Friday, August 18, 2017

ARC Review: An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (The Risen Kingdoms #1) by by Curtis Craddock

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (The Risen Kingdoms #1)
by Curtis Craddock

Expected publication: August 29th 2017 by Tor Books

A polymath princess and her faithful musketeer must unravel the plot of a thousand-year-old madman in order to save a foreign kingdom from a disastrous civil war.

Caelum is an uninhabitable gas giant like Jupiter. High above it are the Risen Kingdoms, occupying flying continents called cratons. Remnants of a shattered world, these vast disks of soaring stone may be a thousand miles across. Suspended by magic, they float in the upper layers of Caelum's clouds.

Born with a deformed hand and utter lack of the family's blood magic, Isabelle is despised by her cruel father. She is happy to be neglected so she can secretly pursue her illicit passion for math and science. Then, a surprising offer of an arranged royal marriage blows her life wide open and launches her and Jeane-Claude on an adventure that will take them from the Isle des Zephyrs in l'Empire CĂ©leste to the very different Kingdom of Aragoth, where magic deals not with blood, but with mirrors.

My review:
An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors caught my eye first because of the cover and second because of the description, and I must say that I very much enjoyed it.

My favorite part is that Isabelle and Jeane-Claude are both awesome leading characters. Isabelle is a fantastic heroine, headstrong and smart, but in a patriarchal society that would have her killed should she reveal her secret studies into science and math.  Jeane-Claude is a king's musketeer whose sole mission is to protect Isabelle, but he hides behind the guise of a drunken exile so no one takes him seriously. The story follows each of them in turn, and though the story is in third person, I still felt a strong connection to these characters.

Besides the well-developed characters, the action and the danger they face insert just the right amount of tension into the story, and add to that the mystery and the political intrigue, the fights and the narrow escapes, and even a little bit of romance, and you have one excellent read.

And, the ending is satisfying. No spoilers here, but I wasn't able to guess the outcome, and when it came, I closed the book feeling like it couldn't have ended any other way. I'd love to read another book in this world, but this one looks like a standalone.

Anyhow, overall this book was awesome and I loved it.  I strongly recommend this to folks who enjoy high adventure, magic, and intrigue with a touch of steampunk.

I received the review copy of this book from NetGalley.

Intrigued? You can pre-order this book on Amazon:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sci-fi Thriller: The Rainbow Virus by Dennis Meredith

The Rainbow Virus
by Dennis Meredith

It's the weirdest bioterrorism attack ever!

Loner scientist Arthur Lupo at first seems the most eccentric bioterrorist of all time. After vanishing from his lab at a biotech company, he releases viruses that only turn their victims a palette of colors. But then his chief pursuers—disgraced FBI agent Bobby Loudon and obsessive CDC epidemic-tracker Kathleen Shinohara—discover a horrifying fact. The brilliant Lupo has stolen the world's most lethal viruses from the Army's bioterrorism center.

Lupo reveals that his first viruses were only a test. He dramatically proves their infectivity by transforming the terrified citizens of Denver into a rainbow of colors. In a chilling declaration, he announces that he will now release an unstoppable artificial virus whose spread will decimate the world's population.

Loudon and Shinohara must race against time, a mysterious assassin, and a secret government faction to find Lupo and stop him.

The Rainbow Virus is a gripping, realistic bioterrorism tale that launches readers on a harrowing adventure with the flips and plunges of the wildest roller coaster.

My Review:
This one is an easy five stars for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed this from the start to the end. The main character is a flawed, but likable FBI agent who's paired with CDC agents to track down a missing scientist.

For a scientific thriller, this one was rather exciting with plenty of dangerous situations, along with a very interesting social side story. The villain has created a virus that targets human pigmentation, turning unsuspecting victims into a rainbow of colors in more and more widely targeted attacks. It seems mostly harmless, though life changing for the victims, except it becomes apparent the scientist is using the rainbow virus to perfect delivery of a deadly cocktail of stolen viruses.

As for the science itself, it's very well researched, but through the eyes of the FBI agent, a non-scientist, it's explained so any reader can get the important takeaways. Folks familiar with the science will dig the authenticity, though.

Overall, loved it. It was a great read. Fans of thrillers will likely dig it.

I picked this up while it was on a free promotion day.

About the Author:
Dennis Meredith brings to his novels an expertise in science from his career as a science communicator at some of the country's leading research universities, including MIT, Caltech, Cornell, Duke and the University of Wisconsin. He has worked with science journalists at all the nation's major newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV networks and has written well over a thousand news releases and magazine articles on science and engineering over his career.

He has served on the executive board of the National Association of Science Writers and has written numerous articles and guidebooks on science writing and science communication. He has also served as a judge and manager for the NASW Science-in-Society Awards and the AAAS Science Writing Awards.

He was a creator and developer of EurekAlert!, working with The American Association for the Advancement of Science to establish this international research news service, which now links more than 4,500 journalists to news from 800 subscribing research institutions.

In 2007, he was elected as a AAAS Fellow "for exemplary leadership in university communications, and for important contributions to the theory and practice of research communication." In 2012 he was named the year's Honorary Member of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.

He holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Texas (1968) and an M.S. in biochemistry and science writing from the University of Wisconsin (1970).

He is currently writing science articles, non-fiction books and science fiction novels. He also develops and conducts communication workshops for researchers seeking to enhance their communication skills, both professional and lay-level. He has developed workshops for researchers at universities, research foundations, and government agencies and laboratories.

Author Links:
Author Website:
Twitter @explainresearch:

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Science Fiction Review: Xenocide (The Ender Quintet #3) by Orson Scott Card

Xenocide (The Ender Quintet #3)
by Orson Scott Card

The war for survival of the planet Lusitania will be fought in the hearts of a child named Gloriously Bright.

On Lusitania, Ender found a world where humans and pequininos and the Hive Queen could all live together; where three very different intelligent species could find common ground at last. Or so he thought.

Lusitania also harbors the descolada, a virus that kills all humans it infects, but which the pequininos require in order to become adults. The Starways Congress so fears the effects of the descolada, should it escape from Lusitania, that they have ordered the destruction of the entire planet, and all who live there. The Fleet is on its way, and a second xenocide seems inevitable.

My Review:
I loved it, but it is incredibly scientific. The Ender's books after Ender's Game are basically a totally different story.

This one takes place on Lusitania, taking up after the events from Speaker for the Dead have had some time to settle into a new normal. A fleet is coming to destroy the planet. Miro is using space travel to keep young and to intercept Ender's sister who comes to join him in a desperate effort to save both the colonists and Lusitania's incredibly unique ecosystem.

The book explores the idea of Xenocide from several different angles, but particularly scientific and ethical. At the same time, the story still has a lot of heart, and you explore the ideas along with some rather realistic and memorable characters. It takes some surprising turns.

Still, highly recommended to folks who love a good sci fi with plenty of deep thinking, intriguing science, and memorable characters.

I borrowed my copy from the library.

About the Author:
Orson Scott Card is best known for his science fiction novel Ender's Game and its many sequels that expand the Ender Universe into the far future and the near past. Those books are organized into the Ender Quintet, the five books that chronicle the life of Ender Wiggin; the Shadow Series, that follows on the novel Ender's Shadow and are set on Earth; and the Formic Wars series, written with co-author Aaron Johnston, that tells of the terrible first contact between humans and the alien "Buggers." Card has been a working writer since the 1970s. Beginning with dozens of plays and musical comedies produced in the 1960s and 70s, Card's first published fiction appeared in 1977 -- the short story "Gert Fram" in the July issue of The Ensign, and the novelette version of "Ender's Game" in the August issue of Analog.

The novel-length version of Ender's Game, published in 1984 and continuously in print since then, became the basis of the 2013 film, starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, and Abigail Breslin. Card was born in Washington state, and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he runs occasional writers' workshops and directs plays. He frequently teaches writing and literature courses at Southern Virginia University.

He is the author many sf and fantasy novels, including the American frontier fantasy series "The Tales of Alvin Maker" (beginning with Seventh Son), There are also stand-alone science fiction and fantasy novels like Pastwatch and Hart's Hope. He has collaborated with his daughter Emily Card on a manga series, Laddertop. He has also written contemporary thrillers like Empire and historical novels like the monumental Saints and the religious novels Sarah and Rachel and Leah. Card's recent work includes the Mithermages books (Lost Gate, Gate Thief), contemporary magical fantasy for readers both young and old. Card lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, He and Kristine are the parents of five children and several grandchildren.


Find more books by this author on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

New Release: The List by Patricia Forde

The List
by Patricia Forde

Publication Date: August 1st 2017

Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver for tweens in this gripping story about the power of words and the dangers of censorship.

In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.

My Review:
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It’s a gripping and thought provoking read with a decent amount of action and good pacing. I’d recommend it to folks who like dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and stories that feature young protagonists.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley.

You can read the full review on my original post here.

Add to your shelf on Goodreads.

About the Author:
Patricia Forde lives in the County Galway, in the wet of Ireland. She has published five books for children in the Irish language and has written two plays, as well as several television drama series for children and teenagers. She has worked as a writer on both English and Irish language soap operas. In another life, she was a primary school teacher and the artistic director of Galway Arts Festival. The List is her first novel.

Author Links:
Goodreads Patricia's Author Profile

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Apocalyptic Review: Apollyon (Left Behind #5) by LaHaye and Jenkins

Apollyon (Left Behind #5)
by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

As the world's thousands of believers gather in Jerusalem for a stadium rally, the Tribulation Force struggles with their own personal crises. Newspaper reporter Buck Williams and his wife, Chloe, question whether or not they should have a child when the future of the world is so uncertain. Meanwhile, Rayford Steele discovers the shocking truth about his wife, Amanda.

Nicolae Carpathia continues his rise to power, forcing believers underground. But Nicolae isn't prepared for a plague of scorpion-like locusts tormenting his followers—with a pain so horrible that men try to kill themselves but aren't allowed to die.

My Review:
Pretty good, odd ending. The locusts were, um, interesting. At least I know what the title means now.

As with the others in this series, the folks who will likely enjoy it best are Christian readers. Others might enjoy it for literal take on the biblical apocalypse.

Overall I liked it, but it's not as exciting as some of the others.

I borrowed the paperback of this book from a friend.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

About the Authors:

Timothy "Tim" F. LaHaye was an American evangelical Christian minister, author, and speaker, best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction, which he co-wrote with Jerry B. Jenkins. He has written over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Timothy "Tim" F. LaHaye was an American evangelical Christian minister, author, and speaker, best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction, which he co-wrote with Jerry B. Jenkins.

He has written over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Jerry Bruce Jenkins is an American novelist and biographer. He is best known as co-author of the Left Behind series of books with Tim LaHaye. Jenkins has written over 185 books, including mysteries, historical fiction, biblical fiction, cop thrillers, international spy thrillers, and children's adventures, as well as non-fiction. His works usually feature Christians as protagonists. In 2005, Jenkins and LaHaye ranked 9th in's 10th Anniversary list of Hall of Fame authors based on books sold at during its first 10 years. Jenkins now teaches writers to become authors here at his website. He and his wife Dianna have three sons and eight grandchildren.

Books in this Series: