A MelanieM Review: The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The Worst Bad Thing-buildIceland, Stonehenge, London, Paris….

To the casual observer, it looks like a dream trip. For Tate O’Reilly, it’s anything but. He’s a man on a mission to rectify a critical mistake, and there’s nothing to hold him back—certainly not friends or family. For Tate, it all comes down to one simple thing—he must fix what he has broken.

What he doesn’t count on is meeting Gabriel Carillo. Gabriel is kind, mysterious, and seems to be on his own mission to ensure their paths keep crossing. But Tate’s hiding an awfully big secret—one he’s certain even Gabriel can’t forgive.

Does a man’s past have to determine his future? In the middle of cities filled with history, Tate is going to find out.

Sometimes life just throws some eerie coincidences at you.  Just a week or so before I started reading this story, a chemistry experiment in a high school lab in the DC Metro area when horribly wrong and many will carry the results of that flash fire for the rest of their lives.  My first response to the media descriptions, which were vivid and harsh?  How could that teacher have been so irresponsible?  Not a reaction I’m proud of now but one I think that so many people had without thinking it over.

Thank you, J.E. Birk, for providing that other needed perspective, that of the teacher destroyed the accident that caught his students up in a conflagration of flames and pain.  Just as I’m sure the one in the accident above was so forever personally changed, former chemistry teacher Tate O’Reilly has been ruined in almost every way possible.  He’s emotionally devastated, physically scarred, the guilt has overwhelmed him and this trip is his way to make amends.  This isn’t anything in a way of a spoiler as we are introduced to the reason he’s made the trip pretty much immediately into the story.

Birk does a beautiful job of ushering us into the mind of this broken man on a mission.  Equipped with a list, Tate going to places very methodically, checking them off, not for himself but for someone who will never be able to go.  Tate becomes very much alive through his tortured thoughts, the flashbacks, and even the things he sees as he visits each location.

Really, here the change in perspective really got to me.  As it will you.  It was a accident.  Bad things happen to good people.  But for many, its something they can never let go…on either side.  Birk makes that pain fresh, horrendous and deep here.  Talk about impact.

But Tate’s not the only  walking wounded here.  There will be more, including Gabriel Carillo, whose past and current mission will resonate both with Tate and the readers as well.  I loved Gabriel, he is a beautiful character and thought that he needed more pages to bring out his character to the fullest.

And that brings me to my only issue here.  Birk has so many deep topics in play here, some of which I can’t  discuss because they do fall into spoiler territory, that the number of pages, 123, is just not enough to do them all justice.  This story could easily have been double in length, if not a third.   And yes, that includes the ending, which cries out for an epilogue.

After much speculation and denial, it looks as though the rules and regulations for conducting science and chemical experiments within a classroom or lab will be revised due to the accident above and others like it, apparently far too many.  The author herself said the story was prompted by one like it as well.  That ruling will protect future students, teachers and yes, the schools themselves.  We all are there for the many students hurt or killed in these accidents.  Rightfully so.  But maybe now, with a powerful story like The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk, we will also remember the human being on the other side, the one hurting deeply as well.  Remember that the reverberations and consequences fall both ways.  And that redemption can follow the worst that can happen, and perhaps even love.

Thank you, J. E. Birk for the wonderful story and for reminding me.  Lesson learned.  I highly recommend this story to you all.

Cover artist Catt Ford does a great job with the characters and special location of Stonehenge. Love it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon  | Barnes and Noble

Book Details:

ebook, 123 pages
Published March 23rd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634771303 (ISBN13: 9781634771306)
Edition LanguageEnglish


A Free Dreamer Review: The Empty Hourglass (Deal with a Devil) by Cornelia Grey


Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

The Empty HourglassThomas Escott has always wanted to be a toymaker, yet just as he achieves his dream, an accident claims his right hand. He’s certain his life is over—until he hears about groundbreaking prosthetics being made by a reclusive inventor.

Jethro Hastings is perfectly content to live alone up in the mountains working on a secret masterpiece: a humanoid automaton that will change the scientific community forever. He’s behind schedule, and the date of the unveiling is fast approaching, so when Thomas shows up on his doorstep offering help in exchange for a mechanical hand, Jethro agrees. Time, after all, is running out on another deal he’s made: one with the devil.

The devil gives Jethro’s inventions life, but he can just as quickly take life away—Jethro’s, to be exact. As the sand in the devil’s hourglass falls, marking the time until the end of the deal, inventions go haywire, people get hurt, and Thomas realizes he needs Jethro just as much as his prosthetic. Now he must find a way to save Jethro’s soul, but negotiating with a devil is just as difficult as it sounds.

Review: First of all, while this is part of a series, “The Empty Hourglass” is a stand alone. Every book set in the “Deal with a Devil” universe can be read independently. They only have one minor character in common.

I was really looking forward to this book. I absolutely loved the first short story of this universe, “Devil at the Crossroads”, and “The Circus of the Damned” was pretty good too. And when there was a promise of a freaky, steampunky prosthetic, I was ecstatic. Apparently I have a real thing for that. Anyway, my expectations were very high and unfortunately the book couldn’t quite live up to them.

I liked that Thomas was a bit of an underdog. I would’ve liked to read more about his background, though. It’s not every day you meet somebody who grew up on the streets and then turned into a toy maker of all things in your M/M books. That could have made for a really interesting story, but unfortunately the author didn’t really use that potential.

Jethro is your typical eccentric inventor: Kind of grumpy and a bit of a weird loner, but with a good heart and a tragic past to boot. His characterization was a little shallow, leaving him with little depth and a lot of stereotypes.

One of the reasons why I loved the other two books in this universe is the sex. Cornelia Grey can write incredibly sensual, delightfully different sex scenes. Unfortunately, this time she chose to leave the sex non-explicit, which is a real shame. I usually don’t mind fade-to-black scenes, but I was really looking forward to how and if the author would incorporate the prosthetic. That unfortunately didn’t happen here and I was a little disappointed, to be honest.

I loved that Cornelia Grey actually decided to have a real ghost show up. I’ve never seen a similar take on ghosts and mysticism. That was really well done. But again, a little more detail would have been really nice.

The world building was unfortunately rather lacking. There’s talk about a big war that happened a few years back. Thomas was even recruited as an engineer and the experience seems to have left some deep impressions. There are also a lot of veterans who were injured during said war. However, we never do find out any details about the war. Who fought against whom? And why? For how long? And so on. I really expected more details since it played such an important role in the story.

The ending felt a little forced, as if the author realized she had to write a happy end of some sort and hastily came up with a magical solution for it all.

Overall, this was the weakest book of the series so far. It lacked in details and didn’t even have any of Grey’s usually sizzling hot sex scenes. It seems like the series gets weaker with every new book the author writes. A shame, because “Devil at the Crossroads” was simply amazing. But now I finally want a book solely about Farfarello, the devil everybody’s making deals with.

Cover: I don’t particularly like the cover by Jay Asher. It doesn’t really fit with the other two books, which have absolutely gorgeous covers. There’s just too much brown for my liking and the picture looks kind of blurry.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon  other links to  come

Book details:

ebook, 264 pages
Expected publication: April 9th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleThe Empty Hourglass
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesDeal with a Devil

Love Alternative Romance? Don’t Miss Out On Dusk Peterson’s ‘Rebirth’ (Excerpt and Giveaway)



Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon # 1) by Dusk Peterson
Release Date: February, 2016

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press
Cover Artist: Dusk Peterson


“‘This prisoner deserves special treatment.’ The hooded man looked over at the young man again.”

Elsdon Taylor, a prisoner accused of committing a terrible murder. Layle Smith, a torturer with a terrible past. Their meeting in the Eternal Dungeon appears certain to bring out the worst in both men.

Yet neither man is quite what he appears. As the prisoner and his torturer begin to be drawn toward each other, the ripple effects of their meeting will have a powerful impact on other inhabitants of the Eternal Dungeon: Layle’s faithful guard, struggling to contain his doubts. A younger guard determined to take any shortcuts necessary to ensure that his life follows the path he has already chosen. An old love from Layle’s past, still sorrowing. And most of all, a prisoner who has not yet arrived at the Eternal Dungeon, but whose fate will depend on how Layle handles Elsdon Taylor . . . and on how Elsdon handles Layle Smith.

A winner of the 2011 Rainbow Awards (within the “The Eternal Dungeon” omnibus), this tale of love and adventure can be read on its own or as the first volume in The Eternal Dungeon, a speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael’s House, The Eternal Dungeon, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.


Pages or Words: 130,000 words
Categories: Adventure, Alternate Universe, Historical


“Do you have any questions?” the Seeker asked. “About the routine of the dungeon? The times you will be fed? The questions you will be asked? The instruments of torture I use?”

The faintness went beyond Elsdon’s voice this time and entered his body. He could feel the sweat upon his skin; he wondered whether he had turned white. He blurted out, “What if I’m innocent?”

The Seeker’s gaze did not waver. “If you are innocent, then I trust that our time together will be short. I would far rather find a prisoner innocent than guilty; too many prisoners are sent to us, and the quicker that we can release them from here, the better. If your release is to the lighted world rather than to the executioner, it is likely to come more quickly. But we are commissioned by the Queen to ascertain the truth of accusations of death-sentence crimes, and we are committed to fulfill that commission. Please don’t waste my time with false pleas of innocence, Mr. Taylor. It will only make our time together more difficult.”

Buy the book:




Meet the author:

Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction: alternate history, historical fantasy, and retrofuture science fiction, including lgbtq novels and other types of diverse fiction. Friendship, family affection, faithful service, and romance often occur in the stories. A resident of Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books. Visit duskpeterson.com for e-books and free fiction.

Where to find the author:


Tour Dates & Stops:

Parker Williams, Divine Magazine, Jessie G. Books, MM Good Book Reviews, Sassygirl Books, Oh My Shelves,

Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Full Moon Dreaming, Bayou Book Junkie, The Hat Party, BFD Book Blog,

Kirsty Loves Books, The Jena Wade, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Book Lovers 4Ever, Outrageous Heroes,

Wake Up Your Wild Side, Mikky’s World of Books, Nephy Hart, Inked Rainbow Reads, Velvet Panic



Enter to win. Must be 18 years of age or older. Link and prize provided by Pride Promotions.


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What Happens After ‘The Worst Bad Thing’? J.E. Birk Talks Inspiration, Characters and ‘The Worst Bad Thing’ (author guest blog)


The Worst Bad Thing-build

The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk
reamspinner Press
Cover art by Catt Ford

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to  have J.E. Birk here today to share some thoughts about writing and her latest release, The Worst Bad Day.  Welcome, J.E, we have a few questions for you this morning.

  • Where do you normally draw your inspiration for a book from?  A memory, a myth, a place or journey, or something far more personal?

First of all, thanks so much for having me on your blog! My inspiration comes from everywhere. The Worst Bad Thing, unfortunately, was inspired by a horrible tragedy that happened within my community. Writing this book was my first attempt at working through all the emotions swirling in and around me during that time.

  • Contemporary, supernatural, fantasy, or science fiction narratives or something else?  Does any genre draw you more than another when writing it or reading it and why does it do so?

I’m all about contemporary. I’ll occasionally dabble in some fantasy or sci-fi, but it’s gotta be super-mega-awesome and totally draw me in. I’m not sure why I like reading about the more average and sometimes mundane sides of life—it’s possibly because I like to convince myself I could run into my favorite characters on the street at any moment. That’s infinitely easier to do when you’re not reading a book set on Moon Alpha One.

With all that said, I’d like to try writing a sci-fi novel someday, mostly to see if I could actually accomplish all that world-building. Fantasy and sci-fi authors are my heroes—world building is so difficult.

  • If you were to be stranded on a small demi-planet, island, or god forbid LaGuardia in a snow storm, what books would you take to read or authors on your comfort list?

Can I please just take my e-reader and/or my entire bookshelf? Pretty please? There are so many! In the romance genre, some of my favorite comfort reads are books by Johanna Lindsey (been reading her since I was, like, eleven) and Kate Sherwood (Kaaate…I need more Dan…). I also strongly heart the Coda series by Marie Sexton after a difficult day.

That doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the comfort reads I’d want with me. Particularly if I was trapped in LaGuardia.

  • How early in your life did you begin writing?

Probably as soon as someone deemed it safe to hand me a writing utensil and teach me the alphabet. I’ve always loved telling stories. I grew up on a dairy farm, and I used to sit with the cows and make up stories about their lives. I married them off, assigned them children. Given that they were all lady-cows, one could argue this was my first venture into writing LGBTQ romance.

  • If you were writing your life as a romance novel, what would the title be?

Finally Made it to Almost There, which is also my favorite six-word memoir. I love six-word memoirs.

Blurb for The Worst Bad Thing

By J.E. Birk

Iceland, Stonehenge, London, Paris….

To the casual observer, it looks like a dream trip. For Tate O’Reilly, it’s anything but. He’s a man on a mission to rectify a critical mistake, and there’s nothing to hold him back—certainly not friends or family. For Tate, it all comes down to one simple thing—he must fix what he has broken.

What he doesn’t count on is meeting Gabriel Carillo. Gabriel is kind, mysterious, and seems to be on his own mission to ensure their paths keep crossing. But Tate’s hiding an awfully big secret—one he’s certain even Gabriel can’t forgive.

Does a man’s past have to determine his future? In the middle of cities filled with history, Tate is going to find out.

Buy links for The Worst Bad Thing

DreamspinnerAmazon | Barnes and Noble | All Romance Ebooks

About the Author

Biography for J.E. Birk

J.E. Birk has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them since she was introduced to the alphabet. She hails from Colorado, where you can usually find her skiing, training for a 5K she won’t end up running, or watching grown men run into each other on football fields and in hockey rinks. You can follow her ramblings on Twitter by looking for @jebirkwrites. She’s also been known to ramble on Facebook as J Elisabeth Birk.