My first giveaway!

It's eight days to my wedding – which is on 08/08/08. To make everyone participate in the mix of anticipation and dread (haha), I've decided to have a giveaway. If things go well with this, I'm probably going to continue. I've given books to people before, just not in any kind of contest, but I enjoy entering other people's giveaways, so let's spread the fun.

Prize

1. $20 dollar e-certificate to Barnes and Noble (I figure this makes things a bit easier for non-US participants)

2. Your choice of a paperback book from one of the authors in the list below. It has to be currently in print (you can ask for Wanderlust too, just expect to wait a bit until it comes out in order to get it). 

Some authors in urban fantasy/futuristic/space opera that tickle me

Linnea Sinclair

Wen Spencer

Ann Aguirre

Ilona Andrews

Patricia Briggs

Eve Kenin

Michelle Sagara

Jocelynn Drake

What you have to do

Just comment with your name here on vox or on my LJ (janicu.livejournal.com) by midnight EST on 08/08/08. Anyone on the planet who amazon/bn ships to can enter. If you spread the word and post a link of where you spread the word, you get two entries in this contest (cause – this blog has um… about 5 readers).

I'll probably be recovering from the wedding so likely won't pick winners till 8/11/08. I'll try to be earlier. We'll see how it goes.

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Hidden by Eve Kenin

I'm on the Eve Kenin mailing list after I read Driven last year and I really enjoyed myself.  I think I'm just addicted to high action, high-tech stories that have romance thrown in. When I read Driven, I had a smile on my face because I was just so happy to find something like this. Siberian Ice Truckers!! In the future! Come on now. I reviewed that book over here (Sigh, back in Sept 2007 when my TBR was only 97).

Anyway, I was on the mailing list so when the author of Driven sent out a note about sending ARCs of the second book of that series – Hidden to people willing to review the book, I couldn't reply fast enough. I got the book last week friday, and by sunday- I'd read it all. My fiance got to hear me crow over it too:

Me: *pet pet pets book* "OMG July release date! I got my hands on it in APRIL. That's like 4 months!!!

Him: Yes dear.

OK, so this book continues in the same world as Driven (post apocalyptic, perpetual winter, governed by corrupt people and populated by the dregs of society) but focussing on new characters. You can probably read Hidden without reading Driven, it is pretty easy to grasp what's going on. One of them is Tatiana – sister of Wizard, the hero in Driven (book 1). In Driven Tatiana's whereabouts are unknown, but she is mentioned as someone Raina met, and as Wizard and Yuriko's younger sister. Unlike her older siblings, Tatiana is described as having different powers (empathy seems to be her particular skill). Duncan Bane, the bad guy in book 1 believed she could tell the future, which is something Wizard and Yuriko can't do, but she also was a lot weaker physically and unable to heal as quickly as them.

In Hidden, it is never explained how, but somehow after the events that happened in Driven, Tatiana has escaped her prison and is outside in the frozen Northern Waste. She is a lot stronger than she used to be – apparently she was late to bloom into her powers, but she does have more than before. Her goal is to use them to stop a new bad guy – Dr. Gavin Ward, who for years has been using her as a test subject, and has developed a deadly plague using her genetic material crossed with some nasty diseases. All she knows is that there is a secret underground lab and that someone named Tolliver is in charge. Her plan is to completely destroy this lab, Dr Ward, and Tolliver.

Following a lead Tatiana runs into a mysterious stranger – Tristan, who shows up again later, and after something happens, they both end up trapped underground. Both of them are attracted to the other, but both have their secrets about who they are and what they can do. In terms of plot, there was a part where I thought Tatiana should be figuring out what's going on a wee bit sooner, but I guess this could be a nit. More nits – there were a couple of parts where I thought things felt a little glossed over and unexplained - like contacting Ward, or how Tatiana escaped, or even what happened to certain characters. The best part is probably the action. There were some scenes that had me on the edge of my seat (Residence Evil scenarios and a tense scene with a laser grid). Other action outdoors in the Waste against giant trucker rigs and gunfights - this seemed similar to Driven, so didn't excite me as much.

Because Hidden was set in the same place as Driven, the Northern waste, I was already used to this area and it didn't wow me in the same way the second time around. I still felt that it was well-written and interesting, and I could really see the snow and ice in my mind's eye, but I would love to see other parts of this world other than the Northern Waste. I'm beginning to wonder what the cities and other places mentioned like Neo-Toyko look like. There are hints about acrobats in Neo-Toyko, and at one point Tatiana talks about a conservatory with trees somewhere else and I was really drawn to that, but the plot in this case didn't lend to much travelling out of the Waste.

I also had an interesting time comparing Tatiana with Wizard. In Driven, Wizard is almost robotic in his analytical responses and lack of emotion. Meanwhile, in Hidden, Tatiana often responds to people in a really formal, analytical way like Wizard, but her abilities seem to make her more in tune with her emotions than Wizard was. And because she as had very little social interaction, she doesn't really know how to read people's facial expressions or hide her own feelings under a mask. I like that there was a difference between the siblings as to how their upbringing affected them. I was also interested to see how Tristan has an unusual for the Waste upbringing – often trying to be chivalrous – shielding Tatiana, eating with a napkin on his lap. While Tatiana found this odd and fascinating, she decides not to be insulted by it. Definitely a different interaction between these two from what we saw between Raina and Wizard.

Overall - Addictive writing, full of action and an interesting world, but perhaps one grade below what I felt for Driven. I wasn't as *spellbound* this time around, but it did make for a quick and enjoyable read. That's a positive review, but I think maybe Driven made my expectations very high. Not sure if my judgement is colored by my memory of book 1..? Would I think this if I hadn't read Driven first? Not sure, but it could be that someone reading Hidden without having read Driven would have a higher opinion.

The cover – I think I like the artwork on this cover a smidge more than the first book, probably because the facial features of the two characters are clearer. I'm undecided on the typeface though. I think I like Driven's better.

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Driven by Eve Kenin

Driven (Shomi)
Eve Kenin

So Dorchester publishing has this new line of futuristic romances called Shomi fiction. All the covers of the books so far published are manga inspired, and the stories are a fusion of romance with sci fi, fantasy, thriller, action, and manga type genres. It's very unique sounding and I like cross-genre books so I've been keeping an eye on Shomi. So far Wired by Liz Maverick, Moongazer by Marianne Mancusi, and Driven by Eve Kenin are out. I'm probably going to pick them all up eventually. 

Excerpts for: Wired ,  Moongazer , and Driven

My first buy was Driven because … seriously – it has siberian ice-truckers in it. I was gravitating to it because that sounded really interesting, plus I kept seeing good reviews for it, liked the excerpt, had $5 in Borders bucks burning in my pocket and a hankering for a HEA. Also a disregard for the length of the TBR (97).

The world in Driven is a post nuclear landscape with an extreme climate. Much of it is governed by a corrupt New Government Organization and by big business (headed by bad guy Duncan Bane). The two main characters are a couple of toughies who value supressing emotion and making quick decisions to stay alive in their harsh environment (a sub-zero Northern wasteland). Raina Bowen is in hiding from Duncan Bane, and determined to win the 50 million interdollars awarded in to the first trucker to deliver their cargo to Gladow Station. Wizard is the contact she was supposed to meet at Bob's Truck stop so that she can get a special license to ride the ICW, the Intercontinental Worldwide. Unfortunately, things go wrong at their first meeting, and the two are thrown together for longer than expected. There is a lot of action as they run from and fight the bad guys – who do remind me of the bad guys in the Mad Max movies.

The story is told from a third person POV, and mostly centers on Raina, although a couple of times the focus shifts to Wizard and his take on the situation. I thought the quick shifts to Wizard was a little odd in the story, and it felt very romance-like to get a tell-not-show, short internal monologue but it wasn't done often. Wizard has a robotic personality which I enjoyed. He reminds me of Data on Star Trek; he has a hard time with human interaction, misses subtle humor and sarcasm and confused about sayings because he tries to interprete them literally. Raina is similar in having a tight rein on her emotions, but not such an extreme case as Wizard (she has them) – she keeps people at a distance and has long hardened herself to expect betrayal. I enjoyed how she pointedly shoved Wizard away when he encrouched her space and hid her feelings even when she found herself attracted to him. It was an interesting relationship to see develop between the two loners.

I thought the author did a great job blending both light science fiction and romance. Lovers of only one of those camps may be turned off by the presence of another genre blended in here, or they may enjoy reading something different. I definitely liked the blend. There are sex scenes and while they did go on a little, they didn't feel gratuitious. The world-building was done well – information (on technology, politics, communication, whatever) was given as needed, not as a huge info dump, and the plot was action packed and well paced. Even till the end it kept my interest. There was a good balance between the story and the focus on the relationship. A recommend for those who like romance and who like cross-genre books. Maybe futuristic romance is going to be the next big thing after paranormals in romance? Hmm.

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