Tag Archives: published: 2016-06

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Series: The Machineries of Empire, Book 1
Published by:
 Solaris Books on June 14, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Captain Kel Cheris has been afforded an opportunity to redeem herself in the eyes of Kel Command. But the task before her, recapturing the Fortress of Scattered Needles from heretics, will not be easy. So she finds herself partnering (in a sense) with Shuos Jedeo, an undead tactician who reportedly went mad while he was alive–and on a madness-inspired murder spree. But what Jedeo brings to the mission may be exactly what Cheris needs to succeed. She just needs to figure out how much she can trust Jedeo–and how to make use of his expertise without letting him take over…

An epic space adventure if there ever was one. And the world that Yoon Ha Lee has created here is one that is quite intriguing. There is honestly a lot to keep track of, especially at first, but I would say it’s manageable for most astute readers. And it is a great examination of the question of taking risks, and determining which of those risks are necessary in order to succeed. Is it worth introducing more danger to an already dangerous situation on the chance that it may be the only way to get through to the other side?

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

The Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Published by: Hogarth on June 2, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Kate Battista knows people can perceive her as abrasive at times. But she’s honest, independent, and isn’t intentionally mean. Everyone just seems to expect her to fit a mold that doesn’t fit. Even the coworker she really wishes would notice her.

Everything comes to a head when Kate’s father presents her with a ridiculous demand. He wants Kate to marry his lab assistant, Pyotr, so he can stay in the country. Kate rejects the proposal outright (How could he ask her that?) at first, but eventually she decides it might not be so bad. She can manage it for a year, right? And it will get her out of her father’s house, where her needy father and sister dominate her life.

Pyotr gets on Kate’s nerves, especially at first. He’s always so optimistic and reads their interactions more positively than Kate intends. But as she gets to know him better, could she discover something deeper? What really makes Pyotr tick? An unexpected event on their wedding day gives Kate the chance to truly see what life with Pyotr would be like. Can she manage it for a year? Or could it even become something that lasts?

I often enjoy modern retellings of Shakespeare plays. There’s something about adapting a classic into a new work that reflects the challenges and realities of today’s society that gets me thinking. Some issues we face as people transcend time. And others change shape but still linger over us regardless of the decade. I have to say that I do like what Anne Tyler did here with The Taming of the Shrew.

If you weren’t a fan of 10 Things I Hate About You (or even if you were), this is probably the story that you needed instead. It’s well-written, dynamic, and paced in a more interesting and realistic way.

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

Love, Marriage, and a Baby Carriage by C.S. Poe

Love Marriage and a Baby Carriage

Love, Marriage, and a Baby Carriage by C.S. Poe

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

Theodore Reinhart isn’t quite sure what he’s gotten himself into. At the urging of others, he’s ended up at WaddleCon, the perfect place for a penguin shifter to find a mate. But Theodore isn’t looking for the woman of his dreams, and the entire event is focused on male-female pairings.  He’s resigned to just get through the end of the weekend. But when a speed dating mishap puts him across a table from Wesley O’Neill, things change. Especially when Wesley makes it known he might be interested right back.

Theodore and Wesley end up spending some time together, and Theodore thinks he may have found what he’s looking for. But when he discovers an abandoned egg during their date, all hell breaks loose. Theodore and Wesley find themselves on the run, all the while doing everything they can to keep the egg safe. Will this bring them closer together? Or is this the kind of thing that will tear them apart?

Penguin shifters? Sign me up. I’m all for fun and unique shifters, and an action-packed, comedy of errors type story like this is an easy sell for me. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in. And I was pleasantly surprised.

This is on the shorter side as it’s a part of Dreamspinner’s 2016 daily does series. But it’s well worth picking up and taking the time to read.

Crushing on the Cowboy by Sarah M. Anderson

Crushing on the Cowboy

Crushing on the Cowboy by Sarah M. Anderson

Series: Rodeo Dreams, Book 1
Published by: Carina Press on June 27, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Mitch Jenner is well-known on the rodeo circuit as The Heartbreak Kid. He leads women on, only to leave them with their hearts broken when he moves onto another town. But none of them really know the truth of why he’s so willing to leave them all behind.

Enter Paulo Bernardes, a Brazilian rider who has come to the States to learn the American way of riding. His goal is to learn and return home to open a riding school. But Mitch pulls his interest, and he pulls Mitch’s as well. Although Paulo doesn’t speak much English, it doesn’t take long for the message to get through to them both. There’s an attraction between them that is hard to deny.

Paulo isn’t worried about being out. He’s quite concerned about making sure Mitch is comfortable, though. Which makes things difficult when Mitch says he’s interested in a relationship, but only if it can be kept a secret. To Mitch, there’s no room for an out cowboy on the rodeo circuit. But Paulo doesn’t only want a part of the man he’s with. And he’s not sure if he can settle for pretending to be “just a friend” the rest of the time.

What’s clear is that some decisions will need to be made. Is this just a fling or is it something more? And if it’s something more, what are each of them willing to give to keep the other in their lives?

There’s an interesting dynamic here with the language barrier that I think the author plays off quite well. Although Paulo can generally understand Mitch, the fact that he can’t just speak right back to him obviously throws some challenges into the mix. And these come out not only in their relationship, but also in the storytelling. Thankfully, despite the challenge, the pacing and the development of the characters and relationship don’t miss a single beat.

This is the first from this author that I’ve read. But I will say I’m certainly up for more if this is what I can expect!

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

Medusa’s Revenge by Brian Trent

Medusa’s Revenge by Brian Trent

Published by: Daily Science Fiction on June 13, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

 

When Sergeant Percy and Detective Cassie receive a dire warning from the Sybil, they need to decide what to do. While they know Prisoner X is dangerous, there are many other worries plaguing the city. But any tip from the Sybil is worth investigating. So they set off for her island prison to investigate.

But even with the Sybil’s warning, will anyone be able to stop what’s to come?

A delightful short story that takes ancient mythology into the present day. The question of how the characters and creatures of mythology would interact with modern technology is an interesting one to consider. And in just a short amount of words, Brian Trent gives us a great answer to that question and an entertaining and thoughtful story.

Beauty, Inc. by Tara Lain

Beauty, Inc.

Beauty, Inc. by Tara Lain

Series: The Pennymaker Tales, Book 3
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on June 8, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Dr. Robert “Belle” Belleterre is more than just a pretty face. He’s a skilled chemist who has just developed an innovative face cream that will prove a breakthrough for his father’s cosmetic company. Belle’s success seems to go unappreciated by his father. The older Mr. Belleterre’s alcohol and gambling problems keep the company on the brink. And when a series of events find him facing a debt he can’t pay, he offers up his son to Magnus Strong, CEO of Beauty, Inc.

Belle finds himself on the other side of the country from his family and his best friend. And all he knows of Mr. Strong, aside from his position, is that he’s known for a major scar across his face. But any man who would accept a year of his service in his company to pay off a poker debt can’t be a great person, right? How can he be expected to work for a rival company? But with a family like Belle’s, perhaps the family business shouldn’t be his main concern.

And what of Magnus Strong and the man behind the mystery? What are his motivations? And who is he? As Belle settles into his new home, he soon finds that there may be something unexpected behind the scar…

I’ve been really enjoying The Pennymaker Tales, of which this is book three. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise considering they’re modern adaptations of fairy tales. I live for retold stories that offer new perspectives and elements not present in the original. And who doesn’t like seeing the story of that princess retold with someone like themselves in her place?

Tara Lain approaches these stories in a masterful way. There’s always just enough of the source story for you know what’s being referenced. But the new story still feels fresh and original. Even knowing that a fairy tale is being referenced, you don’t feel like you’re just seeing and hearing the same thing all over again.

I’m not sure if more of these are planned, but I certainly hope they are. I’d love to keep reading more about the men who are fortunate to have Mr. Pennymaker cross their paths…

Damned If You Do by Marie Sexton

Damned If You Do

Damned If You Do by Marie Sexton

Published by: Samhain Publishing on June 14, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Abaddon is down to his last chance. If he doesn’t do something to meet his quota for soul collection soon, he’ll be demoted a less than desirable job. He needs a big score. And he knows just where to get it.

Traveling to “the Bible Belt,” Abaddon quickly finds Seth, a blind musician who is part of a traveling revival. His purity quickly draws Abaddon in. Seth’s soul would be an ultimate score. But Abaddon is drawn to Seth in other ways too–ways that make his task more difficult to complete than he expected.

But there’s something about Seth that Abaddon can’t quite figure out. There’s more to Seth’s story than Seth himself might even know. At the end of it all, will Abaddon be able to collect Seth’s soul knowing what it means for him? Or will be willing to walk away to save Seth while sacrificing himself to an eternity of one of the worst jobs in Hell?

The opening here is right out of Charlie Daniels song–and it didn’t strike me as a particularly original approach. Sadly, that really colored the way I read the rest of the book. It took a long time for me to get past that and into the story, which is actually an interesting one. Had it not been for that scene, I feel like it would have been easier to connect with the story. It was more distracting than anything else.

Abaddon and Seth certainly experience a quick-build relationship. It borders a bit on unbelievable, but as the rest of the story unfolds, it all ends up making sense.

If you’re looking for something that will let you just sort of roll with the story, this book would be one of those. It’s not going to require you to think too much, and it’s likely to keep you entertained.

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

The Valet and the Stable Groom by Katherine Marlowe

The Valet and the Stable Groom

The Valet and the Stable Groom by Katherine Marlowe

Published by: Honeywine Publishing on June 24, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Clement Adair is an excellent personal valet. So it’s no surprise he has his eyes set on becoming a butler. When the household he’s working in splits, he expects his promotion will go along with it. To his dismay, however, he is moving with his employer, but he is staying in the same role. Not happy with the prospect of being stuck as a valet on a small country estate, Clement plans to resign as soon as things are settled and return to London to seek a new path.

What Clement doesn’t count on, however, is meeting Hugo Ogden, the estate’s stable groom. Hugo is fascinating to Clement in ways in hadn’t expected. And he finds himself wanting to get to know the man much better. Which can’t really happen if he gets on the next train to London and never looks back.

There’s more going on in the household, though, that needs Clement’s attention. His employer’s constantly changing hobbies keep him more than occupied. The fact that the household butler is nearly incompetent gives him extra duties. And someone keeps playing pranks on said butler–who is quick to give Clement the blame. Can Clement help get the household in order in time to figure out what he wants with Hugo? Or should he really just leave all of the disorder behind?

Let me start by saying this book is simply wonderful. That’s really the best way I can sum it up at this point. The plot, the characters, and the storytelling make for a masterful book. It was quite difficult to put it down when I needed to get back to work. 🙂

Many times in regency-type historical romances, we see the relationship between two members of the aristocracy or one aristocrat and a member of the serving class. A story that focuses on two members of the serving class is a bit more rare, in my experience. So this is certainly refreshing for that fact alone.

What’s more is the cast of characters that rest in the background (if you could really call it that). They bring this wonderful world to life in some very vivid ways. And the humor and entertainment value of these characters is also great. Considering the relationship is slow to get started, they certainly serve to keep the reader interested while Clement and Hugo take their sweet time in finding their way.

This is a definite strong recommendation from me!

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

Bender by Gene Gant

Bender

Bender by Gene Gant

Published by: Harmony Ink Press on June 16, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

College freshman Mace Danner works his way through college as an escort for a specific clientele. He seeks out those interested in domination and pain. He doesn’t experience sexual urges, so it’s not about sex for him. It’s about the punishment he feels he deserves for causing his brother’s death. And though he knows it’s a dangerous coping mechanism, he feels it works for him as he keeps everyone who expresses any care or kindness at a comfortable distance.

After a job goes wrong, Mace loses the bit of control he still held on his life. Mace’s resident advisor, Dex, notices this and won’t let Mace push him away. He’s determined to help. Of course, until Mace is willing to allow someone to help him, things aren’t really going to change. And his dangerous course could prove to be deadly before too long…

This is an intense story. It’s not long, and there is a lot that happens here. And some of the subjects that come up are difficult. This is definitely not something I expected from this particular imprint, but I think it’s an important story to tell. The issues here–guilt, self worth, assault, self-destructive behavior, asexuality–are things that the mainstream wants to shy away from. And it’s important that we don’t do that.

I’m not sure I’d necessarily call this young adult (which is what Harmony Ink tends to be), but certainly new adult or maybe an older young adult, just due to the intensity of the subject matter.

Content warnings: sexual assault

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

Department of Truth by Jennifer Rose Jorgenson

Department of Truth by Jennifer Rose Jorgenson

Published by: Daily Science Fiction on June 7, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

 

In the year 2230, Emmett Wright works for the Department of Truths, a government agency focused on citing people for deception and ensuring historical accuracy. Which is why he’s troubled for having told his son what some would call a little white lie. But it’s the first lie Emmett’s ever told.

It’s no surprise, then, when Emmett realizes he’s being followed. Yes, it seems odd they would have found out about the lie so quickly. But at the same time, he knows that employees of the Department are held to a higher standard.

How he’s going to get out of this one is something that’s certainly beyond him…

This was a fun play on a situation I think most people can relate to with the added twist of Emmett’s requirement to always tell the truth. So many times–probably every day–we all have moments when we’re not completely truthful. Whether it’s to spare someone’s feelings, to keep private thoughts to ourselves, or to simply avoid making a big deal when one’s not needed: We all engage in small deceptions. But what would it be like if we couldn’t do that? If those small twists we make could get us into trouble? Would the world and our lives be different? And how could we find a way out when we stumble into that territory?