Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #scifi #thriller Broken Branches by Ben Ellis @b3n3llis

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here http://ebookwormssite.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading Broken Branches by Ben Ellis

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Summary

This is a quirky future dystopia, where the controlling powers seem to be muddling through in a very British way. They are not boots-to-the-throat controlling, but want stuff done with a minimum of fuss. It is eugenics for the future, with all of the selective breeding, incarceration and enforced sterilisation of “unfit” people. Broken Branches are not allowed to procreate, but there is a “work-around” application process. However, the prevailing sentiment seems to be “You mix champagne with dishwater, you still have sh***y dishwater”. All sorts of National Front, Aryan, etc. overtones going on.

For me personally, not an inviting future! Most men are sterile, for reasons which are outlined much later in the book. It is a class-driven society, between thoroughbreds on the one hand, and mutts/half-breeds/broken branches/whatever you want to call them on the other. Broken branches are those who have no genetic family history, so cannot take their place on the Family Tree.

The State is fixated on the genetic purity of the National Family Tree, so Thoroughbreds are allowed procreate once they receive approval, the others not. However, there seems to be some level of “inter-breeding” allowed. The genetic status of each potential parent is set out on the application form, and a majority of a randomly-selected jury of 40 “peers” [thoroughbreds] must approve each application.

This story is about two couples who slip through the net, having genetically advanced babies, and their journey.

Main Characters:

Tom Webb: Husband of Grace, he’s a thoroughbred. Nice guy, grown-up attitude to life, very supportive and defensive of is wife, and always looking to reassure her.

Grace Webb: Wife to Tom, a broken branch. No self-confidence, thinks Tom is with her due to an “undiscovered genetic defect”. Extremely paranoid about being exposed as a broken branch.

Charlie Falkland: Grace’s twin brother. Lad-about-town, a player with a relatively short fuse, and completely self-absorbed for about two-thirds of the book.

Anna Rock: Charlie’s thoroughbred one-night stand, who gets pregnant.

Head of Genetic Integrity: Sinister governmental figure looking to enhance his own reputation through using the babies as lab rats.

Minor Characters

Shears: Leader of the Gardeners, a domestic terrorist organisation dedicated to “rooting out the broken branches” who would dare try to propagate. The Gardeners are the “pruners for the pure”.

William Lanne: Grace and Charlie’s dad. Appears late on the scene, bit of a Deus Ex Machina character.

Gregory Rock: Anna’s dad. Appalled she is pregnant by a broken branch. A bit naïve.

Maiya Lanka: Charlie’s sometime ex, who gets cheated on. Later, she becomes some type of earth-mother figure (rhymes with Gaia??) figure.

 Plot:

We initially follow Tom and Grace, as they apply to become parents. They run a Gardener mob gauntlet to get to the relevant Ministry, seeing a broken branch being horrifically mutilated on the way, which causes severe trepidation in Grace.

In this case, the drugs DO work, and Grace becomes pregnant. The news is inadvertently broken at a family dinner, attended by Charlie and Maiya. Maiya is secretly upset, as she wanted to become a mother also, but her status as a broken branch kills that hope, She robs a couple of fertility tablets (hilariously named Go!Nads!}, and slips them into Charlie’s drink.

Charlie ends up finding and sleeping with Anna, a thoroughbred out on a hen night, and not knowing he’s on the ‘Nads he gets her pregnant. Dad is suitably not impressed.

The couples and unborn babies then become the subject of a search, from the deranged Gardeners who want to kill them, to Head who wants to analyse them, to William Lanne who wants to protect them, the background being a society’s descent into chaos as broken branches agitate to become part of the Tree (with accompanying benefits), and government scrambles to contain the movement.

What I Liked

  • There are original twists and plotlines, for example how men became sterile.
  • It is a fast-faced thriller, dressed up in dystopian clothes.
  • The plausibility of the eugenics story – it’s not so long since eugenics was considered serious science in pre-WWII USA, and it still has a large following today. I liked the author pointing out that medicine and science are NOT objective or neutral, and are used to forward particular social agendas.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The alternate chapter character device – just seemed unnecessary and was slightly off-putting. It lifted me out of the suspension of disbelief, and diminished the story for me.
  • The lack of reasoning behind men becoming sterile (voluntarily!) – again it felt like a forced plot issue. There could have been more done to get it better cemented into the story.

Overall

I’d give it a three star.

I think the author is not quite sure of his audience, or how he wants to book to be read.

Audience-wise, it’s hardly YA with the level of language the “alternative character” uses, yet it’s a bit too light on the thriller/world building for a fully-engaged adult reader.

Angle-wise, it has a light and easy tone, with some almost comedic moments in it (e.g. Charlie taking on the super-enhanced security guard in the helicopter). It has great potential and, with the amount of real history and human experience to draw on, I think the author could get to a deeper level with this story.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to the author for giving me a free copy in return for an honest review.

Book description

All men are sterile. Fertility drugs are given only to couples whose genetic matches are approved. Those without a family history to prove their genetic heritage are outcast from society.

Grace is a broken branch. As an orphan, she has no link to The National Family Tree, so she and her husband, Tom, are ecstatic when they’re approved to have a baby. But that was the easy part. Grace’s twin brother inadvertently gets a girl pregnant after a one-night stand, and his girlfriend isn’t happy because it should’ve been her. Both sets of parents soon become the target of a violent terrorist group that advocates genetic purity. To make matters worse, there’s something strange about the unborn children that’s attracting government attention.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #AmericanCivilWar #Histfic Cairnaerie by M.K.B. Graham

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here http://ebookwormssite.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading Cairnaerie by M.K.B. Gaham

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Summary

A family drama history, from the period 1840’s through the Civil War to 1930, showing the far-reaching generational impact of the choices made, and the culture they are made in.

Main Characters:

Geneva Snow: The main protagonist, whose life we follow through her 72 years. The daughter of a wealthy lawyer, headstrong, sometimes petulant, and impulsive.

Zeph Elias: Husband and guardian of Geneva

John Klare: Disgraced history professor, hired by Geneva.

Minor Characters

Tobias Jebson: Low-life criminal, abusing his usurped position of post-master.

Joly Jennings – the grand-daughter.

Helen Van Soren – Librarian

Bertram & Caroline Snow – Geneva’s parents

Plot:

In 1827, a 10-years-old boy [Bertram Snow] was turned out onto the Baltimore streets, by a family too poor to feed him. A kindly stranger found him wet and starving a  few months later, and brought him up as his own. 100 years later, his daughter has summoned a historian to tell the family story, which she has recorded in her diaries.

The story is revealed by switching viewpoints and narrative between the 1860’s and ‘70’s, and the late 1920’s.

The story sets out to show the dynamism of the 1840’s Virginia, with Geneva’s father setting up his farmstead “Cairnaerie”, then having his family, three boys and a feisty, headstrong daughter.

Over time, as the children grow, the farm prospers, and Bertram expands his law practice in the local town and becomes a pillar of local society, the future looks very bright for the family. We get an insight into pre-War social mores, with the slavery etc. being taken for granted. Bertram however is more enlightened, and aims to “pay forward” the chance he received when a child, and to help/educate less-fortunate others, including his slave Zeph.

The War comes, and emancipation along with it. Zeph, now free, decides to stay with the Snow family. The Snows have lost two sons in the war, the mother begins her descent into the grave, and the family slowly withdraws from the life of the town, becoming forgotten.

Isolated, passionate, young, Geneva commits what then was an unforgiveable crime in Southern society, an inter-racial marriage and child with Zeph. She had hidden the marriage from her parents, but could not hide the pregnancy. Furious, they forbid her any contact with Zeph or the child, and confine her to the house until she recants and gives them up. Powerful personalities clash, with Geneva showing her naivety about real-world dangers, and her parents at odds with both her and each other.

Neither side moves, and her parents die without there being a rapprochement. Many, many years later, Geneva, now the last of her family, wants to set things right by her grandchild (daughter of her own daughter), but her secret is revealed before she can reveal it herself.

The historian, himself fighting to regain his good name after an incident at his previous college, walks a very thin line in bringing this story together, dealing as he needs to with the “science” behind eugenics, institutional racism, social expectations, and this line becomes even thinner when the full truth of the story is revealed.

Ably assisted by the local (and pretty, and single) college librarian, they build a relationship with the fragile Geneva, who slowly begins to trust them with her secret. Her one wish is to attend the wedding of her grand-daughter, but without having her secret reveal itself.

The story does not have a traditional happy-ever-after ending, and the human regret of leaving things unsaid becomes all too real.

What I Liked

I loved the historical accuracy, and feel the author brought both periods alive, for example the differing transport types in the periods, the dress codes, the social proprieties.

The main characters were well-written, and their actions and dialogue is believable and realistic.

The storylines mesh well.

What I Didn’t Like

It became predictable about halfway through, if not a little before, as the isolation of Geneva would naturally lead her to find comfort where she could.

The father was more modern than I would have credited, but that could just be my own bias.

Some pieces just didn’t ring true, but seemed a device just to get the plot moving (e.g. finding a preacher willing to marry the only daughter of a well-known local in an isolated church with no family present).

Overall

Cairnaerie is a well-written book, with engaging characters, and would be great as a holiday read. The changing world of the South is lightly but convincingly drawn. The questions raised are about loyalty, sacrifice, the power of family versus the power of society, and the reader is left to wonder how they would rise to each question.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to the author for giving me a free copy in return for an honest and objective review.

About the author

M.K.B. Graham writes literary fiction, historical fiction, and feature stories under the label McKeadlit LLC, a freelance company. Partial to the Appalachian Mountains, the author is a lifelong Virginian and part of a family whose roots to the Commonwealth run deep, stretching back to the 1700s. Graham, a graduate of Virginia Tech, has worked as a writer for two Virginia universities and as a former associate editor of Virginia Tech’s signature magazine. The author lives and writes in the beautiful and historic Shenandoah Valley. She is fascinated by old houses, earlier eras, particularly the 1930s and 1940s, and the influence of families on history, much of which informs her writing.

M.K.B. Graham

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SciFi #Fantasy X0 by Sherrie Cronin @cinnabar01

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here http://ebookwormssite.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading X0 by Sherrie Cronin

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X0 – Sherrie Cronin

X, to the power of zero, means to the power of One.

This is the first is a series of tales about the Zeitman family, each of whom has special powers, and about their coming to terms with them However, the only one of the series I’ve actually read is this one.

Summary:

The story is essentially about two powerful telepathic women, living on either side of the planet and who have never met in person. They mentally combine in order to help a younger sister.

Characters:

American Lola Zeitman is a 40-something married woman, returning to work as a geophysicist, now that her children are practically grown. She is slowly made aware of her power throughout the book.

Nigerian Somadina is early 20’s, also a married woman, but who is more aware of her gift, has always known and been known for her mind-reading abilities (but this is not considered a big thing in her Igbo culture).

Plot:

Lola has always been good at finding oil, and winning the bids to get her company to get drilling rights. So far, so normal. She occasionally, however, has niggles about her sister’s marriage, and uneasy feelings about certain people & situations, but nothing concrete she can pinpoint.

Somadina’s younger sister Nwanyi has been given in marriage to a complete stranger, from outside their tribe and village. Her father is delighted with the unexpectedly high bride price, and he had never really acknowledged Nwanyi’s existence until then. Somadina becomes extremely uneasy when Nwanyi’s telephone calls stop coming, and realises her sister is in deep trouble, if not mortal danger.

Somadina’s power is such that it connects with Lola, and through time and the intervention of the X0 “organisation”, Lola becomes convinced she is not going crazy, the two mentally link and begin forming bonds.

Minor characters include that of Nwanyi’s husband Djimon, who is a vile animal, degrading and debasing Nwanyi in order to break her spirit, and make her amenable to what his ultimate intention is for her. Lola’s husband is a quiet, self-effacing guy, as is Somadina’s, but there was no real development of them, or their children (subject of future books!).

Finally meeting, and working together, the two embark on a series of journeys and meetings that get really exciting, especially as it peaks near the end.

What I Liked:

Aspects of Nigerian culture also gets well explained, along with interesting information around the socio-political history of this young nation. The author has clearly put a lot of effort into her research.

The concept of and moral questions around telepathy was interesting, and how it is described as a power than can only suggest rather than influence.

What I didn’t like:

Very slow build-up, with one of the characters being undecided for longer than was necessary, I thought.

The FAQ’s around telepathy and the science etc. didn’t really interest me, as much as the discussions about it between the characters.

There would absolutely have to be mind-reading, in order for some of the plot twists and character-assists to happen, and some of it was a little too James Bond-ish.

Overall:

I liked this book. It was an entertaining read, and I would recommend it as a good holiday read. It is definitely not for kids (anyone under 16, in my opinion) due to the graphic nature and implications of some of the scenes. I think the scenes had to be there, to get a sense of the trouble Nwanyi was in, however.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to the author from whom I received a free copy of this book, in return for an objective review.

Book description

The ancient group x0 hides in the shadows until a young Nigerian beauty forces them to emerge. Thinking that her telepathic abilities are perfectly normal, this Igbo woman draws upon her powers to seek an ally to rescue her captive sister. Unfortunately, the telepath she finds is cranky Texan lady who doesn’t believe in nonsense and who insists that the disturbing phenomenon in her own mind isn’t there.

Realizing that her sister has become a strategic pawn in a dangerous game of international politics, she vows to do anything to get the attention of this uncooperative fellow psychic. As the women struggle with each other, common links begin to forge these two radically different women together in ways that even x0 does not understand. They could intervene, but should they?

About the author

Sherrie Roth grew up in Western Kansas thinking that there was no place in the universe more fascinating than outer space. After her mother vetoed astronaut as a career ambition, she went on to study journalism and physics in hopes of becoming a science writer.
She published her first science fiction short story in 1979 and then waited a lot of tables while she looked for inspiration for the next story. When it finally came, it declared to her that it had to be a whole book, nothing less. One night, while digesting this disturbing piece of news, she drank way too many shots of ouzo with her boyfriend. She woke up thirty-one years later demanding to know what was going on.
The boyfriend, who she had apparently long since married, asked her to calm down and explained that in a fit of practicality she had gone back to school and gotten a degree in geophysics and had spent the last 28 years interpreting seismic data in the oil industry. The good news, according to Mr. Cronin, was that she had found it at least mildly entertaining and ridiculously well-paying The bad news was that the two of them had still managed to spend almost all of the money.
Apparently she was now Mrs. Cronin, and the further good news was that they had produced three wonderful children whom they loved dearly, even though to be honest that is where a lot of the money had gone. Even better news was that Mr. Cronin turned out to be a warm-hearted, encouraging sort who was happy to see her awake and ready to write. “It’s about time,” were his exact words.
Sherrie Cronin discovered that over the ensuing decades Sally Ride had already managed to become the first woman in space and apparently had done a fine job of it. No one, however, had written the book that had been in Sherrie’s head for decades. The only problem was, the book informed her sternly that it had now grown into a six book series. Sherrie decided that she better start writing it before it got any longer. She’s been wide awake ever since, and writing away.

Sherrie Cronin

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #SciFi Intraterrestrial by @NicholasConley1

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here http://ebookwormssite.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading Intraterrestrial by Nicholas Conley

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This book takes the reader on an interesting journey, based as it is on an intriguing premise.

It centres around 13-year-old Adam Helios , an adopted kid of Indian parentage, growing up in the US. The backstory leading up to the book is that he is the new kid in school, he is a tech geek, low on self-esteem and with confidence issues, his Indian heritage and lack of knowledge around his biological parents is problematic for him, and is being bullied physically and verbally by Joe Sanderson. He’s actually a nice kid, whose main interest is Space and his telescope, and fixing up bikes, and when he was younger “Jupiter Man”.

Oh – and he hears Voices, which he thinks come from the stars.

Adam eventually bites back, and batters holy hell out of said Joe, when Joe begins to harass Chandra, a girl Adam is beginning to like. Cue being brought to the office, where we encounter Adam’s adoptive parents. His mother is a termagant, and his dad the polar opposite.

They leave the office, and on the way home get involved in a car-crash that sets us on our way. His mother escapes without physical injury, but gains a new perspective on life as the book progresses, and she is faced with choices. His dad gets injured. Adam, however, ends up with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Adam “follows the light” while in a coma, and meets up with the owner of the Voice. He is entrusted with a high-risk, winner-takes-all mission to save the “spark’ of six aliens, while battling a powerful negative energy. At the same time, the aliens are actually saving him.

There are two main voyages of discovery, of Adam and separately but in parallel, his mother. Adam has an out-of-body experience journey, although he is trapped inside his skull. Camille, the mother, goes through a real metamorphosis of character. You find yourself rooting for these two, though at times the mother is a little too much, to the extent of being somewhat unbelievable/unacceptable in her approach to anyone outside her immediate family.

There is some Descartes-ian philosophy thrown in here too, and the medical scenarios seem to be plausible enough. The language may cause some parents to pause before giving it to kids, but for me it was perfectly acceptable for early teen 13 and on.

Overall, a four-star, because in spite of these limitations it IS a good read. Definitely one for the holiday bag, as it will entertain and amuse, as well as provoke a little thought about where do people with TBI go?

Book description

Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

About the author

Nicholas Conley is a novelist, world traveler, playwright, and coffee vigilante. His passion for storytelling began at an early age, prompted by a love of science fiction novels, comic books, and horror movies. His award-winning novel Pale Highway was influenced by his real life experience working with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home, and his work in healthcare also inspired his essays for Vox and The Huffington Post, as well as his radio play Something in the Nothing, which was performed live on WSCA 106.1 FM in 2016.

Nicholas Conley

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SciFi The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith @explainresearch

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here http://ebookwormssite.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith

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This book started with a bang, and the pace didn’t let up all the way through. This is a real sci-fi thriller book, emphasis on the sci. There is no Magic, no hi-tech cars becoming submarines or jet fighters, the only way time travels is either forward, or in parallel with the rest of the story. The sci is all about nanotechnology, something that most people (and definitely the readers of this genre) have heard about, and its application (happ-lication??) to enhancing the human life experience. It’s a believable base for a storyline, then you add in  the “if something seems too good to be true, then it usually is” plotline.

There is quite a cast of characters on show here, from the bad Corporate multi-millionaire who just wants more, to the giant Russian and his crony army who plays both ends against the middle (at least initially), the CIA and local police show up, China and its underground criminal scene, and a potentially damaging international crisis. The main character, freelance writer Brad Davis, is the quintessential good guy, dedicated family man struggling to pay the bills, but supported by a loving wife. They both have ex-Afghanistan military experience, which comes in useful later on!

Essentially, Brad gets a big break to write the memoir of the guy who brought nanotechnology to the masses, the technology being the eponymous Happy Chip. Through various meetings and encounters, he gets his journalistic 6th sense telling him something is “off”, he does some initial sleuthing, and the game in on!

The pace of the book is fast, the read enjoyable, even though I found the characterisation a bit too predictable, and some things just seemed to happen/turn up at just the right time. However, it is fiction of course so its allowed.

It is an entertaining read about something that could happen in the near-future, it is completely escapist, definitely movie-material, and you can easily see Meredith aiming to become the Dan Brown of the genre.

Overall, a three-star, for while the premise is good, the writing fluid, for me it is not a riveting, stay-up-all-night-to-finish read, which draws me to this genre. Its an enjoyable piece of holiday escapism.

Book description

You feel ecstatic! Until you kill yourself.

The Happy Chip is the latest nanoengineering wonder from the high-flying tech company, NeoHappy, Inc.

Hundreds of millions of people have had the revolutionary chip injected into their bodies to monitor their hormonal happiness and guide them to life choices, from foods to sex partners.

Given the nanochip’s stunning success, struggling science writer Brad Davis is thrilled when he is hired to co-author the biography of its inventor, billionaire tech genius Marty Fallon.

That is, until Davis learns that rogue company scientists are secretly testing horrifying new control chips with “side effects”—suicidal depression, uncontrollable lust, murderous rage, remote-controlled death, and ultimately, global subjugation.

His discovery threatens not only his life, but that of his wife Annie and their children. Only with the help of Russian master hacker Gregor Kalinsky and his gang can they hope to survive the perilous adventure that takes them from Boston to Beijing.

The Happy Chip, an edge-of-your-seat thriller, spins a cautionary tale of unchecked nanotechnology spawning insidious devices that could enslave us. It dramatically portrays how we must control our “nanofuture” before it’s too late.

About the author

Dennis Meredith brings to his novels an expertise in science from his career as a science communicator at some of the country’s leading research universities, including MIT, Caltech, Cornell, Duke and the University of Wisconsin. He has worked with science journalists at all the nation’s major newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV networks and has written well over a thousand news releases and magazine articles on science and engineering over his career.

Dennis Meredith

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