5 Stars, Andrea Speed, Astrid Amara, Charlie Cochet, Ginn Hale, Jordan Castillo Price, Jordan L. Hawk, KJ Charles, Lou Harper, Nicole Kimberling, Reviewed by Lisa, Rhys Ford, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy – Edited by Jordan Castillo Price

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Title: Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy

Authors: Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, KJ Charles, Nicole Kimberling, Jordan L. Hawk, Charlie Cochet, Jordan Castillo Price, Andrea Speed, Lou Harper, Astrid Amara

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 509 Pages

At a Glance: With a lineup like this, how could this anthology have possibly gone amiss?

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Magic takes many forms. From malignant hexes to love charms gone amok, you’ll find a vast array of spells and curses, creatures and conjurings in this massive collection—not to mention a steamy dose of man-on-man action. Charmed and Dangerous features all-new stories of gay paranormal romance, supernatural fiction and urban fantasy by ten top m/m paranormal authors.

Rhys Ford – Dim Sum Asylum
For Detective Roku MacCormick, working Arcane Crimes is his passion. Now cleared of any wrongdoing for shooting his last partner, MacCormick is given back his badge… as well as a new case and partner. Trent Leonard isn’t exactly what he’d expected, but then nothing in San Francisco’s Chinatown ever is.

Ginn Hale – Swift and the Black Dog
When Jack Swift killed a tyrant and won the revolution he became a national hero. But someone in the new government prefers dead heroes to living, swearing, cynical wizards. Caught between bullets, revenge and desire, Jack had better be swift indeed.

KJ Charles – A Queer Trade
Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead, and his papers sold. Papers with secrets that could spell death. Waste paper seller Ned Hall can’t resist Crispin’s pleading—and appealing—looks. But can the wasteman and the magician prevent a disaster and save Crispin’s skin?

Nicole Kimberling – Magically Delicious
Occult attacks against NIAD agents aren’t remotely Keith Curry’s department. But when his lover, Gunther, is assaulted, Keith refuses to just sit back and fill out paperwork. He’s on the case—even if that means enraging powerful mages, crossing leprechaun picket lines, or braving dinner with Gunther’s goblin parents.

Jordan Castillo Price – Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns
Psychic medium Victor Bayne can spot a ghost any day of the year, but Halloween holds some special surprises. His psych-groupie boyfriend Jacob coaxes him to the location of an old spirit sighting, but they can’t ghosthunt without enduring a cheesy “haunted house” that’s even more disturbing than they realize.

Jordan L. Hawk – The Thirteenth Hex
Hexman Dominic Kopecky doesn’t understand why dashing crow familiar Rook wants his help investigating murder by patent hex. For one thing, Dominic isn’t a witch. For another, the case is already closed—and someone is willing to kill to keep it that way.

Charlie Cochet – The Soldati Prince
Riley Murrough goes from serving lattes to being chased by demons. If that wasn’t bad enough, he bears the mark of a shapeshifter king from a magical realm. Riley’s determined to get answers, but if the demons out for his blood don’t kill him, the urge to strangle the arrogant king might.

Lou Harper – One Hex Too Many
Veteran detective Mike Mulligan is an expert on violent crimes—of the occult variety. He might even be cursed. Detective Hugh Fox is eager to partner up and prove himself, but Mulligan is accustomed to flying solo. Can they trust each other enough to track a killer who’ll stop at nothing, not even summoning a demon?

Andrea Speed – Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom
It’s a boring night at the Quik-Mart for Josh and his friend Doug. Until a vampire with a grudge—and the most adorable backup ever—crashes the store. Can Josh survive the Bathroom of Doom?

Astrid Amara – The Trouble With Hexes
P.I. Tim Keller has a problem. And the only person who can solve it is his ex-boyfriend, Vincent, whose job as a hexbreaker was the reason they broke up. It’s hard admitting he was wrong, especially when coughing up organs. But there’s a missing person to find, a hexmaker to hunt down, and a romance to repair before Tim breathes his last.

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Review: If you’ve looked at this lineup of authors and thought to yourself that there’s no possible way this anthology could fail…you’d be absolutely right. For fans of speculative fiction, Charmed and Dangerous is a collection of wild wonderment that’s been long overdue. This company of ten of the genre’s consummate storytellers dug into their depthless cache of talent to ensure each of these tales lived up to the challenge presented to them: to create new worlds, to introduce both new and familiar characters within the allotted word count, and to do so without sacrificing a single iota of detail, imagination, or compromising the quality of each tale.

Mission: Accomplished

For me to give you a thorough rundown of every story in this omnibus would take more words than I’m positive you’re willing to read from me, so I’m not going to try. There are enough adjectives of a superlative nature in the English language that I can heap on this collection, and upon the heads of its authors, which could, and does, apply to every story in Charmed and Dangerous. Magical and mysterious, clever and charming, witty and wonderful, each of these stories is filled with curses and hexes and creatures of the mythical and metaphysical sort, and, in turn, the authors have given their characters the outlet to explore each of their worlds: where the impossible is made reality, where these men form a bond against a backdrop of danger, action, suspense, humor, dark and deadly magicks, and are given second chances at love.

Nine of these ten tales share a more common thread in their magic, while Charlie Cochet’s The Soldati Prince (what I feel is the most romance-centric of the collection) is a heartfelt and touching shifter fantasy that adheres to the mate bond theme inherent to that sub-genre. A theme it does share with several other of the stories, however, is sacrifice in the name of love. And may have made me a little teary eyed before its end.

From Rhys Ford’s mayhem-laden, humorous and action packed turn at a sex-cursed statue in an Alt U San Francisco Chinatown (which could have come only from the delectably madcap and marvelous mind of this author); to the post-revolutionary dystopian brilliance that is the genius Ginn Hale’s story of betrayal and salvation, Jack Swift and the Black Dog; to the always marvelous KJ Charles’ foray into hex magic and treachery and the promise of a new love (plus, that first line hooked me!); to the hyper-imaginative Nicole Kimberling’s extra-appropriately titled Magically Delicious, and its Lewis Carroll/Midsummer Night’s Dream world filled with leprechauns, mermaid-flesh dealers, goblins, and a deadly pixie dust mystery; to the extraordinarily talented Jordan Castillo Price and my beloved Victor Bayne and Jacob Marks, and a ghost clown all wrapped up inside a misogynist meninist’s wet dream; to the eloquent and fabulous Jordan L. Hawk’s perfect The Thirteenth Hex, a story for which I’m already begging a sequel because these characters and this world are oozing with everything that makes reading a magic unto itself; to the flawless Lou Harper’s unparalleled and all-consuming mystery One Hex too Many–the story that kept me on the hook from start to finish in not only its imaginative world building but in my love of its detectives Mulligan, Fox and Leslie; to the never to be outdone Andrea Speed’s oddball-in-only-the-best-way, strange-things-are-afoot-at-the-Quik-Mart, Josh of the Damned world where anything goes, from vamps to werewolves to zombies to human-sized lizards to giant animate mustaches…well, you get the picture; to the excellent The Trouble With Hexes, Astrid Amara’s beautiful close to the anthology, a story that’s dark magic and pure emotion and encompasses what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice for the one you love—these stories, each and every one of them, deliver a reading experience that’s meant to be devoured and savored all at once.

Whether you’ve only read one of these authors before, or, like me, you’ve read all ten, Charmed and Dangerous is a spec fic lover’s Wonderland… Or whatever it is you call that place we go during those not-quite-aware-of-reality moments when we lose ourselves in a great book.

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You can buy Charmed and Dangerous here:

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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Andrea Speed, Astrid Amara, Charlie Cochet, Cover Reveal, Ginn Hale, Jordan Castillo Price, Jordan L. Hawk, KJ Charles, Lou Harper, Nicole Kimberling, Rhys Ford

Cover Reveal: Charmed and Dangerous Edited by Jordan Castillo Price

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Magic takes many forms. From malignant hexes to love charms gone amok, you’ll find a vast array of spells and curses, creatures and conjurings in this massive collection—not to mention a steamy dose of man-on-man action. Charmed and Dangerous features all-new stories of gay paranormal romance, supernatural fiction and urban fantasy by ten top m/m paranormal authors.

charmed-cover-450

Releasing August 25, 2015, pre-order your copy now at Amazon

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THE LINEUP:

Rhys FordDim Sum Asylum

Ginn HaleSwift and the Black Dog

KJ CharlesA Queer Trade

Nicole KimberlingMagically Delicious

Jordan Castillo PriceEveryone’s Afraid of Clowns

Jordan L. HawkThe Thirteenth Hex

Charlie CochetThe Soldati Prince

Lou HarperOne Hex Too Many

Andrea SpeedJosh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom

Astrid AmaraThe Trouble With Hexes

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BLURBS:

Rhys Ford – Dim Sum Asylum
For Detective Roku MacCormick, working Arcane Crimes is his passion. Now cleared of any wrongdoing for shooting his last partner, MacCormick is given back his badge… as well as a new case and partner. Trent Leonard isn’t exactly what he’d expected, but then nothing in San Francisco’s Chinatown ever is.

Ginn Hale – Swift and the Black Dog
When Jack Swift killed a tyrant and won the revolution he became a national hero. But someone in the new government prefers dead heroes to living, swearing, cynical wizards. Caught between bullets, revenge and desire, Jack had better be swift indeed.

KJ Charles – A Queer Trade
Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead, and his papers sold. Papers with secrets that could spell death. Waste paper seller Ned Hall can’t resist Crispin’s pleading—and appealing—looks. But can the wasteman and the magician prevent a disaster and save Crispin’s skin?

Nicole Kimberling – Magically Delicious
Occult attacks against NIAD agents aren’t remotely Keith Curry’s department. But when his lover, Gunther, is assaulted, Keith refuses to just sit back and fill out paperwork. He’s on the case—even if that means enraging powerful mages, crossing leprechaun picket lines, or braving dinner with Gunther’s goblin parents.

Jordan Castillo Price – Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns
Psychic medium Victor Bayne can spot a ghost any day of the year, but Halloween holds some special surprises. His psych-groupie boyfriend Jacob coaxes him to the location of an old spirit sighting, but they can’t ghosthunt without enduring a cheesy “haunted house” that’s even more disturbing than they realize.

Jordan L. Hawk – The Thirteenth Hex
Hexman Dominic Kopecky doesn’t understand why dashing crow familiar Rook wants his help investigating murder by patent hex. For one thing, Dominic isn’t a witch. For another, the case is already closed—and someone is willing to kill to keep it that way.

Charlie Cochet – The Soldati Prince
Riley Murrough goes from serving lattes to being chased by demons. If that wasn’t bad enough, he bears the mark of a shapeshifter king from a magical realm. Riley’s determined to get answers, but if the demons out for his blood don’t kill him, the urge to strangle the arrogant king might.

Lou Harper – One Hex Too Many
Veteran detective Mike Mulligan is an expert on violent crimes—of the occult variety. He might even be cursed. Detective Hugh Fox is eager to partner up and prove himself, but Mulligan is accustomed to flying solo. Can they trust each other enough to track a killer who’ll stop at nothing, not even summoning a demon?

Andrea Speed – Josh of the Damned vs. the Bathroom of Doom
It’s a boring night at the Quik-Stop for Josh and his friend Doug. Until a vampire with a grudge—and the most adorable backup ever—crashes the store. Can Josh survive the Bathroom of Doom?

Astrid Amara – The Trouble With Hexes
P.I. Tim Keller has a problem. And the only person who can solve it is his ex-boyfriend, Vincent, whose job as a hexbreaker was the reason they broke up. It’s hard admitting he was wrong, especially when coughing up organs. But there’s a missing person to find, a hexmaker to hunt down, and a romance to repair before Tim breathes his last.

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TEASERS: 

We were just kids,” Jack muttered.

Shafts of afternoon light speared through the blinds, illuminating the hard angles of his lean face. He exhaled a cloud of pale blue smoke and ignored the glare of the well-dressed diners seated at other tables. In a moment a maitre’d would appear and smoothly suggest that he remove himself from the building.

Then, inevitably, David would intervene, flashing his ministry badge and pronouncing Jack’s full name a little too loudly, a little too officiously. A halting apology would be offered and followed by requests for autographs and photos. Behind it all Jack would hear the whispers.

That’s Jack Swift?

God, did you see his hand?

He looks like some ragman from the Bone Ledges.

I’ve heard he’s a queer.

Lifting his scarred hand, Jack drew the smoke down to ring his fingers. Let the surrounding diners see that the ragman in their midst was a wizard. They didn’t need to know which one. Any wizard was too much trouble for most decent folk.

-Swift and the Black Dog by Ginn Hale

§§§§§

From his square jaw and beefy build down to his dirty blond fade haircut, everything about the guy screamed ex-hardcore military. He moved as if expecting a riot to break out on the upper loft, icy blue eyes scanning each of us, stopping only long enough to mark our presence before moving on to the next cop.

He found me first and then again, last. His gaze pierced through me, assessing and judging in a way that did not say cop. I wasn’t sure what was found wanting, my shaggy mane or my odd ommatidia-faceted pupils, but something made his nostrils flare. I definitely spotted the moment he saw my pupils’ copper-green sheen. His head jerked back a few millimeters and his chin jutted out.

If my new partner had a thing against fae or fae-bred, we were assuredly going to have a problem.

-Dim Sum Asylum by Rhys Ford

§§§§§

“Mr. Kopecky?”

“Yes, that’s….” Dominic began as he lifted his gaze from the paper. Then his tongue tangled, and he forgot how to speak.

The man standing in front of his desk was…well, he’d never thought of a man as beautiful before, but it was the only word that came to mind now. The white of his shirt collar contrasted with rich, brown skin. Silky black locks brushed his shoulders, and wide lips shaped into a rather cheeky grin.

“…You?” the man prompted, when Dominic only stared.

God! He dropped his eyes quickly, willing his reaction under control. He couldn’t forget himself at work, in full view of everyone. As he glanced down, his eye snagged on the badge pinned to the man’s vest.

A familiar? Here?

-The Thirteenth Hex by Jordan L Hawk 

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AUTHOR BIOS:

Astrid Amara
Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington. She’s a former Peace Corps Volunteer, an advocate for animal rights, and a bureaucrat by day. After work she can usually be found writing, riding horses, hiking, or else sleeping. Her novel The Archer’s Heart was a finalist for the 2008 Lambda Literary Award. http://www.astridamara.com

KJCharles
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden and an increasingly murderous cat.

KJ writes mostly romance, gay and straight, frequently historical, and usually with some fantasy or horror in there. She specialises in editing romance, especially historical and fantasy, and also edits children’s fiction.
http://www.kjcharleswriter.com

Charlie Cochet
Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.
http://www.charliecochet.com

Rhys Ford
Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats, a bonsai wolfhound, and a ginger cairn terrorist.

Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and a red Hamilton Beach coffee maker.

But mostly to the coffee maker.
http://www.rhysford.com

Ginn Hale
Ginn Hale resides in the Pacific Northwest with her wife and three cats. She spends many of the rainy days tinkering with devices and words and can often be sighted herding other people’s dogs, bees and goats. Her novel Wicked Gentlemen won the Spectrum Award for Best Novel and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.
http://www.ginnhale.com

Lou Harper
Under a prickly, cynical surface Lou Harper is an incorrigible romantic. Her love affair with the written word started at a tender age. There was never a time when stories weren’t romping around in her head. She is currently embroiled in a ruinous romance with adjectives. In her free time Lou stalks deviant words and feral narratives.

Lou’s favorite animal is the hedgehog. She likes nature, books, movies, photography, and good food. She has a temper and mood swings.

Lou has misspent most of her life in parts of Europe and the US, but is now firmly settled in Los Angeles and worships the sun. However, she thinks the ocean smells funny. Lou is a loner, a misfit, and a happy drunk.
http://www.louharper.com

Jordan L Hawk
Jordan L. Hawk grew up in North Carolina and forgot to ever leave. Childhood tales of mountain ghosts and mysterious creatures gave her a life-long love of things that go bump in the night. When she isn’t writing, she brews her own beer and tries to keep her cats from destroying the house. Her best-selling Whyborne & Griffin series (beginning with Widdershins) can be found in print, ebook, and audiobook at Amazon and other online retailers.
http://www.jordanlhawk.com

Nicole Kimberling
Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She is also the author of the Bellingham Mystery Series.
http://www.nicolekimberling.com

Jordan Castillo Price
Author and artist Jordan Castillo Price writes paranormal sci-fi thrillers colored by her time in the midwest, from inner city Chicago, to rural small town Wisconsin, to liberal Madison. Her influences include Ouija boards, Return of the Living Dead, “light as a feather, stiff as a board,” girls with tattoos and boys in eyeliner.
http://www.jordancastilloprice.com

Andrea Speed
Andrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!)

In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men. Viva la revolution!
http://www.andreaspeed.com

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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!

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4.5 Stars, Astrid Amara, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale, Josh Lanyon, Nicole Kimberling

Irregulars by Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Astrid Amara, and Ginn Hale

It took me a while to decide, but I think I can honestly say I’ve never read an anthology quite like Irregulars, four novellas from four talented authors who’ve woven each of their stories together to create an Urban Fantasy/Urban Fairy Tale world where goblins, vampires, brownies, fairies, pixies, demons, witches, and all other manner of extra-human creatures reside to tell the story of the NIAD, the NATO Irregular Affairs Division, the agency that regulates and manages mythical artifacts and all things magical.

Starting things off is the one author in the collection with whom I was unfamiliar, Nicole Kimberling. Her story, Cherries Worth Getting, does a great job of setting up the premise and the world building for the entire novella. If you buy this book and are at all tempted to read the stories out of order, don’t. I think it’s really important to read everything in sequence, not only because some characters overlap, but also because, well, this is really a fine story.

Keith Curry and Gunther Heartman are former lovers who are teamed up on a case involving culinary crimes—really disgusting culinary crimes, actually. Their break up wasn’t necessarily the end of a relationship; it was more the end of a “co-workers with benefits” arrangement that came about because Keith was carrying some really heavy baggage, and Gunther was keeping a fairly significant secret.

Though Keith doesn’t want to be partnered with Gunther again, their investigation into murder and black market protein draws the two men closer to catching the criminals, drawing them closer to each other as a result, as goblins, vampires, and humans provide the danger, and Keith and Gunther work to overcome the things that had torn them apart.

I thought this was a fast paced and well told story, a strong intro for the other authors to build upon but not overshadow as the rest of the tales unfold. – 4 Stars

A fae/human hybrid with a demon kink and an obsession with magical artifacts stars in Green Glass Beads, Josh Lanyon’s contribution to this compilation.

Archer Green is the curator of the Museum of State-Sanctioned Antiquities, who also was, at one time, affiliated with the more radical Society for the Rescue and Restoration of Indigenous Magic, which leaves him a prime target for Commander Rake’s scrutiny.

Rake is the new head of the Vancouver branch of NIAD, and he has more than a passing interest in Archer’s methods and reasons for collecting the artifacts he does. Archer has become Rake’s prime target to help prove that the SRRIM is still alive and thriving and participating in the illegal acquisition of highly dangerous artifacts. Rake has an axe to grind and he’s not above using Archer as his sharpening stone to do his job. But, Rake also has a secret of his own that hides behind his glamour.

The search for green glass beads, an artifact with very personal ties to Archer’s own ancestry, leads to danger, manipulation, and an act of betrayal that, in the end, provides for a touching reunion between Archer and Rake.

This was a sexy and satisfying read that also has a bit of a tie-in with Ginn Hale’s story. – 4 stars

Astrid Amara’s No Life but This kicked the WHOA! factor into overdrive for me in a murder mystery that tells the story of Deven Shaw, who, at the age of ten was sacrificed by his own father in a show of political loyalty to Lord Knife, the ruler of the underworld realm of Aztaw, at the time.

Deven’s father was the NIAD ambassador to Aztaw, and he allowed his boy to become a symbol of blind dedication to his cause, after Deven was kidnapped by Lord Knife’s rival, Lord Jaguar, and was then sentenced to death, an act the elder Shaw fully supported to further his own agenda.

An act of courage and quick thinking, something Lord Jaguar could respect, is the only thing that saved Deven’s life that day, and he spent more than a decade in Aztaw, training as an assassin and dreaming of the day he’d be rescued by NIAD agents, but eventually coming to the realization that he had no one or nothing to rely on but himself and his own willingness to survive.

Lord Jaguar’s death after he’d bestowed his house power to Deven led to a sacred vow and Deven’s eventual escape from Aztaw in order to fulfill that oath, but after so many of his informative years spent outside the human realm, his return to society leaves him uncertain of how to behave or react in a human way.

Being partnered with the surly and disagreeable Agent Silas August to investigate the murder of August’s partner Carlos, and Carlos’s sister, Beatriz, takes Deven to Mexico City, where a dark and sinister magic with connections to Aztaw puts the men directly on a path marked for death.

Deven is the prime target of Night Axe, Lord of Hurricanes, the bogeyman of Aztaw, who has returned from exile to steal the power that Deven possesses so he can claim control of a war torn and nearly decimated Aztaw. And Night Axe will use every means at his disposal, up to and including Agent August, to gain Deven’s compliance.

Astrid Amara’s brilliant imagination and vivid prose left me entirely in awe, from start to finish of this story. The relationship between Deven and August builds slowly and believably but the action and suspense is nothing short of driven, as the two men get closer and closer to resolving the mystery, something that could ultimately prove fatal for August, and leads both men to discover that there are things worth dying for, but there are also things very much worth living for.

A sinister betrayal also proves to Deven that one’s word is his bond, only when the one he’s given his word to is worthy of that loyalty.

I loved this one, plain and simple – 5 stars

Not to be outdone, and rounding out this anthology beautifully is Ginn Hale’s Things Unseen and Deadly, a story that just tugged at my heart strings in the most sublime way.

This is a story that loosely ties into all three of the other books, overlapping characters and storylines, and tells the tale of a revenant named Half-Dead Henry Falk, who works with NIAD in both the shade lands and the human realm, and the Stone of Fal, a sidhe legend revolving around a stone hidden within the body of a princess’s child, the child with the only legitimate claim to the sidhe throne.

Jason Shamir is a man who, as a young boy, witnessed the brutal murder of his father by goblins, a truth that led to years of psychiatric evaluation both in and out of mental institutions, and eventually led to him hiding the fact that he could see the truth, truths that no one else can see beneath the façade of the extra-human beings that walk in the human realm.

Jason holds a powerful magic within himself, one that he’s entirely unaware of, one that’s tied to synethesia, the ability to see shapes and color in music, a power that he will come to discover with Henry Falk’s help, a power that will come to light and reveal that Jason is very much more than the average and forgettable man he appears to be.

Henry and Jason are each so lonely and lost within their own worlds, but it’s the power Jason possesses to see the truth that lies at the core of men that gradually draws them closer together. Henry’s betrayal at the hands of the man he loved and whom he thought loved him in return led to a painful and bitter betrayal that left Henry straddling the realm between life and death, and left him unwilling and unable to see himself as being capable of trusting, let alone loving, again.

Greed and human trafficking leave Jason vulnerable to the dangers that await him in both the human and sidhe realms, and Henry makes it his personal mission, in life and in death, to protect Jason at all costs. Theirs is a relationship that becomes priceless in the only way a connection can be when a man who had nothing and gained everything is willing to sacrifice it all for the sake of the other. Theirs is a connection born in need and loneliness that will endure and strengthen together.

Things Unseen and Deadly left me wanting more of Henry and Jason. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Ginn Hale may resurrect them sometime in the future – 5 Stars

This was a thoroughly impressive collection of stories, a true collaboration in every single sense of the word. All four novellas tied together beautifully to make for one wildly entertaining read.

Available at Weightless Books

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