Joelene Pynnonen

Joelene Pynnonen embraces the life of an avid book lover in every way. Her household is ruled cruelly by a wrathful cat; and should a fire ever start it is doubtful that she would make it past the elegant stacks of novels to her room door. At least once a year she coerces her mother into watching the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice with her, and will often follow up by re-reading the book.

 

 

lewis-whos afraidReviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

When Tommi Greyson heads back to New Zealand, she is hoping to find out more about her paternal family. Her mother fled the country before Tommi was born, running as far from Tommi’s father as possible. Now that her mother is dead, Tommi feels as though she can find out who her father is.

She doesn’t expect to find that before he died, less than a month ago, he was the leader of a pack of werewolves. The most powerful pack in the Southern Hemisphere, in fact. After being attacked by her relatives and enduring a gruelling first change, Tommi is saved by an unlikely ally.

Lorcan is an immortal who has worked for Treize, the supernatural world’s justice system, for centuries. With his battle expertise, he is the best candidate to train Tommi in her new abilities, or to kill her if she becomes a threat.

Who’s Afraid? is the first novel in a new romantic paranormal series that introduces combative werewolf, Tommi Greyson. Paranormal romance is a relatively untouched genre for me. I’ve read a few books from the heavy hitters – Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Patricia Briggs – but haven’t really gotten in to any series. So it was good to find a fresh, new addition to the genre.

It’s a solid beginning. It introduces a world in which supernatural creatures exist and are kept in check by the Treize. Enough information is given about the world that the story is never confusing, but there a lot of questions yet to be answered. Lewis has kept the balance well. I’m intrigued to know more about Tommi’s werewolf family and whether the mysterious Treize is really as benevolent as Lorcan would have us believe; but I’m not frustrated that the answers weren’t in the first book.

Though Lewis covers a lot of ground in introducing her world, there’s so much more that could have been explored emotionally. While Lewis has introduced a diverse cast of characters, she’s done little to explore the intricacies of race, gender and sexuality. Tommi suffers from internalised racism, which is hardly surprising considering the narrative that her mother forced her to grow up with. But Tommi seems wholly unaware that she even has this issue, so there’s no point at which she tries to address the problem. While I kind of get it, I also kind of hate Tommi for being triggered by someone as gentle as Poc while not being fazed by white men crawling into her bed in the middle of the night, attacking her as part of her training, and also kissing her pretty roughly.

A lot of the elements introduced in Who’s Afraid? are a refreshing change from many of the urban fantasy or paranormal novels I’ve read. The introduction of themes such as the Maori culture, and growing up mixed-race in a white community and a white family work brilliantly in making this novel memorable. I’m hoping that future novels in this series will have Tommi reconnecting with her father’s family.

Who’s Afraid? has the potential for a fascinating new series. It will be really interesting to see where the next few books take Tommi and her friends.

 

 Who’s Afraid? – Maria Lewis

 Hachette (January 2016)

 ISBN: 9780349411149

Joelene Pynnonen

Joelene Pynnonen embraces the life of an avid book lover in every way. Her household is ruled cruelly by a wrathful cat; and should a fire ever start it is doubtful that she would make it past the elegant stacks of novels to her room door. At least once a year she coerces her mother into watching the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice with her, and will often follow up by re-reading the book.

 

tarr_forgotten sunsThe planet of Nevermore has been empty – seemingly abandoned by its previously vast population for thousands of years. For Aisha’s archaeologist parents, this is a mystery that needs to be solved – if only they can scrape together the funding for it. Unfortunately, resources for such expeditions are low and, when it looks as though Aisha and her family will be forced to leave Nevermore, Aisha sets off an exploration, hoping to find a treasure worth keeping the expedition funded.

What she does instead is unleash an ancient being, put to sleep six thousand years ago when he became too volatile to manage. Everything about his world has changed since he went to sleep, and all he wants is to find out why. If he is to be loosed on the unsuspecting world, however, Aisha cannot let him go alone.

Khalida is trying to recover from the horrors she has seen and inflicted during her years at war. She’s not doing a particularly good job of it, but when orders come through, calling her back to the precise battle that she had tried to end, she has no choice but to follow. Her niece, Aisha, and Rama, the unbelievably powerful being that Aisha released, are along for the ride – whether Khalida wishes it or not.

As promised in the Kickstarter campaign funding this novel, Forgotten Suns is a rip-roaring adventure in the guise of a space opera. Like any adventure, there is a great journey – though this one spans universes, not just worlds. The world of Forgotten Suns is intricately and tightly woven. Not purely sci-fi, it delves into fantasy at times, seamlessly melding the two genres.

While the mystery at the centre of the story concerns Nevermore, the abandoned planet, and Rama, the ancient being that Aisha awakens, there are other storylines going on that are much more interesting. Khalida’s broken mind and her struggle to keep herself alive, the Psycorps relationship to Military Intelligence, and how it affects the planets they exploit are storylines that are not explored as well as they could be. Much of the issue is that Rama is too powerful for this novel. Any conflict that arises he is too easily able to quash. Psycorps is a genuinely scary organisation and has the potential to be a serious threat, except for Rama’s abilities.

The world of Forgotten Suns is as richly imagined as any space opera should be. Rather than imagining a white-washed future, it delves into a universe diverse in race, sex and sexuality.

Forgotten Suns is a futuristic journey of discovery spanning not only universes but dimensions. Vividly imaginative and almost poetic in metaphorical description, it’s the novel for any aficionado of space opera.

Forgotten Suns – Judith Tarr

Book View Café (April 21, 2015)

ISBN: 9781611384772

Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

Ross Baker is having a bad day. Having found out from office gossip that his beloved girlfriend has fallen pregnant but does not trust him enough to tell him, he volunteers for a scan using the new technology his company, Neurosphere, is developing. The scan is meant to take his mind off the complications in his life, and it does, just not in the way that Ross had expected.

Now he is trapped inside Starfire, the computer game he had played incessantly as a child. No matter what he does, he cannot escape. Dying is painful, but only leads to respawning. There are bridges that can take him out of the game, only to lead him to other games. What’s worse, a group of people called the Integrity have set up within the game world and are trying to close off all the bridges, using brute force if necessary. Ross must find out what they are doing before time runs out for him and everyone else.

From the blurb one would expect Bedlam to be a fast-paced action with a lot of thrills and kills, but not much heart. That would be wrong. It does have action, but there are a lot of other things going on in this novel. It’s philosophical and strangely domestic. Stuck in a game – or set of games – where pretty much anything goes, Ross’s character is defined more by what he has left behind than by his actions. He considers the ramifications of killing before he makes any kills and his mind is consistently on Carol, his pregnant girlfriend. Ultimately Ross is a pillar of morality, and he has the intellect to be able to consider ethics on a scholarly level.

The writing is third person, but from Ross’s perspective and it is as clever as it ought to be in showing Ross’s thought processes. Brookmyre’s writing is at turns witty, thoughtful or self-deprecating, but it is always in character.

The pace is the only thing that lets this novel down. There were a few reveals that I figured out before Ross did because of pacing issues. Usually that wouldn’t bother me, but Brookmyre sold me on Ross being smarter than me (and most of the general population) and he should have been able to figure out anything that I could.

There were quite a few reveals that I didn’t figure out, though. And, although I beat Ross to some of them, his reaction to the news was starkly different to what I would expect and quite refreshing.

 Bedlam isn’t what one would expect from the cover and blurb. It is, however, a wonderful read that takes into account the moral dilemmas we will increasingly face as our technology advances. It’s an inventive and thought-provoking read that I would recommend to gamers and non-gamers alike.

 Bedlam – Christopher Brookmyre

 Orbit Books (February 7, 2013)

 ISBN: 9781408704073

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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