Review: Haunted Halls by M. Raiya

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Haunted Halls coverEvan is away from home for the first time in his life as a freshman at Rove University.  He  should be excited about being independent and the prospect of meeting new people and making friends.  But  Evan is miserable.  Homesick and feeling more alone than he’s ever been, the only reason Evan is at Rove instead of a commuter college is due to his parents insistence.  Evan is trying but nothing is working.

Then Evan notices a young man sitting high above the courtyard where he is eating.  Long dark hair and lean, the student seems without fear as he leans far out over the ledge.  But at next glance the student is gone and Evan is left to wonder at exactly what he saw.  Then he spots him again when Evan walks down to the pond near the university.  The young man, Gabriel, warns Evan not to fall asleep on the rock,otherwise he might drown. Then with a smile, he vanishes once more.

Who Gabriel is Evan isn’t sure, he only knows that when he is at his most miserable and defeated, Gabriel  appears to talk and make him feel better at being away from home.  His classmates and some teachers say the university is haunted and that the ghost roams the campus at night, playing pranks and sometimes helping those in need.

Evan doesn’t believe in ghosts.  Maybe he should.

Haunted Halls by M Raiya is a sweet, unusual paranormal romance whose characters, especially that of Evan, are the real draw here.  Evan is that true homebody.  He adores his parents and the only place he wants to be is back home in his small town in Vermont.  But his parents worry about Evan limiting himself at this age so they send him off to Rove University hoping that this unwanted separation and independence will be good for him.  They extracted a promise that he will stay there a year.  If he toughs it out and still wants to come home after that then they will let him.  Such a normal situation and the parental concern is so very realistic.  I am a fan of this author and this set up is exactly the reason why.  A typical introverted teenager who is always on the outskirts of high school social circles and with very different interests from the popular kids is leery of the unknown that is Rove University. This starting point is one that almost everyone can relate to.  And then Even arrives at Rove and everything changes.

It’s hard to go into too much detail because of the chance of revealing story spoilers, but to say the least this is not exactly the ghost story  that you are expecting.  M Raiya has a few twists in store for the reader.  Just when you have anticipated the reveal, Raiya shows she have something very different in mind.  And that’s both the best and most frustrating aspect of this story.

Haunted Halls takes its name from the clever idea that a student marked through the words Hallowed on a plaque to change it to read Haunted Halls after the campus ghost that is said to haunt this university.  Raiya has two congruent plot threads going that will eventually converge as the story heads towards its dramatic resolution.  The first concerns Evan during the first weeks of his arrival at Rove.   Depressed and lonely, he is in a delicate mental and emotional place.  And that’s when he meets the mysterious Gabriel.  Each time Evan is at his lowest, the ever elusive Gabriel manages to appear, almost out of thin air, to bring Evan out of his dark place and make it better.  The second thread appears when Evan meets two students who are interested in the campus legends and together the three of them start to investigate in the ghostly appearances and past history of the university and town.  As the story draws down to a conclusion the closer the two threads become until they connect in one shattering moment.

I really loved this short story and only a couple of things kept it from being a perfect little gem.  The first is hard to explain but the reason behind Gabriel’s appearance and the ghostly rumors is one of the most interesting and least fleshed out elements of this story.  The fascinating idea behind it just begs for a deeper explanation for it as well as more plot time.  Raiya only gives out small bits of the past, the pivotal surprise at the heart of this story, and its nature.  So the idea is never framed out completely to the readers frustration, especially as it plays such an enormous role in its impact on all the major characters here.   One of the problems behind that lack of substance to this segment of the story is the word count.  The promise of this complicated story line would be hard to fulfill at a larger page count let alone 21,000 words.  And the fascinating concept here is such a great one that I wish Raiya had given it the spotlight in the story that it deserved.

But those issues aside, I throughly enjoyed Haunted Halls.  Growing up I grabbed up all the ghost stories I could find, and this short story brought back all those happy memories of romance, and ghosts and unlikely endings that would ever be my favorites.  It’s a quick, charming tale of love and the unexpected. Pick it up for a fun, fast read.

Cover art by Aisha Akeju who is quickly becoming one of my favorite new artists.  Great cover.  Its perfect for the story inside.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: May 7th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original titleHaunted Halls
ISBN139781620043554

Buy Link at LT3 Press
edition languageEnglish

Now Cut that Out, Winner Announcements and the Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Guest Blogs, & Contests

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Now Cut That Out!!!! 

Once again we seem to be on the weather rollercoaster of all time here in the DC area (ok, so much of the country is there with us).  One day 80 degrees, the next day snow and sleet.  No really, that was us last week. The Cherry Blossoms popped out over night and record crowds packed the Tidal Basin to take in the pink beauty and monuments.

For about 2 to 3 days.

And then the snow and sleet and winds and freezing cold set in once more.  I  don’t have to tell you what happened to most of the blossoms do I?  Yep, history.  So now the temps have climbed back to the 50’s and all the plants I moved outside are back indoors until who knows when.

Like me.

Maybe by the end of June I will be able to go outside and plant in the gardens.  I have so many plants that didn’t make it through this winter.  Le sigh.  Maybe I will use this as an excuse to plan some new gardens.  I will have plenty of bare patches to fill that’s for sure.

Now on to the business at hand.  I have several winner announcements listed below, for Abigail Roux’s Ball & Chain book tour . S.J. Frost’s Vampire Prince tour, and Blaine D. Arden’s The Forester II Guest Blog/Contest:

 And the Winners Are……

Winners of the Ball & Chain Book Tour and Contest are:

Jessie Miller
Shannonn Vandermark
Melissa Crisp
Denise Smith

Kathy Latimer
Debra Guyette
Laurie Peterson
Cindi Clubbs,
Scarlett Camaj
Nicole Martens

Winner of SJ Frost’s  Vampire Prince,  tour is :  A.J.

Winner of Blaine D. Arden’s The Forester isblackasphodel

???????????????????????????????????????Vampire Prince coverThe Forester II- Lost and Found coverThe Forester cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to all the winners.  My thanks goes out to everyone who participated as well as authors Abigail Roux and S.J. Frost for stopping by with such great posts and wonderful giveaways!

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Now on to the week ahead in Reviews, Author Guest Blogs and Contests:

Monday, 4/21:            Haunted Halls by M Raiya
Tuesday, 4/22:            Queens of the Apocalypse by Rob Rosen
Wed., 4/23:                  Back to the Frat with Anne Tenino and her Poster Boy (Contest)
Thursday, 4/24:          Poster Boy by Anne Tenino
Friday, 4/25:               To the Other Side by S.J. Frost
Sat., 4/26:                    Blown Kisses by Havan Fellows

Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

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mayIt was a great month in book reviews.  While most of the book fell into the contemporary fiction category, there was a book in just about every genre.  One of my favorites this month was Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler, a science fiction gem of a story from Riptide Publishing. I have also found new authors like Sue Brown and her outstanding The Sky Is Dead.  Don’t pass either of these by. And if you loved Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov, then you won’t want to miss the followup novel, City Mouse (Country Mouse #2).  I thought it was even better than its predecessor.

There are stand alone stories and new books in continuing series. This includes one series (The Night Wars) that I will be reevaluating on the basis of the third book in the series, a real stunner called The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton.  This is a terrific book and I had not rated the second book very highly.  Now I am going back in June, reading all three together and write a  review of the series in June (and probably a mea culpa or two on my part as well).

The titles are linked to my reviews.  Really, there is something for everyone here.  Here are May 2013’s book reviews in order of rating:

5 Star Rating:

City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov (contemporary)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler (Science Fiction)
The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown (contemporary)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Bullheaded by Catt Ford (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Closet Capers Anthology (4.25 stars) mixture
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow
Leaving Home (Home #4) by TA Chase (4 stars)
Moments by R.J. Scott (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Never A Hero (a Tucker Springs novel) by Marie Sexton (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya (4.5 stars) (fantasy, romance)
Noah by Ben Ryder (4 stars) (contemporary)
Shy by John Inman (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Still by Mary Calmes (4.75 stars) (contemporary)
The Hellfire Legacy (The Night Wars #3) by Missouri Dalton (4.5 stars) (supernatural)
The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Chateau D’Eternite by Ariel Tachna (3.75 stars) Fantasy
Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling (3.75 stars) (contemporary)
His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane (3 stars) (supernatural)
It Takes Practice by Willa Okati (3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

Review: Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Night of Ceremony coverJust days after their wedding, high school teacher and dragonshifter Adrian Kendall and his human husband Josh have new trials to face before the two of them and their newly adopted dragon shifter daughter, Jenny, could settle down to a normal family life. Well, as normal as any family that is made up of a dragon shifter, a human with special gifts and a half dragon shifter adopted baby girl.  Also included in their family is Huntington, Adrian’s brother, Justin and Wells (an ancient dragon and his knight partner) and many others.

The ceremonies Adrian and Josh must face are those of dragonkind.  One to see if Adrian’s clan will accept Jenny as their daughter and the other to see if the clan will accept Josh as his mate  No little stress there. But unknown to all, a much larger event is on the horizon, one that will change the future for the young family and all around them, if any survive the night of ceremony.

I love this series by M. Raiya and this book is an excellent example of why it deserves not only your attention but affection as well.  We have just been witness to a remarkable wedding of Adrian and Josh, their adoption of a half dragon child and the entrance of a ancient black dragon and knight with unknown connections to Adrian and his clan.  Night of Ceremony picks up shortly thereafter, with the celebrants still basking in their happiness.  But Adrian and Josh are also facing many new potential obstacles to their happiness and union, and that would be Adrian’s Dragon Clan.

M. Raiya has been developing a complex wonderful dragon society that exists along side the human one and each book delivers new aspects of the ancient society’s culture and laws.  Like our present world, the society of dragons is slowly being modernized, from their evolving views on remaining hidden to their complex relationships with their knights.  Within every story, the author offers up some new aspect of the changing dragon viewpoint along with a human problem of equal complexity, mostly revolving around Josh and Adrian’s relationship.

I find the author’s characters just amazing, from M. Raiya’s ability to get us into the mind of a nonhuman dragon like Adrian and Justin to one of the more interesting and complicated characters around, that of Josh the increasingly gender fluid husband of Adrian. In Adrian’s inner circle, there are both humans and dragons which gives the author plenty of subjects when addressing the differences between cultures, their views on equality and sexuality.  All of the characters are just so well done here.  Huntington the brother has changed greatly from the first introduction in Notice (Notice #1) when he tried to kill Adrian, the brother he didn’t know he had to the full acceptance of his role as beloved brother and confidant, gifted in his own right with special talents unknown in other dragons. Even the new baby Jenny has enough interesting aspects to her personality that I look forward to new stories involving her development. But there is one that is so special, so remarkable, that I find him hard to describe, a fact he would surely applaud.

That character would be Josh. I love Josh so much and of all of the characters, his is the one to experience the most growth and change of them all.  When we first met Adrian and Josh, they were dating and Adrian was unsure of his feelings for the very “femme”, very flamboyant Josh.  Adrian had always been attracted to masculine gay men and Josh was the very anthesis of that.  Over the series, we have watched Josh wear women’s clothes, apply makeup in a manner that demonstrated a perfected skill and reveal that he is troubled and unsure about his gender identity.  And while we are learning so much about Josh, including his horrific backstory, Adrian is learning about acceptance not only of his own homosexuality and of Josh’s but to come out of the closet in his communities (human and dragon).  M. Raiya’s treatment of Josh, Adrian and their relationship is one of this series shining features.  Here is one of my favorite excerpts.  Huntington, Adrian’s brother, has just realized that Josh prefers to use the womens bathrooms instead of using the mens facilities and wonders aloud to Adrian as to what it means:

“Damn! I mean, I’ve gotten used to having a gay brother.”

I paused and then said levelly, “You still have a gay brother.”

“Yeah, but if Josh is in a dress walking down the street, and God knows he can pull off female, then everybody’s going to think you’re straight!”

“And why do we care what everybody thinks?”

Huntington started to say something, but then Josh walked out of the women’s room, a diaper bag over one shoulder, Jenny on his other, and he tossed his hair back from his face and gave us a dazzling smile.

I smiled back.

After a moment, Huntington did, too. ***

Perfection and nothing more needed to be said.  So many joys to be found in this small gem of a series.  All of the stories that makeup the Notice series are short in length for the most part. Notice has the most pages at 176 pages. But most are under 75 pages in length.  I have listed them all at the bottom of the review in the order they were written and should be read.

Are there issues with the stories?  To be sure as none really exist as stand alone fiction and some are lacking in backstories and world building if not read as part of the series.  But the positive points of the series far outweigh any qualms you might have with other stories in the same universe. This really is a lovely story. A terrific little tale in a gem of a series by an author whose works I continue to look forward to.  Start with Notice and work your way forward.  I think you will find yourself just as affected by Adrian and his Josh as I am.

Here are the stories in the series in the order they were written and should be read:

Notice (Notice #1)

Nice: The Dragon and The Mistletoe (Notice #2) (review included with Notice)

A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3)

Night of Ceremony (Notice #4)

Stories in the same universe:

A Dragon and His Knight

Origin in the Shifting Steam Anthology.

Book Details:

ebook
Published March 10th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610404572 (ISBN13: 9781610404570)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=78_85&products_id=3861
seriesNotice #4

Mother’s Day and The Week Ahead

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Short and sweet today.  It’s Mother’s Day and the cookout here is only hours  away.   Plus it’s my birthday week, so I expect to have a hopefully fun filled, jam packed schedule.   So if life and my schedule permits, here is the week a head in reviews:

Monday, May 13:                  The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown

Tuesday, May 14:                  Never A Hero  (Tucker Springs #5) by Marie Sexton

Wed., May 15:                        Night of Ceremony by M. Raiya

Thursday, May 16:                Bad Attitude by KA Mitchell

Friday, May 17:                      Bullheaded by Catt Ford

Saturday, May 18:                Lenny For Your  Thoughts by Anyta Sunday

So there it is. Got to go.  Wish like mad it would warm up,  Poor plants, flooded and now cold.  Is that a sniffle I feel coming on?

Review: A Dragon and His Knight by M. Raiya

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Rating: 3 stars

A Dragon and His Knight coverDragon Justin and his Knight, Wells, have been together for over 1,000 years, never apart for a moment. A decision to reenter the  human world once more sees them settled in a college town in New Hampshire.  Wells enrolls them both as students in the local university to pass the time and gather knowledge, a seemingly innocent pastime that becomes fraught with danger. What will happen when their bond of a millennia is destroyed?

A Dragon and His Knight is a short story in the same universe as Notice and A Sky Full of Wings.  The author doesn’t say specifically where it fits in but I would put it at the end after A Sky Full of Wings otherwise very little in this story will make sense to the reader.  I am very fond of the dragon lore and dragons/knight relationships that Raiya has created for this series. A Dragon and His Knight adds some additional facts of dragon lore and part of the backstory of the ancient black dragon and knight that appear at the end of A Sky Full of Wings that was missing from that book. But in some circumstances it also muddies the very history that has been laid down before, including adding a somewhat abusive relationship between a secondary dragon/knight couple that was just confusing.

What the author does so well is to portray the loving master/servant relationship that does exist between Justin and Wells, one that has endured over 1,000 years.  These two characters make the story.  When they appeared out of nowhere in A Sky Full of Wings, I wanted to know more about these remarkable characters who had such a large impact on that story.  I still feel that way.  This story was so short that it truly was only a sip that whetted my appetite instead of a drink that satisfied my thirst.  I still want more of Justin and Wells backstory as well as those other dragons and knights from their era.  A Dragon and His Knight is truly just a glimpse into a very small section of an ongoing story.  I hope that the author has a much longer book planned that will help fill in the many gaps left by A Dragon and His Knight.  Until we get more exposition, I think I would skip this addition, and if you love dragons, read Notice and A Sky Full of Wings instead.

Books in the Notice series or universe are:

Notice, Notice #1

Nice: The Dragon and the Mistletoe, Notice #2

A Sky Full of Wings, Notice #3

Origin (in the Shifting Steam Anthology)

A Dragon and His Knight, 29 pages published previously in the Mine Anthology

Inauguration Sunday and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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So, we have a three day weekend with Martin Luther King Day and the Inauguration on Monday.  The sky is blue, Saturday saw me scrambling so here I am still in my bunny slippers and looking to stay that way for the immediate future.

With Lance Armstrong’s self serving, “woe is me, not quite getting the whole picture” sob fest still leaving a malodorous odor in the air, I am looking forward to an inspirational speech on two on Monday.  So Monday’s post will be a little different,  No book banter or book reviews,  just some musings on the Inauguration and MLK.

I have read some terrific books to be reviewed this week, starting with Tuesday’s selection of Charlie Cochrane’s lastest release from Carina Press. And if you missed it, go back for yesterday’s review of J.L. Merrow’s Trick of Time, loved that book.  The movie Somewhere in Time is a favorite of mine so you know Trick of Time hit all my buttons and then some.

So with a drumroll please in keeping with the flair of things this weekend, here are the books to be reviewed this week:

Monday, 1/21:                        Scattered Thoughts on MLK and the Inauguration.

Tuesday, 1/22:                        Promises Made Under Fire by Charlie Cochrane

Wed., 1/23:                              Dirty Laundry by Heidi Cullinan

Thursday, 1/24:                     A Troubled Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, 1/25:                          The Dragon and His Knight by M. Raiya

Saturday, 1/26:                      Too Stupid To Live by Anne Tenino

Review of A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3) by M. Raiya

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Rating: 5 stars

Varian and Josh are getting married and all their friends are in attendance, Dragons, Knights, and lots of Humans unaware of their magical presence, all have come to see two of their best friends forever bonded.  Varian’s normal nerves of steel are rattled as never before when facing the prospect of a wedding planned by his unpredictable lover, Josh.  And the fact that his brother and best friend won’t look at him while refusing to tell him what Josh has  planned?  Not at good thing at all.  Plus the new age minister that Josh found to marry them is giving off strange vibes to go with the stranger looks he is giving the couple.  Varian’s wedding jitters continue to ramp up, only his love for Josh keeps him safely anchored instead of fleeing in panic.  Now if only he can overcome his natural dragon’s reticence  for speech in time to speak his vows!  What can go wrong next at the marriage of Varian and Josh from the Notice series? Welcome to their wedding where anything that could happen does and a special wedding present to match all wedding presents is delivered to the happy couple.

M. Raiya’s A Sky Full of Wings was my first introduction to this author and the series.  I knew this short story was part of a series I had not read before but ended up loving it even without the first stories to go by.  Raiya fleshed out enough of Varian and Josh’s backstory for me that I did not feel as though I was missing out on too much information.  I loved the characters the author created almost immediately from Dr. Adrian Varian Kendall, a teacher who just happens to be a black dragon and Josh, his human lover who just might be more than he seems but no one appears to  know what that is exactly.  All the elements here are vividly described, from the multilayered characters to a dragon cartwheeling in joy through the sky.

I felt that this story was so well written from the humorous beginning to the end with its unexpected wedding guests and its portents of things to come that A Sky Full of Wings is sending me back to start from the beginning.(note: I have now read and reviewed them. See below)  I don’t feel that it is entirely necessary to read the other books first to love this story as M. Raiya gives the reader all they need here to understand the characters in the wedding party and some of the backstory. This promises to be a great series for me.  I will let you know how it goes. Until then, don’t wait to grab this one up! You won’t be sorry.

Cover:  Cover artist Alessio Brio.  I love the dragon in the background, but to be honest, I have no idea what those things are on either side.  If you know, please clue me in as my curiosity is up!

Other books in the series, starting from the beginning are:

Notice (Notice #1) read my review here.

The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) a Christmas short (my review is combined with Notice – see above)

A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3)

Reviews of Notice (Notice #1) and The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) by M. Raiya

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Adrian Varian Kendall has always prided himself on his ability to keep his three lives separate from each other no matter how intense  his life got.  High school teacher, dragonshifter, and gay male, elements of himself kept partitioned due to necessity and security of those around him. Then he receives notice while teaching class, a clear message from a Knight to meet in battle but Varian doesn’t know which student left him the message.  Suddenly the walls between his separate lives collapse, as the Notice poses a threat not only to the dragon families Varian protects but to his human lover, Josh, as well.

Thousands of years ago as the Knights threatened all Dragonkind with extinction, Dragons hid by taking human form and vanishing into the human populations around them.  Now this one Notice threatens to bring all dragons out of hiding, expose them to the human world, leaving them vulnerable to attacks from groups of Knights determined to kill them once and forever. Varian’s lover, Josh, has no idea that he is living with a dragon and the stress of hiding his true nature from Josh is straining that relationship to the point of breaking.  Every part of his life is now under attack and Varian will do anything necessary to bring about a peace, even if he make sacrifice himself.

I have always loved dragons so a story about dragonshifters hits quite a few of my buttons. M. Raiya does a wonderful job of meshing dragon lore with contemporary reality to give us a really neat twist on the old Dragon and Knights  story.  Here the conflict between Knights and Dragons has carried through the ages even as both groups have undergone changes to adapt to the modern world.  In the past the Knights greatly outnumbered  the dragons and almost brought about their extinction, killing vast numbers.  To save their species, some dragons disappared,  and some took humans as thralls to help them exist only to disappear themselves too.  The rest took human form and quietly melded into human communities, dragon traditions and teachings fading as the centuries passed. Raiya gives us a wonderful backstory without taking away from the action adventure story being told.

I loved the characterizations as well especially Varian and Josh.  Varian is a complex character in love with a human whose background and personality exceeds his own in intensity and dimension.  Varian loves teaching and has a protective nurturing nature which is at odds at the fighter/killer the Knights force him to be.  He has kept his true form and identity from Josh and that has stifled his relationship.  He is still young and makes mistakes that comes from lack of experience in relationships and maturity. Josh is flamboyantly gay, from his makeup and glittery clothes to the sexual art forms he creates.  Josh is almost defiantly feminine which stems from an abusive background and parents determined to beat him straight.  I loved Josh who asks to be accepted for who he is even if he is not sure what exactly that is himself, just a great character  who provides both heart-wrenching angst and surprising abilities. Huntington is another person full of endearing qualities that just enlists the readers sympathy even when you aren’t sure he is deserving of it.  Only one character disappointed me  and that was due to not fully basing him in the plot as strongly as he should have been considering the impact his betrayal has on everyone later on.  His motive was never clear nor his backstory told so that his actions never made that much sense to me. I don’t want to be more specific so as to not give away spoilers for the plot.  But that was a hole I felt remained for the rest of the story.

I also had a few quibbles with some editing errors in the story, including a homonym that stopped me cold. Here Josh says “plaintively. “Can I be a terrible boar” instead of “bore”, something an editor should have caught. But overall, M. Raiya gives a fantasy story of dragons, Knights, and the enduring power of family and love.

The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) by M. Raiya

Rating: 4.25 stars

This is a Holiday Sip from Torquere Press featuring Varian and Josh from Notice.  It is their first Christmas together and Varian realizes the importance of choosing just the right gift for Josh, one that will show Josh how much Varian loves and treasures their relationship.  Varian has grown tremendously since Notice and M. Raiya let’s us in on Varian’s thoughts on their time together and the current status they have worked so hard to achieve since the events in Notice.  It is a heartwarming tale, perfect for anytime of the year and an enjoyable visit with a couple I came to love in the first book.

The first cover is by Alessio Brio.  I had a problem seeing the black dragons flying on the cover due to all the darkness (or maybe just my poor eyesight).  I just wish there had been a little more contrast so the dragons would be easier to pick out.