A Free Dreamer Review: Foreign to You by Jeremy Martin

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The harmony between humans and fianna, a species of shape-shifting deer, begins to wither as racial tensions and deeply rooted resentment turns violent.

Ruthless hunter Finn Hail and prophesied liberator Adelaide may be heroes to their own species, but they are enemies to each other. With war on the horizon, the reluctant pair must team up to find the most elusive of prey: the god of the Forest.

As enemies press in from all sides, true intentions begin to show. For Finn to save the boy he cares for most, he might need to aim his gun at the very god he seeks. And Adelaide, with her festering hatred for mankind, will have to determine if peace holds true salvation for her people.

First of all, I have no idea why “Foreign to You” is classified as Young Adult. The protagonists are the right age, I guess, but the story itself really has none of the typical young adult themes. It’s a brilliant Fantasy novel for adults, but I wouldn’t sell this as Young Adult.

Also, this is a “Literary/Genre Fiction” title by Nine Star Press, which, in this case, means there’s next to no romance here. And there’s a warning for “scenes of bloody violence and the death of a secondary character”, which should be taken seriously as well. This is not a criticism at all, just letting people know what to expect.

I absolutely loved this book. It reminded me a little bit of “Greenwode” by J. Tullos Henning, mostly because of the Stag God and the important role of the forest in the story. But “Foreign to You” is High Fantasy and has a very different story line.

The writing style was truly poetic. I’m really impressed Jeremy Martin managed to keep it beautiful and natural. A lot of authors have tried and failed spectacularly. But this was simply wonderful and it fit the story perfectly. It did a great job of transporting me to a world that’s completely different to our own.

Shapeshifters aren’t exactly a new thing in fiction, but the author took a very unique approach to it. The world-building was excellent and really conveyed the horror of the shift from deer to human and back. It made me wince and cringe in sympathy. I really don’t think I want to be a Fianna.

The story itself was a very sad one. Finn has a crazy father, a dead mother and was forced to join up with the hunters. My heart really ached for him and his struggles. His grief was utterly heartbreaking to witness.

Of course Adelaide’s life isn’t exactly easy either, she faces a whole different set of problems. She’s the prophesied Maiden, come to save her kind. Too bad she has no idea how she’s supposed to do that. And having a human form isn’t all that great either. I loved how she discovered her human body and had to find new words and meanings for all sorts of things. I could actually relate to the newness of a body that’s so very different from what she’s used to, even though a human body is obviously the only thing I’ve ever had.

I usually don’t like completely evil villains, that have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever and just exist to make life hell for everybody else. But yet again, the author excelled. Garth doesn’t have a single good cell in his body, but he was still a realistic, believable character with actual depth. The creepy twins he controls are yet another example of the type of villain I usually don’t like, but again, they worked perfectly for the story.

Honestly, “Foreign to You” was such an amazing book, I can’t possibly do it justice here. I can’t believe this is the author’s debut work, it’s incredibly polished and professional. If you like Fantasy and don’t mind your heart being broken, read this book. You won’t regret it. It was one of the first real highlights of my reading year so far.

I love the cover by Natasha Snow. At first glance, it looks beautiful and innocent. But the longer you look at it, the creepier it gets. A true work of art.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details: ebook, 299 pages

Published February 11th 2019 by NineStar Press

New Release Blitz Tour for Santa is a Vampire by Damian Serbu (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title: Santa is a Vampire

Author: Damian Serbu

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 26, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance, Male/Male

Length: 76800

Genre: Paranormal, vampire, elf, humor, satire, reindeer

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Simon the Elf wants to tell you the true story behind Jolly Ole St. Nick. Yeah, he’s a vampire. But that alleged gift giver and lover of children hides more than that fact from you. And what about Mrs. Claus and Rudolph? Venture into a world of enslaved elves, enchanted animals, and death wrought by Santa himself. With his sharp wit, Simon will lead you into the darkest realms of Christmas. Warning: Simon cusses a lot. But you would, too, if Santa held you captive.

Excerpt

Santa is a Vampire
Damian Serbu © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Jolly old St. Nicholas. What a laugh.

If you only knew the real story behind Santa Claus. He keeps it buried for a reason, after all. Because you’d hunt him down up there in his North Pole ice castle if you even had a remote idea regarding his real identity.

Mrs. Claus and Rudolph too. Well, maybe not the missus. It’s complicated. But more on them later. Back to Santa.

Let’s peek in on this esteemed man who brings gifts to children and represents the blessed holiday of Christmas, shall we? He would kill me if he found out I leaked this information. Well, I intend to leak it, no matter the consequences, because I’m keeping this in a journal. If you’re reading it, I probably succeeded. Which means dead Simon the Elf, for sure, if he discovers me telling people any of this information. But death might improve my situation since this enslavement sucks big ones. I started this secret blog and will release it without concern for my well-being.

So, if you’re reading it, I’m probably dead.

This first little story will tantalize you, get your feet wet with everything I want you to learn.

It’s late November, so Santa moves around a lot more freely because everyone expects to see him out there, greeting the children and gathering their Christmas orders. A lot of fools dress up like him to please the little kiddies or earn a buck. Everyone sees these fake Santas everywhere they go. Good enough for the real Santa Claus, because it hides him. He appears as another of the fool Santas walking about during the holidays.

That and his silly outfit disguise him—What a costume he picked!—but again it serves his purpose well. The ridiculous beard and red outfit mean Christmas cheer, presents, and a happy fat man coming to spread joy. Of course, he manages a real beard and authentic outfit to intensify the experience when people meet him.

Do you know why he wears red? I do. It hides the blood stains better. Okay, confession time. I’m throwing out my theory, but don’t ask for proof. He never said that or explained the red. It just makes sense to me. Even though he usually cleans the blood up. Oops. Getting ahead of the story again. Let’s take a deep breath and refocus.

By the way, in case you require my credentials, I’m an elf. Trapped against my will to do Santa’s bidding. More later.

Okay, focus. Late November. Turkey Day’s come and gone and Santa enters prime time. He creeps out of the ice palace, chains the poor reindeer to the sleigh, and speeds away, with a couple of elves, including me, enchanted in the sled against our will. We never know, until he issues a command, what he intends for us. Sometimes we ride along to keep him company; sometimes we get clean-up duty; sometimes we have to help.

We fly over various parts of the world, almost land in Germany until Santa spies one of those Secret Hunters. “Dangerous. Let’s go someplace else.”

“Scared, are ya?” I glance over at him. “Ouch!” Santa backhands me. It’s another curse of mine, but one I came to elfdom with. See, I’m a bit of a smart-ass and can’t hold my tongue. Gets me in trouble a lot.

“Let’s find someplace more hospitable.” Santa instructs the reindeer to change course and never answers my question. But I suppose the slap upside the head could be considered an answer, of sorts.

To America, the land of advancement and scientific reasoning. I recognize the coastline right away. Why, even the hardcore Christians dismiss Santa as a legend based on an alleged saint from the past. Saint, indeed. But such thinking helps hide his true identity.

We swoop over New York, but Santa seldom likes to hunt there because it doesn’t really present a risk. Masses of people living on top of each other, often killing and dying without his assistance. Where’s the challenge in hiding a body in that mess?

Moving right along, the reindeer glide over the little town of Wilmington, Ohio. It offers Santa everything he desires. I know from experience. Remote. Tranquil. Peaceful for the most part. Until a dead body materializes right in the midst of the holiday cheer. Santa’s way of taking a dump on Season’s Greetings in a happy little community.

So Santa guides the sleigh over Wilmington College and sets it down in the town cemetery. We can’t land on roofs yet, without people wondering if Santa’s calendar got all out of whack. Few people enter a cemetery in the midst of a cold November so we can hide out here.

He orders the reindeer to shut up, except Rudolph, who gets to run and do his own thing. He trots off with his bright-red nose high in the air. The other reindeer stay here. I often wonder if anyone questions the sudden appearance of reindeer manure where no reindeer exist. Of course, even if they thought about it, no one would come to the conclusion that Santa hid his sleigh and reindeer in the cemetery for a spell. Because most over the age of seven don’t think he exists.

Once he gets the reindeer squared away, Santa tells a couple of my fellow elves—two I think are big assholes, so you know—to watch the sleigh and get the hell out of Dodge if anyone shows up. Santa can summon us from afar, so no worries there.

Me? I get the distinction of tagging along with him. He makes me his personal assistant on these sublime missions because he knows how much I despise it. The killing. The secrecy. And his perfect disguise of being Santa. Well, this pains me to admit, but I think he also enjoys my company for some twisted reason, especially my mocking of him and constant chatter. We have a complicated relationship, to put it mildly, compelling him to keep me close, no matter how much I detest it.

My compadres snicker as I run along to keep up with Santa. I take a second to stop, turn around, and give them the bird.

We saunter right down Main Street and wave at the passing cars when they honk. I almost puke every time he lets out a jovial, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Little kids run up to him and say hello, followed by asking for presents. He feigns delight and interest while holding back an inclination lurking beneath the surface. Sweet little kid blood.

We get far enough away from prying eyes to meander down a residential street. Then we wander around while Santa scouts the houses and makes an assessment of our target. This goes on for a couple hours, until most children lie sleeping in bed. Even most adults are passed out by now.

One car zooms past. I wonder what they think, seeing Santa amble down the road amidst these houses, lit up for the holidays. Do they think it’s someone’s dad, surprising the kids in disguise? A hired dude going to a party? Maybe it’s a stripper, dressed for the occasion until the ladies (or men) demand the pants and coat come off?

Nope. It’s the Real McCoy. And the lady behind curtain number one, alone in her house as she waits for her husband to get home from the night shift, just became dinner. Okay, I have no idea if a husband on a night shift exists. I lied to make the story better. But the woman sits alone in this normal-sized house. Looks like she’s dusting or cleaning something.

Sometimes Santa walks right up to the front door. Knocks or rings the bell, and the fools open it for him. Listen, even without Santa’s hidden reality, who opens their door for a dude in a Santa outfit unless you’re expecting the stripper I referenced?

Anyway, no front door this time. Or back door. Instead, he touches the side of his big-ass nose, grabs me by my neck, and yanks me along as we fly through the air, land on the roof, and plunge into the chimney. He could get in the fucking house any way he wants, by the way. He does the blackened chimney thing for two reasons. One, for effect. You know, back to living up to the legend and playing by the rules. Despite the fact the sleigh and reindeer remain hidden among the dead in the cemetery and not up here on the roof with us. No one will question a big guy in a Santa costume plopping into their fireplace and shouting out a “Yo!” It may startle them, but since it conforms to the legend, people tend to go with it. Idiots. Two, he does it tonight because I hate it. I hate heights. I hate flying. And I hate when he touches me.

We hit the fireplace grate and roll out onto the carpet in the living room, where we stand in triumph before the poor woman, who gives a yelp. Actually, she screams bloody murder.

“Shh, my dear one. Shh!” Santa puts his finger up to his lips and winks at her. “Nothing to fear. I imagine you didn’t believe in good ole Santa anymore? Adults so seldom do these days. But as you saw from my arrival through your chimney, I do, indeed, exist!” Santa sweeps his arms out with a flourish, to indicate his body and presence in the flesh.

The woman stops screaming, thank God, before my eardrums rupture.

“And this here is my worthy assistant, Simon.”

“I’m not here because I want to be—” Santa clamps his hand over my mouth and glares a warning. Right. I’ll stop, because getting locked in the ice dungeon when we get back to the North Pole totally sucks.

“Is he all right?” she asks him and points to me.

This is what gets me so pissed off. Stupid fucking people. I want to shout back at her. Hey! Lady! Wake up! A big fat ass plunged down your chimney with a little elf under his control. You scream, but because he wears a red suit and laughs and has a crazy beard, you relax and engage him? Trust me. You do not want to engage him!

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He has published The Vampire’s Angel and The Vampire’s Protégé with NineStar Press. Coming later this year from NineStar: The Vampire’s Quest and Santa Is a Vampire.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

A MelanieM Review: The Dragon of Ynys by Minerva Cerridwen

Standard

 

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Every time something goes missing from the village, Sir Violet makes his way to the dragon’s cave and negotiates the item’s return. It’s annoying, but at least the dragon is polite.

But when the dragon steals a person, that’s a step too far. As Sir Violet ventures out to get the missing baker back, however, he quickly realizes things are not at all what they seem..

Ever read a story that made your heart smile? That left you feeling warm, happy, and with an urge to read it out loud to someone?  Children, adults?  Just because you wanted to spread the joy a special tale had given you?  Well, The Dragon of Ynys by Minerva Cerridwen  is that story.

After I finished it, I wanted to grab onto the author and publishers and beg them to put it out in a hardback version, complete with illustrations.  One I could pick up and read to groups of children, no matter the age or even adults for that matter.

This book is charming, adventurous, and brings out the best in it’s characters.  Perhaps in its readers as well because it speaks to the heart in a gentle, kind, and  humorous way.  It has a dragon that steals things because it’s lonely and wants companionship. And just maybe  because certain things strike it as pretty or downright hilarious.  It has a knight named Sir Violet who’s nature is gentle and home loving.  And a village that suits them both.  I mean really, it’s full of characters who are absolutely a delight to spend time with (as you will) and whose lives will pique your interest (oh yes, they do).

I can’t remember reading any novelette I loved more recently.

I need to find more stories by this author.  This story is beautifully written, concise, and yet it flows just as it should.  The characterizations are perfect for the story.  Would I mind a return?  No.  Do I need one? No.  I think its marvelous as it.

Do you love fantasy?  Here’s a jewel you shouldn’t miss out on.  There is a romance but not the one you might be thinking of. Definitely no sex.  I told you I would read this to children.  There is a F/F couple, a dragon and knight to die for and so much more.  I highly recommend  The Dragon of Ynys by Minerva Cerridwen.  

Cover art:  Kirby Crow.  I love it.  It’s perfect really for the tone of the story.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 94 pages
Expected publication: May 16th 2018 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781684312863
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: One Thousand Cranes (Yakuza Path #3) by Amy Tasukada

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When a body goes missing, a young Yakuza’s life hangs in the balance…

Aki Hisona’s latest promotion is a cause for celebration. But because his new job is working as the personal secretary for the Yakuza’s Kyoto-based godfather, it’s also a cause for dangerous envy. He takes an invitation from a friend for congratulatory drinks, but Aki never thought the night would end with a deadly knife fight…

Aki is tasked with disposing of his friend’s corpse, but there’s one problem: the body is missing. As body parts surface around town, it’s only a matter of time before the police piece together the clues. But keeping one step ahead of the cops may not matter if Aki can’t solve the mystery before his cold, unforgiving godfather boss does…

The Yakuza Path: One Thousand Cranes is a pulse-pounding standalone thriller in the ongoing series of Japanese mafia stories. If you like gritty settings, page-turning whodunits, and accurate portrayals of Kyoto traditions, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s gripping tale.

The first story in this series,Blood Stained Tea (The Yakuza Path, #1,  was going to be hard to surpass for any author.  It was bloody, shocking, and brilliant in it’s execution. And yet for Nao Murata and the series to continue, Amy Tasukada had to figure out how to grow this admittedly psychotic character, expanding Nao past the persona we know and his universe as well.  The author has done so with each new story, figuring out a way to move her characters forward, into new situations, while keeping the past (which is key to Nao’s personality) and including new components and people.

Better Than Suicide (The Yakuza Path, #2) ushers in Nao as the head of the Matsukawa Yakuza syndicate.  Here we saw Nao elevated to high position, yet still under assault by many factions, unsure of who to trust.  The novel was complicated, labyrinthine in plot lines, showed Nao’s ability to adjust and his cunning, while he was still dealing with the fallout from the events of the first story.  And it introduced Aki Hisona, the first person pov of One Thousand Cranes.

One Thousand Cranes marks the departure of the pov from Nao to someone who serves him, Aki Hisona, his personal secretary. I have to admit I miss that haunted, warped perspective of Nao’s.  But it’s replaced here with one that almost equally obsessive.  Aki has one love, one all consuming focus.  Nao.  Not that it’s returned.  Because it’s not.  Nao’s love is gone forever…killed in the past in a horrific crime he was a part of.

Obsession never ends well.  And that’s the thought the flies constantly through my thoughts here in this story.

For Aki, being close to Nao is everything.  Not exactly healthy.  From many standpoints.  For Aki exists within the Matsukawa organization and he’s not only been recently promoted from the rank of the new recruits but he’s now close to the “Father” of the Matsukawa Clan with all that means.  Within the syndicate, there are reverberations, jealousies, and dealings, along with the police, and the annual Kyoto ceremonies to attend for Aki to keep up with.  All that and his feelings for Nao too, a barely restrained killer or is he?

No, this is not a romance.  This is someone who has a crush, or obsession with his boss, who is a psychotic killer and crime lord. Also, Aki is shy,gay, withdrawn, with a skin condition that keeps him covered from wrist to chin. Not exactly someone who fits in with the Yakuza model recruit mold.  No, Aki cannot stay the same and remain next to Nao and he doesn’t.  This story is his metamorphosis.

The author takes all these facts and uses them in a narrative that’s combines the delicacy of a cherry blossom and cutting edge of a knife.  Nao is still that addictive blend of ruthless killer and lover/protector of historic Kyoto and its culture.  Tea master and psycho. Even Aki seems at the end to realize he’s not sure which he will see…not that it matters to him.  Here is it Aki that does the changing for his obsession.  How the cranes fits in is just another joy and deep layer of this story and series.

This is a story and series you read for the complicated characters, the sliding maze of relationships, and a fog of a future that never looks bright.   The writing is incredible, the themes addictive, and, somehow, however psychotic and bloody it gets, you just can’t let Nao go.  Because he too is mired in the deep tragedy in his past.  This saga has me in it’s grips.  Once you start, you will feel it too.

None are stand alones.  Read them all in the order the author intended.  I highly recommend them all.

The titles of these stories are as much a perfect touch as are the covers.

Cover art is again perfect for the story and series.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Published December 12th 2017 by Macarons & Tea Publishing
ASINB077TLCSRG
Series The Yakuza Path:

Blood Stained Tea (The Yakuza Path, #1

Better Than Suicide (The Yakuza Path, #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Dom on the Side (Blowing It #3) by Kate Aaron

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Handsome man holding a briefcase in a vintage interior

Handsome man holding a briefcase in a vintage interior

“I’d love to Dom you one day. You’d be a natural.”

When a one-night stand makes Ryan Jessop a casual offer to introduce him to BDSM, he’s torn between denial of his submissive fantasies and their irresistible pull. Taking a chance, he discovers in Jim a skilled Dominant, and under his guidance, Ryan’s submission blossoms. Unfortunately, guidance is all Jim can offer. The one thing Ryan wants most—a loving Dom to whom he exclusively belongs—is off the table.

Sameer Farouk is the right guy at the wrong time, and as far as Ryan can tell, not kinky. No matter how clearly Ryan can foresee a future with Sameer, he refuses to settle for less than total compatibility, both in and out of the bedroom. Despite their obvious connection, breaking up is the right thing to do, even if it breaks Ryan’s heart.

Torn between them, Ryan must decide if he’s prepared to gamble everything on one man, or if he’d be better off with a vanilla boyfriend and a Dom on the side.

*Dom on the Side is the third book in the Blowing It universe, but can be read as a standalone.

I have mixed feelings about this story that I’ll mention below, but two important facts readers should know about this story up front—this is a prequel to the other two books in the series and takes place about five years before the start of Blowing It. And the second fact—Sameer, the second MC, isn’t introduced until the latter part of the story (at 75%) so it’s difficult to label this a romance.

The words that started Ryan on the road to BDSM were fairly simple and casually spoken after a one-night stand with a guy named Jim: I’d love to Dom you one day. You’d be a natural.” He’d always known he was a little kinky, preferring stronger, more dominant men in bed, and he’d visited a club once with his best friend, Owen, but he’d never seriously considered it until those words ate at his subconscious, and he finally gave in and called Jim to talk about it.

Jim introduces him to the world of BDSM and all its various facets, but he makes it very clear from the start that he’s only looking to play with Ryan—he’ll never get serious since he’s already got a life partner. That shocks Ryan and later causes him to add penetrative sex to his list of things he won’t do with Jim, but he gains more understanding of the open relationship Jim and his partner, Gaz, pursue once he meets Gaz at a local BDSM club. That was an experience, not only for Ryan but for readers as well. No spoilers! However, Gaz’s preferences in the scene were totally different from most this reviewer had previously read, but it was the first time it was positively presented, and I felt drawn to learn more about that kink. As a side note—it would be great to see a sequel featuring Gaz and his partner-in-play, Liam.

The author takes us on Ryan’s journey into the world of BDSM play—from his first visit to a club through his weekly sessions with Jim as they explore various forms of play, including use of restraints, paddles, floggers, sounding wands, and more. In fact, most of the story centers around Ryan’s relationship with Jim. Though he wishes desperately to find a man with whom he can experience both worlds, he despairs of ever having that happiness. When he meets Sameer, at first it’s just a one-night stand, and then weeks later he sees him again, and the two begin to seriously date.

But Ryan always shields his heart because he’s desperately afraid he’ll fall in love, and he just knows Sameer will turn away from him if he reveals his kinky side. This leads to an emotional tug-of-war throughout the last fourth of the book.

This story can be read as a standalone since it comes way before the first book in the series. If anything, readers may be prompted to continue Owen’s story with the first two books after they read this. I enjoyed it and the author did an outstanding job in explaining the world of BDSM and many of the aspects of the lifestyle and of the equipment used, however, it fell flat as a romance. Between the fact that Sameer wasn’t introduced until the end of the book, and Ryan’s efforts to remain emotionally uninvolved with him, it really didn’t feel like a romance at all. His relationship with Jim, however, was interesting, emotional, and clearly illustrated many of the aspects of a good Dom-sub relationship. If you are well-versed in BDSM, you may find this story too much of a primer. If you are new to the theme, this book provides a very good foundation, and I would recommend it with the caveat that you won’t be getting a lot of romance. Hot sex? Yes! Romance? No.

~~~~~~~~~

Cover design by Elizabeth Mackey Graphics features a man’s two arms tightly gripping white fabric and linked by a pair of bright blue leather handcuffs, clearly illustrating the MC in this story.

Sales links:  ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 285 pages
Published January 25th 2016 by Croft House (first published January 24th 2016)
Original Title Dom on the Side
Edition Language English