Tag Archives: published: 2015-11

Prickly by Nature by Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade

Prickly by Nature

Prickly by Nature by Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade

Series: Portland Pack Chronicles, Book 2
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on November 16, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

It’s been four months since hedgehog shifter Avery Babineaux started his investigation into the disappearance of Lacey, a young woman from the Portland Pack. Despite finding himself in danger more than once, he’s continuing to investigate, committed to bringing Lacey home. Now that he’s started working with a licensed private investigator, Corbin Reid, he’s hoping to learn more and be able to track down every possible lead.

There are days when Dylan Green would prefer that his mate not get himself tangled up in his private detective work. He admires and appreciates Avery’s dedication; he just doesn’t care for the fact that Avery’s investigations put him in danger. And Dylan’s wolf is very much the protective type, so he can’t just stand back and let Avery walk into situations where he might get hurt. But he knows that Avery’s just as unlikely to back down as he is, and the two of them will need to find a way to live with the current state of things.

But as Avery gets closer to finding out the truth about Lacey, the danger is likely to only grow–for both of them.

Of course I had to read the follow up to the first ever hedgehog shifter novel I’ve read. And I love that the authors carried over the same spirit, that excellent balance between humor and seriousness, that I enjoyed so much in the first book. And he same sort of unexpected twists and turns exist to keep readers guessing and on the edges of their seats…

The Midnight Gardener by R.G. Thomas

The Midnight Gardener

The Midnight Gardener by R.G. Thomas

Series: The Town of Superstition, Book 1
Published by: Harmony Ink Press on November 12, 2015
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Thaddeus Cane’s mother died when he was a baby. He’s spent as much of his life as he can remember with his father, moving so frequently from town to town that he’s never really made any friends. But when they arrive in Superstition, Thaddeus hopes they might be in a place where they can stay for a while.

One evening, Thaddeus looks out his window and sees a young man tending to the garden next door. There’s something intriguing about him, and Thaddeus finds himself paying attention whenever he sees the man out there–though he’s curiously only out at night. And when Thaddeus finds himself running from a wild animal a few nights later, he crawls over the fence and into the presence of Teofil. From there, things begin to get really strange and Thaddeus soon learns there is much more to his life and his history than he ever could have imagined.

I love young adult fantasy. Toss in a light m/m element, and I’ll read it up as easily as drinking a cup of tea. While this one is a bit slow in the beginning (though it’s necessary for readers to connect to Thaddeus), it picks up quickly. And the backstory is definitely very interesting.

I look forward to the next book in this series. I need to know what happens between Thaddeus and Teofil, and I also need to know if Thaddeus and crew are successful in their quest.

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

Black Wolves

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

Series: The Black Wolves Trilogy, Book 1
Published by: Orbit on November 3, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Black Wolves. Where to start? Several friends recommended this book to me, so I figured it was about time I picked it up and gave it a read. This is the first Kate Elliott novel I’ve read, and I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve realized I am missing out. It may seem daunting–coming in at 780 pages–but it reads smoothly and quickly. It’s so engaging and well-paced on every single page.

The book starts with a story that sets up the plot. We’re introduced to several of the major players–especially Captain Kellas and the princess, Dannarah–and then advance to 44 years later. Dannarah’s nephew is king and the whole situation of the kingdom has changed. Part of me wants to describe all of the various players and subplots that are going on a this point, but I really, really don’t want to spoil anything. The story is so wonderfully written, and the reveals of the various twists and turns are so magnificent, I don’t want to steal their thunder.

I’ll suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of epic fantasy, I think you’ll enjoy this one. There’s also a bit of mystery, intrigue, betrayal, and all the other trappings that make any story about nobility transcend setting. And some incredibly complex and strong characters. Pick this one up and check it out!

Catalina Blues by Marlo York

Catalina Blues

Book Info

Title: Catalina Blues
Author: Marlo York
Published: November 19, 2015
Pages: 86
Publisher: Goodreads M/M Romance Group
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Leonard “Leon” Dobson is a US Navy sailor during World War II. He is good at his job, and he manages to hide a great secret quite well. During an allied attack on a Japanese fort, a plane is shot down, and Leon jumps into the water to save the pilot. Not quite understanding Nikifor Jelen when he says his name, Leon nicknames him “Kip” and brings him to safety. Following the battle, the crew lands on an island while they regroup and prepare for the next stage of the journey. It’s during this time that Kip and Leon begin to realize they might share a similar great secret. But Kip is engaged, and Lucy is waiting for him at home. So while they acknowledge a mutual attraction, it looks like it can’t be anything more than a secret rendezvous or two until they get home.

I do enjoy historical romance, and this one has a very well-developed and believable story. I appreciate the care that the author took in developing everything here. The cast of supporting characters really help to bring the world to life, and the way the relationship develops is realistic and believable. While there are some moments when things move a bit slow, it all works toward the somewhat surprising conclusion.

Driven Snow by Tara Lain

Driven Snow

Book Info

Title: Driven Snow (The Pennymaker Tales, Book 2)
Author: Tara Lain
Published: November 25, 2015
Pages: 210
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Snowden “Snow” Reynaldi is a chess genius at NorCal University and the star pupil of his mentor, Professor Kingsley. He’s shy and awkward, and that’s perfectly fine for an aspiring chess champion. But it’s never going to endear him to the guy he can’t get off his mind: star quarterback Riley Prince. Not like it really matters, though, since Riley isn’t gay and he’d never give Snow a second glance even if he was. Right? And even though he knows it’s probably a bad idea (both in terms of his attraction and having time for chess), Snow willingly agrees when Riley needs a physics tutor. A crush and time management turn out to be the smallest of Snow’s worries when his professor marries a mysterious woman who doesn’t seem to hold Snow in very high regard–so much so that his life might be in danger. With the help of seven fraternity brothers from Grimm College and a mysterious man by the name of Pennymaker, will Snow be able to get his life back together and save himself, his professor, and the man he loves?

Another great adaptation from Tara Lain. I absolutely love the way she can take these classic fairytales and update them to the point where you can clearly see the nods and references but you get an entirely different story in the process. It removes the whole “gee, that was obvious” type of reaction while taking the reader on a new and exciting journey that is well worth their time. I recommend giving this a read if you’re a fan of adaptations of classic stories and fairytales.

Dream God by J. Johanis

Dream God

Book Info

Title: Dream God (S-Gods, Book 2)
Author: J. Johanis
Published: November 30, 2015
Pages: 189
Publisher: J. Johanis
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Aya and Marduk are free from the Order, an underground organization of gods who routinely enslaved younger male deities, and they have exposed the group for what it is. But it’s not really quite as simple as that. First, they need to prove to the Council that the things they are alleging actually took place. And when a conspiracy runs as deep as the Order, that’s particularly challenging. And it’s not like all of the politics that seem always at play in the world of the gods is going to stop while the trial is underway. As the two of them feel progressively more isolated, they know that the only way they are going to win is if they can find the strength within themselves and be willing to rely on each other.

Reading this, it’s definitely something I could see playing out among the ancient gods. What would happen if our own career politicians were suddenly all-powerful? Yeah, this could be it. There’s debauchery and selective morals, there’s backstabbing and plotting, and there’s continuous grabs and struggles for power. And it all hangs on tradition and protocol that sometimes seems to get in the way of itself.

What I particularly liked in this follow up to the first book is the way in which Aya starts to come into his own. Previously, he was very much a victim, a slave to the circumstances in which he lived. But here, he gets his chance to take his life back, even if it’s just a bit at a time, by knowing that he shouldn’t have to be okay with the Order and what they did to him.

Content warnings: violence, consent issues, victim blaming/shaming

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

Crystallum by Laney McMann

Crystallum

Book Info

Title: Crystallum (Primordial Principles, Book 1)
Author: Laney McMann
Published: November 30, 2015
Pages: 239
Publisher: Booktrope
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Kadence Sparrow has a secret. It’s one that she hopes no one will ever find out, but it’s also one she doesn’t completely understand. When she is forced to move because her father’s job transfers him, she plans to guard her secret as always. But Cole Spires knows something is different about Kade, and he also knows she needs his protection. Both Kade and Cole are different, but they’re also different from each other. And the two of the crossing paths means that their worlds are going to be opened up to a whole range of possibilities neither of them ever knew or believed was possible. But it just might trigger a war of celestial proportions in the process.

I enjoy young adult fantasy, but I also think it’s the genre for which I find myself being the most critical when I read it. Part of the reason is that there are so many elements that come up time and time again–even in stories with more original plot lines–that it can sometimes be frustrating. Crystallum gives us something different in terms of its story. The world in which it takes place drew me in, and the whole Celestial Children and Primordials seemed to be an interesting concept. But we’ve hints of a love triangle and the age old star-crossed lovers trope here, and it runs quite deep. Thankfully, the overall story balances that out, which allowed me to enjoy this one, but it’s there. And I feel compelled to warn for it.

That said: if you like YA fantasy, you’ll probably enjoy this. It’s billed as the first book in a series, and I am curious to find out what happens next.

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

You Can Leave Your Boots On by Irene Preston

You Can Leave Your Boots On

Book Info

Title: You Can Leave Your Boots On
Author: Irene Preston
Published: November 10, 2015
Pages: 92
Publisher: Irene Preston
Author’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Travis Boyd keeps his sexuality under wraps. It’s not because he doesn’t want to be out–in fact, he’s made a commitment that he won’t date someone who’s in the closet. It’s just that he’s not sure that his conservative clients in the heart of Texas would be too thrilled with him being overly open about it. And it doesn’t impact his work at all anyway. But when an anonymous dating app sets him up on a blind date with one of the last people he might expect, he finds himself forced to reexamine all of his rules and behaviors for a chance at something different and new.

I found the setup here to be intriguing and it wasn’t difficult to get into the story, to want to know more about where this was headed. And the conflict presents itself very early on. Travis has his rules; Bo has his. Travis isn’t willing to bend; Bo thinks maybe he should, just a bit. But there are certainly implications for them both that aren’t easy to ignore.

If you’re looking for something with unexpected twists, this is definitely it.

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

Sirens in the Night by Michael Bradley

Sirens in the Night

Book Info

Title: Sirens in the Night
Author: Michael Badley
Published: November 15, 2015
Pages: 332
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

In her time as a detective, Samantha Ballard has never encountered anything as strange as the series of murders that have just occurred in Philadelphia. How a person can go from very much alive to dead and looking like an ancient mummy is completely beyond her comprehension. But it’s happening, and it’s her job to find out how, why, and who is responsible. As more bodies are discovered, local radio DJ Jack Allyn becomes involved after a friend is one of the hapless victims. An unlikely pair, Samantha and Jack end up working together in their search for answers, only to learn that what their up against is far more dangerous and powerful than they ever could have imagined.

If urban fantasy with strong ties to mythology is your thing (and I will be honest, it’s definitely one of mine), you will very likely find this to be an enjoyable and gripping read. It has that element of authenticity that I think is incredibly important in science fiction and fantasy writing (just because it’s fictional doesn’t mean it shouldn’t still be believable in context), and there is a realness and complexity to the characters–especially Samantha and Jack–that shines through in the writing. The story is paced well, with a couple of lulls that seem to work for the overall plot. And in many ways, I see this as a very likely scenario of how law enforcement in an urban setting might very well deal with an ancient and mythological force suddenly showing up in town and doing its thing.

Definitely worth a read!

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

Dragon Trials by Ava Richardson

Dragon Trials

Book Info

Title: Dragon Trials (Return of the Darkening, Book 1)
Author: Ava Richardson
Published: November 7, 2015
Pages: 203
Publisher: Ava Richardson
Rating: ★★★

Review

Agathea Flamma wants nothing more than for a dragon to choose her to be a Dragon Rider. The noble House of Flamma is part of a long tradition of riders, her two older brothers are riders, and this may just be her last chance. She knows her father wouldn’t mind seeing her get married and have a family, but that’s just not enough for her. Sebastian, the son of a drunken blacksmith with no real prospects or aspirations beyond someday inheriting his father’s business (hopefully before he runs it completely into the ground), has seen the dragons, but doesn’t even entertain the life Thea hopes for–dragons choose children of noble families with education and training, don’t they?

The first of many interesting twists comes when a young red dragon picks both Thea and Seb as her riders. For Thea, the dream come true might be more of a nightmare as her partner has no training, no understanding of what it means to be a rider, and doesn’t seem to be able to learn how to fight. For Seb, the sudden prospect of a completely new life is overshadowed by the attitudes of those around him, Thea’s lack of trust, and his own feelings of having to work that much harder than everyone else to be successful. After all, they’re not guaranteed to become Dragon Riders just because a dragon chose them. They have many trials and weeks of training ahead.

But training may not be their biggest concern. Stories are making their way from the north about strange events that seem eerily similar to the time of the Darkening–something the Dragon Riders helped drive out of their land. Is their realm really under threat? Does the King know about it? And if the Darkening has returned, can the riders fight it again?

I always like when I pick up a book on a bit of a whim and I end up really enjoying it. This is a fun, intriguing, and adventurous young adult fantasy that is certainly engaging and interesting for fantasy lovers of all ages. There are several layers to the plot that make for a complex and dynamic story. Thea has to adjust to the fact that the reality of becoming a Dragon Rider is not exactly what she expected. Seb needs to find his way in a part of society where he feels like a complete outsider. They both have to learn the skills needed to be successful in their new roles. And the stories of the Darkening possibly returning add more concerns for everyone involved.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series…

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