The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Summer Reading VII: The Phoenix Conspiracy

Being a fourth grade teacher, I tend to mostly read books that I think my students would be interested in reading. There are so many wonderful children’s books being written every year and I want to keep up with them. I have colleagues through various online networks who are constantly recommending books and I add them to my ever-growing pile of “Books To Read.”  Sometimes a book will get moved to the top of the pile. Sometimes a book never makes it into the pile because I start reading it immediately. And some of the books stay in the pile for far longer than I would wish.

I am jealous of those colleagues who have the time to participate in the summer reading program, started by  a teacher on Twitter, called #bookaday. It is quite simple: Every day of the summer, a different book. I could do that if I limited myself to short stories and picture books. But, again, being a fourth grade teacher, I mostly read longer chapter books.

When I am not reading juvenile fiction (sometimes called YA literature, although I feel that is more appropriately used when referring to adolescents and not young children), I am often reading any number of professional texts in an effort to be more effective in my teaching. What I have not read much of in the past year or so have been fiction books written for adults. I honestly do not remember the last novel I read that wasn’t for children. Until just recently, that is.

As you are quite likely aware, my wife and I are moving from Champaign to Savoy this summer. (In just two and a half weeks, in fact.) With all of the summer conferences, workshops, and other activities I have undertaken, we knew that I wouldn’t be home much in June or July, so we started packing our things back in May. The first thing to get packed was my wife’s extensive collection of Snoopy & Peanuts paraphernalia. Second to go was my 2,000-volume library. All of my books, packed in boxes and stored in the garage for three months.

To get me through the separation, I have been relying heavily on eBooks available through the Champaign Public Library and also through the iTunes store. I recently browsed all the free selections on the iTunes store and downloaded  a few dozen to my phone. I finally read one of them this past week while I was on Lake Ontario.

It is called “The Phoenix Conspiracy,” the first in the series of the same title, by Richard L. Sanders. I’d never heard of Mr. Sanders before. Certainly never read any of his books. The only criteria I had for selecting to read it when I did was that it was free, it was fiction, and it was written for adults.

I enjoyed this book! Setting aside the few random typographical errors that made their way into the eBook format, the story itself was interesting. It is a science fiction novel, taking place in an undefined future in which humans have conquered most of the galaxy and have establish a galactic empire. They have an uneasy alliance with the Rotham Republic, which is made up of lizard-like aliens. However, the human empire is definitely the dominant force in the galaxy.

I am going to share the plot summary/hook provided on the author’s website, as I think it does a great job of introducing the story.

On the surface, the galaxy seems peaceful. The war is over. An era of trade and prosperity has begun. But to those who can read the signs, it’s clear something is wrong. Long, dark fingers are pulling strings inside the military, making deals across empires, and orchestrating something foul.

Calvin Cross is an intelligence agent for the Imperial government. He’s young, his methods are unorthodox, but he gets the job done. So when a former military hero steals a warship and goes rogue, threatening to start a war, Calvin is sent to find and eliminate him.

But as he chases his prey across the stars, he realizes they are both pawns in a shadowy chess game that shakes kingdoms, breaks empires, and endangers civilization everywhere. And if he is to uncover the mystery and expose the conspiracy he must tangle with the darkest elements of the galaxy and throw himself, his career, and everyone he loves into the line of fire.

Conspiracy, intrigue, mystery, spaceships, an overly dogmatic executive officer clashing with an overly relaxed ship’s captain, and a cast of supporting characters who add depth to the story all combine to make this a very pleasant read. I was able to read the entire book over the course of about five or six days. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good sci-fi series, written by a new author who is primarily self-publishing through eBook and audiobook formats. I am going to look for the other books in the series soon!

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