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: The Journal of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary #6) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 5 stars

The Journal of Sanctuary OneJake Callahan was looking forward to spending time with his brother, Hayden and his boyfriend up at their cabin for Christmas.  It had been an extremely tough year for everyone who worked at Sanctuary, the secret organization devoted to keeping witnesses  and other “vulnerables” safe when the alphabet organizations (CIA, FBI etc) couldn’t.  Sanctuary operatives were still trying to close down the Bullen case as there were files still to be encrypted and a few criminals left to round up.  Still, this time of year was special to Jake and he needs it now more than ever as the betrayal by exFBI agent Sean Hanson was as painful as the day he first learned that Sean was working for Bullen. Now all Jake wants is some peace and time with his brother but Mother Nature is making that impossible.  The northeast corridor is being blanketed by a snow storm, Hayden is stuck in New York  City with his boyfriend Beckett. and Jake is facing Christmas alone at the cabin.  That is until a bloody and injured Sean Hansen appears on his doorstep and faints into the snow.

Sean Hansen is being hunted and by several factions, all of whom want him dead.  The gunshot wound in his side attests to that and between the pain and the snow Sean is being to despair of ever making his destination.  The cabin called Sanctuary One was no longer used for official business but Sean figured it would just be off the grid enough for him to be safe there until the last of his mission is finished. And then all Sean wants to do is find the man he had started to love, so he could explain and apologize. The last person he expects to see just before passing out from pain and blood loss is Jake Callahan, the man he has been thinking about.

As the snow storm turns into a blizzard that seals the cabin off from everyone around them, Jake and Sean are left to deal with their memories, emotions and the fact that the killers are still on Sean’s trail, putting them  both in danger.

RJ Scott’s Sanctuary series remains one of my top series for 2012 and this latest edition just cements it firmly in place.  The Journal of Sanctuary One picks up where Full Circle (Sanctuary #5) left off, with members of the Bullen family in custody, the Bullen case coming to a close and Sean Hansen escaping from a prison van and on the loose.  Now only a short time later, all the operatives are in recovery mode in one way or another. Manny and Josh (Full Circle) are at a safe house in Canada, working on the encryption of the files, Hayden and Beckett are in New York, Dale is waiting for Joseph to come back from a mission and Jake is feeling alone and hurting from Sean’s betrayal. And you are there with him, feeling his pain and loneliness.

And that is one of the real joys of this series. RJ Scott has created a cast of characters, so complex, so real and from a variety of backgrounds that they are memorable from the very start.  In some books and series, I have to think hard to bring up names and associate them with their personas, not so with the Sanctuary series.  Mention Morgan and I can picture him in detail.  Joseph and Dale, two of the hottest characters (Navy Seal and ex Seal) in the series, and I feel as though I know them intimately.  Over the course of the series, we meet one unforgettable character after another and watch as they bond with each other, and find love. And through it all, the thread that ties the books together along with the Sanctuary organization is the Bullen crime family, which extends from Congress to the many family businesses.  The Bullens have destroyed families, tortured and murdered  their way to the accumulation of wealth and power.  And Scott managed to make the investigation as thrilling as her love stories.  Each book moved the investigation forward (and sometimes back, depending upon the double cross) and always a new criminal element presented itself by the end of the book as well as a new couple. How I loved every minute they continued to investigate the Bullen crime family, a most heinous group of thugs and the wild pathways they took to get evidence and witnesses.

And The Journal of Sanctuary One brings the investigation back to its very beginnings,  including something I didn’t see coming and back to Jake Callahan whose father started the Sanctuary organization and who built Sanctuary One.  The author really pulls together all the elements from each book, including some I didn’t realize were important, to finish off the Bullens once and for all.  We get a closer understanding not only of who Jake is, and what has driven him all these years but that of Sean Hansen, an enigma whose story we have been waiting to hear.  RJ Scott has included most of the characters we love from the other stories, even if we only see and hear  them over the phones and Skype.

And there is nothing like a snowbound cabin to bring out the emotional explosions and stress that have been building for these characters and the author delivers the required scenes in painful detail and authentically loud conversations.  Just what you would expect from these men who are so much each others equal in every way, just perfect.

So have we heard the last from Sanctuary and its operatives?  I hope not.  I get the feeling that we will be hearing from Dale and Joseph soon.  Remember Dale was expecting Joseph back from his mission and we never heard that he made it.  Hmmmm….funny that.  It brings me hope that this outstanding series will continue and that I will meet up once more with all my favorite couples as they investigate, hack, protect, and love. So if you haven’t made the acquaintance of Sanctuary and their operatives, start at the beginning with Guarding Morgan and work your way through the stories in the order they were written.  That way you won’t miss a double cross, new witness or new crime and or course, new couple.  You will love them as much as I do.

Sanctuary Series in the order they should be read in order to fully understand the Bullen Family conspiracy and the characters involved:

Guarding Morgan, Sanctuary Series #1 – rating 4.25 stars

The Only Easy Day, Sanctuary Series, #2 – my review here

Face Value, Sanctuary Series #3 – my review here

Still Water, Sanctuary Series #4 – my review here

Full Circle, Sanctuary Series, #5 – my review here

The Journal of Sanctuary One, #6

Buy link here LoveLaneBooks.co.uk

All the Sanctuary books can be bought at the link above.

Author Spotlight: An Interview with J.L. Langley

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Author Spotlight is on J. L. Langley.

I first wandered into JL Langley’s world with a story called With Love from the Hearts With The Ashes anthology.  Here I met her shifters Laine Anderson and his mate Dev and encountered JL’s wonderful blend of humor, vulnerablilltiy, angst and above all, heart that she  imbues in all her characters for the first time.  I read it once, and then promptly turned back and read it all over again.  I laughed and cried as much at the second reading as I did at the second and wanted so much more.  I wanted more of her shifters, more of JL Langley’s worlds.  Thank goodness there are plenty out there to  discover and journey through.

Next up came The Tin Star and JL Langley’s cowboys. Sigh.  How i loved them too.  You will hear more about them later on.  They will have their day, no worries.  My next love came with the wolf shifters.  That would be the  With and Without series.  Their fame has spread far and wide. Don’t speak too loudly or you will encounter the Sterling and Rhys bandwagon that careens around wildly, full of loud  fans screaming for Sterling and Rhys to be the next couple to get their own book.  One of them might even be me, uh hem.  And yes,  we will be talking more about all of them later in the week, so no fretting on the shifter front please!

Today is the day that My Regelence Rake is being released from Samhain Publishing so I know they are being bombarded by JL’s fan for theircopy of her latest  Sci-Regency novel.  Sci-Regency, what an unusual genre to be  sure.  Only JL would have thought to blend science fiction and the English Regency world and make it not only successful but downright addictive.  It all started with My Fair Captain and that delicious droll worthy cover.  This novel has remained a steadfast favorite of mine as it’s worn, dog-eared pages can attest to.

So this week, it’s all about the worlds of JL Langley and I will be giving away one copy of My Regelence Rake to one lucky commenter during the week.  The winner will be announced on Friday.  So to start off our week, let’s begin with a chat I had about how the term Sci-Regency came about.

MM:

Thank you, JL, for coming here today and participating in my first author interview. I have always been fascinated by the term Sci Regency.  Did you coin that  phrase?

JL:

“I did come up with the term and series name Sci-Regency. I’ve always loved Regency romance but wanted something different, unique. With the laws in the 1800’s being gay was punishable by law therefore it would’ve been very difficult to live openly as a gay couple. That seems so bittersweet to me. I wanted to be able to have my cake and eat it to, so to speak, so I combined Regency with Sci-Fi and wa la a truly happy ending was possible. Not to mention some cool technology and a way to bend the rules of society ever so slightly.”

MM:

I have a hard time picking out favorite characters of yours, I just love them all.  Do you have favorite characters?

JL:

“I love all the characters in this series but I have to say Steven and Raleigh, the King and King-Consort, are my favorites. I plan on doing a sort of prequel for the two of them eventually.”

MM:

My start with Regency fiction was Georgette Heyer and The Grand Sophy, a fondness that continues to this day. Do you have favorite Regency authors?

JL:

“I have several favorite Regency authors, but if I had to name one it would be Julia Quinn.”

MM:

I have to admit Georgette Heyer was my first introduction and I still love her. I love the way you blend such Regency mainstays such as horse racing, fencing, Tattersalls, and Regency dress with a science fiction setting. I love the way Regency social niceties and rules are given a m/m twist to them in your series. Here young unattached men are not allowed out without suitable escorts or chaperones. Do you ever find yourself just laughing out loud as you turn old ways on their heads in your stories? It’s such a great blend that you have achieved.

JL replies:
“I don’t know about laughing but I do love it. I really enjoy writing this series, it’s hands down my fave. I joke that I could gladly write this series and in this word for the rest of my life and be a happy woman, I really do love it.”

MM

I know you have told us but I can’t remember. Of course quite a few of us are shouting Trouble and Rexley at you! But I have to say I agree with you about Steven and Raleigh. I love their relationship and look forward to every scene with them in it. And you introduce a Cousin in this series, hmmm. Lord Demon? I know you had a recent excerpt with his name in it. Who is next in line for a book in this series?

JL:
“Blaise and Raleigh’s nephew, Dalton, (He’s the cousin “Lord Demon”), is next. After them will be Blaise’s little brother Bannon and then Rexley and Trouble. There are several guest appearances in this book by not only Steven and Raleigh, but Aiden and Nate and Rexley, Trouble and Muffin.”

Do you outline your books or have a story arc in mind when you start a new one? You are balancing so many elements in your Sci-Regency series from marriage proposals, intergalactic intrigue, and perhaps even genetic manipulation yet you still give us scenes full of passion, humor, mystery and love. What gives you the inspiration for each book?

JL:

“I do outline,but I loosely outline and leave room to change. In fact the last half of Colton’s book does not resemble the original outline at all. So it’s more of a guide than an actual outline because things are subject to change. Each book is a little difference. This one for example has less of the series plot with the IN than the others. It sort of depends on what the characters give me. For example in Dalton’s book, there is a pretty good look into Regelence government as well as Raleigh’s background. In Bannon’s book it’s very much back into the series plot. I do have an outline of sorts for each book in the series, but I am very character motivated in my writing, so things can and do change on occasion.”

Thank you, JL. I can’t wait to hear from you. I really appreciate your participation in my contest and Author Spotlight.

From the author’s website:

JL has been talking since she was about seven months old. To those who know her it comes as no surprise, in fact, most will tell you she hasn’t shut up since. At eighteen months, she was speaking in full sentences. Imagine if you will the surprise of her admirers when they complimented her mother on “what a cute little boy” she had and received a fierce glare from said little boy and a very loud correction of “I’m a girl!” Oddly enough, JL still finds herself saying that exact phrase thirty-some-odd years later.

Along with the motormouth, JL also displayed a very vivid imagination and artistic ability. The artist first surfaced in way of drawing and painting, then became more apparent with dance. JL was a member of the National Art Honor Society in high school and has won several regional and national titles in dance, specifically tap and jazz. In college she majored in Graphic Art, but chose to make dance her profession. She taught tap, jazz and ballet for fifteen years before settling into her career as a writer.

Today JL is a full-time writer, with over ten novels to her credit. Among her hobbies she includes reading, practicing her marksmanship (she happens to be a great shot), gardening, working out (although she despises cardio), searching for the perfect chocolate dessert (so far as she can tell ALL chocolate is perfect, but it requires more research) and arguing with her husband over who the air compressor and nail gun really belongs to (they belong to JL, although she might be willing to trade him for his new chainsaw).

This author also writes (m/f) under the name Jeigh Lynn.

JL Langley’s website is under construction but you can follow her through her  yahoo group, The Yellow Rose.

And her free short stories can be found at Fiction with Friction.