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


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Retro Review: Timber Pack Chronicles (Timber Pack Chronicles #1) by Rob Colton

GoodReads Link
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20937536-timber-pack-chronicles?ac=1&from_search=true
Blurb

The object of Parker Montgomery’s crush is big man on campus Colton Butler, who is much more than he appears to be.

Colton has been watching Parker from a distance, patiently waiting for the day when he will finally be able to claim his destined mate.

When Parker is threatened by a rogue wolf, Colton’s instincts take over and he finds that his actions have consequences that threaten to tear his pack apart.

 

 

 

Review

This is one of my “oft re-visited” stories. I love how sweet Colton is to Parker and how loyal his pack is to him as well.

I love the instant connection between the two and the total immersion Parker gets into shifter life.

I could do with a little less sex. These are 18 year old boys and the writing matches that – lots and lots and lots of sex and descriptions of jizz and boners and ….lots of it.

The pack dynamics are interesting and I love the secondary characters too.

If you’re a shifter romance fan and you haven’t run across this series – check it out!

4.5 of 5 stars

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It Could Happen by Mia Kerrick

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/it-could-happen-by-mia-kerick-8530-b

Blurb

Three misfits, mismatched in every way—Henry Perkins, Brody Decker, and Danny Denisco—have been friends throughout high school. Now in their senior year, the boys realize their relationship is changing, that they’re falling in love. But they face opposition at every turn—from outside and from within themselves. Moving to the next level will take all the courage, understanding, and commitment they can muster. But it could happen.

Henry is a star athlete and the son of religious parents who have little concern for the future he wants. Brody is a quirky dreamer and adrenaline junkie, and Danny is an emo artist and the target of bullies. Despite their differences they’ve always had each other’s backs, and with each of them facing a new and unique set of challenges, that support is more important than ever. Is it worth risking the friendship they all depend on for the physical and romantic relationship they all desire?

In this unconventional new adult romance, three gay teens brave societal backlash—as well as the chance that they might lose their treasured friendship—to embark on a committed polyamorous relationship

Review by Mary

It could happen is the first book by Mia Kerick I’ve read. In the beginning I struggled keeping track of who was who between the three main characters with the frequently changing points of view. Henry, Brody and Danny are so very different from each other and it wasn’t until I settled into each of their voices that I began to appreciate the unique style of this book. Danny tells his story through poems, Brody through diary entries and Henry through narrative.
The blurb covers the premise of the story really well so I don’t want to repeat it here. Their friendship develops into love as each of them grow together. Each helping one another cope with Family, life and understanding what they want. The three main characters come across quite strongly but the background ones, parents, are more one-dimensional. From the start Danny has identified as gay, Henry seems more like gay for them and whilst Brody said he was pan sexual there isn’t really any indication he is, or has been, attracted to anyone else. But then these are young adults are entering into their first serious relationship which happens to be between the three of them. A thruple. I think their naïveté and faith in the future is the reason the story works so well. Only one brings baggage from a previous relationship and the other two were there to help him with that.
I like the happy for now ending at graduation, it is a natural break in their story and leaves an opening for a college story.
Overall I’d say this book grew on me and by the end I loved these three young men.

3.5 of 5 stars

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Review by Beth

I had a hard time getting through this book. I’m not sure if it was how it was written or the story line itself. But I found myself having to make time to sit down and read it, rather than “OMG I am so caught up in this story how do I find more time to read a few more pages?” That being said………….

The story is written from all three of the guys’ point of view, although it seems we hear more from Brody, the adrenaline junky than Henry and Danny. Danny’s contribution is Poetry and the thoughts and emotions he expresses is very well done. The alternating of POV does give a well rounded understanding of where the three are coming from, as well as where they want to end up. Senior year in high school can be demanding just with the effort put in to graduate, and decide your future. Add into that the start of a polyamorous relationship and you have all of the typical teenage angst, as well as the homophobic bias you can imagine.

These three have been friends for four years so they know each other really well. So as you go through the story you see how that knowledge helps them get over all the bumps they encounter. As their year progresses something will cause one of them to pull back and The author has chosen to have each go their separate ways dealing with the crisis on their own and not with support of the other guy. It reinforces the motto of all or nothing this group has put into place. In the end there is a little growing up, a little learning to trust and a lot of support as all of the issues come to a head.

3 of 5 stars

 
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Signs of Life (A resilient love story) Audiobook by Melanie Hansen Narrated by Robert Nieman

audiobookreview

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/signs-of-life-by-melanie-hansen-8418-b

Blurb

A Resilient Love Story

Successful lawyer Jeremy Speer has it all—a loving husband, a beautiful home, and a cherished dream that’s about to become reality. He’s learned not to take happiness for granted, meeting the challenges of life and love head-on with unwavering commitment and fierce devotion. A series of tragic events leave Jeremy shattered, adrift on a sea of unimaginable pain. He’s able to piece his life back together, but instead of embracing it, he merely exists, using isolation and punishing physical exertion to keep the world at bay.

High school teacher Kai Daniels has a heart for at-risk kids—he was one himself, and a teenage brush with the law and some troubled years behind bars left him scarred inside and out. With courage, hard work, and the support of friends, he’s built a fulfilling life that leaves no time for a relationship.

An intense encounter with Kai at a gay club ignites a spark in Jeremy that he thought was extinguished forever, but he’s unwilling to destroy the fragile peace he’s managed to create, and he leaves Kai humiliated and disappointed. Things should have ended there, but a bizarre occurrence brings the two together in a way neither of them expected.

 

Review

(Book reviewed here previously: http://kimichanexperience.com/signs-of-life-reilient-love-book-2-by-melanie-hansen/)

Abridged

The story starts out rough. No holds barred. Jeremy loses his husband and their unborn child first thing. It takes him 2 years to rise from the depression that spurs.

Kai is a former gang member turned teacher. His childhood shaped him and he now works with at-risk kids to give them the chance that he didn’t have.

After meeting as a one time hook-up at a club, Jeremy freaks out and acts like a jerk. Luckily, Kai is truly wonderful and he understands the reasons behind the freak out and forgives Jeremy.

In the beginning they have a sex only, no-strings arrangement, but over time, feelings grow and emotions get involved.

**

This is a breathtakingly beautiful story. It’s so painful at the beginning but it has such a beautiful ending, the pain is worth it.

Melanie Hansen’s writing is perfection. She has improved even since book one (which was wonderful) and there are no rough edges to this book. The story line is clean, thought provoking without being preachy, real and rugged but still very sentimental and romantic. You can see this actually happening but still feel the fairy-tale-ness of the story. (The blazing hot sex helps with that!)

Kai and Jeremy are HOT together. Their chemistry is off the charts. But it’s also really touching and romantic when it needs to be. I loved how they fit each other so well. It’s never a big deal that Jeremy is rich – it’s just there. Kai is independent and always will be so it’s not a big deal. That was very refreshing.

It was nice seeing the happy Jase and Carey bits, seeing them with more of their HEA.

I really, really loved this story. It will count among the year’s best for me and I highly recommend it. (It’s absolutely fine as a stand alone, but book one was great, too.)

6 of 5 stars

Audio

Robert Nieman does a really nice job with this. He doesn’t do any accents or much to differentiate the characters – which I was a bit bummed about – but he’s really good with the emotion and pacing of the story. He knows how to make his voice reflect the tone of the moment and he’s very easy to listen to. His narration absolutely adds to the overall enjoyment of the story and I recommend it highly.

5 of 5 stars

Overall 5 of 5 stars

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Author Spotlight: Cardeno C Wake Me Up Inside (Mates Book 1) Book and Audiobook narrated by Charlie David

Blurb

A powerful Alpha wolf shifter and a strong-willed human overcome traditions ingrained over generations and uncover long-buried secrets to fulfill their destiny as true mates.

Regarded as the strongest wolf shifter in generations, Alpha Zev Hassick is surprised and confused by his attraction to his best friend. His very human, very male best friend. A male shifter has to mate with a female shifter to keep his humanity, so shifters can’t be gay. Yet, everything inside Zev tells him Jonah is his true mate.

Maintaining a relationship with the man he has loved since childhood isn’t easy for Jonah Marvel, but he won’t let distance or Zev’s odd family get in their way. When unexplained ailments begin to plague Jonah, he needs to save his own life and sanity in order to have a future with Zev.

Zev and Jonah know they’re destined for each other, but they must overcome traditions ingrained over generations and long-buried secrets to fulfill their destiny.

Audiobook Review by Morgan

This is such an amazing beginning to a series!

Mates aren’t supposed to meet as children!  But Zev and Jonah do.  It takes until they’re graduating from high school for Zev to figure it out – and once he does he knows he can’t keep Jonah from his future.  The problem is Mates aren’t supposed to be separated and Jonah can’t know about being mated to a shifter so and two males can’t be mated and wolves don’t mate humans so… How is Zev going to figure all this out?

**

Though this isn’t my favorite in the series, this series is one of my all time favorite shifter series EVER!  There is a lot of actual shifting – which I love – and humor – which I adore – and sweet and sexy and MINE.  All leading to perfection!

While I loved the emotions shared between Zev and Jonah as they grow together, the sexual tension is almost exhausting. By the time they finally do get together all you can do is release a huge sigh of relief! Though it was hard to see them separate, together they are scorching hot and they never lose faith with one another.

The way Zev has to navigate the new definitions of “mate” and how it relates to shifter politics is great and I loved how he and Jonah do not have the traditional Alpha/weaker-mate relationship but one that is truly equal.

Though you can read them in any order, I recommend reading this series in order.

Audio

Charlie David narrates this entire series – YAY – and I hope he does book 4 – too.  He is tremendously gifted at giving us unique characters, fantastic emotions, great timing and smoldering smexy times.  I love the warmth he creates between Zev and Jonah as they play together, then later the emotion he portrays when Jonah is so sick and confused about why he’s sick and finally the culmination in passion when our two MCs FINALLY come together.  Absolutely the best way to enjoy this story!

5 of 5 stars for book and audio

 
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Book Review by Mary

I can be a bit particular about shifter stories but this one got me right in the heart.

I loved the whole yin yang concept of the human side needing to connect with another shifter in order for their wolves to settle or they’d go crazy. It was so sweet where Zev knew Jonah was important to him from when they were babies and later in their friendship identified they were true mates. The story is set in a flashback style and at first I struggled with what was then and now but about a quarter of the way through I settled into the story. There is a slow build up and when they get together it’s such a hot and sweet love.

This is a perfect Cardeno C love story. I could feel their pain at being apart and the joy when they were together, leading to their happy ever after. I can’t wait to read (or listen) to book 2, Until Forever Comes. Miguel and Ethan sound intriguing.

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Copy Generously Provided by Author for Honest Review

Stage Two (Lexington Lovers #3) by Ariel Tachna

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/stage-two-by-ariel-tachna-8325-b

Blurb

Love has a steep learning curve.

Assistant high school principal Blake Barnes has everything he wants—a chance to help troubled students and an outlet for his passion for theater. Well, almost everything—he still goes home to an empty apartment. Then his high school crush explodes back into his life, the unexpected guardian of two boys in Blake’s care.

Thane Dalton has always been a bad boy through and through. Not much has changed, including his mistrust of authority figures, and no amount of institutional bureaucracy will keep him from protecting his nephews from the bullies terrorizing them. If that means butting heads with Blake, so be it.

Blake and Thane have lessons to learn: that they both have the boys’ best interests at heart, that the tension between them isn’t just confrontational, and that sparks can fly when opposites come together.

Review

I don’t know what the name would be – but I think everyone has that fantasy – the boy/girl you crushed on in high school who was so unattainable but triggered all your young lust… now, you’re an adult and lonely and lo and behold – said person is still around and just as hot and now… he/she can be yours!

This hit all those notes. Thane didn’t know Blake when they were kids, but Blake sure crushed hard on Thane. Now Thane is an uncle and all bossy and protective and though he and Blake clash at first – that spark ignites between them.

I thought the chemistry was wonderful – very hot and yet it wasn’t the main focus of the story. The boys – Thanes nephews –were adorable and very charming. Blake’s role as principal was portrayed fairly accurately and his dilemmas with procedure felt authentic.

I didn’t like that even at the end Thane was a dick to Blake and Blake didn’t make him grovel enough when he really should have.

It was a sweet ending with a solid HFN/HEA and very hopeful. I enjoyed this and while I had some niggles – for the most part that it was really engaging.

4.25 (rounded to 4.5) of 5 stars

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Another Dumb Jock (Book 2) Audiobook by Jeff Erno narr Ezekiel Robison

audiobookreview

Dreampsinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/another-dumb-jock-by-jeff-erno-8207-b

Blurb

Jeff Irwin and Brett Willson raised a fine son, Adam, in their unconventional, judgment-free family. But being the son of two dads has its challenges. Although Adam loves them, he’s determined to prove he’s not gay, like they are. To this end, he’s become the star pitcher of his high school baseball team, a true jock.
Then Adam is suspended after he gets into a fight at school, and his dads find out his grades are slipping. Determined to put him back on track, they hire him a tutor: a short, nerdy kid named Trevor. Despite his resistance, soon enough Adam’s worst nightmare comes true when he finds himself attracted to Trevor. This gives him a choice: follow his heart or become just another dumb jock.

Review
(Book 1 reviewed here: http://kimichanexperience.com/dumb-jock-1-audiobook-by-jeff-erno-narrated-by-tommy-obrien/)
I liked this a bit more than I liked book one. First, I thought it was great that Jeff and Brett spent time and really thought out the implications of raising kids. I think all couples should do that – not just gay people! I loved that they had a plan and a way to handle sexuality as an issue – no matter which way it fell. (Wouldn’t that be great for all parents to do?!)
I thought Adam and Trevor were ridiculously sweet with one another and the fact that Adam is like Brett and Jeff is like Trevor – but NOT – was a nice take on the jock/nerd story. This wasn’t a repeat of book one – 20 years later. Adam and Trevor are different people and their struggles are different in a much, much different time.
The sensuality felt appropriate for the YA title – most of it was off page and only discussed a bit.
I liked this as a YA story but I’ll be honest – I’m not a YA fan (in general) so I would have probably skipped this if not for the narrator. I absolutely love Ezekiel Robison and I had enjoyed the first book and I KNEW with Ezekiel as narrator it would be great and … it was!
Ezekiel has a way of just drawing you into the story. He’s easy to listen to and he does a great job of differentiating every character without going over the top. He absolutely added to my overall enjoyment of this story and I was happy to have chosen it based on his narration alone.

For the story I’d give this a 4 of 5 stars, for the narration 5 of 5, overall 4.5 of 5 stars

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A Christmas Memory 3: Home Sweet Home (Memories #3) by Max Vos

 

Blurb

Adam has always loved Christmas and this year is no different. While shocked at the things happening in his life, he can’t believe all his dreams are coming true. When celebrating the holidays, Adam believes go big! He proves to J.J. that Christmas really is the most important time of the year. 

J.J. is finally dealing with his past as he prepares for all the changes that are happening: amazing changes. At last he has his Home Sweet Home and the best family anyone could ever ask for. 

 

Review

(The series of reviews for the earlier books are here:  https://openskyebookreviews.com/?s=max+vos)

For fans of this series, this will bring a HUGE smile to your face!

First, I don’t think this is a stand-alone. Max Vos doesn’t even try to play catch up, he expects you’ve been with these guys for the whole ride. And that’s fine with me!

Second, our boys are still in love and their family is growing! Woot!  The sweet way that JJ moves through his emotions is really touching, and, as always, Adam is there to help.  (I seriously LOVE Adam’s family!)

I think this is a wonderful, sweet, sometimes raunchy Holiday series that I’ve enjoyed tremendously and think anyone with a sense of humor will, too.

Highly Recommended!

4.5 of 5 stars

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Copy Purchased for Review

Amazon Link

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Memory-Home-Sweet-Memories-ebook/dp/B01MSP05IG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1482611551&sr=8-1&keywords=a+christmas+memory+max+vos

Guyliner by j. leigh bailey

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/guyliner-by-j-leigh-bailey-7638-b

 

guylinerBlurb

 

 

Seventeen-year-old Connor works his butt off to maintain the golden-boy persona he’s created. He has the grades, the extracurriculars, the athletics, and a part-time job at his dad’s shop… every detail specifically chosen to ensure the college scholarships he needs to get the hell out of the Podunk town where he lives. The last thing he needs is an unexpected attraction to Graham, an eyeliner-wearing soccer phenom from St. Louis, who makes him question his goals and his sexuality. Sure, he’s noticed good-looking boys before—that doesn’t have to mean anything, right?—but he’s got a girlfriend. There’s no room on the agenda for hooking up with Graham, but the heart doesn’t always follow the rules.

As he and Graham grow close, other aspects of Connor’s life fall apart. Family pressure, bad luck, and rumors threaten to derail his carefully laid plans. Suddenly the future he’s fighting for doesn’t seem quite as alluring, especially if he has to deny who he really is to achieve it.

Review

This is a surprisingly sweet and sometimes emotional YA story about two guys in a rural town who find hope and love with each other. It doesn’t pretend to predict the future or even hint that these guys make it past graduation as a couple, and for that I applaud the author while at the same time my romantic soul weeps a bit.

I found the slow burn way that Connor moved into acceptance of his newfound “gayness” to be authentic and I thought Graham’s story was really, really powerful.

I thought the “steam” was appropriate for this audience (virtually no steam) and the drama was kept to a respectable amount (outside of Graham’s story, which was so, very sad.)

I enjoyed the secondary characters and really, really loved Graham. I hope we see these guys in a future work, but I’ve no idea if this is a series or a one-off.

Highly recommended for YA fans, but if you’re looking for something more “adult” keep looking.  I think Connor’s journey took a front seat to the romance, but it was an important story to tell.

4.25 of 5 stars

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A Good Enough Reason by CM Lievens

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7751

GoodEnoughReason[A]LGBlurb

 

High school seniors Ellis and Dale are as different as day and night, or so Ellis believes. Ellis loves to write, while Dale loves soccer. Ellis has only a handful of friends, and Dale is Mr. Popularity. But when they’re partnered up for an AP English project, Ellis learns different can be good. Really good.

Dale Stephens has it all: friends, a hot girlfriend, mad soccer skills—and a secret. He’s bisexual, but because he’s never been in love with a boy, it’s always been easier to keep that part of himself hidden. Until Ellis changes everything.

As their love grows, Dale realizes it’s Ellis he wants to be with—only he’s not ready for the world to know about them, especially after the way his mom reacts to the news.

But when they are outed by a bully who has made a career out of tormenting Ellis, Dale and Ellis must face down their fears and try to stay together. What will happen when the bully goes too far? Will Ellis come out of it unscathed?

Review

Ellis is teased in school for being gay, but technically has never come “out”. He’s missing his best friend, Matt, who moved away their last year in high school but still has his other best friend, Anna to lean on. Other than that he tries to keep a low profile, works hard on his grades and spends his free time writing stories.

When Ellis is paired with the star of the soccer team, Dale, for an English project he only hopes he’s not a typical jock. When Dale proposes they choose a subject that has a gay focus, at first Ellis thinks Dale IS like the other jocks, but when he convinces him he’s sincere, he finds himself confessing that he is gay to Dale and the two begin a tenuous friendship.

Meanwhile, Mark, the school bully, is ramping up his attacks on Ellis and things are getting dicey. Not wanting to make things worse, Ellis refuses to “snitch” but does allow Dale and his friends to help keep him safe in a pseudo-babysitting gig.

As the two teens work on their project they grow closer, though Dale has a girlfriend he seems in to, he also gives Ellis some confusing flirty vibes. Everything goes well and the two become true friends until one night Dale kisses Ellis.

Now Dale is avoiding Ellis and Ellis just wants his friend back.

**

So, I’m a Catherine Lievens fan. I’ve read all her paranormal series religiously and really like her creativity. This is a big departure for her (for me).

First, this is truly a YA story. It’s got very low steam, appropriate for their age level. It’s also pretty heavy handed in it’s “messages”. Bullying, coming out, bi-sexual acceptance and gay equality.

In the beginning, I was hooked. I really liked the pace of the story, the slow burn that fit the age level and the relative “normalcy” of the story. But as we get on in the book things begin to get weirder for me and it didn’t feel as organic.

I didn’t really think the Mark/bullying thing was handled well and it felt both underplayed and OTT at the same time. I also felt that though we are given a HFN rather than a HEA – I needed more “couple” time with these guys. It’s rather rushed once the two get together – and I don’t mean more smexy time – but more talking about the future and plans.

One thing I could NOT get over was Anna. Anna was supposed to be Ellis’ BFF and she did EVERYTHING wrong. She wasn’t nice, she pushed him uncomfortably, practically outed him at every turn and then abandoned him for her boyfriend at all the crucial moments. I just didn’t like her at all.

I felt Stephanie was a little too accommodating given the situation, but I was glad she wasn’t portrayed as the “evil ex”. I was also glad to see the parents mostly in support for once.

All in all this is probably a good YA book – if that’s what you’re looking for – but I was expecting something a little…more.

In any case, I enjoyed it even if I didn’t love it as much as her paranormal work.

3.75 of 5 stars

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