A MelanieM Release Day Review: Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray: Round One) by Bradley Lloyd

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Family is worth fighting for—and family doesn’t always mean blood.

No one knows what calamity poisoned the earth and decimated the human population, but living close to the toxic ground means illness and death. Justin is determined to keep his twin sister and younger brother from that fate—no matter what he has to do. To earn enough to keep his family safe in a high-rise, Justin enlists in a deadly sport called Shadow Fray. He quickly finds himself in over his head, especially when he is scheduled to face the most dangerous player.

Hale—who competes as Black Jim—knows he won’t be on top forever, despite his skills. He fights for a better life for his daughter, but his time is running out as Shadow Fray becomes increasingly lethal. Something about the newest fighter intrigues him, but does he dare defy his masters to investigate? Justin and Hale will clash in the ring, while beyond it the powerful elite and the crumbling world seem determined to keep them apart. If they can find common ground, they might have a chance to fight for their futures.

Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray: Round One) by Bradley Lloyd is a terrific story.  It’s just the sort of book that gets me thinking on so many levels and that’s due primarily to the excellent world building here.  Lloyd has created a future earth where a catastrophic event, now called The Thinning, has raised the water levels globally, sinking all coastal cities and lands, shattering governments, technologies and making the ground so  toxic that anyone who lives on the surface slowly dies, succumbing to a madness and “ground sickness”.  Those left, reformed into inland cities, mainly Chicago where the government is centered.  People live in the high rises left, the higher the floor the better (and the wealthier the people).  Some technologies were saved from the “before times”, so internet, mobile phones, TV (using only the old tapes of shows and movies stored, nothing new has been produced except Shadow Fray games, more on that soon), cars, trucks and even trains are running.   Farms are run again by the large companies like Exxon and DuPont on raised buildings and guarded by drones, as it everything else.   Some people (the Shutters) never leave their condos, the idea being make your living area and building self sufficient.

Women are few and highly regarded, the toxins in the ground having effected reproduction and gender ratio.  People wanting children have produced babies via utero experiments that turn out to be unis, children with both sexes.  They have the ability to choose a sex when older but are barren.  Most choose to be women another interesting element.  Homosexuality is not only not tolerated but outlawed as they are “non breeders” in a world with few children.  This is a hard, toxic world and for many it’s getting worse.

Lloyd makes us believe in this world because so many of the elements are only stages and layers away from what the scientists have been warning will happen with climate change.  The author folds fact with his imaginative world building and its works, horrifically, on so many levels.  In this book, we don’t get the answers as to why it has happened, but Lloyd says we will in the coming stories.

Then there is the Shadow Fray, a martial arts competition that deadly and underground.  Moved from location to location, with only the fighters and handlers in the know (supposedly), there is so much danger and mystery attached here, that the suspense just builds and builds with each chapter with no let up.  That’s because the more we find out about the Shadow Fray and who runs it, the worse it gets and the more mysteries pile up around it.  Amazing.

Then finally there is the forbidden romance between Hale and Justin.  That takes time to set up and become believable.  Remember it’s forbidden here so the men have to come to grips with their homosexuality too.  Every meeting, every touch?  Could be their last.  Plus each character is so beautifully written.  One at the top of his game, teetering on the brink of being pulled down.  The other?  Being pushed to the top of the very increasingly nasty pile.  And all around them are some of the most intriguing cast of secondary  characters you will want to meet from Justin’s twin sister to his non-speaking brother, to Gris and Hale’s tank thug brother too.  I could go on and on about the people here that match the world building.

Which brings me to the ending.  Argh!!!!

In this title, notice it says Round One (not so in other titles).  Well, it sort of ends like the ringing of a bell at the end of a fight.  Round One done.  No completion, nothing brought to an ending. It sort of halts with one character riding off.  To the next story that we are waiting for. Yes, its frustrating.  But I understand from the author it’s already at the publishers so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.

The ending notwithstanding,  Shadow Fray is an excellent gritty, compelling story.  I can’t wait to dive into the second one.  Pick up this one if you love alternate universe’s, dystopian societies, mysteries and romance.  Meet you at the second book!

 

Cover art by  Anna Sikorska is amazing.  I love the details and the model.

Sales Links

Available for Purchase at

 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 284 pages
Expected publication: May 30th 2017 by DSP Publications
ISBN139781635333602
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesShadow Fray #1

A Free Dreamer Review: The Relics of Gods (Between Heaven and Earth #1) by Yeyu

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

The Relics of the GodsWhat is worse: Being so broke you can barely afford food, getting hired for dangerous missions way out of your league, suffocating under mountains of unanswered questions—or wanting to sexually dominate someone who can kill you without lifting a finger?

Lu Delong is a mercenary who evaluates antiques most of the time and deals with the paranormal on rare occasions—even though it’s supposed to be the other way around. When he joins a dangerous quest for an ancient artifact, he meets and becomes strongly attracted to a mysterious and powerful immortal named Cangji. Despite his friends’ warnings and Cangji’s icy, unsociable demeanor, Delong is unable to resist befriending him. However, Cangji is deeply involved in a matter beyond mortals, and Delong is drawn into a chaotic struggle by both visible and invisible forces.

Always the pacifist who wanted to live a simple human life, Delong never imagined he’d end up involved in a conflict that will affect everything from the lowest insects on earth to the highest gods in heaven.

I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. I mean, dragons, gods AND Asian fantasy? That just had to be awesome. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed.

First off, the author’s style really didn’t work for me. It felt awkward and a little clumsy. It didn’t really fit the setting of the story. The way Delong talked felt way too modern.

Then, there were the MCs themselves. Delong soon got annoying. He was very whiney and extremely naïve. He seemed to fail at everything and followed Cangji like a dog. He got jealous over the most ridiculous things, like a dog-like demon creature. He didn’t behave like a grown man. At times, he actually read more like a three-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.

We didn’t really get to know Cangji. He’s the silent, mysterious type. He has some terrible secrets, but we never really find out what those are.

Overall, these two felt like the stereotypical seme/uke pairing you’ll find in most yaois. The only difference is that Delong wants to be the dominant part in the bedroom.

There are lots of minor characters, that seem important at first but they quickly disappear after they’ve served their purpose, never to be heard of again.

The love story didn’t work for me at all. I really couldn’t understand why Delong would fall in love with Cangji. Cangji seems more annoyed by Delong than anything else. Delong mostly gets ignored or glared at. And yet there’s insta-love on Delong’s part. Why? I have no idea. Cangji doesn’t get his own POV, so I don’t know how he truly felt about Delong.

Somehow, the plot moved too fast and yet didn’t seem to go anywhere either. There was mission after mission, Delong gets hurt, Cangji grumbles and rescues him, every minor character is evil. Honestly, I was rather bored at times and seriously considered skimming great parts of the story. It didn’t feel like I’d miss anything important if I were to just read the beginning and the end.

There was also a lot of mythology mixed in. Usually I love that and I like to think that I’m not completely clueless about the topic. But here I felt like I would have needed a degree in Chinese mythology to get all those references. There was a glossary at the end of the book, but I think the author should have explained at least the basics during the story itself.

And before I forget, the blurb is missing a warning about some dub-con kink. Oh, and it does get rather violent at times.

Long story short, I was sorely disappointed by this book. It had great potential but didn’t live up to it.

Cover: The cover by Reese Dante is absolutely gorgeous, just like most DSP covers. I love that dragon.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications |  Amazon

Series: Part 1 of the Between Heaven and Earth series

Book details:

ebook, 350 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by DSP Publications
Original TitleThe Relics of Gods
ISBN139781627987790
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL
SeriesBetween Heaven and Earth #1

In Our Spotlight: Andrew Q. Gordon on his latest release, Purpose (guest post and giveaway)

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Purpose by Andrew Q Gordon
Publisher: DSP Publications
Release Date:  October 6th

Edition: Second (Re-written, re-edited, new cover)
Goodreads
Genre: Paranormal, Gay Fiction

We are happy to have Andrew Q. Gordon here today to talk about his latest novel, Purpose.  Welcome, Andrew.  Tell us a little about the inspiration behind the story and the characters.

Vengeance. Revenge. Vigilante justice. None of these are especially positive words, especially not to law enforcement officers. But think of all the anti-hero heroes; Batman, Wolverine, for those older like me, the Walking Tall movies [The Originals from the 70’s or the Rock’s remake in 2004, or Charles Bronson in the “Death Wish” movies. (for those who don’t know these, click the links). Everyone loves the bad guy who is taking down the real bad guys. It’s a very Machiavellian approach where the ends justify the means.

“Thanks. There is more than a bit of that in Purpose. William Morgan is the human host to the spirit of vengeance. He deals out ‘justice’ to those who have killed an innocent person. And while the innocent victims are avenged, Will kills a lot of people. Regardless of how we feel about the original crime, how many of us would really sanction killing the killer? Maybe a few, maybe more, but that is probably not the position most of us would take in polite company. Why? Because civilized society is built on laws that don’t allow us to take the law into our own hands. And yet…

Among the themes I’ve tried to weave into Purpose, is whether or not the law is willing to turn a blind eye to these events. Certainly Commissioner Gordon didn’t exactly object to what Batman did. Same in Death Wish. There seems to be this tendency among the top brass—at least in movies and comic books—to look the other way and secretly applaud the ‘bad guy protagonist’ for doing what law enforcement couldn’t.

I can’t say if that is truly the view of those in charge, but from my twenty plus years working with law enforcement officers I can say it is certainly an unspoken feeling among the rank and file frustrated by what they perceive as the lack of consequences. That said, I don’t think they would turn a blind eye to someone who killed another, even if it were in retaliation. I’ve never met anyone who would welcome a full on vigilante in the community.

In Purpose there are two different law enforcement characters. Detective Daniel Griffin is a homicide detective who firmly believes in upholding the law. Will is a vigilante, at times Det. Griffin calls him the devil. Dealing with Will, however, upends his world. Will offers him the chance to always get the right person. But Griffin isn’t quite able to reconcile the good with the cost. One of the journeys in the book is Griffin’s as Will forces him to question his beliefs.

The other is Agent Barrington. His worldview is clear: Will is bad and must be caught. He has no interest in dealing with the devil.  Where Griffin quickly realizes he has no chance of catching Will, Barrington takes a different approach. His methods, however, demonstrate how similar he and Will are—or not.

As the three interact, decisions are made, perceptions change and motives are revealed. The cover reflects the duality of the entire situation and hopefully that is reflected in the story.

Enjoy— Andrew

Blurb

2nd Edition

Forty years ago the Spirit of Vengeance—a Purpose—took William Morgan as its host, demanding he avenge the innocent by killing the guilty. Since then Will has retreated behind Gar, a façade he uses to avoid dealing with what he’s become. Cold, impassive, and devoid of emotion, Gar goes about his life alone—until his tidy, orderly world is upended when he meets Ryan, a broken young man cast out by his family. Spurred to action for reasons he can’t understand, Gar saves Ryan from death and finds himself confronted by his humanity.

Spending time with Ryan helps Will claw out from under Gar’s shadow. He recognizes Ryan is the key to his reclaiming his humanity and facing his past. As Will struggles to control the Purpose, Ryan challenges him to rethink everything he knew about himself and the spirit that possesses him. In the process, he pushes Will to do something he hasn’t done in decades: care.

1st Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, June 2013.

Buy Links: DSP Publications |Amazon | Omnilit | Barnes & Noble

Video Trailer:

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Giveaway

Click on the Rafflecopter Link or Enter on the RC below for a chance to win one of the following.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Link and prizes provided by the author and tour organizer.

First Prize: $25 Giftcard to Dreamspinner Press
Second Prize: Autographed Paperback copy of Purpose

The tour organizer will select a winner from entries received as of close of business 21 October. Be sure to leave a thoughtful comment on each stop on the tour for additional chances to win.

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General Excerpt

He turned where he saw the others disappear and understood why they had stopped: dead-end alley. Ryan stood with his back to the brick wall, wide-eyed and pale. Gar noted the uncontrollable shake in Ryan’s body as the four jackals slowly inched closer. White knuckles surrounded the small bag he’d carried off the train.

The one closest to Ryan inched closer. “You know what time it is.”

“Police!” Gar didn’t wait for them to react to his command. He tightened his leg muscles and moved the moment everyone turned toward the front of the alley. Using the split second before they could focus on him, he leaped over them, twisting in the process.

The space between them and Ryan wasn’t much, but he managed to avoid contact with the kid, landing a foot to the left. He reached into his coat and removed a collapsible metal baton with his right hand and a pair of brass knuckles with the left.

One step right, and he completely covered Ryan’s shaking form. Not risking a glance back, he kept his eyes on the startled thieves in front of him.

“Stay behind me, Ryan.”

A muffled grunt, barely audible, told Gar the kid heard him. He dropped the police officer illusion, staring calmly at his prey. Assessing his adversaries, he ignored the hint of a thought that said they were not the guilty. Too late for that—they would have been had he not stopped them.

“I know what time it is,” he hissed, tossing the slang for street robberies back in their face. “Time for vengeance to collect its fee.”

In the recent past, Gar had taken to finding a way to take out the guilty without doing it himself. This time he couldn’t risk it; Ryan was too close. One of them had a gun. He could smell it now.

He definitely didn’t have time to make it look like an accident.

Spinning on his left foot, he kicked the kid with the gun so hard his skullcap flew off when his head hit the wall. Allowing his movement to carry him around, he brought the metal baton down on the arm of a robber with a knife. Metal on flesh and bone was no contest. Gar saw Ryan flinch when the kid let out a scream of agony and fell to the ground.

At least he would live, Gar noted. The first kid was probably dead already. The other two were rooted in place, stunned into inaction. Two seconds ago, they were about to rob a defenseless kid. Now they were being taken apart. Before they could run away, Gar lashed out.

Using the palm of his left hand, he struck the one closest to him. Even using the inner part of his hand, he heard the brass knuckles crack the kid’s sternum when he connected. The last kid finally moved and made it three steps before Gar swept his feet out from under him with the baton.

The face looking up in terror was that of a kid, a juvenile. They were all kids. Reaching toward the teen’s head, he heard movement behind him.

“Gar.” Ryan’s timid, urgent tone caused him to turn. “Don’t kill him.”

“I won’t.” His voice was a cold hiss. Instead, he touched the sweaty forehead, inserting confused thoughts. He quickly repeated the process with the others. The first kid still lived, but probably not for long. The other two, he left sobbing out their pain.

“Come on.” He grabbed Ryan’s left arm. “We need to go.”

Ryan resisted the pull, but Gar was prepared for this. “Either you come with me or I leave you to explain this.”

Author Bio

Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting to the times, he now writes with a shiny new AQGAuthorImage300x300MacBook that he sets on the same desk as his manual typewriter and vintage adding machine.

Long a fan of super heroes, wizards and sports, Andrew’s works include high fantasy, paranormal spirits, magic as well as contemporary fiction. He is still trying to find the perfect story that will include all his favorites under one cover.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his husband, their young daughter and dog.  In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and occasionally sleeping.

THE LAND OF MAKE BELIEVE:  “http://andrewqgordon.com/
FACEBOOK:  “https://www.facebook.com/dominic.andrews.7568

PurposeTourSidebarTour Schedule

6 Oct – Elin Gregory
6 Oct – Jessie G Books
7 Oct – Divine Magazine
8 Oct – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
9 Oct – Hearts on Fire Reviews
9 Oct – MM Good Book Reviews
10 Oct – Author Susan Mac Nicol
10 Oct – Wake Up Your Wild Side
11 Oct – The Purple Rose Tea House
12 Oct – Love Bytes Reviews
12 Oct – Queer SciFi
13 Oct – World of Diversity Fiction
14 Oct –  Prism Book Alliance
15 Oct – Diverse Reader
16 Oct – Loving Without Limits
17 Oct – Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents
18 Oct – BFD Book Blog
18 Oct – Wicked Faeries Tales and Reviews
19 Oct – Molly Lolly
20 Oct – Drops of Ink

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Books and Covers of August 2015

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Best Books and Covers of August 2015

Looking back at our August 2015, never have I seen so many wonderful books as we read and reviewed this month.  Normally I would include those books with a 4.5 or higher rating, but we had so many excellent 5 star novels this month that I had to stop somewhere and left those off this time.

Did you miss out on any of our reviews listed below?  Give them and the books another look now.  These stories are too amazing to be missed.  And don’t forget the covers that we loved just below that.  Does it match your own lists this month?  Write us and let us know!

Best Books of August 2015 – ★★★★★

Get Your Shine On by Nick Wilgus (A Stella Review on 8/5)
Redemption by Eden Winters (A MelanieM Review on 8/7)
Evolution by Lissa Kasey (An Aurora YA Review on 8/8)
Definitely, Maybe, Yours by Lissa Reed (A Mika Review on 8/11)
Diamond Edge by Laura Harner (A MelanieM Review on 8/12)
The Harder They Fall by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau (A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review on 8/13)
The Lightning-Struck Heart by T.J. Klune (A Stella Review on 8/14)
The Pillar the Kim Fielding (A BJ Review on 8/14)
Lucky Linus by Gene Grant (A Mika Review on 8/ 15)
The Homecoming by J. Scott Coatsworth on 8/21 (A Paul B Review)

Audiobooks:audiobook clipart bw

Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan, narrated by Iggy Toma (A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review on 8/17)

End of a Series:

A Piece of Cake by Mary Calmes (Jory and Sam) (A MelanieM Review) on 8/14

 

Favorite Covers of August 2015

Ink & Shadows coverDefinitely Maybe Yours coverLucky Linus coverThe Homecoming - cover2

 

 

 

 

 

Shadows and Ink by Rhys Ford, cover art by Anne Cain
Definitely, Maybe. Yours by Lissa Reed, cover art by Buckeyegrrl Design -made Mika want to read the story,
The Lightning-Struck Heart by T.J. Klune, cover art by Paul Richmond, powerful and unique
The Pillar by Kim Fielding, cover artist is Shobana Appavu.  Stunning and rich as the story
Lucky Linus by Gene Grant, cover art by Paul Richmond, photograph is again the reason Mika wanted this book
The Homecoming by J. Scott Coatsworth, cover art by London Burden, Paul thinks its one of the most gorgeous covers he’s seen all year.

Special Mentions to Kate McMurray’s The Rainbow League Series, cover art by Aaron Anderson.  Wonderful.

The Pillar coverThe Lightning Struck Heart cover

The Long Slide Home cover

Thrown A Curve cover

A MelanieM Review: Blue on Black by Carole Cummings

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Blue on Black coverKimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever had the privilege of calling their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal. Technically it shouldn’t even be possible, but there is no doubt it works.

Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious end. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has tried to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and when he finally makes it, shock is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.

I am often at a loss as to how to categorize a Carole Cummings novel.  Sometimes its fantasy, or alternate universe, or steampunk or a bit of all of those.  But no matter how  you want to classify them,  the fact remains that Carole Cummings is one of the most inventive, imaginative storyteller out there.  Cummings’ Wolf’s -Own series, stories I love, is a perfect example with its blending of cultural mythology, action/adventure, mystery and romance.  So I was very excited to see a new book, Blue on Black, was being released by DSP Publications.  Did the new story meet my high expectation for a Carole  Cummings novel?  A resounding yes in every way.

Our main narrator, Bas, provides our view into his bleak, tech driven world.  Its a place where a catastrophic event or series of events has changed both the political and  natural landscape…for the worse. Bas’ society runs by and is dependant on its psionic gridTechs, of varying strengths and abilities.  These techs, few by nature, are in so much demand that they are often captured, or kidnapped to be sold at a sort of Underground Tech Black Market.   Bas is a Directorate Tracker and its his job (along with his fellow trackers) to find the missing Techs, shutdown whatever operation or group had them, and return  them to the Directorate.  Its a tough, often perilous job that often means working undercover. Only now Bas is being sent undercover to do not only his job as a tracker but to cover for a dead Directorate agent as well.  Why?  Because someone has to get into the town of Stanslo’s Bridge, no matter the cost.  An evil is spreading out from there and at its heart is the Baron Stanslo.

I love a book that just sweeps me along, pulling me into worlds and situations so fantastical that I felt like whooping with glee.   That’s Blue on Black, where we go from the territory and city of the Directorate to the wild, wild west of the badlands or lost lands that surrounds the town that is the domain of an insane tyrant.  There is only one way in and out.  To take any other route means death,  given the strange creatures that exist out there and the extreme uninhabitable landscape.  The  tales shifts from high  tech to wild west steampunk, and gets richer in description and sheer inventiveness.

What else pulled me in ? An element that had me sold from the beginning. Remember the old movie “Laura”?  It’s one where a detective is investigating the murder of a young woman and falls in love with her portrait and the person she was from the pieces gathered from  his interviews.  From its haunting theme song to its film noir atmosphere, it remains a favorite and that element happens here.  Bas is fixated on Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech whose death has hit everyone hard whether they knew him or not.  Kimo was a genius on the brink of a major discovery   concerning the  Techgrid when he died.  And Bas can’t get him out of his head.  From Kimo’s writings to his photographs, the deceased psyTech is contantly in Bas’  thoughts.

His journey to hell and discover starts at the broken down train station, the one with a corpse of a scryTech nailed to the door.  Bas takes one barely running steam run train and then must switch to another (all in the company of some of the tyrant’s gang).  Here is Bas in the second train:

It’s different than any train Bas has ever been on before. Instead of the heavy ka-chunk ka-chunk of wheels on tracks, there’s more of a wheezy hum, smoother somehow, and it just has a lighter feel to it. Instead of the thick haze of stoke smoke and steam, there’s a hot reek of burnt gridstream and a charge to the air. It’s sort of exhilarating, because Bas has no doubt whatsoever he’s riding on a train that’s being powered solely by gridTech, and he’s pretty sure he’s one of a very few to even see something like this, let alone get a demonstration. It takes a little bit, but it does eventually occur to him that that’s likely the reason for the switch and the way station. Harrowgate is isolated, yeah, and even more so now that there’s no more relay office, but people do live there, and rumors do find a way of traveling long distances. If Stanslo doesn’t want anyone outside of his little desert barony to know he’s got what looks to Bas like a train that runs on independent gridstream, then he’d do best not to let them see it at all.

I was right, Bas thinks again and blinks when his jaw clamps too tight and his eyes narrow down to angry slits. Kimolijah Adani was killed for his designs. And now I’m riding into hell’s teeth on one of them.

And what Bas finds when he finally enters Stanslo’s Bridge is shocking, bleak and terrifying.  What’s worse?  Bas has to fit in as one of Stanslo’s enforcers.  This story is full of heartbreak, pain, death, magnificent inventions and hope.  I moved from one emotion to the next, swept along by Cumming’s vision and  amazing characters.  I felt so connected to them all because each person felt alive and believable, no matter the circumstances.

DSP Publications releases stories where romance is not the main element in the plot.  There is some here but for those looking for unadulterated passion and romance?  That is not Blue on Black.  What I found here was so satisfying and complete that I never felt the lack of any element.  But others might.   This is not a hearts and flowers story by any means.

I won’t go further, too many spoilers would pop up but the beauty of Cumming’s language sinks you  deeper into this story and characters, the words can transport even while making you believe in the ugly, mean, stripped down place that is Stanislo’s Bridge.   At times, I found myself holding my breath, tense, waiting for the next awful thing to happen, the suspense darn near killing me.  At  other times, I just marveled at the people trying to hold onto their lives, no matter how miserable the Baron had made them, that sense of hope floats over the story like a hawk in flight.  And that ending,, a perfectHFN, sings with a fierce joy and  lyricism  that makes me read it over and over again.

This is a book to relish, one to hunker down with and read in one session.  I highly recommend Blue On Black by Carole Cummings,  In fact, I recommend all of Cummings stories.  Pick this one up and get started today.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  I like the cover.  But it doesn’t contain any of the  darkness that fills the story.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications |   Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 380 pages
Published June 16th 2015 by DSP Publications
ISBN139781632169501
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dsppublications.com/ *

[Note: DSP Publications is a non romance imprint of Dreamspinner PRess.  DSP Publications books and stories are not meant to have a romantic element, although some do.  Those looking for total romance should turn to Dreamspinner Press].

In the Spotlight: Andrew Q. Gordon’s The Eye and The Arm (excerpt and giveaway)

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The Eye and The Arm (Champion of the Gods #2)  by Andrew Q. Gordon

STRW In The Spotlight Header

Release Date: April 14, 2015

Are  you a lover of fantasy fiction? Then check out Andrew Q. Gordon’s latest fantasy novel,  The Eye and The Arm in his Champion of the Gods series.  We have the book synopsis and an excerpt for you as well as a contest to enter.  Happy Reading.

Special bonus! We also have a trailer for you as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bk6OfKOU6nc&feature=youtu.be

STRW Author BookSynopsis

After defeating Meglar at Belsport, Farrell returns to Haven to recover from his injuries, but Khron, the god of war, has other ideas. He gives Farrell a new mission: free the survivors of the ancient dwarf realm of Trellham from their three-thousand-year banishment. To fulfill Khron’s near impossible task, Farrell will need the help of his distance ancestor, the legendary wizard Kel. But Kel has been dead for a thousand years.
 
Farrell finds information hinting that Kel is alive, so he moves his search to Dumbarten, Kel’s birthplace. To reach Dumbarten unannounced, Farrell and Miceral disguise themselves as mercenaries on board a merchant vessel. Their journey is disrupted when pirates attack their ship. While attempting to subdue the attack, Farrell is struck down by one of Meglar’s minions.

Unconscious and trapped in his own mind, Farrell’s only chance for survival rests with Miceral and the peregrine king Rothdin entering his thoughts and helping him sort fact from illusion. To reach Farrell, they will need to rely on an untested spell from one of Kel’s spellbooks. If they succeed, Miceral can guide Farrell home safely. If not, Farrell will destroy not only himself, but Miceral, Rothdin, and everyone around him.

Pages or Words: 296 pages

AQGRC

Categories: Fantasy, Gay Fiction

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

Miceral grabbed his last javelin and crept toward the starboard rail. The tip of pirate’s prow had just reached their stern. He could see men crouched under the protection of the gunwale. “They’re almost here—be ready.”

Moving faster than the enemy could react, Miceral scaled the short staircase and quickly found a protected spot in the aftcastle. Peering through a narrow opening, he scanned the clusters of men he could see. At the rear of the largest group, Miceral spotted someone who, by clothing at least, appeared to be an officer. With no one else standing out as being the captain, this man became his target.

Springing to his feet, he hurled the spear before anyone could target him. One of the pirates huddled by the rail fired an arrow, which Miceral caught in midflight. Flashing the enemy a wicked grin, he snapped the shaft in half before dropping back behind his cover.

Miceral closed one eye and stared through the space between crates. He watched the men look toward where their officer had been standing, and from the shouts he knew he’d hit his mark. One pirate tried to pull the spear out but failed. When he turned to ask for help, a stream of blood dribbled out of his mouth and over the feathers of the arrow protruding from his neck. Everyone else ducked immediately and remained out of sight.

Miceral traced the shaft’s path back to where Peter knelt, nocking another arrow. He gave his friend a wink and a nod. Before either could enjoy the small victory, a hail of arrows and spears whistled across the deck. Under the cover of this barrage, dozens of grappling hooks landed on the deck of the Rose. Once the barbs dug into whatever purchase they could find, the two vessels inched closer. Miceral heard the faint thud of the two ships colliding and slipped the mace and axe from his belt.

With the ships tethered together, the pirates flipped long wooden planks from their ship onto the Seafoam Rose. Hooks on the ends secured the slim pathway firmly in place. The first wave of invaders ran across the boards, screaming at the top of their lungs. If they expect to scare the crew into surrender, that hope dissipated when four of their number fell dead from a round of arrows.

Miceral used the distraction to leap from his hiding place. Screaming his own battle cry, he rushed the startled pirates. From his right, Emerson and Nathan led the crew in defense of their ship.

The ferocity of the resistance appeared to catch the invaders by surprise. Miceral killed anything in his reach, stalling the attack momentarily. Peter stood next to Miceral and proved the value of all the long hours of practice he’d been put through.

Unfortunately, Miceral couldn’t defend all points of entry onto the vessel. The pirates quickly learned to avoid the armed warrior who moved with the speed of lightning.

The initial advantage of the Rose’s crew quickly evaporated as the pirates brought superior numbers onto the trading ship. To avoiding being surrounded, the defenders fell back to a predetermined, more defensible position. This allowed the rest of the pirates to cross unimpeded.

“Now would be a good time to arrive, Farrell.” Miceral didn’t know if Farrell could hear him, but if he didn’t arrive soon, there’d be no one left to rescue.

“I’m almost there, Ral.” Farrell’s voice distracted Miceral enough that he cut off an opponent’s arm instead of slicing through the man’s neck. “Hang on!”

  • Publisher: DSP Publications
  • Cover Artist: AngstyG
  • Sales Links: DSP Publications

STRW Author Bio and Contacts

Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of twenty years, their daughter and dog.  In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.

Where to find the author:

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Tour Dates & Stops: April 15, 2015

Parker Williams, Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Bayou Book Junkie, Cate Ashwood, Charley Descoteaux, BFD Book Blog, Full Moon Dreaming, Divine Magazine, Butterfly-O-Meter, 

Molly Lolly, The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat, Rainbow Gold Reviews, The Hat Party, Love Bytes, Inked Rainbow Reads, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, The Novel Approach, My Fiction Nook, Velvet Panic, Prism Book Alliance, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Fallen Angel Reviews, Amanda C. Stone, Elin Gregory, Nephylim

 

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Contest: Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: 3 e-copies of the Last Grand Master with the new cover art. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Link and Prizes provided by the author and Pride Promotions.

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In the Spotlight: Rick R. Reed’s IM – a Thriller Crime Drama (contest)

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STRW In The Spotlight Header

IM by Rick R. Reed
Release Date: March 10, 2015

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A killer’s on the loose, now invite him  into your house.

A new thriller from  Rick R. Reed has arrived.  Read the excerpt and prepare for the killer who lurks within.

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STRW Author BookSynopsis

The Internet is the new meat market for gay men. Now a killer is turning the meat market into a meat wagon.

One by one, he’s killing them. Lurking in the digital underworld of Men4HookUpNow.com, he lures, seduces, and charms, reaching out through instant messages to the unwary. When the first body surfaces, openly gay Chicago Police Department detective Ed Comparetto is called in to investigate. At the scene, the young man who discovered the body tells him the story of how he found his friend. But did this witness play a bigger role in the murder than he’s letting on?

For Comparetto, this encounter is the beginning of a nightmare—because this witness did more than just show up at the scene of the crime; he set the scene.

Pages or Words: 280 pages

Categories: Thriller, Crime Drama, Mystery

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

Lake Shore Drive at night has its own excitement, especially when one is hurtling toward a rendezvous with an unknown destiny. On one side of my car, Lake Michigan bears silent witness to the streams of traffic heading north and south, headlights like glowing insect eyes piercing the night. The other side of the highway is crowded with high-rises, their glass, chrome, and concrete rising into the sky, hives of activity within, quiet sentinels without.

I have a cold bottle of Samuel Adams between my legs, a Marlboro burning in the ashtray. Normally, beer and cigarettes are not my vices. I care about my health, you see. But these are props, the same as the deeper-pitched voice I use, same as my word choices, which are much less sophisticated than someone with an MA in English from the University of Chicago. The beer and cigarettes are part of my costume. Tonight I wear faded, ragged Levi’s 501s, the crotch faded, the buttons moving in an inverted question mark, emphasizing the bulge in my crotch.

When did gay men turn into no-charge prostitutes? Has it always been this way?

Whatever. I’m also wearing a Bulls T-shirt, the sleeves cut off raggedly, the neck cut low.

I take a swig of the beer, letting its cold bitterness snake down my throat, and turn up the tape player. Ironic. Leonard Cohen is singing, “Ain’t No Cure for Love.”

I press down on the gas; ahead is my exit: Irving Park Road.

When I arrive, I see the apartment is a red brick six flat, identical to others all over the city. I ring the buzzer, and the guy doesn’t even bother to ask who it is. No difference. We never exchanged names anyway.

Trudging up the stairs, waiting for the shotgun-cocking sound of a lock being turned, a chain sliding back into place. Someone waits to admit me. Someone I don’t even know.

What a friendly world this is.

A door opens above.

What waits upstairs?

I round the bend and I see him. Nothing like his description, but who expected different? I am nothing like what I told him. No matter. As long as you’re male and reasonably young and acceptable, you’re in.

The guy has a good body, and his lips curl into a grin as I head toward him, dragging on my Marlboro. He’s wearing a pair of black bikini briefs. His moment of glory, this is what he’s worked for all those long hours at the gym. Finally someone to appreciate the shaved and defined pecs, the smooth washboard belly, the bulging biceps I just know he will somehow maneuver to flex for me.

But he’s much older than what I had expected. Midforties probably. His reddish-brown hair is thinning, and the blue eyes are framed by crow’s feet. A bottle of “eye-revitalizing” cream is in his medicine cabinet, I bet. The goatee, a desperate ploy to make himself look younger and hip, is embarrassingly ineffective. A cougar tattoo snakes down one of his arms.

“How you doin’?” I exhale a cloud of smoke and pass him as he opens the door wider to admit me.

“Great. Now that you’re here.”

The apartment is small, crowded with “contemporary” furniture: a black leather grouping in the living room, chrome and glass tables, spare jagged-looking twig and dried flower arrangements. On the walls, Herb Ritts posters of absurdly pumped-up young men in various settings: a garage, on the seashore.

The guy leads me into the bedroom. Platform bed, comforter thrown back, striped sheets. The nightstand holds the tools of his true trade: a plastic cup full of condoms he probably never uses, a couple of little brown bottles filled with butyl nitrite, a leather cock ring, a metal cock ring, and a large pump bottle of Wet. On the lower shelf, a stack of neatly folded but ragged white towels.

A dresser faces the bed, and atop it, a color TV and DVD combination. On the screen, a wildly muscled dark-haired guy tries to sit on one of those orange traffic cones. Amazingly, he’s beginning to succeed.

I grin.

The guy drops the black briefs and sits on the bed. Hoarsely, “Why don’t you get undressed, man?”

“Why don’t you do it for me?”

Instantly supplicant, he’s on his knees before me, working the buttons on my jeans. I’m sure his eyes are glistening. Already his breath is coming faster.

I push his hand away. “Hold on.” I lift the goateed face up to my own and look in his blue eyes, where nothing but desire and trust mingle. “I want you to lie down on the bed. Lie on your stomach.”

He gets up and does as he’s told. The half moons of his ass practically glow in the darkness. A thin whiter line disappears in his crack, where his thong was. The definition in his arms shows up perfectly as he raises them above his head to clutch the pillow.

His legs are parted, waiting.

“I just need to do something real quick. You stay right there.” I look back at him as I exit the room. “You’re a good boy, right? Do what you’re told?”

“Yes, sir.”

In the kitchen, I go quickly through the drawers until I find the one with the knives. For the first time, I get hard, and I think of the blood pumping, filling the spongy cavities.

The blood. Essence of life.

I strip down, leaving my clothes in a pile on the kitchen floor. I hope I don’t bring any cockroaches home.

I hold the butcher knife I chose to my side, concealing it with my arm, and head back to the bedroom.

He still lies there, waiting and trustful, thinking he’s about to be penetrated.

And he is.

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Goodreads Link
Publisher: DSP Publications
Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Sales Links:

DSP Publications ebook:
Amazon Kindle

STRW Author Bio and Contacts
About Rick R. Reed

RRR author photo orange check

Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction.  Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever”at work on another novel.”

Where to find the author:

Web: http://www.rickrreed.com
Blog: http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/rickrreed. 
E-mail: jimmyfels@gmail.com

Tour Dates & Stops: 

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Contest: Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of ‘Third Eye’. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Rafflecopter link and prizes to be provided by Pride Promotions.

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A MelanieM Review: Epitaph (Infected #8) by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 3 out of 5

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective solving crimes involving other infecteds.

Infected Epitaph coverThe last thing anyone needs is for a new tiger strain of the virus to start showing up among the Infecteds.  Even worse, with one sniff Roan realizes that his connection to this tiger virus is personal and painful.  Roan has also been asked by Dee to investigate the death of one of Dee’s former lovers.

 Then the FBI wants him to investigate a new apocalypse cult of infecteds pushing for a violent revolution against normals. All around Roan, events are spiraling out of control. Just when his singular abilities are needed most, Roan develops new symptoms that might signify dire consequences if he doesn’t stop shifting at will. Roan finds himself at a crossroads and must make a difficult decision about his future.

It has taken me weeks to decide how to approach this review, hoping time would allow some sort of objectivity to layer over the disappointment and sadness this story produced.  But that didn’t happen.  My feelings towards Epitaph remain the same…I feel letdown and regretful that I didn’t stop at Undertow, a story where the promise of Roan McKitchen and his universe remain vibrant, gripping and full of anticipation for the future.

First of all, let me say that this has nothing to do with the fact that Epitaph is indeed that, an epitaph for Roan McKitchen, the Infecteds, and the complex, enthralling universe that Andrea Speed created back in 2010. Actually it began prior as it started as a serialized story on Andrea Speed’s website (stories now removed).  No matter.  From the beginning, Speed created in Roan McKitchen not only the tragic mythic hero but one for our ages, complete with t-shirts showcasing obscure bands and a dialog that snapped and sizzled.  Roan’s conversations were always full of current references to books, songs, poems even events, places and people that demonstrated Roan’s high intelligence and sarcastic regard for society as a whole.   Roan would have been amazing as a human but as an Infected child?  He became heroic, memorable and magnetic in his hold over the others he meets and befriends as well as the readers who discovered him.

I am one of those enthralled readers.  We readers have followed Roan through his soulmate relationship with Paris and the resulting heartbreak that ended with Paris’ death, a death that still gets to me. We have watched the transformation of Roan as the virus morphed and Roan figured out how to deal with that changing status no matter the pain, pills, and blood it cost him.  Throughout seven books Andrea Speed kept developing and deepening her universe and that stunning creation of a cat virus.  The wilder the transformations and spread of the virus throughout the population the more caught up in Roan’s world and Roan himself we became.  Through discoveries that Roan’s tumors were packets of the virus, the changes in musculature that in once instance formed a protective plate that saved him,  even to the fact that the Lion could be awake and thinking while Roan was not, all powerful images and concepts.

All that would be enough to satisfy any series but Speed’s vision grew larger, as did her science and virus.  There was the memorable and heartbreaking Infected Pieta scene that had me in tears.  What a brilliant image and the emotions it provoked in the onlookers watching Roan and the dying lion were the same ones that pulled on the readers hearts as well.  There were chilling moments such as the one where Roan/Lion destroyed an Infected underground fight ring, aided by Infecteds in cat form (different species) who followed Roan and his orders as if he were their King. It was stunning and visionary, full of immense promise and speculation for future stories.  And the one element that I always kept tucked away hoping to see resolved…the fact that Roan’s lion was as much in love with Paris as Roan was, an emotion that did not carry over to Dylan.  Paris was that unique creation that matched Roan perfectly and Dylan’s character never was able to rise  to the vibrancy and complexity that was Paris or Roan.

I could go on and on, about scene after scene that Andrea Speed filled with imaginative plot threads, unique elements and additional fantastic characters I took to heart much as the main ones.  This series is filled with strong, magnetic people like the various Seattle Falcons hockey players (Grey, Tank,  or Greg , not to mention such friends as Holden (my favorite along with Grey), Doctor Rosenberg, Fiona and Dee.  Andrea Speed’s Infected series is chock full of people you could build series around and then some.  And this large cast got better, more layered as the books and various storylines continued.  Until the end.  That sad, sorry, dispirited end.

Towards the end it was almost as if Speed was deconstructing her characters, pulling them apart like insects under a magnifying glass. Poor Grey, he always had a certain enigmatic allure to him.  Not so much by the end of the book.  It’s been reported that there is to be a Paris prequel and a Holden story.  I don’t think I can bear it.  Not after this.

I almost gave this story a much lower rating.  Why?  Well, not because it didn’t end as I hoped it would.  No, that prerogative rests solely with the author. It’s their right to do whatever they want with their characters and story. No, its because this story was lacking the life, complexity and power of all the previous installments.  I could have taken any ending had this story lived up to the quality of the previous stories. Reading this book was the equivalent of watching the blood drain from a dying animal, an animal you loved.  Every scene was a sad, tired struggle, for the characters and this reader to get through.   Even the major conflagration scenes here, ones that should have been bursting with explosive drama and fireworks were more of a dustup then all out battle.  After that it was just one last diminished little journey to the finish line. All promise gone, all the splendid anticipation squandered, and worst of all, what an injustice for a heroic creation like Roan.   How lifeless, limp and lame.

I should have stopped at Undertow.  And I will do my best not to think any further about Epitaph.  All the other stories remain well remembered and loved.  For them and for Roan, I gave this story a 3 star rating.  There were still flashes of inspiration and dialog that made me smile, however, infrequent and sparing they were.

If you are new to this series, start with Infected Prey and Bloodlines and continue on to Undertow.  After that its up to you.

Cover artist Anne Cain’s covers have been outstanding throughout the series, including this one.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications       Amazon          Buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 330 pages
Published November 18th 2014 by DSP Publications
ISBN139781627988629
edition languageEnglish
seriesInfected #8
charactersRoan McKichan

Books in the Infected series in the order they were written and should be read: