Monday, December 19, 2011

REVIEW: How Genius Girl Saved My @$$ by Garry McNulty

How Genius Girl Saved My @$$How Genius Girl Saved My @$$ by Garry McNulty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book blurb pretty much sums up what the story is all about because the story was short — finished it in five minutes. The breakup between Ryan-from-the-future and Lana was absolutely hilarious. I only wish Ryan would learn from the experience and become a better person, because from start to finish Ryan was a jerk.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

REVIEW: The Apocalypse Gene by Suki Michelle &

The Apocalypse Gene The Apocalypse Gene by Suki Michelle &
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review

The Apocalypse Gene (TAG) is a work of speculative fiction. It's dystopian because the neighborhoods are community hospices where law-abiding citizens are either government-paid health caretakers or terminally ill patients. It's apocalyptic because there is an incurable plague and a looming future for the extinction of the human race. It's young adult because the main characters are teenagers. It's cyberpunk because the internet is a virtual reality world of its own. It's urban fantasy because there are angels and demons. It's science-fiction because those angels and demons are aliens from another planet. *wheeze — out of breathe* Give me a sec.

In short, TAG is a bunch of things.

TAG is told in 3rd POV, alternating between fifteen years old Olivya and seventeen years old Mikah.

The Characters

+++ Olivya

I didn't care for Olivya as a main character. I like smart-mouth kick-ass heroines, but Olivya wasn't one. Anything she said, I found immature. She knows martial art and sword art — enough to kick ass, but her ass were often kicked. She says she care about the terminally ill patients and hate for them to choose euthanasia, yet she labels them GAD — "A Good-As-Dead. A goner." — and gives them pet names like Half, Marigold, and Slim. There were alot of tellings about how Olivya care for these poor patients, but I never saw any defining scenes that shows this.

I also thought Olivya bordered on TSTL — Too Stupid To Live. Why? 1) She decides to met a boy whom she only met online without parental supervision, let alone permission. 2) She agrees to meet him in a place without people, at night, in an abandoned zoo where there are cages to make the perfect prison. 3) She chooses to walk through a place overrun with drug dealers and gangbangers to reach her destination — doesn't matter if that was the only route, she still should have known better.

Only two things that stop Olivya from being totally TSTL: she secretly took her cellphone back from her mother and carried pepper spray — although both proved to be useless in a fight scene later on. And the pepper spray was just kind of weak considering the ShivPack (what TAG called gangbangers) carried knives. Olivya was lucky they didn't carried guns.

Nevertheless, I couldn't keep thinking Olivya as a possible TSTL heroine. I know desperate times call for desperate measure, but I eye-rolled when Olivya decides to try to make a deal with Prime, a demon lord of some sort, to save her mother. And it was not like she was ignorant.
No longer exhausted, powered by adrenaline, she learned all she could cram into her head about demons, gods, and monsters. She searched the so-called Storied. Eventually, a pattern emerged. The religious stories and myths had something in common: You could make a deal with gods and demons, get them to do something beyond the power of mortals, like heal someone. Problem was, these deals never seemed to work out well, at least for the mortal.
Why would she think she would be the exception? I like how she did her research, but I did not like how she choose ignore the advice from the fruits of her research. Talk about reckless and impulsive. Even her holo-sim Ayvilo says so.

Olivya never seems to show any major character development, not enough for me to like her. Sure, she was courageous in the face of danger. But courage without wisdom is foolishness. This is not a character I can root for. =/

+++ Mikah

He was kinda emo, kinda whiny, and just overall meh. Sure, his life was harsh and lonely, but... eh. I didn't see anything impressive about him beside his good looks and telempathy power. But compared to Olivya, Mikah was an easier character to follow.

Mikah seems to have a sense of humor, I wished there were more instances of this.
[Mikah] “Would that be before or after you turn me into an emo-vamp?”
[Changarai] “Did you learn that ridiculous term from your new friend?”
[Mikah] “Um, new friend? Nah. I made it up. Emotion sucking vampire, you know?”
LOL! I love this.

+++ Avyilo and Hakim, the Holo-Sims

They were my least favorite characters, I wish they'd had died in those life-or-death scenes. Avyilo tried too hard to come off as sassy; she was just plain annoying. And Hakim... he was blandly stoic.

The familiars did played a significant role in the story, but near the end I didn't see any value in their continual survival.

+++ The Neo-Twins

They were definitely antagonist to Mikah, but their motive were confusing to me. One moment they were trying to control (or kill?) Mikah and takeover the Kindred clan, the next they're saving the world via Null Requiem which required them to self-sacrifice. I can't decide if the Neo-Twins were power-hungry villains or self-righteous nuts. I don't get them at all.

+++ Olivya's mother, "Mama"

She was my favorite character, her voice was the most distinctive whereas the other characters were not so (Changarai and Lylobriel sounded kinda the same). I like how when she says things, she means it. I like how she wasn't fool by Olivya and quickly discovered Olivya's illicit sneakout. I like how Mama didn't hesitate to inject Olivya with the Sat-Link chips — think GPS pet tracker. I just like how Mama was a no-nonsense character. And her scenes near the end, with her meeting Mikah for the first time, were very funny.

I like how the authors didn't bench Mrs. Wither-Ono as a side character, and that she continued to play a role all the way to the end. Too many YA books (at least the paranormal subgenre) often make the parents disappear into the background, especially when the stories revolves around them parents. It's kinda ironic since alot of the YA protagonists make their decisions based on their parents' influence, for good or bad. The parents should be there somewhere in the story. TAG didn't do that. No sireee and thank goodness. After all, it says so in the blurb, one of the main quests was to save Mrs. Wither-Ono.

Now if there was kick-ass heroine in this story, it was Mrs. Wither-Ono. Step aside, Olivya. Your mama is cooler.

The Jargon

There were way too many jargons for my liking and readability. Let's list them: Storied Siblings, Aether, Null Requiem, Holo-Sims, Doom Criers, GAD, Sanctorum Incunabula, Hypno-Peace, Zeroed, Telempathy, Cy-Chi, Xeraf'Yim, Pandymore, Exvolution, Aetherwahl, Aii'Vonn, Adversarii Body, Involute, Nagamaki, Indigs — there's more, but let's just leave as that.

A few of the jargons I get. GAD is acronym for Good As Dead. Holo-Sims is abbreviation for Holographic Simulation. Aether is non-elemental magic power. Telempathy is portmanteau for telepathy and empathy.

One I just got now. Cy-Chi is abbreviation for Cyber Chicago.

The other... I still don't get. What the frell is a Pandymore? O.o And is Indigs supposed to abbreviate for something? What is so special about the Sufferer of Perpetual Molt — the explanation at the end didn't make sense to me. =S

This was a major weakness of TAG, the abbreviations were never wrote out in their full unabbreviated form when these words were first introduced. The story placed too much trust on the reader's mind to get it instantly.

Moreover, the story played around too much on the namings. I think the story would have been alot better and definitely easier to read if TAG just stick with the commonly used words. Use Seraphim instead Xeraf'Yim, Heaven instead of Aii'Vonn, Adversary Body instead of Adversarii Body, Lucifer instead Lylobriel, Olivia instead of Olivya, grounded instead of Zeroed.

I believe there was nothing special added to the story by using jargons and alternative forms of name. If anything, this hindered my flow of reading and confused me. A glossary at the end of the book would have alleviated some of the confusion.

The Writing

The writing was decent. Some of it was choppy due to the overuse of jargons and weird names. Other times, it was choppy because — and I'm not 100% sure since I am not an English major — of the sentence structures. Not that the sentence structures were grammatically incorrect or anything, but it just didn't feel smooth-reading to me.

Except for one case, the spelling was perfect to me in my first reading of TAG. (That one case was "Horde what they don't want while others die for lack of those very things." on epub page 134. It should be hoard instead of horde.)

One part where I got lost in the story was when Lylobriel showed his flashbacks to Olivya explaining how the bad guys got their start on Olivya's world. There were too many angelic/alien names to follow. And it didn't helped that as a reader, I just personally dislike flashback as a storytelling method. They tend to be too long and disrupt the main action, IMO of course.

Things started to make sense to me when Mikah conversed with Changarai for the last time. It probably helped that I preferred Mikah's POV over Olivya's.

One thing TAG didn't disappoint me was the action. TAG was action-packed and this made up for the slow-pacing of Olivya's scenes. The ebook said in the author's bio that Carlyle was the main author for the fight scenes. Well, kudos to him, he did a good job. =)

The World-Building

TAG did a great job setting up the near-apocalyptic world, especially with the creepy community hospice thing. The only thing that confuses me were the angels and demons. If the angels/aliens were the good guys and the Kindred were the descendants of these angels/aliens, why did human history and mythology paint Kindred as demons?

I thought it was cool how TAG didn't use a black and white version of angels and demons, but I would have like more explanation on the Kindred. I didn't completely understand why they would look down on humans (or Indigs as TAG labeled them) yet would totally self-sacrifice their entire clan to save the world.

I also didn't understand why the gangbangers (AKA ShivPacks) didn't kill the cult followers (AKA Doom Criers) since the gangbangers seem to thrive on violence. Kinda of like how the Vikings would freely plunder and pillage women and villages because they thought Ragnarok (AKA Apocalypse) was inevitable and might as well live life however.

Not that the world in TAG was shallow — it wasn't — but there were some details that weren't explained or explained enough to my satisfaction.

The Kindle Edition Mishap or how Suki Saved the Day

On my Kindle edition, the cover-art image and the authors' photo at the end are broken. That is, those two pictures are not there where they should be.

I alerted Suki — one of the authors of TAG — to this and she very nicely gave me an epub for replacement. She had no obligation to do so, but she did it anyway. Shout-out to Suki! ^_^V

Also, the price was reduced to $2.99 — so yay!


I rate TAG 2-stars for it-was-okay. Even so, I wouldn't mind reading the sequel because the authors gave a strong impression to me that they are striving to improve. =) TAG was definitely original, no doubts about it.

Amazon GoodReads

Sunday, November 6, 2011

REVIEW: Man-to-Man Firsts by Diana Sheridan

Man-to-Man FirstsMan-to-Man Firsts by Diana Sheridan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Man-to-Man Firsts is an anthology of three short stories, all erotica by the one author. They are told in the 1st POV from the virgin bottom's perspective. Each story consist of one sex scene, each beginning with a blowjob and ending in anal sex (no pun intended). I recommend Man-to-Man Firsts for readers who in the mood for no-fuss, all-hot sex scenes.

Story 1: Learning Experience
A father wants his high school graduate son to learn responsibility now that the son is about to start college as a freshman. Thus the son goes to work for a friend of his dad who is gardener named Lou. Little did the son knows he would learn more than responsibility from working for Lou...

It's a inebriated experience the son will never forget.

Story 2: Heads or Tails
A high school senior is having trouble coming to term with his sexuality. After watching porn (hetero) with his friends last night, he woke up early in the morning with the realization that he was gay and not straight.

Troubled, he went out to the beach to relax. Soon he ended up relaxing more than ever he thought when he met a "lanky towhead" named Todd...who also confessed to being gay.

"Relaxing" on the beach has taken a whole new meaning for the coming-out teenager.

Story 3: The Construction Stud's Hammer
A loan officer always had sex with girls but never with guys. Yet that doesn't stop him from looking at other guys, admiring their physical traits, and wondering what it would be like if he did.

And he continues to wonder so at work in face of handsome construction foreman named Sean. Luckily, Sean is of like mind...

The loan officer's lustful thoughts soon become hot action at Sean's house.


That is how I would blurbed/summarized the stories, however amateurishly. =P The sex scenes were enjoyable, so I give Man-to-Man Firsts 3 stars for an I-liked-it.

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REVIEW: Dawn of Darkness by Daniel A. Kaine

Dawn of Darkness (Daeva, #1) Dawn of Darkness by Daniel A. Kaine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

At the time of writing this review, Dawn of Darkness combines the two most popular genres — Paranormal and Dystopian — of Young Adult fiction into one substantial read. This is the first time where I read a YA book that was both Paranormal and Dystopian, both genre that I read extensively of in my YA books.

DoD is told in the 1st POV from Mikhail's (or Mik as everyone calls him) perspective. The story follows Mik as he start off as a Daeva soldier-graduate of the city Rachat and becomes a resistance fighter against the dystopian government — the Silver Dawn.

The World of DoD

DoD is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the biggest supernatural danger are vampires. Pre-apocalypse, vampires revealed themselves and everything was going fine as vamps gained rights...until the plague came. Since the plague happened to suspiciously coincide with the vamp's "coming out of the coffin" event, humans blamed the vampires.

But too late, too bad, many people died — hence the apocalypse.

DoD begins in Rachat, a barrier-city, possibly the only city of humans left on Earth. (I assumed the Internet is down which only emphasize how horrible DoD's world is.) However, nothing is as it seem and there may be a danger inside Rachat greater than the ones outside.

Unexpected Expectation

DoD was not at all how I expected it to be...

1) Nowhere in the book blurb or on the cover-art did it mentioned that the book was LGBT, specifically that the protagonist was gay. I only found out because the author advertised the book in the M/M Romance Goodreads group.

I had other YA books to read, but no YA with a gay protagonist. So once I learned DoD had a gay protag, I immediately made it my next book to read. The fact that I was in the mood for a YA book helped greatly.

2) Reading as much YA books as I have, I expect romance in girl YA (YA books with a girl as the protag) but not in boy YA (YA books with a boy as the protag). I'm not saying boy YA don't have romance, but I am saying that most boy YA that I have read don't have romance. So after reading the first few chapters of DoD, I was pleasantly suprised to see a mm-romance plotline.

After finishing the book, I was satisfied with the romance plotline because usually the romance in YA are subprime. Yes, I do have a low opinion of romance found in YA, mostly in girl YA only because there are more girl YA than there are boy YA. Sometime those girls were simply TSTL — Too Stupid To Live, and the All Girls Want Bad Boys trope is so overused and overrated.

3) I recently read a few mainstream YA where the protag is a gay boy, and I was disappointed with them. The Archangel Academy series had poor writing, poor character development, overall poor everything. Witch Eyes for me wasn't exciting enough, its gay protag wasn't clever enough. So the fact that DoD is self-published (which has a stigma of poor editing/quality) and has a gay protag (which imo has a history of unsatisfactory writing), I didn't expect anything great from DoD.

Fortunately, DoD proved me wrong and turned out to be a solid book. DoD had great editing for being a self-pub book, and I will go as far as to say the editing rivals that of mainstream books. Moreover, the writing was good — the best from a gay boy YA that I've read so far.

4) The book was written in British English, and I'm American. Nonetheless, DoD not being localized for my region didn't bother me since the writing didn't contain anything unfamiliar.

5) DoD set place in France. I'm so used to reading YA books that take place in America and UK that the France setting in DoD took me for a surprise.

6) The vampires in DoD are, seriously, they are like the vampires in old horror films and old books like Dracula. These are not your sparkly vampires from the Twilight series.
"We found corpses... so many corpses. They were nailed to the walls of the save with iron spikes. Their eyes and mouths were sewn shut. Their bodies were naked and shaved. We couldn't see the cave walls for them. Even the ceiling was covered."
Though I like reading stories that romanticized vampires, I was very happy to find out that DoD returned the vampire to its horror origin. I was very happy that DoD even had a horror factor, period. This made DoD's post-apocalyptic world that much more frightening. A zombie apocalypse is bad, but a vampire apocalypse seem even worse.

7) I liked DoD's sexual content. YA, or at least mainstream YA, don't have graphic sex scenes but DoD does and I liked it. The sexual content consisted of kissing and mutual masturbation.

And it didn't took long for the sex scenes to occur either. Though those sex scenes were few and far, and weren't put there for readers' sexual gratification like in an erotica.

8) Though there was homophobia in the story, I was happy that it was mostly in the background. Ash, the protag's love interest, is the one character who gets flak for being bi from his parents. This occurred only in 2-3 short scenes, IIRC. Mik, on his part, seem to have more of an issue accepting love from a person in general than accepting love from a same-sex person. But basically, I like how there wasn't LGBT-related drama in DoD because that's not something I'd care for.

Strong Characters

Mik is an orphan and have abandonment issues, which essentially makes him an emo character. I dislike emo character because they mostly just mope and play a passive role in the plot. Fortunately, Mik wasn't anything like that because he took actions when actions needed to be taken and he didn't let his situation, no matter how bad, get him down...most of the time anyway.

Initially Mik has trouble being with Ash after their the first sex scene, but I was glad to see him overcoming his issues and just enjoy being with Ash. I was even more glad to see their relationship quickly changed from a "friends with benefits" thing to that of actual lovers.

I like how Mik questioned everything once he learned Daevas and vampires were connected. I like how Mik kept wanting to save Ash from the Silver Dawn even when Ash didn't believe in Mik. I like how Mik continued to work on his power even though he knew how dangerous his power could be. In short, Mik had countless opportunity to wuss out and act like your typical emo from high school but fortunately he wasn't. Mik didn't show flashy strength, but he did show a resilient will.

Beside Mik, the author showed great skill for developing all of his characters. Whether that character was main or minor or mentioned in reference, there wasn't a single one I would have considered as weak or flat. For everyone, readers can catch a glimpse of their personal history that the author wrote into the story so seamlessly.

My favorite minor characters were Anna and Violet.
"Because when a vampire says it's a long story, we're usually talking a few hundred years. It would take several nights to explain the history betwen myself [Anna] and Violet."
With the way the author writes, I wouldn't mind reading that and I'm confident he could condense it into a short story. If DoD was not YA but an adult UF book (think Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Richelle Mead), I would have expected there to be such a story in a novella or an anthology of UF stories.

Plot Twists and Turns

Pretty much every YA have a Love Triangle trope. I thought Nate as a character served that function until he proved me wrong when he ended up being one of the villains. The author really have me believing Nate as a boy who has been betrayed by the Silver Dawn, more severely than Mik. I was both sad and angry at Nate's betrayal.

I didn't expect Russell to die in DoD. I was sure he would have been one of the villains in future stories.

I was sad to see Ash died near the end...until I read the cliffhanger at the very end, and I blew a "WTF" fuse. I don't know what will happen next but I do know that love between a vampire and a human usually don't work out so well. I'm not into the whole "I'm aging but you're immortal and young forever" deal so I really hope the author will do something about it in the next book.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn Rachat only survived as a city because a crazy-ass, damn-evil vampire lord gather a bunch of anti-supernatural bigots and deceived them under the guise of the self-righteous, dystopian Silver Dawn government. Ha!

Some Small Gripes

These gripes didn't detract me from enjoying DoD but it did stop me from giving a 5-star rating.

1) I'm American, but I'm pretty sure the term "no one" should not have a hyphen in between even in British English. There's nothing wrong using "room-mate" but I'm really used to reading it as "roommate." Chalk it up to OCD. =P

2) On my epub,
page 20/275, [Any fond memories I had had of Mrs Rosseau were long]
should be [Any fond memories I had had of Mrs. Rosseau were long] Nevermind. British grammar. =P

Page 240/275, [He either plans to win your over by then]
should be [He either plans to win you over by then]

Page 128/275, ["Sorry. Animal instinct, and all that," Daniel, grinning.] was in a different font-type and font-size.

*DoD is still well edited.

3) I didn't like how Mik accepted to sharing blood with Russell. Russell is a bad guy and there's nothing to actually stop him from reneging on his "promise" and tattle-tell to Marcus.

4) I wished Mik and company had a better plan or a fail-safe in their attempt to take down the Silver Dawn. After all, they going up against one of the most powerful vampires in the world — ancient, pureblood, and damn evil.

5) Readers never learn who Katiya dated... though I had a pretty good hunch it was Lucas.

6) Anna owes a favor to Marcus, Marcus used that favor on Mik so that Anna can teach Mik how to be a competent Siren. What was in it for Marcus that he would use — waste? — a favor on Mik? Marcus doesn't come across to me as a vampire who's just a nice guy.

In Conclusion

DoD had good pacing, good amount of action, emo characters that didn't act emo-y, and depth. Especially depth. One of my favorite scenes that showed depth was when Daniel and Mik were talking about the plan to take down the Silver Dawn and get revenge. Daniel, who have more reasons than Mik to get revenge, try to convince Mik that revenge hurts more than just the targeted bad guys. And Mik began to re-evaluate his motives and think about the possible consequences of his action.

So another reason I like Mik is because he actually think things through which not many YA protags — gay, straight, girl, boy, human or not — does this.

I'm looking forward to reading the sequel and I greatly hope the series keep up its game. DoD gets a four-stars rating for a really-liked-it.

If you like DoD, you may like...

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)
is a boy YA (not LGBT) with a strong snarky protag and a horror factor in ghosts.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

REVIEW: Delany's Catch by Diana DeRicci

Delany's CatchDelany's Catch by Diana DeRicci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

Delany's Catch is a short story about a closeted werewolf who chanced upon his mate. Jake Holiday is a tall but timid bookstore owner whose ex-boyfriend of three years ago cheated on Jake and left Jake romatically scarred. Taller than Jake, Delany Coltrane is an ex-bodyguard who came into Jake's bookstore looking for direction but suddenly found himself looking at his new mate Jake Holiday. Like most romance, the story ends on a HEA.

Delany's Catch is told in 3rd POV, splitting between Jake and Daniel's perspectives. The romance is fast-paced so I recommend this for readers who don't prefer a slow-building romance and like the Love at First Sight trope. The story focuses on Jake accepting Del as a boyfriend and, near the end, as a werewolf, there is no outside drama or other issue going on. I recommend this story for readers who want a pure protagonists-driven story, just two dudes trying to trust and falling in love with each other.

Sexual Content

There are a total of two sex scenes, one near the beginning and one near the end. Each is graphically detailed, starting off with a long foreplay scene. In fact, their first flirting immediately becomes their foreplay scene which culminates into a penetration scene. I don't recommend this story for readers who dislike sex on the first date or rather at first meeting in this case where neither characters are prostitute or looking for a one-night stand. Regardless, the attraction between the two is instant, the sex spontaneous.

Even though Jake is submissive and Del is dominating, don't be fool into thinking this is a d/s relationship — it isn't. The second and final sex scene have Del bottoming for Jake. I would have rated the story a lot higher if Jake just stick to being a bottom and a Jake a top.
He [Jake] liked the mastered feeling of being a bottom, like being dominated by a stronger male.
That's what I read in the beginning of the story. That's how I came to expect a pure bottom-top relationship but was later disappointed when the story wasn't.

The Main Conflict

As I said before, the story is pure protagonists-driven. The story uses the Third Act Misunderstanding trope, three in all. The biggest T.A.M. is when Jake felt horror at discovering werewolves are real and betrayed when he discovered Del is one of them. The second T.A.M. has Del secretly bringing business to Jake's failing bookstore without Jake's knowledge. The third T.A.M. has Del not answering Jake's call because Del didn't know it was Jake who was calling which directly led Jake into thinking their relationship was over.

However, the crux of the story depends on whether or not Jake will accept Del for who Del is and love him.


While I do dislike stories for sometime using the Misunderstanding trope, the trope in this story wasn't the reason why I didn't 4-5 stars rate Delany's Catch. The unfulfilled expectation of a pure bottom-top theme is what irked me.

Sorry, but the story had me going for a d/s relationship. Instead, I got an equal-partnership relationship which itself is NOT a bad thing but wasn't something I wanted for this story to have. LOL, turns out the story wasn't cliché enough for my liking. However, readers who dislike cliché relationship, beside the Love at First Sight trope, could find themselves liking this sweet romance.

I rate Delany's Catch a soft 3-stars for an I-liked-it.

Amazon GoodReads

Thursday, November 3, 2011

REVIEW: Kidnapped by Megan Derr

Kidnapped (The Infinitum Government, #1)Kidnapped by Megan Derr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

Kidnapped is the first book in the Infinitum Government duology by the talented writer Megan Derr. (The "third" book Jewels of Bangkok is a spin-off, set in the same universe but in a different timeline and doesn't relate to the main story.) The story's main conflict is for our heroes to save the Draconis race, a derivative of the Save the World trope. However, Kidnapped ended with a HFN and doesn't conclusively resolve the "save the Draconis" issue till the 2nd book.

The Draconis race is a "genetically engineered race designed by the be legal supplements to increase their power." A Draconis will match to a magics-capable person through eye-contact, and then that person and the Draconis will each share their power. Example: Sean can teleport, Mendel can heal. Matched, they both can teleport and heal. But only if they are together! Separate, neither the magics-capable person nor their Draconis can use their power, inherent or shared. Same example: Sean without Mendel nearby can neither teleport nor heal, same thing for Mendel without Sean nearby.

If you're thinking this story uses the Soul Mate trope, you're half right and half wrong. Draconis and their magics-capable, non-Draconis match usually do end up in a romance, but not always.

Kidnapped is told in 3rd POV following mostly from Sean, Mendel, and Cyan's perspectives. If readers are worried about keeping plotlines separate, no worries. At the middle of the story, they all meet and deal with the same crap, i.e. rescuing people, saving a race, fighting the villains, etc — the usual shit heroes have to do.

Initially before everything merge into one single followable plotline, there are three plotlines. FYI, you can read the first 15% of the story on Smashword here.

Plotline 1: Sean is a Rehabber (ultimate prison-keepers/warriors) and he accidentally matched to a Draconis recent-prisoner named Mendel. Readers can read that event of a prologue here for free. Revealed as a magics-capable human, Sean runaway with Mendel...well, after Sean got kidnapped first. Heh.

But wait? Why is being a magics-capable human so bad?

A magics-capable human is a magics-vulnerable human, vulnerable "to all magics—mind control, telepathy, telekinesis, and hundreds upon hundreds more." All humans working in the I.G. are magics-incapable and therefore magics-invulnerable. If humans suddenly evolved into a magics-capable race, then the entire power structure — the I.G. will fall. There would be no personal protection against brainwashing and the like.

Every race but the human race are magics-capable and already knows how to deal with it. Humans, for their part, don't except for being their magics-less self. Sean being a magics-capable human is a small step towards that fearful future.

Plotline 2: Eine and Lark, last two survivors of a vigilante crew, are coerced through poison to kidnap certain important people. They are coerced by a crazy vengeful villain named Jade. Under that dainty beauty of his is an ugly heart of sadism. Jade also happened to be the fraternal twin brother of Cyan leading us to...

Plotline 3: Cyan is a Rehabber, co-worker and best-friend of Sean. He is on the quest to find Sean so that he can bring Sean back home to visit Sean's dying mother before she R.I.P.

And I said before, they all eventually meet and fight the good fight.

Characters of Interest

I was a little miffed at reading Eine and Lark's "adventure" in chapter one after reading about Sean and Mendel in the prologue. I wanted the story to continue with Sean and Mendel's plotline because the prologue had a really good cliffhanger. But I soon got over it.

And soon Cyan became my favorite character in Kidnapped. Cyan eventually joined Eine and Lark's "adventure" after the two vigilantes inadvertently kidnapped Cyan. Oh yeah, before the kidnapping thing happened, before they knew each other, Eine and Cyan had a shag a few hours ago, doing the whole "sex with a stranger" and "sex to release stress" deals. LOL! Memorable quote below.
"I told you, rock spider, it's better to fuck a Rehabber than fuck with one—did you want to test that theory?"
I really like how Cyan, as a Rehabber, could kick butts and smash skulls. Despite Jade accusing Cyan of cowardice, Cyan truly had a take-charge kind of attitude. Once the kidnap incident was resolved with Eine, Cyan didn't mind shagging Eine some more. The story described them, from Lark's dialogue, as having "fuck-me eyes" for each other. LOL!

So the story follows Sean and Mendel as one couple, Eine and Cyan as the other, and just gay Lark as the third wheel. Lark was the weakest character of the main cast in the character development department. I read his personal history and predilections, but I never got to know him as a person. Actually, I'm not sure if Lark can be considered as part of the main cast — the whole matter is debatable.

But in short, Lark's character development wasn't enough to satisfy me. But oh well, this was a small gripe and I was mostly concerned on the two established gay couples.

In Conclusion

Kidnapped was fast-paced and contained more actions than I expected. The story was complex but it wasn't convoluted, it was an easy sci-fi to read. I detected a streak of humor in the story because some of the scenes had me chuckling.

The story is aptly titled because there were a lot of kidnappings happening. Giving Kidnapped three-stars for an I-liked-it.

Amazon GoodReads

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

REVIEW: First Watch by Peter Hansen

First Watch First Watch by Peter Hansen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoilers

First Watch is really more of a horror story than a romance because the romance was slim. I felt little chemistry between Edouard and Ruiz. Actually, even the horror part failed to horrify me. FW tried to retain an air of mystery, but instead retained a fog of confusion.

It wasn't the writing that confused me — the writing was decent, it was the plot that confused me. At the end, I was left thinking "What? Is this all there is? Bummer."

FW is told in the 3rd POV from Edouard's perspective. The story starts with Edouard writing a letter to Ruiz before Edouard meets the Captain with the tentacles for some dubious consented sex. The story ended at best a HFN, and overall left me baffled. I don't recommend FW for readers who like their stories straightforward or have a HEA.

If you're hoping to read this for sex scenes with the tentacles, there's none. Well, there is foreplay, but for the actual sex, it's fade to black. As for the sex between Edouard and Ruiz, it's near the end but only the BJ part is in graphic detail. My point? Freaky erotica, this story is definitely not. Yeah, bummer, I know. Not recommending FW for the hot sex either.

BTW, it's Edouard that is on the cover-art. On the bright side, the cover-art looks awesome (even though my friend think it's horrible). He he he. =P

I had a hard time deciding whether it was rape or dubcon-sex that was going on between Edouard and Captain Tentacle (this is what I'm going to call him from here on out, we never knows his name because he was always referred to as "the captain"). Ultimately I decide it was dubcon-sex and not rape because Edouard could have escape or said no or whatever, instead Edouard came to Captain Tentacle for the sex without being psychically forced and psychologically abused — at least none that I could see or read between the lines.

I'm still confused as to why Edouard couldn't just leave the cursed submarine. Was there a spell or would Captain Tentacle just stalk and kidnap him back? It seem like Edouard could easily leave the submarine as he did when he went to meet Ruiz. I don't know why Edouard couldn't just leave, if only temporarily, to find a magician or some sort of supernatural expert to help him deal with his Captain Tentacle problem.

Actually, near the end Captain Tentacle did allowed Edouard to leave.
"Go ashore at Sardinia. No more promises of staying under the water with me."
"No more," Edouard agree. "But I'll come back to you."
But Edouard didn't... Well, Ruiz was imprisoned, but I think Edouard could have pleaded for Ruiz. Hell, Edouard could have asked to leave at the start of the story. >.>"

I was sorely disappointed when I read Ruiz trying stab Captain Tentacle to dispel the "curse" was the gay couple's plan. Really? I expected some scheming and subterfuge to be involved, you know, like an actual plan. But no no, all they (or Ruiz actually) did was got a knife and try to go stabby-stabby on the Captain.

Figures that the plan would failed and they had to go with plan B, i.e. bombing the place. Don't ask me why they didn't just bomb the place in the first place. Ugg.

Actually, I ended up sympathizing the "villain," i.e. Captain Tentacle. Poor guy just wanted some freaky-tentacley sex from the hot French man that he saved from the battlefield. Sure, the Captain did it in a way that wasn't morally right but, dude, Edouard got a spell on his body *points to the green letters on Edouard's body on the cover-art* that makes him near immortal. And I'll say it again, the Captain did allowed Edouard to leave. I got the impression that Captain Tentacle sincerely did love Edouard.

If the author was trying to villanize the tentacle people, he failed. Seems to me that the tentacle people was just trying to become human or human-like to live on land. (I think.) Not sure why the tentacle-people used such an unethical way to do so, but they didn't seem evil to me.

Overall, I was mostly indifferent to Edouard and Ruiz, and I pitied Captain Tentacle.

Amazon GoodReads

Sunday, October 30, 2011

REVIEW: The One That Got Away by Rhianne Aile & Madeleine Urban

The One That Got AwayThe One That Got Away by Rhianne Aile &
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

This review rated the 2nd Edition which has an additional "15,000 or so words" compared to the 1st Edition. Plus the 2nd Edition has a better looking cover, imo, by the artist Paul Richmond.

The One That Got Away is a Gay-For-You story. Readers who dislike the GFY theme should avoid this book. Readers who are selective about their GFY story should know this story lack "omfg, am I gay?" identity-crisis drama...and, to an extend, drama overall. Here's a perfect example.
Trace wasn’t so concerned about the bisexual label; he was comfortable with himself and he was comfortable with sex in general. He was more concerned that what he had with David would flare and soon burn out, leaving them too uncomfortable to even be friends. The thought made his chest hurt so badly that he couldn’t sit still, and he had to get up and pace, trying to shake the pain off. He didn’t want that, not at all. He’d rather give up the newfound passion than have that happen.
1) GFY isn't very realistic. 2) A "former" straight suddenly crushing on his gay best-friend without a barrel of angst and drama isn't very realistic at all. Not that such a circumstance is impossible, but it is highly—very highly improbable. Readers wanting a realistic contemporary mm-romance should probably save their money for something else.

But readers who wants to something drama-free, homophobia-free GFY — I recommend this. The homophobia-free part on the former straight's side was the hook, line, and sinker for me to read the story.

Sexual Content

The first 60% of the story was essentially sexual tension. Yet, I wasn't frustrated by this because the authors wrote it drama-free. The best way for me to describe the sexual tension is by comparing it to heating a pot of water. The water never boiled to bubbles but it was always simmering.

The last 40% of the story was mainly foreplay scenes that culminated into wanking each other off or blowjobs. The foreplay scenes were long and graphic, and they heightened the sexual tension. There was only one penetration scene and it was near the ending.

The transition from sexual tension to action was slow and smooth. Never a moment was there any explosive, rough "do it hard and fast and many" sex. As said before in the metaphor, the water never boiled to bubbles.

Even though the last 40% of story was mainly sexual actions (and 100% of the story is sexual tension), I never got the impression that story was an erotica. The characters were trying to carefully transition from being best friends to being lovers. This is why the couple took it slow in their sexual actions.

The couple were always aware of the delicate nature of their changing relationship. Because if one wrong move or thing happen, not only would they stop becoming lovers but their friendships probably wouldn't survive either. Both David and Trace needed to know for themselves if risking their friendship was worth developing the love for each other.

Things I Didn't Like

The ending was abrupt. In the second to last chapter, it ended with Trace finally consenting to bottom for David and to a larger extend kind of implied that Trace would move back in with David. Then in the last chapter, readers learned some time passed after the previous chapter and we see Trace and David publicly revealing their relationship at a charity event.

I would have prefer it if there a scene between the two making love or doing something together as a couple after they both finally agreed to be each other's boyfriend. To be specific, I wanted another chapter before the epilogue to help me as reader digest the fact in my mind that David and Trace were now officially a couple.

The story was told in 3rd POV, splitting between David and Trace's perspective. The story got a little confusing when the authors blurred David and Trace's perspective in the same paragraph/moment. So it was took some re-reading before I could allocate whose thoughts were whose. I didn't like this because it interrupted my flow of reading.

I didn't comprehend the title "The One That Got Away" since no one got away. I kind of expected there would be a moment in the plot where the two would be separated and one would go away but later on they would be reunited. In short, a reunited scene after much tear-jerking drama. But nothing like that ever happened, David and Trace were always together and I didn't see any danger that they would call it quits, even when Trace moved back to his home. I would be really interested in knowing why the authors (or their publisher) named the story the way that it is.

The story had a slow pacing that I didn't care much for. The slow pacing combined with the foreplay scenes made the sexual tension great, but sometime I wished the plot would move along already. This story didn't have that "got to keep reading to find out what happen next" mood, there were moments I got bored and just put the book down not once but multiple times. Well, on the bright side, at least I always remember what was happening in the book when I pick it back up.

I didn't like how Trace slightly felt pressured into being a bottom for David. MM-Romance will function just fine if one lover is a total bottom and the other a total top. I think the couple should have a talk over what they prefer in sex so both would be happy with the sex and wouldn't be pressured into doing anything they didn't care to do.

Things I Liked

I like David. I like Trace. I like Matt. Basically, I liked all the characters. No one annoyed me, even the amusingly wicked Katherine. However, I think Patrick and the two straight guys (ha, I don't even remember their names) in their poker group could have used some character development even if they were only minor characters.

I like how Trace didn't have any homophobic moment when he discovered he may have feelings for a guy. I like how he was mostly worry about ruining their friendship if he acted on love and David didn't reciprocate, or if David did reciprocate but the relationship just wouldn't work out at the end.

Because of how easily receptive Trace was with gay love, the story didn't have much conflict or drama or angst. Hell, the guy continued to sleep in David's room on David's bed after hearing David confessed to being gay. This bugged some people...ALOT, but not me.

I don't care much for GFY because there's always heartbreak and sad angry drama. Not to say I hate drama but I just dislike the kind that goes hand in hand with GFY stories. Just once would I like to read a GFY where the drama is something other than homophobia or just no drama at all. The One That Got Away served that kind of story to me. Sure, it wasn't realistic but for once I didn't give a shit. Heh. =P

I like how there wasn't a long, extended, misunderstanding jealousy scene that convinces the couple that they love each other. The authors could have totally done this because Matt was David's ex and Patrick was bi which Trace could relate to. So very easy for the authors to use the Big Misunderstanding trope to separate the lovers for a while and make huge unnecessary drama. But they didn't and that was great.

Thought the stories had more foreplay and BJ scenes than I would like and only one penetration scene, I still thought the sex scenes were hot and well written. The sex scenes really fitted the mood of the entire story.

I rate The One That Got Away 3-stars for an I-liked-it.

Amazon GoodReads

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

REVIEW: St. Boniface Hook-Up by Rick R. Reed

St. Boniface Hook-Up St. Boniface Hook-Up by Rick R. Reed
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoiler

The narrator goes out to Eagle, a gay bar, to look for a one-night stand. Throughout the entire night of Halloween, he only got one hit. But since exhibitionism wasn't his thing, he refused the guy and decided to turn in for the night. As he walk out, he meets a mysterious stranger...

The mysterious stranger may or may not be a ghost.

The single sex scene was a bit short for my liking. But this story got potential.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

REVIEW: A Modest Proposal by Felicitas Ivey

A Modest Proposal A Modest Proposal by Felicitas Ivey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers
Hagar is the captain of the cargo ship Midgard Serpent. Most of his shipments blah blah blah—
The blurb didn't interest me enough to buy the book. That is, until I read Mandy's review.
This book is kind of a cheesy, slutty, mildly D/s space romp. —Blah blah blah— It's heavy on the sex content, lots of 'pounding through the mattress' and 'needy little slut'.
That is what interest me. That is what convinced me to hand over my moolah, my wampum, my green notes. I am so there. Thank you MandyM for your very accurate review. Good karma for you. \^_^/

A Modest Proposal is told in 3rd POV that switches from Hagar and Shibito's perspective. Hagar is the manly top, Shibito is the needy bottom. There's your D/s relationship. The author is strongly influenced by yaoi, so any readers who wants to read a short story of yaoi, this is it.

There are references to rape, but no rape scenes. However, some readers might regard the initial sex scenes as dubious consent. Interestingly, you can argue for either lover as the victim of dubious consented sex. Hagar used Shibitio's desperate situation to get free shagging, and he wanted to see how far he can push Shibito's limit. Shibito as a psychic manipulated—though somewhat unintentionally—Hagar's emotion to enhance their lust for each other.

On a rough estimate, the story is half sex scenes and half no-sex-just-plot scenes. The sex scenes are very graphical, very hot—I was superbly indulged. The plot had good pacing, made sense, and exciting action.

In a short amount of text, the author managed to world-build the story well. So imagine Earth as the galaxy, and Earth's powerful countries as confederations that each rule over a network of planets. I assumed in this story that Earth's countries never united as one, and basically just extended their rule farther into space and over other planets. America, Russia, Japan, etc. each have their own planets.

Even though the story was scifi and futuristic, there were traditions and ancient culture in play. Nippon Imperium, i.e. the Japanese confederation, have monks, temples, emperors-as-divine belief, and the long-hair-to-signify-nobles fashion. As I understand, the author basically took ancient Japan and push it into the space age.

Shibito was bit of an emo but it was understandable considering his circumstances: His power-drunk, crazy-ass cousin drugged him and left him to die in the badland of space. He was raped while under the influence of the potentially-fatal drug. He couldn't use his psychic power like normal because of that drug. Even though he accepted his sexuality, he still had issues of poor-gay-me and I-can't-birth-heirs and disappointed-family. Last but not least, he was on the run for his life.

All of that and he was still only a bit of emo, at least from my POV. I like Shibito because in spite of it all he managed to get his act together and fix things. He successfully avoided his enemies while on the run for his life. Even though his power were on the fritz, he used his psychic power to hack machines to get where he needed to go. He got enough gumption to do anything for Hagar so that he can acquire safe passage, even if it meant whoring out his body.

In short, Shibito knew what he was doing in order to return home, get help from a trusted friend, confront his crazy-ass cousin, and ultimately save his loved ones from his cousin's madness. That's the kind of protagonist I love to read about, the kind who knows what they're doing and they get things done. It would have way too easy for Shibito to give up, be helpless, and mope. But no way, Shibito overcame his circumstances and beat his villainous cousin's butt.

Oh, and he managed to get a lovable sex fiend of a boyfriend out of the horrible situation. Score!

I like Hagar, I like how he was willing to put with the crazy situation Shibito pulled him in. Hagar could have, at any point, back out and ran far away from the entire madness. Amazing that he didn't and some readers might have a problem with this because the rational thing Hagar should have done was to run away. But Hagar didn't.

Though the relationship started out as purely sex-based, I like how Hagar and Shibito's lust for each other developed into love. They didn't know each other, but they managed to trust each other all the way to end to defeat Kogon. Readers might complain that they trusted too easily, feel in love too quickly, but I had no issue with it. The pacing of the story and the development of its romance was a good fit of speed for me.

A Modest Proposal would have gotten a five-stars rating from me were it not the loose ends. Kogon died and nobody knows who will be the next emperor. Shibito, being the most powerful psychic, seem to the best bet but he doesn't want the position because he doesn't think he could fulfil its duty, like giving heirs for an example (which I think is a lame excuse considering how IVF and surrogacy can fix that easily). Before Kogon died, he also rid six other cousins like he did with Shibito. The story ends with Shibito and Hagar on the journey to rescue them. This made the entire story a HFN which I didn't really like. I sincerely hope the author left the ending open like that because she's starting a series. I hope.

Another gripe I had was the villain Kogon. He was adequately evil, but I didn't really understand why he committed suicide near the end. The story's reason "Kogon killed himself rather than lose" didn't satisfy me at all. I wanted him to be so evil that he would try to kill Shibito and Hagar and everyone else to the very dear, crazy-ass end. I don't care much for villains who self-destruct. It almost reeks of Deus Ex Machina there.

Overall, I like the couple; I really like their sex scenes; and I like how the plot wasn't thin. Giving A Modest Proposal four stars for really-liked-it.

Amazon GoodReads

Friday, October 14, 2011

REVIEW: Enduring Instincts by S.J. Frost

Enduring Instincts (Instincts, #2) Enduring Instincts by S.J. Frost
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoilers, Long Review

I like fluff, I like vampire story, but this fluffy vampire story just didn't work for me. I couldn't connect to Daniel and Ryunosuke's romance. With that, the whole story felt apart in front of me.

In book 1 Natural Instincts, I managed to like the story because it had some action and suspense that I'm fond of despite some flaws. In book 2 Enduring Instincts, the action and suspense were lacking and the flaws were woefully apparent. If Daniel was a girl and if there were no graphic sex scenes, Enduring Instincts could have been a Twilight wanna-be. The only advantages the Instincts series has over the Twilight series are stronger writing and graphic sex scenes (because I'm pervert).

Instincts' vampires didn't sparkle, but they acted teenagers.

The story proceed in 3rd POV, mostly from Daniel's. 90% of the story was focus on developing the romance between Daniel and Ryu, while the other 10% was on the unfinished business of the villains from book 1.

Vampires, or Just Misunderstood Maybe-Mutated Humans

The vampire mythos was contradictory. We learn Ancient vampires, vampires who reached the thousand years age mark, are major bad-asses. But later we learn Ancient vampires and the lesser-rank Lord vampires can easily be overtaken by a bunch of newbie vamps through sheer number. If this is so, how are the older vamps major bad-asses?
"Vampires might be stronger than humans, but so are countless species in the world. The legends make it seem like you're practically indestructible, when really, you're just as fragile as any or the world's creatures."
In term of pure physical strength, yes, there are species stronger than humans and vamps. In term of power? No. Humans got machine guns and nuclear weapons...which vampires can use as well along with their inherent powers.
"Very true. We're a litte more durable than humans and certainly our quicker healing abilities are a nice benefit, but yes, we can be more easily killed than the legends make us appear. In all the ways a human can be killed, really. Except for disease, of course. We haven't found any of those that affect us. Yet."
"A little more durable?" Seriously? What? Immortality and regeneration and disease-resistancy aren't good enough for you vamps? Sure, vamps can be killed...but they sure hella lot harder to kill than your average human. And they don't even need healthcare.

And then there is this...
"I guess that helps explain why Ancient vampires like Tirus are so revered. When you think about it, it's pretty incredible for any vampires is able to survive for hundreds of years and doesn't get killed in accidental mishaps, like getting hit a by a bus."
So the old-as-dirt vampires are revered because they survive life's geting hit by a bus. Really? Oy.

Weak-Ass Villains

So 10% of the story was about finishing the conflict left unfinished in book 1. In Natural Instincts, the villains had some evil momentum going on with the whole let's-take-over-the-vampire-world. In book 2, their plan frizzle out and I began to pity them like they were just misguided teenagers. What a huge disappointment watching these big evil-doers becoming like contrite teenage pranksters.
"We thought we could take over the city. Then we thought we could take over vampire society. It probably wouldn't have been long before we got power drunk we thought we could take over the world. But what would we have done with any of that? What would've been the point? Just to sit there and say, 'Look at me, I rule the world.' So what. It was all just stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid."
So many wrong things in this paragraph that Troy said.

1) The villains assumed too much they would be successful in their let's-take-over-the-world endeavor considering they lack the resources and knowledge. I got a good imagination, but I was wondering how in the nine-hells could these villains think they could accomplish that. So far, all they have been doing are just thug-works. The LA gangs are more dangerous than these vamps...

2) They weren't power drunk already? Dude, y'all were planning to take over the city and kill all the old vampires just because y'all wanted power. How is that not power drunk?

3) "What would've been the point?" I don't know but if the villains were imaginative or psychopath enough they would have known their ultimate goal for dominating the world. Just taking over the world for power's sake would have been good enough point. That's why villains are so...villainy, because they're willing any thing and everything to attain power. People do desire what they cannot have or cannot have easily. It's not stupidity, it's psychopathy. =)

4) What's with Troy being a weeping Wilma? Where's the anger from Daniel deceiving and pushing him off of a roof? What happened to the maniacal vampire from book 1? Talk about a 180 degrees change. Maybe the concussion did more than I thought...

So at the beginning the story, I learn the villains have some sort of revenge plan going on against Daniel. Understandable considering what Daniel did in book 1. But what I don't understand is why the crux of their evil plan focused so much on Daniel. Why not Andreas? If these "villains" really wanted to hurt Titus, Andreas would have been the easier way to go. It's really easy since Andreas, not yet fully vampire, wasn't protected when he's working at his zookeeping job.

I assume their evil plan is taking over the city while ridding and revenging on their enemies. I felt like these villains have no idea what they were doing and were just bumbling along a quasi-evil path. I don't know why they don't just kidnap the weak-links of our heroes and start delivering body parts to Titus and Ryu.

Hell, they didn't even need a strategy or intimidation considering all it actually took for Titus and companies to be defeated are many many many newbie vamps. Why don't the villains just gather some and do it already?
"Life and death," Titus said. "He could be that one extra ally they need to overpower us."
Hell, the villains could just have the same number of newbie vamps and equip them with guns and bombs. It would have been good enough power to overtake our heroes I believe.

The villain minions were rather pathetic. Vance changed loyalty too easily and too conveniently. But at least with Vance, it was understandable since our heroes spared his life after he and his friend tried off-ing Daniel.

Niven, I don't understand. Daniel tried to run over him with a car, not once, but twice...and oh yeah, head-slam him after Daniel flirted-to-deceive Niven in a intimidation scene. And it's not like Daniel haven't done this flirt-to-deceive deal to other vamps, I don't know why Niven thought Daniel wouldn't do that to him. Yet in the end, Niven chose to help Daniel...sincerely, and not as an act for a later backstabbing. Wow, mind-boggling. @_@

Troy and Issac loves each other...okay, so our villains have feelings. Then Troy "mercy-kill?" Isaac...after Isaac nursed Troy to health and all of that cripple circumstance. What? Makes no sense.

I don't understand why the villains captured only Daniel when the thug-vamps surrounded Daniel and Andreas at Andreas' workplace and left Andreas wholesomely alive. I don't know why the villains just didn't kill Daniel once their boss Isaac saw him.

I assumed Isaac and Troy are Turning their vampire minions, but who Turned Isaac and Troy? What masters would allow their vampiric children to be rogue?

I don't understand these villains. They're either weak-ass or schizo...or both. T_T

Miscellaneous Gripes

Like I said before, I couldn't connect to Daniel and Ryu's love for each other. I couldn't empathize either of them too. Daniel got the "I was sexually abused and now I got PTSD" angsty-deal, Ryu got the "My dad was a violent drunk who beats his family which influenced me to live a violent life" angsty-deal. The couple came off as emo to me. LOL, vampire emos. XD

Renart manage a vampire restaurant/lounge, Andreas is zookeeper of some sort, and the villains have their let's-take-over-the-world deal. What does Titus, Daniel, and Ryu do? Apparently, all I learned is that they live a life of leisure. That itself isn't a bad thing but I felt this background type made them under-developed as characters because they got to do something when they're not with their lovers or escaping dangers.

For example, I had a hard time imagining what Titus would be doing when Andreas is at work (assuming no villainy danger is present). Does he read or watch TV or something? Seems like he just disappear as a character, just re-appear once Andreas is back home again to maintain the character role that is Andreas' lover.

I don't know why our heroes didn't alert the Tribunal that the villains they thought rid of survived and is re-attempting their villainy plan.

I don't understand why other vampires except Titus and companies don't believe Ryu being Turned by a demon. If werewolves and vampires exist, why not demons? Is there some sort of vampire lore that said only vampires can be Turned by other vampires. And if so, how did vampires came to be?

I was playing around the idea that maybe it was demons who originally birthed the vampire race. Eventually the vampires find out they too can Turn humans, and after many years of this, the vampires long forgotten their demonic origin because demons were showing up less and less. So much less that demons later became a myth to the vampires. I think...


This vampire story wasn't my kind of story because frankly, these vampires, though they don't sparkle, weren't the kind of vampires I like to read about. I was expecting more brutality, more raw emotions, but I didn't get that. Since I wasn't enamored by the romance, the story had little to offer to me.

It's not a bad thing to romanticize vampires, but these vampires were romanticize to a point further than I'd like. That is these vampires were similar to those from Twilight which I dislike. To each their own.

I think the way the series can be improved is if the the vampire society and lores were flesh out more and all the characters, no matter how minor, to have clear and concise and consistent goals.

So what kind of vampire mm-rom stories do I like? The Enthralled series have a good combination of fluffity, brutality, and sexuality. They're short stories but they're impactful.

Amazon GoodReads

Saturday, September 24, 2011

REVIEW: First Kiss by J. Tomas

First Kiss First Kiss by J. Tomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoilers

First Kiss is about shy student Noah pinning for hot jock Doug. Reading the blurb, I got the impression that the short story (very short) was going to be about a gay boy having an unrequited, unattainable love for a straight. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the WAFF of the story.

The writing was very straightforward, the kind I would love to read in all of my books. The story is in first POV, specifically Noah. This very apt for the story because I could feel everything that Noah feels. The author shows great skill for forming the emotional map of her main character.

If I had to come up with a negative criticism about the story, it would be about jock Doug secretly confessing to cheerleader Melissa about his sexuality. It's not like they were close friends even though they ran in the same circle, i.e. the cool crowd. It's not very realistic to sneak out of the closet to a stranger who may potentially ruin your social life. Thankfully, Melissa wasn't a stereotypical uppity evil cheerleader.

Anyway, I love all the characters. I love Noah because even though he was shy, he wasn't a doormat and stood up to Melissa. I love Doug for taking a chance on love. I love Melissa, even her bitchy ways, for scheming to get Doug and Noah together.

I rate First Kiss 4 stars for really-liked-it.

Amazon GoodReads

Sunday, August 28, 2011

REVIEW: The Heart of Texas by R.J. Scott

The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1) The Heart of Texas by R.J. Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoilers

The Heart of Texas read like a soap opera, which I don't mind, but had a tad too much unbelievable plot twists for me. Or maybe that's how a soap opera should be, then it was too much soap opera-ish for my taste.

What to expect: all the bad guys losing, all the good guys winning, alot of plot twists. The first half was read like a romance, the last half was read like a family saga (yes it's a genre). The book was written in 3rd POV, alternating between Riley and Jack perspective but interspersed with the supporting characters' perspective.

Jeff Hayes

I thought forcing Jeff to be the ultimate villain, no exaggeration, was overkill. The author couldn't decide whether to make Jeff an adulterer, a rapist, a woman beater, a pedophile, or a child-abuser, and so he's all of them. We learn about his extramarital affairs in the middle of the story, worse we learn he likes rough sex, really rough sex. Suddenly in that same scene, we find out he sometime likes his "women" young, which kinda hinted at pedophilia. I'm not 100% sure about the pedophilia because the author never outright say it.
Some of these women were just a little older than her daughter, than Jeff's daughter, and in each one, there were marks and bruises.
I have no idea how old Jeff's daughter is.

His mother is scared and told his wife to leave Jeff before anything serious could happen to her and their children. Especially their children, because he might end up beating them and/or raping them. And then when Jeff finds out that his wife left him and his mother made it happen, he beats her.

Near the end of the story, we find out he's the one who raped Beth. That was stretching the story too far because how could Jeff and Beth be at the same party? They don't run in same social circle, Jeff's rich and Beth's poor. I thought it was too much of a coincidence for them to be at the same place same time. What happened to the Hayes and Campbell avoiding each other?

The author didn't make Jeff a believable person, he was just evil in human flesh. Out of all the characters, Jeff was the worst not because he was the villain but because he was poorly developed. In short, Jeff was a one-dimensional character who just did bad things because he was evil like that.

Gerald Hayes

I didn't get Gerald. He was the bad guy at the start but he helped our heroes at the end. Um...okay. I was confused because the author set up Gerald as the final villain, like the final boss of a video game, our heroes must defeat before they get their HEA. Gerald was a bigot who wanted his son Riley to get married and be normal.
"Aaah, the American dream." Riley tried to keep the cynicism out of his voice "Two point four kids, the picket fence, the station wagon and the dog."
Then we find out Riley isn't even his son, but a bastard born out of an affair between his wife and his lawyer. With that, I better understood why Gerald wanted Jeff to be the boss of Hayes Oil instead of Riley. And why Gerald couldn't care less if Riley died after the fire accident at Campbell ranch.

So for the first half of the story, Gerald was the villain. And then it switched to Jeff. Wait, what? After Jeff's mother confronted his wife to leave Jeff, Jeff became the main antagonist and Gerald wasn't seen again till the end.

When we do see Gerald again, he saves Jack Campbell by falsely confessing to be Jeff's murderer. Whaaaat? What happened to the Gerald who didn't care if Riley died, who hated all Campbell, who was homophobic, who preferred his own flesh and blood son Jeff over the bastard son Riley, who blah blah blah. Why the hell did Gerald do a good thing for our heroes? I would have expected Gerald to wreck bloody vengeance upon our heroes.

No, he saves them and to a point, even accepted their gayness and all that liberal crap and was happy that Riley became the boss of Hayes Oil instead Jeff. Really? O>o

Riley Hayes

I thought the whole fire "accident" could have been easily avoided if Riley had hired some people to watch over the Campbell. For someone who knows full well how underhanded and devious the Hayes men could be, Riley should have expected his father and brother to sabotage the Campbell. Hell, he should have accepted the small possibility that his father and brother might have even wanted him and Jack dead period. It's not like there would have been any lost love.

What's up with Riley thinking he isn't gay. He isn't, he's bi as he admits so himself. Why did he resist his attraction for Jack? It wasn't because of the Hayes-Campell antagonism since Riley felt no repulsion in marrying Jack. I had a hard time watching Riley internally debating whether he was straight or gay. He's bi! Everyone knows, this wasn't a coming out of the closet. He even had a bisexual friend in Steve. The Heart of Texas wasn't a Gay-For-You story, but I got the impression that author was forcing it to be.

In Short, Inconsistent Characters

Jeff was almost everything a villain in a contemporary story could be. Gerald who was the villain became the heroes' savior at the end. Riley was either Bi or Gay or just GFY. And those were just the main characters.

Eden, the youngest child of the dysfunctional Hayes family, was described by Riley as a shopaholic.
I mean, she's a complete airhead, thinks shopping defines her life, but she has a big heart.
She didn't shop for a single damn moment. In actuality, I thought she was one of the few sensible characters in the story. She was calm enough to call her parents to give Riley the blood transfusion he needed to survive. She was smart enough to prefer Jim as her father, observant enough to know Hayes Oil hardened Riley. And no airhead could quickly cover up Jeff's murder and keep her mouth shut in front of the police. I have no idea why Riley thought his sister was ditzy.

Steve, Riley's bisexual friend, was a head turner of a character. He went from being described as a party animal to Beth's husband. Talk about instant character development, he went from having indiscriminate sex to someone settling down with a wife and kid. Somehow his love for Beth went from one of friendship to one of marriage. Right. *rolls eyes* The author was really forcing the story hard to make everyone have a happy ending, even if meant turning a character's personality upside down.

Plot Twists After Twists

I love plot twists like any reader, but I like them in reasonable amount or else they lose their thrill. I was surprised to learn Jim Bailey, the Hayes' lawyer, was Riley's biological father. But after that secret was revealed, we didn't heard much from Jim anymore. I was hoping for some sort of scene where Jim and Riley sit down and bond, to connect as father and son instead of lawyer and client. I never got that.

Once it seem the plot twist of Jim being Riley's birth father was revealed, the author sent Jim away, and then revealed another plot twist. BAM! Once that was over, another occurred making previous ones irrelevant. It was strange because I read stories whose entire premise was just the plot twist of finding out your parent wasn't your biological parent. In The Heart of Texas, it was just used a plot device, made quickly irrelevant by the next dramatic moment.

The only plot twist the author really spend time developing throughout the story was Beth's pregnancy. Anyway, too many plot twists took the focus away from Riley and Jack's romance in the last half of the book. That's why I thought The Heart of Texas wasn't a true romance but instead a family saga.

The Ending Was Too Perfect

I don't mind perfect ending, but I had in my mind The Heart of Texas as a serious story. Not to say I didn't want a HEA, I did. But I was thinking the HEA would only be for the couple and that the other characters, the good ones, wouldn't get their HEA. I even expected one or two of the good guys would died or something. I so did not expect a HEA for everyone. I mean everyone.

Jeff died. His wife and kids are safe from him. Gerald saved Jack and died. His wife Sandra is free from domestic abuse. Steve married Beth, Beth survived the pregnancy, they end up as a happy nuclear family. Riley becomes the boss of Hayes Oil, Riley and Jack have an actual wedding ceremony. All the Campbell and Hayes and their friends become nicey-nice with each other like there was never any feud. So basically all the villains were dead and all the good guys got their HEA. Uh, yeah. Would never happen in real life, though. =/

Things I Like

All the flaws I described above is what made me not give the story 5 or 4 stars. What stop me from making the story 2 or 1 star was the decent writing, not making Sandra the cliché helpless drunken housewife, capable Eden, and keeping Jack's character consistent. The author did indulge the readers with a few sex scenes, so that was good. I rate The Heart of Texas 3 stars for I-like-it.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

REVIEW: Dark Edge of Honor by Aleksandr Voinov & Rhianon Etzweiler

Dark Edge of Honor Dark Edge of Honor by Aleksandr Voinov & Rhianon Etzweiler
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

Dark Edge of Honor is about a soldier and a spy on opposite side who, somehow against years of training and some brainwashing, quickly fall in love and give up everything to grab their HEA. There's war, rape, blackmail, torture, betrayal, vindication, and ultimately redemption—all excellent ingredients for a thriller of a story. Alas, I was confused, bored, frustrated, and bored by the story.

Bored. =/

The first chapter was written horribly. I had no idea what was happening except that there were two characters named Mike and Pat. It was not until the end of chapter four when Mike was speaking with his handler that I finally understood chapter 1 was about Mike and Pat doing a reconnaissance mission. I got that the authors were trying to avoid the "show not tell" pithole, but they did it to such an extreme that it left me wondering what was going on most of the time. And when I get confused, boredom quickly follows.

Sentences of Little Sense

Dark Edge of Honor (DEoH) suffered lumps of short sentences that caused the story to be choppy. The following piece of paragraph was starving for transitional words:
He knew better than to mention it. The brother general wasn’t stupid. He would have voiced objections to the methods, but the decisions were made by the Committee back home on Liberty. The general merely made it happen. His career depended on it. Sergei’s too.
I had no idea what "it" was. I know the first "it" was about not mentioning Cirokko being the worst planet to war against because of the preceding paragraph in the chapter. The last two "it"-s, however, I don't know what they are. That quoted piece needed clarification of its pronouns.

Beside short sentences, DEoH also suffered incomplete sentences. I do not mind incomplete sentences because their use can quickly push the plot. However when they are overused, the opposite happens—the plot drags like a limp foot. Here's an example:
But it was impossible to think “Cirokko” without remembering other powers that had tried to take a bite out of it. The Alliance, about a hundred years ago, before it joined the Intergalactic Peace League and became non-expansionist. The League of Seven just twenty years ago. Unable to cut its losses, the League had bled itself dry in a way that it couldn’t have won anyway. But the Seven had then been swept up in the Doctrine, desperate to rebuild its morale and sense of purpose.
The two quoted pieces above formed a single paragraph, the third paragraph of chapter 3 to be specific. This paragraph was overall a mishmash of incomplete thoughts, and to a larger extend represented how the story was written.

Somewhere To Somewhere Else

Due to the writing, I had a hard time transitioning from one scene to another. The authors were not specific nor straightforward about the where and when. For in example, in chapter 4, I had no idea where Mike was. Was he was on a spaceship or a building or something? And the people he was spying on, were they Sergei and his General? If so, was this taking place while Sergei was about be raped?

Another example is chapter 5 where Sergei was taking off his uniform while reflecting back his recent past. There, in a bunch of paragraphs, we learn that his General has been raping him and that it has been going on for a while. But readers are never told how long of a while. For all we know, it could have been for a couple of days, weeks, or even months. Suddenly we found ourselves seeing Sergei having a massage. What?

While re-reading to write this review, I suddenly realized the first two sentences of Sergei taking off his uniform were supposed to let the reader know that Sergei was preparing for his massage. These sentences failed to do so because I got distracted by the bunch of paragraphs telling me Sergei has been raped for an unknown period of time in the recent past. For chapter 5, I never learn where the couple was, just that the place has massage and sauna facilities. I do not know if they were at a high-classed gym, a hot spa, or a spaceship.

The first couple of chapters were prety much like this. The characters would be doing something somewhere but we forget what they were doing because the authors went off a tangent. It's not that those tangent of paragraphs were irrevelant, but they were so horribly placed in the story that they interrupted the flow of the story. And the authors not being specific about the character's location, coupled with horrible sentence structures, made me confused and impatient.

Barely Any World-Building and Backstory

Since the authors rarely and vaguely tell the me the where and when, I had a hard time imagining DEoH's world. For the first couple of chapters, I did not know where Sergei and Mike were. I know they were on a primitive planet called Cirokko, but I do not know whether they were in a city, a docked spaceship, a spaceport, a shanty-town, or the jungle. What happened to imagery?

The story was so poorly set up that for a while, I thought that the CovOps and the Doctrine were different forces of the Alliance, parts of the greater whole like the U.N. I didn't realize till late in the story that CovOps were part of the Alliance but the Doctrine wasn't, that the Alliance and Doctrine were two different galactic powers.

I still don't know what the frell is Doctrine. Are they a galactic government, a military group of a galactic government, or some sort of philosophy/religion/training? The way the author used the term, I think it was a combination of them all.

Why was the Alliance's CovOps spying on the Doctrine? Were the two galactic powers at war against each other? Or was it like the Cold War between the democratic West and communist East from real-life history?

I really wished the authors straight-out told me the races that inhabit Cirokko. I'm still unsure if humans were the native inhabitants or if it was different species altogether, like the flying lizards. Were the flying lizards really just smart animals or were they a sentient race of people?

Characters I Cared Little For

Sergei as a character was wholesomely unrealistic. I find it mind-boggling that a rape victim, with barely any issues, could be so easily seduced to bed by a stranger on a hostile world. In chapter 5, readers learn how Sergei's superior has been using him as a sextoy against his will. Suddenly in chapter 6, Sergei was doing it with Mike. WTF? And it was not like Sergei's superior was gone and Sergei was not being raped anymore. No, just the opposite; Sergei's superior was still there, still raping Sergei.

Thus, I had a hard time believing that Sergei could develop love for Mike while he was still being raped. Where's the trust issue? Intimacy issue? Hello! You're being raped, where's the mental trauma?

I felt strange reading Mike and Sergei shagging in one chapter, Sergei being raped in the next chapter, and back to the couple shagging each other again in the chapter after the next. Wow. O.o

Mike sucks as a CovOps agent.
He never publicized his sexual preferences. That aspect had never influenced the execution of his duties, his professional ethics or his employment. He refused to give that part of himself enough power to influence anything. It had no bearing on any of it, and anyone who thought otherwise would be proven wrong.
Right. *rolls eyes* Let's see, he created a plan to seduce a rape victim for intel. He ended up falling with the rape-victim/enemy Sergei. He risked his cover to protect Sergei. Upon rescuing Sergei, he got captured by the enemy. Afterwards, he was tortured and imprisoned until Sergei rescued him. Yeah, right, Mike was soooo believable as a competent spy. /sarcasm

Pat, the spy partnered to Mike, was also unbelievable as a character. How could Pat plead with Sergei to find Mike when Pat recently tortured Sergei? Someone who has the capability to freely torture another person would not plead their victim to find their missing friend. I expected some manipulation, bargaining, threats, or some combination thereof from Pat. It was hard watching Sergei and Pat suddenly got all buddy-like as if one had never tortured the other and weren't on the opposite side of a war.

Wasn't All Bad

All the beginning chapters until chapter 16 were slow. Sure, there some spying, raping, and fighting but the writing made the story dreary to read. Come chapter 16 when Sergei was being tortured by Pat, the writing got slightly better and was more cohesive. After Sergei got rescued, I was back to being bored until chapter 23 when Sergei sat with Nikishin and everything was revealed. Sergei confronting his rapist was a WOOT moment. A point for the authors writing an excellent confrontation scene.

After Sergei rescued Mike, I got bored again. Then I got frustrated at Sergei for making some stupid decisions and then had to be rescued by Mike...again. Finally, at the end they quit their jobs and got their HEA.

I rate DEoH 1-star for didn't-like-it.

Similar Stories Suggestion

by Andra Sashner.
Soft sci-fi set on Earth, like maybe 100-200 years in the future. Easy to read, easy to engage. I rate that story 2-stars because the author gave a HFN when I really wanted a HEA.

Evenfall (In the Company of Shadows, #1)
by Sonny and Ais
Soft sci-fi set on post-apocalyptic Earth. It's free, it's super-long, and it's the first of a series. I gave it 4-stars.

Amazon GoodReads

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

REVIEW: Adel's Purr by Sui Lynn

Adel's Purr (Elements of Love, #1) Adel's Purr by Sui Lynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Minor Spoilers, Long Review

Adel's Purr is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the Vatican Church is the only government around. Earth has regressed back to the Dark Age where all arts and technology and inventions of any kind must be sanctioned by the Vatican Church. Fans of Final Fantasy X will easily recognize the similarities between Spira and the world in Adel's Purr.

Friend or Foe?

I initially thought the Vatican Church was this evil organization our heroes must destroy eventually in the series.
"They [the Church] hunt gargoyles and destroy them, regardless of your centuries of service. They've named your kind as depictions of evil in sculpture, and therefore demonic. They've become so obsessed with their laws they're now fanatic and controlling. All we can do is try to save as much of human history and living stone as possible and hope our work carries through to the next generation, so they can learn from our mistakes."
Dystopian anyone?

One of the Church's members, Father Michael, was the the main antagonist for the story. Father Michael was a Sinister Minister. The Church was bad. The Father was bad. I thought it was a safe assumption that anyone involved with the Church was bad.

I assumed wrong. Excluding Father Michael, the Church was never the enemy (for book 1 anyway) because at the end the Church needed Evan to defeat evil with his uber rare Earth magic.

Otaku won't be bothered by the big role the Church plays because the Church Militant trope is prevalent in manga, e.g. Chrono Crusade, Trinity Blood, 07-Ghost, as it is here in this series.

The World-Building

Upon finishing the story, I was left with the impression that the Church was like a corporation that suffered a personnel problem... a personnel problem of unknowingly employing demon-corrupted priests. The world was post-apocalyptic so the Church was probably desperate for help, making background check not a top priority. But still...

Anyway, I was confused why everyone turned to the Church for help after the apocalypse because somehow I doubt the people who survived were all Catholic. I doubt even more than anyone who wasn't Catholic suddenly converted to Catholicism. It was a big plot hole, IMO.

I liked how the story set up the mythology of gargoyle to include more than those bat-like statues on European towers and castles. In Adel's Purr, gargoyles can be Chinese lion-dogs that guard the door of Asian homes and the crypt statues that decorate Western cemeteries. Any statue built with the purpose to protect something or guard against evil were considered gargoyles in Adel's Purr's world.

The Characters

Beside the awful dreadlocks hairstyle the stonemason wore, Evan Hallvard was smart and self-sufficient. Evan made his home far enough from other people to appear wanting solitude but not evoking suspicion. He grew his own foods so he doesn't have to depend on anyone. He had his own Batcave with a security system of CCTV and gargoyles. He acted well as the sexually naive innocent against Father Michael who gropes Evan alot. Not to say Evans was perfect, like having an impractical hairstyle, but in no way was he a dumb bottom.

Adel the crypt gargoyle was your typical alpha. Adel knew alot about the magic that Evan carried. All Evan knew was that he could vitalize gargoyle. The plot mostly focused on Evans discovering his magical heritage, destiny, blah blah all the while having a hard-on for Adel. It didn't help that Evan haven't had sex in a long time.

Fret not! Sensible Evan soon came to realize Adel was essentially another person. It was no surprise to see Adel reciprocating the feeling because Adel's Purr was a soulmate romance. Sexual frustration easily solved in 1-2-3-YAY!

Speculation of the Series

The next book is about Jude the Inquisitor. Yes, of that Inquisition from history. No, there wasn't any anti-gay sentiment the Church might have brought into the story because the Church in Adel's Purr was a modified version (at least not in book 1). An omission I was thankful for.

There's a very good chance that the priests in Adel's Purr's world do not take vow of chastity. Maybe. If so, I would not be surprised if one of the future books will be about a naïve priest stumbling upon his mentally tormented, supernatural soulmate.


I rate 3 stars Adel's Purr for I liked it.

I would not recommend the story for readers who best enjoy realistic mm-romance. This is the second book I have read by this author and I can plainly see the strong influence of yaoi. Thus, I would recommend it for readers who enjoy yaoi novels. I would also recommend for readers who enjoy all sort of mm-paranormal.

If you want more gargoyle mm-romance, I suggest the following:


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