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review 2018-05-17 13:28
Release Blitz - Level Up

 
TitleLEVEL UP
Series: loosely related to the #gaymers series, but stands alone
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Annabeth Albert
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 40,000 words
Genre: Romance, contemporary m/m romance, gay romance, geeks, nerds, friends-to-lovers, gamers, gaymers
 

Add to Goodreads

 

 

Synopsis:

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Landon can’t believe he’s let himself get roped into participating in a charity calendar, let alone one that features tastefully photographed nudes. The genius physicist is hardly model material and he’s dreading the nude part of the photoshoot. Amid his reluctance, the one bright spot is his emails back and forth with the photographer.
 
However, Bailey ends up being not quite what Landon expects, and their first meeting is decidedly awkward. Bailey’s persistent though, and gradually Landon warms to the burly photographer, and they discover they have a shared love of gamer culture.
 
A tentative friendship is born, but the road from friends to lovers isn’t easy. Landon’s battling past trauma and must decide how much of a risk he’s willing to take. A sexy connection may not be enough to keep them together unless both are willing to put their hearts on the line.
 
Approximately 40,000 words. Previously released as part of the EXPOSED anthology, and loosely linked to the #Gaymers universe, this friends-to-lovers, hurt/comfort story stands alone with a guaranteed happy ending. Contains a brief mention of a prior assault, but no on-screen violence or flashbacks.

 

 

Excerpt:

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LEVEL UP EXCERPT—This is their first kiss, because I absolutely love writing first kiss scenes!
 
***
 
Bailey was the type who moved a lot as he gamed, biceps flexing, knees wiggling, shoulders jostling. Landon always liked people who got so into gaming, but it was more than a little distracting. His body was quickly coming to associate that orange scent of Bailey’s with good things, and other parts of him apparently liked Bailey’s nearness, which was a novelty because instead of intimidated, as he would have expected, he was more than a little turned on.
 
“Oh man, that was a rush.” Bailey laughed as both of their health meters dipped to zero. “I’m almost wishing I’d gone into game art, not photography. Amazing how these graphics have held up over the years.”
 
“Totally. And speaking of art, let me find the Space Villager stuff.” Landon reluctantly stepped away from the game. He headed to the nearby kitchen, where he was pretty the papers were buried with a stack of mail. Paper control was not his strong suit. “You’ll go nuts at the latest screen shots and promo teasers.”
 
“Cool.” Rather than follow Landon, Bailey went to sit on the couch.
 
“You want a drink while I’m in here?” Landon called to him after he found the papers under a pile of pizza ads. “I’ve got four flavors of Snapple, soda, and water.”
 
“Surprise me with a Snapple flavor.” Bailey looked right at home on Landon’s couch, lounging back.
 
He really did not look at all like any photographer Landon had ever met, and curiosity had him asking, “So why photography? You said you could have done game design?”
 
“Yeah, I had plenty of friends at the art institute go that direction. But I’ve been in love with photography ever since I worked on our middle school yearbook. I figured out quickly that taking pictures of events and sports was far more fun than trying to do the sports myself, so I did yearbook all through high school, got a photography scholarship to the art institute in Portland.”
 
“So you don’t play a sport?” Landon had a hard time believing that. With Bailey’s height and breadth, he totally looked like he lived for weekend games of some type.
 
“Nope. Hopelessly uncoordinated.” Bailey shot him an endearing smile when Landon handed him the bottle of tea.
 
“Me too.” Landon clinked bottles with him, then held up the papers. “Found the codes. But can I show you some stuff on the TV screen while you have your drink?”
 
“Absolutely.” Bailey took a long swig of tea, and Landon had to look away before he got mesmerized by Bailey’s full mouth, how it looked when his tongue chased a stray drop of moisture, how pink it was in contrast to his paler skin and brown beard.
 
Landon queued up the pre-release trailer Josiah had sent him a link to. Bombastic music filled his small living room as on the screen, and a spaceship pulled in for a landing on a planet filled with ruins of a once-powerful civilization. The narrator had an iconic voice and detailed all the special features of the expansion pack. Landon had already watched this a half-dozen times, and it still gave him happy chills.
 
“Wow. I can’t wait.” Bailey looked suitably awed. “This is even cooler than when War Elf added the mystic raids.”
 
“I know, right? Now look at the in-game screen shots.” He brought up another video, body relaxing more and more despite Bailey’s nearness. It was just so awesome to have someone new to share this with. He’d been hyped about this all week, but Pike was distracted by his boyfriend Zack’s deployment, Savannah didn’t game much, and the rest of his regular crew seemed to have other things occupying their attention.
 
Somehow, as he shared more video clips, he drifted closer to Bailey, so that their knees were almost rubbing. It wasn’t a giant couch, so there wasn’t a ton of room to move back, but even so, Landon wasn’t looking for an escape. He was aware of Bailey, very much so, but not nearly as freaked out as he’d been a few hours ago. Instead, his senses seemed to soak up Bailey’s scent and nearness, and it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth video that he realized that he was aroused.
 
Clink. Somehow Landon’s left hand, holding his drink, and Bailey’s right hand tangled.
 
“Oops.” He tried to extricate himself without spilling both beverages. Bending to put his on the floor, he hadn’t realized that Bailey had also leaned down until their heads collided.
 
“Ow,” they said simultaneously.
 
“Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry.” Bailey reached out, feeling around on Landon’s head. “Did you see stars? Break the skin?”
 
“I’m fine.” Landon didn’t pull away. Bailey’s hand felt damn nice. Gentle. Soothing more than just the bump on his head. Their eyes met, and he really needed to move back, break this spell, but he didn’t, instead leaning into to the touch. Bailey’s eyes darkened, and he stroked down Landon’s jaw. God, that felt so good, like an extra blanket on a chilly night, warmth he hadn’t realized he was missing. How long had it been since he’d been touched like this? Hugged, sure. He’d hugged Savannah goodnight, and hugged and wrestled around with his best friend Pike at the last LAN party, but neither of those things was touch like this. Caring. Sweet. Arousing.
 
Bailey leaned in again, way slower this time, all the time in the world for Landon to stop him. But he didn’t. Bailey’s beard tickled an instant before their lips met, a soft slide of mouths. Not aggressive at all, not the on-a-tight-schedule rush of a hookup, Bailey kissed like they had a sleepy Sunday afternoon to kill, like each reaction of Landon’s mattered, like he was trying to memorize something important and was going to take his time learning the lesson.
 
Landon was the first one to take things further, mouth opening on a sigh, welcoming Bailey’s agile tongue. He tasted sweet, like tea, and minty like the gum he’d popped after the pizza, familiar yet new at the same time. How had he managed to forget how awesome kissing could be? A laugh bubbled up in his chest, but quickly transformed to a groan of pleasure as Bailey nipped at his lower lip.
 
Not content to let Bailey be the one exploring, Landon sent his own tongue on a quest, tracing Bailey’s full lower lip, delving inside to rub tongues, retreating playfully to earn another nip. Fuck. This was nice. The video switched over to something random, and he barely registered it. He couldn’t say how long they kissed, just that he didn’t want it to ever end.

 

Purchase at Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Level UpLevel Up by Annabeth Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Landon absolutely did not want to do this calendar shoot. If the photographer had not known how to coax him out of his shell, it could have been a disaster. Afterwards, he realizes he is attracted to the quiet photographer and wants to spend more time with him.

Bailey is immediately attracted to Landon. He appreciated the qualities that make him the shy almost recluse of a professor that he is. After spending time gaming together - they realize this could be worth a shot. Now if they can just put past pain and hurt behind them.

I felt like these characters were a great mix. I loved the reference to the amazing Gaymers series also! This story unfolds at a rather steady pace. The heat is obvious, but the solution is not. As always, this author brings us a book that makes us smile. Even after the storm.



***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

 

 

 

Meet the Author:

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Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. The #OutOfUniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat and #PerfectHarmony series. To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: www.annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.
 
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children.

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Annabeth's Newsletter | Annabeth's Angels

 

 

Giveaway:

 

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review 2018-05-17 12:41
Asterix and the Class Act, Goscinny and Uderzo
Asterix and the Class Act - Albert Uderzo,René Goscinny

The collected Asterix short stories!


These are as varied as they are fabulous!


We see: a story about how the animals of the village also hold out against Roman Imperialism; a story about Gaulish fashion; the birth of our heroes; Asterix in the styles of several other comix; the Obelix family tree; how Lutetia won a competition to host the Olympics; how Spring defeated Winter with the help of the village of Indomitable Gauls; a lot of Roman-bashing; and numourous other adventures! Absolutely top-notch work from Goscinny and Uderzo, spanning 40+ years of Asterix comics history.

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review 2018-05-11 17:04
After Birth, by Elisa Albert
After Birth - Elisa Albert

As we approach Mother's Day in the U.S., pop culture has lately been reassuring me that my decision to never have children is a good one.

 

Most recently, I went to see the movie Tully, in which a woman who's just had her third child struggles to sleep and care for herself until finally she relents and accepts her brother's gift of a night nanny. Life for her improves markedly, perhaps magically (for a reason).

 

Inspired by Tully, I consciously chose to read After Birth. Might as well ride this wave of mother-related trauma, I thought. The novel follows Ari, a first time mother, over the course of three months, her son just turning one. It flashes back to when she was pregnant, endured what she feels was a needless C-section, and when what is likely to be post-partum depression ensues.

 

In its bitterness, its sometimes funny rants and ambivalence about Jewish identity, After Birth felt of a piece with Albert's first novel, The Book of Dahlia, which I read last year. I admired that book for its stubbornly unforgiving protagonist, dying of brain cancer. Similarly, Ari's often caustic, volatile voice, her resentment at modern birth practices and various mothering cliques, as well as the unnecessary isolation of motherhood, was often refreshing to read. Sometimes, however, it became a bit much for me.

 

Ari wrestles with her past, doomed relationships with other women, including her mean mother, who died of cancer when she was young, former friends, roommates, lovers. In the present, she befriends and helps a new mom who was in a seminal feminist band. This relationship enables Ari to "grow up," to perhaps become less judgmental or bitter about the women in her life, and those who may become a part of her life.

 

Like everything else, motherhood in the U.S. has become commodified, both as an inextricable part of the health care industry and as a way to sell "stuff" that mothers have done without for ages. The most valuable, engaging aspect of After Birth is the insistence that, however individual birth plans and approaches to mothering may be, women are not meant to raise children on their own (whether there's a man or not); we're meant to help each other.

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review 2018-05-09 21:24
Review: The Hazel Wood
The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This is one of those strange conflicting books where I loved the premise, I loved the writing, the story but I hated the main character. Frankly, Alice was a giant bitch. (Narrative did reveal REASONS for her behavior but still.)

 

Alice has spent most of her life on the road with her mother, whom she refers to by name, Ella, rather than call her Mom. Bad luck seems to follow them where ever they go. They start settling down, things go wrong and they have to leave. Because of this Alice is never in one place for long so never really makes any friends or forms attachments to people. Which must be difficult but its the life she’s used to so it’s sort of understandable that she’d be cold and standoffish. 

 

She has an attitude right off. She lives under the shadow of her reclusive grandmother whom she’s never met, the author of a book of very dark fairy tales. The fairy tale book seems to have a sort of cult following. There is very little information about the grandmother. At the start of the novel Ella has received a letter telling her that the grandmother Althea, has died and she has inherited her estate, the mysterious Hazel Wood. Which she wants nothing to do with. 

 

The writing is quite dark and lyrical, the abysmal characters give the whole thing a dark murky feel to the story, when Alice starts looking into the grandmother and the book of fairytales, it fits as it turns out the stories are very dark. The book is now out of print and hard to find. Alice makes a connection with a boy at her latest school, Ellery Finch who has an interest in the fairytale book. Ella’s latest boyfriend is a very very rich older man with a daughter Alice’s age, so she and Alice attend a private school for very rich kids. Finch, is one of the wealthiest students there. 

 

Of all the characters in this book, Finch is probably the nicest and was one of my favorites. He offers Alice a tentative friendship and is nothing like the stereotypical rich boy you get at private schools. He’s kind of a nerd and adorable. 

 

Alice’s world is thrown into chaos when she goes home one afternoon to find her mother missing and her mother’s boyfriend in a fury after himself, his daughter and Ella were kidnapped. The two were let go, and he’s naturally furious. More for scared for himself and his daughter than Ella it would appear. The only clue Alice has is something to do with being told to stay AWAY from the Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s mysterious estate.

 

Of course, with a bitchy teenager who is told not to go somewhere - it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going to happen. Alice completely ignores the warning and freaks. She finds herself calling on Finch to help her, since he’s apparently read the fairytale book. He’s got involved with the people looking for the estate. Finch is the only person willing to help. Alice is freaking and she’s really being nasty to him. Yet almost reluctantly seems to resign herself to the fact she needs Finch and the help he is offering. Her nasty attitude during these bits made me constantly want to slap Alice. I really did not like her at all.

 

Though this is where the fairytale darkness seeps into the novel and it seems that reality is mixing in with the world of the mysterious tome written by her grandmother, a strange fairyland called The Hinterland. Is this really happening or is it the influence of the Hinterland?

 

Things get stranger and scarier as Alice and Finch investigate, ignoring all warnings to stay the hell away. Alice can’t do it. The more she digs, the more questions she finds with no answers. Despite the unlikeable characters, there is something very compelling about the darkness of the mystery as it unfolds.

 

I won’t recap much more because there would be some serious spoilers but things get weirder by the minute and finally, things start happening and answers start coming. There were a few twists before the final revelations.

 

Some misgivings, but definitely worth a read. It’s somewhere between a fantasy and a mystery. Vivid and quite dark and sometimes dreary. At the same time it has a way of making you want to know what the hell is going on. It’s definitely very original.  And that book of disturbing fairytales sounds like something this reader would be dying to get their hands on. And according to Goodreads it looks like there will be a sequel (though I can’t imagine where the sequel will go) and the fairytale book from the first book will actually be written. I am certainly very intrigued to go. 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for approving my request to view the title. 

 

 

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review 2018-05-07 10:15
Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert
Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) - Annabeth Albert

Squared Away is the fifth book in the Out of Uniform series, but can be read as a standalone, as I did. However, I must say that now I have found out what an exceptional writer Annabeth Albert is, it won't be the last book of hers I read!

 

Isaiah is a bit of a 'flirt', and at eighteen he decides he is going to lose his V-card to a SEAL at his brother's wedding. However Mark, the SEAL, isn't interested in just being 'someone' to sleep with, and so tells Isaiah he isn't gay or interested. He then manages to avoid Isaiah for the next five years, although he still hears about Isaiah's exploits. Trust me, he is no longer a card-carrying member! These two get thrown together by tragedy, and are both left in charge of three children. This story revolves around the decisions they make, and how they learn to love and live together, whilst loving three mini-humans who demand so much time.

 

Squared Away is a complex love story that goes so slow it is completely and utterly scintillating. I wondered how it would work with Isaiah's reputation, but it was simply amazing. Yes, his reputation bites him in the ass, but with Mark, he goes slow - and it is beautiful. There are reasons for this as Mark is demisexual. We find out exactly what this means for Mark, and the struggles he has, both with it and with being scared to want more with Isaiah. Oh man, this is so good. I mean, seriously! The chemistry between these two melted my kindle, and I loved every word. It is heart-breaking, it is beautiful.

 

With no editing or grammatical errors that I noticed, Squared Away is an exceptional story, told by a brilliant author. Her style of writing is realistic, with plenty of complex emotions and situations. Life doesn't always go smoothly, but it can be worth the effort you put in to a difficult situation. Absolutely amazing, and I am now putting more books by this author on my T-B-R list! You'd be a fool not to read this one.

 

* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and my comments here are my honest opinion. *

 

Merissa
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

Source: archaeolibrarian.wixsite.com/website/single-post/2018/05/03/Squared-Away-Out-of-Uniform-5-by-Annabeth-Albert
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