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Dec
24

Review: Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall

Review: Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall Iron & Velvet Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: There’s one thing that can be said for certain about Kate Kane: she does not date vampires. Well, she tries not to date vampires. Except for the Prince of Cups, who’s managed to win Kate over with her bribes of pudding and the phenomenal sex that Kate’s not really interested in resisting. Hired to investigate a murder perpetrated outside a nightclub belonging to said Prince, she quickly learns that this case is going to get messy fast—and not the figurative sort of messy, either. As a mostly-mortal faery princess with a drinking problem and a penchant for composing her own varying, yet gruesomely hilarious, headstone inscriptions, she’s got her work cut out for her. But, with an unlikely assortment of supernatural allies by her side, she just might survive and win the girl after all. For this review, I’ll begin with a warning, and then move on to better things. This story is filled with lots of icky things and places. And I don’t mean that as a deterrent to reading the story (because I liked it tremendously overall), but as a warning if you’re easily grossed out. The descriptions of the monsters, the sewers (and things associated with them), the carnage of battle, etc., are vivid and creative, which actually made Iron & Velvet a lot of fun to read. No half-visualized, amorphous, lackluster baddies here—no sir. These things are so delightfully revolting that I couldn’t finish the cookie I was nibbling on during one especially descriptive scene. I’m not usually a fan of gore, but Kate is such a great character, and her perspective so sharp and unorthodox, that I set my treat aside to finish the scene. Which is saying something, because it was a really good cookie. One of my favorite things about Iron & Velvet is that I found it to be genuinely, uproariously, snort-inducingly funny. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard over a suspense novel. There are so many quips and zings, as well as drily observed portents of destruction, that I thoroughly enjoyed the entire story—even those above-mentioned gory parts. There are plenty of gems dotting the narrative, even from the very beginning, one that had me snickering early on being: “There’s a dead body in the alley outside.” “And it just slipped your mind?” “No, I just decided to seduce you first.” “Corpse first.” “He’s...
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Nov
21

Review: Blood Brothers by Susan Arden

Review: Blood Brothers by Susan Arden Blood Brothers Author: Susan Arden Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Having returned from war soul-worn and defensive, Tristen is a prisoner of his own nightmares, only finding relief in the arms of his lover, Fin. Still haunted by his own experiences in battle, Fin has given Tristen everything he can, without having his own needs met, in turn. Bringing someone else into the already complicated situation might not be the best idea, but something has to give, and soon, or they could lose each other forever. Maybe one night with a stranger who can push both their boundaries is exactly what they need to break down the walls between them once and for all. I was torn when reading Blood Brothers, and found myself considering the narrative from two distinct perspectives. One of those viewpoints includes an appreciation for unabashedly explicit sex scenes, the other being my desire to be captivated by a well-written story that is colored throughout by the heat and eroticism shared between the various characters. As varied as the definition of “erotic fiction” has become, either fits well in this case. Tristen and Fin are both interesting creations and have evolved from “friends with benefits,” to lovers, to potential wolf shifter mates. That they care deeply about each other is obvious throughout the story, but their lack of communication is so profound that it nearly destroys their relationship. The miscues and resulting frustration became difficult to watch after a while, yet they added a great deal of meaning to what would have otherwise been an implausible attachment. Primarily, Blood Brothers is about sex. Sex with Fin is Tristen’s preferred way of dealing with his nightmares, whereas Fin prefers yoga to keep the memories at bay. By turns, Tristen’s tendency to call the shots in bed while refusing to fully dominate Fin only serves to make Fin realize that his need for an even rougher edge isn’t being met, leaving him bitter and distant. Fin’s plan to invite a vampire into their bed for one night, in the hope of pushing Tristen to accept Fin’s needs and meet them as his lover, has some unintended, yet not unexpected, consequences. The entire progression is filled with more combinations of partners and positions than I could really keep track of, which unfortunately tended to run together after a while and lose some of its impact. As to the story itself, I think reading the first...
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Nov
13

Blog Tour & Review: Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux (plus Giveaway!)

Blog Tour & Review: Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux (plus Giveaway!) Shock & Awe (and Bait & Switch) Author: Abigail Roux  Reviewer: B. Rating: A+, 5 Stars What I’m Talking About: Born of an anti-smoking campaign, a healthy dose of serendipitous chemistry, and a contest bribe, Shock & Awe is, in my experience, one of the best gifts of writing an author has ever given to the fans. This offshoot of the Cut & Run series shouldn’t exist (I recommend looking up the chain of events if you don’t already know it—it’s a fun chain of events), but, thankfully, now does. Kelly wasn’t supposed to survive the events of Touch & Geaux, and Ms. Roux had other plans for Nick. But, the characters had a mind of their own, and altered the shape of things to come. I admit that I had mixed feelings about Nick O’Flaherty when he was formally introduced in the series. My heart was overruling my head, as has been a consistent side effect of reading Ms. Roux’s works, and it took a second reading for me to understand his perspective a little better. By the next book he appeared in, Armed & Dangerous, I began to love him, and upon finishing Touch & Geaux I was completely hooked. Nick is a good man through to his soul and a ferociously loyal friend, ranking his allegiance to Team Sidewinder—his real and chosen family—above all else. Kelly Abbott, on the other hand, has always been a favorite of mine. From his initial appearance, he’s been an open, shiny presence, living honestly and with a generosity of self that is so very rare it’s stunning. Referred to more than once as the “heart” of Team Sidewinder, Kelly lives his life without pretense or malice, his devotion to the other members of his unit unwavering and all encompassing. Similarly to Nick, they are the only real family he’s ever known, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for them. He is always willing to put himself on the line in every way for those he loves, even if it hurts him. One of the things that made me love Kelly even more in Shock & Awe is that, although Kelly wants everything that being with Nick promises to be, he knows Nick so well that he is willing to settle for whatever piece of himself his best friend is able to give. Though the chemistry between them is undeniable, their differences are substantial and add intensity and genuineness to their situation....
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Nov
6

Review: Bad Idea by Damon Suede

Review: Bad Idea by Damon Suede Bad Idea Author: Damon Suede  Reviewer: B. Rating: A, 4.5 Stars What I’m Talking About: Trip Spector has spent years slowly going numb, drawing a comic he can’t stand for a man he wants badly, but can’t have. Aimless and highly allergic to pretty much everything, he knows he’s meant to do more with his life, but has no idea what that could possibly be until a chance encounter with a handsome zombie in the woods inspires him to take a chance for the first time in years. But, even the gorgeous, surprising special effects artist may not be enough to help Trip pursue his dreams when his worst habits come back to haunt him. Sampling his way through the judgmental, expiration date-obsessed NYC singles scene has left Silas Goolsby feeling empty and detached. But, when his missed opportunity with a shy, nerdy artist turns into an unexpected second chance, he knows he’ll have to leave all his familiar patterns behind if they want a future together that really matters. Moving on from his past isn’t easy, no matter how much he wants to, but giving his heart away could cost Silas more than he has to give. Trip and Silas are likely the most perfect couple that nearly weren’t that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. On the surface, they don’t have much in common except the artistic nature of their respective professions, and that they’re both gay. Beneath the surface, however, they share a nerd streak that won’t quit and an eager indulgence of their decidedly non-stereotypical sexual inclinations. Otherwise, they couldn’t be more different. Trip has more hang-ups than a dry cleaner, but, from the minute figures out that what Silas really needs is exactly what he’s been aching to give, he’s hooked. Silas, on the other hand, is honest, brazen, devoted, and doesn’t do anything halfway. They both know how the script they’re supposed to be acting out goes, and have lived it faithfully in the past. Once they find each other, however, they realize that they’re tired of playing along and begin to follow their hearts instead. Aside from the unlikely, yet fascinating, pairing of these two artists, Bad Idea is a slice of pure nerd heaven. Maybe Nerdvana. With bountiful pop culture references, heaps of artistic legend name-dropping, and a fearless skewering of “play it safe” industry risk-avoidance, this novel was a complete hoot to read. “The Tick” references alone were enough...
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Oct
22

Review: Wallflower by Heidi Belleau

Review: Wallflower by Heidi Belleau Wallflower Author: Heidi Belleau Reviewer: B. Rating: 4 Stars What I’m Talking About: Robert Ng fully accepts what he is: a shy, gay, nerdy gamer and art student who has always felt eclipsed by the shimmering, magnetic personality of his beloved older sister. But, the somewhat self-imposed isolation of his youth has turned into loneliness and an earnest desire to be someone that others are naturally drawn to. The only time he feels strong, confident, and desirable is when he’s playing as Bobby: the only female, orc-slaying member of an online RPG guild, who is not only accepted by her peers, but is the subject of their flirtations as well. She is beautiful, outgoing, witty—everything Rob wishes he could be. If only he could be Bobby every now and then in real life, too. Being new to this series, I had no idea what to expect from Wallflower, and I’m glad to say I was very pleasantly surprised. This story is about Rob’s journey towards self-acceptance, not just a telling of events that lead to a conclusion. Every step he takes towards discovering who he’s supposed to be is regarded with honesty and respect, giving the character a veracity that was easy to accept. In the beginning, Rob believes that in order to break out of his shell, he has to be someone else entirely. But, by the end, he’s arrived at an entirely different opinion. Dylan, Rob’s new boyfriend, is likewise a terrific character. He is understanding and kind, and has no filter between his brain and his mouth whatsoever. He is completely devoid of artifice, his compassion shaped by his own, sometimes difficult, experiences. In general, he has a unique and welcome point of view. This is especially apparent during a wonderful scene that takes place in an art gallery, when he talks about the fallacy of perception, not only of celebrities, but how much of ourselves we either discard or alter before presenting what we believe to be an “acceptable” version of ourselves to the rest of the world. It’s good stuff all around. In the end, Rob didn’t need an alter ego to find the confidence he so desperately desired. He just had to accept that Bobby wasn’t a completely different persona, but rather, a facet, and an equally deserving part, of who he really was. He learned that no one’s path is guaranteed to be free of pain and misunderstanding, and that friends who...
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Oct
10

Review: Catch a Ghost by SE Jakes

Review: Catch a Ghost by SE Jakes Catch A Ghost Author: SE Jakes  Reviewer: B. Rating: A, 4.5 Stars What I’m Talking About: To begin with, I really liked Catch a Ghost. A lot. There were so many things that I liked equally about it, in fact, that I’m not sure where to begin. This story hit every button I’ve got: good writing, complex characters that get under your skin, lots of action, suspense, angst, a little romance, and so on. As a “sub-series” within an established universe (Extreme Escapes Limited), I’m hopeful that the two main characters, Prophet and Tommy, will have plenty of room to stretch and flesh out the parameters of their relationship, without that evolution becoming hurried. Time seems to be more important for some characters than others, and these two men definitely need it. Either that, or I’m a little bit in love with both of them, and I’ll take as many of their stories as I can get. Prophet and Tom are truly wonderful characters. Both are scarred warriors (although not in precisely the same way), keeping their secrets locked away tight while trying to separate their pasts from the present. Yet, for all their mutual antagonizing and denials, there’s also a magnetic pull that connects them, which was at once compelling and fascinating. A more accurate comparison might be the irrefutable attraction that exists between opposing forces. Prophet doesn’t want a partner so that he won’t let anyone else down. Tom wants to partner with Prophet in order to prove that he won’t do that exact thing. Prophet is a master of control, at least to the casual observer. Tom needs to learn to have some. Together, however, they are wickedly provocative, and even though they know that sex with one another is a bad idea, they can’t help but give into their desire anyway. Whether it’s a need for physical pleasure or for basic comfort is questionable, if not irrelevant, depending on the situation and perspective. Yet, even here, they oppose one another. Tom wants more of Prophet in every respect and pursues something more substantial with him to that end. Prophet, meanwhile, denies the unmistakable connection between them to everyone, including himself. Sexually, these two are more well matched than they’d like to admit, each encounter being more of a skirmish, as if the only common ground they can bear to acknowledge is the intimacy of battle. One of my favorite things about Catch A Ghost is...
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Sep
25

Author Guest Post & Giveaway: Andrea Speed

Author Guest Post & Giveaway: Andrea Speed Andrea Speed joins me today at That’s What I’m Talking About to tell us about her new title, Strange Angels. She is also giving away a digital copy of Prey (Infected #1) to one lucky commenter. Keep reading for details, and please help me welcome Andrea… The next in my series of interviews with characters in my latest book, Strange Angels, I talk with Balor, a Celtic death god. He’s … unusual. I can’t stress that enough. Andrea: Thanks for talking with me. Balor: I have no idea why you want to talk to me. I don’t really play much of a part in this story. Andrea: Wow. You’re so wrong. You play a big part in it. Balor: Well, maybe by accident. Not deliberately. Andrea: That’s debatable. So what would you like to tell readers about yourself? Balor: Um … well, I’m a death god, but I’m retired. Andrea: What does that mean? Balor: I don’t really have any truck with the dead anymore. There’s lots of other death gods, so no one really noticed when I hung it up. Andrea: You can just stop being a death god? Balor: Sure. I mean, the powers don’t go away, but you can set aside the trappings of god-dom and do other things. I did. Andrea: Yes, your realm is .. interesting. Without spoiling anything, why do you exist in that realm? Balor: Sometimes a world just reflects your emotional state. Andrea: Umm, that really doesn’t explain it at all. Balor: How familiar with my story are you? Andrea: Not very. Balor: Well, Human myths have it that my own grandson killed me and plucked out my death eye, but that isn’t true. I kinda wish it were true, ’cause the reality is horrible. Andrea: What actually happened? Balor: (sighs) Please keep in mind I was kind of a dick back then. What happened is, I opened my eye on him. Andrea: Your death eye? Balor: It’s the only eye I have. Andrea: And he died? Balor: He was disintigrated, as are most things when I open the eye. It’s called a death eye for lack of a better term, but it can shred everything, breaking it down to constituate atoms. I can rip holes in the space-time continuum if I want. It’s why I rarely open my eye. Andrea: But how do you see? Balor: Oh, I can’t see out of my death eye. Andrea: What? Balor: It’s only...
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Sep
23

Review: Never Gonna Say Goodbye by Jessica E. Subject

Review: Never Gonna Say Goodbye by Jessica E. Subject Never Gonna Say Goodbye Author: Jessica E. Subject Reviewer: Twimom Rating: C, 2.5 Stars What I’m Talking About: Never Gonna Say Goodbye is the third and final novella in a short sci-fi romance trilogy from Jessica E. Subject. The series follows the lives of individuals who work for a powerful company known as Planet Corp. We learned in the first two tales that Planet Corp is all-controlling, its leaders are malevolent, and several individuals have attempted to escape life with Planet Corp by joining The Underground. The third installment begins just after the “forbidden” weddings among those in The Underground, occurring at the conclusion of the second story. Our main hero, Will, is the leader of the resistance and his love is Tim. They are fighting for the freedom for all and for the right to love one another openly. The story moves extremely quickly, and if you haven’t read the first two books in the series, you will probably have little interest in what is going on during Never Gonna Say Goodbye. All of the world building and most of the character development occurs during the first two stories. The story feels more like the final few chapters and epilogue from another book, rather than a stand alone story. There is relatively no time spent learning about Will and Tim; therefore, I felt little emotional attachment to the primary couple. From near the beginning, Tim makes some pretty huge decisions that have MAJOR impacts on The Underground, Planet Core, and several characters, to include ones I have come to know and like from the previous novellas. In addition, there was a huge accident in the book which kept the primary pair apart, so we didn’t get much face time with Will and Tim as a couple. Instead of becoming emotionally invested, I felt like I was an outsider getting details about the going-ons. While I wasn’t a fan of how Will and Tim’s romance was written, the overall story arc had several engrossing and gripping moments. We learn the “final fate” of each of the characters from earlier books, which, for better or worse, is a good thing. Ms. Subject does a nice job of wrapping up the entire plot in a satisfactory manner. In the end, I feel that Never Gonna Say Goodbye is not bad, but not great. This final story in the trio of novellas was by far the simplest. Although there was loss, the...
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Sep
20

Review: Sharp Bite of Pleasure by KT Grant

Review: Sharp Bite of Pleasure by KT Grant Sharp Bite of Pleasure Author: KT Grant Reviewer: Twimom Rating: C, 2.5 Stars What I’m Talking About: Eight years ago, Alexa (a 130 year old vampire princess) and Penny (werewolf shifter) shared a forbidden romance, which ended abruptly when Alexa left to marry the West Coast vampire king. After he was killed in an uprising, she found and killed those responsible and then ruled with a fair hand. Alexa has now returned home to attend her father’s funeral. She knows someone close to him has murdered him, and she wants vengeance. Now that Alexa has returned, she is determined to claim Penny as her own. But Penny wants nothing to do with Alexa, who was her first and true love until she broke her heart. Penny has moved on, dating Lissa for the past 4 years, but Alexa’s return has brought back so many memories and feelings, leaving Penny confused and a bit panicked. Sharp Bite of Pleasure features the romance of star-crossed lovers, which is always a enjoyable trope. The relationship is part of a larger tale that addresses bigotry, species rivalry and family feuding. The world building and the “non-romance” parts of the story were exciting. Ms. Grant weaves an engrossing mystery over who killed the Vampire king, coupled with Alexa’s struggles to weed out traitors within the king’s own council. In addition, Alexa longs to create a lasting peace treaty between the vampires and wolves, which puts her in the crosshairs of many on both sides. Alexa’s mother, Madalyn, and half-brother, Bradley, add depth to the storylines. Madalyn is a lonely widow who seems to favor her stepson over her own daughter. The tension between Madalyn and Alexa keeps an edge to the tale. Bradley is Alexa’s primary suspect in her father’s murder, and we are privy to most of his activities, some of which supports Alexa’s claims, while at times refutes her notion. As for the love story… here I am not so impressed. I really didn’t care for Alexa; having little sympathy or empathy for her as she lamented her loss of Penny and desire to reclaim their bond. Alexa is demanding and not necessarily nice to Penny. Penny had moved on, yet Alexa was overly pushy to the point of near rape. In the beginning, she never listened to anything Penny wanted or didn’t want. She craved the conflict and enjoyed the knowledge that she would be able to force Penny to submit....
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Sep
6

Review: Bound by Lies by Lynn Kelling

Review: Bound by Lies by Lynn Kelling Bound By Lies Author: Lynn Kelling  Reviewer: B. Rating: A, 4.5 Stars What I’m Talking About: Having escaped the stigma of a destroyed family and the cruel whispers of his classmates four years ago, Brayden Clare never considered returning to his hometown again. But, after experiencing the desolation of abandonment personally, he’s not about to do the same to his remaining relatives when they call on him for help. Life at the beach and a lack of conviction about his own sexuality hasn’t exactly prepared him to be a successful caretaker, however, yet he’s determined to do what’s right, regardless of the cost, even if it means losing his freedom to the voices of the past. Golden boy Jenner Parrish, owner of the local bar, has always had it easy, or so everyone else in his small town thinks. Determined to stay out of the crosshairs of the bullies in his high school, he spent his time then as part of their group, often horrified by their exploits, yet never taking a stand against them. While he’s come to terms with his needs as a Dominant privately, his dread of rejection and worry over the opinions of others keep him from living the life he so desperately wants, leaving him isolated and withdrawn. But, when his fantasy-come-to-life walks through his door in need of a job, Jenner begins to question everything about the life he’s built for himself, and realizes that, sometimes, taking risks is the only option. I’ve been very happy to see an increase in the number of novels about “alternative lifestyles” I’ve had the opportunity to read recently, especially when those stories determinedly address some of the misconceptions and myths surrounding their subjects. Bound by Lies, I was delighted to find, does exactly that. Brayden is plagued by insecurities about his desire to submit, believing his need to be dominated to be a validation for all the horrible things that happened during his high school years. Jenner is likewise hiding who he really is, fearing the rejection of both family and friends should they discover who he really is: a closeted gay man who is most at peace when spending time as a Dom. While the majority of Bound by Lies revolves around the sexual relationship of the two main characters, it is through these scenes that we see what drives both men in its most distilled form. By finally addressing their mutual needs, they are...
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