[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

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[Book Review] When the main character moonlights as a story framing device

[Book Review] When the main character moonlights as a story framing device

Devil’s Daughter by Hope Schenk-de Michele, Paul Marquez, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

If there’s one thing you need to know, it’s this: Devil’s Daughter reads closer to Christian fiction than Urban Fantasy. While the story takes some liberties with the religious mythology, it stays true to its themes of redemption and love, what it means to be a good person, the danger of good intentions and shortcuts, the power of choice. You know, the works.

With that out of the way, back to the story:

“Lucinda is as old as humanity itself, yet perpetually young, beautiful, and endowed with supernatural powers. She lives a double life human and immortal.

In her human guise, she manages Lucinda’s Pawnshop & Antiquary, the doors of which can open to any street anywhere in the world at any time. Mortals who have arrived at a moral or spiritual crossroads are drawn into the mysterious shop. If they acquire one of its cursed artifacts, they may find themselves drafted into Lucifer s service.

Born out of a betrayal of trust between the first woman, Eve, and father Lucifer, Lucinda has worked covertly and subtly for millennia to be true to her mother’s love by subverting her father’s schemes.”

After reading that blurb, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this story is all about Lucinda’s struggle against Lucifer and quest to figure out where she stands, all culminating in a grand standoff during which she singlehandedly saves the world.

That’s what I thought too, so let me stop you right there. Continue reading

[Book Review] Space romance, running from aliens, and lots of suspicion

When I first launched theCanaryReview a few years back, I was going to make it a blog dedicated solely to space opera books. Then, I realized I’d never be able to sit still within one subgenre.

But I still love them. And so I bring you a couple more fun reads from this delicious sci-fi romance gene.

Enemy Within by Marcella BurnardEnemy Within (Enemy, #1)

Captain Ari Rose is the only person to survive being a prisoner of war of humanity’s alien enemies. Ever. Stripped of her command and banished to her father’s scientific expedition to finish a Ph.D. she doesn’t want, Ari wonders why she bothered to survive. But when pirates commandeer her father’s ship, Ari once again becomes a prisoner.

As far as pirate leader Cullin is concerned, if Ari hasn’t been brainwashed and returned as a spy, then she must be part of a traitorous alliance endangering billions of lives. Continue reading

The Cover Made Me Read It: Dogwood Sprocket by Bokerah Brumley

It’s been a while since I’ve read steampunk. The historical aspect of the genre usually keeps me away. But when I saw Dogwood Sprocket’s pretty cover, I couldn’t say no.

The Story I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Just look at the shiny silvery stuff. Just look at that top hat.

The Plot:

It’s the year 2287, and Grace York makes a living hand-crafting clever mechanical collectibles in an age of fast flying cars and soaring skyscrapers. Her life is interrupted when she is sucked through a mysterious portal created by Hugh Hawthorne, a clever inventor from a different time and a different, parallel universe. As Grace tries to adjust to the new, mechanical, steam-powered world, she finds herself falling for Hugh, a man who might be lying about whether he can get Grace home again.

Impressions:

Some stories make me angry. Some make me want to call all my friends to rave in delight. And some – the hardest to talk about – land somewhere in the lukewarm middle. This is that kind of story. Dogwood Sprocket is like curling up with a mug of tea on a comfy. It’s pleasant, cozy and sweet. It doesn’t thrill, but neither does it disappoint. It’s nice.

It’s a neat mix of time travel and romance. The first sparkle of romantic connection is instantaneous when the characters meet, but Grace and Hugh slowly and tentatively build their rapport over the full course of the story.

Luckily for Grace, her futurist career as a toy-maker and artisan is probably the only job whose skills transferred perfectly and immediately to a steampunk world. Grace’s independence is a lovely foil for Hugh’s cautious courtship as they navigate tricky issues like Victorian Era dress codes, a formal outing, how to get Grace home again…and what to do once she gets there.

Oh, and there’s a cute cat.

All and all, the short story is a nicely-crafted ode to the steampunk genre.

Canary verdict:

(A pleasant read.)

I received a free copy of the story for review.

More steampunk? Check out the following:

[Book Review] A sleepless night and a clever, clever book

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

28418764“I’m just gonna read 15 pages before bed.”

Famous last words, right? 275 words later, I’d polished off this clever fairy-tale and it was way past my bedtime.

Here’s the setup:  Maire lost her memory four years ago but managed to make a life for herself in a small town. Then she loses her bakery. Then her family. Then her freedom. As a slave to a deranged master, the only thing Maire has left is her mysterious ability to infuse her cooking with her magic. The ante goes way up as her new master forces her to use her magic for evil purposes.

Add in a winged spirit-creature and maybe-lover, lots of gingerbread, vicious marauders, escape attempts and cosmic creation.

With a bakery set-up (and the girly cover), I was expecting chic-flick lite – something whimsical and dramatic and funny. But the story was darker, deeper and more mature than I expected, certainly far from humorous. It moved between themes of compassion and forgiveness to real moments of bleakness despair. Everything that happens in fantasy adventure happened, but with a this is real life, and it’s not always pretty turn to it. It was an odd and clever combo of low fantasy grit and lovely fairy tale.

We follow resilient, strong-hearted Maire through her trials. It’s a spark of Cinderella minus prince, with a dash of amnesia, a sprinkling of abduction and torture, with a side helping of a strong current of importance-of-family. Think: a grittier Robin McKinley.

That said, in an odd way, things came both too hard to Maire, and too easy. What could have had simple answers, took the entirety of the book. When the book decided to be hard on Maire, it didn’t do things halfway.

The mystery kept me reading, but I figured a bunch of things out way ahead of the big reveal, so there wasn’t much to feed the mystery-guesser in me until the very, very end.

Overall, I’m of mixed opinion on the story. It’s a cool story that explores some pretty dark and deep places. But…Take all that together, give it a shake, and you get a canary rating that’s a bit mixed. I’d recommend this to anyone wanting traditional fantasy + romance lite + a smart, mature character with a Jane Eyre level of compassion in the face of suffering.

Canary rating:

(I enjoyed the read, but I probably wouldn’t pick up a sequel…)

Book provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Cover Made Me Read It: Miserere by Teresa Frohock

The Cover Made Me Read It: Miserere by Teresa Frohock

When it comes to gorgeous covers, I am helpless to resist. Here’s a book I picked up based off on cover art alone. Blurb? Story? Psh.

The Book I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Miserere by Teresa FrohockYeah.

The Plot: In a purgatory-style world that exists as a war zone between our world and Hell, demons walk the lands and the prayer has power. When exiled exorcist and ex-holy knight Lucian Negru refuses to help his sister’s takeover plot to release demons upon the lands, she imprisons and cripples him.

Lucian escapes and uses his powers to open a Hell Gate to save the soul of an innocent, breaking the conditions his exile. That sets him on a collision course with Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned to die in Hell years ago and who is tasked on finding Lucian and bringing him to justice. At the same time, his power-hungry sister will stop at nothing to have him broken and back at her side.

Impressions:  Pleasantly surprised! Torment, angst, and redemption? Oh yes. This book hit just the spot. What makes this even better is that though we have uber-tormented and scarred characters, they also come with a healthy dose of matureness, self-aware in a lot of decisions they make. It’s a really nice change of pace. A super sweet story steeped in violence and darkness.

The initial premise reminds me of The Curse of Chalion lite. The minuses? Predictability and a simple plotline that I didn’t really mind. I’ve been starved for an easy fantasy+romance combo read, and this delivered.

The Verdict:  

(If there were a sequel, I’d read it!)

Have you had covers that put books on your read shelf?

[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