Category Archives: Action

The Immortal Crown (Age of X #2) by Richelle Mead

The Immortal CrownRelease Date: May 29, 2014
Published by  Dutton (Penguin)
Review Copy from Publisher

“Welcome to the Republic of United North America.”

When Mae Koskinen utters that single phrase, it gives me goosebumps. That’s just one small taste of the powerful writing and strong emotion of Richelle Mead’s spectacular storytelling.

The Immortal Crown pretty much picks up where Gameboard of the Gods left off. If you haven’t had time to reread the first book in preparation for the sequel’s release, never fear, Mead hits all the high points to refresh your memory.  Justin March and Mae Koskinen are investigating the presence of supernatural elements in RUNA as well as the return of the gods and their influence. We already know Justin’s been marked by the god Odin, a god he works diligently to keep at bay, but The Immortal Crown calls into question whether Mae has escaped notice after the events in Gameboard. Naturally, nothing is clear cut, and things will get very messy before there are any answers.

Justin March, I think I could love you. For as much as he made me a little crazy in the first book, Justin’s character achieves amazing growth and maturity  in this one.  The changes in him seem to happen right before your eyes; Mead effortlessly manipulates the story to bring about the most logical and reasonable adjustments. Sometimes I had the impression Justin himself was even surprised by his thoughts, actions and emotions.  The implication it has for Justin’s involvement with Odin adds definite tension and uncertainty for the future.

This story touches on some very interesting sociological and religious issues. They’re extreme situations that aren’t really too far removed from what plagues parts of the world today, and Mead uses this fictional world to extrapolate some interesting scenarios. What would really happen if we were to allow government and religion to be closely intertwined as they were in eras long ago? I can’t help but think how far we’ve come to eradicate some of the social stigmas and discrimination that we see in the RUNA and the provinces, but it also hammers home just how far we have to go. Freedom of religion isn’t really free.

Another aspect of the real world tackled in The Immortal Crown is foreign diplomacy. The Arcadian-RUNA relationship is precarious at  best, stemming from the many cultural differences between the two nations. As Lucian Darling’s delegation visits Arcadia, they’re faced with the challenge to respect differences while not sacrificing their own morals and ideals, something that at times seems impossible.  This whole situation adds an element of excitement and danger to the story, and at times I was certain war was imminent.  When Justin ultimately agrees to a pact that could change everything,  it seemed almost unavoidable.  Mead is definitely setting things up for something big, we just don’t know exactly what that is yet. Whether or not countries will become enemies or allies in the face of danger is a pivotal component to be determined.

Big scene stealers for me are the ravens,  Magnus and Horatio. They have some terrific one liners during their exchanges with Justin, and I appreciate the levity they add to many of the dark and dangerous situations.   As Justin’s role and inclinations change, so does his relationship with the ravens. I’m not sure if this made me feel better or worse in the grand scheme of things, since I can’t decide what outcome to hope for in Justin’s involvement with Odin. His relationship with Mae seems to be deepening, but I can’t help my suspicion over why Odin wants Justin and Mae united. Is it symbolic? An act of power?

I keep mentioning Richelle Mead’s fantastic writing, but I can’t say enough how her style really adds to the reader’s enjoyment. The imagery alone is a large part of what makes this story for me. Sure she puts together a thrilling plot, but it’s how it completely comes to life that’s dazzling. It’s as if you’re immersed in the setting right there with the characters which creates an unforgettable reading experience – every expression, emotion and description seems so very real.

One last thing –  HOLY PLOT TWISTS. Mead seems to be moving things along, tidily wrapping up story lines and giving us exactly what we want. I should have been worried, because things are never that easy, but I let my guard down. I let myself believe everything would be fine.  In several major, game-chnaging moves, Mead turns everything upside down and leaves us hanging. I need the next book…there’s really no other way.

RATING: STILETTOS!

BLOG TOUR: Spotlight & Giveaway – Hostile Ground by L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov

hostileGround_TourBanner(1)Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/Aleksandr Voinov/L. A. Witt blog tour for our thriller, Hostile Ground!

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of two eBooks off our backlists (excluding Hostile Groundand a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 17th, and winners will be announced on May 19th.  Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.

About the Book
Hostile Ground CoverEnemy territory is a dangerous place to fall in love.

After the deaths of three undercover cops investigating a drug ring in a seedy strip club in Seattle, Detective Mahir Hussain has been sent to finish the job. He joins the club’s security team in the hopes of finding enough evidence to bust the operation before the men in charge find a reason to put him in a shallow grave.

To protect the strippers, only gay men can work the club. Ridley, the cold and intimidating head of security, knows exactly how to test potential new hires—including Mahir. From the minute they meet, Mahir and Ridley engage in a dangerous dance of sex and mind games. Mahir needs to find his evidence before Ridley figures out he’s a cop—and before they both grow too close to betray one another.

As the game goes on, Mahir burrows deeper into the operation, where he learns there’s much more happening than meets the eye . . . and why every cop who made it this far has been silenced with a bullet.

Hostile Ground is available May 12th from Riptide Publishing.

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Our Thoughts:
Hostile Ground is an excellent reminder why L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov are one of my favorite writing duos.  They create a fast-paced, intense action/suspense drama that had me absolutely riveted. Seattle is the perfect backdrop for this undercover cop thriller.

Mahir Hussain’s going undercover in an attempt to infiltrate a powerful crime ring. The complex operation is flawlessly built and conveyed through descriptive storytelling and imagery. I felt so in touch with him as a character as well as his alter ego, Saeed. The differences and similarities between the two personalities are clearly delineated, and I was amazed by how seamlessly Mahir could flow from one to the other despite the stress of any given situation. At times it was tough to believe this was his first deep cover job.

The nature of Mahir’s case causes him to face numerous tests and challenges to prove himself. It’s understandable that in a crime organization leadership would be wary of undercover cops. They’ve had others try to crack the case and fail, resulting in those officers making the ultimate sacrifice. Mahir knows what he’s facing and what’s at stake – he has to constantly remain one step ahead, always anticipating the action/reaction his employers will expect from someone like Saeed. The tension created in every scenario is palpable; I was constantly waiting for him to slip.  That kind of anxiety is only caused by good writing, and it turns out, it’s completely warranted.  Nothing goes exactly according to plan – Saeed’s ever changing plan –  so there’s plenty of action and excitement.

As if just trying to stay alive on the job isn’t enough, Mahir manages to further complicate things by getting involved with his superior, Ridley. I don’t know how to explain it, but I liked Ridley from the beginning. I can’t tell you how much time I spent conflicted by this, because let’s face it – Ridley is not a nice guy. What did it say about me that I wanted to see them continue their relationship despite the fact he’s a psychopath who’s deeply entrenched in a crime ring? These guys have chemistry and a connection that tells you things are going to be messy. Witt and Voinov masterfully reveal the depth of Ridley’s character as the story unfolds, and in the end I didn’t feel half bad about my irrational adoration. How they managed to work a love story into all the action and suspense is beyond me, but isn’t that how it goes? Sometimes you find love in the most unlikely of places under the most unlikely circumstances, definitely when you’re not looking for it. :)

Another unwelcome complication for Mahir is his nephew, Kinza. I have no trouble understanding why Kinza would run to Mahir for support when he’s facing issues with his dad, Adil. Mahir’s brother is notoriously homophobic and barely accepts his brother’s sexuality, so it’s unsurprising that he’d reject his son’s proclamation that he’s also gay. I think the authors carefully and sensitively addressed this issue – it would have been easy to just chalk Adil’s attitude up to him being a complete jerk. Instead they convey his stance by addressing his religion and sense of family pride, making it easy to understand his position even if I didn’t agree with it. It’s a tough lesson for Adil that his love for his son is greater than his hatred of homosexuality, but ultimately it’s one he learns.  It’s a shame that it takes such a drastic situation to enlighten him, but sometimes that’s the way it just works.

Kinza’s role in this story was probably the only predictable part for me  – almost every other aspect kept me guessing. I was turning page after page waiting to see what would happen next, each twist and turn a delicious surprise. Hostile Ground is a story that will keep you on edge and engrossed for hours.

RATING: ONE BAD ASS BOOT, ONE STILETTO! 

Giveaway: 

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About the Authors:
Aleksandr Voinov has been published for twenty years, both in print and ebook. He has ten years’ experience as a writing coach, book doctor, and writing teacher, and until recently worked as an editor in financial services.

After co-authoring the M/M military cult classic Special Forces, Aleksandr embarked on a quest to write gritty, edgy, sometimes literary M/M and gay fiction (much of which is romance/erotica)—the only way he can use his American Literature degree these days.

He’s been published with Heyne/Random House, Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, and others, and is an EPIC Awards winner and a Lambda Awards finalist.

Connect with Aleks:
Website: aleksandrvoinov.com
Blog: aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.com
Twitter: @aleksandrvoinov
Goodreads: goodreads.com/Vashtan

***

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer currently living in the glamorous and ultra-futuristic metropolis of Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two cats, and a disembodied penguin brain that communicates with her telepathically. In addition to writing smut and disturbing the locals, L.A. is said to be working with the US government to perfect a genetic modification that will allow humans to survive indefinitely on Corn Pops and beef jerky. This is all a cover, though, as her primary leisure activity is hunting down her arch nemesis, erotica author Lauren Gallagher, who is also said to be lurking somewhere in Omaha.

L. A.’s backlist is available on her website, and updates (as well as random thoughts and the odd snarky comment) can be found on her blog or on Twitter (@GallagherWitt).

 

 

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: The Boys of Summer by Sarah Madison

Boys of Summer CoverRelease Date: April 14, 2013
Published by Sarah Madison
Review Copy from Author

About the Book: 
David McIntyre has been enjoying the heck out of his current assignment: touring the Hawaiian Islands in search of the ideal shooting locations for a series of film company projects. What’s not to like? Stunning scenery, great food, sunny beaches…and a secret crush on his hot, ex-Air Force pilot, Rick Sutton.

Everything changes when a tropical storm and engine failure force a crash landing on a deserted atoll with a WWII listening post. Rick’s injuries, and a lack of food and water, make rescue imperative, but it takes an intensely vivid dream about the war to make David see that Rick is more than just a pilot to him. Will David gather his courage to confess his feelings to Rick—before it’s too late?

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Our Thoughts:
I was absolutely hooked from the beginning by Madison’s writing style. Maybe that sounds crazy, but it was easy for me to lose myself in the words and the vivid images she created. Also you can’t go wrong with ogling a hot pilot. That was an excellent way to get things started. ;)

This story is an action packed adventure set in beautiful Hawaii. The circumstances under which David finds himself in Rick’s plane are simple – he’s scouting out locations for future Hollywood film projects. When a tropical storm rolls in turning one of his routine scouting missions tragic, Rick’s forced to land anywhere he can find.

In David and Rick, Sarah Madison has created genuine, relatable, and likable characters. I enjoyed their wit and banter as well as sharing their inside jokes. Their depth of character is remarkable. You couldn’t find two more different guys thrust together in a situation that will irrevocably bind them. What Rick and David experience together is life-changing; there’s no way they can survive the island and come out  on the other side unaffected. It’s human nature to band together in times of crisis, and these guys form a bond that’s undeniable. The depth of their connection is almost indescribable yet very tangible – the reader almost realizes it before they do.

To be honest I was a little confused at first as to why this story was labeled a World War II era historical – these guys are clearly in the present day. I mean, David has a tablet and all kinds of modern technology, so it was pretty obviously not the 1940’s.  I wondered if it might be told in flashbacks or with time travel, both techniques authors use to infuse historical elements into contemporary stories. I was dead wrong on both  – Madison uses a dream sequence to tie our modern day heroes to an exciting World War II past.

At first I was a little thrown by the dream sequence and not sure how it would further their story. How much could we really learn from something that didn’t directly impact the present?  It’s not like either of these guys actually lived during WWII, making it almost seem like a story within a story. Many of the characters are major players in the dream, and I found it very clever the way Madison incorporated them. However it wasn’t just characters that made crucial appearances, but also significant objects. (The identity disk poem will probably haunt me for quite some time. :)) For me the dream is a depiction of David’s vulnerability and fears. It illustrates his feelings for Rick, even those that may yet be unacknowledged. By the time the sequence ended, I was in tears and found myself struggling to shift back to the story in the present. The dream characters were so REAL, and the were IN LOVE. I was only a tiny bit frustrated that their present day counterparts didn’t just fall in line. Not to mention I was a little wary Madison would play a cruel trick and it would turn out David had imagined the entire thing. I mean that’s how it happens in the movies, right? ;)

Ultimately this is a story about taking chances and never settling – whether it’s your personal or professional life. Life’s far too short to just accept your lot as anything less than satisfying. Both Rick and David find themselves pushed to pursue things beyond their comfort zone. Maybe this is a result of being through such a tragic event? Surviving a crash landing on a deserted island would certainly force you to face your mortality and potentially change your perspective and outlook on life.

I’m unsure if there’s a sequel to The Boys of Summer in the works, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for one. Or two. ;) The way this ends leaves plenty of room for the reader to imagine where things go from here,  but I’d love the chance to see what Madison envisions for their future.

RATING: STILETTOS

 

Giveaway:
Sarah Madison has graciously donated one ebook copy of The Boys of Summer to be given away to a lucky reader! All you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter drawing below. Good luck!
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Connect with Sarah Madison:
Want to learn more about Sarah Madison and find more of her stories? You can find her in any of the following places:

Her website: www.sarahmadisonfiction.com

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