Welcome to my dungeon ~ book reviews, musings, education and book challenges relating to erotica, graphic sex and more. I love gentle pain mixed with rough pleasure.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: The Mediator

The Mediator The Mediator by Milana Jacks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Want something unique? Want something different and off the wall? Milana Jacks' first book in this series is totally different than most books I've read. It took a little while for my mind to wrap around what was going on. There are shifters and then there is "other". Jade is one of a kind. It is hard to explain what she is unless you've watched something like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. This first in the series sets the tone.

The world building is well done and pulls me in. In this world, there are demons (?), shifters and the hybrids. When there are issues with the in between, land, a mediator is needed to help resolve the issue. Said mediator is Jade. Jade is a special blend. Born a human but more, she is able to work within each group's rules. Her success rate for closing cases is 100%. But when she doesn't have all the information, it gets difficult to protect those that need to be protected. And it's hard to hold those who should be held accountable.

What I like about this story is that it is so unfamiliar, my brain has to stretch to understand what is going on. It is refreshing because I cannot predict what will happen; I'm just along for the ride. The ride is wild as the reader learns more about each group and what they find to be important. Hidden alliances hint at intrigue whilst powerful forces fight to take control of Jade.

The conflict in this story is well written and it ends with a question mark. It isn't exactly a cliffhanger. It is a hook that makes me want to read the next book and see what happens to Jade. What will happen to the one other person like her? Will that person be left alone? Jade may have uncovered a plot to control shifters and take their land, but it isn't over yet. This strangely intriguing urban fantasy is filled with twists and turns that delight me. Recommended for urban fantasy readers who are looking for something different.

* provided by the author for an honest review.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Birdwoman Blog Hop

@jeffekennedy this story is disturbing and makes one think


Excerpt
The house perched on a cliff, looking over the Strait of Georgia through a wall of glass. Water, mist, and the rounded humps of islands filled every room, from kitchen to atrium to bedroom, with the sound opening eastward to far glimpses of the mainland. To the north, an island rose. At its tip, a pale lighthouse, ringed by a black widow’s walk, beat a slow tempo and revealed the depth of fog through the night. A smaller island lay behind, in the first one’s shadow.
            During the first few days of our stay, I spent my time watching the pulse of the lighthouse and the rise and fall of light and rain, and listening to the ghostly woofing of seals on their spits that shrank and grew with the tides. February on Vancouver Island sifts in muffled grayscale. But unlike the hard-frozen winter of home, the foliage remains lushly green. Instead of the dizzying highs and lows when the cycle of light alternately heats and freezes our thin Wyoming air, the island air extends out of the water and shifts temperature by only a few degrees, over hours and days like the ocean.
            Storms came through, detectable because the mist condensed into falling droplets, which sometimes hardened into rain. The fog thinned to shroud only the most distant sights, then without movement, would hide the small island, then the larger, then slide up against our windows, on our island, concealing even the garden lights along the porch.
            I settled into the hush.
            After those first few days, curled up in a chair in the atrium andwatching the water, I picked up a pamphlet and found there were ferries to our companion islands, identified as Manden and Mirnby. They boasted of glass-blowers and glass artisans, complete with a map of the island and their helpfully numbered studios, along with lighthouses, hiking trails and petroglyphs. A hand-blown starfish sat on a coffee table in the living room; I felt sure the Manden artist’s colony housed the starfish maker and that I would be able to acquire one of my own, to turn over in my hands far from the beat of the lighthouse.
            Also, petroglyphs have become a kind of quest for us. The search appeals to David and I as scientists, and it takes us down trails we wouldn’t otherwise pick, showing us new flora, fauna, geology. And we like the chance to touch the artifacts of the past, of another people, wonder at the ancient magic they invoked with their designs.
            It required motivation, to get up and dressed by a pre-set time. We drove down the coastal highway past the fish plants and roadside pubs, to the ferry station. Among the vehicles that rolled off the ferry from Manden was a yellow school bus, complete with round faces pressed against the rain and salt splattered windows. Commuters waved or nodded at the waiting ferry riders, but their movements paused for us in our rental car, masquerading with local plates. As they moved past, their faces turned back to track us.
            We missed the town on our first pass out of the ferry station. Even accustomed to the blink-towns of Wyoming, we had expected more “town” than was there and mistook the scatter of low lodges and a wooden gabled house for a sort of commune. So we came back down the hill, winding into the silent harbor area, to look for the first numbered artist on my map. Instead we found a “Closed for the Season” sign, and an “Open 1-3” sign on another—mornings apparently see people leave Manden Island. Since our few fellow travelers on the ferry had long since disappeared up the hill road, we had yet to see any people.



Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. 
Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014 and the third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books will follow in this world, beginning with The Pages of the Mind May 2016. A fifth series, the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, started with Going Under, and was followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract.  
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: The Tenth Muse

The Tenth Muse The Tenth Muse by Belinda McBride
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Romance Review

This story possesses it all: love, betrayal and hope. This story moved me both from a character perspective as well as a plot development. My heart hurt as Ms. McBride punches her characters in the gut over and over. For those who enjoy Greek tragedies, this is the one for you. The reader's emotions are dragged through a flogging with steel tips.

On the surface, this tale starts out a bit frivolous with Eros behaving badly on earth. To get him in line, Aphrodite decides to send Rees to bring Eros back into line. Eros comes across as a spoiled brat trying to get attention from his parents. Rees is the dutiful helper. He's the tenth muse. This artistic license was okay for me as I have always learned there were nine muses. I am not going to delve too much into the character development because it is best experienced. When Rees and Eros meet, this is when the story becomes interesting.

Ms. McBride morphs this Greek Mythos with her special twist. This new version is just as agony filled with selfish lovers and hubris demi-gods. It is true what they say, those who forget the past will be doomed to repeat it. This reinterpretation of Eros and Psyche along with another much loved Greek story is masterfully done. Ms. McBride blends the old with new and transforms it into a new love with hope and endless possibilities.

In order to get to this happily ever after, the journey does take some dark turns. It shows how some people will lose their mind trying to find their inspiration or what they consider a "muse". This frightening rendition of stalker is horrifying and helps set up the big reveal as everything needs to be shattered in order to bring about rebirth. I am very impressed with Ms. McBride's writing. This is a lovely tale rich with strong imagery and powerful emotions. Highly recommended for m/m romance readers who enjoy an angst filled odyssey ending with a passionate finish.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Star Crossed

Star Crossed Star Crossed by Emma Holly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Romance Review

Sultry, suspense and star-crossed! I read the blurb and I thought, I have to read this to see what Ms. Holly does to crank up the sexual tension.

A.J. Hoyt is woman who is strong and will take no crap from anyone. She's been kicked down before but it didn't put her down. She came back up fighting and still finding a way to do what she loves. She may no longer have a badge in law enforcement, but she can still work a case better than others. She has the connections and she knows how to pay attention to the details to find clues that others miss. Moving on from her law enforcement days, she now works in the private sector for a security company run by her father. When her latest assignment takes her back to a lover she had to let go, it may be her chance to find love again.

Ms. Holly delivers another sexy erotic story about two tough characters. Both A.J. and Luke are stubborn and used to getting their way. Their chemistry is blazing hot and everyone around them is impacted by their sexual tension. The sex is, as always, fabulous with erotic scenes designed to raise the body temperature of the reader.

What I liked about this book is that it is more than just an erotic sex fest. Ms. Holly develops her characters. The motivations and back story build a solid picture of both A.J. and Luke. Their past is what makes them who they are today. Their maturity through past experiences are shown as they handle problems and communicate with each other without whining or drama. Sure, it is probably not recommended to sleep with the client, but that is what makes this story naughtily illicit. Dancing this fine line is appealing and generates a feeling of wicked fun. Ms. Holly gives a mischievous wink as she invites the reader into her world of blurring the lines and enjoying life with passion and intensity.

This erotic romance is recommended for readers who like lovers reunited at the right time.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: Worth the Wait

Worth the Wait Worth the Wait by Joey W. Hill
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Romance Review

Waiting for the right person and the right time is not easy to do. For those who see their friends and family finding their "one" early on in life, it makes a gal nervous. Especially when said gal hits the big milestone of 40. Julie is resigned to a life filled with her work. She is passionate about her job as a theater manager. And this may be all the passion she will have out of life. When she takes on setting up a theater with an erotic showcase theme focused on kink positive, things change for the better.

I really enjoyed the BDSM in this story. For those who are rope bunnies and riggers, this story will send them over the moon. Ms. Hill does an excellent job of incorporating rope work and rigging for both the show and personal interaction between Julie and Desmond. It shows that Ms. Hill either researched into this type of play and/or she has tried it. Her attention to detail from scene set up to presentation shows an understanding of BDSM at a deeper level. This authenticity adds a realistic layer to this erotic tale. Instead of a BDSM book or a book with a bit of BDSM thrown in, this story is an erotic romance with a sexy blend of kinky fun.

It is also nice to see how this book shows some of the mistakes that can happen without being lecturing. The comparison between a demonstration on stage versus a scene on the floor is well done. There is a certain showmanship required to wow and entice the crowd. Ms. Hill hits upon many of the tips and tricks I have seen, used or been a part of for BDSM presentations.

What I really liked about this book is how it showcases BDSM in a positive light. I like the outreach message through education and familiarization. I also really liked the characters who were relatable and people I can identify with. Both Julie and Desmond remind me of people in the BDSM community where I live. Ms. Hill gives a good glimpse into the people and the lifestyle whilst softening the rough edges. What do I mean by rough edges? I mean that for the most part, people in the lifestyle are not as great with communication as Julie and Desmond. Even if Julie and Desmond had a few disconnects, they are relatively drama free and both behaved in a mature manner.

The chemistry between Julie and Desmond is lovely because it is slow and sultry. It is a buildup which comes across more naturally compared to many instalove romances. I like how both are a bit wary but they can put those fears aside and learn about each other. They talk and have fun outside of BDSM. It isn't all about kink. Kink is just a natural part of their life as if they were breathing. This is what really made me happy--the blending of two worlds into a cohesive fulfilling one.

Ms. Hill is an extraordinary storyteller who whisks readers into a lovely world where a supportive community exists. This tale leaves a reader feeling happy, hopeful and turned on. Highly recommended for kinky readers who enjoy the exhibitionist side to BDSM.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: Unwanted

Unwanted Unwanted by Jennifer Estep
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This story of being on the slow path of redemption features Finn post mother fall out. Finn is a man who can con the best of them. When his supposed dead mother returns to life and into Finn's life, he throws all caution to the wind. When he's badly burn with no one else to blame, he is left in not only an awkward position but a rough place. None of his coworkers trust him anymore. He's alienated everyone by causing the deaths of innocent people. He also hurt his foster sister, Gin. Fortunately for Finn, Gin is always loyal and ever ready to forgive. No matter how many times the people in her life kick her in the gut, she is still always gracious and supportive. I don't know how she does it.

This short little novella shows how Finn's every act to mend fences with his coworkers is rebuffed. It can be totally demoralizing but he takes it all because he feels he deserves it. When a chance to help the widow of one of the slayer bank workers comes about, Finn blunders head first without his usual suave preparation. His lack of confidence shows clearly and criminals pick up on it.

Ms. Estep's systematic deconstruction of Finn into his lowest level is painful to witness, even if it is needed. The way she allows the character to grow and mature through mistakes is admirable. Finn comes back stronger, better and a little wiser. I thoroughly enjoyed this little feature on Finn. Recommended for readers who enjoy a redemption theme with a happily for now ending.

*provided by NetGalley

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Oria's Gambit Blog Hop



@jeffekennedy #blogtour #bookrelease
A Play For Power
Princess Oria has one chance to keep her word and stop her brother’s reign of terror: She must become queen. All she has to do is marry first. And marry Lonen, the barbarian king who defeated her city bare weeks ago, who can never join her in a marriage of minds, who can never even touch her—no matter how badly she wants him to.

A Fragile Bond
To rule is to suffer, but Lonen never thought his marriage would become a torment. Still, he’s a resourceful man. He can play the brute conqueror for Oria’s faceless officials and bide his time with his wife. And as he coaxes secrets from Oria, he may yet change their fate…

An Impossible Demand
With deception layering on deception, Lonen and Oria must claim the throne and brazen out the doubters. Failure means death— for them and their people.

But success might mean an alliance powerful beyond imagining...


The golem’s glassy claws flashed, arcing through the rosy light of the moon, and sliced open his throat. Blood poured down his naked body, steaming in the chill desert air. Out it flowed, sweeping around him like the bore tides of Bára. So much of it pooled around him that he began to drown in it. He strained to lift his battle axe, to cut the golem down with cold iron, but found a flower in his hands instead.
A white lily, luminescent and fragile, somehow escaping the blood that drained his life away.
The golem struck again and he shouted at it, no sound escaping. Because he had no throat left. Because he was dead.
How could he still be standing?
The golem’s claws dripped crimson and its black maw yawned, glistening with glasslike fangs. It wouldn’t ever die, forever coming after the Destrye until every last one of his people were dead, unless he managed to cut it down. Out of its mouth, sickly green fire blew, a lethal wind of flame that burned the crops and aqueducts. Not a golem then, but one of the Trom. Skin over bones, a humanoid spider, it grinned, lips red as the claws, hand reaching to turn him into skin without bones, nothing but pulped flesh. No, they were fingernails, enameled and jeweled. Natly’s elegant hands slicing across his throat again, lips curving in a lascivious smile. With that third swipe, his head tumbled to the ground, and as she reached for his cock with those scarlet daggers of her nails, he finally managed to shout his anguish and fury.
“Your Highness?”
Lonen jerked in the hot water, the nightmare shredding around him with the spray of droplets. The servant boy gave him a wide-eyed look. Bero. The Báran lad had attended him his last time at baths, too. He was in Bára, again, cleaning up after the journey. No Trom or golems here.
Except in his tortured brain.
“Did you need something, Your Highness? You called out, but I didn’t understand the words.” Bero carried a stack of the much lighter colorful clothes that men of Bára wore. Silk, Oria had called the fabric, another thing apparently made by insects. Despite its disturbing origins, and like the addictive and tangy sweet honey she’d also introduced him to, the cloth had an exotic loveliness, more refined than anything produced in his homeland.
Like the sorceress herself, both unsettling and compelling.
“No, I’m fine.” He cupped his hands and splashed water on his face. Sloppy of him, to have fallen asleep in the city of his enemy—and then failing to awaken at Bero’s footfalls as he approached. Too comfortable in the soothing waters. Too many months of short sleep. Ion would have slapped him upside the head hard enough to have his brain ringing for the carelessness. But his brother was dead and gone these many weeks, reduced to boneless pulp at the simple touch of the Trom’s evil hand.
“Would you care for wine or food now, King Lonen?” Bero asked in the trade tongue, setting out the soaps and oils. “Princess Oria said you’re to have anything you ask for.”
Luxurious baths, booze, and fine food—an excellent strategy to lull him into meekly doing the sorceress’s bidding. The nightmare had served as a timely reminder of his purpose here—to save his people from destruction, not to indulge in Oria’s gifts or seductive presence. He might have agreed to her startling proposal of marriage, but he’d proceed on his terms, not hers. For the sake of the Destrye and his sanity both.
“What are the chances of a decent steak?” He meant it as a joke, though the boy wouldn’t know that. The Bárans didn’t eat meat as a rule and, though the Destrye did, the grave losses to their livestock and wild game meant Lonen hadn’t had anything worth calling a steak since before Battles of Bára.
“Princess Oria said to tell you she sent some of the hunters to find meat for you, Your Highness. It might take a few hours, however. Until then the best she can offer is some meat kept to feed the animals, and our usual fare.”
  Him and livestock—both pets of the Bárans. But his stomach growled, cramping with hollow pain, so he told Bero to bring whatever, enjoying the quiet when the boy went to fetch it. It seemed like years, not weeks, since he’d last visited the baths. That evening he’d washed himself clean of the ashes of too many dead before negotiating the peace treaty with Oria. Short-lived as that peace had been.
Then, as now, the elegant beauty of the underground chambers both enchanted and intimidated him. Built of carved gold and rose stone like the rest of Bára, the baths were pools of still water, several of them at varying temperatures, going from shallow to deeper than a man could stand. Elaborately carved pillars and arches supported the shadowy ceiling, the subtle light of the sconces not quite enough to illuminate it or the far corners of the room.
For a man who’d learned to jump at shadows, he found it surprisingly lulling. As evidenced by his falling asleep deeply enough to dream, though the nightmares were nothing new. The cursed things plagued him most nights. Odd to see Natly in this one, though, rather than Oria stalking him. A facet perhaps of his dramatically changed reality—exchanging one fiancée for the other. It appeared that by agreeing to marry Oria, he’d now have Natly haunting his sleep.
 At least no one else had heard him cry out. He had the place to himself on this occasion. Probably the Bárans didn’t bathe in the middle of the day. The baths simply remained filled, awaiting their convenience.
A shocking waste of water.
Bero returned, setting down a platter of food and a jug of wine, along with a tray of shining instruments. “Would you like me to shave you before you eat, or after, Your Highness?”
Reflexively, Lonen clapped a hand over his beard. He had no doubt he looked scruffy from his travels, and in comparison to the Báran men who were all clean shaven that he’d seen, but...
“Is that another of Princess Oria’s edicts?” He asked, not bothering to disguise the sarcasm.
Bero ducked his head, clearly chagrined. “I apologize, Your Highness. Please forgive me. I did not mean to offend. When I serve the prince and folcwitas at their baths, they—”
Lonen held up a hand to stop the increasingly penitential torrent of explanation from the already nervous boy. “No apologies. I am short-tempered.” He rinsed himself one last time, then rose from the water.
“Your Highness, I did not mean to abbreviate your bath.” Bero sounded even more contrite.
“You didn’t. I’m clean and I don’t need to lie about, indulging myself.” Especially not while his people could be dying by the Trom’s dragon-breath while he luxuriated in deep water and napped. Oria had said she’d stop the incursions, but she’d also promised him that very thing before this. He had no reason to trust her—and plenty of evidence otherwise. Better to be ready to fight whatever battle presented itself next.
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. 
Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014 and the third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books will follow in this world, beginning with The Pages of the Mind May 2016. A fifth series, the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, started with Going Under, and was followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract.  
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.