Tag Archives: pre-release 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.]

Softpaw by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Softpaw

Softpaw by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Series: Smilodon Pride, Book 1
Published by: Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus on July 14, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

A serial killer is targeting male prostitutes on the streets of Paris. And the grisly nature of the crimes earned the perp the moniker “Jacqueline the Ripper”. At a complete loss for leads, the police are set to send Michel in undercover. The hope is he will make connections easily, since he used to work the streets before he joined the force. And as much as he never wants to fall back into that life, he knows that they need to do everything they can to catch a killer.

Connor seems to have what he considers a dream life. He lives on a house boat and spends his time in the gay district surrounded by art, culture, and beautiful boys. He teaches youth about art by day and plays piano in a bar by night. And he takes the time to look out for the young men who are working the street–even offering them a place to stay when they need it. But his dream life is shattered by the fact that so many of his friends are dying–and the rest aren’t safe.

When Michel walks in the door, Connor’s dream feels like it might have repaired a bit. Although he doesn’t really want a relationship–especially with someone in Michel’s line of work–he finds him hard to resist. And when Michel takes up Connor on his offer for a place to stay, proximity brings temptation and desire. Connor doesn’t know Michel has ulterior motives: Connor is one of the chief suspects in the police investigation.

But Michel doesn’t know Connor’s secret: he seems connected to the murders because he is hunting the killer. Of course, Connor also has a much bigger secret. He’s a werecat–and that’s just the tip of the supernatural iceberg that might stand in the way of the two of them having an actual relationship. Of course, first they have to track down a killer who is much more difficult to kill than anyone could have imagined…

I very much enjoyed the juxtapositions that are present within this story. Michel worked to get away from his past but now he’s fallen right back into his old haunts. Connor is trying to catch the killer, but his connection makes him the prime suspect. Michel isn’t being completely honest with Connor; and, well, vice versa. The number of opposing issues and forces could make this an unwieldy story to tell. But in the hands of these storytellers, they’re used to effortlessly build a web that is engaging, interesting, and thrilling.

This is the first book in a series. And I’m absolutely looking forward to the next installment.

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

The Valet and the Stable Groom by Katherine Marlowe

The Valet and the Stable Groom

The Valet and the Stable Groom by Katherine Marlowe

Published by: Honeywine Publishing on June 24, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Clement Adair is an excellent personal valet. So it’s no surprise he has his eyes set on becoming a butler. When the household he’s working in splits, he expects his promotion will go along with it. To his dismay, however, he is moving with his employer, but he is staying in the same role. Not happy with the prospect of being stuck as a valet on a small country estate, Clement plans to resign as soon as things are settled and return to London to seek a new path.

What Clement doesn’t count on, however, is meeting Hugo Ogden, the estate’s stable groom. Hugo is fascinating to Clement in ways in hadn’t expected. And he finds himself wanting to get to know the man much better. Which can’t really happen if he gets on the next train to London and never looks back.

There’s more going on in the household, though, that needs Clement’s attention. His employer’s constantly changing hobbies keep him more than occupied. The fact that the household butler is nearly incompetent gives him extra duties. And someone keeps playing pranks on said butler–who is quick to give Clement the blame. Can Clement help get the household in order in time to figure out what he wants with Hugo? Or should he really just leave all of the disorder behind?

Let me start by saying this book is simply wonderful. That’s really the best way I can sum it up at this point. The plot, the characters, and the storytelling make for a masterful book. It was quite difficult to put it down when I needed to get back to work. 🙂

Many times in regency-type historical romances, we see the relationship between two members of the aristocracy or one aristocrat and a member of the serving class. A story that focuses on two members of the serving class is a bit more rare, in my experience. So this is certainly refreshing for that fact alone.

What’s more is the cast of characters that rest in the background (if you could really call it that). They bring this wonderful world to life in some very vivid ways. And the humor and entertainment value of these characters is also great. Considering the relationship is slow to get started, they certainly serve to keep the reader interested while Clement and Hugo take their sweet time in finding their way.

This is a definite strong recommendation from me!

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

The Second Half: A Gay American Football Story by Scott Pomfret

The Second Half

The Second Half: A Gay American Football Story by Scott Pomfret

Anticipated Publication: Lethe Books on June 12, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Peyton Stone is the offensive coach for a Division I-AA football team. While he had what it takes to go pro, there was something missing. Some call it a spark; others call it a killer instinct. But either way, he’s found his calling in coaching. The only problem is he carries a big secret: on Sunday evenings after practice he heads over to a nearby town and cruises the gay bar. And that’s not Peyton’s only secret. He also has a major crush on the team’s quarterback.

Brady Winter is an all-star quarterback who has a bright future ahead of him. Having started late–he did a tour in Iraq before heading off to college–his age and experience seem to be a bonus. And no one doubts that he’ll go pro. But Brady is harboring a few secrets of his own. And one of them could have deadly consequences.

In the machismo environment of college athletics, can either of these men be open about what they’re hiding and still find success?

This is the first Scott Pomfret work that I’ve read, and I must say that I found it to be an enjoyable experience. There’s something about the way he builds a world that really resonated. It could be easy to expect a rather mundane setting for this story, but the secondary characters are vibrant and add to the story.

There were a couple moments where I was slightly confused. There’s a scene where Peyton is running through several things in his head, and it’s not exactly clear if he’s doing them or just thinking about them. And one moment of aggression that pops up later in the book seemed a little out of character for him, to me. But other than that, the characters are developed well and the story has a defined arc.

This makes it on my recommended list, for sure.

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

Fight to Forgive by j. leigh bailey

Fight to Forgive

Fight to Forgive by j. leigh bailey

Series: Letting Go, Book 3
Published by: Carina Press on March 28, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After suffering a combat injury, James “Freddie” Fredrick has returned to a place he doesn’t want to spend much time: home. There were many reasons he joined the Navy and left four years before. It’s not something he wants to talk about with anyone and he never has. But when his sister picks him up from the airport and tells him she’s buying Elliott House, it seems he just can’t get away. Aaron Elliott is right back at the front and center of his life. Aaron who selfishly left him without a word four years ago. And things get even more complicated when he learns Aaron is back in town.

Aaron Elliott has avoided conflict all his life. If he can get through something without making waves, he will. But when he learned his mother and stepfather were planning to sell his father’s house, he knew he had to speak up. Aaron’s father left that house to him, and though a legal technicality has put his ownership in question, Aaron believes his father’s wishes should be carried out. So he halts the sale and decides to spend a summer at Elliott House. He just doesn’t expect to run into Freddie. The feelings come rushing back, but Aaron tells himself he has to let them go. After all, Freddie destroyed anything the two of them could have had four years ago.

As the two live in proximity again, their past eventually becomes a big enough elephant in the room that it can’t be avoided. Though both are committed to never going back down that road, can their collective willpower hold out? And what exactly is the truth of their breakup? Is it possible all could be forgiven?

I’ve been a fan of this series of stories by j. leigh bailey since the first one. The stories they tell are so rich and dynamic, I always have a hard time putting the books down. And the story of these two is certainly no exception. The value of communication and trust is clear in how this story plays out. And it reminds us that it’s also so important to meet another person where they are. You can’t hold someone to expectations that are outside of their nature–especially if you never communicate those expectations to them.

Strong recommendation on this one!

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

Guapa by Saleem Haddad

Guapa

Guapa by Saleem Haddad

Published by: Other Press on March 8, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Rasa’s life has changed dramatically overnight. Last night, his grandmother caught him in bed with his lover, Taymour. Tonight, Taymour is getting married to a woman. And one of his best friends, Maj, is missing, likely arrested sometime during the night. None of these are things he can be open about. And even if he could, his grandmother isn’t speaking to him, and she’s the only family he has. Beyond his personal struggles, the political situation in his country is getting worse. As a translator for foreign journalists, he gets called out on a job that puts him face-to-face with one of the leaders of the resistance. And with everything going on in his life, he can’t help reflecting more and more on who he is and who he wants to be. He spent time in the United States, a land of “freedom.” He came back home, and for a while he had hope for his people. But what does it mean to be free? And who gets to dictate how another person should live? If there will always be a power majority, what hope does the minority have?

Although the premise of this story seems simple, it’s a rather deep read. I found myself thinking and reflecting quite often while I was reading. Rasa is an intelligent young man, and he’s engaged in the world around him. He knows that some parts of his situation are beyond his control. He also knows that he needs to find a way to live with that if he’s going to stop himself from breaking. While he lacks support in some areas of his life, he does have support in others. And maybe it’s those others that need his focus.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but there is one specific point in the book that I need to comment on. When Rasa is thinking back to his time in the United States, he describes his thoughts on being open about his sexuality. He mentions that he could choose to live openly. He could show up places and say he’s proud of who he is. He could pretend to be comfortable in his skin. But that would be a lie. He wasn’t comfortable. He was still trying to come to terms with who he is. His other option would be to make it known that he experienced discomfort and shame. But that would lead to people labeling him a victim of religion and society. Neither of those felt right to him, so he chose neither option.

This point got me thinking and reflecting. I sometimes have to remind people that coming out stories are still relevant. It can be easy to dismiss them as outdated as more people are coming out at younger ages. While some parts of society are becoming more accepting and open, that doesn’t mean everyone feels comfortable being out. And some people are hesitant to speak up about it because it has nothing to do with religion or society. Coming out to yourself can be a difficult process on its own. And coming to terms with that can be difficult, even without any outside influences. So it’s important to remember that there are all kinds of reasons that people struggle. And it’s equally important that we tell and share those stories.

I also appreciated that this story focused on a young man from the Middle East. I almost never see LGBT stories that take place in that part of the world. And we need to have stories where people can find themselves. Just as much as we need stories where people can learn about those different from themselves.

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

Guapa at the Other Press website

Mayon by Mickie B. Ashling

Mayon

Mayon by Mickie B. Ashling

Published by: DSP Publications on February 23, 2016 (2nd Edition)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★☆☆)

It’s the Philippines in 1946. John Buchanan, recently retired from the Marines, remains in the country to consider Ignacio Saenz’s offer of a position overseeing his plantation. It’s not something John would likely seek out under normal circumstances, but since the job would put him so close to Mount Mayon he can see it in the distance, he’s willing to consider it. He’s always had a fascination with volcanoes, so he’s not sure he can pass up living so close to an active one. The current overseer, Gregorio Delgado, begrudgingly takes John out to see Mount Mayon. John quickly learns that Gregorio isn’t leaving the plantation–Greg will be demoted if John steps into the role. John knows Ignacio is hoping to find a husband for one of his daughters, but he’s not really bothered by Ignacio’s ulterior motive. But when a spark of mutual attraction strikes on their campout near the volcano, Greg has a difficult time accepting any part of this new fate. And while John makes it clear to Greg the two of them can’t have a future–society’s just not ready for it–it turns out that there’s no controlling an active volcano…when it erupts, it erupts.

Overall, this is an engaging and oddly romantic story. It’s paced well, and I felt like the core relationships develop quite naturally. The cast of characters provide for some moments of comic relief against the backdrop of the broader drama. I was a bit bothered by the way John seemed to quickly dismiss Greg at times, though I felt there was some redemption as the story continued. Some situations seemed coincidentally a bit more convenient to furthering the plot than anything else, but nothing confused or derailed me during my reading. A nice historical romance.

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

Mayon at the DSP Publications website

Getting Him Back by K.A. Mitchell

Getting Him Back

Book Info

Title: Getting Him Back
Author: K.A. Mitchell
Published: February 15, 2016
Pages: 133
Publisher: Carina Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Ethan has been looking forward to moving to college to be reunited with his boyfriend, Blake, for year. Blake graduated high school a year before Ethan, so they’ve only been able to see each other on breaks. But this is their time. Until Ethan arrives on campus and Blake informs him he doesn’t want to be with him as his boyfriend anymore–but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to hook up from time to time. Ethan is initially devastated and wants nothing more to find out how he can get Blake back. He even goes so far as to engage with Blake’s roommate, Wyatt, under false pretenses to learn more about his newly-minted ex. But Wyatt has an intrigue all his own, which leads Ethan to think it might be easier to move on from Blake than he originally thought. Could Ethan really start something with his ex-boyfriend’s roommate? Is his time with Blake really in the past? And what is it that makes Wyatt keep pulling away from Ethan any time he tries to get close?

I’m not entirely sure where to start in describing this book except to say that I definitely enjoyed it. I feel like the author could have gone in so many different directions as this story played out, yet every avenue taken made for the perfect combination to bring this all together. The characters are great (even the ones hanging out in the background), and it’s not too difficult to get attached to them (or want to distance yourself as far as possible in the case of Blake). The writing expertly captures the confusion, frustration, longing, and excitement that the characters feel at various points in the story. And it all can make one really reflect on the nature of relationships and sometimes not getting what we want to instead get exactly what we need.

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

Finding the Sky by A.M. Burns

Finding the Sky

Book Info

Title: Finding the Sky
Author: A.M. Burns
Published: February 11, 2016
Pages: 180
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Dillon Smith doesn’t live in the best part of Dallas. And he’s looking forward to the end of the school year, so he can spend the summer away from the gangs and the classmates who are pressuring him to join one. Even though he doesn’t have a lot of friends, a gang’s just not something he wants to be a part of. But when he stumbles into the gang’s activities, he finds himself being treated as guilty for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though he’s never been in trouble, his mother doesn’t believe him. Dillon’s uncle, Bryan, offers to take him for the summer, giving him the opportunity to spend time at Bryan’s house away from the city. Dillon isn’t jumping for joy at the prospect, but he gets along with his uncle and at least he won’t have to worry about any run-ins with the gang for the rest of the summer.

On the way to Bryan’s house, they come across an injured hawk along the side of the road. To Dillon’s surprise, Bryan suggests that they take the bird with him–his neighbors run a wildlife rehab, and their specialty just happens to be birds. This is just the start of Dillon’s journey and the whole new world of possibilities that opens up to him. Over the course of the summer, perhaps in having the space to do so for the first time, he discovers more about himself and about life than he ever could have imagined. And his fast friendship with the son of Bryan’s neighbors, Scott, proves to be a whole new experience all its own.

A coming-of-age story with some unique twists. Too many times those stories where young people question and come to terms with their sexuality are filled with pining and crushing over the hottest jock in school, harsh bullying, and overnight epiphanies accompanied with sudden confidence. While these are all realistic situations, it’s great to read a book that looks at different challenges that a young man in this situation might face. Dillon’s journey is one that definitely has its own challenges–and some of those are heartbreaking–but his story struck me as both fresh and authentic. A great LGBT YA title!

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

Mute Witness by Rick R. Reed

Mute Witness

Book Info

Title: Mute Witness
Author: Rick R. Reed
Published: February 9, 2016 (Originally released October 2, 2009)
Pages: 290
Publisher: DSP Publications
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Sean Dawes is grateful for everything he has in his life. He has a loving partner, Austin, and an incredible son, Jason. Even though things are still a bit fraught at times between Sean and his ex-wife, it’s nothing that stands in the way of his relationship with Jason. But when Jason goes missing, the tensions are quickly raised by his wife’s family. And when Jason is later found, what has happened to him throws everyone’s world off course. Suspicions run high in a small town of people who are a bit conservative in their ideologies. But for those quick to judge, sometimes they miss the threat that’s standing right under their nose.

This one is intense. There’s no denying that. What happens to some of the characters in this book is downright awful. The way some of the other characters behave is similarly reprehensible. But things like this do happen, and I don’t know that we can simply shy away from them and pretend they don’t exist. And Rick R. Reed treats these subjects very sensitively and presents them in ways that don’t obscure the issue but manage to make them accessible to readers. And I’m simply left hoping that everyone is able to find a way to move on with their lives following the events in the book.

Content warnings: discussions/descriptions of sexual abuse, victim intimidation, violence, blatant homophobia

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