A Paul B Review: Wolfsong by T.J. Klune

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

WolfsongI always anticipate the next TJ Klune novel.  When I found out that this book would be a shifter book, I was doubly excited.   I am happy to say that I was not disappointed.

Oxnard Matheson was twelve when his father walked out.  His father told Ox that he had to be a man now that he was leaving.  Without his father’s income from the garage that he worked at, Ox’s mother struggled to pay the bills.  Fortunately, the garage owner, Gordo, took Ox under his wing.  Gordo made sure that Ox and his mother held onto their house and gave Ox work in his garage even though he wasn’t of legal age.  This would continue until Ox’s sixteenth birthday, when Gordo and the guys at the garage welcomed him as an official member of their crew. On his way home, he runs into a ten year old boy.

Joe Bennett’s life has not been easy in his short ten years.  Most of his pack was slaughtered by hunters when his father (the alpha) and uncle were out looking for food.  The family moves east afterward.  Then a previous pack member kidnaps and tortures Joe to get back at Joe’s father for not protecting the pack.  Joe is rescued six weeks later but the damage is done.  The kidnapper escapes and Joe goes into a shell.  He does not speak for 18 months until he meets a young man who smells of “candy canes and pinecones and epic and awesome.”  Joe’s family is shocked and grateful that this young man, Ox, has turned Joe around after just meeting.  Much to their surprise, the young future alpha of their pack gives Ox the stone carved wolf statue after just meeting.  This is a wolf shifter’s most prized possession given at birth and usually only given to one’s mate.

The years go by and Joe’s father Thomas teaches his son the lessons needed to become the next alpha of the pack.  Thomas also sees something in Ox and starts teaching him as well, as he will be the next alpha mate.  But troubles from the past come back to haunt this small but powerful pack.  The kidnapper returns and this time sets his sights on Ox.  The pack once again must mourn the loss of some of their own.  However, will the actions of Joe to exact revenge on the kidnapper be the one thing to not only tear the pack apart but his relationship with Ox?

The characters in this book are charming, delightful and strong when need be.  Ox might not be the brightest character around, but his strong character draws people to him.  Thomas gives him the choice to become a werewolf but Ox turns it down each time saying it is not right for him at the moment.  He leads what would turn into his pack of humans at the garage when Gordo leaves with Joe.  The rest of the Bennett pack looks to him for leadership in Joe’s absence.  Joe’s exuberance over meeting his mate after suffering from PTSD from the kidnapping is cute.  You would think he was a four year old at Christmas time.  While Joe going after his kidnapper seems like a good idea to someone who has suffered at his hands, the decision will affect the rest of the pack for the next three years.  Joe’s refusal to talk to the pack is especially hard on Ox.  Once reunited though, you get the feeling that this will be a power couple in the shifter world. 

The cover art by Reese Duncan is stark and perfect for this book.  The cover shows two wolf paw prints on a dark background.  It sets up the tone for the middle and latter parts of the book perfectly

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 400 pages
Published June 20th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634771656 (ISBN13: 9781634771658)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: 7&7 – Anthology of Virtue and Vice by Andrea Speed , Carole Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Serena Yates, Clare London, J. Tullos Hennig

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Rating: 4.25 out of 5

7 & 7 AnthologyHumankind possesses a dual nature, the ability to rise to the brightest heights—or sink to the darkest and most perverse depths.

What inspires some to reach the pinnacles of virtue while others cannot resist the temptations of vice? Is it something innate, or a result of destiny and circumstance?

Delve into the minds and spirits of saints and sinners alike with a collection of stories that explore the call toward good or evil—and the consequences of answering it. For while rewards certainly await the righteous, there are also pleasures to be found in the darkness. Venture off the expected path with some of the most innovative voices in LGBT speculative fiction as they present their unique takes on the classic vices and virtues.

Many authors including: Andrea Speed, Brandon Witt, Sean Michael, J Tullos Hennig, Carol Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Rhys Ford, Clare London, Pearl Love, Jamie Fessenden, J. S. Cook, Amy Rae Durresson, Serena Yates

I found this to be an absolutely wonderful  anthology…however not if you are looking for stories of romance exactly.  This anthology is released from DSP Publications which means its stories are less romance based and more driven towards content elsewhere, which in some cases here is horror.  That’s fine, if those are not to your taste, skip over them and proceed to the next.  This is a wonderful smorgasbord of authors and a wonderful way to taste their various narrative talents.

Which ones were some of my absolute favorites?

Heirs to Grace and Infinity by C. Cummings – 5 stars (31 pages)

Urban fantasy in which a fugitive sorcerer matches wits with the bureau’s top agent to save children.  Its imaginative, wonderful in its world building and keeps you on your seat.  It was just terrific in every way from the characters to the plot. C. Cummings is one of my favorite authors. This is why.

Hope by Rick Reed – 5 stars out of 5 (47 pages)

Looking for hope in crises around a mother’s death and one’s personal life.  This was such a deeply moving story of loss and hope.  One man moves home to his mother’s house after she’s died, to deal with the aftermath of her loss.  His grief, those of her friends who loved and took care of her…and the house that’s now his and the new location.  Its powerful, moving and so beautifully done.

The Darkness of the Sun by Amy Rae Durreson – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A grieving Priest finds his faith.  Another story that is based in loss and takes a different tack altogether.  The author has a wonderful feel  for the trail and the life of this simple priest who has lost his way.

Prudence for Fools by Sean Michael – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A disgraced seer is thrown out of court and returns to the tribe of his husband but is haunted by his visions.  I loved this  story by Sean Michael.  This seer and his husband, a couple of long years, are wonderful and their relationship is one I connected to immediately.  Michael pulls us into this world and the situation quickly.  Another story that could have filled twice its pages.  I found it gripping, the couple moving in their deeply loving relationship and the tribe is one I wanted to learn more about.

Red Light Special by Rhys Ford – 4.5 stars out of 5 (38 pages)

An Elf, a Knight and a Succubus plus Detroit and one of my favorite authors who writes with snark, a vividness thats startling and a pizazz that flies off the page.  Really.  This is a story that needs no review.  Just read it.  It works.  It hilarious and sexy.

Horseboy by J. Tullos Henry – 4.5 stars out of 5

A Horseboy of the Lebanon, a Templar Knight, and intimate desert secrets.  A bit of history, a bit of the supernatural.  A short story I found that works on every level, it kept me connected and involved in the action and the time period.  Great job.

There are many in the 4 star to 3 star range. Those I enjoyed as well.  And won’t cover here.  There were only a few that I was disappointed in.  That’s a great number is an anthology this size.

The Gate by J. S. Cook – 2.75 stars out of 5 (21 pages)

A gay man sees a seedier, dark side of the wartime effort.  Set in the 40’s during the wartime, I felt this went nowhere.  Little setup, little ending.  I know the author was going for noir but it went south instead.

The Rendering by J. Inman – 1 star

Fat gay guy goes on a date set up by a computer dating service and ends up….

Well, I saw the ending coming from the very beginning.  Why?  For starters, I knew the historical ingredients of the product being sold and the links being made in the story.  The clues were obvious as to where it was going to go.  Some have called this fat shaming…others strictly horror.  I thought it just beyond obvious and boring.  That it came from one of my favorite authors made me want to cry.  That’s the horror.

Those are the highs and the lows.  The highs and all the terrific stories in the middle far outweigh the lows.  I highly recommend this anthology.  Its a feast all around.  Pick it up and start sampling.

Cover is simple and it works.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications

Book Details:

ebook, 360 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by DSP Publications (first published March 10th 2016)
ISBN 1634773608 (ISBN13: 9781634773607)
Edition LanguageEnglish

An Ali Audiobook Review: How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune and Narrator Derrick McClain

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 Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

How to be A Normal Person AudioGustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

I really enjoyed this book.  This author has a distinct writing style and I realize it doesn’t work for everyone but I personally adore it.  I’ve read books of his that have made me laugh out loud and ones that have made me cry.  This book was the best of both worlds.  There’s the trademark humor Klune brings to his stories but there were also a lot of scenes that were serious and filled with emotions.
I thought both Gus and Casey were great characters.  Neither are the traditional type of characters we usually see in romance novels and that is a good thing in my opinion.  Gus is quirky and Casey is asexual.  As the story develops they learn about each other’s unique characteristics and they fall in love.  The romance is a slow burn and the progression of the relationship felt realistic.  There are some great side characters in this and the scenes they are in added some of the funniest parts to the story.  Gus’ memories of his deceased father add some of the more emotional scenes and his dad is just as much a side character as the living characters are.
I did this on audio and I thought the narrator was really good. I’ve done a lot of this author’s books on audio and I think his storytelling style works well in this format.
This book is a definite recommend from me.  It has a bit of everything.  There is some humor and some serious emotions, there are great characters and it is low on the angst and steam levels.
Cover by Reese Dante.  I love this cover.  I think it fits the story perfectly.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:
Audible Audio, Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins
Published April 15th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published October 16th 2015)
Original TitleHow To Be A Normal Person
ASINB01E9E5JOE
Edition LanguageEnglishsettingOregon (United States)

A Lila Audiobook Review: Lollipop (Candy Man #3) by Amy Lane and Narrator Philip Alces

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

LollipopEzra Kellerman flew across country to see if he had another chance with the man he let slip through his fingers. He didn’t. Rico has moved on, but he doesn’t just leave his ex high and dry. Instead, Rico entrusts his family and friends with Ezra’s care. Ezra, confused, hurt, and lost, clings to Rico’s cousin and his boyfriend as the lifelines they are—but their friend Miguel is another story.

Miguel Rodriguez had great plans and ambition—but a hearty dose of real life crushed those flat. When Miguel finds himself partially in charge of the befuddled, dreamy, healing Ezra, he’s pretty resentful at first. But Ezra’s placid nature and sincere wonder at the simple life Miguel has taken for granted begin to soften Miguel’s hardened shell. Miguel starts to notice that Ezra isn’t just amazingly sweet—he’s achingly beautiful as well. Suddenly Miguel is fending off every single man on the planet to give Ezra room to get over Rico—while fighting a burning suspicion that the best thing to help Ezra get over his broken heart is Miguel.

Lollipop is a sweet make-believe contemporary story. It’s hard to believe someone can live the MCs’ lives, but at the same time, the boardwalk/Sacramento settings grounds the story into reality. Even so, the small glances of fantasy/paranormal abilities don’t retract from the overall story.

From the moment Miguel sets eyes on Ezra, he’s drawn to him. His confusion to his reaction had him trying to put Ezra down, but when he realizes the polished man’s already broken. Miguel wants to protect Ezra and bring him back to life. Seeing Ezra being dismissed by Rico shows Miguel that they weren’t as different as he first thought– they were both invisible.

When Ezra arrives at Rico’s apartment, he realizes his mistake. He hadn’t been strong enough to stand up to his father, and now, it was too late to get Rico back. Having this knowledge does nothing to comfort Ezra’s broken heart. Fortunately, he finds an insta-family ready to help him get over Rico and all the years of hurt he endured living under his father’s thumb.

The story had some slow and awkward moments that take away from the main characters’ relationship. The dialogue and the banter worked with the rest of the series, and it was nice to see how the relationships on the previous books have evolved.

So far, this installment is my favorite in the series. The connection between Miguel and Ezra was a slow-burn, based on a friendship and how much they care for each other. Together, they discovered their place in the grand scheme of things and learned to be there for each other.

Overall, this story is about finding your place, love, friendship, and family. Ezra and Miguel found much more than love; they found acceptance and a future they could work together for. Plus, we get some clues into the next book in the series.

As with the previous two books, Philip Alces did an excellent job with the characters’ voices. He kept them consistent through all the Candy Man stories. He did a good job with the Spanish bits and the female voices, too.

The cover by Paul Richmond matches the previous two books and it’s an adaptation from the ebook one. It has Ezra’s lollipops and Clopper & Jake on it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner | Amazon | Audible

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Philip Alces
Length:  9 hours and 13 minutes

Published:  March 21, 2016 (Audio Edition) by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN:  B01D5DDUAA
Edition Language: English

Series:  Candy Man
Book #1: Candy Man
Book #2: Bitter Taffy
Book #3: Lollipop

Tara Lain on ‘Writing an Ugly Beautiful Boy of Romance’ – Beauty, Inc Tour (excerpt and giveaway)

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Beauty, Inc.
(The Pennymaker Tales #3) 
by Tara Lain

Writing an Ugly Beautiful Boy of Romance

Hi. I’m Tara Lain and I’m delighted to be here today to help launch my new fairy tale romance, BEAUTY, INC. I often say i write the Beautiful Boys of Romance. My readers feed that back to me by talking about my beautiful boys. So who are these guys? Tara Lain’s Beautiful Boys are a little hard to describe, but people say they know them when they see them. Are they really “boys”? Not truly. Yes, my heroes are generally young, most under 30, max 35, but they’re still men, even the college students. They’re boys in the sense that we think of them affectionately, want to give them hugs — or more than that if they weren’t all gay!  LOL. Are they beautiful? YES! On the inside, at the very least. Even my quirky, funny heroes have beautiful qualities that make them memorable and lovable. Frequently, they’re also physically beautiful, sometimes almost supernaturally so.

So boys in the sense of huggable, beautiful on many levels — what else? Charismatic. Even in my ménage series in which heroines play key roles, my heroes stand out for their uniqueness and memorability. Readers say there are no other guys quite like them. They almost always have faults and quirks that make them human and relatable. They also have great strengths that they sometimes only come to realize in the course of the stories.

Famously, many of my beautiful boys are flamboyant. When i started writing at the beginning of 2011, it was rare to see gay male characters that acted –well, gay. Gay heroes at the time tended to be “straight guys who happened to have sex with men”. Not that all gay men are flamboyant or over the top, but some are. It’s a quality I happen to value and love to write, so I’d say close to a third of my heroes have a queenly edge.

Quite important, almost all my heroes are driven to live an authentic life — sometimes from the beginning of the book, or at least before the end.  Authenticity appears to be my underlying theme that drives most of my stories.

In my new book, BEAUTY, INC., which is a contemporary romance based on a Beauty and the Beast theme, I introduce my first ugly Beautiful Boy. Magnus Strong is seriously scarred and, for reasons no one knows at the beginning of the book, he’s never attempted to get his scars fixed. Just as in the original story, it was my challenge to make this ugly, scarred man worthy of the love of my beautiful Belle Belleterre – and the beta readers of my books say it’s a success. They love Magnus and consider him one of the most beautiful of my Beautiful Boys of Romance. I hope you’ll love him too.

Do you have any thoughts on the Beautiful Boys of Romance? Who do you think they are?

 
Blurb:
Is beauty only skin deep?
Chemist Dr. Robert “Belle” Belleterre loves flowers, green trees, his best friend Judy, and “his baby”: the new face cream he developed to help put his father’s small cosmetics company on the map. Sadly he gets no help from his alcoholic, gambling-addicted father who loses Belle in a poker game to Magnus Strong, the CEO of Beauty, Inc. the largest American cosmetics company—a man infamous for his scarred ugliness.
Belle finds himself uprooted from his home, living in a wildly crazy apartment in New York owned by Mr. Pennymaker, and completely unprepared for his mad attraction to the charismatic Strong. Feeling like a traitor, Belle fights his passion only to see more and more of the goodness and humility hidden by Strong’s ugly face. But when Belle’s family starts manipulating his life again, the odds turn against happiness for beautiful Belle and his beloved beast.
Available for purchase at
            
Excerpt 

Chapter One

 

BELLE HELD his breath and released a small amount of cream from the new container into his gloved hand. It just looked like a pretty bottle, but its airtight cap and unique double-walled design reduced oxygen impact on the contents—he hoped! His family’s future depended on a hunk of plastic.

Two weeks his cream formulation had been stored in this new packaging—enough time for it to degrade and discolor like so many high-end cosmetics did, the kiss of death with discriminating buyers. He stared at the cream under the brilliant light on the laboratory table. No change of tint. No yellowing. His heart pounded. He sniffed. Fresh as the day it was packaged. Finally he dabbed a finger into the cream and slicked it between thumb and middle finger. No alteration of texture. Silky, smooth, and rich. The smile spread across his face like the cream itself. Rich. Just like this new product would make his father.

“Tell me it works!”

Dr. Robert Belleterre—Belle—stared up at Colin, the head of the chemistry lab at Bella Terra Cosmetics, and suppressed the urge to jump up and down. “All the tests indicate it works perfectly. You’ll have samples of the formulation in the new containers by the end of the week. I want to put this under the microscope to be sure there’s been no change of chemical structure, but it sure as shit looks good!” He laughed.

Colin smiled. “In time for Cosmetique?”

Belle nodded. “They can take a few samples to Las Vegas to show to select customers.”

“Jesus, man, you did it!” He grabbed Belle in a tight, one-armed guy hug and held up his fingers as he ticked off the benefits. “Reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, no parabens or artificial preservatives, and the cream holds up in the packaging. This is going to set a new standard, and no other company will be able to meet it. Not even Beauty, Inc.”

Belle extricated himself gently. “I wish we could afford to do the testing to prove the product claims. It would go to market faster.”

Colin shrugged. “Your dad swears we can’t afford it. But seriously, when women try it, they’ll love it and we’ll have the best evidence in the world. Right on their faces. I can’t believe what you’ve done in less than a year.”

“Thanks, Colin.” He’d quit sleeping and meals had become optional, but he’d given everything to keep Bella Terra, his father’s company, viable—tough duty for a small manufacturer in a field of giants. But now he had a cream so beyond just a mere cosmetic that it could change the face of the industry—literally.

“Belle.”

Belle glanced over his shoulder toward the door to the lab, where his father peeked in. That was usually the only body part of his father’s that ever made it into the laboratories these days. Since Belle had finished his PhD the previous summer, Ron Belleterre hadn’t looked at a color or emollient. Just a lot of poker chips and booze. “Yes, Father?”

“Can I speak to you, please?”

Belle turned to Colin. “Take a look under the microscope. I’ll do the same when I get back.” He pulled off his lab coat, hung it on the hook by the door, and followed his father into the hall.

Tall, fair, and handsome, Rondell Belleterre radiated energy, most of it nervous. His moments of rest and peace seemed to get fewer and fewer. Hard not to worry about him. “Yes, sir?”

“Come to the office.” His father took off at a good clip, and Belle fell in beside him. Ron glanced at him. “How’s the new packaging?”

“It’s testing well. I think we’ve got it this time.”

“I’ll be frank, Belle. You have to have it this time, because this whole project is costing me a fucking fortune. Expensive ingredients, bank-busting antioxidants, and now these damned containers that make Fort Knox look like easy access. Shit, I’m not made of money.”

Belle controlled his sigh. “It will open a whole new market to us. There are a lot of women who simply won’t use a cream on their face that contains parabens. With the new product, they’ll flock to Bella Terra.”

His father scowled. “They’d better. I’d like to see some red on the competitor’s sales radar for a change.” He sighed. “I doubt Beauty, Inc. is worried about us.” He powered through his office door and stopped in front of Hester, the secretary he still insisted he needed. “Would you have Rusty and Rick come in, please?”

“I think they went to lunch, sir.”

Ron frowned. “It’s ten forty-five.”

She gazed at him, but deep down her eyes said, “Duh.”

“Forget it.” Inside his inner office, Ron sat in his giant desk chair and pointed at one of the leather guest chairs. “Sit.”

A drawing of the Bella Terra booth at the upcoming Cosmetique Conference in Las Vegas lay on his father’s desk. Belle nodded toward the graphic. “Are you ready for the conference?”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about.”

“We can have a limited amount of demonstration units for your private showings.” He had to gulp a breath to contain his excitement. “This is it, Father. We’ll outstrip any single product Magnus Strong at Beauty, Inc. has got.”

“If the ugly bastard even notices.”

“I’m sure Strong didn’t get to the top of the beauty industry by ignoring highly successful competitors. We’re not going to top Beauty, Inc. They’re huge. But we can replace them as the number one wrinkle cream.”

His father’s eyes lit up. Belle softly sighed. Ron hadn’t always been so greedy. The addictions took their toll. Poor Father.

“I want you to come to Cosmetique.”

“What?” Belle shook his head. “No, sir. You know I hate those big events. I’m needed here in the lab.”

“We’re unveiling your new product to our best customers. No one knows it like you do.”

Belle frowned. “Rusty’s in charge of marketing. It’s his job to understand our products.”

“He’s not you. Plus you have the passion. We need you. Colin can handle the lab. It’s settled.” His father shoved a copy of Forbes across his desk, featuring a close-up photo of Magnus Strong—the face the cosmetics magnate wore like a badge of honor. A deep scar ran across his eyebrow, missed his eye, but still distorted the lid so it drooped slightly. Another dissecting slash had marred his cheek, deformed his top lip into a permanent sneer, and left a stripe across the bottom lip, while his scarred, broken nose gave him the look of a has-been prizefighter. Ugliness that created beauty. His father laughed. “If anybody can tame the beast, it’s you.”

Belle frowned.

 

 

The Pennymaker Tales Series
Sinders and Ash
(The Pennymaker Tales Series, #1)
by Tara Lain
Available for order at
           

 

Driven Snow

 

(The Pennymaker Tales, #2)
by Tara Lain


Available for purchase at
            

 

About the Author
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best­selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. She lives with her soul­mate husband and her soul­mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!
You can find Tara at
               
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