Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Beating of his Wings by Paul Hoffman

15997975Title: The Beating of his Wings (The Left Hand of God, Book 3)
Author: Paul Hoffman
Published: August 15, 2013
Pages: 512
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

The world is in a state of chaos. The war started by the Redeemers continues, their commitment to their mission unwavering despite the fact that Thomas Cale–their Angel of Death–has escaped again and gone into hiding. Broken and weak, Cale knows he cannot hide forever. Even as he tries to find a way to recover, he knows Pope Redeemer Bosco is hunting him, hoping to find him and use him for his intended purpose. Cale will need to decide whose side he is on and what he’s capable of. Will he live out his destiny as destroyer of mankind or will he stand against the Sanctuary and try to save a people he knows are damned? And what will be the final cost?

Such a wonderful end to this trilogy and I’m still very glad that I came across these books in the first place. There are so many layers to the messages woven into these pages, and it is so much more than your typical post-apocalyptic, young adult, dystopian novel. The world that Paul Hoffman has created straddles the line between being so close to our own reality and so far from it so beautifully that you know you’re being transported but you can so easily see the parallels that exist. This was probably the most challenging to read in the trilogy, largely because of the emotional investment in the characters and the levels of peril in which they find themselves with each continuing chapter.

I definitely give this book (and the whole series) a high recommendation.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

11735983Title: Insurgent (Divergent, Book 2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: May 1, 2012
Pages: 525
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

After the attack on Abnegation, it is clear to Tris and Four that there is something much larger going on than they ever could have imagined. All-out war among the factions is inevitable and it’s difficult to know where everyone stands. Together, they need to unite those who are willing to stand up against Jeanine and the other forces threatening to bring down everything upon which their society is built. But there are secrets that Tris and Four have yet to uncover–about themselves and about the real reasons for Jeanine’s actions…

In some ways, I think I liked this better than the first novel. We get the chance to see how some of the other factions live that we didn’t get to see in the first book. It’s also very interesting to see the layers to the political dynamics and understand how the events at the end of the first book were likely brewing for some time, but there was no real mechanism to shut it down. There are, of course, several moments where I wanted to reach through the pages and shake Tris, but what else is new there? Definitely looking forward to seeing this adapted to the big screen this weekend…

Fifty Yards and Holding by David-Matthew Barnes

18406625Title: Fifty Yards and Holding
Author: David-Matthew Barnes
Published: March 17, 2015
Pages: 264
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

[Disclaimer: I received an egalley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Victor “Toro” Alvarez has suddenly found himself as the leader of a street gang. It’s not that he’s necessarily reluctant to take on the position, it’s just that he has a few issues of his own to deal with–one major one being that he’s pretty sure he’s gay and that would not go over well with the rest of the gang. It also means he will probably never get out of his neighborhood unless it’s in a body bag. But when he comes across Riley Brewer as he’s running from a rival gang, he wonders if maybe he has more options than he first thought. Riley is new to Toro’s school, since his father stopped paying his private school tuition after his parents divorced. And there’s definitely an air between the two of them in those few moments that makes them both wonder if their chance meeting was part of something greater for them both.

I’ll start off by saying that I did enjoy the overall message of this story very much. The idea that you’re never truly stuck and that even if you make choices based on circumstances, you always have options to change your path is an important and powerful one. And that comes across as a real strength of this book.

That said, it’s the way this book worked through that message that holds me back from a four- or five-star review. The opening set up an interesting tone that was not reflected in the rest of the book, which sort of threw me off. The Toro we see right away doesn’t really seem to exist elsewhere in the story–and while I can see how that might have been the point to an extent, since it never really comes back around, it seems almost out of place. Add to that the fact that we rather suddenly skip over almost five months–the five months during which it appears the bulk of the character and relationship development occurred–and it made it a bit more difficult to connect to these characters as meaningfully as I would have liked.

This is definitely worth a read, especially for those who are looking for a broader message/story and maybe not specifically looking for something that focuses on individual characters and the how and why they get to their destination.

Content warnings behind the cut

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Johnnie by Cardeno C.

Jonnie_cover1800x2700Title: Johnnie (Siphon, Book 1)
Author: Cardeno C.
Published: March 11, 2015
Pages: 224
Publisher: The Romance Authors, LLC
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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

Hugh is a Premier lion shifter and leader of the Berk pride, and he’s been around for over a century. As a Premier ages, the only way to contain his power is to have a Siphon whose role is to take some of the power that he has built up to ensure the pressure doesn’t overwhelm and kill him. When Hugh’s Siphon does something unthinkable that puts him, Hugh, and the entire pride in danger, Hugh is forced to learn more about the Siphon, the role of the Siphon in the pride, and about himself.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read lion shifters before. And while to some extent, shifters are shifters, there are some unique aspects to these particular individuals in the world that Cardeno C. has created. I definitely felt for Johnnie and everything that he’s been through. The life of a Siphon is definitely one with challenges that many in the pride notice or consider. And while Hugh begins to understand, it’s still not very easy for him to grasp the enormity of what Johnnie’s life has been like. Hugh’s approach to Johnnie changes, but I can’t help wondering how things will go for them going forward. Can Hugh really change his entire nature for Johnnie’s happiness?

Nothing Like Paris by Amy Jo Cousins

23579352Title: Nothing Like Paris (Bend or Break, Book 2)
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Published: March 3, 2015
Pages: 249
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author via the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s “Don’t Buy Me Love” program in exchange for an honest review.]

Jack Tarkington messed up. When he gave Tom Worthington a hard time because Tom’s father caused Jack’s parents to lose all of their savings (and Jack’s college fund) in an investment scheme, he hadn’t exactly realized the implications of his actions. Now suspended–and facing expulsion–for harassment, he is forced to do the one thing he told himself he would never ever do. He’s returning to his hometown in Iowa. Jack left so much behind when he left, and he still feels most of that was for the better. But he’s not in town for long before he runs into the one thing he left behind that he regrets–MIguel. Jack’s high school best friend (and boyfriend) certainly hasn’t forgotten that Jack left him, either. And when he’s only back because he was forced to come home, not because he wanted to, certainly doesn’t give Miguel any hope that Jack has changed. But will the break from school and return to his past help Jack find what he really wants? And will he be able to make the best of the second chances he finds for himself and for Miguel?

In the first book, Jack is nowhere close to a likable character. Even though we earn a bit about his motivation in the end, it’s still not enough to get past the way he acted toward Tom and Reese. Learning more about him and his past, however, added a whole dimension to Jack that helped me to understand him even better. The character development in this book (both for Jack and for Miguel) is incredible while never feeling forced or overdone. I am very much a fan of the way this series seems to be progressing and am definitely looking forward to the next installment.

My Final Hugo Nominations Ballot

The nominating period for the 2015 Hugo Awards has closed.  While we anxiously away the announcement of the final slate on April 4, I figured I’d share my final list of nominations that I submitted into the mix.  Everything on here is something I would recommend checking out, so it seems in keeping with the spirit of this blog, regardless of which of these end up on the final ballot.

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Rubble and the Wreckage by Rodd Clark

24480921Title: Rubble and the Wreckage (A Gabriel Church Tale, Book 1)
Author: Rodd Clark
Published: January 30, 2015
Pages: 315
Publisher: Driven Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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

Christian Maxwell has always wanted to merge his interest and background in psychology and writing on a project. He can think of no better project than a book about a serial killer. They’ve been done before, but his project is unique in that he has found a killer who has yet to be caught by the police–Gabriel Church. Despite some initial misgivings, Christian accepts Gabriel’s offer to tell his story, an offer that Christian knows might lead him down a dark path. When the two start spending time together and Gabriel leads Christian to some truths about himself, that path he’s wandering might just get a bit darker than he expected–especially when he realizes he might be falling in love with a confessed and unrepentant murderer.

There are some real moments of intensity here in what I think is a rather original story. Toss in the fact that it’s set in Seattle, and I definitely felt like I was able to immerse myself in the book. There are a few apparent typos and naming inconsistencies, but I read a review copy and it’s possible those have been fixed and worked out in the final print edition. And while I appreciated the intensity of the characters and their relationship, there were a few points where things move a bit more slowly than I would have liked and the intensity fades just a bit.

That said, I did enjoy the book overall. As this is billed as the first in a series, I’m somewhat curious to see what happens next for either or both of these men.

Content warning: graphic descriptions of violence

The Left Hand of Calvus by L.A. Witt

15818007Title: The Left Hand of Calvus (Warriors of Rome, Book 1)
Author: L.A. Witt
Published: November 5, 2012
Pages: 175
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

When Saevius learns he has been sold to a Pompeiian politician to serve as a bodyguard, he is thrilled to leave his life as a gladiator behind him. But as soon as he arrives at the home of his new master, Calvus, he learns that there is something else in mind for Saevius. Calvus wants him to infiltrate the ludus of a notorious lanista, Drusus, and discover the man with whom Calvus is certain his wife is having an affair. It’s a dangerous endeavor on its own, but once the other men begin to suspect something is up with Saevius, he knows he’s not safe. And then there’s his fascination with Drusus which he can’t quite explain.

I’m such a fan of historical fiction, to be honest, and this is a specific era I find particularly fascinating (see my love of the Spartacus television series). L.A. Witt tells this story very well and there are definitely more twists here than I expected. Nothing like a little mystery wrapped into a historical romance to add to my enjoyment. The only thing that threw me off a bit is that things seemed to move very slowly until the end when it suddenly everything was really fast-paced and a few major confrontations and plot points seemed to just slide by more easily than I would have expected. That said, I do recommend this one for anyone interested in romance, historical fiction, and/or mystery.

Content warnings: discussion of past abuse and past sexual assault; violence

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

18591068Title: Christmas Kitsch
Author: Amy Lane
Published: December 9, 2013
Pages: 256
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

Rusty Baker has led what many would think is a charmed life. Coming from an affluent family and being an integral part of the football team in high school, he never really wanted for anything. But when he becomes friends with Oliver Campbell, he quickly learns there is a lot in life that he may have been missing–including knowledge about who he is. With Oliver’s help, Rusty tries his hardest to continue down the path his family has set for him, but he struggles knowing it’s not really who he wants to be…and that what he truly wants out of life might just be to spend it with Oliver.

Another charming story from Amy Lane. I absolutely adored Oliver and he was a bit of a saint putting up with Rusty and being patient with him while he sorted everything out. As is the tendency with Ms. Lane’s novels, I felt like this ran a bit long and could have been paced a bit more quickly, but it’s still definitely worth a read.

Heaven Thunders the Truth by K.J. Parker

Title: Heaven Thunders the Truth
Author: K.J. Parker
Published: October 2, 2014
Pages: 54
Publisher: Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

My smile broadened. It was lucky for the old man I don’t practice my trade for free, or he’d have spent the rest of the day rolling on the floor clutching his guts. “If one of them was a wizard capable of performing that level of enchantment, he’d be a rich man,” I said. “Stands to reason.”

A wonderfully told fantasy tale with unexpected twists that easily engages the reader.  Everything about this story is original from the world it in which it takes place right down to the way the wizards practice their magic.  With a touch of high fantasy combined with an air of a tribal legend, K.J. Parker spins a tale that excites, regales, and shares an interesting message with readers.  It does seem to run a bit longer than it needs to be, but not enough to really detract from the message.  I definitely recommend checking this out if you enjoy fantasy or science fiction.