Monthly Archives: March 2016

5 Star Review for Ben (Survivor Stories #2) by J.P. Barnaby #MM #BDSM @JPBarnaby

CoverTitle: Ben (Survivor Stories #2)
Author Name & Publisher: J.P. Barnaby (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: March 16, 2016 – 200 pgs

Synopsis

A Survivor Story

From her perch on a shelf above my bed, the doll accuses me with lifeless eyes of failing Juliette in the most heinous way imaginable, forcing me to crave the bite of his whip and the steel in his voice to drown out the ache in my chest.

For his entire life, Benjamin Martin’s parents drilled into his head that he must watch out for his little sister, but one horrific night, he failed. Now, the bite of a whip, cuffs digging into his wrists, his arms and legs stretched beyond endurance, these things give him what he needs to forget his sister’s violent death, at least for a while.

When Ben’s latest Dom casts him aside like a broken toy, he manipulates his best friend, Jude Archer, into picking up the pieces. Jude has been in love with Ben for years, but his fantasies about his friend never included whipping him. He doesn’t understand why Ben needs BDSM and he worries about Ben’s addiction. Most of all, he fears losing his humanity because he’s already lost himself in Ben. When he’s forced to trade the marks upon his soul for the pain that ravages Ben, Jude learns the real definition of submission.

1st Edition published as Painting Fire on the Air by Dreamspinner Press, September 2013.

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Review

FiveStars

Ben is a man who lives on self hatred and personal destruction. Ben lost his sister 4 years ago to brutality and cruelty of others and he has never forgiven himself for not being there to protect her from her violent death. So he punishes himself and has only found one way to ease his self hatred and self destruction…. He is a submissive in the BDSM lifestyle who craves the pain as much as he pleasure and he has a Dom who provides that…Kage.

Jude is Ben’s best friend and and roommate but he has no idea how many secrets and how much pain that Ben carries around each day. Nor does he know that Ben is a submissive or that he loves the pain that is recieved from being a submissive.

All of Bens secrets come to light with Jude and Ben is scared he is going to lose Jude. On the night of a particularly intense sence Ben is on his way home and an accident occurs.

From that point forward things will never be the same between Ben and Jude.

This book is the perfect example of how destructive one can be from his on personal hell and how someone’s love will do whatever is necessary to save he one they love. Jude in my opinion is an amazing individual because of the lengths he will go to bring peace to Ben and to help him escape his personal hell to realize that he is worthy of Jude’s love. That is what love is all about, putting the one you love ahead of yourself.

J.P. Barnaby did an exquisite job of portraying all of the feelings that both Ben and Jude are feeling. It made this book that much better of a read.

Tosha

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TWO 4 Star Reviews for The Galloway Road by Catherine Adams #Ace #Fantasy

CoverTitle: The Galloway Road
Author Name & Publisher: Catherine Adams (Less Than Three Press)
Publication Date & Length: March 16, 2016 – 65 pgs

Synopsis

Renna has just qualified as a mage and been offered a lucrative job halfway across the country. But getting there is another matter entirely, for the Galloway is lined with the bodies of those who dared to cross her new employer, and old songs relate tales of long-dead kings and graveyard courts.

Hired to protect her on the journey is a grumpy mercenary who spends more time drinking than talking and seems to face his work with the enthusiasm most men reserve for their deaths. She’s also joined by an irresponsible duo of musicians who break hearts with their music and break purses with their gambling. Renna herself is struggling with personal matters, and the company and difficult journey aren’t helping.

All Renna has to do is take the Galloway Road from the coast to Gibbet Rock, but she’s far from convinced she’ll make it through so much as a single day.

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Review

FourStars

From my understanding of this novel it was about a young person coming to terms with their sexuality. However this is the type of novel open to the readers own interpretation.
I really appreciated and admired the way the author used medieval language and even song, along side modern references. Good research was obvious, not only in the language, but, also in reference to the food and attire they wore.
It was indeed a long and at times melancholy road. The descriptions of the dead dire. The gradual acceptance by Renna was slow and at times frustrating.
My main concern with this novel was the lack of humour to counterbalance the sombre and at times gloomy atmosphere and conversation.
Not a overly cheerful book but academically well written and flawless but I would have liked to see a less soulful side of Renna, who only brightened up at the very end. Doubtless this ending was designed by the author but as a reader I would have enjoyed a little more banter and a fraction more levity.
Chris
FourStars

This is a bit difficult for me to review as a F/F read, or as a specifically asexual read. The reason is that there isn’t much interaction between Renna and any other woman. What we do get is memories of her best friend in university, Naize. We find out that Renna loved her, and that Naize died, but I’m not sure I really get the sense that Renna is female-oriented, or that she had a romantic relationship with Naize that was asexual. Truthfully, it seems as though the story is arguably neither, and if I hadn’t gotten it through Inked, I might not have even given either moniker a thought.

What I can say is that the read is a good fantasy story, with magic, ballads, and mystical places filled with the unrestful dead. It’s a journey that’s a type of coming of age for Renna, where she learns to believe in herself, and the value of her companions. I will say that I never really expected her to become so close to Brett. There was a subtle lesson in that relationship for Renna, and she not only learned it, but it became the basis for what allowed her to enter the dark place and stand tall with resolve and bravery. The confrontation with the magical being who wore Naize’s face allowed Renna to forgive herself, and in doing so, she was able to get past the last blocks to her power.

In all, a pretty good read for me, since I like fantasy books, but again, not really sure there was any overt evidence for the descriptors I was given.

Amy P.

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ONE 4.5 star and TWO 3 stars for Happy by Chris Scully #MM #Romance @dreamspinners

CoverTitle: Happy
Author Name & Publisher: Chris Scully (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: March 30, 2016 – 165 pgs

Synopsis

Growing up Greek-Canadian, Peter Georgiou always knew his duty was to his family, for whom twenty-first century rules don’t apply. In his early thirties, Peter still lives at home, dates who his parents tell him to, and works at the family restaurant. But watching his two best friends find happiness in each other’s arms has made him worry over his destiny.

When Louie Papadakis returns home to nurse his broken heart and start a new life, he can’t believe his sister is dating his high school crush, Peter. There’s a sadness behind Peter’s eyes that draws him in, and a chemistry he wishes he could ignore. After his closeted ex broke his heart, Louie is afraid to fall in love again, especially with a man who’s keeping secrets.

As Peter finds himself drawn to Louie in unexpected ways, old and new worlds collide. Then a family crisis forces Peter’s hand, and he must decide if he’s willing to sacrifice his happiness for family duty.

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Review

 ThreeStar

When I read the blurb I was intrigued by Peter and Louie, especially that Peter was dating

Louie’s sister. My mind went racing with all sorts of possibilities. I dove right in and waited

to be captured by one or the other, and waited, and waited. This story was sweet to a point,

but so much drama caused by one individual and at himself, that at times, I found myself

rolling my eyes and wanted to scream at him for his lack of common sense.

I did like that it portrayed long standing Greek traditions, and that Peter was trying to

follow them and keep his parents happy, but there is a line or limit for any individual that it

crosses when you are not yourself. Louie made sure he never crossed into that arena, and

he was staying true to whom he was and would not be ashamed.

I enjoyed the theme of the book about “Are you happy?” and that you need to find your own

place of happy and make others happy while you lose yourself. Louie found his and would

not back down. He was himself and the goodness in him rubbed off on others. Secondary

characters of Joe and Adam were fabulous and only added to the “happiness” theme.

Demetra, well, that was one character that I did not like until the very end when she

realizes she cannot put her own happiness aside for others.

Overall, this was an average decent read. Nothing fabulous, but not bad story. This was a

matter of the heart without the hotness story.

~Keri

FourandHalfStars

This book took me by surprise. The way we follow along with Peter as he figures out who he is and what he needs to be happy is so great.
I can’t say that I particularly liked his relationship with Louie’s sister because it felt like the reason for it and why they were together changed as needed throughout the book.
However, other than that I really enjoyed the exploration and discovery that takes place in the book for Peter.  The writing was excellent and hooked me into not being able to put it down.
Renee
ThreeStar

This story, set in Toronto’s Greek community, is all about the drama. Peter and Louie both come from traditional Greek families and Peter has spent his adult life trying to please his parents.

 

I lowered the stars for this book because I didn’t really enjoy Peter’s closeted drama and his elaborate lies. It is difficult for me to love a main character when I struggle to even respect him. He lies to everyone about his sexuality, even his gay best friends. The desire to please his parents also seems to stunt his growth as an adult. He works for his family, doing exactly what his parents tell him to do. This isn’t a new adult story, but the complicated family drama certainly makes it feel new adult.

 

Like any new adult story, there is a huge focus on Peter establishing his independence and his own identity. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to get excited when his baby steps were happening a decade too late.

 

There are some really lovely relationship building scenes between Peter, Joe and Adam and between Peter and Louie. There is an incredible amount of angst here, but most of it involves Peter’s personal dramas rather than his relationship with Louie. There isn’t a whole lot of romance between the two leads.

 

I kept waiting to get emotionally involved in this story, but it just didn’t happen. I struggled with Peter and his family and I didn’t fully believe in the plot twists.

~Sarah

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5 Star and THREE 4 Star Reviews for Built to Last by Aurora Rey #FF #Romance @aurorareywrites

CoverTitle: Built to Last
Author Name & Publisher: Aurora Rey (Bold Strokes Books)
Publication Date & Length: April 12, 2016 – 264 pgs

Synopsis

Olivia Bennett is on the tenure track at Cornell University, the resident expert on Southern women writers.

After moving to upstate New York from Atlanta, she falls in love with and purchases an old, run-down farmhouse. The only catch: she know s nothing about renovating a house, taking care of land, or snow .

Joss Bauer is a New York native who grew up in her family’s construction business. She has a soft spot for old houses, but no patience for overpaid debutantes who want to play at country living.

When Olivia hires Joss to do the renovations on her new home, the sparks fly, in more ways than one. It turns out both women have a lot to learn about life, love, and the meaning of home. But when a scandal threatens Olivia’s professional reputation, it puts her priorities and her new found love on the line.

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Review

FiveStars

Olivia buys an old farmhouse and hires Joss and her family business to help her renovate it. Joss is immediately attracted to this very feminine English professor but thinks she must be straight so doesn’t let on. Olivia is likewise smitten to the gorgeous builder and tries to be a bit flirty, but to no avail. Once it’s established that Olivia is not straight Joss has to get over her firm rule of not dating clients but she is so drawn to Olivia that she obviously has to give in.
The story is beautifully told and very romantic and I absolutely loved it. The two ladies have to get over a few hurdles to get to where they should be and the tension involved is just right. Joss once dated an academic who left her so that doesn’t help smooth the way for Olivia. She is also a bit worried at how quickly they are falling in love and spending all their time together. Olivia’s obnoxious colleague, Gerald, subtly putting Joss down at a party and then his ‘anonymous’ report to the University that Olivia was involved with a student put enormous strain on them.
The were very different types of people and had to find ways to deal with their different outlooks. This was dealt with really well and changes and accommodations by each character were well crafted. I really liked both of the characters. Olivia for her joyous, flirty personality and her sexy fifties-housewife look. Joss was more serious but very loving and sincere and I could just imagine how amazing she looked in her tool-belt! The steamy scenes were pretty much off the scale as I’ve come to expect from Aurora Rey. She really, really knows how to write them

Kitty Kat

FourStars

Very sweet romance. In this book we see Olivia and Joss meet and the sparks are definitely flying!

I loved the witty banter and comebacks between the two women. I’m so glad we got to see their rocky start that turned into something mic more.

Olivia is such an interesting person, being brought up a distinct way and aspiring to stay as far away from that way as possible. I admire her for breaking the norm and being herself.

Buying a house is such a big deal and I love that she faced buying and remodeling it head on. I liked her spunk and playful manner, it breathed life into the book, especially when combined with Joss’s own variety of spunk. I enjoyed Joss’s family dynamic; they are a fun group. Would have loved to see more of them.

I felt bad for Olivia for the behavior of her family; however, I am glad that she was able to get through it and I am glad that she finally realized what she was doing to Joss. It would have been a shame to lose a woman like Joss. I had been waiting for the other foot to drop for a bit, but I am glad that they were able to work things out despite the breakdown that happened.

A lot of times a book with intimate scenes will have a good plot but poor execution; that isn’t what happened here at all. I thought the intimate scenes were tasteful and sexy. I loved going on their journey with them. I will have to look for other books written by Rey!

Tori

FourStars

A good solid romantic novel . Nice to see two very different characters with different backgrounds brought together by this competent author.
The romance grows steadily and with great passion. Ms Rey introducing just the right amount of sexual content to keep the reader entertained but also managing to make it believable tothe novels storyline.
A few obstacles and differences are thrown into the equation tokeep the plot fresh and entertaining. All in all a truly romantic love story where love and family conquer all.
Chris
FourStars

I really enjoyed this story. I’m a carpenter so I love any story that involves carpentry or renovations. It was fun to read along with the improvements going on in Olivia’s house. Joss sounds really sexy. Of course, so does Olivia with those vintage-style dresses and pin-up looks, so I’m really happy with this read. There were a couple of cringe-worthy things as far as the carpentry goes – really, Aurora? you had them scratch up the newly finished hardwood floors that quickly? ouch! – but mostly it just added to my enjoyment of the story.

Two things I would say I would’ve liked a little more about. First, Joss seems to have a big problem with the idea that erudite professors would look down on her. This sounds like a totally normal thing for her to feel, knowing how some white collar professionals react to the knowledge that someone is a blue collar worker. My problem is that she never really seemed to resolve these feelings. Yes, she loves Olivia, but she’s going to have to interact more with Olivia’s coworkers in the future and there doesn’t seem to be much growth as far as that issue is concerned for her. Second, the conflict at the end of the story doesn’t feel strong enough for the two women to become that estranged about it. I understand that Joss is upset by who Olivia has become, and Olivia definitely needed a wake-up call, but this is Joss’s first glimpse at stressed-out Olivia, and she needs to talk more about things before she starts issuing ultimatums. It worked for Olivia to stop and really take a look at what she was doing, but it just feels a bit contrived.

All in all, another lovely read by Ms. Rey. I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

Amy P.

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THREE 4 Star Reviews for The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz #FF #Ace @MeredithAKatz

CoverTitle: The Cybernetic Tea Shop
Author Name & Publisher: Meredith Katz (Less Than Three Press)
Publication Date: March 16, 2016

Synopsis

Clara Gutierrez is a highly-skilled technician specializing in the popular ‘Raise’ AI companions. Her childhood in a migrant worker family has left her uncomfortable with lingering in any one place, so she sticks around just long enough to replenish her funds before she moves on, her only constant companion Joanie, a fierce, energetic Raise hummingbird.

Sal is a fully autonomous robot, the creation of which was declared illegal ages earlier due to ethical concerns. She is older than the law, however, at best out of place in society and at worst hated. Her old master is long dead, but she continues to run the tea shop her master had owned, lost in memories of the past, slowly breaking down, and aiming to fulfill her master’s dream for the shop.

When Clara stops by Sal’s shop for lunch, she doesn’t expect to find a real robot there, let alone one who might need her help. But as they begin to spend time together and learn more about each other, they both start to wrestle with the concept of moving on…

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Review

FourStars

This was a quick read and a sweet romance. I wasn’t expecting it to be as focused on the romance as it was, honestly, and I’m not sure why. Thecybernetic aspect was absolutely fascinating to me, and I wish the piece had focused a bit more on that and bit less on the romance going on. Don’t get me wrong, this is an asexual story. It took a bit for that to come around, and I kept waiting for it.

This piece was slow moving, especially in the beginning. I actually feel as though the first chunk of it (before Clara moves) could be eliminated from the story and we wouldn’t lose anything from the plot at all. That’s what made it incredibly slow for me. Once the two characters meet, the piece picks up and moves along at a great pace.

~AJ

FourStars

A very unique book full of humour and banter, complete with quirky idiosyncratic characters. I really enjoyed it.
It was a distinctive take on how caring for others can change your  whole outlook on life as well as changing you as a person. Using non humans morphed with humans added extra depth and appeal to this novel. The best and worst of humanity were touched. The power of love and acceptance also shone through.
Personally I could have enjoyed hearing further specifics about the trio and their relationships with one another. A great and imaginative novel that was  over all to quickly.
Chris
FourStars

I found this a fascinating read. I’m always interested in the ethics of artificial intelligence; how we treat artificial beings who are sentient, and sapient according to this book, legally and socially. Here are two people who are outsiders, one by choice and one by design. Clara is a wanderer, leaving behind people and things as she moves from place to place. Sal is a robot, one of the last AIs in the world, and her appearance makes it clear what she is and sets her apart. When the two meet, the connection forms and deeply quickly. The two believe that their time is limited; Clara will move on, and Sal is anchored to her deceased owner’s tea shop. Events happen that will make both of them rethink what they believe about themselves.

It’s interesting that it’s something so fundamental that sets Sal free, so basic to who she is. And Clara finds that maybe she doesn’t have to leave everything behind. This was my first asexual book, and it makes total sense in this read. I’m not sure I fully understand it; I have questions that I have no idea how to even articulate. But my under-educated sensibilities have never impinged upon my open-mindedness and desire to learn. This was a great short read, and I have no problem recommending it to those who like sci-fi, and AI and robots as well.

Amy P.

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PRE-RELEASE REVIEW: 4.5 Star Review for High Contrast (Evolution Ink #1) by Tess Bowery #MM #NewAdult @TessBowery

CoverTitle: High Contrast (Evolution Ink #1)
Author Name & Publisher: Tess Bowery (Samhain Publishing)
Publication Date & Length: May 3, 2016 – 226 pgs

Synopsis

The deepest scars aren’t the ones that show.

Jacob Shain is your average member of Generation Screwed. He has a boring internship, no cash flow, and a tiny NYC apartment he has to share with Ethan, his much-cooler, tattoo-artist twin brother. Not to mention his love life is DOA. At least, until his brother’s shop hires on a new piercer, and Jacob’s humdrum life takes a turn for the weird.

Cody Turner is gorgeous, funny and kind—everything Jacob wants in a boyfriend. Except for the way he refuses to talk about his past, or where he lives, or anything about his personal life.

When Ethan is arrested while on a mission of mercy, the reason Cody is so tight lipped comes to light. And while Jacob and Cody fight to understand the depth of their feelings for one another, the police dogs catch their scent. So does the local mob.

Now Jacob has to make the hardest choice of his life: stay safe like a good boy, or dive headfirst into a world he barely understands…and hope Cody is there to break his fall.

Warning: Contains a good boy who wants to be bad, a bad boy who longs to be good, bodies that are canvases for living art and high-speed chases with police dogs.

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Review

FourandHalfStars

I just love Tattoo shop stories so this one was right up my alley. With a whole cast of crazy characters from the start this was a lively story. Jacob and Cody are your main characters and love interests. These two seem to be opposites when the story starts but you see they really do have a lot of the same issues.

This is a bit of a social struggle story with some major crime drama tossed in. The author did a great job of writing all of these characters in a way that they all show their inner strengths and work so well together as a team. The story of Jacob and Cody is engaging and you really start to pull for them to get together. There are some really laugh worthy moments along the way and by the end of the story you just love Jacob and Cody. I really enjoyed this book and I hope there are more stories for this great group of characters.

Jessica W.

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5 Star Review for Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon #YA #Intersex @Liannesimon

CoverTitle: Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite
Author Name & Publisher: Lianne Simon (Faie Miss Press)
Publication Date & Length: September 18, 2012 – 234 pgs

Synopsis

From the heart of an intersex teen, one who must ultimately choose male or female—family or true love—comes the story of a deeply emotional and perilous journey home. This is a young adult novel unlike any other—an authentic portrayal of the issues faced by a child growing up with a sexually ambiguous body.

Jameson can be like other boys after minor surgery and a few years on testosterone Well, at least that’s what his parents always say. But Jamie sees an elfin princess in the mirror, and male hormones would only ruin her pretty face. For him to become the man his parents expect, Jameson must leave behind the hopes and dreams of a little girl. But what is so wrong with Jamie’s dreams that they can’t be her life?

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Review

FiveStars

I admit I was reluctant to read this. The title reads like Internet click-bait, and I was afraid it was going to try to be “edgy” (in a bad way) like so much of what’s out there with regards to gender-related literature. I ended up having to eat my words–I loved it, start to finish.

The first thing I noticed is that this book strikes that magical balance between being written for people with intersex conditions while also being educational for people who are not. The author is clearly very knowledgeable and spent considerable time and effort to create a sensitive and authentic emotional read.

The second thing is how much I adored Jamie. She starts off seeming immature, far younger than her sixteen years. As the story progresses, the reasons why become clear–from her homeschooling years to lack of puberty and a lengthy time spent living as a boy, her emotional reactions are understandable. She matures in leaps and bounds over the course of the novel, and she is someone I wish I knew in real life.

It’s probably a bit idealistic, being surrounded by such a large number of supportive people, but I loved the various people in and out of Jamie’s life. My own emotions ranged from cheering to tearing up at some of the things she goes through, all the way to the triumphant resolution.

I did struggle a bit with the very religious elements. I was worried about Jamie going from living her parents’ expectation to be a boy to simply being a submissive wife-mommy. But realistically, her personality is well-suited to a somewhat more “innocent” religious life, and I ended up feeling like she’ll be her own person regardless. It was a little tough to read, especially as an ex-evangelical, but that’s not really a flaw with the story; it’s more of a personal preference. I did appreciate the way faith was seamlessly woven into the story, even if it took a form I’m less keen on.

My own kids are a bit young yet, but this is a novel I hope to share with them as they mature. I think it will help them consider the complexities of humanity and learn more about intersex people. At the same time, I would not hesitate to recommend this one to young people who are themselves experiencing the things Jamie is in the story.

Beautifully written, absorbing, and sensitive; a win all the way around.

5 stars

~AmyM

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