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.

Buy From Amazon

Buy From Barnes and Noble

Buy From Kobo

 

 

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Kanaan & Tilney: The Case of the Man-Eater by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 This book is the second in the series and it would help to read them in order, but there is enough subtle recapping to read this alone. The series has a fun modern noir vibe. Be aware they describe brutal murders and this case deals with cannibalism. Lowell is […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Kanaan & Tilney: The Case of the Man-Eater by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The Case of the Arms Dealers (Kanaan & Tilney #1) by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 This is urban fantasy with Elementals, Beasts, Psychogenics, Necromorphs, and Terrans living alongside humans without them knowing. John Tilney is an author wanting to shadow the PI, Lowell Kanaan, for help with research for a book. Lowell is willing to have a free office assistant, but is slow to […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The Case of the Arms Dealers (Kanaan & Tilney #1) by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Empire Of Light by Alex Harrow, Voyance 1

 

EmpireOfLightCover
Cover Art by Natasha Snow

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Damien is a guy trying to survive by making the hard choices. He’s loyal and will do anything for the family that’s been cobbled together in this dystopian future, especially his lover Aris, which puts him right between a rock and a hard place. He’s working as an assassin for the Watch, the police force of the Empire of Consolidated Nations, run by Commander Faelle Valyr. The story is set in Helos, previously New York before the Wars of 2090. Everyone is corrupt. When Damien gets sent to take out a corporate guy named Mael Taerien, he’s caught and blackmailed into killing Valyr instead. Taerien’s henchman Raeyn sticks close to his side to make sure he cooperates. As the action intensifies, battle lines are drawn but they are fluid and everyone has to adjust to the ever changing landscape.

This is a gritty story with an almost frantic pace. Damien is like a mountain goat, stubborn yet quickly adapting to all terrains. It’s not like he has any choice. The poor guy is in one fight after another (beaten, choked, kicked, stabbed, and shot). Darien tries to play whichever side will help save Aris, himself, and their friends. Aris has his own plans and his own lovers. He’s between his own rocks and hard places. The thing is Damien and Aris are both broken and the pieces don’t quite match together. That doesn’t change anything that is going to happen as everyone runs head first into their future. Damien doesn’t ignore things as well as he thinks he does, so the reader understands he sees what he wants to about the people he loves. He also forgets that everyone he loves is not like him. I’m of two minds about the secondary characters not being that fleshed out: that’s a huge missed opportunity for emotional connection to the story, and thank goodness or I’d be a blubbering mess.

As Damien gets closer to Raeyn, I wasn’t sure who to root for, or against. In many ways Raeyn is a better match for Damien, but there are some major obstacles and their relationship has it’s own dysfunction. About halfway through this story my mind was partially blown, because a good author foreshadows. At about three quarters of the way in, my mind was fully blown. The only way this story works at all is because the reader only has Damien’s POV. There is no way at all to describe this plot without spoilers. It’s an impossible task and I don’t want to do that. Just trust that there is a plot twist around every corner in this complicated web of lies and conspiracies. Yes, some seem improbable but that’s half the fun. This is action packed from beginning to end and could have benefited from some more quiet moments. They are there, but they are usually gut wrenching in their mental dysfunction, so they are not restful for the reader. They are necessary to understand the psychology of the characters. I also think the unrelenting pace is to stop the reader from looking at holes in the plot, or to try and work out what will happen. But after going through this journey, the end is too optimistic for all the brutal world building that has taken place. Even though this has an ending, I was left floundering around wondering what now, but that might just be that I kept moving after the ride stopped. I’m going to say I enjoyed the ride.

Buy from NineStar Press

Buy from Kobo

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Smashwords

Buy from iTunes

Buy from Angus and Robertson

Buy from !ndigo

Alex Harrow’s Website

 

 

Review: Not Yet Dead by Jenn Burke

Not Dead Yet cover
Book covers at Carina Press are done in house.

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

An immortal, Wes Cooper is technically dead, but able to travel between this world and the otherplane. Lexi Aster is his best friend and a witch; it was her great grandmother’s spell to resurrect Wes after he was killed. He’s not a ghost since he has a living body, but he can make himself disappear, so that resurrection went a bit wonky. When he witnesses a murder, he is frozen and doesn’t act in time. His guilt motivates him to try and help with the investigation. Except for the first time, the killer actually sees Wes while he’s invisible. Now his ex from 33 years ago, Detective Hudson Rojas, gets assigned the case and Wes’ life gets complicated.

The author takes a huge risk giving the POV to an amoral character who is not terribly mature and so self-absorbed that he has spent no time getting to know or understand the magic that allows him his life. Over the course of the book, it becomes obvious that Wes isn’t a bad guy, that he cares for his friends. Knowing the time period and how he dies explains why he is the way he is, but he is so much more as he starts to care more for others and things outside of himself. Hudson has his own growth that needs to happen for them to get their second chance. As with most of the books I have been reading lately, most of their issues come down to lack of communication, but timing in life is everything. In the end, these guys are sweet together. Wes reads as demisexual, although that word isn’t used. The final love scene was hot and funny at the same time–quite an accomplishment and it helps to make the whole thing real.

The lovers reunited element works well in the story. Lexi and Evan (to avoid spoilers, I’ll say he’s Hudson’s friend) are fleshed out enough to care about what happens to them, but I did want a little more. The mystery and the murders are interesting with enough action to keep the suspense going. If witches, vampires, secret societies and ancient artifacts sound exciting, this is the book for you. I’d be happy to read more in this world.

Buy from Harlequin

Buy from iTunes

Buy from Google

Buy from Kobo

Buy from Barnes and Noble

Buy from Amazon

Jenn Burke’s Website

 

Review: Renewing Forever by Kelly Jensen, This Time Forever 2

RenewingForever_400x600_41b041ee-8566-4e2f-bb68-375efd54a6b6_1024x1024
Cover Artist Natasha Snow

I would rate this 4 stars.

Frankie kissed Tom when he was 17 and Tom punched him, ending their friendship. Then, Frank left town and hasn’t been back in 30 years. When his uncle dies, he has to go back to deal with his inheritance. Tom has been working for Frankie’s uncle and has now lost his friend, his home, and his job due to his death. He has given up everything to take care of his mother, who is now in a nursing home. The story has dual POV and their childhood is shared through flashbacks. Frankie is still caught in the sadness of the past. Much of this book is sad, reminiscences often are–of dreams lost, bad decisions made, the things you can’t take back. As Frank and Tom start to relive the good times they shared as boys, rather than dwelling on the incident, you would think it would liven up, but for me it doesn’t.

I am not a fan of second chance romances. I tend to think things didn’t work out for a reason. I am not a fan of nostalgia or glorifying the past. But avoiding dealing with things from your teenage years until you are nearing your fifties is not healthy. While my heart ached for both men for different reasons, I was frustrated with them too. Tom has let fear rule him for so long; after fighting it, he finally gives in and decides to explore what they have. Frankie was hard for me to relate to for some reason. His demisexuality seemed to keep him isolated from deep relationships and even his friends didn’t really know him. There was a little bit of comic relief about 60% in when they tour a neighboring resort. I wish that type of interaction had been included more. The best parts are having them recapture their love of the woods and each other–sharing the dream of remodeling the resort.

While this was interesting and well written, I felt removed emotionally at times. That’s okay, because I like to read books that are about many types of people. How boring would it be if we were all alike? It’s a good reminder that other people’s logic and life experience can be completely different and will affect their decisions and outlook. Charlie, Simon, and Brian from book one show up. Brian seems the next one to be paired off, but as he cheated on Simon over and over for a decade, I am not much enthused by this prospect. It will take a lot to redeem this character in book three, but if any author can do it, Kelly Jensen can.

Buy From Kobo

Buy From Riptide Publishing

Buy From Barnes and Noble

Buy From iTunes

Buy From Smashwords

Buy From Amazon

Author’s Website

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: A Dance of Water and Air (Elemental Magicae #1) by Antonia Aquilante — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5 Due to rising tensions with their neighbor, Tycen, the King of Thalassa is pushing an alliance with Aither on their western border. The king’s son Prince Edmund is to marry Aither’s Queen Hollis and conceive within two years. The author nicely sets up some political intrigue at court in […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: A Dance of Water and Air (Elemental Magicae #1) by Antonia Aquilante — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words