Book Review: Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

Title: Honor Among Thieves

Authors: Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

Series: The Honors #2

Genre: YA Sci-fi

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead of moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell. Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers. Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight. -Goodreads

The Review:

Honor Among Thieves started brilliantly, but eventually derailed into a very familiar YA relationship-focused story… I really wish I’d liked it more.

I’ve had good experiences with Caine’s Morganville Vampires and Weather Wardens series, but Ann Aguirre is one of my all-time favorite authors, so to say my expectations were high is an understatement.

The book is separated into three parts, and I had vastly different experiences with each one. Here was my progressive thought process, followed by some positive notes.

Part 1: [4.5/5 stars] Wow!! I was hooked from the first page. It set the framework for a fantastic training-driven plot. And it included one of the first female MCs I’ve liked in ages. Her story wasn’t typical, and reading about her struggles before being pulled into the Honors was gripping. I thought for the first time in as long as I can remember that I was going to passionately enjoy a YA novel.

And then Part 2 happened.

Part 2: [1.5/5 stars] The story devolved into a dialogue-heavy exploration of a relationship between the main character and the alien. It was page after page of endless conversations of the characters explaining things to each other with absolutely nothing to break it up. You know those YA books where the girl meets a boy and the entire book shifts gears to focus on only their love story? Yeah, replace the boy with the Leviathan, and you have a book that was, in essence, a cookie-cutter YA romance trope. Ugh. I think the authors did themselves a huge disservice isolating these characters, especially when considering how many other cool elements introduced in the first part could’ve been expanded on. Overall, it was a huge disappointment for me. I expected so much more with the premise – I wanted a sci-fi adventure novel. What I got was a non-sexually driven love story. The connection between the characters was done really well, so I can see why readers who rate higher on character development were pleased with the book, it just missed the mark for me.

Part 3: [2.5/5 stars] This is where they pulled back in some other characters and briefly yanked the story out of its laser-focus on the relationship. Some cool stuff happened, and it happened with a lot of energy and excitement. Had I not just suffered through part 2, I probably would’ve rated this section higher. However, I still think the plot went in a weirder direction than it needed to. While reading part 1, I quickly reserved the next two books in the series, but after finishing the book I’m not sure I liked the direction of the story enough to invest time in the sequel anytime soon (if at all).

Some positives: Here’s the thing, a lot of the things I love about these authors made an appearance here. They’re both good at creating characters with compelling personalities and difficult back-stories (Aguirre being a bit grittier of the two). They’re also proficient at dialogue (Caine being the most adept, IMO). And Aguirre has written some of my favorite relationships to date – some of which were between aliens and humans (it’s always about the CONNECTION and chemistry rather than the romantic aspect). All of these things were present here, so I think my overall issue with the story has more to do with plot decisions and the general focus of the novel (as it differed from my expectations) rather than any lack of craft or execution.

Recommendation: if you like character-driven stories and don’t mind a disproportionate focus on a relationship, you’ll probably like the sci-fi twist the book adds to that plot structure. If, like me, you were cravings something more akin to Sanderson’s Skyward, it’s a bit of a letdown. I had conflicting thoughts between every section of this book, mostly based on plot decisions, but still recognize the quality of what was presented (it’s coffee. I wanted tea). I think most YA fans will love it.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Coming Soon: Vanguard by Ann Aguirre

 [July 25, 2017] Vanguard by Ann Aguirre

Title: Vanguard

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: Enclave #3

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: July 25, 2017

The Overview: The Razorland saga continues. Since the war ended, Tegan has dreamed of an epic journey, so when she has the opportunity to sign on as ship’s doctor, she can’t wait. It’s past time to chart her course. Millie Faraday, the kindest girl in the free territories, also yearns to outrun her reputation, and warrior-poet James Morrow would follow Tegan to the ends of the earth. Their company seems set, but fate brings one more to their number. Tegan will battle incredible odds while aiding Szarok, the Uroch vanguard, who has ventured forth to save his people. Szarok is strange and beautiful, like a flower that blooms only in the dark. She shouldn’t allow him close, as such a relationship is both alien and forbidden. But through stormy seas and strange lands, she will become stronger than she ever knew. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

I’m a huge fan of all things Ann Aguirre, and the first three Razorland books were additional shining examples in a long line of great things I’ve read from this author. I really liked where Horde ended things, but am excited to see what she has in store for us next in Vanguard (which is a spinoff of sorts following a different character). This series has a great post-apocalyptic feel, interesting characters, and zombie-like creatures who were creepy af. I may not read this one right away, but I’m definitely still looking forward to it.

What new releases are you excited for?

by Niki Hawkes


Coming Soon: The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre

the-leopard-king-by-ann-aguirreTitle: The Leopard King

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: Ars Numina #1

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Release Date: September 28, 2016 <-Today!!!!!

The Overview: Until three years ago, those words applied to Dominic Asher, the leader of Ash Valley. His family has ruled the feline branch of the Animari for hundreds of years, guiding the pride through perilous times. Unspeakable loss drove him into seclusion, a feral beast nobody can tame. Now he’s wrecked, a leopard king in exile, and he wants nothing more than to die. Fortunately for Dom, those words still apply to Pru Bristow, his dead mate’s best friend. She’s had her heart broken too, but she never quits. With the conclave approaching, alliances with the Pine Ridge pack and Burnt Amber clans on the verge of collapse, she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to drag their leader back, before his second can start a war. At best theirs seems like a desperate alliance, but when their mate bond turns hot and fierce, there’s no end to the questions and the doubts. Neither of them expects to fall in love. But sometimes people don’t know what they’re looking for until they find it. -Goodreads 

Nik’s Notes:

 I know, I know – you’re all sick of hearing how much I love this author. Well too bad –  she has a new paranormal romance series and I am beyond excited! I found out about this new series just last week, composed this post, then realized the release date was for the day I wanted to schedule it lol. Not having to wait for a new title from one of my favorite authors has got to be one of the best things ever. Everything I’ve read from her (pretty much almost everything she has published) has been amazing. If I had to narrow her strengths down to just one thing it would be relationship development, and what better skill to have when tackling a romance? It’s an added bonus that it’s a paranormal. I’d pick it up anyway, but that extra bit of magic makes The Leopard King sound irresistible! I’m dropping everything today for this one. :-)

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Horde by Ann Aguirre

HordeTitle: Horde

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: Razorland #3

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: The horde is coming.

Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they’re not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn’t run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade’s love. Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn’t been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them. This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

The Review:

This is the final book in the Razorland trilogy, and I have to say it was a really good series-ender. I was oddly fearful to pick it up and even stalled for a full year because I was worried it wasn’t going to like it. I’m not sure where that irrational fear came from because it’s no secret Aguirre is one of my top authors. Whether it’s a post-apocalyptic zombie story, a science fiction about an alien prison (The Dred Chronicles), or new adult romances (The 2B Trilogy), Aguirre consistently delivers books that I absolutely love with her great writing, amazing characters, and fun storylines. I think my hesitance with Horde was that I couldn’t really see the vision on where the story was headed. In addition, there were a few gruesome (in concept, not detailed in writing) scenes in Outpost that left me a bit sickened and depressed after reading them (I know, I’m a weenie).

Either way, when I finally did read it, I really dug it.

I think horde was just as conceptually disturbing, but I must have been in a much better mood to read it because I devoured it. I also appreciated where Aguirre took the story – finally giving me some answers behind how the “muties” emerged, which also allowed me to finally understand why she was vehemently offended that people referred to them as zombies… an attitude I find a little strange considering she never really describes their origins until the 3rd book. Anyway, it ended up being rather thought-provoking, which I liked.

One of my favorite things about this series was the way the author incorporated all the different humans subcultures in this post-apocalyptic world. She had everything from gangs to religious zealots, and I thought they all added a different wrinkle of perspective to the story. None of it was ironic, and really made the story seem more realistic. I also especially loved Deuce – the main character. She had a lot of conviction, and within all of these different subcultures still managed to adapt and make the best out of each situation (which is why I named her “most adaptable” in my Top Ten Female Characters That Inspire Me! post a few years ago). The Razorland Trilogy might not be my favorite work from Aguirre (which is only a solid 4-stars), but Deuce is easily one of her best characters. I know Aguirre has another series planned for the same world (the first book is called Vanguard, and I think it comes out sometime in early 2017), and I really hope Deuce makes at least a cameo appearance.

Although I really liked Horde, the characters do an awful lot of traveling, which got a bit repetitive. Honestly, I don’t know how else the author could have progressed the plot to where she wanted it to go without all the back and forth, but pacing suffered a little bit. Also, when I think of the word “horde” I think a plethora of creatures too numerous to count… not a group of creatures numbering a couple thousand (:/). So in that regard, the overall story conflict felt a lot more narrowly focused than I thought it was going to. It was still good, mind you, it just didn’t escalate to the level that some other books in the genre have. Arguably though, the logistics for this post-apocalyptic story were a lot more realistic, so I guess there’s your trade-off.

Overall, I’m really glad to have read this series and am excited to see what Aguirre does with it next.

Recommended Reading: I would suggest the Razorland Trilogy to people who love zombie stories and teen books with an edge. Even though I’m not fully on the zombie bandwagon, I think others who are would really enjoy Aguirre’s take on them (even though they’re not technically zombies… close enough to count though).

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Breakout by Ann Aguirre

Breakout by Ann Aguirre

Title: Breakout

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: The Dred Chronicles #3

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: The prison ship Perdition has become a post-battle charnel house with only a handful of Dred’s soldiers still standing and now being hunted by Silence’s trained tongueless assassins. Forging an uneasy alliance with mercenary commander Vost—who is their only chance at escape—the Dread Queen will do whatever it takes to end her life sentence on Perdition and keep the survivors alive long enough to cobble together a transport capable of getting them off station. If Dred and her crew can win the deadly game of cat and mouse, the payoff is not only life but freedom—a prize sweeter than their wildest dreams. Yet the sadistic Silence would rather destroy Perdition than let a single soul slip from her grasp…

The Review:

I love Ann Aguirre’s work. She always manages to take me on an amazing adventure alongside quirky, memorable characters. The Dred Chronicles were no different, and I sit here in awe at how she managed to incorporate a tender love story amidst bloodly battles on a space station prison. And you know what? It totally worked, providing a stellar balance of action and romance. All I can say is, I thoroughly enjoyed this series and sincerely hope it’s not the last story she tells from this universe.

I think it’s important to note that Havoc, book 2 in this series, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It was action-packed, fast-paced, and heart-wrenching, topped off with great characters, cool aliens, freaky enemies, and a killer setting (seriously – the overall atmosphere was unlike anything I’ve ever read – it was awesome!). Breakout had all of those same elements but, while I still appreciate it as a series ender, I’m sad to say I didn’t like it quite as much (but definitely think it’s still worth the read!!!). And my reasoning comes down to pacing:

The first half of the book, where I felt the most intensity and emotional investment, was kind of rushed. There were several major events illustrated by only a few paragraphs, and I don’t think either my brain or my emotions had enough time to process everything. Simultaneously, the end half of the book, where I felt the story had reached its climax and was already in its resolution phase, was unproportionately drawn out. Personally, I would’ve loved to see the pacing distribution more heavily weighted towards the front, but that’s just me.

All that said though, I still loved this series as a whole and consider Aguirre one of my favorite authors. Although this is a spinoff of her Sirantha Jax series, I think it stands solidly on its own (but you should still totally read about Jax if you can because her story is amazing). Space opera fans, hold onto your seats because The Dred Chronicles are nothing if not a wild ride!

*Thank you Penguin Group Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW, NetGalley, and Ann Aguirre for the chance to read and review an early copy of Breakout!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Series Review: The 2B Trilogy by Ann Aguirre

Series: The 2B Trilogy
Author: Ann Aguirre
 Rating: 4.25/5 stars

I’d like to start out by reiterating how much I love Ann Aguirre. Ever since I discovered her Sirantha Jax series a couple of years ago I have been eager to read anything she writes. My favorite thing about her has always been how well she writes relationships, so you can see why I was tickled pink to read her New Adult Romance novels. And you know what? The relationships were every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped they’d be.

I was chosen to receive a review copy of As Long as You Love Me after entering the Ann Aguirre’s Reviewer giveaway. I would just like to thank Ann Aguirre and Mel Jolly over at Author RX for selecting me as a winner. As it turns out, As Long as You Love Me ended up being my favorite book of the trilogy! But I’m getting a little ahead of myself…

I Want it That Way

Of the three female leads in this series, I probably relate to Nadia’s personality the most. She’s a very determined and goal-oriented person, traits which helped her achieve her dreams and fight for what she wanted… Even if what she wanted was a studious/sexy single father who lived in the apartment below her. That’s a goal I can really get behind. :-) I thought the love story was really sweet, especially so because of the added element of Nadia’s relationship with Ty’s son (which was almost as fulfilling as the main romance itself). I’ll say it again: I love how Aguirre writes relationships, even the ones that aren’t amorous. I came away from this series loving the platonic relationships as much as the romantic ones.

I struggled with the rating of this one because I really enjoyed it, but at the end of the day there were a couple of things I wish had been done a tad differently. The pacing in certain places was a little off for me, dragging out conflicts a bit longer than I thought necessary. Because of that, I think it gave me more time to focus on my least favorite plot element. I tend to get a little frustrated with the “I love you, but I can’t be with you because of X,” where “X” is often a foolish reason fabricated in the character’s mind solely to keep the conflict drawn out. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it, and it likely won’t be the last, but it wears on me a little bit. That said, I’ve never seen it handled quite as well as it was in I Want it That Way, so that’s something. I still came away from the novel with the feel goods and the satisfaction I’d hoped for.

4/5 stars

As Long as You Love Me

While I related to Nadia in the first book personality-wise the most, the love story between Lauren and Rob was the one that really sang to me. Most of us have that person we crushed on throughout grade school – the one we would go out of our way to pass in the hallway, doodle his/her initials in our notebooks, and daydream about romantic possibilities with every spare moment (or was it just me?). Well, what if you got the chance to see what could have been with that person? That’s what Lauren got to do, and I got to live vicariously through her. It was awesome! All of the little moments she had with Rob were like little sparks of electricity flashing off the pages and I felt the emotional tingle of every last one of them. Perhaps this one appealed to me so much because of my specific ideal for a fantasy relationship, but the way it sits, As Long as You Love Me is now one of my favorite books ever. Okay, I’m done gushing.

…almost. I love this one so much it almost raises my ratings of the other two by extension – as I look back on the trilogy, I do so with a ton of affection and I think that’s in no small part due to book #2.

5/5 stars

The Shape of My Heart

This one was my least favorite of the trilogy, but only because I found parts of it a tad depressing. The first third of the book focuses on Courtney and Max as they attend a funeral and, having suffered a loss in the family relatively recently, it made me a little sad. On top of that, we learned about all of the hardships Max went through as a kid and I basically just felt bad… until the romance started kicking in. I am confident, though, that the negative feels I had were specific to my circumstances, and I don’t think other readers will be similarly affected. Aguirre does a great job focusing on the relationship first, and on all of the peripheral events second, and if I hadn’t been so fixated, I would’ve enjoyed the story a lot more (although I enjoyed the love story from the very first moment). The awesome thing about Aguirre is, even when elements of the book made me sad, I still had that oddly addictive urge to keep reading. All of her books do that to me, though – she’s just such a great writer!

Fast forward to the last 2/3 of the book, and it was nothing but pure New Adult entertainment all the way through. Courtney was such a cool girl to read about, and I love that her personality stood out as distinct from the other two heroines. She is also one of the first bisexual characters I’ve ever seen as the main POV, so it’s nice to see a bit of diversity. I found her to be the least relatable of the three, and not because  she was bisexual, but because she approached life in a very “zen” way. It would drive me nuts not knowing what I was going to do next, yet she managed to tackle all of her problems without constantly stressing about them. She was always very true to herself, and getting to immerse myself in her perspective was easily my favorite element to the story.

3.5/5 stars

Overall, if you’re a New Adult fan, I deem this series definitely worth your time. The romance is evoking, the characters are memorable, and the writing is superb! The 2B Trilogy will go down as three very compelling reasons why Ann Aguirre remains one of my all-time favorites!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes