A Free Dreamer Review: Trans Liberty Riot Brigade (Brigade #1) by L.M. Pierce

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

How do you fight for who you are, when the government controls what you are?

Andi knows being born an intersex “Transgressor” and then choosing to stay that way, can have lethal consequences. After all, surgical assignment is mandated by law. But she ain’t going to spend her life hiding from the Society, hooked on Flow, and wanking tourists just to make a few bucks. She’s a member of the Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, an underground faction of Transgressors resisting the government’s war on their illegal genitalia.

But it’s not enough to tag their messages on shithouse walls and sniff down the next high. The government has found their headquarters, decimated their ranks, and they’re crushing the resistance. Though Andi might be nothing but a junktard, she embarks on a desperate dash to stay alive and send a call for help before they’re all killed—or worse, surgically assigned.

Andi, together with Brigade leader Elenbar, must get beyond the communications block preventing all radio transmission, which means crossing the seaboard Wall barricading the United Free States borders. It’s designed to keep enemies out and the citizens in, but amid increasing earthquakes and deadly pursuit, Andi will discover there’s a far more dangerous secret hidden deep within the Wall itself.

I’ve recently developed an interest for Science Fiction with non-binary protagonists, so when I saw the blurb for “Trans Liberty Riot Brigade” I just had to read the book. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The biggest problem for me was the language. This book is written in dialect all the way through and the author apparently came up with a bunch of new slang words too. At times, it felt like there was a real language barrier for me. There were some characters I didn’t understand at all because of their extreme dialect. Even when I did understand what was being said, it was just extremely jarring.

Maybe it’s because of the language barrier, but for a large part of the book I was simply confused. There was barely any world building or back story for the most part. There was a little bit of a history lesson toward the end, but that wasn’t nearly enough to answer all my questions.

Then there was Andi. I never did warm up to her. She never seemed to actually do anything, unless she had no other choice but to act. And even then, she had to be forced by somebody else. Mostly, she was just complaining and wallowing in self-pity.

That brings me to the next issue: pronouns. Everybody makes such a big deal out of having both male and female bits, and yet all “transgressors” always used female pronouns. It just didn’t ring true to me.

I did like where the story seemed to go toward the end. But it took a long time to get there and the plot was a bit all over the place.

You should be aware that this is a piece of literary/genre fiction. As such, there was barely a hint of romance. Personally, I didn’t mind that one bit. I don’t always need romance and love in my books. The book also has some pretty graphic scenes of drug use. Our MC is a junkie. Also, there are some pretty gory scenes. The gore was a tad too much for me at times, tbh.

This is part one of a new series. While I am sort of interested how this story will continue, I definitely won’t read the rest of the series. The slang was just too thick for me and I formed no real emotional connections to any of the characters. I liked the idea behing “Trans Liberty Riot Brigade”, but I was mostly disappointed by how the book actually turned out. It just wasn’t for me.

The cover by Natasha Snow is lovely. It’s definitely an eye-catcher.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

Kindle Edition, 273 pages
Published July 17th 2017 by NineStar Press
ASINB073DPB1PZ
Edition LanguageEnglish

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

Bradley Lloyd on The Games of Shadow Fray and Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray: Round One) (author guest post, exclusive excerpt and giveaway)

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Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray #1) by Bradley Lloyd
DSP Publications
Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska

Available for Purchase at

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Bradley Lloyd here today, talking about his latest release Shadow Fray. Welcome, Bradley!

✒︎

Let’s Play! The Games of Shadow Fray

In reading Shadow Fray, one might think the plot was decidedly adult. Think The Hunger Games but with a healthy dose of Fight Club. While I’m a fan of both titles, the inspiration for Shadow Fray came from a place far more innocent–the games I played as a little kid.

My childhood wasn’t filled with fisticuffs or mixed martial arts lessons; instead, I took daily trips with my siblings and friends to the municipal swimming pool. We played the standard games like Marco Polo, and we took turns swimming under each other’s legs without touching, kind of like an underwater version of the limbo. The game I most remember, though, was one based entirely on imagination.

In this game, our familiar pool became infested with invisible, hungry underwater creatures. You’d be fine if you never touched the bottom, because that’s where they lived. We’d spend all day swimming around, trying not to touch the bottom. If you did touch the bottom, that’s when the little monsters would attack with their nasty bites. Too many bites, and you could die. BUT if you managed to apply the special ointment in time, you could stave off infection and death.

The special ointment was Coppertone sunscreen lotion. The year we invented that game, we never got sunburned, believe me. In fact, we probably went through at least a giant economy bottle a week.

My main goal in writing Shadow Fray was to write something fun–a steamy, action-packed romance. So when I thought about what was most fun, this pool game came to mind, probably at first subconsciously but it morphed into a very important plot point.

In Shadow Fray, the ground has been poison for many years. Unlike the pool game, you can touch the ground, but prolonged exposure results in what the characters refer to as Ground Sickness. Because of this, those with enough money live in high-rises as far from the ground as possible.

For this reason, Justin is forced to fight in the underground tournament known as Shadow Fray. He needs to keep his twin sister and younger brother living safely off the ground, and the only way to supplement their meager income is for him to win. The stakes are high, especially when he faces Hale, a brawler he has long admired. Though they fight for similar reasons, they find themselves at odds, first with each other, and then the greater forces at work in the crumbling world around them.

If you’ve read this far, chances are getting better that you might also read the book, so I’m going to reveal a spoiler-free special secret right here. You won’t find out in the first book what really caused the ground toxification. Do I know? Yes. Will you know eventually? Yes. There’s clues if you want to try to figure it out, and like a good sci-fi, it has a basis in fact. Not revealing everything right away was a tricky decision for me as a writer. Is it realistic that people, after a post-apocalyptic event, wouldn’t know the cause or the remedy? One of the plot points is the misinformation provided by the shady people remaining in power. So, I decided, yes, it could be realistic. Granted, this was all before the election and the influx of “alternative facts,” so I think this choice was the right one to make, even prescient, though it asks the reader to follow me along for a bit.

You see, I think as I got older, my mind went from imagining pool monsters to imagining more realistic monsters, and now I love a good mystery. My favorite childhood game led me to a more adult game of playing sleuth, or maybe hide-and-seek, where it’s the truth that’s hiding. Shadow Fray is all about games, and I sincerely hope you’ll come and play along with me. ~ Bradley Lloyd

Book Blurb

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.

Exclusive Excerpt

Since my guest blog post is about childhood games, I thought I would introduce you to one of my favorite characters, the 10-year-old Charlie, who is mute. He’s the much younger brother of our hero, Justin. Even though he doesn’t talk, Charlie is still very expressive, like in this school assignment. In the book, Justin secretly holds on to this letter as a reminder of his reason for fighting in Shadow Fray. It’s also a great introduction to the Shadow Fray world. Enjoy!

Handwriting Practice

The Person I Look Up to Most

To: Sister Tim

From: Charlie

Justin does his best even when it’s hard, even when he’s tired and maybe hurting a little bit. He always shows courage. That’s why he’s the person I look up to the most.

I think we all have secrets to keep. It’s nice to have a little bit of privacy, like from the drones, and my brother tries to give us that. But we never hide. He wants me to have a normal life, whatever that is. My brother keeps secrets, but not from me. And he helps me keep my secrets too. Sometimes we hide from the drones like Shutters, but mostly we pretend like it’s just us.

Justin always tries to do what’s best for my sister and me. He raised me when my sister was at work. He always did lots of stuff with me. He read me books until I could read on my own. I didn’t even need school for that, because he taught me. But our favorite thing to do is watch cartoons.

He tries to keep things from me, but not in a bad way. He puts his tablet down all the time, but I know he’s reading. It’s almost like he doesn’t want anyone to know he reads, not even me. I think he doesn’t want me to be too curious about things. It’s another way he tries to protect me. So we just do kid stuff. But that’s okay.

My brother is really strong. He works out and he lifts weights. He makes me come with him and read a book but I watch him too. I know he stays strong to protect me and my sister. My sister is fertile, and so he always feels like he has to protect her because she’s in danger or something. My sister can take care of herself, but he does it anyway. I like that about him.

Justin’s secret is that he’s really smart. Like, really smart. Someday, my brother is going to figure out what is wrong with the world. He will figure out why all the people got sick and died so long ago, and what happened to poison the ground. Then he’ll find out why there’s not as many girls anymore, and why people can’t have babies. Maybe he’ll even find the cure for ground sickness, but that’s probably asking too much. I mean, he can’t do everything.

Here’s a secret about him and me. He says there’s two kinds of people—people who stay alive and people who go poking their noses where they don’t belong. I don’t say it (ha ha), but I know he’s both, and I’m both too. So really, there’s three kinds of people. But don’t tell him I said that.

He wants me to go to college at Exxon or DuPont in Chicago. I like that idea. Because if my brother doesn’t find out what happened and how to fix it, I want to find out for him. He’d like to take me out of Bruise City to Chicago, but maybe someday I will do that for him instead. Anyway, I like it here, because this is my home, and this is where you are too. Thanks for being the best teacher.

He would be so mad if he knew I wrote this. But I know you keep secrets too. So please keep my secret. I know you will, because you’re the third person I most look up to, and you always tell me I can do anything.

My brother tells me that too.

From: Charlie

P.S. My sister is the second person and I also have a friend named Gristopher Mays and he’s the fourth person. He’s really nice but I haven’t known him as long as I’ve known you.

P.P.S. I think you are that special third kind of person too. Thanks for being the best teacher.

Since my guest blog post is about childhood games, I thought I would introduce you to one of my favorite characters, the 10-year-old Charlie, who is mute. He’s the much younger brother of our hero, Justin. Even though he doesn’t talk, Charlie is still very expressive, like in this school assignment. In the book, Justin secretly holds on to this letter as a reminder of his reason for fighting in Shadow Fray. It’s also a great introduction to the Shadow Fray world. Enjoy!

Giveaway

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About the Author

Bradley Lloyd is a Chicago-born author who studied Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was raised in a conservative religious household but became aware of his sexuality at a very young age—about the same age he learned of his ancestry to Hans Christian Andersen. Inspired by this knowledge, writing became an outlet that helped him cope with inner conflicts and bullying.

Of course, he was no angel and occasionally used his storytelling powers for evil. He once convinced the neighborhood children that gnomes had been real before all being turned into lawn ornaments.

Later, these experiences lead him to work with middle-school students. Now a teacher in the inner city, he shares his love of writing with a captive audience of kids, who are thrilled with true(ish) tales of their haunted school building. 

Interestingly, his favorite UFC fighter and former world champion was a student at his school, and when Brad is not reading or writing, you might find him hosting the next UFC pay-per-view event party. His dreams of becoming an ultimate fighter are realized vicariously through his stories and video games.

Brad is happily married to a wonderful husband. Their tenth anniversary was also the day same-sex marriage became legal, and they were couple number seven at the courthouse.

You can read more of Brad’s (free) tales on his website BradleyLloyd.com, check him out on Medium, follow IMBradleyLloyd on Facebook and Twitter,

or e-mail him directly at IMBradleyLloyd@BradleyLloyd.com

A MelanieM Review: Candy Land (Hidden Gem #3) by Lissa Kasey

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5       ★★★★★

candyland_final02Cameron “Candy” Michelson Jr. doesn’t have time for distractions. He’s too busy restructuring the red-light district into an adult playland for City M and running the Hidden Gem. But when his companion, Avery “Ivy” Laurent, grows closer to Jack, an investigator for the Institute of Scientific Study, Candy can’t hide his jealousy. Nor his own interest in Jack.

Ivy is crazy about Jack, but he’s also in love with Candy. Ideally, Ivy longs for all three of them to be together, but between Jack’s nonexistent libido and Candy’s supercharged needs, Ivy isn’t sure how to make it work.

When Jack gets called in to help the City M police department investigate a series of violently murdered companions, both Candy and Ivy brace for trouble. But nothing prepares them for Candy becoming the prime suspect.

In a future landscape of corrupt government officials, brutal BDSM crimes, and a host of dark creatures, Candy, Ivy, and Jack must work together to find the killer, save themselves—and learn how to trust each other.

The Hidden Gem stories by Lissa Kasey captivated me from the very beginning with her horrifying vision of a world in chemical ruin, its environs toxic and governments reduced down to geographical areas, even cities where populations clustered, clinging to life such as it was.  Throughout the populations were AMs, mutants both forced by experimentation and born into their genetic forms naturally by evolution…but all hidden from the citizens due to fear.

In each story, the title refers to a pleasure place.  The Hidden Gem, is the top “house” in City M, and Misaki “Aki” Itou is its highest paid  and most sought after “companion”. He will find love with detective Shane McNaughton, and their story sets in motion all the action and relationship dynamics to follow.  Its a 5 star magnificent ride and I couldn’t figure out how Kasey would top it. But of course, she did with Cardinal Sins (Hidden Gem, #2). Again its the name of a house of pleasure and gambling that the owner of the Hidden Gem finds, renovates and reopens for an unimaginable reason…its amazing tunnels of fish tanks that thread through its halls.  Here its the enigmatic Paris Hansworth, former “companion” turned senator and all powerful man who ends up finding the love of his life, Rain,  in the most unexpected place.  Each story gives a clue through the beautiful covers of Shobana Appavu. Yes, its in the blurb but its doesn’t prepare you for the power of the finding and the story itself.

Again, each book is building towards something more but I had no idea how strongly the author was preparing us for the final story in the trilogy until I came to Candy Land.  If I could give a book more than 5 stars I certainly would do so here.

Candy Land picks up the story almost immediately from Cardinal Sins and the three characters, one recently introduced and two we’ve come to know and love in all the other stories.  They all seem to be headed for something interesting as far as a matchup together, a triad, if they can communicate and overcome the enormous physical demons they have and plot hurdles ahead of them.  Cameron “Candy” Michelson Jr we met in the first book as the best friend of Aki and as high a paid companion as Aki was.  Now Candy is running Hidden Gem, has matured and is having trouble finding his way in staying Candy and the boss.   Avery “Ivy” Laurent,a psi paid companion at the Hidden Gem, Candy’s love interest is also interested in Frank, a AM who was partnered with Shane back when they were both cops.  Yes, circles upon circles of relationship dynamics and it all works.  Its important because these Venn diagram relationships are needed when the AM murders and explosive government politics start to intrude upon City M and their lives to the point of horrifying consequences to all.

One of the things I most admired about this story was Kasey’s ability to balance the need to bring the characters maturity along together and apart (especially Candy and Frank) while keep the suspense and deep intrigue mounting on the larger plot level.  Candy had to come to understand and accept Frank’s asexuality if their triad was to work, Frank also had to understand Candy’s need for dominance and Ivy’s need for them both.  It was a delicate give and take between all three and it works so beautifully here.  We get their vulnerability, their strengths, their humor and their pain…in short, we get them as whole viable people. I loved them all and together even better.  That’s saying a lot as threesomes usually aren’t my thing.  And this one is outstanding.

Even better?  The plot!   That nail biting, hold on to your seats because you won’t believe what’s coming next plot.  I ended up reading whole pages twice because they were so damn good.  Had the popcorn going, just hunched over the action, the drama, and the sequences that unfolded on the Kindle before me.  It had it all, angst, parts that had me weeping in anger, sadness and then unbelievable joy.  Yep, this book is over the moon.

When I got to  the end, I was so thrilled, I was stunned with joy.  It was everything I had wanted for each and every character.  How many times do you say that in a story?  Or a trilogy?  That you were completely satisfied with how everything worked out?  Now would I be happy if Lissa Kasey goes back and give Ono his own HEA?  You bet.  I think he deserves it after all this.  And then there’s that little matter of the boat people.  But the main characters?  Happy, happy, happy.

So do I recommend this book?  Silly question.  Of course I do.  All of them to be precise.  And Lissa Kasey too.  I will be picking them all back up and reading them in a row now that I have the trilogy complete to see what I may have missed.  Do yourself a favor, grab them all up, do it too.  Make yourself some popcorn while you’re at it.  You will be there for a wonderful fantasy ride!

Cover art by  Shobana Appavu is as outstanding as the book.  Each cover a clue as to the major element inside.

Sales Links:  Amazon |Dreamspinner PressAReBarnes & Noble

Book Details:

ebook, 274 pages
Published April 25th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634771672 (ISBN13: 9781634771672)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Trilogy: Hidden Gem

hiddengem_final03Cardinal Sins covercandyland_final02

 

A Sammy Review: The Ultimate Team (Juxtapose City #4) by Tricia Owens

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5   ★★★★★

“You’re not getting your mythical knight in shining armor,” Parker told him softly. “You’re getting a man who’s trying very hard to be good, but has never been shown how to be. You have to stick by him and show him what’s best within him, Calyx. You have to take his darkness and make it light.”

The Ultimate Team coverFollowing the events of the previous book, Starr is holed up in bad and the team is down a man. That is until the captain assigns none other than Parker to the team. But another psypath on the team, let alone a psypath that has history with Black and knows his secrets? That’s dangerous.

Between the team trying to rebuild again and new threats arising from some unexpected places, Starr and Black have to find a way to balance their secrets, half-truths, love, and duty to the team, all while remaining alive. In other words, just another day in Juxtapose City.

“You don’t need a city, a hiding place, to be happy. I can make you happy. I can take care of you.”

It has been so long since I’ve been able to read a book in this series, and I hadn’t had the time to reread the previous ones before reading this, so I was very nervous that nothing would make sense to me, but it gradually came back to me, and within a matter of pages I was lost in the story yet again.

If you’ve read the previous books (and you should read them in order), you know what a hot mess Starr and Black’s world is, not to mention their relationship that evolved from hate. Adding Parker to the team adds an uncomfortable dynamic, but the author handles it well and doesn’t have the problem go away like magic. It’s there and they have to deal with it.

Unlike the previous books, this one had much more of the romance element to it. Starr and Black spend a lot of time dealing with their flaws, particularly the mean streak of jealousy that Starr has, paired with both of their doubts. And some of it is just so painful, like how Black truly thinks he’s this horrible person, and how sometimes Starr isn’t so sure either, but still manages to love him. It straddles a moral boundary that is so intriguing and wonderful.

On top of it all, Tricia Owens manages to continue to bring the steam. We finally (no, but really) get some penetration, though it’s not quite what I was hoping for or expecting, but it’s a step forward. But it just goes to show that she’s been able to keep up the heat and fire without that.

Black, Jake, Haney and Bee had all killed in the course of their work. But looking across the aisle first at Jake and then at Haney, who immediately gave him an encouraging thumbs up―Calyx didn’t see evil in them, or cruelty. They didn’t look haunted like Black, who carried his sins as if he was half a man without them.

This book also provides some insight into Starr and Black’s pasts. We get to see a bit more of where they came from and what Black went through to get where he is now. There are still so many unanswered questions, but you have to expect that in this series and embrace them.

Not for even a second was I bored. I enjoyed each word and am so happy to get some reacquainted with a favorite couple: Starr and Black.

The cover art is nice in that it fits the rest of the series and is cohesive. Unfortunately, the model for Starr doesn’t quite work for me, but besides that it’s not bad.

Sales Link:  Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 207 pages
Published March 24th 2015

On Tour with T.M Smith and Opposites Series (contest)

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TheCellar

Opposites Series by T.M. Smith
(book 1, Opposites – The Library, an Opposites novella – book 2, Appearances – The Cellar, an Opposites novella)
Opposites 1 – 4 (should be read in order)

ORC
Release Date: June 1, 2013
Goodreads Link

About Author T.M. Smith

A military brat born and raised at Ft. Benning Georgia; Smith is an avid reader, reviewer and writer. She now calls TexasAuthor Ink home from her small town on the outskirts of the DFW Metroplex. Most days you can find her curled up with her kindle and a good book alongside a glass of something aged and red or a steaming cup of coffee!

At 42 years young, she’s decided to enter the next phase of her life by adding the title of “author” to her list of accomplishments that includes single mom of three disturbingly outspoken and decidedly different kids, one of which is Autistic. Smith is and outspoken advocate for Autism and equal rights for the LGBTQ community.

Her Opposites series is based outside the normal parameters of social acceptability, examining a ‘what if’… What If to be gay or lesbian were the norm? What if to be straight labeled you as an Opposite and made YOU the Outkast?

Where to find the author:

Author Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/T.M.-Smith/e/B00D8N818E
Author website: http://www.ttcbooksandmore.com
Author Twitter – https://twitter.com/TTCBooksandmore
GoodReads book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17619257-opposites
GoodReads author: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6997897.T_M_Smith
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTMSmith
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ttcbooksandmore/
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJjm1BpCFi7kCt_KK_VyReA

Publisher: TTC Publishing
Cover Artist: T.L. Shreffler of Runaway Book Design

Sales Links:

Blurb:

In the year 2081 our planet survived global warming of an apocalyptic scale. When the dust settled and the water receded Dr. Anthony Smith, one of only a few hundred survivors of GWI, started society anew. Having come to the conclusion that injudicious breeding played a huge role in the destruction of Earth as we knew it in the twenty first century, he worked closely with other survivors to isolate the Dionysus gene. This gene has the ability to manipulate human DNA to ensure that all male children be born gay, and all female children be born lesbians. A new society is born. 

In the year 2300 Dr. Smith’s descendants are ushering in the twenty fourth century having maintained control of the government that still rules society. Twins Aiya and Aiyan are preparing to meet their matches and take control of House Gaeland, the current ruling House. But not everything is as it seems. 

Love is Love.. it knows no gender and doesn’t conform to restrictions and boundaries. Aiyan has found his soul mate in Kaden, the prince of House Devi that he is matched with and eventually marries. But when the person Aiya falls in love with tests the boundaries put in place after GWI, all hell breaks loose. And in the midst of one secret unraveling, another will emerge. There is a growing anomaly that threatens to destroy over two hundred years of progression. This anomaly is known as Opposites.

*WARNING* Opposites is an Adult Dystopian majorly M/M series that 4x6thelibrary_largecontains explicit sexual content and relationships between gay, lesbian and straight couples.*

Categories: Adult dystopian majorly MM romance. I market as an LGBT romance because I have gay, straight and lesbian couples.

Excerpt:

Standing outside the door to the room Kaden barely occupied, Aiyan placed his hands on either side of him planting him against the wall. He stared at Kaden for several moments before he smiled, and kissed him. Kaden pulled back and shot a warning glare at him.

“You should go.” Kaden whispered breathlessly. “Goodnight Aiyan.”

Aiyan grinned that crooked smile and planted a kiss on his neck and whispered, “Go where, here?” He moved up and nipped Kaden’s ear lobe with his teeth. “Or here?” he asked. Kaden was beginning to slide down the wall as his legs turned to jelly.

Aiyan stood back laughing, his eyes glistened and he smiled. “Goodnight Kaden, I love you.” Placing a quick peck on his lips, he turned to go.

“And I you.” Kaden said and closed the door behind him before sinking to the floor, no longer able to support himself. He ran the tips of his fingers across his still tingling lips, and smiled.
Pages or Words: 199 pages (Opposites)

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MM Good Book Reviews

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Review: Strain by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Strain_500x750When a deadly virus is unleashed, it spreads and mutates quickly, wiping out most of the human race.  Rhys Cooper and his small family has escaped the virus and its consequences by living in a small compound under the rule of a puritanical preacher and his son.  But soon the zombie like plague victims discover them and all are killed except Rhys and Jacob, the preacher’s son.  They are rescued by a special militia corp, but not before Rhys and Jacob were exposed to the virus themselves.

Sergeant Darius Murrell  belongs to a group that used to be Army and nows roams the country looking for survivors.  They are also charged with finding and killing the people the virus has turned into cannibalistic murderers who spread the virus by various means including blood sprays.  When Darius and his unit find Rhys, he is covered in the blood of a revenant, their name for the infected.  Rhys and Jacob are surely infected themselves by their exposure to the revenants that killed the rest of their group.  When the militia’s medic comes up with a last ditch experiment that might save Rhys and Jacob’s lives, Rhys is begins to think that dying is preferable to the experiment the soldiers propose.

Xolani, the medic present, knows that her squad cannot return to base with the survivors in time to save them so Rhys and Jacob’s only hope is to be infected by another strain of the virus and that the combination might confer immunity. The problem? The virus needed is one that’s sexually transmitted, and the only means to obtain it is to sexually submit to the entire squad of soldiers as many times possible daily over a six-week time period.  At what cost is his survival, Rhys wonders.  Would he rather die than become the sexual plaything of a bunch of hardened soldiers?  And if Rhys chooses to try the experiment, will he be able to live with the memories and the humiliation afterwards?

Of all the thoughts that crowded into my mind after finishing this story, first and foremost is the one that said that Strain is a story people will either love or hate or even possibly hate to love.  The plot alone is one of such emotional impact that the blurb itself just might be a turn off that will leave some would be readers cold.  At its barest outline, you have a teenager who has just watched his family killed by revenants and is now forced to have sex with multiple partners and not yet once but as many times a day as his body can stand.  Throw in the fact that he is a virgin and I can almost see potential readers cringing in dismay, wanting to avoid any emotional involvement this story will demand.

This is not a story for the faint of heart or stomach.  It rears up and commands a reaction from its reader.  And gets it.  At almost 400 pages in length, the reader, once committed to the story, will find themselves on an emotional roller coaster that will include a range of responses, from disbelief to distain, hopefulness to despair, and even moments of hostility towards the author for putting Rhys through such torment for such a long duration.  But if you stick with this story, then it also had its own rewards.

Some of the issues that crop up at first glance are blatantly in your face huge. First, there is Rhys.  He is 19 and a virgin.  Raised in a religious sect environment, he has been abused, starved, and finally deprived of those he loves when they are killed by the revenants that infect him. And in order to live he must whore himself out to a group of unknown hardened soldiers, trusting that the experiment isn’t just a falsehood used to gain his services.  I defy any one out there to to deny the emotions that arise within themselves just by reading that description.

Secondly his rescuer, Darius, that Rhys comes to have feelings for, is 42 years of age.  Think of that difference in age, experience and outlook on sexuality and morals.  Once the reader adjusts and gets past those elements, more arrive to be dealt with.  Additional issues will depend upon how your tolerance and acceptance of the fact that the only method available to transmit the virus is near constant coitus, the more partners Rhys has the greater exposure to different variations of the strain he requires.  I will admit that I was skeptical of the science behind this experiment at the beginning.  Thoughts of injections, blood exchanges or other field methods that an army medic would have at their disposable, even on the go as this company is, rose up to make me question the plausibility that such extreme measures as they require of Rhys and Jacob.  But again, the author managed to answer all my questions, convincing me of the science behind it and the medic’s explanations as the story progresses.  All it takes is sticking with the story, even if you have to stumble past those sections that make you cringe.

Then there is the sexuality that prevails throughout the story.  It is crude, harsh, with elements of voyeurism, D/s, bdsm, and other kinks.  It is noncon, almost noncon, sprinkled with “boy”, dirty language, and the need for pain and humiliation.  That is most likely the biggest hurdle of them all.  Rhys and his initiation into sex by such a horrific requirement is the element that will give most people pause.  I think my take on the events and changes that occur within Rhys might vary from those found within.

Gormley takes Rhys from virgin to one who adjusts his morality to include casual sex among partners while still needing to have relations with someone who cares about him, all within a month’s time.  Towards the end he has adjusted his outlook to become more flexible in his thinking and morality.  Here is Darius’ take on Rhys somewhere in the middle of the story:

“Of course given the way that Rhys seemed to like a rough and dangerous edge to his sex, maybe it was time for that to change. Toby and Jie might be right up his alley.”

For me this is by far the largest issue here. My opinion is that if you take a 19-virgin who has been isolated from others and made to feel that sex is for procreation, including the idea that same sex feelings are a perversion, you have an almost fragile blank canvas in the person of Rhys. Then by  subjecting  him to constant near rape, you are practically hardwiring him to not only accept the role he has been made to play but also that casual rough sex and domination are the norm because he doesn’t have any other frame of reference.  It verges on Stockholm Syndrome in my opinion.  That odd lack of recognition that Darius and the group’s treatment of Rhys might have played a role in the formation of his sexual preferences makes this aspect of the story its biggest obstacle in my opinion.

So why stick with this story and why give it such a high rating?  Because for all those elements, and distasteful to some, storylines, Strain is a well written and absorbing novel.   The further into the novel the reader gets, the deeper the reader sinks emotionally. It grabs onto your heart or should I say Rhys does, and, refuses to let go.  Trust me when I say you will be sobbing at certain junctures within this story.  Rhys will break your heart over and over.  And not just because of his current situation either.

You will find yourself getting angry or disgusted at times during the narrative.  “Why should that happen to Rhys?  It’s all so unfair” you might find yourself saying, conveniently forgetting that Rhys and the injustice of his situation are the product of a fine imagination.  Truly despicable characters along with those that pull at your heartstrings come not from poorly layered constructs but from wonderful characterizations.  If at times you forget everything but the world the author has created, then that person, in this case, Amelia C. Gormley, has done their job and then some.

This is a HFN story.  Indeed given such a post apocalyptic world and constant peril, it is the only reasonable ending the author could apply.  For some people, Strain will be a difficult book to read, for others a complete joy and for still others, the wide array of strong elements pose just a mild discomfort, a small price to pay for such a complex and compelling tale.  Take a moment to think and make the decision for yourself.

This is how it all starts:

D eath smelled like old wooden pews whose varnish and cushions had become saturated with acrid layers of dust. It smelled like mildewing carpet rotting from rain that had leaked through a roof he’d never had the skill or resources to repair. The hymnals had long since been used for tinder, but the musty scent of old books—once so comforting but now vaguely nauseating—remained.

Cover Art by Kanaxa.  I think the cover fails to deliver any idea of the story or character within.  Rhys is rail thin, disheveled, a survivor.  The model here looks the very antithesis of Rhys Cooper.

Book Details:

ebook, 375 pages
Published February 17th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published February 15th 2014)
ISBN13 9781626490710
edition language English
 Book was received as an ARC through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: One Breath One Bullet (The Borders War #1) by S.A. McAuley

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Rating: 5 stars out of  5

One Breathe One BulletThree hundred years of the Borders War has seen the world reduced to five nations.  In the year 2548, a treaty was signed ending the war, and ensuring a peace between countries, at least on the surface.  Now in the year 2558, all nationalities have gathered for the first Olympic games since the war started.  Attention from the world media and citizens are focused on two men and one competition, the Rifle competition which pits soldiers from each army against the other, this time in tournament rather than battle.   And one duel has been raised above them all, that between the Dark Ops officer from the People’s Republic of Singapore, Armise Darcan and  the Continental States Peacemaker Merq Grayson.

Both men were trained from the very youngest of age to be the most highly skilled and dedicated soldier possible, and the most accurate sniper each side produced.  On mission after mission throughout the Borders War Merq and  Armise battled each other as they pursued the goals of their own countries, neither coming out ahead of the other.  And now they face each other once more, only this time on the field of competition.  But while their relationship has always been one of violence and physical brutality, they have also hidden another aspect to their relationship, one neither truly understands but is compelled to continue.

Against the backdrop of peace and the Olympic Games, another conflict is playing out, one that will have consequences not just for Merq and Armise but for the world they live in.  Only their skills and maybe something more will keep both men alive to survive another day.

One Breath One Bullet is only 80 pages long but within its small frame it packs a much larger punch and more powerful story than I could have imagined.  S.A. McAuley has created a world where war has raged for over three hundred years, with devastating results, wiping out half the world populations, reducing the planet’s air to a toxic cloud and numerous environs to desert unfit for human habitation.  McAuley’s descriptions paint a grim and despairing picture of the cost of prolonged warfare on both the planet and it citizens.  It’s a gritty, noxious universe and the author makes it horribly real in every aspect.

This is an intense story and at its heart are the two soldiers from opposing countries and ideologies. Despite being on opposing sides, Merq Grayson and Armise Darcan have much in common.  They are close in age and physique, even closer in their mentalities and emotional makeup.  These are brutal, dangerous predators masquerading as highly skilled soldiers at the top of their professions and yet, they are also something far more. Merq and Armise are also highly complicated personalities with more layers than can be described.  They will dishearten you with their characters and then turn around and astonish you with surprises.  McAuley has created, in Merq and Armise, two characters so real and memorable, that you will be insatiable in your need for more than just these 80 pages and luckily we will get them.

The story is told from Merq’s pov and jumps time periods from mission to mission.  Through Merq’s perspective, we see the world as it has become and watch the past as the two men compete to complete a search for an object both countries desperately want to acquire.  The real measure of each man slowly seeps out like a small blood trail the reader must follow to get to the truth behind the facades erected by man and nation.  Those expecting a romantic love story will be disappointed as the relationship between these men is not for the faint hearted but authentic to the characters we are slowly coming to know.  I don’t think I can adequately describe how compelling these brutal, war hardened men become or how thrilling and suspenseful the plot turns involved.  There are some beautiful twists and turns involved that just make this story and its characters all the more amazing considering the length of the book.

McAuley has created a three page Index at the end of the book detailing time lines, characters, glossary etc.  I am not a fan of this element as readers of my reviews already know.  Happily, I can report it is not necessary to refer to the Index to understand the basics of the world the author has created or some of the war weaponry used in the conflict.  McAuley folds that necessary information into the story just as it should be, making those pages interesting but optional.

One Breath, One Bullet is the opening salvo to a new series, The Borders War and I, for one, can’t wait for more.  The men, their world, and the events to come are deserving of a grand scale series to equal their measure.  I am confident in S.A. McAuley’s ability to deliver it.  Consider this a must have, must read and look for it on the Best of lists at the end of the year.

This is how the sage begins:

I hated the heat of the desert.

The mask on my face was confining, filling with the condensation of each breath I dragged into my lungs and forced back out in shallow gasps. The goggles over my eyes should have protected me from the yellow and grey cloud of Chemsense the Dark Continental Republic Army had unleashed on our battalion, but I could feel my eyes watering, the liquid gathering in pools that threatened to make my skin too damp to maintain the protective seal.

I was on my knees and I couldn’t remember when I’d stopped walking. I wasn’t far enough away yet. The shouts of the DCR soldiers—and the sonicpops of their weapons as they picked off States soldiers—were muffled but still too close. My body tilted, and I planted my hands into the sand without thought. I collapsed into the dune when my right shoulder ground together, bone against bone, tendons ripping. I thought those DCR goons had only managed to dislocate it, but this pain was worse than that—a grinding impact of racking, vision-blackening pain that didn’t ebb even when I flopped onto my back and let my arm lie unmoving in the scorching sand.

My mantra, pounded into me through years of training, repeated in my head as I consciously stilled my body.

One breath.

Inhale.

Hesitation is my enemy.

Solitude my ally.

Death the only real victory.

Exhale.

Cover art by Posh Gosh is disappointing.  Who is that cover model supposed to be?  And that modern shirt?  So many missed opportunities to do justice for such an incredible book.

Book Details:

ebook, 88 pages (includes excerpt from another Total E-Bound book)
Published June 3rd 2013 by Total-E-Bound
ISBN 1781843317 (ISBN13: 9781781843314)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.total-e-bound.com/product.asp?strParents=&CAT_ID=&P_ID=2133
seriesThe Borders War #1

Review of Nature of the Beast Outside The City #1 by Amylea Lyn

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Raine O’ Kelley was different. Inside the Domed City conformity was the rule, starting with your physical attributes.  White blond hair and blue gray eyes, that was the norm, but not Raine.  His hair was the color of gold and his eyes were a deep green.  The fact that he varied from the norm was enough to guarantee that no women would ever choose him as a husband.  He wouldn’t even be employed if his influential father had not interceded with the government to get him a job.  He was too different even for his father, and his father knew his deepest secret, the manner in which Raine was truly, criminally different.

In a society where nature was outlawed and any possession of vegetation considered a felony, Raine could communicate with plants.  He could make them grow, and they sang to him.  In fact, plants were as necessary to Raine as was oxygen and blood.  His mother was gifted or cursed in the same way and because his father loved her, he allowed her a plant or two even though the government forbade it. When she died, his father removed all the plants only to watch his son sicken and fade. His father brought one back but only because Raine was the last link he had to the woman he loved.

Now Raine works for the government and hides his gift behind locked doors in his apartment, where his bedroom has a living carpet of grass and forbidden plants take up  all available space.  Then he is found out and sent to prison for life.  Abused daily by the guards and with no contact with plants, Raine starts to die.  The guards throw him to The Beast, a fearsome monster kept to dispose of prisoners and a miracle happens.  The Beast protects him, takes care of him.  The Beast turns out to be more a tortured man than animal and the two are drawn together.  When Raine discovers The Beast comes from Outside the City, and that the guards intend to kill them, escape becomes paramount.  Will their relationship hold firm in the face of obstacles both inside and outside of the City?  Or will animalistic nature of The Beast destroy their bond first.

This story both frustrated and delighted me.  Amylea Lyn’s Domed City is a dystopian society that we have seen before.  A city ruled by an oppressive government is walled off from all nature.  It’s inhabitants live a grey life in a grey city under a dome that let’s in very little light.  While the idea is not original, the author does a wonderful job with her descriptions of the uniformity of city life and its denizens.  But where she shines is in her creation of Raine O’Kelley.  Raine’s life force is entertwined with plants, energy and love flowing between them.  So vivid are the description of Raine’s interaction with nature that the story dimmed as the plot took a different direction.

The Beast is Ashlon, lost son of the chief of the Katria.  One of his own people betrayed him, and he was taken into captivity by city guards. Ashlon has been tortured and beaten for years in the prison under the City. His memory of his life outside has dimmed and his Beast has taken control in order to survive.  The prologue tells the story of Ashlon’s capture from his POV and gives us a strong introduction to the Beast.  Ashlon’s confusion and rage comes through so beautifully that it was a little jolting to have him disappear after the Prologue. Chapters pass by before we see him again.

Raine has obtained his seeds and plants through the black market and I loved the glimpses we are given of the nature underground that manages to survive the Government interdict.  When Raine’s secret garden is discovered and he is arrested at work,  he manages to send a message to an anonymous source who wisks away his plants before the guards can destroy them.  What a tantalizing glimpse into a forbidden section of  society.  I wanted more, much more of this plot line.  Instead, we get Raine convicted of his crime and sent to prison, where he is gang raped each night, and forced into a work detail by day.  Not surprisingly, Raine starts to die.  A trip to the infirmary becomes a death sentence and a trip to The Beast’s cell.

Raine’s introduction to the Beast is a little muddled as his thoughts seem surprisingly clear for someone as sick and abused as he is. Previous descriptions show Raine broken and fading from the nightly sexual abuse by the prison guards but that seems to disappear inside The Beast’s cell. As both men become aroused by close contact with each other, I kept waiting for an appropriate response from Raine that would be in keeping with that of a rape victim.  It never happened.  There is a few fleeting mentions, once when Raine and The Beast are attacked by the Head Guard, and one in the village, but then it goes away completely.  And with that lack of reaction, the character of Raine became less real in my mind which was a shame as he is such a unique creation.

The plot redeems itself as the two main characters flee the prison and the City.  Again, the author rewards us with lush descriptions of the Outside and Katrian life inside their village.  But each time Raine’ gift comes forward in neat, creative little ways, I mourn the loss of a totally different plot and wish the story had taken a different turn.  Especially during a major fight towards the end, where the symbiotic nature between Raine and the plants comes to the fore.  I loved this!  And it was such a strong part of the plot that the shifter side of the story seemed a little mundane.

So while I did enjoy this book, the shadow of a greater one lurking behind it kept me from giving it a higher rating.  I look forward to more books by Amylea Lyn and the fulfillment of the promise of an extraordinary story shown here.

Cover: Artist: Reese Dante.  The cover is terrific.  From the terrific graphics to the font style, the cover design both delights and informs you of the story within. Great job.

Available from Silver Publishing, Amazon and ARe.

Review of Blacker Than Black by Rhi Etzweiler

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Reviewed for JoyfullyJay blog where I am a guest reviewer:

Rating: 4.5 stars

Black and Jhez are twin Nightwalkers, those who sell their chi or life force to the vampires that now rule the world.  Living in the shadows and tenements of the blue-light district of York, they thrive where other Nightwalkers soon wither and fall.  Their secret?  They steal the chi of their vampire clients even as they are selling theirs, a silent, stolen exchange of energy that has kept them alive for decades.

One unfortunate choice of a john changes everything for them.  Black picks Monsieur Garthelle as the john for the night, not recognizing the master vamp of the city.  What should have been a simple selling of Black’s chi (and the taking of a sliver of Garthelle’s energy) turns explosive, with Black running back to the streets, shaken beyond belief.  When Garthelle recovers, he tracks the twins down, confronts them and forces both to work for him as spies against other vampire families.  Facing not only the loss of their liberty and possibly their lives, they quickly discover nothing is what it seems to be, especially after a high placed vampire is murdered at Garthelle’s home.  Who are their enemies?  Who can be trusted?  What is the nature of the vampires obsession with them?

What a story.  I am going to say right off the bat, that this review is very frustrating to write.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers because who doesn’t love that “huh, didn’t see that coming” moment in stories they are reading?  And trust me, there are quite a few of those here.  The author plays with several themes here, fluidity and changeability run throughout the book.  Whether it is the changing nature of human society, the vampire families and their alliances, right down to the basic natures of human/vampire natures, all is constantly in flux.  The characters and the reader both can be certain of nothing as the story deepens.

The story unfolds from Black’s POV.  From the new world order to the skanky streets the twins live and work on, Black’s confusion is our confusion.  I like that the details of how the vampires came to rule are left deliberately vague.  The author has left our imaginations to fill in the gruesome blanks.  There are black holes of knowledge every where just waiting for the characters (or reader) to stumble and fall into in this story.  Just as the characters discover one alliance that may affect the balance of power, another event happens to undo all they have learned.   And that seesawing plays out so nicely as layer upon layer comes off and more of the plot is revealed.

I think the author has done a wonderful job of characterization here, not only with Black, but with Garthelle, Jhez, and Blue, a close friend of the twins.  Each different yet completely memorable.  What we learn of the new world everyone inhabits is gleaned through gritty realistic details of littered streets and grim despair of the human condition contrasted with the glossy buildings of obsidian black of the ruling vampires.

And speaking of vampires or the Lyche as they call themselves.   This is a different take on vampirism, combining elements of the traditional European vampires with that of the succubus/incubus type energy feeders to arrive at a vampire that seems old and fresh at the same time.  Familiar enough not to throw one off but with some new elements that make you sit up and take notice.  Very well done with vivid imagery that portrays the nature of chi exchange each character undergoes during a feeding.

That is not to say that there aren’t some slow parts where the narrative bogs down.  There are too many descriptions of Garthelle’s apartment building or rooms in his mansion, too much black.  I am going to assume that  this was intentional as the author is very careful in the construction of this story.  I was finding myself wondering how many times the author would find a way to insert the word black or blacker in terms of decor, apparel, or anything as a matter of fact.  I had black fatigue in some places.  But oh the pyrotechnics at the end.  They are wonderful.  A great way to end the journey of a thousand fun house mirrors.

And yes, I am still dying to tell you some spoilers.  But my lips are sealed and I am throwing away the key.

Cover:  Cover art by Del Melchionda. Love the cover.  It is lush and absolutely perfect in tone and graphics for the story. I even feel there is a hint here as well to one of the first twists in the story.  Great job.