Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

Category Archives: Science Fiction

Book Review: Echo 8

Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn FisherThis was a quick, easy read — I finished it in one sitting.

Echo 8 is a blend of science fiction and romance that manages to treat both genres with respect. In other words, it works as both a science fiction novel and as a romance novel. The scifi is exciting and plausible enough to suspend disbelief for, and the romance is engaging without taking over the story.

I particularly enjoyed the worldbuilding element — the idea that a disaster caused some people from one dimension to transfer into another closely related dimension where they live as energy parasites — needing to feed in order to survive. The world continued to develop throughout the book in intriguing ways.

The characters were fairly well done, although limited time was spent on developing them. I usually don’t like love triangles, but this one managed to work for me, in part because it was always obvious which one Tess would choose.

My one complaint about this book is hard to describe … it’s a sense that there could have been more. The book was fast-paced, yes, but at times I would almost say rushed. I would have liked to see a more gradual progression of the major plots, more time spent on character development, and more time spent on the resolution (which came about too easily for my taste).

I do recommend this book to readers who love both scifi and romance.

Book Review: Mother of Storms

Mother of StormsImmense. That’s the best word I can think of to describe this story.

At first glance, it’s the story of an apocalypse — a nuclear attack accidentally releases enough methane into the air to cause catastrophic global warming and resulting hurricanes.

But it doesn’t take much of a peek beneath the surface to see that this story is a classic scifi lover’s utopia. Who are we? Where are we going? What is the nature of humanity? I got all this and more as I slowly grew to realize that the apocalypse in this story is more of a motivating factor than a real theme and that what was happening to Louie and Carla was far, far more interesting.

Going back to the “immense” comment — this story was told in a true omniscient viewpoint, and though this is not usually my preference, I have to say that it was a good choice for a novel set on such a global scale. I even enjoyed some of the tales that would never be told — viewpoints that were washed away to see.

Then of course, there’s what happened to Louie and Carla. I don’t want to say too much for the sake of spoilers, but writing about their experiences is an unenviable task for any mere mortal.

I do have the usual concern that this book will be dated. It’s set in 2028 (from a 1995 copyright date) and as with many of my favorite classic authors, he predicted a great deal of advancement that has not and certainly will not come to pass in the next 13 years. Not to mention political realities that seem far-fetched (and honestly would have seemed far-fetched in 1995). I often think scifi needs to cast its dates further afield, if for now other reason so that your work won’t be dated in your own lifetime. And if it does become dated in 2195, well, it still stands as a testament to what we thought of the future way back when. In the case of Assimov, Heinlein, and other greats whose predictions have come and gone, I think it does stand as a testament to their own times. I’m concerned that this might be less the case here, especially since there has been so much technological advancement since 1995, just in wildly different ways than predicted. I don’t know. Perhaps I should wait until 2028 to make this call — if I’m still around doing reviews then, someone remind me and I’ll update this one. 🙂

My biggest concern with this story was XV, a technology that allows people to broadcast their thoughts. It takes over journalism the way we know it as people want to experience the news rather than simply see it. Setting aside that our understanding of the human brain is so limited, making this unlikely in the near future, let’s assume it happens. I’m just not sure that people will really want to stay plugged in to someone else’s thoughts and perceptions all the time. You could argue that people don’t often think for themselves all the time and really like others to do their thinking for them, but the word “effectively” needs to go in there somewhere — because people like to think they’re unique and thinking for themselves.

Of course, that’s just the sort of debatable “criticism” that makes this a thought-provoking read. Scifi should do that, if it’s any good — get you thinking and maybe disagreeing.

If you’re a scifi fan, I really recommend this!

Book Review: Total Surrender

Total Surrender (Sin Brothers, #4)After three amazing books in this series, what a disappointment!

So if you’ve been reading this series, you know the setup. The Sin brothers were created in a lab to be raised as soldiers. They have special abilities. They kick ass. They escaped five years ago and ever since then have been searching for a way to disable the kill chips embedded near their spines. They’ve been searching frantically for three books now and the clock is ticking.

SEVEN DAYS TO GO…

Jory is in a cell. Piper is a computer hacker trying to disable his kill chip. Why is it so much trouble? Apparently, when he was shot, one of the bullets nicked the chip and now it won’t respond to wireless communications. Great start!

But it didn’t take long at all for the problems to begin. Most notably, the chemistry between Jory and Piper was way off. In the other three books I felt it right away, but for these two it simply wasn’t working. Part of this might have been situational. Jory was locked in a cell, using “psychological tricks” to get Piper’s cooperation. (I put that in quotes because I wasn’t convinced by them.) Piper, meanwhile, was convinced Jory was a traitor to her country AND at the same time she was desperate to gain the love and respect of her father — the commander.

TIMING

The biggest problem with this book was timing. With seven days left to live, I felt that the tone of the book was not nearly immediate enough. It got worse when we started counting down the hours. They kept talking when it was time to act, and having sex when it was time to act… and I couldn’t get into it.

The timing was off in another sense too. Piper had to choose between her father and Jory in this book, something that could have been a terrific conflict in another situation but here I struggled with it. She spent the first half of the book waffling, during which time I had trouble buying any romantic attraction on her part. She just wasn’t in the right place, emotionally speaking. I think this is a big reason that the chemistry was off, and the reason why she rubbed me the wrong way. She wasn’t unlikeable, exactly, she just didn’t seem like the right girl for Jory at the right time.

The attraction between these two was so poorly timed that I skipped the sex scenes!

OTHER PROBLEMS

There was a plot twist late in the book that I found both implausible and utterly unnecessary. It never went anywhere.

Piper had a boyfriend at the start of this book who turned out to be a distraction in a book where there was already too much being packed in a short space of time.

The sappiness in this volume got to me more than in the other books. Not sure if there was more of it or if it came down to another timing problem — ie “Will you shut up about how much you love one another already and work on not dying?”

REDEEMING QUALITIES

There was another plot twist relatively early on that I loved and that could paves the way for more books in this world. This was probably the #1 thing that kept me reading to the end.

CONCLUSION

I’m not giving up on this author. Despite the rocky conclusion, this series remains an excellent example of steamy military suspense and I would totally recommend it. Prolific authors are bound to have a dud now and again. Plus, it’s always possible that the chemistry issues between Jory and Piper were my own problem. (I did my best to explain them so you could decide if they’ll be a problem for you.)

Book Review: Blind Faith

Blind Faith (Sin Brothers, #3)This series just doesn’t quit! I can’t remember the last time I got so hooked. I can’t even say that the books are super unique … to tell you the truth, I saw almost every twist coming. But I didn’t care because I so enjoyed the ride. This book was like chocolate … you just want to eat it up. And sure, there’s Creme Brulee and sometimes that’s good too, but for pure comfort, you can’t beat chocolate.

That’s what this series is for me…chocolate. Really good quality chocolate.

Nate and Audrey’s story was just as good as the first two. The four brothers are still in danger, there’s a chip that’s going to explode in a couple of weeks and they’re youngest brother is missing. I cannot wait for the final book in this series! I almost cried when I saw it wouldn’t come out until march!

I highly recommend.

Book Review: Sweet Revenge

Sweet Revenge (Sin Brothers, #2)As soon as I finished the first book in this series I dashed off to read #2 (hence the reason my review of #1 was so short 🙂 )and it was just as good! This time it’s the oldest of the four brothers, Matt, who finds a soft, sweet girl to love.

The four Dean brothers were created in a lab and raised to be killers. They escaped as adults, wanting nothing more than family and a normal life. But they have a kill switch implanted near their spine that is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Plus, they still don’t know what happened to the youngest of them, Jory.

I am really enjoying how each of these stories can stand on its own and yet at the same time it builds the bigger story arc. For that reason, I would recommend reading in order.

These books are fast-paced, fun, and steamy. The author has captured the perfect man and pretty much duplicated him four times — he’s strong, capable, loyal, ruthlessly protective, and dominant. If that’s the kind of romantic hero you like, this series is definitely for you!

Book Review: Forgotten Sins

Forgotten Sins (Sin Brothers, #1)
I loved this book! I read it all in one go. I could not put it down. It was fun, adventurous, suspenseful, and the romance was steamy! And okay, so an enhanced soldier waking up with amnesia isn’t the most original idea in the world, but I honestly didn’t care. This story was fast-paced and well-written. I immediately connected to the characters and can’t wait for more. I highly recommend!

Book Review: Black Hole Bounty

NBTMR_BlackHoleBounty_Banner

BLURB:

Destiny is written in the stars? Maybe, but when you’re in a black hole you make your own damn destiny.

It’s not every day you get abducted by an alien general, but then, Jerusa Whichab isn’t having an average day. Earth is fading from view and she’s got a decision to make – cooperate with her despotic, yet unnervingly attractive captor or receive an injection of goo. General Toyeb can’t be trusted, and his body-healing, mind-blowing Theta waves leave her panting for more. But what choice does she have if she’s to stay alive?

None, if enemy bounty hunter Berwyck dal Korth has his way. Intent on capturing Jerusa, he performs a binding ritual to ensure she cannot escape him – a ritual with unforeseen side effects for both of them. Forced into hostile proximity, Berwyck and Jerusa battle to subdue their rising attraction, but will they conquer their desire – or succumb?

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My Review: 

Black Hole Bounty defied my expectations. I mean, in some ways it was what I expected — it is a romantic alien abduction story after all — but it managed to throw me for several loops and even at the end, I can’t honestly say for sure I know where the rest of the series is going. I just know I want to find out!

I was quickly drawn into this story because of its light, conversational, and easy narrative voice. It actually made me think a little of my own Cassie Scot series (in narrative style only 🙂 ).

The story itself began with Jerusa being kidnapped by aliens … they need her. Well, they need her blood to cure a disease. Apparently, one of her ancestors wasn’t exactly human and so many generations later, neither is she.

I was concerned about the story a bit during the first half. I did not like General Toyeb, the man who kidnapped her and who I originally thought would be the main romantic interest. I also thought Jerusa was a bit too trusting. But as I said, the story defied my expectations. It took a major right turn halfway through and the second half just kept getting better and better, leaving me wanting more by the end!

Among other things, I like the creativity of the world building, the thought the author put into the alien biology, and the fact that though there is romantic interest here, the aliens are not human.

I believe this is a new author. And I think one to watch!

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Sienna spent her adolescence staring at the dark skies over the Caribbean coast of Panama, dreaming up romantic adventures she now delights in writing down. She reads, writes and revels in romance, and she’s attracted to off-beat, sexy characters—in fiction and in real life! These days she lives a long way from the Caribbean, but when she drags her husband and children to Hermitage Castle to gaze at the stars, the vast beauty of space makes her feel at home. Who knows, maybe an alien will pop down and invite them on a ride?

You can find out more about Sienna and her books on her website: www.siennabronwyn.com.

Zoom down with a message on FB: https://www.facebook.com/sienna.bronwyn or

Tweet to her @Sienna_Bronwyn

Buy links:

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Hole-Bounty-Sienna-Bronwyn-ebook/dp/B00MU46IM8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408465287&sr=8-1&keywords=black+hole+bounty

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-hole-bounty-sienna-bronwyn/1120161444?ean=2940150734760

http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&cPath=30&products_id=933&zenid=885456d5a9caf51600fa6e792b90cac9

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Book Review: Under the Dome

Under the DomeI picked up this book after watching the first season of the TV series inspired by this concept. I originally thought it was based on the book, but the more I read, the more I realized that “inspired by” is far more correct. If you’ve seen the TV series, you know it’s a survival story. The book, by sharp contrast, is a disaster story.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and despite its massive length, could not put it down. I read and read until I was done, a Behemoth of a book concluded in about 4 days.

The premise is simple but oh so complex. One day, suddenly, without any warning, and without any explanation, an impenetrable dome seals Chester’s Mill and all its residents within. The first few chapters of the book give us an omniscient view of the disaster, showing us first a plane crashing into the dome, then an animal getting cut clean in two, then a woman who lost her hand, and then crash after crash as unwary travelers along the stretch of road leading into and out of the town smash against an invisible barrier.

A few important differences between the book and the TV series: In the book, the dome does NOT cut off sound, radio waves, phone signals, Internet, or TV. People can talk freely across the dome, but the military has largely cut it off as they attempt to keep the situation under control.

But the most important difference is that in the book, the dome is not some kind of freak micro-environment capable of sustaining life. It’s a death trap, slowly warming over the course of the next few days. Soot, exhaust, and fumes build up within the dome and do not dissipate. It starts to smell very bad.

The cast of characters in this book is overwhelming and hard to keep track of. That’s not really a criticism, just a fact. There are nearly 2,000 residents of Chester’s Mill on Dome Day and many of them get at least a moment of spotlight as the omniscient narrator creates a picture of life within.

I’m not usually a fan of the omniscient narrator because I love my character stories, but it worked here. And it was a character story — the character was just an entire town. Oh, and the town had some problems! Among other things, it was apparently the biggest meth lab in North America. The global viewpoint allowed the narrative to shift wherever it needed to be, whenever it needed to be there.

Much of the disastrous nature of this story was self-inflicted. The town put its faith in the wrong leaders — a power-hungry criminal, a man too weak to stop him, and a woman suffering from an unfortunate addiction to painkillers. The military tried to declare martial law and put Barbie (Dale Barbera) in charge, but he was a newcomer to town and the people outside the dome had no way to enforce anything within. Too bad for the citizens of Chester’s Mill.

There is a lot more I could say about this book, but basically I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good disaster story. Don’t let it’s length stop you — it has to be as long as it is. Stephen King does not waste words.

Title: Under the Dome

Author: Stephen King

Published November 10, 2009

 

Book Review: The River of no Return

The River of No ReturnWell-constructed, well-told, well-characterized… these are phrases I so rarely associate with time travel that I had no choice but to give this book five stars! What a great read. I could not put this down. My only reservation about this book is that the ending called for a sequel, yet an Internet search shows no evidence of the existence of one. I know this doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but I would feel so much better about this book if the author would just have “work in progress…” or “coming soon…” on her web page!

Nick is a 19th century Marquis who finds himself in the 21st century. He jumped forward in time an instant before he would have died on a battlefield in Spain — apparently, not an uncommon occurrence. The Guild collected him, educated him on life in the early 21st century, and told him there was no going back. Except, they lied. And when they need him to go back to 1815 to take care of a problem, they start telling him small pieces of the truth that make him more suspicious than ever.

Come to find out, there is more than one group of people trying to control time travelers and the river of time. Nick has to decide which side he’s on, a decision that becomes more complicated when he learns that the future itself is in danger.

I found Nick to be a credible man-out-of time, and I liked that it was hard for him to slip back into life in the early 1800’s after life in the early 21st century. There was a bit of romance in here that was okay, although it didn’t drive the story. Julia has problems of her own, and secrets she’s been warned to keep.

I highly recommend this book to fantasy/scifi readers who like time travel.

Rating: 5/5

Title: The River of No Return

Author: Bee Ridgway

Published April 2013

Book Review: Shadows in Flight

Shadows in Flight (Ender's Shadow, #5)After reading Shadow of the Giant for the second time, I once again checked to see if there was or would ever be a conclusion to the story of Bean, the boy I’d fallen in love with in Ender’s Shadow. It DOES exist, came out two years ago as a matter of fact, but it was really hard to find! There is no mention of Shadows in Flight in the one place I would most expect to see it — the author’s own web page! Only persistent digging on the Internet led me to this book, and to the hint that there might be one more to tie the Shadow series together with the rest of the Ender series.

As for Shadows in Flight… To be perfectly honest, I felt pretty neutral about this story. I still want to read the sequel! (So Mr. Card, please write it and then mention it on your website so I’ll know you did. 🙂 ) But it just didn’t feel like much happened in this book. At several points along the way, I wondered why it couldn’t have been a short story. All that really happens is that Bean and his brilliant six-year-olds find and explore an alien colony ship. We learn some new things about the Hive Queen that I’m not sure matter (although they might end up mattering in a sequel), we get to know each of Bean’s children, and there’s quite a bit of nostalgia — memories of Ender, battle school, Petra, etc. Actually, now that I think about it, parts of this book felt like that flashback episode that happens in almost every long-standing TV show. You know the one I mean — on some pretext all the characters start thinking back to… cut to a scene from a previous episode. 🙂

The ending was anti-climactic, but it did give me some closure, which was what I had been missing when I set out to look for this book in the first place. So mission accomplished. Like I said in the beginning, my feelings on this are neutral.