Quickie: Bonded 2 by Sara York

Bonded_2Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Page count: 203

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:

Liam flies home to Mississippi to go to his grandmother’s funeral, only to have his parents commit him against his will for gay conversion.  Liam’s partners rush to his rescue bringing in their FBI from Sam Graves.

How will they save Liam and shut down this conversion operation and save others as Sam finds his own love.

Relationship:

This book is really a set of two relationships all revolving around the kidnapping of Liam.  This is book two in the Bound in Love series.  The relationship of Liam, Chris, and Greg is developed in book one, so don’t expect a lot of relationship development here.  What we get in this book for development lies within how Greg and Chris physically and emotionally support Liam through the legal processes.

While this plot continues on, we also get a new relationship flourish with Sam and Hudson.  There is a little mystery behind their relationship that should not be spoiled here.  We do get to see the beginning of a BDSM relationship here.

Strong Points:

  • Drama:  We got to see a lot of exciting drama in a short book of 203 pages.  There is a ton of sex and a lot of external conflict to keep the pace fast.

What Could be Better:

  • Too Much Sex:  This is a short book at 203 pages.  So to have so many sex scenes in BOTH sets of relationships made me start skimming.
  • Too Many Relationships: This goes with the “Too Much Sex”.   This felt like at the end of the first book the author had just a bit of relationship development to go, so York added the secondary relationship as filler.  So I had no committment to Sam and Hudson’s relationship.
  • Too Fast into BDSM: I know that in the gay leather community, sex and relationships can move very quickly, so to some degree Sam and Hudson was very believable.  But the Sounding that quickly in a relationship?  As far as we know, they have not played together, they have no mutual friends within the community to vouch.  That does not seem very safe or sane to me.
  • Does this really happen, even in the south?  Listen, I understand that gay conversion is a thing, and I can agree that living in the south gay bashing and religious persecution happens.  But I doubt that ADULTS are committed that quickly with the AID of police officers and an entire division.  It was laughable and an insult to southerners to stereotype them like this.  If the author wanted to talk about this very real gay conversion issue, then they should have made it more realistic.

Conclusions:

We had the happy ever after that I wanted when I started to work.  Getting to see Liam, Chris, and Greg again was great.  But I would have really rather have spent some time learning about Sam and Hudson if they were going to be characters I was supposed to care about.

But this book felt more like a gay soap-opera rather than any hard-hitting crime drama.  So, if you are interested in shallow sex and action with a happy ending, then this 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

Quickie: Chaining Flame by James L. Wolf

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Chaining_flameWord count: 16,230

My Quickie Reviews are designed for those books in which it would be unfair to rate on my full-novel scales.   James L. Wolf’s Chaining Flame then, fits this category perfectly.  At 16,230 words, this is a novella, and I would consider it more of an erotic novella as opposed to a gay romance.  I wrote a piece on my opinion of the difference between romance and erotica last year.

So what does this mean?  Well, there is not a lot of time to spend on developing characters or relationships, so the author usually chooses to advance the relationships through sex.  In my opinion, that does not automatically lessen or improve my enjoyment of the book, but rather I leave that up to the author to keep me compelled with their writing.

Full Disclosure: This book was given to me by the author for a fair review.  My opinions are always mine, and I strive for a honest review.

Basic Plot:

Ilamaych is a war spoil turned slave, and is now on the road to the market.  While traveling with fellow slaves and slavers, he is bought by a seemingly innocuous farmer, Earen.  Ilamaych knows very little of the people here or of his new Master Earen, other than that Earen is attracted to him.  But while Ilamaych strives to understand his new role, he is torn away from Earen only to discover yet another destiny.  With these new changes, comes another potential lover, Ficus.  Will Ilamaych’s life ever be the same?

Relationship:

I see this novella written into three parts (Ilamaych’s perspective, Earen’s perspective, and Ficus’s perspective).  As we see through each character’s eyes, we begin to understand their backstories and the world around them.  Because this is an erotic novella, I expected most of the development to be sexual, and while that was true, I found it more sexy and intriguing than smutty.

Ilamaych’s view is from what I would consider the reader’s viewpoint.  We are not from this world; it is scary and new.  We understand Ilamaych’s sadness, despair, and fear.  Wolf does an excellent job of pulling us into the story immediately:

His leathers were filthy beyond anything Ilamaych would have ever tolerated given a choice.  He was embarrassed by the smell and nudged them into an abject pile with his feet.  The man sat in a rough-hewn chair and watched, stroking his scruffy beard.  He did not comment.  Ilamaych bore his gaze uneasily.

So, we get that feeling of non-consensual sex and slavery.  As the story unfolds, including very sexy scenes, are we aroused?  Do we feel disgusted?  What does this mean?  Are all three of these characters going to get their “happy every after”?  Are they worth it?

For me, Earen was pretty assholian in the beginning of the book, but by the end he has the farthest character development.   We are encouraged not to give up on him:

Earen wished he could touch Ilamaych’s hand or shoulder; some form of physical contact.  After being alone for so long it had been astonishingly easy to draw someone into his little world.

I feel by the conclusion of the novella Earen deserves love and a second chance at life.  We do not see enough of Ficus’ storyline, and Ilamaych is more of a “typical submissive” character.  I could say more about the characters, but I do not want to spoil some of the story and surprises.

Strong Points:

  • The Sex Scenes: These scenes are certainly erotic and graphic.  While I would not call it “BDSM”, I would say that triggers and themes you would find in a BDSM novel can be found here.  I would absolutely say that if you do not like BDSM type novels you would find the sex and relationships uncomfortable in Chaining Flame.  Also note this is poly relationship, so if you are only after monogamy and churches this  might not be for you.
  • The World Building: Right from the beginning of the novella, I was pulled into this world.  The author impressively drew me into the backstory and concerned for Ilamaych’s wellbeing.  How did he get to where he was?  What would happen to him?  It opens so mysteriously that you are compelled to keep reading.

What Could be Better:

  •  Too ShortBy definition, novella’s are short; which means that it is up to the author to give us as much information, plot, and development as he can before the end.  I actually thought this book was well paced.  Wolf spent enough time at the beginning to develop the world, Ilamaych, and Earen.  The middle and ending sections we have Earen’s character development and the beginning of external conflict.  While I think the addition of Ficus was important for the ending plot, he addition felt rushed.  We knew little about him and did we truly care about his part of the relationship?  A full length novel would have given us the chance to build his character.

Conclusions:

Before reading Chaining Flame, I knew nothing  about James. L. Wolf as a writer, so I jumped at the chance to read someone new.  I was pleasantly surprised (the cover had that typical low-press composite feel that would have repelled me on the shelf).  The book was well written with a robust world for the length of novel.  I finished this book probably in less than 2 hours because I was that enthralled with the read.

That being said, there was room for improvement.  If this had been a full length novel, I would have given it as 3 star because of the lack of development of the relationship and Ficus.  But, this is a novella, which is designed to give us more of a “snippet” and power packed story, which was delivered.  I will say that this has aroused my curiosity  about Mr. Wolf’s writing and I will check out his other novels.  If you want a hot, quick, BDSM-style fantasy read, give this one a shot!

Bea

Quickie: Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford

ClockworkTangerineLGOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This novella is written by Rhys Ford, someone whom I have adored as a writer for some time.  Almost everything  she writes I love, and it is always difficult for  me to find fault with her writing.  As full disclosure, I was given this book for and honest review.  However, my opinions are honest.

First things first, this is a novella, pretty short at 90 pages.  So the criteria that I might have on a full-length book review would not be fair against this size.  Thus, this will be a “Quickie Review”, with some different criteria.

Page count: 90

Basic Plot:

One night, Marcus Stenhill, Viscount Westwood discovers a man in the act of being beaten by some drunk youths.  After saving the man, Marcus uncovers that this Robin Harris was responsible for death and mayhem years before by the Society.  While there is chemistry between Marcus and Robin, is it safe or possible for them to forgive the past and move forward together?

Relationship:

What I liked about this story is that it is not “sex focused”, but rather gives a large percentage of the novella to the plot, world building, and backstories.  That being said, this is HEA story with a hot sex scene at the end.  We get perspectives from Robin and Marcus, which I appreciated.  Because of the shortness of the novella, any interaction between the two main characters must be packed full of relationship building.

Strong Points:

  • The World Building: This is the best aspect of the story.  We get into the world quickly, as the author builds the story through Marcus’s memory and observations.  Bits of the conflict in the past give us hints of what led to the world’s current environment:

Thousands had suffered at the hands of the Society.  They’d brought about the rise of the Golems, creatures – humans according to the courts – created in workshops and grown to adolescence in bowls of plasma and blood, only to be used as shock troops and assassins for the Society’s cause.  They’d been terrorists of the basest form, attacking the very foundation of the British Empire, but Marcus had a difficult time reconciling the idea of the man laid out before him had anything to do with their destructive agenda.

  • Even Has a Theme:  I normally do not worry about a theme in this size of a novella.  However, I found something powerful in the story:

A man with power protects and serves those lesser than he.  It is only the weak who use their power to do harm.

This is the truth that both men have discovered and spend their energy in life now giving back to others.  We see it with Marcus early on as he saves Robin; Robin has spent his recent time trying to make other’s lives better with his skills.

What Could be Better:

  •  Too ShortThat goes without saying because it is 90 pages.  The reason that this is 4 stars instead of 5 stars was that while I did take the fact that it was a novella into account, I was still left wanting.  We had a definitive ending, and it was happy.  Yet, I still felt like some other action was needed.  More exterior conflict?  More relationship building?

Conclusions:

I really enjoyed this book.  There are some aspects to the world building that I do not want to get into here as it would spoil the plot.  However, because it deals with homosexuality, laws, and society, I can see how this book would not work for a full length gay romance novel.  I think the author did the right thing: give us an intriguing and entertaining look at a steam punk world to want more.  I think now Rhys Ford can build a similar world with huge plot lines and characters that we will drool over for years and years of series…. hint…. hint…

Bea