Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Flesh Cartel - Capture by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau


The Flesh Cartel - Episode 1

I'm giving this 5 stars because it's SO outside my comfort zone and I couldn't put it down. I think it's probably the most hardcore thing I have ever read - if you're going to read it, HEED THE WARNINGS!

It was released for pre-order download last night at midnight, so I downloaded before heading off to bed. It's violent, it's intense and it's so dark and painful; but I could not put it down. 18K+ words, so not a really long read - it's part one of a serial - I figured I'd read the first chapter before turning out the lights and read the rest today, but I COULD NOT put it down! 

It scares me that I enjoyed it so much. Maybe the distance between me reading in my bed and the brothers being kidnapped and subjected to violence and degradation rendered it safe for me? I don't know. 

But what I do know is that the authors do a spectacular job of writing. I think that's what made this so good to read, getting me past the initial reticence I would have for such violent, triggering fare. A friend of mine wrote a fanfic once that went to many of the dark places that Rachel and Heidi are taking us and I had the same reaction I loved it and I hated that I loved it. *LOL* This is what a good writer will do, I think. Get past those boundary walls you have set up and open your eyes to something different. I am eagerly awaiting the second episode in this serial. Eagerly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sublime - Collected Shorts by Rachel Haimowitz


Continuing the tales of Nicky and Devon as they explore many, many aspects of a D/s relationship. In these assorted short stories, there's something for everyone. I think my favourite was "Milk Run". Devon is a lovely, devious, mischievous Dom, especially when his Nicky steps out of line. :) There's a sweetness to Devon and Nicky that I just love and they are just perfect for each other. Loved it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Notturno by Z. A. Maxfield


Believable vampires! I'm not a huge fan of paranormals, but that may be because I've not read any by an author that will make it work. (Or maybe I'm still scarred by the Hamilton woman.)

I enjoyed the characters, very much. Both the main characters and the secondary ones' This book felt full, in a very good way. The two main characters were not wrapped in a cocoon of their own emotions, they interacted with others and had other relationships and all the while, you knew they were thinking of each other without having to have it spelled out for you. 

And I want a Boaz. I surely hope we've not seen the end of him because he totally charmed me. Edward and Tuan as well, but to a lesser extent. 

So, a full book, a hotly romantic book, an adventure story, a character study and a few well placed spots of humour. I really enjoyed it. :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dark Horse by Kate Sherwood


Thank God, that's over with! This book clocked in at 382 pages on my ereader and nothing really happened before page 340. I was so disappointed. I mean, it had horses! And not just any horses - EVENT horses! You know, the dressage, the stadium jumping and the cross-country. I had high hopes.

To read the blurb about the book, I thought I was getting the story of Dan, the horse trainer, whose life intertwines with another horse trainer, Jeff and a rich stable owner, Evan. I expected a story with lots of physical heat and a lot of explorations of emotions as a polyamorous finds its feet. Did I get that? Nope.

Part One - almost 200 pages - was the study of Dan, the trainer, and how he's dealing with the death of his lover. We spend SO much time in Dan's head, being told how he feels ad nauseum. He meets Jeff and Evan and we're TOLD that sparks fly, but I honestly didn't see it. The author seems to think that we need to be told every last thing that happens to Dan in a day, including how he brushes his teeth, decides on the blue shirt or the white shirt, decides which horse to take out of its stall and which tack the horse is going to need. Minutiae! NOTHING happened to further the story.

And then came part two with more of the same, only this time, we've moved from Kentucky to California, so hopefully we'll be seeing more of Jeff and Evan and get this threesome on the road. They say the longest journey starts with a single step, but OH MY LORD, it took the author so long to pack the bag before taking that step! 

I never warmed up to Dan. He seemed very schizophrenic to me. We spend 9/10ths of the book inside his head and one moment he's this quiet, retiring fellow, then he's a predatory wolf looking for a fuck, then he's an unsure young man trying to do the best in his job, then he's a uneducated bumpkin with all this horrid stuff in his past - yes, this horrid stuff that supposedly had a lot to do in forming his character and we find out about in in the last fifth of the book! OH, by the way, Dan has a juvie record, an abusive father, and a younger sister. 

I never saw what it was that Evan and Jeff saw in him - at one point, I think it's Jeff who says something along the lines of, "I don't know how to explain it, Dan, but you just bring us into balance. You just do." Well, I'm sorry, I need to know HOW and WHY this can be. And then... when both Jeff and Evan confess to burgeoning feelings for this paragon of wonderfulness, all he wants is sex, hot and heavy. 

I don't know if the author had an editor for this book, but if she did, I sure couldn't tell. 

The story was advertised as being about the relationship, but ended up being an exploration of the ever-changing personality of Dan's head. Personally, I would have cut out three quarters of the manuscript and made the focus of the story the actual story of the blossoming relationship between the 3 men and how Dan learns to fit in at his new home in California. I understand there's a sequel to this book but I'm not hurrying off to get it. It makes me wonder if Dark Horse was written as a scene setter for the second book. A 400-page scene setter. OY! Sadly, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dark Soul Vol 1 by Aleksandr Voinov


Dark Soul Vol 1 - Books 1 & 2

I had barely begun the second of the two stories in this volume, Dark Secret and there I was, adding all the rest of the Dark Soul Series to my MUST HAVE wish list. 

This series really isn't for everyone. Gritty is almost too gentle of a word to describe it. It's dark, it's violent, it's intense and it explores things that most people would rather relegate to the very back shadows of their minds. I will be honest, I spent most of the first story, Dark Soul with my eyes like this - 0.0 - while I devoured it. Horrified and fascinated at the same time. *LOL* 

The main characters of Stefano and Silvio are two of the most intriguing men I have ever read about and I cannot wait to discover more about them. I hope to learn more about Stefano's wife, Donata, as well. The wee glimpse we got as well as Stefano's thoughts about her have piqued my interest. 

So, it's really not for the faint of heart, REALLY NOT, but, man, I really, really enjoyed it. And it gets 5 stars because it's so far outside my comfort zone and Aleksandr made me care about the characters so that I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Second Hand by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton


Tucker Springs - Book 2

I love Heidi's work and I love Marie's work and I was very curious, and maybe a tad apprehensive, to see how this joint venture of theirs would turn out. I was not disappointed! It was terrific! It's one of those books that I would recommend if a friend asked me what to read to introduce them to m/m romances. 

The main characters, El and Paul, are very likable - hell, I developed a bit of a crush on El within two pages of meeting him! I thought I might not be so fond of Paul because he seemed almost wishy-washy at first, but that soon changed when I realised that he was just The Most Clueless Man EVER. Which I found endearing. :) And he's a redhead. I love redheads. 

I thought that having the mix of first person POV and 3rd person limited might be a mistake at first, but not at all. It seems counter-intuitive and ungainly, this mix, but Heidi and Marie make it work really, really well. So well that I didn't even notice it after the first chapter or two. My first thought was that this was how they shared up the writing - Heidi writing El's 3rd person POV and Marie taking care of Paul's 1st person POV, but you know what? It doesn't matter other than I'm a curious type. It works and it works well. 

And the dog. The adorable dog. I loved Mojo. So, should you read this book? If you want a well-written, fun, romantic, heart-touching read, you most certainly should!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Land of Night by Kirby Crow


Scarlet and the White Wolf - Book 3

This, the third and final installment of the Scarlet and the White Wolf series, was probably the best and I would like to give it a 3.5 stars instead of the 3. 

What made this volume better for me was the advent of some secondary characters that captured my affections. Liall's younger brother, the scholar sent to help Scarlet navigate the northern court, Liall's major domo, Liall's mother... I became attached to them all. :)

I found little of the Liall I had grown to enjoy in this novel - his wildness, his restrained violence, it was almost missing as he negotiated the return to his home court. I missed the Kasiri bandit a lot. All in all, it was a somewhat satisfying ending to the tale, although the plot twist that took it from a fantasy universe to a type of AU (alternate universe) was kind of lost on me. I didn't think the story needed it and would have been stronger without it. It was almost a cop-out on some good world-building. 

So, in the end, an enjoyable read and I will add Kirby Crow on my list of authors that I will read.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino


Theta Alpha Gamma - Book 1

This is a light, fun read, with endearing characters that will make you smile. Although I did find myself wanting to pinch both Brad and Sebastian in some of their more dim-witted moments. :) 

The thing is, Brad is young, he can be forgiven. Anne Tenino writes a perfect 21-year old young man coming to terms with his newly-realised sexuality. The way his thoughts jump around at times and the way they fixate on something so small and insignificant at others is bang on. My own son was 21 not so long ago, so it's very familiar. 

Sebastian, the older and supposedly wiser half of this duo is 28 years old and comes across as a wee bit jaded and cynical and a tad pretentious in this knowledge. It was fun seeing him realise what was what in the final chapters. And all the intimate moments and sex scenes between him and Brad were perfectly hot. :)

And from a technical standpoint this book was really well written. It flowed very nicely and the POV changes came when it was comfortable for the POV changes to be there. And witty, yes I chuckled a few times out loud while I read this. So in the end, a quick, fun, hot read that will make you smile.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Scorpion by Aleksandr Voinov


Memory of Scorpions - Book 1

4.5 Stars. Aleksandr Voinov has a new fan in me. The authors whose work I love and whose recs I trust, recommended Mr. Voinov, so DSP was having a sale and I thought it the perfect time to check him out.

I thought I was buying a contemporary spy/military, Navy Sealesque type book - BOY, was I surprised! (I only really scanned the blurb.) I guess the best way to describe Scorpion is that it's a military novel set in an alternate, fantasy world. But no elves or wizards here, not that type of fantasy. 

It's dark, it's intense, it's the story of Kendras, a soldier, a Scorpion and a very honourable man. It's a tough, rough, intense story, peopled by rough, intense characters. There's death, blood, beatings, torture and all kinds of mayhem. There are also moments of pure tenderness that take your breath away because you don't expect them after all the other things. There is strength in the 'weakest' of characters and weakness in those who appear to be bastions of strength. In other words, the characters are real. (Have I used the word 'intense' enough? *LOL* It really was that.)

I like the way this book is written It flows and it's a pleasant read, technically speaking. I really couldn't put it down. I was invested in the characters, even the secondary characters. I think I actually went "Yes!" aloud when Kendras discovered his wounded comrades returning to the site of the first battle. DAMN, this was a good book! I want more. I want to know about that third battle, I want to know what happens to The Scorpions, I want to see how the newest member of the band of brothers grows and I want to see Kendras in his new role. I want to know more about the Lord and Lady Protector and their mother. 

I just want MORE! :)