A Mika Review: The Harvest: Journey’s End (The Harvest #2) by M.A. Church

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

TheHarvest_JourneysEnd_500Adapting is a word Dale Michaels has become familiar with. As he settles into his new life with the Tah’Narian starship captain Keyno, Dale has adapted to life with an alien, space travel, and having his body mutated so he can carry young. He’s closed the chapter on his old life.
 Living on Tah’Nar, Dale has a loving mate and good friends. He’s helped cement peace with the Onfre. Sure, being double-dosed during his harvest led to some serious drama, but that’s over. Dale’s happy. 

But life is never that simple. 

Even though Dale loves Keyno, he still struggles with the way the Tah’Narians harvest young males as mates. Dale finds himself hijacked by his own body, courtesy of his extra dose of Tah’Narian DNA. Then there’s the devastating secret his mate, Keyno, has hid all this time. And if all that isn’t enough, outside forces threaten to rip Dale’s hard-won peace apart as well.

  Join Dale for a non-stop adventure and a love that crosses several worlds and transcends space.

I loved the follow-up to the first story. Everyone is pregnant and happy!!! I really enjoyed this one, I’m going to be sad if this is the last book. I really enjoyed the couples coming together helping each other. This was no exception from my first reaction of the first book. It was sweet, endearing, a little teary at times. I thought Keyno & Dale was so sweet at times. Even Colt changed his ways. I hope we get something on Kia because he became my new favorite alien ever!

As usual Dale and Keyno run into some problems and boy, does it cause problems between them two> But with the emotions running high, the waddling, and the high tree house it doesn’t last long. I was truly happy with the outcome and predictions for all the couples, especially Chad and Gibor on their pregnancy. What sealed the story for was the decision to return to Earth to visit their parents; I loved how fidgety Keyno was with trying to please Dale’s family. I liked how respetive Dale’s parents were to the twins. I am pleased with this one a lot. This was a great installment in the series, crossing fingers we get to see these guys in a future book, because I wanted more to the ending.

Cover Artist Lou Harper had a perfect picture of Dale with his accepting of his new status. He has totally come full circle with his acceptance into his new role and lifestyle.

Sales Links:   All Romance (ARe)               Amazon               Buy it here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 245 pages
Published January 1st 2014
ASINB00RJLZOAE
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Harvest #2

Review: The Unwanted – The Complete Collection by Westbrooke Jameson

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

The Unwanted Complete CollectionThe unwanteds, that’s what society calls the people who make up the lowest of society.  The prostitutes, the drug users, the poor, the discarded and the dying.  Shots, Derek, Ambrosia, Renzo, and Sara are all young prostitutes.   In addition, they picked up Joel, a gay teenager thrown out of his house because of his sexuality. Together they form a family, willing to do any to keep each other safe and fed.  Unfortunately, Derek is sick.  He contracted the deadly VIS virus and is moving into the final stages of the disease.    The group is barely scraping by when an encounter with an alien john changes everything for all of them.

Recently a race of aliens called Narsoreal made contact and landed on Earth.  In three years time, several major diseases were cured and human technology advanced because of Narsoreal information and assistance.  In return, the alien race asked to collect and bond with humans who are genetically predisposed towards symbiosis with the Narsoreal.  For the governments of the world, only the unwanted were viewed as available for collection and bonding.

When Shots picks up a john called Alimund a Norsoreal, Shots changes not only his life but the lives of everyone in his small family of unwanteds.  Because for each one of them, there is a Narsoreal who is their bondmate, if only they will accept them.

There is so much promise buried within The Unwanted that I wanted to rate it much higher than it deserves.  Originally, each Unwanted had their own story released separately, then a collection of all the stories was published.  And it is much easier to read as a collection than they would have been as individual stories if for no other reason than the flow of the narrative works better.  Unfortunately, whether it is as a collection or separate short stories, there are just so many issues and missed opportunities that I have to give The Unwanted a fail.

Let’s start with some of the most basic issues, the world building.  It just doesn’t make any sense nor does it feel “alien” in any manner.  Jameson makes the aliens and their planet pretty much just like us, only with a few alterations that are so unbelievable that they further disconnect the reader from the Narsoreal and these stories.  The aliens land because they are looking for love.  They bring advance technology, enough to cure some diseases but not VIS or at least that’s the accepted knowledge.   There’s some nonsense about not having the right materials for them to help us build space ships ( a throw away line that makes no sense either) but really the author makes no attempt to give us anything authentically alien.  Not the people, not their abilities (more on that later), not even their technology.  And when we do find out what elements make them “different” from us, its laughable. Really the Narsoreal are so dubious a creation that its screams worst alien ever. They are poorly thought out and mindbogglying lame brained unless you are a prepubescent boy.   If you are going to create aliens, complete with alien physiology and culture, then make it believable.  Don’t make them a reflection of juvenile wants and desires, a cardboard alien worthy of  a Space Hooters or sex doll.

That brings us to characterization or the lack of it.  The only members of the Unwanted that come close to being a layered personality are Shots and Ambrosia, with Ambrosia being my pick of the litter.  The rest of the small group of prostitutes and discarded never rise above a character outline.  They certainly have no credibility as young people who have been abused, abandoned and made to prostitute themselves as the only means to survive. As a described by the author, this group has seen it all from their lowly position on the streets but the reader never gets any sort of desperation or emotions that would reflect this status.  Its more what they say they are then what actually comes across, and that’s a huge fault when it comes to characterization.

But if they are bad, then the aliens are so much worse.  The really only alien thing about them is that they physically morph or their body changes (permanently) according to the wishes of their bondmate.  Of course, they don’t tell their human bondmates that fact.  So  one ends up looking like Legolas with long white hair and elf ears.  Another ends up with wings, and another with a penis and a vagina.  *shakes head*  If you are going this heartstoppingly stupid and young, why stop there?  Where is the woman with three breasts?  Of course, there is no continuity here.  So the one alien is another species, a worker bee, who doesn’t change. Which is a good thing because his human bondmate thinks he looks like a bulldog.  Awkward. But if there were any logic to this, then it would be the worker class who would change their physiology, to better help them shoulder the load so to speak.  Another thing is that these aliens are rich.  So you have rich aliens who change their physical state according to their lovers wishes?  And the upper echelon of the world’s societies doesn’t want them to bond with?  That makes no sense either.  Who among the rich wouldn’t want a mate who is rich, changes according to your desires and cures diseases by their bond.  Oops, did I forget that exchanging fluids with these aliens cures every disease you could humanly have?  The Narsoreal are a kind of one stop shopping for any of your sexual, emotional, financial and pharmaceutical needs. Do they have personalities too?  Not really because how could they?  They aren’t real in any respect, merely objects that reflect the needs and desires of their human companions.

And that’s both my problem with these stories and the promise I see as well.  Had these stories been a treatise of the objectification of others, or a humorous take on loving yourself, or some sort of allegory about making love to one’s dreams, that would have been one thing.  All the elements are there for any of those takes on the human condition or maybe just an alien comedy.  All but one human changes the alien into the lover of their dreams and that one can’t because that alien’s different? It’s all instant love and instant bonding.  But how is that believable is that love if you change them almost immediately without getting to know them?  These humans don’t love the aliens, they love what the alien becomes. What a great subject for these stories!  But was that ever addressed any where? No, I mean even their cum changes from purple grape flavor to black licorice, a sort of Skittles of choices. Oh look, he shoots purple jism, If that’s not a juvenile giggle fest in the making I don’t know what is.  If you were the alien, wouldn’t you be a teensy bit upset over wings, a purple penis,  purple nipples and purple cum, a purple grape tasting cum?  That other alien has it worse, his human loves the color pink. But as written, the Narsoreal are both intergalactic doormats and any teenagers sexual wet dream mashed up together.

Add to that just awful dialog.  The aiiens say things like  “Yes, my treasure, I will change for you. I will become whatever pleases you most, my prince, my darling.” or to Joel Flowers . “I will be your giant if you will be my flower.”  The group explains it away as the aliens speak “formally”.  No, that’s bad romance talking, not Downton Abbey.

Add all of that up from the terrible world building, poor characterization, cheesy dialog and a plot with promise that misses on every level, and you have a collection of stories I can’t  recommend to anyone other than a friend of the author’s.   I think thats one of the problems when you self publish, not enough eyes and assistance (read that as editing) for the author and their writing.  I hope that the next stories from Westbrooke Jameson achieve the promise I saw here.

Cover Design by Morris Duncan. Cover Photo Credit to Joel Kramer via Flickr Creative Commons License.  The cover makes no sense either.  No aliens, nothing other than an alley?  Consider the cover a missed opportunity too.

Book Details:

ebook
Published August 2013 by Westbrooke Jameson
edition language English
series The Unwanted

Review of Making Contact Anthology

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Rating:  4.25 – 4.5 stars

Space, the final frontier, as a certain well known Federation Captain would say on his 5-year mission into space, has always consumed our thoughts and dreams.  We have always wanted to know what is out there, its vastness and mystery ever present.  All we need to do is look up to be faced with the unknown. How will we get there and what or whom will we meet once we do are questions innumerable authors have tried to answer in poems, movies, stories and graphic novels. Making Contact is a new science fiction anthology from Dreamspinner Press that examines some of those questions along with what type of love will be found among the stars?

Making Contact gives us ten stories by eight authors.  The stories range from aliens attempting to “fit it=n” among the human inhabitants when they arrive on Earth, humans trying to live in isolation on a lonely outpost, intergalactic conflicts among the races, an alien drunk tank and pirates in space.  There is humor, mystery, heartbreak, and a swashbuckling yarn of space pirates and derring do.

I found this to be a really strong anthology and the variety of stories and themes keep me glued to the Kindle one after another.  Don’t expect cohesion other than the fact that they fall under the science fiction m/m banner.  Just a look at the authors represented should tell you that their visions of space are as unique as they are.  Their narratives explore space from so many different perspectives.  The first story, Better Than Cola by JL Merrow is the only one to feature an alien so far removed from the humanoid mold that the author had to come up with an equally alien method of sexual exchange.  I loved this story as it left me with more questions running around my head than was answered.  Some of the aliens are recognizable in form that the authors have put their own twist to, aliens with fur, aliens with different skins tones and facial markings, and even a new take on vampires in space that will break your heart as it did mine.

Normally when I review anthologies, I only mention the stories I loved.  In Making Contact, that includes them all in varying degrees.  Here they are in the order they appear in the book.

Better Than Cola By JL Merrow

Newly arrived on Earth to work in the Melliti embassy, Summer Storms meets Nathan Chambers, who is tasked with teaching the alien visitor how to deal with human social interaction. The thrill of casual touch exposes an immediate attraction between them, but how far can intimacy go between two totally different life forms?

JL Merrow has done a fantastic job of giving us an alien so far removed from us but still one whose thoughts and emotions can stir attraction in another.  Summer Storms is a plurality of beings contained inside a “human shaped envelope”.  They have to adjust themselves to casual human touch and the way in which their “envelope” reacts to the human sent to help them deal with interspecies interaction.  This story has so much charm while still being sexy and alien.  Merrow left me wanting to know more about their physiology and culture while giving me a satisfactory glimpse into the unknown.

Revolving Realities By Cari Z.

Dr. Eliot Hollister is desperate to locate the Ulysses and her crew before tragedy strikes… again. The lone survivor of a hostile attack compounded by human error, Eliot is using an alien artifact to search through alternate realities, trying to change the outcome in a parallel dimension. Eliot’s challenge once he finds the ship? Convince Captain Paul Alvarez he’s for real before the Ulysses falls prey to the same trap.

Cari Z brings alternate universes into play with her story of a lone survivor grabbing as a last chance to save his lover from death, even if it is not his actual lover, but the man he is in another universe.  Wonderful characterizations play off against time as Eliot tries to stop the scenario from playing out again in the new universe but runs up against the same scientist hell bent on exploring the world  beneath them.  His frustrations become ours because we know what will happen if he can’t stop the mission.  My only quibble is that it ended too soon.

The Sacrifice By Sue Brown

After twelve years, the leaders of the Free Worlds have finally found a man willing to sacrifice his life to the gods of Segelian to ensure an alliance with the mineral-rich planet. But when Stane raises the dagger to perform the rite, he looks into the human Steven’s eyes and is horrified to discover he is destined to kill his life partner. If Stane doesn’t complete the ritual, it will destroy any chance for a treaty… and it might also change the world of Segelian forever.

Sue Brown uses two worlds, one homophobic (human), one a male/male warrior culture and the extended war between them that will end with a human sacrifice.  She does a nice job of world building including a world divided by religious caste and the warrior caste and makes us believe it. I loved Stane and Steven however implausible the final intervention.

Alone By Andrea Speed

Scientist Logan Murakami doesn’t have much to keep him company during his lonely vigil at Outpost Proserpina. But he knew that going in, and it’s the perfect place to focus solely on his work: a neuro-optical interface that would be the perfect engine for artificial intelligence… an intelligence that Logan hopes is taking on a life of its own.

What I loved most about this story is that it plays out internally in the mind of Logan Murakami.  Solitude and remoteness are definitely two of the factors to be considered when talking about space travel.  How to achieve it, do we need a base of operations to extend our exploration? And what type of person will be able to handle those conditions?  All compelling questions that need viable answers and Speed attempts to provide some of them in the person of Logan Murakami.  Raised in isolation in Alaska and solitary by nature, he unexpectedly ends up alone at the outpost and uses this time to perfect his neuro-optical interface with the goal of  having it attain intelligence.  What happens exceeds his expectations and gives him something so much more. Just outstanding.

Losing Sight of the Shore By Emily Moreton

Secondary communications officer Jay is assigned to a boarding crew when the Hydra discovers a seemingly abandoned, powerless ship floating in space. While exploring the derelict ship, Jay finds a barely conscious man with purple skin and silver eyes. After surviving a raider attack, Felix is understandably afraid to let Jay go—even when cultural differences threaten to stop any contact between them.

Moreton gives us romance in space that emerges from survivors of an attack upon their ship.  I liked the romance even if I wanted a little more of the alien culture and history of the purple skinned people living in ships among the stars.  I got some lovely bits of characterization from Jay and the other members of the crew, I just wish I felt I got the same result from the aliens.  A really sweet story that could have been fleshed out a little more to make it absolutely terrific.

Gifted in Tongues By JL Merrow

After inadvertently outraging local sensibilities, space pilot Torvald “Spitz” Spitzbergen faces a five-year stretch in a Lacertilian jail. His only consolation is trading insults with his cellmate, Tao, a six-foot libidinous Felid. But Tao seems to have a distinctly fuzzy understanding of the difference between fighting and foreplay…

Merrow gives us an alien drunk tank!  How could you not love this?  Spitz seems like the very type to get his drunk on, outrage the locals, and be very surprised to find himself with the remains of a hangover, two very different cell mates and the worst morning after he has had in a while.  I chuckled throughout this story, Merrow’s  descriptions painting the scene so perfectly that I had no problems picturing it all as it happens.  Cracked me up, made me blush, and left me wanting more.   Now if only I can talk the author into bringing Spitz and Tao  back for further adventures.  Pretty please?

Analytic Geometry By Andi Deacon

Kevin Ikoro has an incredible opportunity: his boss at Helix Multicorp wants an analyst’s view of how the corporation’s Exploration division works, and Kevin is now a member of explorer team Alpha 3IG. His teammates, a set of brilliant twins named Cameron and Theo Banark, are fascinating, and Kevin finds himself harboring a serious case of lust for Cameron. But exploration is unpredictable, and his teammates may not be what they seem. The shortest distance between two bodies isn’t always a straight line.

Another neat story full of twists that added dimension and depth to this little space gem.  I don’t want to go into this except that I loved the characters where the attraction of the mind trumps attraction of the body.  Sexy, humorous and with a little bit of mystery thrown in. Again the characters that Deacon creates here are so terrific, so unique that as the end I wanted so much more.  The surprise alone is worth the story but it is the family that is forming that captures my interest, imagination and heart. Just a great job.

The Monsters Below By Lyn Gala

Brai’s never dreamed of fighting the monstrous sub-humans who infest Kestia, but when his lover joins the service, Brai does what he always does… he follows. Then Rick is lost on his first mission, and Brai is left alone in a murderous rage. Now on his own first mission gone terribly wrong, Brai has his chance to get back at the monsters for killing Rick—only the government hasn’t been honest about the nature of the enemy, and Brai might find that the caves hide a secret that could change his life.

I was not prepared for the heartbreak that is this story.  Lyn Gala gives us an intense, knuckle biter of an update of vampires in space and makes it hurt even as the characters bleed out and die.  Again for me to go into detail would ruin it but Gala’s characters are beautifully realized and the situation they find themselves in so dire that our hearts and minds are caught up in their plight immediately.  This story kept me up and thinking into the wee hours of the morning.

Feral By K.R. Foster

Desperate to end a war, the king of the Lunar Pryde agrees to submit one of his offspring to mate with a member of the Sol Pryde royal line. Cynfael, prince of the Lunar Pryde, fled the planet six months ago searching for freedom, and nothing could convince him to return… except his father’s threat to marry off Cynfael’s twelve-year-old sister Adara. After fighting for freedom his entire life, Cynfael must return to Starion to face his unknown mate and an equally unknown future.

What is it about felids or specifically felids that walk upright with many of the same emotions and thoughts of humans that captures our imagination so?  I kept running across so many of them from author after author and genre after genre. Still, I end of loving them all. Feral is Foster’s newest addition to felids in space. Cynfael is another prince being forced to wed the son of warring royal line and bring peace to the planet they inhabit.  There are so many nice touches here from Cynfael’s ability to communicate with the planet to a comb made of filed down teeth that I wanted an extended version to fill in the gaps left by the story.  We are left in the dark about the loss of Cynfael’s mother, the war ongoing, the purity of his genes (does it relate to his color?) and so much more. A little more volume was needed to add layers to an intriguing tale.

Ganymede’s Honor By Cornelia Grey

Colonel Ardeth Connor has been rescued from death, but he’s not sure his new life is any better: he’s effectively trapped aboard a rebel ship that defies the Federation to collect ice meteors, stealing life-sustaining water for the poorest of planets and asteroids. As an anonymous part of Captain Gabriel’s crew, Ardeth is biding his time until he can escape… and learning there’s more to space than just the Federation.

This story reminded me so much of an interview I just saw with an astrophysicist.  She was talking about space travel, space ships and the Tardis. Ok, yes, I am a geek.  I make no bones about it.  She was talking about the fact that our modes of transportation in space didn’t need to be those sleek versions that populate the page and  movie screen, that we could travel about in something as funky as a phone booth or a Rubic’s Cube.  On in this case, a space galleon similar to those that rode the waves way back when.  I loved this story.  It left me smiling for hours just picturing the Ganymede under her solar sails in search of meteorites to capture.  Cornelia Grey’s story gives us pirates in space or should that be rebels in space and turns it into a swashbuckling story of love, sexy rebel captains who shouts to his crew ‘Unwind those cables, bunch of useless yobs!” as they prepare to harpoon a ice meteoroid out of a swarm, and his crew man the sails and chains as the ship rockets under them.  What a scene, what a crew!  It got the blood boiling, the eyes wild, the heart pounding…..oh how I wanted to be on the ship with them and maybe snuggled up against Ardeth and Gabriel, just saying.  I do have a thing for his tats.

And just the idea of a galleon sailing through space, the stars all around her…that’s magic right there.  Grey’s story hit a lot of my buttons and left me cheering the crew on to great glory and many more stories.  I feel much the same about every author here with their diverse take on space and making contact.  I loved their stories, I wanted more of their aliens and human interaction.  I hope this spawns even more novels featuring the being that made me laugh, made me cry and made me exult that space means no boundaries of any sort.  No boundaries to the imagination and no boundaries as to who we can love and be loved by in return.  More please. Much, much more.  Engage.

Cover art by Analise Dubner, cover design by Mara McKennen.  Love the cover, great colors and a catchy design.

Review of Unconventional at Best Anthology

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Rating: 3.5 stars

Unconventional at Best is an anthology from six authors of stories featuring romance in and around conventions.  GayRomLit convention last  year provided the inspiration for this selection of stories by Carol Lynne, TA Chase, Amber Kell, Jambrea Jo Jones, Stephani Hecht, and Devon Rhodes. The stories run the gamut of lovers reunited, best friends to lovers, alien love, geek love, confectionary love and love among tops and it all occurs at a convention.

I found this anthology to be a fifty fifty proposition.  Out of 6 stories,only three kept me completely entertained, staying with me once I was done with the anthology.  The others remained just nice stories, forgotten as soon as I put them down.

Here are the ones that stayed with me. I think they are just wonderful stories.

‘Ninja Cupcakes’ by T.A. Chase

Ethan Gallagher is a baker of very special talents.  His cupcakes are not only delicious confections but when certain ingredients are added, downright magical.  When Ethan and his business partner agree to supply the desserts for his brother’s sci-fi convention, it presents the perfect opportunity for Ethan’s floury confections to work their particular magic on certain participants, including an astrophysicist Ethan has been corresponding with for four years. With just the right timing and the special ingredients, Ethan bakes cupcakes that insure that love is in the air or desserts.  Or perhaps we should say Ethan insures that  everyone gets their just desserts!

This is a delicious little story.  I have always found that cooking, or in this case baking, and magic were natural combinations. T.A. Chase does a terrific job of doing just that in Ninja Cupcakes.  From that great title to Chase’s wonderful characters, I just loved this story and wished to see them all again once I was done. This is fun, frothy and still is grounded in realistic characters that capture your hearts. Ethan and Callum were an especially endearing couple.  I wish I had their story, complete with how they first met, and what happening to each of them during their four year correspondence.T.A Chase, this would make a wonderful story.  Just saying.

‘Operation: Get Spencer’ by Jambrea Jo Jones:

“Even if superpowers were real, Benjamin still might not get his man.”  Good friends Benjamin and Spencer are spending the day at Comic-Con, something Spencer has always wanted to do.  Benjamin has a surprise for Spencer to go with their day at Comic-Con.  Benjamin intends to tell his friend that he is in love with him and decides the convention is the perfect time to reveal it.  The problem?  Spencer believes Benjamin is straight and with good reason as Benjamin has told everyone he is straight over and over again.  But Ben hopes that a convention where everything is possible is the perfect place to make Spencer believe in his love.

Friends to lovers and gay for you, both happen here in this story about sexuality, perceptions and fear of change.  Jones takes two completely recognizable characters and brings them together at Comic-Con for her story of friends and lovers.  Ben has been so busy denying that he is gay that everyone believes Ben is straight even if Ben no longer believes it himself.  His best friend Spencer is gay and they have always done everything together. But recently Ben has discovered that his feelings for Spencer go beyond friendship and into romantic love, but how to tell his best friend?

Jambrea Jo Jones makes us laugh and sympathize with Ben and Spencer throughout it all.  From Ben’s mishaps, missteps and outright screwing up his announcement, we are still on his side and hope he gets his man.  Spencer is authentically confused about Ben’s change of heart regarding his sexuality, we understand his point of view as well.  He doesn’t want to mess up his relationship with his best friend, his confidant, and we get that too. Somehow it all comes together in a satisfying end back where they started it all – Comic-con.

‘Fan-Tastic’ by Stephani Hecht

“Everybody knows the best lovers are geeks.” The setting this time is the annual Comic Book and Horror Convention.  Here Deke Masters, a well-known actor in a zombie TV show is ordered to appear on a panel for his show.  Also in attendance is Blake Tallision.  Blake is trying to sell his comic book Star Cats and other items that he has been working on so hard.  Blake also has a crush on Deke going back to their school days.  Even then Deke was a star and Blake the nerd hiding in the shadows of the stage.  To Blake’s amazement, Deke is a fan of Star Cats.  The convention turns out to be the perfect stage for a romance neither saw coming.

This was my favorite story of the anthology. In Deke Masters and Blake Tallision author Hecht gives us characters worth cheering for.  Blake is an especially memorable one.  In pursuit of his art, he has starved himself, living in the basement of his abusive mother’s home, almost despairing of making it.  Blake was so real I could see his skeletal frame and intense features. His vulnerability drew me in and kept me there. Deke also came across a fully realized human being, a guy who has worked to get where he is now but misses being wanted for just himself.  While Blake wants nothing more than to be noticed by Deke, when that happens, Blake is believably wary and insecure, not seeing himself as others do. Deke is perfect for him, the normal guy who just happens to be a tv star, he understands Blake’s struggle because he was once at that stage himself. Everything about this story from the dialog to the characters just cried out for a larger version, especially to delve further into the relationship between Blake and his mother who had a secret she was hiding from him.  Great job.