Review: Heart of Eon by Anna Hackett

Review: Heart of Eon by Anna HackettHeart of Eon (Eon Warriors #3) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance, space opera
Series: Eon Warriors #3
Pages: 213
Published by Anna Hackett on April 21st 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

Okay, maybe hijacking an alien commander’s warship wasn’t her best idea…

Genius computer geek Wren Traynor prefers her high-tech comp lab to socializing with people, and she definitely prefers it over crawling through the bowels of the huge Eon warship she’s hijacked. When Earth’s Space Corps blackmails her into this deadly mission, Wren will do anything to help her beloved sisters and save the Earth from invasion by the insectoid Kantos aliens. That includes entering into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the tall, hunky, and seriously enraged Eon war commander who captains the Rengard.

War Commander Malax Dann-Jad is a born protector and has forged a successful career in service to the Eon Empire. Haunted by an early mission where he lost good warriors, he’s dedicated to protecting his ship and its crew. Especially since his warship is carrying a special, top-secret cargo. But one tiny, infuriating Terran puts all that at risk when she commandeers his ship and refuses to listen to reason.

When the ravenous Kantos set their sights on the Rengard--using sneaky, underhanded tactics--Malax finds himself with an armful of curvy woman. He and Wren must join forces to fight back, and are shocked at their improbable, intense attraction. But with lives at risk, both will learn that strength comes in more ways than one and love can hit when you least expect it, and that in order to survive, you have to put everything on the line.

My Review:

Heart of Eon is the third book in Anna Hackett’s marvelous space opera romance Eon Warriors series. It also feels like it wraps up what I sincerely hope is just the first arc of the series, as these first stories have featured the Traynor sisters, Eve in Edge of Eon, Lara in Touch or Eon, and now Wren in Heart of Eon.

The Traynor sisters were manipulated and coerced by the Terran Space Corps to conduct extremely covert and highly illegal missions in Eon space. The sisters have all been caught between huge rocks and multiple hard places.

When the Terrans made first contact with the Eons, the Terrans acted like superior assholes. This had multiple problems and consequences, besides being just plain rude and stupid. First, the Terrans were far from the superior force. The Eons were light years ahead – and not inclined to put up with a bunch of idiots. Eon space closed itself to Terra, and were just fine with making their entire sector a no-fly zone. The Eons didn’t need the Terrans one little bit.

But not the other way around. The Terrans, still getting their space legs, are now under attack by the insectoid Kantos. The Kantos have a history of literally chewing planets up and spitting out the dead husks, and Earth is next. The Terrans are desperate to get the assistance of the Eons they spurned decades ago.

Their methodology is highly questionable, but the results they’ve achieved by the end of Heart of Eon are hard to argue with. Space Corps “persuaded”, for extremely manipulative definitions of the word persuade, the Traynor sisters to secretly enter Eon space and 1) kidnap a leading Eon starship Commander, 2) steal Eon sacred relics and 3) hijack an Eon warship.

Heart of Eon is the hijacking story, and as the story opens ace computer hacker Wren Traynor is in the bowels of an Eon warship, locked in a virtual battle for control of his ship with Eon War Commander Malax Dann-Jad.

It’s extremely debatable who is winning at this point. Malax has managed to shut down the ship’s faster-than-light (FTL) engines, but Wren is in control of navigation so they are still heading towards her assigned rendezvous point – albeit very, very slowly.

But there are a couple of things that Malax knows but Wren doesn’t. Or rather one bit of information that he’s revealed plenty of times but that Wren doesn’t believe, and one Eon military secret that he is desperate to protect from both Wren and their mutual enemy, the Kantos.

Wren refuses to believe that either, let alone both of her career-oriented military minded sisters have mated. She is particularly disbelieving that they have each become mated to Eon warriors, but they have. Those romances are the stories in the first two books in the series.

Which means that Malax is under orders not to harm Wren. That he’s secretly enjoying the cat and mouse game that they are playing with his ship is something he hasn’t admitted to himself.

He is also laboring under the misapprehension that the experimental nature of his ship is a secret from both the Kantos and from Wren, in spite of her rather effective exploitation of every single hole in his security network.

He’s wrong on both counts. Wren discovers the Helian symbionts secured in his ship when she hides in “their” hidden room from Malax – and one of the symbionts decides to merge with her tablet computer. The resulting entity, who appropriately adopts the name “Sassy” for herself (not itself, definitely herself), bonds with both the computing power of the Terran tablet and with Wren herself.

When the Kantos find the erratically piloted Eon Warship meandering in space, it’s clear from their first salvo that they are aware of the nature of the experiment – and that they plan on capturing the Helians at all costs.

Malax and Wren (and Sassy) will need to join forces to keep all of them out of the Kantos’ grasp. It won’t be easy. But it will allow them to finally give in to the simmering attraction between them.
It’s just going to take a little bit of help from their friends – including the Terran Space Corps.

Escape Rating A-: This entire series has been an absolute shipload of fun, and Heart of Eon is no exception. I love space opera type SFR, and if you do too, this series is a real treat!

Part of what I liked about this particular entry is that Wren is different from her sisters. They are all kickass heroines, but they are thankfully not all heroines in the same mold. Both Eve and Lara were military-types, so they quite literally kicked ass – and it was pretty awesome.

But all women are not alike, not even all sisters are alike. Wren is the different one among the Traynor sisters, but she’s different in a way that’s nearer and dearer to my own heart, as Wren is the geeky nerd in the family. Not that she’s not extremely capable and effective, but her effectiveness is completely different.

That she’s also not the tall, muscular, athletic type of heroine just makes her that much easier to identify with. She’s small and soft and curvy – which gives her a bit of a familiar-type of self-doubt. At the same time, she’s an absolute genius at her computer skills, and rightfully both proud of and confident in those skills. She’s still a heroine, but she’s relatable in her heroine-ness.

Her differences fascinate Malax, who falls for her exactly as she is. And accepts her exactly as she is, including her need to put her skills and talents to work in their fight against the Kantos. She has a job to do, and he doesn’t protest at her doing it – a difficult thing for his protective nature.

But Heart of Eon definitely feels like Wren’s show. And Sassy’s. Definitely Sassy’s. Sassy saves the day with a little bit of help from her Terran and Eon friends. Sassy is just a terrific character, in every sense of the word character. I hope we see her again.

Speaking of again, this series could have ended here. The Traynor sisters have all found their happy ever afters and they’ve accomplished their mission of getting the Eons on board for fighting against the Kantos WITH the Terrans.

But the ending of Heart of Eon foreshadows a new romance brewing between the captain of the Terran ship that helped save the day and the Eon Commander who can’t seem to stop himself from sparring with her, verbally if not otherwise. Yet.

I hope we see that romance, and the future of the Eon alliance with Terra in future installments of this series!

Review: Cat Chase the Moon by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Review: Cat Chase the Moon by Shirley Rousseau MurphyCat Chase the Moon (Joe Grey #21) by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Format: eARC
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Joe Grey #21
Pages: 288
Published by William Morrow on April 23, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Feline P. I. Joe Grey and his friends pounce on three investigations that may connect to one larger mystery—including one case that is very personal—in this hair-raising installment in Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s beloved, award-winning series.

Joe Grey and his partner, Dulcie, are frantic when Courtney, their pretty teen-kitten goes missing. Aided by their two- and four-legged friends, they hit the streets of Molina Point in search of their calico girl. Has Joe Grey and Dulcie’s only daughter been lured away by someone and stolen? Is she lying somewhere hurt, or worse?

Courtney has no idea that everyone is desperately looking for her. Locked in an upstairs apartment above the local antiques shop, she’s enjoying her first solo adventure. When she first met Ulrich Seaver, the shop’s owner, Courtney was frightened. But the human has coddled and pampered her, winning her trust. Sheltered by her parents, her brothers, and her kind human companions, the innocent Courtney is unaware of how deceptive strangers can be. She doesn’t know that Ulrich is hiding a dangerous secret that could threaten her and everyone in this charming California coastal village.

With his focus on finding Courtney, Joe Grey has neglected his detective work with the Molina Point Police Department. Before his daughter disappeared, Joe found a viciously beaten woman lying near the beach. Now the police investigation has stalled, and the clever feline worries his human colleagues may have missed a vital clue. Joe is also concerned about a family of newcomers whose domestic battles are disturbing the town’s tranquility. Loud and abrasive, the Luthers’ angry arguing, shouting, and swearing in the early hours of the night have neighbors on edge and the cops on alert. One of the couple’s late-night shouting matches masked the sounds of a burglary, and now a criminal is on the loose.

Though the crimes are as crisscrossed as the strands of a ball of yarn, Joe Grey’s cat senses tell him they may somehow be linked. It’s up to the fleet-footed feline and his crime-solving coterie to untangle the mysteries before it’s too late.

My Review:

There is a sadness that permeates this tale  from the very beginning. While in the end good triumphs and evil gets its just desserts, the ending is bittersweet and something about that feels like it’s woven throughout the entire story.

It’s that all of the mysteries – which do, of course, get solved in the end – all have their roots in something not merely awful but also heartbreaking – and they all connect up at the end into one giant ball of wrong that brings a whole lot of grief in its wake – as well as the beginning of healing. And more adventure.

The story begins when a wandering Joe Grey discovers a half-dead woman half-buried in a shallow grave. He breaks into a nearby cottage, and the Molena Point PD receives a phone call from their favorite “snitch” letting them know where to get the body before it becomes a dead body.

As bad as that sounds, we don’t yet know (and neither does Joe Grey) just how that poor woman’s story is going to tangle into the others.

The family that has moved in across the street from Joe Grey’s humans, Clyde and Ryan, does not put the fun in dysfunctional. It’s more like the Luther family is one spark away from taking their regular domestic arguments over the line into the kind of domestic situation that gives police officers everywhere nightmares.

There’s plenty of sadness to be found in that mess, as the adults are at best neglectful and at worst borderline abusive of the pre-teen girl that they have dragged away from her beloved grandfather and equally cherished horse, leaving all three, the girl, the horse, and the grandfather in emotional distress.

A grandfather who not only misses his granddaughter, but one who has put the puzzle pieces together to figure out that his sons and his daughter-in-law are the ones behind the rash of robberies currently in progress in and around Molena Point.

His family is causing no end of trouble for everyone in town, but they are still his family. And he fears, rightly or wrongly, that getting them all locked up will see his granddaughter lost to him in the bowels of family services hell.

Just as it seems that nothing in town is going right, tragedy strikes directly at the heart of Joe Grey’s family when his daughter, the beautiful if occasionally silly half-grown kit Courtney, is kidnapped (catnapped?) by someone who promises her a life at the center of worshipful crowds IF she is willing to live that pampered life in a gilded cage.

Joe is frantic at the loss of Courtney, heartsore at the plight of Mindy, and worried at the situation of the woman he rescued. When it all comes together, it also falls apart. With deadly results.

Escape Rating B: With a cozy series like Joe Grey’s, the reader comes to expect a lighthearted tone to even some of the darkest investigations. And much of this series is pretty light and fluffy – as fluffy as the cats’ fur.

But this entry isn’t the least bit fluffy. It also ends on more of a fantasy note than has been seen in this series in a while, in spite of the series origins in the author’s contemporary fantasy novel The Catswold Portal. The speaking cats all have their origins in that realm beyond the portal, and it’s time again for one of them to make the journey into that Netherworld.

But not before we all work our way through everything current wrong in Molena Point.

So much is wrapped up in the dysfunction of the Luther family. Zebulon doesn’t seem like a bad sort, so one has to wonder what warped all of his kids – but his progeny are all seriously bad. That he doesn’t want to turn in his own kids while still needing to turn in his own kids is a dilemma that no parent wants to face no matter how criminal those kids turn out to be as adults. That he turns his depression over his granddaughter being forced to move out into a determination to discover just how wrong his sons have gone leads to nowhere but grief for all concerned.

It’s a sad situation that permeates the story. Readers will find themselves wondering why, when every adult for miles around knows that young Mindy is being neglected if not abused, no one can manage to rescue her. In the end, she has to rescue herself and her grandfather. And she’s not even a teenager yet!

The situation with Courtney felt a bit odd. It seemed like a very weird tangent of the main case, because her kidnappers have catnapped her not because they know she can talk, but because she resembles a lot of historical portraits of magical cats and they think they can wrap an expensive traveling exhibit around her and the art works. This seems more fantastical to me than the speaking cats. YMMV.

There are also a couple of serious notes among Joe Grey’s circle that add to the atmosphere. Joe Grey himself, with his feline instincts and human intelligence, seems to have more and deeper questions about who and what he is and what it all means as the series goes on. His attitude is maturing in ways that make him question the meaning of it all – and that scare him, if he would admit to being scared – out of at least a couple of his nine lives.

The other thing I’m wondering about as a reader is the dilemma faced by Charlie Harper, the police chief’s wife. Charlie knows about the cats, her husband does not, in spite of the number of incredibly excellent tips the police have received from their elusive snitches. Max is suspicious of Joe Grey in particular, and Charlie is lying to her spouse. That’s a situation I expect to come to a nasty head in some future book in the series.

But speaking of future books, I love this series, and always look forward to my next trip to Molena Point for more adventures with Joe Grey, Dulcie and their clowder of speaking cats. This particular book was a bit darker than I expected, but I still enjoyed checking in with the gang and finding out how everyone is doing.

I’ll be back again next year to see how they’re all getting on, and whether the MPPD has figured out the identity of their favorite snitches yet!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 4-21-19

Sunday Post

It’s both Passover and Easter Sunday today, so HAPPY whatever you celebrate in this Spring season!

I’m trying to figure out what to say about either last week or this coming week, and for some reason I’m drawing a blank. At least I didn’t do an actual blank and just leave the “XXX” from the template in this space!

The upcoming week feels like a relatively quiet week, at least at the moment. No blog hops, no new tours, no new giveaways. It feels a bit anticlimactic. But fear not, the next several weeks have bloghops and tour reviews galore!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Something to Marble At Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop is Jen B.
The winner of the Rain Rain Go Away Giveaway Hop is Lisa

Blog Recap:

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop
Something to Marble At Giveaway Hop
A- Review: Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
B+ Review: Winds of Marque by Bennett R. Coles
B+ Review: Old Baggage by Lissa Evans
Stacking the Shelves (336)

Coming This Week:

Cat Chase the Moon by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (review)
Heart of Eon by Anna Hackett (review)
Pirate’s Pleasure by Lisa Kessler (review)
The Fire by John A. Heldt (review)
Under the Table by Stephanie Evanovich (review)

Stacking the Shelves (336)

Stacking the Shelves

This turned out to be one of those weeks where there was just more of everything. And Amazon is still celebrating World Book Day by giving away kindle copies of 9 international books. The giveaway continues for a few more days, if you want to get in on the fun!

For Review:
All But the Fall (Sun River Ranchers #1) by Kim Turner
Bringing Down the Duke (League of Extraordinary Women #1) by Evie Dunmore
The Clockwork Detective (Constable of Aqualinne #1) by R.A. McCandless
Heart of Eon (Eon Warriors #3) by Anna Hackett
I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagán
In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire
Junction by Daniel M. Bensen
Nikolai of Semar (Lords of Magic #3) by Aurrora St. James
Permafrost by Alistair Reynolds
The Samurai’s Daughter by John J. Healey
Save Me (O’Brien Family #5) by Cecy Robson
Seaside Sweets (Love Along Hwy 30A #1) by Melissa Chambers
Stranded with the Detective (Tennessee SWAT #3) by Lena Diaz
Summer on Mirror Lake (Honeymoon Harbor #3) by JoAnn Ross
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
This is Home by Lisa Duffy
The Time Collector by Gwendolyn Womack
Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
The Undefeated by Una McCormack
The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore
The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams
Wrath of the Goddess (Goddess with a Blade #5) by Lauren Dane

Purchased from Amazon:
About the Night by Anat Talshir
All This I Will Give to You by Dolores Redondo
An American Princess by Annejet Van Der Zijl
The Dark Heart by Joakim Palmkvist
Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro
The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch
The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia
The Passion According to Carmela by Marcos Aguinis
The President’s Henchman (Jim McGill #1) by Joseph Flynn
This Life or the Next by Demian Vitanza

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Click here to enter

Review: Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

Review: Old Baggage by Lissa EvansOld Baggage by Lissa Evans
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 320
Published by Harper Perennial on April 16, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The author of the acclaimed Crooked Heart returns with a comic, charming, and surprisingly timely portrait of a once pioneering suffragette trying to find her new passion in post-WWI era London.

1928. Riffling through a cupboard, Matilda Simpkin comes across a small wooden club—an old possession that she hasn’t seen for more than a decade. Immediately, memories come flooding back to Mattie—memories of a thrilling past, which only further serve to remind her of her chafingly uneventful present. During the Women's Suffrage Campaign, she was a militant who was jailed five times and never missed an opportunity to return to the fray. Now in middle age, the closest she gets to the excitement of her old life is the occasional lecture on the legacy of the militant movement.

After running into an old suffragette comrade who has committed herself to the wave of Fascism, Mattie realizes there is a new cause she needs to fight for and turns her focus to a new generation of women. Thus the Amazons are formed, a group created to give girls a place to not only exercise their bodies but their minds, and ignite in young women a much-needed interest in the world around them. But when a new girl joins the group, sending Mattie’s past crashing into her present, every principle Mattie has ever stood for is threatened.

Old Baggage is a funny and bittersweet portrait of a woman who has never given up the fight and the young women who are just discovering it.

My Review:

I’ve just realized that the title of this book is a bit of a pun. The main character, Mattie Simpkin, is referred to as an “old baggage”, meaning a cantankerous old woman. But the point of this story is that she is also carrying a lot of “old baggage”, as in emotional baggage. And that the old baggage actually isn’t carrying her old baggage terribly well, leading to the crisis point in the story.

Mattie is also fond of sprinkling her speech with quotations from authors, historians and philosophers. There’s one that’s used in the book, and is extremely appropriate to the story, even if there seems to be some debate on who originated it.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” And so it proves for Mattie Simpkin.

At first, this seemed to be a simple story about someone whose glory days were long behind them – and that same person’s inability to cope with that fact. But it’s not nearly that simple.

As the story begins, it’s 1928. Mattie is in her late 50s, and while she may not think of herself as old, it’s clear that others around her do. (I found this poignant and ironic at the same time as I’m older than Mattie but don’t see myself that way at all. It’s true that “old” starts at least 15 years past one’s own age)

Once upon a time, Mattie was one of the celebrated (and frequently derided) suffragists that marched, agitated and were jailed to goad the powers-that-were to grant women in Britain the right to vote. (It wasn’t any better in the U.S.)

The right was granted, under rather stringent conditions, in 1918 in the exhausted aftermath of World War I. At which point the movement towards women’s equality collapsed. (If this sounds familiar, let’s just say the pattern repeats).

But Mattie has never given up the fight, and ten years later she is still on the lecture circuit, attempting to enlist a new generation of women into the cause. She’s failing, and her lectures are increasingly poorly attended.

The situation changes when an old frenemy comes back into her life, and Mattie is galvanized into bringing young girls of her present some of the same educational and recreational experiences that formed her character. The problem is that her frenemy is plumping for the nascent Nazi party.

And Mattie’s need to prove herself to someone who has never had any intention but to bring her down and keep her there has no end of bad consequences. For Mattie, for her best friend Florrie, and especially for the girls and young women they have taken under their wings.

Escape Rating B+: At first, it didn’t seem like a whole lot happened in this book. Looking back on it, not a whole lot does – at least not in the sense of groundbreaking or earthshaking adventure. But there is plenty of drama underneath the quiet surface.

Initially, Mattie seems like somewhat of a comic figure. She’s an old battle axe who doesn’t seem to recognize that it’s time to put the axe up on the wall. While her mannerisms can be amusing, and her stubbornness is plenty infuriating to her friends and neighbors, she’s also right. Those two things don’t cancel each other out.

The cause was not won, only placated a bit. The fight was not over. Women were not equal. (They still aren’t) But Mattie’s methods don’t do her any favors, and she alienates as many people as she convinces. Probably alienates more people than she convinces.

The quiet drama in the story is the way that Mattie gets led astray, not so much from her cause as from her bedrock straightforward way of going about it.

Because while Mattie may be an old baggage, there are also a couple of nasty pieces of baggage who are deliberately, or not so deliberately, undermining her efforts. And her sense of self is what suffers along the way.

It’s when she finally comes back to herself that she is finally offered that opportunity to be what she might have been. And it’s her redemption that she takes it.

In the end, Old Baggage was nothing like I expected. But it was a charming read every step of the way.

Review: Winds of Marque by Bennett R. Coles

Review: Winds of Marque by Bennett R. ColesWinds of Marque: Blackwood Virtue by Bennett R. Coles
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: science fiction, space opera
Series: Blackwood & Virtue #1
Pages: 368
Published by Harper Voyager on April 16, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

"Bennett R. Coles ranks among my go-to list in SF. Entertaining and intelligent storytelling and terrific characters. In Winds of Marque, Coles may well have invented a whole new subgenre that has me scrambling for a description--Steam Space?  Whatever you call it, a blast to read. Here's hoping that many more adventures are in the offing for Blackwood and company."  Steven Erikson, New York Times bestselling author

The first novel in an exciting science fiction series—Master and Commander in space—a swashbuckling space adventure in which a crew of misfit individuals in the king’s navy are sent to dismantle a dangerous ring of pirate raiders.

In a dense star cluster, the solar winds blow fiercely. The star sailing ship HMSS Daring is running at full sheet with a letter of marque allowing them to capture enemy vessels involved in illegal trading. Sailing under a false flag to protect the ship and its mission, Daring’s crew must gather intelligence that will lead them to the pirates’ base.

Posing as traders, Daring’s dashing second-in-command Liam Blackwood and brilliant quartermaster Amelia Virtue infiltrate shady civilian merchant networks, believing one will lead them to their quarry.

But their mission is threatened from within their own ranks when Daring’s enigmatic captain makes a series of questionable choices, and rumblings of discontent start bubbling up from below decks, putting the crew on edge and destroying morale. On top of it all, Liam and Amelia must grapple with their growing feelings for each other.

Facing danger from unexpected quarters that could steer the expedition off course, Blackwood and Virtue must identify the real enemy threat and discover the truth about their commander—and their mission—before Daring falls prey to the very pirates she’s meant to be tracking.

My Review:

The blurbs and the reviews for this book say the same two things fairly consistently. One, that it’s a whole lot of fun. Two, that it’s Aubrey and Maturin (Master and Commander) in space.

The first thing is definitely true. Winds of Marque is a whole lot of fun. I’m a bit less sure about the second thing – and I’m saying that as someone who read the entire Aubrey and Maturin series.

What makes this so much fun is that it is a romp of swashbuckling derring-do, but set in space in the distant future – on a Navy ship under letters of marque (government-licensed piracy) with a mission to find the real pirates and wipe them out before humans end up in a war with the insect-like Sectoids.

Our plucky heroes are Subcommander Liam Blackwood and Petty Officer Amelia Virtue. Fraternizing between the ranks is about to become the least of their problems.

Blackwood, second-son of the nobility and Executive Office (XO) of the HMSS Daring, has a reputation for coddling, chivying and generally outmaneuvering dunderheaded noble Captains so that they manage not to kill their entire crews in acts of noble idiocy. He’s unfortunately good at his job – because it’s bad for his career. Someone has to take the blame for the untouchable nobles’ disasters, and it’s generally their frustrated XO.

Virtue is the newly promoted quartermaster of the Daring. She’s relatively young, hyper-competent, and has the combined duty of making sure the Daring is fully supplied without resorting to Naval stores while instructing Blackwood in just how different the life of a commoner ranking sailor is from that of even a second-born noble son.

It’s probably going to be the making of him, if they survive the mess they are currently in.

Because nothing about their mission is exactly what it seems. Not the inexperienced but not unintelligent Captain Lady Sophia Riverton, not the pirates and certainly not the Sectoids.

That there’s a noble fop on board who is just dead certain that he can do everything better than his Naval superiors but social inferiors is nearly the deadly icing on a very explosive cake.

And it’s a blast from beginning to end.

Escape Rating B+: I had a great time while I was reading this. The verve and drive of the narrative really sweeps the reader along. But, I’m not sure how well it holds up upon further reflection. Not that I won’t pick up the next book in the series when it comes out. I did have a great time.

Part of the problem for this reader may be in all those comparisons to the Aubrey and Maturin series. Which was marvelous and excellent and terrific and if you enjoy naval stories or Napoleonic war stories is highly recommended. The audio is particularly good.

One issue, at least so far, is that Blackwood is not analogous to Aubrey (neither is Riverton) and there is no Maturin, at least so far. And that one aspect of the story, the Napoleonic wars in space, has been done before by David Weber in the Honor Harrington series. (It’s also been done in fantasy in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik!)

Where it is similar to the Aubrey and Maturin series is in its detailed descriptions of the working of the ship. That the Daring is a ship powered by “solar sails” makes that resemblance more pronounced, but also a bit out of place. I’m not sure whether it’s that we’ve become so used to FTL (Faster Than Light) ships being sleek and powered internally that solar sails feel less possible (not that FTL drives in general are possible at the present) or that the whole “sailing” aspect feels like an artificial way for the author to insert sailing jargon and terminology that would not otherwise be present.

One aspect of the story, although not the primary aspect, is the developing romance between Blackwood and Virtue. As much as I like both characters, there doesn’t feel like there’s enough there to sell the romance. While it does take a reasonable amount of time for them to fall in love, because the story is told from Blackwood’s perspective we don’t see enough of Virtue’s thought processes to “feel” their romance. It’s a not nearly enough significant glances and conversations about ship’s business that fall into bed – or rather office floor at a crisis point.

Although this is a navy that has given up on anti-fraternization regulations, these are people from two different worlds that don’t mix. If they are going to be together, there need to be a whole lot more conversations about how that’s going to work. Because what Virtue tells Blackwood is correct – as a noble he can do anything at all to her, up to and possibly including murder but certainly including rape and assault – and he will never be punished because he’s a member of the aristocracy and she’s a commoner. That power imbalance is going to require one hell of a reckoning at some point.

The book this reminds me of the most is The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis. That book incorporates its equivalent ship jargon much more smoothly. Transferring the terminology of sailing vessels to an airship that sails the air felt smoother even if the war they are flying in is just as deadly. That story also includes a noble fop, but that one manages to get better – if not less foppish – as the adventure goes along.

The situation that the Daring finds herself in is a well-worn and well-loved trope. The ship of misfit naval personnel go rogue with official sanction but no official backing to do a job that desperately needs to be done – but that no one in the official navy wants to be caught dirtying their hands to actually get done. If they complete their mission someone else will get the glory, but if they fail the survivors will take all the blame.

And it’s so much fun that none of them can resist signing up for another mission. Readers won’t be resisting either!

Review: Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Review: Midnight Riot by Ben AaronovitchMidnight Riot (Peter Grant, #1) by Ben Aaronovitch
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Rivers of London #1
Pages: 298
Published by Del Rey on February 1, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

My Review:

I’ve had this in my kindle app forever, to the point where I had to check to see exactly how I got it. Finding out that it was 6 years ago was kind of a shocker. I do get around to things eventually, but eventually can clearly be a very long time.

I picked it up now because I have to read the latest book in the Rivers of London series for one of my reviewing commitments and wanted to at least see where it all began.

I was not disappointed. Midnight Riot is a terrific introduction to the Rivers of London and definitely lives up to all the marvelous things that have been said about it.

This book reminds me of so very many things. First, it is absolutely urban fantasy. In some ways, kind of old school urban fantasy, hearkening back to urban fantasy’s roots in the mystery genre.

Because we sure do have a mystery. What we also have is a cop. An honest-to-goodness sworn police officer, Peter Grant, just out of his probationary period in the Metropolitan Police and really hoping to do something more interesting than push paper for his entire career.

Ghost-hunting, however, was not on his career radar. Not even remotely. When the ghost of Nicholas Wallpenny tells PC Grant that he witnessed the previous evening’s sensational murder, Grant isn’t quite sure he believes the evidence being presented right before his eyes. And ears. And slightly stunned brain.

But going back the next night to interview the witness again brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the one man in the Met who will believe him.

The next morning Constable Peter Grant’s career has possibilities that he never even dreamed of. And dangers that may be way, way more than the Academy ever trained him to handle.

Escape Rating A-: First and foremost, I had a whole lot of fun with this one. It’s a terrific book and a great intro to the series.

One of the things that struck me as I read was just how “British” the book felt. It seemed like there were no concessions made for any potential American readers. Either you’ve read enough/seen enough on PBS to get the points where the two nations are divided by the common language, or you don’t.

If you have, it adds to the immersion, as it did for me. If you haven’t, I suspect you spend either a lot of time Googling Britspeak or get bogged down and give up. I was fully immersed from the opening page. Your mileage may vary.

Howsomever, one thing I did wonder about was whether it is/was common practice for single constables to have their living quarters in their stations. Or to at least have that possibility. Because that didn’t feel contemporary to me, I found myself thinking of this as a bit near-future, or at least more alternate history than urban fantasy sometimes is.

After flailing around for what Rivers of London reminded me of most, I think in the end it’s a cross between a police-procedural and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Possibly with a bit of his American Gods added to put some actual deus into the occasional ex machina.

Whatever it is, it’s fascinating. As the first book in the series, Peter Grant finds himself introduced to the world of magic, including the standard opening lessons in his brave new world. As well as a drop into the deep end of the pool (river) when his Chief Inspector is temporarily knocked out of the action by a bullet.

Peter makes for an interesting insider/outsider investigator. He begins as a mixed race man in London, already somewhat of an outsider in spite of having been born there. The story is told from his first-person perspective, which exposes his interior thoughts on being a black man in a white city to the reader in all their world-weary cynicism – particularly when he’s riding the tube.

He’s also the newbie in the world of magic, and everyone seems to want to take advantage of his lack of knowledge – as people frequently tend to do – even if, or especially because they are either deities, genii locorum, or both.

In a fight between gods, ghosts and monsters, Peter feels like the one sane voice attempting to hold it all together. Even during a midnight riot.

Something to Marble At Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Something to Marble At Giveaway Hop, hosted by MamatheFox!

The name of this hop brings to mind all sorts of terrible puns, doesn’t it?

There’s marbled paper, like the background of the hop image. There are marble countertops. And there are marble statues. There are lots of marble statues. Then there’s marble cake. Ooh, that sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

And then there are good, old-fashioned marbles.

Last but not least, the marbles in your head. As in losing them. Occasionally finding them. Wondering if the cat is playing with them (one way or another). Or maybe that’s just my house. The kitten plays with everything!

What marbles are you thinking of? What kinds of things are you “marbling” at this season? Answer in the rafflecopter for your chance at Reading Reality’s usual blog hop prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And for more “marbelous” prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop, hosted by BookHounds.

A slightly early “Happy Easter” to those of you that celebrate Easter. This is one of those years when Easter and Passover actually do coincide, so this is also a slightly early Happy Passover.

Easter weekend is also one of those days that marks an unofficial start of Spring, particularly for those who are in more northerly climes. By this time in Chicago, the flowers are out and the weather is warm. It’s also the point where the longer days really start to kick in.

In Anchorage, April is either “Breakup” or “Mud Season”, if not both. Breakup because the frozen waterways literally break up. And it’s very, very muddy.

In Atlanta, we had a very rainy weekend. After all, April Showers are another hallmark of the season.

I’m sure this wasn’t the first time, but we noticed that there are pre-colored Easter eggs available in the grocery store. This just feels like cheating to me. Even my mom helped me color Easter eggs, in spite of Easter not being our holiday! What is the world coming to? LOLOLOL

In closing, my annual peek into the strange phenomenon that is Peeps!

Jurassic Peeps!

Just in case you want to read a good book with your Peeps, take a chance in the Rafflecopter for your choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more “hoppy” prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 4-14-19

Sunday Post

Now I know that the Blogo-Birthday Giveaway Celebration is REALLY over. All of the rafflecopters have ended, and it’s time to announce the winners for all the giveaways. I’d like to thank everyone who participated, and everyone who reads and follows Reading Reality. You all make it a blast!

Both of the remaining giveaways end early this week, but fear not! I have new ones starting on the very same days!

I was clearly not as awake as I thought on Saturday. I prepped my Stacking the Shelves post but forgot to publish it! It was THAT kind of week! Now that the taxes are done for the year, hopefully this week will be a bit less fraught.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Worth Melting For Giveaway Hop (ends TOMORROW!)
$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Rain Rain Go Away Giveaway Hop (ends TUESDAY!)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of any book in the Leaphorn Chee and Manuelito series by Anne and Tony Hillerman is Danielle.
The winner of any book in the either Pitt series by Anne Perry is Helen.
The winner of the $25 Amazon Gift Card is Cali.
The winner of the $25 Book(s) is Laura.

Blog Recap:

A Review: Who Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris
B- Review: A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian
B Review: Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James
A+ Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
A+ Review: Doctor Who: Scratchman by Tom Baker
Stacking the Shelves (335)

Coming This Week:

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop
Something to Marble At Giveaway Hop
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (review)
The Winds of Marque by Bennett R. Coles (review)
Old Baggage by Lissa Evans (review)