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review 2017-05-15 02:37
ARC Review: Summer Stock by Vanessa North
Summer Stock - Vanessa North

Vanessa North has gone and done it again. With Summer Stock, she's back with a lovely romance between a rumored bad boy Hollywood actor and a North Carolina low country handyman who meet each other during a summer of building stage sets and acting for a local Shakespeare company owned by the former's cousin and the latter's friend.

Ryan Hertzog, Hollywood star, has returned to North Caroline for the summer, told to lay low by his publicist and avoid any further scandals. His rumored relationship with his friend Ali and her boyfriend West has sent him fleeing for the opposite coast to hide from the glare of the Hollywood lights.

Trey Donovan, handyman and owner of a renovation business, has had his own reasons for laying low - an abusive ex has made him distrustful and scared to get into another relationship.

They meet, they get it on, and then Ryan runs into Trey's dog Ferdinand (Ferdy), a 200 lbs mastiff with a heart of gold and an affinity for chewing on underwear, and ends up butt naked outside of Trey's house, with the paparazzi all too ready to take his picture.

Clearly, the relationship isn't off to a good start, even if it's only meant to be a summer fling.

But Ryan and Trey meet time and again and just cannot keep their hands off each other - the flames burn brightly. But it's only for the summer, right?

The book is really all about the relationship between the two men, and how a summer fling develops into more. Of course, it's not smooth sailing, what with Ryan being bisexual and Trey being a bit bi-phobic and suffering from foot-in-mouth disease on occasion, but they talk, apologies are made and accepted, and sheets are burned up. Holy hot boysecks, Batman!

This author continues to impress me with her writing. She's not afraid to defy the tropes, she unflinchingly speaks her mind through her characters, she points out how assumptions tend to be wrong, and she doesn't use stereotypes. Her characters are fully fleshed out, complex and imperfect, which makes them more likable and relatable. Vanessa North makes you question your own prejudice, especially when it comes to expectations of the Hollywood actors in this book.

Trey has some demons to slay, and he still suffers on occasion from a need to sabotage the good things in his life, because he was made to feel worthless by his ex and doesn't believe that he deserves a good thing like Ryan.

Ryan is not perfect either, but he's not a stereotypical Hollywood star. He loves acting, and he is committed to the small theater where he's performing for the summer, happily giving acting advice to his fellow players and wanting to do what's best for his cousin Caro and her friend Mason (the owners). He is sometimes exasperated by Trey's stupid comments about bisexuality, and at times hides his hurt.

There was a moment around 80% or so when I thought this book was taking a direction not to my liking, but of course I should have trusted the author who didn't let me down. In the end, both men grow throughout this book, and they journey they took was, while not smooth, definitely worth taking.

Kudos to this author for writing bisexual characters, stereotype-defying characters, and complex, flawed characters, not only for the main pairing but also for the supporting cast. And extra kudos for Ferdy, the most lovable, slobbering, and loving beast there ever was.

There's a HEA, of course, and a lovely epilogue, and all's well that ends well, as The Bard himself would tell you.

Highly recommended.


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

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review 2017-05-14 01:25
Infected: Bloodlines (Infected #2)
Infected: Bloodlines - Andrea Speed

If you read the first book, none of this should be a spoiler, but if you haven't, then proceed with caution.

 

Let me get my one gripe out of the way first. Paris is pretty. Like, really super duper fantabuloso everyone-with-eyes-wants-to-bang-him sexy hot. I know this because the author reminds the reader of this repeatedly. If I cut and paste all those passages together, it would probably take up five pages minimum. I vaguely remember being annoyed by this in the first book, but in this book, we're told that Paris's tiger virus has reached critical, that he's lost 50 pounds and is only 150-something, pale, always cold - he's sick, chronically so. So I don't need to hear about how super duper mega hot sex-on-legs he is every other page. One, I actually remember that from the previous book. Two, he's SICK! And at over six feet and only 150 pounds, he's not broad-chested. He's a toothpick. I just found the constant fascination with his sex appeal to be really shallow and misplaced in this book, and I could've done without it. Especially since the author could've gotten the same point across by showing and not telling...and telling...and telling...and telling...

 

Moving on to the actual story:

 

On the mystery front, I give this one three stars. The mystery wasn't really that involved here, and the revelation of the whodunit comes almost by accident. Almost. And since Roan's in an emotionally unstable place, that outcome isn't what you'd expect it to be - and that's all I'm saying about that. 

 

On the personal story front, I give this five stars. Read this with a box of tissues close at hand, because you're going to need it! In only two books, or two and a half if you read the novella "Infected: Paris" before this one, Ms. Speed created a beautiful couple in Roan and Paris. They're flawed, they're sometimes stupid, they're occasionally too sweet to bare, and they're real. And in this book, they're raw. They both know what's coming, and while Paris is preparing for the inevitable, Roan's living as close to denial as he can get for as long as he can, because to face reality would be the end for him as well. The supporting cast is all back. Dee is a saint of an ex-boyfriend, and Kevin's still a mess. Matt's much more prominent here. We don't see as much of the coppers, but when we do we get to see their concern and support. 

 

There are a couple of things that are brought up and then dropped, and some things are mentioned that happened between books that I would've liked to see on page. The editing is better than the first book but could still use work on making the "he's" and "his" more clear on who is being talked about. Still, the editing here is better than many. 

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review 2017-05-12 20:02
Abgebrochen: Steel Eyes
Steel Eyes - Melissa S. Price

Schon als ich das Buch gekauft habe hatte ich ein paar Zweifel ob das was für mich ist. Aber die Bewertungen waren durchweg gut und der Klappentext klang schon irgendwie interessant, so dass ich Steel Eyes eine Chance geben wollte. Leider hat sich das Buch völlig anders entwickelt als ich dachte, es hält sich auch nur bedingt an den Klappentext. So musste ich das Buch aufgrund akuter Langeweile nach 65% dann doch noch abbrechen.

Steel Eyes beginnt mit zwei jungen Frauen, die sich zufällig begegnen und einen prickelnden aber unpersönlichen Moment miteinander teilen. Beide gehen anschließend wieder ihre eigenen Wege, keine kennt den Namen der anderen. Ein paar Jahre später begegnen sie sich erneut, wieder teilen sich ihre Wege ohne viele private Worte ausgetauscht zu haben. Kurz darauf begegnen sie sich wieder, lernen sich diesmal besser kennen, aber nach ein paar Monaten – na, wer sieht es kommen? – teilen sich ihre Wege wieder … so geht es DIE GANZE ZEIT. Das Buch zieht sich über mindestens 30 Jahre, vielleicht auch mehr. Als es zu Beginn des dritten Teils hieß »7 Jahre später« hat mich die Geduld verlassen. Wahrscheinlich treffen sich die beiden Frauen letztlich im Altenheim wo sie dann gemeinsam sterben, oder sich jeden Tag neu kennenlernen und anschließend getrennte Wege gehen können, weil sie beide an Alzheimer leiden. Ich weiß es nicht und bin auch nicht erpicht darauf es herauszufinden.

Irgendwie hatte ich bei dem Buch das Gefühl die Autorin wusste nicht welche Geschichte sie erzählen will und erzählt deswegen alle auf einmal. Es soll wohl so eine lebenslange Schicksalssache sein, bei der sich die Wege zweier füreinander bestimmte, aber von den äußeren Umständen gehinderte Menschen immer wieder begegnen. Soweit hätte ich mich damit anfreunden können, aber dann kommt unerwartet noch ein halbgarer Spionageplot auf, mit Mossad Agenten die völlig profillos sind. Ein klassischer Fall von »viel erzählt, wenig geliefert«, denn die beiden Agenten sind einfach super unnütz und können eigentlich nichts, außer erzählen, was für voll tolle und geheimnisvoll agierende Agenten sie sind. Echte Spionagearbeit? Fehlanzeige. Rumstehen und ein, zwei Mal alle 100 Seiten einen Satz loswerden überzeugt mich nicht.

Daneben werden dann auch noch etliche Lebensphasen aus verschiedenen Perspektiven erzählt, es gibt wahnsinnig viele langatmige Passagen die inhaltlich nicht viel beitragen und die beiden Hauptcharaktere waren mir auch die Hälfte der Zeit unsympathisch. Alex wird als diese schlagfertige, leichtlebige Person dargestellt, die sich Hals über Kopf in Kenna verliebt und ein bisschen unsicher, ja gar verwundbar rüberkommen soll. In Wahrheit ist sie aber einfach nur untreu und egoistisch und ändert ihre Zuneigung so schnell, dass einem schwindelig werden kann. Und Kenna hatte ich auf dem Kieker seit sie von einer Sekunde auf die andere ihren Job als Kellnerin kündigt. Da stellt sich nämlich raus, dass sie eigentlich stinkreich ist, den Job nur macht um sich normal zu fühlen, und jetzt, da sie neue Pläne hat, macht sie sich mit ihrem ebenfalls reichen Bruder drüber lustig, was für ein ungebildeter und beschränkter Geist der Cafébesitzer doch ist. Er hat es nämlich gewagt zu kritisieren, dass seine Kellnerin spontan das Weite sucht. Stehe ich voll drauf, wenn so elitäre reiche Schnösel den arbeitenden Pöbel als geistig beschränkt bezeichnen …

Ne, also mir ist schleierhaft weshalb das Buch bisher fast nur 4 oder 5 Sterne bekommen hat. Die eigentliche Geschichte hätte man mit viel weniger Blabla und weniger Deus-Ex-Machina-Lösungen erzählen können. Klarer Daumen runter.

Source: moyasbuchgewimmel.de/abgebrochen-steel-eyes
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review 2017-05-10 23:13
Immortal Quest - Alexandra MacKenzie

I can't remember who recommended this book to me, so I have no way of deciding who is ultimately to blame for this deeply mediocre experience, but I feel a little betrayed anyway. 

 

It's rare that I finish books that underwhelm me as much as this one did but there was a sense of wanting to know if it could get any worse and also making a list of the ways in which the (clearly non-British) author would demonstrate that they didn't really know how life in the UK works. Particularly when you decide to send your characters off to a castle on a small Scottish island and then treat it like living there works like a big city - given the location of the island, the nearest Chinese takeaway is a 60-mile round trip, so your chances of delivery are less than good to say the least. 

 

Anyway, clear lack of research aside (seriously, you would not 'stop off in Liverpool for lunch' if you're driving from Wales up to Scotland) part of the problem with this book is that I didn't actually care about either of the characters or their relationship. We get told a lot that one of the characters loves the other but it was massively unconvincing and I was extremely glad it only cost me £1.30 for the ebook. I still feel like I was overcharged and they ought to be paying me, I would even throw in a free list of all the things that demonstrated lack of local knowledge!

 

Anyway, it's not particularly clear when this book is set but a final word on the importance of doing your research if you want to write a book set in a foreign country: if your overall plot hinges heavily on people missing ferries, make sure the island in question wasn't connected to the mainland by a very large road bridge in 1995. 

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review 2017-05-01 14:35
Release Day ARC Review: Nightsong (Notes From Boston #2) by A.M. Leibowitz
Nightsong (Notes from Boston Book 2) - A. M. Leibowitz

If you've read the first book in this series, you'll remember Nate.

I disliked him intensely in the first book after he cowardly outed Trevor out of jealousy and spite, and I wasn't quite sure that the author would find a way to redeem him.

I should've had more faith.

Nate Kingsley is a rather complex character, someone who has patched his wounds with band-aids, and whose self-esteem issues are rooted in past heartbreak. He's lost, so lost, when this book begins, because he misses Trevor's friendship, and he doesn't know how to apologize and how to make up for what he did. His cowardly actions are haunting him, and he's unhappy but doesn't know how to fix what he broke.

Not even his work can pull him out of the doldrums, and in his loneliness, floundering without the friend he hurt so badly, he again makes a huge mistake that costs him dearly later on in the book.

Izzy Kaplan is an EMT whose drag queen alter ego, TaTa Latke, has caught Nate's eye. Unbeknownst to Nate, Izzy harbors a similar crush for him. Izzy has trust issues, much like Nate, and he keeps parts of himself hidden from view. He has reasons, of course, even if those reasons perhaps only make sense to him. He realizes that something is going on with him, but doesn't want to deal with it, and thus makes like an ostrich - head in the sand.

I really loved how this book showcased the variety of the rainbow, and how non-judgmental the author handles all the different flavors of sexuality and gender identity. While the characters may favor one over the other, it's always very clear that this isn't what the author believes to be true. This was similar to the first book, and we get to visit with Trevor, Andre, and Marte again in this book.

What also stands out is that both MCs hide their true selves from their friends, at least for a long while, and that they both learn to be more open by the end. Both are dealing with some devastating health issues, and trusting each other, and their friends, is a hard-won battle.

There's a ton of angst inside, some of it external to the relationship, and some of it self-induced, but none of it ever felt unreasonable. Both Nate and Izzy have their own personal demons to slay, and they both still have some important lessons to learn. The book touches on some really heavy yet important topics and handles them with sensitivity and honesty, without becoming preachy.

The romance is really subdued here and takes quite some time to develop and then come to fruition, but that also made sense within the overall time line. Neither Nate nor Izzy are ready to confront their demons early on, and a more rapid development would likely have sent them to crash and burn. The author includes intimate scenes, but none of them felt superfluous or gratuitous, and all were furthering the plot. While I would classify this as a romance (because there is a happy ending for Nate and Izzy), it's actually a lot more than that. It's a character study of two rather flawed and often frustrating men, who find exactly what they were looking for when they didn't even realize they were looking for it.

This book could be read as a standalone, but probably shouldn't, as it's built on the events of the first book, and a reader is better served knowing the history between Nate and Trevor, which is one of the main catalysts for Nate changing himself in this book.

By the way, I wanted to junk-punch Rocco. Repeatedly. Once you've read this book, you'll know why.

This isn't your typical M/M romance fare, and I was glad for it.

Highly recommended.


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

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