Relay by Layla Reyne

Relay

Relay by Layla Reyne

Series: Changing Lanes, Book 1
Published by:
 Riptide Publishing on January 8, 2018
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Dane Ellis is a swimming star, just longing to break through the water and find what he’s looking for in life. But that’s challenging when he lives in the shadow of his father, a famous conservative televangelist, and a mother who is all about appearances. And that’s why there’s a part of him that he’s kept secret–and is glad he’s managed to do so. Until Dane makes the Olympic team alongside Alex Cantu, who is much more than a rival. For one brief moment, Alex was the object of Dane’s affection, and Alex, well, he thought they might be able to have something lasting. But appearances are important in the Ellis household, and there are some lanes Dane just won’t cross. When the two are back in the same space together, with Alex as captain and needing to keep the team–and Dane–in line, will the forces of attraction prove too much? And to what lengths will Dane, Alex, and Dane’s parents go to hold onto the world that each is trying to preserve?

Life is not easy. Even for those who have it all. And while it is easy for us to look on and judge, it may well be the case that we can never truly put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. This is a lesson for both Dane and Alex throughout this book, as they both learn more about themselves and about each other. While we ultimately cannot change parts of who we are, listening to the right voices–within and without–can be more challenging than I think we often give ourselves and others enough credit for. A thought-provoking and at times inspiring read.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Published by: Crown Publishing on January 8, 2018
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

So many times, we think we’ve left the past behind us only to find it can come back to haunt us when we least expect it. In 1986, Eddie and his teenage friends are just enjoying the innocence of their youth. The boys have little to worry about in their quiet English village, though they’re always on the lookout for adventure. And when someone uses their secret code–chalk stick figures they leave for each other to communicate messages–to lead the group to a dismembered body in the woods, well, it’s more adventure than their youthful innocence can handle.

Thirty years later, Eddie doesn’t give much thought to that eventful time in his youth. But when he receives a letter in the mail containing a chalk stick figure, everything comes rushing back. Especially when he learns that his friends all received the same letter. It could be someone’s idea of a sick joke, except one of them ends up dead and Eddie quickly learns there are more secrets piling up around him. Did the police peg the wrong guy all those years ago? And can Eddie find the answer before he finds himself or someone else he cares about in even more danger?

This is definitely one of those stories that transports you. Even with the flashbacks and jumps back and forth between time periods, the plot always seemed to flow well and the connections made themselves clear. Since this is a bit of a mystery, not all of the dots were connected at any given time, but when it all came together, everything made sense. An enjoyable mystery read for fans of the genre for sure.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the book received from the publisher via Blogging for Books.]

 

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen by David Clawson

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen by David Clawson

Published by: Sky Pony Press on May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Chris Bellows is not like the rest of his family. They are interested in fame, fortune, the social scene. Chris wouldn’t mind a more unsuspecting and quiet life. But when his stepsister Kimberly begins dating J.J. Kennerly, an heir to a fortune and a public image that is well beyond the Bellows family’s current station, Chris is along for the ride. And that ride becomes even more interesting when he develops his own feelings for J.J.–feelings that J.J. just might seem keen to reciprocate. A chance meeting with a very helpful new friend, Coco Chanel Jones, helps push Chris forward to maybe allowing himself to be who he wants to be and to believe that he just might deserve the things that he wants.

I am a fan of well-written adaptations, and I particularly like those where you can identify the inspiration but still manage to tell a unique and original story. This book delivers on all of those points in spades. There’s a lightness and humor to the story that I particularly appreciated. And in the end, I feel like everyone gets what they deserve.

Stranded With Desire by Vivien Dean & Rick R. Reed

Stranded with Desire

Stranded With Desire by Vivien Dean & Rick R. Reed

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on August 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Colby takes his job as assistant to CEO Maine Braxton very seriously. He would to anything for his boss. Not only because he’s good at his job, but because he also harbors feelings for the man that he knows he shouldn’t. After all, Mr. Braxton is engaged to be married to a woman after they get back from this trip. But that will only happen if they do make it home–their plane has just gone down in the middle of nowhere and it’s up to the two of them to work together to find their way to safety…and to a phone. And while the experience leads Colby to rethink whether he can keep working for a man that he’s falling in love with, it also forces Maine to confront some realities of his own life at the same time.

This is one of those stories about finding love right in front of you and how it can creep up on you when you least expect it. But it’s also about being open to possibilities and not closing yourself off because of what others may expect of you or what you may expect of yourself. And sometimes that can be the biggest challenge of all.

Switch Hitter by Cheyenne Meadows

Switch Hitter

Switch Hitter by Cheyenne Meadows

Series: Shifter Hardball, Book 3
Published by:
 Dreamspinner Press on June 5, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Tucker Wilde is one of the best second basemen in the all-shifter professional baseball league. Or at least he thought he was until a rookie showed up and claimed his spot in the starting lineup. And things with his girlfriend seem to have run their course. But he also spent the previous night in the throes of passion with one of his teammates–something completely out of character for a straight man like Tucker. Dixon Foxx must admit he enjoyed his night with Tucker Wilde; he’d wanted the man ever since he first met him. But he is less pleased that Tucker views it as a drunken mistake that will never happen again. And although Dixon is a star player himself, his heart’s never really been in it, a heart that he risks being broken if he can’t either get through to Tucker or find a way to move on. But moving on is hard for both of them since they still have to see each other every day…

Being someone you’re not can be dissatisfying and challenging. But so many times we force ourselves to meet what we believe to be the expectations of others in our life, all the while robbing ourselves of chances at true happiness. And sometimes those expectations can become so internalized that we don’t even consider that we may want or need something different out of life. These are issues that both Tucker and Dixon must face, albeit in different ways and for different reasons. But if they’re wise, they may be able to help each other go through it together…

Fair Catch by Leigh Carman

Fair Catch

Fair Catch by Leigh Carman

Series: Players of LA, Book 2
Published by:
 Dreamspinner Press on March 20, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Professional football player Sullivan “Van” Archer is outgoing, sensational, and definitely straight. Or at least that’s what he needs everyone to think in order to keep his position. The truth is that there are some thick walls around his closet that he hopes will never come down. After Van suffers and injury that results in a recommendation to take yoga classes, Van finds himself in the class of Tobias Bennett–one of Van’s one-night stands that he hoped he wouldn’t cross paths with ever again. Tobias is quiet, still recovering from an abusive relationship, and has very little patience for Van’s attitude. But there is something between them that neither of them can easily shake, and it’s clear they will need to figure out what it is if they’re going to figure out what to do about it.

It can be easy to forget that each of our actions has an impact and that sometimes those impacts are not intended. And sometimes we cannot foresee how things just might come back around to haunt us. But ignoring people and feelings is not a way of resolving them, and finding resolution may mean needing to let down the walls that one has put up for protection. After all, if you close yourself off to possibilities, are you truly living? This book does an excellent job of addressing these questions and issues as we follow these two young men down a road of new experiences, taking chances, and letting go.

This is the second book in the series, but it is not necessary to read the first book to follow, understand, and enjoy the story.

Camouflage by Jon Keys

Camouflage

Camouflage by Jon Keys

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on January 20, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Luke Meyers lives a somewhat quiet life as a rancher in Oklahoma, though that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t long for something more. It’s not exactly easy to find a steady boyfriend in his area of the world–one night stands with closeted men, yes, but not as many men interested in long-term romance. He’s been video chatting with Nash Gallo, an attractive young man from Atlanta, and has invited him to come stay at the ranch for a bit and get away from things for a while.

Nash has been hesitating on taking Luke up on his offer. But his hesitation has not been because he doesn’t like Luke–it’s exactly the opposite. He just doesn’t know if Luke would be able to accept the fact that Nash has been working as a hustler to make ends meet. And he does not want to get his hopes up, but even more than that he doesn’t want to let Luke down should they meet in person and the sparks he’s felt online quickly develop into something more. After being assaulted by one of his Johns, Nash decides to go visit Luke for a while, not entirely sure about what may come of his visit.

So many times we think that life would be better if we keep our secrets to ourselves. And it may be true that some secrets will only complicate relationships if they are revealed. But by keeping a secret, there is always the possibility that it might come out. So is it better to share the information on one’s own terms with a chance of controlling the fallout or to live with a shadows hanging over everything that could come crashing down at any time? This is exactly the situation for both Luke and Nash, who each find themselves worrying that the other man may not be able to accept certain truths. But sometimes love can overcome the things that we may not like about ourselves or be most proud of and other times it can’t. Isn’t it better to live authentically and know exactly where one stands?

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

Wicked Wonders

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

Published by: Tachyon Publications on May 16, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

I don’t think it’s at all an exaggeration to say that this anthology honestly has something for everyone. Fantasy, science fiction, fairy tale, you name it–it’s here. And to top it off, every one of these stories is well written and kept me engaged from beginning to end. This was my first experience reading anything by Ellen Klages, and I am glad I picked this up. This is an author who demonstrates great skill in both creating richly-developed worlds and unique, three-dimensional characters over and over again in short stories. It’s no small feat, and she does it so very well. Definitely worth a read!

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

Hero by R.A. Salvatore

Hero

Hero by R.A. Salvatore

Series: Homecoming, Book 3
Published by:
 Wizards of the Coast on October 25, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Following what may very well have been the most epic battle of Drizzt’s life, it turns out the real war is just beginning. And this time he’s not facing a giant monster or an sinister Drow Matron. No, to win this war, Drizzt must finally face his own demons if he is ever going to be able to find peace. But nothing is going to stop or let up to give him the time and the space to do so. To keep himself and his friends safe, there is much that needs to be done and not really that much time in which to see it all through.

An interesting conclusion to this trilogy, to be quite honest. There are moments where this really seemed to drag, though I think it simply had to in order for the story that needed to be told to unfold on the page. It has that solid epic conclusion feel to it, which makes me tend to believe the “word on the street” that this is it for the tales of the Drow. And if so, I think it ended well and it did leave me satisfied with where it all lives in the end.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.]

Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

Dunbar

Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

Published by: Hogarth on October 24, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Henry Dunbar was a corporate mogul, with a company and estate that could be described as nothing less than a kingdom. But a scheme by his two eldest daughters, Abby and Megan, might be his complete and total undoing. First, he needs to escape from the care home to which he’s been committed and hope that Abby and Megan don’t find him before the upcoming meeting of his board of directors. Henry’s youngest daughter, Florence, is also on the lookout for him, but her sisters appear to have no reservations about trying to stop her in her tracks. It’s a family affair–and the people who know you best can sometimes have the most information to use against you.

This story is billed as an adaptation of <i>King Lear</i>, and it certainly is, but you do not have to be familiar with Shakespeare’s play to understand and enjoy the book. There’s a bit of an adventure here in the plot, but there are also elements of suspense and family drama. It’s an easy-to-follow read, and an engaging story, great for a rainy afternoon or a day of traveling.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the book received from the publisher via BloggingForBooks.]