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    FIRST LINES FRIDAY 56: Do Memories Count As Magic?

    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.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: The ABCs of Spellcraft Books 1.5-4 by Jordan Castillo Price

    The ABCs of Spellcraft is a series filled with bad jokes and good magic, where MM Romance meets Paranormal Cozy. A perky hero, a brooding love interest, and delightfully twisty-turny stories that never end up quite where you’d expect. The books are best read in order, so be sure to start at the beginning with Quill Me Now.

    This is a series that makes you think twice about greeting cards.

    This JCP creation features a unique magic system that combines written words and painted pictures, where the expression ‘a way with words‘ takes on a literal meaning.

    The right part of the magic is the Scrivener, a person who can put together certain words, like a wish for good luck or good harvest. This takes skill because careless expressions are open to interpretation or have loop holes that leave room for things to go awry. The most powerful Scrivener in a family is called the Hand.

    The left part of the magic is the Seer, a left-handed person who can paint the Seen, a picture that captures the essence of the spell. This is where the Scrivener writes his spell in order to activate it. Seers are rare and therefore much valued among Spellcrafters.

    Dixon is from a family of Spellcrafters. He came late into his ability. In the first book, Quill Me Now, he met Yuri, a Seer, when he joined a greeting card contest that was actually a ploy to trap Spellcrafters.

    Dixon is very much determined to see the good side of ANYTHING. That’s in caps because the man is forever brimming with good cheer and positivity. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. And he talks, A LOT. Yuri is the menacing, brooding type who doesn’t think too highly of people. He’s blunt, a man of few words and slow to trust but as the series progress, you could see his walls slowly coming down around Dixon.

    The following books continue their story as they search for Uncle Fonzo. Fonzo is the Hand of the Penn Family. He disappeared a year before, leaving his Quill behind.

    This is a review of books 1.5 to 4. Book 1, Quill Me Now was originally part of a multi-author series, Bad Valentine. Review here.


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    1.5 The ABCs of Spellcraft: All That Glitters – Jordan Castillo Price

    Yuri meets Dixon’s parents for the first time.


    He was his usual stoic, manly self but you could tell Yuri’s nervous about meeting Dixon’s mom and dad. You could also tell that he did not shower after having a good time with Dixon. Hence, the glitters.

    This is a must-read for anybody wanting a look at the Penn family dynamics. I love the Penns and their weird food! Yuri totally won them over and not just because he’s a Seer.

    “I can always put some glitter in my 5 o’clock shadow the next time we go there,” Dixon offered. “Make them think it’s something all the cool kids are up to these days.”

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Life, Love and Laughter
    Artist: Donavon Frankenreiter
    Album: Pass It Around


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    2. The ABCs of Spellcraft: Trouble in Taco Town – Jordan Castillo Price

    Road trip!

    When Dixon and Yuri head for Taco Town, they’re hoping to track down Uncle Fonzo. What they find instead is a fiasco. Is it sabotage? A curse? Or is it just a bunch of badly worded Spellcraft?

    The small Minnesota berg is a tourist destination featuring a memorable roadside attraction: The Big Taco. It’s not actually edible, but there’s a flock of birds passing through that never got the memo.

    One thing’s for sure, Fonzo has been there. Not only do plenty of folks recognize his photo, but they paid him to solve certain problems…all of which are now exponentially worse. Dixon wants to chalk it up to a run of bad luck. Yuri knows a con man when he sees one, and while he doesn’t relish the thought of destroying Dixon’s hero, he wouldn’t mind knocking the guy down a few pegs.

    But there’s definitely something screwy about the Spellcraft they uncover. And they’d better figure out how to repair it before the Big Taco is reduced to crumbs—and with it, the livelihood of all their new friends.


    Fonzo is a con-man as far as Yuri is concerned. I agreed with him. Fonzo is a con-man’s name, if ever there was one. A case of bird infestation, exploding tomatoes and risque snowglobes all point to it. Dixon is convinced there’s some other explanation.

    It’s a great mystery that forever left me guessing. My assumptions were turned on their heads. The people they met were delightfully quirky. The story was fun, weird and totally silly.

    Also, they made it official!

    “It sounds better in Russian.” ~ ♡

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: By the Time It Gets Dark
    Artist: Yo La Tengo
    Album: Prisoner of Love


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    3. The ABCs of Spellcraft: Something Stinks at the Spa – Jordan Castillo Price

    Mineral spas are so calm and relaxing…unless they smell like a derrière at a bean-lover’s convention, that is!

    Dixon and Yuri have a hot tip that Uncle Fonzo is taking the waters at Spring Falls Hot Spring Spa. Not only is the spring stinky enough to make your eyes water—but the foul odor reaches peak level just as the resort is gearing up for a visit from an important critic that will make or break its reputation.

    Normally, this wouldn’t be Dixon’s problem…except it appears that a piece of his uncle’s Spellcraft might be responsible. He can’t be entirely sure, though, since that particular slip of paper managed to go through the shredder.

    Dixon and Yuri pitch in to help the spa’s owner appease a jilted bride, an obnoxious businessman, and the world’s most boring critic while they scramble to reconstruct the shredded Spellcraft. Can they fix the wonky spell before it does any permanent damage? Or will all their efforts at saving the spa end up swirling down the drain?


    More spellcraft silliness as Dixon and Yuri stop by the spa Uncle Fonzo ‘helped’. Their improvisation skills were tested when Dixon volunteered to be the aesthetician and Yuri, the masseuse, to help the beleaguered spa owner impress a critic. It was hilarious!

    I love how the situation brought out Yuri’s selfless side. Dixon did not a miss a thing.

    “How cruel would it be for me to drop a massive L-bomb on you when you’re pretty much out for the count?”

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Go With the Flow
    Artist: Queens of the Stone Age
    Soundtrack: Songs for the Deaf


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    4. The ABCs of Spellcraft: Dead Man’s Quill – Jordan Castillo Price

    It’s all fun and games until someone loses a hand.

    Dixon has been dying to introduce Yuri to Uncle Fonzo, the Hand of his family, and now he’ll finally get that chance. All they need to do is meet him at a traveling carnival with an unused piece of Spellcraft. Easy peasy, right? Not even a little. And even worse, they might encounter a clown.

    From a lackluster carnival with a booby-trapped tour bus to the decrepit mausoleum behind an old mental asylum, the Spellcraft leads Dixon and Yuri on a goose chase that’s not only wild…but deadly.


    They finally caught up to Uncle Fonzo who soon involved them in a heist. We meet another spellcrafting family who were a lot more sinister than the Penns. Dixon fell into a trap and you can tell how strongly Yuri felt about his man by the way he willingly sacrificed a Seer’s most valuable assets, his hands, to save Dixon.

    You’re family now, too.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Price I Pay
    Artist: Jane’s Addiction
    Soundtrack: Strays


    The ABCs of Spellcraft is more humorous than the author’s other series. It is a quest and a road trip where Dixon and Yuri meet quirky characters in quirky places as they pick up Uncle Fonzo’s trail. As promised, it’s very twisty-turny, throwing me for a loop several times just when I thought I knew where it’s going. The world-building flowed seamlessly. I loved all the ridiculous situations the two men get themselves into.

    Alongside all the silliness is a sweet romance between a Scrivener and a Seer who couldn’t be more different from each other. I enjoyed the contrast between their ‘voices’. I especially loved the way the author portrayed these characters. You can tell she wrote them with much affection.

    I had as much fun with this series as Psycop and Mnevermind. I want more adventures for Dixon and Yuri. Recommended if you like tricky magic, wacky road trips and fancy handwriting.

    P.S.

    I don’t know how she does it, but JCP‘s book models on her covers are always on point. It’s a pet peeve of mine when the models don’t match the characters. Those boys there really looked like Dixon and Yuri. Nice!

    JCP books here.

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    MY TOP 10 READS OF 2019

    1. Game Changers: Heated Rivalry – Rachel Reid

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    The ultimate enemies-to-lovers, sports rivalry book. Changed the way I felt about sports romance.

    Review here.

    2. Green Creek: Heartsong – T.J. Klune

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    “I see you.

    Review here.

    3. Leo Loves Aries – Anyta Sunday

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    Slow-burn at its finest. The zing nearly killed me.

    Review here.

    4. Mnevermind Trilogy – Jordan Castillo Price

    Gritty realism. Rollercoaster feels. One of JCP’s best works.

    Review here.

    5. The Vampire’s Club Books 3 & 4 – X. Aratare

    Vampire romance of my dreams.

    Review here.

    6. Left Hand of Calvus – L.A. Witt/Ann Gallagher

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    I said it before, I’ll say it again. INTENSE.

    Review here.

    7. Song of the Navigator – Astrid Amara

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    To say this is a gutwrenching, highly emotional sci-fi love story is an understatement.

    Review here.

    8. Falling Sky – L.A. Witt

    Gritty, unforgettable, cyberpunk romance between a human and a vampire.

    Review here.

    9. Flesh and Bone: Bleed – Joel Abernathy

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    Another shifter romance that tore my heart to pieces.

    Review here.

    10. Soulbound: All Souls Near and Nigh – Hailey Turner

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    Epic! Because this series doesn’t do low-key.

    Review here.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Mnevermind Trilogy by Jordan Castillo Price

    Blew me away, it did. As Elijah puts it, it was superlative!

    The Mnevermind Trilogy completely sucked me into this highly immersive alt-world of artificial memories, rinky dinky tech and mnemography geeks. The world-building came together so seamlessly and intuitively, it was exactly like a mnem. The entire experience was so realistic, it even went persistent. JCP, I bow to your genius!

    Other reviewers talked about the realism, I echo the sentiment. Even the language was very natural and easy to pick up, I could add it to my everyday vocabulary and it would fit right in. But the world is just one part of what makes this trilogy so good. Each book delivered heart, soul and grit. Mnevermind is one of the most addicting series I have ever read. I give it all my stars.

    1. The Persistence of Memory – Jordan Castillo Price

    Every day, Daniel Schroeder breaks his father’s heart.

    The two of them have always been close, which makes it all the more difficult to break the daily news: the last five years were nothing like Big Dan remembers.

    They’re both professionals in the memory field–they even run their own memory palace. So shouldn’t they be able to figure out a way to overwrite the persistent false memory that’s wreaking havoc on both of their lives? Daniel thought he was holding it together, but the situation is sliding out of control. Now even his own equipment has turned against him, reminding him he hasn’t had a date in ages by taunting him with flashes of an elusive man in black that only he can see.

    The Elijah character makes no sense. Not only does he claim to be straight–which has never piqued Daniel’s interest–but he’s appearing in manufactured memories in which he’s never been programmed. Is it some quirk of the circuitry, or is Daniel’s desire to connect with someone clouding his own memory?

    The Persistence of Memory opened inside a mnem. Daniel, a mnemographer or thought sherpa, surveys the audience of bland faces then he notices someone who stood out with his pale good looks and black clothes. The ‘man in black’ kept appearing in other mnemes where they both experienced a strong connection. The whole set-up had a Phillip K. Dick feel to it, simultaneously futuristic and contemporary. Mnemes are a very interesting concept and I love how JCP made it all plausible while deftly avoiding info-dump.

    Daniel and his dad, Big Dan built their business, AdventureTech from the ground up and their relationship was one of the best things about the entire trilogy. Their struggle with the persistent mnem gripped my heart. Anybody who has dealt with dementia or Alzheimer’s knows what this situation feels like. Poor Daniel takes a lot upon himself and can’t seem to catch a break. The whole book would have felt sad and heavy if not for the sass and comic relief from Larry, Carlota and Aunt Pipsy.

    Daniel’s search for the mystery person who pops up inside the mnemes led him to the mall and Elijah Crowe, a mnem expert stuck teaching dabblers at the mall. Elijah has autism and dealing with the real world can be a struggle but inside a mnem, he can access all parts of his brains. His appearances are frequently preceded by a crow or a burst of black feathers which is super cool.

    I loved Daniel and Elijah’s mnem chemistry. Their real world chemistry was just as wonderful but so much cuter. Daniel sees Elijah’s worth beyond his ‘weirdness’ and I’m happy they both got a shot at happiness. But of course it had to end with a cliffhanger…

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: The Connector
    Artist: The Futureheads
    Album: The Chaos

    2. Forget Me Not – Jordan Castillo Price

    No two people are exactly alike, but Elijah Crowe is very, very different. 

    Elijah is on the autism spectrum, so the tasks of day-to-day life most people breeze through are a challenge for him. His career suffered because he never got the hang of schmoozing, and now his talents are being wasted teaching classes at the mall. His social circle is limited to his ex, his therapist, and a structured inclusion group at the Rec Center. The one bright spot in his life is the memory science of Mnemography.

    Although he loves nothing better than devouring the latest research and tinkering with all the specialized equipment, he never clicked with any other experts in the field until he met Daniel Schroeder. Daniel runs a memory palace—he even writes his own mnems—and that shared interest alone would make him fascinating. But Daniel and Elijah met under unusual circumstances, where the statement, “I like you, and I think you like me,” held some surprising nuances.

    Now Elijah suspects he’s gay, but the few prominent people in his life are less than supportive. Some are downright hostile. Elijah might not be neurotypical, but he’s plenty smart. Surely there’s some way to get people to accept him for who he is. If only he could figure out how.

    Some of the most enjoyable conversations I had in my life are with people on the autism spectrum. A friend from anime conventions whom I call Sempai because he’s older, introduced me to Asperger’s syndrome. He had photographic memory and would regale me with trivia on which Kamen Rider actor appeared on which mainstream J-dorama or the possibilities of 80s and 90s cartoon crossovers. My cousin, also on the spectrum, would greet me with “it was Peter Quill’s fault” or “have you seen JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure?” and then discuss the pros and cons of each Stand. None of them asked me if I have a boyfriend, when I going to get married, what I do for a living, who’s going to take care of me if I get old and I don’t have any children or engage in any god awfully inane small talk that most people do in the name of socialization or politeness. They don’t feel the need to fill the silence. There are no hidden motives, mindfucks or sleazy innuendos. I am actually more comfortable with them than with most neurotypical people. This is probably why I love Elijah so much.

    Forget Me Not is Elijah’s POV. I’m not on the spectrum but I really connected with him. His direct, no bullshit speech, his awkwardness at social situations, his discomfort at eye contact. I really hate eye contact too. I could see people’s micro expressions and they could see the flight mode in mine.

    I could also see myself geeking out with Daniel and Elijah over mnemography. JCP‘s science of mnemography raises many thought-provoking issues. I am curious about Elijah’s take on privacy and ethics now that he perfected a technology that allows one to enter another person’s mnem without permission. I’m pretty sure he has a lot to say about that.

    But it’s not just his intelligence and good looks that make Elijah outstanding. He is a brave, beautiful person who faced down bullies, overcame depression, worked around his difficulties, came up with out of the box solutions and helped Daniel be a little bit braver. Which is such an inspiration that when shit happens, I tell myself, if Elijah can handle this, so can I. And so now, for me, Elijah will always be Elijah Crowe

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Senses Working Overtime
    Artist: XTC
    Album: English Settlement

    3. Life Is Awesome – Jordan Castillo Price

    Daniel Schroeder wants nothing more than to repair his father’s broken memories, but it’s been a long time since he’s thought of himself as a memorysmith. Even though convincing Big Dan of their current reality is the most painful task Daniel faces every morning, somehow life manages to prevent him from finding a cure. He needs to keep their family business running. And he needs to moonlight at a competitor’s shop to keep all his employees paid. Or maybe he’s just trying to keep himself from exacerbating the situation. 

    A year ago, Daniel would have presumed he was clever enough to memorysmith his way out of their predicament, but nowadays he’s not so cavalier. Playing with people’s memories shouldn’t be taken lightly, and things can always get worse. Even with the help of some of the best minds in the business, Daniel still isn’t sure how to navigate his way out of the persistent false memory that’s crippled his life. Is new programming the answer? Better gear? More money? Or is time the only thing that can heal Big Dan’s memories…if they can even be fixed at all. 

    What Daniel needs most is some breathing room, and Elijah Crowe is eager to provide it. Since he’s smitten with Daniel, Elijah is determined to prove himself—and he’s more than qualified to clear Daniel’s schedule by taking over some duties at Adventuretech. With the support of his new boyfriend, possibilities begin to open up for Daniel, hints of things he hasn’t even realized he’d stopped hoping for: the contentment of a harmonious family, the fulfillment of his creative expression, and a chance for a relationship with a man he loves. 

    This book completes the Mnevermind Trilogy.

    Life is Awesome shifts back to Daniel’s POV. It is also the name of the mnem Daniel created that went persistent. Daniel was convinced it was his fault but Elijah was determined to prove him otherwise. Daniel and Elijah also tried to work out the kinks in their relationship like Elijah’s bottoming issues which makes for hella awkward and really funny sex scenes. I was also bracing myself for more painful scenes with Daniel’s mother but thankfully, it only happened once in the second book and never again. This time Big Dan was more aware of his condition. With Elijah’s help, they created anchors to help him remember, easing some of Daniel’s burdens. I started to feel a little relieved at the way things seemed to be looking up and then, shit hits the fan and the Schroeders are in serious danger of losing the business. Damn!

    The learning curve was steep, the hurdles insurmountable. But instead of giving us a resolution where problems magically disappear with the help of the technology, the solutions were workarounds, but, still very clever, very satisfying and realistic. It was the kind of perfect imperfect ending for our two flawed but lovable heroes. Daniel and Elijah were made for each other. Their dynamics is one of my favorite among MM couples. I wish Big Dan all the best and I’m glad he was doing all he could to move on. Ultimately, the takeaway here is we can keep fighting for that awesome dream but sometimes it’s a matter of knowing when to stop struggling and choosing to be happy.

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    P.S.

    I most definitely recommend listening to the audiobook compilation Mnevermind: Remember Tomorrow narrated by the brilliant Seth Clayton.

    review of JCP books here

    Soundtrack: Two Kinds of Happiness
    Artist: The Strokes
    Album: Angles

  • Uncategorized

    I’d spent so long feeling like I couldn’t do anything right, I was in a prime position to appreciate the fact that I found it very easy to make Elijah happy. … Phenomenally satisfying things, but simple, even to the point of being mundane. Those are the experiences that make up the bedrock of a happy life. Not the roller coasters, but the long, easy stretches of road.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: GhosTV by Jordan Castillo Price

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    Psycop: GhosTV – Jordan Castillo Price

    For the past dozen years, Victor Bayne has solved numerous murders by interrogating witnesses only he can see—dead witnesses. But when his best friend Lisa goes missing from the sunny California campus of PsyTrain, the last thing he wants to find there is her spirit.

    Disappearing without a trace in a school full of psychics? That’s some trick. But somehow both Lisa and her roommate have vanished into thin air. A group of fanatics called Five Faith has been sniffing around, and Lisa’s email is compromised. 

    Time is running out, and with no ghosts to cross-examine, Vic can’t afford to turn down any offers of help. An old enemy can provide an innovative way to track Vic’s missing friend, and he enters into an uneasy alliance—even though its ultimate cost will ensnare him in a debt he may never manage to settle.

    Screw Lisa, I want to be Victor Bayne’s bestfriend!

    The book starts with Vic getting a haircut from Crash. His hair now looked ridiculously good. I’m a sucker for guys with great hair, I wanted to glomp him.

    Image result for glomp gif

    That would annoy the hell out of him but if I am in trouble, he’ll save my life anyway.

    Also as your bestfriend, Vic. I say quit this athletic bullshit. I’d give my right hand to be as naturally skinny as you.

    Vic continues to be AWESOME and walked the astral plane like the “so far beyond level 5 it’s not even funny” medium that he is. Loved that Jacob also gets in on some psychic action as well. The two men are so deeply connected, they take OTP to a whole new level. At this point, I don’t even care if they don’t get married at all. That candy cane cord says they’re solid no matter what plane they are on.

    Maybe because he gets to hang around longer but I’m starting to warm up to Dreyfuss. Still, he remains dodgy till the end. As for Lisa, even with the power of si/no, she still gets into some deep shit. She and her roommate were nowhere to be found and someone is going around making people disappear. The only reason I care about this at all is that Vic and Jacob were investigating. The villain in this installment is among the creepiest in the series, someone who is as powerful as Vic, sees oneself as crazy and can rip a person from their reality. Also, we get a blast from the past. Faun Winsome resurfaces with a different name and the same bossy, know it all attitude that had endeared her to no one. Among Vic’s Camp Hell batchmates, only Richie seemed the most innocuous.

    GhosTV clocked in at 12+ hours, most of it spend in the PsyTrain Institute where Vic and Jacob attended lectures on astral walking 101 and tinkered with the ghostv. Doesn’t sound very exciting at all if I say it like that but this book upped the ante even more. The mystery and succeeding investigations peeled many layers off the overarching thread, revealed more details about the different psychic abilities, entangled Vic and Jacob deeper into FPMP business and caused major AND shocking life-changing decisions. Vic continues to be one of the most enjoyable first person narrators and this is the most powered up I’ve seen him so far. He’ll never admit it, not even if Crash dyes his hair green, but I think he had fun.

    P.S.

    review of Psycop books here
    review of JCP’s books here

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Face To Face On High Places
    Artist: School of Seven Bells
    Album: Alpinisms

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: Bad Valentine Series by Jesi Lea Ryan, Jordan Castillo Price, Claire London & Dev Bentham

    My better late than never Valentine special.

    The BAD VALENTINE series are lighthearted Valentine’s Day shorts by four different authors, each story written with the same opening line: “Nothing good ever came of a Valentine.” 

    Love Magic – Jesi Lea Ryan

    “The day I met Derrick while playing my violin in the park was magical. Unfortunately, magic and love together don’t always mix.” 

    Oliver met Derrick while busking in the park, and they hit it off from the start. At first, Derrick’s “mysterious magician” vibe was intriguing, but after two botched dates, Oliver was ready to call it quits. 

    Fearing he lost his chance with Oliver, Derrick makes a last-ditch effort to win Oliver’s heart with a romantic Valentine’s date. But when love and magic collide, things tend to go awry. Will these two guys make it through the date unscathed?

    This one’s cute!

    I liked the idea of a musician and magician couple and they met in such a delightful way. However, Oliver, the musician, has just about enough of the botched dates but he knew deep down there’s something about Derrick. Derrick, the magician, was endearingly shy and I felt sorry for him, the poor guy is really trying.

    While the disasters were not as cringe-inducing and funny as in Hidden Hearts, Love Magic is still charming and sweet. The magical element is a plus and I liked how it was worked into the story.

    Overall, a fun, lighthearted rom-com with a touch of paranormal.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Quill Me Now – Jordan Castillo Price

    What if the words you wrote came true? 

    Spellcraft isn’t exactly a respectable business, but it does pay the bills. At least, it should. Unfortunately, Dixon Penn failed his Spellcraft initiation. Instead of working in his family’s shop, he’s stuck delivering takeout orders in his uncle’s beat-up Buick.

    Winning a Valentine’s Day contest at the largest greeting card company in the tri-state area would be just the thing to get his life back on track—but something at Precious Greetings just doesn’t add up. And despite numerous warnings to quit pestering them about his contest entry, he just can’t stop himself from coming back again and again.

    It doesn’t hurt that the head of security is such a hottie. If Dixon had any common sense, he’d be scared of the big, mysterious, tattooed Russian.

    To be fair, no one ever accused him of being too smart….

    I have sung praises to Jordan Castillo Price‘s worldbuilding before and Quill Me Now is one of her best ones yet. I was heavily immersed in the world of Scriveners and Seers and I really liked this novel magic system where magic work in two parts.

    Quill Me Now follows Dixon’s persistent but very foolish attempt at getting a job at Precious Greetings despite all the red flags and a very explicit warning from Yuri to STAY AWAY. Never in my wildest imagination had it occur to me that a greeting card company could be so sinister. Extra props to JCP for making me see Hallmark in a different light. The story was nicely resolved but of course it left me wanting more. So I was pretty happy to know that this is going to be a series. YES! We haven’t seen the last of Dixon and Yuri yet.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Hidden Hearts – Clare London

    Accident-prone Ethan has a dating history that reads like a disaster movie script. Strong and silent Kel can’t seem to master the necessary small-talk on a proper date. When they both get signed up anonymously for a Valentines’s night event—”for those with an adventurous spirit but an open diary”—they never imagined they’d be matched. They never imagined the romantic sparks would fly. To be honest, they never imagined they’d survive the week. 

    A catalogue of disasters dogs the footsteps of their blossoming romance, including a coffee date with food allergies as an added extra, an intimate dinner that strays too close for comfort to chopped chillies, and a sensual massage with hot wax candles that threatens to alert the local fire brigade. 

    But if they can hold tight to their sweet, surprising, yet single-minded attraction – they might just survive this Valentine’s Day with something very special to look forward to. 

    I usually complain about things happening too fast, but here is the perfect example of insta-attraction done right. Clare London deftly laid out the development of Ethan and Kel’s relationship in the course of a couple of days in a very believable and hilarious way. It helps that the MCs were both adorable individually and as a couple.

    Ethan is a complete klutz and his dates with Kel were one awkward disaster after another but you know that a guy is really into you when you set his shlong on fire and he still calls you back. I love how Kel is so patient with Ethan despite everything. They really are the perfect match.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Temporary Dad – Dev Bentham

    Nick Compton owns a small but mighty fashion magazine. He already has enough on his plate, between work and, well, work. There’s no room for a kid in his life but when his sister drops her seven-year-old daughter for an extended stay, he has to figure it out. Just before his niece arrives, Nick meets a blazing hot firefighter. They get on like a house a fire and the sex—scorching. Too bad the he disappeared in the morning. Like smoke. Now Nick’s stuck with a kid he doesn’t know how to manage and without the man he’d love to get his hands on again. 

    Dylan Gil wishes like hell he hadn’t taken his roommates advice and lied about who he was. He’s finally met someone he really likes and can’t stop thinking about. But now he’s too embarrassed to confess that he’s just a second-grade teacher, not a manly firefighter. Good thing that work gets distracting, particularly when one of his brightest students goes to stay with her uncle and all hell breaks loose. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. 

    If the term “dad pants” means anything it’s that taking care of children and fashion aren’t compatible. Does that mean these two doomed? Or is this the beginning of forever? 

    This was the weakest of the bunch. I actually DNF’ed this because I don’t have the patience to deal with Ruby plus I didn’t warm up to Nick and Dylan.

    This is more of a ME problem mainly because parenting stories are not interesting to me. For those into gay couples with children, this might work better for you.

    Rating:
    2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book

    Soundtrack: You Are The Right One
    Artist: Sports
    Album: Sports

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Devil Take Me by Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, Jordan L. Hawk, T.A. Moore, C.S. Poe & Jordan Castillo Price

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    Devil Take Me by Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale, Jordan L. Hawk, T.A. Moore, C.S. Poe & Jordan Castillo Price

    Temptation lurks around every corner in worlds sometimes dark, sometimes lurid. Giving in is both dangerous and satisfying, though never in the ways one expects. While these enticements offer a vast range of benefits and boons, the cost is a soul and the devil expects his due. Sometimes suave and charming or calculating and cruel, these devils have schemes and desires of their own. They can be creatures to run away from… or toward.

    Join the most unique and celebrated authors of LGBT urban fantasy and paranormal fiction for a fast-paced and unpredictable ride, from a city on the other side of reality, to a world suspended in dusk, to a twisted version of the 1960s and 70s.

    Meet devils in top hats and waistcoats, a defrocked motorcycle-riding priest, and a genderfluid antihero—among many more. Full of humor, romance, horror, action, intrigue, and magic, these stories have one common element….

    They’re one hell of a good time.

    I am the type of reader who, when I see the words raven king, dark duke or devil in winter in the title expects some being who can magically control ravens or actually came from hell only to be let down when they invariable turn out to be just some bastard with poor manners. So I was delighted to know that Devil Take Me was quite literal.

    This anthology features a stellar list of authors, among them my favorites Jordan L. Hawk and Jordan Castillo Price, giving their own take on the theme of selling the soul to the devil and trying to get it back.

    Infernal Affairs by Jordan L. Hawk: Fluffpaw’s crossroads demon Ralgath, first day on the job, answered a summoning from Chess, a non-binary who wanted to be a hero. Turns out Chess was more than he bargained for. Outwitted by a human, he was demoted to customer service but was later given a chance to redeem himself. Luckily for the demon, Fluffpaw was there to help him.

    The lightest and fluffiest story of the anthology. Written in an ironic tone and about as serious as Greg Trembley’s demon voice for Ralgath. Ralgath and Chess were so cute, I’d hurl my tablet if they don’t end up together!

    Collared by T.A. Moore: Ex-priest, Jack, was commanded by his personal demon Math to find what was stolen from him…

    which took forever to find that I didn’t care anymore. However, I did enjoyed the gruesome horror and Math and Jack’s twisted relationship.

    Counterfeit Viscount by Ginn Hale: Archie sold his soul to Nimble, a prodigal conjurer and he was given the chance to get it back by helping Nimble solve a case.

    Set in the same world as Wicked Gentlemen, which I haven’t read yet, but now I’m curious. Loved the camaraderie and banter between Archie and Nimble and that twist that I didn’t see coming. Very satisfying epilogue too.

    11:59 by C.S. Poe: Death-defy battles against nightmares is the order of the day everyday for Asuka. The monster slayer, tired and merely a shell of his former self, meets the bookworm Merrick, cheerful and full of life. Merrick persistently pursues Asuka and through his knowledge of mythology, helps him defeat the source of nightmares.

    This I would love to see as an anime! The freeze frame scene of Asuka falling off a building in a rain of glass is classic. Merrick believing Asuka is a real hero is adorbs! Merrick is cute as a button but really, I was shipping Asuka with the Devil himself.

    Wonderland City by Rhys Ford: Wonderland is in trouble as another little girl came through the mirror. Every citizen of Wonderland knows there’s nothing as dangerous as a human child. Xander Spade, with the help of deposed prince, Jean Michel and brave dog, Blue, was tasked by Oz, the Devil to find the child, Naomi, in exchange for returning his soul and going back home to the other side of the looking glass.

    At first, this was as whimsical and topsy turvy as the original which I loved. Then came the confrontation with the Red Queen and everything became bloody, chaotic, painful and downright horrifying which I loved too. I know the queens of Wonderland are crazy but here, they are monstrously psychopathic. The process of letting the beast out was drawn out in every excruciating detail and my heart went out to Xander. The romance was there or it will be there once Xander stops putting Jean Michel at arms length.

    Dark Favors by Jordan Castillo Price: When Johnny was young enough to fearless, he unwittingly sold himself to the Old Man. Fast forward to 1979 and the Old Man asks Johnny a big favor: kill somebody.

    I hate dub-con situations and here comes the big dub-con scene as the highlight. Great. Would have skipped it but it was crucial to the story. Also, I felt conflicted because Adam harassed Johnny and I should hate him for it but at the same time I was drawn to his affable, confident personality and I think he should have just charmed his way through Johnny’s hardcore shell instead of tying him to a chair. On the upside, JCP‘s world-building was expertly crafted as usual and the idea of favors as currency was executed well.

    Rating:
    Infernal Affairs – 4 Stars 
    Collared – 3 Stars
    Counterfeit Viscount – 4 Stars
    11:59 – 4 Stars
    Wonderland City – 4 Stars
    Dark Favors – 3 Stars

    Overall:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: A Good Idea At The Time
    Artist: Ok Go
    Album: Oh No