...Bookfanatic

 

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

I think I'm done here...

Caldren - Caitlin Ricci

I was so excited about this story. It was Caldren's story and he's a brownie, which I admit just tickled me silly because when I was little I was a Brownie...just in the Girl Guide definition but still I liked that Caldren and I had that connection. I know my son will tell you 'I'm a dork' not a problem I gladly own this. Now...where was I, oh yes, so Caldren's a brownie and he's gone to Faeted to find himself a perfect match and Dyslander has sent him to Bannock because Bannock who's....you guessed it a dragon! is Caldren's perfect match...oh happy me...a dragon and a brownie. Could life be any better I asked myself and then I read the...story?

 

And this is where my world came tumbling down...for me there was so much wrong with this one so let's start at the beginning...the cover...it's pretty, I like it. The guy on the cover fit the image of Caldren and well...dragon!!! So this is good and now it's all downhill for me.

 

Caldren is about as exciting as watching paint dry. He's so submissive he makes me cringe. Bannock says drop your drawers and he does it, Bannock says jump and he doesn't even ask how high...now, I get that he's a fairy and it's sort of a part of who he is to be incredibly submissive but couldn't he be submissive and still have a personality? Just a tiny one? 

 

Speaking of personalities...we met Bannock in the second book...he kinda' kissed one of the MCs and at the end of the book he showed up at their place to apologize and I feel like maybe we saw a bit more personality in the Bannock that we met there than the one in this book because honestly he was kinda' milquetoast as well.

 

Now I get that we're not working with a lot of story here. My e-reader showed 35 pages. The story started on page 7 and ended on page 27 so that's roughly 21 pages. But truthfully that's about the same as what I got from the last book and I enjoyed that enough to give it 4 stars...so, I'mma thinkin' things could have gone a little better here because honestly what I got was 'Caldren goes to Faeted. Dyslander sends him to Bannock. The meet have sex...several times and they all lived happily ever after. The end. 

 

Sadly this one's settling in at 1.5 sad little dragon tears and I'm not sure if there's more to come for this series but I think I'm done here.

 

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

 

I'm a little torn on this one...

Lord Mouse - Mason Thomas

And once again audible has assisted me in getting to a book that I've wanted to read for quite a while now and keep getting derailed on my way to it. 'Lord Mouse' is that little bit of different that I like to get in my reading diet from time to time. 

 

I loved the fact that Lord Mouse, our hero if you will isn't a big, brawny alpha male and while he can hold his own in a fight. He's got brains and knows how to use them and then we have Garron who is the big, brawny, sorta' alpha male that Mouse has been contracted to rescue. 

 

Lord Mouse was an adventure filled with action. This was a mix between the adventures of Robin Hood and a good old fashioned swashbuckler with a touch of fantasy and a dash of romance thrown in for good measure.

 

One of the best parts of this story for me was that even though I knew Mouse and Garron were going to be the MCs in this story and they would end up together. I honestly have to admit at the beginning when they first met I questioned how this would be possible. It just seemed like they'd have an easier time bickering and snipping at each other than actually falling in love. It was awesome...no other word for it, watching these two go from basically wanting to throttle each other to two men in love was more than a little entertaining.

 

My only real niggle was with the ending of the book it was for me a little too predicable and while I liked that our heroes got to be together. I think I would have like it better if things had been a little different...and that's all you're getting about that because it's the ending and I'm going to spoil that for anybody if I can help it and I can.

 

I know the second book in this series has already been released and I'm really looking forward to reading it. I highly doubt that I will seek out the audio book for it...you see this is my dilemma...'Lord Mouse' was narrated by Joel Leslie and for whatever reason and I really haven't quite figured it out. This narrator just doesn't work for me. I'm not saying he's bad because I really and truly don't believe he is but just like with authors, not every narrator is for every listener. I've tried a couple of books by this particular narrator and I end up being not quite happy with the character voices that he gives me and again it's not that I think he's bad. I have friends who have really enjoyed some of his other books and I don't think they're wrong about it. I just think it's not working for me.

 

I guess at the end of it all what I'm trying to say is I gave the book 'Lord Mouse' 4 stars because for me it was a really fun and enjoyable story but for the narration it's just 3 stars...not a bad narrator just not the right one for me. Seriously, if you like audio books check out the sample wherever you buy your books from and then decide. You may love him, I didn't but different strokes for different folks, right?

 

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

Let's head over to 'Urban Soul' they're opening a new restaurant...

Strays - Garrett Leigh

'Strays' is the second book in Garrett Leigh's 'Urban Soul' series and while it was very different from the first book it was every bit as good. You could probably read either of these books as stand-alones but seriously? Do you want to miss out on any of the yumminess that is 'Urban Soul'? No, trust me you don't.

 

Nero is Urban Soul's main chef and he's Cass's best friend. He's been with the company for years and when Cass calls him and ask him to take on an apprentice, saying no isn't even a consideration in his eyes. What he doesn't count on is his apprentice being a beautiful young man that stirs feelings in him that he'd long ago abandoned.

 

Lenny's scared and he quickly realizes that when he's with Nero, he feels safe. These men are drawn to each other but for their own reasons they're also hesitant to act on their mutual attraction. 

 

Because of his past Nero's sure that love and happiness are not for him. He doesn't deserve them. Lenny's running and hiding from a stalker and he's living under a dark cloud that leaves him too afraid of hoping for anything.

 

It takes time and being together constantly to wear away at the barriers these two men are hiding behind. When Lenny's circumstances change he starts to reach out and try to build something with Nero but Nero's walls are high and they're solid. Lenny's got his work cut out for him...

"What do you want me to say?"

"I don't care, but don't ever say nothing, Nero. Silence is too loud."

Still talking and opening up doesn't seem to be in the cards with Nero and Lenny is left wondering how they'll ever be able to make things work and how could he possibly leave when Nero keeps asking him to stay...

"...Because as addictive as the warmth of Nero's embrace had become, what did it mean if his arms were those of a stranger?"

It's a slow burn between these two and sometimes it feels like one step forward and ten steps back but little by little Lenny starts to break through and Nero slowly realizes that he needs to open up and share some of himself with Lenny. If he wants them to have a future together...

"I get that, 'cause I feel the same in reverse, I s'pose. I'd forgotten how to see colour before you came along and trashed my living room. You even brightened up my food."

Hey, come on now that's some poetry right there coming from a chef. Plus once you get reading this book you realize it's a very Nero statement.

 

In a nutshell these two men have embedded themselves in my heart. I loved them. Every moment spent in their world felt real. There was love and warmth and laughter but there were also moments of heartache, frustration, anger and uncertainty. 

 

In the background of all this we are given moments of Tom, Cass and Jake. It was so awesome to have these three back even the little bit that we got was enough to make me smile and just like in the end of 'Misfits' we were gifted with another Urban Soul restaurant this one was called 'The Stray Tiger' and it specializes in pizza...seriously PIZZA!!! I feel like I'm being teased here because damn! gourmet pizza is totally one of my favorite food groups and I love tigers...they're a close second...ok, third to dragons and panthers...I want to go eat at an Urban Soul restaurant really these places sound incredible so...who wants to join me?

 

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

This book...seriously...mind blown!

Misfits - Garrett Leigh

I've been sitting on this review for a couple of days now because I truly don't know what to say about his one. But I'm going to try and say something anyways because this book is to epically awesome to be ignored.

 

Tom and Cass have been together for a lot of years already at the beginning of 'Misfits' and they have what many would call an unconventional relationship. Neither man has any doubt how much they love and are loved by the other and truthfully by the end of this book I had zero doubt as well. However, Tom and Cass don't view their love and fidelity to each other as being tied to the physical act of sex and they both agreed that if they see someone they want to be with they can go for it. It's an open dance card for each of them. They don't have to ask permission each time or let the other partner know ahead of time. That's not how this works for them and they also don't keep their extracurricular activities a secret from each other either. So whether or not it's the type of relationship I'd have is immaterial and irrelevant. This works for them and just like in real life it's not up to anyone else to define what is or isn't right in another relationship and if neither Tom nor Cass consider this to be cheating than who am I to say differently.

 

When Tom meets Jake, he's fascinated by him and he knows he wants him. He's even fairly certain that this is more than a one night stand for him but it also doesn't change how much he loves and still wants Cass. Jake on the other hand wants Tom but he doesn't want to be the tuna in anybodies sandwich...or so he thinks.

 

I wasn't sure how this was going to work for me. One of my biggest issues with menage books is that I never feel the connection between all three partners. I may think partner A & B have a good connection or A and C but it's no that often that I feel the connection between all three or that I feel like A & B, connect as well as B & C and if they do than it's usually A & C who hold the weak link for me. While initially I didn't get all the connections here either at least there was a reason...they didn't exis...yet.

 

While Tom and Cass were an existing relationship and Tom and Jake's connection was a flash, bang. For Cass and Jake at the beginning it was not so much. They started as friends who had one commonality...Tom. Jake wanted Tom and not just for one night but he knew from the first mention of Cass that Tom and Cass were a thing and it wasn't ending and even if it was...he wasn't going to be 'that guy', so how to do this and not get hurt was a little bit unfathomable to Jake. What Jake didn't count on was Cass...you see, Cass loved Tom and he knew that Tom's need for Jake went beyond the usual and that Tom had love to spare so he encourage it. He wanted Tom to explore this thing that was happening with Jake. He loved Tom enough that he was going to try and help make this work by becoming Jake's friend.

 

We often say that if you really love someone than it's their happiness that means the most to you and comes first. It's the strength of Cass and Tom's relationship that gives life to these words and makes this whole story work so incredibly well for me because of how their love supported and helped the bonds between them all to grow and develop.

 

Cass and Tom were soul mates with an established relationship and Jake's presence didn't threaten it both men were confident in their love for each other. Tom and Jake were a strong and instant attraction that only grew stronger with each encounter.  Cass and Jake started slowly going from being two men who shared their emotional connection with Tom...to friends...to more than friends...to lovers and while the individual relationships developed I could also feel the shifting of things to create that bond that would take Cass and Tom from a couple with an open relationship to a menage of three men in love. 

 

I was very honestly astounded by how beautifully the relationship played out in this book. The depth of character and relationship development held such a natural and realistic flow for me. While each of these men is so individually unique and strong in their own way, they all share a common trait of wanting to be the one who took care of each of them and was there when they needed someone.

 

There are so many wonderful things to this story. Small subtleties that flowed and wove themselves together creating a visually rich story about three men finding love and creating an unconventional life together in a conventional world. 

 

'Misfits' is the story of three men never quite fitting in until they found each other and realized that fitting in isn't just about where it's also about who. Even if menage isn't your thing check this one out. I think you might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

 

Garrett Leigh has to consistently surprised me with every story that I read. Creating characters who are interesting, unique and yet believably real. I'd say I can't wait to read the next book in this series but that'd be a lie because I've already read it. It's part of the reason why this review has taken so long to be written. 

 

Can I just say "Holy Hell! Amy Lane, you nailed it with this one." 

Bonfires - Amy Lane

Seriously this book was so freaking close to perfection for me. I've been trying to figure out if there was anything that was off, that I didn't care for, or would have liked if it had or hadn't been in the story and seriously folks...I got nothin'. So I'm just going to stop trying on that one.

 

I loved that the MCs were older not just one, but both of them were in their late 40s. It was excellent. Both of these MCs had been married and had kids. Aaron's a sheriff's deputy, who lost his wife in a motor vehicle accident ten years ago and Mr. Larkin or Larx as everyone calls him is principle at the local high school and they've been dancing around each other for a few years now, until Aaron sees Larx jogging at the side of the road...half naked, sweaty and just too damned sexy to resist Aaron convinces Larx that they need to start jogging together. 

 

These two men fit together so beautifully their relationship may have initially progressed at a quick pace but seriously if you're pushing 50 and you've been dancing around the person of your interest as long as these two have and you need to take mountains of time to figure things out all I can say is "Seriously? Dude get a clue and go for it." 

 

I just need to take a minute here and say one of the best things in this book for me is the fact that Aaron is bi...he's not straight and gay for you, he's unapologetically bisexual and he loved his wife. His memories of her are warm and loving and he doesn't regret a day of being with her. He is a breath of fresh air in the world of bisexual characters and he was monogamous when he was married and he wants that with Larx and Larx isn't afraid that he's going to suddenly want himself a woman one day! Am I tickled pink over this little fact...damned straight I am. 

 

As always Ms Lane gave us a rich and plentiful background of characters for this story to play out with. Some I loved Yoshi! for his name alone he was awesome never mind that he's genuinely a good person, Larx's best friend and the high school's VP and Nancy Pavelle another awesome, spitfire of a teacher, Eamon the sheriff who wants Aaron to run for sheriff when he retires gay, bi, straight he doesn't care he's sure that Aaron's the man for the job. Eamon's wife who may be an awesome cook but should never be allowed to make cookies or possibly bake. The kids between Aaron and Larx, they  have 6 and as happens in any house that's filled with love there's always room for more. 

 

Larx gardens, Aaron has chickens, they run, they joke and laugh, the have problems and as everyone with kids knows there's never enough time to be alone and sex is frequently a scheduled event that gets postponed when life adds too many demands to your 'to do' list, but still you hang in there, you work together and you plot and plan until you get the stars to align or there's a good movie playing at the theater an hour away. Of course this all takes a little more effort when you get dead bodies and students getting assaulted while other students are working to make like a living hell for everyone added to life's everyday demands.

 

This one had it all everyday life, love, romance, teenagers, murder, mayhem, friends from heaven, parent's from hell. I can honestly say if time had permitted I would have happily gone back to page one and started reading this all over again...It was that damned good.

 

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

Friends to lovers one of my favorite themes...

Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me and One Time I Kissed Him First - Anna  Martin

Evan and Scott have been friends since the second grade...not just friends but best friends and going from friends to lovers isn't just a matter of growing up for these two. It's through Evan's eyes that we share their journey of growing up, growing apart and coming back together again each time culminating in a kiss before once again going their separate ways...until that last kiss.

 

I've had this one on my TBR list for a while now and saw the audio book as my chance to indulge in this story. Overall I really enjoyed it. While the story wasn't given to us in a direct time line of when these kisses happened and I'm usually a 'give me the events in order type of girl' I found myself enjoying it none the less. It actually had a more organic feel to how everything played out. I felt like I was there in Evan's mind watching his memories unfurl in the way that was relevant to him and defined his relationship with Scott versus simply being told a story...I'm not sure how much sense that makes to anyone else but if it doesn't than we can just go with 'it worked for me', ok?

 

These men were best friends for most of their lives the fact that they each followed their own paths as well when it came to their careers and where they wanted to be felt real for me and only added to how much I wanted them to end up together. In general I enjoy stories with strong individuals capable of taking care of themselves, but willing to compromise to get what or in this case who they want.

 

In many ways this wasn't  a romance so much as a love story. It was day to day life drawing two people together and showing them how right they were for each other only to have them repeatedly pull away from each other. But life just kept persisting and drawing them back together until pulling away from each other ceases to be an option and neither of them is interested  in denying the inevitable any more. There were no big, dramatic, grand gesture or events leading to one or both characters having some grand epiphany that the other was the love of their life. This was love that was nurtured by friendship and time. 

 

There was really only one part of this story that didn't fully work for me and that was the fact that I never truly felt that Scott was fully comfortable with his bisexuality.  Not that he was in denial of it. While he may have started out that way in the beginning I did get the sense that he was past that point. He acknowledged it and he did have relationships with both men and women for a while but somehow I just didn't feel that he was totally comfortable with it and I would have liked to feel that he'd come to accept this part of himself a bit better than it felt like he had. However, that he so obviously wanted a life with Evan and was willing to relocate and wanted to live with Evan and didn't care who knew they were together also told me that maybe Scott was far more comfortable with things than I felt he was...so what do I know, right?

 

Now about the narrator...'Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me' was narrated by Jesse Cota and as near as I can find out this may very well be his first audiobook. I'm certainly hoping that if it is, there's more coming. I really enjoyed the narration on this story.

 

Jesse Cota's voices were good, expressive, consistent and felt right for the characters and Stop the presses, I know there are those who will read this and possibly die of shock but there are children's voices in this book and those voices are those of Evan and Scott when they are in second grade. Not only was I ok with his kids voices I actually liked them especially Evan's. He sounded like a really cute kid. So really how impressive is that? If you know me it's pretty damned impressive.

 

"Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me" was for me a really sweet story about friends to lovers that had the bonus of a well done narration but what appears to be a new voice in the world of audiobooks and one that's definitely worth listening too. I look forward to reading more books by this author and hearing more audiobooks from this narrator.

 

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An Audiobook of "Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me" was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Damn I wish I knew where to begin with this one...

There's This Guy - Rhys Ford

I'm probably going to ramble a bit here because I really don't know where to start with this. I can say with all honesty I had no idea what I was getting into I didn't even read the blurb I saw the title, I saw the authors name and I made grabby hands. That was it done deal. I didn't need to know anything more.

 

About 2 pages into the story I was hooked, you couldn't make me stop reading this if you tried and believe me real life did it's damnedest and I just kept reading.  Everything that I could possibly put on hold so that I could read I did...including sleeping.

 

Jake Moore's just an ordinary guy...he works as a welder and uses every penny he can to take care of his dying father...the man who has gone out of his way to do nothing more than make life a living nightmare for both Jake and his mother. The woman who made Jake promise that he'd take care of him if anything were to happen to her. Sadly, Jake really loved his mother so he's doing his best to keep his promise even if it kills him and honestly it just might.

 

Dallas Yates is a pretty ordinary guy too, but his life's been very different from Jake's. His family may be quirky but it's filled with love, lots and lots of unconditional love. When Dallas finds himself looking at an art deco building on the fringes of WeHo it's not the nearly impossible to see potential that the building holds that convinces him this is the place to open up his club...nope, it's shy smile of the metal worker across the street that seals the deal for him.

"Who fucked you up, Jake?" Dallas wondered softly. "Who reached into that pretty soul of yours and tore it apart?"

Jake sees everything he's ever wanted in Dallas, but he's been told his entire life that what he wants is perverted and wrong...but if that's true then he can't help but wonder why does being with Dallas feel like something's finally gone right for him for the first time in his life.

 

Dallas sees Jake. Not the drawn in tightly held person that Jake presents to the rest of the world. The Jake that he sees is so much more...he's smart, funny, he's so damned beautiful it makes Dallas's heart ache and he's talented the things he can do wit some scraps of metal and a welding torch can leave a person speechless and while Dallas is pretty sure from the start that Jake's it for him. He also sees that Jake may never be ready for the relationship that Dallas wants...so what's a guy to do? Be a friend because it's painfully obvious that Jake needs one of those so with the encouragement and support of his friend Celeste, who I'm convinced is her own force of nature...

"He hurts you, punches you, or even farts in your general direction, I will kick his ass," Celeste declared fiercely,... "Well, as soon as I buy a new pair of shoes to do it with. Ass kicking requires some serious shoes."

There's probably a lot about this relationship that shouldn't work for example Jake and Dallas don't exactly have balance in their relationship, but realistically relationships often aren't balanced all the time...life's not always fair, that's just how it works sometimes. Relationships are give and take but unfortunately it's often more give and less take for one partner or the other and these things frequently shift but in the case of Dallas and Jake we didn't really see this happen and yet it still worked.

 

For Dallas this wasn't about what was in it for him. It was about Jake. He saw a man that deserved to  be loved and yet no one ever had and even if it only ever meant being his friend, Dallas wanted to change that. He wanted to help Jake see himself as someone deserving of love, he wanted to world to see the Jake that he saw. This more than

anything spoke so strongly to how different Jake and Dallas's lives had been.

 

Jake spent his whole life being used and abused. He'd never known what it was like to have someone love him...just because he was. Dallas gave him this and that kind of love neither wants nor needs reciprocity. 

 

Dallas grew up surrounded by love. Never wanting for it and always knowing that the more he gave to the world the more that came back to him. Life may not have always been perfect for him but he always had the love and support of his family...he never had to question it or his self worth.

 

While it was Jake who needed to make the journey and find himself, in the end it was Dallas's willingness to be there from start to finish that helped Jake find the inner-strength that he needed to go from the darkness that he'd spent his whole life in to a life that held the promise and hope of a world filled with more. 

 

'There's This Guy' worked for me. I felt it and I got the connections and while it may not have been for everyone, I'm betting we all have at least one story like this. A story that in spite of it's seemingly dark tones speaks to us of love, hope and promise for a better tomorrow...one that let's us stand in the sunshine and hope for more.

 

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An ARC of 'There's This Guy' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is definitely not Puff the Magic Dragon...

On Wings of Thunder - M.D. Grimm

There's a dragon in my story!!! So you know I'm already a happy, happy girl...but damn, this dragon is HOT!!! He's big and black and has piercing blue eyes and if he says he's going to set the world on fire...than you can be sure things are going up in flames. I know I damned near did.

 

"On Wings of Thunder" was my first time reading this author and quite honestly they impressed the hell outta' me. Not only was there an amazing dragon in the story. A dragon who was suppose to be 'the bad guy' but we've got angels and while I like angels...I mean they're not as cool as dragons...or should I say hot. Since in this story it's the angels who are cold blooded...whatever, angels are ok, dragons are amazing!!! I have to admit while I'll jump into a dragon story without hesitation, I am usually a little more reserved when it comes to angels. I like my angels to be the angels of fantasy and not theology and happily they were.

 

Asagoroth was imprisoned by the angels but what no one knew was that he cast his own spell one that would eventually free him when the right time came. It is Trystan one of the 'unchosen' who unknowingly sets events in motion that bring about Asagoroth's freedom. The angels are ready to go to war and Asagoroth tells them 'give me the one who freed me and we shall leave you alone'. The angels refuse, but Trystan has his own ideas about this and he chooses to go with the dragon.

 

While the sex between these two was scorching hot and I totally approve. The one thing I do wish was that there'd been a little bit more story because what we got was awesome and I admit I'm being greedy when I say that I would have been willing to sacrifice a itsy, bitsy amount of the sex if it would have gotten me a tiny bit more story. Not because I didn't enjoy that part of the story trust me...I did, I was just really, really into this story and these characters...so yeah, it just comes down to "Please sir, I want more."...did I mention I'm greedy that way, when it comes to an awesome story?

 

This may have been a story about 'angels' and 'demons', but, what it wasn't was your typical...'angels good, demons bad' concept. There really wasn't a clearly defined good and bad here...more like a lot of misguided souls. People who believed what they were doing was the right thing but sadly their beliefs were also based on some bad information. This story was like catnip for me...dragons, demons, angels, fantasy, battles, love, passion...serious catnip here folks.

 

Add in Pavi Proczko, a narrator who totally rocked that dragons voice. Don't get me wrong I liked all of the books narration but the dragon's voice for me was absolute perfection...it was deep, gravelly, filled with power and passion, fearless...see totally a dragon's voice, I loved it. This was also my first time listening to this narrator and I was impressed. I found that his narration of this story contained the elements that I've come to look for and enjoy in an audio book. The reading was well paced, his voices were distinct and consistent, they conveyed the characters emotions whether it was happiness, sadness, anger, passion, love, etc. The continuity of what I was hearing and how well it blended with the words of the story simply made my audio experience with this new to me author and narrator a total pleasure.

 

All in all I'm definitely putting this one firmly in the win category...awesome story, excellent new author and narrator. If you like fantasy and dragons as much as I do...check this one out. I think you'll be impressed.

 

 

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An Audiobook of "On Wings of Thunder" was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

What color is your world...

True Colors (True Love) - Anyta Sunday

I'm sure there are probably a dozen stories out there like or similar to this one but sometimes it's not so much the story as how it's told and for me this story was woven through with the colors as much as the words and enriched with characters who added yet another layer of richness to it's brilliant colors. 

 

Marco's mama had colors for her days but for Marco it was people.  He saw colors for the people in his life. Marco's first color was sunglow yellow. He saw a color that was bright and full of happiness and life...full of everything good and right. That was Oskar's color, until Oskar's color became..."Dark, burnt-orange rust. A color to throw away."

 

"True Colors" is told through Marco's eyes as he shares his colors with us and watch his struggle to move on from a past that's filled with heartache and pain. The pain of losing his mother in horrible car crash that left Marco scarred and then the heartache of his best his best friend's betrayal. Marco and Oskar were best friends inseparable until the day that Oskar did the unimaginable and betrayed him. I won't lie, I was pretty damned angry with Oskar and honestly I'm a firm believer in second chances but it took me a while to truly believe that Oskar deserved one.

 

While we are given this background the story actually starts in the present when Oskar returns to Berlin...that's right everyone...this story is set in Germany and I have to say I loved that, it was just a nice little touch of something different. 

 

The journey that Marco and Oskar take to find their way back to each other is filled with anger, frustration, heartache, confusion and love no matter how hard Marco tries to fight it the bond of friendship and love that started when they were boys was never truly broken and texting lots and lots of texting and I loved these conversations.

 

I can't honestly say that I feel like I have adequate words to explain how deeply this story touched me and how much I loved it. It didn't feel so much like being run over by a steamroller as having  a small child tugging gently on your hand in an effort to get your attention and then when you finally look down you realize that this is what love looks like. It's small and fragile with an underlying strength and resilience that can leave you speechless.

 

And of course for me one of the songs for this one was obvious...

True Colors and Listen to Your Heart

 

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An ARC of 'True Colors' was graciously provided by the author via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

I seem to be getting over my age gap issues...

Just Drive - L.A. Witt

and if I'm not well, I need to be since I keep reading books where the MCs have significant age gaps. 

 

It's been quite a while since I've read an L.A. Witt book and I've had this one on my TBR list since it was released so once again I can thank the joys of audiobooks for helping me take a bite out of that pile.

 

Let's start with the audio portion of this review because that's going to be short and sweet. Nick J. Russo was the narrator and as usual he did not fail me. His voices for both Sean and Paul were spot on for me. I loved Paul's deep voice with it's hint of gravel to it and Paul's voice had a bit of a younger tone to it and matched my minds idea of a twenty-somethings voice wonderfully. I love the emotion he instills in these characters. I don't have to try and imagine Paul's anger, frustration, passion, love for Sean or Sean's emotions as these two men struggle to sort things out and figure out how to be together...Mr. Russo gives those emotions in spades with his narration of this story.

 

As for the story...well 4 standing at attention stars...I think it's safe to say that I really liked this story. The age difference was a definite issue for these men. Paul's the CO of the local navel base...Sean's father is the Senior Chief on said navel base...he reports to Paul...Sean's listed as his dependent...there are rules about this...rules that can end careers if news of their relationship gets out.

 

The age difference on this one is a solid 20+ years and I was ok with it because of how it was represented.  It was shown in where these two men were at in their lives. Sean's in college and yes he still lives at home with his father but he's neither immature nor juvenile. He understands how much Paul's career means to him and he tries more than once to walk away for both Paul's sake and his father's. Paul's got two marriages and a few relationships plus a 24 year navel career under his belt. Yes there's a strong sexual relationship here but there's also a strong sense of mutual compatibility, shared interest and two people who just like each other. As well as a growing romantic relationship there's a bond of friendship and mutual respect developing between Paul and Sean.

 

The fact that the author didn't do the typical stereo-typing of making the older MC always be the voice of reason and the dominant sexual partner was definitely a refreshing take on this May/December romance as well.

 

Sean's relationship with his father was another aspect of this story that added more depth and believe-ability to things. Sean loved his dad and while he loved and respected his father, he also resented the impact that his father's career has had on his life. While his father loves him, they still find themselves at odds over things and they talk. Maybe things aren't always resolved instantly but again the love and mutual respect is evident. I really enjoy stories that give us real parents, not perfect just normal everyday people who love their kids and want to try and do what's best for them.

 

'Just Drive' is a wonderfully balanced story that easily felt like it could have happened at some navel base somewhere. But more than anything it was the ending of this story that tugged at my heartstrings. While our men may have gotten their happily ever after it was earned when changing priorities can only be achieved with compromise and sacrifice from everyone involved. 

 

'Just Drive' was a story that worked 'just right' from start to finish.

 

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An Audiobook of 'Just Drive' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

This one's not only worth reading...

A Boy Worth Knowing - Jennifer Cosgrove

But I'm pretty sure at some point I will be doing a re-read on this.

 

I honestly only have one big issue with this book and that's the title because there's not one boy worth knowing in this book there's 2. There's funny, smart, sweet, adorable, isolated Nate and then there's James. Handsome, loyal, not afraid to think for himself, James.

 

Now before I go any further let's talk about the title...truthfully the title is perfect, but you'll have to read the book to find out why...I'm not spoiling. Also I probably wouldn't have read this book so soon if it wasn't for my friend Todd's review over on GR. Seriously it's an awesome review, check it out...Todd's Review 

 

I think a lot of us remember what it's like to be a teenager and I'll be one of the first to admit. It's not easy and for me it often wasn't fun and I have no desire to repeat it. But imagine being a teenager able to do something that pretty much anyone else can't...like, I don't know maybe see and talk to dead people. Seriously, life would suck.

 

Nate's been on his own for a long time so when someone like James moves to town he doesn't expect him to want to friends much less anything else with the school pariah, but James likes what he sees in Nate and he's not afraid to follow his instincts.

 

There's so much about this story that's simply awesome. James and Nate together are wonderful. I loved them both and truly couldn't imaging how any mother wouldn't. 

 

'A Boy Worth Knowing' is a young adult story and as such the steam and sexy times are kept appropriate for that age level but this is not a story that lacks for depth of emotions by any means and while the central part of the plot may involve a paranormal element the high school setting and the people in it are very reflective of the real world that we all live in.

 

Every class has it's Penny, a queen bee who rules not because of their merits or how deserving they are but because of their ability to intimidate and manipulate. Ironically this is the part of the story that had merit above all else of me. The part of the story that in the end told us that people like words only have as much power as we give them.

 

'A Boy Worth Knowing' is a story worth reading and not just for young adults. My young adult days are so far behind me that Nate and James could have easily been my grandchildren and if they were I would have wanted them to read this story. It's an incredibly well written work of fiction that holds a very real message about believing in yourself and being true to who you are and trusting that your real friends are the ones who walk in while everyone else is walking out.

 

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An ARC of 'A Boy Worth Knowing' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When your world is going up in flames who better to fall in love with than a fireman...

Cleansing Flame - Andrew  Grey

'Cleansing Flame' is the second book in Andrew Grey's series 'Rekindled Flame' and while I did enjoy the first book a tiny, tiny bit more it wasn't enough to really make a difference on my rating.  'Rekindled Flame' which is the title of the first book as well as the series was a really solid 4 star read for me while this one was a little bit of a weaker 4 stars but still quite enjoyable.

 

Dayne's life over the past couple of years hasn't been good it started with a car accident that left him seriously damaged and with a new best friend named 'Pain' and grieving the loss of Jeff the man he loved and thought he was spending forever with. Barely a year later he's burying his mother and now at the start of the book he's back in school trying to get himself turned around and essentially remaking his life only to arrive home and find his home going up in flames. Dayne's pretty much at his limit of how much crap he can handle having dumped on him and really 'can you blame him?' I know I couldn't. 

 

I really like Dayne...sure he has the occasional pity party but he keeps going, he doesn't just give up and wallow in it and I think a lot of people would. He's smart and determined. Truthfully he's not really asking for much he just wants to get on with his life and get out from under the damned black cloud that seems to want to follow  him everywhere and it's when he's at his lowest trying to fight back the tears and despair that are threatening to drown him that the world gives him a glimmer of light in the form of an incredibly kind hearted and attractive firefighter named Lawson...someone he'd met earlier that day at the local historical society.

 

Lawson's attractive, friendly and as kindhearted as they come and he doesn't hesitate to offer Dayne a place to stay when he realizes that this sweet attractive man whom he'd had the chance encounter with has no one to call on in his time of need.  It takes a bit of fast talking from Lawson with strong dose of help from their mutual friend Mason to persuade Dayne to at least accept Lawson's offer of a place to stay for a few days.

 

Now don't be thinking that these two men head off to Lawson's house and fall into be and live happily ever after...nope sorry just like real life it doesn't happen that fast for them. There are obstacles both within their control and not and then even when they do begin to work things out it's still not a smooth road but it's not an over the top WTF angst filled one either.  However, have no fear while it took a while for the sparks to ignite between these two once they did things were definitely hot. 

 

We get to see a bit of Richard and Mason, they're the MC's from book 1 and while they by no means over shadowed the story in this book, they were definitely a nice addition to the story. Having MCs and secondary characters from previous books show up in subsequent books is something that I love happening when I'm reading a series.

 

There's also a secondary part to this story that relates to Dayne and Lawson's first encounter at the local historical society that I really enjoyed I found this part of the story to be incredibly sweet touch adding an opportunity for Lawson and Dayne to get to know each other better and help their relationship grow. 

 

Like the first book in this series, 'Cleansing Flame' is a sweet, low angst, romance that makes for a relaxing and enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to seeing whose story is next in this series and how hot those flames will burn.

 

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

It seems the circus has come to town...

The Mystery of the Curiosities (Snow & Winter Book 2) - C.S. Poe

While I enjoyed 'The Mystery of Nevermore' book 1 in C. S. Poe's Snow & Winter series a tiny, tiny bit more than this one that does not mean that 'The Mystery of the Curiosities' was anything less than enjoyable. 

 

I think possibly part of my added enthusiasm for the first book was just the joy of discovering a new author who was writing a new series that I wanted to read...see all the shiny new that's going on here? I was dazzled...that's right I suffer from magpie syndrome. However, while this book isn't the shiny new of a first book in a new series by a new author it still holds it's own with a well written story about characters that I truly like solving a well done mystery. Ms. Poe had me guessing right up until the end when I knew who did it and why only to find out things were not as they seemed...well done, I love a mystery that keeps my brain guessing from start to finish.

 

While I did get a bit frustrated with Seb for his perpetual lies of omission and half-truths, I do have to admit were I in his shoes I'm not sure I would have done any better and I think that while I don't advocate his behavior I probably felt a little more lenient towards him once my initial frustration wore off and I was force to admit that while his decision making skills weren't always stellar neither were they malicious or intended to do harm...in fact, it was quite the opposite he wanted to resolve things in the hopes of keeping anyone else from being hurt...so his intentions were good...mmmmm...I think there's a road somewhere paved with good intentions...just sayin'

 

Apart from the mystery and just the story in general one of the things that I truly loved was the approach that the author took with Calvin's PTSD. It wasn't made light of with implications that little more than some good sex would fix it. While Calvin doesn't want to seek medical help neither is Seb willing to give up on getting him to reconsider this decision. There is real concern for Calvin on the part of his partner, Quinn and Seb's father and not just Seb, but as we all know you can't help someone until they want to be helped. So to me Seb was being realistic about things in that he wasn't forcing Calvin to do something he's not ready to do but neither was he willing to stick his head in the sand and just hope it'd go away.

 

I love Seb and Calvin the passion is there and it's wonderfully tempered with humor and sweet yet sometimes awkward moments of them sharing their feelings whether saying 'I love you' or when Calvin is trying to explain how much he needs Seb to be safe or Seb seeking Calvin's forgiveness for something that he new he shouldn't have done long before he ever did it. These two tug at my heartstrings and make me smile contentedly as I travel along with them to solve their latest mystery.

 

While 'The Mystery of Nevermore' gave us the shiny new 'The Mystery of the Curiosities' proved that this author's candle is still burning bright.

 

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

I think the world might have tilted on it's axis a bit...

Seven Summer Nights - Harper Fox

Oh, Ms Fox how I adore your writing. You bring stories to life for me as few other authors are able to. 

 

This one started on a bit of a challenging note for me. It was ok and I was enjoying it...possibly because "Buddy Read" with my awesome besties Josy and Christelle and initially I think perhaps this story was appealing more to them than me on a certain level. But as always I was still being drawn in by the wonderful word poetry of Ms Fox and that alone was enough to keep me reading but needless to say the more I was drawn into this web of words the more I wanted to read until I found myself happily devouring this story. 

 

'Seven Summer Nights' is not a simple story about a post-war romance between two men...oh no, it's not even close to that because for one thing a romance between two men at that time in history didn't have a snowballs chance in 'you know where' of being simple.

 

While the story between Rufus and Archibald (Thorne for the remainder of this review) is very much the main and central part of the story. It is surrounded by a explosion of colorful and often 'eccentric' characters set mainly in a small English countryside village. The struggles that are faced by both Rufus and Thorne on an individual level and as two men trying to find a place for their fragile relationship in a world that would see them jailed or worse for their feelings, for sharing words spoken in the still of night as gentle as a summers breeze meant only to offer comfort and ease...

"No more gods, no more war. I'm not a vicar, and you...you're not a soldier.

 Never again. There's just us, dear fellow---here we are."

 

'Seven Summer Nights' shows us a world that many of us never knew first hand, some like myself may have a bit of second-hand knowledge because of parents and grandparents.

 

Much of this book was ironically a reminder for me of why I'm not a huge fan of historical novels not because they're bad or uninteresting...in fact quite the contrary. I love history but unfortunately with history comes the reminders of the wrongs and injustices that have been committed and so often these transgressions are hidden behind such noble causes as God, King and country forcing men who would live in a world of tolerance and peace to fight those would control it through fear, bigotry and sheer brute force. This is what happened to Rufus and when he could fight no more his mind chose to forget. Ironically Thorne who is a man of god also fought but his terrors were not so dark and his memories were very different than that of Rufus.

"Yes. Oh, Archie, it seems terrible to talk about it.

To destroy your peace of mind with such a story."

 

"You won't. And even if you did, isn't that part of my job from now on--

  to share your wars and your peace?"

 

Two men fighting for the basic rights and freedoms of the same people who would deny them theirs. Just as they would deny the women who did their part their rights (it wasn't until 1928 that British women achieved full suffrage 3 years after the end of WWII and while this is an incredibly interesting topic...google is your friend). This is the setting of 'Seven Summer Nights' but we're not done yet because as well as the climate of the times Ms Fox has given us glimpses of Britain's cultural background through it's archaeology and it's folklore. We see the intertwining of England's religion with it's pre-christian days. There are subtle references to Anglo-Saxon paganism, England's witch hunts during the 1640s and things don't end there we are also reminded of the nightmare that passed for modern medicine specifically psychiatry during the early 1900's. 

 

You're probably thinking this sounds like a lot of gloom and doom right about now but it wasn't because woven in between these things was the strength of the human spirit and it's struggle for love in the form of Rufus and Thorne, the desire to govern ourselves and make our own decisions in the form Thorne's sister Caroline and Alice Winborn. There were characters of strength and courage in Maria who quietly took charge and gave people what they needed, Drusilla whose struggle to find her way back to herself, her child and her faith nearly cost her sanity and of course there were those who should have been hero's and failed.

 

'Seven Summer Nights' is neither a simple nor an easy story to read or explain...was it fantasy? No, not for me, there were no magical creatures...was there magic? I suppose of a fashion there was, but it was the magic of a world long gone. A world of faith so strong that it could alter the very fabric of ones reality...so yes there was magic. Then again isn't there always a little magic involved when it only takes words to transport us through time and space to a place we've never known to share an adventure with people we'll never meet? You're a wizard Ms Fox, a wizard I tell you.

 

"Oh, Archie. You and I both know--everyone who went to war knows--

the one thing none of us can be sure of is time..."

Definite cuteness factor here...

Adrian - Caitlin Ricci

I liked this one probably more so than the first one. Technically we've got an established couple here. Adrian and Corrin were matched up six months ago (before the start of the story) by the Faeted Agency and none other than Dyslander, himself did the matching and Dyslander never...never makes mistakes and yet, something has gone wrong and Adrian is going to make him fix it.

 

It seems Corrin has cheated on Adrian. Sadly Adrian knows he still loves Corrin but he also knows that when Corrin kissed that Dragon shifter...dragons!!!! I love dragons...wait, he kissed Corrin and Corrin's with Adrian...oh, bad, bad dragon. You need to go back to your cave until you can learn to behave...now, where were we? Oh, yes Corrin kissed the dragon and Adrian was standing right there...this did not end well. But I had faith in Dyslander, he'll fix things but his fix was totally not what Adrian had in mind but then again when faced with a naked and restrained Corrin, Adrian soon realizes that maybe this wasn't what he had in mind but he can be as open minded as the next dryad when it comes to matters of the heart.

 

So basically that's our premise and it was cute. I really enjoyed it. My biggest issue this story comes in at about 21 pages (the story started on page 7 and finished on page 28 of my e-reader) I really would have loved more from this pairing. In the supernatural world how often do we get stories about a Dryad and a Fire Mage? Cute and unusual make for fun and there really was more to the dragon than it seemed but you'll have to read the story to find out and the next one too...because Caldren is next and he's a Brownie and Dyslander seems to think that his Faeted mate is...a dragon...a dragon who maybe kissed someone he shouldn't have...is there any doubt that I am so there?

 

If you like stories that are cute, light, fluffy and just a bit of fun reading check out Caitlin Ricci's 'Faeted' Series the matches are interesting and there's dragons...really, you can't go wrong with dragons ;)

 

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

I have to say if you loved this book...

Talking in Code - Ariel Tachna

mine is probably not the review you'll want to read. I was really looking forward to this one I like Ariel Tachna and still do for that matter. It's just that this was not the book for me. It sounded good but once I got into it things just didn't work.

 

We have an established relationship here Richard Horn and Timothy Davenport have been together for nearly 20 years and 4 years ago they added a third to their relationship, Eric Newton. Initially it was Tim who wanted this young man but Eric quickly attracted Richards attention as well and neither Dav (as Tim is often called) nor Richard have looked back since. Unfortunately, Eric is a little less secure. Eric's not had an easy life and it's left him with a few issues add to that the fact that his exit from the military was less than amicable in spite of the fact that he's a top notch weapons expert and probably the best sniper that anyone's come across in a while and it's a recipe for PTSD and Eric's got it in spades. Unfortunately there are times when Peaches (yep, that's Eric's nickname) feels like more of a needy, whiny child than anything else.

 

This book opens up with a lot of things going on. When we first meet these characters Richard and Dav are in the middle of executing two missions one to be led by Dav, who nearly doesn't make it back from his mission alive. While at the same time a covert op is taking place to rescue Eric, who's been held hostage for the past 4 months by some pretty sadistic terrorist.

 

So here I was dropped into the middle of one pretty epic clusterf*ck. this all happened before the 20% mark (16% to be more accurate) and judging by the other reviews that I've seen out there I will freely admit I seem to be in the minority when I say 'I didn't really enjoy this.' It wasn't so much the fast pace as the fact that I just never felt a connection between any of these men. Initially Richard and Eric are left trying to muddle through things because Dav's always been the one to look after Eric when he comes back from a mission so Richard has no idea what he needs at this point and 4 months in a hostage situation with people who enjoyed torturing him, you can be pretty certain that Eric's going a little more screwed up than usual. Meantime Dav's no help because he's in the hospital in a medical induced coma recovering from multiple gunshot wounds.

 

Now I know it seems like I've given up the ghost here on this one but if you read the blurb I haven't really told you anything that isn't already out there. So while the first part of this story steamrollered right on over me the remainder floated past at a far more sedate pace and was taken up with Richard and Eric  basically getting to know each other and finding their way in a menage relationship that effectively has been reduced to a couple and while some of this was good,  I was a little hard pressed to buy into Eric's issues post-crisis being basically resolved by a bowl of stew, getting shaved by one his partners (Richard in this case) and some pretty good sex...yep, that was it a new twist on the 3 S's...Stew, Shave & Sex. Apparently it's a PTSD cure-all...no, I'm sorry. I couldn't suspend my belief enough to buy that if Eric was as tortured and abused as we are to understand that he was, this was all he needed to restore his balance...really?

 

What the hell are doctor's learning in medical school these days if they couldn't figure this one out sooner? I guess what bothers me is the idea that thousands of men and women are out there suffering from this condition and basically this story is saying 'suck it up buttercup, you just need a good shave, some stew and you're ass nailed to the mattress and you'll be fine.' I realize that these things are suppose to be symbolic of love and acceptance and home and safety, comfort and security all those good and positive things but realistically if that was all it took, don't you think we'd have fewer people suffering from PTSD than we do? Not every person who experiences this is without a loving support system and yet, many still suffer from it. Needless to say I was a little disappointed in how PTSD was dealt with in this story and that took a bit of the shine away from things for me. 

 

Overall I found that if anything these characters were flat. There was a lot of stuff going on and yet somehow for these guys it always came back to sex. Eric's been held hostage for 4 months and comes home to find that Dav who really is his anchor is has been seriously injured and is an induced coma and it seems like his most prevalent thought is getting Richard to have sex with him, Dav's barely out of his coma and he's talking about how it's going to be a while before sex is possible for him but he's handing out directions like it's the set of a porn movie. I don't have a problem with sex in my stories and I do believe that a healthy sex life is very often indicative of a healthy relationship but I also believe in balance and with these guys it just felt more like the sex life was the relationship and not just a part of it. Maybe if I'd felt like any of the other stuff going on in their lives had even the same amount of relevance as the sex and there was some pretty life altering stuff happening, I wouldn't have felt like these characters were quite so flat. I have to admit I knew this wasn't going to end well when I realized that I was actually relieved that some of the sex scenes were off-page and/or fade to black which is what I feel like I need to do now as well...fade to black...

 

I loved this author's Lang Downs series, Overdrive was the first book that I read by her and I still think it's awesome, I've been enjoying her series 'At Your Service' as well, but this one just didn't work for me...hopefully I'll enjoy whatever comes next.

 

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

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