Love Lane Books, RJ Scott

The Decisions We Make by RJ Scott


If The Decisions We Make has done anything, it’s proven to me that RJ Scott has definitely found her place in the YA LGBT genre. All the angst, agony, and emotion that make their way into her adult M/M romances translate beautifully with her teenage characters as they struggle to find a place to belong and build a path to happiness on the often turbulent journey to adulthood.

When the Walker family opens its heart and home to a lonely and hurting young boy, it also opens the door to a new life for Daniel Keyes. Being an only child and an orphan who is suddenly thrust into a boisterous but unconditionally loving and accepting family, Daniel has a difficult time adjusting to, let alone finding, his place within the fold. His new foster-brother, Jamie, becomes Daniel’s best friend and protector and, as the boys grow into young men, the object of Daniel’s love and desire.

As Daniel and Jamie work to discover who they are, accept who they are and what they mean to each other, and suffer the consequences of the decision they make to reshape their already close bond into something beyond friendship and family, the pain and sacrifices they’ve made could tear them apart even before they’ve had the chance to discover where they might go. It soon becomes clear to the boys that you can’t decided who you fall in love with, but you can decide whether that love is worth the cost.

This is a story that challenges perceptions in the reader and encourages some introspection into the definition of family and what is or isn’t taboo, when two young men who are brothers in every way but biologically toe the line between loving each other and falling in love with each other. RJ Scott handles the subject skillfully and is sensitive to the emotions and issues and ultimate support of a loving family whose concern is the welfare and happiness of its two youngest sons.

This is a story that challenges labels—whether it’s jock or piano prodigy or being physically branded with a single word that hatred uses to discriminate—and encourages overcoming those barriers to be true to oneself.

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K.C. Burn, Small Gems

Small Gem – 9:05 by K.C. Burn


9:05 by K.C. Burn

Socially introverted accountant Scott Taylor’s world is stuck in a state of suspended animation–his coworkers, the falling snow, the clocks–all frozen, at 9:05, to be precise. As Scott continues to move through the motions of what should be the advancement of the days and weeks, eating, sleeping, and eventually daring to converse with the people he’d spent his workdays avoiding, he discovers a budding courage to interact with those whom he’d purposefully avoided before.

Devlin Moreau is the gorgeous man Scott had never been brave enough to make eye contact with, let alone say hello to, but as Devlin grows less intimidating in his silence, and Scott grows braver in his solitude, life and the world begin to change, even while it remains the same.

One of the things I loved most about this little gem is the fact that I never truly knew whether the story was indeed intended to be a sci-fi/fantasy, or whether the stop-motion state of Scott’s life was merely a metaphor for the isolation and loneliness that his shyness created. Either way, K.C. Burn wrote a story of hope and possibility that left me wanting more.

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Amy Lane, Small Gems

Small Gem – When the Sea and the Sky Turn to Blood by Amy Lane


“Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.”

Amy Lane says that Fire and Ice will help to bring about the evolution of man by becoming human, joining together to nurture Rain and loving with the heart and soul of gods, only to be destroyed, in the end, by the hatred and prejudice that dwell within those whose ignorance exceeds their tolerance.

Fire and Ice suffer greatly for their love and illuminate man’s faults in this cautionary fairy tale brimming with imagination and emotion, and serving as an indictment against those who would stand in judgment against those who love in a different way.

This is a small gem that leaves a big impression upon the reader. Wonderful, in true Amy Lane style.

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Dreamspinner Press, Lissa Kasey

Inheritance (Dominion #1) and Reclamation (Dominion #2) by Lissa Kasey

Seiran Rou’s life was marked for misery the moment he was born into the female dominated society of witches, made all the more difficult by the fact that his mother is the leader of the Dominion–the governing body of witches–as well as the fact that she saw his being born a boy as reason enough to mistreat and torment him throughout his childhood.

Seiran’s life has been punctuated by random acts of abuse, everything from rape to being repeatedly bullied and hexed during his freshman year of college. His first sexual experience at the age of eleven, with an older boy, marked the beginning of Seiran’s downward spiral into intimacy and commitment issues. Matthew Pierson’s betrayal continues to haunt Seiran psychologically, and he fights back by being emotionally unavailable, seduces men simply because he can, but it’s strictly one and done, sex with no strings attached.

His one and only exception is Gabe Santini, the millenniums old vampire who has loved Seiran since the moment they met five years earlier. Gabe is the one and only man with the power to make or break Seiran. Gabe is the one and only man Seiran could love, if only he could find the courage and strength to let it happen.

Lissa Kasey has created a supernatural world in contemporary Minnesota, where vampires, shapeshifters, and elemental witches coexist. It’s a place where a witch can still be burnt at the stake as punishment for magical crimes. It’s a place where sometimes the only crime one commits is that of being born the wrong sex. Seiran’s fate and the balance of his future hinge on the fact that he is the son of Tanaka Rou, he’s male, and he’s the most powerful male earth witch to come along in decades. Seiran is a target and his life is in near constant danger. When the murder of a coworker brings that danger directly to his threshold, the race begins to find and stop a serial killer who is disposing of witches and stealing their powers, before the killer gets to him.

Opposing factions in the witch community want Seiran, someone within one of those factions wants him dead, and it’s his own mother who’s at the top of the list of suspects that might be attempting to frame Seiran for the crimes.

Well written and briskly paced, this series is one of those lucky finds for me, where I stumbled across a couple of great reads by virtue of little more than an interesting blurb, but the purchases paid off 100% in the introduction of compelling characters living in a world that I don’t claim to fully understand the inner machinations of yet (I’m not sure I’m supposed to know all the political underpinnings at this point) but am more than excited for another installment in the series.

I think my only area of concern, really, was a momentary feeling of “this again?” in Reclamation (Book 2), fueling my belief that there might be an unfortunate formula the series was falling into, but the final result was a suspenseful and emotional climax that left me pulling for Seiran and reconfirmed that I’ll be on board for book 3.

BUY LINKS:

Inheritance

Reclamation

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JCP Books, Jordan Castillo Price

My Lost Weekend With Michael and Wild Bill


I spent two days zigzagging throughout the Midwest, including spending some time in the stinkiest city in the US–Terra Haute, IN–ended up in Vegas, and never even left the comfort of my own home. I spent those two days buried deeply in the ten short stories/novelettes that comprise Jordan Castillo Price’s Channeling Morpheus/Sweet Oblivion series.

The paranormal sub-genre (vampires/werewolves/shapeshifters) has been done to death over the course of the past several years, which is why it took me so long to get around to reading this series. I’ve been a long time fan of JCP’s PsyCop books. In fact, Victor and Jacob are right at the top of my list of all-time favorite fictional couples, so it wasn’t anything other than my own paranormal burnout that kept me from digging into Michael and Wild Bill’s world. After all, how many permutations of the vampire mythos can there be, really? Bram Stoker introduced Dracula to popular culture over a hundred years ago, and authors have, ever since, been re-creating the mythology and giving it new twists to keep things fresh and expanding on all the metaphors for sex. But even still, there’s only so much that can be made new from an old concept.

Or so I thought.

Jordan Castillo Price has put her definitive stamp on some of the old tropes, keeping some concepts in tact while debunking others, to give Wild Bill and the rest of her vamps an original and uber-erotic spin in the centrifuge, definitively separating them from the herd. There’s no need for metaphors for sex in this series, because the sex is entirely literal and incredibly seductive.

Michael and Wild Bill are two halves of the same whole, in an entirely symbiotic relationship that survives, thrives, and has become a physical and emotional imperative that connects them in spite of the fact that they sometimes practice an open relationship. They are distinct yet entwined by something deeper than love. They’re bonded by blood and a metaphysical link that makes it impossible to think of one without the other. They’re yin/yang and it works perfectly within the circles in which they move.

This is one of those series I can see myself reading over and over again. Why? What makes some books immanently re-readable? For me, it’s something that all my favorite authors do better than others: dialogue. It isn’t enough to simply tell a story. What is essential for me is to “listen” to the characters and the way they speak, the way they relate to each other, the way they interact and react to each other. That’s not to say plot is unimportant; it is. But becoming emotionally invested in what’s happening in the lives of the characters is the ultimate payoff.

And I feel like I hit the jackpot with Michael and Wild Bill.

BUY LINKS:

Channeling Morpheus (1-5) Bundle

Sweet Oblivion (6-10)

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Astrid Amara, Blind Eye Books

The Archer’s Heart by Astrid Amara

The Archer's HeartThe Archer’s Heart by Astrid Amara
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Archer’s Heart is posed as an epic tale of avarice, hypocrisy, betrayal, and dishonor, and juxtaposes the injustice of the caste system in a mythical India against the belief that it is God’s intent for those of lower birth to subjugate to their superiors. It’s a country that’s on the cusp of being torn apart by two men who each have claims to the throne. This is a classic story of “a house divided against itself cannot stand”, awash in treachery and the dysfunction of a political and social system that does not abide by the “all men are created equal” belief system. It is a place where the circumstances of one’s birth leaves him impotent against the possibility of ever elevating his position in life, but through the unlikeliest of chances, which certainly was a factor in my sometimes negative reaction to the storyline. Kudos to the author for the gut-check to my conscience, for sure.

At 656 pages, this was a sweeping, if not somewhat unevenly paced saga of privilege and loss. At its barest bones, it is the story of a man, Jandu Paran, 4th in line to the throne, who begins his journey as a spoiled, egotistical royal that is entirely invested in the faith of his superiority over the lower castes. His world is turned upside down, however, when he becomes intimately involved with his cousin, Keshan Adara, a man whose metaphysical prowess allows him to see into the future; he is a man who dreams of a country that one day will see a person for his abilities and what he can contribute to his country, not for the constrictions of his birth. Jandu’s transformation from entitlement to deprivation, as he is stripped of everything, including his identity, as well as Keshan’s downfall and the mutual sacrifices the men ultimately make for the sake of love, provided for a satisfying payoff in the end.

Corruption and dishonor are a way of life for some of the characters in this novel, where a sworn oath, regardless of how wrong that vow is, takes precedence over the guidance of heart and ethics. A man’s birth order dictates his right to rule, even though it supersedes his competence to rule, which lent a good bit of emotional conflict to the story. The author made me loathe quite a few characters in this book, made me hate every single thing they stood for, which isn’t a bad thing at all when considering that any reaction is better than complete apathy. This is a story about changing social consciousness, after all, so it goes without saying there has to be evil for the heroes to defeat.

While there were times along the way that I considered relegating this series to my DNF pile, as the pacing of the narrative suffered under the belief that “more is more” and I found myself wanting to skim, the author would manage to rally and redirect the plot at the last minute and draw me back in.

I didn’t have the strong positive reaction to this novel that others did, but I did end up liking it in spite of some of the things I disliked about it.

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Josephine Myles

Pole Star by Josephine Myles

Pole StarPole Star by Josephine Myles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This short, hot, sexy little story is just chock-full of naughty bits and grins and outright laughs that really illuminate Josephine Myles’ gift for creating characters who can charm their way right into your heart in record time.

Matt Lovell should get hazard pay. Really, who knew that pole dancing could lead to serious on-the-job injuries? Matt does now that he’s ended up in the emergency room with a broken foot, where he meets Sal, his radiographer/secret fan, and sparks ignite. Good thing Matt’s wearing his firefighter’s costume, then, even if his spangled thong isn’t necessarily a regulation undergarment.

Steve Carter and his rainbow socks, Andrew Wheeler and his clothing kink, Jos and his leather fetish… see a pattern? Me too! And Josephine makes all these juicy little apparel obsessions so much fun to experience; it’s easy to see why the men who love them find these guys so utterly irresistible.

You’ve got to know it’s true love when you’re willing to share your underpants.

Cup O’ Porn 1 Year Birthday Bash – Free Download Coming Soon

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Amber Allure, Josephine Myles

Tailor Made by Josephine Myles

Tailor MadeTailor Made by Josephine Myles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tailor Made is the story of two men who are both uncompromising in the way they’ve chosen to live their respective lives. They each stand firmly on opposing principals—Felix, the unapologetic manslut, and Andrew, the virgin who prefers to save himself for the one he deems as the perfect catch—until, that is, they meet and ultimately learn that oftentimes the heart is a force with which the libido can’t compromise.

Josephine Myles has artfully stitched together a story (wink, wink) that immediately drew me in with its humor and warmth. Felix and Andrew’s differences, the way in which they related to each other and drew upon their conflicting ideals while succumbing to the irresistible pull of those differences, grew into a common and mutual urge to be what the other wanted and needed, and played perfectly against the other. They also learned, eventually, that wanting and needing don’t necessarily always go hand in hand, that wanting something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or right for you.

This was fun and flirty story that, at times, made me want to give Felix a good thwap on the head for not grabbing on to what was right in front of him, the connection that went beyond the physical, but it was his transformation that gave the biggest payoff in the end, as the artist goes through a bit of a renaissance himself, finally realizing the beauty of love can be captured with a look from the artist who observes things from a new and intimate perspective.

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Small Gems

Small Gems – Short Stories That Leave a Big Impression

The Haunted Glade by Hayden Thorne

In true fairytale fashion, where enchanted forests house mystical beings and inspire the legends passed down to the village children, eighteen year old Yves Milford hears music that only the village potter, Irwin Blythe, can hear as well. It is a song that calls to those who love differently, a song that will awaken Yves’ understanding and embracing of his sexuality. With Irwin’s help, Yves will find acceptance, and will come to bear the mantle of responsibility to help others on their journey, when the time comes to pay the gift forward.

The Haunted Glade is a small gem, one of those beautiful little stories that leaves a big impression. Its message is universal and is delivered in a touching and magical way that inspires an immediate affinity with the characters and the story. It is a coming-of-age tale of affirmation and fulfillment, delivered with a lovely moral.

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5 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale

His Holy Bones (Rifter, #10) by Ginn Hale

His Holy Bones (Rifter, #10)His Holy Bones by Ginn Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So it began and so it ended, at well more than 1000 pages of nothing less than outstanding character exposition, world building, dialogue, narrative, humor, action, terror, violence, heartbreak, romance. This was the Chronicles of Basawar and was everything great speculative fiction should be. While each installment of the Rifter series might not have stood as strongly as others, individually, the sum of each of its parts, collectively, is simply stunning.

This is a sweeping story of sacrifice and duty, of the ultimate corruption of power and the perversion of a religion that persecutes indiscriminately and seeks to propagate its authority through the violation of its followers. On the opposite side of the coin, it is a story of devotion to the earth god and the reluctant, arduous, and fearful journey of a man who becomes a deity. It is a story of love and loss and redemption. It is the story of divination and of altering the future through acts of free will and conscience and commitment, proving that nothing is preordained where there are choices to be made.

His Holy Bones and the Rifter series itself is a complex journey that is, at its most simple, a story of the power of love and the deep spiritual connection between two men that defies the bonds of death. Ginn Hale sends her readers on an incomparable adventure through time and space, to a land threatened by unseen forces, to a place where our own world is seen as the Promised Land, to a place where sorcery is both salvation and destruction, to a point where unconditional faith delivers miracles.

The series all comes down to a pivotal moment, when the key to the future becomes the will to survive for the love and compassion of mankind, and for the love of the one who is your destiny.

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5 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale

The Iron Temple (Rifter, #9) by Ginn Hale

The Iron Temple (Rifter, #9)The Iron Temple by Ginn Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And finally, we are at the beginning of the end. Or is it the end of the beginning? Perhaps when dealing with shifts in time, as Ginn Hale has done throughout this series, it is both. There is one certainty, however—John, Jahn, Jath’ibaye; the reluctant god; the manipulator of earth, air, fire, and water; the humble man in all his reincarnations is about to unleash his righteous fury upon Basawar. And it will be beautiful to behold.

The Iron Temple delivers readers to the very brink of this epic story and leaves us poised in the rift between the past and the present, hanging in the balance between death and life and a future that is yet to unfold completely. We are at the crossroads, at the point where Ravishan and Kahlil and their two separate but joined lives will meet in divine retribution against a curse blade and against the hungry bones that Laurie has created.

Jath’ibaye will bear the mortal wounds that threaten to steal the man he loves from him, not once but twice, or as many times as it takes, perhaps, to cheat death and keep Kahlil with him. There is a parallel between what has happened and what will happen, and the only question I have at the moment is whether or not the past will be altered again, and will that shift again affect the future? I have quickly learned that anything is possible when Ginn Hale is weaving the threads of an awesome story, and will accept any change in the pattern she chooses to make because I trust it will be perfect.

A chasm that cannot be breached has formed amongst Parfir’s worshipers. It is now time for those who lead with conscience and those who manipulate through fear and greed to take their respective sides and fight for that in which they believe. What one side covets, the other reveres; one side will face certain annihilation, the other will take its place at the right hand of the Rifter to carve out a new world from the destruction of the old.

Ginn Hale has skillfully delivered us to the summit of this monumental journey, where the reader can now see what was and perhaps speculate on what is yet to come. One thing is certain; it will be both a wonder and a disappointment to come to The End.

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4 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale

The Silent City (Rifter, #8) by Ginn Hale

The Silent City (Rifter #8)The Silent City by Ginn Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On the path to becoming the Rifter, John joins the Fai’daum resistance, swearing his allegiance to their cause and training with the witch Ji Shir’korud in an effort to learn to harness the immense power he possesses.

The Silent City is the continuation of John’s journey to becoming Jath’ibaye, the name in which he will find refuge from the knowledge that his life as John is now complete, that Basawar is where he will remain, and that home is now nothing more than a distant memory. Home is now Ravishan and the land he is connected to, the land he is connected to which he controls with his thoughts and emotions, the land that is divided between the haves, the have nots, and the religious regime that wields its influence and might like a weapon to control and induce fear. This is the land that dies a little more each time the Gate to Nayeshi is opened.

This is the place where John and Ravishan might have one day found peace and a modicum of acceptance, a place where they could have lived and loved but for the way fate and circumstance are intent on keeping them apart. And now that we know what is to come, now that we know how their love story ends and then begins again as two wholly different people, it makes the anticipation of what is to come all the more frightening and wonderful.

This is the beginning of the race against time to make the impossible possible, as they must rescue Laurie from a fate far worse than death, and as John must prepare for the consequences of her loss, her anger, and her retribution.

The Silent City is another prologue in the midst of this series that underscores the events of the past and the present. It is another line that connects the dots on the way to completing the entire picture, and again, while it might not stand as strongly on its own, tied into the entirety of the saga it is both essential and excellent.

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4 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale, Uncategorized

Enemies and Shadows (Rifter, #7) by Ginn Hale

Enemies & Shadows
Enemies & Shadows by Ginn Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading Enemies and Shadows was a little bit like standing in Hades and watching Sisyphus push his boulder uphill, seeing it strive toward its ultimate destination, holding your breath and hoping…only to have it roll back down to the bottom of the hill again. And this is a good thing? Yeah, it is.

Enemies are disposed of in this installment of the Rifter series, quite handily, I thought, all things considered. So handily, in fact, it caught me a little off guard, wondering, did Ginn Hale just take the easy way out of avoiding an all out Armageddon here? But I should’ve known better. It goes entirely against series canon to believe that anything will ever come easily to these characters in this harsh and unforgiving world. So, I mistakenly allowed myself to be lured into a false sense of security, then, like the master of my emotional wellbeing that she is, Ms. Hale threw me to the hungry bones and left me languishing there as she transported me to the past again to show me that something, something is going to juxtapose these two storylines between John and Ravishan, and Jath’ibaye and Kahlil. And it all seems to hinge on the golden key, a single word, “Don’t!” and the opportunity to save the savior, atoning for past mistakes.

And now, the true battle will begin, as the most dangerous enemy Jath’ibaye may have ever faced comes to the fore, an enemy who was once an ally, a good and trusted friend who will divide Jath’ibaye between his honor and conscience, and his sense of duty and love for his land, his people, and above all, his love for Kahlil.

If I were to make only one judgment against this installment, because honestly, there is only one in this otherwise brilliant series, it would be that Enemies and Shadows might have worked better tacked on to the end of book #6 or the beginning of book #8. This is the only episode so far that didn’t work as well as a standalone for me. Added to the whole, however, it is purely sublime.

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Ramblings

The Things My Sister Has Taught Me

Thirteen years ago, my sister was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer called Multiple Myeloma. It’s an aggressive disease that attacks the marrow in the bones, as mutated white blood cells reproduce unchecked, taking up room in the marrow cavity and, in turn, leaving less and less room for normal cells to grow. As these cells continue to multiply, they eventually begin to “eat” their way out of the marrow and through the hard outer surface of the bones, in essence, leaving them looking a bit like Swiss cheese.

She had no idea she was ill, until she stepped out of the shower one morning and fell to her knees, breaking three of her vertebra. She has broken a rib from the simple act of putting on her socks. It is a silent menace and medical science has yet to discover a viable option for treatment; her only hope is that her doctors can continue to manage it long enough for science to catch up.

She has endured high load doses of chemotherapy, on multiple occasions. She has endured radiation, bone marrow and stem cell transplants, and blood transfusions, all to no avail. She was recently told by her doctor that she had two choices: 1.) Stop treatment, move into hospice care, and wait for her life to come to an end, or 2.) Go into the hospital for 30 days, at which point she will be on yet another round of chemo, have another bone marrow and stem cell transplant, and a blood transfusion, all with the hope of getting her white cell count down to a point that she can enter a clinical trial for a new form of drug therapy. Through a long night of tears and prayer, she and her husband actually discussed option number one: she considered giving up. For about a minute, that is. Until she began to think of all she still had to live for–her family, and not the least of all, for herself, for the hope that with this next clinical trial she, at the very least, might be able to break new ground in the search for the cure for this horrific disease. She hopes to buy herself, not years, because with hope, there is also the reality that she has come too far to undo the damage of this disease, but she hopes to gain just a few more months of life, to fulfill a legacy for future sufferers, to pray that what she is doing will lead to viable and workable options for the benefit of future generations who are stricken with Multiple Myeloma.

My sister has taught me a lot over the course of the past thirteen years. She has taught me the true meaning of courage. Not what it means to be free of fear, but what it means to stare at fear head on and keep fighting anyway, even though she knows she can’t win. She has taught me the true meaning of a battle of wills–she’s not willing to die just yet, because she still has so much living to do in whatever time she has left to do it. She has taught me what it means to laugh and to hope in the face of hopelessness, to live like there’s no tomorrow, because tomorrow is never guaranteed. She has taught me the difference between a petty grievance and an honest to gods problem. She has taught me that to feel sorry for myself is a pitiful waste of time and energy.

She has taught me what it means to live for myself, to love others with abandon, to reach out and grab hold of whatever I can find that makes me happy, even if that is nothing more than turning my face to the sun and offering a smile to the blue skies.

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4 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale

Broken Fortress (Rifter, #6) by Ginn Hale

Broken Fortress
Broken Fortress by Ginn Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Broken Fortress – The Interlude – This is the perfect place to catch your breath and digest everything that has happened up until now. Pluck what you know of the past and apply it to the present, because the future is sure to be a dangerous, dangerous place, and it might help you to navigate your way to the cusp of the war that looms.

This segment in the ongoing saga picks up on Jath’ibaye’s ship, where we left him and Kahlil to travel back to Rathal’pesha earlier on. Everything that has happened up until now is necessary information to understand the evolution Kahlil experiences after his resurrection, as he came through the Gates decades beyond where John had landed some thirty years before. Understanding how Ravishan and Kahlil’s lives both parallel and intertwine, how Ravishan sacrificed everything he was to become in order to save the man he loved, as well as how John’s presence in the past affected certain outcomes in the future, will not only bring clarity to the bond between Kahlil and Jath’ibaye, but it will also cement the significance of that connection, which in turn makes the relationship between the two men incredibly poignant and entirely significant.

Broken Fortress is definitely more informative than action packed, to be sure, but the material is delivered through compelling and intelligent dialogue, giving each of the characters weight and importance and dimension, regardless if how minor their role may be as the series continues. This book is the road map, in a way, that gives direction to everything there is yet to come. It is the means of tracing the line from where everyone has been, to where they will proceed in this long, winding, and wondrous journey.

There is a wicked political agenda broiling, a heinous plot underway to rid the world of the Rifter, a dark supernatural spell evolving, as a onetime friend attempts to alter events of the past, and a battle poised on the horizon that could very well destroy every living thing in its path. The strategy is unfolding, luring a dangerous enemy into the midst, and separating Jath’ibaye and Kahlil. Will this be a scenario where history repeats itself, or will Kahlil incorporate what he has learned from the past and use it to influence a better future?

That remains to be seen.

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5 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale

The Holy Road (Rifter, #5) by Ginn Hale

The Holy Road
The Holy Road by Ginn Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5+ Stars

I am, by turns, frightened and fascinated at this point in the saga, which sums things up pretty concisely and accurately.

The Holy Road is darkness defined. This is the point in the journey where John discovers everything there is to be discovered about who he is and the purpose he will serve in the future of Basawar, and how it connects to Ravishan, who is, indeed, a man John knows as another, not the least of which is lover and savior.

It’s impossible to have made your way to the end of this book without drawing some parallels and contrasts between this great story and the greatest story ever told. John has died the figurative death. He is no longer the man he believed himself to be. Now the Rifter must suffer and die for his sins, but those who will execute his punishment know not what they do or whom they have condemned. John was his own Judas, betrayed by his own confession of a murder that, for all intents and purposes, could be justified as self-preservation, as well as defending the man he loves. John will sacrifice himself, willingly, for the greater good. But in his confession, John also implicates another, which will solidify Fikiri’in ‘Bousim’s hatred and need for vengeance, turning a once terrified boy into a sworn enemy.

The intimacy that has evolved between Ravishan and John has eclipsed the demand for secrecy. Their bond is one that was prophesied and goes well beyond the physical realms of attraction, to something that is spiritual and, I presume, wholly necessary in order to see this adventure through to the end. Ravishan becomes John’s savior on the Holy Road, as he is set to burn for his transgressions, a very unholy method of punishment by those who consider themselves the moral authority.

There is a greater loss in this installment in the series which affects Bill and Laurie, who I’m fairly certain will gain a new identity moving forward and may very well occur as John becomes Jath’ibaye. There’s so much more story left to tell, though, that it’s impossible to predict what events will happen when, or even what will happen next. Ginn Hale continues to surprise and to transcend all my expectations, with every new chapter.

Knowing what has been revealed to this point about the future and the reunion between Jath’ibaye and Kahlil, it seems there will be a rift in their relationship yet to come. That remains to be seen and I’ll be devouring every word to get to the answers.

And the Key. Yes, the Key. It was sent with a note that said a single word, “Don’t.” Who sent it? I have an idea but I’m not sharing. You’ll have to read and find out for yourself.

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4 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale

Witches’ Blood (Rifter, #4) by Ginn Hale

Witches' Blood
Witches’ Blood by Ginn Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, if you’ve made it this far in the Rifter series, you know that John, Laurie, and Bill have inadvertently traveled to Basawar, to the year 185, when John intercepted a key meant for Kyle, his scarred, tattooed, and mysterious roommate. The three friends discovered the strange lock in which the key fits, then suddenly found themselves traveling through the shattered gates, to an unknown land. It is a land where suspected witches and revolutionaries are publicly burned, where magic goes hand in hand with danger and lurks in the shadows, where John fights for his and his friends’ survival, where he enters into a bargain that will bring him closer to the key to returning home, but will also bring him face to face with the enemy, revealing the immense power that he wields and bringing him closer to Ravishan, a young man who has become a valuable ally, a source of temptation, and who, I think, has another identity in the future. But I would never presume to believe I have things figured out. Ginn Hale’s imagination is far too sophisticated for me to be that confident.

When Kyle, the Kahlil, attempts to follow John, Laurie, and Bill through the gates to his home world, his journey takes him to a point in time years beyond where John and friends have landed, and where it is slowly becoming evident that their presence in the past has affected a change in the time/space continuum. The trip itself leaves Kyle’s body and memories in tatters, but he is rescued and eventually recovers enough to enter into service in the Bousim household, where he becomes an assassin for Alidas, a man whose life John had saved decades before and who had become the catalyst for John’s service at Rathal’pesha.

Alidas sends Kahlil on one final mission, one he may not survive, one in which he comes face to face with John, now Jath’ibaye, a storyline that is still hanging in the balance, as we spend time in the past in Witches’ Blood, witnessing John’s gradual evolution into the man he will become, with the power to do things he shouldn’t be able to do, things that enflame an enemy and that could very well brand him as a witch.

The more that’s revealed in this series, the more there is to question; the latest and greatest question being who will travel back to Nayeshi, the contemporary world, and who will be left behind. There are bargains struck to hide a potentially deadly secret that cannot be fulfilled if the key is found. There have been some hints as to who remains, but do the others make it out of Basawar alive? That remains to be seen, as a battle looms on the horizon, one that will upset the status quo.

There is as much information as action in this installment in the series, as Ginn Hale continues to artfully weave the past and the future together to create a picture of what is yet to come. This is as much a revelation of what will be as it is an exploration of how it will evolve. Every player seems to be developing into a significant cog in the war machine that is building toward an outstanding climax.

My only regret is that I can’t read fast enough to satisfy my obsession with finding out what’s coming next.

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5 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale

Black Blades (Rifter, #3) by Ginn Hale

Black Blades
Black Blades by Ginn Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And the plot thickens.

Prophesies broken, awesome powers revealed, an assassination thwarted, and former allies who apparently have become enemies, these are some of the enticements Ginn Hale offers up in episode three of the Rifter saga.

Told in a non-linear fashion, this installment does a time shift from present to past again, revealing just enough about John, who will become Jath’ibaye, and the one who is called Ji, that the reader is granted an enticing glimpse into a future of power and witchcraft which is only now beginning to take shape, as John and Kyle are reunited and the rules of the game change.

An assassination attempt on Jath’ibaye goes wrong when Kahlil intervenes, and Jath’ibaye offers to bear Kahlil’s wounds to save his life. What will become of the two men, now that they have been reunited? The answer to that question must wait, as the reader is taken back in time to Rathal’pesha, just when the getting was good, to witness John’s evolution to warrior, led by the Payshmura, whose prayers and tenets are based on a particularly interesting foundation.

Who survives? Who doesn’t? Who knows? That remains to be seen, as Ginn Hale continues to entice, seduce, provoke, and weave her wonderful spell.

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Lou Sylvre

Delsyn’s Blues by Lou Sylvre

Delsyn's Blues (Vasquez & James, #2)Delsyn’s Blues by Lou Sylvre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”Sonny James and Luki Vasquez are living proof that the course of love never runs smoothly.”

If ever there was a single sentence that set the tone for a novel, this is it. Not only does the course of love never run smoothly for Sonny Bly James and Luki Vasquez, but Lou Sylvre strategically throws some crater-sized potholes in the path, too, just to keep things interesting along the way. Interesting and heartbreaking and nerve wracking and anxiety inducing. And romantic and sexy and quite lovely. Delsyn’s Blues encompasses them all.

Loss, the ensuing grief, and the pain of guilt throw the first set of roadblocks across the path to happiness for Sonny and Luki. Add danger, jealousy, and the betrayal of a once trusted friend, and it becomes abundantly clear these men will have to suffer for the sake of their love. And suffer they do, but amidst the chaos, there is also the desperate need for each other that is sometimes strength, sometimes vulnerability, always present. There are endearments and affirmations and symbols that acknowledge commitment, although even those were not enough, at times, to overcome the doubt that insisted upon intruding on their plans for the future.

Learning more about Sonny and his chequered past provided not only a fair amount of insight into his character but also provided for more than a few surprises along the way. And it’s that less than flawless past that contributes to the turmoil he and Luki encounter on their journey—a former lover and Sonny’s biological father (to use the term loosely) play a part in the murder and mayhem, suspense and action that the author weaves into the conflicts in Luki and Sonny’s relationship.

So much of their connection is about trust: trusting in their bond, trusting in a future together, trusting that their love is enough of a foundation on which to build a life together, believing that when one falls, the other will be there to catch him. That faith didn’t come easily and its lack nearly tore them apart. But one thing they did discover through the heartache and despair is that in order to know whether they could trust in each other, they had to take the risk and simply trust in each other. It was a hard fought, hard earned lesson for Sonny and Luki, one that I hope to see payoff in a sequel.

Delsyn’s Blues is a crime drama, to be sure, though the romance did its best to eclipse that part of the plot. These men are charismatic, enigmatic, and magnetic, so becoming invested in their personal relationship was a welcome indulgence.

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4.5 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale

Servant of the Crossed Arrows (Rifter, #2) by Ginn Hale

4.5/5 stars

Servant of the Crossed Arrows (Rifter #2)Servant of the Crossed Arrows by Ginn Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading Servant of the Crossed Arrows was a little bit like watching the movie Inception. In other words, I labored under a pervading sense of “what the hell?” for a good portion of the time. But then I realized that there was a time/space continuum thing going on and stories were running parallel, and then things became as clear as Ginn Hale apparently wanted them to be at this point in the series arc, because just when I was starting to get it, just when things were beginning to converge, the episode ended.

Masterful. That’s all that can be said about the writing, the world building, the entire execution of the narrative so far, and it feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the complexities the author has dreamt up for the subversive religious and political plots, and the maneuvering and machinations that will either destroy Basawar or possibly save it. Who knows? There’s so much more to discover, so much farther to go, so much yet to understand, and I’m being led right along, trusting that the person navigating knows where she’s going because, right now, I’m just riding shotgun and enjoying the scenery.

John, Kahlil and company have overtaken everything else on my reading list. That’s the best compliment I can give to the author and the series.

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4 Stars, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale

The Shattered Gates (The Rifter, #1) by Ginn Hale

The Shattered Gates (Rifter #1)The Shattered Gates by Ginn Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And so it begins, another Ginn Hale inspired addiction, this one woven somewhere between the contemporary and an alternate reality that is only just starting to take shape as a place of extreme danger, a place where being an outsider might mean a painful death, and a place where John’s enigmatic roommate Kyle has a job to do. So many questions remain unanswered—Why? How? The most significant of which is what, as in what will happen next?

The trap has been successfully baited, and I’m entirely invested in the journey. John, his friends Laurie and Bill, and above all, Kyle and Ravishan are the lure to this otherworld, and Ginn Hale has offered the key to the portal, has extended just enough of the stick to dangle the proverbial carrot ever so enticingly in front of me that it’s impossible to imagine not continuing on the adventure. Basawar seems more than just a place. For John, it seems an answer to an as yet unasked question. It is the secret yet to be discovered. But when?

The Shattered Gates is this author’s forte: an imaginarium filled with impossible magic made believable through engaging characters, creative language, and a fully realized world of risk and intrigue.

This is the tease, the call to action, the invitation. And I gratefully accept.

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