Cephalopod Coffeehouse Sept 2017: THE LIST, 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 I’m featuring a post-apocalyptic YA adventure from Patricia Forde. THE LIST is a newly-republished novel, originally called THE WORDSMITH. I’ve only read this version, but I liked it bunches.

About the book:
In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.

My Review:
Letta is the teenaged apprentice wordsmith of Ark, a community of survivors on post-apocalytic Earth. The ice caps melted and the seas rose and John Noa built a fortified town where some of humanity would survive. Letta’s parents, residents of Ark, disappeared when she was a small child, bound to search for more survivors. Letta was raised by the wordsmith, Benjamin, to treasure words, though the people of Arc are only given license to use the 500 words on their List as their language.

Benjamin isn’t pleased when he’s told to cut the List to 300 words, and Letta isn’t any happier. She’s in love with language, and words are her trade. She relishes knowing more words than most of Ark’s residents, and does her duty to keep making List words for the school children and apprentices of Ark when Benjamin goes on an extended journey.

John Noa’s theory that deceitful words of untrustworthy politicians destroyed the world has warped his mind, and he wants language eradicated and man to return to that of beasts, is pretty out there. Benjamin fought against him, and lost, which Letta discovers before it’s too late. She meets Marlo, a “Desecrator” or person who creates are or music and lives in the banished forest outside of Ark. Letta helps him recover from an attack by the Ark policing agents, and his family helps her track down the fate of Benjamin, and others who’d gotten in John Noa’s way.

This is an adventure that’s filled with intrigue and peril as Letta endeavors to find truth that’s been well hidden in ignorance. Her worldview is opened by her experiences with the Desecrators, and in witnessing the callousness of John Noa’s agents. They banish the old and infirm as well as the young. Their idyllic world is a shell game, and Letta’s blinders have been removed. She does her best to save the day, but it’s not over when it’s over. Letta, Marlo and the Desecrators need to find a way to help their fellow humans find a new direction, and it’ll take another book to get us there. Really interesting look at a totalitarian regime, and a censored society, from a teen’s point of view, and the plot kept moving along nicely as Letta made truth her mission.

Looking forward to the next adventure on this journey.

Interested? You can find THE LIST on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. You can also likely find it in your local library–may be cross-listed as The Wordsmith. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

Thanks for popping in and be sure to visit my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers as they share reviews of their fave books for this month.


Shifter Wars and Love in DARING FATE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new post-apocalyptic M/M romance that features shifters of a whole new breed by Megan Erickson. DARING FATE is the first book in a series that is whoa, SMOKING hot, and totally awesome.

daringfate-fAbout the book:
We all have tragic backstories in today’s world…
I wake up chained to the wall of a dark cell aware of two things: I failed my sister, and I smell my enemy.

When I’m taken to meet Dare, the alpha of the Silver Tip pack, I’m sure I’m about to lose my throat. The last thing I expect is for the Alpha to recognize me as his fated mate. No way is he going to let me go now, and I still have to find a way to rescue my sister.

As I plot my escape to save her, I find that if I leave, Dare could be killed by power-hungry members of his pack. And now he’s more to me than my fated mate—my heart is involved. With time ticking by on my sister’s life, I have to make a choice I never thought I’d face—my sister’s life or my mate’s? That’s if I can survive the undead shifters intent on killing me first…

How about a little taste?

Dare’s eyes flashed. His fingernails were still curved into claws, his canines descended, and a dusting of fur still covered his shoulders. He looked wild and a little feral. “Shift.” His voice was garbled, and I backed up a step, dipping my head as I whined.

He took a heaving breath and the fur on his shoulders disappeared. His eyes closed and when they opened, they were nearly black. “Shift,” he ordered again.

My body obeyed.

Never in my life had anyone been able to command me to shift, but Dare could. His command was a swell of power that I couldn’t deny. My bones cracked as I shifted back to human form, then I collapsed onto my stomach and panted as I tested my limbs. My ribs weren’t even tender.

Fuck yeah, shifter power.

I rose to my feet, shaking out my arms as I lifted my head to meet Dare’s gaze.

His teeth were bared, eyes cycling between green and black like a two-toned tornado.

He moved so fast, I didn’t even see his arm, didn’t realize he was in motion until a hand wrapped around my neck and claws dug into my throat. He hauled me against him, and with my feet not touching the floor, the only thing I could do was clutch his shoulders and wrap my legs around his waist.

“Mine,” he growled against my lips.

Not gonna lie, I was fucking terrified. Dare was only half there, his Were pulsing inside his skin. I didn’t know his Were, and I hoped to hell Dare had enough power to stay human.

I shifted my hands to grip his face, my fingers digging into his scalp as I rutted against him. The mating instinct overtook all my other thoughts. So, despite my terror, I was hard as hell. “Yours,” I muttered back.

That seemed to appease the Were, because Dare’s eyes stopped flickering, finally resting on green.

His chest rumbled, and he pressed our lips together—hard, punishing, furious—before delving his tongue inside.

The kiss was possessive and all-consuming. While I’d fucked around plenty, I’d never been kissed in my life, so I didn’t know how to deal with it. My head was spinning, my body on fire, ass clenching in anticipation for being taken. I wanted it. God help me, but I wanted him to pin me down and fuck me until I broke.

I wanted to be owned.

So I kissed him back, pushing against his tongue with mine, gnashing his lips with my teeth, which only seemed to spur him on harder.

My Review:

This story is set in the future, long after the death of humanity. There are three types of people who still walk the Earth: shifter, Were and Nowere. Shifters can vary between human and wolf form, while Weres can be human, wolf or Were, a cross of the two (the mental image I got was of Lycans from Underworld). Weres are enormous, easily six and a half to seven feet tall. Weres and shifters had lived alongside humans, but an active virus outbreak killed most of the humans. When it got into the Were population, the Weres didn’t die, they became undead killing machines known as Nowere. Packs of Nowere roam the land killing whatever they come across. Shifters live in packs, as do Weres, though these populations rarely mix.

Ten years ago Reese’s family’s Whitethroat shifter pack was decimated by Nowere attack. His family fled to Xan’s Bluefoot pack to seek shelter. It wasn’t a good call. Ten years of servitude for Reese, while also defending his younger sister, Selene, and brother, Jude, from Xan’s brutality is at it’s end. His plan to get them out of the compound goes bad, however, and Reese is beaten almost dead and left out in the wild for Nowere to ravage. Jude’s desperation to save his brother is so great he turns to the nearby Silver Tip Were pack for sanctuary.

When Reese becomes conscious, he’s not only scared out of his mind–all the stories he’s heard of Weres are even more brutal than Xan’s pack–he’s dejected that Selene was left behind for Xan to take. Meeting the Were Alpha, Dare, is the most confusing experience of Reese’s life–because he recognizes instantly that Dare, all seven feet of bulging muscle of him, is his True Mate.

The sexytimes? O.M.G. Off the freaking charts. The first half of the book is pretty much a treatise on how to build a bond by never getting out of bed. And, yet, I was never tempted to skim. There’s a knock-out punch of emotion in there. Dare and Reese are compelled to each other, and their responses are dramatic. Their insecurity is interesting, and Reese is extra conflicted because he needs to escape Dare, somehow, so he can rescue Selene. Meanwhile, his, and Jude’s, welfare is dependent upon Dare’s good graces, and position as Alpha. There are dissenters, chief among them Dare’s cousin, and they aren’t impressed with their Alpha mating a wolf. Reese knows that showing any fear, or desire to leave, in front of the pack could lead to a power shift.

There are a number of complicating factors that are organic to this world, and I really dug the intricacies of the new society. While the whole first half is about Dare and Reese’s bonding, the second half is the hunt and rescue of Selene. It’s a wedge between the newly bonded mates, and quite harrowing. The world here is stark, and yet rich–within the Silver Tip pack walls, that is. These Weres are awesome, and their pack is a peaceful community, most of the time. The Nowere are horrifying, and the stakes are extreme. Just when I thought they were going to be okay? Bam! Another problem.COuldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

The stage is set for another story, but this one is wrapped up tight. Expect love, lust, lore, and luck to win the day. I can’t wait to dive back into this world.

Interested? You can find DARING FATE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

About the Author:
Megan Erickson is a USA Today bestselling author of romance that sizzles. Her books have a touch of nerd, a dash of humor, and always have a happily ever after. A former journalist, she switched to fiction when she decided she likes writing her own endings better.

She lives in Pennsylvania with her very own nerdy husband and two kids. Although rather fun-sized, she’s been told she has a full-sized personality. When Megan isn’t writing, she’s either lounging with her two cats named after John Hughes characters or… thinking about writing.

For more, visit Megan on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Scared New World–FIGHT THE TIDE–Release Day Review and Author Interview!

Hi there! Today I get to welcome a fave author to my blog! I’ve read and reviewed at least five M/M romances from Keira Andrews, and I’ve loved each one. FIGHT THE TIDE, her newest book, launches today! It’s the sequel to KICK AT THE DARKNESS, one of my favorite books of 2015.

I had to reach out and get some comments from Keira on writing, her plans for the future, and Olympic opinions. Catch my interview and review below.

Fight the Tide (Kick at the Darkness, #2)About the book:
Adrift in a post-apocalyptic world, they only have each other. Is it enough?
A virus that turns the infected into zombie-like killers spreads through a burning world thrown into lawless chaos. Lovers Parker and Adam have escaped to the open sea when they hear a message over the airwaves from a place called Salvation Island—a supposed safe haven.

Orphaned as a child, werewolf Adam has always longed for a pack. He’s eager to investigate the island, but Parker doesn’t think for a nanosecond that the voice on the radio can be believed. He doesn’t trust anyone but Adam and is determined to keep it that way. They don’t need anyone else complicating their struggle to survive. Or do they?

Danger on the high seas can surface in a heartbeat, and if Parker and Adam aren’t careful, the current will drag them under.

This gay romance is a dystopian adventure featuring a werewolf, his boyfriend, and their struggle to find a place to call home.

Some fun thoughts from Author Keira Andrews…odd-ball questions provided by moi!

Kick At The Darkness and Fight the Tide are your first steps into paranormal fiction. Do you have plans to write more books in the genre?
I do! There’s going to be a third book in this series about Parker and Adam, and then a fourth centered on a character you’ll meet in Fight the Tide. I’ve really enjoyed writing paranormal, so will likely write supernatural books not connected to this series in the future as well.

What is your best tool keeping you happy and motivated as a full-time writer?
I truly love writing romance and although it’s a job with pros and cons like any job, my genuine passion for it keeps me motivated. If I’m feeling particularly lazy or burned out, I think about how much I hated working in an office. Imagining myself back in a cubicle is an excellent inspiration to get my butt in gear!

From your social media, it seems you are a huge fan of Olympic sports. Being that you’re Canadian, do you prefer Winter or Summer Games? What events are you most looking forward to watching in the 2016 Summer Games?
I am indeed a huge Olympic sports fan, and yep, as a Canadian (and a massive figure skating nut), the Winter Games are my fave. I do love the Summer Games as well, and I’m really looking forward to the diving, rowing, and gymnastics in particular. American gymnast Simone Biles is phenomenal, and I can’t wait to see her crush it.

What is your favorite trope in romance writing? Older-younger? First love? Enemies-to-lovers?
So hard to choose, but I definitely have an affinity for an age difference. Looking at my backlist, it comes up a lot! So does hate to love, and I also really enjoy a virgin. 😀

If you could only have either Marilla or Matthew Cuthbert as your parent, who would you choose, and why?
Ohhh, that’s a tough one. They’re both so wonderful in their own way. This is like Thunderdome. I guess I’d have to choose Matthew since he’s just so sweet and kind. And now that I’ve been pondering it, I really need to bust out my Anne of Green Gables DVDs!

My Review:

This is the second book in a series, and should be read after KICK AT THE DARKNESS. Some spoilers for KICK AT THE DARKNESS included.

It’s contemporary times, but it’s also the end of times. The world was infected with a virus that has decimated the population and turned the infected into mindless zombies. Adam and Parker were students at Stanford, Adam a 23 y/o films studies grad student, and Parker an 18 y/o freshman in Adam’s class when everything went bananas. They escaped California on Adam’s motorcycle and headed east, to see if Parker’s family survived the carnage. Along the way they were attacked, fell for each other, confessed some startling secrets, got over themselves, were held hostage, escaped from real and present dangers–many times–and hit the coast. Only to discover Parker’s family long gone.

They bundled up and took off for safety in a yacht, and that’s where Fight the Tide picks up. Parker and Adam are making their way south along the east coast. Parker is a trained sailor; his family owned a yacht and he sailed regularly in his childhood. That said, he’s never made such a long trip without more skilled partners–his father and elder brother–and he knows going into the open ocean is a very dangerous prospect. Staying close to shore isn’t easy either. It’s nearing the end of hurricane season, but storms could disable their boat, or send it crashing to the shore. Being near the coast allows them to drop into port now and again to scavenge supplies. Adam, who is a werewolf, always makes these trips as he’s immune to the virus, and his heightened strength and senses allow him to avoid or overcome any zombies that attack. That doesn’t help Parker, alone on the boat, when pirates board.

Despite Parker’s general wariness, he helps rescue a boat in a storm, picking up two adults and their kids. This companionship is mostly welcome, especially by Adam, who is a drifter and grateful for any pack he can cobble together. Adam and the other adults want to make sail for Salvation Island, a place not on any of Parker’s maps, yet whose beacons come across the radio frequencies every evening. Parker’s sure it’s another trap, and is adamantly against, but circumstances force even his will–when he needs to get help for one of his passengers.

There is constant action in this book. It’s a rollicking ride, with danger lurking from page-to-page. Parker isn’t good with people, and his suspicious nature is bolstered with each new tragedy. He’s also haunted by the pirate attack, and he’s ashamed that he can’t move past it. Adam’s a bulwark, but he can’t be everything for Parker. Plus, the calls of Salvation Island prove to be a siren song he has trouble resisting. I think if Adam had the ability to sail that far, he’d have forced Parker’s hand much sooner.

Despite the harrowing plot, there is still a strong romance here. Parker and Adam are two men in love, and they take great pleasure exploring their relationship in ways that were soopa-hawt. Serious. I had to stop and fan myself at times. As the book drew near it’s end, I was glad to watch Parker and Adam make it to safety, even as the seeds for a third book were clearly sown. Safety shouldn’t be the only goal, in Adam’s mind, not when there are so many humans struggling. I foresee a werewolf invasion, one that liberates humans and hopefully helps eradicate the virus–but that’s my own hope! Also, the author has mentioned a fourth, related, book, and I expect it will involve one of Parker’s rescues–Jacob–who will *fingers crossed* find a safe haven and partner down the road.

For paranormal/post-apocalyptic stories, this one’s really on the contemporary-realistic side of those genres. There’s little shifting, and the zombie menace is easy to imagine. I liked the elements of sailing included here, and thought it reflected a wealth of carefully-collected and sparingly delivered knowledge of actual sailing. I never felt overwhelmed by it; and I grasped how dangerous it was–in a way I had never really expected. In short, it felt so real, I could nearly taste the salty ocean spray on my face. I’m so in on this series, I might need to take drastic measures to get book 3 as soon as possible. Highly recommend!

Interested? You can find FIGHT THE TIDE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, AllRomance, and Smashwords.

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Heartbreak and Healing: THE REVOLUTION OF IVY

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing my review for Amy Engel’s second novel in the Book of Ivy series, THE REVOLUTION OF IVY. This is a YA dystopian adventure/romance. Much higher on the adventure, and lower on the romance. I loved THE BOOK OF IVY, and was eagerly expecting the sequel. I wasn’t disappointed!

Check out my review, and get in on the prize pack giveaway below.

5a544-rev2bof2bivy2bfront2bcover_for2bentangled_500About the Book:
**Spoilers if you haven’t read book one**
Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

My Review:
This is a sequel and the books should be read in sequence. For readers who do not like cliffhangers, the series ends here. (Well, there could always be another adventure, but there are no unresolved plot questions.)

If you have NOT read BOOK OF IVY, some spoilers below.

When last we left off:
1. The world is in ruins due to war 50 years ago and collectives have endured these lean times.
2. Westfall is a town divided. One side is wealthy the other, not. At age 16 children from one side of the town are married to spouses from the other side, to prevent rebellion and foster amity.
3. Ivy Westfall’s family founded Westfall, but the Lattimer family stole the power and maintains the government. Ivy has grown up in the bad side of Westfall, and has been diligently trained to hate the Lattimers. Her elder sister, Callie, was supposed to be married to Bishop Lattimer, son of President Lattimer, two years ago, but he refused. Bishop wanted Ivy.
4. Ivy’s father and sister want Ivy to murder Bishop.
5. Ivy falls for Bishop.
6. Ivy refuses to kill Bishop.
7. Stuff happens and Ivy is put outside of the barrier fence that protects Westfall’s territory and water supply. This is, essentially, a death sentence.

In Ivy’s case, she has little to no chance of surviving, but she manages to fend off two specific dangers, acquires a canteen and walks until she collapses. She is rescued by Caleb and Ash (Ashley) who tend her wounds and bring her into their settlement. They do not trust her, but she’s identified as Ivy Westfall, and there are enough refugees of Westfall around to ensure Ivy a welcome. She is afraid they will learn that she married, and (gasp!) loved Bishop Lattimer, as these people are outside the fence due to Bishop’s father’s “justice”. BTW some of them were put out for just cause, but many others were set out because they refused to accept their arranged marriages; they think Ivy was set out for this very reason and are sympathetic.

During the weeks, Ivy, Ash and Caleb become friends. Caleb knows that Ivy is not telling the truth, but he cannot prove it. In the meantime, Ivy proves herself to be a quick learner and a hard worker. She gains other friendships, and feels a part of a community as she never did in Westfall–either side. Naturally, this all falls apart when Bishop arrives in the camp.

There is animosity, but a steady growth of respect as Bishop sets out to prove he is “not his father’s son” (figuratively, peeps). Ivy can’t bear to be parted from Bishop again, but she also can’t get close to him, fearing that she’ll lose him all over again in this even harsher world than Westfall. I applaud Bishop’s patience, because I wanted to hit Ivy in the face for all her tentativeness. Live in the NOW, Ivy! LOL.

Anywho, Caleb and Ash find that Bishop is awesome, and Bishop gets Ivy to do what she never has done: tell the truth, of herself and her feelings. It builds a strong bond that is tested when Ivy learns that Westfall’s in disarray and her family is at extreme risk.

Ivy feels the need to make as much right as she can, and is disgruntled with Bishop, Ash, and Caleb who decide to assist. This seemed like a truly madcap enterprise, and I cannot say that I would have done what Ivy did, but I believe that Ivy did what she needed to do. (Even if I think it was utter foolishness!) That girl does love with her whole heart, even if she is hesitant to reveal it…

The end is a naturally gruesome affair, though it was a better situation than I did predict. I was satisfied in the reading. I still like Ivy, and adore Bishop and hope that this future world nevah-evah comes to pass.

Funny thing, Ivy and Bishop’s marriage was annulled when she was put outside the fence. It struck me that Bishop never discarded the ring, nor did he ever plan to let Ivy go. His steadfast love was fairy tale in origin, and it made me (and Ivy) swoony. He never tries to dissuade her from her plans, and always seeks her counsel in decisions. He’s an excellent partner, a rock really, who only wants to love Ivy as she is, whoever she is. That was heart-warming. They do consummate their love, but it’s all off the page.

As with all dystopian stories, I’d love a little more world-building, and some deeper survivor hardship on the page, but that’s not the biggest issue for me.

Interested? You can find THE REVOLUTION OF IVY on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo Books, and Barnes & Noble.

The Book of Ivy (The Book of Ivy #1)
About the book:
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

I really enjoyed this dystopian YA romance. Both Ivy and Bishop are excellent characters and I totally rooted for their HEA. (Didn’t happen, but I respected the heck out of Ivy. Check out my review for more details.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a signed copy of THE REVOLUTION OF IVY, and a necklace! A second winner will win a signed copy of the book.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author
Amy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids. Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV. When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping.

Find Amy online on her website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Had to KICK AT THE DARKNESS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a paranormal-zombie-shifter-apocalypse-M/M romance! As you know I’ve loved me some Keira Andrews books, including her gay Amish romance trilogy including A FORBIDDEN RUMSPRINGA, A CLEAN BREAK, and A WAY HOME. When I heard about KICK AT THE DARKNESS, I was nervous. It seemed like there was A LOT going on! I bought it, and set it aside–until I could give myself a bit of time to enjoy it. I just finished it last week, and I’m so glad I didn’t let this one slip past me.

I like to feature paranormal romances in October, and this one is certainly a thriller…

Kick at the DarknessAbout the book:

To live through the zombie apocalypse they have to survive each other first.

College freshman Parker Osborne is having the worst day ever. He humiliated himself trying to pick up a cute guy, he hasn’t made any friends at school, and his stupidly hot jerk of a TA gave him a crappy grade on his paper. He’s going to drop Adam Hawkins’ film class and start fresh tomorrow after he’s had a good sulk.

But Parker’s about to find out what a bad day really looks like—if he can survive the night.

A virus is unleashed, transforming infected people into zombie-like killers. After these quick and deadly creepers swarm campus, Parker only escapes thanks to Adam swooping him onto the back of his trusty motorcycle. Now they’re on the run—and stuck with each other.

When they’re not bickering, they’re fighting off the infected in a bloody battle for survival. Their only hope is to head east to Parker’s family, but orphaned Adam has a secret he’s not sure Parker will accept: he’s a werewolf. Can they trust each other enough to find some light in these dark days?

My Review:
This book was more than awesome.

I’ve had it on my TBR too long. I bought it months ago and never had the chance to read it, due to scheduled blog reads. And, I’ll admit it right now–I was afraid the hype was overblown. That I’d read it and be like: #Meh.

I was SO wrong! I want to kick the darkness out of myself for delaying.

Parker is a freshman at Stanford, and in danger of doing poorly in his film class–the one blow-off class he picked. And blew off. He’s furious with his TA, Adam, who won’t change his grade because Parker is a prick and he did a bad job. Before Parker can drop the class, however, the world descends into chaos as a virus spreads like wildfire across the country–creating zombie-like infected hordes that are out for blood. It is only Adam’s fast pace and even faster motorcycle “Mariah” that saves Parker from becoming zombie-lunch.

This is an adventure which becomes a romance. Parker has no idea that Adam might be interested in him, and frankly, both of them are too busy not getting killed to worry about sexytimes. But they happen, unexpectedly and deliciously! Parker is swooning, quite honestly, when he learns how Adam is such a good protector (insert paranormal element here). It’s not enough to diminish Parker’s ardor, because he fell for the man, first. #AsItShouldBe.

There are entanglements where there should be hospitality which creates a good deal of drama and a daring rescue. While I personally object to “mad scientist” tropes, being a scientist who occasionally gets mad, it worked in this book. I was so on board Mariah, feeling the wind whip through my hair, hoping against all reason that Parker and his family would be reunited.

The end is a lovely and unexpected surprise. #Adored. #ImmediateReRead

Oh, and yummy sexytimes and a solid romance which develops honestly.

Interested? You can find KICK AT THE DARKNESS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse Sept 2015–THE SCORPION RULES–A Review

0ed81-coffeehouse
Hi 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 I’m sharing THE SCORPION RULES, a YA dystopian story by Erin Bow. Set 400 years in the future, the world is a very different place and peace is kept by means of hostage exchange where the children of world leaders are kept and educated together–and executed if factions go to war. It was a slow build, but a wild ride.

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace, #1)My Review:
4.5 Stars, I think. I’m pretty sure, in fact. There was something that captivated me in this story. There were things that didn’t work, too, but mostly it got me. Or, I got it. Or, something.

This is a YA dystopian story of survival, in a way–excepting the fact that we know from the start that the main character, Greta, will die. Yep. Greta Gustafson Stuart Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, next-in-line for the throne, will die.

Here’s how:
She is a hostage, sheltered and educated in one of Preceptures for royal hostages. This is Earth, 400 years into the future. Earth ruled by alliances that one hadn’t dreamed possible, but that’s what happens when the ice caps melt, there’s widespread famine, and wars to end all wars have ravaged the globe enough to hand the control of the orbiting weapons systems over to AI in order to save humanity.

Talis, specifically, was the UN AI in charge of conflict abatement. And he stopped the wars.

I saw the plague pits, I saw the starving armies, and eventually I…
Well, it was my job, wasn’t it? I saved you.
I started by blowing up cities.

By city number seven–Fresno, because no one’s gonna miss that–I had everyone’s attention. I told them to stop shooting each other. And they did.
But of course it couldn’t be that easy.

The general terror led to a global stand down, and now Talis enforces peace by “making it personal”–essentially keeping a Child from each territorial ruler as a hostage. This Child of Peace will be killed if that ruler goes to war. Simple, brilliant, and effective. Despite marginal resources on a global scale, there have been modest amounts of incursion, and fewer wars.

Greta is a Child of Peace, raised in the 4th Precepture since age 5. She regularly visits home to her mother–like all Children of Peace–so as to reinforce the family bond, but her actual home has been on a self-sustaining farm in what was once Saskatchewan. Now 16 she has grown up around other Children of Peace, her cellmate Xie, who is considered to be descended from a Goddess in her homeland, and Atta whose people consider him a prophet, among others. They work hard raising goats for milk and cheese, fruit and vegetables and grains and honey–all the foodstuffs they require, and they learn about war, and peace and philosophy. Greta is an excellent student, but Greta’s time is coming close. She knows because her land has water (Lake Ontario) and the people to the south, the new Cumberland Alliance, cannot survive on the dregs of Lake Erie. When a Child arrives from their current War Secretary, Elian, Greta recognizes that her life is likely numbered in months, or even weeks.

Elian is like no other Child of Peace. He was raised in his home, with his parents. His Grandmother rules the Cumberland Alliance. He knows there will be war, and he knows he’s been sent to die, and he will not go quietly.

The Precepture is guarded by electronic monitors that use electric shock to keep the peace. As Elian soon discovers, he will be tortured until he is compliant. Greta and her comrades have seen nothing of resistance in their years there. Being raised from early childhood they learned to comply, to code their speech so that it didn’t sound insubordinate or revolutionary, but Elian has no scruples, and his torture breaks something open in Greta. She was resigned to death, but perhaps it doesn’t need to be something she accepts.

I was caught in the state of constant readiness, alongside Greta. Most of her comrades are safe from the threat of death, by virtue of having no encroaching enemies, or too much power in their region. Greta and Elian should be enemies, but she cannot hate him. It is not his fault their people are at the brink of war. This is where the usual dynamic goes awry. People will expect Greta to fall for the bad-boy rebel Elian, and she does, but not the usual way.

He did not seem happy about it. “I don’t get it. From the day they dragged me here, I was going to die–we were both going to die–and you were okay with that.”
“I was wrong.”

There are a whole lot of fantastic, unprecedented changes in store for the Children of Peace, not least of which is meeting a hostile enemy and the savior of the human race.

At no point does Greta become a soppy mess of a lovesick girl. She does change and affection comes, but it is unexpected and bittersweet.

“You don’t love me.”
“Oh, Elian.” It was not that simple. Not nearly. “I–I’m sixteen years old. And I’ve been asleep my whole life.”

“You woke me up, Elian Palnik.”

I found the almost Stockholm syndrome scenario of Greta’s world to be intriguing. She knew that her mother could not/would not save her. She was resigned to sacrifice, and yet, she made choices that enabled her a modicum of freedom, in a way. A death of her choosing. Greta dies, but she also lives on–and not in a martyred memory. She is wise and she is capable–the unelected leader of the Children of Peace in her Precepture. She reaches out for help, and she sways a god. In her cool and calculating mind she finds a middle passage that saves hundreds of thousands, and, in particular, the one she promised to save.

There is a love story here, but it is not between Greta and Elian. He is boy she hardly knows. No, Greta finds love with the people she has leaned on throughout her childhood. That love she never allowed herself to experience, fearing she would lose it, becomes a purpose in her final hours.

If I was going to put my life down–as Wilma had–then I wanted to mourn it. I wanted to regret it, and fiercely. Maybe the grey room would kill me, and maybe not, but one way or another it would transform me, and this life would be done. I wanted to be alive before that happened. I wanted to be alive before I died, and I wanted death to terrify me, not slip in like a long expected guest.

As for the book, there were parts I wanted to move faster, that then became important later. Those deft touches, and full-circling, brought my enjoyment back when it began to falter. There was a sharpness to the narration, a gallows humor, that kept the prose light. I did not weep for Greta. I did admire her, and I expect that her sacrifice will bring change to her world. And that’s the best compliment I can give to a protagonist.

Interested? You can find THE SCORPION RULES on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, libraries will be getting this one soon, fo sho.

Thanks for popping in. Please stop by my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers and catch their fave books of the month. And, as always, keep reading my friends.

Surviving in a BANE New World

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for Amelia Gormley’s BANE, out today. This is the next (and perhaps last) book in the Strain M/M romance, post-apocalyptic series. As you know I read and loved STRAIN and JUGGERNAUT, and those books must be read first in order to properly enjoy BANE.

Bane (Strain, #2)About the book:
The weapon that nearly destroyed humanity may be their only salvation.

Rhys Cooper’s unique immunity to all three strains of the virus that nearly annihilated humanity has brought him the unwanted attention of Clean Zone scientists. They’ve summoned him for testing—ostensibly in the hopes of finding a vaccine—but Rhys’s partner, Darius Murrell, has good reason not to trust any government. He and his comrades in Delta Company were unwitting test subjects for Project Juggernaut, the military experiment that gave them superhuman abilities and unleashed the pandemic. Doubting the government’s intentions, Delta Company refuses to let Rhys go alone.

Fear of infection has kept Zach Houtman and his lover Nico Fernández apart for a decade. They meet rarely, just long enough to coordinate their spying on the head of the government’s virus research division. Secretary Littlewood is a vicious predator, and they suspect he’s trying to acquire the strain of the virus that would make him superhuman. To stop him, they need the perfect bait: Rhys.

For Rhys, helping them might cost him his relationship with Darius—or his life. For Zach and Nico, even if their plan succeeds, they still face the ultimate question: can infected and uninfected people ever live together safely?

My review:
This is the third book in the STRAIN world and should absolutely be read after JUGGERNAUT and STRAIN. It picks up the story where both JUGGERNAUT and STRAIN left off, bringing their romantic pairs (Rhys and Darius from STRAIN and Zack and Nico from JUGGERNAUT) in direct contact to save what is left of the world.

This series of books is set approximately 100 years in the future after a military-developed supervirus decimated the population. People left on the planet? Estimates are in the ten thousands–the majority of them uninfected survivors living in small-to-large enclaves, the largest a settlement in Colorado Springs. The others are experimentally-treated soldiers, Jugs, who help comb the country to kill the lingering revenants–ravenous, Bane Gamma infected zombie-like persons.

Rhys is a survivor who is likely to be immune to all three strains of the Bane virus, and the scientists who remain in Colorado Springs want to test his blood and determine if a vaccine can be developed. Rhys’ partner, Darius, is a Jug who will not leave Rhys to the whims of the scientists. The Jugs are outcasts, and rather bitter about it, due to their lethal blood. He and several other jugs travel from the Seattle area to keep Rhys safe.

They encounter Zack in Colorado, as he is a health worker for the scientists–this meeting is scarring for Rhys who was the subject of abuse from Zack’s father and brother for nearly half his life. Over the course of testing, however, they build a rapport, and Zack confides in Rhys, Darius and the other Jugs about the disappearances in the compound, and how he knows that there are real scary things going down–likely due to the machinations of the sadistic Secretary Littlewood.

There are lots of political issues with the still developing society in Colorado, not least of which is a forced breeding program. Zack enlist Rhys’s cooperation to help discover the secret lab of Littlewood, and the chase–quite literally–is on.

If you were hoping Zack and Nico would work things out, they do, but it’s not pretty–for a long time. I just marveled at the deft plot twists and fantastic use of character in this book. I could honestly see and feel the scenes unfold. The love between Rhys and Darius is as harsh as their world, and it’s erotic and delicious, too. Expect extreme monogamy. Yay! Also, expect the Jugs to save the freaking day, yet again. I hate to say it, but this book is frighteningly on-point with contemporary issues (think: corporations buying up the natural park lands) and with the supramilitaristic response when faced with the viral outbreak.

Rhys was a child when the outbreak occurred, and his adult insight–as he travels past burned out hospitals and tenements where the infected were locked down and incinerated alive–is poignant. Darius’ constant love is engaging, Zack’s commitment to his purpose (to remain Bane Alpha-free) is as noble as it is frustrating. Nico has known for years that he could sexually transmit safety to Zack, but Zack feels called to remain unprotected. His faith has a surprising reward and gave me the ability to breathe again–after holding my breath so long in fear that Zack would become infected and turn revenant.

The series is phenomenal, and I cannot love it more.

Interested? You can find BANE on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout the Author:

Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.

Her self-published novel-in-three-parts, Impulse (Inertia, Book One; Acceleration, Book Two; and Velocity, Book Three) can be found at most major ebook retailers, and be sure to check http://RiptidePublishing.com for her latest releases, including her Highland historical, The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, the The Professor’s Rule series of erotic novelettes (co-written with Heidi Belleau), and her upcoming post-apocalyptic romance, Strain.

You can contact Amelia on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!