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review 2017-05-22 01:37
ARC Review: Michael, Reinvented by Diana Copland
Michael, Reinvented (Delta Restorations Book 2) - Diana Copland

4.5 stars for this 2nd installment in the Delta Restorations series!

 

First off, this shouldn't be read as a standalone. That's not to say that you couldn't - you just shouldn't. I think that to understand the progression of Michael and Gil's relationship, you should have read "David, Renewed", because the underlying UST between the two men develops in book 1, and is carried to its explosive conclusion in this book.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Michael is still David's assistant, and since David is still happily in love with Jackson (now living in the same house), and since Jackson and his band of merry men have formed a renovation company, with David slated as the interior designer, Michael still sees Gil on a fairly regular basis. Their relationship consists of a lot of teasing (on Gil's side) and a lot of "the lady doth protest too much" on Michael's side.

See, Michael is scared to admit to himself and anyone else that he's attracted to Gil, and that Gil possibly has the power to get past the brick walls Michael has erected around his heart due to past hurt. Therefore, Michael thinks that as long as he keeps Gil at bay and does not allow the man close, he'll be safe. So he snarks a lot. A lot. A whole lot. I giggled quite a bit at Michael's prickly responses to Gil's pursuit, knowing that it was inevitable, and just sat back to enjoy the ride to bliss.

Except the unknown entity from the first book who seems to be hellbent on hurting Michael's friends and business partners is still lurking in the bushes, and there's still the threat of David's abusive ex coming back to wreak more havoc, and when Michael is house-sitting for David and Jackson and finds a vandal outside of the house, his first call is not to the police but Gil.

Wonder why.

There's a lot more to Gil than Michael realized, and slowly but surely, as Michael discovers more about who Gil really is, his opinion of the man is changing, and Michael sees that maybe, just maybe, it's safe to be honest with himself and acknowledge with his head that what his heart has known for a while.

And just when Michael seems ready to take that step, tragedy strikes.

Nothing like a wake-up call to get your act together, is there?

I adored Gil - he was such a good, kind, and super patient guy, someone with a somewhat gruff exterior but a heart of gold. And Michael, prickly, hurt, and scared Michael, just grows on you - I realized in the first book that he must have had some real heartache in his life to become so standoffish and hide himself from what is definitely a good thing.

I can't say enough good things about the writing - super smooth and engaging, without any lulls or abrupt time jumps, with excellent pacing. While the book is told entirely from Michael's POV, and while Michael is a bit of an unreliable narrator, we get plenty of between the lines information about Gil. Michael may not always understand what makes Gil tick, but it's always very clear what Gil's priorities are, and how much he loves Michael, even if Michael refuses to see it.

Obviously, the men from Delta Restorations all make multiple appearances here, so we get to revisit with Vern, an older man with a rough exterior, (pretend-)grouchy most of the time, and Manny, who comes a bit more out of his shell in this book, but who still carries the scars from a previous relationship inside and out. I do hope that Manny's book will be next, because he sure as hell deserves someone who loves him fully and completely. Hopefully, that person will be Vern. I loved the easy banter between the group of men, and it was clear that they all respect each other and have formed a strong, supportive friendship.

This was a wonderful continuation of this series, and I can hardly wait to read the next book. Extra kudos for including the Velveteen Rabbit in this story - brilliant idea and execution, and thanks so much for making me cry.

One niggle - a neurologist isn't the same as a neurosurgeon, and these terms cannot be used interchangeably. I'm not sure if this was a research fail or an editing fail, but hopefully this was fixed in the final version.

Highly recommended that you pick up this book and its predecessor.


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

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review 2017-05-11 02:59
ARC Review: To Touch You (Mates #4) by Cardeno C.
To Touch You: A Vampire Shifter Gay Romance (Mates Collection Book 4) - Cardeno C.

Dear Salvatore Rossi - you're a jerk. A stubborn, selfish, snobbish jerk.

Having said that, you redeemed yourself in the end but only by a hair.

Not much love,

Me

****

This is the fourth, and probably last book, in the Mates series, which I loved. LOVED.

Here we have Yoram Smith, great-nephew of Ethan Abbatt (of Until Forever Comes), who at 7 years old gets a whiff of one Salvatore Rossi, abovementioned jerk, and knows, just knows, he's found his one true mate.

Salvatore, or Sal as Yoram calls him, is a business man, visiting the town near the Miancarem pack to entice Miguel Rodriguez, mate of Ethan, to sell him some land. Miguel has no interest in doing so, and if it weren't for Yoram proclaiming Sal his friend, Miguel might have simply chased him out of town. Except Sal is sick, sicker than he knows, and when his illness becomes terminal, and Yoram finds out, he implores Miguel to save his friend Sal.

So Sal becomes a vampire, and promptly returns to his business, caring not one iota about Yoram.

At 14, Yoram visits Sal in Las Vegas and is told to go home. Go home. By his mate!!

Yeah... I didn't like Sal at all, though I could appreciate that a 30-odd year old man/vampire would be slightly freaked out that a 14 year old boy tells him he's his mate.

So Yoram goes home, suffers alone, but he doesn't give up. He experiences similar symptoms as Ethan had before meeting Miguel, and some pointed questions later, Sal begins to get blood deliveries. Because Yoram is a saint, and just because Sal is a jerkface doesn't mean that Yoram needs to let his mate suffer.

There's some crossover here with book three, In Your Eyes. If you've read that book, you'll remember Korban Keller, who's the Alpha's son, and heir apparent, but whose mate Samuel is the Alpha of the Yafenack pack, and you'll remember what happened there, and what leads to Miancarem needing a new Alpha.

Yoram again steps up to the plate, because he's a fucking saint! He loves his pack, he loves the other wolves, and he wants to do what's best for them. Except that doesn't leave him any time for traveling to Vegas every month to deliver blood.

And then Salvatore Rossi wonders for possibly the first time who might have been bringing him blood, and what might have caused the deliveries to stop, and he travels to Miancarem to investigate. Still super selfish, amirite?

Character flaws of a particular vampire notwithstanding, I loved this book just as much as I loved the other three, though In Your Eyes will likely always be my favorite of the four. A lot of my enjoyment was because of Yoram, who is a FUCKING saint, and also because of Toby, a wolf from Yoram's pack and his brother-in-law, who provides the snark and attitude and humor in this book. He took no crap at all from Sal, he wasn't afraid of the big, bad vampire, and he took zero prisoners when it came to telling Sal what a jerk he'd been all these many years. He had some fantastic zingers, and I giggled a lot when he was on page.

This being a book by Cardeno C., there are also some super hot sexy times (when they then finally happen, OMG), and knotting. Knotting, people, which just gives the sexy times that extra oomph. Mating bites. Bloodsucking while making love. Gah. There is always such emotion within the sexy times, and I think that's one of the author's special gifts.

I was a little bit bothered by the rather abrupt transition from "where's the blood, dammit" to "OMG, I Love You, You're my everything" that Sal goes through, considering that his character was a stupid, selfish, snobbish jerk for most of the book, but I chalked that off to the mating pull doing its thing, and him finally being near Yoram for long enough to actually allow himself to feel it. The jerk.

This is definitely a fitting end to the series, and I loved that the couples from the previous book made an appearance. Well, all but Samuel. It can be read as a standalone, but why would you? Why would you not read all the books in this fantastic series? Exactly.

I will read any shifter book this author writes, ever, and I can hardly wait to get my grabby hands on the next one, even if it'll be a different series. Maybe we'll get another Syphon book next? Sign me right up.

I'm a CC addict, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Just keep feeding my addiction, would ya, CC?


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

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review 2017-04-16 01:02
ARC Review: Relationship Status by K.A. Mitchell
Relationship Status - K.A. Mitchell

This obviously had the potential to be super-angsty, especially when we were in Wyatt's head, but it wasn't. It was mostly delightful to revisit Ethan and Wyatt and watch them find their way to a happily ever after. Also, the epilogue was like icing on the happy cake.

This is the third book in this trilogy, and it shouldn't be read as a standalone. It's actually best, now that book 3 is published, to read them all back to back.

I do love Ethan and Wyatt, even though they can be complicated, immature and annoying, and as a couple, they have the potential to crash and burn, but both of them are committed to their relationship. They struggle, of course, especially since Ethan doesn't always understand what drives Wyatt, and how his history continues to influence the decisions he makes, and how he sees himself. Wyatt comes across as resentful on occasion that Ethan's life to date has been fairly easy, and seemingly forgets that Ethan has been hurt too.

Some of the issues felt forced to me, though I liked that Wyatt didn't freeze out Ethan this time around as he had in the past, when Ethan does something immature. Part of me was also hoping that Ethan would have grown up a bit more in this book, but that wasn't always the case. I never doubted that he thought Wyatt hung the moon, but Ethan does on occasion come across as rather immature. I realize they're both still very young, so maybe I should cut them some slack.

In this book, they're also not living in dorms anymore - they're renting a room in a crappy apartment for the summer while doing internships - so this newfound freedom and privacy translates into lots and lots of sexy times, though, while definitely hot, there were so many that I started skimming them toward the end.

It also occurred to me during my reading of this book that this trilogy might have worked better overall if the three books had been released as one large volume, because neither book 1 nor book 2 really told the whole story. There is growth for both Wyatt and Ethan in this final book, which I appreciated, and they're better at being adults than in the first two, but Ethan still tends to fall back on his parents, whereas Wyatt doesn't really have that option. His uncle is still in the picture, and there's some additional plot around that, which I thought was rather well done, even if it felt like a bit much - it did highlight that Wyatt and Ethan do work as a couple, and that Ethan has a really good heart, and that Wyatt has finally started believing that they have a future.

Overall, this book was a fitting ending to this trilogy, and I enjoyed reading it.

** 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 2017-03-13 23:12
ARC Review: Insight (The Community #1) by Santino Hassell
Insight (The Community Book 1) - Santino Hassell

Well, folks - I'm no longer a Santino Hassell virgin. This is the book for which I traded in my v-card, and now I sit here, wondering what on earth is wrong with me for holding out for so long.

Insight is the first book in a new series called The Community. I'm not going to explain to you what The Community in question is or what its purpose is - I'm just going to let you read this book (I encourage you to read this book. I demand you read this book, OMG) and let Nate take you inside what can only be described as an intriguing, intense, slightly creepy and twisted mindfuck.

I'm sure we've all at one point or another idly wished for a super-human power, like being able to read people's minds or feel their emotions or manipulate them into doing our bidding without them realizing their being manipulated or predict what the future holds or... well, you get my drift. Now imagine, really imagine, being able to do just one of those things.

Nate Black, for example, is an empath. He can feel people's emotions, as well as emotions attached to an every day object, such as a necklace. Imagine for a minute what that might do to a person, to always feel every emotion someone else has, just because you're touching them. Imagine greeting someone with a handshake, or someone just bumping into you while you're walking down the street or in a crowded train, and you feel. every. thing. Just as if they were your own feelings. Imagine wondering if what the other person feels are their true feelings or the ones you pushed on them with your empath ability.

Ask Nate how that feels, when you're an empath but cannot control this supposed "gift", and you feel it all, all the time. Ask Nate how it feels when your mama just up one day and leaves you, and you're stuck with your aunt, who doesn't even like you much. Ask Nate what it's like to be bullied in high school because he's gay, and the one boy he liked turned on him, because possibly, your uncontrolled powers pushed your own feelings unto this boy, and you just can't be sure whether the feelings were yours or his. And also, your brother was an asshole. You too might be cynical and lonely and depressed, avoiding people whenever you can.

When Nate's twin brother Theo turns up dead in New York from an apparent suicide, and the story doesn't gel with a vision Nate has in a dream, Nate decides that maybe it's time to hitch a ride to NYC himself and ask some questions about what really happened to his more powerful brother.

Fortuitously, Nate manages to hitch a ride with Trent, a normal human, who's also one of the few from whom Nate gets positive feelings. Warmth. Kindness. Someone who makes him feel that he's not just a fuck-up, someone who floods him with good emotions upon first touch.

The author takes his readers on a wild ride from Texas to New Orleans to NYC, and that's not even half the book. Once Trent and Nate arrive in NYC, the creepiness factor only increases. I'll refer you to the intense and twisted mindfuck comment above.

There's a romance here, yes, but it does not take center stage, and instead provides the basis for the plot. It's like the wrapper around the whole thing, really, like a rubber band that holds Nate together so he can focus on finding out the truth. Like a beacon in the darkness, Trent is all that is good and true, and possibly the only person Nate trusts.

Be prepared for unexpected twists and turns, and more than one "holy shit, what just happened?". I won't tell you anymore than that.

It's a wild ride, but I couldn't put this book down for any length of time until I had finished. If this is the kind of book this author produces, I may need my sanity checked for holding out this long.

Run, don't walk, to get yourself a copy. It's available now.

Highly recommended.

Also, where's the next installment, Mr. Hassell? I needs it. I needs it bad!!


** 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 2017-03-01 11:00
ARC Review: Ringo And The Sunshine Police by Nick Wilgus
Ringo and the Sunshine Police - Nick Wilgus

I read a draft version of this book a few months ago, and couldn't wait to read the finished product as well. The changes made were mostly subtle but made a difference.


Thomas is a gay man in his early fifties living in Mississippi. Once the drummer in a band, known for a one-hit-wonder, he has for many years longed to foster and eventually adopt a child. With recent law changes, and marriage equality being the law of the land, Thomas has begun his journey to foster parent and adoption prospect.

Having gotten to known the author via his FB page and watching him take a similar journey as his character only enriched my reading experience, as did the fact that I'm a foster parent myself.

Thomas' first (and long-awaited) placement is a young special needs boy who lost his mother in a tragic fire, and whose father is not in the picture since birth. This boy was born without arms, apparently a genetic condition, and requires additional accommodations and modifications to Thomas' home, which Thomas is only too glad to provide.

The author paints an accurate and at times painful pictures of what fostering a child can be like. It's not an easy choice to open your home repeatedly to children not your own, many of whom have experienced some form of trauma and need love and consistent commitment, and special needs children are notoriously limited as far as placement options are concerned. Not many foster parents can accommodate a special needs child, and many of these children are living in group homes with overworked staff. Most foster homes, in my experience, don't want to take placements for the kids that need help the most.

Fostering a child take a lot of love, patience, and a willingness (determination) to stay committed for as long as needed and/or possible. What these kids mostly need is stability, routines, and the experience that an adult in their lives is in their corner, protecting and nurturing them. I clearly remember my foster trainer drumming this in over and over - all children who are in foster care have experienced some form of trauma, and they need love and understanding and compassion from their foster parents.

As with all his books, Nick creates characters that are fully developed, characters the reader comes to love and in some cases hate. Thomas' lover Randy, still mostly in the closet, runs an art gallery downtown and support Thomas in his endeavors, to the point where he's willing to leave Narnia and exit the closet. I liked him a lot - he was a perfect counterpoint to Thomas, and while their relationship is not that of your usual romance novel (and this really isn't a romance anyway), the two men complemented each other well, and were supportive of each other throughout.

Another tidbit of foster care is that most child protective agencies and family judges will favor blood family over foster/adoptive families, in some cases to the detriment of the child. Many times, the foster home is likely a more stable environment, but blood relatives will trump fosters most of the time.

And so it happens in this book, when after some months of living and bonding with Thomas, Jeremy's father suddenly enters the picture and demands custody. The fact that he lives in a different state has no bearing on this, nor does the fact that for most of Jeremy's seven years of life, he was absent and paid not a single penny in child support - as the biological father, he gets "first dibs". And yes... that is one of the most painful parts of fostering - the simple fact that child could be sent from your loving home into a much worse situation because of a blood relation taking precedence.

You can surely imagine the heartache and pain Thomas experiences as he realizes that the child he planned to adopt will be taken from him, and there is not a damn thing he can do about it.

And I could completely understand how despondent Thomas was over the loss of this child, and how he felt like giving up. That he doesn't is fortuitous, and only due to Randy's prodding to visit Jeremy, which sets their happy ending in motion.

The author handled this difficult topic very well, and it is my hope that this book will open the eyes of many to the overwhelming need for foster homes in this country, and how messed up our system really is. Advocates are dearly needed, and there simply aren't enough homes open to these children, who've often seen abuse in its many forms. While Thomas' story ends on a very happy note, and while this is the desired and best outcome he and Jeremy both could have hoped for, it is also fact that even when children are reunited with their birth parents after foster care, many of them re-enter the system again at a later time.

Some people aren't fit to have children.

I should probably apologize for the preachy tone of this review, and I hope that Thomas will forgive me for using this review as a soapbox to help open your eyes to the plight of children in the foster system, and maybe even open your heart to consider the option of becoming a foster parent yourself.

It's not an easy job, no. But it's worth the heartaches and pain, because at the end of the day, you will have helped a child in need.

As I write this review, there are two children asleep in my home that we are fostering. Each day is a new adventure and a new opportunity to do right by those whom life has wronged through no fault of their own.

If you're so inclined, please check out The National Foster Parent Association to learn more about this invaluable service these caregivers provide.

This book is about a topic so near and dear to my heart, and so beautifully explores the wonder and pitfalls of fostering and adoption, I cannot help but give it all the stars.


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

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