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review 2017-11-10 00:33
ARC Review: Birthday Presents by Dianne Hartsock
Birthday Presents - Dianne Hartsock

This is NOT a romance. This is a horror story. I knew this going in, and I was still pretty horrified while reading. 

Birthday Presents is dark. It contains rape, torture, and death. The villain is seriously disturbed. There are explicit scenes that are difficult to read. This book is not for the faint-hearted. 

The plot is fairly straight-forward, and we know from the get-go who the villain is. Spending time in Crimson's mind made me want to bleach my brain to get the disturbing images gone - he's vile and insane. He's a hunter, he is a murderer, and he has no conscience. He lives for the hunt, for the kill, for the depravity of his actions.

There's an attempt at making the reader sympathize with the villain, though that didn't work with me - I am firmly in the camp of not believing that a rough and abusive upbringing excuses the actions of our villain. 

I appreciated that the author gave the victims strength and allowed them to be more than just simpering damsels in distress. They fight for their survival, they do what they must to live. 

There's a bit of a mystery as to who's helping the villain, though I wasn't completely shocked to find out who the mystery person was - there were sufficient hints along the way. Still, that was a well-done plot point that kept me at the edge of my seat.

I hope that Tracey and Kyle get the psychological help they both need after living through these horrors, but I felt confident that they will both get through this. As for the little bit of romance we get toward the end, between Gene and his co-worker - that development came a little out of left field for me, and I didn't quite buy the long-time pining that's insinuated here. 

The writing was inconsistent in some instances, and I had to reread a few passages to understand what the author was trying to tell me. I also thought that the characterizations were uneven, and in some moments, the characters' actions didn't make sense to me. YMMV.

 

 

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

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review 2017-11-08 02:42
ARC Review: The Hideaway by Rosalind Abel
The Hideaway (Lavender Shores Book 5) - Rosalind Abel

4.5 stars!

In this 5th book in this fantastic series we finally get the story of Connor and Micah, the two Bryant brothers. Well, they're not actually blood-related brothers, because that would be super icky, but Connor Clark was sort of adopted into the Bryant family when he was merely 13, escaping from his super-religious and abusive family, and Micah has been in love with him ever since. 

Micah even tried seducing Connor when he was just 16 and Connor was 20 and home from college. 

The book starts really slow - all the reader knows is that Micah and Connor love each other desperately but can't find a way to come clean to their family and their friends about being in love and soulmates and wanting to be a couple - I mean, how would you tell your family that you're in love with who they consider to be your brother, amirite? 

But they're gonna do it - they're gonna come out. And then Connor's nephew Moses, 17 and in dire need of rescue himself, comes to live with Connor, and all thoughts of coming out as lovers fly out the window.

There's a lot of heartache and pain within, and the author did a fabulous job pulling me into the story, wanting these two men to have their happy ending. The characters are fully fleshed out, and it is clear that they love each other very much. And yet, Connor worries that he might be holding Micah back from pursuing his violin virtuoso career in NYC if he allows himself to grab onto the younger man with both hands, never thinking that Micah is perfectly happy being in Lavender Shores and actually doesn't want to live in NYC. I mean, it's not like he asked - he just assumed. 

And Micah is so patient. He keeps waiting for Connor to find the courage to come clean, while pretending to be happy with stolen moments in their hideaway - a underground cove near Micah's house - where they are free to be open and affectionate. 

For a lot of the book, their relationship is fraught with tension, for obvious reasons, and Micah actually has a boyfriend of sorts for a while in Seth (who needs his own book, stat), but it's a casual and open relationship which ends amicably. 

It's possibly that a reader might find a sexual and romantic relationship between two brothers objectionable, but it's important to remember that they're not blood-related, and that Connor was never officially adopted by the Bryants, so there are no legal ties either. Additionally, it is very clear from the start that Micah never thought of Connor as his brother - for him, Connor is always the man he loves; Connor is his soulmate. 

This book is full of heartache and pain, but also much love, and it is that love which carries the day and makes it worth all the tears. 

Highly recommended. 

While the books in this series can be read as stand-alones, I wouldn't recommend you read them out of order, as all of them build upon their predecessors to some extent. 

I also hope that the author has more books planned. While The Hideaway provides us with a natural stopping point, there are plenty of other characters in this fictional town who deserve their own chance at lasting love.


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

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review 2017-11-07 00:54
Book Review: PS by Caraway Carter
PS - Caraway Carter

This book was given to me by the author at GRL 2017 in hopes that I'd read and enjoy it, and write up a review. 

I read it and enjoyed it, and here's my review:

Gus, our protagonist, is in his early 40s and decides to change his whole life for Sam, including buying an old train depot up in Vermont, sight unseen, to restore and open a bookstore/cafe. 

Except Gus is the victim of catfishing, and Sam isn't who he claims he is. Which Gus doesn't find out until he's already in the air on his way to the small Vermont town.

PS stands for Post-Sam here, and Gus jumps headlong into the adventure. The premise is cute, even if the beginning is horrid (for Gus), and I enjoyed myself reading this book. Slightly unbelievable that folks in this small Vermont town would drop everything to help a guy out, and even more unbelievable that they'd be okay with deferred payment for renovating/rehabbing the old train station. Or offering Gus a place to stay. Then again, I haven't been to Vermont so I really couldn't say how realistic this actually is. 

I had some issues with the characters, and those are the main reason for the lower rating. The author's word choices were mostly fine, even if dialogue tended to be a little awkwardly phrased on occasion, but there are some plot points that didn't work for me.
- Sam the catfish supposedly being a 21 year old creative writing student, yet the relationship is supposed to have gone for 4 years - am I supposed to believe that Sam was 17 when he/she first started playing WoW with Gus? 
- the relationship between Gus and James was a little too quick for my taste, and it felt as if Gus was able to move on from Sam just a little too rapidly. Also, the history between James and Sam felt too convenient. 
- Sam being a real person - so weird, that part. Also, Sam's behavior in general. Pretty odd for the most part, and gross on one occasion. What the fuck was that? Sam felt to me like someone who really really really could have used some serious therapy. 

My biggest issue was the lack of depth. I needed more, especially for Gus and James. I never got a real good feel for either of them - what made them tick, what drove their actions. I also didn't really get a spark between them, so their relationship progression didn't work for me.

Caraway Carter spins a decent tale, and the writing itself is likable and enjoyable. I'm interested in reading more by this author.


** I received a free copy of this book from the author. **

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review 2017-11-03 23:05
ARC Review: Game Point by M.J. O'Shea
Game Point (Dreamspun Desires Book 45) - M.J. O'Shea

Quinn Valenzuela, heir to the Sparta Athletics empire, has spent most of his life, first at boarding school and then traveling the world, playing on the yachts of the rich and famous, drifting his life away, pretending this is all he wants from life.

Porter Davis, COO of the same company, hasn't had a chance to even enjoy the fruits of his labor, working his way up from athlete using the product to basically running the company for and with Quinn's grandfather and mother. He lives with his sister because it's easy, and pretends he's not lonely.

The book is a little heavy early on as the characters deal with the grief of losing the old man. Both men are adrift in different ways, neither quite sure how to move forward. Quinn decides he wants to learn how to run the company, but needs Porter's help to do so. 

The relationship between the men progresses from reluctant acceptance to realizing that they work well together to developing a friendship to bedroom benefits, and the development felt natural and realistic within the confines of the plot. It was lovely to watch driven, workaholic Porter start to relax a little, and drifting, unsure Quinn find his footing and start to shine. Of course, it's not smooth sailing all the way, and the two men still have to figure out what they need long-term.

I liked the supporting characters as well - Quinn's mother and Porter's sister were two well-developed female characters who both supported and challenged our MCs as needed. 

The requisite relationship hiccup was visible from a mile away, and I liked how the author handled Quinn's obliviousness and panic, but also how it wasn't dragged out for too long. I also think that this needed to happen for the relationship to actually grow beyond what it had become at that point, and for Quinn to think about what he really wants. 

This is slow burn by design, though there's plenty of UST within. And tons of believable emotions, so that worked quite well for me.

It's a sweet romance and definitely worth your time.


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

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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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