Book Review – ‘The Galaxy and the Ground Within’ (#4 Wayfarers) by Becky Chambers

A gorgeous tale of embracing diversity that humans could take a note from.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 336

With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

The final instalment in the Wayfarers collection by Becky Chambers, ‘The Galaxy, and the Ground Within’ follows an all alien cast as they are isolated on a recreational way-station due to a wormhole glitch. It’s a clash of culture and politics that really shines a light on perspective and identity. It creates an atmosphere that discusses the debate on the pronoun issue popular in today’s society and how accommodating someone’s differences is about building community, friendship, and trust because exclusionary habits only lead to war and stagnant progress of society.

The pacing is quite slow because this is not a narrative about reaching a certain goal; it’s about relating to others – alien others – and to the self. It is a great exploration in identity and the core values that any individual faces regardless of race, culture, and politics. It is providing a poignant observation on today’s society around gender identity and social constructs. Because we are dealing with alien races and not human beings it really drives to the heart of the issues without the messy homo sapien culture getting in the way.

The plot is very simple but ‘The Galaxy, and the Ground Within’ is not about plot, and it is about the individuals within. We meet Pei again; who was the love interest of one of the crew of the Wayfarer from the debut in this series ‘A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ along with many of the other species of alien we have encountered throughout the novels. We get more background into their stories, origins, and culture.

I love the perspectives and the issues discussed in this novel, but the pacing did feel a little slow – but I’ve found that with all of these novels – a lot of care an attention has been given to the characters their motivations and their interacting identities. It just highlights that my personal preference tends towards a faster paced story. But ‘The Galaxy, and the Ground Within’ is atmospheric. Becky Chambers expertly builds worlds (and cultures) so that the way-station is practically a character in of itself. There is also that intangible element she crafts of community and the hope that different individuals have to connect and interact. Living in a rural environment, this concept translates because we are so isolated you really have to relate to and rely on the kindness of your neighbours at times. It forces you to forge relationships.

I think this last book in the series has surprised me the most and been the heaviest to impact me personally – just in my approach to preconceived ideas identity gender and sexuality. If our society was more a blend of alien species rather than a mish-mash of races, religion, and identities, maybe our attitudes would change.

Another strong recommendation from me. A fantastic blend of science fiction and character driven narrative.

Overall feeling: Beautifully crafted

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘To Be Taught If Fortunate’ (#3.5 Wayfarers) by Becky Chambers

Challenging the concept that your identity is your body.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 153

A future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves.

Ariadne is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does.

Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.

When I spied this novella and saw the cover I was so excited for some more space exploration, some more aliens, and what the concept of adapting the human body for space travel meant.

The science side of this is fantastic, I’m a huge science geek and have a BA in Marine Biology, so all the talk of classification, biology, ecology and geology fascinated me. As too did the discussion on somaforming – the enforced adaptations to the human body to cope with space travel and different types of environments encountered on exoplanets. Like I said: Nerd alert!

But there wasn’t much else to this story – it was a collection of visited planets, a cast of four astronauts interacting with each other, all in the collected quest of exploration and scientific discovery. There is an underlying theme of why we explore space… is it for the good of the human race? For curiosity? And if a space mission is brought together by the might of many, whose decision is it to change the parameters of the mission if something went awry? I loved the exploration of these questions, but found myself wanting more: There was no character arcs, the plot was relatively simple. It was more about excitement of exploration than of tension between characters.

I think some readers may find this novella a bit dry, because it was less about the characters and more about the mission. It’s hard to say, because novellas face different rules and structure than novels… I like the journey, the facing of unsurmountable odds, the characters growing and changing from their experiences… you can’t really fit a lot of that into a novella. This shorter type of prose is usually to explore a question or feeling or unpack a scene. And while the content of ‘To be Taught if Fortunate’ did what it was supposed to do, I felt like there was something missing to really drive that tone or underlying theme home. It felt like it ended abruptly, and I kind of went… huh?

In hindsight I can see what Becky Chambers was doing, but in the moment I felt a little like the story was left unfinished. I’m not sure if fans of the Wayfarers series will really get this read. It’s more for hard core sci-fi fans and die-hard stans of the series. It was short, intelligent, and inspirational.

Overall feeling: Just a taste that left me wanting more…

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Record of a Spaceborn Few’ (#3 Wayfarers) by Becky Chambers

A futuristic look at the legacy of the human race.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 358

From the ground, we stand. From our ship, we live. By the stars, we hope.

Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.

Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.

Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.

Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.

When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:

What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?

Becky Chambers returns to the Wayfarers franchise with a tale of the last remnants of the human race’s cultural centre break down… but are we getting erased from history or merely evolving into a different form in a galactic perspective? I executed a little fangirly dance at reading the blurb and could not wait to start reading…

This has got to be the most underwhelming tale of the series for me. It still has all those hallmarks that we expect from a Becky Chambers novel: science fiction, asks the hard questions about identity, purpose, what it means to be human; which are great themes to explore in science fiction, but there wasn’t the tension and action that I’ve experienced in the other novels. ‘Record of a Spaceborn Few’ is a quiet novel that takes place over a long period of time examining the last strong hold of humanity after they abandoned a failing Earth in search of life in the stars.

I kept putting this book down because it was difficult to get dragged into the story because with each chapter we followed a different POV. Tessa, Isabel, Eyas, Kip, Sawyer, and alien Ghuh’loloan; each have short chapters, maybe a page or two, so it was hard to get established with one character before jumping to another. It took me two-thirds of the way through the book before I found any of it somewhat interesting. This felt like a long-winded observation of the human condition. I wish there was some action, adventure, or comedy intertwined through the plot to lift the tone. When you’re discussing mortality, and the dying out of the human race and judging whether or not it’s relevant anymore, it’s quite the confronting and depressing topic. I was literally squirming in my seat because I was a little bored, a little alarmed, and a little let down.

In the previous novels set in this universe the characters really drive the story forward, and we explore their alien-ness, there impressions of humans, and look as concepts like identity, sexuality, gender, community, family, in such a pleasant way that you get drawn into the story and really get invested in the characters journey – I did not get such a strong connection like that in ‘Record of a Spaceborn Few.’

Becky Chambers has such a lovely writing style, but it didn’t shine for me given the difficulty I was having with the story and pacing. Usually I devour her books, and revel in their unique perspectives. I wasn’t even able to predict much of what was to unfold, because I was unclear of what was happening, what direction the story was going. I feel this story is more philosophical and existential than the others set in the same universe. Which some readers may absolutely love, but it’s not to my reading tastes.

I’m on the fence about recommending this one, it’s a bit of a departure in tone from her previous novels, but then again, she has a strong fan base, and they may appreciate her take on the big questions of humanity’s future in the universe…

Overall feeling: eeeehh…

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Starfall’ (#2 Starflight) by Melissa Landers

Princesses, Pirates, Poison, and Patriarchy!

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 368

When Princess Cassia Rose fled her home world of Eturia to escape an arranged marriage, she had no idea her sudden departure would spark a war. Now after two years hiding as a ship hand, she is finally returning to her beloved home, but not in the way she imagined. Shackled by bounty hunters, she is violently dragged back to account for her crimes. Her only solace is that the Banshee crew managed to evade capture, including Kane Arric, her best friend…with occasional benefits.

Meanwhile, Kane and the rest of the crew of the Banshee plan a desperate rescue mission. But when they arrive on Eturia, Cassia isn’t exactly in need of heroics—she’s claimed her birthright as Eturia’s queen, but has inherited a war-torn planet simmering with rebellion. Cassia must make alliances, and Kane, the bastard son of a merchant, isn’t a choice that will earn her any friends. Kane knows he will never find someone to replace Cassia—and is certain she returns his feelings—but how can he throw away his own promising future waiting on a queen?

When the outer realm is threatened by the dangerous Zhang mafia, Cassia, Kane and the rest of the Banshee crew uncover a horrifying conspiracy that endangers the entire universe. In the face of unspeakable evil, Cassia must confront her own family’s complicated legacy on Eturia and decide once and for all who her real family is.

A space opera with princesses and pirates, with a group of rabble-rousing rebels, kidnappings, poisoning, fight clubs, and factions vying for control over a part of the galaxy, ‘Starfall’ has elements of Star Wars and Firefly jumbled in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants space adventure. In this instalment we follow another pair of the Banshee crew: Cassia and Kane told in alternating perspectives.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as ‘Starflight,’ there seemed to be a lot of flapping about in the middle – going here and there – trying to sleuth out the political machinations and uncover the culprit poisoning the folks on the planet Eturia. As Cassia is the Princess of the planet, and has a claim to rule, her compassion for the people lead the crew of the Banshee looking for a cure.

I feel ‘Starfall’ could have been half its length with much of the middle part happening off-page to keep the pace going and not get bogged down in the minutiae. My eyes glazed over a number of times, this sequel really lacked the pace and punch of ‘Starflight.’

Where the debut had roadblocks thrown at our protagonists nearly every other chapter, ‘Starfall’ sees either of our protagonists kidnapped or transported to another planet in an almost comedic pass-the-parcel across the solar system. The tone of this novel also feel a bit more mature as we deal with themes of drug addiction, murder, violence, and casual sexual intimacy.

I don’t think I was as invested in the Cassia/Kane pairing. There wasn’t the emotional intensity I enjoy in a romance. Plus, they spent just about all of the novel apart or acting as friends with benefits. It didn’t really pull on my heartstrings.

The pirate angle was so fun to read, but it felt like this book got a bit messy with so many plot devices/story elements introduced in addition to the characters jumping from place to place. Like we spend a lot of time world-building and then the characters go somewhere else… felt like a lot of wasted exposition. That was the crux of what slowed the pace in this story. We get a precedent set in ‘Starflight’ of action and dastardly deeds; and then here we get planet-hopping and political manoeuvrings. I wasn’t hooked as much.

The characters are fun and we get a little more on Solara and Doran from the first book – see them in their lovey-dovey bliss. And the found family of the Banshee remains strong.

I won’t say that ‘Starfall’ is all that predictable, I was kept guessing much of the time: but then again, I wasn’t as engaged in the story. You can’t read ‘Starfall’ without reading ‘Starflight’ because there is too many plot points established in the debut so this novel is more for die-hard fans of the first book in the series. Otherwise I would say you could give this one a miss. It didn’t add a lot to the universe.

Overall feeling: So much going on…

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Starflight’ (#1 Starflight) by Melissa Landers

‘Firefly’ meets ‘Overboard’ in this found family romp across space.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 362

Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she’s willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe…

Starflight’ gripped me from the start to the finish. Brilliant pacing. There was always a twist, and obstacle to overcome for our protagonist Solara ‘Lara’ a convicted criminal trying to get to the outer rims where she can start a new life for herself away from ridicule and judgement.

Told entirely from Solara’s perspective ‘Starflight’ sees a hate to love relationship grow with an old entitled classmate Doran. He takes pompous and stuck-up to new heights. But when Doran threatens to maroon Solara she injects him with a serum that causes him to lose his memory. With security breathing down her neck she is forced to board another ship pretending to be someone else and Doran as her indentured slave. Little did she know that would start a chain of events that would bring even more trouble.

Starflight’ was a delightful read – literally everything gets thrown at the crew of the spaceship ‘Banshee’ which Solara thought to be her ticket out of a tight spot. This story has the perfect balance of plot, pacing, and character development.

I would’ve liked to see the crew of ‘Banshee’ take a more prominent role in the story – it felt like their backstories were more for plot points (even though the reveals were magic.) That and with so many obstacles for our protagonist to overcome, at times with so much thrown at her, I felt the hand of the author having fun dramatizing the challenges. This really feels like a kids action adventure movie set in space. With that in mind, for the tone is solidly in the YA bracket, there are some adult themes like mention of sexual relationships, and some of the violence that pops up could be a little confronting or graphic for some… but it was also comical in parts and helped raise the stakes in others. I think it is more a case of judging the reading level/maturity of the reader in tackling these themes.

This book gave me a lot of surprises kept me engaged throughout and had endearing characters. Plus I’m a sucker for enemies to lovers and found family tropes. Melissa Landers is also great with her world building but I would have liked to get a touch more maturity in the tone of the narrative given the themes and topics tackled in ‘Starflight.’

Definitely a strong recommendation from me – and there’s a sequel! ‘Starfall’ so keep an eye out for a review coming soon.

Overall feeling: Out of this world!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘A Complicated Love Story Set in Space’ by Shaun David Hutchinson

A space romance that didn’t sell the romance.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBT, Romance

No. of pages: 450

When Noa closes his eyes on Earth and wakes up on a spaceship called Qriosity just as it’s about to explode, he’s pretty sure things can’t get much weirder.

Boy is he wrong.

Trapped aboard Qriosity are also DJ and Jenny, neither of whom remember how they got onboard the ship. Together, the three face all the dangers of space, along with murder, aliens, a school dance, and one really, really bad day. But none of this can prepare Noa for the biggest challenge—falling in love. And as Noa’s feelings for DJ deepen, he has to contend not just with the challenges of the present, but also with his memories of the past.

However, nothing is what it seems on Qriosity, and the truth will upend all of their lives forever.

Love is complicated enough without also trying to stay alive.

This is a cute sci-fi gay romance that was full of adventure and strange reveals.

I love Shaun David Hutchinson’s writing and sense of humour, and that shone through in ‘A Complicated Love Story Set in Space.’ However, I was expecting a lavishly angsty relationship with compelling characters and it felt like ‘A Complicated Love Story Set in Space’ just missed the mark. I didn’t get emotionally invested in the story of our two protagonists. It was interesting, sure, but I never got that heart-squeeze when I thought of them. 

The pacing felt really slow, especially in the first half which was frustrating given the mystery that we need to untangle about how they got there and what happened to their memories… it took a long time to get to the pay-off and the characters seemed to accept their predicament too easily, instead of being consumed with finding answers like anyone else would be.

There was a level of organic development that was missing from Noa and DJs relationship for me.

It felt a little all over the place. I wasn’t sold on the world either. It was a fun concept, but didn’t feel like it was fully developed or explored… like a pilot episode. A long pilot episode.

There is a lot of darkness in ‘A Complicated Love Story Set in Space’ that brought the tone down. And the author wallows in it. It was uncomfortable to read at times, where I skimmed forward to get to the good stuff. Like c’mon already I know you’re depressed but do we need chapter upon chapter of it.  The ending kind of negates all that as well, so I felt it was kind of pointless. The more interesting questions come in the climactic twist ending, but we don’t get to explore them, they are simply presented and then the story ends.

Noa felt whiny and obstinate, mostly selfish, so I didn’t like him much… and I couldn’t see motivation for him and DJ to get together to be honest… it all felt a bit contrived. I don’t know if it was on purpose, or not…

I love the space adventure stuff, could take or leave the romance, the mental illness was great rep, but handled badly. 

This read more like a second draft – it needed tightening for the pace and more development on the romance element… so it was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed it, but not something I’d enthusiastically recommend. An enjoyable read but did not blast me off into outer space.

Overall feeling: *pouts bottom lip*

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Salvation’ (#3 Sanctuary) by Caryn Lix

Another twist in the saga as a bunch of powered teens battle hungry aliens…

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 432

Fall down seven times, get up eight.

These are the words Kenzie has always lived by. The problem is, she’s fallen down too many times to count.

Kenzie and her friends have already escaped two vicious alien attacks—not to mention the corporate bounty hunters sent to capture them. They’re haunted by the friends they’ve lost and the hard choices they’ve had to make in this war they never asked for.

And now, thanks to superpowers she received from the very aliens she’s fighting, Kenzie has stranded everyone on a strange planet with no way off. She just wanted a safe place from the monstrous creatures terrorizing her world, but this new planet has dangers of its own, and Kenzie will have to uncover its secrets if she has any hope of ever making it home again.

Sacrifice is nothing new for Kenzie. She’ll do anything—anything—to destroy the aliens that killed both of her parents. But how can Kenzie save Earth if she can’t even save the people she loves?

Salvation’ is a wonderful and unexpected twist on the Sanctuary trilogy. This concluding novel really captured my imagination but managed to stay grounded in reality as protagonists have to face consequences of their actions.

We see more loss in ‘Salvation’ and I’m on the fence over how this is dealt with… but I guess for a YA novel, and needing to move the plot forward, the author did justice for the characters and story, despite the gruelling situations.

I don’t feel like we got much more character development in ‘Salvation’ – the characters have already been put through the ringer. Here, it is more about strengthening their resolve in the face of desperation and insurmountable odds.

I also feel, for the first time, the aliens were finally grounded in the narrative, their backstory is revealed and no longer felt like a two-dimensional, single-minded antagonist.

There is still a juvenile tone to the narrative – as that is the target market for this novel, but I would have liked a more mature and calculated tone to elevate the story and characters. I don’t think it would have isolated the target market, making them feel like intelligent readers.

The pacing is fairly steady and really ramps up in the last quarter of the novel, and had me eagerly flipping through the pages. Though in having said that, I did feel there was a long build up to the conclusion. This is only because we had to go through a whole lot of world building of yet another new environment we find our protagonists in. But it was a fun mystery to unravel… I certainly did not guess it.

In the beginning novels we see a lot of squabbling between the protagonists, but in ‘Salvation’ it is less so because they are a lone group of survivors, reliant on each other to get out of their situation alive. And while Lix does a great job at keeping the clashing personalities strong in the narrative, I felt a need for the characters to have different motivations to create tension, rather than grating personalities. But Lix has done a stellar job in crafting distinct characters that you love to hate, and love to love.

It was a great conclusion to the series, but I was left wanting a little more of resonance on that final paragraph to get a hint at the protagonists’ future… just a minor tweak to really fuel my imagination.

Certainly a great number of surprises and reveals that delighted me. I think it was more tone that stopped me from truly being immersed in the narrative.

Salvation’ has definitely returned to the standard and promise of ‘Sanctuary,’ where ‘Containment’ suffered a little of that middle-book-syndrome. However, a strong finish.

Overall feeling: Surprising sci-fi!

© 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 – ‘Blastaway’ by Melissa Landers

The perfect light-hearted, family-friendly space adventure.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 304

Kyler Centaurus isn’t your typical runaway. All he wanted was a quick trip to the legendary Fasti Sun Festival. Who wouldn’t want to see new stars being born? Um, try Kyler’s entire family. They couldn’t care less about mind-blowing wonders of science.

When an accidental launch sequence ends with Kyler hurtling through space on the family cruiser, the thrill of freedom is cut short by two space pirates determined to steal his ship. Not happening!

Luckily, Kyler bumps into Fig, a savvy young Wanderer who makes a living by blowing up asteroids. She could really use a ride to Earth and Kyler could really use a hand with the pirates.

But when Kyler learns the truth about Fig’s mission, the two must put aside their differences long enough to stop the threat of astronomical proportions racing towards Earth?

I enjoyed this book so much, it was literally like watching a Disney movie (no wonder Disney Hyperion published this.) Great family friendly hijinks. ‘Blastaway’ is every kid’s fantasy of running away from home on a spaceship with a robot sidekick to boot. There were elements of Home-Alone-in-space, and the robots is reminiscent of ‘Short Circuit,’ ‘Wall-E,’ and the two robots from ‘The Black HoleV.I.N.CENT and B.O.B.

We face pirates sans ‘Home Alone,’ and rescue planet Earth from a runaway star. There was adventure and action, and a lot of hilarity. If this ever gets the film treatment I’m definitely buying a ticket. It managed to capture the child hidden inside me, entertain me with jokes, and have enough sci-fi elements for me not to get bored. ‘Blastaway’ has a whip-cracking pace and I read the entire book in one sitting. My other half kept looking at me because I was giggling frequently.

The narrative is told from two different perspectives, having a number of chapters each. Kyler Centaurus is a privileged Earth boy who inadvertently steals his parents spaceship after a family tussle in which he comes off second best, after the fact he decides he may as well make the most of it since he is going to get punished anyway, and heads off to see the spectacular display of his favourite scientist create an artificial sun. He feels misunderstood and underappreciated, and the fact his brothers are always picking on him – and that it took nearly a day before his family realised he was gone – proves the point.

Figerella ‘Fig’ Jammeslot is an orphan runaway, grown up on ships and satellites after her parents were killed, snatching jobs where she can as a sharpshooter to destroy asteroids. She is the typical streetwise ruffian always on the take. She sees Kyler as an easy mark, and their destinies become intertwined.

For a light-hearted space romp we see both characters grow and develop, their motivations change, and real, heart-felt ‘ah-ha’ moments. I even developed an emotional connection to the robot Cabe.

I’d like to say I predicted the outcome of this novel, but I didn’t really. I misread the relationships (maybe just like the author wanted me too?) and was too wrapped up in the fun of it all to get out my detectives monocle and start looking for clues. Melissa Landers has a young breezy tone throughout the novel that completely engages the reader. I’ve enjoyed much of her back catalogue, so I knew I would like this one, but ‘Blastaway’ really surprised me. I love it. In fact if ever I’m in a down mood, I may just pick this up again for a re-read.

The plot is actually pretty amazing. It wasn’t over-simplified considering the target demographic, but not too complicated to leave it unrelatable to YA readers. I found depth and complexity in both plot and character for ‘Blastaway.’ I was already a fan of Melissa Landers, but now I stan her real hard.

I realise this novel may not be for all, but if you like a fun light read, something that feels like a good Disney movie, (and take note this is targeted towards tweens and teens) than I whole-heartedly recommend ‘Blastaway.’

Overall feeling: Captured my childish imagination.

© 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 – ‘Containment’ (#2 Sanctuary) by Caryn Lix

A middle book slump for me…

Containment (#2 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 496

goodreads banner by Casey Carlisle

They may have escaped Sanctuary, but Kenzie and her friends are far from safe.

Ex-Omnistellar prison guard Kenzie and her superpowered friends barely made it off Sanctuary alive. Now they’re stuck in a stolen alien ship with nowhere to go and no one to help them. Kenzie is desperate for a plan, but she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Everyone has their own dark secrets: Omnistellar, her parents, even Cage. Worse still, she’s haunted by memories of the aliens who nearly tore her to shreds—and forced her to accidentally kill one of the Sanctuary prisoners, Matt.

When Kenzie intercepts a radio communication suggesting that more aliens are on their way, she knows there’s only one choice: They must turn themselves in to Omnistellar and destroy the ship before the aliens follow the signal straight to them. Because if the monstrous creatures who attacked Sanctuary reach Earth, then it’s game over for humanity.

What Kenzie doesn’t know is that the aliens aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Omnistellar has put a bounty on Kenzie’s head—and the question is whether the aliens or Omnistellar get to her first.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

I was so eager to continue with the story of Kenzie and the gang, their fight for survival against greedy corporation Omnistellar, and an alien threat. ‘Containment’ brought all of that in spectacular fashion, but there were a few issues I had that which disappointed me. This novel was laboriously slow. Where was that pacing from ‘Sanctuary?’ We got a few great action scenes, but the rest of ‘Containment’ was bogged down in detail, internal lamenting, and repetition. The continual reiteration of the facts became boring, so too did the repeated use of certain descriptors… I feel like Caryn Lix’s editing team really let her down on this one. I even found a few grammatical errors. With 496 pages, this is a long YA, and it was made worse with the slow pace and juvenile attitudes popping up every now and then from the cast. I felt like a 2 year old kept saying ‘mine.’ The power struggles between the characters could have been dealt with in a better fashion so they weren’t so aggressive and immature to give the narrative a better flow.

Containment (#2 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere was also too much repetition from the plot of ‘Sanctuary.’ I know it was to give a symbolic twist to the story – a chance to change an outcome, but it read a lazy and trite. While I love the science fiction of it all, the scary aliens, the strange abilities the teens have, and Lix’s ability to write great action scenes, the soul of this story wanned in comparison to the debut. ‘Containment’ has really suffered from the middle book slump. Let’s hope it’s a slump and not a trend for a downward spiral.

Ultimately, ‘Containment’ wasn’t a terrible experience, it just felt really long. And I wanted something more original to happen within the plot – and I don’t know, the characters to grow up a bit after the experiences they have survived.

I love the action far more than the melodrama and the characters. The cast really shines under pressure and have to fight for survival, but when they are relating to each other, they revert into sullen teens that have me grating my teeth. So I fip-flopped from finding Kenzie and the gang from being annoying to heroic. I hope Caryn Lix can find a balance.

The theme of family (that is of their constructed family) was a pleasure to read. Plus, I definitely felt the scare and anxiety of the hull-shredding aliens in the story. These great points along with some intriguing concepts introduced in ‘Containment’ have me really keen to see where they go in the next sequel ‘Salvation.

It felt very predictable. I only got one surprise from a plot twist at the end, but for the most part this felt like a mediocre read, and I am on the fence about recommending this one… I’d have to wait until reading ‘Salvation’ before doing so, because if it is just a middle book slump, then, I can get over it. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Overall feeling: I just wish it was better…

Containment (#2 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Containment (#2 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

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