All posts by Jayne Lockwood

25Jun/17

Review of Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields

Out-of-this-world guest J.S. Fields joined us very recently on our show! To hear more about her and get links to her work, click on Episode 117: And She Really Liked Ladies!

REVIEW

I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to science fiction. I like familiarity, something to grasp at like a life buoy when the science becomes a little too … sciency. I like names I can pronounce, characters with Earth-like problems, and a setting I can almost identify with. Not quite, but almost.

Ardulum has none of these things, and as a result, I struggled with it. Names like Ggllyll and Mmnnuggl kept cropping up, as well as the occasional use of non-binary pronouns (zir/ze) and this made it a challenging read, especially for a novice science-fiction reader.

Having said that, the quality of the writing shines through. The author’s ability to keep the reigns of a complex plot, packed full of technical detail and vulnerable, believable characters, is testament to how much skill she has. Neek is an (other-)worldly wise, legally paid pirate, travelling through space, delivering goods across the galaxies. Exiled from her people by daring to voice her scepticism over the existence of the Ardulum, ancient people who enriched the lives of her ancestors before vanishing into legend, she is destined to roam the star-systems as a disgraced non-believer. Enter slave child Emn, who could be the one person to bring her peace, or is she?

There is a lot to take in, from the complicated relationships between the protagonists to the large cast of secondary characters. The author knows what she is doing. That much is obvious. The plot is sure-footed, lifted up by confident writing with sure knowledge of the science involved. As I said, I’m a novice, and this book scares me to death and makes me feel just a bit stupid for not fully grasping it. This isn’t intentional on part of the author. Her intellectual approach to the story is just way above my pay grade. The hardened sci-fi readers will lap it up. It has everything they need, from slick gadgetry to crunchy violence, a strong main character and enough tech-talk for buffs to argue over for years. I said before that I struggled with the occasional appearance of non-binary pronouns, but that’s a personal thing. If they work anywhere, they should work best in a sci-fi setting. It shouldn’t put readers off, but it’s worth mentioning.

So I wish I was able to “get” this more. The time, love and craftwork put into constructing the book is obvious and I appreciate it. I hope seasoned sci-fi readers give it the attention and praise it no doubt deserves.

 

BLURB

Ardulum. The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.

Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.

Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.

Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?

 

24May/17

Review of Their Plane From Nowhere by Princess. S. O.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. The author is a memorable presence on social media, with outspoken views and unafraid to stand up for strongly-held values, but can they actually write?

The short answer is …. hell yes! This is a massively entertaining, angsty yet tender, hot in places, story of two guys in their fifties (how refreshing…) who ain’t pretty to anyone apart from each other (their own words,) who have already found true, lasting love after a lifetime of tragedy, regrets and missed opportunities. There’s no “will they/won’t they” moments, as these guys have already found a happiness of sorts, even though their family lives and friendships are complicated to say the least, especially when the truth comes out about their relationship.

This novella is the whole package for me, an extremely professional self-published novella which shows how self-publishing should be done, from the two adorable bears on the front cover to the neat blurb telling you what you get in this story, to the crisp editing. This book packs a whole lotta punch for its weight. We have the story of widower Hank and unhappily married Earl, told in their distinctive Poconos Mountain drawl, and their love for each other whilst dealing with family bigotry, a poisonous wife and what happens when they accidentally out themselves in their small community. The answer: Not what you’d expect, including the arrival of a mysterious plane on the lake outside Hank’s home. It comes, it goes, and no-one knows why. This is the paranormal element of the story, with two normal humans trying to figure out why it is there.

I read this story honestly not knowing what to expect. Sometimes you can see the ending a mile off, with an HEA glowing in the distance. With this book, you’re never quite sure what is going to happen next. I loved the way the book was told, with a backwaters Pennsylvanian rhythm that felt completely unaffected, and the love between Hank and Earl, culminating in several tender yet scorching sex scenes. The way that Earl treated his kids, and Hank dealing with the grief of losing his was sublime. I really invested in these characters, even though the book was fairly short, and felt as if I was gaining a privileged insight into their personal lives.

Okay, possibly the denouement felt a little too neat, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book, and the mystery of the plane was heartbreaking. I’m not insulting it by saying it felt like a particularly bittersweet episode of Little House On The Prairie, only set in the 21st century, and with beefy guys having hot, honest sex as a bonus. And a neat addition is their favourite recipe for cheesy popcorn included at the back!

A great, standalone mystery romance for those who don’t necessarily want to read about pretty boys. And there are more in the Teddy Bear collection. I’ll definitely read more by this author.

BLURB

In their small town in the Pocono Mountains, Earl Knox and Hank Grisset have never been considered among the pretty ones to anyone but each other. As lucky as Hank and Earl consider themselves to have found each other, that’s about as far as luck has gone. All those Could’ah— Should’ah— Would’ah— moments a man never sees comin’, but that don’t stop him from regrettin’ them later in life.

When Earl makes a critical decision that ultimately outs him and Hank, a mysterious plane shows up at their lake house. Coming out in a small town can erase friendships in a heartbeat. But when a rift in the family leads to a life-threatening accident, only their love for each other is gonna get them through this—that, and their plane from nowhere.

 

19May/17

Review of Sugar & Spice by Garett Groves

The spicy Garett Groves recently delighted us on our show! To hear more about Garett, listen to his interview and find links to his work, follow this link…. Episode 110:  Bad Pantser: Be A Plotter!

REVIEW

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although part of a series (Spice of Life), it was a standalone, straightforward read, with zingy dialogue and two engaging main characters.

When I first started reading, I thought Max, the young, hot, clueless wannabe model, was a bit of a knob, to be honest (US readers, that isn’t a good thing.) He certainly didn’t endear himself to me when we were first introduced. Yes, he has the body, but he also has a self-destructive streak that I wanted to slap out of him. It was hardly surprising that Lucas, the older man who had been around the block a few times, was wary when Max made play for him in a gay bar. Encounters like that seem rarely destined to last.

But Lucas was a sweetie. I had the feeling that the author was trying for David Gandy, but I read Lucas as Henry from Cucumber. The image was thankfully shaken off when he and Max first hook up for their first pearl-clutching sexual encounter, after which, Lucas has the presence of mind to leave, rather than fall headlong into an improbable “mind-blowing sex all night” scenario.

And it is this restraint which makes the book work. Max does all the running. Lucas is the one holding back. At 45, he has doubts about his viability both as a lover and and photographer, so when Max has eyes for no-one else, he is understandably wary.

Max is also learning a sharp lesson in humility, after being fired from his job and dumped as favoured model for his photographer ex-boyfriend, but he is also wary of Lucas’s motives for wanting to hire him for his own photography purposes.

When they begin to work together, the awkwardness is almost painful, and Lucas’s attempts to make things right between Max and his former crush are excruciating, but in a good, “read it behind my fingers” way. You’re never really sure whether these two will make a successful couple. The odds seem stacked against them, for all Lucas’s wealth and Max’s worldliness, but the pay-off is worth the slow burn. (No spoilers – the author guarantees an HEA on Amazon. Also, no cheating or cliffhangers – good to know for people who hate both, like me.)

The author has paced this book very skilfully, creating an enjoyable, fun read with depth, and characters that feel real and well-rounded. And Lance, Max’s frenemy, is hilarious. I spent most of the book not trusting him, expecting him to stab Max in the back. Will he? Won’t he? Read it and find out.

BLURB

 After getting rejected by the only guy that he’s ever allowed himself to feel something more than lust for, Max Williams has convinced himself that the bachelor’s life is the only way for him to live. At 28, Max has everything he needs for it: a smoking body, just enough money to keep the drinks coming, and an endless supply of guys that are more than happy to keep his bed warm at night. Still, he can’t shake the feeling that something is missing.
When he loses his day job thanks to his partying and the modeling career he’d been trying to build collapses, Max isn’t sure of so sure of himself anymore, but there’s one thing he knows without a doubt: something’s got to give.

Lucas White has a reputation of his own–and he’s tired of it. The security provided by his cushy job as editor-in-chief of a legendary local photography magazine has kept him stagnant for too long both professionally and personally. He never dreamed he’d be able to retire by the age of 45 and start his own passion project, but that’s exactly where he’s found himself and it hasn’t been an easy transition.

While celebrating his last day at the office, Lucas and Max get up close and personal at a new bar and Lucas’s entire world turns into a photo negative. Max is the perfect model that he’s been looking for to bring fresh eyes to his new venture, but he looks so much like someone who once broke his heart–and Lucas isn’t sure that he can look at Max’s beautiful body every day for work without continuing to touch it.

Against his better judgment, Lucas hires Max. As they start working together, the line between employer and employee quickly blurs, and not even the pact they made to remain strictly professional seems to keep things in focus. Though they know better, neither man can resist their desire for something more–but Max is afraid of commitment, and Lucas can’t stomach the idea of being taken advantage of by another pretty face.

Will their differences bring them down, or will they come together like sugar and spice?

09May/17

Review of The Truth About Goodbye by Russell Ricard

The charming Russell Ricard was recently a guest on our show! To listen to his episode, get links and find out more about his work, click on Episode 109: Russell Ricard – Just Keep Showing Up! After you’ve read this review, of course….

REVIEW

The Truth About Goodbye is the self-assured debut novel from Russell Ricard, handling a tough subject with humour and grace. How does one move on from the grief of losing one’s husband? Of course, everyone is different, but it is Sebastian’s story which is told here. On the face of it, an ageing chorus boy, is dealing with two significant life events. The one year anniversary of the death of his husband, and turning 40 in the midst of an unforgiving and cruel environment; the New York show scene.

Sebastian’s well-meaning friend, Chloe, tries to make him feel better by setting him up with a date, failing miserably as Sebastian is still trying to accept and move on from his husband’s death. (Not surprisingly. A year is not that long when it comes to the loss of a true love.) Sebastian has tried a variety of distractions, including throwing himself into his choreographing work, with limited success. In the end, he has to face his grief alone, with all the requisite elements it throws at him. Anger, both at himself and his husband for leaving him, guilt at what was said or not said on the night he died, and fright at the thought of losing what they had forever, and erasing it with someone new. Through techniques taught by his lifestyle guru and grief counsellor, Sebastian gradually learns to accept his aloneness, and not be afraid of it. It is this journey of acceptance and dealing with loss, on which the novel is founded.

A very self-assured book, yet not an over-confident one.

Sebastian has lost a lot, as we discover through the book. Abandoned at birth, then losing his eccentric but much-loved adoptive parents, followed by the death of his husband, it seems inevitable that Sebastian expects to lose everything he loves. As he gradually learns to accept that loss, and realises that life is for living, not waiting to die, we see him blossom from a fragile, vulnerable man to one who regains his confidence and vitality. The emotional way he finally looks back on the night his husband dies, and eventually accepts it, is accomplished. Like I said at the beginning, this is a very self-assured book, yet not an over-confident one.

I didn’t get the strong feeling this was a “New York” novel, or even one set in the show business arena. There are elements of dance, as Sebastian is shown tutoring a group who are already stealing his thunder as younger, fitter versions of himself, but the main story is about how he deals with a painful event in a life that has been defined by loss. The author has a talent for letting the reader into the lives of his characters from the beginning. Sebastian is flawed but you feel his pain, as he doubts his own sanity and viability as a man alone. Middle-aged wild child, Chloe, is frustrating but ultimately endearing. Greg, Sabastian’s nemesis and rival, could easily be a caricature but somehow manages not to be. And Reid, Sebastian’s potential love interest, is cute as a button and kind with it, but is it too soon for Sebastian to find love?

Due to the central premise of the book, there is a fair amount of navel-gazing, but Sebastian’s friends provide light relief, notably ex-Rockette Chloe. The dialogue between them felt real and convincing. Sebastian comes across as fragile, needy, a little bit tetchy, but ultimately I liked him and wished him well. You get to know about his family, why he is the way he is. It’s a balanced story that pulls you with it, like a seemingly calm river hiding rip currents beneath the surface. I found it to be that rare thing, a fairly light read that leaves an echo long after it has been completed.

BLURB

Sebastian Hart has dealt with a lifetime of goodbyes. And now, a year after his husband Frank’s death, the forty-year-old Broadway chorus boy still blames himself. After all, Sebastian started the argument that night over one of Frank’s former date items, someone younger than Sebastian who still wanted Frank.

Challenged by his best friend, the quirky ex-Rockettes dancer Chloe, Sebastian struggles toward his dream of becoming a choreographer and grapples with romantic feelings for Reid, a new student in his tap class.

Ultimately, Sebastian begins to wonder whether it’s his imagination, or not, that Frank’s ghost is here, warning him that he daren’t move on with another love. He questions the truth: Is death really the final goodbye?

17Apr/17

Review of Sacred Band by Joseph D. Carriker Jr.

I have been gifted an Advanced Reading Copy of Sacred Band in exchange for an honest review. Sacred Band is to be published by Lethe Press in April 2017.

The author is an experienced gamer, which definitely comes through in the book. There’s quite a lot to take in. For starters, at least four of the main characters had two different names. For a non-gamer, this has the potential for confusion, but for any hardened D&D, ComicCon or Marvel fans, this is familiar territory.

Once I had figured out who was who, and had learned their superhero names, it was much easier. And it made total sense. After all, when your superpower is being able to create lethal metal ballbearings and use them as bullets, then “Rusty” probably isn’t the first name you’d choose.

The author has brought the “supers trying to save the world’ theme bang up-to-date, starting with the disappearance of one of Rusty’s gay friends from the internet. Rusty suspects he has been kidnapped, along with others. There were obvious nods to the horrific problems LGBT people are suffering in Russia and other closeted countries, and he soon realises that the problem is far deeper, and far more world-threatening than he could have imagined. It’s a problem that needs extraordinary people to tackle it, and the government just aren’t up-to-scratch. He then has to pull together a super-team, and deal with all the issues those characters bring to the table. There are politics at play, some with familiar overtones, and complex diplomatic delicacies worthy of The West Wing. It gives the superhero genre a grown-up, satirical edge that makes it stand out.

Chock-full of superhero shenanigans

As I said before, I’m a non-gamer, so I thought that at times, all the mini-conflicts got in the way of central story. I had to pick through them to find the core of the book. Sometimes, it read a little busy and IMO the editing could have been tightened up in places, yet I liked the characters immensely, my favourite being Deosil (I just want that girl in my life right now!) I did get the sense that they were family, rather than friends, and Sentinel, the super who was exiled after the scandal that outed him, was more of a father figure than a love interest for Rusty. The sexual tension between them wasn’t convincing at first, but I kind of got it as the story went on. Personally, I would have matched Sentinel and Optic, but there you go.

I felt that the author was far more comfortable when choreographing the fight scenes, as they were fantastically drawn, and the political power play, than with the personal relationships, which seemed awkward in places. Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it grew on me as it went on. At a generous 400 or so pages, Sacred Band is chock-full of superhero shenanigans to delight the most hardened of fantasy readers.

BLURB

The golden age of heroes is decades past. The government could not condone vigilantism and now metahumans are just citizens, albeit citizens with incredible talent, who are assisted in achieving normal lives (including finding good fits for their talents employment-wise) by a federal agency.

Rusty may have been a kid during that glorious age but he remembers his idol, Sentinel, saving lives and righting wrongs — until he was outed in an incredible scandal that forced him into isolation. When a gay friend of Rusty living in the Czech Republic goes missing, Rusty is forced to acknowledge that while the world’s governments claim that super teams are outdated and replaced by legal law enforcement, there are simply some places where the law doesn’t protect everyone — so he manages to find and recruit Sentinel to help him find his friend. But the disappearance of the friend is merely one move in a terrible plot against queer youth. A team of supers may be old-fashioned, but this may be a battle requiring some incredible reinforcements.

05Apr/17

An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede (Audiobook) by Felice Picano

REVIEW

This book was originally written in 1981 by Felice Picano, and details the early life and career of Ganymede, as told by the alluring boy in his own words. It is extremely well-written, a colourful, ribald account of his escapades as he fights off the attentions of men of all rank and age. His beauty also captures the attention of various Immortals, who will go to great lengths to seduce him. It probably should be noted to those unfamiliar with Ancient history that Ganymede is 12 at the beginning of the book, so 21st century sensibilities do not apply.

The book hasn’t been in print for a long while, but now it has been republished as an audiobook, narrated in a salacious drawl by Jason Frazier. This is the first audiobook I have listened to all the way through. The delivery is everything, especially with a book that could be dismissed as being either too highbrow by some or too lightweight by others. This would be a shame. In fact, it is a witty, sexy, sometimes humorous account of Ganymede’s life. The reader gets a peephole view into the lusty world of Troy and its inhabitants, where beauty is highly prized and judged at every turn. Ganymede is the most beautiful of all boys, gaining sexual experience with a variety of Immortal lovers, before being disgraced and shunned for rejecting the top man, Zeus; probably not his greatest career move.

Jason Frazier’s voice should have an R rating. He could read a telephone directory and make it ooze with sexual promise. The book itself is not explicit, but the theme of lust runs through it in a pulsing thread. Ganymede learns humility, but still retains an arrogance that only truly beautiful people can get away with. He isn’t particularly likeable, but that doesn’t matter. His story is told in such rich and gorgeous detail, one cannot help but be captivated. This is a book to be savoured at home, rather than driving, or in a public place, as it would be a crime to miss a single word.

I was given a copy of this Audiobook in return for an honest review.

Audible Audio Edition (2017)

Listening Length: 1 hour and 46 minutes

Version: Unabridged

Publisher: Lethe Press

Language: English

ASIN: B06XCGDZN4

 

Long out-of-print, this novella is Ganymede’s life story – unapologetic in its ribald details of Greek gods in disguise, trying to seduce the most beautiful youth in the Ancient world. When a prince of Troy is born with perfect proportions, not only does every man he meets desire him, but the Immortals want him as their lover. Ganymede loses his virginity to Hermes at 12, at 14 he captures the attention of Ares and Apollo…can Zeus be next? This risqué tale, narrated by acclaimed storyteller Jason Frazier, will appeal to all who have wondered how one boy stepped out of myth to become a gay icon.

20Mar/17

Review of Domald Tromp, Pounded In The Butt etc. by Chuck Tingle

REVIEW

#Ineedmorebookstoreviewplease!

I know Chuck Tingle has his dissenters, but I thought this was a well-written, damning indictment of modern American politics, the latest instalment in the life story of Donald Trump.

Oh wait ….

Seriously, this was a satirical look at fictional Commander In Chief, Domald Tromp, who cannot seem to get his act together in this latest episode, and makes bad decision after bad decision, to the point where he has to be taught a lesson by his Russian T Rex cohort on the golf course (where else?)

I have no idea whether this is clever satire or not, but I found it pretty funny and surprisingly readable. And the sex was hot too. Totally gratuitous, making no sense at all, but jolly and buttock-punishingly enthusiastic. I mean, who isn’t going to love a book entitled “Pounded In The Butt By His Fabricated Wiretapping Scandal made up to direct focus away from his seemingly endless unethical connections TO RUSSIA?'” Possibly one person, I’m guessing.

And credit to Chuck for getting this book out WITHIN HOURS of the story breaking. I imagine him lurking on the internet like some malevolent spider, just waiting for tasty morsels to come his way. And when they do, boy does he have fun with them. Never underestimate the Tingle…

Finally, if Chuck Tingle reads this, please now write a book with the title Filo Fiannopoulos Slammed In the Butt By His White Male Privilege and Grossly Overinflated Ego. Just a thought.

I’m now off to Google search cream pies…

06Mar/17

Review of Angels Fall by N.S. Beranek

We recently had the gal from Chicago, Nancy Beranek, join us for a vibrant chat on our show! To find out more about Nancy and get links to her work, check out Episode 101: Look At The Fridge Magnets!

REVIEW

This book is like walking through a Mardi Gras festival; colourful, confusing and fantastical, laced with horror and throbbing with erotic promise.

It is worth noting that the book is written in the present tense, which puts the reader right in the heart of Beranek’s world from the get go.

The blurb assumes a lot when it says “when a member of the created family he’s focused on instead comes under threat from a mysterious illness, Ehrichto strikes a deal with his own sire, to return to the sire’s bed in exchange for his help.” I get that this is vampire-speak, but I was left thinking “huh?”

If it puts some people off, that would be a shame, because although the book isn’t that long, it is packed so full of beautiful details and lavish descriptions, it feels like an all-round sensory experience. The smell of blood and sun-tan oil, fresh bodies and sexual promise, all drip from the page. The author has built this incredible, colourful, savage world, filled with family drama, vampire politics, and sexual undertones. There isn’t a lot of actual sex, but despite that, it is a very erotically-charged book. Very clever and not easily accomplished.

An all-round sensory experience

There are a lot of characters, and a lot of different dynamics at play, so much so it seemed confusing at times. I’m still not sure what the relevance of Dorjan’s character is. I feel I have to read the book again to fully grasp all the delicate nuances. Again, this would delight some readers, but I wasn’t wholly gripped enough to do so. As a book reviewer, I don’t have time to read the same book twice. This is a shame, but it’s the author’s job to explain it through the story, not my job to rummage through the book until I finally get it.

Having said that, I believe there is scope for a series. There are some great personalities here, all of which are colourfully described and given their own distinctive voice. I loved Michael’s family, and the way the author dealt with his coming out, the confusion of his parents, his horrendous social-climbing mother. The setting of scenes is first class, and consistent throughout the book. I really wish I loved it more than I did, but the chaotic story-line was a little too distracting for my taste.

No doubt about it though. This is a clever and literary addition to the vampire genre.

 

Print Length: 265 pages

Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited

Publisher: Lethe Press

Publication Date: November 13, 2016

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Language: English

ASIN: B01N407YT5

 

BLURB

Tired of being told—by straight and gay alike—that he loves “incorrectly,” vampire Ehrichto Salvatolle gave up on the idea of having romantic love long ago. When a member of the created family he’s focused on instead comes under threat from a mysterious illness, Ehrichto strikes a deal with his own sire, to return to the sire’s bed in exchange for his help. But when he meets the great-grandson of the first man to break his heart, Ehrichto spies a chance to have the one thing he’s always wanted: true love.

25Feb/17

Book Review: The Hunt For Magic (Yuletide Knights Book 3) by Johnny Miles

I have to start this review with a caveat. I was given this book for honest review without having read the first two books in the series, so there may be some plot points I have noticed which have already been addressed.

I have mixed feelings about this book. First off, the Prologue did not seem to have any relevance at all until much later, which is always something that makes me nervous. It took a while for me to feel confident in the author, because at first, it felt as there were a lot of elements that had been thrown haphazardly together (see above paragraph.)

This ain’t for kids…

When the story settled into its stride, it was clear that Kris Kringle and his Elf, Bucket, had a mission to accomplish; to find out who was kidnapping Magicals and why, as well as finding a worthy successor to his own role as Santa Claus. But, as the luscious front cover suggests, this ain’t for kids. Lusty Santa has a thing for Bucket (named because the elf is *delicate cough* roomy.  This was obvious right from the beginning, and for me it was too much, too soon. I hadn’t had enough time to get to know the characters before discovering that Santa comes more than once a year. And when he does, he fills a ….. you can guess the rest.

Anyway, so they head off, and in the grand tradition of buddy/road trip adventures, they pick up strangers with their own problems along the way. Griffin has (rather carelessly, I thought) lost his boyfriend, Jackson Frost, as well as dealing other issues of death and abandonment, and Woden, Jackson’s father, is breathing down his neck. Nothing like an irate Winter God with an army of Wild Hunt harpies to ruin your day. It is their journey to the Ninth Realm, to face the entity suspected of holding the Magicals, and the epic battle that commences therein, on which the book is themed.

A great story

It reads a little unevenly. There is hot sex, but IMO it isn’t actually needed. The author has a great story on his hands and the rumpy pumpy feels a little shoehorned in. There is also more “tell,” where I would have appreciated a bit more “show.” For example, Santa is black. I know this because I was told at the beginning, and it is mentioned again halfway through (which was good because by then, I had forgotten.) Whilst I didn’t expect, or want, him sounding like Samuel L. Jackson, there were no clues apart from an obligatory mention of the Civil Rights Movement. I wanted a bit more of how he, a black man, felt about holding the position of Santa Claus, the embodiment of white peoples’ hopes and dreams. And he’s gay! A gay black man is Santa Claus! That’s epic in itself and I felt he had more of a story to tell.

There are other issues that are handled pretty well, considering this is paranormal romance. Dementia, bereavement, rape, brutality are all issues that need careful handling and overall, the author succeeded. I did wince a bit at some of the verbal violence, and I’m no shrinking violet. Like the sex, it seemed a little over the top in places.

A convincing and complex world

There were also a few places were I thought the editing could be sharper. Long curling horns was mentioned twice in a paragraph, and notable use of the word “throbbing,” but what the author has done has built a convincing and complex world, with repellent villains, exciting scenarios and a boo-hiss Krampus who obviously has mommy issues. Not everyone survives. Not everyone is beautiful. And I loved that.

Overall, this is a flawed but storming book, with great chemistry between the characters and colourful scenarios that jump off the page. The author knows how to spin a good yarn, that’s for sure.

Format: Kindle Edition

File Size: 1027 KB

Print Length: 263 pages

Publisher: Loose Id LLC (19 Dec. 2016)

Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.

Language: English

ASIN: B01N6IZR5Y

BLURB
 

Someone is kidnapping Magicals. Kris Kringle and his soulmate, Bucket the Elf, are determined to find out why. Only then can they spend the rest of their lives together. But first they must find a suitable candidate to take over the mantle of Santa Claus. They find Griffin Kloss in the backwoods of North Carolina and realize they must get to him quickly. Someone else is after Griffin and it’s not his former boyfriend, Jackson Frost. Whomever is after Griffin doesn’t want him for his good looks.

Putting themselves at risk, Kris and Bucket, together with Griffin, Old Man Winter, and members of The Wild Hunt, travel to the Ninth Realm. There, in a dark and dismal place, Griffin and Jackson are reunited, the missing Magicals are found, and Krampus, an ancient evil once thought dead, is found alive. Together they must all join forces to battle demons and the menace that threatens their existence, if they are to return to Earth Realm for their happily ever after.

Publisher’s Note: Readers with a history of rape or sexual abuse may find elements of this story disturbing.

17Feb/17

Review of Man & Beast (The Savage Land Book One) by Michael Jensen

The not-so-beastly Michael Jensen joined us earlier in January 2017. To find out more about Michael and get links to his work, check out Episode 093: Plans for the Blue Hoodie!

This is a first for me, a gay historical novel which left any preconceived perceptions I might have had, standing at the door. Sometimes, reading a historical novel can be like carrying your hefty mother through a swamp. It’s your duty. You know it’s the right thing to do, but all you really want to do is drop the bitch and make her walk.

Not in this case. Michael Jensen has meticulously researched his subject, yet has woven a story that wears it’s history as lightly as a cashmere cloak. The sense of place and time, is expertly captured, never getting in the way of the story, never bogging down the pace with so much detail in order to prove he had done his homework (the biggest reason I get turned off historical novels.) Instantly, I had the impression he knew what he was talking about, so therefore, I could move on and enjoy what was about to unfold.

The novel’s dark heart becomes even blacker

And what a story, as greenhorn John Chapman is brutally shown life lessons by the rugged and somewhat odious Daniel (I kept thinking of a young Jack Nicholson.) Their relationship is fraught with mounting sexual tension as well as gruesome detail. There are some bloody scenes worthy of 1970’s horror movies. A North American winter takes no prisoners. It’s every man for himself. The novel’s dark heart becomes even blacker after John finally breaks away from Daniel’s grasp and sets up home for himself, supposedly far, far away. He meets Palmer, and they strike up a “romantic friendship.” The way they have to deal with their sexuality in the midsts of a deeply religious community, is again deftly handled. No stereotypes here. No thinly disguised Kim Davis boo-hiss characters. The language feels authentic with no 21st century idioms sneaking in, but still feels fresh and easy to read.

John Chapman’s character is deceptively mild, but he has a core of steel. Also, I didn’t pick up on any gay angst. Rather, his concern is the prejudices and misconceptions of others. He is intelligent and likeable, somewhat gullible at the start, but in desperate circumstances, sometimes trust is the only way to survive. The story goes to places that are totally unexpected, and that unpredictability keeps the reader alert and braced for some truly harrowing scenes at times.

In short, the book was thoroughly enjoyable, an intelligent, entertaining as well as informative read, and I couldn’t put it down. So much so, I began reading Man & Monster straight away. If you like your fiction hard and your horror gristly, it’s a worthy sequel.

Print Length: 307 pages

Publisher: BK Books (November 29, 2016)

Publication Date: November 29, 2016

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Language: English

ASIN: B01LYVEJ0T

 

BLURB

What is the line that separates man from beast?

The year is 1797, and 24-year-old John Chapman is lost on the American frontier with winter falling fast. Near death, he stumbles upon a lone cabin, and the owner, a rugged but sexy frontiersman named Daniel McQuay, agrees to let John winter over.

John and Daniel quickly find themselves drawn to each other, the sex between them unlike anything John has ever known. But as the weeks turn into snowbound months, Daniel begins to change into someone brutish, and the line between man and beast disappears.

With the arrival of spring, John flees, eventually finding refuge in the company of a group of frontier outcasts, including a brash young settler named Palmer. But in the wilds of this savage land, love is not so easily tamed, and John soon finds himself calling upon the raging animal within him to save the man he loves.