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review 2016-05-10 16:49
The Way You Are by L.J. Mile
The Way You Are - Rapha?l Anatole ?mile Blanchard

Hot damn, would you please take a look at that cover?! Two guys and no perfect six pack in sight! Revolution!


Seriously though, I wanted to have this the moment I laid eyes on it. Because c'mon! When was the last time you've seen an overweight character on a romance book that didn't include the fat, unhappy guy going on a revolutionary diet, loosing 200 pounds and THEN finding their HEA? I'm almost tempted to say never. Also, don't let the cheerful, light cover fool you. This is not a low-angst, happy-go-lucky book, and the things the MCs are dealing with are not your standard college guys/experimentation/coming out MM recipe. Sometimes it seems like a different cake altogether.

 

In this book, we get to meet Robert who, at the tender age of 13, realized that he's gay but can't be due to his very opressive, conservative family. His coping mechanism became eating. His weight became his armor. If no one wants to touch him, there is no reason for him to think or talk about attraction at all. Nobody wants him, so he doesn't have to face wanting someone in return. Which works out for him until he meets his new roommate at college. Out and proud Pete is pretty and smart, and (unfortunately) attracted to Robert from the get-go. What to do when the life you carefully constructed around yourself suddenly doesn't fit anymore?

 

There are several things that could have gone wrong with this, but made me happy when they didn't. Start with Pete. His attraction to Robert could have gone downhill fast if it would have been portrayed as some kind of kink. Too often fat-shaming occurs in the context of "No normal person would love you, only the very kinky ones with a serious fetish." So I was very happy with Pete being attracted to Robert for various reasons, and while he does have a thing for "big guys", he never made me cringe or shudder for making Robert (or me) feel dirty in any way. It was not attraction DESPITE the weight, nor was it BECAUSE OF it. Kudos to the author for finding the perfect way and tone here.

 

Secondly, I was afraid that somehow the story would have an undertone of... pity, maybe? Or at least the notion that overweight people are all struggling with some internal crisis and that binge-eating is their way of dealing. It could have been one of those stories where overeating was the only reason for the weight of the MC, and the overeating was the only reason for the MC to have problems in the first place, and so on and on. I didn't feel that way at all here. There is no denying that overeating was one of Roberts coping mechanisms and his armor. But. That was not all of it. His weight was not his "main problem", nor would he become magically thin and trim and fit as soon as he started to deal with his issues. He's a big guy, he will always be a big guy. But he can be a healthy, sport-y, happy big guys. His overeating is a problem, binge-eating sweets until he's physically ill is a problem. But it's not all it is, and not once did I have the feeling that it was somehow meant as a generalization á la "All overweight people eat too much because they have mental problems." Kudos. Seriously. All the kudos!

 

Also, how awesome was it for Robert to find love without changing his complete lifestyle, loose 200 pounds, start running marathons and becoming a sports model?! I have no words for how happy I this made me. Because hot damn.

 

The only thing I struggled with a little were Roberts parents, or better say the black-and-white feel of the families. Where Pete's family was absolutely 100% awesome on all levels, Robert's parents were somewhat cartoonish, evil Bible-thumpers incapable of loving their son the way he was, or even acknowledging him as a real person. I don't think they once looked at Robert and actually SAW him. So that was a little disappointing for me, a little too clichéd for my taste. But honestly? In the grand scheme of things, it didn't take away from my enjoyment that much. Minor blib on a bigger radar, so to say.

 

This was a strong debut all around, and a very courageous one at that. The writing might not have been flawless or perfect, but I honestly didn't give a crap anymore at one point, because I just liked the story too much.

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review 2016-05-09 22:36
The Roommate Situation by Zoe X. Ryder
The Roommate Situation - Zoe X. Rider

Here's to unexpected surprises, people! Because this one was absolutely not what I thought it would be!

 

 

So, this one kinda came out of nowhere. I had the sample sitting on my Kindle for ages, before finally having the funds & desire to really pick it up. What I expected was a rather light read, no angst, maybe a little kinky college romance between two young guys falling into lust. What I got was... not that. But I'm glad to say it was BETTER!

 

Let's start with Shane. The blurb tells us that he gets shuffled to another dorm room. I'm not sure if this is a spoiler or not, so you're warned, but the reason for Shane changing dorms is not a funny, light mishap. It's because his former roommate killed himself in their room and Shane found him. Boom. This is what the opening of this book felt like to me, and honestly? It kind of set the tone for the rest of the book. Things just... jumped up in my face and surprised the crap out of me. But never in a bad way, never too angsty, or too dark. Just not... as light or easy as I thought it would be. Derek, Shane's new roommate stays an enigma for quite some time, but I absolutely loved how we got to know him over time - just like Shane.

 

The relationship building was a-mazing. I loved the pace, the honesty and the lack of "Oh, there is this big misunderstanding that will keep us apart for an appropriate time period". I did have a harder time with Shane's growth and fight for independence, mostly because I'm not that big on YA/NA and MCs struggling with overbearing parents. BUT, it worked for me here somehow, and in a way that made me very happy. The more the story developed, the more I fell for these guys. Seeing them change, evolve and grow, together and individually, was a real treat. This author was completely new to me, but it's safe to say that the writing convinced me to look for more of her work.

 

The only thing that actually bugged me was that the most important women in this book - especially the mothers - were evil, messed up bitches. Seriously. I'm not even kidding. And it's not that I'm that opposed to the portrayal of awful/difficult mothers - I have one, I'm familiar with the problem. I'm just getting more and more AND MORE tired of women being the spawn of the devil in my romance books. It would have been so nice to see the important female roles in the story to have a lick of sense and a conscience.

 

Alas, I can't have everything.

 

Other than that, I enjoyed this book immensely! Definitely recommended for everyone who likes a great college YA full-lenght-novel with beautiful relationship building and great MCs.

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review 2016-04-10 17:46
A Lesson in Pride - Jordan Chambers

Oh maaaan, where to begin? This was a hot mess.

 

 

Let's begin with the MCs. Luke, the scruffy biker, was an interesting character. Unfortunately, he remained a too plain and rough around the edges. He said a lot about himself, but I never really felt like I actually got to know him. So much telling but no showing, not even in flashbacks (and I never thought I'd wish for those).

 

Now Josh? Josh is a completely different story. After his big bang of a coming out during his parents' Christmas party, he has to deal with the consequences. And by deal I mean getting out of bed and facing reality. His so called "friends" are everything but helpful. They don't even deserve to be called that, because all they really care about is keeping Josh as their free meal/rent ticket. I was fed up with them the moment they suggested Josh go back to his parents and beg for forgiveness. For what?! Being gay? Coming out? What is this even?! No real friend would ever say that!

 

But back to Josh. Boy, he gave me whiplash like you wouldn't believe! After two percent of the book we went from euphoria to annoyance, to not being interested in his barista-crush anymore, to love at first sight, to feeling bad about everything, to calling his "love interest" a degenerate in his head, to being concerned about his image as an art protégé if someone would see him talking to a biker. It was insane. Insane! I could barely keep up with him, and even when I did, I'm pretty sure I lost parts of the story because in the back of my mind I was still trying to figure out what was what now. And don't get me started on his ex. That was... something else.

 

All in all, it wasn't a bad story, but I had some serious problems keeping up and connecting with the MCs. There was a lot of telling on Luke's side, a lot of whirlwind activities & rollercoaster rides on Josh's. The love story was sweet, but nothing I actually felt while reading. I realize this one is self-pubbed to boot, but I still can't give more than 2 stars. It was okay, but only okay for me.

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review 2016-03-02 00:08
My Hero: The Olympian by Max Vos
My Hero: The Olympian - Max Vos My Hero: The Olympian - Max Vos

This sequel directly picks up where "My Hero" left off, with Johnny, the now out college football player, and Rich, the professional diver still working towards the World Diving Championships and the Olympic Games, standing together as a stronger and more solid couple.

 

But even with friends and family supporting them all the way, bigotry and hate make their everyday life seem like walking the gauntlet with two big, fat targets painted on their backs. Between tender, sweet and incredibly sexy moments, things turn ugly and violent fast. And while Rich will always be Johnny's hero and vice versa, some things are no longer in their power. Which is why a change of scenery does them a world of good.

 

While I enjoyed the first book very much (except for some niggles and issues), this one was... all over the place. It felt more like several short stories packed into one novel. A lot of episodes, all differing in tone and topic, came together here, but they didn't always feel connected. The writing was great, and Max Vos is still my king of the smexy stuff. But overall, it felt like this novel was somehow missing one, general arc of suspense. Instead there were so many things going on, so many settings and sub-plots and side-characters with their own stories, that it felt like every "chapter" of their story had it's own little arc of suspense and it's very own HFN. I just could have done with a clearer, more defined golden thread, I guess.

 

Overall, I was happy to revisit this couple. It was good to see Johnny and Rich grow, evolve and get even closer to each other. On the other hand, I love Max Vos' hot and raunchy side, and the sweetness and cuteness here was killing me at times. It was just that little bit too much sugar and cheese and fluff. I might be too cynical for that.

 

Or maybe just a cranky bat with a little bit of romance-phobia thrown in now and again.

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review 2016-02-19 21:42
Strong Side by Alison Hendricks
Strong Side - Alison Hendricks

Well, hello my lovely. Where've you been hiding? 

 

This one came completely out of left field for me. Here I was, waiting for the superbowl and really yearning for a new football story, and suddenly there is this COVER all over my news feed. Athletes, football, difficult past? Hell yeah, sign me up! And this story didn't disappoint. 

 

Jason, star quarterback with his eyes set on the NFL, is slowely but surely crumbling under the pressure of playing, school and finding some peace. His dad with his high expectations isn't exactly helping the matter, and it isn't like Jason is really friends with any of his teammates. 

 

Enter Derek, the great walk-on with some hang-ups that prevent him from having a chance at a pro-ball future. Jason likes him, wants to help him and finds a good friend along the way. Except, it doesn't exactly stay that way and soon enough things start to get comlplicated. 

 

I enjoyed that story so much! It a well done friends-to lovers story, with a lot of coming-of-age and new adult mixed in. It wasn't your typical football/jocks gfy/ofy story and I liked that a lot. The little twists kept me interested and both MCs drew me right in. Some of the solutions might have been a little too easy in my opinion. If the very mixed reactions to the superbowl halftime show showed us one thing, then it's that the NFL (maybe even sports in general) are still one of the most homophobic areas in society. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious, sometimes it's a little more subtle, but all in all, the sports world hasn't come as far as some of us might've hoped after a few of the bravest men came out during their active career.

That said, I was very surprised and somewhat sceptical when Jason seemed to have no problem at all going public with his bisexuality and his relationship with Derek after so little time to think it through. Of course I wish it was that easy, and in that respect this story is a nice fantasy, but although I'm not into romance for the realism, I didn't quite buy this part. It was just a bit too easy. Same goes for Jason's dad. It was nice how he came around so fast, but again, I wasn't exactly convinced.

(spoiler show)

 

All in all, this was a good story and I see a lot of pontential here. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author! But this is also a self-pubbed debut novel. So it has it's issues. When "stakes" are grilled and "wright" is shifted from one foot to the another, I did get pulled out of the story a little. In the end though, I still enjoyed the book very much, so I'll give it 4 stars and a big thumbs up. 

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