The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

The Wingsnatchers

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Series: Carmer and Grit, Book 1
Published by: Algonquin Young Readers on April 25, 2017
Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Felix Carmer III, aspiring inventor and tinkerer, sees his work as a magician’s apprentice as worthwhile but only a means to an end. But with his employer’s show not doing so well as of late, he finds himself invested in helping them win the grand prize in a magic competition–which may be more difficult than it seems. When he unexpectedly crosses paths with a faerie–a faerie??–he learns that there is a real magic that goes well beyond the tricks they perform in the show. But he also learns things that make him question some of the scientific advancements that have recently intrigued him as well.

Grit, faerie princess of the Seelie court, has never really felt like she fit in anywhere. Yes, she’s a princess, but she was born with only one wing and many would say she doesn’t act like a princess. But she isn’t going to set aside her sense of adventure or curiosity just because it is what people expect of her. And when faeries from across Skemantis start disappearing, she finds herself on a quest to help find out who is behind it. And that quest brings her to a young magician’s apprentice named Carmer. And while he seems an unlikely ally, he may just be the one person who can help her find out what is going on and put an end to it before more faeries are hurt.

I do not give many five-star ratings, but there was no question for me when I finished this book that it deserves it. I found myself quickly lost in the world of Skemantis, invested in the characters, and drawn to turn each page by wonderful pacing, description, and action. I particularly enjoyed the partnership between Carmer and Grit, both the way it developed and the dynamic between the two of them as the story drove on. For the first book in a series, this is a great start, and I look forward to reading future installments.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy of the book received from the publisher in advance of publication.]

Ace in the Hole by Ava Drake

Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole by Ava Drake

Series: Wild Cards, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on July 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Christian Chatsworth-Brandeis is nothing if not devoted to his job. And even though the senator he works for is probably not the greatest human being on the planet, Christian is not going to let him down. Besides, it is only for a few more years and then he can be on to something bigger and better. But when a series of threats against the senator lead to the hiring of an additional security team–one that includes Stone Jackson–things go in some unexpected directions. And the almost completely fall off the rails when the senator disappears right before a series of important public appearances and fundraising events. But Christian has a plan…and he can only hope that his burning attraction for Stone–something it’s clear is reciprocal–doesn’t get in the way.

Fun. Lighthearted. Original. Steamy. These are all words I would use to describe this book. It is written in an engaging and entertaining style, and I found myself quickly drawn in to Christian and Stone’s world. It is well worth a read, and is the first book in a series so I am looking forward to what’s to come…

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Gone Without a Trace

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Published by: Berkley Books on April 18, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Hannah comes home one day to find her boyfriend has completely disappeared. It’s not just that he’s not at home. Everything of his is gone. He’s disappeared from her social media. His phone number is missing from her contacts. And his place of employment says he no longer works there. It’s as though his entire existence was a figment of her imagination. Except she knows it wasn’t. And her friends can confirm that for her. But where did he go? And why did he leave? And why do things keep turning up in her apartment when she’s not home? And why does she have the feeling that someone is watching her from a distance? She’s determined to find answers, regardless of what it means for everything else in her life.

This is definitely a page-turner. It opens with such an incredible question: How can someone completely disappear from your life? And did they do so willingly or should you immediately suspect foul play of some kind? Hannah feels like she might be losing her mind, and there’s clearly good reason why she may feel that way. The complicated web of connections and the untangling of it that is the plot of this story will keep you wondering right through to the end of the book.

[This review is based on an advance review copy received from the publisher via the First to Read program.]

At Attention by Annabeth Albert

At Attention

At Attention by Annabeth Albert

Series: Out of Uniform, Book 2
Published by: Carina Press on April 10, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Lieutenant Apollo Floros will not readily admit he needs help. But being a father to his two girls after his husband’s death has been a challenge. But his friend’s younger brother needs a place to stay and it just might be a win-win situation all around. Until Apollo sees Dylan all grown up and finds he is not so sure it could work. After all, Dylan always had a crush of his own on Apollo and the combination of them living together could be a recipe for disaster. But the girls take to Dylan right away and Apollo really could use the help…

When you put two headstrong and stubborn men who harbor an attraction for each other in the same house, it can be like sitting on a powder keg as sparks fall from the ceiling. And that is exactly what is packed into this story. But you can expect that when that powder keg does finally catch, there will be quite the explosion. There are those times when we stand in our own way and we just need someone to help us realize it in order to move forward.

[This review is based on an advance review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.]

Second Chances by Kimberly Hunter

Second Chances

Second Chances by Kimberly Hunter

Published by: Kimberly Hunter on June 27, 2013 (re-release)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

After being kidnapped by an abusive former lover, Noah Richards has found it challenging to trust another person. But he is committed to putting that behind him, determined to still live his life to the fullest extent possible. Marcus Stewart was left behind by the man he thought was the love of his life, leaving him heartbroken and uncertain if he ever wants to give someone that part of him again. But when Noah and Marcus meet, the connection is difficult to deny. And so they both need to find a way to look forward if they want to act on that spark and see where it leads. But the past, for both of them, may not be as far behind them as they believe it to be…

“I grew up in the Mid-West where being gay is as bad as being a Democrat.”

I can relate to that! And overall, this is an interesting read. The way the author tells the two histories of these gentlemen makes for an engaging story that builds to some unwelcome surprises as the plot trucks along. I will say that there are some descriptions of violence that may be uncomfortable for people who have a hard time reading that, but it is nothing too graphic and is only in a small part of the story. Worth a read.

Before This is Over by Amanda Hickie

Before This Is Over

Before This is Over by Amanda Hickie

Published by: Little, Brown, and Company on March 28, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

The epidemic seemed to come out of nowhere, but Hannah knows that it does not take long for something like this to spread. And she is determined to do everything she can to protect her family from contracting the highly communicable and deadly illness. But staying alive in the face of disaster is not easy. And it can be further complicated when one cannot leave the house or be sure who to trust. And with symptoms taking up to two days to show themselves, Hannah also cannot be sure that she or any of her family have managed to avoid exposure. But where there is a will to survive, there’s always a way. Right?

If you’ve ever played the online game “Pandemic,” you know how this story starts. A disease starts in one small corner of the world, but with world travel being such a thing it quickly finds its way to other cities, other countries, and other continents. Before long, places start closing themselves off to outsiders, not wanting to let anyone in who could have been exposed. This also closes people in, though, and makes the struggle for resources almost as important as the quest to stay disease free. And thus is the world in which Hannah finds herself. It’s an interesting read that made me think how I might react myself in such a situation. It’s not something we ever expect to happen, but the reality is that it could probably happen just as quickly as it is described here. And would we be prepared?

[This review is based on an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.]

Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon

Fair Chance

Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon

Series: All’s Fair, Book 3
Published by: Carina Press on March 13, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Former FBI agent, Elliot Mills, thought he’d left his crime-fighting life behind. But when he fell right into the middle of the path of a serial killer, he found out it wasn’t that simple. And even though the culprit was apprehended, it turns out it’s still not over. The Sculptor may not have been acting alone. And he is all to happy to draw Elliot back into the path of the storm–much to the dismay of his partner, Special Agent Tucker Lance. Danger threatens them both, and it might be the thing that pulls them apart forever. But if they can make it through alive, could it also be the thing that pushes them together once and for all?

I found myself wrestling with this one a little. It was an interesting read, but it felt a bit like trying to hang on to the story of the previous book. At times it felt like a new chapter, and at times it felt like a continuation. And it was a bit more predictable than I’m used to seeing from one of Lanyon’s books. I think part of it is that I was wanting to see the Sculptor behind them with the chance for them to focus on moving forward. Maybe if there’s another book?

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.]

June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

June

June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Published by: Broadway Books on February 14, 2017 (originally published May 31, 2016)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Cassie Danvers has isolated herself in her family’s estate, needing the time to herself to mourn the loss of her grandmother, June. And she really would like to be left alone. Which is why she’s none too happy to be disturbed by a man she’s never met before. And she has no idea what to think when he informs her that she’s been named as the sole heir to the fortune of Jack Montgomery, a famous movie star. Jack has two daughters who have their own interest in the inheritance, and they would like Cassie to submit to a DNA test to prove she has no claim to the money. But, again, Cassie just wants to be left alone.

Contrary to Cassie’s wishes, Jack’s daughters soon show up on Cassie’s doorstep, not willing to let their father’s fortune get away from them. And in between flashbacks to June’s childhood, they begin to understand what it means to be family, famous, and fortunate.

There are some interesting twists in this one that I will admit I did not see coming. It proved to be just enough to keep me interested and turning the pages to see what would happen next. The flashbacks to June’s story were helpful in understanding how things got to their current state, but they didn’t always have a strong connection to an overall thread in moving the plot forward. That said, it all builds to an unexpected ending.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via BloggingForBooks.]

Bound to Fall by Jaime Samms

Bound to Fall

Bound to Fall by Jaime Samms

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on June 26, 2015
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Actor Eddie Crane has been plagued with guilt and in mourning for almost a decade. Ever since the love of his life died in a car accident, while Eddie was driving, he’s felt responsible for the death and exhibits a recklessness that could only be described as dangerous. But his manager and best friend always does the best she can to keep him on track. And she’s hoping that some time out of the spotlight learning to ride horses for an upcoming role can help–at least for a little while.

Arthur Pike has mixed feelings about having to teach Eddie to ride. Eddie doesn’t make a good first impression. But Pike can’t deny that the actor has played a role in more than one of his fantasies over the years. And even though it might be easy just to dismiss Eddie as a piece of work, Pike can’t deny that he comes with enough of his own baggage to fill a storage locker.

When it becomes clear the spark of attraction is mutual, they both need to make some decisions. Can Eddie find a way to open up to someone else, knowing that it could all be over in a flash? Can Pike put his own bruised heart aside and trust that love is possible? And can the two of them stay out of trouble long enough to not find themselves on the cover of every tabloid magazine?

These two guys… They’ve both been through so much, and I just had to feel for them. Now that’s not to say there weren’t moments when I wanted to reach through the pages and shake them. But the author approaches their hesitations, their reservations, and their choices in what I feel is a very organic, respectful, and realistic way. And despite some of the heavy baggage they both bring to the story, there are moments of humor to get you through. This isn’t a tear-jerker, but it’s a good reflection on love, loss, and trust–not only for another person but also for yourself.

Texas Winter by R.J. Scott

Texas Winter

Texas Winter by R.J. Scott

Series: Texas, Book 2
Published by: Love Lane Books on June 5, 2013 (2nd edition)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Riley hoped that he was free from any further harm his family could cause him when his brother died. But the FBI isn’t so willing to ignore the things that Riley’s brother did…things that could put the family business and name on the line. But thankfully for Riley, he has Jack and Jack’s supportive family to help him get through it all. Past unethical behavior by his brother isn’t all Riley has to worry about–it turns out he has an eight-year-old daughter who has just showed up on his doorstep. The start of a marriage for any couple can be challenging, but with all of these added complications, can Jack and Riley find a way to make it work?

This is an interesting glimpse into how Riley and Jack work to find their way forward after the incredibly unorthodox way they came together in the first place. You don’t need to have read the first book to follow this story, but it is my impression that it would help considerably in just having context of some of the references to previous events. It is entertaining, engaging, and at few points even suspenseful. I do find myself looking forward to finding out what happens in the next book, which is currently loaded on my Kindle and ready to go.