A VVivacious Release Day Review: The Eye of Ra (Repeating History #1) by Dakota Chase

Standard
Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 5
 
Aston and Grant are at odds with each other almost from the moment they first see each other. Besides the fact that they are both delinquents serving out their sentence in the Stanton School for Boys they have nothing in common. But they have no idea what the future has in store for them.
 
Aston thinks he is in enough trouble as it is but when a fight with Grant accidentally leads to a fire in their history teacher’s office, effectively destroying all his possessions, is when he will truly learn what trouble looks like. Because when your history teacher is Merlin and his possessions are some of them most valuable relics of all time, nothing is out of bonds and everything’s possible, even a visit to ancient Egypt to steal the Eye of Ra from King Tut himself.
 
This book was a very boring read especially for much of the first half of the book. Things happen pretty slowly and I also couldn’t identify with Aston’s character much in the beginning. Things do get interesting in the latter half but overall this book is a dull read with a few good moments.
 
The fact that this book has time travel, Ancient Egyptian History, Merlin and is a YA LGBT romance and still failed to make an impression on me is very telling. This book has so many good things going on that nothing gets the right amount of attention. The entire part of the back prior to the office’s destruction feels like a drag because you already know what is going to happen from the blurb and the fact that I couldn’t sympathize with Aston’s character made it worse. But when the moment finally comes everything happens too fast. I think there should have been a moment here just for the reader to digest the fact that Merlin is their history teacher and to start wondering what the hell he is doing in Stanton.
 
The part of the book taking place in Egypt is an improvement over the parts of the book preceding it. But there is a little too much historical detail, at times this book starts reading like a history textbook especially when Aston starts describing people and things and the decor in great detail. This often had me wondering how a teenager would know so much about Ancient Egypt and the fact that he watched one documentary, god knows when, isn’t enough justification.
 
Things get better to again become a drag which is only salvaged by the budding romance between Aston and Grant which is what made me like the book because prior to that reading this book was a chore, but the whole retrieving the amulet thing is too dragged out. I found myself constantly wishing that they would just get it and get back because it seemed like there was no good reason to keep putting it off.
 
Personally, I think this book would have been much better had it been a short story instead of a novel because everything that is interesting in this book could be better concentrated had this book been shorter. I really can’t say if I would like to continue this series because for me the only good thing in this story was the romance between Grant and Aston, the rest is pretty much a drag.
 
Cover Art by Anna Sikorska. I really liked the cover.

Sales Links: Harmony Ink Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition, 180 pages
Expected publication: May 16th 2017 by Harmony Ink Press (first published May 15th 2010)
ISBN 1635333709 (ISBN13: 9781635333701)
Edition Language English
Series Repeating History #1

Aidee Ladnier on Writing, Life and her release ‘The Applicant (Busted Labs #1)’ (excerpt, interview and giveaway)

Standard

the-applicant-by-aidee-ladnier

The Applicant (Busted Labs #1) by Aidee Ladnier
D
reamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Buy Your Copy Today at 

140b7-dreamspinner2blogo

amazon square borderB&N borderApple borderKobo border

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to be interviewing  Aidee Ladnier today.  Welcome, Aidee!

~

Our Interview with Aidee Ladnier!

Thank you so much for inviting me on your blog today! I’m excited to be posting about my new book, THE APPLICANT. I love my characters Forbes and Oliver, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with your readers.

  • Were you an early reader or were you read to and what childhood books had an impact on you as a child that you remember to this day and why?I was definitely an early reader and read my first book (Dr. Seuss’s One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish) before I started kindergarten. But the stories I remember loving the most were the fairy tales. I had several books by the Grimm Brothers, Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Anderson. I remember loving the scary situations and the happy endings. I’d read them over and over again until I knew them by heart.
  • How early in your life did you begin writing?I began writing around twelve years old. My first stories were inspired by dreams and books I was reading. I wrote one early story about an intergalactic romance, another about a girl pirate, and another about a girl with a ghost best friend. I wrote short stories in high school and even published a little, but gave up fiction in college for academic writing. It’s only been in the last few years I’ve taken up fiction again.
  • If you were to be stranded on a small demi-planet, island, or god forbid LaGuardia in a snow storm, what books would you take to read or authors on your comfort list?This is a difficult question. I have so many good books on my phone. I guess if I had to choose, I’d definitely take a full set of Shakespeare’s works. He had such an amazing insight into human beings. All his best characters are flawed and know their flaws, either working to change or worse, unable to escape them. For mysteries, I’d take the complete Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve been reading Sherlockiana since my pre-teens. Anytime I want to break down a simple mystery, I study those. If I get to take fantasies, it will always be the Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Science fiction is a little harder. I have a lot of favorites there—Isaac Asimov, Ursula LeGuin, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Lois McMaster Bujold. I’m afraid I couldn’t choose between those. And romance…don’t tell anyone, but I’m a total Jennifer Blake fanatic. Her heroes are to die for.
  • Can a author have favorites among their characters and do you have them?Personally, I think all of an author’s characters are their favorites. Otherwise why would they write them? But I have to say, Forbes and Oliver hold a special place in my heart. Their love story never runs smooth no matter what timeline they inhabit. It’s as if they’re pulled to each other. Despite their troubles, they keep coming back to each other again and again.
  • Contemporary, supernatural, fantasy, or science fiction narratives or something else?  Does any genre draw you more than another when writing it or reading it and why does it do so?I adore science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and mysteries the most. I love a good romance, but I want a little something extra to add a zing. Science fiction is the fiction of possibilities, to paraphrase Ray Bradbury. It’s such a hopeful genre. The paranormal and mysteries have always drawn me because I like questions. A mystery with a satisfying conclusion scratches that curious itch.
  • Are you a planner or a pantzer when writing a story? And why?I’m a little of both. I love to plot. Ruminating about a story is one of my favorite pastimes. I often outline a story down to the nth detail only to sit down to write and the story run off in the opposite direction! But I must admit, it’s tons of fun to see a story develop on its own.
  • Where do you normally draw your inspiration for a book from?  A memory, a myth, a place or journey, or something far more personal?That’s an interesting question. A story can arise from anywhere. It might be a phrase someone says, or a news item I read, sometimes a place I visit. THE APPLICANT includes on two of my favorite things, robots and time travel. I loooove robots. I wanted to write a “not very mad scientist” story and including a robot was a must. Then I realized he’d have to have a reason to build the robot and the cuddly juggernaut that became Forbes’s teddy bear robot was born. I thought Forbes would want to create a friend for children who felt small like he had as a smart little boy attending college alongside older teenagers and adults.
  • If you were writing your life as a romance novel, what would the title be?Right Beside You. I’m married to a great guy. I met him in college and we became fast friends but ONLY friends. We stayed friends even though I married Mr. Wrong and he married Miss Even More Wrong. So when he was divorced and then I divorced, we both commiserated on being single and started hanging out together again. But all our friends kept telling us we should quit with the friends stuff and date instead. Just to shut them up, we finally went out on a date. And we both really liked it. We liked it enough that we married 20 years after the first time we met. So the perfect guy I was searching for was right beside me.

So now that you know a little more about me, what would your romance novel be titled? Tell me down in the comments!

✯✯Giveaway✯✯

Don’t forget to sign up for my Rafflecopter Giveaway. There are prizes and gift cards! Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

applicantthe_fbbanner_dsp

Blurb

How can something so cuddly and adorable be so destructive? The teddy bear robot decimating his lab is only the first disaster of the day for roboticist Forbes Pohle. If he can figure out how to end its rampage, he still has to interview applicants for the position of research assistant and convince the time-traveler on his doorstop that they should be making their future right now. Oliver Lennox didn’t travel back in time to have a quickie in the blast chamber—but it certainly is fun. This younger Forbes is a sweeter, more innocent version of his lover. And it will be hard to leave him behind in the past.

If you like sexy nerds, humor, plenty of action, and a love story not even time can disrupt, this romantic adventure has the perfect credentials for the job. 

Available from Dreamspinner Press

Excerpt from THE APPLICANT by Aidee Ladnier

Forbes Pohle worked the needle-nose pliers carefully behind the eye sensors of his teddy bear. He needed to make one little adjustment—

The buzzer on the door sounded, nerve-jangling and insistent, from the speaker overhead.

Startled, Forbes jerked the wire he was fiddling with free from its connection, rendering the small robot blind. The head-plate spring snapped, and the access panel clipped his hand as it closed. Forbes swore and shook his stinging fingers as the front door buzzer blared again.

Frustrated, he threw down the pliers and ran both hands through his mop of brown hair. Reacting to the clatter, the tiny robot turned its head left and then right before running off the table.

Luckily the teddy bear caught itself with its face when it hit the floor.

Undaunted, the bear scrambled to its furry feet and darted toward the other side of the lab. Forbes sighed at the sound of another imperative buzz.

“You won’t get the job if you don’t stop with the doorbell.” He stood and shoved the ends of his wrinkled white dress shirt back into his khaki pants. He typed in the power-down sequence for the bear before shutting the lab door and walking toward the front of the house. His visitor had graduated to using the door buzzer as percussion, the drone now going off and on in a jaunty rhythm.

Forbes still wasn’t sold on hiring a research assistant, but he wanted a lab assistant and he needed an administrative assistant.

Most of all, he longed for a friend.

Hiring someone wasn’t the best way to go about finding one, but working with somebody was a good start, right?

Forbes checked his reflection in the foyer mirror. The dark brown of his eyes was almost invisible against the bloodshot whites. His stomach rumbled, and he promised himself he’d take a break and eat as soon as the interview concluded.

At the next buzz, he spun and yanked open the large front door. Holy crap.

He wished he’d gotten a little sleep last night instead of staying up to tinker with the bear.

A wiry man stood on Forbes’s doorstep. He was dressed in a T-shirt, tight black jeans, black nail polish, and red Chuck Taylors. His strawberry blond hair was spiked up in front. The corners of his eyes and his freckled nose wrinkled.

Forbes blinked back his surprise and opened his mouth, expecting words to come out. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Come in.” Forbes waved him inside the house. “I’m Forbes Pohle. I’m the one who posted the job listing.”

The man grinned and held out a hand. “Very pleased to meet you, Dr. Pohle. I’m Oliver Lennox. Please call me Oliver.”

Forbes blushed at the title as he clasped Oliver’s warm hand. Forbes was a PhD three times over, but he hadn’t put that in the advertisement.

“If you’ll come this way, we can talk in the lab.” He turned and walked back down the hallway to the adjacent laboratory, assuming the applicant would follow.

“Oh, I didn’t come about…,” Forbes heard him say before he ran into Forbes’s back. To be fair it wasn’t his fault. Forbes had stopped short in the lab doorway.

During the few minutes he’d stepped out to answer the door, the laboratory had been destroyed.

aidee-ladner-2

About the Author

Aidee Ladnier, an award-winning author of speculative fiction, began writing at twelve years old but took a hiatus to be a magician’s assistant, ride in hot air balloons, produce independent movies, collect interesting shoes, fold origami, send ping pong balls into space, and amass a secret file with the CIA. A lover of genre fiction, it has been a lifelong dream of Aidee’s to write both romance and erotica with a little science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or the paranormal thrown in to add a zing.

You can find her on her blog at http://www.aideeladnier.com or on her favorite social media sites: 

An Alisa Release Day Review: The Applicant (Busted Labs #1) by Aidee Ladnier

Standard

Rating:  3 stars out of 5

 

the-applicant-by-aidee-ladnierHow can something so cuddly and adorable be so destructive? The teddy bear robot decimating his lab is only the first disaster of the day for roboticist Forbes Pohle. If he can figure out how to end its rampage, he still has to interview applicants for the position of research assistant and convince the time traveler on his doorstop that they should be making their future right now.

 

Oliver Lennox didn’t travel back in time to have a quickie in the blast chamber—but it certainly is fun. This younger Forbes is a sweeter, more innocent version of his lover. And it will be hard to leave him behind in the past.

 

If you like sexy nerds, humor, plenty of action, and a love story not even time can disrupt, this romantic adventure has the perfect credentials for the job.

 

This was a sweet quick read.  Forbes is a completely innocent roboticist with no real world experience, wanting to make the world a better place.  Oliver is Forbes lover from the future doing a favor for his lover, but didn’t expect to be so drawn to the younger version.

 

Both of these characters were great.  We get a good amount of the back story from Oliver’s timeline and see why he really wanted to go back and help the younger Forbes.  I loved seeing when Oliver went back to “his” Forbes and they both have the memories of their original timeline, but then Forbes also has the “updated” memories based on Oliver’s trip and you get to see that it really did work out how Oliver hoped it would.  I am interested to see how this series with continue, if we will be following these characters or if new one will be coming to play.

 

Cover art by Brooke Albrecht is great; I loved the visual of the younger Forbes and the “adorable” teddy bear.

 

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 47 pages

Published: 2nd Edition, January 11, 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13: 9781635332001

Edition Language: English

Series: Busted Labs #1

Enjoy Science Fiction? Check out Save Jake Venice by Asher Oswald (Excerpt and Giveaway)

Standard

Save Jake Venice 1000x400

Title: Save Jake Venice

Author: Asher Oswald

Publisher: Torquere Press

Cover Artist: Kris Norris

Release Date: 7/27/16

Heat Level : 2

Pairing: male/male

Length: 10,000 words

Genre:Gay Romance, Science Fiction, Time Travel

Add to Goodreads

Save Jake Venice Cover

Synopsis

When I heard Jake Venice had taken his life, I felt like I died with him. Suffocated by the fluff and fakeness of the plastic faces at his funeral, all I wanted to do was join him…wherever he was now.

I woke up the next morning with one last chance. Somehow, I was put ten days back, and I had one shot to try and save Jake. I drove across the country to find him, but when I did…How do you convince someone to hold on who’s already let go? How do you bring light to someone committed to the darkness? I have ten days to try.

Excerpt

No call from Jake. No call from the mechanics. As I take out my wallet to check on what cash I have left, the piece of paper falls out. It’s crinkled now. I unfold it.

One shot.

I look up and close my eyes, then stare at the words again. The future I remember seems like the dream now.

Did Jake really kill himself? Did I just dream it, and drove all the way out here only to be reminded of his rejection? But it was so real. I can’t abandon him in his darkness.

I fold the piece of paper back up and put it in my wallet.

 

Early evening and I’m back at the coffee shop, ordering my mocha and a ham sandwich. The barista grins, “The usual, huh?”

I already have a usual.

He’s mixing my drink as I catch his attention, “Do you know a Jake Venice?”

He looks at me sideways, “Is that, like, some kind of drink?”

“No, it’s a guy. He comes in here sometimes, I think. Glasses, goatee.”

The barista laughs, “That’s 90% of the dudes that come in here, man. Sorry.”

“He said he plays piano at some club around here on weeknights…any idea of where that might be?”

The barista swirls whipped cream onto my mocha and hands it to me, “That could be a lot of places. Check out the board by the door—customers put up posters and stuff there.” He hands me my sandwich, “Have a nice day.”

I devour my usual and then take a look at the large corkboard by the door. Posters and advertisements, one on top of the other, desperately vie for attention.

Despite all the screaming ads, an image catches my eye: Jake in a tux by a piano. He’s trying to look relaxed as a lounge singer, but his natural stiffness shines through even here.

Danny McGee’s Piano Bar in downtown…” I mumble to myself, fingers quivering as I punch the address into my phone. Perfect. It’s only a few minutes from the motel, just over the Potomac.

A cold wind picks up outside the bar, blowing my black jacket about and herding people inside for refuge. The fevered weather of the last few days is leaving.

Across the front, in bright cartoon letters, glows Danny McGee’s. Amplified piano reverberates from the walls, and my heart begins to pound. Another gale blows down the street, and the sky vomits rain. I flee for the doorway.

Purchase

Torquere Press

Save Jake Venice SquareMeet the Author

Asher Oswald hails from the cool, coniferous shores of Lake Superior. Raised on the boreal beauty of the North and long winter nights, Asher writes to penetrate the heart of the human experience, to lay bare its beauty as well as its anguish. To escape his own thoughts and inspire them, he enjoys hiking the North Woods, playing piano, and traveling the world to add to his growing collection of experiences.

 

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Asher-Oswald-1520340201628654/
Twitter: twitter.com/asheroswald
Blog: asheroswald.wordpress.com
Tumblr:
asheroswald.tumblr.com

Giveaway

Rafflecopter Prize: One winner will be selected to win an eBook copy of Save Jake Venice.

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

Blog Button 2

A Wynter Review: Kaminishi (Bittersweet Dreams) by Jan Suzukawa

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Kaminishi coverCollege student Michael Holden wakes up in an impossible reality: mid-nineteenth century Japan, face to face with Shinjaro Kaminishi, a living, breathing samurai warlord Michael has seen in a dream. Imprisoned by the warlord and interrogated about the future, Michael has no idea if what he’s experiencing is real… and then he finds himself back in present-day America.

Shinjaro’s commanding presence and smoldering sexuality draw Michael again and again to the past, where dangerous information is revealed and Shinjaro’s life is threatened. Through the mists of time and in the reality of modern Japan, Michael searches for the truth—and for the man who now owns his heart—Shinjaro Kaminishi.

It is a rare thing, coming across stories that blended the East and the West, even more so when stories take place in the past during a time period where such things weren’t ever heard of. So when I came across Kaminishi and its blurb, I was fascinated. Modern day America crossing with Samurai Japan. Two worlds with ideals as far apart from one another as it could be. I was interested in how the author handled the historical elements in her story and the conflict that was sure to come about.

The story had a great start. The premise was familiar – time travel. Suzukawa did a good job describing the mannerisms of her characters in such a way that I could hear the characters’ voices differently for each one, and I found myself liking our two MCs – Michael Holden and Shinjirō Kaminishi from the get-go. After chapter five, however, the journey started feeling long despite the history being enlightening. I think it was great that the author included as much of her research into her novel as she did and tried to show through Michael just how much of a culture-and-time-period-shock any one of us would experience if we were to find ourselves in Michael’s shoes. However, one of the hardest things about writing history or working within it was preventing it from becoming as dry as a history textbook. This wasn’t quite there, but it ventured pretty close in some parts.

This story made me think of the setting in The Last Samurai (movie edition), and straight from the introduction of Shinjirō, I read his character with the voice of Ken Watanabe, which just sent all manners of thrills for me through the intimate parts, I might add. The differences lie in that The Last Samurai takes place during the Meiji Period whereas this novel takes place during the Edo Period (with 20 years between them during which the Bakumatsu took place for about 15 of those years).

As I mentioned before, the story did drag through some parts, but it was also easy to follow and guess where the author was taking it. The context of the story, if one understood the history and how the way of the samurai operated, prevented this story from having a Happily-Ever-After (HEA) or a Happily-For-Now (HFN) ending. At least, that was my expectations as I read along.

I hadn’t realized that this novel came with 2 books, silly me. There wasn’t a table of contents, and the author never actually used any version of “the end” to tell where the story may have ended. So when I came upon the last page of Book 1, I thought the story was over, and that “final” chapter left me intrigued. I read there was supposed to be a sequel to this novel, and I figured Jan Suzukawa was going to write the journey of our characters finding each other in that book with the hope that there may be a happy ending there.

It made me think “Book 2” of the novel was an excerpt for the next novel. So when I realized there were a few more chapters to the story, I finished reading it and walked away with the feeling of disappointment. Book 2 stripped that sense of intrigue and build up I finally got at the final chapter of Book 1. It covered too much all at once, but it did give the men a happy ending of sorts.

I feel that Book 2 had the potential to be its own novel, and a very good one at that.

Some will love the story. Others will not. Whichever is the case, I think the story is worth reading. Despite some shortfalls, it managed to keep my attention though many parts. I do feel it necessary to inform readers that there are dark parts to this story involving suicide and beheading as per the custom of a time period, as well as an event that involved rape.

Give it a chance. Pick it up. It’s a stand alone if you don’t like it and choose not to continue.

The cover art was illustrated by Anne Cain (annecain.art@gmail.com). I think the simplicity in it and drawing it to resemble Japanese manga/Japanese art actually caught my attention faster than a more modern approach.

Personally, I think having a reference to how the characters looks like right there on the cover makes the book even more intriguing from the start. A samurai in the background paired with a modern looking man.

It seems to beg the question, “What’s their story?”

Sales Links:  DSP Publications | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

  • Author: Jan Suzukawa
  • Length: paperback, 270 pages
  • Language: English
  • Series: Bittersweet Dreams
  • Published: 1st edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2011; 2nd edition September 2015
  • ISBN-13: 9781615818501
  • Digital ISBN: 978-1-63476-111-6
  • ISBN: 1615818502

A Mika Review: Yes by Brad Boney (a Double Dipping Review)

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

 What if youth wasn’t wasted on the young?

Yes cover by Brad BoneyOn the eve of his fortieth birthday, Ian Parker is looking for a reboot. He may be the proud owner of a trendy coffee shop in Austin called La Tazza Magica, but his love life has been MIA for years. During a trip to Denver with his best friend, Mark, Ian buys an enchanted chocolate from a mysterious candy store—then wakes up from a nap two decades younger. After the initial shock, Ian realizes a quirk of the universe has given him a second chance and, with Mark’s help, he devises a plan to start over.

With a new lease on life, Ian sets his sights on handsome architect Bartley James, a regular customer at La Tazza. He pursues Bartley as Ian’s twenty-one-year-old alter ego, Ryan, with decidedly unexpected results. Joining Ryan on his adventures are Matthew, the dreamy new barista, Jeremy, the geeky high-school math teacher, and Sam, the pizza delivery boy. Even as misunderstandings and expectations collide, Ian remains determined to right his past mistakes and find his off-ramp to happiness.

I have grown to love Brad Boney. I know in the past I’ve been hesitant to start his other books because I didn’t know how much heartache I would be dealing with. I haven’t been let down yet. I absolutely adore The Nothingness of Ben it’s one of my favorite books ever and to see them pop up all over his books makes me warm inside. I love that he is able to build this magical world, his writing is always whimsical. I like that he deals with real life topics on top of the romance aspect.

In this book we meet Ian, forty year old coffee shop owner of La Tazza Magica, who’s in a slump and has a major man crush on Bartley James. Right off the back I fall in love with the characters. Ian and his best friend Mark travel to Denver for some debauchery and it’s hilarious. I won’t give away what happens. Enter one Ryan Parker who I really liked except for him making one of the dumbest mistakes in his life! I was so mad at him, did you not learn anything from your uncle Ian. I’m so happy Mark said something because I was thinking he couldn’t be that careless. Of course Boney paints this magical time with an abundance of gay porn history I knew nothing about but I definitely Googled some things and can I say Hello Al Parker.

All in all I like how everything ended up, my only thing was the ending with Matthew. And I loved the Walsh clan, Stanton & Topher, Marvin and the Dime Box crew all making a presence in this book. I am certain that Brad Boney just gave my friends a new game night game… it was totally fun with that scene as well as that amazing shout out to Teen Wolf!

Cover Art by Alex Saskalidis, I liked this cover as usual the symbolism of the story always is a depiction based off the cover. I love the simplicity in the title and the cover. Alex did a good job.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press    All Romance (ARe)   Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published March 16th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632168429
edition languageEnglish

Review: Blue River by Theo Fenraven

Standard

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Blue River cover DSPPhotographic artist Ethan Mars is hanging out with friends at a house in Topanga Canyon.  When Doug recounts a story about a local porthole that allows people to go back in time, Ethan and his friend Randy decide to hike around on the trails to see if they can find it.  For Ethan the day is more about taking pictures than finding something out of science fiction, then the fog appears before them.  One misstep and Ethan tumbles through the fog and into 1863, albeit still Southern California.

Quinn Parker and his sister Hes own a farm in Blue River and when Ethan Mars stumbles out of the fog, neither is surprised as he is the second stranger from the future to find them in a year.  But unlike the previous time traveler, Ethan Mars is gay and represents everything Quinn Parker wants and has been keeping hidden.

While waiting for the portal to open again, Quinn and Ethan fall into a friendship and then a love affair doomed by time.  Or is it? When the  fog reappears, there is a choice to be made?  Who will stay and who will go?

Blue River is a terrific little romance stuffed full of elements that add texture and depth, giving it the feel of a much larger story.  Ethan Mars is a renown photographic artist who has made the sale of a lifetime and is celebrating with friends in Topanga Canyon, a place known for its artists, quirky atmosphere and gorgeous views.  When a friend wants to hike a little used trail in the canyon, they use the excuse of trying to find a time portal as the reason for their venture into the wild.  The descriptions of the canyon and the oddly floating bit of fog is a great way to start Ethan’s unexpected adventure into the past.

We’d been walking for half an hour when he stopped and held up a hand. “Ethan.”

I looked in the direction he was pointing, and about twenty feet in front of us, under the spreading branches of a copper beech, I saw semitransparent wisps of white flowing together and pulling apart a few feet above the ground. “That’s called fog, Randy.”

“Why is it only in that one spot, then? There’s no water nearby, and the temperature seems fairly constant.”

“We don’t know it’s only in that one spot. Never assume, man.” I brushed past him, heading for the mist.

“Wait!” he yelped, grabbing my arm. “Together, just in case, you know….” “

In case the fog decides to swallow me whole?” Chuckling, I kept walking, dragging him along. “Didn’t they make a cheesy movie about that?” Even close up, it looked like fog. Thin, wispy, and I could see through it to the woods behind.

I stuck a hand in the stuff, waggling it around and making faces at him as I intoned, “Bwahahahahaha….”

He rolled his eyes. “Asshole. I’m getting hungry. Let’s drop by Doug’s place, see what he has in the fridge.” “Yeah, okay.” So much for seeking Shangri-La.

Well, as we all know, the story doesn’t stops there.  Because, as Fenraven knows,  where is the fun in that? But the real surprises start in 1863 and the reality of pioneer life.  Fenraven does a great job in presenting the time period minus the “romantic candlelight” glow that seems to creep into some of the other historic romances I have read.  No, here is 1863 authentically presented with the warts of the time period to go along with the things that have been lost with progress.  So we get, or actually Nathan gets to eat food free of chemicals and genetic manipulation.  In 1863, a tomato or apple explodes on his taste buds, their flavor so sensational that Nathan mourns their loss in his time.  But Fenraven is also quick to include the lack of bathing because as Hes tells Ethan, “its not healthy”.  No bathing, no thoughts of  hygiene, no washing hands, …..so yeah, a closed in cabin is not a happy place to be after a week’s time.  Clothes get rank as does unwashed hair and soon Nathan is pining for 2013 and his shower at home.

And you don’t blame him a bit.

The author is good at vividly describing life in Blue River and 1863, both the pros and the cons.   Fenraven is also quick to note the dangers of open homosexuality in a time period where it is considered a sin and often punished by death.  Quinn Parker is a sexual innocent.  A young man engaged to be married to a woman who helped his family when they needed it.  Responsibility, obligations and society’s expectations have forced Quinn into asking her to marry him and now , with Ethan before him, he feels trapped. The more Ethan describes his open life in the future, the more regretful and conflicted Quinn becomes.  Then Ethan starts his seduction of Quinn, and his true nature surfaces, no longer to be denied.  If ever there was a genie in the bottle, its Quinn’s sexuality.  And Quinn despairs of ever being able to pass as “normal” again once Ethan shows him just how good it feels. Slowly the affection between the men turns into love, one with no apparent future to each man’s despair.

Another aspect of this story that Fenraven doesn’t gloss over is the fact that Ethan could never survive in 1863.  He is ill prepared by his upbringing, his attitudes, and his personality.   He has a hard time hiding who he is from Hes, a judgmental and wary 16 year old, he would never be able to pull it off in front of a more discerning audience. Nathan just can’t hide who he is.  It is one of the reasons Quinn loves him and it is the reason that they will part.

There are a few things that bothered me.  At one point Nathan is missing his family at home (this story takes place during the holidays) but then thinks that he has a family here in 1863 too.  Uh, no he doesn’t.  Hes dislikes him intensely and distrusts him as well.  The only one happy to have him there is Quinn, so I am not sure what family Fenraven is talking about.  Hes is a believable but dislikable character, smug, sure of her universe and disapproving of any that might prove a threat to her happiness, definitely a tad on the puritan side. So yes, she seems real.  The author did a great job making her somewhat stinky flesh and blood but don’t expect me to like her.

And yes, there is a happy ending but in my mind, I can never just leave it there (where I should).  Instead I start thinking about the future, and the romance in this story dims for a second.  But its the holidays, at least in this story.  Time for a suspension in belief in all things real and to hope for all things happy and in love.  I think I will leave the review right there.  At the end, just where all stories about time travel and holiday miracles should.

Cover art by Maria Fanning.  Just a lovely cover, perfect for the story.

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Published October 9th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 13th 2011)
ISBN 1627981659 (ISBN13: 9781627981651)
edition language English
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Review of Magic’s Muse (Hidden Places #2) by Anne Barwell

Standard

Rating: 4.5 points

Tomas Kemp and Cathal Emerys have finally returned to Tomas’ home after escaping from Naearu, Cathal’s world in an alternative universe.  And while the men hope they are finally safe from Cathal’s cousin, Lady Deryn and the laws governing his world, neither man really believes it.  The cost of their escape is high.  Christian, another of Cathal’s cousins, has lost almost everything he loved and is confined to the shape of a cat for as long as the magic of his punishment holds.  Cathal is also confined within the boundaries of the inn where they now reside, chained by magic to the oak tree that is the portal between the worlds.

Cathal’s nightmares are increasing now that he and Tomas have consummated their relationship and Tomas seems to be acquiring some magic of his own in the interim.  Naearu’s enforcers, The Falcons, are still capable of coming after them, and nightly Lady Deryn whispers threats in Cathal’s mind, promising to kill Tomas if Cathal doesn’t return to their world and marry her. Cathal and Tomas are struggling with their relationship, Cathal is still keeping secrets from Tomas and Tomas is still trying to overcome his self centered impulses and isolated ways to find a way to have an equal relationship with Cathal.  Only when the portal is closed, can both men feel safe to plan for their future.

Magic’s Muse is the second in the Hidden Places series but the first that I have read by Anne Barwell.  The first book, Cat’s Quill, centers around Tomas’s meeting Cathal and their time in Naearu.  It sets out Anne Barwell’s world and myth building that is so important to the events that occur here and introduces us to characters in the continuing storyline of  the Hidden Places.  That said, I am not sure I wish to  go back and read what must be a very bittersweet story.  If I do, it will be because Anne Barwell has such a beautiful way with the English language.  Her sentences flow with a magic all of their own, transporting us easily to places we have never been to meet people not of this world.  Her narrative is rich in its descriptions and the tumultuous emotions of all the characters involved.  From the lyrical passages of the countryside with its fields and  magical oak tree to the  dust motes in the attic of the inn that has been the focal point of time travel, it makes us feel that we are there, listening to the floor boards creak and the branches sigh with the wind.

Her characters are as rich and complex as the story she is telling.  Tomas Kemp is a author of popular books and initially a tough character to invest your affections in.  He comes across as extremely self centered, oblivious sometimes to the feelings of those closest to him. Tomas’ attention is all about his writing, he is consumed with his stories, one of which will bring him into contact with Lord Cathal Emerys of Naearu. We can recognize Tomas as one whose social skills are sadly lacking and whose focus is always somewhere else, even when someone is talking to him. Indeed while Tomas can come off as quite dour, Cathal shimmers with magic and vulnerability.  Cathal easily endears himself to the reader, for Tomas it takes a little longer.  Cathal misses his family even as he recognizes that Tomas’ world is the only place they will be safe and have a future. Cathal is filled with guilt over his role in Christian’s punishment and struggling to find a balance in his relationship with Tomas.  So much is going on in Cathal’s head and heart that sometimes he is feel estranged from the every day moments in the inn. Barwell imbues all of her characters with so much heart, soul, and intelligence that everyone breathes and bleeds across the pages.

And bleed these characters do.  Whether is it actual blood, or their emotions bleeding out of them, there is so much sadness and loss within these story that your heart hurts from reading it.  Christian is an especially tragic figure.  Condemned to being a cat, he was torn away form his wife and  newborn son.  His beloved wife continued to wait for him to return up to her last breath as what is months in one world is years in Tomas’.  And now his son is dying in a nursing home and his grandson needs him badly.  Christian’s wife’s sketches and paintings pop up throughout the story bringing with them the bittersweet memories of their all too short time together.  He too awaits the closing of the portal, the only thing that will restore his human form.  No character is left untouched by regret or sorrow.  Looming over all the events occurring is the threat that the Falcons can reappear to pull one or all of them back to Naearu for judgment and jail.  Over and over we are told their reappearance is eminent and the foreboding builds incrementally. And that brings me to my only quibble with this tale.

We are left with quite a few dangling ends of the saga, so many that I assume that another book will follow this one.  A child is still missing, two characters have just paired up and all agree that Lady Deryn will never give up on her goal of marriage to Cathal and her need to destroy Tomas. With all that hanging over our couple and their friends at the end, I would classify this as a happy for now, not the happy ever after others see it as.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I think not.  That would let Cathal and Tomas off too easily, something I would not expect of Barwell and her saga building. With descriptive passages and a richly enthralling narrative Barwell conjures up a tale of two worlds and a rising rebellion that will effect both.  This story can only be part of a much larger plan.  I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Cover by Anne Cain is one of my absolute favorites.  As rich in detail and evocative in feeling as the book itself, it is one of my best of the year.

Hidden Places series in the order they should be read:

Cat’s Quill (Hidden Places#1) 350 pages

Magic’s Muse (Hidden Places #2)  294 pages

Review of The Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Sean O’Hara has not had an easy life but he never knew what terror was until the nightmares started.  Night after night he relives the torture and death of a young man.  It all started after he inherited an Irish stone from his great grandfather. After seeing every type of doctor and taking all sorts of medicine, Sean is at wits end until he sees an advertisement in the paper and decides this is the only way he is going to get the help he needs, even if it takes him to Ireland.

Cormac Kelly is a Druid.  He runs a paranormal investigation business that is also his family’s calling.  Like his father, and his grandfather before him, Cormac sees the world in layers, including the realm of the fae.  He doesn’t have time for frivolous calls from American tourists wanting to see the Ireland of the movies and fairytales.  Cormac knows those fairytales have their basis in things humans should not meddle in.

But when Cormac meets Sean, he realizes that the stone Sean carries is hexed and Sean’s plight is all too real.  The haunted, pale American touches Cormac on many levels.  He hasn’t been more than just physically attracted to someone in a long time but now Sean pulls at him both physically and emotionally, although Cormac is loathe to admit the latter.  As they investigate Sean’s stone and the meaning of his nightmares, they find the sidhe of Ancient Ireland are deeply involved and not just in Sean’s case.  Ten years earlier, Cormac lost the love of his life on a night he was to destroy a changling child, now both cases are twining together.  As the danger surrounds them, Cormac and Sean must journey into the past through the realm of the sidhe to solve both cases and save their burgeoning relationship as well as their lives.

I am becoming obsessed with the stories of Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane.  As they did with Hawaiian Gothic, they throw us pell-mell into another land, mire us in its customs and cement upon us both the fascination and obsession that Ireland holds for us. They do this as they weave a story of two men of Ireland, one so rooted in the old ways that he cannot bear to leave the family lands and township.  The other, Sean O’Hara, is of Irish descent.  Ireland has a deep hold on both of them but only one is aware of its true power.  The authors use  these wonderful characters to explore Ireland and her mythology, sink us deep into her alluring land, her people, and the Fae of Ancient lore. Belleau and Vane feed us information about the Irish countryside and folklore so skillfully that not once did I feel as though a info dump had occurred.

I have always loved Irish folklore and have the groaning library shelves to prove it.  And reading an author(s) take on the Fae is almost a compulsive read for me.  Belleau and Vane did an outstanding job of bringing the Sidhe to life in all their seductive and terrifying ways.  When Sean meets Finnbheara, the Sidhe lord, you feel Sean’s helpless attraction as well as his fear so real, so powerful does Finnbheara come across. Almost half of the book takes place in the realm of the Sidhe and the vivid descriptions keep the reader engaged, pulling us into a world so authentic that the characters fears become our own.

Along with Ireland itself, the characters of The Druid Stone are as believably realistic as the people next door.  They have made mistakes, have faults and histories of loss and love. Cormac shows an amount of arrogance and pride that at times makes him dislikable but hidden behind it is a need to keep himself separate from others and from the possibility of love so deep is his hurt and guilt over Michael’s loss. Sean is a beautiful character, with unexpected facets and layers that quickly endear him to the reader as well as the other characters in the book, human and otherwise. Sean’s sexuality is also an area of confusion for himself and the reader.  Cormac is his first real male love but his previous encounters with women have been unsatisfactory. So it is never completely resolved as to whether Sean is bisexual, gay or “gay for Cormac”.  I don’t think it really matters to either the story or their relationship, but Sean reads bisexual to me.  There are aspects to his sexuality that I cannot discuss because of spoilers but in the end, it is the love between two individuals that matter and not labels.

If I have any quibble, it is that towards the end, their journey towards happiness has one too many obstacles to overcome to my satisfaction.  Perhaps, I was getting too impatient but one less jump to clear would have made this a 5 star instead of 4.75 star read for me. As it is this story ticks so many boxes for me.  I am of Irish and Scottish ancestry and have had three Irish Wolfhounds to enrich my life.  I love Ireland with a passion, the land, the culture, the feeling of coming home when I visit.  Reading this book took me back there, what a gift. I loved this book and will reread it again.  I hope you will yourself doing the same.  Slainte!

Cover: Gorgeous cover.  I couldn’t locate the name of the cover artist.  My only quibble is that I would have loved to see a Irish Wolfhound somewhere on the cover.  But that’s just me!

Read my review of Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane here.

Review of Places in Time by C. Cardeno

Standard

Rating: 4 stars

Actor Ethan Baker arrives home to find his current girlfriend breaking up with him. Not a surprising action, merely the last in a long line of girlfriends who never seem to stick around.  Being voted “Sexiest Man Alive” twice isn’t enough to guarantee happiness in a relationship. So he calls his best friend, Jude Harrison, to tell him about the breakup and that he will be right over.  Jude has always been the constant in his life, the spare guest room that Ethan has taken over as his more a home than the modern marble monstrosity he was talked into buying.

On his way over to Jude’s, fate literally intervenes when a mysterious woman appears and shows Ethan his and Jude’s relationship from another perspective. When Ethan watches his past go by, can a self absorbed actor realize the truth in front of him and the real reason Ethan’s girlfriends never stick around?

Places in Time is a short story in the Dreamspinner Time is Eternity series.  This is C. Cardeno’s version of A Christmas Carol when the Fates decides to stage an intervention, their way, after Ethan has hurt one more girl in his obliviousness, of shaking Ethan out of a destructive pattern into a chance for love.

Ethan Baker just cracked me up, with all the snarkiness, flippancy, and self absorption you might see in a actor of his status. Yet, as C. Cardeno has drawn him, he also has a wonderful sense of humor and loyalty that makes him a winning character.  Some bits of this story are truly funny when Ethan doesn’t quite get the message the woman intends when they visit a certain scene from his past.  To her utter annoyance, he start critiquing the actions instead of absorbing the message.  It’s enough to make her stamp her Manolo Blahniks!  Jude Harrison’s character is revealed through the trips to Ethan’s past and the final ending will make you smile and laugh even if you know what is coming. C. Cardeno has done a wonderful job with this story and this earns a big “don’t pass this up” from me.

I love this cover for the series.  Sheer perfection.

 

Weather Note and Power Status:  Yes, we lost power again last night and just got it back again.  Almost wussed out and burst into tears.  But didn’t, just thought really hard about it.  There are still so many that haven’t gotten their power back for even a short time and I know that they must feel so forgotten and at the end of their endurance.  Our temperatures are still in the 98 to 100 degree range and almost 100 percent humidity.  There is a reason I never moved into states with hot weather and yet it seems that global warming has brought it to me and the rest of the Marylanders.  So keep those of us in DC, VA, and MD in your thoughts.  Colorado too.  Oh  and  Happy Canada Day to our friends to the north!