Harvest

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Olga Werby and her novel Harvest.

Author’s description of the book:

Almost a century after Keres Triplets asteroid impact and subsequent nuclear exchange almost ended all human life on Earth, a strange artifact is discovered on one of the moons of Saturn. Who should be sent to the outer reaches of the solar system to initiate the first contact with an alien culture? Dr. Varsaad Volhard, an evolutionary-socio-historian, is chosen to help the world understand the alien civilization that left an artifact some thirty thousand years ago, before humans even learned to farm, at the time when other human species still walked the earth.

While Vars prepares for the mission, her father, Dr. Matteo Volhard, discovers nanobots among the microplastics he studies. The bots are everywhere and seem to have been created to bond with human cyber implants. Why? Matteo is made to keep his discovery a secret…as well as his and his daughter’s true origins. Both were donated to a Human DNA Vault as babies. Matteo was raised as a Seed before leaving with his young daughter to study ecology around the world. Who knows what? Who is in control? How does one communicate with non-human intelligence?

People seem to die in gruesome ways as their cyberhumatics go haywire on Earth and on Luna and Mars colonies. Is Earth under attack or is it all just a cosmic misunderstanding? Vars needs to use all she knows to solve the mystery of the ancient civilization on Mimas, as her dad battles the alien nanobots at home.

About the Author:

Olga Werby, Ed.D., has a Doctorate from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on designing online learning experiences. She has a Master’s degree from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology. She has been creating computer-based projects since 1981 with organizations such as NASA (where she worked on the Pioneer Venus project), Addison-Wesley, and the Princeton Review. Olga has a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics from Columbia University. She became an accidental science fiction indie writer about a decade ago, with her first book, “Suddenly Paris,” which was based on then fairly novel idea of virtual universes. Her next story, “The FATOFF Conspiracy,” was a horror story about fat, government bureaucracy, and body image. She writes about characters that rarely get represented in science fiction stories — homeless kids, refugees, handicapped, autistic individuals — the social underdogs of our world.

Her stories are based in real science, which is admittedly stretched to the very limit of possible. She has published almost a dozen fiction books to date and has won many awards for her writings. Her short fiction has been featured in several issues of “Alien Dimensions Magazine,” “600 second saga,” “Graveyard Girls,” “Kyanite Press’ Fables and Fairy Tales,” “The Carmen Online Theater Group’s Chronicles of Terror,” with many more stories freely available on her blog, Interfaces.com.

Learn more about the author at her website, her author page on Amazon, on Goodreads, and on Face Book. You can also find her at Pipsqueak, You Tube and https://www.linkedin.com/in/olgawerby/

My review:

This is an incredible book on many levels. The thought and research that has gone into this story is breathtaking. The descriptions of nanobots gone amok are chill-inducing. The affection between the father and daughter is heartwarming. And the plot moves at a pace that makes it almost impossible to put down. What more could you want?

I love stories that tackle big ideas. You know, the meaning of life, the universe and everything. This book has no shortage of grandiose themes. In fact, my only two complaints are both artifacts of this. One, the book touches on so many major themes that it has to simply let some of them drop. Two, with a scope this big, it is hard to find a satisfying end to the story. Heck, it’s hard to find any end to the story.

Without giving anything away, I’ll just say I was a little less than satisfied when it was over. Then again, I don’t know of another book of this cosmic sort that has managed to come to a better conclusion.

Did I like it anyway? You bet I did. I’d recommend this novel to almost anyone, and certainly to anyone who enjoys science fiction. This is hardcore sci-fi that is both well-written and emotionally solid, and that’s no small achievement. It will leave you thinking for days (maybe for weeks or months, I don’t know yet because it’s only been days since I finished it ….) And even if you’re a little bewildered or uneasy at the end, I believe you will have thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

Purchase Olga Werby’s books on Amazon

Harvest

Becoming Animals

Suddenly, Paris

The FATOFF Conspiracy

Fresh Seed

Yes, there is a giveaway!

Olga Werby will be awarding 2 books to a randomly drawn commenter (LIZARD GIRL AND GHOST and SUDDENLY, PARIS) via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

My favorite excerpt:

“Sentient life’s colonization of the Earth is fractal. Even within a single ecosystem, there are many species that possess intelligence and self-awareness. But only one species becomes dominant.”

Professor Volhard took a theatrical pause here. Everyone in the audience knew where she was going with this, but it never hurt to add drama to a presentation.

“Obviously I am talking about humans. We are not the only intelligent, self-aware species on our planet–but we got lucky. We were blessed with favorable initial conditions, and our dominance was almost guaranteed. Lack of luck tends to permanently retard progress. Dinosaurs’ loss is our win.”

There were a few chuckles from the audience, but no big laughs. Varsaad Volhard sighed inwardly and moved on. She never knew how the lay audience would react, but this was all part of doing the book-selling lecture circuit.

Vars was tall and skinny with short, unruly, dark red hair and glasses to match. She looked a bit like a stick insect in her black pants and black sweater. For the tour, she was trying to dress more interestingly than normal–per instructions from her publisher–and so had added the bright orange scarf that her publisher sent in the mail. The instructions that came with the scarf told her to wear matching orange shoes, but Vars didn’t own any orange shoes, so matching black was as good as it got.

She hadn’t failed to notice that the cover of her book–Luck & Lock on Life & Love: The Human History of Conquest of Resources on Earth, Luna, and Beyond–had the same color orange titles as the scarf. Her agent or someone in the office was obviously trying. Vars made a mental note to figure out who that was and thank them.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish.

Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

Review: Duke du Jour

This is my first review here in a while. I hope to do more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my review policy. Why review this book here? It’s a time travel romance, and on this blog I love all things related to the nature of time.

Review Summary: This is a rich and complicated book, fun on so many levels. It is packed with historical intrigue, a surprising amount of humor, and a romance that manages not to be predictable thanks to the time travel factor. I give it a 4.2/5. Details are below.

About this book: This is a reverse Kate and Leopold story, a light-hearted time travel romance where a bewildered modern-day duke ends up in Regency England and meets the girl of his dreams. Jared Langley, present-day Duke of Reston, tumbles into an abandoned fountain on his ducal estate and travels back in time to the year 1816. There, Reston servants and local villagers think him a dead ringer for his namesake and rakehell ancestor–the seventh Duke of Reston, gone missing at the Battle of Waterloo. Unfortunately, Seven got mixed up with French spies out to assassinate the Duke of Wellington, and an unwary Jared ends up in their crosshairs.

Lady Ariana Hart has loved Jared Langley, the seventh Duke of Reston, since she was twelve years old, until the night the rogue broke her heart. Given up for dead, her rakish neighbor makes a miraculous return from Waterloo–only Jared shows up a changed man and reignites all the feelings Ariana had long ago buried.

Jared is in a race against time. He must waylay the suspicions of his quirky servants and neighbors, get to Wellington before the French spies do, fix his fountain–before Seven shows up–so Jared has a way home, and definitely not fall in love with the irresistible Lady Ariana.

About the author: Petie McCarty spent a large part of her career working at Walt Disney World — “The Most Magical Place on Earth” — where she enjoyed working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night, including her new series, The Cinderella Romances. She eventually said good-bye to her “day” job to write her stories full-time. These days Petie spends her time writing sequels to her regency time-travel series, Lords in Time, and her cozy-mystery-with-elements-of-romantic-suspense series, the Mystery Angel Romances. Petie shares her home on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee with her horticulturist husband, a spoiled-rotten English Springer spaniel addicted to pimento-stuffed green olives, and a noisy Nanday conure named Sassy who made a cameo appearance in Angel to the Rescue.  Visit Petie’s web site online at http://www.petiemccarty.com or her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/petie.mccarty.

Giveaway:  Petie McCarty will be awarding an ebook copy of Betting on Cinderella by Petie McCarty (US and International) to three randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more and register to win.

My full review: There was so much I liked about this book.

What I liked best:

  1. It’s filled with details that bring 1816 alive, from doctors with leeches to crowded inns for travelers. The author doesn’t write a love story that happens to take place in 1816, she takes you there. While I didn’t check her facts about the war between France and England, given the amount of information woven into this story, I’m willing to bet it was well researched.
  2. The book is full of corny little jokes, from the ongoing surely/Shirley shtick to the aptly named Mr. Dickman. I like a book that can laugh at itself, and get you to laugh too.
  3. It has a plot worthy of a Russian novel. Seriously, there is war, betrayal, long lost relatives, both loyal and scheming servants, and, of course, a dog. Did I mention gunfights, kidnapping, and romance? Yes, it has those too.  There is even a little brooding now and then. This is complex novel, and the plot will keep you reading.
  4. It has something of a social conscience. The main character develops into a better person, and you can’t help but cheer for this guy as he develops a sense of responsibility, and learns to appreciate friendship, all while lusting after his leading lady.

What I liked least:

  1. While the historical piece of this is strong, and the narrative is well done, the time travel part is weak.  The magic fountain that facilitates the time travel is not explained at all, by either magic or science. The author handles the inevitable “can I go back and change history?” question in her own way, but by the end of the book it doesn’t appear she has given the logical or philosophical quandaries involved in her solution a lot of thought. No spoilers here, I’ll just say that as a science fiction reader, I wasn’t satisfied.
  2. The main romantic interest is gorgeous, of course, and also smart and spirited. You can’t help but like her. None-the-less,  she and the other young women in the novel are cheated a little, I think. Unlike the Duke, our virginal leading Lady Ari doesn’t get the chance to grow into a better person, only to learn to forgive and trust our hero. That is pretty much her entire story arc, making the book about him, not her. The other women in the story (except for the old cook and the aunt) are lusty and sexually experienced, presented in this novel as an unattractive thing. They are also evil and conniving. Guess I would have liked to have seen a little female friendship, too, and at least a nod to healthy female sexuality.

In spite of those flaws, I enjoyed this book a lot and would recommend it to lovers of history or romance novels. If you happen to like both, I think you won’t be able to put this book down.

Purchase this book at Amazon

The excerpt I liked best:

Jared quietly closed the door and snicked the feeble lock into place.
“That wouldn’t keep a child out,” he muttered.
“Are you worried Dexter can get past the lock?” Ari asked, her cheeks flushing bright pink.
“Now, you are going to accuse me of ungentlemanly behavior, too?”
Even the dim candlelight could not hide the guilt in her eyes. “I am sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“You’re right. I have given you no reason to think—”
She raised skeptical brows.
“Well, except for those few kisses.” He cleared his throat. “You liked them, too. You cannot deny it.”
Her lips twitched as she fought back the smile that angered him for some reason, and he felt like an errant schoolboy and probably looked like one with his brows indignantly bunched.
“No, I cannot deny it.”
Instead of feeling smug at being right, her words sent his blood racing to places off-limits—at least for now.
“But that doesn’t mean—”
He held up a hand. “Please, no more swipes at my character. I’ve had all I can take this evening.”
She snapped her lips together, then grinned.
“Best take your boots off to be comfortable.” She opened her mouth to object again, and he added, “Since you are unlikely to remove anything else with the two of us locked in here.”
The opportunity to tease him in his misery must have overwhelmed her. “Well, actually I could, but I won’t.”
He groaned. “Do not leave me with that particular movie running in my head and my two-hour first watch to face.”
“Movie? What do you mean? What is a—”
“Did I say movie? I meant movement,” he said before she could finish. He scrubbed a palm over his face. His head had begun to ache.
“Are you all right?”
“Fine,” he bit out. “Just leave—”
“Leave you alone? Fine.” She went over and sat on the bed.
“What I was going to say was just leave your boots by the bed. Close by in case we need to leave in a hurry.”
“That is a lie, but it was sweet of you to be concerned about my feelings. The old Jared wouldn’t have given a baker’s tart about them. Or any other kind.” She giggled at her own humor.
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh nothing. Just that we seem to have made a mull of things, I suppose.”
“I do not see anything funny about it,” he grumbled.
“You wouldn’t, but I cannot get these boots off without help. They belong to Aidan, our stable boy, and the fit is a bit too tight.”
“Yes, of course.”
Jared came over and knelt next to the bed, then took her booted foot in his hand. He swore he could feel the warmth of her leg right through the leather, but that was impossible. Tell that to the blood raging through his veins and heading south, like the River Kennet at flood stage.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

Emily Carrington
Long and Short Reviews
Two Ends of the Pen
Am Kinda Busy Reading
A Chick Who Reads
Harlie’s Books
Let me tell you a story
Kit ‘N Kabookle

If you are interested in a review from me:

One of my resolutions is to review more books here. I am interested reading science fiction of all sorts, and am particularly interested in anything involving the nature of time. My protagonist in z2 is a history-loving, time-warping high school physics teacher, so I am predisposed to stories that feature physics or have an historical element as well.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, pure romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review contact me at Alex (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Individual Author Links:
http://www.petiemccarty.com
https://www.facebook.com/petie.mccarty
https://twitter.com/authorpetie
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6094579.Petie_McCarty
http://www.amazon.com/author/petiemccarty
https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-mccarty-30851412

Final Note:  I received a free pdf of this book, which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

Safety in Science Fiction

Taking the time to read Charles Yu’s “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” was a special treat for me. If I let myself read science fiction at all these days, it is flash fiction; something that won’t stick in my head while I try to finish my own science fiction novel. But I was at a retreat for three days, without computer, internet or television, and it was dark before six p.m. What was I to do? So I took peak into Minor Universe 31 and became trapped for many enjoyable hours.

how-to-live-safely-coverHere’s the short review. 1) I give this book five stars. There were many things I loved about it, but the three best were its overall oddness, the way math and science were interwoven into the story, and its brilliant observations about human nature. 2) There were a couple things I didn’t like, but I acknowledge that they may say more about me than they do about the book. 3) I discovered that I can go right ahead and read a novel if it’s this unique, and it doesn’t screw with my inner voice at all. Now I just have to find more books like this.

A slightly longer version of the review would let you know that I have a huge fondness for authors who take chances. Charles Yu takes many, jumping around multiple time lines and repeating a classic scene wherein he shoots himself until the scene finally makes sense to the reader. He creates a multiverse that is almost believable, then hits you over the head with the occasional reminder that this all has to be nonsense. Risky behavior, and I applauded him as I read.

From his use of a schematic instead of a table of contents through his labeling chapters with Greek letters, he not only speaks geek, he uses it to draw you into his protagonist’s world. In spite of the lack of science involved with this book’s actual version of time travel, physics and math permeate other parts of the story, helping the reader to overlook how preposterous the basic premise is.

charlesyuhowtolivesafelyNeither the audacity of the approach nor the nod to science would have made this book brilliant, however. It took Yu’s clever yet valid observations about humans to do that. One of my favorites: “Most people I know live their lives moving in a constant forward direction, the whole time looking backward.” Wow. Or how about: “I realized a couple of years ago that not only am I not super skilled at anything, I’m not even particularly good at being myself.” Yeah. And the book is full of gems like these.

Now for what I did not like.

Because I am a writer, I give Yu tremendous credit for creating a time travel story without developing a plausible method for time travel. Because I am a geek, and a geophyscist in my day job, I got quite frustrated with a time travel story that offered no such plausible method. Yu has tied his temporal device to words and tenses, keeping his readers always aware that is a story told by a storyteller. I’m not fond of books and movies that center on writers lives or on the significance of the written word as they can strike me as being full of self-importance. At its worst “How to Live Safely …” crossed that line a few times for me.

Because I am a reader, I give Yu tremendous credit for creating a main character that was sympathetic yet believable, and with whom I could identify in spite of the differing demographics of age, race and gender. Because I am a woman and a mother, I winced at the emphasis on the father-son relationship while mom was largely relegated to her desire to make her son a nice dinner. To be fair, it wasn’t quite that extreme, but given that the other female character in the book is a computer who cries too much, I felt my gender was a bit slighted. That’s me though; the story that Yu had to tell wasn’t much about mothers or women, it was about a young Asian man.

mastershift2jpgBoth the short and long reviews conclude with the fact that I am very glad I read this book. The sheer innovation in it was inspiring, and because it was so unique it didn’t screw with my inner voice at all. I wish that I knew how to read this book for the first time again, but I don’t. I’m just going to have to find more books like this. The problem is that I’m not sure if any others exist, at least not in my particular chronodiegetical schematic.