Tag Archives: science fiction romance

Vacation Reads

7 Jul

After sorting out some internet connection trouble over the weekend – what fun after coming back from a vacation – I’ve finally time for posting some short comments about my vacation reads. Although I have to say, the books were truly vacation reads: my memories are hazy and the comments are rudimentary.

Kelley Armstrong – Stolen

Armstrong, Kelley - Stolen

urban fantasy; “Women of the Otherworld” series, #2

“In Bitten, thirty-year-old Elena Michaels came to terms with her feral appetites and claimed the proud identity of a beautiful, successful woman–and the only living female werewolf.

In Stolen, on a mission for her own elite pack, she is lured into the net of ruthless Internet billionaire Tyrone Winsloe, who has funded a bogus scientific investigation of the “other races” and their supernatural powers. Kidnapped and studied in his underground lab deep in the Maine woods, these paranormals–witches, vampires, shamans, werewolves–are then released and hunted to the death in a real-world video game. But when Winsloe captures Elena, he finally meets his match.”

I had my problems with Elena for much of the first novel in this series, Bitten, though I appreciated Elena as a different heroine. I’m glad to say that my problems were much reduced in this novel. I enjoyed Stolen and I like Armstrong’s way to write. Stolen is a very straightforward story – Elena is captured, has to figure out how to escape and then comes back. Because I never doubted that she would escape, I didn’t find the story all that interesting. Still, Stolen gives a great introduction to all the other supernatural beings in this world. I think I’m going to continue with this series.

Verdict: 4/5

Madeline Hunter – The Rules of Seduction

Hunter, Madeline - Rules of Seduction

historical romance; “Rothwell Brothers” series, #1

“Dangerous. Sensual. Handsome as sin. Meet Hayden Rothwell, the shamelessly erotic hero of The Rules of Seduction and author Madeline Hunter’s most irresistible alpha male yet: a man of extraordinary passion and power, a man who can bring out the seductress in any woman….

He enters her home without warning or invitation–a stranger of shadowy motives and commanding sensuality. Within hours, Alexia Welbourne is penniless, without any hope of marriage. Until Hayden Rothwell takes her to bed. When one impulsive act of passion forces Alexia to marry the very man who has ruined her, Hayden’s seduction of Alexia is nearly complete. What Alexia doesn’t know is that her irresistible new husband is driven by a secret purpose–and a debt of honor he will risk everything to repay. Alexia is the wild card. Reluctant to give up their nightly pleasures, Hayden must find a way to keep Alexia by his side…only to be utterly, thoroughly seduced by a woman who is now playing by her own rules.”

I really liked The Rules of Seduction. It’s a character-driven story and I especially enjoyed that Alexia and Hayden seemed to be mature characters. Alexia knows she has to be practical but nevertheless, she also resents giving up some of her romantic dreams. And Hayden, the way love creeps up on his analytical and logical self…

Verdict: 4,5/5

Dorothy Koomson – My Best Friend’s Girl

Koomson, Dorothy - My Best Friend's Girl

fiction (chick-lit)

“How far would you go for the best friend who broke your heart?

From the moment they met in college, best friends Adele and Kamryn thought nothing could come between them–until Adele did the unthinkable and slept with Kamryn’s fiance, Nate. Now, after years of silence, the two women are reuniting, and Adele has a stunning request for her old friend: she wants Kamryn to adopt her five-year-old daughter, Tegan.

But Kamryn is wholly unprepared to take care of anyone–especially someone who reminds her so much of Nate. With crises brewing at work and her love life in shambles, can Kamryn somehow become the mother a little girl needs her to be?

It wasn’t a good decision to read this on my vacation. Reading at the pool and wanting to have a good cry? Not ideal, let me tell you. Especially the beginning had me teary-eyed quite a bit. Bonus: I didn’t know with whom Kamryn would end up with right up to the end although that question is not what this novel is about. Finished in one day.

Verdict: 4/5

Karen Marie Moning – Darkfever (audio book)

Moning, Karen Marie - Darkfever (audio book)

urban fantasy; “Fever” series, #1

from the author’s website:

“MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks…until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands. . . .”

Darkfever is the first audio book I’ve listened to. I really liked the experience and I think it changes the impression of a novel somewhat. I didn’t like the voice the narrator used for Jericho at all. I had images of reptiles dancing before my eyes whenever he talked. Not good.

LOL: I thought Mac’s name was Michaela! Good thing I didn’t see the way it is written before. I would have thought it too cutesy, enforcing my impression that Mac is an incarnation of Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Woods in Legally Blond.

link to podcast of Darkfever

Susan Squires – Body Electric

squires-susan-body-electric

science fiction romance

(It says paranormal romance on the book spine, I use SF romance because it's set in the (near) future and technology is involved, nothing supernatural)

“Victoria Barnhardt set out to create something brilliant; she succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. With one keystroke her program spiraled out of control…and something was born that defied possibility: a being who called to her.

He spoke from within a prison, seeking escape, seeking her. He was a miracle that Vic had never intended. More than a scientific discovery, or a brilliant coup by an infamous hacker, he was life. He was beauty. And he needed to be released, just as Victoria did. Though the shadows of the past might rise against them, on one starry Los Angeles night, in each other’s arms, the pair would find a way to have each other and freedom both.”

This is the most interesting novel I read in terms of story. I thought it rather original. Sure, you have to believe and there were parts that I didn’t like all that much – the way Victoria’s creation got a body, for example – but overall, I enjoyed reading it. Also, Body Electric has a virgin hero. But with that kind of story it couldn’t be any other way.

Verdict:4/5


not finished:

Brandon Sanderson – The Hero of Ages

sanderson-brandon-the-hero-of-ages

fantasy; “Mistborn” trilogy, #3

half of the blurb (to avoid spoilers of the first two books in this trilogy):

“The conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy fulfills all the promise of the first two books. Revelations abound, connections rooted in early chapters of the series click into place, and surprises, as satisfying as they are stunning, blossom like fireworks to dazzle and delight. It all leads up to a finale unmatched for originality and audacity that will leave you rubbing your eyes in wonder, as if awaking from an amazing dream.

I only got halfway through this book on my vacation (I read ~ 400 pages) so no grade. But based on my experience with the first two books in this trilogy (really liked the first, thought the second one good), I fully expect some more story surprises on the way to the ending. So far, I enjoyed reading it.

Problems: It’s more than six months since I’ve finished the second book in this trilogy and that might be a bit too long to remember all revelations and how they fit in with what is happening now.

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Susan Grant – “The Warlord’s Daughter”

11 Jun

Grant, Susan - The Warlord's Daughter
GENRE: Romance / Science fiction
PUBLISHED: HQN Books, 2009

SERIES: “Borderlands” series, #2

WHY THIS NOVEL: I like SFR and I really liked Moonstruck, the first novel in this series.


The back blurb:
“She’s the most wanted woman in the galaxy

The war is finally over. But Wren’s life is in tatters. The only living offspring of the notorious Drakken Warlord, her genes could very well start a new dynasty of terror. And the Coalition can’t have that.

She alone holds the key to finding a legendary treasure. Having seen enough bloodshed, she, petite Wren vows to destroy it before anyone, Drakken, Coalition, or Earth, can get their hands of it–but she’ll need help.

The Drakken’s ruthless evil turned Aral toward the Coalition years ago. War is all he knows, until he finds passion and love in the most unlikely of women–the Warlord’s daughter. But will trusting each other with their secrets risk not only their hearts, but their lives?”


The Warlord’s Daughter is a cleverly set up, action-driven novel.

Trying to shape your fate

On the one side, there is Wren. As the “only living offspring” of the now dead Drakken Warlord, she is sought throughout the galaxy by various parties for various reasons. Before, when her father still lived and with the war going on, she was resigned to her fate of becoming the wife to one of her father’s battlelords. Now, with her father’s death and peace between Drakken and Coalition, her once clear fate becomes murky, offering several options for her future. The one thing that didn’t change is: it doesn’t look as if she has any say in what option it will be. That is, if she doesn’t act fast.

But that’s easier said than done. Wren lived a very secluded life. She was kept in ignorance by her father whom she worshiped. She didn’t know what cruelties he inflicted on others, instead she despaired over not living up to his expectations. She was also kept in ignorance by her guardian. Only when she and her guardian have to flee to evade Wren’s execution does Wren learn that she not only is the Warlord’s only living offspring, carrying his cruelty in her blood, but that she also carries another legacy as well. A legacy that has something to do with a key, a treasure, Ara Ana and the saving of the whole galaxy.

Between these two legacies and the whole galaxy wanting her either dead or for breeding reasons to overthrow peace and resurrect the old reign, Wren clearly doesn’t have a whole lot to decide. Throw in Aral Mawndarr who claims to be her husband and oldest son of one of the most vicious battlelords, and her freedom seems to be even more diminished. She has to grow up fast and see for herself.

And what she choses to do is to honor her promise to her dying guardian: to find Ara Ana.

Trying to find your identity

On the other side, there is Hadley, newly made captain of a Triad ship, and Bolivarr, an Drakken assassin who lost his memory. They were introduced in Moonstruck, but it’s not essential to have read that novel to understand Hadley and Bolivarr’s story.

Hadley’s first mission as a captain is an expedition. There isn’t much trouble expected, in fact, no action whatsoever is in the plans. Hadley is not happy about that. She feels she got this mission because she isn’t trusted with “grown-up” stuff. Never mind that she feels pretty unsure about her role as captain and still has to settle into that role. Bolivarr’s treatments because of his memory loss aren’t all that successful but he has started to draw symbols. Symbols he thinks are important, maybe be even a clue to his identity, but frustratingly, he can’t make anything out of them except having the feeling that they are important.

Then it turns out that his drawings look like they could have something to do with Hadley’s mission: find Ara Ana.

Both parties draw closer and closer to Ara Ana and you just know that both parties will meet. Only, there are a few surprises on the way, and what shaped up to be a big confrontations turns rather into a big revelation. In addition, and more important, there’s still the secret of the key and the whole save-the-galaxy thing.

Two romances

The main romance is the one between Wren and Aral. It began when they were teenagers – a look that lasted for a few seconds. In that moment, Wren and Aral recognized each other as kindred souls. For Aral, this moment was what defined his life and his actions from then on. In some way, you could say he overthrew the reign of Wren’s father, the Warlord, to spare Wren her fate of becoming a battlelord’s wife. He wanted her for himself.

Despite that Wren and Aral only shared a look, I was willing to believe that for both, this look was an important moment in their life. They lived in a cruel and vicious society. To suddenly have the impression that someone also seemed to abhor all that – very important.

Aral held his tall frame slightly hunched over as if injured. There wasn’t a mark on his perfect skin, but his eyes were full of pain as they found hers. A searching look washed over his face and his cheeks turned pink, revealing a tender heart. A kindred spirit.
She gasped. In his face was everything she felt. She was just as vulnerable, just as out of place. Just as trapped.
We’ll find a way out,* he seemed to say. (16)

* words in bold are in italic in the book

So I didn’t have a problem that the whole romance depended upon this one moment.

Later, when Aral “has” Wren, 1) he realizes he never thought beyond his need to protect her and is cute in his uncertainness, and 2) despite protecting her is his defining motivation, he let’s Wren do what she wants and must.

Hadley and Bolivarr fell in love in Moonstruck, and their story continues in The Warlord’s Daughter. Because of Bolivarr’s memory loss, their HEA is fragile and temporary which is at times is heart wrenching to read. They are so clearly happy and so in love with each other but they suffer from the uncertainty about what happened in Bolivarr’s past. He could be married. And as the reader learns in one of the first chapters, yes there is someone important in Bolivarr’s past.

Problems

  • I thought it very convenient that Hadley got the mission to search for Ara Ana. On the surface it is an easy mission, ferrying some scientists around. But on the other hand, it is a very important mission – they search for the birthplace of the goddess! – and with the mission making the news and with all the unrest still around after the war, an experienced captain would have been the more logical choice, IMO.
  • the ending: Ara Ana and the confrontation between Aral and his father – it seemed too rushed for all the build up before to me.

Overall, I really liked The Warlord’s Daughter. I especially enjoyed watching Wren’s transformation from shy and unsure girl, who’s resigned to her fate, to a woman who came into her own and took charge of her fate. It had to happen fast and it did happen fast – just a few weeks – but then, she had a powerful motivation to do what must be done after learning the truth about her father and being his “only surviving offspring.”

Verdict: A thoroughly enjoyable read (4/5).

Weekend Reads: “Shades of Dark” + “Hope’s Folly” By Linnea Sinclair

11 May

After I finished reading Gabriel’s Ghost for Nath’s Re-Read Challenge, I just couldn’t let go of Sully and Chaz and decided to read Shades of Dark again. I also thought it a good preparation for Hope’s Folly which I still had to read for the first time.

Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair

science fiction romance; “Dock Five” series, #2

sinclair-linnea-shades-of-dark

This is the second time I read Shades of Dark and I still like it as much as the first time.

If you call Gabriel’s Ghost dark, then Shades of Dark is black. In Shades of Dark, the world – or better the universe – is in turmoil. Political structures are rapidly breaking down and you know longer know who is on your side and who is not as Chaz and Sully try to find the remaining jukor lab and struggle with the their bond. This bond is explored in detail in this story together with the nature of the power behind it. Shades of Dark looks at the consequences, pitfalls and temptations of that power; and that’s the reason I said Shades of Dark is a black story.

Hope’s Folly by Linnea Sinclair

science fiction romance; “Dock Five” series, #3

sinclair-linnea-hopes-folly

I liked Hope’s Folly but because I think about writing a longer comment about it, I just quote a scene that shows why I like Rya Bennton, the heroine, a lot. This is Rya and Philip:

“Is this,” she asked hesitantly, “what I think it is?”
“What do you think it is?”
“Norlack 473 sniper, modified to handle wide-load slash ammo.” There was a noticeable reverence in her voice.
He pulled the rifle out, hefting it. She had a good eye. Norlacks weren’t common. But recognizing it was modified for illegal and highly destructive charges… Then again, she’d seen it in action.
“It is,” he confirmed, amused now by the expression on her face. It had gone from reverence to almost rapture.
“That is so totally apex.” Her voice was hushed. “May I,” and she glanced shyly at him, her eyes bright, spots of color on her cheeks, fondle it?” (57)

*** ~ ***

Like Gabriel’s Ghost, both these novels come with a playlist. For Shades of Dark, it’s Delerium feat. Sarah McLachlan – SILENCE (Airscape mix) and for Hope’s Folly, it’s Fragma – TOCA’S MIRACLE/TOCA ME – youtube video and lyrics graciously provided by Linnea Sinclair here.

Re-Read Challenge: “Gabriel’s Ghost” By Linnea Sinclair

30 Apr

re-read-challenge-2009

Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009
This month:Re-Read Challenge: April!

sinclair-linnea-gabriels-ghost
GENRE: Romance / Science Fiction
PUBLISHED: Bantam Spectra, 2005

SERIES: “Dock Five” series, #1

AVAILABILITY: still available


The back blurb:
“After a decade of piloting interstellar patrol ships, former captain Chasidah Bergren, onetime pride of the Sixth Fleet, finds herself court-martialed for a crime she didn’t commit–-and shipped off to a remote prison planet from which no one ever escapes. But when she kills a brutal guard in an act of self-defense, someone even more dangerous emerges from the shadows.

Gabriel Sullivan-–alpha mercenary, smuggler, and rogue–-is supposed to be dead. Yet now this seductive ghost from Chaz’s past is offering her a ticket to freedom–for a price. Someone in the Empire is secretly breeding jukors: vicious and uncontrollable killing machines that have long been outlawed. Gabriel needs Chaz to help him stop the practice before it decimates Imperial space. The mission means putting their lives on the line–-but the tensions that heat up between them may be the riskiest part of all.”


Then

Gabriel’s Ghost was the first book I read by Linnea Sinclair. It also was one of the first romances I’ve read written in first person POV and I really liked how Sinclair made it clear that Sully was in love with Chaz even though I didn’t get his POV (my comment then). This was around Christmas 2006. After I finished it, I went on my first author glom.

It was a few weeks later that I read the author’s note and learned that “Gabriel’s Ghost was inspired by and written to “Put Your Lights On” featuring Everlast on Santana’s album Supernatural, one of my favorite songs on that album.

More important and way cooler (though not surprising): song and book are a great fit.

Now

The first sentence in Gabriel’s Ghost reads: “Only fools boast they have no fears.”

Gabriel’s Ghost is a story about fears – fears of rejection and fears of the unknown and unexplained. And it’s a story about trust – trust that someone will still love you even knowing all your hideous secrets and trust in someone who asks you:

“Can you accept me as I am now, on faith? With what you know, and nothing more?” He paused. “I fear that your need for facts, your need for explanations, for things that perhaps can never be explained, will destroy the only chance we have. And I’ll lose you.” (154)

Chashida Bergren, Chaz, is a woman who operates on facts. It’s what she was trained to do as Fleet, it’s what she does when she feels stressed: she gathers and analyzes facts to keep unwanted emotions or thoughts at bay until she is ready to deal with them. She’s confident and sure of her skills as a pilot. She does what she must do and she knows that it’s important to keep personal feelings from influencing a task that needs to be done. She wouldn’t withhold information just because she’s in a spat with someone. She’s a strong woman but she also knows fears because “only fools boast they have no fears.”

Gabriel Sullivan, Sully, is a ghost. He was believed dead for two years when he and Chaz meet again. He’s a man with many identities, although he is far from at peace with himself:

I’m already damned, consigned to a Hell I can never escape. It haunts me, consumes me. Until all that’s left are things that make me feel a pain I hope to God you never have to feel. Anger and pain are very valid reasons for what I do. Remember that. (64)

He wants to stop the jukor breeding and he needs Chaz’s help for that.

There are quite a few secondary characters in Gabriel’s Ghost, most important the crew of Sully’s ship the Boru Karn and there most important Ren. Ren is a Stolorth, a race with a humanoid form and feared, or at least viewed with wariness, by humans because of their mind talents. They are also known as mind-fuckers, and it’s widely assumed that meeting a Stolorth means he/she will play with your mind.

Besides Stolorths, there’s another non-human race in Gabriel’s Ghost, Takans. I pictured them like Wookiees though they can talk. Takan females are used for the breeding of jukors. Jukors are more like animals, once breed to combat the mind skills of the Stolorths. They are vicious, have wings, and smell like garbage. They also only have one spot where they are vulnerable. Some years before the events in Gabriel’s Ghost, it became clear that jukors couldn’t be controlled so they were all ordered to be destroyed. That someone seems to have taken up the breeding again in secret is bad news.

Gabriel’s Ghost is science fiction. It’s a world with a different society, with its own politics, different groups vying for power and influence, and a religion that centers around mythical beasts with the mind talents of the Stolorths and a shape-shifting form jukors are supposed to resemble.

Gabriel’s Ghost might sound like a action-driven novel and in a way, it is: the mission to destroy the jukor labs delivers the frame for the story: what Chaz and Sully do and where they go. But the story isn’t how they go about destroying the labs, it’s about a secret, darkness, and identity. And as often in such stories, there is an angel.

The action forces the secret out into the open step by step but Gabriel’s Ghost isn’t one of the stories where you want to bash the characters over the head because they just don’t talk with each other. No. The reasons for keeping things secret are vital. In Gabriel’s Ghost, the secret has to do with identity. Revealing it means being shunned, probably hunted, throughout the known world for what you are, for the darkness in you. Revealing it probably means losing the love of your life, your angel. Gabriel’s Ghost is a story about prejudice and about taking risks.

At the beginning of the story, Chaz knows Sully as a mercenary and smuggler who loves to play with words. She knows him as someone she hunted for six years because as Fleet that was her job. She interrupted his illegal escapades and shared conversations laced with innuendos with him then. She also knows him as someone she shared a few passionate kisses with in a seedy bar one night.

A short time later, she knows and says this about Sully:

Known terrorist, smuggler, mercenary. A passionate, volatile man. Angry, for valid reasons, he’d said. Gabriel Ross Sullivan. Poet. Warrior. Lover. (130)

But that is not the end of her discoveries. Discoveries hindered by her promise not to ask questions, to accept Sully on faith and to trust him; discoveries helped along by the mission to stop the jukor breeding. With Sully, it seems that for every question answered, several new ones pop up. Her discoveries – the revealing of the secret – are reflected in the list of words she uses to characterize Sully. Each discovery adds to or alters words on the list. Until Chaz knows all, she’s in for more than one big surprise and test of her trust. Then, her words for Sully differ greatly from the two she had in the beginning: mercenary and smuggler.

And all along the way, your heart will break for Sully. Chaz wants truths and facts, and in Gabriel’s Ghost she is thrown into a situation she is asked to base her decisions not on facts but on trust. Sully wants Chaz, and in Gabriel’s Ghost telling Chaz the truth about himself might mean losing her. Gabriel’s Ghost is a story about truth and lies.

Chasidah. Angel. I have lost those words that used to come so easily to me. They have all fled, shamed to be in my company. I’m left now with only a few simple ones. They are inadequate. They cannot begin to convey all that I feel. But they are all I have.
Chasidah. Angel. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry.
Chasidah. Angel. The grievous wrong isn’t as much in the questions you couldn’t ask, but in the only real truth that I could tell, and did not.
Chasidah. Angel. I love you beyond all measure. That is the only real truth. (207, 208)

Reading Gabriel’s Ghost again for the challenge, there were two things I really noticed: 1) allusions and hints to the secret are present from the first chapter on; 2) the masterful way the different elements come together in this story – Gabriel’s Ghost is a rather layered story. I also think it’s neat that though Gabriel’s Ghost is written in first person and told from Chaz’s POV, it almost seems more like it’s Sully’s story rather than Chaz’s story.

One more thing, the most important one: most of all, Gabriel’s Ghost is a story about love. Love sometimes asks you to trust without knowing all the facts, love sometimes can be destroyed by keeping facts to oneself, love means opening yourself up to someone else with your whole self, trusting that you still will be loved with all your hideous secrets and darkness out in the open. Gabriel’s Ghost explores all this.

The last sentence of the novel reads: “Only fools underestimate the power of love.”

Verdict: The more often I read the novel, the more I appreciate it. Gabriel’s Ghost only gets better with each read for me. 5/5

Listen to Put Your Lights On, listen for the words darkness, fear, and angel, and you’ll have an idea what Gabriel’s Ghost is like.