A MelanieM Review: Hidden Gem by Lissa Kasey

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

hiddengem_final03With a past that haunts him with nightmares, Misaki “Aki” Itou became a “contracted companion”, a whore, in order to survive , leaving  his starving existence on the streets behind. Aki is a  psi—a person with mutated DNA granting him psychic abilities.  And that makes him both a danger to himself and an object of fear and interest to the government scientists of the North and South.  Only his contract and position as the “shining jewel” and  top companion at the Hidden Gem,protects him while making enough money to buy the prettiest, most sparkly shoes he can find.

Det. Shane McNaughton is a cop, the Head of Missing Persons,with a completion rate so high that no one can top him. McNaughton  survived the Third World War for one reason only, one he hides.  Shane McNaughton is a A-M, one of many animal mutations that occurred as part of the chemical warfare between the North and the South.  And while it gives him supernatural abilities it also makes him a monster when the virus isn’t dormant.  His secret is known only to a few and that makes Shane McNaughton one lone  wolf.  Except when it comes to Aki Itou.

For two years Shane has been paying for Aki’s services, both for Aki’s sexual favors and for Aki’s psychic abilities.  Always Shane has wanted more from Aki, and always he has been denied.  When several children of the wealthy go missing only to be found dead, its up to Shane and Aki to combine their powers to find the children in time and expose the killer.  But nothing prepares either one for the forces they unleash from the past that continues to haunt them both.

What a fantastical and inventive story Lissa Kasey has created for her release, Hidden Gem.  Complete with a complex back story for her universe that includes a World War III where the weapons were chemical and their impact upon the populace diabolical and disastrous, Kasey manages to paint a portrait of a world gone dark and deadly, full of dead bodies, camps, and experimentation.   That the descriptions aren’t incredibly graphic doesn’t take away any of their horror and impact.  Relayed to the reader through memories of several of the characters, those past events come across as fresh and terrifying, a vision that haunts the narrative from start to finish.

Overlaying the past like a infirm veneer, the present is a place of secrets, hidden agendas, and where a sanctuary can be the last place anyone would consider safe and desirable.  That last place, of course, being the Hidden Gem, a high level brothel known for its desirable male and female contracted companions.  Aki and Candy, his best friend and fellow high paid companion, are happy and safe within the confines of their profession and contracts.  Kasey lets us into the  intimacies of their friendship and the daily operations of the Hidden Gem.  It’s a fascinating world full of equally intriguing and memorable characters, not the least of which are Aki and Candy.  Aki whose dress and makeup never try to hide his eyes which give away the fact that he is psi.  And delectible Candy, whose mind reflects colored clouds and happiness back to Aki, is a jewel in his own right.  I only hope that Lissa Kasey has another story in mind for this universe featuring Candy, he deserves it.  The darkness of the companions pasts are always present, although pressed into the background or saved for their nightmares.

At the other end of society’s spectrum is the police unit headed up by Shane McNaughton, a cop who no longer considers himself a man.  He is also tormented by his past and present.  Only being in the presence of Aki, is that pain alleviated for Shane. Kasey makes Shane as fully realized a being as Aki, although his darkness and past are more fully known then Aki’s for most of the story.  Shane is a powerful figure and he moves through the narrative with a blunt forcefulness that can take your breath away.

There is a malignant center to this story and a mystery of the most chilling and heartbreaking kind.  Children are being kidnapped and  horrifically killed.  Kasey weaves her mystery thread through all the other filaments pulling together to make this an outstanding tapestry of a tale.  Its not enough that each character carries a truckload of pain and secrets behind them, the author also keeps in mind each character’s emotional, mental and physical needs as well.  All are juggled in a high wire balancing act that ends in an astonishing conclusion  that will stay with you long after the story is over.

I hope this is not the last we have seen of the Hidden Gem universe and characters.  Lissa Kasey has left herself plenty of room for more stories to come.  They and the readers deserve them.  Consider Hidden Gem and Lissa Kasey highly recommended by Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words!  Grab it up today and start reading.

Cover Artist:2014 Shobana Appavu.  Love the cover.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press  Paperback     All Romance eBooks (ARe)      Amazon    Hidden Gem

Book Details:

ebook, 246 pages
Published September 26th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press

A Sammy Review: Ben Raphael’s All-Star Virgins by K.Z. Snow

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Pride that depends on the approval of others is a false pride, layered on from outside yourself like gold leaf. When the leaf begins to flake and chip, you see the base material beneath it. When you see the base material, the shiny deception exists no more. What are you left with?

Soul-crushing disillusionment. A sorrow that seems absolute.

All Star Virgins coverThere’s something about youth that is so wonderful and yet so sad. This is displayed perfectly in the story of five young boys who attend Ben Raphael Academy, a boarding school, together. They’re more than friends, they’re family, but in the midst of a chaotic world filled with typical teenage drama, they’re virtually invisible.

When one of them comes up with a plan to change that, to make them become noticed and to highlight their “mystique” as virgins who aren’t trying to chase tail, a rare breed among boys their age, the rest go along. What starts out as a simple act to try and make a quiet, forgotten group noticed and desired winds its way into a far darker journey of discovery, loss, and love.

I forced myself to look at the sky. The stars wheeled thickly overhead. This night, they seemed like a gateway to infinite possibilities, not a glittering veil over a dark, suctioning void.

I went into this thinking it was going to be a fun, cute Young Adult story. I’m not typically one for that genre, but this sounded interesting.

Well, I can say for certain that cute and light were not quite what I got out of this. It speaks volumes about the thought process of youth and how they seek to be seen, but more than that seek acceptance. It was all a very sad reality to me. And while there is an element of romance in this between Rider and Jake, I feel the heart of the story lies more in the group of boys themselves.

Reading the blurb again, I think it sounds a bit cheesy toward the end in regards to an unspeakable tragedy, and when I read what this tragedy was, it may have at first seemed over-dramatic and far-fetched, but the more I thought about it, the more realistic it actually was – and that thought made me incredibly sad.

*POTENTIAL SPOILER REGARDING POSSIBLY TRIGGERING TOPIC: I was also surprised at the heaviness of a certain topic in this. I will say that if anyone has a hard boundary line when it comes to relationships between minors and adults of the more manipulative nature, you should steer clear of this. For some reason, I didn’t expect it to happen. Granted, this isn’t a long book, but it still surprised me when the initial idea was hinted at and then fleshed out.

I do think that the tragedy aspect of it, as well as the taboo relationship part, would’ve been more impactful in a book of novel length. With this being 134 pages, everything was quick, and the brief glimpses we got of this issues being dug into were quite nice, but just not enough given the weight of them.

In general a good story, but certainly not something I’d suggest if you want a quick, light read. Quick, yes, but light, not so much.And although I’m not an expert regarding the classification of a young adult story, this does depict teenage boys going through life. While there are several references to sexual activities, and times when we see what leads up to it and the aftermath, there are no explicit sexual details. As such, I’d say it does fall pretty well into the Young Adult category.

Cover Artist: Maria Fanning provided a simple cover that at first seems quite basic in regards to the type of story. Boys in a boarding school – thus a boy with a uniform on the cover. Yet, when you get into the story, the backdrop of the cover comes to have a great meaning, and really highlight a beautiful element of the story.

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink eBook        All Romance (ARe)          Amazon            Ben Raphael’s All Star Virgins

Book Details:

ebook, 134 pages
Published September 25th 2014 by Harmony Ink Press
other editions
None found

Book Blast: Skylar Wood and her release “Jade” (tour and contest)


Check out Skylar Wood’s latest story, Jade.  Read the excerpt and don’t forget to enter the contest below:

Book Name: Jade
Author Name: Skylar Wood

Author Bio:

Skylar Wood lives in the very beautiful, lively and fun filled City of Edmonton, Alberta Canada, where there is always something going on, summer or winter. She feels it’s a great place to be.

Skylar is a reading fanatic and only wishes she had more time to do it. Jade is her first venture into the writing arena. She says that writing is hard work but it’s a refreshing change from her nine to five job. It provides fantasy and escape. She truly enjoyed writing Jade, a lesbian romance novel, stating it was a neat sexual fantasy to explore through the pages of a book and that writing Jade and seeing it publication has been one of the best experiences of her life.

Author Contacts:

Title: Jade by Skylar Wood
Publisher: Dark Hollow Press
Cover Artist: 3 Rusted Spoons Cover Design

Sales Links: www.darkhollowspress.com

Beauty In DarkJade Blurb:

Jade Tanner appears to have it all. To the world she is a self-made billionaire and business woman extraordinaire. However, it’s lonely sitting atop the corporate world, and more and more Jade can’t help but feel empty inside.

A secret sexual fantasy life begins as she starts chatting online with a beautiful young escort named Twylla Star. Becoming deeply immersed in this fantasy world, her desire to meet this woman soon becomes so overwhelming that Jade finds herself booking a date with her.

Meeting the delectable Twylla in Las Vegas, Jade is unprepared for the impact Twylla has on her the moment she holds the other woman in her arms. What started out as an unfettered sexual weekend with someone she’d never seen again, suddenly turns into something more.

When lust turns to love, are they strong enough to let go of the past to build a future together? And what will happen when the real world comes crashing back in?

Categories: Contemporary, Lesbian Romance

Jade Excerpt:

Twylla reached over in the bed for Jade only to find she was gone. She got out of bed and stumbled into the washroom to splash water on her face and then went in search of Jade. She found her in the kitchen. She was surprised at the surge of tenderness she felt when she looked at this woman, busy on her laptop. She had never felt anything like this for a date before.

“Morning,” she said, reaching her arms around Jade and kissing her neck.

“Morning, beautiful,” she replied, then kissed Twylla on the lips.

Pulling apart, she glanced at the computer screen. The name on the email was Jade Tanner. Twylla’s heart almost stopped in her chest.

Could this be the Jade Tanner, the founder of Jade Cosmetics and Tanner Enterprises? If so the woman she had spent the night with was a multi-billionaire. She kept a very low profile, so Twylla didn’t know what she looked like and hadn’t connected the name with the cosmetics tycoon. She knew Jade was very publicly against porn, and the sex industry in general. It didn’t make sense that the Jade Tanner would hire her for sex. Maybe the name was a coincidence.

She thought of all the times she had dated older gross men hoping they would take her as their mistress or possibly even see her as a wife. All of them saw her simply as a whore they had purchased. With Jade it had felt different. They had connected immediately. Their lovemaking had been erotic, sensual and blissful. She had enjoyed Jade’s body just as much as Jade had seemed to enjoy hers.

Jade closed her computer. “I’ve made coffee if you want it.”

She most definitely did. Walking away from her, she was aware of Jade watching her. She knew the power of her beauty and sexuality. Leaning against the counter, she turned so her robe fell partially open giving a teasing glimpse of her breasts.

Tour Dates: October 7, 2014

Tour Stops:

Parker Williams, My Fiction Nook, Inked Rainbow Reads, Jade Crystal, Rainbow Gold Reviews, The Hat Party, Andrew Q. Gordon, Cate Ashwood, Prism Book Alliance, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves, All I Want and More Books, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Amanda C. Stone, Iyana Jenna, Dawn’s Reading Nook, Velvet Panic, Fallen Angel Reviews, Queer Town Abbey, It’s Raining Men, Michael Mandrake

Contest: Rafflecopter Prize: Copy of ‘Jade’ e-book. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Contest entry form and additional contest details to be found at the Rafflecopter link provided below.

Rafflecopter Code:

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