Sadie S. Forsythe


Sadie Forsythe hails from the Southeastern United States, lives in Northwestern England, and is a fan of all things Japanese. She holds degrees in Anthropology/ Comparative Religion, International Criminology and Social Change. She loves local coffee shops, geek culture, everything bookish, and tea (steaming with milk and sweet iced). She is married with two daughters and an imaginary dog.

Where to find Sadie S. Forsythe online


The Weeping Empress
Price: $1.50 USD. Words: 87,490. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2012 . Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
(3.40 from 20 reviews)
Chiyo Alglaeca was happy in her life, until it was all taken away. Forced into notoriety, stalked by a mysterious cult, hunted by the emperor, and facing betrayal at every turn she clings to the only safety she can find: two enigmatic men and the sharp bringer of death, Salvation. The Weeping Empress explores the devastating effects of loss, the hunt for redemption, and the price of destiny.

Sadie S. Forsythe's favorite authors on Smashwords

Smashwords book reviews by Sadie S. Forsythe

  • Budding Magic on July 09, 2012

    This is an engaging story that carries you along pleasantly. Or at least it does after chapter one of Budding Magic. I cried in the first chapter, yes the first chapter! Each of the six sisters has a personality of their own, which can't be easy for a writer. You easily become attached and invested in their adventure. It is fun learning the Druadic lessons with them and seeing how Fayne describes all of the magical creatures. The language is distractingly modern for a story set in 1838, especially that of the O'Byrne sisters, but this is easily overlooked. If you like fairtale fare you'll like these books. It is a testament to the O'Brynes that I enjoyed the story as much as I did despite having one of my number one literary pet peaves in it. This is when main characters are presented as more morally advanced than their peers because they adhere to normal modern civic mores. It comes through in little things like insisting on bathing regularly in a historical time period when hygiene was neither understood nor appreciated, or expecting fair labour (or gender) laws in what would otherwise be a feudal state. Express a desire to see change, sure, but surprise that others adhere to what would be the norm of the day, no. Like everyone else, the main characters would know no different. I generally find it smug and condescending, and Fayne's story is no exception. Despite this one major drawback for me, I really liked Budding Magic. When all is said and done, the story of the Irish O’Bryne’s is one worth the read for those who are 14ish and up. There are a few sexual references, more often than not when a baddie needs to be seen as especially depraved. But there is no explicit sex or violence. It is well edited and easy to follow.
  • It's Just Magic! on July 09, 2012

    It's Just Magic is part two of the O'Bryne Daughters series. I enjoyed it, but to a lesser degree than it's prequel Budding Magic. I say to a lesser degree because there is so much recap in this book. I don't mind a dozen or so pages at the beginning of a sequel to bring the reader back up to speed, but in It's Just Magic theses reviews run the course of the whole book. Even in the last chapter one finds, "Calley-Cat had...." and a quick rundown of what good old magical Cally-Cat did in book one. Don't get me wrong, I still liked the book. The O'Bryne sisters have a certain vivacious innocence that charms the reader. But there are a lot of characters and goings on in Budding Magic that It's Just Magic tries to remind the reader of. This tends to eclipse the story being told, which is a shame. It's a good story, full of angels, goddesses, succubi, unicorns and magical calico cats. The children's nascent magic is interesting, and there is even a splash of romance. While I think the story would have been better served in one book than two, it is definitely one worth picking up and reading. Especially if you have teens in the house, say 14 and up. There are a few sexual references, more often than not when a baddie needs to be seen as especially depraved. But there is no explicit sex or violence. It's a pretty clean read.
  • When We Were Married on July 11, 2012

    3.5 stars really I'm really conflicted about how to rate this book, because there are some aspects of it that I really like. Steele is obviously a talented writer and shows a broad and varied knowledge that makes for an interesting assortment of characters. However, there are also some aspects of if that practically curled my toes and they aren't easily (or at least briefly) explained. I think this book comes across as very male. There isn't anything wrong with that. The author, primary protagonist and narrator are male so it shouldn't be at all surprising that, despite being a romance of sorts, it is also very macho. But as a female reader there were times I felt alienated by the writing. For example, almost every description of a woman starts (and sometimes ends again) with a description of her 'assets' and whether or not she was pretty, sexy and/or f_ckable. I'm left wondering if this isn't one of those differences between men and women situations. While I read these descriptions as fairly objectifying, I accept the possibility that a man might simply see them as descriptions of beautiful women. While there aren't very many actual sex scenes, at times When We Were Married reads like Ron Jeremy's script closet. Seriously, every cliche male sexual fantasy I could think of finds its way into these pages in some way. Well...there aren't any fembots, but to be fair they would have been pretty hard to fit in the plot. There's the big breasted nymphomaniac blond who can't get enough, the cruise ship director, the fit barely (or not quite) legal girl crawling into your bed, the stepdaughter, the older woman, younger woman, woman in uniform, the boss' mistress, office subordinate, friend's wife, girlfriend's slutty best friend (or at least friend), the divorcee, rapes, gang bangs, orgies, and more women begging to be taken in every conceivable way with no expected emotional return than I could count. The sex scenes themselves are crude. No one in this novel makes love, or even just has sex. Everyone f_cks porno style. It's coarse and raw, even when the characters are meant to be bonding on a deep emotional level. But like I said, while people talk about sex constantly there isn't that much of it, so I was able to take 400 or so pages before even my rather mild inner feminist started to take umbrage. Up to this point I would have given the book an easy 4 stars, but the book is so long and I was eventually worn down. Despite all of this the book isn't really about sex. It plays a large part in causing the turmoil that sets the scene in motion though and does have a legitimate place in the novel. What I really did like about When We Were Married was the depiction of Bill as a good man who strives to do the right thing. He really breaks the mold of the powerful alpha male. He starts the book as a short, fat, balding middle aged man. He is a king in his working life and when the day is done he truly enjoys going home to his wife and children. There are none of the common inferences that such dedication is a chore and given the chance he would gladly ease out from under the burden of fidelity. I liked this about him. I also enjoyed the message that there is always a price for doing the right thing. This is something that gets forgotten and if you forget that there is a price for something you also forget to appreciate the person who paid it. I think When We Were Married is a worthy read. It's written for adults and I think men will probably enjoy it more than women. But there is a good story here and isn't that what really matters?
  • Brunswick on July 18, 2012

    Brunswick put me in the mind of The Never Ending Story or maybe a modernized Narnia. I’m fairly sure I’m not the first person to make the comparison, but that just further supports the similarities. Jonathan and his family are about as ideal as you can imagine, everyone loves each-other and is comfortable expressing it. So it isn’t surprising that Jon’s overriding desire is initially to get home. But because he comes from a strong, loving family that has taught him to do the right thing he can’t turn a blind eye to the suffering around him. It is easy to see the influence of his home-life in the decisions he makes, and this serves to make his emotional transition believable. He meets a whole host of interesting characters in the new land of Brunswick. This is my favorite aspect of the book. Haines really lets her imagination go wild. The variety of species is a lot of fun. That they are initially reluctant to combine their resources serves as an allegory for the manner in which racial or cultural segregation weakens a society or cause. The story does tend to leap periodically. I would have liked for it to have progressed a little more smoothly, but I didn’t find this so jarring that it put me off in any manner. If you are looking for a story with a contagious innocence that reminds you of what is good in the world, this is probably the one for you.
  • In the Blood on Aug. 08, 2012

    When settling down to read a novel based on someone else's genealogical history there is always a niggling fear that it will be something like sitting through your neighbor's vacation slide show; interesting to them but interminable to you. In the Blood is nothing like this. Being based on genealogical research there is a certain amount of so-and-so beget so-and so, who despite being married to so-and-so beget so-and-so, but it is also a relatively fast paced read based on a truly interesting character who also happens to find himself in gripping circumstances. George Washington Skipper is amorous to say the least, swept up in the Confederate spirit of the American Civil war, enlightened about the true doldrums of that (and probably every) war, discouraged by the perceived injustices of Reconstruction, and eventually the father of dozens of children by a variety of women, very few of whom he ever supported in any fashion. Ultimately he is seen to be an even minded good man, but he systematically wrongs woman after woman throughout the book. However, given the time in which he lived it is unfortunately true that his actions may not have been as unusual as it seems to the modern reader. For me there was also a special thrill. As a member of 'the 10th' in the Confederate Army, Washington and his cohorts march back and forwards through middle Tennessee. This is home turf for me and it was really interesting to hear about the skirmishes that happened in towns I've lived in and around. For those who have an interest the Civil War and the life of the average man (ie not the famous names of the times) In the Blood is a definite recommended read. I think there is a tendency to idealize the past and this book provides a refreshingly realistic look at a difficult period American History. Check it out.
  • Shadow Boxer on Aug. 12, 2012

    I'll say up front that I'm not a poet and my critique of poetry comes right down to whether I enjoyed it or not. These I did. I especially liked the ones about family. In them I think I sensed the most of the author (or imagined I did). These aren't happy-go-lucky expressions of joy, but show real depth of feeling. In the afterward Fraser states that some of the poems were originally written as songs and this was apparent in the pacing of a number of the pieces. I'd be interested in knowing what type of music accompanied them and how that might change the tone and feel. Would it be the same as I created in my mind? All-in-all well worth the read. Oh, and on request (see I pay attention) Fraser obviously has a totally awesome wife.
  • Light & Dark: The Awakening of the Mageknight on Aug. 29, 2012

    Light & Dark: The Awakening of the Mageknight follows the eventful life of thirteen-year-old Danny Firoth and his friends as their world is turned upside-down by the sudden realization that creature of myth might not be so mythical after-all. After a slow start the book moves along at a nice clip. An interesting assortment of characters pepper the pages, some of them more sympathetic than others. I was particularly fond of Calador and Chris, but had little attachment to Doug or Matt. The perpetrator of the sinister plot isn't too hard to guess, but neither is he/she so obvious as to make finishing the book obsolete. There is just enough misdirection to make you doubt yourself. The writing is generally crisp and easy to follow. My only complaint is Fife's REPEATED use of the same phrases, most notably "for but a moment," "did as bid," and "kept his council." There are a couple other ones that show up too often for the repetition to go unnoticed, but they weren't as quite as frequent. Be forewarned though, this is apparently the first in a series. Unless I know before starting that a book is part of a series I'm always a little disappointed to reach the end of it only to discover it isn't actually the end of the story. The book is already 312 pages long, so I understand why it had to be broken up. Though threads are left open for continuation it isn't too much of a cliffhanger. I'd definitely be interested in seeing where Fife goes with it. I would consider this middle grade or lower young adult, but I enjoyed it all the same.
  • What Kills Me on Sep. 09, 2012

    What Kills Me was a pleasure to read. The very beginning left me wondering if 'Zee' was going to be one of those ultra goody-two shoes that are simply too pure to stomach, but she wasn't. I liked her immensely. She was strong, without being cold; sarcastic, without being irreverent; and vulnerable without being a snivelling weakling in constant need of protection. Don't get me wrong, she needed protecting, but she wasn't one of those useless female leads who just flails about waiting for the hero to do all of the work. The hero, by the way, is also fabulous. Lucas is just as strong as you would expect him to be, but shows a surprising depth of emotion, despite his gruff exterior. Yummy! What I loved most, however, was the witty repartee between the two of them. It was done very well and I think warranted five stars all by itself. It was often used to lighten a tense moment, without making either character appear oblivious to danger or overly flippant. I did think Uther's timely arrival there at the end was a little too convenient, but by that point I was so afraid the whole thing wasn't going to wrap up and be a cliff-hanger that I has too happy to care. After reading the book and Channing's bio I have to admit to feeling a little inadequate. Apparently she is an awesome writer with an awesome job. I would ask how any one person could be so lucky, but it would be naive to think that there is no connection. I am definitely up for reading another of her novels in the future.
  • Conditioned Response (Phoenician #2) on Oct. 30, 2012

    Awesome, just Awesome. I stayed up way too late on multiple night to read it and still would have been happy for more. I just loved the characters' personalities and their interactions. They all had their own little bit of wit that was distinctly different from one another. I did wonder how it was that the bad guys continued to get away with their depravities, since everyone seemed to know about them. But not enough to get huffy about it. What I loved the most about the story is that Baldwin was willing to let people be unhappy. Don't get me wrong I love a happy ending, but it always feels disingenuous when plots spin like pinwheels to bring one about for everyone involved. Let's face it. Life is hard. People don't always get what they want. They die or are left dissatisfied for a million other reasons. I really appreciate that Baldwin was willing to allow her characters this slice of reality in their fictional world. I'm not saying no-one leaves the last page of Conditioned Response happy, just that I liked the balance. Baldwin is, quite frankly, the kind of writer that leaves other feeling inadequate. She is definitely playing with the big boys. I would happily compare her to Asimov, Huxley or Heinlein. Not only was it clear and easy to understand, it never felt forced and always managed to find the right tone for the scene. I am in awe...and I'm not really one to fawn over people. I just can't wait to read the rest.
  • Daughter Moon on Nov. 16, 2012

    Oh wow, this is some serious hard sic-fi right here. I might even stretch it to speculative fiction. Either way it covers a lot of ground, from Dworkin's `all sexual penetration is rape' to Newtonian physics and functional nanotechnology...not to mention time travel. This book takes some thought to read though. I strongly recommend reading it, but not when there are too many distractions about. It would be easy to get lost in the multiple time-lines and overlapping 'Direct Interface Lifetimes.' You want time available to think through the information presented to you and appreciate the detailed science that the story is interlaced with. A lot of research must have gone into the technical writing. Whomever @hg47 is in real life, he/she has no shortage of education. (Unless he/she is just a simple genius. You never know.) The bibliography (yea there is one) kept my internal social scientist happy and lit my physicist husband's eyes aglow. But it's also funny, though in a subtle kind of way. For example, a discussion of the works of Kate Gödel (a feminized reference to famed physicist Kurt Gödel) while the villainized Einstein got to keep his masculinity....Spielberg and Shakespeare, well maybe. I also found it endlessly amusing to spot all of the future huwomanity's idolizations of famed feminists: the Shere Hite shuttle, Simone de Beauvoir museum, Andrea Dworkin and Avital Ronell ships, classic...or would undoubtedly be for a race of socially superior women. The use of feminized language (huwomanity, womanoeuvred, etc) did take some getting used to, but it works. If you like your Sci-fi with a hard edge this is the book for you. The writing reminded me a lot of Heinlein with a little Douglas Adams humour thrown in for good measure. Some of the AIs even reminded me of Marvin at times. Seriously, if you're into the genre pick it up.
  • Veil on Nov. 22, 2012

    When the Widow Tsay decides to avenge the death of her husband the world will never be the same. In telling her story Aaron Overfield's Veil presents a convincing and frightening vision of social evolution. The absolute best part of this book is the way people relate to one another. Emotions aren't just surface decoration, but are all encompassing. People love with their whole heart and hate just as strongly. They also contradictorily treat each other with complete irreverence. They call each other nasty names and fling politically incorrect insults at one another, as only those most comfortable with each other can. Most of which is really funny. So are a lot of the author's interjections. While this makes the book a joy to read there really is a serious message here. What is the moral responsibility of science and scientists? What marks us out as individuals and how much of this is necessary to live appreciable human lives? Like Huxley or Orwell, Overfield forces the reader to imagine how dangerous it can be to give up too much of their autonomy, no matter how well-intentioned the organisation involved. Despite the bold characters I wouldn't consider the book to be character driven (unless you consider Veil as a character). It tends to leap at regular intervals, leaving the main cast to age unobserved. Every time it did this I thought, 'no I want to know more about what happened next.' I was quickly engrossed in the next epoch of Veil, however, and forgot my disappointment. The book is quite long and does tend to repeat itself. This might or might not be a purposeful attempt to remind the reader of earlier events. I don't know. Either way, while it is noticeable it isn't particularly distracting. If you pick this one up I recommend reading all of the book, and by all of it I mean everything from the copyright page to the epilogue and beyond. It's worth it. (Not something I have cause to say often.)
  • Oath of Servitude on Nov. 24, 2012

    Oath of Servitude makes an interesting contribution to the paranormal genre. I don't think I've ever read a book based on Pixi, or at least not one intended for anyone over five. I was a little afraid it might come across as super cheesy, but I'm happy to say that isn't the case. The subject is handled admirably and makes for an enjoyable experience. The story is a good one. While it focuses primarily on Cailin's ability to help Teague come to terms with his situation there is a lot more going on in the background. Most of it I think is intended as a set up for the future books, because there is no resolution even attempted here. You are left wanting to know both what happened in the past and will happen in the future. I don't mean this to suggest that you're left wanting in the sense that something is lacking, but that you are left wanting out of interest. There is no doubt goodness to come. The characters are easy to engage and empathise with, especially Teague. Individually I really liked him and Cailin...together, not so much. I had a hard time reconciling their sizes and never could accept their burgeoning feelings for one another. I honestly think that I would have preferred the story without the romance element, but that is a personal opinion only. I also thought that the whole thing felt rushed, not the writing but the plot. If Teague's situation was so bad that Owen is willing to call in his last resort I find it unlikely that Teague's demeanour would change so dramatically so quickly. Same for Cailin and Teague's friendship. They have to overcome fear, trauma, mental injury, and more. Could they really have done all of that in a few short weeks? The book is relatively short, so it feels like there is room to expand. Again, this is just a personal opinion here. All-in-all it is well worth reading by YA fans. I look forward to seeing more of C.E. Wilson's work.
  • Girl Punches Out on Dec. 09, 2012

    Sen No Sen is the sequel to Go No Sen and follows Emily as she continues to try and maintain a normal life despite being hunted by a number of international covert operatives. It is apparent from the very beginning that Emily is struggling with how to balance her own strengths with both the life she wishes to lead and the dangers she can't seem to escape. Her difficulties are easy to relate to as is her love for those around her. Antoine's writing is comfortable. It flows smoothly from the violence Emily is forced to inhabit to the peace she is trying to protect, effectively mimicking the very internal dilemma Emily is facing. I particularly liked the pacing and writing style. Like Go No Sen, Sen No Sen includes quite a lot of martial arts theory. It is as much about the proper mind set of a fight as the proper physical conditioning. It wasn't quite as heavy as in the first book and I found it enjoyable. I appreciated the little bit of Japanese mythology that comes in at the end of the book. Anyone who is interested in martial arts will likely like this book, as will those who like strong female YA characters. I would recommend reading Go No Sen first however.
  • Pushups in the Prayer Room on Dec. 13, 2012

    I don't usually read travel journals and normally if I was going to pick one up it would probably be one by a woman so that I had more in common with the author. For example, any way you look at it, the dangers of picking up women in San Juan isn't relevant to me. Much of what Schriever does in his year long journey would be inaccessible (or at least highly inadvisable) for women. But I'm glad to have read this one and I'll tell you why. The man can write. The book is easy to read and quite funny. It also addressed some vague and hard to conceptualise subjects, like the effects of the media on fear. You can't really quantify it and it so it can be hard to explain. Schriever's first person account easily highlighted it. I also love the title. It has panache. It has wit and hints at a meaningful intersection of otherwise incompatible cultures. I think Schriever tried very hard to address ethnocentrisms and cultural discrepancies he encounters on his journey. Sometimes he was more successful than others, but I absolutely appreciate that he made the effort. It is so much more than some would do. I was disappointed that he felt the need to explain the title though. It took a lot of the mystery out of it and made me wonder if I wasn't expected to be smart enough to 'get it.' The incident leading to the name could have still been relayed without making the point so disappointingly blatant. I know that might not be fair. It's probably not fair, but that's how I feel. A person can't always be responsible for how they feel about something, but I can sure be accountable for it and that is how I feel. Other than being far more relevant to men than women, my only real criticism is that I didn't see much of the spiritual growth that was referred to. He essentially got drunk, high and laid in over 40 countries. I'll admit he definitely seemed to grow as a person, possibly even discovered adulthood in his travels. While that is an important transition and worthy of a book in and of itself, it didn't strike me as particular spiritual. Now, this may be a subjective argument, but there it is. If you are looking for an interesting account of someone's travels around the world this one is worth reading.
  • The Mating: The Original Law of the Lycans Story on Jan. 25, 2013

    I thought this was a good werewolf story. It was well written, well edited, and had characters I could connect with. I really enjoyed reading it. I found bits of it really frustrating though. Some parts of it were exceedingly predictable. I mean who didn't see Marla coming? Who didn't want to absolutely wring Elise's neck for trusting her even a little bit? I think this was also a little unrealistic. I'm fairly sure most women wouldn't have after their first initial meetings. Same thing goes for Elise's frequent Scarlet O'hara moments. If you have something THAT important to say, let alone multiple important things to say you find a time you don't wait for tomorrow over and over again. There were an unreasonable number of interruptions. But these are just gripes really, part of the overall story, not any sort of comment on the value of the book. I got it for free on Smashwords and am glad to have given it a chance. I've got the sequel (The Keeping) and be reading it too.
  • The Keeping on Jan. 27, 2013

    Charles has penned another zinger with The Keeping, sequel to The Mating. This one follows Zane's brother Ryne as he attempts to form his own pack in the wilds (or at least small town) of Canada and battle his dangerous attraction to Melody Greene, who inadvertently threatens everything he holds dear. I enjoyed Ryne's internal power struggle with his inner wolf. [I know that sentence if a little redundant, but you know what I mean.] The wolf part of the human-wolf combination that makes a werewolf seems to have a more distinct influence on their people in this book than the first. He was of course dominant, arrogant, and dead sexy. It would be hard to complain about any of that. I did have a little trouble imagining him as a photographer. He didn't strike me as the artistic type, but oh well. Melody was spirited and showed enough back bone to make me like her, but not enough to become a bitch [pun intended]. Their virolent repartee was amusing and you couldn't help but root of them as a couple. I liked the twist on Mr. Greyson as a likeable bad guy and the small reveal concerning the secretary at the end was subtle and well placed. It sent a shiver down my spine. I don't think we've seen the last of her yet. All-in-all I really enjoyed The Keeping and am working on Bonded as I write this. Nicky Charles is quickly becoming one of my new favourites. Highly recommend picking them up.
  • Bonded on Jan. 28, 2013

    When reading a lengthy series it isn't uncommon to have things start to fall apart 3 or 4 books in. Not the case with the Law of the Lycan series. Though this book is numbered 0.05, it is apparently the fourth one published and is every bit as good as the first. [I've some how gotten out of order and read it third, but I think I'll live.] Reno and Brandi are a heart wrenching couple. If ever there was someone you wanted to kick and then scream, "Come on, figure out their feelings already...and your own too, while your at it" in their face these two are the ones. Both try hard to do right by the other and suffer for their efforts. But I also had to respect that mutual sacrificial attitude. It also just served to make the conclusion more moving, though it did feel just a tad rushed by the time it all finally came together. I liked that Reno was strong and sexy but also inherently flawed, both in his own estimation and as a character. He felt fragile despite his strength. You don't see that too often. Brandi was ever exasperated, but you could relate to her difficult position. I really liked Damien too and can't wait for the next one about him. I've noted a clear change in the wolves as the books progress. In book one the human and wolf were as one, with no noticeable difference in persona. By book two the wolves were exerting influence on their human counterparts, and here we find that the wolves are distinctly separate characters. They and their humans discuss problems, fight for control, and argue over decision. I'm undecided if this is an improvement or not. Be that as it may, I'm enjoying the series and intend to continue with it.
  • The Finding on Jan. 30, 2013

    3.5 I have to be honest. This was my least favourite of the Law of the Lycan series so far. It wasn't that I didn't like the characters, because I did. Cassie and Bryan are both great. I think the problem for me was that all of the past characters played roles too. Elsie and Kane and Mel and Ryne were all accounted for, as were Daniel and his love interest and Damien and his probable future love interest. It felt a bit like Cassie and Bryan had to share their story, and they deserved their own. Plus, with so many characters from past books present there were a lot of small recap passages that I found somewhat annoying. Charles' writing is still easy to read and enjoyable. I'm still liking the series a lot. This particular book just happens to fall at the bottom of my preference list.
  • Smolder (Dragon Souls #1) on Feb. 10, 2013

    Penelope Fletcher's Smolder is an entertaining read if you are willing to suspend any expectation of realistic behaviour (and I don't just mean because it is fantasy). Marina and Koen are another stunning example of insta-love, granted it's also a case of instant hate too. The whole scenario is made more ridiculous by the fact that she is COMPLETELY unfazed by the fact that he is a dragon. This is where my sense of realism is stretched beyond it's brink. Marina isn't afraid of anything. She is too brash, to fearless, and too loyal to a man she just met. But still it's entertaining enough if you just roll with the punches. Honestly, even though she is largely too much of just about everything she is also really funny. This kept me reading even when I wanted to yell 'yeah right they would let you get away with that!' or 'Oh, how convenient for you.' Koen is noble, but you don't see much of his personality. It is too buried in being honourable and duty bound, but Daniil and Nikolai are fabulous side kicks. They made the book worth reading. I was even willing to ignore the book's desperate need for an editor, because though noticeable it wasn't all that distracting. What I was not willing to overlooks is the fact that it ends on a that isn't right. I don't consider it a cliffhanger. Yes, the final page of the book is ultra suspenseful, but it isn't an ending. Marina is literally halfway through the quest she set out on. That's not a cliffhanger, that's half of a book! Yes ,Smolder is appropriately long, at roughly 250 pages, but it's only half a story. When did this become the accepted norm? It makes me mad. If I take the time to read 250 pages I expect some sort of conclusion as a payoff before having to wait for the second instalment. I didn't get that here and I am not a happy camper. Still, I want to know how the story ends so should the second one come out before I forget about having read this one I will pick it up.
  • Battle of Angels on Feb. 10, 2013
    (no rating)
    I understand that this is an old piece of work, and I see some real artistic talent, but I had no clue what was going on. Maybe it is part of a larger whole? I don't know.
  • Island Shifters - An Oath of the Blood (Book One) on March 03, 2013

    I initially had this marked as YA, probably based on the cover and the description of the heroes and heroine as ‘young.’ As a result I drug my feet about reading it. I just didn’t know if I could take another angsty teenage drama. I’m beginning to think I might have to admit that I’ve finally outgrown them. To my delight it isn’t YA at all. In fact, it includes some fairly explicit sexual innuendo. Luckily the story doesn’t fall victim to the painfully common sexy, simpering slave-girl trope. What Mrs. Zambito does is far more varied and insidious, and therefore realistic. I’m not complaining. I like it. I don’t mean that I got any sort of sadist joy out of it, but it is unrealistic to think that truly evil people would just happen to be evil in every realm except for the interpersonal. It also allows for an interesting foray into different types of power. I’m probably making more of it than I need to. It is a very small part of the book after all. But it was so unexpected that I can’t help but mention it. The book’s strengths are definitely in the world building and love the main characters both carry for each other and garner from those around them. Despite the heavy task before them the book has a definite ‘feel-good’ quality to it. It feels down right sappy at times, in a good way. I did have a little trouble with the lack of contractions. Now, I’ll grant you there isn’t really any reason that people from another world would talk just like us, but it gave everything a formal feel that didn’t seem natural to me. Despite that, Island Shifters is an enjoyable example of the indomitable power of the human (or elven or dwarfian) spirit to persevere and of good triumphing over evil. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to read it.
  • The Yaoikuza: Soboruji on March 04, 2013

    I downloaded this thinking it was a manga and I'll admit to being disappointed when I discovered that it was a short story instead. While I had read Yaoi manga, I hadn't yet ventured into m/m stories. Be that as it may, I still enjoyed it (even if I don't know if what they did is physically possible). It had a very manga-like feel to it. I didn't know all of the Japanese/Yakuza words, but I they gave it a certain gritty did Aruji's monosyllabic dialogue.
  • The Yaoikuza: Oruji on March 04, 2013

    I downloaded this along with The Yaoikuza: Soboruji thinking they were actual manga. Finding out they were short stories was a disappointment at the time. I finally gave them a read though. Not much more than a drawn out sex scene, but that's what I would expect. This one had some questionable consensuality, but was funny too. Worth reading if you like that sort of thing.
  • Betrayed: Days of the Rogue on March 06, 2013

    This book twice forced me to reassess my own opinions. I generally am discouraged when a series that has previously been based on a single paranormal species, such as werewolves, starts throwing in other species, such as fae. I've found it to usually indicate that the series is loosing focus, which is rarely a good thing. However, despite my dismal expectations it worked here. Charles managed to introduce a broader paranormal panorama without letting the series loose shape. Kudos. Secondly, I was seriously disappointed when I started reading the book and found that Damian wasn't the main character here. I really like his character and after the teaser at the end of The Keeping I was desperate to know what happens to him. However, having read this book I think it was the right choice not to jump right into his story. It would have felt like too soon, as if we too hadn't mourned Beth enough. As always the writing was good, the book was well edited, and the sexual tension high. I look forward to following the rest of the Law of the Lycan series.
  • Bound by Darkness on March 20, 2013

    I'll give this book 3 stars, but honestly I'm really struggling to lift it up that high. I picked this book up solely because I thought it was interesting that the main character was a Dominatrix. I envisioned a strong, sexually dominant female who knows her own mind and body. I thought, 'well, this could be fun.' It wasn't. Lila was billed as a Dominatrix but in almost every sex scene she was playing a Submissive, getting off on her own rape essentially. (That's Submissive with a capital S by the way.) I don't mean to infer that BDSM and Dom/Sub relationships are akin to rape, of course not. But in the first sex scene for example, Lila was shackled, gagged, blindfolded and whipped by a homicidal maniac that she was terrified of, knew had killed at least one woman THAT NIGHT, didn't want to be in session with, but couldn't escape, and had no reasonable expectation of survival. Then afterwards she cried because of the trauma. Rape. And she's supposed to have orgasmed in the middle of all of that? Riiiggghhhttt. I very rarely don't finish books, but I almost gave up at that point. I just wouldn't have picked that book up to start with. That's before I even get into whether I believe Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs would have allowed her enjoy any aspect of the experience if she was so scared for her life. Maybe I'm just being naive about the life-style, but it seems unlikely that basic biology would allow the body to prfioritize sexual satisfaction over physical survival to start with, no matter how much you like pain, need release, or how you've been 'trained'. Both fear and climax require hormones and, while no expert, I would expect those that produce fear to top those that lead to sexual enjoyment. It's worth noting too, that in those scenes in which she isn't a Submissive, she is never once a Dominant either. Having read the book I can now read between the lines of the description and see that the clues were there. I just didn't see them, so I can't completely fault Christopher-Vincent for my dislike of the subject matter. I chose to read the book. I apparently let myself focus on the character's Dominatrix role as the primary focus of the description instead of the "life experience in bondage and domination to break her." Yea, that's the theme of the book. There is no female empowerment here. If you're looking for it, go elsewhere. I kind of wish I had. The basic writing in the book is fine. I didn't notice very many editorial mishaps and, though I found it exceedingly repetitive, the plots moves along. Granted this is erotic fiction. There's probably 70 pages of plot and 200 pages of sex, most of it questionably consensual (if not wholly non-consensual). In the end I can't completely trash the novel. I might not have liked it, and I didn't. I had to force myself to finish it. I acknowledge that most of those things I disliked are of the personal opinion sort. I was uncomfortable with Lila's constant role as a victim and her sexual satisfaction during extended scenes of abuse. These men were trying to hurt and break her. There were no safe words to use, no trust or understanding that the Sub was actually a power player in the game. She was a slave. There was never any real explanation for why Lila started having visions of Drake to start with and I thought that the centuries old antagonist was dispatched far, far too easily. These opinions can't reasonably be seen as a reflection of the book's intrinsic value as a piece of literature though, erotic or otherwise. I did really like the host of side characters, especially Charlie and David, and Drake was a pure, kind soul that you couldn't help but route for.
  • Be'askaas - Tales of Death and Redemption on March 27, 2013

    Honestly, I have a hard time sub-categorising Be'askaas - Tales of Death and Redemption. Yes, at its core it's a fantasy novel. It has sorcerers, Earth witches, Niads, demons, necromancers, gods, dragons and zombies. No question about it. It's a fantasy novel. But somehow it doesn't have the whimsy I associate with the upbeat contributions to the genre, it isn't epic (though there are a couple long treks), and somehow despite its subject matter I wouldn't call it dark fantasy either. It's...philosophical...maybe. As the two young students, Rafe and Gywn, spend their first year in the company of the necromancer, Yulsef, they learn how little they understood of the world around them and some important life lessons. The reader, by extension, does too. I consider these lessons more important that the story that encompasses them; simple gems like knowledge complicates life. It's much easier to live in comfortable ignorance than to separate yourself from the herd with true understanding. It's really particularly genius that the characters are so young. Their minds are relatively uncluttered to start with. So while they spend a lot of time gaping in amazement, there is very little unlearning necessary. The book is slow. I don't mean in a 'god, please let something happen soon' kind of way. Plenty happens. Rather it is paced and methodical, so that was all good. I only had two true complaints. One, there are quite a few characters introduced in such a short book and often the POV would shift to these new characters before they were introduced. This threw me every single time. Second, I probably would have given the book five stars if it had a little bit more of an ending. I suspect there is a lot more to come. After all one year in the life of a 10 and 13 year old apprentice leaves plenty of room for more and the inkling of civil unrest sets the stage for future adventure. It's just that this book feels unfinished. It's only 118 pages long and ends abruptly, with no real wrap up. No real task accomplished or quest finished, either for that matter. There isn't any real indication of why it should end when it ends. It just does. I was let staring at the phrase "to be continued..." with a distinct sense of dissatisfaction.
  • The Wake of the Dragon: A Steampunk Adventure on April 21, 2013

    The Wake of the Dragon follows the events directly following a large air-pirate heist. While this provides an interesting back-drop for an adventure story, it feels as if it could be just any old day at the office for the people involved. There is no feeling that this is "the big one' or 'the final one' or extra important in any way and therefore worthy of note. I was a little disappointed about that. But the writing is very good (if repetitive at times), the steampunk technology interesting, and the characters relatable. I especially liked the pirates dedication to their goddess. There is also some appreciable humour and wit, especially in poor Dudley's discomfort and the captain's relations with his first officer. While The Wake of the Dragon might not be all heart stopping action, it is very good and well worth a read. If you like steampunk in the slightest I would recommend picking it up. I'm definitely up for reading more of Hawkins' writing.
  • The Weight of Blood, (The Half-Orcs, Book 1) on May 02, 2013

    The Weight of Blood is some serious Dark Fantasy. I mean dark with a capital 'D', maybe even dark with a capital D.A.R.K.. It isn't a comfortable read. There isn't a lot of joy in it and bad things happen to a lot of good people. I generally like dark fiction, but this one was almost too much for me. The two main characters, Harruq and Qurrah, can hardly even be called anti-heros. There wasn't enough hero in them, Qurrah especially. The only humanity [for lack of a more appropriate term] left in him seemed to be his affection for his brother and even that was contaminated by manipulating Harruq for his own nefarious ends. But still, I could at least relate to Harruq. I could see that in other circumstances he would have been a kind soul, might even have still had one despite his HORRIBLE, CRUEL, VILE actions. He killed children for goodness sake! Relate to him as I might, I had a really hard time reconciling his personality with his actions. Don't get me wrong. I understand that this dichotomy between his natural inclinations and the reality of his circumstances was in large part one of the themes of the book. But his willingness to simply do as told by Qurrah was hard to accept. The book was well written, though I was left with some very basic questions unanswered. I had a lot of trouble deciding what age H & Q were supposed to be, for example. In the beginning I thought they might be children. Their brotherly attachment was so strong that they felt young, since as people age their social circle tends to broaden and those familiar bonds dilute. Their actions and thoughts quickly made it clear that they weren't children however, but an age was never given. Somewhere between 15-25 maybe. They may even have been twins since their father was only said to have slept with their mother once, but again, this was never clarified. This isn't a book I enjoyed, but this isn't the type of book one reads to enjoy. Enduring the tragedy of it all is part of the experience, part of removing yourself from your comfortable life to remind yourself what another's life might be like. Having done that, I think I need to go read something light and fluffy, with an unquestionable HEA.
  • The Cat & the Crow on May 18, 2013

    Before I even read the first page of this novel it had two important things going for it. I secretly love m/m stories and I am a closet manga addict, so the very yaoi-ish cover attracted me immediately. I am thrilled to say that it lived up to my expectations, exceeded them even. I read 90% of it with a ridiculous silly grin on my face, teared up more than once, had to get myself a quick glass of ice water and return to it again and again (whew), then eventually had to admit that the whole thing made my heart hurt. Tarro's life isn't an easy one to face. It is definitely cringeworthy. But every painful, horrible thing that happens in this book is made up for in the wonderful character that is Nerin. *swoon* Yes, he and Tarro have turned me into a sad little fangirl. The book is told in first person, from the POV of Tarro. I'm not generally a fan of first person narratives, in fact I kind of hate them. But I have to admit I enjoyed it here. Tarro had such a fantastically sarcastic and jaded tone/voice that it was a pleasure to read. I also liked his blatant honesty, especially about himself and his own proclivities. I read a lot. I write a lot of reviews. But I rarely rave. I rarely give unadulterated praise. But I am officially declaring myself an S. Hart fan. If you enjoy yaoi or M/M romances (and honestly I would only recommend this if you do) this is one worth picking up.
  • The Cat & the Crow: A Holiday Spent in Sicero on May 18, 2013

    A fun little extra.
  • Bonds of Fire on May 23, 2013

    Oh, I want so much more of this. It worked well as a short story, but there was enough to be expanded into a full length novel (always my preference). I love that, despite being short, the romance didn't feel rushed. In fact it doesn't really even come to a head in the story. I did feel a little bit like Malachi was shorted. Drekken's attraction to Yakov is so overt that, despite being told Drekken is falling for Malachi too, he feels secondary. I was a little disturbed in the beginning because Yakov and Malachi are referred to as youths for so long that I was visualising them as 12ish. So when the attraction started heating up I got a little scared. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when their ages were finally addressed. They are 19 & 20. I adored the way the reader is keyed into Drekken's emotions and even though he is a 'big bad warrior' he is able to show soft emotions without ever looking weak. I also really liked the way humans and dragons for families. It made for a really intriguing world. All in all I thought this was a touching, well-written story that I would love to see more of. I'm curious about the cause of the war, how Drekken and Miri manage as parents, and how Yakov and Malachi progress. I'd love to witness Drekken's attempt to live near his mothers again and to see him try to keep from being further organised. Thrilled to have read it.
  • Kade's Dark Embrace (Immortals of New Orleans, Book 1) on July 01, 2013

    This one really didn't do it for me. Sydney just felt like a needy slut who disregarded even the most basic tenets of self-preservation, but still miraculously never seemed to get hurt. The dialogue was unnatural. Here is an example: “Now, now, little whore. You will not get away from me so easily. Consider yourself lucky that I cannot take your body for my own carnal pleasures before giving you to my Mistress. So greedy she is...she wants you all to herself.” Ugh, really? Sydney's dedication to the children at the children's centre came out of nowhere and felt very much like a forced effort to give her character some depth. It is a stunning example of insta-love. For Kade it starts before they even actually meet. Apparently a giant diamond engagement ring says I'll love you for eternity better than a sacred blood bond. Who knew? The foray into the bondage scene just felt like pointless titillation and the sex scenes lacked sizzle. There was a good mystery involved, but the whole thing wrapped up far too easily...and apparently no one needs a warrant to go kicking in doors in Philadelphia or New Orleans anymore...oh and why did it start in Philly again? There were also a number of editorial mistakes. So yea, not for me. There were a few really funny lines though. Example: "Yep, no matter how supernatural you were, testicles were always vulnerable. Tried and true, Sydney loved how that worked." Yep, funny. Setting the book in two such historic cities allowed for some good environmental atmosphere and I appreciated that. Plus, all of the alpha males seemed to be loyal, honourable, and looking for their forever mate. That's sexy in and of itself. I think there's probably a lot of potential here, but it didn't feel least not in my opinion. Of course, that's all any of this is.
  • The Feathered Lover on July 21, 2013

    This was an alright read, I suppose. I can't say it did much for me though. The whole thing just felt wrong. (If that makes any sense.) Starting with Zan. He felt very child-like to me. Everything from his insta-love which reminded me of a kid's tendency to become obsessed with anything new, to the language divide that left him speaking like a halting toddle for much of the book, to Ruby's tendency to compare him to a pet, to his occasional tears. As a result I had a really hard time seeing him as the sexy male lead he was supposed to be. That's a real problem in a book with as much sex as The Feathered Lover. There was a lot of it. I don't have any real issue with this much of the time, but here it started to clutter up the plot. Everywhere they went--endangered, held hostage, trying to have a conversation was apparently appropriate for a quickly before moving on. I did like Ruby. She had a stubborn streak a mile long and I appreciated that. She prattled on a bit, having long one-sided soliloquies regularly. I had a little trouble understanding her insta-love with Zan though. She crossed the species/social/legal divide with him based on nothing but one meeting in which she didn't think him capable of intelligible speech and possibly dangerous. She'd been taught Voltane were wild animals after-all. So what does she do? Well, seamlessly give her virginity up to it of course. What else? I had to wonder why exactly it was illegal to be in the presence of the Voltage to start with. Was this a species or environmental protection, basic xenophobia or racism, etc. I didn't understand the social intention, so I had a little trouble understanding the implications of Ruby's actions. Plus, for being feared and held separate Ruby and Zan seemed to find a lot of sympathisers with almost no effort. I get that this was meant to infer that the society was ripe for social change, but it also felt very convenient to the plot. I also thought that trying to situation the whole thing in an alternation 1943 complicated matters. I didn't see the relevance. The writing was fairly simple, but it was clean, perfectly readable and only had a few editorial mishaps. In the end I was left wondering what I had just read, but I imagine that the book will really appeal to some. It was a pleasant change to encounter a hero who wasn't a bulging alpha with an alarming tendency to aggress on questionably willing heroines. Props to Levin for being willing to move away from the canned PNR.
  • Yes, Sir on July 29, 2013

    A surprisingly sweet M/M BDSM themed short story. So often such stories come across as cruel, abusive even. I have read more than one in which I thought that if the narrator didn't keep stressing how much the sub was enjoying him/herself I would be reaching for the metaphorical phone to call the police and report a rape. Not here. I thought the whole thing came across as sensual and caring. It was also nice that, while the sex was explicit, it wasn't pornographic. That would have been too much in such a short piece. I think I would have like one more chapter in which I got to see Nathan's recognition, but all in all, quite enjoyable. I'll be on the lookout for more of Carrington's work.
  • Swordmaster Dasan on July 29, 2013

    I find that I really like Hart's writing and characters. Granted there is little to this story except A LOT of sex, but hey that's what I picked it up for so it's not really anything to complain about. The world building felt a little week, but especially so since there appeared to be some quite detailed races/peoples/societies involved. This book is apparently set in the same universe as Hart's Playing with Tigers series, which I haven't read yet. I get the feeling that a lot of the lacking social details are set out in those Tigers books, because the author has obviously taken the time to develop them even if not seen here. Either way I still found the story easily followable and I adored Loki and Kyo. I had to drop a star because some of the earlier sex scenes felt almost like rapes even if Loki had consented. I had a hard time relaxing into that. That's just me though. Hart even warns in the introduction that the Swordmaster Dasan books arn't "meant to display safe or proper bondage practices," so I can't claim to have been unprepared. It's fiction afterall. I can appreciate that. But like everyone, I have my own personal limits. A fun, well-written read. (As an aside I actually couldn't help by imagine Kyo as the Onime-no-Kyo from Samurai Deeper Kyo. They really look nothing alike, but between the name and the constant cruelties my mind made the leap and wouldn't let it go.)
  • Swordmaster Dasan Part 2 on July 29, 2013

    Yep, it just keeps getting better. Kyo and Loki are wonderful characters. Hart seems to excel at creating situational tension that tugs at the readers heart strings without ever feeling sappy or over played. Often I'm not even certain where it comes from, only that it's there. Here you really feel both Kyo and Loki's frustration, even as they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge it. They simply drive each-other to distraction...and are very very hot together. Loki does seem to have accomplished A LOT in the three years he was separated from Kyo. He seems to have accrued too much experience in so little time. But he also grew up and returned very much a man...very much the man Kyo needs. If only Kyo would get out of his own way on the subject. I love their dynamic. The writing here is just as crisp and wonderful as in the previous book. I did notice a minor tendency to reuse stock phrases, but nothing off putting or technically incorrect in any manner. The plot thickens up a bit in this volume too, which is nice. The books ends at a fairly natural point, but there is obviously going to be a third book. (There better be a book three and I'm fairly sure I've seen mention of it somewhere.) I can't wait.
  • Swordmaster Dasan - Yunan Holiday on July 29, 2013

    I fun little short to tide us over until book three comes out. Plus, I think we should all start celebrating Divainya Rekeshna.
  • Welcome to the Dark Side on July 31, 2013

    It was alright, not great but ok. It started out as if it might be dark erotic erotica. Then melted into one rather mild sex scene. The writing was pretty good though.
  • When Minds Collide (Phoenician Short #0.1) on Sep. 16, 2013

    This was a bittersweet telling of WIlliam's loss of Drew and the creation of the person known as Joshua Andrew Caine. As with all of Baldwin's work that I've read so far, it's wonderfully written. The characters have a tendency to find purchase in your heart. I honestly adore them. While the story does a wonderful job of showing what happened prior to Joshua Andrew Caine's emergence, it stops short of addressing how Andrew and Joshua learned to live with their predicament or how William figured out how to live with the situation. Which is what I felt was promised in the description. Still a great read though.
  • Bewilder on Nov. 02, 2013

    A strange little story told from a third person's POV, mostly as he relates something told to him by another. What I did like about it however, is the intimation that the mysterious or miraculous could be all around us without being recognised. Certainly Scotty, the narrator, missed it. As a 10 page, first in a series of small snippet stories it does seem to lack a broader point though.
  • Forbidden Forest on Nov. 07, 2013

    Ok, for the record I'm writing this review while T'ed off because I've just had a bit of a shock to the system. Yep, it was the sudden and unexpected "The End" that I ran up against. The story doesn't frickin' end. Seriously, what good does half a story do me? Why do authors keep doing this? It pisses me off every single time. So, looking past the lack of ending (I can do this, really), I thought that the story was pretty good. It was predominantly a love story, since the whole 'gotta get Syrus through the Wolf Forest' just seemed to be an excuse for the two of them to be thrown together. Very little actually happened in regard to the supposed dangers and many of the solutions felt miraculous since we were given so little of Forest's history ahead of time. (She knows her way around the living maze of a forrest because she grew up near there. Oh, ok, didn't know that. She is mysteriously protected because she befriended a ghost at some earlier time. Oh, that's nice for them. Can bluff her way out of Philippe's clutches because she's traded with him in the past. Great. etc) So even though I thought some things went a little too smoothly for the pair I did enjoy their back and forwards banter. I like how fragile Syrus could seem at one moment and then badass the next. I like how strong Forest was supposed to be, even if she did little more than cry and fall apart in actuality. To recap, I was pleased with the general story. There is obviously a lot more going on, with political intrigue on the horizon and the whole Leith situation yet to be resolved. But I had a hard time settling into the story for a few reasons. The rather abrupt switch from modern Austen to medieval Regia threw me for a loop. I then kept spinning since the language was undisputedly modern and there were a lot of modern earth wares popping up as smuggled items. (See here, we have to eat out Lucky Charms by torchlight and wear a sword with our Levis.) The history between Forest and Leith is just barely sketched out but immensely important. I needed to know more about it. And finally I just basically needed to get to know Forest more. It's not that her character is shallow or anything, but we're told that there is a lot more to her than we see and it would have been nice to get if those detailed. Then of course, on the other end of the book, after finally settling into the story it just up and ends on you.
  • Dark Bites on Nov. 14, 2013

    This is not a short story. At 19 pages, it is, at best, the first couple chapters of a longer piece. Even if I had been impressed by the writing, the plotting, the characterisation, etc I would be extremely dissatisfied with such a short, incomplete piece of something more. It's pointless on it's own for anything other than tempting you to seek out the next bit of story. This does not please me. As it stands, I thought that the writing was OK. The story looks like it could be an OK YA piece. But how could I know? I only got to read the first 19 pages of it.
  • Indestructible on Nov. 14, 2013

    There were a lot of things I liked about this story. I liked the use of Judeo-Christian mythology without even a whiff of proselytization. I like the subtly. There were a number of things that you were never told directly, but the events and contexts told you. I liked the fun way the genders of some well-known characters were swapped around. What I didn't like was that that it felt incomplete. Even the title, Indestructible, is predicated on an event that the importance of is never explained. I think this would be much better as a longer piece. But as it stands it's still pretty entertaining.
  • Thief of Souls on Nov. 20, 2013

    I found this here on Smashwords, classified as PNR. While it does have a paranormal character and eventually a romance of sorts develops, I have a hard time seeing it as PNR. If anything I would call this horror, not the gory, bloody kind of horror but the suspenseful, emotionally terrifying sort. There are almost no 'Awww' moments here, no budding hearts and flowers, or emotional outpourings. This is 'love' from a creepy stalker's point of view. Oddly, though the subject matter varies vastly and they have very little else in common, reading this book reminded me a lot of reading Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. You spend a lot of time inside the deviant's unrepentant head, watching him manipulate and trap his victim. It's uncomfortable, to say the least. And since it was previously classified as PNR I also found it confusing. There are certain expectations a person places on a book by virtue of it's genre. This book never conformed to my PNR expectations and until I finally forced myself to accept that it never would and to give up my preconceived notions I had a hard time going with the flow. The problem, of course, is that there isn't a horror romance genre to place it in. I have no doubt this is more a matter of finding the closest available genre, as opposed to an actual inaccurate genre. None of this, however, is to suggest this isn't a good book. Because, like Lolita, being an uncomfortable read doesn't negate literary value or a story worth tolerating goose bumps for. Playing mental passenger to someone facing an obsession is an rare opportunity. While I cringed for Regina and kept waiting for her to find her miraculous inner strength, I also found Nick's selfish internal dialogue enlightening. His petty jealousies and purposeful isolation techniques told a story of their own, quite separate from what often left his mouth or even what he felt would be 'the right thing to do.' I think the characters probably could have been fleshed out a bit more though, Regina especially. Other than seeing her fall for Nick's charisma we see very little of her personality. We also only get the bare bones of why Nick was cursed, and the punishment seemed a little server if you ask me. If we knew a bit more of about the man he was, instead of just what his single slight might have been, that might not be the case. The book is what I would call a slow boil. It builds slowly, spends a lot of time cultivating a suspenseful atmosphere. Even hugely important events are treated with the same muted attention as everything else, as if the author is whispering it to you for fear she'll be overheard if she allows her excitement to give evidence to the gravity of the moment. As a result I found very little actual action, but I was still held rapt by the narrative. I wouldn't suggest this for fans of J.R. Ward or Jeaniene Frost. It's not that sort of paranormal romance. Hitchcock fans, however, might find something here to appreciate. It has a similar kind of surreal, atmospheric horror feel to it.
  • Wedding Night Spanking (Naughty Bride #1) on Jan. 31, 2014

    Meh. I suppose this is a matter of taste. It story is essentially just one longish scene encompassing a husband and wife's first wedding night sexual encounter. The writing was fine, but I just didn't find it sexy. Instead I found the whole thing abusive and thought Rick infantalized his wife and insulted her intelligence. I rather like the occasional spanking story, but though this included spanking, it was much more about enforced submission and male mastery of his possession (ie: wife). Nope, not my cup of tea. There was no fun in it for me.
  • Attracting Anthony on Jan. 31, 2014

    If I dramatically suspend my disbelief I could call this a fun read. I didn't completely hate it, but the fact that I think the idea could have been something really good leaves me disappointed with what I read. The characters had no depth, even worse they were painfully cliché—the ultra dominant Alpha, the gorgeous twink (Can I say that as a straight woman? Hope so.), the hard-up BFF, the servile pack mates, the posh vampires, etc. The plot was thin, at best. Alpha spots his destined mate, recognises him immediately by his smell and sets about claiming him (no room for plot development there). Said mate is hesitant but really wants to be dominated, too bad he happens to have so much power and wealth of his own. This is were there could have been an interesting inter/intrapersonal journey for the characters. Given another 100 pages or so this could have been developed into a rich and satisfying story. Instead it was rushed and blunt in its presentation. It essentially boiled down to a good pounding in bed, a pretty necklace, possessive demands and an inferred happily ever after. Meh!
  • Hazing Moon on Jan. 31, 2014

    3.5 I was surprised by this one. I had VERY low expectations, but ended up enjoying it. Despite one character being blindfolded and tied to a pole it managed to avoid feeling like (or being) rape. Amazing that. I liked Christopher's shyness as well as his dominant streak. Hard to imagine the two in the same person, but it worked. I got less of a feel for Logan, but liked what I saw. It well written and fairly well edited. I do have a complaint about it being the first in a series. I seriously dislike serial short stories. If you're going to write the pages anyway, why no just publish it as a book so I don't have to buy each chapter? When it comes down to it, that's what I see a short story series as—a book you have to pay each time you want the next chapter. The fact that it's called an instalment is just semantics, IMO. I refuse to buy subsequent chapters on principle. Then again, it's possbily a stretch to call this a chapter even, it's more like a 29 page scene and little more. As a freebie I enjoyed Hazing Moon, though.
  • The Dragon and the Wolf on Jan. 31, 2014

    This was almost good. It started off well and remained good for about 2/3 of it. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the pace skyrocketed, the romance popped into existence out of the ethers apparently, there was an almost sex scene (or rather, there was sex just no sex scene, leaving me feeling cheated) and then the whole thing just ended. It felt very much like the first couple chapters of a longer piece, as opposed to an actual short story. I could try and excuse it as a prequel, but it's not the first in the series and the sequel is about another couple entirely. Which suggests to me that there isn't to be much more of Westley and Chris' story, even if they do happen to be in the next book. The writing seemed pretty good, but it's a teaser at best.
  • The Vampire's Warden (Undead in Brown County #1) on Jan. 31, 2014

    This was all right. There seemed to be a really interesting idea outlined out. I liked some of the characters and, other than a really annoying lack of contractions, the writing was pretty good. But everything just skipped along at warp speed. The only thing given enough coverage to get any real grasp of was Sarah's feelings of being overwhelmed, which left her feeling wimpy, when she's really not supposed to be. Everything else was just kind of glossed over and largely unexplained. If it had been given the same attention as Sarah's impending break down the book probably would have been excellent. Also, the book is listed at 201 pages, but there isn't a chance in hell that's accurate. I'm a fast reader, but even I can't cover 201 pages in two hours, which is about what it took me to read this start to finish. I'm thinking more like 130. Then it ends on a fairly precipitous cliffhanger with a lot of open threads. All in all, there was some great potential here and if the sequel had been particularly cheap I might have picked them up to see where the story goes, but I think it could have done with a bit more bulk.
  • Honeymoon Spanking (Naughty Bride #2) on Jan. 31, 2014
    (no rating)
    Again, like the first story, I didn't particularly care for this. However, I got the two at the same time, so it would annoy me to have the second unread on my TBR list long after reading the 1st. So I went ahead and read it hoping I might like it more than the first. I didn't. I still found Rick's discipline to be actual disciple (like a father spanking a daughter) rather than sex play and I disliked it. This is a personal preference of course. I enjoy a spanking scene when it's encompassed in sex and there is fun to it. But a sobbing woman saying, "It hurts" isn't sexy to me. Especially when it isn't mediated by arousal. Here the beating and the sex are two separate incidents and as such I couldn't over look the abusive nature of Rick's spankings as I can in other instances. Nope still not my cup of tea.
  • The Emperor's Edge on Feb. 24, 2014

    I really enjoyed this book. It's not flawless. The incident that sets the whole thing in motion is ridiculously small and therefore the consequences unbelievable and I found some things really quite predictable. However, even with these gripes I just plain had fun with it. The writing is sharp, the dialogue witty, the characters amusing and the world interesting. I especially liked Amaranthe and Sicarius. I'll admit that the clean-freak, OCD organised woman and the silent killer of a man are pretty cliché character traits, but they are so often used because they're amusing. So I'm going to call them classic instead. I love a strong-willed woman and I have to admit the emotionally distant warrior is one of my favourite character archetypes. Regardless, their repartee worked, as did their tenuous partnership. The rest of the group also contributed to the fun. The way they sniped at one another, but still got the job done was a laugh a minute. Some books you just love, warts and all. This is one of those books for me. I'll definitely be on the book out for more of Buroker's works and I'm definitely reading book Addendum: I've finished the series out now and rated them all 5 stars. I thought the latter ones did get a little ridiculous, but I still loved them all.
  • Mist on the Meadow on March 28, 2014

    3.5 This was a pretty good read. I really liked some aspects of it--Marissa's family & friends, her work ethic, Wolf's self-inforced control issues, the writing. I especially liked the way Wolf's slightly crazed, desperate behaviour countered the traditional masculine role without making him feel wimpy and the fact that Chuck may not have gotten his comeuppance, but he didn't get off scott-free either if you look at the karma of his life. However some things irked me. Brandenburg doesn't seem to be bound by her own rules. One of the first things Marissa learns about being a Kundigerin is that she isn't allowed to talk about it. However, throughout the book she seems to speak fairly freely about it. Granted she avoids the actual word, but she still reveals herself on more than one occasion. Additionally, it is quite explicitly explained that females are Kundigerin and males are Secret Keepers, but Wolf seems to have Kundigerin powers of his own. Plus, since Marissa doesn't seem to know much about her abilities the reader doesn't know much and as a direct consequence there were times (the final confrontation for example) where I only had a hazy understanding of what actually happened. A more personalised dislike was the fact that I thought that the whole misunderstanding with the ex-girlfriend was pat and trite. I could have done without all of the resulting self-doubt. She knew how he felt about her, so why feel so insecure? And lastly, After the mystery wrapped up (a little too nicely if you ask me) and everyone who deserved saving was saved there were still several chapters of just plain mush. No romantic trope was missed. Wolf systematically worked through every 'awww' moment possible. So much for everything in moderation. Having laid my irritants on the table, let me reiterate that I enjoyed the read despite them. Brandenburg is a talented writer who sculpts believable characters that readers can easily relate to. I think the plot escaped the bounds of the story a little bit, but there is still a gem in here that is worth looking at.
  • The Rock Star in the Mirror (or, How David Bowie Ruined My Life) on April 28, 2014

    I thought this was an interesting little story chronicling one young man's attempt to find himself, when he wasn't even originally aware that he was lost. An obsession with David Bowie, once removed, is just such a random way to go about it. I especially liked that the HEA isn't one that brings all the happy people together. Joe had to face the consequences of his actions, but was still happy with the end result. It did seem to wrap up unexpectedly quickly, but it's well-written and worth the time to read.
  • Rorschach Blots on Aug. 26, 2014

    4.5 I was wary starting this. I'll just admit it, I'm always a little suspicious of any author who chooses not to write under a name, even a pseudonym. So, RoughDraftHero had me quirking an eyebrow. It's ridiculous, but true. This book also was not anything like I expected. I went in expecting a little slap and tickle, some rough, dirty spanking and smutty talk, combined with a dash of psuedo-pedo titillation (high-school student). I couldn't have predicted a character as heartfelt and earnest (if a little unstable) as Sev. Plus, I generally avoid teenaged main characters. I'm in my mid-thirties. I just no longer relate to a lot of the common agnsty, sex-is-such-a-massive-big-deal issues common in teenage-centered plots. In fact, I generally find them really off-putting. It also became apparent early on that the text could do with a little more editing. My point is that there are plenty of reasons I shouldn't have liked this book. So, when I say that I did, it should be understood that what I mean is that I did, despite all those reasons I shouldn't—all those strikes against it. And I did. I really, really did. I 100% adored Sev and his obsessive floundering. As Caleb says at one point, how could you hate someone who tries so hard? I could just stop right there, I liked Sev so much. He was just so darned cute. I just want to scoop him up and nibble on him in a slightly inappropriate, but also somewhat motherish fashion. I also liked Caleb. He's as flustered and lost as Sev, just in a different way. I found his attempt to do the right thing by his student believable and his particular kink hot (even if the sex is never very explicit). In fact, the lack of sex, oddly, is part of what made the whole thing so endearing. Sev doesn't make the connection between what he's feeling and sexual arousal until 60% into the book. This means that a lot of obvious opportunities to insert gratuitous sex or masterbation scenes is judiciously skipped over on the authors part, allowing the reader to focus less on the lascivious and more on the intrepid relationship. I did think that the ending came a bit abruptly and the tacked-on epilogue felt a little forced. But I am more than pleased with and surprised by this book. Kinda wishing I could read it again.
  • Adrenaline on Dec. 12, 2014
    (no rating)
    I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this book. The synopsis is pretty vague. But I'm sure I didn't dare hope to find such good writing, interesting characters and quite so much action. Admittedly, I noticed a few missing words and editorial mistakes and it takes quite a while for the reader to figure out what is going on (though to be fair, it takes the main character a while too, so that's perhaps forgivable). The main character's wilful ignorance or denial last longer than seems otherwise tenable, there is quite a lot of seemingly aimless running about, and the help that arrived at the end was awful convenient. But despite that, I really enjoyed the psychology (for lack of a better description) of discovering yourself changing into an impossibility. I liked the diametric natures of Roth and John. There are enough twists to keep the reader engaged, but not so many that you start to feel manipulated. And while there is apparently a sequel, Phoenix, coming out the book ends satisfactorily. No precipitous cliffhanger. I quite enjoyed this one and have no qualms recommending it to fans of vampire (of the not quite sparkly, though not quite gothic sort) fiction.
  • Interlude with Tattoos: A Charm of Magpies 1.5 on Dec. 22, 2014

    A fun little addition to the series
  • Feast of Stephen (A Charm of Magpies) on Dec. 22, 2014
    (no rating)
    Cute addition to the series
  • Authors for Goodreads on Jan. 21, 2015

    So much better than its source material.
  • The Duality Paradigm (Blood & Bone Book One) on March 03, 2015

    This is a pretty middle of the road read, not bad but not all that great either. It's a shame too, because I think the idea could really have been something special. Unfortunately, it tended to flounder, with whole subplots that never coalesced into anything meaningful (I suspect it was a set up for a future book.), annoying characters and truly lacking editing. Let's talk about the characters. Both were meant to be in their late twenties (26 & 29, if I remember correctly) but both came across as extremely juvenile. Patrick was at least adorable in his boyishness, but he was still childlike. This was an interesting turn for the otherwise big alpha character to take. Ethan, however, was just plain irritating in his bratty, self-centered aggression and over-reactions. Both also had a history that was important and referenced, but never explored enough to feel substantial. I could have done with a little more world-building too. The plot worked, but it felt like mythical creatures kept being referenced without the reader knowing they existed prior to that point. On a similar side note, I never did figure out what the title meant. Maybe that comes up later in the series too. I did, however, appreciate that this wasn't an insta-love (even if the actual leap to sex was a 0-60 scenario). I liked that as annoying as Ethan was, he was smart and willing to stand up for himself. I really liked Cooper's tendency to play with gender norms, mothers as pack alphas and fathers who cook dinner, for example. All in all, I liked it enough to be interested in reading the next book, but not enough to be racing out and buying it.
  • Draykon (An Epic Fantasy of Dragons) on March 04, 2015

    I love the cover of Draykon and was really looking forward to reading it. I have to be honest though, I gave a little groan in the beginning. The first page or so did nothing for me. The language was very flowery. A number of fictional plants were mentioned with little indication of what they were and the word 'with' was used six times in the first paragraph. I was worried. I needn't have been. It settled down very quickly, becoming quite enjoyable. The story is split between two main characters, Eva and Llandry. Both of whom I engaged with, but I would have enjoyed a little more indication of which of the two is supposed to be the MAIN character. I think it's supposed to be Llandry, but not feeling uncertain about it left me with divided loyalties. I also very much liked their male companions (Tren and Devary). Tren had an especially appreciable sense of humour. It might sound strange, but I really liked that these characters weren't all amazingly talented 18 year olds. Devary and Eva are both represented as 40ish, while Llandry and Tren are both in their twenties. It feels so much more believable when characters are old enough to have become masters of their skills through training, practice and determination, rather than innate talent (which is all too young characters have time to develop). The environment of The Seven Realms (and beyond) is described quite vividly, though it has a tendency to change, which can be confusing. However, this very changeability is an important aspect of the story. It's worth getting you're head around. Many, many plant and animal species are mentioned and the reader is left to flesh a lot of them out on their own. This is fine. I can extrapolate what a Nivven is supposed to be by the fact that they are ridden and used to pull carriages. Some were not so clear. I spent much of the book thinking a deafly was an animal, or maybe an insect, for example. It's not, it's a flower, the sort one tends to find painted on china. Draykon leaves you hangin' when it ends though. The whole thing culminated splendidly, but ends before anyone has any answers (or the reader knows what happens to Llandry after the big reveal). That irked me. Of course I want to know what happens next. That's to be expected from the first book of a series, but Draykon literally ends at what I'd have expected to be the peak of the plotting graph. That's difficult...and annoying. Despite this, I would still recommend the book to anyone who likes fantasy.
  • FlashWired on March 05, 2015

    This was almost really good. After a jerky first few paragraphs it smooths out into a pleasant story. Cal's love for Jeeze is really sweet and you definitely feel it. Jeeze you don't get much of a feel for, but he's an understandable object of affection for Cal. You get the start of an interesting world/universe and even some interesting side characters. Noah and Veronica especially caught my attention. Unfortunately, however, after all that initial set up, the story peters out in more ways than one. The rescue went FAR too smoothly, involving too many contrivances and conveyances. Then it ends without concluding in any manner. It's not so much a cliffhanger as a sense of waiting. But all of the threads are left open. Perhaps this is the first in a series. I don't know. The writing was strong enough that I'd be willing to follow the story, but I'm not fond of the serial format of publishing a story.
  • Shadows Over Innocence (an Emperor's Edge short story) on Feb. 10, 2016

    a pleasing little extra tidbit
  • Mission: X on Feb. 10, 2016

    Basically ok, but nothing exceptional. I thought it was nice to see the dom as the one pining for a change, but I bore easily of the common, apparently scripted dom role and speech. The use of 'boy' seems to especially make me groan, "not again." (Maybe it mimics some real-world play or something, but it shows up so regularly that it's essentially been stripped of impact for me.) There were some hot bits and sweet bits and I found it generally enjoyable, but that's about it.
  • The Bigger They Are on Feb. 10, 2016

    Meh, basically just one long, overwrought and unrealistic sex scene. Entertaining but not much more.
  • Feast of Stephen (A Charm of Magpies) on Feb. 10, 2016

    sweet and enjoyable
  • A First Time for Everything (Phoenician Short #1.1) on May 30, 2016

    I thought this was a fine erotic one-shot. But I admit to confusion. It's been almost 3 years since I read the rest of the Phoenician series, which I very much enjoyed. (I gave the first a five star rating/review.) But I don't at all remember it being erotic, let alone kinky. So, this BDSM novella felt very much like a departure from theme. I liked William's shy embarrassment and I did appreciate Jared's attempt to negotiate 'vanilla sex' when he was used to kinky play. But I was totally thrown by the existence of recognizable BDSM in the Phoenician universe. I mean, this is a world in which fairy tales aren't remembered anymore, but BDSM language managed to transverse the galaxy unchanged? Lastly, while it stands alone well enough to read if you haven't read the rest of the series, you will definitely feel you're missing something.
  • Restless Spirits on March 15, 2018

    Another complete success from Jordan L. Hawk. I don't even know when I bought this book (or maybe picked it up free), no idea. I was just scrolling through my Kindle, saw it and was like, "Oh, a Hawk book. Gotta read that right now." So, I did and I was happy. The ghost story is scary, maybe not overly original, but scary. The characters are engaging and I loved the diversity of the cast. Did it feel a little forced? Maybe a bit, I guessed Lizzie's secret long before it was revealed, for example. But I was still too thrilled to find it to really care. There were not a lot of characters in general and it's a historical, so the book is a little limited, but one of the main characters is Native American, another Black, a third with secret I won't spoil, of course two are gay and notably, the book does not gloss over the importance and difficulties of these aspects of their character in the time period. I did think the final battle felt a little abrupt and the villain obvious. But those are small quibbles with a book that I generally really enjoyed. The writing and editing are marvelous and I can't wait to pick up the next one in the series.
  • Widdershins on March 15, 2018

    4.5 While reading Widdershins one word kept repeating through my head—CUTE, cute, cute, cute. Then I thought how refreshing it was to have two strong sexy men who weren't alpha-assholes. Yeah, Griffin gets a little bossy in the bedroom, but both men are pleasantly beta-like. I liked it. They're also a little older than the average romance hero and I always like meeting a non-nubile twenty-year-old, with a little life-experience in a lead role. The villain was appropriately evil, while the supporting bad guys had enough grey to make them interesting. There was a strong, kick-ass female character (almost unheard of in the m/m genre, in my experience). Yes, Christine for the win! The sex was hot, without ever cluttering the story and I enjoyed the writing. So, lots to like about this book. My only real complaints were a FEW editing slips and I didn't think Whyborne got enough of credit there a word for having everyone see how horribly they'd been misjudging him? Anyhow, that. But I suspect that's because he needs that same persona to carry on into future books. (Speaking of future books, this one ends. It's not a cliffy.) I'm calling it a success on all fronts.
  • Dance With Me on July 25, 2020

    3.5 I found this to be enjoyable, but a fairly standard M/M romance novel. It was trope heavy and some of the characterization cliched. Of course, I like a lot of M/M tropes, that's part of why I read it. But I also like a book to go beyond them too and I'm not sure how much Dance With Me managed that. I liked Laurie, Ed, and their stereotypically unexpected pairing. (Though it's that same real-life stereotypical lack of expectation that makes it so very expected in an M/M romance book.) I liked Oliver and Christopher as side characters (really just Oliver, as Christopher is fairly characterless, but they're presented as a pair). However, I really felt that Laurie's wealthy, dismissive, pushy parents and Ed's working-class , accepting, emotive, loving family was painfully cliched. I liked that they got their happy ending, but the proposal felt like a pat, expected conclusion. Really, I could go on like this. Cullinan providing something nice in the book, but then having to note its common, overuse in MM romance. It made the whole book feel a bit formulaic, no matter that I enjoyed it. Lastly, I have to address the hot tub scene, as many other reviewers have. I too thought it felt out of place, not because I'm a prude, but because Laurie expressed several times that he wasn't into public displays of sex and, even in the scene itself, he's scared and nervous. Yes, I see that Cullinan was trying to use this to show Laurie accepting himself as a gay man and his sexuality. However, it didn't fit him as a character, gay or otherwise. It felt like a poorly done bit of kink thrown in there at the end for no reason but spice. Like every book I've read by Cullinan, the writing and editing were fine and I'll almost assuredly read another one.
  • Twist of the Magi on Nov. 29, 2021

    This was very sweet. I found it a little predictable and clumsy at time, especially around the Candice character. And the making of Penny's dream could be argued as the result of nepotism, instead of earned in earnest. Though I imagine that's not how readers are meant to take it. But generally it was more sweet than anything else. All in all, I enjoyed it. 
  • Christmas Lites II on Nov. 29, 2021

    These are all really short. There are 20 stories here, in a 197 page book (including front and end-matter). That's, an average of less than 10 pages apiece. So, I'll just give each a couple sentences as review—basically just my general thoughts—and then finish with my overall thoughts on the collection. Santa's Ninja Elf: Hunter's Revenge, by Lizzy Ford This was super cute in a silly, don't think too deeply about it sort of way. I liked it. A (Not) Very Neighborly Christwitchas, by Patti Larsen Cute, with a conversational tone. But I'm not sure I got the point. I expected it to culminate into something and it never did. Still cute though. A mermaid for Christmas, Nichole Chase Cute, but maybe a little too cutesy for my. Though I liked getting to see the perspective of Christmas in the islands. Ugly and the Prince, by Monica La Porta This one I didn't like at all—problematic in too many ways. The implication that women can be beautiful or intelligent, but not both (or that learning and/or intelligence is something you receive in exchange for beauty). The implication that a woman (or person) can't be loved it they're not physically attractive. The ending that makes her lack of physical attraction acceptable only because it can't be seen. The suggestion that the love of a man is enough to ease her into society, while nothing she did on her own was. Most old fairy-tales are problematic, if you really think about them, but new ones don't have to be. The Light of Truth, by Lynn Rush Meh, I wasn't thrilled to find such a blatantly religious story included. And it tried to cram too much into too few pages. A Fading House, by EC Stilson Meh, not enough to it to really accomplish what it set out to and the God bit felt unneeded. The Hunt: Vol II, by Amy Eye Meh. Fine, but prosaic. Wishmaster 2000, by JG Faherty This reminded me of a Christmas Goosebumps story. I imagine my kids might like it, but it was a little juvenile for me. The Christmas Parrot, by Vered Ehsani Not so much a story as a small vignette that happened to have Christmas tacked on to fit the anthology. It did remind me to go check if my daughter's chameleon had water though. Rent-A-Christmas, by Kimberly Kinrade This is a short in The Forbidden Trilogy world, and while it was follow-able I didn't appreciate not knowing the rest of the series. Beyond that, I thought it super sappy (too sappy for me), but not bad. The Locket, by JA Clement This one packs quite a lot of worldbuilding into a short story (enough that I have to wonder if there isn't a longer work somewhere that it ties into). It was pleasant, but more a vignette than a story. Joseph, by Melynda Fleury Literally just the birth of Jesus from Joseph's perspective. Far too religious for me. Table Five, by Misty Baker A sweet little reminder to do nice things. Momma's Last Christmas, by Cassie McCown Sad, but one of the best stories in the collection. It creates such a sense of place without ever telling where it is. A Monstrous Christmas, by Frank W. Smith I didn't particularly care for this one and if "frank W. Smith" is male as the name infers, I wouldn't be at all surprised. The idea that deep-level contempt can be erased by a single kindness is farcical and the characters little bit of later self-awareness did nothing to overcome my dislike for them formed in the beginning of the story. The Loving Dead, by Angela Yuriko Smith I really liked the beginning of this and was kind of 'meh' on the second half. But, overall, it was pretty good. Merry Christmas, You Guys, by S. Patrick Pothier This felt like a Halloween Horror - Christmas mash-up. But I found it amusing all the same. Accidentally Smitten, by Tricia Kristufek I was pretty 'meh' on this one. I thought the guy felt a little skeevy, so I didn't really feel the spark. But I understand what the author was going for. The Rise of Rae, by Trish Thawer This story was a fail for me. I didn't understand what giving her the ostracizing name had to do with her eventual destiny. And the whole thing just felt a little too generic-fairy tale to me. Plus, the fairy grips an iron door handle, which threw me for a loop since fae are traditionally thought to be allergic to iron. Someone to Love, by Addison Moore Weird. The writing was pretty but the story was weird. The Unicorn Who Saved Christmas, by Elizabeth Evans Very in it is a children's story, not as a criticism. *** All in all, none of these blew me away but none seemed too horrible either. I do wish, at the collection level, the editors had decided to make it a religious anthology or avoided including explicitly religious stories. Yes, I know Christmas = birth of Christ, etc. But most of these stories are fairly agnostic, such that those that were explicitly about God or Jesus stood out and felt out of place to me. On the whole, it's a fine collection of short stories.