Book Review: Blackbird and the Dark Side of the Moon

Since I already loved the characters from Light Tripper, I knew I would enjoy this novella as well. With a twisty plot and intriguing side characters, this creepy tale is perfect for Halloween.

Blackbird and the Dark Side of the Moon

Jo-Anne Tomlinson has a real talent for creepy Halloween stories. I loved her space opera, Light Tripper, and I was fortunate enough to receive an early review copy of this novella.

Description

Sal Tripp is an intergalactic bounty hunter with simple needs, but when her father loses their credits at the gambling table, she must accept whatever work she can find. When a handsome-but-mysterious captain offers her an exorbitant rate to transport him and his new crew of delinquents to his ship, she suspects trouble. Her financial woes compel her to accept the job, and her curiosity compels her to peek inside the ship, but there she’ll discover that “trouble” was an understatement.

Characters

Sal Tripp has more grit than a resurrection plant during the Dust Bowl. As a bounty hunter, she faces down space pirates and galactic gangsters with sharp wit and her evolving electric powers, all while keeping track of her addict pilot/father, Morgan. While Morgan often complicates their lives, his charm and affection earn Sal’s forgiveness.

Plot

The plot moves at a good clip as Sal’s curiosity—not to mention her crush on the captain—drive her toward inevitable danger. Once on the ship, Sal progresses through the type of horrors you’d expect from a good scare-your-pants-off Halloween story.

Writing Style

Jo-Anne Tomlinson has a genuine talent for creepy Halloween stories. You can almost hear the ominous music building to a crescendo as you read, and the story twangs with tension.

Miscellaneous

Readers should note that this is a Halloween story, meaning it contains several creepy/gory scenes. Light Tripper itself is not that gory, so readers with sensitive stomachs will still enjoy it.

Conclusion

Jo-Anne Tomlinson’s love of Halloween shines through every word in this novella. Since I already loved the characters from Light Tripper, I knew I would enjoy this novella as well. With a twisty plot and intriguing side characters, this creepy tale is perfect for Halloween. If you enjoy this kind of story, I also recommend her fantasy short story She brings the Harvest, and her contemporary young adult murder-mystery-thriller Shadows in the Water.


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Blackbird and the Dark Side of the Moon

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Book Review: Star Nomad

Subscribers to my email newsletter have already heard the saga of my hunt for a new series to read. Long story short, I signed up for a bunch of authors’ newsletters in exchange for freebies, and Lindsay Buroker’s had the distinction of being the only one worth reading.

Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker

Subscribers to my email newsletter have already heard the saga of my hunt for a new series to read. Long story short, I signed up for a bunch of authors’ newsletters in exchange for freebies, and Lindsay Buroker’s had the distinction of being the only one worth reading.

Description

The Alliance has defeated the tyrannical empire, but the danger is far from over for fighter pilot captain Alisa Marchenko. Stranded on a mafia-controlled dust ball of a planet with no resources, her only chance at reuniting with her daughter is to steal a dilapidated freighter from a junkyard filled with lawless savages. As if that weren’t difficult enough, an elite cyborg soldier—one who no doubt slaughtered many of her comrades during the war—is squatting in the ship. To see her daughter again, Alisa must either get rid of him, or do the unthinkable: join him.

Characters

The way women are portrayed in action books/movies is one of my biggest pet peeves. Often, the ninety-pound ninja in tight leather pants and six-inch heels can take down a three-hundred-pound brute without messing up the perfect hair she neglected to put in a ponytail. When not hypersexualized, female action characters are often masculinized into men with boobs. Alisa Marchenko is a refreshing exception.

Alisa’s role as a mother drives her actions. Clever and funny, her character exudes a different sort of strength. Rather than ignore the physical disadvantage Alisa has compared to the hulky cyborg, the author capitalizes on that difference to create interesting conflicts and plot points. Alisa must rely on her wits (and guns and various explosive devices) to get herself out of trouble. Her character embodies what I feel the term “strong female lead” should mean. Just because she couldn’t beat a cyborg in a boxing match doesn’t mean she can’t kick ass.

The other characters represent the typical motley crew of any space opera—the eccentric scientist, the doctor, the brute, the comic relief. They are interesting enough to hold their weight in the story, but I suspect I will learn more about them as the series progresses. I highly recommend signing up to the author’s mailing list so you can read the prequel, which tells the cyborg’s story. Without that, he may come across stiff.

Plot

With mafia, space pirates, Octavian blood bears, and no shortage of explosions, this book has everything an action fan could want. The plot progresses at a great pace, with minor obstacles leading into bigger obstacles. The author weaves in enough foreshadowing to generate interest in book two, but not so much as to bog down book one.

Writing Style

Subscribers to my newsletter have already heard me complain about the terrible writing in many of the free books I sampled. Lindsay Buroker, however, writes wonderfully. While not the detailed and mellifluous prose I adore in more literary genres, her writing is clear and well suited to a more action-oriented space opera. She provides enough information immerse the reader in the world without bogging down the plot. Pithy humor punctuates the action scenes, and dialogue weaves through the action such that I never felt like I was eavesdropping on a board meeting. In short, she is a skilled writer. As I told my husband, “It contains none of the parts you usually skip.”

Conclusion

After slogging through many free e-books, I finally found one worth reading. Space Nomad has everything I’m looking for in a space opera—action, explosions, pirates, political intrigue, and cool space battles. Quirky and lovable characters form a crew who faces impossible odds. They persevere via each member’s unique talents and form the bonds that will carry them through the series.

I have already put a hold on the next two books at my local library. If that isn’t recommendation enough, I don’t know what is.  


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Star Nomad

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Book Review: January Black

Many thanks to my book club for selecting this one. A great read!

January Black by Wendy Russo

Bookclub is a fantastic source of new books, ones I might not otherwise pick up on my own. January Black was never on my radar, but it was a delightful read.

Cover Description

“Sixteen-year-old genius Matty Ducayn is the son of The Hill’s commandant. As such, he’s expected to conform to a strict, unspoken code of conduct. Small acts of defiance over years—such as walking on the grass—have earned him a reputation for being unruly. When sarcastic test answers finally get Matty expelled from school, King Hadrian offers him a diploma if he can answer a deceptively simple question, and then dismisses the only answer.

To prove his worth to society, Matty wrestles with the king’s word games, the kingdom’s historical record, and laws that don’t make sense. He meets Iris Locke, a street smart gardener, along the way. After enchanting him at a glance, Iris helps his research, keeps him out of trouble, and finally breaks his heart.

Alone again, Matty finds himself on collision course with a deadly law, one he will have to break to answer the king’s question. Was Hadrian challenging him, or teaching him a lesson? Without Iris, it won’t matter, because Matty won’t stand down for anyone else.”

Characters

I’m a sucker for smart guys (I married one, after all), so Matty is a winner protagonist for me. He writes programs to predict people’s locations, analyzes pictures in terms of their geometric components, and recites the digits of pi to keep himself from getting too distracted by pretty girls. His rebellious nature takes him far from the stereotypical four-eyed weakling puffing on his inhaler that most intelligent teen characters end up being. Rather than feeling forced, his smarts are a natural part of his character which weave through the narrative. His character reads as a guy who is smart, not “the smart guy.”

The leading lady, Iris, has a past that plays to the intrigue of the plot. For much of the story, I suspected she was a double agent because she was just too perfect. I dislike romantic subplots where the primary love interest has so few flaws, but Iris’s past and the trouble they get into help. The chemistry between them is natural enough to pass.

Plot

The story takes place in the future, which is interesting, but the chief strength is the plot. King Hadrian’s puzzle and the political intrigue it involves kept me turning pages. I predicted most of the twists, including the ending, but that didn’t spoil it. I enjoyed watching everything unfold, and the author did an excellent job tying up all the loose ends.

Writing Style

This isn’t a book you read for its flowing prose and sparkling metaphors like say, Where the Crawdad’s Sing. The prose was simple, and the author explicitly named each character’s emotions, which I found patronizing. She wrote in multiple perspectives, which if you’ve read my own book, The Lies She Wore, you know I usually enjoy. However, this book didn’t need any perspective but Matty’s. The author could have maintained the dramatic tension and tied up the loose ends with only one perspective. I am also not a fan of flash-forwards, which is how the book begins. Matty’s expulsion was dramatic enough to begin the story. Russo didn’t need to jump to the climax to grab my attention.

Miscellaneous

I have mixed feelings about the cover. For me, the most interesting part of the book was the political intrigue, not the romance, but I will agree it is an upgrade from the original cover.

Conclusion

This book was perfect for those times my brain sought entertainment, but no stress. It had enough drama to keep me turning pages, but was light and romantic enough to classify as a feel-good book. Many thanks to my book club for selecting it!


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January Black

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Another Kingdom Review Pending, but I liked it.

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Light Tripper review pending, but I loved it!


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