Review: The Zoastra Affair by Victoria Pinder + Giveaway

zoastra affair by victoria pinderFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Length: 283 pages
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Date Released: December 23, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon

A hundred years from now, Earth has trading partners with alien beings, mostly humanoid. However, going into space has brought forth an unknown enemy who attacks Earth at will.

The Zoastra are part of the Earthseekers, an organization originally designed to go into space. Its new mission is to find Earth’s enemies.

Ariel, stuck on a Victorian planet, steals Grace’s body in order to get off the planet. Now Grace must get her body back before Ariel bonds with Grace’s husband, Peter. Then there is Cross, the man on a mission to find those who killed his family. Ariel is attracted to Cross, but she’s stolen someone’s life. What can she do?

My Review:

The Zoastra Affair is science fiction romance at the space opera end of the spectrum, but the emphasis is squarely on the romantic aspects of this story.

It also feels like there is a certain amount of wish-fulfillment fantasy mixed in, but that’s not a bad thing. The Zoastra Affair is the kind of mind-candy that is worth getting into, just for the fun.

The Zoastra is a ship. It’s an Earthseekers space ship, and the Earthseekers are heading out into deep space to put some hurt on the aliens who did a fly-by and carved up a whole chunk of North America. They’re out for payback, but they aren’t exactly sure who they are paying back.

Their last stop before they go “where no Earthseeker has gone before” is a hospitality planet populated by the Sheratons. Yes, like the hotel chain. The Sheratons look human but aren’t, and that where the weird gets into the romance.

Sheratons mate for life. Females have a biological imperative to mate at age 18, and once mated, the relationship between husbands and wives is symbiotic–they must have sex every week, or they will die.. (It’s fair that the compulsion hits both sexes, but not the way that females are forced to marry someone, anyone, at maturity).

The officers of the Zoastra include Peter Newman and his wife Grace. Peter is on the command track and Grace is a scientist. Their marriage is suffering a strain because they are both working way too many hours and not making time for each other.

Trouble arrives (it actually flies away with them) when Grace goes with the females of the greeting party to take part in a spa day and massage. There is one detail about the Sheratons that everyone believes is a myth; a small percentage of the population can switch bodies.

Ariel is inhabiting the body of a teenaged Sheraton because said Sheraton switched bodies with her against her will four years ago. She just wants to get back to her home society, to be of use rather than ornamentation, and before the hinted at mating bond is forced on her.

So she forces a body-switch with Grace, abandoning her on Sheraton in the body of a pink-haired 18 year old.

While Ariel is pretending to be Grace on the ship and with Grace’s husband, Grace is back on Sheraton, stealing a shuttle so she can get back home.

Grace’s return in the wrong body sets off a whole chain of events, which not only reveal Ariel’s subterfuge, but ultimately provide Earthforce with a whole new array of weapons against their enemies.

But first, Ariel has to give Grace her life (and her body) back. And Ariel has to find a mate she can bond with, because she is with Earthforce for good.

Escape Rating B-: There is quite of bit of highly improbable fun in this story. Sheraton females are tiny and pink-haired, so both Ariel and Grace are disgusted with the body they have to inhabit.

Ariel is endlessly guilty (and so she should be) for stealing Grace’s life in the same way that hers was stolen. Grace quite rightly points out that Ariel could have stolen a ship the way Grace did, rather than wait for an unsuspecting victim.

But it’s once the bodies are switched back that the real fun begins. It’s not just that Ariel needs to find a mate, but that whatever is compelling her to do so is also affecting the one man on the ship who swore that he would never remarry. Ariel spends a lot of her off-duty time in the processing of training the least civilized man on the ship.

She spends the rest of her time revamping the engines, and trying to gain (or regain) the trust of everyone around her.

The plot of this romance is completely frothy, and as sweet in its way as the bubble gum that Ariel’s hair reminds me of. If you like your science fiction romance very light on the SF and coming to a love conquers all conclusion, The Zoastra Affair may be just your cotton candy.


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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Sky’s End by Lesley Young

skys end by lesley youngFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Cassiel Winters #1
Length: 430 pages
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Date Released: June 15, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

A secret she must never share. A secret that two warring species are determined to control. A universe’s future at stake. Twenty-year-old Cassiel Winters joins Earth’s new space academy in hopes of finding her brother, one of Command’s top pilots and her only family, who’s been reported MIA. But she quickly realizes she may not be cut out for life in space, where female cadets are outnumbered, competition’s fierce, and she’s already failed her hand-to-hand combat test once. Even the station’s most respected officer, Lt. Damian King, probably can’t help Cassiel pass the second time around-so why is he so interested in her progress? If only one of her freaky deja vu visions would offer an answer instead of mysterious messages like hide. When Cassiel’s manipulated into a perilous mission, she encounters a warrior species bred to protect the universe from an even greater threat. And she learns that her secret visions are at the heart of it all. Now Cassiel must fight to control her own destiny and race to save her brother-even if it means pretending to be the pawn of Prime Or’ic, the cold-as-steel Thell’eon leader. Even if it means risking her life, facing hard truths, and making the ultimate sacrifice.

My Review:

I have to say that Cassiel’s first person point-of-view really sold the story for me. First person is hard to do well, but in this case, being in her head and experiencing her confusion about the world and her naivete is what made the story work. Even when I knew that I should roll my eyes, seeing things through Cassiel’s eyes worked. Her lack of experience with the world and it’s betrayals made the otherwise incredible story make sense.

What am I talking about? Sky’s End is science fiction of the space opera school, and it’s also very definitely science fiction romance. And it’s the story of a very young woman who has an unfortunate tendency to leap before she looks, even though she can often see the results of the leap before she takes it.

Cassiel has a secret–sometimes she experiences the future just a few seconds or few hours before it happens. Then she changes it. She thinks of it as an extreme form of deja vu, but she’s also aware that most people will think she’s crazy.

In her future world, Earth, under the auspices of ESE (Earth Space Exploration) is engaged in a long-running interstellar war with the Thell’eons. Her brother Daz is missing in action, after leaving for a mission that no one is willing to admit he’s on. But then, he is in ESE’s equivalent of the spook squad.

So Cassie joins the ESE Academy to make sure that she can hunt her brother down personally, since the ESE doesn’t seem willing to admit he’s lost.

And that’s where the story really begins. Because after Cassie fails her end-of-year exams, she’s given an unprecedented second chance, which is also rigged for failure. And finally, the ESE has her where they really want her; willing to do anything to stay in the ESE. Including let herself be captured by the Thell’eons.

Who seem to have made it part of their ongoing mission to capture human females, supposedly because Thell’eon females don’t enjoy sex, and human women do.

Of course, their society is way more complicated than that. But then, the ESE is nothing like it seems, either.

Everyone wants to use Cassie for something. The Thell’eons, the ESE, and even the man who claims to want to protect her.

It’s only when Cassie finally discovers who and what she really is that she starts questioning whether she should be using them for her own ends.

If she can figure out which of the possible futures she sees is the best one–for everyone.

Escape Rating B: No one is exactly what they seem, and that’s a lesson that Cassie spends the whole book learning. By seeing things from inside her head, we’re able to understand why she doesn’t get how much she’s being used; she doesn’t have the experience yet to be as cynical as she should be. And she truly wants to believe the best of everyone.

Too many of the men who Cassie deals with tend to fall in love with her, or at least become very protective very quickly. It’s explained in the story by the reason why so few females remain cadets in the ESE, and by the way that the Thell’eon society is structured. It’s a bit of “handwavium” but it’s consistent in the story.

Also Cassie doesn’t know how valuable she is to both war efforts. At the beginning, she doesn’t even know the true nature of the war, and what her deja vu gift really is. Or how it makes her a target.

So the story is Cassie’s journey of discovery, and some of that discovery concerns her own sexuality. One man seems to love her, and one alien wants her for the war effort. She’s still in the process of figuring out whether either of them wants her for herself, but her experimentation is as emotional as it is physical.

Be prepared for an ending that leaves a lot of loose ends dangling. Cassie spends a lot of this book being a pawn for the various sides in the war, but by the end she finally realizes that she needs to decide where she belongs, and where she can do the most good.

A question which is much, much bigger at the end than she ever imagined.


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.