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review 2018-01-22 18:45
Splatterpunk Fighting Back
Splatterpunk Fighting Back - Dave Benton,Jack Bantry,Tim Curran,Rich Hawkins,Duncan Ralston,Glenn Rolfe,Bracken MacLeod,Kristopher Rufty,Adam Millard,John Boden,Matt Shaw,W.D. Gagliani,George Daniel,Elizabeth Power

 For me, this anthology was nearly perfect. Almost every single story hit home with me, and the fact that the purchase of this anthology benefits the fight against cancer makes it that much sweeter.


Without further ado-these are the stories that affected me most, in the order in which they knocked off my socks:


MOLLY by Glenn Rolfe. I have read a number of Glenn's works now and it's my opinion that he's an author to watch. With this story, he has arrived! A killer doll, a hotel, sexy women and weak men-add them all together and what have you got? Molly. 5*


LIMB MEMORY by Tim Curran. It sucks to lose an arm. Turns out that it also sucks when the arm comes back! 5*


THE GOING RATE by John Boden. A super short, shocking story! LOVED. IT. 5*


EXTINCTION THERAPY by Bracken MacLeod. Beautifully written with one of those punch-in-the-gut endings that I adore. 5*


THEY SWIM BY NIGHT by Adam Millard. Who doesn't love a good story about sirens? (Not like on police cars, but like in ancient mythology.) You have to ignore those singing ladies, or they'll get you every time. 4*


THE PASSION OF THE ROBERTSONS by Duncan Ralston. This was gross, funny and messed up all at once. 4*


FEAST OF CONSEQUENCES by W.D. Gagliani and Dave Benton. This story was a constant stream of Oh No! Followed by YES! I 'll let you guess upon which of those the story ended. 4*


DARLA'S PROBLEM by Kristofer Rufty. This being my first Rufty story, I wonder why I've waited so long to check him out. When Darla comes to you with a problem-take her seriously.


SPLATTERPUNK FIGHTING BACK was an anthology that totally worked for me, and I'm guessing even though it's only January, this will be included in my best anthologies of the year.




You can buy a copy here, (remember-proceeds go towards fighting cancer):

Splatterpunk Fighting Back 

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review 2017-12-27 04:47
Man & Beast (The Savage Land #1)
Man & Beast (The Savage Land Book 1) - Michael Jensen

CW: One scene of attempted rape; discussion of rape, assault and atrocities done to Native Americans; and lots and lots of racists dirtbags. This is the frontier, y'all, and the author doesn't shy away from how icky a lot of these people were.


This was unexpected, and in this case that's a good thing. You do need to check your disbelief at the door on this one, at least for the climax. It was a Monty Python case of horrors, that's for sure.

I'm surprised no one yelled, "Why won't you DIE?!" at any point. ;-)

(spoiler show)

The emphasis is on horror because right away you know things just aren't quite right, and by the end you've got a Most Dangerous Game situation that'll keep you flipping the pages.


What I really liked about this is that it wasn't your typical M/M novel. I would even go so far as to say this isn't a romance, though there is a love story of sorts and an HFN. But this didn't follow the standard formula that has, let's be honest, become somewhat stale. And after The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, it was nice getting an historical where the characters sound like they're in an historical. It still could've used a bit more detail than what we got, but again, still much better than Gentleman's. 


John's struggle to learn to speak up and act on his own behalf and those he cares about was a nice journey to watch, even though it was painful at times. He starts off as a man who just runs from everything and has to figure out through many trials what's worth standing up for. He makes a lot of bad decisions and indecisions along the way but I was never frustrated with him. It was obvious why he acted the way he did, not least because he was trying to save his own hide if people found out he's a sodomite. 


Gwennie, Thomas and Palmer are all great supporting characters, and even Samantha gets a point or two in her favor. The ending was a bit abrupt and the epilogue doesn't really wrap up the loose ends. Since the next book is centered around another main character, I'm not sure if we'll see these characters again or not. Hopefully we do because there is certainly more to see with these guys. 


For this being self-published, it was surprisingly light on typos. There were a few more near the end than throughout the rest of the book, but it's still much cleaner than most self-published books out there. The story is in first-person, if that's something that concerns you, but John has an easy and approachable POV, so the writing flows rather well. 

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review 2017-12-24 20:11
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

This is a strange one, so I'm going to split it up.


Things I liked:


Monty's struggles of self-acceptance. He's an arrogant aristocrat, a drunkard and a rake on the surface, but there's a lot more going on and as we learn more about him, it's clear how he got to be so messed up. But he's got his best friend Percy and his sister Felicity, who are more aware of the world around them and help him see what he's always been so blind to. I did like seeing him grow up and learn new things about himself, and that it doesn't happen all at once in a giant ah-ha moment but a little at a time as the story progresses. 


Percy was also great. I like that the author acknowledges people of color existed, and as more than just slaves. He was born in a high-class family, but being interracial and a bastard doesn't give him much standing. He's treated as second-class, and while Monty might not treat him that way or understand why anyone else would, Percy is aware of his position in society and how tenuous it is. And that's even before the reveal

that he has epilepsy and his family wants to put him in an asylum because they're tired of dealing with his fits.

(spoiler show)


Felicity, Monty's sister, knows her own mind and isn't afraid to use it. She wants to study but is limited by her sex. She also helps hold a mirror up to Monty's face, but she's not there just for the benefit of the male characters. She has her own agency and makes her own decisions. 


As a road trip gone askew, this is a great book and not nearly as silly or whimsical as I thought it was going to be. And I like that it didn't always follow the tropes to a T, so that it kept you guessing in some places.


The things I didn't like:


As a historical book, this is somewhat lacking. There's nowhere near the level of details that I expect from a historical. Nothing is really described, like the author is expecting the reader to already know what all these places looked like back then and so doesn't have to bother setting the scene. Except for the lack of pay phones, the author could've easily placed this story in the 1960s or 1970s and not have had to change anything except some character names. The rather modernistic manners of the characters would have made a lot more sense and rang truer than they do placed in 1720-something.


The language is definitely too modern. Look, y'all, "abso-bloody-lutely" is annoying AF coming out of mouths from today's youth. It has no place coming out of these characters' mouths. They had their own slang in the 1700s. Use it! There were a few other modernisms like that too, and it just pulled me out of the book every single time. This is basically a historical for people who don't want to read historicals. 


There were a few continuity errors too. At one point, Monty has to stop to put his boot back on. I went back several pages to see where the hell he took off his boot - he didn't. At another point, Felicity is hurt rather severely and it's several scenes before she's able to properly tend to her wound. In between, there's an encounter with some rather important people who I would expect to be far more observant than they are. There's no mention at all that Felicity is attempting to hide her wound, yet it's not mentioned and neither does it seem to even bother her. What the hell happened to Lockwood?


Then there's Monty's dad and everyone else practically having no concern whatever that Monty's got a liking for boys. Sure, the author does bother to point out a couple of times that sodomy was a big no-no and even bothers to mention some of the punishments that could befall someone because of it. But then everyone just acts like it's no big deal. Extremely distasteful, sure, but nothing you wouldn't bring up in casual conversation during a ball. It felt like the story and the characters were making far too light of something that could get you killed. The fact this is YA doesn't justify that, and this is far too much a trend in many an M/M historical. I was disappointed to see it happen here too.

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review 2017-12-04 21:29
Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt
Once Upon a Christmas Eve - Elizabeth Hoyt
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Disillusioned early on about rakes, Sarah St. John has always given Adam Rutledge, Viscount d'Arque, the cold shoulder. When he shows up unexpectedly at her home and is forced to spend Christmas, the complicated feelings she's always had, start to get even more complicated.
Adam would do anything for his grandmother; even spend a week celebrating Christmas at the St. John residency. Thinking to entertain himself challenging Sarah, he soon finds it backfiring on him, as he's the one left feeling outgunned. 
The last installment in the Maiden Lane series, you could easily pick this up as a standalone; you would miss an early glimpse of d'Arque in a previous book but there is really no connection to the series overall. 
Sarah St. John should have been utterly forgettable. 
This is a novella slightly under 100pgs and I'm here to tell you that you're going to end up feeling cheated. The weather is cold, there is a search for some holly and an ending Christmas Eve ball but I did think this lacked a solid holiday read feel. However, this doesn't matter because the reason for the season is d'Arque. Nothing else. The absolute caring way he treats his grandmother was shown brilliantly and provided some depth of character. His sheer sexiness though, steals the show. He's able to keep himself rather emotionally contained, except when he gets around Sarah and then we get to see cracks form in the façade; I live for the cracks. He's sexy, smooth, sparking, and a bit unraveling when he's with her and I loved every second of it. 
Sarah St. John loathed rakes. 
Sarah was the perfect combination of stiff and melting when she was around d'Arque. Her past hurt helps us understand why she tries to keep d'Arque at a distance but it also ends up feeling rushed and forced as the emotional pain isn't given enough room to develop with the small page count. I loved how she stepped up to d'Arque's challenging but also how she softened to his touch. Her family round out the secondary characters and I missed seeing more interactions with her sisters as I think this would have filled out her character even more. 
"Careful, sweetheart," he rasped in her ear, his breath brushing her neck, and it was strange because she could've sworn there was real concern in his voice. "you nearly fell at my feet just then." 
There's some mini trials and tribulations going on in this novella but the core of the story and why you're going to want to read it, is the interaction between Sarah and d'Arque. They are the couple who give you shivers up and down your spine. They snap, spark, crash, and melt together in a way that make you want to reread their story as soon as you finish. I will spend more time of my life than is healthy wishing the author had chosen to write a full length novel for them. There's a point where d'Arque says:
"I want you." He fought to keep his voice level. Civilized. "In every way."
The way this is dragged out of him had me thinking of Sebastian St. Vincent. In a full novel, I think d'Arque would have seriously challenged St. Vincent in the eyes of many romance readers for favorite rake. 
Hoyt is very good at small impactful emotions and outside the main couple's relationship, there is a scene where Sarah's sister starts to blame herself for a man's actions and after her family support, their mother says the line: "I shall have to warn my friends about him.”. This may be a case of what's in the news timing but this little scene hit me in the feels. The women's network; created out of necessity, caring, and bravery. In the past and present, sometimes we women have been the only recourse and this added scene is again one of the numerous reasons I read romance, it understands, tells, and celebrates us women.
Look, issues get brought up and moved on from quickly (d'Arque's parents' death) and the ending is so outrageously abrupt. Seriously, Hoyt gives us one of my favorite proposal lines ever and then slammed me into a "the end" wall. I loved what Hoyt gave me of d'Arque almost as much as I hated how little she gave me of d'Arque. At the end of the day though, if you're looking for a quick escape, d'Arque won't disappoint.
He broke their kiss and laid his forehead against hers. "Make me stop."
"I can't," she whispered.
"Then we're doomed," he said, his voice husky and low. "For I'm unable to stop myself. I want you. Day and night and all the time in between. I want you."


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review 2017-11-08 13:32
Once Upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt
Once Upon a Maiden Lane - Elizabeth Hoyt

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

"I want to learn all of you. I want you to know me in return. When I next kiss you, I want you to welcome my lips like a lover instead of a stranger." 
A novella listed as #12.5 in the Maiden Lane series, you could still read this as a standalone. Mary grew up in the orphanage featured in the series and we've seen glimpses of her and a couple other characters before but the hero and their romance is a new introduction.
With some Cinderella inspiration, nursemaid Mary is identified in a bookstore by our hero Lord Henry Blackwell to be the missing Albright twin. Twin babies stolen by their nursemaid, while Johanna was recovered Cecilia was never found. Henry is taken aback by how much Mary looks like Johanna and immediately claims she is Cecilia. Now, this is a novella, so the tempo gets pushed up. Henry's immediate claim Mary is Cecilia and the family accepting it is a bit side-eyeing but the relationship Henry and Mary have, made up for it for me.
He looked at her, at her straight black brows and the big brown eyes regarding him so seriously, and yet with a spark of humor, and it was as if something turned over in his chest. She was playing with him, this woman. 
I instantly felt a spark between the two, Hoyt's skill with sexual tension was evident but the friendship and sheer compatibility between the two won the show for me. Mary's guardedness but also strength paired with Henry's charm provided a delightful give and take between them. 
"And you? Did you have a pet as a child?"
"Yes, several," he replied. "Dogs and cats. Now I've got two hounds---Mole and Timberline."
"His ears are very soft," he said a tad defensively.

I also thought this story was laced with skillful writing moments that a top author like Hoyt can provide; showing, instead of being told, little nuances of a character make the reading so much richer. You'll also get a pretty good feel for the times (1700s) as Hoyt focuses on the clothing through Mary being dressed as a lady for the first time.
As I mentioned, the Cinderella story, and all it’s in and outs, has some forced and awkward moments and the ending was a tad rushed but there is an epilogue that works to soothe that (you'll see a lot of past characters show up here). This is a novella and if you're looking for a quick hit of romance warmth, Once Upon a Maiden Lane would provide that and a friendly return to the Maiden Lane world. 
It was like a fairy tale come true. 

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