All Romance Ebooks, Loose Id, M.J. O'Shea, Piper Vaughn

The Luckiest (Lucky Moon #2) by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea (Incl. the freebie read Beyond Moonlight)

Funny how life can be so full yet so empty, how a life can be crowded with sycophants and drugs and parties and random one-offs but can be entirely devoid of anything that might make you feel like you’ve experienced anything close to a human connection. Nick Ventura has it all—fame, fortune, fast cars and faster women (and more than a few guys too), but it takes a car accident and a stint in rehab for Nick to learn that a full life and a fulfilling life are two very different things.

Big brother Shane and his husband Jesse are busy living their happily-ever-after, so what’s Nicky to do when the one and only person he’s ever been able to depend on has moved on to a new chapter in life that doesn’t include being Nick’s one and only constant? Nick goes into a tailspin of overindulgence and self-neglect that could very well have proven fatal for him, and it sends him spiraling back down to earth to face the harsh reality that his celebrity status doesn’t make him immune to having to pay for his rock star proclivities.

Nicky meets Luka Novak in rehab. Luka’s not a patient, though. Luka’s the facility’s nutritionist and he’s not at all the kind of man someone like Nick Ventura has ever been attracted to. Luka is brightness and confidence, not to mention a bit more obviously gay than the men Nick’s been with in the past. But then again, attraction for Nick doesn’t mean much more than his target being ready, willing, and able, and while Luka is able, he’s neither ready nor willing to admit he’s maybe a little bit attracted to Nick.

Nick is all attitude and bitterness and hard exterior that masks the hurt of a painful childhood and a hollow existence, and it’s that pain that calls to Luka. Nick doesn’t want to need anyone because wanting and needing means letting someone in; letting someone in means that when they leave that void becomes just another dark spot on an already bruised and battered heart. But Luka can see through Nick’s armor to what’s beneath, and it doesn’t take long before Luka has taken Nick on as his own personal project. And for Nick, well, it doesn’t take too terribly long before he realizes that Luka’s the one person in the world he’d like to lean on just a little bit, first as a friend, but then as so very much more.

The Luckiest is an exceedingly romantic and turbulent love story. It’s both the roses and the thorns, if that’s your cup of tea, as Nicky time and time again betrays himself so completely and, in turn, ends up betraying Luka, if for nothing more than the simple fact that Nick hasn’t the first idea what love feels like. He knows what love looks like because he’s rejected and scorned what Shane and Jesse have; until, that is, what they have begins to look and feel a whole lot like what he has with Luka.

Fear of failing leads to fear of trying, which, in all its bitter irony, leads to absolute failure on Nick’s part to try to capture and hold onto what he has with Luka. Nick can’t seem to give up the persona the public has come to expect of him—the wild, narcissistic, egotistical rocker-boy—in spite of how much he’s changed, and that’s the Nick that keeps hurting Luka and is ultimately that which ends up costing Nick the man he loves, a love that’s so painfully obvious and so obviously painful.

Atonement, redemption, second, third, and fourth chances, and finally the grandest of all grand gestures brings forgiveness and affirmation and promises, not that there will never be hurt, but that there will never again be the purposeful denial of the thing that means so much more than happy for now, but means for better or for worse for many years to come.

Buy The Luckiest HERE.

And if you’d like an erotic sneak peek into a day in the life of the Lucky Moon boys, check out Beyond Moonlight, three FREE vignettes the authors have offered HERE.

Dreamspinner Press, M.J. O'Shea, Small Gems

Small Gems – Stroke! by M.J. O’Shea

The world is a pretty small place according to M.J. O’Shea, as Stroke! shoots holes in the theory that electronic and social media have become the cold and disconnected replacement for interpersonal relationships.

This is the short and so sweet story of two young men competing for a seat on their university’s rowing team. Elijah Lukas is the arrogant sophomore looking to steal Owen Peters’ seat right out from under him. Literally. To say their relationship is antagonist is putting it a bit mildly. Owen loathes the brash and ballsy Elijah, and Elijah doesn’t do much to distract Owen from those feelings.

Davis is the guy Owen vents his frustration to while they play Zombie Killah. Davis is also the guy Owen has developed a huge crush on as they chat with each other across the supposedly impersonal distance of the electronic superhighway. But distance isn’t the only complication in their friendship. The bigger problem in this scenario is that Davis is straight and Owen has never told anyone he’s gay.

Stroke! isn’t a story about the sport of rowing; it really could’ve taken place within any sport or setting. What it is, is a story of synchronicity and the sort of seemingly improbable coincidences that come from uttering a name, then having that name bring something and someone unexpected into existence when you believed it to be impossible. It’s about falling in love with a disembodied voice but then when that voice gains a face and an identity, it changes your perception of the person you thought you knew.

This story made me smile, made me sigh a little, and made me wish it’d been a bit longer—in a good way.

Buy Stroke HERE.

2 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Susan Laine

Sounds of Love by Susan Laine

Good conversation is really important to me, but I never seem to realize how important it is until I feel its absence, so it makes sense, then, that well written, organic dialogue can either make or break a book for me. That also applies to the interior monologue of the first person narrative; the internal conversation of the narrator is every bit as integral a part of me liking a book as is the conversation between the characters, which is what sabotaged Sounds of Love for me; what the characters said and the way in which they said it, ultimately chafed away at my ability to enjoy this story.
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5 Stars, Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Wolf’s-own Book Two: Weregild by Carole Cummings

Forfeit. Collateral Damage.

In a megalomaniac’s bid for supremacy, it was inevitable. It seems there’s a price to pay for everything in this world, and the currency is nothing less than a man’s very soul.

Fen Jacin-rei is the pawn through which other players wish to manipulate this game. He is the tool, the sacrifice player that will be used in a bid for ultimate power, used in an effort to find redemption, to destroy evil, to communicate with the past, to keep him tethered to the present, to prove to himself that he is worthy of being loved, to show him that he is neither perfect nor a failure, certainly not a perfect failure, but that he is simply human. That he is real.

Sometimes manipulating the game itself is the only way to sway the players, but the problem with continuing to change the rules and attempting to outmaneuver the man who often tries to be someone else, as well as the man who tries to be everything he was taught to be, for bad or for worse, is that one could never possibly anticipate and correct for all the variables of the game. And sometimes the price for that failure is your life.

The problem with persistent calculating is that there is then always room for miscalculation, and underestimating the enemy is ever a danger. Where there is coolly calculated evil, there should be the right and the fair and the just to balance the scales. Evil always seems to underestimate the power behind the need for justice, but how can there be Balance without it? And the greatest miscalculation in this sinister game may be to assume who is Jacin-rei’s heart. It is a supremely perilous risk to take, thinking you have all the answers, because even Jacin-rei doesn’t hold the piece that fits into that puzzle yet. But he is close. So close.

Fen Jacin-rei is the moth that will choose to fly away from the flame because his sacrifice, his forfeit, is to live. What happens when the moth changes course, quits flying toward the flame that portends its certain death and begins to redirect his own fate? When he believes in the nothing he’s been taught he is, he returns to Zero. “Unraveling. Shattering. Undone. Unmade.” The problem with Zero, however, is that as soon as it encounters even a small fraction of something, it can no longer be nothing. It immediately becomes more and is transformed into something new, even if he believes that that something is little more than a pretty lie. The Untouchable wants nothing more than to be touched in spite of how much he loathes himself for that need. Seems the unlovable also wants nothing more than to be loved in spite of how much he resents those who inspire that need in him.

But Fen is the conduit and it is through him that so much is possible and reality is precarious and it is a danger to attempt to predict the unpredictable. He must depend upon borrowed sanity because he has been burdened with a madness that is not his own; he needs the quiet that can be borrowed from the Null. For everything there must be balance and for everything there is a price, even if that price is your Self, paid in the form of submitting to the needs you hate and the relief that comes from the man you can’t trust.

The pain of grief overwhelms the ability to feel the pain of punishment and proves there is a difference between living and merely existing. Existence is the breeze, but living is the hurricane wind that sweeps you along in its wake and proves that you’ve experienced something that will continue to alter and influence you for all Time. It is up to Fen to decide how to escape the noose of his former reality and use it to capture some semblance of a life. He will live as a form of revenge against the betrayal that has dogged his steps. He will live for those he’s lost and for those who remain, until he learns how to live for himself.

Through the sandpaper eyelids that come from staying up into the wee hours, reading; through the irregular heartbeats, the increased blood pressure, the anxiety, the heartbreak and hope for what is yet to come, I flew and I fell and I joyfully survived this journey.

And now I wait to see what will become of them: Malick and Jacin, Joori, Morin, Samin and Shig. I will mourn their losses and cheer their successes until next time. I hope I’ll have recovered by then.

Buy Wolf’s-own Book Two: Weregild HERE.

Amy Lane, Dreamspinner Press

Truth in the Dark by Amy Lane

Truth in the Dark is for anyone who loves fairy tales and loves to see them re-imagined, fractured and then reconstructed into something familiar yet wholly new. This tale is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and I don’t mind telling you that even though I knew what was coming, when it finally happened it cut to the quick with the precision of an author whose words are as keen as the knives Naef uses to carve his creations.

This story scrambles what is beautiful, what is beastly, and shows that true monsters are often those disguised behind the mask of humanity. Through the ordination of the Fates and the whims of chance, Naef was assigned the burden of physical imperfection upon his birth, though as he grew, he recognized what beauty was and was able to translate it into his art, the perfect masterpieces he created with his imperfect hands. And though his body knew pain from his very first steps, it was his soul that came to know what true pain meant when the cruelty that lies within the hearts of man bled Naef of the gentleness he’d possessed, fracturing his belief in good and crippling his heart to match his body. He becomes “Knife”, serrated and steeled, ready to impale the world that has never shown him an ounce of compassion.

But this is a fairy tale, and in every fairy tale, there is a hero—in this case there are two heroes—one whose curse was unavoidable, and one whose curse far outweighed the infraction for which he was being punished. Aerie-Smith is a man who made the mistake of stealing a kiss from a faerie, and we all know there is always a price to be paid when dealing with the wee folk. And when dealing with the fae, we also know that that price often includes great sacrifice and that sometimes that price is paid with blood, even when tears would be enough.

With eyes wide shut, Naef and Aerie-Smith discover the truth in the dark; they navigate with touch, feel with guarded hearts, and find that love and kindness and kinship are all it takes to transform.

Beauty can be beastly and the beastly utterly beautiful, and the truth itself can be the light in the dark.

Buy Truth in the Dark HERE.

Amy Lane, Dreamspinner Press

Super Sock Man by Amy Lane

You can know who you are and embrace it.

You can know who you are and reject it.

You can suspect who you are and fear it.

You can subdue who you are and bleed all the shades and hues from a multicolored life.

Donnie is all about the embracing, but Chase is there just to make sure the contrast is clear between Donnie’s life of color and clarity—the life that Yandro saw and wanted—and the monochromatic life that comes from conformity and restraint.

Super Sock Man is a sweet and simple coming-of-age story, as much for Donnie as it was for Alejandro. Yes, you can be a grown man and still have some growing to do, and Donnie, in his utterly guileless way, with the help of a family who loves him and a pair of socks that make him feel like someone he wants to be because they belong to someone he wants to be with, gives Yandro some proof that white is the presence of all color and color is light and Donnie is all the crayons in the multi-hued box of life.

And because Yandro embraced the honesty of that color, he discovered that confession really is good for the soul, and that socks can say “I love you” just as much as words.

Buy Super Sock Man HERE.

Amber Allure, Eden Winters

Diversion by Eden Winters

Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter seems a bit like a commodity in the business of life and if nothing else, he’s enterprising. Lucky understands exactly what opportunity cost means and bases his choices accordingly, learning some very painful lessons for it along the way.

Lucky traded his soul, the first time to a man who saw something in Lucky that would serve both their interests; the second time when Lucky mistakenly betrayed that man; the third time to a system that saw something in Lucky that would, well, serve both their interests. And the final time—that was the time that left Lucky more than a little bit broken because that was the time it meant something more to him than what it cost him to do it.

The funny thing about choosing to trade your soul is that you can do it for purely selfish reasons—who wouldn’t seize the opportunity for a get-out-of-jail-free card when it’s offered—but in the end? Yeah, in the end that trade off begins to feel nothing like selfish and a whole lot like redemption because, in the end, you discover that what you thought was broken in you maybe was only a hairline fracture, what you tried to keep hidden behind the attitude and the prickly exterior was merely the soft underbelly of guilt and hurt and a little bit of fear; you discover you think you’ve had it bad, until someone comes along who’s had it worse. And you see that someone still manages to try to trust and find the good in life and in people, though some people do their best to make it more of an effort.

That someone for Lucky is Bo Schollenberger, and he’s supposed to be Lucky’s replacement in the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau’s Department of Diversion Prevention and Control; instead, he simply becomes Lucky’s reason—for pretty much everything. Lucky is Rich, Rich is Lucky; he just didn’t realize how lucky or rich he truly was until he found someone to value, including himself.

Lucky Lucklighter isn’t an easy man to know. He judges and makes assumptions based on nothing more than the fact he doesn’t like or trust anyone. He’s not easy to like, but he is pretty easy to love if you can dodge the barbs he uses to cut, and the lemon juice he pours on the wounds just to remind you you’ve been flayed. That tongue is sharp and he’s not afraid to cut to the quick with it, over and over again. That’s part of the fun for him, to lay his adversaries low, but he discovers it’s also just as much fun to have someone to trade barbs with, a worthy adversary who soon becomes ally.

Diversion snuck up on me, which, given its title, (and its author) is something I probably should’ve anticipated a bit more. Like Lucky, Eden Winters isn’t afraid to go for the emotional jugular, and she seems to nick mine pretty much every time. This became a story not about how much Lucky was willing to take but about how much he was willing to give. For a convicted criminal that’s the ultimate redemption.

Buy Diversion HERE.

Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Small Gems

The Knight by Hayden Thorne

A father will do many things to protect his only son. A king will do many things to protect the heir to his throne, including, it seems, making sacrifices of his subjects’ children, like lambs on an altar, so they may take his son’s place as an offering to a plague. Misguided by love, or by duty and tradition for the sake of his lineage and his kingdom? Either way, the son will pay the price for the king’s duplicity.

Twelve times each year, for four years, the prince has stood shoulder to shoulder with his subjects, though he still stands apart simply because of to whom he was born. He stands with these children on a stage, participating in a lottery where the only way to win is through someone’s loss. The loss of friends, the loss of a first love, and then the loss of innocence when the prince discovers the farce in which he’s played an unwitting dupe—even those who win, lose.

In a moment of certain impulsivity, the prince turns the tables on his father and ensures that he will become the master of his own fate, for better or for worse. Though fortune will take her place in this deadly game, as well, in the form of a knight in piebald armor, mottled with the dirt of his travels and the dents of his trials; he will become savior and champion and friend to a young man who will gain clarity within the sense memory of a lost lover just before he is overcome by the rotted scent and shrieking howls of the dragon.

I read this tale twice—once for the sake of reading it, the second time for the sake of experiencing it and all it entailed. It is both heartbreaking and uplifting , a legend and lesson in honor and virtue and discovering a priceless friendship in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Buy The Knight HERE.

5 Stars, Carole Cummings, Torquere Press

Aisling Book Three: Beloved Son by Carole Cummings

“This is not at all what I thought it would be.”

This is so very much more.

A beloved son. The Beloved Son. The son of the mother, and the Son of the Mother—both placed above and before all else for the good of all mankind. The Aisling and the Guardian, the Dream and the Keeper, Watcher, Guide—Shaman. To be the heart of the Heart of the World—it is choice and honor and duty and sacrifice and trust and love. And fear, always there is a shadow of fear behind the courage it requires to stand behind and beside the one who would willingly make an offering of himself to save the other and to save the world. To save the Father.

“He is what he’s made of himself.”

To undo the damage of the one who’d convinced the Heart of the World that he wasn’t loved. To protect the Beloved Son from the one who wants his name, the key, the power; to protect him from those who reject the Mother, those who hate the children who remain faithful to her, those who keep her bound by their fervent dogma. To protect him from the mania of those who seek to fulfill the gods’ purpose, yet cannot possibly know what that purpose truly is because sometimes man’s interpretation of the arcane is little more than hubris and fanaticism…and faith. Blind faith that what is believed is the only way and the only truth and the only light.

A cage is still a cage, even if it is gilded by love. What is important seems to be whether you choose to be there or are forced to be, and whether or not you hold the key.

“Mundane, ordinary paradise.” The Cradle where they are reborn, the place where they can now dream their own dreams and leave the dreams of the others to the Father, the place where people who know nothing about you can still love and revere you, simply because they believe you are worthy.

“They knew.” And that was enough.

The battle is fought. The Cleric and the Soul-eater, the Aisling and the Guardian have faced one another down in a fight for supremacy, and love, a love that is not supposed to be, a love that could very well have corrupted rather than confirmed the outcome of the battle is the very thing that resurrects and redeems the Heart of the World.

The beginning was the end. The end is the beginning. When one dies to the old life and is reborn to the new, that’s the only way it can be. “We build our own cages and we make our own keys.” There is only moving forward along a path that has not been well worn by Time and History, because there is now a connection between the Aisling and the Guardian that is unprecedented. And inadvisable by those whose job it is to give counsel. But there is always choice, and it’s the cost of those choices and the price one is willing to pay that outweigh all else.

This is a journey that will begin on new ground, unexplored and uncharted territory, unproven and perhaps littered with danger and the debris of a war that is won, but to what end? It is time to make reparations, to attempt to right wrongs, to help the hurting to heal from the sins that were not their own, and to make sure the evil that was done is contained, not allowed to fester and to regroup. It may be a journey without end.

This series has been a masterpiece in the making, a wonder to behold, and I am in utter awe of it. Each word, each sentence that has been threaded and woven to form the tapestry was selected with the utmost care and attention to detail. It is at once ethereal and aesthetic, a feast for the imagination and a wholly sensory experience.

Is it finished? I can only hope that it’s not.

“I can’t seem to help myself.”

Buy Aisling Book Three: Beloved Son HERE.

5 Stars, Carole Cummings, Torquere Press

Aisling Book Two: Dreams by Carole Cummings

I wish there were a word in the English language that meant something bigger than love, a word that meant something grander than epic, a word that meant something greater than extraordinary.

Extralovepicary. There. If you can’t come up with the appropriate word, sometimes you just have to make one up. Aisling Book Two: Dreams is extralovepicary. It is transcendent, monumental, unequivocally one of the finest books I’ve ever experienced and a significant layer added to the already complex foundation that is this series.

The Call has been made, has now been answered, and looks to be leading directly into a war that may very well end all wars, though that remains to be seen. Wil and Dallin will return to the Womb, return to the place where they will be reborn and now the question is, will the elemental bond they’ve forged through earned trust and sacred free will and solemn sacrifice—or the promise to sacrifice for the greater good—be enough to see them through? The Weft is now inextricably woven into the Warp, but will a betrayal unravel those delicate threads? Will secrets kept and secrets unveiled fray the yarn from the skein that is beginning to look a lot like love?

There is a pendulum that had once idled in a state of suspension on the side of “I choose me.” It has now begun the slow and steady swing to “how can I choose me, when there is now an us to consider?”

“There’s always you.”

There is decidedly a feeling to this arc of the series that’s a lot like navigating a minefield, where a single misstep could dismember and disassemble the entire framework of existence, a place where, when you don’t have your own identity, you become whatever the situation demands, a place where being “several different unfinished people, all rolled into one man who took what he needed from each facet and used it as he saw fit, when he saw fit” can leave a Guardian tiptoeing through and around and into unfamiliar and formidable territory, over and over again.

There is a very distinct feeling that, before I’ve finished navigating this minefield with Dallin and Wil, I will have to reacquaint my heart with the feeling of being whole and intact once again.

The name. The name is the key to the soul, and now the name is known, was there all along, waiting to be discovered, save for the cruelest of ironies—it is etched, like Braille to a sighted man who feels nothing more than bumps on a page, upon the skin of a man who cannot read. And now, when the name has been the thing that has been longed for above all else, something more than only a name because it’s something that was gifted to you by someone who loved you, it remains in the hands of the Guardian, for safe keeping, because to reveal it to its owner would mean to place the key directly into the hands of evil incarnate.

When one has been dreamt into existence, however, created in the Father’s image, the denial of the Self becomes, perhaps, the desire to control one’s own destiny. It is a battle of free will versus Fate, the consummate struggle to be the navigator of one’s own course despite the forces greater than oneself that insist upon directing the journey. Life becomes a ship without the rudder of ancestry to guide it, and so the compass becomes the need to connect with the one who puts you before all else, even though the promise has been made to put the needs of others first.

To be imprisoned by the cruel realities of one’s own apparent destiny leaves little room for choice. To be caged within the protective confines of the arms of the one who loves you also leaves little room for choice. The difference, though, is one place is about restriction, the other is about release, release from the shackles of lies and betrayal. It is about the freedom to fall and to fly and even to fail, like a river overflowing the confines of its banks to consume all that stands in its way. Love is the uncontrollable force that seems destined to drive Wil and Dallin toward and through what lies ahead.

Now, it’s time to move forward, and I go with a mixture of enthusiasm and hesitation because I’m not certain if this means the end of this series.

Buy Aisling Book Two: Dreams HERE

5 Stars, Carole Cummings, Torquere Press

Aisling Book One: Guardian by Carole Cummings

”You’ve so many names and I haven’t a one.”

One man does not know who he is, one man does not know what he is; one man is prey, one man is protector; one man is the weaver of life, one man is the keeper of peace—the dreamer and the defender, the Aisling and the Guardian—and together they begin a dark and dangerous journey that sets them up as both adversary and ally, as they try to bring order to chaos in a game of political control, the threat of war looming behind every move.

And once again I am prisoner to my Kindle, slave to my inability to read without succumbing to that pesky need to sleep, obsessing over two characters who’ve robbed me of my ability to put into words how neatly they’ve overtaken my insatiable need to know every minute detail about who they are, where they’ve been, and where they will go.

Wilfred Calder—peaceful river—the man who is neither calm nor still, the man who has claimed the identity of another because he has none of his own, though the one he’s claimed is contrary to who he is and how he’s been forced to live. No identity, no past, nowhere to belong, no one he belongs to, Wil is a man who was born the day he latched onto a stranger’s name.

Dallin Brayden—brave, pride’s people—the man who is courageous and honorable and has a role to fulfill, though he had no idea what that role was until he met the man who would become ”Useful, and so, therefore, useable.” Born in the land known as the Cradle, the Bethlehem in which all boy children were ordered destroyed, though a mother’s sacrifice allowed one to survive, ”One cannot be reborn without returning to the Womb,” and so the journey of discovery begins, the way paved with treachery and mistrust. Will they return to the origin and begin again?

The meaning of the name means everything to the identity. The name isn’t merely the way in which one is summoned or greeted. The name is the sanctuary; it is the way home.

“The lads got scars you e’nt seen.” And scars we have seen. And those scars serve as proof that Wil has not only lived, but survived. They are the badge that proves he has endured for his own sake, if not for the sake of others. At least for now. What is to come will depend upon the Mother, the Father, the Aisling and the Guardian, and the threats from within and without that shadow them always.

”Wend nightmare into fancy, guide fancy into hope, then watch as the waking world shreds the tapestry, rending warp from the carefully-woven weft, and unwinds the threads to be mended again.”

Who could possibly resist such an invitation?

Buy Aisling Book One: Guardian HERE.

Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press, Small Gems

Impromptu by Carole Cummings

I’m a hypocrite. I can admit it.

I’m not usually a fan of the “one handed reads”, and I fully acknowledge that I like a little plot with my sex. As a result, I’ve probably been more than a bit harsh in my opinion of quite a few sex-centric books that didn’t deliver much in the way of a storyline.

So, why is Impromptu any different than the myriad other short stories I’ve read that were basically just a sex scene taken out of the context of what seems to be a larger picture, with history and backstory and characters who apparently relate in ways other than physically?

Because Impromptu is poetry in emotion. I look at it and think, but they’re just words, yet that’s so untrue. I mean, they are words, of course, but the reading of those words is more than simply seeing and interpreting. Carole Cummings makes these words a sensory experience, like a stroke to the cerebral cortex that triggers everything—feelings, images, scents, sounds—that draw you into the room with Ailin and Garreth and make you feel like the world’s biggest voyeur. And really, you’re just happy to be there.

They are men with a history, but their future has now been altered by a single, incendiary moment of spontaneous physical combustion, the kind that happens when the friction of flesh and feelings meet in perfect eroticism.

And that’s what made it sublime.

Buy Impromptu HERE.

5 Stars, Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Ghost: Wolf’s-own (Book One) by Carole Cummings

Oh, the Booyah! that is this book. Eden Winters, you know me so well.

How irresistible is the number one? As in Chapter One, Book One, the beginning, the nervous anticipation and sometimes trepidation I feel when I start a new book and series from an author I’ve never read before. There are so many variables, so many unknowns—will I love it, like it, feel entirely ambivalent toward it, or will I outright hate it? It’s like starting out on a blind journey down a dark and unfamiliar path, with no system in place to navigate the possible pitfalls and inclines I’ll surely face with each new chapter, nothing other than my own wits and hope that when I finish, that path isn’t littered with too many squandered opportunities or too much misspent time.

Mostly I get lucky. Sometimes I don’t.

Right now, I’m feeling like I hit the literary lotto.

Carole Cummings has just joined a short list of authors who, when I read their work for the first time, I knew I was onto something kind of special, authors who put their personal stamps of ownership upon the sub-genres in which they write, as I was left in jaw dropping wonder at the skill and finesse with which she wielded her words, threading the loom, each chapter a slow and enticing revelation, until finally the entire picture could be seen, and it was stunning.

Ghost: Wolf’s-own (Book One) is just the beginning of what promises to be an epic adventure of danger and betrayal, of mistrust and abuse of trust. This is the story of men and women who play their parts in the manipulations and machinations between the gods and their children, the Ancestors and the Untouchable, and the Blood magic they use to control and to sacrifice, for sinister and secretive purposes.

There are definitive sides and there are neutral zones in this eloquently fascinating world, places in which one can linger only long enough to decide on which side of the line he will fall. The time is coming (March 26th, to be exact) to discover who will dominate and who will defeat, who will survive and who will perish in this game where choosing sides may be entirely detrimental to one’s health.

Family will be the key in so much of what is yet to come—a family by birth and a family that could be chosen, if only there were room to trust in the feelings that are drowned by the voices of the spirits and the abuse of authority and the warping and twisting of a boy’s own needs and wants against him, until he is little more than a shell, a weapon devoid of self, bereft of a connection to his own sense of worth. He is the Ghost, the visible wraith who slips into and out of shadows. He is the Untouchable who wants nothing more than to be touched in spite of how much he loathes himself for that need.

There is one who wishes to touch him, who wants to touch his heart and awaken the feelings that died long ago. That is, if that man does not become the Ghost’s executioner.

March 26th suddenly seems so far away.

Buy Ghost: Wolf’s-own (Book One) HERE

4 Stars, JCP Books, Jordan Castillo Price

The Starving Years by Jordan Castillo Price

Many, many…way too many years ago than I care to remember, I watched a movie called Soylent Green, starring Charleton Heston. Set in a dystopian future, in a horrifically overpopulated New York City, Heston played an NYPD officer investigating the murder of one of the higher ups in the Soylent Corporation, a company that had developed a new source of food in the form of a wafer called, what else, Soylent Green. Even with this new source of nutrition, however, food was still at a premium and riots were par for the course, as people fought for every scrap they could get their hands on in an effort to stave off starvation.

Soylent Green was reportedly made from algae or seaweed or some sort of ocean plant life, I can’t recall specifically after all these years, but as Heston digs deeper into the murder investigation, certain disturbing details come to light, not the least of which is that the plant which Soylent Green is supposedly made from no longer exists in the mass quantities the company would need to convert it to food. And the plot thickens. ::insert dramatic music here:: To make a long story short, what Heston ultimately reveals is that–and this is the only line in the entire film that has stuck in my head for all these years–“Soylent Green is people! Blech. The Soylent Corporation had effectively turned the entire population of the earth into cannibals. Now, I didn’t say this was a good movie. I only said I’d watched it.

So, what does this have to do with Jordan Castillo Price’s The Starving Years? Admittedly, not so much, though as I was reading the story, there was obviously enough there to trigger memories of this movie. But The Starving Years is light years beyond Soylent Green in terms of quality, and Manna really is made from plants, though that whole cannibalism thing…well, you’ll just have to read the book to figure that one out.

This is a David vs. Goliath story, David (or in this case, several Davids) being a small group of strangers brought together by chance and circumstance that band together to topple corporate giant Canaan Products, the leading producer of the food source Manna. There is no scarcity of the product. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Manna is available in abundance. Yet still, the appetite for more is never sated.

This story is part corporate greed, part social activism–whistle blowers who use the media to their advantage, the supposedly fair and unbiased media that uses good and honest people as playthings to manipulate and boost ratings and to sensationalize the news. This is the story of corporate America and the way in which the general public relies on those corporations to conduct their business fairly, when all the corporations truly care about is their fiscal well being. We trust that the food we consume is safe, but sometimes trust is misplaced. This is the way in which big business drug manufacturers hold the infirm hostage by pricing their medicines so outrageously high that the average person must weigh and measure his pain against the cost of the pill that will help him. The corporate party line is the bottom line.

Jordan Castillo Price tells this story in the third person, from three different perspectives: Nelson Oliver, the brilliant scientist who tries his best to appear shallow and one dimensional; Javier de la Rosa, the taciturn and scarred journalist who has trust issues; and Tim Foster, the computer wiz, the Voice of Reason, and a man whose loneliness and social awkwardness allows him to reach out and to trust a group of total strangers with the hope that they might one day become friends.

They, along with Randy and Marianne, meet just as New York City is falling into a state of social chaos–riots, looting, and general mayhem have turned the city into a near police state. The people are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore, to borrow the quote, and the group is determined to use any means at their disposal to figure out exactly what it is that Canaan Products is hiding. And discover they do, when the city’s children start being taken into police custody.

How can people have unlimited food supplies at their disposal and still be starving? The same way New York City is home to millions of people, and Tim is still lonely, I guess. Nelson, Tim, and Javier are as starved for a human connection in the same way a man can be hungry for food. Starvation comes in many different forms. But that’s the easy explanation. The actual truth lies buried within a chemical composition that only Nelson can decipher, and when he does put all the pieces in place, it creates a frightening picture.

JCP had a story to tell, and tell it she did. In the end, I found myself wishing there’d been just a bit more focus on the developing relationship between Nelson, Javier, and Tim, but if there had been, it might have taken too much focus away from the main storyline. The fact I wanted to know more about the three men is nothing more than a testament to how well I loved what was there.

Buy The Starving Years HERE.

Aleksandr Voinov, Riptide Publishing

Dark Soul: Volume 5 by Aleksandr Voinov

And they all lived.

When you live a life without limits, a survival of the fittest, kill or be killed existence, what more could you possibly hope for but to live? What does happily ever after mean in the grand scheme of things, when the best you can wish for at any point in time is simply to live to see the next hour, the next day?

Stefano Marino might tell you it’s better to live with regrets than to die with honor. Or maybe he’d say it’s better to live with honor than to die with regrets. One thing is for sure, though, he’d absolutely tell you he’d give up everything to protect the two people he loves more than anything else in the world, and where honor is concerned, where regret is concerned, they’re sometimes a knife that cuts both ways.

Stefano knew a Spadaro would eventually be his undoing, and he was so right. But in the midst of his life fraying at the seams, he found a way to stop the damage because he found a way to tailor a new existence from the tattered remnants of the old. When you live a life without limits and you fill that life with people who do the same, you’re bound to find the means to pattern an ending that you can live—or die—with. Stefano discovers that there are times when living and the mere threat of dying can feel like the same thing.

And so it ends for fans of the series.

For Silvio, for Donata, for Stefano, however, it simply begins at the end as something new, and that will serve as little more than a torment for me because this new beginning is something I didn’t see coming. Sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and Aleksandr Voinov was the master of my education, from start to finish. He led me by the senses and tweaked at my emotional boundaries; then, when he got me to a point of clarity, he brought down the curtain.

And I can do nothing but applaud.

Buy Dark Soul: Volume 5 HERE.

5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mary Calmes

Review: Mine by Mary Calmes

It doesn’t take long to realize there’s something a little bit special about Landry Carter—from the manic highs to the frightening lows, from the dangerous impulses to the intense shifts in behavior that cause him to become aggressive one moment and submissive the next—Landry Carter is a bit like a butterfly in a jar, beautiful in his serenity, one moment, then bumping against the fragile glass walls of his own emotions and fears when he’s flying.

Trevan Bean is the man who tames Landry. No, not tames him, calms him. Trevan brings order and structure to Landry’s life. He’s the safety net into which Landry can fall, the man who cushions the blows when Landry is pushing at the limits of his affliction. Trev is an equalizer, a man who brings order to chaos; he’s the man who knows Landry, sometimes better than Landry knows himself, and who knows enough to open that jar sometimes and let Landry be free to fly and to work things out on his own before Trevan brings him back down to earth.

Mine is a simple story about two very complex men, and I don’t mean simple in a derogatory way, not at all. No, life for Trevan and Landry has more than its share of complications, but what I mean by simple is that the relationship, the love that Trevan and Landry share is so straightforward, so utterly and unquestioningly substantial and essential to the both of them, that even when it becomes mired in the sometimes overwhelming challenges the men face, when it’s threatened by their own personal demons, it’s that unconditional love that pares everything else down to its most basic elements, and that is that it’s the love they need to survive and thrive.

Mary Calmes has delivered another story filled with angst and turmoil that kept me turning pages all day, until I’d consumed every last word in a frenzy.

Buy Mine HERE

JCP Books, Jordan Castillo Price

Sleepwalker by Jordan Castillo Price

Sleepwalker is a difficult book to categorize. There’s a little bit of mystery, a little bit of…not so much romance as much as there is a beginning of what could be a fine romance, and a little bit of personal turmoil for Dan “Web” Weber, a man who’s struggling with an affliction named George. And if you want to read even more into it, this could also be seen as a great argument for healthcare reform.

This post contains what might be considered spoilers, so click if you’d like to continue reading.

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Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Small Gems

The Winter Garden by Hayden Thorne

The Winter Garden is a story of perspective, and by that I mean that while I was reading, what this story seemed to be on the surface became so much more to me upon reflection. The more I thought about this story, the deeper it touched my heart, and in such a wonderful way, leading me on a journey to a place where the beauty of the things we aren’t meant to see or fully comprehend are absolutely capable of existing in the presence of love.

My initial reaction to this moving and haunting tale was that it was a tragic recollection of lost opportunities, of overwhelming regret and misspent time, but I was so wrong. No, as you come to the end, this story evolves into one of second chances and infinite possibilities. It’s a story of the enduring strength of hope and faith and the way in which two boys settled into a friendship, and how they became kindred spirits despite their differences. Separated when the earthly tent in which the soul resides slips its fragile bonds, the very place that at once seemed a prison transforms into an Eden for Nicholas and, eventually, for Adrian too. The winter garden that was once so lonely became a paradise in which to reunite and enjoy the promise of a lifetime of sharing.

Sometimes perspective means everything, and this was a beautiful message that came at just the right time for me.