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review 2018-08-17 18:30
CREATURE by Hunter Shea
Creature (Fiction Without Frontiers) - Hunter Shea

 

CREATURE! It. Knocked. My. Socks. Off.

 

Kate and Andrew have certainly been tested. Her health, (a horrible litany of problems due to auto-immune diseases and problems arising from the treatment of them), and his care of her, has tested the strength of their marriage at every turn. Now with Kate trying an experimental treatment, they are in for their biggest test ever. In an attempt to alleviate the tension and bring some relaxation to their lives, Andrew rents an isolated cabin in Maine for the summer. Instead of being the serene, quiet time they had both hoped for, their cabin becomes the target of something in the woods. Will they return from their vacation relaxed and refreshed? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

This is not the book I expected from Hunter Shea. What I expected was a creature-feature, (one of those words is right there in the title after all), and it sort of was. But what it mainly was, was the story of a strong marriage and how chronic disease attacks every component of your life-and this is a tale I recognize from my own life. I had a period of years with an un-diagnosed disease, which in the end WAS diagnosed as an auto-immune condition. I know what it is to be frustrated, to have my patience tested, to be told it's all in my head, and to be poked, prodded, and experimented with like a lab rat. So, when Mr. Shea wrote about Kate's inner thoughts I totally understood and I recognized the pure truth of them.

 

What Mr. Shea did with Kate's thoughts is another thing entirely. It was brutal, yet beautiful at the same time. The imagination and creativity here was astounding. It was also frightening and spellbinding. I read the last 40% of this book straight through, because that was what the story demanded of me. I loved these characters, each and every one of them, and I rooted so hard for them all-I simply could not leave them at the height of their struggle.

 

Now, I find myself almost speechless, (and if you know or follow me, you know that's rare!). I want you to understand that this is a powerful tale, about so much more than what it appears to be on the surface. I hope that if you've ever trusted a review based solely on a reviewer's word, that you choose this one to trust. You will not be disappointed.

 

CREATURE gets my highest recommendation!

 

Available everywhere September 6th, but you can pre-order here: CREATURE

 

*Thank you to Flame Tree Press via NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-08-17 02:41
ARC Review: Sky Full Of Mysteries by Rick R. Reed
Sky Full Of Mysteries - Rick R. Reed

This isn't a romance novel as much as it is an exploration of love and loss, and the difference between young love and mature love. It's also a bit of a character study for the MC Cole and explores how a traumatic loss can influence the rest of your life.

Cole and Rory are young and in love, having just moved into their first apartment together, in Chicago in the late 90s. They are somewhat opposites, but perfect for each other, and oh so in love. On a night when Cole has to work late, Rory decides to have dinner in a small restaurant close to the nearby college campus. A couple of beers and a burger later, Rory is on his way home, when a mass appears in the sky above him, a white light blinds him, and he finds himself leaving the ground. While this strongly hints at alien abduction, we're left to fill in many blanks, and it doesn't actually matter for the plot of this book how Rory disappears for so many years - it really only matters that he does.

Cole returns after work to an empty apartment. The author vividly describes his fear, his panic, his search for Rory, as hours turn into days into weeks into months, without a trace of Rory to be found. Cole's despair is palpable, and we see him slowly fall into a black hole of grief and pain. Most of the first half or so of the book deals with Cole searching for Rory, wondering what happened to him, and his reactions felt absolutely realistic. I watched a young, happy, carefree man become withdrawn and a shell of his former self. It is only through an almost accidental connection with Tommy, a law student and friend of the waitress who served Rory his last meal and comes forward with that information, that Cole doesn't fully drown in his grief. 

I felt that Tommy was a clutch for Cole, even as we find them dating and then together, eventually married, for 20 years. They're comfortable in their large apartment, with Tommy being a prolific author, and Cole taking care of the house, neither of them leaving their four walls much. While I believed that Cole loved Tommy and that their relationship was a happy one, it so very obviously lacked the exuberance of Cole's first love for Rory. He hides himself away from the world, something that suits Tommy just fine, but I felt as if Cole didn't really live at all after losing Rory. That he had lost his spark, that piece that made him uniquely Cole. 

Tommy is a nice guy, and he understands that Cole never got over losing Rory. He tolerates it, and he hides his hurt from Cole, loving the other man so much that he's willing to deal with being second place. I wondered if loving someone like Tommy loved Cole would explain why he was such a doormat and put up with Cole's eccentricities around Rory's memory.

At its core, the book pits young, passionate love with endless possibilities against the kind of love that grows over time, the kind that's as comfortable as a well-worn pair of jeans, the kind that has matured over the years, the kind that's familiar and deep and lasting. 

And then out of the blue Rory returns. And Cole has to make a choice. 

The ending - I am grateful that the author chose to go that route, because if Cole had made a different choice, I would have been really angry. I still have some questions, but I also understand that the author chose to be intentionally vague on some of the details, leaving some things to the reader's imagination. Truly, the ending as written here is the only one that made sense, the only one that was palatable to me. 

When I closed the book, I sat for a while wondering - what choice would I make if faced with the same decision Cole had to make? I examined my own feelings, comparing my first love to the love I share with the man I married, and how different my life might have turned out if I had made different choices at different times in my life. Which then spawned the question - how different would Cole's life have turned out if Rory hadn't left the apartment that night to eat dinner elsewhere? How would their young, exuberant love have fared through the years to come? Would they have made it? Would it have ended in tears and heartache as they grew up, matured, and potentially grew apart? Or would they have stayed together and grown old together? 

This is a masterfully crafted story, with an unusual plot, and utterly riveting. I could hardly put it down for any length of time. And any book that makes me think like this one did is surely deserving of the five stars it got. 

Recommended.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-08-15 02:03
ARC Review: Camwolf by JL Merrow
Camwolf - J.L. Merrow

This was an interesting take on the shapeshifter sub-genre, and a much darker tale than what I'm used to from this author.

Dr. Nick Sewell is a professor at Cambridge university. He's also a werewolf, bitten and turned by an ex-boyfriend, and still struggling a bit with the wolfy parts of him.

Julian, a new student from Germany, causes an immediate reaction in Nick, even more so when Nick realizes the younger man is also a wolf. Nick is all alpha-wolf, which works well since Julian is more submissive in nature. 

Nick is still angry with the ex-boyfriend - he didn't ask to be bitten and turned, and the ex disappeared on him, more or less, so Nick has had to figure out pretty much on his own how to deal with the pull of the moon and the change. And now he's all growly and jealous and finds that he has this urge to be near the new student as much as possible, even though that creeps him out and he knows he sticks out like a sore thumb. 

Julian's backstory comes out slowly, and there were moments when what I found out made me so. fucking. mad! 

The author did a fine job with her characters - both are complex and flawed, polar opposites at first glance, but in many instances more alike deep down than they realize. The book is told from Nick's POV, switching with Julian's friend Tiffany's POV, which I found unusual and somewhat unfitting, since I really didn't have much interest in Tiffany, but the more I thought about her narrative, the more I realized that she actually brought some depth to Julian's character that may not have been as clear if we'd only heard from Nick. 

The thing that bothered me the most was how the situation with Julian's father's Beta turned out - and how his father seemed unapologetic for what he put his child through. Julian's mother seemed very weak, but we only saw her through Nick's eyes, and those were a bit biased. What didn't help was that there was a distinct lack of world-building - the werewolf lore used wasn't really explained, for one, and while Nick learns a bit more about changing into a wolf, he didn't really delve any deeper than what Julian told him. 

And it raised additional questions - like, is Crack fully human? And will he get his own book?

It's a rather dark novel, much darker than I expected, but I enjoyed reading it. I am German by birth, and most of the German used in this book was accurate. A few things were, while spelled properly, not exactly how a German would express themselves (at least not one from where I grew up).


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-08-09 10:01
A Kind of Truth - Seth Clayton,Dreamspinner Press LLC,Lane Hayes

A sweet story about two lovable, down to earth guys falling in love and getting their priorities straight. Rand and Will both have people trying to push them in a certain direction because it suits their own agendas. Especially Will was suffering from a bad case of nasty parents.

Of course love wins in the end and the way Will took a stand for himself and his relationship with Rand was absolutely glorious.

Still, the most important conclusion for me from this book is that I now seem to have yet another favorite audiobook narrator. Awesome job by Seth Clayton.

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review 2018-08-08 02:52
Release Day ARC Review: The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster
The Missing Ingredient - Brian Lancaster

About a year ago, Marcus, a busy chef in London, lost his best friend Raine in a car accident, and in one fell swoop, Raine's husband and their children as well, due to being asked to "give them time to grieve".

Marcus respected Tom's wishes, though he misses his two "nieces", never mind the grief of losing his friend and ersatz family. 

But then he runs into them by chance and realizes that Tom doesn't look like's holding it together at all, and it's obvious that Marcus is needed. He immediately steps up despite Tom's feeble protests, and soon, he's caring for the girls and taking care of Tom as well. Obviously Tom is straight, and any resurrected attraction Marcus may be feeling mustn't be acted upon. Because Tom is straight.

Or is he?

This is by design a slow burn romance, covering almost a year's worth of time, and the relationship between the two men develops realistically and organically, as Marcus and Tom and the girls start to mesh their lives together, with Tom relying on Marcus, and Marcus giving more and more of himself to prop up his late friend's family. 

There's also a bit of a side plot with the mystery of why Raine was in the location of the accident, with someone not her husband in the car. This side plot's resolution also serves as a point of conflict between Marcus and Tom, as Marcus relays to Tom what he found out, and as Tom has a hissy fit when he does. 

Tom struggles with his feelings for Marcus, and even goes so far as to attempt to deny that part of himself by showing apparent interest in dating a woman. This leads to him using Marcus' revelation of the mystery behind Raine's travel that fateful day to break off their budding romance, and mostly cut off communication. I really, really didn't like this Tom at all. I felt for him while he was coming to terms with his feelings for Marcus, but he then treated Marcus abysmally, and the man didn't deserve that at all. 

Despite the slowly developing romance, the book is actually quite fast-paced, and the pages just flew by. Marcus forgives Tom's behavior time and again, the fact that Tom is hiding him, until Tom does a really hurtful thing and Marcus has had enough. 

And then Tom comes to his senses, finally, realizes what's he lost, and makes the "grand gesture" to regain the man he loves. That scene had me a wee bit choked up. 

The epilogue - OMG! For a few moments there, I was in utter shock, not quite believing what I was reading, because seriously the epilogue is supposed to be where we get their HEA, and it just didn't seem to start out that way at all. I was all like "WTF?" and "WHY?" and then I turned the page and about died laughing. Clever, Brian Lancaster, real clever. 

The supporting cast was well-rounded, with Tom's parents, Moira and John, Tom's two daughters who were front and center but never overshadowed the relationship building, Tina, who's Marcus assistant... even some of the more minor characters who all played a role in moving the plot forward.

The book is told entirely from Marcus' third person POV, and we thus don't get a whole lot of insight into what makes Tom act the way he does, but we do see them both grow, retreat, and grow some more. In many cases, due to the circumstances, Marcus felt like the more mature of the two, even though he's 10 years Tom's junior. 

I enjoyed reading this book, and I think this would be a good choice for anyone who loves the hurt/comfort stories. Incidentally, while Tom's wife dies at the beginning of this book, it never feels as if this is simply a plot device to clear the way for Marcus and Tom - it's more that Raine's death leaves them both adrift, and they honor her memory in a myriad of ways, always mindful that they are in each other's lives because of what she meant to both of them - a wife to Tom, and Marcus' best friend, the person who's stood by him since their school days. 

Recommended.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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