Tag Archives: Jayne Lockwood book review

22Jun/17

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

Out-of-this-world guest J.S. Fields joined us recently on our little show! To hear more about her and get links to her work, click on …..

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.

 

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.

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.

30Dec/16

Review of Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists by Angel Martinez

The heavenly Angel Martinez is a regular visitor to the WROTE Podcast, and a prolific writer of sci-fi fiction. To find out more about Angel and get links to her work, check out her latest interview with us. Episode 079: Flash Fiction Takes Flight!

REVIEW

Taro has recently won the lottery, and with his winnings has invested in several properties around the world. As he travels, familiarising himself with his new circumstances, he becomes aware of strange happenings in the night. Every morning, the mess he has made during the day is conveniently tidied away. When these events follow him from property to property, he is driven to enlist a ghost hunter to help him either solve the mystery, or prove that he needs psychiatric help.

When Jack Montrose appears, he isn’t the hero Taro hopes for, but a gangly eccentric who is just as strange as the turn Taro’s life has taken. Their awkward friendship is hilariously realised as Jack becomes Taro’s travelling companion, and attempts to understand why these strange events keep happening.

This book was a treat from start to finish. I instantly liked Taro, whose unexpected good fortune leads him way out of his comfort zone. And Jack, the eccentric genius, was a memorable character; sweet, awkward and brilliant, bruised from an abruptly ended relationship and wary of being hurt again.

Everything was unpredictable, including the story taking me to some very unexpected places. The author has obviously researched each destination, but has not fallen into the trap of sounding like a travel blog. The answer, when it is discovered, is delightful. I can’t say any more than that without massive spoilers.

This was a highly entertaining and intelligent read, with enough science to satisfy geeks and a sparkle of magic and a dash of folklore. Chemistry fizzed between the two MC’s, but it wasn’t laboured at all, and Taro’s sexuality was dealt with, subtly and sensitively. The whole thing just worked from start to finish. It wasn’t a long read (36,000 words) but for me it was just the right length. A fun-packed read that punches way above its weight. 

05Dec/16

Review of Forbidden by Jason Collins

forbidden

REVIEW

For months, Matt has been daydreaming about Tyler, who works in the office opposite him. He doesn’t know if he’s gay or straight. He just knows that Tyler is the one for him. If only he could pluck up the courage and start talking to him….

This is the story of sweet, innocent Matt, and wealthy, married Tyler, heading for a nasty divorce and needing to find some kind of release to alleviate his (ahem) tension. So he and Matt start talking, then fumbling, then experimenting and possibly falling in love.

But then, duh-duh-duuuuh! Tyler’s almost-ex wife is determined to screw things up, claiming most of Tyler’s fortune if she can prove he has been unfaithful to her. Apparently, she has the world media on her side, though I had already instantly filed her under Nut Job.  As the central plot device to add tension, it’s tenuous at best. Sooo close, but not close enough for me.

But what the hell. This is a wish-fulfilment fantasy. The handsome businessman, fabulously wealthy, is curious about his good-looking, cute neighbour, who is willing to drop to his knees and satisfy his forbidden desires…

See where I’m going with this? Well, you’re wrong because this is actually pretty unpredictable. I loved the way the plot zigged and zagged, throwing in a murder and a hot steam room scene and a dash around New York. Yes, there are a few issues with it, namely in the editing. It feels a bit rushed as well. Collins could have made this a novel, rather than a novella, and I don’t say that very often. I would have liked to have seen more in the way of character development, because I liked Tyler and Matt but felt they had a lot more to give. The sex was sexy and real. I did feel Tyler’s curiosity and indecision, but felt he was WAY too trusting with someone he had just met, however cute Matt was.

Having said all that, the plot thickened in surprising ways. Again, more could have been made of it, but there are no corny romance tropes here apart from (yawn) the bitchy ex. I’ve written three reviews today and all the villains are women and they all look the goddamned same. The neighbour tops the lot though, a truly nasty piece of work. I really hope this isn’t based on reality but I have a sad feeling it might be. The boys (Matt and Tyler) dealt with her with class and grace, which was very satisfying.

So not perfect and a little unpolished, but a fun, quick read with engaging characters that deserve another story.

05Dec/16

Review – Grind (The Riley Brothers Vo 6) by E. Davies

grindREVIEW

A sweet, sexy tale from E. Davies, and sixth book in the Riley Brothers series although this can be read on a standalone basis. Don’t be put off by the title, which suggests Grindr-related shenanigans (or at least, it did to me…) Nothing is further from the truth.

Ryan is the carpenter wanting to set up his own business. He is good with his hands but the accountancy and marketing side leaves him floundering. Enter trans man James, in debt due to putting his top surgery on his credit card, and in desperate need of a job. Fortunately, he has all the knowledge Ryan needs in order to make the business a success. Sparks fly between them, but both are wary of mixing business with pleasure.

A sugar-sweet love story, with enough spice and angst to save it from giving the reader tooth-ache. I had to check to see whether this was written by a man or a woman. Not that it should matter, but for such a lush romance, I was intrigued. This is written by a male author (something I only found out after reading it) who pours his heart and romantic soul into this book.

Shy and cute Ryan doesn’t have any misgivings about his attraction to James. He is eager not to screw up when talking to him, ensuring he does just that, and makes sure he does his homework, using the right terminology and pronouns, etc. A cynic would say he was too good to be true but what the hell, the world needs genuinely nice people. The the awkwardness when he gets it wrong made me squirm with embarrassment for him.

And slender, twinky James is totally bowled over by Ryan’s musculature. (That chest! Those thighs!) I would have liked to have known a little more about him. It felt as if an opportunity to explore his new-found masculinity was lost. After all, being on T isn’t just about growing more hair. Emotions are on a rollercoaster and that didn’t really come across. He is described as flamboyant but I wasn’t feeling it. Possibly, these issues have been addressed in the previous books.

So there was lots of insta-love going on, if not insta-action. When the action does happen, it delivers. I liked that they didn’t go at it straight away, but engaged in a great deal of teasing and what we English quaintly call “heavy petting,” the first few times they got it on. Cute and far more realistic.

And kudos to the author for not throwing in a boy meets boy/boy loses boy/boy makes up with boy trope. Ryan has great friends. Both characters have complicated family situations. James’ mother is … I’m not sure but I wanted to slap her. I’ve seen her type before in a lot of M/M fiction, so there was an element of “here we go again.” But maybe that’s the point. It is a depressingly common problem. Ryan’s nemesis was a work colleague, Roger, a would-be rival to his fledgling home crafts business, but in the end, the worst thing he did was stomp away. The people who weren’t bigoted and disgusting were terribly nice and very supportive, providing a warm, happy glow. And why not?

Look, I’m straight, so I can’t say for sure whether the conversations and situations for trans people are true to life in this book or not. For me, it was a cosy read with characters that were slightly different from other M/M romance books. The homophobia rang depressingly true and the author wasn’t afraid to tackle it, which was another plus point.  Grind is well-written, as enjoyable as a slice of chocolate cake on a cold winter’s day. It was such a feel-good read, I am tempted to check out the other books in the series, and I don’t say that very often.