Tag Archives: published: 2015-03

Cronin’s Key by N.R. Walker

Cronin's Key

Cronin’s Key by N.R. Walker

Series: Cronin’s Key, Book 1
Published by: N.R. Walker on March 13, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

NYPD detective Alec MacAidan is used to things being strange. There have been enough unexplained things that have happened during his life. But what happens one night when he’s chasing down a suspect is weird even for him. He comes across an injured bystander who rambles off some riddles, calls Alec by his real name (how could he know that), and then turns into dust. This is weird even for Alec.

And things get even weirder when his report at the station is interrupted by the appearance of a mysterious man. He literally just appears out of nowhere, grabs Alec, and together they disappear. And while Alec is confused, he can’t help thinking something about the whole situation feels right.

Alec has stumbled into a story that goes back millennia. And he’s right at the heart of it–he just might be the only person who can stop the biggest threat to humanity in centuries.

Yes, this is a vampire story. Yes, there have been so many of those lately. But yes, this one is unique. The backstory for vampire society that N.R. Walker has created is unlike one I’ve encountered anywhere else. There are some strong (and interesting) connections to history that show not only that this is well-researched but also that attention was paid to detailed world building.

The background characters are just as interesting as the main characters, which is something I always appreciate. Too many times I pick up a book that has a well-developed protagonist without much attention paid to the supporting cast. Here, we can see Alec and Cronin as strong characters out front, but the other characters are just as much an important part of the overall story.

This fast-paced and action-packed book is one that’s tough to put down. I found myself pushing to get just one more chapter read every time I picked it up. But anyone familiar with this author’s writing shouldn’t find that too surprising.

Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

Perfect State

Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Dragonsteel Entertainment on March 31, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In a futuristic world, where everything is different, God-Emperor Kairominas still faces some of the simple problems of today. The powers that be have required that he go on a date. And even the God-Emperor must listen.

In Kai’s world, the liveborn (humans) don’t have physical bodies. Instead, their brains are connected to a system that allows them to live for centuries in a virtual world. And each person’s virtual world is uniquely suited to allow them to achieve their highest potential.

Although they mostly interact with the creations of their virtual worlds, their lives aren’t necessarily solitary. They can interact with liveborn in neighboring states. And there are even borderlands that can be crossed into and claimed. It’s in one of these that Kai met his rival. And his rival is not letting up, continuing to try to invade Kai’s lands.

So the request for Kai to meet with a potentially compatible woman–more liveborns have to come from somewhere–is a welcome distraction. But in what is supposed to be neutral territory, can Kai expect to be safe? After all, he doesn’t know this woman at all. And he might end up more vulnerable to threats from outside forces.

I enjoyed the brief journey into this world. As a novella, this certainly isn’t an epic science fiction story. But it’s paced so well that it tells a rich and complete story without needing hundreds of pages to do so. It’s easy to connect with the characters. And the writing certainly helps readers easily immerse themselves in the story.

I won’t go into too much detail because it’s always hard to avoid spoilers in reviewing shorter works. But I will say that there are some unexpected twists that I didn’t see coming. Excellent storytelling!

Melting Into You by Cassandra Carr

Melting Into You

Book Info

Title: Melting Into You (Savor, Book 1)
Author: Cassandra Carr
Published: March 31, 2015
Pages: 104
Publisher: Fated Desires Publishing
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Seth Mason’s life is in a good place. He’s the owner of a successful macaroni and cheese food truck on the verge of expansion, he’s made a nice home for himself and his dog, and he finds time to give back to the community. But he wouldn’t mind rounding that out with a guy to share his life with. When Ben starts working at the local shelter where Seth brings food leftover from the end of each day, Seth can’t control his attraction. Ben’s not his typical type, but what is a “type” anyway? Although Ben doesn’t seem eager at first, as soon as the walls come down, Seth learns the attraction is mutual. But they’re both dedicated to their careers which keep them extremely busy. As a result, they don’t have a lot of extra time to spend with each other. It’s still possible to make a romance work under the circumstances, isn’t it?

A quick-building relationship that’s not insta-love can be difficult to find, but I think that’s totally where this one falls. It’s fast-paced and a relatively quick read, but there’s a good story here that takes some unexpected twists. I found myself really liking Seth and Ben–it was so easy to want to root from them very early on. My only major complaint here is that the ending seemed a bit abrupt, and I would have liked to see a bit more resolution. But it’s still entertaining and endearing, and it’s worth picking up for a read.

Guarding January by Sean Michael

Guarding January

Book Info

Title: Guarding January
Author: Sean Michael
Published: March 9, 2015
Pages: 230
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Lord January is the lead singer of an extreme musical group with a very macabre identity. LJ is himself monikered “the Vampire King” and goes full stop with embracing that identity–he’s typically only ever seen at night and is prone to grotesque displays involving costumes, makeup, and blood. But being Lord January takes a bit of a toll on Jeff Smart, the man behind the makeup, and he lands himself in rehab. Upon his release, Rye Sommers is hired as a bodyguard, with more of a responsibility to protect Lord January from engaging in destructive behavior than worrying about direct outside threats. An experienced professional, Rye takes his job very seriously, even when some of those around the man in his charge aren’t very keen on the measures he takes. As Rye spends more time on the job, he gets to know Jeff on a level that no one has likely been able to achieve in quite some time. What he learns endears him to a man of whom he had no understanding when he first arrived. And Jeff appears to have similar feelings. But if there’s any chance of them being together, they may need to make some major changes, and they both might have to consider what’s most important in their lives and what they’re willing to give up.

I was unexpectedly surprised by this one shortly after I started it. I’d read the blurb and had a pretty good idea of how this one might play out. But the richness of the characters, the layers of the story, and the realistic way in which Jeff’s struggles are presented allow for this to stand out for me in ways I hadn’t really expected. Jeff and Rye are certainly the focus of the story, but there’s also some great interactions with supporting characters that really add to the world in which these two live. The pressures that are exerted on them certainly influence who they are and their actions, and overcoming pressures that we may not want can be harder than some people are willing to acknowledge. There’s a bit of angst here or there, but overall this is a story about finding the chance to save yourself/save someone you love and gathering up the courage to make good on it.

Seeking the Storyteller by Jessica Walsh & Briana Lawrence

Seeking the Storyteller

The Details

Title: Seeking the Storyteller (Hunters, Book 1)
Author: Jessica Walsh & Briana Lawrence
Published: March 16, 2015
Pages: 321
Publisher: Jessica Walsh & Briana Lawrence
Authors’ Website: link
Rating: ★★★★☆

The Review

Alix Andre DeBenit and Randall Fagan are hunters. Yes, hunters–of the demon hunter variety. They track down and rid the world of those forces that don’t belong here, those sinister forces that threaten all of us. But for Alix, the motivation to be a hunter is quite personal. And when a captured demon tells him of a being that might be able to give him exactly what he wants and undo all of his pain, that motivation becomes a singular focus. But Alix and Fagan are called on to help a friend–Fagan’s former hunting partner–and quickly find out there might be more to demons (and the world they come from) than either of them ever could have imagined.

This was a definite page-turner for me–well, in so far as my Kindle has pages. It’s a great little urban fantasy story that does a great job of presenting two worlds–both our world and the world of the demons. The characters are dynamic, including–and sometimes especially–the secondary characters, who really add quite a bit to the story. There’s a hint of realism (because, let’s face it, there is a part of fantasy and science fiction that still needs to seem authentic), and a great balance between the fantastical and the mundane. The story isn’t overly complicated, and that’s a good thing with the number of characters and entities that come popping in and out between the pages.

Definitely worth a read for those interested in fantasy, paranormal stories, and especially urban fantasy.

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

Misfits by Garrett Leigh

23312554Title: Mistfits
Author: Garrett Leigh
Published: March 16, 2015
Pages: 265
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Publisher Link: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

Tom finds himself drawn to Jake almost instantly after he meets him, and it doesn’t take much for them to find the feeling is mutual. But when Jake learns of Tom’s boyfriend Cass the next morning, all of that magic seems to fade. Though Tom and Cass have an open relationship, Jake isn’t sure he wants to be a part of it. But there is something about Tom that keeps him interested and there’s something about Cass and the dynamic between the two of them, too. They all three end up in situations none of them expected, and none of them can really say how it might all turn out.

I had no idea what to expect when I opened this one up. And I must certainly say I was pleasantly surprised. This is so well-written and there is a true richness to the characters and the world of this story. I can see some people not wanting to pick it up because it isn’t your typical relationship dynamic, but I would say to set that aside if it’s a possible issue–it shouldn’t be a reason to miss out on this one.

The Prince and the Brute by Avery Rott

T25137688itle: The Prince and the Brute
Author: Avery Rott
Published: March 13, 2015
Pages: 24
Publisher: Avery Rott
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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

This collection of three brief but related stories follows Prince Emil, who has recently become engaged to a princess and who must deal with the rather unwelcome advances of her brother. Well, at least he thinks they’re unwelcome. But maybe they’re not. As he’s never even considered anything like this before, he can’t help but wondering if there is much more to the princess and her brother than he initially suspected.

The author has billed this as the setup to a longer series with these characters, which I think is needed to really make sense of what’s going on in these stories. They’re a bit quick and abrupt, clearly meaning to provide readers with short related scenes that will be tied together later. From what I see here, I don’t know that this will be everyone’s cup of tea, to say the least, but the writing is well-done and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more from Avery Rott.

Content warning: non-consensual sexual acts

Fifty Yards and Holding by David-Matthew Barnes

18406625Title: Fifty Yards and Holding
Author: David-Matthew Barnes
Published: March 17, 2015
Pages: 264
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

[Disclaimer: I received an egalley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Victor “Toro” Alvarez has suddenly found himself as the leader of a street gang. It’s not that he’s necessarily reluctant to take on the position, it’s just that he has a few issues of his own to deal with–one major one being that he’s pretty sure he’s gay and that would not go over well with the rest of the gang. It also means he will probably never get out of his neighborhood unless it’s in a body bag. But when he comes across Riley Brewer as he’s running from a rival gang, he wonders if maybe he has more options than he first thought. Riley is new to Toro’s school, since his father stopped paying his private school tuition after his parents divorced. And there’s definitely an air between the two of them in those few moments that makes them both wonder if their chance meeting was part of something greater for them both.

I’ll start off by saying that I did enjoy the overall message of this story very much. The idea that you’re never truly stuck and that even if you make choices based on circumstances, you always have options to change your path is an important and powerful one. And that comes across as a real strength of this book.

That said, it’s the way this book worked through that message that holds me back from a four- or five-star review. The opening set up an interesting tone that was not reflected in the rest of the book, which sort of threw me off. The Toro we see right away doesn’t really seem to exist elsewhere in the story–and while I can see how that might have been the point to an extent, since it never really comes back around, it seems almost out of place. Add to that the fact that we rather suddenly skip over almost five months–the five months during which it appears the bulk of the character and relationship development occurred–and it made it a bit more difficult to connect to these characters as meaningfully as I would have liked.

This is definitely worth a read, especially for those who are looking for a broader message/story and maybe not specifically looking for something that focuses on individual characters and the how and why they get to their destination.

Content warnings behind the cut

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Johnnie by Cardeno C.

Jonnie_cover1800x2700Title: Johnnie (Siphon, Book 1)
Author: Cardeno C.
Published: March 11, 2015
Pages: 224
Publisher: The Romance Authors, LLC
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

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

Hugh is a Premier lion shifter and leader of the Berk pride, and he’s been around for over a century. As a Premier ages, the only way to contain his power is to have a Siphon whose role is to take some of the power that he has built up to ensure the pressure doesn’t overwhelm and kill him. When Hugh’s Siphon does something unthinkable that puts him, Hugh, and the entire pride in danger, Hugh is forced to learn more about the Siphon, the role of the Siphon in the pride, and about himself.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read lion shifters before. And while to some extent, shifters are shifters, there are some unique aspects to these particular individuals in the world that Cardeno C. has created. I definitely felt for Johnnie and everything that he’s been through. The life of a Siphon is definitely one with challenges that many in the pride notice or consider. And while Hugh begins to understand, it’s still not very easy for him to grasp the enormity of what Johnnie’s life has been like. Hugh’s approach to Johnnie changes, but I can’t help wondering how things will go for them going forward. Can Hugh really change his entire nature for Johnnie’s happiness?

Nothing Like Paris by Amy Jo Cousins

23579352Title: Nothing Like Paris (Bend or Break, Book 2)
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Published: March 3, 2015
Pages: 249
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author via the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s “Don’t Buy Me Love” program in exchange for an honest review.]

Jack Tarkington messed up. When he gave Tom Worthington a hard time because Tom’s father caused Jack’s parents to lose all of their savings (and Jack’s college fund) in an investment scheme, he hadn’t exactly realized the implications of his actions. Now suspended–and facing expulsion–for harassment, he is forced to do the one thing he told himself he would never ever do. He’s returning to his hometown in Iowa. Jack left so much behind when he left, and he still feels most of that was for the better. But he’s not in town for long before he runs into the one thing he left behind that he regrets–MIguel. Jack’s high school best friend (and boyfriend) certainly hasn’t forgotten that Jack left him, either. And when he’s only back because he was forced to come home, not because he wanted to, certainly doesn’t give Miguel any hope that Jack has changed. But will the break from school and return to his past help Jack find what he really wants? And will he be able to make the best of the second chances he finds for himself and for Miguel?

In the first book, Jack is nowhere close to a likable character. Even though we earn a bit about his motivation in the end, it’s still not enough to get past the way he acted toward Tom and Reese. Learning more about him and his past, however, added a whole dimension to Jack that helped me to understand him even better. The character development in this book (both for Jack and for Miguel) is incredible while never feeling forced or overdone. I am very much a fan of the way this series seems to be progressing and am definitely looking forward to the next installment.