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review 2014-06-14 16:47
Evelyn Shepherd – Summoner’s Dirge (The Last Canticle #1)
Summoner's Dirge (The Last Canticle #1) - Evelyn Shepherd

Reviewer: Eladio


Summary: : Because of the strange tattoos that decorate his body, Damir Rosen has lived a secluded, quiet life on his farm outside of Canaan. But the peace and calm of his daily life is shaken when he finds a broken and half-dead man in his field. Taking a grave risk, Damir heals Balin and discovers a passion he never thought possible in the exotic stranger from another land. On a mission to kill the king of Pheor when his airship crashes in the mountains, Balin grieves that he’ll die before he ever finishes the job. An unexpected angel—who glows with the strength of the stars—saves him, though, and now Balin must decide whether remain with the sensual man who brought him back from death or finish the job that could stop a war.
 Tragedy strikes, forcing Balin and Damir onto the run. With the aid of a group of sky pirates, they begin a journey, one Damir only dreamed of ever taking. If Damir can overcome his grief, and learn to trust Balin, they may just be able to uncover the truth behind Damir’s healing powers, save the world, and each other in the process.


Review: : Balin is an assassin sent by an emperor to kill a king who is about to start a civil war, and if Balin fails to do the job, he will pay with his life. After an airship crash strands Balin near the isolated farm of sweet, innocent healer Damir who takes him in and tends to his wounds, Balin decides to blow off his mission and settle down with Damir for the rest of their lives. However, trouble comes a-knocking in the form of the warring king’s insistent general who recognizes Damir as a being with special powers who can aid his cause. This puts Balin and Damir on the run to discover what Damir is and what they should do about it.

The competently written story is not a witty steampunk romp as I had hoped for after reading the blurb, but more of a derivative high fantasy, which is especially derivative in one of the later chapters when it helps itself to the spiders-of-Mirkwood scene straight out of the movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The plot is too meandering for my tastes, though it works to the usual high fantasy standards with the little band of questing characters roaming about the landscape and wasting time on little side excursions to come to the aid of other characters that they meet along the way.

The writing style is florid in the usual high fantasy tradition (“His eyebrows grew high and tight on his forehead like acrobatic caterpillars,” and “He could taste his terror, a sour sludge that weighed his tongue down,” and “His amber orbs would glaze over like candied ginger”). But the dialog is jarringly modern and laced with American slang such as when one character says, “Well, who’s ready to get the fuck out of Dodge?”

And there are long, detailed sex scenes in almost every chapter that feature clenching assholes, puckered entrances, one-two-three fingers, and pulsating dicks, and all this slows the book to a crawl. On the bright side, the story does have a show-down and a real ending before setting up for the next book, so readers who hate cliffhangers won’t have to worry about that here. Though this book wasn’t my thing, I would recommend it to fans of derivative fantasy series like The Sword of Shannara, readers who like frequent sex scenes, and those who love long meandering quest stories.

Source: heartsonfirereviews.com/?p=27186
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review 2014-06-14 04:49
B.A. Tortuga – The Terms of Release
The Terms of Release - BA Tortuga

Reviewer: Eladio

3.25 Hearts


Summary: They say a man can always come home. So after doing hard time, Sage Redding heads to his family’s northeast Texas ranch to help his ailing daddy with the cutting horses. Adam (Win) Winchester is a county deputy and the cousin of one of the men killed in the incident that sent Sage to prison for almost a decade. While Win's uncles, Jim and Teddy, are determined to make Sage and the entire Redding family pay for their loss, Win just figures Sage has paid his dues and maybe needs a friend. Maybe he needs more than a friend. In fact, Win’s counting on it. No one’s denying Sage is an ex-con who went to prison for manslaughter. Regardless of the love he has for his father, he’s returned knowing things will likely go badly for him. Maybe a man can always come home, but he may not be able to stay


Review: This book has a plot that will be very familiar to anyone who reads gay romance: young gay man returns to small-town south to experience nonstop harassment, beatings, and threat at the hands of the town bullies, also known as the police, the authorities, and the town’s most powerful citizens, who also want to acquire the young man’s family ranch by forcing his feisty, outspoken family to sell. This same plot has been done in countless other books. Here, it gives Sage and his new boyfriend Win/Adam, who is a deputy, plenty of hurt-comfort scenes to go on for pages. Nothing wrong with that unless you are not among those readers who can’t get enough of hurt-comfort scenes.

The Terms of Release has characters you care about even though the well-worn plot and the all the hurt-comfort scenes suggest that this book is more about serving up favorite plot elements than breaking new ground. My problem is that the pacing is so weird. The beginning moves well with Sage returning home to help the family, but the middle of the book turns to mush with long scenes of Sage and Win/Adam dating, calling each other endearments, going to Six Flags, and just chatting aimlessly about things that don’t do anything for the plot. Then near the ending, the plot explodes into action with lots of danger, including a tornado. Then the ending itself drags out several chapters longer than needed past that. This book didn’t quite work for me, but I think it will for a lot of readers including the author’s existing fan base, those who love hurt-comfort, and fans of cowboy romance.


Source: heartsonfirereviews.com/?p=27179
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review 2014-04-15 22:18
Adrienne Wilder – My Brother’s Keeper Book 3 The Final Rule
My Brother's Keeper (Book Three): The Final Rule - Adrienne Wilder

Reviewed by: Eladio


Summary: The town of Gilford has a Big and Terrible secret hidden in the ground. Infecting those it touches. Exploiting their darkness. Consuming their souls. It’s hungry. It’s vile. It’s evil. And it wants out. Book Three: The Final Rule. Ellis and Jon need answers. What is there to understand? Why does it have to happen? And what reason could ever justify losing those you love? If only there was a simple answer. But the more questions they ask, the farther they must travel into the darkness and the things they see are not human, or even possible. They are, in fact, Big and Terrible.

The plague is rising in Gilford. To stop it from spreading Ellis will have to embrace his destiny and Jon will have to let him go. Both men must be willing to lose everything in order to save the innocent. It is, after all, rule number six.

Review: Book 3 in the My Brother’s Keeper series ramps up into full-blown horror with Jon and Ellis confronting the Big and Terrible (see book blurb) out in the pecan grove, complete with extreme weather and ground phenomena and other supernatural occurrences. Refreshingly, our heroes gain some allies (George the retired sheriff from the first two books becomes a strong supporting character) and form a battle plan as the plot shifts into a very familiar Christ-the-Redeemer direction with Ellis in the role of the Chosen One.


This book was a mixed experience for me. It is well-written and well-plotted with the fight between good and evil escalating throughout and the pacing remaining strong. It’s true that the romance between Jon and Ellis takes a backseat to the horror plot – it’s just not easy to create a mood of sexiness and fun when the heroes are under so much stress that they’re reduced to panicked overprotectiveness on Jon’s part and brittle snappishness from Ellis. But the story manages to evolve their relationship as Ellis attempts to prove himself and get Jon to stop coddling him.


However, the book is more horror than anything else, and the horror turns out not to be very original. Books 1 and 2 withheld much about the Big and Terrible, and now that Book 3 has laid it all out, it doesn’t look much different from other storylines I have read from Summer of Night by Dan Simmons to various books by Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I know it has to be difficult to write horror and keep it original since so many plots seem to be variations on ultimate evil trying to take over. I’m not sure if most horror fans will embrace this book BECAUSE it takes them down the familiar plot twists that they already know and love, or if they will feel disappointed that there is nothing new here.


As for me, I see the early scenes in Book 1 involving Rudy with Jon and Ellis first getting to know each other to be original, interesting, and engaging.

Source: heartsonfirereviews.com/?p=26095
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review 2014-04-09 00:48
Adrienne Wilder – My Brother’s Keeper: The First Three Rules
My Brother's Keeper (Book One): The First Three Rules - Adrienne Wilder

Reviewed by: Eladio


Summary: The town of Gilford has a Big and Terrible secret hidden in the ground. Infecting those it touches. Exploiting their darkness. Consuming their souls. It’s hungry. It’s vile. It’s evil. And it wants out. Book One: The First Three Rules. Marshal Jon Foster lost his purpose and his sanity the day he saw the image of his dead brother. The distraction saved Jon’s life but cost the lives of innocent people including his best friend and partner. It was a price for survival Jon couldn’t live with and was sure he’d never understand.

Driven by grief and guilt he tried to escape his past by fleeing to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Only instead of peace, the memories festered. Then the offer of a stick of gum from a stranger changes Jon’s life and puts him on a road out of the nightmare he’s trapped in.


Ellis Harper has lived the past twenty years isolated from the outside world and sole caretaker for his mentally disabled brother, Rudy. While Ellis loves his brother, he longs for a life he’ll never be able to have. Shut away, his days consist of chores, endless cartoons, and games of Go Fish. A world that seemed to have no end until an innocent misunderstanding turns Ellis and his brother into a target for a town bully. It’s a fight Ellis can never win on his own but thanks to a chance meeting with a stranger, he doesn’t have to. What begins as a new journey in love for both men quickly unfolds into something neither of them could have ever imagined.

Review: Former U.S. Marshal Jon Foster has just moved to the tiny Georgia town of Gilford, a place he picked at random after a disastrous event made him quit his job. Poor Jon hasn’t known much happiness since childhood when his beloved older brother committed suicide due to cruel treatment from their father. But on the day Jon decides to shoot himself, he ends up making friends with Rudy, a mentally disabled man, and meeting Ellis, Rudy’s younger brother and caretaker. Poor Ellis has woes that are the equal of Jon’s: he gave up his life at age twelve to care for Rudy when their parents died and has never really gone to school, had friends, or been able to participate in the outside world.

To Rudy’s delight, Jon and Ellis start a romantic relationship. But then a mishap on Rudy’s part brings them to the attention of the vengeful town bully who happens to be completely insane. He begins to harass Jon, Ellis, and Rudy as often as possible while threatening them with torture, rape, and death. Unfortunately, the town’s corrupt police force contains friends of the villain, and everyone else is too afraid to stand up to him anyway. Jon, being a tough former Marshal, gets in a few verbal and physical counterattacks, but mostly the deck seems stacked against our heroes.

Because I’d forgotten the book blurb and thought I was reading a contemporary romance, I initially found the villain to be unrealistically omnipotent. I had to re-read the book blurb for context. Without the blurb, this book feels almost one hundred percent like mainstream realism. The only hints of the supernatural are Jon’s vision of his dead brother, and Rudy’s minor psychic abilities which enabled him to draw a childlike picture of Jon a few weeks before Jon entered their lives.

Probably this book (Book 1 in the “My Brother’s Keeper” series) should have included more supernatural scenes to make the “Big and Terrible secret hidden in the ground” thing more obvious so that we readers would realize what is affecting the villain. Otherwise, he just seems weirdly over-the-top and frustratingly all-powerful.

On the other hand, the best parts of this book center on the realism of Jon’s initial courtship with Ellis, and especially both men’s relationship with Rudy. Told in third-person viewpoint, the book alternates between Jon and Ellis, with glimpses from Rudy’s perspective. Rudy is a delight. He is realistic, complex, and three-dimensional. His dialog rings true and his childlike logic is fascinating as he asserts his place in the world. He is not sentimentalized. The reader can see how he’s a total handful for poor Ellis, and yet he is endearing and even heroic. Jon is also a strong character and he provides some much-needed traces of humor and sexiness to offset all the suffering and worry. Ellis, while understandably anxious, comes across as the least likable of the three.

The book builds to a strong, thriller-type conclusion. Readers who may enjoy this book the most will probably be fans of angst and hurt-comfort themes. There are also many readers who like virginal characters (represented here by Ellis) and scenes of male couples acting as parental figures, and those readers may especially connect with this book as well.

Source: heartsonfirereviews.com/?p=25993
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review 2014-03-19 00:45
Liz Borino – Angel’s Truth
Angel's Truth - Liz Borino

Reviewed by: Eladio



“Freeze or I’ll shoot!” Aaron yelled and aimed the gun at Jordan’s chest.

“Angel, no, please.” Hacking fluid-filled coughs broke up Jordan’s words.

“Jordan?” Aaron whispered his name as recognition painted a mural of memories of their life together on his face.

“Yes.” He coughed red into his dirty hand. “Please help.”

So begins Angel’s Truth, the sequel to Angel’s Hero. Army Captain Jordan Collins arrives home, only to find the man responsible for his imprisonment, torture, and near-execution with his husband. Had his Angel moved on without him?

Aaron “Angel” Collins has driven his family and friends away in his quest to learn the truth of Jordan’s fate, leaving only Major General Troy Hart willing to help him. When Jordan miraculously returns, with a spirit more broken than his body, Aaron realizes Hart was really a liar with an agenda of his own. Aaron is unable to take time to heal his own emotional wounds, because he and Jordan learn Hart’s betrayal is even greater than they originally believed, threatening the entire nation. Now the reunited couple must race against time to keep a promise to Jordan’s savior and prevent Hart from bringing terrorism once again to American soil.

Review: Angel’s Truth contains the 64-page second chunk of a story about two men married to each other who are separated by the demands of their jobs. Because it picks up right where its 79-page prequel Angel’s Hero broke off, you will have to buy Angel’s Hero and read it first to know what is going on in Angel’s Truth. I have to wonder why the two chunks of story were not just combined to avoid cliffhangers and make one convenient, average size 143-page novel.

This book lacks the utterly preposterous plot holes of the first book that made me question if the author and editors bothered to do any basic research to support the military thriller plot. Aside from not being able to stand on its own as a separate book, Angel’s Truth is stronger than Angel’s Hero because it avoids the two-timeline story that made Angel’s Hero so weak: the flimsy chapters detailing Jordan and Aaron’s courtship in the past that alternated with the more compelling present-day chapters concerning Jordan’s dilemma. In Angel’s Truth, the plot reunites Jordan and Aaron in a quest to find proof of the villain’s evil deeds against Jordan. As in the prequel, the author’s writing style is smooth and competent.

However, smooth writing and a more streamlined plot still aren’t enough to make this book even a three-star read. Overall, the action unfolds in a lackluster, rushed way. There is no real suspense. The proof of the villain’s misdeeds is amazingly easy to obtain. The villain’s retaliation is predictable and obvious as is his swift and inevitable fate. There are no twists and setbacks in this plot. Even a rescue mission back to Afghanistan is glossed over in only two pages!

Source: heartsonfirereviews.com/?p=25712
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