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text 2017-11-24 22:05
Let's do this one story at a time...
Stocking Stuffers (2017 Advent Calendar) - Rick R. Reed

THE BLURB:

Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most….

The holidays are a time when bigger often means better, and meals are huge, decorations are over-the-top, and elaborate gifts and grand gestures are one way to show affection. But beneath all the pomp and ceremony, after the grandiose presents have been unwrapped, the stocking stuffers are still waiting to add that final sparkle to the perfect celebration. Even the tiniest trinkets can be gems when they’re chosen with love, and like a good love story, they are held close to the heart and treasured for years to come. The festivities don’t have to end after the feasts and gift exchanges. Dig a little deeper for romantic stocking stuffers both naughty and nice.

Enjoy a tale of men in love with men every day throughout December.

 

The following are my reviews for some of the stories in Dreamspinners Stocking Stuffer Collection (2017 Advent Calendar) For a full list of stories and their blurbs you can find them on the Dreamspinner Press website.

 

O Hell, All Ye Shoppers

Louisa Masters

~ 3 Christmas Stars~

Ethan’s plans for a lazy day at home away from the madness of last minute shoppers on Dec. 23 are set aside when his sister calls with a crisis that sends Ethan to the Australia’s largest shopping center and a specialty shop aimed at women and his kindness gets the better of him as he comes to the rescue of Ty the only other man in the store and while both men are desperate to escape the retail hell that is the mall at Christmas time, neither man is is in a hurry for their time together to be over. 

 

‘O Hell, All Ye Shoppers’ is a sweet story about two men who find the gift of love at a time of year known for it’s miracles. Ethan and Ty were an adorable pairing and there was a really nice twist to this one that wasn’t totally unpredictable but still added a nice touch to the story that I enjoyed. This ones sweet with some steam and just a hint of sexy times but it definitely left a warm spot in my heart.

 

The Peppermint Schnapps Predicament

Clare London

~3.5 Shining Holiday Stars~

Frankie Faraday’s got a crush on his boss, Bill Mason, but it’s going nowhere because they’re total opposites or, so it seems until Frankie and Bill find themselves trapped in the seasonal stockroom with nothing but candy, peppermint schnapps and time.

 

Frankie and Bill find that they have more in common than either of them ever realized as they get to know each other and discover that the solutions to their problems lies inside of themselves and each other.

 

Frankie and Bill’s time in the stockroom was cute, funny and held some steamy times. My one little niggle was the jump from Frankie and Bill in the stockroom to after they were rescued was a little abrupt for me and I really would have loved a bit more detail to transition them into being a couple. Otherwise this one was a fun, sweet, angst free holiday story. 

 

Pining for Perfect

Ki Brightly

~5 Hopeful Holiday Stars~ 

Stokely is solid and dependable, he’s got a respectable job and leads a quite life…he tries to always do the right thing but he really hates Christmas…well most of it…everything except listening to Asher Banks a the radio. He loves Asher’s optimism.

 

Asher’s the total opposite and he loves Christmas and schedules himself to the max with holiday fundraising and community events. It’s at one of Asher’s events that he and Stokely meet and make a connection.

 

I loved Asher and Stokely and their interactions were so sweet as they got to know each other. ‘Pining for Perfect’ was a warm, sweet story about two men finally being given the best gift of all…the gift of love. The holiday are a really lonely time of year for many and ‘Pining for Perfect’ holds a sense of that loneliness but it’s also tempered with the warmth and hope of the season as well.

 

Poison Marked

TJ Nichols

~4 Joyous Holiday Stars~

Nikko is the court poison master and his loyalties are to his king but it’s the king’s nephew, Lord Rodas who holds his heart. It’s the Solstice Festival a time of celebrations when the king orders Nikko to poison Lord Rodas destroying all he holds dear and placing the fate of a kingdom in the balance.

 

‘Poison Marked’ was a wonderful historical fantasy about faith, love and being true to who you are. Nikko and Rodas both struggled to follow their heart and their conscience in this one even when it felt like one would be the undoing of the other. I loved the author’s writing style with just over 50 pages the author has written a story that is fully fleshed out and totally enchanted me.

 

The Probability of Mistletoe 

J. Russell

~4 Happy Holiday Stars~

It’s been 10 years since Keith Trainor last saw his best friend Parker Mulvaney and now that he’s ready to start his software company there’s only one person that he wants for his partner both in his personal and his professional life…but how to make amends for a failed attempt at kissing Parker under the mistletoe at winter formal senior year.

 

Parker should have known that scheduling a high school reunion two days before Christmas was a bad idea but one text from Keith has everything looking better for Parker.

 

Nothing says ‘tis the season like a good friends to lovers, second chance, feel good story with two sexy nerds under the mistletoe at Christmas time.  I loved that the author gave enough background to give a sense of a connection from the past between these two as friends, without sacrificing the events of the story that was happening in the present.

 

The Puzzle Box

CC Bridges

~4.5 'Tis the Season Stars~

Cole Peters and James Carducci are childhood sweethearts they’ve been together for years but Cole’s facing a lonely Christmas this year James is deployed. What he’s not expecting is the puzzle box that James sends him as the beginning of a scavenger hunt that could end with a gift to exceed Cole’s fondest wish.

 

‘The Puzzle Box’ is a story about a gift that is truly from the heart. James takes Cole on a journey down memory lane as he leads him on a scavenger hunt that ends on Christmas eve when Cole receives his final gift.  C.C. Bridges has created a story that’s filled with love in spite of the fact that for most of the story the MCs aren’t even in the same country, not an easy task to accomplish in less than 30 pages but definitely well done.

 

I was really lucky in that I enjoyed all of my holiday reads from Dreamspinners 2017 Advent Calendar. While there’s definitely more steam than sex in these stories, they still all had me sighing with happiness and contentment.

 

*************************

An ARC of the Dreamspinner Press 2017 Advent Calendar stories was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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text 2017-11-23 04:17
Reading progress update: I've read 5 out of 320 pages.
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories - Rainbow Rowell,Holly Black,Laini Taylor,Myra McEntire,Kiersten White,Stephanie Perkins,Gayle Forman,Matt de la Pena,Jenny Han,Ally Carter,Kelly Link,David Levithan

Noel is to cute

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review 2017-01-04 18:04
Book Review: Rejoice, Dammit by Kaje Harper
Rejoice, Dammit - Kaje Harper

Absolutely gorgeous writing for an absolutely wonderful story about second chances at love, family, and living again, with fantastic characters and a very nice plot. Loved it.

 

This was my own copy that I purchased for myself. 5 happy, Christmasy stars!

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review 2016-12-24 00:40
ARC Review: Popcorn Garlands (Bah Humbug Dreamspinner Advent Calendar) by Ariel Tachna
Popcorn Garlands (2016 Advent Calendar - Bah Humbug) - Ariel Tachna

This short story from the 2016 Dreamspinner Press Advent Calendar serves as a reminder that even when things appear bleak, there are still good people out there, who will lend a helping hand. And really, that's what the Holidays are all about, right?

Carlos Mendez owns a landscaping business and sends every extra penny he earns to his family in Mexico. He has a good crew, and he takes care of them as best as he can, which is evident when he spends a day visiting them all to give them their Christmas bonus. His men all like him a lot, which is also evident when they all step in to... well, you should read this for yourself.

Carlos is fed up with the greed and consumerism he sees all around him, noticing how most people spend and spend but care nothing for their fellow humans.

Ned Williams lives in the same apartment building as Carlos, with his daughter who has cancer. He is at wit's end, and at the end of their means, and he doesn't quite know how he'll manage to give his daughter what may be her last Christmas.

A popcorn garland Ned has made with his daughter for decoration bring Carlos to their door. And then the true meaning of Christmas visits them both.

While we don't really see the two men interact a whole lot, and while there are but romantic undertones instead of an actual romance (which makes this book feel to some extent like a prequel, like the author is planning a whole book for them, and is whetting our appetite with this short novella), the characters feel realistic enough. I would like to know more about them, for sure.

What I loved most about this novella is that it conveys the true meaning of Christmas - helping your fellow man, rallying around those who are in need, and celebrating love, friendship, and family.

A sweet, somewhat fluffy story, one with which to curl up by the fire, with a blanket and your favorite hot beverage.

Nicely done.


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

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review 2016-12-21 14:30
ARC Review: Mele Kalikimaka (Bah Humbug Advent Calendar 2016) by B.G. Thomas and Noah Willoughby
Mele Kalikimaka (2016 Advent Calendar - Bah Humbug) - B.G. Thomas,Noah Willoughby

Poor little rich boy Chandler Buckingham, of the Kansas City Buckinghams, is fed up with Mommy Dearest trying to push him into a hetero relationship and appearing (with a suitable date) at the upcoming Christmas Gala/Fundraiser his family organizes every year.

It's just all too much for Chandler, and since he can't seem to find the backbone to stand up to Mommy Dearest, he does the next best (oh so mature) thing - running off to Hawai'i with the help of his PA/best friend since college.

And so Chandler finds himself in a little hovel of an apartment in Maui, which is mostly unfurnished and completely beneath his standards, without a car, without a lot of dough, and without any towels or other household goods.

Fortunately for Chandler, Micah Keolu lives in the apartment across the hall and also serves as part of the maintenance crew at the place, which is helpful when Chandler gets stuck in the elevator upon arrival.

The two men have an immediate spark, and their relationship progresses rather quickly considering the time frame this novella covers, however, they were well suited to each other, and I believed their attraction. Micah acts as a calming influence on the somewhat neurotic Chandler, without any inkling as to the true identity of the guy, and Chandler awakens in Micah a desire to perhaps see more of the world and leave Hawai'i for a little while. Also, steamy bedroom exploits - good stuff!

Chandler, who for a while there goes by Buck, because, you know, he's hiding from Mommy, initially came across as a snobbish, whiny, spoiled, and petulant man-child, sounding younger than his 30 years. As the story progresses, his sense of entitlement is slowly torn away, and the end result is a much more mature version who deserved being with Micah.

I loved Micah, who patiently deals with Chandler's odd behavior, invites him to his family's Christmas celebration and shows Chandler that money isn't everything, and that there are nice people who don't care how much or how little money you have. People who don't judge you by what you can do for them, but make you part of their circle just because.

Of course, this being a romantic love story, we do get the HEA that Micah definitely and Chandler mostly deserved. Including Chandler deftly maneuvering around his mother's plans, because he found his backbone.

Ben's writing style meshed with Noah's for the most part, though it was pretty clear which parts were written by Ben, as his unique style bled through on more than one occasion. I would have liked to see more of this story from Micah's perspective, to be honest, as I liked his character better. The writing is also very descriptive, which worked here very well, and really drew images in my head of the beauty of Hawai'i as the two men explore the island and have fun together.

This was definitely an enjoyable short story with a bit of a lesson for one of the MCs, and a lovely HEA in which Chandler finally takes control of his life. Nicely done.


** I received a free copy of this book from Ben, one of the authors. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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