Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Book Wrap-Up: SinChan Favourites

2013 is definitely a good year for me. This is the year I started reading a lot of M/M romance books and discovering new authors. This is also the year that I started seriously reviewing books. I've read a lot of great writing this year, but I kinda got lazy with making my Best of 2013 list and picked books out of my list of 5 star books. These books have made me laugh, cry, and most important, made me think. I look forward to the New Year and more wonderful writing. Happy readings!

Here's my Best of 2013 list:

10. Home for the Holidays by Lori Toland

9.  Blue River by Theo Fenraven
Time Travel

8.  Bad Idea by Damon Suede

7.  The Gift by A.F. Henley  
Contemporary, Supernatural

6. Gumption & Gumshoes by Alex Kidwell
Mystery, Paranormal, Shifter Romance

5.  Charlie, Rentboy by J.P. Barnaby

4.  Moonlight & Love Songs by Alyssa Linn Palmer

3. A White Coat is My Closet by Jake Wells

2. Taken by Andrew Grey
Contemporary, Mystery

1. The Adorned by John Tristan

Reviews: 2013 Advent Calender "Heartwarming" Part 2

Reviewed by SinChan
The Trouble with Elves by Therese Woodson
Dreamspinner Press
Short Story: 78pgs
3 Pants Off

Cal Martin loathes Christmas music, especially the clichéd carols pumped through the mall speakers on endless loop. Even worse is the holiday-themed hell of Santa's Village that looms right in front of the sports store he manages. It's yet another hurdle for Cal as he tries to survive the world of retail during the soul-sucking holiday season… until he catches a glimpse of one of Santa's elves and becomes infatuated with the cheery, gorgeous guy dressed in candy-cane tights.

Of course, just walking up to the guy and asking him out isn't easy, and a botched attempt at matchmaking ends up turning a simple courtship into a mess for the gossip page. What can Cal do to overcome his social ineptitude, correct erroneous assumptions, and maybe have a merry little Christmas of his own?

Elves are the real troublemakers in this story, especially one of Santa's helpers. Two newly hired mall employees work as elves and help Santa at a display during the holiday season. These two are also twins with similar names, Alexandra and Alexander. Cal likes the male elf but due to the confusion with their names, everybody thinks that he likes the girl elf. Things really go downhill when the girl elf's jealous boyfriend injures Cal.

I love the cheesiness of the story and the romance between the MCs is cute. I love Xander's passion for chessy Christmas songs and music but doesn't want to be a star, instead he wants to teach. Cal is a little bitter over his short career as a baseball star and missing direction in life. However, Xander totally brings out the adorably awkward side of him. I also love Cal's brother's personality. He's very accepting of Cal's sexuality and is very intuitive on how to help Cal get close to Xander, the male elf. The only character I dislike is the female elf, Alex, who is incredibly vain, dumb, and self-centered.

The story has a strong and interesting beginning but a weak ending ruins the holiday, cheerful feel that the book is supposed to have. The wrap up is very abrupt and the conclusion is...well...not conclusive in regards to Alex, Cal's career, Cal and Xander's relationship, and some confusing people whose names were mentioned but never appeared in the story.

Overall, this is a very cute story set in the mall during the holidays about a sports manager and a Santa's helper. The initial awkwardness and cute romance between Cal and Xander are the best moments of the book.

3 Pants Off

Prairie Dog's Love Song by Eli Easton
Dreamspinner Press
Short Story: 95pgs
5 Pants off

Ben Rivers always was a showman. He won awards in 4-H and rodeo competitions from the time he could walk, and he’s happiest in the spotlight. So when he got the chance to be a star—in porn—he took it. He still loves Montana and everything about being a cowboy, but when news of his alternate identity leaks out, he figures he’s lost the town’s goodwill forever. Clyde’s Corner would never accept an openly gay cowboy, even a hometown boy born and bred. 

Joshua Braintree always had the notion that he and his best friend’s kid brother, Ben, would end up together. Ben’s always been a diehard cowboy, just like him: they need the land and its freedom as much as they need air. So when Joshua learns Ben moved away from their small Montana town to be a porn star in Vegas, he can hardly believe it. He’s determined to finally declare himself and bring Ben home. 

Despite his longtime crush on Joshua, Ben won’t be as easy to tame as Joshua’s “lost cause” horses. It will take a lot of heart and holiday spirit for Joshua to convince Ben that even old prairie dogs can learn new tricks in the name of love. 

Joshua thought he and Ben will eventually become a couple so he hasn't made a move yet. But Joshua waited too long and Ben leaves town to become a porn star in Vegas. When the town’s people found out, Ben is afraid of the town's opinion of him so he refuses to return, even when Joshua goes to Vegas to personally get him back. Joshua finally realizes from a little girl that needs to know she's accepted and liked at the ranch, why Joshua won't come home to him. He arranged a holiday getup to win Ben's heart.

Joshua's always sure of himself and quiet; only saying what needs to be said. He truly cares for Ben and struggles to decide if he can completely uproot himself to live in Vegas with Ben and give up his cowboy lifestyle. Later, he confronts the townspeople at the town meeting and speaks up for Ben. That is a very heartwarming moment in the book. I love the analogy with the prairie dogs and how that represents Joshua's character in the story.

Ben loves being a cowboy, but when he's not accepted in his hometown, he chooses to be a porn star full time. He is actually more insecure and afraid of other's opinions than Joshua. He doesn't have the courage to come back to town and be confident about whom he is. Most of the townspeople actually missed him and do not care about his sexuality.

The book describes the cowboy attitude and small town feel perfectly. I can totally imagine being there and watching the events unfold. Overall, the story is beautifully written and very romantic. The underlying message I get is be proud of who you are and confront your challenges.

5 Pants Off

Review: Serendipity Kit by Connie Bailey

Reviewed by Whuppsy
Serendipity Kit by Connie Bailey
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 212pgs
4 Pants Off

Christopher "Kit" Britten drifts through life, partying with friends and spending his parents’ money. He hasn’t told them he’s gay, but he’s told all of his five sisters, and to keep from being harassed about responsibility, he works part-time for one of them. When she sends him on an errand and his shiny red Ferrari breaks down in one of Houston's seediest locals, he pushes it to the nearest garage. That's where he meets Romy O'Keefe.

Romy works hard as a mechanic to provide for his mother and little brother. When Kit pushes his to-die-for Ferrari into Romy’s garage, Romy is wary of falling for gorgeous Kit despite instant attraction. Kit impulsively decides to prove how serious he is about Romy by coming out to his parents—and his father disowns him!

Uptown and downtown clash as the two men share the tiny space in Romy’s Airstream trailer and struggle to make ends meet. When Kit’s former boyfriend comes sniffing around, and Romy gets the bill for his little brother’s surgery, it drives home to him how very different his world is from Kit’s. However, Kit is in love with the velvet-voiced Romy, and he isn’t about to give up.

This sweet, tender story is about Jerome “Romy” O’Keefe and Christopher “Kit” Britten. Their story begins with Kit pushing his car to Romy’s garage. They each are attracted to the other; however, Romy thinks that someone like Kit could never be interested in a guy like him. Kit is tired of his party-boy ways and just wants someone of his own.

Romy is the oldest of 2 children. He helps support his momma and his little brother, Cardo. He’s been the man of the house since his father took off when he was 10 yrs old. He took care of his little brother and when he was able, he started doing any job that he could in order to help support his family. He started working at a garage and he saved his money until he could afford to buy the garage. He lives in a small trailer behind the garage in order to save as much money as possible. He’s not getting a lot of business because a couple of guys in the neighbourhood let it be known that he’s gay. But he still is doing ok.

Sweet Kit is the youngest sibling of six children. SIX kids!!! To add insult to injury, he’s the only boy. However to say that he’s spoiled wouldn’t be a lie. He’s out to his sisters and his friends, just not to his parents. He’s waiting on the Right Guy. He’s been partying it up for the last two years as the guy that he was dating left him. Not only did he ditch Kit, he got married. To A GIRL and moved to Japan for work. Sigh. So Kit decided that he wasn’t going to do love again. That is until he meets Romy. The only sticking point in his life is telling his parents. He is scared of how they will react and he has good reason to.

Somehow, Kit and Romy make things work out between the two of them. They fit so well together. They get each other. They don’t let miscommunication go between them. They actually talk to each other and figure things out between the two of them. They seem to be heading for the happily ever after. The only thing standing in the way of their HEA is Kit’s parents not knowing. So….Kit and Romy are having dinner with Kit’s family and Kit blurts out the truth. To say that his father was not happy would be an understatement. Kit’s father disowns him. Not only that, he kicks him out of his apartment.

Kit moves in with Romy into his trailer and they make a start on building their lives together. They realize that the trailer is too small for them, so they get an apartment together and Kit even gets a part-time job. Romy gets another job fixing limos to support their family.

This is a really sweet story. I found that I really liked the characters and I loved their friends and family. They got the support that they needed and wanted from those that they loved and cared about. I am recommending this book for anyone who likes a wonderful story filled with love and tenderness and just a bit of angst. Wonderful characters and the story flowed so smoothly. I enjoyed every moment of this book. I’m sure you will too.

4 Pants Off

Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: Encore by Shira Anthony

Reviewed by Fehu
Encore (Blue Notes #5) by Shira Anthony
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 296pgs
4.5 Pants Off

Cool kid violinist Roger Nelson doesn’t give a damn about anything. Wannabe conductor John Fuchs is awkward, effeminate, and just figuring out he’s gay. Despite their differences, they become friends—then lovers—and after college, they try to make it work. But it’s the 1970s, and Roger can’t bring himself to admit he’s gay. Worse, after his brother is killed in Vietnam, Roger tries to live up to his memory and be the perfect son. Then after suffering one tragedy too many, he makes the biggest mistake of his life: Roger pushes John away.

Through the years, they dance around the truth and in and out of each other’s lives, never quite able to let go. Twenty years later, Roger still carries the pain of losing his dream of a brilliant career with him, while John is a superstar conductor with a wild reputation. John’s off-stage antics get him plenty of attention, good and bad, though deep down, he wants only Roger. Finally determined to hold on to what really matters, Roger asks John for another chance, and when John panics and runs, Roger has to convince him to listen to his heart.

A very good book that ties up some loose open ends of the Aria book and tells of some new beginnings. I felt a bit like a goodbye and a new beginning. John is a young man who has to transfer to another school just before the end of his high school career, after his parents’ divorce. There he meets Roger, a fellow music geek who is also part of the orchestra, where John plays. Early on John realises his attraction to Roger, who becomes his best friend and is always supportive of him.

In college they both are together, but Roger's parents don't like John, they encourage Roger to date girls and let John go, which he resists. After an accident Roger cannot longer play the Violin and has to go to a different college and give up on his dream of becoming a musician, while John's career takes off and he goes to New York.

Roger has to learn to deal to weather his parent’s expectations, his own desires and his failed career as a musician, as well as society’s stigmas. He also needs to decide if he can stand to have John in his live, who will always remind him of what he had lost. The story shows John and Roger grow up, find their careers and find a way to each other, which was not straight or easy.

Here we meet John and Roger, who played an important part in the lives of the characters we knew from previous books. Alec is mentioned and Corry and a young David, it's hard not to feel a bit sad to know that it's about an end of an era. John and Roger brought some of the people together and I don't remember reading a lot about them in the following books, with Roger's illness, that made me think that they might no longer be there. On the other hand it's nice to see all the people they influenced, grow and become stronger, fail and rise, find love and make friends for life, just like John and Roger have been. John and Roger's story shows a part of American history, the rise of AIDS, death of lovers and friends, the panic of the infection. It also shows human prejudice, but most of all it shows the strength of true friendship, that weathered decades and a love that grew along.

4.5 Pants Off

Review: Filth by M. King

Reviewed by Elbie
Filth by M. King
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 210pgs
5 Pants Off

Does gender really matter?

Kel and Toni are damaged people trying to find answers. While Kel pins his hopes on support groups to keep him on the straight and narrow, Toni looks for absolution in a bottle of Mexican hormone pills.

Kel loves Toni obsessively, and though he supports them on the money he makes turning tricks with strangers and regular clients, he struggles with the reality of Toni’s transition and her motives for doing it.

While Kel grapples with his worries and the attentions of regular client Michael—otherwise known as the Sherbet Pervert—Toni faces different problems. Danielle, a transgender woman, best friend and role model to Toni, thinks Kel is a bad influence and pushes Toni to leave him. But Toni holds off because deep down, she knows she’s not like Danielle.

Kel and Toni’s desperate attempts to build a life together make them realize their survival is precarious. And then two unrelated events show them how easily their harsh little world can crumble, bringing them confront some difficult truths.

The first time we meet Kel, he's in a clinic getting his HIV test, a necessary part of the job for a street hustler. Our glimpses into his world are of a hard life in a dirty city. The only true light in his life is Toni and Toni is a mess. He's restless, unhappy, and struggling to transition from male to female with little support and even fewer funds. But, there is love there. Can that love survive Kel's reluctance over Toni's transition and Toni's fear about Kel's dangerous job?

The world of "Filth" is harsh, cold, and utterly realistic. The title evokes both the rundown part of the city in which they live and the way people view them; a whore and an unglamorous pre-op. Kel and Toni inhabit their world in a natural way. They accept their socioeconomic reality, just wanting a little better than they have now. They are just two of the millions of unseen poor that are not represented in romance novels.

There is nothing glamorous about these lives. Everything is authentic about the relationship, though. Their love isn't always pretty. We see glimpses of the past and there are spikes of violence.  There is still conflict between them. Toni is frightened about Kel's job, but relies on it. Kel doesn't want Toni to transition. He loves Toni, the man, and all of the parts that come with that.  Toni is not without doubt about transitioning, either, but he wants to escape his body, the vessel that has carried him through tumult and abuse. But no matter what, Kel and Toni hold each other up and see a future together, even when they don't dare think their lives will be better.

I thought this book was engrossing and beautiful. Reading it was an almost voyeuristic experience. Kel and Toni felt real.  Their doubt and fear and overriding need for each were beautifully conveyed.  It was a nice change from the perfect men populating too many romance novels, those concerned with the gym and cocktails.  Kel and Toni are men you'd pass on the street and never notice.  And that's a shame.  They, and their love story, are worth noticing.

Five pants off.

5 Pants Off

Guest Post: Interview with the Guide- Blaine D. Arden

Today's guest post is from Blaine D. Arden written as though she is interviewing one of the more mysterious characters in her new release, The Forester II: Lost & Found. The Guide is a nameless Elf who acts as a sort of spiritual leader to a tribe. He is a confidant, a counselor, one who gives advice in order to help the Elves find their paths. Let's take a peek at the Guide from Blaine's books!
I meet up with the Guide outside his safehold. Frozen grass crackles beneath my boots, and I blow into my hands to keep them warm. The Guide's feet hit the ground just as I'm about to knock. His milky colored see-through wings look so fragile. Yet, even flapping his wings barely ruffles the surface.

"Good morning, Blaine," he greets me as he folds them.

I almost ask him not to, almost ask him if I can touch them, but I smile and greet him back.

The Guide is not a tall man--in my platform boots I'm taller than he is--and his thin, waifish figure and bob-line cut, ash-blond hair give him a very androgynous appearance. He inclines his head and gives me a warm smile. "Shall we go in?"

"Are you sure?" It's not every day the tables are turned. I'm here to interview him, after all, not ask him for guidance.

"Of course. It's too cold for you to sit outside," he says as he leads the way.

It is, though he doesn't seem fazed by the cold at all. It's comfortably warm inside, and serene. Like the church I used to visit, but much smaller, and far more intimate.

The Guide pours each of us a glass of laros juice, sits cross-legged on the wooden floor, and invites me to do the same.

There are no chairs in this room at all, so I sit, pressing the heels of my boots together and straightening my back.

He hands me one of the glasses. "Now. What did you want to ask me?"

Grabbing my notebook from my bag, I try to remember whether there were questions I wasn't allowed to ask, aside from his name, but nothing comes to mind. I clear my throat and take a sip of the tangy laros juice. "When did you know you'd be a Guide?"

"Oh, very early on. I must have been eight, nine, maybe. Of course, I didn't know all it would entail at that age, but," he shrugs, "when the time came, I was quite willing to give it up."

This wasn't the topic I'd wanted to start the interview with, but now that he brought it up... "You're talking about becoming a eunuch."

"Yes. The recuperation wasn't very pleasant, I admit, but it made me feel more whole, more like who I was supposed to be." He looks at me. "I know this must seem strange, but it wasn't the hardest sacrifice to make."

"Losing your name was harder?"

His smile is indulgent, friendly, patient. "My name isn't lost; it lives on in my home."

"But it was the harder sacrifice."

"It was. I cannot deny I felt I lost my identity when I had to give up my name. And it took me a long time to learn that having but few allowed to use it only makes it more precious, not lost."

"Your parents, you mean?"

"Yes. I treasure their letters, always."

"Because they don't live in the village?"

"One cannot become a Guide to the tribe one is born to. So, no. They live across the mountains, due south. Mother is an elder there. Once the snow has melted, I plan to visit them."

I scribble that down in my notebook. "And beside your parents? Who else would be allowed?"

He raises an eyebrow. "The one I vow myself to. But you knew that."

"I did. But the readers might not. They might think you're like a Catholic priest, single and celibate."

"Guides have never been forbidden to vow themselves, or to have sex. Though, the latter isn't what I'm interested in." He sips his laros juice and straightens himself. "But I am still single, yes."


He laughs at that. "I have been kissed before, if that's what you're asking. But it's been a while since I've been in a relationship."

"How would that work?" I slap my hand to my mouth. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to come out that way. I meant professionally. If you're seeing someone, would you still be their Guide?"

The Guide is shaking, though I'm not sure whether he's shaking his head at me or shaking in laughter. "Ideally, I would not. Everyone deserves someone they can confide their secrets to, and that would include a Guide's mate. I'd refer them to my novice, Darver, in that case."

"But, they can choose to keep you as their Guide?"

"It's their choice, yes, but they rarely do." The Guide's expression turns serious. "It's not easy, living with a Guide. They'd need someone outside the relationship to confide in."

"Can you tell me what being a Guide means to you?"

"It means everything to me. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping my elves unload their burdens, helping them choose their paths in life, and guiding them through their last moments before they join Ma'terra." He looks up then, a serene smile on his face.

"When you free their essences? At the end?"

The Guide nods. "Yes. Seeing them freed from pain or hardships is very rewarding."

"How do you cope with the hardships? Like poor Cyine's murder last year?"

"The first lesson any apprentice Guide learns is that we can't help those who don't want to be helped. Of course, at that age, we still think we can do anything, that it is in our power to help anyone. But the hard truth is that we can't force our elves to confide in us, we can only let them know we're there for them. We are taught to be grateful for every elf we can help. And I am. Very much so." He closes his eyes for a moment. "In times like that, I take flight. I rise high above the trees where I can sense their essences all around me. They dwell there, watching over those still living in the village, their family, their friends, their vowed, their tribe. Some days, I can even feel them brushing my wings. It makes me feel very humble."

And I thought being a mother was a hard job. Silence surrounds us as we finish our laros juice. "Thank you for answering all my questions so candidly. But, before I leave, there is one more thing I've been dying to ask."

The Guide sets his glass down. "And that is?"

"What's up with all those cryptic sayings?"

His laughter echoes through the room. "Because easy answers aren't always the solution. Some elves need a bit more incentive to make them think. And some just like to solve puzzles."


The Forester II: Lost and Found – Now Available for just $3.99!

"The Guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning."

One turn has passed, another Solstice is just around the corner, and having an illicit affair with not one but two lovers—smith Ianys and shunned Forester Taruif—is taking its toll on Truth Seeker Kelnaht.

If it isn't sneaking around to find some quality time with his lovers, it's heavy rainfall hiding traces of a missing stripling, or waiting for the elders to decide whether or not to set Taruif free.

And if that's not enough, Kelnaht fears that in gaining one lover, he might be losing another, as Ianys seems to be pulling away from them, and it looks like someone is, once again, trying to frame Taruif.

Blaine D. Arden is a purple haired, forty-something writer of gay and trans* romance with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies, platform shoes, and the colours black, purple and red, who sings her way through life.

You can find Blaine at blainedarden.com, twitter,facebook, and goodreads.

Enter to WIN The Forester II

A Book A Week Giveaway: The Forester II: Lost and Found by Blaine D. Arden

"The Guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning."

One turn has passed, another Solstice is just around the corner, and having an illicit affair with not one but two lovers—smith Ianys and shunned Forester Taruif—is taking its toll on Truth Seeker Kelnaht.

If it isn't sneaking around to find some quality time with his lovers, it's heavy rainfall hiding traces of a missing stripling, or waiting for the elders to decide whether or not to set Taruif free.

And if that's not enough, Kelnaht fears that in gaining one lover, he might be losing another, as Ianys seems to be pulling away from them, and it looks like someone is, once again, trying to frame Taruif.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What's Happening This Week!!

Hey guys, hope you all had a wonderful time over the holidays. Again, its been awhile but life and the weather seems to be getting in the way of my post schedule. Toronto had an ice storm last week, and lets just say that the Holidays wasn't merry for many and the new year isn't looking very happy. Lots of people were without power and many remain without power going on over a week now. Thankfully my power came back quickly and I could provide a warm place to stay for friends.

2014 is fast approaching and we have some cool reviews and giveaways coming this week to kick off the new year with a bang. Stay Tuned!

Here's whats causing a pants losing this week...

Encore by Shira Anthony (Fehu)
Wrapped Up in You by Lucy Whedon (SinChan)
Filth by M. King (Elbie)
For the Sake of the Kingdom by Julia Alaric (Fehu)
Serendipity Kit by Connie Bailey (Whuppsy)
The Trouble with Elves by Therese Woodson (SinChan)
Marked by Kayla Bain (Fehu)
From this Window by Diana Jean (DarienMoya)
A Prairie Dog's Love Song by Eli Easton (SinChan)
Cinnamon and Seduction by Ari McKay (Fehu)

Guest Post & Giveaways
  • The Forester II: Lost and Found:  Interview with the Guide 
  • A Book A Week: The Forester II

Other Posts:
SinChan's Faves of 2013
Elbie's Faves of 2013
Whuppsy Faves of 2013

Happy New Year!!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: Marked by Garrett Leigh

Reviewed by SinChan
Marked (Roads #1.5) by Garrett Leigh
Dreamspinner Press
Short Story: 20pgs
3 Pants Off

Missing Moment from Slide 

It's been six months since Ash shuffled into Pete's life and turned his world upside down, and six months since they sat in an all-night diner plotting Ash's theoretical solution for Pete's faded, botched tattoo. Pete has just about given up hope of Ash ever fulfilling his promise when one day the end of a long shift finds Ash waiting for him. 

Tonight is the night. 

Ash is ready, and it seems the time has come for him to leave his mark on Pete in more ways than he ever imagined.

Short Review
If you've read Slide, the first book, and liked it, you should definitely consider reading this one. This is a light read focused on a missing moment in Slide of when Ash gives Pete a tattoo. There are no spoilers in the story for the first book.

Originally, Ash is shy and jaded from years of living on the streets, but Pete wins his heart with his personality and trust. They started out as roommates but they eventually become lovers. 6 months later, Ash decides to give Pete a redesigned tattoo to make up for a botched tattoo and this is where the short story starts. I love how this short story shows how well the MCs interact, understand, and lean against each other. Of course, there are some sexy scenes too.

For anyone who hasn't read Slide, this is a great short story to familiarize yourself to Pete and Ash's story and the tone of the story in Slide. As a standalone story though, this is very plain and it can be confusing without the context of Slide. So it is best read after reading Slide, the first book, to be able to savour Pete and Ash's new level of trust.

3 Pants Off
Review: Book #1 Slide

Review: Fusion by Posy Roberts

Reviewed by Whuppsy
Fusion (North Star #2) by Posy Roberts
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 300pgs
5 Pants Off

How do you tell your friends and family you've fallen in love with a man when they've only ever known you as straight? How do you explain to your kids that you loved their mother very much, but your new partner is your best friend from high school?

Kevin Magnus must figure it out while trying to build a relationship with Hugo Thorson, whose bigger than life, out-and-proud drag queen persona is simply too big to be contained in a closet—even for the time it takes Kevin to come up with an explanation for his kids and Erin, his soon-to-be ex-wife.

But Erin faces an even bigger obstacle—one that shakes the entire family to the core. When she unexpectedly turns to Hugo, they form a connection that forces Hugo to grow up and offers Kevin the chance to become the kind of father he wants to be. Despite the coming complications, they'll all benefit from a fortunate side effect: it becomes clear that Hugo is very much a part of this unconventional family.

This is the second part of the North Star Trilogy and this book ROCKS!! This is the continuation of Kevin Manus and Hugo Thorson’s Love Story.

This story picks up after Kevin and Hugo have made a commitment to each other and things seem to be moving along pretty well even though Kevin has taken on primary custody of his and Erin’s children. Hugo has made his place in this family. He supports and helps Kevin in the raising of the kids. They plan on spending the rest of their lives together and they have worked and are working on making this reality.

Kevin has taken primary custody of the kids because Erin, his soon to be ex-wife has been suffering migraine headaches and she’s also getting ready to move and start a new job. Kevin and Erin have this wonderful relationship. There is no bitterness or anger over the dissolution of their marriage. They still care for one another and they aren’t letting the divorce dictate how they behave towards each other. It’s really nice to see them acting as two adults and not bickering and fighting.

Things start to unravel the week of Kevin and Erin’s divorce is to be finalized. Hugo and Kevin have a slight disagreement and Kevin leaves Hugo’s apartment and Hugo doesn’t hear from him for days. What Hugo doesn’t know is that Kevin and Erin get the worst news possible. Erin has an inoperable brain tumor. Yep, it’s Cancer. Kevin and Erin are going to doctor appointments and trying to figure out what to do. When Kevin finally sees Hugo again he brings him a puppy. Hugo thinks that Kevin is breaking up with him again and Kevin explains what’s been going on and then he drops the bombshell, he’s not divorcing Erin. He’s staying married to her in order for her to have medical insurance and the final bomb…he’s going to ask Erin to move back in with him and the kids. Hugo tells Kevin that he needs time; time to think things through and to see what he’s going to do next.

Hugo and Kevin come back together and decide that what they have means the world to them both and that they both need to make some concessions. Hugo meets Erin and they begin their own amazing and special friendship. Erin realizes how very important to her family, Hugo has become. That he helped not only the kids, but he’s helped Kevin become a better father and a better man. Even though that makes her kind of sad that she couldn’t do that for him, she is happy that he finally is able to step up and be the man that he’s always needed to be.

Even during this most horrible time, this family bands and bonds together. The kids seem to be able to thrive both in their home life and in school. Erin, although she sometimes better, sometimes worse-still manages to live in the now and makes sure that Kevin and Hugo know that they have her blessing and wants them to be together. The ways in which she shows them that she’s fine with them, are beautiful and so very loving. I teared up a couple of times with her unconditional love and understanding.

Of course, we know that tragedy is coming, however, no matter what, Kevin and Hugo do their very best to keep the family together and moving forward. They do such an amazing job doing and it’s both sad and beautiful to read. The hurt and sadness that everyone goes through is both painful and yet poignant to read.

I must say that I was worried about reading the second part of a trilogy without having read the first one, however, I wasn’t lost at all and I really appreciated the fact that Posey made it that way. That even coming in not having the beginning, I could follow along and fall in love with her characters. She gave enough backstory during the book to help new readers be able to catch up and yet not overload the story with too much backstory that it impeded the flow of the new story.

I truly fell in love with these characters. Not just Kevin and Hugo, but every character that Posy put on the page. As they went along on this painful and yet beautiful journey, I was right there with them riding every emotion that they were feeling. I felt the burden’s that Kevin, Hugo and Erin carried. I carried them as well. I celebrated when they celebrated and I cried at their heartbreak. I was hurt when they hurt and angered when they were angered.

The Secondary characters were AMAZING!! Kevin and Erin’s children were very well written. They acted age appropriate and you couldn’t help but fall for them. Gilbert, Summer and Russell were supportive and honest as the times called for them. They were really what these characters needed to keep them grounded into the realness of life. They stood strong for them when they couldn’t do it for themselves.
However, Erin was my favorite character in all of this. She had such grace and dignity and such integrity throughout everything that happens to her in this story. She was such a Brilliant character and the way she was portrayed was in a way that I’ve not seen a female character portrayed in awhile. Erin is so beautiful and so very kind. There aren’t enough words to describe her to you. Suffice it to say, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED HER and I’m sure you will as well. Trust Me.

Kevin and Hugo had so much to handle in this book and yet handle it they did. They had some complications and made some mistakes, but in dealing with life, who doesn’t? There are the ups and downs in their relationship, but the love that these two have for each other is so very undeniable and true. They will break your heart and then find a way to put it back together again.

Read This Book!! I am actually going to read the first one, just so I can see how they meet again and how they fall back in love. I am now waiting so very impatiently for the third and final book and it looks like it’s going to be a doozy. You will laugh, you will cry and you will feel every emotion that these characters feel and you will come on the other side all the better for it!!

5 Pants Off

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reviews: 2013 Advent Calender "Heartwarming" Part 1

The Promise of Snow by Elizah J. Davis
Dreamspinner Press
Short Story: 28pgs
3 Pants Off

Christmas is fast approaching and familial obligations are dampening Brandon Jacobs's holiday spirit. On top of requiring his attendance at the annual neighborhood Christmas party, his mom has been bugging him to call AJ, a childhood playmate who just moved to town. Brandon's memories of AJ as a kid aren't exactly fond, and he's not about to waste time on him as an adult... until he runs into AJ at the party and decides that Christmas might be the perfect time for a fresh start. 

Short Review
Brandon Jacob is not really into holiday spirit; he'd rather just stay home and hang. But of course he's got to do the family stuff and attend his parent's Christmas party, mingle, and smile all happily. To make things rather worse his mom wants him to reconnect with an old play buddy who was a little terror. AJ made his life a living hell and he just can't understand why anyone would think he'd like to hang with AJ ever again. What he never expected was for AJ to grow into a man he would he very much like to know and now he's regretting not listening to his mom cus his holidays would have been all types of awesome.

Well this is a short one, and of course not offering much on character development. I guess overall, it was alright and had a nice holiday feel which came in the form of annoying family and sometimes you just have to suck it up and get it over with. I liked that it was old play buddies (not the least bit friends at the time) who can now explore and play in an adult way. In the end this one was alright, yet honestly forgettable.

3 Pants Off

Reviewed by SinChan
Holly and Oak by J.L O'Faolain
Dreamspinner Press
Short Story: 28pgs
2 Pants Off

Twice each year, during the solstice, the Holly King battles the Oak King as Nature takes its course. This year, however, Holly concedes defeat far too easily. Curious about his brother's haste, Oak nags his brother into revealing his secret: a new relationship with a human. While loving a mortal is not taboo, Oak fears his brother's love may run too deep. But despite knowing he risks his heart, Holly is determined to share warmth with his Sergio for as long as the world will allow, if not beyond.

Oak and Holly begins their twice a year fight to bring on the changing of the seasons. Nothing has changed between these two brothers, except that Holly seems to be in a rush this year. Later, it's revealed that Holly has a human lover and he hastens to be reunited with him.

I love the world building and discovering how Holly and Oak's relationship withstands the biannual battles. Holly and Oak's parents are briefly mentioned and it's interesting to think about how these immortal beings came to be. A lot of time is spent on the battle between Holly and Oak and it's fascinating to read about their powers waxing and waning with the seasons.

The downfall of the story is the length. There's too much scenes that need more depth and connections within these short pages that the entire story seem incomplete. The story doesn't have a proper sense of closure. The ending itself feels like the beginning of something new and exciting for Holly and his human lover. However, I'm not convinced of their relationship and Holly hasn't even revealed his true immortal nature to his lover yet.

Overall, it story seems like the first chapter to a novel instead of a complete short story. I still loved the story for its world building and light tone despite the shortness and incompleteness. I would definitely look forward to a more fleshed out version of the book, if there will be one.

2 Pants Off

Santa Gets His Man by Julian Balfour
Dreamspinner Press
Short Story: 47pgs
2.5 Pants Off

When Mark Wright is pressed into being a mall Santa on Christmas Eve, his life is changed forever. Six-year-old Trevor Robinson has his Uncle Jack in tow—the same man Mark had a crush on at Asheville High School fifteen years earlier. Jack tells Santa his Christmas fantasy: "... to spend the holiday with an incredible guy who turns me on and does all kinds of naughty and wonderful things to my body." How can Santa resist that challenge?

Short Review
I have mixed feeling about this one, and the whole Mr Ling that Santa provides for Uncle Jack I found to be a bit offensive (and I am not easily offenced). All I'm saying is that Mr Mark Wright could have gone a different way in making all of Jack's dreams come true. I did like that it was a man finally being able to get his High school crush naked, but the choppy writing and craziness of the story really took away from me enjoying it more.

Had the recipe to be a nice story and maybe even "heartwarming" but it mostly came off as annoying to me. Mr Ling you should forever be retired and become a sexy Santa helper or something. That would have made more sense than the depictions of an Asian man in servitude.

2.5 Pants Off

Review: Fairytales Slashed #5 by Jaime Sulllivan

Reviewed by Fehu
Fairytales Slashed 5 by Various Authors
Less Than 3 Press
Novel: 579pgs
4 Pants Off

Five tales, familiar and new, where nothing and no one is precisely what it seems, and where it will take more than determination and magic to set all to rights again …

Part of Your World is the tale of a man adrift, his dreams of music all but lost, and his only solace found in taking his boat out to sea for a few hours. Deep beneath the water, the lonely Ren looks up at the surface he is not supposed to breach …

In Beast, the very last thing Beau expects to land on his desk is the story of the year: the location of the missing scumbag rockstar Gabriel Fletcher. Eager for the chance at a story that could make his career, he heads off immediately for the remote mansion where Gabriel is rumored to be hiding. But the questions he seeks to ask bring answers he never could have expected …

The Heart of Evil is the story of Kallum: depressed, broken, his magic burnt out. All he wants is to recover in peace and quiet, an opportunity he hopes he'll get when he agrees to look over his aunt, comatose for the past five years. But his first week in town, Kallum is pressed into service by Nathaniel, who needs his help fighting an evil wizard. And there's Ash, who seems to be anything but the harmless librarian he claims …

Matters of Perception is the tale of Nathaniel, a young apprentice wizard still trying to get the hang of his powers, worried about his sister and jealous about the relationship between his master and his former brother-in-law. But all that is set aside when he falls into a magical garden from which there is no way out, and his only companion the garden's mysterious caretaker …

In Memories Lost in Forgotten Time, a broken pocket watch and a shop full of junk are all that Colin has left of his lover, Quentin. Behind on the rent, tormented by his landlord, he knows he should sell everything and move on. But memories are not so easily discarded—or trusted.

The Power of a Wish is the tale of a boy forbidden to cut or otherwise alter his hair until he turns twenty-five, on the orders of his strict grandmother. But when he returns home and reunites with an old friend, a seemingly harmless prank goes horribly awry …

And in The Blind City, Charley, a lowly librarian's assistant, never expected to be sent out on a quest with the most famous knight in the country. Sir Thaddeus Constantine is strong, honorable, a legend told in countless stories. To spend time with him is a dream come true, especially when Charley realizes that the man behind the knight is far more fascinating than stories …

Anthologies are always a mixed bag and this one is not different, but fitting for Christmas this collection was a delight to read and it has some surprises!

What I loved was how fairytales which seemed similar had a different approach and I was impressed with the constructed worlds in this one, also not all of them were set in a fantasy world. I liked the urban fantasy ones as much the ones with knights, that one reminded me a bit of the Arabian night’s cartoons.

I liked this fairytales collection a lot, with the exception of one story, which was just weird. The character set to repair a watch and traveled in time to see his dead lover and found out that his dead lover actually is not dead, but that they found a youth fountain and he himself de-aged too much. I did mention my confusion about this one right? First he was grieving for his lover and then he started travelling in time, seeing zombies, dead people, a war in the past, but he always come back and sees the nephew of his dead lover. He himself was a brilliant inventor, before his de-aging days.

My favorite stories were by Sandra Bart, The Heart of Evil and Matters of Perception. They are set in the same universe and were beautiful fairytales. One about a charmed house where it's always summer and which is sustained by a magical orb and is guarded by a beast. The other one was about a wizard who had to fight an evil woman to rescue his aunt and the villagers, she put in a coma.
I found both the story telling and the characters very charming. Both stories were 4 pants reads.

The Blind City- 4 Pants Off 
Also a very charming story about a librarian assistant and a knight, who searches for his brother and finds a lover instead, when they travel together into the lost city. The actual librarian was quite bossy and I think was having an affair with the king. I would have loved it if that one was longer and not wrapped so fast at the end.

Beast- 3.75 Pants Off
This one was about a rockstar, who had pretty bad bed manners and was therefore cursed to be a beast. I thought the ending was a bit funny, when the manager brought back the witch, since the solution to the curse was not the typical one, which is not true love. It was a bit of a refreshing remake of that particular fairytale.

Part of Your World -3 Pants Off
I know it’s a novella, but still I felt like it lacked depth. I liked the merboy, but it was just not explained well enough how he was able to learn to speak, if he was always alone and with fish. I know that it's fiction, but still. Also the end was wrapped up pretty fast and the villain defeated with ease. The whole story lacked details and the characters were behaving strange. I didn't feel the love between the main characters, since the selfish bastard, who is supposed to be the prince in this one, abandons his mute friend, as soon as a girl appears and only remembers him when he is gone.

The Power of a Wish  -3.5 Pants Off
I found that one to be an infesting take on Tangled. Here it is a guy who is not supposed to cut his hair and it's not because of some evil witch, so his mother might see her mother in law that way. He promised it to his grandmother, that he won’t cut his hair up to a certain age and the hair did come in handy in a fight for the live of his best friend/ love interest. The genie was a bit of a surprise to be sure and the sister was, let's just say strange.

4 Pants Off

Guest Post & Giveaway: Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall

Hello, and welcome to my second ever blog tour, celebrating Riptide Publishing’s release of my second ever novel, IRON & VELVET. Yay!  Thank you so much to Pants off Reviews for hosting me. And, to you, dear reader, for stopping by. If you’d like to come with me and keep me company on my virtual wanderings, you can find a full listing of when and where I am here. 

There’s also some kind of contest type thing happening.  I had a bit of trouble choosing a prize for this one because most of the things Kate likes (booze, cigarettes, knives, women) are illegal to ship internationally. I thought about a fedora, but then I remembered people had differently shaped heads and there was no point sending somebody an item of clothing they wouldn’t be able to wear. So, basically, that leaves coffee and Bovril and nobody likes Bovril except people from the North East of England. I’m therefore going offer 250g of Jamaican Blue Mountain, the nicest coffee in the known universe, purchased from a wonderful speciality shop, ground or beaned to your specification. If you don’t like coffee, I’ll replace it with an equivalently lovely tea. And if you really want to try the Bovril, I could probably be persuaded to throw that in as well.  

If you’d like win this distressingly perishable souvenir please answer the three questions below (clues in the book) and drop me an email. I’ll announce the winner a handful of days after the end of the tour. 

  1. Whodunnit? 
  1. What is hanging in the study of Aeglica Thrice-Risen? 
  1. What’s Rule Twelve? 

Team Tara 

“There’s a power in you, Kate Kane,” whispered Tara against my lips. “You smell of dark woods and wild places.” 

Tara smelled of blood and sweat and excitement. Ngh. I needed a way out of this. One that didn’t involve sleeping with a werewolf. Maybe. 

“I thought it was cheap cigarettes and dirty sex,” I said, preserving my modesty with witty repartee. 

“I can help you, yah.” 

“With the dirty sex?” 

“That too.” 

I caught her by the wrist. “Buy a vibrator.” 

(Somewhere in Iron & Velvet) 

In all the urban fantasy I’ve ever read, there’s always a smorgasbord of hotties for the heroine to choose between and angst about choosing between. And, naturally, I wanted to make sure Kate was in the same predicament.   

After the vampire, comes the werewolf. Almost always. 

In contrast with Julian, I didn’t really have much idea what I wanted my alpha werewolf to be like, apart from the fact I wanted her to be, well, alpha. And so before I could get a handle on the character that would wind up being Tara, I had to do some serious thinking about what I wanted to do with werewolves. 

For purely logistical reasons, I wanted lycanthropy to be hereditary rather than transmitted. If everybody who gets bitten by a werewolf turns into a werewolf, then you get werewolf pandemic really fast. I was also very sure I wanted to stay a long way away from associating werewolfism with any specific ethnic group because associating people of colour with animals is kind of problematic. I’d been mulling the idea over a while when I suddenly realised that when you combined inherited qualities with running around the countryside hunting things the obvious place to go was landed nobility. So, posh werewolves it was. 

From there, it all pretty much fell into place and it was clear the alpha werewolf had to be an absurdly privileged Amazonian It girl. Writing Tara was a tricky balance – one I hope I got at least vaguely right although as ever it isn't really my place to make that call – I needed her to be alpha but I was also pretty sure I didn't want her to be particularly masculine. Essentially the intent was for her to come across half the time as a kind of British Paris Hilton and half the time as a being of unchained primal power. Although, and perhaps this is my working-class roots showing, I confess that I think there's something pretty predatory about posh people anyway. 

I have to confess that while I was writing Tara, I had a disproportionately large amount of fun researching frocks. Tara is pretty much the only character in the book who consistently wears pretty dresses and since I do, in fact, really like pretty dresses I was rather determined to make the most of it. Over the course of writing the book, I must have spent hours poring through designers' websites, catwalk photographs, and whatever other sources I could get my hands on, trying to get a clear mental image of exactly what Tara would be wearing in any given scene. Obviously the novel isn't exactly a visual medium but I think Tara is never the less quite a visual character – being a shapeshifter her physical appearance is extremely important, and in a sense what she's wearing is as important as whether she's walking on four legs or two. 

Part of what I like about werewolves is that sense of dual identity. The idea that whichever character you're looking at is, at any given moment, meaningfully both a wolf and a human and both and neither. The impression I wanted to give with the Vane-Tempests was one of exaggerated civility stretched over something wild and savage. Immaculate suits and elegant cocktail dresses falling away to reveal fur and fangs. At the same time, I hope that there was a certain amount of coherence to the way the pack worked, that the strict social rules and rigid hierarchies of a family of landed gentry reflect the animalistic hierarchies of the werewolf pack. 

A big part of Tara's role in the book is to be the character whose attraction to the heroine allows the primary romantic interest to get all jealous and confrontational. This made her quite a lot of fun to write, because it meant she was kind of completely brazen about – well – everything. Thinking about it, none of the characters in the book are exactly subtle people (with the possible exception of Nimue), but Tara had a particular directness to her which I really enjoyed working with. Of course since part of Tara's role is to introduce an element of romantic conflict, it meant I had a bit of a difficult line to walk between making her attractive enough that you could see why Julian might consider her a threat and making her infuriating enough that you can see why Kate isn't interested in her right now (or at least, not very interested). I think if I've done my job right, the reader should come away from the majority of Tara's scenes not knowing if they want to date her or shoot her with a silver bullet. 

About AJH 

Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a seventeenth century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.  

You can also find him all over the internet, on his websiteFacebookTwitterBookLikes, and Goodreads. 

About Iron & Velvet 

First rule in this line of business: don’t sleep with the client. 

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale. 

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood. 

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day. 

You can read an excerpt and, y’know, cough, buy the book, if you want, at Riptide Publishing.