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Ann Aguirre

Dear Author

GUEST REVIEW: Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre

Dear Ms. Aguirre:

book review To say I was eager to get my hands on a copy of Wanderlust would be a complete understatement. I loved Grimspace. In fact, my only real complaint was that I wanted more. I wanted more Jax, more March, and more about how the big revelation regarding the Corporation would affect them both. But of course, those were answers left for another book. Although not quite as good as the first, I found Wanderlust to be a satisfying sequel with the same intriguing characters, and a skillfully constructed world that continues to grow even richer.

Wanderlust begins not long after Grimspace left off. The Farwan Corporation and its vast power over the universe are no more. The Conglomerate- a once useless organization of planetary representatives- has rushed in to conduct investigations and to seize control. Unfortunately for Jax, she soon finds out that she is broke and in need of employment. She also discovers that the Corporation’s research and training program have been shared with all interested organizations, thus destroying their monopoly on inter-planetary travel, and leaving Jax at loose ends. With no money and few choices, Jax accepts the Conglomerate’s offer to become an ambassador on an important mission to the planet of Ithiss-Tor.

Before she heads out, Jax gains an inkling of how dangerous the mission will be when her self-indulgent mother pops back into her life for the first time in 15 years. It seems that Ramona Jax landed herself in debt to the Syndicate, a powerful underworld organization led by the mysterious Mr. Jewel. Mr. Jewel gives Jax a choice: fail her mission or her mother will die. Of course, Jax isn’t the type to be threatened- even with her own mother’s life. As usual, she counters this serious situation with her own trademark sense of humor. It’s that sense of humor that kept me so engaged in the story, often grinning from ear to ear.

"Do you plan to accept the appointment?" She seems nervous, almost frightened, in fact. Her red-lacquered nails tap out a subliminal statement on the glastique table.

"I thought I’d become a junk dealer." Yes, I’m baiting her deliberately. "Maybe do salvage runs, or possibly just settle down on New Terra and go to work in recycling. Have some brats. Would you like that?" I ask March.

You’re so evil, he tells me silently.

Then he chokes out, eyes watering. "Whatever you want."

Shit, I wish I’d recorded that. I can think of any number of situations where playback would come in handy.

After surviving so much in Grimspace, you’d think Jax could catch a break. Unfortunately for her, there’s no letting up. This time around, she’s suffering from a mysterious illness that leaves her tired, fragile and nearly defenseless. She’s no longer capable of rushing right into all the action, but is instead forced to stand back and watch, often the one needing protection from others. Jax is worried that she could die and copes with this fear by distancing herself from March. The illness leads to even more complications until finally March makes an important decision that will have a great impact on their future. Without giving away too many spoilers here, I’ll just say that I wanted to see much more at this part of the book. I felt that March’s decision was believable in light of his history, but that his subsequent character development on Lachion was rushed. Maybe my problem was that so much of this happened off screen, but it was such a significant change in his character and I wish there had been more page time devoted to it.

Once in awhile you come across certain characters that just remain with you long after you’ve finished a book. For me, I found those characters in the cast of Grimspace and Wanderlust. In particular, I enjoyed getting to know more about the bounty hunter Velith and found his relationship with Jax both amusing and sweet. Jax and March, of course, remain my favorites. After the first book, I was worried that I would lose some interest in their relationship. They were so great together, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough for me. I really need conflict to sustain my interest in a romance. This may frustrate some readers who want their characters to have a HEA, but for me it’s imperative that there’s something more than just smiles and laughter and endless declarations of love. Luckily, there’s plenty of conflict. Jax and March each have their own set of demons to deal with. For Jax, it’s the loss of her lover Kai and learning to trust and to need someone again. For March, it’s his past and a debt that he feels obligated to pay back. Their conflict, a natural progression of the years of suffering and loss that have shaped them, was heart-wrenching and I found myself very caught up in the emotional angst of their relationship.

I had a little trouble getting into the first part of the book. The beginning moves a little slowly, particularly before they get off planet. There are also some plotting issues. Like the first, Wanderlust has an episodic narrative that breaks up the pacing of the book. I didn’t really notice it so much in Grimspace as I did here. Additionally, I had trouble understanding the relevance of certain events and grew increasingly impatient for the story to get back on track. As it turns out, those events lead to consequences that are in fact very relevant to the larger story, but it wasn’t until I had read  ¾ of the book that I began to see the big picture. Towards the end, I had to accept the fact that the series of events that seemingly just got in the way were in fact the actual story. I enjoyed the action, but definitely experienced some frustration as the book progressed.

Overall, I liked Wanderlust. A lot. I didn’t love it as much as Grimspace, but I’m very much a fan of this series, and can’t wait to see what happens next.

B

:) Loonigrrl

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Dear Author

GUEST REVIEW: Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Dear Jane,

Thank you for inviting me to write this review of Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace. After reading your review last month I was eager to read this and even more delighted to win one of the 20 ARCs you gave away. I am happy to report that I enjoyed the book as much as you did.

044101599901mzzzzzzz.jpgAs you know, this book is written in the first person, from heroine Sirantha Jax’s POV. Generally speaking, I prefer a book written from multiple POVs. Maybe it is just what I am used to. But I have to say that this book works very well coming from Jax’s POV. Despite that "limitation" there is a very real sense that all of the characters grow and change as a result of what they go through together. And this ultimately is what makes Grimspace succeed for me. Ms. Aguirre is able to give us a strong sense of the other characters, especially March, even though we are not inside their heads. In your review you pointed out that Jax is not “loveable … [or] particularly honorable.” But, she is honest. During periods of introspection, she analyzes her actions and admits that some of those actions have had negative consequences. Jax grows and learns from her mistakes and eventually she comes to a point where she is able to refer to herself as the "new Jax." She likes herself better, and I as a reader liked her better, too.

As I read this book I was really struck by Ms. Aguirre’s earthy use of language to help us understand Jax’s personality. It is not "nice" language (although it isn’t excessively crude or rude either). The language reinforces the idea that Jax has gone through life with a cocky, devil-may-care attitude, and despite her new-found sense of responsibility, that attitude is still very much a part of who she is. It made her very real to me. There is also some wonderful description that put interesting pictures in my head. Your review referred to the description of grimspace as an "orchid unfurling." My favorite description was this one:

They say you never forget your first glimpse of Gehenna. Over the tall buildings the sky swirls with orange and red, true titian, a feature of the unique atmosphere. Of course that same air would kill human beings; hence they built the entire city inside a dome. Eternal sunset, that’s why the place is so wild. You know the feeling you get just before full dark? Sundown makes you feel like the world burgeons with possibility, and that’s Gehenna for you. (ch. 37)

It really got me wondering what it would be like to see such a sight.

Going in, I was a little worried I’d be able to buy into the romance. While I do enjoy SF/F, I needed the romance angle to work if I was going to be happy with this book. We know right from the start that Jax’s pilot and partner, Kai, died in the crash that is being blamed on Jax. Jax tells us how much she loved Kai. I needed to see Jax grieve for Kai and then set her grief aside believably before she became emotionally attached to March. Fortunately, this part of the book worked very well since it took place over a several month period. Ultimately I found the romance to be very convincing and satisfying. March is a man with unusual psychic abilities. He can read Jax’s thoughts and when they’re together he reacts to most of them with a word or a look. So while we don’t have his POV in the book, we still get a good sense of it through how he reacts to Jax. I really liked how this was done by Ms. Aguirre. Finally, March is not a perfect man. He, too, makes a costly choice. But that saves him from being a stereotypical hero and thus he is a far more interesting character.

I’ve already read the excerpt from Wanderlust (found here) and I’m eagerly awaiting its release in September so I can read more about Jax and March. I see Dina will be back and I hope we see more of Velith (a secondary character who appears late in the book) too. Meanwhile I do recommend this book, especially to those who enjoy adventure and space opera, or to anyone who wants to try something a little different.

Thanks again, Jane!

Phyl

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Phyl won this book as part of our DearAuthor giveaway. We have another giveaway for Sherry Thomas’ book, Private Arrangements. Other reader opinions for Grimspace: