Review: Playing the Maestro by Aubrie Dionne

playing the maestro by aubrie dionneFormat Read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Number of Pages: 190 pages
Release Date: February 11, 2013
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Melody Mires has sworn off dating musicians, but when the sexy European conductor Wolf Braun takes over her struggling symphony, her hesitation almost flies out the window with the notes of her flute—until he opens his mouth. Wolf is arrogant, haughty, and seems to have a personal vendetta against Melody. Oh, and he’s her boss. If she wants to keep her job as principal flutist, she’ll have to impress Wolf while simultaneously keeping her undeniable attraction to herself.

Wolf came to America to get as far away from his past as possible, and to recover some of the swagger he had as one of the world’s best maestros. He never imagined being forced to reassess the entire orchestra’s talent—and potentially fire anyone who doesn’t make his cut. Dating the attractive flutist is out of the question, but as their feelings reach a fever pitch, can they risk both their careers for a chance at love?

My Thoughts:

Way back last Fall, The Smutty Lover and I tag-team reviewed Aubrie Dionne’s sci-fi romance New Dawn series here at BLI. (If you want to read our rather mixed feelings about each book, click on the title to check out the review: Tundra 37, A Hero Rising, and Haven 6.  To complete the set, I reviewed Paradise 21 over at Reading Reality.)

I wanted to see what Ms. Dionne would do with a contemporary romance, especially since in her real-life, she is a professional flutist, just like her heroine in Playing the Maestro.

Authors are told to “write what they know”. The behind the scenes world of a small New England orchestra is probably one that she knows well. Although one does wonder how much of the backbiting skullduggery that goes on in the story is drawn from life.

But humans are the same pretty much everywhere.

When you watch a symphony orchestra play, it looks glamourous. All the musicians dressed in formal black, the orchestra hall is always beautiful, the conductor often in evening dress. The hush that comes over the crowd just before they start to play.

The reality is otherwise. Classical music is not a way to make a comfortable living. The arts seldom are. And that’s where this story comes in.

Melody Mires is a professional flute player for a small New England orchestra who barely makes ends wave at each other every month by cobbling together a lot of part-time jobs. She is the first-flutist for the orchestra. She teaches flute. She plays as many concerts, weddings, quartets and anything else she can find. And then there’s practice, practice, practice.

What she doesn’t have is a life.

She doesn’t date musicians, because they all have egos as big as a grand piano. Whether they play the piano or not. The last date she had was with the personnel director of the orchestra, and that looks like her biggest mistake yet.

Into the mess of her life walks the Easthampton Orchestra’s new conductor, Wolfgang Braun. He isn’t just gorgeous, although that’s part of his charm. As conductor, he’s her boss. But he’s been hired to save the orchestra from financial ruin. Which means that he’s there to fire people.

And the one musician that the personnel director wants to make sure gets fired, is the principal flutist. Melody. Because he wants to make sure that his perfect, genius sister gets the job.

Wolf came to America to escape his own past. Too bad for him that his past is barrelling towards him with all the speed and devastating impact of a runaway train.

Verdict: This is a relatively short book to be carrying three fairly complex plot lines. It might have been a better book if it had stuck to two.

The Easthampton Symphony is in financial trouble, and the board hires a big-name conductor from Europe to save it. Enter Wolfgang Braun. Wolf’s plans to save the orchestra, and the villain’s plans to either thwart him or forward his own underhanded agenda make for one thread of the plot. There’s a story there, especially when the love story between Wolf and Melody is added in. Symphonies everywhere are in financial trouble. Money for the arts are drying up, and Wolf’s plans to get the children of the town interested in art were cool and fun and provided some of the best scenes in the book.

Wolf’s past was a second story. He fled Germany to break things off with an ex-girlfriend who wiped out his finances and still wouldn’t take no for an answer. And she’s a top model in Europe. He kept the evidence but didn’t prosecute. He’s got the brass to be a big-deal conductor, but refused to deal with this woman. She caused a big rift between him and his brother. This part of the story didn’t work for me.

Melody and Wolf’s love story was a bit lukewarm. Not just because the love scenes all “faded to black”, but because they were in an untenable professional situation and acted irresponsibly. And Melody was the “good twin” of Wolf’s evil ex-girlfriend, which should have been a total turn-off. And I just didn’t feel the heat between them. They were nice people, they were just a bit too “nice” to each other.


I give Playing the Maestro by Aubrie Dionne 2 and 1/2 fluting stars.

***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.

Interview with Aubrie Dionne + Giveaway!

I’m always happy to host a fellow member of the SFR Brigade! My guest today is Aubrie Dionne, the author of the fantastic science fiction romance series A New Dawn. Aubrie is here to talk about the series, especially the final book in the series, Haven 6. (see review at Book Lovers Inc for more details)

This series has told a fascinating story of the last of the human race as it makes its way out among the stars, searching for a new home in colony ships on generations-long voyages. For the story of those ships, see Paradise 18 (reviewed here at Reading Reality), and Tundra 37 (reviewed at Book Lovers Inc.) Where it all began is told in A Hero Rising (review at BLI).

But now, here’s Aubrie to tell us about her writing journey. And if you want a copy of A New Dawn for your very own, take a look at the giveaway at the end.

Marlene: Hi Aubrie! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Aubrie: I’m a professional flutist by day and a writer by night. I make up stories to go along with the music that I play or teach, so the stories were always there in my mind ever since I started playing at age 9. Some of my flute students said I should start writing them down, and here I am today!

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing? Are you a planner or pantser?

Aubrie: I write before work, then a little after work. I used to be a panster, but now I have to submit a synopsis to my agent to get my work on her reading list in time. So, now I plot. It works much better for me, because I’ve already figured out the story and I don’t get writer’s block nearly as much.

Marlene: What is it about the fantastic and the futuristic that draws you to write in those worlds? Why do you make yourself go through the pain of creating a new world for each story instead of writing contemporary?

Aubrie: Contemporary always seemed harder for me. I had no glorious settings to hide behind, and I knew anything I wrote about had to be realistic. That ruled out a lot of stuff for me, because I have no idea how a lot of things in the real world work! Like a cop- what is their day like? Who knows? Or an archaeologist?  Sounds cool, but I really don’t know what they do day to day. So, when I finally decided to take the plunge and write contemporary, I wrote about something I knew a lot about: music. Then, I branched out from there!

Marlene: In your blog, you mention your love of science fiction, but what was your inspiration for the New Dawn series? Why a “human race diaspora” story in particular for the series?

Aubrie: That’s what I think is going to happen to Earth. I’m so worried we’ll use up our resources and pollute ourselves into a bind. I want to know that we have a back-up plan.

Marlene: You’ve written about the science fiction shows that inspired you, Star Trek, Star Wars and Firefly, but what about the authors? Who are the science fiction and fantasy writers that made you escape into their worlds?

Aubrie: I love Patricia McKillip. My favorite book of hers is Winter Rose. Every sentence is beautiful and poetic. I also grew up reading Tad William’s Memory Sorrow and Thorn trilogy over and over again. I loved the alternating points of view and the way the main character, Simon, grows up throughout the books starting as a scullion and turning into the next King.

Marlene: What can we expect of Haven 6?

Aubrie: Haven 6 is epic. I had to tie in all the loose threads from the previous three books in the series and make the entire series arc make sense. It was no easy task for me. I wanted it to be a satisfying conclusion for my readers.

Marlene: How does playing a flute combine with being an author? Or does it? Explain about the flute, please?

Aubrie: I think I answered this in the first question. But, let me add that the two careers go very well together because they are both so flexible. I teach 3-8 Mon- Thurs, 9-3 Friday, and 8:30-5 Saturdays. All the rest of the time I can spend writing if I need to.

Marlene: What was the first moment you know you wanted to write?

Aubrie: Probably in grade school. My very first poem was about how I was sad I’d never see a unicorn!

Marlene: What book do you recommend everyone should read and why did you choose that book?

Aubrie: If you’re a writer, then you should read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and On Writing by Stephen King. If you’re a fantasy reader, then you should read Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Aubrie: They are adventurous, they give you a warm fuzzy feeling at the end, and I think it’s the perfect combination of romance and fantasy/sci fi. Not too technical, but not too steamy you’re embarrassed to read it out loud.

Marlene: Will there be more books in this series? What is next on your schedule?

Aubrie: This is the end of the series, sadly. But, I do have a YA spin off series called the Paradise Reclaimed series. The first book, Colonization, comes out November 7th– which I think is the day of this interview!

Marlene: Coffee or Tea?

Aubrie: Both! I need all the caffeine I can get!

Amen to the caffeine! And also, double for me on Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. That’s one that we kept on our keeper shelf, in hardcover, through all of our moves.  Thanks so much Aubrie, for the marvelous interview!

About Aubrie Dionne:
Aubrie grew up watching the original Star Wars movies over and over again until she could recite and reenact every single scene in her backyard. She also loved The Goonies, Star Trek the Next Generation-favorite character was Data by far- and Indiana Jones. But, her all time favorite movie was The Last Unicorn. She still wonders why the unicorn decided to change back to a unicorn in the end.

Aubrie wrote in her junior high yearbook that she wanted to be “A concert flutist” when she grew up. When she made that happen, she decided one career was not enough and embarked as a fantasy, sci fi author. Two careers seem to keep her busy. For now.

Her writings have appeared in Mindflights, Niteblade, Silver Blade, Emerald Tales, Hazard Cat, Moon Drenched Fables, A Fly in Amber, and Aurora Wolf. Her books are published by Entangled Publishing, Lyrical Press, and Gypsy Shadow Publishing. She recently signed her YA sci fi novel with Inkspell Publishing titled: Colonization: Paradise Reclaimed, which will release in October 2012.

Places to find Aubrie: Website | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads

Haven 6 by Aubrie Dionne

A product of an illegal pairing, Eridani is the only woman without a lifemate aboard the colonization ship, the Heritage, and she is determined her less than perfect DNA will not get in the way of finding love. As the ship nears it’s final destination of Haven 6 after five hundred years of travel, images of the surface show evidence of intelligent life on a planet that’s supposed to be uninhabited. Commander Grier assigns Eri to the exploratory team to spy on the alien society and return with information on how to defeat them.

When Eri’s team lands, tribes of humans attack and Eri is saved by Striver, the descendant of a colonist and a pirate from Old Earth’s colonization efforts in other parts of the galaxy. Striver helps Eri rescue her team and they are drawn to each other despite their different allegiances. While Striver battles with trusting Eri, Eri must decide whether to warn him and his people about the commander’s intentions, or follow orders and complete her mission.

Places to buy Haven 6:

Amazon | B&N

~~~~~~TOURWIDE Giveaway~~~~~~
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-4-12

We cleaned out the closet yesterday. The walk-in closet in the master bedroom. There was crap in there that we’ve moved 6, count ’em, 6 times. Possibly 15,000 miles. From Chicago to Anchorage to Tallahassee to Chicago to Gainesville to Atlanta. And no, it wasn’t all my junk, either. But whew, what a job.

Movers will pack for you. We’ve learned this. What they won’t do is throw out for you. They pack everything. Oh do they ever.

We had a totally brilliant, or insane, flash when we decided what to concentrate on tossing out this time. We’ll deal with the books at the other end. Why? Because Seattle is only 3 hours from Portland, Oregon. Home of one of the truly great bookstores. That’s right. Powell’s City of Books. Anything we’re not keeping, we’ll see if they’ll take. For store credit. Which, of course, we’ll use to buy more books. The ultimate in recycling.

And we’ll listen to an audiobook on the trip.

But it’s a long time between here and there. We still have to find a place to live. Still, it’s fun to anticipate the good stuff waiting on the other side.

Speaking of the good stuff, let’s announce some winners! Donna Simmonds won the Jessica Scott giveaway, so Donna will receive ebook copies of Jessica Scott’s military-themed romances, Because of You and Until There Was You, just in time for Veterans’ Day. Jo Jones won the Wild Encounter giveaway, so she will get an ebook copy of Nikki Logan’s Wild Encounter from Entangled Publishing. Enjoy!

Plenty happened this week, too. There’s even a giveaway that still has time left!

Ebook Review Central, Multi-publisher, August 2012: #1 Love, Hypothetically by Anne Tenino (Riptide), #2 Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov (Riptide), #3 Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux (Riptide)
Cover Reveal: Mystically Bound by Stacey Kennedy
B+ Review: Night Thief by Lisa Kessler
Guest Post: Halloween and Paranormal Romance by Lisa Kessler + Giveaway
A- Review: The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux
A- Review: Kilts & Kraken by Cindy Spencer Pape
A Review: Moonlight & Mechanicals by Cindy Spencer Pape
Interview with Cindy Spencer Pape
A- Review: First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher
Stacking the Shelves (22)

Last week at this time we were looking at the Frankenstorm coming our way. For those affected by Hurricane Sandy, I hope that your problems were few and are now solved, or will be  soon.

It’s going to be another busy week at Reading Reality. Is it ever!

Monday’s Ebook Review Central will feature the Carina Press titles from September 2012. ERC started, all the way back in 2011, with Carina, and with their September 2011 titles. It’s been a whole year! Wow!

Tuesday we’ll have a guest, a giveaway and a review. Samantha Kane will be here to talk about her new historical romance, The Devil’s Thief. Romance at Random has graciously agreed to give away 2 NetGalley ebook ARCs of the book. And just to top things off, I’m going to have a review.

Wednesday my guest will be Aubrie Dionne, the author of the science fiction romance series, A New Dawn. I reviewed the first book in the series, Paradise 18, a few weeks agao here at Reading Reality, and Has and I dual reviewed the rest of the series (Tundra 37, A Hero Rising and Haven 6) over at Book Lovers Inc. Since SFR is one of my favorite genres, it was terrific to interview a fellow SFR Brigade member about her series.

Courtesy of the BlogHer Book Club, Thursday I’ll have a review of one of the hottest books around, Sylvia Day’s Reflected in You.

This Friday will really be a TGIF Friday, because this Friday is the first day of the Autumn’s Harvest Blog Hop. Make sure to check in for details on all the bookish treats at all the hop stops.

There is more coming the following week, I promise. But I’m exhausted just looking at this week. You’ll just have to come back next Sunday to find out what happens next!

What are you up to this week?

Dual Review: Haven 6 by Aubrie Dionne

Format Read: ebook provided by the publisher
Number of Pages: 326 pages
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Series: (if it is) A New Dawn #4
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Formats Available: Trade Paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

A product of an illegal pairing, Eridani is the only woman without a lifemate aboard the colonization ship, the Heritage, and she is determined her less than perfect DNA will not get in the way of finding love. As the ship nears it’s final destination of Haven 6 after five hundred years of travel, images of the surface show evidence of intelligent life on a planet that’s supposed to be uninhabited. Commander Grier assigns Eri to the exploratory team to spy on the alien society and return with information on how to defeat them.

When Eri’s team lands, tribes of humans attack and Eri is saved by Striver, the descendant of a colonist and a pirate from Old Earth’s colonization efforts in other parts of the galaxy. Striver helps Eri rescue her team and they are drawn to each other despite their different allegiances. While Striver battles with trusting Eri, Eri must decide whether to warn him and his people about the commander’s intentions, or follow orders and complete her mission.

Our Thoughts:

Marlene: Haven 6 is the final book in Dionne’s New Dawn series, and she’s trying to tie up all the loose ends. So she goes back to the beginning. All the beginnings. The colony ship that arrives at Haven 6 is commanded by none other than the former Governor of New York, or what’s left of her. Governor Grier’s brain is Commander Grier, and she still remembers the last panic-stricken days of Earth. Those events form the story of A Hero Rising, book 3 of Dionne’s series.

But when the Heritage reaches Haven 6, it finds that the original scouting reports were wrong. The planet is populated. That population is descended from Aries and Striker, the main characters of the first book in this series, Paradise 21. (See what I mean about all the loose ends?)

But the crew of the Heritage doesn’t know that, yet. All they know is that there are huts showing up in the fly-by scan. Enter our heroine, this story’s ship-misfit, Eridani. Eri is a double-misfit; she is the result of an unauthorized pairing, and her job is less-than-essential. Eri is a linguist. on a ship that doesn’t meet anyone who speaks dead Earth languages. But since she’s good at her job, maybe she can make sense out of whatever the species inhabiting Haven 6 speaks.

Too bad it turns out to be English. And too bad for everyone that the first group of “natives” that Eri’s team runs into turns out to be pirates.

Things go downhill from there.

Has: Oh yes, you have summed up exactly how I felt about this final installment of the series and I was hoping it would improve. But, sadly this wasn’t the case. I was lukewarm on the romance, lukewarm on the plot and very lukewarm on the characters. The one aspect that I really enjoyed about the previous books, was the element of world-building and how Dionne sets up a tense and engaging setting of groups of survivors on their journeys to find a new home. However, even this factor wasn’t apparent and in fact didn’t make sense. Because it was set a few 100 years after the events in the previous books. I couldn’t understand how the survivors of the Omega station would devolve into petty warfare over technology especially since they kept that alien ship which was the only working tech which they kept for historical and nostalgic reasons.

There was not an element of how their society evolved and in fact it was regressing and it definitely didn’t make sense with aliens who Striker and Aries saved in PARADISE 21. They showed real promise and imagination in that book and I was looking forward to see how events would evolve when we revisit them in this book. But their depiction fell into a huge cliche pitfall of stand-offish aliens who must not interfere with human affairs. And the entire conflict in the book was relegated with the tensions between the opposing human factions of the pirate like gangs and the humans who lived in harmony with the aliens. I was very let down on how this played out in the book, because the plot wasn’t engaging, or had real depth for me.

Marlene: In the attempt to wrap everything up into a nice, neat package, the author recycled an unfortunately large number of cliches from the lesser Star Trek scripts. (I’m saying this and I love Trek with all my geeky little heart) The aliens that Aries and Striker rescue in Paradise 21 are now operating under some kind of semi-operative Prime Directive; they can’t interfere if it will lead to loss of life, but they can help a bit. They owe their existence as a species, not just as individuals, to Aries’ and Striker’s interference; does this make sense?

The society on Haven 6 has either devolved, or something weird is going on that we don’t know. There are hints, but not enough information. In Paradise 21, Aries and Striker bring the entire population of Outpost Omega to Haven 6, only they call it Refuge. Lots of those folks were pirates, but many were prisoners, and some were just folks trying to get by. How did things descend practically into chaos in just a couple of centuries? Also, they used a wormhole to get ahead of the colony ships. Many of the pirates, and others had their own ships. Did anyone go elsewhere? Use another wormhole?

These folks have gone effectively back to, as Mr. Spock put it in City on the Edge of Forever, “stone knives and bearskins”. Or very nearly. High-tech is seen as the great evil. Yes, the last days of the Earth that everyone escaped from were really bad, but all the way back to primitivism? Couldn’t they find a happy medium? Or even a happy medium-rare?

And then there’s the romance. We have insta-love between an outsider from the colony ship and a hero who otherwise wouldn’t know she exists. Along with a bully for romantic tension, although in this case the bully, a Haven girl named Riptide, isn’t as bad as Luna was in Tundra 37.

Speaking of Riptide, there are the two side-plots with Striver’s brother Weaver, and the golden liquid of doom, but I’ll leave those to Has.

Has:  I also have to add that this reminded me of Battlestar Galactica’s remake where the humans decided to renounce technology, and although I get why they did – there was no reason why the pirate gangs could have developed their own tech especially since they came from a space faring race. Riptide’s character who felt like an obstacle to force emotions out of Eri and to create tension between her and Striver. Although like Eri, I was bemused by Riptide’s appearance of foot-length hair which isn’t that practical in a jungle like planet (imagine the humidity!). But I also felt Riptide’s character was redundant and never really offered any real conflict in the romance and she was pretty much a cliche for me for being a bitchy character with no real depth.

However, I have to say I was very bored with the sub-plot with Striver’s brother who defected to join the pirate gangs because he was jealous and bitter of his brother’s popularity and leadership skills.  I found his character to be a whiny, selfish and stupid and the reasons on why he joined a dangerous albeit another stupid group of people didn’t make sense. And although it tried to bring out real emotions – for me it emphasized his TSTL reasons. I also found myself being bored reading his POV chapters because it didn’t offer any real emotions or push the plot forward and when he encounters the glowing pool which is similar to the glowing orb in TUNDRA 37 where people get lost and sucked into their past memories – Well it was a bit of an anti-climactic twist and I was very disappointed because the alien orbs/glowing pool ties in previous plot threads and adds more twists in this universe. But, overall I found that the main plot a huge disappointment and how it ended was a bit of a wet fish.

Marlene: The divide between the pirates and the what? not-pirates? on Haven seems to be that the pirates want to exploit the remaining technology, and Striver’s people keep the remaining technology under wraps, feeling that all technology beyond the most rudimentary is bad. The pirates seem to be too lazy or too violent to develop their own tech, they just want to steal it, which makes them one-dimensional bad guys.

Weaver was whiny, self-centered and fairly stupid. Not in the IQ sense, but in the survival sense. He didn’t see other people as “real”, only as how they held him back from his supposed “greatness”. He never saw himself as part of the problem. And he was a complete idiot to think that going to the pirates was any kind of long term strategy. They were murdering lunatics. Weaver’s purpose in the plot was to show the redemptive power of the golden memory liquid, and to be the obligatory sacrifice for the greater good at the end.

I also thought this one was a bit anti-climactic, especially compared to the first two.

Has: And that is why I feel let down by this because it resorted to cliches and not in a good way. There was a lot of promise because there was such a rich tapestry of promise with the alien and different human factions however the resolution was a lot to be desired. However I do have to say the romantic build-up between Striver and Eri was slightly better compared to the previous books. But once again their romance suffered from insta-love syndrome which I am not a huge fan of because there was no real tension between them. But I preferred this sub-plot compared to the main story of the book.

Marlene: You’re right, Has. The romance did work just a bit better this time. Although there was definitely an insta-love start, the romance between Eri and Striver had enough time and enough “stuff” in it for us to see why these two get together in the end.

But the rest of the story doesn’t work as well. The fight between the pirates and Striver’s people seems basically under-explained. Mostly because every time I say, think, or write the word “Pirates” when there is no water or space or ship involved, my brain goes “tilt”. They are thugs that this society hasn’t taken care of. The alien Guardians have “Vulcan syndrome” without being half as cool. Or a quarter as hot.

And the insecure younger brother plot was really insecure. The best part of the story, the golden memory liquid, got dribbled away.

For that, I dribble out 2 and a half stars for Haven 6.

Has:I also agree! I wished that this last installment, would have closed this series with  a bang and whilst I liked how Aubrie Dionne intertwined the plot threads from the previous books. This was pretty much an anti-climactic ending and didn’t live up to the promise of the earlier books. I found that this was the weakest book in the series and I am disappointed because I loved the world-building that was set up. And even though this had actually a stronger romantic subplot compared to the previous books, I enjoyed the setting and premise much more but I am sad to say this was a bit of a meh book for me and I don’t think I will continue with the spin-off series.

2 and half stars for Haven 6.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 10-28-12

Welcome to the first of a continuing series of very crazy Sunday Posts at Reading Reality. Why are things crazy, you might ask?

We’re moving again. This time from the Atlanta, Georgia suburbs to Seattle, Washington. I am starting an absolutely wonderful position at the Seattle Public Library in early December. However, and I say this for the first time, but probably not the last, anything posted on Reading Reality should be considered to be my words alone, and never as any official position of the library where I work. (Or any library where I ever worked, for that matter).

Moving right along (no pun intended this time) what happened at Reading Reality last week?

We have winners to announce! Erin won the Blue Nebula giveaway from Diane Dooley. Lacey T. won the copy of Lori Foster’s Run the Risk. And the one everyone’s been waiting for, Jeanette Jackson won the $15 Amazon Gift Card in the Wicked Romances Blog Hop. Congratulations, everyone!

Now, what about this past week’s posts (including a couple of giveaways there’s still time to get in on)?

Naughty & Nice Blog Hop (one more day to enter!)
Ebook Review Central Featured Titles from Samhain Publishing for August 2012: #1 Degrees of Wrong by Anna Scarlett, #2 Seven Sexy Sins by Serenity Woods, #3 Inside Bet by Katie Porter
A Review: Because of You by Jessica Scott
A- Review: Until There Was You by Jessica Scott
Interview with Jessica Scott + Giveaway
Interview with Nikki Logan + Giveaway
B+ Review: The Moonstone and Miss Jones by Jillian Stone + Giveaway
B Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan
Stacking the Shelves

But this is Sunday, which means we have another week starting tomorrow. Unless you’re about to be hit with the Frankenstorm barreling towards the east coast of the U.S. Those folks are probably battening down the hatches.

Atlanta is inland, so all I have is a cold snap, boxes to pack, and a blog to write. Let’s take a look!

Monday’s Ebook Review Central for this week is the Hexapost wrap up for August 2012. It will cover Amber Quill, Astraea, Curiosity Quills, Liquid Silver, Red Sage and Riptide. Lots of publishers, but not a ton of books (thank goodness!)

Tuesday’s review will be Lisa Kessler’s Night Thief. This is a novella in her Night series, after Night Walker, which had an absolutely marvelous blend of gothic mystery, romance, and the paranormal (review here) along with a fascinating glimpse into early California history. I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

Thursday my guest will be one of my favorite steampunk authors, Cindy Spencer Pape, to talk about the latest entry in her Gaslight Chronicles series, Moonlight & Mechanicals. I can’t wait to see Cindy’s answers to the interview questions, I really want to know if she’s going to return to her Urban Arcana series (another favorite). But the Gaslight Chronicles have been such fun–they mix steampunk with the Knights of the Round Table!

Looking ahead (I always look a little ahead, it keeps the surprises to a minimum) there are some features to look forward to the week of November 5, too.

Samantha Kane will be here to talk about her new historical romance, The Devil’s Thief. Going from the past to the future, Aubrie Dionne will also stop by to talk science fiction romance and the conclusion of hew New Dawn series with Haven 6.

And rounding out the week will be the beginning of the Autumn’s Harvest Blog Hop.

As they say, never a dull moment. What about you?


Dual Review: Tundra 37 by Aubrie Dionne

Format Read: ebook provided by Publisher
Number of Pages: 288 pages
Release Date: 7th of February 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Series: A New Dawn #2 Genre: Sci Fi Romance
Purchase links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads


Gemme is a hi-tech matchmaker who pairs the next generation of Lifers aboard the Expedition, a deep space transport vessel destined for Paradise 18. When the identity of her lifemate pops up on her screen, she’s shocked that he’s the achingly gorgeous and highly sought after Lieutenant Miles Brentwood—a man oblivious to her existence. Believing everyone will think she contrived the match, she erases it from the computer’s memory.

Just as comets pummel the ship and destroy the pairing system forever.

With the Expedition disabled, the colonists must crash land on the barren ice world of Tundra 37 where Gemme is reassigned to an exploratory mission, led by Lieutenant Brentwood. Only in the frozen tundra does she understand the shape of his heart and why the computer has entwined their destinies.

Our Thoughts:

Has: I have mixed feelings with this series, I adore the world-building and the premise of a future where humans are forced to flee the Earth due war, famine and disease. And to survive people travel in generational star ships to find new planets to colonise and to restart civilisation. Tundra 37 is the 2nd book of the series and follows the ship, the Expedition which is forced to crash land in a frozen planet after an accident.

Gemme, the heroine is a tech who match-makes pairings on the ship and to ensure that they are compatible genetically and psychologically. However she is shocked to see that she is paired with Miles Brentwood who is being groomed to take over the leader on The Expedition. She is afraid to be partnered with him because he is popular and very desirable and because of her position as the person who matches up couples. But the ship crash lands, and the remaining survivors have to find a way to safeguard the ship and to find new supplies to ensure their survival.

I have to say, I loved the main plot for the mission to survive and the search for supplies, but the romance subplot, wasn’t that strong and the weakest part of the story for me. I felt, that Gemme’s actions especially with her position as a matchmaking tech and to dismiss the original results of her pairing with Miles wasn’t that strong an obstacle for them. I also disliked  the character of Luna who I felt was one dimensional and despite the ship’s edict of ensuring human matches have to be genetically compatible was very focused on pairing with Miles despite the fact he was reluctant to be in her company. This aspect of the plot was forced and very weak and detracted from the main story of the ship’s mission and survival

Marlene: The New Dawn series seems to have more of a “space opera” feel to it than truly science fiction romance. The plot that drives all of the stories is the human diaspora plot–humankind’s need to distribute itself among the stars because we have totally frakked up planet Earth. This is a well-used and well-loved trope in science fiction, and the author has done some neat things with the generational ships and the base human drives that managed the people who initially populated them.

The romance subplots have taken a “back seat” in the stories (that has a tendency to be true in space opera in general).

Gemme’s job was to check over the computer’s genetic matches to make sure that the computer hadn’t missed any nuances that a human would catch. With such a relatively small gene pool, this cross-checking was required. Computers don’t do nuance terribly well. Gemme didn’t “make” matches, but she could prevent them if she saw something the computers didn’t. Of course, that gave her an enormous amount of very subtle power.

Miles has the overt power, but he doesn’t see it as power. He sees it as taking care of the crew. This is what makes him a good leader. And that’s why he’s been made a leader. What gets lost in the romance is why Gemme and Miles are attracted to each other at the beginning. Not why the computer matched them, that could just be genetics, but why they get lost in each other. Insta-connection, OMG.

And don’t get me started on Luna. She was so one-dimensional that she was flat. Except her boobs, which seem to have been positively ginormous. A factor which otherwise adds to her one-dimensionality. So to speak. Luna exists in the plot simply to be self-serving, to point out how self-sacrificing Miles and Gemme are. Luna in Tundra 37 is the equivalent of Astor Barliss in Paradise 21. She’s the bully.

Has:Yep! I totally agree although I did find Astor’s character more developed and fleshed out. But I found that the fact they were on a dangerous mission, and outside on an alien world, it was verging on ridiculousness about the romantic sub-plot. I wished there was some real build-up especially for the tension and for the feelings between Miles and Gemme because there was no explanation on how and why they should feel like this and I hate insta-love trope, it never really works for me as a trope and it never makes me believe in the romance.

I did like the subplot, involving the Twin navigators, Mestasis and Abysme who were melded to the pilot computer of the ship, introduced an interesting dynamic and I found their relationship much more interesting. It also had more depth, especially with the introduction of alien artifact on Tundra 37  which draws the ship’s attention like a moth to a flame and is the cause of the crash. Although I do wished there was more background on why this artifact was buried there and if there were any links to aliens in the first book in some way because it was a bit random.

Marlene: I’m so with you, Has, when it comes to insta-love. The only insta-anything that feels real is insta-lust. That one, I think can be pretty darn instantaneous. Anything that requires emotions takes a bit of time. And at least a few conversations!

Something about Tundra 37’s emotional chords that struck me was that all the depth comes from the backstory, and mostly occurs in flashback. Whatever happened between Luna and Gemme that made Gemme kowtow to that witch happened when they were kids. It’s supposed to make the reader understand, but we don’t get enough. Gemme’s and Miles insta-connection is fueled by past lives, which they relive through the alien tech. The Twins’ shared experience, and the sadness of Mestasis’ lost love back on Earth, are experienced in their dead memories through the artifact.

The emotional present gets shorted. And you’re right again about the past of the artifact. Where did it come from and does it have any bearing on anything else whatsoever?

Has: I thought it was interesting about the flashbacks adding the depth and it did help with the buildup and contrast that with the insta-love it just highlighted the lack of development of the romance especially. I also wanted to know about the future of the survivors, because it ended abruptly, although there was hope they would be able to survive despite not them reaching their goal planet. The fact they end up on a desolate cold world was sad, and it also felt the story just got going for me. I hope we do get to revisit them and to see if there is more to come for this crew and if there is more developments with the alien artifact and its origins.

Marlene: I wonder how all the survivors turn out. The point of a diaspora story is usually to spread the survivors as far apart as possible so that there are as many chances of human survival as possible. Being a science fiction reader, I can think of a bunch of ways that we could legitimately check back on the surviving groups. I wonder if the author will pick one.

The alien artifact is interesting because it showed past lives, not just memories. How did it know? Were they true? It opens up a world (no pun intended ) of story-telling possibilities. Who were those aliens? Will they be back?

The ending, with that rousing speech, reminded me a lot of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, and some of Adama’s speeches. But then, the Seers hooked into the ship reminded me a lot of Helva from Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang. Science fiction recycles a LOT of tropes.


Has: Tundra 37 had a fantastic premise but the romantic subplot, for me was the weakest element of the story. However the flashbacks involving Mestasis own tragic romance who is the featured hero in the prequel, A HERO RISING, had depth and was much more engrossing, and heart-wrenching and I was drawn to her character and that of her sister which really made the book and story alive for me. Although I wished the ending didn’t end abruptly, the world-building and the story threads which link and tie in with the other books in the series, is engaging and keeps me interested in the story. I just wished the romance subplot was developed and didn’t fall into trope pitfalls.

I give Tundra 37 3 stars.


Marlene: I also thought that the premise behind Tundra 37 was terrific. The human diaspora story is excellent, and the survival adventure part of the story was well-done. But the romantic elements felt slightly underdone. The romance between Mestasis and James, centuries ago, held more passion than the current living love between Miles and Gemme. Flashbacks are a great story-telling device, but they shouldn’t bear the entire burden of holding up the romance. The ending was upbeat and in a pretty good place, hope and inspiration for the future, before the hard work begins. But that particular ending is a common science fiction trope.

I give Tundra 37 3 stars for too many trips to troperville.

Review: Paradise 21 by Aubrie Dionne

Format read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: Trade Paperback, ebook
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Series: A New Dawn #1
Length: 247 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: August 2, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Aries has lived her entire life aboard mankind’s last hope, the New Dawn, a spaceship traveling toward a planet where humanity can begin anew–a planet that won’t be reached in Aries’ lifetime. As one of the last genetically desirable women in the universe, she must marry her designated genetic match and produce the next generation for this centuries-long voyage.
But Aries has other plans.

When her desperate escape from the New Dawn strands her on a desert planet, Aries discovers the rumors about pirates–humans who escaped Earth before its demise–are true. Handsome, genetically imperfect Striker possesses the freedom Aries envies, and the two connect on a level she never thought possible. But pursued by her match from above and hunted by the planet’s native inhabitants, Aries quickly learns her freedom will come at a hefty price.

The life of the man she loves.

The classic science fiction line is that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or of the one”. Mr. Spock is, after all, the authority on this sort of thing.

But what happens when you’re that “one” and you absolutely hate your lot in life taking care of the needs of that all-important “many”? And who decides what’s best, anyway?

The New Dawn is a generation ship, centuries out from a destroyed Earth, and centuries away from a new home planet. The crew/colony of the New Dawn have been raised in the belief that they carry the best genetic stock from the old world, and that their only destiny is to marry the mate the computer determines is the best genetic match from the available crew. Love and even psychological compatibility don’t enter into the equation.

The man Aries Ryder has been matched with is Lieutenant Astor Barliss. Astor is a ruthless officer–proud, ambitious, ruthless and manipulative. He’ll do anything to get ahead. It’s amazing that anyone in his ancestry was considered a perfect specimen of anything.

He’s also an abuser. Aries know that marriage to him will be a living hell. Astor has done everything he can, every minute, to kill her spirit, even just as her fiance. When they are married, he will have complete control over her. She would rather be dead.

Aries plans an escape, meticulously, carefully, as the New Dawn passes the desert world of Sahara 354. She finds that all of her education, her programming about uninhabited worlds was incorrect, as was the mis-information she was taught about the so-called inferior humans that the colonists left behind on Earth when they fled.

Because she is rescued by the descendant of one of those supposedly “lesser” humans on Sahara, a pirate named Striker, and finds him not inferior, but far superior to the people she left behind on New Dawn. Because Striker thinks and acts for himself. He wants a friend and a partner, not a mindless drone following some ancient “Code” by rote.

Aries falls in love with freedom, and with the man who represents that freedom, all too quickly. Striker keeps his emotions to himself. He’s been betrayed before. But he will help her get free of the tyrant who pursues her, or die trying.

Because Astor Bayliss refuses to give up what he thinks is his and cuts through half the planet of Sahara to get Aries back, terrorizing a whole company of his fellow colonists in the process.

The New Dawn may be headed for paradise, but Bayliss’ conduct and the rewards he receives for it reveal that its methods of getting there are anything but utopian.

And Striker, well, once he’s lost Aries, he discovers that he felt a lot more for her than he thought. Enough to rescue her from the middle of a whole ship full of hostile colonists–no matter what the cost.

Escape Rating B: Paradise 21 is a very solid beginning to Dionne’s science fiction romance series, A New Dawn. The next books in the series are Tundra 37, A Hero Rising and Haven 6, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading them!

While on the one hand, I did find Striker’s and Aries relationship a bit too close to “insta-love” to be totally believable, I was fascinated by the portrayal of life aboard the generation ship, and how the “Code” was fraying around the edges.

I did wonder how things had evolved so that women were that completely subservient to men. It could happen, I just wondered how and why. In that small and closed a group, every hand and every brain would seem to be needed.

What does a totally closed society do with people who don’t quite conform, like Aries and Barliss? Interesting solutions in each case made for a fascinating story.

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