A Caryn Review: One Pulse Anthology

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

one-pulse-anthologySince the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016, people worldwide have donated a total of more than 23 million dollars to the OneOrlando Fund set up to benefit the victims and their families.  It seems like a lot of money, but between the number of people affected, and the severity of their injuries – mental and physical – that money will be exhausted fairly soon.  Also, after the initial outcry and horror that such a thing could have happened, and for such a reason, the shooting has faded out of the headlines.  But for those who were directly affected, and for all people in the LGBTQ spectrum, the shooting is still at the forefront of their thoughts, and fears, and worries.  So I was very pleased to see Dreamspinner Press put out this anthology to raise money for various LGBT organizations in central Florida, and I jumped at the chance to review it.  Dreamspinner also has another anthology coming out in time for the 2016 holiday season, that will also benefit the same charities.

At first, I planned to do a short review on each story individually, but at a total of 31 stories (and almost 200,000 words) that just wasn’t possible.  The stories are written by a combination of well known and lesser known authors from Dreamspinner’s ranks, and run the gamut of genres.  There are contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, historical, and sci-fi works.  Most are romances, but some are not.  Most are M/M pairings, but there was also one F/F and one M/M/M/M.  Some stories were extremely good, some less so, but there was only one that I had to DNF.  My favorite was The Tithe by K.C. Burn, which was one of the fully original stories, but there were several that were in the various universes created by the authors in other published works (like Edmond Manning’s They Danced which tells another tale of the Lost and Founds, which would not have made much sense to me if I hadn’t read one of them first).  The stories ranged from1 star to 5 star ratings, and overall the anthology really is more of a 3 star read, but I give it an extra star because of the generosity of the authors and the other people from Dreamspinner involved in putting it together.  I looked at the call for submissions, and they were due only a month after the shooting itself, which is an incredibly short period of time to write something really good, so I actually expect the next anthology to be even better.

I also hope that there will be a little more detail of which organizations the money will be going towards in the next anthology.  Overall, I do recommend this collection, especially for those who like to read shorter stories.  I plan on buying the next anthology when it’s available.

The cover art, by Paul Richmond, really fits with the title of the anthology and the reasons it was written.  I like the symbolism of one pair of hands holding and caring for another, checking a pulse as a nod to the name of the nightclub, and the rainbow coloring for Pride.

Sales Links

        

Book Details:

ebook, 574 pages
Published September 19th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleOne Pulse
ISBN139781635330984
Edition LanguageEnglish

Review: Voodoo ‘n’ Vice (Galactic Alliance #3) by K.C. Burn

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Voodoo n Vice coverIn his anger and obedience to fleet rules and regulations, fleet captain Gideon Arcturus makes a serious error in judgement regarding the Ankyros Ambassador and his lover.  The repercussions from that disastrous event finds Gideon banished to Elora Ki, the compost heap of the galaxy.  Disgraced and demoted, Gideon is now a subordinate to a man he viewed as an inferior and considered an embarrassment to his wealthy and influential father.

Gideon’s last romantic entanglement was a nasty set up by a rival officer that almost cost him everything.  But during a visit to Voodoo, a seedy club in the first district on Elora Ki, Gideon watches a fire dancer on the stage and can’t get him out of his mind.

Tai is a fire dancer with his own secrets and disasterous past.  Hiding out on Elora Ki seems like the answer to his problems, at least for now.  His unique style of dancing keeps Tai from an even worst profession, that of a prostitute on a world that looks down on homosexuality.  He sees what it has cost his friend and roommate and Tai swears that he will never be paid for sex.  Then Tai watches a stiff, reserved freckled man standing at the bar watching him intently.  It’s Gideon on enforced leave.  Soon the sparks fly between them. Before long Tai and Gideon spend every night of his leave together, forming a bond neither wants to break.

But an illegal, addictive  drug, Flare, is being distributed in and around the clubs and brothels.The trade in Flare on Elora Ki and off planet comes under the scruntity of Gideon and the fleet.  Its a drug that almost cost Gideon his life and hurt his career. But it hits much closer to home as a drug lord focuses on Tai, threatening his safety and all associated with him.  Its up to Gideon to save Tai, and destroy the drug ring…but what if Tai’s secret poses an even bigger threat to them all.

When it comes to science fiction, the genre almost always falls on either side of a technology line.  On  one side you have the tech-heavy, science centric fiction and on the other side there’s the fiction that goes off into space, riding an author’s wild imaginative path to intergalactic adventure outside the boundaries of known cosmology and spatial dynamics.  It’s here that you might  find goofy aliens, space outlaws, and heros of all shapes, sizes, and species.  While I appreciate the first science fiction group of writers (think Arthur C. Clarke among others), its the wide open unknown spaces that grab my affection and reading time.  You have a multi-hued, three toed alien for no other reason than you wanted one?  Cool.  I get that.  I want one too.  And throw in the amorphous sparkly blob with the personality of Arthur Gottfried too while you are at it.  Doubly cool.  I appreciate one form but I love the other in much the same way someone might cooly admire a beautifully made model spacecraft but hug the furry spotted one eyed stuffed animal.

So it won’t surprise you that the Galactic Alliance series by K.C. Burn falls somewhat into the latter category and that I have become very fond of this series. It features a dead Earth with what’s left of its race scattered to the stars.  Where of course, they encounter the Ankyros, a lavender alien species that must have three beings to reproduce and have a family unit.  They evolved from a type of herbivore , a grazer with a hive racial organization and two distinct body types(not sexes).  The Ankyros get even crazier in culture and physiological description but meeting them is one of the joys of this series.  There was a war between the humans and the Ankyros, just recently over with all sorts of complications and reverberations for both.  If you had to sit down and make sense of it all, than you won’t enjoy this book or series.  But if you can just take it as is, then the entertainment and fun that K.C. Burns has in store for you has just begun.

The first story, Spice ‘n’ Solace (Galactic Alliance #1), introduces you to Jathan One-Moon, Galactic Alliance’s most important negotiator, and his lover, the brothel owner, Kaz. It is also our first introduction to that seediest of seedy outposts, Elora Ki.   Book two, Alien ‘n’ Outlaw (Galactic Alliance #2), brings the Ankyros species into sharp relief with its center story of a romance between an elusive human thief Darien Lancaster and R’kos, son of the Ankylos Emperor.  Until now, that has been my favorite. But with Voodoo ‘n’ Vice K.C. Burns deepens her plot with the misery that drug addiction brings along with a new race of aliens that has subjugated humans and manipulated their DNA.

Again its Burn’s characters that are easy to love.  Tai, the fire dancer with a huge secret to hide and Gideon, the 30 year old repressed gay son of an influential military family with an austere, controlling patriarch at its head.  Both are easy people to connect with and ultimately love. Gideon is the character that has the farthest to grow, from an upright, humorless Captain to someone capable of seeing the gray in a situation and being flexible enough to love and accept love, regardless of whether it comes from a human or alien source.   His growth as a character is realistic as are his actions and fear of romantic entanglements. Burn’s is also setting up her next story in the series with Gideon’s replacement, Sven, and Tai’s roommate who undergoes a traumatic event. At least I am hoping to see each of them once more.  They deserve a HEA too.

Seedy, disreputable and wild, Elora Ki is such a vibrant, alive location, just as important in this book as the people who inhabit it.  A sort of wild frontier where almost anything goes and everyone who comes there has a story, I enjoy the new districts or levels that K.C. Burns invents for each couple and story.  New “red light” districts, new nightclubs with owners both illegal and honorable.  They are as much fun as the plots wrapped around them.  There is also an ugliness and horror to its neighborhoods, it has its own tenements and squalor recognizable outside the realm of the safe and well off.  It works well to balance off the glitzy clubs and bars where everyone works at some profession. It’s a stratified society where some of its most important citizens are also among its most mean and conniving.  That works well too.

The romance here arrives quickly but I can forgive that as each man is so in need of each other.  I love the tattoos that decorate Tai’s body and the fascinating history behind them provided by the author. I hope this is not the last we have  heard of Tai’s planet and people.  Again, there will be parts here that make little sense if you are looking for a scientific foundation upon which to lay Burn’s creations.  Think more Marvel Comics than American Scientific Journal, but its in her descriptions that these people, their histories and their love for each other comes alive.    That makes the astounding beings, places, and events here jump with possibility and magic as well as an intergalactic love that feels not only reasonable but right.

I love this story and definitely recommend it to all who can suspend belief in the real and supposed futures set forth by science fiction authors and scientists alike.  K.C. Burn gives us the human element and spirit alive and kicking in a galactic space not always open to humanity and the chaos we bring with us. I read the first two books out of order and it didn’t seem to make that much a difference after going back to Solace ‘n’ Spice.  In fact I enjoyed getting to know the Ankyros people in Alien ‘n’ Outlaw first, and then pick up small pieces of intelligence about them in book one.  You decide the order in which to read the first two stories, but Voodoo ‘n’ Vice should definitely be read third in order for all the events and people who pop up to make sense.

Cover art by an uncredited artist is perfect for the fire dancer Tai and Gideon.

Buy Links:   Carina Press       Amazon             ARe

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Published May 26th 2014 by Carina Press (first published January 1st 2014)
ASINB00I15VLGI
edition languageEnglish
seriesGalactic Alliance #3

Books in the Galactic Alliance series in the order they were written and should be read:

Spice ‘n’ Solace (Galactic Alliance #1)
Alien ‘n’ Outlaw (Galactic Alliance #2)
Voodoo ‘n’ Vice (Galactic Alliance #3)

Summer Has Begun and the Week Ahead at Scattered Thoughts….

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Summer officially started yesterday and already I feel as though I am behind in my normal summer activities.    The late winter combined with a cold and rainy spring has meant all my gardening chores were delayed well into late Spring.  Now my gardens are playing catchup with flowers blooming out of season and major replantings necessary due to the frigid conditions that saw many of the temperate plants perish.   On the downside I lost some of my favorite plants like my old rosemary bush and many of my lavenders.  On the plus side?  I get to redesign some spaces and bring in new plants I have always wanted in my gardens.

Funny how things always seem to happen that way.  Old things give way to new, cycles continue whether you want them to or not.  Change arrives and its what you make of it that matters.  Mourn the old if you must but welcome the new and see where it takes you…..gardening lessons that work no matter what you are actually applying them to.  Weed out the extraneous from your life.  Mulch and prune as necessary.  Fertilize and nuture.  Water and let go.   Repeat…appreciate the seasons.    And keep the terriers from hunting the toads…..that foaming at the mouth is nasty and the toads don’t like it either.

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Winner Announcement: Winner of the “Looking After Joey” contest is Jo johannasnodgrass@yahoo.com. Jo has been contacted by myself and David Pratt. Congratulations to Jo.  My thanks to David Pratt for the wonderful interview and book giveaway.

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My week ahead at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is looking like this:

Monday, June 23:         Cold Feet by Lee Brazil

Tuesday, June 24:          Miles and the Magic Flute by Heidi Cullinan

Wed., June 25:               G.B. Lindsey “One Door Closes” Book Tour/Contest

Wed., June 25:               Voodoo ‘n’ Vice by K.C. Burn

Thursday, June 26:       Book Blast:  Lee Brazil and “Less Than All” (contest)

Thursday, June 26:       Swords, Sorcery and Sundry by Mina  MacLeod

Friday, June 27:             Author Spotlight: An Interview with Mina MacLeod (contest)

Friday, June 28:            Book Blast: Draven St. James and “Fused By Fire” (contest)

Saturday, June 29:        Duty to the Crown by Rebecca Cohen

 

Happy Reading…now off to the gardens while the sun shines…

Review: MIA Case Files 3: Craving by K.C. Burn

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Rating: 2.75 stars

MIA Files 3 CravingAgents Brandon Ellison and his partner Oliver Cardoso were on a mission for the MIA (Metaphysical Investigative Agency) when it  went horribly wrong, injuring Brandon Ellison.  That mission and its aftermath ended Brandon’s career as a field agent due to his disabilities and broke up the partnership, both romantically and as agents.

Now seven years later, Oliver and his new partner, Carmichael, are on a mission when almost the exact thing happens again.  But this time, with more experience under his belt, Oliver and partner come through with minor injuries.  When they go to complain to the head of MIA’s Research and Development Team, they find Brandon Ellison in charge and unable to explain what went wrong.  But Oliver’s new partner doesn’t trust Brandon, and thinks Brandon is behind the malfunctioning sonic charge that almost got them killed. Brandon is equally distrustful of Carmichael as well as jealous of his closeness to his former lover.

When Brandon invites himself along on their next mission to investigate problems with the weaponry, fireworks fly once more between Brandon and Oliver as their rivalry and memories vie for dominance and old love starts to resurface.  With hundreds of lives at stake, old and new grudges must be put aside if everyone is to survive this latest mission.

I picked up this book by K.C.Burn without reading any of the prior books in the series and that has left me as well as any other reader confused from the start. Burn supplies the reader with no back history to explain the alternative world I found myself reading about.  Apparently a war is going on between the human world and Umbrae (?) with portals being opened by the enemy to let through all sorts of creatures, from werewolves, vampires,demons and more. Who the nefarious Umbrae are and why they are unhappy with the human race is never quite explained.   Unlike other books where you can gather enough information from the various story threads to piece together a vision of the world, the author just assumes you have read the previous books and carries on.

So I will just concentrate on those portions of the book the reader can understand, the characters.  I liked the character of Oliver Cardoso. A green agent when the first accident happens, now he is a seasoned field op of 43, older and greying.  Oliver is certainly the most layered character you will find here.  Burn does a nice job conveying his weariness over the job and the emotional isolation he has imposed on himself since the first mission.  Brandon Ellison is a harder character to warm up to .  For Brandon, everything has hinged around that first failed mission.  His disability and his loss of Oliver has consumed his life.  The fact that Brandon ended up at head of R&D seems like a fluke to both Brandon and the reader as well.  Hard to root for a couple to get back together when half of said couple just doesn’t feel real.  Harder to care about a alternative universe when the danger seems minimal, the action downplayed, and the calculated “aha” moments more on the level of a high school play.

The plot, how to explain a plot that doesn’t track?  People are getting infected, the MIA must stop the portals from opening up, wherever they pop up, let’s set off some sonic explosions, the infection is spread by bites and being gay helps.  There are quite a few flashbacks but the uneven timeline just works against the story instead of for it because of the jerky manner in which it is handled.  The flashbacks here just serve to break up any momentum the story had built to date. The narrative structure consistently diffused any sense of danger or dread in the events happening around the main characters, and any sense of being connected to the characters and their situation just dwindled away. Between the style of writing and the lack of exposition this story just comes across as one  sad mess.

Here is an example.  Two characters are having a conversation about being gay:

“Brandon shrugged. “Whatever makes us gay makes us better agents.” Oliver had expected a lecture about genetics and heredity and antigens.

Not only would such an explanation be lost on Luis, but Brandon had been pretty pissed when he’d realized gay men were better agents because they were more likely to recover from Umbrae bites without going mad, while having a greater chance for death when the portal closed if the possession managed to complete the three-day physiological transformation.”

*head desk*

That just makes my head hurt, especially the last, long sentence and the entire book reads that way.  I love alternative worlds and  zombies, werewolves and vampires? Bring it on but make it believable or at least entertaining.  Make me want to lose myself in the events happening on the pages instead wanting to put the book down unfinished.  In the end the fleeting promise of one character did not hold my interest for long and although I did finish the book, I won’t be going forward to explore this universe further.  I did it so you don’t have to, that’s my motto and I am sticking to it.

Books in the series include:

Wolfsbane (MIA Case Files #1)

Blood Relations (MIA Case Files #2)

Craving (MIA Case Files #3)

Review for Cover Up (Toronto Tales #2) by K.C.Burn

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Rating: 3 stars

Cover UpDetective Ivan Bekkar is just coming off a drug bust gone terribly wrong when his captain asks him to go undercover on a mission known only to the two of them.  Ivan is to report only to the captain while investigating a drug dealer because the captain says there is a mole in their operation giving information to the criminals they are investigating.  Already reeling from having to shoot and kill a man during the drug bust and under investigation himself by IA, Ivan still agrees if it means his squad will be safer, including his partner still in recovering from his wounds in the hospital.

Ivan becomes the roommate of the man he is supposed to be investigating, Parker Wakefield, and soon is more confused than ever.  Parker Wakefield is young and seems too innocent to be the hardened criminal his captain is portraying him to be.  And the closer the two men become, the harder it is getting for Ivan to believe that Parker is part of the Russian mafia drug-trafficking operation.  Unable to sleep or eat, Ivan’s own health is deteriorating under the stress of the operation and his own feelings for Parker.  Then he finds evidence in Parker’s house that points the finger to Parker being heavily involved in the drug trade, and Ivan must choose between his job and the man he has come to love.

I had throughly enjoyed Cop Out, the first book in this series, so I couldn’t wait to read the sequel.  Unfortunately, Cover Up does not come close to achieving the same level of enjoyment I derived by reading Cop Out.  And it all comes down to one word – plausibility.

There is very little in this story that comes across as having even the remote possibility of the events being believable.  Starting from the idea that a police captain would ask a bloody, brutalized officer to meet with him in his office, then command him to go undercover in an “off the books” investigation that reports only to him? Uh, no.  And then that police officer, supposedly one of the best, agrees to undertake this ridiculous mission?  Again, no.  The rationale offered later on is that Ivan is suffering from PTSD, but that only pops up halfway through the book and in no way mitigates the actions of Ivan and the others who find out from Ivan about the secret detail he is on.  In fact all of the police protocol here is on such shaky ground, that  I am not surprised everyone was baffled right from the start over all the events that occurred within.  The whole framework of the story is implausible from the get go.

The secondary issue I have with the story is one of characterization, primarily Parker Wakefield’s.  Basically, he’s nice, he’s young, he’s attractive, he’s a doormat.  And I have never been fond of doormats as main characters or romantic interests.  Everyone takes advantage of Parker to some degree (his best friend almost whores him out to strange men at his parties). Parker just accepts it and goes on, albeit with some mental complaining.  It’s later explained Parker is this way because he  was fat as a child.  Another instance where the reader is expected to suspend their disbelief.  Really, it is one thing after another,  A good cop, even one with PTSD, would have realized that Parker has the criminal instincts of a hamster  early on.  And once his fellow officers were clued into Ivan’s undercover work, even they realized how many rules and regulations were being broken, but did any of them act on it? Not really to any understandable degree that would give the reader satisfaction.

It was nice catching up with the two main characters from Cop Out and they are back in good form here.  I did like Ivan, a nice character that had the potential to become terrific.  But we are back to plausibility here with Ivan’s character too.  In the end, Ivan and his actions, no matter the reason, don’t ring true either.  Such a shame.

I like K.C. Burn’s stories.  Whether it is Cop Out or her bald lavender hued aliens from the Galactic Alliance series, her stories were always entertaining and enjoyable.  So I am going to just look at this as the pass all writers deserve and look forward to the next tale she conjures up.  But if I were you, I would let this one go by.

Lovely cover but doesn’t really apply to the story.

Frankenstorm is Coming and the Week Ahead in Reviews Hopefully

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So, here we are on the cusp of a truly remarkable storm event, a hurricane within a nor easter, something that has never occurred before or so say the  meteorologists.  Over 85 million people will feel the impact of Hurricane Sandy as she heads towards the East Coast as a hurricane 1, taking a dramatic left turn anywhere between Washington, DC and the Jersey shore and heading inland.  From Virginia to Massachusetts, people are getting ready to hunker down and some are already evacuating.

 

Here in Maryland we are expecting  not only huge amounts of rain (could be up to over 10 inches or more), high winds of 65 to 70 mph, but  snow!  That’s right, we could be seeing large amounts of snow as well.  So will parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  *shakes head*  So rain, wind, hail, snow, flooding most certainly.  Have the weather gods left anything out?  I don’t think so.  It just seems so unreal.  So of course, we made sure that the dog food was stocked up on, ditto the wine, water, and canned goods and snacks.  So we are good, I think. But then there is my blog.  And while I have a generator, that doesn’t mean the servers and towers won’t be coming down, so if there are no updates after a  while, just nod and say “Well, the Frankenstorm must have got her!”, and know I will be back up and running as soon as I am absolutely able to do so.

I also want to give a shout out to Jay of Joyfully Jay just back from the fabulous GayRomLit2012 in Albuquerque, NM.  She had an outstanding time and so did everyone else who attended. So many great authors, bloggers and readers to meet and party with. I so wanted to be there but the pictures she (and others) took made me some of the joy and fun that was going on. Wow, what a time and great photos to boot.  And she also brought me back a bag of swag!  Naked men playing cards, fluffer lip balm to name a few. Hooray!  Now I am determined to be there in Atlanta for next year’s conference. GayRomLit2013 in Atlanta!  woohoo!

So let’s see what I have planned for this week, shall we?

Monday:            Theory of Attraction by Cleon Lee  (I promise this will happen)

Tuesday:             Risking It All by Lee Brazil

Wednesday:       Tigerland by Sean Kennedy

Thursday:           The F Words by Anyta Sunday

Friday:                 A Mutual Understanding by Caro Soles

Saturday:             MIA Case Files #3: Craving by K.C. Burn

That’s it.  Now let’s see what happens.  Fingers crossed. Kindle charged. Sigh.