4 star review

Review – Illusion Town by Jayne Castle

Illusion Town

A new adventure begins on Harmony…

With its opulent casinos and hotels, the desert city of Illusion Town is totally unique—and will take you on a thrill ride you’ll never forget.

Hannah West isn’t the first woman to wake up in Illusion Town married to a man she barely knows, but she has no memory of the ceremony at all. For that matter, neither does Elias Coppersmith, her new husband. All either can remember is that they were on the run…

With Hannah’s dubious background and shaky para-psych profile, she could have done much worse. The cooly competent mining heir arouses her curiosity—as well as other parts of her mind and body. And even her dust bunny likes him.

But a honeymoon spent retracing their footsteps leads Hannah and Elias into the twisting underground catacombs, where secrets from both their pasts will come to light—and where the energy of their clashing auras will grow hot enough to burn…

So long have I been reading this series. SO long. This is book 13 in the Harmony series, or like book 1 bajillion if you consider that the tie-ins from her Amanda Quick and Jayne Anne Krentz’s pen names are part of the series. And I honestly can’t believe I haven’t written about any of those, but then I realized the last Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz ones were in 2013 (still waiting for her to finish those two out), and time really does fly doesn’t it? But I bring it up because we have TIE IN! Family is a strong theme in these series and it followed the people through the curtain to Harmony.

I adore engineers, know this made me predisposed to love this book. Castle got the abrupt, highly specific and almost hyper literal communication method down pat, it reminds me so much of real life I was able to settle right in.

This was action packed, and plenty twisty, and seemed much longer than the past few books, but in a good way. Needless to say there is a lot going on. We have also branched out significantly from the guilds, so it will be interesting to see where she goes in the series from here.

It is hard to know what to say about this book, except that if you read this series, you know what you are getting. Two off the chart talents, disparate worlds, family ties, albeit often unconventional ones, a mystery or two, and DUST BUNNIES!

This one struck me as a bit more fun and charming than the last couple, but YMMV. I like the pragmatic engineer hero. It is kind of a thing for me. I also enjoyed the ridiculous retracing of steps, kind of abbreviated Hangover type scenario.

I can’t quite explain what it is about this series that brings me back time and time again,. but they make me happy. And really some days that is all one can ask. You can probably read this as a stand alone. But if you haven’t started this series, I’d say start at the beginning and then pace yourself. If you binge I can imagine the similarities might get to you. But, since I am not binging, all I can say is that I’ve enjoyed my annual trip to harmony, and this particular one will likely go back on my reread shelf for a future blah day, it isn’t deep but it is broad, and it left me smiling.

Illusion Town

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5 star review

Review – Dark Minds by Michelle Diener

Dark Minds

The mind is the most powerful weapon of all . . .

Imogen Peters knows she’s a pawn. She’s been abducted from Earth, held prisoner, and abducted again. So when she gets a chance at freedom, she takes it with both hands, not realizing that doing so will turn her from pawn to kingmaker.

Captain Camlar Kalor expected to meet an Earth woman on his current mission, he just thought he’d be meeting her on Larga Ways, under the protection of his Battle Center colleague. Instead, he and Imogen are thrown together as prisoners in the hold of a Class 5 battleship. When he works out she’s not the woman who sparked his mission, but another abductee, Cam realizes his investigation just got a lot more complicated, and the nations of the United Council just took a step closer to war.

Imogen’s out of her depth in this crazy mind game playing out all around her, and she begins to understand her actions will have a massive impact on all the players. But she’s good at mind games. She’s been playing them since she was abducted. Guess they should have left her minding her own business back on Earth…

So this is another one where I received an arc (this time from the author directly-this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review) and bought it anyway- because this author gives me great joy and I am pleased to throw the money at her. Not knowing where she lives and thus being unable to properly stalk and throw money in person, Amazon shall have to do.

I am both saddened and joyful to report that this is the completion of the Class 5 trilogy. I mean I adore series that complete, but I kind of want to stay here forever. But considering how much I complain about series that draggle on poorly forever, I’ll gladly take an author who leaves me wanting more over one who leaves me wishing I never started. So to briefly recap, the discovery of Rose and Sazo in Dark Horse alerted the Grih to the duplicity of the Tecran, and then the events of Dark Deeds alerted the United Council to just how far the treachery went bringing to light two more earth women and a greater scope of misdeeds.

So now we finally have the missing Isobel, and the final two enslaved thinking systems are in play in ways that no one could have expected. And I can’t rightly express how fascinating I find the culture Diener has built, or how impressed I am by how varied the characters are, especially the thinking systems. And the way the women have related to their experiences and associated with the Grih have been wildly different too.

Isobel actually spends the least time with Grih society as a whole, and the most time with her partner in a sort of enforced proximity compared to the other heroines, and that changes the dynamics of how she is perceived (by me at least) as a character. She is quite fatalistic, and angry, so angry at times. And Cam was such a suspicious blighter that you really can’t help but like him. Of course as satisfying as I found their relationship (and I did find it more satisfying than Fiona and Hal’s though slightly less so than Rose and Dav’s-if you want to keep score), for me the stars in this one were more the thinking ships. They played a much bigger role than they did in the last book, and I really felt I got to know Paxe and Oris to a significant extent. They are young so their personalities are still forming, but I KNEW them.

I am just gushing here, but I can’t help myself. I want to squee and scream, and laugh and cry, and accost people I don’t even know to MAKE them read this series. And here, I don’t even know where to go with this review, how to explain why it is such magic for me, but it is. Despite sadness and loss and cruelty, this series is pure magic for me, and I can’t recommend it enough.

While the Class 5 series is finished, I truly hope Ms. Diener chooses to keep writing science fiction, because I will continue to snap it up.

Dark Minds (Class 5 Series Book 3)

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3 star review

Review – The Life Engineered by J.F. Dubeau

Life Engineered.jpg

JF Dubeau’s debut novel, The Life Engineered, begins in the year 3594, where humanity is little more than a memory a legend of the distant past destined to reappear. Capeks, a race of artificial creatures originally created by humans, have inherited the galaxy and formed a utopian civilization built on the shared goal of tirelessly working to prepare for their makers return.

One moment a cop dying in the line of duty in Boston, the next reborn as a Capek, Dagir must find her place in this intricate society. That vaguely remembered death was but the last of hundreds of simulated lives, distilling her current personality. A robot built for rescue and repair, she finds her abilities tested immediately after her awakening when the large, sentient facility that created her is destroyed, marking the only instance of murder the peaceful Capeks have ever known. For the first time in their history, conflicting philosophies clash, setting off a violent civil war that could lay waste to the stars themselves.

Dagir sets off on a quest to find the killers, and finds much more than she sought. As the layers of the Capeks past peel away to reveal their early origins, centuries-old truths come to light. And the resulting revelations may tear humanity s children apart and destroy all remnants of humankind.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

It has been a very strange year. I guess by now it is obvious that my reviewing rate has significantly slowed. Not much help for it, but for those I am late getting to I sincerely apologize.

I requested this months ago on a science fiction kick because the premise sounded interesting. Kind of iRobot meets AI. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so well as those did for me.

For dealing entirely with artificial intelligence entities, the author does a credible job of tugging on the readers emotions, though one could wish the theme wasn’t “Kill the mothers”. But the rest of the narrative was disjointed and engaging on only the most superficial level, as were most of the characters excepting the main protagonist.

It is metaphor and analogy with significant religious overtones attempting to span a large-scale, and in my opinion it doesn’t quite succeed, being clumsy and heavy-handed where a certain level of elegance seems called for. And while I decry the killing mothers theme, this does seem to beg for the writer to kill his darlings. This isn’t a very long book but often it seemed to take twice as long for him to have his say as was actually needed, but without the luscious turns of phrase as other authors who have made similar (in my opinion) missteps.

Where the book succeeds is in the sweeping battles, logic exercises, and the action. And those parts I could absolutely have read more of. And I do want to know more about what has happened Skinfaxi, Belanos, and Koalamos and the Dormitory.  And I definitely want to know what else Adelaide might have had up her sleeve and how her mission shook out.

And Dubeau did a hell of a job snagging my attention with the teaser for the sequel.

But do I recommend this book? Tough to say. I won’t be rereading it unless too much time elapses between now and the sequel. But, I am almost absolutely sure I will read the sequel. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but that wasn’t entirely a bad thing. My rec is up in the air with this one read, at your own risk.

The Life Engineered

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4 star review

Review – 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush by Kevin J. Anderson, John McFetridge

2113.jpg

18 exhilarating journeys into Rush-inspired worlds

The music of Rush, one of the most successful bands in history, is filled with fantastic stories, evocative images, and thought-provoking futures and pasts. In this anthology, notable, bestselling, and award-winning writers each chose a Rush song as the spark for a new story, drawing inspiration from the visionary trio that is Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.

Enduring stark dystopian struggles or testing the limits of the human spirit, the characters populating 2113 find strength while searching for hope in a world that is repressive, dangerous, or just debilitatingly bland. Most of these tales are science fiction, but some are fantasies, thrillers, even edgy mainstream. Many of Rush’s big hits are represented, as well as deeper cuts . . . with wonderful results. This anthology also includes the seminal stories that inspired the Rush classics “Red Barchetta” and “Roll the Bones,” as well as Kevin J. Anderson’s novella sequel to the groundbreaking Rush album 2112.

2113 contains stories by New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Z. Williamson, David Mack, David Farland, Dayton Ward, and Mercedes Lackey; award winners Fritz Leiber, Steven Savile, Brad R. Torgersen, Ron Collins, David Niall Wilson, and Brian Hodge, as well as many other authors with imaginations on fire.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Dang, just dang, this is a ton of stories. I picked this up because I am fond of Rush, and because of the Mercedes Lackey story. Anthologies are difficult to review, especially when there are this many stories, so I’ll try to leave brief comments on them individually as I go along. But overall this anthology is filled with gems and you don’t need to have any familiarity with rush at all. I’ve underlined my favorites for ease of reference. Continue reading

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5 star review

Review – Alliance by SK Dunstall

Alliance

As the Linesman series continues, linesman Ean Lambert finds himself facing an alien ship he doesn’t understand—and a terrifying political threat he cannot fight…

The lines. The soul of every ship. It was once thought there were only ten, but that was before an alien vessel appeared at the edge of space—before Ean Lambert heard more lines singing. Ean’s ways of communicating with lines is strange. But his abilities make him a valuable tool—or weapon—to command.

Captain Selma Kari Wang has lost everything—her ship, her crew, her legs. But the New Alliance of Worlds is not done with her yet. After they rebuild her broken body, they send her to captain one of the new alien ships, teaming her up with Ean, the only one who can understand the alien lines.

Kari Wang and Ean are poised on the threshold of discoveries that could change the world. But not everyone wants the New Alliance to control the secrets they uncover—and those who oppose won’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to stop them…

Linesman (much like Dark Horse) was a breakout surprise for me last year. It just blew me away and I can’t count how many times I have re-read it since. So seeing the next one on Amazon was an immediate pre-order.

I jumped in as soon as I got home from work, and I was quite surprised we didn’t start with Ean Lambert. All of the last book was from his perspective, so I just wasn’t ready for Captain Selma Kari Wang. Fortunately she completely rocks, a completely in charge woman, and it was a hell of an introduction. Any doubts I might have had about how Dunstall would write from a female perspective were immediately dispelled.

As for the main action, we get right back to Ean and the New Alliance quickly, the action is exciting, Ean’s self deprecating charm is still a hit, and the politics are still simply fascinating. Seriously, I can not quite come up with the words to express how fascinating the political parts are, but it is one of my favorite aspects of this series. And the lines and the way Dunstall is building them and the linesman are a close tie for interest.

When we head back to Kari though, it is a gut punch, and I am highly impressed with how the author was able to weave such an emotional connection between the reader and this woman in such few words. While Ean was a man who needed to grow, Kari is a woman broken down to nothing who rebuilds herself…despite herself.

Secondary characters are also coming into their own fleshing out an already interesting world. It will be interesting to see how the Eleven’s crew shakes out, some of them are a delight

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending. Nothing negative, and no cliffhanger, it just came to a conclusion rather than a climax. But I can live with it, and I am in fact giving it 5 stars. I an hoping desperately Dunstall can keep creating at this rate.

Alliance: A Linesman Novel

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3 star review

January TBR Challenge 2016 – Review B Cubed by Jenna McCormick

TBR Challenge 2016Topic: We Love Short Shorts! (category romance, short stories, novella etc.)

I decided to participate in a TBR Challenge this year after lurking around them for a number of years. My actual owned TBR honestly isn’t that bad as far as numbers go, because I used to be too broke to hoard, and once I could I had mainly switched to digital, so it made sense to make my TBR as virtual as my books. Where I have gotten myself in a small bit of overload is that I then discovered ereaderIQ and I uploaded my whole wishlist to it and have been picking these books up either free or when they are under a dollar, often without considering if I even want them any more.

B CUbed

Born: Natural born humans are precious few and dwell in darkness.

Bred: Genetically engineered slaves who are the protectors of the Born.

Borg: The cybernetically enhanced enclave that split from the Born humans.

These three factions are all that remains of the human race after the world stopped turning. Scavenging in the darkness for what little is left, the war between them rages on though few know why. It begins with a child’s prophesy and can only end when they unite.

Or die.

From the moment he spies her silhouette cast by the bonfire, Cormack understands what it is to yearn for something he will never possess. Breds are made to provide for the natural born humans, dig their homes deep beneath the surface of the earth and to protect them from the ever-present cyborg threat. A Bred who reaches beyond his station will be recycled immediately, yet Cormack cannot get her visage out of his mind. Until he unearths a box, buried long before the earth stopped spinning.

Task Mistress Allora has no wish to brutalize the Bred worker she finds hoarding treasure, but as a servant of the colony that raised her from infancy, she is duty bound to report anything unusual to the Overlord, even if it costs the blue-eyed man his life. Yet something about the way Cormack watches her forces Allora to reevaluate her understanding of right and wrong. For this genetically engineered soldier is her only protection against the cyborgs who seek what they have discovered, a journal written by the prophetess Cassandra and a way to end the warring between the factions forever.

This month’s theme is “We Love Short Shorts”, which I actually kind of don’t. I usually only pick them up as part of an established series I am reading and I read them immediately, so there wasn’t a lot on my TBR that fit except for serials I picked up because they were free and by favored authors (but then I never read them because I looked at how much they cost over the whole span of the serial and I gave up). So this is as close as I could come. It is 106 pages, it has been on my TBR for a  number of years, and I actually bought it 02/12/2015 when it hit the low price of free. I think as much as anything I haven’t read it because I was toying with not starting the series until I had picked up the whole trilogy, but I still don’t have the third one. The rest of it is that it just fell off my radar. No time like the present though.

So I think this went on my TBR when I was having a major love affair cyborgs. Plus it is post-apocalyptic dystopian, which we all know I can’t pass up. I wish I could remember how I came across this book, but I have only recently been tracking in any sort of way why I added something to my list, and frankly I am still pretty horrible about it.

Anyway, about this particular book. It began with a prophesy before the world as we know it. Poor Cassandra, always born knowing the future but cursed that none should believe her. Or at least most. Unfortunately it is the ones who did that spawned the wars and horrors. There is very much a chicken and egg situation here. Did the things come about because that was what was always going to happen? Or did they come about because they knew and believed the prophesy and sought to twist it to their own ends? Having read the book, I still don’t really know because we just don’t have enough information.

This book is just super short, and really I think that is a shame, because the bones were there for something rather epic. But short as it is, as much as I liked it, it still left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. I just wanted more. Now, there are more stories in the series, but it appears they don’t focus on these two characters to further the overall plot.

As for the two main characters, Cormack and Allora are two very interesting characters with histories and futures shrouded in mystery. There are also some slightly uncomfortable power dynamics from start to finish. It is often unsettling, I mean he is a slave and she is an overseer with the power of life and death over him. You get just the barest of sketches of who they are as people, but it is just enough to make them just real enough to actually care.

The BAM! Plot twists and the story is basically over. Seriously, the book is so much shorter than I wish it were, but I’ll definitely be pulling the next book out of my stack. I can’t wait to find out what else Cassandra has up her sleeve.

 

Born (B Cubed, #1)

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4.5 star review

Review – Dark Deeds by Michelle Diener

Dark Deeds

Holy heck, how did I miss that this one was coming out? How on earth did I miss it getting posted to Goodreads and Netgalley? Why doesn’t Netgalley let us flag authors for alerts? I guess this one is as much of a surprise for the year as last year’s book Dark Horse, which I adored. I mean seriously adored, I’ve since read it probably a dozen times, and I am going to read it after finishing Dark Deeds. It is on sale for $0.99 for a limited time, so I implore you to pick it up, read it, and love it! Even Nalini Singh loved it. And it will likely remain on my compulsive rereads shelf for a good long while. I was in fact so excited for this book, that even though I was offered an ARC, I went ahead and bought it because I simply could not wait for the Netgalley widget.

Far from home . . .

Fiona Russell has been snatched from Earth, imprisoned and used as slave labor, but nothing about her abduction makes sense. When she’s rescued by the Grih, she realizes there’s a much bigger game in play than she could ever have imagined, and she’s right in the middle of it.

Far from safe . . .

Battleship captain Hal Vakeri is chasing down pirates when he stumbles across a woman abducted from Earth. She’s the second one the Grih have found in two months, and her presence is potentially explosive in the Grih’s ongoing negotiations with their enemies, the Tecran. The Tecran and the Grih are on the cusp of war, and Fiona might just tip the balance.

Far from done . . .

Fiona has had to bide her time while she’s been a prisoner, pretending to be less than she is, but when the chance comes for her to forge her own destiny in this new world, she grabs it with both hands. After all, actions speak louder than words.

I was nervous to start it though, as I almost always am when reading the sequel to a beloved book. Would it not live up to my expectations. Would it just be a boring clone? Would it go in a direction I didn’t enjoy? Man oh man, did this one surprise me though, but in the best way possible. Rose and Fiona are categorically different people, and their situations are also wildly different.

I don’t know what to say. Fiona is just a spitfire, and her role and relationship with the Grih is distinctly more adversarial than Rose’s. Things are really heating up with the United Council and absolutely no one is happy about it, and while the end of Dark Horse parlayed into significant gains for Rose, Sazo, and Dav, it set the stage for discontent toward other Earthlings. Completely unintended consequences, but that is truly the theme in this series.

Honestly I am just fascinated by the world and cultures Diener is creating, and how she is weaving the idea of sentience into artificial intelligence in a really relateable way. While I would describe Dark Horse as not quite a romance, I would say this isn’t a romance at all. There IS a romantic thread but the story isn’t even about their relationship (the relationship works, and works well though), really this focuses on war, society/culture, science fiction, and a stranger in a strange land. It is also much more action/adventure oriented, but that seems appropriate both due to the fact that we already have a solid hold on this world, and because of the different situations our two main characters found themselves in, as well as the general course of events and the effects these events are having on their society. As I said, despite their similarities, Rose and Fiona are two very different people, and their stories are different as well.

So what can I say? I adored this book. I could hardly put it down, in fact I was reading this while some technicians were finishing some work after my work day had ended, and I could hardly make myself put it down long enough to drive the 5 minutes to my house. It is that good. But if I have to be honest, and I always try to be, I prefer Dark Horse by just a tiny little smidge. I don’t think it is even possible for a sequel to hit with the groundbreaking intensity of Dark Horse, because part of that was how unexpected it was. So this is getting 4.5 stars from me, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with it as a sequel (even though it went in a completely unexpected direction), and when we get the next story I will be first in line to buy it. In fact, if I am not completely oblivious like I was this time I might just take a day off work to read it. This series is THAT good.

Dark Deeds (Class 5, #2)

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