Monthly Archives: June 2015

By Chance by Cat Grant

17881278Title: By Chance (Courtland Chronicles, Book 1)
Author: Cat Grant
Published: February 2, 2009 (Republished 2012)
Pages: 116
Publisher: Cat Grant
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

Many would think Eric Courtland has led a charmed life. After all, his family’s wealth has helped him to eliminate obstacles and get the things he wants (including a single room even though it’s not entirely in line with policy). But getting the things you want doesn’t mean you’ll be happy as he can see firsthand in his mother and the way she is treated by his father. And he prefers to keep people at arm’s length for that very reason. But everything changes when he has a roommate forced upon him despite his objections. And to make it worse, the new roommate just happens to be attractive (albeit straight) athlete, Nick. But just as Eric is forced out of his comfort zone by having to share his living space with someone, the arrangement serves to force Nick to examine himself and who he is at the same time.

This is the first novel by Cat Grant that I’ve read, and I’m really quite impressed with her storytelling. The way she developed these two characters and their journey through this book was both realistic and interesting. I certainly look forward to reading more of this series and more from this author.

All the Arts of Hurting by Amelia Faulkner

25599262Title: All the Arts of Hurting
Author: Amelia Faulkner
Published: June 26, 2015
Pages: 95
Publisher: Lovelight Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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

Lord Duncan Aldham lives somewhat of a charmed life. His mother is concerned that he might be conscripted into the war and is thus aiming to marry him off to a less than desirable woman, but he’s not having it. His head does turn, however, when he meets William Fossett, the new stable hand, and he quickly falls for his new employee. But while Duncan may have some leeway to avoid conscription due to his social standing, William is not nearly as fortunate. And while William is a self-described pacifist, that may not be enough to keep him safe from the war and home long enough to see if a relationship with Duncan might be in the cards.

This was an enjoyable read for me. The characters are fun, and there are definitely some amusing moments. There’s also obviously some very serious moments that demonstrate depth of the characters and even some unexpected twists as well. Duncan and William are an interesting pair, coming from different worlds, but having far more in common than they first expected.

The only thing that kind of stuck with me was that I feel they fell–especially Duncan–way, way too quickly. It didn’t really detract from the overall story, but it was a curiosity that was there for most of my reading.

Blog Tour Review: Scar of the Downers by Scott Keen

ScarOfTheDownersTourBanner1

Title: Scar of the Downers
Author: Scott Keen
Published: February 27, 2015
Pages: 400
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Publisher Website: link

Synopsis:

Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.

Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.

Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master’s store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings, and scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master’s house and is sentenced to death.

To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before – escape from the city of Ungstah.

ScarDownersRating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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

To call this unique and original would hardly do it justice. In <i>Scar of the Downers</i> Scott Keen brings readers a well-developed and rich world with a storied past, a challenging present, and a potentially changing future. It is very easy to become immersed in this story due to Keen’s descriptive writing, smooth flow of plot, and character development. And there are certainly enough twists and turns here to keep you wondering how things are going to turn out, even right through the ending.

Highly recommended for fans of fantasy–both those who particularly enjoy young adult and even those who don’t. This strikes me as one that would appeal to a broad audience, and I’ll certainly be recommending it to a few specific individuals in my reading circles.

Personally, I’m anxiously awaiting more…

Giveaway:

The author is giving away a signed copy of Scar of the Downers as part of this blog tour.  Enter here  by July 2nd.

Darkhaven by A.F.E. Smith

25255717Title: Darkhaven
Author: A.F.E. Smith
Published: July 2, 2015
Pages: 400
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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

Darkhaven has always been ruled by the Nightshades, a long line of Changers.  But Ayla Nightshade, second-born and half-blood, never expected to be one of those rulers.  Her brother’s gift has not yet manifested, leaving their father to declare Ayla as his heir, despite her objection and outright refusal to take the throne.  And when a Changer is implicated in a series of attacks, suspicion falls squarely on Ayla as the only person capable of committing them.  But Ayla swears her innocence and sets out to find out who is responsible.  Her brother, Myrren, is convinced Ayla cannot be behind the attacks and sets out on his own quest for the truth.  But sometimes the truth is more fantastical than one might expect, and even when it’s unexpected, can the truth still set you free?

This is a very well-written fantasy adventure and whodunnit that reads incredibly smoothly.  It honestly did not feel at all like it was 400 pages–I was enthralled and entertained.  The world that the author has created is rich and the characters are both endearing and frustrating at the same time.

The revelation of the Changer responsible for the attacks didn’t thrill me, but mostly because I’ve never been a fan of stories that resolve like that (trying very hard to avoid spoilers).  That said, I did enjoy this one and recommend it to fans of fantasy and paranormal…with a hint of mystery and adventure rolled in.

Queer Dirty Laundry by Jason Lloyd

22469377Title: Queer Dirty Laundry
Author: Jason Lloyd
Published: June 12, 2014
Pages: 148
Publisher: Ginge Publishing
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

Jason and Kevin are on a road trip to visit Kevin’s sister and it leads to a bit of a storytelling session as they recount events from their past.  Some are funny, some are serious, and some involve traumatic and defining events. The stories told are compelling and are how the reader gets to know the characters over the course of the book.

Generally, I enjoyed this.  The concept was interesting and the parallels of the journey in the car and the journeys of their lives seemed to work well for me.  That said, it would have been nice to get more depth on the characters and who they are now–how did these events shape them?  There were also times when it didn’t seem like they threaded together as well as they could have.  But it was still enjoyable and I’d recommend it as a quick and interesting read.

Content warning: Discussions of sexual assault.

Prairie Silence by Melanie Hoffert

13641970Title: Prairie Silence
Author: Melanie Hoffert
Published: January 8, 2013
Pages: 248
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

While Melanie Hoffert was quick to leave her North Dakota home when she got the chance, she has always felt a longing for everything that said home represents. There’s a dissonance between the comforting aspects of home and family and the silence that it imposes on those who may not fit the expectations of their community. But Melanie is determined to explore this disconnect and try to reconcile these aspects of her life and self, planning to spend a harvest at home helping on the farm. Her journey is one of self-discovery, learning things about her friends and family she hadn’t noticed before, and understanding what it means to call the prairie home, even if it’s not where you will live out your days.

This book resonated for me on so very many levels. For starters, Melanie’s family farm is about 30 miles from where I grew up. The places (and even some of the people) she mentions in this book are extremely familiar to me. The sense of community, the descriptions of life growing up where she did–are all things from which I can draw some very direct parallels. I’m also someone who left North Dakota when I finished college, taking the first chance I could get to be somewhere else. I did end up going back for a few years, but have since moved on again. And many of the same reasons and beliefs and worries that Melanie shares in her book are things I’ve felt.

But beyond all that, what the author has done here is construct an incredible narrative that I think will resonate with anyone who has ever left home and spent time trying to reconcile what it means to leave home behind. I also think even those who stayed where they grew up can find moments in this book that speak to them, as the author examines how we all find our place in our community and the reasons people choose to stay. And, of course, anyone who has ever felt like they’re a bit of an outsider in their family or who has ever felt like they couldn’t be completely open with those who are closest to them will identify with Melanie’s journey and join her in the revelations that she makes as she finishes her harvest retreat and decides to return to the city.

This book was the winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction in 2014, and it’s clear why. Not only is the story raw and moving, but the writing is compelling, engaging, and descriptive. This is definitely an author I plan to watch for in the future…

Sailor Boys by Anthony McDonald

17859089Title: Sailor Boys
Author: Anthony McDonald
Published: April 28, 2013
Pages: 26
Publisher: Goodreads M/M Romance Group
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

Will & Harry met 50 years ago when they were both sailors in the British Navy, working on different ships.  At the end of their service, they met up again and have shared a very interesting life together with ups and downs and few meanders to the side as well.  Will narrates this reminiscent journey through their past in what ends up as a sweet and romantic tale.  Short, sweet, and interesting, for sure.

Love, Hypothetically by Anne Tenino

Case7.0x10TemplateKey.inddTitle: Love, Hypothetically (Theta Alpha Gamma, Book 2)
Author: Anne Tenino
Published: August 25, 2012
Pages: 100
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

Paul is a graduate student who works as a tutor for undergraduates and has a strict “no jocks” policy. But when the new softball coach specifically requests Paul to tutor his players, it looks like that policy might be out the window. To make matters worse, the new coach is Trevor, the guy who broke Paul’s heart in high school, the one he has been trying to get over ever since. But Trevor isn’t just interested in Paul’s services for his players–he’s interested in a second chance. And that’s something Paul is just not sure he can give.

Well, this was a bit of a roller coaster ride, and I mean that in the best way possible. I really enjoyed reading this. The characters are complex and real, and the pacing of the story kept me simply gripped to every page. It’s not overly angsty (though, clearly it’s not all bright and shiny happiness, either), but it’s honestly a lighter story than one might initially expect.

This is the second in a series, but it can definitely be read as a stand-alone. I wasn’t huge fan of the first book, so I’m glad that this one was more enjoyable. It has me considering picking up the third installment…

One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea

13186809Title: One Small Thing (One Thing, Book 1)
Author: Piper Vaughn & M.J. O’Shea
Published: May 3, 2012
Pages: 214
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

Rue Murray is in for a real surprise when the woman he slept with on a whim to see if he really could turns up pregnant. Even more surprising is the fact that she doesn’t want to keep the baby. Though he never expected to be a father, Rue can’t just abandon the child and agrees to take her, even though he knows it will be challenging on top of going to school during the day and working in a club at night.

Eric Van Nuys is definitely not a “people person”. A struggling sci-fi author who suffers from social anxiety, he’s not one for children either. But his books just aren’t selling like they used to and his agent doesn’t seem hopeful that will turn around unless Eric decides to make a major change to what he writes. When Rue approaches him looking for someone to take care of his new daughter Alice during the day, he is resistant at first, but eventually agrees.

Neither Eric nor Rue know what to expect–this is all new to both of them. But as they both share a fondness for Alice, they begin to realize they might share another fondness if they can each admit to themselves what they want and what they’re willing to do to get it.

This was an incredibly cute and adorable story. There are moments where I really just wanted to reach through the pages and shake both Eric and Rue, but they’re a total delight. It’s an engaging and easy read, and definitely worth spending the time to get to know these two…

One Hot Summer Month by Donald Webb

25493933Title: One Hot Summer Month
Author: Donald Webb
Published: June 15, 2015
Pages: 240
Publisher: Bold Stroke Books
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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

Damien lives to cruise. Many people would probably have words for him that some might consider unsavory. Persuaded to write about his live for a month, he documents his many exploits and eventually begins to wonder if this really is the life that he wants for himself.

Well, most of this book is just sexual encounter after sexual encounter. That’s just who Damien is, but there isn’t much substance beyond that. I have to admit it was a bit off-putting, especially since some of it really just seemed gratuitous. As it continues on, there’s meant to be a change in Damien, which was slightly refreshing, but I just wasn’t sure if it came across as very authentic, considering the way Damien carried himself through the rest of the book.

It’s an interesting read, and if you know what you’re getting when you go in, it’s not bad.