Author Vivien Jackson's bio may be the last page I read in this book, but it sets up the atmosphere of the Wanted & Wired story 'verse just about perfectly. And the rest of Ms. Jackson's bio is just as entertaining and appealing to a girl who grew up loving Han Solo and grew into a keen appreciation of Captain Mal.
Right from the first scene, Wanted & Wired hits the ground running and immerses the reader in its futuristic dystopian setting, where terms like whole-organic and post-human have nothing to do with fancy grocery stores.
Not since my college Science Fiction English class have I had so much fun with futuristic urban sci-fi (okay, let's just call it cyberpunk). Wanted & Wired invoked so many fond memories of the greats—like Asimov, Gibson's Neuromancer, even Ghost in the Shell—and invited me to snark along with Mari's obvious affinity with some very famous space pirate captains. Wanted & Wired fair shivers with a Wild West vibe that breathes life and vibrancy into an already brilliant story world. You can hear it in the turn of a phrase, the peek of a crinoline underskirt, the twang of the Texas-secessionist accents.
And holy hell, this book packs some serious action sequences. About thirty percent in was one that had me grinning like a fool, with a Knight-Rider-meets-the-Avengers-meets-Firefly flair, and I'm pretty sure I actually fist-pumped when the scene careened to victory. Flashy cars are one thing—one thing I covet so very hard—but said sexy machine hardwired into a human brain and handled with finesse and utility... and some seriously lethal mods? Oh my. I think I may have a new hero crush. Heron is that perfect, killer combination of cool under pressure, crazy smart, uber confident, unpredictably lethal, and heart-wrenchingly vulnerable. Mari is his polar opposite in everything except dealing in death, and she owns her sexuality like few other female leads in the romance genre. Neither of the main characters loves killing, but they're willing to do it to protect each other. Mari is a true badass, a sniper who has zero compunctions about taking out a mech or clone, and she's as dangerous with her god-given limbs as she is with her favorite toys. She also has a deep-seated aversion to anything bio-mechanically enhanced, and Heron definitely falls under that heading.
It takes a lot of something special to lure me away from chain reading romances, but Heron and Mari and the world Ms. Jackson has built around them are just fascinating. I'd read a whole series dedicated to Heron's youth, just watching him grow up, come into his own, become this incomparable, alluring other.
Wanted & Wired is an adrenaline-inducing sci-fi adventure that skips across a canvas splashed with primers of Wild West, sophisticated-steampunk flair, and even space pirates of a sort (but the kind who spend as much time running black ops on the ground as holed up in their cozy mercenary space plane). All things that, on their own, wouldn't really appeal to me, but this story world is addicting and all kinds of creative. Like so many of the sci-fi classics, Wanted & Wired wrestles with the philosophical definition of humanity: What defines 'human'? Where does 'machine' begin? How comfortable do we trust ourselves to become with tech before we lose our sense of self, control over our own destinies? This story is steeped in diversity—racial, bio-mechanical, sexual, sub-genre—you name it, and Wanted & Wired just might have it.
Straight up, you won't find many stories like this in the romance market right now, although I wouldn't be surprised if the Tether story universe inspires a thriving new cyberpunk romance sub-genre. Any romance or urban fantasy reader who gets the warm fuzzies thinking about Star Wars or Firefly or Isaac Asimov will adore Wanted & Wired, be sucked in right from the start and beg for more when it ends. Me? I'm excited to see what's coming next for Mari, Heron, and all their precious things....more
Ashwin’s training andRead the full review on GraveTells, including a video review & tweetable quotes from the book: http://bit.ly/GTreview-Ashwin
Ashwin’s training and suppressed emotions—the way he looks at everything so analytically, the quick decisions and dependence on logic—reminded me of another soldier: Hunter from Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series. I watched John Wick, Chapter 2 just as I started reading Ashwin, and I imagine Ashwin’s skilled, economical movements in a fight might have looked a little like Keanu Reeves as he plowed through hundreds of trained assassins on screen.
If you’re a fan of the Beyond series and worry about how appealing the religious culture of Sector One will be after spending the last three years with the hedonistic O’Kanes, don’t be. The world-building for this new Riders series is just as compelling—loyalty and dedication to a cause, the closeness and quirks of chosen family, the respect and reverence given to the sector leader by its people, the beautiful artisan hand-crafted goods. Kit Rocha’s comfortable, immersive style is still there, and it’s still a heady thing to experience.
Even more layers of the mystery of Eden are peeled back, exposing a stark truth that runs especially true in the social and political climate of early 2017: people spend a lot of time focusing on (and bickering about) things that ultimately don’t matter while determinedly avoiding ways to protect or invest in humanity’s future.
Ashwin’s story line has been building since midway through the Beyond series, but you don’t need to have read that series to start this one.
This book is the perfect introduction to Sector One—and Gideon’s Riders in particular. Ashwin’s mission to infiltrate the Riders is the perfect opportunity to sweep the readers along on a journey of initiation, and rites of passage, and the first experiences unique to Sector One. Readers new and old will adore Ashwin and savor his dance with Kora and the Riders.
This book is the perfect introduction to Sector One—and Gideon’s Riders in particular. Ashwin’s mission to infiltrate the Riders is the perfect opportunity to sweep the readers along on a journey of initiation, and rites of passage, and the first experiences unique to Sector One. Readers new and old will adore Ashwin and savor his dance with Kora and the Riders....more
When I read Scorpius Rising, the first story in the Scorpius Syndrome series (part of the On the Hunt anthology*), I immediately liked the setup: our modern day world falling to pieces after a pandemic bacterial infection kills 90% of the Earth's population and turns half the survivors into either brutal, genius serial killers or raging zombie-like crazies. Mercury Striking picks up months after Scorpius has spiraled madly out of control and all semblance of modern society has ceased to exist. The survivors are either scared out of their minds and seeking protection (at any cost) or are ruthless rulers willing to kill, rape, and steal to see another day and retain their power.
Jax Mercury set up his territory inside L.A. before the internet and TV stations went down, and he runs it with an iron fist. The ex-gang, ex-Delta Force soldier knows when to be a hard ass and when to hide his emotions, and he protects his people with both fair rules and zero tolerance. Lynne Harmony seeks him out for his strength and moral compass, but Jax knows Lynne is hiding more than just her glowing blue heart, a souvenir from the Ripper who infected her back when she was frantically trying to find a cure at the CDC.
There's a lot to like about Mercury Striking, like the thought-provoking quotes that introduce each new chapter and the sense of constant uncertainty from never knowing who's a hidden Ripper just waiting to pounce. This story is the darkest I've read from Rebecca Zanetti to date, and it definitely makes me feel thankful for our relative peace and modern conveniences. It's gritty like an old school urban fantasy, intense and serious like a romantic suspense, and features Ms. Zanetti's hallmark tortured-alpha-badass-with-a good heart hero character and smart, sassy, sexy go-getter style of heroine.
Since Mercury Striking is the first full novel in the series, you can start here, but I highly recommend skipping back to the novella Scorpius Rising in the On the Hunt anthology* so some of the characters and back story are more familiar. The Scorpius Syndrome series will appeal to romance readers who enjoy darker dystopian stories set in a chaotic post-apocalyptic world....more
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
Beyond Ecstasy brings readers one step closer to the inevitable war that is coming: the war charging right toward the sectors, to Eden, to every soul who has suffered through the endless blackouts and rising tensions.
Hawk has been circling Jeni for a while, and she really never knew—at least not the level of intensity he craved her with. Since Hawk burst onto the O'Kane scene in his dramatic rescue of Finn and Trix in Beyond Addiction, his want for Jeni has been an all-consuming fire. Even worse, Hawk doesn't share and the O'Kanes don't do jealousy, so watching her belong to the king and queen of Sector Four kept her firmly out of his reach. Until now. And Jeni is exposing all those delicious dark secrets this bad boy farmer has hidden down deep.
Jeni has been through a lot, done whatever it took to survive until she landed with the O'Kanes. And belonging to Dallas and Lex, as rewarding as it was, didn't fill those deep submissive needs the way she needed. Jeni finds a surprisingly perfect match in Hawk, and their scenes are red hot!
There was one small thing that bugged me about this story, and that was Ace's attitude about Hawk and Jeni's relationship. I won't go into any detail so as not to accidentally spoil anything, but as I read Ace's behavior, I wondered if maybe I'd missed some brewing tension between the men somewhere earlier in the series? Or if perhaps this is just Ace being protective of Jeni? I didn't think how he acted was out of line—it was fairly well justified given the circumstances—just felt like it came out of nowhere.
Beyond Ecstasy is the second to last book in the Beyond series, and it heats up at exactly the right pace. Kit Rocha writes ruthless erotic suspense, and this book is killer good. I cannot even wait to see how it all ends in the final O'Kane installment, Beyond Surrender. Even more exciting is that even when this series ends, we will still get more of Eden and the sectors in the upcoming Gideon's Riders series. Fans of the series are going to love Beyond Ecstasy, but newbies should definitely not start here! Go way back to Beyond Shame and see how it all started with Noelle and Jasper.
This. Just. Got. REAL! Beyond Ruin didn't pull any punches...or shots. This book is a veritable symphony of complex psychology chasing dangerous revolution, laced liberally with unexpected violence.
Beyond Ruin is big. Big in heart, big in drama, and big in surprise moments. This story chronicles the coming together of the Mad-Dylan-Jade-Scarlett menage, but its positioning in the overall story arc of the series balances Beyond Ruin right on the edge of sanity, treading that fine line between fighting for freedom and accepting the consequences of taking up the fight.
I'm sad to admit that I was disappointed in the way the Ace-Rachel-Cruz story line (Beyond Jealousy) played out, but Kit Rocha nailed the dynamics between this foursome. The sex scenes are realistic, with enough purpose and creativity to set each one apart as something special without becoming repetitive, boring, or crowded. That's no small task with four very complex characters to balance. And each of the characters is allowed to fully mesh with each of the others, both individually and in various combinations.
That said, with the motivations, fears, and mistakes of four people to sift through, I found myself occasionally confused. What is Scarlett's problem here? Why does this thing bother Dylan? What the hell are Mad and Jade all testy about anyway? The dialogue gets a little hard to follow in a few of the scenes, but the overall emotional bloom is solid.
This is a relatively lengthy story, and reading it affected me in ways I hadn't expected. I expected to revel in the the O'Kane lust for life and the complications and sexual excess of four people coming together as a single romantic unit—craved it even, since that's such a huge draw of this series. What I didn't see coming was the buried depth of emotion carefully nurtured inside each of these characters, their disparate yet traumatic pasts that smooth all those jagged edges when they lean on one another. And most unexpectedly, feeling pride in watching them overcome their formidable challenges, as individuals and as a group.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this story universe, and it just keeps getting better! The authors drop just enough clues about the series' past that the reader understands this is a post-apocalyptic world in the heart of our own civilization, but they also withhold that same information judiciously. Each new story brings substantial advances in the overarching storyline without giving away any of the big series secrets, and many of the pivotal events are shocking even when we expect them. Cleverly crafted and tightly narrated, the Beyond series is already an adult dystopian must-read and it's not even finished yet! ...more
Dallas O'Kane is stepping up his game, and not everSee the full review, including Memorable Quotes, on GraveTells here: http://gravetells.com/?p=22316
Dallas O'Kane is stepping up his game, and not every O'Kane under his command now wears the ink. When you're spying for Sector Four right in the heart of Eden's elite, you can't afford to be marked, and Jared understands that better than anyone. Jared has always been close with Ace--they go way back as friends, lovers, associates--and will do anything to protect him, including retiring from his longtime role as a high-end prostitute and taking on the much more dangerous task of charming and maneuvering a swath through the shining city's volatile politics.
Lili only knows life as a trophy wife in Sector Five, but all of that changes when she meets Jared. Suddenly the woman who drugged herself into numb oblivion to escape the violence of her life can't run from all the ways Jared and the O'Kanes make her feel. And she doesn't want to.
I mean really, who would turn down the sensual, powerful, mysterious man who knows more secrets—the deep, dark secrets of powerful people as much as those of their bodies—than anyone else in the Sectors? Official O'Kane or under-the-radar spy, Jared has some titillating connections to the gang that make a virgin trophy wife's eyes pop wide open. Voyeuristic moments with the O'Kanes—that we're used to (and have I thanked Kit Rocha for that today? Oh lovely authors, how you make us want!)—but getting a deeper look inside the Ace-Rachel-Cruz trinity is the real treat.
I also loved how Lili is the first heroine to take on domestic tasks, not as a job or because she has to, but because she wants to. She craves cooking, providing for others in a way that she alone is uniquely qualified. She doesn't need to kick anyone's ass or make a working living outside the compound, but she does feel the compulsion to earn her place, and she goes about that in a way none of the other leading ladies thus far have been able to.
As with every other Beyond series story so far, Beyond Innocence is a hedonistic, voyeuristic ride, this one driving us through the brotherhood of Sector Four's ruling O'Kanes right into the heart of Eden's corrupt politics. If dystopian snares your attention... if menage draws you in... if erotica gets you hot, and you haven't read the Beyond series yet, you must start immediately! The first book is Beyond Shame. Read it. Love it. Swoon over the O'Kane fight nights and private parties, then drool for more right along with the rest of us!...more
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! *** * Being Emerald is part of a continuing series and should not be read as a standalone. If*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! *** * Being Emerald is part of a continuing series and should not be read as a standalone. If you must, you must, but I think you'd be cheating yourself. =) *
Being Emerald is as different from the first two books in this series as they were from each other. Rock is... 'intense' is not nearly extreme enough a descriptor for this man. He is complex, unpredictable, overwhelming, stubborn as hell, and addictive. The sex scenes between Rock and Laila are—whew—smokin'! I appreciated each new evolution of their relationship and rebelled against Rock's immovable authority right along with Laila. Sometimes it takes more courage to submit than to fight, and the way Ms. Ryan threads all Rock's "lessons" through to the final plot sequence—transforming the private, personal experiences into life-saving survival skills—weaves a beautiful tapestry of shared trust and determination to succeed at all costs.
Being Amber flirted with BDSM—Xander used it as a tool to help Jaci cope—and Being Sapphire introduced it as a lifestyle choice for the Jordan and Shane, but Being Emerald dives right off into the deep water of pair-bonding. Anyone who has read the series so far knows about the gruff, domineering armor Rock wears like a shield, but it's not just a shell; those alpha traits are a compulsion and control is a requirement for his happiness. The relationship Rock and Laila build is hard won, and I don't think either one of them would like it any other way. He needs—truly craves and relishes—her dependency and total submission to his will, and she loves him so much that she can't keep from giving him everything, yet she's independent and spunky enough to need to hold back and (sometimes unintentionally) brat a little. All the main personalities so far in the series have been very strong, vastly different from one another and particularly memorable. Most of them haven't changed much from when we first met them in Being Amber, but Journey is one you can see slowly growing throughout the books. I'm curious to see where her path wanders in her own story, and I imagine she is aptly named. *wink*
Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot. After blazing through the first two very emotional stories, however, I was left wanting just a little with Being Emerald. In comparison to other books and series in this genre, it still stands out as a "must read", but lined up next to Ms. Ryan's stellar work on its predecessors, I felt there were fragments missing—little details which could have better tied up plot lines and filled in story pieces. General Morgan—for all his bluster and evil—still really hasn't lived up to the monster he's been built up as, not in his personal scenes anyway. There were story segments where I didn't have any sense of how fast time was progressing, and the characters would do or say something that made me have to stop and think "wait, when did they do that?" I'm also not sure I believe Rock would have truly made the decision he ultimately did in order to keep Laila "safe". It felt like a plot device for the author to maneuver Laila into a position that would allow the delivery of a key piece of intel for the continuation of the overall series' story arc. All that said, the book still packs emotional punch and is definitely worth the read for fans of the series.
So far in the New Atlanta series, the end of each story has brought about a wholly different emotion in me. Amber was cultural shock and a warm feeling of unity, Sapphire was respect and a sense of sisterly pride, but at the end Emerald, I realized something that really wasn't a surprise but made me profoundly sad anyway. I won't talk about that here, to keep from giving inadvertent spoilers, but I will say that those of you who wondered about the differences in the epilogues for Amber and Sapphire will gain a little insight at the close of Emerald. As of this posting, Ms. Ryan hasn't yet made the epilogue to Being Emerald available on her website, but I'm looking forward to reading it! My overall score for this is 8.5/10, which translates to just above a 4/5 on GoodReads. ...more
Content warning: This book contains serious emotional themes (suicide, forced sterilization, and sexual assault) which may be disturbing to some readers.
I cannot say enough good things about this heartfelt, incredibly moving book! Post-apocalyptic dystopian romances are hard to nail down. Usually they fall hard to one side: either heavily erotic or overwhelmingly story based (read: lacking in emotional depth). Being Amber strikes the perfect balance, delivering a heart-wrenching, pulse-tripping experience full of ups and downs, with believable events and characters.
The premise for this society is unique and crafted so realistically that I can imagine it actually working exactly as described. The necessity for the segregation and Repopulation Laws, the long-term element of power that grew out of the extreme survival methods, and the breakdown of society's acceptance of that outdated rule... all of this lays the groundwork for a love-of-a-lifetime romance that has everything working against it and manages to prevail anyway, while setting the scene for a very necessary revolution against the oppressive Gov.
The characters are relatable and their way of life is both intriguing and a little shocking, but makes total sense. Jaci doesn't make stupid decisions or rush into danger expecting someone to save her. She's smart, but while she's also hesitant and unsure, she has a core of steel. She endures several terrible personal attacks, both physically and emotionally, and her reaction to each of them is spot on. I liked Jaci from the start and respected the hell out of her by the end. Xander may come off as edgy and intense but he's smoothly layered with a gentle and protective nature and some serious skills as a Dominant. I liked that Ms. Ryan wasn't afraid to incorporate BDSM into the story universe - the lifestyle lived by the Ambers completely supports it - but didn't make a big deal out of it or try to turn it into some big production. Being in charge and liking rough sex are just part of who Xander is and that is damn appealing on his character.
Being Amber made me smile and swoon. It made my heart beat faster in sympathy and in expectation. It even made me cry. It's been a long time since I enjoyed such a well-crafted post-apocalyptic dystopian romantic series and I am already looking forward to starting the next book (Being Sapphire)....more
As I finished the epilogue for Being Sapphire (available on Sylvia Ryan's website) - tears literally streaming down my face - all I could think was "Wow. Just, wow." What a great story, in what is shaping up to be a truly epic series. Considering this is only book #2 of what is likely to be a trilogy - and being such a big fan of scifi and fantasy, where a story arcing over a mere three books long is barely considered a series - I don't use the word "epic" lightly. If you haven't read Being Amber, the first book in this series, you must start there. Skipping that story will rob you of the relevant and absolutely necessary experience of life in New Atlanta so you can fully immerse yourself in the gravity of the situation these people lived through.
Where Being Amber chronicles the conception and infancy of the Amber resistance against the oppressive dictatorship parading as "the Gov", Being Sapphire follows the first steps to freedom, the start of a new way of life, and the growth of the unique three-way relationship between Jordan Ford and twin brothers Patrick and Shane O'Connor. For those of you either looking for a true menage story or worried about twincest, let me just say upfront that this story respects the bond of the brothers - meaning they do not have a romantic or sexual relationship with one another - and showcases the heart's ability to love in different, varied (sometimes shocking) ways. Most of the bedroom action in this book is m/f, as Jordan splits time between them through her organization of the Resistance in the Sapphire and Amber zones.
One of the things I love most about the New Atlanta series is how Ms. Ryan spins such a believable, realistic tale. The balance between the romantic relationships, the delicate vulnerabilities of the human psyche, and the lasting impact that seemingly small decisions have on the political climate of the story universe is perfect. I'm a fairly harsh critic of romantic stories and I cannot imagine a more ideal and relatable way to tell this incredible tale. It is an inspiring journey through the heart of a very necessary revolution and the inevitable personal sacrifices the characters must make. Ms. Ryan doesn't handle her story with kid gloves, nor does she subject her people to unnecessary suffering for the sake of manufactured drama (seriously, major kudos for that). This is an author who takes care in establishing a solid trust with her readers very early in the story and never takes advantage of that fragile bond.
Being Sapphire had me gasping in shock at some of the events, squirming along with the heroine in her "punishments", and wanting to high-five Jordan in her triumphs. She is perfectly complimented by twin brothers Shane and Patrick O'Connor, who - while sharing a deep twin bond and having grown up together - are as different as night and day when it comes to their interactions with her and how they support her seemingly conflicting personal needs. I won't divulge Jordan's history here, but she needs the security and structure she finds under Shane's hands as her dominant as equally as she craves the lighthearted love and total acceptance she gets from Patrick. As a woman, she is strong and independent - the kind of character who is easy to identify with, that you cheer for over the entire book. Don't forget to read the epilogue to the story on Ms. Ryan's website!
This second book in Sylvia Ryan's post-apocalyptic dystopian romantic New Atlanta series is a beacon of love and acceptance, hardship and personal sacrifices, and embracing the courage that lives deep inside yourself. There are no zombies or mutants here, just victimized people whose ancestors survived a harrowing holocaust and now live under the repressive rule which was originally necessary to save the human race from extinction. Being Sapphire makes me feel 10 feet tall as if I'm right there with Jordan in her triumphs, and heartbroken as she struggles to accept the reality of her situation. It has been a long time since a book or series left me - simultaneously - in tears and glowing with pride. Even if you think dystopian is not your thing, you absolutely must read this book (and this series) by Sylvia Ryan. It will lift your spirits and inspire you to become a better you, someone who truly makes a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
You may also like the Beyond series by Kit Rocha and the Metamorphosis series by Lauren Dane....more
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
Beyond Addiction starts off with a bang - literally, Kit Rocha just kicked this series into high gear! Aside from the off-the-charts sexstravaganzas, one of the most exciting things about a Kit Rocha Beyond novel is the action. Beyond Addiction takes us into a new sector, introduces us to people with a different way of life and a pretty gnarly hobby. The resulting action sequence is gritty and wild, a ride of a different kind and a totally immersive experience to read. From Fight Night to top shelf liquor to stealth supply runs to almost-strip poker, the O'Kanes don't do anything halfway.
I love the interactions between the characters in this series and how each new book gives use more glimpses into the relationship nuances between couples (and potential couples) like Ace & Cruz, Mad & Doc, Dallas & Lex, and peeks into the personalities of future O'Kanes - like Jared - really add to the heart and soul of the storyline. This series is always building, always growing and giving readers something exciting and tantalising to look forward to. As tensions between the sector leaders grow, the O'Kanes just get tighter and more loyal to each other and it's part of what makes them so addicting. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted like that, and Finn's outsider status lets us see Sector Four through the eyes of the less privileged, the non-believers.
I really enjoyed the dynamic between Finn and Trix, especially since they have such a loaded and heavy history together. He was an enforcer for the man she ran away from, a scheming drug lord who's been a thorn in Dallas' side for years. It's not easy to earn the respect of the O'Kanes, even less to be offered their ink and a place at their sides, and even with Trix's support, Finn has a tough road ahead him and his choices are some of the most painful this series has ever seen.
I'm not a tattoo girl, but every damn O'Kane book has me giving it another look. Think I'd regret it 20 years from now if I got a set of Dallas' cuffs? Naaah. O'Kane for life!...more
***This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
The beyond series books always make me want a tattoo... no, not just a tattoo, freaking sleeves of them, and I am not a permanent ink kinda gal! There are just some things about this series that are incredibly addictive. Besides the ink, which symbolizes belonging to a family of loyal open-minded people, the free-spirited sex and the bad ass cage fighting are to die for. Layer in the slowly unfolding mystery of Eden and the origins of the Sectors, and you've got a hell of a good series. Like, gleefully hedonistic and unapologetically-addicting good.
This is the menage book, the Ace-Rachel-Cruz story we've all been waiting for, and it starts out in trademark O'Kane fashion, with fighting and drinking and tattoos. Beyond Jealousy definitely requires a lot of backstory knowledge to read smoothly through all the references and history looped in, so there were times when I wasn't sure whether the characters were subtly passing on new information or if I was just forgetting the events of previous stories.
Every time I think the Beyond series has hit its peak, Kit Rocha twists it up another level... more secrets, more danger, and an ever-expanding universe for the series with more unique characters and even kinkier possibilities.
My only criticism about the story is that I wanted more intimacy between the men, and not only in the physical sense. They consistently used Rachel as their buffer and I really wanted more Ace-on-Cruz (and vice versa) in the personal little ways that show someone how much you care. That said, this book was hot and the ride was definitely worth the wait!...more
The Walking Dead meets Julie Kagawa's Blood of Eden (minus the vamps), Strain is a contemporary romance set in a futuristic dystopian world where zombThe Walking Dead meets Julie Kagawa's Blood of Eden (minus the vamps), Strain is a contemporary romance set in a futuristic dystopian world where zombies (revenants) roam freely, terrorizing Earth's final scattered bands of survivors, and super-soldiers called Juggernauts hunt them down and exterminate the infected creatures. The premise for this story could have easily come across as contrived, where all the societal and scientific rules of the universe felt coerced into funneling the characters along a particular path, but everything meshes together realistically and believably. The Jugs are intentionally biologically altered men and women who were originally US Army ground troops; they have infected blood and are the origin of the zombie plague. Their blood also provides immunity to it and the most effective means for passing on that safety net is sexual transmission... by heavy exposure with multiple partners, in an environment where there is little privacy and few luxuries beyond the necessities of survival. When they save Rhys from a close call with a rev, his only choices are to accept death or let them attempt to infect him with the alpha strain of the virus.
Now, based on that, you might be thinking "hey, that sounds a lot like a rape situation", and that is actually something that is addressed in the story, with the Jugs feeling decidedly unenthusiastic about coercing emotionally unwilling partners. What takes this story to the next level is two-fold: 1) The company of soldiers our protagonist, Rhys, finds himself with are all genuinely good-hearted people and do not make a habit of creating new Jugs, neither as a by-product of recreational activities nor for the purposes swelling their ranks with new soldiers. They keep to themselves, do their jobs, and honor the exile from what's left of civilization their volatile blood forces on them when not out sweeping the countryside for revenants. 2) The setup is ideal to highlight the psychological aspects of a D/s relationship dynamic. Rhys agrees to attempt to become one of the Jugs through sexual transmission of the virus but feels shameful when he submits to the gentler men in the company and won't allow himself to enjoy it even though he is admittedly gay. However, when he feels physically overwhelmed by Darius (the company's leader, who quickly discovers this is what he needs), he can let go of his own emotions and trust Darius with all his choices, feeling no shame or demoralization and finally able to enjoy the process of trying to survive.
Normally, I wouldn't give this level of detail in a review because part of the story experience is discovering the nuances for yourself, but this book won't be for everyone and it's important to know what you're getting into before you start. If you do not enjoy reading about physical domination and submission or if multiple sex partners between men in a public venue is not to your taste, or if you absolutely can't deal with the realism behind a post-apocalyptic world infested with zombies, this book is not for you! However, if all of that makes you sit up and take notice, Strain is an excellent read and is both viscerally realistic and emotionally compelling.
Even though this story features a lot of sex, it's not ABOUT sex or even about a D/s lifestyle. It's about fighting for survival and the life-affirming connections you make with the people you trust to have your back. It's about brotherhood and love and making the best out of a hard life, and it is haunting... absolutely beautiful. The emotional depth is so tangible, Strain is both heartwarming and endearingly painful, from vivid adrenaline-packed start to aching, bittersweet ending. Definitely a must read for fans of male/male romance!
Strain is available February 17, 2014. You can pre-order it directly from the publisher here....more
In the reviews for Beyond Shame, words like "naughty" were tossed around and, after reading books like the Vampire Queen series from Joey W. Hill, theIn the reviews for Beyond Shame, words like "naughty" were tossed around and, after reading books like the Vampire Queen series from Joey W. Hill, the first story in this series didn't quite hit the "naughty" bar for me. That said, Beyond Control was everything I wanted from the first book and more. The intense emotions, the unapologetic violence, the deepening plot, and most of all, the fulfilling of that promise of dominating, hedonistic, voyeuristic menage. It's Sons of Anarchy in a dystopian future, except the women are part of the gang and the money comes from top notch whiskey rather than running guns... with way more sex and way less inhibitions. Dallas O'Kane is the king of sector Four and Lex is his is queen.
Dallas and Lex are outright explosive- emotionally, physically, and sexually- and their plot arc isn't marred by any clumsy, contrived drama or unnecessary filler events. Everything that happens has a reason and furthers the overarching storyline, and does so with signature O'Kane flair.
I loved getting to see Dallas and Lex just be together for a chunk of the book, getting my fill of seeing them both unrestrained, souls bared without excessive unnecessary buildup. If you've read the first book in this series you already know how they smolder, and the building up of sexual and emotional tension between other characters in the gang was both satisfying and, in one case, shockingly appealing (shocking as in "I totally didn't see that coming and should have!" Love it when that happens!). One of the things I enjoy most about this series is how little regard the characters have for race or gender, focusing instead on the pleasure they'll all receive... no macho hetero stereotyping to ruin the moments. Ow ow!
If you love strong women and the alpha males who keep them fighting and coming back for more, who see their ladies as more than just playthings and allow them into their hearts and souls... If you love violence for all the right reasons and vigilante law in a society scraping to survive... If you love seeing characters throw propriety out the window and just DO and BE and FEEL... YOU. MUST. READ. THIS. SERIES!! Start with Beyond Shame and stick with it even if you think it's a little tame. Or, if it completely shames you and you hate that you love it, you're going to be even more shocked and awed by the downright barbarian hedonistic feel of Beyond Control. I SO cannot wait for the next one!...more
Let me first say that I am not generally a fan of Dystopian or Urban Fantasy. They're okay, but for pleasure reading, I prefer stories with HEAs and sLet me first say that I am not generally a fan of Dystopian or Urban Fantasy. They're okay, but for pleasure reading, I prefer stories with HEAs and sexy interludes. I like things that make me feel good and leave me in a better mood than when I started. The Immortal Rules does neither, and my initial knee-jerk reaction was "I don't like this book". But that's not true. I DID like it, a lot. I just probably won't ever read it again, because... a) it's essentially about zombies (which I DESPISE) b) it's post-apocalyptic (also not at all my thing) c) it's young adult (eeeeh, not much sexy time in most YAs) d) it's ongoing urban fantasy without a happily ever after
Now let's talk about why it has been haunting me for the last 5 days, even though I've read two others since then. This story is gritty and realistic. Allie is very easy to relate to and she's admirable in just about every way. She's not unbelievably kickass but she holds her own, and she's a quick thinker. She also makes conscious decisions to hold on to her humanity long after the humans have made it clear that she's no longer welcome. The bad guys, the rabids (basically zombie vampires), are nasty, scary pieces of work and the scenes with them are visceral and heart-pounding. The secondary characters are all successfully likeable, relatable, or detestable, depending on their roles, and you never know when Ms. Kagawa is going to throw a curve at you, bring in a new element or take out a loved character. There were times I found myself skimming pages, trying to get to the next action scene. That's probably a result of my not liking urban fantasy and all the world-building it entails. I like my books succinct and to the point, but even so, I enjoyed Allie's training and downtime. I was definitely ready for the book to end, but I'm also looking forward to the next in the series.
For fans of urban fantasy, especially those who like a grittier post-apocalyptic dystopian feel, The Immortal Rules is a must read. For those like me who tend to like lighter, sexier works, give this book a try but expect to be a little out of your comfort zone. ...more