Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt

Darkship Thieves
Sarah A. Hoyt

I’ve been lusting after this book for a while, so long in fact, that I forgot exactly where I first learned of it’s existence and my need to own it, but I vaguely remembered it was an author’s blog on my friend’s list. Turns out that was Ilona Andrews, who had a guest post by Sarah A. Hoyt about Darkship Thieves in January last year (now that’s a long time to want a book, but not really my longest stretch – sad isn’t it?) In her post she talked about this space opera where a bad-girl socialite heroine with Daddy issues meets a bio-engineered hero with calico-hair and issues on top of other issues.  Anyway, I not-so-subtly asked for it for Christmas – and lo, it is mine.

The Premise: Athena Hera Sinistra was sleeping in her father’s space cruiser in a return trip to Earth, when she wakes up to find someone in her room. Although Athena is a socialite, she’s also been put in to, and escaped from, several boarding schools and institutions, and she has the ability to sometimes move at speeds that others cannot match. One thing leads to another, and Athena flees in a life pod, her father’s goons in hot pursuit. In desperation, she flies into dangerous territory and stumbles upon Kit Klaavil, a prickly man who surprises her by having even faster reflexes than her own super-speed.

Read a three chapter excerpt of Darkship Thieves here

My Thoughts: I was pretty happy to begin this book and have it match my expectations of page-turning action and space opera goodness.  Racing through the bowels of a space ship and beating up thugs along the way, followed by a pursuit in space, and a surprising rescue — it’s good stuff. The reaction of Kit and Athena to each other was hilarious — even though Athena is over-matched, she uses all the dirty tricks at her disposal, and Kit’s reaction to this is fun to follow. Once the dust settled, I was glued to the pages, wondering where things would go next.

The story doesn’t disappoint in it’s exploration of Kit’s character, and in turn Athena’s when Kit takes Athena back to his home — an asteroid home to people very different from Earth, but whose very existence and beliefs are due to Athena’s home world.  As Athena struggles to figure out Kit’s world and it’s rules, we’re introduced to ideas about the ethics of genetic manipulation, cloning, societal laws, and bureaucracy. These ideas were very provocative, but I was most drawn to the characters in this story, and into the odd courtship that takes place between Kit and Athena. Darkship Thieves isn’t quite a science fiction romance because a lot of the story deals with things like technology and morality, and there isn’t a focus on romance, but there is a quiet progress towards a relationship.  I think that Kit, who lives with the world at arm’s length, is now a favorite hero although I also quite like Athena’s tough, unloved, rich girl voice.

Of course, being a girl who likes the falling-in-love bits, after the relationship hit a particular point and the story gets back to the conspiracy that led to why Athena had to flee her father’s spaceship, I think I lost a little interest. I don’t know if it was the pacing, or my just wanting more of Kit and Athena together, but the last part of the book didn’t have quite the zing I felt in the first. The more I think about it, the more I think it may have been the latter for me, but I think this is the only real problem I had with this book. The other was minor: when I first started reading Darkship Thieves, I thought Athena was in her mid-twenties and Kit was over thirty, when they were supposed to be 19 and 22. There was something in Athena’s been-there-seen-everything tone that made her seem older to me.

A note on the cover: Ug, I know. Half-naked women on covers does not draw in a female audience. All I can say in defense is that this scene does happen early on in the book and it does make sense in context.

Overall: Finding this space opera with a dash of romance has put me in a happy mood. Sarah Hoyt’s space opera has the edginess of Ann Aguirre’s minus (so far) the heartbreak. I’m eager to try other books by this author and I’m looking forward to the second book, Darkship Renegade, out sometime in 2011.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

The Big Idea: Sarah A. Hoyt

Other reviews:
Bookdaze – positive review (“an entertaining adventure-packed romp”)
If I missed your review, let me know and I’ll link to it!

Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard

Enemy Within
Marcella Burnard

This book has been on my radar due to it being Science Fiction Romance from a new to me author. This is a review of an ARC that was passed along by a fellow blogger.

The Premise: Captain Alexandria Rose Idylle (Ari), is working on her PhD thesis on her father’s ship, the Sen Ekir, when it is commandeered by pirates lead by a man who calls himself Cullin Seaghdh. As a recent survivor of months of capture and torture under the Chekydrans, Ari lost her crew and then her command, and her father, friends, and the Tagreth Federated Command are all unsure she came back whole.  But this hijacking by Seaghdh, followed by one surprise after another, suggests that Ari may be right in questioning everything and everyone.

My Thoughts: Ari is a heroine with an interesting background. She’s been captured and released by the Chekydrans, had a distinguished military career, holds a degree in xenonanobiology, and ranks in energy blade competitions. On paper she’s borderline perfect, if not for how broken she is from her captivity. Most of the time, Ari is determined in and strong in adversary, but she also is prone to flashbacks and crippling insecurities.  Cullin Seaghdh’s character on the other hand, is sort of the handsome stranger, full of secrets that he keeps from Ari, but he’s not alone in doing that. I liked the idea of a relationship that develops along with the secrecy, however I have mixed feelings about how the romance was written alongside the space opera elements.

This science fiction romance definitely falls under the “sexy” umbrella. There’s lots of sexual tension between Ari and Seaghdh. For that reason I think that this book would appeal to romance readers who enjoy speculative fiction world building (I would compare the ratio of romance to world building and action to Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changling series). For space opera/science fiction fans unused to romance reading,  your mileage may vary on the lusty parts. Ari and Seaghdh’s attraction is a large part of the story. I personally tend to go for a low level of heat, and although there was not much actual sex in this story, the descriptions the hero and heroine’s physical reactions to each other are numerous. That’s usually OK with me, but I found that some of the situations felt a little forced or repetitive, such as stripping down naked in front of each other for a decontamination shower in the first 20 pages, or Ari’s frequent flip outs about Seaghdh’s true feelings and her the descriptions of Ari’s response to Seaghdh. This feeling that the story is being forced extends also to the space opera parts, and I think the overworked feeling I get from the story, is my biggest problem with this book.

The book is chock full of space opera goodies. Aliens, space fights, hijacking, there’s always some action going on, and plenty of conspiracy to go with it. The way Ari and Seaghdh look at every situation from the angle of people familiar with Military Intelligence can be dizzying to follow. Most of this is good and I would usually eat it up with a smile, but there were some parts where the logic jumped a little fast for me (I think one day I’d like to do a reread to see what I missed the first time), or parts where right after one near missed disaster, another occurs, followed by yet another. If I take each event individually, they are fine, more than fine in fact, but there is just so much going on.  If the book had been fiercely edited to remove the chaff, we’d be left with a book I’d love – with a great mix of romance and action, but as it is, there are actually too many ideas and extra scenes because of it.

Overall: Enemy Within takes science fiction romance and makes it it’s own. It shares tropes I’ve seen before, but the mix of breakneck action, a bit of angst and lots of lusty tension is a combination that feels unique in this genre. There was a lot I liked about this book, but there were also things I found problematic – mostly the parts that felt forced – one twist after another, Ari’s mood swings regarding the relationship, and the general feeling that too much is going on. I have hopes that this will improve, and am game to try the second book in this series, Enemy Games (May 2011), which features a hero and heroine introduced in Enemy Within.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
The Good, The Bad, and the Unread – A
The Book Lush – 4
Babbling about Books, and more – B+

Interview @ Babbling about Books, and more
Guest Post @ Galaxy Express – Parallel Universe: Extraordinary Heroines by Marcella Burnard

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 https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Book 2: Wanderlust https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Book 3: Doubleblind https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/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

Cordelia’s Honor (Part 2: Barrayar) by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is the second half of the omnibus, Cordelia’s Honor. I read the first half, which was Shards of Honor, earlier this year.

That review is here: https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/vox.png

Now it’s taken me a while to read the second half but it is eligible (sort of) for Avid Book Reader’s TBR challenge. This months theme was “Unusual pro­fes­sions or not your usual setting.” Yeah, sure, this counts..

**** There are some SPOILERS for the end of Shards of Honor in describing the premise for Barrayar! If you want to stay completely unspoiled, leave now. Go look at the Shards of Honor review (see links above) *****


Falalala, waiting for people to leave…OK here goes


The Premise: This continues the adventures of Cordelia Naismith after the events of Shards of Honor. After the reception on her home planet Beta Colony and the events in stopping a galactic war, Cordelia has married and settled down with Admiral Aral Vorkosigan in happy retirement on Barrayar. Their retirement is short-lived however when Aral accepts a position as Regent to the infant prince, Gregor Vorbarra, and Cordelia discovers she is pregnant. That’s what happened at the end of Shards of Honor. Now Cordelia learns the true price to her husband’s regency as they become political targets and Aral’s position is threatened by assassination attempts and coups.

My Thoughts: This half of the Cordelia’s Honor omnibus was very hard to get into compared to the first half. After finishing up Shards of Honor (which I loved), I immediately began Barrayar, but the first one hundred pages felt slowly paced. What happens is essentially Cordelia’s acclimation into Barrayaran life and as Regent-Consort. We revisit familiar Barrayarans from the last book – her bodyguard Drou, her husband’s secretary Koudelka, and Sgt. Bothari. A lot of this was just settling in and reminders of what had happened in Shards of Honor as well as introducing the reader to Barrayar. Unfortunately all of this was really dry, and I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to keep reading. Even the threat of looming danger, and the decisions of the new Regent didn’t really keep my interest because after a third of a book is done and hardly anything has actually happened, you begin to suspect nothing ever will. I kept trying but ended up putting the book down for a few months. Finally I picked it up again, and I must have chosen a bad place to stop because only a couple pages later did things start to get interesting.

The big instigator for much of what happens is of course now Regent Vorkosigan’s controversial political assignment. I think this book may be a little darker than Shards of Honor, but maybe it’s a bit of a toss up, depending on what affects you more. Cordelia and Aral become targets of terrorists and so to the people near them. The plots and political as well as military maneuvering and strategy, seen sort of after the fact were rather fascinating. Sometimes they were heartrending too. Cordelia is the anchor who sees what her husband has to go through knowing that his decisions have far reaching consequences.  The most personal of these is the fate that befalls their son, who is still a fetus.

In the tumultuous events that happen, it becomes clear that the strength of mothers is a reoccurring theme, which the author reiterates in the Afterword. There are a few examples in Barrayar, with the obvious case being Cordelia and her protectiveness of her son. I loved how her concerns as a mother butted against Aral’s position as the Regent, and how this problem was solved. I also liked how Aral had to make decisions that Cordelia did not like, but she still understood him and vice versa. They really compliment each other in the best way, and this is a couple that I really liked reading about beyond their initial romance and wedding and into their day-to-day marriage.  Cordelia is the character that the book focuses on and she continues to be a heroine I root for – smart and resourceful, but it’s clear that even in the male dominated Barrayaran society, there are women who are just as strong if not stronger than their male counterparts.

Overall: Barrayar started slow as molasses for me, and I almost gave up on it, I’m sorry to say. Happily, the last two thirds of the book were excellent. That’s when there was plenty of action and the character development I had come to expect. I continue to love Cordelia Naismith (she’s a delightfully strong female character) and look forward to reading the adventures of her son.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
I couldn’t find any, although I did find many posts referencing Barrayar.
Please let me know if you have reviewed this and I’ll link to it.

Rebels and Lovers by Linnea Sinclair

Rebels and Lovers
Linnea Sinclair

Linnea Sinclair was kind enough to send me an eARC of her newest book in the Dock Five Universe, Rebels and Lovers.

The Dock Five Universe series so far:
1. Gabriel’s Ghost (reviewed here: https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gif, with addendum here:https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gif)
2. Shades of Dark (reviewed here:https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gif)
3. Hope’s Folly (reviewed here:https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg)
4. Rebels and Lovers

******* Warning: VERY MILD SPOILER about Philip Guthrie FOR THE FIRST TWO BOOKS (although I think this book can be read without reading them) ******

The Premise: In Hope’s Folly, the focus was on Admiral Philip Guthrie, a commander of rebel forces of the Alliance. Now the focus on one of his brothers: Devin. Devin Guthrie is the youngest Guthrie brother, and the quiet, numbers crunching, computer guru. He’s had a crush on Makaiden Griggs for years, but she was married and in his family’s employ as a captain of one of their many private ships. And in the aftermath of his brother’s defection from the Empire, Devin is being pushed to marry someone the family approves of. When Devin’s nephew Trip, heir to the Guthrie empire goes missing, Devin takes action to find him and in the process Devin and Makaiden cross paths once more.

My Thoughts: This is a book that stands enough on it’s own that I think you will be OK reading it without reading the first three books. Past characters make very small cameos or are talked about while they are off-screen, but aren’t the vital to the story. I think that Sinclair does enough explaining in the first few chapters that a reader will have the basics – that the Guthries are a wealthy family with lots of holdings and with a second son who has rebelled against the current regime. Although that does color Devin’s current situation, the focus is squarely on Devin and his problems, and since he’s a character who hasn’t really shown up till now, you don’t need to have read past books.

The book is action packed as Makaiden, Devin, and Barthol, a long time Guthrie employee with an Imp-Sec background protect Trip and try to discover who is behind the security breaches on the Guthrie properties and the murder of Trip’s bodyguard. The world building in this book is what I expect from Sinclair now – it’s seamless. She makes it look easy and believable. The action too is well paced.  It’s a game of chase as Devin and friends stay ahead of whoever is following them, while trying to learn as much as possible why the bad guys are so interested in Trip. I had my guess who was behind their problems but I was perplexed as to why until the end. The surprising accomplice was also something I suspected but I saw in the review I’m linking below that it was unexpected to others.

In Rebels and Lovers we get a closer view of the Guthrie family than we ever had before. Details about the family dynamics and holdings come to light. I didn’t know that the patriarch, J.M. had such power over his children, or what roles each of his sons had in the family company. It was interesting to find out what Guthries had similar traits and how they got along with each other.

Since I have a soft spot for geeks, I liked Devin’s character. He’s not comfortable in social situations, but he’s good at his job as a senior analyst at his firm. His geekiness does not mean he’s weak or incapable. The only big problem he has is knowing how to tell Makaiden that she means something to him.

Devin thinks that Makaiden is married and in love with her husband Kiler. When Kiler was fired from the Guthrie employ, she left with him.  Meanwhile Makaiden believes that her low beginnings would repel Devin an the rest of his family. This is where all the romantic conflict stems. I understood Devin’s point of view, but I got a little tired of Makaiden being so easy to jump to conclusions before talking to Devin about her fears. I’m not sure if this is very healthy. She often spends time assuming how Devin will feel and acts based on these assumptions. I was expecting the two of them to resolve this issue by the time the book ended so I was surprised they never really do. Maybe their talk happened off the page, or suddenly became a non issue after they survive near death in the climax. The ending threw me a little because it felt rushed after the rest of the book. It was a summarized version of things tidily and quickly wrapped up and I wanted more than what I got.

This book comes out March 23

Overall: It felt like classic Linnea Sinclair so it was what I expected and wanted to read. A straightforward science fiction romance, with the emphasis on a relationship amid action packed space opera. No frills added. Despite wishing the ending wasn’t so abrupt, I enjoyed this one.

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Cover comment: Whoever did the cover for this book did try to get models that looked like the characters. Devin has glasses and Makaiden has short blond hair. Not too bad..

Other reviews:
Jace Scribbles (conversational review) – 4 to 4.5 out of 5 (I found myself agreeing more than disagreeing with this review)

Book trailer:

Dark Nest by Leanna Renee Hieber

I liked The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Persephone Parker – it was very Gothic and different.  So when I found out on The Galaxy Express that Leanna Renee Hieber had also written a futuristic fantasy novella, and it won the 2009 Prism award, I said – “holy crap, I want to read that”. Earlier this year the author contacted me and offered me a copy to review so I jumped on the chance.

The Premise: This is the blurb: “Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth has just found out her long-time lover, the powerfully gifted Chief Counsel Kristov Haydn, has died. Newly evolved psychically gifted humans have been sent by the Homeworld on a space mission aboard two distinct “Nests”. Relationships between the Light Nest and the Dark Nest have faltered and Ariadne is sure there’s something insidious behind it. In a matter of hours, Ariadne must find out what really happened to Kristov, unite her people to discover vast new powers the Homeworld denied them, or else submit to genocide.”

Read an excerpt of Dark Nest

My Thoughts: The setting with two ‘nests’ in space, both full of people who are Psychically Augmented, one light – who believe in order and suppression of emotion, one dark and more dramatic, intrigued me.
In terms of setting, there were several details about the ships I enjoyed. I think the Light Nest made me think of the Enterprise with it’s clean lines and bright spaces, but I loved the first introduction to the Dark Nest: “A vast, stylized, silver-blue steel Notre Dame now floated through space, giving a new and literal meaning to “flying” buttresses.” I’m not sure why they looked like this, but it ‘s lovely to imagine.

The story hints that the nests were not so divided as they are now, that outside forces deliberately put a wedge between the sister spaceships.  When the story begins, the difference in the nests have become so pronounced that there is hardly any interaction between the two at all. All the Nesters went to the same school and have past history, but the visits that used to happen between the two ships, have ceased except for Couriers who send messages back and forth for business purposes.  There are low rumblings about the slow separation between ships that have been working together (searching for worlds that can support human life), but few question it. Nor do many question the intrusive watches on everyone -the monitoring of emotions and the information sent back to Earth.

Dark Nest won the Prism award, and I can’t find anything but glowing reviews of it online, but I had one problem with the story, and that was that by the time this story is told, I feel like I have to catch up to where the characters already are, and so things seem to happen too quickly and the ending came too soon. When Ariadne’s ex, Kristov, dies, at the beginning of the book, Ariadne is surprised to hear he was murdered, possibly through the order of the Homeworld because of his rebellious views. Much has already happened by the time that Kristov Hadyn dies, and the reader learns through Ariadne how far things have gone.  The romance mostly happens off the page as well. Ariadne has a back story with the person she ends up with, and a flashback to their past is what we get in terms of romance. When they meet again, there is low conflict between them. I think Ariadne feels more stress in thinking of seeing him again than with actually seeing him. His personality is such a draw to her that all he does is give her his special look and they’re together again.. The conflict in this story instead lies with the two types of Nesters and their Homeworld (What exactly is the Homeworld’s plan for the Nesters? Is it true that they used brainwashing and lies to divide the two ships?) but that too seemed quickly resolved: the rebels have a plan. I  thought the writing and the setting were well done, but if I could wish for something, it would be more in terms of not learning things after they were already established like the romance, the plans for the rebellion, and the insidious workings of the Homeworld; I’d rather read about them as they happened.

Overall: I liked the writing and I liked the setting, but I wish there was more.  This is a novella so by it’s very definition it’s short, but I think I still wanted to experience events as they unfolded, rather than feeling like I was getting the wrap up of a longer and meatier story.

Buy: Amazon (paperback) | Powells (paperback) | B&N (ebook)

Links:
Interview at Kwana Writes
Interview at Gossamer Obsessions
Interview at the Book Butterfly
Interview at Galaxy Express

The Hidden Worlds by Kristin Landon

The Hidden Worlds
Kristin Landon

This is a book that keeps popping up as a recommendation on Amazon, based on what I seem to search for there. I finally bought it after a long time with it languishing in my wishlist.

The Premise: Linnea Kiaho is a young woman who lives in a fishing village in the world of Santandru, where people are rough and poor, believe deeply in their religion, and elk out livings in a hostile environment. When the village’s fishing boat is destroyed Linnea is an unmarried woman trying to keep her sister and her sister’s kids together.  No one is hiring in the nearby town and in desperation for money, Linnea uses a family secret passed down from her mother to try to get money from the Pilot Masters. The Pilot Masters are the leaders of the system of planets – the only people with the genetic ability to pilot ships between worlds. Their offer is that of work for Linnea as a servant on Nexus, which Linnea accepts despite the shunning she receives from everyone (Nexus is considered decadent and sinful). Linnea hopes that she can convince the Pilot Masters to renew their trade contract with Santandru, which is the only means that her people can continue to survive. There Linnea is indentured under the Pilot Iain sen Paolo, who is embroiled in his own troubles and doesn’t want her. Unfortunately, the secret Linnea holds entangles their lives and puts targets on them both. This is the first book in a completed trilogy.

Excerpt of Chapter 1

My Thoughts: I loved how this book started. The contrast between technology and the lives of the poor fishing village was striking. I was sucked into the setting of a poor planet that depends on trade with other worlds so that they can get parts for their fishing ships, and the problems when “the brain” of the ship stops functioning.  Despite the presence of high technology, these people are too poor to really afford it. Not everyone knows how to read, women are expected to marry young, and Linnea is considered strange for not being unmarried (she’s nineteen).  I also liked the idea of Nexus, the home world of the Pilot Masters as seen through the eyes of this backwater planet.  It’s rich and decadent, but Nexus doesn’t have the same beliefs or culture that they do, so it is Evil, even though no one that Linnea knows on Santandru has ever been there.

When Linnea finally gets to Nexus, it is a huge change. The people are mostly men, because only men can be pilots, and they only want boy babies. Woman are only allowed there when they have a contract, and births are very strictly regulated. Only people of the Line, who have been vetted by the Council, are allowed to have children. In the meantime, the men are very open about relationships with other men, and casual sex is the norm.  In their eyes, Linnea is an ignorant country girl. It was interesting to see the culture clash.

I really enjoyed the book up to when Linnea meets Iain and gets adjusted to his home. Until that point I was reading this book non-stop, and then I had to put it down to go to sleep for work the next day. The next time I picked up the book, the focus had changed and I found myself less engrossed. Rather than centering on Linnea and Iain and they’re getting to know each other, the book begins to focus on other problems – Iain’s political rivals, his uncle and his cousin, and on Iain’s father. Linnea suddenly becomes a tool in their power struggle and Iain’s relationships with the other men becomes more important in the story, and the stubborn woman becomes a submissive servant. By the time we get back to focusing on Linnea, it is further along in the story. Despite the danger for Iain and Linnea, the things Iain’s father refuses to hide from him, and the sadistic manipulations of Iain’s cousin,  I was disconnected from the story on Nexus.

The romance in this book was understated. The relationship grows because they only have each other to turn to, and it’s not an easy path for either of them. There are a few things for them to overcome, like abuse and their different backgrounds, but the basis for the relationship is put down in this book. I think it will be interesting to see where it goes in the rest of the trilogy.

A note on the cover: I like the cover – the colors and the couple suggest that it’s a science fiction romance, but the guns are misleading and my idea of Linnea and Iain from reading the book is really different from the cover models.

Overall: A promising new science fiction romance series. Very good world building and writing. I liked this book, but found the second half less strong than the first.  It sets things up for an interesting series which I plan to continue reading.

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Reviews and links:
Patricia’s Vampire Notes
Calico_reaction’s review – she liked this one

Kristin Landon Interview at Galaxy Express
Heather Massey guest blogs at SF Signal
Catch a Rising Star: Kristin Landon (at Galaxy Express)

Cordelia’s Honor (Part 1: Shards of Honor) by Lois McMaster Bujold

I’d never read any of Lois McMaster Bujold’s work before but was told that this is a science fiction author I’d probably like. Cordelia’s Honor is an omnibus with Shards of Honor and Barrayar in it. They were published in the late 80’s and are the prequels to Bujold’s longer Miles Vorkosigan series.

The Premise: Cordelia Naismith is on a survey mission on a previously unexplored planet when suddenly she and her companion realize that their base camp is on fire. They rush back to see their survey ship flying off without them and one of the other members of their team dead. Cordelia realizes they’ve been ambushed by the Barrayarans, but not all of the enemy race is in accordance. She’s stumbled into a mutiny in the ranks and soon is a well-treated hostage in the hands of Captain Aral Vorkosigan who has a stash of supplies hidden some distance away.

My Thoughts: I hadn’t realized that Bujold’s work had romantic elements although I was familiar with her name. This book reminded me a little of Linnea Sinclair’s Finder’s Keepers, because the two books feature a hero and heroine meet while stranded on a planet together and work as a team to survive. I like that situation — throwing two different people together and seeing what happens 🙂 . In this book, Naismith quickly realizes who Vorkosigan is — also known as The Butcher of Komarr, who is reviled amongst the galaxy, and her academically-inclined world of Beta Colony, so of course, her initial reaction is not favorable, but as they warm to each other she finds out the real story behind his name and a romance soon blossoms. But their time alone together is interrupted by military skirmishes between their two planets as the Barrayarans make a bid for another planet’s resources.

What I liked about this book was that the couple was a little bit older and neither Cordelia or Vorkosigan expected to find someone at that point in their lives. They had both been burned in some way by past relationships and had become accustomed to the idea of being alone for the rest of their lives when they happened to stumble on each other. I thought that their experiences and age meant the protagonists had a dignified air in their declarations and they were both aware of who they were and what others would think of their union. Cordelia is particularly practical about it, but at the same time, the depth of their feelings is not small and I really wanted them to have a happy ending.

I liked Cordelia’s character. She has a calmness in the face of calamity that I enjoyed reading. It’s Vorkosigan who first points it in the book, and afterwards I had to agree. Sometimes she surprised me with her quick thinking, and there is plenty of action going on in this book where she has to use it. Vorkosigan is likeable too but is less a focus. My impression is of an honorable military leader and member of the ruling class who is good at what he does and isn’t always popular with the politicians in his homeland.

There was plenty of quiet moments between the hero and heroine, but then there are also military skirmishes, space flights, chases and escapes. It is full of action and moves forward without me feeling either bored or too flooded by action; there was an excellent balance which made the plot engrossing.  There is also some interesting ideas about politics and war and some grey areas like how perception may be skewed by expectations and prior beliefs, then compounded by limited knowledge of the truth. The science fiction aspects are also there in terms of medical advances, transportation, weapons and transportation, but it doesn’t either overwhelm the reader. It’s part of the setting and used in daily life, and as in our lives, some places are more technologically advanced than others.

Overall: Recommended for SFR fans. If all Bujold’s books are like this, I think I’ve found another SFR author to glom onto. There’s a perfect balance between action and character development that I like, and I plan to make my way through the rest of this omnibus and then onto the Miles Vorkosigan saga.

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Other reviews:
Jo Walton @ Tor.com (positive. She has a series of posts on this saga)
Guest review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (B)
Guest review at Dear Author (A)

Links:
Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold about writing the Vorkosigan Saga @ Tor.com
Danger Gal Friday: Captain Cordelia Naismith @ Lisa Paitz Spindler’s blog
First sale story at Dear Author

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

The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald

This is the second book in the trilogy (I think it’s a trilogy) by Sandra McDonald. Book 1, The Outback Stars I reviewed over here: LJ | wordpress . It’s got multicultural characters, military fiction, and indigenous Australian mythology all mixed up with space opera. I was pretty blown away by the first book – a lovely science fiction romance where the romance was slow moving, which is my type of thing. As soon as I saw that book 2 was in paperback in the store I bought it.

Also: I LOVE LOVE LOVE these covers. So pretty and convey that it is science fiction, and the portal in the pictures must represent an ouroboros. The artwork is by Donato Giancola.

*** There may be mild spoilers for book 1 from this point ***

The Premise: It’s soon after the events of The Outback Stars and our hero and heroine Jodenny Scott and Terry Myell are settling into their new jobs. Terry had decided to not volunteer for chef’s initiation, which means he’s getting flack for that at work. The both of them decided not to get involved with the Wondjina Transport System, but they’ve recently been approached by people asking for their help – the system stopped working and a team of six who were using it are now missing.

My Thoughts: The writing is much the same as the last book, which means I had no problems with the pacing and could read quickly for stretches of 100 pages at a time without feeling like it was a chore. What is different though is that Terry and Jodenny are apart for a lot of this book. They each have their own separate story arcs, which I didn’t really like because I love them together, but it did keep me reading, wanting their stories to intersect again. Unfortunately we don’t get to see them very happy because of forces beyond their control.

There’s also more focus on the Wondjina Transport System and Terry’s strange mystic connection with it. This was there in the first book as well, but this time the theme is expanded. At times the book got really out there, especially in the second half of the book.  I couldn’t tell if I was reading some out of body experience or something that was really happening.

There’s hints about the ending of this book right in the prologue. It made my heart drop and so the closer to the end of the book I got, the slower I read. I was just afraid to get there. In my mind what we have is a cliffhanger. I’m hoping things turn out okay for Jodenny and Terry in the conclusion of this series, and I kind of think they will, but in the meantime I’m thankful I read this book when book three is also out. I also have a warning: DO NOT read the blurb for book three because it pretty much spoils this book!!! You can read it AFTER reading this book, but don’t do it before.

Overall: Still loving this series, but this one goes some places I didn’t really like, so I really have to read book three, The Stars Blue Yonder now.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

Links: