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review 2017-07-27 17:15
Helliconian Spring - Brian W. Aldiss Helliconian Spring - Brian W. Aldiss

The central character in this book is the planet Helliconia. The story shows how the primitive civilizations and flora and fauna are influenced by planetary forces with seasons that last thousands of years. Readers must keep in mind that this book is the start of a trilogy or they will not like the ending.

All in all it is a good start and makes me want to read the next book in the trilogy.

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review 2017-07-25 02:44
ARC Review: What The Cat Dragged In by B.A. Tortuga
What the Cat Dragged In (Sanctuary Book 2) - BA Tortuga

Whoever said cats and dogs don't get along hasn't met the feline and lupine shifters of this series. 

What a fun follow-up to the first book! Also, while this could be read as a standalone, you'd miss out if you didn't read about Sam (a panther) and Gus (a wolf) getting together in the first one.

In this book, we have Connor Ragbone, a bobcat shifter, and Brock Herman, a wolf shifter like Gus. 

Connor finds things. Something inside him pulls him in a certain direction, calling to him, even though he never knows what he might find when he answers that call. He never thought he'd have a permanent home base, being a bit of a loner, but he's found a place to come back to with Sam and Gus and their awesome family. 

His current call leads him to Brock. 

Brock Herman is self-sufficient, self-reliant, and basically also a loner. He's working undercover, trying to break up a poacher ring. He has no time for the bobcat that suddenly shows up in the middle of his ops, but the cat just won't leave him alone, dammit.

I laughed out loud so many times reading this book. Connor is a unique character, and I really enjoyed how much he trusts that inner voice calling him to his next find, and how laid back he was, never questioning whether following the call might end up with him in trouble or not.

Two loners - what could possibly go wrong, amirite?

Turns out Connor and Brock are mates, feeling that inexplicable pull toward each other, even if this doesn't fit with Brock's plans at all. The author did a great job not forcing the mating call, but letting Brock ("I work alone, dammit") come to terms with Connor's presence, despite his annoyance, and the romance develops slowly. Sure, UST and sexy times come fairly quickly, but the emotional bond takes time to grow. Well done, that. 

Connor was utterly adorable - I loved him from the start. He's quirky, funny, snarky, and super laid-back, but also quick to lend a hand, smart, and definitely loyal and courageous. His easy-going personality was well contrasted with Brock's more serious and focused personality, and I thought that the two men complemented each other rather well. They worked well as a team, which comes in handy when... nope, not gonna spoil this for you.

The story has action galore, what with the poacher ring, and bears in cages, which culminates in an edge-of-your-seat sequence of events that leaves Connor seriously injured, help from an unexpected source, and the villain... nah, you read this for yourself. 

The author did a fantabulous job with world building in this book and its predecessor, and the specific shifter mythology employed here worked really well for me. There's no magical healing, no mating bond compulsion, and no instant ILYs, but the book sure delivers what it promises - a feel good shifter romance. 

I can hardly wait for the next book in this series. 


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

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review 2017-07-19 02:23
ARC Review: Mascara & Bandages (Mary's Boys #3) by Brandon Witt
Mascara & Bandages (Mary's Boys Book 3) - Brandon Witt

This is the 3rd book in the Mary's Boys series, all set in and around a Hamburger Mary's in Denver, CO.

On his way home from Hamburger Mary's after a performance as his drag queen alter ego Ariel Merman, while still dressed as Ariel, Zachary Cooper becomes the victim of a gay bashing. 

I was already crying when he comes to in the hospital, in pain and worried that the homophobic assholes who attacked him messed up his face and that he won't be able to perform anymore. 

In walks Teegan Chau, his doctor, and things suddenly look up.

Teegan has only recently come out as gay, and while he's divorced from his wife, they share a little girl and have a great friendly, supportive relationship. Teegan has had some hook-ups with other men, but has never been on an actual date with a man. Instantly smitten with the younger, somewhat femme guy in the hospital bed, Teegan and Zachary agree on a date. 

While the story had the potential to be really angsty, it actually wasn't, and there's a lot of inner strength to Zachary. He has a steely interior, and while he struggles a little with the trauma from the attack, he doesn't allow it to destroy him. 

I loved that the author didn't rush the developing relationship. Teegan's adorkable awkwardness on their first date was super cute, but neither he nor Zachary jumped into a commitment - they took their time to test the waters and really build a foundation.

As Ariel, Zachary is free to be himself, instead of worrying about meeting expectations other men might have of him. I loved that the author wrote about a femme man and the misconceptions that come with that. 

This book is the most heart-breaking and also most heart-warming of the series so far, as Zachary and Teegan, and the whole Mary's chosen family, deal with societal expectations, homophobia, the bashing, immediate family issues, and how to forge their own way.

There isn't a lot of steam here, and I for one don't need that in a romance novel to believe the relationship. Zachary grows into himself here, and Teegan finds exactly what he never knew he always wanted. 

So well 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 2017-07-16 02:58
Release Day ARC Review: All In (Wild Cards #3) by Ava Drake
All In (Dreamspun Desires Book 38) - Ava Drake

On his way back to NYC to attend the meet-sees hoping for a job or three, Zane Stryker, fashion model, nearly 30, is detained at the airport because his suitcase was flagged for possible contraband. Inside the interrogation room, Zane meets Sebastian Gigoni, formerly British Special Forces, who asks that he opens the suitcase.

Inside are two metal tablets and a suit - none of which belong to Zane. 

From there, the story takes off as Sebastian and Zane try to work together, though their goals may be at odds, in foiling the plan of the international crime syndicate from the previous installment of this loosely connected series, with a little help from one of Zane's friends, Sebastian's brains, Zane's ability to think on his feet, and the super-sekrit British organization for which Sebastian now works. All while falling in love, because this is a romance, after all. 

The reader needs to suspend disbelief for most of the novel - realistic, this is not. However, it's definitely a fun ride, in and out of the bedroom. There's intrigue, mystery, an inside look at a fashion shoot, bad mob-like dudes with guns, good dudes with guns, a couple of major crime bosses, and a super hawt romance as well.

The attraction between Zane and Sebastian burns brightly from the start, and this book is probably one of the raunchier titles in the Dreamspun Desires series. I'm not complaining, hahaha. The sexy times were hawt! 

Seriously, I had a blast reading this, and I think you will too. This can be read as a standalone, no problem, but I think to get the full impact, you'll want to read the first two books as well. The writing is crisp and well-suited to the story, and there wasn't a dull moment to be found within. 

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 2017-07-14 17:01
Review Request: All The Way To Shore by CJane Elliott
All the Way to Shore - C. Jane Elliott

When the author approached me with a request to read and review this book, I took a look at the blurb and happily agreed.

This book has all the elements I look for in a romance novel - well-fleshed out, complex main characters with imperfections, a believable romantic relationship, a realistic stumbling block derailing the romance for a little while, and a wonderful supporting cast. Add to that the underlying theme of figuring out who you really are, and what you really want out of life, and I was hooked.

Jonathan's love is classical music and his piano, and he wanted to attend college pursuing his passion, but was roped into a business job by his domineering and rather cold father to come work for the family business, Vallen Industries. Jonathan loathes the job, but doesn't feel that he has a choice - his older brother James who was supposed to follow in their father's footsteps passed away in a tragic accident, and Jonathan feels he owes it to his father to take James' spot. 

But he hates it, and it shows. He's not business material, and while he's good with numbers and charts, he feels stifled. From the start, I felt that Jonathan was depressed and unhappy, especially in light of having to hide his sexuality from his disapproving father, and having thus no personal life to speak of.

Since the business isn't doing so well, the older Vallen hires a new temporary CEO, a young hot-shot of Italian heritage, studly and smart and ambitious Marco Pellegrini. Marco sees pretty quickly that the younger Vallen has no sense for or interest in the business, but tries to train the younger man anyway, all while planning to increase business profits by at least the margin for which he was hired.

All Jonathan sees is that he'll never compare and uses this opportunity to escape. His late mother left him a cottage on Cape Cod, and Jonathan quits the company and runs, hoping to find himself and his music again.

A year later, after having got a dog and losing quite a few pounds, after trading his glasses for contacts and his old sweats for more fashionable clothing, Jonathan is convinced by his cousin Anthony to go on an LGBT cruise in the Caribbean. 

Marco Pellegrini is also on the same cruise with his younger sister Sophia, taking his first vacation in a year, but doesn't recognize Jonathan due to his rather different appearance. 

And Jonathan, with help from Anthony, pretends his name is Jonah Rutledge, secretly happy that Marco doesn't recognize him. 

I loved both Jonathan and Marco. They were very different in many ways, but also alike in others. Jonathan felt unlovable, and didn't think he deserved someone like Marco, where Marco was rather driven, having worked his way up from poverty to being a sought-after CEO, while not making time to find someone with whom to share his life. Both are very lonely deep down.

The romance begins on the cruise ship, with lots of UST, trips to shore and having fun in the sun, but it's clear that both Jonathan and Marco long for more than just a quick roll in the hay. They have a connection, they have similar interests and likes, and they get along fabulously. All the while, Jonathan knows he has to come clean about the lie, even if the only lie was his name and all the other things he's told Marco are true.

Even though the bulk of the book is told from Jonathan's POV, the author utilizes an interesting method to give also insights into Marco's mind by giving us diary entries. I especially liked that Marco included a section of gratitude in each entry - just things he was thankful for - and how those changed over time. 

As you can glean from the blurb, things don't go smoothly all the way, and Jonathan's lie is abruptly exposed when his overbearing father shows up at the last stop of the cruise to bring Marco back to work, sees his wayward son with his CEO, and nearly ruins everything Jonathan and Marco hoped to build.

Marco initially cannot forgive Jonathan for pretending to be someone else, but as they both return to their respective homes, they both realize that if you really want something, you have to fight for it. And Marco understands Jonathan well enough by then to also realize that he has to wait for the other man to come to him, even if he's normally a go-getter and not very patient at all.

The way they work things out to get back together was ever so romantic and sweet, and it was very clear that they did want to be together. Jonathan especially had to find his backbone to go after what he really wants, and boy, does he ever. 

The climactic high-point of this book takes place in a boardroom, and it was a joy to behold how Jonathan stands up for himself and for Marco, and thus finds himself to be the person he was meant to be, and the person I knew had been simmering underneath the surface all along. Fabulous! 

With a satisfying HEA ending, this book is truly a grand romance, and I would definitely recommend you give it a try. I enjoyed this author's writing style, I loved the characters, including the supporting cast in Anthony/Andrew and Sophia, I would have loved to clock the older Vallen a few times, and I had a fantastic time reading this book. 


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

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