Book Review: An Unseen Attraction, by KJ Charles

Title: An Unseen Attraction
Author: KJ Charles
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: February 21, 2017 
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A

Thanks to Loveswept for this review copy!

Blurb:

Lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers a quiet life. He’s happy with his hobbies, his work—and especially with his lodger Rowley Green, who becomes a friend over their long fireside evenings together. If only neat, precise, irresistible Mr. Green were interested in more than friendship. . . .

Rowley just wants to be left alone—at least until he meets Clem, with his odd, charming ways and his glorious eyes. Two quiet men, lodging in the same house, coming to an understanding . . . it could be perfect. Then the brutally murdered corpse of another lodger is dumped on their doorstep and their peaceful life is shattered.

Now Clem and Rowley find themselves caught up in a mystery, threatened on all sides by violent men, with a deadly London fog closing in on them. If they’re to see their way through, the pair must learn to share their secrets—and their hearts.

Thoughts:

I’ve read and loved everything that KJ Charles has written, but An Unseen Attraction is a standout. Rowley and Clem are adorable together and separately, while each battles his own demons. I love that Charles intentionally brings in some of the diversity that was absolutely present in Victorian England; it’s too easy to find historical fiction that seems like historical fantasy with no people of color anywhere to be found.

Clem has a disability is handled respectfully, without seeming like shorthand for anything else, and without trying to be just another way to distinguish someone. The conflict and mystery central to the story keep things moving along, and I can’t wait to see the continuation of the story in the next book.

As a point of interest, my mind’s eye kept trying to paint Rowley as the half-Indian, half-white character, and Clem as the white guy. I can’t tell why, exactly, but it makes me want to examine my own ideas of race a little more closely.

An Unseen Attraction is out now from Loveswept and will be followed in June by An Unnatural Vice. If you can, get the Audible version of An Unseen Attraction as well- Matthew Lloyd Davies’ voice is divine!

Book Review: Goldenhand, by Garth Nix

Title: Goldenhand
Author: Garth Nix
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: October 4, 2016
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: B-

Blurb:

Goldenhand takes place six months after the events of Abhorsen and follows the novella Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case, which is featured in Across the Wall.

Lirael lost one of her hands in the binding of Orannis, but now she has a new hand, one of gilded steel and Charter Magic. On a dangerous journey, Lirael returns to her childhood home, the Clayr’s Glacier, where she was once a Second Assistant Librarian. There, a young woman from the distant North brings her a message from her long-dead mother, Arielle. It is a warning about the Witch with No Face. But who is the Witch, and what is she planning? Lirael must use her new powers to save the Old Kingdom from this great danger—and it must be forestalled not only in the living world but also in the cold, remorseless river of Death.

Thoughts:

Sabriel and Lirael, the predecessors to Goldenhand, were two of my favorite books when I was growing up.  I loved the juxtaposition of the magic-filled Old Kingdom and the England equivalent called Ancelstierre.  Sabriel and Lirael followed young women as they grew into their power and adulthood while combatting ancient evil. Lirael’s story in particular drew me; the idea of a library as a place of dangerous objects and potential knowledge dovetails nicely into what I think a library should be.

I was therefore disappointed in GoldenhandAlthough I enjoyed following up with my favorite characters, I felt that it was too neatly wrapped up. Characters that should have been dead were revived, which for me ruined their previous departures. And I thought a lot of the moral ambiguity was sucked out of the story; Sabriel dealt with her necromantic urges and the thin line between good acts and evil ones, while Goldenhand characters are all either good or evil, with no moral shading.

I also thought the description suffered: to me, the book read more like someone was giving me a summary of what happened in the book, rather than drawing me into the plot.  That said, I’m always happy to hear what my favorite characters are up to, so I’ll read any following books as well.

Goldenhand is available now from Harper Collins wherever books are sold.

Magnate, by Joanna Shupe

Title: Magnate
Author: Joanna Shupe
Publisher: Zebra
Release Date: April 26, 2016
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: Did not Finish

Blurb:

New York City’s Gilded Age shimmers with unimaginable wealth and glittering power. The men of the Knickerbocker Club know this more than anyone else. But for one millionaire, the business of love is not what he expected…

Born in the slums of Five Points, Emmett Cavanaugh climbed his way to the top of a booming steel empire and now holds court in an opulent Fifth Avenue mansion. His rise in stations, however, has done little to elevate his taste in women. He loathes the city’s “high society” types, but a rebellious and beautiful blue-blood just might change all that.

Elizabeth Sloane’s mind is filled with more than the latest parlor room gossip. Lizzie can play the Stock Exchange as deftly as New York’s most accomplished brokers–but she needs a man to put her skills to use. Emmett reluctantly agrees when the stunning socialite asks him to back her trades and split the profits. But love and business make strange bedfellows, and as their fragile partnership begins to crack, they’ll discover a passion more frenzied than the trading room floor…

Thoughts:

The premise of Joanna Shupe’s Magnate intrigued me, but I felt the execution was poor. I became so frustrated  that I couldn’t finish reading the book.  My top complaints, in no particular order:

  • The hero tells the heroine “Recklessnes is never a bad thing”. That sounds like a pretty alpha-ish kind of thing to say, so I could let that pass, except that he said this immediately after telling the heroine about how people died and he was injured because of a reckless act he’d committed.  What?! And the heroine tries to figure out if he’s flirting with her, rather than telling him he’s an idiot and running away.
  • Clunky storytelling. The first time that someone calls Emmett by his nickname, “Bishop”, he spends a paragraph musing on how he got the nickname and how he wouldn’t let anyone else call him that, etc. etc. How often do you think about the origin of a nickname in the middle of a conversation? I think it was supposed to be a little mysterious, but it threw me out of the story instead.
  • The heroine is incredibly naive and has a bad case of “not like the other girls”. Lizzie Sloane is beautiful and cultured and so smart, not like aaaanyone the hero has ever met. I get that it’s an old money meets new money story, but I got fed up with both of them. They were fascinated with each other and their differences, but I just didn’t care.

If you want to see if your opinion differs from mine, check out Magnate, out now from Zebra.

Book Review: A Gentleman’s Position, by KJ Charles

Title: A Gentleman’s Position
Author: KJ Charles
Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: April 5, 2016
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A-

Thanks to Loveswept for this review copy!

Blurb:

Power, privilege, and the rigid rules of class leave two hearts yearning for connection in the sizzling new Society of Gentlemen novel from K. J. Charles.
 
Among his eccentric though strictly principled group of friends, Lord Richard Vane is the confidant on whom everyone depends for advice, moral rectitude, and discreet assistance. Yet when Richard has a problem, he turns to his valet, a fixer of unparalleled genius—and the object of Richard’s deepest desires. If there is one rule a gentleman must follow, it is never to dally with servants. But when David is close enough to touch, the rules of class collide with the basest sort of animal instinct: overpowering lust.

For David Cyprian, burglary and blackmail are as much in a day’s work as bootblacking—anything for the man he’s devoted to. But the one thing he wants for himself is the one thing Richard refuses to give: his heart. With the tension between them growing to be unbearable, David’s seemingly incorruptible master has left him no choice. Putting his finely honed skills of seduction and manipulation to good use, he will convince Richard to forget all about his well-meaning objections and give in to sweet, sinful temptation.

Thoughts:

KJ Charles’ A Gentleman’s Position left me conflicted: Never have I loved a book so much that made me want to smack one of the main characters. Lord Richard Vane epitomizes white male privilege: he’s a nobleman, everyone listens to him, he’s physically imposing and well-respected.  But he takes his duties seriously as well, feeling a true sense of responsibility for the people under him. David Cyprian, his right hand man, is sneaky and smart and thinks 17 steps ahead of his master.  He shares some qualities with one of my favorites of Charles’ characters, Stephen Day. They’re both painfully aware of the class system and have a foxy grin.

Their story had its beginnings in the earlier novels in the Society of Gentlemen series, so I knew what was coming.  Each of the books has had significantly more angst than Charles’ earlier series (excluding Jackdaw, which is an angst-fest) If Cyprian had been a friend of mine, I would have said to him of their pairing, “Well, I guess… I mean, if he makes you happy” with some serious side-eye.  But while I started out being suspicious of Richard, by the end of their journey I saw more of what his objections to the match were, and I loved that while he’s a total doofus who screws up constantly, he at least tries to fix what he’s done wrong.

I loved seeing all of the other characters and, while it wasn’t my favorite, I thought it was a fitting conclusion to the series.

A Gentleman’s Position is out now from Loveswept. Buy it wherever ebooks are sold.

Book Review: Pansies, by Alexis Hall

Title: Pansies: A Spires Story
Author: Alexis Hall
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: October 8, 2016
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A

Blurb:

Can the fully paid-up pansy make things right with the pink-tipped hipster?

A Spires Story

Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.

It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie hasn’t met anyone like Fen before.

Spoiler (highlight to read):
[Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.]

Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.

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Book Review: Food Swap by Emily Paster

 

 

Title: Food Swap: Specialty Recipes for Bartering, Sharing and Giving — Including the World’s Best Salted Caramel Sauce
Author: Emily Paster
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Release Date: May 17, 2016
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: B-

Thank you to Storey Publishing for this review copy!

Blurb:

Whether your goal is to start your own community food swap, or just make delicious treats to share with family and friends, this is the book you need! Part cookbook, part how-to guide, Food Swap features more than 80 recipes for artisanal items that will be coveted at food swaps and adored as gifts, including preserves, baked goods, granolas, cheeses, pestos, roasted nuts, flavored salts, and specialty spices — everything from salted caramel sauce and Meyer lemon curd to green tomato salsa, lavender shortbread, cultured butter, apricot jalapeno jelly, and rum vanilla extract. You’ll also find creative ways to irresistibly package your items, and the book even includes perforated gift tags ready for personalization. Finally, author Emily Paster — co-founder of the Chicago Food Swap, one of the biggest in the world — offers guidance on setting up a food swap in your own community, as well as inspiring stories from people who are part of this growing movement.

Thoughts:

Food Swap was not quite the book for me.  Because of the title, I was expecting a straight-up cookbook.  The description more accurately describes what it actual is: a hybrid cookbook, history/current events lesson, and food swap setup guide.

One reason it’s not for me is that I’m a bit weirded out by the thought of swapping food with folks that I don’t know, with no oversight. I won’t eat home-canned goods if I’m not familiar with the canner’s kitchen, so I’d have a hard time swapping with strangers.  That may be my own personal issue, but it’s alluded to in the book, where Paster talks about what to do if (or when!) someone gets sick.

That said, the history of different food swap sites was interesting and informative. I like seeing how many women especially started these homegrown sites.  And Paster is right- the Salted Caramel Sauce is pretty darn epic.

Food Swap is available from Storey Publishing.

** This post uses affiliate links – if you buy from the links posted, I will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting The Breakfast Octopus! **

Book Review: Fogged In by Barbara Ross

TitleFogged Inn (A Maine Clambake Mystery)
Author: Barbara Ross
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: February 23, 2016
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: B

Thanks to Kensington for this review copy!

Blurb:

An autumn chill has settled over Busman’s Harbor, Maine, but Julia Snowden is warming up the town by offering lobster stew at the local diner. When her landlord discovers a dead body in the walk-in refrigerator, Julia must figure out who ordered up a side of murder.

Nothing’s colder than a corpse–especially one stashed inside a sub-zero fridge. The victim spent his last night on earth dining at the restaurant bar, so naturally Julia finds herself at the center of the ensuing investigation. Lost in the November fog, however, is who’d want to kill the unidentified stranger–and why. It might have something to do with a suspicious group of retirees and a decades-old tragedy to which they’re all connected. One thing’s for sure: Julia’s going to make solving this mystery her early bird special…

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Review: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes

 Title: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Revised: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter
Author: Matt Kepnes
Publisher: Perigee Books
Release Date: January 6, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: C

Blurb: No money? No problem. You can start packing your bags for that trip you’ve been dreaming a lifetime about.

For more than half a decade, Matt Kepnes (aka Nomadic Matt) has been showing readers of his enormously popular travel blog that traveling isn’t expensive and that it’s affordable to all. He proves that as long as you think out of the box and travel like locals, your trip doesn’t have to break your bank, nor do you need to give up luxury.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day reveals Nomadic Matt’s tips, tricks, and secrets to comfortable budget travel based on his experience traveling the world without giving up the sushi meals and comfortable beds he enjoys. Offering a blend of advice ranging from travel hacking to smart banking, you’ll learn how to:

* Avoid paying bank fees anywhere in the world
* Earn thousands of free frequent flyer points
* Find discount travel cards that can save on hostels, tours, and transportation
* Get cheap (or free) plane tickets

Whether it’s a two-week, two-month, or two-year trip, Nomadic Matt shows you how to stretch your money further so you can travel cheaper, smarter, and longer.

Thoughts:

The title is long enough, but I feel like it should have a couple more subheadings, like “$50 on average, because some countries are cheaper and some are more expensive”. Maybe it was because I got increasingly bored the longer I read the book, but Matt seemed to concentrate more on the expensive parts of the world.

Highlights: Advice on staying safe as a solo female traveler in India, advice on purchasing Round-The-World tickets vs individual tickets.

Lowlights: Generic travel advice that generalizes about huge swaths of land as if they were the same.

The Takeaway: Borrow this from your local library as a starting point, and check out travel blogs and other guidebooks for a more in-depth picture of how to travel around the world on a budget.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Revised: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter is available now from Perigee Books.

** This post uses affiliate links – if you buy from the links posted, I will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting The Breakfast Octopus! **

Review: The Subs Club by JA Rock

Title: The Subs Club
Author: JA Rock
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: December 7, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: B

Thanks to Riptide Publishing for this review copy!

Blurb:

A year ago, my best friend Hal died at the hands of an incompetent “dom.” So I started the Subs Club, a private blog where submissives can review doms and call out the douche bags.

A perfect example of the kind of arrogant asshole I mean? The Disciplinarian. He has a pornstache. He loves meat, stoicism, America, and real discipline. And he thinks subs exist to serve him.

But . . . not everything about him is awful. His Davy Crockett act just seems like a cover for his fear of intimacy, and part of me wants to show him it’s okay to get close to people. And, I mean, sue me, but I have fantasized about real discipline. Not role-play, but like, Dave, you’re gonna be thirty in four years and you still work in a mall; get your ass in gear or I’ll spank it.

Not that I’d ever trust anyone with that kind of control.

I’m gonna redefine “battle of wills” for the Disciplinarian. Or I’m gonna bone him. It’s hard to say.

—Dave

Thoughts:

Dave, the narrator and main character of The Subs Club, is shaken and grieving for his friend Hal, who was accidentally killed in a BDSM club. He feels some responsibility for it, whether it’s warranted or not.  Frustrated  by what he perceives as the club’s lack of responsibility, Dave and Hal’s other close friends start a website to review doms.

In some ways, Dave seems less mature than most 26-year-olds I know, but that’s part of his character: he’s feeling stalled and doesn’t know how to get stuck. He thinks that maybe “The Disciplinarian” can help him.  Dave’s disgust at some parts of BDSM culture (pony girls, a close friend’s interest in blood play) seems at odds when compared to his own interests. I don’t quite understand what makes someone both fear and crave physical punishment, but I believed that Dave truly did feel both ways.

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Book Review: Time and Time Again, by Ben Elton

Title: Time and Time Again
Author: Ben Elton
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: December 22nd, 2015
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: B

Blurb: 

If you had one chance to change history…Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you kill?

In Time and Time Again, international best-selling author Ben Elton takes readers on a thrilling journey through early 20th-Century Europe.

It’s the first of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be.

Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.

Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century? And, if so, could another single bullet save it?

Thoughts:

Time and Time Again is that rare find: a time travel story done right. Immediately after reading it, I was blown away. The foundation Elton lays is excellent, and the twists and paradoxes make sense in the context of the story. True, I figured one or two things out before they were revealed, but I think that was intentional, as I’m generally one of the most credulous readers you’ll meet: I hardly ever figure out what’s going to happen before it does.

Staunton is sympathetic in his grief for his lost family, and believable as a man from the not-too-distant future running around in the past. I like the mechanics of this version of time travel (Isaac Newton! Mysterious societies! Hand-wavy science!) and the descriptions of life in 2024.

On closer inspection, a couple of things got to me, both large and small.  The story was a bit rushed towards the end, and the dialogue in the last few chapters felt stilted, which was more noticeable because of how much smoother it had been towards the beginning.  There were also a few loose threads that weren’t tied up, perhaps intentionally, and the introduction of a new character later in the book broke the rule of “show, don’t tell”.  That said, I didn’t notice these flaws until after I’d finished speeding through the book.

In any case, you may see where the story is going before you get there, but I think you’ll enjoy the ride. Time and Time Again is out now.

** This post uses affiliate links – if you buy from the links posted, I will get a small commission. Thanks for supporting The Breakfast Octopus! **