Book Review: Single, Single Dads- Book #1

Author: RJ Scott
Book Name: Single
Release Date: June 12, 2019
Series: Single Dads
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Ash wants a family, and is determined to continue with a surrogacy he’d begun with his ex. Bringing baby Mia home, he vows that he will be the best father he can be. Nothing in this world matters more to him than caring for his daughter, not even accidentally falling in lust with the doctor next door. Challenged by his growing attraction to Sean, and confronted by painful memories of his family, Ash has to learn that love is all that matters.

When ER doctor Sean moves in with his friends next door to sexy single father Ash, he falls so quickly it takes his breath away. The sex they have is hot, but Ash is adamant his heart is too full with love for his daughter to let anyone else in. Why is Sean the only one who sees how scared Ash is, and how can he prove to his new lover that he desperately wants the three of them to become a family?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was a really great blend of incredibly sweet and slightly steamy, without going too far over in either direction. I will always be a sucker for stories with kids and babies, especially when you throw in the struggling, but loving single dad.

If I have much of anything to say beyond that, it is that I really would have liked just a little bit more. A little bit more time with both Sean and Ash to get a better feel for them and their connection. It is absolutely there and I loved it, but it was kind of this soft touch of them and then their story ends a little too quickly.

In all, though, I really liked this and it was exactly what I needed to lighten my reading for a bit.

 

Book Review: Stand In Place – Mary Calmes

Author: Mary Calmes
Book Name: Stand in Place
Release Date: July 17, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: One summer won’t be enough….

Kaenon Geary was done fighting the small minds in his sleepy Texas town when he made his escape and never looked back. But now, for the first time in more than a decade, he’s returned to Braxton to spend the summer with his beloved grandmother—her final summer—and no longer recognizes the home he’d left behind all those years ago.

Everything has changed.

Everything but the man he’s never stopped wanting.

Brody Scott was the local football hero who became a gridiron champ, but he retired from the fast lane to forge a new life as the Chief Constable of Braxton. He longs to put down roots in the community he is now sworn to protect. Though he’s not at all sure he can protect his heart from the quiet, earnest boy he once knew. The boy who has come back a man.

Starting something would be a mistake. Kaenon plans to fly away at summer’s end, but his love is something Brody desperately wants to have…and to keep. Their days together are numbered. Unless some simple hometown magic can make all the right things bloom and show them the true definition of love.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was a really sweet and warm read. I loved Kaenon’s character and the allusions to magic and the occult, though it isn’t technically a fantasy. As much as I enjoyed this, there were a few things that I had issues with.

One is more of a personal buttons kind of issue with regards to forgiveness and acceptance of past wrongs. There are some pretty horrific past wrongs in this book that end up just being wiped away as though they were nothing and I really struggled with that.

Slightly tied into that is how quick Kaenon and Brody got together. It just felt like there should have been more there, more discussion or working through some of their past issues.

I was also just a bit thrown with how and where this book ended. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t what I was expecting, which left me a little torn on how I felt about it. Again, it felt like there should have been more to it.

This was a really good story and most of my issues with it were more of a personal taste thing than anything.

 

 

Book Review: Loving Henry, Kate Lawson

Author: Kate Lawson
Book Name: Loving Henry
Release Date: June 24, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Henry’s mother gave him up for adoption and although he’s been the most loved boy in the world, he always wondered why his birth mother gave him away.

Elizabeth wanted a son, a little man to dote upon, but she always worried he would leave her one day, like the man she had intended to be his father.

Rachel had to give her son up for adoption, just like her mother gave her up when she was born, but she always wondered, what if…?

A chance encounter changes their lives forever and brings to light emotions all three have been trying to suppress. Can they all move on now their lives are entangled, especially when they’re all holding on to the secrets in their past?

Loving Henry is a novel about the search for identity and purpose, and an examination of the true meaning of family.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I always have a soft, squishy spot for stories about family, especially ones where the families are built on more than just blood and genetics, so this was a really good fit for me. The characters came across as fallible and human, without dipping into stereotypes, making them relatable. This gives a good look into some of the issues that can come up with both adults and kids that have been adopted as well as seeing it from the perspective of those adopting and those letting go. It was nice to see all those different perspectives. I wasn’t pulled in quite as hard emotionally as I would have expected given the subject matter as this didn’t take me to extremes and is probably my one ding to the overall rating for me. Otherwise, this was a really good story.

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars: I had to note that I really liked this cover and the simplicity of it. It just feels really calming and soothing.

Book Review: Close To Home, Sawyer’s Ferry – Book #4

Author: Cate Ashwood
Book Name: Close To Home
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Series: Sawyer’s Ferry
Order: #4
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 3 SPA Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Witt:
I excelled at two things: systems engineering and going completely unnoticed.
The engineering took work and determination. The invisibility came naturally. Until one day, the wrong person noticed me. Battered and broken, I fled, escaping to Sawyer’s Ferry and the only friends I’d ever had.
Now, I just needed to figure out what I was going to do next.

Mason:
Life was good.
I had a great job, good friends, and a family who loved me. Even my roommate was decent. At least he was until he let his nudist brother come to visit. The opportunity to house-sit and help an injured friend couldn’t have come at a better time.
All I’d needed was to avoid an awkward situation for a few days, but I got more than I bargained for when my entire uncomplicated life flipped upside down. The last thing I’d been looking for was love, but it wasn’t until Witt that I realized just how much I’d been missing out on.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

This started out really good and I connected with Witt’s character right away. I liked Mason right away as well. I liked how their story was unfolding. But… this ended up being this really long and drawn out story where not much actually happens for the bulk of the story. Then, in the last 10% of the book, the reader gets steamrolled with big stuff going on, Mason and Witt going from taking this snail slow pace to being in love, followed by a huge time jump that wraps it all up in a bow. It started out good, then started to drag and then you hit light speed right before you hit full stop. It was like there was this great story idea but there wasn’t a specific path to a finish. The end felt jumbled and rushed which clashes with the much slower pace of the earlier parts of the story making this fall more into the “Okay” range for me.

 

Book Review: Unspoken Vow, Steele Brothers – Book #2

Author: Eden Finley
Book Name: Unspoken Vow
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Series: Steele Brothers
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/LQBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: 𝙃𝙚’𝙨 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙄 𝙬𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙧𝙪𝙣 𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢.

There’s a long list of things I don’t handle well:
Change.
Relationships.
Breakups.

But there’s one person above everything else I can’t seem to get a handle on.
𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦.

In short, he’s perfect. The reality, he scares me.He’s the opposite of what I usually go for. He’s bigger. Intimidating. He reminds me of someone I’d rather forget.

When I need to find a new place to live, Brody offers me his spare room, but I have no plans on taking him up on the offer. He doesn’t know what happened to me five years ago, and I want to keep it that way.But with limited options, I find myself outside his apartment holding a full moving box and wondering: How can I do this without exposing the darkest part of my past?

**𝘜𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘝𝘰𝘸 𝘪𝘴 𝘢 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭-𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘵𝘩 𝘔𝘔 𝘯𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘭 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 a 𝘏𝘍𝘕/𝘏𝘌𝘈 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴. 𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘤𝘬 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘨𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳.**

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Unwritten Law, so when I saw that this had been released, I was really excited. This is a sweet romance that delves into some really heavy emotional issues and it does so in an incredible way without getting too heavy or dark.

I think this book does an amazing job of dealing with and showing the emotional fallout from both physical and emotional trauma. It does so from a very realistic and human perspective without falling into preaching or educating about mental health while still telling an incredible story. The serious aspects are balanced against the right amount of humor and sweetness.

The utter lack of perfection in working out the relationship issues in this book is probably one of the things I like the most. Anders doesn’t suddenly and magically become “fixed” just because he gets into a relationship with Brody, but rather they work on their issues knowing that it will always be a thing they need to work on. That kind of realism when dealing with the emotional issues in this book is what really clenched how much I liked this.

There was one part that bounced up against a typical romance trope that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but even that was handled well enough to not really take too much from my enjoyment of the rest of the story.

If you like emotionally fragile characters that fight to not be so fragile, who are really at heart way more and way stronger than simply fragile, and the loved ones that help them in that fight, then you really need to read this one.

Book Review – Why We Fight: At First Sight, Book 4

Author: TJ Klune
Book Name: Why We Fight
Series: At First Sight
Order: #4
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Corey Ellis sure doesn’t. Oh, everyone around him seems to have found their happy ending, but he’s far too busy to worry about such things. He’ll have plenty of time for romance after he survives his last summer before graduation. So what if he can’t get his former professor, Jeremy Olsen, out of his head? It’s just hero worship. And that’s the way it should stay.

Except that this summer, bigender Corey—aka Kori—is interning at Phoenix House, a LGBTQI youth center that recently hired an interim director. And because life is extraordinarily unfair, the director just so happens to be a certain former professor, now current boss.

Desperate to keep things professional as he and Jeremy grow closer, Corey makes a major mistake: he turns to his friends, Paul Auster and Sanford Stewart, for help.

But Paul and Sandy have some ideas of their own.

Set in the summer of 2016, Why We Fight is a celebration of queer life and being true to oneself… no matter the cost.

I was so excited to see this one was coming out, it went on preorder for me the moment I saw it was available. As always, TJ Klune is a master at over the top, ridiculous humor threaded through with weightier, heartfelt emotions.

You absolutely get classic TJ Klune snark in this book, but you also get more of the deep, insightful aspects as well. There are points, though not a lot, that are heavy in social commentary about the LGBTQIA community and the current political climate (or where we were in 2016), but it doesn’t ever delve into ugliness, only focusing on the stronger, more positive aspects of being yourself and fighting for your right to be that self. In a way, that is kind of what the whole book is about, but it’s mostly done through the lens of the developing relationship between Corey/Kori and Jeremy.

Corey’s/Kori’s character was also a part of the Bear, Otter and the Kid series. I think of all the books in the At First Sight series, this one reminds me more of BOatK because it does ride the balance closer to the heavy emotions side of things rather than the humor side, as most of the other AFS books seem to do (though they also have that emotional side and is why I love them so much).

I think the end of a deeply loved series is always going to have those heart tugging emotions because you know you won’t get any more from those characters. I love the fact that this book brought on the happy tears with the crazy humor, though I really, really wasn’t ready to let go of all the amazing characters in this one. Honestly, I want to be an Auster. Everyone needs a family like that.

 

 

Book Review – Upside Down, N.R. Walker

Author: N.R. Walker
Book Name: Upside Down
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/MM
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb: Jordan O’Neill isn’t a fan of labels, considering he has a few. Gay, geek, a librarian, socially awkward, a nervous rambler, an introvert, an outsider. The last thing he needs is one more. But when he realizes adding the label ‘asexual’ might explain a lot, it turns his world upside down.

Hennessy Lang moved to Surry Hills after splitting with his boyfriend. His being asexual had seen the end of a lot of his romances, but he’s determined to stay true to himself. Leaving his North Shore support group behind, he starts his own in Surry Hills, where he meets first-time-attendee Jordan.

A little bewildered and scared, but completely adorable, Hennessy is struck by this guy who’s trying to find where he belongs. Maybe Hennessy can convince Jordan that his world hasn’t been turned upside down at all, but maybe it’s now—for the first time in his life—the right way up.

This was cute and sweet and seriously funny. One of those warm, fuzzy reads. Come one, who isn’t going to crack up at the perfect visual of “feline buttholitis of the face.” Both of the main characters were adorable, but I really loved Jordan.

I think the only reason I’m not giving this the full five stars is because it does ride that line of being syrupy, perfect sweet, but it is still a really awesome book and is exactly what I was in the mood for.

Straight From The Heart: Wilde Love, Book 1

Author: Sam Burns
Book Name: Straight from the Heart
Series: Wilde Love
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

Blurb:

On the same night that Alex finds himself disowned and sleeping on his best friend’s couch, he meets Liam, who saves him from being mugged. It’s a strange time for him to be starting a relationship, but everything about being with Liam feels right. When it becomes apparent that Liam isn’t exactly the prince charming he seems to be, Alex has to deal with some hard truths about not just his new boyfriend, but his own history as well.

Liam is just trying to do his job, but everything keeps getting in the way. First he gets assigned to watch some stranger, then somehow, he finds himself dating the guy. Even if it doesn’t offend the boss, Liam knows the wrong thing to do when he does it. He finds himself wondering, though: is his job really the most important thing in his life, or can he walk away from it all for a brand new relationship?

 

I hesitated on reading this at first because the blurb made me think this was going to be a pretty heavy, darker read. I was pleasantly surprised that it really wasn’t. It was sweet and funny, but still balanced with enough of the deeper stuff to make it pretty well rounded.

Though Alex can come across as a little simple and naive, I still really liked his character. I especially liked Liam, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. He just came across as this genuine, yet conflicted guy. I think I liked the sense of humor the two shared together.

Some of my favorite books are those that can portray their characters with that kind of lighthearted banter that actually works without coming across and cheesy or trying too hard. This one really made it work.

Fighting For You: Fighting For Love, Book 1

Author: J.P. Oliver
Book Name: Fighting For You
Series: Fighting For Love
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb: Luke’s life couldn’t really get any worse. His parents have died, his family bar is failing, he’s had to drop out of college, and he’s now engaged in a custody battle with his grandparents over his younger brother.

Adam is a drop-dead gorgeous lawyer, representing the grandparents in the custody battle. He isn’t pleased to be representing such snobby clients, and he’s definitely miffed to be shipped out to the Midwest for this case. But all that changes when he meets Luke. He’s handsome, charming… he gets Adam’s sense of humor, and definitely deserves to win the case.

They’re not supposed to even be talking to one another, much less dating, but both Adam and Luke feel a connection they can’t ignore. Can they figure out a way to make it work? Or will the case – and the things they have to do to win it – tear them apart?

This just barely hit the okay mark for me. Honestly? I was bored and ended up skimming through a lot of this book because there just wasn’t anything overly believable or emotionally stimulating here.

I love books about kids and families, yet this book uses the kid, Seth, as a prop and an afterthought when he should be the underlying focus of the story since that is the whole premise. Luke behaves and makes decisions like there isn’t even a kid in the picture at all, let alone one that he is willing to fight for. For someone who is apparently desperate to keep his brother with him, he sure as hell doesn’t act like it outside of a few pat sentences provided as a way of saying “See, this IS a book about battling for custody.” The kid is 12 and yet Luke apparently leaves him alone pretty much 100% of the time, treating him like he is much older and nearly ready to be living on his own instead of like a young kid that just lost both of his parents. There isn’t even any kind of cover like calling to ensure Seth knows where Luke is or checking in to make sure Seth is okay. That aspect of the story just flat out fails on all fronts.

The whole legal issue and sabotaging the case thing is so outside of the realm of believability as to be laughable. The fact that there were zero consequences for that ridiculous mess makes it all even more unbelievable.

Throw in some really meh or unlikable characters, even some of the peripheral ones (are they ALL fallen down drunks? Really?), and you aren’t left with much that is worth the time unless you just enjoy fluff stories with little to no substance.

A Family For Keeps: Rheland Richmond

Author: Rheland Richmond
Book Name: A Family For Keeps
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb:

Tristan was devastated when his sister died. His only consolation was her newborn daughter. He promised to take care of her like she was his own, but he’s broken that promise.

After growing up in foster care, Nathaniel’s finally built the life he’s always wanted. Now one case of human error could tear it all apart.

An unthinkable mistake that could never be rectified. Two men. Absolute strangers until tragedy and unforeseen circumstances bind them together. They must now find a way to co-parent and make the best of a bad situation. With no shared history to help them and two little girls caught in the middle, they now have no choice but to make it work. What could possibly go wrong?

Can two men put their differences aside for the sake of their children? They both have difficult choices to make, or what they love most will be taken away.

When I first read the blurb for this, I was pretty excited because it checked a lot of boxes for me on things I love in a good story. The premise and idea behind the story is really good, if maybe a little bit over the top. Sadly, the execution of that idea kind of flopped. There were just too many things that kept yanking me out of this story for me to ever really sink into it emotionally and I hated that.

The majority of this book is contained inside the characters heads, giving the reader very little dialog. Even a lot of character interaction is handled this way, even several situations being a character’s remembrance of scenarios instead of allowing the characters to experience them as a natural flow of events. That hampered my ability to connect with the characters and feel their connection with each other. This is a classic example of needing to show, not tell.

What little dialog you get was painfully one sided. There was almost no actual back and forth conversation, only one character speaking without getting any feedback, either in words or actions, from the other character(s) in the scene, leaving you with this bizarre kind of monologue. The few times you do get a little back and forth between characters, it is nearly impossible to tell who is speaking, which made all the dialog scenes even more convoluted because you couldn’t always tell if it was a monologue or back and forth. I honestly got lost several times in the dialog parts.

This is written in a dual POV between the two main characters. Sections were made clear as to who’s POV the reader was getting, yet there were still these random jumps where we get a tiny bit of perspective that came out as the other character, lasted maybe a sentence or two or even a paragraph before shifting back to the designated character’s POV. These always tripped me up and I had to go back and reread to try and figure out if I misread something or had missed a noted POV switch.

While I do really like the concept idea of this story, the details to make it happen are just too pat. Both main characters are stupidly good looking and stupidly wealthy. Tristian has the added benefit of being surrounded by stupidly good looking, talented, equally stupidly wealthy friends and adopted family. The kids are all insanely perfect, docile little dolls that roll with every single change like it is nothing. Anyone that has kids or even knows a kid will tell you this is straight up fantasy, because that would NEVER happen no matter how you work to justify it. Yes, there are a few historical challenges and difficulties as well as the issue of the medical thing (which also turns out perfectly), but… there just are no character imperfections to make them feel realistic, believable or relatable. Even the one real struggle towards the end seems overly simplistic.

And as much as I hate harping on editing mistakes… this just had too many obvious and annoying ones that just made all the other annoying issues combine to make me just not enjoy the story. I’m pretty sure I even ran into a few character history/background contradictions (massive peeve of mine). This story is okay, but this is one of those books that could have been really good if some of those issues had been noted and fixed before someone hit publish.

Daddy Issues: Seth King

Daddy Issues
Daddy Issues

Author:  Seth King
Book Name: Daddy Issues
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBTQ
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars

 

 

Blurb:

Their bond is forbidden. Their relationship could upend lives. But their love? It’s a force of nature…

Ten years ago, a desperate and confused Robert Glazer briefly married a woman before confronting his sexuality and starting his life as an out gay man. They divorced and lost contact – until now.

Today, a sudden family death throws Robert and his ex-wife back together for the first time. That’s where Robert meets her son Eliot, who was raised with his own father and is now a gorgeous – and openly gay – adult. And to Robert and Eliot’s surprise, sparks fly.

Passion ignites, then threatens to explode. Soon Eliot knows three things. One: Robert is not his father figure, and never was – in fact, he barely remembers him. Two: news of their union would still rock his whole world. And three: he craves Robert more than anything he has ever wanted. And as suspicions arise, their attraction only grows…

This was kind of a train wreck. I came so close at least a half dozen times to putting this down and walking away, but kept at it wanting to see why it was so highly rated (Amazon).

There were so many things about this one that just drove me up the wall. A big one, which confuses the hell out of me because apparently the author is gay himself, is the way he drops almost every negative gay stereotype into this story in such a way that he turns being gay into an ugly caricature. Then, he turns around and seems to get on his soap box about how bad life can be for gay men and how they are treated by the world around them. It is a glaring contradiction, being this incredibly strange cross between preachy and offensive at the same time.

I had a terrible time trying to overlook some of the errors in scene specifics or contradictory plot elements. You could read something in one chapter/paragraph/line and in the next, you would read something that appeared to be the opposite of what was mentioned previously. I found myself flipping back to reread several times to to check that I didn’t miss something or read it wrong, but it was just two very different versions. One in particular dealt with a character having put clothing on then the next mention, there isn’t any and it just killed the entire scene.

I get that authors have habits or phrases that they like to use. Often, they are done well enough that they are either not noticed or are not annoying, but this one drove me up the wall because because it was used in nearly every single dialog scene in the book. “… he said soon.” or some version of that phrase. For one, this extreme level of repetition shows a lack of depth, but it also very often didn’t even work for how it was used and made the already choppy dialog even clunkier. Dialog that often left me feeling as if I’d missed huge chunks of the conversation. What makes all that even worse is that there is so little dialog in the first place. Nearly this entire book happens inside the characters heads and there is a lot of history dumping and even repetition that had me skimming through parts of this.

The scene/timing transitions also often left me confused because most of the time they didn’t flow between one and the next in a smooth way so I wasn’t sure that the scene had even shifted or how much time that had passed between one scene and the next. Toss in a sudden POV shift from the two main characters to a third character somewhere in the 60% range, only to go back to the two main characters, never getting the POV of that third again, only to then be tossed into a 4th POV a few chapters later and you get the readers version of whiplash. Don’t even get me started on the convoluted, crazy mess that was the last couple of chapters.

Neither of the main characters showed any level of believably or maturity, no matter their age. It was like watching extremely immature 16 year olds rather than adults, let alone someone that is supposedly in their 40s. The yo-yoing is off the charts and makes it all that much worse.

Even though I’ve pretty much blasted this book, there are tiny parts that are genuinely good, but they aren’t nearly enough to make up for all that isn’t.

One Man’s Trash: The Heretic Doms Club, Book 1

One Man's Trash
One Man’s Trash

Author:  Marie Sexton
Book Name: One Man’s Trash
Series: The Heretic Doms Club
Order: #11
Genre: Romance/LGBTQ
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:

After four tours in Afghanistan, Warren Groves couldn’t settle into civilian life. For the last twelve years, he’s survived by working odd and often illegal jobs for some of Denver’s less fortunate. His personal life is equally unsatisfactory. He can barely remember the last time he had sex, let alone the last time he got to use somebody hard and rough, the way he likes. Fate intervenes when a favor for a friend leads him to a pretty young rentboy named Taylor Reynolds.

Taylor’s spent the last few years on his own, working as a hustler, going home with anybody who’ll give him a warm meal and a place to sleep. He enjoys having a bit of force used against him, and he makes Warren an offer he can’t refuse — all the sex he wants, as rough and dirty as he likes, in exchange for room and board.

At first, Warren thinks he’s struck gold. Taylor’s the perfect roommate — he cooks, he cleans, and he’s dynamite in the sack. But Taylor has some dark demons in his head and some even darker cravings. Falling for somebody as volatile as Taylor is dangerous enough, but when Taylor’s urges turn truly self-destructive, it’ll be up to Warren to decide just how far to let things go. 

*Potential Minor Spoilers*

First off, no matter how I feel about this book, it is absolutely not one for everybody. It runs along a very dark side and deals with some seriously ugly subject matter that will just flat out be unappealing to some (addiction and abuse for some specifics). That said, that dark is liberally laced with spots of brightness and the better aspects of humanity shining through.

I thought this was beautifully written, no matter the subject matter. It pinged on several concepts of right and wrong that I’ve been pondering a lot lately, so some of those background themes really resonated with me. Even though I don’t usually go for dark books like this, I did really like it. Probably because of how many of those issues were presented and dealt with. There was no preaching to either direction, side, or right or wrong, simply presented as just the way it is.

The very imperfect humanness of the characters and their situations made them feel real. That kept me skirting this edge of compassion and understanding for them. It didn’t tip me into being overly emotional about them. That and the darker side that isn’t my favorite kept this from getting that slightly higher rating.

Even with the heavier nature of this, it does have a positive ending for the main characters. That is probably the other reason why this did work for me. I wouldn’t have like it even a fraction as much if this had not had that kind of ending.

Forever With You: Londra Laine

Forever With You
Forever With You

Author: Londra Laine
Book Name: Forever With You
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay/Didn’t Like
2+stars


 

 

Blurb:

Kelly Brooks Montes is only nineteen years old and just starting college in New York City when tragedy strikes, and he becomes a single dad to his toddler brother. Four years later, Kelly and his baby brother, Jaylen, are doing well, though Kelly leads a double life to make ends meet. He’s a high-level administrative assistant by day and a racy go-go boy by night. Between raising his brother, dancing, and trying not to run afoul of his new boss, Kelly doesn’t have time for a boyfriend. Even if he did want a man in his life, a past trauma makes him question whether he can ever trust a man with his body or his heart. But then Kelly receives an unexpected but steamy birthday kiss from his boss, a man he was sure hated him, and he begins to wish for things he knows he shouldn’t.

Andrew Whitman knew from the moment he held Kelly’s hand that the man was special, and it both annoyed and terrified him. Kelly makes him feel a little out of control and Drew is a highly controlled man. He has to be to keep his sexuality a secret from his father, a conservative politician. And he is OK with that. He has a perfectly good, mutually beneficial, life plan with his best friend, Lex. A long time ago, he’d made his peace with the fact that he’d never find a man worth turning his life upside down for. Then he ends up with his capable and gorgeous assistant under him on top of his desk, and his life plans change. Drew can’t seem to get out of his own way when it comes to the quiet, sexy, and surprising single dad, but he can’t stop himself from falling for Kelly and his sweet baby brother. And just when it seems that Kelly has worked through his past hurts enough to let Drew into his body and his heart, manipulative family and words unspoken threaten to tear them apart. But after getting a taste of a life he never thought he could have, Drew won’t let anything tear his fledgling family apart.

***Please be aware that this book contains a flashback of and several references to sexual assault that may be triggering to some readers.***

Andrew, aka Drew, killed this book for me. He is an absolute a**. He started out that way so much so, that I nearly didn’t finish the book. Towards the middle, it became better and I thought he might, just might, redeem himself. Then it all went down in flames towards the end with his ridiculous excuse for his deception. There was absolutely no realistic or believable reason for that deception. It was childish and inane. When you look at that on a balance with what Kelly trusted him with, it makes Drew an absolute selfish douche, putting him on par with Kelly’s past abuser.

The only reason I could give this two stars instead of one is because Kelly was a pretty decent character and I liked Jayden, but they weren’t enough to overcome how awful Drew was.

TJ Klune: Author/Series Review; Bear, Otter, and the Kid

I am kind of kicking my own butt over how long it took me to actually pick this series up and read it. I’ll say straight up that my reasons for not doing so look pretty stupid at this point, but they seemed valid at the time.

Continue reading “TJ Klune: Author/Series Review; Bear, Otter, and the Kid”

Someone to Call My Own: Road to Blissville, Book 2

Someone to Cal lMy OwnAuthor: Aimee Nicole Walker
Book Name: Someone to Call My Own
Series: Road to Blissville
Order: 2
Genre: Romance, LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Psychic Emory Jackson and former black ops specialist Jonathon Silver are men from two completely different worlds with one thing in common: heartbreak. Emory still mourns the loss of his husband five years prior, and Jon is reeling with grief from the recent death of his twin brother.

Sparks fly when mutual friends introduce them, but it’s so much more than basic attraction. There’s an undeniable awareness and a sense of belonging that neither man can deny. Despite Emory’s premonition of a future with Jon, he has vowed never to love again. Jon is convinced that his tainted soul is the reason he will never have someone to call his own. What if they’re both wrong?

Maybe these broken men with their jagged edges could somehow align perfectly to form something whole and beautiful. But will that realization come too late for them?

This was on the disappointing side. Having read all the books in the Curl Up and Dye series and loved them, I had high expectations for this series since it is set in the same world with lots of run ins from the characters in that series. Sadly, with the second installment in The Road to Blissville series, it just doesn’t measure up.

My first issue is that there are so many overlaps between the story lines in the Curl Up and Dye series that there is a good chunk of events and information in this book that I’d already read in that series. I think in this case, you just might be better off if you haven’t read the other series first. For me, that made the first third of this book seem to drag because I needed something new (kind of the point in picking up a new book).

The other is probably more of a personal taste issue, but I strongly dislike stories with this concept of fated mates where the people have no choice. Don’t get me wrong. I love all kinds of things that run to the paranormal and I don’t even mind the general concept of fate, but when it is pushed to the point where it feels like all choice is taken away and it doesn’t matter how a character feels about it, that is just the way it is going to be, I lose any kind of connection to the story. It pushes boundaries for me that are distasteful to me. This pushed those boundaries.

Because of how unwelcoming both characters felt about this relationship, it made it even harder for me to believe anything that happens emotionally, especially when you are suddenly getting the “I love you” bombs dropped and they know absolutely nothing about each other. When you have absolutely nothing to base those feelings on, I cannot find any realism in them. It just does not work at all for me.

There was so much energy and character and fun in the Curl Up and Dye series that this book (and the first one in this same series) is lacking. I was expecting at least a few touches of the same here, but you never get it. That is also a part of why this only rated as okay for me. I was just expecting more.

 

 

 

Looking In: Michael Bailey

Looking InAuthor: Michael Bailey
Book Name: Looking In
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance, LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: David Barrows world fell apart at the age of eleven after his mother died. Years of physical and emotional abuse followed, leaving him scarred in body and mind, mired in the belief that he is unlovable. He spends his days working in a comic shop, and his nights alone wrestling with the ghosts of his past.

As a Marine, Adam Duncan has sworn to protect and serve, and there is no one he is more protective of than his brother and nephew. When tragedy strikes, threatening the security of his family, his protective instincts kick in. But how can he fight an enemy he can’t see?

David and Adam feel the connection between them, but David has built walls around his heart that no one has bothered to break through, until Adam. Adam can see what a special man David is, and is willing to do whatever it takes to break down those barriers. Can he make David see he doesn’t have to keep living his life…Looking In?

As a debut novel for a new author, this is a decent book. It was a sweet read, but edged just a little too close to being too sweet.

Adam’s character, being a former Marine, doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. Partly because of a complete lack of any kind of emotional trauma after being in the service, in combat, for 15 years. There are allusions to people he knew that had issues, but he was immune to those, apparently.

David’s character kept confusing me because he would seem so utterly withdrawn and broken and messed up and then suddenly he would say or do something that felt way too confident or just didn’t mesh with the brokenness of his character.  Both his character flaws and Adam’s came across as flawed in the wrong ways, making them both hard to believe.

My other, big issue, and why I could not rate this any higher were all of the editing mistakes. I hate, hate, HATE having to harp on those issues, because it is beyond impossible to catch them all. But if you have enough and they are just obvious and bad, they yank you right out of the story and you lose whatever emotional flow you had going on. If a story is done incredibly well, it can cover some of those, but not the big ones. If the story is only decent in the first place, those things can really drag it down.

Things like sentence sections being duplicated, obvious sections left out entirely to where you don’t even understand what the sentence said, putting periods in the middle of the thought for a pause instead of commas or ellipses or ANYTHING else to indicate the thought isn’t complete, and typically misused or mistyped words. This book had all of those sprinkled throughout. Sadly, this looks to have gone through both one editor and one proofreader (I double checked the info noting them in the beginning of the book at one point) yet it STILL had all of these problems, so I gotta say, they aren’t all down to the author.

I think one of the main reasons I have such a huge issue with editing problems is the fact that one tiny mistake can entirely change the mood or meaning of a sentence. Enough of those and you can completely misinterpret an author’s intent on character, mood or story development. I think that, at least in part, was why I had some of the issues I did with this story.

I won’t discuss my issues with the ending as it will give things away. Suffice it to say, it didn’t really fit in places, wasn’t enough information in others and the ended with the absolute PERFECT outcome and part of why this was just a bit too sweet for my tastes. So, this was decent and it was sweet. If that is what you like, then this is perfect for you. If you like your characters to be a little bit more developed and full and things to be just a bit more real, then maybe not so much.

 

Love You, Moore: Moore Romance, Book 2

Love You, MooreAuthor: Alex Miska
Book Name: Love You, Moore
Series: Moore Romance
Order: 2
Genre: Romance, LGBT
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Xander Griffith was mesmerized by Julian the moment he laid eyes on him in a club; he’s gorgeous, brilliant, and unabashedly himself. But when he discovers Julian is his good friend’s, off-limits, baby brother, he promptly drops Julian off at his parents’ house with a promise to call. Unfortunately, his life took a left-hand turn that night, and Xander was unable to keep that promise. When they meet again months later, they can’t be in the same room without bickering like small children, and both men wonder whether the person they’d fallen for that night was an illusion.

Julian Moore is at loose ends after getting his Master’s: he can’t start his government cybersecurity job until he gets high-level clearance, his boyfriend and best friend are far away, and even his dojo closed down. All the sparkly, snarky white-hat hacker does these days is read M/M romance novels and hang out with his brothers’ friends. Of course, that means bumping into that over-privileged, condescending jerk, Xander, at every freaking turn; the man would be completely insufferable if it wasn’t for his sweet, hat-loving dog, Cassius.

When Xander discovers Julian is deeply depressed, his protective instincts kick in and he puts together a plan to help his friend’s brother fight his way through the murky gloom. The first step? Move the brat into his condo! It seems like the perfect solution: he certainly has plenty of room, it gets Julian out of his parents’ house, his boxer is head-over-paws in love with Julian, and someone has to keep their friend’s pug from destroying all of Xander’s left shoes.

From the moment Julian moves in, his and Xander’s lives fit seamlessly together and both men soon realize their initial attraction may have been stronger, and deeper, than they thought.

I struggled with rating this because there were some good things about it, but in the end I just didn’t like it. There were too many things that annoyed me or threw me out of the story to give it a higher rating.

First (and totally on me), I didn’t realize until I was about a third of the way through and struggling not to be totally confused that the book I thought was book one in this series was actually a short story written in the same world. Reading this before reading that first book left me at a huge disadvantage. While you can technically read this as a stand alone, there are so many references to things that happened in book one (more so than you’d expect since a large portion of this happens alongside the timeline for book one) that it left me lost and not really understanding some of who the different characters were and how they knew or were related to each other.

This had lots of elements that made it funny, but for me, it was so over the top and too much that it became ridiculous instead of quirky. Even when the situations got more serious, the characters were never able to pull off that level of necessary somberness. It became irritating after a while.

Besides feeling lost because I hadn’t read book one, I ended up seriously confused in several places because I just didn’t understand what was going on. It took nearly a full chapter to really understand a 2 line conversation between Xander and Trip about secretly dating, one that gave absolutely no real context, detail or background. I finally understood much later that THEY were supposed to suddenly be secretly dating each other, but I still never fully understood what the hell was going on or why because it just never made a whole lot of sense. Why the hell would Xander do that? There was no real genuine reason expressed other than Trip thought it was a good idea. The whole thing was really kind of stupid, but again, I felt that way because I didn’t get it. I had something similar happen at least 3 different times because there was just not enough information provided or what felt like essential portions of conversations were skipped entirely. Others weren’t to that extreme, but were enough to drag me out of the story over and over.

On a couple of different occasions, a character would speak to or react to another character’s thoughts, thoughts that had not been expressed in any fashion other than the understood fact that it was a thought, as though they’d had a conversation about it. One that annoyed the crap out of me was when Julian is thinking about the whole living situation with Xander as though they’d had this conversation about him moving in, a good paragraph or two before the subject of him moving in came up in an actual, spoken conversation. Throughout this whole book, I was forced to go back and reread sections over and over to try and figure out what I’d missed only to realize that I hadn’t missed anything. It kind of felt at times as though, in the editing process, a paragraph or two accidentally got deleted, but never added back. It felt like chunks were missing or moved around slightly out of order.

It may in part be because of these issues, but I never fully believed any of the characters. Definitely not emotionally. At one point Julian overhears Xander say something about him that, taken out of the context it was said in, as he heard it, should have been emotionally devastating to him, but it ended up being nothing more than a little twinge on his self confidence. The reaction, or lack thereof, to that situation nearly made me stop reading at that point because it was so weird and contradictory to who the Julian character was supposed to be.

Overall, this was a pretty chaotic and confusing read.

Loving Jay: Loving You, Book 1

Loving JayAuthor: Renae Kaye
Book Name: Loving Jay
Series: Loving You
Order: 1
Genre: Romance, LGBT
Rating:  Excellent

5+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: One thing Liam Turner knows for sure is that he’s not gay—after all, his father makes it very clear he’ll allow no son of his to be gay. And Liam believes it, until a chance meeting with James “Jay” Bell turns Liam’s world upside-down. Jay is vivacious and unabashedly gay—from the tips of his bleached hair to the ends of his polished nails. With a flair for fashion, overreaction, and an inability to cork his verbal diarrhea, Liam believes drama queen Jay must have a screw loose.

An accident as a teenager left Liam with a limp and a fear of driving. He can’t play football anymore either, and that makes him feel like less of a man. But that’s no reason to question his sexuality… unless the accident broke something else inside him. When being with Jay causes Liam’s protective instincts to emerge, Liam starts to believe all he knew in life had been a convenient excuse to stay hidden. From intolerance to confrontations, Liam must learn to overcome his fears—and his father—before he can accept his sexuality and truly love Jay.

This was kind of a three bears kind of book for me in that it was just right. Just the right amount of sweet, without being saccharine or shallow. Just the right amount of funny without being over the top crazy or never serious.

I felt the same about the characters. I absolutely loved Jay and his quirkiness, but he didn’t cross the line into the stereotypical. He had his vulnerabilities without being weak. Liam was this perfect blend of finding himself and going for what he wanted without being either “oh, I’m suddenly gay and everything is perfect and I’m all chill no matter what happens” or all angsty and fighting it, refusing to admit it or accept himself. He had his issues, his struggles, but he dealt with them in a mature way.

I have read a couple of Renae Kaye’s short stories and enjoyed them, but this is the first full length novel and I really loved it. I will definitely be adding move of these to my want to read lists in the future.

From Ashes: Heathen’s Ink, Book 3

From AshesAuthor: K.M. Neuhold
Book Name: From Ashes
Series: Heathen’s Ink
Order: #3
Genre: LGBT/Romance
Rating:  Okay

2+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: “When the broken man with scarred skin walked into Heathens, asked for a job, and showed me a sketch of a phoenix, it felt like fate.”~ Adam

It started with an anonymous post by someone who didn’t want to live anymore. I read it over and over again, unable to get it out of my mind. What if my brother Johnny had posted something like this before he’d taken his own life? Would someone have been able to save him?

I’ve been living a lie for 16 long years and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to keep it up. And when a beautiful, broken man walks into my tattoo shop asking for a second chance at life, I know I’ll never be able to turn him away.

“When I was so far down I couldn’t even see the light, a stranger reached in to save me”~ Nox
I didn’t have anything to live for, until a kind stranger pulled me back from the brink. With physical and emotional scars I have nowhere to turn now but to that same stranger who saved my life without realizing it. But as my feelings for Adam grow, will I ever be anything other than a surrogate for the brother he couldn’t save? Am I even worthy of his love?

 

For the most part, I’ve liked the other books in this series, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into this one. It has been a while so I don’t remember if the other books had editing issues, but there were quite a few throughout this whole book. They were bad enough they kept yanking me from the story. I don’t like to harp on that because no one is perfect, but some of the mistakes in here are the kind that should have easily been caught even with a rough run through kind of edit. Spelling, word tenses, incomplete thoughts, you name it, I found it.

Beyond the editing, I struggled to find these characters believable on their own. It was even harder for me to believe them together.  I just didn’t really like them that much and was never able to find an emotional attachment to either of them.

Not being a fan of this one, I don’t think I’m going to be too interested in the next one in this series when it comes out.

Being Sawyer Knight: Souls of the Knight, Book 1

Being Sawyer KnightAuthor: Nicola Haken
Book Name: Being Sawyer Knight
Series: Souls of the Knight
Order: #1
Genre: LGBT/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


 

 

Blurb:  As lead singer and guitarist of the internationally renowned Souls of the Knight, Sawyer Knight is living a life most men can only dream of. He’s surrounded by music, fame, wealth, women throwing themselves at his feet. He has everything…

Yet he has nothing.

Life as one of the world’s most sought after rock stars is tiring, oppressive and lonely. He spends every day being who the world wants him to be, who his manager tells him to be, who his mother expects him to be… all the while fighting against who he really is. Truth is, he’s used to it. He’s actually gotten pretty good at pretending… at living the lie.

Until Jake Reed, his ex-best friend and the only person who’s ever made him ‘feel’, waltzes back into his life as the band’s new head of security. Jake wants Sawyer – always has, always will. Now, he just needs to get Sawyer to admit that he feels the same…

“You will be mine, Sawyer Knight. The faster you try to run the quicker you’ll fall to your knees. Then, Sawyer… then you’ll be too weak to resist.”

Review:  When I was trying to figure out what to say about this book, one word just kept poking around in my head.  Bland.  No matter what aspect I was trying to focus on, that word fit.  The story itself, the characters, even the sexy scenes were all just pretty bland.  Which is kind of a surprise considering the story is about a rock star.

Rock stars should never come across as bland, especially a rock star trying to come to terms with his sexuality.  Rock stars are the stereotypical bad boy, or at least they are on the surface, no matter how soft they may be at heart.  Here, while we get something of a history of a guy that was famous for his slutty ways, it is never really apparent in the character that we see.  Sawyer’s character comes across as incredibly insecure and weak.  We never really see anything truly rock star like out of him other than the crazy death threats, fans and the press, all of which is only on the periphery.   Even with the weakness of his character, it isn’t so much so that I couldn’t stand him, just that he wasn’t all that interesting.

Jake isn’t any better.  He is supposed to be some elite level body/security guard, but is so easily distracted by attraction, it takes away what it supposed to be special about him and makes him rather ordinary instead.  When he comes on the scene at the start of the book, his words and actions seem bold and confident, but it comes across off in a way that is kind of unbelievable and almost creepy stalkerish instead.

With the lack of something special from the main characters and a story that also doesn’t have anything that stands out and says “This is what makes this book different and awesome”, it isn’t one that will ever stand out and won’t prompt me to run out and read other books by this author.

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