Series: Hours of the Night, Book 2
Published by: Prescourt Books on October 12, 2017 Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
When a prominent society lady (and, as it turns out, essentially the head of a powerful coven) mysteriously dies at her own party, the only thing anyone knows for certain is that foul play is more than suspected. So it’s also no surprise that Thaddeus and Sarasija find themselves working to track down the murderer. And if it’s not enough to be on the trail of someone (or something) nefarious, they still need to track down the missing grimoire (a.k.a. guide to demon summoning) while Thaddeus is struggling to keep himself in control and Sara is having strange dreams that he is keeping to himself. Recipe for disaster? Probably. But these two just might be up to the challenge.
I was excited to see another installment in this series. There was something about Thaddeus and Sara that drew me in when I read Vespers, and that something is definitely still here. These two have experiences that are so different–they’re even from different eras, really–and through those differences they have managed to find something that works for them. Now, sometimes it doesn’t work as well as others, but I think it’s safe to say that is true of nearly any relationship. There are some unexpected twists to rush down in reading this story, and–I’ll just put it out there now–there are some unanswered questions that remain at the end. But that’s what book three is for, right?
[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the authors.]
Published by: Dial Books on August 1, 2017 Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)
Sam Walsh went missing three years ago, presumed kidnapped and gone without a trace. His older sister, Beth, believed he was dead. His best friend, Josh, was wracked with guilt that maybe he could have done something to stop him from being taken. They both worried that they somehow contributed to Sam’s disappearance. But when Sam is found alive, their worlds change all over again. While Sam is indeed Sam, his experience and his ordeal have changed him. As Beth and Josh deal with relating to the new Sam, Sam also needs to find a way to adapt to his own new reality. And then there’s the age-old question: Do we talk about everything that happened as a means of processing it, or do we keep it all bottled up with the hope that we can just move past it? And the answer may be somewhere in between–a happy medium that is different for all three of them.
Told from the perspectives of Beth and Josh, this is a powerful and poignant story about love, regret, growing up, secrets, trauma, and simply dealing with the realities of life. This is likely to be a challenging read for some, especially considering the truth of what happened to Sam. But the author deals with the subject matter in a real and raw way, while demonstrating a sensitivity to Sam and to the others affected and impacted by the ordeal. There is no quick fix here for anyone. And sometimes we have to open doors when we know we won’t like what’s on the other side because if we leave the door closed, what’s there will simply continue to haunt us. There’s a lot for these teenagers to deal with in this story, but there’s also a strength that each one of them demonstrates that I can only say is inspiring and instructional.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published by: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on February 21, 2012 Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)
Aristotle (Ari) could be described as a bit of a loner, keeping people at least an arm’s length away. But when he goes to the swimming pool one day in the summer (even though he can’t really swim), he finds a potential new friend in Dante. Although Dante is also a bit of a loner, he’s less jaded and more spirited than Ari, which seems at first like it may not bode well for a budding friendship. As the two get to know each other better, however, they learn that they can find commonality even in their differences. They face a number of challenges, both individually and together, that bring them together in ways neither expected.
This is a beautifully-written and compelling narrative. Written from Ari’s perspective, there is an authenticity to the narration that brings the characters to life on the page. The development of the characters (including those in the background) is defined and believable, presented in ways that make sense in the context of the plot and that keep readers connected to and grounded in this universe. Incredibly enjoyable and moving at the same time.
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on January 26, 2012 Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)
Jesse Turbul has tried hard to put the traumatic events of his last relationship behind him. The experience left him unable to trust–not just someone else but even himself–and as much as he wants to move on, it seems like the reminders just keep coming back to haunt him. When he meets Aadon in the library, he finds himself wanting to get past his issues more than ever, but he learns that you can’t rush things that shouldn’t be rushed. What Jesse doesn’t know is that Aadon is dealing with some issues of his own. His brother, Ricky, experienced some trauma of his own in his youth, and after turning to drugs to cope, is in a facility–and Aadon is the only member of his family who is willing to support and stand by him. It is a lot for one person to take on, and while it might make him uniquely suited to understand where Jesse is coming from, it might also mean that Aadon is much closer to his own breaking point than anyone realizes. Can the two find the right balance between love, support, and space to deal?
There is a lot of backstory here that reveals itself as the book goes on and brings out the characters’ pasts (especially Jesse’s) in layers. This works to help readers understand the complexity of the issues at play without throwing everyone our way all at once. There are some details that are never revealed, but this is balanced with enough information to get the picture and a recognition that those details aren’t necessary to engage with the plot and the characters and understand what they are going through. I found this to be an enjoyable and interesting read, and although it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, there is a bit of an uplifting feel to it overall.
Series: The Mannies, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on January 1, 2017 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Tino Robbins has always worked hard to achieve his goals. He’s taken his education seriously, and he’s managed to balance working and attending college to keep himself on track. And it’s all about to pay off as he approaches graduation with a business degree and a trajectory for a bright future. But when he covers one evening for his sister’s dinner box delivery service, he finds himself bumped off that trajectory and not sure if he can get back on track. To blame? Channing Lowell, a charming and successful businessman who has just gained custody of his young nephew, Sammy, after his sister’s tragic passing. Tino’s quick connection with Sammy and ability to calm the chaos in the Lowell household after just a few minutes of being there leads Channing to make a lucrative proposition: if Tino will be Sammy’s manny for the summer, Channing will pay off Tino’s student loans and provide him with a glowing letter of recommendation, which should be enough for him to get a job anywhere. The offer seems too good to be true. And there’s also the fact that Tino’s not sure he could spend the entire summer living in the same house with Channing and hold not his virginity. But he also can’t help but question if that’s such a bad thing…
What an interesting cast of characters in this one! There is honestly quite a bit packed into these 228 pages, and it is interesting to watch the various characters–Tino, Channing, and Sammy for sure, but also some of the supporting cast–go through some major changes over the course of this book. Nothing seems forced, though, and as a reader, there was just enough reality laced into what many might see as a bit of a fantasy-type situation. How often does one just show up at a fancy house and get an offer like Channing’s? But as readers get to know him a bit better, it’s easy to understand why it doesn’t faze him much at all to make his proposition. Worth a read!
The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shawn David Hutchinson
Published by: Simon Pulse on January 20, 2015 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Andrew Brawley’s life changed forever in one night. His parents and sister dead, he found his only choice to remain in the hospital–but not as a patient. Drew sleeps in an empty supply closet, works in the cafeteria (being paid under the table), and befriends many of the long-term patients. His cover story is that he’s visiting his sick grandmother who is in a coma, and while many of the staff don’t necessarily believe it, they let it slide. And as long as he can steer clear of a too-inquisitive social worker, he knows he could keep this going for a while. But one night when he sees a young man brought in to the emergency room, apparently set on fire by his classmates, Drew is immediately drawn to the new patient. Drew feels for him, and in some ways he sees a kindred spirit. As he learns more about Rusty’s situation, and eventually gets to know him after he wakes him, Drew begins to wonder if there could be a potential future in which they might leave the hospital together. But before that can happen, Drew needs to face the demons that have kept him in the hospital in the first place–and those just might lead to the undoing of the life he has built.
I think the one word that stands out to me most after finishing this book would be “refreshing.” Drew is far from perfect. And the author does not try to hide or mask that in any way during this book. There is a realness to it that I don’t think I always get from young adult titles, and I found myself really connecting to the material and the characters as a result. An interesting and insightful read.
Published by: Viking on October 20, 2016 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Thomas McNulty is a seventeen-year-old Irish immigrant in the 1850s who decides to enlist in the U.S. Army. It’s not a first-choice sort of decision, but it’s also not like he has a lot of options. His best friend, John Cole, joins up with him, and the two serve as a rock for each other as they are faced with the trials of army life and the viciousness and hardships they must endure. Their lives before the army and after the army are what some might see as unusual, but for Thomas and John, it is what it is. And neither of them would have it any other way.
This is a challenging one to get into as it is written in Thomas’s voice, which is rather affected. But once I found myself getting into the groove of the narration and the story, I found that I really enjoyed Sebastian Barry’s method of storytelling. The adventures of John and Thomas are interesting (though there are some bleak and some violent moments), and they help illustrate the ideas of love and family–the importance of those concepts and the ways in which they can triumph over even some of the most dire circumstances.
The Case of the Insufferable Slave by Gillian St. Kevern
Published by: Goodreads M/M Romance Group on June 25, 2014 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
In an alternate universe where the United States remains split between the North and the South, Private Detective Harry Flint is finally setting out on his own thanks to his benefactor, a major crime boss whose life he saved. Flint already feels as though he has taken more than he is comfortable with when a young slave, Friday, arrives at his doorstep as a “gift”. Flint has no intention of keeping Friday, but he also knows that he needs to tread lightly–the key word in crime boss is crime, after all. And when a case falls in Flint’s lap that Friday might be connected to, he finds even more reason to keep him close. The layers of danger that lurk for both of them are deeper and more complex than either could have imagined…and are just enough to draw them together in unexpected ways as well.
I was not quite sure what to think when I started this story, but I found myself pleasantly surprised as I worked my way through it. It reads like a classic detective story, and the images it painted in my mind were like a good old sepia caper. The twists and turns will keep you guessing, and the dynamic that builds between Flint and Friday pulls readers on their journey–understanding both sides of their situation.
Published by: Tor on October 25, 2016 Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
Aqib bgm Sadiqi finds that his association to the royal family (fourth cousin) can be a blessing and a curse. Sure, relative fame and fortune have their privileges. But there are expectations that come with a role that he never asked to take on. And those expectations may stand in the way of Aqib’s rapidly-blossoming affection (and lust) for Lucrio, a Daluçan soldier who would be well below his station even without the expectation that Aqib take for himself a blushing bride. Some things in life are worth fighting for, however, especially when one gets a small taste of what life could be and the path of least resistance means leaving that feeling and that life behind. But if society is good at anything, it’s telling people how to live…and can Aqib and Lucrio stand up against that and make it through with that feeling and their life together still intact?
Reading this novella, for me, was like falling down a hole into this world, a world in which I have never been, to the point where I could feel the longing, the desire, the loss, the frustration, etc. that Aqib experiences. Wilson has created a rich fantasy world with enough backstory and the right connections to our own society that readers should have no trouble connecting with and understanding the characters, even though they are not our contemporaries. At the same time, the pacing of the story and the sequence of events allows readers to get lost in this world, with no desire to come out until the story is finished. And being novella-length, this is one that you need not feel bad at all for devouring in one sitting.
Series: Sci-Regency, Book 2
Published by: Samhain Publishing in November 2008 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Prince Payton Townsend is on a mission to find his kidnapped brother and bring him home. To help ensure his own safety and give himself access to information, he’s disguised himself as an Admiral’s assistant. But Payton’s ruse also unexpectedly gives him access to Marine Colonel Simon Hollister. And just as Payton is drawn to Simon, Simon is drawn to Payton in return. But there are things about Simon that Payton also does not know. Like that Simon is heir to the throne of Englor, the planet on which Payton believes his brother is being held. And that the culture of Simon’s planet is unlikely to take as kindly to any sort of relations between them as Payton may be used to at home. Can they manage to find a way to be together? And might Simon be able to help Payton find his brother? And what of Payton when his mission is completed? Will he return home and leave Simon behind?
An excellent follow up to the first book in this series. I enjoyed the way the story dives right into not only the action of the story but the setup for some of the conflict that comes later in the book. Readers can expect to fall right into this futuristic world that J.L. Langley has created that in many ways also seems timeless in the issues the characters deal with and the challenges they face.