Tag Archives: published: 2014-05

Saugatuck Summer by Amelia C. Gormley

Saugatuck Summer

Saugatuck Summer by Amelia C. Gormley

Series: Saugatuck, Book 1
Published by: Riptide Publishing on May 17, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Topher Carlisle is looking forward to this summer. He’s staying with his best friend, Mo, at her family’s beach house on Lake Michigan. Well, he’s staying at the house more than with Mo, since she’ll be spending most of the summer working at a camp. But it’s a free place to stay with easy access to getting in the daily swims he needs to keep in form to hold onto his swimming scholarship when he gets back to school. And he might even be able to make some money to bridge the difference between his scholarship and his full expenses.

Topher also thinks there might be a chance he could meet a guy or two at the beach. And he’s not there long before he sees a total hottie. There’s just one problem–he’s Mo’s straight, married father, Brendan. So Topher shakes that one off and tells himself he needs to get over it since Brendan will be staying at the house with him all summer.

And Topher finds a much-needed distraction in Jace, an artist from Chicago who is more than willing to be Topher’s birthday one-night stand. But Topher lets Jace into a place where no one else is allowed to tread, and that just might come back to haunt him later.

As the summer goes on, everything starts to fall apart. Issues surface between Topher and Brendan. His night with Jace led to some unexpected results. And there’s some family drama that Topher hoped he could stay out of that demands his attention. And none of this is good for someone like Topher who is nursing some long-standing issues as a result of emotional and sexual abuse in his childhood. Can he accept that it’s okay to put those things in the past and move on? Is it possible for Topher to recognize the patterns he’s stuck in so he can break out of them? And can he maybe, actually, find love?

I’m often a bit nervous when it comes to first-person narration. I find that it can be difficult for many authors to sustain a character voice for the entire length of a novel. And then there’s the whole issue of only being able to show what the narrator sees, thinks, and feels. But when a good storyteller does first-person well, I find myself hooked from beginning to end. And this author has managed to construct a well-written narrative that never lost me at any point.

Topher’s story is a complex one. There’s not only a large cast of characters in his life during the summer of the story, but there’s also the issues that haunt him from his past. And every one of those–the people and the issues–seem like they want to pull him in a different direction. There’s definitely a great deal of tension throughout this story, though it never veers too far into the angst camp.

The only reason this doesn’t pull a higher rating from me is pacing. It’s not a tremendous problem–the writing is great, so I never felt myself wandering–but the story could probably have been shored up just a bit to add to the tension and drama. Still give this a solid recommendation, though.

Love is a Stranger by John Wiltshire

Love is a Stranger

Love is a Stranger by John Wiltshire

Series: More Heat than the Sun, Book 1
Published by: MLR Press on May 16, 2014
Rating: 4 stars (★★★☆☆)

Ex-SAS soldier Ben Rider never expected that when he joined a secret intelligence department that he would fall in love with his boss. After all, Sir Nikolas Mikkelsen is married to a beautiful woman, but he’s so intriguing that Ben doesn’t really stand a chance. He might feel bad about carrying on an affair with a married man, but he’s never felt anything as intensely as what he feels for Nik. But the life of a shadow operative is a dangerous one, and things can change so quickly one doesn’t know where to turn. And when such a turn happens that might allow Ben and Nik more time together, Ben is cautiously optimistic. He really shouldn’t dismiss the cautious part of that optimism, though, because he beings to realize more and more that he really doesn’t know much about Nik at all. Well, except that he knows Nik is his soulmate. But is that enough to look past any dark secrets that might be lingering in Nik’s past?

I had a hard time putting this one down. There’s such a great combination of relationship development between these two and suspenseful plot elements, that when I wasn’t caught up in Ben and Nik, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for what would happen next. There’s some complex history that lingers underneath the surface for both of these guys, and neither of them is really willing to confront it. And even when Ben does start to learn the truth, I felt like his reaction was very authentic and made a lot of sense for him as a character.

The only thing that really bugged me about this one–and it’s what brought this very quickly down from four stars to three stars–is the ending. There is a great deal of build toward the ending–chapters, even–and then it cuts off RIGHT before what should be the climax of that aspect of the plot. I know this is part of a series, but it was such an abrupt ending that it was jarring; it didn’t really feel like a cliffhanger, either. It would have been smoother to cut it off a bit sooner and leave some lead in to start the next book.

Love is a Stranger at the MLR Press website

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority

Book Info

Title: Authority (Southern Reach, Book 2)
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Published: May 6, 2014
Pages: 341
Publisher: FSG Originals
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

After the failure of the twelfth expedition into Area X, the Southern Reach is in a state of upheaval. John Rodrigues (also known as “Control”) has been dispatched to oversee operations. He faces an adversarial staff and a member of the most recent expedition team who serves only to provide more questions than answers. But Control is on a mission to find whatever answers he can, even though they might just turn out to be more disturbing than he ever could have imagined.

If you enjoy unexpected twists, you will find them here in spades. I remember finishing the first book and having so many questions. While some of them are answered here in the second book, there are just as many new questions that come up. The conspiracy runs deep, and that conspiracy obscures any understanding of what is truly going on in Area X. The layers here are so masterfully constructed that readers are definitely unlikely to see what’s coming, but it all starts to make sense as each one is pulled back to reveal what’s behind it.

The Fisher Queen by Alyssa Wong

Title: The Fisher Queen
Author: Alyssa Wong
Published: May 2014
Pages: 12
Publisher: Fantasy & Science Fiction
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

MY MOTHER WAS A FISH. That’s why I can swim so well, according to my father, who is a plain fisherman with a fisherman’s plain logic, but uncanny flair for the dramatic. And while it’s true that I can cut through the water like a minnow, or a hand dipped over the edge of a speedboat, I personally think it’s because no one can grow up along the Mekong without learning two things: how to swim, and how to avoid the mermaids.

A dark and thought-provoking tale. Mermaids are here, but do not expect anything close to your favorite Disney film. The moral and philosophical issues here are heavy, but it doesn’t come across as preachy or overly message heavy. Of the seeming overabundance of stories that have been printed in the past year involving mermaids, this is probably the best one I’ve read out of the bunch.

This is another one that I’m incredibly disappointed to not see on the Hugo ballot…

Content warnings: Non-consensual sexual situations, discussions of violence

The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

23209965Title: The Girl in the Road
Author: Monica Byrne
Published: May 20, 2014
Pages: 352
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publisher Link: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

In the world of the future, two seemingly unconnected women embark on similar journeys. Meena, having been attacked and knowing someone is after her, heads west from India to Ethiopia, the country of her birth. Mariama runs away from home after a traumatic event and joins a shipping caravan headed across the Sarah to Ethiopia. Despite the parallels in their destination and circumstances, their travels aren’t happening at the same time. But there is more of a connection between these two women and their processes of self-discovery than two women who don’t know each other could ever realize.

Wow. That’s my honest initial reaction. This was great throughout; I finished it in less than two days and had a difficult time putting it down every time I needed to do so. There is just something so compelling about the voice of both of these characters (voices that are also incredibly distinct) that can pull a reader in and make you a part of this world. The very organic reveal of the connections between Meena and Mariama was also very well-written and refreshing. Even though I had some inklings of their connection a bit earlier, it didn’t all play out exactly as I expected, which I appreciate (I’m not one for too much predictability in a story). Very highly recommended, even for those who may not typically be fans of science fiction. The story here is in the foreground and the characters are definitely the focus.

Content Warning: There is a brief scene of sexual content that many may find objectionable. It’s not graphic and I personally think it speaks to the character involved in a way that its inclusion is not at all gratuitous.

The River Leith by Leta Blake

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Title: The River Leith
Author: Leta Blake
Published: May 15, 2014
Publisher: Leta Blake
Pages: 173

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Review:
This is the second novel I’ve read by Leta Blake and I remain incredibly impressed with her ability to build a world around a character and just completely pull a reader into it. The relationships she writes are complicated and dynamic without ever seeming forced or overly constructed. And it’s definitely not difficult to get caught up in her books and refuse to put them down.

In The River Leith, we find a former amateur boxer, Leith, who wakes up in the hospital after a brief coma resulting from an illegal blow during a championship match. The injury is no longer life threatening, but there is a little complication – he can’t remember anything from the past three years. The only person still in his life that he remembers is his brother, Arthur. But when Zach, whom his brother tells him was his best friend, shows up in his hospital room, he finds himself more confused than he’s been since he first woke up.

I’ll admit, I read this one in one sitting. It’s not long, but there’s a lot here and it truly is an incredible story. The timing and pacing is done just right and the juxtaposition of a narration focused on Leith with Zach’s vlog entries really helps the reader to understand the perspectives of both of the main characters without awkward shifts in the narration or anything like that. I highly recommend this one. 🙂

(eGalley provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Title: One Man Guy
Author: Michael Barakiva
Publication Date: May 27, 2014

Rating: ★ ★ ★  
Review: 
I’m not really sure where to begin with this book except to say: I loved it. Over the course of a single summer, Alek Khederian has his eyes opened and starts to find himself, in part thanks to Ethan, a slightly older boy whose reputation precedes him.

The writing is incredible. The story flows quite well and I found this to be a rather easy read. And it’s a coming-of-age tale that I think many people can relate to, everyone in their own way.

I really don’t know what more I can say without gushing on details and spoiling the story. But if you’re someone who enjoys young adult, romance, m/m, or just good books in general, I suggest picking this one up. It’s hard to believe this is Michael Barakiva’s first book – I certainly look forward to more!

(eGalley provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)