Breaking the Surface by Rebecca Langham

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Alessia is an Outsider—a member of the not-quite-human community that has recently been released from their underground prison. Shortly after their liberation, Alessia is given an ultimatum: obey all the United Earth Alliance’s demands, or her mother will forever remain a hostage—a mother she’d believed dead for fifteen years. Reluctantly, she agrees, though she has no idea what those demands may be, or how she will balance her obligations to the UEA with her responsibilities to her people and her family.

As the UEA tightens its grip on humans and Outsiders alike, it becomes clear that meaningful social change will not be possible without a revolution. Alessia and her peers embark on a mission to discover just how far the government is willing to go to maintain their monopoly on power.

What Alessia and her comrades discover, however, goes much deeper than they’d ever anticipated. Who are the Outsiders, really? What secrets of their destiny lay hidden within a top-secret space station? And why are the Outsiders linked to an emerging disease the UEA seems desperate to keep secret? As they delve deeper, it isn’t only Alessia’s identity that will be called into question, but the fate of the entire planet.

Review

Breaking the Surface is the second in Rebecca Langham’s Outsider Project series. One thing I would recommend is reading this series close together. If you don’t, you may find yourself a little lost with everything happening in this book.

With that said, this was a great sequel. Not only was I glad to find out what was in store for Alessia and Lydia, but we were allowed to see all the characters that I fell in love with in the first novel. Each character grew and adapted to the life they had been thrust into.

The romance between Alessia and Lydia took a back seat to the main plot. I liked the moments between Lydia and Alessia, but we got to see them develop as characters distanced from each other.

I zipped through the last 40% of this book. I was completely engulfed in learning the history of the Celestials. It was startling, but it was very much possible in this universe. Hell, I could even say something like be possible in our world.

If you are a sci-fi fan, then this series is a definite must read.

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Winter Masquerade by Kevin Klehr

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here, but he desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.

Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.

With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend, and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

Review

The first thing I have to say about Winter Masquerade is the fact that it is entirely unique. I finished reading it a couple of days ago but I needed time to digest and analyze my thoughts about this story. There are so many layers and within its pages and it deserved the time. I’ve seen several people refer to it as absurdist fiction, but I don’t have any true experience with it. So I’m going to review it as what it meant to me while reading it.

Ferris wakes up in a world that doesn’t make sense. The sea is made of chocolate and there are characters with outlandish names (Miss Represent, Miss Calculation) that keep talking circles around him. He wants to find his way home. But to get there, he has to learn who he is and what he wants for himself.

I picked up quickly what was happening or happened to Ferris in real life that put him on board the Sea Queen. It was interesting that interspersed between the vivid, colorful characters, there were characters like Cole who served as a grounding factor for Ferris. He was able to see the type of person, the type of relationship he wanted. If it was possible to have that in this crazy world, then he could have it in real life.

I felt Ferris blossom and become the person he wanted to be. I, so very much, enjoyed seeing Ferris become Ferris. The Sea Queen and it’s permanent residents, taught him the importance of a support system. No matter how wacky that system may seem.

Give this one a read, it was one of the more memorable books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in the past few months. AND! I absolutely agree that Wednesdays bring nothing but trouble.

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Read the tags for an idea of what Ferris was dealing with. 

 

 

Grimmer Intentions by Jodi Hutchins

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary: She screwed up. She broke protocol. She saved a life. Grim Reaper Margo Petrov may have resurrected a drowned surfer on the brink of death, but she isn’t earning any awards or receiving employee of the month from Corporate; she’s under more scrutiny from the Grim governing body than ever before. Since she has a massive secret that could spell disaster if revealed, she sure as hell doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, in any form.

Margo vows to keep her head down and stay out of trouble, reaping her quota of spirits lest she cause more problems for herself and the woman she saved with an illegal blood bond. She certainly shouldn’t be opening doors to the Fae lands or offering her neck to an Empusa woman suffering from bloodlust, but Margo’s laundry list of bad decisions keeps growing. With the threat of becoming decommissioned by Corporate looming in her periphery, Margo stumbles deeper into the politics of her people and soon realizes their intentions are far worse than she initially thought.

The Review

First things first, I friggin’ love Margo and if you haven’t read the first book in the Tales from the Grim series, Grim Assistant, then this review is going to spoil the heck out of it for you. Go read the first book and then read the this one. If you enjoy sarcastic, genuine characters and need a fresh take on Grim Reapers, this series is for you.

After reading the Grim Assistant I e-mailed Jodi Hutchins and shared my love for Margo. Finding out that she was getting her own book was beyond exciting. I needed to know how she came to be a Grim and what her life was like before she got to this point. I needed more Margo in my life, because I feel like she’s my spirit-Grim. AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I GOT!!

What I enjoyed about this book was the more intensive background that was given on how a person becomes a Grim, what each of their roles were, the different supernatural beings (Empusa, Djinn, Fae, Grim … ), and how they all interact with each other. There was a much fuller picture of that world and the politics that comes with being a Grim and dealing with Corporate. I was able to see why Margo was so closed off, why she hides behind her knife sharp wit.

Margo’s got a soft side to her, especially when it comes to Jackie. Surprisingly, they get along with each other well. The two kind of misinterpreted each other when the first met each other and it carried over because they’re STUBBORN. But once they spend more time around each other, Jackie sees how kind Margo is when she works, they click and balance each other out. Both Margo and Jackie learn to trust the people in their lives with information they thought they couldn’t.

There was something about this book that just reeled me in and I wanted to stay with Margo. It’s not often I could say that the second book in a series is better than the first, but I feel like this surpassed the first novel. Now I’m ready for the next book!

Get your copy here!

The Grim Assistant by Jodi Hutchins

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: Postal carrier and amateur surfer, Samantha Diaz, lives an uncomplicated life. Well, other than helping her sister with childcare, crushing on her unavailable customer, Lauren Brennan, and catching as many waves as possible before hurricane season begins. Suffice to say, she isn’t looking for much more, but when Lauren invites her to a monthly game night at her house, Sam happily agrees.

When Sam sets out on an early morning surf, the last thing she expects to do is die, but a sudden thunderstorm thrashes offshore, creating a riptide that steals Sam’s life. She awakens to a snarky woman named Margo speaking cryptic nonsense. Not only does she claim to be one of the many Grim Reapers, or Grims, in the world, Margo makes Sam an offer: she’ll bring Sam back from the dead, as long as she becomes Margo’s temporary assistant. Sam accepts but soon realizes the deal was too good to be true, and the consequences she faces may be worse than the death she dodged.

The Review

Samantha Diaz, a postal carrier and amateur surfer, likes the life she’s got. She works, looks out for her sister and nephew, surfs in her free time, and has a bit of a crush on one of the residents living on her postal route. Sam’s morning surf doesn’t go as expected when a freak thunderstorm rolls in that creates a riptide that pulls Sam under to her death. When she wakes up on in the hospital, the last thing she expects is for a random woman named Margo to be spouting information about Grim Reapers. Margo offers Sam a deal, become her assistant or pass on to wherever it is the dead go. Sam accepts the offer and enters into a world she never expected.

First, Grim Reapers are my jam! Like I immediately related this to the television series Dead Like Me. It’s got a dark, witty humor to it that I LOVED. The Grim Assistant. Margo is such a sassy ‘boss’, I started reading it more like she and Sam were on equal footing. They worked together to help lost souls move on. It was done tastefully, and it didn’t shy away from the fact that it isn’t only ‘good’ people who die that need help crossing over.

The relationship between Sam and Lauren felt very organic. They had been flirting with each other over as they swapped books, which omg my little nerdy heart loved. They moved slowly, they fought the urge to move quickly, and then they gave in. *happy sigh*.

With all the good, there is bad that no doubt has to happen. Sam’s secret Reaper status being discovered by the higher ups, Lauren finding out that Sam’s big secret and having to come to terms that there is more to this world than what meets the eye. I did get annoyed by Lauren’s reaction but that’s because I’m so pro-Reaper I couldn’t help myself.

What’s even better is the fact that there’s going to be more in this series!! I’m so looking forward to the next book.

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I Knew Him by Abigail de Niverville

40711378Five out of Five Stars

The Summary: In his senior year of high school, Julian has one goal: be invisible. All he wants is to study hard, play basketball, and pretend he’s straight for one more year. Then, he can run away to university and finally tell the world he’s bisexual. And by “the world,” he means everyone but his mom and best friend. That’s two conversations he never wants to have.

When he’s talked into auditioning for the school’s production of Hamlet, Julian fears that veering off course will lead to assumptions he’s not ready to face. Despite that, he can’t help but feel a connection to this play. His absent father haunts him like a ghost, his ex is being difficult, and he’s overthinking everything. It’s driving him crazy.

The decision to audition leads Julian on an entirely different path. He’s cast as Hamlet, and the boy playing Horatio is unlike anyone Julian has met before. Mysterious and flirtatious, Sky draws Julian in, even though he fears his feelings at the same time. As the two grow closer, Julian begins to let out the secrets he’s never told—the ones that have paralyzed him for years. But what will he do if Sky feels the same way?

The Review

This book, I felt it in my bones, and I wished that I had something like this to read when I was in high school. To have something like this to relate to would have made it a little easier getting through the school day surrounded by people who didn’t have to fear being true to themselves.

Julian has a plan during his final year I high school. He’s going to pass his classes, play basketball, and not tell anyone that he’s bisexual. The best laid plans never work. He is talked into auditioning for Hamlet and it brings him down a path he didn’t expect. He lands the part of Hamlet, meets a boy who sparks feelings in him, comes to terms with why his father left his mother, and comes to realize that his happiness matters just as much.

I want to say how much I related to Julian. I’ve had friends who couldn’t believe in bisexuality. You either are, or you’re not gay. There’s nothing else. This was before I knew there was more than gay, lesbian or bisexual identifiers (I live in the deep south and still haven’t come out completely – gotta do this in my own time right?). I felt his fear at coming out to a friend who had a track record of calling him a coward or a liar for not ‘picking’ the gender he wanted to be with. It hurt seeing Julian struggle with all the feelings revolving around Will, but it was one hundred percent real.

Sky was such a beautiful, creative character. I was intrigued with his first appearance on page. He’s smart, kind, sensitive and is everything that Julian needs at this moment of his life. They were so great to each other. Listening, reassuring, understanding, supportive. It’s what everyone needs in a relationship and they had it.

Julian’s relationship with his Dad was touching. They were unsure of where they stood with each other but they learned how to be father and son again. Julian learned that family doesn’t have to be traditional, but happiness is important. To lie to yourself is to set yourself up for some pretty tough times. His mother’s reaction broke my heart. Like damn, why did it have to happen that way. I was pretty close to crying at one point and that isn’t an easy feat with me.

This book left me feeling hopeful, happy and excited for the possibilities that life could bring. I thoroughly enjoyed this, plan on buying a physical copy, and making sure I recommend this to everyone I think needs this in their life. If you are a YA fan, this is definitely worth a read – and very likely a reread.

Get your copy here

Gotta Catch Her by Kelly Haworth

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Three out of Five Stars

The Summary: Who says phone games are only for kids? Sometimes they give just the respite you need from a hectic life. At least, that’s the way Ann feels about Ani-min Move, an AR mobile game full of cartoon animals caught with nets. Legendary raids have just launched, and Ann arrives at a nearby park to find it full of people of all ages playing the game, including Rachael, a kind, attractive single mom. And sweet! Rachael is more than willing to teach Ann the proper way to spin her nets to snag the raid boss.

Back in reality, Ann has a lot on her plate: a full workload as a project manager, finding the energy to walk her dog, Franny, and now trying to figure out if Rachael is queer. And how does Ann converse with Rachael about her six-year-old son when she doesn’t know a thing about parenting?

Ann is lost as to how to proceed until Rachael takes the guesswork out of the equation by proclaiming she’s bi—right when Ann gets a massive work assignment that consumes way too much of her time. Life/work balance was never Ann’s forte, but between caring for her sweetheart dog and figuring out how to navigate a relationship with a single parent, Ann’s determined to make it work, especially before Rachael gets cold feet and leaves Ann playing by herself.

The Review

Gotta Catch Her is a novella featuring two women who meet by chance playing a phone game call, “Ani-Min Move”. The game serves as a break from the reality that our ladies are going through in their every day lives. Ann is a project manager undertaking a massive audit at work, while Rachel is a single-mother running after he young son in the park. I was stoked to see a story featuring a premise like this one. Two characters meeting due to a video game.

The pair meet up with each other during raids a few times before Ann decides to ask Rachel out for coffee. Due to commitments at work and commitments at home, several of their dates get canceled, cut short, or interrupted. It’s how life truly is, but it got frustrating because the point of a romance is for there to be romance! Right?

I feel like if this had been longer, there would have been more interaction between Ann and Rachel this would have been a real treat. Almost all of the scenes revolve around Ani-Min Move and even their first ‘date’ included them playing throughout. Call me old fashioned, but if my date is on their phone its probably because they aren’t interested in me.

Ann and Rachel were just starting to get to know each other and then book ended. There was a romance scene that felt out of place for me, but that’s totally probably a just me thing. It would have read just as well if that scene hadn’t been included.

Did I enjoy it? Yeah, it was a good, quick read. It just left me wanting more for Ann and Rachel.

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Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langham

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary: Aurora Rose slumbers in the city of Oldpass, a cursed kingdom once allied with Grimvein. The victim of a malicious spell, she is powerless to control her own fate. At least, that’s how the story goes.

Now, as Grimvein faces attack, Prince Amir has been tasked with the life-threatening rescue of Aurora, his parents hopeful he will marry the princess and secure safety for their kingdom. Talia, the strongest spellcaster in the known lands, protects and guides the prince in his quest to save a woman that threatens to change their lives forever.

In finding Aurora, the pair will realise the truth about themselves and each other, coming to understand just what – and who – they really want in life.

The Review

If you are a fan of fairytale retellings, Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langham is one you’re going to want to grab to read ASAP. This is a kickass Sleeping Beauty retelling and it was refreshing to see the Prince having a female spell-caster helping him find Aurora and learning who he truly is.

Talia has been tasked with helping Prince Amir of Grimvein to locate Aurora Rose in the hopes of a securing a marriage contract that will unite the kingdoms and guarantee Grimvein’s safety. As in the traditional Sleeping Beauty, Aurora has been cursed to slumber until her true love wakes her.

Throughout this journey we see the friendship between Talia and Prince Amir grow. They work together and trust each other to make it through whatever situation they land in. Even when Talia speaks her spirit guide, Red, Prince Amir treats her as a friend would. Red comes to Talia in times of need, provides companionship, and protects Talia.

Red is incredible. I got a bit of an image in my mind the first time Red was mentioned and I feel like the word beautiful doesn’t do how I picture he justice. Even while I’m writing this, I can clearly see her in my head. Red and Talia’s connection is deep and I so badly wanted them to meet in more than the spirit world. Red is going on this journey just as much as Talia and Prince Amir.

What I truly enjoyed was the different take on the tale. Once they come close to finding Aurora Rose, they face different ‘tasks’ (that’s the best way I can describe it). They face Goblins, the dragon and it turns out to be more than goblins and a dragon. They were part of Aurora Rose’s family. It was a bit heart breaking finding out that they had been stuck in those forms, unable to remember who they were for over a century.

The love between Red and Talia is sweet and left me feeling happy and hopeful. I’d love to see what happens after this novella and how the kingdoms fair.

Pre-Order your copy here!

Riding the Track by Kara Ripley

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Three out of Five Stars

The Summary: Herding cattle and drinking Australian beer aren’t pastimes that particularly appeal to an ‘indoor girl’ like Clara, but she’d be damned if she’d let her cheating ex-boyfriend have the vacation they were meant to share. So, to salvage some piece of her self-respect after a bad break-up, she finds herself riding a horse along the Oodnadatta Track for five days.

When Clara arrives, she can’t help but feel an intense attraction to Evelyn, the drover who guides their group through the immensely unique landscape between Coober Pedy and the Anna Creek Station. Clara’s never been one for a no-strings-attached fling, but cowgirl Evie becomes increasingly difficult to resist.

In combination with the exquisite outback, soulful horses, and overly cheerful tourists, Evie may just be exactly what Clara needs to escape her own pessimism.

 

The Review

 

After being cheated on by her boyfriend, Clara decides to take the vacation that had originally been booked as a couples’ vacation in Australia. She goes entirely out of comfort zone for a cattle drive, outback adventure. She’s a bit bitter upon first arriving to the area. She isn’t the biggest fan of the overly positive couple she’s in a group with, but the attraction to their group leader, Evie, is instantaneous.

I was excited to find out that Kara Ripley is a pen name for Sci-Fi author Rebecca Langham. I really enjoyed the length and detail she put in to her characters and settings. This is her first foray into contemporary romance. It was a good starting point for her.

I loved how sarcastic Clara was.  She wasn’t just okay with her boyfriend cheating on her. And she wasn’t magically okay with being interested in a woman after so many years, and knowing that she’d be leaving so soon. But sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to get your groove back.

Clara and Evie do have a lot chemistry when they’re near each other. Then when they finally do give in to their attraction, it’s delicious. It drove me a little nuts that it shifted into a fade to black scene but those scenes are extremely difficult to right and takes a lot of practice writing them to feel comfortable putting it out into the world (I’ve got some personal/professional experience with writing those scenes). So I feel and understand the struggle. What was written was excellent done.

This was a quick and easy escape from my day. I was looking for more when I was finished though. There was build-up but it wasn’t enough towards the end. Don’t get me wrong, I liked reading this.  It just felt like there should have been more.

All in all, this was a good start to jump into contemporary romance. I do look forward to future books put out under both names, Ripley and Langham.

Give it a Read Here

It’s a Sin by Steve Burford

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: “He is a talented and very promising young policeman. Make no mistakes, he deserves the promotion.”

But when gay Detective Sergeant Dave Lyon is assigned to Detective Inspector Claire Summerskill’s team as part of the Service’s ‘positive discrimination policy’, no-one at Foregate Street Station is happy. And that includes Summerskill and Lyon.

Mutual suspicion and mistrust must be shelved however, when a young man’s beaten body is found on a canal tow path, and a dead-end case of ‘happy slapping’ unexpectedly turns into a murder investigation.

Why would someone want to kill middle class arts student Jonathan Williams? And how is his death linked to that of rent boy and would be ‘adult’ film star Sean?

As Summerskill and Lyon’s investigations proceed, the newly-promoted detectives begin to untangle a web of connections, false assumptions and sheer prejudices that force them both to question closely not just their relationship with each other but with the rest of their colleagues at Foregate Street Station and with the Police Service as a whole.

The Review

It’s a Sin by Steve Burford is the first book in the Summerskill and Lyon series. I really enjoyed this one. I read it over the course of two nights while in bed. Cause that’s how I like my murder mysteries. What you get in book one of this series is an introduction into who Summerskill, Lyon, the inner workings of the Foregate Street Police Station, and the communities surround them. I feel like at this point you should know there isn’t much romance in this. It’s more focused on developing the characters and solving the crime. I’d love to get to see some steamy scenes with Sergeant Dave Lyon though. I have a feeling he’s a bit of a stunner.

Detective Inspector Claire Summerskill has just been promoted, but she doesn’t get to have the Sergeant she was expecting. Instead she gets Dave Lyon, who is completely new to the area and openly gay (Which I was super excited about and cackled at some of the things he did). You don’t get many cop novels with openly gay characters who don’t need to be saved or coddled. Sergeant Lyon didn’t need coddling.

Their first assignment was ‘happy slapping’ – which I had no idea what that meant but figured it out pretty quick. A random person/persons jumps another and then goes on about their way. What was supposed to be an easy case turned into something much more difficult, multiple murders of gay men along a canal.

What I liked about Claire and Dave was the fact that neither of them were perfect. They had their moments of anger, frustration and misunderstanding. But they pushed each other to figure out what was really happening.  I’m on a bit of a mystery kick and just enjoying what I’ve read so I didn’t quite figure out who the killer was until the last minute. It was unexpected and it was kind of neat that I was kept guess the entire time.

I’m looking forward to getting to know more about Claire and Dave. My inner romance reader is hoping for Dave to get some action but I liked this enough that I don’t have to have that.

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Dark City by Sarah Kay Moll

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: Jude has a tender heart. Yet he was born into a criminal empire and groomed from childhood to step into his father’s violent footsteps. To survive, he created a second personality. Ras is everything Jude isn’t—cruel, remorseless, and utterly without fear, as incapable of love as Jude is of malice.

But when Ras meets a ruthless socialite, he begins to feel a strange stirring of emotion, a brush of Jude’s passion against his own dark heart. Meanwhile, Jude finds himself with a knife in his hand, the evil in Ras’s soul bleeding into his own.

As the walls between them crumble, they could lose everything—their lovers, their family, and their hold on the dark city itself.

Coming together could break them…or make them whole.

The Review

If you are looking for a dark, gritty, organized crime centered tale of survival then this is a book you definitely need to check out.  In order for Jude to survive Jude’s mind split and created Ras to protect himself from the evil that he faces as the son of the boss of a crime syndicate. The two have always been separate from each other. Jude is kind, loving and compassionate where Ras is animalistic, unafraid to take lives and to hurt those who are a threat to his father’s reign.

As horrible as the events Jude went through to end up with the personality split, I needed to understand how this happened to him and why it was important to survive this way. Jude has gone through hell. He’s still going through hell. I liked the way it the novel was set up. There was the current events happening but then there was also glimpses into the first fractures and splits of Jude’s mind.

What was fascinating was that Jude liked men and Ras was attracted to women. Jude was hopelessly in love with Ash. Ash felt drawn towards someone who had an equally dark past and future in her life, Scarlett Bancroft.

There is so much that I want to tell you and talk about but I don’t want to give any of it away. The violence, the action it was all necessary to move Jude/Ras’s story along.

Eli, Jude’s brother, broke my heart a bit. He fought so hard to be the person his father wanted, but he loved his mother and his brother. Finding out who was behind Ras, I think it broke him.  I hated how this life style tore what had been such a caring family to pieces. But that’s the sad reality of it.

This was more plot centered than romance centered. As soon as I started reading, it was easily to get lost in the world created. No matter how bad it got, I needed to know what happened. The action, the flow, the pacing kept me engaged. I may have also got caught finishing this at work because I hit a spot during my lunch break that I couldn’t wait until I got home to finish it.

 

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