Tag Archives: published: 2016-02

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

Published by: Tor on February 16, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Charles Thomas “Tommy” Hester is a hustler, doing what he needs to do to survive and support his father. Life is what it is, after all. And as someone who lives in the underbelly of New York City, he’s met his share of shady, sinister, and mysterious types. He’s even benefitted a bit from those encounters at times too. But some forces should not be messed with. And we should also be careful about being too quick to judge or jump to our own conclusions.

I will admit that I have not read much Lovecraft. And that which I have read I have not found to be particularly enjoyable. It has never really grabbed me, and I have never connected with the work. So I am skeptical when I approach a work that is adapted/derived/etc. from a Lovecraft story. But there is absolutely no reason to hesitate here. Victor LaValle has taken inspiration from the original story to create something that reads as original itself, is rich with character development and world-building, and serves as a strong example of good storytelling. Well worth a read.

Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Shylock is my name

Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Published by: Hogarth on February 9, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

As the name suggests, this is a modern author’s take on retelling <i>The Merchant of Venice</i> for a contemporary audience. I often enjoy Shakespeare adaptations that are done well, so of course I figured I’d check this one out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed with this one as I’d hoped. Jacobson’s take on the story is confusing, incredibly complex, and difficult to wade through. I’m not sure if he intended it as more of an intellectual take than a literary one, but it came across to me as highly inaccessible in the writing style and overall storytelling.

That said, it is a creative take in comparing the original tale to how a similar situation might play out in the modern world. For the concept alone, I do have to give the author some credit. And that’s why this pulls three stars from me when I probably would have been inclined to rate it lower based on my overall enjoyment and reading of the book.

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

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic, Book 2
Published by: Tor Books on February 23, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In the four months since the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, both Delilah Bard and Kell have tried to put those things in their past. While Lilah has found a place on a pirate ship by putting her skills to use in acquiring things for the captain, she’s still finding her place in a world that isn’t hers. She’s learning to use magic, and she knows she can’t avoid returning to Red London (and Kell) forever. For Kell, it’s been much harder to distance himself. In the aftermath, he finds himself kept in the palace more than ever before, with tensions between him and King Maxim seeming only to grow with each passing day. But Red London is preparing for a major tournament–the Elemental Games–which may provide just enough distraction for everyone and some much needed relief. But one must be careful of distractions, as they have a tendency to distract from other dangers lurking beneath the surface…

I’ve had a copy of this since it was released, but it has taken me some time to get it open and read. That’s not because I wasn’t excited for it–I really have been. A Darker Shade of Magic was one of the best books I read last year. And that’s exactly why I waited. I wanted to make sure I had the time and space to truly experience and enjoy the next installment in this series. And it didn’t take long to get into the rhythm of these characters, to remember the wonder that these worlds left me with the first time around, and to try to anticipate some of the twists that really did surprise me. If you like high fantasy that doesn’t get bogged down too much in the details at the expense of keeping the plot moving, this is honestly a series for you. And I am personally looking forward to the conclusion in the early part of 2017.

Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat

Kings Rising

Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat

Series: Captive Prince, Book 3
Published by: Penguin Australia on February 2, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

To keep order, Damen had to allow his identity to be revealed. Now that the men know who he is, he must claim his place as Damien, rightful king of Akelios. And he can safely assume his budding relationship with Laurent, rightful king of Vere, will be destroyed by this revelation.

But Damen and Laurent need to put their relationship issues aside. There are bigger problems that need their attention. Laurent’s uncle, the Regent, is still set on claiming the throne of Vere for himself. And his alliance with Damen’s brother, who wrongfully claimed the crown in Akelios, gives Damen all the more reason to help Laurent.

The path before them won’t be an easy one. Their armies are sworn enemies. Damen killed Laurent’s brother. And Laurent kept Damen as a slave. Any alliance between the two of them is likely to be rife with dissent and dysfunction. If they can manage to find a way to work together, they might not only achieve their respective birthrights but also get back to the place they were in before Damen’s truth was revealed.

Even a king can hold out hope, no?

I remember finishing the second book in this series. The cliffhanger ending caused me to literally scream out loud. It was one of the most wonderful and frustrating endings of a book that I’ve ever read. So I was so excited to pick this one up and see how the story continued.

Overall, this is a very fitting conclusion to the trilogy. So many of the questions are answered and gaps are filled. And some of the things that readers didn’t even know to question are explained. The twists and turns are in line with what someone who read the first two books would expect.

Foxes by Suki Fleet


Foxes by Suki Fleet

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on February 8, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Danny finds it difficult to interact with other people. A street kid who is great with technology–he can fix almost anything–most people avoid him. So becoming friends with Dashiel was quite the blessing. But Dashiel’s murder left Danny all alone once again. So he’s made it his mission to find Dashiel’s murderer. He goes out on the street each night to take notes on the guys he sees–looking for the sharks who prey on vulnerable young men.

When Danny meets Mickey, a young American hustler, he feels an unexplained urge to protect his new friend. In some ways, it reminds him of the way Dashiel always looked out for him. He knows Danny is in danger, though he’s not sure from what. As the two get closer, Danny confronts things about himself that challenge him. And he finds that to help Mickey, he may have to reach beyond the world he’s created for himself. It will be uncomfortable, but it might just be worth it.

This book made me ache most of the time I was reading it. Not because it was bad; it was actually great. It’s just that these characters have it rough. And they’re so wonderful that it’s tough to see them in these situations. There’s a raw grittiness to this story, without it feeling too heavy at the same time. And the author does an excellent job of drawing readers into Danny’s world, to see it the way he lives in it.

While this is challenging read because of the characters’ circumstances, I don’t want that to keep people from picking it up off the shelf. Because it is a great piece of literature–a work of art, really. And it tells what I think is an important story of two young men who need to find a way to persevere despite their circumstances.

Foxes at the Dreamspinner Press website

The Lone Rancher by Andrew Grey

The Lone Rancher

The Lone Rancher by Andrew Grey

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on February 15, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Aubrey Klein cam home to help his family when they were in trouble. His parents haven’t been the best at managing their money. As a result, they are in danger of losing the ranch. He can’t let that happen. And he would do whatever it takes. Which is how he ended up dancing at a club in Dallas on the weekends. And he figures he’s safe. It’s far enough away that people shouldn’t recognize him. And his moniker, The Lone Rancher, allows him to wear a mask that makes that even less likely. But when Aubrey sees his old friend, Garrett Lamson, at one of the shows, he’s in trouble. He doesn’t think Garrett recognized him, but he’d be lying if he told himself Garrett wasn’t attractive. The two end up running into each other after the show, and their friendship rekindles. And it doesn’t take long for them to both realize they want something more. Something that might inspire both of them to come out to their families and be open about who they are.

But Aubrey still hasn’t told Garrett about his weekend activities. Would Garrett mind, though? After all, he was at one of the shows. He must have some appreciation for what Aubrey is doing. But it’s one thing to watch someone up on the stage and another to have that person be your boyfriend, right? And it’s not like Aubrey is proud of it. That’s why he’s kept it a secret. But he plans to stop as soon as the ranch is safe. So maybe he can just stick it out until then and Garrett will never have to know. If he can live with the guilt…

This is something different from Andrew Grey and I enjoyed every moment of it. A unique story with interesting characters placed in situations that are both tense and entertaining. I’ve been trying to think of another book with a similar storyline, and I can’t think of one. Yes, there are some similar themes, but nothing with this type of story. Which is quite a feat when it comes to new M/M these days.

Needless to say, I recommend this one. It’s sweet, fun, and a bit frustrating at times. The hallmarks of a great romance novel, for sure.

The Lone Rancher at the Dreamspinner Press website

The Winter Prince by R. Cooper

The Winter Prince

The Winter Prince by R. Cooper

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on February 24, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Prince Kisin is in trouble. A powerful pari stole his heart three years ago. As time has passed, he’s become cold–both in temperature and temperament. Without a heart, his veins are turning to ice. And he likely won’t survive another winter. Unable to empathize with his family, he’s content to leave them, knowing he will never come back. The court wizard, Razin, who also happens to be a childhood friend of Kisin, will not let Kisin’s plan stand. He convinces the prince that they must set out to find the pari. If they can find the pari, perhaps they can get Kisin’s heart back. But Razin doesn’t know the real story of how Kisin lost his heart. And Kisin’s not ready to let Razin find out. Can Razin convince Kisin to open up before it’s too late?

This turned out to be an unexpected epic quest fantasy story. And that’s a welcome sort of unexpectedness for me. Razin knows from the start that the journey won’t be easy. He also knows that Kisin isn’t going to be much help in moving them forward. Although the framing of the story focuses on Kisin, I feel Razin is the one to watch. He’s the hero of this tale, for sure.

A major theme here is that love can be a scary emotion. Being willing to let yourself feel love sometimes requires a commitment that isn’t easy. And when we find ourselves wanting what we think we can’t have, we might want to cast those feelings aside. But uncertainty can sometimes be the thing that makes life worth living. If we aren’t willing to take chances, then we can’t ever expect to get anything more than what falls into our laps. And if good things always happened on their own, would they be as satisfying?

The Winter Prince at the Dreamspinner Press website

The Stolen Suitor by Eli Easton

The Stolen Suitor

The Stolen Suitor by Eli Easton

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on February 1, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Most people might wonder if Mabe Crassen is serious about her scheme. But her son Jeremy knows better, even though he’s surprised about one aspect of it. Chris Ramsey is set to marry Trix Stubben, a widowed single mother. Trix also just happens to live on the most successful ranch in the area. Mabe has her sights on that ranch, so she’s set her sons to work. Eric, Jeremy’s older brother, is to use his charms on Trix. It shouldn’t be too hard; Eric’s great with the ladies. And Jeremy’s assignment is to seduce Chris. If they can get Chris in a compromising position, there will be no engagement. There are two problems with that: Chris isn’t gay (is he?), and Jeremy’s never come out to his mother. There’s no way she could know, right?

Jeremy isn’t keen on being a part of the scheme. But he wants nothing more than to get out of Clyde’s Corner and go to college. That’s not going to happen as long as he’s needed to contribute to the family finances. His mother’s plan seems like his ticket out. So he’s willing to play along. But will he be able to go through with the plan when he gets to know Chris better? And if he develops feels for Chris, will he be able to leave him behind when he finally gets out of town?

The plot of this one seems like it might be straightforward. But one thing’s for certain: it’s not. There are some major twists here that throw the story for a loop. And the relationships that build here do so in a believable and understandable way. The character development is well done too. The strong writing here brings Clyde’s Corner to life and it’s almost like they all jump right off the page. I had a hard time putting this one down.

The Stolen Suitor on the Dreamspinner Press website

Einstein’s Peep Show by Josephine Myles

Einstein's Peep Show

Einstein’s Peep Show by Josephine Myles

Published by: Self-Published on February 23, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The last thing Rory Jones expected was a proposition from his neighbor in the hallway of their building. It’s not that he’s averse to random hookups. But his nerdy, keep-to-himself neighbor, Nathan, never quite seemed the type. And when Rory learns that Nathan wants to broadcast their time together on a webcam, things get even more interesting. It’s not something he’s ever done before, but there’s always a first time for everything, no?

Nathan might be one to agree with Rory’s assessment. He’s working hard on his maths degree and has little time for much beyond school. Well, aside from his online cam show which helps him make ends meet. And it’s something he hoped to keep a secret until his biggest–and highest paying–fan asks for something more. He works through the awkwardness to ask for Rory’s help in what he’s sure will be a one time thing.

What neither expects is that they do enjoy their time together. Rory’s not put off by the camera. Nathan, though he’s not ready for another relationship, felt a connection with Rory he hasn’t felt in a while. But it was all just for the camera, right? If they took that out of the equation they would go back to having nothing in common, wouldn’t they? But relationships and feelings aren’t based on mathematical functions. And unlike that homework due tomorrow, they’re also not easily ignored.

I wasn’t sure what to think of this at first. It’s one of those “jump right into it” stories, and it starts with quite the event. But what’s great is that’s what pulled me in. This is a quick-moving, high intensity story with no scene or word out of place. The potential for a relationship builds quickly. But it feels right considering the background of the characters. I was with them every step of the way. And I certainly wouldn’t mind the opportunity to find out what happens next.

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

Tall Order by Irene Preston

Tall Order

Tall Order by Irene Preston

Published by: Self-Published on February 16, 2016 (re-release)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Dylan Trevino is back in Texas, though he never expected that to happen. He left for New York to pursue his dreams, even though it meant leaving Aston Winkler behind. Dylan’s new position with one of the worst caterers in town is beneath him. But when you’ve burned bridges and you need to start over, you have to take what you can get. With a gig like a major party at SXSW, Dylan hopes he might be able to wow and surprise his way to something new. But Dylan’s in for the real surprise when Aston (“Win”) shows up to the event. While much has happened in Dylan’s life while he was in New York, Win’s life has changed just as much–if not more. Win’s career as an artist is in full swing. Dylan would love to pick things up where he left off with Win, but he knows he can’t do that. He messed things up, and he’s in no place to contribute to a relationship. And Win can be just as stubborn. Can these two guys look far enough past themselves to make something work?

This was a fun read, with some unexpected twists and turns. These two guys made me smile, laugh, and want to reach in and shake them more than once. That, to me, often serves as the hallmark of a great story and good writing. The ease with which a reader can get invested in the world of the story is a big deal to me. And in this book, it’s easy to lock in and lose yourself in these pages. I give a strong recommendation to readers looking for a quick, fun, and endearing story.

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

Tall Order at the author’s website