Saturday, 26 November 2016

Review: The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé by S.L. Saboviec

Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé, busy executive and less-than-stellar mother and wife, has a problem that only an exorcist can solve. Except she’s not precisely a devout Catholic parishioner any longer, and to gain assistance from the Church means telling a whopping lie of omission.
Fortunately, she discovers Father Angelo Ambrosio, whose commitment to helping the afflicted means he’s willing to overlook the things Scarlet prefers to keep hidden. Unfortunately, his sordid past keeps him under a microscope with the bishop, who’s not so liberal in his views.

But the demon harassing Scarlet is relentless. It makes its motives clear: in a previous life, she struck a bargain, promising it her body on her fiftieth birthday. Now, she and Angelo must unravel the mystery surrounding her forgotten past in order to stop the possession by next week or risk losing her to the depths of Hell forever.

This stand-alone novel set in the Fallen Redemption universe extends the series to modern day. Enter a world where humans reincarnate, demons interfere in daily life, and the currents of fate carry us all to our destinies. 

***
Years ago, when I first realized I could choose to read (rather than what I was assigned at school) I was drawn to scary books and two of the first novels I read were The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist. That was back in grade seven and since then, hauntings and possessions still give me the absolute creeps so my choosing to read The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé surprised me.

Scarlet's predicament comes across will the ominous tension and lurking danger I expected but for many more reasons than a cruel demon. We have Scarlet's challenges with her own religious identity and her struggling marriage, Father Ambrosio's struggle with his past and of course good and evil. Every aspect of this story is contrasted as good and evil, depending on which character you hear from. These contrasts, bound together, provide much of the tension and drama of the story.

I found this book smooth (and creepy) at the start. It definitely drew me in and held me there, so much so I read the whole way through in a couple of sittings.

I loved Scarlet because she is my own age and like me, deeply loves her family even with her imperfections and fears. I also appreciated she didn't engage herself in any ridiculous butt-kicking or fights I know I couldn't pull off. She is a very capable, real and relatable woman.

I definitely recommend The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé, a side by side novel with Saboviec's Fallen Redemption series which I look forward to.


I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.


Saturday, 19 November 2016

Review: Aurora: Decima by Amanda Bridgeman



The tenth year war is coming . . .


Carrie Welles has survived more attacks than she can count, but each one has made her stronger. She refuses to be a victim anymore. While her nemesis, Sharley, continues to be a threat, she works with Harris and the Aurora team to protect the future, vowing to raise her children and fight as the soldier-mother she was destined to be.

Saul Harris has had visions of the Zeta ships hitting Earth years before they’re due, but has no proof to warn the UNF. Scraping together a small contingent of Alpha units, he prepares for the onslaught as best he can. He embraces his gift and ‘connection’ with Welles and they dig further into his ancestry, only to have more haunting truths come to light.

As the invasion approaches, the new Aurora team members must find their place in the crew, while old team members reunite. They must band together with the Originals and their fellow Space and Earth Duty troops if they are to defend Earth against this attack.

But is it too little too late? Have Harris and Carrie done enough to protect their future? As they fight for survival against the Zetas in a battle that stretches across the UNF Space Zone, they soon realise the price of their freedom might be higher than they were expecting to pay.



***


I received an ARC! (Squeee!!!!) And sent it to my Kindle and opened it up. I admired the great cover balancing the hope of the upturned dishes with the darkness and the night sky and the ominous bold title font I've come to see as the series brand.

Then I put it away for three whole days. A few reasons. I didn't want it to rush to that place of waiting for the next and being unable to read it again for the first time. Also, this series has frequently torn my heart out, tossed it on the road and stomped on it, occasionally leaving it there to be run over in traffic and lit on fire, before tenderly making it whole and slipping it back in my chest. I know what will happen, I'll read headlong into catastrophe and I want to, for sure, I just wanted the anticipation to build. For this series, I'm a literary thrill seeking danger junkie. It's become an Event with a capital 'E.' Some books I read because I'd be reading something anyway. I read Aurora because of the emotions.


Aurora: Decima did not let me down.

Decima rushes fast forward through a decade in time to the early arrival of a Zeta invasion and focuses on what the Aurora series does best - character and action driven science fiction. With book six in the series, Bridgeman took her foundation of characters and their relationships to the next level. They grew from well developed to complex and where the action went (and there's a lot,) I felt the added intensity of my attachment to Aurora's crew.

Additionally, I've noticed the growth in Bridgeman's writing has been used to full advantage in handling the growing complexity of her plots. In Darwin, book one, there was a bluntness to her prose. Her writing felt a touch gritty and rough around the edges which was perfect for the calculated violence which introduced the darker scifi side consistent through the series. I experienced emptiness, foreboding and failure as she pulled us through, sometimes with not much more than a brittle sense of safety to catch our breath and step in to the next chapter.

While Bridgeman's voice held fast through Pegasus, Meridian, Centralis and Eden and contrasted the growing connections and sense of family among Aurora's crew with danger and those very dark sub-plots, she added a delightful smoothness to her prose. Decima is by far the most ambitious in the series in terms of number of characters, places, subplots and time and holds together beautifully. I found myself dug into a story I knew would sting me (that whole heart thing) and was rewarded when it did.

Favourite scene? The make-up argument. I went back and re-read it three times. Also re-read the big battle at the end. I continue to love and recommend this series.

At time of review publication, you can start the series with Aurora: Darwin here with a copy direct to your inbox.

You can also read my review of Aurora: Darwin here.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Review: Strange Magic by James A. Hunter


Yancy Lazarus is having a bad day: there’s a bullet lodged in his butt cheek, his face looks like the site of a demolition derby, and he’s been saran-wrapped to a banquet table. He never should have answered the phone. Stupid bleeding heart—helping others in his circles is a good way to get dead.

Just ask the gang members ripped to pieces by some kind of demonic nightmare in LA. As a favor to a friend, Yancy agrees to take a little looksee into the massacre and boom, he’s stuck in a turf war between two rival gangs, which both think he’s pinch-hitting for the other side. Oh, and there’s also a secretive ass-hat with some mean ol’ magical chops and a small army of hyena-faced, body- snatching baddies. It might be time to seriously reconsider some of his life choices.

Yancy is a bluesman, a rambler, a gambler, but not much more. Sure, he can do a little magic—maybe even more than just a little magic—but he knows enough to keep his head down and stay clear of freaky-deaky hoodoo like this business in LA. Somehow though, he’s been set up to take a real bad fall—the kind of very permanent fall that leaves a guy with a toe tag. Unless, of course, he can find out who is responsible for the gangland murders, make peace in the midst of the gang feud, and take out said magical ass-hat before he hexes Yancy into an early retirement. Easy right? Stupid. Bleeding. Heart.

***

So I requested this one since it has a male MC. I really enjoyed the last (and only) testosterone kicking UF I read so why the hell not. Plus there's smoking, drinking and if I cross my fingers and wish like a teen girl at a boy band concert there's likely to be lots of bad words, stupid judgement and broken bones. Maybe some squishy and gross indestructible monsters, unrealistic bearing of unbearable injuries and male vs. male banter I'd never get away with during an evening out with the ladies.

Let me tell you, crossing fingers pays off just fine, thank you very much.

Honest to God, just a few pages in I've been battered by all of the above in addition to an unfortunate stitch in my side and chunk of something lumpy half way down my throat following the Noob-male-UF reader mistake of snorting back a laugh.

Yancey Lazarus just doesn't let up. If he isn't being beaten, shot, lit on fire or driving a knife into your tickle spot with his non-stop self depreciating rants he's running for his life bemoaning all the stupidity leading up his flight.

Will this book hurt? Yep. A lot. You're gonna like it too.

Thank me later.

I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for my review.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Review: The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novellas 2016



The second volume of Prime Books’ annual anthology series collecting some of the year’s best novella-length science fiction and fantasy. Novellas, longer than short stories but shorter than novels, are a rich rewarding literary form that can fully explore tomorrow’s technology, the far reaches of the future, thought-provoking imaginings, fantastic worlds, and entertaining concepts with all the impact of a short story as well as the detailed depth of a novel. Gathering a wide variety of excellent science fiction and fantasy, this anthology of “short novels” showcases the talents of both established masters and new writers.


***

If you think novellas are snack sized pieces of full-meal novels, be prepared with an empty stomach for this awesome collection.

The 2016 volume of Year's Best Science Fiction and Novellas will leave you unhitching your belt a notch (or three) and you might want to pace yourself for this assortment of dark themes and tight and thorough world building.

Each novella is so well done and dense with well formed plots they have as much action and personality as I'd expect to find in a novel. This gives each of these stories a sense of urgency and completeness we don't always see in this size of works.

My absolute favourite character is Maurice in The Bone Swans of Amandale. He's a loyal and sarcastic rat-shifter and in his own way, an adorable and (as you'd expect from a rat) kinda gross anti-hero.

This wide selection of dark novellas is well worth exploring and feels more like a bundle of complete novels than shorter works. I'll be diving in to the 2015 edition and keeping my eye out for the next one.

Highly recommended.

I received my copy from Netgalley.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Review: Jumper's Hope by Carol Van Natta


Reunited lovers must outwit a ruthless government agent, or their rumored deaths will be real this time. 
Two retired elite special forces veterans discover their battles aren't behind them after all. Someone considers them loose ends, and will stop at nothing to erase their knowledge of a secret government project. Their service left them both with wounds that will never heal. Do they still have what it takes to survive? 

Kerzanna Nevarr's elite special forces days of wearing Jumper mech suits and piloting Citizen Protection Services' ships are long gone. The dark legacy of her service forced her to learn to live a quiet life. And she had to do so alone, without the lover who died before her eyes. 

Jess Orowitz, veteran of CPS's secret spy organization, Kameleon Corps, made the mistake of trusting his superiors. He's paid a horrific price—fractured memories, constant headaches, and the death of the only woman he ever loved. Retirement on a quiet farming planet has kept him in an emotional deep freeze, but safe. 

But now, Kerzanna is being hunted for reasons she can’t guess, and even more stunning, the man who helps her escape is Jess, her supposedly dead lover. For Jess, discovering Kerzanna is still alive is only the first of the lies and betrayal he uncovers. 

Worst of all, their hunter is someone with CPS intel and lethal resources. Someone who believes the only obstacles standing in the way of success are one broken-down ex-Jumper and a fractured Kameleon. 

Together, are they strong enough to escape death one more time? 

***


Jumper's Hope, the fourth in Van Natta's Central Galactic Concordance series, keeps a firm grip on the original world building in its predecessors while expanding in to new characters and adventure. I found it delightfully action filled and loaded with surprises I didn't see coming though they made complete sense when the story threw me in to them.

I loved that her crop of bad guys is even more endearing and creepy than we first ran in to them. (How does she do that?)

Also, and I'm going to put this out here, Van Natta is a master at making you fall in love with her characters entirely by showing them to you through the eyes of another. She fills her characters with so much empathy and understanding of each other, as I reader I felt completely immersed in their relationships so when the bad things happened (and the did) there was a fantastic double (triple) whammy of worry for everyone.


I completely and whole heartedly recommend this series.









Monday, 24 October 2016

Review: Just a Minor Malfunction, Issue #1



***

With the second issue due out very soon, I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on a free copy. The only catch was if I liked it, to consider purchasing the second issue here. (I have!) I've been reading more short story/novella collections lately. I love the variety of writing styles, scope of settings and shades of tone and science fiction and fantasy provides a grand realm from which to build a story.

Issue #1 is worth dipping in to. The collection is well put together and makes each story stand out as strong and unique even when combined in a single issue with many others. I prefer my science fiction leaning toward darker tales (like the dark of space, I suppose) and Just a Minor Malfunction satisfies my craving for science and tech that doesn't think like we do and twists of endings that feel like something irretrievable and floating just beyond my reach.

My favourite tale in this issue is In the Cloud by Simon Guy. Years ago (err, decades) I learned about point of view in fiction and the POV we paid the least attention to was the second person. It was dismissed as cold, clunky and bossy and the teacher didn't have any more to say about it because, as she put it, we'd never run in to an writer silly enough to make a work like that public. With In the Cloud, that teacher has very elegantly been proven wrong. This short story is written as a young man to his mother as he explores his relationship with her and his grandfather in a way I can only describe as warm, intimate and appropriately blunt as we sometimes have to be to those we love. In the Cloud also feels chilling in the closeness of the relationships when juxtaposed against the severe distance caused by the technology of the cloud.

My second favourite is A Man in the Moon by R.C. Larlham. It speaks eloquently about PTSD, isolation and the single minded struggle for relief for those who live with chronic pain.

I definitely recommend taking Issue #1 for a spin. Did I mention you can get Issue #2 here?

You should.




Monday, 17 October 2016

Review: The Invisible City by Brian K. Lowe


Tracking German soldiers through the muddy trenches of WWI France, Captain Charles Clee stumbles onto a secret archeological expedition from the far future. Discovered and trapped, he flees through their time machine and finds himself stranded nearly one million years in the future. Pursued by the merciless assassins of the Time Police, Clee faces war, slavery, and fantastic beasts in a race against time itself to reach the Invisible City. 

***

The Invisible City is the first book in Brian K. Lowe's Stolen Futures trilogy. 

Lowe uses consistent and strong first person narration to tell Captain Clee's story as he inadvertently travels years into the future. I loved the way the story reads like "classic" science fiction. Clee observes and describes the tech he comes across in a way I find believable for someone living at the time of WWI. He also laces his narration with humour and sarcasm which I found made this story truly his.

The Invisible City drives us through a roving adventure covering the land and sky a million years in the future. I enjoyed Clee's low-tech observations of the high-tech facing him. Definitely recommended for fans of SF classics and readers of SF in general. Moving on to book two, The Secret City.

I received my copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.