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review 2017-10-09 01:12
ARC Review: Safe And Sound by Caitlin Ricci
Safe and Sound - Caitlin Ricci

Oh dear, I'm afraid this book didn't work for me at all. First of all, it was over before I knew it. Secondly, there was no real romance. Thirdly, the characters were flat, and in some cases, completely one-dimensional.

Mason is 21, but still lives with his mother and her boyfriend in his mother's house. He volunteers at an equine rescue, though only part time, and works part time as well, hoping to save up enough money to get his own apartment to get away from mom's boyfriend who is creepy and possibly a sexual predator.

Mason sounded like someone much younger and did not come across as someone who's 21. His mother didn't believe him when he told her of the sexual abuse perpetrated by his uncle when Mason was little, so he doesn't see any point in telling her about the unwanted advances her boyfriend has been making. Which - what? 

When he sees an ad for modeling, Mason thinks this might be an opportunity for him to earn the money he still needs, so he calls the number and agrees to go to someone's house. By bus, because he doesn't have a car either. Again - what? 

Oliver is a photographer and described as in his 30s and having an open relationship with his boyfriend/friend Chester, meaning they do stuff together and have sex with each other. Like a friends with benefits arrangement, though Chester also hangs with others and has sex with them too. Clearly, they're not a love match, and aren't looking for exclusivity. Fine with me - if it works for you. 

There was no relationship development; no steam except a few kisses which is fine; I'm not hung up on on-page sex, but there has to be some kind of connection between the MCs for me to believe the romance. And this just wasn't believable. 

I didn't connect with Mason, I didn't connect with Oliver, and I didn't connect with any of the supporting characters either. The big scene toward the end, where mom's boyfriend is being set up to reveal himself as the creep he is, ending with Mason coming clean to his mom, Mom meeting Oliver and Mason moving in with Oliver - again, WHAT????

And then it was over. I wouldn't even call this a HFN. I wouldn't call this a romance. I was confused for a moment, questioning whether this was a prequel to another book, but apparently that's not the case. As a standalone, this just didn't cut it for me. 

The writing isn't great either - it felt clinical and almost robotic to me. This was my 2nd book by this author, and the other one I read didn't work for me either, so I think this author just isn't for me. YMMV. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A 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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review 2017-09-15 11:00
ARC Review: Be My Best Man by Con Riley
Be My Best Man - Con Riley

Con Riley never disappoints, and this author just keeps getting better and better.

 

In Be My Best Man, Con not only gives us a beautiful romance, but also head-on tackles one of the big current social issues.

 

Vanya, early 20s, has fled his home country of Russia nearly eight months ago when he was found out as being gay and violently beaten because of his sexuality. Now in Britain, still traumatized and scared, his dreams of becoming a teacher dashed, he is waiting to get this asylum request approved so he can be granted the ability to have a job and earn an income. In his current limbo, though finally safe from persecution for his sexuality, he lives in a run-down hostel where he has befriended a young man and woman from Estonia, who are both in Britain legally as EU citizens but whose status under Brexit is also uncertain. The hostel is not really safe either, though Vanya shares a room with his friend Kaspar. Theft is rampant. Rooms are broken into. Women fear being assaulted.

The author created a character that I immediately connected with. Vanya struggles to learn English, practicing whenever and wherever he can, and his struggles were authentic and realistic. His loneliness was evident, and I felt for him right away.

 

Jason is a man in his early forties, who's recently had a falling out with his foster brother Andrew over the brother's recent engagement and wedding plans. See, it's the 3rd wedding, and Jason, without even meeting the girl in question, has already decided that this is just another mistake. He too felt lonely to me, when he was first introduced, despite being rather successful in his business, and it was fairly clear to me that he was shaped by his childhood experiences and didn't really trust anyone, other than his late foster mother and foster brother.

 

The meet-cute happens in the department store where Kaspar works and Vanya is visiting after his latest asylum appointment and Jason is hiding to wait for a call or text from Andrew. Jason thinks Vanya works in the store, and Vanya wants to practice his English. And get to know the hunky older man.

 

Jason's wrong assumption leads to him hiring Vanya as his personal shopper, and the two begin spending time together. This is where the story really begins to take shape.


Con Riley combined the sweet yet complicated romance that develops between these two men with the social issue of asylum seekers who have no legal standing, are usually running from persecution, scared to death, having to learn the customs of a country so foreign to them, and being generally looked down upon by many people. Vanya's plight, his uncertain status before asylum is granted, his internalized shame, was heart-breaking, and I wanted to reach into the book and hug him and protect him. He keeps a huge secret from Jason, and this secret nearly breaks them.

 

Jason on the other hand is oblivious to Vanya's struggles for a long time, not intentionally of course, but he doesn't realize how traumatized the young man is. He also doesn't realize for a long time how much he's hurting Andrew and his future wife, and how his distrust of Andrew knowing his own heart is jeopardizing the remaining piece of family he has. But he learns. Under Vanya's attention, Jason begins to question decisions he's made, and how wrong he might have been. With Vanya in his life, Jason starts to believe that love might be real after all. He goes to finally meet Andrew's lovely young fiancee, and he begins to see how much they are truly in love, to the point where he even steps in to... well, no, you read this yourself.

 

The author has an extraordinary talent in giving life to the characters and making them feel real. Vanya's skittishness, Jason's irrational anger (born out of heartache), the social circumstances, Vanya making huge mistakes born out of fear - everything in this book was absolutely realistic and relatable.

 

This book (and the romance) flows slowly, and it needs to. Trauma such as Vanya's takes time to overcome. Jason's disbelief in lasting love can't just suddenly disappear. They are both shaped by their experiences, and since neither feels safe to talk freely and openly about their fears, they don't have an easy path to their HEA.

 

Writing their story in the third person present tense was also a stroke of genius, because this reader felt even more connected to the characters this way. Read every word carefully - this isn't a book you can speed-read. You must savor every carefully crafted sentence, every brilliant paragraph, and let the story unfold in real time to get the full impact. Vanya's English is heavily accented, and it's written in such a way, that I could easily "hear" him speaking the words.

 

I cried a few times. I wanted Jason to pull his head out of his ass. I wanted to shield Vanya from the big, bad world and give him shelter. I loved these characters, I loved this story, and I absolutely highly recommend that you read it.

 

Get to it.

 


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of the review tour for an honest and fair review. **

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review 2017-08-22 00:43
ARC Review: Textual Relations by Cate Ashwood
Textual Relations - Cate Ashwood

This was a sweet, low-angst, meet-cute novella. 

Henry Hathaway, an evolutionary psychology professor, gets up on his birthday to go to the dentist, because that's apparently what one does on his birthday. Except most people go to get their teeth cleaned twice a year, and a dental assistant isn't interchangeable with a dental hygienist. 

Henry is rather dull and a bit socially awkward. When he gets a text out of the blue from someone named Ash, confirming their dinner plans, Henry goes out of his way to meet Ash, thinking Ash is a woman who's going to be stood up, and he doesn't want her to think her date didn't show. Again, most people would reply by text, stating something like "hey, wrong number", but not Henry.

Except when Henry gets to the restaurant, Ash turns out to be Asher. Who's definitely not a girl. 

Meet-cute, right? Except Asher is gay, and Henry is definitely not. That he knows of. 

Henry is also super oblivious so when he and Ash hang out, he doesn't realize it's a date. 

Matter of fact, our oblivious prof doesn't realize much of anything until Ash kisses him. 

What I liked about this book is that Mr. Oblivious didn't suddenly have an existential crisis after The Kiss and his revelation that "huh, how about that, I may be bi", and Asher is spontaneous and fun, and Henry just goes with the flow, allowing Asher to pull him out of his preconceived notions and routines. 

Okay, so when I said "existential crisis", I didn't mean that Henry is all set to go explore his newfound attraction to Asher. There's a somewhat short time period where Henry doesn't answer Ash's calls and texts, but then, professor that he is, jumps feet first into researching sexuality, and... well, you read this for yourself.

As short as this is, there's plenty of steam, once Henry fully commits himself, and starts taking more risks - the staid professor type in Henry takes a leave of absence.

This is only a novella, so there's not a ton of relationship development, and we don't get Asher's POV, which didn't help explain why someone who's supposedly such a player (as we're told) is suddenly hell-bent on gaining the prof's love. I guess the heart wants what the heart wants? They for sure had sufficient chemistry, so even though this thing between them develops quickly, I didn't find it difficult to believe they had the hots for each other. The epilogue sealed the deal.

So, meet-cute, a clueless professor, and a smitten ex-player - this was a fun, albeit quick read. Perfect for an extended lunch break, amirite?


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

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review 2017-07-19 01:12
ARC Review: Satin by KC Wells
Satin - K.C. Wells

The 2nd in this fabulous series, Satin can be read as a standalone. 

Joel Hunter is a DC (Detective Constable) on a surveillance job with his partner Trish, in a bar/lounge, hoping that the owner comes by so he can be arrested.

The stakeout is going fine, but then Joel is rather distracted when Satin takes the stage - a beautiful singer whose sultry voice nearly puts Joel under a spell. 

Shortly thereafter, with the bar owner locked up and the stakeout over, but unable to get Satin out of his mind, the smitten DC goes back to the bar to listen to Satin again. 

And Satin makes her move.

Except, Satin is really Ross Dauntry, a female impersonator and aspiring ballet dancer. Joel gets over his shock pretty quickly and agrees to meet Ross for coffee, as friends. Joel has until now identified as straight, and any previous attraction to a man has never been acted upon. He is confused at the attraction but also doesn't feel any shame or massive angst. He is willing to explore this thing with Ross, even if they only end up as friends.

Obviously, Joel isn't as straight as he thinks he is. Things get steamy pretty quick, and there's very little angst in this book, other than Ross wondering if Joel is attracted to him or to Satin, and Joel taking a bit of time to make peace with his attraction to Ross. The sexy times are not only steamy but seriously sensuous, and I contemplated taking a cold shower after each scene. There's one in the ballet studio where Ross trains... holy hot boysecks, Batman!

Of course, there's a bit of a conflict there too, and Ross' roommate didn't do him any favors with her interrogation of Joel, but I understood where she was coming from. Joel struggles with how to be in a relationship and his feelings for Ross, while Ross falls quickly but also realizes that he might set himself up for heartbreak. 

Trish was a great character - supportive and not afraid to call Joel on his bullshit when he needed it.

There's a scene towards the end - gah! Nope, not gonna tell you what happens. You should read this for yourself and experience the same kind of swooning I did. 

KC Wells' personal brand of magic shines through in every word in this book. This was fabulous, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I'm pretty damn sure you will too.

Recommended.


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

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