Dragon Emperor by Dawn Ross

5 stars

Dragon Emperor by Dawn Ross
Dragon Emperor by Dawn Ross

Dragon Emperor is book two in The Dragon Spawn Chronicles. The story picks up where book one left off, and features many familiar faces from the first installment. 

Dragon Emperor is a bit darker and more violent than book one. Surprisingly, I found myself even more drawn in by the increased intensity.

A central element in the story is conflict over whether showing emotion and understanding the feelings of others is a weakness. As someone who considers genuine empathy one of the greatest strengths an individual can have, I was fascinated by the debate in the story. I wanted to find out if Jori and company would come to the same conclusion as I have in my own life.

I appreciated how the author developed the relationship between brothers Jori and Terk, and how each of the characters grew in their own way.

While early chapters of Dragon Emperor offer a good summary of the main events in the first book, I recommend reading book one first. I also recommend reading the books in order.

Again, I appreciated the inclusion of a glossary to help explain the different types of ships, warriors, and devices used in Ross’s universe. While you can easily understand and enjoy the book without referencing the glossary, it serves as a great reminder of the well-thought-out world Ross has created. 

The action continues in a third book, Dragon’s Fall, and I plan to continue reading this intense and exciting series.

Information about where to purchase the books in The Dragon Spawn Chronicles can be found on the author’s website, https://dawnrossauthor.com/

Dust & Lightning by Rebecca Crunden

4 stars

I have read two other books by Rebecca Crunden so I knew to expect a unique and thought-provoking read when I purchased Dust and Lightning. This sci-fi novella completely lived up to my high expectations.

Dust & Lightning by Rebecca Crunden

Set in the year 4054, when space travel is as common as hopping in an Uber is today, Ames Emerys goes on an intergalactic quest to find out what happened to his brother Callum after receiving word of his death. 

The environmental destruction humans have caused on Earth and beyond is a prominent backdrop for this story about a brother’s commitment to his sibling.

I enjoyed Ames as the main character and was quickly invested in his search. As someone with a brother who is also my best friend, I appreciated that the sibling connection felt genuine and not forced.

Despite the depressing and all-too-possible themes of rampant pollution and political corruption, the book has its light-hearted moments. One of the lines that made me laugh out loud was, “If you don’t want to get fried, don’t turn someone into a human lightning bolt.”

One of the features of Crunden’s writing that continue to impress me is how much world-building and storytelling she packs into so few pages. I wasn’t really a fan of novellas until I started reading hers.

I am looking forward to my next Rebecca Crunden read!

Branches by Adam Peter Johnson

Four stars

I was drawn to this book because the description compared it to Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, which is one of my all-time favorite books. There are definitely some similarities between the two multiverse novels, but Branches is different enough that it still felt fresh and interesting.

Branches by Adam Peter Johnson displayed on an i-pad mini.

With the re-election campaign of an unnamed male authoritarian president shaping the events in Branches, this novel has a more political undercurrent than Dark Matter. However, its primary focus is on a family of three, and how different decisions could change their fates.

The science doesn’t get too technical and, with its contemporary setting, there isn’t a lot of world-building in this novel. This well-written story focuses on the decisions of one man – a husband, father, and son – and his slow realization of the impact his choices have on the people he loves.

Fate isn’t fate at all. It’s just people, and people are stubborn. The systems they build even more so.

Adam Peter Johnson, Branches

Branches was intriguing, observant, confusing, repetitive, and even funny (the paint colors!) at different points. One thing it never was: boring. It held my attention and made me think and feel. 

I recommend this for science fiction, semi-dystopian, and political thriller connoisseurs. Fans of Blake Crouch and of a story told across multiple timelines will enjoy this one. 

However, if you don’t want reminders of the 2016/2020 presidential elections embedded in your fiction, you may want to hold off on this one for now.  As for me, I will definitely be picking up the second installment of this series.

Branches is available for purchase on https://www.adampeterjohnson.net/

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 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?

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.