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Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book One (Cadeleonian Series, #3)

Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book One (Cadeleonian Series, #3) - Ginn Hale A lot can happen in five years. Elezar Grunito can attest to that fact, having abandoned his home to pursue a personal vendetta. And to make matters worse, he and former classmate and current friend Atreau are now hunted men. To escape the pursuit of assassins, Elezar and Atreau head to lands only experienced through academy textbooks as emissaries, with a hidden agenda to prevent war.

From the beginning, Ginn Hale doesn’t take the slow route. We start off very abruptly with imprisonment of a crime born of Atreau’s poor choices and lust of women. No introductions are made as these are characters we are familiar with from the Lord of the White Hell books. Starting off quick, we are swept away to the city of Milmuraille.

And this is where the magic begins.

A city wrought with street witches, shapeshifters, and the sealed bodies of mythical creatures in stone and earth, nothing short of Ginn Hale’s magical prose and construction can create something both familiar and original in this fictional world. While Milmuraille is the setting for a majority of the book, we can’t forget the northern Mirogoth forests, which house the Witch Queens and their soldiers (both humans and animals). The following is an example of Hale’s creative addition to this world:

“If stories were to be believed, wethra-steeds were born of split lightning and only came to earth to take up a rider whose soul carried the other half of the lightning strike that had birthed them.”

Asides from the top-notch construction of this fantasy setting, the author gives us the much anticipated insight of Elezar, a supporting character and presence in Lord of the White Hell. We are reminded of Elezar’s deeds in the previous two books. We also learn of new events that puts his past actions in new light, while shaping him to be the person he is today. Elezar was always a big man, but with such a small heart with room enough for very few people in his life. It will take a very special someone to be able to squeeze into Elezar’s insular world.

Perhaps it will take a special witch.

And that’s where Skellan, a witch on a mission of his own, comes in. Taking comfort in the ancient stones of Milmuraille, Skellan is an enigma and curiosity for the readers. Raised from the knowledge and friendship of a sealed away troll and other street witches of the city, Skellan is an interesting counterpart to Elezar. It was definitely a treat as the author shuffles the POV between Skellan and Elezar throughout the book.

The plot was riveting, with a familiar goal (i.e. stopping a war), but an original construct of fantasy. It may seem like different plot lines are created, but the author does a good job making them related into something encompassing.

While I love Champion of the Scarlet Wolf, my biggest complaint was the pacing. While the story started off abruptly, there were definitely chapters that halted the pacing. As an example, there were whole chapters where most of it was spent on conversation between two people, or a group of people. And while this isn’t a criticism, and didn’t affect my rating at all, it is probably something readers of M/M would want to know: the sex is off page.

While not a requirement, there is a Christmas coda that was written, taking place after Lord of the White Hell and before Champion of the Scarlet Wolf. It’s posted online and would be a good prologue featuring Kiram and Javier, but has a nice tie-in to this book.

Overall, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf is another successful book written by Ginn Hale. A great cast of characters, well constructed fantasy, and a city on the brink of war. What more could you want?

Who Knows the Storm (The Vigilante Book 1)

Who Knows the Storm (The Vigilante Book 1) - Tere Michaels Ravaged by storms and floods, New York City has become a hollow shell of its former life. The city wasn't the only victim. Sixteen year old Nox Boyet also died that day, his life smothering in the flames of anger, love and paranoia. Nox's resolve pushed his body from the remaining ashes, and the Vigilante was born.

Seventeen years later, New York City is divided between the wealthy and poor. Nox is a man of the night, roaming his neighborhood to enforce his jurisdiction in the form of punishment to those who threaten the world he's created for his son, Sam. It's all for Sam, and always for Sam. Until a young man, famous for his looks, comes knocking with a letter addressed for Nox's son.

Who Knows the Storm is a mixture of things. I would tag it as: futurstic, dystopian-ish, mystery, action, thriller and romance. It's a story that progresses forward, with tidbits and glimpses into the past via memories from Nox. I'm normally not a fan of flashbacks, but the author did a good job in making them very brief.

The book felt more action-oriented than detailed oriented. And it worked in a way. Tere Michaels doesn't info dump the details of this dystopian New York City. She gives just enough information to create a solid world in the mind's eyes, and just goes with it. As such, the pacing matched the constant action of the book. There was never a moment of stasis, or of settling as things were always happening (which worked with such short chapters).

The narrative shifted mostly between Nox and Cade. I actually enjoyed both characters, as they bring different cards to the table. Nox was a little too over-the-top alpha male at times, which really showed during the sex scenes. Fortunately, the book wasn't weighed down by the metaphorical cum as the sex scenes were limited since the book was more plot-focused. While the jump from scared teenager to “The Vigilante” may seem a little too Hollywood for some, you can at least appreciate the back story that birthed such a man. I couldn't dislike a character who would go to such lengths to protect his family.

And Cade wasn't some damsel in distress, which really helped. While Tere Michaels could have gone the route of making Cade some spoiled model who needed rescuing from his own stubbornness, she instead made Cade to be a man that demonstrates his worth constantly throughout the book.

Let's not forget the UST. So delicious and paced perfectly. While I wished the book focused a little more on the chemistry between Cade and Nox, I could at least appreciate the realistic outlook each character had in terms of their future.

The weakest part of the book for me was the mystery. I'm horrible when it comes to understanding intricate plots and such. Therefore, it was no wonder I was a bit confused – not enough to be completely lost, but enough to make me wonder if I was reading into certain things correctly. That, combined with the fast pace, threw me off tract when things just suddenly happen. Fortunately, things rounded up towards the end and most of the confusion settled into a moderate curiosity.

Overall, Who Knows the Storm is a great, fast-paced action/thriller with a strong focus on family. Of the sacrifices we make for those we love. Of finding love ourselves. While the mystery and believability of the book may rival that of superhero comics and television shows, it still manages to become an interesting platform for everything else this book has to offer.

Assimilation, Love and Other Human Oddities

Assimilation, Love and Other Human Oddities -  Lyn Gala Rating: 3.5 stars

Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities is a book that is best described by its title. Taking place months after the first book, Liam is progressively assimilating into the Rownt culture. There's lots of love between him and his alien partner, and humans continue to present as an oddity to said alien.

While the book remains to be an angst free read from beginning to end, I couldn't help but feel a bit bored at the lack of conflict and growth between the love interests. In the first book, Liam and Ondry got together. Book two doesn't add much to this love-struck couple as they navigate through their d/s relationship. Or another way to put it is that there's nothing new here. There's no BIG MISUNDERSTANDING. No second guessing. Just...nothing, but a lot of loving. So if you don't want a story that rocks the boat, then you're in for a treat. I just prefer a little more friction in my fictional relationships.

So if there's no conflict between our couple, that must mean it comes from some external element. And yes, that's definitely the case here as the human race continues to demonstrate their stupidity. The book spends much time in highlighting even more differences between humans and Rownt, how much Liam thinks more like a Rownt than a human, how humans just don't make sense, etc. After a while, I just kind of lost interest at the constant reminder that humans act rashly and don't make sense x 10. Even the main conflict of the story didn't feel like much of a conflict due to how much stronger, better, and more technologically advance the Rownt are (which we are constantly reminded throughout the story).

Yet despite all my complaining, Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities was still a pleasant read. It was nice to get into Ondry's head space, as Liam was on the dull side for me. The writing was clean and the world building was definitely above average. Everything wrapped up a little too neatly for my taste, but I would still consider this a pretty good read.

Overall, Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities is a good sequel if all you want is more of Liam and Ondry and not much else.

Favorite Son

Favorite Son - Will Freshwater Rating: 2.5 stars, rounded to 3

Overall, Favorite Son is a story about one man's downfall. It begins with John's position on top of the world: the success he's able to dwell on as he moves up in the political world. But slowly, the story reveals events that will cause John to crash and burn in the ruin of tragedies that don't seem to relent.

This takes about 30% of the book to occur.

And then Provincetown happens, and John is now Peter, and Peter is slowly reconstructing himself from the remains of his old life.

Favorite Son is not a typical M/M romance story. It's more of a coming of age story that does involve a romantic relationship. While the plot and writing were enjoyable, my biggest complaint was my inability to sink into John/Peter's mindset. The narrative consistently pushed me out of character, and I just couldn't BE John/Peter. As such, much of the emotional punch missed its mark, and the things he felt or said were unpredictable to me. In a way, everything he did felt out of character since I could NOT get a grasp on him. Furthermore, the slow beginning and pacing throughout the book kept me more on the bored side than intrigue.

In the end, Favorite Son was an "okay" read for me. I began skimming towards the end, and read only the dialogue to get the gist of what was going on.

Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts

Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts - Lyn Gala Rating: 3.5 stars

Honestly, I was expecting alien/human PWP involving tails. In fact, most of the story seems to focus on Liam's assimilation into alien culture - misunderstandings, translations and setting ground rules for what comes out to be a d/s relationship. The world building was done well, though some things in the alien culture made me cringe or think about cheap special effects you see in old science fiction shows. But overall, this was a good read. If you're looking for a SF read about one man who falls into (literally) the nest of his one true love, who happens to be a purplish colored, flat-faced alien, then look no further!

(Note to self: I still prefer the traditional peen over a tail when it comes to my M/M sex. Too bad that's not anatomically possible here without a deja vu scene from Bloodraven).

Evenfall Vol. 1 Director's Cut

Evenfall Vol. 1 Director's Cut - Ais, Santino Hassell In a post-world war dystopian world, there exists The Agency. An organization set to counter terrorist threats to the United States, The Agency is a society in itself existing with its own set of laws. It's probably the only reason why two very different people are able to meet and create a relationship that will start the beginning of a world changing movement.

Evenfall DC Volume 1 is difficult to review without making the comparison to the original version of the series, which I read more than a year ago. Was the experience different the second time around? You bet. Was it necessarily better or worse? Perhaps a little of both.

First and foremost, Evenfall (and perhaps the series as a whole) isn't a very believable story. Even within the tag of science fiction, this isn't a series you should get into with the mindset of reading a perfectly plausible story. Things just happen that easily fall into the “no way in hell they could do that without getting caught” and the logic holes are big enough to induce eye rolls. So why read this series?

The characters.

And perhaps we need all the over-the-top missions and crazy events that occur in The Agency. Because crazy situations can foster crazy interactions. Not to say all the characters are crazy, but you certainly do experience some situations that wouldn't happen in any plausible/normal situation. And it's the conglomeration of the interactions between Boyd and Sin that makes this series special (note how I didn't say “this book”).

So what were some of the good thing about this edition? The story definitely moved faster than the equivalent portions of the original version. If there was a boring scene/situation/mission, you didn't have too much to read before something new comes up. It was steady and consistently pushing forward, and not just in pages, but in time span (days, weeks and even months in the span of a chapter). The characters in the book were engaging, being mostly just Boyd and Sin. You get a glimpse of the other casts of characters. Not too much, mind you, but enough to see that they'll play a bigger role in the future. Regardless, their presence in this volume felt washed out in the current of Boyd and Sin's relationship.

While I understand the authors' decision to tighten up the story, I felt like it ultimately changed the reading experience. While I can't say exactly what portions were changed, and how exactly it was edited, my impressions of Body really differed. In the original portion, he wasn't my favorite character, but his introspection made me at least understand where he was coming from. Sure, his brain rattled off consistently and for pages on end, but there were moments that drew me into his construct of the people and world around him. In the DC version, he just felt like an emo boy with mother issues once that introspection was stripped/edited down. Needless to say, I wasn't very thrilled with this new impression, as most of the story is told from Boyd's POV.

And is it just me, or was people's reaction(s) to Sin a little over-the-top? I feel like the authors tried to make Sin feel like less of a “monster” by providing more introspection on his part. And perhaps that was the point, but people's reactions felt more comical than anything.

Furthermore, for a DC version, I was surprised with the amount of proofreading mistakes. Was it debilitating to my brain? No. But for a director's cut, I expected something cleaner.

I know at the end of this review, I probably made Evenfall Volume 1 sound like a horrible read, and that wasn't my impression at all. I'll be honest: this portion of the series wasn't my favorite in the original version either. It's the setup for all the things to come, and the turbulence between Boyd and Sin was just painful to read at times. It didn't help that this volume ended right at the part where I felt the series was getting good! Overall, this wasn't the greatest first entry into a potentially great series. It was entertaining enough, but wasn't what I was hoping for.

The Best Years of Our Lives, My Ass

The Best Years of Our Lives, My Ass - ireallyhatecornnuts High School stories aren't really my thing. Yet after reading the blurb for this fanfiction, and reading that Dean and Castiel (season 8) wake up as teenagers in 1996, with their memories intact, well...I couldn't stay away. Can you imagine a 17 year old Cas, with all his human-akwardness, and Dean Winchester, a man bigger than life, toting a backpack to school?

Filled with domesticated bliss, friendship, homophobia (after all, the story takes place in 1996 Kansas), and love. So much love, it was heart breaking and endearing. The way Dean tackled his feelings for his angel was very Winchester style and made me smile.

For those who are weary of long fanfiction, let me just say that this story is well edited, with great characterization. Don't expect action and blood (okay, maybe a bit of blood at one scene). After all, most of this story is a high school AU, but with a SUPERNATURAL twist.

Blood & Stone: Venom Valley Book Three

Blood & Stone: Venom Valley Book Three - Hank  Edwards Blood & Stone is the third and final entry into the Venom Valley series. Now that Josh and Dex are reunited, they are set with the final battle against the vampires. In this book, the POV expands to include Walker. That makes it four characters we are head hopping between: Dex, Josh, Glory and Walker. Honestly, as much as I like Glory, I was getting really tired at this point with so many people sharing word space (any chapter that contains Gloria's POV always has “the warmth of Ohanzee” repeated like ten times and was getting on my nerves). I literally felt that Walker's POV did absolutely nothing to enrich the story. Sure, it gave us more insight into his past, but that happens pretty much at the very end of the book – at that point, I really could have cared less. I also felt like one-third or even half of the story could have been deleted, and it would have been even BETTER. Most of the book was literally preparing for the fight, which got boring fast. The vampire/wolf fights were also losing its touch and felt like a repeating scene throughout the book.

Was Blood & Stone all bad? Nope. I still really enjoyed the times when Josh and Dex were able to find time to themselves. Sure, the sex was great, but I loved the non-sexual intimacy between them while they fight for their lives. While Glory annoyed me with her POV, reading about her from Josh and Dex's POV was fine. I did enjoy most of the side characters as well, since they became part of this little vampire-killing family living out in the West. It really is a cast of very diverse people.

So overall, the series was “okay” for me. It had a prominent beginning, which fizzled out in book two mostly due to bad pacing, but recovered somewhat in book three. It had a charming (and not so charming) cast of characters that were mostly engaging. The story itself was solid, though its execution wavered while the story progressed. The Venom Valley series isn't perfect, but you should give it a try if you're a fan of historical paranormal stories.

Stakes & Spurs

Stakes & Spurs - Hank  Edwards Stakes & Spurs is a direct continuation of Cowboys & Vampires. Due to circumstances following the end of book one, there actually isn't very much Josh-Dex interaction in this sequel. Dex and Josh are both separated by circumstances and distance, each having to overcome obstacles getting between them. As a fan of character interaction with the love interests, I had to say this was a disappointing (but necessary) development.

The cast of characters also broaden with the addition of Sergeant Walker Maxwell of the US Army, along with his soldiers. To be honest, everything felt like it went downhill from that moment on. Let me explain:

I felt like the introduction of Army soldiers, especially Walker, served no purpose except to make the story longer and throw conflict between Josh and Dex's relationship. The story, which was well paced, now stilled to a crawl filled with one event after the other. Sure, Josh worked towards the goal of getting back with Dex, but I literally felt like it would NEVER happen. A silly notion considering this is just a novella length story.

And let's not forget the thing between Josh and Walker, which just turned me off quicker than a bucket of ice cold water. Even after finishing book three (the final entry into the series), I still couldn't understand the purpose of creating this sexual tension between them.

I also wasn't too impressed with the way that Josh was able to control his necromancy. It felt like the author didn't want to go too in depth with the mechanics of his powers (which I really was interested in knowing) and found a cheap cop-out.

It's difficult to explain more of this sequel without spoiling the events. I was just disappointed with Stakes & Spurs, because it made the book more (more characters, more problems), but not necessarily better. I felt like the spotlight definitely was NOT on our love interests despite self proclamations of love for one another, since too many other things were happening to delay their reunion.

Cowboys & Vampires

Cowboys & Vampires - Hank  Edwards Josh, a 29 year old man, walks home one day to his dead adoptive mother. It isn’t long before circumstances gives little choice for Josh as he runs for his life from the people of Belkin’s Pass – the very same people who sneer at his existence after the disappearance of his birth mother, who’s believed to be a witch.

Dex is a deputy for the frontier town of Belkin’s Pass. He’s also the authoritative figure while the sheriff’s away. Nothing’s amiss until a witness comes bearing news that his best friend, Josh, is a murderer. Unable to take this news, Dex plans to confront the now missing Josh before the sheriff comes back. Because Dex knows Josh, and one thing he’s not is a murderer.

Glory, a mix of Native American and Caucasian, is struggling to etch a life in Belkin’s Pass as a entertainer at the One-Eyed Rooster. She serves drinks, flirtations and her bed with the customers who want to do more than lose themselves in a good drink. Protected by the spirit of her lover, she will do much to feel that protective presence around her – including putting herself in dangerous situations. However, not even her protector will be enough to save her from an evil presence that makes himself known one fateful evening.

Cowboys & Vampires is a paranormal, post-Civil War story. Told in third person POV from three main characters. It begins with three different plot lines: one for each character, which slowly twine into something engaging for readers of the paranormal genre.

The ambiance of the story was very befitting for a paranormal Western historical, with a background tension that hums to the cadence of suspense that builds throughout the book. Furthermore, all three characters were engaging to read: Josh, the man who lost everything; Dex, the protector and guiding presence; Glory, the woman not afraid to fight.

The romance between Josh and Dex isn’t about falling in love. They both got an extensive history with one another. They already love one another, but never voiced the sentiment. Instead, the romance is more about making it work – both in the reality of Belkin’s Pass, but also in the presence of the walking dead and a threatening evil force. Some may see the romance playing secondary to the plot, but I see it as a glue that ties all three characters together (I hope I didn’t make this sound like MMF story, but it’s not!). It’s also a driving force that pushes Josh from the bleak, dark past and into the here-and-now (or begins to anyway). So to me, this is a romance story. Just not the kind that begins from the beginning (i.e. characters developing feelings for one another), but in the middle (i.e. characters are already in love).

I’m always nervous when it comes to vampire stories, or ones that involve zombies. Most of the time, I feel like I’m watching some cheap B-rated movie with groaning zombies, or vampires (“I vant your blooood”) that are way too cliché. Don’t get me wrong: the zombies in this book do make sounds, and the vampires are pretty much by-the-book. But the dark ambiance of the story helps to quell the cheesiness of it all, making it work well in this Western historical.

My biggest complaint was the head hopping that occurs in the beginning. The blurb never mentioned about a third character, Glory, who ends up taking a good chunk of word count in the first half of the book. I kept getting annoyed, since Glory’s story is separate (at first) from Dex and Josh, which meant less time with my boys. However, I was also captivated by this strong, female character who’s blessed and cursed by the presence of her lover – never to feel his presence until her life’s in danger. Yet despite the odds against her, Glory continued to surprise me with her strong spirit and to do what she feels is right. Towards the later half of the story, Glory got less book-time as the story shifted more between Dex and Josh.

So over all, I very much enjoyed Cowboys & Vampires. It was suspenseful, interesting and sexy – a story that matches the era with a befitting paranormal twist. Just expect some head hopping and slow development before our characters come together.

The Pillar

The Pillar - Kim Fielding

I felt like I was watching a Disney movie with gay characters and sex.

And I'll leave it at that for now. (worst review, ever)

Murder on the Mountain

Murder on the Mountain - Jamie Fessenden

Will review later.

Updated 8/29/14:
Rating: 2.75 stars

Let's jump past summarizing the blurb in my own words and go straight into my likes and dislikes, shall we?

I'm not the biggest fan of mysteries. However, mysteries provide an interesting way for characters to interact. And when done right, they can add a certain suspense to the story. Murder on the Mountain held absolutely NO suspense. It was literally: someone is murdered and now let's solve the mystery. I never felt like either of the characters' lives were in danger, nor that there was a time limit to solve it as a second murder victim was very unlikely.

I also wasn't very thrilled with Jesse and Kyle. Their romance was too easy, with very little conflict (I could only think of one: their seven year age difference). The characters felt very uninspiring. It was like the only way the author could make the characters feel different was to make Kyle sound like a 45 year old widow (he's really only 30 years old!) and Kyle feel like an over curious high schooler.

The worst part was the resolution of the murder mystery, which I felt wasn't really due to any sleuthing talents by Jesse, nor anything Kyle really did.

At least the writing was good. While Jesse felt underaged at certain points, he at least had an emotional maturity to him that helped make this easy romance even less complicated (if that was even possible). The pacing was well done, and the length was adequate for everything to fall into place. Any longer and I would have gotten very bored.

Basically, if you're looking for a non-suspensful murder mystery with a romance that has very little conflict, then perhaps you'll enjoy Murder on the Mountain.

The Emperor's Wolf

The Emperor's Wolf - J.C. Owens Great sex. Though I was expecting something nitty, gritty and dark. The story ended up being a bit too sappy and lovey dovey. And the misunderstanding in the end caused some serious eye rolling.

Not Fade Away

Not Fade Away - S.E. Jakes I think I was pretty much in the minority when it came to my disappointment in Daylight Again. Because let's face it: the plotting in this series is confusing as hell, and the one element driving my interest in this series is Tom and Prophet. Everything, and everybody, else either adds to it, or distracts from it.

And book three was a lot of distraction.

But Not Fade Away took it all away. Sure, there was mention of the mystery and even of one of the other characters in the series. But overall, this short story brought the series back to what made me enjoy it in the first place: the dynamic between Tom and Prophet. Sure, most of it was just sex. But despite their already committed relationship, the author still manages to intertwine these two ever closer together – blurring the lines where Tom and Prophet meet, yet still creating two distinct characters.

There have been many proclamations made between these two characters – of love and trust and all that. But I really hope the next book in the series will bring that into action. While Not Fade Away was a great escape from the main story, it has also made me nervous – I feel like the series can either follow a spiraling path into the abyss (filled with over dramatics and more unbelievable scenarios) or become something more...special.

Fingers crossed that it's the later. But in the mean time, I really did enjoy this addition to the series.

Like Coffee and Doughnuts

Like Coffee and Doughnuts - Elle Parker Rating: 3.5 stars

Life Coffee and Doughnuts features a 41 year old PI, Dino Martini, and his sidekick/best friend/mechanic Seth. Dino's a classy guy who likes to charm old ladies. Seth likes to have sex with random women (and their boyfriends) in his garage. It's definitely a match made in heaven.

Told completely from Dino's point of view, Like Coffee and Doughnuts is a light-hearted read that's low on the angst. Don't expect a dazzling and thrilling mystery, or anything that pushes your emotional gauge to the limit. What we have here is a nice story with a likeable main character, and even more likeable love interest, and a bunch of charming old ladies.

Blood & Thunder

Blood & Thunder - Charlie Cochet Rating: 3.5 stars

Not as good as the first book, but entertaining for most of the story. What I enjoyed most about Blood & Thunder was the continued interaction among the characters. What I didn't enjoy was the actual plot into the new Order that was established at the end of the first book. You have the very stereotypical bad guy whose motives didn't make much sense, which the author felt was okay since he was just one of many insane villains. The writing towards the later 15% of the book also felt sloppy in terms of the action, and transition of one event to the next. The direction Dex and Sloane's relationship took was a long and tiring one, filled with angst and eye-rolling communication problems. However, I was satisfied with how it concluded in this book.

So overall, I enjoyed the book for the most part. I just wished there was more interaction between Dex and the rest of the team in Blood & Thunder. Or just more Dex in general. Blood & Thunder definitely made me realize how much I'm reading this for the characters instead of the somewhat cheezy plot.