Falling From Trees

Author: Mike Fiorito

Publisher: Loyola College

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great collection of short stories that will make readers think about future!

Mike Fiorito crafts a series of short stories that contain both science fiction and speculative fiction.  Most of the science fiction stories are geared toward space travel, in one form or another, or with alien presence.  I like how the aliens in each of the stories are more altruistic than what they are usually presented as in books and/or movies. 

The stories with speculative fiction center around climate change and the future of our planet.  This trend has been increasing across the board as the genre seems to be leaving behind the traditional destruction dystopian stories for stories of weather impacts and how we as a race are going to manage those in the future.  I found myself thinking about these events as it seems all too realistic and what I would do if the world suddenly changed.  I think that is the mark of a good author when they are able to make you think beyond the story you are reading.

Some of the stories have some mild language, which makes this book more appropriate for older young adults forward.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Cast the First Stone

Author: David James Warren

Series: The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone #1

Publisher: TriStone Media

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The start of the new series by superpower writers Susan May Warren and James Rubart along with David Warren will knock the socks off readers! This will be at the top of my best of the year list without a doubt!

Rembrandt Stone left his career of being a Minneapolis Police Detective to be home with his wife and daughter and avoid the dangers the job brings. After his former mentor dies and leaves him a box full of cold cases and an old watch, Rembrandt is pulled back into a world from long ago, a world he thought he left behind. Not sure if it is a dream or some new reality, Rembrandt finds himself in his world from twenty years ago, back at the scene of the crime of the first cold case he opened from the box. If he can solve the cases that have haunted him for decades, maybe justice will be served. But at what price? Will it change just the past or will his future be changed as well?

This is a review I have had to sit and ponder on for a few days. The story was so good, so fast, and so great that I am dying to get my hands on the rest of the series. This is a spectacular time-travel story that deals with regrets, second chances, mistakes and how important it is to appreciate the things we have and to not only wish for what we don’t. As Rembrandt finds himself in the past trying to solve his old cold cases, readers see him struggle with trying to remember the details but also wondering how he got there. The raw emotion on the pages pulled me in and held me so tightly I had trouble doing anything else until I turned the last page. This is a story with relatable characters full of flaws, passion, and so much more.

Honestly, there wasn’t much about this story that I didn’t enjoy. I’ve read Susan May Warren and James Rubart for years. When I heard they were collaborating on a new series, I knew it would be epic, but I had no idea how great it would end up being. The story read so quickly it will be one readers can pick up and read in one sitting, If you have never read anything by Warren or Rubart this is a great place to start, and if you have read others by them, be prepared to be blown away with this new series. The fact that there are five more coming all this year makes me giddy. Books like this are the kind of escape we need with the crazy world we have right now. I recommend this book to all readers that love thrillers, time travel, suspense and all the things that make up a great novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Spin

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Series: Captain Chase Novel #2

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A little bit sci-fi, a little bit mystery, and a whole lotta personal issues make up this Captain Chase novel.

Captain Calli Chase is back in a new adventure that kicks off with murder!  Shortly after a murder is discovered, a rocket launch is hacked and NASA is forced to destroy the rocket carrying necessary supplies to a space station.  As an investigator, Calli has been at the heard of it and is discouraged to find her twin sister is apparently involved.  But when her truck is hacked, likely by her sister Carme, she follows the GPS coordinates to a location where she indeed finds her.  But not everything is as it seems.  Calli finds herself agreeing to be upgraded in the program that she and her sister have been a part of only to wake up a few days later with new skills that she will have to master in her sister’s destructive wake of acting as Calli while she was out.  As the investigation heats up, she realizes that she is in for more than she bargained for as it takes her to not only the White House to brief the president, but even outside of earth’s atmosphere!

Let me start off by saying that I haven’t read the first book in this series and I think I am missing quite a bit of backstory.  From what I can tell, this one pretty much picks up where the first one left off, so most of the character development for Calli, Carme, and many of the supporting characters had already happened.  That said, the story line is pretty intriguing.  Being NASA, there are a lot of acronyms thrown around.  They are all explained, but with so many, readers may continually have to backtrack to remember what they meant throughout the book or just give up and continue the story line.  One thing is certain, Calli is insecure compared to her twin sister and she likes to eat.  There was so much description of food from different fast food restaurants that I started to want to go pick up an order or two.  The book is pretty clean for the most part and I feel that fans of science fiction will probably enjoy this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Fractured Tide

Author: Leslie Lutz

Publisher: Blink YA Fiction

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Not at all what I expected, but in the best of ways! Leslie Lutz has crafted a fun, chilling and engaging tale that will leave readers glued to the edge of their seats.

After her father is sent to prison, Sia ends up helping her mother run their scuba diving tours business. Still a teenager, she has taken on more responsibility than most her age. Together they go out and explore the reef and find secrets in sunken crafts. On their latest dive things don’t go as planned, a mysterious creature emerges from the deep, their boat sinks and Sia washes up on the shore of a deserted island with even more mystery. When she finds the other survivors from the boat, it is the first good sign since they started out that morning. The island isn’t what it seems and Sia’s best hope for finding answers are at the center of the island where the most danger is also. With their last hope fading and Sia looking to save herself and the others, they make their way through the jungle to hopefully find a way off the island and back to their families.

This was unlike any book I have read in a long time. The science fiction element to it was interesting and kept the story flowing quickly and fluidly. Writing this from Sia’s diary was interesting and unique. For a little while I wasn’t sure what to think of all that Sia was being put through. Even at the end, I had to scratch my head at the way it all played out. Without giving anything away, I will say I am still satisfied with the ending even with the questions I have. That’s a rare combination, to be satisfied and still have questions, not something that happens often and only a very talented author can do that with their writing and please the reader. Sia’s relationship with each of the other characters is what made the story work. She is a great protagonist and the story wouldn’t be the same with anyone else in that role, but I really liked the interactions with Sia and Sarah, their relationship was real and genuine. There weren’t any fake niceties between the two of them and every aspect of why they acted the way they did towards each other made perfect sense with the story. I love when a story unfolds as it should and nothing feels forced.  I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy a well-crafted science fiction thriller that will give you goose bumps and knowing the next book you pick up won’t be near as good.  

Devastation Class

Authors: Glen Zipper & Elaine Mongeon

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story packed with self-discovery, action, tension, and great characters!  Young readers will enjoy flying through this action-packed story!

Set in the distant future, Earth’s Alliance forces have gone through a nine-year war with the vicious alien Kastazi race. The battle was hard fought and even though Earth won, things are not the same. The Alliance Devastation Class starship California heads out on a scientific exploration mission with a small crew of both officers and civilian students along with a small group of military cadets to see what is left in the universe. The cadets use this mission to prove their worth, especially JD Marshall and Viv Nixon, who both have high ranking parents in the alliance and know they are being watched closely. Their mission does not go as planned as they are ambushed with a second wave of Kastazi forcing JD and Viv to lead a mutiny and take over their ship when those in charge freeze at the most critical moments. They use all their skill and knowledge but quickly run out of options and activate the ship’s blink Reactor, a new technology that is supposed to send them a safe distance away. However, it takes them to a future even more dangerous than what they left.

While there was a quite a bit I didn’t totally understand in this book, there was also a lot I really did enjoy. The characters are engaging and fun to follow on their journey, the story is fun, exciting and a new adventure than most of what I have read before. The story does go back and forth between several different viewpoints, but it is done in a way that is easy to follow, broken up by chapters with the character’s name at the top of the chapter for whose view point readers are about to follow. Just when you think the story is wrapping up, another surprise shows up and ramps up the action. One thing is for sure, there was never a lack of tension that propelled the story forward. I loved the dynamic between JD and Viv, so much there that I can’t wait to see explored further. This is the first in a new series and I foresee it being a trilogy, this first part was wrapped up nicely while also leaving it on a pretty good cliffhanger for the reader to be itching for more. I will be grabbing the second as soon as it comes out to see what happens with these characters. I recommend this to readers that enjoy science fiction and characters that are fun and easy to follow.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Ancestor

Author: Lee Mathew Goldberg

Publisher: All Due Respect Publishing

Release Date: August 20, 2020

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very intriguing premise with back and forth timelines and a hint of the supernatural with greed, anger, and love at the heart of the story.

When Wyatt Barlow wakes up frozen in the Alaskan wilderness, he has no idea who he is, where he is, or more strangely when he is. The only thing he has with him are a journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He watches and sees another man hunting close by and realizes the man looks exactly like him, minus the beard. Wyatt follows the other man home and studies him with his family. It doesn’t take him long to realize he is no longer in his own time and his family is long gone. Wyatt soon befriends Travis, his lookalike and concludes Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt originally came to Alaska looking for gold and sets his mind at finding it once again and hopefully a family as well.

The Ancestor is an interesting premise with touches of the supernatural that just didn’t finish strong for me. There was no surprise or twist that I didn’t see coming. I was really hoping for a strong ending, instead it fell completely flat with what was easy. For the most part, I didn’t find a connection with any of the characters that made me care enough to be invested in their stories. The dialogue was forced in most instances and the language was too harsh for my liking. Supernatural or Science Fiction is not my usual genre to read, but I decided to give this one a try after first hearing about it and being intrigued. There was not enough evidence or background to show how this might have happened to Wyatt. Even with a science fiction novel you want the story to make sense, but this book didn’t provide that, it was just written and we were expected to believe it without anything to back up the claims. While I think Science Fiction fans will enjoy this one, it just wasn’t for me. I recommend it to those that enjoy sci-fi and speculative fiction without wanting much explanation for the events they read.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Time Collector

time collectorAuthor: Gwendolyn Womack

Publisher: Picador

Release Date: April 16, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Great story interweaving science fiction and history

Roan West has made a very comfortable living as an antique collector. He has an unfair advantage as a psychometrist, which means he can sense the past imprint by touching an object.  He has been able to find many valuable artifacts throughout his life, but he has also found that touching something that spans too many years might kill him.  His friend Stuart introduced him to a group of psychometrists that have been looking into artifacts that seem to have been misplaced through time known as ooparts.  Its strange that a ring appears in a cretaceous rock.  When part of the group begins working on solving the mystery, one ends up missing and another dead.  When Stuart doesn’t show up to a rendezvous with Roan, he knows something is amiss.  On the flight back to New Orleans, he discovers that a young woman named Melicent Tilpin has just used her gift in front of the world on Antiques Roadshow.  When it appears she might become a target, Roan decides he must help her and find his friend Stuart as well.

This was a really interesting read that wove several different parts of history into a common thread. Having the ability to sense the past by touching an object would be really cool, but could also be deadly as shown time and again in this book.  My favorite part was the stories that were shared by touching the objects as a first person account.  I also really enjoyed getting to see Roan and Melicent’s relationship bud as the story grew.  I think my only drawback to the story was the way it wrapped up.  For 300 pages there is such tension and excitement as the plot builds and the characters develop and then it just kind of finishes out over the last 50 pages.  I would love to see this story expanded upon.  I’m not a big fan of stories that have too much fluff, but this one was just building it up and could have kept it going.  Hopefully there is a sequel coming up that will help explain the overall mystery of the oopart.

There is some occasional harsh language as well as an implied sex scene, but nothing graphic.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Synapse

snyapse

Author: Steven James

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Synapse is Steven James at his best! In his first futuristic thriller, he shows readers what an absolutely outstanding writer he truly is and why his books are a must read!

Kestrel Hathaway has just experienced a horrible tragedy when her baby is born without taking a breath. As she leaves the hospital mourning her baby, she witnesses a terrorist attack that sends her world into a tailspin. In a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing faster than ever before, Kestrel has never wanted to be a part it, especially after her parents were killed by an AI. Her brother has never held her views against AI’s and has spent the last few years working to advanced Artificial Intelligence higher than ever before. As she mourns the loss of her baby, she receives a gift from her brother, her own Artificial, Jordan. There is another terrorist attack looming and Kestrel begins working with Federal Counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon to figure out who is being targeted and how they can stop the attack. Jordan is not your normal Artificial, he starts asking questions normal Artificials have never asked before. With technology advancing so quickly along with the questions they raise, the world we once knew is not what we live in and we will never be the same because of it.

Anyone who has ever read a Steven James book knows he is one of the very best! Tthe way he crafts a story is unlike any other. It doesn’t matter if you are reading a Patrick Bowers novel or any of his others, the story you get will be exceptional. Synapse is no different. I normally don’t go for science fiction, too much world building that never pulls me into the story. Even though this is only set thirty years in the future, enough must be set up to make the AI’s believable and relatable. I had no trouble following along with this world and picturing myself right there with the characters. What was written in a little under 400 pages could have been pushed to multiple novels and I would have gladly sat and devoured them all. Steven James does an incredible job of pulling readers into the story and that is why he doesn’t need the extra pages other authors might in order to give readers more information. And just like with every other novel he has written, readers will find plot twists at every turn and tension driving the story each step of the way. There is an element of faith throughout and leaves me with a few questions, especially with AI’s and faith.

With multiple viewpoints, readers will also get a full scope of what is happening without feeling lost. For someone who is not a fan of science fiction, I would happily read many more futuristic novels written by James and recommend them to anyone and everyone. I truly hope he will write a follow up (or 10!) for Synapse and keep these characters and their story going for a very long time. I highly recommend this to everyone, I’m not going to even classify a certain group of readers. If this is not your normal genre to read in, please do not let that stop you. This is worth the read and just might open your eyes to things you never thought about. I say this after every single Steven James book I read, but there are not nearly enough people reading his books and that needs to change. If you want a fabulous story, no matter the genre, pick up a Steven James book and enjoy.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Recursion

RecursionAuthor: Blake Crouch

Publisher: Crown Publishing

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fast-paced, mind-bending thriller that could only come from the likes of Blake Crouch!

It’s 2007 and Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more prevalent with no apparent cure in sight.  Helena Smith’s mother is a victim of the disease and she has made it her life’s work to combat the disease with science.  As a researcher, she hasn’t made much progress, but all that changes one day when a stranger walks into her lab and offers her an open checkbook to build the contraption that she dreams of: a memory chair.  Now secluded on an abandoned oil rig that has been outfitted into a secret laboratory, Helena is making advancements on her chair light years ahead of where she was at Stanford.  Once her team finally manages to capture and recreate memories, Helena can’t wait to use it for her mother.  But the chair’s mysterious benefactor seems to have other plans for the chair’s use, plans that she never saw coming or thought possible.

Ten years later, New York City cop Barry Sutton is called to a potential suicide jumper.  As he tries to talk her off the ledge, she confesses that she has FMS or false memory syndrome.  Becoming more prevalent, people are stricken with a second set of false memories of a completely different life that they never lived.  In many cases, it drives the person crazy until they commit suicide to escape from the madness.  Although Barry tries to persuade her, he is unsuccessful, and she jumps to her death.  Experts aren’t sure how the disease is transmitted nor is there any known cure.  He only hopes that he hasn’t contracted it from this woman.  As Barry investigates what loose ends there are, he finds something that doesn’t add up.  What Barry doesn’t realize is that this investigation will set forth a series of events that will change the world as he knows it, and possibly several other alternate worlds too!

Only the mind of Blake Crouch could conjure up a thriller this mind-bending.  His previous novel Dark Matter was such an intense read that it stayed with me for days and I kept telling people about it.  This was just as intense and will be sure to make my top list for the year.  Crouch has a way of making his reader’s question what they think they know.  Sure, it’s science fiction, but just think about it if it were true.  Disrupting the space-time continuum would cause all out chaos.  Where his previous novel dealt with string theory, this one focus in on actually traveling back in time and the ramifications of even living the exact same life over again.  He makes theoretical physics fun to read about and will hopefully inspire some future minds to continue developing this type of science.  I also just learned that this is going to become a movie on Netflix in 2020, so I highly recommended getting your copy now so that you can digest this awesome read.

There is quite a bit of strong language throughout the book as well as implied sex scenes  that is more appropriate for mature audiences.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Immortal Gene

Immortal GeneAuthor: Jonas Saul

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Release Date: July 17, 2018

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A new police procedural series with a bit of a sci-fi twist.

Jeffrey Harris takes families as he needs them, which is every so often. He has been coined as the Blood Eagle killer because of the shape that he leaves the father in when he is finished.  He has never been caught because he is very, very careful.  It’s always the same: take the mother, take the father, and then take the children.  He is very good at what he does, which is why they’ve never caught him in the years he’s been doing this.

Detective Jake Wood has been working with his partner Kirk Aiken for quite some time and have developed a friendly relationship. Jake is shaken when the Blood Eagle killer murders an entire family in his jurisdiction.  While on site, he comes in contact with horses and suddenly discovers that he has an allergy after he goes into shock.  While in the hospital, he comes in contact with an old friend who needs him to come down to Brazil.  He initially declines, but then heads down there after he finds out that it may be life or death.  While there, he gets into some serious consequences that leave him in the hospital for at least 18 months.  Upon release, Jake finds that his fiancée has moved on and so has his partner.  Jake also learns that he suddenly has some new reptilian powers after a dose of snake venom.  When he finds himself under tough circumstances now, Jake can use his powers to help protect himself and others.

This book started out as a typical serial killer novel with a little suspense here and there mixed with a lot of personal troubles for the protagonist of the story, Jake Wood. From there, it begin to mix with some sci-fi and sort of turned into a vigilante/police procedural mash up.  It was definitely entertaining throughout, but had some weak dialogue at points.  There were also times that the serial killer didn’t follow his profile, which makes for an interesting fiction concept, but not so much in real life.  There was some strong language throughout much of the book as well as some sex scenes that make the book more suitable for mature audiences.  I suggest readers give the book a chance before they make final decision.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.