Review: The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

The Deep SkyThe Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Deep Sky is a recently-released SF-Thriller debut from Yume Kitasei. This story features a deep space mission where a lethal explosion causes the survivors to question the loyalty of their fellow crew members.

We follow Asuka, one of the crew and sole surviving witness to the explosion that killed three mission members and knocked their ship, The Phoenix, off course.

The set-up was interesting and scarily plausible. With Earth on the brink of an planet-altering environmental disaster, the countries of the world nominate individuals to compete for a spot on a humanity-saving mission.

As with any interstellar mission, space is limited. Asuka is selected as a contender to represent her mother’s native-Japan. Although not initially chosen, Asuka earns a spot as an alternate due to unforeseen circumstances.

Because of this, Asuka can’t help but feel like an outsider.

When the explosion happens, and Asuka is nearby and survives, she becomes a bit of a suspect in the eyes of some of the other crew members.

Asuka feels like she needs to get to the bottom of what caused the explosion. She can clear her name and find out what is actually going on with the rest of the crew. Thus, a mystery twist unfolds.

This was really good actually. I was a bit on the fence at first. The story wasn’t fully able to capture my attention until around the halfway mark. I was very pleased that Kitasei was eventually able to pull me in through the intensity of the storyline and completely pulled it off in the end.

The story is quite thoughtfully-written and the SF-elements provided plenty of interesting possibilities for our future. This would make a great one to discuss with friends, a book club, or other SF-readers in general.

I did feel like the idea of the mission, the way it was initiated was well-developed and thought out. I feel like when you are writing something futuristic like this, you can really go anywhere with it. Kitasei’s take was creative and frankly, believable in a frightening way.

The aspects of this that didn’t work as well for me were the story construction, especially in the beginning, and some of the character work.

The narrative jumps around from present to the past frequently and I felt like, for me, those transitions weren’t smooth enough. They were quite jarring and I kept feeling out of touch with what was happening because of it. Additionally, as far as the characters go, I had a hard time remembering anyone besides our main, Asuka.

None of them felt distinct to me like Asuka did. In spite of that though, I still appreciate what the author developed here. I think this story shows a lot of great creativity and thoughtfulness about the potential future of humanity.

Overall, I was impressed with this as a debut story. It’s complex, multifaceted and thought-provoking. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I would definitely recommend the audio version. The narration fit the story very well.

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Review: Fractal Noise (Fractalverse #2) by Christopher Paolini

Fractal Noise (Fractalverse #2)Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fractal Noise is set in the same world as Paolini’s 2020-release, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. I really enjoyed that fast-paced story of first contact, so was pretty excited when I heard of this release.

As with To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, I listened to the audiobook of this and it is incredibly well done. I cannot recommend it enough as a format choice for taking in this story.

Jennifer Hale is such a talented voice artist and truly is able to bring life to the characters and the story. Additionally, there’s great sound effects included, perfect for this high-tech SF-tale.

In a way, this is also a story of first contact. It’s not as intense, or action-packed, as TSIASOS. It has a lighter touch and focuses more on the philosophical side of our place in the universe, our purpose and what our relationship would/should be with other sentient beings.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still gripping, emotional and full of tense moments, just overall, it’s a different focus for the SF-elements, IMO.

In Fractal Noise, our main character is Alex. Alex is a xenobiologist, who has lost his wife and at the beginning of the story, to say he is struggling emotionally would be to put it mildly. What even is the purpose of his life anymore?

In spite of his depression, Alex is an active member of the crew of a ship called the Adamura and this crew ends up discovering a giant hole, an anomaly, on the desolate planet of Talos VII. Perhaps, Alex has a purpose after all.

It’s unlike anything that could occur naturally. It’s too perfect. It has to have been created by something, or someone, but for what purpose?

The crew of the Adamura agree to partake in a mission to investigate the hole first hand. The truth of the anomaly could help to fill in answers for some of the mysteries of the universe. Who wouldn’t want to investigate that?

Because of the nature of the hole, they can’t touch down too close. They have to land some distance from the hole and then traverse the planet on foot in order to even get close. It’s incredibly dangerous. The four member team is ready to take it on though.

The other members of the team are Talia, Chen and Pushkin. Each of them specializes in a different area of science and each brings their own strengths and weaknesses to the table.

These individuals cannot be more different and their personalities definitely clash at times. It ends up bringing quite a bit of tension to the story. If you think their only threat would be aliens, or the hole itself, you’d be wrong. Humans can be volatile, whether on terra firma or in space.

The coolest aspect for me though was the hole itself. Once they begin their mission on Talos VII, it becomes clear very quickly that the hole is emitting a pulse of some sort. It’s so powerful that it messes with their comms and they can feel it through every fiber of their bodies.

If I am remembering correctly, it is emitted in a pattern, something like every 10.9-seconds. The closer they get, the more powerful it is. It gets to the point where it seems it is driving them a little mad.

Additionally, the closer they get to the hole, the higher and higher the tension gets amongst the team members. What is up, what is down? It’s hard to keep it straight. Who is in the right, and who is the evil one in their ranks?

I really enjoyed my time listening to this. I feel like Paolini is such a solid SF-writer. The story flows so fluidly and is full of fantastic sci-fi concepts and ideas, yet is so approachable and easy to understand.

I felt like I really got to know these characters and while I wasn’t crazy about all of them, or even most of them, I felt like I understood where they were coming from and why they made the choices they did. Their conversations did open up lots of avenue for thought into our place, and our greater role, as a species in the universe.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy SF-stories with a dangerous space-set mission, or stories of first contact. Especially if you like considering those types of scenarios for our own future, what that could mean. I felt really connected to this story and definitely hope Paolini continues writing in this genre.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I have nothing but the highest praise Hale’s narration and this audio production in general!

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Review: The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown

The Scourge Between StarsThe Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Scourge Between Stars is a SF-Horror novella from Ness Brown. I had the opportunity to listen to the audiobook, which is performed by my favorite narrator, Bahni Turpin.

You know what I’m going to say: I would absolutely recommend the audio format. I’m serious though. It’s great!

This story follows, Jack Albright, a captain on the starship Calypso. The Calypso is slowly making its way back to its home planet after a failed mission.

There are constant threats involved with traveling through deep space and Jack, along with her crew, question if they will even be able to make it back to Earth. As if food shortages and potentially harmful space debris aren’t enough, there seems to be a murderer on board.

As bodies start dropping, and we’re talking in a very brutal, bloody fashion, Jack’s realizes she needs to figure out this danger ASAP.

Along with an AI, Watson, who I’ll admit to being fully suspicious of the entire way through, Jack digs deep into the mystery. The clock is ticking. Will anyone make it off this ship alive?

I really enjoyed my time listening to this story. The SF-writing was really well done. It felt fluid and engaging the whole way through.

I liked following Jack and wish I could have gotten the chance to learn more about her, the ship and Watson. That’s sometimes the only disappointing thing about a novella; that it’s not longer. I’m left wanting more. Please understand, this is a compliment.

I seriously hope this is like a prequel novella or something to a larger series. I would love more with these characters and within this SF-world.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I’m happy to have been introduced to the work of Ness Brown and am looking forward to more!

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Review: Upgrade by Blake Crouch

UpgradeUpgrade by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After an incident on the job where Logan Ramsey is exposed to possible contaminants, he begins to notice slightly alarming changes happening within himself.

He’s better able to concentrate, requires less sleep, his bones are becoming stronger and more dense. What is going on? It reads almost like he is becoming a superhero.

It’s the near future and the U.S. government has formed a Gene Protection Agency and Logan is one of their field agents. The agency was developed because gene editing has become a serious threat to the planet.

Logan has a lot of experience with gene editing, as his mother was one of the most influential scholars in the field. Unfortunately, not all of her projects ended well, leaving the family name tarnished.

Logan has worked hard to build his reputation back and he is known as a solid agent. That’s why the incident on the job hit him so hard.

He’s taken out of commission, but there’s so much more involved. His genome has been hacked. Was he selected for the upgrade, or was it just coincidence he ended up on that site that day?

We then follow Logan on the various stages of his upgrade, as he investigates who could be behind it and why. Ghosts from his past arise and a true cat-and-mouse game ensues with the fate of humanity at stake.

Blake Crouch is the ultimate SF-Thriller writer. He’s just so damn good. This story was a ton of fun to read. I loved contemplating the science behind it.

Additionally, the gripping plot, intelligent writing and non-stop action made me a very happy girl.

Honesty, I think nothing truly scares me more than certain advances in AI, technology and genetic manipulation. Thinking about how our future could be transformed by these advances, and in my mind it is always in a sinister way, is just fascinating to me.

I do feel this one would be super accessible as far as his titles go. Recursion sort of blew my mind and I can see how some Readers could be intimated by it. Also, Dark Matter got a bit trippy, although I loved it.

I think if you have never read Crouch before, this could be a great place to start to get a sense of his style. I definitely recommend it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity to dive into a little early.

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Review: Alone Out Here by Riley Redgate

Alone Out HereAlone Out Here by Riley Redgate
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I always feel like I need to provide a disclaimer when I write a 3-star review. I definitely feel like that is the case with Alone Out Here.

If you see 3-stars and think that I didn’t like this, let me assure you, that’s not the case. This is a good book and I can appreciate what Redgate created here.

I know there are a lot of Readers out there that are going to adore this thoughtful-YA SF tale.

In 2072, moments before a volcanic eruption that is predicted to be an extinction event hits, several teens on a tour of a high-tech spaceship, the Lazarus, are able to escape the planet just in time.

The world’s greatest minds have been working on this issue for a while. Knowing that someday their only chance of survival would be to flee Earth. The Lazarus was just a prototype for the vast fleet they were ultimately planning to build and utilize.

Leigh Chen, first-daughter of the United States, is one of the lucky few to be aboard the Lazarus as it launches.

As the reality of their situation sets in, the teens begin to take stock of what they have. With 53-individuals aboard the vessel, they are going to need to ration their supplies.

In addition to that, and really more importantly, they need to decide on a game plan. Where are they going? How will they run this ship? This wasn’t supposed to happen. There were supposed to be Adults on board, professionals, who knew what they were doing.

This was originally pitched to me as Lord of the Flies set in space and I would definitely agree with that comparison.

As the situation really begins to set in for the teens, tensions rise. Certain characters stand out as leaders, some driven it seems mostly by power, but some for other reasons. There’s definitely a lot of thought-provoking content included here.

I was constantly wondering how I would handle certain situations the teens were facing. Would I stand out as a leader, or try to remain more in the background? How would I handle the stress of losing literally everything all at once?

The tone of this novel is definitely heavy. I think with a lot of YA-SF stories, there’s quite a bit of humor and snarky dialogue woven throughout. That’s definitely not the case here. This is a serious story and in a sense, it felt a bit depressing for me.

There’s also not a ton happening. I mean there is, but it doesn’t feel like it. I would say it is more character-focused, but I had a hard time remembering any of the characters and couldn’t tell them apart most of the time.

They all seemed interchangeable to me, except Leigh.

I appreciate the themes explored and the thought that Redgate put into it, but besides trying to picture myself living through something like this, I was really never engaged by the narrative.

I never felt invested and frankly, I’m glad, because the ending may have disappointed me if I had been more invested in these characters.

Regardless of all of that, even though I wasn’t completely sold on this one, I know a lot of people will love it. So, don’t take my word for it. If the synopsis sounds interesting to you, pick it up and give it a go. You may love it!

Thank you to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback.

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Review: The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart

The Paradox HotelThe Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

January Cole is head of security for the Paradox Hotel, a rest stop and playground for wealthy time travelers. Think of it as like a Four Seasons at the airport.

January has worked as a detective in the time travel space for years, traveling back to various time periods thwarting people from changing past, and therefore, future events.

Because of all the travel, January’s brain is starting to ‘skip’, a very serious repercussion of the job. It’s a major health concern and it’s getting worse. There are moments where it is hard for her to determine what is real and what is not.

There’s a lot going on at the hotel, as it is being switched from a government-run entity to a private one. Trillionaires begin popping up, anxious to make bids and secure the hotel for themselves and their interests.

January and the other employees of the hotel are anxious about what may become of their home. So, there’s that. Then there’s bad weather, people get stuck, and there’s a possible murder only January can see.

Oh, and let’s not forget the baby velociraptors that someone let loose. They’re wrecking absolute havoc!

The Paradox Hotel was a very fun read. It was interesting as heck and contained many aspects that I truly enjoyed.

January was a fantastic main character; she was snarky, multi-faceted and someone I truly enjoyed going along with.

She had suffered a personal loss that was continuing to effect her life and interactions with others. I liked the way that aspect of her life was used to build out her character.

I also really enjoyed the evolution of this story and the exploration of time, however, I will say I was confused roughly 60% of the time.

It had the tendency to be almost too rapid fire, switching settings, scenerios, characters, etc. Hart left me in the dust!

Overall, though it was more fun than frustrating. I really did enjoy my time with this book and look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

I have heard a lot of great things about The Warehouse, so definitely plan to check that one out.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion!

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Review: Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Black TideBlack Tide by K.C. Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beth is a bit of a hot mess and she’s the first one to admit it. She drinks a tad too much and has been known to flee in the face of responsibility; at least before.

Lately though, Beth has been turning things around. She’s been pet-sitting and feels like she is getting good at it. She’s even getting referred to new clients by happy patrons.

That’s how Beth ends up at a beach house on an empty stretch of the Oregon coast on the day the world ends.

She is staying with the best good dog, Jake, and all has been going well. She’s been spying a little bit on the man next door, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?

He’s handsome, in a mysterious, scruffy sort of way. He seems lonely. Beth is all kinds of curious about this mystery man.

So, when she sees him drinking expensive champagne on his deck one evening, she heads over to introduce herself.

His name is Mike and he is a film producer. The two hit it off and spend the evening enjoying each other’s company in every way you can imagine.

That night, at Mike’s place, Beth doesn’t sleep well. Her drunken dreams are full of horrifying images that are still rattling around in her brain upon waking.

She finds Mike and Jake together on the beach. Apparently, Mike had gone to the dog’s rescue. Beth can’t believe she left Jake alone in the house next door overnight.

That’s what the booze can do; great decision-making, Beth.

Mike tells Beth all about the insane meteor shower he witnessed from the beach. There’s still evidence of the destruction it wrought. Plus, there’s the thing that he found.

The power is out, so they have no way of listening to any news. How wide spread was the event and what exactly was it?

They decide to drive up the beach and investigate where they believe one of the meteors actually struck. Maybe there will be someone around who knows more of what’s happening.

Black Tide is the most intense book I have read in a long time. Edge of your seat doesn’t even begin to describe it.

From that very first night, as the meteors start to fall, the tension begins. Driving down the beach the following day, they become stranded and the circumstances continue getting worse for the trio; yes, I am counting Jake.

The entire thing was a nail biter. I was yelling at the book, advising them what they should do: protect Jake at all costs!!

I love Sci-Fi Horror and I found this one to be incredibly fun. The concepts were unique, the character development was great and the build-up of intensity was fantastic.

It had such a claustrophobic feel. Oh My goodness, I am squirming even thinking about it!

I grew to really care for these characters. In particular, Beth and Jake. I felt like I was able to relate to Beth so much. It made the stakes feel a lot higher for me. I just wanted them to be safe.

I would definitely recommend this to any Horror Reader, but particularly to those who enjoy a lovely blend of Sci-Fi and Horror elements.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Black Tide releases on May 10, 2022.

Be sure to add it to your Spring TBR!!

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Review: Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle, #2)Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Aurora Burning is the second book in veteran writing duo, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s, The Aurora Cycle trilogy.

If you have read The Illuminae Files you are well aware that these authors are no strangers to writing hella compelling, action-packed, YA-science fiction stories.

In this installment, Squad 3-1-2 is back, this time on the run from both the authorities and baddies alike.

With an ancient evil force threatening to consume the entire galaxy, it is safe to say that our lovable band of heroes have a lot on their plate. They believe Auri could be the key to solving the problem, but they still need to figure out how.

They get the opportunity to head back to the Hadfield, the ship from Auri’s past, to try to figure out some of the mystery surrounding her; there’s a lot.

As always, they run into a wee bit of trouble on that mission.

Bigger trouble is on the horizon when Kal’s savage long-lost sister makes an appearance with an entire Slydrathi army at her back. Let’s just say, she’s not there for a charming family reunion.

This entire book is go-go-go, from the very beginning. I enjoyed learning more about all of the characters, as well as being introduced to new ones.

The stakes are getting higher and I seriously have no idea how this trilogy is going to be concluded. I am really glad that I held off on reading this one until Aurora’s End released.

I don’t know how I would have made it through otherwise. This one finishes on such an incredible cliffhanger, oh my goodness!

I’m hoping to finish up with the trilogy by the end of the year. Wrapping up 2021 in style!

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Rereading Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Squad 3-1-2 forever!

Reading Aurora Rising for the second time was such a treat. I think I am going to be rid of that pesky 4.5-stars rounded up thing we did the first time round.

It felt so incredibly good to be back with these characters and in this world.

I felt like I was able to relax more into the story this time, as I wasn’t flipping the pages a million miles per hour to see what was going to happen next.

Therefore, I was able to learn more about and become even more attached to this cast. Each character is unique and brings their own special blend of something good to the table.

My plan is to move directly on to the second book, Aurora Burning, and then straight on through to Aurora’s End.

My copy of Aurora’s End just arrived today and I am so excited to see how this is going to turn out. I literally have no predictions.

If you are a Scifi fan, if you loved the Illuminae Files, if you love stories set in space, if you love stories featuring a ragtag group of individuals fighting for survival, you should pick this up.

Heck, everyone should pick this up! It’s a great book, an action-packed story and a phenomenal start to a series.

Earlier

Now that the final book, Aurora’s End, has been released, I am rereading this, because I hope to actually binge the entire trilogy this month!

#goals

Let’s do this!!!

Original:

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Apparently, this is what it feels like to have your still beating heart ripped violently out of your chest?!

The year is 2380; our story begins on the eve of graduation at Aurora Academy. Traditionally, immediately following the graduation ceremony, squad leaders choose their teams and are given their first real assignments.

Tyler Jones, star pupil and known leader, cannot sleep.

Call it nerves, call it excitement for the future, whatever it is, sleep is not happening.

During the course of his restless night, he hears an SOS over the comm system and sets out to see if he can help.

He reasons, since he is incredible in almost every way, he will definitely be able to help.

When he comes across the starship emitting the SOS beacon, he finds hundreds of dead aboard, with just one survivor locked in cryogenic sleep state.

Fortunately, he is able to save her and bring her back to the Academy with him. But just who is this beautiful lone survivor?

Coming out of cryosleep, Aurora is shocked to find herself at an Academy for space cadets and not at Octavia Colony, her original destination.

As she struggles to clear her head and put the pieces of the puzzle together, she also discovers she has some sort of mysterious powers awakening.

Tyler is disappointed and confused upon returning to the Academy as well.

Due to his late night rescue mission, he missed graduation and as a consequence, the selection of teams.

As a new squad leader, what is he left with?

His sister, a loyal friend and a few other miscreants: Scarlett, Cat, Kal, Fin and Zila.

Thusly, Squad 312 is formed. The most lovable bunch of misfits the galaxy has ever seen!

The story follows all of their perspectives as they go on their first mission and learn more about Aurora, as well as her puzzling claims about the nonexistent Octavia Colony.

Guys, to say I am anxiously anticipating the next book would literally be the understatement of 2019.

I loved this story a ton. My only negative is that I found the numerous POVs a bit jarring at times. Other than that, nothing but love from me!

Squad 312 against the whole galaxy?

This author duo is hard to beat in my eyes. I hope they continue to collaborate for years to come!!!

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Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail MaryProject Hail Mary by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Ryland Grace awakens from a coma, he discovers he is on a spaceship. He doesn’t know why, or how, in fact, he can’t even remember his own name.

Checking his surroundings, Ryland quickly determines he is alone; the other two crew members evidently not making it out of their comas. Well, shoot, not good.

Figuring he has nothing but time, Ryland sets about investigating his surroundings in the hopes he can determine his purpose for being where he is.

As his memories slowly return, he understands the importance, and improbability of his task. He’s on a solo mission to save Earth from an extinction-level event. So, no pressure.

I absolutely adored this story. I am one of the few people left on the planet who hasn’t read, The Martian yet and after reading this, I’m disappointed in myself.

This was incredibly well-written; fast-paced, clever and hilarious. I loved Ryland’s character so much. His analytical, yet humorous nature, truly made this story shine.

As a longtime Sci-Fi fan, I can honestly say, this is one of the best books I have read in the genre. Everything about it was gripping from start to finish.

The way Weir constructed the mystery of it all and then plotted the reveals, chef’s kiss!!!

I highly recommend this, even if you don’t tend to read Science-Fiction, I believe this story can be enjoyed by Readers of all genres.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was a remarkable reading experience, one I will remember for a long time!!

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