Friday, June 24, 2016

Review: The Curse of Tenth Grave

The Curse of Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson, #10)
Author: Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson, #10
Released: June 28th 2016
Publisher: St.Martin's 
Length: 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

As a Part-time PI and fulltime grim reaper, Charley Davidson has asked a lot of questions throughout her life: Why can I see dead people? Who is the hot supernatural entity following me? How do I get gum out of my sister’s hair before she wakes up? But, “How do I trap not one malevolent god, but three?” was never among them. Until now. And since those gods are on earth to kill her daughter, she has little choice but to track them down, trap them, and cast them from this dimension.
There’s just one problem. One of the three stole her heart a very long time ago. Can the Razer, a god of absolute death and destruction, change his omniscient spots, or will his allegiances lie with his brothers?
Those are just a few of the questions Charley must answer, and quick. Add to that a homeless girl running for her life, an innocent man who’s been charged with murder, and a pendant made from god glass that has the entire supernatural world in an uproar, and Charley has her hands full. If she can manage to take care of the whole world-destroying-gods thing, we’re saved. If not, well… 

It’s always so good to be back with our Charley. Even after ten books, she’s still such a breath of fresh air and she always makes us laugh. There’s been a lot of heartbreak in her life lately, but she always manages to stay upbeat and spread sarcasm wherever she turns. It could be the ADD, or maybe she’s just certifiably insane. Either way, it works for her, and it definitely works for us.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies
Author: Lindsay Ribar
Series: standalone
Released: June 7th 2016
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Length: 336 pages
Source: bought
Buy: Amazon

Twin Peaks meets Stars Hollow in this paranormal suspense novel about a boy who can reach inside people and steal their innermost things—fears, memories, scars, even love—and his family’s secret ritual that for centuries has kept the cliff above their small town from collapsing.
Aspen Quick has never really worried about how he’s affecting people when he steals from them. But this summer he’ll discover just how strong the Quick family magic is—and how far they’ll go to keep their secrets safe.
With a smart, arrogant protagonist, a sinister family tradition, and an ending you won’t see coming, this is a fast-paced, twisty story about power, addiction, and deciding what kind of person you want to be, in a family that has the ability to control everything you are.

I strongly suspect that a title like Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies will make just about everyone grab this book from the shelf. It’s a title that demands attention, but luckily for us (and for debut author Lindsey Ribar) the rest of the book absolutely deserves it. Closer to magical realism than just about anything else, this debut title is funny, quirky and unique.

The story is told by a 17-year-old boy from a family with magical abilities. Member’s of Aspen’s family can reach into people and take things – feelings, affinities, personality traits and even physical characteristic. They do it mostly to keep the Cliff from falling and destroying the inhabitants of Three Peaks. They can also use it for personal gain, the only rule being that they can’t turn on each other.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Review: Shadow Rider

Shadow Rider (Shadow, #1)Author: Christine Feehan
Series: Shadow, #1
Released: June 28th 2016
Publisher: Piatkus
Length: 448 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

The #1 New York Times bestselling 'queen of paranormal romance'* is back with a sexy new series starring a Chicago crime family that hides a dark, mystical secret ...Whether it's fast cars or fast women, Stefano Ferraro gets what he wants. When he's not fodder for the paparazzi, he commands Ferraro family businesses - both legitimate and illegitimate. While their criminal activity is simply a rumor yet to be proven, no one knows the real truth. The Ferraros are a family of shadow riders capable of manipulating light and dark, an ability Stefano thought ran in his family alone - until now ...With little left to her name, Francesca Cappello has come to Chicago in hopes of a new life. She wasn't expecting to attract the attention of a man with primal hunger in his eyes, driven to claim her as his to protect and to please. And if he discovers her secret, it could ruin her ...

There are several reasons why tropes exist, and all of them are good. Mostly they exist because people find comfort in the familiar. I find this to be especially true for romance readers, including myself. I want new stories, yes, but I also want to know what to expect. I don’t want my romance novel to make me anxious or sad. The very best romance authors understand this and use it well. They give us all the formulas we know well and love, but they also weave in their own signature, something that separates them from everyone else.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review: And I Darken

And I DarkenAuthor: Kiersten White
Series: Conquerors Saga, #1
Released: June 28th 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Length: 496 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken. 

Before I say anything else, here’s a fair warning: And I Darken is a book so dark and twisted, so very disturbing that you’ll definitely lose sleep because of it. I did. It is also, however, Kiersten White’s best novel to date and the story that might prove to be defining – for her, as well as for young adult historical fiction. I dare say it’s one of the best this genre has to offer.

Monday, June 20, 2016

LGBT Monday: Blueberry Boys

Blueberry Boys
Author: Vanessa North
Series: standalone
Released: November 28th 2015
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 188 pages
Source: bought
Buy: Amazon

Connor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.
Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.
Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other. 

Vanessa North’s books are always such quite wonders, studies of melancholy with superb characterization. The honesty of her prose makes her books a rare find, and her rich style consistently leaves me in awe. Her two-book Lake Lovelace series is one of my genre favorites, and Blueberry Boys easily joined that list.

On the surface, this seems like a fairly simple story about two men with deep hurts and a whole lot of love. But once Vanessa North starts exploring those hurts, all kinds of things come to light and the story proves to be anything but simple or superficial. She explores these characters deeply and efficiently, giving us a complete picture and two characters we never want to leave.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Review: Down with the Shine

Down with the ShineAuthor: Kate Karyus Quinn
Series: standalone
Released: April 26th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 355 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.
At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.
The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…

Down with the Shine, Kate Karyus Quinn’s third novel, starts with a prologue that promises a dark, twisted and very unusual book. The promise is strengthened by our knowledge about Quinn’s previous works, which were always gritty and weird enough to stand out. In Down with the Shine, Quinn takes her unusual approach even further by mixing ideas and genres, albeit with questionable results. It is, it would appear, entirely possible to try a bit too hard to be innovative and fresh. In many ways, this book reminded me of Bad Taste in Boys, but while Bad Taste was purposely silly and hilarious, Down with the Shine failed to be even that.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: Riders

Riders (Riders, #1)Author: Veronica Rossi
Series: Riders, #1
Released: February 16th 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Length: 384 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.
While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine, and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.
They fail.
Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.
But will anyone believe him? 

After her extremely successful Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s sophomore project is finally here, and I dare say it’s slightly different from what her readers expected. Told from a male point of view, Riders is based on the New Testament story about the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. In her story, Conquest, War, Famine and Death are reincarnated (or rather embodied) as four teenage boys, all of whom had to die in order to become what they are.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Audiobook Review: Wildest Dreams

Wildest Dreams (Thunder Point, #9)Author: Robyn Carr
Narrator: Therese Plummer
Series: Thunder Point, #9
Released: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Recorded Books
Length: 9 hrs and 41 mins
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Audible

Blake Smiley searched the country for just the right place to call home. The professional triathlete has traveled the world, but Thunder Point has what he needs to put down the roots he’s never had. In the quiet coastal town he can focus on his training without distractions. Until he meets his new neighbors and everything changes.
Lin Su Simmons and her teenage son Charlie are fixtures at Winnie Banks’ house as Lin Su nurses Winnie through the realities of ALS. A single mother, she is proud of taking charge and never showing weakness. But she has her hands full coping with a job, debt and Charlie’s health issues. And Charlie is asking questions about his family history—questions Lin Su doesn’t want to answer.
When Charlie enlists Blake’s help to escape his overprotective mother, Lin Su resents the interference in her life. But Blake is certain he can break through her barriers and be the man she and Charlie need. When faced with a terrible situation, Blake comes to the rescue and Lin Su realizes he just might be the man of her dreams. Together, they recognize that family is who you choose it to be.

Robyn Carr has been writing romances for as long as some of us have been alive. On the one side, it’s a scary thought, but on the other, it’s kind of relaxing to sink into one of her books, knowing full well that I’m in very capable hands. I always find her romances comforting because the conflicts, such as they are, rarely feel like cheap romance tropes. Her portrayal of small town life may be a bit idealized, but her characters are always warm and welcoming.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: Traitor Angels

Traitor AngelsAuthor: Anne Blankman
Series: standalone
Released: May 2nd 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Length: 393 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects. 
Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom. 
Until one night the reason becomes clear: the king’s men arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Vivani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart? 
When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father…and tear apart the very fabric of society.

Well researched YA historical fiction is somewhat of a rarity. These are the books that come with an author’s note and lengthy bibliographies which show us that they’re based in fact, with minimal artistic liberties taken. Ruta Sepetys could be considered the queen of the genre, but Anne Blankman appeared to be a serious contender after her Prisoner of Night and Fog duology.

Monday, June 13, 2016

LGBT Monday: THIRDS Beyond the Books Vol. 1

THIRDS Beyond the Books: Volume 1 (THIRDS)Author: Charlie Cochet
Series: THIRDS
Released: June 8th 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 164 pages
Source: Bought
Buy: Amazon
         Dreamspinner Press

Join us as we celebrate the THIRDS universe with this collection of flash fiction stories written to prompts submitted by fans. Sometimes we want to know more about our favorite characters. Where they came from, how they became who they are, their families, friendships, and past heartaches. These snippets of moments in time offer an inside look at the lives of our favorite THIRDS characters. Whether it’s first shifts, the forging of unbreakable bonds, or a night full of shenanigans, these stories are sure to enrich your THIRDS reading experience.
** All royalties earned from THIRDS Beyond the Books are being donated to Big Cat Rescue. 

Thursday has been a day of worship for all THIRDS fans ever since Charlie thought of and started the (in)famous THIRDS Thursdays. THIRDS Thursdays include free flash fiction based on readers’ prompts, but also character interviews, various quizzes and lots of other things. The most popular, of course, is the actual flash fiction for which the readers constantly send their wishes and prompts. It can be anything, as long as it respects the timeline and doesn’t spoil the storylines that have yet to be published.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: Behold the Bones

Behold the Bones (Beware the Wild, #2)Author: Natalie C. Parker
Series: Beware the Wild, #2
Released: February 23rd 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 358 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Candace “Candy” Pickens has been obsessed with the swamp lore of her tiny Louisiana town for…forever.
That doesn’t mean Candy’s a believer, however. She and her friends entered the swamp at the start of summer and left it changed, but Candy’s the only one who can’t see or feel the magical Shine. She’s also the only one who can’t see the ghosts that have been appearing in town ever since. So Candy concentrates on other things—real things. Like fighting with her mother and plotting her escape from her crazy town.
But ghosts aren’t the only newcomers in Sticks, Louisiana. The King family arrives like a hurricane: in a blur and unwanted—at least by Candy. Mr. King is intent on filming the rumored ghostly activity for his hit TV show, Local Haunts. And while Candy can’t ignore how attracted she is to eighteen-year-old Gage King and how much his sister, Nova, wants to be friends, she’s still suspicious of the family.
As Candy tries to figure out why the Kings are really in town and why the swamp now seems to be invading every crack in her logical, cynical mind, she stumbles across the one piece of swamp lore she didn’t know. It’s a tale that’s more truth than myth, and may have all the answers…and its roots are in Candy’s own family tree.

Natalie C. Parker’s Behold the Bones came as an unexpected sequel/companion novel to her fabulous debute, Beware the Wild. Just like her first book, Behold the Bones takes place in Sticks, Lousiana, a town as slow and provincial as its symbolic name suggests. When you’re born so deep in the South, you accept heath and gossip as a way of life. Aside from the small town mentality, Sticks is burdened with the surrounding forest and its swamp with magical properties. In the previous book, we followed Sterling on her quest to find and save her brother from the magical swamp. This time we join her best friend Candace as she discovers her family’s connection with the town’s history and magic.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: Starflight

Starflight (Starflight, #1)Author: Melissa Landers
Series: Starflight, #1
Released: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 369 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She's so desperate to reach the realm that she's willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.
When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he's been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe...

Melissa Landers’s Starflight has been receiving some pretty enthusiastic reviews lately, full of praise for the cleverness of its plot, excellent dialogues and the author’s wicked sense of humor. If you’re familiar with Landers’ debut, Aliented, I’m sure you know that humor is her strongest selling point, but even in that Starflight is far superior. I was surprised by this book’s spirit and charm, not to mention the loud bursts of laughter it surprised out of me. The words ‘pirates in space’ should be enough to sell you on the idea of this book.