Review: Through the Static by Jeanette Grey

through the static by jeanette greyFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: science fiction romance
Length: 178 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: January 20, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

The only way to save him is to let him into her mind…and her heart.

When cybernetics researcher Aurelia Locke is attacked, she instantly recognizes her assailants as a Three—a mercenary unit made up of a trio of soldiers whose minds have been cybernetically linked, their pasts erased, their wills subsumed.

By the skin of her wits, she escapes to an abandoned house, where she hacks its security system in her desperation to find refuge.

Jinx is already on high alert when his Three notices something isn’t right with their safe house. But he never expected to find a woman wounded and bleeding out in his own bed, or that his visceral reaction to her would begin to awaken his lost past from a years-long haze of violence.

In a mad gamble to escape, Aurelia frees Jinx from his Three by severing his neural connection to them and tying his mind to hers. The power of their link shocks them both, manifesting not only in shared thoughts, but in an intensely passionate physical connection.

But dangerous forces pursue them, intent on reclaiming Jinx and silencing Aurelia’s knowledge. Her only chance of saving him is to risk everything—her research, her heart, and her life.

Warning: Contains manipulation of a person’s memory without his consent and brief episodes of mind control, as well as a smart girl on the run, a high-tech soul-bond, and telepathy-enhanced sex.

My Review:

Through the Static is a story about the things that the unscrupulous will do in order to create supersoldiers. And all the ways that love, affection and even simple human doggedness manage to defeat those who would pervert humanity for their own wealth and (sadistic) pleasure.

Whoever coined the phrase “two’s company, and three’s a crowd” would understand the psychology behind creating these supersoldiers in mind-melded groups of three. Two people form a relationship, or at least consensus. Three people always argue, two against one. In order to settle those arguments, someone else gets control. Or at least that the way the “Threes” work in Through the Static.

That “static” is in the mind of Jinx, one member of a Three whose group is already starting to break down. His two partners, Curse and Charm, have developed a romantic relationship that leaves Jinx in the cold. But members of Threes have their minds wiped and their identities (and free will) taken away when they supposedly volunteered to become part of a Three. Curse and Charm are not supposed to be able to have separate enough personalities to feel anything emotional, just the loyalty to the Three and to their handler that is built into their programming.

Something isn’t right.

Jinx is also experience something that he shouldn’t. In dreams he remembers bits of his past. As if in clouds of static created by his programming, he sees images of a woman he almost knows – and who has eyes just like his.

Aurelia Locke is not a member of a Three. Instead, she is a cybernetics researcher who is being haunted and hunted by multiple Threes, because she and her cohorts have conducted unauthorized research into the way that Threes are made, and the way they can be broken. Or fixed.

On the run from yet another Three kidnapping attempt, wounded and desperate, Aurelia stumbles into an empty cottage a long way off the road. She breaks the security system and collapses, only to find herself under the suspicious eyes of yet another Three. But this is the Three made up of Curse, Charm and Jinx, and their programming is already frayed at the edges. Aurelia is able to make a mental connection with Jinx, and suddenly the situation changes.

With Aurelia in his head instead of Charm and Curse, Jinx is able to experience his own thoughts and feelings without the static. As his humanity returns, he finds himself wanting to protect Aurelia at all costs. He also just plain wants Aurelia, feelings that members of Threes aren’t supposed to have, except of course that his partners clearly do.

Jinx and Aurelia escape, and that’s where things get hairy. There are no coincidences. Aurelia is researching Threes because it is her own discoveries, perverted by a ex-lover, which took something that was supposed to help couples bond and perverted it into the creation of mindless mercenary assassins.

Aurelia wants to protect her research. She wants to save Jinx, to give him the chance at a life he never had, even if it isn’t with her. Jinx wants to be free of everything except Aurelia. But his past reaches out to pull him into the future, and her past kicks the door down and tries to wipe out any chance either of them might have to live.

It all comes down to an internal struggle to see who has more control, Jinx, Aurelia, or the meddling mastermind who won’t let either of them go.

Escape Rating A: The Threes remind me a bit of Robocop or the Terminator, attempts to create supersoldiers by removing any possible capability for human feelings and emotions, either by memory wiping and torture, or by not putting them there in the first place. (In a strange coincidence, my book for tomorrow, In the Devil’s Nebula by Anna Hackett, also explores this theme).

Unlike some of the antecedents for cybernetic supersoldiers, this version does not use implants to create massive armor or even massive muscles (or the equivalent). The process works by removing the original personality and replacing it with something without a conscience, but with an inbuilt requirement to obey they authority of their programmer and absolute loyalty to the members of their Three. Everything else appears to be training.

So, it’s the lack of a conscience that allows the Threes to function as heartless mercenaries, because their hearts have been programmatically removed. The only problem, from the perspective of the person controlling the Threes, is that the program is breaking down in the longest-serving Threes, and they need Aurelia’s research to shore up the gaps.

The problem, from the perspective of Aurelia and her colleagues, as well as from the emerging Threes themselves, is that no one volunteers for this shit. People are kidnapped and reprogrammed against their will into doing things that most of them would find heinous. Also, the programming is breaking down and while they may not remember their original lives, the internal conflict is eating them alive.

Aurelia intends to free Jinx. Jinx just wants to keep Aurelia safe, and also, simply to keep her. There is a certain amount of mutual Stockholm Syndrome going on, but it works in this story. They have come to rely on each other because of the mental connection that Aurelia creates between them. But the more she tries to set Jinx completely free, the more it backfires on both of them. They need each other for a whole lot of reasons that go beyond their original mutual kidnapping.

The bond also enhances their absolutely smoking-hot chemistry. But the love scenes are more than pure sex. Jinx doesn’t remember love or affection, so his experiences are heightened because for him it is the first time for so much in so many ways.

The SF part of Through the Static sets up a gritty world where technology has been abused. The R part of the equation is combustible. And the blending into SFR is explosive.

***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: Cress by Marissa Meyer

cress by marissa meyerFormat read: print book borrowed from the Library
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: young adult science fiction
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Length: 550 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Date Released: February 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

My Review:

The Lunar Chronicles are marvelous and suspenseful fractured fairy tales; taking the stories that we all know and love and transporting them into a brave new future with considerably altered versions of the heroines (and heroes).

Scarlet by Marissa MeyerCinder was, of course, all about Cinderella, complete with wicked stepmother and footwear difficulties. Scarlet’s version of Little Red Riding Hoodie was considerably more kick-ass than the original (see review). But Cress takes Rapunzel to new heights–her tower is a satellite orbiting the Earth! She’s so lonely that she programmed a younger version of herself into her computer systems as a companion.

Cress’ purpose on that satellite is both deadly and heartbreaking. It’s Cress’ programming skills that keep the Earthen governments from detecting Lunar ships in orbit. It’s Cress’ hacking skills that let her read the camera feeds from surveillance on all the Earthen officials.

And it’s Cress who was so desperate for approval from her keeper that she allowed the infiltration of Earth by Lunar special operatives who murdered 16,000 people, all to show that the Lunars were unstoppable.

But Cress has been left alone for much too long with only the entertainment and news feeds from Earth to keep her amused, or perhaps that to help her keep her hold on her sanity. She has come to identify with the Earthens, and to see Linh Cinder and her crew of misfits as the only hope for preventing Lunar Queen Levana’s terrifying reign.

And she’s fallen in love with the daring Captain involved in Cinder’s rescue, even though Cress and Carswell Thorne have never met. So Cress uses her programming skills to contact Cinder, to aid and abet Cinder’s continued evasion of the security forces, and to arrange for her own, much needed, rescue.

The rescue turns into a SNAFU of epic proportions. Cress’ evil keeper swoops in at the last moment, and everything goes to hell in a handcart. When the dust settles, Thorne and Cress are left on Cress’ satellite in a dying orbit, Wolf is seriously wounded, and Scarlet is captured. Only Cinder remains relatively unscathed, but it becomes her energy-sapping task to keep Wolf from going on a killing rampage at the loss of his alpha Scarlet.

Cinder still has to stop the wedding of Queen Levana to the unwilling Emperor Kai before she is crowned Empress, while the security forces of every Earthen military and all of Luna are out to find her.

First she rescues Thorne and Cress, then she musters all her available allies for one last chance to save the Emperor, knowing that she will start a war. Leaving Scarlet in the clutches of the Lunars to face a fate that might be much, much worse than death.
As the clock ticks down to doomsday, Cinder takes up the mantle of leadership that she was born to wear.

cinder by marissa meyerEscape Rating B+: While this is Cress’ story, the arc of The Lunar Chronicles series means that it is always Cinder’s story, no matter what else is going on. Cinder has grown a lot from the young, scared, insecure cyborg mechanic we met in Cinder (reviewed here).

It feels important that Cinder is planning to rescue her prince, and not the other way around. This is a story where the females don’t just have agency, but are generally stronger than the males. Cinder rescues Kai, Scarlet is Wolf’s alpha, and Cress, in spite of her awkwardness, is a gutsier person than Thorne.

Not many people would have kept any semblance of sanity under the conditions that were forced on Cress. She managed to keep herself together, and shake off the Stockholm Syndrome of bonding with her jailor and only contact. Her social awkwardness can be overcome, but integrity is forever.

As the story is told, the perspective frequently jumps from one part of the scattered crew to another, from Cinder to Cress to Scarlet and back again. The narrative switches can feel a bit disruptive during the sections where they are all far apart. As the action coalesces into the final plan, the fast changes add to the breathlessness of anticipation.

Poor Scarlet’s fate is still up in the air (or on Luna) but we know where the rest of the crew of leading, even if we have no idea how they’ll make it. We’re left on pins and needles waiting for the final installment, Winter.

***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.

Stacking the Shelves (34)

This week’s list seems short, in spite of the monthly contribution from Carina Press on NetGalley.

Maybe I’m getting sensible. Or maybe nothing much appealed to me this week. Probably that’s it.

I’m still getting over the strep throat, and haven’t felt quite the thing, as they say.

Still, a few possible gems. The Boleyn King looked really interesting, especially in light of the renewed interested in all things medieval English royalty after the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton. What if Anne Boleyn hadn’t miscarried her son? Alternative history of any kind is always so much fun, if it’s done well.

And a new entry in Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles is always cause for celebration!

For Review:
At Drake’s Command by David Wesley Hill
The Boleyn King (Anne Boleyn Trilogy #1) by Laura Anderson
Cards & Caravans (Gaslight Chronicles #5) by Cindy Spencer Pape
A Devil’s Touch (Devil DeVere #4.5) by Victoria Vane (review)
The League of Illusion: Prophecy (League of Illusion #2) by Vivi Anna
The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill
Pooka in My Pantry (Monster Haven #2) by R.L. Naquin
Tin Cat by Misa Buckley

Escorted by Claire Kent

Ebook Review Central, Hexapub, July 2012

This week on Ebook Review Central we have the multi-publisher wrap-up of July 2012. After this week, we’ll move on to the August titles for the publishers that ERC turns its eagle eye (or beady eye, take your pick) upon.

But until next week, it’s still mid-summer. I’m in Atlanta, Georgia, it IS still summer. We’re looking at the July 2012 titles from Amber Quill Press, Astraea Press, Curiosity Quills, Liquid Silver Books, and Riptide Publishing. Red Sage Publishing would normally be in that list, but they didn’t publish any new titles in July. That didn’t keep their titles from the previous months from garnering some new reviews, and the database has been updated to reflect those.

The surprising thing about this week’s featured titles is that Riptide did not run away with the reviews. They weren’t even in contention for running away with the featured list. Don’t get me wrong, they absolutely earned their first place spot on the list. Someone will need to pick me up off the floor the day Riptide doesn’t earn one place on the list, even with six publishers’ titles in contention. It’s just rare that they don’t look to take all three spots.

This week they weren’t even close to taking all three spots. First place however, was all theirs.

Cat Grant’s Doubtless, published by Riptide, absolutely ran away with first place. Any book that generates enough heat to get 21 people to post reviews (and remember that I’m talking about reviews outside of Goodreads and Amazon!) has got to be worth taking a look at. Doubtless is the followup to Grant’s May standout title, Priceless, another ERC feature, and follows the same characters. What Doubtless is not, as so many reviewers were careful to say, is a typical HEA. What it is, however, is a “compelling journey of self-awareness” as one reviewer so eloquently put it. Steve Campbell is professionally successful and personally miserable at the beginning of the book. It’s not until after his first encounter with Dylan Monroe, a confident and self-assured male escort, that Steve begins to realize that the reason he’s lonely is because he’s been looking in the wrong direction.

The second book in this week’s feature is also a sequel, and also from that same May list. Wilde’s Army by Krystal Wade is the second book in her Darkness Falls series from Curiosity Quills. The first book in this YA genre-bender (part paranormal romance, part urban fantasy) was Wilde’s Fire, and it was the absolute runaway of the May titles. It’s no surprise that so many of the readers who were caught up in the story of the girl who actually traveled to the magical world she dreamed of wanted to continue the adventure. And what an adventure it is! The adventure continues at an incredibly fast pace, and it’s even more difficult to figure out which are the good guys, and which are the bad guys. No one, and it seems like no one, can stand the suspense until book three comes out.

Imagine a world where your spine might be a precious commodity, but not necessarily the rest of you. Did a shiver just run up your…spine? That’s just a tiny hint of the action in Michael Shean’s Bone Wires, the third featured title this week, also from Curiosity Quills. Bone Wires is, dare I say it, a curious mix of Biopunk, Cyberpunk and dark science fiction with just that touch of urban fantasy. Or at least the part of urban fantasy that involves solving nasty crimes in an urban setting. It’s just that this particular setting is in the far future, and being a cop is a job that ranks somewhere below street-sweeping. Both involve taking out the trash in Shean’s not-so-brave new world. Shean’s description of a future America where police forces are operated not by the government, but by private corporations sounds, just a little too close to the possible.

So there you have it for this week, and for July 2012. One runaway feature for Riptide with Cat Grant’s Doubtless, and two solid hits for Curiosity Quills with Wilde’s Army and Bone Wires.

Ebook Review Central will be back next week with Carina Press’ August 2012 titles. It looks like I get to go back to baseball metaphors for a while. My hometown Cincinnati Reds clinched their division.


Haevyn: Humanotica Book 2

Haevyn is a way, way, way better book than Silver.

Why? Because Haevyn Breina, the title character of Haevyn, is not just the star of her own story, Haevyn is an adrenaline junkie. She is psychologically incapable of waiting for life to happen to her. She is forced by her own nature to make things happen. In other words, Haevyn has “agency”, sometimes too much of it for her own good. She’s never passive.

There are occasions when Haevyn plays the submissive, but she never truly submits. Her point of view is well worth following, even to the point of wanting to shake her for some of the choices she makes, because she makes choices and acts on them. Decisively.

If Silver was intended as the story of a trinex, a person equally identifiable as male, female and humanotic, Haevyn is a story that separates those roles into three individuals, Haevyn herself, Grishna, her childhood friend and sometime lover, and Entreus, the humanotic rebel from book one, and Grishna’s lover. This should be a triangle.

But Grishna loves both Haevyn and Entreus, and his role is that of healer, mediator, balancer. He’s a peacemaker between two warriors who need each other to be whole. But they also both need his healing as a calming agent. The trick is to bring them together in a way that Haevyn won’t find manipulative, because she is easily spooked.

And Haevyn is both fascinated and repelled by humanotics. Her first sexual experience was rape by a humanotic. It’s left scars on her soul that she’s never been able to erase.

Grishna brings Haevyn to a Cockrage, which makes Fight Club look not just tame, but bland. A Cockrage is a cock-fight, but those are men in the ring, not birds. The fight is not just about the violence, it’s a fight for dominance. The champions and their challengers fight  in the nude, just to make that point more clear. The loser gets screwed in the middle of the fighting ring, in front of the wildly cheering audience.

The audience is supposed to be only male. Grishna sneaks Haevyn in under the pretense of losing a bet. He wants her to see Entreus in Cockrage. Entreus is the reigning champion. Haevyn’s risk-taking nature overwhelms her fear of humanotics, and she is caught up in the overwhelming sexual atmosphere of the Rage, but only for Entreus, who is equally enthralled by Haevyn. She reminds him of the warrior-women of his home dimension of Oricta as none of the submissive ladies of Quentopolis ever have.

But there is more to this story than just the erotic. Haevyn is an officer of the military, even if the branch she serves are trained sex-workers assigned to personally serve high-ranking officers. It is the only way a woman in her society can earn a decent wage.

Haevyn needs that money. Her brother is addicted to body-modification. (And doesn’t that sound strangely familiar?) But on Quentopolis, if a person has more than a certain percentage of humanotic parts, they automatically become a slave. Haevyn is afraid that someday she will have to buy her brother out of slavery, and her fear is justified. She’s saving up.

Most importantly, the officer Haevyn serves, besides being a sado-masochistic bastard, which Haevyn is not just required to tolerate but trained to deal with as part of her duties, is also a treasonous bastard. Haevyn has to go undercover in many, many more ways than she was trained in order to save her city.

And she has to do it fast. Her brother and both her lovers are in danger. And there’s a sorcerer on the loose who might blow everything up just for spite, first.

Escape Rating B-: Once I started Haevyn, I couldn’t put it down. I had to find out how the whole thing turned out. This was so much better than Silver. I liked Haevyn as a character much better than Silver, which made a huge difference.

There are things about the worldbuilding that bothered me. Since this is the second book in a Science Fiction Romance series, there was stuff about the underpinning that I would expect to know by now. Other worlds are referred to as “dimensions”; how is travel accomplished? It’s never clear.

The branch of service Haevyn is in, the CompSociates, are military prostitutes. A society that restricts the roles of women the way Quentopolis does, would it also develop something like this? It was an interesting idea, but I’m not sure. On the other hand, it made me think, which is always good.

Another puzzle: Haevyn refers to damage to her sporiti from her rape. Is sporiti spirit or mind? That was never quite clear in context, not even in combination with the first book.

But if you  have an interest in very erotic science fiction romance, Haevyn might be your ticket. For more thoughts on Haevyn, head on over to Book Lovers Inc.


Silver: Humanotica, Book 1

I’m not quite sure where to begin in my review of Silver by Darcy Abriel. This book is book one in her Humanotica series, and I will also be reading and reviewing Haevyn, which is book 2 for Book Lovers Inc.

The thing about Silver is that I’ve never had a book bother me quite so much. On the one hand, it definitely captured my attention. On the other, some of that capture was in the perturbation factor.

Silver is a science fiction romance. I generally like SFR.

Silver takes place in an empire that has probably hit the downward spiral. Think of Rome under the really, really bad emperors, like Tiberius, or Caligula. You know, electing horses to serve in the Senate. Or Star Wars under that fellow we all know and love, the Emperor Palpatine. Remember him? He turned out to be way out there on the Dark Side of the Force.

Decadent empires can give rise (pun possibly intended) to all kinds of disgusting, and manipulative poltical practices. Including the use of sex, and blackmail about sex, as political maneuvering.

Very decadent imperial citizens are often too lazy to work (back to Rome again) so they employ slaves.

In the case of Quentopolis, those slaves are humanotics. Any person with 51% or more cybernetic parts is automatically sold into slavery, if they are caught.

Women are second-class citizens anyway. The reason for this isn’t explained, it just is. But then again, it so frequently isn’t explained, even in real life.

Silver used to be a normal woman, but she was caught pretending to be a man in order to attend a prestigious scientific academy. Her sentence; to become a humanotic and be sold into slavery.

Her new owner, Lel Kesselbaum has a fetish for male humanotics. With cybernetics, this is a complicated but not impossible problem. Lel has this formerly independent woman transformed into a trinex.

What’s a trinex? In this case, female from the waist up, male from the waist down, and more than 51% cybernetic. There are a lot of descriptions of the sexual aspects of Silver’s nature.

But what keeps driving me wacky is the change in Silver’s personality. She was fiercely independent, and now she’s submissive to Kesselbaum’s Dominor. (Dominor being both a political title and a sexual reference in this case).

In male/male romance, there’s a trope named “gay for you”. This story made me wonder if there is a similar trope in BDSM fic called “sub for you”. During the story, Silver discovers she likes to be dominant with other lovers, but not with Kesselbaum. With him, she’s always the submissive, and she loves it that way.

There’s is a slave revolt being planned. Entreus is the leader of that revolt. When he enters the picture, Silver discovers that her master is playing a very long game, and is not quite what he seems.

But there’s never any doubt about what choices she will make.

Escape Rating C-: I found the world fascinating, but I’m very glad that Entreus is the main character for Haevyn. He has more agency, and is in more control of his actions than Silver is.

For more of my thoughts on this book, head on over to Book Lovers Inc.


Synthetic Dreams

If there are no such things as demons, which is something that the main character states unequivocally in Kim Knox’ new cyberpunk science fiction romance thriller, Synthetic Dreams, then why are the hackers named after the Celtic demons of yore, the Fomorians?

But the real demon is Ouroboros. The worm of legend that eats his own tail. Confused? So was I–for a bit.

Synthetic Dreams paints a fascinating picture of a future world where the rich and powerful are able to harness the mental energy of certain individuals to power artificial reality dreamscapes.

The reader’s entry into this world is Vyn. Vyn is a Fomorian, a hacker using the codename Bran-seven. All the Fomorians use Celtic codenames. Hacking seems like half-tech and half-magic, so the Celtic analogies fit. While Vyn is in the Corporation-owned artificial reality world known as the Mind Tiers, she wears a glamour, yet another magic term. Glamour normally means enhancement, usually just enhanced appearance; better hair, better teeth, better body.

But Vyn’s glamour is illegal. All glamours are supposed to be tagged. If a person falls for someone else’s enhanced looks, at least they know what was enhanced. Vyn’s glamour isn’t just untagged, it’s a complete change of appearance and registry. She doesn’t just look better than her real self, she is able to fool the registry into believing that her real-life body matches the simulated person she appears to be.

Vyn has created the “Holy Grail” of hacking: she’s created a Simulacrum. It will make her rich–if she doesn’t get caught.

Vyn’s been pursuing a simulacrum for years, ever since the owners of the Corporation, the March-Goodmans, experimented on her, scarred her body, and had her transferred from the privileged N-sector to the slum S-sector.

Vyn wants to hide her scars. She also wants to find out why she was a victim of their experiments. And why her best friend Liam disappeared when he asked too many questions about her. But that was all a long time ago.

Now Vyn has a way to find the answers. With a simulacrum, she can be anybody, anywhere in the Mind Tiers. Or she can just sell it and get rich.

The Corporation is suddenly chasing her again. In the real world. And with intent to kill. And there’s a very hot security agent suddenly willing to protect her. The Corporation wants the Simulacrum. The security agent wants her to rescue his brother from the Corporation, and is willing to trade her promises of a future he can’t possibly mean in order to save his brother’s life.

Why can’t he possibly be sincere?  Because that security agent doesn’t need any glamour to look perfect. And Vyn knows that no one could possibly be interested in her scarred body except to use her as a tool.

Not even after she finds out what her scars were intended for. And after she discover that her security agent has been watching her, guarding her instead of following his assignment, for weeks.

And that the scars that ruined her life when she was a child–may be the only thing that can save her future now.

Escape Rating B-: This story had so many possibilities, but it’s too short to take advantage of them! It’s so frustrating. How did the world end up at this point? Why? This is like the current internet on steroids mixed with the Matrix, except everyone, well, almost everyone, is awake and aware, and a slight dash of the Roman Empire under the worst of the emperors. The corporate espionage bits are very, very insane.

Vyn is an extremely cool character, but we don’t see enough inside the security man’s head to figure out how he got into this. It’s his brother getting rescued, but he’s way more disaffected than that. This world has layers we’re not seeing.

About the Ouroboros thing…Vyn’s life turns out to be part of a very long plan by the Corporation, a plan that someone else manages to turn back against them. In the chilling sense of “revenge is a dish best served cold”. That part was icily well done.

What’s on my (mostly virtual) nightstand? 2-19-12

One of my favorite Heinlein quotes is “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get”. Which is probably a signal for me to stop writing about the weather. It is what it is.

I have an overly full nightstand this week. And as usual, it’s my own fault. I’ve always collected books. I see so many I want to read, then I forget that egalleys have either deadlines or the permission timebombs.

And then there are these other fascinating books over here…

But the ones I’m supposed to read are over in this corner. So without further ado, here is my pile of upcoming reading.

There were two books from Carina Press that I couldn’t resist. Synthetic Dreams by Kim Knox looks like SFR of the cyberpunk persuasion. Science fiction romance is always a draw for me, and this looked interesting, and I confess, short.  The other is Under Her Brass Corset by Brenda Williamson.  With a title like that, it had to be steampunk. Based on the cover image, this may mix steampunk and pirates. Sounds like quite a ride!

I get most of my egalleys from NetGalley, but I am also able to get a few from the other egalley service, Edelweiss. Sarah MacLean’s latest book, A Rogue by Any Other Name, is one of the first I was able to get from them. It’s her first in a new pre-Victorian series, The First Rule of Scoundrels, and it looks like fun.

C.E. Murphy is one of my favorite urban fantasy authors. I love her Walker Papers series. The only problem is that I can’t remember where I left off. Raven Calls is book seven. I’m sure I’ve read the first three, but after that I’m fuzzy about where I left off. I sense a marathon Walker Papers session in my future and I’m looking forward to it.

Speaking of marathon reading sessions, one of the other books I have coming up is The Traitor in the Tunnel, the third book in The Agency series by Y.S. Lee. The Agency is a YA mystery series about a girl named Mary Quinn who works undercover for the all-female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls in Victorian London. I’m fascinated enough by the premise to be willing to read all three books, so I have A Spy in the House and The Body at the Tower as well as Traitor. They sound delicious.

On Twitter last week Tobias Bucknell was asking for reviewers who would be interested in taking a look at his upcoming science fiction novel, Arctic Rising. It’s about the effects of the melting of the Arctic Ice Cap, global terraforming on Earth, and corporations who want to take advantage of the opportunities. It’s a science fiction techno-thriller, and it’s set in Alaska.  I asked if I could have a copy, and he sent me one. Cool! Or warm. Both.

Last and absolutely not least. I have been reviewing ebook romances for Library Journal for quite a while now. It’s neat to say I’m a Library Journal reviewer, and it probably helps me get egalleys at both NetGalley and Edelweiss. I applied to also review for Library Journal the magazine in December, and now I’m officially a reviewer for the print magazine too.

I received my first assignment this week. I got a print galley of Dark Magic by James Swain in my mailbox along with a very detailed set of instructions. Ironically, this is a book I had requested from NetGalley, so I also have an electronic copy. I have about the same amount of time to write my review as I do when I receive an assignment from my editor for an ebook, about 10 days. But the lead time on the print magazine is way longer. The ebook reviews are usually for books that are about to come out any day now. Dark Magic has a publication date of May 22, but my review is due to my editor on February 28.

And with all these books on my “plate” I can stop thinking that Celebrity in Death is coming out on February 21. If I’m still awake at midnight, I don’t think I’ll be able to resist the impulse to dive right into it. Some escapes are just too tempting!

Tomorrow will be Dreamspinner Press’ spin at Ebook Review Central. Don’t you just love Mondays?



Stellarnet Rebel

Stellarnet Rebel by J.L. Hilton is really good science fiction romance. The heroine is a blogger, which made it particularly fun for me! Not many blogger/heroines in science fiction romance. Or anywhere.

Genny O’Riordan is the blogger. She “shifts” in from Earth to Asteria to find a story that will make her blog, that is kick it up into the Stellarnet Top 100. That’s her big dream. The story she wants to break is a universal story of corporate greed, just moved out to the deep-space colony of Asteria.

Asteria sounds like Babylon 5 without the aliens and without the interstellar wars. (Well, almost, but we’ll get to that in a minute) Babylon 5 had “Downbelow”, where all the people who were too broke to buy passage back “home” and not skilled enough to get decent paying jobs mostly lived in the corridors. “Downbelow” was a slum, except with even fewer options. Asteria is a lot like a civilian Babylon 5, and there are too many people on Asteria who have either been forcibly shipped to or conned into shifting to Asteria and living as “overload” — in other words, living in the corridors and overloading the ecological systems. On a space station, that’s even more serious than on a planet, any planet. Humans can’t breathe vacuum.

There are also a lot of obsessive online gamers on Asteria, playing an immersive Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) called Mysteria. There’s no lag time if you live on Asteria, the way there is on Earth. That’s a big deal to a truly obsessed gamer.

Asteria has a military commander, Colonel Blaze Villaneuva. Blaze is the one trying to keep the lid on the pot. His U.S. Air and Space Force mostly act as MPs. And they keep Asteria flying. Blaze is a realist more than he is a stickler for the rules. And part of Blaze’s reality is that there isn’t any water in space.

Blaze gets most of Asteria’s water from Duin’s clandestine raids on a nearby planet, his former home.

Duin is a Glin. He’s an alien. He’s the only alien on Asteria. His planet was conquered, and devastated, by another alien race, the Tikati. So Duin spends his days in the Asteria Colony market, making speeches about the oppression of his people to anyone who will listen. Because Duin has read all about the human drive for freedom, and he believes that somewhere, some human will want to help him free his people. He just has to keep believing. And speaking.

The first time Genny walks through the Asteria market, she hears Duin speak. He is passionate about the plight of his people. He is also incredibly articulate, even in a language manifestly not his own. And Genny is utterly captivated by him. At first, she believes it is because she has found a story, and a cause, that will rocket her blog not just into the Stellarnet 100, but maybe into the Stellarnet Top 20.

But the more time she spends with Duin, the more she involved she becomes with him and his cause, the more she realizes that it is the man, the Glin himself, who has captured her heart and soul.

Does love mean the same thing to a Glin that it does to a human? And will the blind prejudice and hatred of other humans conspire to keep them apart?

Escape Rating B: I absolutely adore the idea of the Stellarnet. It seemed like a merger of the blogosphere, Twitter and the constant stream of headline news all rolled into one. As a blogger, Genny is online to her fans almost constantly, to the point where Genny does debate whether or not to blog herself having sex, complete with video. But the concept of the all-invasive, all-intrusive Stellarnet, of fans living vicariously through a blogger/star does not seem far-fetched from here.

Duin was a little bit too good to be true for me. Especially when Belloc, the second Glin, came into the picture. I understand that the author used Belloc to show that the Glin attitude toward sex and relationships was not just different, but, in fact, alien, but that part of the plot didn’t quite work for me.

I liked Genny and Duin together. It felt more realistic in the relationship when he got so caught up in the cause that he lost sight of the person he was involved with. That happens. Belloc’s plot maybe should have been book 2.

Speaking of book 2, Stellarnet Rebel is the start of a series. I’m looking forward to it!



Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a retelling of the Cinderella story with a YA/cyberpunk twist. And it’s a pretty good retelling at that. I just think it would have been a better story if it didn’t try so hard to be sure it stepped on each and every base on its way around the story.

Cinderella is always a second-class citizen. In Meyer’s variation, Cinder is second-class because she is a cyborg. Cyborgs are considered less-than-human by those who have been fortunate enough not to have lived through catastrophic accidents such as the one that cost Cinder her hand and her foot at age 11.

But Cinder does not remember the traumatic accident, or anything about her early life. And the man who might have told her is dead. Linh Garan adopted her and left her in the care of his wife Adra just before his death. Garan was an inventor; he liked to tinker with things. He may have adopted Cinder to tinker with. He might have done something to her internal processes. But no one knows, least of all Cinder.

Adra hates and resents Cinder, while at the same time greedily taking every credit that Cinder earns as a gifted mechanic. Adra is entitled to retain all of Cinder’s earnings, forever. Adra is Cinder’s guardian, and Cinder’s earnings are the only thing keeping the household out of the poorhouse. The household, of course, contains not only the nasty stepmother Adra, but Cinder’s stepsisters, Peony and Pearl.

This Cinderella tale has been transplanted in time and place. We are still on Earth, but it is a future, post-apocalyptic Earth, after a dreadful Fourth World War first devastated, then finally united humanity under an Imperial Commonwealth. Cinder lives in the Eastern Commonwealth capital of New Beijing. The moon was not just settled, but broke away from the Earth pre-WWIV and created its own government. The Lunars have become not just a separate government, but in some ways, a separate race, because they have the capacity to manipulate bio-electric energy to a point that seems like magic. It’s a LOT like the Force in Star Wars, and too many of the Lunars mostly act like the Sith. The Lunar Queen and Emperor Palpatine would probably have a lot in common, if they didn’t try to kill each other on sight.

Prince Kai brings his personal android to Cinder at her stall in the market to repair. He says it’s because it was his teaching android when he was growing up, and he’s emotionally attached to it.

Cinder, who shouldn’t have the neural circuitry to swoon, practically swoons over Prince Kai. She is able to suppress her reaction. What she isn’t able to suppress is her knowledge that he is lying. There is something important about the little android, and it isn’t merely an emotional attachment.

Kai lets something slip, he is doing research on leutmosis, the deadly plague that is sweeping the world. It is 100% fatal. Cinder wonders if his android contains some of his research.

The research that Kai might or might not be conducting becomes even more important to Cinder when her stepsister Peony contracts the deadly plague. Peony was the only person who truly cared for Cinder, and now she is gone. And in her rage, Adra signs Cinder over the government as a test subject. Cinder, as a cyborg, has no rights at all.

Once Cinder is tested, the truth of her origins begins to be revealed, not to Cinder, but to others who have been searching for her desperately. Nothing in her life has been as it has seemed.

But Cinder is going to the ball.

Escape Rating B-: The cover of this book is awesome. The book has its moments but I figured out the big reveal very, very early on. It’s better if the surprise remains a surprise as long as possible. Instead, everything was telegraphed miles ahead of time.

I loved the scene where Cinder drives to the ball and shows up in all her grease-stained glory to try to rescue Kai, but I saw it coming miles away.

And, as many other reviewers have noted, what does Kai look like? He’s never described. Ever. There’s a rule somewhere that all brides are, by definition, beautiful. Is there a corollary that all princes are handsome? Therefore there’s no requirement that they be described? Is he blond? Does he have black hair? Brown eyes? Blue eyes? Swoon-worthy is just not a sufficient description.

And I still want to find out what happens next. I want to see that Lunar Queen get what she deserves. Ring-side seats for that show would be very nice indeed.