Corey Reviews the Books of Sophia Kell Hagin

Every year since 2013, I’ve reread the last ten chapters of Whatever Gods May Be, starting with chapter twenty-three, which begins with “The instant she strode into the yard with the rest of the Red Cross team, Jamie noticed her, and noticed that she seemed to be a study in contradictions.”

Marine Jamie Gwynmorgan, a prisoner of war in a not-too-distant future conflict in Southeast Asia, meets Senator Lynn Hillinger. There follows non-stop action and consequences as Jamie leads a prison break and firefight through the jungle. The first twenty-two chapters of this book, by the way, are excellent as we follow Jamie from recruit to training to heart-breaking actions all the way to survival… to meeting Lynn. This novel isn’t a lesfic romance. However, Jamie has an undefined relationship with Lynn that is tender and love-centered and forged in crisis. There’s a moment when they first embrace that holds so much compassion that I cry alongside Jamie. This entire novel rests in my memory, but I seek out the book’s ending annually to re-live Jamie and Lynn meeting and persevering.

Then I re-read Shadows of Something Real cover-to-cover (or as we say these days, 0% to 100% on my kindle). In this middle book of the trilogy, I am flummoxed by how many women I love in this novel. Lynn and her wife Rebecca, their daughters Robin and Dana and Dana’s partner Lily, and Rebecca’s mother Mary. They all live together at Great Hill, a compound of very strong, smart, fierce women who are waiting for Jamie to realize she is family, too.

Shadows of Something Real is about the aftermath of war on 19-year-old 1st Lieutenant Jamie, the powerful corporations who underwrote the conflicts Jamie survived physically if not emotionally, and the battle for information intelligence and privacy that seems more true-to-life every year that I reread the book. What once seemed like paranoid future fantasy now seems like today’s almost reality, as if “near future” might be next week.

This novel is a thriller, but also a romance, so much the sweeter for Jamie after all she’s survived. Adele (Lily’s sister and just as bad-ass as the rest of the family) is the emotionally open woman Jamie needs. Thankfully, all these women are humanized by their flaws. Lynn admits to her own overconfidence and sometimes manipulations, Dana is briskly single-minded as she addresses security issues, and Jamie romanticizes Adele always being right in their relationship, when Adele is just as mistake-prone as us all.

This book is chock-full of evil politicians and corporations, high-tech gadgetry and life-and-death struggles. Highly recommended, even to folks who don’t tend toward massive woman crushes like me.

Which brings us to Omnipotence Enough, which has a killer of a set-up: 15 years after the events of Shadows of Something Real, Jamie wakes up in an unknown prison, subject to solitary confinement and at the mercy of armed custodian robots who use pharma and force to control her. Jamie’s been abducted off the street, and she has no idea how long she’s been imprisoned and if Adele and her family are close to rescuing her.

The point of view also switches in this last book to first person, as Jamie records her imprisonment into an audiostick. This ramps up the uncertainty and claustrophobia. I was equally delighted to return to Jamie’s world and fearful I’d not get to meet again Adele and Lynn and their family.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, but let’s just say that the themes of political evils-doers and powerful corporations continue from the previous books. What has changed is Jamie, a more mature and self-possessed woman navigating physical and mental recovery that’s all the more courageous for her shakiness.

Jamie survived so much over her life, and I so want her to find stable happiness. I think any lover of thrillers will enjoy Omnipotence Enough, but readers of the earlier books will feel a special investment in this last journey.

Well done, Sophia Kell Hagin. I look forward to your future novels, for the adrenaline and compassion and all the future woman crushes sure to come.

You can purchase or download samples of all of the books by clicking here.

CAB Reviews Imperfect Truth by C. A. Popovich

Full disclosure, I picked this book up from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This following is the book blurb:

“Debra Johnson learned a valuable lesson when her pregnant lover left her for a man: Protect yourself at all costs. She made a list of requirements in a lover and uses it as a shield to protect her heart. At the top of her list is openness and honesty.

Alex Reed has to keep the secret of her federal witness protection program or risk her and her sister’s lives. She longs for a meaningful loving relationship but fears exposing a lover to danger.
Alex and Debra meet at a lesbian meet up group with intentions of only finding an event companion. Their undeniable attraction keeps getting in the way of that intention as Debra struggles to protect her heart and Alex her life.”

I admit it; I really wanted to like this book. I was intrigued by the premise but it turns out that was the only thing that was interesting. The pacing of the story is so slow that at the 50% mark I was contemplating ways to put myself out of my misery. Not to give away the plot but without exaggerating halfway through, all of the action consists of Debra consulting her “list” of requirements to be her friend let alone to date her. So when she’s not consulting the list to figure out how Alex is getting past her defenses, she’s complaining to anyone who will listen that Alex doesn’t trust her enough to tell her everything about who she is. A broken heart will make you whiney.

On the other hand you have Alex, who is in witness protection, and therefore unable to tell Debra about her past. She spends the first half of the book being paranoid and worrying how she can make any friends let alone meet a partner. Primarily worried about slipping up and sharing too much information.

At the 70% mark there was FINALLY some movement on the intrigue part of this story but by then I hated both characters and the only thing I found fascinating was the fact that I hadn’t clubbed myself to death with the book. I value my kindle too much to damage it that way. Ultimately, I invested more time into forcing myself to read this than I wish I had. What I find sad is I know I have read at least one other book by this author and it was a pleasant, easy beach read. This one seemed to lose its identity, torn between a romance and a thriller not quite making it on either front.

You can download a sample or purchase Imperfect Truth by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews God of the Internet by Lynn Lipinski


I don’t normally read books about terrorism but one about cyber-terrorism sounded like something I could sink my teeth into. Here’s a copy of the blurb from Amazon, if you want to read it:

When a hacker known as G0d_of_Internet hijacks millions of computers to do the bidding of an Islamic jihadist group, their first act is to disrupt the water treatment systems in Boston, Dallas and Los Angeles. Next, the power grids go down. Is this the start of a digital world war?

The only thing standing between the terrorists and their goal to weaponize the internet is a small band of white hat hackers, including cybersecurity guru Mahaz Al-Dossari and his wife Juliana.

The search is on for a couple hundred lines of code and a global hacker network before they can make good on their ultimate threat to divert money from the world’s banks. But G0d_of_Internet has been tracking their every move. And it’s Juliana, a PR manager lacking in technical skills, who may hold the key to unmasking the hacker.

I just re-read that for the first time since I started the book and I have to say it’s sort of misleading. Particularly who was involved with the white hat hackers and that anyone but the black hat hackers knew what the threats actually were before they happened.

It’s going to be hard to give a complete review of this book without giving spoilers so I’ll have to stick to impressions instead of specifics.

I was pretty involved and happy with the first several chapters. The story was compelling and the characters kept me interested. I made my first prediction as to who G0d_of_Internet was at the 25% mark but figured it was too obvious and looked forward to getting more clues. I thought I’d change my guess a few more times before the real bad guy was revealed. At 52% I was really hoping that my first guess was a drawn out red herring because no other suspects were being brought forth. By 96%, I was thoroughly disgusted by how easy everything fell into place and by the fact that so much had to have been going on for so long and the people closest to the bad guy never had any clue. There is so much I want to say about this but I don’t want to give away anything more. I checked a few minutes ago and this book is getting really good ratings and reviews so maybe it’s just me.

I thought the book had a lot of promise but the overwhelming number of things that didn’t make sense or that were just too easy made me happy to be done with it. I think if someone’s looking for a quick, easy read, this would be fine but anyone looking for a complex plot and characters with depth will be disappointed.

I received God of the Internet from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase God of the Internet by clicking here.

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.

Nikki Reviews Like Jazz by Heather Blackmore


From the blurb: Cassidy “Cazz” Warner, a smart, sporty, reticent newcomer to the senior class at Claiborne High, unwittingly attracts the attention of its most popular girl: Sarah Perkins, a bright, athletic, charismatic beauty. Just as the two begin to understand how extraordinary their friendship is, another cross-country move wrests Cazz away. 

Ten years later, Cazz unexpectedly runs into Sarah during a fraud investigation at Sarah’s charitable foundation. The women are inexorably drawn to each other, but Cazz’s investigation into the foundation’s finances limits her ability to be entirely honest with Sarah. 

This book opens with an introduction of Cazz as an investigator getting called in by LAPD to determine whether embezzlement is occurring at a high-profile charitable foundation in the area. But quickly thereafter we travel back in time, to where Cazz is starting her first day at a new school (a theme familiar to anyone raised in a military family) where she meets the enigmatic Sarah Perkins. They begin an oft-times competitive relationship that develops into something more. The book is told from Cazz’s point-of-view, which can be problematic, not having access to other characters’ emotional state and experiences. It works well here, since we are witnessing a lot of Cazz’s internal struggle, whereas Sarah tends to be much more forthright in her interactions.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book, as there was a good balance between angst and a realistic development of their relationship. Nothing felt very rushed and the emotional connection pulled me in right away. However, the second half of the book takes a different direction. Cazz in present-day is trying to investigate the embezzlement happening in Sarah’s charitable foundation (I never did figure out what the charity actually raised money for, aside from ‘helping people’). A main problem I had was how quickly I figured out who was embezzling (within seconds of Cazz entering the building), so the investigation was very secondary. Really, the most interesting parts of the book all dealt with the relationship between Cazz and Sarah, and I sincerely questioned Cazz’s ability as an investigator.

I understand the need to have a mechanism for the two characters to come together after a long separation, but adding intrigue to the plot really didn’t add anything to the story for me. If anything, I believe it detracted from what was working so well with the flow in the first half. I feel as though it could have benefited from taking the criminal component completely out and keeping it as straight romance. The author excelled at that aspect, but the dependence on the investigation took away what could have been a better-developed reawakening of their feelings. I normally enjoy romantic intrigue quite a bit, but I found myself frustrated (or bored) with most things Cazz did in the investigation.

For the romance alone, it was a good first novel by Heather Blackmore, and I did like it. If it was pure romance I would have probably loved it. I will definitely pick up more by her in the future to see how the author progresses, because I saw a lot of potential.

You can purchase or download a sample of Like Jazz by clicking here.