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Affairs of M/Men

M/M Romance Reviews by Maybedog

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Honesty and Artifice
S.H. Allan
Closure
S.H. Allan
Cuddling
G.S. Wiley, Rowan McAllister, Dawn Douglas, Stephen Osborne, Anna Martin, Elizabella Gold, K. Lynn, Eva Clancy, Rhidian Brenig Jones, Anna Butler, Caitlin Ricci, S.H. Allan, Rob Rosen, River Clair, Nico Jaye, A.C. Valentine
When It Rains - Jaime Samms Kind of a non-ending, like conflict never existed in the first place. I wrote a story with the same kind of non-ending when I was younger and even though my friends in grad school were the editors, it got rejected. Hmm, wonder why? Because reading it you felt cheated. You're awaiting some intense emotional drama that never comes.

That said, the love was sweet, if a bit sex-based. I think they would have to live in the desert. Such a relationship would never survive in Western Washington. The writing was fine and the love was clearly there.

Trials of Tam (The Larson Legacy, #1)

Trials of Tam - Amber Kell This was a fun little romp of a typical shifter story. It was fun and funny and there was a bit of a twist and a switch up that really made me love it. I liked all the characters loads. Tam is a wee bit immature for his age, but that probably come from always getting what he wants because he's so super smart. But when he makes a significant life decision just to spite someone he actually cares about, it gets ridiculously juvenile.

I had a couple of issues like when Tam's father is sitting eating dinner with his new (to him) Alpha:
Mr. Valko tossed down his napkin and pierced Valko with blue eyes eerily like his mate's. "I'd like to talk to you about your plans for a mating bond with my son. If you don't mind joining me in the library?"

Now I'm not one for the whole D/s thing at all, but in a werewolf pack in traditional shifter stories, it's different; the Alpha needs to be respected. Earlier the alpha even tells the man's wife that she can call him by name but only in private. The alpha has to maintain authority. For the father to talk to the alpha like he would to a boy of a younger generation is completely inappropriate and he does this in front of a bunch of people at a dinner table. He should ask politely if he could speak to the alpha in private. I mean, you wouldn't say anything like that to your boss, would you? And this is so much more than that. Would you talk like this to the commanding officer of your platoon?

On top of all this, Tam hates being controlled and sees himself as the caretaker to the family. He would be furious if his father tried to talk to Tam's potential mate without Tam being there. Instead Tam is amused.

Nitpicks:
Continuity: Guy is sitting on the desk and then stands up from his chair.
A lawyer uses adjectives in place of adverbs. "I'll look it over really careful." Seriously?
Everyone is surprised and a little weirded out when a mom makes Tacos for dinner. This is the west coast. Doesn't everyone make tacos regularly? Everyone I know does and most of my friends are upper middle class whites, unfortunately.

Here's another positive thing; I loved this line:
And Tam didn't think Seattle was ready for eight werewolves prancing through Pioneer Square all wolfed out.

Frankly, with that part of Seattle, you never know. :)
When compared to other mainstream shifter stories, this is excellent. I'm talking about the M/M equivalent of Harlequin romances, that shifter story with the big brawny alpha male and his fated scrawny but hot and feisty little mate, the ones where it's a stereotypical heterosexual romance with the woman changed to a man. Compared to those this is a 4.5. But since I really should be comparing it with all shifter stories, I'll round down.

Hunter of Demons by Jordan L. Hawk

Hunter of Demons - Jordan L. Hawk

 

I've only read two of Hawk's books and I'm already pretty sure she's going to be one of my favorite authors. I loved this book. This is a new modern fantasy world, and while it has some familiar elements (sheesh, I'm so tired of eyes turning completely black when a demon takes over the body--but even there you'll find a twist) there were enough new elements to make it fun and exciting. Here is yet a new take on werewolves and demons, and a more complex hero. He isn't Joe Blow who just happens to stumble into everything. He's Mr. Joe mediocre paranormal who kind of gets dragged in screaming and fighting. Gray was a very interesting and intriguing character who definitely affected everything in a less than usual way.

Caleb's snarky and feisty, not an unusual trait, but I felt he read a little stronger and less lust-addled and scared than average novels in this genre. He was mostly just pissed off. Neither MC was the alpha male and neither was weak. Caleb describes himself as a twink (as well as being 6'2". I didn't think twinks could be that tall) but he is very strong-willed and scrappy. John is big and muscly, and very sweet and accepting but not too laid back nor is he mellow; he's just perfect.

The book was really funny and both MCs were snarky. Caleb would dish it out and John would shoot right back and vice versa. One typical exchange occurs after Caleb growls about being interrogated:

John: "Ready to start the inquisition?"
Caleb: "Your rack-side manner could use some work."

I appreciate that because I think sarcastic people need to be with other people with a similar sense of humor or it doesn't work. The partner/other person needs to not take the crap seriously or personally. (For example, today I asked my current kid to check out my books for me. He said, "I'm not even sure what to look at; I don't usually look at them that way." My own mom would have paused confused and then been irritated or disgusted. My daughter would have taken a moment then said, "OMG, that's stupid, shut up." I replied, "I'm a spine woman myself but a lot of people really look for a hot masthead." I am one of the very few people he can tolerate being around, and I am one of the very few people who can tolerate him.)

There was plenty of action, suspense and danger in this novel. There was enough fear and life-threatening peril--even for me--without being melodramatic or any character coming across as a victim. The characters were individuals and believable. I loved them all, even the boss, who was also refreshingly different.

Nitpicks:
-By the time of the events in the book, apparently all "the rare medieval texts house in the Vatican had been scanned and uploaded to an international database." Yeah, right, like the Vatican would allow free access to anything of theirs, especially knowledge that is currently tightly controlled and locked away.
-Some timing was a bit off such as when someone accomplished a bunch of stuff in the time it took another to drive home from work.
-This happens frequently in books: one person is nauseated and another rubs his/her back to comfort. When I am nauseated or throwing up, the last thing I want is for someone to touch me. Movement is not preferred.
-(major big spoiler)

After ripping someone's throat out with his teeth, a person's face would be covered in blood and totally gross, not in the slightest bit kissable.

(show spoiler)


I'm interested to see where the series goes from here and what

(major big ass spoiler)

affect Gray is going to have on Caleb and John's relationship.

(show spoiler)

 

An Angel's Soul

An Angel's Soul - S.L. Armstrong,  K. Piet Sweet if a little over sappy story. It was a slightly more complicated take on Angel falls in love with human trope. I appreciated that it took time for Cole to move on, that it wasn't overnight instalove exactly. It was nicely written, a little longer than it needed to be but not too short at least. The angel saw both good and bad in Cole and we saw the ugliness as well as the beauty. I liked when Cole said, "You deny me the escape from my pain, you are suddenly visible, and now I'm supposed to magically move on and find a new path?" That was more real than these things usually are.

I still hate the use of "his sex" for "penis" but it's grammatically correct so I'll move on.

3.5 stars rounded up because of the realism.

An Angel's Soul

An Angel's Soul - S.L. Armstrong,  K. Piet Sweet if a little over sappy story. It was a slightly more complicated take on Angel falls in love with human trope. I appreciated that it took time for Cole to move on, that it wasn't overnight instalove exactly. It was nicely written, a little longer than it needed to be but not too short at least. The angel saw both good and bad in Cole and we saw the ugliness as well as the beauty. I liked when Cole said, "You deny me the escape from my pain, you are suddenly visible, and now I'm supposed to magically move on and find a new path?" That was more real than these things usually are.

I still hate the use of "his sex" for "penis" but it's grammatically correct so I'll move on.

3.5 stars rounded up because of the realism.

Like Pizza and Beer by Elle Parker

Like Pizza and Beer - Elle Parker

Like Pizza and Beer is an excellent follow up to Like Coffee and Doughnuts, the first book in this series. This time around the writing is tighter and the story runs more smoothly. Here there are two mysteries to solve. The first is that Dino's ex, Gina, has someone trying to sabotage her restaurant's business. The second is that Seth's sister Molly has someone possibly following her and Seth believes it's related to her lowlife boyfriend.

Can you guess the conflict yet? Yes, Seth is jealous of Dino's ex and yes, he perceives that more time is being spent on Gina's case than his sisters. However, Seth isn't the typical jealous boyfriend who overreacts with everyone and has temper tantrums and refuses to help. No, Seth apologizes almost immediately every time his jealous streak shows, and he's so good natured that he doesn't have a problem helping Dino and Gina. He's incredibly sane and easy going about it, actually.

I love Seth--he has the patience and kindness of a saint--and I would be a hell of a lot more threatened than he was. Dino isn't even out of the closet and he's constantly afraid of getting caught. This does bother Seth, but he doesn't make the obvious connection that maybe Dino would be happier being with a woman. It's very clear that Dino and Gigi never stopped loving each other, they just couldn't reconcile their work lives and Seth knows this. Dino does seem to put Gigi's issues above Molly's and at first Molly was in more danger. Seth was right to be irritated.

Although Dino reassures Seth, his own thoughts aren't always where I wanted them to be. For example, (medium spoiler)

Dino and a friend are reminiscing about old times, how good Dino and Gina were, and how great things would be for Dino if he were still with Gigi. Then Dino thinks, "By the end of it, I wasn't sure he didn't have a point about Gigi and me..." There were a couple of other times where he thought similar things but that was the worst. I never really got from him that it was ridiculous for him to have ever thought that, but I think it was because I read too much into it. I think he really was just agreeing that yeah, he'd have more money and a calmer life, but he didn't really think it would necessarily be better. Or maybe I'm just rationalizing.

(show spoiler)


Dino doesn't reassure Seth as often as he should and even evades the subject at times, which should only make Seth more concerned. I think there were points where Dino was being a jerk, exacerbated by the fact that he has never told Seth that he loves him. In fact, he isn't sure what to call Seth. He refers to Seth as his "boyfriend. Or whatever we were calling it," as if it was barely a relationship. They've been best friends for nearly a decade. The sexual part of the relationship hasn't been very long but how much time do you need when you know the person that well? (medium spoiler)

I don't think Dino ever really apologized for his behavior. I'm not sure he ever realized what an ass he'd been.

(show spoiler)


The closeted issue really was bad. (moderate spoiler)

When someone catches the two of them in a very compromising position, his first reaction is to shove Seth away (which dumps the man on the floor) and say, "I never meant for anyone to find out." He continues to make things worse by not shutting up. He is more worried about losing his apartment than respecting his relationship and Seth (and the latter is never addressed).

(show spoiler)

Seth is understandably upset but he gets over it much too easily (part of that easy going thing again) and Dino is way too oblivious and much too arrogant when he finally deals with it. (medium spoiler)

It doesn't occur to Dino that Seth might not make up with him easily. I think he really should have been made to really understand the import of what he did and Seth should have wanted to keep his distance longer than he did.

(show spoiler)

 

That said, I think the actual resolution, how Dino dealt with stuff after his "apology" was just right for the character--not too sappy or drawn out or dramatic. Dino is a very private man and would probably be keeping any relationship close to the vest. So I don't think that to him, his actions were homophobic. The end of the whole issue was perfect when he

was confronted about whether Seth was his boyfriend and he didn't lie or hedge or anything, just said yes. He redeemed himself a lot in my eyes.

(show spoiler)


Little hurrahs:
I really liked when at one point Dino sees some strippers doing their thing and notices that none of them looked as if they enjoyed themselves. It always bugs me in books when it seems like a stripper's life is either glamorous or violent. I like that reality that it's a really sucky job.
The author uses this idiom correctly: "If he thinks...then he's got another think coming." So many people use it wrong and it drives me crazy. Brava!
The women were victims and a little blind to the dark side of others but at least they were strong, not wilting flowers, and one of them eventually became kind of kick ass.
The detective work is really well done and believable. Dino plods through the boring stuff (without boring the reader), covering all bases, and even when he's pretty sure a subject is innocent, he doesn't remove the person from the suspect list. He a good at his job.

Nitpicks:
Dino drinks amaretto on the rocks which is such a girly drink and doesn't fit his personality as a closeted Italian ex New York cop at all.
They don't recycle at all, even beer cans. We've been recycling those since childhood. Don't all people know about recycling by now? At least newspaper and aluminum cans?
They use the term "wifebeater" to describe those tacky, low-class undershirt tank tops. Yes, we immediately know what is being described, but it's really unacceptably callous to use that word in such an offhand way. It drives me crazy.
Seth's like a golden retriever, all hyper and expressive and full of emotion but like that dog, he doesn't strike me as an angry person. In fact, he's very easy going. So the fact that he allegedly gets into bar fights frequently and he's the one that throws the first punch is hard to believe.
At least three times, Dino referred to a little thrill or tingle running up his spine when he was about to catch a break or onto something good. Each time it sounded like this was new information.
There were some continuity errors and blocking issues such as when someone knows something she hasn't been told yet or when Dino is taking photos of the back license plate of a car and is aware of the face of the person in the driver's seat.

Overall this was a strong story with a mostly believable cast (minor spoiler)

(I'm not even going to think about the bookie)

(show spoiler)

and an interesting if not earth-shattering mystery. The ending was good. I wish there had been a little more danger in the action, but I'm one who loves that kind of deathly peril type of stuff. Most people would be perfectly satisfied with the action and suspense. I'm eager to read the new short that was recently released.



 

Review of Boots and Leather by T. Strange

Boots and Leather - T. Strange

I won this story as a part of the Erotic Enchantments holiday party. Although I don't usually like BDSM, it was the only M/M book offered for that contest so I chose it. I am so glad I did because I loved it.

Gavin, the protagonist, is funny, endearing and loveable. He doesn't have the same taste in men that I do but I could completely picture Terry who was delightful, too. Gavin's quest for the perfect Dom is adorable.

 

I felt the BDSM was respectful, although a little too light. I would have liked a little mild bondage or something, and I totally cannot believe I'm saying that. The bondage probably wasn't enough for people who seek bondage stories, but it works for those of us for whom it's a little uncomfortable because it's so sweet and Gavin is so safe.

Terry does a really good job of making sure Gavin is comfortable with his first BDSM experience. They don't even have sex the first time because he wants Gavin to make sure this is what he really wants. Terry does something really simple to get them started and continually asks Gavin if what he is doing okay, and reminds him he can stop anytime. Later they sit down and iron out their boundaries, what Gavin wants to do and what he's not comfortable with. He's given a safe word. When they are finished with their first session, Terry is exhausted but wants to continue but Terry says he has to rest first and then makes him drink water despite Gavin's claim he's not thirsty. They didn't drink with dinner because "booze and BDSM do not mix well." I think that's excellent advice. Terry insisted on condoms even for oral sex which is great.

There were a few continuity errors that were confusing. For example, Gavin said something about the jeans terry was wearing and a few paragraphs later when Terry stood up (they had just been talking) he said he had to put clothes on. Another time they were both naked without taking their clothes off. There was also a scene where I couldn't for the life of me picture the position Terry was in. It sounded physically impossible. But it was only that once.

Instead, I could usually picture the scene very well such as in this example where Gavin has just set his eyes on Terry for the first time:

 

I flapped a hand at [his best friend], making little hissing noises for him to act natural. "Over there," I whispered out of the corner of my mouth. "Don't screw this up for me."


I just love that flapping hand. I have done that exact thing so many times.

The best part for me was the humor. Gavin's self-deprecating nervousness was hilarious. Here are a couple of the quotes from the book that I thought were really funny:

 

"I bit back a playful, 'yes, mother'. [sic] We weren't quite close enough for that yet (just, you know, close enough for me to suck his cock and hump myself silly on his boot)."

 

"I gave a startled yelp that quickly turned into--wait for it--a giggle. That would certainly impress him."


The story was too short, though.

I wanted to see their second date.

(show spoiler)

I so hope Strange writes another story with these characters.

 

 

Damon's Touch

Damon's Touch - Dianne Hartsock I think this story would have benefited from a bit more detail, particularly more discussing of what was going on in the boys' heads than the vampires. The only way Lacey's reactions made any sense was if he were under the vampire's thrall. I even questioned his first reactions that were allegedly his own. Lacey felt like a very young man, like almost an adolescent. When contrasted with the ancient and evil-behaving vampire, it felt like pedophilia almost. I think the writing was fine, as was the story idea, I just think there were a lot of problems in the details and execution.

Cathedral of the Sky

Cathedral of the Sky - Arshad Ahsanuddin

I was generously given a free copy of Cathedral of the Sky from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

Cathedral of the Sky occurs concurrently with Sunset, the first book in the Pact Arcanum series set in a unique, interesting, and complex world. It is the story of young Michael Danvers, the hero who saves the day at the end of Sunset. We already know about Michael's life--and his destiny which is where this book ends--and thus it is an expansion of that story from Michael's perspective. Because of this as well as the complexity of this fascinating world, it is better to read Sunset before this book. This novel is less convoluted and more linear than Sunset and therefore less confusing. It could be read alone, but the universe in which it takes place is complicated and is not explained as thoroughly here. I enjoyed the beginning of the novel far more than I did the beginning of Sunset. Unfortunately, the novel didn't stand up to the first few chapters and I was not happy with the way it progressed or ended.

 

This expansion of Michael's story doesn't deliver a whole lot more information that what is presented in Sunset. A significant amount of the text is directly taken from the previous novel. While it is necessary to repeat those events, I would have appreciated a slightly different telling rather than verbatim writing. (An excellent book that did a better, although not perfect, job of describing the same scene from two different perspectives is Houseboat on the Nile.) I was able to skim these scenes in Cathedral of the Sky and thus this was a very quick read.

 

The primary difference here is the addition of a sort of love interest, William. I say sort of because Michael is oblivious through most of the book and William is gone by the time Michael is told about William's feelings. Which brings me to the biggest problem that I have with the Pact Arcanum series: the relationships, some of which are disturbing. I don't feel that emotion is expressed in a way that is believable or in depth. The characters talk about how they feel but I never really buy into it. In fact, although this series is labeled M/M Romance, I wouldn't categorize it that way. It is a modern fantasy/science fiction crossover and succeeds much better from that perspective. In Sunset, I felt that the relationships were just part of the saga because relationships always are part of epics, and that the "soul mate" idea was only included to appease those looking for romance. In Cathedral of the Sky, I felt the romance didn't fit at all and was just added in order to make the book fit the same genre as the other books in the series.

 

Although the novel has a teenaged protagonist, it is not appropriate for all teens. For example, one scene begins with the completion of a sexual liaison. Although sex scenes are increasingly common in young adult books, it is not something I personally think is always appropriate and this one falls into that category. Here is one example of the extreme age differences that permeate this story: The sex scene is between a 20-year-old and a woman three times his age. Worse is the relationship between William, who is 20, and Michael, who is 13 when they meet. William doesn't tell Michael of his attraction because of the age difference, but the whole novel takes place in the course of exactly two years and three weeks, and William only appears for the first nine or ten months. Yet the alleged HEA (most people would probably think it's an HEA but I don't) is based on this very short period of interaction.I have a major problem with that.

 

I think this extreme age difference is completely unnecessary. Michael is way too mature and calm to be believable. William is intelligent and capable and he could have been younger. He could have been a young genius, too, not as young and not as much of a genius as Michael, just precocious, and advancing more slowly. Michael didn't need to be so young either. He was captain of major space vessels when he was 14. A 14-year-old might be capable of that but no way does he have the level of diplomacy and leadership required. No matter how mature a young man appears, or how brilliant, his emotional maturity is a different thing. Extremely intelligent young people often are emotionally immature as a result of the dichotomy between their age, intelligence, and inability to relate to their peers. Plus, there is absolutely no substitution for experience. Experience brings more information and a 13-15 year old just hasn't had enough. Think of it as research. It takes time to gather facts and that short period of time just isn't enough for someone to do all that he needs to do to accomplish what Michael does and also read enough and experience enough to understand the subtleties that create a great leader. Brains don't make a leader, wisdom does, and that takes time and experiences with other people.

 

This story is sad like the other books in this series. Despite this fantasy world full of the incredible and that which is difficult to accept, the author tries to add realism in basically one area: the mortality of humans. This is the one thing I don't like in my escapist fiction. I don't want to come to love and care about people and have them die. It's what I think of as the Joss Whedon syndrome: No one ever has what I consider a happily ever after. Whedon creates the most amazing series but never lets any characters be happy for long. Yes death and loss and divorce, etc., happen but there are plenty of people who stay together, in love, until they die of old age. I get the same impression of randomly throwing in tragedy with Ahsanuddin. However, even negative emotions aren't well explored. In both books, Michael attends the funeral of a close friend. In Sunset, he is barely paying attention in the scene, much more interested in something else going on in the room. We are led to believe the dead man is just a fellow academy student. In Cathedral of the Sky, Michael is very close to the person and yet almost nothing is changed in the scene from the version in Sunset and is repeated almost verbatim.

 

Overall, Cathedral of the Sky is well written with interesting characters that takes place in the fascinating and unique world of Pact Arcanum that Ahsanuddin has created. However, the framework is flimsy and based on a story we already know with little added. The characters are shallow and are in desperate need of being fully fleshed witch they deserve. The emotional depth is lacking and the romance is secondary and actually feels tertiary to the story. Michael's feelings for William are out of the blue and unbelievable. The story had potential but it just fell flat.

 

2.25 stars rounded down because of the extreme and unnecessary age difference.

Boots and Leather

Boots and Leather - T. Strange
I won this story as a part of the Erotic Enchantments holiday party. Although I don't usually like BDSM, it was the only M/M book offered for that contest so I chose it. I am so glad I did because I loved it.

Gavin, the protagonist, is funny, endearing and loveable. He doesn't have the same taste in men that I do but I could completely picture Terry who was delightful, too. Gavin's quest for the perfect Dom is adorable.

I felt the BDSM was respectful, although a little too light. I would have liked a little mild bondage or something, and I totally cannot believe I'm saying that. The bondage probably wasn't enough for people who seek bondage stories, but it works for those of us for whom it's a little uncomfortable because it's so sweet and Gavin is so safe.

Terry does a really good job of making sure Gavin is comfortable with his first BDSM experience. They don't even have sex the first time because he wants Gavin to make sure this is what he really wants. Terry does something really simple to get them started and continually asks Gavin if what he is doing okay, and reminds him he can stop anytime. Later they sit down and iron out their boundaries, what Gavin wants to do and what he's not comfortable with. He's given a safe word. When they are finished with their first session, Terry is exhausted but wants to continue but Terry says he has to rest first and then makes him drink water despite Gavin's claim he's not thirsty. They didn't drink with dinner because "booze and BDSM do not mix well." I think that's excellent advice. Terry insisted on condoms even for oral sex which is great.

There were a few continuity errors that were confusing. For example, Gavin said something about the jeans terry was wearing and a few paragraphs later when Terry stood up (they had just been talking) he said he had to put clothes on. Another time they were both naked without taking their clothes off. There was also a scene where I couldn't for the life of me picture the position Terry was in. It sounded physically impossible. But it was only that once.

Instead, I could usually picture the scene very well such as in this example where Gavin has just set his eyes on Terry for the first time:
I flapped a hand at [his best friend], making little hissing noises for him to act natural. "Over there," I whispered out of the corner of my mouth. "Don't screw this up for me."

I just love that flapping hand. I have done that exact thing so many times.

But the best part for me was the humor. Here are a couple of quotes from the book that I thought were really funny:
"I bit back a playful, 'yes, mother'. [sic] We weren't quote close enough for that yet (just, you know, close enough for me to suck his cock and hump myself silly on his boot."
"I gave a startled yelp that quickly turned into--wait for it--a giggle. That would certainly impress him."

The story was too short, though. I wanted to see their second date. I so home Strange writes another story with these characters.

Bodyguard to a Sex God

Bodyguard to a Sex God - R.J. Scott 4.5 rounded up.

Another typical R.J. Scott book including everything I love such as danger, deception, drama, and hot man lovin'.

Some good stuff was here like extremely hot sex scenes. I found it delightfully funny that the MC thinks American accents are sexy. That's a first! Matt Bomer, one of my all-time favorite heartthrobs is spoken of admiringly. The main female character rocked.

Nitpicks: the brother of a cousin to a person is also a cousin to that person. A character said someone never did something that he actually did.

The HEA (Am I really giving anything away here? Have you ever read a Scott novel that didn't have an HEA?) is perfect. I had been wondering because of the careers of both protagonists but everything worked out great.

I can't wait to read the next one.

Full Circle (Sanctuary, #5)

Full Circle (Sanctuary, #5) - R.J. Scott Typical protector/protectee sort of story, although that isn't quite how the story is set up. I really like how the relationship starts out with lust and they hop into bed fast before they're thinking about love. It's realistic and refreshing.

The ending was kind of abrupt and anticlimactic. There wasn't enough suspense in the book, especially not at the end. There was only one sex scene and it occurred before they admitted they really liked each other emotionally. This is actually an HFN rather than an HEA.

3.5 stars rounded up because it was better than others of this ilk.

Half Moon Rising (Assassin/Shifter, # 4)

Half Moon Rising (Assassin/Shifter, # 4) - Sandrine Gasq-Dion,  Jennifer Fornes Lots of drama and danger and sexual tension, the latter of which was really good. I love the characters, even if the quantity of gay men is a bit absurd. I like it better when other people are described, not just the ones from the romance arcs. I love these characters though, and I really liked snarky Sawyer from the earlier books and was disappointed that he was much sweeter here.

The book is quite funny in parts. One funny scene is at the beginning and stars when Troy goes out to his balcony with "his morning cup of calm-the-fuck-down..." I loved that.

I really like the continued storyline and the characters who are brought back each time, although it can be confusing as the characters are very similar, particularly the alpha males.

The complex emotions were good and the interactions between the MCs, particularly when one was in wolf form before the other knew about werewolves, are very sweet and sexy. There is a lot of wonderful sexual tension, although there is way, way, way too much sex.

Dramatic scenes were great; that's something that's really important to me in this sort of book, and Gasq-Dion. Unfortunately, the big climax didn't last long enough for me and the injured party healed too quickly. (I know, I'm sick.)

I had a few other issues with the book:
There were lots of typos such as your vs. you're, plurals where words should be singular, and so forth.
The child comes across as four or five but turns out to be nine. I was shocked.
There aren't any female wolves. The only real female character is a motherly figure.

It totally doesn't make sense that a person grew up on this reservation where half of the people are werewolves doesn't know shifters exist, especially given that he was adopted by a mostly wolf family when he was very young.

Understanding of the geography of the area was lacking. They are on the ocean in Washington State but it snows in April a lot. This really is an alternate universe apparently. I remember it snowing in Western Washington lowlands once and I've lived here 41 years of the last 45. I looked up the weather data and I just don't see anything different than I remember over the past 45 years. The Olympic mountains are snowy of course but they're inland. People don't live there. Tribal lands are sea level on the coast.

In addition, a character has to get his truck fixed and he sends it to Tacoma. Why? The closet city is Port Angeles or Aberdeen, depending on where you are on the coast. The closest big city is Olympia. The worst is when someone lands at Seatac, the airport serving and between the two cities of Tacoma and Seattle. He then comments on his drive through Seattle before he reaches Tacoma. I don't think that was the best way to get from the airport to Tacoma. At least he commented that despite freeway crowding, Seattle hadn't lost its lure (allure?) and that Washington is always beautiful. Yes it is.

There are gobs of continuity errors such as the fact that all day and night of the first two nights Troy is in town and yet the narration says he's been there a week. The next scene is the same day as it had been before that was said. At one point Sawyer is on the beach thinking when he then sits down on the forest floor.

But the worst thing is the POV changes that often don't have proper names to describe what's going on. Jumping heads is bad. Doing so while still just using pronouns is beyond confusing--it's aggravating.

Despite these problems, I really liked the book a lot. It was a step up from typical shifter fare which is why I'm rounding my 3.5 rating up instead of rounding it down due to the mangling of the geography (verifiable on plenty of places online, including Google Maps and Mapquest).

Cathedral of the Sky (Pact Arcanum, #1.5)

Cathedral of the Sky (Pact Arcanum, #1.5) - Arshad Ahsanuddin I was generously given a free copy of Cathedral of the Sky from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Cathedral of the Sky occurs concurrently with Sunset.) I was able to skim these scenes in Cathedral of the Sky and thus this was a very quick read.

The primary difference here is the addition of a sort of love interest, William. I say sort of because Michael is oblivious through most of the book and William is gone by the time Michael is told about William's feelings. Which brings me to the biggest problem that I have with the Pact Arcanum series: the relationships, some of which are disturbing. I don't feel that emotion is expressed in a way that is believable or in depth. The characters talk about how they feel but I never really buy into it. In fact, although this series is labeled M/M Romance, I wouldn't categorize it that way. It is a modern fantasy/science fiction crossover and succeeds much better from that perspective. In Sunset, I felt that the relationships were just part of the saga because relationships always are part of epics, and that the "soul mate" idea was only included to appease those looking for romance. In Cathedral of the Sky, I felt the romance didn't fit at all and was just added in order to make the book fit the same genre as the other books in the series.

Although the novel has a teenaged protagonist, it is not appropriate for all teens. For example, one scene begins with the completion of a sexual liaison. Although sex scenes are increasingly common in young adult books, it is not something I personally think is always appropriate and this one falls into that category. Here is one example of the extreme age differences that permeate this story: The sex scene is between a 20-year-old and a woman three times his age. Worse is the relationship between William, who is 20, and Michael, who is 13 when they meet. William doesn't tell Michael of his attraction because of the age difference, but the whole novel takes place in the course of exactly two years and three weeks, and William only appears for the first nine or ten months. Yet the alleged HEA (both main characters are dead when they end up together three weeks after Michael turned 15) is based on this very short period of interaction. I have a major problem with that.

I think this extreme age difference is completely unnecessary. Michael is way too mature and calm to be believable. William is intelligent and capable and he could have been younger. He could have been a young genius, too, not as young and not as much of a genius as Michael, just precocious, and advancing more slowly. Michael didn't need to be so young either. He was captain of major space vessels when he was 14. A 14-year-old might be capable of that but no way does he have the level of diplomacy and leadership required. No matter how mature a young man appears, or how brilliant, his emotional maturity is a different thing. Extremely intelligent young people often are emotionally immature as a result of the dichotomy between their age, intelligence, and inability to relate to their peers. Plus, there is absolutely no substitution for experience. Experience brings more information and a 13-15 year old just hasn't had enough. Think of it as research. It takes time to gather facts and that short period of time just isn't enough for someone to do all that he needs to do to accomplish what Michael does and also read enough and experience enough to understand the subtleties that create a great leader. Brains don't make a leader, wisdom does, and that takes time and experiences with other people.

This story is sad like the other books in this series. Despite this fantasy world full of the incredible and that which is difficult to accept, the author tries to add realism in basically one area: the mortality of humans. This is the one thing I don't like in my escapist fiction. I don't want to come to love and care about people and have them die. It's what I think of as the Joss Whedon syndrome: No one ever has what I consider a happily ever after. Whedon creates the most amazing series but never lets any characters be happy for long. Yes death and loss and divorce, etc., happen but there are plenty of people who stay together, in love, until they die of old age. I get the same impression of randomly throwing in tragedy with Ahsanuddin. However, even negative emotions aren't well explored. In both books, Michael attends the funeral of a close friend. In Sunset, he is barely paying attention in the scene, much more interested in something else going on in the room. We are led to believe the dead man is just a fellow academy student. In Cathedral of the Sky, Michael is very close to the person and yet almost nothing is changed in the scene from the version in Sunset and is repeated almost verbatim.

Overall, Cathedral of the Sky is well written with interesting characters that takes place in the fascinating and unique world of Pact Arcanum that Ahsanuddin has created. However, the framework is flimsy and based on a story we already know with little added. The characters are shallow and are in desperate need of being fully fleshed witch they deserve. The emotional depth is lacking and the romance is secondary and actually feels tertiary to the story. Michael's feelings for William are out of the blue and unbelievable. The story had potential but it just fell flat.

2.25 stars rounded down because of the extreme and unnecessary age difference.

Custom Toys Made to Order [Sexually Awkward 1] (Siren Publishing Everlasting Classic ManLove)

Custom Toys Made to Order - Gabrielle Evans 3.5 rounded down because it just isn't a four star read.

My Rifle Is Human

My Rifle Is Human - Sumi 2.5 rounded up. Despite the absurd premise, could have been four stars but the abrupt ending, a single page that should have been the second half if a book, ruined it.