Anchor Leg, Jack Croxall

Anchor Leg, Jack Croxall

Anchor Leg

When the overcrowding forced Earth to seek alternatives to house its population, stations were founded as far out as Saturn, and spaceships travel the vast distances between planets, serving as transport, supply, research, and mining vessels. Seren Temples is a security apprentice on the Charybdis, an orphan from Earth among the primarily system-born crew, trying to escape her past on Earth and make herself a future – any future. However, when an SOS signal disrupts their planned course, Seren and her security team find themselves involved in events that could destabilise the delicate balance of the whole solar system.

Jack Croxall’s Anchor Leg is a fantastic sci-fi novel, with a fast-paced plot, twisty intrigue, and incredibly well-developed characters. While I’m a self-confessed cynic, I also found the romance in this plot was nicely handled, neither distracting nor detracting from the primary plot, but actually supporting the action and contributing to character development. That’s a challenging achievement for many books, and one I admire. The exposition also managed to maintain a perfect balance between keeping the reader informed enough to understand the undercurrents and managing to completely avoid the fatal data dump. This book was an extraordinarily satisfying read on pretty much every level, and I have every intention of going to camp out on this author’s page to do my best Oliver Twist impression. An outstanding achievement.

I Belong to the Earth, J A Ironside

I Belong to the Earth, J A Ironside

I Belong to the Earth: Unveiled, Book 1

A car smash was the turning point for all three sisters, and especially Emlynn, traumatised and with a head injury that apparently kick-started her on-again-off-again ability to perceive the dead. Isolated, and struggling with her own problems, there’s no-one Emlynn can tell about the cold patch on the stairs, or the figures she sees watching their house, or the sense of sheer menace she’s getting off her oldest sister’s new boyfriend. Each of the sisters has their role to play, and it seems the harder Emlynn tries to fight, the more ground she loses.

I Belong to the Earth is a complex story with a depth and richness far beyond most of the YA genre I’ve read. It’s welcomely free of stereotypes and miraculous solutions, and the fantasy elements are solidly thought-out and woven into the plot with a realism that chills. Author J. A. Ironside writes the side-effects of trauma with an understanding that adds dimensions to Emlynn’s struggle. With excellent pacing and incredibly convincing characterisation, this book totally earnt its five stars. I read it in a couple of sittings, and actually read all the teasers at the end looking for more (I never do that). I strongly recommend this read – one of the best fantasy books I’ve come across this year.

Salt in the Water, S Cushaway and J Ray

Salt in the Water, S Cushaway and J Ray

Salt in the Water

In a setting with strong overtones of Mad Max, Salt in the Water is the kind of gritty, kick-ass sci-fi dystopia that punches you in the teeth to get your attention.

The political balance of the small enclaves was complex, nasty, and well-thought-out, and the results weren’t ever saved at the last moment by a deus ex machina moment. In addition, the contrast between the high-tech weapons so very rarely available against the predominance of knives, fists, and rocks was a nice accent to the setting.

While opting for a wide range of character viewpoints can be a recipe for disaster in terms of reader confusion and choppiness in the read, I found that authors J. Ray and S. Cushaway did a pretty good job of managing their plot through the various viewpoints. While to some extent the sympathy I built with each character was limited by the amount of time I spent with them, the individual characters carrying the viewpoint were, without exception, well-developed and strongly individual across the range of species – twisty, traumatised, and dark.

I did find that the background to the Toros shards could have used a bit more explanation. What comes through the story: These artifacts stud the landscape; they caused a disaster; they still do bad things – but that was really about the extent of the information. As the book is, pretty clearly, the preparation for a sequel, that may have been deliberate, but as a reader, it left me with a feeling that I’d arrived halfway through an important story.

Overall, this book definitely earnt its five stars, and I’m very stingy with those. I’m a sucker for intelligent anti-heroes and independent loners, not to mention solid writing skills and a realistic plot, and this book provided me with plenty of all the above. I’d strongly recommend this read.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books Blog.

Watching You, J A Schneider

Watching You, J A Schneider

Watching You, J. A. Schneider

A dead girl from a rich family, a menacing text message, and a taunt tacked to the still-warm corpse with a hatpin. With an ever-expanding list of suspects and very little hard evidence, Detective Kerri Blasco and her partner are front and centre in the hunt for a killer, under the unforgiving glare of both a media spotlight and their superiors. With the case rousing spectres from Kerri’s past, the stress is beginning to tell, and it’s open to debate if the case will crack first – or if Kerri will.

Watching You is a gritty, fast-paced sequel in the Kerri Blasco detective series, for the first time with a plot focussing on Detective Blasco herself. J. A. Schneider’s outstanding characters and trademark twisty plotting are a combination guaranteed to pull you into the story from the first page; trying to figure out whodunnit will keep you there. This series offers an outstanding combination of mystery, psychology, and realism, and the third in the series is no exception. The desperation of the case permeates the writing, dragging you into the characters’ desperate race against time to find and stop a killer, and the character development is stellar from the protagonists right through to the smallest roles. This is a book that any readers of crime mysteries are guaranteed to fall in love with.

Playback Effect, Karen A Wyle

Playback Effect, Karen A Wyle

Playback Effect

Karen A. Wyle’s Playback Effect offers a new and unique slant on the world of virtual reality, one where a minority of lucid dreamers and a number of professional athletes, actors and stuntspeople record their experiences for others to buy and experience for themselves. Wynne Cantrell is one of the most successful lucid dreamers, offering a gamut of dream experiences from BDSM to butterfly gardens. Her husband, Hal Wakeman, a renowned sculptor, is frequently absent, heavily involved in his latest work and largely uninterested in Wynne’s pretensions to artistry. When Hal is late for another of their meetings, it seems unremarkable, but the consequences will have far-reaching effects on their relationship – and the virtual reality market as a whole.

Karen A. Wyle has written a fantastic blend of sci-fi, romance, and detective thriller in this book. In a world where dreams have power and the Pandora’s Box of the virtual reality world is the legal and ethical nightmare of a moment of death recording, Wynne and Hal have to work with an eclectic set of people to beat a murder charge and bring the real criminal to justice. The details of the legal and criminal procedure are thoroughly researched, and give the story a solid framework, while the characters’ personal stories weave the book into a brilliant whole. With convincing characters and a plot full of intriguing twists and turns, Playback Effect will create a vivid reading experience for a wide gamut of readers. I can’t over-recommend this story – a real page-turner.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite.