Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Random Review: The Spirit Key by Parker Williams #Review #Giveaway

Author: Parker Williams
Title: The Spirit Key
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Length: 210 Pages

Reviewed by Sammy


Lock and Key: Book One 
 When he was eight years old, Scott Fogel died. Paramedics revived him, but he came back changed. Ghosts and spirits tormented Scott for over a decade until, thinking he was going mad, he did the only thing he could. He ran—leaving behind his best friend, Tim Jennesee. Scott’s had five normal, ghost-free years in Chicago, when the spirit of Tim’s mother comes to him and begs him to go home because Tim’s in trouble and needs him. He isn’t prepared for what he finds when he goes home—a taller and sexier Tim, but a Tim who hasn’t forgiven Scott for abandoning him… a Tim whose body is no longer his own. The ghost of a serial murderer has attached itself to Tim, and it’s whispering dark and evil things. It wants Tim to kill, and it’s becoming harder for Tim to resist. To free the man who has always meant so much to him, Scott must unravel the mystery of the destiny he shares with Tim.

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At the age of eight, Scott died. When he survived the drowning, he was dubbed a miracle but in reality a nightmare had just begun to weave itself around the young boy whose only relief was the love of his best friend, Tim. As one horrific encounter with the supernatural after another happened Scott withdrew further and further into himself, turning to drugs in order to survive. But it simply wasn’t enough. So, he ran, from Tim, from his brother and mother, from all he knew. When he fled to Chicago, things got better and for five peaceful years the ghostly apparitions that seemed to always want Scott to help them disappeared, until the day one came that he could not ignore. Tim was in danger and he had to return home to help him. Not only was Tim his best friend but also his first and only love and now, despite what going home would mean for Scott’s own sanity, he needed to reconnect with the man who was his heart and soul.

Parker Williams begins a new series with the release of The Spirit Key. Dabbling in the paranormal the novel explores the idea that some can be a conduit for those lost in the afterworld. I will say that the pieces of this story that dealt with Scott seeing the dead were quite well done. There were some hair-raising moments when I was glad the lights were on and I wasn’t reading in the dark as is my habit with my well lit kindle. I felt the more macabre aspects in terms of the shock of seeing ghosts was actually the best element in this novel. However, I struggled with several other components that felt abruptly introduced with a lack of any transitional material to smooth their way.

In particular I really couldn’t come to terms with the amount of anger Tim had when Scott returned. I understood that the author was laying the scene for a future revelation in regards to Tim and why he seemed so easily led into a furious state but it still didn’t quite justify how he treated Scott. Then when that anger was coupled with a sexually dominant streak that Tim wore easily and the more submissive Scott responded to things got a bit strange. It was hard to distinguish if Tim was just being naturally dominant with little clue as to how to actually treat a submissive or if it was the ragged bursts of anger that led him to do things such as yank Scott’s hair to make him listen. More importantly it was the angry, bullying tone that slipped over that Dom/sub line that often threw me off—causing their interactions to seem forced—as if the author decided there should be an angry, sexy moment there and forced it into the scene. And that is my main criticism of this novel—so much of it felt out of sync—forced in order to bolster a future plot revelation.

If the story line had been more even—bits and pieces revealed gradually rather than spat out after sporadic moments of drama and intrigue then I could have understood those scenes where Tim’s character felt so wrong. To be frank, if the plot had been more cohesive then it would have made the emotionally violent interactions more plausible. Instead I often had to force myself to move on—to understand that almost every encounter Tim and Scott had with each other was going to end with either Tim being mean spirited and skirting the edge of being an abusive partner rather than someone who professed to be in love or Scott getting angry at Tim. Scott seemed to vacillate between being a strong and clear minded individual and a dishrag. I got that Tim’s domineering side made the sex so much better for Scott but there were times when he also just seemed to give in and take whatever Tim decided to dish out due to the guilt he carried over leaving and hurting him. Then the two would do their I’m sorry bit and the scene would play out over and over again. After several times this just got old and I felt that we had covered this ground and then some.

There were some very good sections to this story. I feel that once the author decides to explore and allow for his characters to discuss what kind of relationship they want to have in the bedroom and set some ground rules for each other, this series will find a really smart groove to travel on. Until then I worry that future stories may be as uneven as this one was. I know that author Parker Williams can write a good story, however, The Spirit Key just needed a bit more editing and plot development to smooth out it’s edges and make it a solid hit.


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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Blog Tour: How Not To Blend by Susan Hawke #Review #Excerpt


One clueless single dad…

Dr. Corbin Davis is a busy guy just trying to do his best as a single parent. He may be oblivious to a lot of things, but surely he would’ve noticed something as important as his fifteen-year-old son, Grayson, being bullied, right? And what the heck is non-binary, and why hasn’t Gray shared this all-important part of himself with his own dad?

Plus one sassy Southerner…

Andy Ferguson, or Kandi as the Thursday night drag community knows him, is just trying to get along in a small town and hold things together while he takes care of his beloved Gam-Gam. If she’d just get off his back about finding himself a man, that would be fantastic, thank you very much. He’ll get around to love… one of these days.

Equals a pair of fake-boyfriends who will keep you in stitches.

When Corb gets the wild idea to ask Andy to pose as his boyfriend to let Gray know that his dad is bisexual and open-minded enough to talk to about his nonbinary status, Andy is amused and just intrigued enough to say yes… especially since he seems to be in the market for a fake boyfriend himself, if it will get Gam-Gam to quit nagging.

This is the first book in the LOVESTRONG series about finding love and being yourself in a small town. Intended only for 18+ readers, this is an mm romance filled with all the fun, fluff, and feels you’d want from an S. Hawke book.


I had the pleasure of reading Susan Hawke' new book that just released "How Not To Blend: A Lovestrong Story" and it was a delightful read.

Andy's character has many qualities, he loves his Gam-Gam, tolerates her satanic dog, works at a coffee place, has that southern twang sass that he isn't afraid to use to knock anyone down a few pegs, and best of all he has his alter persona/Britney. The one thing that our sassy twink doesn't have is a boyfriend. Yes, he hears about this not only at home from his Gam but at work. 

Dr. Hottie, as he is referred to by Andy aka Corbin, is at a loss when it comes to his son Gray. Recent fights at school end up with black eyes and a trip to the dentist. When he finds out the reason and not being able to confront his son, he thinks maybe going to a particular dance club will help get the answers he needs. The meeting with Britney/Andy makes Corbin feel a little more at ease about asking for help. However, fake boyfriends wasn't what Corbin was expecting in return for Andy's help.

Soon they find friendship, which slowly turns into something neither one had anticipated. It was a fun and joyful read, with amazing co-characters that help bring the story right along!


I looked around the nearly empty diner, my eyes roaming over the faded artwork on the wall, the cracked Formica tabletop, the scarred linoleum, the selection of pies spinning around inside the rotating display case—yeah, I was pretty much looking at anything other than the delicious specimen of masculinity sitting across from me.

After our waitress dropped off the slices of cherry pie we’d ordered when we’d been seated and filled our cups with a substance resembling coffee, I had no choice but to find my balls and face him. When I looked up, I found Corbin watching me with a bemused smile. I bit my lip almost shyly before speaking. “What? Does it weird you out to be around me now that you know about my alter ego?”

Corbin shook his head as he picked up his fork and cut into his pie. “No, it’s stranger to be sitting here with the guy who serves my morning coffee than it was to watch you in drag. Thank you, by the way, for taking the time to do this with me.”

My nerves faded as we began to talk. “No trouble. If I’m being honest…” I leaned forward with a conspiratorial smile. “I work up quite an appetite when I do my routine. A little pie and coffee will hit the spot right now. If we weren’t here, I would’ve been heading home with a rumbly tummy. Maybe you’re the one doing me the favor, if you think about it. Speaking of favors, what was it you wanted from me? Nick mentioned something about your kid?”

Corbin dropped his fork with a clatter, leaning back in the booth and dropping his hands to his lap. “I feel really stupid now that we’re sitting here. I don’t want you to think that I’m an idiot or something.”

I cocked my head to the side, gazing at him curiously. “Why would you ever think that? Now you have to tell me what’s up; I’ll curl up and die of curiosity if you don’t.”

Puffing his cheeks out, Corbin blew out a breath and gave a slight nod. “You noticed my son’s black eye the other day, remember? So it turns out that he’s being bullied because he identifies as enby—that’s short for nonbinary. Have you heard of that?” He paused and waited while I resisted the urge to say duh and simply nodded instead as I took a bite of pie. Corbin blew out another breath, raking a hand through his short hair. “I don’t know why I thought that a drag queen might have any clue about what an enby might be dealing with, but I was hoping to pick your brain about it and… I don’t know… maybe get some makeup tips or something?”

I resisted the urge to laugh—almost. Corbin chuckled when he saw the suppressed laughter in my eyes and I couldn’t help but laugh along with him. “Yeah, I definitely don’t identify as anything other than masculine. I can see where people might be confused since I do tend to be flamboyant and glamorous in my daily life, but you have to understand me when I tell you that I don’t identify as anything other than a cisgender man. Drag is just a way for me to let my hair down and get into my creative side. I’m sure it could be confusing, from the outside looking in. My drag mama is an old-school gender-bender type of queen. He doesn’t bother to shave his thick stubble or his hairy, manly chest—even when he is in full-on Honey Combover regalia.”

As an avid reader and big romance fan myself, I love sharing the stories of the different people who live in my imagination. My stories are filled with humor, a few tears, and the underlying message to not give up hope, even in the darkest of times, because life can change on a dime when you least expect it. This theme comes from a lifetime of lessons learned on my own hard journey through the pains of poverty, the loss of more loved ones than I'd care to count, and the struggles of living through chronic illnesses. Life can be hard, but it can also be good! Through it all I've found that love, laughter, and family can make all the difference, and that's what I try to bring to every tale I tell.

I'm a happily married mom with one snarky teenage boy, and three grown "kids of my heart." I'm more widely known for my mpreg writings as Susi Hawke; this new name is a departure from that. Whether written by Susan or Susi, the books are filled with that all-important love, laughter, and family I mentioned; the only difference is that this name has no male pregnancy. I look forward to sharing my stories with you, and to bringing more romance and laughter into this world that needs it so very badly.

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