Max, now named Dyre, is a priest who lost his faith because of a betrayal. He's taken and molded into anReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Max, now named Dyre, is a priest who lost his faith because of a betrayal. He's taken and molded into an avenger of demons for the Church, something that is slowly killing him. His companion Isaiah, a faithful member of the Inquisition that keeps watch over the priests, wants him as much as he does Isaiah, but the Faithful and Faithless do not mix, unless Dyre can reclaim his faith among their adventures.
The setup of this world is fantastic and quite a big undertaking. First you have the political nature of the church and their representation of the "will" of God. Then there is the very real mark of divine power, the fact that crucifixes burn Dyre, for example. Such a dichotomy is great for conflict, but I didn't feel like it was entirely utilized here, and at the end of the story, not only did I feel quite a bit confused but also rushed and frazzled. The events of this story cover tons of ground -- this could have easily been a novel, and maybe should have been. Such quick pace meant that I didn't have time to puzzle out these different factions in the world and understand how they fit together, and I really didn't have time to get to know the relationship that is central to the story.
The ending seems very apparent that this might be the beginning of a larger work. I can't be sure of that, but all of the questions that I had made me wonder if more is being saved back for future stories. Whether or not that is true, this still feels like the beginning of something longer simply because this feels like the bare bones of the story. We're given a tiny bit of the world and not enough time for it to come organically through the story, so that the quick pace and resolution of the romance (maybe?) seems rushed. Either that, or for such a short story, there is way too much introduced.
So, while I felt excited about the world, especially the religion vs. divinity implications, I really felt a bit disappointed that we didn't get to explore that since it is so central to the story. For the world alone, I'm giving this a So So. If it weren't for that, I'd probably be rating this lower, because as is, this story didn't work for me....more
A Christmas story in July, Laura Baumbach's latest paranormal short story is at once contemporary and historical,Review posted at The Armchair Reader.
A Christmas story in July, Laura Baumbach's latest paranormal short story is at once contemporary and historical, recounting the beginning of the relationship between Ian, a vampire and lover of the theater, and Trevor, an actor in a stage adaptation of Frankenstein in London in the early 1800s. Told through one long flashback and bracketed by their present time relationship, Ian and Trevor both have emotions and guilt that they've not completely worked through over the centuries they've been together. These issues come to a head every Christmas, keeping them apart until they can hopefully overcome them.
The blurb pretty much tells the story here, and I wondered after I started reading and realized how central the theme of Christmas is to the story if it were published now so as not to fall into the masses of Christmas stories later this year. Possibly, it definitely stands out more this way, and the theme of Christmas, of the savior and the will of good to all that are so central to these characters stand out thematically instead of as a prerequisite backdrop to the events in the story.
Overall, this is pretty typical vampire fare. There isn't anything new, but it is still solidly well written, like the rest of this author's writing. Much of the relationship is shown through Ian and Trevor's passionate sexual connection, most especially in the historical section of the story. Whatever the reason for this is, be it the short length, or the combination of the newness of their relationship at the time (and therefore highly sexual as they are) and the dichotomous contemporary scenes where their relationship has matured, I would have been a bit happier with more of the growing relationship, especially in relation to the climatic scene where Ian must make the choice to save or not save Trevor from death. The way this middle section is give to us is with little narration bridging the scenes of them together, and with many of those scenes being sexual, it left less room for other relationship growth.
I had no qualms with the historical detail in the story. It is certainly underplayed, but is still sparks subtly against the modern portrayal of London. The back alleys of London which set the scene for two of the critical pieces of the story both contrast and compare in subtle but important ways that neither distract from the story, but also differentiate.
This wasn't a story that really wowed me, but then I can see it isn't meant to. The story works nicely and is written well on the vampire lore we are already familiar with, making this a story that is great for readers who are looking for something simple, and perhaps a little bit of Christmas during the dog days of summer....more
Damn that was hot! I try not to say I want to read more of something (More! More! More!) because this genre has sReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Damn that was hot! I try not to say I want to read more of something (More! More! More!) because this genre has so much volume of work that it's a ADHD playground, but damn I would really have loved to read more of this. I was terribly sad that it was over so quickly. And it made me wonder why the gun play was so hot. I hate guns. But this was one of those stark disconnects between fiction and real life and it totally worked for me.
Avery wakes up in his cell, weak and chained, to the sound of gunfire. As a machinist, a master of weaponry in a world where his knowledge is highly prized, he understands immediately that the pitch, duration, and rapidity means a host of men and their guns steadily coming his way. He's hoping this is his chance of freedom after being kidnapped during his travels and kept in the dungeon of this colony's fortress, but when the ice cold leader of the insurgency comes to his cell, his hopes are diminished. However, Avery is intelligent -- wily with an offset sense of humor -- and will try to do anything to stop being transferred from one prison to another.
The beauty of this story is Avery's snarky sense of humor amidst such a dark and desolate world, where it seems everyone and everything is a predator in the midst of war, natural and man-made alike. Perhaps because of his innate understanding of guns and therefore intelligence that is so highly prized, he flouts authority easily. And whether it is ultimately to get a rise out of his captors (and satiate his lust for guns against his skin) or an earnest desire for freedom, he's a man living in the present of his circumstances. Told completely from Avery's point of view, we understand very little about the world he inhabits or the cause of conflict he's in the middle of, save that he's away from his homeland on a foolish desire for travel in a dangerous place.
This story probably won't be for some, not only because of the gun kink, but because the story does seem a prelude to showcasing the kink itself -- little background about the world and characters, only the briefest hint of body language to pinpoint the difference between the facade of play and the realistic circumstances Avery is in. I can appreciate that, though, and at face value all of those things serve to isolate the reader Avery's limited world that is fairly powerless. And while the gun kink was completely, irresistibly sexy to me in this story, that limitation also piques my interest in what might really be going on, thus setting me up to always want more.
Though I've heard great things about this author in the past, this is the first thing I've read of her work, and from now on I'll be closely watching for new releases!...more
This dark and finely crafted mini mystery had me falling for everything I was set up to, and then marvelReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This dark and finely crafted mini mystery had me falling for everything I was set up to, and then marveling at the turn the story took and the way it artfully came together.
The story opens as Tyler studies the different variety of guns available at a shop in Anchorage, Alaska. He's looking for a gift for his brother, soon to come home from Iraq. He himself is new to the area; six months previously he was shot in the line of work as a NYC police officer. Now he's a weak and atrophied version of himself, grieving his past life and working behind the desk for the local force. Tyler is intrigued by a new looking Browning pistol that is shelved among the cheaper guns and rifles. It stands out as a nice gun and a pistol and when he expresses interest in buying it, the man behind the counter tries to talk him out of it by telling him that every owner of the gun has committed suicide. Tyler doesn't believe it and buys the gun anyway, but when he starts to lose his mind and become strangely attached to it, he finally realizes there might be something true to the unbelievable story.
There are two parts of this story that really stand out because they work so well. The first is that this story is in effect a mystery. This is one of the very few short stories that I think has pulled a mystery off in such short time. It is true that there's little time to parse out the details, but it isn't an overly complicated plot, and the author is very crafty in putting narration to good use.
The second and most obvious from the beginning of the story is the craft in characterization of Tyler. To him, the gun is a symbol of the life he left behind. He's emasculated by his frail body, at times using a cane. He's lost the power that comes with being a police officer. The gun gives him power. It is quickly also shown in relation to his personal life. He's afraid of his body because he's so embarrassed by his scars and atrophied muscles. He would rather his life remain figuratively impotent then succumb to the safe relationship, something he despises and is represented by the character of Eric.
Tyler didn't do nice guys. The kind of guys he did were far from nice -- nice to look at, yes, but not nice in the sense they would send you cupcakes and listen to your problems. The guys Tyler usually liked were sleek and sexy, emotionally dangerous, sharp as knife blades. They were often young, sculpted, and had exquisite tastes.
He met them in clubs and pulled them over for speeding in fast, expensive cars. They liked to dance and drink and fucked like animals. They tore up his designer sheets or messed up hotel rooms, and some of them liked to feel his handcuffs. More than a few were turned on by his uniform and peeled it off him as part of the sex act. Authority was the oldest aphrodisiac; he knew this and liked what it attracted.
The loss of that power and control is devastating to Tyler, who by implication defined his life and his job together. This is immediately shown to be true when the mysterious Flynn starts to show up in his dreams, a place where he can once again be the confident lover he used to be.
Flynn is the amalgamation of that type of man, dangerously seductive. In essence, he is the gun, the symbol of everything Tyler had and wants to have again. "Every gun had a story, dangerous and thrilling like those young men who came through his bedroom door." Flynn's actions show this well:
This time, he crawled up from the bottom o the bed and slinked over Tyler's bare legs, gloriously naked again…
His lips quirked. "You're a police officer, aren't you?" "I was." No, in the dream he could be whatever he wanted to be. "I am." "At last," Flynn replied. "Good."
Slinking out from under the bed is something we all associate with a nightmare, which immediately raises red flags. These deliberate choices really stand out because I was aware that my emotions and the collective cultural memory was being played on. I appreciated that because it was so deliberately done. Yet, I was again surprised later when everything I had thought had a new, yet equally understandable connotation. The ability for the author to do that impressed me, and left me with a real appreciation for her writing.
The ending of this story is fabulous. Again, not what I would have expected, but appreciated once I had time to consider it. This is a story that won't be for every reader. Anyone sensitive to guns or the violence associated with them might not be able to look at the story objectively, which I understand. Also, this is very unconventionally romantic. I don't think you could really consider it a romance, but I still found it romantic, though some might not. It probably will not satisfy those looking for romance as a priority in their stories and the focus here really is the individual journey of Tyler. I think it was beautifully written just like the gun, dangerously seductive....more
I have only read one other story by Jade Astor, Darius, the first book of the Moon Lake Wolves series. I have toReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I have only read one other story by Jade Astor, Darius, the first book of the Moon Lake Wolves series. I have to say that I found that book much better than this one. It was still a light and short novella, but with Snow Bite, Blood Red I was pretty disappointed and felt that it didn't even live up to that standard.
The blurb pretty much tells you everything about the story, and the one detail that is left out, the identity of the "forces of dark magic" is known from the very beginning. I admit that what I wanted was a light and sweet story, but I still found myself rolling my eyes many times at how overly done this was. The main character, Albion, was not just sweet and genuine, but a bit stupid. That sounds harsh but he didn't have much of a spine or much common sense. There are some references to being sheltered most of his life, which might explain some of this. That doesn't, however, make him a very engaging character. The king, Jasper, is a pretty typical brooding vampire, out to please Albion in any way once he realizes that Albion is the man who can break his curse.
I wondered while I was reading, whether some of these overdone characterizations and dialogue was from the fact that this is based on the Snow White fairy tale, but I can't decide. What I do normally notice about fairy tales wasn't present here. The Fairy Tale is generally of a way a story is written, not just the plot itself, and I found the lack of narration as a driving force general fable setup -- a play on the writing style that has been done over and over -- sadly missing here. It didn't feel much like a fairy tale while reading but a normal story, until certain classic fairy tale props would be brought in (i.e. apple, spindle, etc) to remind us. Since I really enjoy fairy tales, that was a bit sad for me.
There were a few other things that bothered me, but there's really no point going into them because I think it is pretty obvious by now that I didn't take to this story and most likely will not be reading further books in the series. I wanted a book to read while I could switch my mind off, but finding little bits here and there that didn't seem to fit or bothered me kept my mind active, so it wasn't a successful read for me, even when I want a bit of fluff. Not Feelin' It....more
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recentlyReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recently, I'm almost nervous when I start reading each successively published novel because I've loved them all so much there's bound to be one that disappoints me. Thankfully, that wasn't the case here and I ended really really thoroughly enjoying this latest offering by a really wonderful author.
Tom Paretski is a plumber with a secret -- he's got a knack for finding things. It's a bit like dowsing, he can hone in on hidden things, things that have deep emotion attached to them like guilt or shame. Sadly, lost and hidden things include people, and we meet him as his friend on the force Dave, calls him in to look for a local missing woman. Tom's in for more shock than seeing another dead body, however, when a ghost from his past shows up at the scene as a private investigator hired by the family of the murdered victim.
The last time Tom saw Phil Morrison was when he and his cronies stepped up their high school bullying a bit too far. Tom still lives with the scars of that physical and emotional trauma and seeing the man ten years later dredges all those feelings back up. It doesn't help that he's just as attracted to the man as he was back then and it certainly pisses him off that the man is apparently as big of a homo as he is, and completely out of the closet. Phil has an attitude as well, one that might rival Tom's perpetual snark and their verbal blows start almost immediately. Phil doesn't believe in his gift, but he needs Tom's help anyway. They both have vested interest in making sure the current suspect gets treated fairly and together, they might be able to get the answers they need to find the real killer.
Merrow has a knack for slyly mixing genres that really works for me. This story is for all intents and purposes a contemporary mystery romance, with the exception of Tom's gift. That is perhaps the reason Tom's gift isn't given center stage. Though we first get to know him through his gift, it's often presented as rather unglamorous and second rate to pounding pavement detective work. We get to know Tom as if the gift is just a quirky peccadillo that comes in handy during his plumbing work. Though it does get used, and is central to the plot, the different focus and misdirection worked well to show Tom as an ordinary guy who is rather in over his head in this whole mess.
I really liked Tom. He's a strong character that has a real moral compass amid the corrupt characters that stock the story. In a way, he's retained his innocence beneath his jaded veneer, which contrasts nicely with Phil, who harbors rather a lot of guilt and shame over his past. I appreciated that they both came across as assholes every once and a while, trying to work through their shared history (or at times ignore it).
The mystery worked well for me, though hardcore mystery fans might find the story lighter than they're used to. Much of the story is focused on detective work, but a lot of the focus is on the relationship between Tom and Phil in the midst of it. I was a little disappointed that we didn't hear what happens to a character that showed up early in the story that I felt rather sorry for, and of course, I could have really done with more of the smexxin from these two because they are sizzling together!
So, once again, I loved this offering from one of my favorite authors and as always look forward to whatever she publishes. This one is definitely recommended....more
Lucius' Bite is the start of a new fantasy/paranormal series with a unique twist on the maReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
3.75 stars (rounded up)
Lucius' Bite is the start of a new fantasy/paranormal series with a unique twist on the mating theme. Lucius is an Arctic Wolf shifter whose den family consists of misfits they've gathered along their way alone in the world, away for different reasons from their real families. There is Lucius, Manny (an emotionally damaged Mountain Lion shifter), and Kristof (a bright and sunny Bear? shifter). Rounding out the bunch is the den mother and Mama to all, Ali, a male white witch who completely rules the roost. They're a happy and unlikely mix of friends who have become family over time.
Lucius is knocked off his feet, literally, when Nicu comes to visit, seemingly out the blue. He starts to feel for the long-dreaded Romanian gypsy who seems to know everything about him. It seriously freaks him out too -- previously, he's never had a real relationship and he's liked it that way. But, as the two get closer some of the secrets start to come to light, about Lucius' past, and about the reason that Nicu has traveled halfway around the world to meet him and already in love with him.
This story really intrigued me in a lot of ways. First off, it pulled me in immediately, with a really funny first scene and a well crafted one. Within a couple pages it is easy to see just how much this little makeshift family loves one another. I liked Lucius and Nicu right off the bat. They're very different. Lucius is often surly and very easily fits into the bad-boy camp, while Nicu's looks and voice (written very well to come off as immediately foreign -- that was nicely done) make him immediately exotically sexy. Even with obvious duplicity in the reason for his visit (in a strange way) he's completely open and earnest and genuinely sweet.
I was impressed in the first half of the book with the delivery of information. It is doled out sparingly and at opportune moments, but just underhanded enough to keep you guessing along with Lucius, even though we, as readers, are privy to just a bit more of it than him, always keeping us one step ahead. I did have a few problems with it later in the book though, and I can't decide if it is personal bias or the fact that this author is saving up some of that information for the next book instead of giving it to us.
The main problem that I had was this: Nicu shows up about a week before the time in which this situation and relationship must be complete, but cannot say anything about it directly to Lucius. But, Lucius is a tough nut to crack, and he hides a lot from the information right in front of him. To me, that wasn't his fault, though I'm sure a case could be made otherwise. So I wondered, why couldn't Nicu have come earlier? It would have given Lucius more time to warm to a relationship at a more realistic pace. Was that explained and I don't remember it? Possible. Was it a decision made to motivate the plot forward? I don't know… Does anyone else care after finishing this besides me? Probably not. So take that with a grain of salt. It just made me a bit uncomfortable with all the pressure put on Lucius in the end. Still, that's not illegal or anything, I mean I cared enough about the characters to feel that way. So it's definitely in one of those grey areas for me, where I really can't decide how I feel about it.
I'm very much looking forward to the next book in this series. It is about one of the family that I really loved in this book and I'm looking forward to getting some of those answers… I hope! I'll just have to wait and see. I still really liked this and I liked that the author used some unconventional themes to diverge a bit from the shifter status quo. There were a few times during my reading that the pace lulled a bit. At times it would move quite fast and then settle for some introversion on the MC's part.
In the end, if this author can continue to bring new plots to this series and they don't end up following in line too similarly to this book, I know I will really enjoy this series. I'm looking forward to finding out!...more
What seemed like a horror romance from the blurb turned out to be a semi-lighthearted romance in this novella. ThReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
What seemed like a horror romance from the blurb turned out to be a semi-lighthearted romance in this novella. The romance is pretty toned down and much of the book is about fighting the mysterious force the characters call The Shift in a never-ending battle for dominance over the human race.
Cash is the baby brother in a family of fighters. Perhaps it is because, as the baby, he can get away with more than his siblings that he’s grown into a bit of a reckless man, but when they’re fighting the The Shift, he’s always the one to dive in head first. So it isn’t a surprise that he’s caught in a bind when Toby saves him, having sunk into the mess of green goo the creature turned into when he was killed by Cash repeatedly hacking into his neck while riding his shoulders, hobbit-style. Cash is immediately smitten, but is told to leave Toby alone by Jack, the patriarch of the family, because they’re thinking of interviewing Toby as a witness. But Cash doesn’t want to wait. After all, it’s hard finding a hookup, not to mention a guy he might actually end up caring about, when you’re constantly waiting for another fight. So when Jack’s “interview” with Toby is done in radio silence and seems to look more like a fight, Cash defies orders and stays behind to get the truth from Toby, only to be forced to save the man in turn. The answers Cash wants open the floodgates to secrets much larger than he could have imagined, and Cash is divided by his newfound feelings for Toby and his loyalty to the good fight.
I enjoy reading horror from time to time, which is why I picked up this novella. But I was still pleasantly surprised to find a more lighthearted story, not horror at all, more a mad scientist and superhero story. The real story here is not in the romance. The actual time that Cash and Toby spend together is pretty small, and even at the end of the actual story (there’s an epilogue, of a sort) they still don’t know one another very well, other than having the knowledge that when they’re together they can burn the sheets off the bed (NOT one of the superpowers :D). I would have liked to have more time to see the two of them together. Since this story is pretty short, it might be that the author is planning to make this a series, but judging from the ending, it could go either way.
No, the real story here is about Cash. He’s a great character and the story is told completely from his POV (we don’t get to know Toby nearly as well as even Cash’s family and team). There are several fight scenes, where we get to see The Shift in all their grody glory. I use grody deliberately, as they’re gross, for sure, but also a little funny, in a b-side The Blob kind of way. Much of the story is Cash’s reaction to meeting Toby and learning that he doesn’t really know if what he’s fighting for is the right thing. The pseudo-philosophical conversations he has with his father Jack are some of the best parts of the story and a coming of age for Cash.
I’d definitely read more if Kate Sherwood spun this into a series. I think there’s a lot more to be told, especially about The Shift, which are largely still a mystery to me. Also, I think the possibility of regrouping and expanding the team would make for a really interesting story, as well as the implications of that to the world at large. This is a Pretty Good story — it wasn’t spectacular, but I think it has the possibility to become a good series if Ms. Sherwood were so inclined....more
I think I might become addicted to this! This pilot episode of JCP's new series of shorts about the Bermuda Triangle sparks with the same sort of wondI think I might become addicted to this! This pilot episode of JCP's new series of shorts about the Bermuda Triangle sparks with the same sort of wonder I felt when I watched the pilot episode of Lost...
Which can only mean that I'll probably become severely addicted!
It is a bit difficult to rate or review such a short first installment of a series. Most of this is setup to the characters and world, and we only get the first little bit of what is going on with a very ala Stephen King (can you guess which one?) cliffhanger.
So instead of me trying to give you anything from this one and rehashing it without spoilers, I'll just say go read it! It's only 30 pages....more
Nice to get a bit of a look into Carl, though it really is just a teaser. I read it after Camwolf, and I have to say I'm glad I did. If I had read itNice to get a bit of a look into Carl, though it really is just a teaser. I read it after Camwolf, and I have to say I'm glad I did. If I had read it before I'm not sure I would have gotten much from it, but afterward it gave a bit of perspective on Nick and what it means that he broke the cycle of changing his lover (Matthew, from his past in Camwolf)....more
Enjoyable shifter romance with a bit of mystery and danger. Pretty par for the course, but generally well written. I liked the characters, en3.5 stars
Enjoyable shifter romance with a bit of mystery and danger. Pretty par for the course, but generally well written. I liked the characters, enjoyed the few diverging details from popular shifter lore and biology, and had a good time reading. Not outstanding, but a good read....more