The Match Before Christmas by Eden Winters

The Match Before Christmas by Eden Winters
Stars: 4/5

Candlelight, mistletoe, gaily wrapped packages beneath a trimmed tree, and someone to share it with. That's all Barry Richards wants for Christmas. Desperate for a traditional holiday, he takes drastic measures. Creating a profile on "GetaDate.com," he hopes to find the perfect man in a matter of weeks. One date after another goes sour, while all around him friends are falling in love, and Barry starts to lose faith. The first snow falls and the world is filled with seasonal cheer, all except for Barry, for whom time is running out. Facing the prospect of a lonely holiday, he tries just once more to make The Match Before Christmas.

This was a cute little Christmas story that will ring especially true to all the single people reading it. The narrator is funny and a little self-pitying (but who isn't?) as he struggles through date after horrendous date on an online dating service. The men he meets are outrageous but ring true, and his reaction (normally running away as fast as he can) is enough to put a smile on your face. I think my favorite "date" was with "John," who is oddly the second best thing to come out of the dating service.

Definitely going to re-read this right before the holidays, even if the main character does seem to get luckier than me!


A Note About November

November is Nanowrimo (that's National Novel Writing Month...you can see why everyone just calls is Nano), and I'll be participating again this year (I won in 2009 and used last year's Nano to do editing on 2009's project). The goal of Nano is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, which is 1,667 words a day, which for some authors is no problem, but for me is kind of a big deal. (We'll blame poor time management and the inability to stay focused...on pretty much anything.)

This means two things:

1. My time is going to become rather regimented. Less time online and more time writing (and running, which helps me clear my head). It also means less time reading (except for Counterpunch, which comes out Nov. 4). Less time reading means fewer reviews being posted. You see where I'm going with this? I still may read some, and may post some movie reviews, but November may be rather sparse.

2. Aside from Twitter and tumblr, I'm probably going to become very inactive online. I think this is a good thing, as I waste enough time online as is and maybe clearing my plate of a few things can help me do what's important...AKA, writing and reading. I'm spending so much of my free time browsing the internet (and I realize I'm using it as a distraction) that I'm squeezing in time to read and write reviews. Since Nano means I have to get writing done, I'm going to have to cut off my distractions. The good news? After November, I should be more prolific with my reading and reviewing if I'm wasting less of my time online.

So that's what to expect in the month to come. I hope you'll be patient with me!


404: Review Not Found

I bet you were expecting a review. So was I!

Earlier this month, I had plans of grandeur, where I posted a review every Sunday and Wednesday, and then posted a review or other content on
Friday. It seemed like a good idea.

It wasn't.

For the last few weeks I've been doing just that, trying to post three times a week, often with reviews. I felt stressed abou

t it, and not really too inspired, but I was getting it done. Woo! I was psyched.

And then I started reading Moonlight, Tiger and Smoke, and I felt...uninspired. so halfway through I set it down and picked up City Falcon. And because it had a generally easier story to get into, I finished it. But I realized that I was dissatisfied, and it wasn't necessarily with the book. Because I felt obligated to read, I wasn't enjoying. I wasn't letting the book offer itself to me, I was demanding it show me its best. Doing this wasn't putting me in the right frame of mind for reading, nor for reviewing. I feel like some of my recent reviews weren't very good and I apologize. I'm not saying they are gonna be awesome to come, but hopefully just working at my own pace will help me settle down.

Also, I planned to post this on Friday, but I'm here now...

A Note About November

November is Nanowrimo (that's National Novel Writing Month...you can see why everyone just calls is Nano), and I'll be participating again this year (I won in 2009 and used last year's Nano to do editing on 2009's project). The goal of Nano is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, which is 1,667 words a day, which for some authors is no problem, but for me is kind of a big deal. (We'll blame poor time management and the inability to stay focused...on pretty much anything.)

This means two things:

1. My time is going to become rather regimented. Less time online and more time writing (and running, which helps me clear my head). It also means less time reading (except for Counterpunch, which comes out Nov. 4). Less time reading means fewer reviews being posted. You see where I'm going with this? I still may read some, and may post some movie reviews, but November may be rather sparse.

2. Aside from Twitter and tumblr, I'm probably going to become very inactive online. I think this is a good thing, as I waste enough time online as is and maybe clearing my plate of a few things can help me do what's important...AKA, writing and reading. I'm spending so much of my free time browsing the internet (and I realize I'm using it as a distraction) that I'm squeezing in time to read and write reviews. Since Nano means I have to get writing done, I'm going to have to cut off my distractions. The good news? After November, I should be more prolific with my reading and reviewing if I'm wasting less of my time online.

So that's what to expect in the month to come. I hope you'll be patient with me!

Here's a sexy picture to make up for it.


See anything good lately?

29th & Gay - As he approaches the dreaded age of 30, James Sanchez (James Vasquez) -- an out-of-work actor with thinning hair, a growing stack of bills and, worst of all, no boyfriend -- is beginning to believe that life has passed him by. This engaging indie comedy chronicles a year in the life of the perpetual odd-man-out as he tries to find his niche with help from his two best friends, Roxy (Nicole Marcks) and Brandon (David McBean).

(rent) I originally had this as meh/rent, but it might be worth a watch. It's very much a coming-of-age film for the soon-to-be-30 set (Oh, shit, that's me!). Parts of it hit too close to home for me, because I'm in similar shoes, but other parts seemed a little silly/stupid, and it suffered for the acting, which was not riveting. Definitely worth a watch if you're in that age and struggling with what you're getting out of life and are patient with small-production movies :)

Under One Roof - Daniel Chang is a closeted Chinese-American boy living in San Francisco with his traditional mother. Eager for a grandchild, Mrs. Chang desperately wants to see Daniel married and devotes much of her time to finding a suitable Chinese girl for him. But when she recruits a new tenant, Robert, for the downstairs flat, Daniel finds himself falling for the hot Southern boy -- not the kind of match his mother was hoping for!

(rent) This was a cute, OK movie that didn't repulse me, but didn't really snag me either. Some scenes are strong, but they are equally balanced out by awkward scenes. There is some humor, romance and angst, but nothing really grabbed my emotions and took me with it, nor was I particularly attached to any of the characters. It was very much a classic M/M romance for the screen.

Apart From Hugh - A gay couple drives straight into relationship road bumps in this bittersweet love story. Set in a small town in the American northwest, the tale follows Hugh (Steve Arnold) as he eagerly plans a party for his one-year anniversary with Collin (David Merwin), who's simultaneously reevaluating whether he's really ready for a committed relationship. Jennifer Reed also stars.

(unfinished) I couldn't finish this story. It may have been good by the end, but a glance at some of the reviews on Netflix tells me this probably isn't so. Although made in 1994, it's produced like an old flick in black and white with shoddy sound, none of which bothered me. The acting wasn't too bad, although the script was and the story didn't seem to be going anywhere. When the lead female started tearing up grass to feed cows, I gave up. If you're into French-esque, movies that are more poetry than plot, this might be good for you, but definitely rent it first.

X-Men: First Class - In this exciting prequel to the X-Men series, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) -- the future Professor X and Magneto -- are best friends dedicated to harnessing their powers and promoting the education of fellow mutants during the turbulent 1960s. The duo works together to stop a powerful adversary that threatens mankind, but their ideological differences drive them apart and turn them into ferocious enemies.

(buy) While this should have perhaps been called "A Mutant Affair," it was a well-done (if not slightly un-canon) interpretation of Charles and Erik's coming together and inevitable break up. As long as you don't look too far outside the movie (not even to the other movies in the "series"), then you won't see anything too terribly wrong. If you're a hardcore X-Men fan...well, I'd still see it, but pretend it's not an X-Men movie. Before seeing it, I'd heard lots about the homoerotic subtext, but watching it, I didn't really see it...until Charles breaks up with Erik for a woman his moral decisions. Actually, he did mostly break up with Erik about moral stuff, because the amount of romance between Charles and Moira was very limited. I only joke about this film so much because it is well done and very enjoyable, as long as you don't care about canon storyline. The actors were brilliant and the plot was well done (for what it's worth). And then Magneto puts on his silly outfit and I giggled the rest of the movie.

BearCity - As he comes to grips with his undeniable attraction to big, hairy men and adjusts to his new roomies, cute cub Tyler (Joe Conti) struggles to figure out his place within the tight-knit bear community, gain acceptance from his old friends and find fuzzy love. Full of hot hookups and hilarious mishaps, this quirky romantic comedy co-stars Gerald McCullouch as Roger, the stud who catches Tyler's eye.

(rent/buy) I'm not really into bears or bear culture (whatever that means), so a movie all about bears isn't really up my alley. However, this was an adorable, fun movie that was totally worth watching. While it's not something I'd probably rewatch (even though I really enjoyed it by the end), I could see other people really enjoying it. It had a pretty good plot, three sets of men who are in different places in their relationships (or lack there of). Conti and McCullouch had a nice dynamic, and there are limited sex scenes, although there are many shirtless bears walking around during the movie. Definitely worth a watch.


Stars in My Eyes

One day, while browsing through books I'd read and pondering a re-read, I noticed something a little...off. While my 4 and 5 star reads were pretty consistent, I noticed 3 stars tended to run the gamut from books that were "Ok" to books that had positives but I'd never read again. Obviously these reviews have taken place over a stretch of time and my review approach has changed. I'd like to think I'm more consistent with my reviews now than I was, but to truly be consistent, I'm going to write up a general guideline for when a book falls into a star category. In addition to be listed here, it will be saved on a sidebar.

Star rating system as of November 2011:

1 star - A work with minimal or no positive qualities, a 1-star rating indicates that I had to struggle hard to finish it and most likely skimmed large portions. Would probably be considered "did not finish" if I ever didn't finish books!

2 stars - Works earn 2 stars when they have strong points, but those are outweighed by the weaknesses. May involve skimming sections, lack of interest in characters/plot, or bad writing. Would not re-read.

3 stars - A work with good points and bad points that didn't particularly impress me, but was overall enjoyable. While not high on my list, would potentially re-read.

4 stars - Strong works with a one or two flaws normally earns 4 stars. The flaws normally fall into the "It didn't grab me" category, although pacing, singular unbelievable events, or other weaknesses will bump it down as well.

5 stars - Perfect or practically perfect, a work with this star rating not only earns strong marks in writing, plot, and characters, it also is emotionally moving. Minor weaknesses due to preference, minor pet peeves, or other inconsequentials are permitted if few in number.

I think the main differences will appear in the 2 and 3 star ratings. I always tended to not give out many scores below 3 stars, but I think that's unfair to the higher end 3 stars. Hopefully the review itself will clarify the rating. Also, hopefully this will allow me to be more consistent with my star usage!


Crying for the Moon by Sarah Madison

Crying for the Moon by Sarah Madison
Stars: 5/5

Length: 210 pages
Vampire Alexei Novik may have the teeth and the coffin, but he’s given up the lifestyle for an old fixer-upper in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Weary of his past, Alex plans to keep to himself, but it seems his sexy, new neighbor, Tate, can’t take the hint—a good thing, since it turns out he’s handy for all kinds of things around the house. Tate even gets along with Alex’s werewolf friends, though one of them pointedly reminds Alex that their friendship is a bad idea.

If a platonic relationship is a bad idea, the growing attraction between Tate and Alex is a disaster waiting to happen. Loving Tate will draw him into Alex’s dangerous world, and Alex is torn between having the relationship he’s always craved and keeping Tate safe. Tate won’t take no for an answer, however, and seems to handle everything Alex can throw at him without blinking. Just when he thinks things might turn out all right after all, Alex’s past catches up with him—forcing him to make a terrible choice.

This novel utilizes all the qualities that make vampire novels great--but also has fun with it. The characters are hilarious, caring, and loyal; the sex is hot; and the plot is well fleshed out. Even though most of the action doesn't happen until the last 20%, the story never drags as each chapter develops characters and cultural history. For those who are familiar with vampire and werewolf lore, you'll appreciate the nods of recognition to some of the standards, while also finding a few new twists.

Set in the modern world, there is very little development that needs to be done on that end, but Madison took vampire and werewolf lore and tweaked it just enough to make it her own. The info wasn't dumped on the reader all at once, except for a single instance and that wasn't even dumped, but worked into dialogue. The nuances in the cultures and the world creation felt believable and well done, but most of all, it took something that has been rehashed and made it feel fresh.

This story contains a very limited cast (no more than 10 people total), but the main six are constantly on screen and moving around. The skill with which the characters are handled is excellent, and their unique personalities all shine through. Each is an individual that adds a different dynamic to what's happening in the story, sometimes to Alex's chagrin. Fun, oddly human, characters.

While initially there doesn't seem to be much plot, everything is building toward the final climatic scene with purpose. The hints and allusions are invoked to lure the reader into wanting to know more, without being obtuse and ignoring facts or questions that the characters in the story would know or ask. In addition, while main climax is slowly being built, other tiny events happen, some of which are dramatic (an attack) and some of which are just people living in close quarters and newly falling in love. The varied events and happenings create a well-paced piece.

If I were pinpoint one weakness, it's definitely that the end happens quickly and a few points are brought up without being resolved, possibly for future sequels, or possibly because life doesn't always give us all the answers. However, I didn't feel shorted by the end or the information given either, I just want to know More! More! More!, which I count as a good thing, even though I put it under weakness.

Requested this book for review.


Bullied by Jeff Erno

Bullied by Jeff Erno
Stars: 5/5

Length: 158 pages
Every day, all over the country, teenagers struggle with the realities of bullying. Tormented, ridiculed, and beaten—simply for being who they are—these teens face alienation, humiliation, and even the explicit assertion that they have somehow brought this upon themselves, that they should just blend in. Bullied is a series of short stories exploring the world of these teens from several different viewpoints: the victim, the bully, the gay bystander, the straight friend, the concerned parent.

Closeted Bryan wonders why Christian Michaelson doesn't just try to blend in if he hates being bullied so much. Star athlete David isn't a homophobe—after all, he's not afraid of anything. Jonathan, a Christian fundamentalist, must weigh the Bible against peer pressure and what he knows is right when he discovers his childhood friend is gay. Bully victim Chase Devereaux finds an unexpected ally in a brave fellow student. A single mom struggles to accept the reality that her only son is gay. Two tough gay teens are forced to confront their own inner demons when tragedy befalls a classmate they failed to help. And overweight Kirby finds the strength of character to make a friend, which leads to a lifestyle change and a chance at love. Each character grows as an individual as he or she comes to terms with what it means to be a gay teenager in America.

Let me start of with a warning: This book is written with a purpose, an agenda, and a message to get across. If you didn't know about all that from the name of the book or the blurb, then the Letter from the White House and the Introduction would give it away. If you somehow started reading without getting this point, then the amount of anti-bullying might surprise you, but really you have no one to blame but yourself.

Aside from the obvious agenda and one story, which seemed weaker than the others, I have nothing but praise for this book. It's heartfelt, saddening, and hopeful. It made me want to make a difference in the world, or at least my part of it. It made me want to support my friends instead of teasing and mocking, which comes so easily. True, its messages read like an after-school special (but with better characters, plot, dialogue, and acting), but it's not trying to hide that. I'd recommend this to most everyone, but especially saps. Saps will love this. I should know.

Blending In
A sweet story about a closeted gay student who watches horrible bullying happen to a flamboyant gay student and learns how important it is to stand up against bullying. Short, meaningful, and beautifully done. It was touching.

This story feels unique because it takes the point of view of the bully and not the victim. It gives a good look into the head of the bully and what drives him, and also the potential for change. While the transformation happened quickly (obviously working within a limited space), it was well handled and believable.

While this story was heavily religious, I liked that it didn't use religious beliefs as the catalyst for the bullying. Instead, people were the cause, whether they came from an uber religious background or not. Another touching story of overcoming bigoted beliefs and of standing up for a person--and for yourself.

While all stories of bullying are sad, this one was truly heartbreaking in its brutal honesty. It touches upon herd/peer dynamics and the fear of being "associated" with the outsider, no matter what that outsider is. The hardest part is almost everyone will know there was a time when they didn't stand up for someone who needed it.

A touching story of a kid who is coping with being bullied--until it escalates to public humiliation. As he tries to "man up" and "tough it out," he really just wants to be left alone and stay invisible. To live his life. The character is so real--so like any other kid--that it makes his story all the more moving. The show of his strength and the necessity of an outside force to help him, is extremely telling of everyone.

Taken from the perspective of a mother, I didn't find this story as emotionally moving, but older readers--and readers with children--may be able to better relate. It was well done, even if you want to smack the mother around (which is the point).

Poor Kirby. Fat and gay. But this story is nice because it really makes something other than sexuality the central focus of the bullying, although it's still important. Obviously obesity (which is a childhood epidemic now, according to experts) is a major issue, both for health and psychological reasons. While I encourage people to get fit, I think this story points out the important differences in getting fit because it's expected of you and getting fit because you want to. Being pressured into getting skinny isn't going to work, in most cases. It has to be something the person really wants.

Requested this book for review.


From Riptide Publishing

From Riptide Publishing

Meet Riptide’s First Wave Treasure Hunt

$50 All Romance Ebooks gift certificate - Join us for an interesting harvesting of pearls (of wisdom). Get to know our First Wave Authors and their work.

The first is Meet Our First Wave. You'll be digging up pearls of wisdom, answers to questions about our authors, their work as well as tidbits about our staff.

Register now. Registration ends on 21st at midnight. Send your name and email addy to:hunt@riptidepublishing.com

This email address is for registrations, ONLY. If you have questions, please send them to:chris@riptidepublishing.com

The hunt will begin on October 24th and will end on October 30 at midnight.

On the morning of October 24, before 9 am Eastern Time, all registrants will receive their Treasure Map, instructions, and a list of questions to be answered. All questions must be answered to qualify to win.

The winner will be chosen from all the correct entries, and their name will be announced on November 1 in our newsletter, on our Party Page, on Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook, as well being notified by email. The winner will be selected from all the correct entries.

Open to everyone, but you must register to play.

The winner will get a $50 All Romance Ebooks gift certificate.


By Any Other Name by Tia Fielding

By Any Other Name by Tia Fielding
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 200 pages
Dru and Thom have been together for three years, and despite Thom’s occasional bouts of insecurity and Dru’s fear of rejection, their relationship is rock solid. Then Dru’s long-lost friend, Skye, suddenly reappears, shocking them both. Skye suffered years of inconceivable abuse before escaping it, and while he’s back on track, he has nowhere else to go as he begins to rebuild his life.

Dru, Thom, and Skye each want to belong somewhere, to belong with someone—or someones—with no fear of being hurt, set aside, or left behind. It’s a challenge with daunting odds, especially for Skye, who’s never loved before. He’s determined not to come between his two friends who so clearly belong together, and it will be up to Dru and Thom to conquer their fears and convince Skye to stay.

Although a well-done threesome is something I love to read, I'm always hesitant to read one, because well-done threesomes happen so rarely. However, I liked the dynamic the blurb hinted at, so I gave it a chance. After reading the first few chapters, I wasn't incredibly taken with the writing. It was okay, but a little stiff overall and the flow was sometimes unnatural. However, the story and the characters kept me going and as the three men struggle to find balance in their lives, I wanted to know how everything ended up--even if the genre gave me a good idea of how it would be.

In a strange way, even though I wasn't in love with this novel, I really enjoyed it. It was a tad slow moving in order to provide adequate character development, the writing was so-so, but the characters are all highly enjoyable, including minor/side characters. I'd definitely recommend this to people who like reading about threesomes. There are a lot of psychological and emotional issues mentioned in this book, and they all play a pivotal role, however, because there is so much and three characters (instead of two), the psychological elements don't get as much development as I like. They still are important, and are well utilized, but the story doesn't focus too heavily on the psychological issues.

The way the author handled/created the threesome worked wonderfully. Obviously this is something that is easy to screw up, but it was handled in a reasonable way that felt natural for the people involved. I also appreciated that the author recognized the challenges having a threesome relationship could potentially cause in society, but didn't let that distract from the main focus of the story.

The characters are all sweet and wonderful, despite their weaknesses and failings. Sometimes they seem to get along too well (because we all know how often arguments happen in a two-person couple), but it's easily forgiven since so many other obstacles stand in their way. Despite some of the grim topics, this is a happy book with overall happy characters who want to help one another, not hurt one another, and find their happiness.

There is an adorable epilogue that I wasn't expecting and, honestly, it comes out of the blue a little, but it's cute, funny and a nice way to end the book (and almost pushed the score to 4).

The writing was the weakest part of the novel, and even that wasn't unbearable, just slightly stiff. However, that, in combination with an overall placid plot, left me mostly uninvolved with the story. It was enjoyable but not captivating, and sadly kept the story from earning a higher score.

There was a slight jump in Skye's capability to perform sexually, which, while it made for a pretty hot scene, didn't feel realistic.

Requested this book for review.


Other Side of Night: Bastian and Riley by SL Armstrong and K Piet

Other Side of Night: Bastian and Riley by SL Armstrong and K Piet
Stars: 3.5/5

Length: 47,000 words
Vampires walk among us. For centuries, they have adapted, learning to pass undetected in our world. They no longer fear the day, only the sting of direct sunlight. They are students, bankers, lawyers, and even actors. But when the sun goes down, they are all united by their eternal thirst. We do not see them from our safe and comfortable side of the night. But sometimes, one of us is drawn away from the light and we cross into their world. Into the other side of night.

Sebastian Rossi's second year at the University of Tennessee began much differently than his first. He rushes to and from his classes, covered head to toe in thick clothing. Parties are a thing of the past, and dating hasn't been high on his list of priorities. No, high on his needs is blood. Lots of it. Adjusting to the changes no one even told him would happen following one great night of partying and sex has been hell for Bastian, but he's managing.

Riley Lynch's dream is to be a veterinarian. He works hard to pay his tuition, reads in every spare moment, and tries to forget the nightmare of his sophomore year. Summer has washed away all the bad, leaving him refreshed and eager for his junior year at UT. Life is finally looking up for him, and he has no intention of sliding back down into the depression that had consumed him during his last relationship.

A chance meeting brings their two worlds into alignment and passion sparks between them. When Riley learns of the changes Bastian is going through, he has a choice to make: walk away or embrace the night.

This story takes place in a traditional vampire world with a very different sort of vampire as the focus. Instead of the sexy, suave vampire, we are given as our lead vampire an average college student who has to figure out this new world on his own. Although the majority of the premise isn't earth shattering, the writing and story telling is excellent, and the authors delve into less common vampire lore, which is refreshing.

I would recommend this book for people who love reading vampire novels and are willing to give something a little different a chance. Also a good read for people who like contemporary romances, as long as they don't mind a little of the fantastical thrown in. While not an exceptional novel, it was an enjoyable read--perfect for the beach or curling up with on a lazy weekend.

A fun combination of classic vampires and college students who are just trying to be college students--nothing mysterious.

The characters are cute and it was interesting watching them work through their struggles together. Riley, who protects his heart due to a previous relationship's experiences, seems to be the perfect, patient boyfriend until he becomes (understandably) a bit of a hypocrite. I loved how Riley deals with things by putting them in boxes and how facing what Bastian is forces him to come to terms the difficulties he had in his previous relationship. Bastian, on the other hand, struggles to deal with what he is, and feels like he never does anything right. Overall, his reaction to becoming a vampire and how he handles everything felt realistic.

The authors took the time to explore the progression of Bastian's vampirism. Nothing was gory, but there were some nice details added, especially the transformation of the fangs. I found the authors' treatment of the creation of vampires to be good, going into some details without boring the reader with too much info about a topic almost everyone is familiar with.

While this was an enjoyable read, the story and world weren't very unique. For some this may be considered a positive, as the world complies to the standard vampire existence, but it definitely isn't the strongest part. Points off for creativity in that element. This is probably shown most in the character of Havva, who plays the controlling, powerful, and sneaky ruling vampire. Some may see her as everything a vampire should be, but I felt she was a touch cliche and found her arch of the story involving her to be the slowest moving.

Received this book for review.


If It Ain't Love by Tamara Allen

If It Ain't Love by Tamara Allen
Stars: 5/5

Length: 18,000 words
In the darkest days of the Great Depression, New York Times reporter Whit Stoddard has lost the heart to do his job and lives a lonely hand-to-mouth existence with little hope of recovery, until he meets Peter, a man in even greater need of new hope.

This is a beautifully written piece that follows the struggles of two men during the Great Depression and the hope that can be found in the most desperate of times. I don't have a single thing to mark off against this story. It was moving and well written, and I loved the characters, but it didn't make me feel like I was shorted (as many short stories do). It ended when it needed to. It painted the time period, surroundings, and characters superbly, giving enough to let the reader see without cluttering the pages.


A Solid Core of Alpha by Amy Lane

A Solid Core of Alpha by Amy Lane
Stars: 4.5/5

Length: 100,000+ words
In an act of heroism and self-sacrifice, Anderson Rawn's sister saved him from the destruction of their tiny mining colony, but her actions condemned the thirteen-year-old to ten years of crushing loneliness on the hyperspace journey to a new home. Using electronics and desperation, Anderson creates a family to keep him company, but family isn't always a blessing.

When Anderson finally arrives, C.J. Poulson greets him with curiosity and awe, because anyone who can survive a holocaust and reinvent holo-science is going to be a legend and right up C.J.'s alley. But the more C.J. investigates how Anderson endured the last ten years, the deeper he is drawn into a truly dangerous fantasy, one that offers the key to Anderson's salvation—and his destruction.

In spite of his best intentions, C.J. can’t resist the terribly seductive Anderson. Their attraction threatens to destroy them, because the heart of a man who can survive the destruction of his people and retain his sense of self holds a solid core of alpha male that will not be denied.

While I really, thoroughly, enjoyed this novel, it feels like nothing I've read before. While a romance was definitely central to the story, there was so much else going on. The psychological and emotional issues the two main characters need to work through and overcome are the main focus of at least the first three-quarters of the book. While Anderson has spent ten years alone on a ship with only his self-created holograms to interact with, C.J. has issues of his own involving commitment and a fear of taking on responsibility. But what Anderson needs most is stability, and C.J. is there for him, although all his friends and family warn him that Anderson is going to hurt him.

This is an emotionally moving book, but the hurt doesn't hit all at once. Instead of a sharp stab for a chapter or two like most books, this one spreads the pain over a good portion of the last quarter. It's not overly angsty or woe-is-me, though. It's an honest ache as the characters struggle to deal with heavy-duty challenges. In many hands this novel would have been terrible, but in Lane's it flourished, making the reader question what is real, but never questioning if love can help us heal. (Gee, am I much of a sap?)

Usually after reading a book, I know what I'm going to write for the review, or at least have an idea. After finishing this novel, my mind went blank and all the voices went quiet...

The story is amazing, like one of those "you won't believe they survived" tales they show on (bad) television. Erm, except this isn't bad television, but great story telling. Lane handled all the characters extremely well, especially considering the delicacy of the situation. Anderson was an inventive and interesting character who didn't go the way I expected him to and I was still pleased with what Lane decided to do with him. She put the necessary thought and consideration into many minor and major elements that would effect the characters, especially Anderson, both psychologically and world-building wise. I enjoyed the romantic parts of the book, but it was interesting just to watch Anderson's progression from the first page to the last.

The writing, as I mentioned, was excellent. If it weren't for the strength of the writing, I don't think this novel would have been nearly as enjoyable, or perhaps even bearable. The author was able to bring the story and the characters to life, which was vital for this telling.

The characters were a colorful bunch who all wanted to be helpful, but were still very human with their quirks and weaknesses, which made their place in the story all the more real and made them interesting counterparts to the holograms.

The only weakness of this novel, and it may not be a weakness upon re-reading, is that while I loved the characters, I was involved in their struggles and aches, I never fell so deep in their headspace that I lost myself. It was an amazingly well-done story, but I think the events were so outside my brain's capacity to relate that I had difficulty connecting. Or else I wanted it to be more angsty, I'm not sure. I look forward to re-reading it and trying to let myself sink into the characters more.

Requested this book for review.


Suite Nineteen by Mel Bossa

Suite Nineteen by Mel Bossa
Stars: 3/5

Drawn by the promise of change, young medium Ben Lebeau, moves to the big city, into the Shilts Manor—an old textile factory turned trendy loft space. There he meets seductive Lennox Van Kemp and his clan of Métis—guardians of the oldest lie. Ben is pulled into Van Kemp's emotional circle, finally sating his most secret desires.

Against Ven Kemp's warnings, Ben befriends his neighbor Ezra Collins—a scarred man who has taken a vow of celibacy. As Ben tries to get closer to Ezra and earn his trust, he also struggles to escape Van Kemp's psychological grip on him. The harder Ben falls for Ezra, the more he suffers from hallucinations and memory losses. Soon, the Manor's walls begin to close in on him and Ben must rely on his psychic abilities to survive the assault on his mind.

As Ben and Ezra unravel Van Kemp's plans, they expose a spiritual conspiracy dating back to Christ—a conspiracy that will shake their very world and restore their Faith in humanity.

Although I think this novel would have been better off in movie form, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting from the few reviews I glanced at on GoodReads. While it wasn't fantastic, it wasn't terrible either. It was very unique and definitely was striving to try something new and different, which I have to applaud. For the most part the reader and the narrator are both completely confused and lost, which makes the first 60% of the novel difficult to sink into, but around that point everything starts to get explained and plenty of action happens.

People who like psychological thrillers may enjoy this book, as it's very heavily entrenched in the style of the reader and narrator not knowing what's going on and trying to reveal the answers. There's also plenty of fantastical elements in this grim story. It's not a book I'd recommend to most people, as the plot took a long time to develop, the writing was okay (not bad, but not enough to grab me either), and it's a very strange story. But I only struggled through one part, so it wasn't too bad. I wasn't terribly in love with the characters, and while I was interested in what was happening, it seemed to take too long to get around to it. Overall, I felt very blase about this book.

I don't think I can split this review evenly into Strengths and Weaknesses, so because the novel was different, I'm going to review it differently. Warning: Due to the nature of this book, I'm going to try not to hit any spoilers, but some small things may get through.

Ben is not an ideal hero and is an unreliable narrator because we spend over half the novel questioning if he's sane or not. He's struggling to start his life over after leaving his small town, but in addition to dealing with his psychic powers, he doesn't have a job and DOES have very strange neighbors, who he hasn't really met. Initially, Ben doesn't trust some of his neighbors, as he gets a very bad vibe from them, but later gives only the barest of resistence before falling into bed with them. His erratic behavior doesn't help the reader decide if he's sane or not, and even if he is sane, it leads us to question some other things about him and his decision to associate with people that he doesn't trust. I had a difficult time buying it, although some of it is explained by Ben's strained psyche and his confusion. I feel like the story was supposed to come across as him being manipulated, but it came across more that he was just being kind of stupid.

Not to say he wasn't being manipulated, because obviously large chunks of the story depend (rightly) on people lying to him constantly. Some parts of the manipulation were well done, it was just the initial switch from "bad vibe" to "hey, she's hot" that felt off to me. Speaking of which, Ben is bisexual, so floats between male and female lovers, although no sex is described on screen.

One of the most difficult elements of this book to get around is the mass confusion that the reader experiences through Ben. Because Ben can't tell what's real/true, neither can the reader, making for a very long beginning as the reader is dragged through events while Ben (often) makes poor decisions. Of course, the second half of the book goes a long way to explaining the first half, although it also raised some more questions, for me at least.

Having said all of that, this story does take the reader on quite the ride, from absolute confusion to mostly understanding which transforms into an action-y story. The characters are dark and are not people you'd typically want to become friends with, not even our lead narrator who is, overall, a good guy.

The worst part of the novel is when things start to be explained. The problem is that it gets explained all at once in an info dump like no other, where the reader finds out all sorts of supernatural stuff that was minimally hinted at before. Not only is all the information thrown at the reader at once, but it makes the first half of the story and the second half of the story feel like two different beasts. While I can see the need for the confusion in the beginning and the explanation, I didn't feel like they were well handled. A different approach to reach the same ending probably would have made this a very enjoyable story instead of a mediocre read.

There were creative elements of this novel that I really enjoyed, and some world building that I felt, if approached in a differently would have created a dark and interesting world. The struggle for sanity and reality was interesting, as was the fight for the self. However, the story didn't feel realized, and while I finished it, and enjoyed it for the most part, I can see most readers giving up on what is a difficult book to get through with varying levels of reward.

Requested this book for review.


Introducing Riptide Publishing

I try not to do too much promotional stuff here, as this is a place to learn about books and my opinions on them (and share yours, if you'd like!). But some authors I really enjoy and respect have created a publishing company in order to right some wrongs (or add another list on their long list of things to keep them occupied). The great thing is that the authors and the readers will benefit from this, as far as I can tell. Plus, the cover images are all pretty great (of course, some tastes do vary, but they are really well done) and their author line up is rather impressive.

So they are having a ribbon cutting at Amara's Place. You can also find out their full list of festivies, giveaways, and such on their website. Also, I may just lure an author or two to visit later this year. Below is a list of the festivities that are beginning in October. (And now back to your regular entertainment.)

Riptide Publishing

Blog Tour


October 1-December 31, 2011

Meet Riptide’s First Wave Treasure Hunt - $50 All Romance Ebooks gift certificate - Join us for an interesting harvesting of pearls (of knowledge). Get to know our First Wave Authors and their work.

Register between October 17 and 21st by sending email to: hunt@riptidepublishing.com
The Treasure Hunt will run October 24 - 30. We'll select the winner from all the correct entries.

On October 1, go to our party page at http://www.riptidepublishing.com/grand-opening-party for all the details.

The prize for this hunt is a $50 All Romance Ebooks gift certificate.

Blog Tour Contest - How would you like to start 2012 reading all the great Riptide titles on a brand new iPad? It could very well happen and here’s how.

Check out our blog tour schedule every day between October 1 and December 31. Visit the sites where our authors are guest blogging or being interviewed, and leave a comment. It’s as easy as that.

Each comment earns you one entry in the grand prize drawing for an iPad. Other prizes are a Nook and a Kindle.

To keep things interesting, there will be tons of prizes along the way. Each stop includes prizes of our author’s backlist books, author and Riptide swag and gift certificates galore.

Win Free Books for a Year - Starting October 1, our web store will be open for pre-orders. For each book pre-ordered directly through our site, readers receive one entry into a drawing to win free books for a year! There are second and third prizes, too:

  • First Prize is one free copy of every single ebook Riptide releases in 2012!
  • Second Prize is one free copy of every single ebook Riptide releases between January 1 and June 30, 2012!
  • Third Prize is one free copy of every single ebook Riptide releases between January 1 and March 31, 2012!

That's a lot of free books! We'll draw winners at random right after the New Year, so even books pre-ordered in December will earn entries into the contest. And even those who don't win still get a nifty bonus: pre-ordered books are available for download two full days before their official sale date! Bonus Bucks (http://riptidepublishing.com/faq#t8n25) are earned on every pre-order you place.