Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: The Rosemary Spell

The Rosemary SpellAuthor: Virginia Zimmerman
Series: Standalone
Released: December 1st 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Length: 280 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Part mystery, part literary puzzle, part life-and-death quest, and chillingly magical, this novel has plenty of suspense for adventure fans and is a treat for readers who love books, words, and clues. Best friends Rosie and Adam find an old book with blank pages that fill with handwriting before their eyes. Something about this magical book has the power to make people vanish, even from memory. The power lies in a poem—a spell. When Adam's older sister, Shelby, disappears, they struggle to retain their memories of her as they race against time to bring her back from the void, risking their own lives in the process.

Lately I’ve been slowly exploring middle grade fiction, something I haven’t done since I was actually a middle grade reader, trying to find more and more titles for my daughter, who’s turning out to be quite the voracious reader. I must confess that I’m sometimes finding it difficult to see MG reads as she would see them and not judge them through adult eyes. But every once in a while there comes a book appropriate for all ages, beautiful and educational, a read that promotes all the right values and teaches all the right lessons.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Dreamstrider

DreamstriderAuthor: Lindsay Smith
Series: Standalone
Published: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Roaring Brook
Length: 400 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.
Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.
A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.

Dreamstrider is a romantic fantasy novel with a distinctly historical feel. It is Lindsey Smith’s third published full length novel, and to her credit, it’s practically bursting with diversity and fresh ideas. It is, however, a very flawed novel that required much more work on several aspects including composition.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: For Love or Magic

For Love or Magic (Nodaway Falls, #3)Author: Lucy March
Series: Nodaway Falls, #3
Released: December 1st 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Length: 304 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Eliot Parker's good-for-nothing deceased husband has left her a new lease on life: a house in sleepy Nodaway Falls, New York. But his offer comes with a cost: his ghost...
As if being married to him wasn't hard enough! Nodaway Falls turns out to be a town with more than a little magic in the air. Eliot swore off using her own powers sixteen years ago, thanks to one catastrophic day when she lost the only people who ever mattered to her, and ran away from her spellbinding father and his reckless enchantments. Now, when a chance encounter with quiet, handsome Desmond Lamb results in a magical explosion that rocks Eliot to the core, she can't help but wonder: Has her heart fallen under some sort of spell? Or is this what true love really feels like? The real question, of course, is whether her husband will stop haunting her . . . and let Desmond give her a chance at happily ever after?

Lucy March is a hopeless romantic, but that’s alright – I’m one as well. The third book in her Nodaway Falls series gave me exactly what I’d hoped to get – a small community filled with lovable characters, a delicious romance, a nuanced, interesting villain and a very compelling plot.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Illuminae

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Author Amie Kaufman
              Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files, #1
Released: October 20th 2015
Publisher: Knopf BfYR
Length: 599 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

We’ve all heard about Illuminae, a wonderfully original new book co-authored by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. After all, the hype has been almost incredible – rarely do we see such a strong and intense publicity campaign. For months before its release, Illuminae was practically everywhere. For those of us who keep track of all things bookish, it was a must read we coveted for far too long.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: Inherit the Stars

Inherit the StarsAuthor: Tony Peak
Series: Standalone
Released: November 3rd 2015
Publisher: Roc
Length: 464 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

An epic debut set on the edges of space, where one botched job could mean death—or so much worse…
Wanderlust runs in Kivita Vondir’s blood. She dreamed of salvaging like her father when she was young, and now it’s her addiction, getting her through pit stops filled with cheap alcohol and cheaper companionship and distracting her from her broken heart.
Her latest contract to hunt down a fabled gemstone is exactly the kind of adventure she craves. But this job is more than meets the eye. For one thing, her duplicitous employer has hired rebel Sar Redryll—Kivita’s former lover—to stop her at any cost. For another, Kivita’s recovery of the relic unleashes in her powerful new abilities. Abilities that everyone in the Cetturo Arm—human, alien, and in-between—desperately wishes to control…
As she avoids a massive galactic manhunt, Kivita teams up with two unlikely allies: Sar and his enigmatic new partner. Only, as the gem’s mysteries are revealed and danger draws near, Kivita begins to wonder if her ex has truly changed, or if he’s just waiting for the right moment to betray her once again… 

In his first full length novel, Inherit the Stars, Tony Park offered us a wonderful space adventure with excellent worldbuilding, interesting societal structure, gray characters and a very memorable romance.

Tony Peak is a tremendously imaginative writer. Kivita Vondir’s world is complex, very socially layered and incredibly thought-through. I loved the descriptions of technology and of Kivita’s society, but I also loved that they never overtook the narrative and became more important than the story itself. Finding balance is the single most important thing in books that rely so heavily on worldbuilding, and it is my opinion that Tony Peak succeeded splendidly.

Monday, November 9, 2015

LGBT Monday: Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas, #3)Author: Heidi Cullinan
Series: Minnesota Christmas, #3
Released: November 10th 2015
Publisher: Samhain
Length: 205 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon 

Finding Mr. Right can be a snow lot of fun.
Paul Jansen was the only one of his friends who wanted a relationship. Naturally, he’s the last single man standing. No gay man within a fifty-mile radius wants more than casual sex.
No one, that is, except too-young, too-twinky Kyle Parks, who sends him suggestive texts and leaves X-rated snow sculptures on his front porch.
Kyle is tired of being the town’s resident Peter Pan. He’s twenty-five, not ten, and despite his effeminate appearance, he’s nothing but the boss in bed. He’s loved Paul since forever, and this Christmas, since they’re both working on the Winter Wonderland festival, he might finally get his chance for a holiday romance.
But Paul comes with baggage. His ultra-conservative family wants him paired up with a woman, not a man with Logan’s rainbow connection. When their anti-LGBT crusade spills beyond managing Paul’s love life and threatens the holiday festival, Kyle and Paul must fight for everyone’s happily ever after, including their own.

Warning: Contains erotic snow art, toppy twinks, and super-sweet holiday moments. Best savored with a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of spice.

Among the many authors in the M/M genre, both seasoned and new, Heidi Cullinan stands out for the sheer quality of her prose, the deep understanding of her characters and the subtle sense of humor that permeates her every page. All these defining characteristics were present in Cullinan’s earliest work, but as she matures, they become more pronounced and each of her books brings forth a new surprise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: Stars of Fortune

Stars of Fortune (The Guardians Trilogy, #1)Author: Nora Roberts
Series: The Guardians Trilogy
Released: November 5th 2015
Publisher: Piatkus
Length: 302 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…
Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the fire star. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner. All on a quest. All with secrets.
Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her.
But Sasha and Bran are just two of the six. And they all must all work together as a team to find the fire star in a cradle of land beneath the sea. Over their every attempt at trust, unity, and love, a dark threat looms. And it seeks to corrupt everything that stands in its way of possessing the stars…

When someone is often referred to as the world's greatest storyteller, you can be sure, even before you open her new book, that you're in for a treat. This always stands true for Nora Roberts, who is famous for her exciting plots, unforgettable settings and steaming hot romances. Regardless of whether she writes contemporary romance, paranormal fiction or even futuristic crime fiction as J.D. Robb, the underlying recipe remains the same.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Review: Ungodly

Ungodly (Goddess War, #3)Author: Kendare Blake
Series: Goddess War, #3
Released: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Tor Teen
Length: 368 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

As ancient immortals are left reeling, a modern Athena and Hermes search the world for answers in the final Goddess War novel by the acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood
For the Goddess of Wisdom, what Athena didn’t know could fill a book. That’s what Ares said.
So she was wrong about some things. So the assault on Olympus left them beaten and scattered and possibly dead. So they have to fight the Fates themselves, who, it turns out, are the source of the gods’ illness. And sure, Athena is stuck in the underworld, holding the body of the only hero she has ever loved.
But Hermes is still topside, trying to power up Andie and Henry before he runs out of time and dies, or the Fates arrive to eat their faces.
And Cassandra is up there somewhere too. On a quest for death. With the god of death.
Just because things haven’t gone exactly according to plan, it doesn't mean they’ve lost. They’ve only mostly lost. And there’s a big difference. 

Those of us who’ve been waiting for Ungodly with bated breath knew right from the start that this would not be a lighthearted conclusion. Greek gods come and do as they please and they tend to leave nothing but blood in their wake. So when you put those gods in the hands of someone like Kendare Blake, an author known for her talent in writing blood and gore, a bloody battle is pretty much what you’re going to get.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1)Author: Rae Carson
Series: The Gold Seer, #1
Released: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Length: 432 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in this new trilogy, introduces—as only Rae Carson can—a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance. Includes a map and author’s note on historical research.
For those of us who are great fans of Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, Walk on Earth a Stranger couldn’t have come soon enough. But for a lot of us who’ve been expecting something similar to her debut, Carson’s sophomore project came as a complete surprise. Following the new Western trend in YA fiction, Carson takes us to a very real place in the middle of actual historical events, and adds just a touch of magic to spice it up a bit.

Monday, September 21, 2015

LGBT Monday: The Way Things Are

The Way Things AreAuthor: A.J. Thomas
Series: Standalone
Released: January 30th 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 266 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon
         Dreamspinner Press

A night of drunken confusion at nineteen resulted in Patrick Connelly fathering a child. Determined to be there for his son, Patrick walked away from a sport he loved and forever hid his sexuality. After Patrick's brutal divorce and a vicious hate crime, his son, Jay, has become obsessed with graffiti. Hoping for a fresh start, Patrick moves Jay to his childhood home in Seattle. Within two weeks, Jay is arrested again. On his way to pick Jay up, Patrick stops an assault, then finds himself in handcuffs too. Thinking things can’t get any worse, he’s confronted by the sexiest man he’s ever seen—his son’s new probation officer, Ken Atkins.
The hardest part of Ken’s job is working with difficult parents, and the undeniably handsome Patrick Connelly is going to be a difficult parent. A chance encounter and steamy hookup with Patrick leave Ken blindsided. As they work together to try to keep Jay on the right path, the passion between them proves impossible to resist. When the assault Patrick prevented comes back to haunt them and Jay gets into trouble again, Ken must convince Patrick that ensuring his son’s happiness doesn’t have to mean sacrificing his own.

Having read every novel A.J. Thomas has ever published, I can honestly say that I’m a big fan of her work. Her Least Likely Partnership series is one of my favorites in the genre, and her characters tend to be among the rare few that really stay with me. She always takes us to some very unusual places and shows us how they look through the eyes of somewhat unconventional characters.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Mini Reviews: The Seventh Most Important Thing & The Fall

The Seventh Most Important ThingAuthor: Shelley Pearsall
Series: Standalone
Released: September 8th 2015
Publisher: Knopf BfYR
Length: 288 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

It was a bitterly cold day when Arthur T. Owens grabbed a brick and hurled it at the trash picker. Arthur had his reasons, and the brick hit the Junk Man in the arm, not the head. But none of that matters to the judge—he is ready to send Arthur to juvie for the foreseeable future. Amazingly, it’s the Junk Man himself who offers an alternative: 120 hours of community service . . . working for him.
Arthur is given a rickety shopping cart and a list of the Seven Most Important Things: glass bottles, foil, cardboard, pieces of wood, lightbulbs, coffee cans, and mirrors. He can’t believe it—is he really supposed to rummage through people’s trash? But it isn’t long before Arthur realizes there’s more to the Junk Man than meets the eye, and the “trash” he’s collecting is being transformed into something more precious than anyone could imagine. . . .
Inspired by the work of American folk artist James Hampton.

The Seventh Most Important thing is one of those quite little understated works that nevertheless conveys an important message. It’s based on the life of James Hampton, a folk artist from the 1960’s, a janitor and a recluse intent on creating his vision of heaven from scraps. His life’s work, The Throne of the Third Heaven, made entirely out of foil, light bulbs, wood, mirrors and other items easily collected on the streets, was discovered posthumously and donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review: Fit to be Tied

Fit to be Tied (Marshals, #2)Author: Mary Calmes
Series: Marshals, #2
Released: September 18th 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 228 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Dreamspinner Press

Deputy US Marshals Miro Jones and Ian Doyle are now partners on and off the job: Miro’s calm professionalism provides an ideal balance to Ian’s passion and quick temper. In a job where one misstep can be the difference between life and death, trust means everything. But every relationship has growing pains, and sometimes Miro stews about where he stands with his fiery lover. Could the heartstrings that so recently tied them together be in danger of unraveling?
Those new bonds are constantly challenged by family intrusions, well-intentioned friends, their personal insecurities, and their dangerous careers—including a trial by fire when an old case of Miro’s comes back to haunt them. It might just be enough to make Ian rethink his decision to let himself be tied down, and Miro can only hope the links they've forged will be strong enough to hold. 

For your average romance reader, a Mary Calmes book is better than cupcakes, better than tropical beaches, better than crack. There’s just something about the strength of devotion between her characters that captivates right on the first page. Her characters are always more than a bit eccentric, some are even a bit unhinged, but they are all magnetic and irresistible, for readers and their romantic interests both. I’ve been a fan of Mary’s books for years, and although she keeps producing the same type of romance over and over again, my idea of heaven remains one Mary Calmes book per day.