Tag Archives: rating: four-stars

Relay by Layla Reyne

Relay

Relay by Layla Reyne

Series: Changing Lanes, Book 1
Published by:
 Riptide Publishing on January 8, 2018
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Dane Ellis is a swimming star, just longing to break through the water and find what he’s looking for in life. But that’s challenging when he lives in the shadow of his father, a famous conservative televangelist, and a mother who is all about appearances. And that’s why there’s a part of him that he’s kept secret–and is glad he’s managed to do so. Until Dane makes the Olympic team alongside Alex Cantu, who is much more than a rival. For one brief moment, Alex was the object of Dane’s affection, and Alex, well, he thought they might be able to have something lasting. But appearances are important in the Ellis household, and there are some lanes Dane just won’t cross. When the two are back in the same space together, with Alex as captain and needing to keep the team–and Dane–in line, will the forces of attraction prove too much? And to what lengths will Dane, Alex, and Dane’s parents go to hold onto the world that each is trying to preserve?

Life is not easy. Even for those who have it all. And while it is easy for us to look on and judge, it may well be the case that we can never truly put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. This is a lesson for both Dane and Alex throughout this book, as they both learn more about themselves and about each other. While we ultimately cannot change parts of who we are, listening to the right voices–within and without–can be more challenging than I think we often give ourselves and others enough credit for. A thought-provoking and at times inspiring read.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen by David Clawson

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen by David Clawson

Published by: Sky Pony Press on May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Chris Bellows is not like the rest of his family. They are interested in fame, fortune, the social scene. Chris wouldn’t mind a more unsuspecting and quiet life. But when his stepsister Kimberly begins dating J.J. Kennerly, an heir to a fortune and a public image that is well beyond the Bellows family’s current station, Chris is along for the ride. And that ride becomes even more interesting when he develops his own feelings for J.J.–feelings that J.J. just might seem keen to reciprocate. A chance meeting with a very helpful new friend, Coco Chanel Jones, helps push Chris forward to maybe allowing himself to be who he wants to be and to believe that he just might deserve the things that he wants.

I am a fan of well-written adaptations, and I particularly like those where you can identify the inspiration but still manage to tell a unique and original story. This book delivers on all of those points in spades. There’s a lightness and humor to the story that I particularly appreciated. And in the end, I feel like everyone gets what they deserve.

Camouflage by Jon Keys

Camouflage

Camouflage by Jon Keys

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on January 20, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Luke Meyers lives a somewhat quiet life as a rancher in Oklahoma, though that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t long for something more. It’s not exactly easy to find a steady boyfriend in his area of the world–one night stands with closeted men, yes, but not as many men interested in long-term romance. He’s been video chatting with Nash Gallo, an attractive young man from Atlanta, and has invited him to come stay at the ranch for a bit and get away from things for a while.

Nash has been hesitating on taking Luke up on his offer. But his hesitation has not been because he doesn’t like Luke–it’s exactly the opposite. He just doesn’t know if Luke would be able to accept the fact that Nash has been working as a hustler to make ends meet. And he does not want to get his hopes up, but even more than that he doesn’t want to let Luke down should they meet in person and the sparks he’s felt online quickly develop into something more. After being assaulted by one of his Johns, Nash decides to go visit Luke for a while, not entirely sure about what may come of his visit.

So many times we think that life would be better if we keep our secrets to ourselves. And it may be true that some secrets will only complicate relationships if they are revealed. But by keeping a secret, there is always the possibility that it might come out. So is it better to share the information on one’s own terms with a chance of controlling the fallout or to live with a shadows hanging over everything that could come crashing down at any time? This is exactly the situation for both Luke and Nash, who each find themselves worrying that the other man may not be able to accept certain truths. But sometimes love can overcome the things that we may not like about ourselves or be most proud of and other times it can’t. Isn’t it better to live authentically and know exactly where one stands?

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

Wicked Wonders

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

Published by: Tachyon Publications on May 16, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

I don’t think it’s at all an exaggeration to say that this anthology honestly has something for everyone. Fantasy, science fiction, fairy tale, you name it–it’s here. And to top it off, every one of these stories is well written and kept me engaged from beginning to end. This was my first experience reading anything by Ellen Klages, and I am glad I picked this up. This is an author who demonstrates great skill in both creating richly-developed worlds and unique, three-dimensional characters over and over again in short stories. It’s no small feat, and she does it so very well. Definitely worth a read!

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

Ember by Brock Adams

Ember

Ember by Brock Adams

Published by: Hub City Press on September 21, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The sun began to die three years ago, causing the leaders of the world to come together to try to find a solution. That solution was to launch the entire world’s nuclear weapons stock in an attempt to kick start the glowing ember into some sort of rebirth. But when the day comes when they should have reached their target, there are no signs that anything has changed. Lisa and her husband, Guy, have been hanging on to hope, though they are unsure how long they should hold on. And when a group of militants calling themselves the Minutemen emerge with weapons and begin taking over various cities, Lisa and Guy set out on the run, hoping they might find a safe place to settle down and continue to hope for the future.

I found myself intrigued by the concept of this story. Yes, end-of-the-world stories have been told time and time again. And many times we see the plight of the protagonists against whatever natural disaster is responsible for bringing everything down. But there is a strong human element to this story that is compelling and stands out as unique. Lisa’s journey is one that takes her to some unexpected places and brings readers right along with her.

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Provenance

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Published by: Orbit on September 26, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Ingray has a plan that will show up her brother and secure her inheritance. She just has to facilitate getting a criminal out of prison and get them back to her home planet in one piece. But she had not planned for obstacles like the intervention of another alien race and a case of mistaken identity throwing entire plan off course. A murder and a major betrayal later, and she begins to wonder if the whole thing was just a giant mistake. But she can’t spend too much time wondering when the fate of her planet and her people are at stake.

This story throws you right into Ingray’s world, and there is no turning back. Leckie has built a rich world that has a number of layers that reveal themselves as the story goes on. There are a number of unexpected twists and turns that kept me in the story and guessing where things might go next. There were some moments where I felt like it was tough to follow some of the characters, but they were not enough to truly distract from the overall story. I definitely recommend this for science fiction fans.

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

What Happened

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Published by: Simon & Schuster on September 12, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In what can only be described as a candid and open narrative, Hillary Rodham Clinton shares with readers her thoughts, experiences, and feelings during the course of the 2016 Presidential Election. Covering everything from what influenced her decision to run in the first place and the momentum of her campaign to what was going through her head during the debates and how she handled election night and the time since her unexpected and unprecedented loss

Before picking this up, I had heard the commentary that this was just Hillary listing out excuses for her loss, but it is not that at all. There’s a sense of honesty in the narrative, while the author is clear to recognize that what readers are getting her perspective and opinion. But when one considers how much the media was focused on her opponent during the election cycle (and he always told everyone exactly what he was thinking), it provides a balance to the existing public narrative. I personally also found it to be an inspiring read–I’m quite glad I picked it up.

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Fifth Petal

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

Published by: Crown on January 24, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The mysterious death of a young man on Halloween night leaves Salem’s Chief of Police, John Rafferty, wondering about a possible connection to a triple homicide that occurred on Halloween night in 1989. Of course, one of the reasons they might be related is that Rose Whelan was present at the scene of both crimes, and in both cases she said something about a banshee being responsible for the killings. Rafferty believes Rose is not a murderer, and he’s set out to prove it. His quest is bolstered by the return to Salem of Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the original victims and a witness to some of that night’s events. But unearthing the truth proves to be potentially dangerous for them both. If the murderer was an evil spiritual force, are they prepared to take it on? And if the perpetrator is of the more mundane criminal variety, they’ve carried the secret and covered their tracks for almost 30 years–so they might just stop at nothing to keep it that way.

This is a tale of intrigue across decades that ties back across centuries. Questions abound about who can be trusted and who cannot. Some in town have been carrying secrets that they don’t want to get out, which in itself provides a recipe for danger and disaster. But the ways in which those secrets connect (and the possibility of a supernatural element thrown in) provide a path to figuring out what happened all those years ago. If Rafferty and Callie can stay out of the crosshairs…

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Published by: HarperTeen on September 5, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In a future where people receive a phone call on the day they will die to let them know it is their last day, Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio happen to get the call on the same day. Total strangers to each other, they meet up on an app called Last Friend and decide to spend their End Day together. For Mateo, it’s an opportunity to step outside of the cautious life he’s lived to find some adventure and tie up loose ends. For Rufus, who has a number of his own challenges to work through, a day with Mateo provides a chance to be a bit more carefree on his last day while spending his time with someone who understands exactly what he’s going through. And both find that it truly is amazing how deeply a bond can form in less than 24 hours…

This is a moving and thought-provoking book. Of course, it raises the obvious questions about whether one would want to know they were going to die or simply let it come as it does. And there’s the question of how we choose to live our lives on a day-to-day basis–live every day as if it’s your last or save that for your actual last day? And what does living your life as though it’s your last day really mean? The chances we don’t take may sometimes be just as impactful on our lives as the ones we do. And even though the title tells you exactly where this book is headed, I found I was still completely gutted when I got there. These two characters and the world in which they live really comes to life on these pages, and I found myself lost in the book and hoping–even just for a moment–for an ending that I (and Rufus and Mateo) knew deep down wasn’t possible.

 

Nocturne by Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt

Nocturne

Nocturne by Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt

Series: Hours of the Night, Book 2
Published by:
 Prescourt Books on October 12, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

When a prominent society lady (and, as it turns out, essentially the head of a powerful coven) mysteriously dies at her own party, the only thing anyone knows for certain is that foul play is more than suspected. So it’s also no surprise that Thaddeus and Sarasija find themselves working to track down the murderer. And if it’s not enough to be on the trail of someone (or something) nefarious, they still need to track down the missing grimoire (a.k.a. guide to demon summoning) while Thaddeus is struggling to keep himself in control and Sara is having strange dreams that he is keeping to himself. Recipe for disaster? Probably. But these two just might be up to the challenge.

I was excited to see another installment in this series. There was something about Thaddeus and Sara that drew me in when I read Vespers, and that something is definitely still here. These two have experiences that are so different–they’re even from different eras, really–and through those differences they have managed to find something that works for them. Now, sometimes it doesn’t work as well as others, but I think it’s safe to say that is true of nearly any relationship. There are some unexpected twists to rush down in reading this story, and–I’ll just put it out there now–there are some unanswered questions that remain at the end. But that’s what book three is for, right?

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the authors.]