A MelanieM Review: Strength of the Rising Sun (The Borders War #5) by S.A. McAuley

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5     ★★★★★

Strength of the Rising SunMerq’s always known there’s only one way Armise and he can end.

The Opposition is losing—both the war and the fight for citizen support—and the Revolution’s victory appears certain. Despite that success, Merq knows his leaders won’t let two of their greatest assets simply walk away. But with Armise fighting for his life, getting out becomes Merq’s primary objective.

Almost two decades of selfishness can’t be alleviated with one right decision, and Merq is faced with the reality of how deeply he has wounded Armise in ways that cannot be seen from the outside. Merq’s world has been upended more times than he can count and he’s always survived, but life without Armise is no longer an option. He just has to prove that to Armise.

Merq believes there are few who are strong enough to challenge them when they stand together. But when the secret Armise has been protecting Merq from is revealed, the truth has consequences neither of them can prepare for.

Reader Advisory: This book contains graphic violence, mention of torture and genetic experimentation.

I admit I approached each Borders War book with more than a bit of trepidation and sense of anticipation.  I would be hard pressed to remember a series that has more twisted layers, more betrayals and anguished losses than this one.  The Borders War series has  involved no less than a worldwide conflagration of countries, environments and humanity that has played out over five novels through the perspective of two warriors and the band of people around them.  Not always on the same side, certainly not at the beginning, or even numerous times (even in the same book) when no one knew what side each man was on, even themselves.

If this sounds confusing, in anyone else’s hands but S.A. McAuley this series and this relationship could have been a muddy mess, instead it became one of magnificent passion, love and commitment to each other in the face of obstacles (realistic ones within this world building) that should have killed them.  And often came close.

In the beginning, One Breath One Bullet (The Borders War #1), Merq Grayson was a high-ranking officer (sniper) for the Continental States.  His enemy was the Dark Ops officer from the People’s Republic of Singapore, Armise Darcan.  These  two had met over countless battle fields and covert operations, sometimes killing those close to the other man, and even coming close to killing each other, often inflicting near fatal wounds.  But there was something more there as well.  A building passion and undeniable connection between them that neither could understand or repress for very long.

McAuley builds this confusing, angry and often violent relationship through 20 years, five books and around some shocking, often personally shattering revelations to both men.  Its hard to describe just how magnetic these men and their lives become.  Sometimes so raw and wounded, you think their  pain will never stop. That is especially true here.  Sometimes the feelings flow cold and distant, than back strong and raging.  Through vivid descriptions and dialog that pulls you into the scenes, you become a part of Merq and Armise’s world and that often leaves you feeling as pain-filled and battered as they are.

Loss of humanity, scientific experimentation (willing and not) on soldiers, the ramifications of genetic/chemical warfare on the world environment…its all addressed here in some form, as a nuanced plot thread or a direct blow to the heart by the author.  Hard to be prepared for that.

But The Borders War is a magnificent series and it deserves its equal in a final story. It gets it in Strength of the Rising Sun.  This story was the equivalent of running through a narrative mine field, you just didn’t know it at the beginning.  Just when you thought the story was getting ready to settle down, another revelation would occur,  then another shattering scene, one so devastating in its impact that it took my breathe away.  I can’t even begin to give you even a smidgen of details or plot.  It wouldn’t make sense. You have to read the story and the ones before it. And when the ending came, well,  I cried buckets of tears for the men, but also of relief that the tension and agony of the narrative was gone.  You are so involved, you couldn’t pull  out of the story, even if you had wanted you.  You, Merq, and Armise to the end.  And what a ending it was.

I have no idea how S. A.McAuley will top this.  Not a clue.

So.  Love science fiction and enemy to lovers story?  Well, this is so much more.  It sexy, violent, passionate, layered, complex and agonizing on the heart at best.  But its one I  wouldn’t want you to pass up.  One of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2016.

Cover art by Posh Gosh shows a certain eventful scene in the story.  It might not work as well as a cover before you read the story but its perfect afterwards.

Sales Links:  Pride Publishing  | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 198 pages
Published January 26th 2016 by Pride Publishing
ISBN139781784309954
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series The Borders War :

The world has only recently emerged from a three hundred year war which saw half of the world’s population wiped out and the rise of five superpowers. Despite the hundreds of millions who died, the Borders War was nearly bloodless because of the sonicrifle—weaponized sound waves, tuned to their highest frequency, and harnessed to kill.

Merq Grayson has known only war. He is a skilled Peacemaker, soldier, and sniper. And it is his destiny to right the wrong created by his grandfather six generations removed—the man who invented the sonicbullet.

Armise Darcan is his enemy. A sniper and Dark Ops officer who fought for the People’s Republic of Singapore in the Borders War, Armise may be the only person on the planet strong enough to keep Merq from completing his mission.

Their loyalties are to conflicting countries and diverging agendas, and despite the very real threat to their lives if they’re discovered, Merq and Armise keep finding their way into each other’s beds. It is a drive which Merq is sure will kill him one day.

But how much time either of them has is questionable. As Opposition is pitted against Revolution, the Borders War reignites, and Merq and Armise have to decide where, and with whom, their real loyalties lie.

Links to MelanieM reviews:

 

A Paul B Audiobook Review: The Lightning-Struck Heart by T.J. Klune , Michael Lesley (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars          ★★★★★

The Lightning Struck Heart audiobookOnce upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City of Lockes, a young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.

Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam’s pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the King’s Wizard, Morgan of Shadows.

When Sam is fourteen, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-giant named Tiggy, earning the moniker Sam of Wilds.

At fifteen, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at the castle. Sir Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed.

Naturally, it all goes to hell through the years when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can’t control his magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the King sends them on an epic quest to save Ryan’s boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.

Or so he thinks.

Sam Haversford is the wizard apprentice for the kingdom of Verania.  For the past eight years, he has been studying under the King’s Wizard Morgan.  His constant companions are a gay hornless unicorn by the name of Gary and a nine and a half foot tall half-giant by the name of Tiggy.  His parents have received jobs within the palace where Sam is being taught.  And the king thinks of Sam as a second son.  Life could not be any better for Sam, right?

Well, there is this problem Sam has of getting himself and his two friends captured whenever they go out on a mission for Morgan or the king.  From battling dark wizards to almost getting “gay fairy married” Sam just cannot stay out of trouble.  Throw in the fact that the knight the Sam has been crushing on for the past five years, Ryan Braveheart, has been promoted and engaged to Crown Prince Justin, Sam’s future boss, his life has its complications.  To make matters worse, Sam realizes that Ryan is his cornerstone, the one person any wizard grounds his magic to as they build upon their base of knowledge.  When Sam is attacked and Prince Justin is taken away from the dragon, the king sends Sam and his friends, along with Ryan to rescue his son.  Sam must make this trip with the one man who he must have for his magic but cannot have because of Ryan’s commitment to the prince.  With the prince to save, Sam resolves that he will complete his mission even though doing so might kill him either physically or emotionally.

I love T J Klune’s books and this is no exception.  Sam is the neurotic protagonist in this story with Ryan serving as the steadying force for him both emotionally and magically.  The various supporting characters that are met along the way bring humor into most situations even if some are meant to be evil.   Sam’s take on evil characters giving monologues about their plans is both funny and true.  I am looking forward to more tales from Sam of Wilds and his crew.  As usual, this is a must read/listen from the author.

Narrator Michael Leslie’s rich voice gives life to the various characters.  His portrayal of the characters allows the listener to distinguish who is talking most of the time.  A couple of times the vocal switch from Sam to Ryan was difficult to discern.  The intonation for Mama, Sam’s fairy drag mother was quite well done while the other female voices were adequate considering the narrator’s deep voice.  The overall pacing of the story was good with tempo and pauses between different sections of chapters easily noticeable.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is dramatic and of course, striking.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 20 pages, 19 hrs 48 mins
Published December 10th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published July 20th 2015)
Original TitleThe Lightning-Struck Heart
ASINB0195I4B9S
Edition LanguageEnglish
CharactersSam Haversford, Ryan Foxheart, Gary, Tiggy, Morgan of Shadows…more settingVerania

An Ali Review: Second Hand (Tucker Springs #2) by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton, Iggy Toma (Narrator)

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Second Hand audiobookPaul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she’s left him with a house he can’t afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he’s not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic.

El Rozal doesn’t do relationships, especially not with clueless straight boys still pining for their ex. El may make his living dealing in castoffs, but that doesn’t apply to men. Still, when Paul starts clearing out his old life, pawning kitchen equipment he never wanted in the first place, El is drawn to Paul in spite of himself.

Paul and El have nothing in common except a past full of disappointments. There’s no reason to believe the two of them could fit, but in El’s line of work, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. When it comes to love, El and Paul may learn that secondhand doesn’t mean second best.
 
 
This was an average story. Nothing really wrong with it but nothing that made it stand out either. Paul has gone through a bad break up and while looking for a gift for his ex-girlfriend he meets Eli. The two men become friends and while Eli realizes immediately that he has feelings for Paul, Paul just cruises along cluelessly. Paul bordered on getting on my nerves with his cluelessness. At other times though I felt for him and I thought the internal discussions/fears/etc he has over his sexuality were probably pretty realistic. Eli I liked throughout the entire story.  I didn’t really feel the emotional attraction between the two men.  It just felt like they were friends unless they were in the bedroom.  The bedroom scenes though were great.  The chemistry just jumped off the pages.  Unfortunately hot sex scenes isn’t enough to carry an entire book for me.  I needed more relationship development.  Again, I didn’t love this book but I didn’t dislike it either.  

The narration by Iggy Toma was just ok.  Overall I did not really care for the narrator.  He did a wide range of voices and did them all differently which is a plus.  I didn’t like some of the voices though.  This is probably a matter of taste.  While it didn’t work for me it might for others.  I suggest listening to a sample of the audio first.
 
Cover art by L.C. ChaseI like the cover.  I think it is a good representation of the main characters and their story.
Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Audible | Amazon
Audiobook Details:
Audible Audio
Published January 22nd 2016 by Audible (first published September 1st 2012)
Original TitleSecond Hand
SeriesTucker Springs #2 settingColorado (United States)

A BJ Review: Dancer of Death (SPECTR 2, #2) by Jordan L. Hawk

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Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

Dancer of DeathRevenge. Murder. Ballet?

Vampire spirit Gray wants to hunt demons. Unfortunately, the foolish mortals at SPECTR have put his host, Caleb, their lover John, and their partner Zahira on desk duty. Gray longs to leave Charleston with John, but if they flee, SPECTR will make them the hunted.

A series of paranormal murders returns the team to the field, at least temporarily. Ballerinas are being murdered by a vila, a demon that kills with dance. If they can’t stop the deadly attacks in time, one of Zahira’s friends may become the next victim.

And while they track the demon, an unknown entity has begun to track Gray.

First, I hadn’t read the blurb before I read the story and that last line was interesting, as I guess I hadn’t realized that the scent Gray ran across for the second time in this book was tracking him. Interesting development for sure especially since Gray contends the thing he smells is not food… ie. not a demon.

High on the gore factor and we get some POV from the bad guy in this one. It reminds me a lot of book #4 from the first series, Eater of Lives, in both those factors. Excellent pacing that kept me on the edge of my set. Wonderful emotional parts as well as sizzling sexy bits.

Plenty twists and turns in the developing relationship between the threesome, that makes it ever more complex. I adored how this is being explored. Caleb has a bit of a problem with communication with John in this one, a fact that Gray rightly questions. I find myself wondering how Deacon will fit into this overall, as something about him tells me he’s more integral than the surface seems to show—of course, I could be wrong.

The more we get to know of Zahira, the more I’m loving her as a partner for these guys. One scene with her and Gray was so touching. Loved that to pieces. Karl the transman is also very intriguing, and I find myself hoping we will get to read more about him as well.

Overall, aside from a bit of the adverb usage that drew me out of the story somewhat, this was an excellent installment of the series that I enjoyed even more than I did Mocker of Ravens. I’m very eager for the next installment, and hope it comes out soon.

Beautiful cover but a bit surprised since for the first time in the series (1 or 2) it focuses on a representation of the baddie rather than showing Caleb/Gray or John.

Sales Links:  ARe | Amazon


Book Details:  

ebook
Expected publication: February 16th 2016 by Smashwords Edition
ISBN139781941230176
Series SPECTR 2 #2

Lex Chase and Bru Baker on Writing Together and ‘Some Assembly Required’ (authors guest blog and giveaway)

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Lex Chase and Bru Baker here today to share with our reader something about their latest novel, Some Assembly Required and the process of writing it together.  Welcome, Lex and Bru!

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Hello, everyone! I’m Lex Chase and I want to thank Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for having me here today as a part of the Some Assembly Required blog tour! What is Some Assembly Required, you ask? It ís a fluffy meet-cute I had co-written with Bru Baker about two dead guys who meet in the afterlife in CASA, a big box affordable home furnishings store, which happens to be purgatory. And you say, “That’s a thing?” Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. And you never knew you needed it until now.

In this post, Bru and I have done a two-part interview. She got me to chat over at Open Skye Book Reviews, and now I’m putting her in the hot seat over here.

Bru and I come from radically different backgrounds as writers. She writes fluffy feel good contemporary that makes you feel warm and cozy on the inside. I write sci-fi/fantasy with guys that kiss as well as kick ass. I’m in my element writing elaborate battle scenes, bloodletting, beheadings, and body counts. As I always say: Its never a party until something explodes into a magnificent fireball.

So, Bru has joined me as I ask her a few questions!

What was the scariest part about writing more paranormal for you?

Bru: I am utterly terrified of worldbuilding. I have mad respect for writers who can do it well, but I’m not really one of them. So it was a relief that Some Assembly Required is kind of paranormal-lite, with a gentle introduction to the ghostly aspects and a contemporary feel for Benji and Patrick’s actual relationship. As much as CASA is its own character, we really didn’t bog the book down with too many detailed explanations about how purgatory worked. And every time you would go off on a worldbuilding tangent or try to work in a detailed paranormal storyline that wasn’t necessary, I would reel you back in, even if it meant literally sending texts that said things like ‘You can’t make that explode.’ You did manage to work in a few bits of massive destruction, but at least our beloved CASA was still standing at the end of it.

What did you dread most about going in a more paranormal direction or co-writing? (Did it come to pass?)

Bru: I hate paranormal books that are just retreads of old standards, and I was anticipating it being really difficult to put our own spin on a paranormal plot. That fear fizzled about ten seconds into our first brainstorming session because it was clear you felt the same way I did. We worked hard to come up with something that was different and interesting, and I’m really proud of it.

I was also worried about whether or not our writing would mesh, but it worked out better than I could have hoped. Our styles really do fit together perfectly.

I’m a planner, you’re a pantser. How did you feel when I gently (okay not at all gently) tried to steer you in creating an outline together? What is it about planning that makes you break out into hives?

Bru: Oh, man. So you have to understand, my idea of planning something out is writing a synopsis. We’re talking a few paragraphs that give the general arc of the plot and that’s about it. When we started writing Some Assembly Required there was this spreadsheet with multiple tabs and character summaries and chapter summaries that were more detailed than I usually am with an entire book synopsis…yeah. It was so far outside my comfort zone, but it was absolutely what we needed for this book.

We also wrote linearly, which is a first for me. I write more organically, hopping around and writing whichever scene is in my mind that day. I generally go into a book knowing a few key scenes and the plot arc and the rest just falls into place as I write. So having the action in every chapter nailed down was hard for me, and it led to a good deal more writer’s block than usually have, but you were always there to talk me through it.

You write such adorkable, sweet guys. What is it about the ‘Goody-Goody Guys’ that get you going?

Bru: I love banter and connections that go deeper than just physical attraction, and I’m almost always a fan of the slow build. So I need my characters to be well fleshed out and real with flaws and dorky moments they can bond over together. In Some Assembly Required, Benji is 100 percent sweet and goofy, and it was fun to write someone who isn’t bogged down with a lot of angst. I tend to have sweet characters with stormy backgrounds because I like to write about how they work through things and come out the other side stronger and more sure of themselves.† But I also need to connect to them and have the reader connect to them, and that’s harder to do when the character is a big jerk. And you can’t have witty banter when both characters are terse and uninteresting. So…dorky characters FTW.

You do realize, we wrote a book about dead guys meeting in the afterlife in a home furnishings store. And no one stopped us. Do you think we need we need adult supervision?

Bru: Well, we kind of do have adult supervision in the form of our editor at Dreamspinner Press, and she’s egging us on after not only encouraging us to write this book but also accepting our three-book proposal about a paranormal online dating service run by a Djinn. So I think we’re absolved of all blame here. It’s really her fault.

Question for you guys! Did you ever do something outside of your comfort zone? Did you enjoy it? Or vow to Never.†Do.†It.†Again. (Mine was going on Splash Mountain at Disney World. NOPE.)

Tell us and don’t forget to record your entry on the giveaway widget!



Genre:
†Contemporary Paranormal Comedy
Length: Novel
Published:†February 8, 2016
Publisher:†Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 978-1-63476-810-8
Buy:DSPAReAmazonBarnes and Noble

Blurb:

Everyone wishes they were dead when wandering the purgatory of a home furnishings store, but these guys actually are.

Benji Goss is the quintessential good guy. When his boyfriend dumps him and moves out, Benji obligingly keeps the catóeven though heís allergicóbecause his exís new place doesnít accept pets. Heís always joked the cat would be the death of him, but not in a way he expects when a feline mishap crushes him under a DEL TORO bookcase.

Snarky loner Patrick Bryant is in such a rut he barely remembers the life he used to lead. The last thing he recalls is being decapitated by a DEL TORO bookcase in a freak accident. As a spiritual CASA resident, he haunts the aisles of affordable Italian furniture, assisting fellow spirits in moving on to their final destinations.

When Benji appears in the CASA cafÈ, Patrick considers the naÔve spirit just the man to cure his boredom. Benjiís relentless optimism chips away at Patrickís sarcasm, making him question if thereís something beyond what he can see. But the heart is like CASA furnitureóthereís always some assembly required.


About the Authors:

madison_parker_MG_4269-WEB

Lex Chase once heard Stephen King say in a commercial, “Weíre all going to die, I’m just trying to make it a little more interesting.” Now she’s on a mission to make the world a hell of a lot more interesting.

Weaving tales of sweeping cinematic adventure,depending on how she feels that day, Lex sprinkles in high-speed chases, shower scenes, and more explosions than a Hollywood blockbuster. Her pride is in telling stories of men who kiss as much as they kick ass. If you’re going to march into the depths of hell, it better be beside the one you love.

Lex is a pop culture diva, her DVR is constantly backlogged, and she unapologetically loved the ending of Lost. She wouldnít last five minutes without technology in the event of the apocalypse and has nightmares about refusing to leave her cats behind.

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Lexchase.com


Bru Baker got her first taste of life as a writer at the tender age of four when she started publishing a weekly newspaper for her family. What they called nosiness she called a nose for news, and no one was surprised when she ended up with degrees in journalism and political science and started a career in journalism.

Bru spent fifteen years writing for newspapers before making the jump to fiction. She now works in reference and readers’ advisory in a Midwestern library, though she still finds it hard to believe someone’s willing to pay her to talk about books all day. Most evenings you can find her curled up with a mug of tea, some fuzzy socks, and a book or her laptop. Whether itís creating her own characters or getting caught up in someone else’s, there’s no denying that Bru is happiest when she’s engrossed in a story. She and her husband have two children, which means a lot of her books get written from the sidelines of various sports practices.

www.bru-baker.com
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SAR_Giveaway_BannerWe’re giving away two $25 USD Amazon Gift Cards to two lucky winners! Will it be you? Click on the graphic to enter!

Did you ever do something outside of your comfort zone? Did you enjoy it? Or vow to Never.†Do.†It.†Again.


Blog Tour Stops:

2/8 – The Novel Approach and Release Day!

2/9 – Gay List Book Reviews

2/9 -†My Fiction Nook

2/10 – Love Bytes Reviews

2/10 – Divine Magazine

2/11 – Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Tea House

2/11 -†Open Skye Book Reviews

2/11 -†Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

2/14 – Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews

2/17 – Joyfully Jay