A MelanieM Review: Modified and Sacred by Jana Denardo

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Lieutenant Addison Hunt is proud to serve the Confederation even if he still feels like he’s on the outside looking in. Addison was illegally genetically modified as a child, leaving him burdened with a sense of shame. Emotionally isolated from his fellow crewmen and recovering from injuries from his last job, Addison is happy to have light duty transporting an esteemed diplomat to a peace conference.

Deveral is one of the Sacred Kin, possessing a psychic ability that his people consider a spark of the divine. Like all the Sacred Kin, he’s led a sheltered life as a temple priest, but his heightened empathic ability makes him the perfect diplomat. Nervous to leave his home, he’s curious about his new companion, Lieutenant Hunt.

Not everyone wants the diplomatic mission to succeed, and a rebel faction poses a real threat to Addison and Deveral. Finding themselves cast adrift on a “lost” colony, they’ll have to fight to stay alive.

Jana Denardo’s new LGBT science fiction novella, Modified and Sacred, is a enjoyable, imaginative story.  The author has filled the novella full of fascinating elements like stolen or sold children that were then modified illegally for use by trades, businesses like mining because it was cheaper than building machines.  Also aliens that, due to their ancient past as prey, have evolved skins full of chromatophores that allow bursts of color or camouflage as was needed in the past.  So many things about both main characters that just grab your attention and fill your mind with questions, along with the storyline.

The plot is fast moving, along with the immediate attention to detail on the action at hand.  I loved how the relationship developed between Addison and Deveral, especially after the events that happened on the ship.  No spoilers here.

But what keeps this story from a higher rating is that I felt it wrapped up too quickly for as complicated a plot it it was made out to be.  Far too many loose ends floating around that mission and answers we never got behind the rescue or the finalization of Deveral’s peace initiative. I also wished for more background, world building on Deveral’s species, and things that were merely hinted at.  There was enough here to fill a series!  A novella?  Felt a little thin for all the tantalizing information and bits thrown about.

I did appreciate the HFN as that is clearly the only way this could end for this couple given the time frame.  I do hope that the author can be coaxed into revisiting them and this universe in the future.  There’s a story I would be first in line to read.

As for Modified and Sacred by Jana Denardo?  There is still so much here to be investigated and thoroughly enjoyed by science fiction, suspense and action, and romance lovers alike.  I recommend it to you all.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  While that cover is pretty and all glowy I’m not sure that it’s all that pertinent to the storyline. No globe worshipping going on here.  No blobs.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 29th 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN 139781950412525
Edition Language English

A Free Dreamer Review: At the Trough by Adam Knight

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Rating: 3 stars out  of 5

In a future where schools have no teachers and no classrooms, Jennifer Calderon is the perfect student. Every day she watches her video modules, plays her edu games, and never misses an answer. Life is comfortable in the Plex, a mile-wide apartment building. Corporations and brand names surround her and satisfy her every want and need.

Then one day, her foul-mouthed, free-spirited, 90’s-kitsch-wearing girlfriend Melody disrupts everything. She introduces her to a cynical, burned-out former teacher, who teaches them the things no longer taught in school. Poetry. Critical thinking. Human connection.

But these lessons draw the attention of EduForce, the massive corporation with a stranglehold on education. When they show how far they are willing to go keep their customers obedient, Jennifer has to decide what is most important to her and how much she is willing to sacrifice for it.

When I read the blurb of “At the Trough”, I was thrilled to finally find a classic YA dystopia with an LGBT+ couple. But that’s not what I got, so I was a bit disappointed.

There are so many YA dystopian novels out there, with two teenagers in a forbidden love, fighting to overthrow the system and I love that genre. But I have yet to find a book with a couple that’s not m/f. I had hoped that this book would finally be the first book with a f/f pairing with that setting. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed when it turned out that “At the Trough” was more a philosophical debate about the school system.

Other than that, I had a couple issues with the story. First of all, the timeline didn’t quite work out for me. The book is set in 2051 and the world as we know it doesn’t exist anymore. That’s only 32 years from now, so not all that far in the future. I found it hard to believe that everything is so very different, without any sort of natural disaster or war or something else to jump-start such a major change in society. It all started in the 2030s, which is just 20 years from now, and I just don’t see that coming.

I didn’t feel the romance between Melody and Jennifer at all. Best friends with benefits, sure, but lovers? Not so much. Maybe a little background info would have worked. We never learned how these two very different young women met and fell in love. We never learned anything about Melody’s past.

On one occasion, I found a pretty serious mistake. Charles tells his students about Kafka and calls him a “German writer”. And that’s just plain wrong. There’s a difference between German-speaking and German, just like there’s a difference between English-speaking and English. If you have to pin a nationality on Kafka, it would have to be Czech. Charles, a literature-loving teacher, would never have made that mistake, so it was clearly a research mistake.

The plot didn’t really engage me. It felt a bit like a manifesto of the brilliant, wonderful school system and that’s not something I’m interested in. And the ending didn’t really work for me either.

Overall, “At the Trough” wasn’t what I expected at all and I was honestly disappointed by that. I guess you might like the book more, if you go in with the right expectations, but it just wasn’t for me.

The cover by Natasha Snow is alright.

Sales Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook
Published May 13th 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781950412679
Edition Language English
URLhttps://ninestarpress.com/product/at-the-trough/

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Rook by T. Strange

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Rook is sent to the alien prison planet B-226 for twenty three years for killing his husband. The average life span on the hostile planet is three weeks. His plan is to live as long as possible to honor his husband’s wishes, and then die and join him. Upon landing he is partnered with a prisoner named Stevie to help guard the miners, or he won’t get fed. There is a strange thrill in fightening off the local fauna and surviving, or having a specific daily purpose, that Rook didn’t count on. Their days are stressful, consisting of violent episodes bracketed by fighting boredom for concentration. Through his POV, the third character is Rook‘s dead husband Carlos. Stevie walks a fine line of teaching Rook how to survive, being wary of any attack or signs of madness setting in, using him for company and sex, but trying not to care too much in case Rook gets killed like all his previous partners.

I found this plot enticing as I personally enjoy when an author explores the psychology of a character. This is a new author to me so I really didn’t know what to expect. The main question here was always going to be, are they just together because of the circumstances? While that is actually asked, finding out the real answer takes the whole book. Bonding over shared trauma isn’t bad as a short cut, as long as it’s not the only thing there. While they are just trying to survive, they don’t actually know anything about each other’s previous lives. What they do know is: how they each react in an emergency, if they are trustworthy and to what extent, how each deals with conflict and triggers, and what factors motivate or de-motivate them. I would argue not knowing facts about someone’s life, or even their particular thoughts at any given moment, is less important than knowing if they can be counted on. I loved that there were so many issues touched on like the complications of choice, personal sovereignty, stages of grief, and PTSD. Having said that, it’s shocking that no one even makes a mention or an attempt at trying to deal with said mental health issues.

There are parts of this book that at times reminded me of movies like Predator, Reign of Fire, Pitch Black, Starship Troopers or Enemy Mine. I mention movies because I saw this story as pictures in my mind. That the author manages to sustain a feeling of suspense and terror for such a large (80-85%) portion of this book is amazing. There are breaks in the tension just when they are needed. There are breaks in the setting, just when they are needed. The focus of this book is very narrow, with the characters in their own world, creating a very intimate rather than epic feel so without the breaks, this could have been stifling. As it is, I felt like I went through everything with them.

Romance is not the point of this book. Finding someone you love and can get along with during one of the worst times of your life is another thing altogether. Sex is also not the point of this book–mostly it is fade to black, or described as a celebration of survival or stress relief as a realistic part of Rook‘s life and circumstances. While there is a HFN/HEA here, it is done in a realistic way consistent with the flavor of the novel as a whole. I am so thankful this author didn’t just slap a bow on it and negate all the work it took to get to the end of this journey. I thought this story was great and complete as it is.

The cover designed by Aisha Akeju is evocative of desolation and beauty. You can clearly tell it is science fiction. I do appreciate the use of the jungle as both reality and allegory.

Book Details:

ebook
Published February 7th 2018 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781684311804
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Review: Destructive Forces (The Galactic Captains #4) by Harry F. Rey

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

In the far reaches of the Kyleri Empire, young Captain Mahnoor travels around the system to escape the cultural pressures to marry. But his infatuation with a handsome imperial pilot leads him into a galactic war.

On Jiwani, Viscamon is attempting to consolidate his power, by blaming the Ingvar for the royal massacre and calling armies from across the Empire to track down the missing prince, and achieve his dream of destroying the Galactic Balance. However, Antari knows the truth about Osvai and must find the courage to stand up to the prince’s enemies, and his own, no matter the risk.

Meanwhile on Aldegar, Daeron is being held prisoner by the few remaining Ingvar forces and must find a way to break free to rescue his mother and the crew of the Daring Huntress once again, as well as the missing Prince Osvai, before the Kyleri come to take back what’s theirs.

Sallah, no longer the last Tevian, returns to Aldegar with no choice but to enlist the help of the man she hates and the woman she once loved to see her son again.

As the Galactic Balance tips ever more towards chaos, time is running out to save Ales from the destructive forces he has unleashed.

First things first. “Destructive Forces” is part 4 of “The Galactic Captains” series and doesn’t work as a standalone at all. You have to read the previous three books in order to fully understand and appreciate this book. My review will also contain spoilers for the previous books.

I really liked the previous three installments of the series, so I was looking forward to this latest part. Sadly, I was rather disappointed.

First of all, I loathe cliffhangers. “Horizon Points” ended with one hell of a cliffhanger and it made me really mad that it didn’t get resolved. We still don’t know if Ales survived and what happened to him. For story telling reasons it’s probably safe to assume he’s alive, but I don’t like being kept in the dark about such things.

Overall, I was surprised at how tame this book was. The other books were pretty porny, but this time, it took quite a long time for the first sex scene to happen. I liked that there was more of a focus on the main plot, but the second half more than made up for the rather tame first half. Once again, the male MCs were thinking with their cock and seemed to be in a state of constant horniness. There’s also a lesbian couple and they obviously have sex at least once. I was disappointed that it wasn’t explicit and we only got to see the “aftermath”. The author sure is never shy about very explicitly depicting the m/m sex.

During the sex-less first half, we learn a lot about Turo and his past. That was actually really interesting, since his motives were a bit of a mystery so far.

The cast of main characters gets yet more additions and at times it got a little bit confusing. It’s all getting very complex and yet the books are quite short. I think it would be easier to keep track of everything, if I didn’t have to wait months between each book. You could half the number of books in the series and combine two books into one. That would also take care of the cliffhangers I hate so very much.

While the multitude of MCs makes everything very complicated, it does also offer an opportunity to see even more societies and cultures. The author is really good at world-building and creates some very interesting cultures. I always enjoy discovering what Rey comes up with.

Sloppy editing is a major pet peeve of mine and there’s absolutely no excuse for it. Needless to say, I was super annoyed by the bad spelling and grammar of this book. I can forgive a typo or two, but not when there’s at least one stupid mistake on every page. I don’t want to read a book where the author can’t tell the difference between you’re/your.

Book four ends pretty much like book three did and yet again we’re left with a major cliffhanger. Yet again, we don’t know if anybody survived. And yet again, I’m annoyed. The next book will probably focus on Ales again and the fate of this set of MCs will probably be left unclear for the whole next book.

The story itself was 3.5 stars for me. But the sloppy editing really spoiled my enjoyment of the story, so I had to knock it down to 3 stars. Despite this rather disappointing book, I do still want to read the next part of the series. I just hope it will be as good as the previous ones.

The cover by Natasha Snow is gorgeous and fits the rest of the series and the story itself.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

ebook
Published April 22nd 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN 139781950412471
Edition Language English

A Lila Release Day Review:Innocence & Carnality by J. Alan Veerkamp

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Innocence is his only currency.

The gilded cage of propriety where Nathan grew up as a member of the Deilian aristocracy became a true prison when, at fifteen, his homosexuality came to light and created a terrible scandal. His parents see only one way to preserve their reputation amongst the other noble families: fit Nathan with a chastity belt to increase his value to a potential partner and marry him off as soon as possible.

The recipient of that prize is Lord Rother Marsh Delaga III. After a hasty wedding, Rother whisks Nathan away to the strange and seductive land of Marisol, where Nathan will begin a new life, free to explore the pleasures of the marriage bed, though his life is still not his own.

But Rother’s Delaga House is a place of secrets, dangers, and depravity Nathan can scarcely comprehend. Where friends are few and peril waits around every corner, Nathan must employ all the manipulation he learned from high society, along with his talent for clockwork. Most of all, Nathan must adapt, compromise to survive, and cast off the preconceptions of his homeland.

Because only he can orchestrate his freedom, and it’ll come at a cost.

Innocence and Carnality is a work of fiction. It’s the perfect combination of drama, intrigue, rawness, sensuality, sexuality, and so much more. Nathan is the embodiment of all of these, and we get to see how he evolves from a pampered aristocrat to a man of his own. He’s a great narrator for the story. It’s easy to get lost in his thoughts, his sadness, happiness, and hopes.

This book is hard to put down. The more you read, the more you want to know. It’s hard to see all the changes coming or to try to anticipate the next twist and turn the author envisioned. The amount of detail and foreshadowing is incredible, as well as the world-build. Everything in the story was necessary.

The mixed of characters, backgrounds, and locations show the author’s knowledge of where he wanted to take the story. In every step of the way, we have Nathan. His life becomes the reader’s guide. The supporting cast is as impressive as Nathan. They all have a part to play, even when isn’t positive for Nathan, I had my doubts about Rother but had to accept that I felt for him just like Nathan. I wanted him to have an opportunity for redemption but in reality, he didn’t deserve it.

This may not be a true romance but it has enough elements to satisfy the readers need for more. Personally, I could have seen the ending go either way. I think Nathan was strong enough to rule his world on his own. This story is perfect for everyone looking for more than a cute story.

The cover by Tiferet Design goes great with the author’s depiction of Nathan. It has all his arrogance on display, as well as the aesthetics.

Sale Links: Amazon | Nook | DSP

Book Details:
ebook, 348 pages
ISBN: 978-1-64405-193-1
Published: April 23, 2019, by DSP Publications
Edition Language: English

A Free Dreamer Review:Time Taken (Out of Time #3) by C.B. Lewis

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Time travel is a precarious business at the best of times, but when Qasim El-Fahkri’s mission to the past ends in violence, it has a ripple effect through every level of the Temporal Research Institute.

Rhys Griffiths finds himself caught in the wake of the disastrous jump, his own career uncertain. With the Supervisory Board breathing down his neck, operatives demanding answers to baffling questions, and life outside of work bearing down on him, his only respite comes from Qasim’s company. As the professional slowly becomes the personal, they must confront the echoes of their own pasts to try and move forward in the future.

But another past is waiting for Qasim, and there may be no coming back from this one…

For full enjoyment, it is recommended to first read books 1, Time Waits, and 2, Time Lost.

If I only had one word to describe “Time Taken”, it would have to be “surprising”. I really didn’t expect the story to go the way it did.

First of all, the blurb implies this doesn’t work as a stand-alone. I have to disagree. I didn’t read the previous two books and didn’t really feel like I missed something. Other than some background of the MCs and a bit of world-building.

While I read a lot of SciFi and Fantasy, time-travel isn’t normally one of my go-to sub-genres. It’s more something I only read every now and again, so I can’t really judge how unique this book actually was. However, it certainly felt unusual. Historical Istanbul and Uzbekistan aren’t exactly the first places I’d expect people to travel to. I really enjoyed finding out a little more about those places. It feels like Europe is the go-to setting for any historical fiction, so this was a nice change.

Qasim is a practicing Muslim and yet the book isn’t about Islam or any other religion. It’s not about a young Muslim struggling with his faith and his sexuality. It’s not about a homophobic family. In fact, Rhys, the Christian MC, is the one with a difficult family background. Qasim’s family is extremely supportive, loving and tolerant. They don’t care that Rhys is a man and a Christian. Qasim is a very religious man, he prays five times a day, fasts during Ramadan and doesn’t eat pork or drink alcohol, but he never tries to shove his believes in anybody’s face. I really liked him and I think this is the first ever practicing Muslim MC I’ve come across in M/M fiction.

Rhys is an interesting character as well. I think he might just be the first-ever Welsh I’ve read about. Plenty of English, Scottish and Irish, but nobody from Wales. And I actually learned a few words of Welsh thanks to him! I think a lot of his background story was talked about in the previous two books, so I felt like I kind of missed some info to really understand him, especially in the beginning.

The romance is quite slow. It takes Rhys and Qasim quite a while to admit their attraction to each other and act on it. I think it worked perfectly for the story and they were really sweet together. So very different, but neither tried to change the other one. They were so accepting and loving, it was really wonderful.

The whole first half of the story is rather slow. The book starts off with a bang in historical Istanbul and then I was kind of lulled into a quiet sense of peace. It was a nice story, nothing mind-blowing, but definitely enjoyable.

And then the second half started and suddenly there was so much drama it gave me whiplash. Suddenly I couldn’t put the book down and was biting my nails in anticipation and dread of what was going to happen to next. At times, I was actually a little bit teary-eyed and struggled not to start crying on the subway. I’m not going to give away too much, but let’s just say I really didn’t expect this kind of drama in a book about time-travel.

I felt like the whole story was very realistic. Qasim got injured right at the beginning of the book and came close to getting killed. And he’s actually traumatized by that and struggles to find his way back into his normal life. Often, characters in similar situation just shrug it off and bounce back to normal with no trouble whatsoever.

The ending was a little much for me, though it does make sense for Rhys and Qasim. Still, it was a little too cute for me.

Overall, I really, really liked “Time Taken” and I definitely want to read the previous and the following books of the series. My rating for the first half would have been 4 stars, the second half would have been 5, so I went with the average of 4.5 stars.

The cover by Natasha Snow is alright, if a bit generic. Nothing about it really says “time-travel” or hints at the places in the past that Qasim visits.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details: ebook, 450 pages

Published March 18th 2019 by NineStar Press

A Caryn Review: Shadows On The Border (Lost In Time #2) by A.L. Lester

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It has been a year since I read the first book in this series, Lost in Time.  Long enough that I had forgotten about the cliffhanger ending that irritated me so much!  And although it is clear there will be at least one more book in the series, this one wrapped up the current story arc well – the next book will take off in a slightly different direction, and follow up on the adventures of some of the secondary characters.

Lew – who is from 2016 and got accidentally drawn back in time to 1919 while following his sister Mira – and Alec – the Detective Inspector who was inadvertently drawn into Lew’s world of magic and secrets while investigating a series of grisly London murders – are once again the main characters in this book.  The Creature who left a string of bodies behind turned out not to be fully destroyed as they had all hoped.  It was merely injured, and dormant, and its presence drew a Hunter from the Outlands to draw it back across the Border.

Fenn was the Hunter – a being of considerable power who was clearly more expert dealing with the energy of the Border than anyone in the human world.  To some he appeared male, and to others she appeared female, and they were evasive about their gender – this was just one of many ways they were completely alien to the early 20th century Londonites they came across. Fenn spoke English, reading the minds of those humans he interacted with, and when they were found by Alec’s group of police and discovered that they were also trying to apprehend the Creature (Carnas, to Fenn), Fenn decided to work with them.  The humans were somewhat reluctant to join forces, but could only acknowledge Fenn’s greater power and expertise.  There were secrets on both sides, and it became increasingly clear that those secrets could bring down the entire operation.

This book is once again primarily a fantasy/adventure, and there is even less romance than there was in the first book.  Lew and Alec are an established couple, and I really enjoyed how the focus became more about how they thought about their relationship.  How could it work between them when Lew could only tell Alec minimal amounts about his life before he went back in time?  How could Alec trust Lew, for the same reasons?  How was the fact that Lew was a Worker, and responsible for maintaining the Border, allow him to fully open himself up to Alec?  I also enjoyed the interactions between Fenn – not quite human if you looked closely – and the rest of the group interesting, especially in regards to their gender, or lack thereof.

I still had some quibbles with the writing – this time it was primarily the names and pronouns.  Sometimes first names were used, sometimes last names, and though the distinction made some sense – for instance, they were Lew and Alec when they were by themselves or with close friends, but Tyler and Carter when interacting professionally, or with others.  It did not help that many of the names could be first or last names (Will Grant, for example).  I just found it to be unnecessarily confusing, and it literally took me until half way through the book before I consistently had them all straight!  I do not like working that hard to read for pleasure.

I am really looking forward to the next book, when the focus will move away from Alec and Lew.  I hope it won’t be another full year though…

Cover art by Written Ink Designs fits well with the previous book in the series.  It was easy to imagine the Creature hiding somewhere in this alley.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Kobo | Barnes&Noble

Book Details:

ebook
Published March 9th 2019 by JMS Books, LLC
ISBN13 9781634868716
Edition Language English

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Abundance by Emmalynn Spark

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

This story throws the reader right into the action with an emergency in space, in the first person POV of crewman Alex Harris. He’s part of the bio-tech staff on board the spaceship. Earth was dying so they sent people into space to reach a new planet, New Earth, for a chance to save the human race from extinction. On the way to the planet, something goes horribly wrong, killing almost everyone on board. The only other survivor is Commander Luke Belka.

This is an ARC so these things might not be in the final version, but there were a few inconsistencies that took me out of the story. At one point Alex thinks about waking up from stasis after a hundred years, but later, when he thinks about his mom being dead, the time period seems to be hundreds of years ago. The reader is told Alex hid that he was gay so he could be picked to go on this ship, even using his best friend Eileen as a beard. Yet, he also flirted with Commander Belka previously on Earth. They know nothing about this planet, not even if the air is breathable, yet they didn’t check before they disembarked. They never seem to be worried about any predators or if the plants are poisonous to the touch, only if they are poisonous to eat. Since there were other ships–ten altogether–Alex thinks maybe there will be people there already growing food, but then he is worried about planting anything from Earth that might be an invasive species and hurt the local flora and fauna.

This is really a wish fulfillment story with forced proximity. At one point I wondered if Alex was dreaming in stasis. I wanted more than just an excuse for two men to have a lot of sex, hot though it was, after all the world building and tragedy that I had to wade through. It seems terrible to have had so many people die just to set them up. The book is at its best as a crisis leads them to set out to see if there is a settlement on the other side of the mountain. The reader finally gets to see Luke’s POV as he tells Alex what he’s been thinking. All the psychological issues come to a head during an argument and there is finally the real emotional connection that I wanted all along.

I liked the book, I just wanted a bit more emotion all the way through instead of mostly in the last twenty percent. I liked that at a certain point they switched roles. Although Alex was not great in an emergency, he recovered from his overwhelming grief and resignation to find joy in his environment. Luke, who was great in an emergency, couldn’t adapt to the fact they were alone. He ignored anything that meant they might be there a long time right up until he could no longer do it. The book ends with hope, but I can’t help wondering if any of the other nine ships made it or are still coming. Despite their being in love, I can’t help wondering what would have happened to their relationship had they been found.

The cover art is by Natasha Snow and matches the title to show the hopeful, positive side of the story.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 202 pages
Published March 4th 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN13 9781950412136
Edition Language English

An Alisa Review: The Hands We’re Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild #1) by O.E. Tearmann

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That’s fine with the Democratic State Force base he’s been assigned to command: they don’t like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned.

Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in.

Life’s a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you’re given.

This was a great story.  I loved the world that the author created and I didn’t feel as if I was missing anything.  Aidan is thrown in the deep end when he is assigned to the Wildcards but it may be the perfect assignment for him and for them.

I loved how different all the team members were, we got to see how different life was depending on where they grew up.  The team is really one extended family which is what people really need in this dystopian world.  They were able to bring another couple people into their team but it gives them even more frustration in some ways but great things in others.

Oh man, I felt for Aidan, he has not been given a good hand in life but it looks like he is finally getting the acceptance he deserves.  I could feel how hard everything was for him and how much he wanted it to work out.  Kevin grew up differently than the other Wildcards but he works himself to the bone for them.  He still has to fight what was drilled into his head growing up but he doesn’t let it affect what he feels for Aidan.

I loved the cover art by Fiverr with the coding visuals and playing cards.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 350 pages

Published: September 14, 2018

Edition Language: English

Series: Aces High, Jokers Wild #1

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

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Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sales Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Book details:

ebook, , 281 pages

Published February 25th 2019 by NineStar Press