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Search tags: 2018-book-challenge
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review 2018-06-13 01:51
ARC Review: His Leading Man by Ashlyn Kane
His Leading Man - Ashlyn Kane

Well, this was utterly adorable. Extremely likable characters, even if Drew can be a bit of a diva, inside a mainly angst-free romance on a movie set between a famous Hollywood actor and the brand-new screenwriter whose first screenplay was just optioned and who's sucked into playing one of the leading roles in the movie, falling in love on set and off, and character growth wrapped in a fluffy, feel-good novel - yeah, I'm all for that.

Add some fun supporting characters, like Steve's mom, and Drew's agent, and you have yourself a well-rounded book with which to curl up in your favorite beach lounger for a sunny afternoon.

The meet-cute happens at the auditions where Drew rejects more than a few candidates to star in the movie opposite him, until he sees the cute screenwriter and decides on the spot that this is the guy who should be cast. Steve, the screenwriter, may not be a complete stranger to Hollywood but he values his privacy and would prefer to remain out of the spotlight. But who can possibly deny Drew?

Both of them are rather normal outside of the set, and they communicate with each other. There's a date and slow-dancing, and sweet kisses, and even a bit of steam. We see them on set making the movie Steve wrote, and we get to laugh with them when things don't go as planned. We get to see Drew get all frustrated, and we see Steve call him on that foul temper. Thankfully, there are no horrible miscommunications or stupid assumptions, and they even weather the media storm quite well when their budding romance is outed unexpectedly. 

With a lovely epilogue, this book held me enthralled from start to finish, cute dog included. Also, could someone please make this movie from the book? It sounds fabulous, and I want to watch it! 

Recommended. Buy this book and get yourself to your nearest beach or lakefront to enjoy this sweet romance. 

** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-06-11 01:15
Book Review: Secret Seth by Ki Brightly
Secret Seth - Ki Brightly

This was a sweet, unassuming, and rather quiet romance novel. 

We are first introduced to Seth from the title at a family gathering. He is the son of a construction business owner and a partner in the business, leading a construction crew. He comes across as someone reliable, steadfast, and very calm. He's also the only single and childless one in his family, which mean he's the one who's able to travel. The jobs he lands take him out of town more often than not, and while he's not too fond of the nomadic life, he enjoys the fruits of his labor, even if he's dealing with some high-maintenance clients - they sure pay well for his services. There are hints that Seth has never shown much interest in having a love life. 

Tyler, a Hollywood set designer, who after clashing with the producer over a specific set design finds himself in need of a new job. Somewhat flamboyant, Tyler makes zero excuses for wearing make-up and dressing colorfully, and whoever doesn't like it can bite him. He expects perfection of himself and those he works with, and he's not afraid to speak his mind, which sometimes gets him in trouble. 

Seth needs a new designer, and Tyler needs a new design job - obviously, that's how they meet.

Without giving away the plot, let me say that this book takes slow burn to a new level. I got the feeling that Seth is demi - he needed to form an emotional connection to Tyler before being able and willing to take things further. Tyler on the other hand is immediately intrigued by Seth and feels a strong attraction, but as his boss, Seth is obviously off-limits.

While this is on the surface an opposites-attract kind of theme, there's a whole lot more to it. Tyler yearns for a place to belong, for someone who'll take him as he is, someone who'll love him just the way he is. And Seth, having never really felt any kind of sexual attraction, is adorably confused when he starts reacting to Tyler, once he gets to know the other man. 

What really struck me while reading this book is how real the characters felt, not only the MCs, but the supporting cast as well. Seth's family are a loud and somewhat overbearing bunch, but they were all kind and supportive. The construction crew was diverse but worked well together also. The friendly banter between Tyler and Seth was fun, and I could clearly see them both falling in love with each other. 

This is a slow burn romance, so don't expect any hot smexy times right away. There's plenty of UST though, and plenty of longing and yearning, which I definitely enjoyed. The book is told from the 1st person POV, switching between Tyler and Seth. Since their voices were distinct, I had no trouble discerning who was talking at any given time.

Well-written dialogue in an engaging story - I enjoyed reading this very much, and I think you will too. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-06-05 20:00
The Hunchback Assignments / Arthur Slade
The Hunchback Assignments - Arthur Slade

The mysterious Mr. Socrates rescues Modo, a child in a traveling freak show. Modo is a hunchback with an amazing ability to transform his appearance, and Mr. Socrates raises him in isolation as an agent for the Permanent Association, a spy agency behind Brittania's efforts to rule the empire. At 14, Modo is left on the streets of London to fend for himself. When he encounters Octavia Milkweed, another Association agent, the two uncover a plot by the Clockword Guild behind the murders of important men. Furthermore, a mad scientist is turning orphan children into automatons to further the goals of the Guild. Modo and Octavia journey deep into the tunnels under London and discover a terrifying plot against the British government. It's up to them to save their country.

 

Although others have classified this book as young adult, I would consider it to be for a younger audience than that. I would recommend it for tweens and young teens. I’m rating it three stars, but that’s for the reading experience from my current vantage point as an adult. I think that if I’d read it at the right age, I would definitely have rated it at four stars.

The story is an interesting mix of steampunk elements and allusions to classic literature. The main character, Modo (the hunchback of the title) harks back to Quasimodo of Victor Hugo and Modo’s partner in crime, Octavia Milkweed, reminds me obliquely of La Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like Quasimodo & Esmeralda, Modo becomes enamoured with Octavia. Unlike Quasimodo, Modo has a paranormal ability to change his appearance for limited amounts of time. Because of his crush on Octavia, he spends quite a bit of time & effort to avoid being seen by her in his natural state—this is obviously a state of affairs that will progress in future volumes.

The story’s villain, Dr. Hyde, has some roots in Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, without the virtuous Jekyl state. He performs many horrible experiments on both adults and children, but nothing vivid enough to leave younger readers with nightmares, unless they are ultra-sensitive. The bolts that he inserts in his experimental subjects reminded me strongly of the popular-culture version of Frankenstein’s monster.

Unlike so many of these alternate history Victorian stories, this one seems to be aimed more at boys than at girls, although I think any girl of the right age would definitely identify with Octavia. But with Modo as the narrator of the tale, the appeal to boys is greater. Since I think that reading for young men is a neglected demographic, I am glad to know about this fun, engaging series.

The author, Arthur Slade, will be attending the When Words Collide conference this August (2018) and I am glad that I read one of his books before hearing him speak there.

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review 2018-06-03 23:40
ARC Review: Ginger Snaps by John Inman
Ginger Snaps - John Inman

I absolutely adore the Belladonna Arms series by John Inman, always anxiously waiting for the next installment. I do believe though that with this latest addition to the series, we may have seen the last of Arthur, the drag queen with a heart of gold, and the unique set of characters that all live in this somewhat dilapidated apartment building on a hill in San Diego.

I'm getting ahead of myself though. If you've followed the series, which should not be read out of order, you'll probably know that Arthur is preparing to finally get married. Though this doesn't stop him from opening his property and his huge heart to two more desperate souls who just need a bit of love pollen to find their way back from the abyss. 

Gideon has just broken up with his boyfriend, now ex, whose last parting shot was donating all of Gideon's belongings to the Salvation Army, save his laptop, the clothes he was wearing at the time, and a couple of t-shirts he had in the trunk of his car. To say Gideon is hard up would be an understatement. But Arthur makes him a deal on the rent, and the generous spirit of the tenants at the Belladonna Arms is a indomitable force, and soon Gideon finds himself the recipient of all the things he needs. Slowly but surely, as he's embraced and welcomed by the tenants, the grief and anger over the ex lifts and Gideon begins to look forward. 

Even if he's a ginger. 

His apartment neighbor is Reed, who works on the Navy docks and has just come out of a four-year marriage where he hoped that he was bisexual instead of gay. Alas, he's really, really gay, and while his relationship with his now ex-wife ended mostly on good terms, he's lost his house in the divorce, hence his renting an apartment from Arthur. His guilt over leaving his wife due to that whole not-bisexual business still weighs heavily on him, and he's definitely not ready for anything new. 

Oh, and Reed too is a ginger.

I will comment here on the ginger hate that seemed to permeate this book. I don't know if this was tongue in cheek or if the author truly believes that two gingers couldn't possibly fall for each other, and what the whole point was of hating on gingers the whole time, but it became bothersome a few chapters in and I had to force myself to just ignore it.

Moving on...

Reed and Gideon meet, and Reed offers to help Gideon with some repairs to the apartment, and the love pollen is strong and so their romance begins.

But gingers (according to the author) cannot be attracted to another ginger (what does that even mean?) and so they just skirt around that whole relationship issue because the sex is awesome, and the cuddles after are a balm for Reed's wounded soul. Gideon falls faster than he would think, and soon they spend a whole lot of time together.

But guilt is a funny thing, and... well... I guess it makes you stupid too, sometimes, and makes you do things you wouldn't otherwise do. I so badly wanted to reach into this book and slap one of these gingers over the head to make him see how he was being manipulated, but I couldn't and so... well, you read this for yourself.

Of course, all the tenants from previous books make an appearance here, multiple times. And we mustn't forget Arthur, larger than life, dressed in what can only be described as over-the-top costumes, huffing and puffing his way up and down the stairs, trembling in fear during the multiple earthquakes that rattle the windows, preparing for his wedding to Tom - Arthur alone is worth reading this series of books. The hijinks and hilarity and feel good moments are a bonus, really.

And of course, there is a HEA. Gideon and Reed have to take a couple of detours, but in the end they get their happy, as they should. 

Like I said, not sure if there will be more, but either way, you should read this. All of the books in this series. 

Though, OMG, what is it with the ginger hate???


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

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review 2018-06-03 02:14
ARC Review: The Glasshouse by Rosalind Abel
The Glasshouse (Lavender Shores #6) - Rosalind Abel
The Glasshouse is the 6th book in the Lavender Shores series, and tells the romance of Adrian and Harrison.

You may remember Adrian Rivera as Micah's business partner, growing organic produce they sell to the businesses in Lavender Shores. On the farm is an old, somewhat dilapidated glass house (a growing house) with which Adrian isn't sure what to do. The Riveras are of course a founding family. 

Harrison Getty is a former NFL football player, now underwear model (after a career-ending injury), who's been starring in a reality TV show about his romance with and upcoming wedding to Will Epstein, who is also a member of a founding family. Their wedding ceremony will be broadcast live on national TV (as one does, I suppose). 

Adrian has a crush on Harrison, but obviously that can't go anywhere because Harrison is getting married to Will. He's one of the groomsmen and trying his best to keep his distance, and his mask in place.

And then Harrison, overwhelmed, unsure, and feeling trapped, runs. While the cameras are rolling.

Oh, the scandal!!!

And this is only the first chapter or so. Obviously, I'm not going to give away the entire plot here. Let's just say that Will leaves town to escape the humiliation (I did feel sorry for him), and Harrison hides in his brother Jasper's apartment. 

The fallout is massive, for sure, and gets worse when Harrison and Adrian are caught in a passionate embrace in said glasshouse. 

It's obvious from the start that Harrison hasn't been happy for some time, not with Will, not with how his life was going, and not with the TV crews following his every move. For a very long time, Harrison has been who everyone expected him to be, to the point that he doesn't even know what he really wants anymore. Or who he really is. So he's got some work to do on that front, and I really liked how the author gave him that chance here. 

The glasshouse becomes an important part of their story, and I thought that the analogy the author used here was rather clever - as Adrian cleans up the glasshouse (which is sort of the foundation of their romance) and reclaims the space, so Harrison de-clutters his life to make room for the person he wants to be, to make space for his true wants and needs. 

While some aspects of this book touch on couples from the previous books, and supporting characters from the series show up here as well, this can be read as a stand-alone, especially if you've reviewed the author's website that fully lays out how everyone is connected in this town. 

Though, to be honest, I would recommend you read the entire series. These are feel-good, easy reads, high on romance and passion, and well worth your time. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **

 

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