Friday, January 8, 2016

Excerpt & Giveaway: Stronger, Better, Faster, More by Carlin Grant & Katey Hawthorne

Stronger, Better, Faster, More – superheroing excerpt 
Thanks so much for having us here at Pants Off today! We’ve brought along a special excerpt that’s not up on our site—the very beginning of the book. Our heroes, Beau and Vel, are of the super variety. And sometimes, that means running into burning buildings… and finding old friends there. Totally on accident. Whoops. 
So without further ado, here we are! The very first bit from Stronger, Better, Faster, More. Hope you enjoy—and be sure to scroll all the way down for our giveaway, too! 
Beau barely felt the oppressive heat and smoke. Or, well, no, he felt it; he was conscious of the temperature rising as he got closer to the flames, the smoke in his lungs making it harder to breathe, but there was no pain, not like there would’ve been a year ago. 
He heard someone crying—shit, that was a kid, wasn’t it?—and squinted to make out the door. He needed to figure out some eye protection, since apparently this was getting to be a regular thing. The goggles had been a terrible idea—that had hurt. He’d gotten them off his eyes fast enough, but some had melted onto his hand. He’d healed; there wasn’t even a scar. But the pain of healing had been agonizing. 
There was another cry, this one upstairs, and he didn’t know what to do. He had to get the child—of course he did—but he couldn’t do both. There wasn’t time. The bottom dropped out of his stomach, but he continued, his heart breaking. 
Suddenly something whipped past him. He couldn’t see what it was, but he could see the way the gust altered the flames, moved the smoke. He cracked a grin and pushed through harder as he realized. A speedster had showed up; he didn’t know any personally, but he’d seen them on TV, and he knew the signs. Together they’d be enough to finish what Beau had started, and maybe they wouldn’t have any casualties. 
He burst through the door and scooped up the child, then covered her face with a wet cloth. As he started toward the exit, she was still coughing, still breathing, but going limp, and his previous optimism faded. He got out the door he’d kicked down earlier and called out “Hey, speedster! I need you to get this one to the EMTs!” 
And then there he was, standing in front of Beau, carefully taking the girl out of his arms. Beau started to say thank you as he moved her, but their eyes locked and—“Vel?” 
The speedster clutched the girl to his chest, dark eyes wide through the holes in his small mask. “What? How do you…?” 
“Relax,” Beau said, hands open and palms up. It was stupid; he knew how scary it was, the risk of being made. He’d have been more careful if he hadn’t been so shocked. “It’s Warren. From high school. I, uh, I look different now.” Which was understating it. Even before he bulked up, he’d spent high school pretending he fit in the body that’d been chosen for him, with its breasts, feminine curves, and long blonde hair that his mama wouldn’t let him cut short but was never out of a ponytail anyway. He didn’t look like that anymore. It’d cost him a lot of time and money not to look like that anymore. “Go, get her to medical, but…find me after we get the other guy out? If you want?” 
“Dude.” Yeah, that definitely sounded like Vel. There was some flutter-fast blinking. “You got huge.” 
It was so inappropriate next to a burning building, but Beau couldn’t help the hard, shocked laugh that came out of him. “Yeah. I…yeah.” 
Vel grinned. “Coffee shop, two blocks down. I’ll grab the other one too, then meet you there.” And in a gust of wind, dragging smoke in his wake, he was gone. 
Beau nodded, even if Vel was gone before he could see it. He ducked away—everyone was still paying attention to the fire and the victims, so he was able to get away unnoticed. The police and fire department were pretty okay with them helping out, but he didn’t want to risk it. He’d make his way to his duffel and then down to the shop. 
* * * * 
Vel was already there when Beau arrived. Vel had ditched the Under Armour gear he’d been rocking at the fire, not to mention the small mask that had done very little to hide his identity. Instead he sported a Star Wars T-shirt that was about two sizes too small and a pair of expensively battered jeans. He sprawled in the coffee-shop chair, that same cocky smile he’d had in high school in full force. “Well, well, well. It is you.” 
Beau grinned back, a big, shy grin up through his eyelashes. Instantly he was hit by déjà vu; how many times had he given that exact look to Vel in high school? “Yeah.” He pulled out the chair and set his ice tea and two muffins—so expensive, but he had to eat—in front of him before sitting carefully. He really hated to break things. “I, uh, I go by Beau now, though.” Going by his last name had been a way to avoid using the decidedly gendered name he’d been given at birth and all the dysphoria that came with it. Fortunately, the one thing everyone knew about him in high school had been that soccer was his life, which had made it not seem strange, since half the team went by their last names. 
“Nice.” Vel plucked up a cold glass of something tea-looking and sucked on the straw. “So, apart from the obvious, what have you been up to? Last I heard, we were both off to school on soccer scholarships.” 
Beau couldn’t help but grin a little wider at how much of a nonissue it was for Vel. So many people made a big deal out of it. “Uh, not soccer, actually. They kicked me off the team after I started taking T. Unfair advantage, apparently.” He lifted a shoulder as if it hadn’t hurt or screwed up his life as much as it had. “I’m coaching youth soccer now and going to school over at NRCC.” Going from one of the best universities in the state to community college stung, but it was better than the alternative. “You?” 
Vel’s nose was wrinkled up. “Well, their loss. I’m kinda-same-but-very-different. Lost my scholarship after I got put on academic probation. Dishonor on me, on my family, on our cow. You know how it is.” Vel’s smile went crooked and wry. “Whatever, though. I finished up an associate’s. Doing web design now. I mean, day-job-wise.” 
Beau gave a half smile as he sipped his drink and tried not to sigh at the cool relief. Just because the smoke inhalation hadn’t hurt him didn’t mean his throat didn’t feel like a desert. 
“Don’t worry about the dishonor thing. I’ve seen that movie; it turns out all right in the end.” He flushed and focused on the muffin. Well, he’d never been cool in high school; at least Vel wouldn’t think that had changed. 
Vel chuckled and slouched comfortably, long legs brushing past Beau’s jeans to sprawl under the table. “Here’s hoping.” 
It took Beau a long moment to respond, distracted by a fluttering feeling at those legs touching his and the way Vel looked, all relaxed like that. Dammit, that was something he should have left in high school too. “I thought about doing something with computers, but I’ve never been much for them.” He gave a little smile, then added, “I’m, uh, I’m doing my associate’s in pastry arts at the moment. I’m hoping I can open a bakery one day.” He was shy when he said it, and carefully started to take off the wrapper of one of his muffins. 
“Oh my God.” Vel’s pouty lips formed a little O and let loose a low whistle. “Epic. Are you in the market for a new best friend? Because if you’re gonna be a baker, we should totally be best friends.” 
Beau felt a flush spread over his cheeks, and he wet his lips before taking another sip. “I can always use more friends. But, uh, do you need a roommate? Or know anyone who needs a place?” He laughed, mostly kidding. “My roommate moved in with his girlfriend without any notice, and I’m kind of screwed if I don’t find anyone before the end of the month.” He could just afford his bills, even though he had two jobs, with how much he had to eat. There was no way he could afford the other half of the rent too. 
“Seriously?” Vel’s face lit up. “Because I am stuck at my sister’s house right now, and I love her, but I am so very over living like the baby brother twenty-four seven.” 
Beau’s eyebrows went up, “I…seriously? Because you would save my skin. You don’t even know. It’s only a few months, so if we’re not a good match, you’re not stuck. I’m pretty easy to live with, though. And I cook.” 
“Sold.” Vel smacked the table like an auctioneer with a gavel. “I, on the other hand, am a neat-freak pain in the ass who never stops talking. But considering our, uh, common interests go beyond soccer these days, it shouldn’t be too bad. For a few months.” 
Beau nodded in agreement, not bothering to hide how relieved he was. “Rent’s due in a week, and you can move in whenever you want.” This could be a horrible idea, but how badly could a few months go? 
Stronger, Better, Faster, More 
When he gets super-endurance powers out of nowhere, being a culinary student and kids’ soccer coach isn’t enough for Beau Warren--he has to be a superhero too. A sweet, hardworking trans man from a close knit family, it’s important to Beau to use his new abilities to stand up for people who can’t protect themselves. When he runs into a speedster at a fire rescue, he doesn’t expect it to be his high school crush, Vel Chandrasekhar. Turns out Vel got superspeed when Beau go his endurance, so they decide to make their single supe act into a duo. 
With their immediate attraction and superpowered libidos, it’s not long before Beau and Vel are roommates-with-benefits. That’s the idea, anyhow, if only Beau can keep from falling back into his old crush hard, since Vel’s self-esteem issues have left him skittish about relationships. Just when things are at boiling point between them, though, their search for their own superhero origin story leads them and their families into mortal danger. The only way to survive the truth is to depend on each other--and admit they’re a lot more than friends. 
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Giveaway/Contest details: 
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Author bio and social media links: 
Carlin Grant is a queer writer who likes to put the focus on LGBTQIA+ characters and has a sweet tooth for romance. Growing up in backwoods North Carolina left them with a love for the characters, culture, and folklore that is common in the rural South, and these themes often show up in their stories. When they're not writing, Carlin enjoys reading, video games, superheroes, mixtapes, and visiting the beach. They currently reside in coastal NC, where they spend most of their time chasing after their toddler. 
Katey Hawthorne is an avid reader and writer of superpowered romance, even though the only degree she holds is in the history of art. (Or, possibly, because the only degree she holds is in the history of art.) Originally from the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia, she currently lives in Ohio. In her spare time she enjoys comic books, B-movies, loud music, Epiphones, and Bushmills. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: BAMF by SJD Peterson

BAMF by SJD Peterson
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 200pgs

2 Pants Off

With his fauxhawk, sleeve tattoos, and visible piercings, Ridley Corbin has the whole bad ass vibe going on in spades. The image serves him well as the self-proclaimed protector of the underdog, and he wants nothing more than to be Alex Firestone's hero.   

Alex, a mild-mannered library assistant, has moved to Slater, a quiet college town, hoping to hide from his past. He keeps to himself, but that doesn't save him from catching the unwanted attention of the campus bully. But not all is as it seems. Alex's past comes calling, and it's time he becomes top dog.

BAMF! I feel like this book needs a new title something along the lines of “WHAT!”. Like what the hell did I just read? I'm still trying to figure out. It's as if I walked into two guys story knowing squat and left their story knowing squat. I had such high expectations for this one. I thought I was getting a sexy nerd, and then it did a total 180, and I got something else instead.

Ridley Corbin looks like a badass with his faux hawk and tattoos. No one messes with him. So he uses his bad boy image to help the underdog. He doesn't like to see anyone get bullied. If he can put an end to that type of situation, he's gonna do it. So it comes as no surprise that his hackles rise when the campus bully hones in on his librarian crush. Alex Firestone has Ridley all twisted up inside with his nerdish good looks and just overall hotness. So it doesn't surprise him when he feels he wants to rescue him. Ridley can hardly say two words to Alex, so he just spends his time stalking skulking around the library looking at Alex.   

When he finally gets Alex on a date, their Chemistry is undeniable, and it leads to a passionate, explosive night. Seemed he pegged Alex for a very good boy and what he gets is nothing like what he expected. The never “judge a book by its cover” is strong with this one. Ridley gets a night of explosive hard sex, and then he's left hanging in the dust with no call back from the sexy Mr. Firestone and wondering if all that heat between them was just a figment of his imagination. When he does run into Alex again, it's not the private meeting he was hoping for. He lands in a fight and is surprised that Alex can take care of himself as more than take care. While trying to be a hero Ridley is brained (and not the sexy type). He gets a serious brain injury and then finds out there is more to Alex Firestone, and it seems he wasn't the bad boy after all.   

There is so much that annoyed me about this book. Like the complete lack of the sexy nerd. That cover cheated me, and I'm all types of disappointed. Next, the characters are flat. Like a five day old opened bottle of Pepsi (without all the sweetness). It's a series of “I thought I was the baddest but you the baddest” and so it goes on. Mans is suffering from a severe head injury, but he's down for rough sex and such. It's the stereotypical I’m a bad ass male BS, and I did not enjoy it all. I had to force myself to finish and overall it was just not a good read.   

This book certainly was not for me. Where it started out promising the overall premise fizzled and burnt out. It's becoming apparent that maybe this author just isn't for me, but I'm holding out hope. BAMF tried to deliver, but all it left me with was “WHY”. 

A letdown!!  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: Until Forever Comes by Cardeno C.

Until Forever Comes (Mates #2) by Cardeno C.
Novel: 60,702
Amazon, ARe

4 Pants Off


A sensitive wolf shifter and a vicious vampire challenge history, greed, and the very fabric of their beings in order to stay together until forever comes.  

 Plagued by pain and weakness all his life, Ethan Abbatt is a wolf shifter who can’t shift. Hoping to find an honorable death by joining his pack mates in a vampire attack, Ethan instead learns two things: draining his blood releases his pain and his wolf, and he has a true mate—a vampire named Miguel.   

Over four centuries old, strong, powerful, and vicious, Miguel Rodriguez walks through life as a shadow, without happiness or affection. When a young shifter tells Miguel they're true mates, destined to be together, Miguel sends him away. But Ethan is persistent and being with him comes so naturally that Miguel can't resist for long. Their challenge is staying alive so they can be together until forever comes. 

The second book in the Mates Series and I was all types of excited to read this. Who doesn't love a Vampire/Shifter pairing? Wasn't as angst-ridden as I was hoping but it was an enjoyable read overall.  

Ethan is a shifter that can't shift. He is ostracized from his pack and just really wants to fit in and be accepted. His body is always in pain waiting for a shift that will never happen, leaving Ethan longing to be a wolf, to becoming a man. He has his family, but he knows that will never be enough, and some way; somehow he has to finally shift. When the opportunity to finally do something with his pack mates finally arrives, Ethan jumps at the chance to be a part of it. Without questioning the dangerous position he will be in, Ethan goes after vampires with his pack mates knowing he most likely will die but the opportunity to prove himself as a man and wolf strong.   

The encounter with the vamps is a bust. They get their ass handed to them, and Etan is about to die. With blood dripping from his neck, his legs weak and his breath shallow Ethan realizes this was a damn bad idea. When it looks like their leader is about to put him out of his misery, Ethan's reaction is one of shock; he finds himself aroused to black haired vamp they call Miguel. Like he's full dick hard turned on, and the Vamp is giving him feels. Not the ones he should have for a bloodsucker but the kind where he wants to crawl into his skin and just live. There was never a sweeter way to die. And before Ethan can question his feeling there's nothing but sweet release and then blackness.  

 From what you already know; the vampire is Ethan's Mate. Which is crazy right, cuz he's a vampire and a dude. Ethan deals with all this quite easily along with shifting for the very first time. The crazy unusual comes with Ethan and his blood and the fact that he seems to produce too much of it (that's all you're getting from me). He has no reservations about leaving his pack and who can blame him he was treated as an outcast. He’s finally found his home with Miguel, and though the vampire is hardly thinking of forever Ethan knows that the mate bond cannot be denied.   

Throw in a little bit of plot with Miguel’s “coven” and it keeps the book from being a fluff fest. While I would have given anything to get a little POV from Miguel, I feel like I know the kind of man he is. Ethan is young, naïve, and sweet. He had this stereotypical small town boy mindset that was sometimes annoying, but it worked for his character. Together they're a little sweet and sometimes sexy. I feel like I liked this one only because it was vamp/shifter story. There were too many things that were glossed over, and the ending was very anticlimactic.   

Overall, a sweet read with some sexy points. I felt like this could have been a great story, but too much about it felt very safe.  

Review: Book #1 Wake Me Up Inside