Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Zero Flux by Carol Van Natta #spaceopera #scifi #murder #mystery

Title: Zero Flux: Central Galactic Concordance, Novella 2.5
Author: Carol Van Natta
Genre: Space Opera/SF murder mystery
Publisher: Chavanch Press
Available: Kobo, B&N, Google Play, iBooks, Amazon (69 pages $0.99)
Rating: 4*
Rater: Pippa

A dangerous ice cave with a frozen crime scene, a secret lab, and the find of a lifetime—any one of them would be worth killing for... 

Luka Foxe and Mairwen Morganthur (Overload Flux) take on a very cold case, a secret lab, and the find of a lifetime. Which one of them is worth killing for? Forensic investigator Luka had gladly left his troubled past far behind, so only a plea from his old friend and mentor to investigate a violent crime scene frozen in an ice cave could have lured him back. Unfortunately, his old friend knows far more than he's telling, which could get them all killed, even with extraordinary security specialist Mairwen on their side. An unexpected icefall reveals a hidden lab buried deep in a mountain and the find of a lifetime. Now someone is trying to make sure those secrets stay frozen in time, even if it means more deaths..

What I liked:
Although I mistakenly took this mid-series side story to be a prequel, I didn't feel lost or out of depth. There was enough back story and strength of character for this to be read as a standalone/out of sequence story, though probably better read in its correct series order. I'm also a sucker for psi abilities/genetic and/or mechanical enhancements, so those elements in this novella had me hooked. The tech was a comfortable level for those who don't want a shedload of science but enough to interest me and leave me wanting more ie to read the other books.

What I didn't like:
Despite the MCs precarious position, the tension was lacking. I didn't really feel the full sense of danger and possibility of death. It also felt a touch abrupt/incomplete at the end but as part of a series I didn't have a huge problem with that particular issue.

In conclusion:
This is a murder mystery for fans of space opera along the lines of Star Trek/Farscape, and who like a reasonable level of tech but are willing to find their SciFi smexiness in the other books (since there was only a hint in this particular story). Also for those who like ice planets, and for those who want a quick SF mystery fix. While it can stand alone, I would probably recommend reading it in correct sequence.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Freedom's Embrace (A'yen's Legacy #4) by Rachel Leigh Smith #futuristic #romance

Title: Freedom's Embrace (A'yen's Legacy #4)
Author: Rachel Leigh Smith
Genre: Futuristic Romance
Publisher: Rachel Leigh Smith
Available: GoodreadsKobo, B&N, Amazon (pages 321,  $4.99)
Rating: 5*
Rater: Pippa


They made the wrong choice. Putting it right requires going into a war.

A'yen's Reign: Year Two
Taran has served Nicco, prince of Marcase, for twenty-three years. While on a fact-finding mission to Corsica--a planet annexed by the empire thirteen years ago--Taran and Nicco are kidnapped by the Freedom Alliance and taken deep into the Corsican hardwood forests.

Da'Renna, sister to King A'yen's linked bodyguard, has loved Taran since the moment he saw her. Leaving him behind wasn't easy, but her brother needed her more. Hearing about Taran's kidnapping makes her wonder if she made the right choice.
With the help of a friend from Corsica, Da'Renna and her brother sneak in to find Taran. When mercenaries take her hostage, Taran must make the choice he dreads most: his master, or his soul-mate.
If Taran loses his girl, he'll never find his way to freedom.
Note: This novel stands alone and is a great entry point into the A'yen's Legacy futuristic romance series

What I liked:
Fully fleshed and complex, tortured characters you can immediately sympathize with (though I wanted to slap the main couple). I was so happy to see more of Ro and Jasmine even though this wasn't their story, the majority of that having taken place in book three. This book can stand alone so you don't have to read the previous three to be able to follow the majority of it (although personally I was glad I had as it gives you more back up/lead up to this story and the politics/history behind it). It continues to build on the A'yen universe and the slow crawl toward freedom for all the Lokmane. This is a story about divided loyalties, what freedom means to an individual, and what they are prepared to sacrifice for love. This is perhaps the smoothest read of the series so far, and not only progresses the story but also ties up some loose ends from the previous books.

What I didn't like:
I actually can't pick up on anything I didn't really like. The 5* rating says it all. Aside from getting frustrated with the central couple (which is the whole purpose of the story), and maybe a bit too much of the cupping faces again (but touch is so much more important to a Lokmane because of the almost spiritual connections couples share), I can't fault it.

In conclusion:
Recommended for those who want to try scifi romance but are put off by the prospect of having to wade through a lot of science, or for paranormal/UF lovers looking for something a bit different to the usual vampires, shifters, demons etc. You don't even have to have read the previous books in the series as this can stand alone (though personally I would suggest that you do).

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Delirium (Debt Collector #1) by Susan Kaye Quinn #cyberpunk #urbanfantasy

Title: Delirium (Debt Collector #1)
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Genre: Cyberpunk/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: self
Available: Amazon $0.99 (Kindle) 44 pages
Rating: 4*
Rater: Pippa

What's your life worth on the open market?
In this sexy, gritty future-noir, debt collectors take your life energy and give it to someone more "worthy"... all while paying the price with black marks on their souls.

Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat and jackboots—he's just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives. That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka, and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja's sex workers keep him alive, stable, and mostly sane... until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn't what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone--a dark pit he's not sure he'll be able to climb out of again.

What I liked:
I love tortured, damaged heroes who aren't portrayed as alpha a-holes, and Lirium is definitely one of these, as well as being a kind of futuristic Grim Reaper showing signs of an unfortunate conscience. The writing is excellent, as is the pace and world-building. I had no trouble with the first person perspective.

What I didn't like:
I'm not a fan of serialized/episodic stories even if they don't finish on a cliffhanger. This reads more like a prologue/first chapter, while I want a complete story, be it short, novella or novel. On that basis I'm unlikely to pick up the rest of the episodes.

In conclusion:
This kind of reminds me of Looper with a side order of Dark City/Bladerunner in feel. If you like a blend of urban fantasy with cyberpunk, tortured anti-heroes, and enjoy serials, this is for you. If this ever comes out as a complete novel, I'll pick it up. In the meantime I'm off to see what else this author has that isn't serialized.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Willing Skin (Space Grit #4) by Ella Drake #scifi #romance #spaceopera

Title: Willing Skin (Space Grit #4)
Author: Ella Drake
Genre: Scifi Romance/Space Opera
Publisher: self
Available: Amazon $3.99 (Kindle) 207 pages
Rating: 5*
Rater: Pippa

Sylla Viola has never put down roots. When she's forced to abandon her life, she leaves everything behind. Nothing to miss. Nothing to regret. Not even the loss of her body. Using a DNA mod that changes her into a male half-human Scoriah, she's poised to get away from the hunter on her trail. Until she runs into the one man who can see through her disguise.

Docked at Station Viesel, Echtei Bronson helps a lost male Scoriah. One minute in his company threatens Echtei's control. One glimpse of the woman inside and he can't keep his hands off. One heated touch and he gives in to the need to wreak havoc on anyone who touches Sylla--a woman who could never stay with a man forever tied to family and home.

But even Echtei can't defeat what's chasing Sylla--a ruthless cyborg hunter who has shown that a Scoriah is no match for him. Echtei won’t give Sylla up without a fight. It's face the impossible or die trying, even if survival means war.

Willing Skin is a full-length science fiction romance, standalone novel in the Space Grit series with a happily ever after ending.

Warning: This novel is intended for readers 18 and older. It contains explicit female/male and (female as male)/male scenes, language, violence.

Keywords: f(m)/m, explicit sex, violence, alien romance, space opera, Twelfth Night trope, What you Will, disguise, gender swapping, woman disguised as man, android, cyborg, romance, genes

What I liked:
I wasn't sure if I would like this but I decided to take a leap of faith, and I'm glad I did. Take a deep breath because the tension and action never let up for a second! It didn't feel at all like 95K, in a good way because of the seat of your pants pacing. The tech elements were intriguing and appealed hugely to my SF side without being overwhelming for anyone who isn't that into SciFi - the concept of the skin suit for the heroine and all the mental and physical conflict it involved was hugely original and completely fascinating to me. Plus the author excels at writing explicit sex scenes but in a way that doesn't set me cringing at the words used. I was also fascinated by the cyborg bounty hunter.

What I didn't like:
Some of the phrasing got a bit repetitive toward the end, and the constant to-ing and fro-ing to the same places got a bit wearing. Also the amount of time the central couple spent snogging, fondling, and/or more involved pushed my believeability limit considering how much danger Sylla was supposedly in. These were very minor niggles overall though.

In conclusion:
While a bit heavy on the sex scenes for my personal taste, this is one hot, exciting, tense, and all-round fun romp on a space station, with some uber fascinating tech including the heroine's ability to gender-flip. I'm still thinking about the story and the characters weeks after reading. If you find the idea of switched gender sex offensive, this is not for you. About the closest comparison I can make is maybe an X-rated version of Farscape where the Scarrans are more human and sexy rather than scary, and with a Terminator-style assassin. Although book four of this series, it reads perfectly fine as a standalone so you can jump in mid-series without feeling lost.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Girl from Above 0.5: Falling by Pippa DaCosta #spaceopera #scifi

Title: Girl from Above 0.5: Falling
Author: Pippa DaCosta
Genre: Space Opera
Publisher: self
Available: Amazon $0.00 (Kindle) 40 pages
Rating: 4.5
Rater: Pippa

Warning: Adult content.

Caleb Shepperd is a fixer. He'll do anything for credits.

When he's hired to track and kill a woman who's muscled in on a dangerous smuggler's territory, he figures it's just another day in the black...Until he's trapped in a silo with his mark.

'Just another day in the black' could turn out to be his last day alive.

A short story prequel to the bestselling science fiction series 'Girl From Above ~ The 1000 Revolution'.

Can be read at any time before, during, or after any of the main books in the series.

NOTE: This is a short story of approximately 35 pages.

*Originally published in The Galaxy Chronicles 2015 (since modified for re-release).

What I liked:
More Girl from Above? Yes, please! Although this didn't feature One - my favourite character of the following series - having forgiven Caleb and still having a question mark over Fran I was more than happy to spend more time in their universe and learn something more about them. Gritty, tense, and action-packed with flawless writing. Just what you need for something to occupy your coffee/tea/beverage of choice break.

What I didn't like:
One of my personal bug bears - too much back matter! Getting to 74% and finding that was the end of the story left me feeling a little cheated. Yeah, I understand that authors want to include stuff to get you to read their other works, and it being a free story, but 25% of it is pushing it for me. Maybe I'm just greedy in wanting it to have been at least 90% story...

In conclusion:
A quick, action-packed fun read that gives some background to the events in the Girl from Above series or a taster to get you started.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Chain Reaction (8th Wing #2) by Zoe Archer #scifi #romance #spaceopera

Title: Chain Reaction (8th Wing #2)
Author: Zoe Archer
Genre: Scifi Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Digital Sales Corp
Available: Amazon $2.99 (Kindle) 139 pages
Rating: 4*
Rater: Pippa

Elite 8th Wing pilot Celene Jur was taken captive after a mysterious device temporarily disabled her ship's controls. Three solar months later, when Celene receives intel on the man who built the device, she's ready to get the bastard. Only problem is, the higher-ups think her mission partner should be Nils Calder, a tech-head who can understand the disabling device. The attraction between them is electric, but Celene needs a soldier who can watch her back as she exacts her revenge.

Nils knows his department is nicknamed NerdWorks. Pilots like Celene think the closest tech geeks come to combat is all-night Nifalian chess tournaments. But behind the NerdWorks insignia on his sleeve Nils is an able fighter, ready to prove himself and gain Celene's trust.

The desire between them is unexpected, but with the fate of thousands hanging in the balance, the hotshot pilot and the tech genius must succeed in their mission—no matter the cost.

What I liked:
Some great sensual descriptions, as well as great snark. Beautifully paced tension, especially on the sexual side, and the actions scenes were full of energy. I really liked the character of Nils and how he broke the nerd cliche. There was also nothing heavy about the story.

What I didn't like:
I didn't really connect/empathize with Celene, although perhaps that's because I hadn't read the previous book. There weren't any scenes to emphasize how the whole hero worship thing was actually crippling her love life other than being told backstory. The pace was good until it dropped and became a bit fragmented midway and never quite picked back up for me, especially at the finale. There also wasn't anything ground-breakingly new or different about the story overall.

In conclusion:
This was a quick, light, and fun military SFR story that can be read as a standalone despite being book two of a series. On the downside, it was lacking on the emotional intensity side of the romance for me and missing an explosive final confrontation. If I'm honest I was left a bit disappointed by it. For fans of military scifi romance who aren't into a lot of emotional angst as part of the build up or lots of techy descriptions, and along the lines of a lighter Battlestar Galactica (reboot)/newer Star Trek.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Girl from Above 4 by Pippa DaCosta #spaceopera #scifi

Title: Girl from Above: Trust (The 1000 Revolution #4)
Author: Pippa DaCosta
Genre: Space Opera/Scifi
Publisher: Self
Available: Amazon $2.99 (Kindle) 172 pages
Rating: Pippa
Rater: 5*


“I didn’t sign up to die a hero.” ~ Caleb.

Chen Hung closes in.
The nine systems hang perilously close to a second fatal Blackout.
The lives of billions of people are at stake.
Does Captain Caleb Shepperd have what it takes to save the nine systems, or just himself?

Caleb never wanted to be a hero. That was his brother’s dream. Keep it simple, get away clean. Flying a ship packed with explosives into Janus orbit station isn’t simple, and there ain’t no way he’s getting away clean.

He knows the Fenrir Nine have sent him on a suicide mission, but he’s not about to lay down his life for them. He’s not a hero, and he sure ain’t no fool despite what the Nine must think. There’s another way, he just has to figure it out before the bomb he’s carrying ticks down to zero.

One survived; against the odds, the brutality, and the betrayal, she survived, but inside, in the part of her that’s real, she’s broken. Broken in ways that cannot be fixed.

She’s going back to where it all began, to Janus—to Chitec, to the ‘man’ who made her. It will take all that she is, all that she was, and all that she could be, to save the nine systems from the synthetics.

She will not fail.

“I am One, and I cannot be stopped.”

What I liked:
Grab some tissues and hold on tight! This final installment packs some serious emotional punch (one reason I generally go for SFR over straight SF, but here you get it without the romance), as well as a real adrenaline-laced ride through violence, more betrayal, sacrifice, and emotional awakenings. Basically all hell breaks loose. I finally forgave Caleb for being such a jerk as this a-hole of a reluctant hero has finally turned himself around from someone I hoped would die long before the end of the series to one I could cheer and feel for. Clean, crisp and gritty writing, with a couple of good twists towards the end, plus a satisfactory conclusion that wraps up the four books but leaves intriguing openings for more. Frankly I would love more of One's adventures, but could let Caleb fly off into the sunset because I can only see him reverting after all the character growth in the four books (and I don't want to see that).

What I didn't like:
*spoiler alert! Don't read this section if you don't want the ending given away* 

Well. It's a minor niggle, but the ending didn't sit entirely right with me. I think it's more because I'm perfectly willing to kill all my characters at the end of a non-romance, so maybe I expect other authors to do it (and there's really no reason why they should!). And the vague hints of romance/light romantic elements throughout weren't exactly resolved either - there's still an opening there for potential future books. Maybe I'm just too set into the SciFi romance groove to accept a non-romance ending when I felt the story was heading that way. That said, it wasn't enough to even justify taking off a half star, and didn't spoil my overall enjoyment.

In conclusion:

I feel like One ripped out my heart and squished it, before giving me a hug! This was a seriously good conclusion to the series, and a real tear-jerker, as well as providing some dark, acidic humor and high-adrenaline action. Those hoping for a romantic ending might be disappointed, but for fans of scifi action adventure who aren't offended by the sex and foul language, this is perfection. Recommended for those who like Firefly/Farscape.

Full disclosure: I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.