A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Mahu by Neil S. Plakcy and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Mahu — a generally negative Hawaiian term for homosexuals — introduces a unique character to detective fiction. Kimo Kanapa’aka is a handsome, mixed-race surfer living in Honolulu, a police detective confronting his homosexuality in an atmosphere of macho bravado within the police force. A man of intelligence, strength, honesty, resourcefulness, and intense dedication to the people of Hawaii, Kimo is a hard-boiled hero you will never forget. Fast-paced, intricately plotted, thoroughly enjoyable, this is a sexy, surprisingly moving mystery about discovering oneself as much as catching a killer.

I have been singing the praises of Neil S. Plakcy’s Mahu series for a long time now.  One of my favorite series, I’ve been following the life of Kimo Kanapa’aka, a gay police detective in Honolulu, Hawaii for ten books now, the last being Ghost Ship (Mahu, #10).  By Ghost Ship, Kimo has settled down with his husband Mike, a foster son, and sharing parenting of twins with a lesbian couple.  It’s been quite a journey for Kimo and family, a remarkable one the reader has been on with him every arduous step of the way.  And it all started with Mahu, first published in January 2005.

There we meet a vastly different Kimo, one trying to figure out his sexuality, a supposed “straight” detective within the Honolulu Police Department back when they had Palm Pilots, VHS tapes, where being out or even homosexual definitely wasn’t something you expected to be accepted for with the family, let alone within a Police Department.

So Plakcy gives us a complicated, decent, torn man who at his mid thirties is trying to figure out who he really is.  And puts Kimo in the midst of a murder at the worst time of his life.  I remember reading this story and feeling every bit of the pain and anguish that Kimo was going through.  But listening to it?  A hundred times more real and immediate.  The suspense of Kimo being found out during the investigation becomes palpable when listening to the narration by Joel Leslie, whose acting is superb.

One of the huge strengths of the Mahu series and the Plakcy narrative is that the author’s marvelous use of the local Hawaiian colloquialisms, sinking the characters into the culture via the vernacular of the mixed races that is Hawaii.  The familiarity of the island topography along with the religions and politics lay a  authentic foundation for Kimo and his family and all the strong relationship dynamics that play out in this story and the series.  It does so in the books and here in the audio version.

I have to admit the first hurdle any narrator has to overcome (even the wonderful Joel Leslie) is my mental image of Kimo Kanapa’aka.  He was a complete person in my head, including a voice that didn’t sound like the one Leslie assigned to him.  That took some getting used to. Once that hurdle was surmounted, I was able to completely lose myself back into a story I had loved so much and now got to enjoy again.  Leslie did an outstanding job the the huge cast of characters and all polyglot of voices he had to produce.  From the Chinese (elderly and young) to the Japanese to the Islanders (Polynesian  etc), the Hawaiians have a name it seems for every racial mixture.  And perhaps even a different tonality.  Joel Leslie does them all justice!

I hope that all of the Mahu series make it into audio version, I can’t wait to listen to them all.  This was a wonderful way to revisit the beginning of the series.  If you are new to Mahu, why not start here?  If you’re a fan of the series, I think you’ll find this a delightful way to revisit an old friend.  Either way this is a audiobook I highly recommend!

Cover art is wonderful.  Artwork is both primitive and colorful.  Love it.

Sales Links: MLR Press | Amazon

Audiobook Details:

Listening Length: 11 hours

Audible Audio
Published August 8th 2017 by MLR Press (first published August 1st 2005)
Original TitleMahu
ASINB074KLGCMT
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesMahu #1 settingHawaii (United States)

This book is part of The Mahu series

A MelanieM Review: Love on the Boil (Love On # 5) by Neil Plakcy

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

What if the one who got away came back–and you had to work together to achieve your dreams?

Eddie Gonzalez and Darren Carter had a hot college romance, which derailed when they graduated and went in different directions. But now they’re both on South Beach, both trying to start gourmet tea businesses. A venture capitalist forces them to collaborate–but will the sexual tension between them heat up–or send their venture down in flames?

Neil Plakcy’s Mahu series is a favorite of mine.  His command of the local cultures and colloquialisms combined with strong characters and love of the island history has made that such a stunning series.  Some of those strengths are on display here.

The things that I enjoyed about Love on the Boil are things that I enjoyed in other books Plakcy has written.  The Miami locations, the Cuban neighborhoods, Eddie’s large family and Darren’s troubled relationship with his father.  The Ohio bottling plant with it’s hispanic manager and workers, all these elements were so carefully and vividly brought to life.  This author has always handled those varied cultural aspects of the story so well.

Also thoroughly enjoyable?  All the information about the teas, whether in the cocktails or business side.  That was fascinating.  But really, less fun was the main couple at the heart of the story.  That would be Eddie and Darren.

Unfortunately, I found them to be mostly irritating.  Eddie starts off as an uncommunicative jerk and stays that way.  Darren is a close second.  Sex seems to come first with them, their businesses second and third for all their posturing.  They don’t trust each other after reconnecting, yet they throw their businesses together, move in etc.  There is a boyfriend on Darren’s side that throws the story into a whole “icky” side street.  And on top of all that, an entrepreneur who “magically” agrees to fund them, not one but twice, not based on a sound business plan but a romance?  After being an acute businessman for the majority of the story?  There was nothing to account for such an about face.

Balancing the good with the bad because there were things I did sort of like about each characters separately (not together mind you), and elements that swirled about them,  the rating averaged into a 3 star rating.   It will also send me back into the Mahu series for a refresher in Kimo and Mike.

Cover Artist:GD Leigh’s design is sexy and yet not really relevant to the story.

Sales Links: Loose id | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 216 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Loose Id
ISBN139781682523537
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLove on… #5

A MelanieM Review: Ghost Ship (Mahu #10) by Neil S. Plakcy

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

ghost-shipNew fathers investigate the death of a young family.

When a sailboat carrying four bodies washes up on the Leeward Coast of O’ahu, openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka, on loan to the FBI, must discover what sent this young family and their deadly cargo on a dangerous trans-Pacific voyage. Leaving behind his partner and their infant twins, Kimo must work with his police cohort Ray Donne to unravel the forces that led this family to their deaths.

From Hawaii’s sunny beaches to a chilly island in Japan to the Pacific Northwest, Kimo and Ray step far out of their comfort zones to confront an evil much greater than any they’ve investigated before.

I have been such a fan of this series and author and that continues with Ghost Ship.  Over the series of nine novels, readers have watched Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka be outed to his family and the HPD, come to terms with that,  meet and date, lose and reunite with Mike, his now life partner.  They’ve fathered twins with their friends a lesbian couple they’re co parenting with, and have a foster son now attending college.  Its been a long and tumultuous ride that eventually saw Kimo and Ray leaving the Honolulu PD for temporary assignment with the FBI.  That’s where we find them now on a  life changing case for both Kimo, his family and Ray, his work partner and friend.

This is one of the worst cases in all the series, a sailboat washes ashore with a dead family on board, father, mother and twin babies.  It immediately hits home for Kimo and Mike with their twins but the emotional impact carries over to the reader through the descriptions and later in the captains diary the father kept.  Its heartbreaking and you quickly understand the drive to solve this case and the web of intrigue behind the cargo and deaths.

Plakcy has woven one of the most involved and layered cases of the series here.  Its threads go from Hawaii to Japan to mainland US and back again and those travels will stretch thin the ties that bind  Kimo to Mike and his family just when they need him the most and  Kimo is aware of it.  The same will go for Ray.  Its the job versus family again and never has it been made more painful or obvious that a choice will have to be made, then here in this story.  Parts of Kimo’s carefully crafted life are falling to pieces and yet he still must pursue this case with Ray because of the deadly consequences if he doesn’t.   Ray also is having similar issues within his own family.  Two men torn by job obligations and family love and loyalty on the most important case of their lives.

This is a thrilling read, and a heartbreaking one.   Plakcy doesn’t deliver all the answers to all the issues and problems he raised here.  And I think that’s about right.  For somethings there aren’t any.  For some personal ones, there are only more questions and things to work out.  That’s what book 11 is for.  Kimo and Mike and family are still on a journey.  I hope Kimo does decide to return to the Honolulu PD, even with all the problems that entails. Its where the series and Kimo started.  And if its winding down, that where he should end up.

If you haven’t found this series yet,  please don’t start here.  You’ve such a treat in store for you.  Run, don’t walk to the beginning Mahu (Mahu #1) and meet Kimo and see how it all starts.  Plakcy is a master of the vernacular, you’ll get a feel for the island culture and people.  Trust me you’ll be addicted in no time.  Then you’ll have so many wonderful books ahead of you.

If you are already a fan like me, then settle in for a wonderful read.  I highly recommend it.

 

Cover art is amazing and works perfectly for the novel and series.

Sales Links

MLR Press

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Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 205 pages
Published September 30th 2016 by MLR Press
ASINB01LYP0GC2
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesMahu #10

A MelanieM Review: Children of Noah (Mahu #9) by Neil S. Plakcy

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Children of Noah coverA few months after the birth of his twins, openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and begins a temporary assignment to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Kimo and his HPD partner Ray Donne are quickly thrown into an investigation into threatening letters sent to a U.S. Senator. Are these screeds about racial purity related to an escalating series of attacks against mixed-race couples and families on Oahu?

When arson at a day care center on the Windward Coast brings Kimo’s partner, fire investigator Mike Riccardi, into the case, Kimo worries about the future of his and Mike’s newborn twins on an island falling prey to hate and a cult leader bent on death and destruction.

I fell under the spell of Neil S. Plakcy and his Hawaiian detective Kimo Kanapa’aka in the very first book, Mahu, hawaiian for gay.  There a very complicated and closeted young Kimo, trying to deal with his sexuality, was outed during a horrific murder case.  Its ramifications on his career, family relationships and private life would reverberate through the following stories.  Plakcy’s ability to bring not only Kimo to life but his multicultural family history and the vibrant racial mixing pot that is Hawaii to life is amazing.  From the variety of languages spoken, the nuances of levels of Hawaiian race in your background, even the language designations for north, south, east and west are different.  Yet, here they flow off the tongues of the characters with the ease of native speakers,   Very few authors have the ability to use local colloquialisms and dialects to hone their characters personas and locations the way Plakcy does and by the ninth book, its usage is so subtle and well woven into the narrative, I hardly notice any more.

Kimo and Mike have come a long with in their partnership.  Now the coparents of twins along with a lesbian couple, Kimo takes on a case that hits at the heart of his family’s safety.  Both Mike and Kimo have families from mixed racial background, and their sons parentage is equally so when their mothers backgrounds are included as well.  When each man handles a case with similar clues, all leads start to point towards a cult bent on the worship of racial  purity.

I loved this book for so many reasons, none  of which really had anything to do with the mystery.  Kimo’s parents which have figured largely in all the stories are now frail, older figures here, especially Kimo’s dad.  Their relationship, always so strong, sees a change in position here that is so realistic and painful.  Mike’s parents, once so against the relationship, now move forward into new positive roles.  So much is changing within the family  structures for them both, including that of their foster son.  Here all the relationships strain against their bonds and come back for support once more.  Its all so remarkable in its human dynamics and believable interchanges.  Sometimes angst-filled, often humorous, it will be so easy for all the readers to relate to the relationships in flux here, whether it be brother and brother, father and son, or new fathers and new babies.  This is what made this book for me.  Its all about the changes in life that we all go through.

And its even starts at the beginning with Kimo leaving the Honolulu P.D. to join FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force along with his partner.  New beginnings even at the job level.  But that brings us to the murders and the mystery.

That was my least favorite part of the story.  I figured out early on who the murderer was and where the problem was occurring.  The author all but had a giant arrow pointing the way.  That doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of scenes where the suspense was high, because that happened.  There was danger, and angst enough to go around, just not the usual amount of guessing I expect from this author.

However, Plakcy’s style of writing moves the story along so quickly towards the end that your mind is consumed with the safety of the main characters and the capture of the culprits.  And so much more.  I want more books.  I want to know how Dakota is doing with his new boyfriend, how Kimo’s dad’s doing, and the family in general.  They got into my heart, every single one of them.  If you give them a chance, they will get into yours too.  But why start here?   This is a fantastic series.  Go to the beginning Mahu and read your way through until you arrive here.  With each book it just gets better and better.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover art is nice but I sort of miss that primitive art work of the original covers.

Sales Links:  MLR Press |  All Romance (ARe)  | Amazon  | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 231 pages
Published August 9th 2015 by MLR Press

A MelanieM Review: Finding Freddie Venus (Have Body, Will Guard #7) by Neil S. Plakcy

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Finding Freddie Venue coverAidan and Liam’s new client is former gay porn star Freddie Venus, who survived an epic slide and now lives a solitary life in a restored farmhouse outside Nice. He hires bodyguards when he begins to believe he is being stalked.

Newt Camilleri is a sad, overweight fifty-year-old who writes gay unicorn porn but has no romantic life. He has fled his dead-end job and old life to start again on the Riviera. When he spots Freddie, his porn idol, in a grocery store, he kicks off the plot that will bring them together.

But Freddie’s past is about to come back to haunt him. Will Aidan and Liam be able to save Freddie, and help him and Newt start a new story together?

Finding Freddie Venus is the first book that I have read in Neil S. Plakcy’s long running Have Body, Will Guard series so I am coming into an already established relationship between bodyguards Adam and Liam.  But as a newcomer to these characters, I don’t think that particularly hurts the story as Plakcy does a wonderful job in providing enough of their back history to support the relationship dynamics we see happening here, a couple at a crossroads at their partnership and wondering where to go next.

I was curious to see if I could repeat the success I’ve had with the same approach with Plakcy’s amazing Mahu series.  With the Mahu series, I actually started at the end and have been working my way back towards the beginning and enjoying every bit of the journey.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can say that here but its definitely not due to the characters involved but the format of the story and the weird inclusion of a porn story within a story that jolts the reader out of the narrative.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Liam McCullough and Aidan Greene both work for Agence de Securite in France.  They are partners romantically as well as partners  as bodyguards for the Agency.  It has worked well for them but Liam is growing tired, feeling his age with all the wear and tear the profession has left on his body and spirit.  Aidan wants them to settle down and buy a home in France, giving them a permanence they have lacked up until now.   And neither is exactly talking about the issues bothering them, preferring to ignore them and concentrate on their latest case…which manages to highlight all the insecurities and issues they are trying so hard not to address. The cause is their client, former porn star Freddie Venus.  Turns out Aidan is a fan of porn and Freddie, Liam is neither.  Throw in the fact that their sex life has been mostly absent recently and the stage is set for a few emotional explosions when they and their small dog move into Freddie’s house, all the better to guard him.

Freddie Venus is an interesting character, complicated and haunted by his past but still very much involved with porn because he can make a living working in editing  porn scenes.   But the cost to Freddie of his past in porn?  A total lack of interest in sex and a lifestyle of hiding in the french countryside. Two things happen to bring an end to Freddy’s seclusion and  promote a need for bodyguards.  One…he receives a written threat.  Two…he has a physical encounter with a fan/stalker that permanently changes Freddie’s outlook on sex and life.

And that brings us to the best/worst element of this story…Newt Camilleri.  Newt is such an unusual character. He’s grossly overweight and an ex pat who has come to France to make his living writing M/M Romance.  He’s already known for his series which involves a gay unicorn bent on vengeance against those that brutalize the LGBTQ community. Yes, he writes gay unicorn porn.   Here is the description of Newt’s character and story from the book:

His most popular character was a half man, half unicorn named Fledglis. Like a centaur, he had a man’s head, arms, and torso over a horse’s body, with a spiral horn sticking out of his forehead. He was pure white except for dark hooves and a mane with all the colors of the rainbow in it.

His mission was to skewer every antigay government official—literally. When he found a homophobic mayor, sheriff, governor, or legislator, he’d use his front hooves to knock the man down. He’d strip the man naked, then pinion him to a floor or wall, his legs open and his ass exposed. Then Fledglis would turn his horn into a giant penis and fuck the man into oblivion. By the time the jerk awoke from his sex-induced stupor, his attitude would have taken a 180-degree turn.

How I wish Plakcy’s had left Newt’s writing to this description.  Its pretty hilarious…in concept. Well, maybe not.  Rape is never the laughfest no matter the cause.  Anyway, this character and his stories are the driving force in Newt’s life and have inspired him to come to France. But now he’s gotten writer’s block and is running out of money. If he is to stay in France, Newt needs some inspiration and fast. But where to find it? You see, Newt’s physical attributes (such as they are) are vividly, almost anatomically correctly described down to the smallest roll of fat and size of his man boobs.  Nothing is left to our imagination, thinning hair, lumbering walk, gasping for breathe,…yep…Newt’s one pathetic sack of flesh.  The author makes Newt so outwardly repulsive that its hard to connect with him at first.  But the inner Newt is different, so vulnerable, so needy that eventually a connection between him and the reader forms to bring us over to Newt’s side of things.

So far, so good.  The story is moving concisely along, pulling the readers into the plot…until wham!  Plakcy throws us into one of Newt’s stories involving Fledglis, the unicorn avenger.  It’s not one or two lines of plot…nope its paragraphs of, in my opinion,  god awful porn.  And while my mind is shuddering over the antics of Fledglis, I’ve disconnected from the other characters and storylines at hand.  Why remove the reader’s interest in the suspenseful nature of Freddie’s predicament and spend it all on some pornographic unicorn and his problems?  I think it was to put us into Newt’s mindset but surely there was another way…like first person internal dialog?  Time and again just when things are getting interesting, here comes clopping/flying horny Fledglis to get in our way.

I did like where the author took this story.  I thought the various couples interesting  in their differences and the events fascinating in the background layers and subject matter, even the mystery was suspenseful, if only a bit predictable.  But that darn unicorn keep spoiling the flow and finally brought the rating down as well.

See, I think Mahu and Kimo have totally spoiled me.  There the narratives are concise, the dialog is amazing, and the location is made believable and authentic by an in-depth knowledge of Hawaiian culture and history that makes that series one of my all time favorite contemporary series and characters.   Because this series was written by Neil Plakcy, I will probably go looking into the first story to see how it all started.  Hopefully, I won’t find any horny unicorns there.

Finding Freddie Venus by Neil S. Plakcy was ultimately a hot mess of a book, albeit a fascinating one. This author never fails to surprise me, and he certainly did that here.  Would I recommend it? Yep, I would.  It’s just too weird not to.  But be warned, its different.  And if you love that in a story and romance, pick it up and start reading it today.

Cover art by Ginny Glass.  The cover works, especially the wing tats on the back of Freddie Venue.  Great job.

Sales Links:  MLR Books   All Romance (ARe)    Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published March 31st 2015 by Loose Id
ISBN139781623008567
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.mahubooks.com/romance.htm
seriesHave Body, Will Guard #7

Books in the Have Body, Will Guard Series:

  • Three Wrong Turns in the Desert (Have Body, Will Guard, #1)
  • Dancing With The Tide (Have Body, Will Guard, #2)
  • Teach Me Tonight (Have Body, Will Guard #3)
  • Olives for the Stranger (Have Body, Will Guard #4)
  • Under the Waterfall (Have Body, Will Guard, #5)
  • The Noblest Vengeance (Have Body, Will Guard #6)
  • Finding Freddie Venus (Have Body, Will Guard #7)

A MelanieM Review: Kimo & Mike (Storming Love: Blizzard #2) by Neil S. Plakcy

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Storming Love- Kimo and MikeFormer competitive surfer and Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka is in his element in his home state of Hawaii. However, his partner, fire investigator Mike Riccardi, wants to head to the mainland for a ski trip and reunion with some old buddies of his. As a bitter storm rages outside the condo where they’re staying, one of Mike’s college buddies is feuding with his wife and the other is making sexy overtures to Kimo. Will these tensions ruin the vacation and perhaps even drive a wedge between Kimo and Mike?

Just those words Kimo and Mike, ok just Kimo, can make my heart flutter!  I have been in love with Kimo Kanapa’aka when I first met him in Neil S. Plakcy’s Natural Predators (Mahu #7) and started working my way back to the beginning of the series.  And with each story I fell deeper and deeper in love with this complicated, nuanced man.  Kimo is Hawaiian not just by blood but in the depth of his feelings and emotions. He has a large, extended family he interacts with daily, sometimes hourly depending upon the situation at hand.   Hawaii is at his center, it’s his heart and in a sense his stability.  Kimo heads into the surf when things get too painful or complicated, needing that to bring him peace and refocus him once more.

But here, Neil S. Plakcy removes Kimo from his safety zone and support system and takes him into the cold mountains in the mainland. In  Kimo and Mike,  the plot isolates Kimo and Mike from all but their vacation companions due to blizzard conditions.  Between the cold, Kimo’s inability to ski (which also removes him from the group), and the stressful couples they are with, things start to get shaky immediately.

I am such a Kimo fan that nothing can detract from any story he is a part of. But for readers new to Kimo and Mike, this short story conveys none of the enormous hurdles and obstacles (many of their own making) they had to overcome to become the couple they are when this story opens.  It happened over a number of books, not scenes and their relationship was borne out of enormous pain and anguish each caused the other.  Each man is gorgeous in his own multiracial way and people are always hitting on them but never with the history (ok almost never) of one of the  couples here.  Plus the stress is pushed to overload when the couples disagreements turn physical and Mike and Kimo must balance their professions with their partner’s needs.

This story ended too quickly for me.  Of course, I feel that way about all Kimo Kanapa’aka and his Mahu stories (Mahu is Hawaiian for homosexual).  This will give you just enough of a taste of this tantalizing couple to want more and send you to the first story Mahu (Mahu #1).  It’s a swift read yet it is sturdy in plot and strong in characterizations.  Add it to your TBR list today along with the other Storming Love: Blizzard stories.  If I was the type to say I ♥heart this book, well, then this is where it would happen. I ♥ this book!  Normally I wouldn’t do that. See what Neil S. Plakcy and Kimo make me do?

 

Cover artist: Kris Jacen does a nice job of branding the series although I could wish for a little more individualization as far as the couples go.

Sales Links:  MLR Books          All Romance (ARe)         Amazon         Buy It here

Book Details:

ebook, 35 pages
Published January 30th 2015 by MLR Press
ISBN13MLR1020140367
seriesStorming Love: Blizzard #2

Books in the Storming Love: Blizzard series are:

  • Jens & Elliot (Storming Love: Blizzard #1)
    Kimo & Mike (Storming Love: Blizzard #2)
    Seth and Casey (Storming Love, Blizzard #3)
    Layne, River & Damion (Storming Love: Blizzard #4) by Vicktor Alexander (release date: 2/13/15)
    Gavin & Morgan (Storming Love: Blizzard #5) by Nicole Dennis (release date: 2/20/15)
    Stokes & Ford (Storming Love: Blizzard #6) by Jackie Nacht (release date: 2/27/15)