Not bad for a freebie but I didn't find it particularly romantic or suspenseful. Main characters were on the bland side and the plot became very predictable. I see this book as appealing more to YA readers.
* Condensed/edited version of 12-Sept-2012 Amazon review
(prior to the author revising the original "cutesy" warning)
FIRST: This particular segment of GRINGA is not a romance; there is no sex, no seduction in any form but RAPE. AND MORE RAPE. CONTINUAL RAPE. Yes, I used caps. Why? Because I want potential buyers to know this upfront. While I firmly believe people can read whatever they wish, that choice should be based on truth, not deception. The author should have been as honest about the repeated rapes as she was about the violence. (And no, not because I have anything against rape in books; I just wasn't prepared to read about it in this book.)
SECOND: This is not part of a series; IT'S A SERIAL. An author should know, so I won't waste my time explaining the difference. More important is that "Book 1" is the equivalent of a ripped-out section of a paperback. Why bother if you don't have the rest?
THIRD: The original formatting was insultingly atrocious, even as a freebie. Someone recently alerted me to a revised version so out of curiosity (or would it be masochism at this point?), I downloaded and skimmed this "professional [sic] edited" file. Um, no. I don't think so.
"Remove from Device" (again).
The truly sad thing about this mess? Crap formatting, grammar and punctuation (and I mean to the point that I had to pause and mentally construct some sentences to get the gist) and misleading blurb aside, the storyline concept was good and had such potential! In fact, the beginning was creatively attention-grabbing and the first half was not bad.
Everything surrounding this "book" casts a very large, very black mark against self-published authors in general. Which is unfortunate for those authors who endeavor to write their best, and then struggle some more to convert their work into a clean and proper ebook prior to sale.
TO THE BONE is a classic example of detective fiction using the inverted story format. The crimes and the villain's identity are revealed early in the story, letting the reader focus more on learning about Gavin English and the how/why behind the gruesome acts. (Note: Although not explicitly graphic, this story involves cannibalism so there are moments which could be stomach-churning for some readers. So know your limits and proceed with caution.)
A former-cop-turned-private-investigator, English is drifting along in the river of life. He's got a complicated relationship with his ex-wife and his two closest buddies are his ex-partner from the police force and a high school chum working in the porn film industry. He smokes and drinks too much, eats too little and is far too familiar with the local strip club. But this anti-hero is not so cynical that he is incapable of horror once he realizes what his latest job involves. And the author leaves a clue here and there to show that a measure of optimism survives beneath English's jaded exterior.
Written in the first person, TO THE BONE takes the reader into English's head as he works to prevent another tragedy. Given some of his antics, sometimes that's not a good thing. (*lol*) But again, he's an anti-hero and for this first book, much of his background remains a mystery. It will be interesting to see how his character develops in subsequent books, as well as whether or not his sidekicks return for another Gavin English investigation.
[As an aside, the book's formatting bothered me. Silly, but I personally dislike blank lines in between paragraphs, seeing it as space filler = Kindle abuse.]
* Copy was provided by the author.
MAID FOR IT is one of the smartest read that I've had in a while and one of the few which manages to portray the start of a BDSM relationship (specifically, master/slave) in a realistic manner. I highly recommend this novella to anyone who is curious about this genre but prefer to dip their toes in rather than plunge straight into the deep end.
(Psst! It's still free on Amazon as of this review's posting.)
Why it's a smart read: Incredibly well-written, MAID FOR IT follows the budding relationship over the course of several months. It's definitely erotica but die-hard erotica readers (especially of BDSM) may deem the sexual encounters as on the light side. However, I found MAID FOR IT more interesting for its basic psychological insights into a sexually inexperienced female who is also completely ignorant of BDSM. (Thankfully, the female protag is mostly a determined realist, not a weak-kneed damsel in distress.) Now, I'm not saying that it's worthy of Psychology Today, just that it's approachable for the everyday reader. And BDSM is as much about the psychological and emotional needs of the individuals involved as it can be about physical pleasure (or pain).
Written in the first person, the reader is able to follow Gabi's slow progression from "Madre de Dios, what kind of monster have I given myself to?" to "Perhaps he's not really changing me at all but simply showing who I always was" to "Rather than feeling trapped by his demands, I'm freed by the certainty and security they provide". The conclusion feels right and is believable because the ultimate decision is left to Gabi and she can finally make a decision based on free will.
Upon first meeting Gabi, Ben lays out his basic ground rules and then tests her acceptance of them. But when he realizes just how inexperienced she is, he immediately questions how she could even know that she was a submissive. The fact that weeks then pass before a substantive BDSM encounter occurs is more like real life. No self-respecting Dom would throw such a person straight into hard-core BDSM scenes, no matter how much he "senses" the submissive in her. (Yes, it's a fictional story but it's bad fiction when its credibility extends beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief.)
Why the plot works: Taken as a whole, the storyline seems far-fetched. But each separate plot point is based in reality. Innocent people sometimes do witness criminal acts which place their lives in jeopardy. Every day, women are coerced or abducted into the sex trade. Men do pay to have their sexual desires met. BDSM is a much larger community than most people realize, simply because those in the lifestyle usually don't flaunt it.
My biggest complaint? The ending felt incomplete/premature. Perhaps Ms. Rodgers would consider re-visiting Gabi and Ben in a future book.
Also, I would've liked to have had some of Ben's POV, instead of inferring from his actions. But then again, POV switches may have detracted from Gabi's progress as she comes to understand Ben and her perceptions change, even if her original circumstances don't. Lastly, there were some editing errors but not beyond the "we're all human" range, and I did question certain plot points but none were major enough to tank the book for me. (The author is more than welcomed to PM me if curious about these items.)
Well-written, thoughtful and sexy, with sympathetic characters and a tangible romance. All from a new author who deserves to be read and followed. Well done, Ms. Rodgers!
(★★★1/2) WHISKEY DREAMS, the prequel to "Haunted Passions", was a fast, pleasurable read because the incredible writing let me relax and simply enjoy the story. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a sweet yet smexy M/M historical romance.
Having forgotten everything but that WHISKEY DREAMS was an M/M historical, a mental fly kept buzzing about my head while reading. Not until @ 40% in did I finally realize that the story was a clever re-working of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". (Yeah, I know, took me long enough but c'mon, I read that decades ago.)
Set in 1784 Sleepy Hollow, New York, Ms. Rose's version re-casts Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt as a former Continental Army soldier who is haunted by the death of his lover/fellow soldier during an ambush more than two years ago. Ichabod is replaced with the more agreeable John Crane, who is still a schoolmaster but becomes Brom's lover instead of his rival. And apparently, both are bi-sexual, which sets up nicely for the intro of the lovely Katrina Van Tassel in the latter part of WHISKEY DREAMS (as well as the story in "Haunted Passions").
Given its short length, Brom and John's relationship occurs at hyper-speed. Everything is from Brom's POV so the reader gets a very limited understanding of John. The sex scenes are highly erotic but their first kiss...
"... Slowly, recklessly, stupidly, he drew John close. Close enough that he could see bright flecks in his grey eyes, truly silver in the moonlight. ... With a last rush of whiskey-scented breath, Brom pressed his mouth against John’s. ..."
Technically, I noticed certain oddities (such as narrative text combined with dialogue) and there were minor edit/proof errors. Nonetheless, it's been quite some time since an author's writing style meshed so well with my mental reading cadence.
I don't know how or why I never heard of Ms. Rose or read any of her books. But I'll certainly be remedying that as quickly as possible, starting with Haunted Passions. Because contrary to what the blurb for WHISKEY DREAMS says, it's a stand-alone title only insofar as the main characters meet and the foundations of a potential relationship is set. That's the tease. It's almost—but not quite—an HFN, which pretty much requires the reader to get "Haunted Passions".
(★★★½) HARD CANDY FOR CHRISTMAS was the perfect short story for the holidays, and I thank Ms. Dominguez for making it a free download. Please try this if you're looking for a cheeky, sweet and smexy paranormal story with a little Christmas magick.
Lia, Nick and Dale are very likable characters (although I couldn't help but think of certain chipmunks once or twice). Although the mutual attraction was immediate upon their first meeting at a club, their relationship develops enough over the weeks before Christmas to sustain the ending. I liked that Lia was so straightforward and confident enough to state what she wanted. Initially portrayed as a bit flighty and self-centered, Lia undergoes personal growth as she starts to worry more about how her delicious "hard candy" (*lol*) were dealing with dating the same woman than the looming deadline to end her curse.
HARD CANDY FOR CHRISTMAS is my third story by Ms. Dominguez so I can now see certain consistencies in grammatical and composition errors. However, they were relatively minor here and didn't detract from my enjoyment of this creative story. I got a real kick out of the play on words and the slight role reversal at one point. ^_^
I'm not really sure what to make of CHRISTMAS CRACKER. NTM author so I decided to give it a try. Entertaining tale, written well enough, of a frustrated wife whose family is going through some tough times. She's trying to make the best of things but can't help feeling a bit sorry for herself as she wraps Christmas gifts. I won't ruin the ending by saying anything more.
However, several things about CHRISTMAS CRACKER bothered me. "Christmas Cracker" is not the title of the story; it's actually "The Camera". (And if you look at the title page, it's not "The Poison Pixie" either.) Also, the blurb is a bit of a tease because the flashback to "their first time two years ago" is of their first sexual "playing", not actual intercourse. More importantly, the actual story is only 8 pages (ended at 27%). The remainder of the noted 30 pages is a list of the author's other works with some excerpts.
So yeah, I wasn't expecting much for 30 pages but reaching the end after only 8 felt like hitting a mental brick wall. Not a good way to feel after reading something.
9-Sept-2012 ORIG REVIEW: Interesting but fizzled at end...
Decided to try this author/story when it was available as a free download. I would have rated it as 3 stars up until the end. Although I agree with another reviewer that the writing was a bit amateurish/fan fiction-ish (and the formatting errors in my copy took away from smooth reading flow), I was quickly drawn in by the story, as well as the twist on the traditional vampire lore.
Unfortunately, there were too many critical points either glossed over (um, the "gift"?) or ignored, especially at the end, which dropped my rating to 2 stars. I realize that the author contemplated a sequel (thus, the cliffhanger) but still, the end scene seemed poorly thought out and defied the normal suspension of disbelief for fiction. Likeable enough as a free read but given the plethora of vampire fiction, not enough to pay to see if this particular author's writing/story gets any better.
ADDED 9-Sept-2012: To clarify, I don't generally mind a cliffhanger in preparation of the next book (setting the stage, if you will), but it bothers me as a reader when not properly done and/or it adversely affects the current book. Yes, books in a series are generally linked together in some way or have a common arc, but the discrete plot/arc of each book usually should be resolved by the end (sort of like finishing the framework of a house before moving on to the sheetrock, plumbing, etc).
The way this book ended, the "cliffhanger" was for this story (which I took as how/why Cassie and and her dream man get together), not for the next (which, based on the blurb, appears to be how their relationship develops within an expanded storyline).
I don't want to give away the ending of TMOMD, so I'll just say that it was a bit like leaving out part of a house wall. The missing portion is not critical enough to affect the structural integrity of the house itself but it's obvious enough that working around it or correcting it after the fact becomes more awkward and time-consuming.
Short and sexy M/M story with a bit of angst...
If you're unfamiliar with Kari Gregg but like M/M romances, then this free download of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING DENNY may be a good way to try out this author. (See also the free download of "You Melted Me".)
In this "second chance" story, Matt and Denny are stepbrothers who had a love/hate relationship growing up. They reunite after a four-year separation caused by Matt's mother. Denny is not happy when Matt tracks him despite a name change and move halfway across the country but is even less thrilled to learn that his stepmother is still determined to either control or ruin his life. The backstory is a bit sketchy but Kari Gregg delivers enough to make it work. What follows is Matt's own determined efforts to set things right, get Denny back in his life, and finally pursue their aborted relationship. Although three years younger than Denny, Matt has always been the more dominant and aggressive one in this relationship and he proves it once again as he...er, persuades Denny into seeing things his way. ;-)
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING DENNY isn't flawless from a technical aspect and its short length left me wanting just a wee bit more (yeah, that greedy reader syndrome ^_^). However, the vivid narrative and smooth prose reminded me why I had enjoyed Kari Gregg's writing and stories so much. Next up—"I, Omega"!
(★★★½) Hot quickie!
If you're unfamiliar with Kari Gregg but like M/M romances, then this free download of YOU MELTED ME may be a great way to check out this author while getting a quick taste of some deliciously hot male lovin'. (See also the free download of "The Importance of Being Denny".)
Several years ago, I read 3 of Kari Gregg's early works ("Spoils of War", "Lovely Wicked" and "What Rough Beast") but got sidetrack by the usual. Her name came back on my radar recently so I decided to finally rescue YOU MELTED ME from calibre limbo.
DAY-UM! Two sentences into the story and I was immediately hooked. Thrown right into bed with Leland and Brian, YOU MELTED ME is a fast shot of hot sex, with a chaser of romance. It's short—too short!—for any substantive character development or plot beyond the basics of who the two are and their immediate circumstances, but Kari Gregg manages to create enough emotional depth so that I could believe in a future for these two. HFN ending so I wouldn't mind a more substantial story about Leland and Brian.