Monthly Archives: January 2015

Love Means… Freedom by Andrew Grey

8488897Title: Love Means… Freedom (Farm, Book 3)
Author: Andrew Grey
Published: July 4, 2010
Pages: 210
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

Stranded in a winter storm, Stone finds himself taken in by Eli and Geoff and given a place to stay on their ranch. He’s appreciative of their help but is even more pleasantly surprised when they offer him a job and invite him to stay on. Preston, unable to walk and recovering from a car accident, winds up at the farm for therapeutic riding lessons. Although Stone and Preston don’t get on well at first, they eventually see past their initial interactions and acknowledge their mutual attraction. But with Stone’s history and Preston’s father insisting he can’t be gay, can they make it work?

I always enjoy going back to visit Geoff and Eli and company. There’s just something I find comforting about their world and end up engrossed in this series of books. Both Stone and Preston go through quite a bit in this installment and their development as characters is moving. The only thing that didn’t really work for me was that this seemed to be very close to the formula of the previous book, so it didn’t seem very unique.

Content warning: [mention of prior sexual assault

2014 in Review: #2 & #1

ID-10088833Now that 2014 has drawn to a close and 2015 is here and upon us, I wanted to take some time this month to reflect on the best of what I read this past year.  I read way more than I ever have in a single year (306 books!) and while a few of them were not ones I’d recommend, most books were compelling and engaging reads.  While everything I’d recommend is either already here on the blog or still to come (I’ve some reviews already queued out into March), I’m going to highlight the 10 books I read in 2014 that I rated a whopping 5 stars.

Note: These are books I read in 2014, not necessarily published in 2014.

To begin, let’s take a look at two of those titles:

#2 – One Man Guy by Michael Barakvia

Michael Barakiva’s debut novel is a young adult, coming-of-age gem and is truly extraordinary.  Alek is growing up in an Armenian-American family and must reconcile the pressures of his family’s expectations with who he is and wants to be.  When he meets Ethan, an older boy with a bit of a reputation, he finds a whole new world he wasn’t prepared to explore on his own.  See my full review of One Man Guy.

#1 – Captive Prince: Volume Two by C.S. Pacat

17158513The incredible sequel to Captive Prince sees Damen and Laurent’s relationship grow in some very interesting ways.  And it also means that Damen’s secret is going to be harder and harder to be kept hidden.  See my full review of Captive Prince: Volume Two.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Public Display of Everything by Cara Dee

21799352Title: Public Display of Everything (Public Display, Book 1)
Author: Cara Dee
Published: April 4, 2014
Pages: 161
Publisher: Cara Dee
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

Cory is an American in London in need of work. Flynn is a slightly awkward webmaster of a website for those into voyeurism. When the website’s users want to see their webmaster on the site, Flynn approaches Cory to ask him to take on that role in his place. What follows is a whole series of events and experiences neither likely ever expected to happen at any point in their lives.

This one is fluffy and a bit awkward, but that’s the nature of the characters, I think. Readers will either find them endearing or frustrating–I certainly oscillated between the two, though I ultimately settled on endearing in the end. The story is unique and creative, and it’s certainly something different. And I’d say different in a thankfully refreshing way in a genre that so often reuses the same tropes over and over again. I would have liked to see a bit more depth to the characters, but since this is fluff, it’s probably okay where it’s at.

On What We Read

I read…well, a lot.  I’m keenly aware of this.  It’s a subject that often comes up with friends and co-workers who see me reading and have taken to asking “What are you reading now?” or “How many books have you read this week?”  But it’s just something I do.  I get enjoyment out of reading that is different from watching a movie or playing a video game (though I certainly do those things frequently as well).  It’s just another (albeit wonderful) form of entertainment, but it’s one that I also think triggers my imagination and memory in ways that other media just can’t quite achieve.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with one of my roommates in which he told me he doesn’t like to read.  The way he said it made me think he was either ashamed to admit it or he thought that I (as someone who usually reads every day) was going to judge him for it.  Of course, I said that’s totally his prerogative.  We all have our interests and things we enjoy.  While I definitely think reading is important, I’m certainly not going to go around forcing other adults to read if they’re not interested in doing so.

This weekend, though, there was a bit of a change.  I came upstairs in the morning and stopped in the kitchen for breakfast.  My roommate was awake (early for him) and sitting in the living room with is iPad.  When I came into the room he said “Oh, hey, I need to show you something you probably won’t believe.”  He flipped the screen around and I could see he was reading a book on the Kindle app.  I simply smiled and nodded.

After I settled in on the couch I asked what he was reading.  The response I got was that same face he made before he told me he doesn’t like to read and then he quietly admitted “It’s a World of Warcraft novel.”  I laughed but then I simply asked “Is it good?”

What I realized in that moment is that many times when people are encouraged to read, they’re encouraged to read specific texts.  In my roommate’s case, he said that he figured someone who reads like I do would think a Warcraft novel wasn’t a “real” book.  This is so far from the truth for me, and we had a conversation where I explained my view that reading is reading and I would never laugh at someone or shame them for what they read.  Heck, I read things that I’m sure some of those same people who consider only high-brow literature worth reading wouldn’t consider “real”.  I’ve read some Doctor Who tie-in novels.  I read a fair amount of m/m romance novels, some of which I’m sure are right up there with the Harlequin titles my mother used to carry in her purse (not to disparage those books at all, simply to draw comparisons to a similar stereotype).  But they’re still stories.  They get me reading.  They stir my imagination and memory and they engage me.  And even if they’re poorly written (which is probably the only type of criticism I would offer of someone’s taste in books, while still recognizing there’s an element of personal taste there, too), they still contain those elements.

So, I say: read.  Read whatever you would like.  And encourage those around you to do the same.  Don’t laugh at someone for reading Warcraft novels or Harlequin romances or graphic novels.  Who knows, they might even be able to recommend something from that genre that you’ll enjoy and expand your own horizons at the same time.

Dawn of Darkness by Daniel A. Kaine

12353556Title: Dawn of Darkness (Daeva, Book 1)
Author: Daniel A. Kaine
Published: October 20, 2011
Pages: 290
Publisher: Daniel A. Kaine
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

Mikhail lives in a world on the brink. Humanity is slowly being eradicated by vampires and their only hope are the Daevas–humans with special psychic abilities. Mikhail, upon discovering he is a Daeva, is sent to a military academy to train with others of his kind. The Daeva armies hope to bring down the vampires and the threat the pose to continued existence on the planet. But neither Mikhail or anyone else on his team have ever seen a vampire; they have only the information they’ve been given as a source. And when Mikhail is on a mission and encounters one for the first time, he finds that he suddenly has more questions than answers.

Anyone who has followed my reviews will know that I am a huge fan of the post-apocalyptic dystopian theme–sometimes I can’t get enough of it. And that’s precisely why I picked up this title. It’s engaging and certainly has me wondering what’s going to happen in the rest of the series. The reason it didn’t pull a higher rating from me was that I felt it was incomplete. I know it’s part of a series and the rest of the story is yet to come, but on its own there just wasn’t enough here. The characters and relationships don’t get enough time to really pull someone in to be truly invested in it. Some more background might have helped with that, but it is what it is. The action of the story that comes later is active enough to make up for it in some ways.

Pinned by Maris Black

20342983Title: Pinned (SSU Boys, Book 1)
Author: Maris Black
Published: December 27, 2013
Pages: 241
Publisher: Maris Black Books
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

Jeremy is a college freshman ready to put his past behind him and make full use of a fresh start. Beck is a junior for whom wrestling has become everything and he’s focused on everywhere it can take him. Their paths cross on the wrestling team and quickly realize there’s more to each other–and a specific more they share. But it’s not easy for two athletes to share what they do, especially with Beck’s goals and Jeremy’s past.

It took me a bit to get into this one. When I read it, I just happened to be on a string of college stories, so something really had to stand out to truly pull in my attention. But once this grabbed me, I couldn’t put it down. There’s an ease to the storytelling and both a realistic and refreshing tone to the story that it really resonated in the end. Maris Black is a new author for me, but I fully anticipate finishing this series and keeping an eye out for future titles as well…

Learning Curve by Kaje Harper

18335673Title: Learning Curve (Life Lessons, Book 4)
Author: Kaje Harper
Published: September 6, 2013
Pages: 370
Publisher: MLR Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

The finale of the Life Lessons series follows Tony and Mac as they work to settle into their family life while Mac works to overcome the injuries he suffered at the end of <i>Home Work</i>. Mac is called in to consult on a case that involves one of Tony’s students and the two once again find themselves forced to try to balance all of their responsibilities and their relationship. Mac’s career, Tony’s peace of mind, and their life together are all on the line here and they’ll do whatever it takes to make it through.

This was a nice end to the series. I actually liked the balance between the case and the relationship story more here than in the previous three books. In the past ones, I felt like the cases were somewhat convenient to making the rest of the plot go the way it needed to, but here it seems like more of an overlay. They fit together perfectly. It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t curious to know what happens to Mac and Tony after this book ends, but Kaje Harper has given them a fitting end here in a way that gives readers closure.

Backstrokes by Dylan Madrid

18406501Title: Backstrokes
Author: Dylan Madrid
Published: June 17, 2014
Pages: 264
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

Crawford Paul is an accomplished pianist and student at a prestigious Chicago conservatory. After a prank goes wrong, his status at the school is called into question and he returns to his family’s California home to await news of his fate. To avoid being bored all summer (and because he’s worried about his scholarship being revoked), Crawford accepts a job escorting seven-year-old Isabella to her swimming lessons. While there, he quickly makes a connect with Nina, despite others telling him he should steer clear of her. Even more fortuitous is his discovery of Armando Leon, Isabella’s swimming instructor. Armando offers Crawford private swimming lessons and the two make a quick but strong connection. What will happen at the end of the summer? If everything turns out, Crawford should be returning to Chicago, but will Armando wait for him? And what if he isn’t allowed to return to the conservatory? Can he be content staying in their small California town forever?

I really liked this one. It is a bit on the fluffy side at points, but it deals with some rather heavy material as well. I can see how some might see this as possibly not taking things seriously, but I think it offered a nice balance. I laughed, I cringed, I cried–it’s one of those books, for sure. An excellent read for young and new adults, but a great one for those of us who aren’t quite so new, too.

2014 in Review: #4 & #3

ID-10088833Now that 2014 has drawn to a close and 2015 is here and upon us, I wanted to take some time this month to reflect on the best of what I read this past year.  I read way more than I ever have in a single year (306 books!) and while a few of them were not ones I’d recommend, most books were compelling and engaging reads.  While everything I’d recommend is either already here on the blog or still to come (I’ve some reviews already queued out into March), I’m going to highlight the 10 books I read in 2014 that I rated a whopping 5 stars.

Note: These are books I read in 2014, not necessarily published in 2014.

#4 – Something Like Winter by Jay Bell

Tim and Ben’s story is told quite well in Something Like Summer.  This follow-up gives readers the story from Tim’s perspective, filling in the holes about what happened in Tim’s life when he and Ben were apart and then continues the story beyond the first book.  And it’s masterfully written, incredibly engaging, and beyond moving.  I do think that reading the first book helps make this one more poignant, but it can also be read as a stand-alone if one is so inclined.  See my full review of Something Like Winter.

#3 – Love Comes Home by Andrew Grey

Gregory Hampton is a single father dealing with the knowledge that his 10-year-old son is slowly going blind.  All he wants is to find a way for his son to be happy, and that may mean having to put his own happiness on hold.  But when Tom Spangler shows up in their lives, he learns that both might be closer than he expected.  See my full review of Love Comes Home.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tour: Book Review & Giveaway: Deceived by L.A. Starkey

DeceivedTourBanner

Title: Deceived (Soul Keeper, Book 1)
Author: L.A. Starkey
Published: August 28, 2014
Pages: 505
Publisher: L.A. Starkey
Websites: Goodreads / Amazon

Synopsis:
They say a soul is the immaterial essence, the animating principle, the actuating cause of an individual life.

But what if you had to share yours with the one person you hated the most?

The soul mate principle states that for every one soul there is another that will recognize its match, hence creating the perfect union.

But what if you had two soul mates, which would you choose?

What if your choices had eternal ramification?

Deceived, the debut novel in the Soul Keeper Series, is a modern day love story about the implications of having more than one soul mate, and having to choose between the two of them. The decisions of the gods has left the next generation, their heirs, torn between fate and reality, and the balance of the future hangs in anticipation of what’s to come.

DeceivedRating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

What a wonderful start to what I expect will be one of those epic young adult trilogies everyone inevitably winds up raving about. And in this case, I certainly think that is deserved. Even though I have a bit of a predisposition to paranormal young adult stories that involve mythology (see: my clamoring to read everything by Rick Riordan), I think this is one that would be enjoyable even for those who are not major fans of the genre.

The characters here are endearing and engaging. There are complicated dynamics here that are evident even before everyone’s true nature and role are revealed. And the reveal is well-done, leaving the reader with just as many questions as answers. The story builds to an end that is unexpected and will leave readers wanting more.

I will definitely be picking up the second book. I need to know what happens next.

TOUR-WIDE GIVEAWAY

As a part of this tour, you can enter and win signed copies of Deceived AND Destroyed (book two of this series)!  To enter, see this Rafflecopter giveaway.

BLOG-SPECIFIC GIVEAWAY

If you’re interested in reading Deceived, you can enter to win an ebook copy by commenting to this post and including your email address.  One winner will be selected randomly.  (Open internationally; deadline is February 2, 2015)