Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Enclave
Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre is one of my favorite authors, particularly for her Sirantha Jax series, which is a science fiction romance. I’ve been eagerly awaiting Enclave since I first heard that Aguirre would be trying her hand at YA dystopia. This is the first installment of the Razorland series.

The Premise: In the enclave, children have numbers, not names, unless they live till their fifteenth birthday. Then they’re given a naming ceremony and a place as a Breeder, Builder, or Hunter in the society. Deuce (formerly Girl15), has just been named and given a spot amongst the Hunters – an honor she’s been training for as long as she can remember. Now she can leave the enclave, and bring her people food, and she can protect them from the Freaks – creatures that live in the tunnels that would like nothing more than to feast on human flesh. All her life, Deuce has only known a world that is underground, where the oldest is in his early 20s, and where people don’t live for more than that. It’s a world with very little, but it’s the only world Deuce has ever known. Deuce is partnered with Fade, the only Hunter who wasn’t born in their enclave. Fade has never really fit into the enclave, but he’s the best fighter they have, and Deuce is eager to prove herself worthy of being assigned to him. But being a Hunter brings a different perspective to all that Deuce knows. During their patrols Deuce and Fade encounter Freaks with more organization and intelligence than the norm. When their warnings about this eerie Freak behavior are ignored or suppressed, Deuce begins to question the leadership of the enclave.

Read an excerpt of Enclave here

My Thoughts: Enclave is basically three parts. At first the focus is narrow. The story revolves around Deuce’s small sphere and all that is familiar to her. When Deuce begins to think beyond the small borders of the enclave, the spotlight expands. She discovers where her partner, Fade originally came from. The last part expands the world even further beyond that.

For the size of this book, a lot happens. I liked that the story manages to blend in action, a gritty world, and a budding friendship into the story, and I think this is what made the beginning of Enclave particularly strong for me. When Deuce’s narrative begins, we’re introduced to the daily life of a semi-primitive tribal culture. It has three basic roles (Hunter, Breeder, Builder), a leadership structure based on age (over twenty makes you an elder, as this is a very small group), and a painful initiation ritual into “adulthood” (cuts made on the arms that are seared closed by hot metal).  Deuce knows only the limited scope of this enclave, which is in the Underground. Only after she becomes a Hunter and assigned a partner can she see what’s outside her home. It’s not clear what the year is or what has happened to make the world it is in Enclave, but there are enough hints to say that it is our world that has been hit by some apocalyptic event that has reduced the world to rubble and society into small tribes like the enclave, and created monsters like the Freaks.

Because Deuce is a Hunter, that brings plenty of action and the story goes at a fast clip. Deuce is eager to prove her mettle, but she is also learning about Fade and about her the Underground. The action adds drama to the story, but the plot moves along because of Deuce’s path of discovery. Fade isn’t very talkative but as time goes on Deuce begins to trust him, and she knows he doesn’t like the current leadership. Their relationship evolves through time and trials, but Fade keeps a lot close to his chest. What he does tell her, Deuce has trouble believing, but she begins to question. She debates the need for rules and leadership, against inhumane punishments to keep the enclave in line. A leadership that keeps tight control is particularly dangerous when there is important information being suppressed.

But before anything really happens in the enclave, the story changes gears. Fade and Deuce move on together, away from what Deuce is familiar. Deuce continues to learn about her world, and along the way other teen characters are introduced. The shift is a little abrupt for me and left some dangling threads. I think as a series it’s more interesting for Deuce and Fade to travel outside the enclave, but the way this story was presented, it felt like some set up was abandoned. As a result, the second half of the book felt like a restart. Again a new setting and new characters are introduced to us, but thankfully Fade and Deuce stay constant. On the other hand, with new characters introduced late in the story, I didn’t feel like there was much time to get to know them.

There’s a hint of a love triangle with Fade, Deuce, and one of the new characters as well, but it is an odd choice. One of the things I like about Aguirre’s writing is the darkness she brings into her stories. Sometimes this is in the form of dark heroes – people who have done unlikeable things in their pasts but who I still root for. In Enclave the darkness is primarily in the world building, but it’s also in Fade’s past and Deuce’s choices for self-preservation. However, in the potential love triangle, I found the third person VERY unlikeable and a better choice as a villain than a romantic interest. Depending on what happens with this character, it could either be a show stopper or a deal breaker in a later book. I have my fingers crossed.

Overall: My reaction is that I was entertained. Aguirre’s writing keeps me interested in what’s going on and there’s enough darkness in this story to add depth, but the concepts themselves feel familiar. The underground setting after a post-apocalyptic event, the humanoid creatures craving human flesh, and society broken down and ignorant of the past are familiar tropes. But this series has a lot of potential. I think the slowly evolving relationship between Deuce and Fade and their fighting partnership is what has me hooked. I also suspect that now that the world has been established, the characters will have more room to grow. I would actually want to read the second book, and there’s are a lot of other YA dystopian series I’ve started where I couldn’t say the same.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Steph Su Reads – didn’t like this one
Babbling about Books and More – B-
Scooper Speaks – very positive
See Michelle Read – positive
Fantastic Book Review – 4.5 out of 5

Killbox by Ann Aguirre

Killbox
Ann Aguirre

This is the fourth book in the Sirantha Jax series, which is a wonderful space opera I’m addicted to. Another one I would have read sooner if not for the self-imposed book buying ban (which I’ve now completely given up on, the TBR wins).

Here are my reviews for the earlier books:
Book 1: Grimspace http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Book 2: Wanderlust http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Book 3: Doubleblind http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg

**** Spoilers for the first three books from this point on ****

The Premise: After her job as a Conglomerate ambassador to Ithiss-Tor, Sirantha Jax and her crew finally have the time and the resources to work on some of their ultimate goals. The most important of these is to fight against the Morgut – terrifying, worm-like aliens who feast on the flesh of humans and who have been decimating outskirt planets and stations. Unfortunately, the random Morgut attacks begin to look less random, particularly in recent weeks.

Read an excerpt of Killbox here

My Thoughts: It kind of amazes me how much was packed into this book. The story starts right after the trip to Ithiss-Tor. Jax, March, Vel, Dina, Hit,  Doc, Rose and Constance are on their way back to Emry Station to meet up with their friends and decide what to do next. Along the way they have an encounter with some slavers, and the experience serves to highlight how much criminals have been taking advantage of the lack of policing now that Farwan is no longer in power. When Chancellor Tarn asks March and the crew to build an armada of spaceships to keep slavers and piracy down, they agree. In the meantime, Jax is working on the goal of teaching those with the J-gene how to navigate ships without the structure of an academy. And then the Morgut become a problem that the newly minted armada cannot ignore.

That’s three big things right there – training jumpers, creating a space armada and fighting the Morgut. Three impossible things before breakfast as they say. You do have to put on a little bit of a suspension of disbelief because Jax and her friends tackle all of these in one book. In each aspect, Jax demands miracles from her crew and they deliver. Now, this is not something new in the series: Jax almost died when she overextended herself in grimspace, and Doc was able to do some amazing gene therapy combined with Jax’s unique ability to repair her brain at the expense of the rest of her system, but in Killbox, the medical genius is asked to do at least 3 new and unprecedented procedures. Dina, the resident mechanical genius is also asked to work on something that no one has ever done before with jump drives. You have to just accept that Jax has the vision to be right about what her crew can do, and that Doc and Dina are just miracle workers, and I think that this is something where your mileage may vary.

This suspension of disbelief is probably my biggest problem with this installment of the series. Otherwise, I think it does quite a bit to move the story forward and it is a book which ties in all three previous installments. Characters we haven’t seen or heard about since the first book make appearances. I had to refresh my memory about them, but they do contribute to the plot and where the series as a whole seems to be going. It was nice to be pleasantly surprised by their reappearance, and I liked that there was the feeling that every character had an important role in the story. And as I’ve come to expect from this author, these characters are three dimensional.

March and Jax… what can I say? I continue to love them. At this point in the series, they’re in an established relationship. It’s nice to see them together and working as two parts of a whole. I don’t feel any loss of chemistry between the two of them when things are going well. They’re very grateful for one another. Of course, there is something of a separation that they have to deal with in Killbox. The reason for their problems is one I understand, and it adds some worry about their relationship, but even when things look bad I believe in these two. I don’t think there is anything insurmountable, and I see Jax and March putting aside their personal feelings for what they believe in. If they can do that, they can find themselves back to each other. That’s what I held on to while I read the book. On the other hand, I can see the relationship drama added to the story as something some people may have an issue with. I did not.

P.S. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger but I was actually OK with where it ended.

Overall: Out of all the books, this one feels the most like it’s about the universe and Jax’s effect on it rather than it being a story about Jax herself. It has the biggest scope so far, with space battles and discoveries that will have far reaching consequences. The threads of earlier books start coming together in Killbox, and the ultimate battle between the Conglomerate and the Morgut is one step closer. Weaving among this, as always, is the complex, ever-changing, ever-human relationship between Jax and her crew. I think that despite a problem with believing how much was expected from the resident miracle-workers, this installment is as rich and varied as the others. And I don’t know many books that could keep me reading till 5 o’clock in the morning.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Calico_reaction – Must have.
Mardel (Rabid Reader) – a very positive review “better and better with each book”
See Michelle Read – positive review
Fantasy Cafe – 8/10
Dreams and Speculation – 8/10
Smexy Books – 5/5
Lurv a la Mode – 5 scoops (out of 5)
Literary Escapism - positive review
Tempting Persephone – positive review
The Book Pushers – 5/5

Reading Raves: Author recommendations

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

You know what I love? When an author has a page on their website devoted to recommendations. I’m not saying that this is something all authors should do, but it sure is nice. It caters to my nosiness – what books do you like in the genres you write? Peering at someone’s bookshelves is similar – I want to know what you read, but to have a list of recommendations – I can find out what your favorites are. If I find myself agreeing to an author’s picks I’m inclined to try them out if I’ve never read their books before. I also like how it gives me yet another place to find new-to-me books (as if there aren’t enough places).

The Winter of Enchantment

I have tried out some books based on author’s recommendations on their websites. Sherwood Smith is why I  tried Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Neil Gaiman is why I read The Winter of Enchantment by Victoria  Walker (I read the book before I had a book blog, so the review is only on paperbackswap and goodreads – Goodreads). I  thought The Winter of Enchantment was very lovely imagewise, only OK plotwise, but I’m glad I read it. And  Greensleeves I recommend heartily, but it’s sadly out of print and not cheap to find used online.

Here are some Author Recommendations:

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) Nine Coaches Waiting His Dark Materials Trilogy: "Northern Lights", "Subtle Knife", "Amber Spyglass"

Kristin Cashore recommends Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Cynthia Voigt’s Novels of the Kingdom, Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books, Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, and others.

The Blue Sword The Changeling Sea The Warrior's Apprentice

Rachel Neumeier recommends 14 books including The Changeling Sea, by Patricia McKillip, The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley, Cukoo’s Egg, by CJ Cherryh, The Warrior’s Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold, and A Certain Slant of Light, by Laura Whitcomb

Song of Scarabaeus In the Company of Others Foreigner

In 2009, Linnea Sinclair recommended in her fan forums Sara Creasy’s Song of Scarabaeus, Julie Czernada’s In the Company of Others, and C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series and I’ve put those all on my to-read-one-day list.

Howl's Moving Castle The Dark Is Rising (The Dark Is Rising Sequence) Madeleine's A Wrinkle (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Paperback - May 1, 2007))

Holly Black‘s Suggested Reading List has Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’ Engle, Mary Stewart, Peter Beagle, Tanith Lee, Susan Cooper, Diana Wynne Jones,and Michael Moorcock on it, to name a few (she’s also yet another one who recommends Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books)

Riddle-Master The Westing Game [WESTING GAME] Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer

Shannon Hale has a lovely long list of recommendations on her website. So many. I love it. She recommends gems like Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy, by Patricia McKillip, and Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, by Tanith Lee. (I must say I like her husband’s recs at the bottom of her list too).

Bitter Night: A Horngate Witches Book Nine Layers of Sky Mr. Impossible

Ann Aguirre sometimes posts about books she loved on her blog, and I pay attention. She’s recommended Diana Pharaoh Francis’ Bitter Night, and Liz William’s Nine Layers of Sky, both on my TBR, as well as Jeri Smith-Ready and intriguing romances with idiot heroes.

The Once and Future King Devil's Cub Moominsummer Madness   [MOOMINSUMMER MADNESS] [Paperback]

Garth Nix also wrote a long list of recommendations (ah, quite delightful), called “Books Remembered: An Alphabetical Remembrance“.  He also has The Winter of Enchantment listed, along with Georgette Heyer, Tove Jansson, Ursula Le Guin and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (which really should be required reading).

Dull Boy Make Me Yours (Harlequin Blaze) Beastly

Diana Peterfreund is really an author I should be reading since Angie keeps recommending her books and Angie tends to be right (How annoying. Gives my TBR pile grief). This thought is backed up with recommendations that look good, like in her post “Why isn’t Everyone reading…?” where she recommends Sarah Cross’ Dull Boy, Betina Krahn, and oh there it is (again!), the Attolia books. I think she also shares my opinion on retellings (basically I ♥ them mucho).

I know I’ve seen more lists on author’s websites, but let’s stop there. Are there lists that you recommend I look at? Do tell!

Best of 2009 and New Year’s Resolution for 2010

I liked looking back last year at 2008 so this year I’m also looking back at 2009. I didn’t make my goal of reading 100 books, but at 79 books I was above last year’s number (77). Anyway, here’s my Best of 2009 list, broken down in the same way I broke down books last year:

The Books that Blew Me Away – This is a very small list, just three books, like last year.  I only put books on the list when a book consumes me.

  • Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliosotti http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (this is technically a 2010 book. Review to come) -http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gif http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Books that Came Close to Blowing Me Away - This list is of books which I’d recommend without reservation and I loved them while reading them. There are more of these this year than last year (5 versus 4!)
  • Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Endless Blue by Wen Spencer http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg

Books I Really Liked/ Keepersthese are also recommended and all have several moments that I loved in them and I think many people will like these books:

  • Soulless by Gail Carriger http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Way of the Shadows by Brent Weeks http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • On the Edge by Ilona Andrews http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Must Love Hellhounds (anthology) Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook, and Charlaine Harris — I liked 2 of the 4 stories a lot http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Heroes at Risk by Moira J. Moore http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Sins & Shadows (Shadows Inquiries) by Lyn Benedict http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percey Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • What Happens in London by Julia Quinn http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Hope’s Folly by Linnea Sinclair http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Blue Diablo (Corine Solomon, Bk 1) by Ann Aguirre http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, Bk 6) by Carrie Vaughn http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Kitty and the Silver Bullet (Kitty Norville, Bk 4) by Carrie Vaughn http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
  • Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, Bk 3) by Carrie Vaughn http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttp://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg

And for my New Year’s Resolution – First I have the usual one which is to read 100 books.

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 – 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – 79 books

The second resolution is to make the TBR go down. I was really bad over my Christmas vacation and the TBR is over 190 right now. The plan is that I can’t buy a book unless I read two or more. Let’s hope I have the willpower.

Skin Game by Ava Gray

I picked this one up because Ava Gray is the pseudonym for Ann Aguirre, who is an author I love.

The Premise: Kyra is a con woman with a very special ability. Whenever she touches someone, she picks up their best skill. She’s on the run after embarrassing casino owner Gerard Serrano, a man was responsible for her father’s murder. While on the road, she meets Reyes, who she thinks is a drifter, but who is really a hitman charged with finding out where she hid the stolen money, and with killing her afterwards.

My Thoughts: The two characters had interesting back stories, with imperfect parenting, which served to bond them after their initial mostly physical relationship. I liked that Reyes was a character of mixed racial heritage, and I loved that he was a cook. Kyra’s blase attitude towards sex (she was a one night stand only girl) and how she didn’t cling to Reyes afterward was also different. The secondary characters were also well-written. I was most intruiged by the mysterious Foster, who is a cold and mysterious manipulator, and Gerard Serrano’s right hand man.

After reading this one, I think I understand why the author used a pseudonym: it’s a very different book from the science fiction romance and urban fantasy under the Ann Aguirre name. This one is a lot more steamy, with plenty of explicit sex scenes, which isn’t what you’d encounter with her other series. I don’t tend to go for the steamy books, but the sex in Skin Game was well-written and not purple. I think people who enjoy a high steam factor will enjoy the story.

While the steaminess is a change, the imperfect characters and interesting relationships between them, a hallmark of Aguirre’s writing, are not. They are in full force in this paranormal romance. A con-woman and an assassin, the hero and heroine don’t sound very nice, but it worked because they still had their own personal rules about who they targeted with their skills. Kyra goes to the seediest bars in town and then uses the skills of the resident best dart-thrower or pool player to win a game. In the end, she has to use these borrowed skills with her own nerve to win some cash, which seems like a more honest swindle to me. Reyes also only targets scumbags to kill. It’s because of this code that makes him start to question whether his employer lied to him about Kyra, because in observing her, she isn’t like his usual kills.

I say that this works for the most part because there’s one scene in particular where I felt like the characters stepped too far away from higher moral ground for my comfort. I balked because I felt that Kyra let rage and vengeance dictate her actions, and Reyes and another character did not blink. Looking at it objectively, it’s probably the only way the book could go, and I’ve read other characters doing questionable things under the Aguirre name, but for some reason this scene bothered me anyway. Maybe part of it is I know that in this series, I’ll probably see one couple at a time, and if someone does something in this book that I don’t quite approve of, they may not be on the page later on for me to see their redemption. I wished Kyra and the others could have found another route instead of using violence, but this book is not about nice, perfect people. It’s about imperfect people with questionable morals who still find some happiness in another person, and maybe I’m more rigid in what I want in my hero and heroine, but I still find the idea of antiheroes in love kind of cool.

Overall: Plenty of steaminess for those who love a good sex scene. Different from the urban fantasy and space opera under the Ann Aguirre name, but with the same imperfect characters I love to read about. I have a quibble about the characters which made me not connect as much as I’d like to, but a very good paranormal romance, and I am looking forward to the sequel.

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Other reviews:
Genre reviews – 4 pints of blood
calico reaction – Worth the Cash
giraffedays – 4 out of 5 stars
Smexy books – 5 out of 5 stars
Babbling about Books and more – A-
Dear Author – B-

Interview with Ava Gray at Smexy books

Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

I’ve been dying to read Doubleblind since, oh last year when I finished Wanderlust. So when I was lucky enough to get a early copy of the book (it comes out Sept 29th), it vaulted past everything else on my TBR (past some other books I’ve really wanted to read) and I started reading that night.

Doubleblind is the third book in the Sirantha Jax series:
Book 1: Grimspace (review: LJ | wordpress)
Book 2: Wanderlust (review: LJ | wordpress)

The Premise: Sirantha Jax is finally on Ithiss-Tor, feeling way over her head as an ambassador for the Conglomerate. The Conglomerate needs her to bring the bug-like aliens, the Ithtorians to their side because they need an ally against increased attacks by the Morgut (a species of violent, frenzied eaters that see everyone as food). The Ithtorians are the only species the Morgut have ever respected. A “jumper” and former party-girl, Jax doesn’t feel in her element as someone responsible for such an important task, and March, who has always been at her side isn’t himself to help her.

Excerpt of Chapter 1

My Thoughts: I would have finished this much faster if it weren’t for those pesky things like parents coming to visit, going to work, eating, sleeping, blah blah. All I wanted to do was read this book. I love space opera and science fiction romance. This is one of my favorite series. I think I’ve been anticipating it so much that by the time I got it I was getting lightheaded with giddiness and enthusiasm and I had a feeling that perhaps I was talking too much about it. You know that feeling where – internally you’re saying to yourself, why are you still talking, you idiot, now they know you’re crazy and Ann Aguirre will run away from you?! Yes, that was me on twitter this week. Ahem. So instead of doing what I briefly considered (just writing “SQUEE” in big, bold, underlined letters as a review), I’m going to try to be rational.

The thing is, it is so hard to stay quiet while reading this book, because there’s these elements you just want to talk to *someone* about. For me it was character development and the twists in the plot. I think Ann Aguirre has an evil streak. First of all, she wrote Wanderlust and ended it the way she did (if you read Wanderlust, you know what I mean). What she puts her characters through has me looking around desperately for someone so I can discuss what I just read.

First of all, you would think that by now, the third book, March and Jax’s relationship would be stable.  But Aguirre did something that was the equivalent of pressing the “reset” button, and it is delicious. Neither March or Jax are the same people they were at the start of this series. In fact, I’d say that what they’ve been through has pretty much reversed their roles, although their old selves are in there somewhere. The first half of the book had me hanging on to every word or gesture between the two of them. I kept saying “intense”, because that was the word to describe it (besides “AHHH!!”). It was kind of torture, yet I was happy. It was well worth going through the wringer in Wanderlust and here to come out the other side. There was one particular scene early in the book where March and Jax talk that had me completely involved and.. well I just don’t have the words.

Aguirre seems to excel at character growth. Since we’re on Vel’s home planet and diplomacy is the reason for being there, Vel has the biggest role besides Jax, who is the narrator. I was really interested in finding out more about Vel in Wanderlust so I was pleased with learning more about him through Jax.  The others were around less often (they weren’t needed for all the negotiations that Jax attended), but everyone in Jax’s circle is multi-faceted, and you catch a glimpse of inner depth in Jael, Dina, Hit, and Doc. If you’re familiar with Ann Aguirre, you know these aren’t always happy people either. Jax has a past full of scandal and self-preservation, and March is a psychic and soldier who had to do horrible things.

One of my favorite tropes is a stranger in a strange land or a culture-clash story, which we have here as Jax navigates the Ithtorians, some of who don’t consider humans very smart. They remember an earlier delegation which had disastrous results. There are many Ithtorians who would like Jax to fail in her talks, even enough to kill her. That’s why Vel is so important, explaining to Jax subtle gestures such as meaning to a bow. The story also covers what foods to eat, what markings on caripaces mean, and Ithtorian politics. I loved this. I also liked the description of the lush, tropical world the Ithtorians’ surrounded themselves in, which is nicely illustrated on the cover by Scott M. Fischer.

Overall: The best installment yet. If you read Wanderlust, you really *need* to read Doubleblind. And if you haven’t read this series and you like space opera/science fiction romance, I think you should pick it up. Every successive book is better than the last.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

Other review:
Genrereviews gave it 4 1/2 pints of blood (I thought this review was spot on).

Originally posted on janicu.vox.com

Being giddy about Doubleblind & June releases

Just a quick post here:

I’m a big Ann Aguirre fangirl and every time I hear news about any of her new books I’m all a-tizzy. So I wanted to point out that over the weekend ocelott has put up the very first review anywhere of Doubleblind. She says:

“if you haven’t read the previous two books, here there be spoilers. If, however, you’ve glommed the first two and are waiting impatiently for Doubleblind to release, you’re safe. I give out no plot twists.”

And with that- – the Doubleblind review is here
I am looking forward to this one because I kind of have a thing for the “ambassador in a strange land/world” trope. Love it.


Mark of the Demon
Diana Rowland

There’s a whole BUNCH of new books coming out today. Sci Fi Guy posted June releases on his website and about 80% of the books there I want to read. Which is so bad when I just hauled back 40 some books from BEA. I have the sickness.

Amongst the list (coming out June 23rd) is Diana Rowland’s debut The Mark of the Demon. I’m currently reading it and it is GOOD. Also – the cover is really gorgeous – I gasped aloud when I saw the coverflat. Seriously – it has shiney patterns on it and I am mesmerized by it’s beauty.

The book I’m FOR SURE going to get this week is Ilona Andrew’s Silent Blade which just became available from Saimhain today. I’m all over it. It’s a short story and costs just $2.50. It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine.

Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre

Blue Diablo is the first book in a new urban fantasy series by Ann Aguirre, who also writes the lovely science fiction romance series starring Sirantha Jax (I reviewed Grimspace (book 1) here, and Wanderlust (book 2) here).

 
The Premise: This series centers around Corine Solomon, who is a Handler – someone who can touch an object and recall its past. This means she's really sought after for her skills, but they have a high price for Corine, physically and in other ways. At the start of Blue Diablo Corine is in Mexico, living as an expatriate and not using her special handler talent. She's been in Mexico for about a year, after walking away from a bad relationship where she felt that her ex, Chance, did not really love her and valued her more for her talent than for herself. Unfortunately for Corine, her past doesn't stay away, and Chance shows up, asking for her help to find his mother, Yi-Min Chin, someone Corine really likes.
 
My Thoughts: This book right away does a couple of things that gave it high points in my book:
 
 First of all the setting was not all in the United States, which is refreshing when I see it anywhere. Corine is living in Mexico before events mean she has to travel to Laredo, Texas, and this is reflected in her day to day life, the food, and the language. Spanish is peppered throughout the dialog, and I'm very glad that I took enough Spanish classes in my lifetime to understand it! I also enjoyed the descriptions of food (ah how I love reading about food).
 
The second thing was Chance, Corine's ex-boyfriend, who is a half (at least) Asian hero. I have a huge soft spot for mixed race characters!. He's a very intriguing guy – at first he seems very polished and put together, sort of distant, but I think the reader gets this through the way Corine sees him because the book is written from her first person point of view. As the story progresses Corine begins to realize he may not be the person she thought he was. He's also changed in the year that Corine was away, and there are still feelings on both sides about the other. It's a little bit painful on both their parts and ultimately I hope things work out for them, but Corine is not quick to forgive at all. They have issues to sort out. I had to agree that Corine wasn't always the most gracious character, but love is messy sometimes. On the other hand, it almost seems like Chance actually likes her more for it (Disfunctional? I can't decide. There were a one scene in particular which springs to mind).
 
That brings me to another aspect which I've noticed in Aguirre's work – the romances have their ups and downs and the main characters aren't perfect. They're flawed. Sometimes they do things I don't really like, but ultimately I can understand it, and I hope for them to grow. Which they do. I think Jax grows from book 1 to book 2 of her series, and I expect to see something similar with Corine.
 
But I probably shouldn't just focus on the Chance/Corine relationship. Really I am Team Chance, but there is another love interest involved in Blue Diablo. There is a cop named Jesse Saldana, the main investigator in the disappearance of Chance's mother who has a talent too (he's an empath). Jesse wants to become Corine's mentor, but it's clear he's also interested in more. Whether Corine can trust him is another question.
 
It's not just about the love triangle and the mystery of what happened to Yi-Min Chin. Corine meets some of Chance's contacts in Laredo and makes friends (who I liked), so the secondary characters were strong as well (Eva and Chuch were a really cute couple). And I particularly liked the dog! Ann hints there is a plot twist involving the dog in later books, dying to know what. There is also plenty of action going on – magical and other violence goes on. It's a bit gorey at times, but I didn't find it that dark despite that (not sure what my threshold is though. It may be high).
 
Overall: I liked it – an urban fantasy with an international flare. It's an action packed first book, full of flawed but likeable characters and relationships. Must read for Ann Aguirre fans, and urban fantasy lovers who want to try out a new author who haven't read this one before.
 
Links:
Ann is doing a virtual tour all over the internet (and she's giving away copies of Blue Diablo while she's at it). Check it out!

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Doubleblind cover

Ann Aguirre posted the Doubleblind cover up on her website yesterday. Isn't it PRETTY? I really like it. She also posted a blurb:

"It’s not easy to tread lightly wearing steel-toed boots.

Sirantha Jax isn’t known for diplomatic finesse. As a “Jumper” who navigates ships through grimspace, she’s used to kicking ass first and taking names later—much later. Not exactly the obvious choice to sell the Conglomerate to the Ithtorians, a people whose opinions of humans are as hard as their exoskeletons.

And Ithiss-Tor council meetings aren’t the only place where Ambassador Jax needs to maneuver carefully. Her lover, March, is frozen in permanent “kill” mode, and his hair-trigger threatens to sabotage the talks—not to mention their relationship.

But Jax won’t give up on the man or the mission. With the Outskirts beleaguered by raiders, pirates, and the flesh-eating Morgut, an alliance with Ithiss-Tor may be humanity’s only hope. Which has Jax wondering why a notorious troublemaker like her was given the job…"

This book comes out in October September 29th, 2009. I'm now going to update my wishlist since I somehow missed this one. Ann will also be in the anthology The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2, which I also have to look out for.

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Best of 2008 and New Year’s Resolution for 2009

A lot of people are posting a year end post for 2008. It's nice to see people looking back at the books they read for the year and picking out their favorite reads, and it's interesting to see what they picked. I thought it would be a good thing to try myself because with it recorded, I can look back in later years and see what my tastes were like.

Out of a total of 77 books read this year, very few got into my best list, but book ratings are highly subjective.  I just went with my gut and rated them according to how I felt about the book as soon as I finished reading them. These lists are compiled from ratings I put down in my private notes.

All the links to my reviews here are to my Livejournal.

The Books that Blew Me Away  – These books are those I gave top marks to when I first read them. It's a very hard list to get onto because I have to feel like I'm falling in love and cannot be parted from the book for it to get on this list. Only three got on it this year.

Books that Came Close to Blowing Me Away - These came very close to getting top marks from me. This is a personal thing, but the books above I would put down and then obssessively think about when I could pick them up again. The books below, I didn't feel as consumed by the book, but still felt really impressed by them.

  • Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready (my review)
  • Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (I need to review this when I have the book in my hands)
  • The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald (review coming soon)

Books I Really Liked/ Keepers. These each had several moments where I loved the book and overall I think these are books that deserve to be loved and read by others, but for some reason or other these didn't get into the top 7. I still consider these keepers, and all these authors are pretty much autobuys/ must read backlist authors. There are 19 of these books this year (Linnea Sinclair's name comes up a lot here, I was reading her backlist in 2008):

  • The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Exit Strategy (Nadia Stafford, Bk 1) by Kelley Armstrong (my review)
  • Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas (my review)
  • Grimspace by Ann Aguirre (my review)
  • An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy (my review)
  • Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre (my review)
  • Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Bk 1) by Patricia Briggs (my review)
  • Easy Freedom by Liz Berry (my review)
  • Jinx by Jennifer Estep (my review)
  • Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair (my review)
  • Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair (my review pt 1, pt 2)
  • The Good Neighbors by Holly Black (my review)
  • The Nanny by Melissa Nathan (my review)
  • Grave Sight (Harper Connelly, Bk 1) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (my review)
  • Burndive by Karin Lowachee (my review)
  • An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly, Bk 3) by Charlaine Harris (my review)
  • The Decoy Princess and Princess at Sea by Dawn Cook (my review)

 

And for my New Year's Resolution – it's the same resolution as last year , to read 100 books.

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 - 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – let's get it back up to 100!!

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