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Reviews, probably some ramblings.  I'm, uh, new on this site.  Bear with me.

Cold Fusion - Harper Fox

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Oh, gosh. I love this book. I just… I’m nuts about it.

I’ve been a Harper Fox fan for a while. She has a beautiful, deceptively simple‐seeming way of writing. I mean, her prose is never flowery and her characters tend to be pretty normal people who sometimes do really interesting things and sometimes just… tend sheep or something. But it never matters that that should all be a setup for something relatively dull, because there’s something magical about Harper Fox’s writing that makes it just, kind of… unbearably gorgeous. It doesn’t bowl you over all at once‐ it sneaks up on you until you’re all wrapped in how wonderful it is. And you’re in love with the characters and caught up in the story and it’s amazing.

And that’s how this book is.

I will say, ‘Cold Fusion’ felt a little different (just a little) than most of Harper Fox’s books. It’s exceptionally tense in places. Lots of places. It starts tense and ends just as tense, so even when it’s relatively calm and sweet and lovely in the middle, you’re kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. There’s this sense of… apprehension, maybe. It’s very, very effective writing. But it’s also a bit stressful, more so than I’ve come to expect from Harper Fox.

The book starts with Mallory, a young man from a fishing village who’s seeking out adventure by working with an anti‐whaling venture. Right in the first few pages, Mallory’s recklessness causes a terrible accident that ends with two of his friends dead. He goes home in shame, but he doesn’t find any kind of welcome there‐ his father’s a violent alcoholic, his mother is afraid of what the neighbors will think, and the village is against Mallory because one of the people who died was a girl from there. He ends up going to Spindrift, which is kind of an artist’s camp. But it’s closed down, and the only inhabitant is Viv, a socially awkward but completely brilliant scientist who seems to have figured out cold fusion.

And then things get a bit crazy from there. It’s a very adventure driven plot, but it’s done so beautifully‐ it never feels predictable, it’s never boring, it’s never over the top. And, what I really loved‐ you can catch your breath. I’m not a massive action fan, and I loved that all of these beautiful, touching, quiet moments were deeply woven into the plot and the story. It’s action‐y, but more than that, ‘Cold Fusion’ is touching and sweet and, I thought, at its heart, a gorgeous, lush romance.

Aside from how incredibly, ridiculously stressful parts of this book are, I don’t think there’s a single thing I didn’t like about it. The descriptions of the settings are breathtaking. All of the writing is like that, really‐ taking simple things and ideas and scenes and turning them into something beautiful and wonderful, but never quite drifting into purple prose.

The characterization is amazing. Mallory and Viv were so real and alive, and so very unique. Mallory was almost, almost hard to get along with at first, because he’s so wrapped up in his own issues and his own wants, but he’s written in a way that makes you love him and hate him at the same time. And Viv experiences things and emotions differently than most people, and he’s wonderful and clever and sweet and I just loved him right off the bat. Even minor characters were incredibly well written. You could meet a character and, within a handful of pages, be completely in love with them, and I think that’s a real talent.

And I even quite enjoyed the stressful bits, so I can’t say I really had a problem with them. I mean, by the end of the book, I was a teary mess, and I kept putting it down, half because it was so tense, and half because I didn’t want it to end. The growth the characters experience is incredibly well portrayed, the plot is exciting and gripping and lovely… I felt kind of like the book had taken me apart and put me back together again. Sometimes you get a book and it’s sweet and fun and you love it, but it doesn’t, um, change you, I guess. But then sometimes you get something like this, that’s so good it rips into your heart and rummages around in your emotions and makes you cry‐ and on top of that, has writing so beautiful and effortless that it makes you, if you’re any kind of writer yourself, want to fling your laptop out the nearest window.

So… what that all adds up to, I suppose, is that I loved this, and I’d recommend it to anyone. And I can’t wait to see what Harper Fox does next.  

Blowing Smoke: Book Five of the SoulShares Series (Volume 5) - Rory Ni Coileain

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Also, this review originally appeared on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


'Blowing Smoke,' the fifth book in Rory ni Coileain's SoulShares series, focuses on Lasair, the fae master of the hounds, who is about to be banished from the fae realm to the human one. He winds up in the basement of Bryce, a man who's been cruel and rude and pretty much just all around terrible to everyone around him, for his whole life. But what Bryce and Lasair don't realize is that, when Lasair crosses into the human world, his soul is ripped in half. And the other half ends up lodged in Bryce. Suddenly, Bryce realizes how awful he's been to everyone. And at the same time, he's fighting a growing attraction to Lasair, which Lasair seems to return.


I'm kind of in love with this series. Unfortunately, I haven't been reading it in order. So, although Bryce was a character in another of the books, I hadn't read that one, and I didn't know about what had happened to him. It ended up not mattering too much- even though this is definitely part of a series, everything that was going on was explained well, all the character gradually reintroduced, so I didn't feel like I was missing too much. It was easy to follow the plot, and, at the same time, nothing felt like too much of an info dump.


And I just really enjoyed the book. There was a lot that went on with the fae who were living in the human world- it's actually a plot filled with a lot of excitement and action- but I felt that the story really revolved around the growing romance between Bryce and Lasair. And I think this is really where the author excels in her writing- her romances are sweet and intense and they draw you right in. The book, and the romance, are totally engaging. I didn't want to put it down. It's fun and dramatic and, almost where you least expect it, sincerely touching.


I can't say this is a perfect book. Although I adored the romance and thought it was just about the sweetest thing ever, it does feel a bit rushed. Since it take place over just one day, saying it only feels a bit rushed is probably pretty good- it should feel really rushed, and unbelievable, but it doesn’t. I do, as usual, wish the author had gone into a bit more about the sharing of a split soul. Maybe she’s done this in another book I haven’t yet read and I missed it. But it seems like such a complex thing, and, at the same time, honestly feels a bit narcissistic. I mean, would Lasair have loved Bryce even if his soul hadn’t split? Or did he only love him because Bryce had something of his? I just feel it deserves a bit more attention. But I still liked the romance! Don’t get me wrong. I just wanted a bit more explanation.


I also felt like some of the action-y bits that were happening were a little… convoluted. Not that I couldn’t follow, but I didn’t always understand, exactly, what was happening or why. It’s quite possible this is because I’ve missed a couple books, and really, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. But I do remember thinking, with the last book in this series I read, that sometimes things, action and excitement and conflict, happened without an explanation for why they were happening, and were resolved in a similar manner. This particular book is much more straightforward, but I feel it could still be clearer. The same goes for some of the dialogue and inner thoughts of the characters- there were a few places where the characters were really trying to get at something, explain something, and I could tell they were trying, but whatever they were attempting to get across was just a bit too choppy to make it.


On the other hand, a lot of the flaws or minor issues I’d had with previous books, especially the first book in the series, were fixed. The plot, and the romance, were neater and tighter. The book didn’t ramble- it was a straight, clear shot from beginning to end, fast paced, and completely addictive. The characters were real and alive and their motives were also very clear. And they stayed in character for the whole book.


Overall, this was just sweet and fun and I loved it. I loved the characters, I loved the way they cared for each other. There were definitely a few moments, amidst what is a relatively light story, where what was happening between Lasair and Bryce, or what one of them was remembering about their past, really struck me. Mixed in with the sweetness of the romance and the excitement of the action, there were some very deep thoughts, and it was a nice balance. I look forward to not only going back and reading the books I’ve missed in the series, but reading anything else the author writes.

House of the Rising Son - Trevann Rogers

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.


This review originally appeared on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


I’m not a big paranormal reader. (I say this, but I’ll basically read anything, and I actually have read a ton of paranormal. It just isn’t what I… normally seek out.) Vampires and incubi and werewolves or, as is the case here, were‐cats, aren’t really something I go looking for. In the same vein, I don’t generally seek out books about musicians because it’s so hard for people to get it right‐ there’s a lot of imagining that goes on, but unless you’ve actually been there, it’s hard to get it close to the truth‐ not an author’s fault, but my fault, as a reader who has been there. So, since this book combined all of these things, I probably should have wanted to stay away from it. But something about it made me think it would be fun and exciting and just an enjoyable read.

And it was. It was a very fun, really enjoyable, totally exciting, action‐packed read. Cheyenne, one of our main characters, is half human and half incubus. He wants to be a rock star, but his father wants him to stop playing music and come home, where he can keep Cheyenne under his thumb. Our other main character is Alexander, a man who does what his father tells him, including dating the woman his father wants him to marry. But he sees Cheyenne in a club and falls pretty much straight into lust with him. And as he gets to know Cheyenne and Cheyenne’s kids, he starts to care about him in a deeper way.

So, yeah, it was fun. And that’s… I mean… I guess… that’s all I felt about this book. It wasn’t very deep or complex. The romance wasn’t… very romantic. It was sexy and sweet and fun, but not really… romantic. I didn’t dislike the characters, but there wasn’t a ton of depth to them. They were pretty real but I felt like I didn’t exactly get to know them. And the plot seemed to mostly be a lot of panicking, in between bouts of Cheyenne gyrating on a stage with a microphone in his hands.

But I don’t necessarily think the book was trying to be deep. I think it was mostly going for action‐packed and intensely exciting and fun, and it delivered that. Did I wish there was a little more depth, so these characters wouldn’t fly right out of my mind when the book was over? Yeah, I did. But at the same time, I can’t fault the book for being what it’s not. It gave me what it promised, and it was a really enjoyable read.

The book is… pretty heavily flawed. The plot rambles in a big way and most of the problems the characters encounter could be pretty easily fixed if they just stood up to their respective fathers. And while I get that that’s scary, and while I also feel that no one should ever have to come out if they don’t want, it got to the point where I couldn’t understand why Cheyenne and Alexander didn’t just… speak up for themselves. Alexander never actually tells his father he doesn’t want to marry the woman he has picked out for him. I thought he could at least tell him that, because, why not? But he never actually comes out and says it.

Meanwhile, Cheyenne’s father, we’re led to believe, actually cares about Cheyenne, but that was so farfetched it was laughable. These were the kinds of flaws that made the plot just… not memorable or, frankly, very believable.

And there were smaller scale things that just didn’t work for me‐ the whole rock star thing Cheyenne had going on was kind of unbelievable, too. Playing in one club in one city night after night is not how you become a rock star. Not unless you get hit with the most awesome streak of luck ever.

Also, I’ve seen a lot of real rock stars, and I’ve yet to see any of them in leather pants. Like, that is only rock star attire in someone’s imagination. But Cheyenne’s an incubus, so… maybe he’s different.

And, oddly, one of the things that really took me out of the book was a very small thing‐ Cheyenne and Alexander have sex in the shower, and they use water as lube. Water is the anti‐lube. Water turns skin‐on‐skin into sandpaper‐on‐sandpaper. That was such a simple thing for the authors to figure out, but they didn’t, and I couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been caught.

But it didn’t really matter that Cheyenne’s career wasn’t believable, just like it didn’t really matter that the plot was full of holes that could have been easily plugged. Because I didn’t go into this expecting it to change my life. And it was still so much fun even though I was at times weirdly frustrated with it.

And it didn’t really matter because there was a lot of other things to like here, that distracted me from the flaws. I liked the way Cheyenne and Alexander set up their relationship‐ it’s kind of unique, at least in most romances, and it was refreshing. And I liked that Cheyenne was a father and that his first goal was always to protect his kids. It added a refreshing spin on things and I liked how the story was built around that. And I really enjoyed Consuela’s character. She was definitely my favorite person in the book.

So, overall, I liked this. It probably sounds like I didn’t, because there were so many places I was frustrated with it and all the panicking the characters were doing, but I liked it. I wished it had had… just a little more depth, or the characters had been people I actually felt like I knew. But I’m interested to see where the series goes. This is the perfect book for when you need something light but wholly entertaining, something fun and dramatic.


How We Began - Josh Lanyon, Alexis Hall, Delphine Dryden, Vanessa North, Amy Jo Cousins, Annabeth Albert, Geonn Cannon, Julio Alexi Genao, Edie Danford

I was given an ARC of this book to read- this in no way affects the honesty of my review.


I was so excited for this book‐ a ton of great authors, writing YA (I love YA) and all of it for an excellent charity? It sounded perfect. But I was a little nervous, too. Shorter stories are… tricky. Some authors do them exceptionally well, but a lot, even authors who can write the most amazing novels, seem to… have a hard time with shorter stuff. Short stuff is difficult. And a lot of the time short stories, even by the best authors, are just… not much fun. So I kind of held my breath when I started reading this.


The first story in the book is Alexis Hall’s TruNorth, and I figured it would be good, because I know he writes short stuff as well as he writes long stuff. And it was. I mean, it was beyond good‐ it was incredible and beautiful and I kind of just wanted to wrap the words around me and live in that story, it was so gorgeous. I was totally in love with this story. It was just amazing… and I figured there was no way all the rest of the stories in the book could stand up to that.


But they did.


I’ve read a lot of anthologies, a lot of truly great ones, and there’s always stories I don’t like, stuff I end up skimming or just don’t enjoy. You’re bound to find something that just isn’t your cup of tea, when there’s so many authors writing. But that never happened here. I loved every single story. I couldn’t believe it. Each time I started a new story, I figured that it must be the one I wouldn’t like, because there had to be at least one. Had to be. But there wasn’t. This was easily the best collection of stories I’ve ever, ever read.


I think there’s a few reasons for that. First, these are amazing authors. I’ve read most of them before, and they’re talented and awesome. Like I said, though, that doesn’t always translate to writing shorts. But it does here. It’s obvious that so much care was taken, writing these stories, that so much affection and dedication went into them. You can see it, and it makes the stories so fantastic. The characters are all real and alive, and you care about them right away. The situations are realistic and dramatic and fun and honest. The relationships are so believable. The settings (fantasy, dystopian, modern) are rich. And the writing is lovely.


I also loved how sweet these stories were. Maybe it’s because they’re written for a (mainly) YA audience… but I’m not sure. I’ve read a lot of YA that never comes close to this sweetness. But the love and caring and simple affection the characters showed for each other was just so touching. It was so refreshing to read about people who just… accepted each other and cared about each other in this really honest, tender way. It was never sappy, just sweet and wonderful.


And I loved how the authors seemed to have so much respect for their teen characters. So often in YA, even in the best YA, I feel like the authors are still acting as adults 'should’ act, kind of looking down, even a little, at their characters. Treating them as kids who aren’t fully capable of making choices or doing things for themselves. But that never happens here. These authors seemed to trust their characters, and they treated them as people who were fully capable of determining what they wanted, what the right choices were for them. Yes, there were adults to guide them (or misguide them) in most of the stories, but the authors still give them the freedom to choose for themselves‐ you want to be a musician? Don’t want to be a musician? Want to go to college, or not? Want to date this particular person? Want to have a crazy career choice, or a mundane one? All awesome. Whatever you want. Yeah, you might make mistakes, but that’s what happens. It’s your life‐ you make the choice. And all that respect for these characters was so obvious.


I loved that.


And I loved how different all the characters were and how the stories showed so many different kinds of people‐ gay and lesbian and bi and transgender (and it was definitely awesome to see so much of the LGBTQ spectrum represented,) but also kids who thought differently, who wanted different things, who lived different lives, who were dealing with so many different issues. So many places for readers to relate to characters, but also so much opportunity for readers to invest in situations and ideas they might never have encountered before.


And it was all so realistic. I think one of the authors said they wanted to write something like a fairy tale, something that was comforting and presented the idea that everything could, in fact, work out, even when it seems like it can’t. (I totally paraphrased all of that and probably got a lot of it wrong‐ those are my words, but that was, uh, close to the gist of it.) And these stories do that. They did feel fairy tale‐like. They offer this idea that life can be good and good things can happen, even if you feel like everything is wrong, like you’ll never fit in, or be accepted, or be loved, or find your path. I think it’s so, so very important to tell kids (and adults) that. But at the same time, it needs to be realistic in order to be effective… and these stories were all realistic. I believed, wholeheartedly, that they could happen.


I wished the teen me had been able to read this‐ not because I think adults will enjoy this less than teenagers (I couldn’t have loved it more, and I’m an adult) but because it will be such a comforting, wonderful thing for teens to have, when they need a boost, or a place to belong, or just something… positive, without being preachy or sappy or false.


Were there some stories I liked better than others? Yes. But I really did like them all. Were there a few places where I thought things could have been written or handled better? Yes. But those places were so minor and so few. Overall, this was just… stunning. Beautiful. Touching. Sweet. Warm. Something that I just want to read over and over again. I loved it.


(I also want to mention, because I feel it's important- the fact that this is a book for charity didn't influence how much I honestly enjoyed it, either. I mean, it's a great charity, and I'd probably say you should just buy the book no matter, but I'd have loved this book just as much even if it wasn't for charity at all. The fact that it is just makes it even better.)


This review, and others, can also be found on Hot Stuff for Cool People.

Rebound Remedy - Christine d'Abo

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Also, this review originally appeared on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


It’s hard to know what to say about this book. On one hand, it’s a relatively light romance, and it delivers everything promised within that plot line. But I did kind of have mixed feelings on this.


First, it’s a very sweet, cute, fun book. In complete honesty, I did really enjoy it, and I think it’s worth reading and buying, simply because it’s so enjoyable. I can imagine reading or re‐reading this during the holiday season, when things get a little stressful and I just need something to transport me for a while. This book’s going to be perfect for that.


Also, since this is from Riptide Publishing, I automatically expected a high level of quality, and I got that. Riptide is just really, really good at what they do. I think I can say that they’re at the top of their game, because I read a ton of books in this genre, and a lot of publishing companies that publish this stuff simply don’t take the care and time to publish the quality material that Riptide does. Riptide chooses authors who actually have a working knowledge of how to write technically sound books (which doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but it’s kind of amazing how many publishers don’t feel this is a necessary quality) and they have excellent editors. At least, it seems they do. So this was neat and clean and well‐written from a technical standpoint. Just very polished, and I appreciated that.


It was, overall, just a really enjoyable read. That said, however, I did have some problems with this. This is a romance‐ one of our main characters is Cole, who’s just been dumped by his boyfriend, right before Christmas. The other, our love interest, is Owen, a bar owner who’s going through some family troubles. The two kind of fall together and a romance starts, although they’re both sure that it’s more of a casual fling than anything serious. There are a lot of fun moments between the characters‐ some holiday adventures, and some interesting scenes‐ for example, the pair goes to a brewery together, and I thought that was a cool idea. And the pair really does take some time to think about what they want out of their budding relationship, and that was nicely done, too.


The problem I had was, I never really got a feel for the characters. And because of that, or maybe in conjunction with that, I never really got a feel for the romance. There seemed to be a lot of telling and not so much showing. Like, as the reader, we know that Cole’s depressed‐ he just got dumped, of course he’s depressed‐ but the author seemed to want to make him really, really depressed, to show why he was so afraid to start another relationship. Unfortunately, she does this by telling us that his job is hard and that he’s had several other failed relationships. But we never really see any of this happen, so it felt kind of separate, and it didn’t really do anything for my views on Cole.


In the same vein, whenever Cole and Owen have a romantic moment, the author describes how perfect the two are together. But it’s all telling‐ ’Look, they fit! They’re perfect for each other!’ And maybe they are, but as the reader, the only proof we have of that is what the author tells us. We never see very much reason for them being so excellent for each other. It seemed to me to be a lot of… proximity. They’re both lonely and stressed and they fall together and fall in love. Which can work, don’t get me wrong. It just didn’t work for me here because there’s nothing to back it up. There’s nothing to prove that they fall together and find they really do work well together. We’re simply told they do.


I also found the dialogue to be a bit stiff and formal in places. But that’s nitpicking.


Overall, I guess I just wanted a little something more to grab onto here. The author keeps insisting that this isn’t a rebound romance or a fling, but at the end of the book, I didn’t really buy that it wasn’t. And I wanted to buy into it. Because otherwise, this is fun and exciting and sweet and just really a lovely thing to read. And I really did enjoy it. I just wished there had been a little something more.

Stripped with the Vampire (Austin Immortals Book 1) - Jax Garren

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.


This review originally appeared on Hot for Cool.


I really hesitated to read this book.  I saw that it was available for review, and it intrigued me, but I stayed away from it for a long time.  The plot sounded a little too convoluted, and I’m not much of a vampire fan.  I really try to read books for review that I think I’ll have a good chance of liking, and those things told me maybe this wasn’t the book for me.  And the title is kind of a turn off.  But a few weeks ago, I came across someone praising this book, and it just sounded so interesting that I decided I had to go for it.


I’m really glad I did.  This is much different from what I expected, and it’s great.  We start with our main character, Vince, a human who ends up in a sticky situation with some rogue vampires and the Aztec priestess/witch they’re working for.  Not knowing where to turn, Vince runs to his ex-boyfriend, Charlie, a vampire, for help.  Charlie welcomes him back and offers his help, but in the midst of the vampire conflict and the danger that Vince is still in, things are also tense between Charlie and Vince.  The two are obviously still in love with each other, but misunderstandings and an unwillingness to compromise has made their relationship seem impossible.


The plot is pretty complex, but it’s not as… out of control? …as I originally assumed, reading the blurb, that it would be.  It’s really pretty straightforward, actually, while still remaining interesting and exciting.  And the slow rekindling of romance between Charlie and Vince is refreshing and intense and lovely.


There’s just a lot to like here.  The plot is well put together and I was very rarely bored (there are a lot of action scenes and those are just never going to be for me, but this is something that’s my fault and not the book’s fault, at all.)  The characters are excellent.  Vince and Charlie were both believable and real and I liked them.  I also loved how well thought out the other characters were.  You can really get a feel for their personalities, even with characters that are only mentioned in passing.  It made the book feel really well-rounded. 


I also absolutely loved the unique take on vampires here.  Vampires aren’t really my thing, but this author manages to make them both new and interesting, while still retaining a lot of the traditional ideas.  These vampires have a complex but totally believable society, they drink blood out of cartons like you would milk, they have thoughts on death, their politics were interesting…  It creates a world where things are familiar but fascinating at the same time, and there’s a lot of room for both convenience and believable conflict. 


I also loved, without giving too much away, Vince’s thoughts on immortality.  This was extremely refreshing to read and it made me like both him and Charlie even more.  It was nicely explained without feeling preachy. 


The book isn’t perfect.  I had a hard time getting into it at first- it starts with a very long, very action-y scene, and, aside from my general dislike of action (which I wouldn’t hold against the book at all) I think maybe this scene just wasn’t as well written?  It had a choppier feel to it than later action scenes and it was a little hard to follow.  But once I did get into the book, I was hooked.


There were also some places where I had to ponder the meanings of sentences- jut areas where word order could have been switched around slightly to make things flow a bit better.  This was mild, though.  (As a side note, I also found the dialogue to be very neat and believable and natural, which was great.) 


There were also quite a few moments when it’s clear to the reader that Vince and Charlie are simply having a misunderstanding, and that’s sometimes the only basis for the conflict in their relationship.  I didn’t love this, especially when it could have been fixed by one of them explaining something simple to the other.  But it wasn’t enough to deter me from enjoying their romance. 


Overall, though, I just really enjoyed this.  It was well-written and fun and sweet and just everything a person could want out of an action packed, paranormal romance.  There’s lots of room for later stories to be written within this world, and lots of characters for the author to play with, and I’ll definitely looking forward to any more books in this series.

Viscount's Wager - Ava March

This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


I received this book in exchange for an honest review.


I was really excited for this book. I’d read the previous two books in the series and they had both teased at this story, so I knew I definitely wanted to read it. So I was thrilled to get an ARC. I’m a big Ava March fan‐ her books don’t necessarily change my life, but her writing is lovely and easy to slip into, she creates unique and interesting characters, and I like the historical setting she uses and the stories she places in that setting. So I had pretty high expectations for this book.


And I liked it. The story starts with Anthony, age sixteen, who’s fallen in love with another boy, Gabriel. The two kiss, and it feels special to Anthony, but the next day, he sees Gabriel kissing a girl. A scandal ensues and Gabriel ends up marrying the girl and moving away. Fast forward seven years, and Gabriel’s wife has died. He ends up back in London, where he bumps into Anthony. Anthony feels a bit betrayed by Gabriel, but he’s still infatuated with him, and the two begin a relationship. Gabriel feels guilty over his frigid marriage and how he hurt Anthony, though, and he begins a bad gambling habit which lands him in some hot water.


It’s a good premise. And, like Ava March’s other books, the story is easy to fall right into and begin enjoying immediately. I also really enjoyed Gabriel and Anthony‐ they felt like real, live people with real issues and problems and feelings. But I found the plot… a bit predictable. I felt like I’d read it before, and not just in any other books, but in Ava March’s books. Obviously, it’s not the same as her other plots, but it had elements‐ the gambling, the leaving and coming back to a relationship, the misunderstandings, the financial worries‐ that just felt a bit too familiar. I think that maybe, if this had been one of the first Ava March books I’d read (and I think this could be read as a standalone, which is excellent) I would have been more enthusiastic about the plot. But it wasn’t‐ it was the sixth, and it just didn’t hold my attention as much as I wanted it to.


I also wasn’t really sure if I believed in Gabriel’s feelings for Anthony. He was guilty and moody all the time, which felt right, but he seemed a bit stiff, and I wasn’t exactly sure why he was so in love with Anthony. At the same time, I wanted Anthony to be angrier at Gabriel. He’d hurt him, badly, but Anthony never really asks for an apology or explanation. He simply lets Gabriel back into his life and almost doesn’t think twice about it. That just didn’t sit right with me. And it seemed to take a lot of the tension out of the book. Also, since I’d read the previous books, I had a good idea of exactly what problems Gabriel was getting into, and that removed a lot of the mystery and tension that could have made the plot more exciting, too.


Also, by the end, Gabriel and Anthony’s personalities get so cheesy it’s almost hard to believe. The mush factor was just… It made me cringe a little. And I wasn’t sure if it was believable.


So… I’m not really sure how I felt about this. I liked it, I really did. It was completely enjoyable and a fun, sweet read. But it did leave me wishing that there had been a bit… more. More substance, more tension, a plot that didn’t feel quite so familiar. A relationship that was built on… something a tiny bit more tangible. And I kind of wanted more information on Gabriel’s feelings for his dead wife. They weren’t in love, but they lived together for seven years and he didn’t seem really that concerned with her being dead and gone.


I was happy to read this. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable book and well worth reading. And I still look forward to reading anything Ava March writes. But I hope she picks up a slightly newer, more refreshing plot next time.

'Til Darkness Falls - Pearl Love

This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


I received this book in exchange for an honest review.


The first thing that intrigued me about this book, right off, was the beautiful cover- I think that cover could draw anyone in.  Then I read the synopsis and realized that I’d heard of this book before, when it was published under, I believe, Dreamspinner Press.  And I just… Honestly, the plot sounded convoluted and, since I’d read the synopsis on the first version, I… knew some things about the book and the possible ending (all presented right there, in the book blurb) and I was very, very wary of reading it.


But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Every time I came across the title or the cover again, I grew more and more intrigued, until I finally gave in and requested it, and read it.


So, this is…  I think the second edition of the book, now published under DSP Publications, which is an imprint that does, it feels, books that feature gay or bi or whatever characters, but don’t necessarily feature as much romance.  ‘’Til Darkness Falls’ is definitely romantic, though.  It just has a lot of other elements twined in, which is one of the other things that made the book so attention grabbing for me.  The book starts in ancient Egypt, with a young prince and his slave, who is really his lover.  The two boys are deeply in love, but the prince must get married.  The future bride, Hebeny, is extremely jealous, and uses an Egyptian god to cast a curse on the couple- they will meet, again and again, throughout their future lives, and fall in love.  And Hebeny will always be there, following them from life to life, to ensure that the lovers betray each other.


This is all presented right within the first several pages, so right up front, you know, as a reader, nearly every single thing that’s going to happen, plot wise.  And the plot is intense and interesting and creative, but I think…  I think putting it so upfront like this is kind of a fatal flaw.  I don’t mean to say that knowing what’s going to befall our main characters, Alrick and Brian, takes any tension or excitement away from the book.  It doesn’t.  But it gives the book a kind of tension that isn’t so much excitement as much as terrible and ominous.  This was a stressful read for me.  Knowing that Brian is a cop and Alrick is a hitman (and no, those aren’t spoilers) and that they will be at odds, even as they’re falling in love, just gives this huge sense of doom to the book. 


Actually, if the knowledge of the characters’ past lives takes the tension out of anything, it takes it out of the romance.  Brian and Alrick meet and fall in love almost immediately.  Which is exactly what you know is going to happen.  So it’s predictable and very sweet but also very fast, and only really believable in that you know they’re soul mates- this seems to be the only real reason the two of them get along so well, so quickly.


And by the end of the book- or maybe even closer to the middle- just knowing that Brian was going to find out about Alrick and their happiness was going to fall apart was incredibly stressful.  The tension and feeling of doom just grew and grew and it wasn’t pleasant in any way.  It did not make for fun reading.  I actually stopped and read two other books, and then had to make myself go back to ‘’Til Darkness Falls.’ 


Also, in the very first pages of the book, Hebeny is told how to break the curse, so the ending of the book was not any kind of surprise, either.


So, after all of that, it’s probably easy to think I didn’t like this.  But that’s the thing- I did.  It’s well-written.  It’s sweet and the romance is kind of unbelievable, but there are a lot of moments where it’s also very real and touching and it feels honest.  And the character development is excellent.  Brian and Alrick are very real people.  There was also none of the confusing plot lines I was expecting- at times, the story does dip back into Egypt, but only briefly, and it’s always very clean.  I just really enjoyed reading the book, right up until the middle, when it became too much.


So a lot of the time, I didn’t like this book.  But overall…  I did.  I think, maybe, this is the first book I’ve ever read where I think a second read would greatly benefit the book itself.  Knowing exactly how bad it’s going to be and re-reading might relieve some of the tension and allow a reader to just focus on plot and characters.  I mean, I really do think it’s a very fascinating concept, a great creative idea.  And I did really like the characters and writing.  I just wish that so much information hadn’t been given to me right up front.  I don’t know that I’d ever want to read a book with this type of upfront, in your face plot again if I could help it.  The stress and the knowledge of what was definitely going to happen was too awful.  But I would definitely read this author again.

Black Dog Blues - Rhys Ford

This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Ahh…  I don’t know what to say about this book.  First, I’m a huge Rhys Ford fan- I’ve read everything she’s written, liked all of it, and downright fell in love with a lot of it.  So when I was told I was getting to read this book, I was just thrilled.


To be honest, I remember reading the description for this book a while back and thinking I’d like to read it, but it had been a while, and I’d forgotten what it was about, so I went in a bit blind.  But it didn’t matter, because it quickly became apparent that this book covered pretty much every single thing I want to read about- sidhe, hot guys, guns and action, dragons, fantastic monsters, magic, beautiful, smart women, and the struggle about what humanity is and what it means to be human.  Plus, it takes place in San Diego, which is basically my favorite place ever.  This book and me…  We were bound to get along.


And we did.  ‘Black Dog Blues,’ I will admit, reminds me a bit of the Borderlands series by Terri Windling, in that, in this story, the fae/fairy/sidhe/unsidhe world has collided with the human world, so there are some places that belong to humans, some that belong to the sidhe, and some that belong to the Dusk Courts, or the unsidhe.  And there’s a kind of uneasy truce going on between these three groups as they try to live side by side.  But Rhys Ford has done a great job creating a world that’s familiar but unique enough that it never felt like she’d taken the idea from anywhere else.  She made it her own.  The San Diego in her book was comfortable and amazing and scary and totally new, and I loved it.  I wanted to live there.  I never wanted to leave- I definitely didn’t want to stop reading about it.


I also loved Kai, our main character.  He’s a sidhe, but, after being raised by and with humans, is much more human-like than sidhe-like in his thoughts and actions and loyalties.  He’s also hiding some pretty dark secrets, but he keeps them tucked away behind his tough exterior and his job as a Stalker, hunting down things that go bump in the night and taking on other difficult or dangerous tasks.  Things get complicated for him when a sidhe lord contracts him for a tough job.  He struggles with his attraction to the lord, Ryder, and also the many memories about his sidhe past that job brings up, and I really enjoyed reading about it all. 


So, the setting was incredible, Kai was fantastic- well constructed, completely alive, someone I fell in love with immediately- and the writing was great.  I always love Rhys, always, but sometimes she has a way of…  kind of getting tangled in her own words?  I don’t know how to describe this except for saying that she could use a stronger editor to tell her to chop unnecessary words and phrasing out of sentences and paragraphs, or to put some words in an order that flows more naturally.  But the writing here, aside from being as lovely as usual, also felt a lot tighter.  Which was definitely nice.  No one wants to edit while they read.


But at about half way through the book, I started to love it a little less.  I’m not really sure why.  The story didn’t get boring- if anything, it got more and more exciting- and I certainly didn’t mind that the romance was a very, very slow one (which never comes to any kind of fruition in this volume- I don’t think that’s a spoiler because it’s pretty obvious it’s not going to happen.)  I think the problem was the characters, aside from Kai.


Rhys Ford writes some of the very, very best characters I’ve ever come across.  She’s just… masterful at it.  Usually, I‘m crazy about not just her main characters, but her side characters, as well.  And like I said, I loved Kai.  And I enjoyed Jonas and Cari and even Dempsey, because he was interesting and complex.  But I kind of…  I hated Alexa.  I wasn’t super in love with Dalia.  And I didn’t really like Ryder, either. 


I tried to make myself like these people, especially Alexa and Ryder, because it seems that they’ll be the love interests- either or both, I’m not sure- but I couldn’t.  They just… annoyed me, and the more I read, the more I disliked them.  They never seem to want to really listen to Kai.  They jump in and make assumptions (that he doesn’t bother to clean up, but still.)  And they do these small, annoying, sometimes kind of awful things that just made it very hard for me to feel for them, or to want them around Kai.


So, half of me was deeply in love with this book and Kai and Kai’s story.  But the other half couldn’t connect to the side characters or the romance, which I suspect, although not a large part of this book, may be more important in any following books.  So I ended up feeling a bit torn about the whole thing.  At the end of the day, I guess I have to say that I really, really did enjoy this book.  And I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.  But there’s also a kind of slight bitter taste on my tongue over this.

Not My Boyfriend - Monica Anderson

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this. Let’s just start with that. I don’t think there was really anything major I didn’t like about this. It hit all the right spots for me. It was just really good.

‘Not My Boyfriend’ is, I suppose, a typical romance. One of the main characters, Karson, has been badly hurt by a serious relationship in the past, so he’s dead set on never falling for anyone again, or even becoming involved with anyone. Our other main character, Max, is looking for a serious relationship, something permanent. The two are obviously not a good match, but when they meet and start a casual relationship, they end up clicking more than they expected.

It’s a pretty simple plot line, but there was a lot I liked about it. It was believable, to begin with. Sometimes you fall for someone, just want to be with someone, no matter how much it hurts, so I could understand where Max was coming from. And sometimes love hurts so badly you never want to deal with it again- so I could understand Karson’s point of view, too. And even with a relatively simple premise, there are so many emotions and complications to explore, and Monica Anderson does that really, really well. I felt for both characters, saw through both of their eyes. The writing really lends itself to showing the reader Karson’s insecurity or Max’s anger and hope, making it believable and honest, without forcing the reader to any conclusions.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was the character development. Most of the focus is on Karson and Max, with a couple side characters thrown in. Every character was well developed, though. Karson and Max were so real to me. They never felt one dimensional- they were alive and complex and their conflicting emotions felt very honest. I think that’s what really made the book stand out for me- it’s not a hugely complex plot, but these characters will stay with me. I’ll remember them as individual people, which is something that I don’t think I can say for a ton of books.

If I have any complaints about the book, it’s that there were some editing issues. I only mention this because I don’t think this was an ARC, but a complete copy. If it was an ARC, then this is nothing to think about. But every time the author used ‘grinded,’ I was jolted out of the story. Grinded is… I guess technically acceptable, but really... it should be ground. And there were a couple of other almost typos that threw me. Again, though, this is really very minor.

The story was romantic, it was tense and exciting, it was sweet, the anger and confusion were believable and true… This just did everything I wanted it to. It didn’t… hold my heart in its hand, or change me, or affect me deeply, so I’m not elevating it to the upper echelon of fantastic books, but it was perfect for what it was. It gave me exactly what was promised in the blurb. I couldn’t put it down. I’d eagerly read anything else this author wrote, and I look forward to more.

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal - K.J. Charles

This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


I…  Oh my gosh, I don’t really know what to say about this.  I really liked it.  Let me say that first.  It’s an entertaining, fantastic book that’s well worth purchasing and reading and loving.  But I think for about the first half of the book, I was just absolutely giddy with how great it was.  And then, for the second half I was… decidedly un-giddy.  Never bored, never a moment where I disliked the book, or even when I didn’t enjoy it.  I just…


Let’s start at the beginning.  I’ve read the author, K.J. Charles’, work before- namely her Magpie/Jackdaw series- and I really enjoy her writing and her characters and the way she makes magic and ghosts and whatnot seem not only exciting and interesting but believable.  So as I read that series, I was also doing a kind of mad scramble to get my hands on anything else she had written and I came across her short story [b:Butterflies|18718973|Butterflies (The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, #2)|K.J. Charles|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1382817738s/18718973.jpg|26584661], which is where I first met Simon Feximal and Robert Caldwell, the main characters of ‘The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal.’  And I loved them and the story, so when I saw that K.J. Charles had written a whole book about them, I was really excited.  And I’m so glad that more of these characters’ story was written.


There’s so much I like about this book.  I love, as I mentioned, the magic and ghosts and how everything is simple and makes so much sense.  I love how this is written as a series of short stories, kind of, that connect to show the growing relationship, and then life, that Robert and Simon build together.  The book has a kind of Sherlock Holmes feel (I saw with little authority, having read very little Sherlock) in that each story within the book is a case or problem that Simon and Robert encounter and solve.  It kept things so fresh and exciting.  And I also liked that, even though this is definitely a romance, it’s not constrained by a typical romance, uh, timeframe?  You know- characters meet, fall in lust, fall in love, have sex about half way through the book, have some kind of falling out, get back together.  This book, instead, shows the beginning of their relationship and their coming together, but then goes beyond that and shows them leading a life together, as partners in business and in love.  And that was so refreshing and fantastic.


I also have to say, I really enjoyed how much freedom K.J. Charles afforded her characters.  What I mean is, Simon and Robert are living in a time period where being gay and having sex with another man was literally against the law.  And it’s definitely discussed, how this is dangerous for them, how their relationship and love can be used against them.  But at the same time, K.J. Charles’ makes as safe and comfortable a space for them as possible.  She makes it so they can live together and be together with as few problems as possible.  I don’t know if she does this on purpose or not, but I also noticed it in her Magpie series- space given, and not a lot of ‘We can’t be seen together, we must pretend not to know each other in public, what we’re doing is illegal/immoral/whatever, etc.’  All this hemming and hawing- it doesn’t happen here.  Not that the concern isn’t valid, especially in this time period.  But it’s also really tiresome to read about, especially when both parties know they’re gay, know they’re attracted to each other, and when we, as readers, know there’s actually nothing wrong or shameful about being gay.  To be able to face the challenges head on, as couple, being careful but also embracing their relationship, is just so much more enjoyable to read.


It’s not that the issue is ignored in K.J. Charles’ books, not at all, it’s just that she lets her characters be together and comfortable in their togetherness and friendships, as much as possible.  She also makes a safe place for her women characters, and she creates, as much as she can, an equality- for those characters who are gay, for those who are women, for those who fall into non-binary gender lines, for those who are wealthy or poor.  Everybody, in those close circles of friendship, is just treated as equally as possible.  And I really appreciated that.  It was so comfortable to read.  It made it so enjoyable, to find a safe space with these characters and their friends, where they didn’t have to be as afraid, or feel less-than, because of their gender or sexuality or status.


Anyway.  That’s a bit off point, I guess.  What I mean is, this was just very enjoyable, in many ways.


However.  At about, I don’t know, half way through, or maybe closer to two-thirds of the way through the book, I kind of started to wonder where this was all going.  I don’t mean to say that I was getting bored, because I wasn’t- I was definitely still deeply involved with Simon and Robert and their cases.  But their overarching story had kind of… slowed.  And, where in the first few stories, I felt I’d really gotten to know Robert as an interesting and complex character, as the book went on, I felt I knew him less and less.  He became a bit less three-dimensional, with the most important thing about him being how much he loved Simon.  Which is… great, but not…  It doesn’t make Robert as interesting as I’d have wanted. 


I also knew, from an article I’d read, that the book was supposed to span twenty years, which would have put Simon in his mid-fifties by the end, and Robert in his late forties.  But for most of the book, I’m pretty sure Robert hasn’t left his twenties.  Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I couldn’t help wondering why so much of their lives, or what Robert wants to write about, happened so early in that time, and so little was written about them living together as older men.  Or, why the book stretched so far into the future if most of the plot took place much earlier in their lives.


I guess, and this is probably my failing as a reader, more than a problem with the book, that I wanted, along with the ghost cases and the magic and the strain and struggle of all that, time spent on Robert and Simon together, as a couple.  I didn’t need anything mushy or overly romantic.  I just… wanted more of them.  Here was an opportunity to describe a couple who’s been together for all these years, to look into the ways their love has changed and grown, and it didn’t really happen.  It all, actually, by the end, felt a bit rushed.


Still, I liked the book, very much, all the way through.  Although, I will say that I was kind of… confused by the last two stories.  The second to last seemed to have very little point.  Was it used to introduce the character of Jo?  Perhaps… but it would have been more effective to introduce Jo earlier in the book and make them a real character, instead of somebody thrown in at the end.  That story itself didn’t really seem to go anywhere, and I just wasn’t sure why it was there at all.  The last story deals with the end of the whole book, so I won’t say much about it.  But I found it…  Look, K.J. Charles is an excellent writer, and she never has to work very hard to wring emotion out of me, as a reader, because her writing is filled with emotion.  But the ending of this book felt a bit gratuitous, like she wanted to use it to squeeze the readers’ hearts a little bit more.  And that kind of backfired, for me, because I don’t like an author pointing me in the direction of what I should feel.


I think that at the end, it seemed that maybe K.J. Charles just wasn’t sure how to write about Simon and Robert’s lives after they’d gotten together, and was even less sure how to write an ending that meant something but also, you know, ended things.


So overall, I guess I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I loved it and I’d read it again in a second, and I think that, without question, K.J. Charles is one of the most talented writers in the m/m genre today.  But on the other hand, it never ended up touching my heart as much as I wanted.  I liked Simon and Robert, but I never really loved them.  And I really, really wanted to.

Baked Fresh (Portland Heat) - Annabeth Albert

This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


This was cute.  It didn’t exactly tug at my heartstrings, but I definitely enjoyed it.


I had a bit of a hard time getting into at first.  Within the first couple pages, the main character, Vic, pretty much tells us readers how unattractive and definitely not boyfriend material he is.  While I like the idea that Vic isn’t classically handsome or attractive- this is refreshing, actually- he was so disparaging and so gruff that I had a hard time finding him attractive in any way, personality- or appearance-wise.


But one of the things that the author does very well is create characters that are deep and interesting and unique.  Gradually, I came to like Vic’s rough public personality and the soft, sweet side of him, too- much as Robin, the love interest, does.  I liked Robin quite a bit as well.  He’s a complex person, with a troubled past and some very real, believable issues that you don’t often encounter in male/male romances.  It was really great to read something a little different for a change, to explore the issues with intimacy that Robin has.  And I loved how Robin sees Vic for how he is, inside and out, and eventually comes to love him for it.  I like that he finds Vic attractive and strong and kind, because it’s true, no matter how imperfect his body or his life are.   


But for all that I liked Vic and Robin, I never really fell in love with them myself.  And I never really felt like they were people I knew.  I love it in a book where I come out of it feeling like the characters are friends, or at least people I know, who I could have a conversation with.  I didn’t really get there here, though.  And that distance kept me a bit apart from the building relationship- which was believable and sweet, but… - and apart from the more dramatic parts.  I was there, I just wasn’t there all the way. 


I think I was looking for a little more depth from the book and the plot, and even from the emotions of the characters.  They were deep people, and they were well thought out.  But when Vic talks about his cousin who’s passed away, or when Robin talks about his drug problems, I just wanted… I don’t know.  More.  More feeling.  More something.  Some way in which I could better connect with what they were feeling.  I don’t know what was missing, exactly.  It just was.  It was especially apparent for me when it came to Robin- as someone who’s lived with and dealt with addicts, that subject usually punches me pretty hard, good or bad.  But here I felt kind of ambiguous towards whatever Robin was going through.


So there was something lacking for me here and I just didn’t fully connect.  But, despite that, I still really did like the book.  It was short and light and sweet.  And I adored the very end.  It’s definitely worth a read.  If I saw this author again, I would probably pick up her books.  I just don’t know if I’d go out searching for them.

Bare for You - Lexxie Couper

This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


I liked this.  This was the first time I’d ever read this author, and my first dip into this series (this is book three, but I didn’t ever feel lost- it stood alone) so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But it was good.  Did it strike a deep cord in me?  Did I absolutely love it?  …No.  But I did definitely enjoy it.


The first thing I noticed about ‘Bare for You’ was how polished it was- the writing is really solid (although I will say I found an inordinate amount of typos, and I’m pretty sure this is the complete book, not an ARC, so that was a bit weird.  If I’m wrong and it hasn’t had its final editing yet, then that’s a different story, and completely understandable.)  But the plot is tight and concise, and the writing is just very smooth and enjoyable.


The romance is between two men at opposite ends of the, err, political spectrum, I guess.  Ryan is an openly gay Australian cowboy, and Jeremy is a high ranking Australian political official, in the closet because he could never achieve his goal of becoming the Prime Minister if he wasn’t.  I enjoyed how straight forward yet definitely problematic the situation between the men, who are immediately attracted to each other, was.  And I also loved how it was handled within the book.


So.  The story, the characters…  they were sweet.  The story was sweet.  And clean.  And well laid out.  I also really enjoyed the Australian setting.  There really wasn’t anything wrong with the book, not any huge problems.  But it just…  It just never grabbed me. 


Let’s talk characters-  Ryan and Jeremy were definitely individual people, and I could picture them in my mind, and their personalities were solid.  They were pretty unique.  I just didn’t find them very interesting.  They were relatively one dimensional.  They didn’t feel like they had very much depth to them, and this lack of interest I had in them kept me from getting really involved in the romance, which is the heart of the book.  It also made it hard for me to believe that Ryan and Jeremy were falling for each other so fast.  There just didn’t seem to be any reason for it, aside from mutual attraction.  Attraction is fine, and believable, but I’m pretty sure the author wanted the reader to believe that there was more to this budding relationship than just lust.  I couldn’t find any reason for anything more, though. 


The writing-  Like I said, it was very solid.  Clean.  Neat.  Well put together.  It did seem that there was a lot of tell and not so much show, though.  This is a novella, and maybe that length was dictated, I don’t know.  I felt like the author could have really expanded on some things, though, really let the readers get more of a feel for the characters through their actions, instead of just talking about them.  For example, there’s one paragraph where Jeremy talks about the aboriginal art and how taken he is by it.  And I thought, if he’d talked instead about why he liked it, how it made him feel, I would not only have gotten a feel for the art myself, but a much better feel for Jeremy.  Instead, he just says he enjoys it, and I didn’t end up really caring about him or the art.


And in that same vein, the attraction between Ryan and Jeremy seems to be very solidly rooted in how, uh, how aroused the two of them are all the time.  Maybe this is nitpicking, but it got to the point where I felt like these two guys were walking around with terrible cases of priapism, all the time.  It was distracting.  By the time I was half way through the book, I’d counted 27 separate instances where Ryan or Jeremy talks about how hard they are, how their balls are heavy or aching or whatever- and these were all times when they were walking around in public, never times when they were in the bedroom.  It just seemed… kind of unbelievable that they could be walking around with this constant state of arousal all the time.  And it didn’t really do anything for me, either, to make me believe there was anything more between this pair then their intense desire to screw each other.


The bedroom scene was also kind of… far-fetched.  Very slight spoilers here, and a tiny bit of graphic content:  Jeremy comes so many times while he’s having sex with Ryan, in such a short amount of time, I wondered how on earth he’d managed it.  Not only that, but Jeremy specifically says he hasn’t had sex with a man since he was a teenager, and yet Ryan is able to (sorry, sorry, graphic) penetrate him with almost no lube and very little preparation.  And Jeremy enjoys is.  And I just found that a little hard to believe- it felt like probably would have been really awkward in real life.  And it pulled me out of the story, to wonder how they had managed that.  


Nitpicking aside, though, I did like this.  I really did.  It was short enough that the points where I was annoyed were mild, and it was a cute, easy thing to slip into and enjoy.  I would be happy to read more of this author in the future.


And the cover was gorgeous, which has nothing to do with anything, but was a nice bonus.

Switched - Amanda Hocking

This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.


I received this book in exchange for an honest review.


‘Switched’ features main character Wendy, a teen girl who has never seemed to fit in anywhere or with anyone. In fact, she’s so different that her own mother decided she wasn’t actually her child, and tried to kill her. Now, at her new school, Wendy meets the mysterious Finn. He tells her that her thoughts of being something different might be true after all, although not in a way that she expected.


If you’ve read more than three paranormal teen novels in the past five years, you can begin to predict how this story goes. Wendy’s not normal, she finds out she has cool powers, she meets attractive boy Finn and tries not to be attracted. Once she does fall for him, he tells her not to get involved. Then, there’s lots of building up, until finally there’s a scary, panicky final outcome that has everyone running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Teen books like this are the new fad, and ‘Switched’ follows that formulated storyline almost exactly. That, paired with how the story was written, made the book incredibly predictable. Absolutely nothing was a surprise, from major things like what type of creature Wendy is (that was given away with the title) to smaller plot occurrences.


The author does seem to be trying to make things surprising. She pushes some ideas so hard it becomes annoying. For example, Wendy repeats over and over how she knows that Finn is only there for her because it’s his job. ‘I know it’s just his job,’ ‘He told me it was just for work,’ ‘I hated it when I thought of how he only did it because it was his job,’ etc. We all know where the romance in the story is, so despite trying to pound this fact into us, I can’t imagine any readers were, or will be, surprised with the way the relationship between Wendy and Finn progressed.


There was also a bit of a… well, I guess you’d call it a continuity problem, although it wasn’t exactly that. It was more a timing problem. For example, during one scene, one of the characters asks Finn why he lets another character, Elora, do ‘that creepy mind-speak thing.’ They have this conversation right in front of Wendy, but in the next scene, Wendy asks Finn something along the lines of ‘What’s up with Elora always staring at you intently?’ and then it ‘dawns’ on her that maybe Elora is using a mind-speak technique.


But. Despite all of these flaws, I didn’t hate the book. Actually, by the middle, I found myself enjoying it more, and by the end I realized I’d liked it. I enjoyed most of the characters- Rhys, Elora, Finn, Willa and Matt are pretty well thought out. Although the main plot line is predictable, it was interesting to read about Wendy’s new home and life with her mythical family, and the culture the author set up was fascinating enough. I didn’t love Wendy- she lets absolutely everyone push her around, and only puts up a fight about it once or twice. ‘Move away from my family and go live with a woman who can’t stand me? Okey-doke,’ is kind of the way she is, which is really draining and exasperating. Towards the end of the book, though, she starts to think for herself, so I hope that in the next two books, she develops into a more likeable character.


Was the book terrible? No. Was it great? No. For an author who has already sold a million online copies, I was surprised with the poor quality of the story building and writing. However, I think I probably will read the next book in the trilogy, when it comes out, because this first one was just interesting enough, and I feel the need to know what happens to the characters.

As an update, several years later- I read the rest of this series, and I really, really enjoyed it. The predictability that was so rampant in the first book mellows out, more characters and secrets and situations are introduced, and I just really liked how the rest of the plot was handled. This is a trilogy that’s well worth reading.

Hard As Stone - Rory Ni Coileain

This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Fae, magic, romance, soul mates (of a sort)- what’s not to love? That’s why I originally requested this book for review. But I hadn’t heard very much about this book, and I’d never read the author before, so I didn’t go into it with too many expectations. I just wasn’t really sure what I was getting into.

Turns out this book wasn’t really what I expected at all. It starts with one of our main characters, Tiernan. He’s a fae who, right in the first couple of pages, is accused of murdering his brother and is exiled to the human realm. When he’s exiled, his soul splits in half. The other half of his soul… I don’t know, spins off into the ether? Kind of. And Tiernan knows that half of his soul will eventually come to rest in a person, but Tiernan doesn’t know who it will be, and is pretty dead set against finding that person.

The other half of Tiernan’s soul goes to a human, Kevin. And the two meet in a club one night and Tiernan realizes right away what’s happening, while Kevin starts to fall for Tiernan. But things get even more complicated when an ancient enemy starts trying to get to Tiernan through Kevin, and Kevin starts encountering some pretty serious problems at work.

I really thought this story was going to be about the complexities of falling in love with someone who, literally, shares half of your soul. I thought it was a really interesting concept and I wanted to read about how Tiernan and Kevin navigate that. But the book wasn’t really much about that at all. It was about them falling in love, but it also had a really action-y, exciting plot that I wasn’t expecting at all. And I guess… I was a little disappointed. Which is my fault, not the book’s fault, for expecting it to be something it wasn’t. I just thought the soul sharing deserved a bit more consideration, especially since it felt… a bit narcissistic to me. But again, that’s really my problem, and not the book’s.

What the book actually was, though, was… surprisingly great. I say surprisingly because there are a lot of flaws here. Big ones, small ones. And this was one of those books that I felt a bit guilty reading, because it was kind of like stuffing a big piece of cake in my mouth. It was really good cake. I guess I felt like I probably should have been eating something more nutritious than cake, though. I mean, sometimes the things that were going on just… didn’t make any sense to me- action! But I don’t know why the action is happening! Trauma! But I’m not sure what happened to cause it! …Things like that.

But… but I love cake. Cake holds a valuable place for me. And this book did, too. Who needs more nutritious books? This was sweet and not light, really, at all, but a bit fluffy in places, and sometimes things happened that were wholly, as far as I could see, pointless and solved nothing, but who cares. It was fun and exciting and completely entertaining.

To be fair, there were some things that really did bother me. First, sex stuff- no spoilers, but if you don’t want to read about this… Tiernan and Kevin never use condoms. I know, I know, condoms are annoying, and Tiernan does say at one point that because he’s fae, he can’t carry or get any diseases. But if I was Kevin, I would have absolutely insisted, at the very least during the first time before they ever talk about it, and it bothered me that he didn’t even think about it. Also, I’m pretty sure that… oh god, someone hand me a paper bag for my head… I’m pretty sure than anal sex isn’t… that easy. This couple never uses lube, they never do much prep, and this… just doesn’t sound like fun sex to me. It sounds uncomfortable at the least and, in reality, probably extremely painful.

Moving on. More nitpicking. I’m pretty sure it’s winter on the East Coast of the USA when the story takes place, but both men tend to… not wear shirts. Ever, if they can help it, it seems. Even when they go out. And hey, all right, maybe you don’t want to wear a shirt at a club, but wouldn’t you probably put one on just to get there? So you didn’t freeze to death?

Finally, I was really bothered by the way the author constantly referred to both characters as males. Not that they weren’t. I mean, it was the context. “Tiernan replayed the other male’s last utterance…” “Not the behavior of a male who was trying to keep deep dark secrets from his lover.” “How many times had he begged this male not to love him?” I just… It sounded very clinical. And kind of animalistic. I just didn’t understand why the author didn’t use the word ‘man’ instead.

But honestly, these were all things that, for this book at least, I pushed aside, because it was so entertaining. I actually couldn’t put it down. I did feel that, at the end, Tiernan became a bit of a different character, but perhaps that’s excusable within the context of the story. Either way, I’d definitely read more by this author in the future. It was too enjoyable not to.

The Scar Boys - Len Vlahos

First review from the other half of HfC:


I’m not sure why some authors think that if you can strum a chord, you’re an automatic rock star. There is so much more to being in a band than gets touched upon in most stories. But, ‘The Scar Boys’ is different. I liked it. It struck true.


The full review is here, on Hot Stuff for Cool People.