Abigail Roux, Aleksandr Voinov, Andrea Speed, Anthony Paull, Beau Schemery, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Carole Cummings, Charlie Cochet, Hayden Thorne, J.C. Lillis, Jamie Samms, Lorraine Ulrich, P.D. Singer, Rhys Ford, T.D. McKinney, Terry Wylis, The Year In Reviews

The Best of 2012 – Part Deux

How about some cover art, yeah? Right or wrong, I’m going to be the first to admit I have a hard time not judging a book by its cover. Sometimes a beautiful cover will make me pick up a book I might otherwise not have, and on the other side of that coin, I know I’ve passed on more than a few books that are probably quite good but I can’t get past the images that were chosen to represent the work inside. I’ve read books with covers that were better than the books themselves; I’ve read books that were infinitely better than the trappings they came in.

There are some really great covers I came across as I was compiling my “Best of 2012” list. Some of the best covers are from books that didn’t quite make my list (and maybe some of them should have :-/) but I think they deserved to be recognized here. They aren’t in any sort of order, some are plain some are more elaborate, all are ones I thought were pretty. :)

What do you think? What are some of your favorite covers from books you’ve read this year? Do you judge books by their covers too?

Arabesque by Hayden Thorne – Cover Art by Ms. Rosek

Mechanical Magic by Lorraine Ulrich – Cover Art by Anne Cain

Desmond and Garrick Books 1 & 2 by Hayden Thorne – Cover Art by Ms. Rosek

The Wolf’s-own Series by Carole Cummings – Cover Art by Anne Cain

The Rare Event by P.D. Singer – Cover Art by Anne Cain

Infected: Shift by Andrea Speed – Cover Art by Anne Cain

Roses in the Devil’s Garden by Charlie Cochet – Cover Art by Charlie Cochet

Dark Soul: Volume One by Aleksandr Voinov – Cover Art by Jordan Taylor

Stained Glass by Jaime Samms – Cover Art by Paul Richmond

Outtakes of a Walking Mistake by Anthony Paull – Cover Art by Kyle Cross

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Cover Art by Chloe Foglia, Mark Brabant & Sarah Jane Coleman

Dirty Secret by Rhys Ford – Cover Art by Reece Notley

The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux – Cover Art by Reece Dante

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis – Cover Art by Mindy Dunn and Andrea Sabaliauskas

The 7th of London by Beau Schemery – Cover Art by Beau Schemery

Kissing Sherlock Holmes by T.D. McKinney & Terry Wylis – Cover Art by Trace Edward Zaber

Abigail Roux, Aleksandr Voinov, Amelia C. Gormley, Amy Lane, Andrea Speed, Anyta Sunday, Astrid Amara, Ava March, Beau Schemery, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Carole Cummings, Charlie Cochet, Cornelia Grey, Dani Alexander, Diana Copland, Eden Winters, Edmond Manning, Elyan Smith, Ethan Day, Ginn Hale, Hayden Thorne, Heidi Belleau, J.C. Lillis, J.H. Trumble, J.P. Barnaby, Jennifer Cierra, John Goode, John T. Fuller, Jordan Castillo Price, Josh Lanyon, Joshua Martino, Kaje Harper, L.B. Gregg, M.J. O'Shea, Maria McCann, Marshall Moore, Mary Calmes, Missy Welsh, Nicole Kimberling, P.D. Singer, Paul Alan Fahey, Piper Vaughn, Rhys Ford, S.A. Reid, The Year In Reviews, Violetta Vane, Z.A. Maxfield

2012 – A Year In Reviews

Well, it’s that time of year again, the time of year when we all wonder where the days and weeks and months have gone, the time to reflect on some of the great books we’ve read throughout the year, the time of year I scratch my head and wonder if I’ll ever live long enough to read all the books I want to read (The answer? Pfft. No.), the time of year I wonder how the flip I manage to read as many books as I do in an entire year, and then wonder how I’m supposed to compile a list of favorites that doesn’t include more books than some people read in a year’s time. Top Ten? Piffles. I can barely pick the top ten in a single sub-genre, let along manage it for an across the board list. So, do I get a little creative in my selection methods? Probably. Is it honest? Definitely. Do I feel badly for leaving some amazing books off my list? Certainly. But I have to draw the line somewhere. ::sighs:: And for that I apologize to all the very deserving authors out there who should be recognized and celebrated for their brilliant work.

Quite a few of the books that made my list this year weren’t even published in 2012; that’s just when I finally got around to reading them. ::slow:: There is one book, however, that was published in 2012 that has managed to make me do something I’ve never been able to do in three years of putting together a year in reviews list: name a top pick for Best Book of the Year. Yep, that’s a first for me.

And since I’m always looking for the “next great read”, if there are books you’ve read this year that didn’t make my list, leave a comment and share so I can add it to my ginormous reading pile. :)

So, without further ado, here’s my list of Favorite Books of 2012:

Category One: Best Contemporary by a New To Me author

1. Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander
2. A Reason to Believe by Diana Copland
3. Aaron by J.P. Barnaby

*Honorable Mention: Inertia and Acceleration by Amelia C. Gormley*

Category Two: Best Contemporary by a Favorite Author
1. Armed & Dangerous by Abigail Roux
2. Sidecar by Amy Lane
3. Acrobat by Mary Calmes

*Honorable Mention: The Rare Event by P.D. Singer and One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea*

Category Three: Best Historical – 20th Century
1. Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov
2. Protection by S.A. Reid
3. Roses in the Devil’s Garden by Charlie Cochet

*Honorable Mention: Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper

Category Four: Best Historical – 19th Century or earlier
1. As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann
2. When the Music Stops by John T. Fuller
3. The Affair of the Porcelain Dog by Jess Faraday

*Honorable Mention – His Client by Ava March

Category Five:Best Young Adult/Coming of Age (Contemporary)
1. End of the Innocence by John Goode
2. Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trimble
3. How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

*Honorable Mention – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz*

Category Six:Best Young Adult/Coming of Age (Fantasy and/or Historical)
1. The 7th of London by Beau Schemery
2. The Winter Garden and Other Stories by Hayden Thorne
3. (In)visible by Anyta Sunday

Category Seven:Best AU/UF/Fantasy
1. Infected: Shift by Andrea Speed
2. Mnevermind 1: The Persistence of Memory by Jordan Castillo Price
3. A Token of Time by Ethan Day

*Honorable Mention: Irregulars by Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Ginn Hale & Astrid Amara*

Category EightBest Short Stories/Novelettes – All Sub-Genres
1. Clouds’ Illusions by Hayden Thorne
2. Bounty Hunter by Cornelia Grey
3. Zones by Elyan Smith
4. Portside by Elyan Smith
5. The War at the End of the World by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
6. Same Time Next Year by Eden Winters
7. Tinsel and Frost by Eden Winters
8. Oscar’s Soul by Missy Welch
9. Singing Alone by Jennifer Cierra
10. The View from 16 Podwale Street by Paul Alan Fahey

Category Nine: Best LGBT Non-Romance
1. Fontana by Joshua Martino
2. The Infernal Republic by Marshall Moore

Category Ten: Best Series – AU/Fantasy
1. The Wolf’s-own Series by Carole Cummings
2. The Rifter Series by Ginn Hale
3. The Infected Series by Andrea Speed

Category Eleven:Best Series – Mystery/Suspense
1. The Cut & Run Series by Abigail Roux
2. The Cole McGinnis Mysteries Series by Rhys Ford
3. The Romano and Albright Series by L.B. Gregg

Category Twelve: Best Series – Erotic/Kink/BDSM
1. The Dark Soul Series by Aleksandr Voinov
2. The Bound Series by Ava March

Category Thirteen Best Series – Contemporary
Tied for First place: (Seriously, I can’t choose)
1. The St. Nacho’s Series by Z.A. Maxfield
1. The Johnnies Series by Amy Lane
1. The A Matter of Time Series by Mary Calmes
1. The Tales From Foster High Series by John Goode

And now….

Finally, it comes down to my choice for Best Book of 2012, which goes to the brilliant and beautiful King Perry by Edmond Manning. I can say, with all honesty, I’ve never read a book quite like it in my entire life. Simply put, it is the reason I read and read and read, because every so often I find a book that leaves me both speechless and wanting to shout its praises from the rooftops at the same time. If you haven’t read it yet, do. Soon. Like maybe right now, soon. :)

Now it’s time to get to work on adding to my list for next year!

5 Stars, Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Incendiary (Wolf’s-own #4) by Carole Cummings

“…when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love.” – John Knowles, A Separate Peace

And sometimes the same applies to someone, and that alone has to be good enough because to expect anything more is asking too much of the one you love. To want anything less devalues the gift of that love. To beg for it because you so badly need it in order to feel alive, leaves room to doubt that it’s real. To be able to recognize it, not the words but the actions that signify it, gives it legitimacy. To be able to accept love in whatever form it’s offered because it’s the only way that person is capable of offering it, gives it strength. Simply because a man’s soul can’t afford the price of the words to express it doesn’t diminish the emotion. Sometimes actions and the motivations behind them are thoroughly eloquent all on their own.

For Fen, Jacin, Jacin-rei; the Incendiary, the Catalyst, the Untouchable who wanted…no, that’s wrong…who needed nothing more than to be touched (because a need is an imperative); the unlovable who is loved in spite of how much he feels unworthy of it; the man who has been taught, across lifetimes, that love can only mean betrayal; for that man, existence is a curse. For him, love is pain. His sacrifice is to live; his punishment is to be denied that which he craves to his very core; his affliction is to need and to be needed but to be unable to receive and to give freely; each death is nothing more than a path to rebirth to begin the cycle of torment over and over again, and each lifetime becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, doomed to repeat itself because that torment robs him of his sanity.

“My kind were not meant for the love of another, but that could not stop me from wanting it, so I watched for it very carefully.”

But watching for it is very different from recognizing it, and recognizing it is very different from accepting it, because in a world where every boon must be balanced by a forfeit, how can one man possibly be both the gift and the sacrifice? So you doom yourself to repeat the same mistakes indefinitely, you convince yourself that if you try harder to be perfect, you’ll be loved perfectly. But the person you love doesn’t love you, he only wants to possess you. He wants your soul because to own it, to twist and brutalize it until it lays shriveled and dying in the darkest shadows of your very being means you have no value but to the one who wants to use you. It means you’ve given away everything of yourself and of your Self, and you become nothing but a tool to be manipulated by whomever can make you believe the worst possible lies about who you are and why you even exist.

Until, that is, you find the someone whose arms become the someplace you feel safe. Until you find the purpose of your life is to live your life purposefully. Until you discover the truth behind the lie that has been your existence. Until you find someone who wants to lay claim to you, not because he wants to use you or enslave you but because he wants to protect you and offer you the freedom to choose your own path. Until you unlearn all you’ve been taught and stop fighting against the one who can save you. Only then can you be redeemed.

And only then do you discover there is more than one way to save a soul, but no one ever said the soul that’s saved must be your own in order for you to find salvation. No one ever said the heart’s blood you protect must be your own heart’s blood. Sometimes the soul you save is the one you’re entrusted with, and the only way you have to love is to guard that soul with your life. You keep it safe because that’s how you love. And that has to be enough because it’s all of yourself you have to give.

It is redemption. It is a story of oppression. It is the magic and the mythology of mortals and immortals. It is the mythos of the Six, who usurped the One to become the gods of the world. It is the story of the One who returns to seek vengeance and to regain control of the world that rejected him. It is the story of the children of the gods who carry out the gods’ orders and ensure the balance between the mortals and the immortals. It is the story of an immortal who must discover who he’s meant to be so he can guide the inception to his conclusion so he can begin anew, to fulfill a legacy of becoming the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the god-maker and –slayer, the world-changer and –destroyer, to become more than the Incendiary has ever been before. It is the story of a man who was created to be a tool of Fate, Fate’s Fool, who was betrayed by his lover-god and died a thousand small deaths as penance for defying that god who’d claimed to love his Incendiary but proved with savage equanimity that his love came with conditions.

Wolf’s-own is the saga of three brothers who love in whatever way they have to love—one loves a brother who no longer is, or maybe never was; one loves without provision, even if his actions and words say otherwise; and one has no idea how to love, because to love means to lose. To love means to need. To need means to suffer.

Incendiary is the final chapter in an epic tale that spans the journey of two heroes. It is the end of the beginning, the beginning of the end, the full-circle story of the gods’ and their playthings and the malevolence and manipulation of immortals who would pervert the old magic in a bid to take over the world.

Wolf’s-own is an experience; that’s all there is to say. It is a journey for the reader, the story of a man who was ordered to steal the heart’s blood of an immortal but ended up only stealing his heart instead, and gaining a soul to protect in return for all that he’d lost of his own. There is the Balance.

I loved this series, from inception to conclusion, connected with it in a way I don’t connect with many books, and this is the only way I have to show it.

Buy Incendiary HERE.

5 Stars, Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Koan (Wolf’s-own #3) by Carole Cummings

I think I’ll just take a Xanax and a bottle of gin and go curl up in a corner now because, let me tell you, if I didn’t have some sort of anxiety disorder before reading Koan, I think I do now.

I was going to make that my review. Just that. But please, I could never limit myself to just that where this series is concerned. It’s too much fun to try and analyze it, for me not to give it my full and undivided love and attention.

Years ago, I read a book by the late Joseph Campbell titled The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Originally published in 1949, Mr. Campbell set out to formulate a template for the hero’s journey, one in which the name of the hero doesn’t really matter because he is every one. What matters is the journey itself and how the protagonist of the story progresses through his or her quest, suffers all the trials and heartbreaks, dies the spiritual death, is purified, is reborn, and ultimately achieves a oneness of body and soul to collect the boon at the journey’s end. Now, that’s not to say that Joseph Campbell originated the concept of the monomyth, only that he named it and drew the lines to show the archetypes and alchemy of that journey. Since I read this, as well as his book The Power of Myth, I have to say I’ve never looked at another book in quite the same way again. In fact, I think I quit reading altogether. Now I just obsess.

And Jacin is my latest obsession. Jacin himself is a template. He is a trinity. He is the hero with three faces who has died a thousand small deaths. He is Fen and Jacin and Jacin-rei. He is Incendiary and Catalyst and Untouchable. And somehow, some way, this deadly beauty must find a way to tie all he is together and make peace with the scar that is his soul so that he may be reborn yet again. But now, he must carry on with this journey alone, to discover how to be human—not again, but for the first time. For the first time, he has given someone the gift of his name, his true name, because somewhere deep inside, he knows his name will be safe on the tongue of the one to whom he’s gifted it. The name is not insignificant, in spite of what one would have Jacin believe. Jacin has received the talisman, the unspoken promise of protection against the danger through which he is about to pass, that will help him in his quest, until the one who gifted it to him can return—I hope as the ultimate gift for Jacin.

Jacin has learned that in order to gain, he must also lose. That’s the Balance of Fate in the world in which he lives. If Jacin wants and hopes and needs and reaches out, it can be destroyed, so he’s learned not to allow himself the impulse. He has learned that he cannot want, because if he wants, he hopes; if he hopes, he feels; if he feels, he is vulnerable. If he’s vulnerable, he can no longer hide in the shadows because the shadows are no longer a part of who he is. He is exposed, raw, frightened, in pain, and once again a target and a tool in a deadly game between the gods and the banpair, the energy vampires who feed upon the power of emotions, and Jacin is their all-you-can-eat-buffet.

Sometimes the best way to describe what something is, is to describe what it isn’t. Jacin isn’t whole. He isn’t crazy, nor is he sane. He isn’t untouchable, nor is he unlovable. He isn’t perfect, nor is he invincible. He has been touched and he has been loved, but he isn’t ready to accept that he is worthy of either, nor does he know how to get to that point of acceptance yet. He isn’t a fool, nor is he free. He has not discovered that his life has meaning because he has not yet discovered the meaning of his life. He isn’t the Ghost, but he isn’t quite human either. Jacin isn’t your archetypical hero. He must fly to fall and fall to fly–to do that, he must let go.

”It is yours to reach for the light.” Jacin must find the light to escape the shadows. And I hope its brilliance is enough to burn away the damage of all that he’s endured. I hope that light is incendiary.

Buy Koan (Wolf’s-own #3) HERE.

Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Small Gems – Rapport by Carole Cummings

The children of the gods play their games, sometimes very dangerous games in which winning means escaping with one’s life. But sometimes those games are little more than an unconcealed pleasure to show superiority over the weak and the helpless who can be controlled and manipulated, trespassed against simply because it can be done. Or maybe it was merely a test, an attempt to find an answer to the question, why him?

It’s been made very clear that Kamen Malick is unlike the gods’ other children, and it’s that difference that made him first a curiosity, easily misjudged, certainly underestimated as the immortal who is weakened by his humanity; then an ally, then more to Skel, who has been, until now, little more than a ghostly presence in the series and whose death has haunted Malick.

Skel was the stepping stone which began Asai’s path to Fen Jacin-rei. He was a tool and a sacrifice in a bid for superiority and domination, and the price he paid was steep.

There’s an undeniable urge to recommend Rapport even if you’ve never read a single word of the Wolf’s-own series. It’s one thing to be able to read and appreciate a story for its rich atmosphere and lush writing, but it’s entirely another to read a story about characters you know nothing about and may not appreciate unless you know something about the world they inhabit and the ways in which they struggle to discover who they are and what their purpose is in the grand scheme of things.

There’s something to be said for seduction, though, and there’s no question this is a seductive scene. Maybe this free short is exactly the sort of enticement you need to draw you into an entirely provocative world. I’m so glad I’m already there.

Download Rapport FREE HERE.

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.

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