13 Followers
13 Following
elizabetta

elizabetta

Currently reading

All Wrapped Up
Morgan Harcourt;Laylah Hunter;Thea Hayworth;Gryvon

Pudding Jones

Pudding Jones - D.C. Juris
Pudding Jones is a young homeless man living in the back of an abandoned hardware store in an abandoned area of town known as the Ghetto Grotto. He has made a makeshift home for himself among the other homeless people in the encampment and considers them his family.

Emmer Richfield is a young reporter who has been tasked to write an op-ed piece about Pudding and the other homeless in order to inform the public about their situation. In fact, Pudding has chosen Emmer to write his story, though we never find out why.

The story is laid out fairly simply-- the bad guys are a large property development company set on razing the Ghetto Grotto, displacing the people living there. Over the course of a few months, Emmer develops feelings for the enigmatic yet charming Pudding. And Pudding likes him back. Emmer comes to see how shallow his own life is as he learns about Pudding and all the mental and physical abuses and hardship he’s suffered. But Pudding is something more… he has a college degree, is physically fit, yet chooses to live this life on the edge.

The novella covers a wide range of topics from homelessness as a choice, to mental illness, to childhood abuse. All of this is encapsulated in one character who at the same time, has the ability to completely win over a well educated, white-collar professional who in the end, wants to take him away from it all. As such, it reads like a darker fairy tale.

We have the beginnings of a romance between Emmer and Pudding but the story’s length is given more to sermonizing the bigger issues between them than in the developing relationship.

“What else could a man ask for in life? Food, a place to sleep, and the companionship of someone they cared for… what value did my television… computer have… What could those things offer me that Pudding and this life couldn’t? I wondered if the cost we paid for those things hadn’t been just a bit too high.”

All very good food for thought… This is written well enough (though there are some edit issues: homophone mixups-- know vs. no, and incorrect vocab usage-- annunciating vs. enunciating; non-pulsed vs. non-plussed) and the message is certainly one to take to heart. But read this more as an interesting short study of a homeless man’s journey than a well-developed gay romance, and be warned that the ending is rather abrupt with no HEA in sight.

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:



Stung (Zombie Gentlemen) - K.A. Merikan
4.5 stars

Honeyhill, such an evocative name for this bucolic setting-- grass-covered hills, apple orchards baking in the sun, busy bees gently buzzing on the warm breeze… pollinating, fertilizing…

But, when the train spits the unfortunate Victor, and his fellow prisoners out, it’s into a place of nightmare, torture, and death. This lovely prison, Honeyhill farm, fenced off to keep out the slavering zombies that surround it, hides all sorts of evil and danger.

“… he could still sense the earthy, somewhat wet smell of the ground, mixing with the sweet aroma of the apples… so alien and new that he wasn’t yet sure whether he liked it or not.”

Victor lives in a Victorian dystopia, a world where one thuggish family has the power to ruin lives. Owned by the mysterious and elusive Dal family, Honeyhill is policed by vicious guards who take joy in punishing the prisoners, starving them and working them like slaves, with grueling work in its fields and apiaries. Mr. Crunch (a great name!), is a man on a mission, and alone among the the guards, seems to have a heart. He takes the beautiful, succulent, Victor under his protection.

With benefits attached.

This was pure, nonstop fun. Down and dirty and sensual… there are orchards of apples, the brutish guards seem to be constantly crunching on them while the emaciated prisoners are denied. And there is honey… Mr. Crunch, a hedonist at heart, feeds the starving Victor on it, secreting him pots of the sweet, drippy stuff.

“Victor… opened the pot, digging his finger in the golden liquid. He then sucked it into his mouth with a groan, his soft, plump lips closing over the digit.”

And Crunch dips into the honeypot that is Victor… Victor, spoiled, seductive, a sexpot who knows how to make good use of his looks to garner favors. He holds Crunch prisoner to his charms.

“‘Then fuck me, Mr. Crunch,’ he rasped, clutching his fingers on the thick grass and inhaling its fresh scent. With the cool air caressing his back, it was almost surreal.”

Everywhere, there is the constant hum of those bees, huge and voracious, feeding on nectar and… other festering, oozing sources… Victor and his fellow prisoners tend the orchards and the aviaries and try to avoid getting stung.

Crunch and Victor are fueled by their lust, but there is something else between them, a sweet exchange. But that ‘sweet something’ is fed by need, dependency, and greed which gives the situation a disturbing edge. Secret trysts, whispered naughtiness, sex in watchtowers and grassy ditches, all composed to the hum of insects and the groans of the circling zombie hoard-- this is a different kind of romance.

I have a small disappointment… The world outside of the apple farm is not explained… how we come to this zombie apocalypse. And the Dal family is also conspicuously absent from the story. These evil perpetrators who have such an affect on everyone remain hidden and mysterious.

Stung is wickedly great storytelling, well-paced and gorily descriptive. It is a great read anytime, but perfect as we approach that bewitching night… All Hallows’ Eve. Watch out for the slavering masses!

(LoVe the cover!!!)

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:







Xylophone - K.Z. Snow

3.5 stars

KZ Snow is an automatic-buy author for me, she’s up there on the ‘most books read’ shelf with some great storytelling. I approached this book with some trepidation, though, because of the subject. The topic of sexual abuse is a dark path to go down and it takes a certain mind-set for me to walk down it.

First of all, kudos to the author for taking a tricky subject and treating it with care and understanding in these two characters. Daren and Jonah both carry the scars of past child hood abuse well into their twenties. They’ve never really undergone professional counseling for it, either. When they meet, there is a mutual physical attraction and they share a love of dance and music, but it is their shared background with the abuse that really draws them together. They walk through their history of abuse and find some solace in each other and they build a rapport based on it.

The author also integrates another important issue of how Daren is processing who he is sexually. Offsetting his day job as a musician in a polka band-- how could you get more wholesome than that?-- is his night job in a sleazy dive club. The author nicely includes an exploration of gender-fluidity into the story. Daren has re-invented himself as the androgynous Pepper Jack, sensual, self assured, and sexually provocative. He can wrap his audience around his finger while maintaining a chilly distance. But, he has shame too. Has the sexual abuse caused a need in him for self debasement, or is it a nose-thumbing at it?

The romance aspect of the story doesn’t quite work for me. I’m far more interested in Daren and his issues (one being his obsession with physical appearance) than in Daren and Jonah as a couple. Daren is better drawn and more fully realized, while Jonah remains more of a sketch to me. And far too often, the author’s voice intrudes in the delicate balance between the two guys. It feels as though we see Daren and Jonah through a third party rather than through their eyes. So I feel removed from them as a couple and it made it difficult to connect with the characters as much as I would have liked. I admire their fight towards ‘normalcy’ with each other but I didn’t feel like I could ‘get under their skin’ enough.

It’s difficult not to give this a more enthusiastic endorsement. The subject is an important one and the writing, if flowery at times, has moments of real inspiration.

As a character study of Daren, this was a good read. As a romance, it missed the mark for me; not one of my favorites from this author.

The General and the Horse-Lord - Sarah Black
Sarah Black knows how to deliver some great, nuanced writing and storytelling. Add to that wonderful characters, and you arrive at this heart-felt and entertaining story.

We have two ex-military guys who met in the 1970’s and worked together on the battlefield, well into the days of DADT. During his service, John, an army general, was known for his diplomatic and engineering skills working towards rebuilding war-torn communities. And Gabriel, a hot-shot helicopter fighter pilot, head of the ‘Horse Lord’ squadron, always had John’s back. Two upstanding, committed, highly respected guys.

For more than twenty-five years Gabriel and John kept their love affair secret to protect their careers, and now, newly retired from the military, they’ve reached a crossroads in their relationship. Only those who lived it would know and understand how deeply the DADT policy affected LGBTQ military men and women in service to their country.

Still, I did have an issue with Gabriel’s decision to get married knowing that he would continue his relationship with John. He might have thought in the very beginning that he could break it off with John, but their connection is so strong, it proved to be impossible. This deception colored my feelings for Gabriel in the beginning of the story. It’s only the author’s gift for weaving these characters, their families, and lives into my heart that allows me to give in… we all make mistakes, we’re all sometimes pushed to do things that we’d rather not, given the circumstances at hand. We’re only human. In a way John and Gabriel failed each other for all those years, and it’s remarkable that they are able to keep their love alive after so much hiding.

So I came to love Gabriel and John together. But it’s not just because of them and the love they give each other, it’s what they give to their children and John’s adopted nephew, Kim. And here are some additional sweet characters. I absolutely fell in love with Kim, so vulnerable and yet comfortable in his skin, vibrant and full of life and love.

“He’d come whirling across the green grass, his arms outstretched like wings, and he’d announce his soul looked like a butterfly and was full of beautiful colors."— John recalls Kim as a child

Kim is so giving— the care he shows Juan, Gabriel’s son who is having a tough time with his folks’ split, and Billy, a young friend battered by a malicious pedophile, shows a maturity beyond his age. He is an old soul.

Much of the story revolves around John and Gabriel’s fight to bring to justice this predator who targets teenagers and very young adults. It’s fun to watch them strategize how to fight this evil in their community.

Loved this, it is such a satisfying read. And fortunately, there is a sequel to look forward to.

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:


Turbulence - Lyn Gala
The first three chapters or so of this were released earlier this year as a short story ([b:The Only Way Out Is In|18060722|The Only Way Out Is In|Lyn Gala|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370938971s/18060722.jpg|25350906]) from a prompt submitted for the Goodreads 2013 Love Has No Boundaries event. I will borrow from my review of that short for this longer version of the story.

Jacqs, a combat soldier demoted to lowly gunner on the spaceship Candiru, is based on a character in Firefly, a popular TV sci-fi series. And like his inspiration, he is a jerk. He seems to be constantly on the sexual prowl and to hear Jacqs talk, he has fended off and has no interest in the advances of ‘hypersexualized, queer-turned and pansexual types’. The lad doth protest too much, methinks.

”Jacqs had never sexed a male. He was pure het. Always had been, always would be.”

Lesson one: never say never…

It’s so easy to dislike him. Uncouth, dim, narrow-minded… What is up with this guy? But, there is a little more to the picture, hints of an early life full of hardship, neglect, and abuse—

“Jacqs couldn’t quite imagine telling anyone how he felt sick inside watching people get bullied.”

From the age of eight he grew up fending for himself, living in a refugee camp, fighting for scraps… That could explain a few things.

When his new CO, Zeke Waters, comes on board, things start changing and one of them is Jacqs. Hidden under all the bluster we see there is a heart. Training sessions between the two on a sparring mat turn into a different kind of mating dance. Worthy opponents with similar life experiences, Zeke and Jacqs could be a match made in heaven.

It’s little wonder that Jacqs is so focused on sexual categorization, there is a lot of it in this world where people register their sexual identities (see the glossary at the end of the book). It’s perhaps overused in the story… at least that’s how it felt at times… But, it’s a huge clue that Jacqs has only been interested in a certain type of woman: tough, aggressive, and usually for sale. Zeke (registered pansexual) is strong, ambitious and self confident. When he shows up onboard he brings a different kind of officer, one who will listen and study his crew, and use logic to train them into better soldiers (after all there is a war on and the alien ‘batfaces’ are an ever-present threat). Jacqs comes to a realization that what attracts him sexually may not be gender-based as much as it is attraction to certain character attributes.

I do find it amazing how much Jacqs changes in the story, but I chalk it up to personal growth and his meeting ‘the right person at the right time’. And having more room for understanding and experimentation. So, Jacqs’ character does a huge turn-around and we see that he’s not only flexible at survival but in love too.

The author craftily expands the short story, coloring in the characters and giving them depth. While this is where the writing shines, in the character build, the middle part of the story stalls for me because of it. I keep thinking… but there’s a war raging out there and we seem stuck on this ship with a lot of talk and introspection.

This is the only real issue I have with the pacing, I wish it had been interspersed with a bit more action. Finally, the crew gets called to a dangerous mission to rescue a diplomatic ship which has crash landed and needs help with repairs. Jacqs is sent out with some of the other crew. This action sequence is great and brings the pacing back up to speed and maintains it to the end.

The sex, as expected, is very good. Even more, there is a helluva sweet scene of zero gravity sexing (‘zexting’)— a first in my sci-fi reading…

“… Jacqs grabbed Zeke’s hips and used sheer force to pull himself down onto Zeke and hold himself there as he thrust into him… the physics of reaction threatened to send Jacqs sailing away... the lack of gravity tried to steal that hard edge that he needed to come… small drops of cum slipped free of their bodies and floated up, tiny white pearls scattered between them.”

A fun scene, and visualizing the clean-up afterwards… oh, yeah…

It’s the last half of the book when the action picks up that elevates it for me. The enemy aliens finally make an appearance, and there is some good political intrigue and high drama. The ending, though, while clever, feels unsettled. It’s another big change for these two guys and I can’t quite buy that this is it for them.

Kudos to the author for taking a prompt that asked for a not very likable character and turning him around, while managing to keep him true to himself. Again, great characters and world-building, and some great action.

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:



The Slave Catcher

The Slave Catcher - Lilia Ford
3.5 stars

Our protagonist, Sam Beron, is a morally challenged kinda guy who lives paycheck to paycheck, has no close friends, has been ejected from his clan, and seems to have no real goal in life but to screw his brains out with anything on two legs. So, a colorful character…


Sam Beron (photo from the author's Pinterest)

... and his obsession (besides the frequent alien sex) with old TV shows featuring private investigators (think Simon and Simon and Magnum, PI) adds some levity to the mix. Perhaps this interest is because he is a Locator, future speak for PI. When we meet Sam, he’s on his last dime and has finally netted a much-needed job. But he must stoop to the unthinkable— he’s hired to find and return a runaway human bond-slave, Liam, to his Borathian Master.

It’s complicated because Sam’s ex-clan, the Maradi, are morally opposed to slavery of any type, and it is prohibited in this section of the universe; so his taking this job puts Sam in an ethical and political dilemma. Especially when he finds Liam and has a visceral, carnal response to him.


Bad boy Liam (photo from the author's Pinterest)

“Earth boys got my cylinders firing, but Liam… just sitting there, he radiated energy and sex and hostility.”

This is an alt uni/sci-fi adventure and the first few chapters are a data dump setting up Sam in this interesting and complex world. It’s a slow start, a bit soapy, and I got a bit bogged down with some of the jargon. But it’s the issue of slavery and how it is regarded in this ’verse that is really interesting, and especially the telepathic bonding between the alien race, the Borathians, and their human slaves. That, I want more of.

This short story feels like a chapter in a longer work. It has a great crescendo to a very hot punishment scene when Liam is returned to his bond Master and Sam is allowed to participate. It’s all about getting to this scene, everything builds up to it, and the author shows she can write some passionate and steamy BDSM. And portray a Master/slave bond that is about more than power and sex.

“I was seeing the Borathian-human bond made visible. It was more than emotional or telepathic— it was physiological.”

But, I want to know more about Sam. His PI skills aren’t really stretched here as the job is quick and easy for him. He is at times engaging, but he’s not a completely sympa MC. A diamond in the rough… and I want to know more about that split from his clan… Just when we start to see more depth— the effect that the punishment scene has on Sam, and how it reveals something of how he sees himself— the story ends, and I’m left wanting more of that insight.

The ending is a kind of HFN and I’m hoping that this is the beginning of (or part of) a longer work and that, somehow, Sam will get a little bond-mate of his own. I’d definitely line up for that.

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:




Wallflower  - Heidi Belleau
3.5 stars

We’re back with the housemates and friends of book one, [b:Apple Polisher|17946461|Apple Polisher (Rear Entrance Video #1)|Heidi Belleau|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370231033s/17946461.jpg|25001195], who all now work shifts at the Rear Entrance Video (I keep wanting to type ‘rear entry’) store, helping Christian and his ailing aunt with keeping the business running.

This time the focus is on Rob. We remember him as the shy, quiet, diminutive Asian guy who was always getting lost in the… well, he’s a wallflower. But, he has a secret, inner persona, a feminine side, just wanting to bust out and bloom.

It’s great that a lot of the important action takes place in the seedy video shop that specializes in porn and sex toys. The customers are always colorful, sometimes shady, and even occasionally, dangerous… Interesting that working there helps Rob come out of his shell.

The author does very well giving us a world filled with ordinary, regular people (well, except for Rob’s sister, Bernice. She’s pretty fabulous.), who look like ordinary, real people with real world concerns. Kudos for the interracial/intercultural ’ships too, not seen enough in the genre.

The writing is very strong as it effectively colors the characters with interesting underlying traits… gender-bending, transgender, transsexual, cross dressing… we get a look at Rob’s exploring another side to his sexuality. How does he figure out what he really wants? Will he be accepted by friends and family? What dangers does he risk from ignorant bullies and bashers? Rob deals with all of these. Also…

How he explores this other side becomes an issue with Rob in the story… Role-play and flirting has consequences in some of his online and real life interactions as he tests out his feminine side. (So interesting in a world where connectivity through social media and the internet allows for lots of personal inventiveness.)

The story examines some of these concerns without hitting me over the head with them… though the romance at times takes a back seat to Rob’s processing. We see Rob grow into something more as he tests out his ‘softer’ side and boundaries. Rob makes it clear throughout the story that he is happy being a guy; he isn’t interested in changing himself anatomically. He just wants to be accepted to explore his fem side, while still ‘being a boy’ for Dylan.

The other characters dim somewhat in comparison to Rob. I wish we had a little more of Dylan. He’s Rob’s love interest and an Inuit comic book artist (could have used a lot more of that!!) who was adopted into a white family. His sister is a porn actress. Dylan obviously comes from a diverse background that sounds fascinating on its own.

Something that threw me is that things happen pretty fast for Rob and Dylan. Dylan goes from being one of the vid shop customers to falling in love so quickly it made me dizzy. While reading, it didn’t seem in keeping with his wise-ass, stand-offish character built in the beginning of the story when he we also see him as a classmate of Rob’s. This is addressed as we eventually find out more about Dylan and his family and background. We see why he is so open to Rob, but the pacing is off in the developing romance and this took some adjusting to. Still, Dylan’s wonderfulness is in what he gives Rob by the end of the story, and that’s what really counts.

In the end, I want to believe in Dylan and Rob, that they fulfill each other, so I’m happy to be left rooting for them. A note: This book can be read as a stand-alone but to get Rob’s full story it would be best to read [b:Apple Polisher|17946461|Apple Polisher (Rear Entrance Video #1)|Heidi Belleau|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370231033s/17946461.jpg|25001195] first.

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:


The New Boy

The New Boy - Maddy Linehan
3.5 stars

Ah, teenage soaps and the group dynamic.

Alex and Andie are besties. When Dexter and Teegan (bro & sis) move in next door to Alex and start attending the same high school, the pot gets stirred and bonding begins. The new boy sets off new feelings in both Alex and Andie. This is told from Alex’s POV as a kind of diary… he puts everything down in writing, you see, though the story reads like a narrative, not like a diary.

Anyway, serious crushing ensues. Both Alex and Andie lust after Dexter, who is god-like in his appeal, even though Alex already has a b-friend, Gary, who is douche-like in his un-appeal, and Andie, well, she’s been keeping her options open up till now.

Except, Dex already has a girlfriend, Olive (who happens to be deaf):

“I don’t know if she’s (Andie) decided to be benevolent and accept this love rival into the group magnanimously, or if it’s some sort of sneaky girl trick to lull the deaf chick into a false sense of security.” -- Alex

Then, of course, all hell breaks loose with breakups and mixed signals…

And as Andie says, “… you’d have to be mad not to get a crush on Dexter. He’s gorgeous and he’s lovely, and he’s totally cool. He’s the trifecta.”

There you have it… the set-up.

New Boy starts off well. I like all the characters, even the girls, and they figure pretty prominently. Andie is a good friend without being annoying. New boy, Dex, has a subversive side to his glowing good looks which makes him more interesting. But mostly, I like Alex. In the beginning we get him dealing with his parents’ break up, his insecurities about Gary, his job working in a senior center, and his falling for Dex. I really like his voice. He has interesting insights; he’s a bit of a brat mixed with a bit of onset maturity:

“The fact that you associate niceness with sexuality is worrying, Andrea.”

The middle of the story gets too mushy and juvenile for my taste. It takes a turn into a ‘does he/doesn’t he’ mish-mash. It’s less about who Alex is and it loses the satisfactory rich character building that made the beginning endearing. Then, there is a big character reveal out of the blue (for us and Alex), that feels manufactured to keep this in YA-land. But, it is an interesting development none-the-less.

Things do pick up again towards the end, and aside from some structural and editorial stuff, this was a pleasant read. Those who want a sweet coming-of-age YA story will like this very much. (References to red vs blue and the gay short movie ‘Starcrossed’ were greatly appreciated :D)
Iron & Velvet - Alexis Hall
2.5 stars

Kate lives in a dangerous world populated by lots of superbeings: vamps, weres, demons, mages, faeries...

She is a supa herself, a faerie with some skillz of her own. One of them being gorgeous, as few in this world seem able to resist her charms. Oh, and she’s a huntress with a nose for the scent which helps her PI work. Kate’s been hired to investigate the dead bodies piling up in London.

The premise is interesting-- a lesbian private dick (“I’m cynical, not a complete dick”) who battles baddies. Kate starts off engagingly enough. She’s full of ’tude, in fact, she’s a snarkfest of badass with a slut rep to boot. Colorful. A heavy drinker (“I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.”) with a penchant for girls, she’s been known to toss a few boys between the sheets, too. Vamps, weres, faeries… it doesn’t matter to Kate. She’s an equal opportunity huntress… I like her:

“It always starts with scent… traces of damp earth, fresh blood, and cold starlit nights. This was who I was. A hunter.”

Kate’s romantic counterpart, Julian, the Prince of Cups, vamp leader (who is, in fact, a she), is an ex-demon-hunting ninja nun. She’s made some enemies who want to do her harm… She’s tough, every bit as snarky, and wears her confidence well:

“I’m also a hedonistic, bloodsucking narcissist with nearly a thousand years’ worth of enemies but… I’m never dull.”

In this world where a girl can be a ‘Prince’ and wear a man’s name with panache (yes!!), Julian makes a good foil for Kate. She hires Kate to find out who is targeting her vamp family, and they start their mating dance. But… I never get a real sense for just what she see’s in Kate romantically, besides the superficial.

These two MC’s are pretty okay… so, what happened? From the beginning, the story suffers from awkward plot transitions and flow-- the first half so slow moving. And there are so many characters that a chart is necessary to keep them all straight. Also, we aren’t invested in them. How can we be? The sheer numbers of them mean little to no development, we’re merely told who they are and how they react as we hop back and forth between them.

“I’m Henry, by the way. My friends call me Harry. Bunny calls me Hal…”

“Dude, that’s a lot of names… Sorry, who’s Bunny again?”
--Kate


Even the characters are confused.

The language is littered with similes (also an issue with Hall’s other book, “Glitterland”) and in the sex scenes, they’re just silly. This is Kate’s voice, is she really thinking this during sex?:

“her passion and her ease in it heated my skin like lovers’ breath”
“she sparkled in my mouth like champagne”
“kisses landed on her skin as vivid as butterflies”
“the idle play of her fingertips glittered over me like dew across a spider’s web”


and:

“she lay underneath me like an unexploded grenade” ... yikes!!

And when the characters start speaking in similes, too… well… c’mon now!!!... really???!!:

“Does the tart flavour of the strawberries perfectly complement the dry sweetness of the meringue, like dust motes dancing on an April morning?”

There are some great words on the page. In fact, some of them go together quite nicely. But not all of them. And there’s the dilemma-- it’s a data dump with lots of window dressing, but little depth-- too much clever going on and trying too hard. All this only gets in the way of the story and some good main characters who have real potential. The mystery wasn’t especially entertaining either; even though the action finally picked up towards the end, I was ultimately left unsatisfied.

What about the lesbian sex, you may ask? Coming from the male slash world, I gotta say I found the two sex scenes not especially titillating. But, maybe I’m just a cockamamie, penis-centric, dick-biased reader…

I was hoping for much more in this first installment of Kate’s adventures (it took me two tries to finish it). Perhaps others will find lots to love here, but it just wasn’t my cuppa.

2.5 stars---> 2 stars which means OK, coulda been a lot better.


For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:

Bump in the Night - Heidi Belleau, Ally Blue, Sam Schooler, Brien Michaels, Peter  Hansen, Kari Gregg, Rachel Haimowitz, Laylah Hunter
Overall anthology rating = 4.5 stars

This is certainly one of the most provocative slash anthologies I’ve read. Each story is unique in its own special horror and all are well crafted. Warning: this is more horror than erotica. And while there’s little to no romance, there is plenty of sexual intoxication. There are a lot of disturbing elements. If rape or dubious consent is a trigger, proceed with caution.

The endings are more ‘happy-for-now’ or even ‘this is as good as it’s gonna get’. But isn’t that what life in the ‘Twilight Zone’ is all about? I have to admit that I gobbled these up, thrilled by the story-telling.

There is a common thread through the stories summed up by a line lifted from one of them, “I hadn’t stopped to consider the cost.” All of the characters pay a price for their actions.

Highly recommended for those who want a darker, no-holds-barred read. But please heed the tags.

This is a freakishly long review, so the spoiler tags are to save space more than anything else.


Resurrection Man by Laylah Hunter (historical, paranormal, gore) 4.0 stars

An interesting turn on the Frankenstein story, this is a perfect example of the adage, “be careful what you wish for”… A young man desperately in love, practices the dark art of necromancy and sells his soul to bring a beloved lover back from the dead.

“The flesh is scarcely the trouble… the installation of a soul in flesh is the domain of God.”

This feels like a chapter out of a larger piece (which means I want more) but works fine as is. Chillingly horrific and melancholy.


Mating Season by Kari Gregg (paranormal, monsters, tentacle-sex, slave/captive, non/dubious-consensual/rape, cock/ball torture, gore, bondage, medical kink) 4.5 stars

Oh*my*freaking*lord

This is over-the-top wickedness with a cherry on the top, and the bit of devious plotting keeps it from being purely torture porn. The author throws everything but the kitchen sink into this feast of tentacle sex depravity…

A lusty monster with very active suction-cupped appendages…

“… the suckers on the underside of the tentacles nuzzled and guzzled down my cock like dozens of tiny mouths slurping… siphoning… tenderly squeezing…”

Deception, bondage, non-con/dub-con/rape, mpreg, stuffing, fisting… torture…you name it.
Did I like it?
Yes… yes, I did.

It starts off innocently enough. Danny is on a back-to-nature camping trip in a bucolic setting… cue birds, bees, butterflies...

Then begins a descent into nightmare-hell as he is tricked and forced into an evil experiment and… let’s just say he finds a special connection with a large, slimy, tentacled lake monster. It’s not pretty. I can’t say more. Read it.

This comes so close to my (so-far) favorite tent-sex read, Charlotte Mistry’s [b:Gay Tentacles From Space!|15990987|Gay Tentacles From Space!|Charlotte Mistry|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1346851046s/15990987.jpg|21747216] (discerning tent-sex readers will already know this one). But Kari Gregg (I Omega, Spoils of War) offers up her very own special brand of delicious torture in the tent sex genre.

It’s just all kinds of… no… and, yesssss… Read it, but heed the tags.


Flesh and Song by Ally Blue (contemporary, paranormal, gods/demons, sailing, tropical island) 3.5 stars

Noah Rose is a restless man. He has everything he could want, a thriving surf holiday business in Costa Rica, a beautiful sailboat, and an eight month vacation cruising around the Caribbean. He’s been searching for a mythic island,
“La Terre de la Belle Mort” (Land of the Beautiful Death), but what exactly is he searching for? He has been desired by many men “who wanted to own him but couldn’t” yet he is alone, adrift on the sea, searching, until…

”… here he was, facing the island the old men swore would give you your heart’s most secret desire. For a price.”

A naked man shows up on the island’s pristine beach and Noah is called to him. The lure of the siren song, here with a twist, changes Noah’s life as, once more, someone wants to own and bind him. Has he found his “heart’s most secret desire”?

“Then the stranger spoke again, the words like bells and nightingales… making his heart race… intoxicating song words Noah didn’t understand but already needed the way he needed air and water.”

The story is well made, but in the end it felt like an interesting interlude. Noah is in a dangerous situation, we see it even when he doesn’t, but we don’t know or learn enough about him to really care. Points for the descriptive writing and Noah’s fall into a kind of madness— that was fun.


Out From Under by Brien Michaels (contemporary, paranormal, demons/monsters, slave/captive, bondage, vine sex, non/dubious-consensual/rape, three-way, stuffing & sounding, torture, gore-fest) 4.0 stars

Brant has been enslaved and imprisoned in an old, decaying mansion cellar by an evil demon that can take different physical forms. It can even manifest itself by turning the cellar into a lush, verdant forest, sprouting foliage and sex-crazed vines. And it is hungry, it needs a certain type of nourishment. One guess what that is…

“… leaves sprouted beneath my feet, moist and lush… the first string of cum jettisoned from the tip of my cock, and the leaves glowed where it landed.”

The author outdoes himself, this is such a randy gore-fest of demon badness. And Brant is no innocent. He’s a pain-loving nympho, hooked on vine sex, reduced to procuring men for the monster, keeping its secrets; he’s sold himself for it and is lost to the pleasure.

“… the demon’s curse amplified every feeling, made me need that caress so badly I ached.”

And yet, there are lines like...

“This nymphomania was really a burden sometimes. It made life so much harder…”

and…
“(the demon’s) head walked toward me (saying): “Things may not have worked out quite the way I’d planned.”

The cheeky humor is welcome and balances the nightmare nicely.

The author switches back and forth in describing the demon’s sexual appendages… are they vines or tentacles? Confusing and irritating. Discriminating tent sex readers will want an important detail like this kept clear and consistent!! *nods* For this reader ‘vine’ works just as well as ‘tentacle’. I have to add that the demon’s ghastly, human form with its tattoos that could ‘peel away on command’ into 3-D vines— so cool. I also liked the ending, how things resolved for Brant, though there is a lot of gore to wade through to get there. Be warned!


Sleeping With Ghosts by Peter Hansen (paranormal, alternate universe, ghosts, violence) 3.5 stars

An odd, grim alternative universe, this, and slow-going at first as the reader is dropped coldly into it with little preparation. Brother Yordan Korvechi is a Bookman, he works for the Church of She Who Turns the Page and their job is to protect against the soulless who roam this world (it seems there are a limited number of souls to go around). “Turning the page” being a euphemism for death, and Yordan wielding the power of the Grim Reaper.

What happens when an aged person needs a little nudge, a little help with separation from life and soul? Who you gonna call?

Yordan is dispatched to such a task, equipped for action… “He had a knife up each sleeve and a slim pistol in his coat lining, a garrote in his breast pocket just aching to be unwound.” His task is critical, as somewhere, an unborn baby is waiting for the recycled soul, must have it.

But when Yordan discovers that he has been used in a political rivalry, he begins to have second thoughts about his work. Things have become more complicated when he is touched by the soul of the not-so-aged man he has just dispatched, and he is forever changed.

This was well written and atmospheric with a brooding sense of tension, dis-ease and suspicion, but it didn’t feel especially horrific or erotic. It left me almost as cold as poor Yordan’s interaction with the soulless ghost… I couldn’t help but feel that a little more info and character development would have greatly helped. (I recall that I’ve read another short by this author ([b:Changing the Guard|15717860|Changing the Guard|Peter Hansen|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1340415634s/15717860.jpg|21388929]) which left me feeling much the same.)


Blasphemer, Sinner, Saint by Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler (paranormal, demons, rape, ‘shock-value’) 4.0 stars

Holy Cannoli, Batman, this is all kinds of messed up. Disturbing and mesmerizing.

Things start off relatively quietly. There’s David who has to sell himself on the streets to get by, and is dying from syphilis, and Tobias, his self-righteous, sanctimonious ex-lover who runs a boy’s orphanage, steeping himself in ‘good works’.

Told from Tobias’ POV, we see that they were childhood lovers, but Tobias was unable to accept his ‘unnatural’ feelings for David. So he abandons him, and buries himself in religious conviction that it’s for the best. David, meanwhile still loves Tobias, and comes asking him for help.

Part-way in I felt that this was looking to be the most romantic of all the offerings in this antho. Yeah, Tobias is a prick, but he eventually enters into a deal with a strange man he meets in a church, whereby he can give David his life back, give him a chance at redemption. It seems that Tobias still cares for his old lover and does want to help him. But are his intentions completely unselfish and in good faith?

This also has an underlying message of the need for compassion— that sometimes there is no choice— that we must accept who we are, and that love is love. Too bad Tobias learns this too late because the bargain he makes for David’s soul turns out to have a horrific and shocking payment. He has literally sold his own soul to the devil for it.

Most of the important action happens in a church and there is an act that is so shocking that it stopped me cold… it will offend some, I suspect. But this is some special mindfuckery— that the horror here, lies in messing with our perceptions and boundaries. There is a twist in the act that makes it work in the end, though. In the end, everyone gets what they deserve. But at what cost?


For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:



Entanglements

Entanglements - Fae Sutherland, Marguerite Labbe
3.5 stars

This certainly starts off with a bang. In fact, about ninety-percent of this book is about banging, ahem.

Ben and John are aspiring artists, a rock musician and actor, respectively. Both of them talented, gorgeous, desirable, randy dudes who have a hankering for each other. They are long-term fuck buddies, no strings attached-- but long enough to have gotten to the point where they really don’t want to play around with others anymore, no one else will do. But they can’t tell each other that. Yet. And this entanglement is the crux of this novella.

Luckily, the sex scenes are hot enough (I’m fondly recalling a couple exhibitionist/voyeur scenes… these guys really don’t care when, where, or how) but the story only works because we also see the simmering yearning under all the steamy hook-ups and bravado posturing against “commitment”.

If these two weren’t connecting on some deeper level, what would be the point?

I like the guys, too… or mostly. Ben is pushy, arrogant, mouthy (“Damn it… you’re slipping… why’re my pants still on?”); the complete front man package. He’s used to being adored and he likes to top from the bottom, is quite verbal about it, and has the motor mouth to prove it. John, working stage actor with the looks to match his sexy Scots burr, is a god in bed; the topper, he's turned on by the mouthiness, and knows just what spurs his rocker on (“… your mouth is like a riding crop…” -- insert sexy Scots accent here, please).

But, John wants more from Ben, the flighty wild-child. Is he gonna get it?

The authors write two distinct characters and it’s a nice little story, but I find Ben’s reluctance hard to understand, I don’t know him well enough to know where it comes from. It seems like a manufacturing to stir up some plot tension… when, really, the guys’ careers should be enough to contribute to that… And at the end of the story Ben physically lashes out in anger at an innocent by-stander… this does nothing to win me over to him; it sets me to wonder if it’s only good looks and talent that John needs from his lover.

The ending shapes up to be a HFN for me as I’m not sure how the two will resolve some deep-seeded issues which their nomadic, frenetic careers can only make more difficult. If I only take this as a rocker fairy tale then it all works out well enough.

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:

Flying Colors - Clare London
3.5 stars

(If you haven't read Book 1, [b:True Colors|6477476|True Colors (True Colors, #1)|Clare London|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347810826s/6477476.jpg|6668687], this review will contain spoilers)


We continue a few months after the end of True Colors, and Zeke and Miles are now in a committed relationship. The focus shifts to their best friends, Carter and Red— we knew it was coming, there were indications previously that something was brewing between these two.

Jacky’s ghost continues to have a huge influence in the plot (kind of like the dead Rebecca de Winter in de Maurier’s famous work)— while Zeke has worked, with Miles’s help, through his guilt and remorse over his brother’s death, Carter still has issues with moving on. He was Jacky’s faithful lover, but Jacky’s constant philandering and abusiveness have left Carter haunted, brooding, with trust issues and shut off to loving anyone else.

Red De Vere, vibrant, wealthy playboy— who knows his way around the club scene and society pages— still has his eye on the quiet, handsome Carter. Red doesn’t know how to take no for an answer. He is intrigued. He senses a darker, complicated man under the controlled facade and needs to convince Carter that he is much more than the shallow party-boy persona he’s quickly tiring of.

We get Miles and Zeke’s dynamic again with this new couple— repressed and controlled versus vibrant and dynamic, reluctant and complex versus patient and determined— the formula is one we’ve already seen in the first book.

This installment in the series is calmer and quieter as Red works his way slowly into Carter’s confidence. This couple has some great sexual tension but it is a very slow build up and there isn’t a lot of tension elsewhere in the story. The guys come together because of their joint work on building a new non-profit teen center in London. There is a side story involving some nicely written teen characters at the center and an act of vandalism there, and the author again uses fire as a plot catalyst. Other than this, we mostly have a carefully made character study.


I wasn’t quite as taken with the story here, but I did find Carter and Red two very interesting, well-written characters (though Red’s affected southern drawl (he is British), which he hides behind, feels odd. In fact, in the books the author uses differences in speech, from quite formal to lingo, to further delineate the opposing characters.) The issues Carter and Red need to overcome and the growth they undergo make for some sympathetic reading and I would recommend Flying Colors for that study. (for my review of Book 1, which can be read right before this one, go to: True Colors, Book 1)

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:


The Night Visitor - Ewan Creed
3.5 stars

Night Visitor is an interesting play on dreams versus reality. What do dreams mean, what are they trying to tell us?

Each time he sleeps Kevin finds himself back in a recurring dream, it’s not a nightmare, but is disturbing in its insistence. He returns to the same run-down part of town, same deteriorating buildings, walking down the same street; he encounters the same unknown, tattooed man. Kevin names him ‘the night visitor’ and is drawn to his bad-boy “tasty piece of very rough trade” attitude.

The story is disjointed as the dreams break up at various points, transitioning in and out in fits and starts. We’re thrown back and forth in time, between Kevin’s present reality and his past. Each time he dreams, though, the dreams become a little more elaborate, he goes a little hotter and heavier with the sexy ‘visitor’ as we are fed more information. This all works nicely to build a surreal, other-worldly atmosphere.

Kevin is a real kinkster, he likes his sex down and dirty. There is an intense, pornographic bath-house scene featuring public sex and voyeurism. “Hear you like to put on shows…”. Is it real, though? We’re left off-kilter once again as Kevin is lost in a world where reality mashes up with fantasy, manifesting when he sleeps.

The author is adept at spinning out Kevin’s backstory, the ‘why’ of his present state of mental unrest. He knows the dreams mean something, are trying to tell him something. The mystery is, what?

I liked this story, a kind of waking dream within-a-dream idea, it’s an interesting study. I thought the author built the mystery and momentum well, and everything comes full circle nicely in the end. It’s a good bit of writing and works in the short story setting. Nice job, all in all.

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:


The Peacock Prince - John Tristan

Pirates!… and a beautiful island kingdom…

An arranged marriage, deception, and a fierce, sexy pirate make up the plot in this entertaining fantasy romance…


Alessander and Celandine, twin prince and princess of Aël, are heirs to the throne. Their father, King Nicolas, rules over their beautiful archipelago known as the Garland. This scattering of islands strung around the royal castle island, Aël, give the kingdom it’s evocative name.

“I tried to see the Garland in my mind’s eye, all its myriad isles spread like carelessly strewn jewels in the sea, some in little clusters and some proud outliers like Aël and the Orchid Isle.” -- Alessander

Until ten years ago, the Garland had a long history of raiding and plundering by sea pirates. Ten years ago, King Nicolas brokered a hard-won peace by striking a deal with the notorious pirate, “scourge of the Garland”, Dogan Blackstone. If Blackstone would end the plundering and protect the islands from other marauders, he would have Celandine in marriage when she came of age. Blackstone has kept his bargain and the day has finally come— he has returned to Aël to claim his bride, and wedding plans are afoot…

“From the highest window of the Star Spire, we saw the ship approach. Sleek and massive in the azure water, with its wide sails the color of blood… down in the harbor there were a thousand pennants flying. The last time those red sails had been spotted… the sea gates had been barred and the war beacons burning. They’d come for plunder then. Now they were coming for a wedding.”

Having never met Blackstone, the twins imagine him as all sorts of a larger-than-life bad guy: a roguish, uncouth, oafish bully. Needless-to-say, Celandine is fretting and hatches a plan.

The story is told through Alessander’s POV and we get a sense that he is an easy-going, softly raised kind of guy who loves his sister very much and would do anything for her. On the evening of the masked ball where Celandine will be presented to Blackstone, she decides that she and her brother will swap places— Alessander will take her place in her ball gown and jeweled peacock mask, and she will dress in his outfit. After all, they are very similar in look and size, and if Blackstone is easily fooled he will be proven to be no proper husband for Celandine.

We learn a lot about Alessander through his willingness to go along with his sister’s questionable plan and that he can even attempt to pass for her…

But Blackstone could be more than either twin has bargained for.

When Celandine mysteriously disappears from the ball and indeed, the island, the plot moves quickly from palace to pirate ship, and the search is on across the seas. Blackstone takes Alessander along as his hostage and the pampered and protected prince quickly learns that there is more to his island country and the famous pirate who guards it.

The author delivers a well-paced, richly detailed story with its share of suspense and romance… some hot pirate seduction. For, if your promised bride has suddenly disappeared, surely taking her brother in exchange would only be fair?

This was such fun. Having read Tristan’s previous fantasy work, [b:The Adorned|18244994|The Adorned|John Tristan|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1374860271s/18244994.jpg|25694373] and [b:Forest of Glass|15729056|Forest of Glass|John Tristan|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1341041043s/15729056.jpg|21407819], I knew I could count on some inventive and beautifully written storytelling. There will be those readers who will yearn for this to be longer, always a dilemma with a novella, but it hangs together well, in my opinion. If I could wish for but one thing more here, it would have been for some fierce swordplay, some bit of flashy buckling of the swash and pirate-on-pirate bluster. These pirates were surprisingly well-behaved. But Blackstone, unpredictable and sexy to the end, shows some naughty kink in his swagger when he keeps Alessander’s borrowed ball gown and talks the young prince back into it for some steamy role-play.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy bodice rippers— here, replaced by knickers, of course— island paradises, and hot romance on the high seas.

Bookmark this site to enter a FREE book give-away for "Peacock "Prince" and interview with the author on October 15th :

Bloody Kiss

Bloody Kiss - Mell Eight
2.5 stars

College student, Lis, is on a study-abroad tour to Egypt’s Valley of the Dead. An ordinary visit turns into a paranormal adventure when, like Alice through the rabbit hole, he falls into an underground tomb and has a close encounter with an over-sized stone statue buried there. A very sexy statue. Lis’s actions, a bloody kiss, unravel a spell cast on the statue many years ago, and trigger a series of events when Lis returns to his home in Boston.

This had a great start, the exotic setting, the whole statue and hex thing. When we return to the States, some strange stuff happens to Lis: he has a sudden yen for raw red meat (yet, enjoys a well-cooked stew), he feels generally out of sorts, and vampires start appearing out of nowhere. Lis is also plagued by a series of weird, intermittent waking dreams which are used to deliver the backstory. It’s an interesting plot device if a bit awkward, but the dreams converge nicely to present day action.

There’s other information that I guess was included for color but just seemed distracting: lots of mention of the Red Sox, scenes in the bar where Lis works but nothing much happens, a best friend and his grandma who Lis have known for years and who suddenly come out as witches with special powers. The powers don’t serve the plot much other than the use of some camo-glitter, and the grandma mostly exists to explain a lot of what is happening to Lis.

I dunno, this seemed like a hodgepodge, and it felt undercooked, like a sketch of an interesting idea. It’s so short that there’s a lot of stating of facts and not enough space to get to know or care about Lis, his friends, or his romantic interest in any great depth. Three stars for the effort, but it’s really around 2.5 ’cause it never really takes off for me.

Oh, and I did not like the cover.

I did really like another work by the author, [b:Road to Revenge|17878217|Road to Revenge|Mell Eight|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1367505005s/17878217.jpg|25035465], a modern-day thriller, so maybe I just prefer the contemporary stuff.

Bloody Kiss is published by Less Than Three Press as part of their “Proud to be a Vampire” series with various authors contributing.

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:

True Colors - Clare London
Take one hot, passionate, mercurial artist…

add one cool, collected, sexy entrepreneur…

and shake vigorously.


What really hooks me in is the simmering attraction between Zeke and Miles. I get drunk on it. Good to remember; the story starts slowly and you have to be patient as the author carefully sketches out personalities and setting.

But patience pays off as the guys get a bead on each other and we get a sweet, slow-burn romance. The reader sits comfortably, we get it, as we wait for Zeke and Miles to catch on too. Some good prurient fun.

Zeke has been stuck for a year, grieving for older brother, Jacky, killed tragically in a home fire. A brother much like himself— both of them gifted artists, bright stars in that rarified world. But the remnants of a rocky sibling rivalry keeps Zeke wrapped up in guilt and remorse. Jacky has left behind a lot of hurt and misunderstanding; his cavalier treatment of those close him leave deep scars…

Because of Jacky’s death, in one year, Zeke loses everything: his ambition, his muse, and his beloved gallery where he was going to make his mark in the art world.

On the surface, Miles wears his success well. His brilliance is in the business deal and his drive to excel. He also loves art and plans to resurrect Zeke’s abandoned art gallery putting Zeke, once again, in charge. But underneath the polished and fastidious entrepreneur hides a desire to cut loose and explore another side to his sexuality. Zeke gets to him. The business arrangement forged by the two men sets the stage for a magnetic attraction— lots of heated exchanges, lingering glances and heaving chests.

Zeke and his art are wild, passionate, kinetic— he melts Miles’s cool control, teaches him to look at art in a different way. Miles color blindness also propels an awareness at the form and movement of the work. A shift in perception allows for discovery and melding of two very different personalities.

And… what IS it about flirtation and romancing at an art gallery exhibition? The cool cats gathered in their cool threads, glasses of wine in hand, slowly perusing the paintings on display, slowly perusing each other. Glances across a crowded room. The promise of some hot sexing. Does it to me every time.

There is a bit of a mystery woven in the romance, a smaller thread that answers some questions about the guys. There is a lot of sex, and it is luscious and revelatory. It is balanced with wonderful discussion of the art— Zeke’s work, his brother’s work, the gallery hangings. The author has taken care to fully render each of these aspects, so much so that by the end you really feel as if you’ve gotten to know the characters, and what motivates them.

Which brings up the secondary characters: Carter Davison, Zeke’s best friend and Jacky’s long-time, long-suffering lover, and Red De Vere, Miles’s bestie who nearly steals the show. These two guys deserve a story of their own. And there are two women, Jo and Remy, who’s inclusion is confusing and off-putting at first, but explained eventually.

I so enjoyed this sensual feast. Hot and steamy, the writer pours the sex on— these guys who can’t get enough of each other burn the pages up and I’m so looking forward to the sequels. (for my review of book 5 which can be read directly after this one, go to: Flying Colors, Book 2)

For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more: