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review 2017-05-01 22:17
Release Day ARC Review: Stage Two by Ariel Tachna
Stage Two (Dreamspun Desires Book 33) - Ariel Tachna

This is the 3rd book in the Lexington Lovers series, as well as an installment of the Dreamspun Desires titles.

I liked this a lot. A whole lot. It's about family, second chances, learning to trust, and learning how to stand up for what you believe, even if it hurts you. It's about how sometimes teenagers are smarter than you are, and maybe you ought to listen to them.

Blake Barnes is a high school assistant principal and charged with the sophomores. Two of his newest students, two brothers who've recently lost their mother after losing their father when they were much younger, are being harassed by their classmates. When the bullying escalates and the two boys, Kit and Phillip, end up in his office, he comes face to face with Thane Dalton, the boys' guardian/uncle and Blake's teenage crush.

Thane is every bit the badass Blake remembers, but the attraction still burns brightly. Once he unravels his tied tongue after seeing Thane again, Blake goes full assistant principal mode and lays out his plan.

What follows is at once a humorous and poignant romance between two men who are trying to build a relationship against the odds and against many obstacles in their way, the least of which are the two teenage boys Thane has inherited from his late sister.

The book touches on important topics, such as high school bullying, homophobia, bad assumptions, and making rash judgments without having all the information. Yes, Thane - I'm definitely looking at you with that last one. And good for Blake for having a backbone.

As with all the books in the Dreamspun Desires series, there's little steam, but there's plenty of UST, and one mustn't forget that it's kind of difficult to get it on when you have two teenagers living in the same house. The romance between the two men was totally believable and relatable. Neither has had any kind of long-term relationship before meeting again (which is something only Blake really remembers since he didn't actually interact with Thane back in his high school days), but they're both all in pretty much right away, especially Thane. Which made it so very painful when he did that stupid thing he did. Sure, I could to some extent understand his rash reaction, but to not even give the guy he professed to want to keep a chance to explain - yeah, you were dumb, Thane. And your boys suffered for it just the same as you did.

Speaking of Kit and Phillip - I really liked those two. They were grieving their mother, of course, but they stuck by each other and were fiercely loyal to their uncle and Mr. B. I loved seeing the relationships between the boys and Mr. B. develop through the course of the book and watch him go from Mr. B. to Uncle Blake. In fact, the boys really rounded out the plot in this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it whenever they were on page.

This was a really sweet read, and it met all my expectations, and surpassed them in some instances. For example, Blake's idea of giving the boys a place on the theater stage crew was brilliant, with sound reasoning, even if Thane doesn't buy it at first. The boys plotting to get Blake and Thane into the same room at the end - hahaha, that was fun, and it worked!

I very much enjoyed reading this book, and I think you will too. Recommended.


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

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review 2017-04-27 20:43
Hold Me (Cyclone) (Volume 2) - Courtney Milan 
Hold Me (Cyclone) (Volume 2) - Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is a hell of an overachiever. She isn't content to write charming romances in which, as in Austen, the primary barriers to love are the uncontrolled aspects of multifaceted personalities. Milan also strives to remind the reader of how many different kinds of love there are, and that loving thy neighbor is hard, but worthwhile. She is Dickensian in her examination of class, but so much broader in scope. But also fun. They flirt with math. How adorably geeky and STEMy is that?

If they weren't so much fun, I might be tempted to call them uplifting. They are, often, deeply moving, because her characters have sometimes horrible, albeit too believable, backstories. Her happy endings are hard-earned.

personal copy.

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review 2017-04-27 20:18
Unraveled - Courtney Milan 
Unraveled - Courtney Milan

Social justice, a Pretty Woman plotline, so much win.

Personal copy

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review 2017-04-12 19:10
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan  
The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan

Lots of people avoid Romance as a genre because
1) they don't care about women in ballgowns
2) everything they know about Romance novels is 40 years out of date
3) they assume Romance is a genre for lonely women with too many cats
4) they buy into the idea that a genre by and about women must be inferior
5) they have no idea where to start.

Let me address those concerns.
1) The ballgown on the cover is just to let you know that this is an Historical Romance, an it is available; no actual ball gowns are worn during the story
2) Although there are still stories being written about nurses falling for doctors and innocent young girls being married off to blackguards, those are by no means the most popular themes these days. This book, for instance, is first wave feminism in all its activist glory
3) And I suppose you believe that the average gamer these days is a teenage boy in his parent's basement* killing something in a first person shooter
4) Honestly I can't imagine that anyone professes this belief, even if they have it
5) Courtney Milan, but also Jezebel.com has been covering the topic with lots of good suggestions

This book is pure enjoyment, but it's the end of the series, so if this really is your first Romance in a while (or ever), go check out The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister short 0.5)at Amazon for 99 cents. Selling shorter interstitial works in the series between novels is a genius move, by the way. You don't have to read the series strictly in order, they aren't that closely tied, but they do share some characters.

Personal copy

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review 2017-04-12 18:23
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi  
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi

Interesting and so much fun. I'm going to love this series. This is a different universe for Scalzi: the planets are mostly not habitable on their surfaces, The universe isn't full of fascinating intelligent species, although there are a fair number of humans scattered about. Two of the main protagonists are women, both of them clever as hell, one also profane as hell. Her language, her incredible, individual, hand-crafted bespoke foul language is one othe the lightest and best ongoing jokes.

The story is concerned with a colonized universe, a new emperox of same, a clever mathematician, a clever foe, political machinations, and much of it slower than slugs because of the time constraints on communication.But even though the timeline is lengthy, the books never flags. It zips on, only filling in small amounts of the gaps.Oh, the depths of those plots!

It reminds me a bit of some of the Foundation books, except with a lot more humor. It more closely resembles Scott Westerfeld's novels of his Succession empire.

Scalzi does a great job of keeping the story grounded, while also maintaining his sense of humor.

Supremely enjoyable.
Library copy

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