Interesting concept, though a little confusing with the vampire/slayer/dhampir denominations and interactions...there's clearly more stor...moreMore like 3.5
Interesting concept, though a little confusing with the vampire/slayer/dhampir denominations and interactions...there's clearly more story in this story and if there'll be a sequel, I'll gladly read it. Liked both MC's though I found their connection a bit too complicated and too subdued for them to have more than basic chemistry. I ended up liking one of the minor characters, the "Dead Man" even better than the main players. However it was an entertaining read overall. (less)
The story dragged at times; might've had something to do with both MC's constant angsting over each other. The repetitive mutual contriteness over som...moreThe story dragged at times; might've had something to do with both MC's constant angsting over each other. The repetitive mutual contriteness over some perceived mini-misgivings took away from the big drama in the end. Both the romance and the fantasy part followed tiresomly well-trodden paths. (less)
As Wave put it, this is royalty writing here indeed. I've enjoyed each of the author's works separately, but together, they created a world so multi-f...moreAs Wave put it, this is royalty writing here indeed. I've enjoyed each of the author's works separately, but together, they created a world so multi-faceted and unique that someone could easily write dozens of stories inside it without repeating themselves once. Fantastic, alluring, and simply awesome. All stories are set in the same universe, and each story contains a mystery, a romance, an aspect of worldbuilding, and a message. This setup, and of course their shared universe, connects the stories to make four pieces an almost seamless whole, but there's also a distinct individuality to each novella which I'd attribute mostly to each author's personal preferences and style. Mind you, we've got four masters of their craft at work here, so each novella contains all aspects, and all stories are beautifully woven, but each story focuses on one particular aspect of the basic scheme.
In order of appearance:
Cherries Worth Getting by Nicole Kimberling
Being in the forefront, this story had to paint the backdrop for the other three, which it did with subtle perfection by using bold strokes. Sounds contradictory? Well it isn't. The key was using a normal place - Portland, in this case, - and a normal activity - buying food from a food cart - and then dropping a bomb smack in the middle of this peaceful scenery - human meat as contraband. From there, I felt irresistibly sucked into a world where blissfully oblivious humans live side by side with beings from other realms, where everybody could be wearing a disguise and next to nothing is quite like it seems. Human meat is a traditional dish among otherworldly races like for example goblins and vampires, but recently it has become a sought-after delicacy for food-crazy humans, too. Of course, in order to serve human meat, humans have to be killed, and since we're in the human world here, the killing of people is still murder. This is where the Irregulars come in. Former chef turned agent Keith Curry and goblin expert Agent Gunter Heartman have been lovers before, but their antagonistic parentage brought them apart. Now forced to work together, they slowly find their way back to each other. The focus here was on the mystery. Hunting down leads, some of them false, questioning witnesses, testing evidence - the story had all the elements of a genuine murder mystery, and a very good one at that. It was also, at least to me, the most hair-rising of the four. Cannibalism, just for the thrill of it - Oh.My.God. Weaving an actually rather sweet romance into something like this, and coming out with a positive message like don't let your preconceived notions stop you from falling in love with someone, that's quite an achievement.
Green Glass Beads by Josh Lanyon
Ah, the master, he did it again - wove a story so full of subtle romance and sophisticated character development I couldn't help falling in love with age-old Rake, seemingly detached and single-mindedly unscrupulous investigator, and half-faery Archer, quick-witted, passionate intellectual. This story may have some exciting cat-burglar action, magic-wielding and bloodshedding, but first and foremost, it's a tender, poignant, heartwarming, and yes, VERY sexy love story. It's the most character-driven story of the four, and its message is the simple ancient wisdom that love comes with true care and consideration, and anything else is just so much noise.
No Life But This by Astrid Amara
In regard to cruelty, bloodshed and outlandishness, this was the darkest and most sinister of the four stories, in the truest sense of the word, since the world of Aztaw it introduced literally has no light. This story was also something of a maverick - although it was still set in the Irregulars universe, it created a subsphere of its own where a different set of rules apply. Which was also this story's biggest forte. The worldbuilding took my breath away with its imagination and colorful weaving. And then, the character of Deven - an assassin who kills as easily as he breathes but still somehow preserved his innocent soul, which makes him something like a feral child. He's slow to trust, but once he does, he's loyal to his own death. Gruff and aloof agent Silas August balances Deven perfectly. Those two found each other slowly, almost reluctantly while the story moved around them and pulled them along with breathtaking speed to the explosive finale.
Things Unseen and Deadly by Ginn Hale
While the first story set the foundation, this last story wrapped everything up nicely, though still standing very much on its own. I thought this story the most intellectual of the four, from the whacked-out cookie jamboree where all characters of the other storys have their brief reappearance, to the many hidden hints and references at literature, Sidhe lore, music, Talmudian mystery and contemporary history. This story had also the most memorable character for me in Henry, the Half-Undead bum, a man forcefully stripped of all his humanity who's still the epitome of a decent considerate being. The story took a classic plot, the lost prince and his world-weary, self sacrificing knight in shining armor, and turned it into something unique and new, something very tender and touching as those two lost souls connect and ultimately save each other.
Every single one of those storys was a treat on its own, but together they were just perfect. They entertained me and touched my heart, they made me think and flattered my intelligence, they made my skin crawl and my heart race in excitement and had me laughing out loud more than once.
Books like this one are rare gems that stand out like lighthouse beams from the fog of mediocrity. Books like this one are the reason I read.
This was a three-story anthology; overall rather a 2.5, rounded up to 3 stars.
More Than Memories by Amber Green: 3.5 Stars
Dick is a ghost who is anc...moreThis was a three-story anthology; overall rather a 2.5, rounded up to 3 stars.
More Than Memories by Amber Green: 3.5 Stars
Dick is a ghost who is anchored to this world - and the museum he haunts - by various "living" objects like pearls, jets, petrified wood and so on. He lives off the thoughts and emotions of humans. One day Dick steals into the thoughts of Harry, a young, geekish student. Soon, the two form a mutually happy relationship, which includes Dick giving Harry sexual pleasure. Even though Harry's desire for a flesh-and blood-man drives them apart, Dick can't forget his human lover. Years later, upon returning to the museum, Dick finds Harry in the throes of a particularly cruel vampire, one who not only sucks blood, but also emotions. The fight for Harry's soul might easily cost Dick what is left of his own.
I retold this story because it was the one I liked best in the collection, ad I think the blurb doesn't do it justice. Told from Dick's point of view, it's rather hard to follow at times, but the premise as well as the worldbuilding is interesting. Also, this story comes to a satisfying and complete end. (contains dub-con and violence)
Vampire Dreams by J.P. Bowie: 3 stars. The story tells of an author suffering from writer's block finds inspiration for his vampire novel in the arms of a mysterious young man - or is it all a dream?
A nice and actually sweet if a bit unimaginative vampire tale. The ending was quite abrupt; the story didn't feel concluded or finished to me.
Bloodlust by L.Picaro: 1 star It's a tale of a dystopic future. Noah discovers the reality of vampires. In order to save a friend, he is forced to trust the vampire, Adrian. A dark future awaits them both if they are unable to trust one another in order to stop a rogue vampire who sees humans as nothing more than food to toy with and sex as a way to gain immense strength.
Aside from sketchy worldbuilding and unsympathetic main characters this had lots and lots of gratuituous sex scenes - some of them het - as well as convenient solutions, a wagonload of blood and cruelty, and confusing narrative threads that simply went nowhere. Can't recommend it.
All in all, enjoy the first story, read the second if you're into nice, by-the-book vampire lore, and skip the third. (less)
Andreas Nikandros is a zookeeper with big cats. The only family he’s still left is his beloved sister Adrienne, who had become involved with a vampire...moreAndreas Nikandros is a zookeeper with big cats. The only family he’s still left is his beloved sister Adrienne, who had become involved with a vampire, Renart Bellerose. When Andreas learns that Bellerose killed his sister, his only thought is taking revenge. Knowing full well that he, a human, stands no chance against a vampire, Andreas sets his sights on becoming a vampire himself. But for that, he needs a vampire to Turn him, and the only place he can think of finding one is Bellerose’s restaurant. He goes there nevertheless, only to find himself laughed at by his enemy and thrown at Bellerose’s minions as a plaything. Just when Andreas is about to become dinner for a bunch of randy vampires, a strange vampire steps in and claims Andreas as his prey. Yet, the stranger seems not particularly interested in Andreas once he’s got him. Instead of running, though, Andreas decides to seize the chance by seducing the vampire. But after a night in Titus’s bed, Andreas isn’t so sure anymore that seeking revenge for his sister is the only reason he wants to be Turned.
Titus Antonius Calidus began his life, way back when, as a Roman miles, a soldier who loved a fellow soldier. A violent incident tore the lovers apart, leaving one dead and Titus, a vampire. Titus has walked the earth for centuries, taking many lovers but never loving again. But this human, Andreas, is different. For one, Andreas is fearless, the first one in ages to talk back to Titus. Andreas knows what he wants, and makes Titus work for his pleasure, which is again something Titus isn’t used to. It doesn’t hurt that Andreas resembles Titus’s dead lover physically. Slowly, but inistently Andreas worms his way past Titus’s defenses, which Titus fully realizes when his old lover, Daniel, shows up.
In view of his first real competition for Titus’s affection, Daniel does his best to drive a wedge between the lovers. When he realizes he’s bound to fail, though, he turns into an ally. His help is most welcome when Titus suddenly faces a hearing with the Committee, the powerful vampire government. But this is not the direst threat. Far worse is that a group of young vampires seem intended on turning the table on the vampire society, and their leader apparently has taken it into his head that the surest way to reach his goal is by killing Andreas.
This was a totally romantic story, despite all the blood, the darkness and the fighting. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want a dark prince sweeping in just in time to be saved from death or a fate worse than? Andreas even has two of them right away, or three, if you count Ryu, another friend of Titus’s who comes into play later in the story. Of course, this was totally fantasy too, but with a logical, inherently consistent universe which worked fine within its completely incredulous confines, so this is what counts.
The worldbuilding was done in a very clever way, too, making Andreas into some kind of natural scientist with an inquiring mind. It just fits his personality to ask questions about the vampire world, and it fits Titus’s personality to go into teacher mode at times. Also, the fact that Andreas was used to work with big cats added credibility to his fearlessness in dealing with the vampires, who in this world, are some kind of warm-blooded, particularly long-living predators, not the usual undeads. (They reminded me more of J.R. Ward’s Black-Dagger-Brothers than of Dracula). I’m into detailed explanations, so I liked this part a lot, but I can see how others might find the educational passages a bit dragging and viscous to read.
The characters were well – crafted and believable, again in the confines of the fantasy setting. I loved Titus’s arrogance and possessiveness, and the fact that he wasn’t above looking a the world differently when proven wrong. Andreas was far from being a damsel in distress; even though he was physically weak and powerless compared to the vampires he stood his ground against them, stubborn and determined but not too stubborn to listen to reason. Daniel and Ryu were really persons in their own right; the way they were built up I can see a sequel coming – and I’d be glad to see them find happiness of their own. The rest of the secondary cast remained a bit flat, although a few stood out, particularly Andreas’s human friend and fellow zookeeper Carl.
There were a few niggles, too. Mainly with the way Renard, the arch – baddie, turned out more pathetic than anything – he’s been given so much hate that it was too hard to believe, even in fantasy. Some issues are solved a bit too conveniently, like Ryu showing up out of the blue just when he’s needed, and the oh – so – powerful Committee, as well-portrayed as they are, appear just a bit meek for all the apprehension that has been put up for them.
Is there a thing as too much sex? Maybe there is, particularly vampire sex; a little fade to black might have kept things more interesting here. Then again, the sex scenes were hot, so I won’t complain too hard.
All in all, this was an intelligently drawn and very entertaining read, original enough to stand out among “generic” vampire stories. I can recommend it.
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With just enough worldbuilding to give readers an idea of the background, this story focuses mainly on the two heroes and their quickly developing rel...moreWith just enough worldbuilding to give readers an idea of the background, this story focuses mainly on the two heroes and their quickly developing relationship. I found both characters well worked out, particularly Cooper, who finds himself shaken to the core when he finds out that he’s fallen in love with the very thing he’s sworn to fight and yet has it in him to do what he perceives as his duty, to do what is right, at all cost. Frazer drove me a little crazy with his insecurities and doubts, but he was still a likeable character with enough of an edge to avoid being a wimp. Frazer’s bite fetish added a bit of kink to their lovemaking, of which there was quite a lot – not always essentially necessary to forward the plot, but hot enough to singe the pages, thus I won’t complain. The relationship went from lust to love pretty fast, but with them both looking for long-term in the first place, this didn’t bother me much – it didn’t feel like insta-love, more like finding “the one and only”, which is a legitimate romance element, particularly when it comes to paranormal stories, after all.
From the secondary cast, Adam was Cooper’s voice of reason and everything that makes a good work partner and friend. Adam and his lover Carmichael were nicely drawn without stealing the show away from the main pairing. The policeman, Goodson, was the most interesting secondary character; hopefully, he’ll get his own story later in the series.
There was actually not much of a mystery, the outcome was pretty predictable. This was okay with me because the focus of the story was on the relationship, and the author managed to create tension even with the baddie revealed early on. The final showdown had me on the edge of my seat even though I knew what was going to happen – which is a testament of skillfull writing, in my opinion.
After reading a number of books with unusual, painfully realistic or even unhappy plots, I was delighted to find in “Blood Relations” something I’ve come to think of as “traditional” paranormal m/m romance. It had enough original elements to avoid being formulaic but was still “adherent to the rules” enough to read familiar, a concept that should appeal to both new m/m readers and those who’ve been around a while. I really enjoyed this entertaining read.
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This is a love triangle of a very special kind, since only one party is actually alive. One is already dead, but determined not to remain that way, wh...moreThis is a love triangle of a very special kind, since only one party is actually alive. One is already dead, but determined not to remain that way, while another ought to be dead by rights, but instead is anything but. All three main characters were well-drawn, with voices of their own, although purists might find the dialogue passages during the historical part too modern. Madison was sweet and even a bit naive at times, the role-model innocent for his vampire knight in shining armor to save. Amelien was intriguing in his brokenness and dark chivalry, just like a noble vampire ought to be. I actually thought Rene the most interesting character; he could have been a tragical hero but was made out so mean and selfish that I hated him with a vengeance although I could even relate to his motives. A lot of the sinister atmosphere wafting through this book stems from the mischief Rene brews. Madison can never be sure where the ghost will pop up next, and neither can Amelien know whose spirit dwells behind the eyes of the human he's just talking to. With all the ghost's taking posession of one body or the other, the various personalities tangled so closely they were hard to follow at times, yet they were kept admirably straight for the most part. (One complete jumble occured, although I think the mix-up was mostly due to some editing oversight).
Although this is labelled as BDSM, there's actually very little physical BDSM in here. It's more about the mind games Rene plays with Amelien - Rene isn't only topping from the bottom, he's actually dominating from the submissive position. However, it's through the skillfull writing the reader comes to understand that Rene hurt himself just as badly as he did Amelien. Their painful love/hate relationship was beautifully balanced by the new love between Amelien and Madison. The fact that Amelien not only managed to overcome his obsession with Rene but even dared to open himself for the possibility of a new love gave his character growth and strength. And Madison's courage to stand up against something as scary and powerful as a ghost despite his fear and the very concrete threat to his life made him all the more likeable.
This was a multi-layered, fascinating read. Even the solution wasn't as easy as it appeared at first sight; it's actually disturbingly open.
If you read this book, I'd recommend you light a (rose-scented) candle, switch off the light and put on some music, preferably some symphonic metal or gothic rock. Follow my recommendations AYOR, though, since you won't be sleeping afterwards; you'll want to watch out for the ghost instead.
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This was a fantasy book. I had to remind myself of that fact over and over again while reading it, given that I found some of the elements very far –...moreThis was a fantasy book. I had to remind myself of that fact over and over again while reading it, given that I found some of the elements very far – fetched. First, there was Trent, who had a fraternal twin he used to be very close to. Until recently, when the two lost track so far that it takes Trent several months to learn that his brother’s missing. Trent, supposedly a seasoned LAPD Detective, goes looking for his brother after he’s been wounded on duty. Okay, he’s done everything in the department’s official powers to no avail, and since he’s on sick leave anyway, he takes the opportunity to spend his recovery time near the place where his brother was last seen, taking a picture which he plans to show the locals. But does he? No, he keeps his search for his brother a secret. The reason is given that he doesn’t want to scare the locals with being a policeman, which I could still buy to some extent. But then, Trent is drugged, badly beaten, ferried out to the woods and threatened to get raped on his first night in Little Grizzly Creek by a gang of brutes for no obvious reason. And even though Trent is a policeman, he doesn’t seem to be overly eager to catch his assailants. He doesn’t even go to the local doctor’s, it’s that important to keep the fact that he’s a policeman secret.
Okay, so these premises came across constructed, but I could have coped with that since the actual getting to know and getting together of Martin and Trent was nicely done. I liked that they took their time despite the instant attraction. They had some deeply emotional sex scenes, even a quite endearing one which they fumbled due to their mutual awkwardness. Martin seduced Trent in a very subtle, gentle way, and Trent opened beautifully to Martin. Also, the writing in itself wasn’t bad at all, the acting characters came alive during several nicely written scenes. But those fortes ultimately couldn’t save the book. For it went on like it had begun: Why did Trent insist on coming with Martin in the first place? He stated he would and Martin just allowed it. Why didn’t Martin explain anything to Trent if he was so determined to make a relationship with him work? The ending, in particular, felt rushed, a jack-in-the- box solution where suddenly all problems are resolved by a wave of the magic wand.
Aside from the weak plot, I had two personal major issues which ultimately spoiled the book completely for me.
For one, I had a problem with Martin’s Bengal tiger. Why in all worlds does an Iroquis shaman shift into a Bengal tiger? How could that happen? The question bothered me right from the beginning and throughout the reading. I understand why a tiger worked best here, but why make Martin an Iroquis in the first place if he needs to shift into a tiger? Well, there was Bogha-bagh, but he had apparently nothing to do with Martin’s animal form. Native American heritage and Bengal tiger shifter just don’t go together in my mind (perhaps this is just me, but white tigers plus America equal to Siegfried and Roy in my imagination, and although there might be a deeper meaning to this, it remained obscure to me).
Also, it gave me a queasy feeling to see the Iroquis constantly referred to as “Indians”. True, it’s the Iroquis themselves who mostly use the term, saying things like “us Indians” or “Indian land”. Yet, from what I’ve been told, “Indian” is generally looked upon as disrespectful, even offensive. As I understood it, someone who is of Native American heritage but not very connected to it might call himself an Indian on occasion, pretty much like a Mexican who calls himself Hispanic. But someone who is proud of his heritage and/ or actively living according to it, like the Bear Clan men in this book supposedly do, would certainly not use the word “Indian”. As I understood it, a Native American who’s connected to his heritage would refer to himself with his nation’s name, since there are so many differences between the respective nations. I found the use of the word “Indian” here really bothersome since it seemed so improper, but this might be just me, others may not take exception to this.
If this book was meant to be a parody to the entire shifter/ vampire theme, it would have been a good one, but there were no hints as to this; the story obviously took itself serious. Although it has some good scenes and decent writing, I unfortunately can’t in good conscience recommend this book.
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**spoiler alert** Peter is a bartender at Rave, a gay night club in an AR Houston where vampires, werewolves and any other kind of paranormal creature...more**spoiler alert** Peter is a bartender at Rave, a gay night club in an AR Houston where vampires, werewolves and any other kind of paranormal creatures are a quite common thing. Peter's been working there for over ten years, or so it seems, having an on-off fuck-buddy relationship with his fellow bartender Jack, Jack's boyfriend Mike and a number of one-night stands, mostly strangers passing through. One night, though, just another stranger catches Peter's eye and soon Peter can't get the beautiful, mysterious Lucien out of his head anymore. In the beginning, Peter freaks a little over Lucien being a vampire, but the hot sex and the pleasures of being with a vampire soon help him come around. Finally, Lucien's very existence is threatened, and Peter throws all inhibitions overboard as his beloved needs him so desperately.
This book was like a train wreck: twisted, flooded with blood, outright horrible, but unable to look away from. Geez, the bucketfuls of semen and the gallons of blood those characters spill! In Lucien's and Peter's world, sex is the answer to just about everything. We need to talk about this? let's have sex. Your're pissed at me/ someone else/the world in general? Let's have sex, preferably with those you're pissed at, too. We're in mortal danger? Let's have sex first. Oh, and don't forget, if sex doesn't help, there's always the blood, which can answer teh otehr half of the questions.
Don't get me wrong, I liked this book. Although there was so much sex I lost track of who put his what in whose what first, or last, or sometimes in between, those sex scenes were still hot, and a lot of emotion was transported through them. The relationship between Peter and Lucien was very good, and the author even managed to add their respective pets (Caleb and Xander)and exes (Antoine, Christopher and Jack) into the mix and make the way those are all bonded together in love, lust and mating believable. But outside of sex, blood and action, there was quite a lot left to want. The worldbuilding, for example. Vampires, werewolves, incubi and whatnot are mixed up and thrown together like in a funny shaker. Okay, it's fiction, and its this author's world, but still - lore is lore, and if you're about to break familiar patterns, you better make sure you're really consistent about it. Another major issue was why Peter was so important to Lucien in the first place. Peter was nothing special, he even came across as a bitchy queen at times. So this Lucien has waited four hundred years and won his position as Master Vampire in a bloody fight, and for what? A quite ordinary Joe who happens to be pretty and who needs to be convinced he loves Lucien in the first place? Well, love isn't partial, I guess. Still, once Peter has been convinced he actually loves Lucien, the relationship is, as I said above, beautiful and deeply empotional.
All in all, a story for those who like lots of (HOT) sex with multiple partners, overwhelming emotions in a very skillfully written story and don't mind slight inconsistency, a few convenient solutions and lots and lots of blood. (less)
a different story, told in a different way. A modern fairy tale of a man who has all his wishes come true, discovering there's a price to everything....morea different story, told in a different way. A modern fairy tale of a man who has all his wishes come true, discovering there's a price to everything. But in the end the prize might be worth everything. I loved the concept of the fallen angels and demons and the way they dealt with each other and the humans. There were some inconsistencies in the worldbuilding and some logical errors that threw me out of the story flow but not enough to mar the reading really bad. Something new and different for those who don't stick too close to their logic and love their stories laced with a bit of supernatural incredulity and their men sexy and rough. (less)