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review 2017-07-10 01:36
ARC Review: Straight From The Heart by Sam Burns
Straight from the Heart (Wilde Love Book 1) - Sam Burns

Very impressive debut novel! 

We are first introduced to Alex, 23 and a little naive, who has just defied his mother and dropped out of college, after which she has kicked him out to couch-surf with his friends from his band and cut off his cash-flow. Undeterred, Alex takes his box of things and his guitar and his last bit of cash to celebrate his freedom in the local bar. While there, a little drunk, he's almost mugged but saved by a hot hunk named Liam, and Alex has an epiphany while being pressed against Liam - yep, he's gay. 

As his Liam. Alex wastes no time wallowing in angst, embraces what he's feeling, and goes home with Liam. Who's a perfect gentleman and doesn't take advantage of the slightly younger and much drunker man. 

And that's basically the first couple of chapters. From there, the story takes off, and the author does a great job mixing the suspense with the budding romance between Alex and Liam. Except Liam isn't exactly who he says he is, but he's mostly honest with Alex about all the things he can be honest about.

The relationship between Alex and Liam develops quickly, and love is rather insta, but I didn't care, because the two characters just made me want them to succeed. And the drama/intrigue plot is action-packed and had me more often than not on the edge of my seat. 

I suspended disbelief on occasion, but the unrealistic moments didn't bother me all that much. What felt real are the complex characters. Not only in Alex and Liam, but also the supporting cast. Alex's bandmates (one of whom will also get a book, I'm told), the crime-boss Liam works for, and his son were fully fleshed out and not just cardboard characters. The villain was perhaps slightly over the top, but that was to be expected. 

Alex as a baby-gay was well done, and I suppose I chalked it off to his age and lack of romancing girls before that there was little angst for him when his body reacted to Liam's hot bod saving the day. He just accepted it, though I would think he had to have had some inklings before. Jumping feet first into exploring his sexuality, with Liam as a willing subject, burning up the sheets - oh yeah, that was fun to read.

Alex's best friend and bandmate Jake has a confession too, and there's a little bit of drama when they come out to each other, but Jake definitely has Alex's back, and is a bit suspicious of Liam at first. 

I don't want to give away the plot itself, and don't want to spoil the experience for anyone, but I will say this: If you like romance mixed with suspense and action, and you like when two men just completely fall for each other and make it work against the odds, this book is for you.

I cannot wait for Keegan's story - that's coming next. Sign me up!!


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

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review 2017-07-04 17:44
Tender by Sofia Samatar
Tender: Stories - Sofia Samatar

This is a beautiful, original, often surprising, and yes, tender, short story collection by a fantastic author. Samatar’s novels are lovely, but I think she may excel even more in the short story format, which combines her exquisite writing with compressed plots that necessarily move briskly. And her wide command of genres is impressive: fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, fairy tales, contemporary, young adult. Most of the stories are sci-fi and fantasy, and while I love fantasy I typically avoid sci-fi, but I absolutely would read more if Samatar wrote it. Her stories never use characters simply as a long-winded way of examining an idea or making a point; instead the characters are the point, and no matter how inventive their settings, the stories are about the people, their lives and relationships. And to the extent they’re about larger issues, they are issues that matter in human society today, like race and religion.

But then there are stories that break the mold I would expect from a genre author. “Olimpia’s Ghost” is a work of epistolary historical fiction set in 19th century Europe, involving a relationship that may or may not have existed between two real people (I won’t say who since figuring it out myself was so much fun), while “Those” is an answer to Heart of Darkness, written in a similar vein but with the frame story narrated by a mixed-race character, which changes everything.

There are a lot of fantastic stories in this collection, and from perusing the reviews it looks like different readers have different favorites, which is a sign of strong writing. I’ll mention my favorites here:

“Selkie Stories Are For Losers” – A young woman in the contemporary U.S. builds her life in the shadow of a fairy tale. This could easily be a novel and I’d love to read it.

“Walkdog” – This is an epistolary story written with a certain amount of deliberate inelegance, since it’s meant to be by a typical high school girl. It’s an achingly sad story about love, bullying and social conformity, with a bit of mythology wrapped in. Unlike in a lot of YA, which seems to be a weird adult vision or fantasy of teenagers, I completely believed this one; no one would want to admit to making Yolanda’s choices, but they feel realistic.

“Honey Bear” – This is a lovely post-apocalyptic tale. In the tradition of my favorite short fiction, it’s a story you’ll want to read twice, because everything comes together at the end in a way that changes your entire view of the story, and so you re-read it with new eyes and understand all those references that didn’t quite make sense before. But despite the post-apocalyptic world, the story is closely focused on its main characters, and its heart and primary source of tension is a couple who react to changed circumstances in very different ways.

“How to Get Back to the Forest” – I’d classify this one as dystopian; it reminds me of Never Let Me Go, with young people raised in superficially pleasant institutions, slowly and imperfectly discovering how their world really works. The key difference is that here the characters resist, at least in small ways.

“Request for an Extension on the Clarity” – This is superficially science fiction, but it’s really about race and immigration and isolation; the protagonist finds refuge in the stars from a world where she doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. The collection includes several stories with similar themes, but this is the one that brought it all together for me.

“The Closest Thing to Animals” – Straight-up science fiction, set on a quarantined world, but about a character whose abandonment issues cause her to see rejection where it doesn’t exist and prevent her from seeing the ways in which others need her. The story is lovely and so are the weird images of its world.

“Fallow” – This is a novelette, by far the longest piece in the collection, set on a world inhabited by refugees from a self-destructing Earth. It’s a meditation on religion (eventually we’re given enough information to figure out what group is involved) and social pressure, hearkening back to the Puritans despite its otherworldly setting.

Of course, as with most collections, I didn’t love all the stories; some seemed opaque or didn’t quite land for me. In particular, there’s a stretch from “Tender” through “Meet Me in Iram,” of stories dealing with alienation and characters feeling out of place in their own skin – sometimes, though not always, related to immigration – that I bounced off of until I reached “Request for an Extension on the Clarity.” A few of the other contemporary or parable-like stories also didn’t strike any particular chord with me. But these are skillful stories that clearly landed for others, so I’ll chalk that up to my limitations as a reader rather than Samatar’s as a writer.

Overall, I loved this collection and would absolutely recommend it, probably even ahead of Samatar’s novels to those with any liking for short fiction. To my surprise, I especially loved Samatar’s science fiction and hope to see much more from her along these lines in the future.

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review 2017-06-25 03:48
CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS BY: MARTINA MCATEE
Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things - Martina McAtee

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best friends

 

 

This book was AMAZING! I rarely give a first book in a series 5 stars, but if I could give this book a million stars I would!

 

 

all the stars

 

 

The world building was TOP NOTCH. I kept telling my friend this was Ilona Andrews level world building. For those that don't know, that is like the be all end all of world building, in my book at least. It was so vast I kept thinking I could stay in this world forever. I can see where there would be no shortage of stories to be told in this world that McAtee has created. There was a supernatural POWERHOUSE in this book, with plenty of beings that are familiar, shifters, witches, demons, necromancers etc. and some new and fascinating beings I haven't read about before! I enjoyed the fact that Ember was new to this supernatural world too so you got to learn everything about this new mesmerizing place and all its colorful inhabitants side by side with her.

 

 

 

The characters were so diverse and plentiful. There were a lot of people in this story, and there wasn't one that didn't have me completely engrossed in their life. I could not get enough of them! We get a few different POVs in this story, and they are perfectly executed. I am so particular about multiple POVs. If they aren't clearly recognized each time, rather by each voice being distinguishable and unique enough to stand on their own obviously, or by marking it at the chapter changes, I tend to be disappointed. I had no problem with that here. I was honestly kind of blown away how seamlessly the shift was made each time, and even more impressively, how loveable each person was! I was always happy to spend time seeing things through any of their eyes and that is no easy task!

 

 

I love YOU!

 

 

It also needs to be said that this cover is stunning as well! I really can't even do this book enough justice with a review. I loved everything about it, plain and simple. And if any of this sounds even remotely like something you may enjoy, pick this book up because I have a feeling you are going to fall in love with it too.

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review 2017-06-25 02:50
THE ROMEO CATCHERS BY: ALYS ARDEN
The Romeo Catchers (The Casquette Girls Series) - Alys Arden

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Reading an Alys Arden book is like taking a vacation. Her books make you feel like you're an actual part of the French Quarter. Completely immersive and her love of her city shines through each and every page. You end up feeling as if you are living and breathing the city right along with the characters. I absolutely adore that about these books!

 

 

bayou a drink

 

 

I loved watching the Coven come together and getting to know some new characters as well as getting more background stories from characters we already know and love. Getting to know Niccolo better was quite endearing. I don't know what Arden is trying to do to my heart, but I don't think I could possibly be any more conflicted between Niccolo and Isaac at this point! Seeing Adele and Isaac's relationship flourish in this book was so sweet. I can plainly see that they are pretty darn wonderful together. But even with Niccolo being out of sight, he was never out of mind, and seeing him as this young determined dreamer with so many hopes of a bright future tugged at each one of my heartstrings. I don't even know what I want at this point! I am DYING to see what happens in the next book.

 

 

which one

 

 

I was really excited to see more of the witch magic throughout the story. It was a lot of fun watching Adele, Isaac and Dee building up their coven and finding their place. I am very eager to see this group grow and flourish! I am completely intrigued by their individual growing powers as well! That ending was OUT OF CONTROL. You could tell that it was building to something huge towards the end, and it did not disappoint. I have no idea what will happen next in this story, but I can't wait to find out!

 

 

patience

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review 2017-06-08 02:30
WHITE HOT BY: ILONA ANDREWS
White Hot - Ilona Andrews

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I was so freaking excited to get my hands on this book! Anything Ilona Andrews is automatically an auto-buy for me. And I had been waiting for the sequel to Burn for Me for sooooo long. Of course, it did not disappoint. I was up till 3am the day I got this because I could not put it down until I got to the very end! I enjoyed jumping right back into Nevada's adventures in Private Investigations.

 

Ilona Andrews does Urban Fantasy so well. Her world building is always on point and the only thing I can say about this one is that it is so well done that I will be crushed if this series doesn't carry on past the slated trilogy. I love the whole magic based hierarchy with the Primes and their unique powers. It is so well thought out and executed that I think there are so many stories to be told in this world. I could easily see it flourishing along the same lines as the Kate Daniels series, and that's saying a lot considering how epic that series is!

 

I love the push and pull and undeniable chemistry between the Nevada and Mad Rogan. Though to be honest I was kind of hoping for a little more of the slow burn, maybe more so as a sign that they might consider further expansion with the series. But there's no denying that Nevada and Mad Rogan were inevitable. As much as I love the two of them together, I am so enamored with Nevada's whole family. They are each individually interesting and compelling, and quite a handful, but all of them together is 110% magical and completely riveting! I need to know more about each of them! Every new little bit of info we get on each of them only makes me NEED to know more. I freaking love this crazy family!

 

I am so glad that we don't have long to wait to get the next book in the series, I just hope it isn't the last! If Urban Fantasy is your thing, I highly recommend that you give this series a try (and the Kate Daniels series too!). You will not be disappointed, this dangerous duo does UF like no one's business!

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