...Bookfanatic

 

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

The Queen & the Homo Jock King  - T.J. Klune, Michael Lesley

I finished this one a few days ago and as much as I'd love to just review the hell out of it. Time is not my friend at the moment. So I'm going to have to suffice it to say that I loved this book...seriously I need to laugh and rant and just enjoy the hell outta' something right now and this was the perfect time for this one. It's awesome with it's over the top Sandy drama. #SandyRules4EVAH!!! 

Ok, the end. I gotta' go do the things and hopefully the next time I get to listen to it I'll have the opportunity to do some kind of review that explains how amazing I think the writing of TJ Klune is, ok? Have a good one and if you need a laugh...seriously check this out but for even more fun start with 22722642 then this one and you can probably finish with 35060337  that's what I've done...or at least I'm going to because...Josy told me I needed to and Josy never steers me wrong. Ok, really, now I've gotta' go there's packing to be done...fml!

This isn't a love story...but it is a story about love...

Crocus - Amy Lane

First off...if you haven't read 'Bonfires' you need to scoot off and do that because reading this book without that one is like going to a movie and not having popcorn...you can do it, but it's going to feel like something's missing and honestly, it's just not going to be as much fun.

 

Ok, so you've been warned this is one of those times when book #2 needs to follow book #1.  In the first book we got to meet Deputy Aaron George and Principal Larkin (a,k.a. Larx)  and see them do their adorable mating dance and cheer for them as they figured out how to make their lives mesh...kids and all.

 

So here we are after the events of 'Bonfires' and Larx and Aaron are together...well, there's Larx and Aaron and their combined family of 5 kids (Larx has 2 and Aaron has 3) and then we have some strays...see, Larx and Aaron are both nurturers in their own right and they're men with big hearts and a lot of love. So as we lovingly say at my house they take in strays and I'm not talking about four-legged furry ones, either...although I'm pretty sure they take in those as well. I'm talking about kids who got the short end of the stick in the life lottery...kids who's parents weren't bright enough or unselfish enough to get what being a parent really means...kids who just need someone to love and believe in them so that they can show the world what an awesome person they really are.

 

'Crocus' is still Larx and Aaron's story but it's a busy one and you can't have the jobs that these men have and the number of people depending on you that these men have and not have a busy life...it's neither possible nor realistic. 

 

You can't have a big family and not have chaos and confusion...I know  I came from a big family and whether it's the family you're given like mine was or the one that you've created like Aaron and Larx's the results are pretty predictable and this family that we get see here is just filled with love.

 

'Crocus' is about two men who are in love but like many of us they don't live in a bubble and much of what happens in their world intersects with their private life whether they want it to or not and luckily for these men love is something that the more you open up your heart and share the more you seem to have and 'Crocus' shows that in so many ways.

 

Larx and Aaron are already living together in a house that's packed tight not just with love but with kids...they've got Christiana, Kelsey and Kellen living with them and then there's Dozer...Larx's (read Aaron's) big blonde retriever dog. So do they really need a pregnant Olivia knocking on their door followed by Elton (Wombat Willie) and Jamie and his brother Berto...of course not but sometimes life gives to us that which we can handle and not necessarily only what we want.

 

I have to admit I loved this. I'm not bothered by big, noisy family type stories for me it's the familiar and having lived away from mine for a few years now for me stories like this are becoming comfort food and I'm not sure that anyone does this recipe better than Ms Lane. 

 

For me 'Crocus' was about family and love. It's set in a small town and sure there's more going on in this small town than the usual but let's face it if there wasn't a little extra imagination added to this...well, we'd all be bored silly. Yeah, I've lived in small towns for most of my life and really there's only so much of neighbor 'A' sleeping with neighbor 'C' while neighbor 'B' gets quietly sloshed every night that one can take before 'neighbor 'D' falls asleep from the sheer boredom and repetition of it.

 

While Larx and Aaron both seemed to frequently have the same objective...one that, while it seemed simple enough, was often a task of monumental proportions for them to accomplish and that was simply getting some time together...alone as couple...trust me when I say while it may not have happened often when it did these two men know how to take full advantage of their time together and it as worth the wait.

 

We've got a world of opportunities here for what can happen next in this series and while I'm on board for pretty much anything even different MCs for the next story. I'm still hoping that no matter what we'll always get more Aaron and Larx because truthfully I'm not even close to having had my fill of these two men. I'm so enjoying having a series with 'mature' men as the MC's, men who love and have messy, busy, crazy at times overwhelming and larger than but still real lives that we get to be a part of.

 

From start to finish for me it never felt like the happiness that Aaron and Larx had found was at risk it was more about the reader getting to see what as individuals we already know...if you are lucky enough to get an HEA in life, then keeping it means a lot of hard work and effort, keeping it takes a lot of effort and hard work, you have to hang on to it with everything you've got...but and I'm sure that Aaron and Larx would agree with me when I say...it's worth it, so very worth it.

 

This one definitely gets 5 big, shiny, messy, happy family stars from me as I try to patiently wait for what comes next.

 

*************************

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

I'm not really sure how to say this but...

Free Falling - S.E. Jakes, Dorian Bane

well, quite frankly this one bored me. I have a couple of theories why and I'm honestly not feeling the least bit shy about admitting that this time around I'm pretty sure the book and I can share the blame on this one.

 

'Free Falling' is the first book in S.E. Jakes 'Extreme Escapes' series or the second I'm not really sure because when I look this series up on GR it shows that there are 10 books to 'Extreme Escapes' and the listings seems to be a combination of some previously written smaller series by this author. The first story being 'Bound for Keeps' shows as being book #5 from her series 'Men of Honor' and from the sounds of the blurb the characters from it aren't a part of this book so I figured I'd be ok in terms of following the story and from that perspective I'm pretty sure I was, however, the next couple of books in the series are books the first two books from the series 'Hell or High Water' and then we jump to Dirty Deeds book #1 from a series with the same title, 'Dirty Deeds' and then it seems to jump back to the 'Hell or High Water' series...ok, I have to say this is a bit confusing to me because I'm kind of wondering where that leaves the rest of the books from the 'Men of Honor' series? Should they be read before starting this? After? Maybe it doesn't matter? But it also has me wondering how connected any of these stories are...so really does it matter what order they're read in at all? 

 

Blue's a thief and Mick's a mercenary but the one thing that's obvious from the word go in this story is that they have a history...at times it actually feels like a lot of history and some of it may have occurred in another book in another series I don't know. But after reading the blurbs from those books it doesn't seem like it and without having read the books I can't be sure. However, as far as background for the individual characters I felt like we got more about Blue than Mick in this story, but we did at least get a bit about both of them and while it may have zero effect on this story in terms of understanding. That bit of previous history for me helps me to establish a bond if you will with the characters. It's nice to feel like you're there from the beginning rather than just getting plunked in the middle.

 

And for me getting plunked down in the middle of what turned out to be a rather prolonged mating dance between these two men but at the same time they had this perpetual game of 'come here, come here, come here...no get away, get away...wait come here...' going on and for me that game becomes real tired real fast and I become a bored person. I think if I'd been there for more of their relationship in the early stages maybe when they  first met a couple of subsequent encounters I might have found myself more invested and ultimately more interested in that moment when they both realized that they wanted to be together...I can't really say for sure but what I do know for sure is that from start to end this one just let me feeling disconnected and wondering if maybe I should have read some of the other books first? 

 

At the end of it all I just know this was me...

 

However, I did manage to pay attention long enough to be able to say that my issue was definitely in regards to the story and not connected to the narrator...sorry Mr. Bane, I truly didn't forget or ignore you.

 

Dorian Bane was the narrator for this one and I do want to make note of the fact that his efforts did not go unnoticed. While I liked Blue's voice for me the winner was Mick. Mick had that husky gravelly voice that held a slight edge of ongoing frustration and anger to it and for me that was so reflective of Mick, who I quickly came to identify as someone whose anger and frustration was a constant simmer beneath the surface and given what he did for a living this felt like it should be a natural emotional state for him. He deals with the part of humanity that quite frankly most of us would rather pretend didn't exist...Mick's voice very definitely worked for me as did profit with his subtle English accent and huge helping of snarky, attitude. So yeah, the narration for me on this one was definitely solid.

 

*************************

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

 

 

 

Well this one slammed into me like a freight train out of control...

Rock Solid - Riley Hart, Joe Arden

As a rule I tend to shy away from books about addicts. They're a mixed bag of feelings for me and sometimes it makes it hard to read a story and even pretend to be objective, but I decided to give this one a go...what I didn't expect was that this author would have me crying my eyes out at the end of it. 

 

Ok, let me explain here. I'm not nor have I ever been an addict...I am however, that person who fell in love or at least thought they were in love with an addict. In a previous life when I was young and foolish I was sure that he loved me enough not to want the booze more than me and he kept promising so it was going to happen right? I was going to save him...yeah, we all lie to ourselves and it's this part of my past that connected me to this story because Trevor was that person...the addict who whether he realized it or not had the strength to do what it takes to do battle with his addiction because you don't get cured and you never beat addiction...you fight it every day and every day that you don't give in you get a victory...a small victory in a battle that you have to be willing to fight again the next day and the next day. 

 

If you're really lucky, when you fight this battle, you have people who believe in you who tell you that you can do it and you know that they really mean it and if they're lucky you win the battle one day at a time.  Unfortunately many an addict will tell you by the time that they're truly on the road to recovery and winning the battle one day at a time on a regular basis they've managed to break faith with most, if not all of those who have believed in them with unfaltering faith...

 

Enter Trevor Dixon...Trevor's been clean for a year and he's come home to help his brother build his construction company, Rock Solid Construction into a company that's 'rock solid' and to show his twin brother, Blake and his momma that he's clean, he's getting his life together, they can have faith, trust him, believe in him again and stop worrying about him. But it's not Blake or their momma who gives Trevor the faith and trust that he needs to let him know that the bad days are worth the struggle, it's a stranger, a possible client for 'Rock Solid' and someone who's as messed up as Trevor in their own way. Dr. Simon Malone's trying to rebuild not just his new home but his life...he's a heart surgeon who can't perform surgery and has no idea what direction his life needs to go in but there's something about the undeniably attractive contractor who's comes to give him an estimate on his renovations.

 

Trevor and Simon get off to a decidedly rocky start and it takes a bit of effort on Trevor's part to convince Simone to give Rock Solid a chance at doing his renovations, but Trevor's sheer determination and tenacity finally wear him down.

 

I was definitely enjoying this story and if you'd asked me at any point up until around the halfway point I'd have told you this and Joe Arden's narration for the story was...'rock solid' (see what I did there). But somewhere along the way in the second half of the story my like went to 'oh-my-god-I-need-to-hear-the-rest-of-this-book' something just slipped into place for me with this story. Trevor's struggle to stay clean and not relapse broke my heart and while I understood where Trevor's mom and brother were coming from it didn't stop me from being angry at them that they couldn't find it in themselves to trust him one more time...he was trying so freaking hard and struggling on his own...feeling alone in the world until he realized that Simone was there for him...always there for him. Maybe he wasn't doing everything right...ok, no maybe about it. Simone screwed up superbly at times but he kept trying...something he'd never done for anyone before.

 

I've read more than a few books that I've really loved and enjoyed but it's not that often that I feel like I've connected with a book on such a visceral level. But this one did. I was cheering for Trevor and more than once I held my breath as I silently prayed 'don't do it Trevor, don't give in you're better than this.' and I raged at Blake and their mom as they tore away at Trevor's heart and his determination...I know they didn't mean to but it's what they were doing and the hurt it caused Trevor was palpable. Please don't get me wrong I do understand their hesitation as I said back at the beginning...I've been them and it's taken me a lot of years to realize that everyone deserves a second chance...they may not make good use of it but it doesn't mean they don't deserve it and Trevor well for me Trevor represents the second chance that isn't lost or wasted. 

 

I haven't read a lot of books by Riley Hart and maybe this isn't the best of what's been written but it's a story that I connected with and it truly touched my heart and for that reason it'll always have a special place on my bookshelves.

 

*************************

Well this was a new spin on an old fairy tale...

Never - Tara Lain, Kale Williams

"Never" is the fourth book in 'The Pennymaker Tales' which are all based on traditional fairy tales...the first book was 'Sinders and Ash' based on the story of Cinderella' while the next one was 'Driven Snow' and based on Snow White, also I have to admit this is the one story in this series that I have neither read not listened to on audio and book #3 was entitled 'Beauty Inc.' and you guessed it loosely based on 'Beauty and the Beast'.

 

So now that you're basically all caught up here we are on book #4 which is entitled 'Never' and yes it is based on the story of Peter Pan. We have Wen Darling (otherwise known as Wendell Darling) and he's raising his brother and sister because Dad was a dull and boring accountant who did nothing but work to provided for his family...how very irresponsible of him and mom was a flighty, ditsy, artistic and totally irresponsible person who was more worried about saving whales and doing whatever it is that flighty ditsy artistic people do then the caring for the 3 children she brought into this world...you go mom!  But be that all as it may, both mom and dad are no longer in the picture...both have departed this plane of existence leaving Wen to be the responsible one.

 

Wen's managed ok, he's working in an advertising agency and while money's tight he's managed to provide food and shelter for his siblings and himself and he provides acting lessons for his brother, John...and can I just say as much as he seems to love his brother this little dude comes off as an ungrateful little sod at times and music lessons for his sister, Michaela,  who is incredibly responsible for a sixteen year old. Taking care of the her younger brother and just generally playing mother to both of her brothers.

 

When an advertising campaign falls through because Wen's boss doesn't have the foresight to listen to Wen and use a more innovative approach...there's a silver lining for Wen and his co-workers when they are given the opportunity to come up with a better campaign for the...wait for it...you're going to love this one...PEANUT BUTTER!!! Now come on who doesn't remember Peter Pan peanut butter? Which I believe is still available in the US but I haven't seen it on the shelves here in Canada in a while and Google didn't want to share info about Peter Pan Peanut Butter with me...it did tell me that 'Skippy Peanut Butter' is no longer sold in Canada. Personally I'm a Kraft Peanut Butter fan myself...oops, sorry I squirreled again...back to Wen and his advertising dilemma...

 

Faced with the prospect of an opportunity that could make or break is career Wen and the team throw themselves into the job and after a long and exhausting not to mention fruitless day Wen heads home to his family. It's this trip home that changes everything for Wen as he's waiting for the subway train to take him home he encounters an unusual girl with a parasol and the most extraordinary piece of artwork he's every seen...the problem is the artworks been done on the subway walls by a graffiti artist who wants to remain anonymous. 

 

With the encouragement of his siblings Wen stakes out the subway station where he saw the artwork in the hopes that he'll return. So far I'm loving this I mean it's good. The characters are solid and with the arrival of Peter and his gang they become even more interesting and things begin to happen...not all of it's good either. 

 

Kale Williams is the narrator for this one as he was for the previous stories and as with 'Beauty Inc.' the only other book I've listened to on audio he did an admirable job. I like his voices and they suited the characters quite well...especially Tink, I enjoyed his voice for Tink and Shamu (sorry, I'm not sure about the name or spelling on this character...it's the downside of audio books, you can't do a quick reference to check things like spelling) anyways, this character was one of the lost boys and we also have Hook and Smee (actually I believe his name was Hooker, but whatever we all know he's the bad guy and he sounded like one too. His voice had just a bit of a 'you don't want to trust this dude sound to it) and of course Mr. Pennymaker was back and sounding very much like the Mr. Pennymaker that I remembered from Beauty Inc. this is bonus because I love it when a character's voice stays consistent from story to story which is one of the reasons that I totally support having the same narrator for a series that carries the same characters from book to book even if the MCs change if the central core of characters are basically the same having then sound the same in book 5 as they did in book 3 goes a long way towards contributing towards listening pleasure for me.

 

So we have a cute story, good characters, solid narration on a scale of 1 to 5, I'm giving the narration a solid 4) and also on the upside the cheese factor that bothered me in 'Beauty Inc.' didn't seem to be here...so, why only 3.5 and not say 4? 4.5? or even 5 stars  you might wonder...well, it was the ending. I was enjoying the hell outta' myself here boys and girls...I mean fun times. I like a cute, fluffy story as much as the next person and this one was all that minus the overabundance of cheese and the ending didn't have to much cheese...nope, nope, nope the ending for me had more sap than a forest of maple trees in the spring time and add to that the fact that even though this story like the fairytale was suppose end with 'and they all lived happily ever after' I couldn't buy it not when it felt like one of those characters wasn't totally on board with the HEA and seemed to resolve himself to more of an 'ok, whatevs I get hot monkey sex. So let's do this thing' type of attitude and that my friends is as close as I'm going to go in terms of details as to why this went from 4+ stars to 3.5 rounded down in those places where 1/2 stars don't exist.

 

*************************

An audio book of 'Never' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Can two broken souls create one happily ever after? They can when they’re strong enough to take another chance.

Soul to Keep - Garrett Leigh

‘Soul to Keep’ is the second book in Garrett Leigh’s series ‘Rented Hearts’ the book that introduced first introduced us to Jamie Yorke…former rentboy and recovering drug addict.  Zac’s friend who we last saw in California where Liam, the other MC from ‘Rented Heart’ who helped Jamie get to California for his rehab.

 

In ‘Soul to Keep’ we catch up with Jamie as he’s returning to England. He’s been clean for a year and while California is warm and sunny for this Brit it’s just not home and Jamie needs to go home.

 

It’s on his flight home that Jaime meets the older and equally damaged ex-army medic and present-day trauma specialist, Mark Ramsey returning home following surgery in Chicago.

 

When Jamie’s nervousness gets the better of him on the flight home, Marc’s need to nurture and fix things takes over and he helps Jamie to overcome his nervousness. Once the plane lands both men go their separate ways and while neither really man really forgets the other they both have their own lives to get back to and are equally surprise a couple of weeks later when their paths cross yet again when they discover that they are living just minutes from each other.

 

I really loved this story for me it clicked. While the attraction happened fairly quickly and was easily felt between these two men that didn’t mean that the relationship was instantaneous. For as much as they felt their attraction to each other both men were also hesitant to enter into a relationship because of their own personal demons.

 

As well as his addiction issues, Jamie is caught up in the grip of OCD and his self esteem is low, to say the least, but he soon finds that being around Marc gives him a sense of peace and grounds him as few if any other things do, so while he kept running from Marc when things got to intense he also kept coming back. Jamie’s convince that the other shoes going to drop and Marc’s going to send him away but until that happens he’s not going to leave permanently.

 

Marc’s convinced that Jamie’s going to cut and run once he’s had enough of being with a man who’s only got one leg. He’s so conscious of his injury unlike Jamie who sees beyond Marc’s injury to the man and the goodness he contains. To Jamie…Marc is strong, handsome and sexy and so much more than he could ever possibly deserve.

 

But Marc sees Jamie in such a different light. He sees someone who’s fought in a different type of war and he wants to help Jamie feel good about himself to learn to control the things that are controlling him…he’s a doctor it’s his nature to want o fix things but Jamie’s gotten under his skin in a way that goes beyond simple doctor/patient relationships. He’s coming to care very deeply for the beautiful, damaged young man.

 

I admit I’m totally a sucker for second chance stories, stories about people who life has repeatedly sucker punched but who have just as repeatedly pulled themselves back up only to keep going, keep trying moving towards their goal of becoming the person they want to be…someone better and stronger than who they were…someone they can be proud of…someone who deserves love and happiness as much an anyone else in this world and that’s what Garrett Leigh writes  and writes so incredibly well are stories like this. Stories that remind us that the human spirit is strong and indomitable that giving up should never be a part of anyone’s vocabulary and that everyone is worthy of a second chance at both life and love.

 

Garrett Leigh is quickly becoming a favorite for me. Without fail I have loved everything that I’ve read by this author so far and while I haven’t read everything that she’s written I’m working on it.

 

*************************

An ARC of ‘Soul to Keep’ was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Firemen, dalmatians, sick kids...

Smoldering Flame - Andrew  Grey

This one had potential...so much potential and then...it didn't.

 

Dean's a firefighter whose life revolves around the two things he loves most...his job and his son, Sammy.  Sammy's illness doesn't leave Dean time for anything else...like dating, falling in love, having a relationship. So when Sammy drags his father into Marco's photography studio the last thing he wants, needs or expects is to be attracted to said photographer. 

 

Marco's not looking for anything other than to make a sick little boy happy when he offers to take some pictures of the young child who's barged into his studio wanting to see the big stuffed fire dog that Marco uses as a prop during his photo shoots with kids. Marco knows what Sammy's going through and while Marco knows he can't fix things for Sammy if he can bring a smile to his sweet little face for even a moment he'll do what he can and taking a few pictures is definitely not a hardship for him especially if some of those pictures include Sammy's sexy, fireman father.

 

Dean's got more than his son to be concerned about though when it comes to him and Marco. His parents have been a godsend for him while Sammy's been sick and while his mom's more than happy to see him find someone he might be happy with, his father's a whole different story. Dad's ex-military and he hasn't a made it out of the dark ages with some of his ideas...like demanding that Dean 'find a nice woman' because he needs to settle down Sammy needs a mom.

 

I really liked the overall concept of this story. There was a lot of potential for this one to tug at my heartstrings and leave me with all the warm fuzzies. Unfortunately when it came down to the actual story well...it got bogged down in a lot of flowery descriptions and conversations that quite frankly had me rolling my eyes...sorry, but there's only so much 'gosh, darn melodic sex' that a girl can handle. 

 

I'm a fan of descriptions that paint a picture and draw me into the story...truly I am. But and here is where things get really subjective...there's this fine line that goes from creating a story...painting an image and when it gets crossed well the story gets lost in an excess of descriptions that become distracting and that's what happened for me with this one...so as I said this is entirely subjective and other may find the descriptives in this book to be perfect...I'm just not part of this group.

 

Michael Pauley is once again the narrator for this story and I have to admit I'm not really sure why but like the story and maybe because of the story I didn't enjoy the narration quite as much has I did the previous two stories also narrated by the same person and once again we are left with a very subjective viewpoint here so please keep this in mind. Just one more note about the narration there's a child in this story and as my friends will tell you me and children's voices in audio books do not have a very good track record however, I do want to give a nod to the narrator on this one. While it maybe wasn't the best child's voice I've ever heard it was considerably better than many others that I've heard. 

 

I've been a fan of this series from the beginning and while this one didn't work so well for me the first two stories worked much better for me and I really enjoyed them...enough that I'm more than willing wait and see what's next in this series...hopefully for me it'll be a return to the story style that I've come to enjoy so much. 

 

*************************

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

Change is coming...

Twisted and Tied - Mary Calmes

Without a doubt this is my favorite series by Mary Calmes. I love all of her writings but this one is definitely at the top of my list and with each new story I've come to love all things Miro and Ian.

 

When things ended in 'Tied Up In Knots' Miro and Ian were planing on tying the knot and between then and now it's become a done deal and life for Ian couldn't be better. He's married to the man of his dreams, his friends are doing well, work is going well...until things at work begin to change and change is not Ian's friend...Ian doesn't do well with change.

 

While I'm a little late to the party with this one...real life just refuses to quit kicking my backside these day...so my sincerest apologies to both the publisher and the author  and I promise like other reviews there are no spoilers here because regardless of this there's no way I'd want to spoil the awesomeness that was this book.

 

At the same time as 'Twisted and Tied' brings some things to a close for Ian and Miro, it also opens up a wealth of new possibilities for the author to continue sharing this wonderful world that she has created for us to enjoy, as readers and fans of this series.

 

'Twisted and Tied' while creating new paths to be traveled in the world of the Marshals has also given closure to others and all while answering some questions and creating new ones.  

 

There's so much in this book that I loved from beginning to end with all of the changes and connections that came about this was one hella' fun and awesome adventure and I'm so looking forward to seeing what comes next for this series...in the immortal words of Shrek..."Change is good donkey." and in this case it's much of the change that's going to keep this series fresh, interesting, fun and just generally full of Mary Calmes awesomeness!!!

 

Now without details I just need to say the ending for this story was surprising but not and much of it came to what for me was the natural...even inevitable conclusion. I have to admit the only real issue I have is with the fact that the next installment in this series isn't sitting on my e-reader waiting for me...oh well, good things come to he...mmmmm ....eeerrrr...she who waits, right?

 

P.S. You also might want to keep a pen and paper handy to keep track of who all shows up for this party because it's a fun and interesting list.

 

************************

An ARC of 'Twisted and Tied' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Excuse me while I gush a little over this one...

Taking the Long Way  - Max MacGowan

I've been very fortunate since realizing that contrary to my original thoughts I really enjoy audio books. I've listened to some awesome stories...some because the narrator was incredibly good...like Greg Tremblay or Nick J. Russo, just to name a couple or because the author has written an amazing story. Authors like T.J. Klune, Megan Derr or Mary Calmes writing books such as 'A Destiny of Dragons', 'The High King's Golden Tongue or 'Acrobat' again, just to name a few...or stories like this one by both an author and a narrator who are new to me.

 

Rye's a rent boy, paid companion, male escort...pick your term bottom line (no pun intended) he makes his living selling himself. Sometimes we do things out of necessity whether we like it or not really isn't the issue...for Rye is survival...it's all he knows.

 

Marcus is a functionally blind army vet given the opportunity to see a doctor who may be able to help him...but that doctor's on the other side of the country and flying is not an option for Marcus because of his injury and driving...well, did I mention functionally blind. Marcus wants this and who can blame him maybe he can recover at least some of his eyesight but getting there seems like the impossible dream until Rye and circumstances come together to make this a trip that could save them both.

 

So we've got a male escort, a wounded military vet and they're making a road trip add in some interesting and colorful secondary characters not to mention a couple of awesome dogs and back-up all of this with a narrator whose voice totally blew me away. I've come across narrators who have seemed more than a little amazing to me...narrators like Greg Tremblay, Nick J. Russo, Michael Ferraiuolo, Sean Crisden...there really are a lot of good narrators out there and several really exceptional ones...I think if future endeavors prove to be as well done as this one was that Matt Milne will fall into the latter category of being exceptional for me.

 

Throughout this book it wasn't like having someone read me a story or sitting down with a friend...no, it was better it was like having Marcus and Rye right there leaning over my shoulder whispering to me as they shared their story with me...now, this may sound scary to some but trust me at times this was really, really hella' hot...like cold shower, fanning my face hot...and sometimes that had nothing to do with the sex...I'ma just sayin'...listening to the story of how these two met and came to care about themselves and to mean so much to each other was simply delicious...I just don't have another word for it.

 

I honestly can't even begin to explain how much I loved the sound of their voices...both of them just absolutely totally did it for me but especially Rye. There were times that his voice had this slow, sexy, sultry tone that simply melted me the man could have asked me for the keys to Fort Knox and if I had them in my possession I would have gift wrapped them for him.

 

So simply put Matt Milne is totally on my radar as an audio narrator and while there currently only seems to be 4 books to this narrator's credit, I will definitely be on the lookout for more.

 

Truthfully, if I had to make one criticism about the narration I guess I'd have to say it was the fact that while the book is set in the United States both of the MCs have a slight British tone to their voices...and you know what, I didn't care. I admit there are times when this is enough to make me want to throw my laptop out the window...not this time...I simply didn't care. I just wanted to keep listening to Rye and Marcus talk...so, there you go, if accents are a big issue for you this might not be the book for you...but just to be sure you should head on over to Amazon or audible and check out the sound clip before making your choice...you might find that you don't care either and if you do than, you've saved yourself some time and money...either way it's all good.

 

Ok, now that I've gushed a bit about how much I loved the narration of this book let's move back to the actual story. As far as Rye being a 'male escort' I'm honestly neither here nor there in terms of this. For Rye being a male escort as I said was a life choice...he wanted to stay alive and the only way to do this was to be able to provide for himself...so, truthfully who am I to criticize? Sure I can say things like 'well, I'm sure there were other things that he could have done? there had to be another way?' but just like in the real world we can't know the hows and whys of someone's life if we haven't lived it. So to me Rye did what he had to in order to keep himself alive and I can absolutely respect that and to by honest I really liked Rye. I like his caring and his compassion, his snark and the fact that even though he maybe should have been one of the most cynical people out there given the hand that life dealt him he wasn't.

 

Then there's Marcus...again he should have been someone other than who he was considering his circumstances but for all of his bluff and bluster, he was a good and caring person...Marcus truly had a good heart and I loved his determination to remain so fiercely independent. I couldn't imagine going out into a world that I could no longer really see. I'm pretty sure I'd be hiding in a corner somewhere.

 

I loved the road trip setting for this one. I am totally a fan of road trip stories and the connection between Rye and Marcus for me was perfect. It wasn't a love at first sight for them it started with simply liking and being comfortable with each other and the banter between these two was filled with snarky humor and often enough honesty to have one or both of them feeling uncomfortable. 

 

'Taking the Long Way' was a story about more than just one journey. Yes, there was the obvious trip across country for Marcus to get to his doctor's appointment but there was also a journey made by each of these men to find themselves...a journey that they needed to make in order to make that final journey that would allow them to find their way back to each other. 

 

I loved this story and yes, it may have some flaws in it but ultimately I connected with it on a level that left me feeling like I'd gone on a bit of a road trip as well, as I traveled along with Rye and Marcus on their cross country journey. 

 

I'm looking forward to more from both this author and the narrator of what is  very probably going to be one of my favorite audio books EVAH!!!

 

*************************

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

I thought maybe things would be different this time...

Secrets of You - Skylar M. Cates

'Secrets of You' is the last book in Skylar M. Cates 'Sunshine and Happiness' series and while this is my favorite couple from this series and I had thought that maybe have had some time and listening to the audio version I might warm up to this one  a little more than I had when I originally read the book I have to confess that sadly that has not happened. 

 

River and Morgan are the fourth pairing in this series and while they are my favorite pairing sadly their story didn't really work much better for me than any of the previous ones in this series. 

 

Once again after listening to the audio book and looking back at my original review from nearly a year ago, I find that not a lot has changed for me so I'm just going to borrow some highlights from that earlier review to explain why things aren't working for me...

Morgan has been through such a scary experience when he was attacked behind a club in a previous book but he's learning to deal with his fears and thankfully he was rescued by a mysterious stranger who didn't hang around once he knew Morgan was safe. While Morgan doesn't remember a lot of what happened because he was drugged it was still an incredibly scary experience and he's dealing with it with the help of his friends and his therapist. Morgan's also had a crush on River since the minute he first saw him.

River's dark and brooding and when things get to be too much he jumps on his Harley and he rides. No good-byes, see you laters, I'll be back...he's just gone. He disappears...he runs it's his back-up plan when he can no longer deal. That is until he realizes he's tired. Tired of being alone, of running, of all the dark and bad that's in his life. But mostly River just needs to learn to forgive himself. He's got things in his past. Memories that won't let go of him, things that he blames himself for but maybe...just maybe if he'd open up and talk to someone...he'd gain a better perspective on things and maybe he'd see that while he wasn't totally without blame, he also wasn't responsible for some of it.

 

I was sure if anyone's story was going to make me gush it was going to be River's. He's been my favorite since the beginning. I can't help it, I like me a dark, brooding man of mystery in my books it just pushes all my hot buttons and River does that...his story...not so much.

 

When you get down to it this should have all worked for me. I mean seriously worked and yet somehow...I just didn't connect. River and Morgan should have had me crying and laughing and melting into a puddle of goo on the floor...it was all there and it just never happened. So I'm thinking it's me, that's right for whatever reason I'm just not connecting with these stories anymore and sometimes things happen that way.

 

'Secrets of You' was about letting go of the past and looking for a future, learning to forgive yourself and accepting that who you are is ok and it's who you're meant to be. it's also about really loving someone for the first time and knowing when to stay, when you've only ever run.

Michael Stellman did the narration for this story and this one was by no means a first time listen for me with this narrator...actually it was more like my eighth or ninth audio book narrated him. He's also the narrator for a series that's an absolute favorite of mine. So all things considered I can honestly say that I have no issues with the narration of this book it was well done and a solid performance. At the end of it all it's just a case of 'it's not a bad story, it's just not the story for me'.

 

*************************

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

This was good...I mean it was totally good...

Together Tied - Mary Calmes

'Together Tied' was an awesome little present from the author. Seriously before you read this one you need to read or refresh yourself on the authors series 'A Matter of Time', the standalone story 'Acrobat' (one of my personal favorites) and truthfully being relevant on 'Mine' and the her latest series 'The Vault' might be helpful as well...all I'm going to say here is 'gun' and what the hell while we're at it let's throw in a refresher on 'Kairos' for good measure.

 

I actually read this one in the middle of the night. My brain was not in sleep mode so I figured what the hell, why waste some good reading time and I dove right into this little gem and emerged just in time to grab a couple of hours of sleep before I had to start my day.

 

'Together Tied' is definitely more than a cute little Valentine's/ 'slice of life' story. As well as giving us a glimpse at what some of my favorite MC characters are up to...this one bridges a events from a whole lot of stories together. Touching either directly or indirectly on how certain events and people connect. 

 

I've decided that when it comes to playing the game 'six degrees of separation' in books Ms. Calmes is the master of the game. I don't think I've ever encountered an author who has so skillfully joined so many books both series and standalones together and not only that but we need to keep in mind that her books have also oveflowed into series by other authors as well...I'mma lookin' at you Ms Rhys Ford. I realize that for some this can become confusing especially if you've missed out on some of those books but I can't help but say that for me it's like catnip...I want more and yes, it does make me so happy that I purr with delight. 

 

While there are a few books by this author that haven't connected to these stories yet...I look forward to seeing how long that will last...will Jory and Stefan Josh ever meet? I hope not because I'm pretty sure the world would implode and what about Sam Kage and Rand? Seriously that's more testosterone than any one room or ranch in Texas could every handle...but, at the same time...think about it? Wouldn't it be fabulous? And then we could add in Ian and Miro, Ceaton & Brin, Darius & Efrem, Trevon & Landry and Lee...please, can we have more about The Vault's Knight, Lee and just all the secondary characters who haven't gotten their stories yet...the connections to be made...seriously...mind blown!!! on how amazing this would be.

 

**************************

A copy of 'Together Tied' is available to readers through 'instafreebie' or on the authors website.

Holy Hell! What is it about me and this book...

Kairos - Mary Calmes, Michael Fell

In the world of Mary Calmes stories I sadly have to admit this one is not at the top of my list but in a effort to be fair when I saw that it was out in audio book format I was helpless to resist and needed to give it another try...now, on the down side the narrator was not one of the usual suspects...I've gotten use to my Mary Calmes books being narrated by Greg Tremblay, Tristan James or Sean Crisden...not that there haven't been other narrators...there have, it's just been a while. So I freely admit I did take a moment to pause when I saw that Michael Fell was the narrator, but I decided that since I've listened to other audio books narrated by him and had no complaints I needed to not be snobbish about this and give the man a chance so I did and given that my rating for this went from 3 stars to 3.5 stars, I'd say that Mr. Fell held his own on this one. 

 

However, overall my feelings about the story haven't changed so again I'm not into re-inventing the wheel so I'm going to steal from my original review as to what wasn't working for me...

it was ok but that connection that I usually feel and just the overall fun of reading a new Mary Calmes book wasn't there. Try as I might I never quite felt the connection between Kade and Joe and honestly neither of these men struck me as being overly dynamic or alpha...for me there just wasn't a Sam Kage or an Ian Doyle, no Trevan Bean, Ceaton Mercer or Darius Hawhtorne...dammit!!!! Where was my ober alpha male!!! Because I'm telling you neither Kade or Joe filled that role for me

...and...

Along with the lack of connection between the MCs that happened for me there were parts of the storyline that just weren't working for me. The biggest thing being Joe's reasons for leaving his family...it just wasn't convincing for me which created a bit of a domino effect in regard to why Joe and Kade were such good friends. Along with this was the fact that Kade knew that his so called friend and mentor Vaughn who was also a precinct captain did shady things and yet he idolized him anyway? Sorry, I don't get that much less that fact that he basically made a conscious decision to ignore this. Somehow no matter how hard I tried 2 + 2 was just not adding up to 4...maybe more like 3.5.

And while the things that didn't work for me the first time still weren't working now...the things that worked the first time, well they're working every bit as good now as they did then...things like...the fact that...

in true Mary Calmes fashion I could not totally resist her writing prowess because irregardless of how I felt about the overall story, she drew me in with her mom's...there was Joe's mom...I adored her...ok, I can totally relate to her. She had a very dry sense of humor and used it frequently to deal with situations...

 

"You could maybe tell other people what is going on in your head now and then."
"But I'm telling you now."
"But did you tell him?"
"Shouldn't he know after this many years?"
"Mom--"
"I can't be married to a stupid man, dear. What would people say?"
"You don't give a good god--"
"That was sarcasm, sweetheart. Do they not have that in Chicago?"

 

It's that mom instinct...you see someone who needs to be loved and sheltered from the world and it's just instinct to want to do what the world has failed to do for that person so far. This is one of my favorite things about Mary Calmes books not only are the characters bigger than life but there's often at least one or more character who brings things like 'mom love' to the story in such an overwhelmingly big way. Nothing gives me a warm fuzzy like that moment in a Mary Calmes book when a character...in this case Joe's mom sweeps in takes one look at another character...and in this case it was Kade and Declan and just instinctively knows that they need 'mom love' and in this book there was two of them there was Joe's mom and Donatella Gallo who was his family's housekeeper and cook.

So maybe not my favorite Mary Calmes story but still a pleasant enough read that I'm sure I'll be revisiting it at some point in the future and I'm also pretty sure that at some point I'll be reading a book and going...'Oh, I remember that. That happened or that person was from the book 'Kairos' because when it comes to Mary Calmes that seems to be just the way the world rolls.

 

*************************

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

Ok, tell me you didn't see this one coming...

Late in the Day  - Mary Calmes, Greg Boudreaux

I'm betting if you follow my reviews to any degree and saw this audio book your mind said..."yep, Karen's going to review this because it's Mary Calmes and it's narrated by Greg Tremblay which means it's inevitable with her." 

 

So here I am having listened to the audio book and loving this story every bit as much as when I read it back when it was first released as an e-book. The one thing I realized about this story is that possibly more than a lot of other Mary Calmes stories it needs to be read more than once, at least I needed to experience this story more than once. 'The Vault' is so aptly named because it's about the man who is now known as 'The Vault' but also because this story is like a vault in that once you open it and start looking inside you there is a wealth of answers to questions that connect so many things from so many different stories.

 

My review for the e-book version of this was...maybe...a tad on the longer side so rather than try and reinvent the wheel I'm just going to add what I feel is the most pertinent part of that review here...

This story worked for me from start to finish. Ms Calmes has given us the answers to so many questions and I loved having those blanks filled in and more. Although a lot of this story focused on Conrad's past with Efrem not all of it did and all those little gaps that are filled in were just a whole lot of happy moments for me and while I loved all the glimpses of Conrad's connections to characters we've met in previous stories it was equally as enjoyable getting to see some new characters and potential new stories. 

'Late in the Day' is a bit unique in that it's a story that is essentially set in the past, with the changes that have happened recently in Conrad's life it's become time for him to reclaim his past to create a life for himself that's real and permanent but in order to have the future that Conrad truly wants it's time for him to deal with his past...a past that he believed lost to him forever. A past that involved the one man that Conrad loved with all his heart...Efrem Lahm.

The focus in this book was more about filling in Conrad's background and giving us a more complete person to go forward with and while the romance took a bit of a back burner to this, I definitely wasn't disappointed with the glimpse we were given of Conrad and Efrem both in the past and the present and I absolutely loved the fact that these are two mature men...over 40 folks...45!!! Yeah, for life after 25!!! 

Now the only thing that I really need to add here is 'Greg Tremblay' seriously people in the world of audio books this is one narrator that you don't want to miss. This man not only reads the books but he brings them to life. I know I've sung his praises on more than one occasion and I'm sure I'll do so again in the future I'm just not sure how I'll do it without sounding repetitive but I'll definitely give it my best efforts. 

 

So in brief summary...Mary Calmes + Greg Tremblay = one very, very happy place!!! As always 'highly recommended'.

 

*************************

An audio book of 'Late In The Day' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

As much as I liked the first book this one was just as good...maybe, a tiny bit better...

Heart Unheard - Andrew  Grey, Greg Trembley

Brent Berkheimer and Scott Spearman have been flirting with each other for a while now and it's not gone unnoticed by more than a few people but Brent's determined not to act on his feelings because it just wouldn't be fair...he's Scott's boss, he's a lot older...so as far as Brent's concerned when it comes to Scott...the man is strictly hands off.

 

Scott's tried...he's flirted and done is best to let Brent know that he's definitely interested in more than an employer/employee relationship but so far it's gotten him nowhere.

 

When a hit and run accident leaves Scott seriously injured Brent's forced to re-evaluate what's truly important to him making him realize that what's truly important to him is lying in a hospital bed and Brent decides that he's done denying what matters the most and while it may be too late for him and Scott, he's still going to be there for him...even if it's only as a friend, if that's what Scott wants and needs then that's what Brent's going to be for him.

 

There's more to Scott's accident than it seems at first and Brent's got his own demons to battle if he wants to be the man that he thinks Scott deserves. It's not all smooth sailing as Scott has to learn how to live without his hearing and in spite of how strong and dependable Brent's been Scott's got his doubts about how long Brent will stay around if he doesn't get his hearing back and Brent's battling his own self-doubts about whether or not he can be what Scott needs leaving both men felling insecure about whether or not they can last no matter how much they want each other. It's going to take some tough love from their family and friends to make then each see that the heart wants what the heart wants and it's just going to take a leap of faith for them to be together.

 

I loved Brent and Scott and seeing them finally give in to their feelings for each other as they worked through finding ways to communicate with each other now that Scott can't hear. Getting to know each other and understand each other isn't an easy task when being able to talk and hear what the other is saying gets removed from the equation. 

 

I loved that Brent didn't try to just step in and do things for Scott, instead he encouraged Scott to speak up for himself and keep his independence and if he needed to he stood up for Scott's right to retain his independence even going to far as to bring in friends who understood what Scott was going through...that's right  he brought in the big guns and we got to see Trevor and James...no, neither of these men are deaf but James knows what it's like to suddenly loose one of his senses. James lost his sight when he was about 12 years old and he remembers what it's like to be able to see and then lose his sight...he knows what it's like to have something and then lose it, to grieve for the loss and James also knows that sometimes as a friend you have to end the pity party and hand out some tough love if you really want to help the people you care about.

 

Scott's parents added an interesting dynamic to this story for me. As a parent while I could understand his mother's desire to shelter and protect him, I was equally as frustrated by the fact that she viewed his decision to learn sign language and get on with his life as a deaf person as giving up because the doctors didn't know for sure that the deafness was permanent, whereas I viewed it as Scott dealing with what was and what he was given to deal with. I would have been far more bothered by things if Scott had decided he was going to do nothing and wait to see if his hearing came back...seriously? How long should he wait and what was he giving up on? For me he was choosing not to waste his time waiting for something that might never happen when at worst if he got his hearing back while he was learning sign language, he'd still have another skill that he could always use. Thankfully Scott had a support system in his friends who saw this as being  a positive choice on Scott's part.

 

I'm not sure what's coming next in this series but I'm really looking forward to finding out. So far the stories have really worked for me, giving me characters and stories that wrap themselves around my heart and make me smile at the strength of the characters I'm introduced to.

 

*************************

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

Just a little touch of different going on here...

Rended Hearts - Riza Curtis

When I read the blurb for this one I was intrigued. While I'm not a huge fan of the paranormal everyone once in a while something will catch my eye and get me to step outside of my little comfort zone and that's what happened with 'Rended Hearts' it held just that little something different for me it was honestly the fact that this was a story that didn't have the usual werewolf/vampire match-up. In 'Rended Heart' we're given a witch named Gabriel and an Alpha werewolf named Simon. 

 

But what really added an  interesting twist was the history between wolves and witches and their origins and no, I'm not spilling the bean on that it's definitely an integral part of the story that made the fact that Gabriel and Simon were mates all the more intriguing for me. 

 

I really liked Gabriel. He struck me as being someone who was comfortable with his abilities but  not overly confident. He'd spent his life in hiding from the covens who had taken his family from him and just wanted to live his life quietly in his small village serving the community as a healer. 

 

While Simon was the alpha of his pack he really wasn't your typical alpha in that like Gabriel he was confident in his abilities but I never felt his character to be overly confident let alone arrogant. Again a character that I liked. 

 

Simon was definitely the pursuer in this pairing with Gabriel being interested but for his own reasons feeling like a relationship with Simon wasn't in the cards for him. Until circumstances made him see that running from what he feared was no longer an option and that it was time for him to stand and fight for not just his freedom but for the safety of the community he's come to care about.

 

I really liked this story. It wasn't hugely bizarre or unusual, which granted can be a fun thing but it held subtle details that created a story that was just that little bit of different that made it fun...like the ending and how Gabriel resolved things...that was not what I was expecting and I liked it. 

 

As for the sexy times they were there and I was good with the fact that they weren't blown into big graphic events. In fact there was more than one instance of the romance in this story slipping to the back burner while the conflict between Gabriel and the the coven's got center stage. So while there was definitely a romance going on here for me this was as much a paranormal mystery/thriller at time more of one than it was a paranormal romance which for me kept the relationship development from feeling rushed.  

 

All in all there was more about this story that I liked than didn't and I would honestly like to see more of Gabriel and Simon as a couple maybe with a little more focus on their relationship development. The other thing that I enjoyed about this story is the potential...for me it felt like there was so many possibilities for the author to give us further stories about Gabriel, Simon and his pack, opportunities to create an even more fleshed out world...expanding on not just the relationship between Gabriel and Simon but to expand not just on the events of the past but the present and future as well...I think that's my subtle way of saying that I'd be happy to see the author expand this into a maybe a trilogy? or a series? Sometimes less is more but sometimes more can be better. 

 

*************************

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

This one left me a little misty eyed...

Shared Revelations - Andrew  Grey

I first read this story back in 2012 when the e-book was originally released and while I only gave it 3 stars because I do remember it being an enjoyable read...not anything overwhelmingly good or amazing but nice...sweet even. Here I am nearly 6 years later listening to the audio book narrated by J.J. Boyer a new to me narrator, whom I would definitely say held his own on this one because he took this story from 3 stars to 4 for me.

 

'Shared Revelations' is a story that has it's beginnings in the 60s...a time that was known for hippies and flower power, peace and free love and yet, being gay in the 60s was neither accepted or something that people talked about especially if you played football in the NFL or were a young man working in a factory in Green Bay.

 

Eddie Baronski and his friends spent as much of their free time as they could at Green Bay's Lambeau Field watching the Packer's practice and for Eddie there was one player in particular that he liked to watch...Johnny Grant.

 

Eddie's more than a little flattered after practice one night when Johnny offers him a ride home to save him having to walk after his bike develops a flat and he's more than willing to let one night become more as things go from a ride home to dinners at the local drive-in restaurant and drives around town lead to spending time together in quiet places...places where they can be alone. As their relationship grows so do Eddie's feelings...but maybe not Johnny's. As summer comes to an end so do things between the two men, leaving Eddie alone and heartbroken until his friend Jack confronts him.

 

Eddie's always looked out for Jack who's hearing impaired, defending  him against classmates who would bully and tease him for his disability always patient and kind and more than happy to spend time with Jack...Eddie fails to see what's right in front of his face. So when Jack confronts him Eddie's more than a little surprised by the truths that his friend Jack shares with him.

 

'Shared Revelations' is both a story about coming of age and coming out, second chances and friends to lovers. At not quite an hour and a half 'Shared Revelations' covers nearly 6 decades from the sixties to the present as seen and experienced by Eddie Baronski as he goes from being a young man barely out of high school to someone in their 70s who ultimately lives live with his best friend and the man he loves. While there was a bit of a time jump to bring us up to the present day at the end it worked for me. I loved the ending it was believable and not a magical happy ever after that made all of their obstacles disappear but more of a happy ending that's earned and deserved by a couple in love who have faced life's challenges together  with love and dignity.  The ending while sweet was lacking in over the top flower descriptives and that made it all the more appealing and heartwarming for me and while I enjoyed reading this story it was listening to the audio book that really touched my heart and left me feeling warm fuzzies and with eyes that were feeling a bit damp.

 

*************************

An audiobook of 'Shared Revelations' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Currently reading

Infamous by Jenny Holiday, Michael Fell
Asylum by Robert Winter
Second Chance by Jay Northcote
Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey