Monthly Archives: January 2016

Red River by Cardeno C.

Red River

Book Info

Title: Red River (Pack, Book 2)
Author: Cardeno C.
Published: January 19, 2016
Pages: 122
Publisher: The Romance Authors
Author’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Wesley Stone is next in line to be the Alpha of his pack. Well, he should be whenever his uncle finally decides to step down from the role. But Wesley is different. He is a scar on his abdomen that many in his pack see as a weakness, though he doesn’t quite understand why. He’s always been a bit of an outsider, but he’s completely shocked when his uncle lets him know he’ll never be able to lead their pack. If he wants to become an Alpha, he’ll need to trade places with an Alpha from a nearby pack and take the current Alpha’s son as his mate. While it’s not anything close to the ideal situation, Wesley agrees, thinking he will find a way to make the best of it. But when he meets Jobe Root, his intended mate, everything turns out to be far different than he expected. The way the Red River pack functions is not at all like the pack in which Wesley has lived his life. He quickly learns that many of the things he thought were absolute might be a bit more fluid than he believed. It turns out there are some things that Wesley didn’t know about himself, either…

This is a quick and engaging read. The pace is just right to keep the reader interested without ever feeling too rushed. And the slow reveal of some of the information about Jobe and the Red River pack certainly allows for a few twists to be thrown in along the way.

This is the second book in a series, but it appears to be stand-alone. I’ve not read the first book, and I had no problems at all following what was happening here or knowing who all of the characters were. One thing that did throw me, and I’ll share it even though it might be a bit of a spoiler, is some MPreg near the end. I’m not one for MPreg stories–it’s something I’ve never been able to suspend disbelief enough to not catch me up in a story, even in those with paranormal themes–but despite that being in the book, I still found myself enjoying the story.

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

Bells, Halls and Balls by Dayton Idoni

bells, halls and balls

Book Info

Title: Bells, Halls and Balls
Author: Dayton Idoni
Published: February 27, 2014
Pages: 14
Publisher: Dayton Idoni
Rating: ★★★

Review

Queen Mary’s Comprehensive has been a school for decades, with a bit of a rich history present in its walls. Kevin is very popular in the school, with so many students stopping to say hello or tell him their problems. And he’s more than fine with watching over everyone as they pass by. It’s when he spies a student who sparks an attraction that he’s at a bit of a loss. It’s unlikely that the two of them will never be able to be together…

I don’t think I can say too much more about this story without spoiling everything. The approach is incredibly creative, and the twist that comes at the end is really quite ingenious. This is short and a very quick read, and it’s definitely worth your time to pick it up and flip through it.

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

sword of summer

Book Info

Title: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: October 6, 2015
Pages: 528
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Magnus Chase has lived alone on the streets of Boston since his mother’s death. The streets were his only option, as his mother told him never to trust his uncle, making him wary of his family. But when he learns that his cousin and others are out searching for him, he decides he needs to find answers. He sneaks into his uncle’s mansion and is caught. But that’s not the worst of it. His uncle tells him he’s the son of a Norse god. It’s almost laughable to Magnus at first, until they’re chased down by a group of fire giants and Magnus has to make the choice between himself and innocent bystanders. And his choice is one that only sets a whole series of other events in motion…

I honestly devour everything that Rick Riordan writes. As a lifelong fan of mythology and an avid reader of fantasy, these books always hit so many buttons with me that I just can’t seem to ever put them down. And this kickoff to a new series–though with some connections to his other work nicely woven in–is no exception at all. Riordan has a way of weaving in the existing mythology that doesn’t require one to be very knowledgeable, but it’s also clear that you’re reading his unique story and not just having the myths rehashed in various ways. Magnus’s story takes some unexpected turns very early on, which is something that has me really looking forward to where this series is going to go as it develops.

The Falls by Jon Garcia & Marty Beaudet

Falls

Book Info

Title: The Falls (The Falls, Book 1)
Author: Jon Garcia & Marty Beaudet
Published: January 5, 2016
Pages: 200
Publisher: DSP Publications
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

RJ Smith is prepared to go out on his mission–an exciting time in the life of any young Mormon man. It is a time when one often learns much about himself while doing a great service to the church. And when RJ meets his mission companion, Chris Merrill, he knows he’s in luck. Chris is one who knows, understands, and follows the rules, and he’ll certainly help RJ adapt to the life of a missionary. As the two set out to spread their message, RJ finds that it’s a bit more difficult to get people to listen than he thought it might be. And both RJ and Chris learn that sometimes what lingers below the surface can only be contained for so long.

I absolutely loved this film, so I wasn’t too surprised that I enjoyed the book. Although it’s basically the same story, the treatment is just different enough that I found myself enthralled from cover to cover. The authors capture the struggle between being who you are and the pressures to conform to the expectations of one’s family and religion. It’s a well-written and developed story that is definitely worth a read.

The publisher has this listed as “Book One” on the website, which has me excited. There was a sequel to the film, so I’m hoping that means we’ll be getting a novelization of that one too.

First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony

First Comes Marriage

Book Info

Title: First Comes Marriage
Author: Shira Anthony
Published: January 15, 2016
Pages: 262
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Chris Valentine is a struggling writer who has experienced some success but is still looking for that break. He’s trying to juggle working as a barista with finding the time he needs to write, and he would love to find a publisher willing to take on his new series. At a reading, he ends up with two leads, one of whom is Jesse Donovan, an attractive business mogul who expresses a keen interest in helping Chris get published. The two meet to discuss the prospect, and Chris finds that he enjoys spending time with Jesse (but they’ll only be friends since Jesse is quite obviously straight). Eventually Jesse reveals that he’s in a bind, and he hopes Chris can help him. Jesse needs to get married–and stay married for at least a year–to retain control of his company. He offers Chris a business proposal: Chris gets all the time he needs to write for the next year and will receive a million dollars for his trouble. Chris knows it’s strictly a business arrangement, and he could certainly use both the time and the money. But can he really spend a year pretending to be married to one of the most attractive men he’s ever met?

This is the second book released in the new Dreamspun Desires subscription line. Each is a stand-alone book that (for the most part) follows the basic romance formula. And I’m glad to see some of the authors they have already set for this line.

In some ways, I’m not at all surprised that I enjoyed a Shira Anthony title. She has a way of creating and writing characters who are complex and realistic. And the background characters always seem to get that same attention. The worlds in which her stories take place aren’t just the tiny bubble in which the main characters exist, but we also don’t get pages and pages of unnecessary information that doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. The balance is always just the right mix.

I know we’re not very far into 2016 yet, but I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorite books of this year.

Derek by B.G. Thomas

Derek

Book Info

Title: Derek
Author: B.G. Thomas
Published: December 26, 2014
Pages: 70
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Derek’s decade-long marriage has just come to an end. He’s gay, and has known this for a while, but that doesn’t make divorce feel any better. And on the day the divorce is final, he meets Marshall, a man who is definitely intriguing. The two connect and Derek finds that Marshall really might just be what he’s looking for. But this is all still very new to Derek. Can they possibly make something work together?

This is just the right length to get a snapshot of Derek and Marshall, and the start of their relationship. Derek’s starting a new chapter in his life, which isn’t always easy. But even when things are scary or unknown, they can be exciting. And they can be good for us. Moving on can be difficult, but sometimes getting on with one’s life is the only way to live. The story focuses on these two and the way they come together–there’s a low heat level–and it’s a well-written novella.

2015 in Review: #6 & #5

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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.

#6 Prairie Silence: A Memoir by Melanie Hoffert

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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.

Read my review from June 18 for more on this title.

#5 The Perfect Game by Leslie Dana Kirby

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Lauren Rose feels like her life is coming together.  She just moved to Phoenix to start her medical residency, and is once again living closer to her sister and their grandmother.  While residency will certainly be stressful, being near family and putting school behind her means a welcome change.  But when her sister, Liz, is found murdered at her home, Lauren begins to realize that maybe things won’t go as well as she hoped.  Still somewhat new to the city, she doesn’t know many people and finds herself seeking support from her late sister’s husband, famous baseball player Jake Wakefield.  She doesn’t know Jake very well, either, but he’s a shoulder to lean on when the police begin to suspect Lauren of the brutal crime…

Read my review from March 3 for more on this title.

The Millionaire Upstairs by M.J. O’Shea

Millionaire Upstairs

Book Info

Title: The Millionaire Upstairs
Author: M.J. O’Shea
Published: January 1, 2016
Pages: 198
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Sasha Sobieski has landed a job of his dreams: he’ll be working for Harrison Kingsley, one of the hottest fashion houses on the scene. And even meeting Harrison–rude, condescending Harrison–on his way out of the interview can’t bring him down from his high. After all, he’ll never have to work directly for the man, right? When Sasha’s boss (and Harrison’s sister), Joanne, goes on maternity leave, Sasha is sent out to spend the summer working directly for Harrison. He quickly finds his initial assessment of Harrison to be true, even though there are moments when he feels like he can see past the wall that Harrison has built around himself. Sasha finds himself drawn to Harrison, even though he knows better. Can he be the one to bring Harrison around? Or is he just setting himself up for extreme disappointment?

This is the first book in the Dreamspun Desires line, Dreamspinner’s new two-books-a-month subscription service. It isn’t the strongest way to kick off the line, but I still found it entertaining and a relatively quick read. As far as romances go, this one is up there on the list of defining slow burn. And there are many points in the book where I found myself going “really??” Harrison is a straight-up ass, whatever his reasons may be, and it became very difficult for me to understand and believe Sasha’s choices at several points in the book. And the ending didn’t exactly satisfy me that anything was changing.

That said, this one barely squeaks out a three star review and recommendation from me, simply because I did find it enjoyable overall and there’s enough conflict here to keep a reader interested for days.

Driven Snow by Tara Lain

Driven Snow

Book Info

Title: Driven Snow (The Pennymaker Tales, Book 2)
Author: Tara Lain
Published: November 25, 2015
Pages: 210
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Snowden “Snow” Reynaldi is a chess genius at NorCal University and the star pupil of his mentor, Professor Kingsley. He’s shy and awkward, and that’s perfectly fine for an aspiring chess champion. But it’s never going to endear him to the guy he can’t get off his mind: star quarterback Riley Prince. Not like it really matters, though, since Riley isn’t gay and he’d never give Snow a second glance even if he was. Right? And even though he knows it’s probably a bad idea (both in terms of his attraction and having time for chess), Snow willingly agrees when Riley needs a physics tutor. A crush and time management turn out to be the smallest of Snow’s worries when his professor marries a mysterious woman who doesn’t seem to hold Snow in very high regard–so much so that his life might be in danger. With the help of seven fraternity brothers from Grimm College and a mysterious man by the name of Pennymaker, will Snow be able to get his life back together and save himself, his professor, and the man he loves?

Another great adaptation from Tara Lain. I absolutely love the way she can take these classic fairytales and update them to the point where you can clearly see the nods and references but you get an entirely different story in the process. It removes the whole “gee, that was obvious” type of reaction while taking the reader on a new and exciting journey that is well worth their time. I recommend giving this a read if you’re a fan of adaptations of classic stories and fairytales.

Overly Dramatic by Rebecca Cohen

Overly Dramtic

Book Info

Title: Overly Dramatic (Treading the Boards, Book 1)
Author: Rebecca Cohen
Published: August 19, 2015
Pages: 131
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Andy Marshall has recently relocated to London after breaking up with his long-time, cheating boyfriend. His job as an accountant isn’t overly exciting, and he’s new to the city. This is partly why he accepts an invitation from his colleague to go out and is soon convinced by her husband to audition for their amateur theatre group, the Sarky Players. It’s all a bit of a lark to Andy, until he finds himself cast as one of the leads in Whoops, Vicar, There Go My Trousers. It’s a truly awful play, but everyone seems to have fun with it. And it leads to Andy meeting the troupe’s prop designer, Phil Cormack. The attraction seems almost instantaneous and is certainly mutual, but both Andy and Phil have put up walls they need to be willing to move or take down if they stand a chance at all of being together.

Fun and entertaining is certainly a descriptor I would use for this book. And as someone who has participated in theatre myself several times over the years, I really enjoyed how true-to-life some of the off-stage dramatics were portrayed here. The characters (especially the supporting ones) are dynamic and memorable, and there’s a level of realism to this story that really struck me as I was reading. I’m glad to see this is part of a series because I definitely am interested in hearing more from this author.