May 2020 Must Haves

BP NOTE: According to my calendar it is May. According to the birds, bees, cows, sheep, crazy fast growing ivy, and the greening fields it is also May. According to me it is Monday, still, Monday March 9th my last Monday before Quarantine or Lockdown started as the Coronavirus showed it had certainly spread outside Italy, China, South Korea, and Japan – all places who were already experiencing severe restrictions of movement and incredible loss of loved ones. Today, this continuing Monday nothing in the world is the same and yet thanks to those of you who write, edit, publish, cover design, blurb design, and distribute books we can still travel, we can still experience romance in all of its flavors and combinations, we can still enjoy a world outside of our current dwellings. Thank you for continuing to provide us these opportunities as we adjust to our new normal.
Happy reading!
~E

Contemporary Romance

His Secretary’s Nine-Month Notice by Cathy Williams – 1 May (Harlequin Presents)

There’s a billionaire on her doorstep…

Ready to secure his legacy!

As commanding tycoon Matt’s secretary, it’s Violet’s job to be prepared for anything. Though absolutely nothing could have prepared her for today. Handing in her notice was not part of dedicated Violet’s plan…and definitely not because she’s carrying her boss’s baby!

Still, nothing is quite as unexpected as Matt’s reaction. He wants his child—and Violet! It’s a negotiation he’s determined to win…but he’ll need to offer more than just passion for Violet to sign on the dotted line of a marriage contract!

Beautiful & DirtyBeautiful & Dirty (The Family #1) by Katrina Jackson – 15 May (Self)

Shae

Here’s my advice for how to survive a vacation to Italy with the college boyfriend you’ve just now realized is terrible:

1. Ditch him in Rome.
2. Take the train to Naples for pizza.
3. Let the attractive older man you’ve just met buy you a drink.
4. Flirt a little (or a lot) while ignoring his wedding ring.
5. Let him bend you over a table.
6. Break up with your boyfriend.


Sal

There are a lot of ways to respond to the news that your wife is trying to kill you. I have sex with the young American who stumbles into my restaurant. And then I get revenge.

Real Men KnitReal Men Knit by Kwana Jackson – 19 May (Berkley)

When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop, while dealing with life and love in Harlem.

Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.

Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit.

Recipe for Persuasion (The Rajes #2)Recipe for Persuasion (The Rajes #2) by Sonali Dev – 26 May (William Morrow)

Chef Ashna Raje desperately needs a new strategy. How else can she save her beloved restaurant and prove to her estranged, overachieving mother that she isn’t a complete screw up? When she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars, the latest hit reality show teaming chefs with celebrities, it seems like just the leap of faith she needs to put her restaurant back on the map. She’s a chef, what’s the worst that could happen?

Rico Silva, that’s what.

Being paired with a celebrity who was her first love, the man who ghosted her at the worst possible time in her life, only proves what Ashna has always believed: leaps of faith are a recipe for disaster.

FIFA winning soccer star Rico Silva isn’t too happy to be paired up with Ashna either. Losing Ashna years ago almost destroyed him. The only silver lining to this bizarre situation is that he can finally prove to Ashna that he’s definitely over her.

But when their catastrophic first meeting goes viral, social media becomes obsessed with their chemistry. The competition on the show is fierce…and so is the simmering desire between Ashna and Rico. Every minute they spend together rekindles feelings that pull them toward their disastrous past. Will letting go again be another recipe for heartbreak—or a recipe for persuasion…?

Epic Fantasy

Queen of the Unwanted (Women's War #2)Queen of the Unwanted (Women’s War #2) by Jenna Glass – 12 May (Del Rey)

In this feminist fantasy series, the ability to do magic has given women control over their own bodies. But as the patriarchy starts to fall, they must now learn to rule as women, not men.

Alys may be the acknowledged queen of Women’s Well—the fledgling colony where women hold equal status with men—but she cares little for politics in the wake of an appalling personal tragedy. It is grief that rules her now. But the world continues to turn.

In a distant realm unused to female rulers, Ellin struggles to maintain control. Meanwhile, the king of the island nation of Khalpar recruits an abbess whom he thinks holds the key to reversing the spell that Alys’s mother gave her life to create. And back in Women’s Well, Alys’s own half-brother is determined to bring her to heel. Unless these women can all come together and embrace the true nature of female power, everything they have struggled to achieve may be at risk.

Fantasy Romance

Hell to Pay (Razing Hell #2)Hell to Pay (Razing Hell #2) by Cate Corvin – 15 May (Self)

They bound me. Led me into sin.
Twisted my heart and soul.
But they didn’t break me.

By a stroke of fate, I’ve won my freedom… and the dark half of the Seventh Circle.
All it took was betraying the prince who held me captive.
Belial’s anger burns hotter than the fires of Hell, but I won’t rest until I’ve won my Nephilim mate from him, even if being his enemy tears at my heart.
Azazel and Lucifer have a plan: steal the Sword of Light. Wage war against Heaven and Hell.
I’ll raise my own army, master my corrupted magic, and together, we’ll strike at the heart of Dis. Satan must die.
And Gabriel will suffer.
For the archangel who pushed me, for the king who terrorized me, there’ll be hell to pay.

The Fiery Crown (Forgotten Empires #2)The Fiery Crown (Forgotten Empires #2) by Jeffe Kennedy – 26 May (St. Martins)

A queen and her rebel prince turn from enemies to lovers while evil forces plot to destroy them in this lush romantic fantasy.

Following The Orchid Throne, Conri and Lia’s marriage of convenience has turned into an uneasy alliance. If only the two leaders could agree on something. Driven by revenge, Conri wants to attack Emperor Anure before the tyrant gets to them first. But Lia needs to keep Calanthe safe, and refuses to sacrifice her kingdom. Their ongoing battle for control has built up tension they’re both more than happy to release in bed, the only place where they find common ground. But Conri and Lia are developing deeper feelings for each other that are complicating matters. In the second book in the Forgotten Empires trilogy, Conri and Lia find their loyalties torn, and with Emperor Anure’s threat growing, will they be able to risk everything with each other before it’s too late?

Historical Romance

Close Up (Burning Cove #4)Close Up (Burning Cove #4) by Amanda Quick – 5 May (Berkley)

Welcome to Burning Cove, California where 1930s Hollywood glamour conceals a ruthless killer…

Vivian Brazier never thought life as an art photographer would include nightly wake-up calls to snap photos of grisly crime scenes or headshots for aspiring male actors. Although she is set on a career of transforming photography into a new art form, she knows her current work is what’s paying the bills.

After shooting crime scene photos of a famous actress, the latest victim of the murderer the press has dubbed the “Dagger Killer,” Vivian notices eerie similarities to the crime scenes of previous victims—details that only another photographer would have noticed—details that put Vivian at the top of the killer’s target list.

Nick Sundridge has always been able to “see” things that others don’t, coping with disturbing dreams and visions. His talent, or as he puts it—his curse—along with his dark past makes him a recluse, but a brilliant investigator. As the only one with the ability to help, Nick is sent to protect Vivian. Together, they discover the Dagger Killer has ties to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood royalty and high society. It is a cutthroat world of allure and deception that Vivian and Nick must traverse—all in order to uncover the killer who will stop at nothing to add them to their gallery of murders.

Stages of the HeartStages of the Heart by Jo Goodman – 5 May (Berkley)

Experience has taught Laurel to be suspicious of the men who pass through Morrison Station. She’s been running the lucrative operation that connects Colorado’s small frontier town of Falls Hollow with the stagecoach line since she inherited it from her father, and she’s not about to let some wandering cowboy take over the reins. But newcomer McCall Landry isn’t just any gunslinger. He seems to genuinely care for Laurel, and with his rugged good looks and mysterious past, he could be the one man to finally tempt her off track…

Call Landry doesn’t expect much from Falls Hollow. He doesn’t expect much from anything anymore. But Laurel Morrison took him by surprise when she put in a good word for him, a virtual stranger, after the stagecoach was robbed–and she keeps taking him by surprise. Charmed by her clever wit and fierce loyalty, Call finds himself falling hard. Now all he has to do is convince her he means to stay–in her bed, in her life, and in her heart.

Marry in Scarlet (Marriage of Convienence #4)Marry in Scarlet (Marriage of Convenience #4) by Anne Gracie – 26 May (Berkley)

When a duke denied…

The proud and arrogant Duke of Everingham is determined to secure a marriage of convenience with heiress Lady Georgiana Rutherford. He’s the biggest prize on the London marriage mart, pursued by young unmarried ladies and their match-making mamas, as well as married women with a wandering eye. He can have any woman he wants. Or so he thinks…

…Hunts an independent lady…

Lady Georgiana Rutherford—irreverent and unconventional—has no plans to marry. Having grown up poor, Lady George has no intention of giving up her fortune to become dependent on the dubious and unreliable goodwill of a man. Especially a man as insufferable as the Duke of Everingham, whose kisses stirs unwelcome and unsettling emotions…

…Sparks are sure to fly

The more she defies him, the more the duke wants her, until an argument at a ball spirals into a passionate embrace. Caught in a compromising position, the duke announces their betrothal. George is furious, and when gossip claims she deliberately entrapped the duke—when she was the one who was trapped—she marches down the aisle in a scarlet wedding dress. But the unlikely bride and groom may have found love in the most improbable of places—a marriage of convenience.

Paranormal Romance

Grave Humor (Magical Romantic Comedy with Body Count #14)Grave Humor (Magical Romantic Comedy with Body Count #14) by R.J. Blain – 12 May (Pen & Page Publishing)

Most days, Anwen regrets working at a funeral home despite the good pay. With the residents no longer inclined to stay in their coffins where they belong, she’s got her hands full making sure everyone follows the rules:

In the funeral home, there is no screaming, no murdering, no mutilation, no possessions, no kidnappings, no resurrections, and no cursing of any type. Be quiet and stay polite.

The day Old Man McGregor decides to take a walk and disturbs her peace, Anwen learns there’s a lot more to the basement in the funeral home than a vampire and a handsome gentleman on ice.

If she’s not careful, she’ll learn first-hand why ‘eternally yours’ is the most potent of threats.

A Taste of SageA Taste of Sage by Yaffa S. Santos – 19 May (Harper Paperbacks)

Lumi Santana is a chef with a gift: she can perceive a person’s emotions by tasting their cooking. Despite being raised by a mother who taught her that dreams and true love were silly fairy tales, she puts her heart and savings into opening her own fusion restaurant in Upper Manhattan. The restaurant offers a mix of the Dominican cuisine she grew up with and other world cuisines she is inspired by.

When her eclectic venture fails, she is forced to take a position as sous chef at a staid, traditional French restaurant owned by Julien Dax, a celebrated chef known for his acid tongue as well as his brilliant smile. After he goes out of his way to bake a tart to prove her wrong in a dispute, she is so irritated by his smug attitude that she vows to herself never to taste his cooking.

But after she succumbs to the temptation and takes a bite one day and is overcome with shocking emotion, she finds herself beginning to crave his cooking and struggling to stay on task with her plan to save up and move on as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Julien’s obsessed secretary watches with gnashed teeth as they grow closer and becomes determined to get Lumi out of her way permanently.

Romantic Suspense

Broken (Deep Ops #3)Broken (Deep Ops #3) by Rebecca Zanetti – 26 May (Zebra)

Dangerous: Former Navy SEAL Clarence Wolfe’s unit was taken out with a land mine. Injured and devastated, he hasn’t been quite right since. Worse, the tragedy was no accident. All Wolfe wants now is to take down the man responsible. In the meantime, he’s good with being the muscle for the Deep Ops team–and leading a steamy no-strings-attached personal life. Until one intriguing woman changes everything . . .

Determined: Reporter Dana Mulberry is on a mission to avenge the death of a fellow journalist. She’s finally hot on a trail–right to a sex club–where she runs into . . . Wolfe? It seems both their leads have led to the same spot. To keep from blowing their covers, they’ll have to at least pretend to have a little fun. Trouble is, they genuinely like each other. And that’s way too risky for Wolfe, especially when, to his surprise, Dana agrees . . .

Complicated: Drawn to each other in ways they can’t understand, Wolfe and Dana keep it professional–until they’re shot at one night. And when their adventures land them both at the heart of corruption in D.C.–and at odds in their missions–they’ll have to dig deeper than ever to succeed in their quests–and with each other . . .

Science Fiction

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5)Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5) by Martha Wells – 5 May (Tor.com)

Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

Angel of the CrowsThe Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison – 11 May (Tor Books)

A fantasy novel of alternate 1880s London, where killers stalk the night and the ultimate power is naming.

This is not the story you think it is. These are not the characters you think they are. This is not the book you are expecting.

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.

Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.

Science Fiction Romance

Chaos Reigning (Consortium Rebellion #3)Chaos Reigning (Consortium Rebellion #3) by Jesse Mihalik – 19 May (Harper Voyager)

Interplanetary intrigue and romance combine in this electrifying finale to the Consortium Rebellion series.

As the youngest member of her High House, Catarina von Hasenberg is used to being underestimated, but her youth and flighty, bubbly personality mask a clever mind and stubborn determination. Her enemies, blind to her true strength, do not suspect that Cat is a spy—which makes her the perfect candidate to go undercover at a rival House’s summer retreat to gather intelligence on their recent treachery.

Cat’s overprotective older sister reluctantly agrees, but on one condition: Cat cannot go alone. Alexander Sterling, a quiet, gorgeous bodyguard, will accompany her, posing as her lover. After Cat tries, and fails, to ditch Alex, she grudgingly agrees, confident in her ability to manage him. After all, she’s never found a person she can’t manipulate.

But Alex proves more difficult—and more desirable—than Cat anticipated. When she’s attacked and nearly killed, she and Alex are forced to work together to figure out how deep the treason goes. With rumors of widespread assaults on Serenity raging, communications down, and the rest of her family trapped off-planet, Catarina must persuade Alex to return to Earth to expose the truth and finish this deadly battle once and for all.

But Cat can’t explain why she’s the perfect person to infiltrate hostile territory without revealing secrets she’d rather keep buried. . . .

Space Opera

Driving the Deep (Finder Chronicles #2)Driving the Deep (Finder Chronicles #2) by Suzanne Palmer – 5 May (DAW)

As a professional finder, Fergus Ferguson is hired to locate missing objects and steal them back. But it is rarely so simple, especially after his latest job in Cernee. He’s been recovering from that experience in the company of friends, the Shipmakers of Pluto, experts at crafting top-of-the-line AI spaceships.

The Shipmakers have convinced Fergus to finally deal with unfinished business he’s been avoiding for half his life: Earth. Fergus hasn’t been back to his homeworld since he was fifteen, when he stole his cousin’s motorcycle and ran away. It was his first theft, and nothing he’s stolen since has been anywhere near so easy, or weighed so heavily on his conscience. Many years and many jobs later, Fergus reluctantly agrees that now is the time to return the motorcycle and face his family.

Unfortunately, someone has gotten to the motorcycle before him. And before he can figure out where it went and why the storage unit that held it is now filled with priceless, stolen art, the Shipyard is attacked. His friends are missing, presumably kidnapped.

Accompanied by an untrustworthy detective who suspects Fergus is the art thief and the sole friend who escaped the attack, Fergus must follow the tenuous clues to locate and save his friends. The trail leads them to Enceladus, where Fergus plans to go undercover to the research stations that lie beneath the moon’s thick ice sheet deep in a dark, oppressive ocean.

But all movement and personnel are watched, and the limited ways through the thick ice of the moon’s surface are dangerous and highly monitored. Even if Fergus can manage to find proof that his friends are there and alive, getting out again is going to be a lot more complicated than he bargained for.

Urban Fantasy

Westside Saints (Westside #2)Westside Saints (Westside #2) by W.M. Akers – 5 May (Harper Voyager)

Return to a twisted version of Jazz Age New York in this follow up to the critically acclaimed fantasy Westside, as relentless sleuth Gilda Carr’s pursuit of tiny mysteries drags her into a case that will rewrite everything she knows about her past.

Six months ago, the ruined Westside of Manhattan erupted into civil war, and private detective Gilda Carr nearly died to save her city. In 1922, winter has hit hard, and the desolate Lower West is frozen solid. Like the other lost souls who wander these overgrown streets, Gilda is weary, cold, and desperate for hope. She finds a mystery instead.

Hired by a family of eccentric street preachers to recover a lost saint’s finger, Gilda is tempted by their promise of “electric resurrection,” when the Westside’s countless dead will return to life. To a detective this cynical, faith is a weakness, and she is fighting the urge to believe in miracles when her long dead mother, Mary Fall, walks through the parlor door.

Stricken with amnesia, Mary remembers nothing of her daughter or her death, but that doesn’t stop her from being as infuriatingly pushy as Gilda herself. As her mother threatens to drive her insane, Gilda keeps their relationship a secret so that they can work together to investigate what brought Mary back to life. The search will force Gilda to reckon with the nature of death, family, and the uncomfortable fact that her mother was not just a saint, but a human being.

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.

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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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