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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Red Handed and Blacklisted by Gena Showalter

Gena Showalter












These two books by Gena Showalter are from the young adult half of her Alien Huntress series. In this series the focus is on strong women who live in a futuristic society where aliens live amongst us. To protect themselves from some of the more dangerous aliens, humans have A.I.R – Alien Investigation and Renewal agency, which these books revolve around. The list of books so far:


  • Awaken Me Darkly
  • Enslave Me Sweetly

Young Adult:

  • Red Handed
  • Black Listed

I read Awaken Me Darkly first, early this year. This centered around A.I.R. agent Mia and on Arcadians – aliens tha sound like the twins from The Matrix. I liked the action and the aliens but the story lost steam in the second half and the plot became much less tight. Basically I liked the world but it didn't end up a keeper.

Red Handed and Blacklisted are in the same world except the protagonists are teenagers. The reader also gets to learn about other alien species that weren't discussed in detail in Awaken me Darkly.  Also, these books can be read in any order without missing anything. Characters from past books make appearances but they are not central to the story.

In Red Handed, Phoenix is a recovering drug adult trying to redeem herself in her mother's eyes. She just got back from rehab for an addiction to Onadyn – a drug that some aliens need to survive but deprives humans of oxygen. Phoenix tries to stay away from her friends that still use but misses the companionship, so she ends up at a party in the woods where many kids are high. Aliens attack the party expecting little resistance but Phoenix is sober and fights back with the help of a mysterious boy she meets at the party. Unfortunately for Phoenix, when she gets home her mother only thinks it's more drugs. The people who brought Phoenix home suggest a boot camp to straighten her out, and Phoenix's mom is only too ready to let her go. The twist is that this boot camp isn't a rehabilitation center. It is a training center for A.I.R., the mysterious boy is an A.I.R agent, and Phoenix has just been recruited. The rest of the story deals with Pheonix's training, making friends in A.I.R and overcoming the stigma of being an addict. I enjoyed reading about Phoenix's struggles to prove that she has moved past her addiction and to become more than an ex-junkie. The portrayal of the bitterness from others, especially her mother, for what Phoenix put them through and Phoenix's subsequent shame added depth to the story. This ended up being my favorite book in this series.

Blacklisted centers around an ordinary girl named Camille with a huge crush on Erik, who goes to her high school. She and her best friend sneak into a nightclub that they heard he was going to be. Erik isn't happy to see her because he's involved with drugs, and he needs to lose the tail of A.I.R. agents watching him, so he gives her an empty napkin hoping this would both make her stop following him and distract the A.I.R. agents. Unfortunately Camille proves to be more resourceful than he expected and follows him into a high security area of the club, leading A.I.R. to believe she's involved in his shady dealings. A.I.R. is even more unhappy with Erik than the usual drug-dealer because he used to be an A.I.R. agent himself. Erik has a reason for why he's doing what he does, and he doesn't want to involve an innocent like Camille, but her actions means A.I.R is now looking for both of them. This was an interesting story because it looked at the situation from a different angle – where A.I.R. and laws that condemn the guilty can also condemn the innocent at the same time. In this story the actions of A.I.R. were bullheaded from this point of view. An interesting point and written nicely, but I preferred Red Handed. I think my main issue was that I found Camille to be silly from the beginning for doggedly pursuing Erik, and I just couldn't shake this view of her as foolish and impulsive. Even when she continued to trust and believe Erik, I thought – in real life this would be a parent's nightmare – their daughter romanticizing a drug dealer. In real life he wouldn't really be a good guy. This book also tied up really quickly and easily in the last few pages which I had real trouble with as well. I think I would have felt more satisfied with an ending that was less easy, if that makes sense.

Last point – both of these books had sexual situations which make them geared to a more mature teen. It's interesting how much more of this I see in books now than in my teens (10 years ago). I did notice that both girls were 18, the author is careful about that, and they in what seemed to be serious long term relationships.

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Wired by Liz Maverick

Wired (Shomi)
Liz Maverick

I just finished Wired by Liz Maverick, the first book to come out from the  from the Shomi line. So far I'm liking the futuristic aspect of these books (I reviewed Driven which I liked a lot over here). I guess since paranormal is big now – that's sort of a melding of fantasy + romance, that it makes sense that sci fi and romance is another blend that would work as well. 

This book is told from the first person point of view of L. Roxanne Zaborovsky, a programmer who gets intercepted from going to the 7-11 one night by two men. What follows is a non-linear story where time gets manipulated like a record being scratched by a DJ – forward and backward, reset and spliced, Roxy lives through the same situations a few times but with different variables. The two men interested in Roxy are doing this all in order to ensure the right future outcome occurs, but who is doing it to keep the future as close as it was meant to be as possible, and who is doing it for their own ends? Roxy has to figure out why she's important and who to trust and she flip-flops on that decision.

I read some of Liz Maverick's Crimson City novel, and I prefer her first person voice here to the third person voice in that start of the series. Roxy's story had an urgent pace, and the story flowed well.

The comment I have would be similar to many other reviewers – I think because I expected this to have romance I noticed that the romance was cut short. But I can't imagine how the author could put more romance into this – Roxy is being thrown into a weird reality and doesn't know who to trust, and keeps reliving certain things over and over. Where is the time for some wooing in there? It was a stretch as it was that Roxy trusted people enough for the romance that was in there. So.. maybe if this wasn't expected, this wouldn't even be an issue? I ponder.. Not only that, I think half of the romance happens off screen – around the timeline of the book, not so much during it, and the reader has to just make their own assumptions. I didn't mind this, other people looking for more romance might.

The one thing that confused me in this book was the timeline thing. I felt comfortable with the record player idea of time, it keeps playing forward but it can get pulled back and sped forward and things can be changed in it. On top of this was the idea of time as a wire where you took splices of one piece and put it on another and made up a whole wire, and eventually it all gets used up, there is no more wire left. BUT, I got so confused by one wire bit changing here then being spliced there even though they're two different timelines really parallel to one another – and somehow this works? My head wouldn't quite wrap around it. I was actually thinking of perhaps a diagram of this on the book flap somewhere..

Light, interesting read.

Link to a dear author review. Link to guest review on the good, bad and unread.

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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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Bloodring by Faith Hunter

Faith Hunter

This is a story that centers around Thorn St. Croix, a neomage hidden among humans in a post-apocalyptic world. The book blurb calls it a "ambiguous apocalypse" because while seraphs have descended upon the world and mass genocide occurred, followed by a continuing war against dark beings, life seems to be going on. Now the survivors aren't sure of what the Divine Powers expect or what religion is right; they all live in an uneasy peace, following strict rules against sin (or the seraphs could exact vengeance) and in fear of demons that live underground and DO exist.

Thorn is a mage whose powers are from stone, and she's pretending to be human because for some reason most humans hate and fear mages. Humans will turn into a murderous mob if they found out who Thorn really was. Most mages are protected from humans in enclaves but Thorn cannot do so.

 The story starts when Thorn's ex-husband is kidnapped under mysterious circumstances and Thorn is determined to find him. A cast of interesting friends and acquaintances surrounds her at her store – Thorn's Gems, who form a family that help Thorn even though they are unaware of her powers.

THOUGHTS: Overall the world was fascinating so I enjoyed the book. 7/10

Good things: I found this to be a very well-imagined and detailed world. I could see the scenes very well, especially the cold weather and ice (nice to read about when it's summer). It also felt like Hunter spent a lot of time thinking about the way Thorn's magic worked and how different stones worked differently for a stone-mage: chants to get magic working, shortcuts, and how magic is taught to the mages, and there was a lot of thought about the history of the apocalypse, and about different species in the world – mages, humans, and seraphs. Sometimes the details were hard to keep track of (Thorn's amulets were described particularly often) – I found this page @ the author's website helpful and interesting after I finished the book. Another thing I liked was the side characters were pretty interesting and well-written, especially the interaction between them. There is a sense of history and shared memories between her business partners and I could believe the relationship and reactions of the characters.

Less good things: I had a lot less questions answered at the end of the book than I expected. Really big, obvious questions that I expected to have answered were not. I know one biggie that other readers commented on was.. why do humans hate mages so much? This is the one out of them all I most wish was answered in this book. Another one I had was - why is there this weird "mage-lust" between Seraphs and mages, but they are not allowed to mate? Many times in the book Thorn goes into throes of lust. Amazon reviewers compared it to Laurell K. Hamilton's "ardeur", but this book does not have the sex all over the place that Hamilton does (point to its favor). Still.. what's up with that? Finally (Hunter did this several times in the book) – Thorn notices something and then she'd "forget", or it seemed important for a second but she moves on. What is this stuff she keeps forgetting? It usually does not get referenced later on! So because of all these questions, Bloodring did not feel like a standalone book and even though there is sort of an ending to it, it has a huge "to be continued" feeling and I have to go get the sequel now because I'm still quite confused.

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Working for the Devil and Dead Man Rising by Lilith Saintcrow (mini review)












There's a review of Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow (I love that name), over at Smart Bitches, Trashy books. The books deal with a futuristic world where the protagonist is a necromancer who calls the dead to ask them questions, or brings people back if they aren't over the gate yet. A review I mostly agree with (Dante is angry and explodes over things I don't really think are that big a deal), except I thought that the relationship between Dante and Japhramel was believable (it grew subtley, I noticed it, but I think many people didn't find it obvious enough? I don't like the over-obvious "I LOVE YOUUUU, you are my SOULMATE even though I just met you and know nothing about you" storyline, and didn't think this was that).

The angry Dante thing was better in the second book – Dead Man Rising. There is more backstory of her past which explains some of it she's had a tough life. Actually I was beginning to feel wrung out over reading about her past and how many loved ones she's had die. In Dead Man Rising Danny seems to have grown a little bit, although her very headstrong attitude remains. Anyway, I liked the world quite a bit in these books (necromancers, schools for people with gifts, going over to hell and talking to the devil? how could you not), although there is quite a bit of angst going on. I reviewed them on PBS here (book 1) and here (book 2, don't read if you dont want to be spoiled over the end of book 1)… too lazy to review it again on vox.

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