The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 12-21-14

Sunday Post

It is SO much easier to do Stacking the Shelves and this Sunday Post with my double-screen monitors and my desktop PC. I love the idea of laptops, and the ability to carry one around wherever (especially traveling) but I find a desktop keyboard tons easier to work with. I tend to rest my hands on the edge of the keyboard, but when I do that on a laptop, it does things. Sometimes, bigger is better.

winter warm up blog hopWhile there is only one winner this weekend, there is still time to enter the December blog hops. The Winter Warm Up ends on Tuesday, and the Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop will be here until the end of the month.

Current Giveaways:

$50 Amazon Gift Card in the Deadly, Calm and Cold Blog Tour
$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Winter Warm Up Blog Hop
$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The Wanderer’s Children by L.G. O’Connor is Debra G.

tethered by pippa jayBlog Recap:

B+ Review: The Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy
B+ Review: Deadly Calm and Cold by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway
B Guest Review by Galen: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
B+ Review: Tethered by Pippa Jay
Winter Warm Up Blog Hop
Stacking the Shelves (114)



night before christmas by mary mcnearComing Next Week:

Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright (review)
Damnation by Jean Johnson (review)
Butternut Lake: The Night Before Christmas by Mary McNear (review)
Best Books of 2014

Stacking the Shelves (114)

Stacking the Shelves

Nothing from the library this week. Not either library, since I need to go and renew my card at the local library. I have it on my keychain from two years ago, but I wonder if it is still good? And my address has changed from when we were last here in Atlanta. (Moving back into the same house would have been weird)

For Review:
Broken Shadows (Shadowminds #3) by A.J. Larrieu
The Globe: The Science of Discworld II by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen
Holding Strong (Ultimate #2) by Lori Foster
In Flames by Richard Hilary Weber
Medium Dead by Paula Paul
The Night Before Christmas (Butternut Lake #2.5) by Mary McNear
One Wish (Thunder Point #7) by Robyn Carr
Opting for Elsewhere by Brian A. Hoey
Phoenix Inheritance (Phoenix Institute #4) by Corrina Lawson
The Quick and the Undead (Tombstone, Texas #1) by Kimberly Raye
The Second Lie (Immortal Vikings #2) by Anna Richland
Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran by Marion Grace Woolley
Transmuted (St. Croix Chronicles #6) by Karina Cooper

Purchased from Amazon:
Damnation (Theirs Not to Reason Why #5) by Jean Johnson


Winter Warm Up Blog Hop

The Winter Warm-Up Blog Hop is organized by Hops with Heart.

This may sound mean, but I’ve already warmed up my winter. We moved from Seattle to Atlanta early this month, and it is 15 degrees warmer here.

Also, in our new home the bathrooms are the warmest rooms in the house, instead of the absolutely coldest places on earth, which describes our apartment in Seattle. Trust me on this, but the bathroom is not the place you want to freeze in the winter!

Freezing your buns off is never conducive to romance – especially in a room that never contains a cozy bed with lots of blankets.

One of my favorite ways of keeping warm in the winter is to have a nice, hot cup of cocoa while reading a great book while my feet (and sometimes the rest of me) are covered by a nice, toasty blanket. Or a cat.

What’s your favorite way of keeping warm when it’s cold outside? Fill out the rafflecopter for your chance at a $10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There is also a grand prize of one $75 Amazon Gift Card. If you want the chance of warming up with lots of good books and hot cocoa from Amazon, here’s the rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And last but not least, for more terrific prizes, check out the other participants in the hop. I bet there are plenty of prizes that will warm your heart, or be great for holiday giving.

Review: Tethered by Pippa Jay

tethered by pippa jayFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Length: 158 pages
Publisher: Breathless Press
Date Released: July 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

She can kill with a kiss. But can assassin Tyree also heal one man’s grief, and bring peace to a galaxy threatened by war?

For Tyree of the Su, being an assassin isn’t simply something she was trained for. It’s the sole reason for her existence. A genetically enhanced clone—one of many in Refuge—she’s about to learn her secluded lifestyle, and that of all her kind, is under threat by a race capable of neutralizing their special talents to leave them defenseless.

For Zander D’joren, being a diplomat has not only cost him his appearance, but also the love of his life. Scarred, grieving, he must nonetheless continue in his role as co-delegate to the fearsome Tier-vane or risk a conflict that could only end one way.

Now both of them need to keep each other alive and maintain a perilous deception long enough to renegotiate the treaty with the Tier-vane, or throw their people into a war that could wipe out Terrans and Inc-Su alike. But there’s more at stake than humanity, whether true or modified. Can the love growing between them save them both? Or merely hasten their destruction?

My Review:

Tethered is a high-stakes romance between two people who have to discover the depths of their own hearts and the secrets of their identities while dodging assassination attempts and trying to cement a treaty between two interstellar factions who are both capable of tearing the universe apart.

After all, they’ve done that bit before. The treaty is supposed to keep them from doing it again.

Tyree is a member of the secretive Inc-Su race. While descended from humans, the Inc-Su broke away centuries ago to develop their ability to kill through sex. Inc=incubus, and Su, in context, is short for Succubus. The Inc-Su can absorb a person’s life force during sex. Fairly spectacular sex, so their victims die in ecstasy.

The Inc-Su are a race of contract assassins. In between assignments, they all live together on Refuge, a planet that may indeed be a refuge, but is also a prison. Inc-Su do not live away from Refuge and its rules, unless they are so flawed that they do not possess the Inc-Su powers.

Mirsee was a flawed Inc-Su. She served as a diplomat for the Terrans and even life-bonded with her fellow diplomat, the human Zander D’joren. Mirsee is dead at the hands of mysterious assassins, and the treaty that she and Zander worked so hard for is about to collapse, throwing the universe back to a space-spanning war between the Terrans and their allies, and the feline, predatory Tier-vane.

There is one hope – the Inc-Su can send Mirsee’s clone-sister, Tyree, to take her place as ambassador. Only the intimate members of Zander’s party can know the difference, or the treaty will be declared null and void before it can take effect.

Tyree has two assignments; flawlessly substitute for the sister she never knew she had, and protect Zander and herself from yet another assassination attempt before the treaty is signed and ratifies.

Falling in love with Zander is not part of the assignment. It is not even a likely outcome, as Zander is still mourning for her sister, and Tyree doesn’t have a frame-of-reference for what love is.

Tyree doesn’t do a very good job at most of her assignment. She never seems to be able to sniff out the assassination attempts before they happen – again and again. She even falls in love with the scarred but resolute Zander.

In the moment of victory, she is lost. Zander is left to determine if the treaty was worth the cost of losing the woman he loves. Again.

Escape Rating B+: There were a LOT of things I really enjoyed about this story, and a few things that make me quibble.

In science fiction romance (AKA SFR) both the worldbuilding and the romance have to work equally well for the story to be a solid A Rating. Tethered comes close, but there were just a couple of things…

The romance in this story is between a man who has lost his bondmate to a terrible tragedy, and that woman’s clone-sister. So Tyree looks exactly like Mirsee, and she has to for the diplomatic deception to work.

Tyree is not anything like Mirsee, they just look identical. So Zander ends up falling for his late wife’s identical twin. The growing emotional and sexual tension between Zander and Tyree does sell the romance, but…there’s never a scene where they talk, or Zander talks to himself or whatever, about his change of heart.

He really did love Mirsee. How much of his love for Tyree is based on their iidentical appearance? What changed his heart? Has he just healed in 6 months (possible) or is it, as another book I read called it “foxhole love”. They are stuck in a desperate situation and only have each other for comfort.

Zander is an admirable man. It is easy to see why Tyree falls for him. What is difficult is her acceptance that he loves her and isn’t transferring his love from her “sister” to her without dealing with the consequences. If she does accept it, I wanted more internal dialog, or even external dialog, that she had considered the risks. He hurts her once by calling her Mirsee in a private moment, so this issue doesn’t feel resolved.

On the other hand, she gets kidnapped the second the treaty is signed, so there isn’t a lot of time to deal with crap after their job is done.

The way that Zander was able to rescue Tyree, involving sudden and remarkable revelations about her parentage, felt a bit deus ex machina. In other words, terribly, terribly convenient. She needs to be rescued, very desperately, but the solution was too easy, even if emotionally difficult.

Because the story is relatively short, I wanted more explanation of the current state of the universe than there was time available. How did the Inc-Su split off from the Terrans, and why? The internal politics of both the Terrans and the Tier-vane needed a bit more detail to understand why they reached this state of near-war.

At the same time, the constant state of tension produced by the frequent assassination attempts kept me turning pages furiously to find out what would happen next. There is so much going on in this universe, and I want to see more.

***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.

Guest Review: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

moriarty by anthony horowitzFormat read: paperback ARC
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Genre: Mystery
Series: Sherlock Holmes, #2
Length: 309 pages
Publisher: Harper
Date Released: December 9, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The game is once again afoot in this thrilling mystery from the bestselling author of The House of Silk, sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate, which explores what really happened when Sherlock Holmes and his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty tumbled to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls.

Internationally bestselling author Anthony Horowitz’s nail-biting new novel plunges us back into the dark and complex world of detective Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty—dubbed the Napoleon of crime” by Holmes—in the aftermath of their fateful struggle at the Reichenbach Falls.

Days after the encounter at the Swiss waterfall, Pinkerton detective agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. Moriarty’s death has left an immediate, poisonous vacuum in the criminal underworld, and there is no shortage of candidates to take his place—including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.

Chase and Scotland Yard Inspector Athelney Jones, a devoted student of Holmes’s methods of investigation and deduction originally introduced by Conan Doyle in “The Sign of Four”, must forge a path through the darkest corners of England’s capital—from the elegant squares of Mayfair to the shadowy wharfs and alleyways of the London Docks—in pursuit of this sinister figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, who is determined to stake his claim as Moriarty’s successor.

Review by Galen:

Two sets of footsteps leading to the edge of a ledge over the abyss… none returning. This is an image that has haunted fans of the writings of John Watson (as transmitted by Arthur Conan Doyle) for over a century.

Conan Doyle had perhaps hoped to be rid of the responsibility of publishing the chronicles of England’s most famous consulting detective, but the reading public would not allow that. And of course, “The Adventure of the Empty House” revealed that Holmes did not tumble to his death in the Reichenbach Falls, but instead had more pressing matters to attend to.

house of silk by anthony horowitzBut what about Moriarty? The linchpin of a crime network does not simply vanish without consequences. In Anthony Horowitz’s return to Holmes pastiches (his first foray, The House of Silk, was reviewed by Marlene back in 2012), he explores the forces rushing to fill in the vacuum.

Escape Rating B: The book maintains a fast and engaging pace, more suspense than mystery, from the moment Pinkerton detective Frederick Chase arrives up to view the body of Moriarty to the end when the power vacuum gets resolved. Chase teams up with Scotland Yard detective Athelney Jones, who reacts to his run-in with Holmes during “The Sign of Four” by becoming obsessed with Holmes’ methods, to the detriment of his own skill as a detective.

The nature of the twist ending becomes apparent well before its big reveal, but that doesn’t significantly detract from the book. I found the portrayal of Jones to be particularly sympathetic: Holmes, who did have an arrogant streak, left collateral damage in his wake, and it is good to see that acknowledged.

For a Holmes pastiche that features neither Holmes nor Watson, Moriarty does an excellent job of fleshing out a view of Holmes’ nemesis as being truly worthy of that name — while demonstrating a degree of emotional depth that is unusual in a mystery and suspense novel.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***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: Deadly Calm and Cold by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway

deadly calm and cold by susannah sandlinFormat read: ebook provided by the author via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: The Collectors, #2
Length: 281 pages
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Date Released: December 2, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

How far will ordinary people go to protect their secrets? The Collectors’ games are as much about manipulating lives as finding lost treasure. Everyone is expendable as the ruthless C7 pushes people into gambling with their lives in order to find priceless objects lost to history.

Samantha Crowe’s secrets could ruin her career, while Brody Parker’s could get him killed. They become pawns for two Collectors seeking Bad King John’s crown jewels, which disappeared in rural England back when Robin Hood roamed Nottingham. This time, however, the Collectors—a ruthless dotcom billionaire and a desperate London detective—might not be playing for the same team, leaving Sam and Brody trapped in the middle.

One thing’s for sure: if either hopes to survive, Sam and Brody will have to find a way to overcome their distrust—and their growing attraction—in order to succeed on this winner-take-all treasure hunt.

My Review:

lovely dark and deep by susannah sandlinSo far, the Collectors series is turning out to be the love child of every historical conspiracy treasure hunt series that has ever been written. If the first book in the series, Lovely, Dark and Deep (reviewed here) is a cross between National Treasure and Titanic, then Deadly, Calm and Cold is the product of mixing The DaVinci Code with Indiana Jones. In other words, we have a treasure hunt for a historic artifact with nasty people on the tail (or trail) of our heroes.

The big difference is that all those other fictional treasure hunters are in it for the glory, or the thrill of discovery. At any rate, they volunteered. In the Collectors series, that is far from the case.

The evil baddies in the Collectors series are those collectors. They are a group of very rich and extremely self-indulgent, self-centered private collectors who will stop at nothing to add rare and priceless artifacts to their private collections. They are certainly not above a bit of blackmail, or even outright murder, to coerce experts into finding the prizes they seek. For the C7, it’s all just a big game. They get their thrills by grinding people into dust and beating their competition (the other C7 members) to whatever big prize is in their sights.

In Deadly, Calm and Cold, the big prize is King John’s lost crown jewels. Yes, I mean that King John, the one in the Robin Hood stories. Historically, he was the signer of the Magna Carta, because he was a despotic ruler even for those times. His nobles made him sign the “Great Charter” to protect themselves from his excesses. King John also really did lose his crown jewels in the area portrayed in the book, the east coast of England where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire.

Just as in Lovely, Dark and Deep, our story features a woman who is a technical expert on the subject at hand, and a man who finds himself in the middle of her search, but is hiding somewhere off the beaten path for reasons of his own.

Samantha Crowe is a graduate student in history, on a one-term research fellowship in England to delve into the history of King John’s lost treasure. She is also vulnerable to blackmail for some less-than-noble dealings both before and after college. She has a juvenile record, for stealing to support her addict-mother. While her motives were kind of good and kind of enabling, what happened is understandable. But it isn’t info that she disclosed to her university. Neither is her method of getting that research fellowship – her professor pulled strings to give it to her as a way of getting her out of the country and keeping her quiet about their now-over affair. She thought it might be love, he was just cheating on his unsuspecting wife with his equally unsuspecting grad student.

But sending dirty pictures to the student newspaper will pretty much kill both their careers. Or certainly hers. When the C7 member decides that the treasure she is researching is worth his time, she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. It doesn’t matter that the pictures are photoshopped – by the time any investigation figures that out, the damage will be done.

Brody Parker gets dragged into hunt because his house is part of the land where John’s treasure might be hidden – and because he has secrets of his own. Brody Parker isn’t even his real name – he’s in witness protection as a whistleblower in a major U.S. racketeering case. He’s spent years being paranoid that the mob really will track him down. C7 thinks he’s the perfect person to blackmail, but the same tech skills that brought down a big piece of organized crime make him the perfect person to help Sam turn the tables on the mysterious C7.

It helps that the C7 is facing a whistleblower of their very own. While the “big boss” is hard to find, the guy who is playing both ends against the middle is forced to the conclusion that helping Sam and Brody get out from under is his best chance of a new life.

In the adrenaline fueled treasure hunt, Sam and Brody discover that their best chance of a new life is with each other – if they survive.

Escape Rating B+: If this series continues to follow the pattern set in the first two books, it’s a winner. The woman is the expert, and while the man is the muscle, he never forgets that they are partners – he doesn’t take over everything including her. Brody, just as Shane did in Lovely, Dark and Deep, has secrets of his own that make him a perfect foil for Sam.

Both Sam and Brody, like Gillian and Shane before them, have a lot of damage that requires the other to help them heal. The way that they start out, equally attracted but equally untrusting, gives them a difficult road to travel towards each other, but makes their love story fit the adventure.

I loved that the treasure was real – there is even a nod to the discovery of Richard III’s body and how medieval treasure can still be found. The nods to actual historical events grounded the story in a way that some of the antecedents like The DaVinci Code are not, fun as they are.

In many ways, the villains of the series, those C7 Collectors, come off as a bit too “bwahaha” evil. Providing Sam and Brody with the more mundane double-crosser to negotiate with brought that mysterious band of evildoers down to earth.

For a good time with a heart-pounding adventure that has a rocky romance at its center, add The Collectors to your collection. (Sorry, that pun was irresistible, and so is the series!)


Deadly Calm and Cold Button 300 x 225

Susannah is giving away 1 $50 Amazon Gift Card and 3 $15 Amazon Gift Cards to lucky commenters on this tour. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below:

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.

Review: The Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy

tears of the rose by jeffe kennedyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Twelve Kingdoms, #2
Length: 337 pages
Publisher: Kensington Books
Date Released: November 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Three sisters. Motherless daughters of the high king. The eldest is the warrior-woman heir;the middle child is shy and full of witchy intuition;and the youngest, Princess Amelia, she is as beautiful as the sun and just as generous.

Ami met her Prince Charming and went away to his castle on the stormy sea-cliffs—and that should have been her happily ever after. Instead, her husband lies dead and a war rages. Her middle sister has been taken into a demon land, turned into a stranger. The priests and her father are revealing secrets and telling lies. And a power is rising in Ami, too, a power she hardly recognizes, to wield her beauty as a weapon, and her charm as a tool to deceive…

Amelia has never had to be anything but good and sweet and kind and lovely. But the chess game for the Twelve Kingdoms has swept her up in it, and she must make a gambit of her own. Can the prettiest princess become a pawn—or a queen?

My Review:

The Twelve Kingdoms series is all about playing the chess game of power. In that chess game, Princess Amelia moves down the board as a pawn, and turns herself into a queen. It’s a long and hard journey, with pain, suffering, and eventually joy and purpose at the end.

But Amelia needs a lot of strengthening to get to that end. She started the series not just as the youngest daughter of High King Uorsin, but also as a fairy tale princess who is spoiled and protected and very much used to getting her own way.

It does not make her a nice person. It also doesn’t make her a bad person. But she is thoughtless and uncaring, and definitely believes that the world revolves around her and her beauty — until it doesn’t.

mark of the tala by jeffe kennedyHer fairy tale prince is killed at the end of the awesome first book in this series, The Mark of the Tala (enthusiastically reviewed here). Prince Hugh is seemingly killed at the hand of Amelia’s sister, Andromeda. Or at least that is what Amelia is told.

Amelia needs to learn not to accept everything she is told. What matters about Hugh’s death is that he was killed in an unjust war fomented by her oathbreaking father, whoever wielded the blade. His death shouldn’t have happened because nothing about the ongoing conflict between the Twelve Kingdoms and the Tala should have happened.

Amelia’s journey is to learn to separate truth from lies, and to embrace her stronger self and not let herself be a pawn at the hands of others, especially not her father or her father-in-law.

The rulers only want the child that she carries, the last child of the Prince of Avonlidgh. When the seers all predict the child is a boy, both her father and her father-in-law proclaim the child their heir, and start fighting over who will be the next High King, and where the seat of that High King should be.

It’s up to Amelia to become the queen that she can be, and not the pawn of the old men who have controlled her life so far.

But first she has to figure out what it means to be a grown woman, and to be a queen. And to be the daughter of the last Queen of the Tala. Because if either of the old men win, all it will mean is more war over a land that is dying and can’t support it any longer.

If Amelia can find her own way forward, she can be the Queen that Avonlidgh needs, and become the woman that her mother hoped she would be. She just has to believe that she has her own power within her, and learn to use it.

Escape Rating B+: I loved Princess Andromeda in The Mark of the Tala, and I think that oldest sister Ursula is a fantastic example of the warrior princess, but Amelia does not start this story (or even middle this story) as a sympathetic person.

While she is currently going through one hell of a trauma, she comes off as having always been a spoiled, pampered brat. Her transformation is stunning, but she starts out with a long way to go.

I really enjoy the worldbuilding in the Twelve Kingdoms, and we get a lot more information about how things in general are going wrong, and what will need to be done to stop it. Amelia seriously needs to step up.

talon of the hawk by jeffe kennedyThere are a lot of scenes with sister Ursula, and I can’t wait for her book, The Talon of the Hawk. Ursula reminds me a lot of the warrior woman Cassandra Pentaghast in Dragon Age Inquisition, and if the comparison holds, her story is going to be fantastic.

But Amelia is a pawn for much of Tears of the Rose, and she needs to learn not to be a pawn. She’s not sympathetic at the beginning, but she does learn to think and do for herself.

There is a love story in this one, in spite of Amelia’s Prince being dead at the beginning. Ash is an enigma of a character – we don’t find out who or what he is until Amelia does. What makes him so integral a part of Amelia’s story is that he makes her think, and helps her to eventually think for herself.

The Tears of the Rose Button Nov-Dec - 300 x 225

***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 12-14-14

Sunday Post

It’s Sunday and I finally know where all my stuff is. It’s here and we’re back in Atlanta. After a week on the road, it is amazing how marvelous it is to sleep in one’s own bed. We’ve unpacked everything but the books (that’s today) and the cats are enjoying climbing Mt. Box so much it’s going to be a shame to take it down. But needs must, and the cats don’t totally rule the house.

climbing mt box

The Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop will be continuing throughout the month of December, and the Winter Warm Up Hop starts at the end of the week. ‘Tis the season to give away gift cards!

christmas wonderfinalCurrent Giveaways:

$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop
Print copy of The Wanderer’s Children by L.G. O’Connor
The winner’s choice of ebook title in the Mindspace Investigations series by Alex Hughes
$25 Gift Card + Duke City Split by Max Austin

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the copy of Full Blaze by M.L. Buchman is Becca C.
The winner of the ebook copy of her choice of book in Sonya Clark’s Magic Born series is Mai T.

vacant by alex hughesBlog Recap:

B+ Guest Review: Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor
B Review: The Wanderer’s Children by L.G. O’Connor + Giveaway
A Review: Vacant by Alex Hughes (+ a giveaway and a scavenger hunt)
B Review: Duke City Hit by Max Austin + Giveaway
A- Review by Cass: Third Claw of God by Adam-Troy Castro
Omenana: speculative fiction from Africa and the African diaspora


winter warm up blog hopComing Next Week:

The Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy (blog tour review + giveaway)
Deadly, Calm, and Cold by Susannah Sandlin (blog tour review + giveaway)
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz (blog tour review)
Tethered by Pippa Jay (review)
Winter Warm Up Blog Hop

Omenana: speculative fiction from Africa and the African diaspora

Guest post by Galen

I’m a fan of short stories, particularly fantasy, science fiction, and broadly, speculative fiction. Although many of the print science fiction and fantasy magazines have had struggles in recent years, there’s been an explosion of online publication featuring speculative short stories. Some of the usual suspects include, Clarksworld, and Strange Horizons, but for this post I’d like to feature a Nigerian online magazine I’ve run across via a post on Metafilter.

Omenana issue 1 coverIt’s called Omenana, and its first issue was published this month. From the that issue’s editorial:

Science fiction is still very new in Nigeria, but while we could barely find 10 people to contribute to the anthology in 2010, there are now hundreds of writers who will readily try their hand at the genre. Just as I did, more writers are recognising that we have a copious amount of material for speculative fiction here in Nigeria. That means we need platforms where these stories can be anchored. To help this along, Chinelo Onwualu and I present Omenana, a bimonthly speculative fiction e-publication.

And from Chinelo Onwualu’s essay in that issue, The Unbearable Solitude of Being an African Fan Girl:

Being an African fan girl is a strange, liminal thing. You’re never quite sure that you exist, you see. A part of you is rooted in your culture and its expectations for how a woman ought to behave – church, family, school – but another is flying off into the stars carrying a samurai sword and a machete. Not one thing or another, you’re both at the same time.

You know you are not alone. There are thousands of women just like you all over the continent. They have fought to forge their unique identities outside of the prescribed roles they were expected to fill. They have kept that childhood sense of wonder and aren’t ashamed to squeal like schoolgirls when they get excited. They run when they are in a hurry and they take the stairs two at a time. Like you, they are still curious and aren’t afraid to ask questions, but they scattered like magic beans across a vast farm. They are growing into their own twisted shapes and no one around them can understand why.

A standout story in the first issue is HostBods by Tendai Huchu. It is set in a time when mind transference technology is possible — and indeed so commonplace that it is possible to rent the use of another person’s body for a period of time. However, being a “HostBod” is a risky and usually short-lived career, and the people who do it tend to be treated as if they had all of the value of purely artificial robots — in other words, they’re disposable. Ordinarily, a HostBod isn’t supposed to be aware of what goes on when another person uses them, but for the protagonist… things are a little different.

Another story, Winter in Lagos by Saratu Abiola, takes a simple premise — Lagos experiencing its first snowfall — and uses it to turn a mirror onto contemporary issues in Nigeria.

Other features in the first issue are an interview with Ibrahim Ganiyu and art by Kelsey Arrington.

I look forward to Omenana’s next issue.

Review: Third Claw of God by Adam-Troy Castro

The Third Claw of GodFormat read: paperback (purchased by reviewer)
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: science fiction
Series: Andrea Cort #2
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date Released: February 24, 2009
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Andrea Cort became a “war criminal” at the age of eight when an unexplained darkness invaded her soul.

Now, decades later, the Devil is calling her.

Employed by the Diplomatic Corps but secretly aiding the AI masters of the universe, Counselor Andrea Cort despises the powerful Bettelhines—unrepentant death merchants who have prospered from the annihilation of civilizations. Now curiosity compels her to answer a cryptic summons to their home world, where the only law is Bettelhine law. But a murder attempt greets her arrival at Xana’s orbital entry port—and far graver peril awaits aboard the elevator transport meant to carry Andrea to the planet’s surface.

Trapped miles above Xana—surrounded by suspicious Bettelhines, their slavishly loyal retainers . . . and a corpse liquefied by a 15,000-year-old weapon—Andrea must unmask an assassin or die an equally hideous death. But the true reason for her summons—and sordid secrets weaving through her own dark past—threaten to destroy Andrea Cort more completely than the Claw of God.

My Review:

Andrea’s life has drastically improved since Emissaries From the Dead. She is no longer alone in the universe, having found happiness (or as much happiness as can be expected from someone who has endured what Andrea has) with the Porrinyards. She now knows who was really responsible for the massacre that labeled her a war criminal at the ripe old age of eight. Last but not least, she “earned” an unprecedented promotion from her jailers/owners in the Diplomatic Corps and now has the first taste of freedom since her childhood.

Hans Bettelhine may have been an infamous merchant of death, whose munitions empire was even now fueling slaughter on a hundred human worlds, but I had to be fair: it was for precisely that reason that I wouldn’t blame him for today’s attempt on my life.


Still, there was no denying that his headquarters world, Xana, set an entirely new record for the shortest interval between my arrival at a place I’ve never been and the very first attempt on my life there.

I’m talking about minutes. Minutes.

Okay, maybe things aren’t going as well as they could be. Finding love, experiencing freedom, and hunting down the assholes who ruined her life are wonderful – but they don’t change the fact that Andrea Cort is and always will be a universally despised war criminal.

A fact that still bloody infuriates me. What the hell kind of fucked up government labels the 8 year old survivor of a community massacre a goddamn war criminal?! There was no war, so she could hardly be held responsible for violating the standard acceptable practices of wartime. She didn’t wield weapons of mass destruction, or commit atrocities. She just so happened to kill a man who was trying to kill her after seeing pretty much every single person she’d ever known or loved brutally slaughter one another. How the hell is this her fault? Why has she been subjected to a lifetime of assassination attempts, death threats, rape, torture, imprisonment, and hatred from hundreds of worlds? Why has one little girl been singled out for this kind of horrifying treatment?

That’s when he opened the trap door beneath my feet, left me realizing how much of my life had been based on a lie. “How come anybody even knows you’re a war criminal?”

Several seconds passed before I felt my heart beat again. “Come again?”

“What,” he said, “you think you looked exactly the same at twenty that you did at eight? I mean, the Dip Corps could have changed your name, your skin pigment, your nose, maybe your hair color, and a couple of other cosmetic things about you, given you a new ID file and a false history, and nobody but your bosses would have known that you were the same kid.”

But he went on, every word out of his mouth a fresh spike driven into the base of my brain. “Instead, they put you to work as Andrea Cort, child war criminal grown up, and willingly ate all the seven hundred flavors of crap they had to swallow because of the propaganda weapon they had just handed all the alien governments who wanted to paint humanity as a bunch of homicidal bastards who let their own get away with murder.”

I closed my eyes, desperate to shut him out, hating the way his voice insisted on making itself heard through the pounding of my heart.

He asked, “Why would they put themselves through that?”

Stop, I thought.

“Why would they put you through that?”

Please stop.

“And why would you let them?”

EXACTLY! Also, on a slightly related note, it’s a bit disturbing to me that Andrea had to visit an actual war monger’s private planet to get that kind of insight.

In The Third Claw of God, Andrea is invited to a war profiteer’s planet for mysterious reasons, promptly survives an assassination attempt, but is then called upon to investigate another murder. Whereupon she realizes nothing is as it appears when dealing with Space-Faring Stark Industries. A simple murder is only the beginning, and by the end Andrea is going to discover the answer to secrets she didn’t even know existed.

The second installment in the series is even better than the first. It opens with an assassination attempt and does not slow down until the last page. Warning: you will be up till 3am reading this book in one sitting.

Once again, it is difficult to discuss the story in too much detail without spoilers, but suffice to say that Adam Troy Castro’s skills with characterization and world-building continue to amaze…..and disturb. Particularly when he keeps peeling back the layers of society on the Bettlehines’ private planet. You think life on a war monger’s private planet is bad? Just wait until you learn about the employee loyalty program and various perks available to members of the ruling family. Andrea’s treatment by the Diplomatic Corps will seem almost benevolent in comparison.

Escape Rating: A- because Adam Troy Castro’s publisher has refused to continue backing Andrea Cort. They believe there is more money in YA, and so we will never reach a satisfying conclusion to Andrea’s story. INCONCEIVABLE! I burned through The Third Claw of God the night after finishing Emissaries For the Deadand am left hanging, desperately pleading for another installment.

***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.