Such a wonderful story for my prompt earlier this year, I've been looking forward to it! I just read it, so I'll have my review up on 8/17 at The Armc...moreSuch a wonderful story for my prompt earlier this year, I've been looking forward to it! I just read it, so I'll have my review up on 8/17 at The Armchair Reader.(less)
I believe this is the first book by Madeleine Ribbon that I've read. I was excited about this book because it has...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I believe this is the first book by Madeleine Ribbon that I've read. I was excited about this book because it has a great premise -- a man cursed by his brother at a young age who repulses everyone and everything around him until a man who excels at breaking curses and has his own natural resistance to others' magic is the first man who can get close enough to him to try to remove it. And indeed, that is what immediately drew me into the story when I picked it up. We first see David as a young boy. He's completely jealous of his older brother Todd (by one year). Todd has more magic than David; David can only do Blessings, not Curses and Charms like Todd and just about everyone else in the magical world. And Todd has friends. When Todd goes away to a magical camp one summer where David cannot follow, David finds that despite what his brother told him, Todd's friends are happy to play with him. But when Todd comes home to see David with his friends he get's jealous, and in a typical move towards his younger brother, he curses him. Only this time David tries to protect himself with a blessing and the combination of the magic creates what will become known among the magical world as the impossible curse, and David as The Impossible Kid.
David feels the curse himself. He's uncomfortable, full of fear and feels the creepy crawly feeling across his whole body. But that doesn't compare to how other people feel in his proximity. The closer they get the more they want to run away, the more they're afraid of him. And because of that impossibility of touch and interaction with all except for his brother Todd who is immune (as the curse caster, and subsequently has devote his life to his care because of his guilt), David has lived a life devoid of physical affection, even from his own parents. Those who take the time to brave their discomfort and get to know David fall in love with him. He's shy and awkward around people because of his curse and his lack of experience relating to others.
David still has his magic and though he feels it's rather lackluster in relation to so many other people's gifts, he admits that he has a real talent for Blessings. It is when he's fulfilling his promise to be in attendance of his brother Todd's wedding (and to bless the cake for the couple) that he meets Vaughn. He's confident, sexy, intelligent and talented and David has no idea what Vaughn sees in him -- other than the challenge of breaking his curse. Nevertheless, Vaughn can't seem to stay away from David. While it started out as a professional interest, Vaughn finds that the man himself is more intriguing than the horrible curse he bears. Getting David, a man who has never received any kind of positive attention from another handsome gay man, to realize that David is worth more than his curse looks to be almost as challenging as finding a counter to the curse itself. But the more time that Vaughn spends getting to know David -- wooing him in baby steps the whole way -- the more important it is to him to find a way to keep David for good.
I liked this novella but I think that it mostly only kept my interest because of it's length. It's short enough that when my initial interest, which covered the first few chapters and maybe the first 25% of the book, started to wane there wasn't a whole lot left to read. I won't say that it turned me off in any way, but I did feel like the book stalled a bit and it never really regained the magic even until the end. The premise of the book is really interesting, but once the initial meeting between David and Vaughn at the wedding finished they went into a long and slow courtship, because of David's fear of forging a connection with someone who he believed would ultimately be turned away by the curse. It made sense for the characters, but it slowed down the pace somewhat. That bulk of the story was really only driven by the internal conflict. And I hate to say it, but for me that really slow courtship which was much more like friendship killed the passion. I'm not sure why I reacted this way because I usually am a big fan of the slow burn. I think that's why I slowly lost some interest in their relationship -- I didn't feel the "burn" in the slow burn.
There is a side plot throughout the story. Over the months of their courtship is a small mystery keeping the two on their toes. Someone, what seems to be a scrawny kid, is trying to break in and steal a blessed plant from magical shops around town and is quite good at escaping capture. The plant in question is only used for suppressing magic, which leads David to believe that someone might be cursed similarly to him and hoping to stop it's effects. Vaughn, who works for the Magical Enforcement department of Arcana, the magical government, is involved with the case. This side plot could have remedied the problems that I had, diverting the focus to something else to drive the plot forward. But, ultimately while the conclusion was interesting in it's own way I didn't feel like it carried the story through those parts.
On the whole I just didn't find many surprises with this story. It is good for what it is despite the few problems that I had with it -- the premise is wonderful and I liked the characters quite a lot. David is cute in his geeky, online gaming and need-to-be-rescued kind of way, while Vaughn is charming and dashing, popular and sexy and loyal and caring. But after the initial introduction to the story and between the characters, I pretty much had the story already figured out.
This would be a good book for those of you looking for something not too involved, that won't take up a whole lot of your day and is a relaxing and light book to read. It's heartwarming in a knight-in-shining-armor kind of way. But if you're looking for something more intense or more exploration of the magical world and a deeper study of the characters, this might not be for you. Though I enjoyed the experience, I fell into the latter camp.(less)
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yester...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn't put it down -- I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF'ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn't get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn't. So I couldn't believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I'll definitely stick around and keep reading!
When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he's unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He's pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.
When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn't recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan's slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They're those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren't Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.
Etan's new life seems wonderful and exciting. He's protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.
There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan's life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he's young, still living at home with his father and before he's had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he's also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He's buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can't see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he's also very internal and cautious. I didn't see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.
The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can't tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.
You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan's journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he's a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there's nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.
I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don't think that's really possible. But I know now that I'll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn't too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.(less)
It's been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to re...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
It's been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to read them! She has a particular quirky brain that makes her books unique in a way that always pulls me in. This wasn't my favorite of her books, but it might be hard to top the Masks books anyway. Still, by the end of this book, I liked it and I really liked Noah.
Noah is fifteen and out of school. After a bad situation at his last public school, where some kids bullied him and he fought back, getting suspended, his super awesome single mom Dot went ape-shit on the administration for their blatant disregard of the bullying in their school and pulled Noah out. Since then, he's been staying at home while his mother works two jobs and looks for a new, more inclusive school. Noah and his mom are pretty close, they're their only family and they stick together. Well, Noah does have grandparents (Dot's parents), but they really aren't considered family -- more like righteous stalkers. The calendar by the phone with bloody X's mark the days that they call to harass them about their wicked ways (which include that Noah is gay and that Dot had him out of wedlock). It isn't until his grandmother threatens to set The Soul Warriors on them that they get a little more worried.
When Noah and his mother decide to take a weekend road trip to a B&B to get away from all the phone calls, they find themselves transported to a strange alternate world that seems to be a ridiculous mockery of Hell -- a town called Helleville filled with residents with similar experiences as them, full of banned books like Harry Potter and science textbooks that teach evolution, and weird and strange creatures like ghosts, vampires, zombies and ghouls. The strange thing is that though no one there can really figure out where they are and why they're there (other than the fact that The Soul Warriors are behind everything), it isn't the classic representation of hell that you'd expect. They're well cared for with all the food they want for no money, the kids don't have to take school (although they can sit in a class with Satan as a teacher if they want), and they're surrounded by pristine nature with no need for jobs. The people there have formed a community of sorts with a mayor and everything, but they all have time to relax and enjoy the things that they didn't have time for in life. Dot decides to take up crocheting.
They are, however, haunted by one serious problem. Every so often someone disappears. Soon after Noah and his mother arrive in Helleville, the fourth resident goes missing and no one can ever find them, no matter how many times they organize search parties and a night watch to try to catch anything abnormal. It isn't until Noah makes a friend named John who loves to take pictures that they start to piece together the strange occurrences and what could be behind it all. But before Noah can get too attached to his new hobby of playing Sherlock Holmes he meets Alex, a boy his own age who seems to like him. Alex invites him to hang out with a few of the other teenagers in Helleville and finds that he's not the only one with a crush on the nerdy teen. Matt, a cool seventeen, muscular and gorgeous, highly intelligent and the most popular kid involved in the community has a thing for Alex and he doesn't intend for Noah, who he looks at like a bug under his shoe, to get in his way.
Before all of you m/m romance readers out there get excited, the romance in this story is kept on the back burner. Instead, this story is really Noah's coming of age tale and his road to self-discovery. Helleville and the alternate reality they've been sent to acts as a catalyst to force Noah to grow. Before he was sent there, a lot of his own exploration of himself as a teenager had been stunted because of the bullying he experienced at school. He calls himself an introvert, but he's really afraid to get back out into the world and try again, making friends and even meeting a guy he likes and taking a change. He has a lot of latent social anxiety and Helleville acts as a skewed kind of microcosm of the real world to get him to open up again. In Helleville, Noah can be someone new. He can meet and go on dates with a boy like Alex, he learns that he can have friends. And most importantly he learns that people can rely on him, that he has worth. Alex acts as part of that self-discovery, of course, and their relationship also is a somewhat significant part of the story, but it never progresses very far on page.
The pace and plot mimic Noah's journey in a way. The POV is strictly Noah's, so the first half of the book is quite sedate. I even read one reader's review on Goodreads before I started reading that said that this book was boring. I wouldn't say that, I quite enjoyed it. But there were a few times in the first half of the book that I set it down, read some other things and then picked it up later. I think that as long as you don't go into this book expecting it to focus on Noah's romantic life and that the story will be more about action than reflection, you'll enjoy it. Also, if you haven't read much of Hayden Thorne's work by now you might not realize that most of her work is cerebral. This book is a reflection of Noah's life, in almost an allegorical way. If you'd rather just read for fun and not want to focus on the meaning of it all, then you might find this story a bit slow … in the first half anyway, the second half was much more exciting.
So I definitely recommend this one. I really like Hayden's work and I'll always pick up her books when a new one is out. She always has a really great point of view coming from gay teenagers that it's so easy to connect with. That, and sometimes this book just makes you go -- What the FUCK?(less)
Oh Carole… I just had so much fun reading that. You know, Carole has said several times that she thanks...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Oh Carole… I just had so much fun reading that. You know, Carole has said several times that she thanks Fen for this book. Fen, for those of you who might not know, is her main character from the Wolf's-own series and his head is just a mess of angst. It's all for good reason because Fen lives in a really messed up world, but back to Carole. She has said that she needed to go somewhere happy, somewhere carefree after spending so much time (4 novels!) in his head. And I'm glad she did. This book is definitely the antithesis of those, of course with the exception of writing talent. I'm glad that I knew that about this book going in, because otherwise I might have been expecting a more serious style than her previous two series.
The book opens with one of the most hilarious chapters I've ever read. It is so easy to become endeared with Lucas, especially in the inner drunk ramblings of his mind at his first visit to a tavern. Trouble doesn't really come until he's had one too many and decides that it wouldn't be too unseemly to have a pee outside, where he promptly becomes entangled with a bush. In a cruel twist of fate, someone seems him -- pants partially open and wrestling with the arms of his coat -- a man with long silver hair and speaking a lot of nonsense. It doesn't seem too strange in his ale fuzzy brain when the man simply disappears after a whole lot of yelling words that neither understands back and forth but well, he's still stuck in the bush.
When the man starts turning up in strange places to again shout incomprehensible words at him, Lucas starts to become alarmed. Especially when the man starts stealing his books. But it isn't until his sister's suitor disappears and Lucas is begged to find him that he runs into the man again, this time speaking some words Lucas understands. What he hears alarms him, especially because it appears that the man wants something from him and in the meantime intends to kidnap his cousin the prince as a trade. Lucas is so dead for losing the prince, but he knows that he has to do something to get Laurie back.
Really, the best part of this book are the characters. There is such a wonderful cast of characters that all have their own well-rounded personalities, characteristics and motives. But they have such a great banter. In reading the prior work from Carole Cummings, I always admired her writing which is at the same time intelligent and accessible, but I also never knew that she could write in such a playful way! It is really a delight to read. And just the same as it was for her, I think this is a really good book to read when you need a break from something, or from reading a more intense book. When I first talked to her about this book she referred to it as fluff, to which I immediately replied that I thought she could probably never write fluff. But I know exactly what she means now. This is a book you should read just for the pure enjoyment of getting out of your own head and into someone else's for a while. And Lucas' head isn't a bad place to be ;)
There is quite a lot of banter between the characters, but mostly in the narration. Carole has written Lucas to have an imaginative mind that often banters with itself. That's why I think this is a good book to read when you really need a break, because while the plot in this story is interesting in and of itself, sometimes the focus wavers from it to Lucas' own thoughts, and those often take precedence over the action. Now, if you followed my advice then this is just a nice detour, but if you're really focused on the plot and pacing then you might find yourself swept away on the tide of his thoughts. Sometimes the banter -- Lucas' runaway thoughts -- seem to get in the way of the action a bit. And while I always enjoyed what he was thinking (and occasionally talking about with Alex) sometimes the timing is inopportune. Occasionally I wanted to smack him and tell him to pay attention!
Still, that is minor criticism on my part and I really, sincerely hope that Carole continues to explore this quirky side of her writing. Hopefully in the future we can get those style alternately -- a book like Fen's that rips out your heart and completely sweeps you away and then something later to cool you down and look on the sunny side of life.
**I didn't categorize this as a romance. This is really a fantasy book to me. Sure, Lucas is madly in love with Alex and vice versa, but the story isn't about their relationship. Their relationship is part of the story.(less)
Skylar Jaye is a new author for me, and probably will be for most of you as well. From what I can see, this autho...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Skylar Jaye is a new author for me, and probably will be for most of you as well. From what I can see, this author only has a couple of short stories in anthologies and The Flame is their first solo publication. In a way, that shows in this book, but I also saw a lot that I liked and overall, I enjoyed reading the book.
Jeremy Ashe is a sophomore at Samuin College, the mage college where almost all magi train. He's a private guy with just a couple of solid friends. He also has a secret… one that involves his family and all the trouble they have brought upon him, simply for being related to them. It's a drag, and so something he has kept secret from everyone. Jeremy is at the college studying runes, though he has an innate wind elemental ability, something that he clashes on in fundamental theory with his family and the general mindset of the magical community. He sees it as another way to work his magic, through the runes he casts rather than using his wind ability directly. And it does show in his versatility. It helps, of course, that he's a pretty serious student, but his arcane course of study is one of the least popular, and in a world where power is measured above all else (including even family lineage), he's seen as an unwanted castoff of a larger system of more important magi.
"The Flame", or better known as Marcus Smith, is a fire elemental and a prodigy at the school. A senior and a TA, he's the most popular guy in school and it isn't really unwarranted. His looks and personality help, of course. But, owing to the nickname, his talent shines above all. He's one of the most powerful fire mages alive in the world, giving him unparalleled choices about his direction in life, though everyone knows that he's going straight to the top. It's enough for the magical community to overlook his non-magical parentage, a rare and sudden ability, especially for one so powerful.
Jeremy and Marcus become acquainted through Jeremy's roommate Aiden and from there begin a slow courtship. Jeremy prefers to stay out of the limelight -- making his feelings for Marcus incredibly ill-fated -- and his history with his family has taught him that he's the unwanted shadow not good enough for someone who burns as bright a talent as Marcus. Their relationship seems doomed to fail, simply because Jeremy believes it so, when the two become caught up in an arsonist mystery around the college.
To be completely frank, this story is a good one, but it could have easily been twice as long with the amount of plot involved here and all the various tangents that were brought in. In the shorter novella format this book is in now, there's simply too much extraneous information that really took away some of my enjoyment in the story. There were several details about the magic that were a bit confusing and stated outright without much explanation as if I'd understand them naturally. And there's a couple of plot threads that fizzle out and don't seem to go anywhere. While reading, I wanted this story to either pare down the detail and give a more streamlined plot to give the story focus and more drive, or either take all that detail and fill in the gaps, making a much longer novel. In that case, I would have enjoyed having that extra detail to flesh out the world, but there wouldn't be a rush to get it all in and the details could settle as the story progressed in a slower pace. A lot of this is really just novice writing issues that will flesh out the more Skylar Jaye writes and publishes, and I don't really hold it against them. Assuming that they are still a novice writer anyway, and that Skylar Jaye isn't a new pseudonym for another author, which you never really know, I suppose. Still, this seems like an author who has good stories to tell, such as this one, but which get a bit bungled up in the execution. I'm looking forward to future stories where Skylar Jaye has a bit more practice in getting the story down. Because more than execution problems that I had with this book, the core story was still interesting and engaging for me. And I had fun reading it. That makes this a solid So So read for me.(less)
I've missed out so far on reading any of SJ Frost's non-contemporary books, though I did read the first book of h...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've missed out so far on reading any of SJ Frost's non-contemporary books, though I did read the first book of her Instincts series. But most of what I've read and really liked by this author has been her Conquest rocker series. This is a bit of a deviation from what I'm used to reading from her, but I still found her touch and sense of humor in it, and I found it to be a book that I really liked and, even more, am looking forward to the further books in the series. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and this was a sweet, light-hearted take on the genre, not a dark fantasy by any means, but more along the mood of a fairy tale.
We meet Garrett as he's hiking through a forest bordering the near-by and protected national forest. He works for EarthQuest, an organization that exposes environmental abuses and government action. This forest is being heavily lobbied to be cut, but Garrett is EarthQuest's secret weapon, in a way. He travels to places in danger and, as a biologist, looks for species or plant or animal that could become a mascot for protection. What Garrett finds blows his mind. Capturing the tiny dragon-like birds, Garrett is amazed when he sees a spirit bear, a bear with a recessive gene coloring it white and a heavily revered animal by the First Peoples. He knows he can save the forest now, but in trying to get evidence of the bear, Garrett falls into a ravine.
Bryson is called to the scene of a unconscious man by Koda, the spirit bear. Bryson is a witch, the Gatekeeper between Earth and a parallel, symbiotic world called Terra, and spends his time in both places. He can speak to animals, as well as manipulate the natural forces. And the only way he can save the beautiful and injured man is to take him to his home in Terra. It's against the rules, but Koda tells him that he trusts the man and his confidence as well as the fact that the Floras showed themselves to him leads him to trust the man.
After reawakening in a strange place, the two men get to know each other and at the same time Bryson introduces Garrett to Terra and to his friends, a ragtag group (that will surely become the future main characters of Terra books): Korran, a dragon speaker and protector, Zain, a theif and assassin and all around smartass, and Larkin, a young minstrel who can speak to the dead. Soon, there are not only forces endangering the gate from the Earth side, but also a nearby Duke who is interested in stealing the power of immortality that comes with being it's keeper, enough to summon another witch to help in his ends.
This happened again yesterday, when I reviewed the first book of a new fantasy series (that was Dragon Slayer by Isabella Carter) -- I end up writing a huge summary for the book. I suppose that's to be expected if I was actually going to touch on all the points. First of all, I like having a decent summary. I'm not really spoiled by them because I never remember summaries/blurbs when I start the book and I actually put off reading this for a while because I just wasn't really sure what it was about. Granted, I probably don't remember those blurbs because I don't really read them that closely. That's all my fault! But still, I wanted to give an accurate idea about the book if you're thinking about buying it. Second, as the first book in a new fantasy series there really is a LOT of setup to be done. In this case, not only do we have to learn about Garrett and what he's doing on the Earth side, but then we also have to learn about Bryson and the gate and his home, but also about Terra and a whole different way of life there, including the symmetry between the worlds and how they're connected and why. That's a lot to introduce, so I don't completely blame SJ Frost for the fact that the first half of the book was full of exposition. At least it wasn't dumped on us entirely in the beginning, but drawn out as Bryson and Garrett get to know each other.
No, while I really enjoyed the book and I think that SJ Frost set up a really enjoyable world (though not wholly original still interesting and engaging for those who like lighter fantasy), I still felt like this story was trying to juggle conflicts, between both the Earth and Terra side, which made what ends up to be the major conflict seem slightly underdeveloped. So much time was taken to introduce the world and the relationship that when the conflict started to ramp up I felt like I wished it had been a little more integrated into the story. That isn't to say that it was totally sudden, and it's a relatively minor complaint for a story that I really enjoyed.
This story really reminded me of a lot of Less Than Three Press releases, so those of you who are fans of their fantasies will have to check this one out. I'm very interested in the future books, although it is my own preference that I like to not know who the relationships are going to be before their books start. But then, that's probably bad business ;) I like SJ Frost's writing, and I was actually surprised to find this a lot lighter than I'm used to by her. But then, this is fantasy and those were contemporaries. But she's known for her angst in the Conquest series, and this book was surprisingly light and fluffy, in the best sense of the word.(less)
I really have grown to love Isabella Carter's books. So I was really excited for this one, which not only promise...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I really have grown to love Isabella Carter's books. So I was really excited for this one, which not only promises to be an in-depth story because it's the first of a series, but also that I know she likes to really dig into her fantasy worlds. In many ways you can see that this book is a setup, but if you didn't know it was the first book of a series, I think you'd find that it felt like a whole book. It isn't just setup, but it does a really good job of giving us the story and leaving the ending open. So yes, it's important to know that this is the first of a series so that even though you get some resolution, you won't be surprised that there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending.
Ingram has become the weakling that his father has always accused him of being. Though he's learned that nothing he does can make his father -- the king of Abelen -- proud, he's found his own strengths. They aren't in what a prince is expected to be, strong at swordplay, but he has a fine mind and has shown himself to be an expert strategist with the King's miliary.
Abelen is still growing and recovering from a rebellion little more than twenty years previously. The country and King has become more insular, with the Lords abandoning their keeps to spend most of their time in the capital of Solberg. The royals have grown further apart from their people. But, an old feud lingers from Winterveil, the northernmost region of Abelen. Lord Mallory is a young man, but has inherited the feud. He makes a wager with King Roderick, that if he kills the red dragon who has gone into madness and is killing indiscriminately, that he will wed one of the King's children. When he brings the head of the dragon to court and Roderick casually gives him Ingram, Ingram is hurt and scared to be thrown away to such a dangerous man.
But more is work in such an alliance, on both sides. The King gives Ingram a mission, one that finds him at an impasse when he learns just how wonderful Mallory is, and how much living in a place like Winterveil is more like home than his own family.
There is so much that I could say about this book, but it really should be experienced while reading it and… honestly there is so much going on in the book, so many characters with each one having their own machinations in place that it was a little hard for me to keep up. This is a book that does well as the first of a series -- it holds up. Still, for those of you who like to get a lot of the action and information at once and don't want to wait for the sequel, you might want to do that this time. Because while I really loved this book and I was totally sucked into it, I also feel like there is a lot of subtlety that will benefit from a second or even third read and will also make more sense after I can read the next book in the series. Hopefully, that will be soon!
I know a lot of you who are fans of Less Than Three Press like I am, and this is really their kind of book, the quintessential LT3 fantasy, though maybe a little less sweet than many of them. Ingram goes through quite a bit of angst about his relationship with his father. It's tough to watch, not only because I grew to care about him, but also because it makes for difficult reading at times. I want him to realize what is happening to him. But we're privy to information that he isn't, and he also has to deal with a lifetime of manipulation by the people around him, the people he cares most about. So, while his choices and thoughts are frustrating, they're also true to his character.
There's one more point I'd like to touch on. The relationship between Ingram and Mallory in this book is very light. I imagine that the relationship arc is going to take place over the whole series, so don't expect much romance in this first book. Mallory does court Ingram, in his own way, but it's a very slow getting-to-know-you kind of thing. It's actually very sweet, and it's a very slow-burn romance.
So, I definitely recommend this one. Unless you want to wait, I say go ahead and get this now and read it. I'm so glad I didn't wait and decided to read it right away, because it was a really fun read for me.(less)
In this Paranormal Days story, we get to know Jayden's brother, Jordan. In Beach Remedy we really don't...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
In this Paranormal Days story, we get to know Jayden's brother, Jordan. In Beach Remedy we really don't get to see much of Jordan, only enough to see that he's a more reserved and responsible version of Jayden with long, beautiful dreadlocks. And, while they're both hedge witches, Jordan is the only one that really practices. He's a stereotype in most ways (think beach bum), even down to the herbal blends he loves to smoke. One of the biggest differences are their sexuality -- while both brothers are gay and Jayden tends to be a somewhat promiscuous wildcat, Jordan prefers a more sedate and mature man, and hasn't been out on a date in forever.
Being a hedge witch is Jordan's dream. He makes defensive amulets and protection charms agains vampires and werewolves. He makes his own small spells that he sells to his neighbors, including his herbal cigarettes (though some of them are private and definitely not-legal). It's what he loves to do, even if most people see him and immediately take him for a lazy bum and he'll never make enough money. Both he and Jayden have taken care of each other from a young age, but Jordan is fed up of always living hand to mouth when they deserve so much more.
The remedy seems to be against a lot of what he stands for, but it might not be that bad either. A large magic firm is looking to take on hedge witches to travel around the country and work. It pays a lot of money and Jordan knows that he's good enough to get one of the coveted spots. But working up the corporate ladder means saying goodbye to his dreadlocks, his pride, and most unfortunately, his time. The only thing that saves him from a complete breakdown of spirit is the distinguished older man he meets while on the road...
In structure and plot, this story differs a bit from Beach Remedy. Where that story is all about falling in love and having fun on the beach, Herbal Remedy is really about trying to make it through the pitfalls of a relationship with an older man while trying to work a particularly demanding job. Jordan is a genuinely good soul. In many ways he's uncomplicated and fiercely loyal, and that can come across as naivety. In a way it is. Falling in love for Jordan is freeing and beautiful with no reservations, which makes dealing with the experience of a man so much older than him a difficulty that he didn't expect to face and doesn't know how to reconcile. I liked Jordan quite a bit. I'm not sure how much I liked Shayne, and I can't decide if it's his actions or the fact that I felt like I didn't really get to know him or much about him or see them a lot together. Or both. Probably a little of both.
However, for a short story, I think that we get a pretty good picture of the world and a lot of story for only 13,000 words. As I said in my review today of Beach Remedy, these stories should definitely be read as a pair. I only say that because I enjoyed both of them. They definitely don't need to be read together, and you could pick either one to read as a standalone story and be satisfied. Recommended.(less)
Though there's no need to read these stories in any certain order (the other being Megan Derr's Herbal R...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Though there's no need to read these stories in any certain order (the other being Megan Derr's Herbal Remedy), they are connected. The common denominator are two of the main characters. In this story, it is Jayden, who is the brother of the narrator of Megan Derr's story. I happened to read Megan's story first, so I found that I knew quite a bit about Jayden before I got to read his story. In Megan's story we see quite a bit of Jayden and his importance in Jordan's life, so I had a pretty good handle on his character. Though… it's interesting, and this one aspect played out well in the order I read the stories. From Jordan, I got one characterization of Jayden and though it was admittedly multifaceted because he's an important character to him, actually getting to know Jayden firsthand from this story completed his character in the same way you'd get to know someone through their sibling only to see later that you only understood them through the lens of sibling affection and at the same time, frustration :)
Lee probably felt similarly towards Jordan, when he meets him in this story just because he's heard about him through Jayden. The two meet at a sunny beach hotel. Lee had planned his vacation to the beach for some well-earned rest. It might seem strange for a vampire to vacation at the beach, but all Lee wants is some relaxation and a new guy to share his hotel room with each night. So his fixation on one man alone surprises him.
Jayden works at the hotel desk and checks in Lee when he arrives. The two share a flirtation that baffles Lee a bit. Jayden seems to be reacting strangely to his vampire-seduction mojo, but if Jayden is immune then maybe he's really interested in him. He still has a job to do though. He wouldn't have met Jayden at all if his cousin wasn't laid up with a broken ankle. Astor is researching the local lighthouse (which is rumored to be haunted) for his next book on hauntings. If he hadn't agreed to do the research for him since he was laid up, then Lee wouldn't be staying in such a swanky beach-front hotel, and therefore wouldn't have had the chance to meet the lovely Jayden.
The best part about this story is that Sasha Miller has thrown away all the unofficial vampire rules and created an interesting, rather mundane vampire. For someone like myself who prefers the Wild Bill sort of vamp (though Wild Bill could never be called mundane!), I really enjoyed getting to know Lee. He's got a bit of a shaky moral compass, though he's a genuinely good guy. And I liked the couple that Jayden and Lee make.
Second, this is really a nice beach read. Not that it's about a beach (duh), but because it's really about a vacation fling, and those are always fun to read about. The warm weather and long evenings, the lack of stress, and… the beach. It's about appreciating the day and not worrying about tomorrow. That made this story fun to read. Jayden and Lee enjoy each other, have lots of sex and because they aren't worried about the future, they allow themselves to be playful. One of my favorite scenes is when they go to do Astor's research at the lighthouse and make fun of all the ghost stuff. It's light and sweet.
The story does evolve, towards the end, as they start having real feelings and thinking about what happens next. I appreciated having a solid Happy for Now ending with a real plan going forward for their relationship rather than an unreal HEA.
This is definitely best read as part of a pair, but mostly because the stories are both good and go well together than needing to be read together. You could enjoy either of them separately if you wished.(less)
This third part of the Immortal Symphony serial is definitely the part of the story that I was waiting f...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This third part of the Immortal Symphony serial is definitely the part of the story that I was waiting for. The dynamic between Gabriel, Michael and Dorian changes quite drastically after the second story, where Gabriel partook in the casual drug use and orgiastic (very public) pleasures in celebration of Dorian's birthday. But what is a common evening of debauchery for Dorian is quite honestly uncomfortably hedonistic to Gabriel. Always the good boy in comparison to his twin brother Michael's more outlandish actions, this story shows more than ever before how the addition of Dorian to the brothers' lives has had an affect on them. Gabriel, who has always had trouble letting loose and giving up control to participate in the kinds of things like Dorian's sex party, finds that he quite likes forcing himself to explore new opportunities and experience life in a more hedonistic way. Michael's whole existence, however, is a testament to the partying lifestyle of excess drugs and sex, one which ultimately cost him his life. Seeing his brothers actions hits Michael the hardest. This drives a firm wedge between Michael and Dorian, and when Gabriel doesn't seem as upset at Dorian and Michael feels he should, Michael decides to take over his brothers body and show Dorian his displeasure. The resulting confrontation between the two pushes open the door to Dorian's secrets, until they start spilling out into the light.
While I liked this story even more than the first two -- specifically because we're starting to get some real answers -- I'm still very of two minds about this series and the characters. First, I really adore the writing of Dorian's character, but I don't actually like Dorian at all. I say that I really adore the writing of him because I've suspected all along that my emotions are purposefully being manipulated as far as how I feel about him. He's really not likable at all except in that pre-karma way, the "he's going to get what's coming to him" way, whether that be literal or the satisfaction of watching him start to have real feelings for someone. That's why I can't say I categorically hate Dorian, though he does make me uncomfortable. He's a much more complicated character than that. In fact, he's the character that really parallels the overall unfolding plot, because the reveal of his secrets drives the plot forward (which we see in this story as flashbacks). These two authors are really using this unusual medium to explore non-traditional romance characters. Dorian is such a big character that his presence often takes over parts of the story, and ultimately, I feel like he'll be the deciding factor as to where the story will go as it navigates the boundary between erotica and romance.
The second part of how I feel about this serial is that as far as the overall plot and the emotional growth of the characters, this serial is still in it's infancy, so those things like how I don't' like Dorian very much have very little impact about how I feel about the story overall. I suppose, I should just say that while I'm reviewing and having to give each little story in this serial a rating, I'm really reserving judgement for myself.
Readers who buy the Season Pass (all six Overture season episodes in one) will get an overall discount but also some freebies. The first of those freebies came out with this story in the form of a short story. "The Melody" goes far back in time to an innocent and young Dorian. We get to meet Basil, an artist that young Dorian loves with all the infatuation of a boy and who is also a character importantly referenced to in the first story. While the scene between the two isn't completely instrumental to the main story (you don't have to read it), I did really enjoy being able to get to see him and see who he really was to Dorian at that age. Plus, seeing Dorian as positive, hopeful and undamaged gives me a lot of hope that we'll soon get to see a real change in Dorian in the main story as well.
The fourth story in the Immortal Symphony serial is out now!(less)
Owing to staying sick for about a month between March and April, it's taken me quite a while to get back into the...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Owing to staying sick for about a month between March and April, it's taken me quite a while to get back into the swing of reviews and get caught up on some of them, especially the two serials from Storm Moon Press, which before getting sick I was thoroughly enjoying. I suppose it isn't so bad being able to read more than one of them in a row, especially with the Cari Z's Cambion serial.
We ended the second story in the Cambion serial ("Black Magic Woman") with the pair gearing up to flee Las Vegas. The City of Sin turned out to have more of a bite than these two were expecting and gave both of them a reminder that though they have some pretty powerful weapons on their sides, they aren't infallible. In the process of seeking a witch to divine the location of their quarry, Porter Grey, Devon lost his sense of touch for three days. What seemed like one of the better sense to gamble (rather than say, his sight) turns out to be almost impossible to deal with and Devon is relegated to letting Rio take care of him.
The pair flee Vegas to find Porter Grey, who according to the information of the witch Lynlis is in Seattle. But Devon is not up for any kind of mission, so they instead decide to stop in Oregon to visit Devon's dads. Ren and Emile are an enigma with many of their own secrets to keep. They're foster parents to cambions, teaching them to control their powers. But going home only highlights the growing feelings between Rio and Devon and puts Rio and his secrets in even more of a precarious position.
I think that what I liked so much about this third installment into the Cambion world is that it takes what we saw in the second and continues to develop it. Of course, some pretty big secrets come out, including the one Rio's been trying to hide, but while it was nice to find out what he really is, I liked seeing the developing intimacy between him and Devon even more. Devon's vulnerability stemming from losing his sense of touch brings that connection to the forefront; for the first time, Devon has to overlook his pride and accept help and seeing Devon in such a state shows Rio just how much he cares for the cambion.
Cari mentioned after my review of the second story that soon after this third one we'd get back to more of the action. It makes sense if you're considering it by the story. Now that they've gone home and their relationship is on much firmer ground than the casual sexual and professional relationship they had in the first story, it makes sense that the last half of this season will return the focus to their hunt of the demon summoner, Porter Grey.
I'm looking forward to story #4 (not long of a wait!) and in particular hopefully finding out more about Ren and Emile or seeing if they play any further part in the story. I also can't wait to see when Devon finds out what Ren is and by proxy what his dads are :)
If you haven't started this serial then this is a good time to get in on the action, with half of it now over (at least, these first 6 installments). If you buy the season as a bundle you get some free goodies along with it, the first of which was just sent out -- free story "The South Beach Job", which takes us back several years to Rio and Devon's earlier professional relationship when their sexual one is just starting. It's a good story that shows them before they change by their association with the other. Plus, it's always fun watching Devon in slut mode ;)(less)
I was super excited to read this spinoff of Spirit Sanguine, which I really loved, because I really felt like I l...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I was super excited to read this spinoff of Spirit Sanguine, which I really loved, because I really felt like I liked Denton a lot in that book. He's really funny and he's a natural to have his own book, with the fact that he can see ghosts and all, or at least, the remnants of death. And I really did enjoy it. I think that I ended up feeling quite different about it than Spirit Sanguine, no matter how much I enjoyed it and not relating to the fact that it is essentially different than that book. I'll get to why in a bit, but most if it has to deal with the way that the story is told.
We first met Denton Mills in Spirit Sanguine, a book that was all about a different type of vampires. In a way, I feel like the viewpoint of vampires from that book (as Lou Harper has called "the Byronic portrayal of vampires—you know, dark and brooding, woe is me…") is somewhat related to how Denton feels about them. He's another type of paranormal entity in a city filled with them (Chicago), but where he sees them as other, he's just like a regular guy with a gift, or a curse. They try to stay away from one another for the most part, probably as it is thought of in Spirit Sanguine because of the death that surrounds vampires. Our picture of him in that book is separate from and quite lonely, though with a quick wit and acerbically funny facade.
Dead Man… shows Denton's world, and while they're mostly the same the focus is different. The vampires are quite separate from his daily life (except when he thinks about Gabe and the crush he had). But he's still quite lonely. He has a hard time relating to people, especially those who don't know his secret. But when staying in his best friend Joy's apartment, he finally starts to learn about his gift and the wider world of witches and necromancy -- all because of the hot guy next door (who might also be a serial killer) and the man's cat, Murry.
This book is enjoyable for itself, even if you haven't read Spirit Sanguine. But if you have read that book, then I think you'll enjoy this one as well because in writing style they're similar in many ways. Denton is really funny and just in the first chapter or so and especially with his interactions with the cat, I was totally hooked. I think that is what made the book enjoyable for me, mostly Denton's interaction with his surroundings and with Bran. They make a really great pair, but the real joy of reading the book comes from Denton's voice. That said, I think that you really have to enjoy that for the book to be a total winner for you. Because while I enjoyed their paranormal investigative efforts together I also felt like they were quiet small mysteries that didn't go nearly as in depth as I would have wished. And that's fine, because I know that their story isn't finished and Lou has plans for more for this couple. But it does mean that I ended this book feeling less of a connection between the two than in many of Lou's other books. On the other hand, that makes me even more excited for the sequel, because I'm interested in where this couple will go. And, of course, I love Denton :)
So I wholeheartedly recommend this one, just for the joy of reading it. It's a fun book, and not long, so you can enjoy it in a day or one sitting when you need a little pick-me-up, a little humor and some really good writing. Now that I've read almost all of her backlist, I can see that Lou has written some of the best characters in the m/m romance genre. Perhaps its that I find my reading preferences and her writing style mesh really well, but I think that Denton highlights what I really love about Lou's characters, which is that they're smart, funny and perceptive. And that they always have a different and unique way of looking at the world. I can't say more than that.(less)
In many ways this was just the kind of book that I love. A solid fantasy (not high fantasy) that plays w...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
In many ways this was just the kind of book that I love. A solid fantasy (not high fantasy) that plays with alternate worlds, gods/demigods, demon-like creatures, a magical war, and a quest between worlds and back. Though I had a few problems with the book as a whole, for the most part I really enjoyed it.
Words of Divinity is told from the opposing viewpoints of Daniel and Liam, a mage and a hunter. We first meet Liam on the streets of the capitol. He's been living on the streets since the age of fourteen, a runaway from an abusive alcoholic father. While wandering the streets at night, Liam is attacked by a giant rat that nearly kills him. But in his fight for his life, Liam is able to kill the rat barehanded, an almost impossible feat that is witnessed by another man who takes Liam to the local regiment's barracks. Liam is extremely distrustful of authority, but he soon learns that he's there to recount his impressive tale and immediately offered into the ranks of a new group of warriors, a special subset of the country's military that has been organized to fight a new menace -- the demon spawn called up from the Underworld by the dark mages of a neighboring country.
Liam finds a place among the hunters. Completing training faster than any of the others, he finds that he's exceptional at something and the center of a group of warriors that look up to him. Maybe it's this new respect that inflates his ego, or more likely just part and parcel of how his experiences so far have molded him -- his abusive father, his early sexual experiences and his casual disregard of how he's been used by both people and authority. Whatever it is, this new and cocky Liam is the epitome of a bad boy -- sleeping his way across the regiment, and then into the group of mages traveling with them and the local boys at every village they pass as they march from battle to battle.
Liam soon finds that not everyone is susceptible to his charms. Daniel is a mage that the other mages avoid. He's held in high esteem by the Crown Prince Erik who accompanies their ragtag company, and they soon grow a friendship, though Daniel shuns any other company. He's secretive, and for good reason. Daniel is their biggest asset because of his ability to hear the thoughts of the demons they hunt. He has more secret abilities, however, that seem to have a mind of their own, constantly wanting to be used. While he's fighting the demon spawn with the other mages and hunters, he's also waging a war among his own powers and his own history, which he keeps locked away among his deepest secrets. When Daniel first meets Liam, he's taken by his charisma, confidence and sexy swagger. Their friendship, though, is brief when Daniel sees some of his worst qualities -- his endless meaningless conquests and his loose tongue. Liam likes to brag about his conquests and getting prudish Daniel to give it up for him is his goal, including spreading the tales afterward to anyone that wants to listen.
Now pitted against one another, they spend quite a long time at odds, only growing in animosity. They're soon thrust into a quest where they have to open up to one another and rely on each other to survive. And even more than that, they are forced to reevaluate their preconceived notions about the other.
What Kayla V-B did best in this novella is in these two characters. At times I wasn't quite sure how I felt about them. In fact, for probably the first half of the book I really hated Liam. We don't quite get a lot of his history until much later in the book so even though we know about his asshole father, we don't quite understand his vulnerability, which just makes him seem like an asshole. I think that Daniel (at least for me) is a bit easier to get close to. It's easier to understand him and to really pull for him because his vulnerability is on the surface… he's extremely tormented. The format of the book (the quest is like an obstacle course they have to maneuver, with tests that manipulate them and their feelings) makes the two come together because, honestly, I doubt they would if they weren't forced to. They're so opposed to one another. In fact, I don't know that I've read an m/m romance in recent history that deals with the enemies to lovers trope where the characters hated and misunderstood the other more. And with the world around them manipulating their actions, they constantly seem to come together to be torn apart. It makes for some nice angst that I didn't feel was too overdone. And I really liked the fact that the characters are who they are with a real fierceness, if that makes sense at all. They're both passionate, and that makes them alternately rub each other the wrong way, while at other times they can co-exist.
I had a bit of a difficult time getting into the story, though. The first few chapters traverse several years in order to set up the story, introduce both characters and a bit of their history, and then show the few years they travel together and how Liam and Daniel grow to hate one another. I think that it all comes down to pacing. At the start of the story the pace is extremely fast. We're given a lot of information while time speeds forward every few paragraphs to chapters and then when the characters are forced on their journey together the pace changes. Also, while this part of the story is interspersed with skirmishes and battles that we're shown in present time, there's a lot of narration to fill us in on the world and the characters. It wasn't until I finished the book that I could see the jog in the pace and I started to think about the beginning. Rather than telling us about their past, I would have rather been shown those scenes. It would have meant adding quite a bit more pages, but I think there would have been more balance.
But, in all, this was quite the enjoyable read and I'd definitely recommend it to fantasy fans. I'm not sure whether the author plans to extend the story at all, but I'd definitely be there, in line to read it if she wanted to. The story definitely ends with a pretty solid HFN, on the line to an HEA. I only doubt the HEA because of their past history and we don't see where their adventures are headed. It's nicely done to either let the story rest or open it again at a future point.(less)
OMG! The best ending ever! Okay, I really don't mean to make people upset, I put up like 1% of books I read early on Goodreads, but even though I'm no...moreOMG! The best ending ever! Okay, I really don't mean to make people upset, I put up like 1% of books I read early on Goodreads, but even though I'm not posting my review until tomorrow, I just want to make sure that all of you preorder this book (and buy the ones before it if you haven't), they're really wonderful.
Okay, straight up… let's get this first thing out of the way. Don't expect this review to be necessarily eloquent or far-thinking or in any way an analysis of the book or series. I just don't have that in me at this point. What this review IS… is an immediate reaction to reading this third and final book of the series; a book which I've been eagerly awaiting for quite a while now. In fact, I've been thinking about this last book ever since reading the first, Mind Magic, back in 2012. Normally that doesn't happen for me, I'm not sure where the story is going. But, and maybe some of you who have read the books can understand me in this, but I felt like (in reading that first book) that the series had a clearly outlined direction, firmly delineated by the names of the books and the separate romances, which mirror the way that magic is first described to us in this world, in a triangle and points of three -- three kinds of magic, three different romances, and three different books. The harmony of all of those things are what the series is working towards and Poppy did a wonderful job in satisfying my need for those things to come full circle.
We start this third book with most of the essentials already firmly in hand, with the base of the story firmly established so that the threads immediately start to come together for the final picture the moment the story starts. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to me to become absorbed in a fantasy (or paranormal, but these series tend to be fantasy) series where I'm pulling the threads together on my own as I'm reading, putting the pieces together, only to have them be swept out of the way in the final confrontation or ending by a deus ex machina or even a plausible ending that is somewhat foretold but doesn't take those threads I pulled together into account. In this series, I felt the planning throughout and that it was important to this book, which I appreciated.
Here's a summation of the first two books: (view spoiler)[Now, back to what I was saying after that tangent. We start this book with two soild romances under our belt and a pretty firm idea that this book will concentrate on another -- Cormac and Liam -- the very much alive ancestor and vampire to Simon and Gray's beta of the High Moon Pack. We know that Simon started this story by rescuing a group of wolf cubs from a demon that was working with his own mage teacher who was stealing his magic, and that by rescuing the cubs he made himself friend to the wolf pack and mate to their alpha, Gray. In the second book, Body Magic, we go further and learn that there is a man with unimaginable power who was directing both those people (for lack of a better word) and that they're in even more dire straits than before. In this book, you'll learn exactly who that person is and what threat they possess. The clues are all there are the start of the book and I bet some of you have already guessed the direction this book is going, in fact may have already guessed who that person is who attacked the pack during the mating ceremony in the second book (hint: you'll get there eventually, knowing that Cormac is the focus of this last book). (hide spoiler)]
But really, even though we get to know Cade and Rocky better in Body Magic and Cormac and Liam better in this book, the main star of this series is Simon, and beside him Gray and their family and pack. But Simon's magic and his exploration of his powers remains the main thread of this story that draws all the others together. I want to mention, at this point, that the setup of this series really pleased me and is something that I'm not sure I've seen very much in the past. I was originally a bit upset at the start of the second book, thinking that we were leaving Simon and Gray behind and moving to a new couple when their story wasn't really finished. But, what Poppy has done with the series is make Simon and Gray the main couple, and even though she introduces new characters and their romances in each book (including their own chapters) she never abandoned that first couple. I really loved that, not only because Simon and Gray and even Gray's son and the alpha-heir Garon were why I originally fell in love with the story, but because Simon's importance to the series means that he can't be abandoned. He's the star.
Now I'm going to go back on my word :)
I think some analysis of the series as a whole is due here. I want to describe why I think I fell in love with this series at the first book and just why it has remained with me. In past, I've equated my intense connection and love of a story with it's length. The more time I spend with the characters, the more I get to know them and the bigger the world is, the more detailed, the more I'm drawn into it and the less I want to leave. That didn't happen here. I was immediately drawn into this world -- three books, which in the fantasy world are rather short novels. And I think, now that I've finished all of them, I know why. There is a clarity of purpose in the writing and a lack of verbosity to get the author's point across. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's in planning. But the world is brought through the characters and their love of it. There's very little detail, compared to those others I'm so used to becoming engrossed in, of the world. And there is also, I must point out, what I felt to be perfect pacing. That is what really brought the story through for me. You can't say that it is necessarily action-packed, but you can say that there aren't any needless words. The story is succinct, to the point, and there is a somewhat heavy emphasis on the non-romance plot as opposed to the romance-centered plot, which nevertheless felt quite balanced to me because those characters and their relationships came across to me so clearly.
I hope that come across in the way I intended, and I'd absolutely LOVE to hear from those of you who are fans of this series and how you feel about it, now and after you've read the third book.
Now, I've rambled enough. But I do want to take one last minute to urge those of you who are new to this author or series to take a chance on these books. I can't tell you that you'll love them the way I do, but I do think you'll enjoy them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I've been a bit fan of M Raiya's work ever since I read Notice and it's sequels. I like the world's that she buil...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been a bit fan of M Raiya's work ever since I read Notice and it's sequels. I like the world's that she builds and her style of writing really seems to draw me in. So I was really excited to see that she was coming out with a new story (hopefully the start of a sequel) that introduced a whole new world. She visited the blog last week to talk a bit about it and after reading the story her guest post made a bit more sense to me (which you can read here). She talks about where she grew up and dreaming as a child and that, specifically, reminded me a lot of this story. It's dreamlike. The plot is less important, I think, than the tone of the story and the characters. Perhaps, as she alluded to in her comments on that post, this will become the first story of a series, and the plot will pick up later. I would very much like that :)
As the story starts, we see Joel standing walking to a clearing in the woods a mile or so behind his farmhouse. He's alone in the world after a terrible attack and rape left him completely shattered and mistrustful of the world around him, and the peace and serenity of the lonely woods is like a balm on his fractured self confidence. He's not sure why he's taken a midnight stroll, something has drawn him deep into the woods. He finds out when a gorgeous and magical unicorn reveals himself and is able to speak in his mind. But even such a beautiful and graceful creature can surprise and upset him and the intrusion into his most sacred space, his mind, is too much to handle. Running through the woods, back to his house, he's confused and can't understand what has happened. A unicorn only reveals himself to virgins, and Joel knows that after what happened to him, he should no longer be able to see such a sight.
The unicorn however, is part of a much larger plan that Joel doesn't understand. When, in the unicorn's pursuit of Joel, a hunter emerges and injures and almost captures him, he makes a drastic decision that bonds the two together into a life that Joel doesn't understand and can't take back.
Apart from the fact that I liked this story and want there to be sequels, I think that this story would actually work better as the start of something much longer. As a standalone story, I think that readers might be a touch dissatisfied. The plot is quite larger than the story can carry, but instead of trying to cram it all into such a short format, the author really just showed us the beginning of the story and an introduction to the characters. It was enough to get me to really like them and want to see more of them, but I think that continuing the story would enhance this story in retrospect, because I do think that there is more to tell and the natural conclusion to the story hasn't come yet.
The unicorns presented here are exactly what you'd expect from such a magical and cherished mythological creature. They're shown with beauty and wonder and there's quite a bit of backstory and worldbuilding presented that we don't often see in m/m romance. Of course, unicorn stories in m/m romance are very few and far between and unicorns are often presented as a less important creature in m/m fantasy romance alongside other creatures that readers are more familiar with, like dragons and wolves. A story about unicorns was what drew me to read the story in the first place and I'm glad that they were treated here as proper creatures and not as little girl fantasy with no real backbone. Perhaps that's why I want to see more of them, because this story offered a bit of fictional authenticity to unicorn lore instead of sparkles and fluff ;)(less)
What a pleasant surprise it was when this second installment of Cari Z's new serial Cambion showed up in my email. The first "episode", published one month ago, was reviewed here and was something that I really enjoyed. We met Devon and Rio in "Heaven's On Fire". Devon is a cambion, half human and half demon/incubus. He has the power of lust and uses it with deadly precision. On the other hand, Rio is an enigma. Secret even among the clandestine group in which they work, Rio is smart, capable and ruthless, yet with a solid and gentle core, something that only Devon really sees. The two have forged a working relationship over time that skirts the edge of friendship. Rio has no reason to lie about the fact that Devon is charming (though his powers don't work on him), that he likes him and finds their easy sexual relationship comforting. Devon feels the same. He has rather progressive and loose boundaries towards sex anyway, but if there were one man who he'd want something more from, it is Rio.
In "Heaven's On Fire", Rio came to Devon's rescue, extracting him from a deadly situation involving a pleasure house catered to the grotesque and sadistic taste. He was there to make contact and try to apprehend Porter Grey, a dangerous man known for summoning demons. Porter Grey, however, has proved rather difficult to apprehend, making it out of the club alive and setting off on his own. Now, in "Black Magic Woman", Rio and Devon must make the rounds among the paranormally powerful of Las Vegas to find a way to track the man.
Cari Z is continuing to draw me in with this serial. The first episode hooked me but this one did what it needed to keep my interest up. And more than doing that by leading us to more clues as to the overall and main plot, and about Porter Grey, it takes the time to lay down the bones of the characters (especially Rio in this one) and further develop the relationship between the two. There's a lull in the action with this story, to really lay the groundwork for what is to come later. I found that this story was just as much to my taste as the first one, even though it was without big explosions and the action that I enjoyed so much. That is because Devon and Rio can hold the story on their own. Devon is just as funny here as I first saw him, with an outrageous personality and Rio's secrets and air of mystery kept me intrigued, especially as we got to know him better with more of his point of view in this episode.
I'm really looking forward to getting more of the story! I definitely recommend this one, but only you know if you'd rather hold out for the whole story to be completed before you read it. I'm usually that way myself, but so far I'm really getting into reading this serial, which must mean that they're doing something right ;)(less)
Luk is in his last year of magical learning at the Parth School and readying himself for the Festival of Parth, a...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Luk is in his last year of magical learning at the Parth School and readying himself for the Festival of Parth, a celebration of the graduation of the senior students by performing a test of magic that will occur before the townspeople. Luk's fellow classmates are a small group and he's known them for years now, progressing academically and socially. The other boys rally around Pat, an outspoken bully who likes to circulate cruel gossip. A favorite subject is the mask maker, a reclusive young man who lives on the outskirts of their village society.
Luk is sent to the mask maker's shop to find out the progress of the masks for the festival. Once there, he has a strange encounter. Luk is completely enamored of the shop and the beautiful artwork on display, but the mask maker is at once compelling and unfriendly, not coming out to speak to him face to face. Their unfortunate first meeting, however, leads to a second and third, and the two soon become friends.
The main difficulty I had with this story was that the length was too short and therefore suffered from some of the same problems that I often have with short stories in which I make this same complaint. We only get the bare bones of the story and the characters. Luk and the mask maker are both barely outlined archetypes (the golden-hearted popular and talented boy and the down-trodden and misunderstood outcast). The setting and world of the story are also not very well described, though that is less important and what we do get we pick up through the story, which is always nice. The biggest problem for me, however, was that more time seemed to be paid to setting up the story than in showing us the connection between the two boys. Their first meeting is well shown, and a really good scene, showing the characters best through the writing in the whole story. It ends there, however. The rest of their interaction comes through a rather quick summary to bring us swiftly to the end, and that telling passed over the most interesting part -- their connection and, more importantly, why they connected. A big part of that is the mask maker and his history. We get some of this as the young man talks about his father, another one of the best scenes in the story. In fact, I would say that the mask maker is the most fully fleshed character here, for sure, but all we really understand of our narrator, Luk, is in the reflection of and reaction to him, which isn't much.
I was also a little bit confused in that the characters here are definitely in the young adult range. I would guess… 17? I believe that at one point the mask maker admits how young he is, which comes from his statement that he started running the mask store on his own at age 14, but I don't remember him stating an exact age at the present time in the story. Still, the fact that one of them is in school and that this is a really sweet tale with no sex (just one small kiss) made me think of this as young adult.
In the end there just wasn't enough detail for me to really care that much about the story. So, while I found it cute, I wasn't emotionally invested in their HEA. I won't implore you as to whether you should or shouldn't buy this story. It's only $1.99, but depending on how you feel about the story will define how you feel about the price. And since I didn't have to buy it because it was given to me for review, that didn't come into play for me at all. How I feel about this story is representative of how I've felt about all the other stories I've read by Spencer Rook. So, I would suggest you decide to buy this or not depending on how you feel about the author.(less)
I really liked this sequel, but I did hope for a little bit more from it. The first book was 80k words and the sequel 50k, and while I know t...more3.5 stars
I really liked this sequel, but I did hope for a little bit more from it. The first book was 80k words and the sequel 50k, and while I know that that doesn't mean that the story isn't complete in and of itself, I wanted to know how far into the overall story it progressed us. I think that the real reason I was somewhat dissatisfied, even though I still liked the story was one, the MAJOR cliffhanger and two, the appearance of new major character Donegh, who seems to disappear from the book. We never learn about him, he's barely there and then gone. It was somewhat awkward and made this story seem, along with the events in the end, unfinished.
Perhaps I just don't trust this author yet. These are the first books of his I've read...
Still, at the same time, this was an enjoyable read, like the first book and I really look forward to the next one.(less)
I didn't know what to expect from this story. F Gorden Scott is a new-to-me author, though his (?) stories have been reviewed before here at Brief Encounters. And the blurb really intrigued me. First, magic and the fantasy element in the modern world, plus strippers? I totally got it and ended up really liking the story.
Thomas is 500 years old and runs a magic shop in Durham, when a lurking visitor "the adonis" finally comes to him to ask for help. The beautiful young man's name is Jimmie and he's in dire straits. He's flat broke, about to lose his apartment, and the only way he can save it is to get the job he's interviewing for in the next week -- as a stripper. The only problem with that (besides the owner of the bar having some different "ideas" about what an interview means) is his total lack of confidence. Thomas is tempted, of course, and helps the young man out with a boost of confidence that will hopefully ensure Jimmie a successful trial run dancing on top of the bar at the Golden Slipper.
There's a lot to like about this story. The best part is that it doesn't try to make itself something it isn't. The story is proud to be erotica, yet at the same time offers a bit of romantic sub-plot with the addition of Thomas' lover, Kevin. Kevin knows all about Thomas' power. He's the first man that has really captured Thomas' heart in his long life and he understands that sometimes Thomas needs a little extracurricular activity. They maintain a loving, committed relationship, which we get to see when the two show up to witness Jimmie's big night.
The story is also rather funny. Thomas is world-weary in many ways and for all his young looks shows his age in his comments about the futility of 'kids these days'. Thomas is a larger than life character, whose charm draws the reader in along with the characters.
I had a bit of confusion both in the beginning and the end of the story. As the story starts we get a bit of background on Thomas, coming from his own voice. He tells us a bit about his childhood and growing up through the ages. He mentions learning he liked men and not women as a young boy surrounded by lusty ancient greek soldiers -- at which time I thought… isn't he only 500 years old? Then, in the end Thomas mentions that he first met Kev "the first night he had conjured me up from the lamp," leading me to think he's a djinn. It left me wondering what the actual truth is, a problem that could have been avoided by omission, as the whole question of it doesn't really add to the story anyway.
Otherwise, I liked this story and it was rather enjoyable.(less)
To be honest, I wasn't going to read and review this book, but I decided to try it out anyway. i think this is th...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
To be honest, I wasn't going to read and review this book, but I decided to try it out anyway. i think this is the longest thing I've read by this author and definitely the first thing in a long time, at least over a year. So I was curious. I was at first … nervous, shall we say. I knew this was going to be tale of the fae from the beginning of the story and as it unfolded and I started to see a rather cruel side of the fae I wasn't sure whether this would be to my taste or not. I've learned over the years that while I love stories of the faerie, I'm not a big fan of them when they only show a cruel and terrible side of them with no redeeming qualities. I prefer, instead, a lighter side. But, in the end, I was very happy with this story and I enjoyed reading it very much. I even stayed up through the night to finish instead of waiting until the next day.
Ciarnán McKay is in route to visit his sick uncle when his party is attacked. All his guards are killed and he barely makes it away by the swiftness of his horse. His flight leads him to a manor very like his own. They quickly shelter him and nurse him back to his proper state. While there, he becomes friendly with the family -- the two brothers, Lord Tiernan Roxbrough and his younger brother Leannán Roxbrough. The situation at Oakwood Manor seems a bit strange, but Ciarnán quickly learns that the brothers' parents died the year before, leaving Tiernan the Lord of the estate as the oldest and their sister, the middle child, already married and moved away. The strange vibes come from Mr. Boyle, the steward and friend to the late Lord Roxbrough. He seems displeased by many things, but the brothers assure Ciarnán that he was once a disciplinarian to them like their father and old habits die hard. Tiernan leaves quickly after Ciarnán arrives to visit his intended wife, and in the week that Ciarnán has delayed his visit to his uncle, he and Leannán become close, both of them recognizing the attraction to the other. But their days of walks into the woods and picnics under the trees on the estate (as well as a few shy kisses) must be put aside so Ciarnán can finish his intended trip. Leannán asks him to stop by for another visit on his return.
A month later Ciarnán returns to Oakwood Manor, but finds a very different scene than the one he left. Tiernan is still gone, leaving Leannán with Mr. Boyle. Leannán has changed, however, and urges Ciarnán to leave and never return… that no matter their feelings it is the best choice for all, no matter how obviously difficult it is for Leannán to turn Ciarnán away. But when he leaves, Ciarnán can't seem to stay away. When he hears rumors about the strange fae happenings at Oakwood Manor at a small inn not far away, he returns not knowing what he'll say to get Leannán to reconsider. Instead, he finds Mr. Boyle talking to a beautiful and strange man with wings, and learns the truth of the whole situation: that Leannán is one in a long tradition of lords from Oakwood Manor who are required to pay the tithe. His sacrifice will ensure protection for his family and replenish the fae in a seven year cycle of renewal. By not leaving as he should, Ciarnán is taken prisoner under the hill to work as a servant for the cruel fae queen, where he'll be released after the sacrifice of Leannán. No matter how much he tries and how many friends he makes among the fae, there's no escape. And now that Leannán and Ciarnán have more time together, even if it is borrowed time, they'll make the most if it, falling further in love.
I mentioned earlier that I have a difficult time reading books with really cruel fae characters in a situation like this, where the characters are being held captive by them. So I was really pleased to see a well balanced representation of the faerie characters. The queen is quite Machiavellian, but she's really the only one that is shown as cruel. The others range from remote and aloof to Ciarnán to friendly and sympathetic and we get to see Ciarnán spend much more time with these characters. Most of the story takes place under the hill, while the two are held captive. I also thought that the relationship between Ciarnán and Leannán was sweet but not too sweet. The tone that comes across when they spend time together is really loving and they reassure themselves a lot of their feelings for one another. Sometimes this bothers me in other books, it can be a bit much. But it never went too far to me into sickly sweet territory, partly because of their circumstance (which requires reassurance), but also because of the time period. The story isn't placed firmly in any time or place, but resembles a historical period with Irish influence. And the "love that dare not speak it's name" type romance set apart from their world and in a place where anyone is free to love anyone else (the faerie realm) went really well with the sweet romantic periods the two had when they're together. And even more than these two things, I liked that their relationship was very much based on how they felt, individually, about their circumstances. Ciarnán never refuses to give up looking for a way to escape, because he's facing the prospect of losing Leannán and then having to carry on without him. Leannán, however, vacillates between his need to accept his fate to assure the well-being of his family (and assure that one of them isn't taken in his place) and his desire to forget the circumstances and envision a life with Ciarnán. His feelings fluctuate with the actions of the faerie queen.
I won't get into it much, but I really really loved the fae characters that get close to Ciarnán, Sorcha and especially Cáel. If there is one thing that I didn't like about the book, it's that the turn in the climax of the story rests on what seemed to be a rather easy bit of information. The answer to all of Ciarnán's problems just seemed to come a little out of the blue for me, and while it didn't bother me a lot, it made me sigh a little. I would have preferred the outcome to come a little more organically.
I definitely recommend this one and I really enjoyed reading it!(less)
It has been a while since I've read anything by this author and I seem to remember that I enjoyed her work. Thoug...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
It has been a while since I've read anything by this author and I seem to remember that I enjoyed her work. Though, ultimately, this story was only So So for me, there were still some parts that I liked and many other readers will probably disagree with me and really like the story, which was light, sweet, and a nice Valentine's Day read.
Jeremiah works for a sorcerer and is himself a psychic. When he makes a detour on his way to work at Dunkin Donuts, he meets Trey and his little boy Mikey, who has a similar ability. Mikey immediately recognizes him and his powers as well, and Jeremiah finds himself taken with both the boy and his father. Not wanting to creep Trey out by showing an interest in his little boy, Jeremiah frets over how to find Trey again, to ask him out. But besides seeing glimpses of the future, Jeremiah has one highly developed skill -- sometimes when he wants to find a person, he does. Like following a trail, thinking of Trey leads them to bump into each other on their commute home from work nearly a week later. After talking, both find that they really like each other and would like to see each other again. But Trey has secrets that he's bound not to share, even with Jeremiah. Trey and Mikey are new to the city, running from a mysterious threat. One month ago, Trey was attacked by wolves and bitten, now new to the local pack and the life of a werewolf.
Part of my feelings about this short novella come from thinking that this was a different type of story than it turned out to be. While there is a background of magic and shifters, that paranormal world doesn't really have a whole lot to do with the story, other than as a backdrop and as history for the characters. I expected, especially with the threat looming over Trey, that it would be more fundamental to the story. That wouldn't have been a problem in and of itself, if I had really felt a connection between Trey and Jeremiah and could get behind their relationship, reading it like a shorter contemporary piece, but I just couldn't. The paranormal pieces of the story are so ingrained into the characters and the setting, but because they come into play so little in the plot, I could never really see their relationship and the story as whole or finished.
What bothered me most was that the story is set up for a confrontation that never happened. It depends on how you read the story and what you expect from it. You can either read it like I did, that the enemies Trey has will eventually crop up, or that it's just a backdrop to create tension in the relationship between Trey and Jeremiah. One way, the story feels like it ends in the middle and feels unfinished, and in the other, there was never meant to be another sub-plot and the end of the story was intended to be the start of a new relationship between the two men. I feel like I couldn't quite help, however, feeling as if the story was leading to that absent climax, but then that's my perspective which could be quite different from your own.
In any way, I still felt like this story had some problems, but ultimately my enjoyment of the story came down to the relationship between the two characters. Maybe, if there had been more time, I could have settled into it, but I finished the story without feeling the connection. There were parts that I liked -- in particular, the little boy Mikey. He speaks at times quite a lot older than he is, but that makes sense with his psychic perception of the world around him, and his presence lightened the story and the scenes he was in and added an interesting element that I enjoyed. Fans of this author might want to read this, but since I don't know her work that well, I can't say if this one is in line with the others or similar in any way.(less)
I've long been a fan of Cari Z's work, but it wasn't until last year when I read "Opening Worlds" and Changing Wo...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've long been a fan of Cari Z's work, but it wasn't until last year when I read "Opening Worlds" and Changing Worlds that I really fell in love with her work, so you won't even believe how excited I was when I saw that she was going to be writing the other serial started this month at Storm Moon Press. Kris Piet even had to write to tell me to be patient, I was asking about it so vehemently ;) Thankfully, it lived up to my hopes and really made me excited for this season. Writing a serial must be hard, especially a published serial, because the first episode really counts. There's so little room to make an impression and show a fully fleshed character (or two), because that's what really hooks the reader. And I rarely give out more than a Pretty Good rating for the first story in a long series of releases. Usually all we get is a small grasp of what is to come, and a Pretty Good rating is like saying that the author(s) did the best they could with a limited opportunity. But here, I felt like I would have been happy, in most respects, if this were a standalone story. The relationship arc will take a lot longer to develop, but this was sexy enough and the characters have enough chemistry that I felt like it went above and beyond what I was expecting.
Devon is a cambion, a quasi-demon birthed from a human and an incubus. His dual nature affords him special and unique abilities -- the best of both races -- and some detractions from them both as well. He has magical demonic powers, the most powerful of which is his natural ability to inspire lust. Devon is also a supernatural spy of sorts. Working for a private contract group whose secret mission is to police the underworld of demonic summoning, Devon executes his job like a demonic Mata Hari. He and his group have long been searching for a nasty demon summoner, known for his cruelty, intelligence and luck in escaping authorities and they have finally traced him to a … pleasure house of sorts, run by an old Chinese man named Shangdi who delights in rather perverse displays of cruelty to demons. But when Devon is made deep inside his mission, he'll need extraction before he's made an example of for the pleasure of the house. And extraction comes in the way of a rather tall, gun-happy and dog-loving Rio, a man who Devon really likes.
I'm really excited about what is to come this first season of the serial. Devon seems like he can easily get into all kinds of trouble and Rio can always get him out. And the chemistry they have together is explosive. What I really loved was how funny I found this to be, mostly in tone. The point of view comes from both Devon and Rio, so we get a different variation on the scene depending on who is narrating, but what their voices both have in common is a kind of nonchalance for the violence they cause. That detachment struck me as funny for some reason, in a bit of a Tarantino way. And combined with the fact that everything Devon does is tinged with sex, made for a unique and well-written story. I'm just glad that it's only the beginning!
**Just a note! You can buy each of these stories by themselves (and this one, as the first story, is only $.99), but if you buy a season pass at Storm Moon Press you also get lots of goodies over the course of the season, like a DVD box set -- freebies and extra goodies :)(less)