Tag Archives: published: 2016-05

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

The Jewel and her Lapidary

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

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

Lin is a young princess, never destined to rule over the kingdom. Sima, her lapidary, was never trained on how to use the powerful gems and their magic for anything beyond what a princess may need. So when a massacre of the royal family leaves Lin as the only hope for her kingdom, both find themselves running into new territory with high-stakes consequences–not just for the two of them, but for an entire people.

There is a lot to the concept and the world that Fran Wilde has created here. The traditions, the history, the people–it hearkens to an epic fantasy story, though this is delivered in a single, novella-length installment. The story is fast-moving, with little time to stop for intentional character development and backstory, with everything coming through via the characters’ actions. And that can be a good thing at times, though there are moments in this story where things move so quickly that I felt a few things may have been lost. The story is well-written, and I would say my only complaint is that I would have like to see this developed over the course of more pages (or even multiple books) to really immerse myself as a reader.

Duke in Hiding by M.J. O’Shea

Duke in Hiding

Duke in Hiding by M.J. O’Shea

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on May 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Theo Brody is a landscaper and bartender who has lived in Maplehurst, New Hampshire, all his life. He doesn’t lead a life of extravagance, but he has what he needs. And his business is reaching the point where he might be able to quick tending bar altogether. But things get interesting when Heath Blackwood walks into his bar. The mysterious, salty Brit rubs Theo the wrong way. But once they get to know each other, Theo learns there’s a lot more beneath the farmer’s gruff exterior.

Heathcliff Blackwood never expected to find himself in some small American town with nothing to do. But death threats against a duke are always taken seriously. (That’s right…he’s not exactly a farmer…) Though he’s stuck in Maplehurst, he finds an opportunity to make the best of it with Theo. Theo represents exactly what Heath wants in a man, though he never really had the opportunity to find it at home. Shedding the noble persona has allowed him to find exactly what he wants and needs.

But Heath will need to go home eventually. And if he even stands a chance of keeping things going with Theo, he still needs to find a way to tell him he’s a duke. And Theo needs to figure out if he can manage such a long distance relationship. So they’ll just live in the here and now and figure out everything else later…until it all catches up with them unexpectedly.

Falling in love with a secret duke and having him love you back? Why not? And I understand that sounds completely cliche. But this story is tastefully written and presented–so it comes together in an engaging and interesting way. And it’s always something special when a writer can take something that seems like a trope or a cliche and make it appear fresh and new. Definitely an enjoyable read.

Beta Test by Annabeth Albert

Beta Test

Beta Test by Annabeth Albert

Series: #gaymers, Book 2
Published by: Carina Press on May 30, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Tristan Jones knows he doesn’t fit in with others in the gaming industry, but he’s excited to go to work for one of the biggest games of the moment. His organization makes him come across as uptight. And he’s sort of okay with that because it helps get things done. His family thinks he’s not making the best use of his MBA, but they don’t exactly understand him anyway.

Ravi Tandel is a graphic designer at the top of his game. He’s confident and talented, and he’s active in the community. A creative person, he makes friends easily and is the center of one of the biggest social circles at the company.

When Ravi and Tristan are thrown together on a project, their different styles collide. Ravi sees Tristan as rigid, serious, and possibly homophobic. Tristan sees Ravi as distracted, flamboyant, and borderline unprofessional. It’s definitely a recipe for tension. And the tension escalates when they’re assigned to drive the display they’ve been working on from San Francisco to Seattle. That’s a long time alone together in a truck. But it might be just the time they need to break through each other’s exteriors. There might just be more that they have in common than they’d ever imagined…

The attention to detail that Annabeth Albert shows in her stories amazes me. Both this book and the previous installment in this series show a great deal of care and research into the settings and the gaming industry itself. The world here is so seamless that it’s so easy to be drawn right in to the characters.

And these two: it’s hard not to like them both. Throw in just the right amount of tension at exactly the right points, and you’ve got a great story that is impeccably paced. I’m definitely a fan.

As a bonus: if you’re someone who laments the end of the Looking, the HBO show, this will certainly help you get that fix. It has just enough of that vibe while being something all its own.

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

Stasis by Kim Fielding

Stasis

Stasis by Kim Fielding

Series: Ennek Trilogy, Book 1
Published by: DSP Publications on May 17, 2016 (2nd edition)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Ennek is the youngest son of the Chief of Praesidium. Since he’s not the heir, he’ll need to find his own place in this society with a strict moral code. A code that is enforced in a unique way. Instead of prison time, criminals are sentenced to slavery. And for major crimes, those convicted can be placed in Stasis for dozens to hundreds of years. While in sleep-like Stasis, one’s body doesn’t age. And when the convict awakes, everyone they knew and everyone who knew them is long gone. They live out their days as a slave in an unknown world.

When Ennek was a child, he was allowed to visit the cells where the Stasis prisoners are kept. During that brief visit, he became fascinated with one of them, and he hasn’t been able to shake him from his mind. And as a new threat reveals itself from inside Praesidium, Ennek will need to decide what’s most important–the rule of law or saving people from the most horrible of fates.

There was something about the world that Kim Fielding has created here that struck me as unique and refreshing. Although one can certainly find some elements here common to other fantasy stories, nothing here seems like a trope. Readers get something original and compelling.

One thing I find interesting is the character of Ennek. He’s not a typical hero. Because he’s resigned himself to being second–he’s not the heir–he seems content to just let things happen to him. And that gets him into some tight spots. Spots he’ll only get out of if he can try to find a way to step up. He’ll need to make difficult decisions, the likes of which he’s never faced before.

Ennek and Miner have a journey before them. And it’s one I look forward to reading in the remaining books.

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

Phase Shift by Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen

Phase Shift

Phase Shift by Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen

Series: Chaos Station, Book 5
Published by: Carina Press on May 2, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Zander Anatolius has been through a lot. More than any one man should have to go through. And the same could be said for Felix Ingesson. So Zander’s decided to ask Felix to marry him and finally get them both to settle down. Felix isn’t ask keen on the idea of marriage, though Zander thinks he might be able to convince him. But as their past should have warned him, something’s always going to come up at the worst possible moment.

What worse is that what’s come up this time might be the worst possible thing to come up. After a security breach on the ship, Zander catches up with the culprit. And the culprit shifts. That shouldn’t be possible; Zander’s the last of those who should be able to do that. And considering that data about Project Dreamweaver–the experiment that made Zander what he is–is what was taken, things don’t look good. One thing’s for sure, everything else will need to be put on hold until they find the person responsible and stop them before things get worse.

I’ve read this series from the beginning and I have loved every minute of it. It’s an action-packed science fiction story with a m/m relationship between the main characters–what’s not to love? What’s even more great about it, though, is that no aspect of the plot feels forced. I’ve read many m/m sci-fis where the relationship feels thrust into the story. I’ve read m/m romance that tosses a sci-fi background up but doesn’t have it fully developed. You won’t get either of those with this series, for sure.

The final installment takes Zander and Felix back to the beginning. Much as Felix had to confront some of the hardest moments from his past in the previous book, Zander comes face to face with his demons here. And both of them are faced with choices that neither is comfortable with under normal circumstances. But the way they work together is what makes it clear just how much they need each other…on multiple levels.

I must say I will miss these characters, but I’m glad I got to spend five books with them…

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