Monday, March 2, 2015

SF Mini: "A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon a Star" by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Illustration / Cover by Wesley Allsbrook
Recommended by Locus Magazine. This novelette was acquired and edited for Tor.com by consulting editor Ellen Datlow. A novelette that’s science fiction by association.

This novelette, set in the post 1950s, brought back memories of that moment when I first heard that man landed on the moon -- the wonder, hope and dreams. At the time, I owned a children's picture book about Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first journey into outer space, and was already stung by the "space bug."

This touching and nostalgic story is about a little girl, the daughter of a rocket scientist working on those first space modules for NASA, who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Her parents encourage her despite the fact that at that time girls and women were not expected to want careers based on science, much less to harbor dreams of becoming an astronaut. I love the connection Ann Goonan makes with Walt Disney's building of Tomorrowland and to the detailed documentaries aired by Disney describing plans for future space travel.

This original story's connection to science fiction is tenuous at best, however as it was posted in honor of Tor.com's sixth birthday, I believe that for that purpose it works well. This historical event sparked the imagination of adults and children alike. Personally, I can't believe the nostalgic feelings of wonder the story brought back!

Read online at Tor.com. Buy it here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

SF Minis: "Sleep Walking Now and Then" by Richard Bowes

In February, I continued the process of catching up by reading a few short works on Locus Magazine's list of recommended SF reads, as well as the 2014 Nebula Award Finalists. To date I've read eight novellas and novelettes -- most of them available as "free" online reads / downloads. Today I am featuring Richard Bowes.

Illustration/Cover by Richie Pope
A Nebula Award Finalist and recommended by Locus Magazine. This novelette was acquired and edited for Tor.com by consulting editor Ellen Datlow.

"Sleep Walking Now and Then," is set in the Big Arena, a futuristic New York City, where class and financial divide are wide and marked. Residents of the Big Arena will do anything to stay at the top of their game in 2060. That wider look at time, place and society is the perfect cue to the more intimate setting, characters, and motivations that come along next. Bowes' main character is Jacoby Cass, a successful playwright, director and actor whose star seems to be waning. Everything depends on the success of a new interactive production at The Agouleme Hotel in a dilapidated Kips Bay neighborhood. The hotel's original owner and two deaths, one of them a suspected but unproven murder, are the inspiration for Cass' play.

Bowes mixes up the future (2060) with the past (1890s and 1960s) through the play's dialogue, descriptions of the hotel as the set, and the actor's wardrobe. Atmosphere is grand throughout the story. Greed, egos, staging details, as well as the "anything for a hit" show business attitude is also easily captured by Bowes. The above mentioned and the idea of having the public become part of the play (imagine an interactive play set at the Algonquin), became more a focus for me than the murder mysteries. The end fits the story, characters, and attitudes perfectly.

Richard Bowes is a favorite author. Through the insights and knowledge of New York City, past and present, found in the body of his works it quickly becomes evident that the City is an intricate part of the writer, just as the writer has become part of the City. In my opinion, one of Bowes' biggest talents is the subtlety with which he infuses his New York City tales with fantasy. I again found that subtle touch in "Sleep Walking Now and Then."

I purchased this novelette to go with the rest of my collection of ebooks by Richard Bowes.

Read online at Tor.com. Buy it here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

March 2015 Releases: Kasuo Ishiguro, Anne Bishop, Jonathan Harper

I'm keeping it simple this time around. Following are three highly anticipated March releases.

  • Kasuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day is a favorite book to this day. Highly anticipated, The Buried Giant seems to be a different sort of book from this author. I'm certainly not missing his first novel in a decade.
  • Anne Bishop's The Others fantasy series has turned into a "must read" for me. Vision in Silver is another book I will be reading as soon as it releases.
  • I have enjoyed Jonathan Harper's short stories as they were included in different anthologies and won't be missing his debut collection Daydreamers: Stories.

The Buried Giant by Kasuo Ishiguro - Fantasy Fiction
Releasing: March 3, 2015 (Knof, Random House)

From the author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day.

The Romans have long since departed and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But, at least, the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased. Axl and Beatrice, a couple of elderly Britons, decide that now is the time, finally, for them to set off across this troubled land of mist and rain to find the son they have not seen for years, the son they can scarcely remember. They know they will face many hazards—some strange and otherworldly—but they cannot foresee how their journey will reveal to them the dark and forgotten corners of their love for each other. Nor can they foresee that they will be joined on their journey by a Saxon warrior, his orphan charge, and a knight—each of them, like Axl and Beatrice, lost in some way to his own past, but drawn inexorably toward the comfort, and the burden, of the fullness of a life’s memories.

Sometimes savage, sometimes mysterious, always intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in a decade tells a luminous story about the act of forgetting and the power of memory, a resonant tale of love, vengeance, and war.

Vision in Silver: A Novel of the Others by Anne Bishop - Fantasy
Releasing: March 3, 2015 (Roc)

The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

Daydreamers: Stories by Jonathan Harper - LGBT Fiction Single Author Collection
Releasing: March 28, 2015 (Lethe Press)


Ne'er-do-wells, prodigal sons, and young men without so much as a clue to their present state of mind let alone their futures are waiting to be met in the stories within Daydreamers, Jonathan Harper s debut collection. But these men are not Walter Mittys everyday life refuses to allow them languor. Whether it be the roll of the dice in a Dungeons & Dragons game played in a hostile, rural bar, the lure of body modification and being suspended in front of a crowd, or discovering a body on the beach, the rough edges of each young man cannot help but be noticed, even admired. And once a young man is admired, he needs to decide whether or not to awaken from his daydreams.

"A catalog of suburbia's petty desolations and meditations on lost chances; Harper makes for a keen archivist of his characters' flawed, unfinished manifestos." --Genevieve Valentine, author of The Girls at the Kingfisher Club and Mechanique.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TBR Review: Kiss & Tell by Alison Kent

The February theme for Wendy's 2015 TBR Challenge is "Recommended Read." Kiss & Tell seemed like the perfect choice. The ebook has been sitting unread in my Kindle since 2009 because a friend, a big Alison Kent fan, recommended the author's works. Additionally, I am in the mood for spicy contemporary romances and this book fit the bill.
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We have Miranda Kelly, a lovely, sexy woman keeping a few secrets about her past and present and Caleb McGregor, a man of dubious character in what seems to be a permanent sexual haze. This Harlequin Blaze is made up of secrets and a hot, sizzling fling that takes place in a week's time.

I am not giving away spoilers by including the following information as it is included in the book summary. Miranda is keeping two secrets: she moved back to her hometown to hide after having been hounded by the media during a very public divorce. Additionally, since coming back home, by day she is a florist at her own shop and by night, Candy Cane a sexy singer performing incognito at Club Crimson where she wears wigs and sexy costumes to hide her true identity. Club Crimson is where she meets Caleb McGregor who is in town to attend a wedding. Miranda hasn't been with a man since her six year old divorce and Caleb, who falls in lust on sight, catches her eye. With a song and a kiss, the two embark on a steaming hot fling that places Miranda's secrets in danger of discovery and her heart on the line.

Caleb and Miranda embark on an adult relationship, a sizzling affair with certain boundaries and a time limit. They both understand the limits and stick to this understanding even as their feelings for each other begin to change. There are no misunderstandings between them -- and no whining during or after! During their time together this couple spends plenty of time having sex or engaged in sexual play, but they also take the time to get to know each other, slowly revealing their secrets to each other. There are good, valid conflicts and the paths taken to resolve them are not overly dramatic. Most of all I enjoyed the fact that these two people like each other. In this case the adult factor wins.

There is also a secondary storyline pertaining to Miranda's best friend and her two daughters. This storyline is peripherally intertwined with the conflict that crops up between Miranda and Caleb -- Caleb's secret. As a reader I became invested in the secondary characters' conflicts, unfortunately the resolutions to their problems are glossed over and kept off the pages. My second problem comes with the time line and how it affects the central romance between Miranda and Caleb. One week of lusting, hot sex, keeping secrets, and final revelations strikes me as too short a period to achieve a happy ever after.

So far, Alison Kent's romances have been mixed bags for me. I enjoy the characters and romances. Kent writes some steamy sexual scenes that are off the charts, as is the case in Kiss & Tell and I find her adult romances very attractive. However, my experience to date shows that somewhere along the line some aspect of the storyline is left under-developed. Of course this is an older book as are the other books I have read by this author. I need to pick up a current release to find out if there is a difference in execution. Recommendations anyone?

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: None
Publisher: Harlequin Blaze
Grade: B-

Saturday, February 14, 2015

SF Mini: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country's most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over.
City of Stairs by Bennett was my favorite December 2014 read. The book has much to recommend it. It begins slowly with an investigation into a murder that has political ramifications affecting two continents -- truthfully for a while I thought the story was going to evolve like other sff/mysteries I read last year. That was not the case.

Instead what develops is rather unique. There are layers and layers to the story -- history of war, the consequences of slavery, censorship and forced acculturation by conquerors, secrets that shatter the characters' views of themselves as well as their homeland's actions, and the hidden secrets of Bulikov, City of Walls. Most Holy Mount. Seat of the World. The City of Stairs. Nothing is as it seems and everything is revealed at the right moment. Bennett digs into some of these layers while only touching on others.

The characters are fantastic, from Shara to Sigrud, Vohannes, and Mulaghesh. This is a conflagration of genres and tropes: dark fantasy with magic, technology, gods and goddesses thrown in for good measure and a fantastic crime mystery at the center of it all. City of Stairs was my last read of 2014 and I don't want to go on without giving it a high recommendation. It was the perfect way to end the year. (September 2014, Broadway Books)


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: Entreat Me by Grace Draven

Entreat Me by Grace Draven was chosen as the February read for my Internet Book Club -- an interesting choice.

Grace Draven utilizes key, recognizable elements from the Beauty and the Beast children's fairy tale to create an adult fantasy romance with unique central characters. She splits both Beauty and the Beast into two couples by having Louvaen Duenda and Ballard take on the adult, experienced central role while Cinnia and Gavin play the young romantic (beautiful and virginal) secondary one. Intermingled with the romances, at its core, this is also a beautiful father and son tale of love and sacrifice.

On the romantic front, Lou and Ballard take center stage. Lou is no sweet Belle, instead she is considered an indomitable shrew -- there is no taming her. A widow, Lou is strong, determined, and brave, making her the perfect candidate to serve as protector to her weak father and beautiful sister Cinnia against the local villain. When she follows her impulsive sister to the magically hidden castle that Gavin calls home, Lou is better prepared than Cinnia to deal with Gavin's father Ballard and the cursed situation as a whole. Ballard, like the Beast from the original fairy tale, will break your heart. His sweetness and sacrifice for love trumps beastliness. His shame, resignation, and yearning for Lou will make an impact on fairy tale and romance lovers alike. Sex scenes abound in this story -- not a complaint, just surprising.

The romance between Gavin and Cinnia is definitely secondary. They play the more traditional role found in fairy tales. His is the extremely handsome and honorable role of a troubled prince, and hers is that of the poor, virginal, but extreme beauty who garners attention from miles around and incites the lust of a villain. Gavin falls for her and attempts to save the beautiful lady in distress by whisking her away to his magic castle in hopes that she in turn will save him and his family from an old curse. Draven chooses to have two very different romantic couples in this story fighting similar conflicts. Gavin and Cinnia work well as secondary characters, unfortunately, the connection with them as a couple is tenuous. This is mainly due to the fact that their relationship develops on a superficial level, lacking intimate (one-on-one, on the page) details as it evolves.

The sweet and sour dialog between the central characters is engaging and entertaining. The secondary characters also have a lot to offer in that respect. The slower moments, the happy ones, in the middle of the book flow with their friendship, loyalty and love. The magic aspects of this story feel organic to a fairy tale with some details taken directly from the original Beauty and the Beast, while others are incorporated by the author.

The father and son tale of love and sacrifice plays a key role in this fantasy romance. It is intermingled with the curse and the situation faced by the couples. Short flashback sections are utilized throughout the story to give the reader the complete picture while the characters -- Lou and Cinnia -- remain in the dark. Key to the story as a whole, at times these flashbacks interrupt the flow. Regardless, the positives outweigh the negatives and I really enjoyed this story to the end.

I recommend Entreat Me to readers who love Beauty and the Beast, adult fairy tales, fantasy romances, unusually strong heroines as central characters, and strong bonds between fathers and sons.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reading Update & Additions

My reading momentum is holding. I've read three books this month, but as in January they are books released in previous years. So, I have added a few 2015 releases to my eReader and/or my coffee table, and a couple of upcoming releases I'm looking forward to reading. It's about time! Three of the books highlighted are written by favorite authors Elliott Mackle, Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Bear. The rest of the books are written by new-to-me authors.

Here are six of my latest additions:

JANUARY RELEASES:

Stealing Arthur by Joel Perry (January 10, 2015 - Bear Bones Books/Lethe Press) Print Edition

In this hilarious novel based on an actual event, author Joel Perry tells of fifty-five of Hollywood's highest awards--the Arthurs--have been stolen, setting in motion the kind of crazy only turn-of-the-millennium Los Angeles can provide. Intrigue, murder, comedy, sex, romance, celebrity dish, and ultimately redemption play out for characters from Skid Row to Hollywood's Walk of Fame, including all the desperate wannabes in between. In a town where people would happily kill anyone for a part, what would they do for a gilded Arthur statuette?

Joel Perry is the author of Funny That Way; That's Why They're in Cages, People!; Going Down: The Instinct Guide to Oral Sex; and The Q Guide to Oscar Parties and Other Award Shows.


Sunset Island (Caloosa Club Mysteries) by Elliott Mackle (January 10, 2015 - Lethe Press) Print edition

February, 1950. Lee County, Florida. In the freewheeling, celebratory aftermath of World War II, survivors and veterans are starting new lives, resuming old ones, or just picking up the pieces. Former Navy officer Dan Ewing feels safer than any gay man might expect in a segregated, dry county where the Ku Klux Klan is still strong. Managing an ultra-private club-hotel in Ft. Myers with a mixed-race staff, untaxed alcohol, high-stakes card games and escorts of both sexes, he's been acting like he has nothing to lose: business is good and his romantic life is better. Lee County Detective Bud Wright, a former Marine sergeant and Dan's secret lover, is outwardly strong and brave, but uneasy with the knowledge that, every time he and Dan get naked together, they're breaking laws he's sworn to uphold. It's nothing that a few drinks can't get him past, especially when moonlighting as security for Dan's hotel. Both men have their work cut out for them, however, once a hurricane evacuation brings to the hotel wealthy, well-connected non-members who happen to own Sunset Island, a secluded resort fronting the Gulf of Mexico. Their arrival sets in motion a turnover of hotel staff, sensual and sordid seductions, brutal assaults, the discovery of looted art from Holocaust victims, and, of course, murder. After drowned men start washing ashore on nearby beaches, Dan and Bud must set to work unraveling war-related mysteries and exploring the implications of a rapidly changing society in those postwar years.

FEBRUARY 2015 RELEASES:

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman (February 3, 2015 - William Morrow)

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (February 3, 2015 - Tor Books)

“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, beggin sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.
AMAZON's FIRST READERS - MARCH RELEASES:

The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble (March 1, 2015 - Skyscape)

2014 Winner — Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award — Young Adult Fiction

There is no cure for being who you truly are...

In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions. By night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favorite story tells of three orphan infants—Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O’Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree.

One day, Clara discovers shimmering scales just beneath her sister’s skin. She realizes that Maren is becoming a mermaid—and knows that no mermaid can survive on land. Desperate to save her, Clara and O’Neill place the mermaid-girl in their gypsy wagon and set out for the sea. But no road is straight, and the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening mermaid.

And always, in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?
The One That Got Away by Simon Wood (March 1, 2015, Thomas & Mercer)

Graduate students Zoë and Holli only mean to blow off some steam on their road trip to Las Vegas. But something goes terribly wrong on their way home, and the last time Zoë sees her, Holli is in the clutches of a sadistic killer. Zoë flees with her life, changed forever.

A year later and still tortured with guilt, Zoë latches on to a police investigation where the crime eerily resembles her abduction. Along with a zealous detective, she retraces the steps of that fateful night in the desert, hoping that her memory will return and help them find justice for Holli. Her abductor—labeled the “Tally Man” by a fascinated media—lies in wait for Zoë. For him, she is not a survivor but simply the one that got away.

With an unforgettable heroine, a chillingly disturbed psychopath, and a story that moves at breakneck speed, The One That Got Away is thriller writer Simon Wood at his finest.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Closing: The 2015 Science Fiction Experience

Space by Stephan Martieniere
My participation in The 2015 Science Fiction Experience was minimal. Nevertheless, it was no less enjoyable as I spent most of my time reading great reviews posted by the rest of the participants. Thanks to Carl V. from Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting once again.

BOOKS READ:

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This book is all about the journey. I loved traveling through the galaxy along with this crew. I particularly liked the episodic style utilized in this novel and the ensemble of characters that become so central to the overall journey.


MOVIES:

Gravity (Warner Bros, 2013)
I'm a big fan of science fiction films, yet I waited a long time to watch Gravity, a highly regarded film by many. It all comes down to personal taste. I have found that the nitty gritty details and slow moving plotting I often enjoy when reading hard science fiction books are lost on me when translated to film. As suspected, I couldn't wait for this movie to end. The plot did not keep me at the edge of my seat and the improbability of the events as they develop at the end did not help. So, as much as I love science fiction, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, this film was not for me.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, Marvel Studios)
This is a similar story with a different ending. I refused to go to the theaters last summer to watch Guardians of the Galaxy because I thought I would not like the film. Wrong!! I loved everything about Guardians of the Galaxy. That scene close to the opening with Chris Pratt as Peter Quill singing along to a 1980's song just about did me in. I was hooked by it. I love the soundtrack, the humor, and the action. But really the best part of this movie is how five outsiders who don't belong anywhere get together and become a family. I loved that about this movie. And I fell in love with Groot and Rocket. A sequel is scheduled to release in 2017. I won't miss it!

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (Microsoft Studios, 2012)
I rented Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn on a whim knowing that it is military sci-fi based on a game. Since I am not a gamer, however, there is not much I can say about the contrasts between the original storyline and characters in the game and the movie. The movie plot vaguely reminded me of Starship Troopers with cadets training to go to war in a world where it is expected that they should join the service and hate the enemy without question. Young Cadet Thomas Lansky, however, is ambivalent about his future and his role in the service, so a coming-of-age story is incorporated into the overall plot. A surprise attack toward the end of the movie changes everything -- no more questions, no more choices -- and Master Chief shows up in all his glory to help survivors. I loved Master Chief's character and was disappointed that he did not have more screen time. The end was a sort of beginning. Although the first half of the film is a bit cliché, the second half picks up and Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn ends up being an entertaining sci-fi film with great action.

MISCELLANEOUS POSTS:
Reading Habits: Thoughts on Introductions
2014: Top Books of the Year

Monday, February 2, 2015

January 2015 Recap: Books, Reviews & Posts

This year, although I signed up to participate in the 2015 Sci-Fi Experience, my mood took me elsewhere and I read everything but science fiction. It happens. My year began with a great contemporary fiction book, as a result I followed through by picking up fiction, non-fiction, and other assorted books accumulated but not read in 2014. I spent most of the month catching up by reading books from my TBR.

Additionally, I am making an effort to get my reviewing mojo back. It is amazing how quickly and easily we lose it when we don't use it on a regular basis. Since I returned to blogging in November, I have been writing minis, and this month I finally moved on to writing full reviews again. That is a step forward. Hopefully, I can keep it up.

January 2015 Total Books Read: 12
Contemporary Romance: 2
Fiction: 4
Non-Fiction: 1
Fantasy/Fiction: 1
Urban Fantasy: 4

Favorite Books of the Month: (Click on title links to read reviews & posts) 



The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: B+
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: B+
Big Boy (Strangers on the Train) by Ruthie Knox: B+

The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood by Richard Blanco: B
Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood: B (Upcoming review)
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami: (Upcoming review)
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: C+
Lead (Stage Dive #3) by Kylie Scott: C+ (See mini below) 
Seven Years by Dannika Dark: C+
Bloodsick: An Old World Novella by Melissa F. Olson: C
Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1) by Melissa F. Olson: C-
Of Wings and Wolves (The Cain Chronicles) by SM Reine: C-

Additional January Posts:
LGBT: 2014 Favorite Books & Authors
2014: Top Books of the Year
SF Mini: The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Closing: The 2014 TBR Challenge
December 2014: Books Read + Minis

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Lead (Stage Dive #3) by Kylie Scott

I purchased this book based on Leslie's great review. She positively loved this book. It is book three of a contemporary series with famous music band members finding a happy ever after. I should have read the first two books of the series first but this one sounded good. I enjoyed this romance to a certain degree. There were some terribly cute moments,  good sexual tension throughout the story, and a sense of fun as a result of the young band members that intermingle on an almost daily basis with this couple.

There were also situations and characterization issues that did not work so well for me. For example, the female protagonist is supposed to be a tough and comes off as such at the beginning of the story when she is first hired to become Stage Dive's lead singer's companion or 'babysitter' while he goes through substance abuse post-treatment and therapy. Unfortunately, she promptly becomes adoringly in lust with him, and willing to forgive some of his worse behavior. Our male protagonist had a terrible childhood and struggles with addiction. He is used to getting his own way and can be pretty persuasive (manipulative). As a result there are scenes with inexcusable behavior on his part toward a woman he considers a friend. Don't get me wrong, he also shows vulnerability as their friendship grows and he becomes emotionally dependent on her. The story is compelling in many ways, particularly the sense of fun along with sections about how severe family dysfunction affects the male protagonist's self-destructive behavior, as well as his relationships with others.