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review 2014-05-28 17:22
Ready to Get Off the Tour Bus
Double Time - Olivia Cunning

Very disappointed. I have enjoyed this series for the most part, and loved books 3 and 4. I can't believe I held off on reading Trey's book for so long, then ended up experiencing so much letdown.

I know that polyamory works for many people and that it can be a legitimate form of relationship(s). I have a couple of friends who live this way, so I've seen it firsthand. 

Unfortunately, it's rare that a book is able to convey this type of relationship in a believable light. The closest I've seen was in the book Rough, Raw, and Ready

Mild (nothing major) spoilers ahead.

Why Double Time did not work for me :

1. The insta-love was off the charts. I'm not anti-insta-love. In some cases, it's written fine. But we've seen it before (and done better) already in book 1 of this series. Considering Trey's backstory, it felt very bizarre that he fell in love with not only one, but TWO people so quickly. His journey to healing was too easily solved by finding Reagan. 

2. I didn't believe that the answer to Trey's heartache was to fall in love with two people. This story would have been more believable as a m/m book. Just because Trey is bisexual, it shouldn't have meant that the only way for him to be happy was to fall in love with both a man and woman.

If he wanted to live a poly lifestyle, I would have preferred him to have known this ahead of time and gone into the relationship with the female having her eyes wide open. For him to get involved with a woman, then tell her after the fact that she did NOT complete him - it made me shake my head. There are very few women people who could deal with being told that they are not enough for someone. The way that the situation was handled was the complete opposite of tactful. 

3. Trey didn't have the same uniqueness that I saw in the former books. He had lost some of his zing. I was completely bored with him outside of the sex scenes, which was not how things were before. Trey used to be my favorite character.

Things that worked for me :

Nothing. Not even the sex scenes. Something about Reagan bothered me (couldn't put my finger on it), so I couldn't even get into her head for the sex scenes. 

I'm sad that I had to end an enjoyable series on a sour note. Ah well. I've been trying to skim Sinners at the Altar and am not getting into it. Maybe I'm over the Sinners now. I don't even know why Trey's getting another book after this. Supposedly, his story wasn't wrapped up, but I'm pretty sure that I don't much care what happens next for him. 

I might still read Dare's spin-off book though. I do heart Dare.

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review 2014-02-20 03:43
Come at me "brah"
Playing by the Book - S. Chris Shirley

I really hate to do this to a book, when it seems like the author had good intentions with what he was doing. 

Coming of age tale : check
Poignant moments of self-reflection : check
Personal discovery of one's self : check

So what exactly is the problem, you ask? Here's the deal - every so often, I come across a YA book where I feel like the entire thing is written like it's supposed to appeal to YA readers, but is so out of touch with YA lit culture that it misses the mark. This is one of those times.

I suddenly felt cool as hell. "Yes! Momma's older sister. She's a hoot!"

Uh...no. If you just said the words, "she's a hoot!" you are, in fact, NOT cool as hell.

I can't even classify the book as Adult lit which just happens to have a young protag. The character voices are not going to match up well enough for adult lit either, since the male lead comes across as very young and clueless. 

Where do I start? Can I start with Sam, the kid from Cali who said "Brah" 31 times? What decade are we living in, again? 

Or do I start with Jake, the male lead, who calls his father "The Preacher," and is completely ignorant to life in general?

Or do I start with the "hit you over the head" life lessons which seemed like a bad version of an anti-bullying campaign? 

I get it. The kid is confused. He was raised by a strict, conservative family. I'm sure that in some parts of the country (this would be the U.S.), people are so isolated from normal society that they are bullied into small town thinking and small town ideology. I saw that hideous remake of Footloose, after all (no, I was not serious in actually using Footloose as a real life reference). 

However, the message of the story was so drowned in Jake's sheltered existence that it made me as a reader start to loathe him as a character. He was like a parody of a small-town kid, all fresh from the country and ready to tackle the big city! Never mind that he thought the Sikh kid was Muslim, or spent half of his conversations with other people trying to talk them into why it was or wasn't wrong to be gay, based on his Biblical upbringing. This kid was just painfully awkward - how he made friends was beyond me. He was at Columbia university, hanging out and having new experiences, yet he was SUCH A BUZZKILL.

"I don't know," I said, looking around. "How about 'Holy Cow!' or 'Gosh!' or just go with some deity no one cares about - like Zeus!"

He couldn't have just said that it bothered him when she swore by using the name of JC? What's with the "substitute" swearing cues?

Dude (yes, I can say dude. It's cancelled out by the amount of "Brah-age" going on here), seriously. I grew up in a conservative family. Even I knew how to not be an asshole when I was around non conservatives. For a story that was trying to teach a message of tolerance, I thought Jake was the slowest learner of the whole damn bunch. Even the strict parents were less frustrating.

Because guess what? No one wants an entire story of a person battling what's right and wrong in their head. It's called moderation, folks. A few well-placed chapters would have done the trick. Whining about your struggle to deny, then justify, yourself gets old fast.

It always goes back to my complaint about preachiness. Giving a strong point of view does not necessarily equate to having a plot. Apparently, it was a huge deal for this book to try and reconcile that it's okay to be gay and Christian at the same time because there might be some discrepancies in the Bible. Okay, so that might be interesting if the book was a research or non-fiction book, but not so much when it's plopped down in the middle of a coming-of-age story.

Too bad the entire 'new doctrine' part wasn't mentioned in the synopsis, or I wouldn't have picked up the book. 

For me, I love to read books about religion and spirituality when they're marked as such, and I know what the content is going to be about. This book wasn't marked as such, and so I thought this book was fiction about a kid deciding that it was okay to come out of the closet...maybe because...oh...a person came along who got into this kid's head. Ya know? 

So you decided to embrace your homosexuality? What's next, Jake? 

We still didn't do everything - we didn't go "all the way" - but I will say that neither of us held back.

Wait, what? How do you not go all the way, yet still manage to keep from holding back? After an entire book of waiting for someone to decide that he was okay to hook up with guys, that's the big ta-dah? Really?

(spoiler show)



This book provided from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All quotes taken from the pre-published copy and may be altered or omitted from the final copy.

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review 2014-02-07 15:53
Not the same old switcheroo.
Static - L.A. Witt
"Step right up, see the fourth-floor freak show! What once was a woman is now a man, have a peek, have a look!"

(internal monologue from the main character)

I enjoyed this unique take on shifters. People aren't shifting into animals or other mythical creatures. People are shifting into another form of themselves. Man becomes woman, and woman becomes man. Yes, I can say that I haven't read this specific story before. 

It wasn't hard to root for Alex and Damon because I felt for the two of them, being thrown into a strange situation together without warning. Alex was forced to live in his male body full time; Damon had no clue his girlfriend was actually two sexes.

Books like these always raise the "What would you do?" question. Would most people be able to see the person inside of the shell? Would I? 

It's a tough question to look at. Some relationships crumble over things like weight gain, or other physical changes which are far less minor. I think even the strongest of relationships would be put through the ringer if one person revealed themselves to be something or someone else, especially if it could become full time and permanent. Even putting any sort of secrecy aside, it would be a challenge to look at a person and try to see them for who they were before, merged with who they are now, which is why I was fascinated with how everything was going to unfold.

I was pleased to see that the book didn't skimp on the story for the sake of sex scenes. I liked that the mood fell closer to a dramatic story for the sake of realism. There was no way that a sex scene could happen too early in the book or any sort of sex (whether it was between the two main characters or showing them with other people) wouldn't have felt organic to the progression of events. This is one instance where it was important (in my mind) to have the characters take their time figuring out who they were and who they needed to be.

As far as stumbling blocks...I might have had some issues with the preachy moments. I believe that if a story is good enough on its own, the message will come through without having to beat people over the head with the point. If the story is a success, readers will most likely examine their feelings in the process. 

For the sake of characters, I probably preferred Damon's PoV to Alex's. While it must have sucked to be Alex and stuck in a situation beyond his/her control, I think as a reader, I was more curious to see where Damon's head was at. It was easy for me to skim Alex's chapters because I had less of an interest in his work situation (yes, it was partially a coming out story, but the draw here for me was in the Damon/Alex dynamic).

Overall, I thought it was an interesting read, if a little heavy handed at times with the execution.

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review 2014-01-28 03:48
Who's Your Merrick?
Secret - Brigid Kemmerer

I love how every person who reads the Elementals series has a favorite and a least favorite book or character, then a second favorite or second least favorite book or character. Hardly anyone will agree on the order of what goes from first to last. With most series, there's a general progression from okay to better or better to worse, and a good portion of the time, fans will wholeheartedly agree where a series "started to pick up" or "started to go downhill." But there's something special about this particular series and its entire set of characters and experiences which speaks differently to every person. My favorite character is Michael, but my favorite books are Gabriel's and Nick's (so far). Chris's book was awesome, and Hunter's book was decent, but not a favorite. One of you might have Hunter for a favorite character, or Chris's book as your favorite. But I think most of us fans can agree on one thing : We love the Merricks.

The rest of my review is going to be a little different from my normal reviews. I'm going to be writing it only for the people who have read the Elementals series. If you have not read the series up to this point, you'll want to avoid the rest of this review because I'm just wanting to talk about my feelings - with tissues handy. If you're curious about this series, you might want to check out my earlier reviews for the series prequel (0.5) and book 1 if you want to get a feel for what these books are all about.

I knew as I was reading that there was no way I'd be able to write a public review stating the pros and cons of why people should read this series. There was just no way to do this when my heart was getting pummeled.

So I want to talk with you fellow fans about why Secret is tied for my favorite book of the series. It was really all about the emotion for me. 

"You're safe here," he said softly. "Okay?"

"Sometimes I wish you weren't...you know."
"I know."

Nick always did what his brothers expected.

"What do you want? Does anyone ever ask you that?"

Those lines has me emotional, but the following scene with Nick and his mom broke me down into a blubbering mess :

He'd leaned into her contact, and she'd said, "You're the only one who still lets me do that. My gentle boy." 

I don't even know why the dam burst there. It just did - and it came from out of NOWHERE.

But then it kept going. Of course Michael had to come along and be wonderful. Was anyone else having the same emotion?

"He wouldn't fall asleep at night unless Mom put you in his crib." 

FFS, Can it GET any more emotional? 

"I'm not his best friend, Nick. You are." 

Why yes, yes it can.

Nick kept going. And Adam never said stop. 

Even though Nick was the star of the book, I was just as pleased with Quinn's story with Tyler. Tyler wasn't the "normal" romantic lead. He smelled like beer and cigarettes. In a weird way, I liked that. He's a young man being a young man with the same habits that a lot of young men have. Quinn's story never felt forced to me (as "I was abused" stories often do), and I was happy that she wasn't tossed aside in the wake of Nick moving on. 

So that's it. I just wanted to talk to the other fans about why this particular book resonated with me. Even if this wasn't the specific Merrick book to shoot to the top of your favorites list, I'm sure you might understand why we all have our reasons to find a Merrick book (or two) to love, even if we don't all agree on which one should be at the top. 

This book provided from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2014-01-17 05:12
Smut-O-Meter Result : Blue Balls the One You're With.
Beyond Shame - Kit Rocha

Or is that Blue Vag the one you're with? No matter. All I seemed to read was - stop, start, stop, start...there was a lot of "gettin' some" (and gettin' it in public), but not particularly between the two people I wanted to see getting some.

The business of erotica is tricky, apparently. 

I already wrote a super-long review earlier today and another one last night, so I'm gonna bypass any pics or quotes in favor of jotting down some random thoughts.

My Rundown :

Billed as some sort of dystopic or apocalyptic erotica, Beyond Eden turned out to be a very generic "after the crisis" setting. The environment was dark and gritty, and people had to watch their backs in a world gone mad, but not enough groundwork was laid to really make the reader feel as if they were reading science fiction. I get that this is erotica first, story second, but when my friend Kay commented in our chat : The majority of the time was spent in Sector 4 but felt like it could have been anywhere. I replied : THIS. Exactly. 

I always feel like it's sort of a cop out when erotica is given a pass to fudge on a genre because of the amount of sex-to-plot ratio, especially when said "sci-fi" erotica wants to go mainstream and not sit among the pile of classic "sci-fi" erotica with Fabio covers and a character named Zorg from the planet Borg taking his 3 penis body to the planet Morg and impregnating all of the pink alien girls. It's 2014. It's still perfectly okay to write an erotic fantasy with nothing but sex-sex-sex, fetish sex, public sex, orgies, whatever. It will sell. But for those of us who actually read non-erotic books from the genre represented, we might scratch our head and think, "who misplaced the sci-fi?"

More cohesiveness, please? We went from one scene where Jasper and Dallas are handling their low-down and dirty business for their "gang," then I could almost hear a narrator in my head saying, "...and back at the crib..." because were shaken out of that and back into the swing of Noelle wanting to get laid.

Transitions are your friend


What I loved : I loved Jasper. I loved the fighting/boxing parts of the story (yes, the trend has been done to death but I still enjoy it). I loved the sketchy gang activity. I loved the gritty living environment. I loved the exhibitionist and free loving fantasy. The open sex was actually a good fantasy to read.

Ace and Rachel. I am looking forward to their story. 

Maddox. Just cause.

What didn't work for me : Noelle showing up and Jasper having this instant ownership feeling when she showed no personality other than needing to be freed sexually. What caused the connection? I never saw it. She was clingy and needy and self-sabotaging. Even with her viable reasons for being this way, it didn't make for an interesting character to actually read about and her character growth felt less like growth and more like "oh, it's about damn time you got that common sense concept."

Lex was a brat. Dallas was sulky. All of the Lex/Noelle sexuality was never really fleshed out. Again with the blue vag stuff. They played around but didn't fully go there in detail without the guys being part of the inspiration, so it felt like a tease with no *cough* climax.

Will I read on? Yes. I heard book 2 had more complexity regarding the world itself, but at least next time I won't be disappointed if it doesn't happen because I'll know what (and what not) to expect. And the author wrote hot sex scenes. Sometimes I'm cool with just reading sex. I'll wait for when I'm in the mood to do just that. 

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