Quick Reviews

Quick Review: Starting His Engine

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Wanting something fun and flirty, I read W.S. Long’s NASCAR themed short story, Starting His Engine.  This was definitely what I was in the mood for!

Caleb Youngblood comes from a racing family, but he’s been kicked off the race team.  This argument with his father makes Caleb look closer at his life goals, and his budding relationship with steady boyfriend, Sebastian Rush.

After a few tense days, Caleb is able to finally get to the bottom of the family drama.  He discovers his father doesn’t want him racing because of his sexual orientation.  Dad thinks NASCAR isn’t ready for a gay racer yet.  Caleb also isn’t sure he’s ready to be out with the fans and racers alike.

This story was short, but so sweet!  Caleb had an interesting view on life, and I liked his thoughtful process for dealing with the pressures of his family, his fans, and his boyfriend.  Sebastian could have used a bit more definition in his personality, but when he and Caleb were together, the two were adorable.  I loved their interactions and their tender romance.  They are a super cute couple!

The plot was simple and straightforward, the family drama taking center stage.  But there was also the plot of a gay man racing in NASCAR.  I was surprised how much the subject caught my attention.  I’ve never watched a single NASCAR race, but I was very into the details of the sport that were added into the story.

With the sequel, Too Tough to Tame, being released April 8th, I’m really looking forward to where these characters wind up in the next chapter of their lives!

4/5

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Quick Review: Cover Me

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I just finished Cover Me, by L.A. Witt.  This novel was very solid.  Solid plot, characters, setting, even sex.

Nick Swain is a paramedic who has to make a tough call while working an emergency scene.  One patient is too far gone to even try to save, so he moves onto the next.  When the first patient winds up dying, the media attacks Nick for negligence.

Andrew Carmichael is an undercover cop whose partner wound up stabbed in an operation gone wrong.  When Nick successfully saves his partner’s life, he’s more than grateful.  Their interaction at the crime scene leads to them meeting at Nick’s apartment for decompression sex.  Naturally, feelings begin to grow from the originally physical-based relationship.

What I loved about this story was how Nick dealt with his stress in his own way.  He needed sex to let his mind and body relax.  His previous partners didn’t understand that sex–not talking–was what he needed to get past his traumatic day job.

Throughout the story, Nick wonders if he’s just fucked up.  If his way of cooping isn’t right.  During those moments, I wanted to yell at him that he was fine.  That he didn’t need to conform to what others thought was “normal.”  So, when Andrew came along–with an equally stressful and traumatic occupation–I loved how he and Nick fell into sync.  These two were perfect together.

The writing was great, the pace quick, the sex scenes amazing.  I immensely enjoyed this book from start to finish.

4/5

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Quick Review: Healing Touch

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Newly released on Friday, Missy Welsh’s sci-fi novel Healing Touch, was an incredible read!

When Captain Noah O’Keefe and his crew get lost in space, the ship is captured by an alien race–the snake-like Tevian.  Tortured for information about his Human weapons, Noah wishes he could just die and end it all.  That is, until Vivek Korraay, an Aguadite healer, tends Noah’s wounds and helps him escape. Before they get free from the cells, though, Noah convinces Vivek to rescue another inmate, the child-like Bendel.

From there, the three need to get off the planet and allow Vivek to pass on sensitive information that may help prevent more war in the universe.

The story is very immersive.  The two point-of-view characters–Noah and Vivek–are each clearly defined.  In Vivek’s POV, it’s easy to see his way of thinking is different.  His responses, actions, and dialogue all reflect his alien mindset.  This really drew me in as a reader, making the world and races realistic and enticing.  And Noah, who is thrust into the middle of this situation, tries to act brave and strong, but we see how he struggles internally.

The relationship between the two is also endearing. Though Noah initially relies on Vivek to help him escape, the two quickly move past captor and savior and onto equal footing. They are a well suited match, despite the difference in their races. Each gives and receives in equal measure, which was a refreshing quality to have in the novel.

The quick pace of the story never let up.  It had me reading eagerly, moving through the novel as fast as possible.  The characters, worlds, and the alien races were all so interesting.  I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

5/5

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Quick Review: Alcatraz vs the Scrivener’s Bones

Continuing on the Alcatraz series, we have Alcatraz vs the Scrivener’s Bones.

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While the first story in the series was fun, lighthearted, hilarious, it was not too deep on plot.  The infiltration of the library–and Alcatraz learning about his lineage–took up most of the narrative.  That’s not a bad thing at all.  In fact, for the introductory book, it was perfect.  Giving some details but only hinting at others.

The second is when things get a bit more complex.  More of the Smedry family comes into play, and with them, the sudden quest to find Alcatraz’s lost father.

The humor is still there, possibly even better than the first novel.  But the added depth of character–of Alcatraz, Bastille, and the Smedry family–really make this book engaging.  The hidden plot lines, the intrigue of the Talents and their role in the world make the reader crave the next book.

One of the best parts, though also very tragic, is when Alcatraz does succeed in finding his father.  The abandoned child is finally reunited with his dad.  To see Attica hardly glance at Alcatraz is heartbreaking.  While so, so sad, I love the theme that sometimes families are fucked up.  That disappointment is part of real life.  It added a dash of reality to the crazy hi-jinks.

Sanderson is such an amazing author.  His writing abilities are so diverse, giving this childish and silly account of the world in one novel and the rich, details of dozens of societies in the Stormlight Archive.  Even building on Robert Jordan’s established world almost flawlessly.  I have yet to find a Sanderson book I haven’t enjoyed.  Though this series about Alcatraz and his Talent may be my favorite of the bunch (it’s a close call between this and Legion).  It’s so underrated and definitely needs to be given a chance by his devoted fans and fantasy readers alike.

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Quick Review: Alcatraz Vs the Evil Librarians

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Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors.  He’s a juggernaut in the fantasy genre, with his incredible Mistborn series and his epic Stormlight Archive series, as well as the final three novels of The Wheel of Time series.  In my eyes, the man can do no wrong.

In 2007, Sanderson released the first novel of a five part series, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians.  In my opinion, this series is his most underrated work.  I wish more of his fans would give them a try.  They are worth reading, multiple times.

On that same note, the last book in the series, The Dark Talent, was released last week.  I picked up a copy and was eager to devour the story and finally see the ending!  However, once I sat down to get started, I couldn’t recall a lot of the details from the earlier novels.  And though Alcatraz did a brief recap in the introduction, I decided to take the opportunity to give the whole series a reread.

The setup is fictional non-fiction, with the author, Alcatraz Smedry releasing his autobiography.  But, Alcatraz is unable to freely print his words, so he disguises his adventure as a fantasy novel.

So starts the crazy antics of this world and the unlikely hero.

The world where accident-prone Alcatraz lives is run by Librarians–an evil cult that controls the world through misinformation.  On his thirteenth birthday, the orphaned Alcatraz is suddenly gifted with his inheritance: a bag of sand.  The next day, the inheritance is stolen, and his long-lost grandfather shows up to help him get the sands back.

During the adventure, Alcatraz learns that his family–the Smedries–all have special Talents, and that they are famous in the Free Kingdoms, the areas not controlled by the Librarians.  Alcatraz’s unusual habit for breaking things is really a manifestation of his Smedry Talent.  His grandfather, Leavenworth Smedry, has the Talent for arriving late to things.  The Smedry family uses these abilities in unique and interesting ways, which makes them a blessing rather than a curse (for example, Grandpa Smedry can arrive late to bullets).

Along with two cousins–Quentin and Sing–and a thirteen-year-old female Crystin Knight named Bastille, the group has to sneak into the downtown Library, the central base for the Librarians who stole Alcatraz’s inheritance.

The thing that stands out most in this novel is the humor.  I often feel Sanderson tries too hard to get funny dialogue into his stories, and it can seem forced.  Here, it flows naturally.  Alcatraz, the narrator, is nineteen and looking back on his childhood.  This adds a lot of hilarious comments–mostly Alcatraz poking fun at the readers, or himself.  There’s also a ton of randomness, like throwing the word “rutabaga” into the narrative for no reason.  Sanderson also has fun with typical fantasy tropes, with Alcatraz pointing out how ridiculous some of them are.

I laughed so hard, even on the reread of this book.

The plot is a simplistic heist, but the setting and the characters drive this story.  And with the end, Alcatraz suddenly realizes  he’s not as alone as  he thinks.  It has the perfect conclusion, which leaves the reader begging for the next in the series.

Again, this book is near-perfect.  It’s goofy, silly, and oddly touching.  One of Sanderson’s bests, and that’s saying a lot considering how amazing his other novels are!

5/5

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Quick Review: Fallow

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Where to start when talking about Jordan L. Hawk?  I adore everything about her novels, from her ability to tell a character’s point of view so well, to her development of such sensational settings.  She is a master storyteller.

Fallow is the latest novel in the Whyborne and Griffin series.  In it, our heroes realize that something sinister may be occurring in Griffin’s hometown of Fallow.  Despite being kicked out of the town in disgrace, he still has a desire to save it and its citizens—more specifically, his mother—from the dangers that threaten.  With the help of Christine and Iskandar, the four set off for Fallow.  Once there, they quickly discover that there is a plot, and that the perpetrators aim to spread their corruption all the way to Widdershins!

Honestly, this story was too short!  I want to spend more time with these characters, and while the story and plot were wrapped up by the end, I still hungered for it to keep going.  Hawk does an amazing job of speaking through a character’s voice.  The point of view switches between Whyborne and Griffin, all in first person.  This can be tricky to do correctly, but Hawk pulls it off flawlessly.  You can always tell which character’s point of view we’re in because of how different these two men see the world and each other.

It was also nice to see more of Griffin’s background.  So much of who he is was shaped by his time in Fallow, and by the people there.  For a brief moment, it even seems he might reconcile with his family.   But in the end, he sees that Whyborne, Christine, and Iskandar are the family he’s chosen, and that is able to heal a bit of the hurt inside him.

I’m already looking forward to the next in the series because I never want to be away from these characters for too long.

5/5

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Quick Review: Blow Down

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Blow Down, by J.L. Merrow, is the fourth book in the Plumber’s Mate series.

In this installment, plumber Tom Pilanski and his fiance, private investigator Phil Morrison, are still dealing with the idea of their wedding.  But before that even happens, shouldn’t they move in together?  Tom seems to be dragging his feet on both subjects.

On top of that, Tom’s supernatural ability to find hidden things is getting noticed by the community.  Now he’s getting calls to come use his “psychic” powers for clients.

During a church event, Tom gets stuck doing a demonstration of water dowsing—the only way he can seem to explain his gift to other people.  During the demo, he discovers a dead body.  Once again, Tom’s in the spotlight and the murderer may have Tom on their list next.

I love these two very much.  As the series has progressed, their relationship has evolved.  In this installment, Tom’s apparent cold feet gives a stumbling block to the couple.  But, working it out is what these guys do.  And they do it so well.

Since their relationship is on pretty solid ground, the boys act a lot more lovey-dovey in this story.  Merrow does a fantastic job with that.  Tom and Phil are cute and sweet and all-around  perfect.  I immensely enjoyed their interaction in that regard.

Other plots, which encompasses most of the novel, are still intriguing.  The murder, of course, takes center stage, but there’s also Tom’s dealings with his biological father, dealing with Phil’s family, and Tom coming to terms with his ability being common knowledge.

Like the rest in this series, Tom steals the show.  He is funny and lighthearted, despite all the bad that seems to happen around him.  Merrow’s prose is quick and entertaining.  It’s a great read all around!

5/5

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Quick Review: Calamity

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Calamity was the third and final novel in Brandon Sanderson‘s The Reckoners series.  Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors.  I’ve adored everything I’ve read by him–and I’ve read almost everything he’s published.

Calamity was a great conclusion to the story.  The main character, David Charleston, was so likable and sweet, I just fell in love with him.  And his budding relationship with Megan was so well done and believable.  One particular element I really enjoyed about their interactions was how they had to trust one another.  They were fighting for their lives, and instead of being overly protective and insisting the other shouldn’t fight, they accepted the danger and ran with it.  They both knew there was a chance either could die.  But the risk was necessary for humanity to survive.

To me, this was refreshing because a lot of times–especially in a romantic context–we see a character try to coddle or protect their love interest.  Now, feeling fear for that love interest’s life is not the same as keeping them from that danger.  You can not want them to go and still let them go.  In this way, Megan and David encouraged one another and pushed each other onto their greatest potential.

Sanderson’s humor was also on point for this book.  I feel he has a tendency to overdo the wit of his characters.  This was very much the case in Elantris and even The Way of Kings.  I feel he’s better when he does clever/situational humor–like this series, and the two Legion novellas–instead of trying to make his characters have the sharpest tongues.

One thing that felt lacking was the other characters’ development.  Sanderson went very far out of his way to make the side characters quirky–a Southerner who claims to be Scottish, an African-American French-Canadian–that they seemed unrealistic.  Before starting the third book, I remembered David, Megan, and Prof.  I needed to read a few chapters before the personalities of the others came back to me.  To me, this showed how I wasn’t invested in any of the side characters.  They could have been switched out with a million other personality possibilities and the story would have continued without incident.  Their whole purpose was to be a side character.  And with David taking center stage anyway, it was hard to care about them.

I’ve seen a lot of negativity regarding the ending.  And while I agree that it was quickly resolved, the ending made sense within the context of the story and its world.  Not everything has to be completed with explosions and huge battles.  Sometimes words and deeds can be small and almost insignificant and still have a lasting impact.

All in all, I loved this novel and the conclusion to the series.  Sanderson recently announced a spin-off series set in a parallel of this world due out in 2018.  I’m looking forward to returning here as many times as Sanderson is willing to take me!

Rating 5/5

 

 

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