Tag Archives: rating: four-stars

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.

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…

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.]

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic, Book 2
Published by: Tor Books on February 23, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In the four months since the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, both Delilah Bard and Kell have tried to put those things in their past. While Lilah has found a place on a pirate ship by putting her skills to use in acquiring things for the captain, she’s still finding her place in a world that isn’t hers. She’s learning to use magic, and she knows she can’t avoid returning to Red London (and Kell) forever. For Kell, it’s been much harder to distance himself. In the aftermath, he finds himself kept in the palace more than ever before, with tensions between him and King Maxim seeming only to grow with each passing day. But Red London is preparing for a major tournament–the Elemental Games–which may provide just enough distraction for everyone and some much needed relief. But one must be careful of distractions, as they have a tendency to distract from other dangers lurking beneath the surface…

I’ve had a copy of this since it was released, but it has taken me some time to get it open and read. That’s not because I wasn’t excited for it–I really have been. A Darker Shade of Magic was one of the best books I read last year. And that’s exactly why I waited. I wanted to make sure I had the time and space to truly experience and enjoy the next installment in this series. And it didn’t take long to get into the rhythm of these characters, to remember the wonder that these worlds left me with the first time around, and to try to anticipate some of the twists that really did surprise me. If you like high fantasy that doesn’t get bogged down too much in the details at the expense of keeping the plot moving, this is honestly a series for you. And I am personally looking forward to the conclusion in the early part of 2017.

The Wizard’s Desire by Anna Wineheart

The Wizard's Desire

The Wizard’s Desire by Anna Wineheart

Published by: Anna Wineheart on December 6, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After an accident with magic caused Kei to nearly lose his parents when he was younger–and left them unable to remember who he is–he decided to avoid witches and wizards at all costs. He’s made a good life for himself as a firefighter. But when a witch moves in upstairs and starts causing him problems, he’s not quite sure how much he can take. That is, until he finds himself magically inside of a snow globe…

Orion is a wizard who never seemed to have the best of luck in controlling his magic. So for the safety of others, he agreed to be shut away inside a snow globe where he could his spend his days tending to his garden without anyone being hurt. And while it may be a lonely endeavor, he’s understood the sacrifice that he must make for the good of others. So he’s unprepared and a bit nervous when a mysterious new person shows up in the snow globe. A mysterious and very attractive person, that is.

Can Orion get his magic under control to find a way to help Kei get back out of the snow globe? And can Kei trust a wizard when he’s never been able to before? Can their time in the snow globe bring them together? And if it does, what happens after Kei leaves and Orion stays behind?

I know the word unique is not the best descriptor. But dang it, that’s exactly what this book is. There is a wonderful world and backstory created by the author here, and the two men whose lives readers get to glimpse are just as complex and realistic (well, apart from the whole use of magic thing). There are many layers to this story and to the characters. There’s a lot for them to work through individually and with each other. And the author provides space for that to happen without belaboring any of it. It’s actually a bit of a refreshing read. Also, Orion is a wonderfully cheeky character who deserves some additional attention in his own right…

I give this one a solid recommendation–especially for those who enjoy their m/m romance with a hefty dose of fantasy and just a small sprinkling of angst.

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

Darkness Savage by Rachel A. Marks

Darkness Savage

Darkness Savage by Rachel A. Marks

Series: The Dark Cycle, Book 3
Published by: Skyscape on October 11, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Aidan faces a difficult decision. He always knew his gift (though he often thought it a curse) would be the key to defeating a demonic force. He just never expected that force would manifest in his own sister. He will need to find a way to stop her; it’s just a matter of whether he can stop her and save her at the same time. He works to bring his team together, his “Lights” as he’s been told they are called. And his friend Rebecca, who he was certain was not a Light, suddenly finds herself with powers all her own. With so much at stake and so many variables at play, what will Aidan decide? And will he have the power to carry out his plan of action?

The final installment of this series does not disappoint! This unique world that Rachel Marks has created managed to draw me back in as quickly as it did in the last two books. And the twists and turns that are thrown at the reader–it’s quite a journey! This is an absolutely fitting third act. My only major disappointment is that the story has come to an end. I certainly look forward to more from this author.

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

Prickly by Nature by Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade

Prickly by Nature

Prickly by Nature by Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade

Series: Portland Pack Chronicles, Book 2
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on November 16, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

It’s been four months since hedgehog shifter Avery Babineaux started his investigation into the disappearance of Lacey, a young woman from the Portland Pack. Despite finding himself in danger more than once, he’s continuing to investigate, committed to bringing Lacey home. Now that he’s started working with a licensed private investigator, Corbin Reid, he’s hoping to learn more and be able to track down every possible lead.

There are days when Dylan Green would prefer that his mate not get himself tangled up in his private detective work. He admires and appreciates Avery’s dedication; he just doesn’t care for the fact that Avery’s investigations put him in danger. And Dylan’s wolf is very much the protective type, so he can’t just stand back and let Avery walk into situations where he might get hurt. But he knows that Avery’s just as unlikely to back down as he is, and the two of them will need to find a way to live with the current state of things.

But as Avery gets closer to finding out the truth about Lacey, the danger is likely to only grow–for both of them.

Of course I had to read the follow up to the first ever hedgehog shifter novel I’ve read. And I love that the authors carried over the same spirit, that excellent balance between humor and seriousness, that I enjoyed so much in the first book. And he same sort of unexpected twists and turns exist to keep readers guessing and on the edges of their seats…