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review 2017-06-16 01:59
Release Day ARC Review: Romancing The Ugly Duckling by Clare London
Romancing the Ugly Duckling (Dreamspun Desires Book 36) - Clare London

On the isolated island of North Uist, which is apparently off the coast of Scotland, there lives a man all by himself in a smallish house after running away from his assholish brothers and his neglectful parents to paint, dive for scallops, and be mostly a recluse, keeping to himself.

His four brothers, one of whom I hated on sight, all somewhat famous for some reason or other, hope to make a deal with a TV company to create a reality show a la Kardashians, but they can only get the deal if the 5th brother appears as well. Greg Ventura, gentle, kind giant, wants nothing to do with them or the TV show.

Poor Perry Goodwood (lulz at that last name), ambitious and fashionable, is sent by his boss to the island to convince Greg to come to London to participate. After a make-over, of course. He flies to Scotland and catches a boat to the island, and is then stranded at the port before being fortuitously delivered to Greg's doorstop, looking like a drowned rat. The team that was supposed to meet him to convince Greg to come to London is nowhere to be found, and Perry's boss is giving him a bunch of excuses.

Great start, amirite? City slicker meets backwoods grump, and opposites attract - excellent trope!

This book is full of cute and sweet and quirky, and as Perry slowly falls in love with the island and Greg, so does Greg fall for Perry. The setting is perfect, and rather well described, so much so that I felt like I was right there on the small island. There be heather and bogs and cold, cold lochs, and beautiful nature all around.

I really liked both Perry and Greg. Perry impressed me because despite his city roots, he really tried hard to fit in on the island, and he seemed so appreciative of everyone who gave a helping hand. He wanted to learn from Greg and experience island life for himself. Greg is a bit rough around the edges, and grumps a lot, but I could tell that this was mostly to protect himself. He was kind and gentle, if somewhat clueless on occasion. The chemistry between the two men was there from the start and truly believable. There are certain parameters for this series as far as on-page sexy times are concerned, and the author delivered within those parameters, but also managed to infuse a lot of emotional bonding outside of the bedroom scenes.

The locals on the island play a huge role in this book as well, and I just loved how the author gave them all unique personalities and characteristics. Dougie, Bridie, and Louisa were perfect in their roles, and I enjoyed especially Bridie's easy banter with Perry, and how she was ultimately... well, you read this for yourself.

The Scottish brogue comes across well in the writing, and I had no trouble reading the dialect.

Quirky. Cute. And utterly adorable. A perfect addition to the Dreamspun Desires series. I had a grand time reading it. The author did a fantastic job with the characters, the setting, and the pacing, giving us a really emotional romance between two men who are complete opposites at first sight, but turn out to both want the same thing after all.

Fabulous!!


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

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review 2017-06-07 02:26
ARC Review: Texting, Autocorrect, and a Prius by M.A. Church
Texting, Autocorrect, And A Prius - M.A. Church

Cute premise - the blurb had me interested, and I was looking forward to reading this book.

It started off well enough. Darrell, early forties, is a car mechanic who recently repossessed a Prius from a customer for not paying the repair bill. Darrell doesn't need or want the Prius and hopes to sell it to recoup some of the money. What better place than Craigslist, amirite? So on suggestion of his brother Bert, Darrell puts the car up for sale.

Enter Clay, mid-thirties, who needs an inexpensive car that won't break the bank in gas consumption for his daily round-trip to work, something he's no longer willing to do in his truck.

There are a couple of almost-meets early on that set the tone for the soon-to-come romance, but then the meet-cute happens when Clay texts Darrell about the Prius and autocorrect strikes.

"Is your penis still for sale?"

Bwahahahahahaha!!!!

The attraction is sizzling when they first meet at Darrell's house to look at the car. A test drive and some light innuendo-filled banter later, a deal is struck for a Prius and a date, sealed with a hot kiss.

This is also where the book had its first WTF moment for me - I couldn't believe that two grown men would actually yank their dicks out in the driveway upon first meeting. This just rubbed me wrong - like it was perpetuating some gay man myth about promiscuity and unrelenting horniness, without any thought to who might be observing them in the driveway during their display of public indecency.

But I moved on. The sale is agreed upon, as is a date for the next evening, and then the book took a nose dive into a 2nd WTF moment.

Sure, it's all explained and what not, but I wasn't expecting Clay to be such a massive idiot. Seriously, what a stupid assumption to make. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he had his reasons with past hurt and trust issues, but come on - really? Really?

So, meet-cute, followed by a handjob in the driveway, followed by a huge misunderstanding and lack of communication, and a HFN at the end. The two MCs were nice enough, as were the supporting characters, but at supposedly 35, Clay sounded and acted at least a decade younger, and I wasn't quite buying Darrell's supposed age either.

The writing includes quite a few minute details that stretched the word count but didn't really add anything to the plot. I usually like this author's writing, so I'm a little sad that this book didn't work for me.

YMMV.


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

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review 2017-06-03 01:39
ARC Review: Symbols by Mario Kai Lipinski
Symbols - Mario Kai Lipinski

Gosh, I wanted to love this book. I mean, read the blurb - the bullied kid who's spent his days hiding from everyone slowly falls for the gentle giant at the high school they both attend, until an act of violence threatens to tear them both apart... yeah, I signed up immediately for the ARC.

And for the first half or so, this book held me in its grip, as the story between Matt, the bullied kid, and Shane, the gentle giant, unfolds, as Matt begins to trust Shane, as they fall in love and forge a path together.

Yes, sure, there were some issues with the dialogue, which I attributed to the author not being a native speaker and not living in the US so research into how teens talk these days would have been tricky. And yes, sure, the principal pontificates to Shane when he first starts about there being a zero-tolerance policy at the school, and yet she has no idea that Matt has been bullied for years, hiding in corners, shaking and utterly miserable, terrified, in tears, something that even the cafeteria cashier has noticed, yet the principal has no clue - how's that possible? And why wouldn't the cafeteria cashier talk to an adult at the school? Many of the bullying incidents happen in hallways or inside the cafeteria, and yet nobody addresses it.

Still, it was engaging, and was invested.

However, right about the time, Matt is beaten up and ends up in a coma in the hospital, this book took a massive nose-dive. The asshole detective that arrests Shane for allegedly causing Matt's injuries (he didn't), the subplot with Shane engaging Matt's long-time nemesis to find the real perpetrator, the court date, the dramatic last minute rescue by Shane's former friend, the drama with Matt's mother's reaction to Shane's size, the nasty old woman on the bus, and, and, and - it was just all too much and too over the top and too unrealistic in how much was piled on Matt and Shane's shoulders.

Look, I got that the author tried to make the point that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, i.e. a teenager by his size and tattoos, but good grief, that point wasn't just made so much as hammered home time and again. And Shane, whom I adored, just took the judgments time and again, making all kinds of excuses for people's reactions to him. I hated that he did that. I hated that people would judge him just based on his looks and not his actions. For Matt's mother to think that Shane had hurt Matt, for anyone to think that Shane would hurt a fucking fly just because he's super tall, just pissed me off.

And yeah, I knew who the villain was going to be, but the reasoning behind the violent attack was pathetic. The perpetrator's characterization up to that point didn't indicate anything like what was given as a reason - I didn't buy it at all, and thought that it was just too convenient.

I loved both Matt and Shane, and I loved how gentle Shane was with Matt, and how Matt came out of his shell over time, and became the stronger one of the two. Their relationship was well done, and the author did a fantastic job bringing across the emotional bond between the two young men. What I didn't like so much were the multiple incidents of miscommunication and false assumptions that both of them make, but I chalked that off to them being young.

I think it can be very difficult for a non-native speaker to successfully write authentic dialogue as language continually evolves, especially in this day and age, and that the manner in which teens talk cannot be gleaned from, say, books, TV shows, or movies.

The premise was fantastic - the execution not so much. Still, three stars is nothing to scoff at. I did enjoy reading this book for the most part, and I did love Matt and Shane.


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

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review 2017-06-01 03:14
Release Day ARC Review: Breaking Bonds by Ari McKay
Breaking Bonds (Dreamspun Desires Book 35) - Ari McKay

It's no secret that I have loved almost all the books in the Dreamspun Desires series, having read devoured every single one, and this latest by Ari McKay was no exception.

Liam Walker, almost-famous NYC celebrity chef, cousin to Beau (from Striking Sparks), is in a resort/hotel near Asheville, NC, licking his wounds from a bad review he got that prompted him to punch the reviewer, in public, in the face. Served a less than mediocre meal at the resort, Liam doesn't hold back in his disgust with the frozen and clearly not fresh shrimp he's being served, and demands to talk to the manager.

Enter Carter Galloway, owner/manager of the resort, having distanced himself from his overbearing father and mother, barely holding it together, what with bills and old appliances and needing to succeed so he can finally break away completely from his father's demands and expectations.

Sparks fly at first sight. This is also right about the time where the reader needs to suspend all disbelief, as Liam offers his services to Carter to help out in the kitchen and train the young chef currently employed. For free. Because that's what a celebrity chef would do, right?

Whatever, I went with it. Because at that point, I was already invested in the characters and needed to find out what would happen next.

So the sparks are definitely there, but Liam is planning to return to NYC and Carter isn't interested in a fling. Liam cooks and teaches and longs for Carter, and Carter longs and watches and shares pieces of himself with Liam.

I liked both characters, despite Liam's initial arrogance, and I enjoyed how both of them had personal struggles to overcome. The title is apt - both of them have to break free of their bonds to others before they can have their HEA.

It's low steam, which I don't mind at all, but the UST just jumps off the pages, and when they finally, finally get together, it was well-fought for and ever so awesome. Liam at times seems a bit more sophisticated than Carter, but I think that was also part of Carter's charm - he's not a simpleton, for sure, but more laid-back, kind and generous, with a lot of respect and fairness in his heart.

There's a lot of talk about food, naturally, which often made me salivate, and I thought that the food choices worked well for the type of location represented here. This wasn't a hot spot NYC restaurant catering to celebs, but a resort-style place that catered to locals and tourists alike.

I liked quite a bit that Carter seemed to find his backbone in this story, and the courage to stand up to his parents, not allowing them to continue to berate him and demean his choices. He did so a little quicker than Liam, for whom the moment of clarity arrives at a later time, but bolstered by what he might have waiting for him in the mountains of NC. Their romance was believable within the setting of this book and worked well within the tropes employed here.

The requisite villains in this story, in the form of Carter's father and Liam's boss/mentor, were somewhat one-dimensional, but served their purpose. I thought that Marco, Liam's boss, was smarmy, self-serving, and rude, and Carter's father (and mother by extension) was nothing more than a stereotypical homophobic control freak who decided what his son would be and was then belligerent and condescending when his son chooses his own path.

The book utilizes the expected tropes rather well, and I thought it was a perfect addition to this harlequin-like series. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and if you like the sweet, fluffy, and easy-read romances, this is definitely a book for you.

Recommended.


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

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review 2017-05-28 23:21
Mmmm...rock stars...
A Kind of Truth - Seth Clayton,Dreamspinner Press LLC,Lane Hayes

'A Kind of Truth' is the story of wanna' be rock star Rand O'Malley and geeky music student with a kink and the hidden heart of a rock star Will Sanders.  Rand's all about the music and the band so needless to say when he turns to Will for guitar lessons...love was the last thing on his mind.

 

I have to admit in spite of the fact that there are a lot of really good reviews out there I was a little nervous going into this because rock stars can be dicey for me at times. What can I say just not my thing. So when hubby decided audiobooks were the thing for me on Mother's Day, I went shopping and while I was listening to the audio samples I stumbled across this series and listened to the samples...I liked them...I wanted to hear more...buying the books seemed like the wise thing to do, turned out it was.

 

Seth Clayton is the narrator and I'm really, really enjoying these audio books. Listening to Seth is like sitting down with a friend while he tells you a story. In general his voice has a warm and friendly tone that just draws you in and invites you to listen to the story he wants to share with you. His voices are consistent and he adds a wonderfully laid back, self deprecating tone that easily slips into something warm, sultry and sexy at times with a wonderfully warm and inviting laugh thrown in when needed.

 

'A Kind of Truth' is the start of what promises to be a really enjoyable series narrated by what I think may be another favorite narrator for me.

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