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text 2017-11-24 22:05
Let's do this one story at a time...
Stocking Stuffers (2017 Advent Calendar) - Rick R. Reed

THE BLURB:

Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most….

The holidays are a time when bigger often means better, and meals are huge, decorations are over-the-top, and elaborate gifts and grand gestures are one way to show affection. But beneath all the pomp and ceremony, after the grandiose presents have been unwrapped, the stocking stuffers are still waiting to add that final sparkle to the perfect celebration. Even the tiniest trinkets can be gems when they’re chosen with love, and like a good love story, they are held close to the heart and treasured for years to come. The festivities don’t have to end after the feasts and gift exchanges. Dig a little deeper for romantic stocking stuffers both naughty and nice.

Enjoy a tale of men in love with men every day throughout December.

 

The following are my reviews for some of the stories in Dreamspinners Stocking Stuffer Collection (2017 Advent Calendar) For a full list of stories and their blurbs you can find them on the Dreamspinner Press website.

 

O Hell, All Ye Shoppers

Louisa Masters

~ 3 Christmas Stars~

Ethan’s plans for a lazy day at home away from the madness of last minute shoppers on Dec. 23 are set aside when his sister calls with a crisis that sends Ethan to the Australia’s largest shopping center and a specialty shop aimed at women and his kindness gets the better of him as he comes to the rescue of Ty the only other man in the store and while both men are desperate to escape the retail hell that is the mall at Christmas time, neither man is is in a hurry for their time together to be over. 

 

‘O Hell, All Ye Shoppers’ is a sweet story about two men who find the gift of love at a time of year known for it’s miracles. Ethan and Ty were an adorable pairing and there was a really nice twist to this one that wasn’t totally unpredictable but still added a nice touch to the story that I enjoyed. This ones sweet with some steam and just a hint of sexy times but it definitely left a warm spot in my heart.

 

The Peppermint Schnapps Predicament

Clare London

~3.5 Shining Holiday Stars~

Frankie Faraday’s got a crush on his boss, Bill Mason, but it’s going nowhere because they’re total opposites or, so it seems until Frankie and Bill find themselves trapped in the seasonal stockroom with nothing but candy, peppermint schnapps and time.

 

Frankie and Bill find that they have more in common than either of them ever realized as they get to know each other and discover that the solutions to their problems lies inside of themselves and each other.

 

Frankie and Bill’s time in the stockroom was cute, funny and held some steamy times. My one little niggle was the jump from Frankie and Bill in the stockroom to after they were rescued was a little abrupt for me and I really would have loved a bit more detail to transition them into being a couple. Otherwise this one was a fun, sweet, angst free holiday story. 

 

Pining for Perfect

Ki Brightly

~5 Hopeful Holiday Stars~ 

Stokely is solid and dependable, he’s got a respectable job and leads a quite life…he tries to always do the right thing but he really hates Christmas…well most of it…everything except listening to Asher Banks a the radio. He loves Asher’s optimism.

 

Asher’s the total opposite and he loves Christmas and schedules himself to the max with holiday fundraising and community events. It’s at one of Asher’s events that he and Stokely meet and make a connection.

 

I loved Asher and Stokely and their interactions were so sweet as they got to know each other. ‘Pining for Perfect’ was a warm, sweet story about two men finally being given the best gift of all…the gift of love. The holiday are a really lonely time of year for many and ‘Pining for Perfect’ holds a sense of that loneliness but it’s also tempered with the warmth and hope of the season as well.

 

Poison Marked

TJ Nichols

~4 Joyous Holiday Stars~

Nikko is the court poison master and his loyalties are to his king but it’s the king’s nephew, Lord Rodas who holds his heart. It’s the Solstice Festival a time of celebrations when the king orders Nikko to poison Lord Rodas destroying all he holds dear and placing the fate of a kingdom in the balance.

 

‘Poison Marked’ was a wonderful historical fantasy about faith, love and being true to who you are. Nikko and Rodas both struggled to follow their heart and their conscience in this one even when it felt like one would be the undoing of the other. I loved the author’s writing style with just over 50 pages the author has written a story that is fully fleshed out and totally enchanted me.

 

The Probability of Mistletoe 

J. Russell

~4 Happy Holiday Stars~

It’s been 10 years since Keith Trainor last saw his best friend Parker Mulvaney and now that he’s ready to start his software company there’s only one person that he wants for his partner both in his personal and his professional life…but how to make amends for a failed attempt at kissing Parker under the mistletoe at winter formal senior year.

 

Parker should have known that scheduling a high school reunion two days before Christmas was a bad idea but one text from Keith has everything looking better for Parker.

 

Nothing says ‘tis the season like a good friends to lovers, second chance, feel good story with two sexy nerds under the mistletoe at Christmas time.  I loved that the author gave enough background to give a sense of a connection from the past between these two as friends, without sacrificing the events of the story that was happening in the present.

 

The Puzzle Box

CC Bridges

~4.5 'Tis the Season Stars~

Cole Peters and James Carducci are childhood sweethearts they’ve been together for years but Cole’s facing a lonely Christmas this year James is deployed. What he’s not expecting is the puzzle box that James sends him as the beginning of a scavenger hunt that could end with a gift to exceed Cole’s fondest wish.

 

‘The Puzzle Box’ is a story about a gift that is truly from the heart. James takes Cole on a journey down memory lane as he leads him on a scavenger hunt that ends on Christmas eve when Cole receives his final gift.  C.C. Bridges has created a story that’s filled with love in spite of the fact that for most of the story the MCs aren’t even in the same country, not an easy task to accomplish in less than 30 pages but definitely well done.

 

I was really lucky in that I enjoyed all of my holiday reads from Dreamspinners 2017 Advent Calendar. While there’s definitely more steam than sex in these stories, they still all had me sighing with happiness and contentment.

 

*************************

An ARC of the Dreamspinner Press 2017 Advent Calendar stories was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-11-23 19:57
A Good Read -- Which Could Be So Much Better
Lonely Magdalen: A Murder Story - Henry Wade

Sigh.  How to rate this book?  There's a good story stuck in here, both as far as the mystery and the police investigation is concerned and as far as it comes to the back story.  Inspector Poole is a likeable enough detective (much more so than his boss, who is decidedly more of the plodding persuation and who, in addition, couldn't give a fig for an accused's / suspect's rights); his investigation is inspired, and he manages to feel true emphathy for everybody involved in the case, from the victim to the witnesses and the suspects ... or so I thought until I reached the final chapters.  Moreover, Wade, who had seen WWI battlefield action himself and thereafter entered public service, clearly knew what he was writing about in both areas.  In fact, the middle part (which unravels the witness's back story as a sort of story within the story) was what I liked best, and it made me wonder why Wade (apparently) never tried his hand at literary fiction -- like all the leading lights of the Detection Club he was certainly a good enough writer to have been able to pull it off successfully.

 

But ... but.  My enchantment wore off -- not entirely, but enough to take this book down a notch from the 4-star track on which it had been until then -- the further I got into the book's concluding third part.  There had been one comment even in Part 2, concerning the supposed inheritability of a proclivity for a "profligate lifestyle" (which Wade, highly educated as he was, ought to have known better than to buy into, and which smacked uncomfortably of the notion of inherited "evil genes" or "criminal genes"), but I decided to let it go, thinking that maybe Wade had resorted to this notion in an attempt -- and probably not even such a misguided one, with a large part of his original audience -- to make the victim appear more sympathetic and her back story even more tragic ... as if the fall from baronet's daughter to prostitute wasn't dramatic enough in and of itself, especially in class-conscious 1930s England.

 

What began to grind on me after a while in Part 3, though, was that class consciousness also began to play a role in Inspector Poole's thought processes -- and it impacted his investigation, not to mention his acquiescence in his boss's misconduct. 

 

When -- through Poole's own investigation -- suspicion falls on people from the victim's former life among England's nobility, we suddenly witness the inspector ruminating on what a shame it would be if people with that background would actually turn to murder to solve their personal difficulties, and we find him reminding himself with great effort that everybody is equal before the law and the suspects' personal background doesn't constitute grounds per se to exclude them from the investigation on the grounds of noblesse oblige (I didn't count how frequently exactly that expression cropped up in this context, but it certainly felt like a lot).

 

[Comments on the novel's resolution in both below spoilers; don't open them if you haven't read the book and are still planning to do so.]

Worse yet, on the novel's final 2 pages it becomes clear that Poole has let this very sentiment get away with him after all and has, despite spending sweat-soaked sleepless nights over the issue, refrained from even investigating another possible suspect -- the one who turns out to very likely have been the true culprit -- who likewise belongs to the nobility, just because he couldn't bring himself to go down that particular road, focusing instead on the two more obvious upper-class suspects and hoping and praying they'd be able to eventually prove their innocence (as if that were their job to begin with) ... which, at considerable personal cost, they eventually do -- and even worse, ultimately letting a very likely innocent but lower-class suspect, who is not so fortunate as to be able to remove the presumption created against him, go to the gallows instead.

(spoiler show)

And when, in order to clinch the investigation shut, Poole's boss resorts to bullying the suspect who, at the time, has the strongest presumptions against him -- against all rules of proper police conduct and procedure, as both Poole and his senior officer realize perfectly well -- Poole stands by his boss when the issue is brought up before the judge, committing perjury rather than seeing the law that he himself is sworn to uphold actually be enforced, and the illegal interrogation thrown out. 

Which is even worse since we learn on the book's final pages that Poole at this point is harboring at least a very strong doubt whether this particular suspect isn't innocent after all, but also a suspicion who the real killer might be -- and yet, he can't bring himself to speak up.

(spoiler show)

It can be argued of course (and Martin Edwards does in The Golden Age of Murder and The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books) that Lonely Magdalen's conclusion is intended to expose police brutality.  If so, the attempt is not exactly a rousing success in my book, however, and frankly, I don't actually buy it.  Poole himself is too much caught up in the sort of corps spirit that makes his boss's misconduct possible in the first place -- he sweats a bit over his perjury, but he never seriously considers not to back up his boss; this sort of thing is just not done.  And Poole is certainly leagues from Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, who would always put the discovery of the real culprit first, no matter who and how well-respected they are (because it just "wouldn't do" to let a murderer go free and see an innocent person hanged in their stead) -- not to mention the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot (decidedly no respecters of class, either of them) and, by the same token, also the occasionally very class-conscious Lord Peter Wimsey, who likewise, as even his very first investigation makes clear, would rather see a highly respected member of society be convicted of a murder they've actually committed than let an innocent person without the means to afford a proper defense go to the gallows in his stead.

 

Since it was "only" the ending of the book that was marred in this way (and not everybody seems to be reading it in the same way as I do in the first place), I've decided to only take my rating down to 3 1/2 stars.  Still, it's a pity, because there actually is much to both contemplate (in terms of the story) and to enjoy (in terms of the writing) here, and I'd very much hoped for this read to end on a different note.

 

I read this for both the "Long Arm of the Law" chapter / square of the Detection Club bingo and the Pancha Ganapti square of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season.

 

 

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review 2017-11-23 19:43
And the G-man is back...
Nobody Rides For Free - Neil Plakcy
'Nobody Rides For Free' is the second book in Neil S. Plakcy's 'Angus Green' series and I have to admit this one was a tough go for me. Try as I might I just couldn't get into the story and for the first 60ish per cent of this book I was on the edge of calling it quits and probably would have if it wasn't for the fact that I like the author's writing style.

Truthfully once I picked up the book and got reading it was ok. The real problem came whenever I tried to go back to reading after having to set my e-reader aside. A lot of the time I found that going back to the story took more effort than it should have, but once I got there things moved along and I found myself wanting to read...just a little bit more.

I have to admit if this had been a book that I bought rather than one that I'd requested for review I very well might have DNF'd or at least entertained the idea a bit more strongly but in all fairness when an author and/or a publisher is willing to provide me with a copy of an e-book or an audio book I feel compelled to do two things...one is to at least read or listen to the story from start to finish, the second is to be as fair and unbiased in my review as I can...so having said that let's go back to this story.

While I found the first part of this story to be a bit dry at times, it was also necessary. We're given an update on Angus from where we left him at the end of 'The Next One Will Kill You' as well as a lot of background for the current story. We meet some new characters and get a glimpse of some characters we met in the first book...so all in all in spite of the fact that for me the first part of the book was dry and at times a tiny bit boring...definitely necessary and in all fairness to this story not everyone is going to share my feelings about the first part of the book...hell, maybe not anyone will and that's ok, it's just happened that for me it didn't go so well...but let's move on from there and talk about....

The reason that I'm glad I stayed with it and finished the book and that reason would be the last 30 to 40 percent of the story. For me things picked up...like seriously picked up. The mystery which I was already a bit invested in started to get even better and really come together...there was a hella' lot going on here and while it may not have seemed possible initially...in the end everything pulled together and there were some surprising connections to be made. Best of all Lester and Felix...these two made my day. One returned and the other survived and ended up in a far better place...yeah, that's right if you want to know more you'll need to read the story because I'm not telling.

I only had one small niggle with events of the second part of this book and to be honest it's something that struck me as not being quite right but maybe, it was ok...so, I'm not willing to let it spoil the last part of the story for me and on the other end of things while it isn't a part of my overall rating of this book I strongly recommend taking a moment to admire the cover of this book and actually the first book as well. Book covers are a thing for me and whether it's a DTB or an e-book I love indulging in taking the time to admire or possibly despair over. 

By the end Angus had once again won me over and I have to admit if I'd done a DNF on this one not only would I probably not be continuing with this series but I would have missed out on the best part of the story.

*************************

A copy of 'Nobody Rides For Free' was graciously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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review 2017-11-23 01:44
A good quick read, a second chance story
Saving Grace (Fair Cyprians of London) - Beverley Oakley

A quick good read! I enjoyed this tale of second chances. Grace has fallen but accepted her life. She is a strong woman. David is not the man she remembers. I loved how innocent he was and how his love was still there. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

I received a copy of this story through Candid Book Reviews, and this is my unsolicited review.

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review 2017-11-22 15:43
Funny Amazon Reviews Aren't So Funny When Read Out Loud
Funny Amazon Reviews - Jane Lynch,Jane Lynch,Audible Comedy

I woke up this morning, let out the dog and stepped my bare foot into a steaming pile of cat vomit one of my furry demons so thoughtfully left for me on the mat nearest the door. Last week it was mouse innards (On My NAKED Foot!!) so I know from personal experience that it could always be worse. Much worse, actually. Still, after that stellar start to the morning I needed a little laugh on my commute to work before I started thinking bad thoughts and decided to give this one a listen.

 

Maybe it's my current sour mood or just the fact that I've already read 80% of these funny reviews on Amazon, but listening to them barely made me crack a smile. I think they work better on Amazon where you can actually see the product they're riffing on, especially the wolf shirt. You've got to see that wolf shirt if you haven't already. It's also a helluva lot more fun when you can read the accompanying funny reviews of the item because usually once someone starts it spirals into a page filled with wacky reviews.

 

I'll give this a three because I guess I liked it a little.

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