Category Archives: AJ

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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4 stars for One More Ride by J. Hepburn #MFM #Menage #Historical #Western @LT3Press @JHPeregrine

Print

Title: One More Ride
Author Name & Publisher: J. Hepburn (Less Than Three Press)
Publication Date & Length: Jan 19th, 2015

Synopsis

Amanda runs the only hotel in a young town on the edge of white settlement in Australia. It’s a far cry from the life she used to lead, a life only her business partner knows anything about, and she prefers it. But when bush-rangers hold the hotel at gunpoint, threaten everyone in it, and ride off with the contents of the safe, it’s an insult she can’t let slide.

Set on vengeance, Amanda swallows her pride and seeks help from the two men she parted ways with long ago. But the past stirred by their company is harder to ignore than anticipated, and Amanda struggles both with the deadly fight in front of them and the old desires she though she left behind.

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Review

FourStars

I wasn’t wowed by this piece at all; however, it was still a decent read. This book came to me as labeled steampunk and polyamorous, both of which I would say this story is not, so that might have put me off a bit. The only bisexual characters are Nathanial and Devin, while Amanda/Mandy remains very clearly straight. This is a ménage piece, and there is definitely a difference between ménage and poly.

 

The story itself was interesting. I did love Amanda, at least for most of the story. However, I find in ménage pieces that the woman often becomes “the weakest link” and the one who breaks down what’s going on. I had hopes that this wouldn’t be the case in this story because her character was so well-built and tough and no-nonsense. However, it still happened, and that disappointed me.

 

I also felt this story was divided between the action/plot of what was going on and the romance. There wasn’t an even blend of the two happening at once. The plot was wrapped up very quickly, and we were left with the romance that wasn’t romance (I wish there had been more sexual tension throughout the piece).

 

For a western, this was a great read. Reminded me of shows I watched growing up as a kid. For a romance, I was disappointed (I only add this because the author specific says he enjoys romance over violence in stories). For steampunk, it was non-existent. For polyamorous, it was the same. I was looking for a poly story, one that represented an underrepresented aspect of the rainbow (which is what I tend to like to read), and I did not find it.

 

~AJ

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TWO 3.5 stars for Loving Again by Alicia Joseph #FF #Romance #ComingOut #MayDecember @josephjody76

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Title: Loving Again
Author Name & Publisher: Alicia Joseph (Affinity eBook Press)
Publication Date & Length: November 15, 2015 — 129 pages

Synopsis

Dana Perkins lost her longtime partner in a tragic accident. Although she still struggles with the loss, her profound loneliness is evidence that it is time to move on. She knows her deceased lover, Casey, wouldn’t want her living this way. Dana begins her slow process of letting go, removing reminders of Casey from her house, and dating again.
The women she meets leave Dana uninspired and missing her deceased partner even more. Just as she is about to resign herself to the belief that she will never love again, Dana meets Emily Daniels, a married woman who is deeply conflicted over her attraction to women. Soon, the two women form a friendship that leads to deeper emotions. They discover that one moment in their past had brought them together in a way neither woman could have ever imagined. Is that one moment in time enough to let both women follow their hearts, or will they let their past continue to rule their future?

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Review

ThreeandHalfStars

I was so excited to get this book, and it certainly started with a bang that showed it would be excellent. Unfortunately, shortly after the pacing slowed to almost a crawl. This story seemed to be two in one and with a lack of focus. There was a coming out story and there was a romance story, and the two did not blend well, sadly.

 

I was also seriously put off by the biphobia going on in this piece. Being a bisexual woman myself, I was utterly annoyed—and frankly, ticked off—that everyone (not just Emily) had to be either “bi-curious” and in it just for a good romp in the sheets or a lesbian. Bi-erasure is real, and sadly, it’s stories like this that continue the erasure of an entire group under the rainbow.

 

In order for this story to work with both plot lines, it needed to be expanded and have more drama, more introspection and less repetition of things that already happened. In a story that’s only 70 pages long there was a lot of repeating of information going on. Secondly, the romance needed to be greater and bigger, needed to have more connection between the two characters to show what they were going through. There was a lot of telling in this story, and after reading Her Name and absolutely loving it to death, I was surprised to find that in this story.

 

I did, however, absolutely love the characters in this story. Dana and Emily were well-developed and I was able to connect with both of them. I love May/December stories, so that had me pulled in from the beginning, and I do love the power-play (teacher/student) so I was glad to see that and slightly disappointed it didn’t continue beyond that, but eh, not every story can be that story. I loved how the story ended, but wished I could have seen a bit more of that drama/internal conflict earlier in the story to make the pacing flow better.

~AJ

ThreeandHalfStars

This book had several things I loved, and a handful I could have lived without. The characters were well developed and I enjoyed the dialog and settings. The plot flowed nicely for the most part though there were hiccups here and there when Dana was struggling with herself and her feelings.

 

My major complaints were some formatting issues which made it difficult to read in places (dialog lines not separating – one character speaking running right into the next line written and so forth) and what I felt was a lack of ‘follow through’ for the characters. I almost felt as if I should be expecting a second book at some point in the future. If this is the case, then wonderful! If not, I feel the book ended rather abruptly.

 

Overall it was well written and I would recommend it to friends with a disclaimer about the hanging ending.

~Rhayne

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3 Stars for Captain Kate (Galaxy Elite Fleet #1) by Sophie Angmering #Menage #Fantasy

1.5

Title: Captain Kate (Galaxy Elite Fleet #1)
Author Name & Publisher: Sophie Angmering (Pride Publishing)
Publication Date & Length: July 4, 2011 – 66pgs

Synopsis

Captain Kate Thorn makes a habit of bending the rules to suit her purposes, but then she meets two men who simply break them to get what they want.

Captain Katherine Thorn has one of the toughest reputations in the Galaxy Elite Fleet. Her problems start when she mistakes two powerful diplomats for Rim pirates, and attempts to ensure their silence regarding their rescue by using sexual blackmail. But Kate has never come across anyone like these two men before, two men who are prepared to use every method at their disposal to ensure payback, and they want to get her back in their power and in their bed.

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of M/M intimacy, spanking, and questionable consent.

Publisher’s Note: This story has been previously released as part of the Seeing Stars anthology by Total-E-Bound

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Review

ThreeStar

This book would have been a higher rating except for one point. The publisher’s warning stated there was questionable consent; it is not questionable. There is no consent given in almost any of the scenes. Enjoying it does not mean consent, which is where I believe the publisher fell down in their categorization. I have no issue reading non-con. I have issue when it’s not clearly stated ahead of time.

Apart from this issue, the story was interesting. There were quite a bit of politics woven throughout it that at times were confusing but for the most part interesting. It’s what kept the story going even when it didn’t have to. Kate’s personality changed quite dramatically somewhere toward the middle of the story. She went from strong badass to crying and lonely, someone who used to stomp away all emotion to someone who was overwhelmed with it. While I think it’s realistic for her to be overwhelmed I don’t think it was realistic in the way it was expressed.

The resolution also seemed unrealistic for me. The Kate from the start of the story was completely gone and replaced by one who had a whole new personality. In other words, she gave up to easily for someone who “is bent on bending rules” as the blurb stated. I loved the world that was built here. It was created vividly and carried throughout the piece. I liked that it was all in one perspective (the opening excluded) and would have actually preferred it to all be in one perspective, especially for a short story.

Overall a quick read, but it wasn’t what I was led to expect from it.

~AJ

 

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3.5 Stars for The Oracle’s Golem (The Oracles #3) by Mell Eight #MM #Magic

Cover - The Oracles Flame

Title: The Oracle’s Golem (The Oracle #3)
Author Name & Publisher: Mell Eight (Less Than Three Press)
Publication Date & Length: January 21, 2015 – 84 pgs

Synopsis

Golem has never known anything but pain. He exists solely to serve the Oracle’s whims and needs. Determined to escape a life of abuse and servitude, he runs away and finds refuge in a cave.

Then one day a child falls asleep in his lap …

Marl isn’t anyone special. He’s low in the Earth Caste, set to watch over the Caste’s problem child, Lichen. In search of the errant Lichen one day, he unexpectedly comes across Golem hiding deep in the mountains. Even more surprising is the reason that Golem is hiding, a reason that forces Marl to make a choice: Oracle or Golem

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Review

ThreeandHalfStars

This wasn’t a bad story at all. It was just vastly different from the others. I would definitely classify this one as paranormal romance while the previous two stories I would classify as fantasy. This story focuses on the relationship of the two men and not on some greater overall plot, which it could easily have done if not designed to be a short story.

I did love the relationship between these two, how they both had their own trials and tribulations to deal with and how the power/helping aspect alternated between the two of them. This is definitely a healing/comfort piece to read. Add in to that the aspect of family, which while though not biological, certainly comes through for an added sense of awww.

I’m not a huge fan of romance, which is why this story compared to the other two was probably not for me. I would have much preferred a story focused on the plot twists that pop up later (trying not to spoil here) as that would have made it a far more interesting piece to me.

~AJ

 

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TWO 3.5 and ONE 3 Stars for Servants of the Living Forest by Brandon L. Summers #FF #Supernatural #Horror #Paranormal @84summers @LT3Press

1.5

Title: Servants of the Living Forest
Author Name & Publisher: Brandon L. Summers (Less Than Three Press)
Publication Date & Length: September 16, 2015 – 39 pgs

Synopsis

Cameron and Jocelyn have been together for eight months, and when Jocelyn suggests a camping trip as their first big outing together Cameron can’t bring herself to say no. Camping isn’t her first choice, but there’s nothing she likes more than seeing Jocelyn happy—and the time alone together isn’t bad either.

When they arrive, all seems better than they could have hoped. The locals are friendly, the area is beautiful, the only odd bits are old blood stains on the floor of the cabin and the strange mark that seems to pop up everywhere, and that’s easily ignored in favor of their romantic escape…

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Review

ThreeandHalfStars

This book started off really well. The two main characters were very different but very believable. I feel many young adults could identify with either or both characters, their hopes their fears the joy of being in love for the first time. The two young women complimented each other very well and the author captured the excitement of being together completely alone for the first time. Alone to explore their feeling for each other without any restraints from friends, family or everyday life.
As the plot developed we begin to notice that all is not as it seems in the ideal setting they find themselves in. The growing unease happens very gradually and coincides with the girls growing romance.
The climax of the book is well written and fairly dramatic.
Unfortunately after the climatic interlude I was left with the feeling that some pages of the book were missing, it just truncated. For me it was a very unsatisfactory ending which didn’t correlate with the rest of the book, which up to that point had been a really engaging and at times amusing book.
Chris

 ThreeandHalfStarsThe two main characters in this story annoyed the crap out of me. It was like reading two adolescent teenage girls with the hormones of a teenage boy. Their conversations back and forth seemed unrealistic and didn’t match with their age that they were supposed to be. For a couple who had been together eight months, it did not read that way. It seemed as though they’d only been together a few weeks to a month at most.

Since the first large chunk of the story is mostly Jocelyn and Cameron going back and forth, it was hard for me to continue. However, there is some really good foreshadowing, which was the only thing that kept me interested and reading the story.

The twist in this story is fantastic. It reads quickly, comes sharply, and as soon as the door is opened it all floods forth. I do wish there had been more wrap up or explanation about what had happened (I’d share but that’d be spoilery). There seemed to be a lack of explanation for the characters and for the world created itself, no research done afterward, no conversations or deep thinking.

Sadly this story fell flat for me, the world wasn’t in depth enough and the characters were utterly annoying.

~AJ

ThreeStarI will preface my review by saying I am not a horror fan. Horror, whether film or book, is not my genre. This particular horror story I would categorize more in the creepy and disturbing range rather than scary. That said, there were a couple of things I feel the author could have done better. I like the dichotomy of the love story with the creepy horror of the area. It reminds me of  a cross between the backwoods nature of Deliverance with the weird cultish creepiness of The Hills Have Eyes. Disturbing. However, the author loses the chance to up the creep factor and add in that anticipatory scare factor simply by using language to add more mood and atmosphere. The other thing is the ending. I like the idea that the experience changed both of them and separated them, at least for a while. But I feel like the ending was truncated and rushed. He did such a good job making the characters live in the meat of the story, but here at the end it was almost as though the ending wasn’t important to the author. Like he told the part of the story that interested him and then had to tack on a conclusion. Lost some potential there.

~AmyP

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3.5 stars for The Mistress and Her Men by Minerva Howe (aka Julia Talbot) #bisexual #MFM #Menage #BDSM @JuliaTalbot

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Title: The Mistress and Her Men
Author Name & Publisher: Minerva Howe (AKA Julia Talbot) – Samhain Publishing
Publication Date & Length: October 27, 2015 – 125 pages

Synopsis

The path to love isn’t always a straight line. Sometimes it’s a triangle.

When Simon realizes his dearest friend is in real trouble with gambling, whoring and daredeviling, he hits on the perfect solution: provide Matthias with an outlet for his self-destructive urges. While Simon would be more than willing to take on the task himself, Matthias has always fought their “unnatural” attraction.

As London’s Mistress of Discipline, Felice Grey wears her independent and scandalous reputation with confidence. She’ll take on Matthias for one night as a favor to Simon—even break her own rules to let Simon watch. She never expected that Matthias’s struggle against his feelings for Simon would touch her heart, or that she’d feel drawn to both men. Especially since Simon’s dominant nature makes it unlikely he’ll bend to her will.

Simon, barely surviving the night’s session, withdraws to his country estate in hopes that his two favorite people will find each other. Felice and Matthias must make a decision—let happiness fall by the wayside, or pursue it—and damn the risk.

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Excerpt

London 1779 Simon sat in the depths of a smoky gambling hell, his cravat undone, his coat tossed carelessly across a stool near his feet. He knew he presented the very portrait of a debauched noble gambling his night away. That was precisely what he wanted, because he was in the gaming hell as a spy tonight, rather than a full participant.

Tonight he was watching his dear friend Matthias wager away every bit of good fortune the man had ever possessed. Indeed, Simon saw a note that no doubt represented every bit of Matthias’s remaining land in the pile of loot at the center of his table. What Simon really wished to do was to go over to that table and wipe it clean with his arm, dramatically saving Matthias from himself. He knew, however, that his friend would not thank him for it, so instead he would wait until a destitute Matthias left to drown his sorrows in whatever drink he might yet afford. Then he would buy all of those notes back from the winners, whether they wished to sell or not. A roar from Matthias brought Simon’s attention back from his thoughts. Matthias’s gaming table spilled over, notes and coins flying.

“You’re a damned cheat,” Matthias shouted, and in finally seeing Matthias’s opponent’s face, Simon could not but agree. Lord Chalmsley was, indeed, a terrible cheat. He was also armed with a dagger in his sleeve, which snicked into place against Matthias’s breastbone in less than a heartbeat.

“How dare you, sir?” Chalmsley said calmly. “I have beaten you over and over this evening because of your lack of skill, not chicanery.”

“That’s a load of shite.” Matthias pressed against the blade until a red spot appeared on his lawn shirt. “Had you nothing to hide you would not conceal a weapon and use it so readily.”

Chalmsley backed away slowly. “I only protect myself, you insolent bastard.”

“Ah, but I am no more a bastard than you are,” Matthias stated. “Fight me fairly.”

“I did. With the cards.” With a flourish of his blade, Chalmsley bent to pick up the notes before stuffing them into his coat. “Good night, all.” Matthias lunged, only to be held back by a few acquaintances. Not an easy task, considering his stature, his heavy muscles. Simon watched him thusly restrained, and the kernel of an idea took hold in his mind. The image of that bright spot of blood crystalized in Simon’s thoughts.

Good God, his friend had a death wish. Yes, Matthias had a need to castigate himself. To punish himself for his perceived failures in life. How many times had Simon seen Matthias throw the first punch or toss a note in someone’s face? How many times had the man courted danger to his person simply because he didn’t think he was worthy of his life? He wondered why it had taken him so long to realize that he knew of a solution. Oh, God help him, he might just be able to save Matthias from another night such as this, from giving away his land and his life to fulfill some sort of fatalistic desire.

Matthias needed to explore this need for violence, for self-punishment, in a safe place. Would that Simon could become that place, but he knew Matthias would never accept such games from a man, let alone one he considered a close friend. There was someone, though, someone who would give Matthias what he needed.

Simon stood, assuming his jacket before he left the room so that Matthias never saw him. He dropped his own blade into his hand when he approached Chalmsley from behind, then pressed the dagger to the man’s ribs. “I’ll take those notes, my lord,” he said, smiling when Chalmsley stiffened. “I would have bought them, but I do abhor a cheat.”

Review

ThreeandHalfStars

This book didn’t disappoint in what I expected, but it also didn’t wow me. The relationship between the three characters was intense and realistic; we get to see the point of view from all three of them. I felt as though the plot didn’t have good pacing. The beginning was interesting, and then right around 25% in everything slowed down and dragged until about 60% in where it picked back up again.

 

This story didn’t wow me like I thought it would. With a combination of ménage and BDSM perhaps my hopes were to high for it. There were inconsistencies in the writing, continuity errors that were mirror not a big deal, but they bothered me while reading. That along with the constant repetition of Simon’s eye color (which changed in metaphor rarely) dragged the reading down.

 

I liked the end result with the relationship (which I’m really trying to explain without spoiling). The equality that forms from their relationship is natural and very well-balanced.

 

~AJ

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