Creatus: They Exist by Carmen DeSousa

Creatus - They ExistSource: Own Collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Overall Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

For four thousand years, creatus have concealed themselves from the humans who hunted them almost to extinction. Unwittingly, one creatus will endanger them all…

As with most of his family, Derrick Ashton knows his future and what position he’s destined to fill within his unique society. Everything changes, however, when he breaks one of his family’s strictest laws and falls in love-with a human.

In his quest to protect the woman he can never have, a twist of faith propels him into a new role that will cause dissension among his family and endanger the anonymity that they’ve strived for thousands of years to protect. Now, he will risk everything to save the girl from humans and his own kind. The one thing he can’t save her from, however…is herself.

This novella tells the story of how Derrick comes to be Kris’s Dark Angel, the person always there who looks out for her. I read this book before reading any of the other books in the Creatus series, and it has piqued my interest. Very intriguing, filled with hints of more to come, and quite a few surprises.

I definitely need to get on with reading the rest of the series now.

Heart of Granite by James Barclay

Heart of GraniteSource: NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

The world has become a battleground in a war which no side is winning. But for those determined to retain power, the prolonged stalemate cannot be tolerated so desperate measures must be taken.

Max Halloran has no idea. He’s living the brief and glorious life of a hunter-killer pilot. He’s an ace in the air, on his way up through the ranks, in love, and with his family’s every need provided for in thanks for his service, Max has everything . . .

. . . right up until he hears something he shouldn’t have, and refuses to let it go. Suddenly he’s risking his life and the lives of all those he cares about for a secret which could expose corruption at the highest levels, and change the course of the war.

One man, one brief conversation . . . a whole world of trouble . . .

I picked this book up on NetGalley because the title intrigued me, the cover looked interesting, but the blurb completely hooked me. Then I opened the book, and was completely blown away. Devilishly inventive, I adored this book almost from the first sentence. Drakes, massive iguana-like land-based (water-replenishing) battleships/flight decks… and a massive desert. Fantastic stuff.

Max Halloran is a drake pilot on Heart of Granite, the “mother”(ship) his flight, and others, are based on. Heart of Granite is pretty much in concept like an aircraft carrier, but it’s instead an organic iguana-like animal that’s been modified genetically and structurally to accommodate people, drakes and other denizens. Max’s flies in a squadron with Inferno-X, an elite group of drake pilots – and their drakes. The one motto of all drake pilots: do not Fall. To Fall is to, pretty much, go insane when the drake attempts to meld with its pilot. Max initially comes across as cock-sure and arrogant, but one quickly finds out he’s got a strong streak of integrity, as well as stubbornness. Both of which get tested to the limits.

I love a good puzzle, and Heart of Granite certainly gave me one. I got half way through, then spent a good while paging back and forward (a challenge on a Kindle, mind, but I was desperate!) trying to figure out what on earth was really going on. And then I spent a few hours in bed that night trying to work through the logic of the clues I had available to me. This is a good thing. Reading as much as I do, one soon gets clued in to when things aren’t as they seem. And I knew something was going on here that no-one was talking about. Excellent brain fodder.

I honestly cannot think of anything bad to say about HoG. An excellent story, well-written and crafted, that makes for very entertaining reading. Great tension, and a very satisfying conclusion.

Outzone Raider by Mike Sheridan

Outzone RaiderSource: ARC from the author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

2041. THE GREAT GLOBAL WAR IS OVER. WHAT’S LEFT OF AMERICA IS IN CHAOS.

Beautiful but cynical exo-robotic operator, Vikki Gurin is playing a dangerous game. To make extra money for her family, she supplies Outzone bandit, Dima Aslanov with the information he needs during his daring raids across New Haven’s border. But when Aslanov and his bratva crew steal vital supplies destined for the federal government, he takes a step too far. Despite being caught up in America’s deadly secessionist wars, the US military are forced to turn their attention on him.

War-weary, Hoke Thompson didn’t expect to return home to find himself fighting fellow Americans. But these aren’t ordinary times. When his special ops team, Tactical Unit 8 return from rebel-held Oklahoma City, they discover their next mission is to neutralize a certain Dima Aslanov. Soon, Vikki gets caught up in the drama as the military hatches a plan to take the bandit down. Can she protect her family yet remain loyal to the Outzone warlord–or does something have to give?

Set against the backdrop of a brutal, war-torn America at the height of the secessionist wars, Outzone Raider interweaves two personal stories to a thrilling conclusion, as well as exploring both the rise of the Outzone and the fledgling New Haven State. Like all stories set in the Outzone World, there’s plenty of action–the characters riveting and believable.

First there’s a world war, and then the American soldiers return home to a divided country, which leads to the secessionist wars. A new state is created in the mid-west, New Haven, and this story is set in the years before a wall is built between New Haven and the Outzone, the latter being a lawless territory where those who wish to try their luck at survival.

Vikki Gurin is feisty exo-robot operator in New Haven’s Industrial Zone. It’s a gritty, hard place to work, but she likes her colleagues and the hard work. She is also a pair of eyes for Dima Aslanov, an Outzone bandit who likes to raid warehouses in the IZ for supplies. One night she hears of supplies of shelters, an order for the federal government that’s located in the heart of the IZ, and she decides to tell Aslanov about it. However, she leaves out information about the destination of the supply.

Dima Aslanov has one rule: if he’s to steal anything from the Industrial Zone, it must not be destined for the federal government. His raid for the supplies is successful, but it turns the eyes of the government and the intelligence organisations on his activities. It isn’t long before things heat up – for both Dima and Vikki.

This is a well-crafted post-apocalyptic thriller. Sheridan easily drew me in to the gritty world of Vikki and Dima, bringing the characters and their lives to life. It was good to get back into this setting and get to know it better through the eyes of a new group of people.

Things definitely do not come easily in the war-torn Americas, and one must take chances to get ahead. But which chance will be a step to far? Excellent post-apocalyptic fare, with great action and nail-biting suspense.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Slave to SensationSource: Own collection
Format: Ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Dive into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind – and none of the heart. In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of ‘rehabilitation’ – the complete psychic erasure of her personality . . .

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a Changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy co-existence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murder of several Changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion – and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities – or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation . . .

This book was recommended to me by a huge fan of the Psy-Changeling series.

Sascha Duncan is a Psy, and daughter of a member of the Psy Council. The Psy have dedicated themselves to the eradication of emotion. But Sascha feels emotions, and her shields are beginning to show signs of wear as she grows older. Assigned to oversee a development run by Lucas Hunter, a Changeling, she finds herself among people who live and exude the sensations she must, as a Psy, deny herself. And yet she finds herself allowing sensation in, attempting to satisfy the cravings.

But there is so much more to this book than that. There’s a serial killer who is known by the Changelings to be Psy, and there’s a member of the Psy Council who wants to have a private chat with Sascha. And there are leopard cubs.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I began to read this story, but what I got out was an excellent, well-structured story with plenty of suspense, tension and, well, sensation. One of the things I really appreciated was how “sensational” (for want of a better word) it was. With Sascha’s obsession with and craving for sensation, Singh focused in on this beautifully, communicating Sascha’s need so well. This book wouldn’t have been the same without this element, and it totally reinforced the title. I also liked how protective Lucas is as a person. To a fault, in some instances, but for the most part his heart is in the right place.

An excellent read for those who love animal shifters and characters with psionic abilities. I will be looking out the next book in the series.

Pirate Bound by Carysa Locke

Pirate BoundSource: Copy from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Talented Pirates have suffered loss. Some years ago a deadly virus swept through the female Pirates, decimating them. Now the Pirates face extinction since they have few viable females to bear talented children. Then the Pirates come across two female Talented, Sanah and Nayla, exhausted and wary, who have escaped from a Talented organisation known as Veritas. Nayla is a biokineticist, able to heal on a cellular level, who’s Talent is required by their brother Niall – working for Veritas – for it’s killing abilities.

What a fantastic story. Each of the main characters, and a few of the secondary characters, are well developed with differing personalities, goals and desires. Dem’s qualities as a protective hero make him very endearing, and I enjoyed his internal battle with his Talents. That really made me chuckle. Cannon was an extremely insightful Pirate King who really keeps his finger on the pulse. It would be nice to one day read more about him, and also about Treon, Dem’s enigmatic brother.

Inventive and well-written, I hope to read many more books about the Telepathic Space Pirates. This definitely checks all my boxes in space opera, psychic talents and romance. This is excellent stuff right here, reminiscent of the best of Anne McCaffrey.