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REVIEW: Once Upon A Time in Space by Heather Massey

REVIEW: Once Upon A Time in Space by Heather Massey

Dear Ms. Massey,

I have totally procrastinated about writing this review, which will probably give you a hint regarding my reaction to Once Upon a Time in Space. My hesitation is due to this coming on the heels of my less than charitable review about another group of space pirates, but since honesty has always been my policy, I’m diving in head first.

Once Upon A Time in Space by Heather MasseyEarth is a dying world. Its crust is crumbling and its citizens are forced to live in cities beneath the ravaged surface trying to eke out existences in overcrowded cities. The Space Defense Corps, the military power that has essentially replaced the government, has a stranglehold on the populace, the planet and all space travel and exploration. To say that existence is miserable and there’s constant unrest is an understatement. Reading about the overcrowded, dirty, miserable conditions makes me want to take a long walk outside.

Nick Venture is unexpectedly fired from his position as an engineer at an excavation company, then ends up on the wrong side of the law all in the same day (when it rains, it pours, right?). Nick is immediately found guilty of a punishable offense and sentenced to a labor camp. He thinks his life might be over, and from the sound of it, he might possibly be right. While awaiting transport to Alcatraz labor camp, Nick receives a proposition: join the Collective and lead an expedition to a viable planet that the Collective has discovered. Why Nick? Because he’s the last living relative of Christopher Columbus and his presence on the expedition will give the people of Earth hope. Yes, you read that right, he’s expected to lead the expedition…as in captain a spaceship. We’ll circle back here in a moment.

Raquel Donovan is a space pirate better known as the Siren. She is the captain of the Deathraven, one of the most feared vessels in space, and is infamous for her tactical prowess and plain old guts. Raquel description falls into the category of stereotypical pirate for me, complete with eye-patch and ascot…and of course, wears a super-sexay black ship suit. Raquel is on a mission to find and kill her nemesis (no spoiler here…sorry) and makes no bones about taking out as many Space Defense Corps ships as she can while trying to find and destroy her enemy.

This book had a certain element that should have made my heart sing while hysterically crying with joy: a heroine that won’t take shit from anyone and captains her own spaceship. The plot premise itself was great: a dying planet run a corrupt government and military, with a group of pirates rebelling against them coupled with a somewhat forbidden romance. All of this, along with tactical space battles, intrigue and deception. There could not be any more win here. However, the story, the hero and finally, the heroine ended up letting me down.

Raquel Donovan was fabulous…until she encountered Nick Venture. From the first it seemed like her backbone, and frankly her entire personality, disappeared around Nick. Before Nick showed up, Raquel was a woman with a vendetta, and I would have loved if her interaction with Nick was her taking the wheel and then telling him where he could shove it, but that definitely didn’t happen. From the beginning she keeps secrets from Nick to supposedly protect herself. She has Nick running in circles, but doesn’t divulge anything to him so the romantic tension felt manufactured rather than organic. There was so much wishy-washy going on in Raquel’s head that I couldn’t find the bloodthirsty, tough, strong, unforgiving space pirate I was led to believe was there.

And then there was Nick, who was so beta that I have a hard time believing he could command respect from a group of well-seasoned space travelers. Or that they would even let him be the leader of a mission. This was one of the biggest problems I had with OUTS. The Collective assembled a group of former “spacers” that were out of work to get to a new planet. Were these people given heavy doses of drugs? Were they brainwashed? They accepted a man that they’ve never seen before, a man who has never been on a space craft, and has absolutely no experience, as their leader. I just couldn’t suspend quite this much disbelief.

Nick’s other beta problem? I couldn’t believe that an Alpha like Raquel would want a beta like Nick. Yes, he is now a captain, and yes, he somehow has the respect of people on three different ships. But his internal dialogue is painfully weak, his interaction with Raquel is based mostly on lust and fantasy, and his instant lust going to instant love weirded me out.

The romantic/erotic element wasn’t terrible, but there was so little actual physical interaction that I’d be pressed to call the book an erotic romance. Since I had such a hard time with Nick’s character, I ended up skimming a lot of the sexin’. Finally, the last chapter of the story barely made sense and felt tacked on as a wrap-up epilogue even though it wasn’t titled that way. I really wanted to love this but I just couldn’t; and due to the weakness of one of the foundation plotlines and my issues with the characters I’d have to rate this a D.

~ Shuzluva

Book Link | Kindle | Red Sage

REVIEW: Jaq’s Harp by Ella Drake

REVIEW: Jaq’s Harp by Ella Drake

Dear Ms. Drake:

I don’t read a lot of futuristics but I’m trying to be more adventurous in my reading so when this Carina Press book popped up on NetGalley, I requested it. It’s a no risk proposition to try out new books via NetGalley. Jaq’s Harp is a short story with six chapters. I’m not sure if this would have been better in a longer format, but I did feel like I was missing important parts of the story. It was also one in which I thought the sex kind of got in the way (or maybe because the story was so short that sex scene took up important word space that could have been devoted to some other development of the storyline).

Jaq's Harp by Ella DrakeJaq’s Harp is set in “a world of floating islands” where the wealthy live in clouds above the flatlanders. The owners of the corporations that inhabit the world above but pollute the world below have been the target of Mother organization which tries to inhibit and control the harm that trickles down. Jacqueline "Jaq" Robinson is an agent of Mother, part of GOoSE (Global Organization of Strategic Equity), taken off the streets at a young age to be trained. When her sister falls ill to a new disease created by Giant Corp., Jaq tosses away her next assignment and instead seeks out a way to infiltrate the clouds and obtain the antidote.

Another agent is working undercover at Giant Corp, an agent that Jaq had loved but who left her without warning one night. His name is Harp and is pretending to be a singer at Giant Corp while searching for evidence to bring down Giant Corp. and to recover anecdotes for diseases that Giant Corp is causing. Jaq can’t wait, though, because her sister is near death. Upon a visit to Monsieur Bovine, Jaq obtains a few magic beans that will create a way for her to climb to the clouds.

The riff off the Jack and the Beanstalk story was clever, but most of the story was told in a serious tone and failed to deliver on the sly humor that names like Monsieur Bovine; Harp, the singer; Giant Corp.; GOoSE; and the use of magic beans seemed to promise. There was a playfulness that I felt was intimated by the premise but never followed through on. Further, the reconciliation of Jaq and Harp didn’t fit well in the short confines of the story.

I was frustrated with Jaq’s impetuosity because I felt her “plan” to recover the antidote was really poorly thought out and that she never could have accomplished her mission on her own. This made me think less of her when I wanted her to be this really amazing super agent. In fact, the more that I read of the story, the more I realized what a poor idea Jaq’s plan truly was.

I almost think that this story would have worked better if Harp had been an agent that Jaq confronted for the first time and that they had feelings develop when Jaq tried to screw up Harp’s mission for her own purposes rather than a rekindling of a romance. The attempts to provide romantic tension took away from time that could have been spent fleshing out Jaq’s plan to save her sister instead of Jaq’s and Harp’s longing to get in each other’s pants. I also felt that having Harp’s point of view was almost unnecessary. Again, I chalk this up to the shortness of the story. In a compressed space, there was simply too much and, at the same time, not enough information provided to tie the competing story arcs together. C-

Best regards,


Book Link | Kindle | nook
| Sony| CarinaPress