A BJ Review: Withered + Sere (Immemorial Year #1) by T.J. Klune

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Rating:   3 stars out of 5

Withered+Sere3Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.

One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the Northern Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.

It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.

The world has died. This is the story of its remains.

Like some DSP stories, this is not actually a romance and there is also no sex. It’s very dark, I knew that going in, violence, death and cannibalism in a barren, brutal wasteland with no laws. But none of those things bothered me in the least. Yet this story was hard for me in some ways, so should say those bits up front.

The beginning didn’t draw me in immediately. If I hadn’t been reading it for review, I’m not sure if I would have continued on because I was just really confused by it. The POV starts out omniscient but moves to being from Cavalo’s third person POV that starts out feeling distant (calling him the man and seeming outside of him) before slipping in closer and more into his head. There are still times later in the book when it almost seemed to slip back towards omniscient. I was actually about 20% in before I started feeling involved with the story.

Another thing that was hard for me is that there are quite a large number of scenes that are sort of dream or flashback or hallucination sequences that move around in time and place. In addition to bringing in backstory, these work to show how messed up the MC’s mind is—an insanity of a sort like when so much has happened that one cannot hold onto their mind. But there were quite a lot of them, some lengthy and involved, and it tended to pull me from the story.

For me, this book read like a nightmare… one where dark, scary, awful things happen but they just don’t fully make sense and then I wake up and still can’t put it all together and am left unsettled, confused, and shaking my head. That was how I felt at the end of this story. Perhaps some small part of this has to do with the cliffhanger ending but also to be perfectly honest, must admit that sometimes I felt lost.

Those things being said, this book has some fascinating post-apocalyptic world-building going on! While I didn’t feel a strong connection with the main characters, I did find both Bad Dog and the robot SIRS interesting and compelling. In fact, I think my favorite chapter of the book was “the ballad of bad dog.” When I read that title, I was so hesitant to read on as I know ballads are often tragic. But it actually not only tells the story of how Bad Dog came to Cavelo, but contains the most tender scene of the whole story.

It was my first read from this author, so I had no idea what to expect and tend to think after having read some blurbs and reviews from other stories, that it’s not representative of his work in general but rather a branching out into new areas.

The cover by Paul Richmond just absolutely creeps me out (and not in a good way)… luckily I had not seen it prior to requesting the story or might have had second thoughts. I’m not sure how exactly it relates to the story other than giving an impression of its awful, bleak world.

Overall, cover and story alike leave me with the feeling like awaking from a disjointed and unsettling nightmare. A nightmare that I will be compelled to revisit when book two comes out.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon


Book Details:  

ebook, 280 pages
Published April 19th 2016 by DSP Publications
Original TitleWithered + Sere
ISBN 1634765575 (ISBN13: 9781634765572)
Edition LanguageEnglish

T.J. Klune Is Here on Release Day for Withered + Sere (Immemorial Year #1) (guest post and excerpt)

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Withered + Sere (Immemorial Year #1) by T.J. Klune
DS
P Publications
Cover Art by Paul Richmond

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have T.J. Klune here today to share his thoughts on writing, and the release of his latest novel, Withered + Sere.  Welcome, T.J.

✍✍✍✍✍

When I started writing Withered + Sere, I knew that what would make or break the book would be the secondary characters. Given that W+S contains the largest cast of characters I’ve ever written, the book would die a quick and violent death if those characters weren’t memorable and unique.

Aside from the two leads, there is one character that is in almost every scene in W+S and it’s sequel, Crisped + Sere, and that’s Cavalo’s mutt, the aptly named Bad Dog. The relationship between Cavalo and Bad Dog is almost as much of the heart of the novel as is the love story between the two main characters. Bad Dog is more than a constant companion to Cavalo. He’s also a sign that Cavalo’s mind might not be as it once was, as you’ll see from the excerpt below. W+S and it’s follow up deal with the ideas of what is real and what isn’t, how far the depths of insanity can go, and the bonds that ties us all together.

This scene takes place at the beginning of the book, and serves as an introduction to the relationship between a man and his dog.

*****

The doe had made it farther than Cavalo would have thought. The blood trail led them to the edge of the woods. Beyond the stunted forest lay the remains of a massive old road, broken into pieces, chunks of black rock upended. Cavalo knew this was called a “freeway” in the Time Before. People used these roads for travel in motor cars. He’d seen the remains, the burnt-out husks of these motor cars, dead as the area around them. No one could remember how they worked, only that they had been. There had been rumors years ago that someone in the east had a working motorized car, but it had never appeared.

Long distances in such short time. It seemed impossible.

Now this freeway meant something different. It was a line. A division. One that was foolish to cross. To cross was to go west. To go west meant to enter the Deadlands.

Cavalo looked at the blood trail on the ground. Fresh drops at his feet. Away from the forest he knew.

Onto the freeway.

Across the freeway. Into the other side of the woods. West.

“Shit,” he whispered.

Shit, Bad Dog agreed, sitting next to the man.

He couldn’t just let the deer go. She was fat, which was surprising. Good, but surprising. Cavalo didn’t think her pregnant, not with the deformities she had, but she had to have come from somewhere herself, so it was possible. But if she wasn’t, it would be enough meat to last weeks. He could avoid the town. He could avoid the people. Hank and Alma would be worried about him, he knew, but he’d been gone for longer. What had it been now? Three months? It couldn’t be that long, could it? They would understand. They always did.

“What do you think?” he asked.

Bad Dog rose from his haunches and sniffed at the blood again. If we do it, we must be quick. Like the wind.

“Yeah,” Cavalo muttered. “Like the wind.” He looked across the freeway again. It looked no different than the forest behind him. But it was different, he knew. Far different.

The first deer in weeks. Probably just over the road. Right into the tree line. “Probably already dead,” the man said aloud. “Just waiting for us.”

Dead, dead, dead, the dog said, rubbing against him.

“We get in and get out.”

Like we were never there.

“They won’t even know.”

No one will. In and out.

“You ready?”

Bad Dog yipped and watered a dusty bush. I pissed, he said proudly. That bush is mine. Now I’m ready.

The man nodded. “Let’s go.” He hesitated only for a second….

… and stepped onto the freeway.

Bad Dog immediately followed, his toenails clicking against the broken road, nose to the ground against the blood trail. Cavalo looked from side to side, scanning the tree line ahead of him. The shadows were beginning to lengthen. Nothing moved among the trees aside from the birds, calling their songs as loudly as they did on the other side of the freeway. It looked the same. It looked exactly the same.

But it felt so very different.

The man felt it even as he put one foot in front of another. There was a chill here that had nothing to do with the mute sky overhead. It was darker, the trees more dense and stark. The air felt thicker, as if pressing into a barrier that shouldn’t be crossed. He looked down and saw the blood trail, still bright and fresh. He looked back up into the woods, searching for movement.

Only the birds.

He stepped off the freeway and slid down the shallow bank. Bad Dog jumped down behind him, bumping into the back of Cavalo’s legs. They almost fell.

Sorry, Bad Dog said, looking embarrassed.

“It’s okay,” he said quietly, adjusting his back. He tried not to think of the last time he’d crossed the freeway. It was almost impossible to do on this side. He could hear their voices, somewhere far off, calling for him, lost in the haze. The man named Cavalo believed his dog could speak to him and didn’t know it was his fortieth birthday, but he most certainly did not believe in ghosts. Even if he could hear them.

Bad Dog went to the tree line, following the blood trail. He reached the trees and looked back at Cavalo, his tail still, ears perked. Coming? he asked, unaware of the other voices.

Which means they aren’t real, the man thought. Sweat dripped down his forehead. He wiped it away. He thought of the bow. It didn’t seem to be enough. Not with what was on this side of the woods. Not with what they could do.

He unclipped the rifle from his pack. It felt heavy in his hands. He checked the chamber. Loaded. Sight was clear. Safety off.

Bad Dog watched him, eyeing the gun warily. He did not like the noise that came from it. Too loud, he said, flattening his ears. Hate the boomstick. Hate it. Hate it.

Cavalo nodded. “Can’t be helped. Not this time.”

Bad Dog sighed but said nothing. He turned and trotted into the trees.

They aren’t real, the man thought, because he didn’t believe in ghosts.

He followed the dog into the woods.

Withered + Sere Blurb

Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.Withered+Sere3

One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the North Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.

It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.

The world has died.

This is the story of its remains.

Sales Links

Dreamspinner Press Publications | Amazon

About the Author

When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay, because he’s recently become a  full-time writer, and can give them the time they deserve.

Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.

And one of those things isn’t true.

(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)

Facebook: TJ Klune

Blog: tjklunebooks.blogspot.com

E-mail: tjklunebooks@yahoo.com

Withered + Sere Blog Tour:

  • April 12 – MM Good Book Reviews
  • April 13- My Fiction Nook
  • April 18 – Just Love Romance
  • April 19 – Divine Magazine
  • April 19 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • April 19 – The Novel Approach
  • April 20 – Kimi-chan Experience
  • April 21 – It’s About the Book
  • April 21 – Love Bytes
  • April 22 – Prism Book Alliance

In the Spotlight: Book, Line, and Sinker by L.J. LaBarthe

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Book, Line, and Sinker by L.J. LaBarthe
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art by Reese Dante

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook and Paperback

Blurb

After seventeen years serving in the Australian Army, Ash returns to his childhood home in the outback town of Quorn. Filled with the desire to live a happy life in peace and with loved ones, Ash is grimly determined to beat his PTSD and tackle his flashbacks.

What Ash isn’t prepared for is Jaxon, the new librarian in Quorn. Jaxon is calm, gentle, kind, and a rock for Ash’s battered psyche. Ash finds himself falling for the handsome newcomer, even as his mind and memories of the past torment him.

When he has the idea for a mobile library to bring books and entertainment to remote communities in the far north, Ash is delighted that Jaxon is with him every step of the way. But though the library, called Book, Line, and Sinker, takes off, Ash’s past continues to plague him. Can Jaxon’s love be enough to keep them together until Ash is strong enough to stand on his own?

Excerpt

“I’ll have a look.” Ash dropped down into a squat and leaned forward to read the spines of the books on the bottom shelves. There were several rows of children’s books, and he started pulling titles out, making a neat stack beside him. Before long, he had gathered quite a collection, and he stood up, grunting as his knees protested

from being in one position for so long.

“Not a bad haul,” Jaxon said, looking at the stack. “Need some help carrying it over to the register?”

“Yeah, thanks. Did you find anything?”

“A few things. I took my armload over to the counter already.”

“That was quick.” Ash grinned.

“Just call me Book Man, swifter than… something really swift.”

Ash laughed. “Righto, Book Man. Want to give me a hand here?”

Jaxon bent down to grab half the stack and stood, huffing out a breath. “They’re heavier than they look.”

“I know.” Ash grabbed the rest of the pile and stood.

“Where’s Evie?”

“Looking at toys. She thought a toy library would be a good thing to have as well, not just books and games.”

“She’s a bloody genius.” Ash followed Jaxon as he went to the counter, where a large cardboard box sat. An elderly woman was carefully packing it with paperbacks and a few hard covers, and Ash and Jaxon set their armloads of books down beside it.

“That’s a lot of books, boys,” the lady said with a warm smile on her face.

“Reading is awesome,” Jaxon said.

“I found some toys and games as well,” Evie said as she joined them. “No DVDs, though.”

“Sorry, love, a gentleman cleaned out our DVD stock last week,” the lady said.

“Oh well. Can’t win ’em all, right?” Evie grinned up at her brother and Ash grinned back. “Shall I go get the car? This lot’s going to be really heavy.”

“That’s a great idea.” Ash pulled the keys out of the pocket of his jeans and handed them to her. “Here. Go for it.”

“What about…?”

“I’ll pay for it. It’s all good.” Ash made a little shooing motion with his hands. Evie rolled her eyes at him.

“I’m going.”

About the Author

L.J. LaBarthe is a French-Australian woman, who was born during the Witching Hour, just after midnight. From this auspicious beginning, she went on to write a prize-winning short story about Humpty Dumpty wearing an Aussie hat complete with corks dangling from it when she was six years old. From there, she wrote for her high school yearbook, her university newspaper, and, from her early teens to her twenties, produced a fanzine about the local punk rock music scene. She loves music of all kinds and was once a classical pianist; she loves languages and speaks French and English and a teeny-tiny smattering of Mandarin Chinese, which she hopes to relearn properly very soon. She enjoys TV, film, travel, cooking, eating out, abandoned places, urbex, history, and researching.

L.J. loves to read complicated plots and hopes to do complex plot lines justice in her own writing. She writes paranormal, historical, urban fantasy, and contemporary Australian stories, usually m/m romance and featuring m/m erotica. She has won a Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention and another award for Best Historical Gay Novel.

L.J. lives in the city of Adelaide, and is owned by her cat.

You can find her at the following places:

Its All About the Heart’s Perspective in The Heart As He Hears It By A.M. Arthur (excerpt and giveaway)

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The Heart As He Hears It (Perspectives #3) by A.M. Arthur
 Release Date: April 19, 2016

 Goodreads Link
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Cover Artist: Lyn Taylor

Blurb

While most of his friends have moved on to “real” careers, Jon Buchanan is content skating through life as a part-time waiter and gay porn star. Firmly single thanks to a previous relationship disaster, he focuses his spare time on Henry, a dear friend dying of cancer.

And with Henry’s happiness paramount, Jon is on a mission to help Henry meet his recently discovered grandson.

Isaac Gregory hasn’t set foot outside for the past year. He has everything he needs delivered, and his remaining family knows better than to visit. When a complete stranger shows up claiming to be his grandfather—with a distractingly handsome younger man in tow—his carefully structured routines are shaken.

Despite his instant attraction, Jon senses Isaac is too fragile for a relationship. Yet tentative friendship grows into genuine companionship. And when Henry’s health begins to fail, they realize Fate brought them together for a reason.

 

Pages or Words: 253 pages
Can be read as a standalone

 Also available in audiobook format with Guy Locke as the narrator
 Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

Excerpt

Jon studied him, his gaze taking in…something. “May I ask you something?”

“Of course.” His chest flushed with anticipation.

“How do you feel when you’re with me?”

Isaac tried to push aside the anxiety still attempting to blur his thoughts, an old friend that wanted to be part of the conversation. Only anxiety wasn’t allowed in, not this time. He shuffled through different words, emotions and adjectives, searching for the one that best described how he felt about Jon. How Jon made him feel, despite being a near-stranger, bigger, stronger and far more experienced in pretty much everything. Jon still made him feel… “Safe,” Isaac said.

Jon’s eyebrows crept up. The corners of his mouth quirked into something not quite a smile. “Really?”

“Yes. The first time I saw you on my security feed, I noticed how beautiful you were.” His cheeks warmed.

Jon flat out grinned. “Yeah?”

“You’re kind and patient, and I feel safe because you don’t try to fix me, and you don’t act like I’m broken. My family thinks I’m broken, and I don’t want them to fix me. I just…” Something in Isaac shifted, accepting this new truth. “I need to feel safe, Jon. That’s why I hide. But you make me not want to hide.”

Jon’s eyes glittered. His expression melted into something so warm, so sweet, that it burned in Isaac’s blood in a way he didn’t understand at all. The strange sensation urged him to reach out, to initiate contact of some kind. Deep-rooted fear kept Isaac still, unable to make that first move. Unable to do anything except soak in the wonderment on Jon’s face.

“I think that’s the greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten,” Jon said. His voice was hoarse, strange. Almost difficult to hear, so Isaac paid more attention to his lips. “Is it cheesy to say your strength makes me want to be better too?”

Isaac shook his head. “I’m not strong.”

“You’re stronger than you think. You proved that by letting me and Henry in two weeks ago. You proved it again by going out to rescue a kitten. Twice, by the way. You told me you want to get better, get into the world, and that takes a fuck-ton of courage when you’ve lost as much as you have. I know it won’t be easy, but I still want to help you do that.”

“I know you do. I want that too.”

  Buy the book:  Amazon  | Barnes & Noble

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Meet the Author

A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone’s throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland.  She’s been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop.  She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn’t been coined yet back then) with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories. A.M. Arthur’s work is available from Samhain Publishing, Carina Press, Dreamspinner Press, and SMP Swerve.

When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder.  She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she’s an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.

Where to find the author:


Tour Dates & Stops:

Parker Williams, Divine Magazine, Oh My Shelves, Unquietly Me, The Jena Wade, Full Moon Dreaming,

Making It Happen, Book Lovers 4Ever, BFD Book Blog, The Hat Party, Alpha Book Club, V’s Reads,

Two Chicks Obsessed With Books and Eye Candy, Bayou Book Junkie, My Fiction Nook, Happily Ever Chapter,

Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Sinfully Addicted to All Male Romance, A.M. Leibowitz, Outrageous Heroes,

Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, Nephy Hart, Boys on the Brink Reviews, MM Good Book Reviews,

Molly Lolly, Gay Media Reviews, Kirsty Loves Books, Jessie G. Books, Havan Fellows, Anna Butler Fiction,

Dawn’s Reading Nook, Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Mikky’s World of Books, Inked Rainbow Reads,

Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

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