Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the third annual Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island.

it is now time for that great summer question – what on earth is a beach read? And how many of them can I cram into my summer?

Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a good beach read. Based on the annual lists of “best beach reads” and the places one finds such lists, one might believe that there’s a lot of light fluffy reading involved. While you’re baking in the sun, a heavy book just doesn’t seem like the thing.

Although something that puts a chill up your spine on a steamy hot day might be just the ticket. Whatever floats your boat – especially if you are actually floating in a boat!

So here’s your chance to win either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository – so that you can get started on your own beach reads, no matter where you actually plan to read them.

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And for more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

May I Suggest Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the May I Suggest… Giveaway Hop, hosted by Stuck in Books.

The theme of this hop is suggesting books to people. Specific people, as in, those of you who are reading this post and participating in the giveaway.

I participated in this hop last year, and came up with a set of books I’d still highly recommend, depending on what kind of book floats your boat. I’d add a few things, but then, there’s been a whole year’s worth of books since then. If you’re interested in romance, particularly angsty romance, I’d recommend Alisha Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series, starting with Hate to Want You. And if you want some good, snarky urban fantasy, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, starting with Hounded. The audio of the Iron Druid Chronicles is particularly good.

What about you? If someone asked you to suggest a book or two, what titles could you not resist shoving into their hands. Fill out the rafflecopter with your answer for your chance at a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository.

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And for more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!



Full Bloom Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Full Bloom Giveaway Hop, hosted by MamatheFox!

Spring should be sprung by now. Shouldn’t it?

Some days we have the air conditioner on, and some days we have to switch back to the furnace. The whole gray and gloomy thing is getting really, really old around here.

But it could be worse – it could be snow. It could still be snow. It’s time for Spring. It’s time for the flowers to bloom. Isn’t it?

While these damp, chilly days are marvelous for curling up with a good book and a sleepy cat, the gloominess has long outworn its welcome. We’ve had the April Showers, now it’s time for the Spring Flowers!!!!!

But while we’re waiting for Spring, I’m giving away the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository, just to tide you over until Spring finally springs into action wherever you are.

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For more fantastic prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Rain Rain Go Away! Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Rain Rain Go Away! Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island

When I was a little girl, my grandmother taught me the rhyme, “Rain, rain go away! Come back another day.” I’m still kind of expecting the rain to answer back, “But I did. I did!” I’ve often looked for a cartoon that did this, but I haven’t found one. At least not yet.

There’s also a riddle about rain that I’m a little bit too fond of.

“If April Showers bring May Flowers, then what do May Flowers bring?”

The answer, of course, is pilgrims. I can’t believe I actually managed to catch someone with this the other day. Everything old is new again. Except the rain. Even when we need it, days and days of rain just plain get old.

What never gets old is the opportunity to win your choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository, just by entering the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And for more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop. This one is HUGE!

Review: Head On by John Scalzi + Giveaway

Review: Head On by John Scalzi + GiveawayHead On (Lock In, #2) by John Scalzi
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: science fiction
Series: Lock In #2
Pages: 336
Published by Tor Books on April 17th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

John Scalzi returns with Head On, the standalone follow-up to the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed Lock In. Chilling near-future SF with the thrills of a gritty cop procedural, Head On brings Scalzi's trademark snappy dialogue and technological speculation to the future world of sports.

Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it.

Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

Is it an accident or murder? FBI Agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth―and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.

My Review:

Head On is the sequel to 2014’s utterly marvelous Lock In, and is part of the near-future post-Hadens world that is first introduced in the the novella Unlocked. And that’s a hint that if you are interested in Head On you really need to start with Unlocked, which introduces the worldbuilding and then read Lock In which introduces the main characters of Head On and the scenario in which they find themselves.

It’s also more than a hint that while this review of Head On will attempt to be spoiler-free for Head On, there will certainly be spoilers for Lock In.

It has been said that science fiction is a kind of universal recipient when it comes to genres, and that mystery is a universal donor. In the sense that SF is a setting that can contain any genre, while mystery as the “donor” can be injected into any setting.

That’s certainly the case here. Head On is not merely a mystery, but bears a significant resemblance to a specific kind of mystery, the police procedural. Our protagonists in this series, veteran Leslie Vann and her junior partner Chris Sloane are FBI agents investigating a series of deaths that at first appear to be mostly coincidental, but in are all fairly quickly discovered to be murders.

What makes Head On (and its predecessor Lock In) science fiction is the setting. These stories take place in a near-future, near enough that it is recognizable from here. But it is a near-future that is 25 years after the world-wide Hadens pandemic. Hadens Syndrome manifested mostly like a cross between the flu and meningitis. Nasty and serious, but generally not lethal. However, 1% of the world’s population developed a long-term side effect known as “lock in”, where their brains were still very much alive and reacting to stimuli, but had absolutely no way to communicate with the bodies that they were now locked into.

While 1% of the world’s population sounds small, using today’s population numbers (7.6 billion) that would mean that 76 million people were locked in. For a comparison, that’s more than the populations of California and Texas combined. In other words, it’s a LOT of people.

And that’s a lot of people to provide services for, which means there’s a lot of money involved. And a lot of government grants and tax breaks, and a lot of businesses that have grown up around providing for those needs and taking advantage of those government grants. There are lots and lots of lots and LOTS.

So while Head On is a murder mystery, it takes place in a world that could only exist in science fiction, the near-future post-Hadens world.

Chris and Leslie find themselves investigating a crime that could also only exist in this world. A player of the new “Hadens-only” sport, Hilketa, dies during an exhibition match that Chris is attending. It’s the very first player death in Hilketa, but initially it seems not dissimilar to player injuries and player deaths in any contact sport – even though in Hilketa the only contact is between the players’ threeps and not the players’ actual bodies. Still, the adrenaline spikes and emotional tolls of playing a big-money spectator sport are experienced by Hadens players, so it’s not completely surprising that one might suffer a stroke or a seizure while playing.

But the league’s actions after the death move the incident from tragic to highly suspicious in the beat of a heart. And that’s where Chris, and eventually Chris’ partner Leslie, step in. Pulling all the data on the dead player while the match is going on is highly questionable. When the league official who ordered that data pulled commits suicide immediately afterwards, it’s pretty obvious that something is up, even if Chris and Leslie don’t yet know what.

The rules of investigation in the near-future are surprisingly similar to those of the present-day. Or even the historic past. When all else fails – FOLLOW THE MONEY.

Escape Rating A: I read this on a plane ride from DC to Atlanta. And I read it early relative to its publication date, because I just couldn’t resist the treat any longer. No pun intended, it made the trip absolutely fly by. I’m just sorry that I can’t read it again for the first time – it was just that good.

Because Chris is a Haden, and his physical presence in the world is represented by a threep (really any threep as Chris borrows and wrecks several) his gender is actually indeterminate. Although he has a physical body, whether that body is male or female doesn’t really matter. What matters is how Chris sees himself and how he presents himself to the world, and not his threep, but his mental presence in the Hadens online universe, the Agora.

And I keep saying “him” and “his” even though Chris never does and it is deliberately kept ambiguous in the story. To the point where there were two audio recordings of Lock In and there will be two of Head On, one read by a female narrator, and one by a male narrator.

I finally figured out that my mental image of Chris is male because he/she/they does not have to think about or deal with any of the baggage that someone physically presenting in the meat-space world as female has to deal with. That Chris does not have all that baggage that women can’t help but pick him made Chris a “him” to me, even if Chris isn’t. (Chris is also mixed race, and as a Haden Chris doesn’t have to deal with any of THAT baggage either.)

The baggage that Chris does have to deal with are the prejudices that people have against threeps. Because they generally see them as robots or droids, and not as presentations for actual human beings. And it does cause problems, but a different set of problems than living/working while either black, female or both.

Part of what makes these books so good is that while this is recognizably a future and not the present, it is also recognizable as human space and human beings and human reactions. Whether meat or threeps, people are still people, for all the good and bad definitions of “people”. Human nature does not change based on the carrier it’s in. As a species we still clearly have a lot of work to do.

The case that Chris and Leslie have to solve could only happen in this SFnal universe. At the same time, it very much follows the pattern of a police procedural mystery, even if some of those procedures have necessarily been altered.

The mystery is relatively easy to solve for the reader. It is considerably more difficult for Chris and Leslie to prove, but the villain is fairly obvious pretty early on. Which does not make the story one scintilla less fascinating to follow.

I had an absolute blast. If you like science fiction, or mysteries, or John Scalzi’s writing, or especially all of the above, you will too.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

As the final act in my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week, I’m doing the same thing I did last year – taking this opportunity to share one of my favorite authors with one lucky commenter. The winner of this giveaway will receive a copy of any book by John Scalzi, up to $20 in value, anywhere that the Book Depository ships. This will allow the winner to choose the hardcover of Head On if that’s what they want – the book comes out on 4/17, so the giveaway closes just in time to get a pre-order in. But the winner can choose ANY title they want, from his first book, the marvelous Old Man’s War, to the hilarious (and Hugo-Award-winning) Redshirts or anything between then and now. If the winner wants an ebook, and can get ebooks from Amazon (or audiobooks from Audible) that’s OK too.

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Review: Cyborg by Anna Hackett + Giveaway

Review: Cyborg by Anna Hackett + GiveawayCyborg (Galactic Gladiators #10) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Galactic Gladiators #10
Pages: 250
Published by Anna Hackett on April 1st 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

Scientist Ever Haynes was shocked when she was abducted by alien slavers...but the last thing she expected was to find herself pregnant with a cyborg's baby.

Ever has been fighting for her life since her abduction, and the only good thing to happen to her was one heated night with a mysterious prisoner--a connection, a flash of light in the darkness. But then he was rescued and she was left behind. Now, weeks later, she's been saved by the House of Galen gladiators...and by the man she shared the hottest night of her life with. But cool, emotionless cyborg Magnus Rone has no memory of their night together and finding out that she's expecting his baby is a shock to everyone.

Created in a military program, Magnus is genetically and cybernetically enhanced--emotionless, ruthless, focused. He vows to protect Ever and the baby she carries, and despite his lack of memory, everything about tough, levelheaded Ever draws him in. All his life, his emotional dampeners and training have limited his ability to feel emotions...but one small Earth woman cuts through all that and leaves him feeling.

As they work together to hunt down the deadly desert arena of Zaabha and the final human woman trapped there, Ever and Magnus find a stunning passion neither can resist or ignore. But in the dangerous desert sands of Carthago, with the House of Galen gladiators by their sides, deadly enemies are closing in. Ever and Magnus will be dragged back into the darkness, and Magnus will do anything and sacrifice everything to keep her safe.

My Review:

As has been clear for many months, actually years at this point, I love Anna Hackett’s work, and have ever since she took me on her first journey with the Phoenix Brothers, back At Star’s End.

She’s also marvelously prolific, meaning that I get something new from her about every other month, and a good time is always had by all. Some books are a better time than others, but she always manages to sweep me somewhere fascinating and dangerous.

The Galactic Gladiators are currently my favorite series of hers. As always, she has taken a tried and true premise and turned it into something different and special.

This series feels like a take-off of the “Mars Needs Women” trope mixed with a sun-and-sandals gladiator story. In this science fiction romance series, a band of nasty, disgusting, evil slave traders (yes, I know that’s kind of redundant) took advantage of a temporary wormhole to raid Jupiter Station of its personnel and jump back to the far reaches of the galaxy before the wormhole closed.

All those Earthans that they captured are now stuck on the planet Carthago, far, far from home. Without another wormhole, it’s just plain too far to go back in one human life span – or even several.

But it isn’t too late for all those stranded Earthans to make a new life for themselves where they are right now – providing someone rescues them from slavery – or they rescue themselves.

And that’s what happens in the series. One by one, those humans are rescued by the heroes, the gladiators from the House of Galen as well as some of their allies. And each time one of those Earthans is rescued, they manage to fall in love with one of the gladiators, and very much vice versa.

Part of what makes this series so special is that it feels like the gladiators are the women’s reward and not the usual other way around – not even in the one book where the gladiator is female and the Earthan refugee is male. I love it when the women are the equal of the men, and even better when that equality is represented in different ways between each couple and in each relationship.

The story in Cyborg revolves around the relationship between, obviously, a cyborg and one of those rescued Earthan women. In this case, the cyborg is Magnus Rone, the Imperator of a gladiatorial House allied to the House of Galen. As a cyborg created and trained to be a soldier and only a soldier, even though Magnus left his people long ago he still believes that his training holds, that he’s better off without emotion and that relationships only cloud his focus.

But when he was briefly captured, the human woman Ever Haynes somehow got under his skin. It may have helped that the events of his capture managed to knock out a chunk of his programming, but whatever the cause is – Ever makes him feel. And he’s not sure what to do about it.

Or about the baby that he and Ever managed to make during his brief captivity – in spite of the fact that his programming is supposed to have rendered him sterile. This is clearly yet another lie that he was told.

Magnus feels duty-bound to protect Ever and their baby at all costs – costs which become incredibly high when Ever is captured by the slavers yet again. But amidst all the chaos, Magnus discovers a universal truth – love doesn’t make you weak – it makes you strong.

Escape Rating A-: One of the things I love about this series is the way that it turns all the old tropes on their pointy little heads and spins them around. Not just that it feels like the women are the ones getting rewarded for their trials and suffering instead of (really in addition to) the men, but also that part of what these women fight tooth and nail for is to be part of a relationship of equals. There are no damsels in distress in this series – only strong women who sometimes need a little help from their friends.

I also like that this series doesn’t feel “thin and stretched” to me, the way that the Hell Squad series does. That one is pointing towards an inevitable ending, and I’d like it to get there already.

The Galactic Gladiators series doesn’t have to end. It probably will, and I think it’s heading there, but it doesn’t have to. Jupiter Station had to have had dozens of personnel, if not hundreds. Endless possibilities!

One of the things that this author does well is to point the end of each book in the direction of the next one, without giving the game away of how the next couple can possibly get out of whatever fix they are in to achieve their HEA.

It is clear from the ending of Cyborg that the next book will finally be Galen’s, and I can hardly wait. I always love seeing the leader fall – and this time will be especially fun. My husband’s name is also Galen, and I don’t often read his name as the hero a romance – except of course our own.

This will be grand!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Today is my birthday. And as a birthday present to me, Anna is letting me give away some marvelous prizes. The lucky winner(s) will receive a signed paperback from her Galactic Gladiators series, a signed paperback from the Hell Squad, and a pack of Hell Squad Trading Cards, pictured below. This is a real treat!

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Blogo-Birthday Giveaway

Today, April 4, is the seventh anniversary of the first post on Reading Reality. Tomorrow, April 5, is my 61st birthday. And I’m not sure which I find more astonishing.

The banner above was the original header for Reading Reality, back when it was called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction”, a line I got from a t-shirt. I found the original bear the other day, and he’s sitting on my desk right now. He’s still a good luck mascot – and Freddie has not yet found him and played with him to death. Give him time. Freddie, I mean, not the bear. There’s a reason we call him the Fredinator.

In those intervening years, Reading Reality has published 2,902 posts, most of them mine. It’s gone from a 3 or 4 day a week blog to a daily blog – even if I occasionally find myself scrambling to get a post ready on time. Believe it or not, there have been over 22,000 comments made during those seven years. That’s a lot of conversation.

And it has been, and continues to be, an absolute blast to do. It surprised me to realize that this is the second-longest I’ve ever held a single job. My record is 9 years, and that’s coming up fast.

What makes it all worthwhile are the contacts. I may not respond as much as I should, but I love hearing from readers that they have enjoyed the blog and my reviews, whether through comments here or comments on my Goodreads reviews. And I very much appreciate the way that my reach has expanded over the years, so that I get to read even more great books – as well as the occasional clunker.

This week is my opportunity to give back to all of you who have given so much to me over the past seven years, and I hope many more to come. For Reading Reality as well as myself, this is a Hobbit birthday, where I give presents instead of receiving them. I’m giving away something every day this week, whether through a blog tour, due to the generosity of some of my favorite authors, or out of Reading Reality’s pocket.

As the actual anniversary, today’s giveaways are special. I’m giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card AND a book from the Book Depository up to $25 in value, shipped anywhere that the Book Depository ships, which is a tremendous number of places.

It’s my way of saying thanks to all of you. I’m looking forward to spending many more years together, talking about even more books!

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April Book of Choice Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the April 2018 Book of Choice Giveaway Hop, hosted by FLYLeF

And also welcome to the opening entry in this year’s Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week here at Reading Reality!

April 4 is the SEVENTH Anniversary of the first post on Reading Reality. April 5 is my birthday. So we have a Blogo-Birthday to celebrate.

And today is April Fools’ Day. And Easter Sunday. And it’s Passover. That a whole lot of celebration going on!

If April showers bring May flowers, than what do Mayflowers bring?…Pilgrims, of course.

I always have books I’m looking forward to, and this month is no exception. You’ll see as the reviews unfold over the month.

But this Blogo-Birthday Celebration is a Hobbit birthday, speaking of one of my all-time favorite books. That means I’ll be giving presents away, starting today. To get in on this particular giveaway, just fill out the Rafflecopter and let us know what books you are most looking forward to this month!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop for 2018, hosted by Bookhounds.

Do you feel lucky?

Do you feel like you might be lucky enough to win a prize in this blog hop? Fill out the rafflecopter for your chance to win your choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 book from the Book Depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And to try your luck for more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

All About Diversity Blog Hop

Welcome to the All About Diversity Blog Hop, hosted by Little Library Muse!

What is diversity? Isn’t that the big question?

Diversity is not just checking off boxes, or filling quotas, as is so often implied. Instead, I think it is about broadening horizons and viewpoints.

I also think it can mean different things in different contexts. And it is a very hard topic to wrap one’s arms around. It is also an extremely difficult topic to discuss, particularly in groups or situations that currently favor the status quo. It’s even difficult for me to find a way to write the intro to this blog hop without worrying about touching off one or more “hot buttons”, and there are plenty when it comes to diversity.

So let’s try to focus on diversity in books and reading, as this is a book blog. Through reading, it is possible to learn about, develop an understanding of and an empathy for people who are different from oneself. But that only works if those multiple viewpoints are published, and if you seek them out to read them.

For example, most of The New York Times Best Sellers for fiction and non-fiction in 2017 were written by white men – unless they have even a hint of romance, most of which is written by white women. There are very few other voices on those lists, and if that’s where you get your reading from, then that’s who you’re reading, whether intentionally or not. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There have been multiple memes, themes and projects to get people to read books written from other perspectives, whether that diversity is represented by gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, country of publication, or diversity on any other axis that shows a different point of view. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative as well as A Year of Reading the World are just two of the many examples.

Representation is also important. Just as it can be eye-opening to read books written from a completely different perspective than my own, it is also affirming to read books that speak to me because they represent me. And both of those are experiences that everyone should have the chance to have, no matter who they are or where they are coming from. We do need diverse books, not just for children, but for adults as well.

Perhaps, in times like these, especially for adults.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

As part of this blog hop, I’m giving one lucky winner either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository that they will hopefully use to further their own exploration of diverse books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more terrific prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!