Tag Archives: published: 2015-07

Darkness Brutal by Rachel A. Marks

Darkness Brutal

Book Info

Title: Darkness Brutal (The Dark Cycle, Book 1)
Author: Rachel A. Marks
Published: July 1, 2015
Pages: 425
Publisher: Skyscape
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Aidan O’Linn’s childhood was far from what anyone would call typical. And when a demon killed his mother and marked his sister, Ava, with Darkness before his own eyes, it hit new extremes. Now he must protect his sister from the demons, who return every three years to try to finish what they started. But Aidan isn’t completely helpless in this endeavor. He has powers of his own, which allow him to see demons and try to fight them off before they can get to him. But lately he’s experiencing changes to those powers, and it’s clear things will only get more dangerous for him as a result. Aidan connects with Sid, the leader of a local paranormal investigation group, who has gathered a group of young people who also have powers, though each a bit different from Aidan’s. Aidan is hopeful that Sid can help him to understand his powers and keep his sister safe, but first Aidan needs to figure out if he can trust Sid. And trust is something that doesn’t come easy for Aidan at all. But should he have reason to trust Sid in the first place? And what about the others living in the house? With the demons coming for Ava again soon, Aidan doesn’t have much time to figure everything out.

I found myself pleasantly surprised by this book. When I read the blurb, I was intrigued enough to pick it up, but I didn’t expect to be drawn into this world as quickly as I was. The urban fantasy world (this is set in Los Angeles) that the author has created is very rich and dynamic, and the characters are well-developed, complex, and interesting. The plot has some unexpected twists, but it flows extremely well without a single scene appearing out of place. The way the author reveals the history is also quite fascinating, as it ties together comments that come up early in the book and follow the characters throughout.

This is the start of a series, and it’s definitely a solid one. I have to say I am personally looking forward to picking up the next installment when it releases in February.

Networking for Nerds by Alaina Levine

Networking for Nerds

Book Info

Title: Networking for Nerds: Find, Access and Land Hidden Game-Changing Career Opportunities Everywhere
Author: Alaina Levine
Published: July 7, 2015
Pages: 248
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Rating: ★★★

Review

When I saw the title and the brief blurb for this book, I couldn’t wait to pick it up. Networking advice for a nerd like me? Sign me up! Except, sadly, it’s not really for a nerd like me. This book would have been better titled something like “Career Networking Advice for New Academic Scientists & Engineers” because that’s really what it is. Though billed as appealing to nerds across the spectrum, it doesn’t really have much to offer outside the context of scientific academia. What’s there is sound and likely very useful, just not really something that could easily be cross-applied in very many alternate contexts.

(I should have questioned the “nerd” aspect when I noticed two grammatical errors in the subtitle…)

To the Highest Bidder by Caitlin Ricci

To the Highest Bidder

Book Info

Title: To the Highest Bidder
Author: Caitlin Ricci
Published: July 13, 2015
Pages: 200
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Thierry Leroux has been admitted to the Intergalactic Star Pilot Academy and his dreams are all about to come true. But the academy is expensive, and as a Sythe orphan, it’s unlikely he will be able to come up with the tuition. His brother, Corbin, works as an escort and gives Thierry the suggestion of auctioning off his virginity to pay for his schooling. It’s not something Thierry is very interested in at first, but as deadlines draw near, he gives Corbin the go ahead to set it up. Corbin’s boss, Monroe, is more than willing to help arrange the transaction, and they are both pleased when they get a bidder who will more than cover what Thierry needs. The buyer, known only as “Dragonfly” and insistent on wearing a mask when they meet, goes out of his way to make Thierry’s first time special, and Thierry is agreeable when the “Dragonfly” asks for them to meet again. After a few such meetings, Thierry realizes he might be developing feelings for his would-be suitor, though he has no idea who is hiding behind the mask. Will finding out ruin the magic and destroy everything?

This was my first Caitlin Ricci title, but I was not disappointed. The character of Thierry is so well-written. Seeing him go from where he is at the beginning of the book, to making his decision, to following through with it, and to living with everything that happens after is an interesting journey. There’s subtlety to it, but the dynamic is clear. I certainly look forward to picking up more from this author.

The Other Son by Alexander Söderberg

The Other Son

Book Info

Title: The Other Son (Brinkmann Trilogy, Book 2)
Author: Alexander Söderberg
Published: July 21, 2015 (in English)
Pages: 388
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Author’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Sophie Brinkmann has taken on a role in a crime family that she never wanted. After the head of the family was murdered and his son–her connection to the family–is left in a coma, people look to her more than she expected. And not only does she not feel entirely cut out for this type of work, but she still has some moral issues with the operation. Rival families are closing in, however, and they’ve made it clear they will take what they want if they have to. And when they start to make good on that threat, Sophie knows she’s going to have to act on her own if she wants to make it out alive–and her son along with her.

There’s a lot of plotting and action in this book. So many groups and parties are moving against each other, sometimes with knowledge of the others and sometimes with people being caught completely unaware. But with so much going on and so many characters, it was confusing at times for me to really keep track of what was going on, how each person fit into the story, and where things were headed. It was an intriguing story, but difficult to follow at times, to be sure.

This is the second book in a trilogy (the third book is yet to be released), but I had no problems following the story. The reliance on the events of the first book is light, and what readers need to know is referenced with enough detail for it all to make sense.

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

The New World by Andrew Motion

The New World by Andrew MotionTitle: The New World (Return to Treasure Island, Book 2)
Author: Andrew Motion
Published: July 14, 2015
Pages: 368
Publisher: Crown
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

After washing ashore after what he was certain was his death, Jim Hawkins finds he has somehow survived–a fate almost everyone else onboard the Nightingale did not share. But his companion Natty has made it to shore with him, and they’ll need to find their way. When they’re intercepted by a tribe of natives and imprisoned, they know their choices are limited. When they find a moment to escape they expect they will never get again, they take the chance. But they soon learn it’s not as easy as just getting out of the village, and the new American South is nothing like the home–a home they hope they will both get a chance to see again someday.

This is a sequel, but I don’t think you need to have read the first book to follow the story. The adventure here is pretty self-contained, and any references to previous events are shared with enough context to understand what’s going on.

If you’re a fan of an epic adventure, you’ll enjoy this. Jim and Natty are on the move from very early on in the book, and their pursuers are hot on their trail. There are twists and turns to keep you guessing as a reader, and it’s never quite clear how it’s all going to resolve until it gets there. I picked this up on a bit of a whim, to be honest, but I’m glad I did. It’s a departure from everything else I’ve been reading lately, and a refreshing one at that.

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

Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada by Ernest Cline

Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Published: July 14, 2015
Pages: 355
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Zack Lightman lives for video games. He plays them and excels at them, and his after school job just happens to be in an arcade and game store. And the game he’s the best at is Armada, a space invader multiplayer flight battle simulation. But maybe there’s a bit more to his talent and obsession than even he realizes on its face. And he quickly learns there is much more to the video game he’s been playing than he could have imagined when he starts seeing the machines from the game in the sky near his school. Thankfully all those hours at his computer have helped prepare him for what’s to come.

If you take Ender’s Game and set it on modern Earth, you’ll get something like Armada. Video games as a training ground for an epic space battle against an alien race? A protagonist who is involved in an altercation that indicates he might have anger issues? Being thrown into battle before one is ready? A leadership that isn’t completely honest about the facts of how things got to where they are? Yeah, it’s all here. It’s not the exact same story, obviously, but it’s clear what inspired this tale very early on and throughout the book.

While it’s likely imperative to make the story work, the ease with which Zack is able to do things and get out of troublesome situations quickly seemed a bit much to me. Even in science fiction, I like to have a fair sense of a realistic basis–I didn’t think we got that as much as we could with this protagonist. That said, it wasn’t too much that I turned me off completely.

Ultimately, this was an entertaining read–and a quick one, too, despite its length. I think fans of science fiction, especially space opera (and extra points for those who enjoyed Ender’s Game, would enjoy this book, as well.

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

Diverse Book Tours: Coal by Constance Burris

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25798596Title: Coal (Everleaf Series, Book 1)
Author: Constance Burris
Published: July 1, 2015
Pages: 216
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Author Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Plot Summary:
Coal has lived most of his life in the fey realm with his elven best friend, but when a human child he promised to protect unintentionally breaks a law in front of the fey elite, he will have to choose between betraying his best friend or saving the child’s life.

Review:

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

I do think it’s rare right now to find a young adult fantasy that stands out as unique, with an original story and perspective. Which is why I was excited the entire time I was reading Coal. The world that Constance Burris has created has some originality to it (though we don’t get a heavy dose of backstory, there’s enough to point a picture, and it drew me in), and the characters here are compelling, especially for a young adult novel. Spoiler: Romance doesn’t save the day. Spoiler: Coal isn’t just automatically superior to everything and everyone because he’s the protagonist. Spoiler: Tough choices must be made, and the consequences for those decisions are real. We can’t have everything, and sometimes we just have to understand what we value, do what’s right, and make the right decisions.

Recommended for fans of fantasy and young adult, especially those who are looking for something different than what’s out there…

Prickly Business by Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade

25462873Title: Prickly Business (Portland Pack Chronicles, Book 1)
Author: Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade
Published: July 27, 2015
Pages: 256
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Avery Babineaux is definitely unique. A hedgehog shifter from a wealthy Louisiana family, he’s chosen to live his life away from his family and among the Portland wolf pack. Life is fairly easy for him, though, as he’s able to live off an allowance from his parents and never wants for the nice things he’s used to. In fact, he’s so used to nice things that he cast of Dylan Green, a member of the Portland pack and Avery’s apparently fated mate. Dylan is just a blue collar mechanic, after all. But when Avery gets himself into trouble with some seedier shifters and puts the steady stream of family money in jeopardy, he’s forced to finally fend for himself and, though very reluctant, may actually have to ask others for help. In the process, he stumbles onto the case of a missing pack member and quickly finds himself falling down a hole that he just might not be able to climb out of–unless, just maybe, Dylan will help him out…

Hedgehog shifter?! This had me at that descriptor alone. But I was completely blown away by just how wonderfully executed this story turned out to be. The characters are both endearing and frustrating, the world they live in is vivid and complex, and the plot is one that kept this reader very much on the edge of his seat. I honestly don’t know that I’ve had as much fun reading a book as I had reading this one in quite a long time. I don’t give a book 5 stars very often, but this one sailed past that rating without any hesitation or reservation my part. A very highly recommended title! I can’t wait for the next installment!

Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman

23395729Title: Bradstreet Gate
Author: Robin Kirman
Published: July 7, 2015
Pages: 320
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★☆☆

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

Alice, Charlie, and Georgia begin their studies at Harvard each with the promise of a bright future. Their paths cross and they quickly form a unique sort of friendship. But when the campus is rocked by the murder of one of their classmates, the secrets that the three of them have kept from each other might prove enough to pull them apart forever. And while they all three want to put the murder behind them when they leave campus, they find that it might just continue to follow them–individually and collectively–until they can find a way to make peace with themselves and each other…

One of the hallmarks here is the vivid characters, which made it very easy to connect to them as a reader. There’s a depth and complexity to each of them, but it is effortlessly presented, which is something I always appreciate when I’m reading. The story here is on the darker side, and I find that many authors will let the plot take the spotlight in these types of stories. But that’s not true here, as this is very much a character-driven story and they shine through all three parts of the novel.

I honestly was hoping for a bit more of a specific resolution when I reached the end of the story. But after reflecting after putting the book down, I think that it does wrap up in a way that is fitting for the tone and nature of the story. There are still some twists and revelations, even if all the answers aren’t given before reaching the back cover.

Bare for You by Lexxie Couper

25377528Title: Bare for You (Outback Skies, Book 3)
Author: Lexxie Couper
Published: July 21, 2015
Pages: 111
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★☆☆

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

Jeremy Craig has had a successful career in politics and things look like they could only get better. He has inside knowledge that he is likely to soon be named deputy prime minister of Australia. But first he has to conduct a visit to the Outback, and it’s one that should be very routine. Enter Ryan Taylor, helicopter pilot and Jeremy’s chauffeur on his excursion. The connection between the two of them happens in a flash, even though Jeremy knows he can’t act on it because of his political career and Ryan is sure his passenger must be straight. But a small helicopter makes for close quarters, and things can’t simply be ignored for long.

I’ll start by saying that while this is the third book in a series, it definitely can be read as a stand-alone. I’ve not read the two (they’re m/f, not m/m) that come before this one and I had no problems at all with following anything in the story.

This is a bit of a fun and almost whimsical (at whimsical as anything with a political aspect can be) romance that is short, intense, and engaging. Things move quickly, but it doesn’t necessarily feel overly rushed. And as far as out-for-you/coming out stories go, it’s surprisingly light on the angst. This is my first experience with this author, but I hope to have more going forward.