Tag Archives: published: 2015-02

Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall

Waiting for the Flood

Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall

Published by: Riptide Publishing on February 23, 2015
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Edwin Tully is still getting over his breakup with Marius. Still living in the house they chose together, he hasn’t been able to move on in the past two years. But the annual flooding of his neighborhood might just be enough to make him reexamine his life this time around. As he bands together with his neighbor to make it through, for now all he can hope for is limited water damage.

Adam Dacre is a civil engineer dispatched to help minimize damage from the flooding. He expects it to be a challenge, but he never expected to run into Edwin. And the moment he does, Adam feels drawn to the man, though he’s not aware of the pain that Edwin still carries with him.

Edwin has to admit to himself that he likes Adam. But it can be hard to open yourself up to someone when you’ve been so closed off for so long. Can Edwin reach a place where he’s ready for something new before Adam leaves his life forever? And does Adam possess the patience that Edwin needs from him?

I really liked the way that each chapter started with a description of one of the rooms of the house. Since part of the story is watching Edwin work through some of the grief for his last relationship that he’s still carrying with him, I feel it helps readers get into the moment right there with him.

Part of me wonders about the way things play out in the end. If Edwin has been brooding for two years, I’d be skeptical about it all turning around in a single night. But it may just be that we as readers don’t see everything he’s been working through before the book begins.

And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander

And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead

And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander

Published in: Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 57, February 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The job has gone completely wrong. Tasked with breaking a prominent mobster’s son out of the computer system he had no business being in, they knew the job would be risky. But Rhye wasn’t prepared for them to shoot Rack before they were even close to being finished. Her only option now is to hook up to the interface and get the kid out herself. And maybe try to save Rack in the process. He’s in there somewhere, after all.

The summary above is brief, but with this being a novelette, I don’t want to give away everything. In a future where people can connect directly into computer systems, leaving their bodies to explore new worlds, there are new frontiers on all accounts. And although Rhye is a loner, she’s found somewhat of a kindred spirit in Rack. The last think she wants is to face the thought of not seeing him again.

The writing here is masterful. Through Rhye going in and trying to finish the job, readers learn so much about these characters. We get just enough hint of backstory to find out why they’re a team. But the way events unfold, we learn so much about what makes both individuals tick. The story is driven just as much by the characters as it is the action. And that’s something I really loved about it.

I hadn’t pulled this one up until it was named a Hugo finalist. And I’m so glad that it’s on that list. It’s not only a great example of great science fiction writing, but it demonstrates masterful use of the novelette length and format.

And it’s free! Check it out!

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Series: Red Queen, Book 1
Published by: HarperTeen on February 10, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Mare Barrow is resigned to a bleak fate. She’s a Red (meaning she bleeds red and has no magical abilities) and has no skills to offer, aside from being an adept pickpocket. She is able to provide for her family using that tactic, though she knows her mother isn’t exactly fond of who she gets the things she brings home. But it doesn’t matter, since she knows it will be less than a year before she is conscripted and will go to fight a war being waged by the Slivers (the ruling class, who, yes, actually bleed silver and possess magical abilities) with Reds as their (often unwilling soldiers). But after Mare chances upon an odd young man one evening who gets her a job at the palace, everything changes. It is here that she (and the Silvers) discover that she’s no ordinary Red. In fact, she’s so extraordinary that her mere existence could threaten the entire balance of their society. Mare quickly finds herself wrapped up in the world of the Silvers, still clinging to her Red heritage, and not really knowing which way to turn. But in a power-based society where people will step over each other to get to the top, there may not be any direction that is entirely safe.

Although there is the female-YA-protagonist-with-some-romantic-subplot syndrome going on here, I did enjoy this book. The world that’s been created here, the major players, and the sharp twists and turns this one takes made it difficult for me to put this book down. It’s easy to get lost in Mare’s world. The writing is excellent, and I find myself looking forward to the next book in the series. This would probably be a five-star recommendation from me if it wasn’t for the subplot mentioned above. While it didn’t overtake the story in the ways it often does in YA lately, it’s overdone to the point that its existence in a book gives me pause at this point. If you are like me and put off by that trope, I still suggest giving this a chance as I think there are more enough redeeming qualities to make up for it in this one.

Red Queen at the HarperTeen website

The Buckle by Rob Colton

Buckle

Book Info

Title: The Buckle
Author: Rob Colton
Published: February 26, 2015
Pages: 32
Publisher: Wayward Ink Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Rex Marlowe is very dedicated to his work, and it all keeps him quite busy. Even despite please from his friends to make time for more recreational pursuits, he remains focused on keeping his business going. But one night Eli points out a guy at The Buckle that catches Rex’s eye. And when that guy, Hayden, is ditched by his friends, Rex offers him the use of a phone so that he can find a way home. As it turns out, however, Rex might be willing to offer more than just his phone, and Hayden might be interested in something more, as well.

This is short and…well, I wouldn’t say sweet since it’s more steamy than anything else. These two get together fairly quickly, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the overall length of the story. But it never feels forced or rushed, and despite the length, I feel readers still get enough backstory to understand the characters and actually care about what happens to them.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen? by Lisa Worrall

What's the Worst That Could Happen

Book Info

Title: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
Author: Lisa Worrall
Published: February 26, 2015
Pages: 30
Publisher: White Stiletto Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Jared and Ben have been together for five years, and Jared is excited to take Ben away for a romantic Valentine’s getaway. Jared’s very much the outdoors type, while Ben is decidedly the opposite. But since Blue Ridge Retreat claims to offer a nice wilderness getaway complete with spa treatments, it seems like it might be a good compromise for the two of them. But not everything is expressly explained in the brochure, and the two are in for some surprises they never expected.

I found this to be a fun and entertaining read. It’s not really a comedy of errors per se, but there are certainly several moments where one can’t help but smile (or even laugh) at the unexpected twists and turns that come at these two. And they way they both react to everything is wonderful too. It’s short, but it’s quite the journey for these characters packed into just a handful of pages.

 

Find Me by Laura van den Berg

Find Me

Book Info

Title: Find Me
Author: Laura van den Berg
Published: February 17, 2015
Pages: 280
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

A strange sickness is sweeping the country that causes people to lose their memory. The cause is unknown and any sort of cure or preventative measure is even further out of reach. But some people, like Joy, are immune. Not having much else in her life, Joy agrees to take residence in a Kansas hospital for the immune, where it’s clear some sort of study is happening. There are treatments, rules, and a number of mysterious things going on inside the hospital walls. Some patients become restless and start talking about escaping–could Joy do that? If she left, where would she go? There’s her birth mother, whom she’s always wanted to meet. Perhaps she could track her down and find the one person who can and should love her no matter what. But no journey is easy–and even less so when the country is being ravaged by an epidemic.

Gritty. Entertaining. Thought-provoking. These are all words I would certainly use to describe this book. There are some great philosophical questions raised here though a very well-written and developed story. What makes us who we are? What defines humanity? What is ethical when it comes to medical treatment, and when is it appropriate to set those ethics aside for what is perceived to be the best interest of the patient or the broader population? Do all social experiments wind up going terribly wrong? Even with these questions on the forefront, there’s nothing preachy–the author doesn’t dictate the answers, rather she gives us scenarios to consider as we, the readers, make up our own minds.

Standby by Kim Fielding

Standby

Book Info

Title: Standby
Author: Kim Fielding
Published: February 19, 2015
Pages: 30
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Tom just wants to get home. It hasn’t been the best trip, his phone is dead, and he’s stuck waiting on standby–which now means he has to wait overnight in the airport. Sadly, there’s also nothing and no one in the airport to keep him entertained, so he thinks he might just try to sleep through it. But he soon learns he’s not the only one at the airport. Rafael intrigues him, and he figures they can have a conversation to get him through his stay…then they will likely never see each other again. But sometimes when you’re down on your luck, things absolutely have to take a good turn at some point, no?

This is a relatively quick read, but a fun and charming story. And that’s to be expected when a story is penned by Kim Fielding, but this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. In a small number of pages, these two and their relationship really stand out and come to life. Interestingly, I read this while on a layover in the airport, and wouldn’t have minded meeting my own Rafael while I was there. I guess a guy can always hope, no?

Y Brenin by C.A. Hawksmoor

Title: Y Brenin
Author: C.A. Hawksmoor
Published: February 19, 2015
Pages: 18
Publisher: Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★★☆

The knight raised his eyes, tracing line from the quiet of the water to the mountain looming in the cloud. His breath tangled in his throat as an indistinct figure all but crawled over the ridge behind him. Until he saw the colour of the hair and the blackness of the eyes, the knight was certain that it was not the Red King that walked towards him out of the mist but his lord.

Sibling rivalries can be intense, extreme, and even deadly. Sent to kill the Red King and take the spoils of his lands back to the North, Mercher intends to follow his orders to the letter. But after meeting the brother of his master, he veers slightly off course, instead opting to bring the man in for his lord to decide his fate. Traveling makes for conversation and from conversation comes a connection–and from there, Mercher finds that fate may be taking him in a different direction entirely…

This story tells the tale of a journey. And not only does it do so in the literal sense as Mercher and the Red King travel to the North, but it also reflects a journey of both men as they learn more about each other and themselves. The character development is very strong here, and the dynamics that comes across in a short story like this are definitely worth noting.

A Simple Misunderstanding by Derek Adams

24662175Title: A Simple Misunderstanding (For the Very First Time, Book 1)
Author: Derek Adams
Published: February 17, 2015
Pages: 30
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

When Jason made the choice to come out in high school, he knew not everyone would embrace the idea. But he also didn’t expect that Matt, the school’s star athlete, would target him because of it. And when Jason is caught starting at Matt for a little too long in the shower, he can’t help thinking the worst is yet to come…

This is a quick and fun read. You don’t get a great deal of backstory on the characters, but that’s to be expected with the length here. And, honestly, it’s not really needed as the author does a great job of showing the reader the characters in the moment as the events of the story are unfolding. It’s easy to predict where this one is headed from very early on in the story, and that was fine for me as a reader because there was enough in the “how it got there” to keep me interested to the end.

Blog Tour Review: Scar of the Downers by Scott Keen

ScarOfTheDownersTourBanner1

Title: Scar of the Downers
Author: Scott Keen
Published: February 27, 2015
Pages: 400
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Publisher Website: link

Synopsis:

Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.

Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.

Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master’s store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings, and scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master’s house and is sentenced to death.

To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before – escape from the city of Ungstah.

ScarDownersRating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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

To call this unique and original would hardly do it justice. In <i>Scar of the Downers</i> Scott Keen brings readers a well-developed and rich world with a storied past, a challenging present, and a potentially changing future. It is very easy to become immersed in this story due to Keen’s descriptive writing, smooth flow of plot, and character development. And there are certainly enough twists and turns here to keep you wondering how things are going to turn out, even right through the ending.

Highly recommended for fans of fantasy–both those who particularly enjoy young adult and even those who don’t. This strikes me as one that would appeal to a broad audience, and I’ll certainly be recommending it to a few specific individuals in my reading circles.

Personally, I’m anxiously awaiting more…

Giveaway:

The author is giving away a signed copy of Scar of the Downers as part of this blog tour.  Enter here  by July 2nd.