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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker

From Goodreads:

They have her daughter. She will stop at nothing to get her back.

When system-wide civil war broke out, fighter pilot Captain Alisa Marchenko left her family and accepted a commission in the Alliance Army to battle the empire’s tyranny. Four years later, the empire has been toppled, but chaos and anarchy now rule the system. Alisa, after being injured in the final battle, is stranded on a dustball of a planet billions of miles from home. She learns that her husband died during the bombings, leaving their daughter on Perun, a planet that has become the last imperial stronghold.

Alisa must find a way to Perun, even if she has to steal a dilapidated ship from a junkyard overrun by murdering savages to do it. She’s ready for the challenge. She did not, however, count on finding an elite imperial cyborg soldier squatting in the ship and planning to use it for a mysterious mission of his own. Alisa can’t let him or anyone else stop her, or she'll never see her daughter again.

This was a fun read that I discovered through Kindle Unlimited. I actually had a few other titles by this author on my list, a few as kindle freebies, but not in the Sci-Fi genre, they were her fantasy novels. So this one was marketed for fans of Firefly and Star Wars, and while normally I don't like it when books try to ride the coat tails of bigger hugely successful things because I feel like they can't possibly live up, I could see the influence of both in this story. There is much wit and banter between characters, each having their own quirks, a la Firefly. And there is the grand setting of the aftermath of a big war which has the feel of the Empire and the Rebels, a la Star Wars.  But our characters here are not the top brass or the last Jedi, they are people caught in the crossfire, and believing they were fighting for the right side, but then coming to know each other and find out they are still all humans, with feelings, and honor, regardless of the side they started out on.  They are the ones who somehow got left behind now that the whole thing is over and have to figure out what to do next, how to get home, how to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. 

I enjoyed the characterization, and found myself imagining The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, as the Cyborg Soldier, every time the eyebrow quirk was mentioned, though he is much more outspoken and animated in his roles than the reserved Cyborg we here. By author admission the science part of the sci-fi is pretty general, but still sets the scene well.  I look forward to more in this series, and also sampling others by this author.  4/5 stars.

The King's Mistress - Emma Campion

From Goodreads:

When had I choice to be other than I was? From childhood Alice Salisbury has learnt obedience in all things and at fourteen, dutifully marries the man her father has chosen for her - at the cost of losing the love of her mother forever and the family she holds dear.

But merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and Alice soon learns to enjoy her marriage. Until a messenger brings news of his disappearance and she discovers that her husband had many secrets, secrets he didn't want her to know - but which have now put a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter. Brought under the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa, she must dutifully embrace her fate once more - as a virtual prisoner at Court.

And when the king singles her out for more than just royal patronage, she knows she has little choice but to accept his advances. But obeying the king brings with it many burdens as well as pleasures, as she forfeits her good name to keep her daughter free from hurt.

Still a young woman and guided by her intellect and good business sense, she learns to use her gifts as wisely as she can. But as one of the king's favourites, she brings jealousy and hatred in her wake and some will stop at nothing to see her fall from grace.

When had I choice to be other than I was? This truly says it all for Alice in this book. I cannot think of a more stressful environment, save a war zone, than life at court as a companion to kings and queens. Alice's life was never her own, even her children were rarely hers to care for and make decisions about. From the moment she married Janyn, she was thrown into a whirlwind of intrigue that she had to navigate while not knowing the particulars.  So much was expected of her, and on top of that, to accept it all with uncomplaining grace.

This story takes place in the time of House Plantagenet, in the late 1300's when Edward III was king.  Interesting to me was the relationship Alice had with both Queen Philippa and Edward, it was not your usual young mistress takes the place of the queen in the king's affections. It was all very calculated it would seem, and truly what choice did she have?  At that time, you did not refuse the royal family, even though she would suffer feelings of guilt that she could have somehow behaved differently.

While many of the events are poetic license by the author, personally stated, I really enjoyed reading about the life and personality she crafted for Alice, sad for her trials and happy for the joys she experienced.  I'll admit, I cried for her at a certain point towards the end, but I don't want to spoil anything for any prospective readers. I am definitely interested in reading more about Alice, and Wikipedia gives information and also other novels which feature her as a character. A definite recommend from me to historical fiction fans, I gave it a 5/5.

I read this for the 2016 Reading Assignment Challenge.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

2016 Award-Winning Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Challenge - October 1 - December 31st, 2016

Welcome to my sign up post for my very own reading challenge, the first one I have ever hosted! I'm super excited and nervous and can't wait to get started!  To join us, click on the picture above to be taken to the sign up!

I'm going to declare the Ursa Major level for 4-6 books as my goal, and I have picked out a line on the Bingo card to use as my guideline for what books I hope to get read.  I've chosen the diagonal from top left to bottom right, here is my list:

Lincoln's Dreams - by Connie Willis (Any novel by a Grand Master)

Bridge of Birds -  by Barry Hughart (World Fantasy Awarded Novel 1985)

Stranger in a Strange Land - by Robert Heinlein (Hugo Award Winner 1962)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - by Catherynne M. Valente (Andre Norton Award Winner 2009)

The Forever War - by Joe Haldeman (Any novel by a Grand Master)

Here we go! 

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