A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Shaman of Kupa Piti (Shaman’s Law #1) by A. Nybo

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When an international case involving a series of ritual murders lands in his lap, strait-laced and logical Agent Leon Armstrong is going to need some help.

Leon follows the trail to the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy, Australia, where he gets tangled up with the wild Russian mystic Sergei Menshikov. Despite his commitment to rationality, Leon discovers he isn’t immune to the way of the spirits, no matter how much he’d like to think. When Sergei tells him he treads a predestined path, Leon’s world turns upside down.

Leon’s experiences in Coober Pedy will change his life forever, but can he hold out against Sergei and the spirits—who Sergei claims have chosen them for each other?

I find it fascinating when authors bring in the mythology of cultures I’m not familiar with into their stories.  It adds a depth to them, and elevates them to a level above those that, however lovingly, keep reverting to the same  well used  classical Greco-Roman mythology or even native  American Indian culture mashups I’ve read.

Here immediately I knew I was in for something totally different, unknown to me, and captivating.  In the often brilliant novel,  The Shaman of Kupa Piti (Shaman’s Law #1) by A. Nybo, the author  weaves into this murder mystery romance  an astonishing mixture of elements! All guaranteed to intellectually blow your mind, grip your heart, and keep you totally connected to this story and characters through every white knuckle page turning ride of a mystical narrative wowser.

For starters?  The location.  That would be Coober Pedy, Australia.  Look it up.  Or better don’t.  Because here, through the vivid, sometimes claustrophobic, hotter than hell itself, covered in red copper dust, descriptions, this tiny town of opal mining and life lived underground comes alive in these  pages.  So hot the heat feels incendiary and the dust itself choking.  And that’s just for starters.

Laid on top of that are the miners, and the townspeople of Coober Pedy.  An erasable and unique lot, made up of many nationalities of miners, each off alone at their own opal stake, men and women, tough as nails.  Forgetful of time passing down in those shafts deep underground.  And the author makes us feel it all …at a cellular level.  From the men in the only pub, again underground to the police.  And again layered on top of that is the mythology and culture of the native Aboriginals,  Also Aussie slang and colloquialisms.

But that’s not what I’m talking about, although that alone would make this story special.  Nope.

That’s setting the stage for local opal miner, Russian and mystic Sergei Menshikov.  Through this amazing and incredibly complex character, Nybo weaves elements such as the SAAMI/(Sa’mi) culture and mythology, Russian geography and slang, and mystical terms such as psychopomp which I had not seen used before.  All melded seamlessly while being used to great effect in this magnificent story.

Not enough?

Ok, let’s talk characters.  Starting with Sergei, at man at war… within himself. And with the spiritual plane for rejecting his heritage.  And another war is being brought to him as his past catches up.  He’s wild, thoughtful, mystical, larger than life, almost elemental.  And broken.  Sergei is unlike any other I’ve read before.  A wildman who’s impression still lingers even now.  Agent Leon Armstrong really grows on you, especially once he enters Coober Pedy and encounters the crime scene and Sergei.  As more of the case is revealed, the layers start to peel back on Leon too.  Yes, you believe Sergei when he says they are meant to be together.

And there’s Lucy (how i love her, I won’t spoil you meeting this character) and Charles.   Everyone here has such depth and lasting power to their personality.

That plot!  Scary, intriguing and yet, oh so spine-chillingly scary.  Especially as the author made it seem so real, so authentic.  My heart raced as the story paced practically screamed towards the finish.

Did I mention there’s going to be a second book?

When I finished this one, I wrote immediately to the author begging to know that a sequel was coming.  That these characters and universe wouldn’t be left to a single story.  I couldn’t fathom that.  And the answer was no, more would come.  Eventually.   That I could handle.

I will wait for however long it takes to come back here again with these people and this tiny township of heat, opals, and mystics.

After reading this you will feel the same.

The Shaman of Kupa Piti (Shaman’s Law #1) by A. Nybo is beautifully written, full of three dimensional characters, little known elements used for the author’s world building, and an amazing plot and setting.  I can recommend it highly enough.

Cover  art by Kanaxa.  Love the feel of the cover. You will never find someone as wild looking as Sergei.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 193 pages
Expected publication: July 30th 2019 by DSP Publications
ISBN1 39781644052600
Edition Language English
URL

A MelanieM Review:The Nature of the Game (Stick Side #2) by Amy Aislin

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Six years ago, an ultimatum forced Dan Greyson to make a choice that cost him everything he loved most. One of those things? His boyfriend, hockey player Ashton Yager. Now that they’ve crossed paths again, Dan isn’t about to let the opportunity slip away. Ash’s reappearance in his life is just the catalyst Dan needs to escape the rut he’s fallen into…and win back Ash’s trust and love.

Ashton Yager, once burned and now a little bit shy, didn’t mean to publicly come out as bisexual. But now that he has, he’s got to deal with the consequences, including the fact that it might’ve cost him his NHL contract. With his job on the line, he needs to keep his head down, work hard, and play the best hockey of his life. Rekindling things with Dan? That’s not exactly keeping a low profile. It’s also never going to happen, not after Dan walked away once without an explanation.

When a hurricane forces Ash to seek shelter out-of-state, he and Dan find themselves in the same B&B, where old feelings resurface. But with everything Ash has on the line, does he dare play with fire again?

This story had so many things going for it before I even started it.  It’s a second chance at love novel, one of my favorite tropes, it happens to be from a series about a hockey team and LGBT hockey players, so score!  That’s always high on my list!  And then there’s the author Amy Aislin who I have followed for a while and and always enjoyed her stories.  So I anticipated a good time and heartwarming romance and the author delivered that and more.

The Nature of the Game (Stick Side #2) by Amy Aislin slides into events that happen shortly after the ending of the first book in the series,  On The Ice.  While you don’t have to read that first because the exposition here helps to fill in all the gaps you will miss out by excluding that tale, reading it first gives you a firmer foundation for all the characters and a real sense of who these people are by letting you into the dynamics in the interlocking relationships you are diving into here.

The first story features Dan Greyson’s brother, Mitch, and Alex Dean, best friend and fellow hockey teammate to Ashton Yager, one of the other main characters in this book  So you begin to see how tight the threads to each couple are from story to story.  Yes, they make important appearances as you would expect.

The format here is both that the story is told from two points of view as well as in flashbacks.  We get present day Dan and Ash, and then back to their past bright first relationship and the future they thought they had together.  If you read the first story and from Dan’s pov, you are aware of what broke them apart.  But Ashton doesn’t so his ignorance and, in part, seeing the trainwreck that we know is coming is part of the heartbreak of this story.

How it all gets put back together is the charm, the hope, and the true joy here.

I liked that the author didn’t make any of it easy.  Years of pain, hurt, and poor decisions can’t be put aside overnight and they aren’t.  Both men  work to regain trust and a relationship even as major events happen in each others lives.

I really sank myself into the lives of these hockey players, the outreach program they were running for LGBT youth in Tampa, and the stress of even thinking about coming out to your team and the NHL, the possibility of what it could do to your career.  Again, I thought the author handled it realistically and authentically.

I loved the first two stories and can’t wait to see who’s next, although I have an inkling.  Hockey romances are such an addition for me and this series is just another reason why I love them so.

Cover art is pretty typical, has some hockey elements and a half naked torso.  Wish it was more specific to the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 280 pages
Expected publication: May 7th 2019
ASINB07QN1FNJ3
Edition Language English
Series Stick Side #2

Stick Side Series:

On the Ice

The Nature of the Game

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Homebird by Amy Lane

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Rating : 5 stars out of 5

 

Crispin Henry isn’t an adventurer. He learned early on that the world is a frightening place and that home is rare and precious. If his friends didn’t drag him to sports games and ill-advised trips to Vegas, he wouldn’t get out at all—and his trip to Munich for Oktoberfest is no exception. But it’s there that he meets Luka Gabriel, and he learns to take a chance.

 

Luka is a free-spirited world traveler, working at Oktoberfest to feed his enchantment with new places and new people. His only possessions fit in his backpack, and he depends on the kindness of strangers for a place to sleep. Crispin should know better—but he takes Luka’s hand anyway, and together they turn three nights in Munich into the relationship neither of them has been brave enough to risk—and neither can let go of.

 

When Luka turns up on Crispin’s doorstep before the holiday season, Crispin takes him in on hope alone. Yes, he knows the odds are good Luka will flutter out of his life again and leave him bereft, but isn’t it worth it to see if Luka is a homebird after all?

Yes, I knew to grab that box of tissues beforehand.  Check!  Because it was going to be one of those Amy Lane stories and at Christmas too!  About two damaged men, both broken in much the  same way, yet convince by life that the way to mend themselves lay in vastly different and opposite directions for their hearts.   Kill me now. The tears already threatened to flow.

But I dived right in, because on this too big for arms outstretched journey, there’s so much laughter, enlightenment, and joy to be found as well as the pain and ache that goes with life and love.

And no one does that as well as Amy Lane.

I mean I had tea out my nose when reading that burrito drive through scene.  Priceless! Getting ahead of myself.

But it’s Crispin and Luka’s tentative path towards love and a home that will make this a comfort read for me over and over again.  And Crispin’s circle of friends who became Luka’s, well, they were mine almost immediately.  How  could you not love this diverse group of men whose layers continues to unfold revealing more and more depth throughout the book, more heart, more pain, more of everything.  I wanted to hold onto them all and never let any of them go.

The imagery the author uses here, from the birds in flight, to empty nests with bits of colored yarn sprinkled throughout a neighborhood are haunting.  They play with your mind and twist into your heart, just as they do in the story, becoming unforgettable.  Just as the men they are associated with.

I loved this story.  I think you will too.  It’s beautifully written.  It contains such feeling of family (whoever that may be), recovery, and finding the path home wherever and whoever that may be.

I highly recommend this.        And don’t forget to read the author’s forward.  I would love to see that photo!

Cover art: Reese Dante.  This cover is everything.  That’s Luka and the bird with a piece of yarn in its mouth is symbolic of an important part of the storyline.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: December 18th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781644050101
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Renewing Forever (This Time Forever #2) by Kelly Jensen

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Frankie and Tommy once dreamed of traveling the world together. But when seventeen-year-old Frank kissed Tom, their plans ended with a punch to the jaw and Frank leaving town without looking back. Thirty years later, Frank’s successful career as a journalist is interrupted by his uncle’s death and the question of his inheritance—the family resort where his childhood dreams were built. When he returns to the Pocono Mountains, however, he finds a dilapidated lodge and Tommy, the boy he never forgot.

Tom’s been keeping the resort together with spit and glue while caring for Frank’s uncle, Robert—a man he considered father, mentor, and friend—and his aged mother, who he refuses to leave behind. Now Robert is gone, taking Tom’s job with him. And Frank is on the doorstep, wanting to know why Tom is still there and why the old lodge is falling apart.

But before they can rebuild the resort, they’ll have to rebuild their friendship. Only then can they renew the forever they planned all those years ago

Kelly Jensen has another warmhearted winner of a contemporary romance in Renewing Forever, the second in her This Time Forever series.  This time, instead of a decades old one family home,  Jensen looks to frame her story around a family resort high in the Pocono Mountains that has seen better days and the men whose lives were and are grounded in its foundations and woods.

I’ve always felt that houses, especially older ones, have a life of their own, one made over years of habitation, wear, care, and the impressions of the people who have pressed their personalities and lives upon their structures, until they almost give off a feeling of their own when you enter them.  Fanciful notions?  Maybe.  But Kelly Jensen’s resort has the power to pull one man back and to keep one man safely  tied to the dreams it represents, past, present, and future.    And with her vivid descriptions and ability to create painful scenes of a  resort on the edge of heartbreaking neglect and foreclosure, she contrasts that with memories of a place brimming over with promise, joy, and, love.

In many ways, this is a novel that has layers of time,  past, present, and a flickering hope of the future that shrouded by a mystery.  What happened all those years ago that divided these men?  As the story climbs towards the answer, we get flashbacks to the their past, and each boys background and history.  Then we move forward to the present as they awkwardly deal with the fact that Frank now owns the resort that Tom has been living in and keeping together for all these years.

The men, their relationship, their friends, the dynamics between them all are all rendered realistically.  It’s complicated, as they say because of old romances and misec up feelings have a   way of playing havoc when trying to sort out a truth. Kelly Jensen gets that muddy nature of life, especially at a older age with more emotional baggage to haul around.

There’s plenty of angst, hurt/comfort here, the serious nature of homelessness to deal with, and issues of trust.  Not exactly a lighthearted romance but the depth of the issues is mirrored by the depth of the characterizations and setting.  It’s a conglomeration of narrative wonder.

I thought that ending was just about right for these two men, such a beautiful way to go into the future.

This Time Forever series has given us a remarkable home, a memorable resort, and what?  What is next in this series?  I can’t wait to  find out.

I highly recommend this story, this series, and yes, this author.  They are all amazing.

 

Cover art:  Natasha Snow.  I love this cover artist but honestly wish there was a little aging to this house.  It’s not how I pictured this resort in the Pocono Mountains surrounded by the  woods.  It does fit in with the branding of the series.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

 

Book Details:

ebook, 285 pages
Published November 12th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 139781626498402
Edition Language English
Series This Time Forever

Building Forever

Renewing Forever

Chasing Forever

A MelanieM Review: Green Death by Madeleine Ribbon

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

For ninety years, the Exclusion Zone has been walled off from the rest of the country. The neighborhood—once a hotbed of political revolution—is now crumbling. Poison from the great catastrophe still hangs in the air. It taints every living thing that breathes it in. It causes rages, great bursts of violence that can’t be controlled. And that makes living within the walls incredibly difficult. But the descendants of the catastrophe survive, and the resistance hasn’t died.

As poison master to the Oligarch, Tryg Sant knows a lot of things others shouldn’t. But when he discovers his family’s darkest secret, his brother tries to kill him.

When Tryg’s lover pushes him out of a helicopter and into the Exclusion Zone, Tryg finds himself trapped in a dangerous new world, entirely different from the one he expects. Now he has to learn to survive nearly-feral humans and his own disintegrating mind. Luckily, he’s found an ally in Riot, a potential lover and one of the victims of the Green Death…

I’m familiar with this author through her Faire Folk series, which I loved, btw.  But those books did not prepare me for the dark power and narrative fire that I found in Green Death by Madeleine Ribbon, a dystopian novel that is truly formidable and amazing.

Set in a post apocalyptic world, the setting is an  broken America, a large part now run by a power conglomeration of families, democracy a faint echo of the past.  A foul chemical disaster of catastrophic proportions killed millions and created a sector now known as the Exclusion Zone where a menacing and genetically deadly green fog hovers over the area.  Those living within its walls are forever changed and are known as “Greenies”.  The whites of their eyes changed to green, their genes modified by the chemicals, as is their behavior and physicality…new strengths and more…for the ones that survive.  But  also more pain to live with.

Those living outside?  Look upon those inside as beasts, things  now apart from the human race, unable to control themselves and their baser instincts, Vile animals, less than human certainly.   Definitely creatures to be kept apart by the wall that now separates the two areas and groups.  And fog.

Madeleine Ribbon has created an incredible story.  Her world building is dark, compelling, and given our current state of global affairs and environmental fragility, frightening.  We start off the story with Tryg.  A young member of the ruling family, he’s a master poisoner and has been for most his life (working with the menagerie of venomous/poisonous creatures and making poisons since he was 8).  It’s been his role in his family, not by choice, however, and, trying to make a new path for himself and his family will change everything for him.

Tryg is quite the character as he undergoes tremendous changes over the course of this story.  Changes in emotional, mental, and yes, physical state.  His entire outlook, his perception is taken, shaken, and remade given the events and his experiences. And it’s through  Tryg, that we experience it all as well.  We are intimately connected with him through the power of Ribbon’s ability to pull us into this man’s inner turmoil and make it ours.  We feel his hopes, shattered dreams, and then watch it start to be reborn once more.  And others along with him.

If you are looking for romance, this is probably not the story for you.  Love yes, romance no.  Without going into too much depth because there’s just so much to this element in the novel, but part of the effect of the “green fog” is that a person’s baser instincts control their actions.  First actions upon hearing someone speak or move will not be rational thought.  Instead it will be to kill, to rape, to beat, or if unlucky to run….depending upon your triggers. A large percentage obviously don’t make it to adulthood under these conditions.  Ribbon has also created layered societies within the Exclusion Zone that I found fascinating.  Honestly?  My only complaint is that I didn’t wander around enough in this wild wounded sector that the author has created.  It’s scary, weird, and addicting.  I wanted to know more of the history of what happened and the people that survived there.  Especially those that passed the tests.  Those tests!  Something else so unbelievably haunting and real.  No not giving those away.

Anyhow, back to no romance.  Within such a world, how could there possibly be any such thing as romance?  There can’t and isn’t.  But there can be a type of love and hope.   And it isn’t who you think it will be.  This book has so many shocks and surprises in store for its reader.  The choices the author makes from the Oligarch to the rebels, not a narrative wrong turn is made.  It’s often dark, frequently violent and scary, but always gripping, never letting the reader go from a story that keeps you glued to each and every word until it’s over.

This book is beautifully written, the characters are fully realized, the entire novel has great imagination, and the world building is incredible.  It’s  exactly what I want in my  stories, delivered 100 percent!

If you love science fiction, if you love stories about dystopian societies Green Death by Madeleine Ribbon is absolutely a book for you.  I highly recommend it.  I would love to see more in this universe and hope the author is listening.

Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde.  Great cover.  Depicts the poisonous fog that envelopes the sector and the character perfectly.

Sales Links:

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble

 

Book Details:

ebook, 394 pages
Published November 2nd 2018
ISBN 139780990320746
Edition Language English
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Romance Pairings: Male/Male
Genre: Romance, Science Fiction
Tags: Dystopian/post apocalyptic