Reviews with a wink

Mystery, Teen Angst and a Ghost

When Ryan Came Back - Devon McCormack

This book has a lot going for it, a coming of age story (personal favourites), paranormal elements, young love and a mystery. While that is all good and well, it needs to be packed in a nice package. Boy let me tell you, this book come wrapped in a shiny package, with a big red bow on top.


After reading Hideous, I was quite curious what When Ryan Came Back would be like. It’s always hard to write a romance where one of the characters is dead, not undead, but dead dead. How does that work? And let’s not get started on the logistics of it all. Fortunately the story does not disappoint.


Part of the above is solved by laying the emphasis of this story on the mystery. Who killed Ryan? Why? What nefarious thing did Ryan discover? Or was it something closer to home?


I was also very happy to read that not a whole lot of time was spent on explanations. It’s something that doesn’t always work in paranormal stories. Authors tend to spend pages upon pages trying to explain their story away. Some things just are. Like Ryan coming back as a ghost and Steven’s ability to see him. I thought it was a nice touch and gave the story that right amount of mysterious air.


The plot tackles multiple angles. There is, of course, the mystery. Did Ryan really killed himself or did someone murder him? And why? Then there is Steven himself. Quiet and sometimes shy, he keeps to himself and his small group of friends. He’s yet unsure of what to do with his life, who he is and his sexuality. The pressure from the home front doesn’t help. His mother is a bit of tool and his father is away more often than not. In-between the mystery and Steven himself, there is also the discovery of Ryan’s secret sex life. Did Steven really know his best friend?


There were a few instances where you just want to hug Steven. He’s in love with his best friend…who just died and came back and here he is, discovering all these things about Ryan that he never knew. Steven is definitely entitled to his drama moments.


I thought all the angles were balanced quite well. The story is well paced and unrushed. We get a good feel for the characters, who they are and what drives them, even if we learn about them through Steven. None of these characters are the glorified, perfect teens we sometimes see in young adult stories. They have their faults and do stupid, not so smart things. I mean, come on, did you never make a mistake when you were a teenager? Didn’t you ever play games instead of doing homework?


Ryan especially. When we first meet him, he’s actually not that pleasant. It’s clear he didn’t just make a slip-up. He fucked up. He’s a very conflicted character. It was nice to see how he evolves throughout the story and changes. Yes, even in death you can still become a better version of yourself.


Steven also grows throughout the story. He comes into his own at the end of the story. When we first meet him, it’s clear he has some growing up to do and in a way needs something to kick-start him. He’s a bit of a wallflower, afraid to make ripples, but he learns that sometimes you just have to make ripples to get where you need to go. Or discover who you are. Even if that means making mistakes.


Steven and Ryan are not the only characters. There is a good and solid cast that supports this story. Some characters are more prominent than others, but none of the support cast had that cardboard feeling. They have their own voice and add to the story.


The ending? Not going to spoil anything. I am going to say that it may not be picture perfect, but it’s fitting for the story.


With When Ryan Came Back the author delivers a wicked good paranormal mystery story.


Why you should read it: When Ryan Came Back was a well written story with a good flow and a mystery that will keep you guessing, all packed in a nice paranormal package. It has the right amount of angst and teens being teens, who curse, play video games, post updates on Facebook and have sex. Just a note, there is no explicit sex in this book (that would just be awkward).

How to Train Your Dom in Five Easy Steps - Josephine Myles

Josephine Myles calls How to Train your Dom in Five Easy Steps her filthiest book to date and the book certainly has more smexy scenes than we are used to from her, but for this particular story it works well. It is in no way a porn-without-plot story. There is a multi-layered plot.

The author is known for her unique stories with down-to-earth characters that could just be your next-door neighbours. With this story it’s even more so than any of the author’s previous books. Either Eddy or Jeff could easily fit the description of your friend, your neighbour or your co-worker.

How to Train your Dom in Five Easy Steps throws every cliché know to BDSM Gods in a big hat and stirs it around. What we get is a short, stocky Dom – a bit of klutz and a man of few words – who’s learning the ropes (literally and figuratively) and a tall, sassy, bratty and very slutty Sub with a five step program.

After rain comes sunshine, but for Jeff it remains cloudy after his break-up with his long-time girlfriend. He’s discovered his dominant side, but not how to handle female submissives and he manages to drive most of them away with his gruff demeanour. He just wants to do a scene, not do small talk.

Enter Eddy. Eddy is captivated by Jeff from the first moment. Even if he knows Jeff is not gay. That is just a minor obstacle to Eddie. Eddie knows what he wants and doesn’t just give up. He offers to teach Jeff the ropes and so ensues some page sparking hot scenes and BDSM like you’ve rarely seen before.

But Jeff is not gay…right?

How to Train your Dom in Five Easy Steps is a charming, charismatic, entertaining and sexy story with a down-to-earth view of BDSM. It’s supported by strong main characters that add their own unique voices to the story. There is also an engaging support cast that give the story a round feeling that keeps you turning the pages.

I have to admit, there were some doubts about Jeff in the beginning, with his reserved attitude, but with the delightful scenes (both smexy and not-so smexy) in the story and Eddie’s smart-alecky ways, Jeff soon wins you over.

There is some strong writing in this story, not only to create a multilayered story, but also to give it this British voice.

Why you should read it: How to Train your Dom in Five Easy Steps is a book I can really recommend if you like BDSM stories with a different view on the world. It might not be glamorous and sparkly, but it’s funny and hot with some inventive ways to use tools!

Note: this ARC-copy was given to me by the author.