Crazy For You by T.S. Hunter

THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE NEVER RUNS SMOOTH

It’s 1987, and Soho is in the grip of another hot summer. While working part-time in The Red Lion, Joe finds himself agreeing to help a notorious gangster search for her missing girlfriend.

Antonia The Gecko Lagorio is daughter to the ruthless but ageing gang boss, Tony The Lizard Lagorio. When her girlfriend, Charlotte Fenwick, goes missing, Antonia turns to Joe for help, believing her to have been kidnapped by a rival gang.

Charlotte Fenwick is daughter to multi-millionaire, Charles Fenwick—who also happens to be one of Freddie Gillespie’s bigger clients. Keen to keep any hint of a scandal out of the public eye, Charles Fenwick had already asked Freddie to recruit Russell and Joe to help him find his daughter discreetly.

With both of them on the case, Joe and Russell find themselves trying to stop a turf war between the two rival gangs while uncovering all manner of dark secrets about the missing heiress and her troubled life.

Meanwhile Freddie Gillespie has a run in with an old foe that could see him lose both his job and his relationship with Russell.


Crazy For You is the next exhilarating installment of the Soho Noir cozy crime series. I’ve been waiting patiently for more diverse LGBTQ representation and this book delivers with the relationship between Antonia Lagorio and Charlotte Fenwick. Antonia, appropriately nicknamed “The Gecko,” is the daughter of Tony “The Lizard” Lagorio while Charlotte is the daughter of multi-millionaire Charles Fenwick. You may remember Tony from the first book, Tainted Love, where he was interviewed during the investigation of Chris’ death. He is also the one I headcanon as possessing a vast stuffed animal collection and carefully manipulating the media and those around him to believe he is a hardened criminal while not actually having to murder anyone. This, of course, gains him access to the most exclusive stuffed animals available via black market connections, where he collects under the guise of “buying gifts for his daughter.” Most of the toys are lizards, reptiles, and other such creatures, but he’s also been known to pick up reddish colored dogs and puppies. In other words, he’s an absolute genius. Hopefully, we’ll get a spin-off series with Tony’s origin story and Antonia carrying on the family legacy.

Sorry where was I?

Oh yes, back to the story!

When Charlotte goes missing, Antonia enlists the help of Russell and Joe in order to keep the police out of the situation while also avoiding tangling with Charles Fenwick. Charlotte’s involvement and naivety in Soho’s underground scene has gotten her in trouble, as her capture is about to start a gang war between her kidnappers and the Lagorios. I won’t go into detail with this so as not to spoil, but the anxiety and tenseness of the situation kept me on the edge of my seat.

As characters, Russell, Joe, and Freddie all continue to grow and evolve. Russell and Joe are both a far cry from the grumpy detective and naive small town media enthusiast we met in Tainted Love. Freddie’s backstory also sees continued development through his relationship with Russell and his encounter with an old flame.

T.S. Hunter’s writing gets better and better between each book – Who’s That Girl? was my favorite before this, but Crazy For You has definitely taken the cake now. His incorporation of distressingly real legislation from England in the 80s along with his descriptions of the vibrant and anxiously fast-paced Soho underground come together to form an easy-to-read and satisfying crime series. Each book also opens your eyes more to the realities of the early days of LGBTQ injustice, which makes you appreciate how far we’ve come that much more.

Two more books remain in the Soho Noir series and personally, I can’t wait!

Check out the other blogs on the tour and don’t forget – you can click here to buy directly from Red Dog Press!

Thank you to Dylan at Red Dog Press for my ebook copy and the invite to the blog tour!

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The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

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Mistborn #6

Click here to see the Goodreads page.

The penultimate book of Mistborn Era 2 solved many of the complaints I had from The Alloy of Law (AL). Shadows of Self (SOS) started to address my concerns, but Bands of Mourning really pulled everything together. That being said, despite its 500-page length, I found myself yearning for more context and worldly background. I’m hoping we’ll get exactly that in the final book as Wax and Wayne dive deeper into other cultures and the world’s history.

Character development was key in Bands of Mourning. While AL and SOS focused largely on Wax and Wayne’s character development, Bands of Mourning gave us more insight into Marasi and especially Steris through Wax and Wayne’s perspectives (and a few chapters from Marasi’s). BOM definitely focused more on Steris, while SOS saw more growth from Marasi. In BOM, Marasi is shown settling into her role as lieutenant in the local constabulary and struggling against sexism and ageism from her fellow constables. I’m guessing we’ll get more scenes with her in the next installment – BOM was rather sparse with Marasi’s development. I do appreciate Sanderson’s honesty in her plight. While the other constables in her jurisdiction clearly don’t take her seriously because of her age and gender, I never got the feeling that Marasi was a throwaway background character. The ageism and sexism of her colleagues is clearly shown as unacceptable and Marasi does her best to stand up to it. I’m looking forward to seeing her growth as a constable in the next book.

Despite my earlier grumblings about the perplexing Steris, she really grew on me in BOM. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still plenty perplexing – she’s just also more well-rounded now. During a few heart-to-hearts with her and Wax, we see more of who Steris actually is and honestly? A lot of the things I like about Wax can also be found in her. Steris basically represents what most of us would be like in the noble world – nervous, anxious, and overcompensating way too much. Now that I’ve read about her methods of handling those social situations, I have to admit: I’d probably do the exact same thing. There are few things I relate more to than being born into a world where you don’t feel you fit in. The nobility in Elendel is a mysterious, ever-changing enigma and navigating it as an outsider would be terrifying. Steris’ cold, emotionless approach is her reaction to an unhealthy, judgmental, and unwelcoming environment; Sanderson’s handling of her character development has been masterful, especially in taking her from unlikable/unrelatable to a valid, well-rounded character with her own individual thoughts and goals. Steris does the best she can with the tools and resources she has and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she came out on top when all is said and done.

BOM finally started to explore the outside world that was hinted at in SOS. Up to this point, virtually all of the present-day action has occurred within the city confines. Since Elendel is a huge city, this served the purpose of the other books, but I’ve been itching to know more about the surrounding areas. Not to mention, inn the original Mistborn trilogy, we (again) stayed mostly in the city – I’m looking forward to seeing what Sanderson can do with a larger Mistborn world. The glimpses we’ve had of other civilizations and their technological advancements has been promising already. Though the series has had some steampunk-inspired themes already, the introduction of flying ships was still very surprising to me, especially with their futuristic construction and function. The waterfall city was also intriguing in its design and seemed wholly different from other fantasy cities I’ve read about. Honestly, I’d love to read books set in both the futuristic civilization and the waterfall city (despite its resemblance to Elendel’s noble society). The possibilities are endless with both of these and I’m a little sad the next book will be the last.

All in all, Bands of Mourning gets a 5/5 from me and a 10/5 for anticipation of the next installment. Another Sanderson novel well done!

Careless Whisper by T.S. Hunter

Click here to order direct from Red Dog Press!
Click the image to buy direct from Red Dog Press!

LOOSE LIPS COST LIVES.

It’s 1986, and Adam Cave, lead singer of sensational pop group Loose Lips, is struggling to stay in the closet, especially as his group is going through a messy split, and media speculation about the reasons behind it are rife.

Joe Stone is assigned to Adam as a runner for the behind-the-scenes, warts and all expose of the recording of the bands last album, and an unlikely friendship begins to form.

But when Adam’s manager, Jack Eddy, is found dead in Adam’s hotel room, in what looks like a sex game gone wrong, Joe turns to his flatmate, Russell, to help him clear the pop star’s name, and keep his secret.

Russell, meanwhile, has a secret of his own. He’s just been for a test, the results of which may change his life forever.


T.S. Hunter has done it again with another great installment in the Soho Noir series! When I saw the cover reveal for Careless Whisper during the Who’s That Girl? blog tour, I was immediately pulled in by the vibrant color and design and I just knew the writing would go along perfectly with it. Special thank you to Dylan at Red Dog Press for the blog tour invitation and my ebook copy!

I even got my physical book before the blog tour started! Talk about HYPE! 😀

As soon as I opened this book, I was once again transported back to 80s London with Joe and Russell, both of whom feel like old friends. Though I’ve never been to London myself (or anywhere in the 80s for that matter), I’ve never had trouble connecting with these two and following along in their world. I just hope we get to see more of the drag shows at the Red Lion in the next book – Paul and Scott are some of my favorite secondary characters so of course I’d love to see more of Patty and Miss Terri!

T.S. Hunter’s delicate and sensitive handling of Russell’s HIV testing is another testament to Hunter’s writing. Though I was born after the HIV crisis, the tense moments with Russell at the clinic and his anxiety in the days to come really pulled me into what was a near-daily experience in 80s Soho. Despite all the flair and fun of drag shows, clubs, and bars, the threat of HIV was an insidious undercurrent throughout Soho nightlife. These cozy crime novels don’t necessarily focus on this crisis, but Hunter’s ability to weave it into the story makes Joe and Russell’s on-page lives seem that much more real.

I will end my review here to avoid spoilers, but trust me – you’ll want to pick up Careless Whisper, even if you haven’t read the other Soho Noir novels. But really, you should get the others, too! They’re a great read and I have full confidence that the rest of the series will be just as enjoyable.

Check out the other bloggers on the tour and don’t forget to purchase the books! I can’t wait to have the whole rainbow collection on my shelf!

Who’s That Girl? by T. S. Hunter

Click the image to buy direct from Red Dog Press!

From the book description:

A FEMME FATALE WITH A POINT TO PROVE

It’s the summer of 1985 in London’s Soho, and Joe Stone is settling into his new life living in the heart of London’s developing gay scene.

When Danny Devraux—the compere they’ve hired to host their charity ball, The Frock Show—is found dead backstage, it falls to Joe and his friend and flatmate, Russell, to figure out what happened.

All they have to go on is a broken stiletto found near the scene, and the briefest glimpse of a mystery woman fleeing the club. But who was she? And why did she kill the most loved man in cabaret?

Past secrets, bent coppers, drag queens and old lovers all play their part in this noirish murder mystery.

THE SECOND IN THE SOHO NOIR SERIES

Russell stepped back calmly, smiling. “You didn’t think I’d take it lying down, did you?” he asked. “After what you did to me, I’m gunning for you, son.”

T. S. Hunter strikes again with an excellent second installment to the Soho Noir series! I’m super excited to be a part of the blog tour for this release – Tainted Love was my first adventure into cozy crime and I was thrilled to continue on with Who’s That Girl?. Thank you to Red Dog Press and T. S. Hunter for giving me this opportunity with a free ebook! I’ll most certainly be ordering the physical copy to match Tainted Love. With a design that’s both suggestive and relatable, I can’t not.

Joe and Russell have become flatmates since the ending events of Tainted Love, and they’ve developed a cute/friendly relationship of Joe dragging a reluctant Russell out for nights on the town. One of my favorite quotes from Russell is near the beginning of the book, as he’s musing on the drag show they’re putting on at the bar:

“Even though he’d helped to organise it, Russell never enjoyed this kind of crowd. He said it was all too extrovert.”

Relatable as HECK. Maybe it’s because I see a little of myself in Russell, but I was so happy to see him develop into the badass we’ve always known he was. While he had some excellent scenes in Tainted Love as well, he really comes into his own in WTG, from his sense of control after Danny is attacked to his confrontations with Skinner later in the book.

Speaking of Skinner! Here’s another great quote:

Skinner tried to mould his face into anything but a slapped arse, and failed.

PERFECTION!

T. S. Hunter packs a lot of punch into a short novella. Several new characters are introduced after the murder of Danny Devraux and their histories are explored thoroughly, tactfully, and succinctly throughout the book. The ending is twisty and exciting – even though a suspect is introduced immediately after the murder, their motive, identity, and true actions are completely unexpected. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling, but needless to say, even when you think you’ve got it figured out, there will be one more thing on the next page to shock you.

Cozy crime is quickly becoming a favorite genre of mine, especially the way Hunter writes it. Who’s That Girl? is a quick, enjoyable, and surprising read packaged into a neat 95 pages. The character development is excellently crafted and every sentence furthers the plot and storyline. I used “twisty” to describe Tainted Love as well, but honestly, there isn’t a word that sums these up more – and that’s exactly how I like it!

I was sad to get to the end of WTG, but lucky for me (and you!), the next book’s cover was announced earlier in the blog tour! Check out #3, Careless Whisper:

Look at this deliciousness!

So far, Who’s That Girl? is my favorite installment in the Soho Noir series, and if T. S. Hunter keeps up this momentum, Careless Whisper will be even better! I can’t wait to read #3 and see the shenanigans Joe and Russell get into next time.

Thank you again to Red Dog Press and T. S. Hunter for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour! Check out the earlier blogs from the tour, then go order your copy of Who’s That Girl? and Tainted Love! Click here to order direct from Red Dog Press and click here to order from Amazon.

It’s WWW Wednesday for the first time!

Hello, WWW Wednesday readers! Meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. There are three questions to answer every week’s Wednesday. I may or may not be posting my link on Taking on a World of Words’ blog.

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Click to preorder!
Soho Noir #2!

I’m finishing up Who’s That Girl? by T.S. Hunter (whose name you may recognize from my Tainted Love blog tour post) for another upcoming blog tour! I’m super excited for this one – #2 in the series is just as good (if not even better) than #1. Click the image to preorder your copy direct from the publisher!

Side note, who wouldn’t want a cover like this?! It’s well-executed AND perfectly matches the Tainted Love cover!

I’m still chugging away at The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson and The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala in between taking notes on T.S. Hunter’s book. Though I don’t normally read YA, I’ve been enjoying The Tiger at Midnight – the world is rich and vibrant and I love the unique relationship between the two “countries.” Not to mention Esha and Kunal’s cat-and-mouse game puts a great spin on the typical enemies to lovers trope. The Alloy of Law is, of course, another Brandon Sanderson hit. If you were a fan of the Mistborn trilogy, I definitely recommend picking up the Wax and Wayne books. They’re western-style fantasy and it’s beautifully done. Plus, it perfectly coincides with my current “western-meets-indie” music kick.

What did you recently finish reading?

Check out my review here! The last book I read is still Age of Legend by Michael Sullivan – I’m somewhat of a slow reader so I’ll probably forgo this question more often than not in the future.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Good question! I just ordered the next two Wax and Wayne novels (and two Cosmere novels I didn’t already have), so I’ll probably dive into those once the blog tour’s over.


and that’s about it! Thanks for reading!

Age of Legend by Michael Sullivan

Release date July 9th 2019

Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan (Legends of the First Empire #4)

Spoilers removed for WordPress and hidden on my Goodreads review. I received an early ebook version via the Kickstarter campaign. It was awesome.

4/5

This was another excellent addition to the Legends series, but it did fall short of the other novels. I think it would have landed better with me to have a shorter novella bridging 3 and 4 since there was such a time gap early on in the book. The jump hurt my immersion in the world and made some of the character developments feel hollow. I was able to get back into the world after a few chapters, but the abruptness took away from my experience as a reader.

After the jump, we also got very different character perspectives from the other books. While I enjoyed the character development we saw in Tesh, Tekchin, Moya, and Tressa, I did miss Persephone’s voice, which had filled the void left by other characters’ deaths. The cliffhanger ending was also disappointing compared to the other books, but that’s probably more due to my anticipation of #5’s release – if I had the next book to start right away, it wouldn’t have bothered me in the least.



See all my reviews

Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe

Click here to see the book description on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: spoilers ahead. Also, this is a long post.

Normally, I avoid putting too many spoilers in my reviews, especially when linking to them on Goodreads, but I tried to articulate my criticism without them and it just didn’t make sense. I’ll be spoiling major plot points and “twists” so you may want to skip this one if you’re interested in reading the book. Also, the post is stupid long. With a 600-page problematic book, I couldn’t help but ramble.

LitRPGs

Before we get started, I wanted to address the genre of this book. Sufficiently Advanced Magic is typically shelved as a “LitRPG” book, which I (surprisingly) hadn’t heard of before starting the book. From the Wiki entry, “LitRPG, short for Literary Role Playing Game, is a literary genre combining the conventions of RPGs with science-fiction and fantasy novels.” Links have been left in in case you’d like to look into it more. The most popular book in this genre is Ready Player One (Ernest Cline), though I’m not sure I agree with the label for RPO. Otherland by Tad Williams is also hailed as a popular LitRPG novel – I haven’t read it myself, but it has a 3.9 on Goodreads so it’s probably pretty decent. The hallmarks of LitRPG as a genre are “stats” that get assigned to main characters, some kind of virtual reality element, MMORPG terminology (mobs, loot, stats, set amount of mana, etc.), and visible improvements on character skills, usually signaled by an increase in stats. A book doesn’t need to have all of these to be considered LitRPG, but the major presence of a few is enough to earn the classification. Sufficiently Advanced Magic has mana stats, an “alternate reality” in the form of towers with malleable, individual realities, and loot/mobs within those towers. There’s also extensive discourse about the mana/magic system and different magic “classes” in the world, delineated based on location/country.

The nitty-gritty

Originally bought in December 2017 during a sale, this book has been languishing on my Kindle for a looonnnng time. I dove in head-first after finishing Tainted Love (see my review here), but honestly, Sufficiently Advanced Magic was a slog to get through. Clocking in at a staggering 621 pages, this book is just two hundred pages shorter than Game of Thrones. Now, the page count in itself is not an issue, and actually lines up with my typical reading style, but this book did not need to be this long. I’ve decided to break down my thoughts on this book based on different characteristics.

Worldbuilding & Storyline

For a book with so much dialogue and classroom-type discourse, the worldbuilding left much to be desired. The book starts out with Corin Cadence in line to attempt his first trial in the Serpent Spire. His end goal is to become a “climber,” someone who dedicates their life to reaching the top of the tower. He spends most of his time in line anxiously hoping he doesn’t have to confront anything living or, if he does, that it will let him pass without a violent combat. Strange, considering he wants to reach the top floor someday. We get some character information through his internal dialogue here – he’s always been in his brother’s shadow, his parents split up after his brother’s disappearance, and he hates fighting. His parents are, of course, professional duelists, so this is another thing that sets him apart from the rest of his family. Typical outcast.

Inside the tower, we get a good look at Corin’s combat abilities (strangely excellent, despite his eschewing violence of any kind) and some more details about how the spires function. Some mobs are introduced here as well along with puzzle rooms. We also find out that the main source of currency for this world comes from “loot” that monsters drop, which may or may not be their souls. Corin acknowledges this later in the book when he realizes this is used as a “climber currency,” but he never really explores the topic more. I guess we’re just supposed to accept it and move on. On the towers themselves, I have a few issues with them other than the loot system: first, you can basically pick which room/test you go in by opening a door, looking in, then quickly closing it before the other door(s) in your current room disappear; secondly, and more importantly, the difficulty scale is ridiculous. Yes, the tower trials are supposed to be optional when you turn 17 (where your only other choice is to skip any schooling and go straight into the military at a disadvantage), but it still seems ridiculous that the first room you enter might kill you. Perhaps this was intentional so that the book met the LitRPG requirements of having a game-like reality, but the execution was definitely lacking.

Corin finishes his test in the tower with hardly a scratch, of course, and somehow manages to unearth a worldwide conspiracy along the way. One thing that I found particularly unbelievable was the book he immediately discovered that allowed him to talk to a mysterious entity called “The Voice of the Tower.” The Voice used the book to conveniently provide guidance in each room of the tower as Corin was progressing through it, which severely undercut the suspense of Corin’s success. It also made it hard to believe when he supposedly “accidentally” circumvented the normal test route and ended up in a room with high-security prisoners: a mysterious man named Keras, a woman named Vera, and a silent child who looks near to death. Given the chance to leave the room or release the prisoners, bleeding-heart Corin uses his “random” extra keys to open their cells. This incurs the wrath of Katashi, a powerful visage who serves the goddess. Keras manages to hold off the visage while Vera, the child, and Corin escape the tower. Before being forced out of the tower, Corin manages to snag an attunement from a fountain along a bottle of the mysterious attunement water. The “escaped prisoners” plot-line plays out slowly through the rest of the book. It also connects him with Orden, one of the professors at the University, at the behest of the mysterious Voice.

Once Corin leaves the tower with his new enchanting attunement, the worldbuilding and action pretty much stop there. He immediately enters the university and starts his lessons in learning more about his attunement and how to utilize his mana properly. The majority of the rest of the book is classroom lectures, internal monologues, and study sessions with his friends. There is one “trial test” towards the middle of the book, which he and his friend group fail miserably, then we get more talking and lectures and little to no exhibition. We also get one randomly aside where Corin and his half-sister Sera agree to let her fight in a combat tournament with a man named Derek, who Corin met in a “tower shop” while buying enchanting supplies. As a first-year student, Sera nearly gets herself killed facing a demigod, but Derek manages to save the day with his ridiculously powerful weapons. Then, we’re immediately thrown back in the classrooms and study groups.

This book is the epitome of “tell, don’t show” and based on my research, that tends to be a hallmark of LitRPGs. If you like reading class lectures and professor ramblings that have no relevance to real life and no discernible lessons to teach you, as the reader, then you might enjoy this book. The lectures center around mana control, attunements and how to use them, and the towers. It would have been nice to have a history-type class that would give the author an excuse to tell us about the rest of the world, but instead, we get probably 450 pages of information about the magic system with some minor combat filtered in-between.

In the last portion of the book, Corin and Co. venture back into the tower with Orden and Vera in an attempt to placate Katashi, who has attacked the school in retaliation to Visage Tenjin’s disappearance prior to the start of the book. (I know, it’s a mouthful.) Corin and his friends are woefully unprepared for this, but luckily, they bring along Derek, the strangely powerful man from the tournament earlier in the school year. We get a little plot twist right at the end of the book: Orden reveals that she orchestrated Tenjin’s capture through a government-wide conspiracy and careful manipulation of Vera and there is a betrayal in Corin’s friend group. We also find out that the Voice is actually Corin’s missing brother, who has been watching Corin’s progress since he went into the tower. The book ends with this cliffhanger/twist along with a lot of loose ends.

Characters

Following the LitRPG idea of a video game in a book, each of the characters in Sufficiently Adanced Magic fits into one or two classes. Corin represents the enchanter/healer, Sera is the warlock, Marissa (aka Mara) is the tank, Jin is the rogue, and Patrick is the mage. They also follow the associated stereotypical personality types that go along with these “classes.”

Since the entire book is told in first-person, I’ll focus in on Corin as a character and narrator. Most of Corin’s inner monologue is spent on working out magic/mana problems, feeling awkward about social interactions, and event analysis that’s quickly set aside. We are constantly reminded that Corin hates being touched (even by his half-sister, Sera) and generally abhors most social niceties. That being said, he is still charismatic and doesn’t seem to have much trouble interacting with fellow students. He even takes a few opportunities to challenge professors during class in front of 20-30 other students. It makes his monologues about his awkwardness much less believable and much more irritating.