An Aurora YA Review: Carnival-Decatur by Zoe Lynne

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Rating: I give this book 4 out of 5

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

Carnival Decatur coverIn a world of lights, music, fanfare and fun, there’s not a lot left to the mundane, and nothing can be truer for four special boys whose lives intertwine in a most unusual, unexpected way. They all have secrets and supernatural powers that set them apart from the average small town high-schooler.

Jessie’s world revolves around his family’s traveling carnival. Tate’s busy being the good son to Decatur, Alabama’s first black mayor. Rand knows everyone’s secrets. And Donny wants a family. When sexuality and special abilities become each boy’s focus, a whole new realm of possibilities opens up. With an uncertain road ahead of them, their talents to see the future, hear other people’s thoughts, and manipulate wills might help them change their destined courses and find the right path.

Four boys. Each with his own cross to bear. Just trying to grow up.

Carnival – Decatur is about four boys with abilities that are certainly outside of the norm, who have to deal with their own personal problems and ambitions as well as some things that are much less mundane. The book takes place in Decatur, Alabama, and centers around the Macon Brothers’ Carnival coming into the small town, and Jesse, whose father works in the carnival business and drags his son along from place to place, not something Jesse is entirely fond of.

This book was definitely strong, and I really enjoyed the balance between characters wanting basic things that everyone wants, but also having these special abilities that they had to focus on. I thought every single one of the four boys were strong and the differences between them and what they wanted really helped communicate that. There was strong world building, even for a modern fantasy, and I really found it an interesting book to read. Each of the characters also had realistic flaws, and I have to say that I absolutely loved the fact that there was a main character of color!

Often having LGBTQIA+ representation in books causes other diversity to fall by the wayside and I love seeing books where so many different people are represented, and represented so well. I really enjoyed the plot behind the book, too, although it definitely seemed like a more character driven story than anything else. Which was great, because I think the characters were really well written. There were times with each of them when I loved them, and times when I definitely didn’t, but I enjoyed their stories and was definitely invested in what happened to all four of the boys.

Cover Artist: Allison Cassatta.  I liked the cover of this book. My personal preference is drawn covers rather than photo manipulated, but it represented the book well and I think it would draw a reader’s attention if they were in a book store or browsing online.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner eBook & Paperback      All Romance eBook      amazon   Carnival-Decatur

Book Details:

ebook, 202 pages
Published August 29th 2014 by Harmony Ink Press (first published August 28th 2014)
ISBN 1632162458 (ISBN13: 9781632162458)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Barb, the Zany Old Lady, Review: Wolf in Gucci Loafers by Tara Lain

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

 

WolfinGucciLoafersLGSequel to “The Pack and the Panther”, this is Lindsey’s story. Lindsey—flamboyant, wealthy, half-human/half-wolf, destined to live his life without a partner because wolves don’t tolerate gay men or humans, and gay human men? Never. And forget having a human mate! Wolf code forbids him from ever revealing the existence of werewolves to humans. He would be put to death, and what they would do to the human would be beyond unthinkable.

When he smells a delicious and intoxicating human scent one night and follows its trail to the sexiest human he’s ever laid eyes on, he knows immediately that his wolf would want to dominate this man and that he can never allow that to happen. When he finally meets the guy, he finds out Seth Zabrowsky is a cop helping the FBI with the recent string of kidnappings of wealthy children, and he knows that he can’t ever have his heart’s desire. A cop would be so very, very bad.

When the governor’s daughter is kidnapped, Lindsey rushes to his friend’s aide. Lindsey Vanessen and his wealthy family have supported the governor financially, and Lindsey and the man have become friends. It was the governor who actually helped Lindsey and his best friend Cole get Cole’s husband back when he was kidnapped in “The Pack and the Panther”. What Lindsey doesn’t tell Seth and the FBI is that he recognizes the warehouse where the little girl is being held, and he takes it upon himself to rescue her, but he does it in his street vigilante, little-old-lady costume. Yes, Lindsey is known on the streets as the Granny, a woman who has thwarted rapists and unofficially helped the cops cut back on late night crime.

After the kidnapping, Seth seeks out Lindsey’s help to mingle with the wealthy set in the hopes that he can spot something that will lead him to the ringleader of the kidnappers. It’s during this time that he and Lindsey can no longer deny their attraction, and they seek a rough and tumble alpha fight for dominance in their sex. And, not too amazingly, they are both very happy with the fact that their very dominant natures have found a complementary partner. Of course, true love never runs smoothly and Seth finds out about Granny, insulting Lindsey and breaking it off with him before it goes any further. There’s more intrigue and angst along the way in this book, with the men getting together and breaking up a few times before a crazy kidnap and rescue scene that reveals Lindsey’s true form to Seth.

There’s a concurrent subplot about a young orphan who Lindsey immediately warms to and feels a bond with. The young boy is unaware that he’s a wolf about to undergo his first change, but thanks to Lindsey’s intervention, he’s accepted into Lindsey’s family and his pack in time to make a difference.

I really liked the push/pull of the guys’ relationship in this story, and both characters were well-developed and likeable. In fact, I really liked Lindsey in the first book and loved him even more in this one. There were some major holes in the mystery, principally surrounding a double kidnapping where one victim was rescued and failed to inquire about the other victim until the next day. Since they were on a date together when the kidnapping occurred, my expectation was that there would be some mention of the other man by the victim, the cops or someone. I can’t go into greater detail because it would be a major spoiler but that made this section seem off, and if the author’s intent was to direct our attention to the possible kidnapper through that awkward situation, it was overkill. It was already easy to figure out long before that.

Since the MCs do get their HEA, and a very nice one indeed, and I loved the MCs, the basic storyline, and the pace of the story, I’m happy to recommend this one to my m/m friends who are looking for a light mystery with some very hot characters who spend some very hot time between the sheets.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson.  it was hot and colorful and fit the story perfectly with it’s depiction of Jeremy in his flamboyant clothing as well as his wolf persona. 

Sales links:  Dreamspinner Press ebook  Audio Book    All Romance eBooks   Amazon ebook  Wolf in Gucci Loafers

Book Details:

book, 235 pages
Published April 16th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published April 15th 2014)
ISBN 1627984518 (ISBN13: 9781627984515)
edition languageEnglish
seriesTales of the Harker Pack #2

Series:  Tales of the Harker Pack:

The Pack or the Panther (Tales of the Harker Pack, #1
Wolf in Gucci Loafers (Tales of the Harker Pack #2)

 

Review: Second Helpings by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Old kitchen table rural cottage morningWhen Stuart Collins’s partner Mark died in a car crash the previous year, he thought his life had ended too.  But life has a funny way of letting you recover and heal, while showing you the path to your future.  Stuart’s mother died five years ago, a wonderful woman whose loss was deeply mourned by husband and son.  Now a new woman, Isabel Franklin, has come into Stuart’s father life, the only one since his mother passed away.

When a still grieving Stuart was called in by his father to meet the new woman his dad has been dating, Stuart finds himself liking her as well.  It turns out she has a gay son Stuart’s age who has just returned from assignment in the States.  So Stuart was not totally surprised to get a call from Paul Franklin who wants to vet the man (and the man’s son) who has turned his mother’s head.

Paul Franklin considers himself taken.  His lover, Ben, has remained back in the States but Ben is curiously unavailable when Paul has tried to contact him.  Unsettled by his lover’s absence and silence, Paul, is startled to find himself attracted to the sad, gentle man who agrees to meet him to discuss their parents.  Paul’s not the only one shocked by their mutual attraction.  Stuart feels like he is betraying Mark’s memory by the emotions meeting Paul has engendered.

Two men tied by their parents relationship , guilt and uncertainty.  Can they move forward together?  Can they trust the emotions each makes the other feel?  When life offers a second chance at love, will they take it or let it pass by?

Second Helpings is a gentle tale of loss and love by Charlie Cochrane, a favorite m/m historical author of mine.  A contemporary tale, Second Helpings, charts the pain of losing your partner and relationship and the struggle to move forward when you have a chance to live and love once more.  Both main characters have a similar love situations and family histories but with an important difference.   Stuart Collins lost his loving partner in a car crash and his adored mother to cancer.  His home life and coming out were supportive and without drama.  The loss of Mark as well as his Mother have cut into him deeply.  Paul’s romance is on hold, a loss of immediacy and of contact.  His lover, Ben, has remained behind in the US and has been out of contact with Paul, not answering emails, phone messages and what have you.  Paul lost his father years prior but without the same sense of loss as his family situation and upbringing were vastly difference from Stuart’s.  That variance in family life has left both men with strikingly different viewpoints about relationships and partners.

I love Charlie Cochrane’s ability to bring forth portraits of real human beings under stressful conditions.  There is no explosive drama to be found here other than that of two men floundering about in their personal lives, each stymied by emotional blockades and miscommunications.  Oh and pride as well.  Cochrane has Stuart and Paul making such tentative steps forward, then one huge tumultuous one that shakes everyone up.  What is so lovely and recognizable about this story and Cochrane’s writing is that all the missed steps and romantic blinders these men have put on seem familiar and true.  And when they make a hash of it in the bargain, whether it be arguments or self delusional shielding, we get that too.  We might not like it, but we certainly can understand  the all too real authenticity of the snaps and cracks at each other.

There are certainly moments here that let you know this is a British author and story.  I had to look up what a secondment actually meant (it’s a transfer).  There is the usual biscuit for cookies and the utterly charming way the British put their phones on Discreet instead of the American blunt term of Mute.  Those touches makes me smile and appreciate our differences as well as our  similarities.

What might throw you off the story?  The oddly formal narrative at the beginning of the story.  It almost feels as though it came from another author and  book as the language and flow is dramatically different from the main body of the story.   Move past that and you are into the narrative and able to enjoy a lovely beginning to a romance between two men in desperate need of a new future for them both.  There is no case of “instant love” thankfully.  That would be a disservice to the emotional back history Cochrane has given to both men.    What the author delivers feels as painful and down to earth as life makes it. She gives them hope and a chance at love and families that adore them in a story that makes for a terrific read.  Who could want for more?

Cover artist:  Amber Shah.  I like the cover.  The blue tone is certainly in keeping with the storyline and characters.

Buy Links:             Riptide Publishing               All Romance eBooks (ARe)            Amazon Second Helpings

Book Details:

ebook, 140 pages
Published July 21st 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626491526
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/second-helpings