More Indie Reviews (or Part III)

I have so many reviews to share, and I’m reading faster than I can get my reviews posted. Three more 5-star books, all different!

The Gemini Connection

by Teri Polen

Oh, what a fun read. Sci-fi fans will have a blast with this thriller, but readers who love human stories will thoroughly enjoy this book too. Simon and Evan are twins with a unique connection even though they are strikingly different. Simon is cerebral, a scientist and gentle soul. Evan is a jock with a temper and a painful chip on his shoulder—he’s never been able to live up to his parents’ expectations.

Despite their differences, the brothers are fiercely loyal to each other, and when Simon goes missing, Evan makes it his mission to find out what happened and bring him home. He’s a successful bender, capable of entering the dreams of clients to unblock their memories or fight their nightmares. Their connection and his talent lead the way.

The world-building is excellent, and though “bending” is a bit of a scientific stretch, Polen does a credible job making it feel plausible throughout the story. The pace moves along at a speedy clip, and there are plenty of tight spots and danger.

The story is told in the first-person point of view of both brothers. You might have guessed that I just loved the characters, particularly Evan and Simon. Their relationship wasn’t without its bumps and bruises, but the steadfast loyalty they felt toward each other had me rooting for them from the start. Secondary characters were richly drawn and three-dimensional, as were peripheral players. A great read that I highly recommend.

Global Amazon Link

***

The Hat

by Craig Boyack

In this short read, Boyack has teamed up Lizzie, a young woman with two part-time jobs, and a talking hat that she stole/inherited from her grandmother’s estate. Yes, you heard that right—a talking hat. At first, she’s rather suspicious and freaked out by the hat, but when a friend’s newborn is stolen as part of a larger baby-napping ring, Lizzie and the hat set out to rescue the infants.

What ensues is pretty entertaining. The banter between Lizzie and the hat is exceptionally witty, particularly as the hat navigates advances in technology (it’s been in a box for a long time). The duo reminded me of wise-cracking detective team with snappy dialog and lots of attitude on both sides.

This book can be polished off in a couple of hours and is well worth the time. Highly recommended.

Global Amazon Link

***

Amanda in Holland

by Darlene Foster

This book was quite a bit of fun. Foster combines a middle-grade fiction plot with a colorful tour of Holland, including its famous sites, snippets of history, and its wonderful flowers and food. I had the great fortune of visiting my grandparents in Holland when I was Amanda’s age, and her experiences in the book mirror my memories in great detail. It was a blast to traipse along beside Amanda and enjoy the country once again.

The main plot focuses on the recovery of a lost puppy, but secondary plots weave through the story, and all come together nicely at the end. There’s a bit of mystery and some danger to keep the tension up. There are also some very moving scenes when Amanda visits Anne Frank’s home and a war memorial dedicated to the Canadians who helped liberate Holland during WWII. A lovely book for young readers and absolutely perfect for readers who plan to travel the world.

Global Amazon Link

***

 

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Diana’s May Story: Defining Human

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

Defining Human

by D. Wallace Peach

“I don’t know why you keep that decrepit thing around.” Delia sipped her iced tea and glanced out the window of her friend’s home. On the manicured lawn, Sherri’s cyborg pushed their children on side-by-side swings, a human arm heaving on one small back while a mechanical arm pressed on the other.

“His name is Carter, and he’s part of the family.” Sherri angled her head for a view of their laughing boys. Dainty sandwiches adorned a platter at her table’s center, and Delia nibbled though she wouldn’t feel hungry until noon. Sherri poured more tea. “I grew up with him, and he—”

“Saved your life.” Delia patted her friend’s hand in understanding, though honestly, she’d survive without hearing a repeat of the story.

The cyborg had pulled Sherri from a fire and sacrificed the flesh on half of his face and body. The repair costs for an archived model had been prohibitive, but rather than purchase updated technology, the family had elected to preserve the damaged thing. Out of gratefulness. As if it possessed human feelings. The mawkish sentimentality was disturbing, and the cyborg’s exposed gears hideous. “They’re wired to protect us, you know?”

“I know,” Sherri said. “But he’s generous with his time and kind-hearted, and he has a fun sense of humor. He’d do anything for us, and we love him.”

Delia rolled her eyes as she finished her tea.  Her internal clock struck noon, and she helped herself to another sandwich. Her friend’s affection for the machine irritated her, and as usual, any attempt at reason was an utter squandering of her time.

The cyborg ushered the breathless children in for lunch, and Delia was thankful for the distraction. Not long after the meal, she packed her dawdling son into their transport. “Home,” she instructed. The vehicle hummed into travel mode, and she reclined in her seat with an e-mag.

“I like Carter,” her son said while fiddling with his recliner’s buttons. “He plays with us, and he’s nice.”

“He’s a machine.”

“He acts like a human.”

“Well, he’s not. We are human, superior to him and all his kind.”

“What’s the difference?”

Delia huffed at the obvious. “Quiet now, I’m reading.”

The transport glided to their front door. Their arrival home was later than planned, but she’d anticipated the delay and programmed naptime for optimum flexibility. Why carry the child when his feet were perfectly capable of walking?

She escorted her son to his room, tucked him into bed, and plugged his link into his temple. After several software adjustments, she retreated to her suite and flung herself down on her bed. She needed to reconsider her relationship with Sherri’s family. Their beliefs were having a radical impact on her son, and his confusion about what defined a human being was troubling.

Stress had taken its toll, and Delia decided to nap as well.  She set the timer for forty-five minutes, chose a pleasant dream sequence, and inserted the interface into her port. Her eyes closed as the software began its upload.

**

Note: I’m on the road again, helping my parents. I won’t be able to respond to comments or return visits until the evenings. Please bear with me. ❤ 

May Speculative Fiction #Writingprompt

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

For visually challenged writers, this is an image of a man who is part human and part machine. Behind him are gears and wires as well as a hint of fire or electricity.

Yay! It’s that time again, finally. Thank you to everyone who responded to March’s prompt (we skipped April due to my travels). Now, we’re heading in a new direction once again!

Above is May’s image. If interested, you have until May 23rd to submit a response. Happy Writing!

Note: WP seems to be sketchy with pingbacks lately. Please take a moment to add your link to the comments below. Then I’ll be sure to get it. Thanks!

Here’s how it works:

On the first of every month, I’ll post a speculative fiction prompt from Pixabay. These images are attribution free so you can use them on your blog without worrying about copyright restrictions.

Throughout the month, in order of receipt, I’ll reblog as many of your prompt-inspired creations as I can. And on the last day of each month, I’ll share a complete round-up of ALL contributions with links to the original posts. Visiting the blogs of participants is a great way to meet other speculative fiction writers.

Post your response on your own blog and link back to this original post (not to WP Reader) with a pingback, so I can reblog your post as well as include you in the month-end round-up. If you’re unsure of how to create a pingback, Hugh has an excellent tutorial here. If you prefer, you can copy and paste your link into the comments of this post.

There are no word limits or style restrictions, but please keep it somewhat family friendly.

Above all, have fun.

Diana’s March poem: you left me behind

pixabay image from Natan Vance

you left me behind

by D. Wallace Peach

 

you left me behind

because I was born in the barrio

in a shack by flooded rivers

in the dusty winds of drought

didn’t speak your tongue

or worship your god

the one who bade you

love the children

 

I am the meek

you left behind

because I toiled in cane fields

watched the dawn ripple through fish nets

over dying turquoise waters

tended my father’s reindeer

on the tundra’s barren crust

I bear no papers to witness my learning

my worth in coins or accounts

my worth in belonging

as a human being

I am too young, too crooked, too old

too homeless, too hungry

the wrong color emblazoned across my face

the wrong size, gender, ethnicity

the wrong way to love

to be

 

you needed a stranger to blame

and I am left behind

one who might have cured the ill

housed the poor

fed the hungry

ended your wars

lit a planet

and saved

you

left me behind

 

Escape Velocity #Writingprompt

pixabay image by Natan Vance

Sci-fi writer Sheron McCartha shares her full story here. I hope you enjoy it.

Escape Velocity

By Sheron Wood McCartha

 

Quiet. So quiet.
The sound of her rasping breath filled the night as empty buildings loomed above on both sides, and a silent street stretched ahead. The only other noise was the thudding echo of her pounding feet on hard pavement as she ran as hard as she could.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
The sole sounds in a deserted city.
Her lungs burned. Her legs ached. She blinked watering eyes.
But she had to keep running.
Darkness surrounded her, making it hard to see ahead.
But she had to continue. She dared not stop.
Behind her the moon swelled, growing larger and larger in the night sky.
She didn’t want to turn around to look.
She couldn’t afford to turn around for even a brief glimpse.

 

For years, the moon had grown larger and larger in the overhead sky, causing ever increasing violent tidal swings. Now, the ground grumbled and shook under its tug every second of every minute, causing low-level cities to be evacuated as tidal surges wiped out people and places. Then higher altitudes were threatened. And higher. In other drier areas, the ground opened up, swallowing entire towns with one gulp.

 

Humanity peered upwards toward the stars for salvation. It would not be found here on this devastated Earth.
Sixty ships built, and fifty-nine already launched—the last now ready to leave the planet behind. Any minute now.
So, too, she would be left behind if she didn’t hurry.
In the distance, she saw the glow of light silhouetting the last ship and heard the faint roar of frantic voices.
Run. Run. Faster. Faster.
Mother had died in her arms, and she’d been glad to be there at her passing, but it may have been a fatal mistake to stay for her last goodbye. Nevertheless, she would never have forgiven herself if she hadn’t.
The com in her pocket vibrated. She pulled it out and took precious time to answer. “What!”
She couldn’t stop a second or even slow.
Not now.
She could see the dark bulk of the ship ahead of her. So close.
“Where are you?”
“Twenty minutes,” she panted. “Twenty minutes.”
“There’s a mob at the front hatch. You’ll have to go around the back to the emergency entrance and move the gantry over three feet to the left. I told the Captain you were a computer wizard, and he would need your skills. Don’t make me a liar. Hurry.”
The voice continued, but she turned it off. She didn’t need the distraction.
She couldn’t afford it.
Blood pulsed in her ears. Her legs ached. Her mouth felt parched from inhaling the smoky night air and puffing it out in hard short bursts.
Huff. Huff. Huff.
She arrived at the edge of the screaming mob, whose fists pounded vainly against impervious metal. Her feet did not slow a step. But, her heart hurt from hearing the desperation in their voices. Quickly, she circled to the back, stumbling in the effort.
She wanted to lie down. To collapse on the ground and never rise again.
But she couldn’t let Jazz down. Her best friend had saved her a seat.
Tugging the gantry to the left, she eyed the endless rungs above her.
Then she began to climb.
Her hands grew raw from the rough metal, and her arms ached as they reached for yet the next rung. Suddenly, she felt the engines stir beneath her hands and the ship began to shake. A hiss of steam vented below her.
The monster within awakened.
Heat licked her heels as engines ignited, and she hammered at the blurred words stenciled in front of her. Emergency Exit. She screamed, hoping to be heard above the increasing volume of noise. Suddenly, the hatch opened and a hand reached out to yank her in, then slammed shut.
Lying on the hard metal floor, she stared up into the frantic face of her friend as the ship rumbled and began to slowly lift. Tears from above splashed onto her cheeks and her lips. “You cut it awfully close.”
She nodded slightly. It was all she could manage. Lifted awkwardly into a chair, buckles snapped around her. The ship gathered velocity and leaped into the night sky with a roar.

 

She closed her eyes as the heavy hand of gravity slammed down on her.
The moon expanded in the night sky outside, dooming all those left behind, but the stars twinkled a promise as they beckoned the ship forward.

March Speculative Fiction Prompt

pixabay image by Natan Vance

For visually challenged writers, this is a silhouette of a young person walking in a street in a darkened and empty city. Overhead is a huge moon eclipsing the sun.

Thank you to everyone who responded to February’s prompt. I loved reading and sharing your stories, poems, and artwork. Now, heading in a new direction once again! Above is March’s image. If interested, you have until March 23rd to submit a response. Happy Writing!

Note: I haven’t been getting all the pingbacks from stories. Yikes! Please be sure to link to this post, not to WP Reader. If you’re unsure, just pop a link in the comments below. Thanks!

Here’s how it works:

On the first of every month, I’ll post a speculative fiction prompt from Pixabay. These images are attribution free so you can use them on your blog without worrying about copyright restrictions.

Throughout the month, in order of receipt, I’ll reblog as many of your prompt-inspired creations as I can. And on the last day of each month, I’ll share a complete round-up of all contributions with links to the original posts. Visiting the blogs of participants is a great way to meet other speculative fiction writers.

Post your response on your own blog and link back to this post with a pingback, so I can reblog your post as well as include you in the month-end round-up. There are no word limits or style restrictions, but please keep it somewhat family friendly.

I encourage all authors to stop in and reply to the kind readers who leave comments about your story. This is a lovely way to build connections.

If you’re unsure of how to create a pingback, Hugh has an excellent tutorial here. If you prefer, you can copy and paste your link into the comments of this post.

Above all, have fun.

February’s Speculative Fiction Prompt

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

For visually challenged writers, this is an image of an elephant in a snowstorm next to a little house that’s resting crookedly in a tree. A handful of white mice are on the roof of the house.

**

Thank you to everyone who responded to January’s prompt. There are marvelous imaginations out there, and I loved reading and sharing your stories, poems, and artwork. Now, for something a little different! Above is February’s image. If interested, you have until February 21st to submit a response. Happy Writing!

Here’s how it works:

On the first of every month, I’ll post a speculative fiction prompt from Pixabay. These images are attribution free so you can use them on your blog without worrying about copyright restrictions.

Throughout the month, in order of receipt, I’ll reblog as many of your prompt-inspired creations as I can. And on the last day of each month, I’ll share a complete round-up of all contributions with links to the original posts. Visiting the blogs of participants is a great way to meet other speculative fiction writers.

Post your response on your own blog and link back to this post with a pingback, so I can reblog your post as well as include you in the month-end round-up. There are no word limits or style restrictions, but please keep it somewhat family friendly.

If you’re unsure of how to create a pingback, Hugh has an excellent tutorial here. If you prefer, you can copy and paste your link into the comments of this post.

Above all, have fun.