The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-23-14

Sunday Post

This was an interesting week at chez Reading Reality. Actually, last weekend was way more interesting.

FFX-X-2_HD_Remaster_NA_CoverCass was here in Seattle last weekend, so we got to write our dual review of Dancing with Dragons while sitting together. Doing it in the same place doubles both the time it takes and the snark produced! We had way too much fun.

But this week has also been the week that my favorite video game ever was re-released on HD. Once my copy of Final Fantasy X arrived, I didn’t get a lot done except play–right up until the PS3 totally died. Then it was back to the books!


Current Giveaways:

leprechaun blog hop$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Leaping Leprechauns & Frolicking Fairies Blog Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card from Victoria Pinder
$25 Gift Card, preview copies of Virna DePaul’s new titles courtesy of Romance at Random

Winner Announcements:

Paperback copy of Retribution by Anderson Harp won by Jo J.
Ebook copy of Good Together by CJ Carmichael won by Shamara C.
Ebook copy of Slam Dance with the Devil by Nico Rosso won by Erin F.

concealed in death by jd robbBlog Recap:

Leaping Leprechauns & Frolicking Fairies – The All Things Irish Blog Hop
B+ Review: Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb
C, C+ Dual Review: Dancing with Dragons by Lorenda Christensen
Turned Blog Hop
B- Review: The Zoastra Affair by Victoria Pinder + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (81)


Murder of CrowsComing Next Week:

A Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop (review by Cass)
The Accident by Chris Pavone (blog tour review and giveaway)
Turned by Virna DePaul (review)
The Cottage on Juniper Ridge by Sheila Roberts (blog tour review)
Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews (review)

Dual Review: Dancing with Dragons by Lorenda Christensen

dancing with dragons by lorenda christensenFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Series: DRACIM #2
Length: 184 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: March 17, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

If Carol Jenski knows anything, it’s fashion—and it’s not in fashion to consort with dragons, even though they’ve coexisted with humans since World War III. Still, she would never have agreed to take part in a plot against them. Now a dragon lord has called for her head, her boyfriend is MIA and she’s been abandoned in a foreign country.

Only reporter Daniel Wallent is on Carol’s side…sort of. He offers his assistance if she helps him investigate his latest story. He’ll need Carol’s language skills to infiltrate in the organization run by one of the most dangerous and secretive dragons in the world.

Escaping one sociopathic dragon’s claws only to walk into another’s is an insane risk—and so is falling for Daniel. Posing as his blushing—and very affectionate—new bride as cover soon leads to an all-too-real attraction. But fighting off dragons and her desire for Daniel may be more of a challenge than Carol can handle…

Our Review:

never deal with dragons by lorenda christensenCass: I deeply – and unexpectedly – loved the everloving shit out of Never Deal with Dragons. (Though I still maintain it was inappropriately classified as PNR, and was really UF. Because I must justify this to myself in some way.)

Marlene: Whatever you want to call it, I read Never Deal with Dragons just because you liked it. I was flabbergasted that you liked anything with even a smidgen of romance!

Cass: That’s entirely fair. I read it because I was having a bad week, and I “knew” she’d ruin my dragons. I wanted to hate it and write and ALL CAPS RAGE REVIEW.

Then it turned out to be awesome. The romance wasn’t love-at-first-sight. It wasn’t the driving plot of the book. Myrna was brilliant and capable. Trian acknowledged his douchebaggery, and made appropriate amends. (And he continued to do so as a bit player here in Dancing with Dragons.)

Anyways. With all this in mind, I was actually quite excited to jump into Dancing with Dragons. Though I struggled with the realization that this would make THREE goddamn PNR series that I enjoy (see also: The Edge by Ilona Andrews and The Iron Seas by MelJean Brook).

Marlene: Never Deal with Dragons was terrific (see review)! Myrna was a great heroine who used her brains rather than her brawn to be absolutely kick-ass awesome. And there was none of the dreaded insta-love. I don’t mind in the least following another PNR series (well, duh) but it has to be good. This one got off to a great start, but then, we get Dancing with Dragons, and let’s just say the sophmore book does not live up to the promise of the first one.

Cass: I am absolutely devastated to agree. The opening chapter was riveting – a dragon car chase! BAM AMAZING. GIVE ME MORE. I was practically squealing with excitement (much to the consternation of the family trapped on the plane with me.)

Then Carol wakes up in the hospital (post-head trauma), and the whole thing went careening downhill. I actually stopped to re-read the end of Never Deal with Dragons, because I recalled that Carol knew what Richard had done, and chose to go with him anyways. Also that Richard was deeply and obsessively in love with her blah blah blah dragon killing terrorists need love too. I was correct. Although the author seems to have forgotten.

Carol went from dragonscript expert with shitass taste in men to every possible blonde stereotype in the book (never mind that she’s a ginger.) She threw a goddamn public hissy fit in the hospital when she discovered the surgeons had to cut her hair in order to deal with the head trauma and possible bleeding her her brain. You are alive. WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR HAIR?! It didn’t help that this was a recurring bitch for her throughout the rest of the book. Woe is me, people think I’m a terrorist, I’m a fugitive from the law, and my boyfriend ditched me….but MY HAIR IS GONE!

Basically, I couldn’t stand her. She was TSTL.

Marlene: I’m sitting here watching the rant appear on my screen and just nodding. Or chortling.

Carol was such a poor choice for a heroine, even if it was set up in the first book. I don’t care. It wasn’t just her repeated bad taste in men (it happens) but that she seemed to have regressed from the first book, possibly back to the teenage hormonal-drama stage.

The repeated hair-fits–either screeching or bewailing her short-haired fate, seemed stupid and short-sighted considering that she was on the run for her life through the entire story. WTF?

Repeating her awful judgment of the male of the species by continuing to believe Richard the douche after he abandons her in the hospital in Budapest, leaving her with nothing but the hospital gown on her front. I’d be sending a dragon after his ass, not continuing to justify his assholishness.

Cass: Now, I’ll admit I was willing to give Carol a wee bit of a temporary pass due to the traumatic brain injury. But when you find out that you are wanted for questioning in connection with a terrorist attack that took place while you were in a coma, you TURN YOURSELF IN. Why? Because you have IRREFUTABLE PROOF YOU ARE INNOCENT. A hospital full of people who can document your coma is what we call an airtight alibi.

Or you can take the Carol route, and climb onto the back of a reporter’s motorcycle while wearing nothing but your hospital gown and go on the lam with him in a foreign country.

I guess I should take a moment to lay off Carol, and point out that my usually brilliant and competent Myrna failed to take the requisite 5 minutes on the phone to explain to Carol just what the bloody hell was going on – and instead said, “Oh hey, glad that coma’s over! I suggest you get lost. Bye! Call me. Love you.”

Regardless of Myrna’s temporary failure as a friend, Carol really should have started making logical decisions at some point in the book. But she never did. She repeatedly refused to take advantage of possible routes to immediately clear her name, did not even consider that Richard was guilty, and instead felt SUPER BAD about giving Mr. Sexy Reporter blue balls that one time. Which was like, totally, the worst thing ever! Because how could he cope with such pain?! (Clearly, she’s never heard of masturbation.)

Marlene: If he didn’t go into the shower and take care of business, then they are absolutely perfect for each other, because that would make him equally TSTL. Which would have been the end of the story, because he’s clearly the brains of the outfit, such as they are.

After all, he keeps manipulating Carol (not that that’s not a piece of cake!) and everyone else he comes into contact with. I could sort of understand why she believed him in the first place, but that she kept on believing as his cover got more elaborate, not so much. If his paper could supposedly afford her new designer wardrobe, why didn’t the budget run to a dragonspeaker?

Not to mention, the simple idea that she accepted that it was better to go deceive a second dragon lord rather than finding a straightforward way to get out of her problems with the first one was just bizarre.

If this was intended as screwball comedy, it falls heavily on the screwball side.

Cass: Carol’s stupidity was clearly a plot contrivance. In Never Deal with Dragons, she was put forth as an incomparable language expert, contract genius, and diplomat extraordinaire. Getting that Carol to engage in wee bit of international espionage while under investigation for bioterrorism would have been such a pain in the ass. Ergo, moronic Carol.

By the time we got to the James Bond portion of the book, I was sorely tempted to just stop reading. Carol clearly wasn’t going to get eaten by a dragon, which she richly deserved, and I was done. However, in this respect, her stupidity finally paid off, and we got an actual interesting and engaging dragon plot! Much like the first book, I was fascinated with dragon society, dragon laws, dragon customs, and dragon-human interactions.

Why couldn’t Carol have turned herself in at the beginning of the book, cleared her name (with ease), and been sweet-talked by whatever sexy piece of mancake they had on hand to go undercover for Lord Relobu in India and help avert another international dragon incident?! We could have gotten to the actual plot that much faster, and had a plausible reason for it, while capitalizing on Carol’s overactive hormones and shit judgement all in one go. She still could have hooked up with Mr. Sexy Reporter for their extremely tepid love scenes. And I could have spent more time actually caring about the book.

Marlene: Just in case anyone has missed the point, we don’t like the version of Carol that comes out of her trauma-induced coma in Dancing with Dragons!

Cass: We loved the actual dragon parts of the book! Especially the interlude in India.

Marlene: The Indian dragon lord and the whole story of the plots and counterplots to take over/save/protect the ex-Chinese dragon lord’s former territory was awesome. (Carol did finally get a clue once the entire compound was captured by the rapacious would-be dragon lord and his cronies.

Cass: Trian made a bloody brilliant entrance at this point! The suffering we endured at the beginning was largely worth his hilarious machinations and manipulation of the siege-laying dragonfolk.

Marlene: And just as Trian is resolving everything, Carol of course loses faith in the rescue that she set up and asks him to cart her back to the U.S. This is the point where she should have stuck it out, but Carol continues her pattern of making the worst decisions possible every time.


Cass: I can’t spoil the ending for you, but let’s just make it known that the lawyer has OPINIONS about the Trial of the Century. I believe there is a military term appropriate to this situation: FUBAR.

Escape Rating: Carol gets a D for dumbfuck, but all the other parts (dragons!!!!) are pushing A material (except Lord Relobu. He’s clearly infected with Carol’s stupidity by association). I’ll split the difference and go with a C+. The + is dragon-induced.

Marlene: Carol is way too TSTL to make a half-way decent heroine. Adding the insta-love trope between her and Mr. Sexy Reporter as an attempt to justify why she goes on the lam with him does not make things better. (And some of his behavior does border on TSTL, it doesn’t take much brains to seem smarter than this version of Carol)

Escape Rating C: The dragon politics and backstabbing (or is that front-clawing) were generally awesome, but the choice of Carol as point-of-view character made the non-dragon parts very rough going. If she screeched one more time about her hair or her post-coma lack of muscle tone I was seriously tempted to hope a dragon would eat her. Maybe there’s hope for the next book?

Cass: Note: Stunningly for a PNR, there was no obvious set-up for the next protagonist. Maybe Myrna’s new assistant back in Tulsa? Or one of the bit players in India?

***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 3-16-14

Sunday Post

dancing with dragons by lorenda christensenCass is here this week, on the first or second leg (depending on how you count) of her grand cross-country move to New Mexico. She’s moving from the freezing to the melting parts of the U.S. (As they say, at least it’s a dry heat!)

I’m hoping that we’ll get in a dual review of Dancing with Dragons while she’s here (because, well, DRAGONS!). It will be fun (and weird) to do this while we can actually talk to each other, instead of just Google chat. It may go faster this way. It may go LOTS slower if we crack each other up too much.

There are three book giveaways still in progress this week, on paranormal romance, one contemporary/western, and one military/political thriller, plus the mega-tourwide giveaway from Emily Kimelman. Check ’em out!

slam dance with the devil by nico rossoCurrent Giveaways:

Slam Dance with the Devil by Nico Rosso (ebook)
Good Together by CJ Carmichael (ebook)
Retribution by Anderson Harp (paperback, US only)
Audio Book and Signed copies of Unleashed by Emily Kimelman, set of Sydney Rye series, and a $30 Amazon or B&N gift card courtesy of Emily Kimelman


Blog Recap:

TropicSerpentsB Review: Slam Dance with the Devil by Nico Rosso
Guest Post by Nico Rosso on Concerts and Memories + Giveaway
B+ Review: Good Together by CJ Carmichael + Giveaway
A+ Review by Cass: The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
B+ Review: Retribution by Anderson Harp
Q&A with Author Anderson Harp + Giveaway
B- Review: Unleashed by Emily Kimelman + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (80)

Coming Next Week:

IRish-hop3Leaping Leprechauns & Frolicking Fairies-The All Thing Irish Blog Hop
Turned Blog Hop
Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb (review)
Dancing with Dragons by Lorenda Christensen (hopefully a dual review with Cass)
The Zoastra Affair by Victoria Pinder (blog tour review and giveaway)

Dual Review: Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

dreams of the golden age by carrie vaughnFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genre: Superhero romance, Urban Fantasy
Series: Golden Age #2
Length: 318 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: January 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Like every teen, Anna has secrets. Unlike every teen, Anna has a telepath for a father and Commerce City’s most powerful businessperson for a mother. She’s also the granddaughter of the city’s two most famous superheroes, the former leaders of the legendary Olympiad, and the company car drops her off at the gate of her exclusive high school every morning. Privacy is one luxury she doesn’t have.

Hiding her burgeoning superpowers from her parents is hard enough; how’s she supposed to keep them from finding out that her friends have powers, too? Or that she and the others are meeting late at night, honing their skills and dreaming of becoming Commerce City’s next great team of masked vigilantes?

Like every mother, Celia worries about her daughter. Unlike every mother, Celia has the means to send Anna to the best schools and keep a close watch on her, every second of every day. At least Celia doesn’t have to worry about Anna becoming a target for every gang with masks and an agenda, like Celia was at Anna’s age.

As far as Celia knows, Anna isn’t anything other than a normal teen. Still, just in case, Celia has secretly awarded scholarships at Anna’s private high school to the descendants of the city’s other superpowered humans. Maybe, just maybe, these teens could one day fill the gap left by the dissolution of The Olympiad…

Our Review:

Cass: After the Golden Age was better.

Sidney-Harris-MiracleMarlene: (refers Cass to Sidney Harris cartoon). Not that I don’t agree with you. After the Golden Age was better. But I think we need to be a little more explicit in our reasons. (and for anyone who is wondering, no, Sidney Harris is not a relative. And DAMN)

Cass: FINE. I can work with that. If you insist.

The primary issue with Dreams of the Golden Age was Anna. As a protagonist she left me utterly cold. I do not mind teenage narrators, so it wasn’t an issue of youth. She was just so damn boring. I didn’t care about her powers, or her typical teenage drama. For example, after a (SARCASTIC SPOILER ALERT) very bad thing happens, she immediately jumps tracks to talk prom. Seriously? There aren’t more important issues for you to deal with right now?!

More Celia and Arthur! The whole book should have been about them.

Marlene: I’m with you on Anna. So much of Anna’s angst is about her power being such a boring kind of power. It’s not showy, and it’s not offensive. It’s not even defensive. The problem is that her endless internal whinging about how dull a power she got dealt also gets boring.

Celia and Arthur? Now there’s a fascinating story. Also Celia and Mark, for that matter. Celia is dealing with so much very real and heart-rending “stuff” during the whole book. If it had been all her again, I’d have been much happier.

Cass: Absolutely! Anna’s “wah wah my powers are terrible” just made me want to reach into the book and slap her. Really? Your mother and sister have no powers at all. Remember how your mom spent her teenage years being abducted and held hostage? Maybe use your brain and figure out how to capitalize on what you’ve got. Which is so much more than 99.99% of the boring humans out there get.

I really wanted more of Celia and Arthur. I just skimmed through the Anna Chapters looking for references to them. Celia’s troubles were so much more engaging than Anna’s, I couldn’t even figure out how Carrie could stand to write Anna’s perspective alongside Celia’s.

After the Golden Age by Carrie VaughnHell, even stories about how they dealt with all the trauma from After The Golden Age would have been better. Also, will no one EVER acknowledge the serious PTSD Celia has to be rocking due to her horrific childhood?

Marlene: In Dreams of the Golden Age, so much of what felt like the “true” story rested on Celia. And Celia’s story was a bigger and stronger story than anything focused on Anna’s point of view. Anna’s perspective was just too small. I think one of the differences between After and Dreams is that in After, Celia was an adult. She still had tons of trauma that she had to get over (and probably never got therapy for) but she had some perspective on the scope of the events taking place that was beyond her headspace. Even if some of that perspective might have been her version of the mutation.

Anna doesn’t feel mature enough to carry the story.

Cass: I didn’t think the problem was with Anna’s lack of maturity – I really blame the problem on the writing. Showcasing Anna’s perspective could have provided a very interesting counterpoint to Celia’s decisions to keep things from her children, or how Celia and Arthur’s parenting was so clearly superior to what Celia was subjected to.

The problem was that Anna’s chapters read like someone had studied teenagers by watching The WB and the Cartoon Network without ever interacting with real young people. Just because kids are hormonal doesn’t make them useless, stupid, or oblivious to the world around them. Anna’s limited perspective would have made more sense for a child much younger. Someone who was say, 10 or 12.

However, I did really enjoy the glimpses we got of what it was like living in a City of Superheroes/Villians. From both the idiotic child and elite businesswoman perspectives.

Marlene: It may be that I just plain didn’t like Anna. There were times when her younger sister Bethy seemed to have a more sensible head on her shoulders, powers or no powers.

There are plenty of totally immature adults, and mature teenagers in real life as well as fiction. Anna’s perspective just didn’t work for me in the same way that Celia’s did in the first book.

It still felt like Celia was the real central character in this story. It was her plan to arrange for all the children and grandchildren of the original experiment to get into Elmwood Academy one way or another and for her to see if the Olympiad recreated itself by, what, spontaneous generation?

She’s still obeying her own mutation, and giving her all, and it very nearly is absolutely everything she has, to see that Commerce City flourishes.

And the poor woman manages to get kidnapped. Again.

Cass: We’re definitely in agreement. Celia was the true protagonist and star of the show. I admit that I started laughing when she got kidnapped. You’d think after so many years, people would learn.

I hope that if the author returns to Commerce City, she sticks with the real movers and shakers (namely, Celia and Arthur) rather than forcing us to spend too much time with what is properly the supporting cast.

I did love Celia’s long term plans to regenerate the Olympiad. It was great to see her acknowledged for her intelligence, something that I felt most people overlooked in After the Golden Age. Brilliance may not be as flashy as setting shit on fire with your mind, but I’d rather have a Celia in my city than the (old or new) Olympiad any day.

Escape Rating C: This is hard. I want to give Anna an F, and Celia an A. So I’ll split the difference.

I would not recommend anyone read Dreams unless they’ve already read After. Too much of the plot and character development depends on knowledge of what took place in the first book.

Marlene: Let’s get past the “Up with Celia, Down with Anna” rant to talk about the overall story just a minute. And for that, I need to quote Battlestar Galactica. “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again,” with a dose of Euripides by way of Star Trek, “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”
The plot in Dreams has a ton of recycled elements from After, starting with using the daughter’s perspective, which is why we got so much Anna shoved at us.

But the crisis is kind of the same; a secret attempt to take over Commerce City’s halls of power, hidden behind a smokescreen. The smokescreens are different, but the baseline concept feels the same. Celia’s kidnapping is just the icing on that cake.

Cass: Excellent point! “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Though I’m loving the Cylon reference, it’s not working for me, since they have thousands upon thousands of years to repeat their mistakes. This is only one generation!)

Would it kill a supervillain to crack a book on occasion? Maybe not fail at taking over the city the exact same way their predecessors did?

Marlene: The Cylons are quoting J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. A historical footnote that perturbs me no end.

It would also be a terrific thing if all the supervillains didn’t have the same parent-child rivalries, but that’s not necessarily something they could prevent by cracking open a book. Sometimes the apple does fall pretty far from the parent tree. And in a really good way.

Cass: I forgive it in this case – if only because the genesis of Commerce City Powers stems from a very limited genetic pool – it’s not uncommon for relatives to have the same mommy/daddy issues.

Marlene: This is my case of not forgiving the writing as much. It makes sense that families have similar dynamics, although we don’t know that the supervillain family in After is the same as the supervillain family in Dreams. It’s only speculation. And since family dynamics are nurture as much as nature, and there was no contact that we know of, that stretches it even further for me.

Also it’s part of the cascade of repeats. Daughter perspective, supervillain has same plot to take over Commerce City, and supervillain family has the same kind of parent/child breakaway issues.

But the grand scenes at the climax where all the supers, old and new, got together and used their powers could have been part of a climactic battle for an Avengers franchise movie.

Escape Rating B: In spite of having too much Anna and not enough Celia, the parts of Celia (and Arthur) that I got were awesome. I loved the bits about “getting the band back together”. Celia’s angst was real and heartfelt, I could feel her being pulled in every direction and never sure if she was doing the right thing.

Like Cass, I would love to see the “stories in the middle”; how Celia and Arthur managed to heal after the big mess of After the Golden Age. Or a future now that Celia is going to have to let go a little bit. And poor Mark, he’s an unsung hero in all of this. And someday, Bethy is going to be awesome.

Cass: My grade stays the same! In case anyone was wondering. There was just not enough awesome despite all the potential. (Bethy is counted amongst all the potential.)

***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: Halo by Frankie Rose

HaloFormat read: eARC from Netgalley
Formats available: ebook, POD
Genre: YA Dystopian
Series: Blood & Fire #1
Length: 354 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace
Date Released: January 10, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s WebsiteGoodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble.

She has no name.

She has her knives; her training; her halo.

The first and second give her the tools and the skill to defeat the opponents she is pitched against each month. The third frees her from pain and fear. From any kind of emotion at all. Everything is as it should be. Everything is as it should be, until…



When a newly-named Kit escapes the Sanctuary after killing her best friend, the last thing she needs is another knife in her hand. Or Ryka, the damaged, beautiful blonde boy, who she refuses to let save her. Still learning how to process the onslaught of her new feelings, the sights and sounds of Freetown are overwhelming and strange. There are a hundred differences between her old home and her new one, but one thing remains starkly similar: the matches. Yet where the blood in the Sanctuary landed only on the colosseum floor, Kit will quickly learn that a river of red runs through Freetown’s very streets.

Freed from the oppression of a society who stole her right to feel, the true horror of her old life leaves Kit wondering if she really has been freed at all. Would she be better off without the crippling horror of all the blood on her hands, or is the love of one boy worth living through all the pain?

Raksha is the call of the dead. The rumbling chant for fresh blood from the other side, the demand for sacrifice. The colosseum is behind Kit. The fighting pits await.

My Thoughts:

Following the massive success of The Hunger Games, it is only to be expected that pale imitations will crop up in a blatant attempt to ride those multi-million dollar coattails. This has led to a absolute flurry of Dytopian YA publishing. And let me just say how excited I am to see Dystopian YA edging out all the Twi-lites and Twi-harders. You cannot write a Dystopian YA that I am not going to read.

As with any imploding subgenre, there are fantastic additions (Shatter Me), middle of the pack reads that quickly blur together (Divergent), and non-sensical piles of shit that completely miss the point of the entire goddamn genre.

Guess where on the scale Halo falls?

Halo has an extremely promising start. I greatly enjoyed the Hunger Games meets the Roman Colosseum vibe. In this rigidly class-divided world, you are born and bred for a specific station. Our protagonist is one of the Falin (fighters), whose entire purpose in life is to fight, kill, and die for the entertainment of the bloodthirsty masses. The upperclass “Trues” are socialized to see the Falin as contemptible subhuman animals, thus preventing any niggling morality issues with the monthly child slaughter, while the Falin are drugged and brainwashed into emotionless automatons. This keeps the Falin from uniting to kill their captors.

(This tactic comes highly recommended by Eric Northman.)

Ahem. Back to the Dystopian.

The problems with Halo come once Kit escapes from the walled and isolated Sanctuary.

People outside Sanctuary are spread out in cities and towns across the country. Kit stumbles into the nearby Freetown, where she is immediately introduced to a society without the rigid class structures she is accustomed too. However, this so-called “free” town has ridiculously oppressive laws/customs against women.

Kit quickly learns that women are required to wear skirts covered in freaking bells. (A noise burka!) When she notes this would prevent her from, say, quietly moving around town, defending herself from attack, or even outright running away from danger,  she learns this is a non-issue! Because women are forbidden from fighting, being educated in any kind of physical art, or carrying anything that could be construed as a weapon. If Kit doesn’t want to be attacked, sexually assaulted, and/or raped, she has to make herself utterly defenseless. Those obsessive woman-hating child-beating murdering rapists never attack teenage girls! (Aw, shucks grandpa, thanks for ‘splaining things.)

I don’t think I have ever read a book where it was so perfectly clear where it all went wrong. After an attempted gang (implied) rape, Kit is on the verge of being forced to give up her knives for her own, ahem, protection. (I’m serious, that’s their bullshit justification. That she brought the assault on herself, and one day, would totally be raped, and it would be all her fault. For daring to know how to use a knife in self-defense.) Kit beautifully acknowledges the laws of Freetown, and states that she will respect them. By leaving.

Fuck yeah! Kiss these misogynist assholes goodbye, and let their so-called enlightened abolitionist leaders take a hard look at the bullshit laws that send the newly emancipated slave out into the world looking for actual freedom. Kit could go Free Town shopping! Roam the countryside spreading enlightenment and self-defense lessons while dodging bounty hunters from Sanctuary….

Of course that didn’t happen. Instead, Kit gets special dispensation to keep her knives, and a cute teenage boy bodyguard. Because he’ll be able to keep her safe. As opposed to her training and weapons.

Then she has the privilege of spending the rest of the series fighting on behalf of the misogynist shiteaters who keep trying to kill, main, or rape her. Sit back everyone, and watch this train derail.

The point of a YA Dystopian is freedom from oppression, and coming into your own power. Not exchanging one form of slavery for another.  Or being dependent on someone else to protect you when you’re 150% capable to taking care of yourself. I always tell my clients that shack up with a new man right after we’ve kicked the abusive husband to the curb to “Trade Up.”

Kit did not trade up.


Beyond the blatant and unchallenged misogyny rampant in the book (though there is a super-special woman-hater who keeps whining about all the misandry, and how men just don’t have enough power), you’ll need to be prepared to ignore some bizarrely inept world-building.

A particularly pathetic example pops up when Freetown discusses their trading practices with Sanctuary. Apparently the high-tech walled-off city ships mass quantities of grain and other food out to the country towns in exchange for high-quality weapons produced by artisans out in the sticks.

No really, it makes sense! So long as you don’t know how industry and farming work, but do accept any and all points of plot convenience. (There are many more, this is the just the most blatantly moronic of them.)

Halo was originally published in May of 2013 as Raksha. I prefer the original cover. Kit looks a bit more like the ass-kicking knife-master she is, and less like an indecisive girl wandering aimlessly through a poorly depicted world. Oh, wait…..

Escape Rating: D- for the extreme douchebaggery of taking a goddamn champion gladiator and forcing her to defend a deeply misogynist city. Take a hint from your revamped cover Kit, and walk the fuck away.

***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.

A Look Forward: My Most Anticipated Reads for 2014

2014 numbersWhat a difference a year makes!

It was surprisingly easy to pick the books for this list. I know exactly which books I’m dying for this year. Well, the first ten, anyway. I wasn’t planning on fourteen, but Cass jumped in and rounded out the list. (Thanks, Cass!)

Then I took a look back at last year’s list, and my eyes crossed a bit. There are two repeaters. I don’t mean series where the next book in the series is on the list, although that happens too, but two books that were delayed in publication. So I’ve waited a whole year longer than originally planned. (Not that I didn’t find plenty to read instead)

And a couple of things I thought I would read as soon as they came out, I didn’t. (Best laid plans, etc., etc.)

So here’s this year’s set of newly laid plans. Let’s see how it goes. Why do I hear a “bwahahaha”, coming from somewhere in the shadows?

skin game by jim butcherSkin Game by Jim Butcher is the 15th Harry Dresden book. I can’t believe the series has been going on that long. I fell in love with Harry because he started out as a hapless and frequently luckless wizard in my favorite former hometown, Chicago. But I still love his trademark snark, even as Harry has gone from being a two-bit wizard-for-hire to the Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness.

Damnation by Jean Johnson is the fourth book in her Theirs Not to Reason Why military science fiction series. I heard her read from Damnation at WorldCon in San Antonio, and I can’t believe I have to wait until August to finally get the next chapter in Ia’s story. There have been moments in this series that have sent chills down my spine. This entire series has been awesome.

guild by jean johnsonThe Guild, also by Jean Johnson, is the third book in her Guardians of Destiny fantasy romance series. Her military sf is kick ass, but I found her through her fantasy romance, and she’s utterly marvelous. The second book in this series, The Grove, was on my 2013 best list. She does fantasy romance where the fantasy worldbuilding is top notch and her heroines are always the absolute equals of her heroes. Her women have friends who talk to each other, and the plot of the fantasy is as important as the romantic happy ending. Her stories are always a treat!

Cast in Flame by Michelle Sagara is the tenth of the Chronicles of Elantra, and I can’t wait for Kaylin to get back to the city. She belongs there. Removing her from the city and the Courts for two books was interesting and told a lot about her friends among the Barrani, but took away from Kaylin as the center point. I want Kaylin back where she belongs!

silver mirrors by aa aguirreSilver Mirrors by A.A. Aguirre is the second book in their (A.A. Aguirre is the joint pseudonym of Ann and Andres Aguirre) Apparatus Infernum series. The first book, Bronze Gods, was one of my best of 2013. The world is just such an awesome mixture of steampunk and “magic goes away”, with an urban fantasy/detective duo that is something special.

Death Defying by Nina Croft has been the biggest tease for the end of December. It’s also the third book in her Blood Hunter series. I loved the first two books (Break Out and Deadly Pursuit) in that science fiction romance series so damn much that I gave Break Out an SFR Galaxy Award. I’ve been waiting since then. Death Defying almost made it into 2013, but not quite. What is so cool about the Blood Hunter series is that Croft figured out a plausible way for vampires and werewolves to make it into space. So along with a science that has granted immortality to a privileged few, there are vampires, who are also immortal. And it makes sense.

shield of winter by nalini singhShield of Winter by Nalini Singh is lucky 13 in her Psy-Changeling series. I still love this series, but it’s pretty obvious that the overall arc of the worldbuilding is drawing to a conclusion. The Silence Protocol will fall, the questions revolve around what is going to take its place; order or anarchy. I think I’ve become as or more fascinated with the big story than the individual romances. And I simply can’t express how grateful I am that the cover design has improved with Heart of Obsidian and Shield. The previous US covers were simply abominable.

Lock In by John Scalzi. Honestly, I wouldn’t care what the summary said on Goodreads. It’s by Scalzi, and I’m going to get the eARC from Edelweiss as soon as it pops up. But seriously, it sounds cool, but not one of his funny ones. This looks like one of his big idea books mixing virtual-reality, epidemiology and the misuse of power. Wow!

And now for those books that I hoped to see last year, but were delayed in publication…

written in my own hearts blood by diana gabaldonWritten in My Own Heart’s Blood is the eighth doorstop in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The Outlander series has been described, and it sounds about right to me, as “historical fiction with a Moebius twist”. The past and the future intertwine in a way that has to be read to be believed. Her 18th century is like you are there, and in a way you are, because you are experiencing it through the eyes of a 20th century woman who found the love of her life in 18th century Scotland. Outlander is the standard by which all other time travel historical fiction and romances are judged. I can’t wait to lose three days in the next one.

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear is the continuation of her completely splendiferous Promethean Age series. They are portal fantasies, where Faerie exists next door to our world in a way that means events can, and do, affect both us and them, usually to the detriment of one or the other. And whoever scored last has a nasty tendency to strike back. The original cover sucked, and it went back for a better one. At least, that’s what the author said at WorldCon. (The first cover really, really does suck, we’ll have to see about the second one when it gets here. I just want the damn story)

Two books I should be anticipating but aren’t exactly…

Wicked After Midnight by Delilah S. DawsonWicked After Midnight by Delilah S. Dawson and Rex Regis by L.E. Modesitt Jr. These two books have nothing to do with each other, except that they are both January books, and I would normally be chomping at the proverbial bit to get at them. However, I have ARCs. I’ve already read Rex Regis, and can’t recommend it, and the entire Imager Portfolio series, highly enough to anyone who loves epic fantasy.

I started Delilah S. Dawson’s Blud series after I met her at Dragon*Con in 2012. The series is steampunk with a slightly creepy twist to it, but they are darkly enchanting and I scoop up each book as soon as they are available. I know Wicked After Midnight is going to be a treat.

And now for a few words from the Alaskan delegate. Here’s Cass!

tropic of serpents by marie brennanThe Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan! Clearly. I invented a new rating system for Book #1 Then I preordered Serpents 6 months before it’s release. I’ve NEVER preordered something so far in advance. I have no idea what edition it is (hardcover? paperback?), what the cover art looks like…nada. Doesn’t matter. Don’t care. WANT BOOK NOW.

Symbiont by Mira Grant. Argh! I have to see what is happening with the Tapeworm Uprising! And then find some anti-parasitcs to ingest, thus purging my body of our future Tapeworm Overlords.


Wyrd-Sisters by Terry Pratchett new coverThe Discworld Collector’s Library. Holy shit these covers are gorgeous. ( I’ve read the covers off several of my favorite Terry Pratchett books, and I upgrades. Particularly the Death, Cultures of Discworld, and Witches Collections. I am only interested in certain Unseen University and City Watch books.

Untitled by Connie Willis. Connie read the first chapter from an untitled (and as yet unfinished) book at WorldCon and I have no idea when it is coming or what it will be called by I am waiting. Credit card in hand. Just give me a sign Connie…..

And there you have it. A few of the books we are looking most forward to in 2014. Of course, there will be more. Lots, lots more.

Which books are you looking forward to the most in 2014?

A Baker’s Dozen of the Best Books of 2013

2013 blockAs 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to take a look back and attempt to decide which books were the best of the year.

OK, so this list is the best of my year. Why not? Everyone else is doing it!

But seriously, it’s both a surprise and a delight to look back and see which books got one of the rare A+ ratings. Or even just an A. (Along with the discovery that I need to do a better job of tagging to make them easier to find.)

There aren’t a lot of romances on this list. Not because I didn’t read some good ones this year, but because, well “reasons” as Cass says. Mostly because I do a separate list of the Best Ebook Romances for Library Journal every year, and also recap that list here at Reading Reality. So romance gets pretty much covered.

And speaking of Cass, she contributed her trademark snark to this list. Along with a dose of draconic awesomesauce.

These are the books that stuck with me this year. Sometimes to the point where I was still telling people about them months later, or where I am haunting NetGalley, Edelweiss or the author’s website looking for news of the next book in the series or their next book, period.

Cass’s thoughts on her faves are very definitely hers. And her picks probably won’t surprise anyone who has seen her dragon shoes. (Note from Cass: Do you want to see my dragon shoes?! They are amazing!)

Whatever your choices were for this or any other year, I hope you enjoyed every single page of them!

Spider Women's Daughter by Anne HillermanSpider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman (A+ Review).  This is a case where life parallels art in a manner that is fitting and poignant. In the story, Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernie Manuelito picks up the case after retired “Legendary Lieutenant” Joe Leaphorn is gunned down in front of her outside a local diner. In real life, Anne Hillerman picks up the case of continuing her father Tony Hillerman’s mystery series by changing protagonists, using a female officer sandwiched between conflicting roles to solve the mystery of who shot the man she loves as an honorary father.


How the Light Gets In by Louise PennyHow the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (A+ Review) This was simply stunning, and there’s no other word to describe it. The light gets in through our broken places, and that’s what this 9th book in Penny’s Inspector Gamache series explores, the broken places in every single character involved. These are mysteries, but Gamache is not a detective who solves crimes by examing forensics; he solves crimes by studying people.

Imager’s Battalion (A Review) and Antiagon Fire (A Review) by L.E. Modesitt Jr. One of the things that I have loved about Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio has been his main characters. Both in the original trilogy (Imager, Imager’s Challenge and Imager’s Intrigue) and in this second series, we have a fantasy hero who is a grown up but still has to face the coming-into-his-power scenario. The women in the series are strong and resourceful in their own right, and the political challenges and machinations are never-ending but still make sense. I just plain like these people and can never wait to read more of their adventures. His protagonists make things happen without needing to be king or princeling. Fantastic.

Bronze Gods by A.A. AguirreBronze Gods by A.A. Aguirre (A Review) I just swallowed this one whole and came out the other side begging for more (which is coming, see tomorrow’s post). Bronze Gods is a masterful blend of steampunk, urban fantasy, mystery and police procedural, tied together with some truly awesome worldbuilding and the fantastic partnership of two characters who need each other to remain whole.  This one blew me away.

Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest (A Review) If Bronze Gods is steampunk as urban fantasy, then Fiddlehead is steampunk as epic. Fiddlehead is the culmination of Priest’s long-running Clockwork Century alternate history steampunk epic, and it’s a doozy. She started with poisonous gas knocking Seattle back to the stone age in Boneshaker, and rippling that event into an endless U.S. Civil  War. With a reason for zombies to be part of the mix. Fiddlehead brings it all to roaring conclusion, and almost aligns history back to the world as we know it. Epic alternate history.

Garden of Stones by Mark T BarnesThe Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes (A Review) This one blew me away. Library Journal sends me books to review, and it’s hit or miss. This was one that absolutely surprised and delighted me. It is epic fantasy, and the world is not just complex, but the reader starts in the middle. There’s no gentle introduction. You feel that this place is ancient and has eons of history, as do all of the characters. It’s immersive and amazing. If you like your fantasy on the complicated side, with lots of betrayals, The Garden of Stones is a treat.

Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football by Rich Cohen (A Review) These are not the kind of monsters I usually read about, and this was not the kind of review I usually write. But the 1985 Bears were my team, and I’ve never been able to explain why that year was so damn much fun to anyone else. This book does it. And at the same time, I can’t watch a game now without thinking about this book, and what it has to say about CTE and the high cost of playing the game we all loved to watch.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann RiversThe Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers (A Review) This is the one carryover from the Best Ebook Romances list, because it was so good that I couldn’t leave it out. The Story Guy was Mary Ann Rivers debut story, and it was an absolute winner. What makes it so good is that the issues that have to be overcome in this story are real; there are no billionaires or fantastically gorgeous Hollywood types in this tale, just an accountant and a librarian (go us!) who have real-world roadblocks to get past to reach a happy ending, if they can.

The Grove by Jean Johnson (A Review) This one is in Jean’s fantasy romance series, the Guardians of Destiny. And that series is a loose followup to her Sons of Destiny series. I’ve read both, and they are just tremendously fun. The fantasy worldbuilding is terrific, the romance is hot, and her heroines and heroes are always equal. No alpha-holes and no doormats need apply. (Her military science fiction series, Theirs Not to Reason Why, is also marvelous!)

The Human Division by John ScalziThe Human Division by John Scalzi (A- Review) Last but absolutely not least, John Scalzi’s return to his Old Man’s War series. Old Man’s War is one of my favorite books ever, and I pretty much shove it at anyone who even hints that they like SF and haven’t read it. So anything new in the OMW universe is automatically worth a read for me. The Human Division took the story in the new directions that followed from the end of The Last Colony, but left LOTS of unanswered questions. There was quite a bit of Scalzi’s trademark humor, but this is not intended as a funny book like Redshirts. I think this story is going to go to some dark places before it ends. But it’s awesome.

Honorable Mention: Clean by Alex Hughes (A+ Review) I adored this urban fantasy set in a post-tech wars dystopian future. Her flawed hero reminded me so much of the version of Sherlock Holmes in Elementary, but her messed-up Atlanta looked like a bad version of a place we could all too easily get to from here. The ONLY reason it didn’t make the “Best of 2013” list is that I’m late to the party. Clean was published in 2012.

Contributions from Cass:

natural history of dragons by marie brennanA Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (5 Star Review) because it was THE LITERARY EMBODIMENT OF DRACONIC PERFECTION. There is no more amazing depiction of dragons out there. It easily soared above my previous Dragon Favorites, and utterly crushed the Dragon Posers people are always trying to torment me with.

UPDATE FROM CASS: I invented a new rating scale for this one. I did not give it a mere 5/5 stars – but rather 15 stars. Nothing Marlene read this year hit that level of awesome. Come back sometime in February (March?) and see my feelings on the sequel. 

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams (4 Star Review). Though I was a wee bit nervous when, at the WorldCon Mad Science Panel, certain contributors had some suspiciously specific ideas about how to rain mayhem and destruction down onto the audience. (Someone give Seanan a Hugo just to distract her from setting off an international incident. Please?)

parasite by mira grantParasite by Mira Grant (4.5 Star Review) Parasites freak me right the fuck out. There is nothing more horrifying to me than a society where MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS tell everyone to ingest a goddamn tapeworm as a cure-all. Could I see the sheep doing it? Yes. Which only amps the terror up.

So that’s our list for 2013. What’s on your list?

Review: The Blushing Bounder by MelJean Brooks

Blushing BounderFormat Read: ebook.
Formats available: ebook, paperback (in Novellas & Stories).
Genre: Steampunk Romance.
Series: The Iron Seas #0.4.
Length: 50 pages.
Date Released: November 26, 2013.
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon Barnes & Noble.

In The Iron Duke, Constable Newberry helped save all of England. But before the events of that novel, Constable Newberry’s faced a danger of another kind: to his heart, by the woman forced to marry him. What will it take for this prudish bounder to convince his wife to stay?

My Thoughts:

I began reading MelJean Brooks’ Iron Seas series because of the steampunk cyborgs, nanoagent zombies, and all manner of other awesome creations. I firmly classified the series as Steampunk, and just, well, overlooked the romance. Because I Do Not Read Romance. Or at least I do not enjoy reading romances. (I may have deleted the clearly romancey covers from Ilona Andrews’ The Edge series in order to perpetuate said delusions.)

Mina Wentworth and the Invisible CityThe worldbuilding in The Iron Seas is top-notch and keeps me coming back for every installment. Which gets me to poor Constable Newberry, who, despite his status as a Blushing Red Giant, always manages to fade into the background. Unless he is being mocked by another character.

They made good time to his small, cozy flat on the second level of a converted mews, where Newberry’s sensible—and very pregnant—wife asked him to cut and wrap hunks of cheese, bread, and salted boiled eggs while she chatted with Mina. Newberry blushed for a record length of time after Temperance checked on his progress and complimented his skillful use of a knife, then again when she laid a farewell kiss on his cheek.
So sweet. It still surprised Mina that the prudish bounder had ever taken off his clothes long enough to make a baby, and she’d have wagered that he’d been fiery red the entire time.*

See? Even when he’s scoring free food, he’s still the butt of every joke. Newberry has more than earned his chance to shine – and so we travel back in time to the events that initially brought him to London. As usual, the world building was spectacular. This outing provided some much needed insight into the Mind of the Average Bounder, but……

It’s only 50 pages. There is no Kraken to battle, Slavers to defeat, or Zombies to slaughter. It really is just the story of how Newberry got his groove back. Which means that I was forced to admit I was reading – and enjoying – a romance. GODDAMNIT.

I’m not saying the story is flawless. It’s really not. As with many a romance, it generates conflict by the characters failing to discuss a Super Important Issue that really could have been resolved with one or two sentences. As it ultimately was.

Despite this, I found myself entirely engaged in Newberry’s relationship with his wife (thank god they didn’t name her Prudence), and invested in the outcome of the story. Especially since Mina was there to mock the Bounders.

“You think she’ll become a zombie, constable?”
“Yes,” Temperance answered for him. “Won’t she? This is what we’ve been told. What we’ve always been told.”
“And I’ve been told that bounders believed this, but didn’t think they were that stupid. But they are?”
“Apparently, sir.”

Poor Newberry, nobody wants to be branded a epic moron on their first day. Though this does explain why he elects to remain silent through much of the series.

Escape Rating: B- for forcing me to reconsider my ban on all things romance. Any fan of The Iron Seas will enjoy this prequel story, though I would not recommend it as a first outing into the series. In such a constrained space there is not a lot of room to explain the complex world we’re playing in.

*Quote from Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City. A short story that takes place shortly after The Iron Duke, and is, once again, unapologetically romantic in nature. Though it will be a worthwhile read for anyone who thought Mina’s story ended just a tad abruptly, it was tragically short on zombies.

***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.

Trio Review: Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela Quarles

Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela QuarlesFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Dec. 19, 2012
Number of pages: 52 pages
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?

Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.

Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she accidentally makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.

Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.

Our Thoughts:

Cass: (Pre-Read Impressions) They DARE invoke Firefly?! Ballsy. Taking Firefly’s name in vain can lead to hordes of angry Browncoats. The devastation would be unspeakable.


Marlene: Unfortunately, most of us geeks know that Syfy doesn’t broadcast much real Sci-Fi any more. Which should have clued me in that this wasn’t going to be quite what I thought it was.


Jackie: I was afraid that my lack of recent exposure to anything scifi, particularly all things Firefly, would leave me at a disadvantage but I think this would have been better categorized as “pop culturally aware” as opposed to geekish/ scifi content.  Monty Python and Marvin the Martian are not hardcore scifi, right girls?


Cass: Seriously. I call bullshit on her Geek Cred. Saying this is for “fans” is like saying the Kate Daniels is for goths. You know, because Julie is going through a goth phase. As evidenced by a couple casual references to her room.


Marlene: Based on the description in Goodreads, I was expecting geek romance. What I got was a lot more like something that should have been published through Decadent Publishing’s 1Night Stand series, with a lesser djinn standing in for Madame Eve. Emphasis on lesser.


Jackie: Call me crazy, but I was thinking it might resemble Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson…then again, if it did I wouldn’t know cause I haven’t read it yet, but I thought this might have given me a taste at least. I’m almost positive there aren’t any genies/djinn in Thompson’s stuff, although he may have hallucinated them over the years. If that’s what the author was going for at all, it was subtle and clever.


Cass: I didn’t get any Geek from this story. Or nerd. Or comprehension of the English language.


The author opens with a reference to all the “trademarks” used in her book. What kind of lunatic would encourage someone to trademark fandom? You want fans to be obsessed with your copyrighted material so they spend all their money on it. Not restrict their ability to do so.


What kind of author wouldn’t be intimately familiar with copyright and how it works? She’s either a moron, or using the list as an affectation of Geekdom. Somebody is in serious need of Geek Therapy:


Marlene: Instead of “talk dirty to me” the subtitle of this one should have been “talk nerdy to me”, except wait, that title is already taken! A lot of geeky in-jokes substitute for foreplay. And I’ll never think of Marvin the Martian quite the same way again.


Jackie: I’m sure I missed a bunch of the references, but I did get the one about the red shirts and the away mission. *Jackie pats herself on the back*


Cass: I was just so wrapped up in all the intrigue surrounding the bed sheets. Clearly a crucial aspect of a 40 page short.


How do you expect me to believe these two had amazing sex if you don’t specify whether or not the sheets were organic 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton? Might as well have just stuck with missionary position. These kinds of issues can make or break the masturbatory potential of your sex scenes. People can only take their suspension of disbelief so far. Vegas genie? No problem. Sexytimes on generic sheets? Blasphemy!


Marlene: Underneath a story that provides endless possibilities for snarky humor, there is a lot of geeky inside snarky humor. There’s also a bit of wish-fulfillment, which is where the djinn rather improbably steps in, rather like the naughtier cousin of the guardian angel in It’s a Wonderful Life.


Cass: Wish fulfillment? Have you broken open the WorldCon libations a bit early?


This whole scenario is creepy as fuck. As soon as Mirjam found out her “bartender” wasn’t actually an employee of the casino, she should have been screaming “What the fuck did that psycho put in my drink?!” and running to get a medical exam. Not mindlessly obeying the instructions of a complete stranger who knew everything about her (down to her bra size), broke into her hotel room, and ordered her to strip after dragging her out of the very safe public area she was standing in.


Riley had it right when he opened with “How the fuck…”. Because that is the only acceptable response to this kind of situation.


I propose a title change to “Roofies and Stalking in Las Vegas.”


Mirjam’s willingness to just roll with this increasingly bizarre, and totally unsafe, series of instructions puts her in the TSTL category. I’m stunned she didn’t compare herself to Sookie Stackhouse. They have similar senses of self-preservation. (i.e. none).


Jackie: No, I wouldn’t be following any instructions that popped out of a slot machine unless I had someone to watch my back but it is fiction, so we are supposed to suspend reality for a bit anyway. Readers should just be aware of the whole “don’t try this at home” rule.


Marlene: The second-chance at love angle is supposed to help the readers get over the very fast “insta-love” aspects of the story. Insta-lust is totally believable, insta-love, not so much. These are two workaholics who have both been going through a seriously long dry-spell, so insta-lust, absolutely.


Cass: I’ll give credit where credit is due. They had safe sex. And there was unambiguous consent. Even if they didn’t consider the very real possibility that their sex-shack was set up with spy holes and hidden cameras in addition to the candles and fancy sheets. Hope you enjoy your futures as online porn stars! Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.


Jackie: I’m not sure that they were both on the same page when it came to the whole ‘high school residual feelings’ thing but it did speed up the story appropriately for a short. It took me a while after finishing to figure how Marvin ended up where he did, but at least Riley was consistent in his enthusiasm for “the one that got away.”




Marlene: I picked this up hoping for more of a sci-fi-con-romance type story (based on the description) in anticipation of WorldCon. In that sense, it was disappointing. The story is an erotic romance where it just-so-happens that the participants are both geeks. Their geekiness is what they have in common.


On the other hand, it was a moderately fun and occasionally hot story to read over my lunch, providing that one is willing to suspend some disbelief about going along with the djinn and the slot machine. But I wouldn’t call it romance as much as light PWP (that’s porn-without-plot). I will say that having the acid test for whether or not someone is a potentially geeky enough long-term partner be their reaction to one’s Serenity tattoo made a weird kind of sense (says the woman with both TARDIS and Star Trek earrings)


However, the title is awful and doesn’t describe the book very well. It makes it sound like an orgy at a frat party. Or worse.


I give Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela Quarles 3 pink stars


Cass: I slammed my computer shut in disgust and walked away at least four times. Because what.the.fuck.


I give Roofies and Stalking in Las Vegas 1/2 star. The half star I contemplated adding for the unambiguous consent was taken away by the sheer absurdity that so-called geeks would be in the same hotel as a big Con and not even contemplate going.


Jackie: I kind of agree with Marlene about the title but from another viewpoint: when the beer bottle showed up on the balcony, I thought things were going to go to a weird place for a minute. Thankfully, they didn’t. I enjoyed this quick read and feel it offers a bit of steamy fun with a smidge of hope for us geeks out there still looking love. I give Beer and Groping in Las Vegas 3 thrusts…I mean stars! (Seriously, though, I’m pretty sure their first time was that quick, no?)


***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 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.