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review 2017-11-22 00:18
Book Review: Blood From A Stoner by L.A. Witt
Blood from a Stoner: A paranormal gay romance with vampires & weed. In Seattle. Obviously. - L.A. Witt

I first heard of this book when the author talked about it on Facebook - about this romance between a vampire and a stoner. Giggling, I made a note to snatch this up when it became available. 

It's a quick read, and just based on the title, you'd think it'd be all fun and sexy times, and you'd be half-right.

Greg is the aforementioned vampire, forever frozen at 24, needing blood, having to stay out of the sunlight, and somewhat regretting his decision to become one of the undead, even if it will allow him to eventually pay off his student loans. He works as a software engineer for an IT company, and since in this particular universe, people (mortals) know about vampires, the company accommodates them by having the vamps work overnight, and provide sleeping quarters in the windowless basement in case of unpaid overtime so they don't have to drive home in the daylight. 

Zane is a mortal/human, similar in age to Greg, and works at the same company as a programmer. On whom Greg has a secret crush. Zane also indulges in weed which is legal in Seattle, where they both live and work.

Speaking of work, the company has been putting Greg under a lot of pressure to get the new product ready for release, which means overtime and no days off, and Greg is hangry. Which, being a vampire, is never a good thing.

Then Greg happens upon Zane outside, while taking a minute to breathe, and hangry Greg takes up Zane on his offer of taking a sip or five from Zane's neck. Which is super frowned upon at the company, but hey - whatever. Except Zane has partaken of some pot, unbeknownst to Greg. And now Greg is also a bit high.

I laughed and laughed and laughed at this point, because high vamp was hilarious. 

This being an L.A. Witt book, the sexy times are right around the corner, and boy, do they ever burn up the sheets. With or without weed, with or without getting high. The author has a real knack of writing those scenes, and they never felt gratuitous or repetitive. 

Obviously, as feelings develop, as they usually do in romance books, Greg now has a problem on his hands - he's immortal. Zane, not so much. And considering how much Greg regrets having chosen this life, he sure as hell won't convert Zane. But thinking of Zane growing older and eventually dying also makes Greg's unbeating heart hurt. What's a vamp to do?

I'll leave you to read this for yourself...

It's not easy fleshing out your characters to make them realistic in a novella, especially since one of them is supernatural, and you also have that whole world-building thing needing to happen, but the author does a fantastic job sprinkling the info into the narrative without ever making it feel like info-dump. Greg bitches about higher insurance rates, and extra tinting on the car windows, and being taxed higher than mortals, and generally having to pay more for stuff, because of that whole undead thing, which is plenty to make this world feel real enough. 

There's more to the book than just the sexy times, even if those are plenty. There's also doubt and confusion and fear, and the author did a great job exploring those feelings. As the story is told entirely from Greg's POV, we don't get a whole lot of insight into Zane, but what we get is enough to paint a picture of the guy - laid-back, a bit of a free spirit, definitely into weed and sex with Greg, but also insightful enough to realize that Greg needs to come to terms with what's bothering him, and then giving him the space and time to figure things out. Well done, that.

Recommended for all L.A. Witt fans, and those who love romance books that are sexy, light, and fluffy, but also have some serious undertones.

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review 2017-11-21 23:56
ARC Review: All Of The Above by Quinn Anderson
All Of The Above - Quinn Anderson

I quite liked this book once I pushed past the first 30% or so. Brendon, one of our MCs, works what's basically dead-end job as a salesperson for hair straighteners and other beauty products in a local mall, while also going to school to become a hair stylist/make-up artist. He's friends with a married couple running the sales stand next to his.

Brendon also comes across as a bit lonely, though he's described as someone who doesn't usually finish what he starts, a bit flaky, a bit effeminate. He's gay and there's no hiding it. His hair frequently changes color. He can't seem to hold on to a boyfriend, looking for perfect and never finding it. He felt real enough to me, and definitely likable, and I hoped he would find what he was looking for.

Then he comes across a quiz in a local magazine asking "Who's Your Perfect Man?" And it appears as if the author of the quiz, one Matthew Kingston, is just perfect for Brendon.

The meet-cute is fake, obviously, as Brendon sort of stalks Matthew online, finds his pictures and his usual hangouts, realizes that what he sees he definitely likes, and begins hanging out at those places, hoping to run into Matthew.

Which he does, after a while.

They have an awesome first date, and they seem to have a lot in common, considering how much Brendon knows about Matthew's preferences, which he uses to his advantage. And then Brendon realizes he has to come clean, knowing Matthew abhors liars, and what might have been turns into heartache.

I didn't actually like Matthew all that much for most of the book, to be honest. He came across as a bit of a judgmental dickhead. Even after he supposedly forgives Brendon for the initial deception, and they're on their 2nd date, something Matthew apparently spent some time setting up, he keeps making snarky remarks about Brendon's lie, until Brendon, suddenly finding his backbone, calls him on that shit real quick. I cheered in my head when that happened, because I was getting quite irritated with Matthew at that point. His behavior was, while certainly understandable, not something someone with forgiveness in his heart would likely do.

I did warm up to him eventually, when he makes an about-face and the two of them really talk things through. I really liked that Brendon who, despite feeling guilty about his earlier deception, held Matthew's feet to the fire when his words of forgiveness didn't match his actions.

The feelings between them grow quickly, but believably, and I had no issues with the time frame here. I do believe that Brendon and Matthew were well-matched, and thus the rapidity with which they developed into a full-blown relationship was perfectly fine with me. 

This is the kind of easy, happy reading that I need every so often. It's a bit quirky, on the sweet and fluffy side for sure, and definitely worth your time.


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

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review 2017-11-21 23:53
ARC Review: The Secret Of The Sheikh's Betrothed by Felicitas Ivey
The Secret of the Sheikh’s Betrothed (Dreamspun Desires Book 46) - Felicitas Ivey

First off, I had no issues whatsoever with the writing style of this author, or the writing itself. The story flowed along well, and I wasn't bored at all while reading. That is one of the two reasons this book got two stars instead of just one.

The other one is that I was super enraged for most of the book at the treatment Ikraam had to endure at the hands of her sister.

Moving on.... 

After I mulled it over for a while, I realized I had massive issues with some of the characters, the plot, and the setting, as well as the social aspects of this book. The messages within are really problematic for me. 

I mentioned in my status update when I finished the book that "this was different". It sure is. The book is set in a country in the Middle East, where sheikhs and Bedouin tribes are still aplenty. Goat herding is mentioned. Grazing grounds. Filthy rich sheikhs. Camels. Donkeys. Lots of goats. Women are second class, at best, required to hide their faces and their bodies in hijabs, niqabs and veils. 

The basic premise is that rich billionaire sheikh Fathi, who's secretly gay, has been told by his grandfather that he's been betrothed to a Bedouin girl named Ikraam, sight unseen, before the girl was even born, due to some debt the grandfather owed to the girl's father many many years ago.

That's basically believable, right? 

The rest of this? Not so much. 

Ikraam is actually not a girl. Ikraam is a young man who was born to the 2nd wife of a Bedouin tribe chief/leader who thus far only fathered girls. He's been raised as a girl in a large harem because his oldest sister didn't want him to be the heir and remove her from her position of power after their father died. She basically forced Ikraam's mother, and then Ikraam as he grew up, to keep his gender a secret and raise him as female. This was continued after the mother died. The oldest sister married a weak man who became the new tribe leader, but it's really been her in charge. She then set out to marry off all her sisters to other tribes so she could be HBIC. 

I had some issues right there. Not only is this plot point unrealistic, but even if it were believable, the psychological repercussions of Ikraam being raised as a female, and eventually realizing he's not female, are never even addressed. Can you imagine being raised this way? And noticing at some point that, hey, I have a penis, and, hey, the others girls do not? And, hey, I could be killed at any time if someone finds out? And, hey, my oldest sister abuses me daily and I have absolutely no way out of this situation other than death? Wouldn't YOU have some serious psychological issues? Can you imagine how fucked up that is? The suffering? The constant fear? Knowing you will die on your wedding night? Feeling that you have to go along with this plan so you can possibly save your niece from a fate worse than death? 

Additionally, Ikraam has been raised without ever learning to read, without knowing anything about the modern world (which I guess is expected when one grows up in a tent in the desert, weaving cloth and hiding underneath a niqab). And yet, this is never addressed even when Ikraam marries Fathi. The difference between Fathi, who was raised with money and educated in the US, and the poor Bedouin woman/man, who's never even been to a city, who's never read a book, who has no idea how the world works outside of goat farming and weaving cloth and hiding behind a veil - how could they possibly be compatible? And to top this off, when the secret does come out, Ikraam suggests living as a female in public, and as a male in the privacy of their bedroom, and NO ONE questions the feasibility of this and its possible repercussions. Fathi thinks it's a great idea. Is Ikraam identifying as gender-queer, made so by how he was raised? Are we supposed to believe that gender identity is thus nurture instead of nature? What message is the author sending here? 

We are introduced to Fathi and his twin brother early on. Fathi has a secretary whose only apparent purpose was to be a contrast to Ikraam as this secretary is educated and modernized, but then used only to be shamed and ridiculed for her aspirations. There's a scene at the very end that had me cringe in second-hand embarrassment that the way this particular scene played out made it past the editor. What was that, even? This is a young, modern, educated woman, someone who did a good job in the position for which she was hired, and yet, she's shamed for being interested in her boss, and the uneducated, unworldly, MALE-pretending-to-be-female Ikraam is held up as a "better" example of being female than this young woman, going so far as showing up on the arm of his new husband, dressed in traditional FEMALE finery and given an opportunity to announce to the secretary that her boss is now married and she needs to take a hike. How did this make it past the editor? What message is this sending to the reader? Readers who are primarily women? 

Don't get me started on Ikraam's oldest sister and the mother of his niece. The woman was pure evil but basically gets away with it. Not only is she perfectly willing to let Ikraam die for her subterfuge, which his husband would then obviously discover, but she's also willing to get rid of her own daughter by attempting to marry her off to a disgusting and violent man at least twice her age, who will likely break not only her spirit but also her body. Evil sister/mother don't care. And even when all of these things come out, she's not punished for her behavior. Ikraam is safe, and so is his niece, but the evil sister never gets a real punishment for not only the deception but also the cruelty and suffering she inflicted. 

Fathi is secretly gay, as I mentioned. His grandfather, described as a very traditional and old-fashioned man set in his ways, then doesn't even really blink when a) Fathi admits to being gay, and b) Ikraam's secret is revealed, and c) they want to get married anyway. Say WHAT? You're trying to tell me that an old man from the Middle East doesn't care that his heir is gay? Embraces it? Is fine with the Bedouin girl being really a man? And you explain it away by stating that he's not super religious and THAT'S IT?? I'm sorry, but I didn't buy what the author was trying to sell here. 

The secondary men in this book, namely the tribe leader and the niece's potential groom, are either weak or evil. Both were one-dimensional characters and used to provide a specific plot point or two, then discarded. 

I usually like the titles in this very tropey series, but this was a complete miss for me. The gender identity issue could have been handled in a much healthier way here, and I would have expected more conflict and pushback from the grandfather based on his portrayal. I would have liked to see some psychological help for Ikraam, and some education as well. 

This book didn't work 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 2017-11-21 23:46
Book Review: Silk by K.C. Wells
Silk (A Material World Book 3) - K.C. Wells,Meredith Russell,Michael Craft

This book was gifted to me by the author in hopes I'd leave a favorable review.

Hells, yeah!! 

First off, I love this series, each one focusing on a specific material. We had Lace and Satin, and now I've devoured Silk. 

Here, we have Lucas, early 40s, a self-made millionaire, whose stoic and rigid upbringing has left him with a mild case of social anxiety and an unwillingness to form romantic attachments. Or any kind of attachments with other people, really. When he needs sex, he calls upon an escort, never inviting the same man more than twice, at the very most. Usually, the escorts get only one dance upon his silk sheets - the rare man may be hired twice. 

It was clear early on that Lucas was lonely and unhappy, but didn't realize it. He thought his life was normal. Cuddles, embraces? Who needs them. 

Then Lucas, intrigued by images online, hires Matt, 27, an escort/underwear model/server at his parents' restaurant, which he'll take over at some point. When he's ready. Modeling underwear is for fun, as is escorting - and Matt likes sex. The money is nice, but Matt knows that this isn't something he'll do long-term. Besides, his parents would be mortified and disappointed if they knew about his side jobs. He has a few regulars, but is also perfectly happy to accept new clients.

So Matt breezes into Lucas' life/condo and their first night is super hot. Holy moly, do they burn up those silky sheets. A couple of weeks later, still thinking about Matt, Lucas hires him again. And then again. And then... well, you read this for yourself.

I really liked how the author drew her characters here, giving them a full backstory that made them who they are, but also gave them room to grow and expand their world views. As Lucas and Matt go from client/escort to more, spending time outside of Lucas' condo, they both realize that they could be much more than casual sex. Matt's rule of never falling for a client crumbles. He still has other clients, but there is thankfully no sex with others once he starts hanging out with Lucas outside of the bedroom. 

Lucas, though being the older man, doesn't have a whole lot of experience with romantic relationships and it shows. And Matt, as mature as he is, crumbles under the perceived expectations of not only Lucas, but also his parents, and he definitely has some growing up to do. He's stubborn and somewhat unreasonable, but so is Lucas to some degree. They both need to learn the fine art of compromise which is so important in any relationship, and they both need to learn to communicate honestly and openly, which translates to telling each other what's bothering them. What they want. What they need. And what they expect. 

Matt's sister Angela, as well as his parents, were also well done, and I absolutely adored Lucas' grandmother Diane. The scenes set at her house were often hilarious, but Grandma Diane also has a huge hand in sorting these two knuckleheads out when they can't seem to do that on their own. 

The somewhat large age difference really didn't matter here - they were well-matched from a maturity perspective, and Lucas had no issue keeping up with Matt's libido either. *fans self*

That epilogue - perfection. I loved, loved, loved it. 

This was an excellent read, and I enjoyed myself immensely while reading. I might have taken a cold shower after, but this is not unusual for a KC Wells book. 

Recommended!!

I also need the next book, Denim, like, RTFN! The short teaser at the end of this book has me salivating already. 


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

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review 2017-11-20 21:55
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 12 - Saturnalia: Sayers's Harlequinade
Murder Must Advertise: A BBC Full-Cast Radio Drama - Full Cast,Ian Carmichael,Dorothy L. Sayers

 

Another quick trip down memory lane, courtesy of the BBC's full cast audio adaptation of this novel starring Ian Carmiachel (who also starred in the first of the Beeb's two TV series based on Sayers's novels).

 

This was Sayers's revenge on the advertising business, based on her own early job experience as an advertising copywriter -- as well as (so her biographers tell us) her revenge on an ex-colleague who tried to blackmail her and who is made to tumble down an iron staircase modelled on the one at their former workplace, ending up dead. -- This is also the one Wimsey book (perhaps with the exception of the very first one, Whose Body?) where Wimsey is, at times, most similar to Bertie Wooster ... except that he's playing a role here, as he has been smuggled into Pym's Publicity for purposes of an undercover investigation into the tumbled-down man's death.  What ensues is one of Sayers's wildest rides; a veritable harlequinade that has Wimsey even impersonating himself (or his evil look-alike cousin).

 

I would have preferred to obtain a reading of Sayers's actual book by Ian Carmichael (he was a brilliant narrator and had played Wimsey so often by the time these audio recordings came around that he had the character down pat and could slip him on and off like a well-worn sweater), but since for this particular book that doesn't seem to be available, I'll happily content myself with this full cast recording.

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