All She Wrote by Josh Lanyon

All She Wrote

All She Wrote by Josh Lanyon

Series: Holmes & Moriarty, Book 2
Published by: Samhain Publishing on December 28, 2010
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Christopher “Kit” Holmes cannot turn down a request to help out his former mentor, Anna Hitchcock. And he certainly wishes he could. But she’s called to ask him to step in and host a writing retreat at her home and he must heed the call. And to do so he must cancel yet another weekend with J.X. Moriarty, his new boyfriend, putting strain on an already tenuous relationship.

But Kit finds his problems are worse than he imagined after he arrives at Anna’s home. The fall that led to her injury and inability to host the event herself–well, it may not have been an accident. Anna suspects someone purposely injured her. And as Kit learns more about the various attendees at the writing retreat, he quickly learns that pretty much everyone around him has some level of motive for being the culprit. And Kit once again becomes an amateur sleuth, trying to find answers and unwittingly putting himself in danger. But will he be able to find out the truth before anyone else is hurt? And will he be able to make up with J.X. when all is said and done?

If you’ve read the first book in this series, you can expect a similar feel and approach in this second installment. Kit wanders unknowingly into a case and falls deep into his quest to solve it. Unexpected twists and turns fall onto his path along the way. And the danger becomes very real to him on more than one occasion. What’s different here is that the ending doesn’t wrap up quite as nicely as the first book. And probably not quite as nicely as most readers would like to see. But just as life is complex and doesn’t always go the way we’d expect or like, I appreciate this approach on some level myself.

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

As Red As Blood

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

Series: Lumikki Andersson, Book 1
Published by: Crown Books for Young Readers on January 17, 2017 (US release)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Lumikki Andersson is what many might describe as a loner. She purposely stays out of other people’s business and problems. To do otherwise will just lead to trouble that she knows she doesn’t need. But when she ends up in the middle of a life-or-death situation that three careless classmates stumbled into, she finds she has no choice but to see it through to the end. And the danger runs deeper than any of them can even imagine…

The overall story arc here is interesting. Action starts right away and pulls the reader into the world of these characters. And it’s a plot that I know I found I wanted to see to the end from the first few pages. But there are a few things that just didn’t quite settle for me. First, Lumikki is just a high school student but she acts like a highly-trained super agent at times, which I found difficult to accept. Second, the resolution seems a bit too tidy and abrupt for such a complicated story. But it is an entertaining and interesting read. It’s still a page turner even with those reservations. So I’d suggest giving it a read if you like suspense.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]

The Relics of Thiala by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

The Relics of Thiala

The Relics of Thiala by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Series: Packmasters, Book 1
Published by: Beryll & Osiris Brakhaus on February 15, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

The time of the Packmasters is in the past. But although they were wiped out, some of their genetically engineered bestiae were kept around. And while that may have seemed like an innocent thing to do, people need to take care with handling things they may not understand. And when Cat crosses paths with Ana, the two bond in an unexpected way–the bond of a Packmaster to her bestiae. To understand this bond, they will need to understand the world of the Packmasters and find out exactly what happened 20 years ago in a war that predates them. Perhaps the ways of the Packmasters haven’t been completely eradicated. And if that is the case, everyone may be in more danger than they realize…

I’m really intrigued by the world in which this story takes place. I feel like there’s a history here that has some interesting layers to be unraveled as this series continues. And I also am interested to see how the dynamic between Ana and her bestiae–especially Cat–plays out going forward.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the authors via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

2016 in Review: #2 & #1

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Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016. In week five of this series, we move up to the final two books on my top ten.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#2 Winterwode by J. Tullos Hennig

Winterwode

When I learned that J. Tullos Hennig was planning an additional three books in The Wode series, I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. This series combines so many elements I love: fantasy, history, well-written retelling, m/m relationships, overcoming challenges, a few drops of angst, etc. This is the third book in the series and the first of the aforementioned three additional books.

In this installment, things continue to escalate with increasing stakes for Robyn and company. The powers-that-be aren’t willing to go down without a fight. And Gamelyn still finds himself torn between the life he thinks he wants and the loyalty he feels toward the knights. But they can all unite against the corruption that is sitting on the throne, as it threatens not only their way of life but their actual lives and the lives of those around them…

Read my review from August 9 for more on this title.

#1 City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Blades

My top two reads for the year have a few things in common: fantasy, series, conflict, strong characters–just to name a few. This is a series that caught me off guard. When I read City of Stairs (which pulled a five-star rating from me in 2014), I had expected some run-of-the-mill fantasy story that’s just like all the other ones that the presses seem to be pumping out at an ever-increasing rate. But the story pulled me in faster than I could have expected and the characters kept me right on through to the end.

Honestly, I feel like City of Blades is even better than its predecessor. The characters here are developed, complex, and well-written. The story is provides the reader with excellent backstory/world building, complex conflict, and a compelling narrative. And Turyin–well, we need more characters like her.

Read my review from January 26 for more on this title.

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Series: Dark Gifts, Book 1
Published by: Del Rey Books on February 14, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The world is divided. There are the Equals who possess Skill, a form of inherent magic, and make up the ruling class in Britain and several other countries. And then there are the rest, the Unskilled, the commoners. And though Skill separates them, the Equals must ensure the commoners know their place. Which is why, when the Equals took power, the instituted the slavedays: all commoners must spend ten years in servitude to the Equals, either in a workhouse or on an Equal estate. It is only upon completion of the slavedays that a commoner has full rights in society.

For Luke and Abigail’s family, the slavedays have always been a bit of a shadow over them. Their parents didn’t complete their time before starting a family, so their place in the community has been limited. But in order to give their children more opportunities than they had, they’ve decided to complete them together, now, as a family. For Abigail (18), Luke (16), and Daisy (10), it seems a bit daunting, but they can appreciate having the support of their parents as they go through their ten-year of slave service. And Abigail has even arranged for them to work together at the estate of one of the foremost ruling families.

But things rarely ever go as planned. As the family departs to begin their service, they learn that Luke has been reassigned to the local slavetown and will not be joining them at the estate. While it at first seems devastating, Luke settles into his new community and quickly learns more about the Equals and the power dynamics in Britain than he ever learned in school. And he also learns that there are people who aren’t exactly happy with the current state of affairs and might just be prepared to do something about it.

Back at the estate, Abigail and Daisy are also settling in. Daisy is assigned to care for the illegitimate daughter of estate’s heir, which brings her into favor with the family, something she might just be able to use to her advantage. And Abigail finds herself drawn to the Unskilled son she is working for, as she grapples with feelings that might get her into more trouble than she bargained for.

But it turns out that the dissatisfaction with the current state of things doesn’t rest solely with the commoners. No, there are Equals who don’t like the direction Britain is headed, and they all have their reasons. In a game of politics and power, there is only so long to wait until everything reaches a tipping point and it all comes crashing down or explodes in a flurry of light. And this game provides no exception…

This is an incredible start to a new trilogy that had me on the edge of my seat for most of the book. The world building, the character development, the description–it’s all so wonderfully done. I had a very difficult time putting this down and ended up finishing it within the same day I started reading. It’s so easy to get lost in the world that Vic James has created.

There are some unexpected surprises along the way (I tried not to spoil much in my description above) that I didn’t see coming, but they still felt right. And there are some characters whose motivations I still find myself questioning–only because I don’t quite know which side of the fight they’re on. Something to explore in the future installments, to be sure!

I definitely recommend this to anyone interested in fantasy, dystopia, stories of intrigue, class/power struggles, and generally just good writing.

2016 in Review: #4 & #3

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Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016. In week four of this series, we move up to the next two books on my top ten.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#4 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

I was a bit of a latecomer to the amazingness that is this suspenseful mystery novel. But I could immediately see why it found such widespread success with reading audiences of all types. It’s one of those books that keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat, digging deep to find every possible clue that you know just has to be there, and yearning for that final answer to the question. I’ve yet to see the film adaptation (going to be a latecomer there too), but I’m looking forward to it!

Read my review from October 13 for more on this title.

#3 Guyliner by j. leigh bailey

Guyliner

I could probably gush for pages on how much I truly enjoyed this book. There’s definitely something about j. leigh bailey’s writing style that resonates with me (just look up the author tag her on the blog!). The characters are multidimensional, the stories and situations have a realism to them, and I find myself lost in the pages of the book every time. I think this was the first young adult story I picked up from this author, but it is safe to say that I will continue to pick them up as long as they keep being written…

Read my review from January 4 for more on this title.

Everything You Need You Have by Gerad Kite

Everything You Need You Have

Everything You Need You Have: How to Be at Home in Your Self by Gerad Kite

Published by: Harmony Books on December 6, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

In today’s so society, too often we find ourself looking for fulfillment and validation through external sources. We look to other people. We look to material success. We are always looking out and rarely ever taking the time to stop and focus on what is within ourselves. In this book, Gerad Kite provides a framework he has developed from personal experience and working with clients for a number of years. According to Kite, if we learn to find the Home that exists within, we will not only feel more fulfilled but we will also minimize the swings that we so often feel between positive and negative extremes.

Kite’s model is interesting. I have no doubt that there are people who might find it to be profound and incredibly enlightening. Personally, I had trouble feeling like it resonated with me, but I appreciated the values of becoming more attuned to your own mind and body and letting that be more of a guide to happiness and calm that the world around you. So while I don’t foresee myself following his ten-step process, there are elements that I will certainly be making a focus of my own reflection over time.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]

The Devil You Know by Erin M. Evans

The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know by Erin M. Evans

Series: Brimstone Angels, Book 6
Published by: Wizard’s of the Coast on October 4, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Things for Farideh seem to just get more and more tangled with every attempt to unravel the situations in which she’s found herself. The spirits of Brimstone Angels are back and they have an agenda all their own. Asmodeus is still working toward achieving the greatness he feels he so rightly deserves. And is Lorcan up to something that is in service to someone else…or does he have a path of his own to follow. What’s clear for everyone is that something needs to happen to put all of this business to an end. But in order to do that, Farideh may have to put herself, her friends, and her family in danger. And if this doesn’t work…well, let’s just say everyone really, really hopes it does.

Things have been building toward this finale for a while now. Every time Farideh felt she was getting a step closer to getting back to a normal life–or what passes for normal for her–it’s as though she’s instead taken a step back. And although she refuses to be a pawn for someone else, too often it seems like she has to give in if she wants to win. This time around, it appears there will be no exception.

I was a little disappointed with the ending. After such a long buildup, it felt a bit anticlimactic to me–which is why this is pulling a three-star rating. It’s still an enjoyable read, and fans of the series and character will enjoy getting some closure, even if it’s a more subdued closure than one might expect.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

You Here Tonight by Candice Blake

You Here Tonight

You Here Tonight by Candice Blake

Series: You Here, Book 1
Published by: Candice Blake on December 26, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Kevin is an aspiring artist, working hard to earn his degree at a prestigious university. Kyle is the school’s star quarterback, and he’s only enrolled in an art class as a random elective. And because they couldn’t come together over the course of the semester to finish the final project they were partnered up to complete, they stand at risk of failing the class. Their only shot is an extension through the winter break–only a couple of weeks to put something together. Kevin offers for Kyle to come stay with his family for the holiday, providing them with the chance to use the entire break to complete their task. Kevin is a bit nervous about having Kyle in close proximity during that time, since Kyle is one of the most attractive guys he’s ever seen. But Kyle’s obviously a straight jock, right? And even if he wasn’t, he’d never go for a guy like Kevin, would he? As they spend their holiday trying to create art, the two young men just might have the chance to create something else completely unexpected.

The story here is one that intrigued me. There’s a lot of potential for conflict, push and pull, and self-discovery with this kind of plot. And those are among the types of stories that I enjoy. And once these two get going, that energy does find its way into the story. There is a bit of a slow start here during the setup, but once you get past that, things pick up and move at a fairly steady pace. Readers find themselves along for the ride, one that continues right up until these two find a place to land.

[Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected advance review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

2016 in Review: #6 & #5

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Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016. In week three of this series, we move up to the next two books on my top ten.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#6 Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes

Nonsense

Yes, I have some nonfiction on this best-reads-of-the-year list. And this one is what I would call a must read. Not only does it provide great insight into how we approach ambiguous or unclear situations, but it also provides some great strategies for how we can use those situations to our advantage. I also found myself looking at some situations that otherwise perplex me (like the 2016 election for the President of the United States) in new light. And it’s a fairly easy and accessible read. Consider picking it up!

Read my review from January 1 for more on this title.

#5 A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

There are so many examples of a sequel to an amazing fantasy title just sort of falling flat: this is definitely not one of them. V.E. Schwab takes readers right back into the work she created in A Darker Shade of Magic, and I found I didn’t want to leave. I am very much looking forward to the next installment in this series due out this year.

Read my review from December 29 for more on this title.