Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Review: Concord Grape: Unexpected by TC Blue

Concord Grape: Unexpected is another in T.C. Blue's Fruit Basket series (I think it's number 6). Those of you who have been following the series will probably, like me, have been clamouring for more of the 'Twinkies Three', made up of the flirty, Pauly, and his two men James and Randy. These three have been a staple of the series, moving in and around the other characters for a few pages at a time, but never long enough to satisfy my curiosity. Finally we get their story in this book.

The book starts at one of Troy's Margarita Monday parties. Pauly is on the porch getting some fresh air when he is joined by Leonard (one of the heroes from the previous book). Leonard asks Pauly how he ended up with Randy and James and the story goes back six years to how the men meet.

One of the things I most admired about the story was the way that the author managed to juggle the three men and their lives. The book was quite busy with three main characters and a substantial secondary character in Pauly's brother Brendon, and one of the ways that we manage to fit in so many characters is to focus mainly on Pauly and his backstory, rather than focus too much on James and Randy. James and Randy are still substantial and rounded characters, but have the convenience of having no real family around or a complicated life story - we have occasional mentions of people from their past but no-one around to feature too much in the story. In some ways this makes them the perfect comforters for Pauly and his mixed up life of step-brothers, half-brothers and scary ex-lovers. In other ways they are a little overshadowed by Pauly's drama at times.

Another part I liked was the slow and steady way that the men maneuver themselves into a three way relationship. Those looking for pages upon pages of three way sex are going to be a little disappointed as most of the sex happens towards the end when the three final decide to give things a go. Those sex scenes are well written and shows us much about how the different personalities affect the physical part of the relationship. Before that sex, the three spend a lot of time stressing in their heads about how much they like the other two and how impossible it is to choose between them. Whilst the resulting sexual tension was realistic and enjoyable to read, I did want to smack them all over the head on a few occasions for spending far too much time over-thinking everything. Randy especially was bad at this.

My one niggle with the story was that the three men sounded too similar. T.C. Blue has a particular writing style which borders on the verbose and all her characters chatter on a great deal in their heads - sometimes too much. Aside from a couple of character 'markers' such as Randy's lack of self-esteem, James' use of the word 'honey' and Pauly's natural flirtiness, their internal dialogue was pretty interchangeable and I would have liked there to have been a little more distinction between them in their thoughts and behaviour. That was only a minor niggle though in a rather enjoyable story. I liked the characters and was also pleased by the variety of emotions contained in the story: One minute I felt sorry for the characters, the next I was laughing along with them.

For those fans of the series who have been desperate for the story of Pauly, Randy and James, this is a great treat. It can even work as an introduction to the series since the majority of the action happens before Lemon Yellow: Making Lemonade, the first book in the series. That was a bonus for me too because I liked seeing the characters I know from the earlier books during their free and single days - or in the case of Evan from that first book, when he was happily in love with Bill.

Overall, this was a very good addition to this series which I can happily recommend with a grade of 'Very Good'. I'm now looking forward to seeing what else can come in this series as I've heard rumours that Dex maybe be making a reappearance.

Buy this book HERE

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Cari Z Giveaway Winner



Thank you to all those who left a comment on Wednesdays guest post by Cari Z.  The winner of a copy of Changing Worlds by Cari Z, chosen by random.org  is...

Linda C

Congratulations to you Linda.  Someone from Storm Moon Press will be contacting you shortly about your prize.


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Review: Minder by Joely Skye

Minder follows on from the previous book in the series, Zombie. Josh is in hiding having been given some unexpected help from Trey, who seems to be some sort of double agent working partly for the Agency and partly for his own agenda. Those of you who have read the Northern Shifters series will be very familiar with Trey, who pops up in those books, rather like this one, like a sort of fairy godfather to aid, warn and save the day. In this case he provides all that Josh needs to survive a winter in the wild so that he can stay as far away from Kir as possible. Josh is worried that Brad's final words, telling him to kill Kir, will lead to Josh killing his lover but when Trey appears again to tell Josh that Kir is in danger, he risks his own fears in order to save Kir's life.

Whilst it was nice to see this series wrapped up and the characters no longer in danger, well on their way to their deserved HEA, I found this in general to be quite a frustrating book. For a start, quite a lot happens off page because we are to be in the head of the person who is doing the dullest thing at the time. For example, the first part of the book tells of Josh and his mundane winter spent in the wild, whilst Kir is being romanced by a crazy guy who wants to kill him. The more exciting storyline is with Kir, but we are just told about that second hand until the moment when Josh saves him. This leads to some gaps in the plot with questions that were never fully answered.

In the previous book, I found the tension between Josh and Kir added a forward thrust to the narrative. In this book the complication is cleared up quickly and rather anti-climatically, leaving the time that Kir and Josh spend in hiding (again - this was a bit of a recurring theme in the series as a whole) with very little tension. Whilst I liked the characters who are two decent, nice guys, when the tension in their relationship is removed they were a little dull, and so the hiding part lagged a bit for me.

The story picked up towards the end with more revelations about just how evil the agency is, plus the appearance of a new character in Josh's brother - who rather conveniently is a hot shot lawyer who can make things happen to the bad guys. I liked the part with Kir back under the agency's control as it added some much needed tension and forward thrust to the story but it was all over too quickly.

I've enjoyed this series as a whole, and was glad to have caught up with some of the gaps I had with this author's work. However, overall I think her Northern Shifters and Wolf Town series are a better read overall than the Minders series but it's still worth reading these books to get some knowledge of where Trey fits into the overall world of the three series as well as showing how the Minders work and to see it in true, rather chilling action. Grade: Good.

Buy this book HERE.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Guest Post: Changing Worlds - Romance or Science Fiction? by Cari Z

I'm holding in my inner squeeing fan girl today and trying to be cool as I introduce my guest poster today, the wonderful Cari Z.  I've been a big Cari Z fan for ages, even since I noticed that she was writing some darn good stories for various anthologies - her story in the Sindustry II anthology has become one of my top comfort reads.  Changing Worlds is her first novel length story and she's here to tell us something about it today.  Over to you, Cari!



I confess, I was a sci fi fan long before romance caught my eye. I scrounged my dad’s old paperbacks and read reams of pulpy, space-faring adventure stories. Romance was not the cornerstone of these books. They were more about doing battle and firing ray guns and, maybe, kissing the girl on the way out the door. Even once I set my sights a little higher, romance wasn’t really anywhere to be seen in popular science fiction. Plausible explanations for faster-than-light travel, yes, because realism’s what you get when a physicist writes science fiction. An epic love story, not so much.

Similarly, I’ve read a number of romances that just happen to have a “space” setting, or touch on science fiction tropes without really getting into them. That’s understandable insofar as the author isn’t really interested in writing sci fi; they’re attracted to a unique scenario or place, and not the science of science fiction, the exploration that is the hallmark of that genre. Romance has plenty of exploration of its own, just of a different kind. The two genres very often flirt with each other, but far less frequently manage to marry and be the kind of book that I love: a real science fiction romance.

When I started Changing Worlds, I was working off of a short story that was, in essence, romance in a space setting. There were ships, there were aliens, but the reality of those things took a back seat to getting a relationship off the ground between my two main characters. I was happy with how the short story, Opening Worlds, turned out, but I knew I wanted to do more for my novel. I wanted to write that sense of newness and exploration and explanation that’s so ingrained in science fiction, and I wanted it while keeping up the process of romantic discovery between my heroes.

Jason is a human, and Ferran is a Perel, the aliens from my short story, but in Changing Worlds, it’s Jason who becomes the alien, accompanying Ferran back to his home world. Their controversial marriage becomes the focal point of conflict between two powerful political factions on Perelan, and they have to navigate the troubled waters of political and social upheaval while learning how to love each other when nothing is easy.

The world building for this story was so much fun, working out the complexities of Perel society, their level of technology, their industries and politics and so much more. I got to speculate about humanity’s level of development, too, our medical technology, and how far into the stars we had spread. It was hard to stop once I got going, and I could have drowned this manuscript in detail without too much encouragement. I tried to at some points, in fact, and my editor had to gently rein me in and remind me to get back to the main story.

And the main story is, at the heart, a romance. Changing Worlds is a love story, one where my heroes are challenged to overcome tremendous obstacles for the sake of their intense but fledgling romance. They’re put through the wringer, jumping through hoops set up by both sides before their marriage was allowed to occur, and they take it because they’ve chosen to be together and they’re doing everything they can to make it work. In the end, the story is about their love and dedication, but without the science fiction aspects, these two would never have met. Changing Worlds is a science fiction romance, and I hope that lovers of both genres will be happy with this book.

Thanks to Well-Read and Jenre for having me today! Be sure to check out Changing Worlds at its Storm Moon Press webpage!


Cari and Storm Moon Press are offering up a copy of Changing Worlds as a prize to one lucky commenter. Please leave a comment along with your email before the end of Saturday 26th May and I'll announce the winners on Sunday.  Good Luck and thanks to Cari and Storm Moon Press for the giveaway!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Guest Post: The New Forest - How New is it Anyway? by JL Merrow

I'm delighted today to have JL Merrow on my blog again. Today she's here to promote her new book Hard Tail which is available now from Samhain Publishing. Over to you, Jamie!






Hard Tail is set in and around Totton, a small town near Southampton in the South of England. Totton is just outside the New Forest, a National Park covering over 200 square miles of Hampshire and Wiltshire. It’s a popular spot for mountain bikers—and ponies, as the photo suggests. I have fond memories of being taken for days out in the forest by my grandparents, and I swear I can still taste the pub sandwiches—proper, country ham, not pre-packaged rubbish, spread with my first-ever taste of mustard.

But just how new is the New Forest?

The answer is, not very. In fact, it’s actually a remnant of the forests that covered Britain after the end of the last Ice Age, around 12,000 years ago. It was given the name “New Forest” in around 1079, when William the Conqueror decided he needed a place to do a spot of hunting. It wasn’t a popular act at the time: he pulled down several dozen small villages and their parish churches, and the death of two of his sons and one of his grandsons in separate incidents in the forest was looked on by locals—with grim satisfaction—as divine retribution.

The New Forest today is largely unchanged from William’s time, and contains several kinds of important lowland habitat including valley bogs, wet heaths, dry heaths as well as deciduous woodland. It’s a great place to see wildlife—as Tim finds out in Hard Tail, when he goes for a bike ride with Matt’s mountain biking mates. Of course, he has to force his gaze away from Matt’s more obvious charms first!




What’s your favourite place to get back to nature? And what food do you associate with the countryside?


***

 JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour.

Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com

***

All commenters will be entered into a draw for winner’s choice of an e-book from my backlist, PLUS a gift certificate for $25 from Amazon (or the e-book retailer of your choice). The more blog tour posts you comment on, the more chances you get! See my website here for full itinerary.

Draw closes on Wed 23rd May. Good luck! :D


Blurb for Hard Tail

Finding love can be a bumpy ride. 

His job: downsized out of existence. His marriage: dead in the water. It doesn’t take a lot of arm twisting for Tim Knight to agree to get out of London and take over his injured brother’s mountain bike shop for a while. A few weeks in Southampton is a welcome break from the wreck his life has become, even though he feels like a fish out of water in this brave new world of outdoor sports and unfamiliar technical jargon.

 The young man who falls—literally—through the door of the shop brings everything into sharp, unexpected focus. Tim barely accepts he’s even in the closet until his attraction to Matt Berridge pulls him close enough to touch the doorknob.

 There’s only one problem with the loveable klutz: his bullying boyfriend. Tim is convinced Steve is the cause of the bruises that Matt blows off as part of his risky sport. But rising to the defense of the man he’s beginning to love means coming to terms with who he is—in public—in a battle not even his black belt prepared him to fight. Until now. 

Product Warnings: Contains an out-and-proud klutz, a closeted, karate-loving accountant—and a cat who thinks it’s all about him. Watch for a cameo appearance from the Pricks and Pragmatism lovers. May inspire yearnings for fresh air, exercise, and a fit, tanned bike mechanic of your very own. 

Hard Tail is available from Samhain Publishing here.

Links:
My website: http://www.jlmerrow.com/
Blog tour itinerary: http://www.jlmerrow.com/index.html
Hard Tail: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/hard-tail-p-6805.html

Monday, 21 May 2012

Hop Against Homophobia Winner



Sorry I'm a day late with this.

The winner of my Hop Against Homophobia giveaway, as chosen by random.org, is....

JOAN

Congratulations to you Joan!

Also, many, many thanks to Cole for writing such a wonderful post for me and answering all your comments. What a star!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Review: Zombie by Joely Skye

*Warning: This review contains spoilers for the first book in this series, Monster*

Zombie is the second book in Minders series which has recently been reissued with new covers at Samhain. I enjoyed book one, but wasn't wholly convinced about the way the romance aspect worked. This story follows on two years after the end of Monster. Josh has just about recovered from his time with Kir and the other Minders but he's kept under strict supervision at the agency compound. Occasionally Kir sends Josh an email, and they've discovered a way to encrypt a message so that they can correspond without the agency knowing what's in the messages. As the story begins, Josh is in his office when one of the Minders from the previous book, Brad, turns up. Brad quickly manipulates Josh into becoming his lover and it's up to Kir and his sister to save Josh from becoming nothing but a mindless zombie to Brad's unwanted attentions. Kir takes Jake to a remote cabin to recover but Josh is so messed up that he doesn't know whether he can ever trust Kir again.

The story had a very tense opening and I was quickly drawn into the frightening way that Jake was under Brad's command. It's a shame then that this section provided the main niggle I had about the book. I presume that the compound where Josh is being held has strong security, with cameras and other measures to protect people from the Minders. However, Brad easily infiltrated the compound, even having a house there. Also Kir and his sister were able to easily come into the compound to rescue Josh and took him away with what seemed like no trouble at all. I could understand that the Minders were able to slip in past the guards by manipulating them but their powers don't extend to security cameras. Surely someone must have been wary of Josh's relationship with Brad, given that he's under such strict supervision by the agency and questioned it. This was the only unbelievable note for me in the book. Given that the first section is the set up for the main part of the story which is Josh's recovery, I decided to let those niggles go and enjoyed the rest of the book.

The section that worked really well for me was the time that Josh and Kir spend in the isolated cabin. Josh takes a while to recover from Brad's mistreatment, and when he finally gains back some ability to think clearly he is understandably ashamed at being duped by Brad. He's therefore wary of Kir and Kir's motives. This section of the book moves slowly as their relationship, at first built on suspicion, gradually changes and deepens into acceptance and love. I thought that this was done in a very sensitive way with Josh's thought being clearly explained, and also Kir's feelings signposted through his actions. I particularly liked the way that Kir used his body language to gain Josh's trust. My complaint about the previous book was that I didn't feel the connection between the characters but here it comes across in spades and led to some very romantic scenes. It also worked as a piece of drama and much of the story is tense. This meant that I read quickly, eager to know how the story and the relationship would unfold.

The story ends on yet another cliffhanger, but as this is clearly stated in the blurb, I didn't mind. I have book three to look forward to when the series is concluded and I shall look forward to seeing if these two men, who circumstance brings together only to force them apart, can stay the course and let love win over mind games and violence.  Grade: Very Good.

Buy this book HERE.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Review: Diversion by Eden Winters

I've been a huge fan of this author right from her first short story, Pirate's Gamble.  In this book I feel that Eden is fully reaching that potential shown in her earlier works. The writing is leaner, more mature, but still retains that delightful deft touch that I'll always associate with her stories.  Even when her characters are in the depths of despair she is never heavy handed, but the characters in this book, whilst not reaching anywhere near the ansgt of some of her books, still manage to be naunced and totally believable.

The story begins right into the heart of a thrilling scene which had me on the edge of my seat.  We meet our narrator, Lucky, who is working an inside job, casing out a pharmacy warehouse. We follow his careful movements as all the pieces slot into place and he steals a truck full of medicines.  At this point I was seriously thinking 'Is he really going to be a bad guy?'.  This was reinforced by Lucky's aggressive narration and general disdain for everyone he meets.  I shouldn't have worried (or rather maybe I should have read the blurb) because Lucky is actually one of the good guys working for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau's Department of Diversion Prevention and Control.  Their role is to monitor suspicious activities amongst pharmacies, clinics or pharmaceutical companies, often through surveillance and/or undercover work.  Lucky's past as a drug trafficker gives him the ideal insight and ability to work in the team, even if he had no choice in the matter as the only alternative was eight years in prison.  As the story begins, Lucky is weeks away from the end of that eight year 'sentence'. He's hoping for a few quiet weeks in the office on paperwork duty when his hopes are dashed and he's forced into a partnership with newbie Bo, staking out a suspicious clinic.  The sparks fly between them almost from the start as Lucky is determined to be a difficult as possible.

There was so much to enjoy about this story.  Firstly it did something I absolutely love in a book - taught me some stuff I didn't know.  I had no idea about the world of pharmacies, medicines, under the counter medication and medicines which are on a short shelf life being 'recycled'.  I found this whole area totally fascinating.  When I thought about drug trafficking,  I thought about heroin, crack or other illegal drugs, not prescription meds.  I also really liked how all the information was fed to me as the story progressed, bit by bit so that by the end I had a pretty good grasp of this type of crime.

The character of Lucky was another reason I loved this book.  At some point near the beginning of the story he likens himself to a fighting bantam cock, which I felt was a perfect description.  He's small and slight with hard muscles built from a punishing exercise regime. He makes up for his small stature by exuding as much aggressive personality as possible.  He hates pretty much everyone and behaves in a way which is guaranteed to make others hate him back.  It's a sort of defense mechanism.  It was rather ironic then that this actually had the opposite effect on people as they viewed Lucky with a certain amount of grudging admiration.  Lucky is the narrator, so we only get his views and I think half the time he just wanted to believe that people didn't like him or his attitude because that made it easier for him to distance himself from everyone.  Early in the book he talks about the importance of not getting close to people.  This may seem sad, almost tragic for a man who is a huge bundle of energy and obviously needs people, but there's a good reason why he pushes people away. That reason led to a number of quiet bittersweet scenes for Lucky and went a long way to understanding some of his actions in the book.

Bo is almost the opposite of Lucky. He's the calm to Lucky's manic aggression; he's clean living when Lucky drinks too much coffee and junk food; he's friendly and approachable to Lucky's 'don't come the fuck near me' vibe.  Nevertheless, they still find common ground between them.  Hands down my favourite part of the book was the slow creep of at first respect, then lust, then admiration, trust and love between them.  I delighted in seeing how Bo sneaked around all of Lucky's defenses to expose the real heart of Lucky through a determination to be as polite and good natured as possible.  I laughed at the effect that this had on the perpetually grumpy Lucky and laughed even more at some of the devious schemes Lucky devises to get Bo to lose his temper.  The time they spent together on the page made me smile, laugh, wince and occasionally wish to bang their heads together. I was a truly rewarding romantic read.

Finally I really enjoyed seeing the suspense plot work out.  The stake-outs and undercover work provided a tense backdrop to the relationship.  Nearly the entire book is spent with Bo and Lucky either together on the job, or in the house they share as part of their role in the operation.  This meant that the romance is intertwined with the suspense and action, adding to the emotional core of the story.  At times I was biting my finger nails.  That finale!  I don't want to give away spoilers, but trust me I was on the edge of my seat, wholly engrossed in what was happening on the page.

If you're looking for a strong character based book which is heavy on romance, action, plot; if you want a pair of opposites attract characters who are wholly sympathetic and consistently behave true to character; if you want a book you can hardly bear to put down; then I can highly, highly recommend this book.  I can see it being one of my top reads of the year.  Grade: Beyond Excellent!

Buy this book HERE.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Review: Earthly Concerns by Xavier Axelson

In some ways this book is similar to the previous book I read by this author, Lily, in that in both books the story revolves around a missing daughter, plus there's the same otherworldly, slightly surreal tone to the writing which enhances the paranormal theme.  This story tells of Anson who has a special psychic ability.  He's been taught - by his similarly gifted aunt - that he should use his powers to help people as much as he can, so when his ex-lover, Barrett, asks him to help find his missing daughter, Anson reluctantly agrees.  Barrett treated Anson badly when they were together, leading him on and then shutting him out.  Anson still has strong feelings for Barrett but doesn't want to get hurt again.  However, when his powers show him that Barrett's daughter has been taken by something not human, he knows he is the only one who can help.

This is not going to be a story which works for everyone, especially those who like their stories to be uncomplicated and straightforward in tone. The written style could be categorised as magical realism, and reminded me a little of Ben Okri's writing.  There's a hyper awareness in Anson's narration which builds on the uncomfortable feelings in the book.  The repetition of themes such as the use of the beetles, or the fact that Anson gets an odd feeling that things are crawling on his leg, separate the reader from the events, and sometimes I felt like I was looking at what was happening through a slightly obscured mirror.  That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the novella, because I did, but more that it was an unusual style of writing that took me a few pages to get into fully.

The relationship between Anson and Barrett is deliberately frustrating.  Anson loves Barrett, but finds Barrett's lack of emotion difficult to handle.  Barrett speaks in riddles, or diversions, never really saying what he thinks about anything.  the conversations between them were filled with frustrating dialogue, confusing body language and eye contact (or lack of) that Anson finds difficult to interpret.  He longs for some straightforward conversation with his ex-lover, some indication that Barrett's feelings are the same as his own.  This was perhaps the biggest weakness in the book because there wasn't a time when Anson was allowed to see the real heart of Barrett...

Spoiler Now:  Highlight if you want to know

... only at the very end when Anson has almost proved his love by saving Barrett's daughter, does Barrett open up and confess his love for Anson.  This seemed almost out of character for Barrett and made me feel that he only said this because he was grateful to Anson.  I would have liked at least a little more time with the pair together without all the lies and misdirections before I would be happy that Anson got what he truly deserved.

As well as being a paranormal, the story has a touch of horror to it.  This not only comes across in the uneasy narrative style that I've already mentioned, but also in the almost cinematic feel to the ending.  It reminded me of a psychological horror film, or even one of the early Stephen King books (It, perhaps).  There's a bogeyman to be defeated and the scenes at the end got my pulse racing as we counted down the minutes to see whether Anson could save the day.  This appealed to the horror lover in me, but again may not be everyone's taste.

Overall, this was a most unusual book.  The paranormal didn't always sit right with the romance and erotic scenes, but I applaud the author for attempting to write something very different for this genre.  The writing is tight, tense and goes deep into the insecurities and emotions of Anson.  I'd recommend Earthly Concerns, with a grade of 'Very Good', to those who like psychological paranormal/horror stories but I suggest you don't read this last thing at night!

Buy this book HERE.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Review: Monster by Joely Skye

Monster is the first part of a trilogy of a story set within the same world as her Northern Shifters and Wolf Town books. It really does read as the first part of a story, and although the plot is in itself complete, the story doesn't end on a HEA - that will come later, I'm assured. If the book seems familiar, that's because this, along with the other two parts, are re-releases with different artwork. All three are to be released together next week.

The story begins with agent Josh who has been given the job of luring a dangerous man to a house by using seductive skills. His mark, Kir, is a minder - a man who is able to bend the will of others to suit his own needs. Josh finds it surprisingly easy to capture Kir, but he is horrified when he discovers how the men from the 'Agency' are treating Kir after his capture. Josh takes it upon himself to rescue Kir, sure that this is the right thing to do. Or is it that Kir is manipulating Josh into helping him?

The start of this book really gripped me. Josh's careful planning, Kir's capture and then the flight, kept me on the edge of my seat and I felt that the author had done a good job of showing Josh's fear, confusion and then sense of moral obligation during this first part. Also done well was the way that the reader (and Josh) is never wholly aware of whether Josh is being manipulated into doing Kir's will or whether it's of his own volition.

The first part of the book builds carefully on the characters. Showing us that Josh is essentially a good man, and that Kir is not the monster that he's made out to be. I had a lot of sympathy for Kir. His past mistreatment was heartbreaking - and a word of warning here: Those readers who find scenes of rape or abuse difficult to cope with may find some of the earlier scenes in book upsetting.

It was in the latter part of the book that the story began to fail a little for me. There's a lot of groundwork done in the first half about Kir's fear of being touched or held in any way, and yet within a few pages he's being touched and held by Josh with little emotional come-back. It was too soon for me. Trust like that should have taken a while to develop, not less than two days. I think I would have rather forgone the sex scene in favour of more emotional connection between the characters as that would have been more in keeping from what we know of Kir.

Another aspect which seemed over and done with too quickly is the way that things resolve themselves at the end. Too much happens in too short a space of time to make the actions, and also the reason for Josh's situation right at the end of the book, into something I could believe. I found myself unhappy that more time hadn't been spent on gradually building up the romance and setting up the situation for the ending. In the end I was left with an odd set of feelings. I was disappointed, but the cliffhanger ending made me want to read the next part.

The ending wasn't all bad though. I especially found the way that Josh is used by both parties quite chilling, especially when he is helpless. His state of mind as the story draws to a conclusion was also a plus point. It brought home the danger that Josh so carelessly disregards in order to help Kir.

Overall, this was a flawed book in my opinion, but the writing was compelling and the story hooked me in from the start. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the events of book two and you'll see what I think about that second book when I review it next week.  Grade: Good.

Buy this book HERE.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Trouble With Hairy by Hal Bodner

The Trouble with Hairy is a rather madcap comedy paranormal horror with a large ensemble cast. It's not a romance, although there is an established gay couple and two other rather bittersweet romantic pairings. I have to be honest and say that because there is so much going on, it's difficult for me to be able review this book in a way which encompasses both the breadth of story and my feelings for it.  The book is a sort of follow on from Bite Club by this author in that it contains some of the same characters. However, I haven't read that first book and didn't feel that I was missing anything by not having read it before this book.

The book is set in West Hollywood, and as I said there's a large cast, all of whom are given a narrative voice.  There's police chief Clive who is responsible for investigating a serious of recent pet murders. This is followed by three further human murders. There's Becky the coroner whose love of fat, sugary food is reflected in her girth. There's a vampire Chris and his renfield lover Troy who are called on to assist Clive and Becky when it looks like the murderer may not be quite human. There are two werewolves, Louis and Guy. There is Pamela, the city manager who sends the fear of God into all she meets with her abrasive personality and stickler for the city's ordinances. There's Carlos, Pamela's cross dressing PA.  There are then other more minor characters such as the Mayor, the murder victims, a female vamp, the alpha werewolf, a cop and possibly others who I've forgotten, who all get a turn to be the narrator.  Those readers who prefer to have the story split between no more than three characters may not find this book to their taste. Personally, I rather liked the swiftly changing narrators as it allowed us a glimpse into the lives of the characters that we wouldn't otherwise get.  This meant that I gained an understanding of their motivations which allowed me to see why the characters acted as they did.

The tone of the book is quite light, which you would expect given that it's a comedy. However, as the story progressed the tone darkened slightly and there were a number of bitter moments which lifted the book out of mere frivolity.  It's also a horror and so the comic moments are tempered by some rather grizzly descriptions of murders. Those who don't like gore, be warned, you may have to skip over a couple of pages. I like horror and even I winced at one particularly gruesome description.

As a comedic novel it worked well. There were lots of opportunities for the author to digress for comic effect, or to bring out some funny aspect in the personality of the characters.  For me the book excelled as a study of the foibles and inconsistencies of human nature and it was the times where we were focused on Becky or on Chris and Troy that I enjoyed the most - perhaps because I could sympathise with Becky's love of food. On a slight side note, I loved the gentle, almost non-judgmental way that Becky was shown as a lady of a certain size. We laughed at her attempts at dieting, but it wasn't cruel and the most poignant moments in the story were as a result of the things that happen to Becky.

There was also a firm bite of satire regarding city politics which made me smile a number of times.  This did occasionally tip too far into the surreal for me - one particular scene where the Mayor and Pamela have a fight in Clive's office didn't work for me, but I can see that some readers might find it hilarious.  The setting of West Hollywood was lovingly described with an eye for the ridiculous. Again the author manages to tread the right side of fine line between affectionate micky taking and outright insulting.  You get a real sense that he loves this place and all the assorted oddballs who live there.

Any niggles I had were personal preferences such as my slight annoyance at the way the final set piece was organised - I didn't like the way the author set up the situation and then withheld the denouement in order to get the other players in position.  It also bothered me that we were told that one of the characters was ill - using the bombshell to force a separation - but then that illness was never mentioned again.

Overall the story was a mix of focused character based plotting and large comedic set pieces involving lots of people.  This worked to both further the story, provide character growth and allow us to have a few laughs. I enjoyed the book and think that it will appeal to those readers who like comedy and horror.    Grade: Very Good.

Buy this book HERE.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Guest Post: Quick Questions by MJ O'Shea

Today I'm pleased to host MJ O'Shea at my blog.  MJ is here to promote her new release Coming Home which is available now HERE.  Over to you MJ!


Hi Everyone! MJ O'Shea here:) I thought I'd answer a few quick questions!

Where do you hail from and what do you love most about your hometown? 
I'm from Tacoma, which is near Seattle. I never know who has heard of it and who hasn't:) Some parts of the city are...interesting, but I love the area I live in. It's a whole street of restaurants, bars, and clubs. There's a farmer's market once a week, a taco truck and an indian restaurant next door, an organic deli, and a million coffee houses. I live right off of it in a little old house that I'm probably going to be repairing forever. Engine House 9, one of my favorite of the bars right off the main street. It's an old firehouse and they have the best potato skins EVER.

Morning Person? Or Night Person? How do you know?
I'm a night person, without a doubt. I like to be out and up at night far more than I like to be awake early in the morning. That's when I think the best, when I'm the most alert, when I'm the most ready to do things. Even if I wake up early, I'll usually be tired midday but awake at night.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
To unwind, I like to go out dancing. Or dance in my office, my kitchen...or anywhere really. I like to read too, and paint, and hang out with my friends and watch movies and go on walks, or swimming in the lake if it's warm enough. It's awesome lying on the swimstep of the boat in the summer and just looking up at the sky. If you came with a warning label, what would it be? Beware of Glitter:) Yeah. That works pretty well. Hehe.

What's your hidden talent? 
 I do lots of murals. I guess it's a talent but I hate to throw that word around, lol. Here's the one I did on the wall of my bedroom. That was before I realized my dresser only fit on one wall...that one.

What TV show/movie/book do you watch/read that you'd be embarrassed to admit?
Oh, lord. Shhhh. I love the Vampire Diaries. It's fun and I like the snarky dialogue. And Damon Savatore. How could you not like Damon? I'm also ridiculously addicted to Project Runway. I couldn't sew a dress if I had to, but I like to pick apart their work:)


If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there? 
A disaster…. Lol. Actually, it's not that bad right now. I have earrings and necklaces hanging everywhere from when they got annoying, and I took them off while I was working. I have pens, markers, my basket of acrylic paints. A bookshelf … one of four in the house:). Oh, and usually a ton of empty coffee cups, mainly colored. I color in the mermaid with my markers when I can't think of what to write next. I threw all of those away when I moved last month:( I'm going to have to start a new collection. Right now, I have two random bottles of shampoo, and some envelopes of guitar strings. That's because of the move. I don't usually have those out...but that did make me want to get my guitar out and play with it!

I'll leave you with a blurb for my book Coming Home:)



Tallis Carrington ruled Rock Bay with his gang of jocks and an iron fist—until a scandal destroyed his family's name. Ten years later Tallis is dead broke, newly homeless, and on the walk of shame to end all walks of shame. He needs money and needs it fast, and Rock Bay is the only home he knows. But the people of Rock Bay haven’t forgotten him—or the spoiled brat he used to be. 


The only person in town willing to overlook his past is Lex, the new coffee shop owner, who offers Tally a job even though he appears to despise Tally based on his reputation alone. When Tally discovers his gorgeous boss is the kid he tortured back in high school, Lex's hot and cold routine finally makes sense. Now Tally has to pull out all the stops to prove he was never really the jerk he seemed to be. After all, if he can win Lex’s heart, the rest of the town should be a piece of coffee cake. 

Links: 
Website http://www.mjoshearomance.com
Blog with Piper http://mjandpiper.blogspot.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/MjOsheaSeattle
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/mj.oshea.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Review: Seeking the Balance by AR Moler

This book was originally published separately as three chasers. The story follows straight on from the previous book Hell Dogs Squadron which I reviewed here last week. Cam has recovered from being forced off his motorcycle and decides that it’s time to get back on the bike. When Mason sees him, he’s furious and they have a huge argument. Later in the book Cam and Mason are sent into a potentially dangerous situation. Mason is coping with the frustration that his healing powers do not seem to be enough to cure a small boy of cancer, and Cam is coping with trying to have a relationship with Mason, whilst also keeping things quiet as he risks his navy career should he be found out.

 This first part of this book is basically a slice of life for Cam and Mason. There’s also the beginnings of a commitment being made between them. The fight makes both men evaluate what they’ve got and both of them realise that some compromise must take place if they are going to move on in their relationship. I enjoyed seeing the two men working through the beginnings of their feelings towards each other but I was left scratching my head over the lack of plot when compared to the previous book. There is a sort of circular pattern to the story with the motorcycle theme being revisited towards the end but it still meant that the book has a weak beginning when compared to the tense excitement of the last book.

The story starts to pick up the pace about thirty pages in as there's a balance of tense action and quieter moments. I felt that the way the two men are slowly coming to terms with the push and pull of their relationship was handled well in this part of the book, as they both want more commitment in terms of time but also realise that Cam has much to lose. The focus is mainly on Mason as he learns to use his healing powers safely without risking his life and I thought it quite poignant that Mason is torn between his drive to heal someone but also keeping himself out of harm for the sake of Cam. As the story wraps up this becomes a major theme with Mason now focusing on using a little healing and a lot of training so that he doesn't burn out.

It’s the romantic story arc which has interested me most about this series and whilst I enjoyed some of the action sequences, especially with Mason using his healing powers for good, it’s the quieter time when the men are talking and working through their relationship which has been the highlight of these stories for me. I finished this final story, pleased that the two men were on their way to a HEA.

The title, Seeking the Balance, has been a good one for this book as there are several balancing acts which take place in the lives of these characters. Mason has to balance his drive to heal with the consequences of his powers. He also has to balance his life as a doctor with that of being an agent for P division. Cam has to balance his need for thrills and speed with the knowledge that Mason worries about him. He also has to balance his relationship with Mason and his navy career. Both men have to balance their very different personalities with their love and care for each other. It was all very interesting to read about the way these men juggle their lives but in the end find that perfect balance with each other.

If you’ve read the Hell Dog’s Squadron books then you’ll want to read this book as well. A weak start and a slightly episodic nature was offset by the romance between the main characters. I was happy to revisit Mason and Cam and enjoyed seeing them head off into a future together.  Grade: Good.

Buy this book HERE.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Review: Priceless by Cat Grant

Slight aside before I begin the review: So, as I said a few weeks ago, I have quite a few books on my review pile.  Some of those books have been there for a few months now, the names looking at me accusingly from the list whenever I brave a look at it.  It's not that I don't want to read those books - after all, I've promised a review of them - just that there's been something about them, whether it's length or theme, that makes me set them down and move onto the next book.  Then sometimes what happens is there's this shiny new book which appears on my review pile.  A book which perhaps contains a theme which I find almost irresistible, like *ahem* rent boys.  That book starts getting seductive on the list. It says 'look at me, I've got one of your favourite themes. You want to read me, I know you do.'  I give in to its wiles and have a sneaky peek at the first few pages and before you know it, I've read the whole damn book. The hussy!  So this review is of a book which isn't even out yet and which is the newest book added to the review pile.  I'm very sorry to all those authors who are patiently waiting for a review from me, but really I have to pass the blame onto the seductive powers of the rent boy theme.

That is all.

Now onto the review.


Having established that I find rent boy books almost irresistible, I dived headlong into this story.  It tells of scientist Connor who is one of the leading Optics researchers.  He basically lives for his work and so has little time for socialising - plus his introverted nature means he doesn't like social situations.  He's thrown a surprise birthday party by his best friend and colleague, Steve, where he meets and is propositioned by College senior, Wes.  Connor turns him down but when he later meets Wes at a conference, they have a one night stand.  What Connor doesn't know is that Wes is paying for his College tuition through selling his body and that he was paid to sleep with Connor as a birthday gift.

There's something about Cat Grant's writing that's just so easy on the eye.  Her prose flows and draws you quickly into the story, the characters and situation kept me reading and before I knew it, I had finished the book in almost one sitting.  Connor was an easy character to like.  He's dedicated to his work, but has a gentle nature with an underlying kindness.  I liked the way that he stands up for himself in the book, showing that he's not a doormat.  Wes is another admirable character, who is making the best of a bad situation.  The way he gets further and further into trouble and the effect this has on him, made me feel very sorry for him.  Having said that, he's also rather naive for a rent boy and I got a little annoyed that he couldn't find a way out his problems, given that Connor manages to help him so easily.  When Connor swoops in and rescues Wes, I thought 'why didn't Wes do that in the first place' and it made Wes look rather weak and ineffectual.

What did work for me though was the romance between Wes and Connor who fill a need in each other. Wes has a serious case of hero-worship at first which Connor finds flattering. Their first sex scene is used to show a little of Connor's lack of experience with relationships and I thought it realistic that he should start to have feelings for Wes after sex.  During the latter part of the book the pair spend time in a hurt/comfort situation and I would have liked to have seen some more of that time when they get to know each other.  The end was a little abrupt as the reader has to make a mental shift from them just being friends to them making a commitment, and again a little further into their HEA would have made this seem a little more fluid. In particular I would have liked to have seen Wes and Connor meeting up with Steve, as I could see that would be an awkward moment for their future.  Despite these niggles, I still liked them as a couple and thought they complimented one another in terms of intelligence.

As I said earlier this was a swift read for me.  There are a few disturbing scenes of physical and sexual abuse which some readers may find upsetting, but I also thought the author had done a good job of sympathetically showing the after affects of abuse, without being sensationalist about it.  I liked that the story is so focused on the main characters because it gave an intensity to the romance which worked for me.  Overall, this was a book which I liked and would probably read again when I had a hankering for the theme and a story containing a fairly light amount of angst.  I would recommend it, with a grade of 'Very Good' to those looking for a quick and engaging read.

Pre-order this book HERE - it's out on the 14th May.