Review: Spell Bound — by Jacob Z. Flores

Spell_BoundOther 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.

Basic Plot:

Mason Blackmoor is a Warlock — who has difficulty with his magic.  His lack of skill is a family joke and Mason feels powerless.  Now there seems to be a new evil in town, and Mason feels even more powerless.

Drake Carpenter is new into town.  He and Mason have immediate chemistry — but is it hate or passion?  As they fight the evil, will their love be allowed to catch fire?

Background:

I have previously reviewed a Jacob Z. Flores novel, Please Remember Me.  However, Spell Bound is the first book in a new series by the author called The Warlock Brothers of Havenbridge.

This book reminds me of the male/male sub-genre wizard of series under 200 pages.  These are series that focus on a group of individuals, with lots of  insta-mate sex scenes, groups fighting within the society, a big evil that is defeated right at the end, and character development that is plot driven.  Some series are:  A Wizard’s Touch (Amber Kell), The Aloysius Tales (Tara Lain), Dominion (Lissa Kasey), Triad (Poppy Dennison), and Superpowered Love (Katey Hawthorne).

Because of the abbreviated nature of this sub-genre, I do not expect a lot of character development or world building.  I expected that there would be a large portion of this novel that was plot powered and more “tell me” than “show me”.

Mason Blackmoor:

The introduction of our main character, Mason Blackmoor leads the reader to immediately dislike him.

“Can’t, Busy,” I mumbled as I walked by, and I wasn’t even lying this time.  This was going to be a crazy, magical weekend, and my family had a lot to do.  And even if we weren’t all gathering for an important ritual, Laura and her slutty friends weren’t for me.

My type tended to have lean muscles, a firm bubble butt, and a nice cock.  Now someone like that would have my complete and undivided attention.

This description is supposed to make the reader immediately understand that Mason is gay and he is somehow in a magical world as opposed to the muggle.  But I read this as saying that Mason is a hypocritically critical of Laura’s sexual promiscuity, yet Mason likes fit boys and is a size queen.

If I had not had to read this for an advanced reader’s copy, I probably would have not finished this because of our character introduction.

Drake Carpenter:

Because this is first person (this seems to be the preferred method of the author), we do not learn much about Drake’s perspective.  We know that he has some some emotional trauma with the death of his family and that he is southern.  We know he is southern because all of his dialogue is written abbreviated with a plethora of ” ‘”s:

“Well, it’s always been my experience that when someone’s starin’ out as far as they can see, they’re missin’ somethin’.  They don’t always realize that.”  He paused for a few moments before repeating his question.

“So what are you looking’ for?”

You know how I would be able to tell that this character was from Texas?  If Mason just asked him where he is from.  There was no need to continuously abbreviate all of his words, it was distracting.

 

Theme Summary:

When I began this book I thought that there would be no way the author could establish a theme.  However, I was pleasantly surprised:

“See what you started?”  Edith asked me.  “All I’m saying is we shouldn’t blindly follow tradition.  It’s not who we are.  Our race is a result of humans challenging the laws of the universe.  Without them, we wouldn’t be here.”

And then:

“I know I am, but I don’t think you see it that way anymore.  I think you now realize that being a warlock isn’t a reputation, it just is.  Our magic doesn’t define us.  We define it, and when  you look at it that way, it makes it easier to manipulate.”

I see the first quote as a comment on conservative traditional philosophy with sexuality.  They are often so focused on how sinful and “wrong” homosexuality is, that they do not consider how much we have changed as a society from our ancestors.  What was “wrong” a hundred or more years ago is now acceptable.

The second quote I can also see as a comment about our sexuality.  We hear those labels all the time:  Bi, straight, gay, pan, etc.  But what do they mean?  If I tell you that I am bi, does that tell you everything about me?  Am I a good cook?  Am I a good wife?  A good worker?

Strong Points:

After the rough start, I was concerned there would be no depth with only a tropey plot.  Yet I found a buffet of thought-provoking theme.  I finished reading this book and dreamed all day about writing a blog post.  I can not tell you the last time I eagerly yearned to write a blog post.

As a side note, the cover is gorgeous!

What could be better?

The start of the book did not feel well written.  It was  a rough start:  the characters were two-dimensional and the writing was difficult to get through all of the tropey writing.

I would have given this a 4 star review due to the theme, if we had a better beginning and more character development.  If the author had spent some more time with a longer book (say 300-400 pages), then I believe the author would have had time to develop the story more.

Also, the notes say that this is a 216 page book, but the book ended on page 194. This is a bit misleading.

Conclusions:

I am glad that I stuck through with Spell Bound.  While the beginning was a little difficult to get through, I enjoyed the theme and the plot was pretty page turning.  I appreciated the metaphors within the novel comparing the magical classes to our current social biases.  I will certainly check out the second book in this series, Blood Tied.

Bea

Review: A Clean Break — by Keira Andrews

A_clean_breakOther 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.

This is book two in a three-part series (Gay Amish Romance) by Keira Andrews.  I have previously reviewed the first book in the series, A Forbidden Rumspringa, which can be seen here. If you have not read the first book, then I suggest not reading this review as it will contain spoilers.

Basic Plot:

Isaac and David have made a break from their Amish community, straight to Isaac’s brother’s home in California.  Can the boys learn to live in the English life or will they find life together too difficult?

Isaac:

Isaac seems to have an easier time of assimilating into the English world.  Isaac’s struggle is with building new relationships and friendships.  The support of his brother Aaron keeps him balanced and his love for David gives him strength to move forward.

“Look!”  Isaac pointed as they rumbled across a street that dipped down.  “The water.”

Isaac glowed, and David found himself watching him more than the view.  To see Isaac so filled with eight calmed his worries.

Isaac reminds me of the person who runs head first into a challenge.  He’s scared of the newness, but he is so excited to be moving forward in his life.  There is still the guilt and concern to leaving his hometown, but for him it is worth everything to be with David.  That would never have been feasible for them to remain together in Minnesota.

David:

David is our tortured character.  We saw that in the first novel, the stress of trying to take care of his family lead him to question his relationship with Isaac.  For David, being the supporter of his family and then Isaac is all that is important to him.  We see this early on in A Clean Break:

For so long he’d tried to be a good Amish man.  But when it came time to give his vow to God and join the church, he’d faced the truth.  On his knees in front of Bishop Yoder and all of Zebulon, David had said the only thing he could: no.  To say yes would have been a betrayal not only of his heart and honor, but of Isaac.

Most of David’s conflict is with how difficult it is him to leave his guilt from leaving the family behind.  Andrews does an amazing job of letting us into the head space of someone trying to leave a conservative community.

Theme Summary:

It is difficult to decide to leave a life that is so different like being Amish.  For Isaac and David, this challenge is overcome by the love that they have.  They are willing to give up their old way of life to be together.

Exhilaration rushed through him at the thought that soon they’d work together again.  He didn’t know how or where, but they’d make it.  They’d build a life with new tools, piece by piece.

I think for any of us, we could relate to this.  Imagine that you had to move to another country, one that did not speak your language and had completely different cultures.

Strong Points:

The strongest part of this novel is the emotions that we feel as we read about their struggles.  There were so many times that I was crying, pulling my hair in irritation with the characters.  I wonder what type of research the author must have had to go to so easily portray the drama and emotions that David and Isaac go through.

What could be better?

There was a lot of sex in this book, which in the end I actually skipped some of the scenes.  I think that if it was a case of book length, I would have rather just merging book two and three together.  While book 1’s ending was natural, although there was the slight cliffhanger.  In A Clean Break,  the ending is jarring and the wait until the next book will be rough.

Conclusions:

I enjoyed this book, although I had to give it a 3-star rather than 4.  The jarring ending and the reliance of sex scenes made the read not as enjoyable as the first.  However, the emotion that Keira Andrews is able to depict in A Clean Break is amazing.   I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of angst and lots of steamy sex.  Just remember, there is a cliffhanger!

Bea

Review: Please Remember Me — by Jacob Z. Flores

Please_RememberMEOther 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.

I have never read a novel from Jacob Z. Flores, so this was an opportunity to find new works for my library.

Basic Plot:

Santi Herrera has everything in his life, a track into partnership at his law firm, great friends, and a fiancé that was going to walk down the aisle in weeks.  But what happens when Hank is ripped out of his arms by an accident and now there is nothing in common between them.  Will they be able to find that spark again?

Santi Herrera:

Our perspective comes from Santi 99% of the book.  He is a workaholic, spending most of his time trying to make partner.  His motivation is to make his parents’ proud of him.  Yet, his social life really is only advanced when his “fag hag” friend Jill gets him out of the house and down to the club.

“Santi, are you sure you’re gay?”  She asked as she rose from the bed and crossed over to me.  Her black boots clicked against the hardwood floor of the five-star hotel room she’d made me book.  “I ask because you dress like a Republican.”  She sighed in exasperation.

“Can it, smartass,” she said as she spun me around. “Look at yourself in the mirror.  You’ve got good muscle definition in your arms, which the muscle shirt shows off nicely.  Plus the ribbed material makes your flat stomach look even tighter.  And with those tight jeans displaying your bulge and tight ass, you’ll definitely be getting some play tonight.”

I stared at myself in the mirror.  Was she serious?  I couldn’t look any more ridiculous if I tried.

I think this is the portion of the novel where I thought, “I can relate to this guy.”  Even this man, who obviously is attractive, smart, and rich is self-conscious.

Hank Burton:

Hank is a mystery to us, one as a plot device, but also because we must rely on Santi’s perspective on his actions.  The beginning of the relationship is set to us as flash backs, so we jump/skip into important events in their courtship.  Hank seems to be a great guy, his roommates/friends Darren and Mitch have become a family because Hank’s family kicked him out as a youth because of his sexuality.  Here we see a conversation later in the book about Hank and Santi:

“I’ve got to ask,”  Darren said.  “When did all this happen?”

“I’m not really sure,” Hank answered.  He stared down at me  instead of looking at Darren.  “It’s been gradual.  I guess I’ve been hurt so many times in my life that I didn’t want to hurt someone who obviously cared so much for me.  What else but love makes someone take care of someone else the way Santi has taken care of me? “

Here we get a look into Hank’s post-accident mind as he tries to assimilate into his life.  He sees Santi’s actions and is overwhelmed with how much Santi must really love him. The problem here is that we don’t know if Hank feels the same way because he does or if he “should”.  How can anyone fall in love without having memories of getting to know each other?

Theme Summary:

Finding a theme can be difficult sometimes within romance novels I review.  It often determines what number of stars I assign.  But there was a passage that spoke to me here:

But don’t focus too much on that.  We all make mistakes.  Look at his actions now and what he’s trying to tell you today.  I know sometimes cutting our losses is what we need to do to get over the pain, but I don’t think that’s the case here.  He’s trying and he’s the only father you’ve got.”

The entire relationship (post accident) is about not giving up.  Santi is forced to hold back his actions toward Hank while he struggles to just learn how to be again, let alone remember their past.  That we need to move forward no matter what roadblocks impede us comes through as a theme for me here.

Strong Points:

I enjoyed the humor in this book.  Jill, the secondary character gives us a break throughout the novel as it gets too deep.

What could be better?

Here is where I get picky.  First person drives me crazy.  I had a difficult time attaining immersion level with this novel.  Also, not getting Hank’s perspective as he struggles to remember his past limited my enjoyment.  That being said, it certainly did give us that “blank” feel about him, because the only way we learn about him is through Santi’s flashbacks.

The last thing I did not like was the flashbacks themselves.  For me, the concept itself annoys and  comprehension challenging.  It wasn’t Memento level flashy, but it did jar.

Conclusions:

I am glad that I had the opportunity to read this book.  I now have a new author to check out all of his other works.  I think the biggest challenges I faced with this book were in writing mechanics, rather than quality of writing or plot line.  Perhaps, someone who enjoys those aspects would give this a four or five-star.

I did enjoy how the author treated the amnesia in a realistic perspective.  Life does not just magically get better and everyone (friends and family included) have to adjust.

It is the best amnesia romances I have read in a while, so if you are looking for a sweet and angsty read with a happy ending, this book is for you.

Bea

Quickie: A Wizard’s Touch Series by Amber Kell

 

Jaynell's Wolf by Amber Kell

Jaynell’s Wolf by Amber Kell

Kevin's Alpha by Amber Kell

Kevin’s Alpha by Amber Kell

Farren's Wizard by Amber Kell

Farren’s Wizard by Amber Kell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Page count: 90 to 116 pages

I normally do not review a series in one blog post, but rather than have several reviews, I figured I could do one blog post.  This series was given to me by the publisher for an honest review.  For my previous thoughts on book four of the series, Elijah’s Ghost, go here.

Basic Plot:

  • Jaynell’s Wolf:  Jay’s father’s dying wish was for Jay to become a wizard.  But once he gets to the Wizard Academy, he feels out of place and alone.  His powers are just so unusual, he feels as if he would be better somewhere else.  However, he meets werewolf Thomas Sparks who suspects that Jay is his mate.  While they begin their bonding, external forces begin to pull them apart.  Can they survive or is Jay destined to be alone?
  • Kevin’s Alpha:  Kevin is a wizard and James Sparks is the Alpha of the local werewolf pack.  There is instant chemistry, but Kevin is afraid of commitment.  Danger enters by the kidnapping of his friend Jay, and Kevin and cast go to help battle the enemy.
  • Farren’s Wizard:  Farren’s djinn’s blood has always put him in danger.  Now that he is at Wizard Academy, the danger is even more potent.  Farren meets fellow wizard Dan Stewartson and there is instant chemistry, however their timing always seems to be off.  Now that they have finally started going out, can their relationship survive Farren’s past?

Relationship:

  •  Jay and Thomas:  Jay has been lonely his entire life and the sacrifice of his parents has filled him with survivor’s guilt.  Thomas has always been powerful, perhaps even more powerful than his Alpha, but he has no intention to lead.  However, his attraction and devotion to Jay is something that Jay has desperately needed.
  • Kevin and James:  Kevin has always felt second best because of his family.  His powers never seemed that strong compared to them and he never wants to compromise like his mother did.  James has always been the powerful Alpha, can he convince Kevin to risk his freedom for love?
  • Farren and Dan:  Farren is a djinn, which is a powerful and unstable creature.  As he hides his heritage, danger makes him turn to Dan.  Dan has always liked Farren, but was too shy to try a relationship.

Summary:

These books are very short as compared to other series, so there is very  little room for character development.  The books are short and exciting, the focus always on external factors.  The first two books, Jaynell’s Wolf and Kevin’s Alpha are almost like one book, following the danger around Jay.  The strength of the series is the world building that we get throughout each of the novels.  Because they build on each other, we get strong secondary characters that eventually become main characters in the next book.  My only negative point on this series is that there is not much depth in the characters, so don’t expect any profound inner thoughts of our characters.   While they do build on each other, you can get the gist of the other books without spoiling the endings.  Although, I would recommend reading them in order.

I recommend this series if you want a fast read that you can read on a Sunday afternoon.  I plan on keeping an eye out for the next installment and see what other adventures in the Wizard Academy.

StarStarStar

Quickie: Elijah’s Ghost by Amber Kell

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

elijahsghostPage count: 115

For full disclosure, I was given this book for review by the publisher for an honest review.

I had only read one other book by Amber Kell, Attracting Anthony.   For that Goodreads’ review go here.  At the time, I was not that impressed with the novel, but there was something about the author’s writing that made me want to try another book.

When I came across this synopsis, it struck me as interesting, after all, who doesn’t love a story about an under-dog who finds out he is special?  In the end, I was glad I read the book.

Basic Plot:

Elijah Trention is one disappointment to most people in his life:  father, brother, and instructors.  Then comes the day when he saves a class from danger and everyone looks at him in awe. Devin Stewartson has had his eye on Elijah for a long time, but never had the nerve to ask him out.  When he finally does, will Elijah accept his friendship or will his past keep him away?

 

Elijah Trention:

Eli’s perspective is someone with whom we can relate.  He has low self-esteem, mostly because of his father’s lack of love and respect.  He is not an overachiever like his brother, in fact, he is behind in much of his studies, never even matching his peers.  We discover more reasoning behind this later on, but I do not want to spoil the suspense here.

 His father eyed Eli, approval in his gold gaze.  After years of seeking his dad’s attention, he now wished the man would just go away.  He certainly had no desire to supplant his brother’s spot in his father’s affections.  Those two deserved each other.  Power seeking and ruthless, the two men had the same goals in life — taking whatever they could get and stepping on as many people as necessary to get there.  Eli wanted nothing to do with them.

Now that Eli has all of this great power, he must learn how to control it and keep friends around him that will support him, not use him.

Devin Stewartson:

Devin is a character that I assume is in the other three books of the A Wizard’s Touch series.  Early on we see Elijah’s view of Devin:

Besides, there was a perk to the class, in the form of Devin Stewartson.  The sexy man sat two rows ahead of Eli and to the right.  Eli spent a great deal of time ignoring the professor and staring at the gorgeous triplet.  It just wasn’t fair that there were three of them.  He’d heard around campus that Dan had bonded with a fire wizard and Dean was straight — that left Devin a his only option.  Not that it mattered — he’d always been attracted to Devin more than his brothers.  Devin’s upbeat personality pulled at Eli.  Maybe because Eli didn’t have a bubbly personality, Devin’s charm called him.

I liked Devin, while he appeared to be popular and had a steady family, even he had questions about getting a partner and a successful relationship.

Strong Points:

I enjoyed the dialogue in this book.  It’s a short novel, at 115 pages, so  the author needs to be able to get us into the story quickly.  Early on we see how great Porter and Eli’s friendship is:

Porter put a hand on each of Eli’s shoulders and looked him square in the eyes.  “You’ll be fine.  If anyone messes with you, you call upon your legion of dead.”

Eli laughed, “So far my legion consists of a single dead assistant teacher who I don’t think is going to do anything other than help me with my studies.”

“Well, legions should be functional,” Porter said in a practical tone.  “Maybe you can build them up as soon as you can figure out which ones are dead.”

Porter is a great secondary character and I wished we had more time with him.

What Could be Better:

Because this is such a short book, there is very little time for getting in-depth character development.  This is book 4 in a series, so I an only assume that at least with Devin, we might have already learned about him as a secondary character.

Remember the phrase, “show” don’t “tell”, when dealing with writing?  Because this book is so short, the author compressed the development to “tell” rather than “show”.  From the writing that we see, I believe that the author has the writing skill to be more verbose.  I hope that in other series we get to see more developed world, plots, and characters.  I can tell by the writing of this story that Amber Kell is capable of writing a more lengthy novel.  I would love to read a longer book Amber Kell.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It was a very fast read and was great for reading on my flight to a conference.  But, that being said, there was not that much deep thinking.  So I give it Three Stars for a score.  I did like this book enough that I will go back and read the previous three in the series.

Quickie: Demon’s Blood by Shari Sakurai

Demons_bloodOther Reviewers: Goodreads

Page count: 239

I had the opportunity to read this book as given to me by the author for an honest review.

Normally vampire romances are stories that are fluffy and full of sexy romance and lots of blood sex.  Yes, they might have a shiny sheen to them or they might be a coven who hunt werewolves.  But we rarely get stories that are like those of ancient tales of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler.

However, Demon’s Blood, by Shari Sakurai is not  your typical vampire romance.  In fact, I would not call this book a romance at all.

Basic Plot:

Taku and Thane are vampires living in England.  A recent even in Japan had them fleeing to England where Taku has opened a night club.  Will they be able to settle down or will their past come back to haunt them?

Relationship:

It is difficult for me to talk about Demon’s Blood and first think about the relationship of Thane and Taku.  This was an incredibly dark novel, more like a horror or gritty drama, rather than a romantic story about relationship development.  So when I think about the characters, love and romance is not the first thing.  For example:

The knife was the first tool he removed from the bag.  The stainless steel glinted in the moonlight as Thane brought it to his victim’s neck.

In fact, this book was very gloomy and the characters were not very sympathetic.  I had a very difficult time liking either of the main characters; I found very little redeeming in either character.  For the better of the world, I was hoping that both of them would be killed.

Strong Points:

  • Great Culture building:  The author does an excellent job of building the background and story of vampires.  This is not a romance world of fuzzy and happy vampires.  These are demons:  dark, evil, and hostile animals.

It was blood, Koji realized with horror, as he felt the first touch across his bare chest.  Ai took her time, carefully painting the kanji Ryoku, meaning power, which was another crest of their clan across his torso whilst murmuring an inaudible incantation.  She used a similar tone to sing the song that soothed her little one to sleep at night; he recalled hearing her one time as he had walked past the Nishimura family home.  Ai had a beautiful voice, as sweet as a songbird, but now Koji could only hear evil in her notes.

The downside of all of this gritty background is that I found I really did not care about any of the characters.

Conclusions:

To be honest, this book was not what I normally read.  I tend to like novels that work the romance throughout the book, as we get to know the characters and we see as their romance and relationship develop.  In Demon’s Blood, their relationship is already established and it is never a focus.  The focal point of the novel revolves around the horror of discovery and the fear of letting the animal gain control.  I would not call this book a romance at all, and I am actually disturbed that anyone would consider this a romance.  My opinion might be less harsh if I had realized that this is not truly a romance novel.

If you enjoy dark and gritty suspense, I think you would enjoy this book. Just keep in mind that this is not a glittered up vampire book with a happy ending.  If you enjoy a unique vampire world building with Japanese focused background then you might enjoy this one.

Bea

Quickie: The Devil’s Brew by Rhys Ford

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Devils_BrewPage count: 70

Full Disclosure:  I have been given this book by the author to give a fair review.

I love this author, her writing style fits my personality perfectly.  My previous reviews about the Cole McGinnis Mystery series have all been raves.  My Sinners’ series reviews have been hit or miss for me, I will be honest.  I loved the first book (Miki and Kane), but I did not finish the second book (Damien and Sionn).  So I was a little nervous about reading this novella.

Keep in mind that this review is a Quickie, which I reserve for novellas.  I tend to keep the ratings lower on these as I do not think that a novella will be in-depth enough to qualify for my 4 or 5 stars.  Let’s see what I thought of The Devil’s Brew.

Basic Plot:

Miki is still getting used to being with Kane and getting to know Kane’s massive Irish family.   Valentine’s Day approaches and Miki has no idea what to do or get for Kane.  Can  Miki find the perfect gift for Kane and will their special day be special enough?

Relationship:

Miki is a singer who is both physically and mentally recovering from the accident that changed his life and killed his fellow band mates.  He has found Kane, his Irish cop.  He has been accepted by the entire family, but Miki is still scarred.  Kane is a hard-working cop, whose attempt to juggle his busy family and work life seems successful.

Strong Points:

Writing Style:   I am amazed at the descriptions that Rhys can just throw into the room:

The music still whispered to him.  Sometimes in snippets.  Other times in full-blow nuclear blasts.  But their drum and bass lines remained silent when he played out what came to his head.  He knew the notes — heard the underlying throb of his melody — but the hands he’d come to count on — the ones who brought his brain vomit to life  —  were gone.

Miki is such an interesting person, one who yearns to find his music, but feels his missing band mates like missing limbs.

What Could be Better:

I love Rhys Ford’s writing style.  The way that she describes a scene is so visceral, as if in a movie.  The descriptions are great and in the Dirty series they run smoothly, Ford merges eastern and western cultures perfectly.  However, in the Sinners’ Series, at times it feels like a pale copy of the other.  Maybe it’s just me, your mileage may vary.

Conclusions:

I enjoyed The Devil’s Brew, it is a good little vignette into the life of Miki and Kane.  We get to see how their life is after their big love story, something as a reader we often do not get. If you liked the first book in this series, I think you will like this novella.

Bea