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review 2017-10-16 01:41
ARC Review: Off The Beaten Path by Cari Z.
Off the Beaten Path - Cari Z.

Ever since I read my first shifter book, I've been hooked. For some reason, Off The Beaten Path escaped my notice at first, but when it kept popping up in friend reviews on Goodreads, I requested a review copy from the publisher.

I was not disappointed.

This is not some fluffy wolf shifter meets human and they live happily ever after shifter book. No, as the title indicates, this shifter universe is off the beaten path, set in an alternate reality where shifters exists, after a government experiment gone terribly wrong, but are controlled by the human government, living in remote areas away from human cities, within confined compounds, with the pack Alphas required to serve as ultimate soldiers whenever the military requires them to utilize their extra strength and abilities to carry out the military's dirty work. 

Additionally, some children are born as shifters to human parents, and when their true nature is revealed, they are removed from their human parents, severing the relationship, and relocated to a shifter compound, where they either can shift back to human or, if they can't, are destroyed. 

Thus, we meet Ward Johannsen whose young daughter Ava shifted into a wolf during a stressful situation and was immediately taken by the feds to the nearest shifter camp. Unwilling to give up his daughter, Ward does everything he can to obtain her location, which just happens to be in the Colorado mountains. And it's winter. 

Ward is rescued, nearly frozen to death, at the perimeter of the pack compound. Once inside, he's faced with the pack's Alpah, Henry Dormer, who only recently returned from his last mission and hopes to have a bit of time to recuperate before he's sent out again.

Both men are really strong-willed and not inclined to give up. Ward is unwilling to let go of Ava, even if the law says he has to, and he does everything in his power to get back to her, even if that means willingly walking into a werewolf compound and standing his ground. Henry too fights every day to ensure the security and well-being of his pack, even if that means that he himself suffers abuse and faces possible death.

See, the government doesn't really care about the werewolves it created, considering them dangerous and thus in need of being kept separated and hidden, but is perfectly willing to use the wolves' Alphas for its Black Ops missions. Henry's CO especially is a sack of shit, vengeful and vile, but Henry knows he has to follow the rules so his pack can get what it needs to survive. 

Relationships between wolves and humans are strongly discouraged, though not forbidden. 

Obviously, Ward's presence in the camp, and his having found the compound, breaks all kinds of security rules, and Henry has to take the blame. Still, Henry realizes that Ward's presence will likely help Ava shift back to human, so he is willing to give it a try. 

The attraction they both feel to each other is neither expected nor necessarily wanted, but Ward's persistence and courage seems to calm Henry in the face of the multiple pressures he's facing not only from his CO but also his pack. 

This isn't some fluffy shifter tale. It's gritty, it's dark, and there are oh so many obstacles Henry and Ward face before they can find even a modicum of happiness. Though, I think the point here is that the happiness you have to fight for so hard is worth more in the end - simply because you have to fight for it. 

At the end of this book, there's hope. Not only for Ward and Henry to have a happy ending, but for the shifters in the compound, and all shifters under the thumb of the feds. In fact, there are forces at work to better the lives of the werewolves and give them a chance to actually live

I do hope that the author has more books planned, and that this will turn into a full-blown series. Because Tennyson and David surely need their own book.

This book is full of tension, passion, and courage in the face of nearly insurmountable odds. A true "edge-of-your-seat" read, this comes highly recommended. 



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

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review 2017-10-08 22:46
ARC Review: The Shipwreck (Lavender Shores #4) by Rosalind Abel
The Shipwreck (Lavender Shores Book 4) - Rosalind Abel
"Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practise To Deceive..."



Lamont Price, Andrew's older half-brother, is an author of M/F romances under a female pseudonym, attending his first romance book conference and about to come clean to his readers. He's nervous, understandably, not only because he's deceived his fans into thinking he's a woman named Ginger Peach, but also because he doesn't like the spotlight. As soon as he can, he runs from his fans to a bar outside of the conference hotel.

Lamont is an interesting character. In his mid-forties, he is plagued primarily by what he considers his failures (no boyfriend, no long-term relationship prospect, no books in his own name, no sex for years), and largely avoids getting together with his family, because they keep trying to set him up with someone he could add to the family. Lamont hasn't had sex in years because he doesn't do hook-ups and prefers to have sex within a relationship only. Not a bad attitude, of course, but obviously, that can lead to loneliness. And he is lonely. He sees all the happy couples in Lavender Shores and feels left out, like he's on the outside looking in.

While he's at the bar, hiding from his fans, he meets Tate Dallas, who's the prolific cover model for another romance author and whose real name is Tyler Dixon. 

Tyler/Tate is what may be considered a rentboy. He's not only a cover model, but can also be hired as an escort, including providing bedroom attention, and some other jobs within that industry. He does all his to fund his photography and showing his work in galleries, while waiting for his "big break". He makes no secret of having a lot of sex, but he omits telling Lamont outright that he gets paid for doing so. He also omits another major thing, one that... nah, you read this for yourself.

So Lamont, having the baby shower for Andrew and Joel's soon-to-be-born baby coming up, asks Tyler if he would consider posing as his boyfriend for a long weekend in Lavender Shores, no strings attached, and no hanky-panky included. Of course, Lamont thinking that Tyler is the most beautiful man he's ever seen definitely helps in overcoming a smidgen of his shyness to even propose this arrangement. But surely, someone as gorgeous as Tyler has no interest in someone as boring as Lamont.

Except Tyler is struck pretty much just the same, but doesn't feel that he has anything to offer the older and more successful man. And thus expects nothing except the part he's agreed to play. It's a one-time thing, and then they'll go their separate ways. 

But the best-laid plans and all that...

I quite liked the two main characters here, and the author did a darn good job exploring them in depth. It was clear that the Tate Dallas persona was a front, and that there is a real person hiding behind that pseudonym, a person who gets scared of what might be and a person who doesn't believe in love everlasting. Tyler is not ashamed of what he does to support himself, but he also keeps Tyler and Tate very separate. As Tyler, the fact that he's pretty straight-forward in what he says and does helped to draw Lamont out of his shell too.

It was also clear that Lamont, while shy and introverted, faltered more often than not under the pressure his parents put on him, whether it was intentional or not. Many people in town looked at him as if he was this fragile person and failed to realize that Lamont is in fact quite strong. His strength is in his convictions and his unwillingness to settle for anything but the real thing.

The two men have a strong connection from the start, and once Tyler gets to Lavender Shores for the baby shower weekend, they both struggle to stick with the original plan. I really liked that this was a slow burn romance for a good chunk of it, and that they had a chance to get to know each other a little bit before jumping into the sheets. 

I really liked the imagery of the Shipwreck that the author used here, and the many parallels that could be drawn from it. It was also quite lovely how the author used the actual shipwreck as a background for Lamont and Tyler to get closer and soon allows them to realize that neither of them is ready to say good-bye quite yet. 

Obviously, the omissions I mentioned at the beginning of my review play a huge role in the progression of their relationship and end up to be a chasm Lamont and Tyler cannot bridge once the truth comes out. 

Or can they?

This is a romance, after all, so you know that a HEA is guaranteed, and the author doesn't let the reader down. Still, both men need to first find themselves, find who they really are, and figure out that what they had, what they built, no matter how short their time together, may be worth fighting for. 

How they find their way back to each other - well, you read this yourself. There's some angst, some self-discovery, and there's a fabulous epilogue that you don't want to miss.

And plenty of holy hot boysecks, Batman, to boot!!

Recommended.


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

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review 2017-10-03 23:31
ARC Review: Deeds & Confetti (Mary's Boys #4) by Brandon Witt
Deeds & Confetti (Mary's Boys Book 4) - Brandon Witt

This is the final book in the Mary's Boys series, and it rounded out the series quite nicely. 

Steven Conley, in his 40s, is the owner of the Hamburger Mary's restaurant where three couples so far have found love, but he's been mostly in the background, having created a safe place for lost souls and built a strong chosen family for his employees and friends. Before purchasing the Mary's franchise, Steven had a successful corporate career, but left it, much to his father's dismay. When we first meet Steven in this book, he's in the hospital at his father's deathbed, with his sister Pat. Cruel words from his father send Steven reeling and questioning the choices he's made.

Ryan Fuller is 27 and also made choices, leaving behind success as a painter to own a small party planning business, while working part-time at a funeral home to make a bit of extra income. His relationship with his family is strained as his parents don't understand why he would choose to leave wealth and success behind. 

The two meet at the funeral home after Steven's father dies. Yeah, I know that sounds weird and sort of eww, but hear me out - first you have to understand the headspace Steven is in at the time. For which you need to read this book, obviously. Secondly, you need to know that Ryan knows Steven even before they meet at the mortuary. 

Grief makes one do seemingly strange things. So does desire.

For most of the book, Steven grapples with the choices he's made. He's adrift and doesn't know which way to move forward. He also thinks that Ryan, being so much younger, doesn't really see the real him, but some ideal he's built up in his mind, and thus Ryan's feelings cannot be trusted.

This is a heavy story, and not one you can read quickly. There's a ton of emotional upheaval inside, and it would behoove the reader to proceed carefully through each chapter so as not to miss the poignant writing within. 

I'm partly sad that this is the last book, and partly happy with how the author has chosen to end this series. It's not that everything is wrapped up in neat little bows, and the way to Steven and Ryan's HEA is tumultuous and winded, but it ends on a really positive note, with all our previous couples still going strong, and Steven and Ryan embarking on their forever journey. 

It's a really good book. And while it could theoretically be read as a standalone, you don't want to miss the books that came before it. Read the whole series - it's worth your time.


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

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review 2017-10-03 02:31
ARC Review: Facing West by Lucy Lennox
Facing West: A Forever Wilde Novel (Volume 1) - Lucy Lennox

I flew through this book. Didn't even take the time to post a single status update, because I was riveted to the pages and could. Not. Stop. Reading. until I had finished the whole thing.

 

Nico is a tattoo artist with his own shop in California, having run away from his family in small town Texas when he was only 15, for reasons that are elaborated upon in this book. He had zero plans to ever return, but then he gets a call from an attorney that his sister has passed away and declared him her baby's guardian. So Nico goes back to Hobie, TX, to take care of things, find a suitable couple to adopt his little niece, and hightail it back to Cali.

 

West(on) is the town's doctor, and Nico's late sister was his best friend, and there's no way in hell that West will allow Nico to take custody of the baby. He's initially a judgmental jerk who never even thinks to ask why someone so young (15, for the love of Christ) would run away. Never mind the purple hair and multiple tattoos, clearly Nico can't be trusted anyway.

 

I'm not going to elaborate on the plot in this review, because I think you should read this book and find out for yourself how and why West changes his initial mindset, and how Nico isn't the bad guy for abandoning his mom and sister, and how two rather adorable old fogies (Doc and Grandpa) in love might help them along to their HEA.

 

There's a good amount of steam inside, and it's some holy hot boysecks, Batman, because both West and Nico get along fabulously in the bedroom. Outside of it, well, that's another matter entirely, as neither trusts the other completely for quite some time.

The running theme in the book is one of family - the one you're born into and the one you make for yourself, and the author does a fabulous job exploring that theme in a variety of ways, including the sacrifices a young boy might make to give his family what he thinks they need, and how family isn't necessarily determined by blood alone, but also but what you'll do for the ones you love.

 

The other theme is that not all is what it seems, and that's a lesson West in particular has to learn. He does, fortunately, but it's a hard-won lesson, and one in humility to boot.

 

As I said, I flew through this book. The characterizations were spot-on, and having a dual POV gives the reader a lot of insight into what makes each man tick. Nico especially is distrustful of other people, based on his experiences, and comes across as skittish. He wants to run when things get tough, but also wants to stay with West. He falls in love with his niece at first sight, but also doesn't believe that he has anything good to offer her. West is happy living in the small town, but also realizes that homophobia is a thing, even if his own family is cool with it and wants to see him settle down. He's mostly calm and clear-headed in his actions and reactions, where Nico tends to shoot from the hip and react more impulsively.

 

This was a great start to a new series, and I'm definitely interested in reading the next book as well. The author's writing style worked well for me, and the story flowed easily, without any massive time jump or long drags. Well done!

 


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

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review 2017-09-19 02:01
ARC Review: Saved (Breaking Free #1) by A.M. Arthur
Saved: Breaking Free #1: An Omegaverse Story - A.M. Arthur

I've never read an A/B/O book such as this one. My only exposure to Alpha/Beta/Omega is in shifter books, but this isn't a shifter book.

In this A/B/O universe, there are no shifters. There are no females. There are Alphas who are in charge, Betas who are barren but are allowed to hold jobs and adopt children (usually Beta and Omega children), and Omegas who are the lowest of the low and whose sole purpose, it seems, is to be mated to Alphas and be good little breeders.

Hmmm... that sounds familiar.

In this dystopian future of the United States, the Federal Government is no more, constitutional rights are a thing of the past, and the country is broken up into small provinces which all have their own rules and laws. 

We first meet Braun, an Omega, 20 and close to his first heat, upon his father's death. Now a ward of the state, since omegas are third-class citizens at best, unable to inherit, unable to make any personal choices, Braun is sent to a group home for orphaned omegas. Beaten regularly by his father, abused not just physically but mentally as well, told all his life that his sole purpose is to become some alpha-hole's breeding bitch, Braun is certain that alphas cannot be trusted and that happiness is not something he can expect at all. His own brother Kell is mated to a horrible Alpha, and Braun knows that Kell's lot in life is his future as well.

This was a difficult book to read, and it's just as difficult to write a coherent review without spoilers. I would advise any potential reader to heed the warnings in the blurb. Be prepared to RAGE at the injustices within. There were numerous times when I sat in my chair, my Nook gripped in my hands, and my eyes blinded with tears caused by helpless rage. 

Consent isn't required between an Alpha and his Omega. Domestic discipline is within the law. Omegas have no rights to speak of, and little protection from abuse. 

Yeah, I raged. A lot. 

The themes in this book are rather comparable to our current political climate, and there are many parallels that can be drawn between what happens in the book and what's happening in this world today. 

I liked that Braun, despite his circumstances, still had fight left in him. I liked that Tarek (the Alpha who helps Braun) was considerate and kind and patient. He took the time to win Braun's trust, something Braun didn't give easily, and he helped Braun as much as he could. He wasn't perfect, far from it, but he tried and tried to do the right thing by the young man in his care, no matter how hard Braun fought believing that an Alpha could be kind. 

I also quite liked the two Betas who take Braun in and conceal him, and who help him through his first heat. It wasn't easy reading to watch Braun go through that.

None of this book was easy reading, though there is reason for hope that things may start to change to make the lives of omegas a little easier. 

Kell's book is next. That will likely be even more difficult to get through.

Despite the dark themes inside, I would recommend this series. 



** I received a free copy of this book from Indigo Marketing & Design. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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