Tag Archives: published: 2016-08

Stranded With Desire by Vivien Dean & Rick R. Reed

Stranded with Desire

Stranded With Desire by Vivien Dean & Rick R. Reed

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

Colby takes his job as assistant to CEO Maine Braxton very seriously. He would to anything for his boss. Not only because he’s good at his job, but because he also harbors feelings for the man that he knows he shouldn’t. After all, Mr. Braxton is engaged to be married to a woman after they get back from this trip. But that will only happen if they do make it home–their plane has just gone down in the middle of nowhere and it’s up to the two of them to work together to find their way to safety…and to a phone. And while the experience leads Colby to rethink whether he can keep working for a man that he’s falling in love with, it also forces Maine to confront some realities of his own life at the same time.

This is one of those stories about finding love right in front of you and how it can creep up on you when you least expect it. But it’s also about being open to possibilities and not closing yourself off because of what others may expect of you or what you may expect of yourself. And sometimes that can be the biggest challenge of all.

Unbreak My Heart by K-lee Klein

Unbreak My Heart

Unbreak My Heart by K-lee Klein

Series: Unbreak My Heart, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on August 5, 2016 (2nd edition)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

For the past three years, Brett Taylor has put everything he has into his ranch. After losing the man who meant everything to him, the ranch seemed like all he had left. And while Brett would say he’s doing just fine, those around him can see that he’s struggling to let go, to move on. And Brett’s mother has no reservations about making her opinion known. So when she brings JT Campbell to the ranch after finding him along the road, it’s clear she has more in mind than Brett giving him a job. And through her machinations, the two men grow closer. But JT has some baggage from his own past, and there are secrets that Brett isn’t very willing to share. Can they find a way to get past it and see if they can each truly be what the other needs?

This is one of those stories where the only obstacles the characters face are themselves. Brett is in his own way, but it’s not something he can see. And JT can’t find his way in, even though his professional training should give him some good ideas of how to approach the situation. Even with everyone around them rooting for the two of them to make it, they still struggle to make it through. But it’s a charming and endearing read, that I recommend for a cold or rainy day when just want something comforting and sweet. (And as long as you don’t mind wanting to shake Brett repeatedly throughout the book.)

The Mystery of Nevermore by C.S. Poe

Mystery of Nevermore

The Mystery of Nevermore by C.S. Poe

Series: Snow & Winter, Book 1
Published by: DSP Publications on August 30, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Antiques dealer Sebastian Snow never expected his world to turn upside down so quickly. After a heart is found beneath the floorboards of his shop, he finds himself a victim of a string of crimes straight out of Edgar Allan Poe stories. And Sebastian was lucky to not be the victim of one of the more violent crimes in the string of attacks.

The investigation puts a further strain on Sebastian’s relationship with closeted detective, Neil Millett. Sebastian has never liked being Neil’s secret, but when he needs to use Neil as his alibi, he realizes that Neil may never be willing to be open about what they mean to each other. And to compound things further, the lead investigator on Sebastian’s case, Calvin Winter, has caught more than Sebastian’s eye. But Sebastian’s not even sure he’s gay. And even if he is, could he be interested in someone as unassuming as Sebastian?

As the crime spree continues, Sebastian can’t help inserting himself into the investigation. And by doing so, he may not only be risking Calvin’s ire–he may be risking his life.

This story represents a rather fun way to integrate and reference other popular literary works without being a straight up adaptation. The references to Poe’s work are interesting, advance the plot, and hooked me as a reader. With each new twist in the case, I found myself reminiscing about the first time I’d read the referenced story or poem.

What’s also nice about the way this story is developed is that the story stands on its own. The characters and the plot aren’t dependent on understanding all of the references to Poe. They’re fully explained, keeping it accessible to those who may not be as familiar with his body of work. And the romantic subplots and overarching mystery are well worth reading in their own right.

This appears to be the first installment in a series, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more about Sebastian and Calvin in the future.

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

In the Twist by L.A. Stockman

In the Twist

In the Twist by L.A. Stockman

Series: The Wild Hunt, Book 1
Published by: NineStar Press on August 22, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

David Shaughnessy hoped when he moved to California and became a police detective, he’d left dealing with truly dangerous creatures behind him. But after a series of murders, it’s clear he’s not dealing with a human killer. And when the mysterious Dallan Jaeger shows up, he learns it’s something new he’s never dealt with before. And David used to be a demon hunter.

Together, the two of them must work to stop the creatures that are killing children before they strike again. And according to Dallan, who is used to hunting these types of spirits, it will take everything they’ve got. He’s never seen anything like this before.

But then Dallan has never seen anything like David before, either. The attraction between them is fast and mutual. And it proves to be a lot for both of them to deal with–especially on top of this case. Which just adds to the tasks before them as they race against a ticking clock…

The overall idea here is great. The concept for the story is something I actually enjoyed. And the characters’ backgrounds provide a great setup to the whole thing.

But there are some issues for me here in the execution. For one, Dallan is referred to alternately as Jaeger and Dallan early on in the story. It isn’t until later that Dallan Jaeger is referred to as his full name. So for a brief period I was confused about whether there was a third person involved. Secondly, the relationship moves super fast with very little explanation as to why.

The imagination in creating and crafting the story is clear. So I give this a decent recommendation, though there were some parts that definitely made me scratch my head.

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

Skyships Over Innsmouth by Susan Laine

Skyships Over Innsmouth

Skyships Over Innsmouth by Susan Laine

Published by: DSP Publications on August 2, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Twenty years ago, the world changed for humanity. In an event known only as the Cataclysm, everyone lost their memories. They lost not only memories of who they are but also how the world worked. Technological advances were all lost. Relying on a small number of books that have survived, society has started anew.

The Scout and Ranger Corps was started to seek out any missing survivors and to acquire additional resources that may have been left behind. Dev is the captain of a ship involved in this work, and he’s been joined by Shay, a scholar who has spent time looking for clues to secrets of the past. They are on their way to Innsmouth, Massachusetts, to try to learn about this mysterious city that doesn’t show up on any maps.

What awaits them is beyond anything they could have expected. It turns out humanity is not alone. And the true threat is borne right out of their own imaginations.

I loved the concept of this book. An omnipotent villain who fashions their weapon out of old-school science fiction texts? Not only is it an interesting throwback, but it’s an interesting notion to see people’s own ideas used against them in this way. But I found the execution to be challenging for me. Most of these key aspects of the story seem to be glossed over. And the resolution seemed way too easy.

There’s also the issue of Dev and Shay’s relationship. Talk about 0 to 100 in less than 60 seconds. How these two go from the occasional glance to pledging their undying love with nothing in between seemed far-fetched, even for a speculative fiction novel.

But I’m still giving this a mild recommendation. Why? Because if you go in knowing these things, I think it can be fun and enjoyable. It’s one of those books where the concept itself is so fun and intriguing, everything else is secondary and can be overlooked.

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

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

An Accident of Stars

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

Series: The Manifold Worlds, Book 1
Published by: Angry Robot Books on August 2, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Saffron Coulter is a typical teenage girl dealing with the things teenage girls, well, deal with. Except she’s stuck in a school system where the “boys will be boys” mentality means her and her classmates have to put up with some really rough behavior. Which is why Saffron is taken aback when the mysterious Gwen Vere stands up for her to one of the biggest bullies in the school. Gwen tells her she’s looking for a job at the school. Saffron is intrigued and wonders if someone like Gwen could give her hope for change.

When Saffron learns Gwen has been spotted behind the school, she rushes to find her and thank her. What she finds is something she never could have imagined. She comes upon Gwen running into what looks like a portal of some kind. Throwing caution to the wind, Saffron follows–something that could lead to great adventure or be the biggest mistake of her life.

Saffron finds herself in Kena, one of several other worlds besides her own. And while Kena is full of magic, it’s not a happy fantasy realm. Its leader, Vex Leodon, misled people to come to power and is nothing short of a tyrant. But it just so happens that Gwen is part of a group dedicated to bringing him down. Having followed Gwen into Kena, Saffron has little choice but to take a side and hope she can find a way back home. But when the opportunity to get back presents itself, will she take it? Or will Kena prove so inviting she will choose to stay there forever?

I know that describing a book as “fun” isn’t very specific, but that’s really how I have to start this one. I enjoyed being thrust into the world of Kena with its people and its history. Foz Meadows has done an outstanding job building and presenting this world to readers. The rich backstory and the political dynamics make for a strong setting and compelling plot.

Of course, I have to also acknowledge a well-written young adult science fiction/fantasy story that doesn’t revolve around the female protagonist’s love interests or include a love triangle. Have we finally moved on from that trope? Let’s hope so.

What I would say I most love about this story is the strong character development. As I went through the story, there weren’t many moments when I found myself questioning a character’s behavior. And those moments were shortly answered with a bit more history of a character or relationship dynamics.

I definitely recommend giving this one a read.

Catching Homelessness by Josephine Ensign

Catching Homelessness

Catching Homelessness: A Nurse’s Story of Falling Through the Safety Net by Josephine Ensign

Published by: She Writes Press on August 9, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The homelessness epidemic in the United States evokes many different reactions from people. What did they do to end up homeless? Why don’t they just get a job? How can I help? Should I help? Could this ever happen to me?

The answers to those questions are as varied as there are people to ask them. But one thing is clear, the number of homeless in our country is increasing. And we need to think more critically about how we, as individuals and as a society, respond to it.

In Catching Homelessness, Josephine Ensign, a nurse practitioner, chronicles her work with the homeless. She discusses why she initially got involved, the people and issues she saw, and what she’s learned about trying to help. She also talks, rather frankly, about her own period of homelessness. When she started working with the homeless, she was one of those who thought it could never happen to her. Her story and experience not only provide readers with a firsthand look at helping the homeless, but also with the voice of someone who has been there. Both sides of the coin are reflected here.

To say the subject is heavy would be an understatement. Not because this is a book that left me near tears on every page; it’s not like that. But “heavy” just doesn’t capture the rawness and reality of the stories contained in this book. Even if you’re someone who works with the homeless or already has your eyes “open,” I highly recommend picking up this book. It’s honestly a quick read, but it’s very powerful. I find myself still reflecting on it a few days after I finished it. And I expect I’ll continue to think about it for some time to come…

The Bridge Beyond Her World by Brandon Barr

The Bridge Beyond Her World

The Bridge Beyond Her World by Brandon Barr

Series: The Boy and the Beast, Book 2
Published by: Enchanted Starship on August 1, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The situations on Loam and Hearth are becoming increasingly volatile. Winter and Aven almost lost their lives. Meluscia has no idea of the various plots being carried out all around her as she continues her quest for the throne. And there’s something much bigger than everyone afoot.

Aven and Winter find themselves suddenly among the mysterious Guardians. The Guardians oversee the portals on various worlds, guarding them to make sure nothing that could be dangerous to a planet or its people come through. And they’re especially interested in keeping control of portals away from the Beasts–ancient creatures opposed to the Makers and their creation. Aven and Winter should feel safe among the order. But there is a plot from within the order that makes their diligence extremely important.

Meluscia must still face her detractors. What she doesn’t know is that her sister, Savarah, has several secrets of her own. But Savarah wants to see Melusica become Luminess, and she has made it her mission to see that happen. Meluscia’s own desires might get her into some trouble, especially if the wrong people find out about her indiscretions. But she plans to stand firm on her plan for peace.

None of them are fully aware of the importance their planets play in a prophecy of incredible proportions. And that prophecy is the reason that the Beasts have taken an interest in these otherwise unassuming worlds. Will they find out the truth and be able to do something about it before it’s too late?

Delving further into this world was quite the adventure for me as a reader. The history of the Guardians, the detail the author has created for the order, and their interactions added an additional layer to the world created in the first book. The new characters introduced play off the existing characters in new and interesting ways.

The feeling of an epic fantasy comes through loud and clear. And the multiple and varied conflicts will leave readers glued to the pages, while wondering just how everything might turn out in the end.

I’m absolutely looking forward to the next book.

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

Her Dangerous Visions by Brandon Barr

Her Dangerous Visions

Her Dangerous Visions by Brandon Barr

Series: The Boy and the Beast, Book 1
Published by: Enchanted Starship on August 1, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The people of two nearby planets, largely unaware of each other, fight for survival.

On Loam, Aven and Winter’s family farm their land under the harsh and tyrannical rule of the local baron. A failed plot to escape leads to tragedy, leaving them to find their own way in the world. While there are many that would stand against the baron, his own army is much larger and far more ruthless. Aven wants to see things peaceful; going against the baron only leads to death. But Winter is a Seer and her visions sometimes urge her down a different path.

In contrast on Hearth, Meluscia is a royal who feels similarly powerless over her destiny and that of her people. Daughter of the Luminary, she should inherit the throne. But there are many who feel she is unfit. Her desire is to end a war and join together to stop a much larger threat. What some see as weakness, she sees as strength. But how can she convince them to see it her way?

I’m going to try to focus my thoughts on this installment, as I actually read the first two books in this series back-to-back before sitting down to write a review. This one does an excellent job of setting up the story. It’s a great “act one” in what looks to be a three-act work. The world, the major players, and the conflict are all introduced. The characters are unique, well-developed, and complex. And the author assembles his story in an interesting and engaging way.

I love a fantasy story set in a universe with a rich history and a compelling story. And that’s exactly what we get from Brandon Barr here. The first book does seem to end a bit abruptly, but since the second book was released at the same time, it worked–because you can just pick up the next installment and keep going.

Definitely recommend this one!

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