A Free Dreamer Review: Juggernaut (Strain #0.5) by Amelia Gormley


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

They helped destroy the world. Now they have to survive the new one.

For rentboy Nico Fernández, it’s a simple job: seduce a presidential advisor to help cement approval to launch Project Juggernaut. He’s done similar work for General Logan McClosky before, and manipulating people for his favorite client beats the hell out of being trafficked for slave wages in some corporate brothel.

Zach Houtman feels called to work with the most vulnerable outcasts of society. But his father, the Reverend Maurice Houtman, insists that Zach work for him instead as he runs for Senate. Zach reluctantly agrees, but is horrified to see his father leave behind Christ’s mandate of love and mercy to preach malicious zealotry and violence instead. Zach even starts to suspect his father is working with fundamentalist terrorists.

When Project Juggernaut accidentally unleashes a deadly plague that claims billions of lives, Nico and Zach are thrown together, each bearing a burden of guilt. With only each other for safety and solace, they must make their way through a new world, one where the handful of people left alive are willing to do anything—and kill anyone—to survive.

It’s no secret that I have a thing for dark, creepy and apocalyptic books. Juggernaut promised all that and more. And I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed in the least. In fact, I absolutely loved this book. It was brilliant.

I liked Nico from the start. He’s not the kind of poor, helpless rentboy in desperate need of a saviour we usually see in this genre. He’s in the business out of his own free will and he knows how to defend himself when the need arises.

At first, I was a bit concerned about whether I’d like Zach. I’m an atheist and I tend to dislike very religious characters in my books. I just find it very hard to relate to somebody whose main purpose in life seems to be in their faith. But Zach was a pleasant surprise. While his faith is very important to him, it’s not his defining character trait. He never judges people based on their faith or lack thereof. He never tries to play missionary. He just quietly tries to help in whichever way he can. If somebody finds solace in praying together, he’s happy to do so. If somebody doesn’t want to pray, then that’s fine too. I really liked his approach to religion.

Many m/m books that deal with religion in one way or another tend to portray it negatively: Bigots, zealots and generally unpleasant people. “Juggernaut” had both the negative example (Zach’s father is a real jerk) and positively (Zach’s approach is very tolerant). It was very interesting to see the conflict between Zach and his father and their different ideas of what being a good Christian means. It made for an interesting subplot.

The main plot focuses on survival. At times, it gets pretty violent and a bit gory. The tone is very dark. This is not a happy story, at all. The story is incredibly addicting and it was next to impossible to put the book down. There’s lots of action, but the romance is rather slow to unfold. Personally, I liked that. And it fit the circumstances. Zach led a very sheltered life so far and there’s just so much else going on in the lives of our MCs, there just isn’t all that much time for them to develop really romantic feelings for each other.

Nico is a Latino and he’s very conscious of what that means. So racism and inequality added another interesting layer to the plot.

The ending is rather open, but again, that just fit the whole story. I really want to know what happens next. In Nico’s and Zach’s lives and in the entire world.

Long story short, “Juggernaut” is utterly brilliant. If you like dark, apocalyptic stories with a bit of romance thrown in, then this book is a must.

I really like the cover. It’s delightfully dark and violent and fits the mood of the book perfectly.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 2 edition, 320 pages
Published April 20th 2018 (first published August 8th 2015)
Original TitleJuggernaut, A Strain Novel
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesStrain 0.5
CharactersNico Fernández, Zach Houtman

A Sammy Review: Fallout by Lisa Henry and M. Caspian


Rating: 5 out of 5

“When I was little I used to climb in my treehouse and pretend a dragon kidnapped me and yell for my dad to come and rescue me. I guess he got sick of me pestering him every five minutes, because one day he came home with a plastic sword from the store and said I needed to learn how to rescue myself.” A smile tempered her tone. “So I told him now we had to take turns rescuing me.”

Bastian’s throat ached.

[Name removed] was silent for a long while before she spoke again. “I don’t remember whose turn it is though.”

Fallout coverBastian and Jack have been friends for more than half their lives, lovers since high school. They have a rhythm, a kind of routine, but as with many relationships, things become rocky. That’s why they head back to Missouri, their home state, to rekindle their romance with a hike that they took as teenagers. That, and Jack needs to do research for his masters.

What unfolds after their short time on that mountain is nothing short of disastrous. The world, once so colorful, is blanketed in dull gray ash. But the ash brings more than darkness with it, and the world as Jack and Bas knew it is a broken, mangled thing of the past.

The water stain on the wall looked like a face. There was a word for that: the way the brain interpreted random shapes and patterns as faces. That had seemed nice once, that people were always searching for meaning around them, for connections with other people. Something spiritual. But he’d be wrong; it was something primal instead, something vicious. Something in an animal’s brain that needed to see a predator in a split-second through any camouflage.

I went into this hoping for something dark and twisted, and I got exactly what I wanted. The world that Lisa Henry and M. Caspian created was nothing short of divine, a true and original conception of a time that we conceptualize as apocalyptic.

There’s something about shows and movies that allow their watcher to experience something that is almost outside their existence, like travelling to another place we hope we never actually have to exist in, but get some sort of sick thrill from watching others suffer within the imaginative doom. This book did that for me. It painted a scenario that I would do anything never to live through, but some part of me ached to touch it and the way it was written gave me that ability to grasp at it, at what the world would look like in a thick layer of ash and without rules. It was a treasure to read.

The authors boldly went into the darkest places of humanity, right to the edge. They looked at the way some humans react to chaos, and how a world without rules creates monsters out of men. Then, they took men, men who we got to know, and showed us just how far they would go to survive. It was beautiful and more than a little bit raw. I have a great deal of respect for the authors who exposed the depths of a human that others are afraid to acknowledge.

Then there’s the way in which they took characters, characters who did absolutely despicable things, and made you feel with them, for them. When Bas was going through emotions, I went through them too – that confusion about a saving grace or the one thing that would push him over the cliff. I felt the way he grasped onto everything that he could just to push ahead, and how the pain was more than just a physical thing for him. He breathed it, and he moved on. He was truly a strong, unapologetic character.

It’s simple, this story is not going to be for everyone. Another reviewer has mentioned that it’s not a romance, and I would agree to an extent. It’s about survival, and about moving forward together, and if that’s not just a little romantic, I don’t know what is. Even in the fucked-up world Henry and Caspian created, there was something tender to that realization. It’s dark and brutally honest, and if you’re not ready to confront that, you’re going to be left with a bitter taste in your mouth. But if you can confront it, well then you’ll be quite pleased.

In sum, this was a wonderful and memorable book in a world that I would love to read more of, after all the ash touched more than just their small area, right?

The cover art by Natasha Snow is simply beautiful and fits the story so well. It has that dark edge and the shadows that reflect in the story.

Sales Links:      Amazon          Buy it Here

Book Details:

ebook, self published
Expected publication: April 17th 2015
edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Dead Things by Meredith Russell


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Devin never thought he could find hope or love among the ruins of a broken world. Not until he found Noah.

Dead-Things-ebookDevin Reed is one of the last survivors of a virus that has turned the earth’s population into living corpses…zombies.  Devin lives and conducts daily hunts from high security penitentiary in Kansas State that provides his group of survivors with shelter and security.   Devin returned from his last tour in Afghanistan to find the world gone mad.  He lost everyone he loved to the plague, including his long term partner and love.  Broken hearted and enraged by the circumstances he finds himself in, he risks his life daily to leave to hunt for supplies and any other survivors he can find.

One fateful scavenger trip changes everything when Devin and his partner check out what looks to be an abandoned farm house and find Noah Webber, the last of his family and the only person to survive a zombie attack.  Each man has lost so much, and their attraction to each other is bound up in each other’s survivor guilt and fear.  Together Devin and Noah unite to fight the monsters around them.  But it will take more than determination and firepower to win, it  might take finding the courage  to risk all for love and the hope of a future.

Just when I think I’ve about had my fill of all things zombie, along comes a story to remind me why this genre is so pupular.  Dead Things by Meredith Russell manages to combines  the heartbreak of loss, suspense, a post apocalyptic world, zombies and, of course, romance and has us sitting on the edge of our seats while doing it.

I especially liked her character, Devin Reed.  He is the epitome of a survivor, complete with a lost love, a sense of futility about the present and yet he endures and perseveres.  He’s also a warrior, hot, and gay.  Devin feels real,  he is shut down emotionally, allowing only the pain of loss or anger to penetrate the barriers he has erected again any further vulnerability.  There are other characters around that also seem authentic to the direness of the circumstances they find themselves in but Devin comes across as the most believable.

Noah Webber took longer for me to invest in.  His attitude seems at odds with his history and background.  And although we got a good explanation for his actions and outlook, it ended up irritating not only Devin but the reader as well.  Luckily for the story, that faded away under the onslaught of zombies and the events that occur.

Russell adds in high suspense, to go along with the anxiety of survival and the prickling of hope for the future.  The author solidly builds her story and keeps us guessing as we head into the climax and story resolution.  It’s fun, heartbreaking, white knuckle ride all the way to the end.  If you are a lover of zombies and post apocalyptic worlds to go along with your M/M romance, then add this to your TBR list.  It delivers what it promises. And that makes it one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words recommended reads.

Like most fiction of this trope, a small group of survivors has banded together in the most secure place they could find, a high security penitentiary.  This place has become their world, complete with a dictator who makes the rules and expects everyone to follow them.

Cover art by Meredith Russell.  Love the cover, it works perfectly for the character and gives a dark tone to the overall look.

Sales Links:  All Romance (ARe)       Amazon        Dead Things

Book Details:

book, Second edition
Published August 29th 2014 (first published August 2012)