Sequella, Corey, and Kitty Review Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge by Fletcher DeLancey

Kitty: It’s a three-way!

Corey: A review, Kitty. A three-way review.

Sequella: A sequel! Finally! About time after that damn cliffhanger.

Corey: Do we even need to do a synopsis? I cannot imagine anyone jumping into this book without first reading Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge. But let the record show I sobbed with both happiness and angst almost immediately after tapping open Chapter 1.

Kitty: Oh please let me provide the synopsis! I bookmarked exactly —

Corey: Kitty! You will not give away the number of sexy times in the book. Let the readers discover that on their own.

Sequella: I think Kitty is still sitting in the co-pilot seat waiting for the Lancer.

Kitty: But… neck ridges… and… other ridges…

Corey: Just hush your mouth. Sequella, thoughts on the end to the cliffhanger?

Sequella: Just for the record, cliffhangers should be outlawed and it would have been no problem to end The Producer’s Challenge two or three chapters before it. However, the cliffhanger was a great way to shove the happy couple and me off cloud nine and start kicking some ass. (Them, not me. I was just cheering from the sidelines).

Corey: We’ll be of that generation that says “Remember when we had to wait an entire month for the sequel? Young readers these days get instant gratification, the spoiled brats.” Even then, it was only a download away from our e-readers once released. Did you go through a few recovery steps, Sequella, trying to deal with your reading addiction?

Sequella: Are you asking me how much time I spent on the Chronicles of Alsea website looking for updates or how often I googled Lancer Tal only to come up empty handed?

Corey: Ha! I just kept re-reading the completed books and cursing in Alsean. Anyway, The Caphenon was action-oriented, and Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge got down to both politics and romance. Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge seemed to bring back the action in a fierce way.

Sequella: The sword fighting was awesome!

Corey: Yes! And so much more intimate than the Voloth attacking the entire planet in The Caphenon. I really personalized my hatred of the bad guys in this book.

Kitty: Not ALL of the action centered around hate and swords.

Corey: Yes, Kitty. Now, let’s get down to other important questions. In an earlier review, I declared my caste to be scholar. Sequella, I am guessing you are a crafter?

Sequella: Of course. The caste system is something I like very much about Alsea. I like guessing castes for all people that are never directly mentioned but also part of Alsea. What about the Lancer’s cook or the people flying the public transports?

Kitty: I would be a religious scholar, because I love hearing all those women scream “Oh Fahla” when —

Corey: — when they pray. Ahem. Speaking of which… You know I love me some Lead Templar Lanaril. Who are you most eager for DeLancey to feature in future Alsean books?

Sequella: Ahhh…my favorite question, because that means MORE sequels. Lanaril is definitely someone deserving another story. Also, there is already a hint of another Lhyn and Ekatya story happening between the end of The Caphenon and the end of The Warrior’s Challenge. And the one I am most anxiously waiting for is Vellmar! She is a sword throwing Xena lookalike in my head.

Kitty: Colonel Razine. Someone with such perfect mental control who’s done such dark things for the right reasons, makes me shiver. So much promise for more intrigue with that one, and can you imagine if she ever did let herself give up some control… in the right situation, away from the job… Purr.

Sequella: What did you think about the end of the book? Too shiny and overdone?

Corey: Nope. In fact, I appreciated the time spent with Jaros in the aftermath, as well as with the rest of the Hol-Opah family/community. And Micah’s revelations, too. I was loving the eight whole chapters of reading in the final section; the opposite of a cliffhanger. Very satisfying, particularly because I am expecting many more Chronicles to come.

Sequella: Absolutely! So we agree we all liked it? I got the “stop-reading-rest-your-eyes” warning from my reading app five times. That’s how hard is was for me to put the book down and participate in real life.

Corey: Oh yes! I read so steadily that I had to stop and charge my e-reader even though it advertises “A single charge can last up to six weeks (based on a half hour of reading per day)…” You do the math on how much I read in one day. Kitty, what did you think? Kitty?

Kitty: Leave me alone. I’m checking out my bookmarks.

Sequella: And, last but not least, some survival tips for the looong wait until the next sequel:
1. Reread, starting with The Caphenon. There will be smaller things that you didn’t discover on your first hasty OMG-it’s-so-good read.
2. Check the Ylva site for any announcements about upcoming sequels or maybe a short story in one of their anthologies. You never know, there might be something for your inner Kitty McSaucerton in the next Slippery Folds anthology.
3. Make sure at least one of your friends also read the Alsea books. It’s nice to have someone with whom to discuss your addiction.
4. Read Fletcher’s Star Trek: Voyager fanfiction. It’s perfectly fine to never have watched the TV show. And I can promise you, Lancer Tal is in there waiting to be discovered. She is different from the improved version in the published books, but it’s still nice to visit with her.
5. Are you a writer yourself? Write Alsea fanfiction! This will help you AND us! Make sure you include some nipple clamps for Kitty’s enjoyment.

Corey: Okay, you went there. I’m just going to sit over here, blushing.

Kitty: Purrrrrrrrrr.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge by clicking here.

Corey Reviews No Good Reason by Cari Hunter

A new Cari Hunter novel? What mayhem will engulf her characters this time? The answer: Truly terrible things, as well as truly lovely things, abound in the mystery-thriller No Good Reason. “She hurt” are the opening words, and this is a bodily hurt. The plot takes off immediately as a captive woman makes her bloody escape and then — Well, this is not a romance, dear reader, so brace yourself.

After visiting America for her last two books, Desolation Point and Tumbledown, Hunter returns to the land of hot tea and the bacon butty in her latest novel. Our heroines are Detective Sanne Jensen and Dr. Meg Fielding, best mates forever and sometimes something more. Their relationship is undefinable and complicated, but not in a hot mess of drama way. Rather, they share unspoken depths, comfortably silly moments, rock-solid friendship, and an intimacy that will make your heart ache just a wee bit.

Sanne and Meg’s relationship may be a muddle, but goodness knows they’ll need to hold tight to each other. Truly nasty things await them as Sanne is the first on the scene when hikers discover a barely-alive woman in the North Peak district of Derbyshire. The mystery of the woman’s identity, who tortured her, where she was held captive and why, play out as Sanne and Meg struggle with the emotional and physical tolls of each twisty discovery.

Hunter is a paramedic when not authoring, so she knows her medical scenes and masterfully writes hurt/comfort. The people Meg and Sanne work along-side actually seem to live real lives and not just exist as secondary characters to prop up the plot. While I foresaw some turns in the case before the Derbyshire police, how everyone reacts to those developments seems much more important. And folks, many moments of cheer, shared laughter, and good eats sneak in around the angst and action.

I felt so much for the people in this book, which may be the highest compliment I can give the author. Damn you, Cari Hunter, you made me care.

Now go write the sequel.

Disclaimer: This reviewer once ate American diner food with the author at a Lesfic event, and also received British sweets through the mail from her. However, she wouldn’t write a review of this book if it was shite.

Cheri Reviews The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon

My buddy, Andy, has been telling me how much she loves the work of Robert McCammon for a few years now. I never really cared to give him a try. Shapeshifter spys, post-apocalyptic tales, and ghost stories haven’t really been my preference over the past few years so I’ve not paid much attention to poor Andy’s suggestions of Mr. McCammon’s work. Well, that changed a week ago when we were looking for something to discuss on the next Cocktail Hour podcast. I told Andy she could pick the book we would read and discuss. I have to be honest and tell you that I subtly tried to talk her into picking something else but she stuck to her guns and I resigned myself to slogging through a long-ass boring book. I was just thankful that I had Audible credits available. How wrong I was. How very, very wrong. Before I go further, here’s the blurb:

On the eve of D-Day, a British secret agent with unique powers goes behind Nazi lines Michael Gallatin is a British spy with a peculiar talent: the ability to transform himself into a wolf. Although his work in North Africa helped the Allies win the continent in the early days of World War II, he quit the service when a German spy shot his lover in her bed. Now, three years later, the army asks him to end his retirement and parachute into occupied Paris. A mysterious German plan called the Iron Fist threatens the D-Day invasion, and the Nazi in charge is the spy who betrayed Michael’s lover. The werewolf goes to France for king and country, hoping for a chance at bloody vengeance.

It just didn’t sound like something I’d want to read. But regardless of my apprehension, it grabbed me and didn’t let me go. I hated to hit the pause button to go to work, pick up my child, or go to sleep. I dreamed about wolves and nazis and thought about what was going to happen next and kept modifying my predictions about what Iron Fist was. I dropped a tear at one point when one character discovered that he lost his family to Allied bombing. My stomach roiled during the descriptions of some of the “entertainment” on display for some upper echelon Nazis and friends. But mostly I cheered when the bad guys got what they had coming to them. There were lots of bad guys so there were lots of ass kickings to go around.

Probably the weakest part of the book, for me, was the wolf-shifter part. It was very interesting and I enjoyed it, to be sure, but there was just so much going on during the WWII portion of the book that I hated to have to wait to find what happened next! I guess calling Michael’s younger years weak is unfair, maybe it’s the slow part. The book wasn’t perfect; there were some words and phrases that were over-used and Michael was mostly the perfect man – I mean he even performed oral sex without being asked! I was ready for the book to end when it did but not because I just couldn’t take any more – the story was over and everything was wrapped up and I was ready to wish them all well and move on.

I’ve already purchased Swan Song. A massive “thank you” to Andy for picking such a good book for us to read. I’ll probably not doubt you again. Maybe. Probably not. You can download a sample or purchase a copy of The Wolf’s Hour by clicking here.

The Bookgeek Reviews Radclyffe’s Taking Fire

A glimpse under the glorious veneer of war into the souls and hearts of those who are under fire.

With so many US troops deployed in war-torn countries and so many help organizations right out there in the wilderness, novels which take a hard look at what those out there, and specifically what women have to endure, are not easy but welcome reads. Bold Strokes Books has set landmarks with one of the first accounts of veterans with PTSD in Battle Scars by Meghan O’Brien or Sophia Kell Hagin’s acclaimed debut Whatever Gods May Be which takes us right into the hell of war. Now Radclyffe gives us a superb novel, a novel that catches in a nutshell the good and the evil of war, the mind-numbing dread, the dirt, the pain, and the paid-by-blood moments of triumph.

Rachel is on a humanitarian mission in Somalia, a land in the claws of rebels and warlords where Doctors Without Borders and other organizations do their best to fight for stragglers and survivors in the middle of the jungle. When circumstances deteriorate, a US Navy team is deployed to extract them – among them Max, a surgeon whose tour is nearing its end, but no plan survives the first encounter with the enemy. And everything escalates quickly. Max and Rachel have to work together to escape that hell-hole.

Radclyffe gives us a gripping and gritty account of fighting and survival, she gives us a glimpse into the hearts and minds of those struggling to survive not only physically but mentally and emotionally. There are passages of great beauty and deep insights alternating with realistic, mind-boggling scenes full of blood and tension. This is not about the glorified side of war featured in press articles, but the story touches at the “heart” of what war does to the human soul – the stark moment when nothing else counts other than what you are right here, right now, the nightmares, the guilt, and the lure. She perfectly catches the times of insane action, the boredom in between missions, and the politics and paper-pushing.

“Her heart raced wildly and panic bubbled in her throat. She couldn’t relax enough to capture a full breath, afraid the instant her hyper vigilance ebbed, she’d be attacked. She doubted she’d ever relax again.”

The writing is dense, compact, crisp and is a joy to read at all times. The story-arc is excellent and holds the focus until the very end. Yes, there is romance there. And Radclyffe does not take the easy way out. Her character development takes us on the roller-coaster journey of the two main characters to find, acknowledge, and cherish love under circumstances which never again can be ideal for those whose hearts have been tried and tested in the crucibles of war.

This is a gripping and well-worth reading book, one of Radclyffe’s best to date.

You can download a sample or purchase Taking Fire: A First Responders Novel by clicking here.

Megan Reviews Switchblade by Carsen Taite

When we last saw Luca Bennet, she and Jessica Chase were sharing a rather sweet moment, both rather tongue-tied as they stood at the precipice of moving from their long-standing friends-with-benefits relationship to something more. And then Ronnie Moreno (I spit out her name in disgust) shows up out of the blue, after involving Luca in a rather questionable case and torrid romance two books ago. I liked Ronnie when she was the romantic interest in Slingshot, but after she dumped Luca’s ass and the subsequent developments in Battle Axe, I’m firmly in the Luca/Jess camp and am fervently hoping Luca gets her head out of her ass and makes a good decision for once.

I hate cliffhanger endings when I read them, but love them when I have the next book in the series ready to crack open. I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on the latest book in the Luca Bennett series since I read the last screen of Battle Axe and, now that I have it loaded on my reader, I’m going to settle down while it rains this weekend. I’ll be back shortly to let you know my thoughts.

Switchblade picks up Luca’s life, a life in which the hard-boiled PI hasn’t met a bad decision she didn’t like, right where things left off and drags the reader on another headlong adventure involving investigating corrupt cops and a rather complicated love life. Ronnie’s asshole of a brother (must run in the family), is a recently promoted detective who’s just been accused of corruption and falsifying evidence – of course Ronnie turns to Luca to find the truth and exonerate him. Based on her previous run in with Jorge, Luca isn’t sure that the charges are trumped up, but as she digs in deeper she finds more questions than answers and wondering who she can trust. Wow…sounds like pretty good back of the book blurb.

I’ve always enjoyed Taite’s legal mysteries and her foray out of the courtroom with Luca as a rough and tumble bailbondswoman is a nice addition to her oeuvre of work…and I think I like them even better than the legal ones. As in the previous books, Luca’s approach is more “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” than Taite’s lawyer characters, but that gives the books a great sense of suspense – especially when you’re never quite sure what Luca’s going to do next and happily cringe as she charges headlong into the thick of things. She’s definitely not as refined, but being a bad girl with a gun is what makes Luca rather irresistible. And she certainly appears irresistible despite that she drinks too much, gambles excessively, spends a fair amount of time dodging her rent-seeking landlord, and scrounging through dirty laundry for semi-presentable t-shirts. But in the end, she’s a likable character and the first person narration makes it easy to fall in line with everyone else that succumbs to her charm. Luckily, Luca seems to be maturing as the series continues – and she’s giving a lot of her previous decisions second thoughts and trying hard to do the right thing once she figures out what that is.

I’d classify this as a detective style mystery – Luca does a decent job of tracking stuff down and making the connections and I wasn’t left with the feeling that there were too many loose ends or that things get resolved through a deus ex machina intervention. The plot is pretty fast paced and not a lot of extraneous exposition or non-essential elements slowing things down. Taite’s humour shines through, and that softens some of Luca’s harder edges. Only three people end up in the hospital, so the danger and mayhem factor was there but not overly excessive. Just enough to give it some grit.

There is a bit of a triangle – with Ronnie and Jess both pressing her for more, but it isn’t overdone and is balanced with the overall mystery and action. Kudos for not letting Luca get too angst-ridden – but then again, she isn’t a character that wrestles with angst. Even my favourite super secret squirrel federal agent with a stripper name pops up to stir the pot and muddy the waters of the investigation. For those who’ve read her other books, Ryan Foster and Brett Logan from Nothing But The Truth show up for a bit of a cameo and Taite handles it well in that they fit in the story, but don’t steal the spotlight from Luca. Sneaky since now I want to re-read that book to get re-aquainted with those characters. My favourite addition was Cash – who seems to ground Luca and steal all the scenes.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and it was a fun read – mystery, action, humour, and a bit of romance. Who could ask for more? It was a great story to wile away a dreary, rainy day and managed to quell my aggravation over Battle Axe’s cliffhanger. If you’ve read and enjoyed Taite’s legal novels, you’ll like this. If you’ve read and enjoyed the two other books in this series, this one will definitely satisfy your Luca fix and I highly recommend picking it up. And as to whether Luca gets her head of her ass and makes a good decision – all I’ll say is …. read the book.

Highly Recommended.

You can download a sample or purchase Switchblade by clicking here.