• book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Dysfunctional by Isabel Lucero

    Dysfunctional – Isabel Lucero

    A dark, MM romance

    Ezra Hamilton hasn’t felt the warm spurt of blood flow through his fingers or the indescribable feeling of pushing a knife deep into someone’s flesh in a long time. Too long.

    He’s been watching a man stalk women, curious as to what he’s doing with them. Ezra’s never encountered someone with similar dark tendencies before, and what starts off as genuine curiosity turns into much more when Kaspian turns the tables on him.

    As their chemistry builds, so does the mistrust. They both know they can’t trust a killer, but their inner demons call to each other anyway.

    When Kaspian’s impulsivity threatens to ruin Ezra’s freedom, he knows he has to stop him. Kas appears to be fixated on Willow—a woman Ezra works with. In an effort to not have to worry about her disappearance bringing heat on him, he tracks Kaspian as Kaspian follows Willow into a cabin in the mountains.

    There, in the middle of a blizzard, secrets will be revealed and revelations made, but the chances of everybody making it out alive are slim.

    This is a dark romance that will have graphic scenes. Warnings are on the author’s website. 18+


    Ever since Hannigram, I have been looking for more murder husbands stories so Dysfunctional is right up my alley.

    The premise reminded me of Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Brite, where one serial killer falls in love with another. One difference, however, is that both MCs are bisexual.

    The story starts with Ezra Hamilton, a psychopathic killer trying to lead a normal life. He noticed a tattooed young man, Kaspian, stalking several women. Intrigued, he proceeded to stalk him in return. Observing that these women soon disappeared, he recognized a kindred spirit. One day, he followed Kas and his victim to a hotel, only to be confronted by Kaspian.

    This starts a little game of I-know-what-you-are-and-I’m-going-to-make-you-say-it. Later, as their relationship evolved, it turned into pushing buttons and testing limits. I’m living for the USTs and the power dynamics here!

    They danced around each, using innocent people as pawns while they exchanged long looks across the room. And this is both in the literal and figurative sense because some of the scenes happened in a club. The zing jumps off the page!

    I have a one niggle though. For experienced bad guys, they’re pretty sloppy. It’s a wonder they’re not caught yet.

    For instance, in the first few chapters, Ezra’s phone broke. He took it to a cellphone repair shop. Turns out Kas works there. I couldn’t believe, Ez just handed his phone over to Kas, knowing the guy is a fellow killer. Cellphone techs dig up a lot of shit from people’s phones. Ezra should have known better.

    Another thing, these two were not mentioned wearing gloves or any protective gear when they touched the victims. Heck, they even jerked each other off next to the grave after just burying their victim. They are spreading their DNA samples all over the place. So yeah, sloppy.

    But even with the lack of PPEs, the story completely grabbed me with its tightly paced writing that always held a thrum of tension. I loved how the plot explored the dynamics in so many interesting ways, twisting and turning with secrets and revelations that are part of a deadly mating ritual between Ezra and Kas. It became a question of who is after who. And why. It was the why that unleashed the monsters.

    There are some graphic scenes here so please heed the TWs. In terms of darkness, I say this is darkish grey. The murder scenes are short and to the point. Nothing gratuitous. There is some blood play as well. The two MCs are obviously bad guys but are shown with a code in the later part where they kill only evil-doers.

    Overall, Dysfunctional is a satisfying addition to my small but growing list of murder husbands books. It grabbed me from page 1, and I was riveted til the end. It was a weeknight, but I finished it in one sitting. It’s that good!

    There’s something so fascinating about stories where one’s crazy matches another’s insanity. Gives hope that there’s someone for everyone. Even the psychos.

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

    Soundtrack: Perfectly Deranged
    Artist: Dalby
    Album:


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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Exposed by H.L. Day

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    Exposed – H.L. Day

    A survival gay romance

    Sometimes salvation comes from the most unlikely hero.

    When Tate Gillespie is marked for death for a crime he didn’t commit, his life crumbles. In a world where ‘justice’ is meted out by a relentless military force, he’s going to need more than a mythical guardian angel. His life down to seconds, he’s saved by the mysterious X, a knife-wielding man he’s never even met before. But who is X? Is he the man who threatens and kills without a second thought? Or the strangely gentle man who only seems to act that way around Tate?

    X is a shadow. A wraith. A man who flits through the city virtually unseen. He’s got no time for people when knives are far more reliable. X does have one weakness though—the man he’s been keeping safe for years who doesn’t even know it. He’d burn the whole world to keep him alive. But what he won’t do is stake his claim. Tate’s not his and he needs to remember that, no matter how close they might become.

    With the military in hot pursuit, they’re going to need to rely on X’s skills to keep them both alive. Tate’s feelings are growing with every hour they spend together, but X is a tough nut to crack. Can two people from very different backgrounds really find common ground? Or will one of the many perils they face throughout their long journey drive them apart?

    It’s all about survival. Not love. Isn’t it?

    Exposed is a 132k action/adventure story featuring two men who couldn’t be more opposite.


    Exposed is a book where everything came together fabulously. Starting with the model on the cover who is spot-on as X. I was also thrilled to hear that not only was the narrator fantastic at bringing the characters to life, he delivered the story with an Australian accent. It’s such a rare treat!

    When I first read the blurb, I was super intrigued by the shadowy figure lurking in the dark. My guts told me this is going to be so good. It turned out to be one heck of an adventure and a touching chronicle of one man’s unconditional love and devotion.

    The book immediately pulled me into a dystopian world in what was supposedly the former Australian continent. The world-building is straightforward but detailed enough to set the vibe properly. The more affluent citizens lived in cities ruled by martial law. The rest lived in slums.

    There are talks of other cities, some underground, others, probably nothing more than myths. There is one somewhere in the north, past the desert, said to be a utopia for all. Nobody could verify its existence because none came back to do so. Either they did find the place or more likely, they died trying.

    Tate blissfully carries on with his life as a pharmaceutical employee in the city, unaware of the guardian shadow watching over him. One day, he was set up for a crime punishable by death. Just as he was about to be executed by the military police, he was saved by a mysterious knife-wielding man. The two quickly set off to find a haven and freedom, with the military hot on their heels.

    X is an assassin from the slums. This is a man who loves his knives so much he doesn’t let anyone touch them and live. He’s very anti-social, very taciturn, very broody. He is a hard man living a hard life. His sole purpose was to protect Tate, whether or not the man knew of his existence. Ask him how long he has been stalking him. That is how long he has been hopelessly in love with Tate.

    X!!! The name is perfect! I love him!!! X’s strength as a character was what carried me through the story. I’m happy the story is told in dual 1st person POVs because being inside X’s head was everything!

    The man is soft for Tate and only for Tate. He was a badass through and through. He’s tough even to himself. He doesn’t believe he is worthy of being loved. Not even when Tate already said he liked him.

    “It’s possible to want something but to not let yourself have it.”

    My heart went out to X during these moments. The man has a habit of talking himself into believing nobody’s going to love a killer like him. Mind you, he’s still very butch about it. The part that hit me the hardest was how X never, ever expects anything in return from Tate. He would have been okay with just escorting Tate to the underground city. Then, he would go off to the desert and die happy knowing the love of his life was safe.

    Tate took some time winning me over. He’s chatty, naïve, and occasionally bratty. He was slightly annoying at some points. But to give Tate his due, he was smart enough to figure X out. Also, he accepted X for who he is, dark past and all. The part where I appreciated Tate the most was where he truly understood how much the knives meant to X.

    The romance was both intense and gentle. The connection between X and Tate was a palpable, slow-burning energy, building heat until it went nuclear. It was a beautiful rendering of unrequited love getting requited.

    The characters and the romance developed over the course of their adventure. I don’t really go for stories where a long journey is involved because the traveling part bores me. Here, I did feel a very slight drag.

    However, the author skillfully kept the momentum going. I loved how she balanced the action scenes with the more emotional ones. I enjoyed how one moment we get crazy ninja moves and throat-slitting, then we get some downtime of X cleaning Tate’s wound with excruciating tenderness. And then it’s back to adrenaline-pumping chases and explosions. And a LOT of walking!

    Exposed is my first H.L. Day and definitely won’t be the last. It’s a brilliantly executed dystopian action/adventure love story driven by compelling characters that leave their mark. Gritty, suspenseful, thrilling, and deeply moving, it is two men’s mad dash to freedom and a hard-fought journey towards a lifetime together.

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

    Soundtrack: I’ll Fall With Your Knife
    Artist: Peter Murphy
    Album: Cascade


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    EXPOSED

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    REVIEW: How To Elude A Vampire by Alice Winters

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    VRC: Vampire Related Crimes: How To Elude A Vampire – Alice Winters

    Finn
    When the vampire stalking me sent me a letter, I was prepared for my new life with the man I love to get thrown into chaos. But as the days stretch on and nothing happens, I become determined not to allow that monster to rule my life, and decide that Marcus and I will move on. We can’t always allow the past to haunt us. If that includes pestering Marcus and harassing my fellow detectives, they’d better learn to love it, because I’m not going anywhere even if they like to remind me I’m the only human working in a department filled with vampires. But Marcus loves me for who I am, even if he’s not crazy about the cute pet names I call him like McBitey. Being with him is more than I could have dreamed, and even with the trials thrown in our way, he never fails to make me smile.

    Marcus
    When Finn joined the VRC, I never expected how everything would change. Now that he’s the brightest part of my days, I’m unsure of how I existed without him. Before Finn and I can settle into our new life together, we’re called in as lead detectives when a body is found in the river, and the case soon hits closer to home than we anticipated. I want to be by Finn’s side to keep him safe, but at the same time, Finn’s fighting for the freedom he’s always wanted after being forced to live a life of fear. What I do know is that my future is with Finn, no matter what happens.

    How to Elude a Vampire is the second in the VRC series and contains a display of manly prowess that doesn’t go as desired, reluctant bonding with a new pet, interfering with a snarky Russian’s love life, misuse of office supplies, a vampire with a killer fashion sense but very little game, a total lack of ancient kung fu powers, a feisty human who almost always gets his way and the possessive vampire who adores him.


    How To Vex A Vampire left us with a huge cliffhanger. As I mentioned in my review of the first book, I got too excited about the second book and read the reviews. I learned the name of Finn’s stalker is Dollmaker.

    HUGE clue right there.

    So I spent the sequel anticipating the big reveal because I knew I was right.

    I was!

    Far from feeling that the book was predictable, I was actually enjoying it more because knowing this guy was close to Finn most of his life only made it more sinister. Mostly, I wanted to see how it would play out.

    How To Elude A Vampire picks up six months after the events in the first book. Marcus and Finn are happy and have everything they need excerpt for that looming threat. They are now staying with Finn’s father, Orin, because his house is the most secure. Or so they thought.

    A series of murders connected to the Dollmaker, attacks right inside Orin’s house, more warnings from the stalker to quit the VRC, and overly protective vampires drove Finn up the wall. He’s tired of living in fear and feeling controlled.

    Nightmares that were actually memories revealed past events that led to Finn losing his arm and leg. We finally learn about Finn’s past as well as the history of vampires.

    I loved how the vampires rally to protect Finn. My boy Karsyn grumps his way through the book but you could tell he’ll die for his human friend if needed. There’s a great addition of Claude, Marcus’s outrageously dressed, outrageously flirty, surprisingly smart brother, who latched on to a certain snarky Russian vampire. These two!!!

    And we have Marcus. I have a better appreciation of Marcus here because six month earlier, he would have wrinkled his nose at the mere thought of interacting with humans. Now, this big bad vampire is so completely head over heels over his tiny human that he’s willing to make a fool of himself just to make him laugh. Witness another Date. Also, a lot of adorable mushy stuff.

    Marcus trying to impress Finn ♡ (≧◡≦) !!!

    With Finn and Marcus as an establish couple, the primary focus was the mystery. There were several nicely deployed plot twists that I didn’t see coming. There’s still a lot of snark and gags that were sometimes repetitive. There were many scenes where they completely ignored the pressing issue at hand just to exchange snarks. However, the plot moved at a fast pace and laid out Finn’s troubles in a way that kept me consistently engaged.

    The build-up, the showdown and the comeuppance played out quick but intensely suspenseful. All throughout the scene, I was at the edge of my seat wondering how Finn is going make it out of there alive. But the man is smart and resourceful and resilient as fuck. That and Marcus.

    How To Elude A Vampire gives us a happy end to Finn’s stalker woes. I kind of wish Finn was turned into a vampire just so he wouldn’t be injured so easily (and spare Marcus the agony of seeing the love of his life live die of old age while he gets to live forever <– my main issue with human + vampire couples) but that epilogue was super sweet.

    I’m glad the author did not drag this stalker business out for several more books. I felt as relieved as Finn and just as ready to move on to happier matters.

    Namely, Karsyn and Claude.

    P.S.

    The VRC books are not standalones and should be read in order. Witness how a short, sassy human charmed a grumpy, confident, 300-year old vampire into the best worst date ever in How To Vex A Vampire. Review here.

    Posts on Alice Winters books here.

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

    Soundtrack: Treat Me Like A Doll
    Artist: Girls Rituals
    Album: Reddishness


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