A Free Dreamer Review: Olympia Knife by Alysia Constantine

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.

The first word that comes to my mind when I think about Olympia Knife is strange. Closely followed by sad. And kind of creepy. I’ve never read anything like this and I was a bit unsure whether I liked it or not. But it’s so unusual and memorable, I just had to give it the full five stars.

First things first: This is classified as literary/genre fiction and as such doesn’t have much of a love story and definitely not your run-of-the-mill HEA. The ending is very open and leaves many questions unanswered. I’m not always a fan of open ends, but in this case it fit the tone of the whole book perfectly.

I love circus settings, especially historical ones. They give you so many possibilities. It can be utterly magical and charming or it can be utterly terrifying and creepy. Olympia Knife was definitely more creepy than charming, though it did have a bit of a magical air.

People keep disappearing in the middle of their acts, Olympia keeps turning invisible and there are some other otherworldly things going on, so I guess this would qualify as Fantasy. The circus acts, especially those in the sideshow, are all fakes and don’t have any magical abilities. The correct genre correct is probably magic realism, combining reality with some fantastic elements. It’s an unusual genre and I really enjoyed it.

There isn’t all that much action but I didn’t mind. This was a very slow book and it was all about the atmosphere of the book. I was completely immersed into the world and it sometimes took a while for me to resurface.

At times, this book does get pretty brutal and very intense. It was a hard read and it really took a lot out of me. “Olympia Knife” is such a gritty, intense and heartbreaking read. It’s one of the most extraordinary books I’ve ever read.

If you’re looking for an easy, magical romance, this is definitely not the book for you. I think this is a case of love it or hate it. And I loved it. I’ll have to keep an eye out for future releases by this author. If you’re easily triggered, you might want to check out the content warnings on the publisher’s page.

The cover is utterly gorgeous. It’s the kind of cover that I’d love to have in my physical bookshelf, just to show it off.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

Book details: ebook, 212 pages

Published November 2nd 2017 by Interlude Press

A Free Dreamer Review: Echoes of the Gods by Gaia Sol

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Peace reigns in Midgard and with no wars to fight, Yngvi, soldier and fancy-free charmer, craves danger, excitement and adventure. He finds all that and more in a mysterious stranger whose arrival in Midgard coincides with an unexpected attack on Asgard’s pantheon by the fiendish armies of Loki, renegade god of the Underworld.

Shara has pursued a killer to Midgard and can’t afford to be distracted by the charismatic Yngvi, not when the fugitive has eluded him twice already. But Yngvi is like no one Shara’s ever met—annoyingly tenacious, but also brave, loyal and inconveniently attractive. A single night together shouldn’t change anything. But it changes everything, and Shara finds himself giving Yngvi his body, his trust and much more.

Caught in the riptide of Shara’s shocking secrets, Yngvi joins him on a quest for vengeance that takes them across the stars, onto new worlds and into battles with gods, monsters and their own unfamiliar, conflicting feelings. Disloyalty breeds distrust, threatening to destroy their new, fragile bond, but they must each choose between heart and life when they finally uncover the startling past that will change the future.

I absolutely loved “Echoes of the Gods“. I have a thing for mythology and fairy tales and I especially love it when authors take on old myths and make them into something new. And Gaia Sol did a brilliant job here.

This is the first time I’ve heard anything about the Babylonian pantheon and I actually had to google some of the names before I realized that the author didn’t just make the whole thing up. I love it when a book teaches me something new and makes me want to learn more. “Echoes of the Gods” was definitely educating for me, but it never felt like the author was lording her knowledge over the ignorant reader.

Yngvi and Shara were immediately likeable. Shara is very innocent and at times a little naive, but it fit his backstory very well. He’s never had much contact to other people and spent most of his life living alone in the woods. But he’s a quick learner and he has other qualities to make up for his innocence. I loved the dynamic between Shara and Yngvi. And I really felt for both of them, suffering with them through their various hardships and heartaches.

The world building was great. The Babylonian, Norse and Greek pantheons were explored in-depth and we got to see a lot of action there. I’m fairly familiar with Norse and Greek gods and it was great to meet well-known characters but also to learn new details I knew nothing about. And the Babylonian pantheon was completely new to me. I don’t think you need to know anything about the old gods in order to enjoy and understand this book. But to me, the familiarity added another layer of enjoyment.

Aside from the pantheons, there were lots of little magical things going on and it was all brilliantly explained and executed. It really felt like I was there with Yngvi and Shara, meeting the old gods and traveling through space and time.

The romance was definitely there, but it wasn’t overbearing. The love story is wonderful and Yngvi’s and Shara’s feelings for each other were easy to relate to. There was a really great balance between fantasy and romance, another great example how one doesn’t exclude the other. Because you can definitely have both: amazing Fantasy with great world building and a wonderful Romance.

The only thing that bothered me tiny little bit was the lack of communication and the misunderstandings it caused. But since Yngvi is a Norse warrior and Shara has spent most of his life in solitude, I guess it’s understandable. It didn’t distract from the overall brilliance of the book.

Overall, I simply loved this book. This is the author’s first book and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for future books by her.

If you have a thing for great fantasy with brilliant world building and a wonderful romance on top of it all, this is definitely the book for you.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous. It’s such an eye-catcher and really fits the storyline. At first glance, it does look like a cover for a space opera, though.

Sales Link:   Amazon

Book details:

ebook. 316 pages

Published October 25th 2017

A Free Dreamer Review: Dali by E.M. Hamill

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Dalí Tamareia has everything—a young family and a promising career as an Ambassador in the Sol Fed Diplomatic Corps. Dalí’s path as a peacemaker seems clear, but when their loved ones are killed in a terrorist attack, grief sends the genderfluid changeling into a spiral of self-destruction.

Fragile Sol Fed balances on the brink of war with a plundering alien race. Their skills with galactic relations are desperately needed to broker a protective alliance, but in mourning, Dalí no longer cares, seeking oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, in the arms of a faceless lover, or at the end of a knife.

The New Puritan Movement is rising to power within the government, preaching strict genetic counseling and galactic isolation to ensure survival of the endangered human race. Third gender citizens like Dalí don’t fit the mold of this perfect plan, and the NPM will stop at nothing to make their vision become reality. When Dalí stumbles into a plot threatening changelings like them, a shadow organization called the Penumbra recruits them for a rescue mission full of danger, sex, and intrigue, giving Dalí purpose again.

Risky liaisons with a sexy, charismatic pirate lord could be Dalí’s undoing—and the only way to prevent another deadly act of domestic terrorism.

“Dalí” was simply and utterly brilliant. I loved every single second of it. It’s no secret that I’m a lover of SciFi books and I’m glad I started reading space operas a while ago. Otherwise I might have missed out on this seriously amazing book and that would have been a real shame.

The set-up is intriguing. Dalí is a third gender changeling. Essentially, they’re the epidome of genderfluid. Their body can actually change to become male or female. Or they can stay in their neutral state, where they’re neither. For a big part of the book, Dalí leans toward female, for reasons I fully understood. And the idea of changing genders was only the beginning. The author took great care to create a truly fascinating world, full of little details that showed how much care went into creating this setting. The world building was extremely well done and it all felt so natural.

I absolutely loved Dalí right from the beginning. I felt their grief and loss and suffered through their self-destruction with them. It was breathtaking and felt so very genuine it made my heart ache. Dalí is a tough person, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel fear or pain or grief or doubt.

Now, I’ve always had a thing for the antagonists/villains in books and movies. And E.M. Hamill did a great job of creating a villain the way I like. He’s not completely and utterly evil. His actions actually made sense, in a cruel, twisted kind of way. And the tension between him and Dalí was absolutely sizzling.

Speaking of sizzling: The sex scenes were smoking hot. Incredibly erotic, without being overly detailed. Dalí’s unique body made the whole experience even hotter for me. But the sex wasn’t just there to get the reader hot and bothered, it always furthered the plot. The balance between hot smut and essential plot device was perfect.

There’s so much going on in this book, with so many unexpected twists and turns, it left me completely unable to put down the book. It was full of action and suspense, but also full of feelings. There were more quiet parts of the book, but those were just as addicting as the fast-moving spy parts.

Another thing I loved about this book was how diverse it was. There are so many different types of relationships and genders portrayed. It always felt completely natural to have such diverse characters. The author didn’t get lost in unnecessary terms or explanations, the characters were just there.

Although this book is set in the distant future and the world as we know it no longer exists, the plot touched on many issues we’re facing right now as well. There’s terrorism, human trafficking, drugs, religious extremism, gender identity and so on. It’s not easy to make a space opera feel like it deals with problems of our day and age.

Every lover of good SciFi with a bit of Erotic thrown in should read “Dalí”. I, for one, enjoyed every single second of it and I really, really hope there will be a second part sometime soon. You’ll love it too, trust me.

I like the cover by Natasha Snow. The colours are gorgeous and the space ship looks great. The young man’s face spoils the otherwise great cover a little. I think it would have looked even better without any human on it.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

ebook
Published August 7th 2017 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781947139572
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Review: Seidman by James Erich

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

In Viking Age Iceland, where boys are expected to grow into strong farmers and skilled warriors, there is little place for a sickly twelve-year-old boy like Kol until he catches the eye of a seið-woman—a sorceress—and becomes her apprentice. Kol travels to the sorceress’s home, where her grandson, Thorbrand, takes Kol under his wing. Before long Kol discovers something else about himself that is different—something else that sets him apart as unmanly: Kol has fallen in love with another boy.

But the world is changing in ways that threaten those who practice the ancient arts. As Kol’s new life takes him across the Norse lands, he finds that a new religion is sweeping through them, and King Olaf Tryggvason is hunting down and executing sorcerers. When a decades-old feud forces Thorbrand to choose between Kol and his duty to his kinsman, Kol finds himself cast adrift with only the cryptic messages of an ancient goddess to guide him to his destiny—and possibly to his death.

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient mythology, and when I discovered this book about Iceland Viking mythology, I just couldn’t resist. And I’m glad I didn’t, because “Seidman” was utterly brilliant.

There are plenty of books out there that feature ancient mythology in some way or another. But most of the time, it’s Greece or Roman mythology. Other myths are much rarer and I don’t think I’ve come across a book with a similar setting to “Seidman” before. I’m not overly familiar with Viking mythology, I just know the bare basics, but that was enough to understand what was going on here. Unfamiliar terms were explained and the glossary at the beginning was a huge help as well. I loved that the author actually included a bit about how to pronounce the language. I’m a bit obsessed with foreign languages and it always bothers me immensely when I have absolutely no clue how to pronounce words. So the bonus points started adding up before the actual story even began.

James Erich created a very intricate world, that felt extremely realistic, seemingly without any effort. The world building was brilliantly done. It all just fell into place, without any need for lengthy explanations or boing info dumps.

I liked Kol from the beginning. He’s really sweet and charming at the beginning and it was interesting to watch him grow up and change. The love story between him and Thorbrand was low key and yet obvious from the very beginning. It felt inevitable, really. But in a good way. The two of them were just meant to be. When they had to seperate, it broke my heart.

I liked that the author didn’t just skip over any homophobia. It’s just the way it was, back then. Glossing over uncomfortable topics makes a story unrealistic. I’m glad the author chose to address all the issues Kol and especially Thorbrand would have had to face. I loved the book all the more for how realistic it was.

The ending was perfect for the story. It was in tone with the rest of it. A bit sad, but ultimately it left me happy.

Overall, I really enjoyed “Seidman”. I think it’s a wonderful Young Adult story, also suitable for a bit younger readers. I’d recommend it for ages 13 and up. If you have a thing for Vikings and mythology and don’t need it to be overly bloody, then go for this book. It was brilliant and probably won’t be my last by the author. I wish there were more books about this topic!

Cover: The cover is simple but fits the story. I like it.

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press | Amazon

Book details:

Kindle Edition, 210 pages

Published May 31st 2012 by Harmony Ink

Honorable Mention: Best Gay Debut Novel/Book

Honorable Mention: Best LGBT Young Adult / Coming of Age

A Free Dreamer Review: Strays (Urban Soul #2) by Garrett Leigh

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Work, sleep, work, repeat. Nero’s lonely life suits him just fine until his best friend, Cass, asks him to take on a new apprentice—a beautiful young man who’s never set foot in a professional kitchen. Despite his irritation and his lifelong ability to shut the world out, Nero is mesmerised by the vibrant stray, especially when he learns what drove him to seek sanctuary on Nero’s battered old couch.

Lenny Mitchell is living under a cloud of fear. Pursued by a stalker, he has nowhere left to run until Nero offers him a port in a storm—a job at the hottest restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush. Kitchen life proves heady and addictive, and it’s not long before he finds himself falling hard and fast for the man who has taken him in.

Fast-forward a month and a neither man can imagine life without the other, but one thing stands in their way: a lifetime of horrors Nero can’t bring himself to share with Lenny. Or can he? For the first time ever, happiness is there for the taking, and Nero must learn to embrace it before fate steps in and rips it away.

After I pretty much inhaled part “Misfits”, part one of the “Urban Soul” series, I was extremely relieved to already have “Strays” waiting on my Kindle. While “Strays” is technically part two of the series, it works as a standalone. The MCs from book one to get their page-time, but they’re introduced well. However, I see absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t want to read “Misfits”!

Just like part one, “Strays” was absolutely brilliant. I loved every second of it and just couldn’t put it down. Lenny and Nero make for an incredibly hot couple and the stalker-part added an interesting twist to the story.

Nero isn’t a nice guy. He’s rude and he doesn’t make friends easily. And he’s definitely not the boyfriend-type. He’s been through quite a lot and it takes him a long time to open up to Lenny. I liked that they were both honest about the troubles Nero’s (understandable) hesitation caused and how they reacted to it. Nero is an intriguing character. While he’s definitely not the easiest person to be around, he can be genuinely kind, if he wants. I loved how he comes over as this super-macho kind of guy, but has no trouble admitting he likes boys wearing eye-liner.

Lenny is a sweet guy. He’s far easier to like than Nero but no less interesting. He’s tough in his own way and I really liked that about him.

At first glance, this couple might come off as a stereotype found in many m/m romance books: macho (sort of) closeted guy and younger, effeminate man. That usually leads to the older guy being in charge of the relationship and that’s something I can’t stand. But in this case, Nero and Lenny are very much equal. There’s nobody clearly “in charge” and I really liked that.

The stalker part was a bit predictable toward the end, tbh. Other than that, I think it was done really well.

Just like in the first book, the setting is described vividly. London and the restaurant kitchen felt very much alive to me. There was never any doubt as to where this book was set and where the characters are from. I really like books with such a strong sense of place, it gives them something unique.

Long story short, “Strays” is just as brilliant as part one of the series. It’s very different and might be more appealing, if you don’t like ménages. The sex is still smoking hot. I really hope there’ll be a third part in the series. I just love the whole universe.

The cover was done by the author herself. It’s in tune with that of part one. I love that tattoo, it’s so hot.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 249 pages

Expected publication: March 27th 2017 by Riptide Publishing

A Free Dreamer Review: Foxes by Suki Fleet

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

FoxesWhen Dashiel’s body is found dumped on an East London wasteland, his best friend Danny sets out to find the killer. But Danny finds interaction difficult and must keep his world small in order to survive. By day he lives in an abandoned swimming pool and fixes electrical devices to trade for supplies, but by night, alone, he hunts sharks—a reckless search for dangerous men who prey on the vulnerable.

A chance meeting with an American boy selling himself on the streets throws this lonely existence into disarray. Micky is troubled, fragile, and Danny feels a desperate need to protect him—from what, he doesn’t know. As Danny discovers more about Micky, he realizes that what Micky needs saving from is the one thing Danny can’t help him fight against.

To save Micky, Danny must risk expanding his world and face something that scares him more than any shark ever could: trusting he will be accepted for who he is. If a freezing winter on the streets, a sadistic doctor, and three thousand miles don’t tear them apart first, that is.

I’ve been a fan of Suki Fleet’s writing for a long time, so I just had to have this book. I had high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed.

The tone is achingly bittersweet. There’s the bitter reality of Danny’s life in an abandoned swimming pool, desperately lonely after the death of his best friend. He’s dead set on finding Dashiel’s killer and protect other boys and girls like him. So Danny follows dangerous men all over London, alone, at night, without telling anybody. He also writes descriptions of every street walker he meets during his search. One night, he meets Micky and his carefully arranged world spins into chaos.

That’s when the sweetness starts seeping in. Because the love story is absolutely beautiful. I was often torn between wanting to grin like a loon and wanting to cry my eyes out.

I loved that Suki Fleet didn’t turn this into an angst-ridden cinderfella story. There’s no easy solution at hand, no rich lover who rescues the poor rent boy. Micky and Danny both have next to nothing. Both have issues aside from being poor that can’t be solved with a sudden influx of money. Still, the beautiful love story was a great counterpoint, keeping just the right balance of sad and happy. The result was an incredibly addicting story that I just couldn’t put down. I just sort of fell into the story and it didn’t let me go till the end.

Both MCs proved to be very likeable. They’re unique and well developed. They have their quirks and troubles and simply felt very much alive. Suki Fleet created an intense connection between me and Danny and Micky. They have depth and aren’t just cardboard cut-outs. Suki Fleet’s character building is simply beyond words.

Foxes were a bit of a recurring theme throughout the story. A little detail that endeared the story even more to me.

The writing style is quietly poetic and fits the mood of the story perfectly. Suki Fleet can conjure an incredibly dense atmosphere with very few words. It’s an incredible gift. I could practically see the streets of London before me and feel the bitterly cold rains on my skin.

By now, you’re probably wondering why I only gave this story 4.5 stars. There’s an easy answer to that: I didn’t like the ending.

Now, to be fair, I’m very picky about my endings and I’m often dissatisfied. In this case, the HEA felt forced and a little rushed. It was jarring after the slow quietness of the rest. It didn’t really fit the otherwise so realistic story either. Honestly, I’d have been perfectly happy with a HFN or even a tragic ending. But I’m weird like that.

“Foxes” is a quietly poetic story, without much excitement, that is still incredibly addicting with its bittersweet love story. Suki Fleet is one of the most talented writers out there and she deserves more readers. So, go read this. And everything else she’s written. She’s amazing.

The cover by AngstyG shows two things at once. At the top, you can see the silhouettes of two men walking toward the sunset. On the bottom are two silhouetted naked figures, one leaning down to the other, as if they’re about to kiss. I love the cover, it portrays the same sense of quiet bittersweet as the story itself.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press |  Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 274 pages
Published February 8th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634769211
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Review: Speakeasy by Suzey Ingold

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

speakeasy-by-suzey-ingoldIn the height of the Prohibition era, recent Yale graduate Heath Johnson falls for Art, the proprietor of a unique speakeasy tucked away beneath the streets of Manhattan where men are free to explore their sexuality. When Art’s sanctuary is raided, Heath is forced to choose between love and the structured life his parents planned for him.

I totally have a thing for the Prohibition era and the whole air of forbidden love and fun it brings, so I was thrilled to discover “Speakeasy”. I will say that while I find the era fascinating, my historical knowledge about is pretty much non-existent. If you want to know if this story sticks to historic facts, then I’m not the right person to ask.

Heath is a good boy. Quiet, obedient, good grades and never disputes his parents’ decisions. Of course they don’t know that he actually prefers men and has no intention of marrying the girl his mother picked for him. I really liked Heath from the very beginning. He really matures over the course of the book and finally starts living his own life.

Art was a true gentleman and I loved the way he wooed Heath. It was charming. He can easily relate to Heath’s need to keep quiet and please his parents, having a very similar background. There’s no unnecessary drama about money, since both MCs aren’t exactly poor. This way, there was more room for real plot.

The romance was rather slow burn and there was absolutely no explicit sex. Every time, Heath and Art were together, I truly felt their infatuation and got that silly grin of the newly in love myself. It was wonderful.

There were only two minor things I didn’t like so much. The HEA was a bit too easy for me, given the circumstances. And I’m not a huge fan of first person present tense POV. I decided to give this book 5 stars anyway, simply because it was such a very charming love story.

Overall, I really, really liked “Speakeasy” and I will definitely keep an eye out to other works Suzey Ingold.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous. It’s what made me take a closer look at the book in the first place.

Sales Links

Interlude Press

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Book details:

Kindle Edition, 218 pages
Published February 18th 2016 by Interlude Press
Original TitleSpeakeasy
ASINB01BN54KOM
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Young Adult Release Day Review: Running with the Pack by A.M. Burns and Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

running-with-the-packFinn is about to start his senior year of high school when he and his family move from Austin, Texas, to Woodland Park, Colorado. Everything is different—even the elevation—and Finn’s having a hard time getting used to his new home. Life takes a turn for the better when he meets Ivan Dubovasky at a farmers’ market. Finn finds not only a close new friend but a fulfilling volunteer position at the High Mountain Wolf and Wild Dog Center, which Ivan’s family runs. Before long Finn develops an affinity for the wolves under the center’s protection.

Things only get better for Finn when he starts a relationship with Ivan; and Ivan’s best friend, Adrian, who’s asexual, completes their small pack. But it all comes crashing down when the bully plaguing Adrian crosses the line and Adrian goes missing. Finn and Ivan are determined to bring their boyfriend home safe, but they might not be able to do it alone. Luckily there’s a special wolf ready to lend a paw.

For some reason, I fully expected this book to have werewolves. It took me a while to realize that the wolves were perfectly normal wolves and nobody was secretly a werewolf. That definitely didn’t stop me from fully enjoying “Running with the Pack”, though.

Reading this story was truly delightful. The MCs were adorable and were a perfect match. The angst level was pretty low and there wasn’t a whole lot of drama either, but I was never bored. I didn’t even realize I was essentially inhaling this book until I was almost done, just over 24 hours after I’d started it.

There are a lot of m/m books out there with a poly relationship. There also a few m/m books with an asexual character. But I’ve never seen both in one book, and neither in a YA story.

I loved how natural it was for Adrian, Finn and Ivan to become a trio. Adrian’s asexuality and the poly aspect of their relationship were portrayed in a very positive light and felt absolutely natural. There simply was no other way for either of them. They just fit. And I also loved that they started their relationship as a trio, rather than as a couple adding a third party.

It probably wouldn’t have hurt if they’d talked more about their relationship. But they are teenagers and relationship talk is hard for anybody, so it didn’t bother me too much. I did, however, feel like we were missing something from Finn’s past. The authors kept making implications about his old school and the reasons why his family decided to move so far away, but we never really got a good explanation. It just felt like there was more to the story than was being said.

Overall, “Running with the Pack” is a truly lovely YA story and definitely also suitable for younger readers. There is only one scene with sexual action and that happens completely off-page.

I would love to have a sequel where the three of them figure out how to be together in the long run. I’d especially love to find out how involved Adrian will get in the sexual part of their relationship. I don’t know if the authors are planning on writing a follow-up or leave this as a standalone, but I’m all for another visit with these three wonderful boys.

If you like YA, asexual MCs and/or poly relationships, then you should give this book a try. Chances are, you’ll be as charmed as me.

Cover: The cover by Bree Archer isn’t really to my tastes. It’s a bit cheesy, tbh.

Sales Links

Harmony Ink Press

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Book details:

ebook, 180 pages
Expected publication: September 8th 2016 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1634770641 (ISBN13: 9781634770644)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL

A Free Dreamer Review: The Hunger Man by Scott D. Pomfret

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Hunger ManAt the outset of the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1845-50, a family of Irish revolutionaries attacks a British food convoy and kidnaps a young English officer named Julian Hawke. This first act of overt rebellion unleashes a series of events that both inextricably ties the O’Rahilly clan to Hawke and to the gay seanachie (storyteller) Ciaran Leath, but also seals their fates.

The only daughter, Muireann O’Rahilly, an aspiring physician, fails to resist the strong mutual attraction between her and Hawke. Hawke tries to balance his love for Muireann and his growing love for Ireland with his duty to suppress the budding rebellion. Ciaran Leath, who falls in love with both Julian Hawke as well as an angelic young tinker man, foresees both the coming famine and the disintegration of his adopted O’Rahilly clan, but finds himself unheard and powerless to protect them—or himself. Encountering spirits of the dead and other bad portents, Ciaran Leath invokes his old benefactor, the ancient Faerie Fin Bheara, but in doing so learns something devastating about himself and of what he is capable. When the O’Rahilly clan sets its sights on assassinating Queen Victoria, whom Hawke is sworn to protect, during her 1848 state visit to Cork, the stakes loom large for all involved, and the story turns inexorably toward a tragic end.

Against the backdrop of the terrible beauty and exquisite misery of southwestern Ireland during the famine years, this part-comic, part-romantic struggle against starvation, oppression, and one’s own worst impulses plots an epic arc from London and Dublin to Cork and New York City. Magic, Faeries, haunts, spirits, legends, ancient kings, monsters, and lovers richly populate this clash between the British Crown and the Irish people, and there can only be one survivor.

This is a work of literary/genre fiction.

If I had only two words to describe “The Hunger Man”, they’d probably be “difficult” and “strange”.

Difficult because of all the Gaelic words. Difficult because of the subject matter. Difficult because of the countless references to Irish mythology. Difficult because this book broke my heart. And difficult, if not impossible, to forget.

And strange mostly because of Ciarana, the seanachie. I’m still not entirely sure what to think of him. Did he really spend years living with the Fae? Or was he just insane and hallucinated it all? Or did he just pretend to be insane?

One thing’s for sure: “The Hunger Man” was incredibly intense. I was captivated. Still am, really, even a week after finishing it. In all honesty, this book left me speechless, so I’m having a very hard time coming up with the right words.

I’m not very familiar with Irish history, and while I’ve heard about the Potato Famine, I didn’t know any details. Having finished “The Hunger Man”, I feel a lot more educated on the topic. The book definitely works without background knowledge, but I think it would have been easier to understand had I been more familiar with the topic.

I really liked all the way the author made Irish mythology such an easy, natural part of the story. Once again, I now feel better educated, without getting an info dump. More than once, I ended up hitting Google to find out more.

There is a lot of Gaelic in this story. Now, I have a thing for languages, so I’m always thrilled to learn new words. There is a glossary at the end, but sometimes the Irish just got a little too much for me. I even considered getting myself a dictionary, but couldn’t find anything for a decent price. Some more translations in the book itself wouldn’t have hurt. But that was a minor annoyance overall.

This story had real depth. Every character was unique, no matter how minor they were. Muireann, Ciaran (the only one in first person) and Julian each get their own POV. Neither of them was easy to like. Ciaran was very strange and felt a little other-worldly. Muireann was incredibly pious and always tried to impress her older brother. And Julian was horribly ignorant and arrogant. Still, they did grow on me. They just felt like real people, each with their own weaknesses.

The tone is very dark and does get pretty violent at times, which was to be expected.

Overall, this book was simply brilliant. I lack the words to do it justice, so I’m going to shut up now.

If you’re interested in historical novels and aren’t necessarily looking for an easy read, then go for it. Just don’t expect a sweet love story with a historical backdrop. This is a literary novel that happens to have an MC who prefers men over women.

First I thought four stars would be an appropriate rating, because I did struggle with all the Gaelic. But that felt incredibly unfair, because I’ve read other books with lots of Japanese, which I didn’t mind because I have a friend to help me with that. Then I gave it 4.5 stars. That looked a little better. But ultimately, I think this book deserves the full 5 stars. It woke an interest for the topic in me and the MCs won’t let me go. And it’s not often that a book makes me feel so conflicted.

The cover by Natasha Snow shows a heap of stones, probably one to mark a grave. The sky looks ominous and stormy. That part looks really good. I’m not too fond of the green mist on the edges. And the publisher’s logo is extremely jarring.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

ebook
Published June 6th 2016 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781911153566
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Review: Love Can’t Conquer (Love Can’t Series #1) by Kim Fielding

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

love-cant-conquerBullied as a child in small-town Kansas, Jeremy Cox ultimately escaped to Portland, Oregon. Now in his forties, he’s an urban park ranger who does his best to rescue runaways and other street people. His ex-boyfriend, Donny—lost to drinking and drugs six years earlier—appears on his doorstep and inadvertently drags Jeremy into danger. As if dealing with Donny’s issues doesn’t cause enough turmoil, Jeremy meets a fascinating but enigmatic man who carries more than his fair share of problems.

Qayin Hill has almost nothing but skeletons in his closet and demons in his head. A former addict who struggles with anxiety and depression, Qay doesn’t know which of his secrets to reveal to Jeremy—or how to react when Jeremy wants to save him from himself.

Despite the pasts that continue to haunt them, Jeremy and Qay find passion, friendship, and a tentative hope for the future. Now they need to decide whether love is truly a powerful thing or if, despite the old adage, love can’t conquer all.

There’s no doubt: “Love Can’t Conquer” was absolutely, utterly brilliant. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down, which led to a couple of nights with very little sleep.

In case the blurb isn’t obvious enough for you: This story is rather dark and quite angsty. It deals with past alcohol and drug abuse, past child abuse and a bit of mental illness (mostly anxiety, but also depression). There’s also talk about attempted suicide. If that’s not your thing, back away slowly. You won’t enjoy this book.

Qay isn’t easy to like. He’s really struggling with his life, but tries his damndest to stay clean and sober. That’s not always easy and he’s not always nice. The things he’s gone through didn’t make him a nice, mellow person. They made him distrustful and full of self-doubt. Still, he was a very interesting character and my heart really went out to him. Definitely not your typical romance hero and I liked that.

He doesn’t even look like your typical romance hero: He’s skinny, he’s got scars and he’s pale. But I believed Jeremy when he said he found Qay beautiful.

Jeremy has had a less troubled life. He did have his struggles, sure, but life dealt him a better hand than it did Qay. I loved him just as much as I did Qay. Both of them had real depth and had a unique voice that I enjoyed reading.

There was also an interesting collection of side characters, each with their own depth and a potentially interesting history. I can definitely see the potential for a sequel there.

The two of them were very different and yet it felt like they were made for each other. I immediately felt the attraction between the two of them and it was easy to believe their feelings.

I loved the way Kim Fielding handled the sex. The MCs didn’t just tumble into bed, overcome by lust, without any thought or discussion, the way it so often happens in these books. Instead, both MCs made a deliberate decision to wait and really made their first time together a special occasion. They took time to savour each other and I felt like the sex really added something to their relationship.

Aside from the romance, there was also an element of mystery regarding Jeremy’s ex. Some minor parts of that were a little bit predictable, but the overall solution was definitely not expected.

Qay and Jeremy had to really work for their HEA. There was a lot of stuff for them to overcome and they had to really fight for it. I often dislike endings, but here it seemed to fit perfectly.

The way Qay’s struggle with his addiction was portrayed was very realistic. It didn’t just all go away magically because of love. He had to work to stay clean and sober every day. Some days that was harder and some days that was easier. But the struggle never just disappeared.

The whole book had a rather bleak feel to it, with a dash of hope. Kim Fielding did an amazing job portraying both MCs’ doubts and insecurities and made it easy to get caught up in the story for hours on end, without realizing how much time had passed.

If you don’t mind dark and angsty, and want your MCs to really work for their well deserved HEA together, read this book. It’s right up there with the best books I’ve read this year.

It’s the first in a new series by Kim Fielding and I’m already looking forward to the next books.

Cover: The cover by Brooke Albrecht shows a lone figure standing in the middle of a bridge. It looks a little sad and forlorn and fits the mood of the book perfectly.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 260 pages
Published June 3rd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634773217 (ISBN13: 9781634773218)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series:
Love Can’t

1. Love Can’t Conquer