Tag Archives: published: 2016-01

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Published by: Tor on January 26, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were close friends in childhood, but a series of incidents in high school led them to part ways. For Patricia, the development of magical powers was not expected, but it opened a whole new realm of possibilities. And Laurence’s tinkering led to a breakthrough–if you consider a time machine a breakthrough, and you probably should consider a time machine a breakthrough–that was similarly unanticipated. So when the two cross paths again years later, it should be no surprise that Patricia has graduated from a magical academy and is putting her powers to use to protect the world from catastrophe while Laurence is working with a group of genius engineers to develop similarly world-altering technology. Of course, it should also be no surprise that there are forces at play that neither of them expected that they will need to confront together if they are to avert the biggest catastrophe of them all…

I hesitate to praise this as “wildly original” (as I have seen elsewhere) because this is by far not the first time we have seen magical realism and it certainly not the last time we will ever see it. But there is something about the way the writer has developed the characters that certainly made me feel like I was being plunged into a world that is fresh and new. It’s an engaging and entertaining story, which I think many will find difficult to put down. There’s a hint of fantasy, a hint of science fiction, a dash of dystopia, and even a bit of real science all wrapped up here with a tattered bow.

The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon

The Tomato Thief

“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon

Series: Jackalope Wives, #2
Published by:
 Apex Magazine on January 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Grandma Harken lives out on the edge of town, away from most everyone else. Many speculate on why that is: Is it for privacy? Is she a witch? Does she just not like people? But maybe the real question is: Does it even matter? One thing Grandma Harken does like are her prized tomatoes. When they start disappearing from her garden, however, she finds herself with her own set of questions about the thief. And what follows is a double lesson on why one should never make assumptions or judge people based on the little information we can get from just a glance or two.

There was no question for me that this was destined to win the Hugo Award in the novelette category once I had a chance to read all the finalists. In a relatively short space, Ursula Vernon packs in a well-paced fantasy story with a touch of mystery and some action to go along with it. The storytelling is gripping, and while the overall message seems like a serious one, I felt a lightness to it all that kept it from becoming too heavy. I do find reviewing shorter fiction to be difficult because sometimes I worry about having enough to talk about without spoiling the plot. There is so much here, though, that I know I have not even come close. The story is available to read for free on the Apex Magazine website, so I suggest checking it out when you get a chance.

Island Doctor by Sue Brown

Island Doctor

Island Doctor by Sue Brown

Series: Island Medics, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on January 11, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Jeff Martin is a general practitioner in a rural community on the Isle of Wight. He enjoys working with his patients, but he’s been living a split life. No one in the area knows he’s gay. And the girlfriend he goes to visit in Manchester every weekend is actually a man. But when Jeff discovers that his boyfriend has been cheating on him, he realizes it’s time to rethink how his personal and professional lives connect. He’s reeling from his decade-long relationship coming to an end, but he still can’t help taking notice of Cameron Gillard, the great grandson of one of his favorite patients. Is Jeff willing to be out in his community? Can Cameron really be what he needs? And can he ever truly trust a man ever again?

This is only the second Sue Brown novel I’ve read, but I can safely say I am a fan. I fully expect to be rushing out to get the rest of the books in this series and in the series that comes before it as soon as I get a chance. The characters are written well and the story is one that kept me reading. There were moments when I wanted to reach into the book and shake both of these guys, which is often a positive in my book!

Haffling by Caleb James

Haffling

Haffling by Caleb James

Series: The Haffling, Book 1
Published by: DSP Publications on January 5, 2016 (2nd Ed.)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Sixteen-year-old Alex Nevus lives a challenging life for a teenager. Living with a schizophrenic mother, he does all he can to keep things together for his younger sister, Alice. He will do everything he can to keep his family together. And while he manages, it’s always just by a thread. And he tries hard to ignore the fairy that he hallucinates, worried he might end up just like his mother someday.

When Alex’s mother disappears on the day of a court hearing, he knows he has to find her. And his quest to find her takes him to a strange place–the land of the Fey. What he learns there helps explain some of what’s going on in his life, but it stirs up more questions than answers. And in the land of the Fey, all questions come with a cost.

Alex learns there might be a bigger threat to his family than the court system. To save them, he’ll need to find a way to stop May, queen of the Fey. And it won’t be easy.

Complicating things is the fact that the boy of Alex’s dreams, Jerod Haynes, just started talking to him. As much as Alex has longed for a relationship, Jerod’s timing is terrible. Or is it actually the best timing ever?

I really enjoyed this fun and action-packed story. Once things get moving here, they move quickly and stay that way right up until the end. There’s a rich history between the Fey lands and the lands of the humans that the author has developed. And there are some fun references to other stories that certainly made me smile.

This is the start of a series and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

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

Saving His Soldier by Kay McKinnon

Saving His Soldier

Saving His Soldier by Kay McKinnon

Published by: Spunk Books on January 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Connor Thorne is a former Navy SEAL content to live out his life on a secluded island with his dog and the lighthouse. After everything he’s been through, he’s not great with people. And he knows the scar on his face makes people not so great with him. So he looks forward to the winter months when he is the only one on the island.

But this year, the owner of the inn that serves as a tourist getaway in the summer has hired an winter caretaker. And Thorne knows there’s no way he’s going to be able to avoid the only other person on the island for that long. Especially when he holds the only way to contact the mainland. But that doesn’t mean they need to get to know each other, right?

Zach Keegan, veterinarian-turned-writer, has taken the caretaker job to getaway. His fiancée cheated on him with his brother, and he’s still not over the betrayal. He’s hoping some time by himself will help him get past it. And how hard can it be to take care of an empty in for a few months?

What neither of them counts on is Thorne’s dog, Wilson, who shows up on Zach’s doorstep the first morning he’s on the island. A bit of a stubborn dog, he brings the two of them together, though Thorne is still reluctant to make any sort of connection.

But after Thorne saves Zach’s life, the two open up and learn that it might just be possible for them to save each other in ways they’d never expected.

This was a short, fast-paced read. The lives of these two–and their coming together–possessed and intensity that I appreciated as a reader. And there was something about Thorne that was endearing, despite his curmudgeonly ways.

The relationship development is also handled quite well. It’s slow and reluctant. It reflects the personalities of both characters very well. Not only their cautious natures, but their apparent passionate tendencies–these guys don’t do things halfway.

I’d say this is definitely an uplifting story, but there are a few drops of angst sprinkled in just because of both characters’ pasts. Certainly a recommended read when you’re wanting something nice–but maybe not too nice.

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

The Productivity Project

The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey

Published by: Crown Publishing on January 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Everyone wants to be more productive, right? So while I don’t often pick up nonfiction books for the blog, I decided I would give this one a try. If nothing else, I figured it might help me stay on top of the blog work (as well as my work everywhere else)!

What we get here is kind of a mixed bag. Chris Bailey presents a way of thinking about productivity that goes beyond what we get done. It focuses on time, energy, and attention as the things that impact productivity. He also encourages readers to think about focusing on high-impact tasks and being aware of their energy levels throughout the day. There are many tactics and strategies presented in the book that can help in isolation or combination. And while it doesn’t seem too novel or profound, as I’ve thought about it some more, I am starting to think about the ways I work a bit differently.

The key things that the author provides are brief challenges to put some of the tactics in practice. While he says early on there are only a few of these, almost every chapter has one. I did many of them, but there were some that I just read and internalized rather than actually practicing them as I went along.

The book does provide some great food for thought, even if it’s not a total game changer. I also encourage readers to get past the beginning to get into the actual substance of the book. I was a little put off by what appeared to be the author’s need to assert his heterosexuality (mentions of attractive women, relaying Mila Kunis fantasies, and more than one reference to having a girlfriend). The mentions seemed unnecessary, but it was easy to set them aside as completely irrelevant to the text.

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

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Blades

Book Info

Title: City of Blades (The Divine Cities, Book 2)
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Published: January 26, 2016
Pages: 464
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

The city of Voortyashtan was the home of Voortya, the goddess of war, death, and destruction. It was her followers who, after unleashing as much death as possible, were transformed into the sentinels who terrorized the Saypuri slaves. And they were the first people who were promised an afterlife by a Divinity. Thankfully, with the death of all of the gods and goddesses and the Blink, the Divinities and their miracles are a thing of the past. But the recent discovery of a mysterious ore near Voortyashtan, while not Divine in nature, has some people concerned.

Among those concerned is Prime Minister Shara Komayd. But her political position leaves her with few options to investigate. So she enlists Turyin Mulaghesh, retired general still trying to live off the grid after her victory at the Battle of Bulikov five years earlier, to go into the city and investigate. It’s not something that Mulaghesh would willingly sign up for, but Komayd is persuasive. And before she knows it, Mulaghesh is thrust into the investigation of a mystery that brings up just as many ghosts from her own past as it does ghost of Voortyashtan. And in the process, she learns that sometimes we can be held to promises and oaths we take long after we expect–and what it truly means to be a soldier.

I have been looking forward to this book since I finished City of Stairs back when it was released. The world that Robert Jackson Bennett has created is one where I am willing to spend as much time as he can make possible. The rich history, the dynamic characters, and the political intrigue add so many layers to these epic fantasy stories. And the unexpected twists along the way make them that much more interesting and entertaining.

The character development in this story is also something that I hadn’t really expected. The arc that we see Turyin take from start to finish is something to behold. And it’s rare to see a writer take a character on a journey like this in a way that feels organic and not forced at all. And as someone who puts character development and character-driven stories high up on my list of what’s important in a book, it takes this great story to the next level in my eyes.

Very highly recommended!!

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

 

Lover of Light by Mel Bossa

Lover of Light

Book Info

Title: Lover of Light
Author: Mel Bossa
Published: January 25, 2016
Pages: 225
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Andy’s life is a bit of a storm at the moment. He’s recently laid his estranged father to rest, he lost his job, and his best friend, Dimitry, has announced his engagement to Alexei, who Andy is certain his only using him to get a green card. In the midst of this upheaval, there’s tension between Andy and his current boyfriend, he takes a new job as a bartender, and Dimitry announces that his engagement to Alexei is over. Andy couldn’t be happier about the latter until his boss hires a new waiter and in walks Alexei. Andy doesn’t quite know how this is going to work–he needs a waiter who can be in sync with him to keep the bar running smoothly. Much to his surprise, though, Alexei is a hard worker who knows his stuff. But just as he starts to realize there might be more to Alexei than he previously realized, he learns their might be even more to his boss and the bar where he works. And even Andy is surprised at the lengths he will go to protect someone he thought he hated–emphasis on thought…

What a fantastic story! This one was refreshingly original and there were several surprising twists that kept me on the edge of my seat. There are definitely some frustrating moments, and there are points where I wanted to shake the characters repeatedly. But the dynamics and relationships here are so electrifying and charged that it shouldn’t be surprising the story invokes that sort of a reaction. A great character-driven story, and I personally couldn’t get enough.

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

Inversion Point by Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen

Inversion Point

Book Info

Title: Inversion Point (Chaos Station, Book 4)
Author: Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen
Published: January 25, 2016
Pages: 216
Publisher: Carina Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Felix was certainly more than glad to get Zander back after he died. And he never expected that things would suddenly be normal for the two of them. But everything just gets more and more complicated by the day. For one, there’s a cult that apparently worships Zander now intent on following them all around the galaxy. It’s not just an annoyance; it’s actually get in the way of them completing jobs. And a new species has emerged, potentially triggering a war when they destroy a probe belonging to the stin. Zander is pulled into the fray as an emissary for the Guardians, and the situation is further complicated by the presence of two individuals from Felix’s past: a former lover in the form of the human ambassador and one of the stin who tortured him during his captivity. It’s an intense situation all around, and everyone is counting on Zander to keep the peace and avoid another war. And it may take more out of Zander than anyone is willing to notice–except Felix, who is finding himself taxed in several ways himself. But if they’ve made it this far, they’ll persevere. Right?

I am beyond pleased with this installment in the series. They say in order to move forward, you have to confront your past. We’ve seen Zander do that more than once in the series. In the process, that means Felix has had to do the same, but not quite to the extent that Zander has. Here, though, we get a glimpse at potential futures for Zander in his role as emissary and a long, dark look at Felix’s past. There are turning points here for everyone, and the way they choose to respond to them is certainly going to shape not only how things play out during the summit and its aftermath but the rest of their lives. Many unexpected twists lie within.

There’s one more book in the series after this one. I can’t wait, but I also don’t want it to end…

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

Red River by Cardeno C.

Red River

Book Info

Title: Red River (Pack, Book 2)
Author: Cardeno C.
Published: January 19, 2016
Pages: 122
Publisher: The Romance Authors
Author’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Wesley Stone is next in line to be the Alpha of his pack. Well, he should be whenever his uncle finally decides to step down from the role. But Wesley is different. He is a scar on his abdomen that many in his pack see as a weakness, though he doesn’t quite understand why. He’s always been a bit of an outsider, but he’s completely shocked when his uncle lets him know he’ll never be able to lead their pack. If he wants to become an Alpha, he’ll need to trade places with an Alpha from a nearby pack and take the current Alpha’s son as his mate. While it’s not anything close to the ideal situation, Wesley agrees, thinking he will find a way to make the best of it. But when he meets Jobe Root, his intended mate, everything turns out to be far different than he expected. The way the Red River pack functions is not at all like the pack in which Wesley has lived his life. He quickly learns that many of the things he thought were absolute might be a bit more fluid than he believed. It turns out there are some things that Wesley didn’t know about himself, either…

This is a quick and engaging read. The pace is just right to keep the reader interested without ever feeling too rushed. And the slow reveal of some of the information about Jobe and the Red River pack certainly allows for a few twists to be thrown in along the way.

This is the second book in a series, but it appears to be stand-alone. I’ve not read the first book, and I had no problems at all following what was happening here or knowing who all of the characters were. One thing that did throw me, and I’ll share it even though it might be a bit of a spoiler, is some MPreg near the end. I’m not one for MPreg stories–it’s something I’ve never been able to suspend disbelief enough to not catch me up in a story, even in those with paranormal themes–but despite that being in the book, I still found myself enjoying the story.

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