Guest Post by Author Sonya Clark + Giveaway

witchlight by sonya clarkMy special guest today is Sonya Clark, author of the absolutely marvelous Trancehack (reviewed here) and today’s review book Witchlight. I fell in love with the world of the Magic Born that Sonya introduced in Trancehack, so I was over the moon when she agreed to let us in on a few of the secrets behind her world creation. (I wouldn’t want to live on either side of her dystopia, but the way she put it together is awesome).

I can’t wait for book 3 (I’m so glad there is one!!!) In the meantime, this should help tide me over. A bit.

Behind the Magic Born World
by Sonya Clark

The world-building for the Magic Born series is drawn from a lot of different inspirations and ideas. The backstory includes a bit of alternate history: in the early aught’s, hacktivists discover documents proving that the US and other governments know about the existence of magic and use witchcraft in secret. (Remember all the Wikileaks document dumps of several years ago? Yeah, that.) The revelation is shocking the world over, but in some countries the fear of magic and witches leads to violence. The US government passes the Magic Laws which essentially strip the Magic Born of all rights of citizenship and forces them to live in urban reservations. This calms the fearful Normal populace and stops the bloodshed, for the most part.

trancehack by sonya clarkBut it comes at a price: infants undergo DNA testing, and if found to have magic in the blood, they are sent to live in the zones. This begins a breakdown in families that threatens the underpinnings of society. By the time the series starts, single-child families are the norm and many of the younger generation don’t want to have children at all. Hearkening back to our Civil War history, there is a new underground railroad. This time, it helps both Magic Born and Normals who want to flee the oppressive laws and find refuge in more open countries.

In this alternate history backstory, the US is not the only country to react this way, but it is one of few. Most of the world adapts to having magic out in the open. Eventually, economic sanctions are put in place against those nations that deny witches human rights. By the time the series starts, those sanctions have been in place so long that the economy is in pretty much permanent recession, with no hope of improving.

What did I base this on? A number of things. I read about Native American reservations and South African apartheid. I also drew a little from personal experience. My father is retired military and we lived in Frankfurt, Germany when the Berlin Wall fell. After the borders opened, East Germans became a regular sight in Frankfurt. You could easily tell them apart from their West German counterparts. East Germany and the other Soviet Bloc nations had been living under horrible repression and incredibly restricted economic conditions. Several decades of that took a huge toll, but that kind of authoritarianism proved ultimately unsustainable. Seeing East Germans discover life in the open, free West made for some lasting memories. So did seeing the result of placing ideology above reality, choosing fear instead of facing change.

There’s not a literal version of the Berlin Wall in Witchlight, but this is definitely the book where life gets tougher for the Magic Born. I don’t want to give away too much spoilery information, but I will say this: it is a romance novel, and it is the middle book of a dystopian trilogy. Make of that what you will. 🙂

About Sonya Clark
Sonya Clark grew up a military brat and now lives in Tennessee with her husband and daughter. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance with a heavy helping of magic and lot of music for inspiration. Learn more at and sign up for her new releases announcement list at Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.


Sonya is kindly giving away a digital copy of Witchlight. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Witchlight by Sonya Clark

witchlight by sonya clarkFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Magic Born, #2
Length: 213 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: June 30, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

In 2066, the Magic Born are segregated in urban reservations. The laws do not protect them, or their allies.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Marsden is a powerful player in New Corinth politics, but a closely guarded secret could destroy her life—she’s a hidden Magic Born. Her family has gone to great lengths to erase all her magic-related records, until a trancehacking outlaw discovers the last remaining one…

Vadim Bazarov smuggles Magic Borns through the underground railroad and threatens to reveal Elizabeth’s secret unless she helps him access blank ID cards. Elizabeth wants to hate him for having a stranglehold on her life, but can’t help being attracted to someone so sure of who and what he is.

Vadim initially sees her as a political ice queen, but is intrigued by her suppressed magical abilities. He trains Elizabeth to use her magic, and before long finds himself falling for her. But their newfound love may be shortlived; an anti-magic ordinance forces one of them to make a choice that will change both their lives for good.

My Review:

The best news I had all day was when the author of Witchlight told me she’s finishing the next book in this series. Absolutely the best!

trancehack by sonya clarkWitchlight is the second book in Sonya Clark’s totally awesome Magic Born series, after the marvelous Trancehack (grade A review here). The Magic Born series is science fiction romance gold of the dystopian variety, with an extra dose of awesome because the dystopia is completely human-created and utterly avoidable.

It’s all created by stupid people doing stupid things. If any of the socio-political-economic threads read like a commentary on current practices in the U.S., I would be willing to bet it’s intended. It follows too closely on some trends not to be deliberate.

In this world, it’s been 50 years since the Magic Laws went into effect in the U.S. and the consequences have been devastating; for the magic born, for the general population, and for the U.S. economy.

Anyone born with magic in their DNA is taken from their parents and shoved into a magic-users’ ghetto. Magic-born are licensed and restricted and face extreme prejudice in every aspect of their lives.

Magic-born children of normals are taken away from their parents in infancy and dumped into orphanages in the zone. Anyone can have a magic-born child, so many prospective parents have refused to have children to keep from facing the prospect of losing them.

But the rich are always different; there’s a black market for fake test results. Councilwoman Elizabeth Marsden is the grown-up proof of the use of those tests. Her parents paid for her results to be faked, because she is definitely a magic-user, something that magic-born are not supposed to be.

Then again, magic-born aren’t citizens. They aren’t even treated as people by the government that locks them up at birth.

The times, however, are changing. The number of magic-born is increasing in the general population. That makes the non-magic-born in power very nervous, because they know that their days are numbered. Especially as more and more so-called normals are sympathetic to the magic born, or even worse, are entranced by their magic.

Elizabeth is caught in the cross-fire when the repressive old guard begins fighting their long rearguard campaign of more suppression and more anti-magic-born propaganda.

First, her secret is discovered by the unofficial leader of the Magic-Born underground in her town. Vadim Bazaroz hunts down Elizabeth with the intent of blackmailing her for her cooperation in stealing fake papers for magic users traveling the Underground Railroad to Canada and Mexico.

He finds himself teaching her the magic that her parents made her suppress. Even worse for Vadim, as the smuggler and borderline addict who keeps the magic zone half livable between bribes and escapes, he finds himself drawn to this strong and fragile woman who hurts herself rather than acknowledge what she is.

When the evil powers-that-be attempt to blackmail her into backing their continued suppression, he helps her fight back in every way possible. Not just because she asks, not even because it’s the right thing to do, but because he’s become more addicted to having her in his life than any drug he ever tried.

Escape Rating A+: Witchlight is the middle book in a trilogy. Conditions for the magic-born get very dark at the end, which means that there will hopefully be light at the end of the next tunnel.

There is both a happy and an unhappy ending at the same time. The romance comes to a heartbreaking HEA, but the world it happens in is going to hell in a handcart on the fast track. It made complete sense that things worked this way, but I want book 3 (currently titled Firewall) NOW.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) and Vadim are a fascinating couple to feature in a romance, because neither of them is terribly sympathetic at the beginning. Lizzie is an upper-crust ice princess, and Vadim fully admits that he is a very bad man.

Except that he’s the bad man running the Underground Railroad. The more of him that is revealed, the more we see that he does very bad things for very good reasons. But he’s definitely of the “ends justify the means” school of thought and action.

His initial plan is to blackmail Lizzie to get her on board with saving their people. It’s the wrong thing to do for some very right reasons. Also, she gets the upper hand and subverts the blackmail into a business deal. She has things that she wants, too. The things that Lizzie wants include Vadim, but not just him. In order to make some peace with herself she has to deal with her magic, and not just suppress it.

I find the social, political, economic underpinnings of this world utterly fascinating. It’s not just that the author does a terrific job of portraying “Freaktown” and how it works internally, but that we are also able to see the terrible consequences of the magic-born suppression. The political actions all make a certain kind of bad sense. Those in power want to keep their power, and their power is based on fear of the magic-born. As that fear reduces, the old guard lashes out and tries to maintain their hold through fear-mongering and complete separation of the magic born from the general populace. They want to turn the magic-born into “the other” and then demonize them. The powers that be have also created a police state that suppresses non-magic born as well. They are ugly and brutal and just plain wrong. They are also fighting a rearguard action against the tide of history.

They didn’t have to be anywhere near that stupid, but then, the ones afraid of losing their unjust power often are.

As I said, I want Firewall NOW. The overall story arc is building towards an explosive (probably including actual explosions) climax. I can’t wait!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-29-14

Sunday Post

I’m still at ALA in Las Vegas, but it doesn’t really matter where the American Library Association holds its Annual Conference, all convention centers look alike on the inside.

This was an especially good week on the blogging/reviewing front. I don’t often have a mostly A Reviews week, but this one was particularly good. It’s great to finally understand what all the fuss has been about on Ancillary Justice and Fortune’s Pawn. They are both excellent SF. At Star’s End was tons of fun, and Supreme Justice was absorbingly good. Next week isn’t too shabby either.

midsummer-smallThere’s still a chance to get in on the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop, in spite of it being a bit past Midsummer. Plus there’s a Fourth of July hop starting on Wednesday, so yet another chance for a gift card.

Current Giveaways:

Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins
$10 Gift Card in the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel BachBlog Recap:

A- Review: Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins + Giveaway
A Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
B Review: Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford
A+ Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
A- Review: At Star’s End by Anna Hackett
Stacking the Shelves (94)



Freedom-to-Read-HopComing Next Week:

Witchlight by Sonya Clark (review + giveaway)
Harder by Robin York (review)
Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop
C791 by Eve Langlais

Stacking the Shelves (94)

Stacking the Shelves

This is a week.5 worth of shelf stack. It seems to be a week where it rained and snowed books around here.

Even crazier, I’m at the American Library Association Conference this weekend, desperately trying to resist the temptation to pick up even more books.


For Review:
The Barter by Siobhan Adcock
Blade of the Samurai (Shinobi Mystery #2) by Susan Spann
Broadchurch by Erin Kelly and Chris Chibnall
Ever After (Transplanted Tales #4) by Kate Serine
First to Burn (Immortal Vikings #1) by Anna Richland
Hard Knocks (Ultimate #0.5) by Lori Foster
Her Last Whisper (Dr. Charlotte Stone #3) by Karen Robards
The Hexed (Krewe of Hunters #13) by Heather Graham
Hotter than Helltown (Preternatural Affairs #3) by SM Reine
Maxwell Street Blues by Marc Krulewitch
The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg
No Limits (Ultimate #1) by Lori Foster
The Time Roads (Éireann #2) by Beth Bernobich
The Yankee Club by Michael Murphy

Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford (review)
Silver Bullet (Preternatural Affairs #2) by SM Reine
Take Me Home (Whisper Horse #1) by Nancy Herkness
Witch Hunt (Preternatural Affairs #1) by SM Reine

Borrowed from the Library:
Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1) by Jacqueline Winspear
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Neptune’s Brood (Freyaverse #2) by Charles Stross
Saturn’s Children (Freyaverse #1) by Charles Stross
Skin Game (Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher


Review: At Star’s End by Anna Hackett

at stars end by anna hackettFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: The Phoenix Adventures, #1
Length: 137 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: March 31, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Dr. Eos Rai has spent a lifetime dedicated to her mother’s dream of finding the long-lost Mona Lisa. When Eos uncovers tantalizing evidence of Star’s End—the last known location of the masterpiece—she’s shocked when her employer, the Galactic Institute of Historic Preservation, refuses to back her expedition. Left with no choice, Eos must trust the most notorious treasure hunter in the galaxy, a man she finds infuriating, annoying and far too tempting.

Dathan Phoenix can sniff out relics at a stellar mile. With his brothers by his side, he takes the adventures that suit him and refuses to become a lazy, bitter failure like their father. When the gorgeous Eos Rai comes looking to hire him, he knows she’s trouble, but he’s lured into a hunt that turns into a wild and dangerous adventure. As Eos and Dathan are pushed to their limits, they discover treasure isn’t the only thing they’re drawn to…but how will their desire survive when Dathan demands the Mona Lisa as his payment?

My Review:

Space pirates and the Mona Lisa. Now there’s a combination that doesn’t turn up everyday!

At Star’s End is a rollicking space piracy adventure wrapped around a hot romance between an archeologist and the pirate captain. Although the emphasis in the story is on the action/adventure and the romance, the science fiction aspects provide just the right sauce, along with a touch of pathos.

Star’s End is a place. A mythical place where the first Earth colony ships, loaded with the most beautiful art and artifacts of our dying planet, ended up. By the time period of this story, Star’s End is a lost legend.  It appears in history books, it’s treasures are mostly known through surviving computer files, but no one has ever found the actual place. It seems to be literally at the stars’ end.

Archeologists’ careers have come to unhappy ends in the fruitless search for the lost Terran treasure, including the career and life of Dr. Eos Rai’s mother. Eos has devoted herself to proving her mother’s theories correct. And at last she has a lead on the trove–but her bosses at the Galactic Institute of Historic Preservation refuse to back an expedition.

That’s where the Phoenix brothers come in. Dathan Phoenix, along with his brothers Niklas and Zayn are pretty legendary themselves. Legendary treasure hunters, that is. The Phoenix brothers search for treasure and historic artifacts for purely mercenary motives; they’re in it for the money.

Eos is in it for the thrill of the hunt, and for the glory of getting her latest finds into the museum. But without museum backing, the Phoenix brothers are her only choice for this personal mission. A mission that becomes even more personal when she and Dathan can’t seem to stop the spark of attraction that flares up between them.

They’ve always been on opposite sides of the fence, but opposites definitely do attract.

Treasure hunts also attract poachers, including a hunter who is as much after brother Niklas as any treasure they might discover. (I hope this story turns up in a later book).

As they get further away from civilized space, the chase gets more and more dangerous. Too many rivals try to kidnap Eos for the secret she holds. But no matter how difficult the hunt, Eos never gives up or gives in.

Except to what she feels for Dathan.

Escape Rating A-: Another review called At Star’s End the love child of Indiana Jones and Firefly, and that’s a pretty good description. The universe by the time of the story has gotten kind of dark and gritty, much like the background of Firefly. But the adventure part of the story is pure Indiana Jones’ treasure chasing, non-stop action and danger, with a heroine who gets herself into, and out of, every kind of trap and trouble imaginable.

This is Eos’ story. Her information, her find, and often her danger. It’s about what she wants, and what she thinks she wants. Does she just want to find Star’s End, or is she trying to validate her mother’s career? Does she want to go back to the Museum, or does she want a more interesting, and more dangerous, future with Dathan? If he’s looking for a long-term relationship, and not just a fling, that is.

If you love the action/adventure type of science fiction romance, let these space pirates steal you away, and steal your heart.

SFRQ-button-150x100*This review originally appeared in the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

œFortune's Pawn by Rachel BachFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Paradox, #1
Length: 341 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: November 5, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

If Sigouney Weaver in Alien met Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, you’d get Deviana Morris — a hot new mercenary earning her stripes to join an elite fighting force. Until one alien bite throws her whole future into jeopardy.

My Review:

I picked this up because I wanted more SF after the awesome Ancillary Justice, and this was the “if you liked this you’ll like that” recommendation in my kindle app.

For once, Amazon was right.

Fortune’s Pawn is space opera SF with just a touch of romance. But don’t let the romance stop you from picking this one up. The romance may or may not be incidental to the long-term plot, but it isn’t the main thrust of this particular story.

This is Deviana Morris’ story, and Devi is a mercenary with a ton of ambition, as well as an armored suit that she refers to in the third person. Considering how often the Lady Gray saves Devi’s ass, I’d probably think of the suit as a person too.

Devi wants to become a Devastator. Not that she isn’t already frequently devastating, but the Devastators are THE elite mercenary unit from her home system, Paradox. You don’t apply to become a Devastator. If you live long enough as a merc to get a big enough rep, the Devastators find you.

After 9 years of increasing seniority, Devi wants a short cut. That short cut leads through a security gig on a ship named The Glorious Fool. The way that the Fool draws trouble, it’s debatable whether the named fool is the ship, her captain, or Devi for signing on.

Everyone seems to be after the ship. At first, Devi thinks that the captain is just unlucky. But the longer she is aboard, the more she discovers of the secrets that the ship hides, and that the crew is hiding from her.

The universe is way more dangerous than even Devi imagined. Lucky for her, she is damned hard to kill. And even harder to fight around.

Escape Rating A+: Clearly I need to read more SF again, because I’ve been loving every story I get my hands on. Of course, I could just be picking the great ones for a change.

There are secrets in Devi’s universe, huge ones. The Glorious Fool and her crew are obviously not what they seem to be. But it’s more than that. Everyone on the ship is pretending to be much less deadly than they really are, because the universe is much more deadly than almost anyone knows.

The secret at the heart of this dangerous game is more horrifying than Devi imagined. Not just what has happened, but what is being allowed to happen, and to whom and in whose name. If you think River Tam was the scariest space girl you’ve ever met, just wait until you discover Ren.

Devi is a terrific point of view character because she fights everything and everyone to get what she wants, needs, or simply to survive. She never gives up. She knows that as a mercenary her gender can be a liability, so she does everything she can to use every tool she has to do what she feels is necessary. She lets other fighters underestimate her, and then she shoots them. She’s also a gun and armor nut, but then, that’s both a survival skill and the reason she became a merc in the first place.

The blurb says Devi is a combination of Ripley and Starbuck. The person she reminds me most of is Torin Kerr in Tanya Huff’s Valor Series. Not just because Torin is also a female soldier who fights with everything she has, but also because Torin finds herself in a similar situation to Devi. There is something out there that is hidden, and Torin is fighting it while figuring out what it is she is fighting, and while it fights back in ways that she’s never seen before.

honors knight by rachel bachIf you love space opera, get Fortune’s Pawn. I loved this one so much that I couldn’t bear to see it end, and went straight into Honor’s Knight.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford

Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys FordFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genre: steampunk, M/M romance
Length: 69 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: February 18, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.

Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.

Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.

My Review:

I was hoping that Rhys Ford had another Hellsinger book out. Even though I was disappointed in that search (until this Fall when every anticipated book in the universe will be released) I found this little steampunk gem, and decided to give it a try. I love Ford’s urban fantasy Black Dog Blues (want more) so the steampunk alternative seemed like a good idea.

It was.

The story takes place in an alternate Victorian era where Charles Babbage seems to have been part of a deranged organization that tried to change the structure of society by using golems and machina to wipe out the upper-crust. While it didn’t work, it left a hell of a mess, and everyone is still recovering decades later.

It also seems that the U.S. Revolution must not have succeeded, because the city of St. Francisco is still very much a part of the British Empire.

St. Francisco is a place where peers of the British realm govern a city of Chinese laborers and colonial upstarts. Being in the midst of the Victorian era, the world is all decorum on the one side, but those with money and connections pay for corruption in the shadows that they decry in the light.

Due to the failed coup, the laws against the use of the Arcane, especially when mixed with mechanical powers, are draconian and downright detrimental.

Into this mix the author throws two men, Marcus, Viscount Stenhill, and Robin Harris. Two men who should never have met. Marcus is a scion of the upper crust, and Robin is not merely an Arcane practitioner, but was the genius scapegoat behind the inventions used by the plotters.

While this is a society that considers sex between two men a perversion (the Victorians seem to have considered sex between two humans unspeakable), that Robin and Marcus fall in love is just part of the story. It’s the why of it that’s interesting.

Robin is still trying to save people, using a forbidden mixture of science and the arcane. He’s trying to continue to be a doctor, in spite of having his credentials stripped. Marcus wants to see the injustices done to Robin reversed, and his method of saving Robin is to take him under his sponsorship.

Money can reverse some of the damage that has been done. Love can take care of the rest.

Escape Rating B: The love story between Marcus and Robin was actually kind of sweet. Due to all the societal restrictions, it takes them quite a while to move their friendship to a deeper level.

But the worldbuilding is absolutely terrific. The mixture of Victorian surface prudishness combined with the hidden world of deniable sexual sadism felt all too possible, similar to the way that the Victorians vilified prostitutes while patronizing them. It was done, it just wasn’t talked about.

That the revolution seems to have been magical rather than industrial takes this world down a different track completely. I wondered why St. Francisco was still British. That’s a heck of a change.

Also, the revolution left behind the equivalent of dirty bombs, in the same way that UXBs are still found in England. That Marcus’ father was one of the last victims, while Robin’s ideas were co-opted to create the damn things, made an interesting juxtaposition.

Clockwork Tangerine is a neat little story, I just wish I could see more of the world in which it takes place.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

ancillary justice by ann leckieFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: science fiction
Series: Imperial Radch, #1
Length: 410 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: October 1, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

My Review:

Part of the fascination with Ancillary Justice is the hidden nature (or natures) of the first-person protagonist.

As the story progresses, we see how Breq got to be who and where she is, and why. But it’s all told from her multiple first-person perspectives, and the past flows into the present.

Time is not the only thing that’s fluid. We don’t discover whether Breq is male or female until the end. And it doesn’t really matter to the story, except that it’s unknown. Breq doesn’t seem to care, and it doesn’t affect how people treat her. She’s too busy worrying about whether or not she is faking being human well enough to give a thought to her gender or lack thereof.

Breq used to be a ship. She also used to be a person. She considers herself the last remaining ancillary of the ship Justice of Toren, and not an individual. Or a citizen. Or a lot of other things.

The fascinating thing about Breq is that the whole rationale behind her journey proves that she is an individual after all. She, and she alone, makes changes in the universe, because she is on a question to avenge a friend.

She just needs to take down an immortal emperor to do so.

The story feels like Breq’s quest for personhood. Somewhat the way that Data always wanted to be more human. The difference is that Breq used to be human, over 2,000 years ago, before she became an ancillary. She doesn’t seem to care who she was before, and she misses having all the other parts of herself that she had when she was Justice of Toren.

She’s on a quest, and that’s the only thing that matters to her. Also saving the galaxy, or at least the imperium.

The story gets bigger and bigger as it goes, even as Breq’s perspective narrows from the all-seeing ship to the one-seeing Breq. The irony is that as Breq comes to accept and even rely on her single-point of view, the multi-bodied emperor is fighting a civil war with herself. Unfortunately, the emperor’s divided mind is housed in multiple bodies, all of which are gathering adherents, and soldiers.

Breq’s quest to get the emperor’s undivided attention is bigger, badder and more convoluted than it seems. But incredibly awesome.

Escape Rating A: Now I understand what all the fuss is about. Ancillary Justice has been nominated for just about every SF award possible this year (it won the Nebula) and it’s definitely justified.

Breq’s story is part of the slow reveal of the plot, the characters, the universe and everything past and present. She always sees herself as an outsider, but she doesn’t always see herself. She’s so used to being one of many that she doesn’t quite accept herself as one of one.

There is a lot of fluidity to the way this story is presented. Not just that Breq doesn’t present herself as gendered, but that she has difficulty determining which gender others belong to. Her own language doesn’t have gendered pronouns, everyone is a citizen, or not. I found that some characters that Breq presents as “she” other characters name as “he”. Breq seems to see everyone as like herself, or thinks that female is the dominant gender, or just can’t see how it matters except as yet another way to make a mistake in address or behavior.

I will also say that reading this book gave me a terrible book hangover. The story wasn’t done, I wasn’t done, and I just couldn’t make myself leave. I ended up finally reading Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach, because I wanted to stay in an SF-nal universe, even if I couldn’t go back to Imperial Radch just yet.

ancillary sword by ann leckieBut I will. The next book in the trilogy, Ancillary Sword, is due this October.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins + Giveaway

supreme justice by max allan collinsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: Paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Length: 338 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Date Released: July 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

After taking a bullet for his commander-in-chief, Secret Service agent Joseph Reeder is a hero. But his outspoken criticism of the president he saved—who had stacked the Supreme Court with hard-right justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, amp up the Patriot Act, and shred the First Amendment—put Reeder at odds with the Service’s apolitical nature, making him an outcast.

FBI agent Patti Rogers finds herself paired with the unpopular former agent on a task force investigating the killing of Supreme Court Justice Henry Venter. Reeder—nicknamed “Peep” for his unparalleled skills at reading body language—makes a startling discovery while reviewing a security tape: the shooting was premeditated, not a botched robbery. Even more chilling, the controversial Venter may not be the only justice targeted for death…

Is a mastermind mounting an unprecedented judicial coup aimed at replacing ultra-conservative justices with a new liberal majority? To crack the conspiracy and save the lives of not just the justices but also Reeder’s own family, rising star Rogers and legendary investigator Reeder must push their skills—and themselves—to the limit.

My Review:

This was so much fun! I know there are terrible crimes committed, etc., etc., but the story was so tight and the point-of-view character had just the right touch of baddassery/snarkitude that I poured through it in one evening.

The story is a mix of early Tom Clancy (before they stopped editing him and the books got very bloated) and the Liam Neeson movie Taken. Supreme Justice has a relentless pace and a completely absorbing story. It is a bit of a formula political thriller, but in a good way.

The book is set in a near-future time period, and the suspense relies on Washington D.C. being very much a company town, with said company being the U.S. Federal government. (Shades of Clancy). The near-future is easy to determine, because the current president is the second African-American president, after the first one with the middle name “Hussein”. No guesswork required.

But the setup is that in between these two liberal Democratic periods, the U.S. got through 8 years of an absolute neocon who packed the Supreme Court and pushed through legislation that beefed up the Patriot Act, gave all police officers even wider authority for search and seizure, pretty much wiping out the 4th amendment, reinstated prayer in public schools and repealed Roe v. Wade.

For liberals, it was a seriously sucky eight years. Former Secret Service Agent John Reeder feels more than a bit responsible for four of those eight years. He took a bullet for the neocon president, even though he hated every policy the man stood for. Reeder did his job, and made the president a hero in the process. Reeder retired because he couldn’t stand the politics any longer.

Which doesn’t mean he wasn’t good at his job. He is. He’s so good that he was able to parlay his government experience into creating a very successful security consulting firm.

When a Supreme Court justice is killed in the middle of a botched robbery, Reeder’s old friend at the FBI calls him in as a consultant. And the first thing he notices is that the whole mess was not a botched robbery. It was an assassination concealed by a botched robbery.

Even before a second justice is murdered, Reeder is the first one to figure out that someone is knocking off conservative justices, with an eye to letting the current president fix the balance of the Court. But when Reeder starts to close in on a possible lead, someone close to the investigation decides that the best way to derail it is to kidnap Reeder’s daughter.

If the motto is to “keep your friends close and your enemies close”, then who is so close that they know Reeder is the investigator with an inside track to the killer?

Escape Rating A-: Some of the early Clancy books had this same sense of tightly packed political thriller with hidden conspiracy theory agendas. And Liam Neeson’s Taken is the story of an ex-CIA Agent on the hunt to find his kidnapped daughter.

But just because a story has been done before (everything has been done before, after all) doesn’t mean that it can’t be very entertaining when it’s done well. Supreme Justice is done extremely well.

It hinges on Reeder being an intelligent and likeable character, which he is. He’s pretty honest about how he feels about people and situations, even when that honesty gets him in trouble. His amazing ability to read people makes him an expert investigator. He doesn’t just look at the evidence, he studies the people who are making the evidence.

Even when he doubts himself, he is constantly trying to figure out everyone else, and usually succeeding. His big failure is what makes this case work.

As much as I might personally dislike (or even hate) the conservative turn that the country has taken between now and the setting of the story, the way that it happens makes perfect sense. And so in the end does the motivation for the crime spree.

If you enjoy tightly plotted political action thrillers, and I do, Supreme Justice is absorbing fun to read.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.


The author is giving away a copy of Supreme Justice to one lucky US/CAN winner!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-22-14

Sunday Post

It really is Midsummer here. We went to the movies, got out after 8 pm, and still needed sunglasses!

If you’re wondering, or even if you’re not, the movie was How to Train Your Dragon 2 and it was terrific! I adore Toothless, maybe because he looks a lot like one of our cats. Or vice versa.

If also feels like summer because the publishing season is slowing down a bit. I had a chance to read a few books that i’ve been itching to get into for a while. Ancillary Justice is everything that all the reviews have said it is. It’s a good thing there’s a book 2, because that story just isn’t done. It ended, but it feels like there is a LOT more to tell.

Speaking of more, if you haven’t entered the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop, there’s still time. Is there anyone who can’t think of plenty of books to buy with $10 at Amazon or B&N?

Midsummers-HopCurrent Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card in the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop
Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman (print)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller is Erin F.

late scholar by jill paton walshBlog Recap:

B+ Review: Here’s Looking at You by Mhairi McFarlane
A- Review: The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh
B Review: Last Year’s Bride by Anne McAllister
B+ Review: Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman + Giveaway
B Review: Take Me Home by Inez Kelley
Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop



ancillary justice by ann leckieComing Next Week:

Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins (blog tour review)
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (review)
Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford (review)
Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (review)
At Star’s End by Anna Hackett (review)