Thursday, 28 February 2013

Getting Skinny (A Chef Landry Mystery #1), Monique Domovitch

Getting Skinny (A Chef Landry Mystery, #1)

A nice mystery about an overweight woman, a cheating boyfriend, a couple of murders and an annoying best friend.

- Review by Cindi

Nicky Landry is the co-owner of a struggling restaurant, Skinnys On The Queen.  She has a handsome boyfriend of two years who is a physician, Rob.  Her business partner, Toni, is her best friend.  Nicky is overweight and she suffers from self-esteem issues.  But she has Rob, right?  Maybe not.  While hosting a special event at the restaurant to honor Rob and the end of his residency, Nicky discovers that he has been cheating on her with a woman named Mona who just happens to be at the same event... in Nicky's restaurant.  When every is gone, Nicky confronts Rob and ends the relationship and demands that he go back to her house and have everything he owns out before she comes home later.  She ends up staying at the restaurant with Toni drinking and sleeping her sorrows away.  When she arrives at her home hours later, she finds Rob outside her back door dead from one of her chef's knives.  Nicky goes from being the scorned lover to murder suspect in a matter of hours.  The police don't bother looking at other suspects so it is up to Nicky and Toni to investigate on their own in order to clear Nicky's name.  Unfortunately, someone else is murdered and Nicky is thrust into that investigation as well.  Can she find out who the murderer is before she goes to jail for life or worse, becomes a victim herself?

This is a nice mystery.  The cast of characters are all interesting.  There's Toni, Nicky's best friend and business partner.  Toni, I didn't like too much.  Nicky is considered overweight and Toni is the complete opposite.  Nicky has low self-esteem where Toni has enough for both of them.  Toni is the type of friend who goes out of her way to make others look bad whether it be physically or simply to make the other person look or feel inferior.  Nicky had just left the police department after being brought in for questioning in regards to Rob's murder.  Nicky's criminal attorney is Toni's ex-husband.  Instead of being there for her friend during the worst time in her life, she whines and complains about her ex.  This type of thing happens a lot.  She also goes on and on about how "fat" she is and how no one would ever want her.  Toni is tiny and Nicky is not but yet Toni makes these comments constantly in front of her friend.  I personally have an issue with people who do that so maybe I'm biased against her character as a result.  Needless to say, I was not a fan of Toni's at all.  

Then there are the other secondary characters:  Jackie Chan, Nicky's Yorkie.  I fell in love with that dog and its antics.  Mitch, the strange next door neighbor who might not be who and what Nicky thinks he is.  Kim, the annoying 'friend' who comes across as the disturbed character in Single White Female.  Then there are the former hospital co-workers of Rob's, the employees at the restaurant, the police personnel and Toni's ex husband the attorney.  Each character was necessary even if a couple of them would try the patience of a saint.

One thing that I felt was overdone throughout the book was Nicky's constant need to use the word fat.  As with the Toni thing, I have a problem with that  for reasons that are my own so I felt that while it may have been cute a couple of the times it definitely did not stay that way.  There is a lot of "Woe is me.  I'm fat.  No one will ever love me. I'm not good enough.." you get the gist. Yes, Nicky is overweight and yes, she had self-image problems but it got to be too much.

The murder mystery turned out to be a somewhat of a surprise.  I was convinced I knew who the killer was early on but I was wrong.  The actual killer is pretty obvious early on though not the reasoning behind the murders.

Overall, this was an entertaining read.  It's not much of a romance so do not read this expecting that.  It is there a little in the background but not enough to classify it as an all out romance book.

This is my first by this author. I  am curious to see where the author takes the series from here.

This book was provided by Net Galley and Carina Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Blood Red Butterfly, Josh Lanyon (a novella)

Blood Red Butterfly

A police detective falls for the alibi witness of the man he is trying to put away for murder.

- Review by Cindi

*** Note that this review would be considered one huge spoiler.  Unless you are interested in having the entire story and resolution ruined for you, do not read this review. ***

Homicide detective Ryo Miller is investigating the murder of an elderly woman.  He is convinced that gang banger Mickey Torres is the person responsible because the woman had been the sole witness against him in a case years earlier that put him in jail for ten years.  Ryo is convinced of Torres’ guilt and will stop at nothing to put the man away for life.  The only problem is that Torres has an alibi.  He claims to have spent the night of the murder with Kai Tashiro, a popular manga artist.  Kai is squeaky clean. He has no record beyond an old speeding ticket.  He pays his taxes and his bills on time.  By all rights, he is a model citizen.  A model citizen who is giving a murdering gang banger an alibi.   Ryo is obsessed with pinning the murder on Torres. He is also obsessed with Kai, a man he had tried to pick up at a gay bar three times previously and was shot down each time.  Ryo does everything in his power... even having sex with Kai... to get Kai to change his story.  One night of angry sex turns into a serious obsession for Ryo.  It's not just sex for Ryo and it's not just the murder investigation. He wants more with Kai.  He wants a relationship.  A relationship doesn't seem to be in the cards as Kai is continuing to have sex with Torres... one time only a day or so after he and Ryo had hooked up.

This started out as a really good story.  Imagine Ryo's surprise when Kai shows up at the station with an alibi for Torres.  Kai is the man who has shot down each and every play at a gay bar previously.  Kai doesn't seem to remember Ryo but that doesn't matter.  Ryo still wants him even though he is alibiing the man who Ryo is convinced murdered an elderly woman.  Kai's story never changes.  He is adamant about spending the night with Torres the night of the murder and there is no way the man had left during that time.  Kai suffers from insomnia and would have known if Torres had left for a little while to commit the murder.  There is no shaking the alibi no matter what Ryo does.

Ryo and Kai hook up a few times but I never felt that it was anything other than angry sex most of the time.  Torres is still in the picture (with Kai) during all of this so I didn't feel that the Ryo thing was anything more than hook-ups.  Kai claims that Torres means nothing to him but yet he has had sex with him... with Torres spending the night at Kai's place... at least four times.  That looks like more than just random hook-ups but that's just me.

There is a little bit of a back story with Kai that I felt was not truly realized.  A few things are mentioned in order to make it part of the story but I felt that I missed more than I learned about that particular situation.  

Ryo claims (in his head anyway) that he loves Kai early on.  To me, it looked to be more of an obsession with the Ice Princess (dubbed by Ryo when he was rejected all those times before) because the man had turned him down.  I never felt any of what Ryo was supposed to be feeling.  

Then there's Kai.  Kai keeps hooking up with Torres even after he and Ryo have hooked up.  At one point each man (Kai and Torres) are sporting black eyes so it's obvious that the two men were in a fight with each other.  Why?  What caused the fight?  Was Kai trying to end things with Torres?  Is that why they ended up exchanging blows?  

The book is about a murder investigation.  This murder investigation is what finally brings Ryo and Kai together.  The murder is never solved.  Sure, there is speculation of what might have happened but it's never laid out for the reader.

Torres shows up at Kai's when Ryo is there.  Torres is not allowed into Kai's home but Torres suspects there is another man there.  Torres wants more than just sex with Kai and this is obvious by his reaction when he shows up at Kai's place.  He gets shot down by Kai then Kai and Ryo argue only for Torres and his gang banging buddies to show back up for a shoot-out.  

And now we get to what bugged me the most about this book.......

There is a shoot-out.  Men die.  Kai is saved.  Then nothing.  It jumps from the end of the shoot-out to a year later.  Nothing in between.  This really bothered me.  I don't like when books jump ahead as this one did with hardly any information for the reader in regards to what happened during that time.  I wanted to know what happened to Kai and his family issues.  What happened to Ryo (who lost his job over his relationship with a witness)?  Why not give the reader details in regards to the 12 months in between the time of the violence to the two men seeing each other again?  A year.  I could understand maybe a month or two but a year?  That did not fly for me and pretty much killed any love I may have had for the story up to that point.

I never saw any type of relationship between Ryo and Kai other than sexual before the year gap.  Then suddenly twelve months later they see each other again and they go on to live happily-ever-after?  That so did not work for me.

Overall, this story was okay.  I do not like stories that leave questions unanswered and this one did.  I do not like the flash-forward in books where large amounts of details are missing.  I want my happily-ever-after and I want to see what leads up to it.  Would my lack of love for this story prevent me from reading more of this author's work?  No.  I've read others that I have enjoyed.  Had this been even twenty-five or so pages longer I may have enjoyed it more.  Unfortunately because I feel that enough time was not given to the characters and the story as a whole, it did not work for me.

The Men With The Golden Cuffs, Lexi Blake

Two gorgeous men. Partners. Jake would be the deadly predator and Adam the tender warrior. They would function as a team, as halves of a whole. They just needed the right heroine to bring them both to life.

I have a soft spot for BDSM light with humour. And two guys one girl. What can I say? I like those odds :)

I didn't read the first book in this series but there's no need. Enough information on characters, and there's a few of them, is supplied here. It is pretty standard fare for the author, but there's always enough difference to make the characters different from previous books

Serena Brooks writes under the pseudonym of Amber Rose. She writes romance books. But is seems that one of her fans has become somewhat obsessed to the point of stalking her through Facebook. However, any attempts at blocking him or brushing him off only inflame him. He's more determined than your garden variety internet troll. As the book progresses so does the stalker's ambition. Meanwhile Serena has a good fan base but, in something I suspect is fairly true to life, she cops a bit of flack about being a  writer of 'mummy porn.' Romance writer's aren't real writers. She writes menage books and she actually likes the idea of being in a sexy, caring menage herself. Dreams about it and hopes to fulfil her books plot lines in real life. Her ex thinks she's a sick freak, the police aren't much better, and her stalker compounds the whole idea.

Serena is sent to McKay-Taggert Security by her agent, Lara, to get some assistance dealing with her stalker. They normally work with high powered/profile clients but the owner of the business, Ian Taggart, owes his life to Lara's brother. Unfortunately, Jake and Adam don't get that personal 'memo' and send her packing, well, Jake does. He doesn't (want to) believe her story. Perhaps she's out to frame her ex, who wants more money from her success. Perhaps she's a publicity whore, that's what the police seem to believe as the main theories. Adam, on the other hand, likes the look of sweet Serena, she appeals to his desires. He wants a relationship with a woman who will take Jake and him.  He decides he's going to look into her stalker, whether it be with Jake, or not. He'd like it to be with Jake because that's what they do - they're as close as two hetero guys can get, they share their life, and their women.

The two main men in the book are Adam Miles and Jake Dean. Both men are both ex Green Berets who now do close quarters protection and bodyguard work for Taggart-McKay. Neither has a great relationship with their respective families. Adam is the beta to Jake's Dom, and they have a dynamic in a BDSM menage book that I seem to gravitate towards. Adam is the more outwardly communicative one.  He's also the organiser.  Jake comes off as tough and insensitive, but he has a fragile side that he hides well. Of course they are assigned Serena's case, and of course a relationship develops. For a while the relationship gets rocky as both men hit a point of believing, with not as much evidence as they should have gathered, that Serena might just be behind it for publicity. And they handle it all wrong injecting some angst into their (possible) triad. I liked the angsty moments. I know a HEA is coming but I like to see the characters work for it. 

The mystery is well done. I had some ideas, but, really, it could have been one of at least half a dozen people. The secondary characters were all well layered. I really liked Brigid and Chris, Serena's best friends. I also like the Eve/Alex dynamic and I'm wondering if they are getting a book.  To top everything off,  there's some nice lovin,' some humour, and a HEA. I like Lexi Blake's writing. I have read her with Shayla Black, and under her other pen name. I thoroughly enjoyed The Men With the Golden Cuffs and will be getting the others in this series now, as I look forward to reading more.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

From the Ashes, Kayla Jameth


A nice M/M retelling of the classic fairytale Cinderella.

- Review by Kazza K

From the Ashes
This is one nice cover!
This was a sweet M/M retelling of the classic Cinderella. Here Cinderella is a male who is made to dress like a female so he cannot gain his inheritance after his father died. Now the inheriting male is out of the way, the money/estate goes to his evil stepmother and wretched, ugly step sisters. Cinderella, whose real name is not spoken (until the end), is attracted to men, hates wearing a dress, and longs to be treated like the young male that he is.

As per the original, there is an upcoming ball for the eligible prince, and Cinderella has orders to make sure his sister's ballgowns and finery are all ready for the palace event. When they have gone, his fairy godmother arrives to tell him he is off to the ball as well, that his prince awaits him. Which confuses Cinderella on many levels - he didn't know he had a fairy godmother, he sure as heck didn't know there was a prince awaiting him, and he wasn't sure why he had to continue wearing a dress, surely that was not the way to meet someone in the most honest light. But the FGM won't brook any argument, she is there at the request of his deceased father. She organises his ballgown, hair and make-up for the night, and those wretched glass slippers, and sends him off in his horse drawn carriage, with orders to be back at midnight. Cinderella goes and is the belle of the ball. Prince Henri is smitten. They dance, talk and find they have a lot in common, including wanting to find love, happiness, a decent partner, and to ride horses.They both feel stuck in a world that constricts them. Of course midnight approaches and Cinderella does a runner, leaving the glass slipper behind. Prince Henri does the standard search for the right slipper-fitting blonde, until his true love is found.
Andrej Pejic gets my vote
for Cinderella

Our male Cinderella is able to pull off being a female because he is pretty - long blonde hair, androgynous looks, slim and petite, very little body hair, so no five o'clock shadows for our boy Ella.

The writing here is neat, well edited, the prose was charming and lent itself well to the fairytale quality. There were some deviations to the plot - mostly at the end. I thought Ms Jameth might go in another direction than she did. It's always nice to have a bit of a surprise. So there is a twist on the traditional ending which I was happy with.

I recommend From the Ashes for lovers of fairytale romances, with an emphasis on M/M, those who like a sweet story with some nice sex scenes when they occur.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Dirty Secret (Cole McGinnis #2), Rhys Ford

A well-written and entertaining sequel to Dirty Kiss.  

** This review has slight spoilers. **

- Review by Cindi

Dirty Secret (Cole McGinnis, #2)
Jae and Cole were introduced in Dirty Kiss, the first in the series, during the investigation of the death of Jae's cousin.  Cole is a private investigator who had been hired by the murder victim's family.  He meets Jae during the course of the investigation.  Cole is openly gay where Jae keeps that part of himself private from the world because of his traditional Korean family.  Homosexuality is not accepted in his culture and the exposure of his secret would have him cast out of the family and shame brought to it.  Jae and Cole began a relationship with each one having their own personal demons.  Cole's partner, Rick, had been murdered in front of him years earlier by someone Cole trusted with his life.  Jae is the first person Cole has allowed in and now because of Jae's family the relationship may end before it has a chance to begin.  It is expected... no, required... that Jae will someday marry a woman and have children.  To not do so is unacceptable.  Cole knows this going in but his feelings for Jae can't be thrown aside.  He's falling for him and will fight like hell to keep him, family obligations or no.

In Dirty Secret, Cole is hired by his friend Scarlet, a close friend to Cole and to Jae.  Scarlet is a transvestite who helped in the investigation in the death of Jae's cousin.  She hires Cole to investigate the almost twenty-year disappearance of a member of her partner's family... though the word partner would not be exactly correct as Scarlet would be considered the man's mistress regardless of the length of their relationship or the strength of it because the man is part of a traditional Korean family.  The missing man's name is Park Dae-Hoon.  The last time this man was seen was at a bathhouse in 1994 as it was being raided.  His son, David, is soon to marry and David's older brother feels the need to find his father before then.

I have to say that I got extremely confused while reading this book.  With all of the Korean words and names (that are quite difficult to look up on Google by the way) I have to admit that it took me forever to figure out who (in relation to what family) had disappeared and all of the parties involved with that person.  I almost had to take notes as I was reading.  I did eventually figure it out but I have to say that it was difficult to do at times.  I had to keep bookmarking and going back on my Kindle.  That is not to say that the book was not written well.  It is an excellently written book.  My ADHD just managed to kick in a few times before I figured out who was who.

While Cole is investigating the mysterious disappearance people start to die.  He is targeted and someone he holds dear is almost killed in the process.  The closer he gets to finding information about the missing man, the more dangerous his life becomes.  

This book is all about Korean traditions and Korean families.  Men are not allowed to be gay.  If they are, they keep it hidden and still go on and marry a woman and produce heirs.  To come out as gay means losing everything... being cast out of the family which, to some, is a fate worse than death.  But there are a lot of gay Korean men in this story and not all are as discreet as it is felt that they should be.  This is the case with the son of the missing man.

I cannot go into a lot of details about the disappearance or the murder investigations without being confusing.  Suffice it to say that Cole is targeted by a killer, people die and the details behind the disappearance are satisfactorily resolved with the exception of one question that I cannot mention here because it would give a major spoiler.  The murderer makes himself known and again, he was not who I thought it would be.  The reasoning behind the murders was  odd but made sense in a strange way.

Jae and Cole continue with their relationship growing, closer each day.  In the back of their minds it is always there that some day Jae will have to walk away.  It is his duty to do as his family expects even if I felt that his mother didn't deserve anything from him, nor did the rest of his family.  

Cole's father and stepmother make an appearance along with his half-sisters.  It is the first time that Cole has had contact with any member of his family (except his brother Mike) since his father kicked him out of the house many years earlier for being gay.  I thought I disliked Jae's family.  Not even close.  Being homophobic is bad enough but to say the things that were said to Cole?  Reprehensible.

I fell in love with Jae in Dirty Kiss.  That love grew stronger in Dirty Secret.  He knows what he is expected to do regardless of how it affects his happiness.  Cole knew going in how it would be but he couldn't stay away.  I am so eager to see these men finally have their true happily-ever-after.

With the exception of Scarlet, Bobby the best friend, Claudia the office manager, Mike, and Neko (the demonic cat) I did not like most of the secondary characters in this book though each was necessary for the story to unfold.

There is quite a bit of humor in this book.  There is funny banter between Cole and Jae, Cole and Bobby and with his brother, Mike and also with Claudia.  This is nice after the seriousness of the rest of the book.  It is not enough to be overwhelming but it helps to lighten up the story.

Overall, another outstanding book by Rhys Ford.  Yes, I was confused over part of it.  I got over it.  Once I figured it out everything went smoothly.  I've learned over the course of the other books I've read by this author to expect to be thrown off guard at some point.  That was definitely the case with this one.  There was a little surprise thrown in at the very end which of course makes me that much more eager to read the next in the series which thankfully will be out in only a few weeks.  I will pre-order the day I'm allowed to do so.  

Another hot cover.

The Tradesman's Entrance, Cameron Vale


An interesting, witty read that cleverly uses its title, and then some.

-Review by Kazza K

The Tradesman's EntranceOkay. I'm getting this out of the way first of all. The title reminds me of my parents. It was a phrase they used...a lot. Go 'round to the 'tradesman's entrance' - go around to the back door. Ahhh, new meaning nowadays. Then Dave called Stephen a 'panic merchant,' parents...again AND, one more, 'My stomach thinks my throats been cut.' Not doing too well here for a M/M am I? thinking about my parents whilst reading *shudders* Now that I have that traumatising bit out of the way I'll talk about the ebook.

It's short. It takes a little getting used to. The slang was fine for me. I'm an old Aussie and we have been somewhat tied to England over the years - mother country and all :) let's not forget lots of British sitcoms watched, and plenty of us would travel over and stay in Earl's Court and be maniacs.....  but I digress.

Stephen is writing one of the chapters for his next bodice-ripping novel, having a bit of writer's block at heaving bosoms. And the heroine, Clarissa Hart, is driving him balmy, ha! take that English slang! He had forgotten that his pipes were blocked and he'd organised a plumber to, er, unblock them. Enter Dave, or the Tanned Adonis as Stephen initially refers to him. Dave is the Forrest Gump of tradies. He has a way of likening life and people to biscuits. Long story short, our two protagonists are both gay, there's an attraction, Stephen likes Dave's dimples when he bends over to work, and they end up checking out more than Stephen's kitchen's plumbing. Stephen learns a lot about the human dynamics involved in sex, potential relationships, himself, life and reality really. It does help when writing romance novels :)

This is a funny little ebook. I don't quite know where it sits. It's certainly not what gets deemed as typical M/M fare, no insults meant to anyone with that statement. We all know what I mean. The first person present tense was very well written, not always the prettiest style to use, but well done here. Ms Vale certainly knows how to use the English language. The language and the slang were interesting. As beautiful as some of the wording was, it took me by surprise and I had to adjust -

Stephen stops, realising that he doesn't have to explain his recent interior decorating fit of pique to a tardy plumber....

This sarcastic information merely receives a sanguine shrug.

Meanwhile, a raised-tempo'd tattoo to the temples keeps Stephen informed of his blood pressure status.

The characters were decent guys, although I had to warm to them for various reasons - I felt Dave appeared a bit...smug? Stephen too easily offended. However, I was wrong, and I grew to really like them both. Everyone needs a Dave for their first time - sure, gentle, humorous, patient, laid-back. Stephen, a twenty-six year old virgin in hose (you have to read it), who writes bodice-rippers under a woman's somewhat dramatic pseudonym, was rather, well, cute. He was scared first time, his jaw ached at oral sex, huzzah! ain't that the truth! No plowing fields immediately either. Sorry, I feel I've been cheeky in this review.

For mine, The Tradesman's Entrance is witty, good natured, clever, written by someone who knows far more than the fundamentals of how to write well. And, after the initial getting-used-to-the-style moment I had, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend this for lover's of the English language, those who like British-isms, enjoy an interesting, humorous LGBT read. It's sensual and sexy, but not in the smoke-up-the-pages way. It also has a delightfully hopeful ending. I wouldn't mind a bit more about Stephen and Dave now I know them

I found The Tradesman's Entrance to be a quirky, humorous, romantic read, and I really like that combination. If you like Anne Brooke, Josephine Myles etc I believe that you will more than likely enjoy The Tradesman's Entrance.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Fitting In, Silvia Violet

If Mason were in porno, the cops would cuff him and drag him to a back room where they would proceed to plow his ass until he couldn't stand up.

- Review by Kazza K

Fitting In is an interesting, engaging, sexy M/M/M about two men already in a relationship and what happens when they meet a lonely sci-fi, chemistry loving nerd. As a book there is nothing new about the premise, but it's charming and I enjoyed myself immensely reading it yesterday. I didn't want to put it down which says a lot for my enjoyment of the book.

Mason works at a bar called Nathan's as assistant manager. He wants to (continue to) study chemistry but can't because his parents want him in law or medicine. When he tells them he is gay, at nineteen, they withdrew his funding for university. He has to leave uni and now he works to save and go back to Duke University in the future. He likes science, he likes sci-fi and he's used to being alone. I liked Mason. He's open about his sexuality, he refuses to allow his family to set him up on dates with 'proper' young women they have picked out for him. He makes it clear that being gay is not a phase, it's his sexual orientation. He is open and honest about who he is in spite of his family's negativity. He is also lonely. He tried a three-way relationship before which ended with one of the guys getting jealous and warning him off. He tried dating an older man but, once again, it didn't go well. The older man bailed on him when things got tough with his university funding and his parent's. So love and relationships haven't been so good for Mason.

One night when Mason is working at Nathan's in walks two very hot men. They're in cop uniforms but Mason thinks they may just be too hot to be cops -

They were one hundred percent fantasy material. he hoped to hell they were strippers, and they'd be willing to do a private performance for him.The taller of the two men was big enough to bench press Mason. His shirt looked like it might burst open at the seams, and Mason hoped it would.
His partner looked younger, like he hadn't been out of the academy for long, but he was just as ridiculously hot as the bigger man.

They could play a scintillating game of good cop, bad cop, and Mason would love for them to play it with him.

Gray and Jack are the cops he's referring to. They're come to Nathan's to talk to people about a robbery a couple of businesses over. To see if anyone heard or saw anything. Gray and Jack appeal to Mason a great deal but he feels they're probably straight, just partners on the force. After they come back a couple more times he believes they are more than law enforcement partners, that they're lovers. He's envious at the little covert looks they give each other and how in sync they seem. He notices them because he likes to stare and fantasise about a Gray, Jack and Mason sandwich. But Gray and Jack seem to be flirting with him. Could that be right? Could these two super hunky men be interested in him? What if they are? I mean, it could only be a one night thing? Right?  Wrong!

Gray and Jack turn up one night when Mason is closing up and 'arrest' Mason, taking him back to their place for some discipline. He's a very bad boy. He's been holding out on Gray and Jack. They've noticed him looking but he hasn't said a word to them. They've given him enough signals but he's held back from doing something they all know he wants.. Gray is a Dom and he likes to take that role seriously. Jack is a submissive switch. I really loved Gray and Jack - they are hot, hot , hot, alpha, yet sensitive all at once, pushing my buttons. With Mason thrown in as the third, the sex is smokin' -

Gray smiled. "Would you like it if I just took control and didn't give you a choice?"
Mason didn't hink his dick had ever been that hard. For years he'd fantasized about having a man dominate him, control him, punish him.

And when Mason is, err, 'arrested' -

"Have you been a bad boy?" Gray asked, leering at him, a parody of every cop-themed porn scenario Mason had ever seen. "N-No, sir." Gray raised a brow. "Don't lie to me, boy."
"I think he's been very, very bad," Jack purred, nestling his hands on Mason's hips and pulling him back so he could feel Jack's erection.

There is some angst in this book. Enough to have kept me interested and on my toes. I like menage with some emotional tug. Admittedly this mainly came from Mason, who really struggled getting his mind around the fact that he could be in a relationship with Gray and Jack. That he was coming between a committed couple and he was just going to be warned off like he had been before. Or worse still, he would come between a happy couple. He kept this to himself and pulled back because he just couldn't bring himself to talk to his lovers. He didn't want to guilt them and make them feel responsible. Gray and Jack never gave him cause to feel this way. However, he'd been burned before. I liked the fact that there were no instant declarations of love here. It took them a bit of time to admit how they all felt for one another. There is also the problem that Gray and Jack are closeted. They are partners on the force and know that they will be separated and have to put up with crap from their colleagues if word gets out that they're not only gay but lovers as well This also causes some introspective moments.

Reading Fitting In reminded me just how much I like M/M/M. How much I enjoy M/M/M with BDSM thrown in. I like it. A. Lot. The BDSM was good. There was spanking and power exchanges and Mason got to let go and have mind blowing sex. I want a decent story to go with the BDSM as well and I got that. I have read more psychological books, more intense books, but this was a nice, easy, sexy read. This book has a mystery going on but, really, the mystery is a secondary part of the plot. It's sign-posted pretty quickly who is involved in some way or another in the robberies, and to be honest it is more of an afterthought. It's still there but the characters, their lives, their relationship, and the sex really drive this story. And for me that is fine, fine, fine.

Before I finish I want to say one negative thing. I love book covers. I'm a cover fetishist. I will buy a book off the strength of a cover, ebook or not - this cover makes the book seem cheap and cheesy. Just ignore the cover here because the writing is much better than it is.

I really enjoyed Fitting In. The first person POV from Mason worked well, I never felt that I was missing anything major just being in his head. I actually read this ebook in a matter of hours and it is around 180 pages. So I felt invested in all the characters from the very beginning. I recommend this book for lovers of M/M/M and lighter BDSM, hot sex, cops (always a good thing for me in M/M), a bit of a mystery, some emotion, and very likable characters.  

Dirty Kiss (Cole McGinnis #1), Rhys Ford

Possible suicide, murder, the past murder of a lover, a hilarious best friend, culture clashes, a Filipino transvestite, a possibly demonic cat, and various other things make for one hell of a start to a series.

- Review by Cindi

I have quickly developed a love for Rhys Ford's work.  Last week I read Sinner's Gin and loved it.  Today I finished Dirty Kiss, the first in the Cole McGinnis series and I devoured every word.  There is something about this author's writing style that will suck you in and make you frustrated if you have to put down your Kindle even for a little while.  As much as I loved Sinner's Gin, Dirty Kiss is the book that pushed this author up there as a new favorite for me.  I don't normally like series that focus on the same couple throughout.  I knew going into both series that that would be the case.  With each book I ended it wanting more.  Needing more.  So much is left undone in Dirty Kiss that I am eager to finish this review and jump into Dirty Secret, the second in the series.

Cole McGinnis is an ex cop turned private investigator.  He is still mourning the senseless murder of his long-term lover, Rick.  He has not been with another man since the day he watched his lover die and his world fell completely apart.  A routine case turns his life upside down in more ways than one could imagine.  He has been hired to investigate the supposed-suicide of a prominent Korean businessman's son.  The suicide allegedly took place in the upstairs rooms of a gay sex club where wealthy men can privately indulge in their secret desires.  The suicide brought dishonor to a very strict and traditional Korean family.  The location where his body was found is an even bigger slap in the face of the family's traditions.  While investigating the man's death, Cole meets Kim Jae-Min, the dead man's cousin.  The dead man's gay cousin.  For the first time since the murder of Rick, Cole is attracted to another man but yet acting on that attraction could be dangerous.  Jae has secrets that he keeps from Cole.  Is one of those secrets the fact that Jae murdered his own cousin?  Then there is the fact that Cole is living with the guilt of Rick's death years earlier... Cole wasn't able to protect his lover and he brought the murderer to his door.  When Jae is threatened and later hurt, Cole must work diligently to find out who is out to get this young man before he loses someone else in the same way he lost Rick.

Dirty Kiss (Cole McGinnis, #1)
Jae is a mystery from the very beginning.  There are a lot of things from his past that could help the case for Cole but Jae stays closed-lipped.  He volunteers very little and is thrust into dangerous situations as a result.  He too comes from a traditional Korean family where being outwardly gay is not an option.  He supports his family and someday he will be forced to marry a 'proper' female who will give his mother grandchildren.  Falling in love with a man would be disastrous. He would lose the honor of his family and be cast out.  His family must always come first.  He cannot allow himself to fall in love with Cole.  

As Cole gets closer to the truth about the supposed suicide, the body count starts to rise.  He is almost killed many times, as is Jae.  They must find a way to work together to find out what is going on or one or both will be killed as brutally as the others.

This book has an interesting cast of secondary characters.  There is Claudia, Cole's eccentric business manager, his brother who supports Cole and his lifestyle as long as details are not forthcoming, a Filipino transvestite who is close to Cole and Jae (but for different reasons), Bobby, Cole's best friend in the world who is also gay and a former cop.  Then there are the murder suspects, most of which are all part of the Kim family.

This book is heavy in Korean dialogue and tradition.  The way the author wrote this was quite interesting.  I admit to being confused a few times by the dialogue but not the traditions behind the culture.  Watching Jae try to deny what he could have with Cole because of his family broke my heart a few times.  While the two men do get together, the reader knows that both men will have to overcome a lot before they can have their true happily-ever-after.

The sex is hot in this book.  Cole must find away to get beyond the guilt of losing Rick before he is able to fully participate and enjoy Jae.  There are a few sad moments as a result but ultimately the reader knows that it will all work out in the end.  I'm eager to see how exactly that will happen.

The murder mystery kept me guessing until about midway through the book and even then, I was questioning whether it could really be that person or someone else entirely.  Every time I thought I had a handle on who that person might be, the author threw the reader for a loop and sent it in an entirely different direction.  This is one of the main reasons that I enjoyed the book so much.  It was not predictable in any way when it came to the murderer.  I ended up being right in the end (in regards to who the murderer is) and I was even correct in the reasoning for it.  In no way did this take away from the story as I never was 100% sure until that person was revealed.

So much is left unfinished at the end of this book and that's okay. Normally that would not be the case for me but I totally understand it in this case.  This book was to give the back story and histories of the characters involved, on top of the mystery aspect.  I cannot wait to find out how Cole and Jae will work through the familial issues.  I also hope to see some answers at some point in regards to Rick.  That was left out there.

Overall, an outstanding book.  As mentioned above, I love Rhys Ford's writing style.  In the two books I've read, each has been full of details with things happening at random.  At no time did I feel that any details were unnecessary.  The characters are all written perfectly and each secondary character is integral to the story.    The ending of Dirty Kiss was an "Aww..." moment. I admit to having to go to Google Translate to figure it out but I did figure it out in the end.  Beautiful.

I can't wait to read any and all books this author puts out in the future.  Now I'm off to read Dirty Secret. :)

Another amazing cover.  

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Take It Off (Market Garden #2), L A Witt & Aleksandr Voinov

"Nothing weird. You guys know I like to watch.' He leaned closer, flattening his palms on the table. "And give some orders along the way." Oh. Hell. Yes! 

- Review by kazza K

Here we are back in the upmarket little piece of sex-on-earth known as Market Garden. Where your  money you can get whatever your kinky, sexed-up little heart and mind desires. This time around it is Tristan's POV. Last book it was Jared's. So you get to see what's going on in Tristan's head this time.  There are a couple of things  going on, Tristan is interested in more from Jared that just john-sex. He is thinking he'd like to get those sexy noises Jared makes and his sweet arse all to himself on occasion and see where it goes. He likes the sex he's having with him for johns, but it seems more than just a fuck. But, hey, fucking is pretty damn fine too.
Rolex from Quid Pro Quo is back, and he wants things kinkier still -
"It's a rematch then? Rolex pushed his tongue against his teeth. "Yeah. In a manner of speaking."
 He may be paying high prices, he may have been taken aback by how much he paid last time, but he gets one hell of a show both times. This time he likes giving Tristan a hard-core tease using Jared and he gets off seeing Tristan hot and ready to pop. This also gives Rolex a bit of his control, too.

It's all good kinky, voyeuristic fun. I like that Jared has taken on a very sexy persona and he is the one asking for the money this time. While Tristan is hot and bothered just thinking about Jared's new found confidence, with just that nice amount of sweet seductiveness thrown in to ramp it up. It's like they're totally into one another. It's sexy with a hint of sweet, mmm, mmm what a combination!
So, Jared and Tristan were both strippers, dancers, can use a pole. Rolex likes the sound of this. He can use it to his sexual delight  and, for a fee per item, he gets Tristan to sit in a chair and get the sexiest show on earth while he watches and gives directions to Jared to dance and Tristan to  take the sexual seduction. He gets to order the fucking the way he likes it. It was H.O.T.  No disputing that fact.

Two of the best (erotic) writers are writing this series so you know you are guaranteed something a bit more than just garden variety sex. Oh, it is pretty much one long sex scene, but there is more personality coming out now. This makes it sexier. It is cleverly written, each book gives you more and gives you individual insight. Please, please give me Rolex's POV on a hook-up. I'd love to know what's going on in that voyeuristic mind.  I really like him, and that is odd given he is a really light- on character...and yet not. You have to read it to see what I mean. Mind you, you may be too busy drooling all over your e-book reader to notice anything but the awesome sex.
You know what I'd like? I'd like to see this series end up with Tristan, Jared and Rolex together. That would be a delightful outcome because I actually like all three of these characters. Rolex is a dream john. He is the perfect catalyst for these two guys to be together. Yum. Bring out the  next of yesterday, please. L A Witt and Aleksandr Voinov you're doing it all right :)

Asylum, Piper Vaughn


A relatively short story about a man who falls in love with his best friend's brother knowing it could destroy the best friendship he's ever had.

- Review by Cindi

This story is short so I will try to make my review brief.  Some know that I am a big fan of Piper Vaughn (remember Dusty?) so I was pretty eager to jump into this one.  I was not disappointed.

Johnny Cairo works for Fear Asylum, a traveling haunted house owned by his father.  He's known as the Scaremaster because of his ability to scare the hell out of patrons who make their way through the haunted house night after night.

Brennan is the younger brother of Eddie, Johnny's closest friend in the world.  Eddie left Fear Asylum a couple of years prior when he married and started a family.  Once Johnny graduated high school, he became a part of the company and stayed in close proximity of Johnny... the man he has secretly been in love with for years. Now twenty, Johnny is tired of waiting to be noticed so he does something about it.  Boy does he do something about it!  I give the kid props.  One way to get a man's attention is to crawl into the bed of the unsuspecting man night after night and do things that will insure that Brennan is not kicked out of the bed... at least until they are finished.  

::: grin :::

Johnny goes along (for the most part) with Brennan's nighttime visits but ends each feeling guilty knowing that what he and Brennan are doing could destroy the best friendship he's ever had.  He tries to end it but something keeps pushing him in Brennan's direction and it's not just the sex (the sex that is very, very hot by the way).  Finally, he makes the move to end it once and for all only to have something dangerous happen to Brennan.  Then all bets are off.  He must decide if he is willing to watch the man he's grown to love disappear or will he fight like hell to hold onto him?

This is a very enjoyable, quick read.  I adored Brennan from the very beginning and I will admit to not liking Johnny at that point.  He grew on me after awhile.  There are a couple of things that I would have liked to have seen elaborated on and I felt that a few more pages could have answered those questions.  That did not, however, take away from my enjoyment of the story.

Another great read by Piper Vaughn.

I love the cover. :)

The Prince of Denial, Doug Wilhelm

Take care of your dad, my mom keeps saying. Not How are you? Just, Take care of him. He needs you.

- Review by Kazza K


This was an interesting read for me in many ways. It's not written so much for my age group in mind, unless you are interested in the topic or you work with teenagers. To take a look inside what it is like being in a household, a child's world, where there is dysfunction. It is written for children in the twelve to fifteen year old age group. That could be extended depending on the child involved. It is certainly a fantastic resource to have in a school library, classroom, counsellors office and for youth groups. The Prince of Denial deals with addiction and the affect it has on a family, most importantly here a thirteen year old boy.
Casey's mum and dad have split up. His sister has gone with his mother to live in Maine. Casey has stayed in New Hampshire with his father. It is fairly apparent that Casey's mother is not as interested in Casey as she is in her daughter, the high achiever, or as Casey nick names her the Medallist -
I do miss my mom, but my dad needs me, and unless she's basking in the spotlight, the Medallist is basically helpless. She doesn't even pick up her own clothes. How's she supposed to take care of him..
Casey is in seventh grade and his best friend is Oscar. They play word games together and have hide-out spots they go to. They have a pretty typical thirteen year old boy friendship, except Casey won't allow Oscar to come visit his house since the split -
Oscar dropped to the bottom branch. It swayed. "I'm coming over to your place," he said. "Right now. Let's go."
"Not today," I said quickly. "Tomorrow maybe."
"That's what you always say, Casey. I don't get it, why can't I come over? Why won't you do stuff after school anymore?"
"I don't know. I's not a good time!"
Hey, come on, it's a great time."
"We're seventh graders now, Case, we got choices."
Casey doesn't get choices though.He can't bring friends over. He has an alcoholic father. Having an alcoholic father means living with someone who is erratic - he can be less drunk sometimes over others. He can be more obnoxious sometimes over others. It's a lottery that mostly swings into the obnoxious and difficult category. Casey has no way of knowing what his father will be like from day to day, but he doesn't want to chance it. It's scary. It's confusing. It's embarrassing having your friends yelled at for no reason. To be belittled in front of them. To be hauled away from a day out with a friend simply because your father is drunk and belligerent. To have no water because your father is too drunk to fix a tap correctly, so the bathroom floods and there's no drinking water. And he doesn't notice because water is not his first or even second choice drink. To have to do all the cleaning up, fix dinner that your father starts and scarily walks away from. To have to clean the vomit up after your father has been on a bender, and cover him in front of the television of a night so he doesn't get cold. And to be promised, in moments of sobriety, that you're going to nice places that thirteen year old boys like to go to - like Fenwick Park to see a baseball game, only to be forgotten time and time again. Of course there are the good times. There's a favourite song you have on an old cassette that you used to sing with your father. He calls you a nickname, Caboose. And occasionally promises that things are going to be good, and he is sober for the odd night. Sometimes he actually cooks you breakfast.....Sometimes. But sometimes carries a lot of weight when you have one parent left in your life even if they may or may not care...,depending - let's hang on to may care because the alternative does not bear thinking about.  
Of course the icing on the cake is that your mother rings to ask about money, but doesn't wish to talk to you. And when she does, it is to tell you of your sister's accomplishments, and for you, her thirteen year old son, to take care of your father. Her husband.
There is so much more to this nicely thought out book. It is told in first person from Casey's perspective. Which gives you much needed insight into his feelings. The writing is very age appropriate for it's target audience.
One of the main stories running through this book is that Casey's Aunt Julie is planning an intervention with the help of Joe the interventionist. The idea is sound. Julie means well. Joe is a decent man who once suffered all the practicing addict's afflictions himself, but is now sober sixteen years. He was an intervention success and now sets out to get other people into rehab and hopefully clean and functioning again. I liked the way Joe talked to Casey, but the ask was way too big. The expectations on a thirteen year old to be the primary person involved in the intervention very tough. The school counsellor gave some good advice. I liked how that was handled. I also liked the fact that it looked at the fact that people could say this or that, but where were they when he was being dragged past them, his head hitting the car, only to be driven away by a drunken father? What would they really do if his father was angry about the intervention? Who would be there on a day to day basis for Casey if things went pear-shaped? What if his father ended up hating him? You have to think like a thirteen year old. It's scary to feel this much worry and responsibility. Joe the interventionist and Tara, his friend, helped change the way Casey thought about things. That it wasn't his fault. That's a very important piece of information. If not addressed properly children do think these things are their fault. I liked the realistic feel to the story, it wasn't treated like a fantasy.  Casey's friends, Oscar and Tara are a little mature in their understanding, but they serve a purpose and play off Casey and his situation well. Thank goodness for Oscar's family.
The scary thing is that this story is true of the circumstances many children around the world find themselves in, and worse. It is hard living with a parent who has an addiction, who is in denial. How another parent expects a child to take on the role of an adult. How the mother walks away because her marriage is all too hard for her yet seems to feel it's okay for her thirteen year old son to pick up the pieces and be his fathers carer. This creates a big problem in society. I know. I've picked up the pieces more than I care to share in my practice The numbers that have come through my doors over the years would scare you. If you are the slightest bit interested in the dynamic, and while this is a work of fiction, it is pretty good and pretty accurate in portraying a child's feelings in this situation, I say give it a read.
There is no neat ending here but that is well done given the topic. I enjoyed reading this ebook and I think Doug Wilhelm is to be commended for his focus on children and the extra difficulties they can face at what is already an impressionable and awkward stage in life. I liked that it may give an adolescent, a child,  hope and help them reach out to a responsible adult if they can. That they can read something that they may identify with. I can definitely recommend The Prince of Denial to those interested in what I've discussed in my review, schools, appropriate youth groups, and therapists.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Sinner's Gin, Rhys Ford

Sinner's Gin

An outstanding book about how the past can come back to haunt in a big way.  There's loss, love, violence and the reappearance of old memories that should have stayed dead and buried.

- Review by Cindi

This is my first Rhys Ford book.  I've had it on my TBR shelf for awhile but for some reason I never got around to reading it.  I'm kicking myself for that.  I should have read this book on the day of release.  I will try to avoid spoilers in this review because I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't read it... my blog partner in particular.

Miki St. John had just made it.  He and his band, Sinner's Gin, had just won music's biggest honor.  They were flying high celebrating the fact that they had finally arrived.  Then the unimaginable happened.  There was a horrific accident and all of the other band members were killed leaving Miki as the lone survivor.  Miki's injuries were life-threatening.  His battered body lay in a coma for a long time.  When he woke up, he hid away from the rest of the world, mourning the loss of the other band members, one in particular, his best friend who had pulled him out of the gutter when he was younger, Damien.  Licking his wounds, Miki moves into a converted warehouse away from the spotlight.  A dog (later named Dude) adopts Miki, not the other way around.  Dude is all Miki has with the exception of Sinner Gin's business manager, Edie, who is not allowed to visit.  Miki lives day-to-day in pain.  He rarely leaves his home.  He just wants to suffer alone.  There are no family.  No friends.  No anything except memories and Dude.  If the author mentioned the amount of time between the accident and Miki's current situation, I missed it so I am unable to say how long Miki has lived basically as a hermit.

Kane Morgan is an inspector for the  San Francisco Police Department.  He rents space in an art co-op next to Miki so that he can indulge in his hobby, creating with his hands.. mostly with wood.  He has never met nor seen the illusive neighbor nor does he know who he is.  That is until a random dog starts stealing things from Kane while he is trying to create.  After one such time Kane gets furious and pounds on the neighbor's door.  The meeting does not go well.  Another such incident occurs with Dude stealing something else.  It is at this time that Kane walks into an open area of Miki's place and sees a dead body inside Miki's vintage Pontiac GTO.  This is when the story begins.

Kane at first believes that Miki killed the victim.  This belief is added to when Kane finds out who the murder victim is and his connection to Miki's past.  It doesn't take long before that belief is out the window.  Kane saw Miki's reaction to the discovery of the dead body and he knows that no one could fake that kind of reaction.  As more bodies start to turn up and Miki is threatened, Kane's cop persona goes out the window and all he cares about is protecting this lost man... this lost man who obviously has a target on his head.  But can Miki get beyond the horrific things that occurred in his past to have a relationship with Kane?  It takes a lot to figure that out.

I mentioned this being an outstanding book and it really is.  The writing is excellent.  There is no sugar-coating the facts of what Miki experienced as a teenager nor in the way the murders are written.  The sex between Miki and Kane is exceptional.  The author didn't write it rush, rush nor did she make it drag on for so long where I starting skimming paragraphs.  There is a lot in this book about what Miki endured as a child and as a teenager.  The latter being the cause for the murders that are taking place.  I found myself very sympathetic to Miki for what he had been forced to live with basically his entire life.  He finally got his feet on the ground (so to speak) only to lose the only real family that he ever had in the accident that killed his band mates.  I fell in love with Miki's character on page one. He is all alone in the world without his best friend.  He's scared to even admit to owning Dude because that would be an emotional connection and he wants to be done with anything emotional.  He wants to stay numb.  Kane is also written well.  He's a big, bad cop but not so big and bad that he could not see Miki for who he is.  Kane comes from a very large Irish family.  I got a little aggravated with his mother on one occasion (pushy much?) but I got over it once I read more about the dynamics of the family as a whole.  Everything they did was out of love for Kane and each other, later including Miki in that circle of love.  That showed clearly.  This is overwhelming to Miki who has never had a family of his own.  He eventually grows to appreciate it and accept it.  The relationship between Miki and Kane was a pleasure to read.  Watching the two finally admit that they were meant to be together was beautiful.

Parts of this book are quite emotional but they are necessary to get a feel for what Miki went through.  There was one thing that I don't quite understand but I don't believe it was meant to be understood and I'm okay with that.  

I mentioned what I loved about this book so I have to mention one thing that bugged me.  Not enough to take away from my love of the story but it's a pet peeve of mine.  There is a lot of "the man" or "the cop" or "the singer" instead of "he" or "Miki" or "Kane".  Occasionally in a book I can overlook that but I felt that it was overused in this one.  

Then there is the ending.  I have to stress before I go any further that the ending with Kane and Miki was absolutely perfect.  The two men get their happily-ever-after and it's written wonderfully.  Something (not pertaining to either man) happens at the very end that threw me.  I can honestly say that I did not see that coming.  This is in regards to another character completely.  This opens the door for a sequel and I thought that was the perfect way to end the book.  Normally books are so predictable.  It was nice for me to get a little shock.  It doesn't happen often in the books I read.  I have one slight issue (a question really) in regards to it but I can't mention it here.  One word about that and it will ruin the entire book.  Hopefully I will get those answers in a sequel... a sequel that I hope is being written as I type this. :)  Yes, I'm eager.

Overall, this is a fantastic book.  I have now purchased the other two books by this author and I will start on one as soon as I am done with this review.  This was my first by Rhys Ford.  It obviously will not be my last.  I highly recommend this.

Check out that cover.  Miki (in the front, obviously) is adorable.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Once Upon a Time in Bliss (Nights in Bliss, Colorado # 8), Sophie Oak

"I'll stay as long as I can. I want you to believe that. I really want you, Nell. I think I need you."

- Review by Kazza K

Once Upon a Time in Bliss (Nights in Bliss, Colorado Prequel)Once Upon a Time in Bliss may be Nights in Bliss, Colorado #8, but it is a prequel to the other relationships and books in the series. Nell and Henry Flanders are one of the backbone couples of Bliss, with their protests of anything that could cause harm to the environment, animals, or people. However, Henry has had a number of ....interesting interactions with bad guys in Bliss that makes you think "hmm, what were you before, Henry?" And that question is answered very well in this terrific addition to the series.

John Bishop is a nihilistic creature. He works as an operative for the CIA and he sees the worst that human nature has to offer - drug cartels, jihadists, wars, revolutions - you name it he has been there and done it. He feels it's time for a break and heads off to see his old friend Bill Hartman, who now runs the local nudist or is that naturist? colony in Bliss. Bill sets him up in a room, tells him to relax and unwind....and take his clothes off.  Bill has been in John's shoes and understands how a little Bliss magic can change a man's heart. 

Nell Finn's mum has terminal cancer she lives with her in a cabin in the valley. Someone has broken into their Finn women's cabin, messed it up and written die bitch on the wall. But which 'bitch' are they talking about, Nell or her mother Moira? It doesn't take too much to work out that the message is for Nell, as Nell protests all manner of environmentally unsafe practices and companies. Someone must hold a grudge. While she is at the naturist colony she meets tourist John Bishop who has used a false identity, yep, Henry Flanders, mild mannered history professor on leave.

Bishop decides that Nell is quite lovely but an idealist with all kinds of crazy notions on how to make the world a better place. Bishop thinks that's laughable, the world is a disaster and people like Nell don't know what the heck they're on about. That people like him really fix it up for people like her to protest their hearts out about stuff that's not so important or real, that they'd run a million miles away from the real stuff. But the thing is, Nell is a true believer. She believes in the good fight, she believes in a good cause, and she believes in love and a better world. She just doesn't talk a big game she backs it up.

Initially Bishop, stays a few days longer than his original intentions as he wants to protect her and her mother by finding out who is behind the threats to Nell. He enlists(?) the aid of some unlikely allies - alien-hunter Mel, boy computer hacker extraordinaire, Seth, and his best friend, deputy in waiting, Logan, both still rather young and wet behind the ears -

 He'd worked with the top SEAL teams and with the very best intelligence operatives from across the globe. Now he was stuck with an insane alien hunter, a kid who would either take over the world or spend a lot of time in jail, and Logan, who just didn't want his mums to find out anything.
This was his team.

And Bishop's thoughts were always...interesting -

He was going to have to kill someone and then Nell would get all pissy about nonviolence and she would probably give him a long lecture on why it was wrong to shove a barstool up someone's rectum

Henry and Nell were nice together. 
Meanwhile  Bishop starts to see just how lovely Nell is, inside and out. She could just be the saviour of his soul, although he won't allow that thought process much room. Nell falls in love with Henry in a day, although declarations don't pop out straight away. Bishop tells Nell he is only in town for a holiday and they cannot have long together. He is upfront about their time frame, not about what he does, who he is. Just as upfront as Bishop is about his limited time in Bliss, Nell wants to have a relationship with this interesting man and is prepared to let him leave feeling she will be richer for having experienced love. She won't hold him back when he leaves. Bishop stays for a couple of weeks and slowly John Bishop starts to feel more and more like Henry Flanders.

There are many cameos by the wonderful residents of Bliss, most pre-relationship as this is the prequel to the series. The characters are wonderful and, as per usual, they are all on-song for who they are throughout the series. There is a little homage paid to Beauty, a trilogy of Ms Oak's. I loved seeing a bit more of Teeny and Marie the fabulously devoted lesbian couple who are one of the Bliss originals. They love their son Logan, even though his catch cry is "don't tell my mums."  I thought it was a lovely and respectful look at the fact that love is love no matter the gender. There is always a little message in these books if you look. It doesn't whack you over the head, but it's there.

There is a wonderfully delicious bar fight at Hell on Wheels, the sort-of-local bikey-bar, which involves some locals and some soon to be locals -

Everyone got in on the action. Almost faster than his eyes could track, the entire bar erupted in pure chaos. Bishop sighed and eyed the door, hoping for a clear path out. The truth was none of this was his problem. Holly had come to the wrong place looking to get laid. The blonde chick was obviously in some sort of trouble, likely on the run from something she'd done. The two kids were obnoxious, and a near-death experience would just toughen them up. Max Harper seemed to have found his nirvana, and the dude behind the bar was a baby criminal with the patch to prove it. Not his problem.

But of course you know it will be 'his problem.' You can't be in Bliss without being in the middle of trouble of some description - kidnappings, bar fights, shootings, protests, alien probing...the list goes on.

If you like a well written M/F, BDSM-light kink, with plenty of humour, romance, and wonderful characters, I even shed a tear, this is a great series. There is always a wonderful sense of family in Bliss, and great fun. Usually there is a menage involved, in this case it is simply Nell and Henry.You could read this as a stand alone or a lead in, but my recommendation is to read the whole series in order for maximum pleasure. Long live Bliss!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Doors of Time, Felisblanco (Online Fiction)

One of the best books I've ever read.

** Because of the uniqueness of the story line, I am unable to do a review without spoilers, nor am I able to shorten it.  I apologize in advance for both. **

- Review by Cindi

I have seen this book all over the place recently.  There have been Goodreads recommendations.  I have seen it many times on my update page on Goodreads.  Quite of few of my Goodreads friends and people I follow have read it.  I'll admit to not being that interested for a variety of reasons.  It's fanfiction for one.  Those are hit or miss for me.  I don't watch the TV series (ever) that these things are based on so that leaves me unfamiliar with the characters.  Actually, that's a good thing. If I was familiar, I would not see it as an original story (to me) so I would have completely passed it by.  The Doors of Time is long.  Seriously long.  But I was curious.  I downloaded the book from Goodreads (preferable to reading it online) and sent it to my Kindle Fire.  I figured I would read a few pages and set it aside to (maybe) come back to later.  This did not happen.  I was hooked within the first few pages and could not put it down.  This should be published.  Seriously, it was that good.

The Doors of Time
This book is broken up in two parts, with the first starting in 1988 with it jumping ahead in years until the second part which takes place in 2006.  There is also a short story that is published separately that takes place immediately after the Epilogue.  

1988 - Jensen is a 10-year-old loner.  He isn't alone by choice.  He's odd.  Different.  Creepy.  Weird.  No one at school will talk to him. No one wants to be friends with him.  But yet when asked, no one can say why.  Just that he's a weird boy.  He's miserable and he's lonely. He's never even had one friend.  He also has a secret.  A secret that, if discovered, could destroy his family or worse.  He has a younger sister and two very loving and supportive parents who will stop at nothing to protect their son.... their son who has abilities that no one is supposed to have.  Jensen is able to make things happen without meaning to.  He can change the weather simply by getting upset or even being happy.. flowers bloom when he is around, books fly off shelves, light bulbs explode, glass breaks... as well as hundreds of other things.  Each time something happens it coincides with his mood and his emotions.

Jared is a typical 6-year-old boy.  He has two close friends. Chad is his age and Sandy is four years older.  One day Jared is walking with Sandy and sees a young boy around Sandy's age sitting under a tree.  Even from a distance Jared can tell the other child is lonely.  When he asks Sandy about him, she gets mean and critical saying that the other kid is just weird and that nobody likes him.  Jared wants to speak with the boy but keeps walking forgetting the sad looking boy not long after.

But when Jensen sees Jared, he sees something different.  For the first time in his life, someone doesn't look afraid of him.  Unfortunately the girl with him pushes the boy to walk away.  

Something changes for both boys in that quick instance.  Something... someone... is making sure a connection is made even if the boys are not aware of it at the time.

1992 - Jensen has been pulled out of school to be home schooled by his mother.  He is unable to control his abilities and learning at home is the best option for him.  His father is one step away from institutionalizing Jensen when he and his mother talk him into allowing Jensen to trying other things; hypnosis, yoga, therapy... anything that could help Jensen control the things that he does.  He has hit puberty and as his body goes haywire so do his episodes.  Jensen discovers music.  The piano.  He becomes somewhat of a prodigy and this helps him in ways nothing else can.  The piano becomes his life, his entire world.  He still unknowingly makes things happen but now he has something that he can control, his music.

1995 - Jared is being pushed to take piano lessons by his mother.  His tutor turns out to be Jensen, the sad boy he saw on the playground years earlier.  At this stage, Jensen is a prisoner.  He is no longer allowed to leave his house for any reason.  He is kept locked in his bedroom at night.  His loving and supportive mother has now become the mother from hell.  She's hateful and mean and she's terrified of her son.  His father, who years earlier wanted Jensen institutionalized,  is now his only ally with the help of his younger sister, Mac.  When Jared begins piano lessons with Jared he finally gains a friend.  A true friend.  Someone who does not see a strange or weird boy.  What Jared sees is an older teenager who is lonely and sad.  It doesn't take long before they are the best of friends.  For the first time in his life, Jensen has someone other than his family.  This does not bode well for Jensen's mother.  She does everything in her power to destroy the friendship but yet she continues to take the money for the tutoring sessions. 

When Jensen is with Jared, he is able to see things... visions... of a grown Jared.  A grown Jared who is in love with Jensen.  Jensen falls in love with the older version of the boy.  This is not some creepy book where a 17 or 18-year-old boy falls for a thirteen-year-old kid.  Jensen is in love with the vision he sees, the adult Jared.  There is nothing inappropriate at all in the way this is explained and nothing is done about these feelings as Jared is still a young teenager.  He's not yet the man that he will grow up to be.

When Jensen turns 18, with the help of Jared and Jared's mother, he tries to be an adult.  He makes a decision that can finally, finally get him away from the prison that is his home.  He is in a position to follow a dream.  Instead his parents rip him away from the only friend and the only life he's ever known.  I cried like a little girl when this happened.  I couldn't control it.  It was that difficult to read.  The entire first half was difficult to read.

I have read a lot of books in my day with horrible parents.  I am hard pressed to remember one where I hated a mother as much as I did Jensen's.  She started out as loving and supportive but that changed drastically as the years went on.  She forced Jensen to never show emotions, to not feel.  She kept him drugged to the point where he could not function. She hid him away as if he was an embarrassment... a nothing.  She criticized him constantly and went so far as to call him a murderer.  I absolutely hated, hated this woman.

The entire first half of this book is an emotional roller coaster.  Anyone who can read what Jensen went through... what his horrible mother put him through... without getting teary and emotional has no heart.  Jensen did not ask for the life he had.  He did not ask for his abilities.  He was born with them and stuck with him.  It was not his fault but yet he was treated so horribly.    I do not recall the last time I got so angry with a fictional character.  My heart broke for Jensen.  My heart broke for Jared because he had his best friend ripped away from him without warning.

2006 - Jared has not seen nor heard from Jensen in almost ten years.  When Jensen was taken away from him, his whole world fell apart.  He got physically ill.  There were problems with his parents.  He grew up and tried college but that did not work out for him.  He ended up in a long-term relationship with Sandy, his old friend from his early childhood.  But there was always something missing.  Jensen yes, but something else.  Something that would make his life whole.  He loves Sandy very much but he's never quite felt complete with her.  Whatever was missing in his life was always there.... in the background.... just out of his grasp.  He never forgot his best friend.  He never stopped caring for him.  This was a platonic love.  Jared is straight and never felt more than special a kinship with Jensen.  However, he knew that his life was not complete without Jensen in it.  Without him, Jared has only gone through the motions.

Jensen was forced to endure the unimaginable for two years after being forced to leave his home.  A total stranger stepped in to save him.  Without this person Jensen would not have survived. He was able to go to college and then later become a piano teacher at a prestigious university.  His abilities never went away and he is still suffering as a result but he is able to live a not quite normal, but an adult life.  With a lot of help from two very important friends.  Because of the visions of his teenage years, he hangs on to the hope of reuniting with Jared, his soul mate.  This hope is the only thing keeping him going.  His abilities are now going in a different direction and the consequences on his body and emotional well-being is devastating.  He can barely function.  He can't function without his roommate and friend.  He has to be reminded to eat, to sleep, to even put his socks on before he leaves the apartment.  He suffers black-outs that can last for days.  While he's able to teach, he has a difficult time just getting through each day.  But yet he still holds out hope.  He knows that Jared is his soul mate and that they will be together some day.  He doesn't know how or when but he knows it will happen.

Then he sees Jared in a bar in New York.  He has one of his episodes and loses him.  Again.  Thankfully, Jared had figured out that Jensen was different the day he went away as a teen.  He sees things in New York and he just knows that Jensen is in the city somewhere making these things happen. Unfortunately, Jared is in New York with Sandy, his girlfriend of three years.  Eventually the two men find each other but it doesn't go as planned.  Jared is very much involved with a female and Jensen's whole world comes crashing down as a result.  His visions never showed a woman in Jared's life.  What .... who... does he have to hold onto now?  The only constant in his life is his music.  Without his music, he can't function.  During all the years of waiting for Jared, he had the thought of Jared to fall back on... the knowledge that the two men would be together some day.  Now Jared has found him and it doesn't go as planned for Jensen.  How will he function?  How will he survive?  The music is no longer enough.

I will not be going into a lot of details in regards to the second half of this book.  It was pretty much more of the same.  Jensen has episodes because of Jared.  Jared goes back home to L.A. with the woman he loves.  He and Jensen try to maintain a long-distance friendship but it's not what Jensen wants.  Sandy is a bitch though the author tried to make her into a loving and understanding girlfriend a couple of times.  I did not see it. She was a bitch as a teen and a bigger one as an adult.  Jared loves Jensen but not in that way.  Jensen can't function without Jared in his life.  It takes a long (a really long) time for the two men to get it right.  There were a few times that I felt that Jared was jerking Jensen around.  There are a LOT of times where I felt that Jensen's episodes were too much.  Did that take away from the story as a whole?  Not really though the redundancy was frustrating at times.  They finally, FINALLY get it right and work on their happily-ever-after.  I enjoyed how that played out though I wish the back and forth between the two men would have been minimalized some.  

The first half of this book is beyond perfect.  You feel what Jensen feels.  You will watch as his mother demeans him, makes him feel not worthy of living.  You will hate the mother with every fiber of your being.  You will absolutely fall in love with Jensen, as I did.   Your heart will break for him as mine did.  You will shed a few tears watching as this poor, lost child is made to feel as if he is an abomination, a mistake, a fluke.  Jared is the ultimate best friend who grounds Jensen.  He gives him something he's never had before... friendship... love.... acceptance.  

The second half of the book, while good, was a bit much.  I saw more about Jensen's inability to cope without Jared than Jared's inability to live without his best friend.  It made Jensen seem disabled and Jared flighty.

Overall (even with what I just mentioned), an outstanding book.  I was left with a couple of questions but nothing that took away from my enjoyment.  This book will be marked as a new all-time favorite for me.  I have read the short that takes place immediately after this one but I will not be reviewing it for this blog.  It is a quick continuation of Jared and Jensen's relationship.  I will definitely be looking for more from this author.

The link for this free story as well as for the short story that takes place immediately after the Epilogue are as follows: