Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Rescue by Derek T. Cole

The Rescude

The Rescue by Derek T. Cole

Series: The Harden City Chronicles, Book 1
Published by: Offhand in July 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

In Harden City, there’s a stark divide between the social and economic classes. The rich have the run of things; the poor are confined to the worst parts of the city. And for someone living in The Penn, it’s unlikely to ever get out.

Garth sits comfortably in the middle. He’s a Hunter, and his job is to hunt down some of the city’s worst criminals. His job puts him in the middle class, with a place of his own and a comfortable life.

While on a job to rescue an informant, Garth comes across Dean. Dean has lived in The Penn all his life, and he knows nothing else. But to save him, Garth needs to get him out. And he temporarily brings him to his own home. Garth’s world is completely new to Dean, but Dean seems like he’ll be able to adapt. And Garth could certainly use a friend…or maybe something more.

There’s one problem: the rich who run the city aren’t keen on same-sex relationships. To act on his feelings or to keep Dean with him would be a huge risk. And it might not be one he’s willing to take.

This is a fast-paced, action-packed story. The writing and the pacing really work well to keep the reader engaged. And the world where this story takes place is rich and vibrant. There are many layers that present themselves as one reads along.

That said, I was really disappointed with how this one ended. I know it’s part of a series, but it just seemed to stop. There wasn’t even the semi-resolution I would expect even from a cliffhanger.

But the ending aside, this is a dynamic and engaging story with some real conflict that digs at you as much as it digs at the characters.

Chasing the King of the Mountains by T.A. Chase & Devon Rhodes


Chasing the King of the Mountains

Chasing the King of the Mountains by T.A. Chase & Devon Rhodes

Series: International Men of Sports, Book 2
Published by: Total-E-Bound on June 7, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Pascal Durant’s dream has been to win the polka dot jersey for best performance in the mountains in the Tour de France. And he’s on track to finally win it. Until a car accident knocks him of course and takes him out of the running. But he has one more race in him, and he plans to give it one more chance before he retires.

Laurent Desrochers is a successful reporter and Pascal’s longtime friend. He’s disheartened along with Pascal about his loss, but is ready to support him on his last run. In fact, he even has a green light from his station to cover Pascal’s race from start to finish.

The two have been good friends, but there’s always been a bit of a distance between them. They’ve led separate lives with Pascal focused on his sport and Laurent traveling for work and shacked up with his fiancé, Jan. But after Jan and Laurent experience a rift, and Laurent and Pascal start spending more time together for the race, it occurs to them that maybe they each have exactly what the other is looking for.

Do they dare risk their friendship on possibly finding something more?

This was an enjoyable and entertaining read. The story progression was somewhat predictable, but that didn’t make it boring. The authors really do know how to tell a story. And it’s one that I think would appeal to readers even they don’t normally enjoy sports-themed plots. It’s an element of the story, but the real plot centers around these two ridiculous men.

The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk

Worst Bad Thing

The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on March 23, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

When Tate O’Reilly meets Gabriel Carillo on a stopover in Iceland, he’s thrown for a loop. Tate is on a European vacation right out of many people’s dreams: he’s continuing on to see London and Paris–and all the major sites therein. But this vacation is anything but a dream for Tate. This vacation isn’t for him. In fact, it’s not a vacation at all.

But Gabriel keeps popping up. It turns out he’s headed to London too. And he’s definitely interested in spending more time with Tate. While being with Gabriel gives Tate some flashes of hope, of what could be, Tate knows better. When Gabriel finds out who he is and what he’s done, there’s no chance at a future. Right? Tate is convinced there is no chance for redemption. But if there is, Gabriel will need to help him see it before it’s too late.

I honestly had no real idea what to expect when I picked up this book. J.E. Birk is a new author to me. And the blurb raised more questions than it answered (sorry if my cryptic summary above does the same thing). And much like climbing into the hot springs that Tate and Gabriel visit early on in the books, I felt like I was just kind of dipping my toes in first as I started reading. But it didn’t take long before I was deep in the thick of this gripping story.

Not only are the characters great and their interactions written very well, there are the questions that nag at you. What exactly did Tate do? Who is this mysterious Gabriel fellow? Why is Gabriel in London? What is the real motivation for Tate’s European trip? All is answered in good time, and the answers might just surprise you in more ways than one.

I definitely recommend this book. And I can also say I will be seeking out more from this author when I get a chance to do so.

Book, Line, and Sinker by L.J. LaBarthe

Book, Line, and Sinker

Book, Line, and Sinker by L.J. LaBarthe

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on April 15, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Ash returns to his outback home of Quorn after seventeen years in the Australian Army looking for some peace. War didn’t leave him unscathed; he suffers from PTSD and occasional flashbacks. But he hopes that spending time with his family can help him. And there’s nothing like going home.

But home has changed since Ash was here last. And one of those changes has been the addition of Jaxon. Jaxon is the new librarian in Quorn, and he draws Ash’s attention right away. Not only is Jaxon attractive, there’s something about him that helps calm Ash. Jaxon makes him feel better.

One thing Ash knows, though, is that he needs to find something to keep himself occupied if he’s going to work past his issues. So he proposes starting a mobile library to bring books and other items to those in more rural parts of the local area. Although he shouldn’t be surprised, Ash is excited to find Jaxon is on board to help him. Which creates the added benefit of something the two of them can do together.

But Ash can’t just throw his past aside overnight. And he’s not sure if Jaxon can truly understand everything he’s been through. They both seem willing to try, and he just hopes trying is worth enough…

This book is not as angsty as I think my summary makes it sound. But I also feel the need to accurately portray where the characters and story are coming from. In actuality, I found it to be almost a bit of an inspiring read. While it’s not exactly easy for Ash, he uses his experience and his connections to create something meaningful for his community. Not only is this something that can help him, but it also helps others. There’s a selflessness of so many of the characters in this book that definitely made me smile. And it comes across as totally authentic at the same time.

A fun and unique romance novel. I definitely give this a strong recommendation.

Wyatt’s Recipes for Wooing Rock Stars by Clancy Nacht & Thursday Euclid

Wyatt's Recipes for Wooing Rock Stars

Wyatt’s Recipes for Wooing Rock Stars by Clancy Nacht & Thursday Euclid

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on April 20, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Wyatt Parker is taking quite a leap. The owner of a construction company by day, he enjoys cooking and trying new recipes at night. Which is why he’s jumped at the chance to be part of a reality show that will select a personal chef for his favorite rock star. Although he’s a bit out of his element as the only untrained contestant, he does have an advantage: he’s a true fan. Of course, there’s also the distraction that Wyatt finds Tully attractive. But he can get past that, right?

Tully Randolph wasn’t entirely on board with the reality show thing. He agreed reluctantly, but he changes his mind when he meets Wyatt. Wyatt not only seems to “get” Tully, he’s also the kind of guy that Tully’s been looking for. It’s too bad he can’t get involved in a relationship with any of the competitors. But that may prove more difficult than it sounds.

There are forces at play to keep Tully and Wyatt apart. The contract Wyatt signed was clear. And one of the producers seems set on another contestant taking home the prize. But is the force of Wyatt and Tully’s attraction stronger? Or is any chance they had over before they even get started?

An entertaining story with some great character development, this was one that I definitely enjoyed. It certainly provides an interesting twist on the reality shows with which we’ve become all too familiar. And the subtle sign that it’s not always the most talented person who wins those shows (as the fine print always says the producers get a say) was something I found to be on point.

I wasn’t a fan of the way some people treated Wyatt, but I can see why that would happen considering the circumstances. And I guess I had expected a bit more tension surrounding the way the story resolves at the end. This does get a recommendation from me, and I think it has a little something for all fans of the genre.

Before I Wake by Eli Easton

Before I Wake

Before I Wake by Eli Easton

Published by: Eli Easton (2nd Edition) on January 10, 2015
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

When a comatose patient, Michael, comes into the hospital, Jonesy finds himself drawn to the young man. He learns that Michael was the victim of a hate crime. And he also learns that Michael’s parents have abandoned him. Though Jonesy is only a nurse’s aide, he’s certain that Michael stands a chance of coming out of the coma. Even though the doctors aren’t so sure.

But Jonesy is unwavering. He goes out of his way to spend time with Michael and to find any way he can to help him. Although the two have never spoken, Jonesy knows that Michael is a beautiful person (on more than just the outside). And Jonesy also knows he’s the only person Michael’s got in his corner.

Whether Michael will wake up is something that only time will tell. And if he does wake up, will he even want anything to do with Jonesy? All Jonesy has is hope, and hope can be an incredibly powerful thing.

I try not to use words like “charming” to describe a story, because I feel like they don’t tell you enough. But I feel like it’s the most appropriate word for what I read. I found it so easy as a reader to connect to these characters and really feel for them. And I think pretty much anyone would be drawn to Jonesy and his big heart. What a guy.

This is on the shorter side, so it’s a quick read. Perfect for when you just need that quick “awww” story, with only the smallest hints of angst.

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

The Productivity Project

The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey

Published by: Crown Publishing on January 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Everyone wants to be more productive, right? So while I don’t often pick up nonfiction books for the blog, I decided I would give this one a try. If nothing else, I figured it might help me stay on top of the blog work (as well as my work everywhere else)!

What we get here is kind of a mixed bag. Chris Bailey presents a way of thinking about productivity that goes beyond what we get done. It focuses on time, energy, and attention as the things that impact productivity. He also encourages readers to think about focusing on high-impact tasks and being aware of their energy levels throughout the day. There are many tactics and strategies presented in the book that can help in isolation or combination. And while it doesn’t seem too novel or profound, as I’ve thought about it some more, I am starting to think about the ways I work a bit differently.

The key things that the author provides are brief challenges to put some of the tactics in practice. While he says early on there are only a few of these, almost every chapter has one. I did many of them, but there were some that I just read and internalized rather than actually practicing them as I went along.

The book does provide some great food for thought, even if it’s not a total game changer. I also encourage readers to get past the beginning to get into the actual substance of the book. I was a little put off by what appeared to be the author’s need to assert his heterosexuality (mentions of attractive women, relaying Mila Kunis fantasies, and more than one reference to having a girlfriend). The mentions seemed unnecessary, but it was easy to set them aside as completely irrelevant to the text.

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

Maestro by R.A. Salvatore

Maestro

Maestro by R.A. Salvatore

Published by: Wizards of the Coast on April 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Drizzt Do’Urden may never have thought he’d return to Menzoberranzan. The the Drow city, his former home, is his destination. But this should be a quick in-and-out- visit. Traveling with unlikely companions, he must rescue Dahlia, a former love.

And his current (and forever) love, Cattie-brie, finds herself working with some unlikely allies as well. Her team, including Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzobarranzan, must work to rebuild the one thing that can keep the ancient primorial under Gauntlgrym in check.

So two unpleasant but important tasks lie before them. And both know that accomplishing their goals will come with challenges. But when a Drow force to be reckoned with–one thought long gone–reveals herself, it becomes clear that the challenge is just beginning.

I have been waiting for some action to return to this series for a couple of books now. Things have been moving slowly. But this one really bought things back into focus. There was an intensity here that I think both longtime and new Drizzt readers can appreciate.

I also enjoyed getting to see a bit more of some of the non-Companions characters. Jarlaxle and Gromph feature a bit more in this book. And readers are re-introduced to a character who could be the biggest game-changer since the Companions of the Hall returned.

I certainly look forward to the next book in this series. The game is truly on now. And I could see it ending in many different ways.

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

Taylor Maid by Tara Lain

Taylor Maid

Taylor Maid by Tara Lain

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on March 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Taylor Fitzgerald is almost ready to cut his father out of his life completely. Taylor turns twenty-five tomorrow and will inherit the $50 million his grandfather left him in his will. And then he’ll never have to speak to his father ever again. But when he overhears his father reference a condition of the inheritance, Taylor can’t believe it. He needs to marry a woman or the money revers to his father.

There are a few problems with Taylor’s situation. One major one? He’s gay. But he’s already made plans for the money–not for himself, but to help children–so he can’t lose that inheritance. With what he knows is a crazy plan, he sets off to Las Vegas to convince an escort to marry him.

Of course that crazy plan isn’t going to work. But when Taylor meets a hotel maid named Ally May, he makes one last play. They’re strangers, but he’s in a bind. And when Ally agrees, he’s not sure if he should be more grateful or suspicious. As it turns out, Ally needs to get out of Vegas. She’s running from someone, and Taylor’s offer might be just what she needs. But there is more to Ally than meets the eye. And she has more in common with Taylor than he could ever imagine…

The must-get-married-to-inherit trope is not an unfamiliar one. I feel like this is maybe the third or fourth book I’ve read in the past year that used it. But there are some twists here that do make this particular approach stand out. And it’s difficult not to empathize with Taylor’s predicament.

While I enjoyed this book, I did find a few things that just didn’t hit the mark for me. The way the relationship develops just didn’t ring true. Especially after Taylor learns the truth about Ally. And the quick resolution of major issues at the end just seemed to be a bit fast and simplistic to me.

But this is an entertaining read, and I’d recommend picking it up if the story looks appealing.

Corkscrewed by M.J. O’Shea

Corkscrewed

Corkscrewed by M.J. O’Shea

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on December 1, 2014
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Isaac Shelley, grandson of the quite wealthy Marigold Shelley, went missing several years ago. And his mysterious reappearance couldn’t make Marigold happier. She’s welcomed him in with open arms and is all set to arrange for him to inherit her estate. But Isaac isn’t who he seems. He only arrived in Marigold’s life as a con set up by his mentor, Roman.

But Isaac’s con isn’t the only one at play. Cary Talbot, inspector for Ms. Shelley’s insurance company, is on site to inventory the estate’s wine collection. Except Cary doesn’t work for an insurance company. He plans to convince the owner that one of her expensive wines is a fake. Then he can buy it off her at a fraction of the price and profit. His only problem is that no one can sniff out a con man like another con man.

So even though there’s a mutual attraction, it’s not long before Isaac and Cary figure out each other’s games. And while they agree not to turn each other in, it’s not as simple as that. There’s another player in this game–the infamous Black Mamba. Despite everything, the two will need to work together if they want to keep the Mamba at bay and get out of the situation unscathed.

There was something about this story that resonated with me. It’s not a complex plot, but it contains enough intrigue and mystery to keep the reader engaged. And the reader will want to stay engaged, let me tell you.

This isn’t a particularly steamy romance. And the relationship faces some obvious complications. But even though these two aren’t necessary “good guys,” I found myself rooting for them both. Maybe not so much to get away with their crimes–but in the relationship department for sure.