A MelanieM Pre-Release Review: Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

JT is an orc on the way up. He’s got his own boutique robotics shop, high-end clientele, and deep-pocketed investors. He’s even mentoring an orc teen who reminds him a bit too much of himself back in the day.

Then Austin shows up, and the elf’s got the same hard body and silver tongue as he did two years ago when they used to be friends and might have been more. He’s also got a stolen car to bribe JT to saying yes to one last scheme: stealing the virtual intelligence called Blue Unicorn.

Soon JT’s up to his tusks in trouble, and it ain’t just zombies and Chinese triads threatening to tear his new life apart. Austin wants a second chance with JT—this time as more than just a friend—and even the Blue Unicorn is trying to play matchmaker.

Gritty, wildly imaginative, and full of action, Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon has much to recommend it. JT, the orc with a past is one of them.  A retired thief with a background of grief, pain, loss and maybe  even betrayal, JT hasn’t entirely let who and what he was go but he’s trying hard.  He loves the peace his new hard won life has won him and the young orc he’s mentoring reminds him a lot of himself when he was young.  Between his clients, building a business and keeping her busy and out of trouble, JT’s life is full.  Allmon makes JT accessible emotionally.  You connect with this character in his gruff ways all the while wanting to know more about the implants that connect him to the cars and trucks that are so much a part of him as breathing.

Then there’s Austin, an enigma that threatens JT’s world that he’s built, periling both of them for a job that’s shady to begin with.  Nothing that Austin says, does or is can be trusted.  Even as a reader,  I honestly found it hard to trust the feelings that Austin said/implied he had for JT.  Real? Lust? Gritty doesn’t even begin to explore the complicated dynamics that exist between these two and their past history together.

Even the plot and the revelations leave so many questions at the end.  Questions I’m not sure we’ll ever get answers too unless they will be coming in the next stories in the series.  I hope so.  This is one hell of a universe that Don Allmon is spinning here and one I can’t wait to dive back into.  Only don’t do it for the romance.   For romance lovers, you’re going to be disappointed here.  There is a relationship yes, but how it ends and on what grounds?  That’s still to be established.

Nothing comes easy in this world.  It’s hard scrabble all the way.  I want to see  where this series goes from here.  You will to.  Don’t read it for the romance, read it for the characters, the adventure and the world building!

Cover by: Simoné.  Love this cover by Simone.  It’s perfect for the characters and the story.

Sales Links:  Pre=order at Riptide Publishing

Book Details:

ebook, 177 pages
Expected publication: August 28th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626496156
Edition LanguageEnglish

This title is part of the Blue Unicorn universe.

  • The Glamour Thieves
  • Apocalypse Alley (A Blue Unicorn novel)  coming soon

A Stella Release Day Review: Gone by the Board by August Li

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RATING 5 out of 5 stars

The sea is full of jealously guarded secrets, but everything washes up eventually….

Betrayed by a trusted partner, Nathan figures he might as well be lost and heartbroken in the sunshine, and he heads to the coast of South Carolina, to stay with a friend and find a new direction for his life. But despite his efforts, he is lost in the fog, unable to find a guiding light and sometimes unable to find a reason to go on. His only respite from depression and anxiety is the soothing rhythm of the tides and the comfort he draws from proximity to the water.

When the sea sends a lifeline in the form of a strange and beautiful man, it’s easy for Nathan to ignore all the things that don’t add up about his new friend. But the tides can turn without notice, and it’s those mystical traits that will either finally lead Nathan safely to shore or drown him in confusion and despair.

I probably have a weakness for this author, some of his stories, like The Kitchen Boy or The Union of Sun and Moon, were a huge success to me but Gone By the Board is exactly what I like to read, exactly what I want from books like this. Maybe it’s just cause August Li has a way with words that are able to bring me in the characters’ world and let me live and breath their lives with them. This is a specific quality of the author writing, the reason why I come back to his books (new and old ones) quite often. His works are always so evocative and well done I can’t have enough of them.

Gone by the Board is a moving story, it’s about Nathan and his deep struggle with a dark depression, very hard to live with. Add to it a breakup with a husband who deserves really nothing from life, least at all a man like Nathan. So Nathan decides to move to South Carolina where his best friend Rachel lives in a peaceful place along the beach. Just what Nathan needs. Some quiet to put his life back on track. And then Brume happens.

Since I received this story I already read it twice and I surely will reread it sooner. Something caught my heart. Don’t let the blurb scares you, this is not a dark story, although it deals with important themes like depression and anxiety (SPOILER ), they aren’t there to turn the story into a dark one, like often books that deal with those themes do, they put me down and give a sense of resignation, the bad kind of it. Although these themes, Gone By the Board is sweet, light, heartwarming and so full of feelings. And with an unexpected HEA. I was waiting for the author to develop the plot into the obvious (to me) kind of ending, instead he went to the opposite and it was more perfect. I still smile rethinking of it.

I didn’t reveal a lot of important details in this review, because I don’t want to spoil anything at all. I think the right way to approach this reading is knowing just what the blurb tells you and no more. That way, this new release will conquer you, surprise you and leave you with fluffiness in your tummy. I feel to recommend Gone by the Board if you are looking for something different and real even if real it can’t be.

The cover art by Anne Cain is just perfect, so well done and fitting. I can see Brume and it’s just how I imagined him in my mind.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 98 pages

Publication Date: May 24th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN 1635334977 (ISBN13: 9781635334975)

Edition Language English

A Julia Review: The Rest is Illusion by Eric Arvin

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Magical realism meets coming of age as four Verona College students are thrown together by choice as well as circumstance. When their lives and loves are threatened by blackmail and violence, they respond by using all the means at their disposal—including some they aren’t even aware they possess. But will that be enough to prevent tragedy or even death?

The Rest Is Illusion was first published in 2006 and a second time in 2016. This new third edition allows readers once more to enjoy the incredible story behind Eric Arvin’s first novel. And incredible it is indeed.

The fact that this is the author’s very first novel makes it all the more impressive how refined and confident his writing style already felt by then. Every phrase and sentence seems to be placed precisely and deliberately contributing to the unfolding of the plot and reading experience as a whole. The author upholds this style unbroken throughout the entirety of the book, nothing ever seems out of place. At this point, I usually talk about how location was handled, but since the environment plays such a pivotal role in this novel, I decided to dedicate a whole paragraph to it further down. Let’s take a look at the characters first.

The novel is written in third-person and the perspective, from which the story is told, switches frequently between five students: Dashel, Ashley, Sarah, Tony and Wilder. The author makes very good use of this technique by, for example, hinting at what one character is about to do through the eyes of another or presenting the consequences of the same event from different points of view. The transitions between characters feel fluid and unobtrusive. What’s best, each character is given a very distinct voice befitting his or her unique personality. They all have their own strings of story to tell that frequently intertwine and part ways. I never found myself not getting into a line of narrative or wishing that it would switch back to another. Every single one felt meaningful and worthy of attention.

It would be difficult to pick a favourite character since they are all interesting, likeable or hateable in their own right. But I would say that Ashley, the albino agnostic (as he has been described), and Dashel, who is stricken with a terminal illness, are probably the ones I felt the strongest sympathy for. They both look at other people free of prejudices and strive to embrace life (and death) on their own terms. I loved their free and creative spirits and how they imagined the world around them. Sarah, the Baptist minister’s daughter who struggles to come to terms with the relationship to her father, completes the trio of close friends (and maybe more). They complement each other very well and their interactions were heart-warming to witness.

Tony and Wilder feel very much like outsiders in contrast to the above group and yet they all come to play a significant part in each other’s lives. Tony, who despite first impressions turns out to be a considerate and caring person, tries to suppress his homosexual orientation in fear of losing his current way of life. Wilder’s horrible schemes to assert dominance over his fellow students, on the other hand, present a thoroughly hateable as well as deeply pathetic and wounded character. Seeing how these five people – each one with their own specific set of values and worldviews – interact and clash with each other was a thrilling and fascinating experience.

As mentioned above, the environment in this novel plays a role unlike any I have ever seen before. The deep forests, hidden vales, steep cliffs and hillsides that surround Verona College are alive and teeming with an ancient magic of their own. Being a fan of Magical Realism myself, I was in love with the way the author teases, hints and opens the possibility to a secret otherworld that lies beyond our common field of perception and understanding. But at the same time it is not painted as unreachable for us but closer than we think as long as one approaches it with an open mind free of preconceived opinions. Through his descriptions of the natural world Eric Arvin creates a truly enchanting and deeply mysterious atmosphere that had me hooked immediately and unable to stop reading. The landscape felt so full of personality and life as if it was a character (or many, in fact) on their own.

The story deals with a number of fundamental and timeless issues: the fear of dealing with one’s own mortality, the struggle for recognition and acceptance from others, finding and learning to embrace your true self in a world that tries to dictate who you should be. The subject of sexuality (as well as sexual violence) is breached too but if you’re looking for some light-hearted, steamy tussles beneath the sheets, you will not find them here. This is definitely not a quick read to just kill some time with a bit of superficial distraction.

I loved and enjoyed every aspect of this novel – from the characters to the plot to the world it took place in. I can only highly recommend this to anyone really who is looking (or not) for a profound narrative about the way people interact with one another and the world – or rather, worlds – around them. I know that I will certainly pick up more from this author in the future.

I very much liked the effect of smoothly changing colours and light patterns for the cover art by Wilde City Press. It gives the whole design an almost ominous, eerie feeling that is befitting of the story. The photos of the students looking directly at the reader lend support to that impression as well.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press  | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages, also available in paperback where if you buy paperback you get the ebook free

Published April 3, 2017

by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13 978-1-63533-825-6

Edition Language: English

A Free Dreamer Review: Faire Secrets (The Faire Folk #4) by Madeleine Ribbon

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

faire-secrets-by-madeleine-ribbonZion’s life is falling apart. His home burned down, his obnoxious ex-boyfriend is scheduled to get out of jail, the managers of the magical Renaissance Faire expect him to do a month’s worth of work in days, he hasn’t seen his sick sister in nine months, and he’s discovered a hidden room filled with secrets in the rubble of his library.

Usually, spending a few hours practicing rope bondage would be enough to clear Zion’s head, but not this time. This time there’s too much going wrong, and none of his problems are going away. In fact, life is throwing him yet another curve ball in the form of a handsome architect named Vin—the same Vin who spent all of last year trying to climb into Zion’s pants. Zion resisted then, but he’s not so sure he can do it again. He’s not so sure he even wants to.

Zion’s mountain of problems just keeps growing, and it’s only a matter of time until he gets buried beneath them.

First of all, I haven’t read the previous books in this series. I read the blurb for “Faire Secrets”, which is book four, and thought it sounded interesting. I went back and glanced over the blurbs of the previous books. Since this couple didn’t show up in any of them, I figured it should work as a standalone. Unfortunately it doesn’t. That’s totally my own fault and has nothing to do with the quality of the book/series. So I’m going to try to keep my rating as fair as possible and not punish the author for my own mistake.

The world of the Faire seems very intriguing. It looks like a lot of world building has happened in previous books and I really like the little that still happened in this book. The author has obviously put a lot of thought into her world and shows a great love for little details, which make the place even more alive and real.

Zion is an interesting man. I can’t help but relate to his work as a librarian, since I work with books as well. I always love to read about characters who truly appreciate books. Unfortunately for Zion, his world is currently in the middle of falling apart. Everything’s a mess. Usually, a bit of rope bondage helps him calm down, but that’s not enough this time. While Zion likes to be put into elaborate bondage and loves the feel of rope on his skin, he’s not into any other BDSM things. He’s neither a submissive, nor a masochist. He’s just kinky. I really liked that about him.

The sex scenes were very hot. Vin and Zion are very versatile and open to new things. The scenes were a good mix of explicit and non-explicit. Not every single time the two of them had sex was described in elaborate detail. Instead, the author chose to only show us the times when the sex was important to the plot and the relationship.

I liked that Vin was so open from the beginning. He told Zion that he wasn’t good at the guessing game and thus needed to be told explicitly what he was supposed to do or not do. I hate it when MCs don’t talk to each other and just assume things all the time!

I especially loved reading about Zion’s work with the ancient texts he found. I think those were my favourite scenes by far.

There isn’t much to complain about. The plot wasn’t exactly full of breathless suspense, but I still felt well entertained. I just wasn’t fully invested in the story all the time, which was probably a result of my lacking knowledge of previous events.

I’m sure I would have liked “Faire Secrets” even better if I had read the previous instalments. It has definitely made me curious about them and I want to read the first three parts now.

The cover by Fiona Jade is a bit generic. I think it could have done without the shirtless man. A greater focus on the books and scrolls might have worked better.

Sales Links

Loose Id LLC

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Book details:

ebook, 257 pages

Published May 17th 2016 by Loose Id

Series: Part 4 of the Faire Folk series – add to your Goodreads shelf here:

  1. Faire Fugitive
  2. Faire Protector
  3. Faire Diviner
  4. Faire Secrets