Jungle Eyes, Lindsay Marie Miller

Jungle Eyes, Lindsay Marie Miller

Jungle Eyes (Stranded in Paradise Book 1)

Set in the spring of 1899, Lindsay Marie Miller’s Jungle Eyes introduces us to Mr. Henry Rochester of New York, descendant of royalty and eligible bachelor, whose mother is unrelentingly anxious that he should make a good match. In desperation, Henry signs on for an exploratory voyage into the Atlantic, timed to get him safely out of reach of all good matches for at least nine months. However, as voyages of exploration tend to, the voyage took an unexpected turn, and Mr. Rochester finds himself stranded on a tropical island, wholly dependent on a beautiful castaway for care of his injuries. However, their survival hangs by a thread…

Jungle Eyes is a solid period romance, a little flexible on geography but studded with beautifully set cameo locales and close-ups of our hero and heroine. Written with a good feel for dialogue, the main focus is on Henry Rochester, and the tempestuously chaotic attraction that springs to life between him and his island rescuer, Elaine Carmichael. Lindsay Marie Miller creates an unusual, antagonistic atmosphere between the two, which remains remarkably consistent right through to the close of the book. With exotic locations, pirates, treasure caves and hurricanes, this book has something to offer to a range of readers.

Prophecy, Petra Landon

Prophecy, Petra Landon

The Prophecy (Saga of the Chosen Book 1)

Tasia has just, finally, made a place for herself, off everyone’s radar in San Francisco. She’s got two low-level jobs and an apartment in a crappy part of town. She’s registered as about the lowest level of magic user that can still work, and so far, no one’s asking inconvenient questions – up until a side-gig cleaning magical residue leads her to do the powerful Shifter clans a favour. That leads Tasia into a series of events that bring her into more and more danger of blowing her cover – and an increasingly tangled relationship with the enigmatic Alpha Protector.

The Prophecy is an entertaining blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, set in a San Francisco where the magical community lives side by side with normal humans, keeping their differences hidden by whatever means necessary. I felt that more clarity around exactly why Tasia was attempting to hide, and from whom, would have strengthened the story; in hiding because bad things was really the plot summary I walked away with on that score. Some of the character reactions also came across as inconsistent, which is a shame as the story is complex and well-paced, and offers a number of points of interest to the reader. I really feel with a little more polishing and character development this could easily make a five-star review. Fans of urban fantasy, and especially those who enjoy a spunky but submissive protagonist, will definitely find this an enjoyable read.

Qorth, Ash Gray

Qorth, Ash Gray

Qorth: he wrote her name in the stars

Qorth is set on a future Earth, where the seas have covered nearly all of the planet’s surface, and of the whole human population, only two isolated settlements remain. It’s a compelling backdrop to a dystopia, but in some ways, the world-building was contradictory. Early in the book, the narrator presents a picture of a community that shares everything, where the elders tell old stories of murder and racism. However, as the story develops, the setting describes the community, and especially those living outside the main settlement, as terrorised and raided by violent gangs, which I found difficult to reconcile.

Alone in her family’s old farmhouse, Cameron lives on the Outer Zone of the US settlement, near what used to be Yuma. Cameron is a powerfully isolated protagonist in many ways, physically and emotionally; highly independent and willing to look outside her community’s customs for knowledge. Her encounter with an alien species on the beach near her home is possible because of this isolation; her isolation also makes both of them a target. It is this status as an outsider, the balance between independence and exposure, that drives a lot of the plot. The first person voice was also strongly-written in this story; flippant and sarcastic, Cameron provides a unique and memorable narrative voice.

I had a bit of trouble with this book, and trying to figure out exactly what it was in objective terms turned out to be tough enough that it delayed putting this review up by an embarrassing amount of time. I’m fond of sci-fi, I generally get on well enough with dystopia, and I have what could be uncharitably termed an addiction to anti-hero types, all of which boxes are checked by Qorth; but when I reached the end I was still on the fence. The romance that develops between Cameron and Qorth had its ups and its downs from my perspective; while it had some original points, (I have to give points for the originality of the setting), I found some of the interactions on the stilted side. While I’m a terrible romance reviewer, there are romance books that I can’t put down, where the characters fascinate me and the tension between them drives me to read more, and that quality wasn’t there in this book for me.

Despite my challenges with some aspects, I found this book merited a solid three stars; it’s well-paced, features a strong anti-hero type as the protagonist (I am a sucker for my anti-heroes) and a lot of the ideas were both original and compelling.

Reviewed for Romance Rehab.

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Alvar’s Spear, Charles Freedom Long

Alvar’s Spear, Charles Freedom Long

Alvar’s Spear

Gar is a respected scientist on the Antal homeworld of Alvar, despite his status as a despised goldeneye. Favoured by Queen Hakan and working in an area of genetics dear to the silvereye ruling class, he is protected from much of the class hatred festering in the Antal race. However, underneath the veneer of the respected and respectable geneticist lies the leader of a revolution; a leader on a deadline to prevent the eradication of his entire race at the goddess Alvar’s hands. The Antal hive has become contaminated and stagnant, and to survive, they must change or die.

Alvar’s Spear is a powerful story of revolution, love, and acceptance, weaving themes that will resonate with every reader into its plot. The book is replete with conflicts, driving the story forwards: between the goddess Alvar and the direction of her people; between the factions of Antal society; and not least between Gar and the eminent Terran geneticist whose help he must have to save his race. Author Charles Freedom Long’s personification of elements of nature and of the world of Alvar itself is an intriguing way of integrating the wild environment, and it contrasts sharply with the protocol-bound Antal society living in isolation from the world it inhabits. In many ways, understated as it is, the theme of the walls that people build between themselves and other people and things is in some ways the most powerful single element of the book. Like its predecessor, Dancing with the Dead, Alvar’s Spear is a book guaranteed to make you think, layered with concepts to uncover.

Appointment with ISIL, Joe Giordano

Appointment with ISIL, Joe Giordano

Appointment with ISIL: an Anthony Provati thriller

Anthony Provati is a nephew of the Mafia. He’s also in denial, running an art gallery and playing piano gigs, until he decides to get involved with the beautiful girlfriend of a Russian mobster, which minor error of judgement narrows his choices down to going to the cops or going to his Uncle Frank. With his illicit girlfriend pushing him to shoot the head of the Russian mob, his cop friend in deep trouble of his own, and the FBI treating the entire affair as a joke, Anthony’s time to figure his way out of the mess he got himself into may be running short.

One of the strong points for me in Appointment with ISIL was its multinational backdrop; the series of countries through which Anthony’s misadventures take him add colour to the plot, and Anthony’s companion on his travels is the character with debatably the most depth in the book: Basso, Uncle Frank’s personal bodyguard. Basso’s quirks, his love of food, and his taste in T-shirts add layers of interest to him that are to some extent missing from many of the other characters.

This story is definitely one of those thrillers that rewards some patience, as it takes a while to get started. The first chapter follows the story of an American woman who decides to take a jaunt into the warzone at Fallujah and unsurprisingly nearly gets herself and everyone with her killed, before the book refocuses on the actual protagonist, Anthony Provati. Anthony has an unfortunate habit of making dumb decisions, but his saving grace is knowing the right people; in this case, an improbable alliance of the New York Mob, the FBI, Mossad, and a few independent agents. Getting these varied teams to fall into line was well-handled in the plot, as the author managed it without ascending to the level of coincidences that would have strained my ability to suspend my disbelief.

Reviewed pre-release