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review 2015-11-28 00:00
Un/Common Ground
Un/Common Ground - Arielle Pierce

This was so hard to read...

Jamal is a young man, a guest student in the US, having his first taste of freedom. Because he is a Muslim, gay, and is already afraid of going back home East, where he will either conform and marry a girl, or come out and not only loose his family, but probably also his life.

But for as long as he's in the US, he really likes to at least pretend to be free for a second. And when he meets Matt, really meets him, it all gets intense very fast. It tender, tentative and heart-breaking. Especially because it gets you thinking about all the repercussions the opression of the LGBTQ community all over the world really has. The problem of safe sex and testing is one of them, and one that a lot of people (me included) sometimes completely forget about. We focus on the violence, the mortal danger, the torture. What we tend to forget is the everyday life and what that kind of oppression really means. It doesn't matter how educated you are, how far away from home you are, how different your current freedom is from the rest of your life - it always stays with you. And you will always see repercussions for your acrtions everywhere. And I loved how the author managed to show it without saying it.

I enjoyed this story very much. Matt might not have been my most favorite person in the world. I found his empathy and understanding to be lacking. A lot. Seriously, how selfish and ignorant can you be? Never heard of persecution because of one's sexuality? Never heard about gay witch hunts or honor killings? Maaaaan. Really. But on the other hand - and it's hard for me to swallow - I can understand that his experiences with oppression are really non-existent. So who am I to judge so harshly? But I couldn't help but be annoyed with him.

Jamal was the gem of this story for me. His POV, his thoughts, his fears really stayed with me and made me think about him and people in similar situation for quite some time. Really good.

The writing wasn't as smooth as I'd have liked, but it wasn't bad. I did love the set-up and how it all turned out. The ending was perfect, and fit the tentative and unsure tone of the story perfectly. A HEA would have been ridicolous under the circumstances and if you're honest, then I'm not sure if there even was a possible soution for Jamal's drama. But I'd still love to read more about these two.

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review 2015-11-02 00:00
Taming Ryder
Taming Ryder - Nicola Haken

Man, where to begin with this one?

One important thing first: Heed the trigger warning, folks! Of course, I completely overlooked it before I began reading. I wouldn't go as far as saying that it was a mistake, because I got through the scenes intact and still liked the book. But I do think that the description and picturing of self-harm in all its' complexities and backrounds is done very realisticly. They are intense and real. This was not done by an author who had no idea what she was talking about and it showed in a way that might not be as "harmless" to other readers as it was to me. So, again, please heed the warnings.

What else? Yes, Ryder! Ryder breaks your heart - probably more than once. He is so many contradictory things at the same time, it made my head spin and still allowed me to understand him completely. He was so strong, yet felt so weak at times, it was almost impossible for him to bear. He seems so confident, but really has no feelings of self-worth, sometimes not even self-preservation. Hence, the abuse of alcohol and other substances.

And then we have Mason. My problem probably was, that as connected as I felt to Ryder, I didn't quite get the same grasp on Mason. At least not in the beginning, all the more though during the end.

I enjoyed the flow of the story very much. Their battles, their struggles, their communication and their communication problems drew me in and held me captive. And let's be honest, the sexual side of this relationship was pretty damn hot. And that's something I don't say too often in the "porn star" trope, mainly because I don't like "my" sex too porny, which annoyed to me quite often when reading "porn star" books. But it was well done here, so no complaints on that front. Parts of the dialogue and descriptions of feelings might have been a little bit too over the top if you ask me, but not overly so.

I also liked the development around the little "mystery/crime" part, even though it problably wasn't the most believable plot line. But that's when I actually connected fully to Mason.

About Ryder's mother thoough (his father is not worth even that much): Uhm, no. I didn't get her, I didn't believe her and I certainly couldn't forgive her. At all. Her regret didn't faze or touch me. Too little, too late.

All in all a solid read for me, at times a little too much, at times unebelievably intense, but still really good.

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review 2015-10-28 00:00
Playing to Win
Playing to Win - Avery Cockburn

4.5 stars - Oh love me some Glasgow Lads!

Well, well, color me surprised.

I honestly didn't know what to expect going in. I enjoyed Playing for Keeps (Glasgow Lads, #1) so immensely, but at the same time I didn't really get a feeling for Collin or Andrew there. I did know however that I would probably want to punch Andrew a time or three. I could just feel it, way before starting this book. And guess what? I wanted to do so quite often in the beginning. At one point I just wanted to use a chair for a slap and be done with the whole thing.

The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that Andrew was not an asshole by choice. Even though some might see it as a weak defense, he really didn't know better. Collin on the other hand, was so very passionate about politics, you couldn't help but root for him. Outside of soccer and politics however, he remained a little flat for me in the beginning.

What I really liked about this story was the progress of things. The relationship developed at a fast, but believable pace. Some things didn't add up in the end, but I enjoyed it so much, I didn't really care. I was also somewhat surprised more than once because things did not go exactly as I thought they would, which was really good thing. Big bonus points for not making it work instantly, not making it easy for these two very different men, and a cherry on top for some pretty hot steamy scenes.

One thing is indisputable, if you don't have the stomach for politics, especially for all the games, propaganda and complexities involved in a referendum for separation - don't read this book. I'm pretty sure, there is no way to actually enjoy this if you don't like politics and political agendas in your romance. Me, I was like a fish in the water. I won't go into detail much, because this is a book review, not a fundamental debate. One thing that bugged me though, was the black and white perspective - you were either one the black or white side. In a way, it's probably a realistic description. I don't think that there was a way to remain in the grey zone during that time in Scottland. Not if you're a Scot. But for me as an outsider, things were made out to be a little too clean-cut here. Which lead to my scepticism concerning Andrew's actions in the end. But that's a personal thing, and probably wouldn't affect other people's reading experience that much.

One other thing was the ending. The way the final "conflict" came into being felt a little forced to me. While I absolutely understood Collin's devastation and desperation, his attack of Andrew didn't really add up. Anger, frustration, even some rage are understandable, blaming your partner for the outcome of a referendum on the other hand, is not. And after everything these two went through to get to this point? I didn't fully believe Collin's reaction. Especially the part about never wanting to see Andrew again. Just didn't really fit. Also, the whole part about the attacks on Andrew felt a little forced at times, and I had a hard time buying all of it. A little too much drama in the end? It wasn't really bad, just not really perfect either.

Other than that, I came to like this story very much. Even Andrew grew on me more and more, especially after meeting his asshole of a brother. What a son of a gun. All in all, another really good book in the series. Avery Cockburn just has knack for bringing lads together who, objectively, should have way too many complex issues between them to make it work. But they still do and I love it.

Definitely recommended, for everyone who doesn't mind politics as a major issue in their romance books.

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review 2015-10-28 00:00
Play On: A Glasgow Lads Novella
Play On: A Glasgow Lads Novella - Avery Cockburn

3.5 stars

Oh well, I made a mistake. I should have read this before I read the other books in the series. Not that you can't understand the things going on, or have to read the books in a certain order, but after the more complex, deeper and somewhat heavier other two books, this one left me a tiny bit disappointed.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad story. Like I said, just not as deep or complex as the others as far as the backround story goes.

On the one side we have Duncan. With parents who aren't really interested in him, but love his sexual orientation, his friends and team mates in his LGBTQ soccer team are way more important to him. He cares for them, cares about them and he lifes and suffers with them. After betrayal and humiliation, Duncan has some issues of his own, in addition to some problems with the team. One of them is definitely his lack of... I don't even know what to call it. Empathy? Maybe, but not really, because he is not a cold-hearted bastard. He just doesn't put himself in somebody else's shoes first before he speaks - or looses his temper for that matter.

And then there is Brodie. Growing up surrounded by homophobia, without an undertsanding or supporting famliy, he looses much of himself and his self-confidence because of bullies and his ex-boyfriend.

Put these two together and you get one explosive mix.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I didn't fall in love with the characters as I did in the other two books. So a solid 3.5 stars, rounded up to four because, you know, soccer. We loooove soccer. I recommend it for basically everyone. The bits and pieces of Scottish are well explained and shouldn't be problem for readers. And other topics, like soccer or politics, aren't really touched that much. It's easy, it's light - if not really angst-free - and I'd think everyone who liked two boys with some issues falling in love is perfectly fine right here.

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review 2015-10-26 00:00
Vespertine - Indra Vaughn,Leta Blake

4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 because I'm so sorry for being so overly sceptical in the beginning

Oh my god, I can't believe I actually thought about putting this on my "never-going-to-read-shelf" and be done with it. But this was such a tough sell for me. Leta Blake is - I'm sorry to say it - not my most favorite author. Mainly because I had some issues with parts of Training Season, and started one other book that didn't make it on my kindle after I finished the sample and wasn't thrilled. Also, a gay priest and a rock star? I was so sceptical when I started, I almost expected to dnf this.

But holy f-ing Christ on a stick - pun intended. Was I ever WRONG. Jasper, an out but celibate priest, and Nicky, singer and songwriter hitting rock bottom too damn early in his life, drew me in so fast, I didn't even realize it until it was three in the morning and I still coulnd't stop reading.

I admit it freely, I'm a sucker for the hurt-feelings-in-the-past-theme. I love a well written story where two people who hurt and abandoned each other somehow find their way back through all the molasses that is hurt pride, broken hearts and destroyed trust, to something so new and so deep, that they can't help but explore all of it. I fell especially hard for Nicky. In some ways he could have been the absolute rock star cliché, but he really wasn't. His childhood was not desolate and lonely, even though he had a very bad start in life (to put it mildly). Jaz was not exactly my most favorite person in the world, and he too, had the potential to be the walking cartoon image of a closeted clergy man.

In the end, they both weren't what I thought they would be, which was not only refreshing, but grabbed me and didn't let me go until the last page was turned. The writing was beautiful, the journey of the two not too fast and not too slow.

The only wish I had, that wasn't fullsilled, was the sex problem. I was really hoping for a different outcome after their make-out session on their island. In a way, it was nice to not have Jaz being destroyed by his anxieties and guilt after the deed was done. But on the other hand it would have been nice to have him figure his life out, especially him leaving the priesthood, before he gave his heart and body to Nicky completely. I felt a little bit akward reading their sensual, hot sex scene, when I had the same issues Nicky had. Namely, my absolute conviction that everything would go to shit once Jaz was done thinking with his dick. In the end, it didn't, bless the authors. But it was still not what I was hoping for.

Additionally, Jaz' lack of gut-wrenching confusion, his guilt, the severe conflict between his heart and his faith, fell somewhat flat here. Not even after he broke his vows, threw a life-long commitment to his church and his faith out of the window, did some of the crushing feelings and/or guilt come. In a way, I was ecstatic, because I am a big opponent of the abstinence of catholic priests and nuns - because I'm sorry, but this is not only against everything evolution and biology tells your body to do, it's also unhealthy, outdated and in my opinion, unnecessary and cruel. But that's a story for another day. What I wanted to say was, it was nice not to have Jaz going completely bonkers after sleeping with Nicky for the first time. On the other hand I would have liked to see at least a little bit more struggle with his beliefs. Since they were the most important thing in his life for years.

Oh well, you can't have your caker and eat it, too. And in the end, there were really enough problems and struggles to last a lifetime or three. Didn't change the fact that I enjoyed the hell out of this story and would recommend it to every fan of the hurt-comfort theme. It's beautifully done here.

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