A MelanieM Review :Escape (Rebellion #1) by Annabelle Jacobs

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

This isn’t the life Cole dreamt of, but what choice does he have?

With his twenty-third birthday behind him, Cole Moreton now faces the shifter compatibility test which will decide his future. Testing positive means joining a pack and eventually taking the bite. Unfortunately, with enviable skills in self-defence and hand-to-hand combat, the kind of packs interested in him aren’t any he’d want to join.

Logan has been a member of the McKillen pack for most of his life. Pack is family and loyalty is everything, but when the shifter government turns out to be no better than the oppressive humans before them, he questions everything.

Right from their first meeting, Logan knows that a life with the McKillan pack isn’t right for Cole, but with his alpha taking a keen interest in Cole’s skills, Logan’s hands are tied. Mutual attraction builds between them, but acting on it is futile—helping Cole will put their lives at risk and an end to any future they could’ve had.

What an unexpected turn from Annabelle Jacobs! A grab you by the seat of your  pants, white knuckle, hair raising ride of a shifter story but just not in keeping with the wonderful were universe the author had previously created for her Regents Park Pack series.  That was a much more benign universe, shared with multiple species that had learned to coexist together.

Not here. Not in Escape (Rebellion #1) by Annabelle Jacobs. No, right from the Prologue, we are offered a bleak dystopian picture of species at war. At first we get a glimpse of the human treatment of weres under a human government, the type to trigger a war and rebellion.   Then only to see the wolfshifers replaced it with exactly the same or worse structure,  giving and regarding humans much the same as they themselves had been treated.  Only wolf/were pack structure and culture make their domination all the worse, especially given their power and healing abilities.

The world building is simply superb. From immediately setting the tone and resentment and initially putting the reader on the wolves side, we are then flipped over and see where the results of that scene carried that man into history and the impact its still having on society and both species around him.  It’s an unrelentingly grim atmosphere, the moments of levity (mostly around a pet cat) few in the beginning and gone completely thereafter.

I will tell you now if you are looking for fun and lightheartedness in your story, this novel is not for you.  And while it is a love story, at the moment it’s definitely not  even a romance. It’s a race for survival.

What Jacobs introduces along with her vulnerable, easy to connect to character of Cole Moreton, is a increasing feeling of dread and suspense.  He feels it and  we absorb it.  The  characters around him voice it as the date of the mandatory “testing” arrives.  A Shifter draft as it were that no one escapes from unless you have the wrong stuff.  Which Cole definitely does not.  As the author let us learn Cole, love him and his family, she binds him further with narrative cords of chilling suspense about his future with a pack that the more we learn about the more it scares us…and him.

The one caught between?  Logan, a shifter from the McKillen Pack that seems to rule London, wants Cole badly for themselves and has set Logan up at his recruiter, the one to tell Cole he can’t say no to the Pack.

And Logan has just as many facets to him as you could hope for and is almost in as ugly a position as Cole.  Or maybe a worse one.  Because the attraction  sparks between them, one that either way can never happen.  Especially as Logan knows what will happen to Cole once he is inside his pack.

And our own insides clench tighter.  The suspense and tension ratchets higher, and oh, is the writing incredible.

There is no resolution here in this story.  When it ends, if anything, the future for them all looks to be bleeker, grittier and uncertain.  Their goals set higher. Cole and Logan know how they feel about each other but will they be together?

It’s hard to tell how the author will frame out this series.  Will this couple be the main couple in each story?  It’s looking like that has to be the path forward because the stakes are so high, but there are others here so deserving of their stories too. And mates.

And the journey to a new rebellion.  Will it be long or short?  Can I take the suspense which is already killing me now? lol

Did I have fun reading this novel? No.  Did I love reading this story?  Absolutely.  I was caught up in the world, the characters, their flight for survival , and their cause immediately.  The writing is spectacular, the characters layers, and I honestly don’t have a clue where Jacobs is going with this but I am going to follow each step of the way.

If you love shifters, suspense, and what will be an incredible love story, this is the book and I suspect the series for you.

Cover art: Natasha Snow. What a powerful cover.  That is Logan in every way.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 319 pages
Published August 20th 2019
ASINB07WGYRNDH
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesRebellion #1

A Free Dreamer Review: Severed (Precinct One #1) by Shona Husk

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Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Halle Ish, one of Velli’s elite police Arrows, is shot down during a Precinct One riot. Wounded and unable to fly, she tries to hide and avoid capture, knowing that if she is found by the razor gangs or Clipper Sect they will sever her wings. She needs to get out of Precinct One. Avin Lent was once a promising medical student, but he started sniffing Mumble to beat the stress and is now the doctor to one of the biggest gangs in Precinct One—while not part of the Clipper Sect, they are just as dangerous. He knows he is only as useful as his next surgery and they would have no qualms about killing him. Only Jarro is keeping him safe. Jarro Coblic is deep under cover and has been for a year. Immersed in the gang, he suspects his hands will never be clean again. When he finds the wounded Arrow, he knows he can’t turn her over even though everyone is looking for her. With his lover’s help, they hide her and heal her wing. All the while, falling for her. He prays Avin will not crumble and reveal their secret as Jarro tries to figure out a way to get them all out of Precinct One before the Sect and the gangs bring the full wrath of Velli on Precinct One. Tearing the place down can’t come soon enough, but there will be blood before the slate can be washed clean.

“Severed” marks the beginning of a new series and I liked this first part. I avoided anything with M/F in it for a while and only recently discovered that MMF is actually a relationship dynamic I could come to really enjoy.

A little trigger warning before we start: Avin is a drug addict and his struggles with his addiction and being high are a very important part of the story. There’s also quite a bit of violence and some off-screen torture going on.

It’s a bit hard to find the right genre for this book, but I guess it’s a futuristic urban fantasy, set in a completely different world. For quite a while, I thought it was set on Earth, but in the distant future, where something had happened to make women grow wings. It was all a little confusing, since I was always wondering, what could have happened to cause such a drastic change in our anatomy. I think it took too long for the author to establish that, in this world, women have always had wings. If that had been made clear from the get-go, it would have been obvious that this is a completely made-up world, inhabited by humans with a slightly different anatomy.

Once I’d realized that this was a different world, I actually started to find it quite fascinating. Women are physically superior to men, the wings giving them a definite advantage over the land-bound men. The society is essentially matriarchal, but leaning towards equality. Kind of like our own society, but also the opposite, since we come from a patriarchy. Most of the book is set in a crime-riddled slum, with not a lot of normal people left. So we don’t get to see much of the normal society, which was a bit of a shame. From the little that was shown, it seemed really interesting.

Relationships work differently in this universe. It’s perfectly normal for people to be in same-sex relationships or in poly relationships. I found the idea that there were essentially two models of poly relationships. The “famili sect” is made up of two M/F couples, who live together and watch out for each other during reproductive sex, as that can actually get dangerous for the man. Then there’s the “poli sect”, which has one woman in a relationship with two men. I’m not a fan of the “I’ll change one letter and invent a new fantasy word” thing, though. Either come up with a completely new name or leave the normal English one. But that’s just a minor niggle I’ve seen in a lot of fantasy books.

We never really learn how the women’s wings look. Are they feathered? Or skin? What colour are they? The same as the hair or the skin colour or something completely different? That was a disappointing lack of detail.

I really liked the relationship between Jarro and Avin. It’s born out of convenience and lust and has grown feelings over time, though neither is sure if he can trust the other one. That made for some great tension. I did think Avin took the revelation of Jarro being an undercover cop a little too lightly, though. I also liked them as individuals and they had some really hot sex together.

I’m not sure how I feel about Halle and her inclusion into the relationship. The feelings developed very fast and under less than ideal circumstances. I didn’t really feel the love there. But again, the sex was hot. Though there is a bit of a blood kink, which is normal in this universe. Still not necessarily one of my favourite kinks, but it worked well here.

I didn’t quite understand why Jarro was in Velli in the first place. He’s from a different city state and I found it very odd that he’d be doing official police business for a foreign country. Why would the Velli police use a foreigner? They must have their own undercover agents. I kind of missed a proper explanation for that oddity.

Overall, “Severed” was an enjoyable read and I’m definitely interested in the next part. There’s no evil cliffhanger, though the overall story arc obviously isn’t finished yet. You could read it as a stand-alone with a HEA for the triad and HFN for the rest of the world, sort of.

I really don’t like the cover by Natasha Snow. I read the book despite the cover, not because of it. I don’t get why there’s only Halle on it, with odd-looking wings. The guys are definitely missing. And the pink background implies a lighter story. Also, I just generally hate pink, but that’s just me.

Sales Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Book details:

ebook, , 281 pages

Published February 25th 2019 by NineStar Press

A Free Dreamer Review: For the Clan by Archer Kay Leah

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Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Canada, 2165 AD. The Water Wars and a decimated economy have taken their toll. Anyone who doesn’t live in a military-patrolled metropolis lives in a clan. But being in a clan doesn’t mean safety.

And for a Ven like Roan Lee, it doesn’t matter where he lives. Safety is a luxury. So is freedom.

Roan is desperate to escape the governtary’s exploitation and torture. He is nothing to them but 54σK1, an artifact born from a genetic mishap. When the chance to escape arises, he makes a run for it—and encounters the lover from his past, twisting his future into a second chance he never expected.

As leaders of Clan Teach, Jace Ama and his wife, Cayra Diega, have enough difficulty keeping their people safe. When Roan is thrown to their feet as a prisoner, their marriage becomes an additional challenge. Jace still loves Roan, but where does that leave Cayra?

For the Clan” wasn’t my first book by this author, but it was the first MMF book I’ve ever consciously picked up. Not so long ago, I wouldn’t have given it a second glance, simply because of the relationship dynamic. But then I decided to give every book with an interesting blurb a try, no matter the pairing. And I’m so glad I did, because I absolutely loved this book.

Strangely enough, the first word that comes to my mind when I think about this story is “beautiful”. Something about it just made me feel really happy, even though a lot of horrible things happen and life definitely isn’t easy for our protagonists. I think it might be because of the wonderful love story we get to witness. Roan’s situation seems so bleak and utterly hopeless and it was so amazing to watch how love gave him hope again. I loved all three MCs and their dynamic. There was no bitterness or jealousy, even if it wasn’t always easy. They’re strong with and for each other, but they can also be weak and know that the other one will catch them.

The book is incredibly well written. This is actually my fourth book by Archer Kay Leah, but while the three other books I read were something between “okay” and “good, but not great”, this was a masterpiece. It was easy to fall into the world the author created and get lost in it and in the feelings of the MCs. The descriptions are all so vivid and the landscape felt very alive.

But there’s more to this book than just a wonderful love story and some pretty hot sex scenes. The world building was really well done too. There’s an explanation for everything, without ever giving an “info dump” feel. It was woven perfectly into the plot, just like how great world building is done.

There’s a lot of action and fighting going on. I was breathlessly anticipating what would happen next. The plot was very well thought out and had real depth.

If you like dystopian futures with brave heroes in a wonderful relationship and aren’t easily triggered by violence and horrible background stories, then you should read this book. You won’t regret it.

The cover by Natasha Snow is perfect for the story. It’s dark and violent, but also hauntingly beautiful.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book details: ebook, 228 pages

Published May 25th 2016 by Less Than Three Press

A Free Dreamer Review: Bane (Strain #2) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The weapon that nearly destroyed humanity may be their only salvation. 

Rhys Cooper once thought he was a dead man. Instead, he’s proven immune to the virus that nearly wiped out humanity.

Now the Clean Zone’s scientists want to know why. Summoned for testing, Rhys is about to learn first-hand why his Juggernaut partner, Sergeant Darius Murrell, and the rest of his superhuman comrades in Delta Company don’t trust the uninfected survivors in the Clean Zone–or the remnants of the government that unleashed the epidemic in the first place.

For a decade, Zach Houtman has yearned for his lover, Nico Fernández, but fear of infection has kept them apart. Separately they keep tabs on the last vestiges of the corrupt government, particularly the head of the Clean Zone’s virus research division. Secretary Littlewood seeks to unlock the secrets of the Bane virus. But Nico knows how dangerous Littlewood will be if that ever happens.

Zach and Nico now have the perfect bait to draw Littlewood out: Rhys. But Delta Company isn’t about to let Rhys walk into hell alone. They’ll take Littlewood down together, or not at all. Even if they succeed, however, for Zach and Nico one question remains: can infected and uninfected people ever be together safely?

Bane is the second and final installment in the Strain series. As such, it really doesn’t work as a stand-alone. I would recommend you to read the prequel “Juggernaut” as well. Both couples from book 0.5 and book one are back in “Bane” and I think you really need to get to know all four of them to really enjoy this book.

It’s been years since I read “Strain” but it’s a very memorable book and I absolutely loved it. It’s very, very different. “Bane” is much more mainstream. It’s still dark, but there’s no dubious consent. The sex scenes between Rhys and Darius are fewer and not as explicit as in book one. While I’m glad that Rhys has found his peace and is starting to feel more self-confident, I just kind of missed the spark I remember from book one.

Zach made me really angry at times. I kind of understood why he didn’t want to infect himself with the Alpha strain all those years ago. The whole “it’s God’s will” pissed me off. I thought it was really cruel of him to do this to Nico.

The author definitely knows how to write sex scenes. And while it is far tamer than book one, the sex was still really hot.

Once again, the book was incredibly addicting. I just could not put it down and it really had me emotionally invested. While I did have my issues with Zach, it’s always a good sign when I get so emotional over a character’s choices.

There were so many twists and turns and intrigues and secrets, it really had my head spinning. I really did not expect some of these things. I’m actually quite satisfied with the ending. I often have issues with how books end, but this really worked. It’s not exactly a HEA but it does leave you hopeful.

Overall, “Bane” is a great read. While it’s not quite as good as the first two books, I still really enjoyed it. It’s tamer and more mainstream, but still pretty good. If you liked the first two books, I’m sure you’ll like this one too.

The cover matches the other two in the series perfectly. It’s just as dark and creepy and gorgeous.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book details:

Kindle Edition, 2 edition, 240 pages

Published April 20th 2018 (first published September 19th 2015)

A Free Dreamer Review: Strain (Strain #1) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

In a world with little hope and no rules, the only thing they have to lose is themselves.

Rhys Cooper is a dead man. He’s spent years hiding from the virus that wiped out most of the human race, but an act of futile heroism has him counting down his remaining days. The timely arrival of superhuman soldiers offers some feeble hope–but only if Rhys can reconcile himself to doing what is necessary to take advantage of it.

Sergeant Darius Murrell has seen too much death and too little tenderness. His job is seeking out the infected to put them out of their misery, or sending the uninfected survivors to a safe haven where he and his fellow Juggernaut troops will never be welcomed. Rhys’s situation is different, though. Not only is there an improbable chance that Darius won’t have to put a bullet in Rhys’s head, but he has somehow managed to get under Darius’s skin.

The virus Rhys must infect himself with in order to survive is sexually transmitted, and optimizing his chance of exposure requires him to submit as often as possible to Darius–and the other soldiers. Though the boundaries of morality have shifted in this harsh new world, Darius and Rhys question whether their humanity is too high a price to pay for Rhys’s survival.

A warning before we begin: “Strain” is definitely not for the faint of heart. Aside from lots of explicit BDSM sex with dubious consent and big age gaps, you also find lots of explicit violence and gore and some scenes that would be considered rape under different circumstances.

At first I wasn’t sure if I would like this book. A disease that can only be cured by lots and lots of sex – that sounds a bit like an awfully cheap excuse for heaps and heaps of mindless sex, doesn’t it? Well, “Strain” was a big surprise in that regard. Sure, there’s heaps and heaps of sex. But the author did a great job at explaining everything and once you start, it all makes perfect sense. The whole thing is a clever part of world building that seemed very logical to me – not that I know all that much about medicine.

The world building was excellent and full of interesting details. It’s easy to get caught in this dark, dark future. Since the events of “Strain” aren’t too far into the future, you get a really good explanation for how we went from the world we know now to the world Amelia Gormley created. I’m a sucker for good world building and the author easily satisfied my curiosity.

Rhys’ reactions seemed very genuine to me. While he’s always been attracted to men, he’s never had the chance to explore his sexuality. He spent most of his life isolated from the rest of the world and years of homophobia from the extremely religious preacher and his power hungry son don’t exactly help him feel confident in his sexuality. So when he is forced to lose his virginity to a much older man that only has sex with him out of a sense of duty, he’s less than thrilled. But it’s his only chance at survival, so he doesn’t exactly have a choice. Rhys always remained true to himself; he didn’t just suddenly turn into a mindless sex maniac. The author painted a very convincing picture of his inner struggle and I found myself liking the boy from the start.

Darius was just as interesting. The whole thing isn’t exactly easy on him either. He tends to enjoy very kinky sex, but how could he do that to such a clueless boy? Not to mention he could easily hurt Rhys with his superior strength. He ends up feeling guilty because he just can’t keep his dominant side in check around the boy. And actually forming a real emotional connection terrifies him – if their wild plan doesn’t work out, he’ll be the one that will have to end his misery with a bullet.

The side characters were very well developed as well, with unique backstories and interesting behaviour.

Once Rhys actually started to accept his kinky side, the sex scenes got really hot. The author was very creative in that regard, coming up with lots of interesting little games.

The ending was a little predictable. My suspicions started around the middle of the book, but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy every single page till the end. There was plenty of other plot to keep you occupied.

“Strain” is different. It’s dark, it’s kinky, there are some real concerns about consent and it is utterly brilliant and extremely addicting. If you’re in the mood for something dark and kinky with a brilliant plot, then go for it. Just beware of potential triggers.

The cover fits the story perfectly. It’s kind of creepy and makes you curious about the world.

Book details: Kindle Edition, 2. edition, 322 pages

Published April 20th 2018 first published February 15th 2014)

A MelanieM Review: Magic Ties Together by Nina Begonia

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Ira has one eye, a back-alley accuracy charm, and a policy of taking what he can get.

Lajos has a sword, a stoic façade that crumbles quickly under pressure, and a mysterious past.

When a routine monster attack leads to the men being magically bound together, unable to part without being violently ill, Ira is horrified. Worse, the link means they can sense each other’s every emotion. And as time goes on, Ira starts to wonder which emotions are truly his, and which are just a result of the magic…

I just love fantasy and always search out new stories and new authors. So I had high hopes for Magic Ties Together by Nina Begonia.  It had a neat, interesting premise that linked the couple right from the start…a type of magic handcuffs.

But while this story did contain some nice elements and places where my interest was definitely piqued, for the most part, it was jammed full of just a weird mixture of not enough world building (had no idea of the sort of world these characters really existed in) and one in which we got far too many extraneous details.  Really should have been the other way around.

The characters started having sex almost immediately, because the bracelets “made them do it”.  Trust me, not sexy at all.  Then there were hodgepodgy creatures whose physical descriptions made even less sense than some of the world building (what there was).

The characters had potential but didn’t seem to reach it imo.  This story is 100 pages yet it felt as though the author was trying to jam 500 pages worth of things the author had in mind for the story that just kept flowing on, regardless of whether it fit or not into the current scenes or storyline.

The ending was probably the best thing about this story.  It was the most pulled together.  The characters felt as though they might actually care about each other but everything leading up to it is such a narrative quagmire.

Not a story I would recommend.

Cover art: Aisha Akeju.  Gorgeous cover, definitely eye catching.

Sales Link:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 103 pages
Published April 4th 2018 by Less Than Three Press (first published April 2nd 2018)
Original TitleMagic Ties Together
ISBN139781684312382
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Lila Audiobook Review: Off the Beaten Path by Cari Z. and Jack Wesley (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When Ward Johannsen’s little girl Ava shifted into a werewolf, she was taken into custody by the feds and shipped off to the nearest pack, all ties between father and daughter severed. Ward burned every bridge he had discovering her location, and then almost froze to death in the Colorado mountains tracking her new pack down. And that’s just the beginning of his struggle.

Henry Dormer is an alpha werewolf and an elite black ops soldier who failed his last mission. He returns home, hoping for some time to recuperate and help settle the pack’s newest member, a little pup named Ava who can’t shift back to her human form. Instead he meets Ward, who refuses to leave his daughter without a fight. The two men are as different as night and day, but their respect for each other strikes a spark of mutual interest that quickly grows into a flame. They might find something special together—love, passion, and even a family—if they can survive trigger-happy pack guardians, violent werewolf politics, and meddling government agencies that are just as likely to get their alpha soldiers killed as bring them home safely.

Off The Beaten Path is one of the best stories I have read or listened to this year. The actual plot, characters, and settings were fresh and interesting even when it was a shifter story. The world-build goes hand-in-hand with the current time and it’s easy to imagine this semi-dystopian place where werewolves are part of everyday society.

The pacing in the story gives the reader enough information about where the story was heading without missing the opportunity to include small details like smells and the weather. Even the type of cars, electronics, and clothes played an important role without weighting the story down.

The only thing I wanted more of were details about the pack’s life after everything was set and done. How everything changed and how everyone reacted. How they dealt with the changes and the new work—if any—the alphas got assigned.

Overall, this is a perfect story for those who want something different. It has a lovely romance, the right about of smexy times, a lot of flirting, angsts, and drama without taking from the tension and the serious side of the plot. It has great balance and a hit of humor.

The narration by Jack Wesley gave the book the extra push needed to make it four dimensional. It was more than then narration, it was the whole production. From the characterizations to the distinctions when the scenes took place outside or over the phone. Even the video calls had their own distinct feel. It was worth listening to it.

The cover by Brooke Albrecht shows Ward and Henry in front of a setting that matches the story’s descriptions. It really works.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Jack Wesley

Length:  6 hours 23 minutes

Published: January 12, 2018 (Audio Edition) by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN: B078Y8KP96
Edition Language: English

Rob Rosen on And God Belched (guest blog)

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And God Belched by Rob Rosen

MLR Press
Cover Art: Winterheart Designs

Sales Links:  MLR Press  | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Rob Rosen here today to talk about his latest release And God Belched, out from MLR Press.  Welcome, Rob!

🌎

 

Hello Readers! If you’re looking for a laugh, for some romance with a bit of heat, for a truly unique book, then I invite you to check out my twelfth (and, dare I say, best) novel, And God Belched, published by MLR Press.

Here’s a little bit about the book:

In this riotously funny romantic adventure, Randy and his younger brother, Craig, find themselves in a different universe, on a strange planet, desperately searching for Milo, a handsome stranger in imminent danger, all while being chased by the heavily armed local authorities. And that’s just the start of this epic journey. But what else does fate have in store for our brave heroes? And can one human save two worlds, the handsome alien he’s fallen in love with, his entire family, and a self-aware watch? Read on, dear Earthlings, to find out!

Feel free to pick up a copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/God-Belched-Rob-Rosen-ebook/dp/B078GG9L4P/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

And here’s an excerpt:

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said, “let there be light,” and there was light.

Um, you know, sort of.

Actually, in the beginning, God belched out a universe—a big bang of a belch, in fact. It was, so it’s told elsewhere, an odoriferous, gaseous cloud of a rumbling belch. And like all good belches, it was followed by several smaller ones, each forming their own universes, which spread out and filled that above-mentioned void.

Ours was belch number four, the very last one. God had to pound his expansive chest to get that one out. “Oomph,” He said as our existence was made manifest, as out atoms spread outward, trailing those other far greater universes, just before that famous light was flicked on.

Click.

Picture, if you will, four bubbles floating through the blackness, turning end over end as they rapidly grew and expanded, as molecules collided and elements formed: hydrogen and helium and lithium—so that many years later we could have zeppelins and balloons and long-lasting batteries, and all because God was a bit gassy one day.

Anyway, that first belch, that first universe, went to the right; we veered leftward. Those other two, well, they’re not really pertinent to this story. So, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that one went up, the other down. Ta-ta, sister worlds. Live long and, um, prosper.

A year went by, two, then fourteen billion, give or take. I, too, was made manifest: Randy—both a name, namely mine, and an apt adjective. Made, in fact, by mom and dad, belching my way into the void on a cold January morning. Yep, just like it’s said, we truly are made in His image, at least in belching ability.

In any case, on that same January morning, in a universe far, far away—sort of, though, uh, not really—another baby boy was born: Milo. Well, that’s what I called him, anyway. Or at least would, at a time when those two universes happened to decide to play bumper cars together. In any case, his real name was close to a dozen letters long, strung together with nary a vowel to be had. I tried to pronounce it once, and was instantly stricken with a sore throat.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Back to me, Randy—the name, for the time being, not the adjective. I was born in San Francisco, the city by the bay, the city by the gays. I lived high upon a hill, one of the steepest in the city, sort of like a prince in a castle. Though our home was made of steel, not brick, not wood, not even stone. The architect was hoping to design a quake-proof house, or so the legend went. And like so many legends, such was not even close to the actual case, as it turned out. Anyway, we froze in the winter and melted when the sun poked through the endless fog. In other words, our house was wisely one of a kind.

“High upon a hill lives Prince Randy, clad in his ermine cape and golden crown, scepter raised in royal salute.” The story rolled off my mom’s tongue as she fed me Gerber’s mashed peas: my favorite.

FYI, the cape was my blankie, not ermine so much as polyester. The crown was a yellow bowl bought at Safeway. I still own said crown. Now I use it for cereal, as opposed to headwear. The scepter was my rattle. It was bequeathed to my younger brother a couple of years later. These days, I lift my cell phone in royal salute.

All the best and enjoy!

Rob Rosen

www.therobrosen.com

Author of the award-winning novels Sparkle: The Queerest Book You’ll Ever Love, Divas Las Vegas, Hot Lava, Southern Fried, Queerwolf, Vamp, Queens of the Apocalypse, Creature Comfort, Fate, Midlife Crisis, and Fierce, and editor of the anthologies Lust in Time, Men of the Manor, Best Gay Erotica 2015, and Best Gay Erotica of the Year, Volumes 1 and 2 and 3.

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Review here.

 

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

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Book Details:

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