Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TBR Day. Ghost Planet / Sharon Lynn Fisher. 2012

This month's theme is books that received lots of hype. I don't really have anything like that in my TBR pile, so I decided to go off in a totally different direction and review the first SF romance I've read in ages. This book was a finalist this year in the RITAs and the description was intriguing so I picked it up several months ago. I finally read it this weekend and I really, really liked it. Fisher was nominated in the "Best First Book" category. If this is her first book, I'm definitely looking forward to more.

Earth is in a bad way as the environment has become extremely toxic. A new world has opened up that has incredible potential to provide the sustenance Earth needs. But there's a very strange phenomenon on this planet. Whenever a new human arrives on the planet, someone from that person's past is reincarnated into a very human-like body and is somehow tethered to their human. Everyone has a "ghost" trailing behind them. The ghost is fully aware of who he/she used to be. Yet for the human, it can be extremely unsettling to have this person trailing around behind them. It's one thing if your ghost is a beloved spouse or an old friend. It's another if your ghost is an abusive parent. So a Ghost Protocol has been initiated to keep ghosts in the background, shunned and ignored. Ghosts become pale imitations of the humans they used to be.

Elizabeth Cole is a psychologist who has traveled to this new world to work with the psychologists who help people acclimate and learn how to deal with their ghosts. When the book opens she meets Murphy, her new boss and creator of the protocol. It turns out they'd met once before, back on earth. There's an instant attraction between them. And then it turns out that Elizabeth died when her ship crash-landed and Elizabeth is a ghost--tethered to, of all people, Murphy. Elizabeth goes instantly from being a welcomed and respected new colleague to being shunted to the side. And Elizabeth isn't going to take it lying down.

As Elizabeth digs deep to discover what exactly it means to be a ghost, she manages to get Murphy to really look at her and not ignore her. Their attraction deepens and it becomes imperative to understand the nature of their symbiotic relationship and the ramifications that has for the development of the planet. Meanwhile there are other people at work who want to exploit the ghosts and the planet's resources for commercial gain.

A book about reincarnating the dead brings up numerous interesting questions. Fisher doesn't necessarily answer all of those questions, but she does delve into issues of control and responsibility for those who didn't ask to find themselves in the position of being a ghost. It was particularly interesting to see that the treatment of the ghosts was important to the planet's ability to be developed for humans to use.

The book is in 1st person from Elizabeth's POV. This is perfect for seeing her dismay, confusion, and anger upon realizing she's a ghost. It's also great for seeing her wrestle for the control over her own life that was lost when she "died." I enjoyed the romance that developed between her and Murphy just as much as I enjoyed the world Fisher created. Frankly, I'd love to see more books set here, although it doesn't appear right now that Fisher is going to do that. Still, what a lovely debut. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes SciFi Romance.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Phyl's 5 Phaves from July

Yes, yes, I know. It's November. I don't want to admit how long I've had a draft of this post waiting to be published.

5. Her Best Worst Mistake / Sarah Mayberry. (2012) This book received a lot of attention when it was first released, so I was pretty eager to read it. Plus, I've liked most of Mayberry's books that I've read. This is an enemies to lovers story, and really interesting in the way Mayberry's characters, Violet and Martin, shed the assumptions each has had about the other. This book runs concurrent to Hot Island Nights (which I haven't read). Elizabeth and Martin had been engaged for years, when suddenly Elizabeth flies off to Australia in search of her biological father. She leaves her best friend, Violet, to break the news to Martin. Martin and Violet have never gotten along. Violet thinks Martin is all wrong for Elizabeth, and Martin objects to Violet's flamboyant ways. On the surface they seem so different for one another, yet when Elizabeth's flight gives them the opportunity to get to know one another better, they find they had more in common than they anticipated. I think the development of Martin and Violet's relationship is well and realistically done. I liked this book very much.

4. VJ : the Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave / Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Allan Hunter, and Martha Quinn. (2013) For several years in the early 80's, after MTV came on the air, I treated MTV like a radio--keeping it on in the background while I did other things, looking up to watch the videos when my favorite songs and artists came on the air. These days I have a satellite radio that I carry around to plug into my car, my office, or my sewing room. The '80s on 8 is one of a handful of stations I listen to regularly. I was eager to read this book that, using a conversational style, chronicled the early years of MTV. It was enjoyable on a number of levels--for the personal look into the lives of the four authors, for the look into the business of starting up a music cable channel, and for the stories behind music and events I remember quite well. This is a great read for anyone who enjoyed the early years of MTV.

3. Betrayal / Sandra Schwab. (2013) This novella is Schwab's newest book in ages. I'm so glad she's publishing again. Betrayal will remind readers of the Disney movie The Parent Trap, which was actually based on Erich Kastner's Das doppelte Lottchen, a German children's book. Georgina is living in Germany where she welcomes home her son who had been travelling in Italy. It is not long before she realizes that this boy is not the son she knew, but his twin who she'd left behind when she fled her husband, Ash. Her sons met one another in Italy and had traded places. Georgina needs to take this twin home and confront the painful past she left behind. This is a nice angsty, emotional read, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

2. The Heiress Effect / Courtney Milan. (2013) Oliver Marshall is a man with a mission. He is the bastard son of a duke, raised on a farm, yet given a gentleman's education. His goal is to be the voice of the people and sometimes that means doing somewhat distasteful things to secure the support of the rich and powerful. Jane Fairfield is an heiress with poor social skills and a terrible sense of style. In reality, Jane is trying to repel those who would marry her for her money. As Oliver is thrown into her company, he sees that there is much more to Jane than most people see. But what is he to do when he has to make a choice between Jane and achieving his goals? This is an interesting look at the slippery slope our choices can take us down, as well as the politics of an era when the people were gaining a louder political voice. There's also a secondary inter-racial romance involving Jane's sister that I wish had gotten even more attention. Still, I loved this entry in Milan's Brothers Sinister series.

1. Honest Illusions / Nora Roberts. (1992) This title appeared on one of the AAR staff's top 10 picks and since I enjoy going through Roberts' backlist, I picked it up at the library. I'm so glad I did, because I think it will go down as one of my top 5 Nora's. This book is really different from most of hers that I've read. It's more of a saga as it takes place over a couple of decades. It's also really dated--in a good way. Modern technology would change this book in so many ways that I'm not sure the story could be told the same way today. Anyhow, Roxanne Nouvelle is the daughter of a renowned magician who is also a jewel thief on the side. A significant part of the story takes place during Roxanne's youth when her father takes in a runaway boy and makes him part of the family and the magic act. As kids, Roxanne and Luke battle one another all the time, but as young adults they fall in love. Just as it looks as if they're ready for their happily ever after, Luke disappears, and it's years before he comes back. There's someone who haunts Luke's past and he's determined to keep him from the family that took him in when he was young and desperate. I laughed in spots, I cried in others, and I was swept away by the drama. It was interesting that the main characters were thieves and yet they were the "good guys." I'll read this again.