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: Fire and Agate by Andrew Grey

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents
https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/fire-and-agate-by-andrew-grey-9959-

Blurb
When Chris Anducci is moved off jail duty and into the sheriff’s office, he doesn’t expect his first assignment to be protecting a witness against a human trafficking ring. Knowing the new sheriff doesn’t abide screwups, Chris reluctantly agrees to work the case.

Pavle Kasun has spent the last four years of his life at the mercy of others. When an opportunity presented itself, he took it, resulting in his rescue. Now the safe houses he’s placed in are being threatened and he needs protection if he is to have any sort of chance at a life.

Chris opens his home to Pavle, but he doesn’t expect Pavle and his story to get under his skin… and stay there. Soon they discover they have more in common than either of them thought. Slowly Pavle comes out of his shell and Chris finds someone who touches his heart. But as the men looking for Pavle close in, they will stop at nothing to get him out of the way. Even if Chris can keep him safe, he might not be able to protect his heart if Pavle moves back home.

Review
There are some very heavy topics included in this story, human trafficking, PTSD, organised crime, police corruption, but none of it has much weight. The story focuses on Chris and Pavel and is told from Chris’s point of view. I found it a little hard to accept that as Pavel had been held prisoner for four years and subjected to who knows what kind of treatment would be so quick and seemingly comfortable with entering In to a physical relationship with someone so soon. Putting that aside the story focuses on Chris and Pavel’s relationship and the criminal investigation part is in the background. There is very little realism in this story but I was quite glad of that. I enjoyed the positivity that Pavel was strong enough to fight the trauma of what he had been through not only to testify against his captors but to find love.

3 of stars out of 5


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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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Time to Get Scared: A Hymn In The Silence by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood

Good Reads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40517607-a-hymn-in-the-silence

Blurb
Since graduating from Whisperwood School for Boys, William has found a sense of normalcy in his life with James. He has a steady (albeit secret) relationship, a home, and a job—even if it doesn’t pay the greatest. Nevermind that he lacks James’ reckless bravery when it comes to dealing with spirits; he does his best and it hasn’t killed him thus far.

When a new client calls on their expertise in solving a grisly multiple homicide, William resists. They’re spirit hunters, not detectives. But the money is too much to pass up when they don’t know when their next meal will be, and soon they’re arriving at Evenbury Manor, nestled in a close-knit rural community, ready to investigate.

They’re in over their heads, but in very different ways than William could have anticipated. The hills are filled with creatures far more dangerous than any they’ve ever encountered, and their usual tactics aren’t working. On top of his renewed struggles with his addiction, William is left to fend for himself against the dead to protect not only the community, but the person in the world that’s most important to him.

Review
This is an amazing ghost story! A great mix of suspense, adventure, friendship and romance!

The change in pov with regards to A Light Amongst Shadows, from James to William, serves as a lovely way to gain more insight into William’s thoughts and feelings this time. His anxiety comes across far more, same for his opium addiction and how it effectively holds him hostage, it’s a crutch but a dangerous one.

William and James are hired to solve a mystery that may or may not involve supernatural culprits. Either way, they soon have reason to fear they are in over their head. Time to call in reinforcements! We get to reconnect with Virgil and meet a wonderfully brave and intelligent new character, Adelia! Loved her!

William and James are marvelous together as always. It was wonderful to see how they have come along since their time spent at Whisperwood. Their banter is fun to read, but their more emotional moments will tug at your heartstrings something fierce.

I loved how they included so many historical details, in the subtlest of ways, sometimes by using certain quaint words and other times by casually mentioning everyday facts of life of the 19th century. Going from the more banal stuff like fashion choices and horse-drawn “cabs’, to the more peculiar practice of taking memento mori photographs, which seems a rather morbid custom from a 21st century perspective.

This is a beautifully written story and a joy to read thanks to the authors’ eloquent and expressive writing style. I also very much enjoyed the quirky humor that they incorporated throughout the story with, among other things, the never-ending quest for a “company name” for these two fearless spirit slayers.

Kelley York and Rowan Altwood really understand how to tell a tale in a way that’s so clear and compelling that as a reader you are completely sucked into the story. It almost seems to play out before you like a (scary) movie. So it wasn’t always the most relaxing read… things have a way of going bump in the night in ghost stories, after all. I swear I almost jumped right out of my seat a couple of times. Don’t read this book in bed, you’ll be scared to death imagining what might come crawling out from under it…

I also loved the mystery, or rather mysteries, that needed solving. It was exciting to try and figure it out ahead of the characters. Emphasis on try. The plot was well-thought out and there was plenty of suspense and danger, with ghosts and other threats lurking in the most unexpected of places.

So recommend this!!

Number of stars out of 5: 5


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Release Day Review: Gateway to Love by Sarah Hadley Brook

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/gateway-to-love-by-sarah-hadley-brook-9915-b

Blurb:

Ten days to finally make the leap from friends to lovers…. Craig and Mitchell have been friends for years, but each of them reached a point where that camaraderie became… more. Mitchell’s kept his feelings close to his chest. So has Craig, but now that they’ve graduated from UMKC, he knows it’s his last chance to show Mitchell they’re meant to be before their careers take them to opposite sides of the country. He insists they can’t leave Missouri behind without one last adventure. Mitchell agrees to a road trip to visit all the touristy spots and say goodbye to their home state. As they spend their days and nights together, buried feelings rise to the surface and hope blossoms. When their journey ends with a dance beneath the Branson stars, will they find love and a future together at the end of the road? States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

Review:
Another road trip story, this time it’s about two young men who want to see if they can define their feelings for one another, while taking in the sights of Missouri. All, before they go their separate ways after graduation.
Craig and Mitchell are best friends, recent college graduates. Unbeknownst to each other, each man is secretly in love with the other.
From the beginning you can see that these 2 have a great affection for one another – Craig only calls Mitch ‘Mitchell’; likewise Mitch only lets Craig get away with calling him ‘Mitchell’ (and he secretly loves it!).
As they travel together, layers of feelings are peeled away, slowly exposing how they feel about each other. And as the story develops, one also gets to sightsee with them.
When they finally figure out how they feel about each other, they still have to figure their future – they both have accepted jobs on opposite coasts. Hint: This is handled sweetly at the end and with the epilogue.
Overall, this a nice story with an undercurrent of humour and charm throughout, making it an easy, pleasant read with minimal angst.

3.5 stars out of 5


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Audiobook: BFF by KC Wells narrated by Michael Mola

audiobookreview

 

Dreamspinner Link

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/bff-by-kc-wells-9646-b

Blurb
I’m about to do something huge, and it could change… everything.

I met Matt in second grade, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. We went to the same schools, studied at the same college. When we both got jobs in the same town, we shared an apartment. And when my life took an unexpected turn, Matt was there for me. Every milestone in my life, he was there to share it. And what’s really amazing? After all these years, we’re still the best of friends.

Which brings me to this fragile, heart-stopping moment: I want to tell him I love him, really love him, but I’m scared to death of what he’ll say. If I’ve got this all wrong, I’ll lose him—forever

Review
(Book reviewed here previously: https://openskyebookreviews.com/coming-soon-bff-by-k-c-wells/)
The basis of this story is a being written by one of the main characters, Matt, and is told from his point of view. He grows up with David as Best Friends and the book chronicles their journey. I can honestly say I’m not certain how I feel about this story. It’s cute, the story of young men understanding their feelings for each other. Navigating through puberty and all the pressures high school, college and first job brings. Each chapter is another stage in their life and relationship as best friends. I would say this is the ultimate slow burn story as it takes 90% before they realise their feelings are deeper than just close friendship. There is also no angst. Perfect for a light read. My mixed feelings are because I didn’t quite feel the connection between Matt and David, it felt like friends with benefits rather than lovers. This might have been the tone of the narrator and the level of emotions between Matt and David I took from it.
I have not listened to anything narrated by Michael Mola before. He has a young sounding voice appropriate for Matt and David’s age. They are the same age about mid 20’s. All the characters had a unique voice which made easy to distinguish between them. The one thing that I found annoying after a while was Matt’s ‘chuckle’, but don’t let that put you off.

3 of stars out of 5 for both story and narration


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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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Audiobook: Joshua’s Rainbow by Victoria Sue narrated by Darcy Stark

audiobookreview

Audible Link

https://www.audible.com/pd/Joshuas-Rainbow-Audiobook/B07GVMKHF5?qid=1537472886&sr=sr_1_1&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=P9FDQWVVZTG2G5AXYXK5&

Blurb

Rainbow Key – an idyllic island retreat off the west coast of Florida. Think wedding destination, white sandy beaches, lurve… except at the moment Joshua is struggling to pay the electricity bill, they’ve no paying customers, and even if they did they can’t afford the repairs from the devastating hurricane that struck three years ago – and to top it off they have to take in Daniel, a grumpy businessman who has been ordered by his doctor to take some time off before he has a heart attack from too much stress.

Funnily enough, Daniel owns a very expensive hotel chain that has been trying to buy the island for the past two years. Not that Joshua knows that yet, and boy are sparks gonna fly when he thinks he’s been set up.

Of course, sparks of a different kind are also soon flying between them.
Then there’s Matt who just got let out of prison, Charlie who ran away from home, and Ben, a famous model until a devastating house fire destroyed his face.
Welcome to Rainbow Key – held together by love, family, and sticky tape

Review

This is a gentle feel good book, perfect for when you want a little boost. Who doesn’t love the idea of beautiful beaches, an island to escape to and falling in love. This is the first book in a series and focuses on Joshua but also introduces two other intriguing characters, Charlie, Ben and Matt. All of them have sought a new start at Rainbow key. Daniel however goes there to rest and recover from a busy schedule. He never expected to meet the love of his life. I loved that neither Joshua or Daniel were looking for love and it swept both of them up. There are bumps along the way, but that’s what makes it so interesting. Each of them have secrets they just don’t want to get out, which of course they do.
I haven’t listened to a book narrated by Darcy Stark before but I will lookout for them. He has a good style and is able to bring out the personality of each character. They all have their own distinct voices and I was impressed with the voices he gave the female characters.

5 of stars out of 5 for the story
4 of stars out of 5 for the narration

 


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Audiobook: Crocus by Amy Lane narrated by Nick J Russo

audiobookreview

Blurb
Saying “I love you” doesn’t guarantee peace or a happy ending.

High school principal “Larx” Larkin was pretty sure he’d hit the jackpot when Deputy Sheriff Aaron George moved in with him, merging their two families as seamlessly as the chaos around them could possibly allow.

But when Larx’s pregnant daughter comes home unexpectedly and two of Larx’s students are put in danger, their tentative beginning comes crashing down around their ears.

Larx thought he was okay with the dangers of Aaron’s job, and Aaron thought he was okay with Larx’s daughter—who is not okay—but when their worst fears are almost realized, it puts their hearts and their lives to the test. Larx and Aaron have never wanted anything as badly as they want a life together. Will they be able to make it work when the world is working hard to keep them apart

Review
(Previously reviewed by Mary on site.)
In my opinion you really do need to read or listen to book 1, Bonfires, before starting Crocus. Bonfires is the story of how Aaron and Larx meet and fall in love with all the complications of joining two families. It ends when Larx’s eldest daughter Olivia comes home from college and tells them she is pregnant. This book takes off from that point. We learn that not only is she pregnant she also has Depression. Amy Lane handles this very difficult subject very well. There is no miraculous recovery just because it suited the storyline. We go through Olivia’s struggles to move out of the dark place she is in and Larx’s struggles as a parent to help her. At the same time his rock, Aaron is injured whilst on duty, one of his students is suffering from domestic abuse and is missing in a snowstorm. In amongst this two brothers need his support. There is so much to keep you on edge desperate to know more and wanting everything to work out. I love the dose of reality and practically Amy Lane has in these stories. By the way the book ended I am certain there will be a third book, can’t wait.

From Morgan: I absolutely agree with Mary. Even though the HEA for our guys happens in book 1, we don’t really see them interacting a whole lot together because – in typical Amy fashion – they are BOMBARDED with drama. Though the drama is still in heavy doses in book 2 – our guys handle it TOGETHER and that makes all the difference.

I was glad to see Amy confront the depression issues head on and not shy away from the less than perfect side of pregnancy, etc.

Highly recommended and can’t wait for book 3!

Audio

I just love Nick J Russo. I can’t say that enough. He makes every listening experience a joy and I always know I can depend on him to provide a quality character choice and interpretation. I love how he manages to give Aaron the laid back and stolid voice while in the next breath giving us the hyper and sometimes frenetic Larx.

Well done and highly recommended!

5 of 5 stars for both


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Time to get scared: A Light Amongst Shadows by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood

Good Reads Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38884377-a-light-amongst-shadows?from_search=true

Blurb
James Spencer is hardly the typical troubled youth who ends up at Whisperwood School for Boys. Instead of hating the strict schedules and tight oversight by staff, James blossoms, quickly making friends, indulging in his love of writing, and contemplating the merits of sneaking love poems to the elusive and aloof William Esher.

The rumours about William’s sexuality and opium reliance are prime gossip material amongst the third years…rumours that only further pique James’ curiosity to uncover what William is really like beneath all that emotional armor. And, when the normally collected William stumbles in one night, shaken and ranting of ghosts, James is the only one who believes him.

James himself has heard the nails dragging down his bedroom door and the sobs echoing in the halls at night. He knows others have, too, even if no one will admit it. The staff refuses to entertain such ridiculous tales, and punishment awaits anyone who brings it up.

Their fervent denial and the disappearance of students only furthers James’ determination to find out what secrets Whisperwood is hiding…especially if it prevents William and himself from becoming the next victims.

Review
Amazing!!

This is at once a super sweet story of young love, and at the same time a very gripping ghost story! Full of mystery and hidden pain, with an unknown danger seeming to lurk around every suitably dark corner of the haunted, forbidding school where our young protagonists find themselves.

The setting of the book is left a little vague, an English boarding school, presumably somewhere in the 19th century and clues are strewn about with care and a joy for to reader to pick up on: carriages abound, there’s talk of laudanum and opium dens, corsets for men that have luckily gone out of fashion, snippets of “contemporary” poetry by Elizabeth Barret-Browning, mentions of Harrow and Eton…

James and William are both wonderful characters, but James especially is my favourite. He is so dogged in his pursuit of William, so optimistic and unapologetically himself, even after everything he’s gone through. I loved the back and forth between the two boys, even more so when they use poetry to flirt with each other. Brilliantly done! A true joy to read!

I loved that the authors stayed true to the spirit of the times. Prejudices and lack of knowledge/understanding regarding certain issues abound, making life and love for these boys so much harder. The characters don’t take on “surprisingly modern” attitudes as a quick fix.
I can’t explain better than that without giving away too much.
The language they use, the words they don’t speak… it all adds to the atmosphere.

There is a constant tension running throughout the book and the reader can never be at ease… We are left to wonder what is happening, the same as James and William. Is there really something that goes bump into the night? Who can they trust? Who is the villain in this story?

The secondary characters are (mostly) wonderful and they’re very well-rounded and interesting in their own right. I can’t wait to return to this world and see what else might lie in store.

I loved this book! Can’t say enough good things about it!

Number of stars out of 5: 5


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