Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dragonfly by Erica Hayes #scifi #romance #spaceopera

Title: Dragonfly
Author: Erica Hayes
Genre: Scifi Romance
Publisher: Momentum
Available: Amazon $5.90 (Kindle)
Rating:  4 stars
Rater: Pippa

Carrie Thatcher is a tough Imperial counter-terrorism agent. Her mission: pose as a sexy cyber-thief to entrap the notorious rebel Dragonfly, who's planning a heist on the space station Casa de Esperanza - an orbital casino on the fringe of Imperial space.

And this assignment's personal: Dragonfly murdered her closest friend, and she's in no mood to show him mercy. Even getting stuck with the partner from hell--Malachite, her sociopathic ex-lover and the Empire's most dangerous agent--can't dampen her relish for the kill.

With Carrie's expert weapons skills and penchant for cracking codes, insinuating herself into Dragonfly's confidence should be easy. But is he the ruthless killer she was led to believe? Or has her precious Empire deceived her? With Malachite watching her every move, the slightest flinch in loyalty means death.

Carrie is soon racing to uncover an audacious treachery that will shock the Empire to its core ... if she can stay alive for long enough to expose it.

What I liked.
The world building was in-depth, complex and intriguing. The plot was high tension and action packed. There was quite a bit of science (maths) and technology, something I love but that might put off those not so keen on heavy SF elements. The characters are captivating, and the hero particularly takes some figuring out.

What I didn't like.
This was quite slow at the start due to a heavy amount of set up and world building, but had a lot of tension throughout, right to the final conflict...and then totally flopped for the final few pages. I think this book had the most disappointing ending I've come across, even if it had the required HFN for a romance. Also I got a little tired of Carrie with her 'he's my enemy, he has to die, OMG he's hot and I want to sleep with him' mental routine. I prefer my sexual tension a bit more subtle. Others might enjoy her constant mental conflict more than me.

In conclusion.
If you're a fan of the Firefly/Farscape style of space opera, this is for you (Carrie was a very Aeryn Sun type character to me). Be prepared for some heavy-ish technobabble and world building though, and having to stick with it for the first couple of chapters to get to the adventure.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Erasure by Misa Buckley #mm #gaylit #LGBTLit #scifirom

Title: Erasure
Author: Misa Buckley
Genre: M/M Scifi Romance
Publisher: Self
Available: Amazon $2.99 (Kindle)
Rating: 4 stars
Rater: Pippa

When Malik Foster crashes back into his life after a three year absence, Damaris wants nothing to do with his ex-lover. Especially once he learns that Malik has cybernetic implants - something made illegal by the Restoration. Dam does not want a Purity Squad beating down his door. Yet neither does he want to leave Malik to their less than tender mercies. He agrees to use his surgical talents to remove the tell-tale tattoo that's been branded on to Malik's wrist. 

As they reignite their past relationship, Dam learns about the life Malik has led since the Restoration came into power. He has to face the fact that his future as a plastic surgeon is increasingly insecure in a city that's becoming ever more obsessed with "natural" bodies. Then the Purity Squads come looking for Malik, and they know an escape is now or never. 

But can there be an escape from a regime that wants to erase anyone not falling into their definition of human?

What I liked.
The world building was concise, summing up a bleak, and scary setting with a quasi-religious group forcing the populous backward in terms of technology. The relationship between the two central characters was taunt and touching, and beautifully played out. I don't think a single word was wasted. The sex scenes were tastefully done (and in detail if you're worried they might have been glossed over), and the inner turmoil of both characters were believable and engaging, without being OTT on the angst.

What I didn't like.
This was only my second m/m story, and I can't say I'm a huge fan - my preference is definitely for m/f or f/f. Having said that, this was a short, snappy and emotionally satisfying read, and I'd come back for more of it. I did feel their escape could/should have been done in more detail.

In conclusion.
If you're a newbie to m/m romance (like me) and/or a newcomer to scifi romance as a genre, this is a great place to start. Tight world building that won't overwhelm even the least technically minded, well done sex scenes, well balanced between the two characters, and emotionally satisfying. Be warned though - this is a short story, not a novella or novel.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Scorched by Erica Hayes #urbanfantasy #superhero

Title: Scorched
Author: Erica Hayes
Genre: Urban Fantasy (Superheroes)
Publisher: HarperImpulse
Available: Amazon $4.74 (Kindle)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Rater: Pippa

In a world where everyone wears a mask, you can't trust anyone… not even yourself.
Verity Fortune was once Sapphire City’s top crime-fighter, wielding her powers of telekinesis to battle the city’s most despicable villains.
Now, she’s consumed by a single burning desire -
Against those who took away her mask, her memory, and nearly her life.
Having escaped from the asylum they left her to rot in, Verity dons her mask once again and becomes the Seeker, a vigilante warrior for truth.
But when she unwittingly uncovers an evil conspiracy deep within her own family, she’s suddenly on the run, alone and hunted by those she thought were on her side…

What I liked.
Beautiful, almost poetic descriptions that gave me a serious dose of author envy. Also I guessed who the real traitor was, which might seem a bad thing but made me feel better, only to get caught out by the main plot twist (it's a doozie!). These carefully set up plot points kept me on the edge of the seat with a serious 'what will happen next?!' anticipation. Great general tension throughout, and plenty of action and adventure as you'd expect from a superhero story. And the bad guy is BAD! Nothing beats a villain who really is evil.

What I didn't like.
This is tagged on Amazon as a romance, but *potential spoiler* I don't feel that it is - if it was a romantic HFN, it was pretty ambiguous, and the sexual tension/chemistry throughout wasn't great. I certainly didn't feel there was any hope for any kind of romantic entanglement or longevity in the vague hero/heroine relationship. But the main thing that bothered me was as soon as Verity appears as herself at the family company, she's jumped by Doctor Mengele. Of course she's been betrayed, but following on from that she continues to go out in public as herself and her superhero guise, makes appointments as her journalistic self and contacts old work mates...yet doesn't get caught? Her enemies wouldn't keep tabs on the other people in her life in order to recapture her? Also she's bothered by her scarred face enough to want to wear her mask all the time, yet doesn't seem bothered showing it as Verity.

In conclusion.
Any fan of the likes of the Marvel films (and in particular those still waiting for a heroine-led superhero film like Black Widow) will enjoy this. There's some sexual tension (though not enough for a romance in my opinion), and plenty of adventure, action, jeopardy, and twists to keep any non-romance reader hooked. This reads very much like the first of a series, so I hope the next will be out soon. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dead New World by Ryan Hill #YA #paranormal #zombies

Title: Dead New World
Author: Ryan Hill
Genre: YA paranormal (zombies)
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Available: Amazon $4.99 (Kindle)
Rating: 4 stars
Rater: Pippa

Zombies aren’t mindless anymore. 

Before the world fell into chaos, zombies existed only in the imagination. Now, there’re more dead walking the earth than living. Zombies move about freely, while humans are forced behind concrete barricades to stay alive. 

A man known only as the Reverend has become a threat to the rebuilding United States. The leader of a powerful cult, the Reverend somehow controls the zombies, bending them to his will. He believes zombies are God’s latest creation, making humanity obsolete, and he wants to give every man, woman, and child the chance to become one. With the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, his army composed of both humans and zombies, he may well get his wish. 

Best friends Holt and Ambrose went up against the Reverend once. Holt lost a foot and a zombie bit Ambrose… though he didn’t completely turn. He survived the virus, only to become a human-zombie hybrid, reviled by the living and unwelcome among the dead. When the Reverend kidnaps the woman Holt loves, the race is on to save her from a fate worse than death. 

Holt and Ambrose must sacrifice everything to take down the Reverend and survive in this dead new world. But will they lose their souls in the process?

What I liked.
I have to start by saying I have limited experience with zombies of any kind. I'm not a fan of the traditional Hollywood-type zombie apocalypses, so a twist on that had more appeal for me and certainly worked in giving the story that extra edge. Ambrose fascinated me - the whole idea of a human-zombie hybrid. I loved the idea of the Reverend and the quasi-religious fanaticism. It's also rare to have a handicapped hero, and I felt this was done well (though not always entirely believable. However, in this scenario not even military can afford to turn down someone who can handle a gun despite the artificial limb proving the occasional setback, so it allowed the possibility). While part of the world building was fairly standard post apocalyptic, the idea of the zombie colony (like a leper colony) was interesting, and the idea of tying in the apocalypse with zombies in a more SF type end of the world than a paranormal rising of the dead kind. I did feel the author had the voice right for YA.

What I didn't like.
I didn't much like or empathize with Holt, and emotionally speaking the story fell a little flat...until near the end. Then *spoilers* wham! Prepare to have your heart ripped out and stomped on! In my mind, Ambrose was more of the hero than Holt, and I would rather have seen it told at least partially from his POV (but maybe I'm biased toward a zombie hero after Warm Bodies). The story did drag a bit between action scenes - a little more trimming down on wordage or being more visceral would have picked up the pace somewhat.

In conclusion.
If you like the traditional zombie shoot-em-up but want extra and/or a different twist on it, this will satisfy you on both levels, and hopefully appeal to traditional zombie fans and those who might not normally pick up a zombie book. Those who like more emotional impact might find this a bit lacking. Although the story was complete, it left an opening for a sequel (which I would love to read).