[Book Review] A junkyard underdog in my military space opera

Vick’s Vultures by Scott Warren

Another tasty space opera treat from the book universe.

Vick's Vultures.pngVictoria Marin, privateer and captain of the salvage spaceship Condor, is in the red and in danger of losing her ship if she can’t locate fresh salvage and bring home some new xenotech for profit. It seems too good to be true when her crew catch a distress signal in nearby space. What she finds there, though, is a drifting wreck and an inconvenient survivor – First Prince Tavram, heir apparent to one of the largest and most powerful empires in known space. And there’s a deadly, powerful warlord from an opposing empire hot on his trail.

Vick’s Vultures is a space opera in the military spirit of Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series and David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, with the alien species density per planet of the Star Trek universe.  It’s light on description, great with the action, and tight on the military maneuvers. And unlike the genre’s ubiquitous young, untested commander persona who has to figure things out as crisis looms, we get Captain Victoria, a veteran with a loyal, established team, ready to rumble with the universe. Continue reading

The Cover Made Me Read It: Master of Crows by Grace Draven

Here’s another cover that I couldn’t pass by. Crows and flowy hair. What more can you ask for?

What? Plot? Psh. Who needs plot?

The Book I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Yeah.

The Plot:

Welp, on the one hand, you have the renegade sorcerer Silhara, reticent avatar of the evil god, Corruption. On the other, you have Martise a young slavewoman-turned-spy who’s been promised her freedom if she is able to find the proof of Silhara’s crimes that would lead to his execution. She’s set up to be his scribe and apprentice. He is all sorts of suspicious.

Inevitably, romance.

Continue reading

[Indie Book Review] Disappearances, a cute guy, and an impending elf invasion.

Boreal and John Grey by Chrystalla Thoma. Fast, fun, fey and…I just run out of adjectives starting the the letter f. I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would not use the word “feisty” when talking about book characters unless I’m talking about a cute-angry kittens (see right). But it was kinda that too.

Written in five “episodes” of about 50-pages each, this little series (“season”) is fun and fast. Ella works for the Paranormal Bureau taking down evil monsters when they cross into her world through the veil between worlds. But for the first time in centuries, they are coming across in droves, and they’re getting harder and harder to kill. When Ella’s work partner goes missing, she finds that she has to rely on a stranger-without-a-past named Finn to survive.

The Dragon (Boreal and John Grey, #3)

I’m no fan of TV terminology in my reading (Associations: episodes, seasons, why is Grimm so terrible? ZIVA WHY DID YOU LEAVE US), but the elves and the stoic male lead with his tragic past more than makes up for any mental sidetracking into all the shows I am currently watching except I’m not because I don’t have the time, but – Continue reading

[Indie Book Review] Vampires hiding on the high seas

Indie Book Review: City of Promise by Dawn Prough

In the not-so-distant future, Misty works as a maintenance diver at Gideon, a city floating in the middle of the Atlantic, a haven for the undead. She’s good at her job; it helps that she doesn’t need to breathe. But during one night dive, she discovers a dead body, weighted and tangled in the nets. In a world where all vampires are one deportation away from execution, Misty wants nothing to do with corpses and criminal investigations. But then she meets Li, a man with a death wish, a dangerous past, and a connection to the body Misty found.

This book was a welcome addition eBook addition to my vampire-filled shelf. Prough does something different in her novel, City of Promise by moving her story and vampire heroine out of the urban fantasy setting into the 2063. From the delightful gritty details of the world (based on a real-world proposal of a city extension off Boston in the 1970s), to the (sometimes) over-the-top action, to the (scrappy) dialogue, the novel kept me tapping the screen for the next page. Continue reading

Indie Book Review: Sleight of Hand by Mark Henwick

Sleight of Hand by Mark Henwick

An Amber Farrell Novel, Bite Back #1

“For Amber Farrell, post-military life as a PI has its ups and downs: She’s been hit by a truck. She’s being sued by a client. Denver’s newest drug lord just put out a contract on her. The sinister Athanate want her to come in for a friendly chat. And it’s only Tuesday.”

Now we’re talking. Occasionally, we get a pitch in our inbox that we just can’t resist. And Henwick’s urban fantasy novel blurb brought it home. It also left me quaking on my canary perch: Book, please, please, don’t go the vampire-werewolf-cookie-cutter plot route.

Good news! Continue reading

[ Book Review ] No Good Deed–and a few demons

Indie Series:

Book review of No Good Deed by Bill Blais

(a Kelly and Umber novel, book 1)

An urban fantasy with soul.

In a genre dominated by author names like Patricia, Charlaine, Jeanine, and Laurell, and stories following smart-talking mortal (and immortal) demon-fighting twenty-somethings, Bill Blais and his character stand out like a white heron at a black swan convention.

Kelly McGinnis is happily married to a man she adores and a devoted mother of two active eight-year-olds. But her family’s future is uncertain–not only has she just lost her job, but Kelly is also struggling to deal with the reality of her husband’s declining health, and, of course, the inevitable medical bills. Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] Getting Reviews: Go bold, get noticed

We get a lot of review requests. While we read each and every one of them, all of the dystopian YA and vampire paranormal romance stories start to bleed together because the pitches simply are not distinct enough. Most of them get lost in the abyss; very few stand out enough for us to talk amongst ourselves about pursuing the read.

So when I woke up to a request forwarded to my personal email from CanaryTheFirst, I didn’t need her opening line of “laaaawl” to tell me it was going to be something pretty special. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Indie Series: Slippery Souls

Slippery Souls by Rachael H. Dixon

(Sunray Bay, #1)

This book was delightful, in the full, italicized sense of the word. It takes on a vivid, irreverent style (think Terry Pratchett) and melds it with some dark(ish) fantasy.

One moment, Libby is marching out of the grocery store, jug of milk in hand, set on breaking up with her slob of a boyfriend-soon-to-be-ex. The next, she is killed by a hit-and-run. When she wakes up, she’s in a beach house at Sunray Bay, a kind of afterlife, she assumes, since her also-dead-dog Rufus can now talk.

But not all is as it seems at the sunny beach town, and it certainly isn’t Heaven. Within an hour of her arrival, Libby is chased by the head of the local monster slayers, helps a (very hawt and rugged) rogue ex-operative, and finds herself at the top of the Mayor’s Most Wanted list. Continue reading

[ Small Chirp ] An Indie short story worth checking out

As a general rule, we at tCR do not review author requests for short stories. We are wing-deep in novels and rarely have time to spare to read even the shortest of one-shots. So it was pure serendipity that Tracy Marchini’s review request for The Engine Driver came through at the height of my work-place boredom. I clicked on the attached PDF before I’d even read the blurb. And I must say that I’m quite happy I did—partially because the blurb needs a little Pitch Slapped lovin’, but mostly because it was an absolutely delightful story.

The story follows Brig, a depressed teenager in a world where any negative emotions are attenuated by an internal playlist of music meant to adjust mood.  When her best friend is selected to be a Musician, someone who can actually craft music, Brig sees an opportunity to finally hear a song that she wants to listen to—rather than one that has been carefully selected to attenuate her constantly sad existence.

That explanation actually makes the plot sound about 800% more emo than the story actually was. The characters were engaging even while wading through the subplot of wanting to hear a love song played when standing near a boy. The fact that a 6,000 word story has a flipping subplot should be an indication that Marchini has a knack for story-telling. The Engine Driver had nice subtleties to it, enough to gloss over a couple of places where the narrative stumbled.

Since this is just a Small Chirp and not a review, there’s no official Canary rating, but an unofficial rating would put it solidly in a four happy canaries territory. I hope this is the first of many forays that Marchini takes into Brig’s life. I would happily read an entire novel set in the music-controlled world she lives in.

Read More Indie:

[ Best and Worst ] That Book You Love–and Hate

This week on our Best and Worst series, we have Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion, co-authors of a science fiction suspense novel, Fate’s Mirror. But they’re not here to talk about their book, no. Yang and Campion are here to share a couple of the best and worst reading experiences that shaped them as readers and writers.

There’s an eerie similarity between the two books.

See if you can spot it…

Yang’s Best:

Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

In high school, my favorite class was church history, which I took for all of 11th grade at my Catholic high school. The subject was basically European history where it intersected with the Catholic Church, which it did every five minutes or so. I loved that class. The dirty politics! The wacky people! The really weird shit that happened! It was awesome.

I’m telling you this to explain that the history and scholarly theories in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code were not new to me. I’d heard it all before. But that’s okay. For most of the reading public, the stuff in The Da Vinci Code was not only new, it was so new it changed their world view. They thought about church history and even about their religious beliefs in a new way, all because of a work of pure fiction. I think that’s pretty cool.

I loved that Dan Brown crammed so much history and art history into a thriller package. I always thought the “thrill” in thrillers had to be based on spying or politics or war. I never knew that it could be based on history and art and religion. Sure, the entire novel is one big chase scene, but the heroes are racing to solve puzzles, not to shoot things.

I also appreciated that The Da Vinci Code was a fast read. I read the entire book in two or three days. The cliffhangers at the end of every chapter made me want to read just a few more pages (which of course ended in cliffhangers themselves) until I’d raced through the book. I didn’t mind the flat dialog or the shallow characterization or the silly coincidences, because man, that book moved.

The biggest problem most people had with the book was the way that Dan Brown took liberties with the facts, blending them with theory and speculation and stuff that he plain made up. Entire tomes were published soon after The Da Vinci Code trying to rebut it point by point. These people just didn’t get it. Blending fact and fiction is what thrillers are supposed to do. For example, nobody criticizes Tom Clancy’s books for being unrealistic. Readers know that a Russian naval officer can’t steal a nuclear submarine and defect with it. They go along for the ride, knowing it could never happen, but loving how the story made it seem possible. I knew perfectly well that Dan Brown was telling me a story, but every single page perched right on the edge of probable. And isn’t that what we read novels for?

—-Margaret Yang

Campion’s Worst:

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code did not get my back up because it provided glib talking points for pseudo-history buffs who don’t actually read history. It did not rub me the wrong way when it proclaimed in pompous, matter-of-fact tones only the most sensationalized tidbits gleaned from Biblical apocrypha. It did not even grate my ass like a hard cheese when its characters bumbled from one serendipitous focal point to the next with the grace of a child drawing a line from one numbered dot to another using a ruler and an unsharpened crayon.

No, I have to say Dan Brown lost me early on when he decided to manhandle his exposition with a gratuitously-placed flashback. Professor Landon clumsily recollects a few moments spent with one of his Harvard classes. In that scene, the professor engages in witty repartee with his students about the Fibonacci sequence while they gasp and goggle at him with rapt sycophancy. Landon’s efforts (and Brown’s) are rewarded with the info-dump chanted back at him like verses from a well-trained Greek chorus.

Jesus…Brown got paid for that.

It’s probably because I’m a teacher, but the scene bore about as much resemblance to an actual teaching environment as Sookie Stackhouse bears to Mina Harker.

Also, I’m convinced that the commercial success of The Da Vinci Code somehow made National Treasure a marketable franchise—some things I cannot forgive, even of Nicholas Cage.

—-Harry R. Campion

Where do you land, canaries?