Review: Love Is All: Volume 2 edited by Xio Axelrod

LoveIsAllVol2
Copyright © 2019 by Xio Axelrod LLC

I would rate this whole collection 3.75 stars.

This is a charity anthology, so I tend to think of the stories as a thank you for donating money. All anthologies are a mixed bag and people will like different stories than I do, but here are a few of my favorites from this collection. There is a variety of combinations (M/M, F/F, M/M/F, M/F) with bisexual, trans, and ace represented. They are all contemporary except for the one historical, paranormal romance. The foreword by Roan Parrish is quite eloquent.

R.L. Merrill, Pinups and Puppies (F/F, 4 stars)

This is told from the first person POV of Marianne, who is struggling with grief and reintegration after her retirement from the Air Force. She owns a vintage plane and volunteers to transport dogs to help shelters who find them homes. That’s how she meets Dinah, who co-owns the shelter. They both seem to have great support systems filled with family and friends. With great chemistry, their lives and interests slot nicely together, making them a cute couple.

Susan Scott Shelley, Sugar Crush (Bliss Bakery Series) (M/M, 4.5 stars)

Jack, a horror novelist, gets to know a baker named Gabriel when he joins a softball team to help his friend Shane. This has an opposites attract trope with great sexual tension and friends as extended family. This is about fitting into someone’s life and making room for them to fit into yours–giving each other a safe space and carving out shared time, while still having their own interests. Also, not letting fear or the past get in the way of the future.

Xio Axelrod When Frankie Meets Johnny (M/M, 4.25 stars)

DJ meets contractor/teacher in this hurt/comfort tale with an age gap. This story is what you make it. I highly recommend listening to all the songs that he plays for a hell of a good time. If an artist is mentioned, but not a song, pick one that has a title that fits the scene. I would have rated this higher, but I couldn’t tell if this was Johnny’s first time with a man or he was demisexual? There is certainly a misunderstanding I think could have been handled better, but the story is charming.

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Best of 2018 Lists Abound and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words — Chaos Moondrawn Best Of 2018

Best of 2018 Lists Abound at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Here we are, it’s almost 2019 and it’s Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words penultimate weekend of Best of 2018. We are winding out with another reviewer heard from, our very own Chaos Moondrawn, who has some of my Best of on her list. So […]

via Best of 2018 Lists Abound and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: It’s Witchcraft by Cole McCade, Criminal Intentions Season 1 Episode 5

It's Witchcraft Cover
Cover Artist: Cole McCade Cover Design Template: Les Solot http://www.fiverr.com/germancreative

 

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

This time the murder victim is named Logan, killed in a ritualistic murder. This is so guesome and sad. People who are lonely sometimes put themselves in unsafe situations. I can’t even tell you how disgusting and senseless it is. In this episode, the crime itself is still off center stage somehow. The episode moves foward in so many other ways with twists and slow reveals. We’re at episode five and already it’s so hard to review these without spoilers, I don’t know what to write.

Malcolm and Gabrielle wake up to a very angry Seong-jae staring at them. I have to say it is very difficult to not love Gabrielle. She really does know who Malcolm is. Since Malcolm has been on desk work, he has to have a physical assessment before going back on full duty. Seong-jae is taking this as seriously as everything else, but it’s an excellent opportunity to get some aggression out. Malcolm is a member of the same gym as Jason Huang, so the inevitable going a few rounds happens. As ever, Malcolm wants what he wants, while being obtuse about everyone else.

This is still mostly brushed shoulder, arm leaning, and some hugging, but emotionally Seong-jae and Malcolm connect. That connection will continue to be the most important thing. They open up to each other, but in a strange way that only makes sense for them. It seems quick, but it’s already such a dark, intense thing, I don’t see any other way for it to go. There should not really been too many surprises here because the author is good at foreshadowing and everything slots together nicely.

Malcolm’s one night stand stalker is back with an extra weird little scene which is only makes sense if he is Sila, or a red herring. This continues to be the weakest plot point in my opinion, but I know I’ll get sucked in and just have to suspend disbelief further down the line in the story. For this author, I have reason to have faith although, I would not be surprised if some of the first episodes have minor tweaks in Kindle later to iron out some out some bumps.

This is a pivotal episode in that it moves the plots forward with Lillienne Wellington, Jason Huang, Sade, and Edmund Bishop. There are two big reveals here: one was a surprise for me and one was something I was just waiting for confirmation on. We now know the lay of the land better, although I expect more details later about how we got here. The nuances that make shades of gray within all the characters are what makes this so interesting. I’m still really enjoying this series.

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Review: Changing Faces by Cole McCade, Criminal Intentions Season 1 Episode 4

CIS1E4
Cover Artist: Cole McCade Cover Design Template: Les Solot http://www.fiverr.com/germancreative

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

This is episode four and starts in the vile mind of Tim Mitchell, who is then killed. Good riddance. This is a domestic violence case. The break-up between Anjulie and Anya was coming, and it was up close and personal. Then, it picks back up from the last episode with Seong-Jae in the hospital with Malcolm when Malcolm’s ex-wife Gabrielle comes in…and then moves in with him to help him while he’s injured. Oh boy. Anjulie and Gabrielle went to law school together. It’s good to see the coroner Cara make friendship overtures to Seong-Jae. This case really tests Seong-Jae’s ethics, and shows us more of who he is. The weird thing haunting him is here, along with another crime scene clue. We finally have a name to go with what is happening, Sila. Seong-Jae testifies aginst his old partner, causing his face to go nationwide, and the police in the BPD finally know who he is.

This episode is strange. Beside the UST, which is ever present, the episode lacked a lot of Malcolm, making me miss the dynamic between them while working a case. It allows the audience to get to know Seong-Jae better, but that might not be a good thing as he is much less likeable than Malcolm, and this didn’t give me anything to change my mind. Seong-Jae’s overarching plot that doesn’t yet involve Malcolm, moved forward, but to what end? What is happening, before seemed like mental illness, now seems like a real person. The issue is unless this goes paranormal (please no), I don’t think having a real someone leaving all these clues at difference crime scenes is possible. This was not my favorite episode, but it did forward a few plot points.

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Review: Criminal Intentions, The Man With The Glass Eye, Season One Episode Three By Cole McCade

CI_S1E3_KindleCover
Cover Artist: Cole McCade, Cover Design Template: Les Solot

Cole McCade Criminal Intentions Season 1 Episode 3

This is a serial written like a TV show crime drama. We get a novel each month. As such, you will like some better than others, each episode so far has had its own murder to solve, but there are over arching storylines for the whole season. I would recommend you read these in order for maximum enjoyment. There are content (re:trigger) warnings in the front of each episode. Since this is a crime drama based on two homicide detectives, one should assume explicit, graphic violence. If you read the content warnings, there will be spoilers galore, so I would recommend skipping them if you don’t need them. This series is completely inclusive of all peoples so if that bothers you, don’t read it.

If you want to see my review for episode one or episode two, click on the links.

We start this episode with a bit of a retread of Malcom, being Malcolm with the usual stranger and hangover. His interactions with Seong-Jae make me laugh, but I am used to men with a dry, sarcastic, or dark sense of humor. To continue the dynamic, Malcolm is trying to not be attracted to Seong-Jae, and Seong-Jae is trying to not be jealous of the boy toys whilst hiding behind judgement of Malcolm for dereliction in his duty for turning his phone off whenever he has sex. Their undercover work in this episode goes a little too far. The UST (unrequited sexual tension) is ratched up to a fevered pitch in this episode, which may be too much too soon, straining their relationship. We follow them through their rituals while working the case, or is it cases? Even they aren’t sure.

In this episode, a junkie is executed and there is a tenuous connection to our last case because of a Hookah bar themed like an opium den, previously owned by the late Marion Garvey. We know Malcolm used to work in narcotics, but Seong-Jae seems to know a lot about addiction. Lillienne Wellington is now a major investor/owner in all Marion’s businesses. She also has control of Maximilian’s holdings. She and her father are both out on bail. Does she know about the illegal parts of the business(es) or not? Did someone set Maximilian up to kill Marion?

One of the things I love about this author is the writing style. Having said that, one of my favorite books so far this year is Over And Over Again, also by this author, and the writing is very different in many ways, as is the subject matter. This author has a lot of range and depth.

As ever, the dual POV is there for us to immerse ourselves in Malcolm’s and Seong-Jae’s psyches. It is the little things, mundane intimate moments between them, that make us catch our breath. The reason this works so well is that the moments–the humor, the fights, the sniping–are so real.

During a stakeout of Jason Huang, the drug dealer we met last episode, he is receiving goods marked for shipment to Wellington Industrial. The plot thickens. Sade pops up out of nowhere! But, we knew they were up to something and now we get to see what that something is (sort of). Is Sade dirty, or undercover? What did they mean warning Malcolm about Seong-Jae? And what are they doing with Jason Huang? We know there has to be dirty cops…

I don’t even care they caught the killer at this point because I want to know all the things.

Our world expands with Jason’s POV and then we get a sense of someone, possibly someone we haven’t been introduced to yet, pulling the strings. Time will tell.

I will say there is a sneak peek of the next episode and it is a gruesome murder from an abuser’s POV, so if that will bother you, be warned. The author answers questions from fans at the end of the book, so you can find out more interesting info.

I love this series. I would rate this 4 stars.

Unfortunately, this author only sells on Amazon right now and just took down his Patreon.

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