Getting Woke as JULIET TAKES A BREATH-THE GRAPHIC NOVEL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ graphic novel from Gabby Rivera and illustrated by Celia Moscote. features a Latinx young woman navigating a path to independence coming out and finally exploring her lesbian and feminism facets of her life.

About the book:
A NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATION OF THE BESTSELLING BOOK!
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But don’t worry, Juliet has something kinda resembling a plan that’ll help her figure out what it means to be Puerto Rican, lesbian and out. See, she’s going to intern with Harlowe Brisbane – her favorite feminist author, someone’s who’s the last work on feminism, self-love and lots of of ther things that will help Juliet find her ever elusive epiphany. There’s just one problem – Harlowe’s white, not from the Bronx and doesn’t have the answers.

Okay, maybe that’s more than one problem but Juliet never said it was a perfect plan…

Critically-acclaimed writer Gabby Rivera adapts her bestselling novel alongside artist Celia Moscote in an unforgettable queer coming-of-age story exploring race, identity and what it means to be true to your amazing self. even when the rest of the world doesn’t understand.

My Review:
Juliet Palante is a young, Puerto Rican college student in the Bronx and discovering herself as a Latinx feminist, acknowledging for her own self that she is a lesbian and fearing that her family will not accept her. She has a lot of family around her the love and support her–but her mama’s really devout. I loved her little brother, and how sweet and loving he was. Juliet is excited to gain a summer internship working directly with famed feminist Harlowe Brisbane, who lives in Seattle. Juliet ends up crashing in Harlowe’s house, nursing the wounds from her mama’s reaction to her leaving, and her sexuality.

Juliet is reeling a bit, surrounded by queer culture in Seattle. It’s an awakening, but she’s also politically woke by the people of color who are befriending her. As Harlowe reveals some internal prejudice, it sends Juliet further on her journey to reconnect with her cousin and aunt in Miami. It’s another big experience as Juliet finds unexpected kinship with fellow queers.

I did not read the original work, but I feel the graphic novel was beautifully rendered, and truly evocative of Juliet’s joy and struggle on every page. She’s a glorious Latina and her encounters with strong female, trans and other LGBTQ characters really shapes Juliet’s outlook, path and summer experience. I think readers who enjoy contemporary stories of queer culture, and coming out stories and stories of people of color from own voices, will probably love this graphic novel version of the best-selling novel.

Interested? You can find JULIET TAKES A BREATH on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
Gabby Rivera is a Bronx-born, queer Puerto Rican author on a mission to create the wildest, most fun stories ever.

She’s the first Latina to write for Marvel Comics, penning the solo series America about America Chavez, a portal-punching queer Latina powerhouse. Rivera’s critically acclaimed debut novel Juliet Takes a Breath was called “f*cking outstanding” by Roxane Gay and was re-published in September 2019 by Penguin Random House. Currently, Gabby is the writer and creator of b.b. free, a new original comic series with BOOM! Studios. Stay tuned for her podcast joy revolution coming in 2020!

When not writing, Gabby speaks on her experiences as a queer Puerto Rican from the Bronx, an LGBTQ youth advocate, and the importance of prioritizing joy in QTPOC communities at events across the country.

Gabby makes magic on both coasts, currently residing in California. She writes for all the sweet baby queers, and her mom.

Catch up with Gabby on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Brutal Battles Await THE NAVIGATOR’S TOUCH–A TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a LGBT fantasy from Julie Ember. THE NAVIGATOR’S TOUCH is the second book in the Seafarer’s Kiss series. I did not read the first book, but I felt it was fully enjoyable on its own.

About the book:
After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family, and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Skjordal for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, this companion novel to The Seafarer’s Kiss is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

My Review:
This is a fantasy with an LGBTQ MC with inspiration from Old Norse legends.

Ragna’s family has been murdered and her town on a hidden island ransacked by invaders, and she’s sworn vengeance. As a teen girl, even one imbued with a gift from the gods, she needs help from many quarters, and she must pledge her fealty to secure the allies who could deliver her island from occupation. Ragna is a Shield-Maiden, a valiant fighter, battle-tested and trained but struggling with the loss of her hand, and the need to see her tormentor and former boss, Haakon, dead.

The Old Norse legends are constantly reinforced in the use of language and terms that harken directly from the Old Norse. Ragna is a compelling heroine, negotiating with her intellect and her magical gifts, and striking bargains with Loki and a female chief of the area, to gather the supplies and troops who could help her to free those few survivors of the attack. Ragna grieves the loss of her young brother, her mother and father, but hopes against hope that her cousin may have survived–among a fraction of others.

Ragna has a female companion, Ersel, a shapeshifting mermaid who’s been cursed by Loki. Striking a bargain with the wily god is an affront to Ersel, but it’s one of only few paths that Ragna has to vengeance. It’s a tough experiences, scheming and struggling to save her land and not allow Loki to wreak further harm on Ersel. I loved Ragna’s fierce heart and determination. Her mission to get back her land is worth sacrificing everything, including her own freedom, so to speak, turning herself into a mercenary to a degree. It’s a companion story to The Seafarer’s Kiss, but focusing on Ragna’s story and how she recovers her peace of heart after Haakon destroyed her world. It’s not a lovestory, though there is a bit of love expressed between Ragna and Ersel. I expect we might see some more of Ragna, especially, as she scours the globe for what Loki has required as a condition of their cooperation.

Plenty of LGBTQ characters here, with little fanfare; these persons are just ordinary people of this world, which was good to see and especially affirming. I think if you are a fan of stories that celebrate and re-consider mythology, as well as strong females, will likely enjoy this one. Make no mistake that this story contains dangerous adventures, murder and killing: the bad guys get their just desserts.

Interested? You can find THE NAVIGATOR’S TOUCH on Goodreads, Interlude Press Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Julia Ember’s books include The Seafarer’s Kiss duology, a Norse myth inspired retelling of The Little Mermaid, published by Interlude Press (Duet Books), and Ruinsong, a standalone high fantasy reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera, published by Macmillan Kids (FSG) in November 2020.

Ember’s work has been featured in USA Today, Bustle, Book Riot and Autostraddle, among many others. The Seafarer’s Kiss was named a “Best Queer Book of 2017” by Book Riot and was a finalist in the Speculative Fiction category of the Bisexual Book Awards. Julia has a lifelong appreciation for history and classic literature, and holds an MLitt in Medieval Literature from the University of St. Andrews.

A world-traveler who has visited almost seventy countries, Julia currently lives in Seattle with her wife and their city menagerie of pets with literary names.

Catch up with Julia on her website, twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Meeting His Match DRAGON LESSON–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M paranormal YA romance from Mell Eight. DRAGON LESSON is the sixth book in the Supernatural Consultant series, which features a dragon, a demigod and a passel of maturing dragon kits. Finally we get to see the mixed-magic kit Lumie grow up and find his mate. I fell into the previous titles DRAGON CONSULTANT, DRAGON DECEPTION, DRAGON DILEMMA, DRAGON DETECTIVE, and DRAGON ADVENTURES, and have loved watching these characters grow and evolve in each story. Lumie’s known his mate for all long time, but now they’re grown and in college–and trying to keep trouble at bay.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
All Lumie wants to see is Goldie’s beautiful smile, but the only ee wants to see is Goldie’s beautiful smile, but the only expression he ever shows Lumie is tears. When Goldie asks him for a favor, Lumie leaps at the chance to finally see Goldie happy.

Goldie wants to live a life free of the fear that has chained him for so long, but breaking free once and for all may come with a higher price than he and Lumie are prepared to pay.xpression he ever shows Lumie is tears. When Goldie asks him for a favor, Lumie leaps at the chance to finally see Goldie happy.

Goldie wants to live a life free of the fear that has chained him for so long, but breaking free once and for all may come with a higher price than he and Lumie are prepared to pay.

How about a little taste?

The first time Lumie had seen Goldie in the flesh was one of the oddest moments of Lumie’s life. Lumie knew Goldie. He knew that shining golden hair, rosy in the sun like the gold was touched by fire. And those big golden eyes surrounded by dark-gold lashes were something Lumie had seen in his mind’s eye for years and years. He knew the moment when Goldie would come into his life, when Dane and Mercury would rescue him, but Lumie hadn’t understood what five years of captivity with the enemy would do to Goldie. Lumie had been lucky. He had barely been a day out of his egg when Mercury had come for him. Goldie had been held captive for far too long, and it had destroyed something inside of him.

Lumie had tagged along with Mercury, his daddy, when Mercury went to check on a mother dragon that had been rescued along with Goldie. When Mercury went into the house where the mother was staying with her new eggs, Goldie had snuck out the back door.

Looking back on that moment years later, Lumie realized Goldie was shaking in utter fear, but at the time, all Lumie had seen was the boy from his waking dreams.

“Hi!” Lumie had chirped happily. Goldie, on the other hand, had let out a shriek. He had stumbled back from Lumie, holding up his hands as if warding off a blow. Mercury and Martha, an air dragon in charge of the village, had come hurrying outside, and together they had coaxed Goldie back into the house. Goldie wouldn’t look at Lumie even once as he hurried up the stairs.

The encounter had left Lumie horribly confused for years. He knew what Goldie’s eyes looked like when he was smiling at Lumie: shining and bright. He had foreseen that happiness, but only in a dream rather than real life. Lumie didn’t understand the fear he saw inside Goldie. For the next thirteen years, Lumie had visited the village at least once a week and made a point of saying hello to Goldie. Eventually, Goldie stopped screaming and running from Lumie, but his fear never vanished.

Lumie had yet to see Goldie’s smile in person.

“Which wire?” Alloy hissed. From the slightly frantic tone of his voice, Lumie realized it wasn’t the first time Alloy had spoken. Lumie took his eyes from the gleaming gold-colored plate he had pulled off the security alarm, got his thoughts back to the present, and focused on the two different wires Alloy had pulled out of the guts of the alarm.

“It doesn’t matter which wire,” Lumie replied with a shrug. “Just heat them both really fast, then cool them off suddenly. Total wire failure won’t set off that sort of alarm.”

“Don’t even think about it,” Mercury snapped from behind them. The overhead light flickered on, bringing the foyer of the house Mercury owned with Dane into focus. Mercury had bronze-colored hair that fell just below his ears, and his bronze-colored eyes were sharp as he glared at Lumie and Alloy. He was angry. Lumie looked at the alarm box they had stripped and were about to destroy, and then back at Mercury’s glaring face.

Oh, he was mad about the alarm thing.

“I was just teaching.” Lumie grumbled. He held out the gold-colored plate, and Mercury yanked it from his hands.

“A, you’re both nineteen and should know better. B, you both promised me a thesis statement for the essay you have to write and one page from your algebra workbook before bedtime. You can teach Alloy about alarm systems when you’re not supposed to be doing other things.” Mercury growled. Magic flashed through the air, and the gold plate flew back into place on the alarm. The four screws Alloy had dropped to the floor flew into their slots and twisted until they were in place. “Plus,” Mercury continued in a softer tone, “you both left fingerprints all over the alarm system. Eventually someone would have noticed your tampering, and you both would have been caught.” He pulled one sleeve down over his palm and wiped at the gold plate before reaching out to snap the outer housing with all the buttons back onto the frame.

Alloy bounded off, and Lumie reluctantly followed. He had actually finished the math, but he hated essays. It would only take ten minutes to scrape together the one-sentence thesis statement, but he didn’t want to. At all. He had taken the damn test Mercury had wanted him to. His results weren’t back yet, but he had thought he was done with school with the damned GED out of the way. Mercury having the tutor continue to pile on more homework was ridiculous.

Instead of following Alloy upstairs, Lumie headed to the kitchen. He deserved a cinnamon bomb before having to go do his work.

Dane was already in the kitchen when Lumie walked in. He was on the phone, though, so he couldn’t speak up to stop Lumie from raiding the candy basket on top of the fridge. The happiest day of Lumie’s life was the day he realized he had finally grown tall enough to get to his candy on his own. Somehow Lumie thought that might have also been Dane’s unhappiest day, but he tried not to dwell on trivialities like that. Dane was super special in the magic world. Whatever. So was Lumie. That wasn’t even arrogance talking. Dane was the son of a god and a crazy lady from across the pond. Grandma came to visit every once in a while. Lately she had started bringing along her spell books. Those were interesting to read. Lumie had nicked a few since they were so much more interesting than the books Mercury had him reading.

Lumie’s powers, on the other hand, were… Well, he didn’t really have a way to define what he could do. As far as he knew, no one could explain why his magic was so odd. He was a fire dragon, so playing with fire was his favorite pastime—he liked it even better than tormenting Dane—but sometimes he saw things he shouldn’t, he could travel in ways a fire dragon shouldn’t be able, and he generally confounded Dane with the things he could do. That was part of the fun, really, and Lumie tried not to dwell on things that weren’t fun.

With his long blond hair pulled back into a tail at the base of his skull, Dane looked severe. His blue eyes glared pointedly at Lumie, so Lumie picked up the cinnamon bomb wrapper from where he had dropped it on the counter and put it in the trash. Taking care of the wrapper now was better than Dane’s magic yanking him back into the kitchen to do it later. Plus, if Lumie left too many wrappers lying around, the basket suddenly had a dearth of cinnamon bombs for a few days. It was punishment that Lumie did not enjoy.

Dane hung up the phone before Lumie could escape.

“That was the new secretary of defense,” Dane said. He was frowning down at the screen of his phone as he spoke, but he looked up at Lumie, and Lumie couldn’t help freezing in place.

He had seen this before. Daydreamed it, really. In the kitchen with Dane looking so serious. Dane was about to tell him something that would change his life forever.

Lumie didn’t want to hear it. He didn’t want to know. He liked his life right now. He was comfortable living in Dane’s home and eating the food Daisy, their caretaker, prepared for them. Nickel, Lumie’s adoptive brother, liked living away from home in the house he shared with his boyfriend, Platinum. All Lumie liked about that was since Nickel and Platinum had moved out, he had been allowed to take their bedroom for himself. Not having to share with Chrome any longer—not living in the constant mess Chrome was unable to ever properly clean—was amazing.

“He offered you a full scholarship to the college of your choice with the caveat that you come work for one of the defense agencies under his purview,” Dane continued before Lumie could stop him. “He apparently has an issue only someone of your skills can handle and is willing to do just about anything to get you to sign on.”

“He doesn’t know I’m available to hire through your consulting firm?” Lumie asked grumpily, used to speaking clearly around the cinnamon bomb stretching out one of his cheeks. It was too late; he had already heard what Dane had to say. His life was irrevocably changed. All he could do was try to keep the things he liked best safe when the turmoil hit.

“He wants to take out the middleman,” Dane explained with a shrug. “It will probably also cost them less overall to pay for your college and provide a steady work salary than to hire you through me.”

That didn’t surprise Lumie. Dane made the government pay through the nose. It allowed him to give people with fewer means the same service at a much more affordable price.

“Lumie, this is big for you. Your grades aren’t anything to laud, and you took an extra year to finish high school. Plus, a lot of colleges might discriminate against you because you’re a dragon. They’ll think you’ll wash out within a semester and not want to put any time or effort into accepting you.”

Everything Dane was saying was true. Dragons were one of the most uneducated creatures in the world—not because they were stupid or lacked the mental capacity for it, but because they didn’t have access to education in the wild where the majority of them lived. When they did venture into human civilization, their ignorance often caused someone to get hurt. Having someone from the secretary of defense’s office step in on Lumie’s behalf meant that none of those issues would be in his way, but Lumie had never been interested in college. He had taken his GED test only because Mercury and Dane had literally dragged him across the finish line. He didn’t even know if he had actually passed it yet.

“Alloy wants to go to college,” Lumie stated. He wasn’t sure if he was voicing a complaint that they hadn’t approached Alloy instead—even though Alloy lacked the specialized skills that made Lumie so distinctive—or whether he was grumpy that they thought they could buy him so easily.

“So we ask the secretary if he can get two college entrance letters,” Dane replied with an easy shrug. “Alloy might also have to agree to a few years working with the government too.”

“But he’s always liked what Daddy does and would apply to work for the SupFeds in a heartbeat if he could,” Lumie finished.

Mercury worked as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Supernatural Investigations, which investigated issues that stemmed from the supernatural world. Dane worked with them often in his capacity as a private contractor with his Supernatural Consulting Firm, and Alloy had always wanted to join Mercury. Again, something Lumie wasn’t interested in. He liked his independence—and his laziness, to be perfectly honest. He picked the jobs he wanted to do whenever he felt like doing them. Getting tied down with an agency would end all that freedom.

“Let me think about it,” Lumie finally said after a few moments of silence.

Dane nodded. His smile was completely understanding. “You know Mercury and I only want you to be happy. If college isn’t for you, we can probably still work something out. Let me know what you think. Don’t take too long,” he added. “I don’t think this offer is indefinite, so we need to call the secretary back by Friday afternoon.”

Lumie nodded and rushed to escape the kitchen. He went upstairs to his private bedroom and flopped facedown on the bed.

It was too good an opportunity to pass up. College would suck, but it would make Mercury so happy. Afterward Lumie was guaranteed to have a good job where he could use his special skills to their fullest. It really was an amazing opportunity, but it meant the end of his simple and easy life.

And there was also Alloy to think about. Alloy, who was running down the very long driveway—over two miles long—every afternoon to check the mailbox to see whether his GED scores had arrived. As soon as he had his official letter, he was going to start applying to colleges. How would Lumie feel every time Alloy got a rejection letter from a school, and Lumie knew he could have saved Alloy from that pain?

Lumie snorted in disgust at himself. Was throwing away his freedom worth it for Alloy’s happiness? Probably, damn it, but it wasn’t fair.

He threw his body off his bed and twisted his magic around him in a way no other dragon could. His bedroom vanished from view, and he reappeared just outside a small town. The nearest house was just across the street. Lumie quickly rounded the building to get to the backyard.

The flash of golden hair in the sunlight caught Lumie’s attention first, and he eagerly hurried forward to Goldie’s side. Goldie wouldn’t have the answer Lumie wanted, but just being by his side for a few minutes helped soothe his roiling thoughts.

My Review:
This is the sixth book in the Supernatural Consultant series and likely best enjoyed when read in order–but can be enjoyed on its own.

Lumie (short for Aluminum) is an 18 year old fire dragon kit, just maturing enough to be striking out on his own, but he’s not really keen on it. It’s nice living home with his foster fathers, Dane and Mercury. Dane is a half-god who controls the supernatural creature realm in the northeast US, and Mercury is a precious copper dragon with magic of his own. Lumie was experimented on in the egg, and maybe as a hatchling, but he was soon rescued by Mercury and later they were all picked up by Dane, as Mercury had fallen ill and couldn’t care for his six rescued kits. Over the years Dane and Mercury have made a cozy family–one determined to shut down dragon experimentation for good. Lumie’s magic is far different from a normal fire dragon, he can teleport, and walk through even Dane’s impenetrable wards. And, he’s prescient, with an uncanny ability to see the future. And Lumie know that his future is tied to Goldie.

Goldie is a precious gold dragon, which has more innate magic than ordinary element dragons. He was kept in a human lab for years before he was rescued, and the pain and terror of those days walks with him still, despite being 19. For near on a decade, Goldie has watched Lumie hang about the edges of his life in the quiet household where Goldie was adopted, as Lumie visits nearly every week. Lumie has flashes of Goldie smiling at him with love, but that’s a premonition; Goldie’s hardly ever even spoken to Lumie in all their time together. It’s funny that Lumie has almost verbal diarrhea around Goldie, who listens closely and wishes for half the fearlessness of Lumie. Lumie has big news for Goldie, though–he’s been offered a guaranteed admission and full scholarship to any college of his choice, if only he will agree to work for the Supernatural Federation, a government agency tasked with managing the well-being of supes and humans alike. Lumie has no interest in college, but his dear brother Alloy really wants to go, and Lumie suspects that Goldie does as well–he’s extremely into their schoolwork, though Lumie doesn’t know why. Lumie sees the promise in this offer, though, and promptly negotiates acceptances for Alloy and Goldie, once they agree.

Ultimately, Lumie sees the college path as a way to get Goldie to move in together, and maybe he’ll get to see that love-filled smile. It’s actually not too long before Goldie and Lumie are learning a whole lot about themselves and one another. Their college has all sorts of magic theory classes, and Lumie finally learns the source of his unusual magic powers. Goldie also learns how to shut out the emotions of those around him–and use his unexpected gift to waylay bad guys. And, just in time too, because they are now on assignment to track down some dudes who’ve been kidnapping supes and forcing them into bloodsport for gambling rings. Lumie had never expected his magic would fail him, but his new education helps him see a way past his captors, and right into Goldie’s arms forever.

This is a YA paranormal romance with innocent first kisses and dreams built on a vision of the future. It’s sweet and entertaining, with just the right amount of action to balance the romance. I love how Lumie had to really grow beyond his lackadaisical life, and skills, to become capable of being responsible for himself and Goldie. And Goldie’s growth from timid and shattered to fierce enough to defend his life-mate? So engaging. The more of these stories I read, the more I can’t wait to read another. I wonder if Alloy will find his mate in the next installment!

Interested? You can find DRAGON LESSON on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 NineStar Press GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

You can catch up with Mell on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Amateur Sleuthing When MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD–A TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M mystery from Josh Lanyon. MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD is a standalone murder mystery with romantic elements featuring a librarian on a tour of Scotland who finds himself discovering more than adventure.

About the book:
A librarian finds himself in a plot right out of one of his favorite mystery novels…

Librarian Carter Matheson is determined to enjoy himself on a Scottish bus tour for fans of mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Sure, his ex, Trevor, will also be on the trip with his new boyfriend, leaving Carter to share a room with a stranger, but he can’t pass up a chance to meet his favorite author.

Carter’s roommate turns out to be John Knight, a figure as mysterious as any character from Vanessa’s books. His strange affect and nighttime wanderings make Carter suspicious. When a fellow traveler’s death sparks rumors of foul play, Carter is left wondering if there’s anyone on the tour he can trust.

Drawn into the intrigue, Carter searches for answers, trying to fend off his growing attraction toward John. As unexplained tragedies continue, the whole tour must face the fact that there may be a murderer in their midst—but who?

My Review:
Carter Matheson is a librarian on a mission to enjoy his first trip abroad–visiting sites in Scotland incorporated into the mystery-thrillers of his favorite author Vanessa Rayburn–even if he has to spend it with his ex, Trevor, and his ex’s new boyfriend. Carter considers this the trip of his lifetime, and the way the intrigue unfolds it might just be his last.

Carter is one of few uncoupled people on the tour, and due to the Trevor fiasco he’s sharing his room with an unknown man, John Knight, who is pithy and mysterious in his own right. Carter is nearly killed by a shove into traffic, and later his room is trashed, presumably by someone with a vendetta. Thing is, the mischief maker must be someone on the tour, because who else would be perfectly positioned to strike? It’s a busload of middle-aged mystery buffs, so everyone had a theory, and they aren’t all that quiet about sharing them. Plus, Trevor’s really laying it on trying to work a jealousy angle–or maybe win Carter back. Carter’s confused, and not just about his relationships. He’s got an eye on John, whose behavior isn’t bordering odd–it’s downright fishy at times. But, Carter’s also a bit attracted to the man, and he’s not sure if John’s staging all the trouble, or the target of it.

I loved the way Carter thinks, and analyzes the situations. He’s not super intrepid, but he does strive for logic, which is a departure from some of his tour mates. He’s quick to see through Trevor’s shenanigans and note the idiosyncrasies of the people he meets in his travel party. He and John become allies of a sort, and they do connect in that bump and grind way without a whole lot of preamble. This is more of a mystery than a romance, and there’s just enough of a flavor for these guys to add a further complication. I liked how there was more than one set of nefarious activities happening and that put Carter and John at cross purposes, at least for a little while. The descriptions of the Scottish countryside, travels and manor homes are just intriguing enough to tempt a would-be traveler. The end is super fast paced, with Carter figuring out the big murder mystery and John being in the right place at the right time to make the ending happy. For strangers on a European tour, the resolution provides a glimmer that these guys have more than a vacation fling. Fun, engaging, fast-paced and with lots of blind ends and hair pin curves, I really liked this one.

Interested? You can find MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Josh Lanyon is the author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance.

Her work has been translated into eleven languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondadori, the largest romance publisher in Italy. Stranger on the Shore (Harper Collins Italia) was the first M/M title to be published in print. In 2016 Fatal Shadows placed #5 in Japan’s annual Boy Love novel list (the first and only title by a foreign author to place). The Adrien English Series was awarded All Time Favorite Male Male Couple in the 2nd Annual contest held by the 20,000+ Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist (twice for Gay Mystery), an Edgar nominee and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.

Josh is married and lives in Southern California. Catch up with Josh’s new on her website, Facebook or twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Finding One’s Path DRAGON ADVENTURES–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M paranormal YA romance from Mell Eight. DRAGON ADVENTURES is the sixth book in the Supernatural Consultant series, which features a dragon, a demigod and a passel of maturing dragon kits. This story is a brief departure from the stories, centering on two growing kits who are being raised by William Armistead, a fellow territory leader to Dane. I fell into the previous titles DRAGON CONSULTANT, DRAGON DECEPTION, DRAGON DILEMMA, and DRAGON DETECTIVE, and have loved watching these characters grow and evolve in each story. This new one features two maturing dragons tracking evil human scientists and finding their mates in one another.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
Aqua and Rios are bored, which is always a recipe for disaster. Going on a trip might not solve the cause of the boredom, but they know it will distract them for a while. Except, Rios runs into a nix trying to save his river from drug smugglers and Aqua is kidnapped by a bunch of angry fire salamanders. Their fun adventure quickly turns into a desperate fight for survival, and they’re not certain they’ll be able get back home ever again.

How about a little taste?

“Ugh.”

“Blarg.”

“Pbtth.”

“Frrpth.”

“That’s enough, boys.” Uncle Willy’s frown of displeasure was pronounced. Rios shut his mouth on another fart noise and Aqua did the same at his side. The long table was quiet, Rios realized, and they were all staring at him and at Aqua. Uncle Dane, with his shiny blond hair, was easily recognizable sitting farther down. He was hiding a smile, but the rest of the people didn’t look happy at all.

“Really, William. This is an important meeting. Send the children away,” Ming said sharply. She was the tiny Asian woman who controlled everything west of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. The entire table was full of territory leaders, and Uncle Willy had explained who each one was and the territory they controlled before they’d arrived for the North American Territory Leaders Conference that occurred every ten years. The last conference had been in Mexico, and the next two or three were going to be in the US before it went back to Mexico. Uncle Willy controlled Canada, and he always hosted the conference after Mexico.

Uncle Willy had been very stern with the boys about the conference. He had been teaching them all about his duties as territory leader and wanted them to sit quietly so they could listen and learn. But that was boring!

Rios opened his mouth to explain how bored he was, but Uncle Willy’s frown grew even sterner, so he shut his mouth again. Uncle Willy was his and Aqua’s caretaker. He had found them making a mess in a river and had ended up adopting them instead of punishing them. Living with Uncle Willy was fun. He played games with them and taught them magic. Even though they had to do chores, it was much better than living in the wild. Uncle Willy had even lost a lot of weight over the years so he could go swimming with them; he wasn’t skinny, of course, but he could keep up now, at least. But then he had said that being fifteen years old signified that they could now take on some responsibility. Well, if responsibility meant sitting in boring meetings while people did a lot of useless talking, then responsibility was awful.

Both Aqua and Rios hated being bored, and Uncle Willy knew that. Rios hoped his answering pout at Uncle Willy explained his reasoning.

“Go on, then,” Uncle Willy finally said with a sigh. Rios refrained from cheering happily as he jumped down from his seat and scampered out of the room after Aqua.

It took them ten minutes to realize there was nothing to do outside of the meeting either.

“Nickel should have come,” Aqua grumbled into the pillow that he used for a face-plant. His blue hair was spread around his head like a wave.

He should have. Rios couldn’t agree more. Nickel was awesome. He was an older water dragon, about twenty-two, and Aqua and Rios had been playing with him for ten years. He had taught them so much about their shared magic and was happy to see them whenever they could convince Uncle Willy that they should go visit. Except, the last four years of their friendship hadn’t been nearly as fun. Nickel had a new playmate: an air dragon named Platinum. Instead of coming to the territory leaders’ meeting with Dane like Nickel should have, he was home playing with his new best friend. It wasn’t fair.

Aqua rolled onto his side so his face wasn’t being smushed by the pillow. He growled under his breath and then let out a heavy sigh. They were both brothers, and the fact that they had definitely hatched from the same clutch was obvious in their shared brow line and rounded chins. Aqua’s nose was a little longer than Rios’s, his eyes a smidge wider, and he was about four inches taller, but they were clearly brothers. They hadn’t been entirely certain of that fact when they were younger and had been confused for twins more times than Rios could count. When they had been kits covered in identical blue dragon scales with identically colored hair, no one could tell them apart. Only as they grew had their differences become apparent, but as far as the issue of being bored and being abandoned by Nickel, they were of the same mind.

“We should go tell Nickel how sad we are that he couldn’t come,” Rios whined, knowing he was speaking what Aqua was also thinking.

“Not on the phone,” Aqua grumbled in reply immediately. The phone number for Nickel’s new house that he was sharing with Platinum was written in a little book kept next to the phone in the kitchen, but a phone call wouldn’t convey just how upset they were with Nickel. It had to be done in person.

“Uncle Willy won’t take us there when he’s still in the middle of a meeting,” Rios mused aloud, “and Uncle Dane isn’t going back home until the meeting is over, so we can’t tag along with him.”

“So we’ll have to travel on our own,” Aqua said insistently.

That made sense to Rios. They weren’t too far away from Dane’s territory, or at least Rios didn’t think so. Uncle Willy owned big houses all over Canada. He didn’t want to use his main house—where they lived most of the time—for the meeting, so he had brought them all to his house in Ontario instead.

“Wasn’t there a map on the wall of Uncle Willy’s office?” Rios asked. They didn’t spend too much time in Ontario, but they had made sure to thoroughly explore the house.

They ran out of the living room eagerly, up the stairs, and down the hall to the office. Since Uncle Willy was downstairs in the meeting, they didn’t knock. Aqua threw the door open and they piled inside.

It wasn’t hard to find the map on the wall. It was only about five feet by five feet long, and Rios could easily grip the wooden frame and take it off the hook. Some of the lines were a bit different than Rios thought he remembered, but it was definitely a map of North America. Although, only the right half of the US portion of the map had the lines that denoted the States. The rest of the map was mostly blank. It definitely looked weird, but they could still pinpoint where Uncle Willy’s house was in Canada and Uncle Dane’s house was in Massachusetts.

“There is a river, see!” Aqua ran his finger down the big lake that Rios knew was called after a big bird. Lake Seagull didn’t sound right—maybe it started with an H, but it wasn’t Hawk. The big lake connected to another slightly smaller lake via a river, which then connected to a third lake that was close to where Dane lived.

It looked like it would be faster and much more direct to walk on land, but they were water dragons and could traverse through the lakes and rivers at much greater speed. Once they got to the last big lake, they could find smaller rivers to get to Nickel’s house.

Aqua held his finger over the distance from the third lake to Massachusetts and grinned at Rios. “It’s only a few inches long. With our water magic, we can get there in a few hours.”

Something didn’t seem quite right—weren’t they supposed to measure with a ruler or something a little more accurate?—but it sounded like too much fun not to go anyway. Rios glanced at the clock, which read eleven in the morning.

“We had better pack lunch,” he said with his own grin.

My Review:
This is the sixth book in a series, and contains two short novellas of paranormal YA adventure that’s able to be enjoyed as a standalone.

For readers of the series, we encountered William Armistead in DRAGON DILEMMA. William is a territory leader for Canada, and he adopted two wild water dragon kits some years back. He’s a super powerful magical being, but a struggling parent, so he leans on Dane–who is the Northeast US territory leader–and adoptive parent to 7 young dragons for advice. Dane has been raising dragons for nearly fifteen years, and is partnered with a dragon, so he’s a great resource. Dane’s in residence in Canada for a territory leader meeting when “Uncle Willy’s” 16 year old water dragon kits, Aqua and Rios, get bored and decide to hare off to Uncle Dane’s territory and play with their pal Nickel, who is a now 22 year old, mate-bonded, water dragon.

The silly kits use an ancient, decorative map to plan their route, sure they can traverse Lakes Huron and Erie in a matter of hours to meet their friend. The plan goes well awry. Rios, who is using his magic to guide their rowboat realizes that they cannot continue in the dark–even though they have only passed into a riverway leading to Lake Erie. He guides the boat to shore and ties it off, much to Aqua’s chagrin. They pass a chilly night in the boat, Aqua sleeping and Rios restless–until he witnesses some folks on an unlit boat dropping crates into the water. Rios is interested, but doesn’t necessarily want to get his clothes soaked. Instead, he’s startled by a green-haired boy with a fish tail who drops into his boat. The boy’s tail split into legs as he dries watching the drug smugglers deposit their product into his river. Rios is stunned by all this activity, and charges off after the boy–who he calls Nixie after learning the boy is a nix, not a merman. They pull the drug-loaded crates to shore in an attempt to hide them from the the accomplices who should be arriving anytime before sun up to claim the crates and head back to US territory with them. Nixie has been monitoring this situation for a long time–he says the drugs leak into the water and kill the fish. He’s been alone trying to manage the problem, and immediately goes into hiding when the Canadian Coast Guard arrives and arrests both Rios and Aqua–the only beings on the scene of a suspected drug handover.

This is a sweet and interesting adventure, which leads Rios to not only his mate, but also his calling. As Dane has counseled William, the kits need to find a purpose in order to fully mature. This may happen while out on an adventure, and so he should support the kits in going off on their own, just a bit. And, as Dane remembers, sometimes the kit will find their mate as a result. Uncle Willy gets called in to account for his kits, and learns of Nixie and the drugs, and how the smugglers will return–which puts Rios front and center to rescue Nixie, whom he is frantic to save. He can’t keep his thoughts away from the green-haired, green-eyed nix, and how isolated he thought the young man was.

Uncle Willy rolled with it, and Nixie becomes a part of their growing family. Meanwhile, he and Rios have new missions, and what looks to be careers and a future together. And, this, unfortunately leaves Aqua out in the cold. The second novella begins about a year after Nixie arrives with Rios. Rios, having found his mate and his purpose is growing and maturing at an alarming rate, and Aqua…is not. He’s feeling sullen and maybe a little vengeful toward the nix who’s got his brother so captivated. Uncle Willy is so tired of Aqua’s griping he urges him to go find his own adventure–assuring that he’ll help Aqua if and when he gets into a jam.

Aqua is game for this plan, and packs some food and drinks with a few changes of clothes into a knapsack. He’s mastered flying and takes off from Saskatchewan to find his own new path. He flies and glides south for hours, until he’s tired and hungry. Landing in a dry and barren area, he eats a bit of his packed food and is about to head off again when he’s clobbered from behind and kidnapped into a shack in the middle of what seems to be a desert. Aqua is unwillingly brought into a family squabble between four fire salamanders, one of whom, Ash, appears to be albino. Ash is the youngest of his family and unable to live in the sun and fire his siblings thrive in. Hes eldest brother has begun a feud with the neighboring fire dragon, following a falling out over a match their sister made with a female fire dragon. And it is this man who is holding Aqua hostage, thinking he’s a dragon spy.

I liked how Aqua had to use his wits and his skills to help save himself, and then figure out a way to manage the discord between the salamanders and the dragons. Ash, due to his isolation in the cabin, has had little contact with the dragons, and he’s a little mystified of them. However, once they connect with the local council, both Ash and Aqua can see that this feud is an outgrowth of his brother’s antiquated ideas and prejudice. Standing up for himself and his sister puts Ash on the outs, leaving him homeless and vulnerable in a place he can’t survive. I’m not going to go into the ins and out of the plot, but I will share that Aqua connects to Ash in a permanent way, and he knows he won’t leave Ash to suffer there in the Utah desert.

Both of these stories are sweet, innocent and imaginative. William’s dragon kits are truly maturing and it was so fun to watch them flounder a bit, as they figured out their places in the world. There’s so much magic, and its always so engaging to experience this world, that I can’t imagine not picking up the next book–whatever that may hold.

Interested? You can find DRAGON ADVENTURES on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 NineStar Press GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

You can catch up with Mell on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Moving Forward With the DRAGON SOLDIER–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M paranormal romance from Mell Eight. DRAGON SOLDIER is the fifth book in the Supernatural Consultant series, which features a dragon, a demigod and a passel of maturing dragon kits. I fell into the previous titles DRAGON CONSULTANT, DRAGON DECEPTION, DRAGON DILEMMA, and DRAGON DETECTIVE, and have loved watching these characters grow and evolve in each story. This new one features two maturing dragons tracking evil human scientists and finding their mates in one another.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
The aftermath of the last battle has left Nickel weak in bed and grounded for the next decade. Despite being in trouble, Nickel wants to return to the battle against the enemy as soon as he can, but thoughts of Platinum, the dragon helping to nurse him back to health, keep distracting him.

Platinum can’t believe how much his life has changed. He went from being a lonely fugitive on the run to part of a family in only hours. The last few days have been his happiest, especially now that he’s met Nickel. He knows it’s only temporary, though. The enemy that kept him captive for most of his life isn’t finished with him yet, but even Platinum and Nickel’s combined powers might not be enough to save them all.

How about a little taste?

Nickel fought to open his eyes. The lids felt like they were weighted down or as if someone had sewn them shut. He struggled with them for a few long minutes, then, exhausted, gave up and drifted off to sleep.

The second time Nickel woke, most of the weight had vanished. His eyes slid open easily enough, and then he had to blink away tears as the bright light from his bedside table lamp almost blinded him.

“Sorry!” Someone whose voice Nickel didn’t recognize gasped. There was a thump as something hit the floor, and the light snapped off a second later. Footsteps ran away from him, heading toward the door. More light flooded into the room as the door was flung open, but Nickel’s eyes had finally adjusted. “He’s awake!” the stranger yelled into the hallway.

A series of familiar thumps, bumps, squeals, and exclamations sounded as Nickel’s family literally dropped whatever they were doing and ran toward Nickel’s bedroom. The door was flung open wider, and a small stampede rushed to Nickel’s bedside.

Alloy reached Nickel first. He climbed onto the chair pulled up next to Nickel’s bed where the stranger had been sitting moments before. He leaned over Nickel’s head to see him better.

“Yup, he’s awake,” Alloy chirped happily. Alloy’s hair was rumpled from playing, and the bright red-and-blue strands that matched the colors of each of his wide eyes hung over his forehead. A pair of hands wrapped around Alloy’s middle and gently lifted him off the chair. Alloy was happy to settle into Mercury’s arms so Mercury could bend closer to Nickel.

“How are you feeling?” Mercury asked. His voice was soft, almost as if he was afraid of startling Nickel, which was silly after all the yelling from just a moment ago. Mercury’s bronze-colored hair was long on his neck, and his bronze-colored eyes looked concerned. Mercury was still wearing the button-up shirt he wore to work, so it must be late afternoon.

Nickel blinked slowly, trying to figure out what he had done to deserve the fanfare. Had he been sleepwalking? No, he didn’t feel strong enough to sit up, let alone get out of bed and walk around. He must have been sick, yet that answer didn’t jive either.

The rest of his family had lined up behind Mercury. Lumie was standing next to Copper, their bright red hair and eyes an exact match for the shade in Alloy’s hair. They were fire dragons, but Lumie was only ten years old while Copper was eighteen, the same age as Nickel. Next to them were ’Ron and Chrome, the two earth dragons. Chrome looked like he had been digging outside again; half of his face and his clothing were covered in dirt the same color as his and ’Ron’s hair. They were both thirteen years old, but ’Ron was considerably cleaner than Chrome. Dane had his hands on ’Ron’s shoulders, no doubt to keep her from jumping onto the bed to give Nickel a hug. That would be painful, but Nickel still couldn’t remember why his body ached so much.

Dane was the tallest person in the room. His blond hair seemed to glow, and his ears were pointed at the moment, which meant the glamor he used to hide his otherworldly appearance was down. He was unbelievably beautiful, but then he was the child of a god.

Zinc was next in line. Her long white hair, distinctive of air dragons, was loose from the braid she usually kept it in. It hung in a wave down her back. Her gray eyes were earnest as they looked at Nickel, except her face seemed thinner than Nickel remembered. She also seemed to be taller, almost Dane’s height.

Nickel blinked in surprise, and then saw the hand clasped in Zinc’s and gaped. Zinc, with her hair still in its distinctive white braid, was standing next to herself. Only, now Nickel was realizing that the first version of Zinc was actually male. They were egg twins, identical dragons except for their gender, hatched out of the same egg. He was Platinum, the dragon who Nickel and the rest of his family had been searching for ten years.

Like a spark had been lit, a fire erupted in Nickel’s head. He winced at the sudden pain, only it didn’t exactly hurt. Memories flooded back, each a little video that connected with the others to give him the whole story. There were a lot of them, the sheer volume overwhelming him and causing the pain-mimicking feeling.

Searching the woods for the person mucking with the weather. Finding out that Platinum had escaped from the enemy scientists. Watching Lumie and Platinum get kitnapped. Flying off to defeat the scientists once and for all. Losing the battle. And then nothing. He didn’t know how he had gotten home, only that he was safe now.

“How long am I grounded for?” Nickel asked. His voice was thick and scratchy and his throat dry. How long had it been since he had last spoken? Surely it couldn’t be more than a few hours. A day at most.

Mercury let out a growly snort. “For the foreseeable future. And don’t even think the word ‘candy.’”

Nickel sighed, but at the moment he honestly just wanted a glass of water. Begging for candy could wait until he could sit up properly again.

My Review:
This is the fifth story in a series, and best enjoyed when read in series.

Dane, a demigod, and his husband Mercury, a precious dragon shifter, have been diligently assisting dragons in need for the past ten years, while also raising their clutch of mis-matched and genetically-modified (by evil human scientists!!) kits.

Nickel is an 18 year old Dragon, being raised by Dane and Mercury. As a kit, Nickel escaped a laboratory where he was being cruelly tortured by human scientists trying to steal his water magic. When rescued by Mercury, and later Dane, Nickel wanted revenge, and they allowed him to wield his magic to take down his tormentors. Since that time, Nickel’s grown up, done his schooling and is training to be a private investigator. HE has helped Dane in his supernatural consulting business for years, while also tracking down the rogue pods of humans still experimenting on dragons. He recently helped save Platinum, the male air dragon who had been in captivity and testing for most of his 18 year old life.

Platinum is the egg twin of Chrome, Nickel’s adopted sister, but Platinum’s air magic has been mutated by the scientists and his emotional state can induce changes in the local weather. Having been raised in captivity, Platinum is shy of being in the company of people, and some of Nickel’s adopted siblings are a little too much for him. Platinum struggles with nightmares, but he’s trying to build his skills in both magic and his education–learning to read and write for the first time. It is through the love of Dane and Mercury that Platinum finally has a home.

In the rescue of Platinum, Nickel’s magic was dangerously drained. He’s having a hard time regaining his strength and this is really frustrating. He’s taken years to build his magic up, and now he’s barely able to walk to the bathroom. But, he and Platinum are sharing a room, and that makes it easy to lean on one another. Not that it takes Nickel long to realize that Platinum is his mate.

The casual way they connect is sweet and tender. I loved how Dane helped both Platinum and Nickel with (sometimes) secret plans to take care of one another. Platinum’s skills in magic are growing by the day, and Platinum delights in helping outfit their new office to accommodate Nickel better. Meanwhile, Nickel has big plans to make a life for him and Platinum–in a much quieter little cottage they can call home. Ultimately, they won’t feel safe if they can’t track down the last of the scientists who’d gotten away from Nickel. But they are both necessary to the investigation, giving Platinum the agency he’s needed to help him cope with his trauma. And, there’s a wholesome family vibe to this story where each of the dragons is essential to the security of dragons, at home and abroad.

I’ve loved this series and would recommend it for people who are fans of light romances and heavy paranormal.

Interested? You can find DRAGON SOLDIER on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 NineStar Press GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

You can catch up with Mell on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Living Your Best Life CINDERELLA BOY–Promo and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a promo for a contemporary LGBTQ story for new-to-me author Kristina Meister. CINDERELLA BOY features a genderqueer teen boy finding unexpected love with his sister’s ex-boyfriend.

About the book:
Being perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Sixteen-year-old Declan is the perfect son . . . except for one tiny issue. When his sister Delia comes home to find him trying on her clothes, he fears her judgment, but she only fears his fashion choices. One quick makeover later, Declan is transformed into Delia’s mysterious cousin Layla and dragged to the party of the year, hosted by Carter, the most popular boy in school.

When Carter meets Layla, he fumbles to charm her. He adores her sense of humor and her poise. But when she vanishes in the middle of the night, he’s left confused and determined to solve the mystery of who she is.

As their school year begins, their high school embraces a policy of intolerance, and both Declan and Carter know they must stand up. Carter is tired of being a coward and wants to prove he can be a knight in shining armor. Declan is sick of being bullied and wants desperately to be himself. If they team up, it could be a fairy-tale ending, or a very unhappy ever after.

I wrote a full review of the audiobook on Joyfully Jay for CINDERELLA BOY, and if you go read my New-To-Me Challenge review and make a comment by midnight on Saturday you will be entered in the weekly drawing for a $25 GC for JMS Books, and the month-wide drawing for a Kindle Paperwhite filled with 50 ebooks from NineStar Press!

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Dark Side of THE BRIGHT LANDS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ story for new-to-me author John Fram. THE BRIGHT LANDS pulls an out gay man back to his conservative east Texas hometown in search of his teen brother, the star quarterback of the high schoo who’s recently gone missing.

About the book:
The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

My Review:
Okay, when I picked up this story, it DIDN’T sound like anything paranormal or supernatural was going to happen from the blurb. That is NOT the case, y’all.

Joel Whitley escaped Bentley, Texas right after high school and he’s hardly looked back–not for his mama or his younger half-brother, Dylan. They chat on the phone and stuff, but Joel hates that place, where he was pretty much attacked for being gay, and ohoto evidence of his “depravity” was circulated widely. But, a weird phone call from Dylan rouses Joel from his free-wheeling, occasionally substance-fueled life in Manhattan. And, it gets Joel on a plane to figure out what might be wrong.

In that space, Joel senses the darkness of the town and is frustrated by the lack of assistance when it turns out that Dylan is missing in action, a “fishing trip” to the coast being a ruse for way more dangerous activities. The team seems to have a pact set to confound and confuse any investigations, but the behavior of some of Dylan’s teammates is nothing short of bizarre–if not possessed. Joel’s old friend Starsha, who happens to be a Sheriff’s Deputy is interested in getting to the bottom of this mystery, and her professional duty is rivaled by personal interest–her own brother disappeared in much the same way as Dylan years before.

I will be honest and say this book was not my cuppa. There were a LOT of points-of-view and their points of intersection did not always overlap. That, and the supernatural element was slow to develop, so I couldn’t tell if the heebie-jeebies Joel was sensing were just his own misapprehension, or something “other”. I do not want to spoil wants happening in the story, but I will say that I felt the actual situation in the story seemed to vilify homosexual behavior. That giving in to those “base” urges led to feeding the malevolence that has been growing in influence and power for decades. I get that this is a thriller, but the resolution ended up being violent and unsatisfying for me–again because there was so much negativity that was tied into what was seen by the characters as deviant behavior. Dylan’s story does not end well, and Joel takes it badly–which I did understand. He was sad for his brother and felt guilty for not helping out more. And the whole thing ended sadly and negatively for my understanding.

For people who like horror, thrillers and supernatural reads, this might be the right story for you. Just, do not expect a happy ending.

Interested? You can find THE BRIGHT LANDS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
John Fram is a lapsed Texan and debut author of the supernatural thriller THE BRIGHT LANDS, due out in July 2020 from Hanover Square Press. Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box, describes it as “absolutely enthralling,” Christopher Golden calls it “compelling as hell,” and Edmund White (the one and only) calls it “Gothic, Faulkernian…and very, very sexy.” He’s just grateful a childhood spent playing video games and sweating in tall grass resulted in something worthwhile.

An accidental Manhattanite, he spends his free time practicing yoga, sweating on stationary bikes and gasping in movie theaters. He writes, meditates and reads every day, in that order. Follow his Instagram to see screenshots from old movies and excited posts about whatever book he’s currently loving. Follow my Twitter because apparently we still need one of those. And go to my website, where you can sign up for a monthly newsletter about old movies and exciting books, some of which he’s written.

Catch up to John on his website, Instagram, and Twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Appearances Deceive GOING DUTCH–A Review

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing a review for a TBT M/M contemporary “dramady” from James Gregor. GOING DUTCH features a single gay graduate student in NYC struggling to find direction, purpose and love in his life.

About the book:
Exhausted by dead-end forays in the gay dating scene, surrounded constantly by friends but deeply lonely in New York City, and drifting into academic abyss, twenty-something graduate student Richard has plenty of sources of anxiety. But at the forefront is his crippling writer’s block, which threatens daily to derail his graduate funding and leave Richard poor, directionless, and desperately single.

Enter Anne: his brilliant classmate who offers to “help” Richard write his papers in exchange for his company, despite Richard’s fairly obvious sexual orientation. Still, he needs her help, and it doesn’t hurt that Anne has folded Richard into her abundant lifestyle. What begins as an initially transactional relationship blooms gradually into something more complex.

But then a one-swipe-stand with an attractive, successful lawyer named Blake becomes serious, and Richard suddenly finds himself unable to detach from Anne, entangled in her web of privilege, brilliance, and, oddly, her unabashed acceptance of Richard’s flaws. As the two relationships reach points of serious commitment, Richard soon finds himself on a romantic and existential collision course—one that brings about surprising revelations.

Going Dutch is an incisive portrait of relationships in an age of digital romantic abundance, but it’s also a heartfelt and humorous exploration of love and sexuality, and a poignant meditation on the things emotionally ravenous people seek from and do to each other. James Gregor announces himself with levity, and a fresh, exciting voice in his debut

My Review:
Richard is a gay graduate student in New York City struggling to complete his doctoral thesis due to writer’s block. His living money is dependent upon him continuing to write papers and win grants, and he just…can’t. He’s eternally depressed, and pines for his best friend–a situation that doesn’t get any better.

It’s a bit of a crisis, this not having money, and his advisor is less than helpful. Richard’s fortunes seem to change when one of his fellow grad students, Anne, offers to help him with his writing. All she wants is his company. And, not in a sexy way. She’s wealthy and lonely, and they get along. They’re friends…of a sort. Richard actually doesn’t have a lot of close friends. Richard isn’t above having Anne write any and all work on his behalf. He doesn’t outright take credit for all the work she’s done, but he also doesn’t admit to how little of the writing he does in their “collaboration” either.

Richard looks for love in the way of young urban men in the digital age–via his apps. And it seems like he gets a bunch of duds. One disastrous date with Blake seems to put him off looking for men altogether, and that’s okay, because he has Anne’s odd fascination/friendship to prop him up and help him feel somewhat worthwhile. Spoiler alert: Richard isn’t really that worthwhile, at least, that’s how he feels and that’s how he came across the page to me, as a guy biding his time fore the Bigger Better Deal he couldn’t actually accomplish for himself.

As Richard commits more and more of his time to Anne and her desires, while sponging off of her generosity, he and Blake actually make a latent connection. And, it seems like Richard will FINALLY make a good choice, one that will jump start his lackadaisical approach to everything. And…I got my hopes up too soon on that one.

This book is billed as a “dramedy” and a comedy of manners, but my Midwestern manners didn’t align with Richard’s by any stretch. I thought I could connect because I was once a starving grad student who had to write her thesis in order to get paid, too. Unfortunately, Richard’s a guy I wouldn’t want to be friendly with, for fear he’d be looking down at me while simultaneously holding his hand out for a payout. His handling of relationships with both Anne and Blake definitely qualified as falling into the “user” category, and that’s never how I like my MCs. Despite the dubious character flaws, I found the prose interesting and compelling, causing me to read on even when I knew I was traveling into parts I wouldn’t care for. And, even though I didn’t much care for any of the characters or their choices, they had a gritty authenticity and enough texture that I could see these vapid sort of folks as real beings. They were just the sort of people I don’t like to spend time with, even when it’s time on the page. I’m sure the plot is like some great and timely show on TV, or a movie about urban folks doing their urban thing, but I don’t watch a lot of that stuff, so it didn’t resonate with me as a reader.

That said, if you like contemporary urban gay fiction the book might be a winner for you. It had some great press behind it upon release, which was why I chose to read it.

Interested? You can find GOING DUTCH on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About the Authors:
James Gregor holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia. He has been a writer in residence at the Villa Lena Foundation in Tuscany and a bookseller at Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris. James was born and grew up in Canada. Going Dutch is his first novel.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Young DRAGON DETECTIVE on the Case–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M paranormal romance from Mell Eight. DRAGON DETECTIVE is the fourth book in the Supernatural Consultant series, which features a dragon, a demigod and a passel of maturing dragon kits. You already know I enjoyed both previous stories, DRAGON CONSULTANT, DRAGON DECEPTION, DRAGON DILEMMA so I jumped at the chance to read on in this series.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
Nickel might be a water elemental dragon, but even he has limits—and the sudden rain storms, hail, and snow in midsummer are way over the line. Luckily, he works for Dane’s Supernatural Consulting firm and can use those resources to figure out who keeps mucking with the weather and get them to stop.

Soon Nickel realizes he isn’t the only one searching for the weather worker: the enemy he has been hunting for ten years has finally reappeared, and it’s a race to see who will reach the weather worker first. Nickel isn’t certain he’ll win, or even survive, the attempt, but he’ll do whatever it takes to save the dragons.

How about a little taste?

Chapter One
Nickel walked into the office and shut his umbrella with a snap that spattered water droplets all over his pant legs. He grimaced and tossed the umbrella onto the stand by the door with a sigh of disgust.

“It’s not that bad, dear,” Becky said cheerfully from her oversized secretary’s desk in the middle of the room. He scowled at her in return, which she ignored with the ease of knowing him for over ten years. Becky looked warm and dry while wearing a nice summer-weight cardigan. The rain hadn’t started until an hour ago, so she had already been safely ensconced on her throne. Nickel, on the other hand, had been out and about getting lunch. He had been lucky to be near a shop selling umbrellas when it had suddenly started pouring, but that hadn’t saved his shoes.

Admittedly, Nickel liked rain. He was usually the first one to run outside to play when the skies darkened and thunder rumbled overhead, just not when he was wearing a nice suit. He might be able to save his shoes, but only if the scamp napping on his desk chair moved.

“Lumie, scram,” Nickel snapped.

Lumie popped one red eye open, saw that Nickel was the one speaking to him, and went right back to sleep. His long red hair flopped over his face as he took ignoring Nickel to another level. Nickel growled and ran a hand through his much shorter blue hair in exasperation. There was no talking to Lumie when he was in one of his moods. Instead of fighting for his chair, Nickel dropped to the floor.

His shoes popped off with wet squelching sounds, and his socks left a puddle on the floor. Nickel’s magic fizzled between his fingers for a moment before he directed it to pull on the water, calling it out of his shoes and socks. It was a gradual process. Water moved slowly. It was sticky, according to the science teacher Dane had hired to teach all the kits, and was therefore happier to remain attached to something than not. It was why water always hesitated on the edge of a counter before the push from behind and gravity below finally sent it falling. Of course, once the first drop fell, all the water built up behind it fell too because it was all stuck together. It took some doing before the water obeyed his magic, but once one drop and then another began to coalesce in Nickel’s hand, it wasn’t long before he had a small river flowing from his shoes and socks into his cupped palms.

The water was cool and welcoming, just the way Nickel liked it. He continued to call out the water slowly. Easy, routine magic, it was also good practice for when he worked larger spells. Except the water was starting to heat in his hands. First it was only just warm, which happened sometimes when he was being a touch careless, but when bubbles started to form between his hands, Nickel turned to glare at Lumie.

“Knock it off!” Nickel snapped. Lumie continued to breathe evenly, as if he really were asleep. Experience told Nickel that Lumie was a dammed good actor, though. The heat continued to rise until the water stopped protecting Nickel’s hands and they began to get uncomfortably hot. His shoes also began to smell. ’Ron had stuck a hairdryer into a pair of sneakers once to try to dry them. The bathroom had reeked of sweaty feet for days when she was done, and the office was quickly taking on the smell of that awful aroma.

Nickel tossed the water before it could start burning his hands. It arced beautifully in the air, steaming as it continued to boil, and landed directly on Lumie’s head.

Lumie shrieked and jumped out of Nickel’s chair. His red hair was plastered to his face and dripping onto his shirt. He looked like a soaked puppy, especially as he scowled. Nickel couldn’t help grinning at the sight.

“What was that for?” Lumie shook his head back and forth, deliberately spraying Nickel with more water. The water steamed off Lumie quickly, leaving his hair dry and slightly fluffy.

“You know why!” Nickel snapped back, his good mood forgotten with the reminder that Lumie had just tried to boil Nickel’s hands off and destroy the office with a pervasive stench.

“Sleeping in your chair is no reason for you to throw water all over me!” Lumie yelled. His eyes flashed with magic, so Nickel prepared himself to block anything Lumie was about to throw at him. “And ugh, what’s that smell anyway?” Lumie asked. He turned his head away from Nickel, the water incident already forgotten as he sniffed the air.

“I was just trying to help!” Alloy whined. He poked his head out from underneath the desk. His mixed red-and-blue hair was disheveled, and his eyes—one bright red and the other blue—were wide as he tried to hold back tears. Nickel jumped in surprise and then growled at himself. How had he missed the fact that Alloy was curled underneath the desk? He shouldn’t have. Apparently, the distraction of Lumie taking his chair combined with his wet shoes had been enough for Nickel to miss Alloy. That wasn’t acceptable; Nickel snarled to himself. He had to be better than that. Alloy wasn’t an enemy, but next time Nickel might not be so lucky.

Still, yelling at Alloy wouldn’t have any effect. Either Alloy would pretend to be Lumie and conveniently forget the scolding a few minutes later, or he would run to Copper and Copper would smooth over any hard lessons Nickel had tried to impart.

“You remember the time ’Ron tried to dry her shoes in the bathroom?” Nickel asked Alloy as calmly as he could. Alloy’s nose wrinkled in disgust so Nickel took that as a yes. “She used the hot air from the hairdryer, and the heat made her shoes stink. That’s why heating up the water in my shoes started to smell bad.”

“Oh,” Alloy said slowly as he began to understand the mistake he had made. “I should have helped your water magic, then?” he asked curiously. For any other dragon, what Alloy had said would have been an impossibility. Elemental dragons like them used one element of magic. That was it. Nickel used water, and Lumie used fire. Alloy was the result of a cruel experiment gone wrong and had somehow been born with power over both water and fire.

“That would have been better,” Nickel agreed. “But you should always ask first before you interrupt someone’s spell. You could have burned me if I hadn’t gotten Lumie wet instead.” Alloy giggled and Nickel couldn’t help cracking a smile at the memory of Lumie jumping up in surprise.

“Shut up,” Lumie grumped. At some point, he had left Nickel’s desk and had wandered over to Becky’s instead. He was busy plundering her candy jar, but he still shot them a disgruntled glare that only faded when he finally found a Cinnamon Bomb. He bounced off into Dane’s empty office with his prize in hand, Nickel and Alloy promptly forgotten.

Nickel could only shake his head. Lumie had to grow up eventually, Nickel hoped. Alloy was certainly more mature.

“Oh, don’t worry, dears,” Becky said in her best old-lady voice. She looked like one at the moment, although in another minute she might look like someone Nickel’s age or even someone in their thirties. Her outward appearance wasn’t confined by age. “I have enough candy for everyone.”

She reached into her plundered candy jar and pulled out a package of red Laffy Taffy. It was cinnamon flavored, but Alloy liked the high sugar content too. For Nickel, she waved a stick of blue rock candy. She had apparently been shopping overnight, because Nickel was certain there hadn’t been any of his favorite candy left yesterday. He had checked.

Was it demeaning to allow himself to be bribed by candy? Nickel couldn’t help wondering even as he padded barefoot across the office to take the proffered candy. Alloy looked at his candy and then down at Nickel’s shoes. He whined to himself and plopped down on the ground. Nickel felt the swirl of water magic in the air a moment later. He took Alloy’s candy too and brought it over. Nickel called on his own water magic and sat next to Alloy to help.

My Review:
This is the fourth story in a series, and best enjoyed when read in series.

Dane, a demigod, and his husband Mercury, a precious dragon shifter, have been diligently assisting dragons in need for the past ten years, while also raising their clutch of mis-matched and genetically-modified (by evil human scientists!!) kits.

This is the first time the narrator is not either Dane or Mercury. Instead, Nickel, who is now an 18 year old dragon and a full-on detective working for Dane’s supernatural consultant firm, tells half the story. The other half of the story is told by Platinum, an 18 y/o air dragon recently escaped from the experimentation lab where he’s lived his whole life.

Platinum has been on the run for about three weeks. And, he’s managed to hole up in a cabin in a tiny mountain town–learning how to survive on his own by taking odd jobs for cash. He smells the scent of dragons nearby though, so he knows he needs to move on before he’s challenged for occupying the territory of another.

Nickel has taken on the role of lead investigator of a strange weather disturbance. At the same time, he’s catching rumors of a new air dragon in the vicinity, and following a lead on some of the brutal human scientists who’d escaped capture by Dane and Mercury in a sting five years before. Nickel is a determined young man, bent on gaining justice for the dragons and eggs these cruel folks experimented on to steal their magic. Nickel and his kitmates have all survived such experimentation and he’s more than ready to destroy anyone who plans to begin that business all over again.

This is a really interesting novella, with all the humor, twists and action that has become customary for this series. Nickel’s kitmates are a hoot as usual, and a preteen Lumie is the wildest of this barely-tame bunch. His antics bring home not only Platinum, but a pair of kittens for the dragon kits to squabble over. Nickel’s maturity and single-minded focus to his work is a great counterpoint to the actions of his dragon siblings. Meanwhile, Platinum’s life is truly changing for the better. He’s a special dragon, with untested and unwieldy powers thanks to the humans who experimented on him. It’s good to see him get to use these powers to help himself remain free. It’s also good to see that he and Nickel have an instant connection, one that may bear out a bit of romance in stories to come. In truth, Platinum is going to need a lot of TLC to connect with his kind in the real world, and I’m hoping that Nickel will be just the dragon for that job. He’s got the strength, the smarts and the stamina, and I’d love to see a bit more of his heart as he hopefully gives it to Platinum.

Every review I’ve read from folks who have not read the series in order has lamented beginning in the middle, but not because the story can’t stand on its own. More to the point, the richness and nuance of these characters’ interactions makes the reader want to dig deeper. I know I’m really enjoying myself on these fights of urban fantasy.

Interested? You can find DRAGON DETECTIVE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 NineStar Press GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

You can catch up with Mell on her website, Facebook, and twitter.