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Theron by Anna Hackett

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Syfy/ Syfy Romance/ Urban Fantasy 5th May 2017
Theron by Anna HackettTheron by Anna Hackett
Series: Hell Squad #12
Published by Anna Hackett on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 130
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four-stars

Squad mates, best friends, and fighting to survive in the middle of an alien invasion. Can she make one stubborn alpha male soldier see her as something else?

Sienna Rossi has always been a mix of contradictions. She loves ice cream, likes cooking, and is skilled at taking down aliens with her squad. Sweet and tough, soldier and woman, most people can't seem to make sense of her...even the loving family she lost in the invasion and especially men. One man accepts her as she is, her best friend Theron. But the big, silent, muscled soldier has her firmly in the 'friends' zone...except that Sienna knows he wants her, and she's determined to claim the stubborn man as hers.

Theron Wade lives to fight aliens. They killed his parents, his foster siblings, and his fellow Rangers. Now he has a new team--the tough, mostly-female Squad Nine. But one certain female haunts his dreams and stars in his darkest fantasies. Sienna is his sunshine in the darkness. He wants to her to be happy...and he knows that would never be with a man like him. A man with darker, rougher tastes that would shock her.

As Squad Nine works to track and destroy a dangerous alien device, best friends collide. Theron introduces Sienna to a world of rough, edgy passion that she craves. But as a mission goes off track, the two of them will risk everything for love, for their lives, and to save the world.

I discovered Anna Hackett’s Hell Squad some time ago, then kept coming back to her books because the series became like an addictive, ongoing drama-serial as the last of the human survivors (that we know of anyway) fight to survive the alien apocalypse. Throw in strong women who know their way around the men and I’m sold.

There are some books which I clearly like more than others, but there’s no denying that the series is quite like a drug and I always miss it every time there’s a longer-than-usual break between books.

In every book, there’s always a new development in the ongoing fight against the aliens and ‘Theron’ is no different. There’s heaps of action just as there is unfulfilled sexual tension pulled as taut as a string between Theron and Sienna—and a boatload of kinky sex and hot filthy talk when it finally disintegrates. Silent, strong and with a penchant for rough sex with a little kink (though not quite BDSM) and as the other guy in the all-female squad 9 and a burly rose among the thorny women, Theron only wants a different kind of woman who can satisfy his tastes in the bedroom even though there’s only one woman he wants. It only takes a tussle with the aliens, some near-death experiences and a little creative thinking from Sienna to change his mind. For that, I thought Sienna is a good match for him, eager to play to his darker side and strong enough to push for what she really wants despite his insistence that he’s no good for her.

The bottom-line is, ’Theron’ does have an erotica factor in it but I was an eager reader, having suspected already in Hackett’s previous novella what to expect. I did wish I could have seen more sides to Theron’s and Sienna’s personalities though—apart from the fact that they’re both good soldiers and are adventurous both in and out of bed—and gotten to know them better, but the brevity of the novella makes no allowance for that. What we have instead, is a full introduction to the intriguing Berserker, motorcycle-riding squad whose books will be next. What else can I say but bring them on?

four-stars

Champion by Anna Hackett

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Fantasy/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Syfy/ Syfy Romance 30th March 2017
Champion by Anna HackettChampion by Anna Hackett
Series: Galactic Gladiators #5
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing, Anna Hackett Buy on Amazon
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four-stars

Space marine Blaine Strong enjoyed being a composed, controlled member of space station security…until he was abducted by alien slavers. Forced into underground fight rings and pumped full of drugs, he’s now seething with anger and out for revenge.

Rescued by gladiators and fellow humans on the desert world of Carthago, Blaine is fighting to be the man he once was. But when the House of Galen is attacked, he must focus on joining the gladiators to fight back. That means teaming up with a tough, competitive female gladiator who not only challenges him at every turn, awakens a fierce desire he’s never felt before, but a woman who can sense the churning emotions inside him.

Gladiator Saff Essikani is the best net fighter in the Kor Magna Arena. Raised from young to fight, she bows to no man and uses her empathic abilities to win at whatever cost. With her House targeted and people under their care threatened, she’ll stop at nothing to find those responsible. But then she finds herself face to face with a big, tortured man from Earth who affects her like no man before. As Saff and Blaine head into the desert to uncover a conspiracy, their incendiary desire flares hotter than the desert suns. But as Blaine’s angry emotions rage out of control, Saff knows that unless he learns to embrace the man he is now, he has no chance of survival.

There are many Anna Hackett books that are probably scored permanently in my memory, and I’m beyond happy to say that ‘Champion’ will number as one of them.

I’ve been somewhat on the fence with the Galactic Gladiator series but Blaine/Saff’s story is one that I truly liked and could get into without difficulty. It’s the sense of true equality that I got between the both of them – physically, emotionally, with similar spirits of determination, loyalty and courage – which I thought made this story so enjoyable, along with that chemistry that Hackett has written into this unlikely pairing. Throw in the desert landscape, the thrills and spills and the action and ‘Champion’ is a fantastic read that brings a mish-mash of classic but epic movies into play.

Now that we’re waist-deep into this strange, gladiator world, I’m starting to appreciate the sheer scope of Hackett’s world-building again – this woman’s got a heck of an imagination and enough gumption to bring it to life – and am actually quite amazed at how it’s expanding in a manner that’s making me want to know how the future books are going to go.

Still, I had an altogether satisfying experience, enhanced of course, as always, by the anticipation of the next book and pairing written into the end of this story.

four-stars

Warrior by Anna Hackett

Posted in Reviews 9th November 2016
Warrior by Anna HackettWarrior by Anna Hackett
Series: Galactic Gladiators #2
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing, Anna Hackett on November 6th 2016
Pages: 125
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three-stars

It was supposed to be an exciting job on a space station, but instead, scientist Dr. Regan Forrest finds herself fighting for her life when she’s kidnapped by alien slavers. Far from Earth and forced into a violent gladiatorial arena on the outer rim, she finds herself swept into the brawny arms of a big, wild alien gladiator.

Weapon, brute, gladiator, warrior… Sirrush warrior Thorin has been called many things. As a warrior of his people, he was a dark, dangerous weapon until even his own family were too afraid of him. Sold into slavery in the Kor Magna Arena, he has long ago earned his freedom. Now he enjoys the violent but rewarding life he’s carved out for himself. Until he rescues one small, smart, and perplexing female from alien slavers.

Regan is determined to make a place for herself in her new home. She may not have the skills to fight in the arena, but she’s smart and knows she can help...even as she fights her attraction to the big, bold, and fascinating Thorin. She knows he’ll never be interested in her. But when Regan catches a glimpse of her cousin across a crowded market, she needs help to mount a rescue, and it comes in the form of the gladiator she desperately wants. A gladiator hiding a dark, uncontrollable secret with the power to destroy them both.

Anna Hackett’s imagination knows no bounds, and for that I’ll always keep reading what she churns out with loads of awe and fangirling. I’ll be the first to admit though, that I’m still on the fence with this series where ancient Rome’s bloodiest gladiators meet Star Wars and Bladerunner combined (even if the intertextual references give me the biggest shivers).

Originality aside, there are also clichés upon clichés, the glaring one being the instant lust which converts into love too easily, and the oversexed (who always need fawning women it seems), overly macho and neanderthal gladiators who suddenly fall over themselves over Earth women who are way smaller and barely fit their hulking sizes. I ended up cringing, especially when the logistics of positions and viability came up and found myself wondering how that actually worked instead of getting my own knickers wet.

Every story is as always, a tantalising hint of a series that can go on and on; that big is the world-building of every Hackett book. I just need some time to get past these mad male characters – if it ever happens.

three-stars

Uncharted by Anna Hackett

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Speculative Fiction/ Urban Fantasy 7th June 2016
Uncharted by Anna HackettUncharted by Anna Hackett
Series: Treasure Hunter Security #2
Published by Anna Hackett on June 5th 2016
Pages: 148
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three-stars

Former Navy SEAL Callum Ward has one motto—live life to the fullest. He saw the worst of war and lost good friends, but now he works for Treasure Hunter Security. When he’s not providing security for archeological digs and invaluable museum exhibits, or off on daring treasure hunts, he’s rock climbing, racing, or skiing. Nothing—and no one—has ever tempted him to slow down…until on an expedition into the Cambodian jungle, he has to work with one opinionated, prickly photographer, Dani Navarro. But soon their straight-forward trek to find a lost temple turns deadly, and Cal and Dani find themselves under attack from a dangerous black-market antiquities ring prepared to kill.

Dani Navarro lives for her photography. For years, it’s been her escape from her family and their frivolous lifestyle, affairs, and dramas. With her camera in hand, she travels the world, capturing other people’s moments and avoiding messy entanglements. At first, she thinks Cal Ward is no different from all the other men she’s known, but as their expedition turns into a hazardous dash through uncharted jungle, she uncovers a tough, intelligent, and sexy protector. Together, they must outwit their pursuers and find not only a lost temple…but a priceless, powerful artifact.

The biggest issue that I have with Anna Hackett’s series is that her sprawling vision can never be contained by the sheer brevity of her books.

I felt that this discrepancy is never more evident in this particular book, where the grand sense of adventure and her characters (who really have so much depth more to plumb) are curtailed by the ‘wham, bam, found the treasure and they lived happily together at the end of the rainbow’ ending that smacked me in the face. I could never shake that sense of being hurried through the whole mission or archaeology project as I’m whisked from one place to another (with several steamy scenes in between) while dodging bullets along with the rest of the characters before I’m plopped, dazed and unwittingly into a middle of a Hallmark ending with my bruises still unaccounted for.

For this same reason, the speed at which the main characters went from dislike to bed to declaring their love for each other was unbelievable and difficult to stomach. Could an ex-SEAL suddenly come to the realisation that he was in fact running away from everything that tied him down after a few hot sessions in the jungle with a photographer with emotional issues, who, by the same token, suddenly realised that this commitment-phobic man was the guy for her?

I thought ‘Uncharted’ a disappointment in terms of its unfulfilled potential, only because it could have been so, so much more.

three-stars

Undiscovered by Anna Hackett

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Speculative Fiction/ Urban Fantasy 25th May 2016
Undiscovered by Anna HackettUndiscovered by Anna Hackett
Series: Treasure Hunter Security #1
Published by Anna Hackett on May 22nd 2016
Pages: 202
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four-stars

One former Navy SEAL. One dedicated archeologist. One secret map to a fabulous lost oasis.
Finding undiscovered treasures is always daring, dangerous, and deadly. Perfect for the men of Treasure Hunter Security. Former Navy SEAL Declan Ward is haunted by the demons of his past and throws everything he has into his security business—Treasure Hunter Security. Dangerous archeological digs – no problem. Daring expeditions – sure thing. Museum security for invaluable exhibits – easy. But on a simple dig in the Egyptian desert, he collides with a stubborn, smart archeologist, Dr. Layne Rush, and together they get swept into a deadly treasure hunt for a mythical lost oasis. When an evil from his past reappears, Declan vows to do anything to protect Layne.
Dr. Layne Rush is dedicated to building a successful career—a promise to the parents she lost far too young. But when her dig is plagued by strange accidents, targeted by a lethal black market antiquities ring, and artifacts are stolen, she is forced to turn to Treasure Hunter Security, and to the tough, sexy, and too-used-to-giving-orders Declan. Soon her organized dig morphs into a wild treasure hunt across the desert dunes.
Danger is hunting them every step of the way, and Layne and Declan must find a way to work together…to not only find the treasure but to survive.
 

What a thrilling, exhilarating start to a series that I didn’t think could quite match the imaginative power of the Hell Squad or the Phoenix Adventures book.

Mea culpa. Needless to say, I enjoyed myself way too much, caught up in Anna Hackett’s world-building fervour.

There is no sedate moment in ‘Undiscovered’, when a jaded, commitment-phobic (and somewhat stereotypical) ex-military treasure security contractor teams up with a studious but intrepid archaeologist in a hunt for a lost city. I loved every moment of the journey that wound and twisted through myth, Ancient Egyptian history and archaeological digs of old simply because they nostalgically brought back memories of Indiana Jones and The Mummy and the fun, fun times these movies guaranteed.

At the same time, ‘Undiscovered’ is fertile seeding ground for the stories of all the other characters introduced in this book and I’m already antsy with anticipation for the rest of their stories.

four-stars

Holmes by Anna Hackett

Posted in Fantasy/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Syfy/ Syfy Romance/ Urban Fantasy 8th March 2016
Holmes by Anna HackettHolmes by Anna Hackett
Series: Hell Squad #8
Published by Anna Hackett on March 5th 2016
Pages: 143
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three-stars

General Adam Holmes' life is dedicated to keeping his small band of survivors alive. On the run, with only Hell Squad and the other soldiers for protection, they are making their last dangerous drive to the secret stronghold of the Enclave. But there are a lot of aliens between them and their destination, and the survivors are tired, worn, and at the end of their limits. Adam feels the pressure dragging him down, but as their leader, he can't be their friend and he can't dump his burden on anyone else.

Long before the alien invasion, Liberty Lawler survived her own personal hell. Since then, she's vowed to enjoy everything life has to offer and she's managed to do that, even in the middle of an apocalypse. She does what she can to help the survivors in her convoy, but one man holds himself apart, working tirelessly for them all. Liberty can see Adam is at his breaking point and she vows to tear through his rigid control and save him from himself.

But the aliens are throwing everything they have at the humans, trying to stop them from reaching the Enclave. Adam will find his resolve tested and the pressure higher than ever. But it will be one beautiful woman--one who won't take no for an answer and who worms under his skin--who can save them all and give him the strength to go on.

Loved Adam Holmes from the beginning, was gratified to see him get his story, but Liberty – despite her past – isn’t a convincing partner at all, which probably explains my entirely lukewarm reception to the book, especially after the amazing Claudia got her story. Still great to see the continuation of the Gizzida’s reign and the general development of the plot, so I’ll definitely be continuing with Hell Squad for a long time to come.

three-stars

Shaw by Anna Hackett

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Syfy Romance/ Urban Fantasy 26th January 2016
Shaw by Anna HackettShaw by Anna Hackett
Series: Hell Squad, #7
Published by Anna Hackett on January 26th 2016
Pages: 176
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four-stars

Hell Squad sniper Shaw Baird is a man on a mission. His squad is his family and now the invading aliens have done the unforgivable…taken one of his team. Claudia Frost—soldier, friend, and all-round badass—is running on borrowed time. Shaw has vowed to bring her home, whatever it takes…and he’s only just realizing now she’s been taken that Claudia is a vital piece of him.
Claudia Frost is surviving…barely. Kept in chains, made to fight for the aliens’ enjoyment, she can’t survive much longer. But she knows her squad is coming for her…knows Shaw is coming. Only thoughts of the sexy, charming sniper get her through the hell, and for the first time in forever, she wishes she hadn’t let the wounds of her past stop her from taking a taste of the man who is her friend, her sanity and her secret obsession.
But rescuing Claudia is only the first dangerous step. The alien keeping Claudia prisoner is far more intelligent, far more patient and a hell of a lot deadlier than any they’ve faced before. Not only is he hunting their band of human survivors through the forests of the Blue Mountains, but he wants Claudia. And he’ll let nothing get in his way.

And Hell Squad returns with a big bang!

Claudia Frost has been taken by the Gizzida and her squad-mate Shaw is determined to get her back. In the process, the last single members of the Hell Squad learn what they really mean to each other while dealing with the aftermath of a devastating alien invasion.

One of the toughest and most kickass heroine I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about, Claudia’s story is one that I’ve been waiting for. I’ve always found Claudia intriguing and in this book, Anna Hackett peels away all her layers to reveal a multi-faceted character (strong, determined, realistically practical) whom I can cheer for. There’s so much to like about her and her indefatigable strength – despite all that she’d faced in her past – that Shaw, that sniper playboy with whom she’s always had a more-than-friends relationship (ish) with, pales like a shallow man in comparison as he strives to keep up with her coolness. I could only wish he could have been a lot more than he’d ever been for her, given that the somewhat flaky explanation for his fast-and-loose behaviour with the ladies isn’t convincing enough to sway me over when he suddenly pledges his loyalty only to Claudia despite never having done anything like that before.

But for now, be still, my girl-crush.

Together however, Shaw/Claudia is a pairing, like every other pairing before them, that’s probably a sub-plot in the entire story arc that unfolds slowly but surely in a journey that goes from mountains to coastline. Yet I like the way Anna Hackett builds this post-apocalyptic world by focusing on pairings and thoroughly enjoyed especially the mini-interactions between Squad 9 and the Berserkers here, making me quite relieved that this whole epic tale is far from done.

four-stars
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