...Bookfanatic

 

Happiness is a cup of coffee and a really good book.

So here's the thing...

BFF - K.C. Wells, Michael Mola

I'm really, really torn on this one. I had moments where I really into the story and enjoying myself and then I had moments that bordered on total ambivalence and my brain started to blank out and go 'yeah, yeah whatever'. 

 

For me this story was very reminiscent of Anna Martin's 'Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me' or or Laura Lascaro's 'When Everything Is Blue'. While each story is told in the author's unique style the overall concept is similar life long friends to lovers and in each case the story is all at least partially told through flashbacks.

 

I'm sure there are a number of other that could fall into this group as well but ironically I listened to all 3 of these books on audio, 2 of them actually had the same narrator...this one and 'When Everything Is Blue' were both narrated by Michael Mola who did an excellent job of with the narrating as did Jesse Cota who narrated 'Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me'. So I guess that's some of the reasons that the other two books came to mind while I was listening to the audio book of 'BFF'. 

 

I think one of my biggest problems with this one was the fact that we've got two boys/men, Matt and David who meet as young children and become life long friends...so far I'm on board with this it's cute and I'm liking it. For the most part they grow up together and as the years pass their bond of friendship strengthens and again still on board here and things are making sense...I get lost with the whole fact that we have two young men who have grown up together. Spent a huge amount of time together but both claim to be 'straight' and neither seems to realize that the reason the never seem to have a steady girlfriend or want to go with girls is because they just don't really want to be with anyone other than their 'best friend'. 

 

From an objective point the story was well laid out and there were a lot of really sweet moments...maybe, some of them were too sweet. I liked that both of these boys/men seem to have pretty awesome parents...this was nice and I enjoyed the lack of douchie parents...but maybe these parents were just a little too over the top sweet. For example there was this whole incident involving champagne when Matt and David finally admitted their feelings for each other that was just a little bit more sweet than I could swallow and while were a few other moments like this the champagne was the one that really stood out in my mind.

 

I had honestly expected that I'd like this one a lot more than I did, but that's not to say that I didn't like the story, it's more a case of I liked the story, I just didn't LOVE the story and honestly we can't love them all can we?

 

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An audio book of 'BFF' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Well this one needed to come with a warning...

What Binds Us - Larry  Benjamin, Richard Magnus

maybe something along the lines of...

'Warning...before reading this book the reader should ensure that they have tissues, a warm and snuggly teddy bear (because teddy bears fix things...all the things) and copious amounts of alcohol may also be beneficial.' 

 

I've had this one on my radar for quite a while now. But to be honest between the blurb and what I've seen and read in other reviews...well, I was nervous...I've read 'A Little Life', 'Let's Hear It for the Boy' and a few others that basically left me feeling more than a little brokenhearted...so I had to ask myself am I read to do this again, to let read a book that's not all goodness and light or filled with action and adventure. When I saw the book on audible.com...I thought...'Audio, I can do this on audio' and I clicked the button and added the book to my library...and there it sat for weeks...and more weeks...because every time I looked at it...I said 'nope, not yet. can't do it.' and this went on and on until I finally pulled on my big girl panties and clicked the play button and then I sat and I listened...I laughed and I cried...oh did I cry...tissues were sacrificed in an effort not short out my laptop with the tears...my poor little furbaby was frantic with worry and paced the floor because his people don't cry and if they do there's something wrong. 

 

'What Binds Us' is by no means a simple romance novel...It's the story of Thomas-Edward, Donovan (Dondi) Whyte and his brother Matthew. It starts with Thomas and Dondi when they first meet in college as roommates. Things progress between them to friendship and then something more and this is where things also start to get complicated.

 

Dondi's a bit of a bigger than life person, who also happens to be a bit self absorbed. But ultimately he's one of those people who others are just drawn too and he's a creature of excesses.

 

As Dondi and Thomas-Edward's relationship progresses and grows it also changes and they move back into the realm of being friends...enter Dondi's brother, Matthew.

 

Like his brother, Matthew and Thomas-Edward start out as friends as well. As things progress the lives of these three men become inextricably tangled. 

 

As Dondi and Thomas-Edward go from friends to lovers and back to friends while Thomas-Edward and Matthew explore their own friendship that ultimately sees them become lovers and partners and Dondi remains a permanent fixture in their lives as Thomas-Edward's best friend and Matthew's brother. 

 

What follows is a story of not just Matthew and Thomas-Edward but a story of love, friendship and partings...of having someone in your life and loosing them, of heartbreak and courage, of being a friend even when the other person pushes you away...a story of love and not just being in love, it's about growing up gay when having Aids was a death sentence and friends and lovers came into lives and left to soon.

 

There's not a lot of steam and sexy times in this one but this is about the relationships... the connections, how people grow and change, fit into each others lives sometimes forever and sometimes just for a while.

 

'What Binds Us' is about love and what it brings into our lives and how that shapes us and our relationships. It's love between friends, family and lovers. It's sweet and gently and beautiful and sometimes it's ugly and cruel but always it's a driving force in our lives.

 

Richard Magnus narrated this story and I loved his narration from start to finish especially for Dondi...his interpretation of how Dondi would sound was so perfectly in sync with what I imagined. This was actually my first time listening to a book narrated by this narrator and I'm looking forward to hearing more as well as re-listening to this story...as soon as I restock my supply of tissues. 

 

The ending of this one was good, really good it was happiness tinged with heartache...it was real. it was about the people we love and how they come and go from our lives but remain forever in our hearts.

Let's take a walk down memory lane...

My Fair Captain - J.L. Langley

I have such a soft spot in my heart for this book. The first time I read this story was back in 2010...how do I know this well I remember the house we were living in when I read this and we moved there in October of 2009 and this was one of the first m/m e-books that I ever bought and I got it after Christmas so early 2010.  I know all this really has nothing to do with the story except that as I said I have a real soft spot in my heart for this book and this author. 

 

Truthfully I could probably go through and make a laundry list of all the things that I shouldn't like about it...it's SciFi...so not my thing, it centers around a very patriarchal society...yep, there go women's rights, kids are genetically enhanced to prefer men in the royal families...can someone explain to me how that's even a thing? and then there's the names and I realize that several people have sited this as an annoyance in their reviews but as someone who came from a family of 7 kids let me just say off the top of my head I had no fewer than 3 names that I was called on any given day and that doesn't include those times when the parents ran down the list and threw in the cat and the dog's names for good measure, so it's really a matter of what you're use to for me the names really weren't an issue.  I'm sure there's more but my point is sometimes what shouldn't work does and for me this one worked.

 

Possibly because...it's SciFi set in an alternate reality so I get to leave my moral values at home. I mean this doesn't even take place on earth so why would I expect that the current values and morals of present day earth have anything to do with this world...they don't, part of what the author is doing here is creating an alternate reality so of course a lot of it not only doesn't line up with societal norms of our world but really why should it?

 

Along with the things that shouldn't have worked there are some things that made perfect counterpoints to them. Like the fact that it's the men who raise the children, oh sure they had nursemaids and nannies but that's not unusual for people with money and even better it's the virtue of the young men that needs to be protected in other words...'There will be no catting around here. These young men are to be pure and chaste upon their wedding nights'...come on is anyone but me laughing their ass off right now? I think it's high time that young men had to worry about their reputations...ok, I'll stop.

 

I found 'My Fair Captain' to be a delightful and entertaining wander into the world of SciFi that took me into an alternate world and made me consider how different things could be while telling me a story that had action, adventure and a bit of mystery and intrigue to keep me guessing about some things...things that don't totally wrap themselves up in this first book but the ending of this one is such that if you choose to leave it there you can. Personally, I'm game for the next book if it comes out on audio...I might have read the original series...2 or maybe it was 3 times...really who's counting?

 

Now as for the narration on this one...Joseph Morton is the narrator and while he's definitely not new to the world of audio books he is new to me. I can't say that he did a bad job because honestly he didn't but for whatever reason I just wasn't able to connect with his narration. I think it part it was because some of the voices weren't distinct enough while I had absolutely no problem understanding what was being read the voices just didn't enhance how I imagined the characters to be hence no connection be voice and character for me. I'm definitely not saying that this is a narrator I won't listen to again as it's very possible that with another story and different characters this would be a different audio experience for me. But for my first time listening to this narrator it just didn't work...maybe next time.

 

This one ended up being 4.5 stars for the story and maybe 3 for the narration, but I'm going to call it a day at 3.5 stars and hope that things go better with the next one.

 

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An audiobook of 'My Fair Captain' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Ok ladies and gents I'm gonna pimp the hell outta' this audio book...

Crocus - Amy Lane, Nick J. Russo

So that we're perfectly clear I love this freakin' book...I love this series and no it's not because I got the book or the audio for review...nope, nope, nope...it's because this is one hella' good story.

 

'Bonfires' was the first book in the series and we got to meet Deputy Sheriff Aaron George and high school principal Larx and there kids and there are a few of those Larx has 2 daughters and Aaron has 2 daughters and a son but like all good homes both men have room in their heart for more. 

 

I love this series it's about two men...mature men who have both had to deal with life's challenges before finding what many of us hope for...that person who completes us and whom we want to go through life with...good or bad. 

 

Now in 'Crocus' we get to see their relationship weather yet more of life's challenges. We get to see these men grow and their bond strengthens as they yet again show the strength of their bond as together they work to save a young man and his much loved and damaged brother, to help Larx's daughter deal with her own crisis while somewhere out in the cold, snowy winter night is yet another child who desperately needs to be rescued...It's going to take Aaron, Larx, the children that they've gathered in their home and their hearts along with an interesting collection of friends to juggle everything being thrown their way and make sure that nothing important gets dropped and still have time for them.

 

There is just so much that I love about this series...obviously I love Aaron and Larx, their amazing collection of kids...seriously they're damned near as amazing as my own...ok, I'm biased but still they're all amazing. Then there's Yoshi!!!! No not the cute green dino from the Mario game...I'm talking about Larx's VP and best friend. Aaron's boss is also pretty damned awesome. Don't get me wrong this isn't a story about perfect people it's a story about people who are trying to be the best person they can be and give back to their community...something that we all need to strive for if we're going to make the world a nicer and better place to live and best of all there's a lot of humor in these stories because sometimes you've either gotta' laugh or you're going to cry so you may as well laugh about it, put on your big boy or girl pants and get on with life, which is what Larx and Aaron do. Making them a very relatable couple.

 

The icing on the cake for me with this is that it's all wrapped up once again with the narrations of Nick J. Russo. I'm not sure why but lately I've been trying to check out some new narrators so I've kind of been missing Mr. Russo and this was the perfect opportunity for me to get a Nick fix and of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity to revisit 'Bonfires' before emerging myself in 'Crocus'. I've said it before and for me it's worth repeating 'I love having the same narrator for a series especially when the characters are the same from story to story. I'm not sure who's up for the next book but when it comes to the audio book if I see Nick J. Russo listed as the narrator it won't break my heart not even a little bit but then if the next book give us more Aaron and Larx that's not going to make me sad either...I just know for sure that whatever book three is I'll read it, I'll listen to it and I'll enjoy it.

 

Seriously if you need a happy place in your life...than you need these men and their family in your life...they are epic and awesome.

 

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An audio book of 'Crocus' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This one's got a hot guy and equally hot twins but...

Unwritten Law - Eden Finley

It's also got a definite twist to it, but before we talk about the actual story I just want to be clear there may be twins in this story but what there isn't is twincest.

 

Anders and Law are twins so of course they're close but are they maybe too close if Law is the one breaking up with Ander's boyfriends...they've got their reasons for why this happens and while Law would prefer not to do this but there are reasons and until the day that Anders calls Law to come to a restaurant ASAP and break his blind date it hasn't caused any real problems...but, Reeds not like the other dates and while he's not Anders' type it turns out he's very much Law's type.

 

This one captured my attention from the very start it was good and I enjoyed the concept and the more I read the more I liked what I was reading. "Unwritten Law' is twin story with a bit of a different twist and the story really didn't go as I had expected it would which was definitely a pleasant surprise. While Reed and Law are definitely the MCs in this story Anders plays a very strong supporting role and I came to really like all three of these men but 'Unwritten Law' courtesy of Anders really does belong to Reed and Law and it's their story that we are being given in this first book of Eden Finley's 'Steele Brothers' series. 

 

Reed's new in town and he's been set up on a blind date with his neighbors accountant or so he thinks because what he actually gets is a fellow teacher who happens to be the accountant's twin. While the two hit it off on an intellectual level it's the immediate physical attraction that leads Law astray resulting in what's suppose to be a one time hook-up.For Law it's a chance to explore his long repressed interest in men and for Reed it's a chance to end his dry spell following a bad break-up but ultimately he views it as a chance to make a friend since being new in town he's sorely lacking in the friend department.

 

I found the interactions between Reed and Law good there were serious moments, humorous touches all laced with those moments of awkwardness that comes with the beginnings of a new relationship but there were also secrets...secrets that when kept become bigger and seem to be all consuming...creating a chasm that ultimately Law is sure can never be bridged.

 

 One of the best things about this story for me was the ending...it wasn't so much an HEA as it was an HFN solidly working it's way towards an HEA. Which all things considered for this story is a far more believable ending than a simple HEA would have been. Now all I need to make me really over the moon happy is a story giving Anders some happy because that boy needs some happy and maybe Reed's friend Brody will play a part in it or maybe his happy is waiting somewhere else for him? I know I'm looking forward to finding out especially if their stories as excellent as this one was.

 

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An ARC of 'Unwritten Law' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes it’s what we find when we’re not looking that brings true change and love into our lives.

Butterfly Hunter - Julie Bozza

 Dave wasn’t looking for Nicholas…much less love. Everyone knows he’s a one-woman man and when Denny decides that he’s not the right man for her, Dave resigns himself to being her friend and living a life alone running his tour guide business. 

 

Dave’s not gay so the last thing he expects is to develop feelings for the son of a British Earl who’s hired him to help find an elusive blue butterfly located somewhere in the Australian Outback and it’s as the two men go on this journey together in search of Nicholas’s elusive butterfly that Dave begins to develop feelings for the unusual Brit feelings that inevitably go beyond friendship and ultimately beyond a vacation fling for both men.

 

I loved how fluidly both parts of this story melted together. The romance and the journey to find the butterflies. Two different parts of the same story that worked together beautifully, each side working to enhance the other part.

 

I also loved the setting for this story…Australia. It’s one of those places that while I’ll probably never get to go there, it’s always captivated me so reading stories set in Australia is my way of visiting a place that I’d love to visit but may never get a chance to.

 

It’s been a long time…maybe ever, since I’ve found a story that felt as genuine and organic in its progression as this one. I never found myself questioning that Dave, who was for all intents and purposes straight was feeling an attraction for another man or anyone for that matter given that until Nicholas he’d only ever loved one other person.

 

‘The Butterfly Hunter’ is a story that while as beautiful and timid as the insect that it’s named for is also the kind of story that eases into your mind and soul with such a gentle touch and captures the readers attention and left me wanting more, which I will get, hopefully soon…or at least as soon as time allows.

 

I’m pretty eclectic when it comes to my book choices and while I love a good murder mystery or what I lovingly call a ‘blow sh*t-up’ book, fantasy, urban fantasy, romance, paranormal, I’ll even do shifter books, seriously you’ll find a little of just about everything on my bookshelves including books like this…books that are soft and gentle, books that sooth my soul and bring out the romantic in me…they may even garner a few tears from me and while this one didn’t quite get the tears flowing there was definitely a point at which I felt my heart being tugged on as I held my breath and waited for what would happen next. ‘The Butterfly Hunter’ isn’t a fast moving action packed adventure or a hard-hitting mystery, it’s not even a gut wrenching romance…nope this one’s a sweet, gentle story not about finding what your looking for but about realizing what you need and letting it into your life.

 

For anyone who’s looking to read a book that’s sweet, romantic, has zero to no angst, gives you a peek at someplace you’ve never been all while telling a story that will warm your heart and leave you smiling.

 

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A copy of ‘The Butterfly Hunter’ was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

There use to be this show called...

The Man With The Glass Eye - Cole McCade

'Cliffhangers' and trust me it was very aptly named because each week you were left with a 'cliffhanger' figuratively and on at least a couple of occasions as I recall literally as well.

 

What does this have to do with anything...well, 'Criminal Intentions' is like an updated version of that show and ironically it's something that I'm really liking. Ok, maybe not so much with each story ending  on a cliffhanger but no...I cannot tell a lie for now I'm actually ok with that as well. I know that we'll get an ending at some point and while we're left with a cliffhanger, we're also left with a completed episode for the individual story lines that with each one show us more of the bigger picture that's going to form....one tiny clue at a time as we watch Malcolm and Seong-Jae's relationship progress...yes, it's glacial slow but there are big plans for this series given that the author has 5 seasons of 13 episode per season roughly mapped out...there's time lots of time to let these things play out organically.

 

So while I'm as anxious as the next person to see this relationship unfold this one's walking a tightrope because if things happen to fast well...it's all down hill from there but on the other hand if things happen to slow...will people loose interest? It's a balancing act...one that I'm looking forward to seeing play out.

 

As with the previous stories the sexy times between our two very hot MCs is minimal but have no fear it's going to happen and given the glimpses that we got this time...there was this dance in a club and then there was the a scene in a hospital room...anyways, it was enough to assure that things will be hot...smokin' freakin' hot an so worth the wait.

 

While each book (episode) is a self contained story. It's a story that also connects to the previous stories and I'm sure to stories we've yet to read. We're given clues and glimpses into a story that starts in the past but won't be complete until sometime in the future. 

 

As well as Malcolm and Seong-Jae, I've developed a very definite interest in one of the secondary characters named Sade because there's seriously something mysterious going on where they're concerned and I really, really like them so here's hoping we find out more about Sade and what's happening in their world.

 

I have to admit this is the hardest part of this series for me as a reviewer because I am so freakin' crazy about this series and just blown away with the authors talent as a writer and if I do nothing else with my reviews but convey how much I'm enjoying this series and maybe bring it to the attention of a few other mystery lovers...well, then I'm ok with that but I really want to do that without spoiling this for anyone else without letting any spoilers out because I have the sneak suspicion that the things that bring this story together aren't going to be just the big things. As I've been reading I come across little things things that may not seem to be of any real consequence but somehow they stick in my brain and I can't help but wonder...is this important? do I need to remember this? will it really matter? is this some kind of clue? 

 

"The Man with the Glass Eye" doesn't even come close to solving the bigger mystery in this series as a matter of fact if anything it leaves me with even more questions but you can't find the answers until you have all the questions, can you?

 

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An ARC of 'Criminal Intentions: The Man with the Glass Eye' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Maybe a little drama llama would be ok...sometimes...

His Leading Man - Ashlyn Kane, Kenneth Grahame

Drew Beaumont is a successful actor who's bored with the usual Hollywood fare when it comes to movie roles. So when he gets the chance at something that's different and pushes all of his acting buttons...there's not much that Drew won't do to not only have a role in it but to make sure the movies gets mad.

 

Steve Sopol is so close to having his dream come true of seeing his first screenplay become a movie...but is he desperate enough to step out from behind the camera when the leading man wants Steve to take on the role of co-star. Is Steve brave enough to speak the words he's written in front of the camera?

 

I wasn't looking for big, convoluted problems or overly dramatic resolutions and for the most part what I found was that any problems or conflicts seemed too be resolved just a little too easily to the point of bordering on tedious at times.

 

The steam and sex were fairly low key in this one and that's not an issue, but something somewhere has to happen to make me feel the connection between a couple and while I'm not a fan of over the top excessive amounts of sex. I am a fan of steam and heat and attraction...something that makes me say 'yes, these two are going to melt my e-reader' ...there has to be something that still gives me a sense of their connection, makes me feel a little melty inside but I just never quit felt it with this pair.  I could see where it was possible. On paper they're a good match. But I wanted to feel that connection not see it as a logical forgone conclusion...sorry, I'm a romantic sap about this stuff. 

 

While both men had their problems to deal with...as well as being a self professed diva Drew's every move is scrutinized because of his fame as an actor and there was of course an ex or two in his past. Steve ironically has a bit more to deal with as well as an ex who thankfully stayed in the past but left his mark on Steve in terms of emotional damage. Steve has reasons why he wants his personal life to remain private but with stepping into the limelight it becomes not a matter of if things will be revealed but when.

 

Also just a quick mention as far as secondary characters go I really liked Steve's mom, she was one of the only sparkling moments in what turned out to be an ok but rather lackluster story. I truly don't need a lot of over the top drama in a story but I have to admit this one went a bit to far the other way.

 

It's been a long time since I've read anything by this author and I guess maybe I was looking for something more along the lines of 'Return to Sender' or her 'Lost Boys and Love Letters' series, I loved the hell out of that series...like really loved it...maybe it's time for a re-read? Or maybe if the audio gods are smiling on me these will be on audio one day (yeah, that's totally a hint on my part, but hey, you don't get, if you never ask, right?)

 

Thankfully, Kenneth Obi was the narrator for this one and while the story may have had some lackluster moments his narration did not and kept me on track with things making for a more enjoyable story experience.

 

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An audio book of 'His Leading Man' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Ice cream anyone...

Top and Tails - Clare London

‘Top and Tails’ is the 8th book in the series ‘With a Kick’ by Clare London. First things first here… while I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, I’ve wanted to and in spite the fact that I haven’t, I’ve still enjoyed the hell outta’ this book.

 

‘With a Kick’ is one of those series that connects the stories by location as much or more than the characters…although my impression here is that many of them are connected by the bond of friendship as well and while I definitely want to go back and read the stories that I’m sure will tell me more about a number of secondary characters that I was introduced to in this story, I wasn’t left feeling like something was missing because I haven’t read the previous books…it was more a case of being intrigued enough to want to go back and read what I’ve missed up until now and for me that’s a really good benchmark as to whether or not an author has successfully created a story that is 1. Part of a series and 2. Can truly be read as a standalone.

 

Thankfully I can easily catch up on this series since I have them in my TBR folder waiting patiently for my attention and while there is some connection between the characters as friends, the stories for the most part aren’t allowing them to be enjoyed as part of a series or as a standalone…just check the blurbs and you’ll quickly figure out where there’s a connection between stories.

 

‘Top and Tails’ is a story about one love shared by 3 men…that’s right it’s ménage and we all know that if not done correctly instead of a hot, sexy and sometimes sweet story about 3 men finding love, what I could have gotten is a train wreck especially when it’s an established couple adding a third person. For me this is probably one of the slipperiest slopes an author can navigate and while this story got off to a bit of a slow start for me in terms of capturing my interest, I’m a fan of this author and was more than willing to stick with it and stick with it I did and Ms. London did not let me down I was treated not only to a story that thoroughly enchanted me but one that convinced me that I need to go back and start at the beginning with this series so that I’m ready for whatever comes next.

 

For the most part this story is told from Karel’s perspective but that doesn’t mean that we don’t get to know things from Griff and Leroy’s point of view throughout the story by their interactions with Karel and each other. Griff and Leroy have been together for a number of years, but for as much as they love each other, and these two are very much in love and committed to each other, they both seem to feel that as a couple they just aren’t quite complete…somethings missing and while they’ve played before it’s not until Karel that they’ve felt right with their choice of a third…but that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and flowers. These men all have some adjusting to do. Like any relationship it’s all about the give, take and compromise.

 

I loved that we got to take this journey with Griff, Leroy and Karel as they struggled to make their relationship work…it wasn’t easy for any of them and there was growth and change required from them but anything worth having is worth fighting for and these men are willing to fight for what they’ve found together as the each come to realize that separately they might be good. Together they are able to find the strength, love and support they need to become more…to become better.

 

‘Top and Tails’ can easily be read on its own for anyone who hasn’t read the previous books but don’t be surprised if like me, you find yourself wanting to go back and enjoy those earlier stories.

 

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An ARC of ‘Top and Tails’ was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

No 4 alarm fires here, just a slow steady burn...

Set Ablaze - K.C. Burn, Darcy Stark

'Set Ablaze' is essentially a second chance romance with some mystery woven in. When Hayden's best friend, Miguel, asks  him to take in  Jez, his younger brother,  Hayden's not thrilled with he idea but it's his best friend and he gets it...Miguel lives in a small one bedroom apartment while Hayden has a two story house all to himself. So reluctantly he agrees. After all how bad can it be it's just until Jez gets his own place and it's not like he doesn't have the room.

 

For Jez seeing Hayden again brings back memories of his teenage crush, but he's sure that Hayden's straight...until he discovers that he's not. As Hayden and Jez get to know each other again both men struggle with their attraction.

 

Jez is hasn't been totally honest with either his brother or Hayden about the real reason that he's run to California. He's running from a relationship that's gone bad and left him with more than a couple of issues of his own. Plus there's his other secret an adorable, small, furry secret named Fang...Jez is sure that Hayden hates dogs and Jez needs a place to stay...at least for a little while.

 

Hayden may be out about his sexuality but that doesn't necessarily mean he's currently in or has had any relationships because even though he doesn't consciously admit it he knows that telling his fellow firefighters he's gay is one thing having them see it in the form of him in a relationship is totally another issue.  Some of the men who Hayden calls 'friends' are to say the least less than friends and more than a little homophobic and it takes Jez's determination to never again be anyone's victim and his courage to speak out to make Hayden see that his feigned indifference not only isn't what's needed but it's in fact endorsing their behavior. Being out while still in the closet isn't Hayden's only issue and Jez is going to have to be both patient and persistent if he wants to get to the heart of Hayden's compulsive tidy/cleanliness. 

 

I definitely appreciated that the author addressed this issue because too often society would rather feign indifference...don't make waves, don't cause a scene...does any of this sound familiar? I think we've all heard something like this before and while the author didn't delve into this intensely it was part of the story but not an overwhelming part of the story and that's as it should be because it's the relationship between Jez and Hayden that's the story's focus. The social issues are wrapped in with this and definitely a driving force contributing to things ending up where they did. Just as in real life neither of these men have been molded by any one particular incident in their life but they are an amalgamation of events both big and small. 

 

The relationship between Hayden and Jez was to say the least built on a lot of awkward moments, definite miscommunication or more accurately a lack of communication because that's what happens when people keep secrets...poor communication and this wasn't helped by Miguel's lack of information sharing. Sadly both of these men have experienced abusive relationships of a very different nature this is far more reflective of the real world than it should be and as is often the case real life is stranger than fiction but fiction is frequently a reflection of real life. 

 

Just like his brother and friend Miguel is also a creation of experiences and circumstances and while he initially seemed like a member of Hayden's Asshat Brigade, he turns out to be a big brother who just wants to protect his brother and his friend from them.

 

Admittedly there were some things about the story that could have been better or different but overall this for me was a sweet story about two men finding comfort and healing together allowing themselves to move on and build a life together. 

 

Darcy Stark was the narrator for this audio book and while this was only my third time listening to this narrator. It was also the third time that I've been treated a very enjoyable audio experience. I enjoyed his voices and the expressiveness of his voice. This is definitely an author & narrator combination that I'm looking forward to hearing more from in the near future...I mean I might have 'North on Drummond' cued up in audio list...I guess you'll just have to wait for the review.

 

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An audio book of 'Set Ablaze' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

More witches, more secrets...

Undertow - Brooklyn Museum

'Undertow' is the second book in the 'Port Lewis Witches' series by new to me author Brooklyn Ray and while I was gobsmacked by 'Darkling' this one has totally bewitched me.

 

If 'Darkling' was Ryder's story and believe me it was than 'Undertow' is Liam's story, but just like Ryder's story Liam's can't be told without the members of his circle, so as things unfold we also get little pieces of Donovan, Tyler and Christy and a bit more Ryder as well. 

 

While Ryder's element is fire we also know that he has dark magic running through him but that's for his story, so if you haven't read it and you want to know...well, off you go now because this part of Ryder's story is very, very much connected to Liam's story and yeah, you guessed it, I'm not saying more about that. Liam's magic is water but as we discover in this story it's complicated...there are secrets...so many secrets and these secrets may not only cost Liam all he holds dear but he may find his very life on the line.

 

Writing a story that feels as full and complete as this one in less than 100 pages is pretty damned impressive and doing it now once but twice...well, color me impressed!

 

Things begin to get even more complicated as Liam tries to untangle the mystery surrounding his magic and as he and Ryder maneuver a relationship that's just a little more complicated than the norm...remember that dark magic I mentioned in my review of 'Darkling'...well, we're not done with it...not by a long shot and this is only part of why I can't stress strongly enough that these books are not 'standalone' stories. Seriously start at the beginning, you'll be happier for having done so.

 

While I'd love the stories to be longer because really who among us don't want more if it's a story that we're enjoying. I've thoroughly enjoyed the pacing on this one. It's not so fast that I can't keep up but it also doesn't allow for those moments when I'm bored and my mind wanders. Plus I have to admit I'm enjoying the fact that I'm not having to wade through a lot of superfluous and unnecessary information to try and figure out what's relevant to the story and what's window dressing because while you might be patient on this one it's pretty much all necessary.

 

Ok, just a couple more things before I move on here...at the end of this book is a peek at what's coming next...it's Tyler and Donovan's story...trust me, we don't want to miss this and last but not least...

 

Have you looked at the covers on both of these books...they're gorgeous. It's honestly a refreshing change to see a cover that speaks more to the overall tone of the book a couple of male torsos that when all is said and done I discover bare little or no resemble to anyone in the story. Don't get me wrong I can appreciate an attractive male torso as well as the next person but sometimes it's nice just to see a book cover that has some attractive imagery that speaks to me and says 'look I have a story for you...come, sit with me and we'll discover it together...'

 

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An ARC of 'Undertow' was graciously provided by the team at 'IndiGo' Events in exchange for an honest review.

These cowboys just weren't working for me...

Cowboy in the Crosshairs - B.A. Tortuga

I'm not sure where I'm at with this one. As a rule I love B.A. Tortuga's books but this one...well, honestly I just wasn't feeling it and there were a couple of things that just bugged the hell out of me. However, the narrator did a solid job and I enjoyed listening to him...so kudo's to Dorian Bane and as for the rest well as soon as I get my brain sorted out a full review and rating will follow....

 

So I've been sitting on this one for a couple of days now because B.A. Tortuga is totally one of my favorite authors and I have to admit of all her books that I've read this one has unfortunately turned out to be one of my least favorites. Try as I might it just was not meant to be and I'm pretty sure it's as much me as anything. So I'm not going to spend a lot of time examining things. I'm just going to say that as far as the relationship went I just wasn't feeling it and there was a couple of things that well...quite honestly really annoyed me so for me this one was a bust but not a total loss I very much enjoyed the narrations of Dorian Bane and whatever wasn't working it certainly had nothing to do with the narrator. I'm a fan of gravelly voiced cowboys and truthfully I'm still very much a fan of Ms Tortuga as well...just not this particular story.

 

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An audio book of 'Cowboy in the Crosshairs' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Holy cow!!! I found me a hidden gem!

Darkling - Brooklyn Ray

I'm honestly not sure why this one didn't catch my eye before now, but as soon as I started reading 'Undertow' which is book #2 in this series and one that did catch my eye. Enough so that I said yes please when asked if I wanted to review it, however, I'd barely started reading 'Undertow' and I knew I'd screwed up by not reading the first book...so, my recommendation is if you're interested in reading 'Undertow' read this book first.

 

'Darkling' is the first book in Brooklyn Ray's 'Port Lewis Witches' series and I'm happy to say it was worth putting 'Undertow' on hold for a day while I went back and read it. "Port Lewis Witches" is one of those series where the stories really are connected and the characters go from story to story so much of the background and what happens in 'Darkling' is relevant to events in 'Undertow' and at less than 100 pages each it's not a big task to take the time to read both books but so worth it.

 

For me it's been a while since I've gotten so excited about a book of this genre. On a more general scale 'Port Lewis Witches' would be paranormal, but this isn't your vampires, werewolves, shifter paranormal...no this series is predominantly 'witches'!!! While it's not that witches are obscure or anything like that but in general they don't tend to be as popular as other creatures of the paranormal world. So for me it's that little step outside of the norm box that can often times make things interesting.

 

While I'd love to talk more about the actual story that's not going to happen because at just under a hundred pages this is one tightly written story with little to no superfluous information. Essentially Darkling is Ryder's story but we can't have Ryder's story without being introduced to Liam, Christy, Tyler and Donovan. These are the members of the circle that he belongs to and Liam is also  his love interest.

 

While we're given a solid background for each of these characters trust me when I say there's more to come and for this book Ryder is definitely the focus. I really like all of these witches and I love that they each have their own talent some of which won't be fully revealed in this story. 

 

Just like with us normal people at the heart of so much of what goes wrong are secrets...secrets about their magic, secrets about themselves...who they are and what they can do or what they may become...so many secrets and this story plays out against a background of secrets coming to light and changing so much of what these young witches know to be real.

 

Brooklyn Ray is a new to me author and this first foray into her writing world has been a wonderfully enjoyable time for me and I'm very much looking forward to finding out what comes next with this circle of witches. 

 

Ok so that's my ramble about 'Darkling', so while it's a quick read at less than 100 pages. I've read books that were twice as long and been lucky if I got half as much story so definitely recommended...especially if you plan on reading 'Undertow'.

Young love...first love is there anything sweeter?

When Everything Is Blue - Laura Lascarso, Michael Mola

Probably not much for most people and in Laura Lascarso's 'When Everything is Blue' we are treated to an incredibly sweet story of first love.

 

Theo and Chris have been friends since they were little kids and Chris stuck up for Theo protecting him from bullies and starting what would become a lifelong friendship and unknown to either of them a friendship that would become so much more in both of their lives.

 

'When Everything is Blue' is told from Theo's perspective and while I would have liked to having a bit of Chris's perspective as well, I have to admit Theo was one those characters whom I found to be adorably cute and for some reason I didn't find his brain to be a scary place so it was ok there and even after spending 7 hours listening to Theo's ramblings as he shared his story with me. I could have happily spent a bit more time with him. 

 

Theo and Chris have grown up together as friends and neighbors and while the shift in their relationship was at times incredibly sweet, it was also at times incredibly awkward as I think most of us realize that first love can be, but for Theo and Chris as well as that awkwardness that comes from realizing that you love someone for the first time there's also the fear of losing a friend if things go wrong...not having that one person in your life anymore who you've always counted on and for Theo the very obvious reality that Chris isn't gay...because gay guys don't have girls all over them all the time, right?

Along with the confusion of first love neither of these boys have told anyone they're gay and for Theo this means coming out to a father who he's pretty sure will be less than loving and supportive. Fortunately his mother and his twin sister know what it means to be family...although I do have to admit Theo's sister does a pretty good self-absorbed, self-involved teenager impersonation or at least she does until her brother really needs here and then she shows that she has her priorities in order.

 

This one has all the angst and drama of the teen years and while it might have seemed over the top when it comes to adults...these are not adults that we're dealing with here and in spite of the fact that it's been 40+ years since I was this age, time has not diminished my memory of teen angst and drama and how easily it can happen and escalate. 

 

'When Everything is Blue' is a cute, sweet and beautifully told story about coming of age and falling in love and I think for me what made it all the more enjoyable was the excellent narrations of new to me narrator, Michael Mola. I loved the expressiveness of his voice and the fact that the voices were varied and easily distinguishable especially Theo's voice. For me Theo's voice resonated as being that of a teenager which since Theo was exactly that worked perfectly and I found his voice to be delightful. 

 

Since YA and/or NA are not strong preferences of mine I have to say this one was a big success with me and I really enjoyed it...definitely recommended especially for YA or NA fans...but be warned there is on page sex in this story...not a lot but it's there...so, consider yourself warned!

 

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An audio book of 'When Everything is Blue' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I love rock and roll. So put another dime in the jukebox baby...

Gasp! - Z.A. Maxfield, Gomez Pugh

I've had this on my TBR list for a while now and when I found that it was on audio while I was wandering the cyber isles of audible.com I decided it was time take another book off of my TBR list and I really enjoyed doing this.

 

Nigel Gasp is an aging rock star and with 40 fast approaching he's starting to re-evaluate his life because getting old was never part of the plan...the plan was to live hard and fast. But, after one attention getting stunt too many under his belt, Nigel's agent decides that he needs to stay out of the limelight while she's off having a baby so the solution is obvious she recruits her fresh out of the military brother, Jeff to keep the older, yet seemingly less mature Nigel quiet and secluded while she's doing the baby thing. I mean he's fresh out of the military he's seen combat keeping tabs on Nigel should be a piece of cake, right?

 

Needless to say Nigel and Jeff don't start off on the best footing...I believe there was an icy cold lake involved at one point but Nigel would remember better than I would, lol!!! Jeff and Nigel's develops during some unusual and interesting events and while Nigel seems to be a bit of a diva...he's also very much not what he seems to be and in spite of the fact that these two men seem to be so very different it's Jeff who sees Nigel...truly sees him and comes to love him for who he is.

 

I really enjoyed this story the interaction between Nigel and Jeff and all the day to day things that fill out the story between them and the secondary characters in the story as both men come to realize what they mean to each other and what it is they really want out of life and from each other.

 

Gomez Pugh is the narrator on this book and while many of you will recognize him from JCP's 'PsyCop' series he brings a whole new and fresh cast of characters to life in this story and I really enjoyed this one on audio...Nigel and Jeff are a fun pairing set in the crazy and unpredictable world of rock and roll. There's definitely an interesting and unexpected twist in this story that I liked...I'm a fan of Z.A. Maxfield and this one just continues that tradition.

Like a true nature's child We were born, born to be wild...

Born to be Wild - A.L. Simpson

'Born to be Wild' is the fourth book in A.L. Simpson's 'Born' series and I have to admit I was hesitant to read this one because it's part of a series and I haven't read the first 3 books, but the blurb said it could be read as a standalone and since it intrigued me, I decided to take a chance and truthfully I'm still torn as to whether or not that was a good idea because technically yes, I was ok with reading this one without benefit of having read the previous books. I followed the story and I was given enough of the backstory to avoid being confused but I'm also left feeling that if I'd read the previous stories I would have very probably enjoyed this one a bit more.

 

The good here and there was definitely good...was that I liked the story premise as I said it was intriguing. I really liked the characters in this book and not just Liam and Jake. There was a considerable number of secondary characters who I think have the potential for their own stories...Jake's brother Roan, his best friend with benefits Angus, Tommy who works at The Velvet Post, the club Jake and Roan own as well as Pedro and Chris, Joey, Trace and on and on. You see the employees of The Velvet Post are like family and they take care of each other.

 

'The Velvet Post' is the gay strip club that Liam ultimately ends up working at after he leaves home at the age of 17.  When Jake and Liam meet by accident one morning both men feel an instant connection, although neither of them is willing to admit it. But as a result Jake offers the young man a job dancing for his club but not until he turns 18, which is in a few months. Until then he's going to do the books for Jake and Roan and learn his dance routines. 

 

Liam's time as a street kid really isn't that long and I have to say he's pretty fortunate shortly after he leaves home he's taken in by a nice Asian lady and he works at her restaurant waiting tables while going back to school to learn accounting...and the lovely Asian lady is paying for this. When Liam's brother Steve (whom I would have met and known much about if I'd read book #3) finally finds him, Liam convinces Steve to keep his whereabouts secret and go back home and as soon as Steve's gone Liam packs up and skips town. He's not ready to see his family again and he doesn't trust Steven to not give away his where abouts or to stay away from him and he's too ridden with guilt to deal with family and this is how he comes to end up staying in a hotel across the road from 'The Velvet Post' where he meets the 26 year old Jake and begins to find a way to deal with events of the past.

 

I totally love second chance stories and while Jake was having a hairy conniption over the age difference of 9 years I have to admit under a lot of circumstances I would have totally blown it off and told the man to get over himself and grab a little happiness...but, screwed-up 17 year old  with an established, successful 26 year old and honestly...I'm with Jake...bad idea. Fortunately there was a bit of restraint shown in that Jake's plan was for him and Liam to date and get to know one another until Liam's 18th birthday...well, we all know what road's paved with good intentions don't we?

 

Anyways, I really don't want to go into more detail about the story at this point. So suffice it to say this was for the most part where my rating of the book started to slip since it really wasn't the actual age gap that I had a problem with but 'the age' of the MCs. Had Liam been say 20 and Jake 29 I would have been a bit more comfortable with things or if Jake had maybe decided to keep things on a more platonic level until Liam turned 20...but things were what they were and the fact that in some ways Liam was mature for his age, but in other ways...maybe not so much and thankfully most of all I never felt at any time about anything that Liam was being forced or coerced in any way so this for me was a bigga, bigga plus for this story. 

 

At the end of things rating 'Born to be Wild' turned out to be a bit of a tennis match for me, I went back and forth on what was good and what didn't work for me with my two biggest issues being that I do wish that I'd read the previous books before this one as I truly feel that it would have helped me make that connection with the story that I get when I really enjoy what I'm reading and I wish Liam's age had been even just a couple of years old when he and Jake met...19 about to turn 20 would have worked so much better for me and I'm more than willing to put that down to the mom in me. So I guess it's a 50/50 split on the how's and whys of this one not going better for me...who knows maybe one day I'll track down those first 3 books and re-do this reading adventure at least then I'll know for sure how much difference it would have made for me, but in the mean time if you've read the first 3 books in this series you're probably going to enjoy this one and if you haven't than I'll just add that the reason I didn't think that any of Liam's connections needed a story of their own is because they already have them...the first book is about Liam's parents, the second book is about Wade and his partner Rafe who Jake consider to be his uncles and the third book is about Steve and his wife Keegan and I believe it also contains a lead in to Liam's story. So even though 'Born to be Wild' can technically work as a standalone story...I think that ultimately the choice is up to you...the reader.

 

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A copy of 'Born to be Wild' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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