Bridger loses track of his dad, he receives a cryptic message to prevent a murder in another time.

In 2013, 16 year-old Alora lives with her Aunt Grace and has so many questions about the family who abandoned her to Grace’s care 11 years earlier. Alora knows her aunt knows more than she’s letting on, and Alora is determined to find out what’s going on – but she’s also desperate to find out why she blacks out and wakes up in a different place.

Bridger time shifts to 2013 to carry out his father’s mission, but his determination to stay uninvolved in events that could change the timestream is challenged when he meets Alora – who happens to be the object of his mission.

Edge of Forever is a good sci-fi story, with interesting and conflicted characters and a strong plot and subplot. There are conspiracies and plot twists throughout the story to keep readers on their toes, and you will cringe every time you realize that Bridger is about to corrupt the time stream (the Trekkie in me yelled, “Don’t violate the Prime Directive!” at least three times).

There are moments that readers may need to go back and re-read – there are a lot of threads to keep sorted here – but when is that a bad thing? I’m interested in whether or not we’re getting a sequel, because I need to know more about some of the characters that were introduced. Everyone here has the potential for deep storytelling, making this book a hot choice for summer reading and book club chats.

The Edge of Forever is Melissa Hurst’s first book. You can check out her author site to follow her on social media, read her blog, and check out some interviews and guest posts from the Edge of Forever blog tour.