Revenge and Blood for MASK OF SHADOWS-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a not so warm and fuzzy read. Linsey Miller released a gritty YA fantasy earlier this fall, and I really liked it! MASK OF SHADOWS is a fast-paced kill ride of challenges for a gender-fluid hero bent on having their revenge at long last. This is the first book with a sequel in the works.

About the book:
I Needed to Win.
They Needed to Die.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

My Review:
Sal Leon is a gender fluid thief who’s also the last of their people. When Sal was a child, Magic ruled their land, but some wealthy mages created the soulless shadows that gobbled up the humans in their path. It took the might of Queen to halt all magic in their realm brought an end to the shadows.

That was a decade ago, and Sal only survived because they had been playing in a tree in the instant the shadows swept the land. Sal’s sister at the base of the tree was a casualty Sal hasn’t forgotten. They made their way through semi-slavery into another land where Sal was trained in theft to survive. Sal’s handler is a well-known criminal, and when Sal learns of auditions to join the Queen’s Left Hand, a band of masked assassins, Sal makes their first killing–turning their handler’s head in as proof of Sal’s deadly might. As a Queen’s assassin, Sal would be able to cozy up to the nobles who have profited from the death of Sal’s homeland… and kill them.

So, Sal must survive a literal bloodfest, where twenty-two other applicants are also vying to be the last person standing, and take the single spot as the Queen’s Opal–all the assassins are named for gems. Under the guidance of Ruby, Emerald and Amethyst, the auditioners are gaining skill and picking off their competition. Sal is no match for the might and skill of the others, but they are wily, and used to living hard. As it stands, Sal makes it through two rounds of death, and gets the chance at a formal education; the Left Hand are part of the QUeen’s court and need to be literate. Sal’s tutor, Elise, is the daughter of one of the nobles Sal hopes to slaughter. Not easy thinking on these things, but Sal’s bloodthirst for revenge helps uncover a plot to overthrow the Queen. Expect intrigue and constant motion, as Sal works hard to stay alive and keep their eye on the rifts within the court.

I really enjoyed this one! It’s gore, but in the good way. I totally identified with Sal, and their need to avenge their family and homeland. It got a little confusing, at times, with all the names–because everyone has an alter ego it seems, and the formal names are long and twisty. There is a tiny bit of romance with Elise, and don’t expect any revelations on the gender front. Sal is equally comfortable in trousers or dress, and it’s common for men to wear tunics/skirts in this world. The end is not pleasant, another bloodbath of folks we’d all probably grown to love. But Sal has a new mission, and it involves saving both Elise and the Queen from destruction. I’m really looking forward to it!

Interested? You can find MASK OF SHADOWS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Book Depository.

About the Author:
A wayward biology student from Arkansas, Linsey has previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. Her debut novel MASK OF SHADOWS is the first in a fantasy duology coming in September 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire. She can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.

Catch up with Linsey on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Stranger-Danger? EIGHT DAYS ON PLANET EARTH–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Keeping with my pre-Halloween “weird” theme, I’m sharing a review for a soon-to-be-released YA adventure romance from Cat Jordan. EIGHT DAYS ON PLANET EARTH is the story of a boy who’s given up on space-stories…then finds a supposed “alien” girl on his property.

The book releases 11/7, but you can scroll down and pre-order it today! Also, enter the giveaway to win 1 of 3 $10 Amazon GCs or one of two signed copies of the book.

About the book:
How long does it take to travel twenty light years to Earth?
How long does it take to fall in love?

To the universe, eight days is a mere blip, but to Matty Jones, it may be just enough time to change his life.

On the hot summer day Matty’s dad leaves for good, a strange girl suddenly appears in the empty field next to the Jones farm—the very field in rural Pennsylvania where a spaceship supposedly landed fifty years ago. She is uniquely beautiful, sweet, and smart, and she tells Matty she’s waiting for her spaceship to pick her up and return her to her home planet. Of course she is.

Matty has heard a million impossible UFO stories for each of his seventeen years: the conspiracy theories, the wild rumors, the crazy belief in life beyond the stars. When he was a kid, he and his dad searched the skies and studied the constellations. But all of that is behind him. Dad’s gone—but now there’s Priya. She must be crazy…right?

As Matty unravels the mystery of the girl in the field, he realizes there is far more to her than he first imagined. And if he can learn to believe in what he can’t see: the universe, aliens…love…then maybe the impossible is possible, after all.

A heart-wrenching romance full of twists that are sure to bring tears to readers’ eyes, from Cat Jordan, author of THE LEAVING SEASON.

My Review:

Matty Jones is a high school junior on summer break when two things happen on the same day:  his unemployed UFO conspiracy-theorist father walks out, and a strange girl claiming to be an alien appears in the fallow field on his family’s defunct farm. Matty’s furious with his dad, a man who’d been slipping away from his responsibilities for years. His mother is devastated, but Matty had seen this coming.

Matty had grown up knowing that his dad was big into space and UFOs. It was local legend that an alien aircraft landed in their field on the night his father was born–but the government washed away the evidence. Still, Matty and his dad spent ages outside on the their twin telescopes searching the night skies for something out there. His dad blogged, and over the past few years the tenor of the blog had shifted from informative to conspiracy-oriented. Along with this, his dad pulled away from Matty and his mom–even going so far as to have affairs with some of his ardent blog followers. Matty thinks good riddance to his slacker dad, and is frustrated that his mom even harbors any hope he’ll return.

Meanwhile Priya, the “alien” in his field, is busy collecting data about Earth. Her home planet, she reveals, is deep in the Libra constellation, and Matty’s too lonely and downhearted to simply brush her off. He wants to believe that Priya is a confused girl who’ll move on soon–like all the other UFO lunatics his father had ginned up over the years. But, there’s clearly something wrong with Priya–she is dressed bizarrely–in a tutu and wearing a platinum wig over her dark hair–and has trouble with balance that she ascribes to differences in Earth’s gravity. She can read Matty’s thoughts, and it unsettles him. She also struggles with language, and he thinks maybe she’s from a different country, completely discounting the notion that she’s possibly an alien.

She’s still in his field the next day, and the next, and the more time Matty spends with her, the more he wants to be near her, even as she resurrects good memories of time spent with his dad. The conflict is real for Matty, but so is the compassion. He and Priya share some intimacy over this time, each night watching the skies for her ship to arrive and whisk her back through the wormhole to her planet.

Matty’s friends draw attention to Priya’s weirdness, and it leads to the big crisis and reveal of Priya for exactly who she is. It’s a good and honest twist, that breaks Matty’ s heart while at the same time restoring the abandoned bond between himself and his father. Though that makes it sound a lot more complicated than it is. At it’s core, this is a story about a boy falling for people who leave him behind, and learning how to deal with that. Matty is a strong character, a good guy who felt real. He’s not perfect; he’s a slacker like his dad, and plans to spend his summer riding dirt bikes, visiting the beach and getting high with his best friend. His encounters with Priya open his eyes to the wonder of his mundane life, and foster a new sense of purpose that he may, or may not, pursue.

The truth of it is, there are mysteries in this world that can’t be explained completely, and must be taken on faith. Gravity, Priya asserted, was one of those. Love, as Matty learned, was another. It’s a sweet book, with a heart-tugging resolution that fans of YA will really enjoy.

Interested? You can find EIGHT DAYS ON PLANET EARTH on Goodreads and pre-order it in advance of its 11/7 release on Harper Collins, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Indie Bound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win 1 of 3 $10 Amazon GCs or one of two signed copies of the book.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author In Cat jordan’s words…

When I was a teenager, the very first book I ever tried to write was pretentious and stilted and set in a future where there was no paper. Obviously, I fancied myself another Ray Bradbury (who I was thrilled to meet not once but twice!). The book had an awesome title and no plot but I had the most fun creating the characters and the world they lived in. That to me is the most enjoyable part of writing a novel: envisioning a world and populating it with all kinds of people and dogs. Gotta have a dog.

The worlds I create now as an adult are based on my travels from coast to coast in the US, to Europe and Mexico and Canada, and on the people I have met and loved and admired and feared. And dogs.

Currently I live in Los Angeles. With my dog.

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

Learning THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC is Awesome!–A Review

Hi there! Halloween is approaching, and I’ll be sharing some reviews for books that fall into the weird/paranormal variety in celebration. Today I’m sharing a review for a paranormal-type YA gay romance from F.T. Lukens. THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC is about a high school senior who takes a part-time job so he can save money for college. But, his new job comes with all sorts of weird, and he’s soon caught up in disaster after disaster.

Having loved THE STAR HOST and GHOSTS & ASHES, I knew I wanted to read this book.

About the book:
Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but it’s pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town.

Fantastic.

When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.

My Review:
Bridger is a high school senior who knows his life is going to take a turn…hopefully for the better. He’s recently come to understand that he’s likely bisexual–prompted to his attraction to his gorgeous new neighbor, Leo, who has a habit of moving the lawn in only his shorts… Bridger is scared of what this means for him, as he lives in what he considers to be a small, conservative, hometown: Midden, Michigan. In order to explore this facet of his being, Bridger believes he must go away to college so he can experiment far away where his mother, a nurse who’s working as many double shifts as possible to support them, won’t hear about it and be upset with him.

So, he tries to get an assistant job for a local nutty professor, or so he thinks. The first test is entering the house where the professor works–and it’s high stakes. Bridger bests the suit-clad fellow applicants by sheer grit and ingenuity, and that’s the beginning of his new weird life. Pavel Chudinov, his new boss, has a house filled with intrigues, from the stunning Elena who nearly bewitches Bridger, to the caustic gunk that pretty much dissolved Bridger’s new tennis shoes, Bridger knows lots of strange is happening all around him. He brushes it aside, though, because his mission of away-college-funding is all the more important as Leo begins to shine his popular glow all over Bridger and Astrid, his best friend. This leads to a beach party invite that ends with mermaids trying to kill Bridger.

And, later, a unicorn attack. Oh, and learning that Elena is a werewolf. Bridger takes all this info in with aplomb, and minor freak outs. The pay is good, and Pavel is kind, as are his house pixies who assist with the work of mediating between the human and myth worlds. People, Bridger comes to realize, will find any implausible reason they can to explain the unexplainable. But Bridger’s hours on the job mean secrecy between him and Astrid, and the time he spends with Leo also strains their relationship. Especially as Bridger isn’t sure if Leo is being friendly out of sheer friendliness, or mutual attraction. What if Bridger’s misunderstood, and makes a mistake that could get him bashed?

As the story unfolds, Bridger pieces together the unlikeliest of circumstances: the recent convergence of myth in Midden, Michigan is due to the presence of a hero myth…and that might cause some cramps in his high school if that hero goes the way most of them do: death in glory. Bridger, allied with Pavel, his pixies, and eventually Astrid, are set on dissipating the magic, but Bridger wants it done with the least amount of bloodshed–and heart ache. He’s a sweet guy with real issues happening beyond the magic. I loved how he and his mom got along, and also his tight friendship with Astrid. There are so many fabulous characters here, including Pavel and Leo, who teach Bridger that coming out isn’t the end of the world, and that he’s loved right where he is. The magic is fun, and poor Bridger is a bit downhearted that the unicorn hates him. I was enchanted by the myth-weaving, and the resolution made my heart race. I so wanted Bridger to solve the problem without losing himself in the process, and I was rewarded with the best possible outcome. Bridger finds both love and acceptance in places he never expected. It’s a sweet and happy ending that felt like a beginning–because the book ends but new adventures may arise that he needs to tackle. That blue door on the third floor was left open to such possibilites, in any event.

Interested? You can find THE RULES AND REGULATIONS for MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Target, Smashwords, Kobo, Book Depository, and Indiebound.

About the Author:
F.T. wrote her first short story when she was in third grade and her love of writing continued from there. After placing in the top five out of ten thousand entries in a writing contest, she knew it was time to dive in and try her hand at writing a novel.

A wife and mother of three, F.T. holds degrees in psychology and English literature, and is a long-time member of her college’s science-fiction club. F.T. has a love of cheesy television shows, superhero movies, and science-fiction novels—especially anything by Douglas Adams.

Connect with F.T. on her website, Twitter, Tumblr and on Goodreads.

Super Sequel NOT YOUR VILLAIN–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new YA LGBTQ-friendly superhero novel from CB Lee. NOT YOUR VILLAIN is the second book in her Sidekick Squad series and is a fantastic follow-up to NOT YOUR SIDEKICK. Both books are set in the US, a little over a century into the future, when superheros and villains take center-stage in the world…and Bells is a master of his future.

Check out the excerpt and be sure to enter the $25 GC and book giveaway below!

About the book:
Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants and, if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges.

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

How about a little taste?

Captain Orion walks into view, dragging a machine on a cart behind her. “I don’t like that smirk he’s giving you. Shame we couldn’t get the audio on that feed to work. Step aside, let me get a look at him.”

Bells has only seen Orion in holovids and during that one, frenzied encounter at Abby’s house. It’s startling how different she looks now from the shiny, polished hero who graced comic book covers. Her hair is tied in a messy ponytail; her bangs fall limp across her forehead. She’s wearing her usual blue-and-white supersuit, but Bells has never seen it this dirty or in such a state of disrepair; there’s a patch ripped in the leggings, and her knee is poking out. Orion’s cape trails behind her; the edge is frayed and riddled with dirt. The cart she dragged in rolls onto it, causing her to stumble. Orion yanks her cape free of the cart, straightens up, and glares at Bells, as if she’s daring him to laugh.

Bells recognizes the machinery sitting on the cart; it’s one they used at the training center to measure the power levels of meta-humans.

He remembers the last time he was tested. All the other students had taken care not to use their powers all day so they could get an “at rest” rating and be sure that the League could see their full potential. He kept his Barry shift on all day, so that by the time he was measured, he’d be so tired out he’d get a low rating.

What does Orion want with me?

The former hero looks down her nose at Bells. “Well. The famous, talented Chameleon. The League was all about you. The next me, perhaps. Or maybe that was just what they were filling your head with. Did they promise you glory? Greatness?”

“Free lunch,” Bells says. “And travel. To the training center for three summers. Got to see a lot of places. I liked Baja, but the last one was pretty cool. The North is awfully pretty. Lots of trees. Huge, like giants. And last year I got to go to the beach all the time, so—win.”

“I don’t think you understand the gravity of your situation, Barry.” Orion grins like a feral cat. “I’ve got your file right here.”

Orion flips through the thick sheaf of papers. Bells takes a deep breath when he spots the word Broussard, followed by a photo of the restaurant and even a picture of him and Simon as kids. The file must have been important for Orion to print them on actual paper. Or maybe Orion can’t connect to the Net anymore.

How long has she been on the lam? What was she proposing to Stone? The League obviously doesn’t know where she is, since they still claimed she was in Corrections.

Even if she doesn’t have the League behind her, she’s still dangerous, especially if she knows who he really is.

My Review:
Bells has grown up in Andover, a smallish town in the Nevada desert, several hundred miles from what remained of Los Angeles, after the Disasters and World War III are just stories in history books. Nearly 100 years ago, when humanity was still fighting to survive, there was a series of large solar flares that caused cataclysmic events, and generated the first generation of meta-humans, humans with super powers, of any type.

Bells is a black transboy with the power to alter his appearance, and that of anyone or anything he touches. He’s dealing with the meta-human stuff pretty well for a kid whose parents run a black market agribusiness. Oh, and who also has a long-time crush on his best friend Emma. In the beginning he keeps his identity as “Chameleon” one of the newly inducted member of the Heroes League of Heroes. Unfortunately, Jess, who has an undetected super power recognizes that Bells has been made a pawn in the game of heroes vs. villains. Jess noticed that the “villains” that Chameleon was impersonating on a series of “training missions” all had characteristics of her good pal, Bells, and Jess reveals the bigger plot that surrounds a group of missing villains, and Captain Orion, leader of the Heroes League.

This story overlaps NOT YOUR SIDEKICK and picks up with Jess, Bells, and their other pals trying to rescue Jess’ girlfriend Abby’s parents from captivity. Abby has a super power, but she’s been given a serum by Captain Orion to negate her mechanopath abilities.

Just as Bells is getting a handle on his powers and his feelings for Emma, life gets in the way. Ema finds her own boyfriend, and Chameleon’s activity in rescuing Abby’s mom leads to him being listed as Public Enemy ! by the Heroes League. That said, he finds some comfort in pals that didn’t have strong enough powers to make it into the League–and his mission to unmask the REAL villains of this world (think grown-ups in the government) brings some results. To a degree. If nothing else, Jess’ superhero parents take their mission seriously, and superheroes and villains are uniting to defeat the actual bad guys and bring justice to those who need it.

I love the multicultural cast, and the world is beautifully rendered. All to locales jump off the page, and Bells’ plight, in life, love and activity, is a sympathetic one. I love his sweetness, and his commitment to do the right thing even when it’s really, really difficult. It seems as if Bells’ perserverance wins him both the respect and validation he sought when he hungered to be a hero, and I was happy for that. I wonder who will lead us to eventual victory in book three. It feels like Jess’ sister Claudia is a strong candidate. This is an excellent book series for teens who are identified, or questioning, in the LGBT spectrum, as the relationships are all affirming and fluid. Bells is trans, Jess is bi, but seriously dating a girl, Emma has two moms, and there are many other examples of queer life, too. This world posits that nothing is unusual about those connections, and that felt pretty super, too.

Interested? You can find NOT YOUR VILLAIN on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Book Depository, and Indiebound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 GC to Interlude Press, or one of FIVE e-books of NOT YOUR VILLAIN.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
C.B. Lee is a bisexual writer, rock climber, and pinniped enthusiast from Southern California. A first-generation Asian American, she is passionate about working in communities of color and empowering youth to be inspired to write characters and stories of their own. Lee’s debut novel Seven Tears at High Tide was published by Duet Books in 2015 and named a finalist in the Bisexual Books Awards. This summer, C.B. was named to Lambda Literary’s Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices.

You can find C B online on her website, Goodreads, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Cephalopod Coffeehouse Sept 2017: THE LIST, A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m featuring a post-apocalyptic YA adventure from Patricia Forde. THE LIST is a newly-republished novel, originally called THE WORDSMITH. I’ve only read this version, but I liked it bunches.

About the book:
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:
Letta is the teenaged apprentice wordsmith of Ark, a community of survivors on post-apocalytic Earth. The ice caps melted and the seas rose and John Noa built a fortified town where some of humanity would survive. Letta’s parents, residents of Ark, disappeared when she was a small child, bound to search for more survivors. Letta was raised by the wordsmith, Benjamin, to treasure words, though the people of Arc are only given license to use the 500 words on their List as their language.

Benjamin isn’t pleased when he’s told to cut the List to 300 words, and Letta isn’t any happier. She’s in love with language, and words are her trade. She relishes knowing more words than most of Ark’s residents, and does her duty to keep making List words for the school children and apprentices of Ark when Benjamin goes on an extended journey.

John Noa’s theory that deceitful words of untrustworthy politicians destroyed the world has warped his mind, and he wants language eradicated and man to return to that of beasts, is pretty out there. Benjamin fought against him, and lost, which Letta discovers before it’s too late. She meets Marlo, a “Desecrator” or person who creates are or music and lives in the banished forest outside of Ark. Letta helps him recover from an attack by the Ark policing agents, and his family helps her track down the fate of Benjamin, and others who’d gotten in John Noa’s way.

This is an adventure that’s filled with intrigue and peril as Letta endeavors to find truth that’s been well hidden in ignorance. Her worldview is opened by her experiences with the Desecrators, and in witnessing the callousness of John Noa’s agents. They banish the old and infirm as well as the young. Their idyllic world is a shell game, and Letta’s blinders have been removed. She does her best to save the day, but it’s not over when it’s over. Letta, Marlo and the Desecrators need to find a way to help their fellow humans find a new direction, and it’ll take another book to get us there. Really interesting look at a totalitarian regime, and a censored society, from a teen’s point of view, and the plot kept moving along nicely as Letta made truth her mission.

Looking forward to the next adventure on this journey.

Interested? You can find THE LIST on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. You can also likely find it in your local library–may be cross-listed as The Wordsmith. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

Thanks for popping in and be sure to visit my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers as they share reviews of their fave books for this month.


Cephalopod Coffeehouse July 2017–WASTE OF SPACE-A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

So this month I’m sharing a book that surprised me greatly, in the very, very, end. WASTE OF SPACE by Gina Damico is a book I picked up and put down half a dozen times, but I’m glad I didn’t give up.

About the book:
Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show.

And, it’s a hit!

Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.

 

My Review:
This book is a wild ride, and not because the characters are jettisoned into space. Far from it. It’s a satirical look at “reality TV” giving the complete lowdown from the able assistance of a low-level PA who got fired and handed enormous amounts of raw footage of the Waste of Space TV show produced by DV8 Studios.

The premise is this: DV8 wants to make a show about regular kids on a space station, but that’s unrealistic, and expensive, so they partner with NASAW–a shadowy conglomerate whose scientists know lots about space and time–to build a fake space station (complete with IKEA furnishings) that can house ten teens for two months. Along the way, DV8 management bullies and coerces everyone to insist that this show is taking place in space.

Kids line up in malls hoping to become part of this cast; some a fame-hungry, some are looking for a way out, others are looking for a new life altogether. The teens are cast to fulfill certain roles, and the stereotypes they reflect. It’s a weird mix of Big Brother and Space Camp, and the audience is in on the joke from the get-go. That said, there’s still lots of surprises in store. Like, what happens when the uppity/vile nephew of the TV show’s producer is going to get axed? (Bring on the big guns…) What about the party girl–any more bras to display? The token minorities are messing up the chemistry, and there’s plenty of clueless to go around.

The telling of this story is a disjointed collection of transcripts from video recordings, cell phone calls and business meetings. There are roughly 15 POVs, so that’s a jumble. It took me a while to settle in, though I caught on to the sympathetic POVs in the early going. Nico and Titania are the heart and soul of the story–two kids who’ve been altered by tragedy. They are searching for more—meaning and acceptance, and they don’t go in for DV8’s shenanigans. The DV8 exec, Chazz, and his nephew Clayton are the typical reprehensibles, pulling all the strings and cutting despicable deals. I was pleasantly surprised by “Bacardi” and “Snout” and saddened by Louise. I had thought I wasn’t touched much by the book, then the end hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest. The storyline was a sleight of hand that morphed from zany and unpredictable into intense and emotional.

I’m not going to belabor the plot; some of the kids are desperately hoping to be a part of a space mission. Others know it’s gotta be hoax. The DV8 and NASAW folks are doing their utmost to convince the world their show is “real.” In the mix some true connections are made, and dare I say: the most fervent wishes of several of the cast are made real. I was pleasantly surprised how all the seemingly random plot threads were stretched and connected and eventually woven into an unexpectedly picturesque tapestry. For fans of reality TV, this book is a piercing commentary on the genre of entertainment, and how we consume fiction–in any medium. Expect plenty of showmanship, and deceit, and double-crossing. Expect subtle commentary on American xenophobia and racism. And if you read through to the end, expect to be surprised, and maybe delighted. Like I was.

Interested? You can find WASTE OF SPACE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:

In Gina Damico’s words:  I grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. I received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, where I was active with the Committee for Creative Enactments, a murder mystery improv comedy troupe that may or may not have sparked my interest in wildly improbably bloodshed. I have since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker, and breadmonger.I live in Western Massachusetts with my husband, two cats, one dog, and and obscene amount of weird things purchased at yard sales.

You can find Gina on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in! Be sure to check out the reviews of my pals in the Coffeehouse–they always pick some great reads.

Looking Past the GHOSTS & ASHES–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new M/M YA Sci-Fi adventure from F. T. Lukens. GHOSTS & ASHES is the sequel to the phenomenal THE STAR HOST, and should be read in order. This space opera features a technopathic boy trying to find his family a year after he’d been captured, tortured and escaped–and the military recruit who will sacrifice anything to keep him safe.

Catch an excerpt below and register to win a $25 GC or one of five ebooks.
About the book:
Three months have passed since the events of The Star Host, and Ren is living aboard the Star Stream under the watchful eyes of the Phoenix Corps. Plagued by vivid nightmares that ravage the ship in his sleep, he struggles to prove he isn’t a threat and fears he has traded one captor for another. His relationship with Asher, whose efforts to balance his personal loyalty to Ren with his professional duties to the Corps are failing, fractures.

Adrift without an anchor, Ren must return to his home planet of Erden if he has any chance of reversing his dangerous descent into madness. There, he hopes search for his missing brother and salvage his relationship with Asher. What he nds is knowledge that puts everyone’s allegiance to the test.

How about a little taste?

Ren sighed. Asher wanted to talk, and Ren’s insides ached with a fierce loneliness he hadn’t experienced since the first night in the cell of the Baron’s citadel. He didn’t want Asher’s words or his pity. And he didn’t want to relive the details of the nightmare, which had sent him twisting in his sheets and crawling across the floor. The sense memories clung to him, like cobwebs whose phantom threads, fluttery and strange and stubborn, brushed against his skin. The strands were infinite; they touched the deep places of Ren’s consciousness and burrowed down to his marrow to pull out the things that terrified him most.
He didn’t want to share the nightmare, but Asher’s flat countenance and sure gaze couldn’t hide his worry. It flashed in his eyes and ran in shaky tremors down the length of his crossed arms, as if he hugged himself to keep in his concerns and not as a defense to reflect whatever Ren had to throw at him.
Ren bent his knees, propped his arm up, and allowed his fingertips to dangle. Sweat flattened his hair against his temples. He regarded Asher coolly as Asher sat on the edge of Ren’s bunk.
“Do you remember when we went dancing?”
Asher blinked at the non-sequitur. “On Mykonos?”
Rowan had taken them dancing in a place with loud music and rotating lights. The beat had vibrated through Ren’s boots. “I had never been dancing like that before.”
Asher raised an eyebrow. “You weren’t bad. Well, not as bad as Jakob.”
“I liked the slow dance.” Asher had grabbed Ren in his arms and pulled him to the dance floor. They’d laughed and moved and all Ren’s worries had dissolved in happiness and the rhythm of the music. “I liked being with you. With the crew. I miss that.”
“We’re here now, Ren.”
He shook his head. “No. You’re not. It’s different now.”
“It doesn’t have to be.”
Ren looked away.
“Ren, you’re not okay,” he said flatly.
“No. I’m not, but I didn’t feel like broadcasting it.”
“It’s a little late for that,” Asher said softly. Ren’s stomach twisted. Asher had all but confirmed his latest nightmare had played on the vid screens. The crew had seen what Ren couldn’t remember, didn’t want to remember. “You’re getting worse. And they know it.”
Ren twisted his lips. “I’m aware the crew already knows. Pen can’t lie for anything.”
“Not them. The Corps.”
Ren rested his head on his knees. “You told her. You threw me to the wolves.”
“I had to.”
“Why? Do you want me to leave? Be locked away?”
“Stars, Ren. You know I don’t want that.”
“I don’t know what you want, to be honest. I don’t understand why you hold allegiance to them at all.”
“Because I have to. I promised five years.”
“You and your promises,” Ren said bitterly. That was loyalty Ren couldn’t understand, not after what the Corps had done to Asher, not after having left him for a year to rot in a cell on what they called a backwater planet. But Ren was beginning to realize there were things he would never understand and maybe wasn’t meant to.
“And I promised I’d keep you safe. Any way I could. This is the only way. Don’t you understand that?”
Ren felt the slight touch of Asher’s fingertips across the back of his hand. His star sparked and sought out the mechanism in Asher’s shoulder instinctually.
Asher shivered.
“There’s a fine line between safety and captivity.”

My Review:
This is the second book in a series and best enjoyed when read in order.

Ren is a star host, a person who can control technology using his mind. He has the ability to mentally fuse with any electrical gadget, no matter how big or small, and can fix most any broken appliance with a touch. In the first book, he had been captured and tortured for this ability, as Baron Vos sought to bend Ren to his control as a weapon. Ren joined with Asher, a captive member of Phoenix Corps–a form of galactic police–and they escaped the Baron’s fortress. That was just the beginning of their saga, which I’ve described in my review.

Now, however, Ren adn Asher are struggling yet again. Phoenix Corps are directly monitoring Ren’s mental and emotional state with daily reports to assess if he’s a threat. Star hosts are notorious for bonding with their machines and losing humanity altogether. It’s not been easy for Ren to stay in his body when the Star Stream, his host ship, is calling out for his loving touch. Asher has pulled away, Ren believes, and Ren can’t sleep or eat. He’s on the verge of cracking when Asher confesses Ren’s instability and urges hsi commanding officer to allow Ren to return to his home planet to get a break from teh tech surrounding him. THis is Ren’s deepest wish, too. TO investigate the fate of his parents and brother–lost to him a year ago when he was captured.

Life on Erden isn’t what it had been. Ren’s humble village had been destroyed–by the Phoenix Corps, searching for Ren and other star hosts. It’s only one stage in a centuries-long battle Ren soon learns. And it makes him even more frustrated with Asher’s devotion to their service. Still, being on the planet does help Ren return to his humanity–though it’s short-lived. Ren’s mission to find his missing brother, Liam, brings them right into Phoenix Corps deadly sights, and their quest reunites Ren and Asher with their previous captors. Only this time, Baron Vos isn’t the only enemy to fear.

The pace of the story is excellent. Ren’s confusion and struggle to remain human is easy to understand. His hurt over Asher’s decisions, and coldness, is palpable. Their trust has been broken, but they still need to rely on one another to survive each challenge–and it gets really challenging. The sci-fi elements are engaging and accessible, even for people who don’t enjoy sci-fi, per se. Asher and Ren are a couple, to a degree, and there is a little bit of kissing and connection, but nothing to even blush over. This book is all about the action, and Ren’s quest to live as normal a life as possible as a star host. He’s convinced his brother is being held captive–confirmed by telepathic communication–and Ren is going to rescue Liam no matter what. Even if Asher stands against him. That’s an admirable stand, and Ren’s an admirable young man. Asher’s motives are often int he shadows, but his intent is to protect Ren, even from Ren’s instincts. The conflict is high, and the stakes are life/death/freedom, so it’s pretty intense.

Do not expect this story to end with this book. We are on a long story arc that leads Ren on many adventures. I liked where this ended, and I’m anxious to get the next book in the series. Highly recommend to folks who like sci-fi, and readers who want diverse characters.

Interested? You can find GHOSTS & ASHES on Goodreads, Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Book Depository, IndieBound and Google Play.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 GC from Interlude Press or an ebook of GHOSTS & ASHES.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
F.T. wrote her first short story when she was in third grade and her love of writing continued from there. After placing in the top five out of ten thousand entries in a writing contest, she knew it was time to dive in and try her hand at writing a novel.

A wife and mother of three, F.T. holds degrees in psychology and English literature, and is a long-time member of her college’s science-fiction club. F.T. has a love of cheesy television shows, superhero movies, and science-fiction novels—especially anything by Douglas Adams.

Connect with F.T. on her website, Twitter, Tumblr and on Goodreads.