Gothic Connection A FACE WITHOUT A HEART–Review & Giveaway!

f-w-o-h-blitzbannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary retelling of THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY chillingly woven by multi-published author Rick R. Reed. I’ve reviewed some of Mr. Reed’s books in the past and always find them well-written, considerate and thrilling, be they romance (DINNER AT FIORELLO’S, BIG LOVE, LEGALLY WED) or suspense (TRICKS), so I was really eager to see how he’d treat the gothic psychological Dorian Gray. I wasn’t disappointed by A FACE WITHOUT A HEART.

Catch an excerpt and get in on the book giveaway, below.

facewithoutaheartafs_v1About the book:
A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away…. A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”

A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder. Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.

How about a little taste?

He was beautiful. Beauty is so seldom ascribed to men, too often incorrectly attributed to men with feminine features—wavy blond hair, fine cheekbones, teeth cut from porcelain. But I’ve always thought of beauty as a quality that went deeper than the corporeal… something dark, dense, inexplicable, capable of stirring longings primal, longings one would be powerless to resist.

He was beautiful. I sat on a Red Line “L” train, headed downtown, bags of heavy camera equipment heaped at my side, one arm resting protectively over them. I watched the young man, unable to train my thoughts on anything other than this man who had blotted out the reality of the day, magical and transforming. Beauty, especially so rare a beauty, can do that. The young man was an eclipse, his presence coming between myself and the reality of the day hurtling by outside train windows.

He had come in behind three foreign people, a bright counterpoint to their drab clothes, colorless, already wilting in the August humidity. They chattered to one another in a language unrecognizable, Polish maybe, and I was annoyed at their yammering, unable to block it out sufficiently enough to concentrate on the book I was reading, a biography of William Blake.

I almost didn’t notice him. It wasn’t like me to pay much attention to what went on around me, especially when I was preparing for a shoot. Usually I used the time on the train to set up the photographs I would take, the way I would manipulate light and shadow and how it fell on my models, to arrange the props, set up and test the lighting.

But something caused me to look up when the doors opened—perhaps I was struck by the dissonance created by the unknown language—and I saw him. Close-cropped brown hair, a bit of stubble framing full lips, a bruise fading to dull below his right eye. The bruise did not detract from the man’s beauty but served to enhance it, making of the rough features something more vulnerable. The bruise was the embodiment of a yearning for the touch of a finger, the whisper of a kiss. He wore an old, faded T-shirt with a Bulls logo, black denim cut off just above his knees, and a pair of work boots, the seam on the left beginning to separate. In spite of the workman’s garb, there was something intellectual about the man, an intensity in his aquamarine eyes that portended deeper thought.

At that moment, I made a decision. I don’t know what caprice seized me. I have always led an orderly life, completely without surprise. But when the train pulled to a stop and the young man stood, I acted on an impulse that was as sudden as it was uncontrollable.

My Review:
Gary Adrion is a young man of incomparable beauty, spotted on the “L” train in Chicago by an artist, Liam Howard, who specializes in holograms. Liam is a little older, and not as attractive as Gary, but Gary-a mostly solitary trust fund kid-is intrigued by Liam’s work and agrees to sit for a piece. The result is astounding, and Gary is so taken with it, that he makes an inadvertent bargain to remain as fresh and youthful as his hologram, no matter the darkness and depravity of his actions.

Well, over the years Gary gets pretty dark, and awfully depraved. Egged on by Liam’s dear friend, an outgoing drag queen known as Henrietta, Gary’s life takes some disastrous turns. He thinks he finds love, and throws it away on a whim–which leads to deadly results. Liam acts as Gary’s conscience, taking him to task when Gary will let him near, and that’s not a good situation, either. The further down this rabbit hole Gary falls, the more his hologram absorbs the horror of his actions, turning from an objet d’arte into a grotesque. Meanwhile Gary never seems to age a day. Friends turn bitter and enmity is rampant, even among his hangers-on. Gary delights in beauty, and it’s ultimate corruption.

This isn’t a romance, which I knew going in. There is some sex, but it’s written for shock value and the effect is chilling, not amorous. As we know from the Oscar Wilde classic, Dorian Gray–our narcissistic Gary–never fully redeems his soul, despite knowing that he must if he’s ever to find peace from the ghosts of people that have died as a result of his actions–directly or indirectly. There’s lots of drug use, and a seedy club-kid-type vibe for some of the book, and there’s horror. Death and murder are part of Gary’s path, and the only end is the dramatic one we all know is coming.

As a psychological thriller, I’d have loved just a little more insight into what happened during the large gaps in time the book spans. Some people seemingly come from nowhere, particularly in the end, and I know they were a part of that murkiness. I also got that Liam sensed Gary’s menace from their first encounter, but I didn’t see where that came from, as a reader. Gary is definitely shady, but I’d have liked to know how and why we knew that from the first pages. That said, as a retelling of Dorian Gray, I wasn’t disappointed.

Interested? You can find A FACE WITHOUT A HEART on Goodreads, DSP Publications, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.


Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for a chance to win one of two haunting tales by Mr. Reed.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love.

He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.”

Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

Catch up with Rick on his website, blog, Facebook, twitter, Google+, and Bookbub.
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Really Really Hot: BRANDED BY FLAMES–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for an erotic dragon-shifter M/M romance from Sean Michael. BRANDED BY FLAMES is the first in a new series that features five dragon brothers finding their fated mates.

branded-by-flamesAbout the book:
Meet the Beteferoce brothers. Five dragon shifters, each with a strong elemental power. And each with a fierce desire to find his soul mate…

For years, dragon-shifter-slash-firefighter Jake has been searching for his mate, but he’s beginning to tire of the search. Maybe soul mates are only for the lucky few.

Then he meets Shae.

A former navy welder, Shae is handsome, talented, into power play and rough sex, and covered in dragon tattoos. All of this suits the shape-shifting dragon just fine—until he finds out that Shae literally has Jake’s family crest already tattooed on him. A coincidence? Or something more…

Jake must convince Shae to trust him as a man and as a Dom before the heat between them burns out of control. Becoming a dragon’s mate is not without danger, and Shae will need Jake’s guidance—and love—if he’s going to make it through alive.

My Review:
3.5 Stars for this contemporary dragon shifter fated-mates M/M romance.

Shae is a forty-ish artist with a deep and abiding love for all things dragon. He has tons of tattoos featuring the slinky, sexy beasts, and he builds large dragon statues for sale. One afternoon, the fire crew is called out by one of his nosy neighbors. Jake is the head fireman sent to assess Shae’s permits, and to make sure he’s safe with his blowtorch.

There’s an immediate spark, and Jake, a centuries old dragon shifter, makes it a point to return for a more personal inspection. Learning that Shae has Jake’s personal seal and dragon-tongue name inked into his skin disrupts the sexytimes. Momentarily. Once Jake checks with the fae tattoo artist and learns that Shae is his fated Mate? These two get it on like…all the freaking time.

Roughly 85% of the book is Jake giving it to Shae. Copiously, and with some BDSM elements (spanking, bondage, orgasm denial, plugging) because Shae is an unapologetic pain slut. As their bond solidifies, Shae learns that he needs to eat more, so food prep and eating takes up about 10% of the book. The other five percent is Shae flying on Jake’s back, meeting three of Jake’s four also-gay dragon brothers, and Shae feeling insecure about his looks/age/kinks and why Jake seemingly trapped him into a fate bond.

The love seemed to happen very quick, but that’s nearly acceptable in fated mates stories. I just wished we’d learned a bit more about Shae’s history, why he was so isolated, and how Jake’s family came into being. The ‘rents deets are seriously sketchy.

So much sexytimes–I could have done with less, and liked the book just as well. I’d have liked it better, I think, if there had been a bit more emotions, or conflict, in it. Lots of dominance, but the heart didn’t seem to equal out. And, more flying. I loved the flying bits.

That said, the book was an easy read, and I’m eager to spend more time with this dragon-shifter series.

Interested? You can find BRANDED BY FLAMES on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Often referred to as “Space Cowboy” and “Gangsta of Love” while still striving for the moniker of “Maurice,” Sean Michael spends his days surfing, smutting, organizing his immense gourd collection and fantasizing about one day retiring on a small secluded island peopled entirely by horseshoe crabs. While collecting vast amounts of vintage gay pulp novels and mood rings, Sean whiles away the hours between dropping the f-bomb and persuing the kama sutra by channeling the long lost spirit of John Wayne and singing along with the soundtrack to “Chicago.”

A long-time writer of complicated haiku, currently Sean is attempting to learn the advanced arts of plate spinning and soap carving sex toys.

Barring any of that? He’ll stick with writing his stories, thanks, and rubbing pretty bodies together to see if they spark.

Catch up with Sean on line on his website, blog, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Guest Post and Giveaway for SPELL FALL!

banner-bt-spell-fall-by-jacob-z-floresHi there! Today I’m sharing a guest post for a new M/M paranormal romance from Jacob Z. Flores. SPELL FALL is the fourth book in his Havenbridge series featuring magic, wizards and mischief.

Catch the Dear Diary post from the author, an excerpt and be sure to scroll down and enter to win a $50 Amazon GC or one of five second prizes of a backlist book!

spell-fallAbout the book:
Love and trust made them soul mates, but destiny might have other plans.
Ever since Drake Carpenter fell in love with warlock Mason Blackmoor, his life has been one supernatural battle after another, but Drake doesn’t mind… much. To be with Mason and experience the magical connection they share, Drake would face entire hordes of vampyren, shifters, or fae—and he has. Luckily Drake is immune to magic, though no one can explain his natural ability to negate almost any enchantment. With Drake’s own family gone, Mason is all he has. So why is Drake experiencing disturbing dreams about Mason that terrify him?

A new threat looms on the horizon, and a revelation about Drake’s identity and the true origin of his bond with Mason shatters everything Drake believes. If Drake, Mason, and all of magic are to survive the coming Spell Fall, the most destructive curse in sorcery, Drake must deal with the truth and fight his way back to Mason—because their enemies are gaining strength, and they intend to reach the boy Drake loves first.

Some fun insights in to this series from the author!

Dear Diary, Part III
Hi, everyone! I’m Jacob Z. Flores, and it’s another day on my promotional tour for Spell Fall, the fourth book of my Warlock Brothers of Havenbridge series, which follows the lives of Mason, Thad, and Pierce Blackmoor, three magical brothers.

Each brother has narrated his own book, where he battled the enemies that threatened his life and the magical community. In each book, the brothers also found true love.

For the remainder of the series, the brothers hand over the narrating role to their boyfriends, and Mason’s human boyfriend Drake is the first up to bat.

Spell Fall kicks off the second and final story arc of the series, so to prepare readers for the fourth book I’ve shared two entries from Drake’s journal that have explained what has been happening in Havenbridge since we last left the mystical town.

Today, I’ll be sharing the third and final entry that will lead us right to chapter one in Spell Fall.

Happy reading!

January 31
Dear Diary,
It’s been weeks since we returned from Aeaea and put a stop to Ben and Sersie, and we still haven’t heard a peep out of the Conclave. That’s made things a little…tense around here.

Mr. Blackmoor has been spending more and more time in his room. Pierce has been angrier than a wet hen, and Thad’s grown so cold and distant he’s practically covered in frost. Not even Aiden has been able to thaw him out.

And Mason? Well, he puts on a good front. He cracks jokes and acts like an ass, pretending as if everything is okay, but it isn’t. It’s not like he really believes that anyway. He’s trying to take our minds off our crap and I love him for it, but it isn’t helping.

Especially with tomorrow hanging over my head.

God, I don’t even want to think about tomorrow. Maybe that’s why I’ve been throwing myself into pretty much every book in the Blackmoor’s magical library, searching for answers that just aren’t there. Because it’s easier to deal with this mystical mess than to deal with…I just have to say it (or write it). Maybe that will force me to accept what I don’t want to accept.

Tomorrow, I say good-bye to Aunt Millie.

I know what you’re thinking, Diary. She’s been…gone for months now, but she’s not really gone, is she? She’s a vampyre, an undead monster that’s tried to kill me more times than I can count.

But tomorrow isn’t about my vampyre aunt Millie. Tomorrow is about the woman who took me in after my parents died. Tomorrow is about saying good-bye to her house now that it’s finally sold and to all the memories we made there together.

Tomorrow, that chapter in my life closes once and for all. Whether I’m ready or not.

And I’m not ready. I’ve been avoiding it, but those days are over. The new owners closed on the house last week and will be moving in soon. When they do, they’ll erase the last piece of Aunt Millie I have left and replace it with their possessions, their memories.

All I’ll have left is the Aunt Millie who wants to kill me.

Mason, God love him, is driving me to her house tomorrow. He wants me to say good-bye. He thinks that will give me closure, and he’s partly right. I need to say farewell to the wonderful woman she’ll always be to me, and I need to do it on my terms.

Maybe it will make facing her again as a vampyre easier. I doubt it, but hey, anything’s possible, right?

But no matter how hard tomorrow will be, knowing Mason will be by my side, where he’s been since I met him, gives me the strength I need to do what has to be done.

I love him so much. He’s been more than my rock lately. He’s been my compass, pointing me home. What would I do without him?

Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out.

How about a little taste?

A succession of loud bangs jolted me awake. I sat up, pulled open the nightstand drawer, and reached inside for the pistol I kept there for times such as these. When my hand didn’t close around the cool silver butt of the gun, I panicked. Where the hell was it?

“Fuuuuck!” Mason groaned in bed next to me. “Leave us alone.”

“Get your lazy asses out of bed. We’ve got shit to do.”

It was Pierce on the other side of the door, not—

Not who?

Mason sat up, flipped off the closed door, and burrowed back under the covers.

Pierce banged on the frame three more times. “I mean it. Get your asses downstairs in fifteen minutes or Dad’ll be the one coming up here to get you.”

Crap. We definitely didn’t want that. Mr. Blackmoor didn’t tolerate tardiness. He’d transform his body into stone and turn the bedroom door into splinters. “We’ll be right down.”

Pierce grunted before his footsteps padded back downstairs.

I nudged Mason with my foot. “Wake up.”

“Can’t. Tired. Need sleep.”

What I needed was answers. There was definitely more to that dream from last night.

“Mason, please. We need to talk.”

A low snore was my only reply.

“Somethin’s wrong.”

He sat up as if he were a jack-in-the-box. Even though his eyes were still half-closed and his black hair resembled a rat’s nest, the hum of his shadow powers filled the room. “Who is it? What is it? Tell me where to shoot.”

I sighed before placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Jeez. Power down before you blast me.” The hateful gaze of the Mason in my dream filled my memory. I shook the image from my mind and took several deep breaths.

“Did you have that dream again?”

“I don’t think it was a dream.”

He scrunched up his lips and glanced sideways at me. “Then what the hell was it?”

That was the million-dollar question.

Interested? You can find SPELL FALL on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Check out the previous books in the series, too!
series-collage-the-warlock-brothers-of-havenbridgeSpell Bound, Book #1: Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Blood Tied, Book #2: Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Soul Struck, Book #3: Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.


Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 Amazon GC or one of Jacob’s backlist books.
Good luck and keep reading my friends.

Jacob Flores - Author PicAbout the Author:

Jacob Z. Flores lives a double life. During the day, he is a respected college English professor and mid-level administrator. At night and during his summer vacation, he loosens the tie and tosses aside the trendy sports coat to write man on man fiction, where the hard ass assessor of freshmen level composition turns his attention to the firm posteriors and other rigid appendages of the characters in his fictional world.

Summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, provide Jacob with inspiration for his fiction. The abundance of barely clothed man flesh and daily debauchery stimulates his personal muse.

When he isn’t stroking the keyboard, Jacob spends time with his daughter. They both represent a bright blue blip in an otherwise predominantly red swath in south Texas.

Catch up to Jacob on his website, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.



Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review for the newest contemporary M/M romance in Jay Northcote’s Housemates series. I absolutely loved HELPING HAND, LIKE A LOVER and PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT (which made my 2016 faves list!) so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on WATCHING AND WANTING. This book features a love story for a confused and closeted bisexual man whose world expands watching the live cam shows his sexy new housemate makes for his living.

watchingandwantingAbout the book:
Watching Jude’s cam show stirs desires Shawn’s always denied…
Shawn is adrift. Recently graduated, he’s stuck in a dead-end job that barely pays the bills. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends have moved on, and he’s still in Plymouth—going nowhere.

Jude is a student living in the same shared house. Out and proud, he’s everything Shawn’s been running from since he hit puberty. When Shawn discovers Jude works as a cam boy, he can’t resist the urge to watch one of his shows. It makes Shawn want things that scare him, yet his fascination forces him to confront his attraction.

Keen to explore his bicurious side, Shawn suggests they do a show together. Jude agrees, and things get complicated—and kinky—fast. But Jude isn’t looking to get involved with someone so deep in the closet. If Shawn’s going to get what he wants, he needs to find the courage to stop hiding from himself and be honest about who he is.

How about a little taste?

Back in the living room, he threw himself into his armchair again. The TV was on, showing an old episode of Prison Break, but Shawn wasn’t paying attention to it. Sunk in a black hole of despondency, he gazed surreptitiously around the room at his housemates instead.

Jude, one of the new guys who’d moved in last month, sat in a corner of one of the sofas doing something on his phone, his dark curly head bending low and the glow of the screen lighting up his angular features. Shawn wondered what he was doing—probably hooking up on Grindr or something.

That twist of discomfort flared in his gut again. He knew he shouldn’t care. It was none of his business, but the idea that Jude might be planning some hook-up with some random guy lodged in his consciousness like a stone in a shoe. Maybe it was just because Shawn was single again and would have to get back to hooking up if he wanted any action. The idea of being back on Tinder wasn’t as appealing as it should be.

Shawn turned his attention to the other sickeningly happy couple in the room. Ewan wasn’t technically one of Shawn’s housemates. He lived next door, but he might as well have moved in for the amount of time he spent there with Dev. Ewan had his arm around Dev, and as Shawn watched, he turned his ginger head and murmured something in Dev’s ear. Dev turned to look at him and they exchanged a soft smile. Then Dev pressed a kiss to Ewan’s lips, which lingered long enough to make Shawn uncomfortable.

Irrational anger bubbled up, spilling out of his mouth before he could hold the words back. “For fuck’s sake. Can’t you save that for your room?”

Dev pulled away quickly, his cheeks flaming. “Sorry,” he muttered.

Ewan glared at Shawn. “What’s your problem?”

Shawn shrugged and glared back. “I just don’t need to see it, that’s all.”

“Well, the television’s over there, so stop fucking looking at us if you don’t like it. It was just a kiss. It’s not like we’re blowing each other on the sofa or anything. Jesus.”

“Ugh. And thank you for that mental image.” Shawn did a mock shudder.

“Whoa, Shawn. What the hell’s wrong with you tonight?”

Jez’s voice cut through Shawn’s drunken, angry haze, and he realised that all eyes in the room were on him. He caught Jude’s gaze, curious and assessing, and flushed at the unwanted attention.

“You should be used to it by now,” Jez continued. “You’ve lived with me and Mac long enough. And I’ve totally caught you groping Beth on the sofa before. You don’t get a free pass for living room shenanigans just because you’re the only straight couple in the house since Dani moved out.”

That was the spark that ignited Shawn’s anger past the point of no return. “Yeah? Well, maybe I’m just tired of being surrounded by all the gay in here. I never signed up for this when we moved in together.” He stood, sloshing beer out of his nearly full bottle and onto the carpet. “I don’t have to like it.”

“Feel free to find somewhere else to live, then.”

Even Jez, who was rarely moved to anger, sounded pissed now.

“Yeah. Maybe I will.” Shawn stormed to the door, careful not to ruin his exit by walking into the coffee table again. “Oh, and for your information? Me and Beth split up today, so we won’t be the token straight couple any more.”

He slammed the door behind him and stomped up the stairs to his room on the first floor. He slammed that door too, but it didn’t make him feel any better. After throwing himself down on the bed, he clutched his pillow and let harsh sobs of fury burst out of him until the red mist receded and shame and guilt crept in to fill the place where his anger had been.

My Review:
Shawn is a young and adrift. He’s recently graduated from uni, but unable/ unmotivated to find a better job than his part-time work at a pharmacy. His girlfriend has just broken off their long-distance relationship and he’s pretty mad with the world. It makes him lash out at his housemates, who are all happily coupled men with loving partners. Jude is a newcomer on the scene, and doesn’t know what to make of Shawn’s outburst; he’s happy in the house with the two gay couples. Jude’s gay, too, but he’s not dating anyone. Instead, he runs a live cam show two or three nights a week for cash.

It’s not long before Shawn stumbles into Jude’s room during one of his cam shows–and gets a fantastic look at all of Jude’s sexy assets. And, well, that gets Shawn’s wheels turning. He logs on to Jude’s show, and is mortified to find that he’s totally aroused watching Jude winding himself up and down and up again before going off for his fans.

In fact, Shawn reaches out to Jude for some advice. Under the auspices of learning how to be a cam boy for cash, Shawn gets Jude to touch and kiss him–and confirm that yes, he’s more than bi-curious. Jude’s afraid to really fall for Shawn, despite their obvious chemistry. Working the cam with a “straight” partner is so well accepted by his fans that their tips pretty-much triple, but it’s not all cool. Jude feels frustrated that Shawn’s denying their interactions to his housemates–because he’s afraid to come out. And that sidetracks what’s building between them. Still, Shawn knows how to apologize, and they talk it out–especially when Shawn makes the choice to not hide his attraction any longer.

As with all the books in this series, the guys are good and fun and sexy. The love story is rich with excitement, and anxiety and lust, with healthy helpings of voyeurism and scorching sexytimes. Shawn makes an acceptable apology, complete with grand gesture–and Jude’s happy to accept his love. I really felt the bi-curious/bisexual aspect was handled well, and the cam shows…whoa! I’m totally gone for the Housemates series and just hope there’ll be more and more future stories.

Interested? You can find WATCHING AND WANTING on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK).
The whole housemates series is fantastic–and all can be enjoyed as standalones.
Helping Hand (Book #1) Amazon (US or UK)
Like A Lover (Book #2) Amazon (US or UK)
Practice Makes Perfect (Book #3) Amazon (US or UK)

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

You can find Jay on his website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Cephalopod Coffeehouse Jan 2017–EVIL LIBRARIAN A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month, my favorite read was EVIL LIBRARIAN by Michelle Knudsen. This contemporary YA romance had a real paranormal plot–but took me in a whole new direction.

evil-librarianAbout the book:
#EvilLibrarian He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon.

Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

My Review:

Cynthia Rothschild is in a real bind when her bestie, Annie, falls for the new high school librarian. Cyn knows from crushes; she’s practically worships the ground Ryan Halsey walks upon–not that he’d ever notice her. Ryan is all things beautiful and fantastic, but for Annie, she only has eyes for Mr. Gabriel.

Yes, Cyn thinks he’s attractive, but whenever she’s around him, Mr. Gabriel seems super-duper creepy. She’s got some sense that he’s a bad guy, deep inside, despite his flawless smile and pleasant demeanor. Watching all the people who come into contact with Mr. Gabriel, Cyn notices that they seem to roam the halls with vacant stares and lost memories.

Cyn’s desperate to snap Annie away from Mr. Gabriel, notwithstanding Annie’s outright obstruction. This goodie-two-shoes is now skipping classes and coming in early/staying late, all for the chance to spend more time with Mr. Gabriel–and soon Cyn notices that Annie’s touch has a similar disorienting affect on their classmates and teachers. Seeing Ryan notice his own buddies have zombie-like symptoms, Cyn relates her worst, and pretty out there fear: Mr. Gabriel isn’t human, and he’s stealing the souls of the school.

Ryan is sure Cyn’s ready for crazytown–until they witness Mr. Gabriel in all his demonic fearsome splendor. From there, it’s a battle of wills and personalities. Gabriel plans to take the souls of the entire school, powering his batteries for a battle royale in Hell, and making Annie his demon bride when he assumes the throne. Cyn, obviously, doesn’t want this to happen. Ryan’s pulled in to help, because only he and Cyn really can see the true danger of the situation. They have to call in unlikely allies, including the school’s meanest teacher and a demon-loving book curator, to help save everyone. The good thing? The school’s musical for the term is Sweeney Todd, and, as all demons love Sweeney, Gabriel’s evil plot won’t go off until opening night ends.

This is a really interesting high school romp, with a fun unrequited crush, more than one dead teacher, friends-behaving-badly and, well, demons. Yes, more than one filthy underworld soul-sucker makes a ghastly appearance in this “damned” high school. I can’t say I had many laugh-out-loud moments, but I was thoroughly amused from beginning to end. Even the grisly bits were imbued with a sense of deprecation or exaggeration that bordered on the absurd, in just the right way. I loved how wild the demons were for Sweeney, and how that gave Ryan and Cyn a reprieve because Ryan has the lead role, and Cyn’s the tech director charged with building the magnificent barber’s chair. (For those who have no idea what Sweeney Todd‘s about, well, that’s a review for another time. Short, short version: a musical about a murderous barber and the landlady who turns his victims into bestselling “meat” pies.)  Clearly, that’s prime entertainment for homicidal demons.

And EVIL LIBRARIAN is prime entertainment for anyone who likes a little romance in their YA paranormal books. The sequel comes out in a couple weeks, and I’m looking forward to reviewing it soon!

Interested? You can find EVIL LIBRARIAN on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your local library.

About Author Michelle Knudsen:

I’m the author of 45 books for young readers for all ages. Titles include the New York Times best-selling picture book Library Lion (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes), the middle-grade fantasy novels The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian, and the YA novel Evil Librarian, which won the 2015 Sid Fleischman Award for Humor(!).

I also work as a freelance editor and private writing coach. Please visit my website to learn more if you’re interested – I especially love working with new writers! I’m also now teaching in Lesley University’s MFA program in writing for young people.

Catch up with Michelle on her website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in my friends. Be sure to check out my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers to see if their “best book” picks strike your fancy, too.

Frenemy Love ANY TIME ANY PLACE–A Review

atap_liveHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary romance just released by Jennifer Probst. ANY TIME, ANY PLACE features an enemies-to-lovers romance between two adults who lost their parents in a horrifying crash. Expect cameos from Isabella of SEARCHING FOR DISASTER, too!

any-time-any-placeAbout the book:
HGTV’s Property Brothers meets The Marriage Bargain in this second volume in the Billionaire Builders series, an all-new heart-wrenching and sexy contemporary romance from New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst.

When she was a teen, Raven Bella Stratton’s father was killed in a horrible car crash. The bigger shock was the discovery of a woman with him—Diana Pierce—and their two fully packed suitcases with airline tickets to Paris. Devastated by her father’s betrayal, Raven went to live with her aunt, never truly overcoming the traumatic event. When she discovers that the mysterious woman had a family with a husband and three boys, Raven vows to leave the memory of her father behind.

Until Dalton Pierce visits one night and suddenly her past challenges her future…

Leaving his life in California behind to run Pierce Construction with his two older brothers, Dalton Pierce has enjoyed returning home and studying his passion of woodworking. But when he visits the local bar with his brothers one evening, he’s immediately drawn to the smart-mouthed, badass, sexy bartender who sets his body on fire. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem as intrigued by him, and his multiple advances are met with rejection. When he offers to restore the bar back to its original glory, he begins to work with her on a daily basis, and falls harder. His plan of seduction slowly weaves a web around them both, until they are caught up in the spell. But Dalton doesn’t know the secret that can either destroy them both…or finally mend two broken hearts.

My Review:
Raven has long believed her beloved father was killed because he was duped into running off with a bored, wealthy housewife: Diana Pierce. As a grieving 19 year old, she vowed to ruin the Pierce brothers, Diana’s children, who–it seemed–were “painting” her artist father as a gold-digging homewrecker. They were surely the reason her father’s paintings were returned unsold from galleries and few attended his funeral.

Fast forward nine years, or so. Raven’s back in her hometown making a decent living owning and running My Place, a homey bar and grill that serves upscale fare with specialty cocktails. The bane of her existence is blonde and bold Dalton Pierce, who can’t understand why Raven doesn’t fall for his immense charm. Dalton’s not a man to settle down–marriage only ruins good people, is his experience. Example One: his mother, who got conned into running off and abandoning her children–only to die in the attempt.

Looking back now, Dalton can see the lack of love between his parents, and how his mother pulled farther and farther away, but still! He loved her dearly and can’t imagine her leaving of her own choice. Regardless, Dalton never wants to marry, and refuses to date the same woman for more than a few weeks at a time. And he’s surely interested in sexy Raven, and her bar. The woodworking artist in him craves the chance to really get his tools on the antique bar which has been haphazardly restored and pressed into active service. Raven won’t budge on the dating–despite their undeniable chemistry. She assures him she only wants to date men who are interested in getting married, using his kryptonite to keep his advances at bay, but she does need his woodworking expertise to get My Place camera-ready for a feature in a regional food and wine magazine.

Their bargain, to work together to get My Place ready, is complicated by their mutual attraction, and Dalton’s persistence in pursuit. It’s a heady time, and Raven knows she needs to reveal her murky connection to Dalton’s mother’s death–but it’s not easy to do so. Dalton’s brothers, and work partners, are no help. They seem to want Dalton to settle down, and he continues to fight the tide, there. When they finally get physical, it’s Dalton who’s looking for more, until Raven confesses her history–and that’s a deal breaker if Dalton ever heard one.

The love story here is tentative and considerate. It’s been more than a year that Raven and Dalton have known one another. Dalton’s pursuit has extended for several months, and Raven’s defenses wear down after they build a solid rapport as friends. Raven’s conflicted about being friends with Dalton, considering her vow to take revenge on the Pierce brothers. Thing is, should she continue to harbor ill will over a childhood vendetta that no one even knew about? Raven’s grown up a LOT in those nine years and she’s a more confident and mature woman than she’d expected to be. Her life is very full–friends, work, mixology–but it lacks love, and she’s romantically lonely. I liked her changes and her response to Dalton.

Dalton’s the baby of his family, and tired of feeling as if his elder brothers consider him a flake. He never got over his mother’s abandonment–even though he was a grown adult when she made her move. But, being with Raven soothes that aching place inside that really wants to be totally loved. He’s not cool, at all, when he learns about Raven’s dad, and I wasn’t shocked that she wanted little to do with him following his shenanigans. I did love how he won her back, however, because commitment was what he lacked as a human, and that was the only way to turn her head a second time. The end is a sweet and tender reconciliation that leaves us knowing that a second Pierce brother has been overtaken by the love bug.

This one’s an HEA. As the second book in the series, it read well as a standalone. Lots of moments where characters from other books popped their heads in for a look-see, but this book is really all about Raven and Dalton. Well, setting aside that it seems as if we’ve gotten to meet the house-flipper who’ll soon win Tristen Pierce’s heart in the next book, that is…

Interested? You can find ANY TIME, ANY PLACE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, GooglePlay, or on paperback. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Jennifer Probst
Jennifer Probst wrote her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her classmates, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master’s in English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.

She makes her home in Upstate New York with the whole crew. Her sons keep her active, stressed, joyous, and sad her house will never be truly clean.

She is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of sexy and erotic contemporary romance. She was thrilled her book, The Marriage Bargain, was ranked #6 on Amazon’s Best Books for 2012. She loves hearing from readers.

You can catch up with Jennifer online on her website for updates on new releases and her street team. Also check her out on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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do-nothings_fbHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Killian Brewer. LUNCH WITH THE DO-NOTHINGS AT THE TAMMY DINETTE is a sweet story about a young man finding a home and family (and love!) where he least expected it.

Catch the excerpt and $25 GC and book giveaway below!

do-nothingsAbout the book:
When Marcus Sumter, a short order cook with dreams of being a chef, inherits a house in small town Marathon, Georgia, he leaves his big city life behind.

Marcus intends to sell the house to finance his dreams, but a group of lovable busybodies, the Do Nothings, a new job at the local diner, the Tammy Dinette, and a handsome mechanic named Hank cause Marcus to rethink his plans.

Will he return to the life he knew, or will he finally put down roots?

How about a little taste?

Over the course of the next month, Marcus fell easily into the rhythm of his new life in the diner. The black ring around his eye faded, and thoughts of Robert and his mangled car began to fade as well. Francine and he perfected their frenzied dance around each other behind the grill when the diner was filled to capacity. As he worked, the familiar tools of spatula, whisk, and knife once again became extensions of his hand, and the smells of bacon frying and eggs cooking made his appetite for food and life return. The silly names the sisters invented for customers made Marcus belly laugh, the sensation of it bubbling up in his chest an almost-forgotten pleasure. With each passing day, it grew easier to rise early in the morning and catch a ride to the diner with Francine or one of the girls.

The only part of the day he dreaded was life outside the diner and returning to a too-quiet house filled with photographs of people who shared his face and name, but who were complete strangers. The house was in theory his home, but it still seemed as if he was intruding on someone else’s space. He hadn’t bothered to unpack the few clothes left in his duffel bag or put away the clean clothes from the laundry basket on the bedroom floor. In the silence of his grandmother’s house, he would hear the ringing of Robert’s plaintive texts, the nagging thoughts about what to do with his wrecked car, and the haunting words of his mother, “Baby, it’s time to move on.”

More and more, he lingered well past the end of his shift at the diner to avoid going to the house. Usually he would end his day by wandering over to the Do Nothing’s corner booth to check on the latest town gossip or to see how preparations for the hoedown were going. Marcus would shuffle his way into the booth and tuck himself between Helen and Inez so that the women could explain to him who each person they gossiped about was. Most of the names meant nothing to him until he began to connect them with their usual orders, just as he had at the Waffle Barn. The more stories the Do Nothings told about the customers who hurried in and out of the diner daily, the more the citizens of Marathon seemed like friends. He would sit happily silent and let the women’s laughter and rapid-fire words sooth his work-weary muscles as he sank into the padding of the booth.

But not today.

He had finished cleaning the cooking area, flung his apron onto its hook, and headed into the dining room. He’d been tired but, for the first time since Robert had pressured him to quit working at the Waffle Barn in Atlanta, he’d felt useful again. As he’d reached the kitchen door, he’d caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Despite the hard work and grueling heat of the kitchen, he’d seen that he wore a pleased smile, a smile he wasn’t sure he had worn since the days after his mother and before Robert. He’d straightened his back and nodded at himself in the mirror. Hello, stranger. Where’ve you been? With the smile lingering on his lips, he had glanced through the porthole window in the swinging door and seen Hank Hudson standing at the counter.

My Review:
Marcus Sumter is a 22 year old man with no family–not since his diner-waitress of a mother literally left him at a roadside truckstop diner shortly after his 18th birthday. She’d raised him on her own, always on the run from one angry landlord or another, and his father had died before he was even born. Marcus had been living with an older man, Robert, who wanted to keep him as a kept-boy, but Marcus didn’t like that, and Robert’s anger too the form of a black eye. While staying home out of sight, Marcus receives a certified letter–the fifth one–informing him that his unknown grandmother has passed and he needs to come to Marathon, Georgia to claim her estate. Marcus packed what little he owned and took off.

His arrival in Marathon is immediately upset by an accident of car-crushing proportions. But, the good ladies of Marathon, the “Do-Nothings” friends of his late grandmother take him under their wing. They want nothing more than to keep Marcus with them, and even arrange for him to get a job at their beloved Tammy Dinette. And, meet men that favor his, uh, persuasion. It’s a heartwarming and adorable set of romantic schemes, actually. Marcus loves being a short-order cook, and only applied for culinary school because Robert wanted to “make something” of him, but being in Marathon, surrounded by loving friends and neighbors teaches Marcus that he’s something already, and the slow-burn romance between Marcus and Hank the local mechanic is something pretty special, too.

I loved the setting, and quiet cadence of the book, easily felling transported to rural Georgia and loving every second of that. Marcus is a good guy, and he deserves a home. I kind of wished we’d learned what happened to his mother, but that’s a small complaint. I really enjoyed how Marcus dealt with Robert, and the big and small eccentricities of life in small town Georgia. The collection of characters was a loving portrait of people I just wanted to know better! Don’t excpet any sheet-buring sexytimes though. THis one’s pretty-much fade-to-black, but the center of the story is love, and family, and making your own when you get the chance. Highly recommend.

Interested? You can find LUNCH WITH THE DO-NOTHINGS AT THE TAMMY DINETTE on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, Kobo, Book Depository, and Indiebound.


Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for a chance to win a Grand Prize $25 Interlude Press Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of Hold. Five other winners receive Lunch With the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette eBook.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Killian B. Brewer grew up in a family where the best way to be heard was to tell a good story, therefore he developed an early love of storytelling, puns and wordplay. He began writing poetry and short fiction at 15 and continued in college where he earned a BA in English. He does not use this degree in his job in the banking industry. He currently lives in Georgia with his partner and their dog. Growing up in the South gave him a funny accent and a love of grits. The Rules of Ever After is his first novel.

You can catch up with Killian on his website, twitter, and Facebook.