Riptide

Forest of Thorns and Claws by J.T. Hall

ForestRating: 4 stars
Genre: 
Paranormal; Shifters
Publication day:
 May 15, 2017
Length: 
247 pages  
Publisher:
 Riptide Publishing

Donovan McGinnis, a veterinarian and conservationist at a research center in Sumatra, is fighting to save the rainforest from poachers and politicians alike. One day he discovers a tigress trapped by a snare, and while treating her injuries, she bites him. He becomes ill with strange symptoms that leave him feverish and dreaming of the jungle and blood.

Kersen and his family are part of the Harimau jadian, a clan of tiger shifters hidden away in a secret village near the rainforest. When Kersen’s sister is caught, he knows he must free her before she infects someone with their magic and reveals their secret.

But Donovan has already been turned, and only time will tell if he can control the tiger within. Kersen must help him, but will the fierce attraction between the pair bring ruin to them all? With the rainforest under threat from outside forces, they may be doomed anyway, unless Kersen and Donovan can find a way to defeat the danger from inside and out.

My View: Forest of Thorns and Claws is a different type of shifter story, more magical realism than mainstream weres. The policies, culture, and everyday life of the villagers is an integral part of the story. It goes beyond the traditional mating pull to an educated possibility of weretigers living in unexploited forests.

The book is well-crafted and reminds me of Ann Patchett’s States of Wonder. J.T. Hall takes the time to web her characters with the story.–there are one and the same. The descriptions were enticing and the shifting elements vivid.

We do get to see a bond between Donovan and Kersen, and later with the rest of the clan. But this novel brings the reader the opportunity to make their experience unique and somehow educational without losing the appeal of fictional shifter traditions.

What I liked the most: The importance of the weretigers as a cultural element.

I wanted more/less: A bit more romance.

Who should read it: Fans of more realistic shifter stories.

ARC provided by Riptide Publishing, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

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Afraid to Fly by L.A. Witt

afraid-to-flyRating: 4 stars
Genre: 
Contemporary; Military 
Publication day:
 January 16, 2017
Length: 
347 pages  
Publisher:
Riptide

Once a fearless fighter pilot, Commander Travis Wilson is now confined to a desk. It’s been eight years since the near-fatal crash that grounded him, and it still rules his life thanks to relentless back pain.

Lieutenant Commander Clint Fraser almost drowned in a bottle after a highly classified catastrophe while piloting a drone. His downward spiral cost him his marriage and kids, but he’s sober now and getting his life back on track. He’s traded drones for a desk, and he’s determined to reconcile with his kids and navigate the choppy waters of PTSD.

Clint has been on Travis’s radar ever since he transferred to Anchor Point. When Clint comes out to his colleagues, it’s a disaster, but there’s a silver lining: now that Travis knows Clint is into men, the chemistry between them explodes.

It’s all fun and games until emotions get involved. Clint’s never been in love with a man before. Travis has, and a decade later, that tragic ending still haunts him. Clint needs to coax him past his fear of crashing and burning again, or their love will be grounded before takeoff.

My View:  Afraid to Fly is a proper Navy tale. It’s not flashy or filled with Seals, it’s the everyday reality of most Chiefs and Sailors when on shore duty. They go to work, they talk shop, complain about PRT, and hate Navy functions. The life of a spouse and their dependents is perfectly represented too.

I prefer my characters to be on their fourties+ and Clint and Travis fit the bill. Especially because they act their age and have worries that a twenty-something won’t care about. Both men are bisexual and on the other side of dealing with their sexual identities. We do get to see a bit of Clint’s process, but it doesn’t take over the story.

The author did an excellent job dealing with the main characters sexual relationship and their PTSD. Both solutions work for them without the need for a miracle to intervene and get rid of all their issues. They have to adjust and learn how to trust each other to be together. They have many smexy scenes together as well as some lovely moments.

One thing I like is that the females in the story play an important part. They’re not vindictive or stereotypical. They simply are everyday people. The story is slow in parts and Clint and Travis spend a lot of time wrap in their own thoughts, but overall the story is solid and memorable.

Also, we get to see Paul’s and Sean’s–from Just Drive–happily ever after. This book, in particular, ends with a very satisfying HFN. I don’t see a need for another installment in the series, but a short story to wrap-up Clint’s & Travis’s future would be great.

What I liked the most: How real the characters are.

I wanted more/less: More of a separation. Just because I like to make my characters miserable. 🙂

Who should read it: Fans of middle-aged characters.

ARC provided by Riptide, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox

blank-spacesRating: 4 stars
Genre: 
Contemporary
Publication day:
 November 14, 2016
Length: 
330 pages  
Publisher: 
Riptide Publishing

Absence is as crucial as presence.

The decision to stop dating has made Vaughn Hargrave’s life infinitely simpler: he has friends, an excellent wardrobe, and a job in the industry he loves. That’s all he really needs, especially since sex isn’t his forte anyway and no one else seems interested in a purely romantic connection. But when a piece is stolen from his art gallery and insurance investigator Jonah Sondern shows up, Vaughn finds himself struggling with that decision.

Jonah wants his men like his coffee: hot, intense, and daily. But Vaughn seems to be the one gay guy in Toronto who doesn’t do hookups, which is all Jonah can offer. No way can Jonah give Vaughn what he really wants, not when Jonah barely understands what love is.

When another painting goes missing, tension ramps up both on and off the clock. Vaughn and Jonah find themselves grappling not just with stolen art, but with their own differences. Because a guy who wants nothing but romance and a guy who wants nothing but sex will never work—right? Not unless they find a way to fill in the spaces between them.

My View: I have read several books with asexual characters and I think this one does the best establishing a loving relationship in which one of the partners is asexual. But the best part is how the author shows the character self-discovery and how it changes him.

Vaughn is perfect. He has all he needs at the moment and meeting Jonah just opens the door for him to fulfill a piece of his life he didn’t know was missing. Not because someone’s expectations, but because it makes sense to him.

Jonah is young and a contradiction. He loves the life he has, but is working hard to do better. His constant hook ups work for him and give him the release he needs to focus in his work. He uses sex as a coping mechanism but he’s not jaded about it.

I love Vaughn’s and Jonah’s friendship. It’s fun, interesting, and refreshing; just like the main characters. They are the book and we see them grow as we discover more about their lives.

Only the last part felt out of place for me. I understand how they work as a couple, but the easy talk about it, in public, seems out of place for such a lovely moment they were enjoying as a couple.

The mystery element is interesting, and keeps bringing the main characters together. The rest of the cast complemented the main story and set some strings for future stories.

What I liked the most: How well the asexuality topic is weaved in the story.

I wanted more/less: More time with Vaughn and Jonah as a couple, out with their friends; everyday activities like waking up together, catching up breakfast, etc.

Who should read it: Fans of a diverse cast of characters.

ARC provided by Riptide Publishing, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Murder Once Seen by J.T. Hall

murder-once-seenRating: 4.75 stars
Genre: 
Urban Fantasy; BDSM
Publication day:
 December 12, 2016
Length: 
352 pages  
Publisher: 
Riptide Publishing

In the city of Nis, things often aren’t what they seem.

Derwin is a bounty hunter gifted with the Oddity of superhuman strength and agility—perfect for hunting down fugitives and demons who roam the streets. One killed his boyfriend two years ago, and Derwin won’t stop until he finds out who. Police suspect it was someone he sent to prison, but he can’t shake the idea that they’re missing something.

Elliot is a rentboy who’s been living on the streets since his parents disowned him. He mistrusts everyone and, given his uncontrolled ability to Read Objects and a client list that includes a major gang boss, despairs of ever having a normal life.

Derwin and Elliot meet in a storm of lust. Derwin’s Oddity is fed by the pain of others, but he only wants what’s freely given. Elliot loves pain, but needs safety and a way off the streets before he can allow it. They may be able to solve each other’s problems . . . if they can survive long enough to work together.

My View: I’m not an urban fantasy/dystopian fan, but this story won me over; it was really hard to put down. I wanted to slow down to enjoy the story, but at the same time, I wanted to read faster to know what would happen next. The author did an excellent job making sure all the plot arcs were interesting and well-fleshed.

The world built worked with the story and all foreign concepts and fantasy terms were easy to understand throughout the book. It is a nice setup to start the series and introduces many human-liked oddities that are fresh and interesting. The way Derwin’s and Elliot’s oddities worked together is another example of how good this story is.

Even when the main arc of the story is the mystery, the romance, and BDSM elements are balanced. We get enough of an answer for every aspect, and what’s not resolved completely is explained sufficiently until the next book in the series arrives. Hopefully, pretty soon.

Overall, Murder Once Seen has a satisfying HFN in a world different from ours, but with enough similarities to be easily navigated. It has enough smexy times, as well as, gritty moments. The main characters love isn’t pretty, but it’s filled with the hopes for a brighter future.

What I liked the most: The way Derwin feds from Elliot.

I wanted more/less: Probably a more defined DS relationship between Derwin and Elliot.

Who should read it: Fans of mysteries and BDSM stories.

ARC provided by Riptide Publishing, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Far From Home by Lorelie Brown

far-from-homeRating: 3.75 stars
Genre: 
Contemporary; F/F
Publication day:
 August 1, 2016
Length: 
208 pages  
Publisher:
Riptide

My name is Rachel. I’m straight . . . I think. I also have a mountain of student loans and a smart mouth. I wasn’t serious when I told Pari Sadashiv I’d marry her. It was only party banter! Except Pari needs a green card, and she’s willing to give me a breather from drowning in debt.

My off-the-cuff idea might not be so terrible. We get along as friends. She’s really romantically cautious, which I find heartbreaking. She deserves someone to laugh with. She’s kind. And calm. And gorgeous. A couple of years with her actually sounds pretty good. If some of Pari’s kindness and calmness rubs off on me, that’d be a bonus, because I’m a mess — anorexia is not a pretty word — and my little ways of keeping control of myself, of the world, aren’t working anymore.

And, if I slip up, Pari will see my cracks. Then I’ll crack. Which means I gotta get out, quick, before I fall in love with my wife.

My View: Far From Home is the first FF story I read beginning to end. I started others but never found one I wanted to finish, until now. The storyline’s pretty similar to other romance tropes, making it easy to get into the story. The beginning was a bit rushed, but it moved the story in the right direction.

The way Rachel’s and Pari’s relationship starts with a friendship and the financial implications thereafter ring true with young adults– just like the get-togethers, their jobs, and their everyday life. Everything from their clothes to their apartments added to the overall feel of the story.

I like the diversity Pari and her family introduced to the book. It wasn’t only her being a lesbian, but all the cultural repercussions that made this a nice read. How Rachel dealt with her sexuality and learned more about Pari and herself are the central part of this book.

I did find some areas too slow and others lacking some details, but overall, this was an entertaining and lovely romance.

What I liked the most: The relationship between Rachel and Pari’s mother.

I wanted more/less: I wanted to see what happened between the end of the book and the epilogue.

Who should read it: Fans of contemporary romances; especially FF.

ARC provided by Riptide, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.