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.

Trouble Awakens THE STAR HOST–Review and Giveaway!

BannerTemplate(19)Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review of a fantastic sci-fi M/M YA romance for FT Lukens. THE STAR HOST is an interesting and engaging adventure with a dash of romance and a whole lot of power.

Catch the excerpt, my review and enter the $25 GC and book giveaway below.

Star Host 1600px (web smashwords)About the book:
Ren grew up listening to his mother tell stories about the Star Hosts – a mythical group of people possessed by the power of the stars. The stories were the most exciting part of Ren’s life, and he often dreamed about leaving his backwater planet and finding his place among the neighboring drifts. When Ren is captured by soldiers and taken from his home, he must remain inconspicuous while plotting his escape. It’s a challenge since the general of the Baron’s army is convinced Ren is something out of one of his mother’s stories.

He finds companionship in the occupant of the cell next to his, a drifter named Asher. A member of the Phoenix Corps, Asher is mysterious, charming, and exactly the person Ren needs to anchor him as his sudden technopathic ability threatens to consume him. Ren doesn’t mean to become attached, but after a daring escape, a trek across the planet, and an eventful ride on a merchant ship, Asher is the only thing that reminds Ren of home. Together, they must warn the drifts of the Baron’s plans, master Ren’s growing power, and try to save their friends while navigating the growing attraction between them.

How about a little taste?

Once at the hangar, Ren broke away from the two guards and entered the lancer, walking up the stairs, irritation a heavy feeling in his chest.

“Reporting for work,” Ren said, his tone heavily laced with annoyance.

Janus popped up from a console she had been working under, goggles on her face, gray hair sticking up everywhere. “You!” she snapped. “I told you not to come back.”

Ren rolled his eyes. “It’s not my choice. I don’t want to be here anymore than you want me here.”

“Where are your guards? I told the dumb one not to bring you back, Abiathar’s orders be damned. I don’t want your kind working on these ships.”

She poked a finger hard into Ren’s chest and he staggered back, and rubbed his hand over the spot.

“What the stars do you mean by my kind?”

Her eyes grew comically large behind the goggles. “You don’t know?” She laughed, bordering on hysterical. “You’re more dangerous than I thought. You can’t try to control it if you don’t even know what you are.”

Ren frowned. His tolerance for the cryptic nonsense everyone had spouted since he arrived was gone. He took a step toward the hull and Janus stiffened.

“Don’t,” she barked.

“Don’t what? Touch it? What will happen, huh?”

Her face paled and her chest heaved with panicked breaths. “You don’t know what you’re capable of.”

Ren laughed. “I’m capable of nothing. I’m a duster, planet-born with very limited experience with tech. You have no reason to be frightened of me.”

He moved closer to the hull, hand outstretched, fingers splayed.

She whimpered. “Please, don’t.”

Ren slammed his hand against the hull, his fingertips leaving greasy marks on the shiny surface. As he predicted, nothing happened.

He turned back to Janus. “See? Nothing–”

His word tangled in his throat, cut off, because suddenly, Ren was consumed with power, rushing from his toes to his fingertips. A blue tint clouded his vision, and his body suffused with golden warmth. And then he was floating amongst the wires, connected to the ship, to the energy source, to everything. The lancer pulsed under his skin, tangling in his veins, its systems integrated with his senses.

It was freeing and frightening.

His consciousness raced along the circuits and he could fix it. He could fix everything. He found the tangle of wires in the artificial gravity system and bypassed it. He found the broken circuits in the air recyclers and with a pulse of power, refurbished them. He saw the static in the com system, a physical entity, and he cleared it away with a brush of his metaphysical hand.

The longer Ren floated through the ship, the less connected he was to his physical body. And if he thought about it, he didn’t need his body. Why would he need his body? He was free here. He moved around with ease, the wires and the systems his route, and the more he pushed, the more he felt the other ships too. They were nearby, on the edge of his perception, and he could go to those, he could jump to the other ones and repair them too.

He could.

He could.

My Review:
Ren is captured while trying to hide his brother from the gangs of soldiers who range the countryside near his home. Forced to march several days to the citadel of the Baron who rules Ren’s segment of the planet Erden, Ren learns that he’s got powers that rival the legends his mother taught him. he has the ability to shutdown the electric cattle prods and stunners that are continually aimed at him.

He wants to escape, but he knows he needs to be strategic about it. The baron seems to be amassing an army–to what purpose none of the new captive can even guess. The citadel is a fortress, and the baron’s general knows that Ren’s power allows him to control any machine. Ren’s a star host, and his gift is technopathy; he’s soon put to work fixing all the broken tech that serves the baron’s army. And this includes spaceships that seem poised to go offworld.

Ren is housed in a technopath-proof iron prison alongside Asher, a political prisoner. Asher was born and raised on a drift–a space station. He was a member of the Phoenix Corps who crashed on Erden. The only reason he’s still alive is because his mother is a galactic counselor–and providing regular evidence that Asher lives keeps the Phoenix Corps from landing on Erden and wrecking the baron’s plans for offworld domination. These plans include coercing Ren into tapping into ships and space stations, defending and controlling them in the name of the baron. Ren has other ideas, however. He wants to go home, but knows this is impossible. With Asher’s connections they may just be able to escape Erden together, and keep Ren from fusing with the machines that call to him.

It’s a fascinating “chosen one” tale with elegant prose and a fast-paced plot. Ren comes into his powers slowly, but realizes that he’d likely had them all along. His memories of the legends his mother would whisper to him at night and their home strangely devoid of all tech now seems so prescient. He’s just seventeen, but Ren must grow up quickly and hone his abilities if he’s going to survive as a human with free will. Every time he joins with the machines (and the bigger the machines the worse it is!) he risks staying in his star form, detached from humanity and thinking only of the power that courses through him. It is Asher who has the ability to connect with Ren when he’s trapped in the tech-phase. And, as Ren becomes more and more dependent upon Asher to keep him grounded he recognizes that his feelings are getting involved.

This is a YA adventure/romance and there is a dash of romance to go along with the story. Ren’s attracted to Asher, and they are fast becoming the best of friends…maybe more? Could they be? What will happen if Asher can’t get into Ren’s head when he’s in his star form? The last battles of technopath star hosts broke the sky, according to the legends. Ren can see how it happened, and he fears repeating these mistakes as he’s not yet strong enough to control his power lust when fusing with a large machine. Naturally, the only way to save himself and his friends is by joining with a gigantic space station…

Honestly, I loved the book. I found it fresh and interesting. There are very sweet friendships and harrowing escapes and lessons that need learning and boundaries that must be tested, and bested. Ren and Asher together are so perfectly mismatched, and that’s totally adorable. There’s a bit of kissing, but nothing else. Great for YA readers who enjoy clean romances and sci-fi adventures. This world is rich and lush, and there’s no condemnation for same-sex pairing–so no one thinks anything derogatory of Ren and Asher for falling for one another. The book ends with a complete resolution of all hostilities, but you can bet there will be more where this came from, and I look forward to a sequel.

Interested? You can find THE STAR HOST on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, SmashwordsiBooks, and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 GC from Interlude Press or an ebook of THE STAR HOST.
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.

pride

 

New Dangers in THE DUALITY BRIDGE–Review & Giveaway

Singularity 2
Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share my review for THE DUALITY BRIDGE, a YA sci-fi book about artificial intelligence and the quest for immortality from a fave author Susan Kaye Quinn. This is the second book in a series, and you should read THE LEGACY HUMAN first. Don’t forget to scroll down and enter the $25 GC giveaway.

Duality BridgeAbout the book:
What does it mean to be human? Elijah Brighton is the face of the Human Resistance Movement. He’s the Olympic-level painter who refused an offer of immortality from the ascenders—the human/machine hybrids who run the world—in solidarity with the legacy humans who will never get a chance to live forever.

Too bad it’s all a complicated web of lies. Worse, Eli’s not even entirely human. Few know about the ascenders’ genetic experiments that left him… different. Fewer know about the unearthly fugue state that creates his transcendent art—as well as a bridge that lets him speak to the dead. But the Resistance is the one place he can hide from the ascender who knows everything the fugue can do. Because if Marcus finds him, he’ll either use Eli for his own nefarious purposes… or destroy him once and for all.

The Duality Bridge is the second book in the Singularity series and the sequel to The Legacy Human. This thrilling new young adult science fiction series explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul in a post-Singularity world.

How about a tiny taste?

Delphina is watching me from outside the holo matrix… along with Kamali, whose wide brown eyes hold silent judgment for the things she thinks I’ve done. Forbidden things, like being a love toy for my ex-patron and current-rebel-ascender, Lenora. Who happens to be standing right next to her. While Kamali’s graceful dancer body is hidden under the black military garb of the resistance, Lenora’s perfect bodyform is barely covered in scintillating ascender-tech fabric. The thing is, I’ve never so much as kissed Lenora. Except in my dreams, which really shouldn’t count against me. Any seventeen-year-old guy would have those kinds of thoughts. But the truth is Kamali’s not wrong to judge me.

My feelings for Lenora have always been… complicated.

My Review:
This series of books takes place in a future Earth where humanity is the minority of the population and the Ascenders are humans who long ago put their knowledge and consciousness into a computer matrix called Orion. They exist in artificial bodyforms are are essentially immortal–replacing parts but not awareness over the years. Eli is a legacy human, part of a cultivated population comprised of the progeny of people who chose not to ascend over a hundred years ago. He has earned a modest living as an artist due to the payments of his Ascender patron Lenora, but his true goal was to win Ascendance at the Olympics that just ended. His goal was two-fold: he would be ascender and could pursue Lenora, for whom he always pined, and his mother, who is sick with lymphoma and unable to be cured with the limited medicines humans are allowed to take, would also ascend and she would be cured in the process.

In the previous book, THE LEGACY HUMAN, Eli’s plans did not succeed. And, he has learned that his humanity–which he ofttimes cursed–is not complete. Lenora had a hand in Eli’s conception, with a number of other Ascenders who were hoping to determine if Ascenders in fact had souls. Eli has fits, fugues, where he loses his active consciousness and sees scenes that may be future or past. He paints within these fugue-states creating art that is transcendent, but he now realizes that his visions in the fugue are far more than art–they are communion with Orion, outside of Ascendency.

Eli is a poster child for the Human Resistance, factions of humans who want Ascendency to be a right, not a privilege to “win” but, at the moment, Eli isn’t a believer in their cause. He isn’t human, but his sick mother is–and the rebels are willing to cure his mother for his cooperation. Unfortunately, their camp is compromised and Eli is singled out as a security risk. Eli and his friend Kamali (a human girl he’d like to actually date) fight to save the captured members of their camp, while also keeping Eli’s secret. It’s getting harder and harder to keep his genetic origins secret, however, especially as they are captured by human True Believers–God worshippers in the darkest sense–and other Ascenders, including Marcus, who believe Eli’s origin to be a mistake that needs to be rectified.

The plot takes amazing twists, between the harsh reality of human life in New Portland and the surreal nature of Eli’s fugues which are becoming more frequent and more detailed. Eli’s able to discern the true nature of all creatures he meets in the fugue, and his fears over some are more warranted than others. He’s also forced to make alliances that do not best suit him, in order to save the people he loves–sacrificing himself is not a viable option for his protectors and friends, however.

I really enjoyed the detailed world-building and the depth of the plot, which (naturally) features a character bent on world domination. Shame this character has such close ties to Eli. The characters within the story are fantastically crafted, with real motives and drives that cause alliances that are not always permanent. The secondary characters, Kamali, Cyrus, Lenora, Marcus and others, have true roles to play in Eli’s journey. The resolution of this novel is sufficient to remove any cliffhangers, but readers know there is more of the story to come. Can’t wait!

Interested? You can find THE DUALITY BRIDGE on Goodreads and Amazon.

legacy human
The Legacy Human by Susan Kay Quinn

What would you give to live forever? Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

The Legacy Human is the first in Susan Kaye Quinn’s new young adult science fiction series that explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul in a post-Singularity world… and how technology will challenge us to remember what it means to be human.
You can find my review for the THE LEGACY HUMAN here and pick up the book on Amazon.

Praise for The Legacy Human:
“This book is Hunger Games (without the violence or controversy) meets Divergent.”
“This story is so intense I felt I couldn’t get a proper breath.”
“Science fiction with philosophical depth!”

$25 Blog Tour giveaway

$25 Blog Tour Giveaway

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $25 Amazon eGift Card or Paypal Cash.
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(Ends 9/6/15. Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com eGift Card or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.)
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

SusanAuthor Susan Kay Quinn
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the Singularity Series, the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, and the Debt Collector serial, as well as other speculative fiction novels and short stories. Her work has appeared in the Synchronic anthology, the Telepath Chronicles, the AI Chronicles, and has been optioned for Virtual Reality by Immersive Entertainment. Former rocket scientist, now she invents mind powers, dabbles in steampunk, and dreams of the Singularity. Mostly she sits around in her PJs in awe that she gets to write full time.

Website * Facebook * Twitter

She Is THE OCCASIONAL DIAMOND THIEF–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing in the blog tour of JA McLachlan’s THE OCCASIONAL DIAMOND THIEF. This YA SciFi adventure is a well-written tale about a girl who makes the best of the worst in her life–her lack of family and love. You can check out other stops on the tour here for even more good stuff including excerpts, reviews, vlogs and author and character insights. Make sure to drop down and get in on the giveaway!

The Occasional Diamond ThiefAbout the Book:
What if you learned your father was a thief? Would you follow in his footsteps, learn his “trade”? If you were the only one who knew, would you keep his secret?

When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a universal translator, she is co-opted into traveling as a translator to Malem. This is the last place in the universe that Kia wants to be—it’s the planet where her father caught the terrible illness that killed him—but it’s also where he got the magnificent diamond that only she knows about. Kia is convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond.

Using her skill in languages – and another skill she picked up, the skill of picking locks – Kia unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner.

But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? Can she trust the new friends she’s made on Malem, especially handsome but mysterious 17-year-old Jumal, to help her? And will she solve the puzzle in time to save Agatha, the last person she would have expected to become her closest friend?

Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humor, and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naive to the point of idiocy in Kia’s opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.

My Review:
This an interesting SciFi YA adventure, and I loved that it features a MC of color. The worldbuilding is cool, too. Kia is a native of the dry arid planet Saffara. He father owns a tradeship, and has mastered many languages in his role as captain, but he’s been ill since he returned form a far-flung rescue mission to Melam, twelve years ago. In his fever dreams he speaks Melamese, and Kia learns this language in order to help her father–only it has the opposite effect: hearing the language makes him distraught and on his death bed he confesses the location of a rare treasure–a Melamese diamond he is forbidden to possess. On Melam the diamonds are a personal treasure, passed only to an infant from his/her parents. An Off-worlder caught with one would be executed.

Kia believes her father stole this diamond, and she begins to “steal” other jewelry to pawn for money to go to language school. She is determined to get the heck away from her emotionally-distant mother, but ends up stealing more in order to provide for her mom when a medical emergency arises–which puts Kia smack into the grasp of the religious Order of Universal Benevolence. Agatha, a Select of the OUB, is a confidante and peacemaker of this intergalactic organization, one charged with brokering and assisting peace. She is also trained to seek the truth in all situations.

Agatha encounters Kia in the midst of a theft, and encourages her…to make more benevolent choices. Still, it is Kia who is chosen to accompany Agatha to Melam, site of her father’s illness and the planet where she will undoubtedly be killed if they discover her father’s Melamese diamond. Oh, and the Melamese are supremely distrustful of Off-worlders ever since factions from a neighboring planet deliberately unleashed a virus that decimated their population–the same virus that afflicted Kia’s father.

Melam is a cold, wet, gray world–nothing like sunny Saffara–and Kia never plans to stay with Agatha when they arrive. I really enjoyed the banter between Agatha and Kia. Agatha’s a bumbling language learner, and Kia’s desperate not to be killed by her faulty phrasing. Observing the Friday afternoon Justice on their second day on Melam–including a mutilation for theft and a beheading for treason–Kia is even MORE freaked out. But the queen has taken notice of her, and the High Priest has taken notice of the the queen’s notice. Yep. We got a classic power struggle on Melam.

While Agatha seeks to guide the Melamese past their grief, Kia is the girl in the middle–and often in the middle of a cozy cell. She does manage to make some important friends who help her get free, and Kia directs the bulk of the action, which was great. She’s not the most likable character, but she is honest…for a thief. Her skills as a safecraker/lock picker come in handy quite often especially while saving sick children, and the daring Agatha.

The pace of the book was a bit slow, at first, but really picked up steam as the ship landed on Melam and both Agatha and Kia were embroiled in the political stew. There are elements of a romance, but no love story. Expect double-crossing priests, courageous Melamese, a bitter queen, and a stalwart Select whose skill at interplanetary relations far outshines her fluency in Melamese. Kia was great, and I did enjoy her. She is comfortable in her outsider role, yet broke through and made lasting connections to people who believe she matters. The story ends, but it’s clear the door is open to another Kia-Agatha buddy tale.

Interested? You can find THE OCCASIONAL DIAMOND THIEF on Goodreads and Amazon. EDGE Publishing has a Thank You gift for anyone who buys the print version of the book. If they send an email to events@hadespublications.com with their Amazon receipt, they will receive a copy of a short story that features Kia.

More praise for The Occasional Diamond Thief by J. A. McLachlan
“J. A. McLachlan is a terrific writer — wry and witty, with a keen eye for detail. I’ve been following her work with interest and delight since 2003. In a world where young-adult fiction is booming, The Occasional Diamond Thief propels McLachlan to the front of the pack.”
Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of FlashForward

“The story is full of humor, danger, fun, and adventure. This is Science Fiction anyone would love.” — J. Jones, VINE VOICE

“Flawless–The Occasional Diamond Thief was one of those rare stories where I found myself hanging onto every word. McLachlan delivers a fast-paced, unpredictable story with perfectly-executed twists. Descriptions were succinct and epigrammatic with no room for boredom. It felt so real, it was almost like being in the theater with a surprise treat at the end. Much like the theater, once the credits have started to roll and the crowd starts to thin, there was a snippet at the end that you do not want to miss.” — BittenbyBooks.com

“Loved it! I haven’t read a heroine I loved this much since Katniss Everdeen. McLachlan’s Kia is smart, tough and hilarious, and pairing her with serene, forgiving Agatha left me laughing long after I finished the story. The settings were vivid, the plot raced along, and the themes kept me turning pages. McLachlan combines her love of science fiction, ethics and good, old-fashioned storytelling in The Occasional Diamond Thief, and the results couldn’t be better. I loved every page.” — < b>Amanda Darling, Screenwriter

“J. A. McLachlan is a remarkable creator of worlds, a remarkable creator of character, a master of suspense. In short, a remarkable storyteller. You don’t have to be a young adult to love this book.” –
Sheryl Loeffler, Writer, A Land in the Storytelling Sea

****GIVEAWAY****

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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author

J. A. McLachlan was born in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of a short story collection, CONNECTIONS, and two College textbooks on Professional Ethics. But speculative fiction is her first love, a genre she has been reading all her life, and The Occasional Diamond Thief is her second in that genre, a young adult science fiction novel, published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. After over a decade as a college teacher, she is happy to work from home as a full-time author now.

You can find Jane online on her website Goodreadstwitter, and Facebook.

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Cephalopod Coffeehouse February 2015–THE LEGACY HUMAN-A Review

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Hi 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.

As part of the Coffeehouse I’m obligated to share the best book I read this month. A few of my Coffeehouse friends are familiar with Susan Kaye Quinn, but this is a NEW, so I am eager to share a YA dystopian-future gem. Oh, and scroll down to enter the KINDLE GIVEAWAY!!

The Legacy Human (Singularity #1)About the book:
When transcending humanity is the prize, winning the Game is all that matters.

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

The Legacy Human is the first in a new young adult science fiction series that explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul… and how technology will challenge us to remember what it means to be human.

My Review:
This is a sci-fi YA story set in a richly described dystopian future. More than one hundred years ago, Earth had a catastrophic population event, called the Singularity. At that time, there were serious issues with population and shortages, but a new technology allowed the conscious of a human to be uploaded into a computer mainframe called Orion. This collective was then able to “download” the experiences of each “Ascender” into discrete automaton bodies. Ascenders had not only their own knowledge, but access to the minds of the billions who likewise ascended.  Those who chose not to Ascend–Legacy Humans–Have been treated like museum pieces to some extent. They are now little more than entertainment for the Ascenders, existing in small Ascender-monitored communities where they have all the “basic” needs met, or off the grid in Believer/rebel colonies.

What is celebrated by Ascenders is the creativity of the Legacy mind. The ability to create–life, art–is venerated. As Legacies are meant to live, and die, the technology that Ascenders use on a daily basis to extend and improve life is denied to the Legacies.

At the time of the Singularity, any human could choose to Ascend, however that avenue is now closed. Currently, the only way for a Legacy to join Orion’s collective is to win one of four coveted, annual spaces in the Art Olympics. Each year the best Legacy (under age 18) in Art, Drama, Writing or Music is selected in the Agon Games–and each winner plus his/her immediate family is ascended.  With the prospect of virtual immortality on the line, winning is difficult, if not downright deadly.

Eli is a 17 y/o Legacy Human who wants nothing more than to get his mother well. She suffers leukemia, a disease that Ascender gene tech can easily cure, but she is denied this treatment because, well, humans die. No point healing them if they are only going to die anyway, in the Ascender viewpoint. Eli is also a talented artist, and he is selling his art for illegal “chits” to buy the forbidden treatment. Eli has an Ascender patron, Lenora, who is helping him to improve his craft, and also assisting with the sales of his work.

Eli wishes to Ascend not only to save his mother, but also to be worthy of an equal relationship with Lenora–while Ascenders and Legacies can have “relations” this is highly frowned upon. Plus, Eli wants to be more than a domestic. He wants immortality, but Lenora will not sponsor him for the Agon Games. And, Eli’s mother doesn’t actually WANT to Ascend. She believes, as do many Legacies, that Ascending destroys the human soul.

Turns out, Lenora’s second (read: boyfriend/partner), Marcus, will. As Eli enters the Games, however, it turns out to be far harder for him than he imagined. Two “Agonites” are already dead, and the likelihood is high for another fatality. Eli is assisted by his dearest friend, Cyrus, and makes a few rebellious friends: Kamali, Basha and Delphina, all who do not actually wish to ascend. Eli is mystified; who wouldn’t wish to be perfection? Still, he hears their arguments against–the most incredible being this “soul” issue.

Eli’s art suffers from an inability to connect to his creative genius. It sometimes peeks out in a “fugue” state–he gets angry or upset and the art…happens. He wakes from this (almost) trance to find amazingly detailed paintings, the kind that could clearly win the Gold, but he cannot harness his fugue. It is transient, though seems to be happening with greater frequency. Kamali seems to be able to draw Eli into the fugue, however, and they pair up often to facilitate Eli’s chance.

As Eli and Kamali talk, Eli comes to realize that the Legacy and Ascender life are not all they seem. Eli recognizes that his true goal, to Ascend and save his mother and become Lenora’s second, are perhaps not the best goals. Well, he’s dead set on saving his mother, but perhaps being Ascended isn’t the perfection he craves after all…

THE LEGACY HUMAN is beautifully rendered with a lush world and the kind of moral dilemmas that are core issues in our own time. Do we have souls? What are the permanent effects of childhood decisions? Can we truly harness power for good, or will power always corrupt? Eli’s fight to save his mother extend throughout the Games and afterward–when he learns he’s been (perhaps) double/triple crossed. He is a strong, likable character and his plight is sympathetic. He competes for love–for his mother’s life and the woman he desires. That he is an inadvertent hero of a cause he didn’t know existed? Well, that’s for the next book.

INTERESTED? You can find THE LEGACY HUMAN on Goodreads and Amazon. It’s an interesting new series that I jumped into because, well, Sue is a dear writing friend at this point.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win
A Kindle Fire and other goodies!
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Thanks for popping in, and feel free to check out what were the best reads of my fellow Coffeehouse bloggers:

1. The Armchair Squid 2. WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME
3. Stephanie Faris, Author 4. Trisha @ WORD STUFF
5. Cherdo on the Flipside 6. mainewords
7. StrangePegs — Just Exactly How Life Looks 8. StrangePegs — Changes
9. A Creative Exercise 10. Life Before the Hereafter
11. V’s Reads 12. Two Square Dogs