A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: To Love Again by Andria Large

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This was a sweet love story, though it was insta-love, and oddly, it was written in first person POV, alternating between Jack and Warwick. I’m definitely not a fan of first person, nor am I a fan of insta-love, especially in this case where Jack had been living with an abuser. But, the author pulled it off and gave us an engaging story complete with HEA.

Jack was beaten and raped by his long-time lover, Greg, and escaped with his life, his wallet, and his phone. The last time he was in the ER he was treated by Dr. Warwick Aldridge, who gave Jack his card and info on the abuse hotline. When Jack ended up in a McDonald’s bathroom, bleeding from face wounds, he called Warwick and thus begins his journey to a better life.

Warwick is originally from England, and when they find out Greg obtained Jack’s new phone number and has been hanging around the hospital looking for him, Warwick suggests a trip to England where he can see his family and Jack can feel safe.

Only two weeks have gone by, yet Warwick calls Jack “love” and Jack returns his affection with simple touches and kisses. Though somewhat believable, with Jack’s inability to forget Greg, his trembling at the man’s name, his startle reflex when someone touches him, it is difficult to believe the two could be in love by the time the four weeks in England is up. There’s kissing and sex and plans for the future. But when Warwick is contacted by Greg, Jack chickens out and decides to stay in England. Is there hope for these two in a long distance relationship? Well, there’s still plenty of action after this point, including another appearance by Greg.

It’s an interesting story, the characters are engaging, and the action fast-paced. Only 127 pages, the story evolves quickly. To be honest, the first person voice wasn’t as bad as some I’ve read, but it does keep me from enjoying it thoroughly. And falling in love so quickly, especially for characters in their thirties who’ve held out so long already is a bit much to take.

Against the dark background of the cover by Melissa Albin, all that can be seen of two men are their entwined arms and their hands linked with the fingers pointing downward forming a heart. It’s very clever and grabs attention.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 127 pages
Expected publication: September 14th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640807211
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Irresistible by Andrew J Peters

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

 

What if the gods created a man so beautiful, he was irresistible to anyone? 

Brendan Thackeray-Prentiss is an Ivy League-educated trust-funder who Gotham Magazine named the most eligible gay bachelor in New York City. He lives for finding his soulmate, but after walking in on his boyfriend of three transcendent months soaping up in the shower with an older female publicist, he’s on a steady diet of scotch, benzodiazepines, and compulsive yoga. Men are completely off the menu.

Callisthenes Panagopoulos has a problem most guys dream of. With the body and face of a European soccer heartthrob, the vigorous blond hair of a Mormon missionary, and a smile that makes traffic cops stuff their ticket books back in their utility belts, he’s irresistible to everyone. But being a constant guy-magnet comes with its discontents, like an ex-boyfriend who tried to drive his Smart car through Cal’s front door. It makes him wonder if he’s been cursed when it comes to love.

When Brendan and Cal meet, the attraction is meteoric, and they go from date to mates at the speed of time-lapse photography. But to stay together, they’ll have to overcome Cal’s jealous BFF, Romanian mobsters, hermit widowers, and a dictatorship on the brink of revolution during a dream wedding in the Greek isles that becomes a madcap odyssey.

A gay romantic comedy of errors based on Chariton’s Callirhoe, the world’s oldest extant romance novel.

I cannot begin to tell you how close to a one star rating this book came.  Had I written the review shortly after I finished it, it might have even garnered a zero, that’s how truly awful a mess I feel Irresistible by Andrew J Peters is.  But I  have waited until the light of day and some distance between me and it (and loads of coffee) before sitting down to right this thing.

My how that helps!

Where oh where to begin?  How about the  two main characters (of no depth and weird backgrounds) fall instantly in love and get married by page 35?  Yes indeed.  Even though one has had serious issues with a previous boyfriend with stalker issues (ongoing), an absolute nutjob of a “bestfriend” who is currently with him on vacation who’s every word and action screams sociopath,  now hooking up with a rich someone with the judgement of a kumquat? All within the first 50 pages and boom they are getting married!

If I could have, I would have stopped right there because there was nothing believable about any of them.  But no,  I said  I’d read this book.  Smh.

So prep work is ongoing for the marriage, sociopath bestie is not happy and all of a sudden in Chapter 8?  We get another pov!   Up to three now.  We are flip flopping formats and povs all over the place. Yes, the author brings in another person’s perspective because let’s crowd the field as the plot is about to take flight into whackydom with bombs, explosives, Arabs, mad Greeks, Sheiks, and you name it.  None of which, again really make any sense.

More of a hodgepodge of action elements shuffled together, thrown into a narrative pot and voila! Another chapter is born! And another and another. And so on.

I was never so happy to have made it out of a book alive.

And that ending….shudders.

If you are dying to read a book by Andrew J. Peters, I suggest you look elsewhere.  Truly there is nothing Irresistible about this story in my opinion.

Cover art by Natasha Snow:  Best thing about this novel.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published August 13th 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781949340402
Edition LanguageEnglish

  • Reviewer’s Note:  I just realized that I’ve read books by this author before, his Werecat Trilogy and loved them.  I clearly didn’t recognize his writing here.  So here is another reason not to base an author on just one story.

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

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sales Links:  DSP Publications |  Amazon

Series: Part 1 of the Between Heaven and Earth series

Book details:

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

A BJ Review: Bright Star by Talia R. Blackwood

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Rating:  3.5 stars out of 5

Bright Star“I am his guardian angel. I don’t know who he is. I know every line of his face—the curve of his lips is carved in my soul—but I don’t know his name. I always called him just Prince.”

Tasked to watch over a young man in suspended animation, Phae, a clone, spends his life alone on an empty spaceship, focused only on the protection of his ward. Prince isn’t scheduled to wake for another twenty years, but an attack on the ship starts the automatic awakening procedure. Prince relieves Phae’s loneliness and teaches him the meaning of love. However, the mission becomes more complicated than either man was led to believe—and far more dangerous. Their destination is a world held hostage, where clones are disposable and Phae is scheduled for “recycling” when his duty is done.

I love sci-fi, and this one had an excellent premise and the potential to be a five star read for me. Very intriguing concept with some interesting and unique elements.

I enjoyed and was hooked into both of the characters. Prince/Kian’s backstory made me fully invested in him but I wish it had been more complete. I found some elements and motivations left a bit vague, but it was intriguing nonetheless. I felt Phae’s loneliness/emptiness very poignantly, to have been left alone at just nine and also, poor Blasius to have lived nearly all his years alone. At least he did have Phae for his last nine. I adored Phae’s innocence, gentleness and single-minded dedication to his duty and his Prince very sweet. But the way he thought of himself as a “just a stupid clone” or “poor stupid clone” over and over got to me. I couldn’t fathom why he thought of himself that way since he’d been born on the Ship rather than on Earth around humans who would have treated him in a manner to have caused him to think of himself that way. And he’d been raised by another clone. Had Blasius whom he thought of as a father and cared for taught him that? It wouldn’t seem likely based on other things he’d shared about Blasius’s words to him.

The story is written in present tense (not my favorite) and is in dual first person POVs, which threw me a bit as I’m used to dual POVs being in third person. And it has insta-love, which works for me in some cases and not in others. In this case, I could understand their attraction and attachment based on who they were, their past, and their circumstances… but I’d have loved it if a bit more foundation to the relationship based on more than sex and gratitude to have been laid before jumping into the years of waiting that came later on both of their sides. I mean, they were together a few short hours, then apart for many years, then together again just for a brief few minutes, then apart again for many years. It seems so very little to base all those years of dedicated love on.

The way they progressed to sex so very quickly, right after Prince had just struggled to waken from a ninety plus year cyrosleep, and while in such dire circumstance of having been hiding from aliens, and considering Prince indicated he’d not cared for clones before, been afraid of them even. A slower development of the relationship, of trust and understanding and the physical as well, would have given more depth to the story for me.

Despite all this, I still did very much enjoy this story. I feel it could have been longer, even twice as long (I love long, well-developed sci-fi stories!) as there was so much more of this world and these two amazing guys that I would have loved to have explored.

Overall, a very moving and touching story that had me close to tears at parts. Even though it covers a timespan of many years, the pacing is quick and satisfying. If you enjoy sci-fi and insta-love, then I can highly recommend this story.

Cover art by Anne Cain

Sales Link:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon


Book Details:

ebook, 172 pages
Published October 8th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632162784 (ISBN13: 9781632162786)

A MelanieM Review: A Home For The Holidays by Joe Cosentino

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

HomeFortheHolidayscoverBobby McGrath’s Christmas trip to the beautiful Italian island of Capri to meet his eccentric extended family offers stunning views—none more stunning than his third cousin, Paolo Mascobello, a real stocking stuffer. As the two young men embark on a relationship, Bobby, a driven law student, learns to relax and bask under the old Italian moon, and Paolo realizes there’s more to life than a frolic on the beach. For the two to find everlasting amore, Paulo must overcome his fear of commitment and learn to follow his dreams, and Bobby must get his wish for happily ever after.

Joe Cosentino’s A Home For The Holidays reads like a loving tribute to his family Italian background and the gorgeous island of Capri.   From the moment we meet Bobby McGrath, an overly serious young law student, whose life consists of family and college, Cosentino brings us deep into the arms of a family (Irish and Italian) who embraces the best and what most annoys about each other.  Its funny, lighthearted and will remind most of us of our own holidays and families.  What this family wants for Bobby is for him to have some fun, so his mother arranges for him to meet his Italian relatives in Capri for a vacation, one he will never forget.  It all starts with a conversation with his mother, president of her local PFLAG:

“Bobby, every Christmas your father and I buy you a nice gift and you return it. So this year before we go shopping, I’m asking you. What do you want for Christmas, exactly?”

I was tempted to answer, “How about the new Zeb Atlas DVD, Mom?” No longer reading my law textbook, I pressed the cell phone against my ear and responded, “My red sweater is getting frayed. I guess I could use a new one, Mom.”

“I don’t like red on you. I’ll get you a green sweater. It will go nicely with your eyes. You’ll be twenty-four in June. Nobody ever caught a husband wearing red clothes, except for Mrs. Klaus, and then look how overweight he was.”

I loved this bit of dialog.  The loving but exasperated tone,  the almost rote answers that said they both had had this conversation many times before.  Perfect.  The author obviously is channeling well known family dynamics and it works so well to make us care not only about Bobby but his family too.  What do they give him?  A trip to Italy and another family to love.

Off to Italy Bobby goes, luckily speaking Italian (thank you high school and college courses) and winds up happily in the middle of another large upscale Italian family and sometimes unhappy family dynamics.  His cousins own a large company that is a green energy corporation, live in a villa on Capri and is full of cousins of various ages and matrimonial status, uncles, aunts and the heads of the family, ‘Nonno’ and ‘Nonna’ Mascobello. Bobby also meets the gorgeous and uninhibited Paolo, his third cousin, who is everything a young serious American virgin has dreamed of.  Yes, virgin meets unrepentant island slut. Trouble indeed.

I adore the character of Bobby, nose in his books, the rest of him, heart and body belongs to his family.  So he definitely gets a shock to the system when he awakes to see a Italian god bending over him to wake him from his nap at the villa after arriving. Yes, that would be cousin Paolo and their first introduction.  Paolo been ordered to throw his partying aside to show his newly arrived American cousin around and Paolo’s being a bit sullen however lovely.  Too bad, Bobby’s smitten and the damage done.

The author does turn the character of Paolo around and gives him a foundation for his behavior that works.  However, the reader has to commit to the idea of a instant love here for Bobby and  Paolo.  I could see it for Bobby only if it faded into real friendship by the end of the visit with the promise of something more realistic for them both.  Bobby is a smart young man but hey, he is a virgin on a magical island and a young god who loves sex just happens to be right in front of him.  Who wouldn’t fall right over the edge?  How you stand on their relationship and romance, whether you believe fully in it or not, might make this book for you.

What really works for me here, aside from all the heartwarming family moments?  The vivid and almost lyrical descriptions that Joe Cosentino uses when Bobby is arriving on Capri or sightseeing all over the island with Paolo.  Air fragrant with aroma from the flowers blooming everywhere, the noises and sounds are conveyed along with the vibrancy of the people and the brightness of the sky and the sheer beauty to be found everywhere you look…the love the author has for Capri and the people there flows off the page in every word he has written.

“When we arrived at Piazza Vittoria in Via Caposcuro, Paolo took a bag from the scooter’s compartment and led me to a chairlift, which hoisted us into the sky. With my legs dangling over the dark Tyrrhenian Sea, I felt as if I were flying through a black hole. I waved to Paolo in the seat behind me, and he smiled like a proud parent at an amusement park.

When we arrived at Mt. Solaro, we stepped off the chairlifts. Paolo looked down at the homes nestled on layers of rocks. “This is the highest point on the Isle of Capri, five hundred and eighty-nine meters above sea level.”

“All I see in front of me is a thick blanket of fog. Is that because it’s been warm for winter?”

“Wait and watch.”

Paolo sat me down next to him on a flat section of the mountain, then nudged my side with his elbow and pointed to the fog. As if he was Moses parting the Red Sea, Paolo looked triumphant as the sun came up and the wind blew the vapors of fog upward, crowning the clouds and revealing stunning views of the Bay of Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and the mountains of Calabria in the distance. As we looked out over the turquoise water, white mountains, and azure sky, I felt like I was in heaven.

I pressed my shoulder against his. “It’s sheer magic, Paolo! And pretty amazing science.”

“We call it Acchiappanuvole, the cloud catcher.”

Trust me, when you finish reading this story, you will want to book your own flight to Italy and boat to Capri.   Maybe see your own or be your own version of Bobby and Paolo, you never know.  Adult fairy tales do come true they tell me, why shouldn’t Bobby have his?  Tis the season for the holiday stories to start arriving, pick up Joe Cosentino’s A Home For The Holiday’s and get started on your holiday reading today~

 

Cover artist Paul Richmond does a cute job with the characters and a wonderful job with the location.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon not yet available | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: December 2nd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634765367
edition languageEnglish
other editions
None found

A Mika Review: You In My Arms (The Sunset Club #1) by A.C. Katt

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Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5 star

You in My Arms coverJason’s priorities are non-negotiable: take care of his sister; keep a roof over their heads; go back to school eventually. Can one club owner make it easier to uphold his priorities and maybe add him to the list? 

Jason Monroe had to leave school to be the guardian of his sister Kitty when his dad and step-mom die in a car crash. He’s working two jobs to keep them afloat, but their boat is leaking much like the roof of their old house. Jason doesn’t have time for love that is until Zach Montgomery, the owner of the Sunset Club, the premier gay club on the Jersey Shore comes calling.

I love kids, and tragedy together. You In My Arms by A.C.. Katt has both.  I honestly liked the characters. Of course we had a crude guy who didn’t do relationships, because hey, that’s what appeals to people. I knew right off the back his tune was going to change once he met the right person. I think it has the potential to be a 4 star book if the author went in with a red pen and crossed out most of the communication between the two. On my goodness, these people TALKED too damn much. It was so scatter-brained between everyone. I mean, come on, one minute one topic then the next it’s tears and run on sentences. I actually didn’t see the chemistry building up between the two so fast. One minute they were in the bar talking, the next Zach bogarts his way into Jason’s life.

I actually liked how devoted Jason was to taking care of his sister. But some things in the story? I don’t know if I believed in them well enough because its as though Jason had blinders on. Zach definitely moved fast when it came to Jason, I mean super fast. All in all, it was okay. I enjoyed the premise more than the execution.

Cover Art by: WinterHeart design. I think the design team got it backwards. Zach is supposed to be the older burnet guy, where as on the cover he looks the youngest. Jason was the 22 yr old blond and he looks middle aged to me. I think it could have been better.

Sales Links:   MLR Books       All Romance (ARe)         Amazon           Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 166 pages
Published March 19th 2015 by ManLove Romance Press
ASINB00UZIXQ58
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Sunset Club #1

A Stella Review: Wrong Number, Right Guy (Celebrity #1) by Mia Watts

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Rating 2 stars out of 5

Wrong Number, Right Guy coverA wrong number with a sexy voice on the other end… What are the chances a regular guy has just hooked the hottest actor on the silver screen?

 Ryan Pierce is in town shooting the latest romantic action movie and attending all the right publicity parties. He wasn’t expecting to pick up the phone to an easy laugh and real conversation. So, when he discovers that his caller has misdialed, it surprises him even more that he doesn’t want the man to hang up.

Dar Phillips is the last man to get star-struck, yet his best friend drags him out to be an extra on a movie set. It’s a chance to meet the guy on the set who he accidently called, but he has to admit the lead actor is hot stuff. Could the loping mega-star be his phone-a-friend? And, when they kiss, is Dar ready for the paparazzi and accusations of betrayal by the man who now stars in Dar’s every dream?

 Who did Dar fall for?  The elusive Ryan Pierce, who can’t be seen with him, or the quiet, gentle man who’s just a phone call away?

This book is one of my few two stars. This review will be really short because I admit I’m a little uncomfortable writing it. I’m sorry to say I don’t even know where to start, there isn’t a thing I liked.

Reading the blurb I thought the story looked interesting, too bad it wasn’t delivered in the writing. Instead, I found the book boring for most of the story and the other times it was just surreal. Some dialogues between the main characters seemed childish. And everything in the relationship went so fast, they talked on the phone, they fell in love, then they meet, Ryan comes out of the closet, they split up, they’re back together. Wow.

I enjoy a lot insta-love/lust stories but this one was so unlikely, I couldn’t even understand why they were attracted or in love with each other. It makes no sense at all.

As I already said a thousand times I love my books to be sweet, in this case it was too much. I was waiting for something to change all the way to the end, but it continued to be disappointing and flat.

Cover Artist by Posh Gosh. I like everything about this cover, even the font. Really well done. Finally something in this book fits the blurb.

Sales Links:   Totally Bound       All Romance      Amazon      Buy It here

Book Details:

ebook, Second Edition, 83 pages
Published January 30th 2015 by Totally Bound
(first published March 25th 2011 by Amber Allure)
original title Wrong Number, Right Guy
ISBN139781784303907
edition languageEnglish
Series:  Celebrity

 

A MelanieM Review: Changing Tide by D.P. Denman

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Changing Tide coverPhotographer David sails into Vancouver Island harbor looking to shoot Orca whales for a photograph book he has in mind and not much else.  David’s 30 ft sailboat, Wanderer, is all the home he wants or needs. Then David hires Capt. Jack Lewis’ charter boat for a  whale watching trip and everything changes.  David’s anguished past has kept him from any sort of permanence, whether it is of a location or of the heart.  David’s recent history is that of transience, always on the road or water as the case maybe.  It’s his way of protecting himself and his heart from any additional pain and commitment.   But meeting Jack Lewis and getting a taste of a relationship is making inroads into his heart and scaring him senseless.

When Jack Lewis looked into the eyes of the man who wanted to charter his boat, he was lost.  David is gorgeous, mysterious, but the pain Jack also sees reflected back to him makes him want to take David into his arms and never let him go. Jack has had his fill of casual sexual relationships and hookups, especially in the case of Emerson, a young man who trades sex for status and perhaps money.   David is everything that Emerson is not, David is older, fascinating, and as a freelance  photojournalist, independent.  Before he is aware that it is happening, Jack is falling for David and soon wants much more than perhaps David is capable of giving.

The unexpected relationship between Jack and David moves into dangerous waters as Emerson’s emotions and jealously spiral out of control  combine with David’s fears of commitment and permanence. The emotions build until an explosion born of unresolved relationships and expectations shatter the bonds that holds all the men together.

Sometimes when you read a book, all the good elements you find in a story will be overwhelmed by the issues and outright problem  areas also to be found at that same time.  Unfortunately, that is the case with Changing Tide by D.P. Denman.  In fact there are so many issues to be found within this story that I am going to start with the aspects I liked and enjoyed the most.

I loved the location.  Denman does Vancouver Island proud by portraying the climate, landscape and natural marvels in such a way that I wanted to grab a plane, then charter a boat myself to see the wonders that Vancouver Island and the surrounding seas have to offer.  This includes the majesty, and magic of whale watching.  Even if I was not a naturalist, the passages where Jack spoke in awe of his experiences with Orcas would have reached me emotionally.  Here is an excerpt:

“So tell me about these killer whales,” he shifted the conversation in a not so subtle new direction.

“I bet you’ve seen a lot of them over the years.”

“Quite a few. We’re getting to be old friends,” Jack smiled into his mug.

“Does any particular sighting stand out or do they all just flow together?”

“Some stand out, usually because of people’s reaction. A lot of them burst into tears at the sight of an orca.”

“Scared?”

“Amazed. It can be a bit awe-inspiring if you’re not used to it. Hell, it can be awe inspiring even if you are.”

“Nothing like Sea World, huh?”

“Not even a little. They don’t look like much when you see them out of context.

They’re just another fin in a tank.” The look on his face and the tone in his voice reflected the same awe he tried to describe.

That describes in a nutshell some of the highlights and problems with this story.  It starts out well but somewhere around the middle it goes awry. Orcas are pretty amazing no matter how or where you see them (in my opinion) but he is saying that they are just another fin in a tank in captivity while his “voice is reflecting” awe?  Something got lost there.  And the following description of the encounter displays the same missed opportunity by the author.  Its almost right but something in the writing is out of kilter.

“I was out in my old boat, a 30-footer. I killed the engine a few yards out of the straight, right in the middle of the water so we wouldn’t miss anything. Half the group was on the aft deck. A few of us were crouched at the bow and I saw this fin come up out of the water a few yards away. I knew it was going to be close so we called everyone up to the bow. The next thing I know I’m watching this animal as big as a semi come up from the deep almost right under us. The bastard broke the surface close enough to look me in the eye and suddenly all I could see was killer whale.”

An experienced captain is in a 30 ft boat with passengers.  A huge orca’s fin breaks the surface of the water only a few yards away.  And he calls the people over to the side? That makes no sense, and ruins Jack’s credibility as a native and experienced boat captain.  But that is probably my mildest complaint with this story.  We are still getting some wonderful descriptions of how it feels to be on the water, and in Denman’s hand, I defy anyone not to want to make Vancouver Island a vacation destination for any future travel plans.

The author also appears to be familiar with sailboats and her description of David’s small living area aboard the Wanderer felt authentic enough to make me a little claustrophobic.  The same goes for Jack’s gorgeous house that faces the Sound.  I would love to see that one too.  Actually I would love to live there.  From the descriptions of the views seen from inside the bedroom, that would have me moving in a heartbeat.

But this is not a travelogue, nor a real estate brochure.  Nor even a finished product. And that brings me back to the issues and problem areas I spoke of earlier.

First would be the editing and format.  My copy starts out with the first chapter mislabeled as the Epilogue.  Now aside from the fact that an epilogue is found at the back of the book, an epilogue usually shows some sort of closure for the main characters or aspect of the story and this is not a epilogue in any way.  It is merely a mislabeled chapter 1, not even a prologue.   These items (and others) were easily corrected problems and I am flummoxed that they were left in.  I hope it is due to a lack of experience and assistance but the book as received is not something I would expect a reader to pay money for.  It is not polished in any way other than a nice cover.

Then there is the issues of characterization.  My mildest complaint again is that the author shows little continuity starting with the fact that two of her characters have last names and one of her main characters, David, does not.  Either all of them should have complete names or leave it on first names only for everyone in the book.  There’s Crystal, David, Kathy, Cindy and Brett.  Then there is Jack Lewis and Emerson Reid.  Yes, it’s a small issue but descriptive of the bigger ones to be found with the characters and the narrative.

David is probably the only character I enjoyed as he also seemed the most fleshed out.  His back history combined with his present situation seemed realistic   He earns our sympathy and affection.  Then there are all the others, primarily Jack and Emerson.  It seemed as though the author had two personas for each of them and couldn’t decide on which was the one they wanted to use.  So Denman used both.  Jack is an enabling jerk, a selfish and lazy, he is shallow and self deceiving. Jack is also thoughtful, respectful of others, and too kind for his own good. And for me Jack is also finally unlikable.  Then there is Emerson, a 23 year old of murky background and obvious mental and emotional issues.  No one knows Emerson’s true back history so the idea is planted that he is both a gold digger as well as someone also so emotionally unstable that he lives in a fantasy world.  Every one appears to know that something is really wrong with Emerson but no one suggests that he gets help.

Then Denman combines these two somewhat distasteful personas into a convoluted relationship and the story bogs down under its own issues.  At times Jack is supposedly so sexually attracted to Emerson that he can’t stay away, having sex with him even after declaring his affections lie elsewhere.  At other times Jack is treating Emerson like an annoying vagrant dog, petting him, giving out scraps then shutting the door on him.  The author’s treatment of Emerson is no better.  Emerson screeches like a “drama queen”, begs, pouts, shouts , lies and acts hurt.  The reader is left unsure as to what they should be feeling about Emerson.  Should it be pity or irritation or something more? And it’s not like these are realistic, layered characterizations but rather small distinct shallow ones that are constantly deviating from one scene to the next, as slippery as a fish out of water.  And these two characters have the same scene over and over again throughout the story.  This is a typical exchange between the two men:

Emerson pushed the door closed, wrapped arms around him and tried to kiss him. He grabbed his arms and pulled him right back off.

“We need to talk.”

“We can talk later. Fucking first,” Emerson tried to squirm out of his grip.

“This isn’t one of those visits,” his tone got Emerson’s attention.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, exactly. I just think you and I have reached a point where it’s time to end this.”

Emerson blinked back at him and the eager expression slid to a pensive scowl. “What?”

“It’s obvious you want something I’m not willing to give so I think it’s better if we stop seeing each other.”

“Who says I want something else?”

At some point you move on.”

“Why?” Emerson looked stricken.

“Because that’s how it works. Come on, Em, you know I’ve wanted out of this for a while. It’s just time,” he reached out to caress his arm and Emerson pulled out of reach.

“We don’t fit.”

29 Changing Tide DP Denman

“We’ve been fitting just fine until now,” he snapped, stricken turning to anger. “It’s because of him, isn’t it?”

“Who?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Jack. That tall drink of whore you were with the other night.”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with him. Besides, you and I have never been exclusive. Just because someone else shows up doesn’t mean I have to choose between you.”

Emerson reached out to slap him and he caught his wrist before the hand made contact.

“That’s not news to you so don’t pretend it’s any kind of insult.” “Let go of me,” Emerson snatched his hand back.

“It doesn’t matter,” he shook his head. “The point is we’ve been at this too long. Casual doesn’t last forever, right?

Now this scene goes on for another page or two. More dialog of exactly the same thing until Jack finally leaves  but not before telling Emerson that he likes him and touching his cheek in a lover like manner, totally negating everything that Jack said prior.  Talk about mixed messages and not just from Jack, but the author too.   Then take this sad, irritating, and confused scene and repeat it in some form numerous times throughout the story.  I said in some form because sometimes Jack stays and they have sex, then the same dialog picks up from there. There is no growth shown, no real change in how the men act or feel, just a repetition of the above back and forth argument and enabling behavior.  Trust me when I said the exasperation sets in around the halfway point and never actually goes away.

And in between this never ending argument and emotional stalemate, Jack and David are trying to have a relationship that comes with its own issues as well.

So in between lovely descriptive scenes of Vancouver Island and water, the reader is forced to wade through pages of confused characterizations, dense dialog and what might have been a terrific little plot in another author’s hands.  However, in Changing Tide the negatives ends up overpowering all the positive aspects. The writing is uneven, the narrative dense and repetitive and the format is rough and unprofessional.

And that’s so sad and unnecessary.

Given an editor, great or otherwise, with a ruthless, objective idea on how to write fiction, this story and this review might have been all together different.  As it, I have to tell you to give it a pass.

Book Details:

I have none.  Although the author’s website states that it will be released October 4th, although I am told it is scheduled for the 11th for publication, book facts such as page numbers, word counts, ISBN numbers are all missing.

A MelanieM Review: Fire and Light by Berengaria Brown

Standard

Rating: 2.5 stars ouf of 5 stars

Fire and Light coverSeveral years after the divorce, Hugh’s ex-wife decides that she doesn’t want her son and gives Hugh full custody.   Hugh loves his son and finds this a wonderful turn of events, even if it means he has to rearrange his life.  With 6 year old Orion living with him, Hugh and his son are adjusting to life as a family when a chance encounter with a man named Quigley changes all their lives forever.

This is a short story about a romance that starts in an equally small amount of time.  Hugh has just gotten custody of his son from his ex-wife.  She is in a new relationship and her boyfriend does not want Orion around.  Quigley is a man on a 2-week vacation.  All three meet cute in a surf shop and bond over board shorts and goggles.  In that 2 week time frame, the men fall in love and decide to be a family, along with Orion.  Orion adjusts beautifully.  Everyone is happy. The end.

That’s the story.  Short, sweet and has no character building, no foundation on which to build a realistic love story and certainly no depth.What it does have is loads of sex scenes, with a smattering of story.  It’s fluffy with some lovely scenes between Hugh and his son.  That is really the best part of Fire and Light, the father-son relationship.  Of course, that is also the component that makes the acceptance of a stranger and the instant family kind of creepy.

If Berengaria Brown is a must read author for you, then go ahead and pick this up.  But for the rest of us, I would give this a pass.

Book Details:
ebook, 2nd Edition, 57 pages
Published June 19th 2013 by Torquere Press (first published June 16th 2011)
ISBN 1610404882 (ISBN13: 9781610404884)
edition language English

Review: Ghosts of Bourbon Street by Rowan Speedwell

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Ghosts of Bourbon StreetPaul Thibodeaux is stuck, his life in stasis and he doesn’t know how to break out of the funk he is in.  Paul spends his nights bar-tending at the New Orleans family owned and run gay bar and his spare time reading or picking up one night stands.  Increasingly those anonymous “dates” are preceded by an enormous amount of alcohol and followed by a morning’s worth of recovery.  And although Jean-Thom’s, his bar, features male strippers, Paul has never looked beyond their feet, preferring to stay isolated in his self imposed shell to his brother and friend’s concern.

The building that houses both the bar and the family apartments is full of whispers and faint sounds that wake Paul in the night and kept him company as a child.  And although Paul’s adult self has closed himself off, they still linger and watch over him.  When one of the bar’s dancer’s finds his way into the garden behind the bar, it signals a change in both their lives that neither either expected but  both desperately need.

New Orleans is such a unique and rich setting for a story.  Full of history and charm, music and life spill over the streets into the buildings and gardens that are the old section of the city.  New Orleans’s colorful past and architecture calls out for a supernatural treatment and Rowen Speedwell answers with her short story Ghosts of Bourbon Street.  

There is so much I enjoyed about this story.  Speedwell’s characters are well drawn, especially Paul Thibodeaux, a young man who loses himself in books and drink rather than face life and his future.  We find him at a time when Paul must either move forward or be lost to alcohol.  We are given just enough background on Paul to help us understand what brought him to this  moment.  His efforts at college and the manner in which the character fell into his current situation make Paul is a totally believable character.  The same goes for Michael, the dancer, with his own set of problems and decisions to make.  I thought his character had some really lovely touches, starting with his beautifully pedicured feet, the first thing that Paul recognizes about him.

Ghosts and New Orleans go together like bourbon and water so putting them together in a story just doubles the pleasure for a reader.  I loved the ghosts Speedwell has created for her story. I only wish we had gotten not only more appearances by them but a better telling of the ghostly history and connections to the family.  The gay bar, Jean-Thom’s, is worthy of its own story since Speedwell tells us that it has been a gay bar since it first opened.  Each dancer is surely worthy of their own story and it would make a delightful series.

The connection here between Paul and Michael, such as it is, is too rushed for me to call it a romance.  One night, one sexual, emotional connection, and then perhaps a romance.  This is definitely a story full of possibilities instead of finalities, which realistically is the way to go considering the length of the story.  Could this story have used more length to infuse time and backstory to the characters?  Certainly but the flavor and supernatural air of Ghosts of Bourbon Street make this a story to recommend.

Cover by Jared Rackler certainly conveys the spooky charm of the city and the story.  Well done.

Book Details:

ebook, 73 pages
Published November 29th 2013 by MLR Press
edition language English