Review – Damned If You Do by Marie Sexton

Damned If You Do coverTitle: Damned If You Do
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Samhain
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: June 14, 2016
Genre: M/M romance/Paranormal
Length: 172 pages
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Review Summary: Loved these characters! Seth was so cute and Abbadon made me laugh.

Plot Summary/Description

Abaddon is a demon who needs to collect a certain quota of souls to satisfy the boss. He’s way behind on his targets, and if he doesn’t buck up soon he’s going to find himself demoted to the dirtiest tasks in Hell.

But some souls are worth more than others, and the soul of an innocent blind faith-healer type guy will move him way up the scale. So Abaddon is out to get Seth’s soul – but he finds himself drawn to the young preacher for other reasons too.

Damned If You Do Review

Phobia warning: snakes! If snakes freak you out, you might want to take a rain check on this one…

This is a cute and funny take on the “sell your soul to the devil” idea. If you’re interested, it does raise some real issues about faith, and settle them in a lovely way, but if you could care less about religion you can take it as myth. It’s a feel-good read either way.

Seth a sweet virgin who longs to find love, but he’s carefully guarded by a hard nut named Zeb who picks up on one of Abaddon’s ulterior motives right away and works hard to keep them apart.

This is a sweet romance with low heat ratings, as you might expect given Seth’s sweet and innocent character. However, there’s plenty of emotion and just the right level of angst. It’s a longish novella, and I thought the length was perfect for the story.

Seth’s blindness is handled well, and I liked that he isn’t too goody-good, so we’re for real wondering if Abaddon might succeed in tempting him off the straight and narrow and onto the path to damnation.

How will it end? Will good win out, is Seth a charlatan who’s in Abaddon’s camp already, or will they be separated for ever, one in Heaven and one in Hell? You’ll have to read it to find out for yourself.

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Review – Psycop Briefs by Jordan Castillo Price

Psycop BriefsTitle: Psycop Briefs
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: October 11, 2016
Genre: M/M Romance, Paranormal
Length: 204 pages
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Review Summary:
A must-have for fans of Victor Bayne, the gorgeous Jacob, and the PsyCop series.

Plot Summary/Description

A collection of shorts from the PsyCop series, featuring medium Victor Bayne, who works as a psychic detective on the Chicago police force, and his hot lover, detective Jacob Marks.

Psycop Briefs Review

This is a collection of short stories, tangential scenes and odd bits and pieces that fit around Jordan Castillo Price’s hugely popular PsyCop series. The first thing to say is that if you have not read any of the series before, this is not the place to start. Start with the first “real” book in the series, Among the Living, and if you like that, you’ll want to continue on. This collection is for those who have read at least some, and probably most, of the basic series.

Fans may have read some of the shorts in before, because they have been available either to buy or free on the author’s website. I’d read Inside Out (but I loved reading that again, that is a wonderful prequel to the series, where Jacob first sees Vic in an otherwise tedious meeting); Stroke of Midnight, a nice little window into their relationship; Thaw, with Vic and Jacob bonding on ice; and the Clowns one, which I didn’t totally go for, and I don’t know why. That was the only one I skipped rereading.

There was also a lot here that was new to me, and I lapped them up! Some of the “stories” are so short that they are really just a scene, a little peek into the lives of these super-hot fictional guys. I wondered if some of them had been cut from books, or maybe they were just random scenes that came into the author’s head and didn’t fit into a book. It felt super-cool to have all of this extra information on the characters’ lives.

Of the new-to-me stories, one of my favourites was Coffee O’Clock, where the relationship is just getting established. Lots of cute quotes, as Vic cannot believe Jacob is really into him, so what is going on? “I’d been pleasantly surprised the first time he spent the night. Puzzled the second. Now I was downright suspicious… He was after something. But what?” Vic cannot believe it is him that Jacob is after!

Another favorite was Witness which is set after the current last book in the series, so it’s great for people who have read the whole series and cannot wait for the next book. If you haven’t read them all, it won’t matter. There are no spoilers that I can think of.

We also get some lovely insights into their lives, when they do stuff like helping out Jacob’s one-armed Uncle Leon with his self-assembly furniture, or when Jacob buys one of Vic’s old high school yearbooks on eBay! This kind of thing is what makes it unmissable for fans.

204 pages is the length that Amazon gives. I have it on my Kindle so I don’t have any other way to compute, but it seemed longer. You certainly get a lot of different stories and scenes, and it seemed very good value to me.

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Review – A Boy Made Of Blocks by Keith Stuart

A Boy Made Of Blocks coverTitle: A Boy Made of Blocks
Author: Keith Stuart
Publisher: Little, Brown
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: September 1, 2016
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 400 pages
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Review Summary: A sweet story about a father who connects with his autistic son by using the Minecraft game.

Plot Summary/Description

Bringing up an autistic child isn’t easy. Alex leaves it all to his wife. So he has no real connection with his 8-year-old son Sam, and his marriage is breaking up under the strain. He moves out to sleep on his best friend’s floor, and from this new life he tries to build some kind of relationship with Sam.

It seems a hopeless task until Sam and Alex discover Minecraft. Sam’s imagination comes to life, and he allows his dad to help him. Slowly, they connect on a level Alex would never have imagined.

A Boy Made Of Blocks Review

This book was inspired by the author’s relationship with his own autistic son, and that makes it both true-to-life and sometimes painful. But it’s also often very funny. Like life, really – painful and funny!

Before they separate, Alex’s wife Jody’s life is dominated by dealing with young Sam, and Alex is working at a mind-numbing job. After the separation, Alex tries to rebuild bridges with both Jody and Sam. The distance helps him to do this, although whether it helps Jody is another question! However, it was great to see a man leaving a marriage physically but not leaving it emotionally. They do work at it.

When Sam discovers Minecraft and begins building things in that virtual world, he needs technical support that Jody has no idea how to give – but Alex does. This gives Sam a reason to value his father and Alex a way to communicate with his son.

The book contains a lot of little episodes in the struggle of living with autism, both for the autistic child and his parents. It all feels very real because we know the author has an autistic son himself. Of course, not all autistic kids are alike, and a lot of books and movies present one (often extreme) example and allow readers/viewers to believe all autistic people are like this – especially by giving the idea that autism always involves some kind of Rainman-like genius. This book doesn’t do this, which is great.

It’s a heart-warming story with a satisfying ending. Everything is neatly concluded – perhaps a little too neatly, but that’s better than leaving a ton of loose ends in my opinion.

Expect to shed tears ๐Ÿ™‚

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Review – Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann

Three Bags Full by Leonie SwannTitle: Three Bags Full
Series: Sheep Detective Story #1
Author: Leonie Swann
Publisher: Doubleday
Our rating: 3.5 stars

Publication date: June 2005
Genre: Cozy mystery
Length: 352 pages
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Review Summary: A fun and endearing slow-paced cozy mystery featuring a small flock of sheep as detectives.

Plot Summary/Blurb

When George Glenn of Glennkill on the coast of Ireland is found dead in a field, apparently murdered with a spade, his faithful flock of sheep don’t know what to think. Spurred on by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill (and possibly the world), they try to recall what they learned in the detective story that George once read them, so they can gather clues and track down suspects.

Three Bags Full Review

This is such a cute idea! The sheep are wonderful characters and the story, if a little confused and slow in places, follows their meandering path as detectives.

The sheep are from different traditional breeds so it’s easy to believe they might have different characteristics. There’s Mopple the Whale, a plump Merino who never stops eating but has the best memory; Zora, a sure-footed blackfaced ewe who likes to perch on a cliff ledge looking over the abyss to the sea far below; Sir Ritchfield, the lead ram, who’s getting old and deaf these days but still has the sharpest eyesight; Othello, a black sheep whose had a past life in a circus; and many more. They all stand out as unique and memorable personalities.

Then of course there are the human characters. We get to hear their conversations whenever the sheep can listen in, which is often enough, since many of them visit the field and George’s caravan where he seems to have hidden certain things (whose significance is clearer to us than to the sheep). He was also more popular with the ladies than with the men of the village.

George’s character is slowly revealed too. The sheep, naturally enough, rate him on the basis of the grazing he provided and the stories that he read to them every day. It’s only when another shepherd comes along who is more interested in sheep as meat than as individuals, that they truly come to see how lucky they were. And we have to piece together George’s human history from indications that mean nothing to them – that he owned a gun, for example.

The author is German so I was reading an English translation, and unfortunately the translator clearly wasn’t Irish. I kept forgetting we were in Ireland at all because there was no Irish dialect or rhythm in the dialogue. There are none of the ‘typical’ Irish names – no Brendan, Patrick or Michael; no Bridget, Mary or Siobhan – and George, the patron saint of England, seems to me a decidedly unlikely name for a man born in the Republic of Ireland in (presumably) the 1960s. Of course we don’t want all the stereotypes rolled out, but a few minor characters with more common Irish names would have helped give a sense of place.

It’s very funny in places because of the sheep’s childlike (or sheeplike) interpretations of various signs and clues. They are simple-minded but logical and often adorable.

The solution to the mystery was a little anticlimactic for me. The motives didn’t quite ring true. But I did like the way the author built up the final scene and I loved Fosco who enjoyed his Guinness in true Irish style!

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Review – Forget Me Not by Jordan Castillo Price

Forget Me NotTitle: Forget Me Not
Series: Mnevermind #2
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: February 18, 2014
Genre: M/M romance/Science fiction
Length: 206 pp
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Review Summary: A mesmerizing second book in the Mnevermind series from Elijah’s POV – even better than the first, but doesn’t stand alone.

Plot Summary/Blurb

Elijah Crowe is a talented mnemographer with skills and ideas that startle even Daniel Schroeder, but he’s on the autism spectrum and his communication issues have stopped his career from ever taking off. Instead of being prized for his talents, he’s teaching beginner classes at the mall.

Elijah’s strongly attracted to Daniel, but there’s still an ex-wife with an important place in Elijah’s life. He also has some issues with a co-worker, and he’s not sure how to handle them. Will Daniel understand and accept him as he is – either in the world of mnem or in real life?

Forget Me Not Review

This is the second in the Mnevermind series by the wonderful Jordan Castillo Price – or is it a serial? I’m not sure. There was little resolution at the end of book #1, and they are of a length where the whole trilogy could be published as one book – a long book, at around 600 pages, but still.

Anyway, this volume is told from the point of view of Elijah, who’s on the autism spectrum and therefore way off the regular M/M hero spectrum of characteristics. I loved Elijah – I think I like him more than Daniel, who seems a little puzzled by Elijah.

The author does an excellent job of showing Elijah’s communication difficulties in action, while making him one of the cutest characters imaginable. He’s only able to act like others in mnem, and to explain that, I’d have to go into the sci-fi aspect of this series, which I like but don’t totally understand. I said in my review of the first book that it reminded me of Total Recall and maybe that’s stopping me understanding it better. Anyway, that’s not a heavy element, so you can easily cruise through it.

Something that does come across better in this book than in the first, is Daniel’s skill as a mnemographer and how successful his business was before things went wrong. Modesty prevented Daniel from revealing this in his own narrative, but Elijah doesn’t hesitate to do it for him. I appreciated Daniel much more at the end of this volume.

Elijah has been married (to a woman) in the past and still seems to be best friends with her, which leads to some interesting challenges for other characters, if not for Elijah himself.

I hate some of the things that are happening to Elijah in this book. He’s being menaced, and his psychiatrist or whatever she is seems to have no idea. On the other hand, he and Daniel seem just wonderful for each other. Each of them brings out the best in the other, and that’s lovely to read.

All in all, I found this book mesmerizing.

This is a trilogy so we’ll have to wait for the third volume to tie everything up. There’s no question about Elijah’s feelings for Daniel but is Daniel really going to fall for the ‘real life’ Elijah? This is romance so we know the answer … it’s just a question of how convincing Jordan Castillo Price can make it.

The books don’t stand alone too well. You’d want to have read Mnevermind 1: The Persistence of Memory (see our review) before getting this one, or you’d have (even more) trouble understanding the sci-fi aspects. In fact, if you didn’t read them back to back as I did, but read the first book a couple of years ago when it first came out, you might want to give yourself the pleasure of reading it again!

I haven’t found a release date yet, but there were nearly two years between the first and second books … *gulp*. Not sure I can wait that long.

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Review – The Persistence of Memory by Jordan Castillo Price

PersistenceOfMemoryTitle: The Persistence of Memory
Series: Mnevermind #1
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Our rating: 4 stars

Publication date: May 2, 2012
Genre: M/M romance/Science fiction
Length: 194 pp
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Review Summary: Intriguing first book in a trilogy focusing on induced dream/memories with some very engaging characters. Plan to read the whole series because you won’t want to stop at the end of this one.

Plot Summary/Blurb

Daniel Schroeder is a mnemographer, helping clients to have positive experiences or mnems in a kind of dreamworld, and he used to be very good at what he does, until an accident left his Dad with memory loss and Daniel with a severe blow to his confidence. His memory palace has gone downhill and he’s barely making ends meet. Then a very cool guy dressed in black starts showing up in the memes that he’s supervising, heralded by black crows. Daniel is intrigued, but is he losing his grip on reality?

The Persistence of Memory Review

On the borderline between paranormal and science fiction, this book is set in a world where people can define and build their own dream-like experiences. Even though they (mostly) don’t remember them afterward, they are left with a feel-good factor that persists. Mnemographer Daniel’s issue is that he’s lost his nerve for developing new mnems because of the accident that left his father with memory loss. Because of this, his business is suffering. He’s also not had a date in a long time.

If you know Jordan Castillo Price’s writing you’ll be expecting a male/male romance here but this first volume in the trilogy only begins to set that up. The two main characters are both engaging and Elijah is refreshingly different from most heroes of any kind of romance. I wanted to see more of Elijah and I was thrilled that book 2 is written from his point of view.

Secondary characters like Larry, Daniel’s co-worker in his second job (yes, the business is doing that badly!) and Big Dan, Daniel’s father, are well developed. Larry’s a funny guy and a great addition to the story. I was more uncomfortable with the sections featuring Big Dan because Daniel insists on telling him the bad news he’s forgotten, day after day, even though he’s only going to forget it again. Big Dan doesn’t have Alzheimer’s but the principle is surely the same – it’s cruel to upset people over and over so pointlessly, and I was sorry to see Daniel doing it.

The idea of mnems is not particularly original, being strongly reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, the book on which the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall was based. But this is a very different treatment of it – there’s none of the scary adventure story here. We’re clearly heading for a cute romance between Daniel and his Man in Black, who’s found a way to enter other peoples’ mnems.

The ending is a little abrupt and there’s no real resolution but it’s the first book in a trilogy and fans will be pleased to know the second in the series, Forget Me Not – Mnevermind #2 is already available. I read them back to back and can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy.

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