Tag Archives: rating: three-stars

Muscling Through by J.L. Merrow

Muscling Through

Muscling Through by J.L Merrow

Published by: Samhain Publishing on July 19, 2011
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Al Fletcher never expected what would happen when he helped a drunk Larry Morton home. His efforts were not exactly appreciated as Larry sent him away and threatened to call the police. Though he came and apologized after he sobered up, it was still a bit of a jarring experience. But the two started spending time together, finding after a short time that the last thing Larry would want to do is send Al away. It might be too good to be true, though, as they come from two completely different worlds. And as much as they seem to click together, Al can’t help wondering if Larry can truly see past those differences in the long term…

This is a short read that moves quickly while managing to bring the reader right along for the ride. Without a lengthy exposition, the conflict that exists for these characters is made real rather quickly. Readers get a strong sense of both characters, even though the story is written from the perspective of only one of them. A well-written and entertaining story!

The Angel of 13th Street by Eden Winters

The Angel of 13th Street

The Angel of 13th Street by Eden Winters

Series: The Angel of 13th Street, Book 1
Published by:
 Torquere Press on May 12, 2010
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Jeremy Kincaid is hiding out. He loved his boyfriend, and he thought his boyfriend loved him. But he’s not willing to live the life of a hustler, selling himself on the street, even if it’s for love. And when he crosses paths with Noah Everett, a kind man who seems interested in helping him with no expectation of anything in return, he thinks he may have found his way out. But this is not Noah’s first entanglement with the men who want Jeremy to come work for them. He has a history of helping young men get out, and that history has not gone unnoticed. Their meeting may be what puts Jeremy’s would-be boss over the edge, but it also might be what sets the stage for both of them to finally be free of their pasts. If they can make it through to the end, that is…

Complex characters with storied histories and lots of baggage pepper this story from beginning to end. There are twists and connections that may not immediately be expected, but once they are explained they make total sense and are part of spinning together the web that is at the heart of this entire story. The characters are dynamic and easy to connect to, and I found myself lost in the world of this story a little more quickly than I had initially expected. It’s a relatively easy and quick read, sure to entertain while pulling at the heartstrings just a bit at the same time.

Extrasensual Perception by Rayna Vause

Extrasensual Perception

Extrasensual Perception by Rayna Vause

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on January 5, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Christopher Vincent has tried his best to avoid drawing attention to his psychic abilities. That’s more of his mother’s thing, and he’d like to try to live a normal life. But when a bit of desperation leads him to accept a job as a psychic at his friend’s club, it looks like he may have no choice. And then there’s the issue of his friend’s brother, Jack. Chris can’t keep his eyes off the man, and they even had a brief encounter years ago, but they’re from two different worlds. Which is made even more apparent by Jack’s clear disapproval of Chris’s work in the club. But when a mysterious stranger begins to target the three of them, they may all have to rely on Chris’s abilities even more than any of them expected. And it just might be what’s needed for Chris to break down the wall between him and Jack once and for all.

I would describe this as a light and easy read, despite the fact that there’s a very dark character hanging out on the periphery for most of the book. There are some definite twists and turns that I didn’t expect while still keeping many of the elements one might expect from a romantic thriller. Enjoyable, entertaining, and recommended.

Bloodlines by Andrea Speed

Bloodlines

Bloodlines by Andrea Speed

Series: Infected, Book 2
Published by:
 Dreamspinner Press on December 16, 2010
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Roan McKichan was born infected–it’s what he’s always known. But in a world where the virus turns people into werecats, the noninfected don’t really care how you got it. An ex-cop, Roan works now as a private investigator with a reputation for taking cases many others might not. Despite being newly married, Roan is not one to slow down, and the case he’s just pulled is one that is going to pull him down to some of the lowest depths of society while rubbing elbows with some of the most well-known elites in the city. With Roan’s line of work, he knows everyone meets their end at some point–even though many of us are often unwilling to face what that means until it’s too late.

I know this series is not “new” per se (hey, it’s new to me), but there’s a freshness to it that I found to resonate with me as a reader. The entire cast of characters really reflect a humanity that I think would appear (and be needed) in a world like this. And there are some strong parallels to some things we have seen throughout our own history reflected back in this story of an alternate future. As much as he would probably refuse to admit it, Roan is also developing as a character, and I am very interested in seeing where he goes next.

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

Published by: Redhook on September 5, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

When Ursule, matriarch of the family, dies, it seems as though her power goes with her. While her daughters keep the old ways and traditions alive, it seems none of them possesses the same skill and strength with magic that she always did. But the power burns anew when Ursule’s unsuspecting granddaughter is brought into the circle. What follows is a story of a family history that spans generations and raises questions about how far one will go to protect their secrets, their power, their family, and their future. Sometimes by doing what we think is necessary to protect that which we hold dear, we may be doing more damage than we realize…

An interesting story, for sure. What I think is most interesting about this book is the way the story threads across the generations, focusing on each new daughter as it works its way forward. The mother-daughter dynamic plays out here in various ways, but it all comes back to some of the same themes of how power and secrets can impact a family dynamic. As much as we may think that life would be so much easier if we just possessed the power to do something just outside the range of what is humanly possible, the reality is that the more ability we have may also mean more complication–especially if we need to keep that ability a secret in order to survive.

Better by Jaime Samms

Better

Better by Jaime Samms

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on January 26, 2012
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Jesse Turbul has tried hard to put the traumatic events of his last relationship behind him. The experience left him unable to trust–not just someone else but even himself–and as much as he wants to move on, it seems like the reminders just keep coming back to haunt him. When he meets Aadon in the library, he finds himself wanting to get past his issues more than ever, but he learns that you can’t rush things that shouldn’t be rushed. What Jesse doesn’t know is that Aadon is dealing with some issues of his own. His brother, Ricky, experienced some trauma of his own in his youth, and after turning to drugs to cope, is in a facility–and Aadon is the only member of his family who is willing to support and stand by him. It is a lot for one person to take on, and while it might make him uniquely suited to understand where Jesse is coming from, it might also mean that Aadon is much closer to his own breaking point than anyone realizes. Can the two find the right balance between love, support, and space to deal?

There is a lot of backstory here that reveals itself as the book goes on and brings out the characters’ pasts (especially Jesse’s) in layers. This works to help readers understand the complexity of the issues at play without throwing everyone our way all at once. There are some details that are never revealed, but this is balanced with enough information to get the picture and a recognition that those details aren’t necessary to engage with the plot and the characters and understand what they are going through. I found this to be an enjoyable and interesting read, and although it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, there is a bit of an uplifting feel to it overall.

The Virgin Manny by Amy Lane

The Virgin Manny

The Virgin Manny by Amy Lane

Series: The Mannies, Book 1
Published by:
 Dreamspinner Press on January 1, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Tino Robbins has always worked hard to achieve his goals. He’s taken his education seriously, and he’s managed to balance working and attending college to keep himself on track. And it’s all about to pay off as he approaches graduation with a business degree and a trajectory for a bright future. But when he covers one evening for his sister’s dinner box delivery service, he finds himself bumped off that trajectory and not sure if he can get back on track. To blame? Channing Lowell, a charming and successful businessman who has just gained custody of his young nephew, Sammy, after his sister’s tragic passing. Tino’s quick connection with Sammy and ability to calm the chaos in the Lowell household after just a few minutes of being there leads Channing to make a lucrative proposition: if Tino will be Sammy’s manny for the summer, Channing will pay off Tino’s student loans and provide him with a glowing letter of recommendation, which should be enough for him to get a job anywhere. The offer seems too good to be true. And there’s also the fact that Tino’s not sure he could spend the entire summer living in the same house with Channing and hold not his virginity. But he also can’t help but question if that’s such a bad thing…

What an interesting cast of characters in this one! There is honestly quite a bit packed into these 228 pages, and it is interesting to watch the various characters–Tino, Channing, and Sammy for sure, but also some of the supporting cast–go through some major changes over the course of this book. Nothing seems forced, though, and as a reader, there was just enough reality laced into what many might see as a bit of a fantasy-type situation. How often does one just show up at a fancy house and get an offer like Channing’s? But as readers get to know him a bit better, it’s easy to understand why it doesn’t faze him much at all to make his proposition. Worth a read!

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shawn David Hutchinson

Published by: Simon Pulse on January 20, 2015
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Andrew Brawley’s life changed forever in one night. His parents and sister dead, he found his only choice to remain in the hospital–but not as a patient. Drew sleeps in an empty supply closet, works in the cafeteria (being paid under the table), and befriends many of the long-term patients. His cover story is that he’s visiting his sick grandmother who is in a coma, and while many of the staff don’t necessarily believe it, they let it slide. And as long as he can steer clear of a too-inquisitive social worker, he knows he could keep this going for a while. But one night when he sees a young man brought in to the emergency room, apparently set on fire by his classmates, Drew is immediately drawn to the new patient. Drew feels for him, and in some ways he sees a kindred spirit. As he learns more about Rusty’s situation, and eventually gets to know him after he wakes him, Drew begins to wonder if there could be a potential future in which they might leave the hospital together. But before that can happen, Drew needs to face the demons that have kept him in the hospital in the first place–and those just might lead to the undoing of the life he has built.

I think the one word that stands out to me most after finishing this book would be “refreshing.” Drew is far from perfect. And the author does not try to hide or mask that in any way during this book. There is a realness to it that I don’t think I always get from young adult titles, and I found myself really connecting to the material and the characters as a result. An interesting and insightful read.

Fool’s Gold by Jon Hollins

Fool's Gold

Fool’s Gold by Jon Hollins

Series: The Dragon Lords, Book 1
Published by:
 Orbit on July 19, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

The Dragon Consortium does not represent what anyone might call benevolent rulers. Much the opposite, they demand outrageous taxes, oppress the people, and seem like they will only get worse as time goes on. But as long as one finds a way to pay the taxes and stay out of their way, they don’t have too much to worry about, right? That’s what Will Fallows thought until the dragon lord Mattrax’s soldiers appear on his doorstep demanding taxes he has already paid (and certainly cannot pay a second time). Threatened with the loss of his farm, a time in debtors’ prison, and the complete destruction of his future, Will manages to escape with his life, knowing he probably will not be able to outrun them for long. But Will happens upon two strapping adventurers in search of a fortune (Lette and Balur), a scholar with an interest in dragons (Quirk), and the old village drunk (Firkin), a plan unfolds to rob Mattrax and use the gold for everyone to find themselves a new life away from the Dragon Consortium. But plans do not always go to, well, plan, and the group quickly finds that they have taken on something that is more than any of them bargained for…

I will start off by saying that this is an entertaining and engaging read. It has all the elements of an epic fantasy, and I do know the story continues with another installment currently available. It’s definitely more of a party-as-protagonist type of story, though, as I would not identify any of the group as the main hero–they are all very much in it together for different reasons and with different challenges in front of them. There are little twists where things go wrong, and there are little twists where things go right in unexpected ways. And I found myself wondering as the book reached the end if everyone would actually make it out alive. You will just have to read to find out…

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Published by: Thomas Crowell on October 21, 1977
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Jess Aarons lives a simple life for a teenager, helping his parents with the chores, doing his schoolwork, and trying his best to become the fastest runner in school. When a new girl, Leslie Burke, moves in as his new neighbor, all of that changes. For one, Leslie turns out to be a rather fast runner herself. And together they invent Terabithia, an enchanted land that only they can get to or see in the woods near their homes. But fantasies can only last for so long, and a tragic accident shatters their world in a way that leaves Jess wondering if he can ever truly pick up the pieces.

I saw this movie a few years back, and it was one that I certainly enjoyed right away. The book provided an interesting comparison. The movie follows the book pretty well, though I think the book provides a little bit better sense of how Jess feels about his life and the people around him. It’s subtle, which I think is a testament to the way the author has developed the world and the characters, but it’s there. And, overall, I think it adds both to understanding Jess’s motivation and his reactions as we move through the book.