Monthly Archives: February 2016

Einstein’s Peep Show by Josephine Myles

Einstein's Peep Show

Einstein’s Peep Show by Josephine Myles

Published by: Self-Published on February 23, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The last thing Rory Jones expected was a proposition from his neighbor in the hallway of their building. It’s not that he’s averse to random hookups. But his nerdy, keep-to-himself neighbor, Nathan, never quite seemed the type. And when Rory learns that Nathan wants to broadcast their time together on a webcam, things get even more interesting. It’s not something he’s ever done before, but there’s always a first time for everything, no?

Nathan might be one to agree with Rory’s assessment. He’s working hard on his maths degree and has little time for much beyond school. Well, aside from his online cam show which helps him make ends meet. And it’s something he hoped to keep a secret until his biggest–and highest paying–fan asks for something more. He works through the awkwardness to ask for Rory’s help in what he’s sure will be a one time thing.

What neither expects is that they do enjoy their time together. Rory’s not put off by the camera. Nathan, though he’s not ready for another relationship, felt a connection with Rory he hasn’t felt in a while. But it was all just for the camera, right? If they took that out of the equation they would go back to having nothing in common, wouldn’t they? But relationships and feelings aren’t based on mathematical functions. And unlike that homework due tomorrow, they’re also not easily ignored.

I wasn’t sure what to think of this at first. It’s one of those “jump right into it” stories, and it starts with quite the event. But what’s great is that’s what pulled me in. This is a quick-moving, high intensity story with no scene or word out of place. The potential for a relationship builds quickly. But it feels right considering the background of the characters. I was with them every step of the way. And I certainly wouldn’t mind the opportunity to find out what happens next.

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

Tall Order by Irene Preston

Tall Order

Tall Order by Irene Preston

Published by: Self-Published on February 16, 2016 (re-release)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Dylan Trevino is back in Texas, though he never expected that to happen. He left for New York to pursue his dreams, even though it meant leaving Aston Winkler behind. Dylan’s new position with one of the worst caterers in town is beneath him. But when you’ve burned bridges and you need to start over, you have to take what you can get. With a gig like a major party at SXSW, Dylan hopes he might be able to wow and surprise his way to something new. But Dylan’s in for the real surprise when Aston (“Win”) shows up to the event. While much has happened in Dylan’s life while he was in New York, Win’s life has changed just as much–if not more. Win’s career as an artist is in full swing. Dylan would love to pick things up where he left off with Win, but he knows he can’t do that. He messed things up, and he’s in no place to contribute to a relationship. And Win can be just as stubborn. Can these two guys look far enough past themselves to make something work?

This was a fun read, with some unexpected twists and turns. These two guys made me smile, laugh, and want to reach in and shake them more than once. That, to me, often serves as the hallmark of a great story and good writing. The ease with which a reader can get invested in the world of the story is a big deal to me. And in this book, it’s easy to lock in and lose yourself in these pages. I give a strong recommendation to readers looking for a quick, fun, and endearing story.

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

Tall Order at the author’s website

The Blinding Light by Renae Kaye

Blinding Light

The Blinding Light by Renae Kaye

Series: The Tav, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on July 14, 2014
Rating: 4 stars (★★★☆☆)

Jake Manning is in a bit of a rough spot. He’s up to his eyeballs in debt, which he took on to help his family. He doesn’t allow people to take advantage of him, and that’s made it difficult for him to hold down a steady job. And he’s reached a point of desperation. So when he applies for a housekeeping job for what he learns is one of the most difficult clients his potential employer has ever seen, he agrees to take on the challenge. Despite everything else, he is truly a hard worker. But even Jake wasn’t prepared for Patrick Stanford. Patrick is rude, bossy, blind… and perhaps one of the most attractive men Jake has ever seen. Not one to be taken advantage of, however, Jake pushes back just enough that he might be able to nudge Patrick toward some proper manners. And although Patrick is technically Jake’s employer, they strike a bit of a friendship that Jake wishes could become something more. But is Patrick even gay? And how can Jake find time for a relationship when his mother and sisters are always waiting in the wings for him to help them out?

I don’t know that I have much else to say about this except that it is entertaining. The banter between Jake and Patrick made me grin and chuckle most of the time, especially with some of the notes they would leave for each other. And there are some pleasant surprises along the way in this story that keep it interesting. I feel like a few issues from the past were sort of glossed over quickly when they came up–in ways that felt a bit abrupt. But overall, this is one that I enjoyed.

The Blinding Light at the Dreamspinner Press website

Love is a Stranger by John Wiltshire

Love is a Stranger

Love is a Stranger by John Wiltshire

Series: More Heat than the Sun, Book 1
Published by: MLR Press on May 16, 2014
Rating: 4 stars (★★★☆☆)

Ex-SAS soldier Ben Rider never expected that when he joined a secret intelligence department that he would fall in love with his boss. After all, Sir Nikolas Mikkelsen is married to a beautiful woman, but he’s so intriguing that Ben doesn’t really stand a chance. He might feel bad about carrying on an affair with a married man, but he’s never felt anything as intensely as what he feels for Nik. But the life of a shadow operative is a dangerous one, and things can change so quickly one doesn’t know where to turn. And when such a turn happens that might allow Ben and Nik more time together, Ben is cautiously optimistic. He really shouldn’t dismiss the cautious part of that optimism, though, because he beings to realize more and more that he really doesn’t know much about Nik at all. Well, except that he knows Nik is his soulmate. But is that enough to look past any dark secrets that might be lingering in Nik’s past?

I had a hard time putting this one down. There’s such a great combination of relationship development between these two and suspenseful plot elements, that when I wasn’t caught up in Ben and Nik, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for what would happen next. There’s some complex history that lingers underneath the surface for both of these guys, and neither of them is really willing to confront it. And even when Ben does start to learn the truth, I felt like his reaction was very authentic and made a lot of sense for him as a character.

The only thing that really bugged me about this one–and it’s what brought this very quickly down from four stars to three stars–is the ending. There is a great deal of build toward the ending–chapters, even–and then it cuts off RIGHT before what should be the climax of that aspect of the plot. I know this is part of a series, but it was such an abrupt ending that it was jarring; it didn’t really feel like a cliffhanger, either. It would have been smoother to cut it off a bit sooner and leave some lead in to start the next book.

Love is a Stranger at the MLR Press website

Hugo Awards – Thursday Thoughts #1

Thursday Thoughts

On Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

The Hugo Awards

Those who’ve followed the blog for a year or longer know this. I am a Hugo Awards voter, and I get excited about the awards season. That means I do discuss them on the blog. And since we’re currently in the nomination period, why not start tis series with the Hugos as a topic?

What are the Hugo Awards?

The Hugo Awards are a fan-driven honor for science fiction creators. They honor both fans and professionals in several categories. The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) presents the Hugos. All WSFS members may nominate and vote. Membership is available to each years Worldcon, at both attending and supporting rates.

Members spend the start of each year looking at the previous year in science fiction and fantasy. And many members take the time to recommend nominations to others. Usually nominations close in March, with the finalists announced in April. Voters then spend the next several months checking out any finalists they missed before. A committee collects and tallies the votes. The awards ceremony takes place at Worldcon with a livestream available online.

Wasn’t there some major drama last year?

There is drama surrounding the Hugos every year. I think most awards have this to some extent. With the ability to vote being so open, many people feel more ownership of the awards. And when the awards don’t turn out the way they want, some people feel particularly scorned.

Some vocal fans haven’t liked the ballot’s more recent increased diversity (creators and stories). They’ve organized a group to stuff the nominating process with a specific slate. Last year this led to many of those nominees becoming finalists. And because many Hugo voters did not appreciate this, they made use of a seldom-used option: No Award. If voters feel all or some finalists aren’t worthy of the award, they can include “No Award” on their ballot. Since the rule started in 1959 through 2014, No Award was only voted 5 times. Last year that number doubled as it was voted in 5 categories in a single year.

There’s much more to the whole story. It generated a lot of thoughtful commentary (including a series of posts by George R. R. Martin). If you wish to go down that rabbit hole, it’s not difficult to find it. And I want to stop there to focus on this year’s awards.

What’s the scoop for this year?

There were proposals made last year to change the nominating process. Amending the WSFS constitution needs approval two years in a row, so nothing’s changed yet.

We’re currently in this year’s nominating period (through the end of March). I’m already close to having my ballot completed, and when it’s done I will share it here. Every novel and novella on my ballot gets a review here. Some shorter fiction doesn’t, because I find reviewing short stories to be a challenge. The categories like editor don’t lend themselves to review. And I don’t review movies or tv shows here. So anything that doesn’t have a review will include a brief statement of nomination.

If you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I encourage you to consider thinking about the Hugos. The deadline to be a member to nominate this year passed. But the Hugos happen every year, so you haven’t missed out forever.

Fantasy for a Gentleman by Caitlin Ricci

Fantasy for a Gentleman

Fantasy for a Gentleman by Caitlin Ricci

Series: A Planet Called Wish, Book 2
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on February 19, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Corbin Leroux is an Aspasian, a high-priced companion on the planet Wish. He’s good at what he does, and that brings him some of the best clients. They treat Corbin well, and he returns in kind. Which is why Corbin never expects one of them to hire someone to kill him. Emmanuel Leoniste has no problem killing those he thinks deserve it. And whores like Corbin fall in that group. Corbin offers to hire Emmanuel to protect him, hoping he can use money to entice him. Emmanuel agrees, though he makes it clear he doesn’t approve of Corbin’s work. As Emmanuel gets to know him, he sees that maybe “whores” like Corbin aren’t all like he thinks. He’s soon forced to face his own ideas about intimacy…and about Corbin too.

I rather liked To The Highest Bidder, the first book in this series. While Corbin is in the first book, it’s more about his younger brother. We get bits of Corbin’s motivations in the first book. But I felt there was more to him when I read it. The chance to come back to Wish and learn more about Corbin was a welcome one.

Corbin doesn’t expect a relationship any time soon. And the idea wouldn’t even occur to Emmanuel. Two reluctant men make for quite the slow burn. But the story has no problem staying engaging. And I am again impressed with Caitlin Ricci’s development of this world and characters. I am not sure if there’s another character to focus on, but I wouldn’t mind more stories set in this world at all.

Fantasy for a Gentleman at the Dreamspinner Press website

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

Quality of Silence

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

Published by: Crown on February 16, 2016 (re-release)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★☆☆)

Ruby lands in Alaska, excited to see her father. That’s why her mother, Yasmin, said they were traveling. He should be waiting to pick them up at the airport. But when they get off the plane and a police officer greets them, they know something’s wrong. Ruby, who is deaf, must rely on reading lips and the little bits her mother will tell her. She learns there was an accident and her father may be dead. Yasmin and Ruby refuse to believe it, and set out to search for him when the police have all but given up. But winter in Alaska is dangerous. There’s a storm rolling in. And there’s a small chance someone may be following them. But neither will rest until they know the truth. Whatever that truth may be…

This one pulled me in a bit more than I expected. The writing style, which includes many flashbacks, took a couple of chapters to grow on me. But once I was into it, it seemed to take on a life of its own. The suspenseful adventure for this mother and daughter makes a compelling story. Some of the twists will surprise you. Recommended for readers who enjoy stories that take the reader on the characters’ journey.

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

The Quality of Silence on the Crown website

Mayon by Mickie B. Ashling

Mayon

Mayon by Mickie B. Ashling

Published by: DSP Publications on February 23, 2016 (2nd Edition)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★☆☆)

It’s the Philippines in 1946. John Buchanan, recently retired from the Marines, remains in the country to consider Ignacio Saenz’s offer of a position overseeing his plantation. It’s not something John would likely seek out under normal circumstances, but since the job would put him so close to Mount Mayon he can see it in the distance, he’s willing to consider it. He’s always had a fascination with volcanoes, so he’s not sure he can pass up living so close to an active one. The current overseer, Gregorio Delgado, begrudgingly takes John out to see Mount Mayon. John quickly learns that Gregorio isn’t leaving the plantation–Greg will be demoted if John steps into the role. John knows Ignacio is hoping to find a husband for one of his daughters, but he’s not really bothered by Ignacio’s ulterior motive. But when a spark of mutual attraction strikes on their campout near the volcano, Greg has a difficult time accepting any part of this new fate. And while John makes it clear to Greg the two of them can’t have a future–society’s just not ready for it–it turns out that there’s no controlling an active volcano…when it erupts, it erupts.

Overall, this is an engaging and oddly romantic story. It’s paced well, and I felt like the core relationships develop quite naturally. The cast of characters provide for some moments of comic relief against the backdrop of the broader drama. I was a bit bothered by the way John seemed to quickly dismiss Greg at times, though I felt there was some redemption as the story continued. Some situations seemed coincidentally a bit more convenient to furthering the plot than anything else, but nothing confused or derailed me during my reading. A nice historical romance.

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

Mayon at the DSP Publications website

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Series: Red Queen, Book 1
Published by: HarperTeen on February 10, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Mare Barrow is resigned to a bleak fate. She’s a Red (meaning she bleeds red and has no magical abilities) and has no skills to offer, aside from being an adept pickpocket. She is able to provide for her family using that tactic, though she knows her mother isn’t exactly fond of who she gets the things she brings home. But it doesn’t matter, since she knows it will be less than a year before she is conscripted and will go to fight a war being waged by the Slivers (the ruling class, who, yes, actually bleed silver and possess magical abilities) with Reds as their (often unwilling soldiers). But after Mare chances upon an odd young man one evening who gets her a job at the palace, everything changes. It is here that she (and the Silvers) discover that she’s no ordinary Red. In fact, she’s so extraordinary that her mere existence could threaten the entire balance of their society. Mare quickly finds herself wrapped up in the world of the Silvers, still clinging to her Red heritage, and not really knowing which way to turn. But in a power-based society where people will step over each other to get to the top, there may not be any direction that is entirely safe.

Although there is the female-YA-protagonist-with-some-romantic-subplot syndrome going on here, I did enjoy this book. The world that’s been created here, the major players, and the sharp twists and turns this one takes made it difficult for me to put this book down. It’s easy to get lost in Mare’s world. The writing is excellent, and I find myself looking forward to the next book in the series. This would probably be a five-star recommendation from me if it wasn’t for the subplot mentioned above. While it didn’t overtake the story in the ways it often does in YA lately, it’s overdone to the point that its existence in a book gives me pause at this point. If you are like me and put off by that trope, I still suggest giving this a chance as I think there are more enough redeeming qualities to make up for it in this one.

Red Queen at the HarperTeen website

His Master’s Summons by Cassie Sweet

His Master's Summons

Book Info

Title: His Master’s Summons (Azgarth’s Chosen, Book 1)
Author: Cassie Sweet
Published: February 16, 2016
Pages: 234
Publisher: DSP Publications
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

The people of Lychford are divided over something that could change their little town forever: a major supermarket chain wants to open up a storefront. Emotions run high on both sides–those who see it was a step forward for Lychford and those who feel like it goes against everything their town has become. But Judith Mawson, seen by many as the village crackpot, knows the truth: the threat is much bigger than anyone realizes. In order to do anything about it, however, she’s going to need to enlist others. Enter Lizzie, the new vicar, still in mourning over a lost love, and Autumn, Lizzie’s former friend, an agnostic-turned-mystic. Not only will Lizzie and Autumn learn the truth about Lychford, they will also learn the truth about why they lost touch years ago. By uniting with Judith to save Lychford, they may just find the healing they both need at the same time.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this one up, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is a complex, engaging, and well-developed urban (can I really call it “urban,” though?) fantasy tale with some twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The backstory here is rich, and it’s revealed over the course of the story in an almost seamless way. I can safely say this is one of my Hugo nominations for this year.