Author: Will Parkinson
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Length: 53,637 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Debut Novel, High School, Unrequited Love, Closeted, Best Friends, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Coming Out, Coming of Age, Art/Artists, Sports, Baseball, Athletes, Abuse, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.
Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.
I’m always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I’ve been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I’ve picked up a book from DSP’s young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson’s debut novel. Sometimes it’s a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I’ve never read, but that’s another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that’s worth it. Often, it’s different though and while I like some of those books I also don’t like some of them. I’m afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn’t a total disappointment, I just didn’t connect with the book.
Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They’re best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor’s school. Jackson walks into Taylor’s homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson’s cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can’t seem to stay away.
It isn’t until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he’s less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin’s trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn’t true, about most of the people he knew.
There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn’t something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin’s actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.
As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn’t for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn’t fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author’s view. I’m not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters’ observations and personality and the author’s. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn’t say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn’t seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don’t need all the information. It’s a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.
Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I’ll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I’ve been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!
Posted by Cole in 2 Not Feelin' It, 41-75k, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Abuse, Art, Artists, Athletes, Baseball, Best Friends, Closeted, Coming of Age, Coming Out, Debut Novel, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Harmony Ink Press, High School, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Secrets & Lies, Sports, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Unrequited Love, Will Parkinson
Title: Blood Bathory: Like the Night
Author: Ari McKay
Length: 123,500 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Co-Authored, Vampires, Shifters, On the Lam, Past Trauma/Abuse, Cops (FBI), Friends to Lovers, Best Friends, NYC, Paris, Artists (Photographer), Grief, Second Chances, Sexy to the 999s, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Villain, Mythology
Rating: Really Liked It
Evan St. John, a young fashion photographer running from the pain caused by the death of his younger sister, is thrilled when he is offered a job with House of Nadasdy, a leading fashion house in Paris. What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Nadasdy, the elegant and powerful owner, is a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for collecting beautiful people. To Evan’s horror, he is turned into one of her “children”.
Unable to bear what he has become, Evan flees to New York and to his best friend, police officer Will Trask. For years, Evan has nursed an unrequited love for Will, but he also knows Will is the one person who might be able to help him. As Evan and Will try to deal with Evan’s condition, they are drawn into the world of the theriomorphs: shape-shifters who are guardians of life and the sworn enemies of vampires. Caught in an ancient war between two powerful supernatural forces, Evan and Will find they must choose sides — because if they are to have any chance of a future together, they must destroy Elizabeth Nadasdy before she destroys them.
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted to review this book before I’d even heard of it or read the blurb. So when I finally did read the blurb I was even more exited, especially for such a long book. And finishing it took me a couple of days, mostly just because I wanted to enjoy it, so I spent my time reading it totally for pleasure and enjoying every twist and turn.
Evan St. John and Will Trask have a tumultuous past. Roommates their Freshman year of college at Columbia, they soon grow to be friends. Evan is openly gay and an art photography student, always carrying around his camera, while Will is a manly jock through and through. For reasons that Evan never understands, Will sticks by him and the bullying he was experiencing dwindles when people start to realize that Will will aways have his back. As they grow closer Evan starts to understand Will better, including Will’s White Knight Complex, his need to protect and care for those he loves, to an almost fanatical, save-the-day to-the-rescue level.
Their dynamic changes when Evan’s sister is dying of cancer and their relationship grows during the emotional period — Evan is distraught and barely keeping himself afloat while trying to understand and come to terms with her turn for the worse. And Will picks up the slack, in more ways than expected. But the grief sends Evan running to Paris and three years go by, where Evan becomes a famous fashion photographer taken on by The House of Nadasdy, run by famous and infamous Elizabeth Nadasdy, and Will becomes an agent with the FBI.
We’re first introduced to Evan in Like the Night as he escapes Paris during the day to fly to New York City and seek help from Will. He’s a newly made vampire under the gruesome and tyrannical rule of Elizabeth Nadasdy, a modern day remnant of her famous human days as Elizabeth of Bathory. Above all (except herself), she loves beauty and hoards a collection of “children” all turned by her for their extraordinary beauty, which she believes deserves to be preserved for eternity. Evan was a prize for her, and his rejection of her extraordinary “gift” is tantamount to the ultimate betrayal, something she relishes punishing him for. But Elizabeth doesn’t expect the trouble it will take to find and deal with Evan. With him, someone whose beauty hides his intelligence and cunning, are a group of allies who seek one common goal: the eradication of Elizabeth Nadasdy. And of course Evan has Will, his White Knight, ready to stand in front of any threat to his best friend.
I really just loved this book. I took a while to read it because it is long, but it is also totally packed with plot and, just about everything under the sun, making the book seem even longer than it is. There’s an economy to the writing which gives you SO much story for just the first book of a series that it gave me the time and the opportunity to really sink into the story. What came through in this story most strongly for me was the pervasive mood of fear and impending doom. This is all because of the fact that Elizabeth is built up to such supervillain status that she’s made to be almost omniscient, with unlimited power. Add to this a connection between vampires and their sire, or maker, and the fact that Elizabeth could peek in on Evan at any moment and even make him do things or spy on his relationship with Will, or their planned resistance of her make the story suffused with tension.
I found the villainous characters in this novel to be quite interesting. We have Elizabeth who is the typical diabolical character. She relishes in the pain of others and not only causes death and despair because it gets her something (money, fame, power, etc.) but also because she enjoys the suffering of others. She firmly believes that she’s more worthy than anyone else to have the status that she does because of her beauty and the vision she has for the future. But, sometimes diabolical is boring. No matter how outrageously cruel Elizabeth can be, she’s still a character that doesn’t take too much effort to understand. My favorite villainous character is her daughter Anna, who I suspect will become a crucial and central character to the future books. Anna is raised in the shadow of her diabolical mother. She’s always second best, but raised to revel in the same cruelties as her mother. She’s made a vampire both because of her beauty which is similar to her mother’s, but also as a gift from her. But hundreds of years of oppression make Anna rather different from her mother. Though I suspect that they both have similar depth of cruel possibility inherently in them, Anna’s choices are governed by her hate of her mother and her acceptance that her only meaning to her mother is what she can do for her. That makes her cruel, but much more interesting than her mother. And of course, it’s going to be great when the two really turn on one another 😉
Anyway, I’m super excited for the second book. I hope it isn’t too far away. But honestly, I can’t really be sad because this is the first book in a while (that is the first book of a series) that actually gives us enough story to satisfy us for the first installment. 123k words is pretty long, yes, but it allows the book to give full and adequate world-building while also giving us a real story that will be carried on in the second part. We have a full and self-standing plot with only a few loose ends to pick up in the next book. If this is the case for the next books as well, then I can only imagine where this story will go before it ends!
Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Blood Bathory: Like the Night by Ari McKay. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Tuesday, July 16. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.
Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.
Thank you and good luck!
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 5 Really Like It, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Giveaways, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Ari McKay, Artists, Best Friends, Blood Bathory, Co-Authored, Cops, Friends to Lovers, Grief, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Mythology, NYC, On the Lam, Paris, Past Abuse, Past Trauma, Second Chances, Series, Sexy to the 999's, Shifters, Torquere, Vampire, Villain
Title: Subject 19
Author: Todd Young
Publisher: Self Published
Length: 119,112 words
Genre: m/m & m/m/m (and more) Contemporary Erotica
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often (actual sex), Over and Over (or sexual situations)
Keywords/Tags: First Times, Twinks, Slave/Captive, Kink, Medical Kink, Dub-Con (may be considered Non-Con*), Machiavellian Madmen, an Inappropriate Use of Billiard Balls, this book is like being stuck inside of an Escher painting.
Rating: Um… Pretty Good, I think…
**Beware — there are a few small spoilers in this review**
Joel is young and lonely and a little oversexed. When a thief leaves him naked at the beach, he turns to Sean, a striking, dark-haired stranger for help.
Sean offers Joel a towel, and once they get talking, he tells him all about the Umberto Institute, a medical facility where they’re testing a new aphrodisiac. Sean is signed up for a three week, live-in trial.
A new aphrodisiac? It’s not something Joel really needs. But when Sean tells him they’re paying $4,500, he starts to think.
$4,500 and three weeks with Sean? That’s not an offer he can refuse. But once Joel is in the institute, will he ever get out?
I have read one book by this author before, Corrupted, and to be honest it wasn’t my favorite. It’s erotica, as is this, but it was pretty messed up. I mean, I like to read some messed up, but that one I just couldn’t get into. I didn’t even realize it was the same author until after I bought this, but the intriguing blurb and reviews that I read on Goodreads made this seem like a book that just could not be described or categorized. Well, I’m going to try. It was….. *5 minutes later* oh yeah, sorry, can’t do it.
I’ll just tell you what I think, why don’t I? I loved it! I can’t give this that highest rating, because it isn’t perfect and I didn’t love it, love it. But my reading experience was so unexpected and interesting that I can’t help but recommend this to readers interested in something different and not afraid to take the plunge into one acid trip of a book.
The story starts with our narrator Joel at the beach. He’s 19 and finishing up his first year at college. He’s from a small hometown, raised by his aunt after his parents died in a very religious household. Though she’s very loving (almost too loving), Joel is still having a difficult time separating himself from that ultra-religious upbringing and settling into his new life in a city and at college. But, Joel is pretty strange. Though he’s nice and frankly beautiful, he’s oddly inept at making friends. One year of college down, Joel doesn’t really have any friends at all. They all seem to be attracted to him, like bees to honey for his soft beauty, but none of them stick and Joel wonders if he has nothing inside of him, no reason for anyone to stay. His solitude has fed some of his odd idiosyncrasies. Combined with his abnormally large sexual appetite (he’s even hornier than a typical 19 year old man), these have become secret games that Joel plays — jerking off in public places and casually revealing borderline nudity in public — all of them sexual.
It is during one of these games that Joel meets Sean. Wearing nothing but a skimpy white pair of shorts, Joel decides to take a swim in the ocean at a crowded beach. After beating off in the water, he’s a bit embarrassed that his horniness got him into a situation where he now has to walk in front of all the other beach-goers with a hard on in a see through pair or short shorts. The only thing worse than trying to ignore the stares is finding all of his belongings gone — his money, his phone and his extra clothes. Fleeing to the showers, he meets and has an encounter with a beautiful, curly haired guy named Sean, who then offers him the use of his home, phone and shower. While there, Sean tells Joel about a medical study he’s going to participate in. It is only three weeks long, pays $4,500 and is for young men who are abnormally horny. Even better, Joel is excited at the chance to maybe get to know Sean better, and a three week period stuck in the same situation sounds wonderful to him. The other alternative is his return to live with his aunt for the summer.
Joel quickly makes the decision to participate in the study and goes for the requisite tests. A lot happens during this time. He has his first sexual experience with a strange man down the hall from his dorm, he gets blown off by Sean when he wants to see him again, and he finds that though the tests were a little strange, the contact for the study seems on the up and up. Still, he has a strange feeling about it. But getting another chance to see Sean easily sways his decision, and Joel finds himself showing up for the first day of the study to find Sean and the strange man who he was intimate with in his dorm just a few days earlier.
The subjects in the study soon find that what they expected is nothing like reality in the institute. They’re being given medicine that is supposed to increase their sex drives, but it has a stronger effect than expected, and a laundry list of side effects. Really, really severe side effects. Are all of them even being given the drug? While they get to know one another and the conditions of their drug trial seem to affect their behavior, among other things, they soon become like pawns in a game, for a mysterious man’s amusement. Or is that the case at all? And whom is really on whose side? Does Sean return Joel’s feelings?
First of all, though this is erotica and at times I was worried because it started to get kinda dark, it does have a happy ending. It’s really hard to review this book, because it’s so strangely weird I just want to tell you all what happens. I can’t do that (unless you want me to and in that case email me, I’ll spill!), but I can tell you that this went to places I never expected. And there is a relationship here, several of them in fact with all of the different characters who are subjects in the study, they just aren’t the main focus of the story. So while there are parts that are…. somewhat romantic, it isn’t really a romance. In the same vein, though, it isn’t the typical erotica that you’d expect. For most of the book, there isn’t really penetrative sex, and most of the times that it does happen on screen, it isn’t with Joel, our narrator. Most of all it’s just highly sexual and with a lot of sexual tension.
In the end I was really glad that I read this. It was a trip, for sure, and it was a nice change from the status quo of reading romance books. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure, but if you are at all interested then I say go for it. I couldn’t put it down, mostly just because I couldn’t wait to find out how more outrageous it could get!
*Note: I added the dub-con/non-con/rape tag because there are instances in the book where people have sex with drugged up people, and some people who are out of it. Usually they’re under some kind of influence themselves, if not mind-altering then behavioral. It didn’t really bother me and I found the situation (one specific one I’m thinking of for this tag) to be more in line with dub-con. But that’s semantics, really.
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors V-Z, Contemporary, Erotica, Heat 5 - Off the Charts!, m/m/m Polyamorous, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often, Sex Freq 5 - Over and Over Again! Tags: Captive/Slave, Dub/Non-Con, First Times, Kink, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Medical Kink, Self Published, Todd Young, Twinks
Title: Miles Cross
Author: Rachelle Cochran
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 50k words
Genre: m/m Historical Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Fae, Enemies, Slave/Captive (not sexual), Machiavellian Bad Guy
Rating: Really Liked It
On the way to visit his uncle, Lord Ciarnán McKay and his guards are attacked. In search of assistance, he finds his way to Oakwood Manor, where he meets the mysterious Leannán Roxbrough. Immediately drawn to Leannán, but unable to linger as he would like, Ciarnán takes his leave with a promise that he will return.
Upon his return however, Leannán immediately turns him away…
To be honest, I wasn’t going to read and review this book, but I decided to try it out anyway. i think this is the longest thing I’ve read by this author and definitely the first thing in a long time, at least over a year. So I was curious. I was at first … nervous, shall we say. I knew this was going to be tale of the fae from the beginning of the story and as it unfolded and I started to see a rather cruel side of the fae I wasn’t sure whether this would be to my taste or not. I’ve learned over the years that while I love stories of the faerie, I’m not a big fan of them when
they only show a cruel and terrible side of them with no redeeming qualities. I prefer, instead, a lighter side. But, in the end, I was very happy with this story and I enjoyed reading it very much. I even stayed up through the night to finish instead of waiting until the next day.
Ciarnán McKay is in route to visit his sick uncle when his party is attacked. All his guards are killed and he barely makes it away by the swiftness of his horse. His flight leads him to a manor very like his own. They quickly shelter him and nurse him back to his proper state. While there, he becomes friendly with the family — the two brothers, Lord Tiernan Roxbrough and his younger brother Leannán Roxbrough. The situation at Oakwood Manor seems a bit strange, but Ciarnán quickly learns that the brothers’ parents died the year before, leaving Tiernan the Lord of the estate as the oldest and their sister, the middle child, already married and moved away. The strange vibes come from Mr. Boyle, the steward and friend to the late Lord Roxbrough. He seems displeased by many things, but the brothers assure Ciarnán that he was once a disciplinarian to them like their father and old habits die hard. Tiernan leaves quickly after Ciarnán arrives to visit his intended wife, and in the week that Ciarnán has delayed his visit to his uncle, he and Leannán become close, both of them recognizing the attraction to the other. But their days of walks into the woods and picnics under the trees on the estate (as well as a few shy kisses) must be put aside so Ciarnán can finish his intended trip. Leannán asks him to stop by for another visit on his return.
A month later Ciarnán returns to Oakwood Manor, but finds a very different scene than the one he left. Tiernan is still gone, leaving Leannán with Mr. Boyle. Leannán has changed, however, and urges Ciarnán to leave and never return… that no matter their feelings it is the best choice for all, no matter how obviously difficult it is for Leannán to turn Ciarnán away. But when he leaves, Ciarnán can’t seem to stay away. When he hears rumors about the strange fae happenings at Oakwood Manor at a small inn not far away, he returns not knowing what he’ll say to get Leannán to reconsider. Instead, he finds Mr. Boyle talking to a beautiful and strange man with wings, and learns the truth of the whole situation: that Leannán is one in a long tradition of lords from Oakwood Manor who are required to pay the tithe. His sacrifice will ensure protection for his family and replenish the fae in a seven year cycle of renewal. By not leaving as he should, Ciarnán is taken prisoner under the hill to work as a servant for the cruel fae queen, where he’ll be released after the sacrifice of Leannán. No matter how much he tries and how many friends he makes among the fae, there’s no escape. And now that Leannán and Ciarnán have more time together, even if it is borrowed time, they’ll make the most if it, falling further in love.
I mentioned earlier that I have a difficult time reading books with really cruel fae characters in a situation like this, where the characters are being held captive by them. So I was really pleased to see a well balanced representation of the faerie characters. The queen is quite Machiavellian, but she’s really the only one that is shown as cruel. The others range from remote and aloof to Ciarnán to friendly and sympathetic and we get to see Ciarnán spend much more time with these characters. Most of the story takes place under the hill, while the two are held captive. I also thought that the relationship between Ciarnán and Leannán was sweet but not too sweet. The tone that comes across when they spend time together is really loving and they reassure themselves a lot of their feelings for one another. Sometimes this bothers me in other books, it can be a bit much. But it never went too far to me into sickly sweet territory, partly because of their circumstance (which requires reassurance), but also because of the time period. The story isn’t placed firmly in any time or place, but resembles a historical period with Irish influence. And the “love that dare not speak it’s name” type romance set apart from their world and in a place where anyone is free to love anyone else (the faerie realm) went really well with the sweet romantic periods the two had when they’re together. And even more than these two things, I liked that their relationship was very much based on how they felt, individually, about their circumstances. Ciarnán never refuses to give up looking for a way to escape, because he’s facing the prospect of losing Leannán and then having to carry on without him. Leannán, however, vacillates between his need to accept his fate to assure the well-being of his family (and assure that one of them isn’t taken in his place) and his desire to forget the circumstances and envision a life with Ciarnán. His feelings fluctuate with the actions of the faerie queen.
I won’t get into it much, but I really really loved the fae characters that get close to Ciarnán, Sorcha and especially Cáel. If there is one thing that I didn’t like about the book, it’s that the turn in the climax of the story rests on what seemed to be a rather easy bit of information. The answer to all of Ciarnán’s problems just seemed to come a little out of the blue for me, and while it didn’t bother me a lot, it made me sigh a little. I would have preferred the outcome to come a little more organically.
I definitely recommend this one and I really enjoyed reading it!
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Historical, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Captive/Slave, Fae/Elves, Less Than Three Press, Lots of Enemies!, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Rachelle Cochran