Review: Taji From Beyond The Rings by R. Cooper

TajiCover
Cover Art by Lyn Forester

I would rate this 4.75 stars.

Taji is a human linguist who was supposed to be on a small moon, mostly isolated, to compile information on its language, culture, and inhabitants for the Interplanetary Trade Coalition (IPTC) databases. After the deaths of two members of a diplomatic team on the planet below named Mirsa, he is conscripted to assist Ambassador Tsomyal since he is the only person in nearby space even remotely qualified to help decipher nuances of communication in Asha, the language used throughout most of the Sha Empire. Shavians value control and stoicism except in precise culturally acceptable situations. Although humanoid, they seem to have a vast amount of nonverbal communication with their cat like ears. As a native Anglisky speaker with no training in diplomacy and a translator device with inferior software translations, he is thrown into the deep end of a foreign alien culture in political turmoil. Nicknamed Mouth by the IPTC security team, he will find out how accurate that description is as he tries to stay alive.

The IPTC sending a diplomatic team to encourage trade is just an experiment to save the cost of war. They are on the outskirts of space, with a steep learning curve for survival by their wits alone. The author successfully conveys a sense of peril as there is no one close enough to rescue them in time should anything go wrong–even a misunderstanding about the meaning of a word can upend their mission. Here several words cause trouble: shehzha, honor, and gender pronouns. The entire book hinges on Taji’s communication minefield. This does what the best scifi does, examines our own society through the lenses of alien society with social commentary on: oligarchy, figureheads, finding the balance between tradition and change, stagnation vs. innovation, rule by fear, class warfare, devaluation of skilled labor and the arts, an uneducated populace, xenophobia, and the dangers of not treating all peoples equally and equitably.

I love all the genders and skin colors represented. Taji, with a bad leg and misaligned prosthetic that hurts him, is surrounded by aliens that are larger, stronger, and not used to dealing with making accommodation for such an injury. Many IPTC like Trenne, join them to get away from societies with restrictive rules. Although Trenne is from Mirsa, he is not considered Shavian, since he is descended from conquered peoples, thus he is discriminated against due to his skin markings. This is used to good effect as how people treat them both, reflects on them. All the characters here are interesting as shown through Taji’s viewpoint whilst trying to help navigate the circumstances. The reader knows and understands them as Taji does, so as his opinion changes, so did mine. The political intrigue makes it difficult to tell friend from foe. The love story between Taji and Sargent Major Trenne is moving, explicit, and erotic. Because Taji is caring and kind, he is the heart of the book; since Trenne holds his heart, he also holds mine. Be aware that the sex also has a biological component–a chemical reaction that causes “heat” so although everything between Taji and Trenne is consensual, this could be abused like sexual slavery since it causes addiction like a drug.

This book is like the author mixed up a few of my favorite ingredients (the Claiming series by Lyn Gala, The Prince He Loved by Michael Barnette, the Breeds series by Lora Leigh, Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula le Guin) to make me a cake. Really, really good cake, but I missed the nuts. In other words, I didn’t rate it higher because the world-building was mostly political, less physical. The book didn’t paint pictures in my mind as much as I would have liked. All of it takes place in the capital or the home territory of the emperor’s family. I know there are different districts of the capital like the Gardens, or the Fires, but I don’t have a real sense of them. It’s alright, because I know some people are allergic to nuts. Althought this is a slightly darker book than I am used to by this particular author, it will be loved and read again, as I usually do with her stories. I really loved it.

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R. Cooper’s Website

 

Review: Starlight (Dark Space #3) by Lisa Henry

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

This is the third book in the series. While there is recapping through memories, I still think it would be difficult to start here. Without the emotional attachment to the characters built through books one and two, I don’t know why anyone would want to just jump into book three. Having said that, as much as I loved books one and two, this is really for those who wanted more closure than book two provided. The story drops the reader right into the action on Kai-Ren’s spaceship. The psychic connection is there between all the humans and Faceless onboard, but muted. All seven of the humans have been on the ship three months, sharing a room, and have still learned nothing about the Faceless. The ship is humid, damaging their equipment, their batteries are draining, and human food is running out. Just when I was wondering why this would be interesting, it got really interesting.

Chris and Brady have their moments of understanding. When disaster strikes, Chris really steps in as the leader here, which is understandable as he has always had an endgame, likely ordered by his superiors. Cam and Brady have their lovely intimate moments. Harry seems to spend the most time with Lucy, but I don’t feel like I know him any better. Andre is barely in this at all. Brady’s point of view is still fearful, angry, and anxious, but tempered from the previous books as he actively tries to be more grateful. His love for Cam and his growing belief in Cam’s love for him makes him less nihilistic. He wants to grow, to be a better role model for Lucy. His relationship with Doc has given him a father figure. He finally even has friends. This is a little repetitive, Brady’s thoughts looped into themselves and his existential crisis, his hatred of space, and his nostalgia. Still, if you are a Brady fan already, you should like this as he finally sees his own worth and what he brings to the table.

For me, the fear (terror really) of the Faceless seemed removed. Even though plenty of horrifying things happen, I didn’t feel it like I did in the other two books. Because of the Faceless that were not part of the hive they share with Kai-Ren, there were few moments the humans were safe, yet everything here felt muted, like their psychic connection. I don’t want to spoil the plot at all. I will just say that traveling on an alien ship in the hopes of learning about the universe and finding some weakness out about the aliens to give humans any sort of chance to not be decimated…didn’t go to plan. By the time they figure out anything useful, the book has turned into a disaster movie in space. The point of this book seems to be to give humanity some sort of triumph and to allow Brady to be brave, in many ways, in a totally Brady way. As much has been made about Kai-Ren and his rape of Cam, I feel like I need to say that it almost happened again…and I am not sure how to feel about it. Some people expressed that after the slow build of book one, the ending seemed rushed for a forced HEA; one could level the same criticism at this book also. I think everything happened exactly the way it needed to for the ending it had, even if beating all the odds was completely unlikely. Kai-Ren doesn’t control or rule all Faceless; he also is obviously not the only Faceless curious about humanity, so I am unsure about the ending provided. I enjoyed the book, but this is the weakest of the three, like watching Return Of The Jedi after The Empire Strikes Back.

The cover art by Mayhem Cover Creations matches the other two covers in the trilogy.

Sales Links: Universal Link: https://books2read.com/darkspace-starlight

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 197 pages
Published December 1st 2019 by Self-Published
Original TitleStarlight
ASINB07YN2GHWP
Edition Language: English
Series: Dark Space

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Starlight (Dark Space #3) by Lisa Henry — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Through the Tears by Leigh M. Lorien

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5 

Rafe’s human lover Eamon disappears through a portal to a differnet world after a ghoul attack. Rafe is a low ranking lord and thinks the king will not help so he decides to rescue his lover himself. As Eamon battles the elements and strange culture of the ghoul world with the help of Beah, a native who helps him, Rafe battles ghouls to learn the secret of portals with his second in command Kiran. Larger evil is afoot than just ghouls jumping worlds to eat humans and what started as a horrible accident, leads into a possible war no one saw coming.

Rafe is called a rin, which is basically a vampire. I liked the lore used here. Even though the ideas aren’t radically unique, there are some interesting takes on common science fiction themes: interdimensional travel, feeding on blood/sex/energy, mind linking/control, bonded mates, turning on magic users, religion to control the population, the feudal type of setting, etc. Eamon is strange at first, full of fear and anger, like he can’t take control of himself and needs Rafe to (mentally) control him. I think this was meant to show him as submissive, but I’m not sure I like this characterization. Taking this out of the equation, Eamon is loyal and brave, even when frightened. I loved the flashback of how Rafe and Eamon met. At the beginning Rafe is cold, calm, and collected even after Eamon disappeares; then he seems to miss him slightly, but does go to look for him. By the end the I love yous are completely over the top, so I wish this had been a little more even handed. It would have made their reunion more impactful. Beah is a great trans character who gets treated horribly by his tribe. Be aware they are several depictions of misgendering, humiliation, and dead naming–although the author doesn’t allow the reader to know the dead name, which I appreciated.

This story could be a self contained adventure, but it’s also a larger story arc that will be picked up in the next book. The side characters like Kiren, Orienna, and the King are all intriguing, but there is little to them in this book. Eamon is the fish out of water in this tale. There is a little of Beah being a fish out of water as well, for some nice symmetry. It’s difficult in a first book with all the world-building, so I am hoping the next book works harder at holding/highlighting the emotional moments between the friends and lovers so they don’t get stomped on in all the politics and intrigue. Those are what gives me something to root for–to hope they win and save the day. There are twelve worlds and this book has only shown small parts of two, so there are so many different possibilities for future stories.

The cover art by Natasha Snow shows a desert through what appears to be a grimy window pane, which I take to be the portal between worlds.

Sales Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details: ebook
Published July 8th 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN 139781951057015
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Through the Tears by Leigh M. Lorien — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Purple Haze by Kelly Jensen, Aliens In New York 2

Purple Haze Cover

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

This is the second book in this series and takes place six months later. You can read it without reading Uncommon Ground, but the recaps make the plot sound crazy and the first story is charming and sexy. Why miss it? In fact, I almost think it should have been one book without the recapping. It is only the hot love scenes that morph into love between the two leads in the first story, that help carry the weight of this story–giving the reader something to be emotionally invested in. Dylan and Lang are now living together. Josh, who is a friend of Lang’s and appears in the first book for a nanosecond, is Dylan’s partner in his new art school venture. Josh’s life partner Micah, is mentioned, but doesn’t really have a major role. Apparently, these two characters are from stories by another author, but I didn’t read those and don’t feel like I missed anything. Upero, the ship AI, is evolving, making it much more of a real character.

This story is a more serious that the first one. That makes sense as they start facing family pressure for taking their relationship to the next level and facing the changes made to Dylan’s DNA. The latter issue has attracted the interest of Wren Clan. This sets in motion a chain of events that threaten Lang and Dylan’s future. What saves them is focusing on their humanity–their acts of rebellion change the alien mission on Earth. I do wonder if the seeds planted towards of end of this will grow into a rebellion and change the structure of their society, or if integration with humans will cause that naturally over time. But that is a possible then, and this is now. In the now, I felt like the author wrote Dylan into a bit of a box plot wise and was only mostly successful in writing Dylan out. I have a difficult time, with how the Wren characters are depicted, believing that they are done trying to control Earth affairs, and won’t follow up with Dylan at some point, so this didn’t quite feel finished even though there is an ending and it’s not a cliffhanger. This is a little less detailed than I am used to from this author. I enjoyed both books and I like the characters.

Kelly Jensen’s Website

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Review: Broken Alpha (The Alpha/Omega Verse #1) by D.C. Juris

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Korden finds out his brother Rennett has been found alive after being missing for a year. They had searched for Rennett’s trail after he went missing, but it had gone cold. Korden’s suffered the loss of access to his sibling link, which is limited by distance. His friends and crewmates Sebastian and Sorkel have helped him survive by linking with him in his mindscape. The trust and loving friendship has been a balm to the Captain. Sebastian is a Creole Human and Sorkel is Malorcian. They have been mates for 10 years. Sorkel is the ship’s doctor and Sebastian is the ship’s navigator. Korden will need them more than ever when Rennett is found with permanent physical and mental damage suffered whilst in captivity. There have been Alphas who went mad and reverted to beta or omega status before.

I have read about communication between mindscapes and visible bonds before, but I feel like this was very original in the details. Controlling the mind link with someone is complicated. Obviously eveyone’s mindscape is different. I loved the idea of memories in different boxes, marked by color as accessible or off limits. There are also different colors for the links. I enjoyed the bonding ceremony that changed Korden and Kennett’s bond from siblings to mates; they merge their mindscapes, share memories, and partially heal Renny. But, he’s not completely healed and may never be. The angst of dealing with a mentally ill loved one is difficult for Korden and their friends.

This story is very well done so that I felt the love and bond were already there and mean to be–like all of this was inevitable. Tortured physically and mentally, with permanent damage to his body and mind, no one would take Kennet as a mate. He needs a mate now that he is an omega and may have heats. His mind is already unstable and he’ll need an anchor to help moor him. As Kordan tries to keep Rennent calm, all these memories of their childhood flow through them. It’s clear Rennent has only ever been bonded with Kordan, that they likely would never have mated with anyone else. It is very clear that this is everything Renny has ever wanted, and is done with his consent. Although, it’s also clear due to his status and situation, it could have been done without his consent also. Having Renny’s POV is vital to making this whole book work. Mating links between siblings only seem to be taboo for Alphas of their status, but not unheard of in the rest of the general population on their planet.

Since Renny will need full time care, the four of them move in together on Presidian. Rennent feels overwhelmed that everyone is giving up space travel and changing their careers for him. The author makes it plain that the shared love and need for family drives them all together. With Sorkel being a healer, and having already established trust with Korden and Renny, this also seems meant to be. I should be clear that these are two mated couples who are friends and (at least in this first book) there is no sharing. All of this is well established before Renny experiences his first heat near the end of the book. I feel like this was all a natural progression. By the time it sinks into the start of a power exchange, it seems inevitable. But this hurts Kordan as it’s not in his nature and Renny is terrified his needs will be too much for Kordan. The thing that holds this whole book together is the love and communication between them. So many books use lack of communication as the obstacle. While it’s difficult to be vulnerable and share completely with someone, it’s necessary to explain why particular emotions exist–yes, even when these couples can be in each other’s minds. While this book is complete and could stop here, it does say book one and I have to admit to wanting to see them work out all of their doubts and fears and be more stable and settled. Also, there are other species and worlds to explore, not to mention politics and trade agreements. With Kordan now an Ambassador, there could be more adventures.

The cover was designed by Aisha Akeju. I would guess this is Rennett. While the stars communicate space travel and the inner turmoil as Rennett battles his shame at what has happened to him, and the birth of stars are like a new beginning…I still feel Korden should have been on the cover too. They are a unit.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book Details: ebook, Second Edition
Published January 9th 2019 by Less Than Three Press, LLC (first published January 16th 2016)
ISBN 139781684314126
Edition Language: English
Series: The Alpha/Omega Verse

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Broken Alpha (The Alpha/Omega Verse #1) by D.C. Juris — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Contact (A New World #1) by M.D. Neu

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Mirtoff is Speaker General of the Nentraee people, who are divided into seven clans. Their home world is gone and now they live in 450 ships, searching for a new home. They have had disastrous experiences with other species so when they find evidence of intelligence on Earth they are wary, but with morale down and ships needing repair they decide to make contact. While Mirtoff may have peaceful intentions, General Gahumed as head of the Nentraee military, does not. Mi’ko is the Vice Speaker and plays a huge role in this book, though his POV is rarely shown. Almost all of the Nentraee POV is shown through Mirtoff. She is a good leader for her people and makes the alien hopes and fears clear and easy to empathize with.

The rest of the book book shows Todd’s POV. Todd’s brother Brad works at NASA and comes to warn them of the aliens’ immediate arrival. While Todd believes him, even though they are estranged, Todd’s husband Jerry is not convinced. Todd and Jerry go to the airport to pick up their friend Dan, former military, who is coming to visit. This is how the reader really gets to know Todd by his reaction to the news and his interactions with those closest to him. They are all together as the President of the United States makes the announcement that we have first contact with an alien race. Although other countries are mentioned and the United Nations plays a role, this is very American centric. As you can imagine, humans panic. I think the relatively peaceful time period after the announcement, supposedly due to good planning with use of the military, shutting down the stock market, and stopping all travel, is optimistic.

The aliens are confused and worried about human violence; they want to limit contact to scientific and diplomatic relations at first, but quickly realize they have to be more social than is customary for them. As with all science fiction, looking at humanity’s strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of an alien race is jarring. Since they are interested in trade and technological advances, Mi’ko focuses on Silicon Valley, wishing to do business with the company Todd works for. Todd becomes an unlikely central figure moving forward.

The depth comes from the author showing the family, friends and coworkers of all the principals. This helps to engage with the story emotionally, but I still felt removed for some reason. I will say although it is mentioned how different the Nentraee are to humans, their thought processes don’t seem different at all–they care and worry about the same things we do. Their history seems similar. The politics have only just begun as everyone vies to gain power and make money. This could really be expanded upon and I expect it will be in future books. I enjoyed this book and would be interested in reading more. That’s a good thing because after all the world building, this ends abruptly with a to be continued. By the way, this is a science fiction book that has a few gay characters, so don’t expect a romance.

The cover art is by Natasha Snow. I like the darkened view of Earth with all the lights on staving off the dark cold of space and the one ship making contact, carrying the hopes of their people.

Sales Links: NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details: ebook
Published January 21st 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN 139781949909883
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Contact (A New World #1) by M.D. Neu — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

 

M.D. Nue’s Website

Review: Expeditions, Estimation, and Other Dangerous Pastimes (Claimings #4) by Lyn Gala

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

This is the fourth book in the Claimings series with an overarching plot, so these should be read in order. There are also alien words used without context, which you would need to be aware of beforehand. This is the continuation of Liam and Ondry’s journey aboard the Rownt ship Calti, to seek trade with the Imshee.

One of the things I like about this series, like all good science fiction, is viewing the absurdities of humanity, when trying to explain them to an alien race. I always enjoy the discussions of linguistics and psychology. The fact that this happens after a rousing bout of alien sex, made me laugh. Quite a lot of this book made me laugh and appeals to my dry sense of humor, although be warned the depictions of sex and biological functions are a bit graphic and crude. Anyway, if you have been following this series and like those linguistics discussions, those are increased in this book due to Zach and Liam both being in the linguist field, them both learning from each other aboard ship, and meeting a new alien species.

In the last book, Zach came aboard as a palteia to a Grandmother who is now his chilta. The nearest translation in English to palteia seems to be submissive (although these relationships are not sexual in Rownt culture.) A chilta would have the “dom” role of protecting and helping a palteia, who are a highly regarded in Rownt culture. This opportunity gives the Rownt a way to learn about humanity without all of that burden remaining on Liam. It’s also intriguing to see a higher ranked human than Liam, but someone with less experience with the Rownt, navigate the complexities of the society, culture, and language. The change in dynamics is a way to show us Liam’s place in the world, in both cultures.

The author shows Liam and Ondry established in their relationship of mutual trust and love. Liam’s confidence has grown and as Liam has become more Rownt in his thinking, Ondry has also become more human in his. Ondry has also gotten even more overprotective the more he reads human medical texts. If fact, the whole reason for this book is fear of human physiology and aging–Ondry wanting Liam’s lifespan to be more compatible with his and for Liam to be less breakable. I love how Liam asserts himself to be an equal partner in decisions that affect their lives and status in a way he never would have earlier in the series. But while Liam seems more confident, in some ways Ondry seems less so.

There is a bit of repetition in Ondry’s thoughts and on the obsession with palteia throughout the book, but that is a minor niggle. Overall, this is a good contribution to the series, although not my favorite. The Cy, a race that traded with the Rownt thousands of years ago, are mentioned as how they learned folded space technology. I do hope this goes somewhere in a story, whether set in the past or the present. Of course, the Imshee contact with humans is a frightening prospect. I understand why Liam would want what the Imshee offer as he will live out the rest of his life with Ondry; I am unsure of why Zach would consent when he has a five year contract, especially since if he were to go back to Earth, I would expect the military to experiment on him. I would be happy for the author to pick any of these plot bunnies that she seeded in this story.

The cover artist is Anna Sikorska. It’s in keeping with the series in style and color palette and I think represents the story well.

Sales Links:  Amazon link coming
Book Details:
ebook, Patreon edition
Expected publication: October 23rd 2018
Edition Language English
URLhttp://www.patreon.com/lyngala
Series: Claimings

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Expeditions, Estimation, and Other Dangerous Pastimes (Claimings #4) by Lyn Gala — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words