Anne Reviews: Heart Scarab by Anna Butler

Title: Taking Shield, Book 2: Heart Scarab

Author: Anna Butler

Publisher:  Glass Hat Press

Pages:  286

Characters: Bennet/Flynn, Bennet/Joss

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Series, Science Fiction

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Shield Captain Bennet is on Telnos, a unpleasant little planet inhabited by religious fanatics and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines. It’s about to be about to be overrun by the Maess. Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can, but the enemy arrives before the evacuation is complete. Caught in a vicious fire fight, Bennet is left behind, presumed dead.

His family is grieving. Joss, his long-term partner, grieves with them; lost, unhappy, remorseful. First Lieutenant Flynn has no official ‘rights’ here. He isn’t family. He isn’t partner or lover.

All he is, is broken.

Review:

Book 2 in the Taking Shield series picks up eighteen months after the events of Gryfalcon.

I love the world building in this series. It’s very well thought out and researched, and makes me feel as though I’m reading about a world with a long and rich history.  I loved the links back to their original home world—Earth—and the way Joss, Bennet’s ex-partner thinks about how their ancient rituals replace other even older ones.  Joss takes some of the POV in this book, looking back on his and Bennet’s relationship, and giving the reader a different perspective.  His grief—and that of other friends and family—felt very real.

I really felt for Flynn, who is not family and therefore has no official rights, but still grieving for someone he truly loves.  I don’t think it’s a spoiler, given there are more books in the series, to say I was very relieved to discover that Bennet survives.

As with the first book, the author doesn’t pull any punches about the brutality of war.  The world on which Bennet is left is very harsh, and there are consequences for what had happened to him. He is badly injured, and doesn’t just miraculously recover either physically, or psychologically.  It takes time and hard work. And that’s the way it should be.

I like that these guys are flawed, and I love Bennet and Flynn together. I think they complement each other well, and their frustration when they take a step forward together and then something else comes up to prevent them being together feels very real. But in saying that, although their romance is a decent sized part of the story, it isn’t what drives it, and I think that is what makes this series so strong.

The war with the Maess is never far away, nor the underlying feeling that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.  These aliens are very other, and dangerous, and I like the way we—and Bennet—learn a tiny bit more about them with each new book, but not enough to understand them.  That information doesn’t comfort, it terrifies, and I think the author did a fabulous job in keeping me on the edge of my seat, and trying to work out what exactly the Maess’ plan is.

I’ve been a huge SF fan for years, and this series reminds me why.  I’d recommend Heart Scarab to readers who enjoy military SF with in-depth world building, complex characters, and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat and wanting more.

Reviewed By: Anne

Click HERE to purchase Heart Scarab by Anna Butler

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We Want You!

We are looking for some special people to join our review team. We have plenty of books to review and are looking for new reviewers to join our little family. If you are interested please contact me at top2bottomreviews@gmail.com

Thank you so much!

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Gabbi

Lydia Reviews: Wild by Adrienne Wilder

TITLE:  Wild

Author: Adrienne Wilder

Publisher: Self Published through Amazon

Pages: 326

Characters: August Vallory and Keegan Brooks

POV:  3rd POV

Sub-Genre:  Contemporary, Mystery

Kisses: 4

Blurb:

August Vallory had it all. A modeling career, a man he loved, and the extended family he’d acquired in the business. Then the world he knew was torn away when the plane he was on crashed en route to a photo shoot.

Lost in the Alaskan wilderness, August doesn’t stand a chance.

No sane man would choose to live in the Alaskan bush unless he had something to hide. And Keegan Brooks has secrets darker than night, more dangerous than wolves, more brutal than an Alaskan winter.
Every day was a fight for his life until he stumbled upon a downed plane with a lone survivor. Now it’s no longer just Keegan’s life teetering on the edge of survival.

Review:

Wild is only the second book of Ms. Wilders I have read and it is a lot different from the last one.  From the start I was pulled into Wild.  The book begins with a plane crash and is nonstop from there.  The way the author introduces the main characters to each other was over the top and I must say a time or two I wondered if Keegan was one of those creepy mountain men that show up in scary movies.

August is a model, it is not what he started out wanting to do, but loves the life style it provides.  He’s in love with his boyfriend and ready to take things to the next level.  Unfortunately, things do not work out the way he had planned, in fact everything ends up going to hell.  After the plane he is on goes down, killing all on board, August wonders if he will be following them.  When he is rescued, he wondered if things had just gotten worse.

Keegan is hiding from his past just trying to survive day to day.  When a plane goes down he is surprised to see that someone has survived.  But Keegan knows that August has just made his life harder.  What Keegan is running from is intense and some of the scenes in his backflashes are a little graphic.  While reading what he has done, it makes liking him a little hard in the beginning, it is only as you learn more that you will begin to understand and he becomes more likeable.

The relationship between these two does not travel the usual path as they have many obstacles to overcome.  Not only is August’s injuries life threatening, the men must find shelter as it is no longer possible for Keegan to get August back to civilization.  Life in the wilds of Alaska is not what August is used to, and he has much to learn.  For Keegan, he must learn how to live with another person as he has spent so much time alone.  He no longer knows how to behave around others.

This is not a story that takes place in a matter of days.  The men are together for some time and during that time learn more about each other.  As their feelings grow their relationship changes.  But nothing lasts forever and when they become exposed to outside forces Keegan realizes that it is time for August to go home.

Knowing that these two were going to separate had me in tears.  I wondered how the author was going to bring these two the HEA they deserved.  When August makes it back to the lower 49 things seem even more complex.  I think readers will be even more surprised by how things play out.   After reading Wild I have become a big fan of this author and will be looking for more from her.

Reviewed By: Lydia

Click HERE to purchase Wild by Adrienne Wilder

Kimberly Reviews: Heart Unheard by Andrew Grey

Title: Heart Unheard

Author: Andrew Grey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 200

Characters: Brent, Scott

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 3.5 

Blurb:

The attraction between Brent Berkheimer and Scott Spearman peels the wallpaper, but Brent is Scott’s boss, and they’re both too professional to go beyond flirting. Their priorities realign after Scott is badly injured in an accident that costs him his hearing, and Brent realizes what is truly important… he wants Scott. 

Scott pushes Brent away at first, fearing a new romance will just add to his problems, but perhaps he will find unexpected strength and solace in Brent’s support as he struggles to communicate with the world in a new way.

Just as they decide the chance of a happy future together is worth the risk, Scott and Brent discover darker challenges in their way—including evidence that the “accident” Scott suffered may not have been so accidental. 

Review:

Andrew Grey is back the second book in the Hearts Entwined series, Heart Unheard. For those of you who did not read the first book, Heart Unseen, you may feel confused on trying to keep up with the character and plot references to the prior book when diving into this one. I gathered that James lost his sight in the first book, and that other characters from the garage may have played a role in the plot, but I went into Heart Unheard with a blank slate and hopes I wouldn’t be too lost when trying to follow along.

This time around, the focus is on Brent and Scott, the latter of which loses his hearing in an accident that is central to the overall plot. Tangled up in the recovery efforts, and uncovering the truth behind the car accident that maybe wasn’t such an accident, is Scott’s boss Brent. He decides to lay all his cards on the table and reveal to Scott just how much he really cares for the man. The book balanced all the emotional turns quite well, and made the journey of the relationship quite believable. I could really feel Scott’s frustrations over what he lost, his wariness to believe Brent would even want him now, and the determination that the two of them would journey through this incident together while looking toward a hopefully happy future.

Additionally, I liked the exploration of Scott and Brent’s parents as well. Firstly, Scott’s mom being in denial to accept that Scott might be deaf forever, her need to keep him protected and hope for a miracle for her child. And then his dad’s more realistic acceptance of what might be forever, but also a steadfast need to want to see Scott happy regardless of what life’s thrown at him thus far. Brent’s mom was a treat, as well as a great cook, but what really drew my attention most was Brent’s admittance as to what happened when his dad was killed. He’s been carrying around the burden of believing it was his fault, that if he had done things differently perhaps his father would not have died, but in the end he was able to work through that and find relief from his burden through the help of friends and loved ones. Quite a nice plot arc overall.

So, if you like Andrew Grey’s previous works, or are just looking for a great book involving two men who have to overcome a lot in life to get their happy-ever-after, then Heart Unheard might be the book for you. But you may find yourself wanting or needing to refer back to Heart Unseen to get the full effect of where these characters came from and where they’re headed. 

Reviewed By: Kimberly

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage

Check out the New Releases from JMS Books!


TITLE: Down Memory Lane
AUTHOR: Wayne Mansfield
ISBN: 9781634864664
GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 13,337 words
PRICE: $2.99

PURCHASE EBOOK

When Vincent takes shelter in a bookshop one stormy day, he happens upon a book of male nudes. One of them brings back memories of his first, and possibly greatest, love — Daniel McClary. When a sales assistant tells him there’s a man who resembles the model in the picture that comes into the shop every week, Vincent wonders if it could be the same man who broke his heart twenty years ago.

He looks up Daniel’s Facebook page and is disappointed to discover Daniel is married and has two sons. Nevertheless, he starts to frequent the store, watching and waiting for the man he’s sure is Daniel. Finally, Daniel makes an appearance. Vincent approaches him and says hello, immediately realizing his love for Daniel is still strong. But what difference does it make? Daniel’s a family man.

However, the next time they meet, Daniel reveals something which gives Vincent a tiny spark of hope.



TITLE: Food Frenzy
AUTHOR: Linn Edwards
ISBN: 9781634864886
GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 17,128 words
PRICE: $2.99

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Ethan is in between college and law school, helping out in the family restaurant for a year while his aunt recovers from a stroke. His mother Zoe runs the business, but it’s still overseen by his grandfather Fergie, for whom the restaurant is named.

They’re approached by Jeremiah Thomas, a writer for the magazine Foodie Today, who is interested in doing feature article on diners in America. Ethan and Fergie are all in, but Zoe doesn’t like the looks Jeremiah gives her son over the counter and wants none of it.

There’s an immediate attraction between Ethan and Jeremiah … over food and each other. Given the short time they have, Ethan throws caution to the wind and plunges into what’s supposed to a few nights of fun.

But law school and deepening feelings on both their parts loom on the horizon. Can they serve up a delicious helping of a life together?



TITLE: Officer Needs Assistance
AUTHOR: David O. Sullivan
ISBN: 9781634865203
GENRE: Gay / Bisexual Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 24,048 words
PRICE: $3.99

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Rookie police officer Sean Patton’s world is turned upside down when he’s shot while out on a domestic disturbance call. Sean is saved by his ballistic vest but is still injured, emotionally and physically. To make matters worse, he has to hide his sexuality.

His girlfriend, an attorney seven years his senior, is his saving grace, nursing him with good deeds and plenty of loving. He also enjoys the attentions of his best friend Jeremy, who was his lover in college. And things are further complicated by his sexy and muscled captain, who admits to being bisexual, too.

Unfortunately in 1970s America, being anything other than straight is not on the menu. What’s a new officer to do? Will he lose his girlfriend when she discovers he’s attracted to men, too?



TITLE: Wind and Stone
AUTHOR: Jessica Payseur
ISBN: 9781634864763
GENRE: Gay Interracial Fantasy Erotic Romance (MMM)
LENGTH: 91,763 words
PRICE: $6.99

PURCHASE EBOOK

Sequel to Flame and Snow

With Emylnor saved, Akton and Talfryn try to settle into a normal life. But before they can get too comfortable, they learn dragon shifters are attacking. Led by Lord Fanglyr Reynox, the dragons are vicious, capable of extensive magic, and taking advantage of Queen Ylenia’s weakened forces. When Wren returns, they have a choice: report to Ylenia for orders, or go rogue with Wren and take down the Dragon Lord.

It could get them executed, but they choose Wren. Not only did she help them before, Akton and Talfryn are drawn to one of her companions, a griffin shifter named Lochlann. But navigating love among three men is the least of their worries. They’re going deep into the Dragon Realm to confront Lord Reynox, and the dragons are known for their brutality. Can their growing affection catch fire, or will it be snuffed out by the wind and stone of war?

Gabbi Reviews: Floating with a Sea Cow by Charlie Richards

Title: Beneath Aquatica’s Waves, Book 2: Floating with a Sea Cow

Author: Charlie Richards

Publisher: Extasy Books

Pages: 82

Characters:Tyrone, Braylon

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Shifter, Paranormal, Series

Kisses: 3.5 

Blurb:  

World of Aquatica: When a foolish dare goes horribly wrong, a human has more than one eye-opening experience.

Tyrone has walked—or swam—the Earth a lot of years. Most of that time he’s spent alone. Working with dozens of other marine shifters at World of Aquatica finally brings him close to others that are sort of his kind—they’re marine shifters, anyway. He works security, seeing as he can’t be in an exhibit because, technically, his kind are supposed to be extinct. When he spots a skinny human shoplifting, he catches him…and realizes the man—Braylon—is his mate. Tyrone convinces his boss and alpha not to call the police. Instead, they give Braylon several shifts of cleaning the park as a sort of community service. During that time, Tyrone has to go about doing something he hasn’t had to do in over four hundred years of life. Can he figure out how to woo a human so very different from himself? 

Review: 

Floating with a Sea Cow by Charlie Richards is the second book in the Beneath Aquatica’s Waves series. I confess I was super excited to read Floating with a Sea Cow because I LOVED the first book, Backstroking with a Tiger Shark so much. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as a fan of this book as I was the first story, but it was still a pretty good, solid read.

I think my main issue with the Tyrone and Braylon’s story is that I never really warmed up to Braylon at all. Sure, he’s a misunderstood man who is treated horribly by his rich and horrible father, but in my opinion, he was almost two characters in one. In the beginning of the story, Braylon is peer pressured into breaking the law *you’ll have to read it and see what he does, sorry no spoilers from me* and it’s a crime a fourteen year old would do not twenty-four. Braylon does it because he wants friends and seems to have fallen into the wrong crowd. I don’t know. I just didn’t buy it. I’m really not sure why. I think it’s because other than this idiotic crime, Braylon is shown to have an amazing head on his shoulders. Between his career choice and determination to get out from under his father’s tyranny, he seemed to be level-headed, so this didn’t make sense to me.

It could just be me though.

I liked Tyrone but there’s not a lot we learn about him. I was disappointed in this because his breed is extinct and he has lived a long time. I would have liked to have had more of a backstory about him because I thought he had great potential to be a very fascinating character. In the end, I liked him and it’s because of him, that I enjoyed the story as much as I did.

Floating with a Sea Cow is an interesting story. I think there were times I wished it wasn’t so generalized and some conversations between Tyrone and Braylon were swept over *like with the big reveal* but I did like them together. They do have a good chemistry together and I easily finished the  book in one sitting.

Charlie Richards writes addictively told stories that I can’t help but like. Her characters are unique and sexy and I know when I need a pick-me-up Ms. Richards is just what the doctor ordered. I am looking forward to the next book in this series because I am extremely fascinated with these characters and the stories they have to tell.

The Beneath Aquatica’s Waves series in book order are:

Backstroking with the Tiger Shark

Floating with a Sea Cow 

Reviewed By: Gabbi

Click HERE to purchase Floating with a Sea Cow by Charlie Richards

Click HERE to read the review for Backstroking with a Tiger Shark

Kimberly Reviews: Next Time I Fall by Jeff Erno

Title: Next Time I Fall

Author: Jeff Erno

Publisher: Ai Press

Pages: 162

Characters: Eric, Steve, Drake, Felix

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 4 

Blurb:

Eric Daniels has a habit of falling for unattainable men. For the past two years he’s pined for a man younger than him who has no interest in a relationship and just wants to use him. When Eric suddenly finds himself alone and again jilted, he swears it will never happen again. Then he meets Steve. Steve Warren has recently started his job as associate pastor of the local Baptist church. While canvassing the neighborhood to promote the church’s vacation Bible school program, he encounters a man who sticks in his memory. Though he doesn’t catch his name, he recalls the man’s black Labrador retriever, Drake.

Steve has a dog of his own, a boxer named Felix. And when they bump into each other again, not only do the dogs hit it off, but so do the humans. A friendship begins. Steve suddenly finds himself facing the harshest reality he’s ever endured. He’s been aware of his attraction to men for a long time, but his religion teaches homosexuality is an abomination. How can he reconcile his feelings for Eric with his faith? If he comes out as gay, what will it do to his career, his family, and his church? But he can’t go on forever using his religion as a shield to hide behind. Living a lie is bearing false witness, so he must find a way to be true to his faith while following his heart. Is there any way to move forward without hurting a lot of people he loves? 

Review:

I am a fan of stories involving men falling in love, especially when they have to overcome adversity, and it’s an extra bonus if they have pets that strike up a quick friendship. And that means Next Time I Fall hit all my buttons! Erno provides us with a storyline that makes the reader consider what defines us and how to be true to oneself.

Both Eric and Steve were portrayed realistically, with all the baggage that comes along with life. While Eric’s struggles were a bit simpler, balancing the sure-thing ex-roommate with the forever-love that he has building with Steve, the preacher has a whole lot more on his plate as he comes to terms with who he is and who he loves. I appreciated how Erno approached the issues of strict religious ideals with the various interpretations different churches have with doctrine. And what surprised me a little was the way Steve’s parents reacted to his coming out, or more specifically who supported him and who took a bit longer to come around. But in the end Steve was true to himself and that’s what mattered.

The ongoing storyline with Luke was quite good and helped reflect what Steve must have been going through during that time in his life. I liked that Steve was able to guide Luke and help him find acceptance, rather than leaving him to deal with the condemnation that the original church might have brought upon him. It’s okay to be gay, and the sooner a child can find that acceptance, the better off he or she will be.

For me, the only drawback to the novel was that the POV wandered between Eric and Steve, and sometimes even jumped over to a secondary character for a brief bit. While I could follow it, and the changes did happen on section breaks, I do tend to prefer sticking with a single POV in stories. But that’s a personal preference on my part and doesn’t detract from the overall writing or plot that Erno provided us.

So, if you’re looking for some self-reflection, a bit of falling in love, and two pups who are fast friends, you should pick up a copy of Next Time I Fall. And I will await the next release by Jeff Erno. 

Reviewed By: Kimberly

Click HERE to purchase Next Time I Fall by Jeff Erno