Monthly Archives: January 2017

Man & Monster by Michael Jensen

Man & Monster

Man & Monster by Michael Jensen

Series: The Savage Land, Book 2
Published by: Buddha Kitty Books on January 4, 2017 (re-release)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Cole Seavey knew it might not be the best idea to venture west on his own. But he needed to get away from his life back east and he figured he might see if he could catch up with his brother out on the frontier. But a run-in with a cougar as he tried to save a young child in the middle of the woods left him in the path of a much more dangerous and mysterious creature. And it also left him on the run without any of his supplies. He’s saved by a Delaware Indian name Pakim and he quickly finds himself pulled into the politics and drama of the local community. But the creature he encountered in the woods isn’t going away, and more people are going missing or reporting sightings of something strange in the forest. When it finally makes a move that could bring them all down, Cole and Pakim realize they might be parted–just when they’ve started to connect on a deeper level. Is this just Cole’s luck? Or is there a chance they will both make it out alive?

This is a very well-written historical m/m romance, which is a genre I absolutely think we need more of in the world. We know that there were certainly LGBT people during these eras in history, but because they had to keep their lives hidden most of their stories are lost to us. I love the idea of thinking about what life may have been like and filling in those gaps with good stories just like this one.

This is the second book in a series, but there is no need to have read the first book to dive into this one–it can live as a stand-alone novel. I’ve not read the first book, and I had no problems understanding what was going on or following the story.

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

Off Base by Annabeth Albert

Off Base

Off Base by Annabeth Albert

Series: Out of Uniform, Book 1
Published by: Carina Press on January 9, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Having just completed his SEAL training, Zack Nelson is looking for some space of his own. Which is why he jumps at his senior chief’s offer to live in one of his rental properties in exchange for completing the renovations. Not only will he save money, but this will get him away from the team in the evening and give him some peace and quiet. But when a friend of a friend gets a job in San Diego and needs a place to stay, Zack reluctantly agrees to let him move in. Pike Reynolds is a nice enough guy, but Zack has a few problems with him. For one, Pike is very open about being gay. Two, Zack may have tried to kiss Pike one night when he was drunk. And three, Zack hasn’t really been able to stop thinking about Pike ever since. But Zack isn’t gay; he can’t be. His SEAL team and his family would never have it. And now that they will be sharing a living space, seeing each other every day–will Zack be able to keep his desire in check? And if he can’t, is he ready to deal with everything that would come along with that?

This is the start of a new series that flows right out of Albert’s #gaymers series, all of which I’ve previously read and reviewed. You don’t need to have read #gaymers to understand what’s happening here. (Though I would highly recommend it because it’s great! And if you have read it, you’ll recognize Ryan and Josiah from Connection Error.)

This is another one of those books that I think reminds us that everyone has their own narrative when it comes to their upbringing, their identity, and the way they present themselves to the world. Although we have an arsenal of labels that we love to assign to others, identity is personal and it is up to the individual to truly own that part of themselves. And it can be easy to assume everyone is coming from the same place we are, and that’s something that is so rarely true. When it comes to love and relationships, one shouldn’t sacrifice who they are for the other person, but it’s important to listen, to be understanding, and to be open to where the other person is coming from. If we place unreasonable expectations on each other (or on ourselves) then we’re more likely to find unhappiness and resentment rather than the love and bliss that we seek.

Pike and Zack live through this firsthand. But thankfully, they both know there’s a chance that they’ll each come around before too long. Or at least they can hope…

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Reclaiming Hope by Shell Taylor

Reclaiming Hope

Reclaiming Hope by Shell Taylor

Series: Home for Hope, Book 3
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on October 14, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Kollin Haverty’s best friend, Riley Meadows, disappeared four years ago without so much as a word or phone call since. So when he shows up in town unexpectedly, Kollin isn’t sure if he should be angry or happy. Riley’s explanation for his absence doesn’t quite ring true for Kollin, but he decides to do his best to be supportive. And as Riley seems to have nearly completed his female-to-male transition while he was away, Kollin hopes that the time was good and helpful for him. The two reconnect and get closer, and they soon find that their feelings might go a bit beyond friendship. But that will only work if they can be honest with each other and it’s clear Riley is still keeping secrets. As they navigate the realities of pursuing a relationship Riley needs to figure out if he can tell Kollin the truth and Kollin needs to determine if he can be supportive of Riley no matter what–even if it means he might get hurt in the process.

This is the third book in a series, but it can certainly be read as a stand-alone story. I’ve not yet read either of the previous books, and I felt like I had no problem at all following and understanding the story. And it happens to be a very well-written and thought-provoking story at that. While I haven’t personally been in the position, I imagine that transitioning from a friendship to a romantic relationship would bring with it some unique challenges. Even though you already clearly care about the person as a friend, there is a subtle difference when you decide to open up that romantic part of yourself. There are risks involved. And there are new expectations. What might seem like it should be easy actually is anything but, which services to only complicate things even more. And that’s what we see play out here between Kollin and Riley.

I also have to take a moment to reference the inclusion of a trans character in this story. I’ll admit that I haven’t read many trans love stories–though I’ve no specific aversion to doing so. I feel like the author does a fine job of representing the character, telling his story, and being honest about the realities of what he faces in life and in the relationship.

Dare to Love Forever by Jake C. Wallace

Dare to Love Forever

Dare to Love Forever by Jake C. Wallace

Series: New Vampire Justice, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on September 26, 2016 (2nd edition)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Connor Locke is a rare vampire, a Tabula Rasa. When he bites someone, he has the ability to completely wipe their memories. Because he can work this power on both humans and other vampires, he’s considered dangerous by some and useful by others. But it means he needs to be careful what he does, where he goes, and who he trusts. So when he’s caught stealing blood to survive, he’s understandably suspicious of Lincoln Samuels, the New Vampire Justice Commander who saves Connor’s life, heals his wounds, and offers to help him. But as other forces prepare to move in on Connor and use him for their own purposes, he finds Lincoln might just be the one person he can count on. And together, they might just be able to change the world.

I’ve found that I’m reading more vampire stories than I think I have in the past. It’s not really a conscious thing; they’re just the ones that are popping up on my reading list at the right time lately. But I’m also finding that I’m enjoying the stories that I’m reading more than I think I did in the past. And that’s largely because I’m picking up books that are about more than the fact that a vampire is involved. There’s more going on in the story. Yes, one (or more) of the main characters is a vampire, but the story doesn’t revolve around that chapter after chapter after chapter. And an action romance like this one is a shining example of how to tell such a story without resorting to tropes to get through it…

2016 in Review: #10 & #9

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Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#10 Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat

Kings Rising

This long-anticipated conclusion to the Captive Prince series did not disappoint! I was pulled right back into the world of the story–right from the cliffhanger ending of the previous book that left many readers chomping at the bit to get their hands on this. I’m also pleased to see the author’s rise to success in taking this from a free story posted in installments on LiveJournal back in the day to an international publishing contract. It just goes to show that you just need the right person to notice your talent to get your break.

Read my review from August 11 for more on this title.

#9 Phase Shift by Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen

Phase Shift

And here’s another final chapter in a great series. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I picked up Chaos Station back in early 2015, but I quickly became attached to these characters and their world. Over the course of the five books, the authors delivered some amazing consistency and quality writing that really bring this world to life. I don’t always go for space travel stories, but there was no question for me from the first book that I’d be following this one to the end.

Read my review from May 2 for more on this title.

Waiting for Patrick by Brynn Stein

Waiting for Patrick

Waiting for Patrick by Brynn Stein

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on September 16, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Elliot Graham is an architect who specializes in restoring old houses and flipping them for a profit. But when he purchases an old plantation home in South Carolina, there’s something about the place that makes him wonder if he’ll be able to part with it. He’s found something that he didn’t even know he was searching for even if he can’t exactly articulate what it is.

Ben Myers promised Patrick that he would wait for him to come back. And he’s someone who is true to his word. Even though that promise was made during the Civil War, Ben is still waiting in the same plantation house where they parted more than a century ago. A bit restless, Ben reaches out to Elliot and tells him his story. Elliot does his best to try to convince Ben that Patrick is gone and isn’t coming back, but Ben is devoted. And it turns out there may be a bit more to this love story than either of them realizes…

Are you someone who believes in fate? Even just a little? Well, even if you aren’t, I have a feeling you’ll still enjoy this well-written and engaging story of love that spans more than a lifetime. In life there are very few second chances–and sometimes even few first chances–and it’s imperative that we take the chances that we are given. Who knows, sometimes they may surprise us and we might even surprise ourselves. And that’s exactly what you’ll find here…

Guyliner by j. leigh bailey

Guyliner

Guyliner by j. leigh bailey

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on October 17, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Connor is seen as the golden boy, and he’s okay with that as long as it means a ticket out of the small town where he lives. He gets good grades, is athletic, works a part-time job, has a great girlfriend, and gets along with pretty much everyone. And that includes the new kid, Graham. Graham is a self-assured star soccer player who wears eyeliner. Wait, eyeliner? But that’s not the only thing Connor notices about Graham. He’s drawn to him and can’t get him out of his head. And that’s just not acceptable–it doesn’t fit into Connor’s plans. He can’t be with a guy and get where he wants to go, can he? But as the two spend more time together, Connor begins to wonder if he really can deny the truth about how he feels. And even if he can, is what he’d be giving up worth the tradeoff?

I struggle to find the words to describe just how much I enjoyed this book. I cannot help wondering how many young men out there go through exactly what Connor goes through in this book. And Graham, too, to be fair. While we often reflect on the fact that it is “easier” to come out now than it was years ago or that young people seem to be coming out at earlier and earlier ages, we can’t simply dismiss the idea that it can be challenging for many people. And the pressure we all feel to be a certain kind of person or achieve certain things–even when it’s not made explicit–can be overwhelming on its own. To face the reality that being true to yourself means giving up many of the things that we’re taught to expect out of life as children (or to at least realize that they won’t happen quite as we expect) can be scary. And it’s even scarier to have to sort that all out as a young adult.

This is, hands down, one of the best young adult LGBT stories I’ve ever read. And I give it a very strong recommendation for all readers, both young and old.

The Boy Next Door by Kate McMurray

The Boy Next Door

The Boy Next Door by Kate McMurray

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on July 22, 2016 (2nd Edition)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Lowell moves back to his hometown after his father dies so he can help out his mother. Coming back brings up a number of old memories, some of which hit him with a rush when he realizes his next door neighbor is Jase, an old friend and longtime crush. But Jase is straight, divorced, and a single father. All Lowell can hope for is to rekindle their friendship and to keep all of his other feelings buried deep, deep down where they can’t get him into trouble. After an odd night out with Jase, though, Lowell wonders if he should risk letting those feelings come back up into the present.

Much has happened in Jase’s life since Lowell left town. Yes, he got married. Yes, he had a child. Yes, he got divorced. And yes, he got custody of his daughter. But what Lowell doesn’t know is that there are many reasons Jase and his wife decided to split. And one of his wife’s terms of their custody arrangement was that their daughter would not know about Jase’s attraction to other men. Which would be something very hard for him to hide if he acted on his feelings for Lowell since he lives right next door. And as much as he wants to let Lowell in, he’s not willing to give up his daughter to do so. If only he could find a way to have both…

So much of this book’s synopsis looks like it may be just a major trope, but it really doesn’t read that way at all. Yes, gay kid comes back home to learn that straight guy he crushed on is actually not-so-straight. But all of the dynamics at play here make that only one part of an otherwise complex story. And believe me, you’ll be rooting for these two in the face of all the other forces at play even when they’re straight up sabotaging themselves at every single turn.

Sunchaser by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Sunchaser

Sunchaser by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Series: Smilodon Pride, Book 2
Published by: Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus on October 14, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Werecat Roan has found that he can manage to live among humans on his own as long as he doesn’t stick around too long. It’s not that they’ll figure him out; it’s that he can only put up with certain people for so long. And he’s well past the time he should be moving on from his current living situation. But when he discovers a traveling circus has captured a werewolf and is subjecting him to torture to entertain the masses, he decides he has one last thing to do before he leaves town. Not that he’s a fan of werewolves or anything. It’s just that no one deserves to be treated like that. But Roan isn’t the only one who wants to set the wolf free, and after the rescue attempt goes wrong he finds himself on the run with none other than the sheriff’s daughter. And as a lone cat, Roan has to quickly adjust to being part of a crowd–and figure out what to do about the circus ringmaster who is hot on their trail (and is some sort of supernatural creature himself). Will they manage to keep themselves and the werewolf safe? And will Roan be able to set his loner nature aside while they continue to run together?

There are more than a few unexpected turns in this book, which is something I am always a fan of. Roan is a character that you simultaneously love and grumble at a bit while reading. He’s gruff and a bit jaded while kind and caring at the same time. And it’s not so much that he tries to reject the caring part of his nature, just that he doesn’t want all of the trouble and fuss that seems to go along with it. His arch is indeed an interesting one, and it’s as much of a journey itself as is the cross-country road trip that the group undertakes as part of their getaway. This is a fun and entertaining read that I can’t help but recommend.

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

Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes

Nonsense

Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes

Published by: Broadway Books on October 11, 2016 (First published April 21, 2015)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

I often think that the unknown is the scariest thing for us to confront as human beings. After all, what is the common cornerstone of most thriller and suspense films? When we don’t know who the culprit is, when they’re going to strike, what is going to happen, etc. we don’t know what to do. We often fill in the blanks ourselves, many times choosing the worst case scenario, and cause ourselves more panic and worry. And those films capitalize on that.

But beyond films designed to put us on edge, ambiguity and uncertainty crop up all the time in our lives. And not knowing usually makes us uncomfortable. There is almost a sense of not being in full control when we don’t have all the details or when something happens to show us that our understanding of something is incomplete or incorrect. And these moments can paralyze us, cause us to act irrationally, or become an opportunity to expand our horizons and see things in a different way.

In Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing, Jamie Holmes explores the concepts of ambiguity and uncertainty and the ways in which we, as humans, approach them. Drawing from research in psychology and sociology as well as practical examples, the author explains how ambiguity and uncertainty can limit us or serve as an opportunity to find productivity and success. It’s an insightful and eye-opening read that certainly convinced me that, as the Mr. Holmes writes at the end of the book’s prologue, “[I]n an increasingly complex, unpredictable world, what matters most isn’t IQ, willpower, or confidence in what we know. It’s how we deal with what we don’t understand.”

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]