Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Empty Hourglass by Cornelia Grey

Title: The Empty Hourglass
Author: Cornelia Grey
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Genre: steampunk
Length: 69K, 201 pages
Formats: Mobi, epub, pdf, print

Thomas Escott has always wanted to be a toymaker, yet just as he achieves his dream, an accident claims his right hand. He’s certain his life is over—until he hears about groundbreaking prosthetics being made by a reclusive inventor.

Jethro Hastings is perfectly content to live alone up in the mountains working on a secret masterpiece: a humanoid automaton that will change the scientific community forever. He’s behind schedule, and the date of the unveiling is fast approaching, so when Thomas shows up on his doorstep offering help in exchange for a mechanical hand, Jethro agrees. Time, after all, is running out on another deal he’s made: one with the devil.

The devil gives Jethro’s inventions life, but he can just as quickly take life away—Jethro’s, to be exact. As the sand in the devil’s hourglass falls, marking the time until the end of the deal, inventions go haywire, people get hurt, and Thomas realizes he needs Jethro just as much as his prosthetic. Now he must find a way to save Jethro’s soul, but negotiating with a devil is just as difficult as it sounds.

Farfarello’s back, that sly devil. It’s nearly time for him to collect on Jethro’s Faustian bargain. Jethro’s got one eye on the hourglass ticking down the moments, and Thomas is gradually figuring out what's going on. Farfarello’s got a little more sympathy for the humans he deals with than his boss might approve of.

We’re in Thomas’s head, and of course, he doesn’t have a clue about all the background. He’s come to Jethro’s workshop to beg for a prosthetic hand to replace the one he lost in a workshop accident. Even with time ticking away, Jethro manages to outfit one last person in need, and now Thomas can help him with his exacting engineering. Theirs could be a real partnership on all levels, if Farfarello wasn’t hanging about in the background.

The story is pretty straightforward, without all the side plots built into Circus of the Damned, also in this series, but that’s okay, we get a sense of desperation and confusion here. The setting is steampunky in that it’s a low tech society in the main, with the spectacular gears and whistles getting brought out, but where I ran into issues is with the style.

I open Cornelia Grey’s books expecting to be drenched in her atmospheric prose, the word equivalent of chocolate. And here, while the style is readable, it doesn’t seem to be Cornelia Grey. Plus lots of anachronisms like “okay”, “the guy”, “warm and fuzzy”, and an unusual amount of swearing for genteel people, which sit strangely next to hansom cabs and automatons. It’s a mishmash I’d expect from someone who handles language much less skillfully that she does.

While I’m glad I read this book, it isn’t on the level I've come to expect from this author. 3.5 marbles

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Thousand Word Ficlet From Cari Z

Cari Z, whose wonderful Panopolis books have me completely absorbed, found a picture that inspired her.


“Dance with me.”

I shake my head at Greg, who’s on his third glass of champagne tonight. I can’t blame him; his sister just got married. Everyone else is well into their cups at this point too―there’s something to be said for a southern wedding, namely that the food is better and the alcohol is freer than at any other event I’ve ever attended. The company, however? That definitely leaves something to be desired. We’ve gotten more dark looks for our matching suits than I can count, although that could be in part because Leila’s colors are purple and gold. Purple’s not a good look on me.

Still, it doesn’t make sense to rock the boat now. We’ll be gone in less than an hour, and I sincerely hope to never be the center of this much awkward attention again.

“Dance with meee,” Greg insists, leaning his head forward on his hands. He’s shorter than I am, very cute, and debilitatingly adorable when he wants to be. Like now. “C’mon, we practiced and everything!”

“Watching Dancing With The Stars doesn’t count as practice,” I say.

“It does, though! Rory, c’mon.” He grins at me. “You don’t have to dip me or throw me in the air. We just have to move together.”



I gesture around us. “What about them?”

“What about them?” he persists. “It’s Leila’s wedding, they’re not going to say anything. If they do, she’ll shut them down before we can even open our mouths. Rory.” His grin turns into a smile, soft and private. “Please, dance with me. Just one song.”

That’s the reason we’re wearing coordinated suits. I have a hard time saying no to him. “One song,” I agree, and stand up. The lights are dim, but I still feel like everyone is watching me. I’ve been in too many arguments, too many fights, to want to take that scrutiny in silence, but then Greg is in front of me, stepping close. He puts his right hand in mine, and I tuck my free hand in the small of his back. He feels warm even through the layers of suit, and when he brushes up against me, his eyes are locked on mine.

“Now we move,” he tells me, a bit breathless.

“Yes,” I say softly, and lead him into the first step of the dance.


Mmm, yes, Cari Z knows how to get the guys to cuddle up. Or punch noses, or survive zombies, or... Cari's guys do a lot of things.

Love superheroes? You'll love them even more Panopolis style, with adventure, angst, and a couple of tropes stood on their heads.

Her latest, Where There's a Will, gets reviewed next week, but it's not a spoiler to say I LOVED IT.

Being a Hero in Panopolis means living the high life: parties, money, influence, even reality television. And I’m one of the most powerful Heroes in the city. I have plenty of fans, a manager who looks out for me (after himself), and a job that pays the bills. I should be enjoying myself.
Unfortunately, the downside of my superpower means I can’t touch anyone, which tends to put a damper on things. I probably don’t deserve all those perks anyway, since I’m working in secret with two of Panopolis’s biggest Villains to undermine GenCorp—my main sponsor and the company that controls what gets through my force field.
I obviously don’t trust my corporate overseers, but they’ve hired a new scientist who actually seems interested in helping me. Dr. Mansourian might have the answers to all my questions—not to mention a starring role in most of my dreams—but he’s hiding something big. If I let him have what he wants, I might not live to regret it.  
Then again, the way things are going in Panopolis these days, I might not live either way.
Preorder at Riptide, read May 2.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Come What May by A.M. Arthur

Title: Come What May
Author: A.M Arthur
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at All Romance eBooks (eventually)
Cover Artist: N/A
Genre: contemporary
Length: 320 pages MMP
Formats: Mobi, audio, mass market paperback
Currently on preorder, to release May 23, 2016

Jonas needs Tate. He just doesn't know it yet.

Or at least, he doesn't want to admit it. Because there is no way Jonas Ashcroft is gay. He's a straight, carefree frat boy player, just like any good son of a conservative state senator. If only his struggle to convince everyone—especially himself—didn't leave him so miserable. No matter how many girls or bottles he drowns himself in, Jonas can neither escape nor accept who he is.

Enter Tate. He's smart, confident, and instantly sees right through Jonas's surly exterior. Sure, he's done things in life he's not proud of, but he knows who he is and what he wants. And what he wants is Jonas. As their easy friendship intensifies into something more, Tate introduces Jonas to a life he's never known. One filled with acceptance and sex and a love that terrifies and excites them both.

But some inner demons refuse to be shaken off so easily. When Jonas's old life barges in, he faces a shattering choice, one that could destroy everything he and Tate have fought so hard for. Sometimes love just isn't enough—and sometimes it's exactly what you need.


Oh no, I can’t be gay, oh dear, I am gay, and oh my, I think I love you. Oh no, pushback from world. It’s not a new story, but one that can be given new life.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Way You Are by L.J. Mile

Title: The Way You Are
Author: L.J. Mile
Purchase at Amazon also in KU
Cover Artist: N/A
Genre: contemporary YA
Length: 141 pages
Formats: Mobi

By the time he reaches college, Robert is an expert at hiding his feelings—with a few side effects. If he has a little attraction towards boys now and again, he can bury it with a candy bar and go on living the life his parents want for him. The only thing he never expected was that he'd meet someone who would like him just as he was, flaws and all. Now his emotional armor has stopped working and he'll be forced to decide which life he wants for himself.


How to break your heart in one easy step: watch a youth who’s sure love is conditional try to stay within boundaries too narrow for him.

This passage from early in the story defines poor Robert:

His mother loved him. His father loved him. Just like Jesus did—so long as he made sure he always deserved that love.
The dread of maybe, possibly failing to live up to that expectation seized him. It stayed with him until the service was over, until the entire congregation emptied out and traveled over to a nearby park for a church luncheon. It stayed with him even as he avoided looking at Jeremy Irons—or any other boys, for that matter.

Instead, he rounded the luncheon table a second time, a third time, and then a fourth. When the boys took off with a soccer ball, he sat beside his parents, nibbling on a brownie, or a piece of cake, or some of Ms. Henrietta's famous peach cobbler.

Bite, chew, swallow. Distract himself.

Stay loved.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

August Ice by Dev Bentham

Title: August Ice
Author: Dev Bentham
Purchase at Amazon  (KU)
Cover Artist: Jordan Castillo Price
Genre: contemporary
Length: 184 pages
Formats Mobi, Print

It takes a special kind of person to work in Antarctica. Max Conway, an ex-Navy Seal, loves working at the bottom of the world. Like any other diver, he's tough and hard drinking. Half the year he's stuck in the States traveling the commercial dive circuit and hitting gay bars every night. The other six months he's lead safety diver at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, reveling in the cold blue Antarctic Sea. The only drawback to life way down under is that Max feels like he has to tuck his libido into storage while he's on station, stashing all those free condoms for use back up north. That is until Andre Dubois, a gorgeous French scientist, shakes up his world. Not only is Andre out and proud, he's sober as the day is long. And the days are long during an Antarctic summer. Max must choose between his comfortable inebriated closet and a life in the sun with Andre.

Max, who dreams of being underwater with the seals and the penguins, lives for his half year during the Antarctic summer, does random diving jobs the rest of the time, and drinks enough to submerge McMurdo Station. Between his regrets from the service and hiding who he is, he goes through three people’s liquor rations. He’s also doing things both as a diver and a human that he’s risking fatal screw-ups with his drinking. No wonder Andre Dubois doesn’t want a thing to do with him, especially after their first meeting gets lost in an alcoholic blackout.

Most of the book is set in the Antarctic, and this was the best part for me. The characters such as Annie and the chief, and the station itself, a warm and smelly haven from the unrelenting, dangerous cold. The sense of environment was really intense, and the diving sequences had the ring of experience.

Andre and Max actually had more chemistry when Andre was first hurt by Max’s forgetting and then aloof because of his drinking. They did start coming together, in spite of his reservations. The second half of the book needs Max to redeem himself after huge lapses, and while he does, I just wasn’t feeling the connection between the men as more than mentor/mentee with benefits.

One thing I appreciated was that Max’s relationships with other people didn’t all end up sunshine and roses, which made everything more real. This is a gritty story in a lot of ways, but the tone changed a lot toward the end.

I enjoyed the book, but can’t help feeling like an action adventure story wandered off course into romance. 3.75 marbles

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Tested Love by Kayla Jameth

Title: A Tested Love (Spartan Love Book 2)
Author: Kayla Jameth
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Genre: historical
Length: 324 pages
Formats Epub, Mobi, PDF, print

Lured by seductive promises, Andreas risked his life to be with Theron, only to find himself betrayed. Abandoned and alone, Andreas resigns all hope of seeing his fierce warrior again and resumes his life as a helot.

All too aware of the harsh punishment Sparta demands of men who love other men, Theron reluctantly surrenders Andreas in hopes of keeping him safe. The warrior returns to Sparta to embrace his destiny in place of the helot he has grown to see as a man, not just a slave. Cold but honorable duty will be his new lover.

Duty proves to be a jealous lover when Sparta demands the final test of Theron’s loyalty. Sent to kill Andreas, Theron must find a way to come to terms with his burning desire for his handsome helot before their forbidden love destroys them both.

My biggest problem with this book is the long wait for Book 3!

You definitely want to start with A Spartan Love (reviewed here), as the story goes in sequence, and coming in at this point is going to leave you confused. But Book 1 is a great read.

So many of the awful fears Andreas and Theron had in Book 1 come true here. Andreas’ trust was hard won to start with, and Theron’s situation has done nothing but gnaw away at what remains. Neither man knows how to avoid Andreas’ death or Theron’s disobedience, this is one place where having it all flat can’t happen. Finding a way around Theron’s duty to Sparta requires them to think the unthinkable, and do the equally unthinkable. By the end of the book, these two have traveled much farther than the mere miles to a far-flung city.

The reader has to be willing to sink into the ancient mindset and remember the lack of communication across distance. What we could solve in minutes simply isn’t that easy for them, any more than most of us would fare well in a sword fight.

We do get a hint of Coridan’s fate, which was a relief, since I’d been worrying about him since the disaster in Book 1. Doubt arises about an ally, and one big threat resolves and brings lots more trouble in its wake. Apollo and a few of his fellow Olympians take a hand in meddling with everyone’s lives, which gives me a feeling there’s going to be some big payoffs due in Book 3.

The sense of history is equally strong here, and layered with the tatters of a relationship that isn’t supposed to exist. I did feel that some aspects of their dilemma stretched out a little longer than necessary, complicated by their unwillingness to talk, but talking at all isn’t part of their daily lives. Andreas has no confidante besides Ictis the ferret (Who is just as cute here as before!). Theron’s still working on not trying to solve everything by himself, and backslides sometimes.

These two are definitely tested, but they’re stronger together than they are apart. Now to wait for the climax of the story arc! 4.5 marbles

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Knit Tight by Annabeth Albert Review, blog tour, and giveaway

Welcome to the party for Annabeth Albert's new novella, Knit Tight, the latest story in the Portland Heat collection. We have goodies from the author, and some opinions from me. Very happy opinions, I might add.

Knit Tight 

(Portland Heat Series, #4)

by Annabeth Albert

It’s no secret that Portland, Oregon, has some of best restaurants, shops, and cafés in the country. But it’s the hard-working men who serve it all up that keep us coming back for more...

One of Portland’s hottest young baristas, Brady is famous for his java-topping flair, turning a regular cup of joe into a work of art. Every Wednesday—aka “Knit Night”—hordes of women and their needles descend on the coffeehouse, and Brady’s feeling the heat. Into the fray walks a tall, dark, and distractingly handsome stranger from New York. His name is Evren, and he’s the sexy nephew of Brady’s sweetest customer, the owner of the yarn shop down the street. He’s also got a killer smile, confident air, and masculine charm that’s tying Brady’s stomach in knots. The smitten barista can’t wait to see him at the next week’s gathering. But when he tries to ask Evren out, his plans unravel faster than an unfinished edge. If Brady hopes to warm up more than Evren’s coffee, he’ll have to find a way to untangle their feelings, get out of the friend zone, and form a close-knit bond that’s bound to last a lifetime…


How am I coming in so late on this series! Must.Read.Them.All!

Here we have a talented barista raising his younger siblings after their parents died. Brady’s twenty-three, overwhelmed, and trying to make his family function in spite of considerable challenges. Time enough for a relationship is tough to come by: he’s lucky if his eighteen year old sister doesn’t flake out on being the designated adult for the evening if he’s working.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review: An Erie Garden Party by V.L. Locey

Title: An Erie Garden Party
Author: V.L. Locey
Purchase at Torquere
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Kris Norris
Genre: paranormal, shifter
Length: 32K
Formats pdf, mobi, epub, html

Spring has finally arrived along the shores of Lake Erie and no one is happier than skunk shifter, Templeton Reed. Now that the snows have melted, he can frolic and play on the grounds of Lupei Manor, the formidable home that he shares with his life partner, Mikel Lupei, the alpha of the Lake Erie pack. What a pity that his joy is short lived.

Not only does a stranger appear to shake things up in the manor, bodies begin showing up on the grounds as well! Could the newcomer to the pack be the one viciously killing innocent humans and shifters? Or is there a more nefarious force at work lurking just outside the boundaries of the ancient manse Templeton, Mikel, and their LGBT friends call home?

This is the latest in the series featuring Templeton Reed, skunk shifter and lover of the Lupei pack’s alpha, Mikel. Readers of the series will recognize a lot of recurrent characters, such as the grumpy vampire in the basement and the butler, Rugby. The butler was the subject of a running gag, and I admit I chuckled over it every darned time. I can just see Templeton’s eyes bugging out.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Book Blitz: An Erie Garden Party by V. L. Locey

Erie Garden Party Banner v2

Title: An Erie Garden Party
Author: V.L. Locey
Series: Lake Erie Shifters, Book 3
Publisher: Torquere Press
Release Date: 4/13/16
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 32k words
Genre/Tags: Paranormal, M/M Romance

Add to Goodreads

An Erie Garden Party


Spring has finally arrived along the shores of Lake Erie and no one is happier than skunk shifter, Templeton Reed. Now that the snows have melted, he can frolic and play on the grounds of Lupei Manor, the formidable home that he shares with his life partner, Mikel Lupei, the alpha of the Lake Erie pack. What a pity that his joy is short lived.

Not only does a stranger appear to shake things up in the manor, bodies begin showing up on the grounds as well! Could the newcomer to the pack be the one viciously killing innocent humans and shifters? Or is there a more nefarious force at work lurking just outside the boundaries of the ancient manse Templeton, Mikel, and their LGBT friends call home?


"Son of a human," Mikel snarled. He stripped and shifted. I stood with his clothes over my arms, watching the wolf work the scent. He padded to the lake, snuffled the shore intently, and then slowly made his way back to the corpse. I turned my head to stare at Erie when he shoved his head under the bloody sheet to smell the body. The water seemed almost tranquil today. How I wished we were planning our spring fete instead of standing here beside a dead man. Mikel tapping my arm brought my attention from the Great Lake back to him. I handed him his pants.

"So, what can you tell us about this poor man's fate?"

"He's human." Mikel zipped his trousers vehemently. "And he was killed by a large animal, either wolf or bruin. Whoever did this dragged him through the lake to mask the scent. I'll have to gather the pack to scour the woods. Damnation."

"Oh dear me," I sighed. "I suppose the call must be made then."

Mikel threw his head back and stared at the soft white clouds ambling past. "Yes. We have to notify the Elder counsel. That is standard operating procedure when a human is involved in mystical matters. Damnation!"

I reached out to pat his thick bicep. I wasn't sure he wanted consolation but I offered it anyway. He placed his hand over mine.

"Let me know when they plan to arrive. I'll take a long stroll through the woods."

Mikel's lip rolled as he turned to look down at me. "I hate that as well. You should be at my side. This mansion is as much your home as it is mine."

"Yes, well, the times they aren't a changing as rapidly as needed," I smiled then snuggled into his wide chest. His arms cinched around me tightly, his smoky shirt smashed between us. My ear rested over his strong heart. "If one of the Elders saw me here it would raise questions. I know we have a lie all in place, but I for one do not wish to put that lie to the test. Better I enjoy the forest for an hour or so while they attend to this mess."

"I love you beyond words, Templeton," Mikel said into my black hair. "Someday, I swear, we shall not have to hide our love for each other."

"From your mouth to the Elders' ears," I whispered, then tipped my head up for a kiss. We both needed one. Pity it couldn't be a longer one, but it was tender.


Torquere Press

Erie Garden Party Square v1

Meet the Author

V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, a flock of assorted domestic fowl, and three Jersey steers.

When not writing spicy romances, she enjoys spending her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | tsú


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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

I don't know quite what to make of this...

From Goodreads in my mailbox this morning.

Hello Cryselle,

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In our community of readers, you stand out in a notable way: You're one of the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads!

With every rave and every pan, with every excited GIF and every critical assessment, you've helped the Goodreads community get closer to a very important milestone – the 50 Million Reviews mark! Check out the fun infographic we made to celebrate!

You've written 285 reviews since joining Goodreads on September 2nd, 2009. Out of all the reviews you've written, this is the review that got the most attention: (Insert review for an historical fiction novel about Madame Tussaud. Fascinating but not why you're reading this blog.) 

Reading reviews by book lovers like you is one of our favorite things on Goodreads. Thank you for helping other readers find a good (or avoid a not-so-good!) book.

Keep reading (and reviewing!)
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Co-Founders of Goodreads 

Now I'm confused. Did I really read close to 300 books and discuss them? Or--was that all the books I discussed over all that time? I read a LOT. There were several years in there I didn't blog much or at all, because life was difficult. Now I'm wondering which books I forgot to crosspost. There are a few I deliberately left out. 

Either way, it's kind of sweet to get feedback. Even if it's run an algorithm and send out an insert number here mass email. Sometimes that little bit of attention makes it worth doing all the work. Now I'm trying to decide if I'm pathetic or just able to live on crumbs.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Stealing Dragon's Heart by Susan Laine

Title: Stealing Dragon’s Heart
Author: Susan Laine
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Genre: fantasy
Length: 81k, 240 pages
Formats mobi, epub, pdf, print

Notorious master thief Finn Grayson is hired to break into a high-class skyscraper in New Shanghai and steal a priceless artifact known as the Shard. But someone’s gotten to the Shard first—and the penthouse suite turns out to be a dragon’s lair.

Cameron Feilong, Guardian of the Earth Shard, is ancient enough to realize that he and his unbidden guest are being used like puppets on a string. Forming a shaky alliance is the only way for them to survive and to stop their ruthless foes.

Unfortunately, Finn and Cam seem to be forever one step behind. To learn more about their clandestine enemy, they travel together from walled Asian cities, barren tundras, and underwater temples to secret paranormal clubs and legendary elvish cities rising high in the trees or buried deep under glaciers. Finn and Cam must learn to trust each other before it’s too late, for bringing together the five Elemental Shards will spell the end of the world.

This book takes place in a fantasy Earth where the veil between the mythical world and the world as we know it has been ripped, and the two different dimensions have some serious adjusting to do. Of course it isn’t going to be easy. Neither side is pleased with the combination, and there’s all sorts of reasons for friction.

This book was somewhat problematic for me, because while I adored the world and the situations, and the entire plot to retake the Shards and prevent what could be catastrophe, the romance wasn’t on the same level. The adventure aspect is wonderful, where our only POV character, Finn, isn’t considered the equals of the mythical beings, definitely doesn’t have the same information to work with, and still manages to show them up here and there and be absolutely integral to the solutions to their various setbacks. He’s in over his head, and sometimes Cameron remembers to tell him what he needs to know. Sometimes he doesn’t.

The sections where they’re engaged against the enemy drew me along, until a moment of inappropriate sexual desire pops up. Finn pops a boner at times where his attention ought to be on the danger rather than Cameron’s butt. It didn’t really work as sexual tension, and in fact, made the romance aspect of the story feel like an intrusion on the epic fantasy going on around it.

I’m afraid the romance didn’t work for me, until the last part of the book, where the danger from the Shards has been resolved. This was unusual and delightful: Finn had a way to demonstrate how he complemented Cameron intellectually and physically. There were few sex scenes to the book, and the major scene around the 50% mark raised my eyebrows, for a previously undisclosed sexual quirk (Finn’s) that I had issues with, and for the extraordinary amount of complex conversation while they were coupled. If you can discuss matters that complicated in huge paragraphs of speech with long words while boinking, someone’s doing something wrong. The information was necessary to the plot, which made skimming an unsexy sex scene impossible. The more relaxed scene at the end worked far better.

I ended the book pleased for the lovers, impressed by the world-building and the degree of knowledge it took to make an ancient Chinese dragon and this particular human thief real and rounded. The quest was fantastic, the resolution satisfying. I could hope this author works on integrating romance into the narrative and foreshadowing certain elements that feel far too convenient if brought up at the moment of need, but I enjoyed this book. There are more Lifting the Veil stories of this troubled time, so Mount TBR just got a little higher. 3.75 marbles