A Caryn Release Day Review: Past the Breakers by Lucie Archer

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When I finished this book, I was wondering how I would classify it.  Was it a ghost story?  Paranormal? Contemporary with a bit of magical realism?

In the end, I think it was all of the above.

Casey North escaped his small home town of Land’s End as soon as he could.  He went to New York City, became a chef, and opened a successful restaurant in Los Angeles.  Cooking was his passion, and the restaurant was his life, so when it burned down, he had nothing.  When his girlfriend left him taking pretty much all of his possessions, he ran away to the only place he knew to go.  Back to Land’s End.

He rented a house on the beach – a beautiful place, with an amazing view, to the point that he was surprised to get it so cheaply.  What he didn’t know at the time was that the previous renter had died in a surfing accident only a month before.

Myles Taylor had a fantastic life – he was a professional surfer, getting paid to do what he loved, and had the ring all ready to propose to his boyfriend.  They went out surfing in the morning, Myles got caught in a riptide, and next thing he knew, he was on the beach, alone.  Until his beloved but long-dead uncle came up to explain to him that he wasn’t alive, but wasn’t in “the Beyond” yet either, and was stuck to this place until it was time to leave.  No explanations, no purpose, no timeframes.  Myles could only go so far from the house before he was thrown back to the beach again.  Only animals could see or hear him.  He had absolutely no clue what he was supposed to do, and wandered around the house and beach perpetually angry at his fate.  When someone moved into the house that he had started thinking of as his, he had a place to channel that anger.

Casey planned to hole up in his rented house, avoid everyone but his sister and her family who still lived there, and hope to recover enough to go on with his life.  He was severely depressed, but the medications and the therapist hadn’t made much of a difference so far.  When things started getting thrown around in his kitchen, he couldn’t decide if it was a ghost, or if he was hallucinating, but he was scared.  Because he had nowhere else to go, he decided to try to make peace with the ghost (as well as taking medications to stop hallucinations).  After his initial anger, Myles realized that Casey was the only human he had been able to actually make contact with, and so he actively looked for ways to communicate better with Casey.

So what began as mutual fear and anger gradually became cooperation, then trust and friendship, and ultimately desire.  But how can a human and a ghost find anything permanent?  Especially when that ghost knows sometime he will have to go Beyond?

Initially I was really caught up in the book, enjoyed how Myles and Casey danced around each other, and wondered how the would get together.  About halfway through, maybe a little before, I figured out what was really going on, and then I just wondered how the author was going to get from here to there.  The way she did it was what made me drop stars from the book.  It’s funny how I have no problem suspending my disbelief for the ghost part of things, but as Myles became more corporeal….  well, no.  And the mystery aspect of the story, which really was a very little part, was unnecessary, especially the final wrap up of that sub-plot.  It was, in a word, stupid, and made for a terrible ending to what had been a really enjoyable book up to that point.  And after such a good start, too!  Oh well….

Cover art by Brooke Albrecht is actually quite pretty, though it didn’t convey much about the story.

Buy Links:

      

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published May 15th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitlePast the Breakers
ISBN 1635333997 (ISBN13: 9781635333992)
Edition LanguageEnglish

In the Spotlight: The Ghost in the Mirror by Faith Gibson (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Ghost in the Mirror (Samuel Dexter #1)
Author: Faith Gibson
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: September 29, 2016
Photographer: Randy Rls Sewell

What do you do when you have no memories of your life except the one moment that took everything away?

My name is Dex and I’m a Marine. Somewhere in the horrors of the sand overseas, an explosion took out not only most of my unit but also my memories of everything that happened before that day. When my memories don’t return, the explosion also ends my career in the military. That one moment costs me everything.

Starting from scratch sucks. I don’t even know what foods I like or what types of music I listen to. Am I a boxer or briefs man? Do I like women or men? I also have to figure out what I’m going to do with my life from this point on.

While adjusting to my new life, I start seeing things — things that no one else can see. I think that maybe my head injury caused more than amnesia. When one of my “visions” won’t leave me alone, I have no choice but to believe in ghosts.

Along with the ghosts during the day, at night I dream vividly of two men. But are these two men merely dreams, or are they memories? When one man steps through the door of my hospital room, I have the answer. This man literally tries to lead me down memory lane, culminating in a searing kiss. Too bad my brain isn’t cooperating, because this man is breathtaking.

With the help of my sassy grandmother, I begin to rebuild my life.

I am Samuel Dexter, and these are my stories.

WARNING: This book contains scenes that might be considered triggers for some. Sam is a Marine involved in an explosion. This book also (mildly) describes children being kidnapped in the past and their remains found later.

 

“Let me say I love the characters in this book!” – Tasty Wordgasms

“It draws you in and you have to keep reading.” – Alpha Book Club

“Love, love Faith!!!! I highly recommend this book. Another smashing success by a very talented author.” – Reader Review

I sat down on the stump and allowed the sound of the water to soothe my soul. When I had complained about karma coming after me for some wrong I’d done, Grams chewed my ass out and said I was being kept alive for something I had yet to do. Fate had tried to kill me twice, and I had survived both times, so I obviously had a purpose for still being here. That purpose manifested itself in front of me. I was so used to Cindy being around me now that I had stopped being surprised when she showed up. She climbed down the bank and stood in the water.
“Can you feel that? Can you feel the water rushing over your feet?”
She shook her head no. The little girl bent down and tried to run her hand through the rolling water, but nothing happened. It was in that moment that I vowed to stop being a whiny bitch. This little girl had lost her life, most assuredly in a horrific way, and I was complaining because I was alive. She floated back onto the bank and walked toward me. Cindy climbed up on my lap and leaned her head against my good shoulder. I would have given anything to feel her hair tickling my neck. This precious child needed comfort, and I couldn’t give it to her.
“I’m sorry I got hurt, but I promise I’ll start searching for clues again real soon. I have to go to see Dr. Carr tomorrow, so I’ll stop by the old fairground then.” Her essence combined with mine briefly, letting me know she was okay with what I had said. It was the strangest feeling, having another entity flow through you. She leaned back and mouthed something. Of course I couldn’t hear her and reminded her of it. She jumped down from my lap and mimed singing into a microphone. “You want me to sing?” Cindy nodded so hard, her hair bounced up and down. “Okay, kid. It’s your ears.”
I’d been in a pensive mood ever since Orlando’s visit at the hospital, so I decided to sing something upbeat. I started belting out Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”, and my little ghost started dancing. She grabbed the sash of her dress, holding on to both dirty ends as she twirled around, making her blue dress float around her. For the first time since she appeared to me, Cindy smiled, and I laughed. I was so caught up in the connection between the two of us that I didn’t hear the footsteps behind me. When a voice joined mine, blending in perfect harmony, I froze and Cindy disappeared.
I wanted to stop singing so badly, but I wanted to continue hearing his beautiful voice worse. I closed my eyes and sang, because if I looked up at Orlando, I’d have probably done something really unmanly. Like cried. And begged. And begged while I was crying. I’m not sure what I’d have begged him for, but it seemed the right thing to do. After the song was over, only then did I open my eyes. “We always did sound good together,” he whispered.
“I wish I could remember that.” I spoke honestly, keeping my eyes to the spot where Cindy had been. “I want so badly to remember it all, and I bet you’d probably like to forget.”
“Honestly? Yes. Most days I would like to forget I ever met you. Then there are the good days I cling to what we had and hope it wasn’t my only shot at ever finding love. But if it was, then at least I knew a love like no other.”
Orlando’s words killed me. Stabbed me in the heart, twisted, and pulled the organ out of my chest, tossing it to the ground where it landed with a flat thud at my feet. Then I remembered that he had a wife and child. If what he just said was true, he didn’t love his wife. God, how screwed up was that?
“Before we get to the reason I’m here, would you mind telling me who you were singing and laughing with when I walked up?”
Well, fuck.

 


Faith Gibson is a multi-genre author who lives outside Nashville, Tennessee with the love of her life, and her four-legged best friends. She strongly believes that love is love, and there’s not enough love in the world.
She began writing in high school and over the years, penned many stories and poems. When her dreams continued to get crazier than the one before, she decided to keep a dream journal. Many of these night-time escapades have led to a line, a chapter, and even a complete story. You won’t find her books in only one genre, but they will all have one thing in common: a happy ending.

 

When asked what her purpose in life is, she will say to entertain the masses. Even if it’s one person at a time. When Faith isn’t hard at work on her next story, she can be found playing trivia while enjoying craft beer, reading, or riding her Harley.

 


 

Faith is the author of The Stone Society, a paranormal, post-apocalyptic shapeshifters series; The Music Within, a MM romance series; and The Samuel Dexter books, stories about a retired Marine ghost hunter who has lost all his memories from before the accident that took him out of commission.

Want an Authorgrpah?  Head over to http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/authorFGibson now

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A MelanieM Review: Fish and Ghosts (Hellsinger #1) by Rhys Ford

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Fish and GhostsWhen his Uncle Mortimer died and left him Hoxne Grange, the family’s Gilded Age estate, Tristan Pryce knew he wasn’t going to have an easy time of it. He was to be the second generation of Pryces to serve as a caretaker for the estate, a way station for spirits on their final steps to the afterlife. The ghosts were the simple part. He’d been seeing boo-wigglies since he was a child. No, the difficult part was his own family. Determined to establish Tristan’s insanity, his loving relatives hire Dr. Wolf Kincaid and his paranormal researchers, Hellsinger Investigations, to prove the Grange is not haunted.

Skeptic Wolf Kincaid has made it his life’s work to debunk the supernatural. After years of cons and fakes, he can’t wait to reveal the Grange’s ghostly activity is just badly leveled floorboards and a drafty old house. The Grange has more than a few surprises for him, including its prickly, reclusive owner. Tristan Pryce is much less insane and much more attractive than Wolf wants to admit and when his Hellsinger team unwittingly release a ghostly serial killer on the Grange, Wolf is torn between his skepticism and protecting the man he’d been sent to discredit.

Goodness know I love a good ghost story and author Rhys Ford, so I was pretty much a happy reviewer when I saw the blurb for Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford.  And it delivered but it some unexpected ways given the previous series I’ve come to love and associate with this author.

Honestly, its more lighthearted, its quirky and funny.  Sure it has ghosts but some of them are of the four-legged type.  Tristan has seen a ghost giraffe and a ghostly elephant roam the estate and there’s a certain animal toy that will have you in giggles. Why? Because of who it belongs to. And yes, it has a Irish Wolfhound as well in the tale, a straight arrow to my heart for any story.  The pathos surrounding the ghosts is there as well, Ford knows not to leave that out.  The aura of mystery, sadness, hope, loss, death… everything we associate with ghosts is present here but presented in enough different ways that might make you sniffle, giggle, and pull back in horror.  Yep, Ford ran the gamut here, changing up the pace to keep it  interesting, the narrative swift, and the next supernatural blockade their relationship just around the next balustrade.

I loved the characters of Tristan Pryce and Wolf Kincaid.  They are well fleshed out, charming in their vulnerabilities and past histories, and so entertaining that I can’t wait for more.  In fact I felt that way about most of the secondary characters with the exception of Wolf’s assistants, Gidget and Matt who were more one note, and the least interesting of the bunch. Screechworthy kept coming to mind as it seems that was all the one thing (fighting, I mean, that they did, other than have sex).  When you don’t mind if a ghost kills characters, than perhaps you aren’t all that connected to them.

Luckily, I loved everyone else, from Mara to Wolf’s mom.  Those are keepers and I hope to see them in the next installments.  Surely Tristan’s greedy relatives won’t give up so easily.

Love Rhys Ford, or ghost stories?  Love romances with humor and a supernatural element or five?  Check out Fish and Ghosts, the first in a new series by Rhys Ford. I recommend it and the author.  Its out in a number of formats, from ebook to audiobook.  You choose your addiction.

Cover art by Reese Notley.  This cover really doesn’t do it for me, especially the representation of Tristan, who is supposed to have long golden hair, thin.  Just no, a surprising miss from this author.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 240 pages
Published December 30th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 29th 2013)
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesHellsinger #1

 

 

 

 

An Ali Review: A Frost of Cares by Amy Rae Durreson

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars                 ★★★★★
A Frost of CaresMilitary historian Luke Alcott leaps at the chance to live in the seventeenth-century country mansion of Eelmoor Hall, home of the Royal Military School of Medicine, after being offered a job cataloging the school’s archives. Luke believes he chose the perfect place to start a new life and put his broken past behind him. But soon after settling into the old house, he hears strange noises—like footsteps—and he begins to suffer from terrible nightmares.

The only person Luke can turn to for help is the taciturn caretaker, Jay, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who carries an old battle wound. Together they try to understand Eelmoor Hall’s history and decipher what could be causing the haunting. As the weather grows colder and snow dusts the countryside, a child goes missing. Luke needs to deal with his own demons and learn to trust in love again if he hopes to face down the angry spirit and find the missing girl.
  
 
I loved this.  This was a surprising hit out of the ballpark for me.  I had never read this author before.  In fact I had never heard of her before.  The blurb sounded interesting so off I went.  This book surpassed all my expectations.  I love a good gothic romance but I don’t come across them all that often in the m/m genre.  This one though was perfect.  The haunted manor, the ghost stories, the footsteps in the hallway, the cold spots, the breath on the back of your neck, the bad dreams, the paralyzing fear.  It was all here and was creepy as can be.  It was turn the lights on and look over your shoulder creepy.  In addition to this there was a beautiful love story.  It’s a story about forgiveness and letting go of the past and going on with the future.  
 
The story is told in first person pov as Luke tells us, the readers, a story about how he and Jay met.  He’s immediately personable and you felt drawn in right away.  It was like sitting down with a good friend while they tell you a story.  He tells you Jay’s comments and one liners and he’s goes along so you get a feel for Jay quickly also.  A part of the story is how Luke came to let go of  Danny, a love from his past.  This is an important part of the story and was both touching and heartbreaking.  Jay and Luke are great characters and I liked them both a lot.  They had good chemistry and you can feel what makes them good together right away.  
 
I think first person pov narration is hard to do well but again, I thought this was excellent.  In the course of this story this author had me laughing, had me scared to death and had my eyes filling with tears of emotion.  I felt so much for Luke and every event, every emotion, he went through.  This is a must read in my opinion.
 
Cover art by Garrett LeighI liked the cover.  I think it conveys the haunted, almost gloomy period Luke is going through in the story.
Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press  |  ARe | Amazon
Book Details:
 Kindle Edition, 153 pages
Published January 27th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB01AFW3XJM
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Mika Review: The Winter Spirit by Indra Vaughn

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

The Winter Spirit coverNathaniel O’Donnelly likes his life quiet, his guests happy, and his ghosts well-behaved.

Although a boyfriend wouldn’t go amiss. Someone to share his beautiful B&B with, even if it is in the middle of nowhere and he’s long past the wrong side of thirty. Problem is, Nathaniel’s living with a ghost who thinks he’s cupid, and whose arrows fly a little too straight.

Gabriel Wickfield had the unfortunate luck of dying before his time, and now he’s stuck trying to make romance happen to earn his right to move along. Not that he’s bored in the meantime–Nathaniel is just too easy to tease. And also a little bit scrumptious…

With the curse reaching its expiration date, Gabriel needs to make this final match this Christmas. Without it, nothing but darkness awaits.

Love can conquer all, but can it beat death?

I thought the The Winter Spirit by Indra Vaughn was an okay holiday novella. This author did a pretty good job with the character of Gabriel. I liked him, but I wish we would have had more information on him. I didn’t understand Owen’s involvement in the story at all. I felt like if we were going to focus on Nathaniel and Gabriel’s “relationship”, then the Owen parts could have been cut and we have more viable information on those two. I have so many questions; it’s a couple of holes in the plot. I see where she was trying to go, but I don’t understand how it was executed without any explanations.

Nathaniel’s character is someone who I’m on the fence about. I can’t tell if I like him or dislike him. On one hand he did really good things with his guest, Elisa, as well as Gabriel. On the other hand, how he handled and reacted towards Owen left a lot to be determined for me. They speak of a past knowing each other, but from the little that is given I’m kind of lost on what actually happened. I wish we would have had a few more chapters of this story. I was really getting into it at the end. I really do like the author’s writing style; it’s very easy to read and flows nicely.

Cover Art by: Wicked Smart Designs, This was a nice cover. It fits with the title, and I love the colors that were used in the design.

Sales Links:  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon

Book Details:

eBook, 125 pages,
November 18, 2015, 2015 by Indra Ink Publishing

Dreamspinner Press Advent Story Roundup

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The Ghost of Mistletoe Lock by Amy Rae Durreson

Rating: 4.25 stars

DSP: After lonely divorcé Isaac leaves his job as a banker to work as a conservationist on a country river, he gives up on finding the love he always wanted. Then he meets flirty jeweler Ryan and assumes Ryan’s out of his league, but Ryan’s just as lonely as Isaac. Ryan also has the housemates from hell, and when he storms out of the riotous Christmas party they forgot to warn him about, he soon finds himself lost in the snow.

Ryan passes out in front of the lock cottage where Isaac lives, and once Isaac brings him in from the cold, they finally have a chance to get to know each other. But when their insecurities get in the way, it’s up to the ghost of Mistletoe Lock to ensure they give love a chance

I really enjoyed this unusual tale by a new author for me, Amy Rae Durreson.  It starts off with the haunting (literally) death of a young mother in the lock and then forwards to the present where a young British man is leaving his shoppe for the evening after having helped his last customer, a rough looking man looking for a present for his mother.  It is Christmas eve and the party at his house sends him off on a path down the river and a meeting with a ghost and his destiny.  Durrenson has a lovely way with descriptions and her settings come alive with the cold beauty of the locks and river on a moonlighted  Christmas Eve.  Whether it is the Aga warmed old lock cottage or the vivid descriptions of the men themselves, her vision of her story is so clear that it conveys itself to the reader with the same ease and clarity. I loved both Ryan and Isaac, and found the ghost  Emily haunting in her pain. Christmas ghosts abound through literature, the season always bringing with it the joys of family and friends as well as our losses. Durreson has added so very nicely to that tradition. I look forward to other stories from this talented writier.

Traditions from the Heart by Bru Baker

Rating: 4 stars

DSP: When Aaron finds out Ben is missing out on some important Christmas traditions to be with him, he starts thinking of ways to give Ben new ways to observe the holiday. Can a homemade bear, a friend-made video, and a sock-eating goat become the traditions that keep Ben and Aaron together?

I adored this story.  It has everything I look for as a Holiday story.  It is warmhearted, sappy, contains family, love and Christmas traditions that I can relate to all rolled into one sexy and fun holiday tale.  Baker has a terrific way with the characters and the part about the stuffed cat was fun and kept me smiling.  It was lighthearted but still contained enough of the season’s melancholy memories that it rang true there as well.  Like I said, I loved this one and you shouldn’t pass it by.

Bless Us Everyone by Gina A. Rodgers

Rating: 3.5 stars

DSP Blurb: Edan has spent the past five years hiding in his home, living with the ghosts of his Christmases past and unable to allow for the possibility of a future. So when his vibrant and sexy neighbor, Tim, barges into his life with a stepladder and a plate of cookies, Edan finds himself living for the present. But can he let go of his bah humbug ways and accept this second chance as the gift it is?

Cute story about a man whose past has made him isolate himself inside his house for years until a new neighbor draws him out, and into a relationship.  Nice characterizations combined with heart and warmth.  A lovely story for the holidays.

Lucky by Ana Bosch

Rating: 3.25 stars

DSP:  Ever since Martel Heller rolled his first dreadlock, his love life has been blessed. For seven years he’s had the luxury of cherry-picking the hottest men available. But when the dress code at his new job forces him to hack off his lucky locks, his good fortune comes to an end.

To make matters worse, if Martel shows up at the company Christmas party alone, his creepy coworker Phil will know he’s single. As a last resort, Martel enlists his best friend, Felix, a fashion photographer, to hook him up with a model. Then plans fall through, and Martel ends up stuck at the Christmas party with the last person he expects—but as the hours pass, he wonders if he’s finally learned what it means to be lucky.

I actually came close to giving this story 4 stars but in the end the main character was such an unrepentant jerk right up to the last pages that I remained more frustrated than affectionate towards Martel.  I liked the concept that Martel felt his luck resided in his dreads and that once they were cut off due to an employee dress code, his luck was lost.  Now I do wonder about any company being able to enforce a “dread free zone”, especially as dreads can be pulled back and secured or kept “neat: in so many other ways.  Really the AACP or ACLU would have been all over this here in our area. But ok, even given that, there are other things about Martel that just leaves the reader cold.  When you make your main character a jerk and tell the story from his pov, then there should be some redeeming characteristics that allow the reader to understand or make concessions for his, in this case Martel’s, behavior.

I never felt we got that.  Instead we come to love Felix, Martel’s best friend who he treats poorly in so many ways.  Read this for Felix and for the ending, otherwise, I would recommend you skip this altogether.

On The Rocks by Ari McKay

Rating: 3.5  to 3. 25 stars

DSP:

For years, Mal has given Aidan a little piece of the world for special occasions in the form of unique rocks and fossils—until the year he gives Aidan a piece of the moon instead. Aidan has treasured every gift: in a world of impersonal relationships, they’re the one reminder he has that somebody out there cares about him for who he really is. Then through a twist of fate, their relationship goes beyond personal and into intimate, leaving Aidan shocked and set to run the other way. Despite his feelings for Mal, past experiences have convinced Aidan that he’s a failure at relationships, and he’s afraid to trust his heart. It just might take a Christmas miracle for Aidan to find the courage to love.

I actually liked this more than I think it deserved.  I think that perhaps it is due to the fact that when Aidan finally realizes what he has lost, he goes into therapy to try and fix himself first before trying to establish a relationship.  That realistic touch alone elevated this story for me.  I liked Mal and Aiden, although Aiden had to grow on me because of his self centered personality.  But with the concept of rocks as gifts which totally appealed to someone who has always picked up stones everywhere I go, to the idea of someone getting help to solve serious issues.  Well, kudos to  McKay for handling these elements of the story so well.

Bianca’s Plan by B.G. Thomas

Rating: 3 stars

DSP:  Bianca worries that her daddy, Gavin, is lonely and decides he needs a boyfriend for Christmas. So she enlists her father’s best friend, the straight and unattached Curtis. Gavin has a Christmas wish, too, and Curtis setting him up on disastrous dates isn’t part of it! Meanwhile, Curtis finds life becoming complicated as he tries to please Bianca, make Gavin happy, and fend off his own unexpected mixed feelings. Will anyone’s wish come true?

I thought this was a very cute story.  I have to admit that a story plot line that has a daughter or son setting their father up for a romance has always appealed to me.  And Thomas has one wonderful character in the mischievous and plotting little girl, Bianca.  She is absolutely adorable and believable as a 10 year old little girl who sees so clearly what is right before her Dad, that Curtis is perfect for them both.  Bianca wants two dads and a husband for her father and proceeds to get what she wants.  All the characters within the story have some depth to them, although I would wish for a little more realism.  But one sentence tanked this story for me.  When virgin Curtis (virgin to gay sex that is) and Gavin finally realize they love each other, they jump into bed to have sex (no problem here) but then they decide not to use either protectuion, no condoms, or lube. Why?  Because as Gavin tells Curtis, they don’t need that stuff.

“Not this time,” Gav told him. “Nothing fake. It has to all be real.”

So condoms and lube make have sex be less real?   Uh, does STD’s and pain make it more memorable?  Hmmm, maybe it does at that but not in the way I think the author intended.  That sound you hear?  The rating falling through the floor.  3 stars because I liked Bianca.

The Roommate by Teegan Loy

Rating: 3 stars

DSP: Ryan’s finally home after a long week of hiding in a hotel while his boyfriend’s parents visited. He isn’t happy that Jordan hasn’t told his parents he’s gay but believes Jordan when he promises to come out. When Jordan’s family ends up on their doorstep after a winter storm shuts down the airport, Jordan introduces Ryan as his roommate, leaving Ryan horrified and hurt. Jordan’s little sister notices and tells Ryan she’s going to ask Santa to make him happy… but does Ryan’s Christmas wish have any hope of coming true?

Teegan Loy has written a love story for the holidays both cute and frustrating.  Loy’s characterizations are so good that you fall in love with Ryan immediately.  And the fact that Ryan endears himself to the reader from the start (really that cooking scene is hilarious) that when his live in boyfriend hurts him by pretending to his family who has helped him move in Ryan’s apartment, then the story looses its joy and momentum.  Hard to root for somone’s love affair when you have a main character not as fully fleshed out as the other who is coming across as a jerk.  The author never gives us enough backstory for Jordan’s fear of exposure to make any sense, especially after meeting his family.  All we see is a man who continues to reject his loving partner who has gone out of his way to make things easy for his love and gets kicked repeatedly for his efforts.

Yes, there is a happy ending but I am not sure I ever believed it.  Loved Ryan though.

Soups and Diners by Alex Whitehall

Rating: 3 stars

DSP: Two days before Christmas, just after his best friend’s wedding, Max is in a diner when he’s joined by Stan, another wedding guest. Getting to know each other ensues with some awkwardness, teasing, and fun conversation. They seem to hit it off, but Stan has reservations, wondering if Max is too good to be true, and Max has a history of bad boyfriend choices. Will meeting each other be a Christmas miracle—or a prettily wrapped present that’s really an empty box.

Nice story.  But to be honest, I forgot about it as soon as I was finished.  Nice people, nice story, nice ending.  Nothing memorable about any part of this tale so I would give this a pass on that rationale alone.

Old Flames by Davi Rodriquez

Rating: 2.5 stars

DSP Blurb:

There’s something to be said for old flames. NYPD Sgt. AJ Cooper seems to think so. His ex, Brad Meyers, dumped him to work on getting a starring role in a Broadway show, leaving AJ confused and betrayed. Five months later, while patrolling Times Square, AJ sees a giant advertisement for Brad’s show and misses what they had… and then he sees Brad.

AJ grouchily agrees to meet Brad in Central Park the next evening, but he doesn’t realize what he’s in for. AJ might regain everything he lost five months before—or he might lose it all over again.

I thought this story had real potential.  I liked NYPD Sft. AJ Cooper as he seemed like a fairly realistic New York Cop right until his ex showed up and the story fell apart.  There is not much to the  character of Brad Meyers, no layering or depth to explain Cooper’s feeling for him.  There is also no real explanation as to why AJ was dumped after a long term relationship.  So why are we expected to believe that a smart cop would take this guy back?  We don’t believe it, and there is no passion, no credible love between the two to overcome such a wildly unlikely turn of events.  No amount of elf dust would let someone suspend their belief for this one.

The Perils and Pleasures of a White Christmas by Emily Moreton

Rating 2.5 stars

DSP:  Despite the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, FBI Agent Drake and his Army officer partner Tim keep their relationship under wraps for the sake of Tim’s career. Though they’d rather be open about their relationship, the sex and friendship make up for having to hide. Then holiday stress kicks in with a triple whammy of bad luck and they’ll have to focus on each other to find the cheer in the holiday furor, even if that means coming out.

Actually, this reads as a snippet from a much longer story and has very little to do with the blurb above.  Basically it is an afternoon/night in the relationship of Drake and Tim where the power goes out and they spend it in bed having sex.  That’s it.  No angst, no questions about their jobs or  closeted status, nothing.  Just two men who love each other staying warm under the blankets when the power goes out in their building.  It as though the author (who I love btw) has said “here is a bit from a book I am writing, what do you think?”.  And the answer is well it’s a lovely part, like the couple.  Where is the rest of it?.  So that’s what you should do, wait for the rest of it.  There is just not enough here to warrant reading it.

 

Review of Gregori’s Ghost by Sarah Black

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Rating: 5 stars

Gregori's GhostDr. Steven Russell’s grandfather, Charlie,  is dying. And in his pain, Charlie keeps calling out two mens names, that of Gregori and Alexi.  When Steven asks who those men are Charlie begins to tell his grandson a story, one he has never heard before, that of Charlie’s time in the Army in WWII. Charlie tells Steven that when he meet a Ukrainian war photographer, his live divided into two parts, that of “before Gregori and after Gregori”. Charlie tells Steven a horrific story of a mass execution that Gregori photographed and asks Steven to bring Gregori’s old camera to him in the hospital.  Charlie also gets Steven to promise to find  Alexi, Gregori’s grandson and make sure he is safe.  But when Steven returns to the hospital with the camera, his grandfather has already died and Steven has a promise to keep.

But there is so much more going on than just a promise.  When Steven pulled out the camera from its storage place, he noticed its mint condition and looked into the lens.  To his utter astonishment, he sees exactly what Gregori saw that day in the Katyn Forest when over 23,000 people were slaughtered and dumped in a mass burial to be hidden.  Steven can smell the oder of the guns and feel the cold creep into his bones.  Looking into the camera, he is there with Gregori as it happens.  And then Gregory and Charlie start to speak to him and tell Steven that he has to help Alexi right the wrongs and save the spirits of the two old men.

All his life, Steven has lead a self indulgent, golden life.  Now to honor his  promise to Charlie, he must leave it all behind to go to the Ukraine to find Alexi Temchanko  a Ukrainian journalist investigating the old crime.  While they have never met, they have talked on the phone, and the attraction Steven feels for the journalist is unsettling as is the fact that Gregori is still speaking to him, telling him that time is running out and Alexi is in danger.  There are people all around them trying to stop the truth from coming out.  Will Steven get to Alexi in time to save him and honor his promise to the ghosts of two men depending upon him as well?

Gregori’s Ghost is a wonder of a story on so many levels.  We have an historical element based on fact, that of Katyn massacre, a mass execution of Polish citizens in 1940.  Then around this monstrous crime Black builds a tale of family, obligation, honor and love.  Sarah Black is an expert on old men, as crazy as that sounds.  She knows how they sound and how they move and her characters resonate with authenticity of age and knowledge, how I loved Gregori and Charlie. But  Steven Russell is something of a new character for her.  He is a “golden boy”, a neurologist who is emotionally removed from everyone around him with the exception of his grandfather, who sees the true Steven.  He is a bit of a cad, taking from lovers and never giving of himself.  But Black takes this unlovable character and makes him grow and discard his shallow lifestyle to carry out his grandfather’s wishes. But there is no personality transplant but a realistic difficult change that Steven has to undergo.  It is just so very well done that I came to like Steven by the end of the story.  But Gregori’s Ghost is peopled with characters you will come to love and entrust with your affections, including Gregori and Charlie, the two entwined men who start it all.

On top of her characterizations, Sarah Black gives us a mystical element, that of the ghosts or spirits of Gregori and Charlie who continue to talk or berate Steven into action.  The author gives her ghosts as many layers as her living persons, right down to their sexuality as well.  Gregori finds himself tempted by the gorgeous Steven and gives in to their mutual sexual needs in several stirring scenes.  How you feel about the supernatural might dictate what you feel about this part of the book, but I ask  you to just go with it because the end is worth it all.

But most impressive is that Gregori’s Ghost is so different in that her traditional love of the land is missing here. Unlike all her other books where the characters are as wedded to the land as they are to each other, here the landscape is reduced to a minor supporting role.  Instead of the land being the characters foundation, it is each other that provides the emotional and mental support they need to go forward.  With the exception of Steven, Alexi, Gregori, and Charlie are men who by their nature and the circumstances they find themselves in, are men pared down to their core.  In pain, dying, they still act with honor and determination, something Steven learns along the way.  Like I said , a remarkable book.  Now this great book is free at All Romance Books.  Find it here and download it for free.  Run, don’t walk to the nearest computer and get it.  I hope you will love it as much as I do.  And while you are there, pick up some other Sarah Black books, starting with Marathon Cowboys. You will want them all.

Author Spotlight: Sarah Black

 

The Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black , review here

Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black, review here

Hurricane Sandy Relief Still Needed, Books with a Bittersweet tag and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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So on top of Hurricane Sandy, the nor’Easter hit the very same areas with another punch.  So I am putting out there once more the name of organizations providing assistance to those in need due to Hurricane Sandy.  Please help if you are able, even the smallest of amounts add up to someone being able to eat or have warm clothes.

American Red Cross

Ali Forney Center Housing for Homeless GLBT Youth

ASPCA

Humane Society of the United States

Now turning to books, I have some wonderful books for you this week, including the latest from Andrea Speed, Megan Derr, and Marguerite Labbe.  In particular, I wanted to talk about books labeled bittersweet.  I think most people see that tag and run as fast as possible in the opposite direction and miss out on some marvelous books.  Two in particular come to mind.  One is Rodney Ross’ The Cool Park of His Pillow.  This is absolutely one of my top books for 2012.  It does contains sadness and pain as it charts one man’s recovery from the death of his long term partner. But there is also so much joy, humor and love that it would be shameful to label it bittersweet as it is so much more than that limiting tag.  I feel the same way about Ghost in the Wind, the latest from Marguerite Labbe.  This story has a definite supernatural bent to it as it concerns the death of a man’s long term partner but in this case the man is murdered and his ghost returns to help his partner move on as well as solve a mystery.  Here the grief is palpable, the murder shocking and the suspense agonizing.  Dreamspinner Press calls it a Bittersweet Dream. Sigh.  I can almost hear the rejections on the wind.  Again, definitely not so.  Don’t miss this wonderful book either.  It’s painful, joyous, suspenseful, and full of boundless love.  I have the latest in the Infected series (darn you, Andrea Speed!!!) and a book from KA Mitchell that is not receiving the attention I think it is due.   So fasten your seatbelts and prepare for a wild ride of a week:

Monday:                       Chaos (Lost Gods #5) by Megan Derr

Tuesday:                       Ghost in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe

Wednesday:                 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and Marie Sexton

Thursday:                     But My Boyfriend Is by KA Mitchell

Friday:                          Splintered Lies by Diane Adams and RJ Scott

Saturday:                      Bloggers Choice

So that’s the week unless something changes.  Happy reading!

Review of The Gleams from a Remoter World by Fiona Glass

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Chris Mullens is a reporter/investigator for The Paranormal Times and he is slowly coming to the realization that the years have been piling up behind him while he has stayed relatively static.  He has remained at the same job for over 10 years, with no social life or partner to speak of.  He lives with Jo Perry, his co worker at The Paranormal Times and  has been her intermittent bedmate when she wants it.  The book he meant to write has never been started and lately all the leads he has followed for paranormal activity have not panned out, either they were hoaxes or just someone’s overactive imagination.  The one thing Chris has decided he wants is to win the coveted Moondust Award for the first journalist to prove the existence of ghosts and the next case their editor hands them just might do the trick if its authentic.

Their editor tells them that in the village of Kilveenan, off the coast of Galway in Ireland, there is a church said to be haunted by the ghost of a dead priest’s son, but the twist is that the son supposedly died in the Great War, so why is he haunting his father’s church? Chris readily accepts the assignment and is eager to be off, Jo Perry, his journalistic partner for the story, seems less so.  In fact she is starting to sound as though writing about paranormal events are the last thing she wants to do.  When the unhappy couple arrive in Kilveenan, they discover it’s not the church that is haunted, but the priest’s house next door and by a spirit so filled with rage that just for Chris to enter the cottage puts his life in jeopardy.

The more Chris investigates the cottage’s history, the more evidence he uncovers that involves, murder, murky family relationships, and a son that never returned to the battlefield.  And what little relationship he had with Jo is disintegrating the longer they stay in Ireland. When Chris and Jo meet up with Paulie and Bill, a gay couple on holiday staying at the same inn, Chris’ attraction to Paulie confuses things further for Chris, just when he needs all his attention to be focused on his investigation.  The ghost in the cottage is shaking Chris to his foundations, tearing him apart in every way.  Will he survive his ghostly encounter?

Gleams from a Remoter World has so many lovely elements to it, especially at this time of year.  The first thing that attracted me to the story is the setting.  I love Ireland and when a story is situated in a coastal village, you have my attention.  But even better is when the village and it’s inhabitants are so beautifully described that you feel a part of the place itself, then mark me down as a happy camper.  I loved Glass’ vivid portrait of life lived at the edge of the ocean, cold, wet winds whipping up the cliffs, moisture clinging to every surface.  The rain hitting you so hard it pummels you.  I loved the variety of people we meet (thank goodness, none are of that Irish leprechaun variety, twinkling eyes sort of thing), more of the brusk common sense type of folk.  Had this been a travel guide I would have been booking a flight out immediately. off to see Kilveenan.

I am unfamiliar with all those ghost hunting shows or the people who track down paranormal happenings, so I don’t know anything about the equipment they use.  I can see the running around ruins and graveyards (done that myself a time or two) and again the author’s gift for describing the Irish landscapes and buildings give the reader an immediate closeup feeling to the scenes underway.  I loved the ghost story here that incorporates all the good elements of a murder mystery, familial relationships, and a love affair that was hidden.  The author did a wonderful job of building the suspense with the ghostly apparitions, the drops in temperature that herald the appearance of the angry spirits, the change in color of the surroundings when history unfolds before Chris’ eyes.  Also realistic is the boring, tedious research that had to be done into the background of the church and the Anglican priest who presided over it and its members.   Fiona Glass made this part feel so very authentic, right down to the dusty tomes and hard to read signatures on ledgers.  Again, the author brought this element to life for the readers to the point we could almost breathe the musty air of the small town offices they had to visit for their information.

And then there are the characters of the story and my main quibbles come forward.  I can pretty much narrow down my issue with this story to two words: Jo Perry.  Chris Mullen, his interaction with the paranormal, and his interest in Paulie should be the main focus of the story.  But Jo Perry keeps interfering in almost every way possible, including my enjoyment in the book.  This is a m/f story that becomes a m/m story as Chris is clearly bisexual, which is just fine.  But the problem is with the amount of time she figures in the story, which is too predominate for my taste and the fact that she is inherently unlikable.  Jo Perry is supposedly a long time friend/partner of Chris, they graduated from the university over 20 years prior but does she act like a friend?  Not in any  way you would recognize.  She is distant, dismissive, uses Chris as a sexual partner when it is on her terms but possessive when he looks elsewhere.  She is rude, bratty to all about her, treats Chris like a doormat, and it turns out she is homophobic to boot!  All of this would have been fine if first she had taken up less of the story, and secondly, the author had the other characters around her react to her behavior in a realistic manner. That did not happen unfortunately.

Then there is the character of Chris Mullen, who I happened to like quite a lot. He is a quiet, thoughtful person whose good nature and calm demeanor seem to make it easy for Jo to take advantage of him.  Chris apparently dislikes confrontation to the point of submerging his wants almost completely in deference to other peoples needs and expectations.  While some might attribute that to a “lack of backbone”, I can see the glimmerings of a different take on his behavior altogether, such as an inclination towards depression.  Two much of this book involves conflicts between these two characters of Chris and Jo instead of centering in on Chris, Paulie, Paulie’s long term partnership with Bill who is suffering from full blown AIDS, and Bill, who I was sure realized that Chris was attracted to his partner.  What a wasted story element. This awkward triad had so many interesting elements going for it.  Apparently Bill has been suffering from AIDS for three years and this was a “last vacation” for them both. I wanted to know when was he diagnosed with HIV?  How had that effected Paulie? When you have a ghost filled with rage, how interesting would that have been to contrast that with the rage/anger of Paulie? Or even Bill?  Like I said, a missed opportunity to concentrate on people I wanted to know so much more about than Jo Perry.

We are given one or two hints to explain their behaviors.  She is bitter about a divorce, he is “depressed” but neither explanation is gone into detail, and it never redeems her behavior.  This is especially true when it turns out that she is homophobic to the point of rudeness and anger, attacking Chris for his bisexuality and the other men for their gay partnership (even one that is critically ill!). Chris’ depression is mentioned once or twice, but it is clear that he has never done anything about it.  Then there is the weight around his neck (and the readers) in the form of Jo.  Towards the end of the book when she has left (of her own accord by the way), Chris’ boss mentions how much Chris has moved forward in the last several weeks.  Does no one in the UK come right out and say  “Well, thank god, that soul sucking monster has left the building?” Is that not “done” over there?  And for one final blow, literally, to the reader and Chris, on her last appearance, she smacks Chris a hard one across the face when she takes insult over something innocuous he said that she misconstrued.   But does he finally let her have it, at least verbally?  No, she has her homophobic way one last time.  Little by little this character interaction just leached away my good feelings about this  book, leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth over abusive behavior given its own reward in a manner of speaking.

So, after all that, it does have a wonderful and wonderfully realistic ending, a HFN that is in keeping with the final two characters I think.  It also left me very conflicted over the rating.  So much of this book is deserving of a 4 rating or higher from the settings to the paranormal mystery to even the character of Chris Mullen himself.  But it is dragged down by the repellant persona of Jo Perry and her over the top involvement in the plot and her overextended presence on the page.  I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to pull up a chair next to Fiona Glass, hand her a red pencil and a glass of cabernet and talk about this book! Because really this is ¾ of a wonderful book.  Oh well, in any case I will certainly be looking forward to others Fiona Glass writes but color me divided when it comes to Gleams from a Remoter World.

Cover art by LC Chase.  I like the gray color tones and the ruins in the background, perfect if you are looking for ghostly ambience for the book cover.

It’s Almost Halloween and The Week Ahead in Reviews!

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The leaves are starting to turn some startlingly beautiful fall colors, crimson, rich golds and brilliant shades of orange.  I love this time of  year.  I love pulling out favorite sweaters and my feet love the warmth of my Uggs and my winter slippers.  My morning coffee tastes better when the first sip is taken outside watching the birds start their morning trips to my backyard feeders.

My pumpkins were carved and what a time that was.  The wild weather during the growing season has made for some unusually thick pumpkins, great for professional carvers.  Not so great for the amateur.  Not only did I manage to destroy all the little carving implements I bought for pumpkin carving, I also broke 2 kitchen knives, bent a steak knife and ended up swinging a huge thing that looked like it should have been carried by Jim Bowie in the wilderness.  I am talking hours here, folks!  So what should occur when I put it outside?  Well overnight and into the next morning, I had visitors that appreciated my pumpkin on an entirely different level.  They ate it!  Sigh.  Oh well, at least someone enjoyed my efforts.

There are so many great books being released now that I am getting a little overwhelmed, but in  a good way.  So this is my schedule for next week.  If it does play out this way, well chalk it up to my Fall crazies and Halloween overload:

Monday:                           Love Comes Silently by Andrew Grey

Tuesday:                           Chase The Stars by Ariel Tachna

Wednesday:                     Mine by Mary Calmes

Thursday:                         Gleams of a Remoter World by Fiona Glass

Friday:                              Torquere Sip Short Stories

Saturday:                          Theory of Attraction by Cleon Lee and Just A Summer Fling by Lily Grace

Any how that’s what I am aiming for in addition to pulling out my witch’s costume and putting new feather in my hat!  The ghostly jester skeleton is hanging in the breeze and the raven is soon to follow.  So much to do……