Thursday, June 26, 2014

Collateral Damage by KS Augustin #scifi #romance

Title: Collateral Damage 
Author: KS Augustin
Genre: science fiction romance
Publisher: Sandal Press
Available: Amazon $0.00 (Kindle)
Rating: 4 stars
Rater: Pippa

No good deed ever goes unpunished.
Meyal Lit has been alone on an orbital for the past six months, analysing the remote planet of Falcin V. It’s a lonely job but, if it means financial security for herself and her family, Meyal is happy to grit her teeth and do it. That is, until a rival exo-geologist on a station on the opposite side of the planet contacts her.
Even though they work for competing companies, loneliness drives Meyal and Waryd together. In between work shifts, they indulge in small talk and chat-sex, knowing nothing can come from their liaison. Then Meyal gets confidential news that could change the entire way she and Waryd operate. If she does nothing, Waryd dies; on the other hand, if she saves her rival, she can kiss her dreams of financial independence goodbye.
What’s a smart, introverted geologist to do?

What I liked.
Good characters, though perhaps Waryd wasn't as rounded out as Meyal - probably down to the length of the story and being told mostly from her POV rather than half and half. Good tension, with some action/adventure, which I didn't expect from the blurb and setting. I thought this would be more psychological than action (and that aspect of it, the whole dealing with long term isolation in space was well done), so that really added to it and kept it interesting. Nice world building. I'd love to see more set in this universe, and with these characters.

What I didn't like.
After some nice tension throughout the story, I felt this really dropped off at the end. I'd really like to see this as the opening of a novella/novel - as a short it felt somewhat unfinished. Or perhaps as the first of a series/serial. The opening *no spoilers* made me wonder if the whole story would be nothing but the sexual fantasies of a solitary woman in space - very pleased that wasn't the whole of it.

In conclusion.
Enjoyable and interesting short with good tension, but somewhat let down by the ending. A quick read for those with limited reading time with a decent blend of tech, characters, action, and a thought-provoking setting.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Caught In Amber by Cathy Pegau

Title: Caught in Amber 
Author: Cathy Pegau
Genre: science fiction romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Available: Amazon $1.99 (Kindle)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Rater: Pippa

Recently out of rehab, Sasha James is determined to keep her head down, complete her parole and never touch amber again. The chip in her neck controls her cravings for the highly addictive drug, but also tracks her every move. Not that she goes anywhere other than work and the halfway house she calls home—a far cry from her luxurious former life as lover of the mining colony's top drug dealer, Guy Christiansen.
Agent Nathan Sterling has no desire to see Sasha fall back into amber, but his sister has become Guy's latest conquest and the unexpectedly attractive Sasha is the key to getting her back. So in exchange for an introduction, he offers Sasha the one thing she can't refuse—her freedom. From the chip, her parole and even the planet if she wants. Though he would be sorry to see her go…
Torn between her growing attraction to Nathan, fear of Guy and the allure of amber, Sasha accepts. But who will save her if Guy refuses to let her go a second time?

What I liked.
Sasha, despite her dark past, is an immediately likeable and sympathetic character. Even after being broken and having to rebuild herself from the drug-addicted shambles she's become, she's strong, intelligent, and a warm human being who doesn'twallow in self pity but lives with her regrets. She had every reason to tell Nathan Sterling where to stick his request (and frankly I'm not sure what he was offering was good enough a prize), yet she knows what Nathan's sister is heading for and wants to help.
I liked the world building and the idea of Amber, but felt that it wasn't as in depth as I'd like. It was the character and plot that prompted the five star rating for me.

What I didn't like.
Nathan - despite his good intentions and desire to protect Sasha, I'd like to give him such a slap. He still put her in serious danger for his own ends, and ultimately I found that a little too selfish. I felt he used her, no matter how sorry he was about it and how he fretted over her. From a personal perspective, I really hate to be used. Guy - I've no doubt he was a bad man, but I found myself conflicted over him. He genuinely appeared to care for Sasha and *potential spoiler* dealt with the real creep of the piece, so I actually found it hard to hate or understand him.

In conclusion.
This reminded me of a Humphrey Bogart thriller/detective story but in a futuristic setting. Not something I'd normally go for, but the author won me over with Sasha and the lovely dark, slightly Bladerunner-esque feel. The tension was good, both romantic and plot-wise, and the one sex scene was done well. I'd like to have seen more on the world building side. If you like spy thrillers along the lines of James Bond in the future, this is for you.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sovran's Pawn by JC Cassels

Title: Sovran's Pawn (The Black Wing Chronicles #1)
Author: JC Cassels
Genre: Space opera
Publisher: Self 

Available: Amazon $2.99 (Kindle) $8.99 (Paperback)
Rating: 5+ stars
Rater: Pippa

Convicted of treason and sentenced to be executed, Bo Barron is the last person who should be infiltrating a Sub-socia weapons auction. But when her father is kidnapped and the ransom demand is the schematics to an experimental weapon, she has no choice but to go under cover with her uncle to get it.

Nobody counted on former-government-agent-turned-holofeature-hero Blade Devon’s infatuation with her. A botched assassination under the guise of a bar brawl leaves Bo blind and Blade wondering if there isn’t more to this job than he was led to believe.

Never able to resist playing the hero, Blade tends her injuries and delves deeper into the intrigue only to find this mission isn’t about a weapon at all. It’s about two Sovrans’ maneuvering for control, with Bo and Blade as their pawns.

All Bo and Blade have to do is figure out how to survive the game they didn’t know they were playing.

The catch is, no one and nothing are what they seem…

What I liked.
I loved the characters, even the secondary ones. Bo is a strong, capable woman without being so kick ass she simply becomes a caricature. She retains an edge of vulnerability, and definite femininity while remaining believable. She reminded me very much of Dejah Thoris from John Carter. By contrast, I expected to hate Blade, as I'm not a fan of alpha males in general. But his self confidence didn't stray into arrogance, and despite his notorious reputation, he's a man with a deep seated sense of honour. Maybe Captain Mal from Firefly but he doesn't try to make out he's not really a good person like Mal seemed to. Great story arc with a decent opening to further books with a bigger arc. Interesting settings and technology, though not heavy tech. A military edge with Bo's standing as leader of the Black Wing. Good romantic tension without any explicit scenes for those who prefer their romances without all the intimate details.

What I didn't like.
Absolutely nothing. If I have to pick something, the opening wasn't instantly grabbing to me, but since the action kicks then off very quickly I have no complaints.

In conclusion.
This was a fantastic piece of space opera along the lines of Firefly/Farscape/original Battlestar Galactica. Flawless, entertaining, and with a solid, intriguing cast of three dimensional characters and thorough world building. This is one of my top reads for 2014, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series!