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: 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