Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Devil You Know by Erin M. Evans

The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know by Erin M. Evans

Series: Brimstone Angels, Book 6
Published by: Wizard’s of the Coast on October 4, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Things for Farideh seem to just get more and more tangled with every attempt to unravel the situations in which she’s found herself. The spirits of Brimstone Angels are back and they have an agenda all their own. Asmodeus is still working toward achieving the greatness he feels he so rightly deserves. And is Lorcan up to something that is in service to someone else…or does he have a path of his own to follow. What’s clear for everyone is that something needs to happen to put all of this business to an end. But in order to do that, Farideh may have to put herself, her friends, and her family in danger. And if this doesn’t work…well, let’s just say everyone really, really hopes it does.

Things have been building toward this finale for a while now. Every time Farideh felt she was getting a step closer to getting back to a normal life–or what passes for normal for her–it’s as though she’s instead taken a step back. And although she refuses to be a pawn for someone else, too often it seems like she has to give in if she wants to win. This time around, it appears there will be no exception.

I was a little disappointed with the ending. After such a long buildup, it felt a bit anticlimactic to me–which is why this is pulling a three-star rating. It’s still an enjoyable read, and fans of the series and character will enjoy getting some closure, even if it’s a more subdued closure than one might expect.

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

You Here Tonight by Candice Blake

You Here Tonight

You Here Tonight by Candice Blake

Series: You Here, Book 1
Published by: Candice Blake on December 26, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Kevin is an aspiring artist, working hard to earn his degree at a prestigious university. Kyle is the school’s star quarterback, and he’s only enrolled in an art class as a random elective. And because they couldn’t come together over the course of the semester to finish the final project they were partnered up to complete, they stand at risk of failing the class. Their only shot is an extension through the winter break–only a couple of weeks to put something together. Kevin offers for Kyle to come stay with his family for the holiday, providing them with the chance to use the entire break to complete their task. Kevin is a bit nervous about having Kyle in close proximity during that time, since Kyle is one of the most attractive guys he’s ever seen. But Kyle’s obviously a straight jock, right? And even if he wasn’t, he’d never go for a guy like Kevin, would he? As they spend their holiday trying to create art, the two young men just might have the chance to create something else completely unexpected.

The story here is one that intrigued me. There’s a lot of potential for conflict, push and pull, and self-discovery with this kind of plot. And those are among the types of stories that I enjoy. And once these two get going, that energy does find its way into the story. There is a bit of a slow start here during the setup, but once you get past that, things pick up and move at a fairly steady pace. Readers find themselves along for the ride, one that continues right up until these two find a place to land.

[Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected advance review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

2016 in Review: #6 & #5

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Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016. In week three of this series, we move up to the next two books on my top ten.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#6 Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes

Nonsense

Yes, I have some nonfiction on this best-reads-of-the-year list. And this one is what I would call a must read. Not only does it provide great insight into how we approach ambiguous or unclear situations, but it also provides some great strategies for how we can use those situations to our advantage. I also found myself looking at some situations that otherwise perplex me (like the 2016 election for the President of the United States) in new light. And it’s a fairly easy and accessible read. Consider picking it up!

Read my review from January 1 for more on this title.

#5 A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

There are so many examples of a sequel to an amazing fantasy title just sort of falling flat: this is definitely not one of them. V.E. Schwab takes readers right back into the work she created in A Darker Shade of Magic, and I found I didn’t want to leave. I am very much looking forward to the next installment in this series due out this year.

Read my review from December 29 for more on this title.

Chase the Ace by Clare London

Chase the Ace

Chase the Ace by Clare London

Series: London Lads, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on January 4, 2017 (2nd edition)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Newly single, Daniel Cross needs something to occupy his time. After joining social media, he decides it might be worth looking up the group of friends he spent a summer with at a local sports club in his youth. He’s curious to see what has come of each of them. And although he makes a quick first connection, he realizes upon the first meet up that he’s made a bit of a mistake and reached out to the wrong Carson brother. Nick Carson doesn’t seem bothered, though, and actually expresses some interest in Dan’s quest–even offering to travel with him as he tracks down each of the other boys. As they find each of the others and see where their lives have taken them, both Dan and Nick find themselves reflecting on their own choices and compelled to confess some secrets of their own.

When a book takes you on a journey, and you can see yourself traveling right along with the characters, it’s easy to find yourself lost in its pages. And that’s certainly my experience with this book. There’s quite the cast of characters (these boys have each grown up to become something very different), but the focus remains on Dan throughout. What is he learning from meeting each of his old friends? Why are these meetings so important to him? What is he really searching for? And will he know it if and when he finally finds it? A well-written tale of traveling through your past in search of a defining moment that contributed to who you are.

A Coal Miner’s Son by T.A. Chase

A Coal Miner's Son

A Coal Miner’s Son by T.A. Chase

Published by: Dreamspinner on January 4, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

James Callahan is the heir to a large mining operation who can’t seem to live up to his father’s expectations. For one, James has always been friendly and associated with the miners, and Nicholas Callahan doesn’t understand why his son wouldn’t want to spend his time with people of his same social standing. But to James, he’s never been any better than those who work the mines, and he’s not about to let his position or his wealth become a divider. He’s been best friends with Owain for years. And Owain’s older brother, Cai, always has a way of turning James’s head–even if Cai avoids James at all costs.

Cai Rees doesn’t deny the fact that James is cute. He is. But they come from two different worlds. James is rich and the Callahans all think they are better than the miners, don’t they? How could they ever have anything in common. And would Cai really want to put up with James’s high-class family all the time? No, Cai is right to stay away. But when Cai finds he needs James’s help with some family drama, he quickly realizes it may be much harder to stay away than he’d first imagined it would be.

I have a soft spot for stories of people who have secretly harbored feelings for each other for years and finally see the chance to act on them. And when you’ve been carrying around feelings for a long time, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to express or process them. Sometimes it can be even harder to act when you’ve been holding yourself back for so long. And for Cai and James, years of family dynamics and assumptions layered on top of everything make for some additional challenges…and opportunities.

Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Shylock is my name

Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Published by: Hogarth on February 9, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

As the name suggests, this is a modern author’s take on retelling <i>The Merchant of Venice</i> for a contemporary audience. I often enjoy Shakespeare adaptations that are done well, so of course I figured I’d check this one out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed with this one as I’d hoped. Jacobson’s take on the story is confusing, incredibly complex, and difficult to wade through. I’m not sure if he intended it as more of an intellectual take than a literary one, but it came across to me as highly inaccessible in the writing style and overall storytelling.

That said, it is a creative take in comparing the original tale to how a similar situation might play out in the modern world. For the concept alone, I do have to give the author some credit. And that’s why this pulls three stars from me when I probably would have been inclined to rate it lower based on my overall enjoyment and reading of the book.

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

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin

Last Train to Istanbul

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin

Published by: AmazonCrossing on October 8, 2013 (translation)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Selva is the daughter of a traditional Turkish man who disowned her when she decided to marry Rafael Alfandari, son of a prominent physician–and a Jew. As much as it pained her to lose the connection to her family, Selva had to follow her heart. And to get out of the shadow of disapproval from both sets of parents, Selva and Rafael relocated to France where they had a son and made a life for themselves. But things changed quickly when the Nazis invaded France and began seeking out and rounding up Jews. While Turkey, being neutral in the conflict, has been able to keep some of their Jewish citizens from being taken, they worry that they may not be able to protect them in the face of continuing extreme approaches by Nazi officials. In an effort to keep their citizens safe, Turkish officials arrange for a train to bring a single car of Turkish citizens home. But for people like Selva, whose community includes friends who are not Turkish but are clearly in danger, there’s a compulsion to take a risk to protect them. And it’s a risk that could lead to consequences for everyone…

This is a wonderfully-written and well-researched piece of writing that I am so glad I took the time to read. While this period of humanity’s history is challenging to approach and read about, I think it’s incredibly important that we don’t simply ignore it. And thankfully this story provides the contrast between those who acted with very little regard for others and those who are willing to risk themselves in service of doing what’s right. You’ll quickly become connected to these characters. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll enjoy an excellent story that embodies the better aspects of our nature.

2016 in Review: #8 & #7

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Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016. In week two of this series, we move up to the next two books on my top ten.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#8 Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen

A promising start to a dystopian YA series with more of a fantasy bent, I found myself enjoying this title despite the whole “compromised-by-romance-with-a-boy” trope. The worldbuilding was fascinating to me and the story itself is engaging and interesting. There are some fun twists to be seen as the story unfolds. (I just wish the sequel had turned out to be better than it was…)

Read my review from February 21 for more on this title.

#7 Reclaiming Hope by Shell Taylor

Reclaiming Hope

I don’t know what else to say about this book that I didn’t say in my review, but it’s one that still sticks with me a while after reading it. It tells a story that you definitely don’t see much in popular entertainment or mainstream books, but it’s a story that needs to be told. I’m hoping for the potential to see more of these characters or similar stories from this author.

Read my review from January 8 for more on this title.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Series: Untitled Series, Book 1
Published by: Del Rey Books on January 10, 2017
Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Vasilisa (Vasya) lives with her family in the Russian wilderness, where the winters are hard and long but they work together to make it through. And one of the hallmarks of those winter nights is the gathering of the children around the oven to hear tell of fairy tales and legends from their history. They are stories that are being quickly left behind with the spread of Christianity throughout their lands. But Vasya knows there’s some truth to them. She can see the household spirits–the subject of several of the nightly stories. Vasya also knows that as people stop paying mind to these spirits, they become weak and lose their hold over the families land and the ability to keep them protected from more malevolent beings. And there is a danger lurking just beyond the trees waiting for the right opportunity to leap out from the shadows.

I struggle with where to begin with this story because I want to avoid spoilers as much as I can. I even feel like my synopsis above might be too much if it wasn’t for the fact that most of this information can be gleaned from the publisher’s blurb. But I will say this is an excellent fantasy title, referencing mythology of Russia with a strong emphasis on family dynamics. The characters are well written, especially Vasya who faces a number of challenges and moments of growth throughout the book. And the narration easily brings this world to life on the page.

This is the first book in what the author plans to be a trilogy–I certainly look forward to the next installment.

Private Truths by C.B. Lewis

Private Truths

Private Truths by C.B. Lewis

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on December 2, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After struggling with addiction after returning from Army service, Jack McCall turned his life around and now devotes his time to a charity that assists homeless veterans in London. He’s devoted to the charity and the cause, and he works hard to do the best he can. Which is why he goes so far as to approach Edward Marsden, Viscount Routhsley, about supporting the charity. Edward is known for his philanthropy but he’s equally well-known for his philandering. As Jack gets to know Edward, however, he quickly learns that Edward’s public image couldn’t be further from who the man really is. The two have many things in common–and something Jack did not expect at all. As they grow closer, they struggle to keep their relationship a secret. Jack worries that if it got out, it might cast some doubt on what he did to secure the donation for his charity. And Edward doesn’t want his sexuality to overshadow the work he does for several important causes. But secrets can only be kept for so long, especially by those who are very much in the public eye. Eventually, they will have to make a decision and be willing to accept the consequences of whichever choice they make.

Perception is what defines reality. It can be easy for us, in the abstract, to say that people should follow their hearts when it comes to love. That’s the romanticized view anyway. Don’t let love pass you by. But for people whose actions and relationships will be scrutinized and picked apart first by the media and then by the general public, it’s not as easy as just thinking about what you want. The masses love a scandal. And we also love to fill in the missing details of any story with the juiciest possible explanations. So for people like a viscount or the poster-child for an important charity, actions and choices can have an impact. And the appearance of impropriety is just as good–in terms of public currency–as actual impropriety. This is an excellent look at what it means to find love in the face of celebrity and balancing the public good with personal choices. If only we could all just live our lives…