Fantasy Book Review: Crystal Bones

Crystal Bones by C. Aubrey Hall

Synopsis:
Diello and Cynthe have always believed their parents are too cautious. The twins expect things to be different on their thirteenth birthday. Their mysterious Fae mother has promised them that today they’ll be given magical gifts, and they’re planning to sneak off to the village fair. But nothing goes right. The magic isn’t what they hoped. Their human father won’t let them out of their chores. They’re forbidden to attend the fair and are sent on an errand instead. Then the day turns deadly as Diello and Cynthe are plunged into a lethal game of cat and mouse with old enemies of their parents. Suddenly there are secrets upon secrets to unwind. Who is friend and who is foe? And what have their parents been hiding?

Review:
Diello is a cautious boy who thinks before he speaks or acts. Whereas, his sister Cynthe is all action, fearless and brave. While the two couldn’t be more different in personality, they have a nice relationship and put their family first. The twins are half fae, and with their mother’s heritage comes special abilities. Though, they don’t fully know what they’ll be yet.

I was pleasantly surprised by this sweet and fun fantasy. The characters are engaging and my favorite part about the book. Though the little sister got on my nerves, and seemed a bit too spoiled. With plenty of suspense, danger, intrigue, and vivid characters – Crystal Bones is a fantastic start to this young fantasy trilogy.

Fantasy Book Review: Dead Letter Day

Dead Letter Day by Eileen Rendahl

Synopsis:
Melina Markowitz, messenger for the underworld, delivers the goods for the supernatural beings in our midst—no questions asked. It’s more than a job; it’s a mission. Safety be damned.

Melina’s missing friend, Paul, could just be taking a little werewolf “me time,” but her investigation yields something more sinister. Suspicions first fall on Paul’s wolf-pack rival. But that wouldn’t explain the sudden windstorms rattling Melina’s nerves—or the ominous, shrieking crows that keep appearing.

The clues lead Melina to a mermaid, a damaged and possibly deranged police officer and patterns for Norwegian doilies—finally bringing her to the realization that she may be dealing with the most powerful enemy she has ever faced.

Review:
Melina is a messenger for the supernatural, but dabbles as a detective when no one seems to know where her friend Paul is. Meanwhile, Melina makes a startling discovery that will change her life forever.

Dead Letter Day is the third novel in Messenger series, but is wholly standalone. I haven’t read the previous novels, but had no problem jumping into the story and catching up in the relationships. Though, I would have liked more explanation about Melina’s job and how it works. There were a lot of fun and unique characters. And the story is fast-paced and full of adventure, mystery, romance, and magic. This is a fun and engaging series that I wouldn’t mind following in future installments.

SciFi Book Review: Obsidian Mirror

Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher

Synopsis:
The obsidian mirror. Its power is great and terrible. Men have been lost in it, the dead brought back to life through it, and the future annihilated by it. Or this is what will happen unless the mirror is destroyed. Three people seek the mirror: the first has been sent from the future to shatter its power; the second will protect the mirror at all costs, obsessed with its power; and the third needs the mirror to find a murdered father and save his life. But only one can succeed.

The mirror can send you to the past, but it will not bring you back.

Review:
Jake goes to drastic measures to get kicked out of his boarding school and get the attention of his godfather. Jake wants to get to Wintercombe Abbey where his father disappeared. And Jake is convinced that his godfather Oberon Venn killed him. Oberon and his father had been experimenting with a mirror that can send people back in time. But there are several people who want to claim the mirror (or Chronoptika) for themselves.

This is a unique blend of fantasy, time travel science fiction, and dystopia. Full of mystery, adventure, and distinct characters – Obsidian Mirror is both exciting and dramatic. The suspense builds to a climactic ending, but leaves us with many loose ends. First in a trilogy, this was a dark and surprising tale from a talented writer.

SciFi Book Review: Arclight

Arclight by Josin L. McQuein

Synopsis:
The Arclight is the last refuge in a post-apocalyptic world consumed by terrifying monsters called the Fade. No one crosses the wall of light that keeps the last human survivors safe. There’s nothing else left and nowhere to go. Or so they thought, until Marina, a lone teenage girl, stumbles out of the Dark.

Marina doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. And the Fade want her back. When one of them infiltrates the compound and recognizes Marina, she begins to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Marina knows she’s an outsider in the Arclight, but she’ll do anything to protect those who saved her. Whether they want her help or not.

Review:
Marina is a brave girl with a good heart. Though she has no memory of her past, she feels a strange pull towards the Dark. She has a nice chemistry with Tobin, the son of the man who rescued her. And there’s even a love triangle with one of the Fade. McQuein’s dystopian world is set in the future where humans are forced to live in the Arclight, keeping away the Fade and the dark. The origin of the Fade is explained well and is a fresh and unique idea.

Science fiction fans will enjoy this dark, exciting tale. With plenty of drama, mystery, intrigue, and a bit of romance – Arclight is a stirring debut. Unpredictable and full of twists, this YA science fiction thriller is fast-paced and surprising.

Blog Tour: Jack Campbell Guest Post and Giveaway

Author Jack Campbell joins SciFiChick.com on his Blog Tour to promote his latest release The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian.

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Jack Campbell on his vision of the future and how it affects his stories:

The setting of a story drives a lot of the plot, and heavily influences the characters. SF and Fantasy writers have the luxury of creating the setting, but (being human and heavily influenced by our own settings) the futures and worlds we create reflect our own hopes and fears.

The future in my stories is what I call a competence-based culture. That means when someone wants to do a job, the only question will be whether or not they can do it. Nothing else will matter, not appearance or race or religion or sex or anything else. Someday, I hope that’s the only question in a job interview. I don’t know if that future will happen. Humans have a bad way of seizing on “differences” that don’t really matter and making them the most important issue, or establishing job requirements that rule out the “wrong people” before they even have a chance to compete. The result has been an incalculable waste of human potential. But I can hope, and I can present such a future the way it might look. It’s not a perfect future, because humans are far from perfect, but it’s better.

Another aspect of my futures is what I call “transparent” technology. That means technology which can be used without having to think about how to use it (or describe it in detail! Who actually does that when they use something?). Instead of having to enter bizarre, complicated commands while stepping through multiple menus and trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do next, transparent tech involves things like increasing the size of a picture by spreading your fingers. My hope is that will become the rule rather than the exception. (Though in one scene in the Lost Fleet books my characters recognize that they should have realized a certain tech was designed by aliens because the control interface was so simple and intuitive. “No human software designer would have done that.”)

A lot of my stories are set in space, in other star systems. I think we’re going to go to the stars someday. It’s not going to be as fast and as easy as writers imagined in the 1940s and 1950s, but it may not be as slow and hard as a lot of people now assume. Getting to the stars is a very hard problem, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. Anything is impossible if you don’t know how to do it, and anything is hard if you don’t know how to do it right. If the answers are there, I think we’ll find them.

One thing I work hard to avoid is the Flintstones/Jetsons Theory of Anthropology. Those two cartoon series assumed that everywhere in the far past and the far future had societies which were a stereotyped version of 1960 suburbs in the United States. That assumption wasn’t unusual. One of the things that seriously dates most SF from the mid-to-late Twentieth Century is that the futures shown, no matter how distant, are in that Mad Men mold. Men do all the thinking, acting and decision-making, and if women appear at all they are usually either housewives or somebody who needs to be rescued. It is incredibly jarring to read those stories now and see futures in which women sometimes don’t even seem to exist. It is also a given in many of those stories that everyone in the future has Anglo-Saxon names. Even Star Wars fell into this sort of trap, originally presenting a future in the first film (A New Hope) in which there were lots of aliens but no humans of African descent. Star Trek TOS did, too, claiming that only men could be captains of starships because women couldn’t handle the job. As a result, I try to avoid assuming that Tomorrow will be dealing with exactly the same role models and cultural assumptions as Today, and I try to avoid presenting a future which includes a narrow vision of who will be represented. Very often, I don’t provide physical descriptions of my characters, letting the reader assign them whatever shape, color, or type feels right to the reader. (In my novelette Lady Be Good, the sex of the point of view character is never identified. It wasn’t necessary to the story, so I didn’t confine the story by setting that characteristic in stone.)

Finally, my futures are ultimately hopeful ones. Terrible things happen, great challenges arise, people are confronted by awful choices, but nonetheless my futures are places where human effort matters, where hope is ever-present, where answers to the toughest problems exist even if not easily found. My characters strive, and suffer, and in the end succeed, because I think that’s the sort of future humans can aspire to.

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Courtesy of Ace, I have a copy of The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian for five (5) lucky winners!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends May 24. I’ll draw a name on May 25, and notify winner via email.

Good luck!

Read moreBlog Tour: Jack Campbell Guest Post and Giveaway

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