Review: Fish and Ghosts — by Rhys Ford

Fish_and_GhostsOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

To be fair, I have loved almost every book I have read by Rhys Ford.  There is something about how she describes a scene, a place, or a character that just speaks to me.  Some of my past reviews of her books are found here: Black Dog Blues or Dirty Secret.

Basic Plot:

Tristan Pryce has a history of being thought odd and crazy by his family.  Now his family thinks Tristan has gone over the edge and they have called in professionals — ghost hunters!

Wolf Kincaid is a skeptic ghost hunter with a past.  He and his team journey to Hoxne Grange in response to Tristan’s family request to prove that the haunting is all in Tristan’s mind.  But what both men find is more than ghosts — perhaps a new future.

Wolf Kincaid:

Wolf is our alpha male.  He is passionate in his job and he has the adoration of his family.  I loved how Ford describes him:

And if he had a chance, he’d go back in time and kick the shit out of its builders too.  At a little over six feet, he should have had more space to walk around in the upper floors’ hallways.  Instead, he felt like Alice after she had too many frosted cakes.  His elbows hurt from banging into the walls, and the household staff wouldn’t have to dust for cobwebs because Wolf was pretty sure he’d walked through all of the ones in the attic storerooms.

This quote hits perfectly because it describes both Wolf’s physicality but also his humor.  One of the best things about Ford’s writing is her sense of humor and Wolf embodies this.

There is a lot of back story for Wolf, mostly revolving around his family.  I would write about it here, but I fear that it would hamper his mystery and part of the plot.  So just know that his character goes from a work focused man to fully appreciate his family, culture, and need for love.

Tristan Pryce:

I actually adore how Wolf describes Tristan:

Hell, Wolf thought, he probably was the one in the case and Tristan was the one setting him free.

Staring up the length of Tristan’s long, slender body, Wolf was caught by the man’s hooded gaze.  The duality of Tristan’s soul lay bare on his face, a delicate, pure innocence striated with a weary, tattered wisdom Wolf wanted to patch together with kisses.

Wolf’s description captures Tristan’s character.  Tristan is comfortable with the role of caretaker for the manor and the ghosts, as taught by his uncle Mortimer.  Now, he hides from life and the living by taking care of the dead.  Wolf sees how this affected Tristan’s life and urges for some changes, but not how Tristan’s family might think.

Theme Summary:

I think this book is about balance.  Both men center on only one aspect of their lives, excluding all other things.  For Wolf, he focuses on his ghost hunting:

“Like we deal with everything we have so far,” Wolf replied softly.  “We go into every job with a clear mind and a need to search for the truth.  That can’t change.

While we can agree with Wolf’s statement, he ignores the heart, emphasizing solely on logic.  In the meantime, Tristan’s purpose is to carry on uncle Mortimer’s legacy.  This perspective has warped the current and his future.

“Plans are fluid, dear.”  Meegan whooshed by in another dancing sweep.  “Like the universe.  One must learn to bend to its flow.  It’s better for the soul and spirit.  Builds character.”

Both men must learn to move past this narrow focus on their lives and learn to live.

Strong Points:

As always, the strongest point of Ford’s writing are her descriptions.  Ford is an artist with words, painting a picture that is vivid enough for a movie.  There is a scene later on that is so macabre that it reminds me of something out of Stephen King’s The Shinning:

The already dead lay about the fringes of the grand hall, caught in the throes of either their previous demise or the one newly created by their murderer.  To the left of them a rotund man wobbled on his bloated stomach, his torso stripped of a shirt.  Something was trying to work its way out of his body, stretching the man’s mottled skin along his ribs and distorting the man’s already deformed body.  His face was slack, and his tongue lolled back and forth as his body rocked from its parasite’s efforts to break free.

“Shittiest version of a black cat clock I’ve ever seen,”  Wolf joked to ease the tension he saw building up in Tristan’s slender body.

In the past series, Ford’s focus was on suspense.  One of her hallmarks is an explosive beginning like a Bourne movie intro.  This book is no different, but while there is mystery and suspense, Ford captured the creepy horror aspect perfectly!  I actually kept interrupting my husband while he watched TV to read quotes from the book.  This hardly ever happens when I read any of my romance books.

The other aspect I love about her writing? The humor.

Glass cherries dangled from her lobes, a row of four in each ear, and they chimed when she moved her head.  While they matched the printed cherries on her button-up shirt, Wolf thought it looked like she’d lost a fight with a fruit salad.

What could be better?

In all honesty, there is very little that I would change about this book.  This section is where I determine if a book is a 4 star or 5.  In this case, it screams 5 stars.  In Ford’s other series, culture is a focus, especially Asian cultures, and while this gives the novels depth and uniqueness, it began to feel repetitive.  With this novel, however Ford takes that skill as educator and we learn a lot of ghost hunting!  I am actually interested in knowing if any of the technology descriptions are accurate in how modern ghost hunters operate.

Conclusions:

There were too many quotes that I marked for this review, which is a fantastic sign!  This is probably my favorite book of Rhys Ford.  I have always loved her suspense, but I found not just action, not just sexy love scenes, but a novel of substance.  This book allowed me see that Ford has more variety in writing style, and this novel demonstrates her growth.  I think that if you liked her other novels, then you will like this no less.  So, if you are a fan, get ready to love this book, and if you are new to the author you will certainly love the story.

Bea

Review: Enemy Lines — by qhuinn (Tekla)

Enemy_LInesWhen I am feeling stressed or depressed, I go to my comfort books.  And this week, despite the fact that I have three Advance Reader Copies to read and complete reports, I just wanted to read about Sterek.

I have written about Fan Fiction before, and certainly about my love for Sterek classics like DILF.  I’ve been reading Fan-Fiction since June of this year, and it’s a great way to get to read a lot of great free books.  If you want to know anything about the phenomena of Sterek from Teen Wolf, then Tumblr is the place to go.

I have read most of my fan-fiction over at Archive of Our Own, their search methods are great.  If you want to know more about the Sterek fan base or fan fiction then start by following Cole the Wolf, Dira, and Twentysomething.

The fictions can range from being very similar plot wise to the show or more like porn with questionable plot.  I have read some excellent books that I think could be published, and then I have found some to be so sophomoric in nature that they read like stereotypical by preen-teens day dreams. No offense to preen-teens who are probably excellent writers.

This week’s blog post is specifically about a book called Enemy Lines, by qhuinn (Tekla).  You can find the direct link here to the fiction at AO3.

Basic Plot:

This is an Alternate Universe (meaning while the characters are similar, they are not set in the similar environment that the original source).  The world is a human versus werewolf setting, so think a post apocalyptic setting.  A war has broken out and cities have been captured by the werewolves.  The town of Beacon Hill is human based and controlled by the Argents, with Stiles’ father, the Sheriff is siding.  Derek and his pack come back into town with vengeance in mind, starting with Sheriff Stilinski.  Stiles is taken instead, and while now there is more than just a war between species, there is a civil war brewing on both sides.  Will Stiles and Derek survive?

Stiles Stilinski:

While this is an alternate, character of Stiles is very similar to the original Teen Wolf one.  His morals and actions, I found to be similar and believable.  What drives Stiles, his every action is to protect his family.  In his case, this is his father the Sheriff.

The guilt roots and twists inside of him and he no longer wants to tell his father, not because he wants to protect him, but because he thinks his father will blame him.  Because it was Stiles’ fault.  All of it.  And he knows.  So how couldn’t his did if he knew the truth, too?

This guilt (misplaced) is what drives most of the plot from Stiles’ perspective.  I found that I could relate to his character and his reactions to events were exactly as how I would react.

Derek Hale:

Ahhhhh Derek, our poor tortured Alpha.  Derek is typically portrayed here.  Early on in the story as the two men meet, we can see how focused Derek is on his mission:

This human has been bathing in regrets and mourning for a long time.  It should be easy to break him in order to gather information.

“The dog breath will kill me first if you guys take too much longer,” the human huffs in a show of exasperation.  And that’s when Derek recognizes him.

It’s been years since he last saw Mrs. Stilinski’s son, but Derek can still see her in this gawky boy — especially her defiant nature.

We see Derek as the result of the horror of his childhood and the death of his family by the Argents and the subsequent years of war.  He is hardened, and this can be seen in the previous scene.

Theme Summary:

Part of this can be seen in the title of the novel, Enemy Lines.  In an obvious sense, we have two men who find each other literally “behind enemy lines,” and they both cross emotional and physical boundaries to find each other.

Stiles never thought he’d find his place in this world when he was once dragged behind enemy lines.

But for me, this is too obvious, and I found the theme to surround more of the responsibility of duty.  For Derek, he has become an Alpha, following his Alpha uncle Peter for the war.  He has to decide of his lust for revenge and following the chain of command is worth it, is the man he has become worth what it is doing to his soul?  On the other hand, Stiles must move past the his traumatic past and accept the man he has become.  Neither men  is safe in either society and neither wants to be a part of what is unfolding.

Strong Points:

The writing within this novel is very strong, I could see this being published with very little changes needed.  The plot is consistent and the pacing is steady.  There were very few times when I wanted to skip ahead.

What could be better?

The bad characters, are very flat and very evil.  So while they were stereotypical, and they fit with the series.

Conclusions:

Overall, this is one of my favorite Sterek fan-fictions.  I love how original the plot is and how dynamic the culture is.  We get vibrant descriptions and well written dialogue here.  I will certainly be looking up further novels by this author.

Bea

Review: Junk — by Josephine Myles

JunkOther Reviewers: Goodreads

There is very little that I dislike in a Josephine Myles novel.  There is usually a lot of passion, humor, British charm, and emotion.  I have to say that I found her latest work, Junk to contain all of these.

Basic Plot:

Jasper, a librarian at a local university realizes that his hoarding of paper and books has gotten out of control.   He calls in Wonderland Clutter Clearing, to help him clean up his house.  When Lewis Miller enters his life, what Jasper discovers  is not only a new friend who can help him with his hoarding, but possibly a new lover.  But can their personal baggage be put behind them to forge a new life together?

Jasper Richardson:

Early on in the novel, we see a glimpse of how Jasper feels about relationships:

I’m fine with being a bachelor.  Books are better company than people.  They don’t hog the bedclothes or mess with your things.”

This quote on the surface illustrates the humor of the novel.  Who hasn’t said something like that?  But what we come to understand is that there is hidden pain, hidden anger beneath.  What we come to find is that people have hurt him before, deeply and it has left invisible marks in the form of his book issue.  The conflict becomes how he can learn to let that pain and hurt go, along with his hoard.

I found Jasper so endearing, his awkwardness something that I could relate:

Jasper froze, then patted the big man’s back.  That was how you comforted someone, wasn’t it?  Hopefully he wasn’t doing it too hard.  It wasn’t like Yusef was choking or anything.

Lewis Miller:

What I like most about Lewis his is organization, yet he has his issues too.  I do not want to spoil Lewis’ back story, but we learn that he is not the perfect one either.

When I’m tempted by something, I have a set of rules I go through to help me decide whether or not I really need to buy it.  Unless I can answer yes to at least five of them, I leave it in the shop.

But while Lewis is someone we want to emulate, he has his issues.  He confronts them and then comes up with ways to live his life.

Theme Summary:

I found the theme surrounding how love, friendship, and understanding are aspects that we search for in our lives.  Jasper and Lewis have to come to understand and accept themselves first before they can make a success of their relationship.

Strong Points:

The scenes where Myles describes how Jasper feels, the compulsions and thought processes brought me right into the mind of the hoarder.  I am amazed how descriptive those scenes were:

The book.  Jasper fondled the cover lovingly.  He wasn’t actually planning to read it, of course.  He’d already determined that fact back at the library during his tea break.  But he couldn’t have left it languishing there on the sale trolley, unwanted and unloved.  He knew just the place for it.

What could be better?

There really is not much more that I would do to improve this book.  I loved it!

Conclusions:

If you are looking for a novel that has heart and heat, then Junk by Josephine Myles is for you.  The chemistry between our two characters is hot and the love scenes were smokin’.   This has quickly become of my favorite books and will be on the re-read pile for sure!

Bea

Review: Screwing the System — by Josephine Myles

ScrewingTheSystemOther Reviewers: Goodreads

One thing that I love in reading a book is that it expands your knowledge, either by learning new cultures, societies, science, or history.  With Josephine Myles, I always get a peek into the UK that as an American, I have only seen through entertainment.

I usually love anything that Myles writes. Part of it is the English tone, but I also I love the humor that she brings to the story, and the diverse characters. I also love her courage in writing about topics that others might shy away.

If you are familiar with my blog, you know how I love to read about the BDSM lifestyle.  We can see so much diversity, and what I love the most about it is the ability for someone to feel comfortable being “themselves”, rather than repressing a part of themselves.  So, when I read that this book was going to contain all of the typical Myles style and BDSM, it intrigued  me.

Basic Plot: 

Cosmo Rawlins is a musician, who tries to get by with temp jobs while he and his band plays and make it big. So enter his interview with businessman Alasdair Grant. Cosmo is instantly attracted and drawn to Alasdair. One thing leads to another and he finds himself entering a BDSM relationship with him. Can their diverse backgrounds and hidden secrets keep them apart?

Cosmo Rawlins:

We begin the novel by seeing how Cosmo was trying to keep his unemployment going by getting job interviews, but never making it.  He normally does a good job of sinking himself, but he is aroused by Alasdair immediately:

Mr. Grant, on the other hand… There was a tree he wouldn’t mind barking up.  Or climbing up, more like.  He was huge and had to be old enough to be his dad, which wasn’t actually all that old, seeing as how his dad was only fifteen when he got his fourteen-year-old excuse for a mother up the duff.

So, Cosmo is a bit of a bad-boy, and a up and coming rock band musician.  But his humorous, bad-boy attitude covers his submissive sexual nature and his less than stellar past.

Alasdair Grant:

Alasdair is someone who has a mysterious past, one that unfolds as so the story.  We learn that his past affects his current mindset about BDSM and relationships, which provides some of our conflicts.  At first we find him arrogant and assholian, but it adds to his charm.  His relationship with Cosmo gives him both a new up-lifted attitude, but also fills that void he has been missing for years.

“Sure thing, Dad,” Cosmo drawled, while flipping him an oh-so-insolent salute.

“Cheeky brat.”

“Yeah, you love it, though, don’t you?”

Cosmo said, before fitting his helmet over his head.

Alasdair grinned through the tinted visor and swung onto the bike.  As he revved the engine, he felt Cosmo’s weight settle behind him, an erection pressing into the small of his back as those strong arms tentatively crept around his waist.  Yep, the lad acted cocky and confident, but he wasn’t nearly as sure of himself as he made out.  Stripping away all of that attitude was going to be fun.

Theme Summary:

Both men go through significant character development throughout the novel.  Myles does a masterful job of placing both men in “weak” positions, yet it only manages to illustrate their human aspects rather than portraying either as emotional frail.

What we discover through their exploration is that you can be submissive and not be weak, and that if you do not let go of your past, it will only destroy any of your future happiness.

“Screw the system,” to me is about how just because something is established does not mean that it is the only way.  Both Alasdair and Cosmo have to learn how to adapt to make this relationship work.

Strong Points:

What I liked the most was how Cosmo deals with his BDSM. Their first meeting demonstrates by accident how “Boss-man” play turned them on, and their relationship intensified as the book unfolds. I loved how Cosmo learns to depend on the lifestyle to deal with his emotional problems. We get to see how positive and often needed for individuals and couples.  I would not say that this book was “hard-core” BDSM, but it was a bit more intense than her The Hot Floor. I labeled this as “daddy-kink”, although Alasdair is not explicitly called “daddy” but rather “boss-man” or “boss”.  What I liked about this novel and BDSM was a more serious “slave” type relationship rather than just a sexy bedroom kink.

“I want  an apology, right now,” he growled, all gruff and sexy as hell.  “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I,uh… I’m sor–”

“Say it like you mean it.”  Alasdair dropped his wrists.

Cosmo blinked up at him, and then it struck him.  Boss-man found it a turn-on, dominating him like this.  Despite all Cosmo’s talk about “extracurricular activities”, he’d never actually done anything like this before, but he’d seen some kinky porn, so he had an idea of what Alasdair might enjoy.  Cosmo stood, then dropped to his knees in front of him, bowing his head.

“I’m very sorry, Mr. Grant.”

Their dialogue is sexy as hell and I really enjoyed their dynamics. But I really liked was how the relationship matured and both individuals grow and realize that they need each other.

I also loved how Myles gives us the musical mindset of Cosmo.  She so effectively portrayed his musical mind that I could immediately fall right into his personality.

Cosmo found himself tapping his foot and drumming his fingers along with his words.  Gave him ideas for inserting a rap in the middle of the new song.  Some UK Garage or Grime stylings, maybe.  Would that work?  The rest of the band would hate it.  Rizzo especially, which made it doubly appealing.

“Mr. Rawlins.  Am I boring you?”

That made him snap his head up.  “What?”

“You looked like you were lost in music.”

What could be better?

There is very little that I would change to improve it.  There was just the perfect amount of angst and the BDSM aspect was unique.

Conclusions:

If you have read other books by Josephine Myles, then you will love this one. If you are interested in BDSM books, then you should like this one, not too light and not too dark.  I loved how the story unfolds and it was both heart warming and incredibly steamy.

Bea