Monthly Archives: July 2015

Prickly Business by Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade

25462873Title: Prickly Business (Portland Pack Chronicles, Book 1)
Author: Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade
Published: July 27, 2015
Pages: 256
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Avery Babineaux is definitely unique. A hedgehog shifter from a wealthy Louisiana family, he’s chosen to live his life away from his family and among the Portland wolf pack. Life is fairly easy for him, though, as he’s able to live off an allowance from his parents and never wants for the nice things he’s used to. In fact, he’s so used to nice things that he cast of Dylan Green, a member of the Portland pack and Avery’s apparently fated mate. Dylan is just a blue collar mechanic, after all. But when Avery gets himself into trouble with some seedier shifters and puts the steady stream of family money in jeopardy, he’s forced to finally fend for himself and, though very reluctant, may actually have to ask others for help. In the process, he stumbles onto the case of a missing pack member and quickly finds himself falling down a hole that he just might not be able to climb out of–unless, just maybe, Dylan will help him out…

Hedgehog shifter?! This had me at that descriptor alone. But I was completely blown away by just how wonderfully executed this story turned out to be. The characters are both endearing and frustrating, the world they live in is vivid and complex, and the plot is one that kept this reader very much on the edge of his seat. I honestly don’t know that I’ve had as much fun reading a book as I had reading this one in quite a long time. I don’t give a book 5 stars very often, but this one sailed past that rating without any hesitation or reservation my part. A very highly recommended title! I can’t wait for the next installment!

First Class Package by Jay Northcote

23784317Title: First Class Package
Author: Jay Northcote
Published: December 12, 2014
Pages: 21
Publisher: Jay Northcote
Author Website: link
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Jim is a work-from-home writer who finds himself drawn to Patrick, a temporary postman assigned to his area in the run up to Christmas. It’s no coincidence that Jim begins ordering extra items to ensure he’ll get a glimpse of Patrick every day, but when it comes to verbalizing his attraction or asking Patrick out on a date, Jim is at a total loss. But he knows he has a limited window of time before Patrick won’t be bringing his package by anymore, and he needs to decide if he can get past his own hangups and take the leap he so desperately wants to make.

This is a fun and charming story, albeit it brief. Jim and Patrick are both such great characters and their interactions together are entertaining and endearing. Obviously there’s more than one instance of ‘package’ innuendo, but that’s part of the fun of a story like this. On top of that, it’s free, so you can’t really go wrong.

I would be interested in seeing what happens after the story ends, though, since it is so short…

Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman

23395729Title: Bradstreet Gate
Author: Robin Kirman
Published: July 7, 2015
Pages: 320
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.]

Alice, Charlie, and Georgia begin their studies at Harvard each with the promise of a bright future. Their paths cross and they quickly form a unique sort of friendship. But when the campus is rocked by the murder of one of their classmates, the secrets that the three of them have kept from each other might prove enough to pull them apart forever. And while they all three want to put the murder behind them when they leave campus, they find that it might just continue to follow them–individually and collectively–until they can find a way to make peace with themselves and each other…

One of the hallmarks here is the vivid characters, which made it very easy to connect to them as a reader. There’s a depth and complexity to each of them, but it is effortlessly presented, which is something I always appreciate when I’m reading. The story here is on the darker side, and I find that many authors will let the plot take the spotlight in these types of stories. But that’s not true here, as this is very much a character-driven story and they shine through all three parts of the novel.

I honestly was hoping for a bit more of a specific resolution when I reached the end of the story. But after reflecting after putting the book down, I think that it does wrap up in a way that is fitting for the tone and nature of the story. There are still some twists and revelations, even if all the answers aren’t given before reaching the back cover.

Ups and Downs

Lately I’ve been realizing that my reading goes in an alternating set of phases:

1. Extremely Productive (10+ books per week)
2. Moderately Productive (4-9 books per week)
3. Nearly Hibernating (0-3 books per week)

In some ways, I guess this makes sense. Those weeks when I hit 14-15 books probably need to be balanced with a break or some rest. But when I’m in what I’ve listed as phase 3, I always end up feeling a bit stressed because I should be reading more. I know I can, so why am I not doing it?

And then I came across this tumblr post today:

Shoutout to the people who aren’t able to read a lot.

Shoutout to the people who have to work their ass off and can maybe read only half an hour each day.

Shoutout to the people who don’t have the money to buy books every week or month because they struggle to pay their bills

Shoutout to the people who study each day to pass those test and exams and have put their reading aside for a while.

You all are as much a bookworm as the people who read for hours every day.

This brought me back to the time when I didn’t read recreationally, which is basically all through undergrad and grad school as well as for a few years after.  It was just in the past couple of years that I really got back into a groove when it came to non-assigned reading.  And so even in those weeks when I only read one book (or even half of a book), it’s still more than zero and that should be good enough for me.

That should really be good enough for any of us…

Witch Hunt by Nick Chivers

12769345Title: Witch Hunt (Witch Hunt, Book 1)
Author: Nick Chivers
Published: October 31, 2011
Pages: 200
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Mike was an incredibly powerful witch who was nearly influenced into destroying the world by a past lover. To ensure it could never happen again, he had Bands of Binding placed on himself to dampen his abilities. When his best friend Andrew shows up along with a new partner and lets Mike know he’s been summoned to a meeting of The Council, he knows the situation must be dire. But he certainly has no way of expecting everything that’s in store.

I’d never ready anything by Nick Chivers before this and I must say I am a fan of his storytelling. The world he created here was a rich one with a storied history and it was easy to find myself immersed in it. The only drawback was that the ending seemed a bit anticlimactic and convenient, but it was overall a good read.

Bare for You by Lexxie Couper

25377528Title: Bare for You (Outback Skies, Book 3)
Author: Lexxie Couper
Published: July 21, 2015
Pages: 111
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★☆☆

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

Jeremy Craig has had a successful career in politics and things look like they could only get better. He has inside knowledge that he is likely to soon be named deputy prime minister of Australia. But first he has to conduct a visit to the Outback, and it’s one that should be very routine. Enter Ryan Taylor, helicopter pilot and Jeremy’s chauffeur on his excursion. The connection between the two of them happens in a flash, even though Jeremy knows he can’t act on it because of his political career and Ryan is sure his passenger must be straight. But a small helicopter makes for close quarters, and things can’t simply be ignored for long.

I’ll start by saying that while this is the third book in a series, it definitely can be read as a stand-alone. I’ve not read the two (they’re m/f, not m/m) that come before this one and I had no problems at all with following anything in the story.

This is a bit of a fun and almost whimsical (at whimsical as anything with a political aspect can be) romance that is short, intense, and engaging. Things move quickly, but it doesn’t necessarily feel overly rushed. And as far as out-for-you/coming out stories go, it’s surprisingly light on the angst. This is my first experience with this author, but I hope to have more going forward.

Sacred Fate by Eressë

6935632Title: Sacred Fate (Chronicles of Ylandre, Book 1)
Author: Eressë
Published: September 14, 2009
Pages: 353
Publisher: Liquid Silver
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★☆☆

When Rohyr Essendri, Ardan of Ylendre, claims Lassen Idana in exchange for offering protection to his provincial town, it’s expected that he will serve the Ardan as a concubine and nothing more. But even in the moment of their first meeting, there was something that Lassen felt that he simply couldn’t explain. But life at court isn’t easy and when Lassen realizes his feelings for Rohyr, they’re complicated by Rohyr’s impending marriage to another, cementing Lassen’s place as someone to merely keep the Ardan company in his bed while someone else holds his hand and bears his heirs.

I’m not much for mpreg stories, so I was a bit skeptical of this one. And even though that was a definite element of the story, it didn’t distract from the parts that I truly enjoyed – high fantasy, nobility, betrayal, star-crossed lovers, etc. There is an element of dubious consent here (how does one really say no to the king even if he wanted to), but I think it is dealt with well and seems to be less dubious than one might first expect on the surface.

Conferences

So things were silent this week as I was off to an academic conference.  Normally I would queue some things up, but I was fairly busy beforehand since i was presenting at the conference, but now I’m back and getting caught up on everything.  In all, I did read 14 books and short stories during the flights back and forth, so it was still very productive on the reading front.

One exciting piece of news to share, though, is that the Gay Romance Northwest Conference registration information has been posted.  I attended this event last year and it was pretty awesome. There was a ton of free books, some great author panels, and a fun author meet-and-greet/book fair following the event.  I picked up a number of free books, purchase a couple as well, and met some of my favorite authors in the genre (and collected some autographs).  The event is running at the same price as last year (17.50 until the end of August, then 25) and the list of attending authors is already pretty great.  I’ll be attending and recommend it to anyone who will be in the Seattle area and has an interest in LGBTQ stories…

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

23363928Title: The Library at Mount Char
Author: Scott Hawkins
Published: June 16, 2015
Pages: 388
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

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

I usually try to start off a review with a brief summary of the plot (main themes/storylines and such) before going into my thoughts about the book. But this is one where I don’t know where to start because any attempt to summarize this book would no doubt fall way short of doing it anything close to justice. And while it’s not a disjointed story by any means, there are just so many themes and takeaways here that I could probably write an entire treatise on the depth that exists within this book. That said, I will make an (admittedly feeble) attempt to present the gist of the story so you will know if it might be for you (though I will say that if you like fantasy–especially urban fantasy–anything dark, or character-driven stories with an interesting array of side characters, this is probably a must read).

Carolyn is a librarian. But she’s not the kind of librarian you think of when you hear that word. No, she is one of twelve students of a man she knows as Father, a very powerful man who adopted her and her now siblings when she was a child. Father has a vast library and each of his twelve students is responsible for reading, understanding, and mastering a specific catalog from within the library. But these books, like their owner, are not ordinary, and the power that they contain is beyond what a normal American could ever imagine. And Father will settle for nothing but the highest level of effort, success, and obedience from his students–even if he must use brute force to get it.

But now Father has gone missing and the librarians have reassembled to try to find out where he’s gone and if he’s okay. The dynamics between Carolyn and her siblings aren’t what an outsider would necessarily describe as functional, but they do all have a vested interest in finding the man who raised them and getting back into the library to continue their studies. But to do so, they will need to enlist the help of some outsiders–Americans–and their involvement quickly reveals there is much more going on here than meets the eye…

This book definitely seems a little strange at first, but that’s because it is different. And until you get a sense of Carolyn and the initial backstory, it’s easy to wonder what exactly is going on. But don’t worry, you’ll wonder that through most of the book, but in different ways with each chapter. As it all starts to come together, if you’re like me, you will be in awe at the foreshadowing and the various other hints that have been dropped along the way.

Hawkins does an excellent job of keeping the story moving forward and occasionally inserting what he labels as ‘Interludes’ which take readers back in time before the story to provide just enough of Carolyn’s past to better understand what is going on in the present. And the character dynamics and interactions do not disappoint at all.

I definitely give this a very high recommendation. It’s up there among the best books I’ve read so far this year, and I’m glad I picked it up.

Not Just Friends by Jay Northcote

20626492Title: Not Just Friends
Author: Jay Northcote
Published: February 24, 2014
Pages: 200
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Lewis never really suspected he was different–certainly not in that way. He had a girlfriend in school, but they broke up as he figured it might be difficult to keep a relationship going if they were going to be miles apart. But when he meets Max on his first night at university, there’s something about him that intrigues Lewis in a new way. It might be that Max is outgoing and not afraid to be himself. It might be that Max is witty and friendly. Or it might be that he finds Max attractive–wait, what? If that’s true, he knows he has some self-exploration to do, made all the more difficult by the fact that Max lives in his flat and his room is just down the hall.

This was definitely one of those sweet, somewhat fluffy/somewhat angsty gay-realization stories. The characters are all very likable and there’s a bit of an organic feel to the flow of the story. There are a few points where it almost feels like it burns just a tad slower than is needed, but it ends up being part of the overall build to the plot. A fun read!