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review 2017-01-02 02:08
ARC Review: Lane's (Life According To Maps #3) by Nash Summers
Lane's - Nash Summers

Utterly adorkable 3rd installment to Life According To Maps. In which Maps and Lane and Benji and Perry try to figure out the pitfalls of making plans for after high school, teenage angst, and first love.

Maps' usual quirks are front and center as always, assuming that while he should probably find a college to attend, his parents don't really want him to leave, which obviously explains his reluctance in applying for college, obviously, and has nothing to do with his fears of not getting into the same school as Lane, no sirree, not at all.

As Maps and Lane navigate their last few months of senior year, plan for and attend prom, Maps also learns a lot. Okay, some. He definitely learns that Lane loves him, and that he loves Lane. He learns that Perry might have the hots for Benji, possibly, and that those feelings might be returned to some extent, despite Benji's protests and denials.

The way Maps looks at the world is still the same in this book, which is to say completely different from anyone else. He convinces himself that it's not his fears of leaving Benji, and losing Lane, that are keeping him from applying to college and looking forward to finishing high school. He also has a list of things he thinks one should accomplish before finishing high school, such as crashing a party. He makes Lane jealous, unintentionally, during a situation that is so utterly Maps I giggled out loud. I actually giggled quite a few times throughout this book.

This book should not be read as a standalone, since at this point in the series, you have to know Maps to understand him. Besides, why wouldn't you want to read the entire series from start to finish anyway?

Maps is like nobody else you've ever known. That is part of his charm, and while he's not the only character that makes this series worthwhile reading, he's a huge part of the reason.

This is firmly YA fare, as there is no steam other than some toe-curling kisses, but that's not a detriment at all. These boys fumble, they stumble and nearly fall, but their bond is strong and will surely lead them along the right path.

I hope we'll get at least a glimpse of them during their college years. How about it, Nash Summers?

** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2016-12-31 05:00
ARC Review: The Virgin Manny by Amy Lane
The Virgin Manny (Dreamspun Desires Book 25) - Amy Lane

Cute, fluffy, sweet. A real feel-good book, no angst between the MCs, virgin butt-secksing, a ridiculous over the top villain - yeah, I dug it. Most books in this series aren't meant to be taken seriously, and neither is this one.


Tino, 22, a last year college student about to take his finals, is out delivering pre-made dinners for his younger sister's business, when he ends up at the doorstep of Channing, who's raising his 7 year old nephew, Sammy, after his sister recently passed away.


Since Tino is almost done with finals and doesn't have any immediate job prospects, and since Channing begs so nicely, Tino somewhat reluctantly ends up as the newly hired manny for said boy. Of course, his insta-lust for the hunky Channing plus the money Channing offers help convince him that he can do that job.


There are some serious undertones here too - Sammy is struggling with his loss, acting out as part of his grieving process, Channing is at his wit's end and grieving himself, the housekeeper is a bitch, and while Channing is a great guy, he can't cook and he needs to work, and he needs help.


The housekeeper subplot was a wee bit far-fetched, but whatever, these stories are meant to be OTT so that fit right in.


I liked the main characters a lot - Tino was a nice young man, and he really cared for Channing and for Sammy too. Channing was a good guy, wanting to do right by his nephew. Sammy himself was described very well, and I thought that the author really nailed the character.


They fit, even if Channing is 10 years older, and much more established than Tino who still has to trade in his v-card, but their personalities meshed well. Tino has plans and he only takes the job as a tie-me-over for the summer, though falling in love with his new employer wasn't part of the plan. Channing too didn't quite see falling for the manny in his future, but he too falls hard and fast, so that's that. They complement each other though, and Tino's developing relationship with Sammy worked for me as well.


There's a bit of drama toward the end with Tino's sister that seemed a wee bit unbelievable, but fit within the theme of the book - life is what happens when you're busy making plans.


As I said, cute, fluffy, sweet. Perfect for this series, adorable, and very enjoyable.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2016-12-27 18:04
ARC Review: Holiday House Swap by Sarah Madison
Holiday House Swap - Sarah Madison

Noah Kinley is the author of romantic suspense novels featuring a tough heroine. Since, and this is a delightful tongue-in-cheek, romantic suspense novels featuring a heroine are usually written by female authors, Noah has been using the name of his best friend, Julie Velazquez, as his pen name. Julie has also been attending conventions and other events for Noah, and her face is on the back cover. But Julie is now pressuring Noah to come out - to show his own face and claim these book as his. She wants her life back, as she has offers to become a singer, something she's always wanted, something she's very good at, and something she's put on the back burner so far to help Noah out.

On top of this, Noah is experiencing writer's block, and decides that perhaps he needs a change of scenery - instead of being all alone in his secluded cabin in the woods, he has arranged for a house swap with a family from a grand estate/horse farm, to get the creative juices flowing again. While Julie is in Paris accepting an award for the latest book.

The house is every bit as grand as Noah expected from the photos, but unfortunately, it's not as empty as expected, when Connor Harrison, retired USAF Major, bursts in on Noah taking a bath and singing a holiday tune, gun drawn to catch the suspected intruder. Though how someone as smart as a USAF Major thought that an intruder would be taking a bath is somewhat beyond me.

Still, it's a fabulous way for the two men to meet. Turns out that the previous occupant of the home, the one with whom Noah arranged the swap, isn't the actual owner, but the brother of the owner - one Connor Harrison.

Both main characters have flaws, and neither is perfect. Both have some serious issues, what with Connor being forced into retirement due to sort of going against orders by rescuing a buddy from behind enemy lines and now being at a loss as to what to do next, and Noah being a neurotic author who wants to retire his pen name persona, but doesn't know how and then spending most of the book procrastinating on the author thing and instead trying to fix Connor's problem with how to keep the farm because money is tight.

Clearly, they both have enough on their plate, but they also feel an immediate attraction that just isn't going to go away, and while they figure out how to proceed with the next steps in their lives, they also get closer and closer.

Noah's dry wit made for quite a few giggles - I so do appreciate snark in the books I read - and he was a mostly likable character. Connor was a bit of an enigma at first, since we only see him through Noah's eyes, but I liked him as well. He broods a bit, which was understandable given his situation. I would have liked to get his perspective as well instead of just finding out what makes him tick from Noah's POV.

This is a romance, and thus has a lovely HEA, as expected. However, my primary enjoyment of this book came from following the characters on their journey to this HEA, one I recommend you follow too by reading this book.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2016-12-27 16:18
ARC Review: Acting Up by John Inman
Acting Up - John Inman

This is the kind of book I expect from John Inman - sweet, funny, with sexy times sprinkled in, about two men falling in love.

Malcolm Fox lives in San Diego with his best friend and roommate, Beth. Both of them are struggling actors who don't have much success in that field, so both have to hold down other jobs to make ends meet. Malcolm has also never been in love, in all of his 26 years, and probably wouldn't know love if it jumped up and bit him in the ass.

Malcolm initially comes across as snarky, shallow, and full of himself, which is even more evident when he addresses the reader directly. I usually don't like that in a book but it worked here for some reason to establish Malcolm's personality as a somewhat neurotic wanna-be actor.

Then Beth drops a bombshell - her brother, Cory, is moving to San Diego, and oh, by the way, here's the landlord with the foldaway bed that will be in Malcolm's room, and oh, by the way, he has a dog and a snake coming with him, and oh, by the way, he'll be here in 5 minutes. Surprise!!

Some friend, huh? Malcolm is freaking out, while Beth isn't very apologetic at all about springing this on him, but then Cory is there, and OMG, he's HAWT, and Malcolm's freak-out starts anew for a different reason.

Cory is super nice and kind, not to mention a really tall glass of water in a barren desert, but, as Beth reminds them, also straight. According to Beth. Poor Malcolm. The object of his arousal, that hot piece of man-meat, isn't gay. But he's nice, oh so nice, and kind, and just the sweetest guy, apologizing for possibly being an imposition, but Malcolm waves it away, and is all, of course you're welcome here, and I'm not scared of your massive dog, and only a little bit of that snake you brought with you, though I'd like the one in your pants, OMG, no, you're straight.

Of course, this wouldn't be a John Inman humorous romance if we didn't have shenanigans, which start immediately with the rats meant for the snake "running off", and Malcolm having wild fantasies about Cory, and suffering this infatuation with the straight guy, and Malcolm's mom, Viv, and the Tarot reading, and Cory's snake escaping the enclosure, and maybe Cory not being as straight as his sister thinks.

Since the entire book is told from Malcolm's first person POV, we don't get a whole lot of direct insight to Cory, and Malcolm isn't a very reliable narrator either, since he is a bit oblivious. Okay, he's a lot oblivious for quite some time, until Cory more or less spells it out for him.

Their romance itself is super easy once it actually begins, other than Malcolm's doubts about what love is (see above about never having been in love), and having to sort of keep it secret from Beth for a bit. This story is basically super light-hearted, super fluffy, snarky-hilarious and not-at-all-serious fun, with an implied HEA - the kind of story that defines John Inman romances for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I think you will too.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2016-12-24 00:40
ARC Review: Popcorn Garlands (Bah Humbug Dreamspinner Advent Calendar) by Ariel Tachna
Popcorn Garlands (2016 Advent Calendar - Bah Humbug) - Ariel Tachna

This short story from the 2016 Dreamspinner Press Advent Calendar serves as a reminder that even when things appear bleak, there are still good people out there, who will lend a helping hand. And really, that's what the Holidays are all about, right?

Carlos Mendez owns a landscaping business and sends every extra penny he earns to his family in Mexico. He has a good crew, and he takes care of them as best as he can, which is evident when he spends a day visiting them all to give them their Christmas bonus. His men all like him a lot, which is also evident when they all step in to... well, you should read this for yourself.

Carlos is fed up with the greed and consumerism he sees all around him, noticing how most people spend and spend but care nothing for their fellow humans.

Ned Williams lives in the same apartment building as Carlos, with his daughter who has cancer. He is at wit's end, and at the end of their means, and he doesn't quite know how he'll manage to give his daughter what may be her last Christmas.

A popcorn garland Ned has made with his daughter for decoration bring Carlos to their door. And then the true meaning of Christmas visits them both.

While we don't really see the two men interact a whole lot, and while there are but romantic undertones instead of an actual romance (which makes this book feel to some extent like a prequel, like the author is planning a whole book for them, and is whetting our appetite with this short novella), the characters feel realistic enough. I would like to know more about them, for sure.

What I loved most about this novella is that it conveys the true meaning of Christmas - helping your fellow man, rallying around those who are in need, and celebrating love, friendship, and family.

A sweet, somewhat fluffy story, one with which to curl up by the fire, with a blanket and your favorite hot beverage.

Nicely done.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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