Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

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

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

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

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

My Review:

I picked this up because I was in desperate need of some space opera – and Marlene had nothing but nice things to say. Plus, she reassured me this was a not just an excuse to have tentacle sex in zero gravity. (Before you ask, no I have not read the book I linked to. But when you google “tentacle sex zero g” – it was the first hit.)

First things first, Devi is no Ripley. Particularly not Ripley from Alien (1979). As a die-hard fan of the Alien series, I can assure you that Ripley began as a hidebound rule follower willing to let her crew die in order to follow standard protocol. Basically the opposite of Devi. The Starbuck reference works for me. Just imagine Starbuck with actual career ambitions – though all the self-sabotaging behaviors intact.

Generally, the most important part of any foray into a new science fictional universe is the world-building. Which, to be perfectly honest, Fortune’s Pawn was rather lacking on. There are two primary human governments….maybe? They are allies-ish? Possibly a theocracy vs democracy situation, or is it a monarchy vs corporatocracy dynamic?

In this particular instance, the ambiguity works. You do not get the impression that the universe doesn’t make sense, simply that Devi, our POV character, doesn’t really give two shits about it. Devi is a woman driven by one goal: to become the best-of-the-best-of-the-best, SIR! (Anyone catch that reference?) Politics and sociology are ancillary to her desire to be one of the most feared fighters in her society, so she doesn’t dwell on them.

Which is why it is such a rude shock to her to learn that bureaucracy plays a role in recruitment of Devastators. Following the advice of a friend, she leaps at the chance for a shortcut, resigns her commission, and signs up to work freelance security on the most dangerous ship flying. Devi’s single-minded ambition prevents her from asking questions she really should be asking, and allows her to stumble blindly into the middle of sociopolitical FUBAR that could do far worse than kill her off.

Devi’s colleagues aboard the Glorious Fool each harbor a wide-range of personality disorders that may not lay out precisely why they are on the suicide ship, but definitely imply enough for the readers to explore some possibilities. (Though not Devi, the girl is a bit dense.)

The only thing that fell flat for me was the “romance.” It was a very minor subplot, so it did not detract from the story as a whole….but seriously, is Devi really so damn desirable that a guy would gamble away careers and lives on the chance to hit that? No. She’s really not.

Escape Rating: B+ for blazed right through it and on to books 2 and 3. Fortune’s Pawn is a very enjoyable read, and leaves you, not with an eye-gougingly irritating cliffhanger, but a huge dose of wtf that means you will immediately pick up Honor’s Knight. (Review to follow next week.)



Review: A Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Murder of CrowsFormat read: ebook
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Others #2
Length: 448 pgs
Publisher: Roc
Date Released: March 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, AmazonBook Depository

After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.

The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat.

As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.

My Thoughts:

Anne Bishop is one of those authors I always enjoy, even though I can’t say I actually like anything she writes. She’s the authorial equivalent of Sharknado. Everything is so goddamn ridiculous that you absolutely must keep reading. Any second, in between the pretentious italics and Super Important Capitalizations, you’ll be graced with the book’s version of the chainsaw vs shark.

Which is what I got when reading Written in Red last year. The first entry in her new series, filled with all her old bad habits. I absolutely loved hating it, and expected to similarly enjoy whatever drinking game I could create from the wreckage to be found in Murder of Crows.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that I truly liked this book. I can’t say it doesn’t suffer from Anne Bishop’s expected stylistic prose. But underneath the goth glitter, rampant italics of emphasis, and Grammar Slaughtering Capitalization To Show You How Important This Word Is – there is an extremely engaging story.

After much insight, I’ve deduced the source of the significant improvement in quality.

First, we are introduced to other blood prophets, which downgraded Meg from The Maryest of Mary Sues to just a powerful prophet who happened to have the strength of character to overcome the mental and physical restrictions both bred and socialized into her. When you learn what some of the other cassandra sangue are enduring, you realize Meg isn’t really all that special. Just damn lucky to have landed where she did.

Meg’s super special status in the Lakeside Courtyard was similarly addressed through the “exploding fluffballs” (as the Courtyard residents nicknamed their brand-new “human pack”). This human pack – an admitted anomaly in the country – provided assistance to the Lakeside Courtyard, much like Meg, and in return received the same protections afforded to Meg. A believable protagonist is key to any good story. Written in Red’s Meg was irritatingly unique. Murder of Crow’s Meg is a trailblazer for her people. Definitely different – but no Mary Sue.

Written in Red by Anne BishopIn addition to fixing the problems with Meg, Murder of Crows begins overwriting the pitiful excuse for world-building haphazardly scattered throughout Written in Red. There is a whole wide world out there, one where a “human pack” becomes a tourist attraction for rural Others, where shooting crows is illegal, and where storms ravage parts of the world that dared to attempt war with the Others thousands of years ago. As the Others interact more and more with humans, we begin to realize that the human population is not, as a whole, so inanely arrogant they think to subjugate a species capable of controlling the very elements, but rather just foolishly arrogant. While the Others remember the history of their interactions with humans – every town and country they’ve evicted, emptied, or outright disappeared for crimes committed against them or their land – the humans forget. Each generation needing to relearn the same lessons as the last.

This led to the final attention-grabbing improvement. Namely, the gore. Anne Bishop amped up the gore this time around, and all I can say is that I heartily approve. There’s really very little I can say without spoilers, but I applaud’s Anne’s decision to set aside her bizarre obsession with sexual sadism and instead go forward with non-sexual ways to horrify her readers. Kudos to you Ms. Bishop! You took human depravity to a different level. Keep this up and you’ll make an actual fan out of me yet.

Escape Rating: B+ for way better this time around. Though you probably do need to read the first installment to understand the interpersonal relationships. For which I apologize.

***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?

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.

13 for 2013: A Baker’s Dozen of My Most Anticipated Reads

“Love looks forward, hate looks backward, and anxiety stalks NetGalley and Edelweiss for early review copies.” That is not the way the saying goes, but it works for me.

I’m also hoping that there will be review copies of the Spring books at least on the American Library Association Midwinter Exhibits floor–especially since I won’t need to worry about what I carry home with me. I’ll be home. The conference is here in Seattle this year.

So, what books are at the tippy top of my wishlist for 2013?

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris, otherwise known as Sookie Stackhouse’s last hurrah. Even though the last few books in the series haven’t been quite up to the high bar set by the early entries, I have to know how Sookie’s story ends. Don’t you?

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon is the 8th doorstop in her giant, world-traveling, era-spanning Outlander series. The series has been described as “historical fiction with a Moebius twist,” and that’s the best short summation I’ve read for the damn thing that makes any sense. What they are is the best way to lose about three days, every time there’s a new one–and I can’t wait.

The Second Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay. I’ll confess that I have this one because I did stalk NetGalley for months after reading The First Rule of Ten, but the official date of publication is January 1, 2013, so it’s on the list. Tenzing Norbu is interesting as a detective because he is just different enough to see the world slightly askew, and it helps him solve crimes. The world he solves crimes in is itself slightly askew. Of all the places for an ex-monk to end up, Hollywood? Really? Marvelous!

Cast in Sorrow by Michelle Sagara will be number 9 in her Chronicles of Elantra. I just finished book 8, Cast in Peril, last week, and I’m already jonesing for my next fix. It doesn’t help that Cast in Peril ended in the middle of a very dangerous journey, not that Kaylin ever manages to stay out of trouble for long. So this wait is even more cliffhanger-esque than normal.

Imager’s Battalion by L.E. Modesitt Jr. When I finished the first trilogy in Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio, I thought he was done. The story was marvelous, but his hero’s journey was over. Little did I know he had a prequel in mind. Quaeryt’s journey from bureaucratic aide to military leader reads a bit like Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. And that’s not bad company at all.

Untitled Psy-Changeling #12 by Nalini Singh. I hate this. The publisher and the author are being particularly coy about this one. Even the title is supposed to be a huge spoiler for some shocking secret mystery. As annoyed as I am about this, I adore the Psy-Changeling series, so I can’t wait for the book. Whatever it’s called.

Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French is the second book in French’s new mystery series featuring therapist Frieda Klein. Something about the first book, Blue Monday, absolutely grabbed me. I think it had to do with how much Klein wanted to keep the case at arm’s length, and how personal it all turned out to be.  Blue Monday was chilling and I want to see if Tuesday’s Gone is just as good.

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear is something I’ve wanted for a long time, but never expected to see. It’s a continuation of her utterly wondrous Promethean Age series. The Promethean Age books were urban fantasy of the crossover school, something that isn’t done well nearly often enough. In the Promethean Age, Faerie exists alongside our world, and events can effect both, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Wicked as She Wants by Delilah S. Dawson is the second book in Dawson’s absolutely yummy Blud series. The first book, Wicked as They Come, was dark, creepy, sensual and extremely eerie. At the same time, the love story was hauntingly beautiful. And I want to see more bludbunnies. Any writer who can come up with piranha rabbits has to have more tricks up her sleeve.

Calculated in Death  and Thankless in Death by J.D. Robb. I still want to know how Nora Roberts does it. Calculated and Thankless are the two In Death books scheduled for 2013. I have a hard time believing that they are numbers 36 and 37 in the series. Odds are that one will be close to awesome, and one will be a visit with old friends, which is still not bad. I’m going to buy them both anyway and read them in one gulp the minute I get them.

The Human Division by John Scalzi is Scalzi’s first novel in his Old Man’s War universe since Zoe’s Tale in 2008. Old Man’s War is military science fiction, with a slice of social commentary, and just a hint of a love story. It’s also just plain awesome. And anything new by Scalzi is automatically great news. Even more fascinating, The Human Division is going to be released as a digital serial, starting in January. So the only question is whether I get it in bits, or do I wait for the finished novel? Or both?

Heart Fortune by Robin D. Owens is the twelfth book in Owens’ Celta series. In Celta, Robin D. Owens has created the kind of world that readers want to live on, as well as experience vicariously through her stories. I’ve read the entire Celta series, and they are one of the few romance series I’ve read that manages to make the “fated mate” concept work–probably because she occasionally subverts it.

Blood and Magick by James R. Tuck. This is the third book in the Deacon Chalk series, and I love them. I found Deacon because it’s getting to be too long a wait between Dresden Files books (and it looks like 2013 will be a year without Harry). Deacon Chalk mostly takes out his demons with guns. Lots and lots of guns. But he knows some on the side of the righteous, too. Deacon Chalk is urban fantasy of the purely kick-butt fun school.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay will be my birthday present this year, or close enough. Kay writes fantasy mixed with a large helping of historical fiction. The result is a magical blending of history as it might have been. Beautiful, complex, breath-takingly poignant. Kay writes worlds of awe and wonder. I can’t wait to be awestruck again.

These are the books. For 2013 it seemed fitting to choose a baker’s dozen, or 13, books that  I’m looking forward to the most.

If you’re curious about what happened to last year’s “Anticipateds” stop by Book Lovers Inc. on Thursday.

What books are you looking forward to the most in 2013?

Ebook Review Central, Carina Press, September 2012

Welcome to the First Anniversary Edition of Ebook Review Central!

The first issue of Ebook Review Central was published a little more than one year ago. But what it covered, well, that’s the anniversary part. Roughly this time last year, ERC started with the Carina Press titles from September 2011.

And here we are, back again, with the Carina Press titles from September 2012.

Carina Press publishes slightly fewer titles per month than they did a year ago; 15-ish now instead of 20. However, everything they publish gets reviewed. Every single title. Usually in more than one blog, and often by RT Book Reviews, or Library Journal Xpress Reviews, or both. It must help a lot to have Harlequin’s deep pockets, but that wouldn’t matter if their books weren’t consistently good. And they are.

Talking about good books, which titles did reviewers say were good this month?

Number one has to be the re-release of  Christine d’Abo’s Long Shots Books 1-3. Not just because it garnered another bunch of extremely positive reviews for the very nicely priced set, but because it got people to go back and re-review the three titles that make up the series: Double Shot, A Shot in the Dark, and Pulled Long. This series of erotic novellas is the story of the Long siblings, the coffee shop they own, and a local sex club named Mavericks. There’s one friends-into-lovers story, one BDSM story, and one male/male story to round out this set that is guaranteed to warm up a winter night.


Sometimes, the number of reviews makes a book a clear choice, just because so many people are talking about the book. The Reluctant Amazon by Sandy James is that kind of story. Readers loved the idea of a normal woman discovering that she is a superhero with the power to save the world, and then they (well, we) all debated the merits of the details. The story has an absolutely fantastic opening scene, and the worldbuilding shows promise. Read Tracy’s review at Tracy’s Place for the positive spin and Mandi at Smexy Books for the so-so reaction.

The third featured book this week didn’t get quite as many reviews as a couple of other titles. But, every single reviewer who reviewed this book liked it. In many cases, they liked it a LOT. No mehs. no 2/5 or DNFs. Just a lot of good feelings about a fun book.

This week’s final featured title is How to Date a Henchman by Mari Fee. It’s a fantasy romance about a  girl who works for a mysterious agency. One where she doesn’t know what’s going on in the basement. She starts finding out when she goes on a date, not with the guy who comes to visit the company, but, you guessed it, his henchman. Mayhem ensues. The biggest complaint about this story was that it was just too damn short. Everyone wanted more of the fun!

So in September 2012 for Carina we have erotic romance and superheroes. Back in September 2011 we had urban fantasy, shapeshifters and romantic suspense. Still sounds like lots of things going bump in the night to me!

We’ll be back next time with the Dreamspinner Press titles from September 2012!

Ebook Review Central, Multi-publisher, August 2012

Welcome to the Ebook Review Central multi-publisher wrap-up post for the titles published in August 2012. This week’s edition covers the output from Amber Quill Press, Astraea Press, Curiosity Quills, Liquid Silver and Riptide for the month of August. Red Sage didn’t publish anything new this month.

This is also my multi-conundrum post. Out of six possible publishers, not all of whom have output in any given month, there are entirely too many months, like this one, where Riptide publishes three titles and absolutely sweeps the featured titles. No other publisher has titles that received more than four reviews, and there were way too many ones and zeroes, all over.

Why am I bringing this up right now? I’m moving to Seattle in November, and starting a full-time job in early December. Some things will have to re-arranged. I will continue Ebook Review Central, but for publishers where there are regularly no reviews, or very few reviews, to report, I’m going to have to make some decisions about priorities.

Multiple reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, even when they exist, do not count on Ebook Review Central. Why? Because many reviewers cross-post their reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When we receive review copies from publishers, the publishers generally make that request specifically.

All of this week’s featured titles were from Riptide. While I would have liked to have spread the featured titles out a bit, Riptide absolutely ran so far ahead of the pack, it wasn’t remotely possible. And good on them and their publicity department/review coordinators as well as the authors for getting their books out there.

Featured title number one is Anne Tenino’s Love, Hypothetically. I’ll say up front that the reviews weren’t universally good, but there were simply a ton of them. When this many people are talking (and writing), the book is worth looking at just to get in on the conversation! Love, Hypothetically is the sequel to Frat Boy and Toppy, and is a story of reunited lovers. Paul and Trevor were high school boyfriends who veered way off track. Trevor chose a major league baseball career instead of coming out, but threw Paul pretty much under the bus on his way. Now the big career is over and Trevor is back in town and he wants a second chance with his first love. See Under the Covers for the wow review and Avon Romance for the meh vote.

Almost all of the 16 reviews for the number two feature were raves. I’m talking about Aleksandr Voinov’s look back at two German flyers during World War II, Skybound. Even though this is a time and/or a side that many people avoid like the plague (as my fellow Book Lover Caro put it) every one who read this one fell in love with the characters and saw it as a beautiful story of love and courage, set in dark and desperate times.

Coming in at number three was the book I expected to be number one, which says something about the strength of the competition this week. Anything that could beat out the latest entry in the Cut & Run series has to have been pretty damn good. Because the number three title for this week is Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux, the 6th book in the Cut & Run series. Everyone who reviewed this one absolutely loved it, but that’s not a surprise. By six books in, everyone reviewing is deeply invested in the series. The series started as a mystery/suspense series about two FBI agents, Ty Grady and Zane Garrett, who have absolutely opposite working styles and one hell of a lot of sexual tension. During a significant part of the series, it’s a question whether they’re going to fall into bed or get each other killed, or both. The series is meant to be read in order, starting with Cut & Run, and highly recommended by pretty much everyone who has ever reviewed it.

We’ll be back! Next week! Carina Press, September 2012. The Frankenstorm will not bring me down.

Ebook Review Central, Samhain Publishing, August 2012

We return, not to the thrilling days of yesteryear, but to the August 2012 titles from Samhain Publishing.

And readers did find some of the titles pretty thrilling, at least according to the reviews. Others, not so much.

Let’s not talk about the stuff that no one else was talking about. It’s just getting old. In some cases, it already was old. Enough said.

The book that everyone was talking about, which made it easily swim into the number one slot in this week’s featured titles list, is Degrees of Wrong by Anna Scarlett. Degrees of Wrong is, and I am very pleased to say it, science fiction romance, in this particular case of the “futuristic medical plague and doctor needs to find a cure” school. Also while kidnapped by the future U.N. and working on a top-secret hi-tech undersea warship. The romance: the doctor is a feisty and highly intelligent woman who is pursued relentlessly by the warship’s captain. She resists that relentless pursuit for quite a while, because said captain is tied up in a politically arranged engagement. The doctor respects his upcoming vows way more than he does. The first-person perspective really put readers into the doc’s head as she battles to find a cure, figure out the true agenda behind all the research, AND protect her heart.

This week’s number two feature is all about lucky number seven. Because the book for this slot is Seven Sexy Sins by Serenity Woods. Ms. Woods has taken one of the all-time favorite themes, the friends-into-lovers story, and combined it with a trope that is hard to do in a modern context, the “sex teacher” trope, and found a way to make it work really, really fantastically. The heroine, Faith, is a writer who has to come up with an article on spicing up women’s sex lives. Her only problem is that hers, so far, has been a dud. She’s not innocent, she’s just been unlucky. That’s believable. Her circle of friends commiserate, but one of them is her brother! Now there’s a potential downer. However, Rusty, her long-time secret crush, offers to help her out. Faith agrees, as long as they keep it a secret. Faith’s got some very good reasons for this crazy idea. Rusty kissed her once, and her brother punched his lights out. And when her article is over, she needs his friendship: he’s one of her best mates. If they try to be more than friends, and fail, their whole group could fall apart in the explosion. But when their friendship adds way too much depth to their sexual explorations, neither of them is sure if they can pull away. This one is both hot and sweet, something that Serenity Woods does very, very well.

Number three for this week is hot but not sweet. More like hot and hotter, and with an extra helping of jet fuel into the bargain. Katie Porter’s Inside Bet is a story about a woman  who’s concealing a wild past behind her successful career as an accountant. Her decision to have a no-holds-barred one-night-stand with a playboy fighter pilot-jock leads to an unexpected longer term fling. Heather and Jon are two people who both thought they were too jaded to be in this thing for anything more than just sex. Instead, they find out that they are daring each other to do things they never dreamed of, including, just maybe, fall in love.

All of this week’s stories are on the steamy side of the equation. Degrees of Wrong with a side dose of futuristic thrills, Seven Sexy Sins with a helping of friends-into-lovers romance, and Inside Bet just plain sex first and love later. But steam heated every single one.

Just a little something to warm you up if Autumn is bringing a chill to the air!

Ebook Review Central will be back next week with the multi-publisher, multi-legged (in honor of Halloween) wrap-up.

Ebook Review Central, Dreamspinner Press, August 2012

This week at Ebook Review Central, it’s time to take a look at the August 2012 titles from Dreamspinner Press.

But before we do that, I’d like to give a little shout-out to one of the blogs that I regularly find coming up as a source for reviews for Dreamspinner (among others). This is one of my favorites because the picture always makes me smile. And wakes me up. I’d like to thank Oh My Gigi! for introducing me to the cute little fellow at the left, as well as providing me with some great reviews for ERC.

And speaking of great reviews, you might be wondering which books picked up those all important terrific reviews to get them one of the featured spots on this week’s Ebook Review Central.

I kind of dropped a hint in yesterday’s Sunday Post that one of the featured titles might have a tiger by its tail. It does. But it turned out that all the featured titles came at the end of the alphabet. By title, anyway. (What can I say, I’m a librarian. We alphabetize. It’s a thing.)

But the number one featured title this week is Sean Kennedy’s Tigers and Devils. This book made Jenre’s Best of 2009 list at Well Read when it was first released, and it has just been re-released in ebook, collecting a whole new set of fans and reviews. Tigers & Devils is a romantic story about a sports star (a rugby celebrity in Australia!) and an arty geek whose only previous serious relationship seems to have been with his cat. The other problem is that the sports star is not ready for the world to know that he’s gay, but he’s also not ready to give up the best thing he’s ever found. And his lover is okay with that. But when the world finds out anyway, their love is definitely put to the test. Reviewers love the story and Sean Kennedy’s writing. A LOT.

The second featured title this week is in the classic “fated mate” trope. Except that it twists the trope into some very different (and interesting) directions. Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C. uses the fated mate drive that often marks werewolf romances and gives it a new twist by switching the fated pair into a male/male bond AND placing in a paranormal setting where bonding between shifters and non-shifters is highly frowned upon. In this particular equation, the shifter’s pack isn’t sure which part they like least! But it makes for an epic love story that begins with a childhood friendship and is fated to last a lifetime.

I’m still laughing about the blurb for featured title number three, and it may be the blurb that got readers to pick up the book. Number three is Andrew Grey’s Strengthened by Fire. The story itself isn’t funny. The men in the story share, not only a romance, but also the very important job of saving lives through being firefighters. The problem is that their city is planning to cut costs by closing a fire station. And one characters answer is to hold the annual Fire Fighters’ Fundraising Chicken Dinner with the Firemen all going shirtless. It’s one of those hot firemen calendars come to life! One man thinks it’s a great idea, and the other one is embarrassed as possible, and there’s where the misunderstanding comes in. And eventually a happy ending.

Tigers. Werewolves. Chicken dinners with half-naked firemen. I think that’s enough for one week. Don’t you?

Ebook Review Central will be back next week with the August 2012 titles from Samhain Publishing.