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    PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE (Jan 1, 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: Ramen Assassin by Rhys Ford

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    Ramen Assassin – Rhys Ford

    When life gives Kuro Jenkins lemons, he wants to make ponzu to serve at his Los Angeles ramen shop.

    Instead he’s dodging bullets and wondering how the hell he ended up back in the black ops lifestyle he left behind. After rescuing former child star Trey Bishop from a pair of murderous thugs, he reluctantly picks his guns up again. It seems trouble isn’t done with Trey, and Kuro can’t quite let go… of either danger or Trey.

    Trey never denied his life’s downward spiral was his own fault. After stints in rehab, he’s finally shaken off his Hollywood bad-boy lifestyle, but not his reputation. The destruction of his career and relationships was epic, and no one trusts anything he says, including the LAPD. When two men dragging a dead body spot him on a late-night run, then try to murder him, Trey is thankful for the tall, dark, and deadly ramen shop owner not just for rescuing him, but also for believing him.

    Now caught in a web of murders and lies, Trey knows someone wants him dead, and the only one on his side is a man with dark secrets. Trey hopes Kuro will stick around to see what the future holds for them once the dust settles, but from the looks of things, neither of them may survive to find out.

    Kurotsuki ‘Kuro’Jenkins whose name literally means black moon (and how cool is that!) tried taking it easy. He really did. As a veteran black ops agent, he had many dangerous missions under his belt. He wanted to do more had he not been seriously injured and was forced to retire. He was doing a good job lying low so far when trouble came running towards him in the form of Trey Bishop, former child star and recovering addict. The former black ops turned ramen chef had to help because he has a soft spot for underdogs. Plus the man was a regular customer.

    Harrington ‘Trey’ Bishop III went down the route of most Hollywood child stars. He has done it all and been in and out of rehab for most his life. Now at 28, he’s washed up and lived on his father’s dole-outs. In all fairness to Trey, he was really, sincerely trying to get better. Just that, no one believes him. He routinely jogs anytime he feels the urge to drink or shoot. It was on one of these runs that he met bad luck in the form of two men trying to dispose a dead body in the wee hours of the morning. Lucky for him, a certain ramen shop owner he has a crush on was secretly packing high calibers and saved his ass.

    “…you’re my particularly favorite brand of trouble.”

    Their mutual attraction had been going on for months. It was the alleyway incident that finally broke the ice. The ramen chef has white knight tendencies and the younger man brought out his protective side. The romance happened over the few days of things going tits up. I didn’t mind the insta-ness of it all. Dead people aside, it was soft and sweet. I was sold.

    I appreciated the way Kuro handled Trey’s many issues. He did not try to ‘fix’ him. He could see outright that the former actor was doing his best to deal with his demons. I especially approved of the way he stood up for him when Trey’s sister, Kimber, was putting him down yet again.

    I admired Trey’s determination in the face of all the negativity he received especially from his own family. His only friend was his father’s former mistress. He needed an extra boost and Kuro was the guy to give him what he needed. I rooted for Trey all the way. He’s a genuinely nice person who had the misfortune of growing up in Hollywood and picking up many bad habits. It’s not all that bad because some of the moves he learned on sets were used in a creative ways to help him out of sticky situations. Which made things a whole lot of fun.

    Bonus that Ramen Assassin contains an interesting lesbian couple. If ever Rhys Ford decide to write FF stories, if she hasn’t yet, Boom Boom and Kimber is a good place to start. I’m super intrigued with how a former Russian spy and an LAPD police lieutenant would make it work.

    Kimber is Trey’s older sister by 15 years. She bucked family expectations by becoming a cop. I didn’t like her at first. She hardly gave him the benefit of the doubt and she said many harsh words. But she redeemed herself in the end. Tatiana aka Boom Boom aka Black Widow is Trey’s dad’s bodyguard/right hand woman/former demolitions expert. She and Kuro had a colorful history together. Now she’s on their side. She almost stole the show.

    Face claims are in order:

    This is my first full-length Rhys Ford novel. I wasn’t disappointed though not entirely blown away either. It fell somewhere between like and love. I enjoyed how she brought all the elements together, from Kuro’s hush-hush past to Trey’s sordid family dramas and how they inter-played nicely with the murder mystery and the romance. Many of the characters were well-fleshed out, even if some were not entirely likable. The latter was more in keeping with a character’s personality and not due to poor writing.

    I prefer mysteries where the villain was present most of the time, just not obvious. This gives a more satisfying aha moment but trickier to execute without making it predictable. Still, the mystery was a good one, leaving me guessing until the last 20%. The turn of events made it plausible that the MC finally met the villain face-to-face at the time he did. Though I felt it would be more interesting if he made an early appearance.

    Ramen Assassin is very much a story of people struggling to start a new life. It is also an entertaining murder mystery with action scenes this side of OTT and plot twisty enough to keep things exciting. Even if it’s only an HFN, I’m so glad things are finally looking up for Trey. They might not be on my top ten but I’m fully invested on him and Kuro and will follow their next adventures.

    Time for that comeback!


    Rhys Ford stories here

    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Begin Again
    Artist: Purity Ring
    Album: Another Eternity

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    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.

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

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

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