Time for the Holidays: Dreamspinner Advent Calendar Story Holidays Are Where Your Heart Is By Bru Baker

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/2018-advent-calendar-daily-delivery-package-warmest-wishes-10067-b

 

Blurb

Jared’s been all over the world as a traveling manny with Holiday Helpers, and the itch to put down roots is is starting to eclipse his wanderlust—especially since his current family is a handful.
After culinary school, Wes did some wandering of his own, exploring Central America before settling as a resort chef in his mother’s homeland of Costa Rica, a place he loves and plans to stay. If he’s learned one thing, it’s to be wary of flings with vacationers. Still, he can’t stand to watch two little Swiss kids lose their belief in Saint Nicholas, so he’ll lend a hand to the manny assisting the family. It won’t be easy to recreate a traditional European Christmas in a tropical paradise.
Between a snowball fight on a sunny beach and sledding down an active volcano, Jared and Wes discover some renewed holiday magic of their own. Can they make it last a lifetime?

Review

This was a story that just didn’t have enough length to work. We got an idea of where this was going to go and just about when it seems like it gets it’s legs, it’s over.

While I appreciated the need for brevity and technically the story is all there, what it felt like was a lovely lead in and a brief exploration of the meet cute, then pow – it’s over and a maybe HFN.

I’m not sure how much longer it needed to be but I really just didn’t feel our MCs connecting much and I learned way more about the family/kids than the new boyfriend.

In any case – there were some cute moments but I wasn’t satisfied in the end.

2.75 of 5 stars

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Time for the Holidays: Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane (re-release)

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/christmas-kitsch-by-amy-lane-10019-b

Blurb: Sometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them—just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity—Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not—but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.

Review: Rusty is a “nice boy”. Tries hard, plays football, dates girls… but he’s not the “quickest”. He can eventually figure things out – given enough time- but he takes awhile to get there.
Good manners and a fascination for the new kid – chocolate to Rusty’s vanilla – prompts Rusty to befriend snarky, openly gay, Hispanic and funny Oliver. Oliver can hold his own with Rusty’s “friends” but it’s Rusty who becomes Oliver’s best friend in the last year of high school.
When it comes time for Rusty to go to Berkley, where he just knows he’s going to fail, Oliver does all he can to assure him that he’ll be there for him and that he knows Rusty won’t get lost in the shuffle. And… he kisses Rusty – telling him to just “think about it”.
Rusty is left at Berkley- lost, scared, trapped with a crazy but warm-hearted-hyper-sexual-roommate (Rex), and the memory of Oliver’s kiss to make him question…everything.
When it becomes apparent that Rusty is in fact not ready for Berkley – though he tries damn hard – he is ready for Oliver and knows that Oliver is more than just his best friend. Rusty goes home for Thanksgiving and is greeted by Oliver and kisses. His family witnesses this and kicks Rusty out of the house.
Luckily, Oliver’s family is there to help Rusty pick up the pieces and get him set up. What follows, is Rusty’s jump into the deep end of adulthood and his navigation of his first real relationship that also happens to be his first gay relationship.
Oliver’s impatience and love both help and hinder him in this process, but the underlying support he and his dad offer Rusty give him the strength to grow into the man he needs to become.
**
After Gambling Men, this is my favorite Amy Lane book. It is sweet, funny, tender, lightly sexy and really wonderful.
Rusty’s character is so open and honest as is Oliver. I love that the two have constant communication about their feelings, but even so, still manage to run into trouble because relationships are hard! Oliver just can’t understand Rusty’s reluctance to have him move in and Rusty just can’t be pressured in to giving Oliver anything but a wonderful home.
Oliver is just smart and snarky enough to ease the saccharine sweetness of Rusty’s goodness and make them a real, fun, and sexy couple.
I loved the interactions with the secondary characters. The role model of Oliver’s dad. The hilarity of the cousins. The hero-worship of Rusty’s sister. And the eventual grace of Rusty’s parents.
I read this book when I need a warm hug on a rainy afternoon and it always makes me feel better.
I can’t recommend it enough.


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Review
There is a special place in my heart for Amy Lane and her books. It was through Amy’s Little Goddess series, I followed her carefully laid out book crumbs which led me to the world of MM romance. She was also the first ‘real live author’ I wrote to after reading her work and I was so excited when she wrote back.

Knowing how Amy writes, I was expecting to shed a few tears over this book, and I wasn’t wrong.
Rusty is an absolute sweetheart. With his upbringing, he could have been a really arrogant bully, but he isn’t. He knows he isn’t that smart, but he still tries his hardest. He doesn’t want to go to college as he knows it will be too hard for him, but he goes anyway to please his parents.
His one rebellion is to fall in love with Oliver Campbell. And he gets kicked out of home for it.

I adored Rusty right from the beginning. Reading the book from his point of view, he may not quite have rose tinted glasses, but there is an innocence to the way he sees the world that can’t help but charm the reader. Oliver may be the smaller of the two boys, but he is smarter and does everything he can to fiercely protect Rusty.

This book is what Amy Lane does best. Great characters and a story that will rip out your heart and stomp on it before carefully putting it back inside you to beat another day.

4.5 stars out of 5


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Release Day review: Bigger Love (Big Love #2) by Rick R. Reed

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/bigger-love-by-rick-r-reed-9967-b

Blurb

Truman Reid is Summitville High’s most out-and-proud senior. He can’t wait to take his fierce, uncompromising self away from his small Ohio River hometown, where he’s suffered more than his share of bullying. He’s looking forward to bright lights and a big city. Maybe he’ll be the first gender-fluid star to ever win an Academy Award. But all that changes on the first day of school when he locks eyes with the most gorgeous hunk he’s ever seen. Mike Stewart, big, dark-haired, and with the most amazing blue eyes, is new to town. He’s quiet, manly, and has the sexy air of a lost soul. It’s almost love at first sight for Truman. He thinks that love could deepen when Mike becomes part of the stage crew for Harvey, the senior class play Truman’s directing. But is Mike even gay? And how will it work when Truman’s mother is falling for Mike’s dad? Plus Truman, never the norm, makes a daring and controversial choice for the production that has the whole town up in arms. See how it all plays out on a stage of love, laughter, tears, and sticking up for one’s essential self.

Review

So I really liked Big Love and fell in love with Truman in that story. I was psyched to see his story fleshed out! But….

First, most of the story – like 67% or more is really about Truman and other people including a pregnancy scare that takes up way too many pages for not a lot of return (that we see in this book).

Second, though I love Truman, I wanted to see his romance not read about him and though I loved seeing him triumph I wanted more with Mike… except Mike was 100% an asshole and I didn’t like him – ever.

Third, so since I didn’t get to really meet him and what I saw was crappy – I didn’t get invested in these guys as a couple AT ALL and I really felt like I didn’t want them together so when the ILYs jump out I didn’t buy them.

Fourth, there is a VERY creepy scene involving Mike and a citizen that is super gross – and when we find out who he is I was like???? How is that guy thinking he’s being a secretive closeted gay boy when he goes around in a vintage mustang that everyone identifies as his??? It didn’t make any sense and was very uncomfortable.

So… while I applaud Truman and still love him – this story was not up to his personal wonderfulness and I can’t really recommend it.

2.5 of 5 stars


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Release Day Review:The Kinsey Scale (Campus Connections #1)by CJane Elliott

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/the-kinsey-scale-by-cjane-elliott-9963-b

Blurb

Life is good for Eric Brown. He’s a senior theater major, an RA for a freshman dorm, and has a great circle of friends. Single since sophomore year, Eric isn’t looking for love. But then Will Butler—fellow senior, co-RA, and the cutest guy Eric’s ever seen—walks into his dorm. Will has a girlfriend he sees off campus—a minor disappointment that becomes a major problem when a housing shortage causes Will and Eric to become roommates, and Eric is forced to witness Will’s hotness day in and day out. For protection, Eric asks Jerry, his ex-boyfriend, to pretend they’re still together. Jerry warns him it’s a stupid idea, but he reluctantly agrees.

Too bad it won’t save Eric from losing his heart.

Will Butler has never believed in himself. His dysfunctional family saw to that. Although Will has loved music since childhood, he’s never seriously considered pursuing it, and the person he’s dating doesn’t encourage him. Then he and Eric Brown become roommates, and everything changes. Eric believes in Will and his talent. He’s also gorgeous and playful and fast becoming Will’s best friend. And that’s not good, because Will is hiding some big things, not only from Eric, but from himself.

Review
I really liked this! I thought the characters were great and though I sometimes felt like they were missing the boat by just not TALKING I could kinda understand it given their respective ages.

I liked the smexy times (though I wish there were more) and really felt the HEA was worth the time invested. Highly enjoyable!

4 of 5 stars


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Review
This book took me a long time to read. Not because it was particularly difficult or taxing, but just that it didn’t engage me at all. At 65% through, I was still waiting for something to happen. For a book about a drama student there really was no… well, drama.
Everything is written from Eric’s point of view, but it felt like we never really get to know him as we bounced through the academic term. And Will similarly so.
Will had a potential home life back story that could be quite interesting, but nothing was made of it. His music, another strong potential story never flourished.
The best character of the bunch was Jerry, the pretend boyfriend as we got to see some animation from him, the rest just seemed insipid.
Sadly, this book did not live up to the blurb.

2.5 stars out of 5


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Recent Release: Not Just Friends by Jay Northcote

Good Reads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42181544-not-just-friends

Blurb
Is it worth risking a friendship for a chance at love?

Leaving home to go to university is an exciting phase in anyone’s life. One that’s full of new places, new friends, and new experiences. But Lewis isn’t prepared for the sudden and intense crush he develops on his out-and-proud flatmate, Max, because Lewis had always assumed he was straight.

Max starts dating another guy, and Lewis’s jealousy at seeing them together forces him to confront his growing attraction. When Max’s relationship goes awry, Lewis is the one to comfort him and one thing leads to another. After a night together, Lewis is devastated that Max wants to go back to being just friends.

Lewis tries his best to move on and their friendship survives, but the feelings he has for Max don’t go away. He faces other challenges as he deals with coming out to his parents, and needs Max’s support more than ever. But Lewis isn’t the only one who’s conflicted. When Max finally admits he cares for Lewis too, Lewis must decide whether he dares risk his heart again on being more than just friends.

Please note that although this edition has been re-edited for publication, there is no new or additional content.

Review
This book is has been re-edited from its original release but included no new content.
I am a big fan of Jay’s books. Being from the South West UK, it’s really great getting to read about places close to me and speech that I can easily hear in my head in the correct accent!
We follow Lewis as he starts at university, sharing student accommodation with four others guys but feeling an instant attraction towards Max. It’s not a new experience for him but the first time he’s contemplating it and making decisions about himself.
It’s a fun read with the five men meeting for the first time and getting to know each other, several nights out especially in Fresher’s week which is well known for the drunken shenanigans of new students!
Lewis’ inner turmoil regarding his sexuality and attraction to Max is our main focus and you’re easily pulled along for the ride with him. He doesn’t really have anyone to turn to which makes it harder for him to sort through his thoughts. We do get to meet some good characters. The other guys in the accommodation all have individual personalities that shine through, and then there are couple of people that are met on courses and societies that we get to read more of . They offer friendship and support at important times.
One thing I loved was when Lewis and Max go running and get to go along Avon Gorge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was wonderfully written and described. Jay is a great writer at drawing you into the story and keeping you engaged throughout. The characters come across as very “real” to me and are people that I enjoy reading about. These students are mostly just starting out with independent living and first, big relationships. They’re fun to read and leave me wanting more.

Number of stars out of 5
4


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Time to Comfort the Hurt: Boy Shattered by Eli Easton


Good Reads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42272771-boy-shattered?from_search=true

Blurb

Brian
You’ll make it out of here, Brian. I swear.
I had everything—school quarterback, popular with girls, and my dad was proud of me. I told myself it didn’t matter no one knew the real me. And then I nearly died. Landon saved my life. He’s the bravest guy I know. He came out a few years ago, proud and fierce, and he ran into gunfire to help others. Me, I’m a mess. Can’t even stand to be in a room with the curtains open. But here’s the thing about losing it all: You get a chance to start over and be someone new. Only how can I move on when the two shooters who attacked our school were never caught? And why do I feel like I’m still in the crosshairs?

Landon
Will you kiss me?
When I came across Brian Marshall,the hottest guy in school, dying on the cafeteria floor, I did what anyone would do. I tried to save him. His request surprised me, but I figured he needed comfort, so I kissed him on the forehead. When he survived and came back to school, he was broken in body and mind. He still needed me, and soon we were unlikely besties. But what I saw at school that day woke me up. I want to demand action on gun control, lead protests, raise my fist. I’ll tear the world down if I have to. And if I can get the man of my dreams and save the world at the same time? I’ll take it. Only I didn’t understand that the horror at Jefferson Waller High wasn’t over.

Review by Karen
This is a book that really got under my skin. An amazing story of loss and grief, but also of love, friendship, hope, perseverance and unity in the face of senseless violence and ignorant hatred.

I think Eli Easton did an outstanding job, taking her characters and readers alike on a very intense, sadly realistic, and emotional journey. The lines between fiction and reality get blurred, making this a very powerful story.

Landon and Brian are so clearly meant to be. The way they connect during the shooting was incredibly moving. Such a great scene, terrifying and heartbreaking though it was.

Brian is an wonderful MC and so utterly shattered by the horror of what happened to him. It was devastating to read. I hate that there are actual Brian’s out there. And Jake’s that are no longer with us…
Brian had a hard time coping with his fears when he returns to school and doesn’t get a ton of support at home. Landon is his rock.
I was so happy, though, that in the end, Brian found a way to be a savior to Landon as well.

I loved Brian’s poems and the way they gave us more insight into his feelings. The Lion poem and 18 Chairs were especially poignant.

I think this is a story that needed to be written. I’m very thankful to Eli Easton for sharing it with us.
Number of stars out of 5: 5


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Review by Morgan

 

I think Eli was pretty gutsy writing this.  I bet that she gets some flack for this but what’s ironic – is the way she portrayed Brian’s family is so realistic and the hypocrisy we see regarding “life” and “guns” is absolutely amazing.  I myself cannot see their side of the story and I’m glad I don’t have to try.

 This was a hard story to read but so good and such a page turner! My only complaint was Landon’s folks and how they handled themselves as well as Brian’s mother – both seemed not as plausible as the rest of the story.

 The other thing I really wanted for Brian was a direct path to a psychiatrist and do not pass go.  I think his level of PTSD would have needed some more intervention than he got.

 

4.5 of 5 stars


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Recent Release: Ginger and the Wolf by Kerry McBoyd

Good Reads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41079400-ginger-and-the-wolf?from_search=true

Blurb

Mark Cross is a junior in college working to pay his way through college while forgetting his troubles by partying and hooking up. He meets Scott and finds himself falling head over heels for a wealthy man who couldn’t be any further from his rural background. The mutual attraction is instant, but Mark, unwilling to put himself in a position where his heart is on the line, finds ways to bring up their upper-crust/working-class differences to torpedo their budding romance.

Scott Nolan feels old, even though he’s just thirty-four. Meeting Mark reinvigorates him and gives him a new sense of purpose. After a series of men who were only interested in his wealth and family background, he finally meets a man who doesn’t care about the family he comes from—in fact, Mark seems ready to blow everything up because he thinks they could never overcome their class differences. Scott must fight to show Mark that he doesn’t care about who has how much money, and what matters above all is that they could build something more together outside the bedroom.

Review

This book was … unsatisfying. There was a lot of sex and maybe this is simply a case where “erotica” is a better title than “romance” and that’s what the target audience should expect. But for me – I was wanting a bit more relationship development than I got.

The title caught my eye – but even in the blurb you can see that this is NOT a paranormal story and really I have no idea why the title is the title. Neither the color of Mark’s hair nor is there any real “wolfiness” in Scott take center stage thus making the title apropos.

I’m not a big fan of erotica for erotica sake – don’t get me wrong – I love me some hot smexy times – but this just didn’t go far enough into romance land to appeal to me. The sex was a bit much and didn’t have the corresponding feelz to balance it out. IMHO.

As others have noted before – the lack of condoms really didn’t fit nor feel appropriate and I think that alone lands this out of the “romance” column and into “porn/erotica”.

This wasn’t my cup of tea – but I could see some glimpses of potential – so I wouldn’t avoid this author in the future.

2.5 of 5 stars


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Recent Release Review: Ryker (Owatonna U Hockey #1) by R.J. Scott ,V.L. Locey

Good Reads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35559022-ryker?from_search=true

Blurb

This New Adult book is the first in the Owatonna U Series, a spin off from the best selling Harrisburg Railers Hockey Series.

Ryker is hockey royalty, Jacob is a poor country boy. Can two vastly different people find common ground and become the men they want to be?

Ryker comes from a long line of championship-winning hockey players. Playing college hockey to develop his game is his only focus, and nothing will stand in the way of him working to become the best player. He has no room for relationships, people that point out his flaws, or anyone who calls him on his dreams. He certainly has no place for love, and meeting Jacob is nothing but a useful distraction on the side. After all trying to get his Owatonna Eagles teammate into bed is less work and more play. When tragedy rocks his family, his charmed life crumbles, and the only person he can turn to is the same one who claims to hate him.

Jacob Benson has only known hard work and stifling conservative values his whole life. Born and raised in the small rural community of Eden Crossing, Minnesota, he’s the only son of a hard-working but struggling dairy farming family. Jacob is using his skills in hockey to finance his way to an agricultural science degree. These four years at Owatonna U. will probably be the only time he has to enjoy life, gain acceptance about his sexuality, and live openly before his inevitable return to the farm. Running into a pretty rich boy like Ryker Madsen is putting a damper on his enjoyment of life away from home. Ryker’s flip, conceited, carefree attitude grates on Jacob’s every nerve. So why, if Ryker is everything he dislikes, does he want nothing more than to explore the sinful dreams that his annoying teammate stars in every night?

Review
I really loved this book! It’s definitely a YA/NA – it has a lot of angst that is age appropriate (and therefore a little frustrating) but still fits the ages of the MCs involved.

I think this can be a standalone but you’re definitely missing a lot of subtext if you don’t read these in order.

There was enough steam to keep things feeling hot but again – age appropriate.

I was pretty mad at the authors – when the hurt Ten in the last book – but I am hoping he seems on the mend and will hopefully be back up and skating soon 😉

I’ve really been enjoying this series and can’t wait for the next installment!

4.5 of 5 stars


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Time to get paranormal: Equilibrium (Superpowered Love #1) by Katey Hawthorne

 

Less than three press

https://lessthanthreepress.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=123&products_id=1640

Blurb

Hansen has been hot for Sam since they first bonded over their secret superpowers—literally hot, since Hansen can produce fire from thin air. But Sam is always covered in girls, so Hansen keeps his feelings deeply buried and settles for being Sam’s best friend.

Then Sam’s electrical powers go haywire in public, and in the fallout a mutual attraction is forced to the surface—but bisexuality is new to Sam, and Hansen is afraid to admit he’s in love. And in the midst of trying to figure out themselves and each other, they have to face—and survive—the unfriendly witness to Sam’s explosion.

 

Review

This was really good! There is some amazing world building with really cool powers- the meet cute is absolutely wonderful! Our two MCs are at school when clueless Sam meets in the know Hansen but it’s Sam who is the jock and the popular kid – so Hansen having the upper hand is a lovely switch. This follows them throughout their lives and into exploring things sexually when it’s decided that they are more than friends.

There’s some frustrating “misunderstandings” that should go away with just some talking – but since these are two college-age-ish guys – it makes a bit of sense that they aren’t great at communication. (It’s still frustrating tho…)

I wasn’t super comfortable with Sam and the girlfriend and her family and all that transpired there. It kind of made things less authentic and more soap opera-y and I could have done without that.

Thus 4 of 5 stars because I thoroughly enjoyed it but it did have some areas that made it a bit less than perfect.


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Recent release: Traded Out by Samantha Wayland

Good reads link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41555624-traded-out

Blurb

Olle Svensson came to Canada to play hockey, but now he’s wondering if twenty-five is too late to start university back home in Sweden. Things started out well, but then his friend Jamie gets caught with a guy in a men’s room stall at a random bar. Olle knows he should have stood by Jamie, in the bar and the locker room, but he’d been caught off-guard. He’d thought…well, it doesn’t matter anymore what he was thinking.

Jamie Gallagher is in hell. He’d been sure none of his teammates went to that bar, but now he’s been outed against his will and doesn’t have a single ally on the team. He’s giving serious thought to giving up on hockey until the Moncton Ice Cats come to the rescue. Jamie never thought he’d be so happy to be traded.

The only down side is that Olle is coming with him.

A Free Read through Insta-Freebee from August 28th to September 4th together with other authors ->
https://claims.instafreebie.com/gg/FC…

Review

I love this series and this author (and hockey)! This is a rather long story for a freebie and is wonderful!

It’s got a fair amount of hockey in it but is definitely relationship focused. We’ve got a clueless Jamie and an adorable Swede who quietly loves and protects Jamie until he finally clues in!

There is a bit of smexy times a lot of laughs and a nice glimpse of some of our previously loved and adored MCs.

Highly recommended for fans of the series/author but is absolutely fine as a standalone!

5 of 5 stars