Tag Archives: published: 2016-04

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Series: Wayward Children, Book 1
Published by:
 Tor on April 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

We have all read and enjoyed the epic adventures of children who manage to stumble into fantastic, strange new worlds. But what comes of them when they return back to the mundane world of their origin. No one believes them. And they cannot find their way back. But their lives will never be the same. Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children can provide a place where these children are understood, but Miss West knows they may have to find a way to learn to live with a longing that will never be fulfilled. But can the Home truly provide protection for the resident children…

A creative and original take on the notion of what comes after. McGuire manages, in a novella-length story, to develop and present a rich world that draws readers in quickly and hooks them into the fate of Nancy and her fellow residents. And at the same time, issues of how we perceive and treat each other–but also how we treat ourselves–are tackled head on in a way that may leave readers coming out of the book seeing things differently than they did before, much like the children in the story.

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington

Sleep Revolution

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington

Published by: Harmony Books on April 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

How many times do you hear or say things like: “I’m tired.” “I didn’t get enough sleep last night.” “I’ll just stay up to get this done and try to sleep more this weekend.” “Sometimes I try to sleep in, but it just doesn’t happen.” “It takes me forever to fall asleep at night.”

These phrases are becoming increasingly common for us to say and hear–and even tell ourselves. And Arianna Huffington sets out a good case for what this all means. Without a doubt, we are in a sleep deprivation crisis as a society. With the pressure to do more and more in the same amount of time in a day, people are overextending themselves and giving up something essential to survival: sleep. As we are also more stimulated and connected by technology, it makes it that much harder to wind down at the end of a long day.

While we often dismiss this as okay, using some of the phrases above, it has health implications that we may not always know are there. Fatigue and exhaustion are just the tip of the iceberg. Sleep has been shown to have connections to healthy weight, blood pressure, and several other conditions.

But knowing we’re sleep deprived is just the beginning. Especially since almost everyone would admit that they feel tired or sleep deprived on some level at some point in any given week. Where Huffington takes things a step further is offering some suggestions for how we can each start addressing the crisis in our own lives. Working on the issue starts with each person. Not only is this because society isn’t going to shift until the people pushing for the shift reaches critical mass. It’s also because the tactics and strategies for prioritizing sleep need to be determined on an individual basis.

This is an interesting read. Huffington has collected a great deal of research and anecdotes in one nice, tidy place. And while I don’t think anything here is particularly profound or novel, it’s a stimulating and thought-provoking read.

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

Unstable Stud by Ariel Tachna

Unstable Stud

Unstable Stud by Ariel Tachna

Series: Lexington Lovers, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on April 15, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Luke Davis is a hard worker who takes his job at Bywater Farms seriously. A stable hand from a young age, he knows the ins and outs of the job. He also knows how to treat horses, and he can easily gain their respect. But even Luke can’t help his surprise when he’s appointed as the groom for King of Hearts, the farm’s most prized horse.

King’s a race horse–or at least he was. His racing days ended just a year and a half before when he threw his rider. The rider didn’t make it, and King hasn’t been amenable to a new rider since then. But Luke’s boss, Clay, has faith that Luke might be able to bring King out of his shell and get him back in the game.

Luke also can’t deny his attraction to his boss. He knows it’s not right, but it’s not like he can just turn it off. And when Clay gives Luke some obvious hints the attraction is mutual, Luke thinks he might give in. But there are some complicating factors. Clay is Luke’s boss. And the rider who fell off King? Clay’s lover. There’s not shortage of issues to go around for these two.

Can Luke let his guard down long enough to let Clay in? And is Clay over his past enough to start a new relationship?

These two guys. I’m not even sure where to start. It’s always interesting to see people act on their attraction for the first time. Even when they’re tentative, there is a real passion that comes through.

My only real reservation here is that I feel like Clay’s revelation was a bit sudden. Yes, he’s had time to watch Luke and for the attraction to build. But it all still seemed to escalate quickly.

Despite that, this is a wonderful story about finding love when you’ve given up and when you don’t think you could fall in love again. It’s about moving on but not forgetting your past. It’s about being there for the person you love even when it’s scary to do so. And it’s well worth a read.

Forgive and Forget by Charlie Cochet

Forgive and Forget

Forgive and Forget by Charlie Cochet

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

Joe Applin feels good about his life. His cafe, Apple’n Pies, is doing well. He has a great team working for him, and his business is booming. Yes, he doesn’t have a man in his life, but that’s okay. Considering what happened last time and how hard he had to work to get his life back on track, he’s in no rush to find a relationship. Even if one of his staff thinks he’s really overdue…

When the team discovers an injured man in the garden next to the restaurant, things take a turn. Tom–the name he takes since he can’t remember who he is–is running from someone. He doesn’t know who he’s running from, but he knows he needs to find a safe place to hide. Joe offers to let Tom stay with him, despite his obvious attraction for the mysterious man. Joe figures the walls he’s put up will keep things on a friendly level.

But there is a real danger following Tom. And if they find out where he’s hiding, what will that mean for Joe? Or once Tom remembers who he is, will he go back to his old life and leave Joe behind?

Joe is one of those characters that just gets you right away. He’s endearing and funny. As a reader, I couldn’t help but cheering from him from beginning to end. And when Tom shows up, the two just create an even more endearing picture. These two are pretty great, to be honest.

I really enjoyed the pacing of this book. The story moves in the right directions at the right times, and it certainly kept me engaged right through to the end. It also makes it feel like a shorter read than it really is–but in the best way possible.

Loving Djinni by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Loving Djinni

Loving Djinni by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Published by: Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus on April 14, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

David should have known better than to trust criminals. His own dabbling in dishonest dealings should be enough indication of what can happen. And that’s how he winds up being left for dead in a crumbling tomb.

But David finds something special in the tomb that just might be his ticket out: an old lamp with, believe it or not, a djinni inside. David’s not much of a believer, but it’s hard to deny Sharu’s existence when he whisks them safely back to David’s apartment. And it’s even harder for David to deny his attraction to the djinni.

While many people would be excited at the prospect of three wishes, it’s a complication David isn’t sure he needs in his life. He’s still nursing a breakup from the guy he thought was the love of his life. And it just so happens he’s a guy that David can’t avoid in his social circle. Not to mention, there’s the brewing attraction David feels for Sharu. There’s also the fact that David can’t help feeling dismayed at the fact that Sharu is cursed and enslaved. It just doesn’t seem right.

As David begins to find his confidence and earn Sharu’s trust, can he find a way to save the djinni from his fate and return the favor? Or is some magic so powerful that nothing can make it undone?

I think there’s something about David that many readers will find relatable. While he finds success in some areas of life, there are others that just don’t come together. This is especially true with relationships. And even when what seems like an easy solution presents itself, things are never as simple as they seem.

And sometimes, truly, we don’t know what we need until it’s right in front of us…

This is an entertaining and engaging read. I recommend it to anyone who likes their romance with a bit of magic–ancient or otherwise–on the side.

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

Chalcedony by Constance Burris

Chalcedony

Chalcedony: Book Two of the Everleaf Series by Constance Burris

Series: The Everleaf Series, Book 2
Published By: Constance Burris on April 20, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After helping Elizabeth escape the fey realm, Coal finds that he’s stuck in the human world. Worse than that, he’s been arrested and placed in detention for being a party to Elizabeth’s kidnapping. The government agent who arrested him is willing to let him go, but he has a condition. He wants Coal to give up Chalcedony as Elizabeth’s kidnapper. It turns out taking a human to the fey realm without their consent violates a long-standing treaty between the humans and the fey. But although Coal already betrayed Chaledony by bringing Elizabeth home, he’s wary of saying anything more.

All Coal really wants is to return to the fey realm. It’s all he’s known and he considers it to be his home. But getting back there isn’t as easy as it might seem. And Coal will need to enlist some unlikely allies in his quest. Along the way, though, he learns the truth about his past and it turns everything on its head.

Things aren’t all great in the fey realm, either. Chalcedony enlists Queen Tasla to help confront Queen Isis for allowing free traffic through her door. One of the jobs of the queens is to ensure their doors are properly guarded. To do otherwise is ground for other queens to forcibly remove you from power. And it looks like Chalcedony and Tasla will need to do just that. But Isis isn’t going to go down without a fight.

With Coal’s shocking truths revealed in the human world and war brewing in the fey realm, this book is a game changer for everyone involved.

I really enjoyed Coal when I read it a while ago. There’s a uniqueness to the world of this story. It eschews many of the YA fantasy tropes, and it does so quite well. I never once thought to myself “Oh, yep, there’s that thing we keep seeing in every new YA book.” The author brings a a refreshing voice and a vibrant set of characters to life on the page.

There’s also a great balance of action and character development in this book. Readers learn more about the history of this world, but you don’t have to wade through chapter after chapter of exposition to get it. And, as a special treat, we find out what happened to everyone at the end of Black Beauty–and there are some definite major twists that came out of that.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next book!

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

Ocean of Secrets by Jerry Sacher

Ocean of Secrets

Ocean of Secrets by Jerry Sacher

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on April 29, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After he’s caught in a compromising position with the caretaker’s son, Andrew Elliot finds himself boxed into a corner. His father will not stand for that kind of relationship for his son. So Andrew finds himself engaged to a woman he barely knows. And he’s about to set sail to America with his fiancée and her brother–who makes Andrew uncomfortable. Andrew isn’t exactly resigned to his fate, but he sees no way out. He hopes if he goes along with his father’s wishes to a point, he can make him see reason. And maybe he’ll learn more about his betrothed on their trip, which might provide him the ticket to break this match.

Matthew Ahearn has always dreamed of being a cowboy in Texas. It’s a bit of a pipe dream for a lower class Irishman. But that doesn’t have to stop him from pursuing it. And if he can get a job on a ship sailing to America, he’ll be halfway there. A brief run-in with the law in London on his way to set sail isn’t enough to hold him back. He’s on the ship as he intended, and he’s leaving his past behind him.

These two men come from different worlds. But there’s something they have in common that might have the power to bring them together. If they happen to run into each other on the maiden voyage for the RMS Titanic, that is…

I know I’ve shared in my reviews before that I am a fan of historical fiction. And I really enjoy well-written historical m/m because I feel like it allows us to get a glimpse of stories that have been lost. The real stories weren’t written down because most of them existed in the shadows. And the stories we do have are mostly extrapolations from euphemisms. So a nice m/m spin on a major historical event like this definitely appeals to me.

The cast of characters here is pretty great. There’s a richness to their histories and personalities that really comes through. And the author’s inclusion of real passengers alongside the fictional characters helps bring the story to life. It also shows an attention to detail and level of research that is appreciated when one takes on such an iconic moment in history.

To me, this was an excellent twist on the historical romances I typically read from this period. There were many layers to sort through beyond just the “it’s not okay to be gay so I either have to hide it or be miserable” idea. And at the same time it acknowledges the tragedy of the Titanic and the lessons we learned (and can continue to learn) from what happened on that fateful night.

Book, Line, and Sinker by L.J. LaBarthe

Book, Line, and Sinker

Book, Line, and Sinker by L.J. LaBarthe

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

Ash returns to his outback home of Quorn after seventeen years in the Australian Army looking for some peace. War didn’t leave him unscathed; he suffers from PTSD and occasional flashbacks. But he hopes that spending time with his family can help him. And there’s nothing like going home.

But home has changed since Ash was here last. And one of those changes has been the addition of Jaxon. Jaxon is the new librarian in Quorn, and he draws Ash’s attention right away. Not only is Jaxon attractive, there’s something about him that helps calm Ash. Jaxon makes him feel better.

One thing Ash knows, though, is that he needs to find something to keep himself occupied if he’s going to work past his issues. So he proposes starting a mobile library to bring books and other items to those in more rural parts of the local area. Although he shouldn’t be surprised, Ash is excited to find Jaxon is on board to help him. Which creates the added benefit of something the two of them can do together.

But Ash can’t just throw his past aside overnight. And he’s not sure if Jaxon can truly understand everything he’s been through. They both seem willing to try, and he just hopes trying is worth enough…

This book is not as angsty as I think my summary makes it sound. But I also feel the need to accurately portray where the characters and story are coming from. In actuality, I found it to be almost a bit of an inspiring read. While it’s not exactly easy for Ash, he uses his experience and his connections to create something meaningful for his community. Not only is this something that can help him, but it also helps others. There’s a selflessness of so many of the characters in this book that definitely made me smile. And it comes across as totally authentic at the same time.

A fun and unique romance novel. I definitely give this a strong recommendation.

Wyatt’s Recipes for Wooing Rock Stars by Clancy Nacht & Thursday Euclid

Wyatt's Recipes for Wooing Rock Stars

Wyatt’s Recipes for Wooing Rock Stars by Clancy Nacht & Thursday Euclid

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on April 20, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Wyatt Parker is taking quite a leap. The owner of a construction company by day, he enjoys cooking and trying new recipes at night. Which is why he’s jumped at the chance to be part of a reality show that will select a personal chef for his favorite rock star. Although he’s a bit out of his element as the only untrained contestant, he does have an advantage: he’s a true fan. Of course, there’s also the distraction that Wyatt finds Tully attractive. But he can get past that, right?

Tully Randolph wasn’t entirely on board with the reality show thing. He agreed reluctantly, but he changes his mind when he meets Wyatt. Wyatt not only seems to “get” Tully, he’s also the kind of guy that Tully’s been looking for. It’s too bad he can’t get involved in a relationship with any of the competitors. But that may prove more difficult than it sounds.

There are forces at play to keep Tully and Wyatt apart. The contract Wyatt signed was clear. And one of the producers seems set on another contestant taking home the prize. But is the force of Wyatt and Tully’s attraction stronger? Or is any chance they had over before they even get started?

An entertaining story with some great character development, this was one that I definitely enjoyed. It certainly provides an interesting twist on the reality shows with which we’ve become all too familiar. And the subtle sign that it’s not always the most talented person who wins those shows (as the fine print always says the producers get a say) was something I found to be on point.

I wasn’t a fan of the way some people treated Wyatt, but I can see why that would happen considering the circumstances. And I guess I had expected a bit more tension surrounding the way the story resolves at the end. This does get a recommendation from me, and I think it has a little something for all fans of the genre.

Maestro by R.A. Salvatore

Maestro

Maestro by R.A. Salvatore

Published by: Wizards of the Coast on April 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Drizzt Do’Urden may never have thought he’d return to Menzoberranzan. The the Drow city, his former home, is his destination. But this should be a quick in-and-out- visit. Traveling with unlikely companions, he must rescue Dahlia, a former love.

And his current (and forever) love, Cattie-brie, finds herself working with some unlikely allies as well. Her team, including Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzobarranzan, must work to rebuild the one thing that can keep the ancient primorial under Gauntlgrym in check.

So two unpleasant but important tasks lie before them. And both know that accomplishing their goals will come with challenges. But when a Drow force to be reckoned with–one thought long gone–reveals herself, it becomes clear that the challenge is just beginning.

I have been waiting for some action to return to this series for a couple of books now. Things have been moving slowly. But this one really bought things back into focus. There was an intensity here that I think both longtime and new Drizzt readers can appreciate.

I also enjoyed getting to see a bit more of some of the non-Companions characters. Jarlaxle and Gromph feature a bit more in this book. And readers are re-introduced to a character who could be the biggest game-changer since the Companions of the Hall returned.

I certainly look forward to the next book in this series. The game is truly on now. And I could see it ending in many different ways.

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