Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Unleash by @LaurenScribe

I was so excited for Unleash, which already had good reviews from awesome people, like:

“A visceral, heart-pounding ride of a book that will keep you guessing until the final bloody breath.” – Award-winning fantasy author Pip Ballantine (The Books of the Order, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences)

And Gail Carriger intereviewed Lauren Harris. How cool is that? So of course, I read the book, and after devouring it in two days, I can give you my own glowing review:


In contemporary urban fantasy Unleash (Spellhounds, Book One) by Lauren Harris, Helena Martin fights to break the spell binding her to her sadistic abuser, a powerful mage intent on destroying her family lineage. When well-meaning mundanes offer her a couch to crash on while she waits to contact her cousin on the run, Helena gets a taste of the normal life her abuser has stolen from her. Too bad the Guild is after her and strange happenings keep endangering her and her mundane rescuers.

Lauren Harris writes heart-stopping action scenes while delving into the emotional backlash of abuse--which for Helena includes panic attacks and a painful disconnect from your average social scripts. Readers get a good feel for how dangerous and damaging Helena's situation is, and as a result, Helena comes out on top as an even stronger character. The gritty realism of Unleash was a welcome break from the lighter urban fantasy I usually see. Flowing banter, plot twists, and pointed descriptions round out the action to make Unleash a compelling read.

The wonderfully nail-bitting world of Unleash involves ancient magic drawn through mandalas, blood magic, shapeshifting, and a powerful sorcerer's intent on hiding it all from mundanes. And then there's the heart-warming volunteer dog rescue and the rescuers who only want to give Helena a safe place to stay, away from whatever horrible thing she ran away from. Mandalas and dangerous puppies. Doesn't that make you want to dive in?

Pick up Unleash by Lauren Harris on Amazon.

Add it to your Goodreads list and give it some love there and on Amazon. Every review counts!

Join Lauren's mailing list for an exclusive prequel!  You can also find her on Patreon where followers get exclusive content.

The next book will be Unjust. Oooo, I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: The Rogue Prince by Lindsay Buroker

The Rogue Prince is a fast-paced space adventure by Lindsay Buroker. Young Starseer Jelena Marchenko captains her first mission running cargo, to prove to her parents that she's mature enough to handle the family business. Or, you know, to divert on an impulsive rescue mission to rescue abused animals from Stellacor. Whoops. Stellacor ends up being bigger than she imagined, sporting a high-security facility complete with mounted guns and secret super soldiers. And it's not just herself that Jelena drags into this--she couldn't do it without the help of her Erick Ostberg, her friend whose like a brother, and whose Starseer powers balance her own talents.

As Jelena and Erick race back in response to a family emergency, their little diversion continues to pester them with this little thing called consequences. Meanwhile, news of a friend gone rogue further complicates their return home: Jelena wants to talk to prince Thorian to find out if he's really the one behind the assassinations on the news. If they can even find him.

Jelena Marchenko has a knack for getting into trouble--much like her mom, Alisa. Witty banter,  believable family dynamics, Starseer powers and plenty of life-and-death encounters make The Rogue Prince an entertaining read, while the larger story line add depth and complexity.

The Rogue Prince is part of The Fallen Empire universe, in a timeline which begins with Star Nomad (see my review below) in The Fallen Empire Collection. It's not necessary to read The Fallen Empire Collection first, but reading one series will make you want to read the rest. Star Nomad begins it all with Alisa's quest to reunite with her daughter in the wake of chaos following the collapse of the Empire. The Rogue Prince stars her daughter, Jelena Marchenko, and the books share many characters. And let's not forget Cyborg Legacy: A Fallen Empire Novel, which goes into Leonida's backstory, a cyborg character integral to the series.

Guys, this series is FUN and Buroker is prolific, so if you like to devour your SF at a fast pace, you'll have a lot of material and you won't have to wait long for the next installment or spin-off. Buroker has a great way with dialogue and a good balance of character development and long-reaching plot.

Keep an eye out for book two, Angle of Truth--join Lindsay Buroker's email list to keep up-to-date on her releases, and get free content.



PS:
My review of Star Nomad:

Lindsay Buroker was a new author for me and I am 100% sold. I couldn't join her newsletter fast enough after reading this. Star Nomad jumps right into the action and is fast-paced throughout. Great banter, smooth character development, and a complex universe and backstory give the story surprising depth. A great mix of humor, suspense, and a splash of grim. Fans of Firefly will indeed enjoy this because it has a similar tone and tackles similar political nuances--but Buroker's work stands completely on its own. I love Alisa and Mica (the lead female characters), and I also can't wait to read more of Leonidas' story in Cyborg Legacy: A Fallen Empire Novel.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Review: Little Green Men--Attack! by @BryanThomasS @BaileyRobinW




Little Green Men--Attack! edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Robin Wayne Bailey is an entertaining collection I recently had the privilege to review for Tangent Online. However, I only reviewed the first half of the collection for Tangent. Do you think I stopped reading half-way through? Of course not! So, here's another look at the collection as a whole:


Little Green Men--Attack! from Baen, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Robin Wayne Bailey, is a collection of 18 new stories and 1 classic reprint. Each author takes the idea of little green men and runs with it in their own direction, sometimes playing with SF and conspiracy theory tropes, and sometimes shooting off into the unexpected--unless you were expecting Japanese mythological demons (“A Cuppa, Cuppa Burnin' Love” by Esther M. Friesner), or Victorian roller-skate-offs (“A Fine Night for Tea and Bludgeoning” by Beth L. Cato) complete with satirically stiff Victorian style. And speaking of sportswomen who take their sport seriously, “School Colors” by Seanan McGuire is another particularly funny story featuring a paranormal-fighting cheer leading team that may remind readers of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Turn the ridiculousness up another notch for “Big White Men—Attack!” by Steven H Silver, in which aliens the size of dust motes (Mars dust, to be precise) face off against unwitting astronauts Buzz and Neil.

Elizabeth Moon delivers plenty of creepy factor in “A Greener Future,” where an entertaining troop of little green men are more trouble than they appear. Then in “Rule the World” by Jody Lynn Nye, we get suspiciously charismatic aliens who just want to sign a peace treaty with us, but psychic cats object.

“Stuck in Buenos Aires With Bob Dylan On My Mind” by Ken Scholes is an escapist piece with a beatnik feel (beatnik because... Bob Dylan) in which the narrator is stranded on Earth with the ability to play Bob Dylan songs and speak Spanish, which isn't quite as helpful as one would think in France.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch gives us a wonderfully cynical essay from student to teacher in “Little (Green) Women," because in a universe where little green men might exist, maybe they're bizarre enough to like Little Women.

Martin L. Shoemaker's  “Meet the Landlord” is a tale of one-upmanship that zips along with clever dialogue and running jokes after invisible aliens demand back-payment for humanity's use of the moon.

Little green men can be quite belligerent in “The Little Green Men Take Their Hideous Vengeance, Sort Of” by Mike Resnick. In “Good Neighbor Policy” by Dantzel Cherry, bad attitudes are met with good ole Texas hospitality, which includes pie--the fire ants aren't nearly so accommodating. “Little Green Guys” by K. C. Ball brings us another goofy tall tale in which aliens with attitude demand help in recovering their ship.

Closing the anthology out is “The Fine Art of Politics” by Robin Wayne Bailey, an appropriately over-the-top riff on enthusiastic military who like to shoot every thing out of the sky. “Day of the Bookworm” by Allen M. Steele earlier in the line-up offers the opposite approach, where librarians handle the aliens before the military even knows about them. “First Million Contacts” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Alex Shvartsman take the idea of appeasing aliens in another direction--what if your first alien tried to french kiss you...in Walmart?

Also included is “Hannibal's Elephants” by Robert Silverberg, a classic 1988 reprint from Omni.

From psychic cats to french-kissing aliens, Baen's Little Green Men--Attack! offers up a variety of laughs from seasoned story tellers and editors. Get it now!

Full Table of Contents:
“The Little Green Men Take Their Hideous Vengeance, Sort Of” by Mike Resnick
“Little (Green) Women” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Good Neighbor Policy” by Dantzel Cherry
“Stuck in Buenos Aires With Bob Dylan On My Mind” by Ken Scholes
“Rule the World” by Jody Lynn Nye
“School Colors” by Seanan McGuire
“Meet the Landlord” by Martin L. Shoemaker
“Big White Men—Attack!” by Steven H Silver
“The Green, Green Men of Home” by Selina Rosen
“A Fine Night for Tea and Bludgeoning” by Beth L. Cato
“The Game-a-holic's Guide to Life, Love, and Ruling the World” by Peter J. Wacks & Josh Vogt
“Day of the Bookworm” by Allen M. Steele
“A Greener Future” by Elizabeth Moon
“A Cuppa, Cuppa Burnin' Love” by Esther M. Friesner
“Little Green Guys” by K. C. Ball
“The March of the Little Green Men” by James E. Gunn
“First Million Contacts” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Alex Shvartsman
“Hannibal's Elephants” by Robert Silverberg (1988 reprint from Omni)
“The Fine Art of Politics” by Robin Wayne Bailey

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cover Reveal: Unleash by Lauren Harris

Craving a gritty, kickass heroine?

Coming in May from Lauren Harris, a Contemporary Fantasy for those who love guns, magic, & romance...



A deadly price for freedom. A power she can't control.

Helena Martin doesn't know who she hates more, the sorcerers who fired the magic-laced bullet or the gang-lord master who used her mother as a shield. Both hunt the remnants of her pack and the only way Helena can protect them is using her newly-unleashed magic to lead the two factions away.

With a coveted book of spells as bait, she flees Miami and heads for her mother’s Minnesota hometown. There, salvation comes in the form of a dog rescue willing to take in a different kind of stray. The illusion of a peaceful life is seductive but with sorcerers and bounty hunters sniffing around every corner, Helena fights to keep her past, her pursuers, and her unstable power a secret.

Then she discovers it’s not the spell book her enemies are after, but Helena herself, and the strange power she can barely control. When her master’s bounty hunters threaten her new home, Helena realizes that protecting the people she’s grudgingly come to love leaves her with one option: join the sorcerers who killed her mother.



PREORDER NOW




Join Lauren's mailing list to for an exclusive excerpt and a reminder when the book is out!  here: http://eepurl.com/CB6Pv


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren was raised by an impulsive furniture mover and an itinerant TV News professional in a string of homes up and down the East Coast of the United States. Eventually settling (sort of) in Raleigh, NC, Lauren befriended a band of whimsical nerds who found themselves de-facto beta readers for her scribblings.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she studied English and Classics, Lauren moved to Tokyo, Japan for three years. While there, she studied Japanese, taught English, and fell in love with the hot drink section in the vending machines.

Now, Lauren balances a day-job of Cardiac Ultrasound with her passion for writing and other creative persuits. She is the author of The Millroad Academy Exorcists novella series and an Assistant Editor at Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. Her narration and voice acting can be heard on Audible.com, EscapePod, and various short fiction podcasts.

Keep up with Lauren on the Words of a Feather podcast, her Patreon ( https://www.patreon.com/laurenbharris), or her website,www.laurenbharris.com

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: The Truth About Cats and Wolves by @AletheaKontis plus Once Upon a Kiss

These two new releases by Alethea Kontis will entertain and nurture the romantic in you. What better way to weather these trying times? And as per usual with Ms. Kontis, the stories have a delightful depth to them, blasting through tropes even in the context of a fairy tale.



The Truth About Cats and Wolves: A Nocturne Falls Universe Story by Alethea Kontis is a fun, refreshing romantic urban fantasy following Kai Xanthopoulos, a young woman on the verge of discovering--and deciding--her fate, beginning with her inexplicable encounter with a refugee werewolf who wants the Nocturne Falls police to catch him. Finn's arrival is certainly no accident, but his connection to Kai comes as a surprise to everyone and leads to the discovery of her long-awaited powers. To add to the fun, Owen--the cat that can talk to her?--he's more than he's let on, and his secrets could mean trouble for Kai on the distant horizon.

Kontis' love story busts through urban fantasy tropes with glee. Kai is a wonderfully strong young woman, both in personality and in her emerging powers. Kai's powers give her options, as contrasted with some urban fantasy stories where the woman is constantly beholden to her dangerous companions. Furthermore, Kai's introspection--balanced well by the story's action and magic--is honest in a way that makes me want to be her. Where other protagonists might simper over the abusive bad boy, Kai evaluates her options and her emotions in a way that respects her self and those around her. As icing on the cake, werewolf Finn is not your typical 'bad' boy, either, or Kai would kick him to the curb in the second chapter.

There's plenty of magic and fun, too. Both cat and wolf carry endearing traits over to their human form. Kai's family and friends range from fairy to novice witch. Nocturne Falls is a delightful urban fantasy town (by Kristen Painter) where paranormals like Kai keep the human residents in the dark using spelled water. But of course, spelled water can't hide everything! Kai and her fae friends have to be careful not to give away the town's secret (or get in trouble with Harmswood paranormal school) as they seek to break Finn's curse.

I hope there's a follow-up to The Truth About Cats and Wolves. Kontis gives readers a light-hearted coming-of-age romance, with a tasty hint of more adventure to come.



And as long as we're talking about Alethea Kontis, here's another recent release that I couldn't resist snatching up!


Let's take a look at Once Upon a Kiss: 17 Romantic Faerie Tales anthology, with "Glass Mountain" by Alethea Kontis.

In this gorgeous anthology, an author's note accompanies each story, noting the original fairy tale inspiration and thoughts behind changes made to the original source material. Many of the original fairy tales will be familiar to readers--such as the little mermaid in "The Sea King's Daughter," a beautiful retelling by Anthea Sharp. Kontis' tale is based on a folk tale I'd never read before and is even more enjoyable for it, complete with strange spells and princesses who fall into them. The stories range in length from short stories to novellas with chapters. A very enjoyable anthology with surprising diversity in tone and subject, and a steal at its current 99c price.

Here's a fun "Fairy Tale Rant" by Alethea Kontis covering the original fairy tale, Old RinkRank. I'd never read the tale before myself and found it enjoyable to look it up after reading the anthology. Her Fairy Tale Rants were quite popular and she would love to do them again for her patreon members.

Enjoy!