What I’ve Been Reading!

The good, the great, and the even better.

I always read a lot outside of the books I pick for particular challenges, and my reading challenge updates always ramble on into what I’ve been writing as well. It could be worse, I could ramble on about all the movies and TV shows I’ve seen as well… 😀

2015 TBR Pile Challenge

When We Were Orphans

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro devastated me–so much so, that I hesitated to pick up When We Were Orphans for about five years. I didn’t want to spend another two weeks sniveling into my hankie and generally embarrassing myself.

While the narrative voice of When We Were Orphans is familiar, the story is very different. It’s still emotionally charged, and the revelations are…sad. No other word for it. What really struck me, will stick with me, though, is Christopher’s naivete. A good portion of the story is recollections from his childhood and even as he pokes through his memories, his view of them is clouded by what he thought and perceived as a child.

This makes Christopher a somewhat unreliable narrator, which is a hallmark of Ishiguro’s fiction. His truths are coloured by his emotions and ambitions, and while he can be self-deprecating, just as often he’s simply human. It’s in these moments the novel shines. I envy Ishiguro’s ability to write this way, to offer these imperfect memories, and to build the story of a man whose life is shaped by just such.


Way of the Wolf (Vampire Earth #1)Way of the Wolf
by E.E. Knight has a really cool setting. I picked it up because it’s post apocalyptic and the idea of alien vampires intrigued me. The actual story is much more interesting. There is a system of gates that connect parallel universes. It takes an incredible amount of power to open and use these gates, and to maintain the longevity of the beings who are using them. So, the Kurians are lifesforce vampires rather than bloodsuckers, but have absolutely no problems with draining a human of just about everything that makes them tick. Yeah, there’s some gruesome stuff here.

The Kurians are the new overlords of Earth, hence the subtitle: Vampire Earth. Humanity is either subjugated or living in small pockets of rebellion. One of these rebellious factions has access to gifts from another alien species that is like the Kurians, but not evil. They teach the Way of the Wolf, Cat and Bear to humans who have the mental and physical stamina to adapt.

The story starts out slowly with an extended introduction to David Valentine and his world. I didn’t mind the pace, though, as I found the world fascinating and David is easy to like. The plot really picks up at the two thirds mark with the last quarter of the book passing in a blur. I will be reading on. I already have the next two books on the shelf.

Random Favourites

Seeing as I didn’t read a lot from my challenge list over the last few months, here are a couple of random reviews of books I really enjoyed:

BlinkBlink by Rick R. Reed

It’s been a long time since I read past my bedtime – which is, admittedly, early. But I’m old, and that’s one of the things that drew me to this book, the age of the characters in the second part. There is not enough romantic fiction about older couples. The other thing that drew me to this book was the premise. The thirty second love affair, as Andy puts it. Who hasn’t met the eyes of a stranger and wondered ‘what if’?

I enjoyed the elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios in this book as much as I did the actual story of Andy and Carlos. I loved the pushmi-pullyu reference. It was apt in the beginning and throughout the ebb and flow of the guys’ lives. More, I loved that Andy and Carlos had to take such a journey before reconnecting, and that that was the focus of the story.

Finally, the afterword: I already knew the facts as I’d discovered this book through a blog tour where Rick Reed shared his inspiration for Blink. And that story was the reason I picked this one up. 🙂

City of StairsCity of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Long, but ultimately worth it. The world building is phenomenal.

I listened to City of Stairs on audio and it was one of those rare treats. New SF and Fantasy titles don’t show up on the library’s list very often. It’s even more rare for a book on my wishlist to show up, so I fell all over this one–and then listened obsessively for days until it was done.

I loved the world. If I hadn’t listened on audio, I might have been tempted to skim some of the description, history and world building because there is a lot. Most of it’s relevant and it didn’t really feel like the author showing off all his research, particularly as it’s Shara’s business to know all of this stuff.  I really enjoyed Shara as a point of view character. I also enjoyed the glimpses we had of others. My favourite? Sigrud. And I did not begrudge a single minute of his history. His story was worth a novel all it’s own, and adds so much depth and substance to this book.

A highly recommended read!

The Girl with All the GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

My Goodreads review:

Holy @#$%. Just…WOW. This book really crept up on me, and then refused to let go. Feeling kinda wrecked.

Excellent. Deserves all the stars.

Really, there’s not a lot more I can say without spoiling the magic of this book, except to tell you to keep going. It starts out a little slow and the plot is quite obscure, but OMG, the ending. I cried–and I can’t even really tell you why. But, like Never Let Me Go, I carried this story next to my soul for weeks afterward and I can still feel the wrench of emotion. I really, really hope M.R. Carey writes another novel. Soon.


Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy
by L.A. Meyer

This was an Audible daily deal and I bought it with the intention of passing it to my daughter. Then I saw a couple of reviews and decided to try it for myself. I ADORED this book. Not only was Jacky’s voice absolutely charming, but the narrator did a wonderful job of bringing her to life, accent and all. The story is equally engaging, being the tale of an orphan who goes to sea pretending to be a ship’s boy. As she matures, it becomes more and more difficult for her to hide her gender, leading to many sweet and not so sweet moments. Meyer perfectly captures adolescence and I loved the boys. I also really loved the inside look at life aboard one of the King’s ships and the excitement of chasing pirates, neither of which was diluted or dumbed down for a younger audience.

If I pick up the sequel, it will definitely be on audio!

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Writing

I’ve had three books published since my last update. I blogged about each one, but I’m going to show them off again here as they represent a lot of hard work. Covers link to the relevant posts.

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In addition, Jenn and I finalized Skip Trace (Book three of Chaos Station), as in it’s fully edited, copy edited and proofread. It’s due out in October. We’re hoping to put out a short story between now and then. We’ve also finished the first draft of Inversion Point (Book four of Chaos Station). I think this one was the hardest yet to write. We’ve learned so much writing the first three, through simply writing a series and being edited so competently (and thoroughly) by our editor at Carina Press. So we put a lot into constructing book four. That leaves one more for this series–Phase Shift–which we’ll begin writing over the summer.

So far, the series is getting really great reviews. We’re hoping readers will enjoy the ride all the way to the end with us.

Great reviews for LONELY SHORE (Chaos Station 2)!

Jenn has done a round up of the really great reviews we’ve seen for LONELY SHORE.

Jenn Burke

LSCover600LONELY SHORE has been out for almost two weeks and we’ve gotten some great reviews!

Library Journal: “With their beat-up ship and eclectic group, comparisons with the fan favorite TV show Firefly are inevitable, but in more of the way of homage, since Burke and Jensen’s characters take center stage all on their own.”

Joyfully Jay (and it’s one of their favourite books for May 2015!): “This is really an amazing novel and I would encourage even those who normally don’t enjoy science fiction to give it a try. Felix and Zed make a fantastic couple and following their adventures is a true pleasure!”

Prism Book Alliance: “If you love sci-fi and space operas, you need to read this series! Looking forward to book three!”

The Jeep Diva: “Oh readers, grab that jumbo box of tissues once the Chaos takes its crew to Ashushsk Prime.”

Smitten With…

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Win a Copy of Chaos Station!

What’s Your Ashushk Name?

In LONELY SHORE, book two of Chaos Station, the crew of the Chaos visits Qekelough’s home planet, Ashushk Prime. We had a much more convoluted name picked out for it. Well, I did, but neither Jenn nor I could reliably spell it, and no one with a human mouth could say it. So we decided to give the planet a human designation and leave the unmentionables to the ashies. We did, however, have fun naming the other ashushk.

So, what’s your ashushk name?

Pick a letter. It can be from your name, or totally random—this is for fun, after all! Match the letter with the list and post your result in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of CHAOS STATION, book one of Chaos Station.

ashushknames2

Small print: Competition is open to the U.S. and internationally, and closes midnight (EST) tonight, Friday May 29. The winner will be notified by email tomorrow, Saturday May 30. The prize is one ebook copy of CHAOS STATION, format of your choice, delivered to your inbox. Good luck!

Available Now: Lonely Shore (Chaos Station, #2)

Last week, I celebrated a birthday. At my age, birthdays are a fairly low key affair. If I didn’t have a child, I’d probably skip celebrating altogether. It’s just another day. This week, I’m celebrating the release of my third book, my second novel. It’s a BIG DEAL. I woke up with butterflies in my stomach and the realization that I probably wouldn’t be very productive today. It’s much more exciting than turning *cough*, and while birthdays and other anniversaries continue to slip by unnoticed, I hope this feeling of excitement never fades. Today, I get to share something  special with my family, friends, and with readers who enjoy my stories. That’s more fun than counting candles on the cake. 😉

Co-written with Jenn Burke, LONELY SHORE is the second book in the Chaos Station series. Set two hundred years in the future, the series is a mixture of science fiction and romance. We have super soldiers, aliens, space stations, far flung colonies, criminal cartels, and the best little crew in the galaxy aboard an ugly Corvette called the Chaos. In CHAOS STATION, Zed and Felix find each other again after nine years apart. It’s six months after the end of the brutal Human-Stin war, and both men bear significant scars. In LONELY SHORE they must battle the more recent past to ensure their future together.

We have a lot planned this week to celebrate our release, including giveaways, exclusive excerpts and a new short story. I’ll update links in the calendar below daily so they point to the action.

LSCover600Lonely Shore

Book two of Chaos Station

All they can do is live day to day…

Felix Ingesson has returned to his duties as the Chaos‘s engineer with Zander Anatolius, his ex-boyfriend-turned-broken-super-soldier, at his side. Hope means something again. But there’s nothing Felix can do to battle the alien poison flowing through Zander’s veins, or his imminent mental decline. With each passing day, the side effects of Zander’s experimental training are becoming more difficult to ignore.

When the ruthless Agrius Cartel seeks their revenge—including an ambush and an attempt to kidnap the Chaos’s crew—Zander is pushed over the edge. He can no longer hide his symptoms, nor does he want to. But hurting Felix when he’s not in control of himself is Zander’s worst nightmare—when it nearly happens, he agrees to seek help. Even if that means trusting the unknown.

As Zander places his life in alien hands, Felix appoints himself his lover’s keeper. And though he tries to be strong, he can’t ignore the fact that he might lose Zander…forever this time.

Read the first chapter!

Available now at:

Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iBooksCarina Press

Release Week Events

Monday

Aliens! Blog post and giveaway at The Purple Rose Tea House.

“Felix, I’m fine. I’m going to be fine.” Read an exclusive excerpt of LONELY SHORE at Stein’s Station.

“Is it normal for humans to share sexual partners?” Another exclusive excerpt at Queer Sci Fi.

Tuesday

Quotable Tuesday on Carina Press Facebook.

Sexuality in the Future on the Carina Press Blog.

Wednesday

Kiss the Guardian (Part One). A new short story, featured on Here Be Magic.

Thursday

Kiss the Guardian (Part Two). Second half of the story. 😉

Friday

Choose your Ashushk Name. Here, on this blog, choose your ashushk name and enter to win another copy of CHAOS STATION.

Still Searching. Meet Zed’s brother Brennan on Boosting the Signal.

Read the first chapter of Lonely Shore!

Zander and Felix return May 25 in book two of Chaos Station: Lonely Shore. You can read the first chapter on our website now.

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Jenn and I are really excited to share the next chapter in the story of Zed and Flick (as we like to call them), and the first reviews have been super positive:

“Fantastic, even better than the first book.” – Angela, Fiction Vixen

“With their beat-up ship and eclectic group, comparisons with the fan favorite TV show Firefly are inevitable, but in more of the way of homage, since Burke and Jensen’s characters take center stage all on their own.” – Melanie C. Duncan, The Library Journal

If you haven’t read Chaos Station yet, there’s still time! Here’s what readers are saying about the first book in our series:

“This book was so good, riveting, and I didn’t want to put it down as I devoured it. This series is definitely on my auto-buy list.” – Smitten With Reading

“This series is going to be so epic, you don’t even understand.” – The Novel Approach

“I would recommend Chaos Station to anyone who wants some quality sci-fi and a great romance.” – Joyfully Jay

Chaos Station would make a great movie!” – Prism Book Alliance®

“I liked how this book leaves several interesting hints to be developed further…while still leaving the men in a pretty good place and together.” – Dear Author Recommended Read