Category Archives: Sirena

4 and 5 Star Reviews for Bowl Full of Cherries by Raine O’Tierney – #MM Romance #HolidayRead @RaineOTierney

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Title: Bowl Full of Cherries
Author Name: Raine O’Tierney

Synopsis

Porker, Fatty, Tons-of-Fun: Crowley Fredericks has heard it all. He’s dropped a lot of weight since his high school days, but he’s still a big guy, and the painful words and bullying follow him. Rejected—again—because of his size, Crowley is starting to think that maybe love just isn’t meant for huskier men.

Averell Lang and his twin are so different they might as well not even be related. So when Rell’s brother brings his roommate home to snowy Susset for the holidays, Rell expects the worst—another uptight, pretentious hipster. What he discovers instead is Crowley. Nerdy, fascinating, attractive, Crowley. Rell never expected to look at a man this way, and what he sees in Crowley Fredericks is something he didn’t even know he was looking for. If both men can overcome their hang-ups, they might unwrap more than presents this holiday season.

Review

FourStars

This story had a little of everything; first love, first time, bullying, sex, and happy endings. It was written with realistic events and a lot of sympathy and understanding for its characters.
The author had me feeling bad for Crowley and yet feelings of happiness as things start to work out for him.  I didn’t care for Crowleys mother, no one should treat their child that way, regardless.  I liked that Rell and Tyler’s cousin helped Crowley see what a beautiful person he really was.
Rell and Tyler were twins in the story and were as different as two people could be, they each played a role in Crowley becoming more confident about himself.
I really liked this story it was easy to read and flowed well.  The ending was perfect, just teased you enough to want to read the next book.
Sherry
FiveStars
This is the second of Ms. O’Tierney’s books I’ve reviewed. I chose this because I love her style and figured I would enjoy it. I honestly didn’t think she’d be able to top the last one I read, but I was mistaken. This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read. I spent the whole book alternating between laughing and tearing up.

I have nothing negative to say about the book, and I fear my review simply won’t do it justice. The writing is fantastic–polished and well-crafted as well as technically excellent. The story flows smoothly and takes just the right pace.

Now for all the things I adored. I was in love with these characters from the first page. Crowley is so utterly relatable. From his self-consciousness to the little things he does, we get a picture of what young adulthood is like in the wake of childhood bullying. I was not personally triggered by anything, but some elements of Crowley’s feelings and behaviors might affect other readers more deeply with regard to his experiences of fat-shaming and the way he treats himself as a result.

I loved Rell, too, and his sharp assessments of his family. He struck me as a people-watcher, a keen observer of everyone and everything. His relationship with his siblings felt realistic to me, and I thought it was interesting that he and Tyler were often at odds with each other. He comments that Tyler must be more than his stereotype, but Rell doesn’t care to dig deeper. Yet somehow, we’re left with the hope that he eventually will. He also isn’t unaware of his own troubles, and he goes from dismissing them to accepting his need for change.

That was another thing I liked–the relationship between Crowley and Rell is never about “saving” each other. Rell never perceives himself as the one who will fix all Crowley’s self-hatred, and Crowley never sees himself as the one to rescue Rell from his bad habits. Yet through loving each other, they’re both able to see themselves as worthy of becoming who they were meant to be.

As far as their relationship, I want to offer a heart-felt thank you to Ms. O’Tierney for not shying away from writing genuinely bisexual characters. Crowley refers once to Rell as possibly bi, though Rell never specifically identifies that way. I imagine that’s because being in love with another man is new for him, and he hasn’t processed it in any other way than “I love this person.” I appreciate how he doesn’t ever suggest his relationships with women were meaningless, and he isn’t suddenly gay. Tyler suggests he’s playing “gay for you” with Crowley, and I love that he went there because it’s a common trope. However, that’s clearly not what Rell is doing or feeling, and I expect Tyler’s not ready to confront his own sexuality and is taking it out on his twin. There are hints about it all through the book, so I don’t think I’m off-base saying that, and the end is left open for more exploration of Tyler’s experiences.

I have to confess, I was surprised by the overt sensuality. I think that’s because the last book I read by Ms. O’Tierney was YA, so I suppose I was expecting more “fade to black.” That’s not a bad thing, just an observation. The sex fit well into the story and didn’t seem gratuitous to me. It was the right kind of steamy without being too much.

Finally, what I love most about this book is that although at its core it’s a sweet romance between two young men, there is a realness to it that reflects things so many of us have thought or felt. It’s as though Ms. O’Tierney has offered us a mirror, holding it up and saying, “Look without shame at how beautiful you are, even with all your perceived flaws.”

I wish I could give this more than five stars, but I’m limited, so it gets all 5 from me along with a promise to tell as many people as I can about this book.

Amy

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Teaser

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Excerpt

Even through the snow, Rell didn’t feel the cold. His face burned with the excitement of escaping the Livery and absconding with his brother’s best friend. He clasped Crowley’s hand, pulling him through the street. They ran and skidded and laughed, moving farther and farther away from the club.

“It’s beautiful tonight,” Crowley breathed and Rell squeezed tighter. “Doesn’t it weird you out though?”

“Nope.”

Rell knew what Crowley was asking—didn’t even pretend that he didn’t. Stopping, he tugged lightly so Crowley came stumbling up beside him. He twined his arms around Crowley’s waist and held him for a moment, right there in the middle of the sidewalk.

“Does it weird you out? I’m your best friend’s brother.”

“Not weirded out at all.” Crowley shook his head. His dark eyes shimmered with concern. “But for you… I mean, it was loud in there and hot and fun and there was alcohol and… sometimes… things just happen and—”

“Yeah, things happen,” Rell agreed. “Except I’ve been to a lot of stupid hipster clubs with a lot of Tyler’s friends and….” He leaned forward and kissed Crowley again, letting the experience linger, melting the chill between them. He tasted like nogtini. “And nothing like that has ever happened.”

“But… do you even like guys?”

“Owl. You’re a guy. I like you.”

“But have you been with a guy?”

“Why are you over-thinking this?” Rell asked, gently cupping the side of Crowley’s face.

AuthorBio

Raine O’Tierney, a passionate believer in what she calls The Sweetness, writes positive stories about first loves, first times, fidelity, forever-endings and.friskiness? When she’s not writing, Raine can be found fighting the good fight for intellectual freedom at her library day job.

Raine believes the best thing we can do in life is be kind to one another, and she enjoys encouraging fellow writers. She changes sub-genres to suit her mood and believes all good stories end sweetly. Raine lives outside of Kansas City with her husband, fellow Dreamspinner Press author and sometimes writing partner, Siôn O’Tierney.

Contact her if you’re interested in talking about point-and-click adventure games or about what kinds dachshunds are the best kinds of dachshunds!

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TWO 4 Star Reviews for For by Grace by Adrian J. Smith – #F/F #Crime/Thriller

For by Grace

Title: For by Grace
Author Name: Adrian J. Smith
Publication Date & Length: June 1, 2014 – 256 pgs

Synopsis

Being a Sheriff’s Deputy is not all about saving lives and arresting criminals, and each day Grace wonders if she’ll make it home.

While kids at the schools Deputy Grace Halling visits see her as the knight in blue-cotton armor, people involved in the cases she is dispatched to have a different opinion. She has every confidence in her ability to do her job and arrest criminals. She easily takes down a knife-wielding woman and a drunken combatant teenager without hesitation. Everyone—victim, suspect, or witness—has a story to tell or to lie about, and Grace is never perturbed by their tales.

That all changes when she looks down the barrel of a gun. She loses confidence in her ability as a deputy, she loses trust in herself and fellow officers, and she struggles to stay afloat as shift after shift passes. Grace cannot find her rhythm of being a deputy again. And when the Police Chaplain unexpectedly barges into her life, her personal and professional lives are flipped upside down. Grace struggles to find even ground, worrying that the next time she stares a murderer in the face will be the last.

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Review

FourStars

The books is about a female cop, Grace, which I understood going in. I expected some cop work along with a side of romance. While I enjoyed the characters and their little imperfections and the realistic feel of them, I felt like emotions were missing from their actions. The actions, movements and descriptions were there but the feelings and reasons were left off a lot of times making it hard to fully connect and feel for the main characters.
I felt like although it was a cop book, there was too much cop work and details given. I would’ve liked to see it focus more on the actual big case and the relationship that was slowly developing instead of all the mundane day to day work as it took away from the book and slowed the plot to me.
Having a father and husband that work with or close to the local police force for over 30 years, I had issues with some of the ways things were handle as that’s not how I know them to be done or taken care of. That is a completely personal observation that most likely won’t affect most people that read the book though. Plus, all I know is from someone else and all from the same state so likely it could be slightly misconstrued because of that and the way every state/department is run a little differently.
Overall, I loved the two main females and would’ve liked to see more focus on them then the cop work, then again I’m a romantic at heart and love that side more than the cop work as I heard about that on a day to day basis.
Can’t wait to see where the next edition in the series takes us!
~Renee
FourStars
For By Grace, written by Adrian J. Smith, is a crime procedural featuring Officer Grace Halling, a police officer more likely to stub her toe getting out of bed then not, but who can take on whatever situation her shift presents with calm and “grace”. Featured prominently is also Amya, the precinct’s new chaplain, who initially rubs Grace the wrong way, but eventually forges a strong relationship with her.
First, for the full disclosure. Adrian and I have known each other for a couple years now, and she often beta reads for me. While I was not one of her betas, I did pinch hit on a few chapters for her, so I’ve been very minimally involved in this novel from an early stage. However, I don’t believe that lessens my ability to give it an honest review.
The good: Adrian is great at writing the crime aspects. She obviously has done a lot of research about what it takes to be a law enforcement officer and that shines through clearly. The dialogue is strong and realistic, the grammar is top notch, and the editing is phenomenal. As far as a book being well put together, it doesn’t get much better. There’s clearly been a lot of work into presenting a clean and polished product and that makes reading this a breeze.
The meh: For me, I would have like some more emphasis on the burgeoning and changing relationship between Grace and Amya. It’s there, just lurking beneath the surface for most of the novel, and it’s never featured prominently. I know this isn’t a romance, and I wouldn’t want it to be, but for me personally, I like all my novels with a hefty dose of romance, so I’d have liked to see a little more there. For all you parents: though this book is marketed as adult, there is no reason it’s not appropriate for a teenager. There’s nothing explicit in here, so while it’s a meh for me, it may be a giant plus for you. As an introduction to the LGBT genre for someone not sure if they’ll enjoy a f/f pairing, this is a great way to dip your toes in the proverbial water.
The not so good: My biggest problem with this book is the chapters. Each one is relatively self-contained, and I prefer more flow. A larger, over arching plot. There isn’t as much of that in this as I prefer, with each chapter covering a shift and what happens therein. It’s a very different take and I don’t think I’ve ever read another book with the same setup, but for me, it didn’t work.
And the verdict is: A worthy read. For By Grace has way more good things than bad, and the bad are just my own personal preferences rather than some fatal flaw within the novel. Overall, you won’t be disappointed if you pick this up, and I highly recommend that you do so.
Rating: 4 stars
Sirena

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AuthorBio

Adrian J. Smith, or “AJ” as she is often called, is a part-time writer with an epic imagination, sharp wit, and kind heart that gets her into a bit of trouble when it comes to taking in all the neighborhood stray cats. Being obsessed with science fiction, Smith often goes off on tangents about the space-time continuum. She is also a part-time lunatic with a secretive past. It’s been rumored that she was once a spy for the government, but anyone who has gotten close enough to know the truth has never lived to tell the tale. When traveling around the world on various classified tasks, Smith requires the following be provided: buffalo jerky, mimosas, and eighty-six pennies. This is all we know about the reclusive woman.

AuthorInterview

  • Can you describe in detail what your writing environment is like?

I can. My writing environment, however, changes depending on my mood. I never really always write in one place. I have an office (finally!) and in it I have a card table that serves as my desk. There’s a light, sticky notes, stapler, etc on it. I have a printer to my left and a small shelf to my right. In front of me, I have a cork board. On the wall to my left is a white erase board. I also have a keyboard (electric piano) with sheet music, the rocking chair my husband was rocked in, a few cat trees and a ton of yarn for crocheting. It’s my all around office. =P

  • When I’m writing, the door is usually shut and I have one or two animals with me. There’s music playing from my computer, typically Christian radio, and I tend to have a drink with me. Depending on how late in the evening or early in the morning depends on the drink, but either hot tea or beer.
  • Is there one of your characters that you relate to (from any of your works)? Why?

I relate to all the main characters. If you’re asking which I relate to the most, that’s more difficult as I relate to them differently. Addy, in the James Matthews Series, made a big impact with me, and I really struggled with what I did with her character because I didn’t like it. I didn’t like to see her in that much pain, and I didn’t like knowing what happened.

I don’t know why her except that maybe she’s closest to someone I would know in real life. I didn’t base her off anyone, but personality wise and what she does, I would probably end up knowing and being friends with someone like her.

  • If you couldn’t be an author, what would you do instead?

I’d do what I do for a living! I’m an ordained minister, and I love that job to death. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything, and I plan on continuing in ministry until I absolutely must retire.

  • Is there anything that you learned during the writing process that you wish you had known before hand?

Go into marketing with a plan! I still haven’t quite figured this one out, but I’m at least expanding my horizons on what marketing is out there and how I can utilize it. But marketing isn’t something just to do on the side, it’s something that I need to think about and plan ahead of time. It’s a long learning process for me since I still do a lot of it on the side. I should get better at that. =P

  • Is there anything that you wish you could change about your book now that it is out?

No, honestly. I don’t think there’s anything I would chance (except minor errors I will always and forever find and feel the urge to fix). I like the story. It accomplished exactly what I wanted it to accomplish. I didn’t want a stand police procedural with detectives. Their job is rather boring most of the time as they sit in an office. I wanted a book that would show case patrol officers and what they do, and the things they face on a regular basis. I also wanted a novel that didn’t focus on the romance. That’s been done before, and I’ll admit it, I’m not the number one romantic out there!

  • How do you come up with new ideas for your story?

Part of it was from my experience working alongside law enforcement as an outside agent, and part was research. Part is just listening and reading stories that happened to cops and perhaps expanding on them a little. Police officers have the best stories some times.

  • What’s next for you as a writer?

I have a new series I’m working on that’s urban fantasy, and finishing up the Spirit of Grace series. I have one more book to write about Grace, and then it’s on to newer things.

  • Where do you live? Do you think this influences how or what you write?

I’ve lived all around the country, so I’m not sure about this one. I just moved a few months ago, so I doubt this new place has any influences on me yet.

  • What is your favorite genre outside of the one you write in? Why?

Outside of what I write? Yeeesh. I really enjoy reading Native American stories. I plan to write one, but I haven’t yet, so this still counts as an answer! I loved reading Scott O’Dell books growing up, and I certainly still love them.

  • Do you have any vices? Shoes, coffee, shopping…etc?

Chocolate. Rice. Typewriters.

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4 and 3.5 Stars for Underdogs by Geonn Cannon – #F/F #Paranormal @GeonnCannon

Underdogs

Title: Underdogs
Author Name: Geonn Cannon
Publication Date & Length: April 2012 – 185 pgs

Synopsis

Ariadne Willow is a private investigator with a secret weapon. She’s a canidae, a person with the ability to transform into a wolf at will. Using her heightened senses to track and her shapeshifting to follow people without being seen, she’s made a decent business for herself and her associate Dale Frye. When one of the richest women in Seattle wishes to hire her, Ari and Dale think their ship has finally come in. All Ari has to do is observe the client’s tabloid-friendly daughter, fresh out of rehab, and confirm that she’s truly clean.

Ari thinks the case will be a piece of cake, but a moment of shocking violence changes everything. Soon Ari finds herself backed into a corner with no way out, forced to either run or risk losing everything she holds dear by fighting an enemy with unlimited power and resources. With Dale refusing to leave her side, Ari decides to make a stand to remind her enemies that there’s only one rule in betting…

Always bet on the underdogs.

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Review

FourStars

This book came recommended, so I was excited to give it a read. I jokingly said, “No werewolf stories!” and was informed that I would like this one because the main character is a wolf (technically “canidae”), not a werewolf.I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t at all disappointed. It’s a fun, light read that had all the elements to make me happy: A bit of fairy tale/supernatural, a crime to solve, and women falling in love. What’s not to like?
The main characters, Ari and Dale, are likeable and fun. I enjoyed getting to know them as the story unfolded. They are smart, savvy, and capable, but they’re not specimens of perfect womanhood, which I appreciated. Their relationship felt natural to me, if a bit predictable (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
It felt a bit slow to start, though I was glad for the background information. The pace picked up quickly, however, and I was soon absorbed.
There were a few moments where I had to suspend my disbelief, and not regarding the wolf-human elements. For example, the climactic “take down the bad guys” scene was a bit over-the-top and unrealistic. However, it fit the story, and unless one cares about having a true-to-life crime story ending, it doesn’t really matter.
The “murder mystery” plot wasn’t much of a mystery, as it’s both predictable from the beginning and the whodunnit is known about halfway through. So if you’re looking for a true mystery, this is not it. The fun is in how Ari and Dale thwart the bad guys and find their happy-for-now ending. So if that’s your thing, this is definitely the book for you.
I did think there were some frequently-used detective story themes, and it was a bit hard to tell if those were intended as tongue-in-cheek or to be taken seriously. I lean towards the former because the general tone of the book is fairly light, but that might be off-putting for someone looking for a fresh take.
I thought the sensuality was just right in terms of how much/how descriptive relative to the rest of the plot. There were a few moments where it felt just a bit choppy, but it evened out.
Overall, I really enjoyed this and look forward to more.
I give it 4 stars.
Amy
ThreeandHalfStars
Underdogs by Geonn Cannon is right up my alley. I LOVE paranormal books. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, whatever, bring it on! That being said, I’m also quite picky about what I read. When I saw the word “shifter” in the description of this book, I was quite skeptical because the last thing I wanted to read was another version of Twilight.
This isn’t that. Underdogs is light, easy to read, and has a nice flow. I was able to get through it in a few hours with no problem. Also good is the character development. Ari and Dale both feel like real people. Their relationship feels real, the characters have flaws and they aren’t perfect. It’s rare to get such depth of development in a novel of this length, and Cannon did a masterful job there.
Now for the not so good. If you’re expecting the mystery aspect to be anything other than a vehicle for the relationship, you’re going to be disappointed. There isn’t much mystery to the “whodunit” aspect and the mystery part is pretty formulaic and simple. Overall, the novel is predictable from start to finish.
Overall, this was definitely worth my time, and I enjoyed reading it a lot. The predictability didn’t detract from the readability or the smoothness of the writing.
Rating: Three and a half stars.
Sirena

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AuthorBio

Geonn Cannon was born in a barn and raised to know better than that. He was born and raised in Oklahoma where he’s been enslaved by a series of cats, dogs, two birds and one unexpected turtle. He’s spent his entire life creating stories but only became serious about it when he realized it was a talent that could impress girls. Learning to write well was easier than learning to juggle, so a career was underway. His high school years were spent writing stories among a small group of friends and reading whatever books he could get his hands on.

Geonn was inspired to create the fictional Squire’s Isle after a 2004 trip to San Juan Island in Washington State. His first novel set on the island, On the Air, was written almost as a side project to another story he wanted to tell. Reception to the story was so strong that the original story was put on the back burner to deal with the world created in On the Air. His second novel set in the same universe, Gemini, was also very well received and went on to win the Golden Crown Literary Society Award for Best Novel, Dramatic/General Fiction. Geonn was the first male author to receive the honor.

While some of his novels haven’t focused as heavily on Squire’s Isle, the vast majority of Geonn’s works take place in the same universe and have connections back to the island and its cast of characters (the exception being the Riley Parra series). In addition to writing more novels based on the inhabitants of Squire’s Isle, Geonn hopes to one day move to the real-life equivalent to inspire further stories.

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