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review 2018-05-01 03:01
ARC Review: Diego's Secret by Bryan T. Clark
Diego's Secret - Bryan T. Clark

25 year old Diego Castillo came to the US at the age of 17 after illegally crossing the border from Mexico with his two older brothers via a coyote - a person paid to smuggle people into the US. This cost their father lots of money, but they hoped for a better future than what they would have had in Mexico. When staying with an uncle didn't work out, Diego and his brother rented a tiny 2 bedroom apartment where they still live, plus the oldest brother's girlfriend. Unable to obtain legal status, Diego runs a landscaping business and tries to fly under the radar as much as possible, including keeping his sexuality a secret from his brothers. Being a Mariposa is obviously a no-no. 

Winston Makena, 32, is widowed and grieving. Having lost his husband suddenly, he's barely going through the motions. He lives comfortably in a mansion, where Diego is his gardener, but has basically distanced himself from his company and only leaves the house if he absolutely has to. He notices the gardener, who mows his yard every week, who plants the beautiful flowers his late husband loved, and who keeps the garden looking gorgeous. He notices. And finally steps outside to talk to the guy. 

And thus the two finally meet. Diego is of course aware of the older man, but keeps his distance, until Winston makes the first move.

This book is by design a slow-burn romance. Winston is struck by the younger man, but also unsure of whether he should pursue him, and Diego feels completely out of his element. There's a bit of a language barrier, but also, much bigger, a social barrier to overcome. They are two very different people, and for a long time Diego is hesitant and afraid to let Winston in, not only due to their different social standing, but also out of fear what his brothers will say.

While the two men spend a lot of time together on page, the author also took the time to expand on their daily lives, which made the book drag a bit on occasion. Still, there weren't many superfluous scenes, and the story unfolded mostly organically. 

In fact, I liked that the two men didn't immediately jump into bed, and that their romance didn't immediately solve all their problems. It felt realistic to me, though I still have questions about the solution to Diego's immigration status - simply marrying an illegal doesn't automatically grant them a Green Card, and there are additional steps they'll have to take. 

Overall, I believed the relationship, and I appreciated that it unfolded slowly - it made it more believable.

This was my first book by this author. 

** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2017-11-22 12:24
L'ho vista.
Mancarsi - Diego De Silva

"L'unico vero possesso dell'uomo è nelle cose che ha perduto." - Franz Werfel

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review 2017-10-09 02:33
San Diego: Four Sun-Kissed Romances by Cathy M. Hakes & Joyce Livingston
San Diego: Four Sun-Kissed Romances -

Contemporary Romance: Couples-to-be seek love and romance in this uplifting four-story collection. Vanessa is surprised to feel her heart beating madly when a father and son with matching soulful brown eyes enter her pet store. Valene is startled to realize that handsome Navy fighter pilot, Jordan, shows a strong interest in her, despite social disparities. Della realizes that fairy tales come true when Brandon wanders into her bridal shop, and Tessa learns that even when pride and unforgiveness have torn a marriage apart, love can make a comeback. Will these couples find the key that unlocks lasting love? couples find the key that unlocks lasting love?




A quick rundown of the interconnected stories themselves:


"Love Is Patient" and "Love Worth Finding" are written by Cathy Hakes while Joyce Livingston contributes "Love Is Kind" and "Love Worth Keeping". 


The stories, in the order they appear:


"Love Is Patient" : Pet shop owner Vanessa gets involved with widower / single dad Nathan after his young son visits her shop and becomes interested in a dog. 


"Love Is Kind" : Remember Vanessa from the first story? Well, now her twin sister, Val, gets the spotlight. Val's neighbor, Jordan, accidentally hits her dog with his truck. The dog survives, Jordan steps up and offers to help cover the cost of the dog's post-op care (as well as lending a hand with the dog's in-home recovery process as well). Spending so much time with Val, Jordan starts to see himself developing deep feelings for her. 


"Love Worth Finding" : The story of a romance between "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" type bridal shop owner Della and former Navy SEAL Brandon Stevens (of course, these romances seem to almost always feature a SEAL somewhere nowadays!) who now works in construction. The bridal shop is located next to Vanessa's pet shop (from "Love Is Patient") and Brandon's construction job has him working with Vanessa's love, Nathan. This story is also set about a year and half after Vanessa's story takes place. 


"Love Worth Keeping" : You met Vanessa's twin sister, Val, in "Love Is Kind". Now Val's best friend, Katie, is in the process of planning her own Christmas Day wedding. Katie's parents have been separated for 8 years now and even now are not on the friendliest of terms. Still, Katie hopes she can bring them together and get them to get along for her special day. 




Having been born and raised in San Diego County myself, I'm naturally always curious to try out stories set in my home turf. Deciding to pick up this collection prior to a trip back home this summer, I was sadly let down. These were SO not my cup of tea. 


I somehow missed the fact that these were Christian romances. It's not all that advertised on the covers, though looking back on the back cover synopsis after finishing the stories, I do see one of the story blurbs makes one mention of "God's love" but I guess my eyes glanced over that part in my excitement to get into San Diego stories. Guess I should've taken a clue from the titles of the stories themselves (a nod to the famous "Love is patient, love is kind," etc, etc Bible quote used at nearly every wedding I've ever been to, including my own LOL) but it escaped my notice until I finished the book. These stories having a Christian theme generally wouldn't deter me from enjoying them. It's just that every one of these was SO heavy-handed with the preachy tone (IMO) that it was off-putting! That, combined with the fact that I just honestly didn't find the stories to be all that well-written made this whole collection a general NOPE for me. And what was up with Nathan knocking Vanessa's love of Doris Day movies? "Great woman but her taste in movies stinks." Seriously? You're going to fault your girl for liking some of the cheeriest movies on the planet? So she likes her some solid HEA in her life. Catch of a guy right there. 


The banter between the couples was often of a very boring, vanilla quality and the romance aspect was ruined for me when SO MUCH EMPHASIS was being put on getting the "non-believer" one in a couple to pray more or start attending church. Having strong faith is an admirable quality, I just get annoyed at this idea that you have to walk away from someone you otherwise find absolutely perfect for you JUST because their spiritual beliefs might be a shade different from yours. And this idea came up repeatedly in these stories.


I don't mind a beautiful story of someone coming to find faith if it has a natural flow to the process. These characters were just too strong-armed in their methods for me to like them. Val's story especially illustrated this. Val's parents came off pretty hypocritical, the way they said they raised their girls to only be in relationships with Christians, even though the father started out as a "non-believer". Also, Val basically using blackmail to get someone to attend church was unbelievably messed up. 


The last story, "Love Worth Keeping", (for me) had the most warmth to the writing, but that's not saying much, given how little I liked the rest of the stories. This one won't be a keeper on my shelf of hometown stories. 

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review 2017-07-13 11:38
Some Kind of Hero: A Troubleshooters Novel - Suzanne Brockmann

This is the 17th book in the Troubleshooters series.  This book can be read as a standalone novel.  To avoid spoilers, and for reader enjoyment and understanding of this fabulous 5* series I recommend reading in order.


Shayla helps her neighbor Peter, when she sees him on the side of the road trying to flag help down.  Then they get to know one another and the heat is on!  The attraction is mutual, if not surprising.


Peter cannot find his daughter.  With her missing his life feels out of control.  His neighbor comes to his aid, and he is attracted to more than her body.  Her mind is such a sexy thing.


This is such a great addition to the series.  This story has it all.  I loved the character interactions, the sexy times, the recurring characters visiting & more!  Hard to put down a Troubleshooters book, and this is no exception.  If you were looking for a summer read, look no further!  I give this amazing story a 5/5 Kitty's Paws UP!



***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review, by Netgalley and its publisher.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-07-03 00:00
Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic
Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the V... Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic - Armand Baltazar,Armand Baltazar It's closer to 2.5 stars, really. I thought it was less than bad, but I did not find it enjoyable.

So the good:
Even reading an ARC copy of this book indicates how beautiful it will be. With glimpses of the full color panels on the front and back, this book is going to be gorgeous. The few times that the book melds the story along with the illustrations gives those scenes a cool impact, reminding me of reading the Brian Selznick stuff, though Baltazar doesn't go to the extent that Selznick did. First and foremost, it's an action adventure book, highlighted and made unique by its illustrations.

The bad:
And that's about the only thing that makes it unique? The concept is very interesting, with the idea that time periods have become sequestered into their own sort of countries after a calamity made it so that they all exist at the same time and that electricity doesn't work anymore. It allows the techy stuff to be techy without necessarily being comprehensible, which is sometimes the downfall of children's books that have engineering elements.

But the plot and the story and the characters are very staid. The tropes that it uses, though I don't have a problem with books being trope-y, are just used in really boring ways that bring nothing new to the table. It's a generic wonder boy action plot wearing a very fancy coat. It's a nice fancy coat, but it's all it is. I thought I'd appreciate Diego more in the sense of actively seeking children's lit with more diversity and the idea of him being in full color on such glossy, professional picture brings me a lot of happiness for children who aren't me who will read this, but beyond that Diego is very bland. He's unique because he is the protagonist, and he gets away with stuff because he's the protagonist.

Nothing could get me over Lucy and Paige in this book, because I spent the whole time trying to not be annoyed as to how they were used. They're both very "strong female characters" who still need some saving at some point or another, and can't exist in the same circles without attraction because boys and girls are different, and is that Avril Lavigne kicking up another chorus of Sk8ter Boi again? I never felt like Lucy was given a real active role other than to create drama. We're told she's cool and that she's Diego's equal (being that she is the obvious love interest), but like most "strong female characters" she's just below equal. She still needs to be saved by Diego, Diego is the one who finds their parents, Diego is the one telling her she needs to be free and independent. A scene that reflects one done in Pacific Rim, and maybe it'll still go that way, but that was a movie where Mako was indeed actually for real beat Raleigh in his same field of punching things and is never treated like a plotpoint of destiny. She doesn't happen to have the magical MacGuffin for the Thing to further anyone else's plot. Lucy does, though.

I see what the author was trying to do, but man, other than a lot of pretty set pieces, the book was a little hollow. I understand that you can't stop children from being in a war when that war is the only thing that makes the plot interesting, but if you're going to talk about moral ambiguity in war, there is little else more ambiguous than a bunch of 13 year olds being on the front lines and an adult man who is totally fine with that. I get it; it gives the action to the plot - but then why even bring it up, why then show an impact of "war is hell" at the end. War is hell; if you're going to talk about that - talk about it. The whole Animorphs series basically ends with teenagers being so psychologically damaged by the war they've been fighting since they were young teens that they go on a suicide mission. I don't see this series ending in a similar way - it doesn't have the depth. I can take fluff, but I can't take a book trying to act deep when it's also trying to be actiony fluff.

I didn't hate this like I hated books like [b:Click Here to Start|27272299|Click Here to Start|Denis Markell|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1453056773s/27272299.jpg|43103080] because that book made me claw at pages with hatred, but I was rolling my eyes a lot with this book, especially in Lucy-heavy sections. And a couple of the "Diego is the chosen one" sections. I definitely didn't really enjoy it though. The explicit messages are blunt and hollow, the implicit messages are outdated.
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