Monthly Archives: February 2015

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R.A. Salvatore

22747919Title: Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf (Companions Codex, Book 3)
Author: R.A. Salvatore
Published: March 3, 2015
Pages: 352
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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

The story of Dritzzt Do’Urden and the returned Companions of the Hall continues in this third installment of the Companions Codex miniseries. The war with the Orcs continues, with the Drow aiding and urging them on. The Dwarven and Elvish settlements are likely to fall under the continued pressure. And with two dragons on their side, how could the Orcs not win? But the Companions aren’t ones to give up easily. With a little strategy and some assistance from an unexpected ally, it might just be possible to hold them off and be victorious. But even if they think it’s possible, that doesn’t mean it’s probable–and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.

I enjoyed this much more than the previous installment, which I think was mostly setup for this one. With all the players in their proper places on the board, we’re treated to some epic battles, some cunning and decisive moves, and more of the truth behind each entity’s involvement in this conflict. There’s are more going on here than it may have seemed in the beginning. And each of the characters really gets their moment to shine, making it all the more enjoyable to read. I’m definitely very curious how things will continue to resolve in the next book.

The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones

21423574Title: The Barefoot Queen
Author: Ildefonso Falcones
Published: November 25, 2014 (English publication)
Pages: 656
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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

When Caridad’s master dies en route from Cuba to Spain, her entire life changes. She suddenly finds herself a freed black slave in a new land with nowhere to go. And she quickly finds that things don’t get easier just because she’s free. When she crosses paths with Milagros, a young gypsy woman, she is somewhat surprised to find someone who shows her compassion. Milagros invites Caridad to come and stay with her and her family–a decision that means changes for Milagros, Caridad, and everyone else around them. What follows is a period of trials and tribulations that causes both women to learn things about themselves and each other they might never have learned otherwise but needed to know. Through tragedy and triumph, love and loss, they find themselves and the true freedom that was waiting just beyond their grasp.

This is an incredibly well-written book. The characters are real and dynamic and Falcones seems to effortlessly paint the world in which they live right onto the page. The range here is great and the story is more than interesting.

That said–this book is LONG. Coming in at 656 pages, one really needs to be committed for the long haul to get through this. Which can be challenging when one gets into some of the more-difficult-to-stomach scenes. And there are some moments where it seems to drag, which made me wonder if it could have been shored up by about 100 pages or so and still have been just as impactful (or even more so).

Definitely worth a read it you’re interested at all in historical fiction–especially 1700s Europe.

CONTENT WARNINGS: violence/murder, sexual abuse/rape, spousal abuse

Dirty Secret by Rhys Ford

15853341Title: Dirty Secret (Cole McGinnis, Book 2)
Author: Rhys Ford
Published: September 28, 2012
Pages: 234
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Cole McGinnis finds himself thick into another case involving a gay Korean man–although this one simply disappeared many years ago. While it seems as innocent as a typical missing persons case that’s gone cold could be, he quickly learns there’s much more to it than he suspected including blackmail, other prominent Korean businessmen, and possible police misconduct. And after the missing man’s family appears to be targeted, Cole finds himself in danger, too.

Another well-crafted murder mystery from Rhys Ford. While I enjoyed Dirty Kiss which kicked off this series, I have to say I liked this installment even more. The case is more involved and engaging and I found it much easier to connect with the characters. Seeing Jae and Cole interact more helped to establish their relationship and the interactions between Cole and his family helped me as a reader to understand him and where he comes from on a new level. It’s a page-turner with a few surprise twists and definitely worth a read.

Pride and Politics by Daisy Harris

15771980Title: Pride and Politics (Men of Holsum College, Book 6)
Author: Daisy Harris
Published: August 25, 2012
Pages: 145
Publisher: Siren-Bookstrand
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Hunter Ford has led what anyone from the outside would call a privileged life.  He’s from an affluent and influential family, and it looks like their prominence is only set to rise.  But for Hunter, the restrictions and chains that come with the ‘perks’ just don’t seem enough to make him happy–like being stuck on his uncle’s campaign for Vice President.  And to make him even less happy, his uncle has hired Steve, an image consultant, to make sure he doesn’t mess anything up.  Steve knows Hunter will be difficult and Hunter certainly doesn’t want him around–but will they be able to find some common ground since they’re stuck with each other?  And what might the tension between them give way to if it breaks?

This is definitely one of my favorite installments in this series.  We’ve had a glimpse of Hunter before, so it’s nice to get more of an understanding of his story and who (and why) he is.  The build and dynamic between Steve and Hunter is intriguing and it’s wonderful to see the character growth that occurs here.  It feels natural–not forced–and seems to fit in with their personalities (both as individuals and together).

Repairing the World by John Chu

Title: Repairing the World
Author: John Chu
Published: April 1, 2014
Pages: 11
Publisher: Apex Magazine
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

In a future where the world is routinely fractured by beings breaking in from elsewhere, Lila is a sealer–she literally tapes and seals over the fractures that appear in the ground, the sky, everywhere.  But she is required by the university’s review board to have a linguist along with her when she responds to a break, a task that often falls to Bridger.  Bridger is a serious and accomplished linguist, and he spends countless hours studying.  Though Lila quickly learns that he has another motivation for where he goes to study, and it’s one that is not exactly accepted in their society.  But Lila’s never been one to feel restricted by the rules and she certainly doesn’t expect Bridger to do so, either.

The first John Chu story I read was “The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere,” the much-deserved winner of last year’s Hugo for Best Short Story.  There is something about the way he constructs a world in a short story that I find very compelling.  Often, in short fiction, it’s difficult to present a story that resonates with rich and dynamic characters in a world that feels complete.  There just isn’t the same amount of space one has in a novel.  But in this story, much like with my previous experience with Chu’s writing, he has done just that.  I found myself immersed in this world and connected to the characters in seemingly no time at all, leaving me with every opportunity to truly enjoy what I was reading.

Bossy and the Brat by Daisy Harris

15763030Title: Bossy and the Brat (Men of Holsum College, Book 5)
Author: Daisy Harris
Published: July 28, 2012
Pages: 126
Publisher: Siren-Bookstrand
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Calvin’s life is set. He has a girlfriend, he knows what’s expected of him, and he’s going to be happy. Well, maybe not entirely happy since he sort of likes boys. Well, more than sort of… What’s worse, though, is that he’s quite attracted to Tyler, which is even more off-limits since Calvin is Tyler’s resident advisor. Until it’s summer and Tyler is no longer his resident. But how can Calvin reconcile his feelings for Tyler with everything else that’s expected of him?

I found this to be an interesting combination of angst and fluff. Calvin is certainly trying to sort through a number of issues, but there are a number of sweeter moments tucked away in here, too. I did think Calvin was a bit hard on himself, though he clearly is only using the ‘Tyler was my resident’ issue to avoid having to come to terms with what he finds to be a very difficult situation overall.

Another fun installment in the Men of Holsum College series.

Blind Love by Laura Warby

24871214Title: Blind Love (Discover Yourself, Book 4)
Author: Laura Warby
Published: November 1, 2013 (re-released February 5, 2015)
Pages: 64
Publisher: Laura Warby
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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

Owen has never been one for serious relationships. But when he is introduced to his friend’s brother, Nate, he’s intrigued. While at first resistant to the idea of being set up, he’s taken in by Nate’s charm. Nate is quiet–perhaps a bit shy–and blind, though he doesn’t let that hold him back at all. If they’re going to try to make something work, however, they’re both going to have to be willing to trust in each other and themselves.

A sweet and fluffy read that is likely to leave a smile on your face. I definitely like both Owen and Nate; there’s something endearing about both of them. I do think the relationship moves a bit too quickly in the early stages, but this is a shorter work and that’s likely what nudges that along. If you’re looking for something quick and wonderful, this is definitely worth picking up.

While this is part of a set, it is a standalone story that doesn’t require knowledge of the other works in the series.

Silent Woods by Ofelia Gränd

24779481Title: Silent Woods
Author: Ofelia Gränd
Published: February 21, 2015
Pages: 60
Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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

Anders has convinced his husband David to take their two children on a camping trip in the woods.  David isn’t exactly excited about it, but it sounds like fun for the kids, so he’s happy to go along with it.  But once they get out there, things seem a bit off for reasons he can’t quite figure out.  And when their five-year-old son, Axel, disappears near the water, they find themselves facing a creature of legend much scarier than they could have imagined.

I’ve marked this in the m/m romance genre since that’s sort of where it fits, though the focus of the plot is more of a paranormal, modern fantasy story.  Anders and David’s relationship is certainly a major part of things, but what happens with Axel is sort of the crux.  The set up moves a bit slowly–though it does provide for some healthy exposition–but once it gets to the point where Axel wanders off on his own, things move quickly and there’s a good sense of urgency to most of the rest of the story.

Definitely one I would say is worth a read if the elements of the story are ones you personally enjoy.  I will say I look forward to picking up more from this author.

Some Tentative Hugo Nominations, Part 1

A few weeks ago, I discussed my excitement for the Hugo Awards nomination period.  As the nomination deadline draws nearer (March 10), that excitement is only continuing to build as I’ve been building and refining my personal slate of nominations.  Today, I want to explore the dramatic presentation categories and my current list.  It’s unlikely these will change much at this point, while I’m still continuing to read some last minute novels and novellas that have been recommended for consideration.  (I also recognize these aren’t books, but bear with me.)

Continue reading

In Her Head, In Her Eyes by Yukimi Ogawa

23360811Title: In Her Head, In Her Eyes
Author: Yukimi Ogawa
Published: October 21, 2014
Pages: 30
Publisher: Book Smugglers Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

As this is a piece of short fiction, and I find it difficult to provide a synopsis that doesn’t inadvertently spoil some of the key elements of this story, I’m going to post the book blurb:

Trills of silver, quiver of gold.

Pot Head, they called her. Heavy-head, they teased her. In a noble house of dye masters, Island-born Hase is an outcast, ridiculed by her fellow servants and employers – all because of the smooth, reflective sphere that covers her head. Little does the household know that Hase has a mission and a purpose, carried behind her pot-covered head, in her impenetrable eyes.

Talk about intriguing, this one.  I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I started, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Yukimi Ogawa has created a very rich and dynamic work here that comes to life in a short amount of space.  There are some unexpected twists that keep the reader engaged and allow one to get a better understanding of the characters based on their actions and intent.  This one has secured itself a place on my Hugo nominations ballot.