Believe it or not (and I can't), this is the first book I've read by Shira Anthony. I have several and...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Believe it or not (and I can't), this is the first book I've read by Shira Anthony. I have several and there are many of her books that I've really wanted to read, but somehow never found the time to. So when I saw this on the Dreamspinner Coming Soon page I made sure that I made room for it in my schedule. It wouldn't only be a chance to try out this author, but also a book about mermen! Just like unicorns, I'm really an 8 year old little girl who loves the cute and cuddly fantastical creatures. Except, you know, when they have gay sex and aren't as cuddly anymore, except maybe in a post-coital fashion.
I'm glad that I made room for this book, it was quite fun to read. The whole book takes place over a somewhat short amount of time -- about 8 weeks -- but the book starts with Taren at a young age and the first few chapters traverse his teenaged years as he's sold and stolen as a slave and passed through several masters' hands. The journey that Taren takes in this first book of the series is pretty big. He learns quite a bit about his life and goes through many transitions of change before the end.
Taren doesn't know anything about his parents, save that his master told him they gave him away. He longs for the open sea and though he's just a rigger for his master's shipyard, he hopes that one day he'll be able to travel the seas and be a proper sailor. When he's sold to pay off his master's debts, Taren becomes a slave to a man who runs an inn. He's not sure how old he is, though he thinks around 18 or 19. He's been mostly sheltered in his life, so when a handsome captain introduces him to his sexuality in a room full of watching sailors at the inn, he finds himself excited rather than scared and violated. He's submissive and clings to the safety he feels in a man like the captain, whom he later knows as Rider, because of the man's kind, yet firm dominance.
Stolen by the sailors of the ship that night, he wakes to find himself the captain's prisoner and introduced to indentured slavery of the sexual kind. But, for a young man like Taren who has always been a slave, sexual slavery aboard a ship on the open ocean is a kind of freedom that he's never known. Taren revels in it, especially when he comes to be a loving presence in Rider and his lover's bed and allowed to put his knowledge of sailing to use aboard the ship.
But there is so much that Taren doesn't know or understand -- why he has such vivid dreams and the extra-sensory feelings that he has in reading the water and weather at sea. When he's knocked unconscious and lost at sea, he washes up to their rival vessel, captained by Ian Dunaidh. Ian is enamored of Taren immediately and their connection, once he wakes, pushes and pulls between them as they sail to Ian's home island where a shadowy presence called The Council awaits to judge Taren as a spy in their war against a resistance group of their own people who live on the mainland. Living through the hell of their torture, the betrayal between Taren and Ian and the possibility that he might never be free takes everything in him. All he knows to get him through is that he is destined for a higher purpose than this, if it is true that any higher power is guiding them.
I went pretty far in summarizing the story for you, but that is because there is such a long and twisting plot in this story. Taren goes through so many changes, homes, and relationships with other people for only 70k words. It makes me curious how many books this author has planned for this series because I didn't feel as if I started to understand the larger picture until the very end of the book. I have no doubt that that was intended for the reader, that we should pull the pieces together at the very end, but it also meant that I had to wait through the whole book to really understand what was happening. Which, ultimately, meant that I really had to enjoy the story for the present, for what was happening to Taren in the moment without understanding where the story was headed to really enjoy the book. Sometimes I felt as if I was right there with him and Ian and I was really sucked into the present of the story. But, sometimes I wasn't and I felt as if the story lulled, perhaps because the relationship between Taren and Ian is so freaking complicated. For much of the book they're separated, though not for any very long pieces of time. It takes the whole book for them to really reach the same page, relationship-wise, because they each needed this book to progress themselves. Taren is searching for his destiny, a shadowy purpose that we and he knows is there, somewhere, for him to understand one day, and for him to understand his race and his history. Ian is battling his own demons -- regret and guilt -- that stand in the way of his happiness.
So once again I say that while I really enjoyed this book, it's as a first book of a series. I still feel as if I don't know much about where this series is headed. In a way, I like that because it means that this author is doing a fine job of withholding information until the correct (and perhaps most artful) time to release it. On the other hand, I fear not knowing enough to keep me interested in the big picture, and that it makes my reading experience different. So, I'm excited to read the next book and hoping that the ending of this one -- seeing the formation of a more solid relationship between Taren and Ian -- will carry forward through the rest of the series.
**There is a pretty big imbalance in the heat level and sex frequency in this book, as far as trying to rate it goes. The first several chapters are hot and heavy, with m/m/m scenes (spitroasting, exhibitionism) that really raise the heat, and frequent sex in those chapters. The rest of the novel has little to almost no sex at all and what intimacy there is is very romantic and tame (the underwater mermen sex).(less)
What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought tha...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought that after book four, Olives for the Stranger that the series was finished, so getting a new book and the possibility of even more after this (it sure seems like it) makes me so happy! Liam and Aidan are a couple that I've kept with since I read their first book Three Wrong Turns in the Desert several years ago. Each book is heavy on action/adventure and a serious dose of hot and heavy macho action. How could I not fall in love? Besides, I've always been drawn to Mr. Plakcy's work. I really enjoy his style.
The fifth installment in this series diverges from the rest right at the start. Though we know Liam and Aiden well in Tunisia where they met and have previously worked as bodyguards, they moved at the end of the fourth book to France and are now living in Nice. Both of them think that they moved to primarily make the other happy, but the truth is that having less freedom is somewhat constricting to them both, because Liam doesn't always like being told what to do and because Aidan usually does what he can to defer to his more senior partner and lover and because he generally ends up trying to please him anyway. This results in it's own set of complications and when Liam and Aidan take on a new case in Corsica protecting a mine owner's family from threats by Corsican nationalists to preserve the island from drilling, they both spend much of their time there working through their own issues about their relationship. Aidan wonders if he's doomed to play the doormat when once again Liam takes the active role in their operation and Aidan feels that he's undervalued. Liam is forced to confront his past when they find that the son in the family they're protecting, Michel, is in the closet and secretly in love with his father's biggest adversary's son. It might be a classic star-crossed lovers tale with a bent twist, but the interactions between scared, closeted and teenaged Michel and his blithely criticizing father force him to confront his own feelings about his past and his development into his only real relationship -- with Aidan. Liam has never considered himself as any kind of commodity, until recently mostly avoiding his sexuality except in the basest of situations, but their friend Louis makes a comment that shows him he just might be attractive to other men. That leads him to consider his relationship with Aidan and his feelings about sleeping with other men.
Their main issue in Corsica, nonetheless, is keeping their client's safe, not angsting about the issues in their relationship.
This book (like the last one) was both an enjoyment to read and a bit of a disappointment. The pure adventure and excitement that I'm used to from the earlier plots in this series seem to have gone away. On the other hand, I think that Plakcy, better than most writers in the m/m romance genre anyway, seem to have a real knack for writing about the issues that crop up in long lasting relationships. They're the everyday issues -- communication, self-esteem in relationship to your partner, jealousy -- and they're handled responsibly. Sure they might cause a bit of angst, but I like the format of this series because the external adventure/mystery plot takes some of the focus away. The plot doesn't need to be built on those internal relationship issues to carry the story, so those real-to-life relationship issues seem to carry the modest weight that is natural. Of course they're important but they aren't life or death issues that need to much focus. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy a classic relationship-centric contemporary romance, but Aidan and Liam feel more real to me because while I might have to occasionally suspend disbelief at their gun-toting, crime-solving antics, the relationship at the center is down to earth and totally believable.
I remain a fan of this series. I probably always will be. But, I think I might need to shift my expectation of the future books. From here on, I'm going to look forward more to the relationship than the external plot. It might bring me some enjoyment, but so far the last few just haven't been nearly as satisfying as the first ones. I will say that I found Liam and Aidan's physical relationship in this book somewhat disappointing. I'm not sure why the author didn't include much sex (hardly any!). One of the draws to this series for me has been the hot and heavy sex between these two men. Maybe the author is trying to shift the overall arc in another direction? Or, perhaps, the plot in this book just didn't fit with the two getting hot and heavy. But I sure hope that when these two come back for book six that they'll be getting it on in all kinds of weird places like they used to!(less)
Hot Hands was by far my favorite story in Erica Pike's College Fun and Gay series, so you can imagine my excitement when she said that she was writing a sequel. Cold Hands is almost as much of an antithesis to that first story as it's title. Hot Hands introduces us to Casper -- a college student who was brutally bullied, more like abused, in high school for being gay -- and his ex-bully and middle school crush Jaime. Casper shows up to college and is surprised and devastated to learn that one of the ring leaders of the guys who tormented him is not only there but also in some of his classes. He does everything he can to avoid Jaime, but doesn't know that a lot of Jaime's bullying stemmed from his own awakening homosexual feelings towards Cass. His physical and emotional abuse for most of his teen years have really impacted him. He's shy and doesn't understand why he's still attracted to one of the men who abused him, which also messes with his head. His attachments soon turn to another man, however, a man he starts to call "Hot-Hands" because of the way the man's hands draw him out and make him feel sexy and interesting whenever he's accosted by this same hard-breathing man in the dark. It's a serious case of having a secret admirer, but Casper has his suspicions and soon finds them proven wrong. All that time, Casper had inadvertently been giving himself up to the man who caused him so much pain and now he's more confused than ever.
Cold Hands resumes this story from Jaime's point of view, which is a serious change in how we understand the story. Cass is a thinker who constantly analyzes his feelings and thoughts, but because of their unique relationship he knows very little about what Jaime really thinks and Jaime's motives. The change in point of view starts this sequel off on a different foot. We immediately see that Jaime has real regret about the way he treated Cass in the past and that his feelings now are genuine, and also that he's a different man now. He understands himself and has grow up in the two years they spend apart. Now, he's out of the closet and over the shame that he grew up with from a conservative family and town. Still, Cass doesn't know that. He's still confused about Jaime's motives and his own. How can he trust himself and his feelings if he's seriously considering having a relationship with his abuser?
The real difference between the first story and the second isn't the point of view, but in the focus of their relationship. If you look at these stories together as one, then this story is the payoff. The first was the setup, the background and the premise -- the meetings in the dark with Casper's "secret admirer" and the subsequent reveal of his real identity -- but, Cold Hands is the meat and bones of their relationship. This story carries on to peel back the layers and find out if these guys have a solid base to build any relationship upon and how they go about doing that. The change in point of view facilitates that because by nature of their relationship as abuser/victim, Jaime automatically sees the bigger picture than Cass. Casper is still mired in confusion about his feelings and dealing with understanding Jaime and his actions and in evidence of how that abuse affected him, he's battling his own self-esteem.
I'm so glad that Erica decided to continue their story because I think that it is only in retrospect that this story feels as if it completed the first. Cold Hands makes the whole story better by giving us a chance to see them work through the consequences of their actions in the first story, and that in turn gives them the HEA they deserve. This also shows in the sex in both stories. So much of the first story takes place while Casper thinks "Hot-Hands" is someone else entirely that a lot of those scenes were exploratory, sexy and hot in a situational way, playing on the mysterious suitor with a dirty and exhibitionist twist. I read that story as a really good piece of erotica with an engaging plot. This story moves their physical relationship into a place of intimacy, so much so that it's often too difficult for Casper to really handle.
I definitely recommend these stories to all of you, though you absolutely have to read Hot Hands first. Well done Erica and thank you for writing this story so I could spend more time with Cass and Jaime!(less)
The first of a three part serialized novella called Conflict, Contact sets up this science fiction and space expl...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader!
The first of a three part serialized novella called Conflict, Contact sets up this science fiction and space exploration erotic story about a colony Lieutenant named Colton who is in lust and moving toward love with his Colonel. Before setting out on a dangerous mission to overpower the Earth Emperor's forces, Colton shares a mind-blowing moment with Vance, his Colonel, on the balcony during the party to celebrate their new venture. The problem is that no matter how much Vance shows interest in him as well, the fact remains that Vance is married.
Colton leaves with mixed feelings of lust, guilt and a little bit of love only to find that the Colonist's offensive is in serious trouble. Before long, Colton finds himself all alone in a battle where most of his men have died and his ship is alone fighting the Emperor's forces. In a bid to recover possible success in their mission, Colton heads to land and infiltrate the enemy base. What he finds there both horrifies him and confirms that the Emperor has been up to what they expected.
Shizu is a genetically modified human that was abducted as a child and has been through a horrible hell of testing and modification along with several others. Now, he thinks he's the only one left, at least in this base and the sight of a man who takes him out of the base and tries to get him to freedom bonds them together. But Shizu still harbors feelings for the man who was with him, who tried to escape with him before they were caught and separated forever. Hiding in a cave with Colton while they await rescue with a downed ship, the two get to know one another and forge a friendship of mutual respect and goals that might just be a bridge between the Colony forces and Earth's grassroots rebellion that could help them overthrow the planet's tyrannical rule.
I'm always excited to get a new Jack Greene story for review, but lately his work has been turning from more erotica to romance. He still writes highly erotic stories, such as this, but there's definitely more plot to work with and to keep me interested and I like the fusion of styles and his growth as an author. It certainly makes me look forward to the next two stories in this "serialized" story. As the first of such a series, a large part of this story serves to set up the world. We're presented with a world split into three factions: Earth, where a tyrant has united the world under one rule; the colonies, artificial worlds in space that use artificial gravity and other futuristic technological advances to create a sort of mirror earth in a controlled atmosphere; and lastly, the grassroots resistance on Earth, living hardscrabble lives with little food or supplies and actively defying the Empire while remaining under the radar. Conflict gives us the initial outlook in this conflict while paving the way for the next couple of stories through the connection made between Colton, Shizu and Shizu's lover.
The relationship between Colton and his Colonel, Vance, is a different matter. Vance appears quickly in the beginning and then later in the story, but is largely removed (so far) from the actual conflict. His motivations seemed hazy to me for much of the story before he seemed to do an about face and admit deep feelings of love for Colton, despite his marriage, which he claims is unhappy and more of convenience. There's one brief bout of cheating in the beginning of the novel, but it seems that there won't be anymore, going by what we learn later in the story. So if you find cheating a huge turnoff, you might be initially disappointed in the story. Otherwise, I found their interactions together to be really steamy and satisfying on an erotic level, but at the end of the story I remained unconvinced in any true feelings between them. Perhaps, hopefully, that will change in the next two stories. I'd rather have an all or nothing approach, all romance and development of those feelings, or pure erotica. But a mishmash of the two where I'm not shown any of that progression cheapens the story a bit for me.
I'm definitely excited to see what's in store for these characters. Of course, even though I had problems with some of the story, for the most part I'm pretty forgiving (always, of course, lol), but especially because this is the first story in a three part arc and there's room for the characters to grow into the feelings presented here.(less)
To see my review of And So It Begins from last Friday, click here.
I will admit that I'm a little bit confused. This review came down to the wire, writing this right at 7am Monday morning because I wanted to get the review up for release day. So, I didn't have time to look around and try to find out more about this series. So, if anyone does know and I make a mistake in my review, please let me know. From what I can gather only from reading these two books, they were one book that was broken in two. For some reason I had assumed that there were more after this but from the way this ended, which pretty much everything wrapped up and with and HEA, this is the final book in the Prince and Trader series.
We left And So it Begins with Kherin in Gravlorn at the northern border of Llarien in a war against the people of the Northern Plains. They have been sneaking into the Defender camp seemingly at will and no one, including the princes, can figure out how. Or, more importantly -- why. And then after their confrontations no one can figure out how they slink away back across the border. Kherin's plan, while his brother Adrien is still getting better from his own run in with the northern tribes, is twofold: either try to figure out what is going on and get some information from the northern prisoner he captured, or try to sneak across the border with a small contingent of Defenders to find some information about the people they're fighting.
In the meantime, Kherin's new relationship with the King's trader, Derek, is on the rocks. Though they committed to one another on the eve of Derek's departure to gain more information in the seaside port of Dennor, where a revolution has been stirring among the children of the city officials to find the magical power of the ancient people to use for themselves, Kherin and Derek's separation leave them both unsure of the other's real feelings. Still, Derek has his duty to the King, Kherin's father, to find out all the information he can and no one has a better idea of how that information might help Kherin's current war more than Derek. The information he finds in Dennor is more than he ever expected. The scholar Dar is there, waiting for him in his alley way and still denying the uprising their information. But, Derek meets another man there he never expected, Tristan. The man who was fired from his job in the royal stables because of his sexual relationship with the prince has grown violent in his anger, and may pose a threat that the trader and prince never expected.
It is only when the two can find themselves reconciled and able to share information that they might finally understand what is going on and find a way to save Llarien for good.
As I mentioned before, I do think that some of my enjoyment of this book was robbed. Maybe that's a harsh word. But, all I know is that because this was labeled as a series I suppose I had the idea that this wasn't the end. So my mind kept expecting the book to go farther than where it did. I don't lay the blame for that anywhere in particular. I certainly could have done more research to find out if this was just really one book that was broken up and I wouldn't have had that problem. But I will also say that I probably wouldn't have had that problem if this book was presented as just a standalone book, even if it was around 150k words in the end. Maybe that's a hard sell, such a long book for Dreamspinner. I don't know all the reasons that went into the choice to split this book up into two, it might be something else completely that I don't know. So, it's fine and I understand. But, I would like to see more from this couple. Because even though my expectations weren't met, that doesn't mean that I didn't really like this book (counting as one, of course). The writing is simply beautiful and I've already gone back to find the books that I've missed by RG Green to read.
Because of the split, I did feel like I lost a bit of the romantic momentum in the second book. The first book is continuous in the relationship between Kherin and Derek, right up until the end where their relationship solidifies. I think that the split in the book added with their separation in the book for the first half of this sequel lost some of those momentum and I never quite found the same tension between them. This book, the second half of the story, was almost entirely about the external plot. And while it did come together nicely, I think I did feel a bit of a letdown because I was expecting the book to go further than it did, so the wrap-up seemed a little too nice. I'm not letting that affect the rating, because as I said before I don't want to place the blame for that in any specific place, especially when I could have, hopefully, found out that information myself, but it is the way it is.
But this book really made me appreciate this author's writing. These two books are the first I've read by RG Green, and I'm looking forward to reading more in the future. Hopefully, she'll continue writing fantasy as well even if she's finished with this couple and world. It would be nice to see their journey's however, if she does have anything more planned for them :) So, definitely, I recommend these books. I really liked them and I had a great time with this story. Just make sure you have both books handy to read back to back ;)(less)
Well, Anne, you've made me do it again. Every time I pick up one of your (long-awaited) books I find myself even...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Well, Anne, you've made me do it again. Every time I pick up one of your (long-awaited) books I find myself even more in love than before. I think this time around I really fell in love with this book, simply because it had so many different qualities to love and pinged on so many different emotions from so many different characters. And, it was touching. Anne takes us satisfactorily deep into Collin and then allows us to experience the moments of clarity and insight as he feels them and deals with them.
In this third installment of the Theta Alpha Gamma series, we head back once again to the fraternity that first saw an open gay student with Brad in Frat Boy and Toppy. We meet Collin briefly (if I can remember correctly) as Brad's friend who gives him a pretty big failure of a blowjob, one that acts as somewhat of a catalyst in Brad and Sebastian's relationship.
In Sweet Young Thang we see that experience from Collin's perspective. He is.../was? Brad's best friend but not out himself. He did a pretty good job of pretending to be straight before that, but now he has a good circle of friends at the college that are all gay men. He's the Alumni Liaison for TAG, a position secured for him by his Uncle Monty, the President of the Alumni Association with a heavy hand in current TAG politics -- the biggest of which is the recent change in policy that says that Theta Alpha Gamma now accepts gay students. Of course, it always did, but it was more of a Don't Ask, Don't Tell kind of situation. Brad changed all that. Collin convinced his Uncle Monty to support him in his lobbying to change the policy and in return promises him that there will be no repercussions from those who might be unhappy about the change.
All of that is blown out of the water when someone plants a bomb and sets the TAG house on fire. A frat brother is injured and the house is totally a lost cause. And Uncle Monty starts putting on the pressure to change the policy back. But part of Collin's reasons for lobbying the change so hard were to see his Uncle's reactions in the first place. His whole life has been planned out by his uncle, his prep school, college, classes and degree, including his position in the family olive oil import business after graduation. It isn't until he meets sexy paramedic Eric (who has his own secret history with Uncle Monty), an alum of TAG himself in the bomb fiasco that Collin starts to feel like he finally has someone in his corner. But their relationship is picking up quick and heavy and the pressure from all directions in his life is starting to get to Collin.
This is quite a long novel, but it really doesn't seem like it because it's really jam packed with action and a super quick pace. The only real downtime in the story are the times alone with Collin and Eric, which thankfully are a fair few. Normally, I would probably prefer the story to be less sex heavy and more plot-centric, but Anne Tenino knows how to write sex and intimacy together, while keeping the relationship moving forward and the sex important to plot. And that's all while making it some of the hottest sex I've read this year! Whew, Eric and Collin have a serious connection from the moment they meet and it really shows throughout the book, slowly translating from lust into something real. Even though it's made known several times throughout the book how fast their relationship is moving (a week total over the whole book) this NEVER felt like insta-love. It isn't about the overall time that the couple has in getting to know one another, but about how they spend that time. Eric and Collin go through a lot together and each step along the way they communicate those changes between them, so that you can see them growing together.
All i can really do is urge you to read this book yourself. I know that this book will have a fair few amount of fans excited to read it already, because of the popularity of the series previously. But all I can really say is that I feel like this series gets better and better with each book, and while your preferences for the plot of each will change how you feel about each book (they're all fairly different), I think that Anne's writing has grown in leaps and bounds since Frat Boy…. There are so many great things about this book, a kick ass opening chapter which really introduces us to Eric well and some absolutely pure hilarity from the frat boys:
"Big mistake the Alunmi Association made. You should never threaten a fat boy's beer."
"Danny," Collin snapped. "Whenever sensitivity is called for in the future, I think you shoal ask yourself, 'What would Tim Gunn do?'"
This moment between Collin and Eric pulled it all together for me:
"Did you feel ashamed?" Collin felt as if Eric had just dropped his full weight on his chest, denting in his ribcage and making it harder for his lungs to expand. "No." Eric kissed his other palm. "Shit. Maybe. Why would I feel ashamed?" "I don't know. For not being what your -- what people wanted you to be." Oh God, now he felt nauseous. "That's so unfair." Eric smiled sadly. "It's unfair that you felt that way?" Collin swallowed, nodding…
I admit I did wonder a few times if Collin ever went to class! Of course, that doesn't matter, but it does illustrate the enormous pressure I felt for him. Collin has everything bombarding him at once with enormous pressure on him to hold the weight, to deal with it, to figure it out for everyone else. I really felt for him. And it made his time with Eric and their marathon sex chapters not just an expected byproduct of a romance novel, but needed as de-stressing time for him.
So, yes, I definitely recommend this one. I know a lot of you will be reading it anyway, so I'd love to know what you think. Please leave me comments!(less)
After reading and reviewing the first book in this series, The Prince of Galerir in February of this year, I was excited and interested to see where Anna Lee would take this story. I had quite a bit of criticism for her then, even though I really enjoyed reading the story, and I was particularly interested to see the writing in this sequel. I wasn't disappointed :)
We left Tomas and Griffin in the end of the first book in the capital city of Galerir and in the castle. Tomas has been accepted by the people and crowned as Crown Prince Tomas, nephew of King Antony of Galerir. Tomas didn't know his uncle for all of his life, and only learned about his real heritage and family in the first book, after the events were set in motion for war for Galerir from a lost descendant eager for the throne and the weakened health of Antony. Until then, he was the son of a lord and his best friend is Griffin, now his knight. The two grew up together and fell in love. And only when it was the choice of a life married to a girl he doesn't care about (and he's gay) or running away with Griffin did the two admit their feelings -- with a little help from a baby dragon they found and bonded with that helped them share their true emotions. But then, Tomas found out that King Antony was really his uncle and that he'd been hidden away until he was needed to secure the lineage and the throne.
This sequel carries forward in the outside plot more than the romantic plot. Tomas and Griffin are quite in love and committed to one another. They are engaged, and ready to change the laws that say one man cannot marry and love another, and eager to come out to the people themselves. Until that time however, they have a lot to deal with. Galerir is preparing for war from the lost descendant of one of the past kings and the rogue, evil dragon named Ator that he convinced to help him in his cause. King Antony is growing weaker and may be dying if they cannot find a cure to what is ailing him. And that means that Prince Tomas has even more duties than normal, acting as interim Regent while his uncle Antony is bedridden. Can they find those across the border that once had to flee Galerir when magik was made illegal? Will the elves, centaurs and dragons there help them in trying to unite Galerir as it once was? And will it be in time to stop the war that is coming?
I was really, really pleased with the writing in this story. I thought that Anna Lee's writing grew leaps and bounds between the first book and this book. Perhaps it is also that Griffin and Tomas have been together a while and now are committed rather than very new lovers, but I also felt that the overly sweet and constant declarations of love were way toned down. Their relationship is still very sweet, but most of the tension and conflict in this series is not internal, but rather external. However, I really liked that their relationship grew in this book, and that was partly done because they, at times, but heads and argue. I loved that. I liked seeing a more dynamic relationship between them. The other reason that they grew together was the appearance of Griffin's family, especially his father whom he has a rocky and abusive relationship with.
I got confused a few times. I'm not going to really spoiler you here, but I will tell you that this book ends with the end of the war. At least, I assume that's the case unless the next book is going to introduce an even bigger villain that we didn't know about. But, a few times I wondered if I had it wrong and this wasn't the second book in a three-part series. Was this a duology and the battle and the end of the war was the end of the series? That is typically the end of the series arc in fantasy stories. But, according to the info at the end of the book, the third book Reuniting Galerir is to continue and I assume finish the series with Tomas and Griffin's adventures to visit the magikal creatures I mentioned earlier to reunite the country. If that's the case, then I'm really excited for the third book. The structure of the overall plot arc was not what I was expecting at all, but I'm excited by it. The forte of this story isn't the politics of the world and the war, those act simply as a catalyst to explore the magikal world, creatures and people and mostly the relationship between Tomas and Griffin. It is, if I could describe it well enough, a more sweet and gentle exploration of a fantasy. I like that. I liked the first book okay, but after reading the second one I'm really interested and hooked on the series.(less)
Shadows in the Night is the first book I've read by MA Church. I was really in the mood for a shifter st...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Shadows in the Night is the first book I've read by MA Church. I was really in the mood for a shifter story when this book came up in the review rotation just prior to release, so I decided to take a chance. After all, I've been interested in several other books by this author, but I've never tried any of them. I got what I wanted, this is a shifter story. And while it would maybe be insulting to call it a simple shifter story, by which I mean maybe a classic shifter romance with mating bonds and all, that's really what this is. And because of that, it was a satisfying read.
Chip grew up in a loveless home. His spoiled and cold mother and a workaholic absentee father made his relationship with his Granny grow and grow with age. Granny lived in a small town in Mississippi and every summer Chip escaped there to run in the grass, swim in the ponds and fish and play with his "horsie", a very large black animal that he used to ride like a horse. He remembers those days with fondness when he loses his job and his Granny dies. It's a low period for him, but it's important to return to her home and the small town to pay respect to her and to remember such a wonderful, independent and loving woman, the only real mother Chip ever had.
His grandmother's last words to him -- "Trust him. He's the one." -- baffle him, but Chip puts them out of his mind as he goes through her arrangements and her will. She left everything to him, which was surprisingly a large amount of money and her home and land. He no longer has to worry about finding a new job, which is freeing. Chip can spend the time he needs to go through her things and then live as he's always wanted to, there in her house in the country. He soon meets the colorful characters of the town, her wizened lawyer, the creepy realtor, and his neighbor Jason, with beautiful Native features and long black hair. Jason seemed to know his Granny rather well and rather quickly Chip grows to know him well also. The two form a quick bond that seems perfectly right. It's only when he's nearly attacked by a tawny brown cougar and rescued by a black cougar -- one that by all means shouldn't exist -- that things change drastically.
As I said before, in many ways this is a typical shifter story. We have a shifter and his secrets from the man he's recognized as his mate, and the man himself who knows nothing of the paranormal world. There's a mating bond and a threat coming from one of the men's past that acts as a catalyst to move the plot and relationship forward. It makes an enjoyable read, but not a wholly original one. But, that's okay. It's all about what you like to read that will make this book good for you or not. I know that shifter stories such as this one do really well, because there are so many fans of shifters out there. There are also some of you that don't like to read these stories that much. I fall somewhere in between. Every now and then I will always want a shifter story to fall back on and read. It's comforting and why I'm a big proponent of not hating on the "fluff". Sometimes that's what you want to read, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, most people (or those that don't read romance) would call all romance fluff as a blanket term (so let's not nitpick people).
Anyway, sorry for going tangential on you. While I maybe wouldn't define this completely as reading candy (in the fluff sense), it is mostly a lighthearted read. I found the shifter culture in this book to be rather interesting, in that there didn't seem to be highly defined pack structure. The community of shifters are all related by Native American culture and Jason, when he finally must tell Chip everything, talks a bit about the creation of the shapeshifter. I liked this part of the book the best, and I found the author's genesis of the shifter and their human's relation to the animal totem to be pretty interesting. There is mention of a little detail about a representation of their totem that I really wanted to know more about that isn't much explained, but hopefully that will come up in the next book. This story focuses mainly on Chip and Jason and their world in this book is incredibly insular. There are a few moments where other characters are present, but this book is highly focused on their relationship and their internal conflict, with the external conflict I mentioned before acting as a catalyst to their relationship's progression. I'll be really interested in reading the next book because I'd like to see if there is more of their native cultural history.
This is a fairly quick read and definitely a book that you should know if you'd like from reading the blurb and from reading this review. If you're a fan of shifter stories then this is definitely something you'll want to pick up. It's not trying to push any boundaries or re-define the shifter romance novel, but that probably opens it up to a wider audience as well. Sometimes what you want to read is something that you know will give you pleasure and which you won't have to stress over while reading. It makes for a pleasant experience and this was a book that I enjoyed. Plus, you'll love Jason in bed. HOT!(less)
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted to review this book before I'd even heard of it or read the blurb. So when I finally did read the blurb I was even more exited, especially for such a long book. And finishing it took me a couple of days, mostly just because I wanted to enjoy it, so I spent my time reading it totally for pleasure and enjoying every twist and turn.
Evan St. John and Will Trask have a tumultuous past. Roommates their Freshman year of college at Columbia, they soon grow to be friends. Evan is openly gay and an art photography student, always carrying around his camera, while Will is a manly jock through and through. For reasons that Evan never understands, Will sticks by him and the bullying he was experiencing dwindles when people start to realize that Will will aways have his back. As they grow closer Evan starts to understand Will better, including Will's White Knight Complex, his need to protect and care for those he loves, to an almost fanatical, save-the-day to-the-rescue level.
Their dynamic changes when Evan's sister is dying of cancer and their relationship grows during the emotional period -- Evan is distraught and barely keeping himself afloat while trying to understand and come to terms with her turn for the worse. And Will picks up the slack, in more ways than expected. But the grief sends Evan running to Paris and three years go by, where Evan becomes a famous fashion photographer taken on by The House of Nadasdy, run by famous and infamous Elizabeth Nadasdy, and Will becomes an agent with the FBI.
We're first introduced to Evan in Like the Night as he escapes Paris during the day to fly to New York City and seek help from Will. He's a newly made vampire under the gruesome and tyrannical rule of Elizabeth Nadasdy, a modern day remnant of her famous human days as Elizabeth of Bathory. Above all (except herself), she loves beauty and hoards a collection of "children" all turned by her for their extraordinary beauty, which she believes deserves to be preserved for eternity. Evan was a prize for her, and his rejection of her extraordinary "gift" is tantamount to the ultimate betrayal, something she relishes punishing him for. But Elizabeth doesn't expect the trouble it will take to find and deal with Evan. With him, someone whose beauty hides his intelligence and cunning, are a group of allies who seek one common goal: the eradication of Elizabeth Nadasdy. And of course Evan has Will, his White Knight, ready to stand in front of any threat to his best friend.
I really just loved this book. I took a while to read it because it is long, but it is also totally packed with plot and, just about everything under the sun, making the book seem even longer than it is. There's an economy to the writing which gives you SO much story for just the first book of a series that it gave me the time and the opportunity to really sink into the story. What came through in this story most strongly for me was the pervasive mood of fear and impending doom. This is all because of the fact that Elizabeth is built up to such supervillain status that she's made to be almost omniscient, with unlimited power. Add to this a connection between vampires and their sire, or maker, and the fact that Elizabeth could peek in on Evan at any moment and even make him do things or spy on his relationship with Will, or their planned resistance of her make the story suffused with tension.
I found the villainous characters in this novel to be quite interesting. We have Elizabeth who is the typical diabolical character. She relishes in the pain of others and not only causes death and despair because it gets her something (money, fame, power, etc.) but also because she enjoys the suffering of others. She firmly believes that she's more worthy than anyone else to have the status that she does because of her beauty and the vision she has for the future. But, sometimes diabolical is boring. No matter how outrageously cruel Elizabeth can be, she's still a character that doesn't take too much effort to understand. My favorite villainous character is her daughter Anna, who I suspect will become a crucial and central character to the future books. Anna is raised in the shadow of her diabolical mother. She's always second best, but raised to revel in the same cruelties as her mother. She's made a vampire both because of her beauty which is similar to her mother's, but also as a gift from her. But hundreds of years of oppression make Anna rather different from her mother. Though I suspect that they both have similar depth of cruel possibility inherently in them, Anna's choices are governed by her hate of her mother and her acceptance that her only meaning to her mother is what she can do for her. That makes her cruel, but much more interesting than her mother. And of course, it's going to be great when the two really turn on one another ;)
Anyway, I'm super excited for the second book. I hope it isn't too far away. But honestly, I can't really be sad because this is the first book in a while (that is the first book of a series) that actually gives us enough story to satisfy us for the first installment. 123k words is pretty long, yes, but it allows the book to give full and adequate world-building while also giving us a real story that will be carried on in the second part. We have a full and self-standing plot with only a few loose ends to pick up in the next book. If this is the case for the next books as well, then I can only imagine where this story will go before it ends!
I've been looking forward to this Skybound series finale ever since the first book when I knew I wanted to read J...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been looking forward to this Skybound series finale ever since the first book when I knew I wanted to read Jeret's story most. I think that a lot of other readers have felt that way too, at least from what I've seen. Of all the crew of the Annie, Jeret is the one who seems to have the most secrets. He's secretive himself, but enigmatic and funny at times, always with a smart quip in response to the others and always wanting to prove himself since he's the youngest and in many ways considered the baby on board by Torrin. Whether it was intended by the author for Jeret to become such a favorite, I'm not sure. But it does mean that a lot of people who read this series were eagerly awaiting his story, which gives this third book in the series a lot of pressure to stand up to.
Of all the secrets that Jeret could have had… I never expected that he's a runaway prince! That in itself was a surprise, that I wish that I had found out in the book and not the blurb. But, it's a good hook to bring people to the story, even if they haven't been reading the series up till now. The runaway prince is a solid character that always seems to draw in readers. Torrin, Rain and Jeret are the only ones left on the Annie after Cookie left in Sky Runners to live with his new love Neith, who the crew rescued from an intergalactic brothel where Neith had been sold and kept against his will as a whore. Now, with the crew reduced to three and two of those -- Torrin and Rain -- in a relationship themselves, Jeret feels a bit like the third wheel. Add in the fact that he was always seen as the baby of the crew anyway, and it had Jeret thinking about his past.
When Torrin announces that they're headed to a planet near the one that Jeret escaped from, he does everything he can to convince Torrin and Rain that heading for a job there is a bad idea, especially when he learns that Torrin has agreed to ferry a shipment that must have come from his home planet. Jeret knows that something is wrong if those on his planet are smuggling off the expensive ore, underneath the nose of the COP, but his caution is ignored by the others.
When they land on the nearby planet, Jeret has no idea that Dagan -- once the man who was his guard, his best friend, and the man who held his unrequited love as a 15 year old crown prince -- has resumed the search for the heir to the empire under the name of his king. When Jadakira (Jeret's real name) escaped as he always wanted to do at 15, Dagan lost everything. His failure to protect the prince led to the loss of his whole world and his ultimate banishment from the planet. But Dagan knows Jadi well and it only takes him six months to track his whereabouts and learn about his tenure as part of the Crux Ansata's crew.
But Jeret, no matter his remaining feelings for the man he once loved as a kid, will not allow anyone to return him to his home planet. He has never had a desire to be king and what he loves most is the mechanics of the Annie, his crew and their adventures in space. His birthright is a cage he escaped years ago. But when he learns that his father, the King, is dying and a traitor planetside is angling to steal the throne, Jeret knows that he has to find the culprit. But he'll fight Dagan and his "duty" to the King the whole way, and hopefully in the end be able to return to the life he wants to lead.
There are parts of this book that I really enjoyed. There is quite a bit of history between Jeret and Dagan and I thought that their relationship played out beautifully. Both are stubborn and refuse to budge from their ultimate goal: Jeret to return his home planet to the way it should be and then return to the crew of the Annie; and Dagan wants to help Jadi, still not quite understanding his true desires. The fact that Dagan failed in his duty all those years ago is a mark against his pride and he will do everything to return Jadi to his father before his death. The reconciliation of their desires takes most of the book and we really get to see their stubbornness play out against each other over and over, though not too far as to be frustrating. The push and pull between them gave the story the most enjoyment for me, because as the story evolves and they learn to work together for a common goal their true feelings come to matter more than their pride.
On the other hand, I was pretty disappointed in the external plot. The plot to overthrow the king and Jeret and Dagan's plan to ferret out the traitor. For most of the book the tension mounted and they moved closer and closer but the ending really fizzled for me. First, the traitor was not who I expected, but that was because I never felt as if they were introduced into the plot to even become a suspect. I'm not a big fan of when authors do that. The culprit should have been introduced much earlier. And second because the final confrontation, while a bit satisfying for the characters, seemed a bit… anticlimactic.
So the real interest for me in this story was Jeret, and his love interest Dagan. I enjoyed their back and forth courtship, and I will admit that the tension created by the external plot was more of a device to play into their feelings for one another than the other way around. I think that if you read this story alone, without reading the first two then you might not have the prior interest in the characters to make this a very satisfactory read. I read this because I'd read the first two, and I had an interest in learning more about Jeret. And while I did find what I wanted, this book as a complete story was a little bit disappointing.
So, I recommend this for those of you who, like me, have read both Sky Riders and Sky Runners. For all the books, I found the romances in them the best part of the books. Looking back at this as a series, I would have probably enjoyed more of a central story arc over the whole series that drew them together. But, they are the way they are ;) And I did find enjoyment from them.(less)
This is the first book by this author that I read, and I was intrigued immediately from the blurb, but I've been...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is the first book by this author that I read, and I was intrigued immediately from the blurb, but I've been sitting on it for a month or so now not tempted enough to read it yet when I have so many other pressing reviews to do. But when I saw that I'd have to make a decision to keep reviewing the series with the release of the second book (Find a Way) this week, I decided to give it a try. And I'm very pleasantly surprised by what I found. Just a tease for the other side of the summary ;)
Kherin Rhylle is the second prince of Llarien. At the start of the novel, he's laid up by a broken leg, left to sifting through the books in the royal library while off of his feet. He is supposed to be fulfilling his current post at the border in the north, where Llarien borders the Northern lands. And he is not happy that his older brother Adrien, the Crown Prince, is currently fulfilling his duty at the border, a post that every man of Llarien takes for three months of the year at the start of their seventeenth birthday. Instead, Kherin is left to his idle games at the castle, which include his well-known promiscuous sex life (currently with the stable boy Tristan) and the enmity between his father and himself.
The only reprieve is Derek, one of his best friends and a highly valued trader by his father. Derek is a master trader, traveling Llarien and trading in secrets which he brings back to his father. He's a master indeed at hearing what the people are saying and in plying and bartering for sensitive information. But that also means that Derek is always leaving and rarely staying in any one place for a significant length of time. Derek has brought interesting news, that a northerner was apparently found and killed and of growing instability from the sons of nobles of one of Llarien's most valuable ports. These young men are stirring a rebellion. But it isn't until word travels back to the castle of the injury of his brother Adrien and of the mass simultaneous attacks from large groups of northerners that Kherin really feels useless. A request from his son won't go far to convince him that Kherin needs activity and to do something helpful for his brother and the country, but a stern warning from his trusted trader that Kherin's behavior might spin further out of control if he's given nothing constructive to do is just the thing that Kherin needs to get out of the capital, and to follow Derek on his next trip.
The first and maybe most important thing that you really need to know going into this series is how slow the pace is. We're given much time to get to know the characters, which I love, but the plot moves very slowly. In fact, I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to tell you that by the end of the first book much less happened than I thought it would. Still, I was really into it, but I might have been more upset if I didn't have the second book to immediately start reading. The style of writing in this fantasy reminds me a great deal of Ann Somerville's writing in Kei's Gift. That book is a total of 300k words, but it is okay because it isn't broken up. My suspicion is that this is a choice by Dreamspinner, but I really wish that the book was kept in tact. Of course, I'm going on assumption here, but the ending of the first book seems as if it was just the first part of one book that was split into smaller pieces. And while the author did a pretty admirable job to give this first book a climax, it's done in the romance and not the external fantasy plot. That means, of course that you pay more. Now, I hate to say this since I'm getting this book for free in trade of a review, but I would pay for these books, even if I had to pay double. I mean, I pay more for other books anyway. But it does change how you read this series. The fact that only a month separates the release dates shows me that the second book was already written. Anyway, what that means is that I'm really glad that I waited to read this first book until I had the second in hand. And I'll tell you now that the first book is worth it now that the second is coming out. I only hope that it is either the end of the series or that the third and following books will come as quickly.
I'll have much more to tell you about the story when I finish and review the second book this week. But I will say that I think the romance in this story is so far going superbly, with lots of natural tension and angst between Kherin and Derek and the (im)possibility of a future relationship between them because of the king. As for the fantasy plot, well… it's coming. There is still so little known at the end of the first book that I hesitate to really get into it, other than to say that pretty much everything is an unknown and up in the air at this point. As I said before, I like that style of writing, but I also prefer the books to not be so cut up…. but, fair enough. So, if you're a fantasy fan then I definitely recommend you get your hands on this one right away, if you haven't yet, so that you're ready to start the second book, Find a Way, when it is released this Monday. See you then ;)(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)
Excellent!! I found the romance a little less exciting this time around, but excitement isn't everything and I thought that overall the relat...more4.5 stars
Excellent!! I found the romance a little less exciting this time around, but excitement isn't everything and I thought that overall the relationship progressed extremely well after the ending of the first book.
And WOW, a MUCHMUCH better mystery this time around. I really got into this one and I thought that it and the evidence unfolded much more naturally.
I didn't quite understand what Rolf and Ranger were trying to do until I remembered the name of this story. And the format (twelve short sho...moreBrilliant!
I didn't quite understand what Rolf and Ranger were trying to do until I remembered the name of this story. And the format (twelve short shorts with Christmas as their only common denominator) works beautifully for such a large cast of characters, especially since so many of them are still partially unknown to us, or we only know them from third-hand information through the main characters. Getting to see them like this, their history in just a moment captured from one Christmas in their past or present says so much about each one of them and introduces us to a lot of new information. Wade, especially, is someone that I feel I have a completely better understanding of now.
And the format really works and must have gone over really well, as seen with Rolf and Ranger's most recent FCR short story release, "Jackson High", which has the same vignette format.(less)