A BJ Review: Chasing Death Metal Dreams by Kaje Harper

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5      ★★★★★

Chasing Death Metal Dreams coverThis story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s “Love is an Open Road” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.

Dear Author,
I was sent to the US at the age of 10 by my father who could not accept me. You see I was misgendered at birth and I started fighting against my body at a young age. My father sent me to live with my cousin’s family along with enough money to pay my way for a few years. Little does he know he helped to fund the many surgeries and hormones to fulfill my dream of having my outside gender match the gender my brain has always known myself to be.

What do you think Author? Not many know of his secret. He is a gay man. Is he in a gang? Is he in a band? How will he find love? How will he be accepted?

Photo Description: A young bare-chested man stands staring boldly outward from below his raised arms, hands pressed together in his black hair, elbows winged out, colorful dagger tattoos on his forearms. Another tattoo near his neck forms swirl of dark curves with “Boy” over his left collarbone. His biceps are strong, his stomach and pecs flat, his nipples small, above a thin treasure trail leading downward. Below each nipple is the unmistakable, long-healed scar of top surgery.

Carlos Medina has spent years of sweat, pain, effort, and money becoming the man he is. He writes original songs, plays lead guitar, and wears his death metal front-man persona like armor. With an excellent drummer and a talented bassist, his band, KnifeSwitch, has what it takes to succeed, if they can just catch a break. But it’s been a long road already, and there’s still a mountain left to climb. Carlos isn’t looking for anything more in his personal life than an occasional hook-up with a hot guy, preferably outside the less-than-gay-friendly metal scene.

Nate Goldstein has no intention of dating a musician. His twin brother fronts a band, and he knows band guys are all busy, broke, and obsessed with their music. But Carlos catches his artist’s eye. Nate is wary – he has a history of picking the wrong guys. Still, he might be willing to break some personal rules to find out what’s behind Carlos’s dark gaze and imaginative lyrics.

Getting together the first time is easy and fun. The second time is more complicated. And when music, ambition, and personalities clash, the guys will have to decide if they have a future worth fighting for.

This is my favorite of the stories I’ve read from this year’s writing event so far. Let me tell you why. First off, main character Carlos. While there certainly isn’t a plethora of books with a trans man as a lead character, there are a decent amount both inside and outside of the m/m genre, and I’ve read a quite a few. Not many are this well done, and in only a few have I discovered a main character that truly engaged me. Carlos definitely did. He could be stand-offish, prickly, quick to anger and didn’t do relationships. He was very careful to keep his sexuality under wraps since it wasn’t widely accepted within the death metal circle. But Carlos was also so damned strong, and his determination to pursue his dreams, both musical and being his real inner self, spoke to me deeply. Then he met Nate.

Which brings us to the second reason this was a favorite. Nate is an artist with a wonderfully close, supportive and accepting family. Artist characters are a thing for me, so is long hair, which meant Nate was an instant hit with me. But like Carlos, Nate was a thoroughly nuanced character who despite being caring, sensitive, considerate, accepting and supportive, did also have his own issues of trust and insecurity to overcome.

When the sparks fly between these two, it’s far from insta-love. These two men each have baggage and obstacles to overcome. Their story swept me along very easily and naturally. I loved watching Carlos open up to Nate not just physically but also letting him in emotionally, which wasn’t something he’d done before. Watching the two very different men learn to trust each other was a thoroughly enjoyable journey.

The author handled the sexual scenes, even the sensitive ones, very well with just the right amount of details and explanations. The heat level was quite steamy. While I do understand why the sex scenes were mainly from Nate’s point of view, I still longed for one from Carlos’ and I think mainly this has to do with the fact that the other really well-done trans man main character book I’d read was from only the other MC’s point of view. Since this one was a dual-POV, my favorite, I’d held out that hope. I don’t consider that this took away from the story all that much, however, since each scene between the two moved their relationship along perfectly.

I’m not a metal music fan at all. In fact, I normally avoid books that deal with rock stars completely. But this wasn’t about stars, far from it, and I didn’t need to be into death metal to become invested in and enjoy these guys story. The author painted a clear picture of the struggle it takes to make it as they chased their dreams. Loved the sprinkled in song lyrics and the album cover and tattoo drawing descriptions. In fact, all the many facets of the story’s elements were thoroughly researched and expertly handled, making this story read wonderfully smooth and true for me. The pace wasn’t fast, but leisurely like a Sunday drive where in the journey itself is as important as the destination. Something to be savored mile-by-mile, word-by-word.

This story was written within a short timeframe and the limited guidelines of fitting into a given prompt, yet you could never tell that if you picked this up. Not from the stunning cover, and certainly not from the beautiful, well-rounded, well-written journey towards acceptance and love that this story takes us on. If you haven’t read this one yet, pick it up today. It definitely belies the saying “you get what you pay for”. This story rocks, or considering the death metal maybe I should say it growls.

The cover by BookCoverMasterClass.com is stunning and very well suited to the story. Definitely grabbed my attention.

Free story at  Goodreads MM Romance Group.com

Book Details:

ebook, 265 pages
Published August 2nd 2015 by MMRomanceGroup.com (first published August 1st 2015)
edition languageEnglish
charactersCarlos Medina, Nate Goldstein

A MelanieM Review: Flax’s Pursuit (AURA Series #2) by Angel Martinez and Bellora Quinn

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Flax's Pursuit coverA murderer haunts the city, turning the unwary to stone. Between hunting this evil and corralling new arrivals, Flax struggles to guard both his life and his heart.

Quinn and Valerian have come through the trials of facing an undead lich queen and the perils of falling in love. Now they work to restore AURA to its previous strength and efficiency while navigating their new life with each other. Fortunately, they’re not in this alone.

Kai Hiltas has taken over as the head of the research department at AURA and has become everyone’s favourite workaholic, everyone except his lover Tenzin, who has had enough of his late nights and broken promises. As Kai tries to salvage his relationship, he finds a teacher for Quinn, who also happens to be one of Valerian’s new officers, Flax Wolfheart, a sexy elf with trouble written all over him.

Flax has motives beyond simply teaching Quinn to control his magic. He’s trying to recover from his own losses and failures, but he has a plan. The two newest elvish crossovers, Ash and Sage, are sizzling hot and might even like him. With them as backup as he tracks a deadly stone mage and figures out how to teach Quinn, Flax sees his chance to impress Val and snag a place by his captain’s side. On the hunt for both danger and redemption, Flax’s pursuit leads him ultimately down trails he never expected.

Angel Martinez and Bellora Quinn’s AURA series continue’s its marvelous saga with Flax’s Pursuit.  The world has been made unstable by a magical explosion, causing tears in the fabrics of the universe to heartbreaking effect.  Beings are snatched from their worlds without notice, torn from their worlds, loved ones, family and all things familiar, and sent tumbling into the human one often with the worst repercussions you could imagine.  A mermaid falls through a tear in the fabric, appears over the Mojave desert, despairs and commits suicide, all without ever knowing why.  For others, the death is slower, achieved through addiction or other means of self destruction when the idea of never being able to return home becomes unbearable.

Martinez and Quinn bring not only this new world in a constant state of flux to vivid life but makes it carry with it the aroma of misery, shock, and depression that surrounds those who are unable to adjust to their new circumstances.  Magic has returned everywhere and people now aren’t quite sure how that is going to affect the things or beings around them. I love that these authors have a whole world and any number of mythologies to pull from when gathering ingredients for these stories.  You never know what type of being or universe the authors will pull from when the next “event” occurs to bring another creature into the human world.  It creates a level of  suspense that rolls over from moment to moment throughout the story, a anticipatory narrative note that helps to make each tale sing with surprise, delight and sometimes sorrow.

Val and Quinn return from the first story.  In fact, its Quinn’s wild powers and a need for control that bring Flax into the picture.  Quinn needs a teacher and Kai Hiltas has determined that the elf Flax is the one to teach him, willing or not, mostly not.  Flax is one of those who has not adjusted well to life within human laws or society, nor does he find human Quinn particularly suitable for the majestic Val.  Flax reeks of unhappiness and arrogance, never a good combination but the authors also make us taste the bitterness of life as he sees it.  The stench of the air pollution, or the smell from the garbage in the alleys, all an anathema to a woods elf who remember the purity of the life he can never  return to.

Then two  more elves fall into the city, taken from their lives and world mid battle. The manner in which these two will complicate everyone’s lives is lively, layered, semi-sweet, and ultimately satisfying.  At one point it looked as though the authors were taking it (the m/m/m relationship) in one direction, but didn’t.  But it was the way the story line flowed in that direction, the reasons and emotions behind  the plot twists that swirled, eddied and then moved on, and felt so natural doing so, was just one more narrative gift from Martinez and Quinn.  It was right in very aspect of the story and relationships.  Yes, this is a m/m/m but there are cultural reasons behind it.  It feels natural and in many respects, healing.  And so damn sexy.

Another moving aspect of  this story?  The murders and the culprits behind them.  For every evil, there is an explanation and accompanying pain, a blackness you can watch grey out with understanding by the end of the storyline.  That happens here.  That’s really another of the facets about this story that I love, one that the authors both bring to the story and series.  A sense of depth, an openness of attitude towards all sorts of beings…drows…yetis…trolls…there is something good in every being if you look for it. I wonder what or who  will fall to earth next?

There is a secondary love story between Kai and his yeti lover, in fact there are all manner of relationships or would-be relationships going on here at AURA headquarters.  I can’t wait to see who is up next.  This is one amazing series.  It has heroes of every variety, it has quests both small and large,  personal and for all beings involved.  It has first loves, established partnerships teetering, and lost loves mourned.  It really has it all.  Grab them up and get started today.  This is a series you won’t want to miss.

Cover artist Posh Gosh does a nice job with adding the ears and with the characters, especially as one is so young in age.

Sales Links: Pride Publishing | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 16th 2015 by Totally Bound Publishing
ISBN139781784306229
edition language English

AURA Series

AURA, the Agency of Unnatural Resettlement and Assimilation: it’s a weird job, but somebody’s got to do it.
A magical catastrophe tears the fabric of reality, causing unpredictable holes between worlds through which anything might fall—elves, centaurs, trolls, yeti. The brave officers and employees of AURA struggle daily to help the lost and injured, and contain the irretrievably violent while their research staff scramble to find a way to reverse the effect.
Anything can and does pop through into the human world, sometimes with disastrous and deadly results. It’s a race against time to see if the AURA mages can repair reality and stop the inter-dimensional flood before something crosses over that proves strong enough to destroy the world.

A Stella Audiobook Review: Just Desserts (Tales of the Curious Cookbook) by Mary Calmes and Greg Tremblay (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5audiobook clipart bw

Just Desserts Audiobook coverBoone Walton has tried hard to create some distance between himself and his past. He’s invested in his new life, his New Orleans art gallery, and his friendship with Scott Wren. Things finally seem to be settling down to normal, and Boone couldn’t be happier.

Chef Scott Wren wants much more than normal with Boone. He wants to raise things to the next level, but Boone is terrified—and not because of the ghost in Scott’s apartment or Scott’s relatives. No, Boone’s past is about to pay him a visit, and the only thing that can get between Boone, Scott, and a hinky recipe for chocolate mousse found in a curious cookbook is the river of pain Boone had to swim across to get to this side of The Big Easy. There’s a secret behind the ingredients, though—one that might reveal the trust and love that have been missing from Boone’s life.

Mary Calmes and Greg Tremblay are the most perfect couple in the world. My favorite author  and my favorite narrator. I couldn’t have asked for more. Just amazing.

I don’t listen to a lot of audiobooks cause my English doesn’t permit me but after just three books narrated by Greg, I’m so used to his voice, his clear pronunciation, it’s hard to switch to another one. I can’t praise him enough. I simply like how he works a lot.

Mary Calmes is a guarantee to me. She never disappoints and you can’t go wrong with whatever book you pick. Every single time I read one of her story, I fall in love with the characters, in Just Desserts too. Both Scott and Boone were so loveable and sweet, I was engaged in their lives from the start. And I found each little trait I adore in Mary’s writing. The hotness, the feelings, the possessiveness. Even in a story so brief, just hundred pages, she was able to put all of these elements together, plus a real plot, MCs with a lot of baggage on their shoulders, some well defined secondary characters. 

A beautiful and emotional “friends to lovers” book. I can’t recommend Just Desserts enough! I didn’t give it the full five stars cause I would have loved it to be a couple of hundred pages more long, I know I’m being greedy but it’s Mary Calmes we’re talking about and I could spend all my days reading just her stories.

Just a note: this book is part of the Tales of the Curious Cookbook series. I honestly admit I haven’t read the other four stories and at the moment I’m not interested in them. Still I didn’t miss anything, because Just Desserts worked easily as a standalone.

The cover art by Reese Dante is yummy. It follows the theme of the series and fits the story perfectly. Well done!

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press |  Audible | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Published August 4th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
Audible Audio
ASIN B013V3TXN2
Edition Language English
Narrator: Greg Tremblay

Tales of the Curious Cookbook series
For a Rainy Afternoon by RJ Scott
Food for Thought by Amy Lane
Lost Along the Way by Marie Sexton
Cookies for Courting by Amber Kell
Just Desserts by Mary Calmes

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review : Model Citizen by Lissa Kasey

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Rating 4 stars out of 5

Model Citizen coverOliver Petroskovic is an international supermodel who works part time for his brother at his detective agency. A former Marine, Nathan left the corps when their parents died and has raised Ollie since he was twelve years old. Ollie is beautiful, feminine, and highly sought after as a model. He’s selective in the modeling jobs he takes, and turns down anything sexually degrading. He prefers wearing feminine clothing, much of which he’s created himself, and designing for others who are “gender fluid” would fulfill his career goals. Though gay, he’s not had a partner or lover since he caught his boyfriend cheating. As the story opens, he’s just closed on a home for him and Nathan financed by his modeling jobs. He’s excited to get back to the office to share the good news about the closing with his brother.

Accompanied by Nathan’s best friend Will, when he gets there he finds Nathan has committed suicide by shooting his brains out. Months later, still traumatized, but feeling responsible for keeping the business open, Ollie carries on as best as he can while trying to put in enough hours to get his PI license. But he’s constantly caught on the wrong side of the law on his PI jobs, and Will, a police officer, is getting pretty fed up with bailing him out of jail.

Will is married to Ollie’s best friend Britney, so even if Ollie tried to dodge Will, he couldn’t get far because B is always onto what he’s doing. Just when Ollie is ready to admit he needs help, Will shows up with former Marine Kade Alme, another friend of Nathan’s, who’s recently left the service after recovering from injuries from a roadside bomb. Kade has a PI license so he may be able to help Ollie, even if Ollie doesn’t want the help. There’s one more thing that Kade has that Ollie’s not sure he wants and that is the hots for Ollie. According to Kade, he’s wanted Ollie for years, but Nathan kept him away from his younger brother. Kade aims to change all that as he declares that he has no intention of being one of the many people in Ollie’s life who have abandoned him. He’s there for the duration.

When one of Ollie’s friends is injured during filming of a reality TV show, and Ollie goes to check on him, he uncovers a possible disastrous situation on the set of the show, and the danger in his life is suddenly more than anything he’s ever faced before. Kade goes along to help him as they investigate the frequent and “coincidental” accidents occurring on the set. But when Ollie becomes a victim, it’s time to get the case resolved and to find out whether Kade really is in there for the long haul as he claimed or is he going to bolt when things get tough?

I really enjoyed this story. The action and drama were suspenseful and the mystery not easily solved. The MCs were amazing together, and I totally love a story where there is MANTIES! There’s also a hot, alpha man who loves his feminine partner in all his crossdressing glory. And just when I thought we were easing into a peaceful happy ending, the author threw out a curve ball, a cliffhanger ending which, of course, will lead most of us to keep reading this series. Don’t get me wrong, there is indeed a HEA/HFN for the MCs but there’s also a darn good reason for them to keep their PI agency open.

I recommend this to a) those who love manties (!) and b) those who love an M/M romance with characters who need to heal, both physically and emotionally from past trauma, and c) those who just plain love a good mystery with plenty of drama mixed in with the romance.

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Cover Art by Garrett Leigh depicts a black-and-white photo cover with a camera in the lower section below the title and a set of dog tags with the chain in a heart-shaped pattern in the upper section of the page. The camera and dog tags are symbolic of the MCs.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages, also in paperback
Published June 22nd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN1634761316 (ISBN13: 9781634761314)

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words: Best Book Covers of September 2015

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Best Book Covers of September 2015

That blank book cover above doesn’t look very appealing does it? Would you buy a book with a cover like that? A great book cover should draw your attention to it, make you want to pick it up (or buy it), tell you a little bit about the story or characters, be intriguing enough for the reader to want to explore more or just be plain gorgeous that we can’t resist.  In short, a book cover has a job to do.  Some book covers do ok, some fail, and some exceed beyond measure.

As some of you may be aware, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words loves its book covers. Here are Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ Best Book Covers, chosen from the books we read and reviewed during the month of September 2015.  Its a diverse group, with cover art represented by all types of art work and artists, including some of the authors themselves.

I’ve included the covers for you to see.   Each of our reviewers includes a comment on the book’s cover in their review at the end of their post.  Do you agree with them?  Disagree?  Which were your favorite covers this month?

Best Book Covers of September 2015:

ACID coverBeautiful Thunder coverBeyond the Surface coverButtermilk Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

ACID by Wulf Francu Godgluck & S. van Rooyen, Cover art by Wulf Francu Godgluck

Beautiful Thunder by Louise Lyons, Cover art by Maria Fanning

Beyond the Surface (The Breakfast Club #1) by Felice Stevens, cover art by Reese Dante

Buttermilk Ranch by Patricia Logan, Cover art by AJ Corza

 

Dangerous Sprits coverEmpty Nests coverFit To Be Tied coverLate Summer Early Spring cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Spirits (Spirits #2) by Jordan L. Hawk, Cover art by Jordan L. Hawk

Empty Nests (Nested Hearts #1) by Ada Maria Soto, Cover Art by  Paul Richmond

Fit to be Tied (Marshals #2) by Mary Calmes, Cover art by Reese Dante

Late Summer, Early Spring by Patricia Correll, Cover art by Anne Cain

 

Other Side of the Line coverRed Hot Coffin Nails Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Side of the Line by Marguerite Labbe, Cover art by Catt Ford

Red Hot Coffin Nails by KA Merikan, Cover art by Natasha Snow