Refraction by Terry Geo

5 stars

A paperback copy of the book Refraction by Terry Geo.
Refraction by Terry Geo

Based on the reviews and the Twitter hype, I had high expectations going into this book. In fact, I was so excited about it, I bought the e-version and the paperback  so I would have my choice of formats when I was ready to enjoy.  Refraction did not disappoint!

With a lot of build up and a clear turning point for the action, Refraction feels like two different  books in the most amazing way. Geo takes his time setting up the adventure, planting little seeds and letting you get to know each of the characters who will go on an action-packed, head-spinning ride in the second half of the book. 

From there, we encounter a unique world where reality and dreams collide in unpredictable and unexpected ways. 

It is truly difficult to pick out what I enjoyed most about this book. From the London setting, the truly imaginative plot, the fun pop culture references, to the diverse cast of likable characters, there is so much to love and enjoy.

I read The Cracked Reflection, Geo’s introductory novella, first. After reading Refraction, I want to go back and reread it to see if it changes how I interpreted Maria’s story.

My review of The Cracked Reflection is available here.

Both books are available on Amazon and Terry Geo’s Refracted World website.

The Kill Switch by J.E. Clarkson

4 out of 5 stars

Clarkson keeps the adrenaline pumping in The Kill Switch, the third installment in her dystopian, techno-thriller series. The short, action-filled chapters keep the suspense high as the nameless main character known only as The Cleaner and her allies continue to fight against the evils of Stella and Nemo & Co. 

The Kill Switch by J.E. Clarkson

Leaping in where The Ghost Society ends, the book revisits some familiar themes and scenes present in the first book, while adding a political element reaching the highest levels of power. We also get a teaser for the fourth book with references to a parcel of documents labeled Dark Cygnet.

In addition to the fast pacing and endless curves, I enjoy the observations like, “They say you don’t hear the bullet that kills you,” which are present in Clarkson’s writing. Her astute metaphors also keep me engaged. One example: “I felt a bit like I was taking a slow walk into hell and the soles of my feet were beginning to burn.”

These books are definitely written to be read in order, not as interchangeable stand-alones. So, if this review sounds intriguing, and you haven’t read the first book in the Nemo and Co. series yet, do yourself a favor and download it today. You will quickly start to see why Clarkson has her own category on this blog.

As for me, I will be devouring The Dark Cygnet Files, the next in the series, as soon as I can.

Clarkson’s books are available on Amazon.

The Cracked Reflection by Terry Geo

5 stars

The cover of The Cracked Reflection diplayed on an e-reader propped on teal and green pillows.
The Cracked Reflection by Terry Geo

I almost always choose a full-length book over a novella, but lately, I have been enjoying novellas and short stories. Sometimes, a shorter read fits perfectly in the time I have available to read.

Novellas are especially satisfying when the writer packs a lot of action and character development into the shorter format. That’s exactly what happens in The Cracked Reflection.

In this sci-fi novella, Maria Braighton has an imaginary friend, Mr. Piggy, who creates havoc everywhere she goes. The story starts with Maria as a young child living with her wealthy parents and follows her into adulthood. 

This imaginative, sometimes petrifying, but never dull tale is incredibly enthralling – I read it all in one sitting. My interest is definitely piqued for Refraction, the full-length novel that follows The Cracked Reflection. I can not wait to see how the two books connect and to find out if any of my questions about Maria and Mr. Piggy get answered in the sequel.

The Cracked Reflection is available through Terry Geo’s Refracted World website.

Are you a fan of novellas? Or do you prefer full-length books?

StarFire Dragons by Dawn Ross

4 stars

StarFire Dragons, book one of the sci-fi/fantasy Dragon Spawn Chronicles by Dawn Ross,  follows what happens when the crew of the Odyssey starship finds two child-warriors on a Cooperative planet and must decide what to do.

The cover of StarFire Dragons displayed on an e-reader placed on top of a starry blanket.

New in his role, Vice-Executive Commander J.D. Hapker makes a choice that sets the rest of the story in motion.

My favorite parts of the book were the interactions between Commander Hapker and Jori as they competed, compared beliefs and outlooks, and decided whether to trust each other. I also enjoyed the observations about how the Grapnes and Tredons viewed each other. 

Ross throws in funny and lighthearted lines like, “The man was as out of place as a worm in a salad”, without taking you out of the complex universe she created.

Her commitment to creating that intricate universe went so deep she included a thorough glossary explaining terms and phrases. I wish I had realized that there was a glossary before I finished the novel, but it was still helpful to discover and read it at the end.

Several reviews and the author herself note that this book is reminiscent of Star Trek. As someone who hasn’t been bitten by the Star Trek bug, I still found this book enjoyable.

If I had one suggestion, I would have liked a few more references to the physical features of the main characters throughout the book to help me more fully visualize their distinctions and interactions with each other. 

On the whole, this was an interesting read that builds a strong foundation for several more sequels in the series. I look forward to finding out what happens in the rest of the series.

Thank you to Ross for providing a free e-review copy of the book. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

All three books in the Dragon Spawn Chronicles are available for purchase through the author’s website and Amazon.

The Gene Solution by Mike Rochelle

4 out of 5 stars

“The details mattered…He had found through work that lives hung in the details.”

Mike Rochelle, The Gene Solution
A hand holding up an e-reader depicting the cover of The Gene Solution against a chalkboard with mathematical equations.
Mike Rochelle’s debut sci-fi thriller

In The Gene Solution, Dr. Tripp Galloway and his partner, Dr. Mortimer (Morti) Stein, are the doctors and fertility specialists at a prominent OB/GYN practice in New York City. 

Driven by Galloway’s desire to keep families from suffering the same devastating loss his family did, Galloway and Stein start running clinical trials aimed at eradicating diseases caused by genetic disorders like Cystic Fibrosis and Sickle Cell anemia.

To help fund their latest clinical trial, Galloway strikes a deal with Slavomir, a corrupt Russian shipping tycoon who wants to start a family. The deal has repercussions for Tripp, Morti, Aiden, their practice manager, and several others along the way.

The debut book is action-packed and covers a wide array of ethical issues. For the most part, the science was easy to understand, though it did get a little technical in parts. The author has a background in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries which came through in the writing.

The plot reads like a crime drama, like NCIS: Los Angeles, and would translate well to the screen. It was a worthwhile read that I would recommend to others who enjoy sci-fi thrillers.

Thank you to Book Sirens for the advance review copy. The views expressed here are my own.

The book is available at several book retailers and through the publisher’s site.

I, Volcano by Eule Grey

3 stars

Tree branches against a bright orange sunset.

I, Volcano is a dystopian novel set in an oppressed island nation. Jalob Baleine is a medic who was forced to evacuate from Skarle, her home nation, when she was 10. She meets Corail Esplash, a brash violinist from Ansar, and sparks fly. 

I was really torn when reading this book. There were parts that I really enjoyed, like Jalob’s character. The responsibility Jalob felt to save others, her struggle to articulate her feelings, and her longing for home endeared her to readers. 

I also liked the contrast between Jalob and Corail. From their personalities to their physical statures, the two women were opposites in every way. As much as I enjoyed the opposites attract theme, there were times when I felt like I was muddling through the story. In my opinion, the story would have been stronger with a bit more curation. 

The book includes a teaser for a sequel, and after reading the teaser, I would give it a try. Judging by the teaser, I’m betting Grey’s writing gets even stronger with the second installment in the series.

Thank you to the author for providing a free review copy. I am leaving this review voluntarily and it reflects my honest opinion.

I, Volcano is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

The Vanishing Office by J.E. Clarkson

The Vanishing Office by J.E. Clarkson

The Vanishing Office is the second book I’ve read by Clarkson. The first was The Lamb, a murder mystery. 

While The Vanishing Office, a dystopian thriller, is quite different from The Lamb in terms of genre, subject matter, and tone, Clarkson’s distinctive voice and intriguing writing style are still there.

In The Vanishing Office, an unnamed female protagonist is hired as a cleaner for Nemo and Company, where she receives assignments by text, doesn’t know any of her co-workers, and her work is shrouded in secrecy for unclear reasons. 

I thought I would hate the concept of a story being told from the point of view of a nameless lead character, but it actually worked really well. It forces the reader to almost assume the identity of The Cleaner and feel her emotions as she tries to understand what is happening around her and decipher what is real and what isn’t. 

The reader could really feel her struggle and relate to her realization that “sometimes it’s a good idea not to argue too hard with them. As long as you know what’s going on in your head, that’s all that matters.”

One of the scariest elements of the book is that, with a society that revolves around alternate facts and an isolating, impersonal work environment, there are points where it is easy to forget it is supposed to be dystopian. 

The one drawback to the book is that there are a few typos and formatting issues. Personally, these didn’t take away from the reading experience or the overall message.

I’ve already downloaded and started reading The Ghost Society, the second installment in the Nemo & Co series. To read my review of The Ghost Society, visit this link.

The Vanishing Office is available on Amazon in several formats.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

4 out of 5 stars

Silhouettes of the tops of pine trees with a purple and maroon sky. The sky appears starless but the moon is visible.

I learned with The Martian that Andy Weir can make hi-tech astronaut talk sound interesting all while making readers laugh out loud at the humor and ingenuity of the main characters he creates. Project Hail Mary is no exception. In his newest book, Weir almost lives up to the incredibly high standard he set with The Martian and he far surpasses the disappointing Artemis. 

In Project Hail Mary, science teacher Ryland Grace is part of a space mission designed to save humanity from the threat of Astrophage. The story alternates between the present time when Grace is in space and flashing back to pre-mission days.

If you’ve read The Martian, the early chapters of Project Hail Mary will seem familiar. You’ll immediately notice the inner dialogue of Ryland Grace sounds a lot like that of Mark Watney. Both men find themselves alone in a spaceship and have to figure out a lot to stay alive. They display a similar level of humor and creativity. However, Project Hail Mary adds in an alien being from another planet. The relationship between Ryland and Rocky and the way the two learn to understand each other is the best part of the book.

As endearing as the relationship between Ryland and Rocky was, it didn’t quite make up for how much more technical Project Hail Mary was than The Martian. I found it much more difficult to follow the technical information in Project Hail Mary and felt that some of it could have been cut out without sacrificing any of the story.

Overall, I thought Project Hail Mary was an enjoyable read. I was glad to go along on the journey with Ryland and Rocky.

Entanglement by Alina Leonova

5 out of 5 stars

With implants, DNA edits, and human memory rewrites, the storyline in this dystopian read was beyond inventive. Cay, Limea, and Vietra are layered, unique characters, who become entangled in situations that kept me guessing throughout the book.

The circumstances that these well-developed characters face force the reader to confront the question of “What is the most fundamental element that makes a person who they are?” I was completely captivated by the different paths Limea and Vietra took to uncover their true selves.

Set in a world where plant life is beginning to threaten human life, the book manages to weave in important messages about environmental preservation.

Leonova does take the reader down a few rabbit holes, but the story is so mesmerizingly distinctive that I didn’t mind. I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes next!

Thank you to the author for providing a free review copy in exchange for my honest opinions.

Humanity Lost by Meghan Douglass

5 out of 5 stars

Photo by Flash Mama Photography

“Things that no person should ever consider doing had now become necessary, reasonable, and entirely justifiable.”

Meghan Douglass, Humanity Lost

Meghan Douglass is my most recent find through following the Twitter writing community.

In her debut novella, Humanity Lost, conditions on Earth make it uninhabitable, sending the 6 person crew of the spacecraft Valhalla on a mission to save humanity.

Events quickly progress after the crew awakens from stasis and is faced with making some unthinkable choices. 

I sometimes struggle with shorter works, wanting more character development and longer scenes in order for the story to feel complete. That wasn’t the case with Humanity Lost. Although it has fewer than 60 pages, the tale felt finished.

Douglass makes the most of every page, creating memorable characters and packing several shocking twists in this horrific story that leaves a lasting impression.