Review: What Can Be by Mary Calmes

Mary CalmesTitle & Author: What Can Be by Mary Calmes
Series: I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Dreamspinner Press’ 2011 Advent Calendar)
Release Date: December 1, 2011
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 116

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Thirteen years ago, Eli went on a summer trip with his mother and never came back. Now, existing in a new life as Jacob Somerville, he’s again running from fear and memories, only to end up where he started. As Jacob struggles to reconnect with his father and brothers, he realizes that his lover, Craig Zhao, was the only thing filling his empty heart and standing between him and ghosts of the past. It will take the power of love—from his family, from Craig, and from himself—for Jacob to see that his life truly is filled with the promise of what can be.

My Thoughts:

This ain’t your typical Christmas story. In fact, I think it may have broken my brain. I need a minute to process my likes/dislikes before rating.

24 hours after reading…

Did I love it? Or, did I hate it? I still don’t know! Seriously. You can’t see me right now, but I have the most bewildered expression on my face.

The writing in this one felt kinda… sparse? But sometimes – especially nearer the beginning of the story as Calmes was establishing her characters and laying the trail of WTF? breadcrumbs for me – I reacted really positively to this method of storytelling. It felt refreshing. I was intrigued by the story (so many secrets, so much baggage!) AND by the way that she was telling it. Then, not too many pages later, the same bare bones technique was driving me bonkers and leaving me feeling cheated because I wasn’t getting the level of detail that I wanted in some scenes.

The dialogue was just as sparse. I often felt as if there were words or sentences that were left unsaid. On one hand, I was totally digging it because it felt like I was reading something that had finally captured that short hand that real people and real families use with one another. On the other hand, it was frickin’ disorienting.

And characters actions and reactions seemed to change almost by the paragraph. Just when I thought I had a character’s personality pegged, the next sentence out of their mouths or gesture of their bodies would be the complete opposite of what I was anticipating. Again, I found it disorienting. (Just as an example, Craig’s first phone call to Eli? I was convinced that the dude was a controlling, self-important asshat and that Eli was better off running in the opposite direction as far and as fast as he could. Then Craig would do or say something that had me shifting towards rooting for him. And then he’d do or say something that would have me shifting away from him again.) I felt like I was getting emotional whiplash.

(See what I mean about this story breaking my brain?!)

It also probably didn’t help that I felt like there were too many interactions between some characters and not enough between others, questions that went unanswered, and reactions I wish had been explored in greater depth. Not to mention the fact that I was really missing an epilogue to wrap things up with a big Christmas bow for me.

Ultimately, I think this story was great, but too layered and nuanced for a novella format. I’ve given it 4 stars, but only because my OCD wouldn’t allow me to leave it rating-less and I don’t know what else to do.

My Rating:

3 Smooch1 Smooch

Add to Goodreads ButtonBuy on Amazon Button

Review: Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins

Five DatesTitle & Author: Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins
Release Date: July 25, 2014
Publisher: Goodreads M/M Romance Group
Pages: 74

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Helping his sister Lucy raise her kid has put Devin’s love life on hold. When he loses a bet to her and the penalty is to go out on five dates with men she’s chosen from Guys4Guys.com, he thinks that’s bad enough. Finding out she used a thirteen-year-old picture of him to score a date with a young guy who looks like a rock star? Epically bad.

Jay thought he wanted to fall for an older man. But his last boyfriend left him feeling humiliated and determined to stick to guys his own age. When he realizes he’s been conned into a date with exactly the kind of man he’s sworn to avoid, he’s ready to walk away on the spot. Only Devin’s swift apologies convince Jay to accept dinner to make up for the deception.

“The date doesn’t count for the bet unless you get a goodnight kiss.” After one not-a-date dinner with Jay, Devin isn’t worried about his sister’s rules. He just wishes he could convince Jay to go out with him for real. Jay wants no part of Devin, but Devin wants every part of Jay . . . so he asks Jay to help update his look for the rest of his dates. But once Jay’s made Devin over into the perfect date, will he be able to let him go?

My Thoughts:

Okay, I’m going to be honest with you: there wasn’t much in this story that I haven’t already seen in a thousand Hollywood rom coms. Seriously. There was a meddling sibling, an implausible scenario used to bring two unlikely people together, some snark, some laughs, lust at first sight, pining, someone getting drunk, denial of feelings due to past baggage, the Big Realization, and an even bigger Declaration of Feelings (which naturally leads to scorching hot sex and a sweet as can be happily ever after).

And yet.

And yet I don’t give a flying $%& that Five Dates isn’t uber original because I fell for Devin and Jay hard and fast. I swear, it only took about 5 pages to have me wrapped around Devin’s little finger and grinning like a fool. Both characters were incredibly sweet, average, and relatable. They were just good guys and, unlike a large portion of the female population, I LOVE the good guys. The whole thing was just pure cute, fluffy escapism that made me genuinely happy as I was reading it. In fact, I had to create an all new shelf on Goodreads – “Too Cute For Words” – just to contain this one. I can’t recommend it highly enough for someone looking for a total mood-booster.

Oh, and if you needed any added incentive to read this short story? It’s entirely FREE as part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Loves Landscapes event. Grab your free copy of Five Dates here.

My Rating:

3 Smooch1 Smooch Half

Add to Goodreads Button

Review: The Roommate Situation by Zoe X. Rider

RoomateTitle & Author: The Roommate Situation by Zoe X. Rider
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Loose Id
Pages: 330

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

College freshman Shane Hahn finds himself unexpectedly shuffled to a new dorm room–which is fine by him, but his over-involved mother takes one look at toothpick-chewing, motorcycle-riding Derek McClain, his new roommate, and gets on the phone with the school. The school requires that Shane be the one to file the room-change paperwork, but Shane’s reluctant.

He’s attracted to Derek’s independence, even though that independence means Derek has to pay his own way through college, which he does by making leather products (you know: belts, wallets…bondage gear) and selling it online. Shane isn’t even allowed to work while he’s in school, much less join a band, which is what he really wants to do with his life. Unfortunately, his parents are holding his guitar hostage until he can prove he’s taking his future seriously.

When he decides he needs a way to come up with cash–the kind his parents won’t find out about–so he can buy a guitar his parents can’t take away from him, he turns to Derek with what sounds like a win-win solution: he’ll model bondage gear for Derek’s online store photos, Derek will get more sales, and Shane will get a cut. The one thing he doesn’t factor into his plan is the giddy stomach-flip feeling Derek McClain causes whenever he walks in the room–and what that might mean for them when Derek starts locking leather cuffs on his wrists.

My Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed this one.

The relationship between Derek and Shane was strong and the slow-build from tentative overtures of friendship to lovers to being in love was utterly believable. There was also some decent character development. Both characters felt like your genuine ‘every man’ – like the guys that lived down the hall from you in the dorms, or sit next to you in class, or pass you in the hall at a party – and it was nice to see their growth over the course of the book (particularly that of Shane). Also, the small dose of kink that Rider threw in was somehow sweet and innocent and honest; it felt completely natural for both of these guys to explore these different sides to their personalities and sexuality while in college.

One aspect of the book that didn’t hugely thrill me was that after about 200 pages I found the minutiae of college life and the mundane nature of some of the conversations to get a little tedious. I’ve been there, done that – three times (but who’s counting?) – and I know these conversations by heart already. I’m over them. Let’s sing a new song already!

Still, I think the biggest obstacle to my enjoyment of this book was that the focus was split pretty evenly between Shane’s relationship with Derek, Shane’s relationship with his parents (particularly his sMother), and Shane’s journey of self-discovery. Personally, I would have preferred a little less of the parental pressures and a little more outright romance in my romance novel – just a few more outright declarations, sweet nothings, or casually affectionate gestures to lighten my heart. But that’s entirely a personal preference; you might find it to have the perfect balance.

Definitely worth a read, but it wouldn’t make the top of my recommendation lists.

My Rating:

3 Smooch

Add to Goodreads ButtonBuy on Amazon Button

Review: Brand New Flavor by E.M. Lynley

Brand NewTitle & Author: Brand New Flavour by E.M. Lynley
Series: Delectable (#1)
Release Date: November 21, 2012
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 105

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

When artisan ice cream maker Jericho Brown first meets food writer Cameron Clay at a charity tasting event, they get along like strawberries and chocolate sauce. Jay’s unique flavors thrill more than Cameron’s jaded palate, but after a delicious encounter in Jay’s delivery truck, where extra-creamy frozen treats are not the only delights sampled, Cameron loses Jay’s contact info—and any hope of a real date.

Desperate, Cameron convinces his editor to host an artisanal ice cream contest in hopes of drawing out the elusive genius. But more complications threaten to intervene. Will Jay even enter the contest? Or will the chance of a happily ever after melt away?

My Thoughts:

Ironically, there’s nothing brand new about Brand New Flavor by E.M. Lynley. This story is a former Supernatural AU fan fiction; the author has simply changed the names of the main characters, given the story a quick edit, put it on Amazon, and decided to charge you $4.00 for it (you can read the FREE version here: http://www.gaiaonline.com/guilds/view…).

Now, I have nothing against well-written fanfic – anyone who knows me knows that I love me some Sterek! – but this story just didn’t do it for me. At all.

Spoiler alert: Jay and Cam meet and bang in the back of an ice cream truck in the first 5 pages of the book. Unfortunately, the scene was too abrupt for me to enjoy – I didn’t know enough about the characters yet to be emotionally invested in them, and the sex wasn’t nearly hot enough for me to just let go and enjoy the smut. The whole thing fell flat and left me thinking about health code violations and how sticky both parties were going to be in the aftermath (neither of which was the author’s intention, I’m sure). Following the wham, bam, thank you ma’am action, our fearless MCs part ways. They spend the next 80% of the story caught up in their own heads due to former relationship baggage AND as victims of not one but THREE overly dastardly and vengeful secondary characters.

[insert aggressive eye roll here]

And then, at 85%, Jay and Cam are reunited and it feels so goodI couldn’t care less. The two men see each other across a crowded room. Cam smiles stupidly. Jay laughs stupidly. And then they both escape back to Cam’s place to bone.

…and I was bored out of my skull and just waiting for it all to be over.

Personally, I found this story to be an I-did-not-like-it/1-star-worthy novella. However, I can appreciate that even though I felt like I was reading the script for a bad Meg Ryan movie, the story was well written and well edited, which earned it a second star.

Delectable? Sorry, try barely palatable. I just can’t recommend this one to friends or discerning readers.

My Rating:

2 Smooch

Add to Goodreads ButtonBuy on Amazon Button

Spotlight: Loser Takes All by Kora Knight

Loser Takes All Part 1Title & Author: Loser Takes All by Kora Knight
Series: Up-Ending Tad: A Journey of Erotic Discovery #1
Release Date: September 5, 2014

Publisher: Self-published
Length: 63 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Tad’s weekend started out like any other; hitting a college frat party with a handful of buddies. But just as the evening hits its peak, things get up-ended fast. Ditched by his drunken, trolling friends, Tad winds up getting hustled by three jocks playing poker. Now he’s forced to pay his dues in the most outlandish of ways; accepting a couple broken bones or spending an hour with his victors’ favorite flogger, Scott. But the guy’s tantalizing torture quickly proves to be the least of Tad’s worries… and the kickoff to a night of raw, shocking lust.

Experience the graphic, minute-by-minute account of that hour spent at the hands of Tad’s insatiable tormentor. Addicting chemistry lights the stage as Scott ignites Tad’s reluctant desires into a frenzy of forbidden need.

My Thoughts:

“You’re a fucking perv.”

Scott laughed. “You have no idea. But don’t worry. I’m a fun perv. You’ll like what I do to you.”

Boy, did I ever!

Okay, so the novella’s premise is a little ludicrous – I’ll give you that – but I’m going to overlook that fact (and you should too!), because this book was HOT. Like, have your honey or your favourite battery-operated boyfriend on standby levels of hot. 😉

I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on Volume 2, which is set to be released October 8, 2014.

My Rating:

1 Smooch3 SmoochHalf

Add to Goodreads ButtonBuy on Amazon Button

About the Author:

Kora Knight is a woman of mystery. No, really. A new author, Kora is too busy writing sexy morsels of porny perfection to write an “About the Author” blurb for social media or her books, so I’ve got nothin’. But if you want to connect with her (read: gush about all the dirty things her book has you fantasizing about happening to Grey Shirt Guy), check out the links below:

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8529860.Kora_Knight 
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authorkoraknight/timeline

Spotlight & Giveaway: Roped In by Marie Sexton & L.A. Witt

Roped InTitle: Roped In
Author:
 Marie Sexton & L.A. Witt
Release Date: April 20, 2014
Publisher: Amber Allure
Length: 39,000 words

This sexy opposites-attract novella from Marie Sexton and L.A. Witt has “can’t lose” written all over it. Seriously, between the cowboys, the (light) BDSM, and the emotionally complicated love triangle, I don’t know which aspect of the book I am looking forward to most.

One thing I do know for sure: this ain’t gonna be no 8-second ride! 😉

Check out the book blurb below and then make sure to enter the amazing giveaway at the bottom of the post for  a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card and 1 ebook from EACH of the authors’ backlists!

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Graham and his roping partner Jackson have ruled the rodeo scene for ten years running, but lately, Graham’s heart isn’t in the game. He’s tired of the bruises, the cowboy mentality, and the animal rights activists who picket every event. And then there’s Jackson.

Graham and Jackson have been friends since they were boys. But ever since their drunken sexual encounter the year before, things have been awkward. Graham’s accepted that he might be gay, but no matter how attracted he is to other men, he always panics and runs when the clothes start to come off.

Then Graham has a run-in with one of the rodeo protesters, and everything changes. Kaz is young, idealistic, and sexy as hell. And Kaz has an idea for getting Graham past his nerves and into bed.

All they need is a bit of rope.

About the Authors:

marieheadshot 2Marie Sexton lives in Colorado.  She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other.  In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband.  Her imaginary friends often tag along.  Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity.  She loves them anyway.

Website: http://mariesexton.net/
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/MarieSexton
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/MarieSexton
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/MarieSexton.author
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/msextonauthor/

LA WittL.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer currently living in the glamorous and ultra-futuristic metropolis of Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two cats, and a disembodied penguin brain that communicates with her telepathically. In addition to writing smut and disturbing the locals, L.A. is said to be working with the US government to perfect a genetic modification that will allow humans to survive indefinitely on Corn Pops and beef jerky. This is all a cover, though, as her primary leisure activity is hunting down her arch nemesis, erotica author Lauren Gallagher, who is also said to be lurking somewhere in Omaha.

L. A.’s backlist is available on her website, and updates (as well as random thoughts and the odd snarky comment) can be found on her blog or on Twitter (@GallagherWitt).

GIVEAWAY

Enter (press the Rafflecopter logo) for a chance to win a  $20 Amazon Giftcard and 1 ebook from EACH of the authors’ backlists! Giveaway closes April 27, 2014 at 12:00a.m.

Rafflecopter Logo

Can’t wait another second to read Roped In?
Purchase it NOW from Amber Allure.

Add to Goodreads Button

Spotlight & Giveaway: Normal Enough by Marie Sexton

Normal Enough CoverTitle: Normal Enough
Author:
 Marie Sexton
Release Date: March 16, 2014
Publisher: Amber Allure
Length: 24,000 words

Mind. Blown.

Apparently Marie Sexton – the same author that wrote the sweet twisted fairy tale, Cinder: A CinderFella Story, that I loved so much a few weeks ago – is now writing muscle car kink.

I need it! I wants it! I gotsta have it NOW! *flails*

Check out the blurb below and then make sure to enter the amazing giveaway at the bottom of the post for  a chance to win an e-copy of Normal Enough AND a $50 gift card for All-Romance!

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

When Brandon Kenner shows up at Kasey Ralston’s garage with a 1970 Chevelle SS 454, Kasey is smitten by both the man and his car. Between what Kasey considers a shameful fetish and his long estrangement from his family, Kasey finds it easiest to be alone, even distancing himself from his coworkers. But Brandon doesn’t think Kasey’s fetish is weird. In fact, he likes it.

Kasey doesn’t know how to resist a man as charming as Brandon, and he’s more than willing to be seduced. But what are Brandon’s long-term intentions? Kasey is afraid of hoping for too much, but equally afraid that when all is said and done, Brandon will leave, and Kasey will be left alone once again.

About the Author:

marieheadshot 2Marie Sexton lives in Colorado.  She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other.  In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband.  Her imaginary friends often tag along.  Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity.  She loves them anyway.

Website: http://mariesexton.net/
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/MarieSexton
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/MarieSexton
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/MarieSexton.author
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/msextonauthor/

GIVEAWAY

Enter (press the Rafflecopter logo) to win an ebook copy of “Normal Enough” and a$50 ARe gift certificate for some of Marie Sexton’s backlist books. Click on the link below to enter. Giveaway closes March 25, 2014 at 12:00a.m.

Rafflecopter Logo

Can’t wait a week to find out if you won the giveaway!?
Purchase Normal Enough NOW from Amber Allure.

Add to Goodreads Button