Category Archives: Book Reviews

Announcing Our SPSFC Round One Top Ten!

As stated in the previous post right now Team Red Stars has completed our initial reading allotment for the Self Published Science Fiction Competition and have cut 21 books from our 31 book allotment. This leaves us with 10 books to read in full and then advance 3 of those 10 into the next round. This means we have a Top Ten from the first round! Let’s take a look at these 10 books! Here they are in no particular order:

REFRACTION by Wick Welker

This one has me intrigued! Not sure where the story will go but the main character has me compelled to learn the answers!

ZENITH by Arshad Ahsanuddin

I was hooked from the get go! SciFi with Space Travel? Yes please!

OF CINDER & BONE by Kyoko M

I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting when I opened up this book, but the character interactions won me over immediately!

EXTINCTION REVERSED by J S Morin

What if we humans were gone? Would those that came after care to restore us?

AGE OF ORDER by Julian North

You can’t help but cheer on this main character!

ABOVE THE SKY by J W Lynne

As you turn from page one to page two you realize this is a book you WANT to read!

THE SHEPHERD PROTOCOL by Fowler Brown

The more you read the more this story pulls you in.

WHEREVER SEEDS MAY FALL by Peter Cawdron

Really getting Rendezvous With Rama feels! That is a good thing.

THE TRELLIS by Jools Cantor

Details matter and this one has the details that matter!

DOG COUNTRY by Malcolm F Cross

I had a hard time stopping reading this one to get to the first 10-20% of all the other books on the allotment!

There you have it! Team Red Stars’ first round top ten for the SPSFC! We encourage you to read along with us as we seek out the best self published SciFi book! Please check out our team’s blogs for further info on our Top Ten and all other things SPSFC related for our team:

Chimings

Susy

William

J.W.

Follow along and let us know your thoughts on any of the books we’re reading! We’d love to hear from you!

SPSFC First Round Cuts For Team Red Stars

Team Red Stars has completed our first round of reading! So we read at least 10-20% of 31 books and then selected ten to read all of before passing three of those on into the next round. This means that we sadly had to select 21 books to cut from the competition. This has not been an easy choice!

However at the heart of the Self Published Science Fiction Competition is the goal of bringing increased visibility to Self Published SciFi so after discussing it our team decided together to share mini reviews on the 21 books we have cut after the initial sample. Hopefully this helps the books gain more visibility and readership!

I’ll be featuring five of the books here and you’ll find the other sixteen divided between three of the other team members: William Susy and Joseph will feature their posts at the same time as this one. Soon after this we’ll unveil our inner top ten that we’ll whittle down to three. Without further ado here are the five cuts I will be featuring, and personally intend on reading further in at a later date!

THE COLDSUIT by Andy Wright

I really enjoy the premise and execution of this story! A conflict between humans and aliens, with a young individual who is caught between the two and torn on the inside about which is truly the side they should be supporting. I found this story to be emotionally moving, and truly intriguing. PLUS! I loveee the cover! This is a cover that catches my eye. The characters are well constructed and the author gives the depth within quick sketches that don’t slow down the story.

QUINN OF CYGNUS: LIFT OFF by A M Scott

Such an excellent lead character! I can’t wait to see what adventures Quinn has! A young girl with a large destiny and a strong will who sets off across the galaxy to find what her future holds but ends up battling for her life. This is a VERY interesting story with great promise. One of the better main characters I’ve come across in a while, and very well written! Really draws you into the character’s life and story right from the start. Also a cover that I just love!

PETRA by Matthew S Rotundo

Petra had me hooked right from the start! In the star travel age there still is crime and imprisonment, but what if that prison were a whole planet, and what if there were dark secrets hidden in the system, and a person positioned perfectly to bring them to light, while a prison planet uprising is brewing! I normally don’t do the “this book reminded me of this other author” comparisons in my reviews, but in starting this book I was immediately drawn back into my teen years when I started reading an author by the name of Timothy Zahn. I really felt like I was reading something Zahn might have written, and just enjoyed the magical ability some stories have to draw you in and make you forget everything but the story you are reading. That’s an incredible gift to encounter, so I am eager to see where this story goes!

THIS BLUE BALL by Wayne V Miller

This Blue Ball by Wayne V Miller was not the story I expected upon reading the description! It is intriguing, engaging, and quite the adventure to try and sort out what the story within the story is. I really enjoy a book that makes you pause and consider what you just read, and here is one that will do just that!

THE COMBAT CODES by Alexander Darwin

What interesting world building right from the start! A SciFi in which the fates of planets are determined by single combat, and this is the story of those warriors. Excellently written in a style that draws you in and keeps you turning page after page, this is a fully realized story that I enjoy reading! Solidly interesting characters coupled with a promising concept that is delivered well. I really want to get to know more of these characters!

There are the five cut books I am featuring on my website. As stated above please check the websites of my fellow team mates for the other sixteen we cut, and we’ll share the ten we will be reading in their entirety soon. BUT please let me encourage y’all to click on the links for these five very interesting books and give them a try yourself! I think you just might discover a new favorite author or two if you do!

Announcing Upcoming Announcements For SPSFC!

As y’all know I have the joy of working with Team Red Stars for the amazing SPSFC and we are almost ready to announce our cuts from our initial allotment of books! We will then follow that with our release of our Team’s Top Ten Books from the allotment. These are the ten we will read in full prior to passing three along to the third round of the competition.

So what does all this mean? Well I am glad you asked because I value communication! Our team was given 31 Self Published SciFi Books to read 10-20% of and then cut 21 of those books, leaving us with 10 to read in full. We have worked hard at this and while it has not been easy to cut those 21 books we have done so and we look forward to sharing these cuts with you soon!

Why are we not sharing the cuts yet? Because at the heart of the SPSFC is a goal to bring greater visibility to more Self Published SciFi Books! So our team talked amongst ourselves and we have decided that we want to provide feedback not only on our Top Ten but also on the 21 that were cut. This can take a little time to write up. So we are creating a soft deadline of next weekend.

Now to break the fourth wall as it were and talk directly with y’all, I started this blog post hours ago and had to pause it to take care of and spend time with my family, and as I write this I’m just thinking about and appreciating how much of a labor of love this is for the reader/judges and also for the authors! Everyone is pouring in their personal time here, and I want to say a heartfelt thank you and we see you. Thank you.

Ok so the goal: next weekend (Nov 13,14) our team will give brief reviews of each of the 21 books we are cutting, and then we will post our team’s top ten!

So please check out our teams blogs and follow along for this fun journey! You can find us here:

https://jwwartick.com

https://williamctracy.com

https://susyscozyworld.wordpress.com

https://musingofsouls.wordpress.com

What Is This SPSFC You Blog Of?

If you saw my last post and were like “Yes, very nice, but what is this SPSFC of which you blog?” well I am glad you asked!

The SPSFC is the Self Published Science Fiction Competition and it is a brand new shiny annual competition designed to take around 300 books that are voluntarily submitted, vet them through ten teams of judges, and select one book as the very best of those 300 books!

As with all competitions there are certain criteria for book selections, which may or may not change slightly from year to year. This inaugural year is teaching the hosts and judges a lot! Our current criteria does include (but is not limited to) the book must be self published, over a certain word count, has to be SciFi, and either a standalone or the first in series.

The concept is loosely based upon the popular SPFBO and hopes to bring forth lots of reviews and eyes upon books! For this first round each team of judges (we’ll meet Team Red Stars in an upcoming post soon) starts with around 30 books apiece, and we’ll read 10-20% of each of those books then select ten books for the team to read in full. Once we’ve read those we will pass the top three books on to the greater group of all judges, and so will each of the other teams. Every judge will read all of those thirty and then we’ll winnow them down to a top ten, and then top one. It will be quite the process!

I can say that everyone really is very excited and eager to dive into these books! This will be a lot of reading and a lot of fun. I truly hope you follow along and hopefully you also discover some new to you books that are bright stars in the sky!

And that in a nutshell is this wondrous thing we call the SPSFC!

Book 46 of….

Y’all know I’ve been reading the Horus Heresy for *does imitation of Obi Wan’s voice from Ep IV* “… a long, long time. A long time.” and truthfully I’ve really been enjoying it! Admittedly when I first started reading it the first time through I thought they were moving too fast by the third book and worried they’d have it resolved by the fifth book. Wow was I wrong! I remember getting so frustrated that the series went sideways that I bailed at book 8. It was years until I returned and started over, and I’m thankful I did and that I had a better understanding of what I was getting in to.

The Horus Heresy is a story about a galactic civil war and the writers (there are multiple working together) are going to show you every aspect of it, which really does make it galactic in scale!

I’ve written about this series before, and given updates as I have journeyed through it, but as I just completed book 46 Ruinstorm, and started book 47 Old Earth, I just wanted to pause for a moment and say: Damn. I love this series!

Ruinstorm by David Annandale hit pause on the series to take us across the Galaxy to three Legions of forces trying to get back to Terra to stand beside the Emperor in his hour of need, but it’s ok because the book before it (Tallarn by John French) ALSO hit pause on the series to take us to a specific planet with a specific part of the war (also Tallarn was INCREDIBLE). I say all that to say: this series hits pause on the doomsday clock often, and it normally works out!

While this is a review of Ruinstorm, it is more a review of the entire series itself. I have to say I am loving reading it and the fact that I can be almost 50 books into a series and still be loving it should speak volumes (see what I did there?) so if you like Military SciFi with a good dose of GrimDark then don’t hesitate on this series.

A Must Read Author

Every reader has a must read author or two that they absolutely love reading and HAVE to read everything the author has written! It’s an instant buy when you see their books, or a preorder when you hear that they have a new book coming soon. You just have to read their books! Like drop your TBR pile on the floor and grab this book!

For me Benjanun Sriduangkaew has become that Must Read Author! I don’t properly have the words for how amazing I find her stories to be! Each new story just leaves me saying THIS IS WHAT SCIFI IS SUPPOSED TO BE! Yep. That good.

Not only are the stories amazing but so are the covers and titles! I am a title buyer. If I see a cool title I want the story that goes with it! And there is one of her short stories that has the GREATEST title that I’ll share at the end of this post.

So what type of stories does she write? Space Opera! I loveeee a good Space Opera! Star Wars is a good example of Space Opera, or Iain M Banks’ Culture Novels. Galactic battles and larger than life consequences to actions. BUT she tells the stories differently. They aren’t told from the perspective of the colonizer, but from the colonized! The apocalypse has happened for these characters and now they must deal with the Empire that is trying to subjugate them. This perspective matters.

This is smart and bold SciFi that is powerfully written that shows society that has progressed but still has lessons for us today. Highly recommend.

Where to start? Well remember I told you about a fantastic title and said I’d share it? Allow me to share it and suggest this short story as an excellent entrance to Benjanun’s work!

You And I Shall Be As Radiant is a perfect intro for a new to Benjanun reader! This short story with an amazing title will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew has become a must read author for me, and if you give her a shot she might just be for you too!

April Fools TBR

What is one book on your TBR that you’ve been saying to yourself for ages that you’ll eventually one day maybe perhaps sometime soon get to it and read it? That ONE book you never quite seem to get to no matter how much you PROMISE you will get to it? Let’s read that book in April!

We ALL have one or two of those books that always get shuffled down our TBR no matter how often we set it atop the pile and promise we’ll read it next. This April lets give it a go!

The goal of #AprilFoolsTBR is to finally give one of those books a go! They’ve waited on us long enough so each of us should pick one up and give it a read! It doesn’t have to be the same book as anyone else is reading, this is a unique sort of buddy read where we join in solidarity and read a book that we have wanted to read for ages!

Are you up for joining in the fun? Share what book you’ll be reading!

The Winner Of RedStarReviews Favorite Book Of The Year Award For 2020 is…

That is a super long title for a blog post and for an award! However it is perfect for the goal of the post which is to unveil the winner of this (potentially) highly sought after award! Each year I select one book out of all the books I’ve read that year and crown it as my favorite! I typically leave out rereads, otherwise I might end up with repeat winners as I like rereading my favorites, but my criteria for selecting my favorite book of the year is: It is my favorite book out of all the books I read that year. I really want to get stickers made to stick on the books that win! Maybe one day.

Some of the previous winners

This past year I read 104 books. 20,241 pages according to GoodReads. 2020 was the first year since my children were born that I broke 100 books! It was a great year of reading and there were quite a few books in the running for this award! I’ll share about the runners up later though. This post is about the winner and it is time to tell you what book won!

The winner of 2020’s RedStarReviews Favorite Book Of The Year Award Is:

NOPHEK GLOSS by ESSA HANSEN

Y’all, Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen is a PAGE TURNER! One of the most unputdownable books you will ever read! The sort you take with you everywhere you go while you are reading it because you really want to keep reading it! It is the opening book to a Space Opera trilogy and it is one that will grab on to you from the start and hold on to you until the very end, and then refuse to let go of you after you have finished it. This book is an overload of your senses. There are scenes in here that you experience every bit as strongly as the characters themselves!

The story is about many things, but one aspect I loved is how it is about finding your people. It is about discovering not only yourself but also your found family. The raw emotional experience this is for the character is incredibly well relayed. This story is one that shows you what SciFi can be! And interestingly enough pairs well with Argyle Park. Seriously! 90’s Industrial Music really fits into so many scenes of this story.

Congratulations to Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen for winning 2020’s RedStarReviews Favorite Book Of The Year Award! The books that win this award are the ones I really wish I could inspire everyone I know to read them. To help with this goal please check out chapter one shared by the publisher Orbit Books: Chapter One Of Nophek Gloss

A Snippet Of A Space Opera!

Y’all know I love a good Space Opera! The galaxy wide themes, everything living at stake, huge empires colliding, all of it makes for very dramatic stories! However in the midst of those mighty Space Operas it is easy to miss out on all the little side stories that would combine together into the greater tale. That’s what reading The Long Lost War by Jeff Walker brought to my mind!

This brief SciFi story is cinematic in nature! It felt like something that would easily translate to the big screen, and dealt with deep questions while not slowing down the ever moving plot line!

It is a short SciFi story that features clones and warring forces, and one clone who seeks to question everything going on around them. One who needs to know the why of things. Is there a purpose to this war? How long has it been fought? What are the goals? Can it be stopped? Why isn’t anyone else asking these questions?

This story delivers. It pushes you to think and leaves you wondering. Really fun, quick to read, I recommend giving this SciFi a read!

Storytellers On Tour: The Wrack

Let me just start out by saying you should read The Wrack by John Bierce! This book is such a unique Fantasy! I’m really happy I had the opportunity to join in on this blog tour featuring this book and thankful to Storytellers On Tour for allowing me to participate! Please click that link to view the tour schedule so that you can see all the great reviews by other reader/reviewers who also took part. Ok ok I know you’re interested in what this book is all about so without further ado I present to you the book blurb:

(Ok so a little more ado in the form of this excellent cover art)

Book Information

The Wrack by John Bierce

Published: April 23, 2020

Genre: Epidemiological Fantasy

Age Group: Adult

Pages: 232

Book Blurb

Plague has come to the continent of Teringia.

As the Wrack makes its slow, relentless march southwards, it will humble kings and healers, seers and merchants, priests and warriors. Behind, it leaves only screams and suffering, and before it, spreads only fear.

Lothain, the birthplace of the Wrack, desperately tries to hold itself together as the plague burns across it and its neighbors circle like vultures. The Moonsworn healers would fight the Wrack, but must navigate distrust and violence from the peoples of Teringia. Proud Galicanta readies itself for war, as the Sunsworn Empire watches and waits for the Wrack to bring its rival low.

And the Wrack advances, utterly unconcerned with the plans of men.

I had never heard of Epidemi… that word that I’d have to copy and paste to spell… Fantasy before, and so this was my very first dive into this subgenre! It was FASCINATING! Most Fantasy books focus on characters or a quest, so I started reading this book with that as my loose expectation. I was wrong. The structure of this book is uniquely situated so that each chapter reads like a short story, and those short stories follows the plague! There are characters who reappear as the story develops, but the main driving force of this book is The Wrack itself, and it is neat to see how it develops as the story unfolds! That said there is one chapter in particular that just gripped my heart featuring a beautiful soul of a person who finds themself isolated in the desert. You’ll know it when you read it, and I’ll bet you tear up too just like I did.

For me the ending of a story really matters. I can forgive all kinds of flaws in books if you give me an ending that causes me to stop and say “That is the right ending for this story” and this book delivers on that. With the structure of this story it can be tricky to end a story like this but the author pulls it off masterfully.

Speaking of the author here are some links if you would like to know more about John Bierce:

Website: https://johnbierce.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/john_bierce

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/johnbierce

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18510329.John_Bierce

Now one thing I really enjoy about this book blog tour is that not only am I able to read this excellent book and encourage y’all to read it, I am also able to tell you that you can win a free physical copy of the book! There are five copies being given away free! Details on that are found here.

Seriously I hope you give this book a read! You can find it on GoodReads and on Amazon and I think you will really enjoy it. One thing I neglected to mention earlier is that if you enjoy WorldBuilding (and I do) then I think you’ll really appreciate this book! It is a bright star in the sky worth noticing.