#AudioBookReview: The Most Human by Adam Nimoy

#AudioBookReview: The Most Human by Adam NimoyThe Most Human: Reconciling with My Father, Leonard Nimoy by Adam Nimoy
Narrator: Adam Nimoy
Format: audiobook, ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: autobiography, biography, memoir, Star Trek
Pages: 272
Length: 9 hours and 18 minutes
Published by Chicago Review Press on June 4, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

Living with Dad was like living with a stranger—as a kid I often had trouble connecting and relating to him. But I was always proud of him.
Even before Star Trek I'd see him popping up in bit roles on some of my favorite TV shows like Get Smart, Sea Hunt, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. And then one night he brought home Polaroids of himself in makeup and wardrobe for a pilot he was working on. It was December 1964 and nobody had heard of Star Trek. Still, the eight-year-old me had watched enough Outer Limits and My Favorite Martian to understand exactly what I was looking at.
Spock's popularity happened quickly, and soon the fan magazines were writing about dad's personal life, characterizing us as a "close family." But the awkwardness that defined our early relationship blossomed into conflict, sometimes smoldering, sometimes open and intense. There were occasional flashes of warmth between the arguments and hurt feelings—even something akin to love—especially when we were celebrating my father's many successes. The rest of the time, things between us were often strained.
My resentment towards my father kept building through the years. I wasn't blameless, I know that now, but my bitterness blinded me to any thought of my own contribution to the problem.
I wanted things to be different for my children. I wanted to be the father I never had, so I coached Maddy's soccer, drove Jonah to music lessons, helped them with their homework—all the things dads are supposed to do. All the things I wanted to do. So what if my Dad and I had been estranged for years? I was living one day at a time.
And then I got his letter.
That marked a turning point in our lives, a moment that cleared the way for a new relationship between us.

My Review:

It’s an iconic line, isn’t it? “Of all the souls I’ve encountered in my travels, his was the most human.” In my head, I still hear it with all of the Shatnerian pauses, and it still brings a tear to my eye, even though Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan came out more than 40 years ago – and we all know that wasn’t the end for either Spock or the man who made that ‘pointy-eared Vulcan’ a cultural icon.

But Spock was a fictional character, played by a very human man, filled with all of the virtues and flaws that are part and parcel of that human condition. This is a bit of the story of that humanity, as seen through the eyes of someone who was up close and personal with the virtues, and caught – or at least held onto – the brunt of entirely too many of the flaws.

And in this introduction, I’m doing exactly what the author has done – used the memory of his famous father to get at the story of his son. A role reversal of something that Leonard Nimoy once alluded to, that someone – actually someone looking for money in particular – would use his son to get at him.

So this isn’t a Star Trek story. And it explicitly isn’t a biography of Leonard Nimoy. Rather, it tells the story of the family that lived in, as the author referred to it, ‘the house that Star Trek bought’ in LA’s Westwood Village in 1968, how they got there, where they came from, and especially what happened after to the boy pictured on the book’s cover, Leonard Nimoy’s son Adam.

This is Adam’s journey, not Leonard’s. But, as with all families, the lives of the parents – who they were, where they came from, their reactions to the ways that their own parents raised them, and how they internalized that upbringing – reflect on their children, for better and for worse.

This is THAT story.

Reality Rating B: If you come to this book expecting a ‘Making of Star Trek’ story, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re expecting a ‘warts and all’ biography, you’re not actually going to get that either. Not that both the father and the son didn’t have plenty of those.

This is, admittedly, a story about a man who was a hero and/or a touchstone for more than one generation of fans that shows that he had feet of clay up to the knees – but then so do most humans, which is kind of the point.

Circling back around again – because it is irresistible to talk about the father when this is a book by and about the son – it’s about a dad’s impact, both good and bad, on the life of one man who just so happens to be the son of someone famous.

Once one throws out the preconceived notions about what one expected in this autobiography, it’s something entirely different. At first, I had a bit of a difficult time connecting to the story and the author, but then it started to feel a whole lot more familiar than I expected.

His story resonated with me because our fathers were both products of the same Eastern European, Jewish immigrant, Depression-era generation. Both were workaholics who financially supported their families but weren’t physically around, were often in their own heads when they were, and as a result had strained relationships with their children. Adam Nimoy is my age, so we were viewing the world of the 1970s and 1980s from similar ages and from familiar backgrounds and expectations.

There are times when I wonder if ‘daddy issues’ are what makes the world go around, but I digress, just a bit.

I’m saying that once I found a way into his perspective a little, it made the whole thing work better for me. I listened to the audio, and even his speech cadences felt familiar – not because he sounds like his famous father – he doesn’t – but because those cadences arise from a similar time and place and culture. It was kind of like listening to a cousin.

His story is very much, at points, a walk through dark places, of taking heavy blows from sometimes self-inflicted wounds, and then walking a hard and frequently lonely path through recovery. It becomes a story about what happens after a person stops medicating their emotional pain away and starts feeling their feelings.

Which was something that resonated a hell of a lot more than I expected – as did the parts about how easy it is to hold onto old hurts and older grudges and how difficult it is to let them go.

Rating an autobiography feels different from rating a work of fiction, because even though I’m rating the story as it’s told, that can’t help but feel a bit like rating the life of the person telling it – no matter how much I try not to.  And rating someone else’s life is just wrong. It was what it was and it is what it is and what needs to matter here is how good a job the author AS AN AUTHOR does of telling the story they decided to tell – even though it’s theirs.

Which is where that B rating comes in. It did take me awhile to get into this book, and there were times when it felt like he was kind of whiney in a way that came out in the audio as well. The story is way more about the author’s recovery from addiction than it is about anything else in a way that’s good and important and feels real in its length and its details but also felt a bit long and repetitive as he had to repeat some of the steps – as one so frequently does. It also reads as a kind of ‘slice of life’ story that mostly hits the highlights – and lowlights – but doesn’t dwell on the everyday too much, but a little went a long way when it came to dealing with the family dysfunction – of which there was plenty.

Coming into this expecting one thing and getting another may throw off more than a few readers – although if they stick with it they’ll find a whole lot more than they originally expected. Anyone looking for a story that personalizes the ‘Twelve Steps of Recovery’ will likely find this fascinating, inspiring and helpful as he pulls it down to earth and makes it very real even as he’s invoking a ‘Higher Power’. And in the end, the audio works better than the text because the audio helps to make the story feel authentic. It’s him, and he’s telling his story – warts and all.

Summer 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the SUMMER 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by It Starts At Midnight and Versatileer!

Once upon a time, this was the Month of Books Giveaway Hop, now it’s the Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop, with the hops starting on the days the seasons change. Today is the first official day of Summer even if it feels more like the height of the season – at least in temperature – where you are right now. The ATL is having a normal summer so far, which means hot and muggy a lot of the time, but the Midwest is getting hammered with the kind of high temps that we don’t even get around here until July.

Whatever the weather, the question this season is the same question it’s always been for one of these particular hops. What book or books are you most looking forward to this season?

I’m never looking forward to just one thing when it comes to books. Here are a few that are at the top of my list for this spring of 2024:

Blood Jade by Julia Vee and Ken Bebelle
The Dallergut Dream Department Store by Lee Mi-ye
The Daughters’ War by Christopher Buehlman
The Dead Cat Tail Assassins by P. Djèlí Clark
Guard the East Flank by M.L. Buchman
The Mummy of Mayfair by Jeri Westerson
The Price of Redemption by Shawn Carpenter
Requiem for a Mouse by Miranda James
The Sky on Fire by Jenn Lyons
A Vengeful King Rises by Sophie Barnes

What about you? What books are you most looking forward to this season? Answer in the rafflecopter for your choice of either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in books so you can get one or two of the books on your list!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more scrumptious summer prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

A- #BookReview: The Comfort of Ghosts by Jacqueline Winspear

A- #BookReview: The Comfort of Ghosts by Jacqueline WinspearThe Comfort of Ghosts (Maisie Dobbs, #18) by Jacqueline Winspear
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, World War II
Series: Maisie Dobbs #18
Pages: 361
Published by Soho Crime on June 4, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

A milestone in historical mystery fiction as Maisie Dobbs takes her final bow!
Psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs unravels a profound mystery from her past in a war-torn nation grappling with its future.
London, 1945: Four adolescent orphans with a dark wartime history are squatting in a vacant Belgravia mansion—the owners having fled London under heavy Luftwaffe bombing. Soon after a demobilized British soldier, ill and reeling from his experiences overseas, takes shelter with the group, Maisie Dobbs visits the mansion on behalf of the owners.
Maisie is deeply puzzled by the children's reticence. Their stories are evasive and, more mysteriously, they appear to possess self-defense skills one might expect of trained adults in wartime. Her quest to bring comfort and the promise of a future to the youngsters and to the ailing soldier brings to light a decades-old mystery concerning Maisie’s first husband, James Compton, who was killed while piloting an experimental aircraft. As Maisie picks apart the threads of her dead husband’s life, she is forced to examine her own painful past and question beliefs she has always accepted as true.
The award-winning Maisie Dobbs series has garnered hundreds of thousands of followers around the world, readers who are drawn to a woman who is of her time, yet familiar in ours—and who inspires with her resilience and capacity for endurance at the worst of times. This final assignment of her own choosing not only opens a new future for Maisie Dobbs and her family, but serves as a fascinating portrayal of the challenges facing the people of Britain at the close of the Second World War.
Over seventeen previous books in the Maisie Dobbs series, hundreds of thousands of readers worldwide have fallen in love with this fearless, compassionate woman—this final adventure not only ties up all Maisie’s loose ends, but also serves as a fascinating portrayal of life in Great Britain after the close of the second World War.

My Review:

As seems fitting for this final book in the Maisie Dobbs series, A Comfort of Ghosts begins with an ending. One of the towering – literally as he was quite tall – secondary figures in this long-running series, Lord Julian Compton, originally Maisie’s employer, once-upon-a-time her father-in-law, later and last her friend, has died, Leaving Maisie to mourn, to comfort his widow, to be the executor of his estate and to clean up his last act in the late war.

Sending a group of young squatters to her empty house in London, to protect some of Britain’s most hidden and secretive wartime operatives from a false charge of murder. They are a loose end, and entirely too many ‘boffins’ in the war offices have become so accustomed to death being the only tool in their toolbox to take care of such loose ends that they are willing to send four adolescents to the hangman for a crime that wasn’t really a crime that they had the misfortune to witness.

This final story of Maisie’s adventures shows her doing what she has always done best – discovering a problem and getting to the bottom of a situation that someone doesn’t want to be found while protecting as many innocents – and even some of the guilty – along the way.

That, in the middle of this investigation she has the opportunity to finally lay to rest the ghosts of her own past as well as bring her dearest friend back from the brink of disaster and help not one but two dear and deeply scarred veterans out of their very own pits of despair while searching for yet one more complicated truth hidden behind a scrim of convenient lies makes The Comfort of Ghosts, and the solace that Maisie has finally learned to take from her own, a perfect ending to the series.

Escape Rating A-: This story closes all the circles that were opened back in the very first book in this series, the titular Maisie Dobbs, finds all the dangling threads that have been left hanging through the course of EIGHTEEN BOOKS, and ties each and every one of them off. So it’s a book about endings.

At the same time, because of its setting, it’s also a book about beginnings. The series began in the years just before the opening of the ‘Great War’, when young Maisie became an under-housemaid in the household of Lord Compton at the age of thirteen. Maisie’s midnight raids of the great house’s great library were discovered by the mistress of the house, Lady Rowan Compton, and Maisie’s life took a different direction than it otherwise might, leading to all of the marvelous if sometimes fraught adventures and heartbreaks of the series.

But this story takes place in 1945. The second World War has just ended, the recovery and reconstruction has barely begun. Britain is no longer the seat of empire, and the U.S. – and Russia – have taken center stage as a new thing – superpowers.

Maisie and her generation of friends and frenemies are middle aged or older, retiring, returning to home and hearth, or lying dead on a battlefield from one war or the other. This last story, this reckoning of all her accounts, is her swansong.

Which is a hint and a half not to start the series here. It’s not necessary to real all of the previous 17 books to get into this one – I have a few I never got around to but probably will eventually – but this story has so much more resonance if you’ve read at least some and have gotten to know Maisie’s circle of friends and colleagues and contacts and the myriad ways that their lives have become interconnected over the decades.

For those, like this reader, who have gotten to know Maisie over the years and books, this story is a bittersweet delight. It also feels right that Maisie leave the stage at this historical juncture, as the world she knew is not the world that is to come – as we know and as hints are shown in the story.

But, in that desire to get every thread tied off with a neat bow and foreshadow the changes in the world as it will be, it may have lingered just a bit too long and found a way to tie that last bow just a bit too coincidentally. Your reading mileage may vary.

Still and absolutely all, a marvelous and utterly fitting ending to a captivating series, leaving this reader with both that smile because it happened and a tear or two because it ended.

Grade A #BookReview: The Year Without Sunshine by Naomi Kritzer

Grade A #BookReview: The Year Without Sunshine by Naomi Kritzer“The Year Without Sunshine” by Naomi Kritzer in Uncanny Magazine Issue 55, November-December 2023 by Naomi Kritzer
Format: ebook
Source: supplied by publisher via Hugo Packet
Formats available: magazine, ebook
Genres: climate fiction, hopepunk, science fiction
Series: Uncanny Magazine Issue 55
Pages: 35
Published by Uncanny Magazine on November 7, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazon

The November/December 2023 issue of Hugo Award-winning Uncanny Magazine.

Featuring new fiction by Naomi Kritzer, Jeffrey Ford, Kel Coleman, Cecil Castellucci, Marissa Lingen, Chelsea Sutton, and Ana Hurtado. Essays by John Scalzi, Amanda-Rae Prescott, Paul Cornell, and Lee Mandelo, poetry by Carlie St. George, Tehnuka, Lora Gray, and Angela Liu, interviews with Jeffrey Ford and Marissa lIngen by Caroline M. Yoachim, a cover by Paul Lewin, and an editorial by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas.

Uncanny Magazine is a bimonthly science fiction and fantasy magazine first published in November 2014. Edited by 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022, 2023 Hugo award winners for best semiprozine, and 2018 Hugo award winners for Best Editor, Short Form, Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, and Monte Lin, each issue of Uncanny includes new stories, poetry, articles, and interviews.

My Review:

I’m just realizing that I need a spreadsheet for my project to read and review this year’s Hugo nominees – if possible before the voting deadline on July 20. Today’s entry in the continuing saga is Naomi Kritzer’s “The Year Without Sunshine”, my third nominee in the Best Novelette Category.

A novelette is between 7,500 and 17,500 words, and this particular novelette did an excellent job of making every single one of those words count.

The story takes its climate change/post-pandemic scenario and doesn’t get into the SF aspects because it doesn’t need to. Instead, it takes that pretty grim setup and tells a bright, sparkling, hopepunk story about a community that bands together so they ALL get through a year when there literally is no sunshine because the sky is choked with ash.

What made the setup even more fascinating is that that has actually happened before – for reals – in 1816, after the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 triggered an agricultural disaster in all of northern Europe.

In this story, we don’t exactly get details of what caused the problem, but we don’t need them. Those details are not the point.

The point is the people. This one tiny community pulls together – and does it effectively – because one community member is suffering from COPD and will only live as long as her oxygen concentrator has power. But power failures are a daily occurrence, their generator runs on propane, and propane deliveries – along with a lot of other services that people have come to expect – have stopped.

So it begins with ideas to keep Susan alive. But that need is a catalyst for everything that happens until there’s blue sky again – and that story of hope and perseverance and taking care of your neighbors – and being taken care of in return – is simply lovely.

Escape Rating A: This is a story about the way that we wish things were, when a group of people relies on the better angels of their nature instead of the demons of self-interest.

What made this story work so well for this reader – is just how grounded it is in the real as well as the really hopeful. While this particular disaster scenario hasn’t happened, there are plenty of precedents for both the “year without sunshine” and for communities pulling together in times of crisis.

So it all feels, not just plausible but true in that way that fiction is the lie that tells the truth, because the story doesn’t gloss over the fact that some would-be communities take more selfish paths and that there are occasions when the community as a whole will have to defend what they’ve built. But it just adds to the hopeful tone of the story and I finished it with a smile on my face both for what it said AND how well it said it.

If you are curious about other takes on this year’s Hugo nominees, I am far from the only person doing this. There’s an opinionated and informative thread on reddit that has sometimes been even more fascinating than the actual stories. Although not in this particular case as it seems like their readers as well as this one were generally fascinated with this particular story and had little if anything negative to say. “The Year Without Sunshine” is a delight, and my voting in this category just got a LOT harder.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-16-24

Today is Father’s Day, at least in the United States and a whole lot of other countries. So Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Galen is a Cat Dad, so this picture of two of the boys investigating something – possibly the location of his Father’s Day present, although that’s a bit of a scary thought. George and Tuna are always adorable, no matter what they are doing!

This week’s reviews weren’t quite as collectively awesome as last week, but there were still plenty of excellent reads. I’m just still bummed that Ghostdrift is the last book in the Finder Chronicles, and this coming week’s The Comfort of Ghosts is the last book in the Maisie Dobbs series. I know that all good things must come to an end – but I don’t have to actually LIKE that fact.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Spring 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book PLUS EVENT-WIDE AMAZON/PAYPAL PRIZE in the Early Summer Giveaway Event

Blog Recap:

A- #BookReview: The Runes of Engagement by Tobias S. Buckell and Dave Klecha
B+ #BookReview: We Speak Through the Mountain by Premee Mohamed
B- #BookReview: The Mausoleum’s Children by Aliette de Bodard
A- #BookReview: The Hero She Craves by Anna Hackett
A+ #AudioBookReview: Ghostdrift by Suzanne Palmer
Stacking the Shelves (605)

Coming This Week:

The Year Without Sunshine by Naomi Kritzer (#BookReview #HugoReview)
The Comfort of Ghosts by Jacqueline Winspear (#BookReview)
Juneteenth (Guest Post by Galen)
Summer 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop
A Ruse of Shadows by Sherry Thomas (#BookReview)

Stacking the Shelves (605)

You know what? They’re all pretty this time around. They’re just not all pretty the same, because the styles and the genres are so different. I’m intrigued by several, also for entirely different reasons.

The cover of Echo gives me the shivers, but then, that’s very definitely a wintry Chicago in the background and that’s exactly what Chicago DOES in the winter. At first, I thought the cover of We Solve Murders wasn’t all that, BUT, it’s very much part of the old-school mystery cover style – and there’s a cat. The cover of Bindle Punk Jefe fits right in with the first book in the series, Bindle Punk Bruja, and does an excellent job of presenting the character and the time period in a single image. I’m really curious about The Fourth Consort because I loved his first three books (Mickey7, etc.) and I’m intrigued by And the Mighty Will Fall because I loved the first book in the series (A Pale Light in the Black), liked the second (Hold Fast Through the Fire), and unfortunately bounced hard off the third (The Ghosts of Trappist), so I’m wondering where this one will – ahem – fall.

For Review:
And the Mighty Will Fall (NeoG #4) by K.B. Wagers
Bindle Punk Jefe (Bindle Punk #2) by Desideria Mesa
Echo (Detective Harriet Foster #3) by Tracy Clark
Exiled by Iron (Tainted Blood Duology #2) by Ehigbor Okosun
The Fourth Consort by Edward Ashton
The Great Library Of Tomorrow (Tomorrowland #1) by Rosalia Aguilar Solace
The Mountain Crown (Crowns of Ishia #1) by Karin Lowachee
The Scarlet Throne (False Goddess #1) by Amy Leow
We Solve Murders by Richard Osman

If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

A+ #AudioBookReview: Ghostdrift by Suzanne Palmer

A+ #AudioBookReview: Ghostdrift by Suzanne PalmerGhostdrift (Finder Chronicles #4) by Suzanne Palmer
Narrator: Paul Woodson
Format: audiobook, eARC
Source: purchased from Audible, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: science fiction, space opera
Series: Finder Chronicles #4
Pages: 384
Length: 13 hours and 37 minutes
Published by Blackstone Publishing, DAW on May 28, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

The fourth and final installment of the Finder Chronicles, a hopepunk sci-fi caper described as Macgyver meets Firefly, by Hugo Award–winner Suzanne Palmer

Fergus Ferguson, professional finder, always knew his semi-voluntary exile wouldn’t last, but he isn’t expecting a friend to betray him. One of the galaxy’s most dangerous space pirates, Bas Belos, wants him, and what Belos wants, he gets. Belos needs help finding out what happened to his twin sister, who mysteriously disappeared at the edges of space years ago, and he makes Fergus an offer he can’t refuse.

Mysterious disappearances and impossible answers are Fergus’s specialties. After he reluctantly joins Belos and his crew aboard the pirate ship Sidewider, he discovers that Belos is being tracked by the Alliance. Seeking to stay one step ahead of the Alliance, Fergus and Belos find themselves marooned in the middle of the Gap between spiral arms of our galaxy, dangerously near hostile alien territory, and with an Alliance ship in hot pursuit.

That’s just the beginning of the complications for Fergus’ newest—and possibly last—job. The puzzle is much bigger than just Belos’s lost sister, and the question of his future, retirement or not, depends on his ability to negotiate a path between aliens, criminals, and the most powerful military force he’s ever encountered. The future of entire planets hangs in the balance, and it remains to be seen if it’s too big for one determined man and his cranky cat.

My Review:

I couldn’t resist. Even though I knew going in this was one of those situations where you don’t know whether to cry because it’s over or smile because it happened, I had to find out just what happened to Fergus Ferguson that led to Ghostdrift being the final book in the utterly awesome Finder Chronicles.

Over the course of the series (Finder, Driving the Deep, The Scavenger Door and now Ghostdrift), Fergus has proven to be the consummate survivor. Not because he’s particularly good at any one thing except finding the stuff he’s been contracted to find, but because no plan seems to survive contact with Fergus – not even his own. No matter how big and how scary the villains are, no matter how many layers within layers of plans they have to get away with whatever it is they think they’re getting away with, the minute Fergus happens to them Murphy’s Law arrives in his wake and the shit keeps hitting the fan – both theirs and his – until he emerges from the wreck of everything they expected.

It’s a gift. It’s also a curse. A judgment that does not depend on whether you are on the side of Fergus or his enemies. As I said, Fergus’s own plans don’t survive contact with him either.

But it does explain why his friend (or sometimes frenemy) Qai doesn’t feel all that terrible about kidnapping Fergus and delivering him – alive and unharmed, along with his cat Mister Feefs – into the custody of notorious space pirate Bas Belos in exchange for the safe return of Qai’s partner Maha – yet another of Fergus’s friends.

Qai knows Fergus can handle himself and knows that Belos’ plan isn’t likely to survive Fergus either. She’s basically delivering her revenge on Belos for kidnapping her partner in a Fergus Ferguson shaped form and isn’t sorry about it in the least.

She’s sure she’s brought Belos more trouble than even an interstellar space pirate can handle. And she’s right. It’s the way in which she’s right and the places that right takes the pirate, his ship, his crew, Fergus AND Mister Feefs, that makes the whole entire story.

Fergus’s story. Belos’s story. And quite possibly the whole damn universe’s story – again – if Fergus doesn’t manage to pull off one more doggedly determined find.

Escape Rating A+: June is Audiobook Month, and this final book in the Finder Chronicles was the perfect audiobook to listen to this month, particularly as I listened to the first book in the series, Finder, in June of 2019.

Even though I didn’t want this story to end – I desperately needed to know how it ended, so I started alternating between audio and text just past halfway – as much as I hated to miss out on the totality of narrator Paul Woodson’s perfect read of Fergus Ferguson’s universe-weary, ‘been there, done that, got all the t-shirts’ voice.

(Fergus really does have all the t-shirts – and he wears them throughout the series. The man has definitely been around.)

The series as a whole rides or dies on that voice, to the point that if you like Fergus you’ll love the series but if he drives you as insane as he does the people he runs up AGAINST you probably won’t. Also, if you like a universe-weary, first-person or first-person focused protagonist, you’ll probably also love Michael Mammay’s Carl Butler in his Planetside series. (I digress, just a bit.)

What about this particular entry in the series? It combines some really classic tropes into one single terrific story.

First there’s the whole ‘White Whale’ angle. Actually, it’s two of those angles. On the one hand, pirate captain Bas Belos just wants to find out what happened to his twin sister and her crew. It’s been ten years since she disappeared, he knows that the ‘Alliance’s’ claim that they killed her and hers was a lie. He’s kidnapped/hired Fergus to lead him towards closure – no matter what it takes.

And then there’s the real Captain Ahab of this story, an Alliance captain for whom Bas Belos is his white whale, and he’ll trail the pirate literally past the end of the galaxy to catch him – even if he’s leading his crew straight to their demise. And wasn’t that Ahab all over?

But then there’s the third corner of this delicious story, the one where Belos and his crew, the Alliance captain and his, all end up stranded in the gap between galaxies, on a little tiny planet that threatens to be their own ‘Gilligan’s Island’ – because it already has.

Together, those three plots, Belos’ need for closure, Captain Ahab – actually Captain Todd – following Belos where no one REALLY should have gone before, or again, and all the crews stuck on their very own tiny Gilligan’s Island planetoid, doing their best – or worst – to get along well enough to get back home.

With Fergus in the middle, knowing his personal goose is cooked either way. Unless he can find a really, truly, seriously out-of-the-box solution for his own dilemma as well as theirs.

I loved this last adventure in the Finder Chronicles. On top of this beautiful layer cake of a story, there was also a bit of marvelous icing in Fergus’ relationship with Mister Feefs that will add extra feels for anyone who has ever loved a companion animal and grounded their very existence on that love. (Don’t worry about Mister Feefs, he comes out of this adventure just fine – it’s Fergus we have to worry about. As usual.)

The only sour note in this whole thing is in the author’s note at the end, where she declares that this really is Fergus’ last recorded adventure. And it could be, she left him in a good place – WITH MISTER FEEFS – and they’ll be just fine. But she also left them in a place where it’s clear that Fergus will manage to make his way back to his own galaxy, one way or another, given enough time and supplies. And he has the supplies. So he could come back. We could come back at some point in the future to see whose plans Fergus is destroying at that point in his life. I don’t expect we will, but I can still hope.

A- #BookReview: The Hero She Craves by Anna Hackett

A- #BookReview: The Hero She Craves by Anna HackettThe Hero She Craves by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance
Series: Unbroken Heroes #3
Pages: 248
Published by Anna Hackett on June 13, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

The last thing he expects on his ship is the off-limits woman he can’t stop thinking about—his best friend’s daughter.
After a tough military career as a Navy SEAL, and a member of a covert Ghost Ops team, Lorenzo “Ren” Santoro now calls a research ship home. The ocean, very few people, and solitude…it’s all he needs.
Then as a favor to his best friend, he agrees to take a research team to sea to test a top-secret Navy project. He’s shocked to discover his best friend’s daughter is one of the scientists. The beautiful Halle Bradshaw who Ren once kissed, who ignites a powerful craving inside him. She’s too young, too innocent, and too off-limits.
When strange things start happening to Halle, Ren suspects she’s in danger…and he’ll do anything to keep her safe.
Marine biologist Halle loves the ocean, her work…and Ren Santoro. Being aboard his ship, she finally has the chance to show the stubborn man how good they could be together.
But someone is targeting the highly classified project she’s working on. One she can’t let fall into enemy hands.
The only person she can trust is Ren. Forced to abandon their ship, they will face the danger of the sea and the wilds of a jungle-covered island, all while being hunted by a relentless enemy.
Ren and Halle will no longer be able to hide from their white-hot desire or their demons. She’s determined to convince him to take a chance on love…but first, they have to survive.

My Review: 

Some tropes are classics for a reason, and The Hero She Craves wonderfully illustrates every single one of those reasons for one of my absolute faves.

There’s a bit of an age gap between former Navy SEAL Lorenzo “Ren” Santoro and Halle Bradshaw. And so there should be, as Halle’s dad is Ren’s mentor AND best friend. Tom Bradshaw saved Ren’s life when a young, tough, and let’s face it, dumb Ren tried to steal the older man’s car.

Instead of turning him in, Tom Bradshaw turned Ren’s life around, which means that Ren was around to watch Halle turn from a sulky, grieving teen after the loss of her mom in an automobile accident, to a beautiful woman that he knows he should keep his hands off of.

At her 20th birthday party, he didn’t. It’s been three years and neither of them has ever been able to forget that one, searing kiss. The one that marked both of their hearts – even if Ren is too caught up in guilt – and the damn ‘bro code’ to admit it – while Halle is just a bit too innocent to go out and get her man.

But those  three years later, Halle’s tired of waiting for Ren to quit avoiding her and the tension simmering between them. She’s a marine biologist, he’s the second-in-command of the research ship her team has contracted with for their latest round of experiments with a highly experimental – and sought after – submersible.

She thinks she’ll have all the time in the world to pin him down. He thinks he only has to avoid spending too much time with his greatest temptation for four days and then he can go back to avoiding the inevitable.

The forces that want to steal the submersible – a device that is even more revolutionary than Ren and his captain were originally told – have put Halle in their crosshairs as the weak link in the device’s security.

But Halle’s not weak at all – not with Ren to protect her from the very, very bad guys. Especially when he finally gets hit with the clue by four that the last thing he ever needs to protect her from is himself.

Escape Rating A-: Three books in, I have to say that I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the Unbroken Heroes series, The Hero She Needs and The Hero She Wants, but this is the first one where I’ve got to admit that this time around I fell hard for the cover, too.

That being said, the story in this entry in the series combines something that has been a feature in the whole series so far with one of my favorite romance tropes.

Not a single one of the heroines in the Unbroken Heroes series has been any kind of damsel. It’s true that they’ve each experienced more than their fair share of distress, but they’ve each participated 100% in their own rescues – often by rescuing themselves first. Halle doesn’t quite have that opportunity, but she keeps up with Ren through every step and stroke and kick of their dangerous escape, doing her part to make it deadly for the other guys and not for them.

No matter how kickass Halle turns out to be – and she does – the tension that lies at the heart of Ren’s bad case of “I’m not worthy” revolves around two very real problems. Ren is her dad’s best friend – and her dad is not going to be happy that someone at least a decade older than his daughter can’t keep his hands off of her. And there’s that decade or so itself. I adore an age gap romance because the problems involved are very real – and they are here as well.

It’s not that Halle isn’t an adult and doesn’t know her own mind or heart, it’s that they are at different points in their lives, have different-sized trains of emotional baggage behind them, and will need to reconcile those differences to have a decent chance at a future.

Of course, first they have to deal with the villains chasing them, otherwise they won’t have a future to worry about. And it’s that realization that gets Ren to finally acknowledge what’s been between them for so long.

I had a terrific time with this latest entry in the Unbroken Heroes series, and I have plenty to look forward to. The author’s next book will be a wrap-up novella in her Sentinel Security series, Stone. I’ve already read it and it was a terrific finale for that series! After that, it’ll be back to New Orleans for the Fury Brothers, which I’m very much looking forward to because I always enjoy books set in that fantastic city!

#BookReview: The Mausoleum’s Children by Aliette de Bodard

#BookReview: The Mausoleum’s Children by Aliette de Bodard"The Mausoleum's Children" by Aliette de Bodard in Uncanny Magazine Issue 52, May-June 2023 by Aliette de Bodard
Format: ebook
Source: supplied by publisher via Hugo Packet
Formats available: magazine, ebook
Genres: Dark Fantasy, science fiction, short stories
Series: Uncanny Magazine Issue 52
Pages: 20
Published by Uncanny Magazine on May 2, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

The May/June 2023 issue of Hugo Award-winning Uncanny Magazine .

Featuring new fiction by Aliette de Bodard, Kylie Lee Baker, Lindsey Godfrey Eccles, Fran Wilde, Ewen Ma, Theodora Ward, and K.S. Walker. Reprint fiction by Chimedum Ohaegbu. Essays by Caroline M. Yoachim, LaShawn M. Wanak, Hana Lee, and Sam J. Miller, poetry by Nnadi Samuel, Jennifer Mace, Tehnuka, and Angela Liu, interviews with Kylie Lee Baker and Ewen Ma by Caroline M. Yoachim, a cover by Antonio Caparo, and an editorial by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas.

Uncanny Magazine is a bimonthly science fiction and fantasy magazine first published in November 2014. Edited by 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, & 2022 Hugo award winners for best semiprozine, and 2018 Hugo award winners for Best Editor, Short Form, Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, Meg Elison, and Monte Lin, each issue of Uncanny includes new stories, poetry, articles, and interviews.

My Review:

Welcome back to my bounce through this year’s Hugo nominations. Today’s foray into my quest to read the nominees that I didn’t get to last year is back in the Best Short Story (under 7,500 words) nominees with Aliette de Bodard’s “The Mausoleum’s Children”.

I put this particular story towards the front of the list because of the author. I’ve very much enjoyed her Universe of Xuya series – which is nominated for Best Series, BTW – and hoped for something in that series – although I should have known better because that’s against the rules – or at least something like that series – which would have been allowed.

I didn’t get what I was hoping for, but I think it did help that I have dipped into Xuya, as this is a story about returning to a place of former trauma, which just so happens to be a crashed ships’ graveyard.

Those crashed ships were once the kind of ship minds – at least sorta/kinda – who are some of the marvelous characters in Xuya. So I had the feeling this story was walking through their graves – and that bits of those minds still lingered, battered and broken and lost in endless nightmares.

But they’re not really the story. Instead, the story follows one human – or maybe I should say one person – who escaped from that ships’ graveyard as a child. Thuận Lộc is now an adult, forever scarred by her experiences, never fitting in anywhere in the world outside the mausoleum and desperate enough to return and attempt to save the people with whom she belongs – even if that attempt might mean her death.

In other words, she’s been living her whole, entire, supposedly ‘free’ life with a heaping helping of survivor’s guilt and she’s come to the conclusion that the only way out is through. One way or another.

Escape Rating B-: There’s a lot to unpack in this story and perhaps the suitcase it’s packed in wasn’t quite big enough in the first place.

The obvious bit is wrapped around Thuận Lộc’s need to belong, her guilt about not bringing her peeps out with her, and her attempt to assuage just a piece of that trauma. But there’s also more than a bit about abuse and its victims, Stockholm Syndrome writ very, very large, and the rapaciousness of greed for power in all forms and the way that some people try to escape evil by getting on top of it or allowing themselves to be co-opted by it.

I was, honestly, hoping for better from this story than I got. It wasn’t bad, I did like the central character and did feel for her, but the ending only worked because I was equating the ships in the mausoleum to the living ships from Xuya and that wasn’t in the text at all, it’s just the connection my brain went to in order to grasp something.

The premise at the heart of the story, trauma and survivors’ guilt and Stockholm Syndrome and the dangers of getting sucked back in but needing to go to expiate one’s demons – well, that’s been done much, much better in Premee Mohamed’s The Butcher of the Forest – a story that seems even better in comparison with “The Mausoleum’s Children”.

Two down in the Short Story category, four to go in the weeks ahead.

#BookReview: We Speak Through the Mountain by Premee Mohamed

#BookReview: We Speak Through the Mountain by Premee MohamedWe Speak Through the Mountain (Annual Migration of Clouds, #2) by Premee Mohamed
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: dystopian, post apocalyptic, science fiction
Series: Annual Migration of Clouds #2
Pages: 152
Published by ECW Press on June 18, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

The enlivening follow-up to the award-winning sensation The Annual Migration of Clouds Traveling alone through the climate-crisis-ravaged wilds of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, 19-year-old Reid Graham battles the elements and her lifelong chronic illness to reach the utopia of Howse University. But life in one of the storied “domes” ― the last remnants of pre-collapse society ― isn’t what she expected. Reid tries to excel in her classes and make connections with other students, but still grapples with guilt over what happened just before she left her community. And as she learns more about life at Howse, she begins to realize she can’t stand idly by as the people of the dome purposely withhold needed resources from the rest of humanity. When the worst of news comes from back home, Reid must make a choice between herself, her family, and the broken new world. In this powerful follow-up to her award-winning novella The Annual Migration of Clouds , Premee Mohamed is at the top of her game as she explores the conflicts and complexities of this post-apocalyptic society and asks whether humanity is doomed to forever recreate its worst mistakes.

My Review:

The world that Reid Graham battles her way through is a dystopia that seems to have suffered through a long slide rather than an actual apocalypse. There’s not really a day or an event that people point to, more like a slow collapse that is still ongoing.

Actually kind of like now, if you squint. Which feels intentional if not exactly in your face. Although it certainly is in Reid’s face as she makes her way from her dying home village to the secret location of the rarefied elite enclave, Howse University.

Reid intends to use the four years of her scholarship to learn everything she can so she can bring that knowledge back home where it’s needed. The powers-that-be at H.U. have other plans. Plans that become obvious to Reid long before the equally obvious brainwashing is able to kick in.

If it ever can or ever will.

Howse University is kind of an Eden, but the parable is a bit reversed. It’s not so much about eating from the tree of knowledge as it is her unwillingness to let go of the knowledge she came in with.

She knows, from bitter experience, that the terrible situation back in her home wasn’t because her people were lazy, or because they didn’t try to make things better, or because they were stupid or any of the other things that elites say to blame poverty and disease on the people suffering them instead of on the systems that keep them down.

Reid’s people are in the position they are in because the diseases brought by the creeping climate apocalypse keep sapping their strength and energy and pulling them down by force. Her people are too caught up in caring for the sick and burying the dead and keeping everyone fed and barely housed to have the time to work on recapturing the tech and the knowledge they used to have.

Knowledge and tech that Howse University and its network of other institutional enclaves are keeping to themselves, for themselves, as they look down upon the have-nots their own ancestors created.

So Reid reminds the H.U. students and faculty of all the truths they’d rather forget, hoping to dig deep enough to find a conscience in a few of them. Even as the classes and the restrictions and the safety protocols and the many, many, health enhancements that H.U. administers keep the deadly, debilitating disease she brought up the mountain with her at bay.

But never cure – because they want her to be dependent and easily influenced, and that’s what the disease does for them. A truth which condemns Reid and sets her free, all at the same time.

Escape Rating B+: I had not read The Annual Migration of Clouds before I picked up We Speak Through the Mountain, and I’m not sure that was such a good idea – so I’ve rectified that omission in the months since, because now that I’ve read that first book, I can tell that I would have rated this one higher when I read it if I’d had more of the background.

Consider this a warning not to make the same mistake. Both stories are novellas, so neither is a long read, but I think they work better together rather than separately. Not that I didn’t get enough to find my way in this book, but I think they work a whole lot better as a whole.

This second book has strong hints of The Practice, the Horizon, and the Chain, another novella that pokes hard at the stratification and ossification of society, and the way that academia reinforces such tendencies no matter how liberal it likes to think it is.

As I said, this is a bit of an Eden parable in that Howse University is paradise and she is thrown out both because she has eaten from the tree of knowledge within H.U. and because she came in having already eaten from that tree – at least a different branch of it -and refusing to stop.

Reid tries her best but the entrenched privilege is too real, and the brainwashing of each class of recruits has been too successful. Which doesn’t erase the questions asked but not answered throughout the story.

What do the descendants of the haves – who continue to have and to exclude – owe the descendants of the have-nots? If the author returns to this world, and I hope she does, I’ll be very interested to see how things proceed from here, because it feels like Reid’s journey is not over. Now that I’m invested I want to see what happens next – and what Howse University decides to do about it.