[Book Review] Persephone, stuck in boarding school

Book Review: My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling

exfromhellI don’t always read YA books, but when I do, they usually have something to do with Greek mythology. So when I saw this book’s premise, I had to give it a read:

When, in the middle of a revenge prank, Sophie ends up kissing a handsome stranger, sparks fly and she gets flashes of a past life as a Greek goddess. Oh, and the guy she’s kissing may or may not be her ex from her time being a prisoner in Hades, the Greek underworld. Oh, and the Olympus Powers That Be may want her dead.

Just another day in boarding school. Continue reading

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[Book Review] World-ending conspiracies and much romantic subplotting

Unhidden (The Gatekeeper #1) by Dina Given

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Oomph.

Here’s the premise. You’re Emma Hayes, mercenary, ex-soldier, ex-foster kid, loner who lost her family – and memory – in a car crash ten years ago. You’ve made something of yourself, served in the army, built your own business, and life’s pretty good.

And then you learn that everything you thought was a lie. You’re not Emma. You’re probably not even human.

Amnesia? Check. Quippy banter in the face of death? Check. Government conspiracies? Uh-huh. Evil Supernatural Baddies? Yup. Handsome blokes with mysterious agendas? Check. Continue reading

The Cover Made Me Read It: Killing Sarai by J.A. Redmerski

This one is a little different. It’s not fantasy. It’s not Science Fiction. It’s not even speculative or young adult. It’s a suspense/thriller/assassin/romance. But just look at those covers. (You get two, because I couldn’t pick editions.)

The Book I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Killing Sarai Killing Sarai2
Yeah.

The Plot: “Sarai was only fourteen when her mother uprooted her to live in Mexico with a notorious drug lord. Over time she forgot what it was like to live a normal life, but she never let go of her hope to escape the compound where she has been held for the past nine years.

Victor is a cold-blooded assassin who, like Sarai, has known only death and violence since he was a young boy. When Victor arrives at the compound to collect details and payment for a hit, Sarai sees him as her only opportunity for escape. But things don’t go as planned and instead of finding transport back to Tucson, she finds herself free from one dangerous man and caught in the clutches of another.”

Continue reading

[Book Review] In which I fondly remember all those terrible books that made me angry.

Circle of Fire by Keri Arthur

Circle of Fire (Damask Circle, #1)

Here’s the thing, Canaries. I want a book to rile me up. I want to be excited about an unexpected twist, angry about how bad it is,  or gnashing my teeth over some stupid decision a character made. But in between the good, the bad, and the unforgivably bad books, there’s another genus of books – those that are merely pleasantly lukewarm.

That’s kinda this book: a good read, generic backdrop, a plot about Dark Pasts, Evil Sorcery, and Angry Magic Serial Killer, and the usual romantic misunderstandings culminating in a true-love happily ever. I read Circle of Fire over a few enjoyable hours, and I have nothing much to say about the experience. Maybe, “It wasn’t bad”? or “the story was okay”?

The overall set up is intriguing. We get Madeline Smith. Her sister thinks she’s crazy, her brother-in-law thinks she killed her husband, and Madeline is beginning to suspect that she’s finally gone crazy. Maddie’s being haunted by a ghost. Except this ghost claims to be real, and that if Maddie doesn’t help him, he’s going to die and a serial killer is going to go free.  Continue reading

[Book Review] A medical sci-fi space soap opera. Because it can.

Stardoc by S.L. Viehl

Stardoc (Stardoc, #1)This series has been on my radar for years. Old school sci-fi covers, alien doctor, dramatic and slightly mysterious titles? Yes, please. I’m going to review the first three books because that’s a) how far I got in the series, and b) because in those three books, we get to see everything that’s awesome in the series, and everything that isn’t.

This first book starts great. We get surgeon Cherijo Grey Veil who leaves her practice and her human world to work on a frontier free clinic.

Beyond Varallan (Stardoc, #2)

She has no real experience with anything beyond human anatomy, but with hundreds of alien species around the periphery of the human world, she’s pretty much been thrown in the deep end. Oh, and, of course, she didn’t leave her comfy house and job in the Earth suburbs because she felt like doing a couple years abroad volunteering. Dr. Veil is on the run.

It’s a kind of Gray’s Anatomy meets the Wild West meets sci-fi babble. There’s doctor in-fighting and intrigue, alien politics, light romantic subplot, deadly plagues, family secrets, controlling fathers… Medical sci-fi soap opera, BAM. Continue reading

[Book Review] When everyone wants you dead, except maybe the aliens.

I officially (and arbitrarily) dub this month of January Space Opera Month. And by Space Opera, I mean fun-adventures-in-space-with-cool-female-characters-(though-awesome-guy-heroes-are-welcome-too)-and-romance-and-drama-and-witty-conversations. And space.

What that means for you, canaries, is that for the foreseeable future, theCanaryReview will be theSpaceCanaryReview, and all things shall be awesome and scifi.

I launched my holiday break with Peacekeeper by Laura E. Reeves…and came away with mixed feelings. That’s two-canaries mix of feelings.

Peacekeeper by Laura E. Reeves

 

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I’m gonna start with the stuff that I loved (AllCapsLOVE). For one, main character Ariane Kedros has a dark, dark past. None of that nonsense about personal trauma or a bad relationship. During a war fifteen years ago, Ari piloted the ship that fired a superweapon and wiped out an entire solar system. She has a new identity now, but if the truth ever came out, she’d be tried for war crimes – if she survived that long, that is.

When I first read the premise on the back of the novel, I sat back and thought, Oh my. How are you going to pull this off? And I knew then, that this book was going to either really, really, intensely good. Or a complete flop.

Turns out there’s option number 3: Mixed feelings bag.

Reeve handles the story with a deft hand. Ari’s past slowly comes into focus, her relationships, the pseudo-blackmail hold her army ex-commanders still have on her, her alcoholism and fears of discovery…and it all comes to a head when she discovers that other members of the mission are being assassinated, one after another. Oh and there’s this peacekeeping assignment she has to juggle that forces her to rub elbows with the people whose solar system she destroyed once upon a time, except maybe she didn’t.

Ariane is refreshingly human in a genre that often opts for bright flash over grit. I loved it! Oh, and the aliens in the book? They were, well, alien. In that wonderful, not-human way.

But reaching into the mixed feelings bag, past my utter delight over the way Reeve brought the little details of the peace negotiations or those of the crazy future of social media to life, I get to the stuff that made the canaries fly the coup.  I dove into Peacekeeper excepting this to be all Ariane, all the time. Turns out, I get something a lot closer to epic political scifi/murder mystery. Jumping around three different points of view means that for at least a fourth of the book I’m stuck following Tom-or-whatever-his-name-is, not Ariane, and not the intriguing Edones. This means I spent one-third of the book wishing Tom would trip and fall out of an airlock.

It also means the story and character motivations are spotty at best – okay, if you take it all in as you read, but it breaks down once you pause to figure out why certain things happen, how come she gets tortured, and what are the flashbacks for and why flashbacks why?

Great world-building, no romance, shaky plotline and resolution, brilliant political intrigue. Odd ending, gritty themes.

All in all, mixed bag.

UPDATE. It’s about a week later, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I will yes absolutely read the sequel because I have to find out if the solar system Ariane is supposed to have destroyed is actually all kaput dead and gone. It was going to be four months in-book until they find out. That means they have to find out in book 2, right? Right? 

Some more scifi? Yesplease. Check out these plotlines:

Do you have any space sci-fi/space opera recommendations for me? Comment!

[Advance Book Review] Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder

(Healer #3)

Taste of Darkness (Healer, #3)This book starts off right where the last one left off. Which is good news if you remember who was dying on the last couple of pages of Touch of Power. 

We dive straight back into the world of the Fifteen Realms and the whole everyone-wants-to-kill Avry thing. And by “everyone,” I mean “four or so armies.” Avry’s beloved Kerrick is missing (again), Prince Rayne wants to use her as bait (again), she can’t stop dreaming about evil psychopath King Tohon, her sister is still missing, and the deadly plague is back.

Remember how I gave A Touch of Power, the first book in this series, an ecstatic, all-five canary rating? Then do you remember the three, somewhat apologetic canaries on my review for book two, Scent of Magic?

I loved the first book. The second left me lukewarm. And after a couple days sitting on my reader response to Taste of Darkness, I have finally figured out what went wrong with this third and final novel in the Healer trilogy.

Where the first book gave us a single plot and an impossible romantic subplot that somehow worked. Then the second book started splitting up the story into several plots. And here, the subplots have officially taken over, New Feline World Order style, taking Taste of Darkness away from that single-plot paradigm that made us fall in love with Avry to an epic fantasy set-up condensed into one tiny book. It’s a novel full of sidequests. And the characters are rewarded for those sidequests with unexpected video-game-level-convenient bounties that just happen to be what they need to solve their other problems.

But I kinda think that’s something that just happens when you leave six major villains to be taken down over the course of one, short book.  The buildup to each encounter just…isn’t satisfying enough. And then, many side quests later, the story ends with an anticlimactic final battle and final sacrifice. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it.

For those who love the second book in the series for flipping between being in Avry’s head half the time, and then following Kerrick around for the other half, good news! This book does it again. For all of us who thought it was annoying and distracting, bad news! This book does it again.

And this kinda carries over to the rest of the book, too. It’s a book for the fan – if you enjoyed books 1 and 2, you’ll appreciate the merry band getting together, the romance, Avry’s brave (if foolhardy) decisions that keep getting her in trouble, and, well, stuff.

And if you haven’t read any of these books, go back and check out A Touch of Power (Healer 1) by Maria V. Snyder because it is all sorts of fun.

Book for review provided by Harlequin MIRA.
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