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    PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE (September 16, 2020)

    Found this tag on Chelle’s Book Ramblings . It’s simple and fun. I thought I would put my own spin on it and make it a weekly thing.

    Original Rules

    • Find a book published 10+ years ago.
    • Find a book that will be published THIS year.
    • Find a book that will be published NEXT year.

    Some slight revision of the rules:

    • Find a book published 10+ years ago
    • Find a book that will be published THIS month.
    • Find a book that will be published NEXT month.
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    FIRST LINES FRIDAY 56: But Then, The World May End Tomorrow

    First Line Fridays” is by Hoarding Books and is all about the first line of a current/upcoming read. Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you turn to page 56 (or 56%) in what you’re reading a find a snippet that jumps out at you. The idea to combine the two came from Kat @ Here There Be Dragons

    I found this meme on The Writerly Way. And I’m doing this on a Thursday just to be difficult.

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    PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE (March 11, 2020)

    I found this tag on Chelle’s Book Ramblings . It’s simple and fun. I thought I would put my own spin on it and make it a weekly thing.

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    REVIEW: Hostile Ground by L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov


    Hostile Ground – L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov

    After the deaths of three undercover cops investigating a drug ring in a seedy strip club in Seattle, Detective Mahir Hussain has been sent to finish the job. He joins the club’s security team in the hopes of finding enough evidence to bust the operation before the men in charge find a reason to put him in a shallow grave.

    To protect the strippers, only gay men can work the club. Ridley, the cold and intimidating head of security, knows exactly how to test potential new hires-including Mahir. From the minute they meet, Mahir and Ridley engage in a dangerous dance of sex and mind games. Mahir needs to find his evidence before Ridley figures out he’s a cop-and before they both grow too close to betray one another.

    As the game goes on, Mahir burrows deeper into the operation, where he learns there’s much more happening than meets the eye . . . and why every cop who made it this far has been silenced with a bullet. 

    Two of my favorite authors collaborating in what promised to be explosive and intense. I know many people gave high ratings and loved it but this one falls between like and love for me.

    There are many elements present that I have come to expect from LAW and Voinov so that might be one reason why some parts were predictable such as Kinza’s involvement, Ridley’s real name, what happened to the boys they used as couriers, etc. This was probably one of the few LAW stories where the surprises were not so surprising. What I was surprised with was that the connection between Mahir and Kinza was not utilized to the max. That was something the authors would normally do to up the ante. I thought Lombardi would recognize those gazelle eyes anywhere OR maybe he just thought all Middle Eastern people look the same. Still, he should have known, he was supposed to be astute. Also, there were too many sex scenes that didn’t do anything to the story and we can only hope Ridley’s office was sound proof what with all their conspiratorial talks and out of control moments in there.

    Those niggles aside, I greatly enjoyed Hostile Ground. Mahir is a detective, assigned to an undercover mission in Lombardi’s strip club which was a front for something more sinister. Mahir who went by Saeed in this mission, is a muslim which makes him a target of racists jokes while his family grudgingly accepts the fact that he is gay. There were many derogatory terms in the story, so be warned but I liked the way Mahir handled these issues like a boss.

    His nephew Kinza was recently outed which caused some conflict with his family. The boy ran away to live with Mahir, who was his favorite uncle. This couldn’t have come at the worst time, the detective was in the middle of his undercover work. Things got even more dangerous when the boy followed him to the club one day and was recruited by Lombardi. The interactions between Mahir and Kinza were some of the best parts of the story. Mahir adored his nephew and would do anything to keep him safe. He nearly panicked and blew the case when he saw his nephew walking inside the club but fortunately, Ridley talked some sense into him AND Kinza was awesome! Boy got nerves of steel. And super smart too! Where other boys would have broken down and panicked, he kept his head. He’ll make a great FBI agent one day.

    Ridley is a man of many personalities. There’s the ice-cold psycho bastard, the man who made sure Mahir got home safe after making him inhale cocaine, the one who who can’t resist fucking the new recruit and more. The more time Mahir spends with the man, the more layers he uncover, even after the case was over.

    The guy with the icy stare behind the dark sunglasses- he could shoot a cop and not blink. The one who’d left Mahir aching all over, and who had seemed just as unhappy as Mahir that they couldn’t continue things, wasn’t murderer. He couldn’t be. Could he? 

    Theirs was a romance between two men in a high stressed environment. It started with insta-lust where they used each other to blow off steam and it gradually evolved into something deeper, solid and more meaningful. The way the romance developed was convincingly executed and the authors happily provided an epilogue.

    The case was a bitch to crack and the whole set-up reminded me of the HongKong movie, Infernal Affairs, where an undercover cop goes so deep he almost didn’t get out. Even though I knew what was coming, I could still feel the suspense. Every goon was keeping an eye on Ridley and Mahir, waiting for them to slip up. Lombardi got Kinza in his clutches. There’s more at stake than Mahir had bargained for. Things begin to escalate and then one day, the goons showed up at Mahir’s doorstep. Shit really hit the fan! Bullets flew, covers blown, and close calls that were too close as the story builds into to its heart-stopping climax. It was, overall, a fun ride with a satisfying conclusion. And although I want to keep them all safe, Mahir isn’t ready to retire just yet. As we speak, they’re preparing for another mission because as Ridley said

    “I like it dangerous.”

    So, a sequel please!


    L.A. Witt books here
    Aleksandr Voinov books here

    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Acid Fight
    Artist: Deaf Scene
    Album: Chimera

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    Burn – Aleksandr Voinov

    Flight Lieutenant Chris Waters is the pilot of a cutting-edge unmanned SAD fighter drone that is used for secret government missions. Chris is cutting-edge technology himself: his neural network is upgraded with cyber-technology and software that makes him the interface of his combat drone.

    Then, something goes wrong as he connects to his drone. Haunted by strange, disorientating impressions, a so-called “ghost”, he hooks up on leave with fellow pilot Cyril for a night. But Cyril is not the man Chris thought he is, and Chris soon finds out what the “ghost” in his body really is, as well as the truth about his missions.

    I am aware Aleksandr Voinov writes sci-fi but I almost didn’t recognize the story as his. Granted this is my first Voinov sci fi, I think perhaps the fact that the characters and the setting were American threw me off. I’m used to his European characters. This thing felt different. It wasn’t a dud, not the best either. It also felt like a prequel to something.

    This sure packs a lot for a shortie.

    It started out with Chris talking to a recorder and preening for the press which covers the world-building part. I thought it would continue in that vein, then, poof! It shifted to third person. We get burn junkies, a mystery, a one-night stand, military secrets, and a pilot gone rogue. What the titular burn is, I’m not exactly sure but Chris is addicted to it. I wouldn’t say the ending was satisfying or complete. More like, it hinted on so much more that the short story format would leave you wanting. Make this a full length novel, please.


    Reviews of Aleksandr Voinov’s books here.

    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it 

    Soundtrack: Jet Pilot
    Artist: System of a Down
    Album: Toxicity

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32603664-burn)

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    REVIEW: Gold Digger by Aleksandr Voinov

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    Gold Digger – Aleksandr Voinov

    Not all that glitters is gold.

    Nikolai Krasnorada leads the life of a corporate nomad. Working for a gold explorations company, he’s never put down roots, and he likes it that way. Roots can be dangerous, as everyone from his “man-hating” sister to his manipulative mother to his war-traumatized father has proven.
    But when his CEO sends him to Toronto to strike a deal with LeBeau Mining, Nikolai meets Henri LeBeau, crown prince to the resources conglomerate and inveterate flirt. Sparks fly immediately, despite the business deal that threatens to go sour and Nikolai’s own reluctance to give Henri false hope about him being Mr. Right. He’s barely come to terms with his bisexuality, and getting involved with Henri would get messy.
    When LeBeau Mining launches a hostile takeover bid, Nikolai and Henri find themselves on opposite sides of the negotiating table. But fortunately – or perhaps unfortunately – for Nikolai, Henri’s not nearly as interested in his company as he is in his heart.

    Because I’m the type to nitpick on book covers, I’d like to put it out there that the Italian cover is so much better


    Also it took me halfway through the book to realize that the Vadim mentioned here, Nikolai’s father and ex-spetnaz, is the Vadim in the epic Special Forces saga (I must have missed the part that says it’s a spinoff). Holy hell! This man’s a legend!! But as much as I love Aleksandr Voinov’s books, I don’t think I have the courage nor the patience to read something dark with more than 2000 pages. Maybe audiobook, please?

    Aleksandr Voinov doesn’t do cute and fluffy the way it is typically done. In fact his writing is usually associated with the words “smart”, “dark”, “sensual”, “masculine”, and “powerful”. However, for Gold Digger, there’s a line that describes how he writes the story

    Henri’s agitation was odd and endearing, so very him, and Nikolai found himself smiling. “Cute” wasn’t a word for Henri, but damn, he was a manly version of that.

    Manly version of cute. This is how the story certainly feels and Henri and Nikolai both fit the bill.

    Henri is endearingly open and honest about what he wants, almost to the point of being pushy but he’s not a manipulative asshole and he never goes beyond Nikolai’s boundaries. I feel like he has this streak of crazy in him and it would have been fun had it been unleashed but the story underplayed this side of him. He was, for the most part, a flirtatious, easy going but driven guy.

    Nikolai is a man struggling to get his bearings after being talked to getting a blowjob by Henri and discovered he liked it. To make things more complicated he was attracted to Henri even though he knew until now he was straight and Henri is on the enemy’s side. Him trying to wrap his head as to what is going on between him and Henri is cute. They had great chemistry and I enjoyed the banter. My complaint here is that the development of their relationship happened in the span of their first meeting with the LeBeaus up to the time they met again to talk about the take-over which is like one week? two weeks? I don’t think it even took a month and here they were, already talking about selling Henri’s condo and settling in Armenia or Georgia. That’s pretty fast for a man who just discovered he is bisexual.

    Nikolai is loyal to Cybele, the company he is working for and his bestfriend, Ruslan Polonin, who is the CEO. They try to avoid a hostile takeover from LBM, the company Henri works for. This part alone is enough to keep my attention. I have always been interesting in how these high flying corporate types do business and nobody writes financial thrillers like Voinov.

    Nikolai’s relationship with his family, particularly with his father, Vadim, was also a major plot point. Nikolai has always felt like an outsider in his family and the revelations by his sister, Anya, only proved the point. Vadim, being a former soldier has to deal with a dark past and mental trauma. Father and son are not emotional touchy feely types but when they laid some important issues out it was a very touching emotional moment albeit in a stoic military way. Would have wanted to meet Dan though. Where is Vadim’s husband in all this?

    Overall, I really liked the feel of the story. It not as dark and heavy as is typically the case with the author but it still feels sophisticated and understated. The corporate drama was engaging. The romance was lighthearted and sweet.The characters were likable people except Anya who is a vindictive bitch. Gold Digger works well as a standalone but it will make you very curious about Vadim. I’m looking forward to a sequel and maybe someday, I will have it in me to read Special Forces.


    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Make Them Gold
    Artist: Chvrches
    Album: Every Open Eye

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32497127-gold-digger)

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    Return on Investment – Aleksandr Voinov

    Martin David, an eager but inexperienced financial analyst, is the newest member of the investment team at Skeiron Capital Partners in London. His boss is an avowed financial genius, but he’s also overbearing and intense. Despite his erratic behaviour, Martin can’t help being drawn to him both professionally and personally.

    Too bad his boss doesn’t seem to feel the same. In a firm where pedigree and connections mean far more than Martin’s newly-minted business degree, Martin feels desperately inadequate—at least until he meets the enigmatic investment manager Alec Berger, who promises to help Martin establish himself in the financial community. Martin is so charmed by Alec’s sophistication and wit that he gives him data that should have stayed confidential.

    Then the financial crisis hits. Banks burn, companies teeter on the brink, and Skeiron’s survival is at stake. Martin is pushed into the middle of the fight for Skeiron—against both the tanking economy and a ruthless enemy who’s stepped out of the shadows to collect the spoils.

    Return on Investment is the new gay financial thriller from EPIC Award winner and Lambda Award finalist Aleksandr Voinov.

    This book comes with a warning. According to author, Aleksandr Voinov:

    Just a PSA – this is not a traditional romance, m/m or other. I’d describe it as part coming-of-age, part financial thriller (yes, quite a few scenes involving the office, deals, finance talk, etc), and love story. The love story is not the main thing going on, and the main character spends quite a bit of time/quite a few nights with other people.

    Duly noted. And with that, I had to tread carefully and keep an open mind lest my biases get the better of me.

    One of my guilty pleasures is reading about rich people. Not the Hollywood celebrity or rock star kind of rich but the upper 1% old rich kind of rich. And nothing says old rich as that scene where Alec was enlightening Martin to the merits of bespoke shaving equipment. Apparently, fancy Gillette triple blades has nothing on Sheffield steel single blade razors with handles in production since 1930s.

    Return on Investment has three main players, Alec Berger, the consummate charmer whose job title I forgot (broker?, investment manager?), Martin David, the young and slightly naive number cruncher and Francis de Bracy, Martin’s workaholic boss with whom he had a crush on. Voinov did a very convincing job with Alec’s character, he actually got me thinking that hey, Alec seems alright, nice even. I was as gullible as Martin. I liked Martin, he seems genuinely nice, he gets along with everyone and he had it bad for his boss. I wasn’t comfortable with Martin sleeping with other people since he likes Francis but I guess that is more realistic than expecting a healthy, active gay guy to live a celibate life. Francis is an enigmatic, overbearing financial genius who is also, very, very unexpectedly, a religious/spiritual man. Even if the book is from Martin’s POV, he dominated the books and right up to the end, we know very little of Francis de Bracy apart from his work. I heard book 2 would remedy that.

    Is there a love triangle? Well, Martin did sleep with a lot of people, each helping him little by little to become the man he is. Martin’s time with Alec was physical, hedonistic. In contrast, the connection between Martin and Francis was on a purer, more spiritual level. I felt it was a very understated romance, understated in a way the truly elite is understated.

    “Can I want you?” Martin asked—a thought spoken aloud.


    The reader, like Martin, is then left craving for an ounce of affection, a tiny nod of acknowledgement from the mighty Francis de Bracy until that big moment when Martin could no longer take it. Of course, Francis true to form, the reply was strictly business

    Francis stood close without touching, simply holding his gaze, but Martin  maintained eye contact, even if it made him breathless. “I need to know whether you’ll be with or against me.”
    “About what? The restructuring?”
    “That, too.” Francis didn’t explain further, merely stood there, magnetic, towering. “I need a commitment from you.”
    “I am committed. I’ve been fucking committed all this time. I was there sorting out your companies; I started a fight in a hotel for you. I’ve been here. Waiting.” Martin struggled to breathe or to swallow. “Waiting for Francis de Bracy to be there and touch me like you did and maybe even stay around after fucking me. All this time I wanted to be worth it, wanted to be more than the stupid kid you’re teaching how to work hard, and then harder still, until I have no life left and can’t think of anything else but whether I’m good enough for you. It bloody hurts, Francis. It bloody fucking hurts wanting you so much, but loving you is even worse, because I have no idea how to deal with that. All the fucking time I want you to be there and I want to hold you and I’m fucking scared to touch you because you could give me that famous de Bracy stare that makes me into nothing. I cease to exist. I just do. I’m not even there, but I can’t help it. All I can do is to wait and hope and deal with that pain. That’s it. That’s my commitment. Is that worth anything?”
    “It’s worth a Partnership in my firm.” Francis said it with a little smile that would have been infuriating if it had not been so tender.

    I don’t know what to make of the book. It’s was certainly not romance focused, most of it were talks about equity, hedges and other financial jargon I couldn’t understand  (nor could I explain what it is about, something to do with banks dying and hostile takeovers which is as nasty as it sounds) but I kept on listening anyway. I was riveted to the story and if that’s not a testament to how good a story teller Aleksandr Voinov is, I don’t know what is. 

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Changes
    Artist: David Bowie
    Album: Hunky Dory

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22720162-return-on-investment)