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review 2019-01-02 00:51
ARC Review: Seeking Solace by Ari McKay
Seeking Solace (The Walker Boys, #3)I'm a little (okay, a lot) late with this review, seeing how this was published in early November, but life gets in the way so I'm playing catch-up.

This is the 3rd book in The Walker Boys series, which are all part of the overall Dreamspun Desires umbrella, but can be read entirely as a standalone.

Devin Walker wants to be a chef, but is currently working on the Poseidon, a cruise ship, as a bartender. He flirts innocently with the guests, and bides his time until a position becomes open that will allow him to get into the kitchen.

Paul Bailey is on the ship as part of his training to take over the cruise ship company as its heir, but he's incognito, pretending to be just one of the company execs, and there's only one person on the ship who knows his real identity. He's given Devin as a guide while on board, so he can inconspicuously visit in the areas that are for employees only.

Paul has another secret - he lost his leg in a car accident and believes that he really isn't attractive to anyone anymore because of that.

Devin makes it his mission to show the exec a good time, while also giving him a tour of the ship, as well as enticing the quiet man to enjoy exploring the ports in which they stop.

Romance ensues, obviously. I really liked the characters - they were opposites in some ways, but both were complex and nuanced. I enjoyed getting to know them both, and I definitely enjoyed Devin's efforts to pull Paul out of his shell. The descriptions of the tropical locales were well done, and I had no trouble at all envisioning the beauty of these islands. With close proximity, what with being on a ship, comes a relationship that burns brightly from the start, even if Paul hesitates to open his heart again. But Devin is persistent, giving him room to make choices, gently encouraging Paul to trust. I really enjoyed watching their budding relationship bloom.

As with all secrets - eventually they come out, and as Devin finds out just who Paul really is, and his manager sticking her nose where it really doesn't belong, he runs. It's not so much a big misunderstanding as it is Devin not wanting to be anyone's toy. Being lied to breaks the fragile relationship they have built so far, and I didn't blame the guy for tucking tail and going home to lick his wounds.

This is a romance, so obviously it doesn't end there. There's the expected grand gesture, and we get to visit with some of the characters from previous books in this series. I liked that the Walker family protected their own, and that the eventual reunion wasn't "forgive and forget".

There were a couple of things primarily around Paul's prosthetic leg that I questioned - walking on sand, getting it wet, that sort of stuff. I have zero experience with these things but I wondered whether the descriptions here were accurate.

I enjoyed reading this book. It's the kind of book you want to pick up to spend a few quiet hours sitting on your back porch and enjoying your favorite drink.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

 

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review 2018-12-28 00:59
ARC Review: The Legend Of Gentleman John by T.J. Nichols
The Legend Of Gentleman John - T.J. Nichols

I seem to be in the minority with my assessment of this story. I liked it well enough, I suppose, and I was impressed with the author creating a trans (F2M) character in a historical setting. I liked the inclusion of a fantasy element with Banyn, a fae, and his backstory.

I think this book would have worked better for me if it had been a longer story. While the author created a nice timeline, there seemed to be big jumps in time, that especially in the later years of John's story would have perhaps rounded his character out a bit more. We're told of his struggles, the binding of his chest, the monthly bleeding, and the constant fears of being found out, but we're not shown much of it. The story is written with flashback scenes, while John is on the run, bleeding from a wound, and we get to see the beginning of his relationship with Banyn, the progression of their love, and how he ended up in a penal colony on an island off Australia. 

There's a melancholy undertone to the book, befitting the story, and I thought it was perhaps a bit too depressing to be a Christmas story, even if John gets his wish and his HEA. 

I also quite liked the epilogue - that was a fitting ending to this story. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-12-23 02:16
Book Review: The Art Of Falling In Love by Eli Summers
The Art Of Falling In Love - Eli Summers

There be spoilers. I'm pretty pissed off at the moment. What a waste of time this was.

CW: Homophobia, racism, cheating, and sexual assault.

I only liked Holden. And even he was an idiot. But I could empathize with this struggles - coming to terms with his feelings for another boy, figuring out that he's bi-sexual (though I'm not sure why he'd think that, since he hasn't even had a girlfriend), and dealing with being bullied at school, on top of living with an asshole father and a doormat mother, unable to live up to his Golden Boy older brother, who was much less an asshole than I expected based on how his character was initially set up. Holden's best friend of 14 years (Tiffany) is abandoning him for a boy, though I'm honestly not even sure why Holden thought of her as his friend in the first place - she was nothing but a bitch to him. 

All the characters in his book are one-dimensional card board cutouts. You have the rich boy jerkface who thinks he can throw his daddy's money in everyone's face, the bitchy-only female, the pedophile principal (ew, ew, ew, what the fuck was that shit, touching Holden inappropriately, talking about blow jobs to make a record go away, and then comparing his dick to Aaron's whose dick he presumably knows NOTHING about), and the cheating daddy fucking Holden's best friend, who's - you guessed it - suddenly pregnant.

None of the characters, including Aaron, the love interest, made any fucking sense with their actions. Not a single one. Not Holden thinking he can just go to the city and enroll in college, and find a job that will pay him enough to cover his cost of living, not Aaron, whose pillow talk was the most ridiculous thing I've ever read in a romance novel, not Jeff, the jerkface, not Tiffany, the bitch, not the principal (what the FUCK was that shit), and not Holden's parents. 

At one point Aaron's father leaves for a conference of some sort in Seattle - which, super convenient, amirite, so Aaron and Holden can have a sleepover and sex it up (virgin ass and all), and we're supposed to believe that a small town mechanic goes to a conference, leaving no one to work on the cars in the shop? 

This book was an utter mess, and I don't just mean the stilted, unrealistic dialogue and ridiculous plot. The editor was MIA, and the proof-reader took a vacation, I guess. Grammar seemed optional. 

Men don't have a g-spot. A virgin like Holden, never having even CONSIDERED gay sex, has likely not heard of the prostrate. And he sure as fuck wouldn't call it a g-spot. 

At one point, Aaron says "Open Says Me". I suppose the author meant OPEN SESAME. How was that not caught? Then a few pages later, Aaron opens the condom and puts it on, with HIS TEETH. On himself. Uhm, sure, whatever floats your boat. I guess you're super bendy. Never mind the holes you just made with your teeth, you moron, which sort of defeats the purpose of putting on a condom in the first place. 

And to top off the editorial proof-reading fuckery, in one instance HOLDEN is called AARON. 

And, and, and... there's no HEA, not even a HFN - the couple has broken up at book's end because Holden is leaving town and Aaron isn't. We get a "To Be Continued" as if that isn't something you should tell your readers up front.

Not recommended. Possibly the worst book I've read this year. JFC. Yeah, I know it's YA, but young adults would like to read good books. And this isn't a good book. 

I'm so sorry, Secret Santa. I was swayed by the blurb and the positive reviews, and I now regret putting this book on my wishlist. I kind of hate that you wasted your money on this, even though I truly appreciate you getting it for me. 

Not recommended.

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review 2018-10-31 01:17
ARC Review: The Academy by Quinn Anderson
The Academy - Quinn Anderson

This was a not so stereotypical college romance, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It had some issues, on which I'll elaborate further down.

Nick arrives at The Academy for his senior year after having taken a year off due to the death of his father. Starting over a tiny Catholic college wasn't the plan, but here we are. Nick plans to focus on his studies, maybe making some friends, and then getting his diploma and go home. Still struggling with grief, and on a tight budget, Nick knows that he's dependent on the scholarship he got, and has no plans whatsoever for a college romance or any such nonsense. 

Sebastian is the college campus player. When he spots Nick, he makes a bet with his two oldest friends, Dante and Theo, on who can kiss the new guy first - with the provision that the new guy has to initiate the kiss. Sebastian is the proverbial spoiled rich kid. Or so it seems. 

Nick doesn't want to give Sebastian the time of day at first, but slowly the ice melts a bit. 

With the premise as it is, Nick and Sebastian don't spend a whole lot of time together on page to begin with, though that time becomes more and more as the plot progresses. As Sebastian develops real feelings for Nick, he's terrified of the bet coming out. The author attempted to show us that despite all the material things he has, Sebastian is still yearning for something money can't buy, something that he lost and cannot get back; his insecurities are hindering him, and causing him to covertly lash out and hurt others before they can hurt him.

There are some clever plot twists here as well, which I didn't see coming, so I was pleasantly surprised toward the end. 

What didn't work so much for me is that Sebastian and his friends often sounded and acted a lot younger than their actual presumed ages - they read a lot more like moody highschoolers (especially Sebastian seemed very much a jerk) than college juniors. The poor little rich boy trope is a little overused here also, and while Sebastian's background makes for a good explanation of his behavior, I didn't buy the rapidity with which he falls for Nick, especially considering the fact that Nick and Sebastian have no more than maybe 10 or 15 actual conversations with each other over the course of the book. I wasn't sold on there being an actual romantic relationship between them - it felt more like lust than love.

Dante and Theo, Sebastian's friends - those two had their own issue to work out, and they did, and while they're supposed to be side characters, they actually felt more real to me than the MCs, probably because we see them spent more time together on page than Sebastian and Nick.

The author does a fine job writing the steam, and while there are but two steamy scenes in this book, they were pretty damn hot, but also continued to lead me down the path of believing in their lust, not their love.

Probably not my favorite by this author, but a good effort, and an enjoyable read. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-10-23 02:37
ARC Review: Adder And Willow (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #6) by Sam Burns
Adder And Willow - Sam Burns

This series just keeps getting better, with every new book the author releases.

Adder And Willow is the 6th book in the series, and the third book of the 2nd trilogy, in which we catch up with Fletcher and Conner, whose relationship is still growing.

Now Conner's mother and step-father are coming to visit, and Fletcher is dreading meeting them. Not because he doesn't want to meet his boyfriend's parents, but because he's a terrible liar, and he knows that he's no good at keeping secrets. And the supernatural parts of himself and Rowan Harbor must be kept secret from outsiders.

Fletcher is also having meetings with Oak, the Dryad, who have been working with Fletcher to continue the training his mother couldn't. It is during one of these meetings that Fletcher finds out something he may have already sort of known, but that might put his future with Conner in danger.

And, as if that isn't enough on his plate, he also stumbles across two strangers in a stranded car, a mother and son, who are intrinsically linked to Rowan Harbor.

I just adore this series. The characters are complex and fully fleshed out, and each one is so different. There is never any confusing one character with another, because they all have different personalities. Fletcher may be one of my favorites, because while he's timid to some extent, and not assertive, he has much more steel in his backbone than he realizes. 

Conner is still growing into his new powers (you'll have to read the previous book to find out about that), and he's going to be tested here.

What also stands out about the characters is how they're all connected - not only because of their supernatural powers, but also because they feel like family, and they treat each other that way. They stick together, they stick up for each other, and they work together for the common good. 

The book is alternately humorous and serious. There is action, there is danger, and there are sweet moments between Fletcher and Conner that really cement their relationship. 

This series cannot be read out of order - each subsequent book builds on its predecessor - however, each book does end in a satisfying way. There are no cliffhangers. 

The writing style of this author really works for me, and I flew through the pages. 

Recommended! 



** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of this review tour, in exchange for an honest review. **

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