What I’ve Been Reading

The shiny New Year has been sullied by grimy piles of snow and hair-clogged filters as the heating in my home struggles to keep up with the cold. I’m tired of being tired and I miss the sun. The real sun—not that cheating bastard that tricks me into going out for a walk on really cold days. I’d make plans to move to Arizona, but they have snow too. Why, oh why, is winter a thing?

Thankfully, I’ve had some really good books to read.

 

33759717Adrift (Staying Afloat #1) by Isabelle Adler

I don’t read a lot of queer science fiction romance. That might strike you as odd, seeing as I write it. I love writing it. That’s probably what makes me an indecently harsh judge when it comes to reading the contributions of others. Science fiction is my first love and that part of the story has to be done right. I’m very discouraged when it isn’t. I have been heard to rant,  “But the setting has to be integral, otherwise they might as well be in Kansas.” Or something like that.

I also require a satisfying love story. Not at all hard to please, am I?

Isabelle Adler’s Adrift has been tucked away on my Kindle for quite a while now. I loved the cover and the premise, but… would it measure up? Well, it’s on my list of favourites, so, yes. Yes, it did. Adrift really is a neat little science fiction adventure with lots of potential for more in the same setting. Basically, it has everything I look for in a novel of this type: a small, close-knit crew, a mystery wrapped in an adventure (or vice-versa), and lots of romantic tension.

I liked all the characters (especially Val) and look forward to traveling with them on further adventures.

 

29467232The Blood Mirror (Lightbringer #4) by Brent Weeks

My review on Goodreads for this one:

That last line…

The agony of waiting until September…

*dies*

This series really took me by surprise. I loved the first book, but didn’t immediately jump on the second because so many books, so little time. I always have other reading obligations. Also, I tend to skip around a bit, from genre to genre, often not returning to the next book in a series for several months. I think it was over a year before I got back to this one and it was a bit too long because I really only remembered pivotal events from the first book. I was quickly swept back into the story, though, and moved on to book three almost immediately. Then book four, even though I knew it was going to be nine months before I could read book five.

Forget twists and turns—the Lightbringer series is constantly doubling back on itself. Whatever you think you know, you don’t. Weeks has been teasing a cataclysmic shift for a while now and I’m expecting the final book in this series to challenge not only the established cast and storyline, but the very nature of fantasy fiction as he turns this world upside down in order to remake it.

I kept reading for Gavin & Dazen and the revelations to that particular storyline in this volume are stunning. But Kip is a hero I can get behind and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him—even if I’m not quite sure the author can be trusted to, um, well, be nice. Either way, I’m expecting a wrenching yet satisfying conclusion in September. Yes, those two directions can go together. In this series especially.

 

28763240At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

Is there a category like magical realism that uses science fiction instead? Either way, one of the aspects of At the Edge of the Universe that I really enjoy is the way Hutchinson uses the idea of the universe shrinking as a metaphor for depression. But when I’m reading, the science fiction elements feel real, as if the aliens are up there with a big button that can destroy the world (We Are the Ants) or as if the universe is actually shrinking and only Ozzie is aware of it.

I also really like that despite the dark themes, these books have a hopeful feel. The endings are totally worth the journey.

Final bonus: interesting and diverse characters!

Hutchinson just released a new novel called The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried which feels exactly like the book I’d want to read next. A slightly different direction and apparently not as dark—but still weird. Look for it in my next post.

 

1850579610% Happier: by Dan Harris

Yes, this is a self-help book and I can honestly say I never thought I’d read a self-help book, but can I make a confession? This isn’t the first. It is the first to make it onto one of my recommend to everyone lists, though.

10% Happier is one of the most entertaining audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. I can’t quite remember why I added it to my TBR list, but I imagine it had to do with my ongoing interest in meditation and striving for happiness. I guess I figured adding ten percent seemed like a pretty simple prospect.

10% Happier is part memoir, part self-help guide, and I found the reflections on Dan Harris’ career just as interesting as his exploration of spirituality, meditation, and enlightenment. This book is extremely funny in sections and rivetingly real in others. It’s also helpful in that Harris has distilled the ideology of a lot of well-known ‘self-help’ gurus – drawing his own conclusions, yes, but in a way that felt clear and relatable.

I’m more interested in meditating than I was before I picked up this book, and even intrigued by the idea of a retreat. Even if I never get to either, though, the story of Harris’ journey was completely worthwhile.

 

24819813Star Wars: Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Vader by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca

This one is going to be short and sweet: Triple Zero is my new favourite character in the Star Wars universe. A protocol droid equipped with a torture package? I loved the absurdity of it and laughed every time Triple Zero expressed delight in its work.

I’m a terrible, terrible person. But, hey, I didn’t write it.

Outside of murderous protocol droids, I’m enjoying this series. Darth Vader is a character with tons of unexploited story potential.

 

37570595Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

I don’t know how this book ended up in my queue, but I’m really glad it did. This is an amazing collection of short stories, each ringing with voice, conviction, and a call to sit up and take notice. My favourites were the titular “Friday Black” and “In Retail” which left me with a tear in my eye. I also loved the last story, which needs to be expanded into something longer. Like, yesterday.

I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more from Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

 

40378934The Accidentals by Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is one of my auto-buy authors. I feel I can always rely on her books to deliver two things: a touching romance that combines happy and sweet with just enough angst to make her characters memorable and relatable, and a story. There’s always a good story and that’s what I look for first and foremost when I’m choosing something to read.

The Accidentals isn’t like Bowen’s other books—even though it is? The author’s voice shines true here, with echoes of her beloved Ivy Years series, but the story is structured differently. This novel is more a journey of discovery and about the ever-evolving relationship between a young woman and the father she never really knew. It’s about loss and discovering gold, and about growing up—even when you’re already considered an adult.

It’s one of those books you’ll think about after you’ve finished and give a satisfied nod to when you pass it on the bookshelf.

 

25499718Children of Time (Children of Time #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Absolutely stunning. One of the best books I’ve ever read. So good, I want to go back to the beginning and start all over again. The concepts! The science! And yet, the essence of the story is as old as time.

I’ll be ordering a paper copy of this for the keeper shelf and I’ve already preordered the sequel, Children of Ruin, which I believe is scheduled to release in May.

Update: Keeper copy delivered and wow, this is a really thick book. I really didn’t notice the length when I was listening to it, which is one of the best parts of listening on audio. I have a feeling I’d have been just as engrossed had I had to read this one to myself, though.

 

36630924Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

When you read the synopsis for a book, you generally get an idea of where a story is going to go. Same with the first chapter. Well written copy and a good hook pull you in fast, and the reason you keep reading is that you’re eager to get to the other side – to the conclusion you’re already anticipating. It’s for this reason that I’m not particularly put off by spoilers. (This review contains none. Not for this book.) Yeah, okay, I might have preferred to know that Glenn doesn’t die in The Walking Dead (sorry, not sorry, you didn’t already know?) but the anticipation of that moment definitely formed a part of my watching experience, and in some respects, enhanced it. But that’s another story. What I’m really trying to say is that any good book is a journey and like all good journeys, you have a hope for the end but don’t mind a few surprises along the way.

What I loved about Here and Now and Then, first and foremost, were the surprises along the way. I had a good idea of where this story was going and I had hopes for the ending, but getting there was some of the most enjoyable reading I’ve undertaken this year. There are no great twists and turns; it’s the way author Mike Chen handled difficult situations that sets this book apart from every other story about a parent who will do anything for their child. It’s Kin, himself, who is wonderfully fallible and also complex. But simple, too, in that his motives are easy to understand and identify with. He’s extremely likable. The secondary characters were full of surprises too. I particularly loved the arc of Penny. Nope, not going to tell you who she is. All I will say is that she’s a phenomenal character and if I had any complaints about this book, it would have been that I’d have liked her point of view on a few things.

(Read my full review at Goodreads)

 

35611965The Bad Behavior series by L.A. Witt and Cari Z.

I spent altogether too much time trying to figure out who wrote who in this series, but that didn’t distract one whit (see what I did there) from my enjoyment of the story.

What I loved:

That the series ended, and on a high note. There was enough dark and brooding angst in the backstory and front story to add chew. I was glad to walk away at the end (after the final novella, Romantic Behavior) feeling good about the characters and their future. No question.

A story arc that worked across three books. Well planned.

The romance—I loved these guys together. I believed in them together. At no point did the romance feel convenient to the plot or vice versa. And I really liked that although the attraction was definitely physical, we didn’t go there a lot. People were being kidnapped and killed and the focus always remained on bringing the bad guys to justice and the good guys home.

What I didn’t like:

Um, nothing? That’s why I’m recommending this entire series. A great story and fun to read.

 

Quick Bites:

I read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin again and enjoyed it even more third time around. It’s a freaking timeless book and one everyone should read. So get on that.

Jenn Burke’s new paranormal series starts off with a hilarious kick in Not Dead Yet. I’m so looking forward to book two.

Rough Terrain was the perfect end to a perfect series from Annabeth Albert. But, wait, there’s more. The Frozen Hearts series is coming up fast!

Phew, this has been a long one. I really should post more often! What have you been reading?

 

What I’ve Been Reading

27875367Red Envelope by Atom Yang

Holidays are moments in time. Atom Yang has taken these moments and used them to capture the essence of a love story, giving us what matters most: the beginning, the middle and the end. Layered with humour, pathos, culture and philosophy, Red Envelope delivers more than many novels—mostly due to the skillful way Atom voices his characters. They feel like someone you’ve met, someone you know. They’re real people, even those who don’t get a point of view.

I wanted to read more, but found the Happy Ever After immensely satisfying. Not only had I been invited to share the holidays with Clint’s family, but came away feeling replete—just as one should after a dose of good company and cheer.

Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading”

What I’ve Been Reading

January is always a great month for books. By accident or design, I often read books in January that make my Favourite Things list at the end of the year. This past January has been no exception.

4716894Conspiracies by F. Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is a writer I truly admire. I read The Keep years and years ago and it frightened the socks off me. Last year, at the insistence of a friend, I picked up the adventures of Repairman Jack, starting with The Early Years, and I cannot say enough good things about the stories, the characters and the talent of Wilson.

I read the last three Repairman Jack books he wrote, then went back and read the first. These books were written thirty years apart—and yet Jack’s voice is the same.

Conspiracies is the third book in the series and it’s a great one. It’s all about conspiracy theories and the nuts who live (and die) by them. I laughed out loud a number of times. The conclusion of the book is important too, in that a door has been opened, one that will transition Jack’s existence from, ah, simple “repairs” into something else entirely. I cannot wait to read on.

 

22701480The Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen

I really, really liked this book! If I sound surprised, it’s because this was something I picked up on a whim—on sale—and tucked away for a rainy day. For when I wanted to read something sweet and sexy. Sale books are most often the ones I toss, but not this one.

I really connected with both guys and their separate journeys were equally heartbreaking. Their loneliness was palpable. I also really enjoyed the secondary characters (Bella!) and all the hockey. Apparently I’m a sports romance fan!

One wish: I’d have liked one more scene with the hockey team, or at least with Bella and/or Hartley. Or an epilogue. Something to cement the fact Graham and Rikker were moving forward. A glimpse at what’s next. I’d also love to read the summer vacation. 😀 Either way, I’ll be reading more Sarina Bowen.

 

Layout 1Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

I adored this book, and the longer I sit on it, the more I love it. I keep remembering snatches of dialogue and particularly provoking scenes. It was quiet and contemplative in parts as Memory, which was, until recently, perhaps my favourite Vorkosigan novel. It was also as rewarding to a longtime fan as Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. Melancholy and joyous in turns. Meditative. I couldn’t help feeling as I read that if this was it, the end, it’s as good and complete as it could be.

The book also felt like a love letter to Aral Vorkosigan, in a way, and perhaps to every character whoever held a shred of importance in this universe. There were so many passages that simply wrung tears from me because in my head, I was thinking “I know.”

I rarely reread books, but I really want to go back to the beginning of the saga now and read it all again. Bujold has gifted us with a most marvelous universe and I wish I could read about it forever.

 

s-typeopts13Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

Now that I’ve finished all six books of Riyria Revelations, I’ll take a breath…and yell: this serious is FABULOUS. It’s been a while since I was truly swept away by a fantasy series, or since I actually dedicated myself to reading through a series, beginning to end. I’d estimate half of my To Be Read collection is books and three of something or other.

I circled Theft of Swords, the first book of Riyria Revelations for a while, reading reviews and noting that what people generally liked about the series were things I usually liked. That what people didn’t like weren’t really the things I wouldn’t like. Still, it took an Audible Daily Deal to get me started. The rest is history.

A good portion of my enjoyment of this series was the wonderful performance of Tim Gerard Reynolds. He’s one of my favourite narrators and I have bought audiobooks simply because it’s more enjoyable to listen to him than read the book myself. But without a good story to tell, he’d just be speaking, right? What really makes these books, though, is the friendship between Hadrian and Royce. It’s the bromance of the century, folks. It’s one of the truest expressions of deep and abiding affection between friends I’ve ever read.

Then there are the secondary characters, the world building, the plot—it’s all fantastic.

 

20738173Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon

As I was saying to Jenn the other day, I dole out my Lanyons carefully. Josh Lanyon has an extensive back catalog, but it’s not going to last forever. So I need to take my time in order to make sure there will always be a Lanyon available for when I want that unique blend of mystery, characterisation and sweet romance.

Stranger on the Shore is a very good book. Probably a favourite. I really, really liked it. I enjoyed Griff’s journey of discovery in all things and while there were some conclusions you could draw early on, the why of it all remained a mystery to the end. The romance was surprisingly sweet.

 

27411786Tied to Trouble by Megan Erickson

Megan has a recognisable voice and it really suits the characters she writes. It’s why I read her books. Her characters resonate with me, whether male, female, gay, straight or other. They’re always a little quirky—even when they’d self-identify otherwise—and always have GOOD hearts. I know there’re a lot of folks who like to read about the bad boys and all the, ah, bad things they do, but I like to read about the good guys. The sweet men who feel stuff and acknowledge they feel stuff, even if they’re not ready to actually talk about it for a while.

Tied to Trouble is a fun book. The opening scene is one of my favourites because you just know the owner of those wide blue eyes is going to show up again soon, and that these two guys are going to get off on the wrong foot. But because it’s a sexy book, the chemistry is there right from the start. And you just need them to get together. Somehow, some way.

Also, bow tie sex. It’s a thing!

Available Now: Inversion Point

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INVERSION POINT is the fourth book in the Chaos Station series. Though I am beyond excited about this release–this is my favourite book in the series, the one I didn’t fret over after the final round–it’s release also heralds the beginning of the end. This morning PHASE SHIFT, the final book in this series, will make it’s way to production. We’re done.

The good news is that there are these two full adventures left to read, and from the advance reviews posted for INVERSION POINT, readers agree with me on this being the best book yet. I’m going to share a couple of quotes here, because they’re the sort every author loves to see. 😀

Inversion Point is arguably the strongest entry yet in the Chaos Station series…”

“This is probably my favorite installment in the series.”

“Just as fresh and exciting as the first book, with a pulse pounding plot and a satisfying conclusion.”

“I am beyond pleased with this installment in the series.”

You can read the cover copy and first chapter of INVERSION POINT at our website!

Blog Tour and Giveaway

To celebrate the release of INVERSION POINT, Jenn and I are doing a week-long blog tour. This means excerpts, guest posts, a character interview (where we had to beg Felix to say something other than “no comment”) and a giveaway!

Tour

Today, I share Felix’s Playlist at Straight Shootin’ Book Reviews. Scroll past Maria’s lovely review to check out the music that moves our prickly engineer! We’ve also got an exclusive excerpt up at Queer Sci Fi. On Tuesday, I talk a little bit about what Zed is up against in INVERSION POINT, in his relationship with Felix, the expectations of the galaxy and his habit of being a hero–at any cost! Visit Purple Rose Teahouse to read all about it.

Jenn shares Zed’s playlist at  Joyfully Jay on Wednesday, and talks about characters and how she creates them on Thursday at Smitten with Reading.

On Friday, we’ve got another exclusive excerpt at Prism Book Alliance and a character interview at The Novel Approach. For another excerpt (and mini-interview with us), check out the Friday Favourites post at Ellie Reads.

Giveaway

Prize: The first three books in the Chaos Station series, Chaos Station, Lonely Shore and Skip Trace, and a $25 gift card to the online bookseller of your choice.

Terms: Rafflecopter runs from 12:00 AM EST 1/25/2016 to 12:00 AM EST 2/1/2016. Giveaway is open internationally. Gift card value is US dollars. Winner will be contacted via email.

Reunion – A Chaos Station Story

Reunion

A Chaos Station story

It’s been four years since Zander and Felix graduated from Shepard Academy. Four years since they shared a single night together. Now they have five days of shore leave to see if their friendship is still as strong as it was…and to see if the promises they didn’t want to make back then might be possible now.

“Reunion” is available to read now or download. To get your copy, subscribe to our newsletter and receive occasional updates regarding new releases, short stories, excerpts and giveaways. A link to part one of Zander and Felix’s story, “Graduation” is included in the welcome email.

Read Now | Download

Preview the rest of the Chaos Station series on our website:

http://chaosstation.com