Book Review: Catch A Ghost (Hell or Highwater #1)

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Title: Catch A Ghost

Series: Hell or Highwater

Author: S.E. Jakes

Publisher: Riptide

Genre: M/M Suspense

Heat: Pretty hot

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

S.E. Jakes writes a hard, gritty kind of novel. Her characters are bad ass and much prefer fucking to talking (or dealing with emotional issues). In this book, she introduces Prophet and Tom, two agents in a shady underworld where they send the cast-offs from CIA and FBI. Each of them has some ghost in their past, which in Prophet’s case almost seems like a literal one.

I like that these are damaged guys. (I almost typed ‘boys’ but there’s nothing boyish about these two. They’re manly men.) There’s also just a touch of paranormal in the fact they seem to get vibes about certain things. It was just a little hint to up the tension even more. I particularly liked the case they worked on, which involved a fighting ring and Tom having to pose as a fighter. Bring on the blood and sweat!

I think my only issues aren’t real issues. The book leaves several threads dangling, all on purpose. The main case is solved, but this only opens up two or three more. The reader gets a few hints about the skeletons in the closet, but there’s also the feeling that this is just the tip of something much larger.

The sex is good–rough and hard, like the characters. I think the more interesting aspect was the developing emotional connections–which both characters tried to fight, of course.

I’ve already bought the sequel, so yes, this is definitely a good read, especially if you like action, intrigue, and rough sex.  One last comment: I absolutely love the cover.

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Book Review: Life Lessons, by Kaje Harper

Kaje

Book: Life Lessons (#1)

Author: Kaje Harper

Publisher: MLR Press

Genre: Gay Romantic Suspense

Heat Level: Medium

I found a mystery/suspense series in gay romance that I like! And not only is the writing good. I like the characters, which is one of the most important things in a romance novel. I see that Kaje has a few more books in this series, so I may have to check them out.

I say this because I’ve been reading some of the other highly popular mystery m/m novels lately, including the “Cut and Run” series by Abigail Roux. Now don’t get me wrong–the first book was pretty decent. But I didn’t really like the characters, so I’m not really pulled into reading any more of the series. And that’s not to say she doesn’t have good characters They’re just not appealing to me personally.

Meanwhile, Kaje has what I confess is my favorite type of pairing–a sensitive younger man with a hardened older man with emotional issues. On top of that, she starts the book off with a bang–a murder, to be precise. There’s threats, danger, even a hostage situation. What more could you ask for?

Well the “more” is that things are not resolved by the ending. Sure, the murder mystery has been solved. Bad guy caught. Things are okay–for now. But there’s ample signs of trouble to come, particularly since the older fellow, Jared, wants to stay in the closet.

I’ve learned from personal experience that this is NOT a good idea. I tried being in the closet for a long time, but once I was with a long time partner that I wanted to grow old with, hiding and lying became like a cancer, eating away at things. It damaged things between me and my parents (who are STILL adjusting to things, five years later) and my daughter, who should have felt comfortable with things a lot sooner.

So I have high expectations for the next book!  There are obviously more ‘life lessons’ to learn.

Book Review: The Haunted Heart: Winter, by Josh Lanyon

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Book: The Haunted Heart: Winter

Author: Josh Lanyon

Genre: M/M, Horror

Heat Level:  Mild (one very sweet sex scene)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is actually the first of Josh’s books that I’ve read, and I found this to be an excellent choice. I understand this is the first book of what will be a four book series, and I’m eager to see where Mr. Lanyon takes this next. Flynn is a depressed, near suicidal young man living in his uncle’s old place in order to go through mountains of old antiques. He’s recovering from the death of his lover (an old trope, but a goodie) when he stumbles across a mirror with a ghost.

Flynn is grounded (sometimes literally) by his roommate Kurt, a bear of a man who is ex-military and speaks an entire language of grunts. It’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them which feels comfortable and yet tense at the same time. Naturally when the ghost shows up there is investigating to do. I found the plot drew me along at a nice pace with just enough intrigue to keep things interesting. The ending is exciting, but Mr. Lanyon has left plenty of room for more growth between the characters.

The language is clean throughout, the book is well-edited, and the story is engaging. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why you should support indie authors.

Book Review: Among the Living (PsyCop #1)

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Book:  Among the Living

Series: Psycop

Author: Jordan Castillo Price

Publisher: JCP Books

Genre: Paranormal Gay Mystery (with some romance)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s kind of a no-brainer why I chose to read this book. I’m writing a Gay Romance/Mystery/Suspense novel with paranormal elements and ta da! That’s what this series is as well. So I wanted to see what was out there. This book came highly recommended, and I can see why. Jordan does a great job with the suspense and mystery aspects of the book, keeping things constantly moving along. It was downright creepy at the end, and I liked that. I also like how she weaves in the paranormal elements, with cops having psychic abilities including talking to spirits, truth-telling, and a cosmic Magic 8 ball ability.

I think the only thing that kept me from giving this five stars is that I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. While I liked the tone of the narrator’s voice, he keeps himself distant from everyone, and I think that kept me the reader a bit distant as well. There was sexual attraction between Vic and Marks (along with sex), but I didn’t really feel any kind of emotional connection between them. It left me wondering if Vic would be like a Sam Spade in the next book and find someone else. It wouldn’t surprise me if he did. (Yes, it felt that casual, and not romantic).

But other than that, I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the character of Lisa Gutierrez. The reader only gets occasional snapshots of her emotions, but it’s enough to paint a vivid picture of her. You can tell this woman has fought hard against the system, against sexism and racism and her background to get where she’s gotten. I hope to see more of her.

While I’ve been sampling different authors in the m/m genre, particularly dealing with mysteries or paranormal, most of the series I probably won’t go on to read more than one book. I think however that this one intrigued me enough to try Book 2.

That’s why it get 4 stars.

Book Review: Break and Enter

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Book: Break and Enter

Authors: Rachel Haimowitz and Aleksandr Voinov

Publisher: Samhain

Genre: m/m sci fi/thriller (gay romance)

So I’m a teensy bit biased since I know the writer and I’ve always loved her stuff. That being said, I really enjoyed this book.

This isn’t a long read–I’m estimating here, but maybe 50,000 words? Though it wasn’t long, it did feel like a complete story. Cyke, a human with cyborg implants (including his eye–ouch) is rescued repeatedly from near death by an EMT named Bear. There’s a lot of hurt/comfort, some good tension in breaking into a high security building, and even a torture session.

The violence is fairly graphic, including details of broken ribs and digging into a broken arm. The sex is graphic as well, but is actually more tender, particularly in contrast to their violent lifestyles. I liked the sci fi elements and futuristic feel. Cyke in particular has a good inner voice. There’s a lot of sarcasm and irony, and a little bit of humor. I’m curious to know more about his history and background, much of which is left in shadows.

I’d recommend this to those who like their m/m with a harder, more masculine edge. I imagine this appeals to both the two main audiences for gay romance, the bi/straight women as well as gay men.

Chapter hooks

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Yesterday I ran into the end of a chapter rather unexpectedly.

I typically start with a very rough outline of chapters, just jotting down notes of what I see happening and whose point of view the chapter will be in. (I like to keep to one viewpoint per chapter when possible. Less confusing for the reader.)  Beyond outlining, I then like to visualize the action, just letting the characters act as their personalities dictate. I may run a scene in my head several times in different ways, inside different character’s heads, to find what I like best. Then I start writing it.

So yesterday’s chapter I had in my head going to a certain point in the action in one character’s point of view–Elliot’s. And then suddenly as I was writing, I wrote what would be a perfect break point for a chapter. Breaking there wouldn’t change what would happen next, but it would change whose point of view it was in.

So what do you do when this happens?

Listen to the muse. Your subconscious. Your instincts.

You want to listen to your inner voice, whatever you may call it. A good chapter hook closes a chapter but also pulls the ready to turn the page and keep reading the next chapter. This can be a cliffhanger, or it can just be an action, description, or dialogue that leaves the reader with a question that demands an answer. Actually a question isn’t a bad way to end a chapter. Or a revelation that opens up new possibilities.

There may also be the question of chapter length–what is too long or too short? The answer here is whatever length you need it to be, but be aware that longer chapters will feel longer to the reader (like long movies with long scenes you just wish would hurry up) while shorter chapters tend to move readers along. (Have you read Stephen King?  He’s a master of the one page chapter or sub-chapter.)

So length again may also determine where you break off things. I used to write longer chapters (in my other pen name) but I’m learning to cut some of the longer chapters in half, and I’m finding it makes it much more fast-paced.

In the end, though, you just want to leave them yearning for more.

Book Review: Cut and Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

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Title: Cut and Run

Authors: Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Genre: Gay Romance, Suspense

Publisher: Dreamspinner

Year: 2008

When I got the idea to write my first gay romance, immediately the idea came to me to write a mystery series, so I started searching for what’s already out there for gay romance/mystery and gay romantic suspense. This book is the first of a series that is highly successful and popular. In reading it, I soon learned why.

It’s all about the characters.

Ms. Urban and Ms. Roux created the classic “Odd Couple” types–at least that’s what it looks like in the beginning. Ty is sloppy and foul-mouthed, while Zane dresses neatly and acts with professionalism. But as they start to work together to solve a series of grisly murders, the reader learns that surface appearances don’t reflect what’s really there. By the end of the book they have switched manners and appearances and have stripped each other down (literally and figuratively) to the real people hiding underneath.

The murder mystery was pretty standard–I figured out the culprit early on, and was annoyed that they never even suspected the person. The sex was decent (I have high standards on this area in particular) with plenty of teasing and sexual tension. The suspense/thriller aspect was very well done, and is probably one of the things that would draw me into reading the second book. I also liked that characters actually got HURT and had to spend time in hospitals recuperating. You don’t see a lot of that these days, at least in the books I’ve read.

I’m curious to learn more about the character Zane Garrett in particular. This is a fellow dealing with a lot of personal demons (one of my favorite themes) and he has a temper as well as a tendency to addiction. I’d like to see how he develops over time. I didn’t feel the writers explored Ty’s character as deeply, but there’s plenty of potential there as well.

The ending is pretty predictable and sets up the series. Overall the writing is a decent quality, and I enjoyed the twists and turns, particularly that the writers didn’t make things easy on their characters. Last, these men are not girly or overdressed women in men’s bodies. They act like guys, which I appreciate.

I’d recommend this for m/m and gay romance fans.