Monthly Archives: December 2015

Networking for Nerds by Alaina Levine

Networking for Nerds

Book Info

Title: Networking for Nerds: Find, Access and Land Hidden Game-Changing Career Opportunities Everywhere
Author: Alaina Levine
Published: July 7, 2015
Pages: 248
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Rating: ★★★

Review

When I saw the title and the brief blurb for this book, I couldn’t wait to pick it up. Networking advice for a nerd like me? Sign me up! Except, sadly, it’s not really for a nerd like me. This book would have been better titled something like “Career Networking Advice for New Academic Scientists & Engineers” because that’s really what it is. Though billed as appealing to nerds across the spectrum, it doesn’t really have much to offer outside the context of scientific academia. What’s there is sound and likely very useful, just not really something that could easily be cross-applied in very many alternate contexts.

(I should have questioned the “nerd” aspect when I noticed two grammatical errors in the subtitle…)

The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston

The Silver Witch

Book Info

Title: The Silver Witch
Author: Paula Brackston
Published: April 21, 2015
Pages: 320
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

It’s been a year since Tilda’s husband suddenly died, and she has decided to move into the house that was meant to be their home together. It’s secluded in a Welsh forest, and Tilda believes the serenity of the area will be exactly what she needs to refocus and find a way to move forward. While Tilda’s visions and nightmares of her husband’s death do start to become less common, they are replaced by new visions and feelings that leave Tilda both confused and a bit frightened. There’s a new power in her, and she’s not entirely sure what it is. And when her paths cross with Seren, a shaman who lived in the area centuries before, she quickly learns that her quaint cottage isn’t the safe getaway she imagined it would be…and there’s a danger lurking nearer to her than she could ever have imagined.

The concept here is actually quite interesting. The connection between these two women over hundreds of years and the awakening of old magic provide for an interesting backdrop to the story. The challenge I had, personally, is that there are many little things throughout the book that struck me as irrelevant. It wasn’t so much that it completely detracted from the story, but the plot could have been shored up just a bit to keep it even more engaging and focused on the action. That said, I did enjoy this title, and I think it would be of interest to fantasy fans…especially those more interested in the modern or urban fantasy idea.

Brothers by Ralph Josiah Bardsley

Brothers

Book Info

Title: Brothers
Author: Ralph Josiah Bardsley
Published: December 14, 2015
Pages: 254
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Jamus Cork’s life has not gone in the direction he’d planned. When his parents died while he was in his early twenties, he became the guardian for his younger brother. Though he’s experienced some success as a writer, everything he’s done since then has been for Nick. Friendships, relationships, love: those are all things he’s denied himself out of obligation and an intense guilt he’s carried for years. Sean Malloy is the youngest in a traditional, South Boston Irish family. He’s stood out as different from the rest of his family all his life, through his academic pursuits, his love of books, and his resistance to pressures to date and marry. He’s just moved back home after taking a teaching job at a prep school. His focus on school has allowed him to ignore some of the things about himself that he’s not just ready to face. But when Sean and Jamus meet in church, there’s an instant connection and all of their secrets threaten to spill out at once.

In the realm of understated family drama, this book rushes to the front of the pack. There’s the dynamic between Jamus and Nick, which has all kinds of complications, and then there’s the Malloys, who all take things a little bit differently as they come. There are also some glimpses of a completely different family dynamic through Nick’s friend, Matt. The things we do for family, those ties that bind us together–those are the things that really matter, even if they might mean something different to each person or manifest in different ways. But it’s important that we notice and recognize the ways people show they care, even if it might not always be the way we would show it or the way we would prefer.

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

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Acceptance

Book Info

Title: Acceptance (Southern Reach, Book 3)
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Published: September 2, 2014
Pages: 341
Publisher: FSG Originals
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

The Southern Reach, the organization responsible for studying and overseeing the mysterious Area X, is falling apart. In his time since taking over the outpost, Control has stumbled across more than a handful of secrets within the organization but is nowhere near close to understanding Area X and what makes it tick. The conspiracies run deep and the paranoia is starting to run even deeper. There’s only one option let: to go into Area X and find out what lies on the far island not visited by any previous expeditions. There’s no guarantee the answers lie there, but it’s the only shot left.

What a climactic conclusion to a trilogy. Things have built to quite a head here, leaving the characters and readers not really knowing where to turn or how to find the answers that they seek. And VanderMeer isn’t just going to hand those answers over, either. Be prepared to have assumptions challenged and to go on not really knowing the answers to all of the questions you might have. If you want everything wrapped up in a nice little bow, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if that’s not a requirement for you as a reader, you will be in for quite a treat.

To the Highest Bidder by Caitlin Ricci

To the Highest Bidder

Book Info

Title: To the Highest Bidder
Author: Caitlin Ricci
Published: July 13, 2015
Pages: 200
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Thierry Leroux has been admitted to the Intergalactic Star Pilot Academy and his dreams are all about to come true. But the academy is expensive, and as a Sythe orphan, it’s unlikely he will be able to come up with the tuition. His brother, Corbin, works as an escort and gives Thierry the suggestion of auctioning off his virginity to pay for his schooling. It’s not something Thierry is very interested in at first, but as deadlines draw near, he gives Corbin the go ahead to set it up. Corbin’s boss, Monroe, is more than willing to help arrange the transaction, and they are both pleased when they get a bidder who will more than cover what Thierry needs. The buyer, known only as “Dragonfly” and insistent on wearing a mask when they meet, goes out of his way to make Thierry’s first time special, and Thierry is agreeable when the “Dragonfly” asks for them to meet again. After a few such meetings, Thierry realizes he might be developing feelings for his would-be suitor, though he has no idea who is hiding behind the mask. Will finding out ruin the magic and destroy everything?

This was my first Caitlin Ricci title, but I was not disappointed. The character of Thierry is so well-written. Seeing him go from where he is at the beginning of the book, to making his decision, to following through with it, and to living with everything that happens after is an interesting journey. There’s subtlety to it, but the dynamic is clear. I certainly look forward to picking up more from this author.

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority

Book Info

Title: Authority (Southern Reach, Book 2)
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Published: May 6, 2014
Pages: 341
Publisher: FSG Originals
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

After the failure of the twelfth expedition into Area X, the Southern Reach is in a state of upheaval. John Rodrigues (also known as “Control”) has been dispatched to oversee operations. He faces an adversarial staff and a member of the most recent expedition team who serves only to provide more questions than answers. But Control is on a mission to find whatever answers he can, even though they might just turn out to be more disturbing than he ever could have imagined.

If you enjoy unexpected twists, you will find them here in spades. I remember finishing the first book and having so many questions. While some of them are answered here in the second book, there are just as many new questions that come up. The conspiracy runs deep, and that conspiracy obscures any understanding of what is truly going on in Area X. The layers here are so masterfully constructed that readers are definitely unlikely to see what’s coming, but it all starts to make sense as each one is pulled back to reveal what’s behind it.

Standby by Kim Fielding

Standby

Book Info

Title: Standby
Author: Kim Fielding
Published: February 19, 2015
Pages: 30
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Tom just wants to get home. It hasn’t been the best trip, his phone is dead, and he’s stuck waiting on standby–which now means he has to wait overnight in the airport. Sadly, there’s also nothing and no one in the airport to keep him entertained, so he thinks he might just try to sleep through it. But he soon learns he’s not the only one at the airport. Rafael intrigues him, and he figures they can have a conversation to get him through his stay…then they will likely never see each other again. But sometimes when you’re down on your luck, things absolutely have to take a good turn at some point, no?

This is a relatively quick read, but a fun and charming story. And that’s to be expected when a story is penned by Kim Fielding, but this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. In a small number of pages, these two and their relationship really stand out and come to life. Interestingly, I read this while on a layover in the airport, and wouldn’t have minded meeting my own Rafael while I was there. I guess a guy can always hope, no?

Big Bang Generation by Gary Russell

Big Bang Generation

Book Info

Title: Big Bang Generation (Doctor Who)
Author: Gary Russell
Published: September 8, 2015
Pages: 240
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Sometimes we need to be careful what we decide to seek. For Professor Horace Jaanson, who has studied ancient history all of his life, it’s finding the most important artifacts of the past, long lost and hidden. But sometimes those things are lost for a reason. And when Jaanson’s expedition is usurped by an unlikely band of explorers, he might start to regret his search. Things are more complicated than they seem and the leader of this newest group calls on an old friend, The Doctor, to help them sort out the mess–a mess that might actually lead to the end of the universe and all existence. After all, there is a reason the Ancients made their technology difficult to find in the first place…some things should be left alone.

It’s difficult not to enjoy an adventure with The Doctor, though I didn’t really feel like there was as much of his personality in this one as I would have liked. This is partly due to the very large cast of characters, keeping them all sorted, and sometimes trying to figure out how they pop in and out from scene to scene. The character of Bernice Summerfield is also a big personality, often taking charge of conversation but not always the situation. This was my first experience with her, so perhaps I wasn’t really prepared for that, either.

Overall, though, an enjoyable adventure with enough ties to the current incarnation of The Doctor to make it work.

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

Brooklyn Secrets by Triss Stein

Brooklyn Secrets

Book Info

Title: Brooklyn Secrets (An Erica Donato Mystery)
Author: Triss Stein
Published: December 1, 2015
Pages: 242
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Erica Donato is an urban history graduate student, balancing the completion of her dissertation with being a single mom. Her research focuses on 1930s Brownsville, during a period of time when the area was heavy with organized crime. A stop at a library in the area leads Erica to meet a teenager named Savanna, a young woman with a bright future ahead of her. But when Savanna is attacked, Erica wonders if there might be a connection to some young men who accosted her one day when she was leaving the library. And when she realizes he was in a class with Savanna’s mother years ago, she finds herself even more connected to the story and the case. Erica Donato is curious and never one to let her knack for research go to waste…

Typically in a murder mystery, the search for the suspect leads us down a path of finding someone who is depraved or sinister. But so many times, crimes are committed as a result of circumstance. Or, in the case of younger criminals, sometimes they just don’t know that they have any other choice. This story takes us down that other path–the path where social pressures and the folly of youth can lead people to harm others just as easily as a criminal nature. And those are paths that are much more difficult for us to follow, not only when it comes to figuring out “whodunnit” but also accepting the answer once we find it.

This is the third Erica Donato book, but you don’t necessarily need to have read any of the others. I hadn’t before reading this, and I had no problems at all following and understanding the story. It’s very self-contained.

Dream God by J. Johanis

Dream God

Book Info

Title: Dream God (S-Gods, Book 2)
Author: J. Johanis
Published: November 30, 2015
Pages: 189
Publisher: J. Johanis
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Aya and Marduk are free from the Order, an underground organization of gods who routinely enslaved younger male deities, and they have exposed the group for what it is. But it’s not really quite as simple as that. First, they need to prove to the Council that the things they are alleging actually took place. And when a conspiracy runs as deep as the Order, that’s particularly challenging. And it’s not like all of the politics that seem always at play in the world of the gods is going to stop while the trial is underway. As the two of them feel progressively more isolated, they know that the only way they are going to win is if they can find the strength within themselves and be willing to rely on each other.

Reading this, it’s definitely something I could see playing out among the ancient gods. What would happen if our own career politicians were suddenly all-powerful? Yeah, this could be it. There’s debauchery and selective morals, there’s backstabbing and plotting, and there’s continuous grabs and struggles for power. And it all hangs on tradition and protocol that sometimes seems to get in the way of itself.

What I particularly liked in this follow up to the first book is the way in which Aya starts to come into his own. Previously, he was very much a victim, a slave to the circumstances in which he lived. But here, he gets his chance to take his life back, even if it’s just a bit at a time, by knowing that he shouldn’t have to be okay with the Order and what they did to him.

Content warnings: violence, consent issues, victim blaming/shaming

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