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review 2018-10-31 19:14
Review: Mirage
Mirage - Somaiya Daud

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I was really looking forward to this one. I got approved for a review copy from Netgalley and then I got a gorgeous purple edged sprayed exclusive signed copy from my Fairyloot September subscription box. But unfortunately, no matter how pretty the book is – I just didn’t like it.

 

I was really disappointed. I sort of went in blind with this one, I didn’t reread the synopsis before I started – I was admittedly expecting a fantasy, and I got a sci-fi. The sci-fi actually read like a fantasy novel. The world building was interesting, the characters were okay, but the plot I found tedious and boring, the romance eye rolling and predictable.

 

At just over 300 pages it’s a relatively short book and was at least interesting enough that I didn’t DNF it, but it was a big snooze for me.

 

The basics of the plot are the heroine Amani’s people and her home planet have been conquered, and leaving under the harsh rule of the new rulers, the Vath. They are workers, live in a close community, Amani has siblings and friends and looking forward to her majority night ceremony. One thing I did actually like was the details to Amani’s religion, described in detail with deep history and stories without being preachy. Her faith gives her hope when everything looks bleak.

 

Until without warning Amani is taken away with Vath soliders and removed from her home planet to the Vath royalty homeworld. Her whole world is stripped from her when she learns she’s the exact image of the crown princess Maram, who needs a body double to attend public events as there has been threats upon her life. Maram is cold, cruel and emotionless. Amani is to be trained how to be Maram – dress like her, act like her, study her know her life and her world as if it were her own. If she fails or talks out of turn, she’s punished, harshly.

 

The writing is beautiful, it’s very poetic and poetry plays a large part of the plot, but it takes so long for anything to actually happen, the pretty writing gets flowery and annoying after a while. When Amani is training in her new forced position, it’s hard not to feel for the girl. Her family has been torn from her, everything she knows has gone, she’s got no one to help or anyone who can understand the pain she’s going through.

 

Though she determined to be strong and look for an opportunity to escape. Unfortunately, one of her jobs as posing as Maram includes spending time with Maram’s fiancée, Idris. Idris has his own backstory and was one of the more interesting characters, however, as soon as Amani has her first encounter with him…it’s painfully obvious where it’s going to go.

 

During the course of her training, Amari is sent on various outings as Maram, and learns that not everything is as it seems. There’s a rebellion brewing and she could play her own part to free her people. There’s a try at a political sort of side plot once Amari gets involved in both sides of the rebellion, but there’s a lot of talking and not much action.

 

Of course everything for Amani goes pear shaped and she finds herself in a terrible position – if things couldn’t get any worse – guess what – they do! Left on a cliff hanger of course, with two more books to follow. While it was kind of boring, I must admit I’m interested in seeing where it was going.

 

There were some interesting themes on family and standing up for your believes, being strong and trying to do the right thing in tough situations. The writing as I mentioned was lovely, so there’s definite potential there.  It would work better for me as a fantasy rather than a sci-fi as that’s what it reads like. Admittedly, it’s an interesting way of writing.

 

Amani and Idris felt like the only fleshed out characters, though the romance was kind of eye rolling. Maram herself had potential as well as she does show some growth as the plot wears on but quickly reverts to how she was when the novel opens. Lots to explore in a follow up.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.  

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review 2018-10-30 18:41
In Times Like These by Nathan van Coops
In Times Like These (Volume 1) - Nathan Van Coops

Ben and his friends just wanted to play a bit of softball but that lightning strike zapped them back in time, going from 2009 to 1986. Ben, Fresca, Carson, Robbie, and Blake. They’re all in their mid-20s and quite baffled by the common fashion sense of the average 1980s Florida resident. The story has a bit of nostalgia to it but also plenty of action. Once they come to terms with their reality, sort of, they decide to address their immediate needs: shelter & food & perhaps clothes. Luckily, Robbie’s grandfather lives in the area in the 1980s and luckily he’s bored enough or lonely enough to give these young people a chance.

I love the pace of the story. The tale doesn’t linger over the how and the characters don’t get to wallow in self pity. Sure, some are more concerned than others (Blake – I’m looking at you pining away for Mallory) and some take longer to deal with the shock of it, but pretty soon our fab 5 are hunting for some scientists to help them figure things out. That’s there Dr. Harold Quickly comes into the picture, along with this well traveled daughter Mim.

There’s a challenging foe in the story as well. Strenger is an arsonist who doesn’t mind killing people along the way. Somehow he also got sucked back into 1986 and he is also hunting for answers. I liked this aspect of the story because it complicated matters for our heroes. As if accidental time travel wasn’t bad enough; here’s this murdering evil fire bug to stop.

There was so much I liked about this story. It’s all about the adventure and avoids the often drawn out drama of time travel that can bog a story down. Things keep going wrong and there were a few times that I wanted to give Ben a little shake for making such a simple mistake. There’s side characters that help our heroes and there’s those that do them wrong. I also loved that not all of the fab 5 decided to put everything on the line just to get back to their natural timeline. After all, there’s plenty of time travelers that live when they want to.

The one issue I have with this story is the dearth of female characters. Fresca holds potential but she’s pretty one dimensional in this book. There’s a handful of female side characters, and they do get names and a few lines. However, I had to get about 5 hours into the book before we got another main female character: Mim. And, of course, she’s immediately slotted into the role of main love interest. She contributes little else for the rest of the story. There’s no female scientists or individual time travelers and they make few plot related decisions.

The story leaves us with enough wrapped up to be satisfying but plenty open enough for the sequel to just stroll right in. I was especially happy with Robbie and his choices. I can see Ben becoming the great time traveler we all need him to be. 4.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Neil Hellegers is a shear delight to listen to. He gives Ben the barest goofiness to his voice which makes him sound like the relatively innocent young man he starts off as. I loved his rough, angry voice for the villain Strenger. His female voices are believable and I liked his very light accent for Fresca. His Montana cowboy voice was also well done. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Nathan Van Coops. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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review 2018-10-30 17:55
Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Hell Divers (Hell Divers Trilogy Book 1) - Nicholas Sansbury Smith

I’ve listened to this book twice and it was great both times through. The first go drew me in with this airship and the hell divers and the destroyed land beneath them. The second pass let me appreciate the characters more. Xavier (X to most) and his sorta adopted kid Tin are both great characters. Both have a lot on their shoulders and both save their little society in their own ways.

The setting really captured my imagination. Yes, this is post-apocalyptic fiction, but in this world, the apocalypse came a bit further along the human timeline. Even the remnants of the technology that was once available is just beyond what we have now. The Hell Divers jump to gather much needed supplies for their airship, keeping it in the air, away from the worst of the radiation for generations now. But stuff is breaking down, supplies are limited, and the situation becomes more and more desperate.

I did get a little chuckle over Hades being what once was Chicago. All those deadly lightning storms! And the monsters dubbed the Sirens! I’m a huge Dresden Files fan and I can just see Harry Dresden rolling over in his grave that Chicago has fallen to lightning and monsters!

Even with everything being in a desperate state, politics still plays a role in the management of the ship. So true. I can see why the rebels demand more meds and more food but their efforts end in a body count and could have easily ended them all! The captain was put in a very tough situation. She couldn’t let this minor rebellion grow but any body count earns her a bit more hatred from part of the population. Captain Ash earned my respect with her actions during this crisis.

I loved that the ladies were part of every aspect of this story. They were in the military management of the airship. They were Hell Divers. They were teachers, cooks, kids, drug addicted desperate people, etc. For a military post-apocalyptic scifi, this was a very important aspect for me and Smith met the challenge! Yay! It’s only practical to have women be on an equal footing at the end of the world.

The action never stops with this book. There were so many moments where I thought for sure this character or that was toast! I was on the edge of my seat the first time I read it. On the second pass, you could still catch me nibbling my fingernails as I relived this scene or that. This was a very enjoyable book! 5/5 stars.

The Narration: R. C. Bray is a delight to listen to. His deep voice for X is perfect. His female voices sounded feminine and his little kid voices were realistic. He makes a great Tin as well as a great Captain Ash. The pacing is perfect and he performs those emotional scenes perfectly. 5/5 stars

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review 2018-10-30 17:51
Ghosts by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Ghosts - Nicholas Sansbury Smith

With the way Book 1 ended, I had to jump right into Book 2. Set 10 years later, the book keeps us in suspense as to what ultimately happened to X from Book 1. While that question was in the back of my mind, I got caught up with Tin, who’s real name is Michael Everhart. He’s now a young man, considered a full experienced adult in this post-apocalyptic society. The Hive airship is still flying. Yet things haven’t been all rosy these past years. It’s been one emergency after another. Captain Leon Jordan handles some of these emergencies well and others not so much. As the pressure builds, he makes more and more mistakes.

Once again, the action keeps this book moving along at a swift clip. I worried over this character or that one and was on the edge of my seat for the entire book. Michael is a great character to follow. He’s become a Hell Diver (like his dad and like X).  I was glad to see that Layla was still a significant part of Michael’s life. I love that they work as a team and there’s no ridiculous chauvinistic chivalry from Michael and no fainting flower silliness from Layla. These two are a great hero duo.

There’s a canine companion, Miles, in this book which makes life bearable for a certain character. Yay! Of course, there were several times where I worried about the dog’s safety. No fears! The dog makes it through this book.

Captain Jordan is not a good person. I think he once was, but the constant pressure since he assumed control (after Cpt. Ash succumbed to cancer) has brought out the worst traits in the man. I think Katrina, who was once X’s lover, has tried her best to keep Jordan level-headed. I knew Jordan had gone to the dark side when he removed the ship’s historical artwork from the hallways. Bad move!

Hell Diver Magnolia is back in this book but early on I worried if she would make it through this book alive! Her accident acts as a catalyst for Michael and his Hell Divers to break some rules. She’s got some of the best lines in the book.

All told, this is a worthy sequel to Book 1. I found it just as enthralling. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: R. C. Bray continues to do this series justice. I liked his grown up voices for Tin (Michael) and Layla, who were kids in Book 1. He had the perfect voice for jerk captain Jordan as well. His female characters sounded feminine and each character had a unique voice. The pacing was perfect as well. 5/5 stars.

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review 2018-10-30 17:45
Deliverance (Hell Divers 2) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Deliverance - Nicholas Sansbury Smith

X is my hero! Well, perhaps Miles (his bioengineered dog) is my first hero and X is a close second. I have totally binged read this series. I already have Book 4 on pre-order too. The pace is swift, the setting gripping, and the characters engaging. This series has been one of my favorite stories I’ve listened to this year and one of my favorite post-apocalyptic stories of all time. Book 1 was great and Smith has managed to carry that awesomeness throughout the series.

Team Raptor, lead by Hell Diver Michael Everhart, spends some quality time on Earth rather than up in The Hive airship. Captain Jordan has rocked off his hinges and Team Raptor was in danger of being exterminated. Now Michael knows that X survived the ending of Book 1, even left a recorded radio message that Jordan was aware of, and now Michael needs  to find out if X is still alive. Plus, things in the air aren’t going well. The inhabitants of The Hive will need an earthly home sooner rather than later.

Through X, we get to learn more about the remnants of humans and their tech. One of the things I have really enjoyed about this series is that the apocalypse happened further down the timeline so the tech is more advanced than what we have now, but considered remnants by X and the other airship humans. There’s bioengineered animals, and cryogenics, and some AI. This really gives it a near-future scifi feeling as well as being post-apocalyptic.

Katrina has done her best to smooth things out with Captain Jordan but he’s gone too far on too many things. She can no longer keep him stable and reasonable. He’s dead set on keeping The Hive in the air no matter the costs; he’s willing to ignore any facts to the contrary. Katrina has to make some hard decisions in this book and I admired her for that.

Team Raptor (Michael, Layla, Magnolia, and Roger) come across more dangers than just the Sirens and radiation. As they explore the surface, they discover aggressive plants and evidence that the humans in the sky aren’t the only ones that have survived this long. Once again, Magnolia and her smart mouth was one of my favorite characters.

The action propels the story forward and before I knew it, I was done. Now I had to wait for Book 4. The sweet torture! Good thing I can go back and re-read the series before Book 4 comes out. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: R. C. Bray is excellent to listen to in this series. He’s aged and rasped up X’s voice so it’s perfect. I love his smart mouth for Magnolia and his angry, frustrated voice for Captain Jordan. There’s some emotional moments in this tale and Bray captures those perfectly. 5/5 stars.

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