Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan

The Serpent's Shadow

Book Info

Title: The Serpent’s Shadow (Kane Chronicles, Book 3)
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: May 1, 2012
Pages: 406
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Despite their best efforts, Carter and Sadie Kane still haven’t put a final stop to Apophis and his quest to bring darkness to the world. On top of that, the leadership of the House of Life has turned against them and see them and everyone else in Brooklyn House as the enemy. It would definitely be an understatement to say they must prepare to face their biggest challenges yet. To overcome it, they plan to seek out an ancient spell that will allow them to defeat Apophis, but tracking it down won’t be easy. There’s a reason the magic has been lost to the ages and Apophis isn’t going to let them dig it back up with any sort of ease. Their Brooklyn House allies are behind them, but with multiple forces moving against them, the question of what they might be able to achieve is certainly an open-ended one…

Rick Riordan’s skill for creating these worlds that are so neatly spun together with mythology never ceases to impress and amaze me. He tells original stories in vibrant worlds, drawing just the right amount of inspiration and information from the stories of the past without relying on them to the point that we just get a retelling of the mythical legends of old. Carter and Sadie have such strong character voices–particularly important when you tell something from a first person perspective.

Honestly, I was really only disappointed that this ended. I would have loved to have spent more time with these characters if there was room to do so.

Crystallum by Laney McMann

Crystallum

Book Info

Title: Crystallum (Primordial Principles, Book 1)
Author: Laney McMann
Published: November 30, 2015
Pages: 239
Publisher: Booktrope
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Kadence Sparrow has a secret. It’s one that she hopes no one will ever find out, but it’s also one she doesn’t completely understand. When she is forced to move because her father’s job transfers him, she plans to guard her secret as always. But Cole Spires knows something is different about Kade, and he also knows she needs his protection. Both Kade and Cole are different, but they’re also different from each other. And the two of the crossing paths means that their worlds are going to be opened up to a whole range of possibilities neither of them ever knew or believed was possible. But it just might trigger a war of celestial proportions in the process.

I enjoy young adult fantasy, but I also think it’s the genre for which I find myself being the most critical when I read it. Part of the reason is that there are so many elements that come up time and time again–even in stories with more original plot lines–that it can sometimes be frustrating. Crystallum gives us something different in terms of its story. The world in which it takes place drew me in, and the whole Celestial Children and Primordials seemed to be an interesting concept. But we’ve hints of a love triangle and the age old star-crossed lovers trope here, and it runs quite deep. Thankfully, the overall story balances that out, which allowed me to enjoy this one, but it’s there. And I feel compelled to warn for it.

That said: if you like YA fantasy, you’ll probably enjoy this. It’s billed as the first book in a series, and I am curious to find out what happens next.

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

Throwaway Card by A.J. Marcus

Throwaway Card

Book Info

Title: Throwaway Card
Author: A.J. Marcus
Published: June 12, 2015
Pages: 200
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Hugh Lafoux is a former Civil War solder turned card shark doing very well for himself on the riverboat casinos on the Mississippi. But when the owner of one of those boats suspects Hugh of cheating, he has him roughed up and thrown overboard. To Hugh’s fortune, he is discovered by Cotton Freeman, a former slave turned alligator hunter, who carries him home and plans to help nurse Hugh back to health. It isn’t long before the too begin to feel a mutual attraction and decide to explore what that might mean. It’s not as easy as all of that, though. Hugh is supposed to be dead. And even though Cotton is free, it doesn’t mean everyone in the area feels things should be that way. Will Hugh and Cotton–and their love–be able to survive?

I’m always appreciative of historical fiction that makes it easy to feel immersed in another place and time. In Throwaway Card, A.J. Marcus has definitely created a story that does just that. Things are very different for Hugh and Cotton than they are today. But in this novel, not only do readers get a story of the time that reads and feels authentic, but they also get one that shows the parallels that make their story almost timeless. The things we want, the obstacles we face, and the power of love might manifest in different ways throughout time. But they’re still there. They’re always there.

Strong Enough by Cardeno C.

Strong Enough

Book Info

Title: Strong Enough (Family, Book 2)
Author: Cardeno C.
Published: October 13, 2015 (originally released in 2013)
Pages: 247
Publisher: The Romance Authors
Author’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Spencer Derdinger is a college professor who just might be the definition of shy. Which is why he has no idea how to respond when the hot construction worker he’s been watching approaches him and asks him out–right now. Emilio Sanchez is anything but shy. He’s an outgoing, confident guy who knows what he wants and doesn’t hesitate. While he knows his personality is in direct contrast to Spencer’s, he can’t help noticing that there’s something causing Spencer to hold back. Both will need patience and strength if they’re going to pursue anything together–and they’ll have to overcome some distractions and challenges along the way.

Emilio! What can I say about him? He’s unlike any character I think I’ve ever read before. He’s just so care-free and confident in the way he presents himself, and it’s genuine. Of course it doesn’t mean everything is perfect for him all the time, but he’s not going to apologize for who he is and for expressing himself. And poor Spencer finds himself overwhelmed but equally intrigued by this man he never expected to speak to–never mind bring him home. What transpires here is a sweet story of a relationship that builds organically but in a nontraditional manner. And I loved every minute of it.

This is the second book of the series, but it can be read as a standalone story. I haven’t read the first book and had no problem following the story.

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

The Other Son by Alexander Söderberg

The Other Son

Book Info

Title: The Other Son (Brinkmann Trilogy, Book 2)
Author: Alexander Söderberg
Published: July 21, 2015 (in English)
Pages: 388
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Author’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Sophie Brinkmann has taken on a role in a crime family that she never wanted. After the head of the family was murdered and his son–her connection to the family–is left in a coma, people look to her more than she expected. And not only does she not feel entirely cut out for this type of work, but she still has some moral issues with the operation. Rival families are closing in, however, and they’ve made it clear they will take what they want if they have to. And when they start to make good on that threat, Sophie knows she’s going to have to act on her own if she wants to make it out alive–and her son along with her.

There’s a lot of plotting and action in this book. So many groups and parties are moving against each other, sometimes with knowledge of the others and sometimes with people being caught completely unaware. But with so much going on and so many characters, it was confusing at times for me to really keep track of what was going on, how each person fit into the story, and where things were headed. It was an intriguing story, but difficult to follow at times, to be sure.

This is the second book in a trilogy (the third book is yet to be released), but I had no problems following the story. The reliance on the events of the first book is light, and what readers need to know is referenced with enough detail for it all to make sense.

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

You Can Leave Your Boots On by Irene Preston

You Can Leave Your Boots On

Book Info

Title: You Can Leave Your Boots On
Author: Irene Preston
Published: November 10, 2015
Pages: 92
Publisher: Irene Preston
Author’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Travis Boyd keeps his sexuality under wraps. It’s not because he doesn’t want to be out–in fact, he’s made a commitment that he won’t date someone who’s in the closet. It’s just that he’s not sure that his conservative clients in the heart of Texas would be too thrilled with him being overly open about it. And it doesn’t impact his work at all anyway. But when an anonymous dating app sets him up on a blind date with one of the last people he might expect, he finds himself forced to reexamine all of his rules and behaviors for a chance at something different and new.

I found the setup here to be intriguing and it wasn’t difficult to get into the story, to want to know more about where this was headed. And the conflict presents itself very early on. Travis has his rules; Bo has his. Travis isn’t willing to bend; Bo thinks maybe he should, just a bit. But there are certainly implications for them both that aren’t easy to ignore.

If you’re looking for something with unexpected twists, this is definitely it.

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

Sirens in the Night by Michael Bradley

Sirens in the Night

Book Info

Title: Sirens in the Night
Author: Michael Badley
Published: November 15, 2015
Pages: 332
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

In her time as a detective, Samantha Ballard has never encountered anything as strange as the series of murders that have just occurred in Philadelphia. How a person can go from very much alive to dead and looking like an ancient mummy is completely beyond her comprehension. But it’s happening, and it’s her job to find out how, why, and who is responsible. As more bodies are discovered, local radio DJ Jack Allyn becomes involved after a friend is one of the hapless victims. An unlikely pair, Samantha and Jack end up working together in their search for answers, only to learn that what their up against is far more dangerous and powerful than they ever could have imagined.

If urban fantasy with strong ties to mythology is your thing (and I will be honest, it’s definitely one of mine), you will very likely find this to be an enjoyable and gripping read. It has that element of authenticity that I think is incredibly important in science fiction and fantasy writing (just because it’s fictional doesn’t mean it shouldn’t still be believable in context), and there is a realness and complexity to the characters–especially Samantha and Jack–that shines through in the writing. The story is paced well, with a couple of lulls that seem to work for the overall plot. And in many ways, I see this as a very likely scenario of how law enforcement in an urban setting might very well deal with an ancient and mythological force suddenly showing up in town and doing its thing.

Definitely worth a read!

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

Dragon Trials by Ava Richardson

Dragon Trials

Book Info

Title: Dragon Trials (Return of the Darkening, Book 1)
Author: Ava Richardson
Published: November 7, 2015
Pages: 203
Publisher: Ava Richardson
Rating: ★★★

Review

Agathea Flamma wants nothing more than for a dragon to choose her to be a Dragon Rider. The noble House of Flamma is part of a long tradition of riders, her two older brothers are riders, and this may just be her last chance. She knows her father wouldn’t mind seeing her get married and have a family, but that’s just not enough for her. Sebastian, the son of a drunken blacksmith with no real prospects or aspirations beyond someday inheriting his father’s business (hopefully before he runs it completely into the ground), has seen the dragons, but doesn’t even entertain the life Thea hopes for–dragons choose children of noble families with education and training, don’t they?

The first of many interesting twists comes when a young red dragon picks both Thea and Seb as her riders. For Thea, the dream come true might be more of a nightmare as her partner has no training, no understanding of what it means to be a rider, and doesn’t seem to be able to learn how to fight. For Seb, the sudden prospect of a completely new life is overshadowed by the attitudes of those around him, Thea’s lack of trust, and his own feelings of having to work that much harder than everyone else to be successful. After all, they’re not guaranteed to become Dragon Riders just because a dragon chose them. They have many trials and weeks of training ahead.

But training may not be their biggest concern. Stories are making their way from the north about strange events that seem eerily similar to the time of the Darkening–something the Dragon Riders helped drive out of their land. Is their realm really under threat? Does the King know about it? And if the Darkening has returned, can the riders fight it again?

I always like when I pick up a book on a bit of a whim and I end up really enjoying it. This is a fun, intriguing, and adventurous young adult fantasy that is certainly engaging and interesting for fantasy lovers of all ages. There are several layers to the plot that make for a complex and dynamic story. Thea has to adjust to the fact that the reality of becoming a Dragon Rider is not exactly what she expected. Seb needs to find his way in a part of society where he feels like a complete outsider. They both have to learn the skills needed to be successful in their new roles. And the stories of the Darkening possibly returning add more concerns for everyone involved.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series…

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

Nirvana by J.R. Stewart

Nirvana

Book Info

Title: Nirvana (Nirvana, Book 1)
Author: J.R. Stewart
Published: November 10, 2015
Pages: 186
Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers
Rating: ★★★

Review

Larissa Kenders is having a hard time accepting that Andrew is dead; he’s her soulmate and her everything. The circumstances surrounding Andrew’s apparent demise are also more than suspicious. And when she starts to have visits from Andrew in Nirvana, a virtual reality world, she feels even more confident that he’s still alive–and he has a mission for her. It’s a mission that she won’t be able to complete alone, and it won’t be easy.

This is an interesting and engaging dystopian novel with all of the psychological elements that one might expect. In many ways, it reminded me of Armada by Ernest Cline without the young adult aspect/elements. There is some predictability to some of the turns in the story, but I certainly wouldn’t say it is boring by any means. And the character of Larissa is strong, tenacious, and not willing to give up. She’s someone readers definitely will want to root for over and over again.

If you’re looking for science fiction dystopia that doesn’t fit the mold of the past several years, this is one to take a look at.

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

A Sticky Wicket in Bollywood by T.A. Chase & Devon Rhodes

A Sticky Wicket in Bollywood

Book Info

Title: A Sticky Wicket in Bollywood (International Men of Sports, Book 1)
Author: T.A. Chase & Devon Rhodes
Published: April 8, 2013
Pages: 155
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Rajan Malik is THE hottest actor in Bollywood and things are only looking up. He, along with his girlfriend and co-star, are the hottest couple both on and off screen, and he couldn’t be more successful. But this isn’t entirely the life he wanted–it’s the life his mother wanted for him. When Ajay Singh, cricket star and Raj’s ex-roommate from university, sees Raj in the paper and reaches out to him, glimpses of a life that could have been immediately wash over them both. Ajay is out and not ashamed of it. But Raj has appearances to keep, and there’s the constant reminders from his mother that he could never be in a relationship with a man and still be successful. Raj believes her, but he knows there’s something missing from his life. Can he find a way to have everything: Ajay AND his career? Or will he need to make a decision about what’s most important and leave the other behind forever?

In an age where we often think it’s “so much easier to be gay” than it was years ago, it’s easy to dismiss the idea that people might still feel pressure to stay in the closet. But those pressures still exist and are very real for many people. In some cases it’s like Raj’s concern of career success. For others (like Ajay’s friend Neel) it’s concerns about family reactions and fallout. But regardless of the reason, we can’t just assume that what has become true for many people is true for everyone. And here we get a very modern story of how three men (I include Neel even though his struggle isn’t a major focus of the story) navigate the reality of being gay, being Indian, and being celebrities. The story is different for each of them, as it’s likely different for every single person who finds themselves in such a situation. The authors approach the topic very sensitively and don’t minimize or overstate any of the issues involved.

Definitely an enjoyable read that really hooked me in. I’m set to continue reading more from this series after finishing this one–and I’m looking forward to it.