Book Review: Storm Season by Pene Henson

storm-season

Blurb: The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall.

With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars bely a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.

 

*I was provided with a copy by Interlude Press in return for an honest review*

Add on Goodreads

Purchase at: Interlude Press / Amazon / Smashwords / Barnes and Noble / iTunes / Book Depository / Kobo / IndieBound

5 Stars

I have been so eagerly waiting for this novel for months. Henson’s previous novel, Into the Blue is a deep favorite of mine – both because she made me fall for the characters so easily, but because I am absolutely in love with her craft.

Storm Season is a gorgeous work of art. Here we have a plot that could easily devolve into a series of cliché tropes. Rather, Henson takes these themes and tropes: women who seem to be opposites at first glance; stranded in a cabin during a storm; the transformative power of particular human interactions, and makes them unique and believable and fresh.

Henson’s writing style is deceptively simple. She often employs short sentences, descriptions in what could easily be staccato or disjointed moment. Rather, she uses this skillfully to draw the reader in. It has the effect of stripping a layer of separation between the story and the reader. We are drawn into an intimacy with the story, whether it’s a description of the Australian bush or of two women falling for each other.

When we meet them, Claudie and Lien appear to be complete opposites. Henson takes us through discovering them, and them discovering themselves and each other, skillfully enough that we slide into the realization that these women are similar in so many ways; that circumstance (and Henson’s craft) foiled them in particular ways when we met them, but that at their hearts, they are beautifully compatible.

I don’t want to spoil the turn the story takes in it’s second half, but know that it is executed perfectly. By this point in the story, Henson has taken us beyond simply longing for Claudie and Lien to be together. We’re rooting for them as individuals who are growing just as much.

As with Henson’s previous novel, this book has a lovely diverse cast that is obviously thoughtfully included for the sake of story. These clearly would be Lien and Claudie’s people. This is a representation of a slice of life, and it easily, without fanfare, reflects diversity in life.  Love it.

Also, someone please donate money to my “I must go to Australia right now”, fund. Because a lifelong wish because an intense, burning need while reading this book. I fell in love with the landscape and people in this book. One day, hopefully, I’ll get to do it in real life. For now, I’ll revisit this book over and over, savoring every word.

Advertisements

Bang!

I’m gonna start July off with a bang! Or some other fireworks holiday kind of metaphor that’s terrible…

Rounding up some info: my books are 25% at Smashwords! So if you’ve been waiting for a great time to grab a copy of Hush or What it Takes, go for it!

If you want LOTS of great books, Interlude Press has some *amazing* books coming up that are on sale — all of their pre-order books — which includes Pene Henson’s upcoming novel, Into the Blue.

I have to write this book a proper review, but for now, just LOOK at the gorgeous cover.

This book is lush and beautiful and will just grab your heart. It got a starred review in Publishers Weekly and has gotten some great reviews ahead of it’s release — so I promise you, this book is really something very special.

You can preorder Into the Blue in print and e-book format, and I cannot recommend it more!

As for the rest, who knows? We are hard at work on Idlewild (yay!) and I am messing with an idea for a fourth book I am SO EXCITED FOR, which will be my Camp NaNo project. Wish me luck and motivation!

Finally, I am going to encourage everyone to get involved in the 1000 Book Challenge. Interlude Press and The Trevor Project have partnered to raise money for The Trevor Project and to get LGBT YA into libraries, head over here to find ways you can support this awesome project.

 

Series Recommendation: Avon Gale’s Scoring Chances

So, if y’all follow me on twitter (@judesierra), you know that I have a long standing love affair with Avon Gale’s Scoring Chances series. I’ve read and re-read the first two books in the series (Breakaway and Save of the Game) at least five times — no exaggeration.

This series follows hockey players (OMG HOCKEY ROMANCE, YAS) who play in the ECHL. I’ve been lucky enough to get an advance copy of her newest addition to the series, Power Play.

Power Play_FINAL

 

I have so much love for this series, and this book was such a great addition. Gale has a gift with character voices: they are always clear and unique and each character is so well written. They’re flawed and funny and quirky and passionate and so deeply lovable.

Power Play is the story of Max Ashford and Misha Samarin, who are paired to coach the worst team in the ECHL, the Spartanburg Spitfires. They’re hired by a smarmy GM who is more interested in getting his team attention through sensational media, and Max and Misha’s past offers ample fodder. Years ago, Misha accidentally caused a freak accident in a Stanley Cup playoff game that ended Max’s career. Determined not to let their past — or their GM — affect their desire to help their team, Max and Misha slowly navigate their relationship, from being coworkers to friends to lovers, over the course of the novel.

Max is like sunshine in this book, and it doesn’t feel contrived. I love that he went through something heartbreaking but found a way to manage it, live his live, redirect with a positive attitude. I really loved that, because that’s a really realistic option for dealing with setbacks, but it can seem insurmountable. It’s not! Max makes that clear.

Misha is complicated and deep; he has a painful backstory he doesn’t know how to handle, and lingering guilt over the accident that ended Max’s career. The way he comes to trust Max and forgive himself is handled beautifully, as is his commitment to protecting and caring for his players (AKA Isaac Drake, who will be featured in her upcoming novel).

I have a weakness for hockey romance and this series hits every sweet spot. I cannot wait for book four, Empty Net, which will be available in the fall. I might cry in the interim months. I so highly recommend this series and this book!

Book Review: Bitter Springs by Laura Stone

Okay. M’kay. Let me just…take a breath.

There are so many things to love about this book. The prose is just beautiful. Stone has a gift for creating a rich backdrop for her stories so that the whole experience feels well loved and well rounded. I always learn from her stories. The level of detail and obvious commitment to research make this story shine and are a testament to how very much Stone cares for her craft.

Now let’s talk about what she crafted. Renaldo’s family is EVERYTHING. They made me miss my family so much. The love and care they have for each other was so palpable. Even when both Renaldo and Hank were terrified of what would happen, as a reader, I trusted that Renaldo’s family would love him unconditionally.

Renaldo…oh lord. What a sensual and romantic man. I wish I had a man in my life who spoke to me like he does to Hank.

And HANK. Oh man do I have a sweet spot for complicated, lovely men. His reserve, initially, spoke so well to his vulnerabilities without Stone every having to state them. She showed us. And as the story unfolds, watching Hank unfold, demonstrating how sweet he is, how much he needs and wants love…UGH. MY HEART. His commitment to being an honest and upstanding man was really moving as well.

Bitter Springs is currently available for sale at the Interlude Press webstore, Amazon, All Romance and many other retailers.

Something Like A Love Song Book Review

Something Like a Love Song (print edition)

This story is love as a verb. I don’t even know if that will make sense to anyone, but that’s what it is.

It’s an emotionally difficult book to read, but I applaud Burton for tackling such a difficult story and just executing it brilliantly. There was nothing prettied up for this book about Landon’s injury or recovery; it was slow and difficult and there were successes and setbacks.

I really appreciated that Burton paid such good attention to Dylan’s emotional journey, beyond caring for and loving Landon so much. With Landon’s physical trauma, it could have been easy to create a more formulaic book that focused just on him and gave him a perfect partner. But Dylan isn’t perfect, he is just as damaged by the events of that night as Landon. And together and individually these men have to learn how to heal and to move on.

Underpinning this book is a constant and very beautiful sense of love and community. Their families are beautifully flawed, but also come together and love and support both Dylan and Landon in individually helpful and at times frustrating ways — but ultimately, without that community, none of them would have gotten through the experience as well as they did.

I have to admit I’ve never had a family member suffer a brain trauma, but I have cared for a parent in end of life transition who had multiple brain tumors that changed him completely (both his personality but also his abilities) and his decline was very painful to watch. I felt so much understanding and honesty and care from Burton for her characters, as well as honest portrayal of what people who love someone but are watching this happen to a family member/loved one are going through.

The icing on the cake is Burton’s writing which is clear, consistent, and lovely throughout.

Highly recommended, along with a box of Kleenex.

You can find Becca Burton here, and her books are available to order at

The Interlude Press bookstore (where you can currently get the paperback + e-book package for the price of the paperback, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Smashwords, All Romance, the iBookstore, and an Indie Bookseller near you!

 

 

Book Review: Small Wonders, by Courtney Lux

From the moment I read the excerpt of this novel, I knew this was a special book. There are so many things to praise, I’m not even sure how to organize my thoughts. The prose is beautiful; it just lit up the poet inside me. I love when I read a author whose voice is so clear and strong it stays with me for days.

The story pacing is excellent. The characters are each completely fleshed out and unique and integral to the story. It is hard to create a cast of multiple characters where each compels you in some way.

Trip Morgan himself is the most compelling part of this book. You fall hard for him even when he’s unlikable. Your heart breaks even when he’s being unlovable. Lux handles the trauma of his childhood skillfully and with great care. It’s not over dramatized, it’s not heavy handed or melodramatic; again, I think it takes a skilled writer to pull that off.

The structure, with alternating point of view chapters, worked so well — this is a hard sell for many people, but I think it was vital to this story. Trip is so closed off to the world that having his point of view so offered in the interim chapters gave us glimpses into his childhood and world we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. His voice is so clear, and his story is heartbreaking, and as the story unfolds, we learn just how beautiful and sweet and lovely he is despite everything he’s been through.

Watching him and Nate slowly unfold and fall for each other felt like an intimate privilege. In particular, the scene where they go out with Scarlett served to show us their growth very well. All through the story, we witness who these two men are when they are alone together. Putting them in the world with others as witness — particularly ones who know them so well — gave us such a sweet, kicky feet, romantic scene that felt completely right.

All in all, this book is a stunning debut from an author I cannot wait to read more from.

Book Review: Love Starved by Kate Fierro

Last week, I had the wonderful fortune to get an advanced copy of Fierro’s fantastic debut novel, Love Starved.

What I loved most about this book: it took me by surprise over and over. Is there anything more entertaining than a book that transports you, that takes turns you weren’t expecting and keeps you turning the pages because you just have to know? 

Love Starved is a story about Micah Geller, 27, a man who works in information security and lives an independent, successful, and slightly lonely life in Minneapolis. While he tells himself he isn’t lonely, and that he doesn’t need love, Fierro does an excellent job showing us that he is and does with restraint that makes us feel it. Early in the book, his friend Daphne challenges his assertions that he doesn’t need love or physical connection and gives him the name of a personal escort who specializes in creating custom fantasy scenarios for his clients.

The initial premise of the book — that Micah ends up asking Angel for one night to show him what it feels like to be loved — compelled me. This is the place where the book begins to step away from a common trope we’d be expecting in a romance about a lonely man calling an escort. How on earth was Angel going to pull this off?

I don’t want to give away the plot of the book, but I will say that this was the first of several turns the book took that elevated it from any expectations I had. I literally couldn’t put the book down — whenever I thought I could (mainly because my kids wanted to play or I had to make dinner) — I got sucked back in by a twist I didn’t see coming. It takes a great writer to pull this off effectively, while maintaining a believable chemistry and unfolding a relationship (or potential relationship).

There are many things I could praise Fierro for, but one in particular I wanted to single out: the way she handled Micah’s romantic history. It is incredibly hard to write about someone who has been burned by love without making it too cliched, too saccharine, or too expected. From the start I thought Micah’s heartbreak was going to be a story of a lost lover and longing for him. But it very much wasn’t. And what’s better, Fierro doesn’t just tell us what happened: she shows us slowly and organically. She doesn’t explicitly tell us that it Micah was emotionally manipulated or that he spent two years learning to believe that what he got — not much — was what love was, and what’s more painful, that that was the most love he could expect or deserved. Through this story, we get the privilege of watching Micah unpack this past in a natural progression that very much honors the real life work that is healing from an emotionally manipulative and painful relationship. Watching Micah learn just how much he’s worth and what love between two people can be — not just something he deserves, but something he has to give — felt like an honor.

This book is the perfect romantic read: well written, a plot that keeps you hooked, with a love story you can’t help but root for.

Also, high praise for her cover artist, who captured beautifully one of the highlights and themes of the book with her depiction of starlight behind the characters.

Love Starved is available for pre-order at the Interlude Press store, and will be released on April 21st. Order now and you’ll get the eBook bundle free with the purchase of the print book. For a chance to win a free copy of the book, enter giveaways here.

You can find Kate Fierro at Katefierro.com as well as @kate_fierro on twitter (which I recommend following, if only for her awesome daily plot bunny tweets!)