Reviewer for The Novel Approach

I decided I would share the links to reviews I do for The Novel Approach on my blog, as the books I get a chance to read are great. I also post the reviews on Goodreads, but these links will redirect you to The Novel Approach. I will also keep a list through my review pages.

Keep in mind, unless otherwise noted, these books are for mature audiences, and as such readers should be warned.

The Sensualist and the Untouched by Susan Laine – 12/26/14

Green the Whole Year ‘Round by Rowan McAllister – 12/31/14

On Wings of Song by Anne Barwell – 1/4/15

A Spartan Love by Kayla Jameth – 1/7/15

Slave Eternal by Nasia Maksima – 1/10/15

Book Review: Night Creatures by Jeremy Jordan King

It’s 1981, and Bryant thinks his move to New York will be the beginning of a new life. But the men he meets are being threatened by a mysterious illness. Could transforming into a Night Creature save him and his loved ones from certain death? Book Two of The Immortal Testimonies travels back in time to the gay community’s darkest days.

 

Since I finished the first book in this series, In Stone, I have been dying to get my hands on the sequel/prequel, especially when I found out the main character was going to be Bryant, my favorite side character in the first book.

In this book, readers meet Bryant before he’s been turned into a vampire. The time is the 1980s, right at the start of the AIDs crisis, and Bryant has just moved to New York City. He enjoys his life, but when an encounter with a mysterious man in a bath house leaves him sick, he freaks out. First he thinks it’s the flu, and then, when his lover and other friends start dying, he realizes it’s much worse.

Except, he’s not affected.

In comes Jonathan, the man from the bath house. One of the Immortals. What follows is an adventure as Bryant learns to adjust to his new life as he erases his old identity and tries desperately to stop AIDs from taking more lives.

This book was amazing. I mean, seriously. It really packs a hard punch, especially with the descriptions of the beginning of the AIDs crisis when doctors didn’t know what they were dealing with. Told from Bryant, it was so realistic I felt like I was living through it with him. What made it more chilling was the way the author didn’t just immediately say what was happening. Because no one did know at the time. We know now, and reading it, knowing what’s happening and what’s going to happen to everyone who gets sick… well, it was heartbreaking. I think this book is incredibly important for young adults because so many don’t understand the AIDs crisis and what it really meant to everyone. It’s been so many years that most – if not all – of those first impacted have died, and these young adults are seeing a world where AIDs may not have a cure yet, but has treatments, and being told you have it is not an immediate death sentence like it was in the 80s.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series. You do not need to read In Stone first in order to enjoy this book, but I would anyway.

This book is available for purchase from Bold Strokes Books.

Book Review: Agamemnon Frost and the Hollow Ships by Kim Knox

Edgar Mason is ready to embark upon his new life at Agamemnon Frost’s side. But all is not perfect. Through torture, Pandarus, his Martian overlord, has implanted a dark voice in his mind, a voice that urges betrayal. And though he can keep close to Frost, there’s little room for romance under the watchful gaze of the engineers from Station X.

That changes when Mason and Frost reopen their investigation into their old enemy’s whereabouts. Posing as double agents and investigating cryptic rumors of “hollow ships,” they find him impersonating a London banker and worm their way into his confidence.

But their success brings them trouble in spades. Pandarus takes them into the belly of his ships, where he plans to transfigure them into mindless automata. And with Earth on the brink of invasion, Frost’s old flame Theodora reappearing, and Pandarus’s brainwashing growing more effective, Mason and Frost will find their bond tested as never before.

YES yes yes yes and yes. An excellent second addition to the Agamemnon Frost trilogy, and I am PRAYING that Kim Knox finds a way to push this past a trilogy and make it a full series. Because this is just to awesome to stop.

While the first book explores Mason and Frost getting to know each other while battling the enemy and being turned into automata, this next book picks up where the last left off. Mason is still torn between his implanted allegiance to his Ilarches, and Frost, who he wants. Badly. Whenever Frost gets close to him, Mason is able to push the voice inside his head away for awhile.

Now that they’re both automata, their mission is to find Pandarus and take him out. But it’s not that simple. He’s changed bodies and he might suspect Frost and Mason (also known as Achilles and Patroclus) are traitors.

What follows is an adventure that will leave you on the edge of your seat, charged with both action and sexual tension as Mason continues to want Frost, but is confused as to whether or not Frost truly wants him too, or is just using him to defeat their enemy.

Next book, please!

Book Review: Asher’s Fault by Elizabeth Wheeler

The day fourteen-year-old Asher receives a Minolta camera from his aunt Sharon, he buys the last roll of black-and-white film and takes his first photograph—a picture of a twisted pine tree. He’s so preoccupied with his new hobby he fails to notice his dad’s plan to move out, his increasing alienation from his testosterone-ridden best friend, Levi, and his own budding sexuality. When his little brother drowns at the same moment Asher experiences his first same-sex kiss, he can no longer hide behind the lens of his camera. Asher thinks it’s his fault, but after his brother dies, his father resurfaces along with clues challenging Asher’s black-and-white view of the world. The truth is as twisted as the pine tree in his first photograph.

I loved this book. So much so that, despite having to work the next morning I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it. Teens everywhere, gay or straight, will relate to Asher, Garrett, Levi, Jennifer, and Kayla. There are so many different personalities in this book, each one so realistic I felt as if I knew them personally.

Asher is struggling to accept his parents divorce, especially when his father leaves his mother for another woman. His younger brother, Travis, annoys him, but as you find out from the blurb alone, his brother dies right at the same moment he has his first kiss with another boy. And I mean literally right at that moment.

What follows is a beautiful story about truths and lies. What is the truth? How do we know who is telling the truth and who isn’t? Asher’s friendship with Levi starts to fade when his friend becomes a member of the football team, and though Kayla is so different from him and doesn’t want to fit any mold, she appears to be the one person who understands him the most.

I love that Asher uses an old camera to capture his photos rather than a digital camera. There’s just something so much more special about taking a photo that way. His care in taking the photos is shown very carefully on the page.

I’m very happy that there will be a sequel because I want more of everyone. I want to know what happens between Asher and Garrett, and if Asher ever confronts his mother and father with the truth about Travis. Needless to say I was shocked when at the VERY end you find out a secret.

And reader’s are left with the biggest question of all. When it comes to Travis’s death, whose fault was it really?

You can purchase Asher’s Fault from Bold Strokes Books here.

Book Review: Greg Honey by Russ Gregory

Honey Agency: If we can’t solve your problem, we’re sorry.

Greg Honey has bigger issues than a sketchy tagline for his one-man detective agency. To start with, his mother is pressuring him to date debutantes, his stalker keeps leaving threatening messages, his new boyfriend is at least four levels higher up on the gay boy food chain, and his best friend, Willa, has lost her panties. To top it all off, things keep pointing toward trouble at the family estate. Will Greg figure out what’s going on in time to help Willa find her panties? Lord knows he wants to because Greg is more than a detective… he’s also a Honey.

WARNING: Do not read this book late at night while others around you are sleeping. You will likely cause them to wake up and be angry with you for all the laughing and snorting you will be doing. This is especially important if you live in an apartment building with paper thin walls.

With that out of the way, I must say I LOVED this new book by Russ Gregory. If you’re expecting a romance, just stop. Greg ain’t got time for that. Well, actually he does, with Matt, the guy he’s seriously crushing on, but that’s not the focus of this book. The focus is the mystery and, well, the comedy. Because this book is HILARIOUS.

Greg is a private investigator in his own, mostly new firm. His family is obscenely wealthy, but he’s not. Along with his friend Willa – who talks nonstop and misunderstands everything – he takes on cases and tries not to get shot or tased on the way to his next paycheck.

I think one of the funniest aspects of the book is Greg’s grandmother, Lucille. She has no filter whatsoever and calls it like she sees it. And when she wants to know something, she asks. Even if it’s the mechanics of Greg’s relationship with Matt.

This cast of characters is fun, mostly lovable, sometimes aggravating, and just all around bigger than the hair in Texas, which does make a special appearance.

If you like mysteries, comedies, or the two combined, do not miss this spectacular new book. I am praying that there is more in the works for Greg Honey, because I need to know what his next case load is going to bring!

You can purchase this book directly from Bold Strokes Books. It will be released September 1, 2013.

Book Review: Lake Thirteen by Greg Herren

It seemed like a good idea at the time….

Every summer three families take a trip together—this year it’s to a remote resort in the mountains of upstate New York. Scotty, a teenager who’s just come out, is nervous about how his friends will react to him. A late night visit to an old nearby cemetery seems like a great idea to the bored teens, but the old cemetery holds dark secrets hidden for almost a century—secrets that might have been better left undisturbed.

And what originally seemed like a boring week in the mountains gradually becomes a nightmare of terror for the teens and their families.

Yet another great young adult book by Greg Herren. This mystery follows Scotty and his friends on a vacation to a mountain lodge that’s more popular in the winter. As such, they are the only guests there. After visiting a cemetery on the road, the five teens start to experience paranormal activities around the lodge. And Scotty can’t help but feel a connection to deceased Albert Tyler, whose grave he found.

The story that follows brings the kids on a frightening journey, which might put them and their loved ones in danger.

The book does has its scary moments, especially when the author moves into the stream-of-consciousness style. With the lack of punctuation, you can’t help but read it faster and faster, which puts you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. The scenes also shift from present to the past very rapidly. For the reader it can be disorienting, which is exactly how Scotty feels when it happens to him.

Despite it being a mystery and horror, there are some tender, romantic moments, and also some rather heavy sadness concerning Albert. I felt what Scotty felt, both the terror, the heartbreak, and the joy.

The only gripe I had was how abrupt it ended. I really wanted Scotty to get home to Marc and see the two of them interact outside of Scotty’s mind. But at the same time, the final line was perfect, and any more may have taken away from the bittersweet ending. I just wish Scotty and Marc got a moment together like the other two lovers in the story.

You can purchase this book from Bold Strokes Books.

Book Review: The Adorned by John Tristan

My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.

A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.

But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.

Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered—and Roberd and myself along with it…

Wow.

I am left speechless and breathless at the end of this book, and find myself mourning that there is not more of this world for me to dive into. A five star rating system is not enough, and I feel that this book deserves its own category.

Normally I would wait to write a review until some time had passed, but at 1:30 in the morning I just can’t wait. I need to share how wonderful this book is. For the last twenty-four hours I have lived in Kered with Etan and Tallisk, and now that the book is over and I have left it, I feel like I have lost dear friends.

The book is long, but it is a carefully crafted journey that takes readers from the initial plight of Etan being turned out of his former home, his flight to the city, and how he ends up becoming one of the Adorned – a beautiful, living piece of art. His body becomes the canvas of Roberd Tallisk, a master tattooist whose art comes to life with the blood of the Blooded. Readers will follow Etan’s rise in fame as one of the popular Adorned, and see how he is used by the elite members of society for beauty, entertainment, pleasure, and more.

His growing love for Roberd is carefully nuanced throughout the novel, as are the feelings of Roberd for Etan. Told through Etan’s perspective, we see glimpses of it in his actions, but it can only be suspected. And though the protagonists are both men, their love is beautiful. Those who normally shy away from gay romances (or m/m, whichever you prefer) would be missing out on a superbly crafted tale. That said, if you prefer a…spicier gay romance, you won’t find that here. The scenes are subdued and fitting with the rest of the book.

There are moments of discord for the protagonists, though. The city is swept up with chaos, riots break out, and your heart will break. I felt like this story built me up into a wonderful cocoon of beauty and then sharply cut me out and cut me open. I admit I cried.

The ending is bittersweet, but a perfect ending is not always possible, even in fiction, even if we want it. And I think if the ending had been perfect, then all the trials Etan and Roberd went through would have cheapened the story.

This is a well-crafted novel. I am not only deeply saddened that it is over, but I regret that – since it is an e-book with a company that does not offer print – I will not be able to add this fine piece to my collection on my shelves. I will be revisiting this world often, and I look forward to more from John Tristan.

You can purchase this book on its release August 12, 2013 from Amazon.

Book Review: Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death by Kim Knox

Liverpool, 1891

Decorated artilleryman Edgar Mason was forced to find new work when the British Empire replaced its foot soldiers with monstrous machines. Now he waits on the Liverpool elite as a personal servant. He has just one rule: he won’t work for fashion-addled dandies.

Agamemnon Frost, however, is far from the foppish man-about-town he appears to be. He’s working to protect the Earth from an alien invasion being planned by a face-changing creature known as Pandarus. And on the night he plans to confront the aliens, he enlists Mason to assist him.

For a man to love a man is a serious crime in Victorian England. But when Mason meets Frost, his heart thunders and his blood catches fire. And when Pandarus drags the two men into the torture cellars beneath his house of death to brainwash them, Mason’s new passion may be all that stands between him and insanity.

The trilogy continues with Agamemnon Frost and the Hollow Ships.

YES.

That pretty much sums up this book for me. I can’t give a better review than just that one word, but for those that do not know me, I will explain.

I love the following categories: m/m historical fiction, steampunk, Sherlock Holmes, science fiction with alien life, and mystery. Throw all those things together and you have one explosive book that defies categorization and makes for sheer awesome.

THAT IS THIS BOOK.

I didn’t put it down. I sat and read it in one sitting, and even when I had to move rooms, I carried it and walked while reading to the other room. This book is just amazing, and I am SO GLAD it’s part of a trilogy (at least. Please, PLEASE Kim Knox, DON’T STOP THERE!!!)

Agamemnon Frost is a great character. As Mason says, he has many masks, and he wears all of them well. When Mason is hired to be his valet for a night at a party, Mason has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. Apparently Martians are trying to turn people into automatons and take over the world or something. That part isn’t clear because the humans don’t know exactly what they’re after, either. Which makes it that much more interesting.

I loved Mason, too. When he goes through his transfiguration, it’s not 100% the way Frost would have liked it, and there are moments when I think all is in despair. But fear not! Frost is too smart and knows what’s going on and reacts accordingly.

Not only that, but the two men together have some serious sexual tension building. Though there is no acting on it in this book, that was fine with me. The world and character building was enough.

I’m hooked. Move over, Sherlock Holmes. There’s a new man in town, and his name is Agamemnon Frost!

This book is available from Carina Press. You can purchase a copy from Amazon.

Book Review: The Plain of Bitter Honey by Alan Chin

From Bold Strokes Books website: Twins Aaron and Hayden Swann are fighting a corrupt government taken over by ultra right-wing Fundamentalist Christians in 2055 America. Each brother fights in his own way, Aaron with bullets, Hayden with words. Then one night their world is turned upside down when they are caught in a government sting and they must both flee north into the badlands between San Francisco and Canada, where the only safe haven is a place called The Plain of Bitter Honey, a refuge where heads of the Resistance operate. But the brothers don’t know that government agents are tracking them to the hiding place of the   Resistance. Can they find the inner strength to survive?

There are some books that are really easy to write reviews for. And there are others that are difficult. Not because they’re not great books, but BECAUSE they are great books. This is one of those. I cannot write my typical spazzing out sort of review for this book because it just wouldn’t do it justice. And this book deserves a lot of careful thought.

The Plain of Bitter Honey takes place in the not too distant future. The America that is painted for readers is very grim. At least for some. For some people, they might like the fact the Christianity has taken over and the States have become a Christian nation. However, it is hell on Earth for many people in the book. If you do not agree with the views of those in power, or if your life and loves are different from what they think it should be, you are placed in ghettos.

I’ll flash back to history here, because what the author has done is draw on the Holocaust. There are many allusions to what happened in Nazy Germany during World War II. It is done masterfully, because it shows just how horrific the world has become.

Aaron and Hayden Swann are identical twins that are part of the resistance. At least Aaron is. Hayden, it seems, is off in his own world of literature. As a gay man, he has to hide the fact that he loves his boyfriend Julian, for fear of either being placed in the ghetto or being treated. While Aaron is very hard and driven, Hayden seems so carefree.

Looks can be deceiving.

What follows is an incredible journey to save the twins, the reistance, and everything they hold dear. There were times when I thought for sure all hope was lost, but the beautiful thing about how is that it’s always within reach if you just keep believing.

The author also weaves in some beautiful moments of magical realism as well, such as when Aaron is training with Twig and he learns to blend into the trees and become a part of them.

The conclusion of the novel is ultimately heart-breaking and beautiful. It is full of hope and you want the characters to succeed. I stayed up past one in the morning to finish because I couldn’t stop, and when I finally came to the conclusion, I put the book down, curled up in the fetal position on my bed, and just cried.

Such a wonderful novel from Alan Chin. He has a way with words that will leave you thinking and praying that this is not the future that we are headed towards. Frighteningly enough, with the current state of our country, it at times feels that way.

I look forward to many more books from this author.

This book will be released in June, 2013, and will be available from Bold Strokes Books and Amazon.

 

Book Review: Play Me, I’m Yours by Madison Parker

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have Madison Parker host a stop on her blog tour here. The topic was Party Games, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do! It was a fun read, and I’m glad she asked me to participate.

The tour is for her new young adult novel, Play Me, I’m Yours from Harmony Ink Press. I am happy to say that I have read the book and LOVE it.

Description from Goodreads: Fairy Tate. Twinklefingers. Lucy Liu. Will the taunting ever end? Lucas Tate suffers ridicule because of his appearance and sensitive nature. When he’s not teased, he’s ignored, and he doesn’t know which is worse. He feels unloved by everyone, but the one comfort in life is his music. What he wants more than anything is to find a friend.


Much to his dismay, both his mom and a schoolmate are determined to find him a boyfriend, despite the fact Lucas hasn’t come out to them. His mom chooses a football player who redefines the term “heartthrob,” while Trish pushes him toward the only openly gay boy at Providence High. But Lucas is harboring a crush on another boy, one who writes such romantic poetry to his girlfriend that hearing it melts Lucas into a puddle of goo. All three prospects seem so far out of his league. Lucas is sure he doesn’t stand a chance with any of them—until sharing his gift for music brings him the courage to let people into his heart.

I adored Lucas in this book. There were so many emotions and so many wonderful characters that I loved and loved to hate. Seeing all of the characters grow throughout the novel made me feel as if I knew them personally.

Mason, Lucas’s younger brother, doesn’t like that his brother is gay because of the torment HE receives. It’s not that he’s gay. It’s just the bullying he faces because of his brother’s sexuality. But over time he grows and becomes a supporter of his brother.

Alex is wonderful. I had wanted him and Lucas to end up together, despite him being straight, but he’s a young man who is comfortable in his own skin and becomes a great friend to Lucas. The two bond, and not even harassment from Alex’s other friends will tear Alex from Lucas.

Trish is kind of one-track minded at first, but she also experiences growth when she realizes how she’s been treating Lucas. She and Alex make a great pair.

I wish I had gotten to know Zach more, though. I loved the poetry he wrote in class, but I wanted to see more interaction with his mother while Lucas was there. And what happened between him and David? I would have loved more of that tension. Maybe a sequel or something?

A wonderful novel that will simultaneously break your heart and make you feel good inside. You can buy the book through Amazon.