[Book Review] Girl meets cyborg, starts a war

Book Review: Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson

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A mercenary running from a past she can’t remember, a renegade scientist running from a past he can’t forget. What more can you ask for? Throw in a double-cross, explosions, hacking, cyberpunk shenanigans, plenty of heat, and you got something.

It’s a fun read, light on the plot, good with the pacing, with a kind of space opera romance vibe without the space part (well, mostly). It’s a partners-to-lovers story with sizzling romance that builds on the characters’ long history of working and relying on each other. Continue reading

[Book Review] Assassinations and the second-book syndrome

devils-dueDevil’s Due by Rachel Caine (Red Letter Days #2)

You know those brilliant first books where the mystery is explosive, the danger looming, and the characters thrown in the deep end, barely treading water? That was Devil’s Bargain. A fun, romantic suspense/action thriller that pitted ex-cop Jazz against her mysterious benefactor – a powerful organization with endless oogles of money that mailed her mysterious instructions in red envelopes. She could take the money and be a pawn, or she could throw it all away and be a target.

In book one, Jazz and her partner, Lucia, decided to be pawns. In this second (and, I think, last) installment of the series they chose free will (and the subsequent imminent threat to their lives). Told from Lucia’s perspective, Devil’s Due picks up at the end of Devil’s Bargain. Ben, his name finally cleared, is about to be released from prison, Lucia’s past rears its deadly head, and detective cases (and red letters with morally questionable instructions) keep on coming. And, of course, romance and suspense and action. Continue reading

Writing the impossible: Thoughts on immortal characters in fiction

Deities, vampires, demons, elves, artificial intelligences, cyborgs, genetically enhanced humans, sentient ships, aliens.

I love reading about inhuman aliens, about immortal characters, about the other that is, in some deep way, truly other. And so I am always more than deeply disappointed when the alien is merely a human with purple skin and the 400-year-old vampire prince has all the personality of a petulant teenager with pointy teeth. I am looking at you, urban fantasy. You, space opera. You, paranormal romance.

Immortality, like any story decision, deserves to be more than a cursory afterthought. What happens when immortality is granted to someone who would otherwise be human?

The questions are endless: What is it like to still be healthy and alive after a hundred years? In two hundred, how much has society changed and what is your role in it? In two thousand, how do you see time and the people around you? Does your perception of time continue speeding up, or do the days drag by? How has your religion changed, if it’s even still around? Is the passage of time oppressive or inspiring? Does living forever mean disengagement and bitterness, or compassion and patience? Do people still understand you when you talk? Which languages do you choose to learn and how often? What up with science? Have you upgraded your rotary phone yet?

Ever try talking to an older uncle about things you care about? Image your uncle grew up in ancient Mesopotamia. Or was a nomadic shepherd on the Asian continent. Or a British sailor on a whaling ship. Now he asks you what you’ve been up to. Probably in ancient Chinese.

Damn.

Immortals in romantic subplots

Is that a 475-year age gap I see? Is that a teen dating an octogenarian?

Immortal love interests are ubiquitous in the romance genres. They often come with troubled pasts – history is no cakewalk, after all. They demonstrate the weight of history through outbursts of anger, their iron-clad control, their impassive countenance, their pushy, alpha-male tendencies.

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Where are all the ancient alpha males who grew up in more egalitarian societies or encountered the hard, no-nonsense women running households and businesses?

I always feel vaguely cheated. Is that it? Is that all? You’ve lived for hundreds of years, and all I get is a foot-stamping romance-novel trope, muttering “mine” uneasily under its breath? Or else you are my immortal heroine acting with all the self-possession of a teen high on red bull and sugar. Continue reading

Today’s Book Blurb

It’s the demon in the toilet bowl that always gets you…
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It’s never a good day when an ancient demon shows up on your toilet bowl. For Lizzie Brown, that’s just the beginning. Soon her hyperactive terrier starts talking, and her long-lost biker witch Grandma is hurling Smuckers jars filled with magic. Just when she thinks she’s seen it all, Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer — and all hell is after her.

Of course, that’s not the only thing after her. Dimitri Kallinikos, a devastatingly handsome shape-shifting griffin needs Lizzie to slay a demon of his own. But how do you talk a girl you’ve never met into going straight to the underworld? Lie. And if that doesn’t work, how dangerous could a little seduction be…?

The Accidental Demon Slayer (Demon Slayer #1) by Angie Fox

Today’s Book Blurb: Kinda want to read this

This is one of the those where no book will ever compare to what you make up in your head.
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“In a world nearly identical to ours, the North won the Civil War, Ben Affleck is the sexiest man alive, and Russia never sold Alaska to the U.S. Instead, Alaska is a rough, beautiful country ruled by a famously eccentric royal family, and urgently in need of a bride for the Crown Prince. But they have no idea what they’re in for when they offer the job to a feisty commoner.”

– The Royal Treatment (Alaskan Royal Family #1) by MaryJanice Davidson

[Book Review] Not your grandmother’s San Diego: Dogs, dragons, and shady dealings

Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford

Wowza. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed an urban fantasy novel that packed this kind of punch.

Here’s the setup. Kai is a Stalker, a freelance mercenary who hunts down deadly magical beasties for a bounty, in a California where our world and the fae world merged and magic and technology exists side by side. When a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego to set up his own Court, Kai is strong-armed into doing a job for him. It’s supposed to be a simple escort run up the coast, but becomes something so much more as Kai’s secrets, sidhe politics, and family feuds collide.

Looks like Black Dog Blues was Ford’s first foray into fantasy, and it’s a gorgeous, action-packed piece of work. This book hits all the right notes for me. An alternative modern day world that combines high tech with magic, a main character with terrible secrets and a brutal past he’s trying to escape, fast-paced action, dangerous and deadly monsters, vicious plotting, magic, smart dialogue, clever characters, an array of possible romantic entanglements, and some painful questions of identity, family and humanity. Continue reading

Today’s Book Blurb: Wait, really?

I can’t decide if this is going to be incredibly clever or incredibly campy. Whatever it is, I’m not sure I have the strength to resist.
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With her globetrotting career of protecting the British Prime Minister, Bronwyn isn’t your ordinary witch. But her powers can’t help her decide between a sexy Sheik and the town doctor, who happens to be a warlock – and more than worthy of a liplock.
– Charmed & Dangerous (Bronwyn the Witch #1) by Candace Havens

[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

Today’s Book Blurb: I’m not sure where to start…

Another Friday, another zany blurb from the ethersphere of the book world. Enjoy?

 

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“Squirrel shifter Elly has been captured by Freedom, beaten, and then handed off to be raped. Only her new hotter-than-hell jailor, Deuce Pierce, isn’t keen on forcing her and is all about saving her curvy, furry ass and getting her to safety. After she’s freed, she can’t forget about the lion who saved her life, and she hunts for him, determined to find the man who haunts her.”

– Deuces Wild (Ridgeville #5) by Celia Kyle

[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.