Monthly Archives: January 2016

Tricks by Rick R. Reed

Tricks

Book Info

Title: Tricks
Author: Rick R. Reed
Published: October 12, 2015 (Originally released October 14, 2010)
Pages: 200
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Sean is suddenly a bit lost. His boyfriend of two years has just dumped him. He thought they were more in it for the long haul. He’s out of practice when it comes to dating, and most of the clubs just aren’t really his scene. So even he’s a bit surprised when he winds up at Tricks, one of Chicago’s hottest clubs. The dancers on the bar are almost a bit too much for him, and he doesn’t stay long.

Arliss is one of the dancers at Tricks, and he does fairly well for himself. His real dream is to become a porn star, so he can put the late nights of dancing behind him and be even more successful. But he knows better than to be too trusting of just anyone who might make him an offer…right? Arliss spots Sean in the club and remarks that he looks like someone who could use some company, but Sean is gone before he can make his way over to him. When their paths cross again on the shore of the lake, Arliss strikes up a conversation and the two find that there might be a connection between them. Arliss knows that Sean is a bit more traditional and reserved, so how will he understand what Arliss wants to do with his life? He knows it’s a lot, but it’s been his dream for so long. And when the opportunity presents itself, can he really turn it down?

There’s a lot of complexity in this story, though it may sound like a straightforward plot. The relationship dynamics are certainly complicated, and there are people outside of the couple that have their own agendas. The story has a decent heat level, but it’s nowhere near the only thing this one is about. Communication is key to relationships, as is understanding the other person’s perspective and finding ways to compromise. Relationships often require sacrifice, but those sacrifices can certainly be worth it. These are things that Sean and Arliss learn the hard way…

Catalina Blues by Marlo York

Catalina Blues

Book Info

Title: Catalina Blues
Author: Marlo York
Published: November 19, 2015
Pages: 86
Publisher: Goodreads M/M Romance Group
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Leonard “Leon” Dobson is a US Navy sailor during World War II. He is good at his job, and he manages to hide a great secret quite well. During an allied attack on a Japanese fort, a plane is shot down, and Leon jumps into the water to save the pilot. Not quite understanding Nikifor Jelen when he says his name, Leon nicknames him “Kip” and brings him to safety. Following the battle, the crew lands on an island while they regroup and prepare for the next stage of the journey. It’s during this time that Kip and Leon begin to realize they might share a similar great secret. But Kip is engaged, and Lucy is waiting for him at home. So while they acknowledge a mutual attraction, it looks like it can’t be anything more than a secret rendezvous or two until they get home.

I do enjoy historical romance, and this one has a very well-developed and believable story. I appreciate the care that the author took in developing everything here. The cast of supporting characters really help to bring the world to life, and the way the relationship develops is realistic and believable. While there are some moments when things move a bit slow, it all works toward the somewhat surprising conclusion.

2015 in Review: #2 & #1

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With another year drawn to a close, I wanted to take some time this month to go back and highlight some of the best books that I read in 2015. I didn’t read quite as many this year as I did last year (287 vs. 306), but I attribute that to taking on proofreading (which is a slower read for a book) and starting a certificate program during the final quarter of the year. Still, I’m happy with the total. But enough about that…onto the books I wanted to take a moment to revisit…

Note: These are the best books I read in 2015, not necessarily published in 2015.

#2 Greenwode (The Wode, Book 1) by J. Tullos Hennig

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Perhaps the absolute best retelling of the Robin Hood story in existence! Not going to post much more here, as this is one where I tried to keep spoilers to a minimum. This simply just has to be experienced (I also may have gifted a copy or two for Christmas to people I thought might enjoy it).

Read my review from May 28 for more on this title.

#1 A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, Book 1) by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for Irene

In a world of parallel universes, there is one constant: London. Though every world is very different, they all have a city named London in the same place and it serves as the loose thread that holds them all together. And the thread is loose because there are only a few who can travel between them. Kell is one such Traveler, and has become the ambassador (and an adoptee) of the royalty of Red London to carry correspondence back and forth with Grey London and White London. But on his visits, Kell engages in a hobby of smuggling artifacts back and forth, despite the objections and warnings of his adopted brother. But neither of them know the true extent of the trouble Kell might wade into without even thinking…

Read my review from April 27 for more on this title.

Late Bloomer by Bru Baker

Late Bloomer

Book Info

Title: Late Bloomer
Author: Bru Baker
Published: December 10, 2014
Pages: 64
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

David Rochester is perfectly content just keeping to himself. He’s a bit reserved, and maybe even closed off, but that works for him. Erik Shriver, an employee at David’s family’s tree farm, seems exactly the opposite. He’s outgoing and talkative, and there’s something about Erik that just gets right under David’s skin. This isn’t so bad on it’s own, but when David’s sister notices the effect Erik has on him, the whole family decides to play matchmaker. Even as David starts to reluctantly wear down and give in, he knows it’s unlikely this could amount to anything. Both David and Erik have a fair amount of baggage–albeit different kinds–and it’s hard to build a relationship when there’s so much of it there’s no room for the two people involved.

The story of David and Erik is definitely a charming one. These two just can’t help but get in their own way, even after they start to admit there might be an attraction between them. David’s meddling family isn’t nearly as scheming as David makes them out to be, and the supporting cast of characters serve as such a great support system for them both. If you’re looking for something sweet with a dash of angst, this is it.

Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In

Book Info

Title: Lock In (Lock In, Book 1)
Author: John Scalzi
Published: August 26, 2014
Pages: 336
Publisher: Tor Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review

In the not too distant future, a new virus hits humanity. For most, the symptoms are nothing more than the inconvenience of the flu. But for approximately one percent of the population, the virus has devastating effects. It results in what is dubbed “Lock In”. Those with the condition are fully aware of their surroundings but are unable to move or respond in any way to what’s going on around them. Solutions are found, ranging from robotic vessels that those with “Haden’s syndrome” can control and maneuver to “Integrators” who can actually allow someone who is locked in to borrow their body and control them for a period of time. While the latter may help people feel like they get a more life-like experience, it creates a situation where it may be difficult to tell who is the actor in any situation–the Haden or the Integrator. When FBI agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are assigned a case with an Integrator for a suspect, they’re faced with just this question. But when more connections to others in the Haden movement are discovered, they quickly learn there is far more to their case than they ever could have imagined.

This is the first John Scalzi novel I’ve read, and I am certainly quite pleased with what I’ve found. The amount of effort and creativity that he’s put into constructing this future shows in the characters, their surroundings, and the story itself. While this is science fiction, there was no moment where I really found myself saying “this could never happen.” And when your goal is to present would could be a future on Earth, that’s a very important quality. The mystery here is filled with twists and turns, and sometimes just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you will learn you were wrong.

Definitely looking forward to the sequel for this one…

 

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Blades

Book Info

Title: City of Blades (The Divine Cities, Book 2)
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Published: January 26, 2016
Pages: 464
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

The city of Voortyashtan was the home of Voortya, the goddess of war, death, and destruction. It was her followers who, after unleashing as much death as possible, were transformed into the sentinels who terrorized the Saypuri slaves. And they were the first people who were promised an afterlife by a Divinity. Thankfully, with the death of all of the gods and goddesses and the Blink, the Divinities and their miracles are a thing of the past. But the recent discovery of a mysterious ore near Voortyashtan, while not Divine in nature, has some people concerned.

Among those concerned is Prime Minister Shara Komayd. But her political position leaves her with few options to investigate. So she enlists Turyin Mulaghesh, retired general still trying to live off the grid after her victory at the Battle of Bulikov five years earlier, to go into the city and investigate. It’s not something that Mulaghesh would willingly sign up for, but Komayd is persuasive. And before she knows it, Mulaghesh is thrust into the investigation of a mystery that brings up just as many ghosts from her own past as it does ghost of Voortyashtan. And in the process, she learns that sometimes we can be held to promises and oaths we take long after we expect–and what it truly means to be a soldier.

I have been looking forward to this book since I finished City of Stairs back when it was released. The world that Robert Jackson Bennett has created is one where I am willing to spend as much time as he can make possible. The rich history, the dynamic characters, and the political intrigue add so many layers to these epic fantasy stories. And the unexpected twists along the way make them that much more interesting and entertaining.

The character development in this story is also something that I hadn’t really expected. The arc that we see Turyin take from start to finish is something to behold. And it’s rare to see a writer take a character on a journey like this in a way that feels organic and not forced at all. And as someone who puts character development and character-driven stories high up on my list of what’s important in a book, it takes this great story to the next level in my eyes.

Very highly recommended!!

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

 

Lover of Light by Mel Bossa

Lover of Light

Book Info

Title: Lover of Light
Author: Mel Bossa
Published: January 25, 2016
Pages: 225
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Andy’s life is a bit of a storm at the moment. He’s recently laid his estranged father to rest, he lost his job, and his best friend, Dimitry, has announced his engagement to Alexei, who Andy is certain his only using him to get a green card. In the midst of this upheaval, there’s tension between Andy and his current boyfriend, he takes a new job as a bartender, and Dimitry announces that his engagement to Alexei is over. Andy couldn’t be happier about the latter until his boss hires a new waiter and in walks Alexei. Andy doesn’t quite know how this is going to work–he needs a waiter who can be in sync with him to keep the bar running smoothly. Much to his surprise, though, Alexei is a hard worker who knows his stuff. But just as he starts to realize there might be more to Alexei than he previously realized, he learns their might be even more to his boss and the bar where he works. And even Andy is surprised at the lengths he will go to protect someone he thought he hated–emphasis on thought…

What a fantastic story! This one was refreshingly original and there were several surprising twists that kept me on the edge of my seat. There are definitely some frustrating moments, and there are points where I wanted to shake the characters repeatedly. But the dynamics and relationships here are so electrifying and charged that it shouldn’t be surprising the story invokes that sort of a reaction. A great character-driven story, and I personally couldn’t get enough.

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

Inversion Point by Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen

Inversion Point

Book Info

Title: Inversion Point (Chaos Station, Book 4)
Author: Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen
Published: January 25, 2016
Pages: 216
Publisher: Carina Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Felix was certainly more than glad to get Zander back after he died. And he never expected that things would suddenly be normal for the two of them. But everything just gets more and more complicated by the day. For one, there’s a cult that apparently worships Zander now intent on following them all around the galaxy. It’s not just an annoyance; it’s actually get in the way of them completing jobs. And a new species has emerged, potentially triggering a war when they destroy a probe belonging to the stin. Zander is pulled into the fray as an emissary for the Guardians, and the situation is further complicated by the presence of two individuals from Felix’s past: a former lover in the form of the human ambassador and one of the stin who tortured him during his captivity. It’s an intense situation all around, and everyone is counting on Zander to keep the peace and avoid another war. And it may take more out of Zander than anyone is willing to notice–except Felix, who is finding himself taxed in several ways himself. But if they’ve made it this far, they’ll persevere. Right?

I am beyond pleased with this installment in the series. They say in order to move forward, you have to confront your past. We’ve seen Zander do that more than once in the series. In the process, that means Felix has had to do the same, but not quite to the extent that Zander has. Here, though, we get a glimpse at potential futures for Zander in his role as emissary and a long, dark look at Felix’s past. There are turning points here for everyone, and the way they choose to respond to them is certainly going to shape not only how things play out during the summit and its aftermath but the rest of their lives. Many unexpected twists lie within.

There’s one more book in the series after this one. I can’t wait, but I also don’t want it to end…

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

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters

Book Info

Title: Broken Monsters
Author: Lauren Beukes
Published: September 16, 2014
Pages: 442
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Author’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Detective Gabriella Versado knows this is going to be no ordinary case when the first body is found. Someone took half of a young boy and half of a deer and fused them together. And things only seem to get stranger from there. But Gabriella isn’t hunting down this bizarre killer in a vacuum. There’s a journalist, Jonno, hot on the story, hungry for redemption and hoping to break this story. And somewhere along the way, the killer may be getting help from other people, whether they understand what’s happening or not. On top of this, Gabriella still needs to keep an eye on her daughter, Layla, who may just be wandering into some dangerous territory of her own. As they all everything comes together and the truth is revealed, everyone is about to learn that sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction.

This case plays out to be truly bizarre. The story is constructed in a masterful way, with all of the layers that come in as readers spend a little time with each character. There’s definitely a steady build to the climax, and it’s one of those books that keeps you on the edge of your seat, not entirely sure what might happen next. Although this is dubbed a horror by many, I would point out that it’s not really gruesome or anything like that. Although there are some mutilated corpses (though not described in graphic detail), it felt more like a paranormal thriller to me. And I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys that type of story.

2015 in Review: #4 & #3

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With another year drawn to a close, I wanted to take some time this month to go back and highlight some of the best books that I read in 2015. I didn’t read quite as many this year as I did last year (287 vs. 306), but I attribute that to taking on proofreading (which is a slower read for a book) and starting a certificate program during the final quarter of the year. Still, I’m happy with the total. But enough about that…onto the books I wanted to take a moment to revisit…

Note: These are the best books I read in 2015, not necessarily published in 2015.

#4 Prickly Business (Portland Pack Chronicles, Book 1) by Piper Vaughn & Keznie Cade

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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…

Read my review from July 28 for more on this title.

#3 Shirewode (The Wode, Book 2) by J. Tullos Hennig

Shirewode by J. Tullos Hennig

His family gone and his home destroyed, Rob was left for dead and that should have been his fate. Except fate decided it wasn’t his time. So he takes to the Wode, taking up the mantle of the Horned Lord, and doing his best to defend the few of his people left and the surrounding villages from the corrupt government and the church. Thinking Rob was lost, Gamelyn complied with forced exile by his brother and joined the Knights Templar. But now he has returned on a very specific mission, and he won’t let much stand in his way. Even when the two find each other again, their past may not be enough to break down the walls of pain that have built up between them. Except there is one thing that might be able to bring them back together–Marion is alive…

Read my review from October 12 for more on this title.