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review 2018-02-19 03:39
Jack of Thorns (Inheritance #1)
Jack of Thorns (Inheritance Book 1) - Amelia Faulkner

A story set in San Diego written by someone who actually knows San Diego.

 

 

I was fully prepared to have to relive some really bad geography, ala Everything Changes  by Melanie Hansen, but by the time chapter five or so rolled around, I knew I was in good hands. I even learned something about that ginormous tree in the middle of Balboa Park (because she's right; locals totally don't read those tourist signs, lol). Woot!

 

Now onto stuff other readers will actually care about. :D The world-building in this book is fantastic and I'm eager to see how she develops this world going forward. This is the way I like my world-building - just enough information that I'm not lost but not so much information that the mystery is ruined. There is no info-dumping here, but we still get a complex world with hints of more lairs hidden beneath. Faulkner borrows from Celtic myths, psychic tropes and even throws in a little bit of mystery, while also balancing themes of classism, abuse and addiction. Warnings re: the addiction storyline:

Laurence drives while high on marijuana several times, which is dangerous but wasn't actually illegal until this year (2018). He also craves heroin several times. Quentin has alcoholic tendencies but those aren't focused on quite as much, though he does get smashed a couple of times.

(spoiler show)

This is a really slow burn. If you're looking for smexy or smut, look elsewhere. The MCs only kiss - twice - and one of those times was not with romantic intentions. Quentin has a lot of hangups with sex, though those reasons are only guessed at here, so this is something that appears will be explored in later books. I love that Laurence never pressures him. He doesn't ignore the issues but doesn't push more than Quentin is comfortable with.

 

We get both Laurence and Quentin's POVs, and the author actually gives them their own unique voices in their POVs. This is sadly rare in M/M, where all MCs have the same voices, so it deserves recognition when an author is able to do this. Quentin does have this habit of referring to himself as "one" throughout the first half of the book, but this seemed tied up with his many issues.

 

There were a couple of minor continuity issues and very few typos. I also felt that Laurence's bisexuality was more lip service than anything else. 

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review 2018-02-14 03:14
Throwing Stones (Glasgow Lads on Ice #1)
Throwing Stones (Glasgow Lads on Ice Book 1) - Avery Cockburn

I have no idea what curling is and honestly it always looks boring as hell in the Olympics, but it's Glasgow Lads! I'm in!

Update:

And now that I've read this, I still don't understand curling, LOL, except to say that it is a lot more complicated than it looks. The author is kind enough to include a crash course at the end and she gave detailed play-by-plays during the competition sections, but as I've never even watched more than a few minutes of any game - and that was years ago - I had a hard time picturing what was going on. Still, Ms. Cockburn was very good at making the stakes clear at all relevant points and that's what really mattered more than anything else.

Anyway, this is another great story from Ms. Cockburn, and we even get a few cameos from the main series. Oliver is an ex-curler from Canada trying to start over in Scotland as a coach for Team Boyd. Luca is the leader of Team Riley, the rival of Team Boyd. He's also the brother-in-law of Team Boyd's leader, Jack. Oliver has ADHD and Luca lives a Zen lifestyle on and off the ice. They appear polar opposites on the surface, but they click immediately and their stories end up paralleling each other in interesting ways.

This is a little insta-love since the story takes place over a week, and it seems especially quick since Luca identifies somewhere on the ace spectrum though he's not really sure where. So the quick pace was a little off but in the end didn't bother me too much since we actually get ample page time of the two getting to know each other since they initially agreed not to start anything because of the conflict of interest. Of course, that doesn't last long - and for those of you who need steamy sex, you're going to be disappointed. There's one sex scene and it's vague on details, focusing instead on the emotional components, which means it was right up my alley. :D

Oliver and Luca have their own baggage and challenges, and some of their decisions, especially Luca's, were frustrating but in a realistic way. I don't need my MCs to be infallible, and these two definitely aren't. I do need them to learn and grow, and Luca and Oliver do that by spades.

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review 2018-02-03 22:07
Lap Dog (Shelter #2)
Lap Dog: Book Two of the Shelter Series - Kate Sherwood

Dang you, Sherwood! I was supposed to quit this book halfway through in a boiling rage, ready to rip Simon a new one. Instead, I grudgingly liked him by 25% and was rooting for him about halfway through and just hoping everything would work out. 

 

 

This still isn't perfect. Simom Yeung is the first prominent main character who is Chinese-American in any of Sherwood's books that I've read, and he's in a crime family. Really? And just because the characters call this out doesn't really take away from the problems of this, just as having them call out the old school family honor/respect stereotypes doesn't really mean she's not using those stereotypes. 

 

Yet despite that, this was a great story. I don't know if I'd categorize it Romance (™) but Simon and Tristan do come to first respect each other, then kind of like each other, then warily admire each other and finally care for each other. I didn't think it was possible from the initial set up that opens the story, but their journeys and getting to know each other were well-paced and given the time to really breathe, despite all the chaos going on around them. The resolution was perhaps too easy and convenient, but I honestly don't care because I wanted these two to get their HEAs - not just with each other but for themselves as well. They still have things to figure out about their new lives though, so there's more room to tell more stories about them later. (And hopefully resolve a few more of those dangling threads that didn't get addressed here.) 

 

It was also great seeing Shane and Noah again, and seeing glimpses of their relationship throughout. They even get a short story interlude at the end of the main story. It felt more like it was there to explain why Shane doesn't label himself asexual (though he is clearly on the spectrum) but whatever label someone wants to use or not use is up to them.

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review 2018-01-25 05:25
Autoboyography (Audiobook)
Autoboyography - Christina Lauren,Kyle Mason,Richard Deacon

I was raised in the Mormon church, in what we referred to as the Samoan ward since many of the members were of that nationality. I never had a very good relationship with the church. Unlike Sebastian and the folks in Provo, UT, the seaside town in SoCal that I grew up in was not overrun with Mormons and they remain in the minority of worshippers even today. It's also very diverse, so you run across a lot of different nationalities and beliefs on any given day. So I didn't have Mormon friends at school, and my brother and I pretty much rebelled (as much as we were allowed to) against not spending time outside the house on Sunday (other than church of course) and having to participate in Monday home evening. Youth group activities on Wednesday nights were at least fun, and we didn't have to do too many weekend or service activities. We did summer camp a few times, and Scouts, but it was camping and selling cookies - it's hard to make that suck. And while I wouldn't call myself a feminist, per se, I never liked the assumption that I would grow up to have babies and bake cookies for Relief Society and I hated wearing dresses with a passion - though I didn't envy my brother his button-down shirts and slacks either.

 

Basically, I liked the people and was comfortable around them - and still am - in a way I'm not comfortable with most people. Even though it's been years since I've attended services regularly or cracked open a Book of Mormon and I'm against the things the church promotes in regards to gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights, I still identify as Mormon. It's a complicated relationship I have with my church (can I even still call it "mine"?) and there were no easy answers for me, a girl with no interest in marriage or kids, other than to leave the church.

 

And yet, I miss it. I miss the comfort it used to bring me and the peace I used to feel inside those doors. I miss the innocent trust I used to place on the church's teachings of "families are forever" and "love thy neighbor" and "do good works" because in the years since I left the church I've learned many things that I disagree with them about, and even if they believe in the depths of their hearts that they're doing God's works, that's no God I want any part of when He excludes people simply for loving the "wrong" person.

 

Like Tanner and Sebastian, I too keep hoping for the day when the prophet has a revelation and declares being LGBTQ+ to be a-okay and right with God, and you know what? Women are allowed to hold the gospel too. Until then, I stay away and a part of me will never be whole again.

 

What I loved about this book though is that it doesn't demonize Mormons or Sebastian or his family. Not all Mormons are anti-gay or turn their family away for being gay. The authors definitely did their research and got the input of people who know the church, and it shows, and it all speaks very true to what I saw and experienced growing up. But they don't beat the reader over the head with religion. As Tanner learns, the reader learns.

 

Tanner wasn't raised with religion, though his mom is ex-Mormon and his dad is a non-practicing Jew. He grew up in San Francisco, where being bisexual was no big deal, and he had the support and love of his parents from day one. It takes him a long time to open his eyes and realize that not all parents are like his parents, but that doesn't mean they love their kids any less. As he gets to know Sebastian and understand more about what makes up his psyche and why, he's able to see a larger picture and world than he was raised in, and it's not always pretty.

 

There is a hint of insta-love between Tanner and Sebastian, but given they're young men, and Tanner is quite impulsive, it rang true to me that things would move as fast as they do, even with Sebastian's reservations and need to keep things secret. They face plenty of challenges, enough to test their feelings for each other and make me believe those feelings were real and true. 

 

I have two very minor nitpicks and I'm not sure how much they'll even bother me if/when I reread this. The first is the narrator. Don't get me wrong, he did a fantastic job with the story and the characters. But he's not eighteen. Honestly though, that bothered me less and less as I listened and got into the story. Some of the female characters were a little strained in the higher octaves though.

 

The other thing was the sudden switch in the last fifth of the book. I didn't realize that everything I'd listened to up to that point was the actual book that Tanner wrote for his seminar class, so it went from first-person POV to third-person POV for both Sebastian and Tanner after the "book" ended and we caught up with the narrative. It was jarring, tonally, but again that could just be because I wasn't expecting it and it's possible that it'll flow better on reread.

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review 2018-01-06 21:32
Feral (Shelter #1)
Feral - Kate Sherwood

This was a nice read, and certainly a different kind of romance. But it never really got better than nice. I'm still looking forward to the rest of the series though. 

 

Noah's a veterinarian student, volunteering at a vet clinic. Shane's homeless and goes to the clinic to seek help for his puppy when the puppy gets sick. Shane doesn't trust the system or the cops, and Noah, despite a spot of trouble in his past, has lived a sheltered life. As they become friends, working together on an outreach project, they challenge each others' world views and come to new understandings. 

 

I think this would've worked better if it had covered more time. They both changed too much too quickly. The story takes place in just under week. I do like that they don't fall in love in that length of time, though they do care for each other. Shane's possibly on the ace spectrum, so there's no sex for those of you who are looking for that. 

 

Dodger the puppy was adorable. I would've liked to see a bit more of Noah's family situation since that was mentioned in the beginning and we saw them in the first chapter, but that didn't really happen. We do get a bit of mystery to solve, and it's good to see Shane's protective side come to the fore time and again. I especially liked that Shane's situation isn't magically solved because he met some good Samaritans. 

 

So again, a nice solid start to the series, and I'm interested to see who else we get to meet along the way.

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