Monthly Archives: December 2016

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic, Book 2
Published by: Tor Books on February 23, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In the four months since the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, both Delilah Bard and Kell have tried to put those things in their past. While Lilah has found a place on a pirate ship by putting her skills to use in acquiring things for the captain, she’s still finding her place in a world that isn’t hers. She’s learning to use magic, and she knows she can’t avoid returning to Red London (and Kell) forever. For Kell, it’s been much harder to distance himself. In the aftermath, he finds himself kept in the palace more than ever before, with tensions between him and King Maxim seeming only to grow with each passing day. But Red London is preparing for a major tournament–the Elemental Games–which may provide just enough distraction for everyone and some much needed relief. But one must be careful of distractions, as they have a tendency to distract from other dangers lurking beneath the surface…

I’ve had a copy of this since it was released, but it has taken me some time to get it open and read. That’s not because I wasn’t excited for it–I really have been. A Darker Shade of Magic was one of the best books I read last year. And that’s exactly why I waited. I wanted to make sure I had the time and space to truly experience and enjoy the next installment in this series. And it didn’t take long to get into the rhythm of these characters, to remember the wonder that these worlds left me with the first time around, and to try to anticipate some of the twists that really did surprise me. If you like high fantasy that doesn’t get bogged down too much in the details at the expense of keeping the plot moving, this is honestly a series for you. And I am personally looking forward to the conclusion in the early part of 2017.

The Wizard’s Desire by Anna Wineheart

The Wizard's Desire

The Wizard’s Desire by Anna Wineheart

Published by: Anna Wineheart on December 6, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After an accident with magic caused Kei to nearly lose his parents when he was younger–and left them unable to remember who he is–he decided to avoid witches and wizards at all costs. He’s made a good life for himself as a firefighter. But when a witch moves in upstairs and starts causing him problems, he’s not quite sure how much he can take. That is, until he finds himself magically inside of a snow globe…

Orion is a wizard who never seemed to have the best of luck in controlling his magic. So for the safety of others, he agreed to be shut away inside a snow globe where he could his spend his days tending to his garden without anyone being hurt. And while it may be a lonely endeavor, he’s understood the sacrifice that he must make for the good of others. So he’s unprepared and a bit nervous when a mysterious new person shows up in the snow globe. A mysterious and very attractive person, that is.

Can Orion get his magic under control to find a way to help Kei get back out of the snow globe? And can Kei trust a wizard when he’s never been able to before? Can their time in the snow globe bring them together? And if it does, what happens after Kei leaves and Orion stays behind?

I know the word unique is not the best descriptor. But dang it, that’s exactly what this book is. There is a wonderful world and backstory created by the author here, and the two men whose lives readers get to glimpse are just as complex and realistic (well, apart from the whole use of magic thing). There are many layers to this story and to the characters. There’s a lot for them to work through individually and with each other. And the author provides space for that to happen without belaboring any of it. It’s actually a bit of a refreshing read. Also, Orion is a wonderfully cheeky character who deserves some additional attention in his own right…

I give this one a solid recommendation–especially for those who enjoy their m/m romance with a hefty dose of fantasy and just a small sprinkling of angst.

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

Darkness Savage by Rachel A. Marks

Darkness Savage

Darkness Savage by Rachel A. Marks

Series: The Dark Cycle, Book 3
Published by: Skyscape on October 11, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Aidan faces a difficult decision. He always knew his gift (though he often thought it a curse) would be the key to defeating a demonic force. He just never expected that force would manifest in his own sister. He will need to find a way to stop her; it’s just a matter of whether he can stop her and save her at the same time. He works to bring his team together, his “Lights” as he’s been told they are called. And his friend Rebecca, who he was certain was not a Light, suddenly finds herself with powers all her own. With so much at stake and so many variables at play, what will Aidan decide? And will he have the power to carry out his plan of action?

The final installment of this series does not disappoint! This unique world that Rachel Marks has created managed to draw me back in as quickly as it did in the last two books. And the twists and turns that are thrown at the reader–it’s quite a journey! This is an absolutely fitting third act. My only major disappointment is that the story has come to an end. I certainly look forward to more from this author.

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

Commitment Ranch by B.A. Tortuga

Commitment Ranch

Commitment Ranch by B.A. Tortuga

Series: Leaning N Ranch, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on September 15, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Ford Nixel left his family ranch behind back when he was in college and never looked back. After Uncle Ty took in Stoney, Ford’s ex-boyfriend, and gave him a job, and then Stoney went off and had a kid with Ford’s (now late) cousin, he’d had enough. And he’s managed to make quite a life for himself with law offices in both Santa Fe and Austin. So when Uncle Ty announces he’s signing over his half of the ranch to Ford, it’s both unexpected and a bit unwelcome for all involved.

But Ford values the family ranch, and he wants to work to keep it going. And as much as he despises Stoney, he can’t hold those feelings against Stoney’s son, Quartz. So he moves in, deciding that he’ll only be at the ranch part of the time and spend the rest of his days immersed in his law practice. But it turns out the ranch may need more of his attention than he originally thought. And being so close to Stoney brings some intense feelings to bear–and not all of them are the burning hatred he would like to believe they are. But it also turns out that some of the facts of Ford’s situation with Stoney are not at all what he assumed. Can they put the ill feelings of the past behind them for the sake of saving the ranch? And in the process, might they also find those feelings they thought they lost so many years ago?

I would sum this up by saying it’s an entertaining and engaging story about two stubborn cowboys whose stubbornness gets in the way of their own happiness. These two… you’ll find yourself shaking your head more than once. But there’s also a great cast of supporting characters who are interesting and fun in their own right. And since this is the start of a series, I hope we get to see some focused stories involving some of them in the near future.

Vampire Prince by S.J. Frost

Vampire Prince

Vampire Prince by S.J. Frost

Series: Paranormal Nobles, Book 1
Published by: Ellora’s Cave on March 7, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Three years ago, Sebastian Beaumont was tricked. Having been kicked out by his parents when they discovered he was gay, Sebastian tried to make it on the streets. But living on the streets is hard enough for an adult; it can be even harder for a teenager. So the offer for a roof over his head, good food, and security was something he jumped at. He just didn’t expect that he would be come a blood slave, forced to let random vampires feed off of him, in exchange. And he expects he will die in Wesley’s blood house.

Sebastian’s outlook changes when a mysterious new patron arrives and selects him. Valentin is a vampire prince–something Sebastian didn’t know existed. The two hit it off quickly, and when Sebastian is threatened, Valentin buys Sebastian’s contract off a reluctant Wesley and takes him home. Sebastian is free, but for someone who has been enslaved and expected to die that way, freedom is a difficult concept. And Valentin has some wounds of his own. Of course, there’s also the fact that Wesley feels scorned over the loss of one of his slaves, and he may stop at nothing to get him back. With the cards stacked against them, can Sebastian and Valentin find a way to make this work?

There’s something I really enjoyed about the world in which this story takes place. I mean, yes the concept of blood slaves isn’t a huge stretch in a vampire universe, though I don’t know that I’ve read many stories that have featured something like that. But the interaction with demons, the backstory of how vampires were created, and some of the other lore kept me intrigued. And Beezle–everyone needs a Beezle.

There isn’t as much focus here on the development of the relationship between Sebastian and Valentin, but that was okay with me. There was a good balance between focusing on them and letting other characters shine while drawing readers into this world. Definitely an enjoyable read.

Double Full by Kindle Alexander

Double Full

Double Full by Kindle Alexander

Series: Nice Guys, Book 1
Published by: Kindle Alexander on October 7, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Star quarterback Colton Michaels takes a chance one night in the locker room during his senior year of college: he lets cheerleader Jace Montgomery know he finds him attractive. The two share an intense sexual moment before parting ways. Then Colt takes it a step further, inviting Jace to spend the break with him in Hawaii. But after a few bliss-filled days in paradise, Colt’s world comes crashing down. The reality of his future as a professional football star and a continued relationship with Jace are in direct conflict. And those around Colt make it clear what will happen to him–and to Jace–if things continue. Colt is left only with his career and alcohol to get him through his loss.

Heartbroken by Colt’s abandonment, Jace managed to make the best of things. He’s built the largest and most successful cheerleading gym in the country. And while his success has brought him some fulfillment, there’s something missing. So when Colt shows up in Hawaii when Jace is there on vacation, his heart leaps at the chance to have Colt back in his life after a ten-year absence. But he also knows he can’t go through losing Colt all over again. Can Colt really reconcile a life with Jace and his career? Can Jace find a way to trust that Colt will stay this time? And what of those outside forces that interfered the first time they found each other? Will they let them ride off into the sunset?

Yeah, yeah. There seems to be no shortage of the “jock must stay in the closet to have a professional career” m/m romance stories these days. It’s such a common trope that the sheer volume alone must tell us that there are more than a handful of men living this life at present. And it also makes one wonder when we will reach the day where we read one of these and go “really?” But the fact remains, it is still culturally a “thing.”

What makes this one different is the very real outside forces that are stopping Colt from living his life the way he would like. It’s not so much that he fears what his team or the fans will say. No, he has some incredible family pressures, threats of violence, and legitimate reasons to fear for Jace’s safety. I can assure you that you will find Colt’s father disgusting. But there are still those who have to live Colt’s reality in this regard too.

In our lives, we have to make choices. And there are moments where we have to weigh following our hearts or following our heads. And sometimes we have to decide if we want to follow our heart in one direction or go the opposite–both showing that we care, just in different ways. To love takes courage, even when it’s not in the face of physical violence. In caring for someone and embracing them fully, we risk giving up parts of ourselves we can’t get back. We risk losing them and never being able to fill the hole that is left when they go. But we gain loving support in return. We gain the opportunity live our lives fully. We gain a truth that isn’t found in any other act…

A Christmas Bonus by E.M. Lynley

A Christmas Bonus

A Christmas Bonus by E.M. Lynley

Published by: Silk Road Press on December 17, 2014 (2nd edition)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Alec Compton is so close to making partner as his Wall Street investment firm. There’s just one catch: he needs to close a deal that one of his colleagues couldn’t, and he has to do it by the end of the year. And the end of the year is only a couple of weeks away. Alec springs into action, taking a meeting right away with the intended buyer, Brant Linton. Brant is a billionaire, and a well-known mogul of corporate mergers and acquisitions. And, as Alec quickly observes, he’s incredibly attractive. Alec walks away from their meeting with a plan, and it seems like everything is in order. Until a falling out between Brant and his current boyfriend causes him to leave town early for the holidays. Not to be deterred, Alec follows Brant, willing to go to any length to get him to sign the deal. And Alec’s resolve is quickly tested; Brant’s sister has forbidden any business dealings over the holidays, so Alec must pose as Brant’s boyfriend if he’s going to have the chance to convince Brant to sign the contract. But will what appears to be mutual attraction be a help or a hindrance to getting Alec toward his goal? And if sparks do fly, are either of them really willing to mix business with pleasure?

There are so many layers to this story: mixing business with something more, family drama, sibling rivalry and competition, career versus relationships, and the ends justifying the means. Don’t let that scare you into think this is a heavy or heady story; it’s not. It’s an easy and entertaining read. But there’s a realness to the characters and the situations that provides the opportunity for readers to think through some of the complexities that exist in our lives: work, family, love, and otherwise.

Unbreak My Heart by K-lee Klein

Unbreak My Heart

Unbreak My Heart by K-lee Klein

Series: Unbreak My Heart, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on August 5, 2016 (2nd edition)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

For the past three years, Brett Taylor has put everything he has into his ranch. After losing the man who meant everything to him, the ranch seemed like all he had left. And while Brett would say he’s doing just fine, those around him can see that he’s struggling to let go, to move on. And Brett’s mother has no reservations about making her opinion known. So when she brings JT Campbell to the ranch after finding him along the road, it’s clear she has more in mind than Brett giving him a job. And through her machinations, the two men grow closer. But JT has some baggage from his own past, and there are secrets that Brett isn’t very willing to share. Can they find a way to get past it and see if they can each truly be what the other needs?

This is one of those stories where the only obstacles the characters face are themselves. Brett is in his own way, but it’s not something he can see. And JT can’t find his way in, even though his professional training should give him some good ideas of how to approach the situation. Even with everyone around them rooting for the two of them to make it, they still struggle to make it through. But it’s a charming and endearing read, that I recommend for a cold or rainy day when just want something comforting and sweet. (And as long as you don’t mind wanting to shake Brett repeatedly throughout the book.)

Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

Murder on the Mountain

Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on August 22, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Jesse Morales expected his time volunteering for a week on the summer of Mt. Washington to be somewhat uneventful. But when he discovers a corpse out in the wilderness in the middle of the night, the aspiring mystery novelist finds himself right in the center of a real-life murder mystery. And when he meets one of the investigating police officers, Kyle Dubois, he wonders if there might be even more in store for him before he goes back home.

When Kyle heads out to the crime scene, he’s not entirely sure what to expect. And he certainly doesn’t expect to find himself drawn to the young man who found the body. But despite his annoying penchant for wanting to get involved in the investigation, Kyle cannot deny that Jesse is attractive. So much that he thinks he may need to do something about it–something he’ll have to explain to his partner, as Jesse would be Kyle’s first relationship since his wife died.

Despite Kyle’s better judgment, he decided to give Jesse a chance. And despite what should probably be Jesse’s better judgment, he inserts himself among the suspects, hoping he might be able to find out who committed the murder to solve the mystery and help Kyle–even if it means putting himself in grave danger.

This is probably one of the lighter murder mysteries that I’ve read in a while. It doesn’t have that dark feeling overshadowing it from the beginning like so many books of the genre tend to have as a feature. That’s not to say there aren’t some dark themes; they do crop up pretty strongly as one approaches the end of the book. But there’s space here for Kyle and Jesse to develop a relationship without it seeming completely morbid. And I have to say that I didn’t see some of the twists coming, which is something I appreciate in a good mystery novel.

Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles

Flight of Magpies

Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles

Series: A Charm of Magpies, Book 3
Published by: Samhain Publishing on October 28, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Life for Stephen Day has never really been what one would call normal. But things are getting weird even for him. The justiciary is still in the process of rebuilding their forces, and one of the apprentices may be going mad with power. Of course, this only adds to the stress between Stephen and his lover, Lord Crane. A stress that comes to a head over the investigation of a theft in which Crane finds himself the victim. Can Stephen help solve the theft, figure out what’s going on with the young apprentice, and keep his relationship afloat?

I have enjoyed this series; the combination of historical and paranormal always has a way of drawing me in. And the characters here are the same characters that I’ve grown to enjoy reading about during the previous two installments. I have to say that I do feel like there’s just a little bit too much going on in this one, though. There’s the case at the core, there’s the drama with the justiciary, there’s the short-staffing of the judiciary–it’s just so many layers and makes things suddenly more complex than I feel they have been thus far. Perhaps I just wasn’t ready for this turn. I still enjoyed this book, and I absolutely recommend it. It just didn’t quite hit the spot in the way I expected it would.