The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth, Liminal Sky 1

The Stark Divide
Cover Art © 2017 Aaron Anderson. aaronbydesign55@gmail.com

I would rate this 4.75 stars.

First off, this was a really well done science fiction novel. I think if you buy into the ideas of: AI becoming a sentient autonomous being, bio mechanical technology becoming something that a human (or potentially AI) could be born with, and the idea of terraforming within a starship, then there is everything to enjoy and delight in within this book. The story carried me along and I went willingly. This book takes place over a thirty year span of time, skipping over the surface of three time periods. One of the reasons I think it is successful is because it was clever about contained world-building with a small cast for greater emotional impact. Each character is rounded out through flashbacks, memories, dialogue and actions enough so that the reader gets a sense of person. Because the joys and tragedies are shared, I became invested in each person and their wellbeing. Each location is described enough for the reader to picture it, without it being overwhelming or an info dump.

During the first third of the book, the focus is on Colin, Jackson, and Ana, on a ship called the Dressler. This sets the stage for everything that is to come after. Colin is a hardworking, compassionate, competent captain who responds well to emergencies and tries to do his best for his crew. Jackson is the ship’s engineer who is tested in ways he never imagined. Ana is the expert in ship genetics. It is she who created three seed ships to try and save humanity. In this way, they operate as the human heart, soul, and mind of the book. Saving Lex, the Dressler ship-mind, and allowing it to eat the asteroid Ariadne thus begins the creation of mankind’s first interstellar ship is their legacy.

Ten years later, the second third of the book focuses on the new world-ship Ariadne, that is called Forever. Colin is now Director, Ana is on board after being released from prison, and Jackson is somewhere else entirely. Colin has ensured a diverse and inclusive settlement. The second and third seed worlds are underway, but the reader is left wondering about them. Jackson’s son Aaron becomes the focus of this part of the story with his friends, Devon and Keera. The dangers of political and corporate espionage, and religious fantatical saboteurs are all getting worse as the wars on Earth continue to destroy the planet. Lex is also a danger as a mind grown without parents. Can anyone trust the world-mind? Who taught it right from wrong? This issue is addressed in a unique way.

The third part of this story finally shows what Earth has become and highlights Eddie and Davian as they become refugees trying to reach Transfer Station and Forever. Colin is now retired, married to Trip, and has a berry farm, but is being called up to help with the refugees. Aaron is the new Director. There is now a generation of kids raised in space, who have never been on Earth. Aaron’s daughter Andy has also grown up in the virtual reality of the world-mind. Some fear her power and very few people know the AIs have become their own autonomous personalities that think and feel.

For me, the book shines in all the micro worlds: the ships, the settled part of Forever, the part still terraforming, the virtual reality of Lex’s mind, the space station, the cave on Earth, the desperate flight of a small two man ship…the author has created great texture interweaving all of these parts together to make a complex whole. The book is psychologically interesting, philosophically challenging, biologically and technologically fascinating with enough details to picture the surroundings, without overwhelming the reader. This has the perfect amount of world-building for me. Even with all that, the human element is never forgotten; the characters are engaging and written about in a way that made me care about what happens to them. Although sad, it’s realistic that some will want power and control. Being in the mind of someone like that is difficult, but I am pleased that the author added those viewpoints. While there are relationships of all varieties here, be aware this is science fiction rather than romance and all sex is fade to black. Many times, in answer to the vast majority of books being caucasian heteronormative, an author’s response is to make everyone in their book be queer, or people of color, or some underrepresented group. In this case, the author chose to make everyone diverse, represented, and not just equal, but equitable as much as possible. For me, the book ends on both a sad and hopeful note and the future of humanity is in the stars.

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J. Scott Coatsworth’s Website

 

 

 

First Rodeo by Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga, The Cowboy And The Dom 1

first_rodeo
Cover illustration by AJ Corza http://www.seeingstatic.com/

I would rate this book 3.25 stars.

This is the first book in a trilogy and as such is the introduction to the romance of Sam and Thomas. It’s not a cliffhanger, so the reader can just read this and be content, or read the second book coming out soon for a continuation of their relationship. When Sam’s brother James gets murdered in New York, the family sends Sam to take care of his apartment and send back his things. Both his mother and older brother Bowie put a lot of unreasonable pressure on Sam to also find James’s killer. This is supposed to be a suspense element, but it’s not the focus and stays on the back burner. When Sam meets his brother’s lover, Thomas, neither of them are expecting to need each other. Thomas is missing James and feeling the pull to help Sam, but he’s smart enough to worry the grief could lead to something unhealthy.

Sam is floundering and needs direction; he’s also too busy trying to please everyone else, he can’t seem to get his own life together. They were getting to know each other, and then suddenly Thomas is using what he’s learned about human psychology as a dom, to help Sam. I felt the transition could have been smoother, especially the part about Thomas finding out Sam is also gay. The way Sam learns about his brother James being a sub was an easy way for Sam to understand who Thomas is, who James was. The book seemed to flounder with introducing some of James’s friends, coworkers, and neighbors. No one is fleshed out, and I assume these are meant to give the reader suspects to James’s murderer? There were more jarring moments like his job interview when all of the sudden Angel, someone he met at the BDSM club, is also at the biker bar and helps him home. This seems like too huge coincidence. The main point here seems to be BDSM is healthier than bar fights. This all happens a bit too fast for me, there is still an element of Thomas taking advantage of Sam, his naivete, or even them using each other to escape processing their shared grief.

James and Sam are somewhat alike, they were brothers, but they are also different enough and those differences are never forgotten. The writing here is deftly handled so James doesn’t feel forgotten, but they are not constantly compared–rather Thomas struggles to learn how to be what Sam needs. For the subject matter, there is surprisingly low angst and guilt which seems at odds with the way the book was set up. Sam has always felt he was was supposed to stay in Emory, help with the ranch, have babies, and die there. Yet he suddenly throws off the expectations of his family quite easily and dives into a relationship with his brother’s lover. It’s good that Tommy is not an all seeing, all knowing dom. I like that he makes mistakes and recognizes them. I like that he realizes that where James fit into what he wanted, his style, Sam is much for challenging, taking him out of his comfort zone. They build their relationship and trust scene by scene, yet this is a bit messy–not just the emotions of the characters, but the writing. The sex scenes are always hot, it’s moving the characters around to get them there that seems to not flow well.

I like both these characters, so I’m a bit frustrated that the whole book isn’t as smooth as the parts are or I would have rated it much higher. With more time and effort, this could have had so much more depth, but maybe that’s just what I wanted and not where the authors wanted to take it. I’d like to see more of Sam and James, but this was all too easy, so I’d like to see more about the conflict with Sam’s family. Also, there is nothing about Thomas’s family at all. There is a little intrigue about James having different characters or roles he fulfilled for different people; I definitely would like to see more about that. For right now, James doesn’t seem like a real person, so I don’t care who killed him. I hope the second book takes more time to draw the audience into that part of the plot.

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Jodi Payne’s Website

BA Tortuga’s Website

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Space Train by David Bridger — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

 

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5 The blurb says this is like Firefly meets Wagon Train and that is accurate. This is the best world-building I have read in a long time that wasn’t contained in a bubble: meaning the reader isn’t just given enough to advance the plot at that moment, and that not […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Space Train by David Bridger — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The King’s Dragon (Fire and Valor #1) by W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

This was one difficult for me to rate. I think I may have rated The Amulet Stone by Mason Thomas too low. If I had rated that one higher, I would likely have rated this one higher too. I been reading a lot of fantasy this year, so it’s difficult not to compare them all even though they are all very different.

 

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 When King Edmund dies, Reynold becomes king. After several decades of peace and prosperity, this starts a cascade of events that will see the kingdom of Llangard in a more precarious position, and many uncertain who is friend or foe. Reynold’s cousin Tris is well respected at the castle, […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The King’s Dragon (Fire and Valor #1) by W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Hearts Under Fire (New Amsterdam #1) by Kelly Wyre — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 When two Doms meet in a bar and are enamored with each other…someone has to submit or they need a third. There are plenty of books like either of those scenarios, but this is something more nuanced. Clark owns a Bar named Glow, but is also part owner of […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Hearts Under Fire (New Amsterdam #1) by Kelly Wyre — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Review : Hitting Black Ice (Heart and Haven #1) by Heloise West — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 For the first nine chapters, the reader is in Hunter’s POV as he navigates his crush on Shawn, a colleague at the hospital he works at. He is beset by guilt over the death of his boyfriend. Hunter’s drinking and PTSD are a source of worry for his friends […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review : Hitting Black Ice (Heart and Haven #1) by Heloise West — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The Exile Prince (The Castaway Prince #2) by Isabelle Adler — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 This is a short novella starting six months after the previous story, The Castaway Prince. You could read this as a standalone with no issues, but it would be more enjoyable read in order. Prince Stephan of Seveihar is living in the southern kingdom of Segor with his lover […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The Exile Prince (The Castaway Prince #2) by Isabelle Adler — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: Digging Deep (Digging Deep #1) by Jay Hogan — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

This was painful for me to read because I have a chronic illness with similar issues. People are sometimes great when conditions are acute (like an emergency), but not so great when illness is chronic. They especially are not going to want to know details about your bowels, pain, depression, or anthing else unpleasant. It makes people uncomfortable. It’s not fun. So, I empathized with Drake immediately. In this world that is so sex driven, most people would try to avoid falling in love with someone who couldn’t or might not be able to have it–regardless of the reason. They like to think if the person they are already in love with got a serious illness or had a horrific accident, that they would stay…most won’t. But this, knowing ahead of time and still being willing to get involved with someone, tells you all you need to know. That’s why even though there is not a lot of dating and this all takes place in less than a year, I had no trouble believing the romance. Their lives are meshed together, their families and friends are blended. Parts of Drake’s life suck, and he’s been hurt, but haven’t we all? He is still pretty darn mean at times with his defense mechanisms, but it’s difficult to be nice when I am in pain–I lose sleep, patience, and my filter–so I get it. The petty crap and unimportant minutiae that many people focus on holds no importance for me. This is true for these characters also. They deal with live and death in their jobs. When people have health issues they can mostly hide given good timing and acting, it’s tempting to gloss it over and not let people see. The issue comes when people invite me out and I have to say no because I don’t feel well–most people finally just stop inviting me. If I go anyway and am not full of “all the fun”, I am a Debbie Downer. Even less fun is when people only see me when I am healthy, and then have a difficult time believing how I feel when I have health issues. Or, they see me when I don’t feel well and think, it doesn’t look that bad. What’s the big deal? I’m not constantly in the hospital or bleeding all over, so how bad can it be? This can be hurtful. People also always want to tell me what to do or use to fix me and make me better. While I appreciate it on one level, it is a bit egotistical to think they can cure what ten years of specialist doctors haven’t been able to with their talk of herbal tea, meditation, or vitamin supplements. I find this story believable because the people who will stay with you (romantic and platonic) are the ones who see you, believe you, and just accept you as you are. People who just want “fun” all the time are acquaintances or will drift away.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 In an unfortunate series of events, Drake meets Caleb. This is meeting the right person in the wrong circumstances–or maybe not! It starts with an enemies to lovers vibe. Frankly, I didn’t quite feel the attraction during the hate phase, but once it gets going I was really rooting […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: Digging Deep (Digging Deep #1) by Jay Hogan — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

 

 

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Fairground Attractions Series by L.M. Somerton — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 I read and liked the Investigating Love series by this author years ago, so I thought I would try these. This trilogy has one overarching storyline, so although each novella focuses on one couple, they have to be read in order and together for maximum enjoyment. Garth, Stevie, Adam, […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review:Fairground Attractions Series by L M Somerton — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 The blurb to this book really captured my attention. The story, seen through Ryde’s point of view, takes place over 15 years and is broken down into three main parts. The first part shows Ryde’s intense attraction and focus on his neighbor Alastair. The reader gets to see the […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words