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.

Corey and Sequella Review Outcaste by Fletcher DeLancey

Sequella: Hi Corey! Is Kitty going to join us for this one or is she still trying to get an appointment at the pleasure house?

Corey: I heard some mumbling from Kitty about curling up with a comfort giver and some deep purrs. I know the pleasure houses aren’t the main point of Outcaste, but maybe they are. This is the novel that fills in many questions readers of the series may pose about Alsean society, as we follow Rahel from her rebellion against the caste system as a youth (she wants to be a Warrior but her father wants her to be a Merchant) to her life as a caste-less worker on the docks (echos of exploited undocumented workers, taking work where available and defenseless against authorities), to survival sex and the dangers of living on the fringes of society.

Sequella: I always wondered what would happen to those that do not fit into a specific caste.

Corey: Me too! The first half of the novel also went deep into the families we create. I love me some Mouse. And also, librarian alert! We can all benefit from a librarian being on our side. What did you think about the pacing of the book?

Sequella: For me, the book consists of two parts. The first part is very slow and relaxed, in the second part everything is much more rushed and full of action. Personally, I liked the first part better and it could have gone on like that forever. What really fascinated me, though, was how this book fits into the Alsea universe we have read about so far. This book is both a prequel and sequel to Without a Front. I was very happy to see Tal and the Bondlancer again.

Corey: Yes, Outcaste gives you this deep backstory of a minor character in Without a Front, then skims over the action in the first three Alsean novels from Rahal’s perspective, then delivers new plot and insights with the core cast of characters. I loved getting deeper inside the Bondlancer’s mind and heart.

Sequella: When I got to the part that connects Outcaste to Without a Front, I wanted to go back and reread those since I did not remember the specific details. But of course I could not put Outcaste down and ended up with this unsatisfying feeling of missing connecting points. I can only recommend to everyone to prepare for Outcaste and reread Without a Front.

Corey: Yes, Outcaste is a book for readers of the series. If you are new to the Chronicles of Alsea, start with The Caphenon or maybe check out the novella Vellmar the Blade.

Sequella: *sigh* Vellmar!

Corey: Indeed. I want to make sure we mention another aspect of Rahel: She is “sansara,” which translates as “focused one” or not distracted by the need to join. Basically what we might term asexual, or not driven by sexual desire.

Sequella: Which also means that there is only very little romance in this book. Instead Rahel finds a lot of friends in unexpected places that help her along the way.

Corey: But her relationship with one mentor is really, really intense and, to me, satisfying, reminding me that sexual desire does not need to be the framing of a meaningful relationship. I still got all the feels. Finally, the end of this novel sets up new directions and developments for Alsean society and new books out in Protectorate space. Fletcher DeLancey, you are an unending source of new ideas. Keep writing, please please please.

Sequella: Yes! More! Now! Soon? Please?

Corey: Kitty just rolled over and purred in agreement. If she smoked, she’d be lighting up right now. Outcaste was THAT satisfying, despite my book hangover at work the next day from staying up all night reading. It’s worth it.

You can pre-order now by clicking here: http://amzn.to/2yuIy0a

Corey, Kitty, and Sequella Review Catalyst by Fletcher DeLancey


Sequella: Wow, another sequel in the Chronicles of Alsea already. Amazing! Unfortunately it is still sitting untouched on my eReader.

Corey: What’s wrong with you? I’ve already read Catalyst, re-read Vellmar the Blade, and re-read Catalyst again. Or at least my favorite bits.

Sequella: Show-off! Real life is happening.

Kitty: And some nice alien bits there be. Also, Corey, you sound like a judgmental speed reader.

Corey: But… This is it! The novel that fills in all the adventures of Captain Ekatya Serrado and Dr. Lhyn Rivers out in the Universe while Lancer Tal and Bondlancer Salomen Opah were finding each other in the Without a Front books. And the framing is perfect: The first three days of the Alsean version of a honeymoon (“Alsean bonding break”) for Tal and Salomen in which family share stories –

Kitty: – and everyone avoids explaining to little brother Jaros why Tal’s neck looks like a treecat attacked her.

Sequella: So we get Tal and Salomen time? That makes me want to chuck real life out of the window and start reading immediately!

Corey: Right. Okay. So on one hand, all the shifting relationships amongst Ekatya, Tal, Lhyn, Lead Templar Lanaril Satran, and Lead Guard Vellmar are explored in the moment. On the other hand, Ekatya and Lhyn each share a wrenching story about their lives after the Voloth war described in the first Alsean book The Caphenon. A very early scene in which Ekatya helps Lhyn survive a PTSD-like episode lets us know she experienced something traumatic. And yes, it turns out to be VERY traumatic. Whew.

Sequella: How Sci-Fi is the book. Do we get new races? Societies?

Corey: Some of the tech aspects of FTL travel are explained (and felt), and you definitely get a dose of Space Opera political shenanigans and a military-style raid on a planet. Not so much world-building. I enjoyed the action, but my re-reads were all about the aftermath. So emotionally intense.

Sequella: Is this a book mainly about Ekatya and Lhyn, or is a new couple introduced, like it happens so often in Lesfic?

Kitty: Ahem. Dr. Wells.

Corey: Oh stop it, Kitty. You are so homosexist. Who knows who the ship’s chief surgeon is into? And there’s so much to learn about Ekatya, Lhyn, Tal. Salomen, Lanaril, and Vellmar… who needs new couples? One of my favorite moments is when Salomen points out to Tal that the Lancer doesn’t get to decide how to handle the connection between herself and Ekatya… That is something that involves all four women, including Lhyn. And the tensions between Ekatya and Lanaril are nasty intense. So awkward when your wife’s best friend makes you uncomfortable. Frankly, these books are developing into the ultimate friends-and-lovers-and-tyrees emotional mash-up. I adore it all.

Sequella: What about other kick-ass female characters?

Kitty: Dr. Wells…

Corey: Yes, Dr. Wells. But also so much more Lhyn, who is a warrior in her own way. I craved even more Lhyn. We finally get her perspective, but during such unusual and harrowing circumstances. Really, I wish I knew Ekatya and Lhyn as well as I feel I know Tal and Salomen.

Sequella: So Kitty and Corey, who of you liked the book better? Kitty, how many bookmarks did you place?

Corey: Oh, don’t get her started. Me, I highlighted 20 quotes that just made me squee and bookmarked 6 scenes for their (non-sexual) intensity. Basically, they make me cry or clutch my heart. The first time I read the book, the action sequences carried me along but I came back to re-read the emotions.

Kitty: I bookmarked two make-out scenes.

Corey: Sigh. Is that a spoiler? Bottom line, Sequella, is that life may be happening but you need to pause and go visit Alsea RIGHT NOW.

You can download a sample or purchase Catalyst 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.

Corey Reviews The Princess & the Prix by Nell Stark


I must quibble with Bold Stroke Books’ description of Her Serene Highness Pommelina Alix Louise Canella of Monaco as an “ugly duckling.” Alix is smart and an introvert and reserved, with strong features and a careful heart and basically swoon-worthy. When she meets Formula 1 driver Thalia d’Angelis while networking to support Alix’s humanitarian efforts, their glaring differences and sexual spark promise a great ride.

I’m not that familiar with Formula 1… except for viewing the documentary “Senna” about Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, I only know Formula 1 is that international motor sport that is not NASCAR. Stark provides an excellent introduction to Formula 1, enough that I appreciated the athleticism and the strategy involved. Thalia’s rise in the sport is believable and I got caught up in her successes and her flame-outs.

Personally, Alix’s royal status is the least interesting thing about her (eh, I’m from peasant stock). Since she herself seems to find her royalty an obligation that is only useful to her philanthropic efforts, I appreciate her pursuit of excellence within the boundaries of societal expectations. The constant security surrounding her becomes one plot point among many, such as how her “coming out” with be received by other royalty and the press. Thankfully, she can call on Princess Sasha of Great Britain for help, even though I cannot help giggling whenever I read the word “princess.” I blame Disney.

The Princess and the Prix is my favorite Nell Stark novel to date. Alix’s maturity and pragmatic approach to life forces Thalia to own up to her own irresponsible behavior, without losing my sympathy for Thalia’s struggles in a misogynistic sport. Thalia has some growing up to do, and some truly profound incidents on and off the track along with Alix’s sometimes brutal honesty hurry her along on that path. Their relationship and their separate and shared lives are worth investing both emotions and reading time.

You can download a sample or purchase The Princess and the Prix by clicking here.

Corey Reviews Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge by Fletcher DeLancey


“Corey, are you avoiding posting this book review until after the sequel is published?”

“Maybe?”

“Coward.”

That, folks, is an actual conversation inside my head, because Fletcher DeLancey’s Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge is both a great novel and a horror of a cliff-hanger. You absolutely should read this novel RIGHT NOW, but please no threats of bodily harm if you finish it before Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge is published in late November 2015.

Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge continues the Chronicles of Alsea that began with the series’ first novel The Caphenon. And yes, you should also read The Caphenon first. Not only is it excellent science-fiction and world-building, but you’ll also want to get to know the main characters and plot lines developing up to Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge.

Oh I love this book.

Lancer Andira Tal and the people of Alsea are recovering from the psychological and physical damage from fighting off the Voloth, as well as grappling with the profound changes new technologies such as matter printers bring to their society. Lancer Tal faces intrigue within the High Council and hidden pain within her own heart now that Captain Ekatya Serrado and Lhyn Rivers are far across the universe.

I appreciated the return of secondary characters such as Lead Templar Lanaril Satran. As Lanaril reveals more about her beliefs and her intellect and compassion, she’s becoming lodged in my heart. I really hope the author has plans for her by, oh say, book 7 in the series or sooner.

When Salomen Opah of the Producer Caste challenges Lancer Tal to live and work at Hol-Opah in order to better understand the impact of rapid societal changes on ways of life outside the cities, the novel builds a relationship worthy of two very strong and very different women. Of course you will root for them to overcome obstacles, but I must salute the author for creating a real dilemma to their joining.

Nothing annoys me more than silly, flimsy misunderstandings between lead characters… the kind that make you throw up your hands and yell at the page, “Will the two of you just TALK to each other? Geez.” In this novel, the two women’s dilemma is legit. And also the basis of some scrumptious, teasing physical interactions. But still… legit. Oh, just go read the darn book and find out for yourself.

Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge is not just about the romance, however. A political intrigue plot builds chapter-by-chapter and leads to that cracking great ending. Folks, IT IS WORTH IT. Please, no one hurt Fletcher DeLancey… We want her healthy enough to finish editing the next book in the series. So no reader violence, please, and just enjoy the sexy alien neck ridges. Mmmmm.

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