The Battlemage, by Taran Matharu

Battlemage_1

Title: The Battlemage

Author: Taran Matharu

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Genre: Teen and Young Adult, Science Fiction and Fantasy

Format: ebook, Paperback, Hardback, audio

Rating: 4 Lattes

Heat Level: Light Roast

Blurb

Fletcher and his friends fight for survival in the ether, where they pursue a mortally dangerous quest to rebuild their world and broker peace.

Even as hatred threatens to turn friend into foe in The Battlemage, Fletcher must lead a small army of soldiers into battle to protect his ancestral homeland, and face his biggest challenge yet: his nemesis, the albino orc, Khan, who seeks to destroy everything Fletcher holds dear.

Review:

First impression.

(I LOVE THIS COVER! It is my favorite of the four. I can’t wait to add it to my collection.)

I jumped right into this one when I finished The Inquisition because I couldn’t stand the suspense! I had many questions and I am not sure all of them have been answered.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

I am not usually a fan of multiple battle scenes and tend to scan them, but the author did a great job maintaining an emotional connection to the characters throughout the action. The first part of the story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once.

The way Fletcher and the people of Pelt worked together with the dwarves to begin rebuilding his family home solidified a lot of the characters and gave them time to unify before the battle. Funny thing though – because I was listening to the book via audio, I thought the old knight’s name was Sicaulda, not Sir Caulder through the entire series.

I was at about 90% when I started to realize there were not enough chapters. The thick of battle was still going on, and I had a feeling things were not going to be wrapped up in a neat bow. I was right. The battle ran all the way to nearly the last page and a brief epilogue left me wanting TONS more answers.

What happened to Ignatius and Athena? What does Fletcher’s mother remember? Why didn’t Fletcher offer to help Sylva? Why didn’t he tell her how he felt about her? What is Burdon going to do? Are they going to make a market for the ebony?

After taste.

I loved the story, and the author created a world I fell in love with, but the end of the series left a lot of open ended story lines, and left me feeling like the story is incomplete. That is why this book got 4 stars instead of 5. I was completely invested in the character lives, and have no idea how they really are at the end. The orcs are defeated, but….I don’t know. Maybe I’m being selfish, but I almost feel cheated. Not a good way to end the series.

Overall impression.

This is an excellent young adult epic fantasy series. I would recommend it to any parent who wants to introduce their kids to a fantasy world.

About the Author

Matharu, Taran

Taran Matharu is a New York Times bestselling author. He was born in London in 1990 and found a passion for reading at a very early age. His love for stories developed into a desire to create his own during early adolescence, beginning his first book at 9 years old.

Straight after graduating with a First Class degree in Business Administration, Taran was keen to explore a new avenue and get inside the publishing world, landing an internship in Digital Sales at Penguin Random House, from June to September 2013.

Thereafter, while taking time off to travel, Taran began to write ‘Summoner’ in November 2013 at the age of 22, taking part in ‘Nanowrimo 2013’.

Thanks to Wattpad.com and updating daily, its popularity dramatically increased, reaching over 3 million reads in less than six months.

After being featured by NBC News, Taran decided to launch his professional writing career and has never looked back.

Purchase links:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks

 

The Inquisition, By Taran Matharu

 

 

InquisitionTitle: The Inquisition

Author: Taran Matharu

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: May 10, 2016

Genre: YA, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Epic

Format: Ebook, Audio, Hardcover, Paperback

Rating: 5 Lattes

Heat Level: Light Roast

Blurb:

A year has passed since the Tournament. Fletcher and Ignatius have been locked away in Pelt’s dungeons, but now they must face trial at the hands of the Inquisition, a powerful institution controlled by those who would delight in Fletcher’s downfall.

The trial is haunted by ghosts from the past with shocking revelations about Fletcher’s origins, but he has little time to dwell on them; the graduating students of Vocans are to be sent deep into the orc jungles to complete a dangerous mission for the king and his council. If they fail, the orcish armies will rise to power beyond anything the Empire has ever seen.

With loyal friends Othello and Sylva by his side, Fletcher must battle his way to the heart of Orcdom and save Hominum from destruction . . . or die trying, in this sequel to The Novice by Taran Matharu.

Review:

First impression:

These COVERS! The artwork is amazing, and I can’t wait to add the hardbacks to my collection.

At the end of The Novice, I was eager to find out what happened after Fletcher was captured and jumped into book two right away. I was surprised that a whole year had passed, and when the trial started, I was intrigued by all the revelations about his past and what had happened while he was in prison. While I want very much to believe the young king, I was left wondering what other ways he would use Fletcher and his friends to achieve his own goals.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

I knew the little blue gremlin would come into play later in the story, but I wasn’t prepared for the turn the orc backstory took with the appearance of Mother. I am interested to see how her revelations play out in the next books.

Fletcher’s growth as a team leader wasn’t as dramatic as I hoped. His character arc has remained fairly constant other than the revelation of who his parents really are. The intrigue around who the saboteur on the mission was kept me guessing, and I did not suspect the culprit until he was revealed. The way Fletcher kept the team moving despite the distrust among them was admirable, but I felt it was more a testament to who the other characters were than his leadership.

What I am finding I truly love about this series is the interaction the characters have with each other, and the world building is absolutely wonderful. I can envision the settings easily, and the personalities of the demons are interesting and unique. As I think about it, they might be my favorite part of the whole series.

I am quite interested to know what is going on between Fletcher and Silva. I ship it! And based on his growth spurt after the swim in the lave and the cover image for book three, I am guessing little Ignatius is about to surprise everyone.

After taste:

I am enjoying the world the author has created and I’m looking forward to finishing the series to find out what happens to our brave Summoners!

This is a fantastic series for younger YA Fantasy readers. Lots of action, a good moral undertone, and great characters.

About the Author

Matharu, Taran

Taran Matharu is a New York Times bestselling author. He was born in London in 1990 and found a passion for reading at a very early age. His love for stories developed into a desire to create his own during early adolescence, beginning his first book at 9 years old.

Straight after graduating with a First Class degree in Business Administration, Taran was keen to explore a new avenue and get inside the publishing world, landing an internship in Digital Sales at Penguin Random House, from June to September 2013.

Thereafter, while taking time off to travel, Taran began to write ‘Summoner’ in November 2013 at the age of 22, taking part in ‘Nanowrimo 2013’.

Thanks to Wattpad.com and updating daily, its popularity dramatically increased, reaching over 3 million reads in less than six months.

After being featured by NBC News, Taran decided to launch his professional writing career and has never looked back.

Purchase links:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks

Silent Harmony, by Michele Scott

 

 

Scott, Michele SILENT HARMONY

Title: Silent Harmony

Author: Michele Scott

Publisher: Skyscape

Release Date: May 28, 2013

Genre: Young Adult, Horses, Peer Pressure

Format: ebook, audio, paperback

Rating: 4 Lattes

Heat Rating: Light Roast

 

Blurb:

Small town seventeen-year-old Vivienne Taylor is a talented equestrian with Olympic dreams and a little something extra going on—she is also an “equine empath,” someone who has the ability to read horses’ minds and moods. When she receives a full scholarship to attend Fairmont Riding Academy, a prep school with a famous riding program, she struggles with homesickness, hazing by the school’s snooty drama queen, intense competition in the sport of three-day-eventing, and the not-altogether-unwelcome interest of a hot guy. On top of all of that the horse given to Vivienne via the scholarship is an animal that she cannot “read” or understand. When Vivienne learns that her new horse Harmony belonged to the school’s vet, who recently died in a freak accident, she senses that the horse’s aloof behavior may be the result of her witnessing this accident. But as a connection begins to unfold between Vivienne and Harmony, Vivienne begins to believe that the vet’s death was no accident at all–but rather murder–and she resolves, at considerable peril, to track down the killer.

Review

First impression:

I had to get about a quarter of the way into this book before I felt connected to Vivienne. The story felt very young YA at first, and I wasn’t sure it was going to be good read for me. BUT – I am glad I stuck with it. The last quarter of the book moved it from a three latte read to a four.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

Initially, it was my curiosity about Riley that kept me reading, but then I was nearly put off from that when his (and Tristan’s) POV was written in third person while the rest of the book was with Vivienne in first person. It was a jarring transition. (This is the writer in me that had a hard time with this, so take that for what it is worth.) It was nice to get a smattering of the boys’ POV, so once I got used to the change, it didn’t bother me as much.

What I loved was the way Vivienne NEVER backed down from who she was. She went from being a small town girl with not much to her name, to living among the high society of the horse world. But she didn’t try to fit in with them. She was comfortable in her own skin right from the beginning, and didn’t have to make the journey of trying to be something she wasn’t. I LOVED that about the book.

I also appreciated how they boys were boys, and stayed out of the mean girl drama. Riley obviously had his own reasons for keeping away from the girls, and I was so proud of Tristan for finding a way to stand up to the pressure his girlfriend was putting on him.

And – being a horse lover and former eventer myself (in my MUCH younger days!), I truly enjoyed the interaction between Vivienne, Riley, Tristan, and their horses.

After taste.

This is a young YA who-done-it with some great lessons about being true to yourself and trusting your instincts.

Overall impression.

I have no idea if or when I will read the next book, but I would recommend it to young horse lovers and fans of super sweet romance.

About the Author:

Scott, Michele

Michele grew up thirty minutes east of San Diego in an area called Jamul. It was out there in the country that her parents bought Michele’s first horse and she learned how to ride at five. At nine years old she knew she loved to write and one day wrote a short story that she showed to her dad. She’d written it on one of his legal pads. After he read it, he looked at her and said, “You are a writer.” With those words spoken, she’s never stopped writing stories.

She graduated from The University of Southern California with a degree in communications, where she studied journalism and hoped to be a reporter. But deep down inside, she’d never given up on being a fiction author. Fate intervened and during Michele’s senior year at college she became pregnant with her first son who was born six weeks prematurely. She had to stay home with her newborn who needed constant care and it was at that time she decided to write her first book.

She contacted Writer’s Digest and ordered their correspondence course on writing a novel. For ten years Michele kept writing, submitting, attending conferences and workshops and receiving rejections but never giving up.

Finally in March 2004, Jessica Faust at Bookends signed her as a client. One month later Michele received THE CALL from Jessica telling her that she had a publisher—Berkley Prime Crime, and that they wanted to sign her for three books in The Wine Lover’s Mystery Series. “It was surreal, wonderful and a dream come true when my agent called and told me. That night my husband and I got a really nice bottle of Champagne and celebrated.” Then in December that second call came in about The Equine Mystery Series.

Michele has written eight mysteries for Berkley and is currently working on her first women’s fiction novel, which will of course involve wine and probably a horse or two.

Michele writes full time now and lives in San Diego with her very supportive husband, two sons and daughter.

Purchase links:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

 

Thirteen Reasons Why

 

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Group

Release Date: June 14, 2011

Genre: Teen and Young Adult, Social and Family Issues, Suicide

Format: ebook, Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

Rating: 5 Lattes

Heat Rating: Dark to Espresso Roast

 

Blurb

You can’t stop the future. 
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Review:

First impression.
The only real difficulty I had with the book at first were the descriptions of Clay’s actions. They were inserted at ‘random’ points, sometimes jarringly so, as he listened to the tapes. I suppose it was the only real way to remind you that the whole point was that he was listening and reacting to the story just like you were.

And the effect was impressive. You didn’t get lost in the narration as if someone were telling a story, instead, you were pulled into the emotions and thoughts of Clay as he processed what he was hearing.
What kept me reading (or didn’t).

My husband and I listened to the audio version while on a road trip. We listened to it over the course of two days, the second of which was about 5 hours straight.

I had to request – no, demand – one stop near the middle of the book so I could collect my emotions before listening to the rest.

I knew the context of the book before I started it, which I thought would have prepared me for a heart wrenching read/listen. I was wrong. Having been the victim of what was sometimes severe bullying in school, I was not at all prepared for the emotional impact this story would have on me nearly 30 years after I graduated.

The harder topics in the book (rape, drug and alcohol usage, etc.) were not candy coated, but neither were they presented gratuitously. There was no denying what was happening, how the character felt about the event, or what their reaction was after. To say the emotions in the book are raw would be an understatement.

After taste.

All that being said, I walked away from this end of this book hopeful. Which is good, because there are moments when you absolutely FEEL the hopelessness of all the characters. I was nervous as we got toward the end that the author was going to leave us feeling completely brutalized by the intensity of the story, but at the last moment, the whole story has a purpose, and THAT is what made the emotional wringer of this book worth it.

Overall impression.

I have listened to the audio version twice, and read the ebook.

About the Author:

Asher, Jay

Jay Asher was born in Arcadia, California on September 30, 1975. He grew up in a family that encouraged all of his interests, from playing the guitar to his writing. He attended Cuesta College right after graduating from high school. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation. At this point in his life, he had decided he wanted to become an elementary school teacher. He then transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. Throughout his life he worked in various establishments, including as a salesman in a shoe store and in libraries and bookstores. Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.

He has published only one book to date, Thirteen Reasons Why, which was published in October 2007. He is currently working on his second Young Adult novel, and has written several picture books and screenplays. Thirteen Reasons Why has won several awards and has received five stars from Teen Book Review. It also has received high reviews from fellow authors such as Ellen Hopkins, Chris Crutcher, and Gordon Kormon.

Purchase links: 

Amazon, Barnes and Noble

#Starstruck, by Sariah Wilson

#Starstruck

 

Title: #Starstruck

Author: Sariah Wilson

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Release Date: January 16, 2018

Genre: Romance, Clean and Wholesome

Format: Ebook, Paperback, Audible

Rating: 2 Lattes

Heat Rating: Light Roast

Blurb:

“You’ve done better.”

With one uncharacteristically sassy tweet to her longtime celebrity crush, Zoe Miller’s life turns upside down. Ultrahot A-lister Chase Covington doesn’t just respond to Zoe’s tweet, he does the unthinkable: he messages Zoe directly. Now she must decide between walking away or meeting her crush in person.

Chase knows better than to trust anyone from the Internet, but Zoe’s saucy challenge has totally caught his interest—and her girl-next-door personality is keeping it. He’s been burned enough to know he needs to keep his heart close. But his feelings for Zoe might be a lot more than just an online flirtation. He just has to convince her

When the press gets wind of Zoe and Chase’s secret relationship, their romance turns into tabloid headlines. Will they be able to hold on to their Hollywood love story?

Review:

I have no idea how or when I picked up this book and the audio. I was looking for something to listen to that I hadn’t yet, and decided to give this one a try.

The audio recording (Brilliance Audio) and narrator (Bailey Carr) for this book were top notch. I would like to hear more of this narrator’s work.

First impression.

I was sure it was going to get a bit cheesy, but the writing is solid, and at first, I REALLY liked Zoe – especially after the way she stood up for her beliefs in class.* One of my favorite things is when a character clearly articulates WHY they choose to behave the way they do. Her words actually made me want to stand up and cheer! I was SO excited to read more about Zoe.

Until she met Chase…

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

What distracted me the most were the over the top descriptions of Zoe’s physical reactions to Chase. I rolled my eyes more than once, and the way she allowed Chase’s early ‘flirtations’ was sort of insulting considering the way Zoe stood up to her class. It completely changed my initial opinion of her, and instead it was Chase who kept me reading.

I wasn’t bothered so much by her lies. It made sense given the storyline. What continued to throw me out of the story was the way her internal dialog didn’t match her verbal responses. Internally she was gushing uncontrollably about being with Chase Covington, but her responses were almost nonchalant, as if being with him didn’t matter one way or the other. I get that the author was trying to let us know that while she was ‘losing it’ internally, she was still cool and collected on the outside, but it didn’t work for me. Instead it felt – disconnected. Probably because the internal dialog was SO over the top.

And all the metaphors…I know it probably isn’t 100% acurate, but it sure felt like every emotion had a metaphor attached to it. *shrug* Maybe I’m in the minority, but it was very distracting from the story itself – which I REALLY wanted to get into.

After taste.

Great premise. Great story. Honestly – great characters. But the overly descriptive writing made this a difficult read and the disconnect I felt with Zoe took the rating down to a two.

Quotes or Highlights:

*This is part of the scene early on in the book that made me want to stand up and cheer. This was the Zoe I expected through the rest of the book.

____
I was well aware of the fact that some second- and third-wave feminists advocated against celibacy, which I found to be highly hypocritical.

“I thought it was interesting that people of our generation have a lower number of sexual partners and are twice as likely to be abstinent as previous generations. Even though we’re being told the only way to be feminist is to sleep around early and often.” I probably shouldn’t have tacked on the last part. The room nearly exploded with competing voices.

“Celibacy is the patriarchy’s way of exerting control over women!”

“Haven’t you ever heard of owning your sexuality?”

“Why aren’t you sex positive?”

It wasn’t so much a discussion as a dog pile. Professor Gonzalez raised her right hand, signaling she wanted quiet. “One at a time, please.”

“I can answer those questions, if you don’t mind. No one controls me. I’ve made up my own mind.” I turned to the next girl who had spoken. “I own my sexuality more than anybody else I’ve ever met. In that it’s totally mine, and I don’t share it with anyone.”

Then to the next woman. “How is celibacy not ‘sex positive’? I’m not slut-shaming or judging anyone else. This is a personal decision that I’ve come to, and I don’t understand why you don’t want anyone telling you what to do with your junk, but for some reason you think it’s okay to tell me what I should or should not do with mine. It is the worst kind of hypocrisy because it’s coming from people who should know better.”

____

About the Author:

Wilson, Sariah

Bestselling author Sariah Wilson has never jumped out of an airplane, never climbed Mt. Everest, and is not a former CIA operative. She has, however, been madly, passionately in love with her soulmate and is a fervent believer in happily ever afters–which is why she writes romance. She has published many happily ever after stories. She grew up in southern California, graduated from Brigham Young University (go Cougars!) with a semi-useless degree in history, and is the oldest of nine (yes, nine) children. She currently lives with the aforementioned soulmate and their four children in Utah, along with three tiger barb fish, a cat named Tiger, and a recently departed hamster that is buried in the backyard (and has nothing at all to do with tigers).

Purchase links:

Amazon

The Awakening, by Tamara Leigh

The Awakening, TAMARA LEIGH

Title: The Awakening

Author: Tamara Leigh

Publisher: Tamara Leigh

Release Date: January 19, 2018

Genre: Religious and Inspirational Fiction, Medieval Romance

Format: eBook, paperback, audio

Rating: 5 Lattes

Heat Rating: Light Roast to Medium Roast

Blurb

The seventh book in the AGE OF FAITH series—featuring Lady Laura Middleton of THE YIELDING and Sir Lothaire Soames of THE VEXING.

FAR BETTER TO LOVE WITHOUT PROFIT…

Even if she must sell herself in marriage to the highest bidder, Lady Laura Middleton is determined to provide her daughter a home and protector. But when Queen Eleanor presents her cousin with four suitors, among them is one who believes Laura betrayed him ten years past. Despite her attempts to discourage his pursuit, he is determined to have her for the dowry needed to save his lands. Should he prevail, how is she to shield her daughter from the enemy who lurks within his walls? And what of her heart? If she reveals the truth of her betrayal, might he love her again?

…THAN LOVE NOT AND REAP BITTERNESS

Beware the Delilah, my son. Beware the Jezebel—advice Baron Lothaire Soames should have heeded as a young man. Now in need of funds, he faces marriage to the woman he lost to scandal. Though he vows to find another way to return prosperity to his lands, his former betrothed proves his only hope and he grudgingly vies to become her worthiest suitor—only to be struck by how little it takes his heart to pick up where it left off. Can he forgive what cannot be forgotten? More, will she forever yearn for the man who fathered her child?

My Review:

First impression.

So. Many. Secrets! It drove me crazy that they won’t just talk to each other! The author does a wonderful job setting up WHY they keep things to themselves, but that doesn’t make it any easier to read when you want them to….well….kiss and make up?

Before I get into the main characters of this book, I have loved seeing the evolution of Queen Eleanor’s presence in this series. She is ultra-manipulative, but in this book her intelligence and care for her subjects has never been clearer. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

I was not at all impressed with Baron Soames in The Vexing, but as with all of this author’s leading men it didn’t take me long to fall in love with him.

Lady Laura irked me more than once for her refusal to tell Lothaire the truth, but that frustration also kept me reading.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

While I absolutely adored Lothaire Soames (I especially like saying his name.), it was Lady Laura, Clarice, and Sebille that drew me into the story.

The way the author handled the topic of rape was sensitive yet left me, the reader, feeling the traumatic after effects. When the truth came out, all my frustration with Lady Laura was removed, because it was clear she might not have been believed if she’d spoken up sooner. I won’t spoil the story by revealing how, but Lothaire needed to SEE the emotional and mental impact her past had on her.

And the amount of respect and honor Lothaire showed her when he finally understood made me love him all the more!

By the time all of this was worked out, I wasn’t anywhere near done with the book, and I had NO idea where the story would go. Which leads me to the reason this book earned 5 Lattes and not 4.

The undercurrent of manipulation upon manipulation between Lothaire’s mother, sister, Clarice, and Lady Laura was expertly written. I truly had no idea who did what until the very end, and I LOVE it when a story surprises me like that.

I don’t think I’ve noted this before, but I listen to these books on audio, and the narrator, Mary Sarah Agliotta is fantastic. I listen to a LOT of audio books, and these are some of the best out there.

After taste.
While not my favorite of the Age of Faith Books (The Unveiling and The Vexing hold top spots!), it is one I will read again.

Overall impression.

I adore the ‘world’ the author has created. I feel like I know the families, and with each book, I can’t wait to see what our dear Queen Eleanor gets up to next!

About the Author *

 Tamara Leigh

Tamara Leigh holds a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology. In 1993, she signed a 4-book contract with Bantam Books. Her first medieval romance, Warrior Bride, was released in 1994 and nominated for a RITA award. Continuing to write for the general market, she was published with HarperCollins and Dorchester and earned awards and spots on national bestseller lists.

In 2006, Tamara’s first inspirational contemporary romance, Stealing Adda, was released. In 2008, Perfecting Kate was optioned for a movie and Splitting Harriet won an ACFW Book of the Year award. The following year, Faking Grace was nominated for a RITA award. In 2011, Tamara wrapped up her Southern Discomfort series with the release of Restless in Carolina.

When not in the middle of being a wife and mother, Tamara dips her writer’s pen in ink and nose in a good book. In 2012, she returned to the historical romance genre with Dreamspell: A Medieval Time Travel Romance, followed by the Age of Faith series, which now includes the seventh book, The Awakening. Tamara’s #1 Bestsellers—Lady at Arms, Lady Of Eve, Lady Of Conquest, and Lady Betrayed—are among her general market romances to be rewritten as clean reads. Baron Of Blackwood, the third book in the #1 bestselling series, The Feud, is now available.

Tamara lives near Nashville with her husband, a German Shepherd who has never met a squeaky toy she can’t destroy, and a feisty Morkie who keeps her company during long writing stints. And then there’s Boog, her grandpuppy…

Connect with Tamara at her website http://www.tamaraleigh.com, her blog The Kitchen Novelist, her email tamaraleightenn@gmail.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For new releases and special promotions, subscribe to Tamara Leigh’s mailing list: www.tamaraleigh.com

*For an added bonus – be sure to check out the link on her website to her Cover Evolutions!

Purchase links:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo

 

Openly Straight, by Bill Konigsberg

Openly Straight

 

Title: Openly Straight

Author: Bill Konigsberg

Publisher:  Arthur A. Levine Books

Release Date: May 28, 2013

Genre: Gay and Lesbian, Young Adult, Sports

Format: ebook, hardcover, paperback, audio

Rating: 5 Lattes

Heat Rating: Medium Roast

 

Blurb

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn’t even know that love is possible.

This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

Review

First impression.

Have you ever read a book that made you forget you were reading about a character or a particular subject and instead found yourself thinking and analyzing your own life and thought processes?

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg was one of those books for me. The book is about Rafe, an openly gay young man who has an accepting family, a great support system of friends, and a school that lets him be who he is. And he HATES it.

Rafe decides he’s tired of being ‘that gay boy’, and applies to an all boy school where he can drop the gay label and just be ‘one of the guys’. He’s not there to get a boyfriend, and he doesn’t want anyone to know he is gay.

The problem is, he doesn’t tell his parents or his best friend he intends to hide who he is, and when complications arise in the form of a friend who has the potential to be more, his lies and deceptions compound until he truly isn’t himself anymore.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

This book is about a boy who is gay, sure, but I also found myself analyzing how, when, and to whom I present my Christian beliefs. Rafe was not, and it was never insinuated that he was ashamed of BEING gay, he was just tired of the label and all that came with it. Just like Rafe described his soccer teammates or classmates feeling uncomfortable and keeping their distance from him, in the past people have done the same to me simply because I am a Christian.

This is a book I will probably read again. Mostly to glean from the wise questions posed by the English teacher, Mr.Scarborough. The journaling and writing exercises he assigned Rafe as he maneuvered through his journey of self-discovery – self-re-discovery actually – are powerful and the questions the author asked through this character resonated with me.

This story rocked me in a way I haven’t been rocked in a long time. And in a very good way. The questions Rafe faced are questions I’ve asked myself, and though I came to very different conclusions, the temptation to try what he did is very real. Especially in this world where labels seem to carry more and more weight.

Overall impression.

My take away from this book – Always be true to who you truly are. Anything less is a lie.

Although I originally completed this book on December 27, 2015, this book still stands as one of the most impactful stories I have ever read. After more than two years later, it has not only affected the way I share my personal beliefs, but I can see now that it was a book that brought about a shift in my understanding of a community that, at the time, I knew nothing about, and about which I am still learning.
Quote:

“Why can’t I just be bad?” I asked, figuring my mom would have no idea what I was talking about. “Well, that’s easy, sweetie. You can be anything you want, but when you go against who you are inside, it doesn’t feel good.”

About the Author

bksghead1

Bill Konigsberg was born in 1970 in New York City. Expectations were high from birth – at least in terms of athletics. His parents figured he’d be a great soccer player, based on his spirited kicking from inside the womb. As it turned out, the highlight of his soccer career was at Camp Greylock in 1978, when he was chosen for the Camp’s “D” team. There were only four levels. Bill played alongside the likes of the kid who always showered alone, the chronic nosebleeder and the guy with recurrent poison ivy.

Early in his life, Bill decided he wanted to be a disc jockey, a professional baseball player, or the Indian from The Village People. None of these career paths worked out for him. Yet. He still holds out hope for a Village People revival and has set up a Google Alert in case it happens.

A B- student throughout high school, Bill was voted Most Likely to Avoid Doing Any Real Work In His Life by a panel of his dismissive peers. He proved them wrong with a series of strange-but-true jobs in his 20s – driver recruiter for a truck driving school, sales consultant for a phone company, and temp at Otis Elevators.

He moved to Denver in 1996 and was voted Least Stylish Gay Guy in the Metro Denver Area (including Loveland!) for each of the years from 1996-98. His fashion-free wardrobe robbed him of prospective dates countless times, as did his penchant for wearing a mustache that didn’t suit him.

He worked at ESPN and ESPN.com from 1999-2002, where he developed a penchant for sharing too much information about himself. That character flaw earned him a GLAAD Media Award in 2002, for his column “Sports World Still a Struggle for Gays.” That coming out essay made him a household name to tens of people across the country.

He continued oversharing in graduate school at Arizona State, where he added People Pleasing to his growing list of character defects and parlayed that into the title of Most Chill Teacher of freshman composition.

As a sports writer and editor for The Associated Press in New York from 2005-08, Bill once called his husband, who was at the time working a desk job, from the New York Mets dugout before a game. “I’m so bored,” Bill whined. He slept on the couch for a week after making that call.

He wrote a novel called Audibles at Arizona State, and sold that novel to Dutton Books for Children in 2007. His editor asked him to change the title so that it would appeal to people other than “football players who read.” The resulting novel, Out of the Pocket, received strong reviews from his mother, father, significant other and one girl who had a crush on him in high school. It won the Lambda Literary Award in 2009.

His second novel, Openly Straight, hit the bookshelves in late May of 2013. He describes the novel as “Twilight-like, only without vampires and wolves and angsty teenage girls. Also, set in an all-boys boarding school in Massachusetts. Otherwise, it’s like an exact replica.”

Openly Straight won the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor and is a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.

Bill currently lives in Chandler, Arizona, which is the thinking man’s Gilbert, Arizona.

His blog and website is at billkonigsberg.com.

Purchase Links:

AmazonB&NIndieBound

The Novice, by Taran Matharu

 

The Novice

 

Title: The Novice: Summoner: Book One

Author: Taran Matharu

Publisher: Square Fish

Release Date: May 10, 2016

Genre: YA, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic

Format: ebook, Paperback, Audio, Hardcover

Rating: 5 Lattes

Heat Level: Light Roast

Blurb

Fletcher is working as a blacksmith’s apprentice when he discovers he has the rare ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must travel with his demon, Ignatius, to an academy for adepts, where the gifted are taught the art of summoning.

Along with nobles and commoners, Fletcher endures grueling lessons that will prepare him to serve as a Battlemage in the Empire’s war against the savage Orcs. But sinister forces infect new friendships and rivalries grow. With no one but Ignatius by his side, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of the Empire is in his hands. . . .

Review

First impression.

My first impression of this series came from the covers. I LOVE a beautiful cover and these caught my eye every time I walked through a book store. I snagged a sample of the ebook, and was hooked immediately.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

Though this book is completely absent (for now) of anything romantic, I adore all the characters and the world building is fantastic. I resonated with Fletcher’s apathy for others and his anger at the social injustices in his world. That undercurrent alone kept me reading.

Fletcher quickly earns the respect of the underdogs when he stands with them, and he manages to befriend them even when they would rather have nothing to do with him. He is smart, quick thinking, and adaptable. I had trouble keeping all the other apprentices’ names straight. There were a lot of them introduced all at once, but it didn’t really slow down the story once the two or three main characters became clear.

The elves, dwarves, humans, and orcs all felt very familiar, as did the struggles to figure out alliances, but the author managed to give each race a fresh presentation so it didn’t seem like re-reading Tolkien or the like.

After taste.

The story moves at a good pace, and there is enough action to balance out the obvious social and political themes. I LOVE a good romance, but a story with a deeper meaning – especially one that points out the flaws of racial prejudice and bigotry – makes my heart sing. I enjoyed this first book in the series very much and will be picking up the next.

Overall impression.

The story is clean, and not overly violent in a gory sort of way. It is a great book for younger YA readers, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys an epic fantasy that is a little lighter. (Though not much.)

About the Author:

 Matharu, Taran

Taran Matharu is a New York Times bestselling author. He was born in London in 1990 and found a passion for reading at a very early age. His love for stories developed into a desire to create his own during early adolescence, beginning his first book at 9 years old.

Straight after graduating with a First Class degree in Business Administration, Taran was keen to explore a new avenue and get inside the publishing world, landing an internship in Digital Sales at Penguin Random House, from June to September 2013.

Thereafter, while taking time off to travel, Taran began to write ‘Summoner’ in November 2013 at the age of 22, taking part in ‘Nanowrimo 2013’.

Thanks to Wattpad.com and updating daily, its popularity dramatically increased, reaching over 3 million reads in less than six months.

After being featured by NBC News, Taran decided to launch his professional writing career and has never looked back.

 

 

Purchase links

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks

Shroud of Lies, by Nancy Straight

 

Shroud of Lies

 

Title: Shroud of Lies

Author: Nancy Straight

Publisher: Nancy Straight

Release Date: March 4, 2016

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Format: Ebook, Audio, Paperback

Rating: 4 Lattes

Heat Level: Light Roast

Blurb:

Mark believes he has finally shed his destructive past. Reunited with the brother he had believed to be dead for most of his life, Mark’s life detours again when he learns of a younger sister also abandoned by their parents. Desperate to find her, Mark and Davey travel thousands of miles turning over the rocks of their past. Discovering the truth veiled behind layers of lies is daunting, but the Brewer brothers vow to leave no stone unturned. As Mark begins to peel back the layers of his past to locate his sister, he is jerked back into his criminal life and risks losing Libby and everyone he loves forever.

Old friends and enemies insert themselves in Mark’s new life; he must choose between the life luring him back and the future he desperately wants. Mark attempts to keep those he loves from being caught in the cross fire of old enemies vying for position.

Review:

Shroud of Lies is the third and final (WHAAAH!) book of The Brewer Brothers series.

I loved Davey and his quirky ways, but from the moment he was introduced, it was Mark who kept me reading.

First impression.
I was really nervous at the beginning of Shroud of Lies, and even set it aside for a long time because the Mark at the beginning of book three is NOT the same Mark I had grown to…like. A LOT.

But, I love Nancy’s books, and finally convinced myself she wouldn’t have gutted such an incredible character. I was right.

The reason I didn’t give the book five stars is because I wish the entire book had been written from Mark’s POV. At the beginning of the book, Chad stood out the most. His character felt real and strong, then sort of vanished. Though Chad’s discovery sent Mark on the right path for his own, Chad’s story feels a little like an unfinished plot point. It doesn’t diminish Mark’s story, but I think I wanted more for and from Chad.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).
From page one (literally), Felix is a slimeball. Again, well written, but he sort of fell off the map as a real character with a story. His presence or absence doesn’t take away from Mark, and he does give valuable data to start the story. *shrug* I didn’t like him. But, that’s probably the point.

So, have I mentioned Mark?

If you don’t know Mark, read Fractured Karma. That was the Mark I was expecting when I started reading. Like I said, he was so different at the beginning of the book, I almost didn’t finish, but I knew Nancy had a reason for writing him the way she did and convinced myself to trust her.

Then, it happened. What happened, you ask? THIS:

As I strolled past the clothes which had been my wardrobe for the last six months, I entered the dusty area of my closet.
Selecting a pair of dark blue jeans, and off white dress shirt without a collar, and a sports jacket – a feeling of anticipation began to take root. What was I, a girl? My body was acting like it had missed the clothing, but closer inspection told me – it was who I was when I wore the clothes.
Adrenalin coursed through my veins, strangers respectfully nodded their heads as I strode by, and no one, not one person, would confuse me for someone to be taken lightly.

****SIGH*****
From here to the end of the book, Mark is able to find the balance – after many startling revelations – between who he was, who he became, and who he needed to be going forward. And it is a beautiful thing.
After taste.
I am truly sad this is the end of the story, but the Brewer’s find their answers, and without manufacturing some other trouble, Nancy has done a fantastic job of bringing this series full circle.

Overall impression.

Clean, and much more adventure/drama than romance which is unusual for my taste.

But…Mark.

I would recommend this book to 16+ due to adult topics like drugs, mafia, and murder. All tastefully handled but situations might be emotionally intense for younger readers.

About the Author:

Straight, Nancy

Nancy was born in Sioux City Iowa, left the cold of the Midwest in 1991 and only returns to see family in the summer time. She spent ten years traveling the world as a US Marine and settled in rural SC with her husband and two children.

She has written ten novels (3 x Paranormal Romance, 4 x Mythological Romance and 3 x Suspenseful Romance). Nancy enjoys reading all types of Paranormal and Young Adult literature.

Purchase links:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble

The Conduit, by Stacey Rourke

 

The Counduit COVER

Title: The Conduit

Author: Stacey Rourke

Publisher: Anchor Group

Release Date: November 15, 2013

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Format: Ebook, Paperback, Audio

Rating: 4 Lattes

Heat Level: Light Roast

Blurb

All 18-year-old Celeste Garrett wants is to head off to college and make those fun, yet ill-advised, choices college kids are known for. And maybe to spend some time with the hot cameraman she just met. Instead, because of a pact her ancestors made in the 17th century with a mythical creature, she has to save the world.

While normal kids are slamming energy drinks and cramming for exams, Celeste will get her adrenaline rush fighting a fire breathing dragon. She wants to meet friends in the quad to exchange lecture notes, but first she must exchange blows with a shapeshifting demon on the rooftop. Life isn’t always fair for a superhero, but at least she doesn’t have to do it alone. With her brother and sister as sidekicks, they alternate between saving lives and getting on each others’ nerves. Together the trio encounters unspeakable odds, mystical forces and comes face-to-face with an image that will haunt them forever—their grandmother in a leopard print bikini.

Review

This one took me a few stops and starts to get into, mostly because of the other types of books I had been reading before picking this one up. Genre hopping is all fun and games until you jump a little farther than you intended.

First impression:

This is a fun light hearted read for a young YA audience. I am not in this target audience, but I enjoyed the story.

Celeste and her siblings are adjusting to moving in with their quirky grandmother, when a random encounter with a wooden figurine changes everything. The banter and style of writing reminded me a lot of Quinn Loftis Gray Wolves series.

What kept me reading (or didn’t).

As I mentioned, it took me a minute to get into the book, but once I did, I wanted to know what the siblings would ultimately be capable of. I wanted more of Celeste’s ‘emotional control’ abilities to be more in play, but maybe that comes out in later books.

Gabe and his playfulness made me smile more than once, and the teasing between the siblings was fun.

After taste.

It’s not really my style, but that doesn’t take away from the book.

Overall impression.

I would definitely recommend this book to younger YA readers and those who are looking for a light read with a bit of the supernatural.

About the Author

Stacey Rourke

Stacey Rourke is the award winning author of works that span genres, but possess the same flare for action and snarky humor. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. Stacey loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.

  • RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012
  • Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
  • Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013
  • Readers’ Favorite Fantasy Silver Medal Winner for 2015
  • Readers’ Favorite YA Fantasy Bronze Medal Winner 2017

 

Purchase links

Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble