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.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Published by: Bloomsbury on September 20, 2011
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Princes in exile generally know they cannot expect too many great things out of life. Which is where Patroclus found himself when he was sent to the court of King Peleus. What he did not expect was to become friends with the king’s son, Achilles, and forge a quick and defining bond. The two become fast friends and there is the lingering sense for Patroclus that their connection might mean something more. A sense that Achilles’s mother, the sea goddess Thetis, does not appreciate at all. And Thetis makes it her mission to keep the two of them apart–for her son’s own good, obviously.

But things change for everyone when Helen of Sparta is kidnapped. Princes from all around are asked to join in the fight–and Achilles cannot escape the call. Despite the danger, Patroclus must decide whether to go with Achilles into battle, knowing in his heart that they cannot live apart. And knowing that the battlefield might just be where everything about both of their lives is truly tested…

I’ll be honest that I was a bit sold on this book before I even opened it up. Mythology, fantasy, romance, etc. are all things I tend to enjoy. But when I opened it up and fell into the story that Madeline Miller crafted, I was surprised at the wonderful construction of this book. Telling epic tales is not easy. It can be even more challenging when it is a story with which many readers may already have some familiarity. But Miller’s narrative is fresh, engaging, and compelling. And this has quickly risen to near the top of my favorite mythology-based novels. If you haven’t read it and have even a passive interest in any of its genre tags, considering picking it up at your earliest convenience!

Second Chances by Nate Tanner

Second Chances

Second Chances by Nate Tanner

Published by: Nate Tanner on August 13, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Neil is in a tough spot. He’s nearly broke and all on his own. Which is why he accepts a job tutoring Maddy Warbeck, the daughter of a wealthy family and who is perhaps the most spoiled person Nate has ever met. But he’s determined to see things through no matter how many tricks Maddy tries to play on him or how much she tries to reject his help. And then there’s Maddy’s older brother, Dane. Though Neil is put off by Dane at first, after receiving Dane’s help with securing Maddy’s cooperation, Neil begins to see that he’s nothing like his sister. And as they spend more time together, they find they share a mutual attraction that quickly burns bright.

But Dane’s father wants only what he perceives as a perfect family. And Dane being with Neil does not fit into that picture. So when he cuts Dane off, Neil is there for him. But being there for Dane means bringing him into a whole new life–one that is almost the exact opposite of the luxury in which he grew up. And while Neil knows Dane is not a shallow guy, he finds that their circumstances put a strain on their fledgling relationship and he’s hard pressed to try and fix things. Can they find a way to make things work? Or are their worlds just so totally different that they will never be able to find the common ground necessary to carry on a relationship?

This is an easy and entertaining read. The back-and-forth between Maddy and Neil in the beginning is a combination of frustrating (she is kind of a brat) and entertaining (Neil can definitely hold his own). And although I wondered how the relationship would be framed after reading the blurb, I can say that I was pleased to see it start and grow somewhat organically, never feeling forced. There are a few points in the book where I thought things moved a bit quickly, but overall I finished feeling like this was an interesting story and well worth the time to give it a read.

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.