A MelanieM Review: Dragon Magic by Megan Derr

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Four strangers. A shared moment long forgotten. A bond forged in desperation.

On the first day of the Festival of Counting, the beginning of the royal census that takes place every ten years, the royal city is filled to overflowing. Everyone is happy, excited, and proud to be counted amongst those who live in the glorious kingdom of Orhanis.

Then a demon strikes, killing thousands in mere seconds and leveling the city. As the royal castle burns, only four men remain to drive the demon away—and in their desperation, accidentally bind themselves together in a legendary Oath, unable to part ways until they find and kill the demon once and for all.

Mahzan, the King’s Jester, an orphan who clawed his way to the top and hides a fearsome magic… Sule, the notorious North Captain, who sacrificed everything to live as a strong, capable, highly respected man… Cemal, a priest who traveled the continent bent on revenge and now lives lost… and Binhadi, the mercurial shadow mage with a dark history and bloody ties to the throne…

Four men used to standing apart, standing alone, who must learn to stand together if they hope to save themselves and all of Orhanis.

When it comes to fantasy, Megan Derr is  one of my go to authors.  I love her marvelous ability to transport me out of the mundane and into realms where dragons soar,  wounded mage’s seek reparation and love, and unique bands of warriors go forth on sagas that have continued to live on in my heart and mind long past those words…The End in book after book.

In Dragon Magic Megan Derr brings together another unusual band of mages.  This time, they will form not only a working relationship but a romantic one between the four of them.  Not something of a norm in her stories. Or in the stories I normally read because I haven’t found many authors that make a  polyamorous relationship work within a storyline to my tastes.  Here, among four strong mages, who fight the bonds between them from the beginning, watching the emotional ties form, along with the lust and love feels natural.  It helps that they can “feel” each others thoughts and emotions, so the instinctual walls  others erect start breaking down or are broken between the four of them from the start, laying their “secrets” out before the others.

Derr switches the story back and forth between the emotional vulnerability and revelations that is happening between the four as they become a true “family” and the perilous state they find themselves in while searching out the demons and those responsible for the destruction of the Capitol.  I expected to “like” one of the characters more than the rest, maybe Mahzan or Sule, but each mages here is a little broken each in their own way.  Each strong as well.  Turned out I loved them equally.  Semal and Binahdi  no less than Mahzan and Sule.  What great characters all.

The only thing that kept this from a 5 stars story was the odd little out of timeline break at the end.  I understand why the author did it but it still felt jarring.  And honestly asked more questions than it answered.  I didn’t need it.  And in my opinion the story didn’t either.  But that’s just me.

Either way, if you are a lover of high fantasy, Megan Derr or both,  Dragon Magic is a book you won’t want to miss.  And yes, once again she has created some wonderful demons for our mages to fight against.  Can’t miss out on those either!  Put this and this wonderful band of mages on your TBR list today!  I highly recommend it!

Cover art:Phillip Lloyd Simpson.  It’s colorful.  Don’t know that it’s my favorite of Megan Derr’s covers.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: March 28th 2018 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781684312016
Edition LanguageEnglish

In the Spotlight: Apocalypse Alley (Blue Unicorn #2) by Don Allmon (Riptide Publishing Tour and Giveaway)

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Apocalypse Alley (Blue Unicorn #2) by Don Allmon
Riptide Publishing
Cover by: Simoné

Read an excerpt/Buy It here

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Don Allmon here today on tour for his latest novel, Apocalypse Alley.  Welcome, Don. 

 

 

Hello, all! I’m Don Allmon and this week I’ll be touring the web to promote my new book, APOCALYPSE ALLEY, the second in the Blue Unicorn series.

 

If you’re looking for fast-paced cyberpunk/fantasy romance – Terminator 2 meets Fury Road with two sexy guys and a dragon – this is your jam.

 

Join in the fun by leaving a comment which enters you to win a Riptide gift card!

 

About Apocalypse Alley

 

Home from a six-month assignment to war-torn East Asia, genetically engineered supersoldier Noah “Comet” Wu just wants to kick back, share a beer, and talk shit with his best friend, JT. But JT’s home has been shot up like a war zone, and his friend has gone missing.

 

Comet’s only lead is a smart-mouthed criminal he finds amid the mess. His name’s Buzz Howdy. He’s a con man and a hacker and deserves to be in jail. Or in handcuffs, at least. The only thing the two have in common is JT. Unless you count the steamy glances they’re sneaking at one another. They have those in common too. But that just makes Comet all the more wary.

 

Despite their mutual distrust, they’ll have to work together to rescue JT before a cyborg assassin gets to him first. Racing down a miserable stretch of road called Apocalypse Alley, they must dodge radioactive spiders, a killer Buick, and rampaging cannibals. They also try to dodge each other. That last bit doesn’t work out so well.

 

Available now from Riptide Publishing!

About Blue Unicorn

 

JT is an orc on the way up. He’s got his own boutique robotics shop, high-end clientele, and deep-pocketed investors. He’s even mentoring an orc teen who reminds him a bit too much of himself back in the day.

 

Then Austin shows up, and the elf’s got the same hard body and silver tongue as he did two years ago when they used to be friends and might have been more. He’s also got a stolen car to bribe JT to saying yes to one last scheme: stealing the virtual intelligence called Blue Unicorn.

 

Soon JT’s up to his tusks in trouble, and it ain’t just zombies and Chinese triads threatening to tear his new life apart. Austin wants a second chance with JT—this time as more than just a friend—and even the Blue Unicorn is trying to play matchmaker.

 

Check out the Blue Unicorn universe!

 

About Don Allmon

 

In his night job, Don Allmon writes science fiction, fantasy, and romance. In his day job, he’s an IT drone. He holds a master of arts in English literature from the University of Kansas and wrote his thesis on the influence of royal hunting culture on medieval werewolf stories. He’s a fan of role-playing games, both video and tabletop. He has lived all over from New York to San Francisco, but currently lives on the prairies of Kansas with many animals.

 

Connect with Don:

Giveaway

 

To celebrate the release of Apocalypse Alley, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on March 3, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A MelanieM Review: Apocalypse Alley (Blue Unicorn #2) by Don Allmon

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Home from a six-month assignment to war-torn East Asia, genetically engineered supersoldier Noah “Comet” Wu just wants to kick back, share a beer, and talk shit with his best friend, JT. But JT’s home has been shot up like a war zoars out of 5ne, and his friend has gone missing.

Comet’s only lead is a smart-mouthed criminal he finds amid the mess. His name’s Buzz Howdy. He’s a con man and a hacker and deserves to be in jail. Or in handcuffs, at least. The only thing the two have in common is JT. Unless you count the steamy glances they’re sneaking at one another. They have those in common too. But that just makes Comet all the more wary.

Despite their mutual distrust, they’ll have to work together to rescue JT before a cyborg assassin gets to him first. Racing down a miserable stretch of road called Apocalypse Alley, they must dodge radioactive spiders, a lonely cannibal, and a killer Buick. They also try to dodge each other. That last bit doesn’t work out so well.

When I last put down  The Glamour Thieves (Blue Unicorn #1), the first story in this amazing series, JT, Austin, and his elf lover were headed to his  home that he shares with the teenage orc he’s mentoring having stirred up more trouble and uncovered even more disturbing information after freeing the virtual intelligence known as the Blue Unicorn.  Trust me, you need to read that story.  One, it’s a dynamite adventure tale and two, without it, you will be lost diving into this one.

I love Apocalypse Alley but the truth is you won’t get a solid foundation of the world or overall series ARC without reading The Glamour Thieves first.  This story and series builds upon each other like building blocks and you can’t enter midway point.  It’s like being dropped on a warped yellow brick road and not knowing you’re headed to Oz.  Not that you’re all that sure of your destination here.  So many twists  and turns await you!

And it all happens at break-neck speed.  What an adrenaline rush.  I had to read it twice to gather together all the story threads and hints I missed the first time.  Props btw to Allmon for creating a character with the name of Urushiol.  As a park naturalist/Ranger, I’m highly familiar with this chemical compound as is anyone who’s come in contact with poison ivy.  I laughed myself silly when I saw that name.  Perfect in every way.  Anyhow, from the moment the story opens we start picking up speed as Comet returns expecting to find JT waiting to pick him up at the airport and  goes looking for him when he doesn’t show.  Each scene as Comet interacts with both Buzz Howdy (we’ve met him before) and others foe and friend gives the readers more information about the man.

Buzz is a known entity but we get into his head and yes heart here.  He falls for  Comet, quick yes, but you can see how and why it happens.

But mostly it’s a race.  A race to keep ahead of some of the worse villains out there, a race to find JT and crew, a race to stay alive…all in heart pounding, white knuckle…go all out scenes.  It’s wildly imaginative, horrifying, and incredibly suspenseful.  Did I say I loved it?  And just when you think it’s safe…a surprising twist shows up at the end that makes you want to go back and read books one and two again to see if there was anyway you could have seen this coming.  And now I need The Burning Magus (Blue Unicorn #3 to come out in the worst possible way.

So, yes, I  absolutely recommend this series.  It’s one wild  ride.  It has great characters, it’s gritty, suspenseful, full of twists and turns and more plots threads then you can shake a VR stick with.  It’s even got love such as it is.  But you need to start with The Glamour Thieves and then to Apocalypse Alley.  I’ll be waiting for you at The Burning Magus!

Cover by: Simoné. I love these covers.  Perfect in everyway from the tone and characters.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 201 pages
Expected publication: February 26th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleApocalypse Alley
ISBN 162649665X (ISBN13: 9781626496651)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBlue Unicorn #2

A Julia Review: The King and the Criminal (The Heart of All Worlds #2) by Charlotte Ashe

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What happens when the fairytale ends but the journey continues? Book II of the Heart of All Worlds series finds Sehrys and Brieden living peacefully in Khryslee. But when King Firae breaches an ancient, spellbound pact by crossing The Border into Villalu in pursuit of a convicted criminal and is trapped there, Sehrys is forced to ascend the throne in his absence, a role he was once groomed for, but Brieden fears and dreads. Meanwhile, Firae must rely on the very criminal he was after to help him reach home alive—a man his own mother exiled long ago but who awakens something in his heart more potent than his sworn duties as king.

As each man struggles to understand his own destiny, devotion, and legacy, a deeper and more urgent truth confronts them all: Their world is in far greater danger than they realized, and each of them plays an integral part in its fate.

The King and the Criminal by Charlotte Ashe is the second novel in the author’s “The Heart of All Worlds” series. I had previously reviewed the first entry “The Sidhe”, which was a favourite of mine, and I’m happy to say that this one is a more than worthy successor.

While Brieden and Sehrys still play a pivotal role and there is quite a bit of character development for them, we now get to follow the journey of another pair of characters who both have already been introduced in the first book: ruler of one of the Sidhe nations and Sehrys’ former fiancée Firae and Tash, a Sidhe who has been exiled to the human lands for his crimes. But even more so than in the first book the romance part of the story is intricately intertwined with greater narrative of political upheaval and a more imminent threat to the whole of Villalu. The author did a fantastic job in balancing out the change of focus. Not one scene feels superfluous or out of place here.

Tash and Firae are both really interesting and engaging characters and I have greatly enjoyed following the progression of their relationship. I’m especially fond of Tash because unlike Sehrys or Firae he was not naturally gifted with powerful magical abilities or influence but relies mostly on his wits and aptitude for learning to work through a tricky situation. Firae on the other hand is rather impulsive and temperamental. You can see how there is much for them to learn from one another. While theirs is definitely not a love-hate type of relationship, there is quite a bit of wariness (but also mutual sexual attraction) between them at the beginning of their journey. The pacing is really well done and I found it quite believable that these two would eventually develop stronger feelings for each other.

Much to my delight the human twin sisters Cliope and Brissa are getting more attention this time as well as they keep on working towards uniting Villalu under the rule of the latter. And though they seem to be making good progress in that regard, things aren’t as simple as an ancient magic threatens to destroy all of humanity and it is up to a select few to prevent it from happening. The world building is quite detailed and this time we get to see more of what’s going on behind the barrier and learn in greater detail about the culture, society and magic of the Sidhe.

If you’re a fan of Fantasy and are looking for a well-written story with detailed world building and engaging characters, I can only recommend this series and you can be certain that I’ll be eagerly awaiting its continuation.

I simply adore the cover and interior illustrations by Sarah Sanderson. They are so unique and beautiful. I especially like that if you compare the covers of the two books, you can clearly see the difference in the dynamics between the two couples based on their gestures and facial expressions alone.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 325 pages

Published December 8, 2016

by Interlude Press

ISBN: 978-1-941530-87-0

Edition Language: English

Nikolai Joslin on Inspiration, Writing and Cold Front (The Fires of Destiny #2) (Harmony Ink Guest Post)

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Cold Front (The Fires of Destiny #2) by Nikolai Joslin
H
armony Ink Press
Cover Art by AngstyG

Available for Purchase at 

Harmony Ink Press

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Nikolai Joshlin here today to talk about his latest story, Cold Front and share something about the inspiration behind it and the series.  Welcome, Nikolai!

✒︎

Inspiration, Stories and Role Models by Nikolai Joslin

I always loved fantasy and science fiction when I was growing up but it felt like I was sacrificing an important part of myself when I was reading, it pulled me out of the story and I wasn’t able to relate to characters who weren’t like me. It was incredibly hard to be proud of who I was when I never got to see a hero or a ‘Chosen One’ who I could look up to as a role model for this part of my life. So I wrote the first book, Life Beyond the Temple, when I was in high school because I was so frustrated with the lack of LGBT characters in books that also had magic and people saving the world. Casey was someone I wanted to be like, someone who was saving the world and doing amazing things and who was proud of her sexuality and found love in the midst of all that was going on around her. I came up with the idea for these books because I couldn’t find anything around me to read, so I had to write it myself.

 

About Cold Front

Casey Kelley is a mage, and like all mages she grew up in a Temple, a required institution for mages to teach them how to control their power and keep them from harming those in the outside world. In order to prove that she could return to the world she was tasked with defeating a powerful necromancer that sought to end the world as they knew it.

Now, a year later, Casey is living with her fiancée and dog, living the happy, boring life she had been looking forward to all this time. Until an old friend shows up at their door with news of a planned attack on Casey’s old home. The dark elves, after centuries of being forced to live in underground cities and treated like animals, are not only coming back to the surface, they’re starting a war.

It’s up to Casey and her friends to build an army to go against them and save the world again, and it will take more than anything else she’s ever done. Old ghosts come back to haunt her, her enemies have been preparing for years, and maybe hardest of all is getting everyone to cooperate. Even with things looking this bad, Casey knows failure is not an option.

About Nikolai Joslin

Nikolai is a trans man going to school for Baking and Pastry Arts. He decided to write more LGBT fantasy when he was high school and looking for books with characters like himself but couldn’t find anything outside of realistic fiction. He hopes to encourage others to write more stories like this so he has plenty to read. Right now he is living in New York while finishing up his degree and working on the final book for The Fires of Destiny.

Website: www.nikolaijoslin.com

The Fires of Destiny 

A MelanieM Review: Hidden Wings by Ana Raine

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Hidden WingsKanji is the last royal Kuro swan, an ancient race who once served the demonic Sidhee. The Kuro were betrayed and given as slaves to the Dryma fairies. When a Dryma is born, his soul attaches to a tree and to sustain their lives, the Dryma conscript the Kuro to protect their woods. In their servitude, the Kuro are languishing and dying off. Kanji is desperate to reunite his people with their stolen wings, but the task seems impossible.

When Kanji discovers a plan to unite the Sidhee and the Dryma, he tricks the Sidhee prince and attends a masked ball in disguise. There he meets Prince Tristan, who is nothing like the other fairies. Kind and compassionate, Tristan has a plan to free the Dryma from their dependence on the trees—and their need of the Kuro’s protection. It could mean freedom for Kanji’s people, but it might also mean choosing between them and the life of the fairy who is—impossibly—his mate.

When Tristan is wounded in battle and left for dead, his survival depends on the success of his experiments. Can Kanji dare to believe, or must he come to terms with the loss of his mate?

Hidden Wings by Ana Raine caught my attention primarily due to the inclusion of swans in her fantasy story, well that and the fae. I have long admired the species as much for their deadly attack skills as for their elegance and loyalty.  So I had high hopes for seeing such natural history characteristics included as part of the plot and folded into the character of Kanji, the last of the royal Kuro Swans. What I ended up with was a interesting mixture that didn’t always make sense but still managed to be entertaining none the less.

Ana Raine set a huge task for herself with this tale, specifically creating the two species, their individual cultures and collective histories and then bringing them together in the forms of Tristan and Kanji.  I think that in putting her attention towards the Dryma and the Kuro, the characters of Kanji and Tristan came off as pale comparisons.  There is a richness in the mythology that Raine has created that just is so lovely, the dependency on the trees, the need for sacrifice that runs throughout many ancient cultures, and then threading those elements through her story that pulls you in and makes you forget some of the other aspects that might otherwise have you shaking your head.  I’ve seen swans take out foxes and dogs.  Swans are deadly. Where is that here?

Also, for many of you, this is not your happily ever after, nor is it meant to be.  Hidden Wings is part of Dreamspinner Press’  Bittersweet Dreams titles which states in part that “… these stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.”  Note the no traditional happy ending.  So, you wouldn’t go into this book expecting to get one and you don’t.  I didn’t mind that, but I know many readers will.

No, what bothered me was that I thought the characters and their relationship as mates needed more substance, at least as much as their species and cultures got.  Hidden Wings has so much promise, enough that the author could easily pull more stories from without having to establish a base universe once again.

If you are a fan of fantasy, pick it up and decide for yourself.

Cover art by Anne Cain is lovely and works for me

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published January 6th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634767519 (ISBN13: 9781634767514)
Edition Language English

 

 

An Aurora YA Review: Noble Persuasion (The Halvarian Ruin Books #2) by Sara Gaines

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Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Noble Persuasion coverAleana Melora, now a duchess in name only, sought refuge after fleeing the kingdom she once called home. Unwilling to admit defeat, Aleana jumps at the opportunity to learn what is happening in her lands when a mysterious letter arrives summoning her to a nearby fortress.

After discovering she is not the only one who has suffered, Aleana is given the chance to aid her people more than she imagined. But doing so means she must meet the demands of those she would align herself with. This decision has far-reaching consequences for both her people and her relationship with Kahira, the marked criminal who holds Aleana’s affections, as she’s faced with a line she hoped never to cross.

I really enjoyed this book and one of my favorite parts was the world building that was involved. World building isn’t easy, and I think the author did a great job of fitting world building in very naturally with the plot of the book and not just dropping information in the middle. I also really liked the characters, since they seemed to have some flaws that were very realistic to their circumstances, while still managing to be very likable and keeping the reader rooting for them. I was really interested by Aleana’s journey throughout the book and how she really seemed to want to do the right thing.

If there is one thing I could pick out that took me out of the book a little bit is that I found it to be slow in a few places. It wasn’t so much as to prevent me from enjoying the book, but a few times, especially around the very beginning, it did seem like it could have had a faster pace. It really picked up through the middle and the end, though, and I still absolutely enjoyed it. By the time I got to know the characters, within the first two chapters, I was totally along for the ride with them and just waiting to see what happened next.

I would definitely recommend it to fans of fantasy and people who enjoy books that are very character driven. I certainly thought it was a fun read.

The cover artist for this book is Anne Cain. The cover is very simple and very clean, but I still like it a lot. It peaks my interest when I look at it and I think the simple layout actually suits the book very well. It’s a visually appealing cover and I definitely think it would draw a reader’s attention.

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press   ♦  All Romance (ARe)  ♦  Amazon Buy it Here

Book Details:

Sequel to Noble Falling
ebook, 200 pages
Published June 18th 2015 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN139781634762397
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.harmonyinkpress.com
seriesThe Halvarian Ruin Books

An Aurora YA Review: Dreams (Dreams of Fire and Gods #1) by James Erich

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Dreams Dreams of Fire and GodsA thousand years ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak by warring for the land and the frightened humans who lived there. Then suddenly the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

Now, as tensions escalate between the emperor and his regent, Vek Worlen, the vek’s son, apprentice mage Sael dönz Menaük, finds himself allied with a homeless vagabond named Koreh. Together they flee the capital city and make their way across a hostile wilderness to the vek’s keep, mere steps ahead of the emperor’s assassins.

But Koreh has dreams—dreams of the ancient Taaweh—and he knows the looming war between the emperor and the vek will be nothing compared to the war that is about to begin. The Taaweh are returning, and the war between the gods may destroy the kingdom once and for all.

Admittedly, in this book, there were a few times when I got a little bit lost. This is a problem, rather than with the book, more with how I’m used to reading things. In fact, I loved the challenge of going back and rereading at times and knowing as I read that I should store things away and remember them to enrich the experience. It isn’t, admittedly, something that I’m used to doing, but it certainly didn’t take anything away from the book. In fact, I really enjoyed it.

As with the third book in the series that I’ve already read, the characters and problems were able to be real and easy to relate to while still managing to keep the epic scale of the book and not taking away from the enormity of the characters and plot. I really enjoyed this book, again, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy novels and even those who don’t to at least give it a chance.

It’s just a really fun book to read, and very exciting. It kept me hooked the whole time I was reading it and I never wanted to stop reading a chapter when I had to take a break from reading it.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  The cover art for this series is really beautiful. It’s simplistic and yet it draws the eye and I would absolutely pick this book up off of a shelf. Because this cover doesn’t have a lot of places or people on it, the photo editing works even better than a drawn cover would have and it’s very nicely done.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback  All Romance (ARe)  Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 252 pages
Published December 15th 2012 by Harmony Ink Press
Harmony Ink is a YA Press
ISBN 1623801060 (ISBN13: 9781623801069)
edition languageEnglish
seriesDreams of Fire and Gods #1

Dreams of Fire and Gods series: