Category Archives: Reviews

All She Wrote by Josh Lanyon

All She Wrote

All She Wrote by Josh Lanyon

Series: Holmes & Moriarty, Book 2
Published by: Samhain Publishing on December 28, 2010
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Christopher “Kit” Holmes cannot turn down a request to help out his former mentor, Anna Hitchcock. And he certainly wishes he could. But she’s called to ask him to step in and host a writing retreat at her home and he must heed the call. And to do so he must cancel yet another weekend with J.X. Moriarty, his new boyfriend, putting strain on an already tenuous relationship.

But Kit finds his problems are worse than he imagined after he arrives at Anna’s home. The fall that led to her injury and inability to host the event herself–well, it may not have been an accident. Anna suspects someone purposely injured her. And as Kit learns more about the various attendees at the writing retreat, he quickly learns that pretty much everyone around him has some level of motive for being the culprit. And Kit once again becomes an amateur sleuth, trying to find answers and unwittingly putting himself in danger. But will he be able to find out the truth before anyone else is hurt? And will he be able to make up with J.X. when all is said and done?

If you’ve read the first book in this series, you can expect a similar feel and approach in this second installment. Kit wanders unknowingly into a case and falls deep into his quest to solve it. Unexpected twists and turns fall onto his path along the way. And the danger becomes very real to him on more than one occasion. What’s different here is that the ending doesn’t wrap up quite as nicely as the first book. And probably not quite as nicely as most readers would like to see. But just as life is complex and doesn’t always go the way we’d expect or like, I appreciate this approach on some level myself.

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

As Red As Blood

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

Series: Lumikki Andersson, Book 1
Published by: Crown Books for Young Readers on January 17, 2017 (US release)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Lumikki Andersson is what many might describe as a loner. She purposely stays out of other people’s business and problems. To do otherwise will just lead to trouble that she knows she doesn’t need. But when she ends up in the middle of a life-or-death situation that three careless classmates stumbled into, she finds she has no choice but to see it through to the end. And the danger runs deeper than any of them can even imagine…

The overall story arc here is interesting. Action starts right away and pulls the reader into the world of these characters. And it’s a plot that I know I found I wanted to see to the end from the first few pages. But there are a few things that just didn’t quite settle for me. First, Lumikki is just a high school student but she acts like a highly-trained super agent at times, which I found difficult to accept. Second, the resolution seems a bit too tidy and abrupt for such a complicated story. But it is an entertaining and interesting read. It’s still a page turner even with those reservations. So I’d suggest giving it a read if you like suspense.

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

The Relics of Thiala by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

The Relics of Thiala

The Relics of Thiala by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Series: Packmasters, Book 1
Published by: Beryll & Osiris Brakhaus on February 15, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

The time of the Packmasters is in the past. But although they were wiped out, some of their genetically engineered bestiae were kept around. And while that may have seemed like an innocent thing to do, people need to take care with handling things they may not understand. And when Cat crosses paths with Ana, the two bond in an unexpected way–the bond of a Packmaster to her bestiae. To understand this bond, they will need to understand the world of the Packmasters and find out exactly what happened 20 years ago in a war that predates them. Perhaps the ways of the Packmasters haven’t been completely eradicated. And if that is the case, everyone may be in more danger than they realize…

I’m really intrigued by the world in which this story takes place. I feel like there’s a history here that has some interesting layers to be unraveled as this series continues. And I also am interested to see how the dynamic between Ana and her bestiae–especially Cat–plays out going forward.

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

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Series: Dark Gifts, Book 1
Published by: Del Rey Books on February 14, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The world is divided. There are the Equals who possess Skill, a form of inherent magic, and make up the ruling class in Britain and several other countries. And then there are the rest, the Unskilled, the commoners. And though Skill separates them, the Equals must ensure the commoners know their place. Which is why, when the Equals took power, the instituted the slavedays: all commoners must spend ten years in servitude to the Equals, either in a workhouse or on an Equal estate. It is only upon completion of the slavedays that a commoner has full rights in society.

For Luke and Abigail’s family, the slavedays have always been a bit of a shadow over them. Their parents didn’t complete their time before starting a family, so their place in the community has been limited. But in order to give their children more opportunities than they had, they’ve decided to complete them together, now, as a family. For Abigail (18), Luke (16), and Daisy (10), it seems a bit daunting, but they can appreciate having the support of their parents as they go through their ten-year of slave service. And Abigail has even arranged for them to work together at the estate of one of the foremost ruling families.

But things rarely ever go as planned. As the family departs to begin their service, they learn that Luke has been reassigned to the local slavetown and will not be joining them at the estate. While it at first seems devastating, Luke settles into his new community and quickly learns more about the Equals and the power dynamics in Britain than he ever learned in school. And he also learns that there are people who aren’t exactly happy with the current state of affairs and might just be prepared to do something about it.

Back at the estate, Abigail and Daisy are also settling in. Daisy is assigned to care for the illegitimate daughter of estate’s heir, which brings her into favor with the family, something she might just be able to use to her advantage. And Abigail finds herself drawn to the Unskilled son she is working for, as she grapples with feelings that might get her into more trouble than she bargained for.

But it turns out that the dissatisfaction with the current state of things doesn’t rest solely with the commoners. No, there are Equals who don’t like the direction Britain is headed, and they all have their reasons. In a game of politics and power, there is only so long to wait until everything reaches a tipping point and it all comes crashing down or explodes in a flurry of light. And this game provides no exception…

This is an incredible start to a new trilogy that had me on the edge of my seat for most of the book. The world building, the character development, the description–it’s all so wonderfully done. I had a very difficult time putting this down and ended up finishing it within the same day I started reading. It’s so easy to get lost in the world that Vic James has created.

There are some unexpected surprises along the way (I tried not to spoil much in my description above) that I didn’t see coming, but they still felt right. And there are some characters whose motivations I still find myself questioning–only because I don’t quite know which side of the fight they’re on. Something to explore in the future installments, to be sure!

I definitely recommend this to anyone interested in fantasy, dystopia, stories of intrigue, class/power struggles, and generally just good writing.

Everything You Need You Have by Gerad Kite

Everything You Need You Have

Everything You Need You Have: How to Be at Home in Your Self by Gerad Kite

Published by: Harmony Books on December 6, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

In today’s so society, too often we find ourself looking for fulfillment and validation through external sources. We look to other people. We look to material success. We are always looking out and rarely ever taking the time to stop and focus on what is within ourselves. In this book, Gerad Kite provides a framework he has developed from personal experience and working with clients for a number of years. According to Kite, if we learn to find the Home that exists within, we will not only feel more fulfilled but we will also minimize the swings that we so often feel between positive and negative extremes.

Kite’s model is interesting. I have no doubt that there are people who might find it to be profound and incredibly enlightening. Personally, I had trouble feeling like it resonated with me, but I appreciated the values of becoming more attuned to your own mind and body and letting that be more of a guide to happiness and calm that the world around you. So while I don’t foresee myself following his ten-step process, there are elements that I will certainly be making a focus of my own reflection over time.

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

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.]

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.]