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review 2018-02-19 03:39
Jack of Thorns (Inheritance #1)
Jack of Thorns (Inheritance Book 1) - Amelia Faulkner

A story set in San Diego written by someone who actually knows San Diego.

 

 

I was fully prepared to have to relive some really bad geography, ala Everything Changes  by Melanie Hansen, but by the time chapter five or so rolled around, I knew I was in good hands. I even learned something about that ginormous tree in the middle of Balboa Park (because she's right; locals totally don't read those tourist signs, lol). Woot!

 

Now onto stuff other readers will actually care about. :D The world-building in this book is fantastic and I'm eager to see how she develops this world going forward. This is the way I like my world-building - just enough information that I'm not lost but not so much information that the mystery is ruined. There is no info-dumping here, but we still get a complex world with hints of more lairs hidden beneath. Faulkner borrows from Celtic myths, psychic tropes and even throws in a little bit of mystery, while also balancing themes of classism, abuse and addiction. Warnings re: the addiction storyline:

Laurence drives while high on marijuana several times, which is dangerous but wasn't actually illegal until this year (2018). He also craves heroin several times. Quentin has alcoholic tendencies but those aren't focused on quite as much, though he does get smashed a couple of times.

(spoiler show)

This is a really slow burn. If you're looking for smexy or smut, look elsewhere. The MCs only kiss - twice - and one of those times was not with romantic intentions. Quentin has a lot of hangups with sex, though those reasons are only guessed at here, so this is something that appears will be explored in later books. I love that Laurence never pressures him. He doesn't ignore the issues but doesn't push more than Quentin is comfortable with.

 

We get both Laurence and Quentin's POVs, and the author actually gives them their own unique voices in their POVs. This is sadly rare in M/M, where all MCs have the same voices, so it deserves recognition when an author is able to do this. Quentin does have this habit of referring to himself as "one" throughout the first half of the book, but this seemed tied up with his many issues.

 

There were a couple of minor continuity issues and very few typos. I also felt that Laurence's bisexuality was more lip service than anything else. 

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review 2018-01-25 05:25
Autoboyography (Audiobook)
Autoboyography - Christina Lauren,Kyle Mason,Richard Deacon

I was raised in the Mormon church, in what we referred to as the Samoan ward since many of the members were of that nationality. I never had a very good relationship with the church. Unlike Sebastian and the folks in Provo, UT, the seaside town in SoCal that I grew up in was not overrun with Mormons and they remain in the minority of worshippers even today. It's also very diverse, so you run across a lot of different nationalities and beliefs on any given day. So I didn't have Mormon friends at school, and my brother and I pretty much rebelled (as much as we were allowed to) against not spending time outside the house on Sunday (other than church of course) and having to participate in Monday home evening. Youth group activities on Wednesday nights were at least fun, and we didn't have to do too many weekend or service activities. We did summer camp a few times, and Scouts, but it was camping and selling cookies - it's hard to make that suck. And while I wouldn't call myself a feminist, per se, I never liked the assumption that I would grow up to have babies and bake cookies for Relief Society and I hated wearing dresses with a passion - though I didn't envy my brother his button-down shirts and slacks either.

 

Basically, I liked the people and was comfortable around them - and still am - in a way I'm not comfortable with most people. Even though it's been years since I've attended services regularly or cracked open a Book of Mormon and I'm against the things the church promotes in regards to gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights, I still identify as Mormon. It's a complicated relationship I have with my church (can I even still call it "mine"?) and there were no easy answers for me, a girl with no interest in marriage or kids, other than to leave the church.

 

And yet, I miss it. I miss the comfort it used to bring me and the peace I used to feel inside those doors. I miss the innocent trust I used to place on the church's teachings of "families are forever" and "love thy neighbor" and "do good works" because in the years since I left the church I've learned many things that I disagree with them about, and even if they believe in the depths of their hearts that they're doing God's works, that's no God I want any part of when He excludes people simply for loving the "wrong" person.

 

Like Tanner and Sebastian, I too keep hoping for the day when the prophet has a revelation and declares being LGBTQ+ to be a-okay and right with God, and you know what? Women are allowed to hold the gospel too. Until then, I stay away and a part of me will never be whole again.

 

What I loved about this book though is that it doesn't demonize Mormons or Sebastian or his family. Not all Mormons are anti-gay or turn their family away for being gay. The authors definitely did their research and got the input of people who know the church, and it shows, and it all speaks very true to what I saw and experienced growing up. But they don't beat the reader over the head with religion. As Tanner learns, the reader learns.

 

Tanner wasn't raised with religion, though his mom is ex-Mormon and his dad is a non-practicing Jew. He grew up in San Francisco, where being bisexual was no big deal, and he had the support and love of his parents from day one. It takes him a long time to open his eyes and realize that not all parents are like his parents, but that doesn't mean they love their kids any less. As he gets to know Sebastian and understand more about what makes up his psyche and why, he's able to see a larger picture and world than he was raised in, and it's not always pretty.

 

There is a hint of insta-love between Tanner and Sebastian, but given they're young men, and Tanner is quite impulsive, it rang true to me that things would move as fast as they do, even with Sebastian's reservations and need to keep things secret. They face plenty of challenges, enough to test their feelings for each other and make me believe those feelings were real and true. 

 

I have two very minor nitpicks and I'm not sure how much they'll even bother me if/when I reread this. The first is the narrator. Don't get me wrong, he did a fantastic job with the story and the characters. But he's not eighteen. Honestly though, that bothered me less and less as I listened and got into the story. Some of the female characters were a little strained in the higher octaves though.

 

The other thing was the sudden switch in the last fifth of the book. I didn't realize that everything I'd listened to up to that point was the actual book that Tanner wrote for his seminar class, so it went from first-person POV to third-person POV for both Sebastian and Tanner after the "book" ended and we caught up with the narrative. It was jarring, tonally, but again that could just be because I wasn't expecting it and it's possible that it'll flow better on reread.

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review 2018-01-24 02:04
A Ring For Christmas
A Ring for Christmas (Meghan’s Playhouse Book 4) - Adriana Kraft
Title: A Ring For Christmas
Author: Adriana Kraft
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Series: Meghan's Playhouse Book 4
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five
Review:

"A Ring For Christmas" by Adriana Kraft

My Thoughts....

Questions??....
Will Meghan be able to help her friend Lisa while she is in Las Vegas with a big secret that hadn't told to her boyfriend two years? What will happen after Bryce finds out about this secret? How will he respond? What will happen when the three [Meghan, Bryce & Lisa] meet up? Will it be one sweet ride? I don't want to spoil it and tell all so you will have to pick up "A Ring for Christmas" by this author to get all of these questions answered. So, if you are into these kinds of exotic reads you will love this novella.
 
 
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-01-15 17:51
Shiver (Unbreakable Bonds #1) - DNF @ 50%
Shiver - Rinda Elliott,Jocelynn Drake

That's three for three. What the hell is going on? I've never had this many DNFs in a row. *frustrated sigh*

 

There was some good stuff here, which is why I kept reading so long, hoping the rest of the story would catch up. But...

 

The Good:

 

~Ian seems like a fun character, though I hope he has a good manager since being a good chef isn't enough to keep a restaurant going. 

~Banner, the intrepid detective, is so dedicated to his job he goes on interviews with a flu. Because nothing will scare witnesses into giving answers than fear of getting sick. ;) Naw, that's not why he does it, he just really wants to solve his case.

~This isn't entirely GFY. Andrei's noticed guys and had some sexual encounters with them, but only when there was a woman or alcohol involved. Still, it smacks of GFY because "there's just something about Lucas" that makes him different. What that something is I have no clue. Lucas isn't a bad guy, he's just kind of jerk sometimes.

~The writing is decent and doesn't have too many typos.

 

The Annoying:

 

~Incorrect medical procedures are incorrect. There's no way the hospital would let Andrei out of there, even with a minor burn, without first dressing the burn and wrapping it up, so that whole scene that takes place after the hospital doesn't make sense; it shouldn't need to be happening. And then Lucas is putting this green gel goop on it and also not dressing it. Poor Andrei's shirts are all going to be a mess at this point.

~Speaking of, this is yet another story where the MCs are seriously injured and aside from a few aches and pains the next day, they're walking around like no big deal. At least Lucas took a couple of pills? And only one with alcohol. Yay? But Lucas has broken ribs. RIBS! And he keeps getting thrown down the ground like no big deal. If you're going to go to the trouble of trashing up your characters, can you please remember they're injured? Thanks.

~And why aren't his ribs wrapped?! Are his broken fingers even wrapped or did I just imagine that they were?

~Andrei's supposed to be protecting Lucas's life and keeps getting distracted by his lips and other stuff. Ugh!

~Insta-lust is boring to me on the best days, but when he's lusting after someone covered in cuts and bruises, I have to wonder about the character's mental state.

~Inconsistencies with established facts: Lucas's penthouse is initially described as three stories. Andrei only ever checks the first two stories. What's up with the third floor? Also, Andrei is described many times as being bigger than Lucas, but then suddenly Lucas is bigger than Andrei. Which is it?

 

The Bad:

~Rowe, Lucas and Snow (and Ian) are supposed to be these super tight BBFs but aside from Ian, all the other three seem to do is bicker, fight or strangle (yes, literally) each other at every turn. Just not feeling the unbreakable bond here.

~Lucas is so stupid that he goes off to the property he bought that's putting his life at risk to show off the night skyline view to Andrei. Andrei's so stupid that he actually takes Lucas there. 

~And that's only the first stupid thing they do in the first half. I don't doubt there is plenty more stupidity waiting in the second half.

~That sex scene up against the window is just logistically impossible the way it's written. Andrei's facing the window with his hands on the glass and Lucas is behind him. But then Lucas is suddenly giving Andrei a blowjob. How? Did he crawl between Andrei's legs when no one was looking?

~I kept hoping the glass would pop out of its casing and they'd plummet to their deaths like that Darwin Award winner, but they didn't. :(

~When I realized that I didn't even care enough to skip ahead to see who is targeting Lucas or why, I realized I just needed to put the book down.

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review 2017-12-24 20:11
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

This is a strange one, so I'm going to split it up.

 

Things I liked:

 

Monty's struggles of self-acceptance. He's an arrogant aristocrat, a drunkard and a rake on the surface, but there's a lot more going on and as we learn more about him, it's clear how he got to be so messed up. But he's got his best friend Percy and his sister Felicity, who are more aware of the world around them and help him see what he's always been so blind to. I did like seeing him grow up and learn new things about himself, and that it doesn't happen all at once in a giant ah-ha moment but a little at a time as the story progresses. 

 

Percy was also great. I like that the author acknowledges people of color existed, and as more than just slaves. He was born in a high-class family, but being interracial and a bastard doesn't give him much standing. He's treated as second-class, and while Monty might not treat him that way or understand why anyone else would, Percy is aware of his position in society and how tenuous it is. And that's even before the reveal

that he has epilepsy and his family wants to put him in an asylum because they're tired of dealing with his fits.

(spoiler show)

 

Felicity, Monty's sister, knows her own mind and isn't afraid to use it. She wants to study but is limited by her sex. She also helps hold a mirror up to Monty's face, but she's not there just for the benefit of the male characters. She has her own agency and makes her own decisions. 

 

As a road trip gone askew, this is a great book and not nearly as silly or whimsical as I thought it was going to be. And I like that it didn't always follow the tropes to a T, so that it kept you guessing in some places.

 

The things I didn't like:

 

As a historical book, this is somewhat lacking. There's nowhere near the level of details that I expect from a historical. Nothing is really described, like the author is expecting the reader to already know what all these places looked like back then and so doesn't have to bother setting the scene. Except for the lack of pay phones, the author could've easily placed this story in the 1960s or 1970s and not have had to change anything except some character names. The rather modernistic manners of the characters would have made a lot more sense and rang truer than they do placed in 1720-something.

 

The language is definitely too modern. Look, y'all, "abso-bloody-lutely" is annoying AF coming out of mouths from today's youth. It has no place coming out of these characters' mouths. They had their own slang in the 1700s. Use it! There were a few other modernisms like that too, and it just pulled me out of the book every single time. This is basically a historical for people who don't want to read historicals. 

 

There were a few continuity errors too. At one point, Monty has to stop to put his boot back on. I went back several pages to see where the hell he took off his boot - he didn't. At another point, Felicity is hurt rather severely and it's several scenes before she's able to properly tend to her wound. In between, there's an encounter with some rather important people who I would expect to be far more observant than they are. There's no mention at all that Felicity is attempting to hide her wound, yet it's not mentioned and neither does it seem to even bother her. What the hell happened to Lockwood?

 

Then there's Monty's dad and everyone else practically having no concern whatever that Monty's got a liking for boys. Sure, the author does bother to point out a couple of times that sodomy was a big no-no and even bothers to mention some of the punishments that could befall someone because of it. But then everyone just acts like it's no big deal. Extremely distasteful, sure, but nothing you wouldn't bring up in casual conversation during a ball. It felt like the story and the characters were making far too light of something that could get you killed. The fact this is YA doesn't justify that, and this is far too much a trend in many an M/M historical. I was disappointed to see it happen here too.

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