Thursday, September 1, 2016

Review: The Winner's Curse

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy, #2
Released: March 3rd 2016
Publisher: FSG
Length: 416 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.
As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them. 

Frequent readers of The Nocturnal Library know me for the coward I am. I like my books light and my romances breezy. I do not enjoy putting myself through pain and misery nor do I relish heartbreak in any shape or form. It is therefore not surprising that I waited so long to read The Winner’s Crime. Having read The Winner’s Curse, I was fully aware of Rutkoski’s ability and willingness to subject us to this ordeal and trust me when I tell you that my fears were not exaggerated.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bad Girls Throughout History

Behind the Throne (The Indranan War #1)
Author: Ann Shen
Series: Standalone
Released: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Length: 216 pages
Source: Publisher for review

Aphra Behn, first female professional writer. Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist. Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer. Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Joan Jett, godmother of punk. The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists, and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change. Featuring bold watercolor portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World is an absolute must-have in every home library, and not just those owned by girls. It’s an essential read that helps bring to light the incredible impact women have on humanity as a whole, as well as the innate strength and capacity for greatness each woman possesses. 

Ann Shen is the writer and illustrator behind this interesting book. Each of the one hundred short articles is accompanied by watercolor illustrations, and each illustration by a brief, handwritten comment or quote. You can see some of them on the cover, but the true magic happens within. Each watercolor portrait is designed to emphasize the strengths of these women and each includes a small detail that helps us understand how they lived their lives.

From Lilith and Cleopatra to Oprah and Malala, the book features 100 truly extraordinary women. Some of them are already familiar, and some, like the surrealist fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, perhaps a bit less so.  Each of these stories is worth reading, each of the women worth knowing about. The selection is, perhaps, a bit America-oriented, but each of the chosen women undeniably deserves to be included. I would only object to the absence of Ellen DeGeneres, when women like Nora Ephron, Oprah or Tina Fey were already included. Ellen has done so much for lesbians and LGBT community as a whole and her courage, as well as all it had cost her, earned her a place among these amazing individuals.

The book came with something called the Feminist Journal, a fabulous memo book (or well, a journal) filled with inspiring quotes about what it means to be a feminist, all from famous and extraordinary women. The journal isn’t only something you yourself must have, it also makes an excellent gift for mothers, sisters and friends. Just click on the image to pre-order from Amazon and enjoy owning this wonderful gem. 

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Blog Tour Review: A Torch Against the Night

Red Right Hand
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: Ember in the Ashes, #2
Released: August 30th 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Length: 452 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Elias and Laia are running for their lives.
After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf - the Empire's most secure and dangerous prison - to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars' survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene - Elias's former friend and the Empire's newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus's will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own - one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape... and kill them both.

The thrilling, long-awaited sequel to An Ember in the Ashes is finally in our greedy little hands and it’s even better than we dared to hope. Beautifully written, emotionally exhausting, filled with pain and far too much heartbreak, A Torch Against the Night once again shows that Saba Tahir deserves all the praise she’s been getting. It is a bloody, painful and surprising work, a true challenge for readers and fans, but one that is worth every tear and all the hurt it causes.

Monday, August 29, 2016

LGBT Monday: A Fallen Heart

Don't Twunk With My Heart (Loving You, #2)
Author: Cate Ashwood
Series: Zero Hour, #2
Released: August 29th 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 200 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon
         Dreamspinner Press

After his last disastrous relationship, Joseph Ford has absolutely no interest in getting attached again. Concentrating on working as a trauma nurse and keeping his life as simple as possible are his only goals. Unfortunately, his plans could be derailed by the charming, sexy Nash.
Things are looking up for paramedic Ridley Nash when he transfers to Station 217. He gets along with the crew, likes his partner, and is finally on a team willing to accept him—gay and all. It’s everything he’s always wanted, but when he meets Ford, Nash knows his life is about to get very interesting.
As Ford and Nash find themselves stuck in the middle of a homicide case, things become more complicated. For the last year, the mutilated bodies of teenage boys have been showing up all over downtown. With no leads, the police are getting desperate. One of the victims is found alive, and he’s the best chance the police have to catch the killer—if only they can get him to talk.
Will Nash be able to catch Ford when he falls, or is there too much standing in their way to make it work?

Cate Ashwood’s writing has been very dear to my heart ever since her Hope Cove series first came out. I’ve read most of her books since then and enjoyed them all, but this series by far surpasses all her previous works. Zero Hour is a compelling blend of mystery and romance and one of those series I plan on rereading whenever the mood strikes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Straight From Your Nightmares: Red Right Hand by Levi Black

Red Right Hand
Author: Levi Black
Series: No info
Released: July 26th 2016
Publisher: Tor Books
Length: 304 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Charlie Tristan Moore isn't a hero. She's a survivor. On a night when her demons from the past are triggered, she arrives home to something even more harrowing-an attack by three monstrous skinhounds, creatures straight out of nightmares. She fights but is outmatched. Just as hope seems lost, in sweeps The Man In Black, a rescuer even more monstrous and unlikely, dressed in a long, dark coat that seems to have a life of its own and with a black-bladed sword held in his terrible, red right hand. 
Her rescue comes at a cost. She must become his new Acolyte and embrace a dark magick she never knew she had inside her. To ensure she gives it her all, he takes her friend and possible love, Daniel, in thrall as a hostage to her obedience. The Man in Black, a Lovecraftian chaos god, claims to be battling his brethren gods, other horrors who are staging an incipient apocalypse. But is he truly the lesser of all evils or merely killing off the competition? Either way, will Charlie be strong enough to save herself, Daniel, and possibly the entire world?

Like so many other horror fans, I grew up reading Lovecraft’s tales, especially The Call of Cthulhu. First published in a pulp magazine in 1926, the story signified a new direction in horror fiction that later developed into a whole new subgenre, nowadays known as Lovecraftian horror. It is the type of horror that completely disregards the value of ordinary human life and paints humans as insignificant and small compared to the extraordinary and unfathomable universe.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Heroines We Adore: Review of Behind the Throne by K. B. Wagers

Behind the Throne (The Indranan War #1)
Author: K.B. Wagers
Series: Indranan War, #1
Released: August 2nd 2016
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 405 pages
Source: Publisher for review

Meet Hail: Captain. Gunrunner. Fugitive.
Quick, sarcastic, and lethal, Hailimi Bristol doesn't suffer fools gladly. She has made a name for herself in the galaxy for everything except what she was born to do: rule the Indranan Empire. That is, until two Trackers drag her back to her home planet to take her rightful place as the only remaining heir.
But trading her ship for a palace has more dangers than Hail could have anticipated. Caught in a web of plots and assassination attempts, Hail can't do the one thing she did twenty years ago: run away. She'll have to figure out who murdered her sisters if she wants to survive.
A gun smuggler inherits the throne in this Star Wars-style science fiction adventure from debut author K. B. Wagers. Full of action-packed space opera exploits and courtly conspiracy - not to mention an all-out galactic war - Behind the Throne will please fans of James S. A Corey, Becky Chambers and Lois McMaster Bujold, or anyone who wonders what would happen if a rogue like Han Solo were handed the keys to an empire . . .

Behind the Throne, K. B. Wagers’ sci-fi debut, fell into my hands after much praise from some of my most trusted peers. To describe my experience with it as love at first chapter would not be an exaggeration at all. Discovering books like it and pushing them at unsuspecting readers is why I took up blogging in the first place. It gives me great pleasure to share my delight over this title with all of you.

Monday, August 22, 2016

LGBT Monday: Don't Twunk With My Heart

Don't Twunk With My Heart (Loving You, #2)
Author: Renae Kaye
Series: Loving You, #2
Released: August 26th 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner

Length: 200 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon
         Dreamspinner Press

Kee Smith isn’t sure who he is anymore. He knows who he used to be—the ignored gay son who chose a blue-collar job just because no one expected it, the submissive bottom who enjoyed large, masculine jocks who put him in his place, the sleek, fashionable twink who partied all night. But after his ex-boyfriend hit Kee and called him names, Kee retired from the social scene.
Back after a year’s hiatus, Kee still doesn’t know where he fits. His friends say he’s a twunk—a twink who put on muscle and turned into a hunk—but Kee is searching for somewhere to belong. Instead of going back to his usual type, Kee hooks up with twink Tate Stevens—a fashion-industry professional who works the image hard. It proves to be the best decision he’s ever made, and not just because he’s starting to regain his sexual confidence.
With Tate, Kee can open up about his fears and confusion without ridicule. Tate has his own fears about putting on weight and getting old. It will take work to make a relationship of opposites succeed, but they begin to realize the compromises will be worth it if they can be together. 

By now, Renae Kaye is a well known name in the gay romance genre. She writes light-hearted romances low on angst that leave her readers smiling and begging for more. To this day, her biggest success seems to be her debut, Loving Jay, a book that won readers over with fantastic characters, gentle and believable romance and just a spoonful of Aussie culture.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Release Day Review: The Sight

The Sight (Devil's Isle, #2)
Author: Chloe Neill
Series: Devil's Isle, #2
Released: August 16th 2016
Publisher: NAL
Length: 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

The paranormal war that engulfed New Orleans seven years ago is over. But the battle for the city is just beginning . . .
Claire Connolly is a Sensitive, infected with magic when the Veil that divides humanity from the world beyond fell. Magic can easily consume and destroy a Sensitive, and if Claire’s secret is discovered she’ll be locked into the walled district of Devil’s Isle along with every other Paranormal left in the city.
Bounty hunter Liam Quinn discovered Claire’s secret, but refused to turn her in. Together they saved New Orleans from the resurgence of magic that nearly destroyed it. But now a dangerous cult is on the rise, and it will take both Claire and Liam—and magical allies within Devil’s Isle’s towering walls—to defeat the occult threat before magic corrupts them both...

Chloe Neill is one of the best urban fantasy authors out there. She writes her books with a very sure hand and we as readers never once doubt her ability to use every scene to its maximum potential. Armed with experience and a whole lot of love for her characters, she writes one successful story after another. When you go to a bookstore for your urban fantasy fix, Neill is as safe a bet as they come.

Monday, August 15, 2016

LGBT Monday: Pawsitively in Love

Pawsitively in Love
Author:M.J. O'Shea
Narrator: Marc Schindler
Series: Standalone
Released: July 13th 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 6 hrs and 13 mins
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Audible

What Austin Lloyd lacks in academics, he makes up for in his love of the animals who frequent his pet salon. He’s not lucky in romance, though, and his family would like him to settle down with a good man. Austin—and his golden retriever, Maggie—couldn’t agree more.
Evan Partridge isn’t good at letting people in. His messy family life and the past that’s shaped him aren’t worth bringing up. But his pug, Dexter, sure likes the pet salon owner.
Austin and Evan get off to a rough start, but being friends soon turns into something more. Unfortunately, Evan’s secretive behavior nearly does the relationship in, and the budding love affair almost crashes and burns when Evan’s troubled sister shows up on his doorstep.
Not speaking to each other is killing them both, but Evan doesn't know how to keep Austin and help his sister at the same time. He just knows he has to try. Winning back Austin’s trust back, however, is going to take a whole lot of work. 

Pawsitively in Love is a cute new romance novel by M.J. O’Shea, author of Rock Bay, one of my favorite gay romance series. Although the title would lead you to the conclusion that it’s very light and entirely angst free, the book actually has several darker moments and a lot of issues for our two heroes to deal with.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: Vicarious

Vicarious (Vicarious, #1)
Author: Paula Stokes
Series: Vicarious, #1
Relased: August 16th 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Length: 334 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States. 
Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you, for a price.
When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the neural recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.

There really aren’t that many YA books that embrace the harsh realities of the world we live in. Even when writing a sci-fi thriller, Paula Stokes is courageous enough to do so. She doesn’t embellish, she refuses to sugarcoat, and she throws the ugliest bits right in our faces. While I wouldn’t debate its appropriateness for younger teens (I still struggle with determining the lines for my kiddo), I applaud Stokes for taking us where so few YA authors have gone before.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review: Rebellion

Rebellion (The Elysium Chronicles, #3)
Author: J.A. Souders
Series: Elysium Chronicles, #3
Released: July 12th 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Length: 334 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

In this conclusion to J. A. Souders’s thrilling, twist-filled Elysium Chronicles series, Evie Winters and Gavin Hunter return to the isolated, dangerous underwater city that they fought so hard to escape.
Back in Elysium at last, Evie has finally found her true self hidden under layers and layers of false memories implanted by the woman she knew as Mother. Thanks to the intervention of her father, she knows the horrible truth about Mother and her insidious plans for her city. With the help of the love of her life, Gavin, and her best friend, Asher St. James, she’s determined to free her people from the cruel dictatorship of Mother’s laws. But how do you free people who don’t know they need rescuing?
Working with the growing Underground rebellion, Evie tries to remove Mother from her position by force—with disastrous results. As the body count rises, Evie must find a way to save Elysium before Mother destroys them all.

Almost three years have passed since the release of Revelations, the previous book in J. A. Souders’ Elysium chronicles trilogy, but loyal fans haven’t forgotten Evie, Gavin or Asher. Renegade gave us a chance to explore a gorgeous underwater view with a very dark side, and Revelations really developed our three main characters and set them on a dangerous path.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: Curious Minds

Curious Minds (Knight and Moon, #1)
Author: Janet Evanovich

Series: Knight & Moon, #1
Released: August 16th 2016
Publisher: Bantam Dell
Length: 336 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Janet Evanovich, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, teams up with Emmy-winning writer Phoef Sutton for a brand-new series of thrillers featuring the invincible and incompatible pairing of Knight and Moon.
Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moon thought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.
What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it. 

Janet Evanovich is my go-to author for a funny, relaxing reading experience. I’ve been known to laugh like a lunatic while reading one of her books, sometimes loudly, and sometimes even in public (which I suppose explains my lack of social life). Her books are often plotted and executed like episodes of Looney Tunes, some more than others. Curious Minds follows the nonsensical path when it comes to character interactions, and sometimes even the plot. It’s precisely what one might expect from Evanovich, which unfortunately makes it a story we’ve all read before.