Monday, 12 October 2015

Contract of Defiance (Spectras Arise Trilogy #1) by Tammy Salyer ★★★★

22962980Contract of Defiance (Spectras Arise Trilogy #1)
by Tammy Salyer
Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: ARC


Synopsis: When all other options run out, never let go of your gun.

Winner of the 2010 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Contest for best action/thriller. Finalist in the Kindle Book Review 2012 Best Indie Book Contest for science fiction/fantasy.

In a few hundred years, the Algol system becomes humanity’s new home. The question is: Is it a better one? When a crew of arms smugglers botches their latest job, Corps-deserter and crewmember, Aly Erikson, is separated from her brother, the only person she can trust, and left behind to fight for her life. In the aftermath, as she tries to piece together what happened, a crew of roughneck settlers pressgang her into a dangerous mission in the heart of Corps territory. Time is running out to get back everything she’s lost: her crew, her brother, her options. But no one is taking her gun.

A missing brother, a kidnapping and a prison break, all wrapped around excellent writing, fleshy characters and snappy dialogue? What's not to like?

I couldn't help but find small hints of my beloved Firefly characters among the rag-tag crew of the Sphynx. Although this would be a much more serious version of it. The stakes are high for main character Aly. Her brother is missing and he's all she has in the universe. She joins, albeit not quite willingly, a crew with like-minded goals and a similar grudge against the Admin. They, too, have people they care about missing, and it's suspected they may be in the same place. So while they may not quite be allies, the enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that jazz.

I really enjoyed Aly. She's a little stilted in the emotions department, something I hope to see her work on in future books, but she sure as heck is tough and capable. Her past activities (she was a smuggler) may make her moral compass seem a little wonky also, but it's not a black and white world and even though she's no angel, she's someone you'd definitely want at your back/side or front in a fight.

If I were to be critical of anything, I really would have liked a little more romance. Although there's a foundation for it here, it's blink-and-you'll-miss-it in terms of actual action.

Still, a strong start and I'll be moving on to book two, Contract of Betrayal, very soon.

4 Stars ★★★★  A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by:

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski ★★★★★

20443207The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2)
by Marie Rutkoski 
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Copy: ARC


Synopsis: Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Lady Kestrel, daughter to the Valorian Emperor's war general, has promised her own hand in marriage to the prince in exchange for former slave Arin (and the rest of the Heranni people's) life. Still somewhat torn between her Valorian roots, her love for Arin, and the Herrani plight, she walks a dangerous path. Her position could be one of great luxury and ease if only she could ignore the stomach turning practices of her own people. But is she brave enough to choose her own destiny?


I'm not sure there can be any actual winners here in The Winner's Crime. Survivors, perhaps, but no one escapes unscathed (or unscarred!) in this instalment.

I remember at the end of book one, The Winner's Curse, feeling an overwhelming sense of hopelessness on behalf of the central characters. It's such an incredibly complex and treacherous world Rutkoski has created and although Kestrel and Arin traverse it admirably - Kestrel, especially, is incredibly astute with a lightning-quick mind and first class poker face, and Arin, although perhaps a little less comfortable with word games, is also a strong player - it's just such a slippery cesspool, particularly now that we've moved location to the emperor's palace, that even the slickest of operators would be hard pressed to maintain the blank facade needed to succeed.

I particularly enjoyed Kestrel this time around. She's supremely intelligent and resourceful, as evidenced in the way she's sought after for advice by men twice her age and experience and of much higher ranking positions for her outstanding problem solving skills. For the moment, she's playing the part of loyal subject and vapid pea-brain just thrilled to be wedding the prince! Yay! When, of course, we know she's anything but. Arin still holds the key to her heart, much as she might wish he didn't. However, it's a part she has to play convincingly since she's living right under the emperor's nose, and there are eyes everywhere.

All in all, The Winner's Crime is a melting pot of deceit, betrayal and subterfuge with some exquisitely tense moments and a heart-stopping conclusion, making me thirstier than a camel in a snowsuit for the final instalment. I simply cannot wait. It's gong to be explosive, I'm sure!

5 Stars ★★★★★  A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by:

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Grave Phantoms (Roaring Twenties #3) by Jenn Bennett ★★★

Grave Phantoms (Roaring Twenties #3)
by Jenn Bennett 
Rating: ★★★
Review Copy: ARC


Synopsis: From the author of Grim Shadows and Bitter Spirits comes the new Roaring Twenties novel in the series hailed as “Boardwalk Empire meets Ghost Hunters, but so much better” (Molly Harper, national bestselling author of the Jane Jameson series).

Feisty flapper Astrid Magnusson is home from college and yearning for the one thing that’s always been off limits: Bo Yeung, her notorious bootlegging brother’s second-in-command. Unfortunately her dream of an easy reunion proves difficult after a violent storm sends a mysterious yacht crashing into the Magnussons’ docks. What’s worse, the boat disappeared a year ago, and the survivors are acting strangely…

Bo has worked with the Magnusson family for years, doing whatever is needed, including keeping his boss’s younger sister out of trouble—and his hands to himself. Of course, that isn’t so easy after Astrid has a haunting vision about the yacht’s disappearance, plunging them into an underground world of old money and dark magic. Danger will drive them closer together, but surviving their own forbidden feelings could be the bigger risk.

A boat turns up at the Magnusson docks that's been missing for a year carrying a bunch of bewildered, possibly amnesiac voyagers. Upon examining the boat, youngest Magnusson, Astrid, suffers a strange, magical reaction to an object she finds there. One she's determined to get to the bottom of, so long as it means being near long-time crush Bo as much as possible.

By far the weakest instalment of the series, which is a shame as it's the final one and sad to have it end so limply. The chemistry found in abundance between the lead characters in the first two books was almost wholly missing here between Bo and Astrid. In fairness, it was a very different set-up -Star-crossed longing in place of fiery passion, and on the younger end of the scale, too. It was a much more innocent, fumbling and awkward affair that, sadly, did very little for me.

I feel like the mystery itself was also weaker and very sparse in terms of page time.

All together, a much slower moving book from Bennett

3 Stars ★★★  A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by:

Ghost Killer (Ghost Seer #3) by Robin D. Owens ★★★★

Ghost Killer (Ghost Seer #3)
by Robin D. Owens 
Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: ARC


Synopsis: Something wicked this way comes…

When her aunt died, level-headed accountant Clare Cermak inherited a fortune—as well as a phantom dog and the power to help ghosts move on. Her new gift led her to Zach Slade, a sexy private investigator with a unique psychic gift of his own, and the man who’s slowly opening her heart. But as they work toward building a future together, a sinister threat emerges.

An evil ghost is ravaging Creede, Colorado, threatening to devour the spirit of an innocent boy. Inexperienced in facing such a powerful ghost—and knowing her spirit, too, could be ripped away—Clare still can't refuse to help. With Zach’s support she uncovers the ghost’s identity, and the ancestral weapon required to slay it. But does Clare dare to use that weapon before the ghost destroys the man she loves—and her own spirit?

Claire (and Zach's) third official Ghost Laying mission sees them heading off to the small town of Creede where a young boy, Caden, nephew to old Mrs Flinton, is having a very tough time. He shares Claire's gift/curse of Ghost Seeing. And if you think it's a lot for a thirty-something woman to deal with, imagine being just a kid and not only dealing with ghosts, but parents who insist you're just "making it all up". *cough*idiots*cough*. Throw in some suspicious deaths that have Mrs Flinton frantic with worry and naturally Claire and Zach can't refuse. Especially Claire, since, you know, refusing to hunt ghosts will actually kill her.

l feel like this should be more than the third instalment of this series. I even did a double-take when I went to to check. It feels like so much happened and the characters are so connected and feel so strongly about each other, you forget it's been a very small amount of time in real fictional life. Just three short weeks of ghostly shenannigans. I suppose that all must be a good thing; that I feel so comfortable with the characters. All down to the excellent writing, of course.

Speaking of, Owen really upped the steam factor this time! This book was very very sexy, with multiple love scenes. Never gratuitous or porno-y, just plentiful. It didn't interfere with the great ghost mystery, however, and there was great development for the characters emotionally, too.

A fab instalment. Bring on the next!

4 Stars ★★★★  A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by: