July 2020 Must Haves

BP Note: 2020 is halfway done. The world remains in some state of turmoil as we continue to deal with Coronavirus-19 and its impacts on every aspect of daily life, various levels of government led response, and various levels of individual compliance. Additionally resistance to abuse of power/authority continues to grow adding to daily uncertainty. One of the reasons why I read the Romance genre and several of the other genres regularily included in our Must Haves is that good wins, love triumphs, hope and the struggle pay off in the end. I have to believe the same is true for us. Thank you to the authors, cover artists, editors, vocal talants, and others behind the scenes who continue to work making hope available.
Happy reading!
~E

Contemporary Romance

A Reunion of Rivals (The Bourbon Brothers #4) by Reese Ryan – 1 Jul (Harlequin Desire)

Sparks in the boardroom

and the bedroom…

She can’t let anything derail her passion project,

Not even a second chance with the sexiest man alive…

The deal that could bring Quinn Bazemore’s career back from the brink has one catch: she must partner up with her ex-lover Max Abbott. Quinn can’t forget the pleasure-filled summer they shared. But now she’s butting heads over business strategy with the mouthwatering marketing VP, even as their reawakened desire threatens to expose her deepest secrets…

A Sweet MessA Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee – 14 Jul (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Bake a chance on love.

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.

When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

The Hero of Hope Springs (Gold Valley #10.5)The Hero of Hope Springs (Gold Valley #10) by Maisey Yates – 28 Jul (HQN)

Will Gold Valley’s most honorable cowboy finally claim the woman he’s always wanted?

For as long as brooding cowboy Ryder Daniels has known Sammy Marshall, she has been his sunshine. Her free spirit and bright smile saved him after the devastating loss of his parents and gave him the strength to care for his orphaned family. Only Ryder knows how vulnerable Sammy is, so he’s kept his attraction for his best friend under wraps for years. But what Sammy’s asking for now might be a step too far…

Something has been missing from Sammy’s life, and she thinks she knows what it is. Deciding she wants a baby is easy; realizing she wants her best friend to be the father is…complicated. Especially when a new heat between them sparks to life! When Sammy discovers she’s pregnant, Ryder makes it clear he wants it all. But having suffered the fallout of her parents’ disastrous relationship, Sammy is wary of letting Ryder too close. This cowboy will have to prove he’s proposing out of more than just honor…

Fantasy

Cinderella is DeadCinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron – 7 Jul (Bloomsbury YA)

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

Unravel the Dusk (The Blood of Stars #2)Unravel the Dusk (The Blood of Stars #2) by Elizabeth Lim – 7 Jul (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

The thrilling sequel to SPIN THE DAWN, a magical series steeped in Chinese culture.

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

The Faithless Hawk (The Merciful Crow #2)The Faithless Hawk (The Merciful Crow #2) by Margaret Owen – 28 Jul (Henry Holt and Co)

Kings become outcasts and lovers become foes in the thrilling sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow.

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.

With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows—and add numbers to her monstrous army—Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.

A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows—secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze.

Fantasy Romance

A Touch of Stone and Snow (A Gathering of Dragons #2)A Touch of Stone and Snow (A Gathering of Dragons #2) by Milla Vane – 21 Jul (Berkley)

Milla Vane returns to a world of kings, magic, and passion in her exhilarating A Gathering of Dragons series, as a great alliance forms to stand against an evil warlord intent on their destruction.

Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.

When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile.

Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess’s demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms…

Historical Romance

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (Feminine Pursuits #2)The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (Feminine Pursuits #2) by Olivia Waite – Avon (Avon)

When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…

Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk. Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.

As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?

Would I lie to the Duke (Union of the Rakes #2)Would I lie to the Duke (Union of the Rakes #2) by Eva Leigh – 28 Jul (Avon)

Jessica McGale’s family business desperately needs investors, and she’s determined to succeed at any cost. But she knows London’s elite will never look twice at a humble farm girl like herself. Posing as “Lady Whitfield,” however, places her in the orbit of wealthy, powerful people—most notably the Duke of Rotherby. His influence and support could save her company, but Jess never expected the effect he’d have on her.

Society thinks Noel is a notorious, carefree duke who dabbles in investments, but there’s a side to him that only his closest friends see. When he crosses paths with Lady Whitfield at a business bazaar, his world tilts on its axis. She’s brilliant and compelling, and brings him to his knees like no woman has before. Trust is difficult for Noel, but Jess makes him believe anything is possible…

As time ticks down on her Cinderella scheme, the thought of achieving her goal at Noel’s expense breaks Jess’ heart. He doesn’t just want her now, he wants her forever. But will her secret end their future before it begins?

Paranormal Romance

Hell Hath No Fury (Razing Hell #3)Hell Hath No Fury (Razing Hell #3) by Cate Corvin – 10 Jul (Self)

asy is the descent into Hell.
Especially when you embrace the darkness.
And it embraces you back.

Revenge is so close I can almost taste it.
Belial has brought me everything I wanted and more- he served me vengeance on a silver platter, along with his heart.
But my own faults have caused a rift between myself, Lucifer, and Azazel. If I want to destroy Satan and live happily ever after in Hell, hard choices must be made.
And when the Dragon himself takes something I hold dear, the choice is final: I must wield the Sword of Light once more, even at the risk of being burned alive.
I have no fear.
After all, Hell hath no fury like an angel scorned.

Taken (Royal States #8)Taken (Royal States #1.5(chronologically) #8(publish order)) by Susan Copperfield – 21 Jul (Pen & Page Publishing)

Six years following his marriage to Jessica and their coronation, Pat learns just how far greedy politicians will go to safeguard their wealth, status, and power. After being taken from his family and home, Pat decides he’ll just rescue himself and ruin their plans while he’s at it.

Texas is about to learn their king is far more than the horse loving, bootscraping of a chef they believe he is

Omens (The Dark in You (#6)Omens (The Dark in You (#6) by Suzanne Wright – 28 Jul (Piatkus)

She’s the one thing he can’t control . . .

Since Keenan’s traumatic childhood he’s made sure he’s always in control. Of himself, and of the world around him. But Khloe drives him crazy. She’s an imp, so getting under people’s skin is basically her job description, but Khloe makes him – and his body – respond in ways he’s never known.

Keenan is the mistake Khloe knows she shouldn’t make. As an incubus, he’s got an inside track into everything that makes her tick, and even though she’s immune to his supernatural sex appeal, that doesn’t stop her body – and her demon – craving him.

After a bet escalates the simmering tension between them it’s finally game on . . . and then the game turns deadly serious. When a danger appears that could threaten the whole lair, Keenan’s desperate to protect Khloe any way he can – but will she accept his claim, and can he accept the power she has over him?

Romantic Suspense

Delta Force Defender (Alaska Force #4)Delta Force Defender (Alaska Force #4) by Megan Crane – 7 Jul (Berkley)

After an explosion that should have killed her, Caradine Scott barely escaped her criminal family by leaving her old identity behind her. These days she runs the Water’s Edge Café in a rugged little town on the edge of nowhere, vowing never to let anyone close to her again.

Isaac Gentry is back home after his career in the military, playing the part of an unassuming local in Grizzly Harbor, while also overseeing Alaska Force’s special ops work as the leader and commanding officer he was in the Marines and beyond. He has better things to do than obsess over a woman who claims she hates him, but every glimpse he gets of the vulnerability beneath her prickly exterior is a distraction…and a challenge he can’t ignore.

When Caradine’s demons catch up with her, her café isn’t the only thing that blows up. Her past pushes them together, and closer to a future that’s been waiting for them all this time. They just have to survive long enough to enjoy it.

Science Fiction

The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut #3)The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal – 14 Jul (Tor Books)

The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and sabotage plague the space program. The IAC’s goal of getting as many people as possible off Earth before it becomes uninhabitable is being threatened.

Elma York is on her way to Mars, but the Moon colony is still being established. Her friend and fellow Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin is thrilled to be one of those pioneer settlers, using her considerable flight and political skills to keep the program on track. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President.

Science Fiction Romance

Dealer's Choice (The Drift #10)Dealer’s Choice (The Drift #10) by Susan Hayes – 28 Jul (Black Scroll Publications)

New game. New rules. One choice.

One bad decision plunged cyborg batch-brothers Victor and Ward into a nightmare they barely survived. Now, they’re reclaiming their lives and trying to move forward, but it’s a battle they can’t win alone. Helping them let go of the past is a beautiful doctor with a soft heart and hard rules about never getting involved with her patients.

Dr. Xori Virness is everything an unmated Pheran female isn’t supposed to be – independent, determined, and light years away from her home and family. Her life was just the way she wanted it. Then, two dark and dangerous men with battle-scarred psyches flew into her orbit, laying waste to her plans and tempting her to break her own rules.

When old enemies return with a new target, the brothers will have to make a choice. Surrender to the past, or fight for their future.

Urban Fantasy

Lost Talismans and a Tequila (The Guild Codex- Spellbound #7)Lost Talismans and a Tequila (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #7) by Annette Marie – 10 Jul (Dark Owl Fantasy Inc)

You know that squirmy sensation in your gut when you have no idea what you’re doing and you’re about to screw everything up?

Yeah, that feeling.

I thought I was a good judge of character, but recent events proved me very wrong. Now, in a brilliant demonstration of my newfound caution, I’m putting all my faith in a demon—a demon who’s tried to kill me before. The squirmy feeling is making sense, right?

Unfortunately, I don’t have any other options. Ezra’s time is almost up, which means I need answers and I need them fast. So it’s time to toughen up, pack my gear, and find me one of the most illegal, reviled, and scarce mythics out there: a demon-mage summoner.

And all I have to do is follow a demon’s instructions on where to look. How could that go wrong?

Silk Dragon Salsa (Kai #4)Silk Dragon Salsa (Kai #4) by Rhys Ford – 14 Jul (Dreamspinner Press)

SoCalGov Stalker Kai Gracen always knew Death walked in his shadow. Enough people told him that, including his human mentor, Dempsey. Problem was, the old man never told him what to do when Death eventually caught up.

Where Tanic, his elfin father and the Wild Hunt Master of the Unsidhe Court, brought Kai pain and suffering, Dempsey gave him focus and a will to live… at least until everything unraveled. Now caught in a web of old lies and half-truths, Kai is torn between the human and elfin worlds, unsure of who he is anymore. Left with a hollowness he can’t fill, Kai aches to find solace in the one elfin he trusts—a Sidhe Lord named Ryder—but he has unfinished business with Dempsey’s estranged brother, a man who long ago swore off anything to do with the feral elfin child Dempsey dragged up from the gutter.

Reeling from past betrayals, Kai searches for Dempsey’s brother, hoping to do right by the man who saved him while trying to keep ahead of the death haunting his every step. Kai never thought he’d find love or happiness as a Stalker, but when Death comes knocking at his door, Kai discovers a fierce need to live life to the fullest—even if that means turning his back on the people he calls family.

Snared (Kaliya Sahni #2)Snared (Kaliya Sahni #2) by K.N. Banet – 15 Jul (Self)

Her name is Kaliya Sahni.
Resident Tribunal Executioner, bounty hunter, and the last nagini.

And she’s gotten herself wrapped up in mysteries she might never be able to solve.

Kaliya finds herself stonewalled on the questions surrounding Raphael. Unable to find the answers she needs, she is reminded that she has a real job to do. She’s still at the beck and call of the Tribunal and she’s been lax on her duties.

What should be routine quickly becomes a fight for survival as Kaliya finds herself in a situation that will test her might and quick thinking. Plagued by the idea that it somehow ties into the mysteries surrounding her new partner, Kaliya will stop at nothing to survive and continue her search for the truth.

However, one thing is certain.

Kaliya’s the one being hunted now.

Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #1)Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #1) by Kit Rocha – 28 Jul (Tor Books)

The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost.

Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is.

Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities.

The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years…

If they live that long.

Spells for the Dead (Soulwood #5)Spells for the Dead (Soulwood #5) by Faith Hunter – 28 Jul (Ace)

Nell Ingram is a rookie PsyLed agent, using the powers she can channel from deep within the earth to solve paranormal crimes. Together with her team, she’s taken on the darkest magic and the direst foes. But she’ll need to tap into every ounce of power she has for her newest case.

Nell is called to the Tennessee mansion of a country music star and finds a disturbing scene–dead bodies rapidly decaying before everyone’s eyes. The witch on her team, T. Laine, knows this can only be one thing: death magic, a rare type of craft used to steal life forces. PsyLed needs to find this lethal killer fast. But when a paranormal-hating FBI agent tries to derail the investigation, they find themselves under attack from all sides.

The monthly Must Have list is a compilation of the upcoming release titles that we, The Book Pushers, just can’t wait to get our hands on. Don’t see a title you’re excited about listed here? Add it to the comments section below. Let us know what you’re looking forward to!

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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