Love Sci Fy? Check out The Silvers by J.A. Rock (giveaway tour)

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The Silvers

The Silvers by J.A. Rock
R
iptide Publishing
Cover art by Simoné

Read an Excerpt/Buy It Here

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have J.A Rock here today talking about her latest release, The Silvers. Welcome, J.A.

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Hi! I’m J.A. Rock, and right now I’m touring the internet talking about my latest release, The Silvers. Thanks so much to the blogs that are hosting me on this tour, and be sure to leave comments on the tour posts for a chance to win a $15 Riptide Publishing gift card!

About The Silvers

What humans want from the Silver Planet is water. What they find is a race of humanoids who are sentient, but as emotionless and serene as the plants and placid lakes they tend.

B, captain of the mission, doesn’t believe that the “Silvers” are intelligent, and lets his crew experiment on them. But then he bonds with Imms, who seems different from the others—interested in learning, intrigued by human feelings. And B realizes that capturing, studying, and killing this planet’s natives has done incalculable damage.

When a fire aboard B’s ship kills most of the crew and endangers Imms, B decides to take him back to Earth. But the simplicity of the Silver Planet doesn’t follow them. Imms learns the full spectrum of human emotions, including a love B is frightened to return, and a mistrust of the bureaucracy that wants to treat Imms like a test subject, even if they have to eliminate B to do it.

About the Author

J.A. Rock is the author of queer romance and suspense novels, including By His Rules, Take the Long Way Home, and, with Lisa Henry, The Good Boy and When All The World Sleeps. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a BA in theater from Case Western Reserve University. J.A. also writes queer fiction and essays under the name Jill Smith. Raised in Ohio and West Virginia, she now lives in Chicago with her dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.

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Giveaway

To celebrate the release of The Silvers, J.A. Rock is giving away $15 in Riptide Publishing credit. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 16, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A Free Dreamer Review: Retribution (Tribute #2) by Kate Pearce

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Retribution_600x900Cheated out of his exit from the Tribute program, Kai Mexr is forced to return as a trainer for one more year. His trainee, Aled Price, is an idealistic Mitan patriot who Kai struggles not to loathe on sight, and who seems up for any challenge Kai sets him. As Aled learns to give up control and endure the program’s worst, Kai is drawn into an intense sexual game that leaves him wanting more.

But then Aled must fulfill his duty as Tribute. He must endure the Ungrich—or die.

When Aled returns, it takes Kai’s ruthless presence to pull his trainee back from the brink of madness. Surviving the Ungrich makes Aled doubt his blind allegiance to his planet—and to everything else he’d never thought to question. But with Kai at his side, Aled finds a new cause to believe in. And with the help of master trainer Akran and his partner Anna Lee, Aled and Kai forge unbreakable allegiances of blood, sex, and love that could save the entire planet from the Ungrich for good.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes: Dubious Consent, Non-Consent, Explicit Violence, Heavy Kink

 First of all: Please do take that warning seriously. I don’t think there was a single really consensual sex scene in this book. There was even a bit of tentacle rape, though that was rather short and non-explicit. There’s also a LOT of kink here. If any of those things bother you, this is not a book for you.

I didn’t read book one of the series but I never felt like I missed vital information. So this definitely works as a stand-alone, even if the ending has a very mean cliff hanger.

Essentially, “Retribution” is 100 pages of pure sex, with a bit of combat training mixed in. The sex was really, really hot and very kinky. I decided not to read this while out in public after a few pages. It had me all hot and bothered. 😉

I didn’t realize there would be in this, so I was a little worried when I started reading and saw the tentacles at the beginning of each chapter. Tentacle rape is so not my kind of thing, but those scenes were mercifully brief and unlike everything else, also rather non-explicit.

There was no real plot here and the world-building was pretty much non-existent. Honestly, I didn’t mind that much. The occasional bit of porn is fun and this had just the right length.

If you’re looking for a quick, hot read with tons of kink and don’t mind non-/dub-con, then you’ll like “Retribution”. Just don’t expect too much plot.

I’m not sure if I want to read part 3 as well, since that seems to be M/M/F, which I’ve never tried.

The cover by Lou Harper is quite hot, just like the story. Well done.

Sales: Riptide Publishing |  |Amazon |  Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 100 pages
Published October 5th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN1626492883 (ISBN13: 9781626492882)
Series: Tribute

Review: King of Dublin by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau

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Ratings 3.75 stars out of 5 (rounded up to 4)

ARC fullcoverTwenty years ago a virus spread around the world, and the resulting deadly pandemic left all countries in ruin, its populations and governments destroyed in the aftermath.  Darragh Fergus Anluan and the other children of the Irish village Cuíl Aodha survived when their elders died but only just.  Hard winters and a disease which seems to return on a cycle has left the small group further decimated.  Desperate for medicine, Darragh is leaving his home against the pleas of the others to search for medicine to help them survive another winter in their small village.  Unsure of what has survived, Darragh is horrified to find that Dublin is nothing more than a ruin, ruled by a sadistic despot who has taken the name of King Boru.

King Boru rules by fear and force, accumulating an army of thieves, murderers and rapists eager to do his bidding.  Those who oppose him are killed or sold off as slaves.  And sitting at his feet is his Boy, a pretty sex slave, whose looks entrance Darragh even as the abuse and rape the Boy endures at the hands of the King and his soldiers draw out Darragh’s protective instincts.  If Darragh is to get his hands on any medicine, he must appear to join the ranks of the king’s men.

Ciaran Daly is the son of a high official in Belfast, a place of relative civility and safety. Ciaran wanted to help out Ireland, believing good deeds and good intentions would triumph over the problems and issues he thought he  would find in Dublin.  So Ciaran and his band of naive friends gathered together supplies and snuck away from their families and friends. But they were unprepared for their capture at the hands of the brutish soldiers of Boru as soon as they crossed the border.  All died except for Ciaran.

Ostensibly held as a hostage, Ciaran has been reduced to Boy, King Boru’s sex slave.  The continual abuse Ciaran suffers has torn away all hope but the arrival of Darragh in the King’s court sparks it back to life.  Darragh is different no matter how hard he tries to hide it.  And Darragh’s gentle attraction to the King’s pet is a dangerous one should anyone notice.  The madness that is King Boru is just the type, however, that incites treason instead of loyalty.  And soon Darragh and Ciaran realize that if their hopes are to become reality, then the King must fall.*

Heidi Belleau has a fondness for Ireland and its culture, all of which translates to her writing (see The Druid Stone).  Lisa Henry shares Belleau’s fascination with the Irish people and their culture.  So a dystopian society based in Ireland, where the characters bear Irish names that speak of the past and the lore of the people makes perfect sense. From the names to the places and mentions of Irish history, this story is steeped in the love of Ireland.  And no matter how bad it gets (and it gets very bad indeed), the moments of cultural recognition and love shine as in scenes at Newgrange, home of The Dagda, and the high kings of Tara.

If you are familiar at all with the novels of Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry, than the shear scope of the universe and the enormous amount of attention to detail given to the world building here is to be expected from these remarkable authors.  So too is the level of darkness and brutality of existence in the dystopian society created they have created. As society and governments fell, so too did all laws and structure that would have protected the remaining populace.  Instead, it deteriorated into a deadly scramble for power and the acquisition of material wealth and modern vehicles such as cars and gasoline.  Dublin becomes a harsh and deadly world, ruled by gangs and petty despots of which King Boru is at the top of the corrupt pile.

Belleau and Henry are never ones to shy away from difficult material or subject matter. The descriptions of the ruined Dublin are vivid and intense.  Urine soaked courtyards and streets full of human misery, and waste, the authors bring their dystopian society alive.  Here is an excerpt as Darragh goes on his first patrol with King Boru’s soldiers:

People.

The warehouse was full of people, penned in like cattle. Worse somehow than the heads on posts, because they were still alive. Still full of fear and hope.

“Trader can get three hundred for one in good condition,” Hugh said. “That’s worth a few bags of supplies our way.”

“What happens to them then?” Darragh asked. His brain felt like it was stuffed with cotton. He couldn’t think.

Hugh shrugged. “Don’t much care.”

“Isn’t that the way of it though,” Seamus said, “Even in the old days, the only thing Ireland ever had of value for export was the Irish.”

But never like this.

“These traders. They are . . .” Darragh struggled for the word. It seemed so childish, a word from a fantasy like elves or wizards, but no, he knew it was real as well, even if it seemed absurd. “Pirates?”

Noel laughed, the sound terrible and twisted in this place of human suffering. “I think Viking’s the better word, considering, but sure, some are pirates. And some are pirates in the hire of governments, not that the ones paying them would ever admit it.”

Governments trading in human chattel, and the king turning a profit.

And now Darragh was aiding them in the effort.

Medicine. He needed medicine. Not wealth or power or boys dripping with gold.

Medicine, upon which the lives of his people depended.

He looked down at the pens below, at the people standing huddled together, shifting and hugging themselves in the cold. Men, women, and even children. The whole place stinking of desperation and human waste.

Their lives for the lives of Darragh’s kin.

A grim trade, to be sure.

As grim as any the king might make.

With its rank slave markets down by the docks, heads of Boru’s enemies on stakes lining the harbor, the grim reality of life in Dublin is made real to both Darragh and the reader.  Death and enslavement have been made common. So when abuse and rape arrive as part of the norm of this brutal regime than it follows that those details and sometimes hard to read scenes are included in the narrative as well.

The characters found here are as intense as the situations they find themselves in.  There are scenes of constant degradation and humiliation to go along with the continual rape and abuse.  Its overpowering and its meant to be.  Darragh is everything that King Boru and Dublin is not.  Darragh is the best that Ireland has to offer.  He is compassionate, unwaveringly loyal to those who deserve his loyalty, and he has a moral center that did not decay along with rise of disease.  The contrast of Darragh against the terror and horrific extremes of the court of Boru is frightening, heightening up the anxiety and suspense for Darragh safety and mission.

Ciaran’s character is far more complicated.  Ciaran’s naive idealogical crossing of borders without thinking of the possible consequences seems so unbelievably unworldly and gullible. Sheltered in Belfast, a northern city that remains healthy and relatively safe, Ciaran and his friends actions and belief that their ideological and righteous intentions would act like a shield to keep them safe seems idiotic. But one only has to look to current events and the media to find examples of just such behavior in like minded American youths today. Ones who expect their nationality and beliefs to raise them up over the problems they think they will face only to find it a chimera, no more solid than smoke and or able to keep the worst from happening. Which it did.  For them and for Ciaran.

Kept starved and in the dark in a state that mimics a deprivation tank, Ciaran’s isolation by Boru is such that the alternative however hellish is preferable.  That seems authentic as a state of mind.  Victimized, abused, raped, Ciaran struggles to hold onto remnants of who he was, fearing he will disappear into Boy for good.  However, later on in the story, that same naïveté and stubbornness that brought him to Dublin and into the clutches of Boru continues, surfacing and impacting his actions until I had problems with staying invested in this character. At what point does naivete turn into stupidity and stubbornness become a cover for self centered delusion?  Each reader will have to answer those questions for themselves.

Moments of shattering emotional impact are made more hurtful because these characterizations are so well done that it feels as though it is happening to people we have gotten to know. And  instead of being able to keep our distance as we could with one note personas we are trapped in the moment with Darragh, Ciaran and Rabbit (another wonderful character). When the authors put these people in danger, then scenes such as these demand a response from the reader equivalent in emotion to the ones the characters are experiencing. Trust me when I say it will double the impact of the events unfolding in front of you.

And just when the graphic abuse and the horrific intensity of Ciaren’s pain and humiliation get to be too much, then Belleau and Henry give their characters and the readers a much needed  break as the narrative takes a turn towards hope and freedom.  For me, it didn’t come too soon.  I was starting to have some issues with the major characters starting with Ciaran. He’s learned nothing apparently until its almost too late.  And in my opinion, that aspect of his character makes it a tougher sale in keeping the readers fully invested in Ciaran.

Darragh too has gone through some transformations, understandable given the events he survived. Part of that is that Darragh apparently forgets all about the medicine his people need in his obsession over Ciaran who continues to lie and manipulate him. We can relate to his actions  to some degree but still I am not sure that Henry and Belleau made that case here for Darragh completely dismissing his mission to the degree that he does so.

But other characters arrive to take hold of your affections, chief among them is Rabbit, a young boy of extreme resourcefulness and rough charm.  He actually became my favorite at the end.

King of Dublin has much to recommend it, great characters, intense storytelling, and a realistic dystopian Irish society.  If you find that the descriptions and scenes of graphic abuse are ones that you can adjust to, then I recommend this book to you.  If, on the other hand, sexual violence and scenes of non consent are outside your comfort zone, then I would look to many of these authors other stories. I am sure you will find one there to love.

Cover Art by Vongue, http://vongue.deviantart.com.  This cover is well done in conveying the characters and the setting in Dublin.

Book Details:

ebook, 375 pages
Published February 24th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published February 22nd 2014)

Review: The Prince and the Practitioner by Christian Baines

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Prince and the Practitioner coverEliot had been practicing magic for most of his life but never had he been successful in summoning a demon…until now.  Far too impulsive for his own good, Eliot’s spell casting has always been a hit or miss proposition.  Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t.  So when the summoning succeeded and brought forth a demon, it didn’t work out exactly as Eliot had hoped.  Instead of a demon to control, the demon Prynthius now had control of Eliot.  With Prynthius deep within Eliot’s body, Eliot decides, to his horror and pain, that the only way to dislodge the demon is to pass him on to another unsuspecting body, one that the demon must approve of before the transfer is made.

Dean, tall, gorgeous and sexy, seems like the perfect target when Eliot sees him at the local gay hookup bar.  With the demon’s pain induced instructions echoing in his mind, Eliot accepts Dean’s invitation to return home with him for a night full of hot sex and kinky exploration.  But is Dean as straightforward as he appears?  Who will be left standing when all the secrets are exposed?

Christian Baines’ first novel, The Beast Without, was a terrific supernatural tale of horror.  It contained multidimensional characters and a complex plot.  At 234 pages, the author gave himself the length necessary to explore in detail the world he was creating as well as construct a complex history for his main and secondary characters.  It was a refreshing take on creatures dominating all forms of media these days,  vampires and werewolves, and I loved it.

The Prince and the Practitioner has many of the same elements that exemplified The Beast Without but at approximately 27 pages it seems to be missing the breadth and detail necessary to make this story feel as well constructed and polished as the one that preceded it.

Once again Christian Baines has chosen to feature in his story a couple of creatures seen often in novels and on tv and movie screens these days, the demon and the wizard.  Baines appears to enjoy tearing away any romantic overlay from often used character types to pare them down to the horrific bare bones they are capable of.  That is certainly the case with his characters here.     Eliot is not an especially admirable person.  He is certainly not one most readers will relate to.  His is a slapdash morality, one more composed of expediency and self interest than one based in any sort of ethicality and righteousness. Prynthius is everything a malevolent demon should be or at least the backstory provided by the author makes him out to be.  Prynthius is more a dubious outline of a monster than a fleshed out one.  And that lack of solidity lessens the impact his demon is supposed to make.

Dean only snaps into place as a credible character midway through the story.  I can understand why the author made this decision but again it delays the cohesion to the narrative.  The story starts off more like a simplistic piece of porn than a tale of horror.  Had Baines given the reader a little more substance, a little more back story to the opening scenes of The Prince and the Practitioner, this would have felt more polished and solid than the story it finally morphed into.

I don’t have to like a book  or its characters to admire the cleverness of the plot is or the preciseness of the prose, both of which can be found within this story. Like fun house mirrors, nothing is as it seems here but still I had an issue or two with Eliot. With characters whose sense of morality has the same properties as a puddle of muddy water, one character’s righteous indignation at the end seemed false and out of place, especially considering the events that preceded it.  Either the author meant to show Eliot’s gift of self deception to be as endless as I felt it was or the hypocrisy of the scene didn’t bother him as it did me.  This departure from the persona the author has created felt like a break in the characterization, an unnecessary one to my mind.

I do feel the twist at the end elevated The Prince and the Practitioner past porn into a story with layers as opposed to merely sequential sex scenes.  I only wish that the author had included trace elements early on that hinted at the depth and twists of plot to come.  So too does any tenderness and compassion feel completely out of place among these egocentric masters of magic.

This short story contains elements of bdsm (whipping to be precise), D/s, and non con.  For some readers, including lovers of horror, this quick read might be just the thing for you.  For others, especially those lovers of stories of romantic love, I recommend you look elsewhere and to another author as romance does not seem to be in Christian Baines’ box of literary ingredients the way horror and the supernatural most certainly are.

I am looking  forward to what his imagination turns to next.  At any rate I expect it to be entertaining and worthy of discussion.  I leave any recommendations up to you.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  This cover has a generic feel to it.  It certainly does not speak to the magic and demon you will find inside.

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition
Published January 15th 2014 by Wilde City Press

Review: Goblins, Book 1 by Melanie Tushmore

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Goblins, Book 1In the 17th Century, the ancient sprawl of Epping forest is bursting with magic and those who go unseen by human eyes: the elves who rule the summer court, and the goblins who rule the winter court. It is said that if a human catches the eye of one of the fey, they are either doomed or blessed.

The Goblin King has seven sons, a number said to be unlucky.  For most of them, home and duties is not enough and when they go exploring chance encounters with humans change their lives forever.

Book 1 contains the stories of Wulfren and  Quiller, goblin princes and the humans that changed their lives.

Goblins is a magical book on so many levels.  From that cover that pulls you in with its haunting and haunted young beings to the lyrical and imaginative descriptions of Epping forest and its dwellers, this book kept me awake thinking about the scenes and settings I found within.

Honestly this is a book who needs more than one rating because of all its standout elements, including that miraculous cover.  But the characters and plots for each brother varied enough for me to rate each story individually.  So let’s start with my least favorite and the first in the book, Wulfren and the Warlock:

1. Wulfren and the Warlock.  Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Wulfren is the seventh son of the Goblin King and the youngest.  Wulfren also has the least amount of magic as the magic increases with age.  A very young spirit, Wulfren is half elf and half goblin. His mother is an elf banished for her passion and love for the Goblin King, she remains the favorite of his consorts and the mother of two of his sons.   His curiosity and youth get the better of him when Wulfren and his brother Garnet spy a warlock in their woods and play pranks on him.    When the warlock turns the tables on Wulfren and captures him, both of their lives change forever.

I loved so much of this story.  The plot is wonderful, the settings other worldly and the descriptions of everything within so unbelievably magical that I never wanted to leave.  So where is the problem?  With one character, that of Wulfrin.  Wulfrin is a very young spirit, so young in fact that his dialog and antics place him in the realm of a 12 to 14 year old.  He himself says at one point to the warlock after being captured:

“I… I have over seven hundred seasons, now. Seven hundred and twenty,” I added.

“Seasons? The seasons … But that would make you …” He sounded surprised, his eyes widening. “Age aside, you must be a young spirit.”

“I’m not young!” I said, indignant. “I do everything the adults do.”

Yes, Wulfren is young, adorably so.  He acts on impulse, doesn’t like doing his chores and feels shuffled aside at his father’s court because no one let’s him do anything.  Any one who has had a child or is familiar with children has heard this plaintive voice a hundred times or more.  It’s the voice of a child and Tushmore has captured it perfectly.  So why do I have issues with this?  Because immediately the Warlock binds him with silver chains and drags him off to bed, introducing elements of bdsm and non con sexual activities to basically what is a immature goblin.  No matter how I tried looking at this aspect of the story, the squick factor was just too big to overlook.  Time and again, I picture Wulfren as Max from Where the Wild Things Are roaring his terrible roar., claws included.  Not an image Tushmore would want to evoke. Even after both admit they have feelings for each other, it still feels like a barely pubescent boy who wants to please an older man, doing small chores around the house and pleading for his attention.  When they are parted, Wulfren writes a letter to his warlock and its contents are those that any tween writing to Tiger Beat would recognize.   Even if you accept that these two characters have a loving relationship, it never feels real or believable, just terribly one sided.

And that is the fault of Ash, the warlock.  We really never get a firm grip on his character.  Who is he?  Why is he by himself on the edge of the woods?  He remains an enigma for the entire story, and that makes it hard for us to believe and connect with his relationship to Wulfren.  Everyone else comes alive in this story with the exception of Ash.  Had his character been more fleshed out and Wulfren made an older soul, then this story would have a completely different tone.

Still, the vivid descriptions and magical air that Tushmore imparts to her tale make this story a lush visit to hidden kingdoms.  Here is a look as the goblins get ready for a celebration when Wulfren is brought home:

They led me downstairs. Random bursts of song filled the air as musicians tuned their instruments, and quarrelled over who played what. Outside in the dark, the court gathered amongst the inner ring, with the toadstools towering above us. Sprites had lit the dew drops that covered the toadstool heads, and they sparkled. Fires lit on twig ends were jabbed into the ground for torches. Brownies rushed about with acorn shells full of wine in their arms, sloshing liquid as they hurried.

“Father has even broken out the mead,” Garnet whispered to me. “Hurry, before it’s all gone.”

I dream of lit dew drops and fire flies tucked into cobwebs to light the great hall.  Just so magical.   Scenes like this elevated this story above the main relationship.

2. Quiller and the Runaway Prince:  Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Quiller is the third son of the Goblin King.  He is half goblin and half bird spirit like his mother, another one of the King’s consorts.  When winter is finished and spring comes to the woods once more, Quiller and the rest of the goblins are free of their duties for two seasons and its time to play.  Flying through the woods, Quiller sees a fallen man and his injured horse deep in the forest.  The horse snorts and tells Quiller he doesn’t think much of the young man but Quiller sees and feels something for the human right from the start.  When Quiller tells the young man that “all runaway princes are mine”, a journey begins that neither is quite prepared for.

This story has it all, great characters, believable relationship between beings of basically the same age (emotionally and intellectually), and the vivid, imaginative descriptions that make this book a must read on every level.  This is how the story begins:

The start of spring, 1648.

Winter was over, at long last. Tonight we were all in our larger forms— as tall as elves— and dressed in vein-thin leaves. It was the celebration to welcome Eostre, goddess of spring. Our home, the rotten ring, had been decorated in her honour. Dewdrops were lit, and fireflies were hung in cobwebs. The musicians piped up and played as the first glimmer of Eostre appeared through the trees. Pale light played on her shapely edges, like it shone from within. The form she took to visit us was more elf-like than anything; tall and graceful, with long, sleek hair of many colours.

Hair that moved. As Eostre stepped inside our ring of rotten tree trunks, I could see her hair crawled with insect larvae. She paid it no mind, as she cast an amused eye over the ring, then addressed Father. “Goblin king. Your line was missing one pair of claws this winter.”

Father’s face twitched ever so slightly before he replied. “Yes, Goddess, we … We managed without.”

We know from the previous story that the missing set of claws belongs to Wulfren, the youngest son of the Goblin King.  The King and his subjects are responsible for Fall and Winter.  And during those seasons, the King holds Court but the scepter passes to the elves in the spring and there the Goddess will hold court through the summer months.  I loved the image of the Goddess, Eostre, her hair full of larvae that writhe as she walks. Its mesmerizing, opulent and yet somewhat repulsive. Yet, Tushmore is not finished with Eostre.  Here is the scene as the Goddess leaves the company of goblins:

The ceremony was almost over; Eostre bid our ring farewell. In each footprint she left, fresh shoots and flowers grew, yet without her touch they soon wilted. All flowers died in the rotten ring.

Eostre inclined her head to Father. “Raedren, goblin king of the southern realm, thank you for the winter.”

“Goddess. Peace be.” Father bowed deeply to her in return, his cloak of cobwebs fluttering around him.

“Peace be.” Eostre smiled, then turned with a swish of hair and flowers. Her hair’s colour was ever changing, like the leaves in the trees. Butterflies and mayflies now crawled from her hair, spread their wings, and took flight. She left in a trail of flying insects and wilting flowers, on her way to the summer court, and the elves.

How wondrous, how enchanting!  And the spell is set for the rest of the story.  I loved the characters here, each a small treasure to be held and marveled at again and again.  Quiller is just the start of a cast we will connect with and remember.  Quiller is the third son of the Goblin King and therefore a prince himself.  But his mother is a bird spirit, a crow and his personality bears the hallmarks of a bird.  He is flighty, scattered in his thoughts and attentions and he recognizes that.  Just his actions as he flies through the forest gives ample example of this character and light hearted nature. Cashel is also a prince, a human one.  But magic aside, these two are each other’s equal in courage, in outlook, and finally in love.  They are everything that is missing from the first story.

Tushmore also uses Quiller’s journey to bring a dark realistic look at the times and ways of humanity.  Along the way, Quiller talks to a group of crows to see if they know where his mother resides.  They reply to look near the gibbet:

“Gibbet?” I asked, puzzled.

“Wood the humans hang other humans on,” he explained. “We peck their bones clean. Nice when it’s dried in the sun.”

“How strange,” I said. “Where is this gibbet?”

“Find the human path,” the crow said. “East of here. Before you get to the human place.”

“Oh, fear not, I shan’t be visiting any humans!” I cawed.

But of course, he does, flying past human remains, evidence of the cruel nature of the times.  Tushmore blends together the magical and the human worlds with a smooth, gifted touch.  When Quiller meets Cashel, a human of royal blood, Cromwell and the Parliament are laying waste to the people and lands all around.  None of that really matters to Quiller but Cashel is mired deep in the midst of political intrigue and fears for his life.  So into the castle goes Quiller (in bird form of course) where Cashel is living with his cousins.  Black deeds abound inside, threatening Cashel’s life and those of his relatives.  With a magical being in the middle, all sorts of things start to happen, and the reader will love every single minute.   I mean, Melanie Tushmore gives us everything we could want and more.  There’s poison, nefarious goings on, villains, a witch and of course, love.  And it’s all believable, and layered and complete.  Well mostly.

These are just the first two books and there are seven sons, five more to go.  So I expect to see Quiller and Cashel appear in the books to come.  Quiller still has his duties to attend to in the fall and winter.  Plus I don’t expect the Goblin King to willingly lose another son to the humans and that is not addressed here.   Still this story is quite marvelous, worthy of the price of this book alone.

After reading Goblins, I can’t wait to see what the author does for the rest of the sons.  I want more of her extraordinary descriptions and spellbinding imagination.  I highly recommend this to you all even with my reservations concerning the first story.

Cover design by Ria Chantler.  This cover is exquisite, one of the best of 2013.  The more closely I look at it, the better it gets.  just remarkable.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: September 25th 2013 by Less Than Three Press LLC (first published September 25th 2012)
original title Goblins, Book One
ISBN13 9781620042373
edition language English

Review: Side Line by Ben Ryder

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Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

Side Line coverJay Wells is a sales/promotional manager for a British beverage company that produces Side Line, a beer advertised as being a Sports aficianado’s beer.  When his boss tells him that the company wants him to go to Bahrain to promote their beer and makes sales to the city’s bars, he is less than enthused.  But his boss is sure than Bahrain is the next market to expand in and want Jay and his team to go.

During a beer promotion, Jay meets closeted Marine, Damon O’Connor, an encounter that goes wrong immediately.  Damon refuses to admit he is gay but his actions tell a different story.  When their attraction turns while hot, Damon’s refusal to admit his homosexuality and Jay’s impulsiveness threaten not only themselves but Jay’s business in Bahrain as well.

Never have I read a book so disconnected from its blurb from the publisher.  My expectations for this story was that it centered around a US Marine named Damon O’Conner, now overseas and ready to ship out for a tour of duty.  He meets cute little Brit selling beer in Bahrain and love ensues.  That is the story I expected and wanted to read, certainly not the mess that unfolded in Side Line.  That story is told from the pov of Jay Wells, gay British top beer salesman for a brewery that puts out a beer called Side Line, a beer marketed towards the sports minded.  It’s his story, and that of his beer promotions that take up most of the storyline. Certainly not Damon’s, at least not until almost the middle of the story.

This story takes place on Bahrain during the Iraq war, known also as The Third Persian Gulf War (2003-2011).  While a more liberal Arab state than the others, Bahrain still has rigid rules regarding homosexuality, womens rights and the use of alcohol.  A disregard for those laws (while giving them casual lip service) and the culture that created them is pervasive throughout the story to my astonishment. And that is only one of my issues with this story.

From the beginning, the story had an odd, disjointed feel to it. Here is Jay and crew arriving in Bahrain:

THE plane landed in a dark and very humid Bahrain in the early hours of the morning. Despite visiting the Middle East before, I was still unnerved by the sight of so many police and security guards, who patrolled the airport and looked at each person who passed with blatant suspicion. They all had wiry, slim builds, with dark features and a scruffiness about them that made them look as though they had just rolled out of bed unwashed and unshaven. The current climate of war in the region made them seem nervous and jumpy, which didn’t help when you saw that they held their guns with their fingers barely inches from the triggers at all times.

We are starting with Arab stereotypes? Where is the sweetness and innocence from Noah? It goes downhill from there as Jay sets up his local contacts and dates for his promotional acts.  Jay’s company wants to open up the market in Bahrain, selling its beer in venues that target service personnel.  Jay has a group of beer girls, The Side Line Girls, who promote the beer by wearing cheerleader outfits,  with skimpy underwear that is revealed in their routines.  The “girls” are composed of every known stereotype, including one so dumb that when their chaperone mentions “stoning” she believes that they are talking about weed.

“Also,” Jackie continued, “since we are in the Middle East, there are certain cultural differences that you should observe and adhere to at all times.”

“Yeah, women still get stoned for sex around some of these places,” Siobhan offered.

“What’s wrong with that? I’ve been stoned and had sex loads of times,” Emma said, as if it were no big deal.

“That’s not what she means,” the twins said in unison. It sometimes creeped me out when they did that.

“Thank you for your confession of drug use, young lady,” Jackie said sternly. “But I think Siobhan is referring to the fact that, should a young lady take a lover outside of her marriage, or is considered a whore within someone else’s marriage, she could be sentenced to be stoned to death.” Jackie saw that Emma was still confused, so she explained, “It means they throw rocks at her, dear, until she perishes in the street.”

Emma looked horrified.

“However, that isn’t in Bahrain. That usually happens in places like Saudi Arabia,” Jackie continued.

“Which is just a stone’s throw away,” I added, punctuating the point Jackie was trying to make.

The  author then has the girls  put on their Daisy Dukes, tight Side Line t-shirts and head out the door to the bar to sell beer.  For me, this was just one more example of what I disliked about this story.  From the dumb blonde cliche to the line about Saudi Arabia being “a stone’s throw away”, Side Line was turning sour and fast.

Another odd facet to this book is that there are pages and pages of descriptions of the girls, their routines on the stage, the reactions of the men in the crowd, that I began to wonder if Damon was ever going to make an appearance.  So much of this story is occupied with the beer promotions and girls that the romance is supplanted by pom poms and free beer.  This annoyed me at first, but by the time I did get to the “romance”, I speedily wished for a return to the beer games and “Girls Gone Wild” portion of the plot.

I am not sure the author knew which war all the service personnel were shipping off to.  Ryder says its the Third Gulf War but then has this exchange between Jay and Damon:

“What do you do? In the military, I mean,” I asked.

“I’m a staff sergeant in the Marines.”

I laughed. “I’m not surprised a big fella like you is a Marine. Those Iranians haven’t got a hope against you guys! Have you been serving long?”

Ryder seems to think that Iran and Iraq are interchangeable.  Throughout the story, the characters make mention of  “the majority of you are heading on to Afghanistan or Iran”.  If you can’t get such a simple thing right as to where the war was fought, then I should have expected the rest of the nonsense that followed.

That lack of attention to detail carries through the length of the story, including his portraits of Marines and Navy Seals.  I don’t think Ryder knows anything about the Marines or Seals, especially their codes of honor and behavior.  Instead he portrays the Seals as undisciplined young buffoons, aggressive and unruly.  Seals are not your ordinary soldiers but  the author seems unaware of that fact in his descriptions of their actions such as drunken brawlers in a bar.

The main characters too are  problematic.  The only character I connected with and enjoyed was Jackie, Jay’s assistant and good friend.  She was delightful and the only bright spot in this story.  Unfortunately, the book was not about her.  The character of Damon O’Connor is the one I had the most issues with.  A Marine Staff Sergeant, he is deeply closeted, aggressive to a fault, self delusional, a totally dislikable person.  He is responsible for an abduction, then forcing a person to commit several sexual acts (including one without a condom), and we are supposed to like him?  Feel a connection to such a thug?  I can’t begin to think of anyone who would find this man engaging, other than the author.  And Jay of course.  But the author has made Jay a complete doormat, just right for a thug such as Damon.  Their “romance” as such is unlikely, unsexy and off putting.

I know there is supposed to be a connection between Noah and Side Line but I can’t think of one as the two stories seem so far apart in tone and substance.  One was a sweet and endearing romance (Noah) and the other an offensive mess (Side Line).  I know a book is in trouble when my list of issues goes beyond two or three.    What is all adds up to a book I cannot recommend on any level and that surprises me because I enjoyed Noah so much.  N0ah and Side Line are part of a series but if Side Line is any indication of the direction the series is taking, I am stopping here and you should too.

Cover design by Paul Richmond is the best thing about this story.

Book Details:

ebook, 174 pages
Published June 12th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
edition language
English

Review of Abandoned Galactic Betrayal #1 by Silvia Violet

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Review written for JoyfullyJay (4/14/12) and copy of book obtained for that purpose.

Rating:  3 stars (but only because I haven’t laughed this hard in ages)

Lark Zaccaro and his partner Derek Carlson are agents for the Intergalactic Investigations Bureau. While on assignment on a alien planet, their cover is blown and Derek Carlson is caught. Zaccaro flees the planet leaving his partner to be imprisoned and tortured for months.  Upon rescuing Derek, the Bureau informs him that his partner was the one who betrayed them all and left Derek to die.

Lark Zaccaro is deep under cover as the warden on a corrupt prison planet with no way out until a small spacecraft crash lands near the prison site.  When the guards drag the pilot before him, Lark is stunned to see that the pilot is none other than the man he thought he would never see again, Derek Carlson.  Derek has his own mission to accomplish, spring a young man from prison for his sister.  As the sexual heat flares between them once more, the men must put aside recriminations and past betrayals and work together if both men wish to live to get off planet.

Where to start?  Where to start?  I have not run across so many ludicrously unbelievable plot points, absurd alien names and just downright silliness since watching the MST3K’s “Manos: The Hands of Fate”.  I knew we were heading into Monty Python Lane when the Intergalactic Bureau they both work for is called IIB, yes, that’s right “Twobee”.  Immediately I started singing “twobee, twobee two”.

Then lets take the men.  Both are supposed to be hardened field agents and were partners together for years.  We don’t get really any of their back story only that Derek underwent such extreme torture as mere men do not recover from while bitterly blaming his partner for leaving him.  Lark now runs a corrupt prison where he’s had to do things so horrible that he has nightmares, oh and he’s sorry he left Derek on that planet.  But he didn’t mean too.  The Bureau betrayed them. So why is he still working for them?

Lark and Derek have loved each other secretly for years. When Lark spots Derek, he has his prison minions drag him off to Lark’s bedroom for lots of hot, angry, brutal sex (don’t get me started on a badass agent named Lark). Here comes the dubcon from the publisher’s note. And a training collar that zaps you. Always handy to have one around to use on sex slaves or have the slave use on you or whatever. There’s a leash too. It’s all very confusing. Never mind that the minions are close by and hate Lark’s guts, but let’s have lots of sex, and yelling and then the blubbering starts. OMG, that room had enough water in it to float a battleship. It’s sex, talk, cry, sex, talk, cry. Or crying and talking while having sex. And I’m thinking, aren’t you all supposed to get off the damn planet? What about your mission? You know the one no one seems to know anything about. Hello! Mission anyone?

In between pounding each other into the bed, they figure out that the Bureau had lied to them in a scene so priceless that it is a classic (“I yelled, I threw things.”  cries Lark talking about his confrontation with his Bureau boss). They throw on their clothes, grab the collar and head off to proceed with the mission. Nope, wait.   Let’s have more sex and talking and crying. Then you have the mission, some Flash Gordon stuff with the aircraft, and even more dialog that has me howling.  “Are you okay?” ask Derek of badly injured Lark(as he regains consciousness), who Derek has also just given pain pills to.   It’s just one endlessly funny bit after another.  And the ending? They check into a hotel, and the misunderstandings begin.  Where to take their relationship? At one point Derek tells  Lark, he wants to date, and make Lark smile. *head desk* What? No lock-n-load and off to get the traitor? No, just bring out the collar and have at it. Sigh.

And don’t get me started on the alien names of Lancarina, Lithusia, or my favorite Kraxnaftons.  I can’t even write those without giggling.  So, as a howler this book is a 5, as straight scifi, it’s a 2.8.  Read it for yourself and decide.  It’s not long.  Really, grab some popcorn, some friends, make a drinking game out of it.  You’ll thank me.  I’m off to watch some MST3K.  Oh, Cambot…..

Cover: Cover artist Reese Dante.  The cover is really pretty good.  It makes more sense than the book does.

Available from Silver Publishing, Amazon, and ARe.