Audiobook: Fire Balls (Balls to the Wall #2) by Tara Lain Narrated by Nick J Russo

audiobookreview

 

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/fire-balls-by-tara-lain-8126-b

Blurb

A Balls to the Wall Romance

Renowned artist Rodney Mansfield stands five foot six, has pink hair, six earrings, a black belt in karate—and a desperate yearning for firefighter Hunter Fallon. But Rod, the Runtback of Notre Dame, knows he’ll never land the beautiful “straight gay” guy, so Rod musters his altruism and helps his more masculine friend Jerry attract Hunter. As if a broken heart wasn’t enough, Rod saves Hunter from a firehouse homophobe—humiliating Hunter in front of his dad!

Hunter lives a dream life—his father’s dream. While he’d like to teach literature in college, read poetry in the sun, and find a strong guy to top him, he fights fires for his dad. Hunter hates flamboyant guys like Rodney. So why can’t he resist him? Maybe it’s time to admit this is one flame he has no desire to put out.

First Edition published by Etopia Press, 2012.

Review

(Book reviewed here previously)

Though this is the second book in the series, they are absolutely okay as standalones. I do like watching the progression, however, as each new couple (or triad!) meets and we see them in future stories.

Rod is the artist who painted David – if you read book one. He’s very flamboyant and he both loves and hates this about himself. He’s also not very tall, but he’s super tough and a black belt in Karate.

There’s a lot to this story that I love: I love Rodney. He’s a great character. Self assured. Charismatic. Colorful. Stereo-type defying. Hunter is unique as well. I love that Rodney helps Hunter but that it’s Hunter’s family who helps him the most.

What I didn’t love: the first two times Hunter and Rodney are together physically felt both like cheating and a little less than consensual. I don’t mean rape – while Rodney probably could hurt Hunter physically , he would never – but more mentally. I didn’t like that it was clear Hunter wasn’t mentally in a good place to make decisions, he was dating Jerry, and he didn’t want to want Rodney. I didn’t feel good about how Rodney sort of “seduced” him… it’s hard to explain but it clearly wasn’t something both men were on the same page about and it left both men feeling bad after it happened.

So, I’m conflicted about the rating, because I love Rodney and appreciate so much about the story, but that aspect really brought my appreciation of this story down. I’m going to go with 3 of 5 stars and leave it at that.

(I’m not sure if anything changed from the first edition to this one, but I’d read the original and couldn’t tell a difference, but it’d been a long time ago.)

3 of 5 stars

Audio

Nick J Russo is one of my favorite narrators ever, so it’s not unreasonable that I loved this just as much as any of his other narrations.  He is so good at giving everyone unique voices and handling the sometimes awkward phrasing that the author has chosen.  

I always know if Nick’s narrating I’ll be entertained and that the book will be undoubtedly elevated beyond just the reading of the material.

Recommended in this format!

5 of 5 stars for the narration

Overall

4 of 5 stars


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Release Day Review: Saving Hannah by J.P. Barnaby

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/saving-hannah-by-jp-barnaby-10051-b

Blurb

Thomas Aberthol’s luck has run out. His daughter, Hannah, needs a miracle he can’t deliver. A hacker with a felony record, Thomas has little chance of finding work that will provide the care she needs. Out of money, out of options, and out of hope, he throws himself on the mercy of someone he never thought to see again.

Even after ten years, Aleksander Sanna still dreams of that drunken kiss. A perfect moment in time when Thomas wanted him. In his world of elegant code and high finance, the picture he holds of Thomas torments him in the dark of night.

Their worlds collide as Thomas interviews for the job he so desperately needs with the company Aleks inherited from his father. Thomas doesn’t get the position, but Aleks offers him a completely different kind of proposal, one suited to Thomas’s unique talents… one that will change the course of both their lives.

Review

This is a second chance at love story, with a little bit of out for you mixed in, though that’s not the focus of the book.

Our two main characters, Thomas and Aleks, used to be best friends in college and they developed deeper feelings for each other as well, though these were left unspoken. Thomas wasn’t ready to face that particular truth about himself and basically made a run for it. Things happen, not all of them good, and ten years pass before life throws them together again.

Aleks has never forgotten Thomas, and when he finds himself in a unique position to help Thomas and his little girl, who’s battling with leukemia, he grabs it with both hands. He needs Thomas’ expertise too, to help him find out what happened to his father, so they strike a mutually beneficial bargain. I very much liked what the author came up with here, and how she handled it.

Aleks and Thomas are a great pairing. I very much enjoyed watching them find their way back to each other. Aleks’ devotion and big heart instantly made me like him a great deal, and it hurt to see how alone he was “pre-Thomas”.
Thomas is a father first and foremost, but he’s not had it easy. He feels so guilty about his past and how that impacted his little girl. Hannah is always at the forefront of his mind. He’s caught between a rock and a hard place, but bravely soldiers on. I could really relate to his struggles.

This is very much a story about finding family, with Aleks embracing Hannah from the very first moment. Swoon. Way to go, Aleks!
Hannah’s a dear, such a brave young girl, and reading about her battle with her illness was heartbreaking. I think the author did a great job in describing the desperation and helplessness that Thomas and his mother have no choice but to endure, though those are luckily offset by the heartwarming moments the three of them, and later Aleks too, share and the support they find with each other.
Thomas’ mom is great, looking out for her son and understandably apprehensive about the risks he takes for both Hannah and Aleks.

As the story unfolds, this new little family is threatened from an unexpected corner, and we get more of an action-filled story, bringing suspense and tension that I hadn’t seen coming. So this book has a little bit of everything in it, combining a deeply emotional storyline with a crime/action subplot.

All in all, I found this to be a very enjoyable, surprising read.

Number of stars out of 5: 4


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Time for the Holidays: Dreamspinner Advent Calendar Story Make a Circle by Elliot Joyce

Dreamspinner Presents

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

 

Blurb

Pagan punk musician Lucas is fully prepared to spend this Yule with the rest of the band and his beautiful bass guitar when Oliver, his boyfriend of almost a year, asks if he wants to join the rest of the Han family for their annual winter celebration. It comes as a shock since Ollie has gone to great lengths to keep the two apart, and Lucas always assumed he was the reason. Since they’re planning to be together long-term, Lucas can’t say no to meeting Ollie’s parents, but he better brush up on his manners and his Mandarin because this is going to be a holiday season like no other—and it has some surprises in store for both of them.

Review

I liked this story. I wasn’t 100% sure I got the message, if there was one. The story centred around family and acceptance but in my naivety I thought Oliver has already been accepted by his family, well that was the impression I got from the way they treated him. It was more the case that the older members of his family were having a hard time breaking habits and kept speaking without thinking. I know that is hurtful but it doesn’t come across as malicious in the story. It’s not just that Oliver is gay there is another aspect his family had to understand and accept. I don’t want to give it away because it is an important part of the story. His family is big and loud with the usual family drama. Lucas is worried about fitting in because he doesn’t speak mandarin. For this reason he doesn’t realise that they liked him straight away. Just like with Oliver though the family members were thoughtless and did not think to include him in conversation by switching to English which left him feeling on the outside.

Overall it is a lovely story, with a warm family welcome for Lucas, even though he had to hear that through Oliver. Just a snapshot of a holiday moment in this couple’s relationship.

3 of stars out of 5

Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review

 

 

 

 

Time to Celebrate the Holidays: Christmas Cole audiobook by BG Thomas narrated by Paul Morey

Dreamspinner
https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/christmas-cole-by-bg-thomas-6184-

Blurb
Javier Torres was a sweet, plump, and very unpopular child. But over the years, he turned himself into a gorgeous gym god. The problem is he’s also become an egotistical snob. But one day his arrogance pisses off the wrong little old lady, and he wakes up to find that, like the Prince in Beauty and the Beast, he’s been transformed into something from his personal nightmares. Javier has nowhere to go but back home, where to his surprise, he is greeted with open arms, not just by the family he remembers, but by his new brother-in-law, Cole. Cole suspects there might be a pretty heart to go with the pretty face locked inside that new body, but has Javier learned enough to earn Cole—instead of coal—for Christmas

Review
This title is part of the 2011 Advent Calendar: I’ll Be Home for Christmas.
I quite enjoyed this take on the beauty and the beast / it’s a wonderful life type of story. It’s also a moral lesson of judging people by looks rather than who they really were. And how shallow he had become. It took a harsh lesson before he was able to see what he had become. He didn’t really understand until he went home to see his family and meets Cole again. Javier’s partner Mark is a horrible person especially the way he treated Javier after he was transformed.Quite a message in this story but it is heartwarming. The love and acceptance of family and of oneself.
The narrator, Paul Morey, does a fair job but I felt that the emotions were missing. After all Javier did suffer his worst nightmare and was deserted by Mark at Christmas. The characters were portrayed well enough. I could make out who was who and there was some characterisation.

3 of stars out of 5 for both story and narration

 

Purchased by reviewer

 

 

Time to Celebrate the Holidays: The Law of Miracles by KC Wells

Good Reads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42759300-the-law-of-miracles?from_search=true

Blurb
The sequel to A Christmas Promise…
Joshua Trant is doing his best to support his son Micah and Micah’s partner Greg as they approach the trial of Greg’s attackers. This was never going to be easy, especially as Greg wants them prosecuted for a hate crime, but County Attorney Alexander Rycliffe assures them he’ll do his utmost to make sure the perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. Joshua hopes that whatever the outcome, Greg will be happy. What he’s finding more difficult to deal with, is the way he’s feeling about Alex. Joshua has loved two people in his life – Hayden and Rachel – and lost them both. The chance of him being lucky a third time is so slim, the thought doesn’t even cross his mind, until Love – and his kids – give him a push in the right direction…

Alex knows what it is to have loved and lost, and he thinks he’s done with men. Then Joshua Trant walks into his life. Alex soon learns there’s more to Joshua than just a handsome face, and the men finally have what both of them need – a friend. But as the months go by, it becomes obvious to everyone concerned that their friendship has the potential to develop into something deeper – if they let it.

One man who thinks he’s had his chance at love.
One man who has to let go of a past betrayal and learn to trust again.
And both are about to be shown Christmas is indeed a time of miracles. All you have to do is believe

Review
Seriously what’s not to love about two older guys finding love. Both of them have their own baggage that they have to come to terms with over this wonderful slow building romance. And that’s what I love about KC Wells stories, there’s real life but with a lot of hope and magic. Alex and Joshua start by becoming friends helping each other out, cooking and companionship I suppose. Each of them believing they are done with love only to find love hadn’t finished with them yet. It was great that everyone else could see it but they couldn’t. I loved the slow build it let me get to know and come to love Joshua and Alex. Joshua being so happy he managed to cook meatloaf for the kids endeared me to him right from the start along with Alex’s humour about having two titles. The two of them together making a white chocolate cheesecake, made me smile. The length of time before they even kissed was well worth the buildup. There is so much more to the story, good times and bad, bittersweet moments. It’s one I will definitely read again and become a Christmas favourite
I know this book is a sequel, and it can certainly be read on it’s own but I would wholeheartedly recommend reading A Christmas Promise first.

5 of stars out of 5


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

 

 

 

 

Audiobook Review: P.S. I Spook You by S.E. Harmon Narrated by Noah Michael Levin

audiobookreview

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/ps-i-spook-you-by-se-harmon-8565-b

Blurb
SSA Rain Christiansen used to be the agency’s golden boy. It just takes one moment of weakness, one slight, tiny, itty-bitty paranormal sighting, and all of a sudden he’s the agency’s embarrassment. His boss gives him one last chance to redeem himself—go down to Brickell Bay, play nice with the local police, and leave the ghost sightings behind. Rain is determined to do exactly that, even if it kills him.

Cold-case detective Daniel McKenna’s latest investigation is going nowhere fast. Five years earlier, high school student Amy Greene went missing after leaving her part-time job and was never seen again. Daniel is glad to finally have the FBI help that his department requested, even if it does come in the form of his ex.

It doesn’t help that Rain is pretty sure he’s falling in love with Danny all over again—if he ever stopped. Add to that the frustration of seeing ghosts at every turn while he works a case that’s stalled in its tracks, and Rain is starting to wonder if second chances and happy endings are just for fairy tales

Review
I reviewed the book when it came out and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or bad that I didn’t remember the story at all. Good in the sense that I was able to come to it fresh, but bad that it obviously was not memorable in the least. Having said all that I completely enjoyed this story which was mixture of ghost and reluctant medium with a good dose of second chance romance. Paranormal stories have always intrigued me. This one was about Rain both coming home and coming to terms with his powers. The ghosts, particularly one called Ethan, are hounding him to help them find peace and cross over. However returning home means meeting with his ex Danny. Rain never got over Danny despite being the one to break up with him. Rain and Danny do get their happy ever after but for me it felt like the medium side of his story was just beginning. I would love a second book, or even a short story about how they are getting on. Especially as Rain’s family are wonderfully quirky characters and would certainly make the story very interesting. But at this stage I doubt a sequel will be forthcoming. I mustn’t forget the mystery side of the story which turns out to be a murder. This kept me guessing until near the end when it all fell into place.
I’ve not listened to anything by Noah Michael Levine before. He has a smooth voice very easy to listen to and absorb into the story. He acts out the story line well ensuring all the characters stand out with their own voices and personalities. Overall a good listen but I’m not sure if it’s going to stick in my mind.

Number of stars out of 5
4 out of 5 for both the story and narration


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

 

 

 

 

Time to Comfort: Designs of Desire by Tempeste O’Riley Narrated by Max Lehnen

Good Reads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18139107-designs-of-desire?from_search=tru

Blurb

Artist James Bryant has forearm crutches in every color from rainbow for fun to sleek black for business. He even has a pair with more paint splatters than metal. After his family’s rejection and abuse from a man he thought loved him, James only just gets through the day by painting. He lives in constant fear that he’s not worthy of anything, let alone love.

As CEO of his company, Carrington Enterprises, Seth Burns is a take-charge kind of guy, and he is instantly smitten by the artist helping with his newest project. When he witnesses James suffer a panic attack, a protective instinct he never knew he had kicks in. He truly believes nothing is unobtainable—including James—if he’s willing to put in the time and effort.

James is shy and confused by Seth’s interest in him as a person. With Seth’s support, can he work through his fears to finally find the true love he deserves, or will someone finally land the crushing blow he won’t survive?

Review
It seems like this is one of those stories you either enjoy or don’t. It’s an insta love kind of story. James was born with a genetic condition which affects his joints. James’s past relationships have been a disaster, with his last partner abusing him. It has taken him a long time to consider another relationship. Then along comes Seth. Not a person to take no for an answer. He is determined to show James BDSM is not abuse.
Whilst I liked the story James does seem to suffer or attract bad luck more than the average person. His fortunes turn when he meets Seth. The right man makes it all better! maybe it’s more the case that Seth builds James’s self belief and confidence back up so that he can show the world what a fantastic artist he is. This is the first book in a series, each one focuses on a different pair of characters, and can be read alone.
I’ve read this story and when you have a good narrator it can bring different aspects to the story and make it almost feel like the first time. Unfortunately not in this case. I couldn’t quite match the voices to either Seth or James, there isn’t any distinction between characters. Although not unpleasant to listen to. The story just felt like I was being read to by someone who wasn’t that interested. It was the story itself that kept me tuned in otherwise I might’ve zoned out. The narrator changes for the rest of the series series, not necessarily for the better.

3 of stars out of 5 for the story
2 of stars out of 5 for the narrator
overall 2.5 of 5 stars

Purchased for Review

 

 

 

 

Time to Comfort: Love Me Louder by Christina Lee

Good Reads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40663475-love-me-louder?from_search=true

Blurb
Noah Dixon is damaged goods. After an accident leaves him physically scarred and emotionally vulnerable, dating isn’t in the cards, so he throws himself head-first into his retail job. When he’s obligated to attend his best friend’s engagement party on Fire Island, it dawns on him he’s about to spend yet another weekend feeling totally invisible and alone among a swarm of gorgeous men.

That’s when the idea of an escort comes in.

After Will Crossen was forced to put his theater major on hold in favor of two jobs to tackle his ailing mother’s hospital bills, he tells himself becoming an escort isn’t that big of a deal. It’s just another form of acting, right? He doesn’t expect his newest customer to be the cheery, overconfident sales associate he avoids like the plague at his day job. Talk about awkward.

But what happens on Fire Island stays on Fire Island…especially when a smoldering attraction sparks into flames. Will doesn’t feel so alone anymore, and for the first time, Noah realizes someone is seeing him behind all the scars. But between their jobs, Will’s massive familial responsibilities, and Noah’s vulnerabilities, they don’t stand a chance unless they find a way to let love speak louder than their demons.

Review
I enjoyed this story immensely!!

It had everything I want in a romance: emotional depth and a real connection between the MC’s, great chemistry and a lovely slow-burn hurt/comfort theme.
Throw in the excitement and angst that comes with falling for a fake boyfriend and I knew I was in for an allnighter because no way was I putting this book down!

Noah feels inadequate and has a very low self-image, especially with regards to his appearance. Initially, this skews his view on the world, read Will, and he has a difficult time accepting that Will might be genuinely attracted to him.

Will takes care of his mother and works two jobs to make ends meet, giving up his dream of a career in the theatre. I love his sense of responsibility and family.

Noah and Will dance around each other and their true feelings for quite some time, afraid to give too much away and get hurt, hesitant to believe that what they share between them could be real.

I love how the fake boyfriend trope was written here, with the closed-off colleague turning out to be an escort! The author didn’t take the easy way out by turning the route of insta-lust, but slowly let the feelings build, raising the emotional stakes bit by bit.

We get to reconnect with some of my all-time favorite characters as well, which was a delightful surprise!
Tate & Sebastian are such an adorable couple and I loved that Tate’s alter ego, Frieda Love, was the one to give Noah and Will that final little nudge to help them confess their true feelings to one another!

As is the case in all her books, Christina Lee surrounds her MC’s with engaging, three-dimensional secondary characters, be they family, friends or co-workers, drawing us into the wonderful fictional world she created. If only there was a portal the reader could step through to make their acquaintance!

I loved the title of this book so much!! Its message is incredibly apt and feels so true to these two amazing characters.
The extraordinary Frieda Love sums it up marvelously:

“Sometimes people need you to love them a little louder!”

Number of stars out of 5: 5


Review copy provided by Author

 

 

Release Day Review: Seeking Solace by Ari McKay

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/seeking-solace-by-ari-mckay-9938-b

Blurb

Like his cousins, Devin Walker aspires to be a chef, but he wants to indulge his wanderlust while feeding his customers, and working a cruise ship seems like the solution. Since he can’t find an opening in the kitchen, he’s happy to start out in a position behind the bar.

While onboard Poseidon’s Pearl, Devin is assigned to shepherd a visiting executive. Paul Bailey is quiet and unassuming, and the car accident that cost him his leg also shattered his confidence. He doesn’t think he’s attractive to other men anymore, and Devin is eager to show him just how wrong he is. Paul has a surprising secret that might sink their passionate affair before it even leaves port.

Review

This was a really sweet love story, not to mention a very romantic one with “love boat” vibes of the very best kind. Very much a feel good romance with a little dash of hurt/comfort, but low on angst and conflict.

Devin is working as a bartender on a Triton cruise ship when he meets Paul, who is an executive for Triton Cruises. Devin is put in charge of showing Paul around and explaining the day-to-day workings onboard ship. They both instantly like each other and go from a tentative friendship to something more almost seamlessly.

Paul has been in an accident and is understandably self-conscious about his scars and prosthetic leg after being dumped by his boyfriend because of them. He’s well rid of that guy, of course. I adored Devin for being so sensitive, supportive and full of wise advice. Paul slowly learns to trust him, and to trust in the attraction and feelings that they have for one another, but he’s been keeping a secret from Devin… One that might very well ruin everything.

I loved the dynamic of the Walker family and how they stick up for each other. There’s teasing, but also a united front when one is needed, very heartwarming and uplifting to read.

This can be read perfectly as a standalone, although I have to admit I’m super curious about the other books in this series now! But that’s okay, I’m in total control of my TBR-pile…not.

Number of stars out of 5: 4


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review