Book Review – ‘Chilling Effect’ (#1 Chilling Effect) by Valarie Valdes

If Hans Solo was a swearing Hispanic Woman aboard the Firefly…

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 448

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.

To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down.

Valerie Valdes has an innate ability to craft tone and ambience with her writing, she can also create amazing action scenes. I was truly glued to the page with those aspects of her story.  I would have liked to see the characters fleshed out a bit more, they weren’t flat, but I didn’t feel an emotional connection to them, though she did map out their motivations really well.

There were so many aliens mentioned in this book (yay for alien rep) I had difficulty keeping them all straight, and to add to that, some of them barely got a description… it was a bit of a messy whirlwind around this aspect, and I would have loved to see her take her time and introduce us to the species properly – or at least have an illustration plate somewhere in the book with an artist’s rendering of the alien species for reference.

The tone of the book and the alien descriptions gave me more of a M.I.B. vibe

We get many plot points that are introduced in the first few chapters –the psychic cats, the Proarkhe technology, the rescue of her kidnapped sister, the hindrance of entitled sex pest Glorious Apotheosis, the mention of a unfortunate past incident (Garilia), and a nefarious mafia style organisation ‘The Fridge’ which our Captain Eva is determined to overthrow… none of these plot points is resolved in ‘Chilling Effect,’ well one is, but being completely circumvented and made completely mute. So the story structure itself was a complete shemozzle. Yes, ‘Chilling Effect’ is a highly entertaining read, one a thoroughly enjoyed, but it did not really go anywhere. It was like an intergalactic road trip with side adventures and hijinks, but the book ends before the protagonist reaches their destination.

Valerie Valdes writing is the only thing that redeemed this novel in my eyes.

A slight annoyance for me though, there is quite a lot of language – but it is part of our rough around the edges Captain. We also get a lot of Spanish… which I had to constantly use Google translate to see what I was missing… with varied success. This fact pulled me from the narrative and set up a language barrier. Granted some to the translated phrases are hilarious, and I now can swear like a sailor in Spanish, but the last thing I want to do when reading a book is to be constantly translating parts and slowing the pace and shattering the illusion. I love the representation of the culture (and language,) but maybe if there were an * and a translation at the bottom of the page, or at least an appendix with all the phrases translated at the back of the book, it would have been a more accessible read. But in its current form, the text proved a hindrance that outweighed my delight at the representation.

Captain Eva is a swearing Hispanic woman that takes no crap from anyone. Think Hans Solo from Star Wars – sassy and is not opposed to breaking the rules. The presence of the psychic cats softens her a little, and with how she relates to aliens (even on an intimate level) I’d describe here as pansexual.

The pacing was surprisingly good considering the plot was meandering, and that science fiction is prone to info-dumping. We literally go from one action scene to the next, or a comedy scene without lengthy transition scenes; Valdes has a fantastic ability to create flow and expert transitions.

The Proarkle Tech was not explored enough, even if this is an over-arching plotline for the series; so too for the psychic cats, The Fridge, and well, Glorious. The latter just seemed to be a comedic punchline in the end, I don’t know why this especially wasn’t brought to some conclusion in ‘Chilling Effect.’ It was literally left hanging in the air. I think if we had gotten a more solid story structure, some of the introduced elements resolved, I would have rated this much higher. I feel I’m being generous, though I feel Valdes writing style and comedic timing were right up there with the best of them. This is a soft recommendation from me because it feels incomplete, but was so much fun to read.

Overall feeling: Fun and funny but a little frustrating.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

The type of diverse novel I’ve been longing to read. No hate. Just meetcute.

What If It's Us Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 437

From Goodreads:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

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This was such an adorable story. Arthur and Ben are deliciously, awkwardly cute. A realistic things-don’t-always-go-right sort of thing.

What if it’s us’ is everything I expected it to be. Well written characters, a meet cute oozing innocence, awkwardness and angst. I may have rated it higher, but in comparison to ‘Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda’ this didn’t hit me as hard… or have as much comedy. So it just missed out on a perfect score. But that is not to say that is any less of a captivating read.

Four hundred pages and still ‘What if it’s us’ flew by. I was always eager to see where the next chapter would take me. The alternating perspectives between Arthur and Ben lead off on two different storylines that happened to intertwine more and more as the novel progressed without rehashing information as we head-jumped into each narrative. I will say that the writing style did not differ too greatly between each perspective – if it weren’t for chapter titles and references I would have difficulty discerning whose voice was whose. I’d love to have seen some idiosyncrasies, habits, common word usage and tone separate the two perspectives a little more.

What If It's Us Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Arthur, the shorter college-bound nerd discovering his first love made me smile with his uncertainty in everything but love. His values in family and friendship. I think this is the first story where there is no bitchiness or bullying, so a surprisingly fun rom-com.

It felt like Ben had the biggest journey in this contemporary; discovering things about himself through introspection, friends, and of course, Arthur. He felt more like the stoic introvert that finally comes out of his shell.

It’s all about coming of age…

All of the secondary characters had their own stuff going on too: getting together, breaking up, fighting, and supporting each other. I really loved this aspect of ‘What if it’s us’ and really fleshed out the narrative.

It ends on the same note of the title as a question – like a true contemporary. One of hope that left me satisfied and hopeful myself.

The pacing is fairly steady. It’s not a fast read, but definitely does not feel like its dragging. The perfect timing for this type of genre.

Definitely recommend for lovers of stories of diversity, light romances, and New York City.

Overall feeling: A deliciously snuggy story

What If It's Us Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

What If It's Us Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.